Man’s Slide Into Total Depravity – The First Step Into Evil, Part 2

 

Grace For The Journey

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where do evil people come from?  That is a theological question that actually has many societal ramifications.  How we respond to those who do evil will be based on our understanding of the cause of their evil.  For example, in our own nation there is a continuing debate on this question, but by and large, secular society operates off a philosophy that believes that people are innately good and that the corrupting influence came upon the individual from without.  The ramification then is that people are not really responsible for the crimes they commit.  The perpetrator of the crime is also viewed as a victim.  In compassion, we desire to help all victims, so have renamed our penal institutions as “correctional facilities” instead of jails.  

A jail is a place where you either

Await trial for judgement and

Consequential punishment for evil committed,

Or where such punishment takes place.  

Correctional facilities seek

To rehabilitate the criminal.

There is certainly nothing wrong with trying to rehabilitate a criminal.  In fact, all of us would agree that as long as justice was also satisfied, then such an effort would be a good thing.  However, if you do not understand why the person is bent toward evil, then you cannot rehabilitate them.  If you believe evil is caused by poverty and lack of education, as many in our society do, then giving the person material comforts and enabling them to finish high school and even college should result in the person becoming good.  Such are some of the efforts in our correctional facilities.  However, the efforts have not worked, and reincarcerations remains high.  The FBI statistic is that 74% of all of those released from prison for all types of crime are back in prison within four years.  Why?  

Because the cause of the problem is not dealt with.  

In effect, current methods make our

Correctional facilities “criminal universities.”  

They come out healthy and educated

Without a change in their bent toward evil.

Where then does this bent to evil come from?  Why do people generally become worse instead of better?  Is there hope?  Paul addresses those questions in the book of Romans.

The theme of the book of Romans is the righteousness of God demonstrated in the Gospel.  Paul is not ashamed of the Gospel of God because of what it is and what it presents.  It is the power of God unto the salvation of everyone who is believing regardless of national or ethnic heritage, and it presents the righteousness of God in both His relationship and actions towards those who are believing (1:17) and those who are not believing (1:18).  God is righteous in granting men salvation from their sins and sins’ consequences on the basis of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  God is also righteous in His wrath against those who are not believing, for in their ungodliness and unrighteousness they suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

Why are people evil?  

Because of sin.  

Both the inherited sin

Of Adam that results

In being born dead in

Trespasses and sin

(Ephesians 2:1)

And their own actions of sin

That confirm their sinful nature.

God’s judgement of sin will be based on the individuals own sinful deeds (Revelation 20:12).  The Bible points out that all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) without exception (Romans 3:10-12).

Is there hope?  Yes.  

There is hope in God’s grace and mercy

That is extended in Jesus Christ

To those who place their faith in Him.

That is the Good News of the Gospel.

But the Good News cannot be understood unless the bad news is understood first.  That is why Paul begins a very thorough discussion of man’s sinfulness starting in Romans 1:18 after his opening remarks in verses 16 & 17.  

To be saved . . .

Man must first recognize

That he has a serious and

Eternally fatal sin problem

Which can only be solved

Through faith in Jesus Christ.

If he does not

Turn to Jesus Christ,

Then he will continue

His descent into evil.

Turn again to Romans 1. We will read verses 16-23 to set the context for our study today, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it [the] righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous [man] shall live by faith.  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.  For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”

God’s wrath is revealed from heaven by His various decrees issued from Him on His throne resulting in actions taken against all the ungodly and unrighteous.  God has in the past and in the present demonstrated His wrath in all sorts of natural phenomena as well as the actions of men and angels.  However . . .

Its most common demonstration

Is in the consequences of sin as

God removes His restraining hand

From those who refuse to

Worship Him properly or

Follow the commands He has given.

We begin looking at these consequences in our study today of verses 21-23.

God is righteous in His wrath against the ungodly and unrighteous for they have rejected both Him and His standards for their own, and they have willingly suppressed the truth God has revealed to them.  Those who claim God is unjust in His punishment of so called “innocent” people only show their ignorance and risk their own condemnation for judging God.  There are no “innocent” people.  God has placed enough knowledge of Himself in the heart of every human and made enough of Himself evident in what He has made in the Creation that all excuses are stripped away.  We went over some of these evidences from Creation that reveal the power and character of God yesterday.

All men know innately and by the evidence around enough about the power and character of God that they should seek Him.  But they do not.  Instead, they purposely suppress the truth so that they do not have to seek Him (they are ungodly) or follow His commands (they are unrighteous).

In verses 19 and 20 Paul described

The source of and nature of

The truth they were suppressing.  

In verses 21-23 Paul begins

His description of the manner

In which they suppressed the truth.  

This is the first step into evil.

He more the truth is suppressed,

Then the greater the evil that will result.

The first phrase of verse 21 re-emphasizes the truth of verse 20.  Those who do not believe are without excuse because they are those who knew God.  The evidence was within them and all around them, but they ignored it.  This was not a passive action (the verb is an active participle).  They actively suppress the truth in their refusal to honor God for Who He is or give Him thanks.

This is the first step into evil.  

The basis for evil is not found

In how humans treat one another

But in how they treat God.

Evil is that which is opposite of God.

It is that which is in contradiction

To His person and standards.  

Man’s evil treatment of other humans

And other things is directly related

To his refusal to honor

God and give Him thanks.

That may seem strange to some, but only because their thoughts are usually so far away from God and the proper relationship to God they should have.  

People are innately selfish and view

The world revolving around themselves.  

The truth is that we should be viewing

The universe revolving around God and

See ourselves as simply one of His many

Creatures who exists for His purposes.

To “honor” (doxadzo) God is “to glorify Him, magnify Him, and praise Him.”  To not honor God is to dishonor Him.  But please note that this lack of honor is not total dishonor, but rather a refusal to honor Him for Who He is as the God who has revealed Himself to man as the Creator.  

What Paul says here covers every kind of dishonor

Ranging from a simple lack of proper decorum

In approaching God to outright disdain for Him.

Can you sin and honor God at the same time?  No, because when you sin, you dishonor God.  Sin means to “miss the mark.”  Sin is that which does not meet God’s standards.  To the degree in which you honor God in every part of your life (which is impossible but should be our desire and goal), you will not sin.  Can you give true thanksgiving to God and still sin?  No, for thanksgiving requires us to have genuine gratefulness to God for all things, not just the ones that fit our own self-centered desires. We sin because we do not get what we want and seek to gain it in some way other than how God wants us to gain it.  The greater our thankfulness, then the greater our honor of God and the less we sin.

Do you want material things?  You cannot serve both God and mammon (Matthew 6:24).  God’s desire is for you to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and He promises to take care of our material needs (Matthew 6:33).  God does not want us seeking after the riches of this world, but wants us to be content even if it is just food and covering (1 Timothy 6:7-10).  A person who is truly thankful for what they have is also someone content with what they have.

Do you want a close, personal relationship with someone who truly understands you and accepts you?  The only one you can actually have that with is Jesus Christ.  In every other relationship you have two sinners who will be opposed to each other at different points and will certainly disappoint each other at times.  The only way two people can get along with each other and be thankful is to learn to deal with each other through being reflections of God’s love to one another.  You cannot be content with your relationships until you submit yourself to God’s purposes in them and fulfilling the roles He has established for you.  A person has learned this lesson when they can thank God even for the people in their lives who are irritating.

Do you want fame?  1 Peter 5:5-6 tells us “. . . and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”  The godly thank God regardless of how much attention they receive.  They leave fame in God’s hands.  Their desire is God’s glory and not their own (John 3:30).  It is the ungodly that pursue fame, and they do not give thanks.

Do you want power?  In the world, power is expressed through authority and lording your position over subordinates.  That is not the way it is in God’s kingdom.  Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 20:26, “but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.” The person who honors God is thankful for their position, whatever it may be, for they recognize it is up to God to place them where He wants them, both within the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12) and within the world (Daniel 5:21).

All sin is primarily against God.  David recognized this in Psalm 51 when confessing his sins concerning Bathsheba he said in verses 3-4, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.  Against You, You only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak, and blameless when You judge.”  Even a cursory study of 2 Samuel 11 reveals that there were at least 8 different sins he committed in the incident including lying, adultery, and murder, yet in Psalm 51 he recognizes that all the sin was primarily against God.

Lying is either an unwillingness to accept the just outcome of the truth or a lack of trust that God can protect you in the truth.  In either case, God is not honored or given thanks.  Adultery is primarily a refusal to be content with the situation God has given you so that you seek to satisfy your own physical cravings in a way that dishonors Him. There is never a godly reason to give thanks for adultery.

Murder is a direct assault on the image of God.  While most people do not think of that when they commit murder, for they generally see it as a direct assault on someone they want to eliminate from their lives, it is nevertheless true.  God commanded capital punishment for murder in Genesis 9:6 saying, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man.”

God deserves our honor and our thanksgiving

For no other reason than Who He

Is as the creator of all things.

The display of His power and attributes

In creation only magnify the need

To honor Him and give Him thanks.

His revelation of Himself

In the Scriptures

Further magnify that need.

Paul points out that God is righteous in His wrath against the ungodly and unrighteous.

They made their first step into the

Downward spiral of evil

By suppressing the truth

He has revealed to them in Creation

Resulting in their refusal to honor

Him properly as God or to give thanks. 

The result of this refusal to honor God

Comes immediately in their

Effort to find some substitute.

The human mind is seldom content with unanswered questions, but desires to understand and explain things, if at all possible.  Man likes to speculate, but when such speculation is done with the truth already eliminated and shut out from the possibilities, then all speculation becomes foolish conjecture.  That is what happens here.  Ungodly man suppresses the truth and refuses to honor God for Who He has revealed Himself to be.  The result is futile speculation.

The mind that gives itself to vain conjecture will result in a heart that becomes foolish and darkened which in turn leads to sinful actions.  This same idea is expressed in other passages.  In Ephesians 4:17-19 Paul admonishes the Christians to no longer walk as the Gentiles in the “futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to
sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.”
 

A sinful mind results

In a sinful heart which

Results in sinful actions.

Peter reminded his readers that they were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ from the futile way of life they had inherited from their forefathers (1 Peter. 1:18,19).  In 2 Corinthians 10:4 Paul describes the truth of the gospel was his weapon for “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and [we are] taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”

Paul will give detailed examples of the increasing foolishness and sinful actions in the remainder of the chapter.  In verse 22 he points out their arrogance, “Professing to be wise, they became fools.”  The idea of a “fool”  here and “foolish heart” in verse 21 is the Biblical concept of a fool described in Psalm 14:1, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”  The degree of foolishness is related to the degree that they do not acknowledge God.  People do not jump to the utter foolishness of atheism without first going through the steps Paul speaks of here in Romans 1 –

  • They first suppress the truth.
  • Next, they will not honor God properly.
  • Next, in their futile speculation, they find something else to be a substitute God.

Only then will they descend into no longer acknowledging God.  Futile speculation
results in a foolish heart and when neither are corrected, they result in a fool.  Keep in mind that people are practical atheists, living as if God does not exist or that He does not or will not judge them, before they become professing atheists.  Many professing Christians live as if God will not carry out His judgements.  They are practical atheists and that is why their lifestyles differ very little from professing atheists.

The amazing thing about fools is how arrogant they can be in their foolishness.  They profess, or claim to be wise even though the truth is the opposite.  This does not mean they are not intelligent.  Many fools are extremely intelligent.  In fact, it is their intelligence that often hinders them because they believe themselves to be so smart that if they cannot understand something, it must not be true, and since they cannot understand God by their own reasoning, then He must not be true.  This is the basis for the plethora of religions, cults, and philosophies that exist today.  

They are all efforts,

Some made by

Very intelligent people,

To explain things

Apart from the true God.

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).  It is not many wise or noble according to the world that come to the truth, but rather those the world considers foolish and simple (1 Corinthians 1:20-30).

In verse 23, Paul gives an example common to his age of this foolishness.  They “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”  They descended into idolatry.  In that time, it was the blatant idolatry that included the idols themselves that represented the conclusions of their foolish thinking.  I am going to expand on idolatry tomorrow since Paul speaks of it again in verse 25.  For now, just consider the foolishness of the idea of exchanging the glory of the incorruptible God for an image of a corruptible thing.

We would all have to agree that is stupid to claim that the qualities that belong to one thing actually belong to something that is the opposite.  What would you say to someone that tried to enter his dump truck into the Indy 500 race?  Probably the same thing you would say to the guy who brought his Indy 500 racer to the gravel pit and wanted to haul gravel in it.  What about the 7′ 6″ athlete who wanted to be a horse jockey, or the 4′ 2″ guy who wanted to try out for the NBA?  What would you call someone that wanted to swap a 8,000 sq ft mansion overlooking the Hudson River for 500 sq ft cabin located in a Florida swamp?  Would you exchange 10 lbs of gold bullion for 10 lbs of copper pennies?  The items in these examples had something in common with each other, but the qualities of the items were extremely different.  The sack of gold and the sack of pennies each weighed 10 pounds, but they were completely different in value.

So it is with the glory of

The incorruptible God

Verses everything else,

Yet men will exchange

The proper worship of God

In order to worship something else.

Paul sets the two in contrast by referring to God’s glory as “incorruptible” and the exchanged image as “corruptible.”  They are opposite each other.  The idea of incorruptible and corruptible is in reference to God as Creator contrasted with His creatures.  God is immortal.  Man and all creatures are mortal.  God is not perishable. Man and all creatures are perishable.  God is not subject to decay.  Man and all creatures, indeed, all of creation, is subject to decay.  As verse 25 states, man exchanges the worship of the Creator for the worship of that which is created.  In the case here, it is not even the created things itself, but only its image.  A representation of the created thing.  It is a stupid thing to do, yet it is the common response of man.  While the blatant forms of idolatry that Paul speaks of here are not as common in our own society, idolatry does exist in many forms in our society.  We will look at some of those tomorrow.  For today I want stress that . . .

This first step into evil is in

The suppressing of truth and

Replacing it with the foolish

Speculations of men.

It can result in blatant idolatry,

But it also results in

All sorts of philosophies

And false religions.

Paul will deal with some of those in specific in Chapter 2.

I have already pointed out Paul’s comment in 2 Corinthians 10:5 about, “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God” through the proclamation of the truth.  God is not impressed with those wise according to the things of this world, so we should not either.  1 Corinthians 3:19 tells us that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.”   Such vain speculations are also dangerous, so Paul also gave several warnings.  In Colossians 2:8 he warned, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”  Paul warned Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:20-21, “Guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly [and] empty chatter [and] the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’ – which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.”

Sadly, there are many who have a simple faith that fails when tested.  For whatever reason, they profess faith in Jesus, but there are doubts, often hidden, that are brought to the surface when the foolish speculations of men are presented.  The result is that many turn away from faith to skepticism and the wisdom of men when they finally hear something that they think gives credibility to their doubts.  It is not that we need to fear the philosophies of men, but we do need to be prepared and on guard to deal with them and present the truth.

For example, liberal theologians have done their best to destroy faith in the God of the Bible by their claims that the Bible cannot be trusted and God is different than what the Bible presents.  Their arguments can sound pretty good until you remember that the wisdom they are presenting is simply their own speculations, and when closely examined their conjectures prove to be silly.  We should not believe people simply because they have a Th.D. or Ph.D.  An academic degree denotes academic ability, not
necessarily wisdom.

Liberal theologians tell us Genesis 1 is a story, an analogy, a myth, or has hidden time gaps in it.  Yet, even a cursory examination of the text finds that the time-period of a day is defined in the text as a sequence of a period of light and dark.  They ignore the text and seek to destroy its meaning because their own speculations give greater weight to the musings of science philosophers who reject God than they do to God Himself.  The real reason for their speculations is that the god they worship is not powerful enough to create everything in six solar days.  However, the God of the Bible is.

Liberal theologians deny that Daniel wrote the book of Daniel because the prophecies in it are too detailed for someone to have written before the events happened.  Therefore, someone else wrote Daniel hundreds of years later after the events had taken place. The real reason for their foolish speculations is that the god they worship does not know the end from the beginning.  The God of the Bible does (Isaiah 46:10) and so can reveal it in prophecy before it happens.

Even though the evidence is against them, liberal theologians find all sorts of ways to try and deny the crucifixion, death, burial, and subsequent bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The real reason for their speculations is that their god is not have the power or character to pay for our sins and conquer death.  The God of the Bible does, and His promise is eternal life to all those believing in Christ.

Those who do not honor God

For who He claims to be

And give thanks to Him

Become futile in their thoughts

Resulting in foolish hearts

That are darkened.  

They profess to be wise,

But they have become fools.

To answer my question at the beginning of the sermon . . .

Evil people are simply those

With evil minds and hearts

That put their thoughts

And desires into action.

The first step into evil

Is a refusal to honor

God as God and

Give Him thanks.

What direction are you stepping?

Man may be born dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1) with their minds blinded by the devil so that they might not see the light of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4), but man does not have to stay that way.  You can change direction and step into the light. God has revealed Himself and all who will turn from their sin to faith in Jesus Christ will be saved.  The Holy Spirit can then renew our minds so that we have the wisdom from above instead of the wisdom of this world.  Christian, be sure you are walking in God’s wisdom and not mans.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Man’s Slide Into Total Depravity – Without Excuse, Part 1

Grace For The Journey 

  A question that non-Christians have often posed, and that even many Christians are sometime uncomfortable with, is the nature of the character of God in His relationship to the non-believer.  The Bible is very clear that God will judge the non-believer, but the question is one of whether that is fair or not.  Can God be good and righteous if He judges the non-Christian for His sin, especially in light of the doctrine of election as expressed in such verses as John 6:44 (“No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him”) and Ephesians 1:4 (“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him”).  If man cannot be saved unless God elects or chooses that individual, then is it fair for Him to judge those whom He has not so chosen?  Paul will address this specific question in Romans 9, but he actually lays the foundation for answering that question and others right here in the beginning of his presentation of the Gospel message in Romans 1.

 

Paul is writing to a mixture of Jewish and Gentile believers in Rome expressing his desire to come and bring to them his apostolic ministry in proclaiming the Gospel of God.  He expects there will be great benefit to them and to himself if he could do so. They all would be strengthened in their faith as well as new people brought to faith in Christ.  Paul then begins his explanation of the gospel and its ramifications to them.  

The book of Romans is often called

Paul’s Gospel tract, for it is

The clearest and most detailed

Presentation of the Gospel in Scripture.

Those who write tracts would do well to follow its pattern.

Paul begins his presentation of the gospel in 1:16 with his personal statement that he was not ashamed of the Gospel because of what it is – It is the power of God unto the salvation of everyone who is believing regardless of ethnic heritage; and what it presents – The righteousness of God in both His relationship and actions towards those who are believing (1:17) and those who are not (1:18).  In other words . . .

The benefit of the gospel message is man’s salvation,

But the message itself is really about

God’s righteousness in how He deals with man.

God is righteous in granting men salvation from their sins and sins’ consequences on the basis of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  God is also righteous in His wrath against those who are not believing, for in their ungodliness and unrighteousness they suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

This was the point of yesterday’s blog.  God’s wrath is revealed from heaven by His various decrees issued by Him from His throne resulting in actions taken against all the ungodly and unrighteous.  God has in the past and in the present demonstrated His wrath in all sorts of natural phenomena such as storms, fire, famine, earthquakes, and such as well as the actions of men and angels.  However, His most common demonstration is in the consequences of sin as God removes His restraining hand from those who refuse to worship Him properly or follow the commands He has given.  The rest of Romans 1 will describe the working of this aspect of His wrath.

Remember that “ungodly” means “to be without the proper reverence for God and a proper response to God.”  It is the opposite of “godly” which comes from a root meaning “good worship.”  Ungodliness invariably results in false worship of either the true God or a false god, for man will worship something even if it is only himself and his own thoughts.  “Unrighteous” is that which “does not conform to what is right.”  It is the opposite of loving and obeying the truth (Romans 2:8; 1 Corinthians 13:6), and so it is the opposite of the character of God.  It includes deeds of violating God’s law and His standards of justice.

“Ungodliness” and “unrighteousness” are closely related

In that neither will follow God’s commands,

But the ”ungodly” is more directed

Against the person of God

And “unrighteous” against the

Standards of character and conduct

Which flow from God’s character.  

The “ungodly” reject the true God

For one they define for themselves,

And the “unrighteous” reject God’s standards

In order live by standards of their own making.

”Ungodliness” always leads to “unrighteousness”

Because a person who is not following God

Will not follow His commands and

Can never be right with Him.

Paul further defines the “ungodly” and “unrighteous” as those who are ”suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.”  To “suppress” is to “hold down or restrain.”  All the “ungodly” and “unrighteous” stand against the truth “to keep it from progressing.”  This suppression may range from blatant open denial to a subtle mixing the truth with error, but in any case, it is a holding back of the truth.  In verses 19- 21 Paul explains God’s revelation of truth which they suppress and thus leave themselves without excuse when facing God’s righteous wrath.

Verses 18-21 state, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.  For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”

God’s Manifestation.

The word “manifest” or “reveal” comes from a root meaning “to shine or bring to light” and thus “to make visible, evident, or known.”  There is a certain amount of knowledge of God that all men have been given. 

This is not knowledge that

God has given passively,

As in a book that is available,

But the knowledge is only

Gained by those who read it.  

This is knowledge of Himself

That God has actively given to all people.  

It is given as something both

Innate and as something He has actively

Manifested, revealed, and made evident to all.

No one is born an atheist.  It takes hard work to train a person to be an atheist.  You have to convince them to think contrary to what is natural to them and opposite of what even a cursory understanding of the world around them causes them to conclude.  Every child naturally acknowledges that there is something much bigger and more powerful than themselves.  Even after the hard work which is done in our public school systems to try to convince students that there is no God, the vast majority still believe that there is.  The quick resurgence of religion in the former USSR after 70 years of atheistic communism is further evidence of this truth.  And of the relatively few that do claim to be atheists, most of these will call out to God when they find themselves in serious trouble.  There is a lot of truth to the old adage that “there are no atheists in a foxhole.”

The knowledge that God exists

Is inherent to the human soul.

Children also quickly figure out that everything around them had to have been made by someone.  You can amaze a child by a slight of hand trick and pull a rabbit out of a hat, but the curiosity of the child is going to cause them to try and figure out how the rabbit got in there.  Even if they conclude that it was “magic,” they understand that somebody or something had to make the rabbit and put it in the hat.  It did not happen by accident. There must be a creator.

Paul points out that very fact in verse 19.  It is what God has made in the creation that manifests knowledge of God to all people.  God is a Spirit (John 4:24) and so is not visible to man, but some of His attributes are understood through what God has made in creation.  

Please note that this does not mean

That a complete knowledge of God

Can be known through creation,

But certain things are revealed

About Him in all that He made in creation.

Paul specifically points out God’s eternal power and nature are “clearly perceived” so that men are without excuse.

God’s Power.

God’s power is clearly manifested in creation.  Many verses point to things that happen in nature as evidence of God’s power.  Quite a few of these were pointed out yesterday when we looked as example of God’s wrath being demonstrated.  We can also add to these things what we have learned from our own investigations into nature.  Let’s look at a few examples . . .

Psalm 19:1-6, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.  Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge.  There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard.   Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.  Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them; and there is nothing hidden from its heat.”

The “heavens” in verse 1 refers to the celestial heavens – space – and to the throne of God; while “expanse” refers to the atmospheric heavens.  Both space and the atmosphere declare the power of God.

Out of the atmospheric heavens come demonstrations of God’s power in weather.  The most extreme example of rain is Genesis 7:11; 8:2.  When during Noah’s flood the “windows of heaven opened” bringing judgement and then after forty days the “rain from heaven was restrained” in God’s mercy.  All of us have experienced or at least seen pictures of strong rain storms.  Here were it gets colder, we have also seen this it is frozen form of snow.  Another frozen form of rain, hail, is also an example.  Severe hail was one of the plagues on Egypt (Exodus 9-10) and in Joshua 10 God sent large hailstones that destroyed much of the army Joshua was fighting against.  Thunder and lightning are often mentioned in the Bible as signs of God’s power.  The thunder and lightning on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19) made the people tremble in fear of God.  Job cried out, “But His mighty thunder, who can understand?” (Job 26:14).  We have all experienced strong thunderstorms.  God uses wind in all sorts of ways.  He used wind to part the Red Sea for Moses and the children of Israel (Exodus 14:21) and bring quail for food while they were in the wilderness (Numbers 11:31).  God also used wind as a means of judgement in bringing the plague of locusts (Exodus 10:13) and famine (Hosea 13:15).  Strong winds are used to break rocks into pieces (1 King 19:11).  Psalm 104:4 speaks of God making the “winds His messengers.”  Snow, hail, frost, ice, stormy wind, fire, thunder, and clouds all fulfill God’s word (Psalm 147).  God’s power is seen in the various weather phenomena that exist in the atmospheric heavens.

Modern research into these things measure and quantify the power displayed.  For example, at any time, 2,000 thunderstorms are occurring around the world, producing lightning that strikes upon earth up to 100 times every second.  There are some 20 million cloud to ground lightning strikes in the continental U.S. every year with another estimated 100 – 200 million cloud to cloud strikes.  Within the lightning bolt the air is superheated to temperatures exceeding 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, many times hotter than the surface of Sun.  Typically, lightning travels 10 miles or less.  However, lightning has been observed to travel 20 miles or more, often extending up to 10 miles away from the cloud that formed the lightning. Tornadoes can be spawned by severe thunderstorms with wind speed estimates ranging from 75 to over 300 miles an hour.  The funnels may range from only a few yards to a mile at its base.

According to the NOAA/AMOL, estimates of the energy released in a hurricane are tremendous.  For an average hurricane of sustained winds of 90 mph and a width of 46 miles, the kinetic energy to generate the winds is about 1.5 X 1012 Watts, or about half of the total world-wide electrical energy generating capacity.  But this is small in comparison to the amount of energy released in cloud and rain formation.  The estimate for this for the same storm is 6.0 X 1014 Watts or 200 times the total world-wide electrical energy generating capacity.  The kinetic energy goes up with the windspeed cubed, so a Category 5 hurricane with wind speed three times as fast would be 9 times as much not counting the greater diameter of the storm.

Isn’t that amazing? 

The atmospheric heavens

Reveal something

Of God’s power!

Then there is also the celestial heavens – space.  The power of God displayed in it is mind boggling.  David exclaimed in Psalm 8, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man, that You are mindful of him?  And the son of man, that You care for him?”  Our Sun is a fairly typical star.  It has a diameter of about 1.4 million km.  The Sun’s surface temperature is about 10,000ºF and its Corona (its “atmosphere”) is about 1.8 millionºF with its core temperature estimated at 27 millionºF.  A single solar flare can release as much energy as a billion megatons of TNT in just a few minutes.  There are billions of stars, and many of them are much larger than our Sun.  The celestial heavens also declare God’s power!

This does not even get into other aspects of creation that show God’s power such as earthquakes and volcanoes.

God’s Divine Nature.

But creation also shows us something of God’s divine nature.  For example, God’s goodness is seen in His provision for all life.  

  • Psalm 136:24 tells us that God gives food to all flesh because His lovingkindness is everlasting.  
  • Psalm 147 says that God gives food to the animals both great and small in due season and they are satisfied with good.
  • The same Psalm says He also gives rain to the earth and causes the grass to grow.  
  • In Matthew 6 Jesus pointed out God’s provision for the birds of the air as proof of God’s care for His creation and for man.  Jesus also pointed out in the same passage God’s beautiful array of the lilies of the field which are so short lived.  All the beautiful things in the world, flowers, plants, animals, minerals, jewels, and dazzling vistas all show that God loves beauty.

God is also immense and eternal.  To go back to some of the evidence from the celestial heavens, we quickly are overwhelmed with the size of creation.  When we start measuring distances between plants and suns, we quickly come up with numbers which we cannot really comprehend.

Consider the following figures . . . 

Actual Miles and Travel Time From Earth To Planets In Our Galaxy:

Travel time = 34,000 mph 2X speed of Space Shuttle

Mercury    – 36 million miles away … 44 days travel time.

Venus      – 67.2 million miles away … 82.3 days travel time.

Mars         – 155 million miles away … 190 days travel time.

Jupiter      – 483.3 million miles away … 1 year, 227 days travel time.

Saturn      – 887.4 million miles away … 3 years travel time.

Uranus     – 1,783 million miles away … 6 years travel time.

Neptune  – 2,795 million miles away … 9 years, 140 days travel time.

Pluto         – 3,726 million miles away … 12 ½ years travel time.

Distance Of Other Galaxies From Earth:

Travel time = Must be measured in “light years” … Light is the fastest-moving item in the universe.  It travels at an incredible 186,000 miles (300,000 km) per second.  That’s very fast. If you could travel at the speed of light, you would be able to circle the Earth’s equator about 7.5 times in just one second!  A light-second is the distance light travels in one second, or 7.5 times the distance around Earth’s equator.  A light-year is the distance light travels in one year.  How far is that?  Multiply the number of seconds in one year by the number of miles or kilometers that light travels in one second, and one light-year is about 5.88 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km).

Barnard’s Galaxy             – 1.63 million light years away.

Phoenix Dwarf Galaxy     – 1.44 million light years away.

The Andromena Galaxy   – 2.5 million light-years away.

Proxima Centauri              – 4.25 light years away.

Alpha Centauri A & B       – 4,35 light years away.

God is also precise, because in this vastness of the solar system, man can calculate the precise movements of the heavenly bodies so that he can land a space craft within 10 feet of a pre-designated spot.  He can thread the solar system with space probes like Jupiter I and II and pass through the rings of Saturn without hitting the planet.  This is vastness and precision of God’s divine nature.  We could also spend much time looking at the microscopic world or the biological world and we would find the same precision and complexity.  

This mighty Creator is

Worthy of our worship.

There is one other attribute of God that is exhibited in creation.  God is also a God who will judge.  This is not so much in the things that were created, but in how they were rearranged by the global flood of Noah’s time.  Even without the book of Genesis, the cataclysmic events that have scarred the earth demonstrate that there is an all-powerful Being who judges and whose wrath is to be feared.

Man Is Without Excuse.

The result of all this is that man is without excuse . . .  

There is plenty of evidence to demonstrate

To man that there is an all-powerful Creator

Who needs to be sought out.

God made the knowledge of Himself

Evident both within man and in creation

In all that has been made.  

The problem is not in the evidence.  

It is in man.  Man is sinful by nature

And simply refuses to seek out God.

All men are “ungodly” and “unrighteous” and therefore suppress the truth given to them. They reject God and His commands to one degree or another.  Paul points this out in Romans 3:10-12 in his quote from Psalm 14. “There is none righteous, not even one;  there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.”

God is righteous in His wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteous of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.  He is just in His punishment of sin.  He has made the truth evident, but man has rejected what has been revealed in order to create for himself a god and standards of living according to his own liking.

2 Peter 3 comments about this suppression of truth that is so blatant and prevalent in our own society.  In verses 3-8, the Bible says, “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with [their] mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For [ever] since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.”  For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God [the] heavens existed long ago and [the] earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.  But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”  Verse 4 is a good statement of the premise of evolution which holds that everything continues just as it always has.  It is called the principle of uniformitarianism, and it purposely ignores and suppresses all the evidence of God’s judgement on the world in Noah’s flood.

I could very easily spend many weeks showing all this evidence to you and the foolishness of even the idea of evolution.  I have done so in the past and there are plenty of books in the library for those who would like to study this area in depth.  Some of these evidences would include the massive amounts of sedimentary rock covering the world which in places is thousands of feet deep; the large scale water deposited fossil grave yards; geologic unconformities; recent examples and experiments that prove rapid fossilization, rapid catastrophic erosion (Mt. St. Helens which explains the formation of the Grand Canyon), and rapid formation of oil; fossils, especially trees, that transverse multiple layers of sedimentary rock; the evidence for the rapid formation of the polar ice caps; the evidence of widespread volcanic activity during a single ice age.

These don’t even begin to get into all the evidence for a young earth that is measure in thousands of years and not billions or even millions.  The properties of physics limit the age of the earth drastically from the evolutionary model.  These would include degradation of the earth’s rotational speed; the rate of heat loss by the Earth; and the decay of the Earth’s magnetic field.

Evolutionists claim that creationists cannot be true scientists, but the truth is exactly the opposite.  We are not afraid of looking at all the evidence including those that do not fit our current hypotheses.  Neither are we afraid of stating our premises and philosophical underpinnings and call them that.  A serious look at evolution from the hard sciences can only conclude that it is a fairy tale for grown-ups who refuse to believe the truth.

The problem men have is not with the evidence,

For the evidence is present and shouting out the truth.  

The problem is with the hearts of men.  

They do not want to be accountable to a God

Who has judged in the past for fear

He will judge again in the future

Just as He has said He would.

Ungodly and unrighteous men suppresses the truth.  This is why so many insist on limiting what God can do and how He can do it.  Do you really think it would be any problem for God to create the world in six, twenty-four hour days just as Genesis 1 describes?  Are the miracles described in the Bible too difficult for God to do as described?  Again, the problem is not in the evidence, it is in man’s ungodliness and unrighteousness that refuses to believe.

Is it fair for God to choose and draw some men to belief and salvation while judging those who do not?  In actuality, it is not fair.  It is merciful and gracious.  If God was fair, all men would be condemned.  

Never ask God to be fair

Because you would not like it if He was.  

Ask Him to be loving, merciful, and gracious.

What is demonstrated in the Gospel is the righteousness of God.  He is righteous in justifying the sinner based on faith in Jesus Christ.  He is righteous for bringing His wrath to bear on the ungodly and unrighteous who suppress the truth He has revealed. The evidence is there, and it is active and compelling, but men refuse it and turn away from it because that is their desire.  Men are saved because of God’s actions, but they are judged because of their own.

The evidence is in . . . What have you done with it?  If you already are one of the ones believing in Jesus Christ, then thank God for your salvation and tell others about Him.  If you are not yet believing, then be warned you are currently under God’s wrath, but you do not have to stay there.  Humble yourself before Him, turn from your sins to Him and ask Him for His mercy, grace, and forgiveness.  Be like the publican in Luke 18:9-14 who would not even lift up his eyes, but beat his breast and cried out, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” Jesus said this man went home justified.  So can you.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

 

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

The Wrath of God

Grace For The Journey

In preparation for our study on Romans 1:18, I tried to find a hymn that would match the subject of this verse, which deals with the wrath of God. vI was a bit surprised to find out that there are only four songs in our hymn book that make reference to God’s wrath or anger at all, and only two of those were in the context of being saved from His wrath. Only two songs spoke of the condemnation of sinners, while no hymn spoke of God’s judgement, and only one referenced Him as judge.  Clearly, as evident in one of the latest and more popular hymnals, God’s declared response to sin is not a popular subject.

That is not surprising in itself, for people in general would rather hear about good things than bad things that might affect them personally.  It is surprising though when taken in the context that the message of the gospel is one that includes salvation from God’s wrath upon sin.  That is a wonderful thing to sing about, as . . .

  • Rock of Ages” does in its lyric, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee; Let the water and the blood, From Thy wounded side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure, Save from wrath and make me pure.”  
  • The second verse of the Hymn, “My Hope is in the Lord,” proclaims, “No merit of my own His anger to suppress, My only hope is found in Jesus’ righteousness.”
  • The first stanza of “My Savior’s Love” stands amazed that Jesus would love one who was a “sinner, condemned, unclean.”  
  • As wonderful as the thought is, only the hymn, “And Can It Be?” gives voice to the joy that “No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in Him is mine!”

Those themes were more common in worship a century ago.

Typical gospel tracts of our day prefer to speak of God’s love and having a wonderful life in Jesus.  Sin is usually dealt within a generic sense that everyone does it and it is bad for you.  Getting specific about the sin of the individual and its consequence in eternal punishment is not a popular theme even among Christians.  There is even a movement within evangelical Christianity to discount the reality of an eternal hell.  As much as we might prefer only the good news and to refrain from speaking of what is
negative . . .

We do not have the right

To alter or even change

The emphasis of God’s

Message, And the message

Of God’s Gospel

Includes His wrath.

Remember . . .

That the Gospel of God

Is the theme of

Paul’s epistle to the Romans.

He stated that clearly in the opening verses and in expressing his personal desire to go to Rome.  Paul was “eager to preach the gospel” to those who were in Rome.  Starting in 1:16, which we examined last week, Paul begins his presentation of the gospel message with a few succinct statements which will then be followed by an extensive contrast and explanation of all the particulars of the message and its ramifications.

The Righteousness of God

Let’s begin our study today by looking at verses 16-21, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it [the] righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous [man] shall live by faith.”  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.   For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but
they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”

The important point to note is that

The gospel message is about

The righteousness of God. 

Paul is not ashamed of the gospel

Because of both what the gospel

Can do and what it reveals.

The gospel is the power of God

For salvation for all who are believing.

As pointed out yesterday, such deliverance from sin, rescue from sin’s consequences, and preservation from it, requires it to be the work of God, for man is completely inadequate to correct his sin problem or in any way earn the righteousness needed to be restored to a relationship with God.  Man is born dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1) and will stay that way unless God does something.  

The Gospel message is that

God has done something.

The Gospel message is about the righteousness of God revealed in providing the payment for man’s sin Himself through Jesus Christ, that sinner might be justified and made righteous through faith in Him.   Again, this is not done through any kind of work or human effort, but through simple faith (agreeing with and responding to the truth about) God’s character, actions, and promises.  That is why the righteous will live by faith.  They trust God.

The word “for” in first 18 links the concept of the righteousness of God in relation to those who believe in verse 17 to His righteousness described here in His contrasting relationship to those who do not believe.  If those who believe in Jesus Christ and trust Him alone for salvation from sin are made righteous, that reveals the righteousness of God. 

Those who do not believe are ungodly and unrighteous and Paul points out that God’s wrath abides upon them.  Paul shows the unrighteousness of all people who do not live by faith in Christ from chapter 1:18 through chapter 3:20.  The rest of chapter 1 deals with the immoral unrighteous.  Chapter 2 deals with the moral unrighteous and the religious unrighteous, with chapter 3 concluding that there are “none righteous, not even one.”  Through the rest of the book, Paul will be explaining in detail God’s righteousness in how a person is justified through faith in Jesus Christ as well as explaining the ramifications of that belief.

God’s righteous is demonstrated in His just punishment of the unrighteous for their sin for they are responsible for it.  The general statement is that the ungodly “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”  The proof in verse 19 and 20 is that God has revealed enough of Himself in creation to warrant man’s seeking after God so that all men are without excuse for their failure to do so.  Paul shows in each of the sections that follow dealing with the immoral unrighteous, the moral unrighteous, and the religious unrighteous how each group suppressed that truth and the resulting consequences.  We will dig into each of those in the coming days. Today we will concentrate just on this opening verse.

The Reality God’s Wrath.

Our tendency to want to disassociate God from wrath and anger is not just because of our own aversion to it, but also because a desire to not attribute to God something we perceive as bad.  In a sense, we want God to be better than He is.  However, God is the definition of all that is good, so if there is a problem here, it is in our understanding of wrath and anger as necessarily bad things.

God’s wrath and anger against sin is described with many words and examples in the Old Testament translated as “wrath,’ “anger,” and “fury,” with the underlying Hebrew words meaning such things as “snorting,” “hot,” “burning,” “overflowing,” and “quaking.”   His wrath is described as “burning anger”(Exodus 15:7), “smoke from His nostrils” and “fire from His mouth” (Psalm 18:18).  It can be expressed in pestilence, blood, torrential rain, hailstones, fire and brimstone (Ezekiel 38:22).  

Because of such descriptions of

God’s wrath in the Old Testament,

There have been those who teach

That the God of the Old Testament

Is different from the God of Love

(1 John 4:8) of the New Testament.

However, God’s wrath is also seen in the New Testament.

Consider that . . .

  • John the Baptist and Jesus’ initial message was to “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17).  
  • John the Baptist charged the Pharisees and Sadducees with hypocrisy and cried out against them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” and then warned them to “bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:7-8).  
  • Jesus warned that “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  
  • Jesus also warned that the gospel message was a stone that would break into pieces anyone who fell upon it, and it would scatter like dust anyone it fell upon (Matthew 21:44). 
  • Jesus also warned of the judgement resulting in the guilty being cast into outer darkness where there would be much weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12).
  • Jesus also often warned of hell (11 Gospel references) as a place where the worm does not die and there is unquenchable fire (Mark 9:47-48).  
  • The Bible warns us that it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).  
  • The book of Revelation is descriptive prophecy of God’s wrath still to come. The description in Revelation 19 of Jesus’ return is not meek and mild.  He returns on a white horse, clothed in a robe dipped in blood with a sharp sword proceeding from His mouth smiting the nations.  That is a picture of wrath.

God is the same in both the Old and New Testament, and wrath is an “essential and inalienable trait” of God.

Our problem is not that God is wrathful,

But our attributing that

Wrath with human qualities.

Human wrath and anger are generally understood as something that boils up and over in violent and often irrational action.  It is as stupid, if not more so, to strike a wall in anger as it is to hit or scream at your opponent, especially if it is a family member whom you profess to love.  Yet, human anger does that.  Anger is a strong emotion, and it often gets the best of us.  The Bible warns us that in James 1:19-20, “But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak [and] slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.”  The emotion of anger itself is not the problem, but it is our unrighteous reaction to it.  That is why Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us, “Be angry, and [yet] do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil and opportunity.”

God’s wrath is not like man’s wrath.  Yes, God has emotion and anger is an emotion, but . . .

God is always in control of His actions.

Even when God’s wrath breaks out,

It is never the uncontrolled, irrational

Eruptions of actions that mark man.

God is and has already demonstrated

Great patience and longsuffering

With all men. His actions are

Thoughtful and in keeping

With holiness and justice.

When Jesus came into the Temple and found it to be a market place where thievery was taking place instead of a place of prayer, He did not “lose His temper.”  He was rather, filled with the righteousness indignation of affronted holiness and He cleared out the scoundrels forcibly (Matthew 21).  If Jesus had lost His temper, well, you can only imagine what the power of God would be like if it was released in uncontrolled fury.

The particular word translated “wrath” here, “orge,” as used in the New Testament in relationship to God is “God’s displeasure at evil, His passionate resistance to every will which is set against Him, and His judicial attack upon them.”  

God’s wrath does not exist by itself.  

It is part of His nature as

Are all His other attributes.

God is wrathful because

Of these other attributes.

God’s love does not

Exclude His wrath,

But rather it

Is the opposite,

For it demands it.

Does love tolerate evil against itself and those it extends too?  Of course not.  Love resists all attempts to harm those it extends to.  What do you do when someone or something tries to harm your wife, husband, or children?  

God’s goodness also demands His wrath.  

Goodness does not overlook evil

But rather resists it, seeks to

Change it. and pursues justice.

God is just, and He would be unjust if He did not bring about judicial consequences on those who do evil.  Could God be considered loving, good, and just if the end the unrepentant sinner and the saint were the same?  For example, compare Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot, the men who crashed the planes on September 11 compared to the apostles and Christians.  

God is righteous, but

He would be unrighteous

If He was not

Displeased by evil.  

God is sovereign,

But His sovereignty

Would be in question

If He did not subdue

Those who resist His will.

Consider finally that the greatness of God’s grace and mercy is revealed in the greatness of His wrath.  The contrast between the punishment you deserve and the blessings you receive is that greatness.

The Revelation of God’s Wrath.

Paul says here in Romans 1:18 that God’s wrath is “revealed from heaven.”  The sense of heaven here is not the physical location, as in lightning coming down from the sky to strike the sinner, though that does happen, it is heaven in the sense of the origin of God’s wrath.  Heaven is the throne of God (Matthew 5:34) from which God issues His decrees to be carried out (Job 1; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1).  The distinction here is that God does not have to carry out His wrath personally, but that He directs His wrath to be carried out, and He can do that in several different ways.

We have already mentioned weather phenomena as a revelation of God’s wrath.  In Exodus 9, in the seventh plague upon Egypt, God sends thunder, lightning, and hail as judgement upon them.  God has used wind as both a blessing (Exodus 14:21) or a curse (Isaiah 48:7).  God sent rain for forty days and broke up the fountains of the deep when He poured out His wrath on the antediluvian world (Genesis 7).  He has also withheld rain in a drought as part of His wrath (Haggai 1:10-11).

God’s wrath has been revealed in other phenomena as well including fire and brimstone as rain (Sodom & Gomorrah – Genesis 19), barrenness (Genesis 20:18, water turning into blood (Exodus 7), ), various diseases (boils – Exodus 9, inexplicable darkness (Exodus 10), insect plagues (Gnats – Exodus 8, Locusts – Exodus 10, ), other animals (frogs – Exodus 8, fire (Nadab and Abihu – Leviticus 10:2, snakes – Numbers 21, the earth splitting open and swallowing Korah and those with him in rebellion (Numbers 26:10), famine (Deuteronomy 32:24), lions – 2 Kings 17:25), other  earthquakes (Isaiah 29:6), tumors – 1 Samuel 5:6, leprosy – 2 Kings 5:27),

God also uses men to carry out His wrath.  When the nations surrounding Israel attacked and suppressed Israel, it was generally recognized as part of God’s wrath. God used nations such as the Philistines, Moab, Ammon, Assyria, and Babylon to punish Israel for turning away from Him, just as they had been warned (Deuteronomy 28).

God also uses angels.  The Lord used “the destroyer” to stride dead the first born in the first Passover (Exodus 12) and those that grumbled in the wilderness wanderings (1 Corinthians 10:10).  It was an angel of the Lord that brought the pestilence that killed 70,000 at David’s census (2 Samuel 24) and an angel of the Lord that struck down 185,000 Assyrians (Isaiah 37).  Revelation states that it will be angels that will blow the trumpets and pour out the bowls of God’s wrath.  God also uses evil angels including Satan as instruments of His wrath.  The Lord used a deceiving spirit to bring about the death of Ahab (1 Kings 22), and sent an evil spirit to cause Abimelech and the men of Shechem to destroy each other in response to their murder of Jerubbaal’s seventy sons (Judges 9).  Satan will be used to deceive the nations and gather them together for a final battle after which he and his followers will be thrown into the lake of fire and then the Great White Throne judgement takes place (Revelations 20).

A final way in which God reveals His wrath has been alluded to – it is in the natural consequences of sin.  Failure to live according to God’s commands and following those who are evil results in negative consequences.  God does not have to directly intervene in some way to bring about His wrath, He can also do so by staying His hand and letting the consequences of sin flow.  God’s judgement of Ephraim was that he was joined to idols and to “leave him alone” (Hosea 4:17).  Jesus’ judgement on the Pharisees was the same.  They were blind guides of the blind and to “let them alone” (Matthew 15:14). Paul will demonstrate this truth throughout the rest of Romans 1.  God “gave them over” (verses 24, 26, 28) to the sin that was in their hearts, and that sin will bring its own punishment (cf. Psalm 81:12).  To be abandoned by God and left to your sin is a horrible and hopeless state.

In our scientific age, people want to explain away weather phenomena and other natural phenomena as just the way nature works.  However, God still does use these things, as well as the actions of men and angels, to reveal His wrath in our own time.  For all that Television gets wrong, at least the History Channel’s series, “The Wrath of God,” is properly named.  The most common revelation of God’s wrath, though, is still this latter way of simply allowing the consequences of sin to come upon those who commit them.

The Recipients of God’s Wrath.

Who are the targets of God’s wrath?  The examples already given have shown it, but Paul is very definitive here.  God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against “all ungodliness and unrighteousness, the ones suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.”

Ungodliness and unrighteousness

Are not two separate groups,

But the twin characteristics

Of those who suppress

The truth in righteousness.

They are both ungodly and unrighteous.  “Ungodly” means “to be without reverence for God and a relationship with God.”  This is not in the sense of irreligious, but rather in acting in dispute or defiance of God’s demands.  The particular word is thought to have its origin in the negation of the word which means “to worship,” so it is a negation of worship.  It is the opposite of godliness, which is the conjunction of “good and worship.”  Ungodliness invariably leads to false worship, not no worship, because man will worship something even if it is only himself and thoughts.  Paul will deal with such false worship over the next couple of chapters.

The characteristics of ungodliness are seen in the passages in which the word is used. In 1 Timothy 1:9-10, the ungodly are listed alongside the lawless, the rebellious, sinners, the unholy and profane, those who kill their fathers or mothers, murderers, immoral men, homosexuals, kidnappers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else “is contrary to sound teaching.”  In 2 Timothy 2:16, “worldly and empty chatter” are listed as things that “will increase (lead to) more ungodliness.”  2 Peter 5 describes the pre-flood world as “ungodly.”  Other passages describing that period show that the people had evil hearts (Genesis 6:5), but that basically, they were just living their lives without much thought of God’s commands or warnings (Matthew 24:28).  A time that in many ways is much like our own.  Peter and Jude both warn that there will be such ungodly people in the last days and that judgement by fire awaits them (Jude 14-18; 2 Peter 3:7).

“Unrighteous” s also translated as “evil doer, iniquity and wickedness.” It is the opposite of “be or do right.”  It is that which does not conform to what is right.  It is the opposite of loving and obeying the truth (Romans 2:8; 1 Corinthians 13:6) and so is the opposite of the character of God.  It includes behavior which violate the law and justice.

“Ungodliness” and “unrighteousness” are closely related

In that neither will follow God’s commands,

But “ungodly” is more directed

Against the person of God

And “unrighteous” against

The standards of character and

Conduct which flow from God’s character.  

The “ungodly” want to make

Up a god for themselves,

And the “unrighteous” want to

Live by their own standards.

Ungodliness always leads

To unrighteousness because

A person who is not following

God will not follow His commands.

An important point to note here is that . . .

God’s wrath is against all who

Are ungodly and unrighteous.

God does not have a list

Of acceptable and unacceptable sin.

To Him, all sin is sin and

Is deserving of His wrath.

As James points out,

Failing in one area

Of God’s law makes

You guilty of all.

Any violation against

His person or

His standards brings

His condemnation.  

Through the next couple of chapters, Paul will show that . . .

All people have violated God’s commands

And are therefore unrighteous and condemned.  

You might do better than others, but

The standard is perfection, and no one meets it.

It is like trying to swim across the Atlantic ocean.  Most will not make it very far, a few might make it out of the sight of land, and a very few even 30 or 40 miles, but the distance is so far, there is no hope of anyone swimming it.

The Righteousness of God’s Wrath.

There are those that will attack God as unfair and unjust to set standards so high that no person can meet them and then to bring His wrath to bear upon them.  However, as Paul points out here, man is completely responsible for is own failure and incurring God’s wrath for it is against those “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”  This is a present active participle verb which means “this is an on-going action these people are doing in the present time.”  Paul explains further this suppression of the truth in verses 19-32 and we will expand on that throughout the rest of this week.  

The point here is simply this . . .

God made the knowledge of evident to them,

But they have suppressed that

Knowledge of God in their unrighteous.  

They do not desire to live

By God’s standards, so they

Also reject the knowledge of Him.

God has promised that those who seek Him will find Him when they search with all their heart (Jeremiah29:13), but the plain fact is that no one does that on their own (John 1:10-11; 3:19-21; Romans 3:10-12).  People love their sin too much.  

It is this very fact that reveals God’s righteousness

In both His wrath on the ungodly and the salvation

He grants on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ.

Apart from Jesus Christ, there is no hope.  There will only be God’s just and righteous wrath.  But in Jesus Christ, there is hope even for the ungodly and unrighteous, for it was for such people Christ died.  The Bible says in Romans 5:6, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”  The Bible further explains in Titus 3:3-7, “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.  But when the kindness of God our Savior and [His] love for mankind appeared,  He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to [the] hope of eternal life.”

Man cannot earn salvation,

For his ungodliness and

Unrighteousness condemn him,

But he can receive it as a gift

Of God’s grace through faith

In Jesus Christ who took

The wrath of God upon Himself

In paying the penalty of our sin

That we, the unrighteous, might be

Made righteous in Him (2 Corinthians 521). 

What man could not and

Would not do for Himself,

God, in His righteousness,

Has done through Jesus.

If you are not saved, then be warned that God’s wrath abides upon you and its final expression will be judgement at the Great White Throne and eternal separation from God in Hell.  It is time to quit suppressing the truth God has given you.  Turn from your sin to Him and place your faith in Jesus Christ as the substituted payment and begin your walk with Him.

If you are saved, then praise God for it, for you did not earn it yourself.  And be sure that you are telling others what God has done for you, and in so doing, also declaring His righteousness.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

God’s Righteousness In The Gospel

Grace For The Journey

The passage we are going to look at for today’s blog is a watershed passage of Scripture.  It was these verses that haunted Martin Luther until he came to understand what they meant.  The result was not only his own salvation, but within a few years, the start of the Reformation.  Those who reject what these verses teach must also reject Biblical Christianity, for these verses stand directly against any form of salvation by works.  Those who accept what these verses teach must also then live according to God’s New Covenant of faith.

Romans 1:16-17 declare, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it [the] righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous [man] shall live by faith.”

No Shame.

Paul begins this passage stating that he was “not ashamed.”  Shame is the fear or painful feeling that is aroused when you, or someone, or something you identify with acts, thinks, or fails to act or think according with the standards you accept as good. Shame brings with it the desire to shrink back and hide because your weakness or failure has been exposed.  Shame is an emotion that entered the world with Adam’s sin in Genesis 3.  Perhaps you will recall that after Adam and Eve at of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Bible says, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.  And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:7-8).  They became painfully aware of their sin and desired to hide it from each other and from God when He came looking for them.  They did not want their sinfulness exposed to each other and especially not to God.

Let me make a couple of side comments here.  The reason that nakedness brings shame is not because there is something wrong with the human body. There is not.  God designed and created Adam and Eve and He pronounced them very good (Genesis 1:31), and that includes His placing them in the Garden of Eden naked and unashamed (Genesis 2:25).  Nakedness brings shame because sin corrupted man’s nature and the exposure of the body is a reminder of that sin.  A very young child can run around d naked without shame for two simple reasons.  The same reasons older people cannot.  First, they are unaware of their own sinfulness.  They have no perverted thoughts toward others and they have no awareness of anything perverted about their own bodies.  As they get older, that will change.  Second, the naked body of a toddler escaping from the changing table does not bring perverted thoughts into the minds of other people.  That will also change as they get older and their bodies mature.  God’s standards of modesty are for the benefit of both the individual and the rest of society. God does not want you exposing yourself to your own shame or for your exposure of yourself to cause perverted thoughts in others to their shame.

This is why we need to be careful to dress properly, modestly and discreetly (1 Timothy 2:9).  Dressing to entice is not an issue of fashion, but of morality.  If you are not a harlot, don’t dress as one.  Your bodies do not belong to you, but to your spouse or future spouse.  They are not for the viewing pleasure of perverse people.  Godly people do not want to be thought of in that way.

The opposite is also true.  Job made a covenant with his eyes not to gaze at the virgin (Job 31:1) because it would be to his own shame to view her exposure.  It is important that we be careful of what you look at.  You do not need to have perverse thoughts generated by what you see.  As you walk down a street you cannot keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.  You could also wear a hat and not be around where they congregate.

Pornography is out of the question for Christians.  That includes the forms that masquerade as entertainment in our society.  Would not brotherly love refrain from encouraging in anyway people exposing themselves in a manner that you would not approve of if it was your mother, sister, daughter, father, brother, or son?  Why then pay money to see such magazines or films, or support the products of those who exploit others in such a way?

Whether a person feels ashamed or not depends both on the action or thought, the accepted standards of society, and one’s own standard of what is good.  

Paul states that he is not ashamed of the gospel

Because he clearly understood both the truth

Of the gospel and God’s standard of right and wrong.  

Paul placed greater emphasis on what God thought of him

Than of what other people may have thought of him.  

For that reason, Paul was not ashamed to proclaim

The gospel of God or live by God’s standards.

But note that Paul states this from the negative instead of the positive.  He says he is “not ashamed of the gospel” instead of “I am proud of the gospel.”  While there could be several reasons for this, two are primary.

First, pride is not generally presented in Scripture as a positive virtue.  There are only a few references in which the term is even used in a positive manner (2 Chronicles 17:6; 1 Corinthians 1:12,14; 5:12; Philippians. 1:16).  For the most part pride is a negative – this is clearly brought out in Proverbs 11:1 “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom” and 1 Peter 5:5b, “. . . and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Second, the historical situation was one in which the world was against Christianity.  The gospel was and is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks (1 Corinthians 1:23).  The Jews could not understand how Jesus, the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, could be the Messiah.  Jesus did not fit the prophecies of a conquering Messiah and He was not following the religious traditions they had developed over the centuries. The result was that the Jewish leaders were against Jesus and His followers. Recall will recall from the Gospel of John the reaction of the religious leaders.  In John 7:47-49, they had sent court officers to arrest Jesus.  Instead, the officers heard the comments of the people and then Jesus Himself and upon returning without him said, “Never did a man speak the way this man speaks.”  The leaders responded, “You have not also been led astray, have you?  No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he?  But this multitude which does not know the Law is accursed.”  In John 9:34, in response to the testimony of the man born blind that Jesus must be from God since He had given him his sight, we are told the religious leaders, “… answered and said to him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?’” And they put him out.”   The situation with the Jews did not change with Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. The followers of Jesus were treated with contempt, disdain, scorn and persecution.

“The Greeks” is a term referring to all non-Jews, considered the gospel to be “foolishness.”  A classic example of this was Paul’s encounter in Acts 17. Paul went up to the Areopagus, also known as “Mars’ Hill,” at the request of the Athenian philosophers who wanted to know about this “new teaching” he was proclaiming.  They had a great interest in telling and hearing something new (Acts 17:21).  They listened respectfully to what Paul said as he explained to them the “Unknown God” they had worshiped in ignorance.  Paul told them that this God had created them and their existence was dependent upon Him.  He also told them that this God had overlooked their ignorance previously, but was now calling on them to repent because He had fixed a day in which He would judge the world in righteousness through a Man He had appointed.  However, the reaction changed when Paul said that the proof of this was raising the Man from the dead.  Verse 32 says that “when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, ‘We shall hear you again concerning this.’”  In other words, some immediately scorned at such an idea while others were more polite, but still put Paul off and heard no more.  Only a few joined with Paul to understand more of what he was talking about.

It is still the same way today.  The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:21 that God is still “well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”  And there are still not many “wise” or “noble” after the ways of the world that will believe.  The world still holds in contempt and treats with disdain those who follow Jesus Christ, and in many places in the world there is still physical persecution.

Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel, but this does not mean that he was not afraid.  He states himself that at times he was.  Paul wrote the Corinthians, “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling.  And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (2 Corinthians 2:4-5).  To be afraid of standing up to speak the truth to those you know may well reject your message and you, and possibly persecute you is not from shame, but simply fear of what consequences may come as a result of saying and living by what you believe.  It can also arise from the fear of somehow messing up God’s message and displeasing Him.   From the listing in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 of all the things Paul suffered in serving Christ, there were fearsome consequences to preaching the Gospel.  Yet, Paul faced and overcame those fears because he understood the purpose of his life and entrusted himself into God’s loving and gracious hand.  Paul was fearful at times, but he was never ashamed of the Gospel and so he would shrink back from declaring it to others.

That is the greatest personal challenge to us in this passage.  Are you like Paul or are you ashamed of the Gospel?  Do you value the opinions of other people more than God’s?  Are you embarrassed to let others know you are a follower of Jesus Christ? Yes, it is fearful to risk suffering persecution regardless of its severity.  Our natural inclination is avoiding pain if we can whether it is the pain of physical abuse or
the emotional pain of being rejected by others.  I don’t want to be hit or have my property damaged because they become angry when I point out to people they sinners in need of God’s forgiveness which is available through Jesus Christ.  I don’t like being verbally insulted either.  I am sure you don’t either.  But . . .

If we understand correctly exactly

What the Gospel of God is,

Then any suffering from

Persecution is well worth it.

I may be afraid, but the fear will not become shame which would cause me to shrink from declaring God’s truth regardless of personal consequences.

The Power of God for Salvation.

What is the gospel of God?  It is the power of God unto salvation to all who are believing without regard to who they are, what they have done, or what they are doing.  Paul correctly points out at the end of verse 16 that this salvation is to the Jew first for it was to and through the Jews that God revealed His plan of salvation.  Jesus pointed this out to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:22 telling her, “You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews.”  In Matthew 15:21-28 a Canaanite woman comes to Jesus asking Him to help her sick daughter.  Jesus told her that He was “sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  Her response was to bow down before Him and say, “Lord, help me!” Jesus responds, It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” You and I might have left offended at that point, but her response was one of utter humility. “Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” Jesus responded to her great faith and healed her daughter. We gentiles may not like that, but we must recognize that it is God’s grace that saves us and not our heritage. That is true for Jewish people too.  John 1:12-13 points out that “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, [even] to those who believe in His name,  who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”  The gospel is the power of God unto the salvation of all who are believing.

But . . .

Why does man need salvation?  

What does mankind need to be saved from?  

The answer is not “hell.”  

Hell is only a consequence.

It is not the problem.  

The problem is sin.

Most of you are familiar with the story of Adam and Eve and their disobedience to God’s command that plunged man into sin.  God had warned them that on the day they would eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would die.  Death is separation. Physical death is the separation of the soul from the body and spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God.  In that day, they did die spiritually as they were kicked out of the Garden of Eden and separated from the previous relationship that had with God.  This separation would become eternal in hell unless some means could be found to remedy sin.  Physical death also entered the world at that time as God killed an animal to cover their nakedness (Genesis 3).  

The problem man faces is

His sin and its consequences

– Death and hell.  

Every person has inherited

Adam’s sin nature (Romans 5:12)

And then confirms that sinfulness

By their own disobedience of God’s commands.  

Man is therefore condemned by

Both his inherited sin nature

And his own personal failure

To keep God’s commands.

The salvation Paul speaks of here is deliverance, rescue, and preservation from sin and its consequences.  It is deliverance from the bondage of sin, rescue from sin’s consequences, and preservation from continuing in sin.  It takes the power of God to bring about this salvation.  Man cannot do this on his own, though he tries.  Some try to deal with sin philosophically by simply denying it or its consequences, but that is foolishness.  Denying either sin or hell is like trying to keep yourself from falling down by denying gravity exists.  Even if you could make it look good on paper, reality would still hurt when you hit the ground.

Man has also developed various religions and philosophies in an effort to improve his manner of life and somehow appease God.  But . . .

Man is simply not powerful enough

To change his character to

Meet God’s perfect standards.  

Without holiness, man will not see

The Lord (Hebrews 12:14), and Isaiah 64:6

Makes it clear that no one

Meets God’s standard of holiness.

The Bible says in Romans 3:10-12, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” and in Romans 3:10-12, , quoting from Psalm 14, God makes it clear that left on our own, no one is good or even seeks after Him, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.”  Philosophy and religion fail because they are not powerful enough to either change man or satisfy the penalty of sin.

Consider if a man was finally able to change himself to the point that he no longer sinned.  What then?  He still has a problem because he is already guilty and condemned by the sins he has already committed.  A murderer is not set free simply because he no longer murders.  A thief must still make restitution even if he no longer steals.  A liar is still responsible for the damage his lies have caused others even if he only tells the truth from now on.  

The wages of sin is death

(Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 6:23)

And the penalty must be paid.

Many religions instituted animal sacrifice as a means to pay this penalty.  This was in keeping with God’s instructions in the Law, but such sacrifices could never take away sin.  They had to be continually made because of man’s continuing sin, and an animal is not the equivalent of a man.  They were only a shadow of what had to come as Hebrews 10:1 states, verse 4 adding, “for it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take a away sin.” (See also Psalm 50:8-12; 51:16ff; Isaiah 1:11-15; Jeremiah 7:21ff; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6ff).

There were those men powerful enough to cause others to die in their place, but even that would not satisfy, for the death of the one murdered would only satisfy the penalty of his own sin and not that for anyone else.  

An equivalent sacrifice would have to be made,

But it would have to be sinless itself.  

Only the power of God could do this,

And

That is exactly what Jesus Christ did.

  • Jesus became a man so He would be an equivalent payment for other men.  
  • He was sinless, so His death could be a true substitution and not a payment for His own sin.  
  • He was also God, so His sacrifice would be of infinite worth so that it could be applied to all men.

He made one sacrifice for sins for all time (Hebrews 10:12).  But Jesus also broke the bondage of sin (Romans 6) and clothed those saved by Him with His own righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).  This was absolutely necessary or man’s continuation in sin would condemn him.  

The promise was proven by the power

That enabled Him to conquer death

And rise up from the grave.  

Without the resurrection we

Would still be in our sins

(1 Corinthians 15:17).

Only the power of God could accomplish this. The gospel is the power of God unto the salvation of all those who are believing.

The Qualification for Salvation.

The last part of verse 16 gives us the qualification of salvation, “for everyone who believes.”  It is not, as John 1:13 states, that we are saved by, “blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”  People are not saved because of ethnic heritage, nor by that person’s own desire, or the desire of someone else.  Your parents cannot save you.  It comes only from God to those who are believing.

What does it mean to “believe?”  It is accepting and responding to the truth Jesus has revealed about Himself, God, and salvation.  What had Jesus said about himself?  We see that in the following passages:

John3:14-16, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life.  For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

John5:24, “Verily, verily, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”

John 8:51, “Verily, verily, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”  

John wrote his gospel account for this purpose in John 20:31, “but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”  

What must be believe that Jesus is who He claimed to be.  He is God in human flesh, who lived a sinless life, died as the substitute for our sins, and then rose from the dead. Paul summarized this in Romans 10:9-10 stating, “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus [as] Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

The requirement for salvation comes down to a matter of belief, but that belief is on-going.   The verb form for “believe” here is a present, active participle.  Salvation is for those who believe and continue to believe.  Jesus is not a Santa Claus story.  This is not a belief you hold one day and then disbelieve next.  The fickle belief of people like those described in John 8 does not bring salvation.  Jesus is real. 

Believing in Him involves more than

Just knowing some facts about Him. 

True belief in Him is agreeing

With and responding to Who Jesus is

And what He has done; and it is ongoing

Resulting in a change in your life,

And your eternal destiny.

The Righteousness of God Revealed.

As Paul states in verse 17, the Gospel is the revelation of the righteousness of God and how He saves based on faith.  God could not just forgive sins without the penalty being paid, for then He would be unjust and a liar.  God is the one Who gave Adam and Eve both the rule, the penalty for violating the rule, and the for dealing with the violation.

God is the one that stated that the “soul who sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4).  

If God did not require

That penalty to be paid,

Then He would not be true.  

God is consistent with Himself and

Keeps the laws He has made.  

He is just.  At the same time,

If God condemned all mankind

Without hope, He would be just, but

He would not be loving, merciful, or gracious.  

How then could God be both just and loving?

How could His righteousness be demonstrated?

By paying the penalty of sin Himself.

His justice is satisfied in the very act

Of love, mercy and grace

That pays the penalty.

His righteousness is then manifested

By granting salvation to

Those who are believing,

That is, trusting God according

To His character and promises.

The phrase “from faith to faith” is parallel to “everyone who is believing” in verse 16.  The same formula in an expanded form is used in Romans 3:22 explaining the manifestation of the righteousness of God – “even [the] righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe.”  The righteousness of God is manifested through faith in Jesus Christ and abides on all who believe.

The phrase is further explained in the quote from Habakkuk 2:4, “But the righteous man shall live by faith,” which also explains the nature of righteousness.  The nature of true righteousness is the same in both the Old Testament and the Gospel Paul was preaching.

The Nature of the Righteous.

Man commonly wants

To define righteousness

In terms of the rules he

Makes for himself and keeps.

That was the way in which the Pharisees had lived it in keeping with the rabbinical system that proceeded them.  It is still the way religious man defines righteousness in our own day.  Whether it occurs in an older system such as Roman Catholicism, or in a new system, such as has developed in the new cults, or in the legalism in many evangelical churches, it is all basically the same.  The religiously righteous man lives by his work in keeping his code of ethics.  All that varies is the particulars in the code of what you can and cannot do.  It is works based righteousness.

God defines righteousness

In terms of

The person’s faith in Him.

Faith is not an intellectual assent separated from life.  It is the belief that a person has that guides the daily actions of life based on the trust placed in the object of belief, in this case, God Himself.  It is not the action itself, but the basis for the action that makes the difference in the life of faith that is righteous.

Paul will explain this further in chapter 4 with the example of Abraham, but the point here is simply this.  

Man is not made righteous with God

Through his own goodness and works.

Man can only be made righteous with God

Through the Gospel message which calls on people

To an ongoing belief in Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God,

In trusting Him for the forgiveness of their sins

Based the sacrifice of Himself as the and His resurrection.

This continuing belief manifests itself in a righteous life of faith.  A life in which you step forward to do what God asks and live according to His standards despite any fear that might be there, regardless of the consequences of an unknown outcome, not because some effort to appease God or win His favor, but because you trust Him.  The righteous live by daily trust in God.

Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel because he lived by faith.  What about you?  If you are not one of the believing ones yet, I encourage your to write to me and I will be happy to talk with you further about it, or talk to a Bible-believing Christian about it.  You can join the family of God today by turning from your sins to Christ by faith.

If you have been ashamed of the Gospel in the past, God is willing to forgive, but it is time to move forward in trust and see Him do great things in your life.  You are not alone.  Part of the purpose of the church is believers helping one another walk in faith, and grow in faith, but that can only happen as you get involved with others and let them minister the Word of God to you even as you minister to them.  Take advantage of the various ministries and fellowship opportunities.

What would happen in our communities if each of us was like Paul?  Let us pray and live by faith to that end.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Paul’s Desire – Is It Ours?

 

One of the great frustrations in life, at least for me, is that there is so much more I would like to do, but I am limited and cannot do them.  I am limited by time and space. I cannot be in two places at the same time, and the time it takes to travel from one place to another takes away from what I could have otherwise done.  All of you who have long commutes to work understand that very well.  I am also limited in capacity.  There is only so much I can deal with before becoming overloaded and bogged down.  My mind can only comprehend so much at a limited rate.  Sometimes it feels like I need to be multi-tasking with many windows open on the screen, but the operating system is still handling one item at a time.  I am further limited by my abilities.  I simply do not possess all the abilities I would like and need to accomplish all I would desire.  Whether it is a limitation in knowledge, understanding, skill, physical ability, or any combination of those, I simply do not have the ability to do all that I would like.  Perhaps some of you also share in this frustration.

As the years go by, the wise learn to live with this frustration even as the level of it increases.  All of us see the opportunities to accomplish certain things in life pass us by, but the wise set their priorities accordingly so that they can accomplish what is actually important.  When I was a young man, there were a host of things I wanted to do in my life.  Now that I am older, I know that I never will accomplish many of those things.  For the most part that is okay, because some of them were not really that important to begin with, and others were replaced by more important things.   Yet, there are those things I wish I had done, and there are those things I still long to do.  Hopefully . . .

I have learned enough to keep the priorities in order

So that I do accomplish what is important,

But I know that because of my limitations

There will be things important to me that I will not do.

The desires are there, but I must leave t

The accomplishment of them in God’s sovereign hand.

I think the apostle Paul understood this, from the passage we will be looking at today we will see
the expression of his desire of something he could not control.  He wanted to go to Rome to meet with the believers there.  However, it would not be long after writing this, while on his way back to Jerusalem, that the Holy Spirit would keep letting Paul know that bonds and affliction awaited him, and Paul’s own statement is that he would be ready to die in Jerusalem if need be (Acts 20:23; 21:13).  

Paul did not know the future,

But he could still express

His desires and then let

God work out the details.

We need to do the same and so there is an important lesson in these verses as Paul continues in his introductory statements.

Review – Verses 1-7.

In the first seven verses of his letter to the Romans, Paul identifies himself and the subject of his letter as well as bringing an opening greeting to them.

The writer is Paul who had been Saul,

A persecutor of the church,

But by the grace of God had been

Changed into a bond-servant

Of Christ Jesus and called as an apostle

With the specific commission of

Proclaiming the Gospel of God.

The subject of Paul’s letter would be

This Good News of God concerning

His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Who had been promised beforehand

By the Old Testament prophets. 

Paul’s quest was to glorify God

By bringing about the obedience of faith

Among the gentiles, and that

Included the saints in Rome.

Paul expands on this in verses 8-15 as he expresses his desire to come and minister among them.  In expressing this desire, Paul also reveals his own character.  A character that is well worth emulating because of his thankfulness, prayerfulness, and desire for ministry and faithfulness.

Thankfulness – Verse 8.

The first characteristic we find in Paul is thankfulness, but note the reason for his thankfulness.  It does not have to do with something that he personally received from them.  Anyone can and should express thankfulness for things that are done for them.  That is simply common courtesy.  A courtesy, I am sad to say, that seems to be expressed less and less within our culture.  But even in a society such as ours, all of us understand that being thankful for something that benefits you personally is a normal reaction.

But the Romans were not doing anything that benefitted Paul personally.  Paul had received gifts from the Philippians and was thankful to them for that (Philippians 4:15-16,16), but the Romans had not sent anything to Paul.  Why then was Paul thankful to God for them?

Because They Were Doing Something That Was Dear To His Own Heart.

That is why Paul’s expression of thankfulness

Here is so significant in revealing his character

And the driving force in his own life.

Paul was thankful because God was

Producing in the lives of the Romans

The very thing that made Paul

The most excited.  Living for Christ.

Paul was thankful because the Romans were playing on the same team as him and they were making progress.  There is no jealousy in Paul over what they were accomplishing, just as there should not be any jealousy in any Christian over what the Lord is accomplishing through other Christians.  It is a sad commentary on the true sinful heart of a person when jealousy arises because God is doing something through someone else instead of them, yet I even find that to be true among pastors.  We should rather be like Paul.

I like to hear of what God is doing through His people in various parts of the world even if I have never been there myself or met the people doing the work.  I get excited when I hear that the Lord is doing great things though someone else.  There is no cause for jealousy because we serve the same Master who is head of the same Body.  We are part of one another, and as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:26 concerning the Body of Christ, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if [one] member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”  I hope that you respond the same way. That is the case of Paul here.  Chapter 16 reveals to us that Paul and some of the people with him knew some of the people that were in Rome.  However, Paul had not been to Rome, and as we shall see in a few minutes, he has not imparted to them any Apostolic ministry, though that is something he desires to do (vs. 10-15).  Paul was excited and thankful for the reports he was hearing about the faithfulness of the Roman believers.

We can understand even more of Paul’s thankfulness when we consider what these Roman Christians had already endured.  Some eight or nine years earlier (49 A.D.), Emperor Claudius expelled Jews from Rome under the belief that they were all followers of someone named Chrestus – a variant of Christ.  This seems to have been the result of the reaction of the unbelieving Jews against the testimony of the Jewish believers.  The result was a turmoil that threatened the peace of the whole city.  Claudius sought to solve the problem by driving them all out.  The powerful testimony of these Christians not only affected Rome, but as Paul states here in verse 8, their “faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.”  That is a good cause to be thankful.  Are you not thankful when you hear of faithful believers in Russia, China, the Middle East ,or elsewhere?  You certainly would rejoice if God was doing through you and your church family!

But Note As Well Who Paul Is Thankful For.  

Paul states, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all.”  Paul uses the personal possessive pronoun in reference to God.  It is not “I thank God,” but “I thank my God.”  A pagan could not have done that and even most Jews would have refrained from such an expression.  But Paul has a personal, intimate relationship with the Creator of the universe and he is not hesitant to let others know it.  What about you?  How willing and bold are you to let others know that you know God personally?

Paul gives thanks to his God for the Roman believers “through Jesus Christ.”  This is appropriate because Jesus is the one and only mediator between us and God the Father (1 Timothy 2:5), and it is through Him that we are given access to the Father’s throne (Hebrews 4:16) as His adopted children (1 John 3:1).

Prayerfulness – Verses 9-10.

Paul’s use of “first” in verse 8 is not “first” in the sense of the points of an outline, but more in the
sense of “let me begin by saying” and then starting his discourse.  

Paul’s thankfulness leads him

To the response of prayerfulness.

The same is true for all who have hearts like Paul’s.  

When the righteousness and kingdom of God

Are the primary focus of our lives,

We get excited when we hear of people

Who are living in righteousness

And extending that kingdom,

And that in turn motivates us to pray.

The prayer then motivates us to want

To be personally involved if at all possible.

That is Paul’s heart here. 

Verses 9 and 10 say, “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.”  The evidence of Paul’s thankfulness is his prayerfulness, and here, with the specific desire to come to them.  Paul was not trying to impress them with nice thoughts, but was seeking to reveal to them what was really on his heart.  That is why he starts these verses by calling God to be his witness to the veracity of what he would say.  The proof of his heart would not be just that he calls God as his witness, for many people will swear by God without even a thought that what they are saying is true.  They do not have a relationship with God so they do not care.  The proof here is in the expression of Paul’s relationship to God as one who serves Him by his spirit in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Paul’s life was one of service to God, and so God is the proper witness to Paul’s expression of his devotion in praying concerning them.

The specific request in Paul’s prayers is that he might at last, if God should so will, be able to come to Rome.  If the passage ended there, you might think, “so what, many people would like to see Rome.”  Perhaps you would like to see Rome yourself and all its sights.  Imagine what it would have been like before it fell into ruins over the centuries?  But Paul did not want to go to Rome either as a tourist or to gain something through visiting the capital of the empire.  Paul expands on his reasons to . . .

Ministry – Verses 11-13.

These verses state, “For I long to see you in order that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you [while] among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.  And I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented thus far) in order that I might obtain some first among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles.”  Paul’s reason for, as he states here, “longing” to go to Rome was for the purpose of ministry.  

The tourist goes to a place in order to get,

While Paul’s heart was set on what he could give.

I wonder how many of us have desires similar to Paul’s of wanting to go someplace in order to give?  I would hope that would be the desire when you come to worship God and interact with His people.  That is a characteristic of spiritual maturity that I pray each of us are continually developing.  

Worship is about giving to God,

Not getting from God.

Your spiritual gifts are given

To you for the purpose of

Building others up and not

Seeking your own edification.

There is, of course, a benefit to yourself in doing this, and Paul points this out here too, but that does not detract in anyway from his heart to minister.  Specifically . . .

Paul desired to share with them

What God had entrusted

To him as an apostle.  

He wanted to impart spiritual gifts

To them they might be

Established, or strengthened.

The very purpose of spiritual gifts is for the building up of the whole body (1 Corinthians 12-14).  Paul expands on this idea in Ephesians 4:11-16, where he states: “And He gave some [as] apostles, and some [as] prophets, and some [as] evangelists, and some [as] pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.  As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 1ing the truth in love, we are to grow up in all [aspects] into Him, who is the head, [even] Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

This was Paul’s goal.  To use his giftedness as an Apostle to help equip them so that the body of Christ in Rome would be stronger.  This is not arrogance on Paul’s part in anyway.  This was a proper desire for him as an apostle just as it should be your desire to use your gift, whatever it maybe, in the
service of God in building up other Christians.  It is not arrogant to use what God gave you to accomplish what God wants.

Further proof of Paul’s humility is seen in his acknowledgment and desire to gain from them too.

The first thing Paul expected to gain himself from them was encouragement.  This is an important truth . . .

When you minister your spiritual gift

To others you likewise receive back

The ministry of others spiritual gifts to you.  

That is God’s design.

Each part works together.  Paul understood what it meant that he was an apostle, but he did not view this as a superior position that did not receive back ministry from others.  The thankfulness he had expressed earlier already revealed he had been encouraged by the report of their faith.  He expected to gain even more encouragement from them when he could meet with them in person.  He expected their mutual faith to encourage and build up both them and himself.

In verse 13 Paul mentions the second expectation, but before mentioning it he emphasized again his
desire to come to them by speaking about his earlier efforts.  Paul uses the phrase “I do not want you to be unaware” in several places to call attention to the importance of something he was about to say (Romans 11:25; 1 Corinthians 12:1; 1 Thessalonians 4:13).  Going to Rome was not something that was a new or fleeting thought with Paul.  He had “often” or “repeatedly” made plans in the past to go to Rome, but up to the time of writing the letter, he had always been prevented.  In chapter 15:23 Paul mentions that this had been his desire for many years.  In Acts 19:21, when Paul was just starting his third missionary journey, he speaks of going to Rome after the completion of that journey. Paul does not specifically say here what had prevented him from making the trip earlier.  We do know that Paul was very sensitive to the moving of the Holy Spirit and diligently sought to do God’s will and not his own.  Acts 16:6-10 gives us an insight into this, “And they passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and when they had come to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.  And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a certain man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

In Romans 15:18-21 Paul speaks his earlier ministries and is aspiration “to preach the gospel, not
where Christ was already named, that I might not build upon another man’s foundation; but as it is
written, ‘They who had no news of Him shall see, and they who have not heard shall understand.’”
Paul then states in verse 22, 23 “For this reason I have often been hindered from coming to you; but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you”

In truth, it was Paul’s sensitivity to the Holy Spirit that hindered him from coming earlier.  

Paul’s desire to do God’s will in God’s timing

Was greater than his desire

To do his own will in his own timing.

So should it be for all of us.  Doing good things is not enough, nor can it really be good, if it is done apart from God’s will including His timing.  The right thing done at the wrong time, is still wrong.  Paul
contented himself in serving the Lord as He directed and trusted Him for the specifics of time and place of future ministry.

Paul’s second expectation of gain was fruit among them.  In some ways it could be said that obtaining fruit was Paul’s continual quest.  

Paul’s ministry of preaching and teaching the Gospel

Were not ends in themselves, but were for

The purpose of bearing fruit for God.

Remember what Jesus said in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and [that] your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.”  While all that God requires of a man is faithfulness (1 Corinthians 4:2), if a faithful man is not seeing some sort of results from his ministry, then he will want to find out why and see if he can overcome any obstacle in order to gain fruit.

What kind of fruit?  There are several types of spiritual fruit spoken of in the New Testament, and it would be safe to say that Paul would expect all them since they all result from the proclamation of the Gospel and preaching of God’s Word.

  • The first type of fruit is converts or new believers in Christ.  Epaenetus mentioned in Romans 16:5 was the first convert, literally the “first fruit,” from Asia.  
  • There is also the “fruit of the Spirit” mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 that refer to the attitudes and characteristics of those who walk in the spirit as contrasted with walking in the flesh.
  • There is fruit of worship that comes from conversion.  Hebrews 13:15 states, “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”
  • There is the fruit of holiness exhibited in the changed life.
  • The fruit of being freed from sin and enslaved to God is sanctification (Romans 6:22).
  • There is the fruit of service to the Lord.  
  • That changed life includes the fruit of shared ministry.  In Philippians 4:16,17, Paul thanks the Philippians for the money they sent to support him which he specifically called the fruit which increased to their account.

Paul concludes this section with a final reason for his desire to come to them.  

Obligation – Verses14-15.

Given Paul’s commitment to obeying and serving God, he did not have any other choice.  Verses 14-15 say, “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.   Thus, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.”  Paul states that he was under “obligation” or “debt” to the Greek and barbarians and to the wise and the foolish.  This was part of Paul’s commission at his salvation (Acts 9:15; 26:17,18).  Paul considered himself crucified with Christ and no longer living himself, but it was Christ living through him (Galatians 2:20).  He exclaimed to the Corinthians, woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel for he had a stewardship entrusted to him (1 Corinthians 9:16-17).

The two sets of contrasted groups covers all people.  Those who spoke Greek and all the barbarians, which is simply a reference to those that did not speak Greek.  Paul had an obligation to preach the gospel to every ethnic group he encountered.  He also was called to the wise and the foolish.  The education and intellect level did not matter either.  The Gospel is for all people.

For that reason Paul was eager to go to Rome and preach the gospel there.  What about you?  Do you have a heart even faintly similar to Paul’s?  Do you understand the obligation that you are under to serve the Lord Jesus Christ?  It is not a harsh obligation, for Jesus’ yoke is easy and light (Matthew 11:30), but we are in debt to Him, for every true Christian is no longer his own, but has been bought with the price of Jesus’ precious blood, the price of our freedom from sin.

My own prayer is that God will bring about fruit in your life and in your church.  Fruit of new converts . . . . Fruit of true worship . . . Fruit of people walking in the spirit and becoming holy . . . Fruit of willing use of spiritual gifts in the service to God for the benefit of the whole body.  As each of us strives to emulate Paul’s priority of seeking God’s kingdom and will above all else, that fruit will grow.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Understanding The Good News Of God . . . So That We Can Proclaim It To Others.

Today we begin a journey into the Epistle (or letter) of Paul to the Romans.  

This is one of the most

Significant books in the Bible

For it contains the most

Comprehensive and clear

Explanations of the gospel

Of Jesus Christ

In all of the Bible.

God has used the study of this book as the means of launching most of the reformations and revivals in the church since the close of the apostolic era.  Martin Luther said that Romans is “the chief part of the New Testament.”  John Calvin said of Romans, “When anyone gains a knowledge of this Epistle, he has an entrance opened to him to all the most hidden treasures of Scripture.”  

It contains a message so simple

That a child can understand it,

And yet so compelling and deep

That great minds have studied

It for years seeking to

Understand all of its treasures.

Donald Grey Barnhouse preached weekly from Romans for 11 years.  William Tyndale said of Romans, “No man verily can read it too oft, or study it too well; for the more it is studied, the easier it is; the more it is chewed, the pleasanter it is; and the more groundly it is searched, the preciouser things are found in it, so great treasure of spiritual things lieth hid therein.”

We begin our own mining of the treasures of this book by looking at Romans chapter 1 and examining Paul’s introduction in the first 7 verses in which he explains who he is and his purpose in writing, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called [as] an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about [the] obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called [as] saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Author – Verse 1.

Brief history of Paul: The author identifies himself as “Paul,” who is distinguished from all other “Pauls” as being the one who is a bond-servant of Christ Jesus and a called apostle who is set apart for the gospel of God.  Paul first appears in the pages of Scripture under his Hebrew name, “Saul,” in Acts 7:58 at the stoning of Stephen.  Saul was a young Pharisee from the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5) who had been trained under the great Rabbi, Gamaliel (Acts 22:3).  He was very zealous for the Law of God according to the tradition of the Pharisees(Philippians 3:5-6), and so heartily approved of the murder of Stephen (Acts 8:1) and became a great persecutor of the church.  In Acts 9 Saul is on his way to persecute the followers of Jesus in Damascus and bring the bound back to Jerusalem.  But Saul met Jesus on the way and the difference that Jesus made in his life is recorded in Acts 9:3-19.

Most of us are familiar with the story. As Saul approached Damascus, the Bible says, “suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’  And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’  And He [said,] ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but rise, and enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do.”  And the men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but seeing no one.”  When Saul got up from the ground, he was blind and had to be led by the hand to Damascus.  The Lord had revealed to a certain disciple named Ananias, that Saul was “a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”  Ananias met him and restored his sight and Paul was then baptized.

Saul’s conversion was

Nothing short of miraculous,

But such is the nature

Of the grace of God.

In Acts 26:14-18 Paul is giving his defense before King Agrippa and reveals some more of what Jesus had said to him on the road to Damascus, “And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But arise, and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; delivering you from the [Jewish] people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.‘”  Saul’s conversion from a persecutor of the followers of Jesus into being one himself was also his commission to preach the gospel.  Saul immediately began to do so.  After escaping a plot to murder him, Saul went to Arabia for three years where he learned and received revelation from Jesus (Galatians 1:11-12, 17-18).  He then returned to Damascus briefly, then went to Jerusalem where he met with some of the Apostles.  Saul escaped from another plot on his life there and returned to his home town, Tarsus, where he was ministering when Barnabas brought him to Antioch to start a church there (Acts 11:22-26).  Later, he and Barnabas were commissioned to make a missionary journey starting churches throughout Asia minor (Acts 13).  Paul would make two more missionary journeys, venturing to Macedonia and Greece on the these next two trips.  It is probably while Paul was in Corinth on his third missionary trip that he wrote this letter to the Romans.  This would be about 57 A.D.

A bond-servant: Paul’s identification of himself as “a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God” traces back to his conversion. Paul understood clearly the grace given to him by God.  Because of Paul’s former persecution of the church he considered himself to be the “chief of sinners” (1 Corinthains 15:9; 1 Timothy 1:15).  He understood clearly that his life was no longer his own, but was now bound up in Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:20), and so he identified himself as a “bond-servant” (doulos) in the sense of Exodus 21:5-6, a slave that loved his master and did not want to depart, so he willingly made himself as permanent slave.

An apostle: Paul was called out by Christ and sent as his apostle.  The word “Apostle” means, “one sent with authority,” and Paul went forward under Jesus’ specific commission to preach the gospel of God.  There is a broader context in which “apostle” could refer to all believers since all Christians are to be witnesses of Jesus, but here, “apostle” is used in the narrow sense of those whom Jesus chose and commissioned to proclaim the gospel and lead the early church.  Paul understood himself to be unworthy and the least of the apostles because of his earlier persecution of the church, and yet an apostle who was equal with any of the Twelve (Matthias replacing Judas) (1 Corinthians 15:9).  There were those that sought to detract from Paul, but he demonstrated his apostleship by his teaching, his godly life, his personal encounter with Jesus, and by signs, wonders and miracles (1 Corinthians 9:1; 2 Corinthians 11-12(.

The Gospel of God – Verses 2-4.

Paul was specifically “set apart for the gospel of God.” Other apostles may have had other specific commissions, but this was Paul’s, and the proclamation of that gospel is the underlying theme of the rest of the book.  As most of you are aware, “gospel” (eujaggevlion) means “Good News.”  

But what Good News?  

Paul is very specific

Here that it is the

Good News of God.

Paul then goes on in verses 2-4 to explain . . .

The nature and origin

Of this good news

That it is according

To God’s promises

In the Old Testament

Concerning His Son,

And then in verses 5,6 Paul further explains . . .

Its benefits in bringing

To them God’s grace.

Origin of the gospel – Verse 2.  

Paul is writing to a mixture of Jews and Gentiles.  

It is very important that he present

From the very beginning that

This Good News is what God

Promised beforehand through

His prophets in the holy Scriptures.

Paul would later show the importance of this to the Gentiles, but if he did not communicate this clearly to the Jews, they would not have payed any attention to Him.

The Good News concerning Jesus Christ

Was not a new cult doctrine,

But was in keeping with

What God has revealed

To and through His prophets

In what we refer to

As the Old Testament.

This sets it apart from

The speculation and musings

Of the Rabbis recorded in their

Traditions such as the Talmud.

One of the marks of false religions and cults is that their god or gods are inconsistent, contradictory, and do not keep promises.  The true God is consistent and keeps His promises.  

  • God is not a man that He should lie or repent (Numbers 23:19).  
  • He is unchanging, so He does not contradict Himself (1 Samuel 15:29).  
  • He knows the end from the beginning and so His promises will always come true (Isaiah 46:10).

If Muhammed had understood this he would have also understood why the Jews and Christians rejected Islam, for Allah is a changing God who contradicts Himself.  He is not the God of the Bible.

The God of the Bible is consistent,

Unchanging, and keeps His promises.  

This truth is so important to the

Validity of the Gospel that Paul

Spends much of the book taking

The reader back to the Old Testament

To prove his argument.

There are more Old Testament references and citations in Romans than in any other New Testament book.  Paul quotes from Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Hosea, Joel, Habakkuk & Malachi. That is 14 different books of the Old Testament.  Only Matthew quotes from as many different sources.  

The Gospel of God which Paul presents

In Romans has its origin in and

Is consistent with the Old Testament.

It is for the Jew and the gentile.

The Promised Messiah – Verses 3-4.

The promises God made

In the Old Testament

Are Good News concerning

The coming of His Son, the Messiah.

Paul points out one of the prophecies concerning Messiah here in verse 3 that God’s, Son was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh.”  The Promised One, the Messiah had to be both deity and humanity.  Jesus Christ is human of the correct lineage for He is a physical descendant of David through His mother, Mary (Luke 3), and He inherited the right to David’s throne through Joseph by adoption (Matthew 1). Many prophecies concerning Messiah that were fulfilled in the birth of Jesus.  However, Jesus’ birth alone did not prove He was Messiah.  It is one thing to claim to be the Son of God and another to prove it.

Paul points out in verse 4 that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God and the proof of it was His resurrection from the dead.  Paul uses a passive participle of “declare” here for it was not just Jesus’ claim, but it was what was pronounced about Him.

Jesus disciples declared Him to be the Son of God.  In Matthew 16:16 Peter professed, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  In John 20:28, Thomas proclaimed Jesus, “My Lord and My God!”  Even Jesus enemies understood His claim and in John 10:33 they said to Jesus, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out [to be] God” (cf. John 5:18).  However, Paul does not rely on declarations of men, for men can be fooled and they can lie.  Paul states here in Romans 1:4, as the NKJV better translates, the “He is declared [to] [be] the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”

  • At His baptism, Matthew 3:16-17 states that “the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, [and] coming upon Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.’”  
  • At the transfiguration, Peter, James, and John all heard the voice from a cloud declare concerning Jesus who currently standing before them with His face shining like the sun and His garments as white as light, “this is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5).  

God declared Jesus to be His Son and the final proof of it is His resurrection from the dead.  Only God, the giver of life, can raise the dead back to life.

Paul then gives the full title of the Son of God so there would be no confusion.  The Gospel of God concerns God’s Son who is, “Jesus Christ our Lord.”   “Jesus” is a form of “Joshua” and means “Yahweh is salvation.” “Christ” is the Greek equivalent of “Messiah.” Both meant “anointed one.” “Lord” is used because He is “God” and therefore “sovereign ruler of the universe.”

The Benefits of the Gospel – Verses 5-6.

In verses 5 and 6 Paul gives the benefits of the good news of God.  It is through Jesus Christ our Lord that, “we receive grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ.”

Paul uses a plural, “we,” to refer to himself and those with him.  At end of book, in Romans 16:21-23, we find there are several others that are with him.  All of them have received grace from the Lord Jesus Christ, and Paul, as mentioned earlier, was also specifically made an apostle by that same grace for the purpose of bringing to the Gentiles the Gospel of God which would bring them to the obedience of faith.  

This is Paul’s first mention of grace

In association with the gospel,

But it will not be the last

For they cannot be separated.

The Good News of Jesus Christ

Is bound up in the grace of God.

“Grace” is “unmerited and unearned favor.”  It is getting something good you do not deserve.  

The Good News of Jesus Christ is

That though you are a sinner,

God extends His grace to you

Through Jesus Christ so that

You can gain salvation from your sin.

Salvation from your sin is something

Which you in no way deserve and

In which in no way could you possibly earn.

Paul will spend a large part of Romans proving that point.

The last phrase of verse 6 specifically applies this benefit to those Paul was writing to in Rome.  They too were among those who are the “called of Jesus Christ” and therefore have been brought about to “the obedience of faith” because of God’s grace.  They did not call themselves, but Jesus Christ has called them.

The Purpose of the Gospel – Verse 5.

The purpose of the gospel

Is the salvation of man,

But the ultimate purpose of

That is “for His name’s sake,”

I.e., for the glory of God.

That is important to keep in mind for it will keep the Gospel from becoming man centered.  The Good News of Jesus Christ is not about man, but about the character of God.  It is about His love, mercy, and grace of which we are simply the undeserving recipients.

Paul understood that the grace God had given to him was for the purpose of declaring the Gospel to others.  That was the purpose of his apostleship, and that the proclamation of that gospel was to bring about the “obedience of faith” in others.  What is this “obedience of faith?”  Paul uses this phrase or a similar one in several places (Romans 15:18; 16:26; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Hebr3ws 5:9).

Salvation is all of God’s grace,

But that does not mean that

Obedience is not part of salvation.  

In fact, obedience is an integral

Part of salvation and without

It you cannot be saved.

It is sad that the message of God’s grace has been so perverted and centered on man that such a central truth is seldom understood in American Christian society.  I realize that some would brand me a horrible heretic for saying that, but the truth is the truth.

Obedience is not the means of salvation,

For that is all of God’s grace, and

No one can earn God’s favor or

Work their way to heaven

(Ephesians 2;8-9).  

However, obedience is the first

Step of salvation and its result,

For that is salvation’s purpose.

When the gospel is proclaimed, the only ones that are saved are those that are obedient to believe the message.  That is one aspect of what Paul says here.  The purpose of his apostleship is to proclaim the Gospel message so that others will obey it in faith.  The stress is on obedience to believe the message.

The other aspect of obedience flows out of the message itself.  Jesus Christ is God in human flesh who has paid the penalty of our sin and break its power over us so that we might receive the righteousness of God by faith in Him.  Since Jesus Christ is God, how is it that anyone can claim that obedience to Him is somehow optional?  Since we are saved from sin to righteousness (Romans 6), how can anyone claim that striving against sin and toward righteousness living is somehow optional?  Escape from hell is not the purpose of salvation, but only a wonderful consequence of it.  The unrighteous go to hell after being judged according to their own works (Revelation 20).  A profession of faith in Jesus Christ is not enough.  The claim must also be true.  That is why Jesus warned in Matthew 7 about the false teachers who would be known by their fruit of unrighteousness.  They claimed to do all sorts of things in Jesus’ name, but in the end Jesus will tell them, “Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”  That is why Paul warns in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to. “Test yourselves [to see] if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test?”  1 John 3:7-8 is just as straightforward, “Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”  

The proof of the claim is in the change in how you live.

Recipients of the Letter: Verse 7a.

It is important to note who Paul is writing to.  Even though Romans is a systematic presentation of the Gospel, the letter itself is written to those who already profess to be followers of Jesus Christ.  Paul is writing to, “to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called [as] saints.”  Paul uses three terms or phrases to identify these people. They are the “beloved of God,” “called,” and “saints.”  What wonderful truths.  God set His love upon us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8), called us in Christ to Himself (Romans 1:6), and set us apart unto Himself, which is the meaning of “saint.”

Many people have been saved simply by reading and studying the book of Romans, and there is no doubt that Paul rejoices greatly in God using it in that way.  Yet . . .

The purpose of his writing was

To clearly explain the Gospel

And its ramifications to those

Who were already believers

So they would be able to accurately

Tell others this wonderful message of God’s grace.

Salutation: Verse 7b.

Paul’s salutation to them in verse 7 is, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Those who are beloved of God and called of Jesus Christ to be saints can have God’s grace and peace.  Only they can call God their Father because they have been adopted into God’s family through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Over the several months or so we are going to be carefully studying this Book so that . . .

We too might have a clear understanding

Of the Good News of God that is

Presented by His grace in Jesus Christ,

So that we can proclaim it to others also.

The theme of Romans is the Righteousness of God demonstrated in the gospel.  I pray that it will be as enlightening, enjoyable, and edifying to you as it has been for me in studying God’s precious Word.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Living For God’s Glory And The Growth Of His Church

In today’s blog, we come to the conclusion of Paul’s epistle to the Colossians.  It has been a wonderful of journey of 52 lessons that we began in mid-June.  I was reminded of the importance of Colossians recently when a question was asked at a pastor’s fellowship that I attended.  One of the pastor’s asked, “How would you lead a Bible Study of a group of professing Christians from diverse denominational backgrounds and make very clear the distinction between true Christians and everyone else?”  Because I was in Colossians at the time, I replied by saying, “By showing the preeminence of Jesus Christ as explained in the book of Colossians.”

The various heresies that Paul was addressing in Colossians and what is occurring in modern Christianity are essentially the same.  

They were developing beliefs and practices

That were pushing Jesus out of His proper

Position and the same continues today.

When this occurs, a separation will develop between true believers and those following false doctrine and heresy – for truth and error cannot walk in harmony with one another as 2 Corinthians 6 clearly explains.  In addition, the various forms of error will separate from each other as each strives to gain the position of prominence.  

Anything added to or taken away from Jesus

Makes Him someone or something else.

He is who He is and only He is sufficient

To completely redeem man from his sins

And make him complete before our holy Creator.

A different Jesus, like those of the various

Liberal denominations and cults, cannot

Accomplish that, which is why all of them

Claim additional revelations and add various

Rituals and works you must do in order to get to heaven.

Other heretical groups ignore, dismiss, or even

Disdain the revelation of God in the Bible

So they can avoid any obligation

To obey God’s commands.

They want to do what

They want to do when

They want to do it and

They don’t want God interfering

With anything they want to do.

True fellowship can only exist when

Jesus is given His proper place in being

Preeminent in all Creation and the church,

And when He is given that proper place

Then true fellowship can exist even when

There is diversity over a broad range of

Particular practices and secondary beliefs.

That is the reason that earlier generations of true Christians in various denominations were able to cooperate so well.  Their essential beliefs and practices were the same as is described in Ephesians 4:5-6, “One body, one Spirit, one calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, and Father of all who is over all through all and in all.”  When there is unity in essential doctrine there can be peace, harmony, and true fellowship. Without that, any cooperation will have a shallow basis.  It is easily fractured and accomplishes nothing positive of eternal importance.

Review

The church at Colossae was facing several developing heresies.  Paul’s desire was to combat these false teachings and encourage the Colossian believers to continue to grow in their faith and walk with Christ.  He wanted to “present everyman complete in Christ” (Colossians 1:28).  These motives are evident throughout the letter beginning with opening remarks and prayer in Chapter 1.

The means of combating all of these

Developing heresies was to emphasize

The specific things God has done

And Jesus’ role in them

That makes Him supreme.

God “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (verse 13).  It is in Jesus that “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (verse 14). Jesus is the “image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation” (verse 15), which I previously explained means that Jesus is both the physical expression and manifestation of the invisible God so that men can grasp the nature and character of God.  Jesus is preeminent over creation.  He existed from eternity past prior to creation and so is not a created being.  He is God in human flesh, and as Colossians 1;16 & 17 explains, He is the architect, builder, possessor, and sustainer of all creation.  Jesus is also the head of the church and so is to have first place in everything (verse 18).  He reconciled us to God through His physical bloody death on the cross by which we can be presented to the Father holy and blameless (verse 20-22).  Jesus has done all the work.  We simply need to continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast (verse 23).

In Chapter 2 Paul continues to correct the heresies by showing Jesus’ superiority over each one.  Jesus is superior to philosophy, legalism, mysticism, asceticism, and all religions.  In Jesus “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (verse 3) which makes Him infinitely superior to worldly philosophy and the traditions of men).  In Jesus we are made complete and He is the head over all rule and authority (verse 11) which makes Him superior to all religious systems.  The religious rituals of Mosaic Judaism were only shadows of what was to come in Him (verse 16-17).  Angelic revelation is inferior to the revelation of the Son (Hebrews 1) and all forms of asceticism are at best just the teachings of men and can only deal with things that are going to perish.  They give a false appearance of wisdom, but they actually have no true value in battling fleshly indulgence (verse 21-23).  Jesus took upon Himself all our sin and paid for it on the cross, granting forgiveness, removing all the charges against us, and making us alive together with Him (verse 12-14).

In Chapter 3 Paul battled the heresies and promoted maturity by pointing out the consequences of being raised up with Christ and contrasting the previous manner of life with its sinful vices with the new way of life in walking in godliness.  The result is that we strive to do all we do or say in the name of the Lord Jesus (verse 17) and encouraging one other to do the same (verse 16).  These truths come out in our various relationships fulfilling our roles within the family whether that be wife, husband, child or parent and in society regardless of whether we are a slave/worker or the master/employer (3:22-4:1).

In Chapter 4 Paul continued his exhortation to live godly lives by encouraging proper prayer by giving himself as an example of what we should be praying for concerning one another (verses 2-4).  Our conduct and speech are to be guided by wisdom that seeks to make the most of every opportunity God grants to us (verse 5-6).  

Paul also introduced us to men who are examples of such godly living.  We examined two of these in yesterday’s blog – Tychicus and Onesimus – and this today we are going to see several more.  The first six are men that send their personal greetings to those in Colossae.  These include the faithful man, the restored man, the encouraging man, the laboring man, the beloved man, and the noted man.  Paul then gives instructions to a hospitable woman and a gifted man before concluding with a final salutation.

Personal Greetings – Colossians 4:10-14.

We discussed Tychicus and Onesimus in yesterday, so today I am only going quickly mention a few things.  Paul considered both of them to be beloved brothers.  Tychicus had traveled a lot with Paul and experienced many dangerous situations with him so that Paul considered him a “fellow servant and bond slave in the Lord.”  Paul entrusted him to carry the letters to Ephesians and to the Colossians.  Onesimus was a new convert to Christianity, but he had quickly matured and become dear to Paul.  He was actually an escaped slave that was voluntarily returning to his master in Colossae.  We will learn even more about him in our upcoming study of Philemon.

Let’s now take a look at the six men that also send their personal greetings to those in Colossae.  The fact that each of these men do so indicates that each one had some connection already to those in Colossae.

Aristarchus: The Faithful Man.

Our text simply says concerning him, “Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, sends you his greetings.”  We find out much more about this man from various passages in Acts.  He is first mentioned in Acts 19:29.  Paul is in Ephesus at that point, but Paul would have met him much earlier.  Acts 20:4 states that Aristarchus is from Thessalonica.  Paul first visited that city on his second missionary journey after he had crossed the Aegean Sea into Macedonia.  Acts 17 records that after that Paul left Philippi he traveled to Thessalonica where there was a synagogue.  Paul reasoned with the Jews there for three Sabbaths explaining that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Some of them were persuaded along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks.  It is probable that Aristarchus came to faith at that time or soon after from the witnessing of those that did believe at that time.  1 Thessalonians reveals they had quickly embraced and proclaimed the gospel to others.  In either case, his faith was born in the midst of adversity, for Acts 17 continues on to record the strong opposition among the unbelieving Jews.  They formed a mob and caused an uproar and were seeking to do harm to Paul and his companions saying they were men “who have upset the world” claiming they were acting “contrary to the decrees of the Caesar saying that there is another King, Jesus.”  The believers there sent Paul to Berea.  However, it was not long before the same unbelieving Jews arrived in Berea and caused more trouble resulting in Paul sailing for Athens.  Aristarchus grew in his new faith in the midst of such opposition from his fellow, but unbelieving, Jewish neighbors.

Paul spent two years in Ephesus during his third missionary journey and that is where we next find Aristarchus.  Toward the end of that time an Ephesian silversmith name Demetrius gathered together the other tradesmen that made their living related to selling shrines of Artemis, the Greek goddess of fertility.  The response to Paul’s proclaiming of the gospel was so great that their businesses had been very adversely affected.  They incited a riot, and while the believers had prevented Paul from getting caught up in it, the mob had dragged both Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Madeconia, into the theater (Acts 19:29).  There was much confusion there since most of the crowd did not even know what was going on, but they were incited to be very upset and shouted for about two hours, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”  This was a very dangerous situation, which in God’s merciful providence was eventually quieted down by the town clerk.  Aristarchus was no stranger to danger related to proclaiming the gospel.

After this Aristarchus traveled with Paul throughout the rest of his third missionary, journey going up into Macedonia, over and down into Greece, then back to Asia Minor and finally to Jerusalem.  He was one of the men that represented the church in Macedonia to the church in Jerusalem and ministered to the poor there.

Paul was arrested in Jerusalem and spent two years in prison.  While nothing states exactly where Aristarchus was during this entire period, we do know he is with Paul when he is sent to Rome for trial.  Luke records in Acts 27:2, “And embarking in an Adramyttian ship, which was about to sail to the regions along the coast of Asia, we put out to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica.”  Speculation is made about whether Aristarchus went all the way to Rome with Paul, but here in Colossians we find that he is with Paul during his Roman imprisonment.  It seems reasonable that Aristarchus had been with Paul through it all and so gained the title from Paul as a “fellow prisoner.”  The actual Greek word here, has the meaning of ‘one taken captive in war.’  This is a figurative usage since there is no indication Aristarchus had been charged with anything and the war they were in was a spiritual one.  By his own desire Aristarchus continued to serve the Lord alongside Paul wherever Paul might be including prison.  This meant much to Paul and so he gave him this additional title. Aristarchus includes his greetings because it is very probable that he would have known some of the Colossian believers from his time spent in Ephesus.

Aristarchus is the faithful man –

A man worth emulating.

Mark: The Restored Man.

Our text states a greeting was also given from “Barnabas’ cousin Mark (about whom you received instructions: if he comes to you, welcome him).  This is John Mark who is first mentioned in Acts 12:12 when the angel had released Peter from prison, “And when he [Peter] realized [this,] he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.”  His mother’s home was one of the meeting places for the early church in Jerusalem and they had gathered there that night to pray for Peter who had been thrown into prison by Herod.

Mark was a cousin to Joseph of Cyprus who was nicknamed Barnabas which means “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36-37).  When the church in Jerusalem heard that a church had been established there among the Gentiles in Antioch they sent Barnabas to minister to them.  Barnabas then went and found Saul of Tarsus, the Apostle Paul, to help out with the ministry in that church (Acts 11:19-26).  Acts 13 records that some years later the church in Antioch sent out Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey to Cyprus and beyond.  Barnabas had been born in Cyprus so this was a natural place to go, and Barnabas takes along his cousin, John Mark, on the journey.

Things began well.  Acts 13:5 records, “And when they reached Salamis, they [began] to proclaim the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews; and they also had John as their helper.”  He continued to be useful throughout their ministry on Cyprus, but something changed soon after that.  Acts 13:13 states, “Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; and John left them and returned to Jerusalem.”  We do not know what caused John Mark to abandon the trip, but it later became a cause of division between Barnabas and Paul.

They returned to Antioch to report on their mission’s work and then began planning a return trip to check on and encourage the churches they had planted.  Acts 15:37-39 then records, “And Barnabas was desirous of taking John, called Mark, along with them also.  But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.  And there arose such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus.

Whatever the cause of Mark deserting them on the first trip, it was serious enough that Paul absolutely refused to take him along on a second trip.  Barnabas, who by nature was an encourager and probably even more so toward his cousin, insisted that he go with them.  This caused a rift between Paul and Barnabas resulting in Barnabas taking Mark and going back to Cyprus and Paul taking Silas and going north through Cilicia and over to Lycaonia.  Happily, this is not the end of the story.

In 1 Corinthians 9:6 we find that Paul and Barnabas are working together again and here in Colossians, an additional 6 or 7 years later, we find that Mark is with Paul in Rome.  Barnabas had been effective in encouraging this man so that he had matured to the point that Paul was now glad to have him there.  With as much traveling as Mark had done with Barnabas, it is not surprising that he would be known to the church in Colossae and so he sends his greetings.  Paul also remarks that Mark may be coming to them and they were to follow the instructions they had received concerning him.  The origin and particulars of these additional instructions is not known to us, but they were aware of them.

A few years later Paul mentions Mark again.  In 2 Timothy 4:11 Paul remarks about his situation, “Only Luke is with me.  Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service.”  The man Paul had opposed many years before was now important to him and useful for service.  The apostle Peter makes the last mention of Mark in the Scriptures saying in 1 Peter 5:13, “She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you greetings, and [so does] my son, Mark.”  Mark continued on to serve alongside Peter, and it is from Peter that Mark writes his account of Jesus’ life and ministry which we know as the Gospel of Mark.

Mark is the restored man.  

He is an example of God’s

Great mercy in using people for

Great things even after they have failed earlier.

God can use you to do great things for Him regardless of your past history.  Regardless of your history, you continue to do your best to serve the Lord and let Him write your future.

Jesus Justus: The Encouraging Man.

He is only mentioned here and our text says of him, “and [also] Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision; and they have proved to be an encouragement to me” (Colossians 4:11). “Jesus” is the Greek derivative of “Joshua” and a common name at that time.  His Latin surname, “Justus,” means “righteous.”  Though we know little about him personally, he is included with Aristarchus and Mark as one of the Jewish believers who were fellow workers for the kingdom of God and who had proved to be an encouragement to him. That in itself is a high recommendation of Jesus Justus.

Paul had been in prison in Rome at this time for about two years.  Acts 28:11ff records he had met with the Jews in Rome very soon after he had arrived, but sadly, they also rejected the message that Jesus was the Messiah.  Paul continued to preach and teach  to all that came to him, but the effect of the ministry was largely confined to the Gentiles including the Praetorian guard and even Caesar’s own household (Philippians 1:13; 4:22).  When Paul penned this letter there were only three Jewish believers with him, and Aristarchus and Mark came from somewhere else.  Only Jesus Justus may have been a believing Jew from Rome.  Paul had a great heart and desire for his fellow Jews (Romans 9:1-5), and perhaps that is why this man was such a great encouragement to him in addition to whatever personal ministry he was doing along with Aristarchus and Mark as fellow workers for the kingdom of God.

Jesus Justus is an encouraging man

And so is a reminder to us that

We need to do the same to whomever

And by whatever means God gives us opportunity.

Epaphras: The Laboring Man.

We met Epaphras in Colossians 12:7-8 where Paul states regarding him, “just as you learned [it] from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.”  Epaphras had brought the gospel to the Colossians and had gone to Rome to inform Paul of the dangers that the church was facing resulting in Paul’s letter to them.  Here in Colossians 4:12-13 we read, “Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.  For I bear him witness that he has a deep concern for you and for those who are in Laodicea and Hierapolis.”

We have examined Epaphras life in a previous study so today I only want to point out Paul’s emphasis here that he was a man very concerned for the people in his hometown and for Laodicea, 10 miles to the west, and Hierapolis, 12 miles to the northwest.  For whatever reason he had remained with Paul for the present time and could not be there physically, but his concern and work for them had not diminished for it was now being expressed in his prayers.  His “laboring earnestly” comes from the word from which we get our word “agonize.”  Epaphras’ prayers for them were not generic generalized platitudes but intense intercession.

Epaphras was a man marked by this labor,

And a good model for us to follow in

Our own prayer lives as we intercede for others.

Luke: The Beloved Man.

Paul simply references him here as “Luke, the beloved physician, sends you his greetings.”  Amazingly, Luke is only mentioned by name three times (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 1:24), yet he is one of Paul’s most faithful traveling companions and the writer of both a Gospel account and the book of Acts.  The references to himself in Acts are only noted by the pronoun “we” which begins in Acts 16:10.  He traveled with Paul during part of his second and third missionary journeys as well as the trip to Rome. Extra Biblical literature (anti-Marcionite prologue) tells us that Luke was a Syrian physician from Antioch that became a Christian and then accompanied Paul until his martyrdom.  He then continued to serve the Lord “without distraction, without a wife, without children, and at the age of eighty-four he fell asleep in Boeotia, full of the Holy Spirit.”  No wonder Paul calls him “beloved.”

Such faithfulness and devotion is

A good model and inspiration for us.

Demas: The Noted Man.

Colossians 4:14 simply joins him with Luke’s greeting saying, “and [also] Demas.”  He is also mentioned in Philemon 1:24 as a “fellow worker.”  If this was all that was said of him, he would have passed into history as a man blessed to be a fellow worker with Paul and important enough to be included in the greetings in this letter.  A man worthy of emulation since ministry to a prisoner brought plenty of dangers and sacrifice and Demas was willing to face those dangers and make that sacrifice.

Tragically, this is not the last mention of Demas for 2 Timothy 4:10 notes concerning him, “for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.”  Demas becomes noted because he does not stay faithful.  The charge is serious.  While this is a statement of great disappointment, it is because of the reason he is not with Paul and not the personal loss.  Demas loved this present world.  He fell to the temptation Jesus expressed in the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 that the “deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”

Demas is a warning.  

True Christianity is not

A flash in the pan,

Nor does it rest

On past accomplishments.  

True Christianity perseveres

Because the life is converted

By a fundamental change

Of beliefs concerning the

Identity, nature, and work

Of the Lord Jesus Christ.

A person who is raised up

With Christ will continue to be

Changed by Him throughout life

As those beliefs change

Every area of life.

General Greetings.

Paul gives a general greeting in verse 15. “Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house.“  Paul had given a greeting to the Colossians in his introductory salutation.  He now extends that to the church in Laodicea and a church that is meeting in the house of Nympha.  This is a proper and good thing and something that continues to this day.  Because Christians have a common bond of fellowship in the Lord Jesus we can send greetings to one other even if we have not personally met.

We are not told anything else about Nympha or even what city the home was in, but the early church commonly met in the houses of believers.  It would not be until the fourth century after Constantine made Christianity the religion of the empire that congregations would purchase buildings.  When we get to Philemon we will find that there is a church meeting in his home as well.

Final Instructions.

In verse 16 Paul gives instructions concerning his letters, “And when this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter [that is coming] from Laodicea.”  Paul’s letter was specifically to the Colossians, but he understood that its content would be important to other churches for they would face the same or similar heresies, and the goal of presenting every man complete in Christ would be met by the same method of emphasizing the preeminence of Christ in everything.

The letter that was to come from Laodicea remains a mystery.  It is not the fabricated apocryphal Latin “Epistle of Paul to the Laodiceans” made up of sentences gleaned from Paul’s writings and strung together without definite connection or object.  There is much speculation concerning it including that it refers to Ephesians since many early manuscripts do not include a title for that letter.  Ephesians was written at the same time and would have been copied and sent from church to church up the Lycus valley, but how would Paul have known writing so many months beforehand that it would arrive at Colossae from Laodicea instead of directly from Ephesus?  It seems more likely this is a specific letter that has by God’s providence been lost for it did not belong in the cannon of Scripture.  We do not believe that everything Paul wrote after becoming an apostle was meant to be Scripture, but only those writings in which the Holy Spirit spoke through the writer (2 Peter 1:21).  

What is important to note here

Is the close relationship that

The churches were to have with

One another in sharing the teachings

They had received.

We do well to remember

That the body of Christ

Is much larger than

Any particular local church

And we need to work with

Ad encourage each other.

Paul’s final instruction is to Archippus, “And say to Archippus, ‘Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.’”

We are not told what specific ministry Archippus had received from the Lord though in Philemon 1:2 Paul calls him a “fellow soldier” and he had some relationship to Philemon and the church that met in his house.  Those things would indicate either some sort of evangelistic or teaching ministry or both.  1 Corinthians 12:4-11 makes it clear that our spiritual gifts, the ministries they are used in and the power of them are all distributed by the Lord as He wills for the common good of the church.  Regardless of Archippus’ particular ministry, Paul reminds him here that it came from the Lord and that he needed to take heed to fulfill it.  This is not a rebuke, but rather an encouragement to continued action.  He may well have had an important leadership role in the church there and so would have to be particularly diligent to consider all that Paul had written and implement it within the congregation in its battle with the false teachers that had arisen.

That is not an easy task,

But one in which all

Members share a role

With the church leaders

Having particular responsibility

As shepherds of the flock.

Salutation.

Paul concludes in verse 18 with a final salutation, “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my imprisonment. Grace be with you.”  The reference to writing the salutation with his own hand is authentication of it being genuine.  The body of the letter would have been written by a secretary that wrote out what Paul said.  In order to ensure the readers that it really did come from him the author would append his personal salutation at the end much like we sign typed letters in our own time.

He adds a request that they remember his imprisonment.  Paul had a good attitude while being in prison, but it was not easy and it was not where he wanted to be.  He desired their prayers even as he had specifically requested earlier in the chapter, and he desired their support and encouragement even as he had received from other churches and individuals such as Ephaproditus and those in Philippi that had sent him to minister.

Though Paul is in prison

He still understood clearly

God’s grace upon himself

(Philippians 4:1-20)

And so he concludes with

His customary wish that

God’s grace would be with them.

We also desire God’s grace upon all of God’s people.  In the Lord Jesus Christ, God has given to us everything we need to be complete, holy, and blameless before Him. May He grant us His protection from the many false teachings and heresies that abound in our own time, and may we be faithful to live as those raised up with Jesus to walk in newness of life.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Beloved Brothers – Benefits Of Being Faithful And Having A Servants Heart

Grace For The Journey

 

The technological changes that have occurred in less than 200 years are mind boggling.  Prior to the invention of the telegraph in 1844, if you wanted to get a message to someone in another location out of hearing range or line of sight, you had to physically send the message.  Whether it was written or spoken, someone had to physically take the message from you and deliver it.  The telegraph allowed for electronic signals to transmit code for written messages over long distances.  The first transcontinental line was completed in the United States in 1861.  The International Telegraph Union was formed in 1865 and the first transatlantic cable was laid in 1866. These were amazing developments, but even with the continuing expansion of telegraph lines, communication was limited to one message at a time which had to be coded, sent, then decoded and then physically given to the intended recipient.

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876.  For the first time a voice could be transmitted electronically. There were 3,000 phones in 1877 and 10,000 in 1878. Improvements in circuitry, components, and transmission allowed for rapid expansion with 1.4 million phones in service by 1900.  A transcontinental phone line was completed in 1915 and the push was to develop “universal service” which would enable anyone that wanted a telephone to get one.  There would be 15 million phones in the U.S. by 1940, 30 million in 1948, and over 100 million by 1971.

Long distance technologies continued to advance as well with microwave transmitters being introduced in 1946 and the first mobile phones were made available in St. Louis that same year.  Telecommunications satellites began to be launched in the 1960’s and long-distance communication made another huge leap forward.  What was once an impossible dream, which then became an expensive reality, is now so inexpensive little thought is given to it.

Experimental cell phone service began in Chicago in 1977.  There are now hundreds of millions of cell phone users around the world with cell phones dominating in some countries.  The blending of computer technologies into the cell phone now allows not only voice, but text, pictures, video, and connection to the internet.

All of this simply to say that what we now think as routine is so radically different from even a relatively short time ago that the people back then could not have even imagined it.  Families separated by thousands of miles can communicate in a wide variety of ways.  Sometimes they might send physical items by mail which can take one to two weeks or longer, but most of the time they can now use methods that allow them to communicate in or near real time.  They can email, send instant messages, send files of pictures, video, and documents that need to be signed and sent back.  We they have talked on the phone and by computer now can both talk and see their loved ones in real time. All with just the punching of some buttons on the phone, tablet, or computer.

All of that to make these two simple points: 1) It is important for people to communicate to one another.  Our technological changes have made that easy, in fact, perhaps too easy since we have also had to devise ways from being overwhelmed by all of it; and 2) Communication has not always been so easy and the importance of it is seen in all that one has to go through in order to accomplish it.

Paul is in prison in Rome and he is informed by Ephaphras about a concerning situation that was developing in Colossae.  Paul wants to respond to the dangers that were rising and help them by giving them instruction, encouragement, and warnings.  He is also aware that they will want to know about him and what is happening in Rome, but Paul cannot pick up a phone and call them.  He cannot email them or send a telegram.  He cannot even write a letter and have it put into the Roman mail system.  None of those things existed.  If he wants to communicate with them, he will have to compose a letter and find someone who will hand carry it to them.  That is exactly what Paul does which we learn about in Colossians 4:7-9 in his recommendation to them of the men that carried his letters, “As to all my affairs, Tychicus, [our] beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information. 8 For I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know [about] our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts; 9 and with him Onesimus, [our] faithful and beloved brother, who is one of your [number.] They will inform you about the whole situation here.”

In these three verses are three statements concerning Tychicus and Onesimus telling the Colossians the news from Paul and Rome.  Paul did not write those matters down for they were not as critical as his instructions, encouragements, and warnings to them about the heresies that were arising in Colossae.  Tychicus and Onesimus could verbally tell them the news when they arrived.  The major responsibility for this fell on Tychicus for he is specifically mentioned as the one that would tell them about Paul and his affairs.  Both men together would inform them about the situation in Rome.

There are several aspects to what these men would be telling the Colossians.  First, verse 7 tells us that Tychicus would make known to them Paul’s affairs.  This would be the personal news about Paul and his situation. Paul emphasizes this in verse 8 by stating that part of the reason he had sent Tychicus to them was so that they might know his circumstances. That in itself says something about Paul’s own sensitivity toward others.

It is not uncommon to find men who seem to want to remain reclusive and hidden even from those that care about them.  Paul was not that way.  He was not a braggart or in any way fixated on himself as so many media stars are in our own time, but neither did he hide himself away.  Remember from yesterday’s blog that Paul desired for them to pray for him.  Paul desired God to open a door for him to proclaim the gospel and be clear in the way he ought to speak in his preaching.  He wanted the Colossians to be part of that by prayer.  Making sure they knew about his situation and circumstances would make those prayers possible and more effective since they could pray specifically for them.

There is a balance that all Christians need to maintain in their ministries . . .  

You need to be vulnerable and open enough

So that others can join into that ministry

Through effective and specific prayers

And then also join in praise to God for His answers.  

At the same time, you must be

Careful not to say so much that you

Become self-centered and self-serving.

Paul maintained that balance.

Paul’s emphasis was actually on the Colossians since that is the second but more important reason that he had sent Tychicus to them.  Paul wanted them to be encouraged by the letter and the personal ministry Tychicus would have among them. Certainly they would be encouraged when Tychicus would tell them personally about how God was using Paul among the Praetorian guard and among Caesar’s household as is mentioned in Philippians; but more importantly, Paul wanted them to be encouraged by what he had written in his letter to them.  Tychicus would be able to personally minister to them in regards to all that was written in the letter.  He could both explain what they might not understand and help them make personal application of its truths.

In verse 9 we find that both Tychicus and Onesimus would be able to make known to them everything about what was taking place in the ministry that was occurring in Rome.  This would certainly include a lot more than just matters concerning Paul since five more specific people are mentioned in Colossians 4:10-14 as sending their personal greetings to those in Colossae.  The two men would be able to inform them about all of these people and more.

It is important that believers keep each other informed, but not for the purpose of just curiosity and gossip.  You must avoid bragging and self-centeredness and yet reveal enough about yourself so that other believers can pray for you properly, specifically, and effectively.  In that way they can enter into your life and what God is doing through you. This increases the praise to God as He performs that work.  This also makes you properly vulnerable so that you can be encouraged where you are weak or struggling and corrected where you are wrong.  The goal is for all of us to become conformed to the image of Christ.  Keeping each other informed about our lives is part of that.

An Arduous Journey

Now before we go on to examine the character of these two men, I want to explain what they would have gone through to physically deliver Paul’s message to the Colossians. Paul was in prison in Rome and Colossae is in what is now western Turkey.  They could not get on a plane and fly there.  They could not get in a car and drive there.  They would have to walk and take ships.  It would be a major undertaking.  Because of that, Paul would make the most of the effort that would be put forth.

Paul is also concerned about the other churches with which he has had contact.  We know that Tychicus also carried the letter to the Ephesians (Ephesus 6:21) and that either he or Onesiums carried the letter to Philemon.  It is also possible if not probable that the letter to the Philippians was sent at the same time.  It appears that Epaphroditus carried that letter (Philippians 2:25-30) and he may have traveled with the others as far as Philippi.  There may have even been additional letters.  In Colossians 4:16 Paul refers to a letter to Laodicea that he wanted read among the Colossians and they in turn were to have their letter read in the church of the Laodiceans.  Some of these circular letters to various churches became part of the New Testament.

There were three major ways possible for someone to travel from Rome to Colossae with some variation in each: 1) The easiest way physically would be to take a ship from Rome to Ephesus and then walk to Colossae.  However, that would have been expensive and dangerous due to storms and pirates on the Mediterranean Sea.  The danger of this is seen in Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 11;25 that three times he had been shipwrecked and having to spend a night and a day in the deep in one of them; 2)  A variation of this would be to have walked via Appia to Brundisium (348 miles) and then taken a ship.  If Paul’s letter to Philippians was also being carried, which is highly probable, then they would have had to also go north in the Aegean Sea to Neapolis and Philippi and then returned south to Ephesus; and 3) The most difficult way physically would be to walk via Flaminia to Ariminium (204 miles), then via Gemina to Aquileia (205 miles), then via Flavia to Dalmatia & Dyrrachium (392 miles), then via Egnatia to Philippi and on to Byzantium (430 miles), and then to Colossae (407 miles).  A journey of over 1,600 miles by foot and then they still had to go Ephesus an additional 120 miles.

The most probable route from Rome for this journey was to walk via Appia to Brundisium (348 miles) and then take a ship across the Adriatic Sea to Dyrrachium (100 miles), then walk the via Egnatia to Phillipi (410 miles) and deliver the letter there, and then to Neapolis (36 miles) to take a ship to Ephesus (260 miles) and deliver the letter there, then overland to Colossae (120 miles).  A total of just over a 1,000 miles by foot and about 360 miles by sea.

No matter which route was taken, it would have been an arduous journey that would have been accompanied by many dangers – weather, supplies, injury, robbers.  The importance of communication between Paul and these churches is seen in all that it took to deliver the letters.  It also makes us realize that these letters would have been crafted with great thoughtfulness.  They would not have been just his immediate reaction to news or thoughts for the moment as are so many of the blogs and posting on social network sites today.  

Easy and instant communication has driven down careful thought in communication so that the vast majority of it – even in the news media – is a waste of time being thoughtless, inaccurate, incongruent, and sometimes just plain incomprehensible.  We need to take to heart the warning in Proverbs 10:19-20, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.  The tongue of the righteous is [as] choice silver, The heart of the wicked is [worth] little.”  Take the time to think through things before you speak or post something you write and do not be like the foolish or wicked.

Tychicus

Paul’s commendation of Tychicus is not just in the words he says about him in this passage, but perhaps even more so in the responsibilities he entrusts to this man.  The name “Tychicus” comes from a word that means “to hit the mark” or to “happen / obtain by chance” and so “fortunate.”  He proved by God’s providence to be a fortunate find as a co-worker with Paul.  By the time this letter was written about 61 AD, these men had already known each other several years and experienced quite a few things together.

We first meet Tychicus in Acts 20:4. He is included in the list of those that were traveling with Paul toward the end of his third missionary journey from Greece back to Jerusalem. Tychicus and Trophimus are specifically noted in that text as being from Asia. Trophimus is later specifically identified as being an Ephesian (Acts 21:29), so Tychicus may have been from another place in Asia.

While we tend to think of Asia as the oriental countries of the Far East or even of Turkey as “Asia Minor,” the term in Roman times referred to Proconsular Asia which is what is now western Turkey.  There were various regions of Proconsular Asia and Luke’s usage of Asia is distinguished from the lands of Phrygia (Acts 2:9), Mysia (Acts 16:6), and Caria since he states that Miletus was not in Asia (Acts 20:16-17).  Luke’s usage then of Asia was more in keeping with a reference to the area of Lydia with Ephesus being its major city.

Now it is possible that Paul could have met Tychicus in any number of places that he had traveled or even during Paul’s very brief visit to Ephesus at the end of his second missionary journey.  It is more likely they met when Paul spent three years in Ephesus during his third missionary journey.  Paul was preaching and teaching both Jews and Gentiles with Acts 19:10 recording that from Ephesus that, “all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord.”  There was very good communication up the Lycus valley to Laodicea, Hieropolis, and Colossae since a major trade road extended east from Ephesus through that area.  It is possible that some of those in Colossae may have previously met Tychicus.

When Paul left Ephesus to go to Macedonian and Greece, it appears that Tychicus went with him, or at least he joined Paul somewhere in Greece for that is where he is in the first reference to him in Acts 20:4.  He then goes with Paul to Jerusalem.  Paul’s desire was to help build and strengthen the relationship between the Jewish and Gentile churches.  Paul had even taken up a collection from among the Gentile churches to take with him to Jerusalem for the poor Jewish believers there.  Tychicus & Trophimus came as representatives of the Gentile church in Asia.  It was Trophimus that was seen by “certain Jews from Asia” that became their excuse to cause the riot in the temple that led to Paul being arrested (Acts 21:28-29; 24:18).

Acts does not tell us what Tychicus did after Paul was arrested.  Paul was in jail for two years before being sent to Rome (Acts 24:27ff).  Tychicus may have returned to Asia for all or part of that period, or he may have traveled with Paul to Rome as well.  It is apparent in Acts 27-28 that Paul has one or more people traveling with him (at minimum, Luke is with Paul).  After Paul arrives in Rome he is there at least two years (Acts 28:30).  Whether Tychicus was with Paul during this entire period or only a portion of it, he is in Rome while Paul is in prison.  Paul learned to trust Tychicus over the time and travels they spent together, so he sends him as his messenger to Ephesus and Colossae to bring them the letters and make known to them his affairs and the situation in Rome.  He is accompanied by Onesimus who is going back to Colossae and possibly Epaphroditus as well who is carrying Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

Paul commends Tychicus with three different but related descriptions in verse 7, “Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord.”

Beloved Brother – This description reveals that Tychicus was not only a believer and therefore a member of the family of God and a brother in the Lord, but that his character was such that he had also gained the designation of beloved.  This is a term of deep friendship.  If you are part of God’s family, then you have many brothers and sisters in the Lord, but the reality is that only a few of them will become beloved to you.  That will be due to both character and proximity in time and place.

There are many mature and wonderful Christians in the world, but we are finite creatures and only have the time and capacity to know and become true friends with a few of them.  In fact, it will only be a very small portion of them that we will even meet this side of heaven, for the paths of our lives will not cross either physically or in time period.  I have read about so many people I would have loved to have known, but they lived in a different time period or place.  I find that one of the frustrations of this life is that there are also many people who are in proximity that I would like to spend more time with and know and serve better, but there simply is not enough time to do so. There are other obligations, responsibilities, and priorities that must be kept first.  I suspect that many of you feel the same way.  By God’s gracious providence, Tychicus and Paul met and became friends.

There is also an issue of maturity in becoming a beloved friend.  There are a lot of immature Christians, and though we love them in the Lord, at present they can still be difficult to be around.  Tychicus had demonstrated enough of a mature character that he became beloved to Paul.  I think that puts us on safe ground in surmising that Tychicus was a living example of the character qualities Paul told the Colossians that he wanted them to put on – compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, forgiving, and loving. When these qualities characterize your life then it is easy for others to consider you beloved to them.

Faithful Servant – This description commends his character trait of being faithful and his commitment to minister.  The term “servant” is the common term for a person who serves another.  The stress is on the work being done and not the condition of relationship to the one being served.  It could be voluntary service or forced service as that of a slave.  It was a common term for table waiters and came to be used for anyone who ministers to others.  This term has been applied to many specific people mentioned in the New Testament including Phoebe (Romans 16:1), Apollos (1 Corinthian 3:5), Paul (Ephesians 3:7), Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21), Epaphras (Colossiasn 1:7), and Timothy (2 Corinthians 1:1; cf 6:4).  It became a title for those meeting particular qualifications and holding responsibility in local churches (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8-10).  However, God equips every Christian to serve Him in ministry (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) and your part is to be faithful in fulfilling it.

In the case of Tychicus, he was faithful in giving voluntary service to Paul and others. The word “faithful” here is referring to his reliability, not his belief or trust, though certainly the two elements are always connected.  Tychicus was reliable because he believed the gospel and trusted the Lord for his life.  Paul knew that he could count on Tychicus to not only safely deliver the letters, but also properly speak on his behalf. This is another element demonstrating both Tychicus’ maturity and value to Paul.

Fellow Bond-Servant – Paul only uses this particular term for two men – Epaphras and Tychicus – both of which are mentioned in Colossians.  The term itself is used to refer to those who are also slaves.  Jesus uses it four times in Matthew 18 that way and it is used three times in Revelation for those who are slaves of God.

The root term here, “doulo” / “doulos,” is often translated as “servant,” but it is better translated as “slave” because it refers to those who are in a servile relationship to their master, that is, the master owns them.  Such is the actual case for all true Christians. We are not our own, but have been bought with price of Jesus’ blood shed on the cross so that we are transferred out of the domain of darkness and into the kingdom of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:20; Colossians 1:13.)

It was common for the apostles to refer to themselves as a “doulo” / “doulos”“slave.” Paul did (Titus 1:1) as also did James (James 1:1), Peter (2 Peter 1:1) and Jude (Jude 1:1).  In 2 Timothy 2:24 Paul referred to all who serve the Lord as slaves, and Peter challenged all Christians to make sure they did not use their freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as slaves of God (1 Peter 2:16).  The book of Revelation was given to the Lord’s “doulo” / “doulos”“slaves.”

While there is usage of the term in a general sense for all Christians, Paul used it rarely for other specific people.  Paul referred to Timothy along with himself as slaves of Christ Jesus, but Paul only used the term “fellow-slave” of Epaphras and Tychicus.  This may be because both were willing to minister to Paul while he was being held prisoner. There is always some risk in identifying yourself with someone in jail, but perhaps more so in ancient Rome.  Guilt by association could get you thrown in jail or killed, yet both of these men did so without hesitation.

The term throws one more additional light upon Tychicus’ character and why he was such a good choice to take the letter to the Colossians.  For Paul to call him “a fellow slave in the Lord,” Tychicus would have had to have understood and believed the preeminence of Jesus Christ just as Paul explains in Colossians 2 and 3.  Therefore, he made a good choice to help them understand and put into practice Paul’s instructions, encouragements, and warnings.

Tychicus’ character continued to be proved after he delivered the letter to the Colossians and ministered to them.  He is mentioned two more times after this and both times it as Paul’s emissary.  In 2 Timothy 4:12 we find that Paul sent him to Ephesus to help with the ministry there, and in Titus 3:12 we find that Paul may send him to Crete to help with the work there and allow Titus to meet Paul in Nicopolis.  Tychicus continued to be a fellow slave of Christ.

Onesimus

Paul also commends Onesiums.  He is a very interesting man.  He is a run-away slave who is going back to Colossae to make things right with his master, Philemon.  Onesimus had run away and made it to Rome where in God’s providence he met Paul and was converted to become a Christian.  He could not have been with Paul for a very long period – two years at the extreme maximum – yet he had already become close enough to Paul for him to call him a “beloved brother.”  He also had demonstrated enough character for Paul to describe him as “faithful.”  The greatest proof of his character was that he was going back to his master by his own will in striving to do what is right.  Onesimus, though young in the faith, had already proven to be a man raised up with Christ with a mind set on the things above instead of the things of this earth.  He was living for Christ and was actively setting aside the old man and putting on the new man.  He was already an example of the kind of man that Paul wanted the Colossians to be.

The commendations that Paul makes of these two men are characteristics I want to be known by as well – a beloved brother, a faithful servant, and a fellow slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I trust you also desire the same, and together, as we minister to one another with the gifts God has given to each of us, we will help one another become the mature people in Christ that God wants us to be (Ephesians 4:11-16).

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

 Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

What It Looks Like To Give All To Christ, Part 2.

Grace For The Journey

In our previous post we began a study of Colossians 4:1-6, a passage where the Apostle Paul provides some of the basics of Christian living.    Let’s read there verses again to remind us of the focus of the passage, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.  Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.  Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”  

Yesterday we looked at the first fruit of giving our all to Christ – Grateful Praying.  In today’s blog we come to the apostle Paul’s final instruction about the Christian life in this letter.  In this passage he gives the believers at Colossae direction on how to prays properly in order to be a good witness for the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is an important lesson for us as well because the lack of evangelism is directly tied to the lack of proper prayer, and proper prayer is directly related to living in a manner in keeping with being someone who has been raised up with Christ.  I want to stress this point from the beginning not only because it is the proper context for what Paul says here, but it is the only way in which Paul’s instructions can be carried out with faithfulness.

Praying properly in order to be a good witness for the Lord Jesus Christ is dependent on having the motivations and following the instructions Paul has given in Chapter 3.  As Paul began that chapter, he pointed out that every true Christian has been raised up with Christ and therefore there should be certain changes in that person’s life.  This includes . . .

  • Having a mind set on the things above to seek them instead of the things of this earth.  The importance of what is eternal replaces what is temporal.  
  • The manner of life is changed as sinful habits and attitudes are set aside and put to death and replaced by new habits and attitudes that are righteous and holy.  
  • Love for God and others replaces the sinful selfishness that resulted in all manners of hatred toward and exploitation of others.  
  • At the heart of this change in the manner of life is the change in the purpose of life. Life is no longer about you, your comforts, desires and glory. It is now about God and His glory.

That is why Paul summarizes in Colossians 3:17 that “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to the Father.”

This change in the purpose and manner of life should have a positive effect on every relationship.  We spent quite a bit of time examining the roles God has given within the family and the work environment (Colossians 3:18-4:1). These are our closest relationships.  They are the people we will spend the greatest amount of time with and with whom we will have the greatest influence – and they on us as well.  But there is another group of people that we as Christians must be concerned about and those are the unsaved.

If our general habits and attitudes are in keeping with those who have been chosen by God, holy and beloved (Colossians 3:12) and our purpose in life is to glorify the Lord, then we will be concerned about those who are not believers and how we interact with them.  We will desire to be good witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ that we might be used of God in their lives.  Our ability to be good witnesses begins with prayer.  It incudes three other key elements . . .

Gospel Sharing. 

In verse 3, Paul next gives specific direction about what he wants the Colossians to be praying about – “praying at the same time for us, that God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I am imprisoned.”

This is the connection between prayer and evangelism.  Paul understood this clearly and it was common for him to make a request like this one to those to whom he was writing (Ephesians 6:19; 2 Thessalonians 3:1).

His desire was to be able to preach the gospel

Wherever he might be and he was concerned

That he would be clear in what he said

And bold in its proclamation.

If Paul understood his need for prayer for opportunity, boldness and clarity, then how much more do we need others praying for us!  If you want to tell others about the Lord Jesus, then begin by praying yourself and then getting others to join you in praying for such opportunities.  Ask them also to pray that you will be clear in presenting the message of salvation from sin through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is easy to get side-tracked or tongue tied when talking to someone about their sin and need for the Lord.  It is also easy to be intimidated so that even obvious opportunities are lost.  Certainly you must look for opportunities and engaging people in conversation will create them, but if you are praying and having others pray for you, I can guarantee you will have more than enough opportunity.

Consider where Paul was at when he wrote this letter.  Paul was in Rome sitting in prison, or more likely a house arrest situation in which people could come see him, but he could not go see them.  That was the situation Paul was in at the close of the book of Acts and what is described in his letter to the Philippians.  Paul could not go out, yet the Lord brought him all sorts of people to whom he proclaimed the gospel.  This included Jews and Gentiles. Philippians 1 records that Paul had even had an impact upon the Praetorian guard, Caesar’s elite personal guard, and Caesar’s household.  Yet . . .

Paul wanted the doors opened

So that he could preach

To even more people.  

Paul did not like

Being in prison,

But he rejoiced over

What God was doing

Through him while

He was in prison

(Philippians 1:12-18).

Such is and should be the heart of the one raised up with Christ, for the things that are eternal in nature, the souls of men and women, are more important than current living needs and comforts.

But consider this as well.  Paul himself was devoted to prayer and he had many people who were also devoted to prayer that were praying for him, and Paul was in prison because he did boldly proclaim the mystery of Christ, which is the fact that God has made available to Jew and Gentile alike salvation from sin through faith in the Lord Jesus.  Paul was in prison precisely because the Jews were upset and could not accept the message that Gentiles did not have to become proselytes of Judaism and keep the Mosaic Law in order to be accepted by God.  The Roman guard had first arrested Paul in order to protect him from the efforts of the Jews to kill him in the Temple (Acts 21).  He remained in prison because they continued to intimidate the Roman Governors (Acts 22-26).

There is this tendency in American Christianity to think that if you do well at keeping God’s moral commands and have a good prayer and devotional life, then God is only going to allow good things to come into your life.  That is why professing Christians here so quickly become discouraged or even mad at God if things do not happen the way they would like.  That includes even small things such as your car or appliances breaking down, getting a cold at an inopportune time or not having enough money to buy the things your friends or neighbors are purchasing.  The truth is the opposite.

Jesus said in John 15:20 that if they persecuted Him, then they will also persecute you.  Paul told Timothy that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).  Jesus added in John 16:33 that in this world we would have tribulation, but we could be of good cheer because He has overcome the world.  Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that you would be blessed if men cast insults, persecute and say all manner of evil against you falsely on account of Him.  He added that you should rejoice and be glad for your reward in heaven is great for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

If you are devoted to prayer and have others diligently praying on your behalf, then don’t be surprised if God gives you opportunities beyond your expectations and uses you in ways beyond what you thought was possible. But also don’t be surprised if our adversary and those of this world that are under his control will hate you for it and do all they can to make your life miserable.  If you want a quite life far removed from any possibility of trouble and turmoil, then you do not want to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.  His peace is always present and does surpass all comprehension, but it exists in the midst of the turmoil of this world.

God-directed Speech – Verse 4.

Paul was already suffering because of His witness for Christ, and though He mentions this is the reason he was in prison, his concern was to speak, act, and respond properly.  Notice what he says in verse 4 – “in order that I may make it clear in the way in ought to speak.”  Paul wanted them to pray that he would speak properly – the way he ought to speak – and might proclaim the gospel clearly making it evident to others.

The good news of Jesus Christ is a precious message and one that we need to treat properly.  We should never be flippant with it, for it is a serious message of eternal life and death.  It is not a product that is being marketed so its truths cannot be compromised in order to make it acceptable to the masses.  It is not a club to be wielded by the self-righteous in the futile effort of trying to prove their superiority, for that dishonors the message and results in self-condemnation.  The gospel is a message of light and darkness; righteousness and sin; life and death; hope and condemnation.  It is a message of light, life, and hope for those that will believe and be made righteous by faith in Christ.  It is a message of sin, death, and condemnation to those who remain blinded to walk in the darkness of unbelief.  We want to be sure that we present the gospel clearly without distortion lest we proclaim a false gospel.

The prayer request here covers

Both the message delivered

And the manner in

Which it is delivered.

Evangelism is not an effort to prove your intellectual superiority, gain spiritual scalps for your belt, or get more converts than someone else.  

It is a heart-felt matter of humbly

Caring for the lost and pleading

With them as ambassadors of Christ

To be reconciled with God

(2 Corinthians 5:20).

What is the gospel message?  

That man by his own sin

In breaking God’s commandments

Has separated himself

From his holy and just

Creator and therefore abides

Under God’s condemnation.

However, God out of His great

Love, mercy, and grace provided

A means by which man

Could be forgiven his sins

And reconciled to Him

By sending His son

To become a man.

Jesus was born

Of the virgin Mary,

Then lived a sinless life,

Then willingly died

On the cross of Calvary

As the payment for man’s sin.

Jesus was buried, but

Then rose from the dead

On the third day,

After which He ascended

To heaven to prepare a place

For His followers and

Sit at the Father’s right hand.

He will return one day

For His disciples and

To set up His millennial reign

Upon the earth in

Fulfillment of God’s promises.

All those that turn from their sin

And place their faith in the

Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ

Are regenerated by the Holy Spirit,

Cleansed from their sins,

And granted eternal life

Being adopted into God’s family.

While Jesus’ disciples may have tribulation in this world, they have a sure promise of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the present and of being in heaven with Jesus for eternity.  Our plea is for all men everywhere to turn from their sin and self-righteousness and cast themselves by faith on the mercy of the Lord as demonstrated in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Godly Living – Verse 5.

In verse 5 Paul changes his focus from his prayer request to final instructions to them on their conduct in keeping with those who are raised up with Christ. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.”

The word translated as “conduct” here, (peripatevw / peripateô), is a compound word meaning “around to walk” or “walk about” and hence “conduct and manner of life.”

The believer must be careful

To live in a manner

In keeping with godly wisdom

If they are going to have

A positive impact on those

Who are not yet believers.

Remember that wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge.  It is not enough to know a lot about the Bible and theology, in fact, that can be detrimental if it is not accompanied by wisdom, for knowledge puffs up and such pride would harm the message of the gospel. Knowledge of the truth must be applied in the actions of life.  Christians are to conduct themselves among non-Christians in similar manner to how they behave among believers except lacking the openness and intimacy that can only come with the common fellowship we have in Christ.  

The believer has one

Standard of conduct – holiness.

That means the compassion,

Kindness, humility, gentleness,

Patience, forbearing, forgiveness

And love Paul spoke about

In Colossians 3:12-14 is also

Extended to non-believers.

It is by wisdom in living in this manner that you will be able to “make the most of the opportunity” or “redeem the time.”  

Time is precious for

It is the measure of life

And every man has a

Very limited amount of it

On this earth, so wisdom demands

That what we have it and

It is used to its fullest extent.

Time presents us opportunity, the question is how will we use it?  Every one of us has 1,440 minutes per day, 10,080 per week, 3,679,200 per year, yet at the end of each day, each week, and with the passing of each year, can we say we have used them wisely?  

Only if our priorities match those

That God has given to us,

For it is not a matter of

How much you get done,

For that criteria would only

Lead to frenzied activity.  

It is a matter of accomplishing

What God wants you to accomplish,

And only He is the final judge of that.  

We can only strive to use godly wisdom

To make the best use of our time

As it unfolds before us.

If you are living as one raised up with Christ with your mind set on the things above rather than the things here, then you will do this.

Gracious Speaking – Verse 6.

The effort to be wise and have proper conduct will also result in having a proper response, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, [as it were,] with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each other.”  Salt was a precious commodity in the ancient world.  It is so inexpensive for us that we spread it on winter roads just to keep things from being icy, but back then great effort was made to get it and it was even used as a method of payment.  In the Hebrew Scriptures it is described as being required as part of the grain offering in reflection of the covenant God had made with them (Leviticus 2:13).

Salt has several properties but the most important ones were being a food preservative and a seasoning to make food taste better.  The reference in this passage is specifically as a metaphor of its seasoning properties.  Gracious speech is always more palatable than speech which lacks it.  As Proverbs 15:1 states, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.”  Proverbs 15:18 adds, “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger pacifies contention,” and Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions.”

Grace is extending a benefit that is not deserved.

We live in a contentious society that seems to have lost its manners.  It seems that people now prize pointed quips, sarcasm, and put downs.

While those things may be effective

In making a point and gaining

Acclaim from friends, they do nothing

To help turn an enemy into a friend,

And that is what Christians are striving

To do with non-Christians.

They may be acting as our enemy because they are being controlled by Satan, but the truth is that they are the mission field and our striving is to get them to defect and change sides. That is done with gracious speech that reflects godliness even when they may be indifferent, harsh, or even cruel to us.  To go back to 1 Peter 3:15, we respond to each person that asks with a defense and account of the hope that lies within us with gentleness and fear.

As you live as someone raised up with Christ, your purpose of life changes and so with it your manner of life. These changes in living for God’s glory and walking in holiness enable you to be devoted to prayer even when the circumstances turn bad, and to keep a focus on seeking open doors to reach the lost with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with proper speech, conduct and response.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

What It Looks Like To Give All To Christ, Part 1.

Grace For The Journey


  Blaise Pascal, the 17th Century French mathematician and Christian philosopher, once wrote these words when writing to a friend: “I’ve written you a long letter because I didn’t have time to write a short one.”  This statement reminds us of the difficult task of editing!

One of the more challenging tasks of a preacher or writer it to learn the ability to cut down the number of written words in a sermon or article.  Public communication is not all about getting as many words spoken or onto a page as possible.  The economy of words and crafting of words, or “word-smithing,” is an important part of the speaking and writing process.  You write a draft, then you write another draft, and still another, all the while trying to say the same thing each time in as few words as possible.  

What the Apostle Paul communicates here in Colossians 4:2-6 strikes me as a very succinct, yet thorough, statement about Christian living.  Paul could have written much more – and indeed he has elsewhere! – but here in these five verses Paul provides a short, concise, yet relatively comprehensive statement on what we could call “Living the Christian Life and What It Looks Like.”

We are framing our study of this passage around four participles—praying, sharing, living, and speaking.

**Four Basics of Christian Living: “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ. for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.  Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.  Let you speak always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one”  (Colossians 4:2-6).

Paul begins with . . .

Grateful Praying

The verb translated here as “devote,” (proskarterevw / proskartereô) means “to give unremitting attention, continue steadfastly, persevere.”  It is not the idea that it is the only thing that occupies your mind and time, for that would not only be physically impossible but also would then demand the neglect of all of God’s other commands.  It is the idea that “you keep coming back to it.”  You do not give up on it. You will give your attention to other things, but you will return once again to diligent prayer. That was part of the point of Jesus’ parable in Luke 18 about the widow that keep petitioning the judge.  We need to persevere in prayer.

There are many errors that can mess up our prayer life, and as in most cases, the two most common ones are the opposite extremes.  When Jesus taught His disciples about prayer in Matthew 6:5-15, He corrected some of the wrong practices common at that time and which continue to this day: 1) Jesus first pointed out that the religious hypocrites prayed to be seen by men and so gained their reward from men. God does not pay heed to such supposed prayers.  Prayer is about talking with God and it is from Him you will receive so make sure He is the one to whom you are actually talking.  Do not be like the Pharisee in Luke 18:11 who prayed “thus to himself,” nor like the religious hypocrites who prayed to impress other people.  When you pray, you talk with God and make Him the focus of your attention even if other people are around; 2) Jesus pointed out the practice of the Gentiles who prayed with meaningless repetition and with many words thinking that was the way to get God to pay attention and answer them.  Many religions including some that claim to be Christian actually teach this practice.  Jesus corrected this by pointing out the practice was contrary to God’s character.  The Father knows what you need before you even ask, so meaningless repetition and long, wordy prayers are a waste of time.  Prayer is not about making God aware, for He already knows everything, nor is it about swaying Him to your point of view, for His point of view is far superior.

The opposite extreme of this is just as deadly to a healthy prayer life.  Those who think they have to wear God down will spend a lot of time in prayer trying to do so in order to get what they want.  Those who emphasize God’s sovereignty can fall into the danger of a practical fatalism.  Prayer becomes a duty which diminishes over time because if God is going to do what He is going to do, then why spend a lot of time trying to change His mind?  Underlying this is a false understanding of God, His nature, and the purpose of prayer.

We often refer to Matthew 6:9-11 as “The Lord’s Prayer,” but it is actually a pattern of prayer for the disciples.  The pattern of prayer Jesus gave to us focuses on the position and nature of God and acknowledgment of our dependence upon Him.  All the petitions within it match promises God has already made, so our requests are not so much to gain them, but to acknowledge that we are dependent on receiving them from His hand.

That then brings us to the purpose of prayer.  

It is not about us getting our way

Or convincing God to change His mind.

It is about glorifying Him through

Declaration of His position and nature,

Acknowledging our dependence upon Him

And aligning our will with His will

So that we might be used by Him.

Now in saying this I must make the disclaimer that from the human perspective it appears that God is swayed by prayer and so it will be described in those terms.  There are many examples of answered prayer throughout the Scriptures including Moses’ entreaty in Exodus 32:11-13 to which the Lord “changed His mind” about the harm He was going to bring.  James 5:16 gives Elijah as an example and then states that “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”  Many people also point out verses such as John 14:13, 14:16, or 16:24, where Jesus states that if we ask anything in His name He will do it or God will give it.  

However, it must always be pointed out that there are qualifiers to those promises concerning prayer.  It must be in His name which means according to what Jesus’ desires or as stated clearly in 1 John5:14-15,
“And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us [in] whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”

All prayer is dependent upon God and His will.

The good thing is that the Lord God

Is not arbitrary, but is always consistent

With Himself and takes into

Account all of His promises.

This includes relenting from judgment, for as Joel 2:13 states, “He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, And relenting of evil.”  We do not know what He is planning to do, but He does, and through prayer we enter into His will so that we can praise Him as that will unfolds over time.

Being devoted to prayer means being persistent to continue to pray about a matter over however long we might need to wait for the Lord’s answer.  I recall reading that George Mueller, who was a great man of prayer, petitioned the Lord concerning the salvation of some of three of his friends for well over 20 years. All did eventually become Christians, with one of them repenting after Mueller’s death.

Paul also states we are to keep “alert’ in prayer “with thanksgiving.”  To be alert is “to be watchful, vigilant in prayer.”   It comes from a word (grhgorevw / grgoreô) which has a root meaning of “being awake.”  So, don’t be like Jesus’ disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane who kept falling asleep.  The spirit may be willing, but the body gets tired, so set aside time to pray when you will not be as prone to fall asleep.  Do whatever you may need to do so that you can be alert in prayer.  I find it is helpful to pray out loud and not to sit in a comfortable chair otherwise I may interrupt my effort to pray silently with snoring – which even charismatics will deny is a prayer language.

Thanksgiving describes

The proper attitude of prayer.  

Thankfulness requires us

To be humble and recognize

Our dependence on God.

Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of lights (James 1:17).  We must learn to see life through God’s eternal perspective.  We must set aside our natural selfishness which would quickly result in demanding from God and being disappointed or even angry when we did not get from Him what we wanted – an all too common response of non-Christians and immature believers.

Note that praying  and thanksgiving go hand-in-hand.  They go together.  There is no meaningful prayer apart from thanksgiving – and thanksgiving itself inspires us to talk to God, to thank Him for what He has done.

Paul states that Christians are to continue “earnestly” in prayer, “being vigilant” in it.  This is a call for consistency and urgency.  Someone has said, “the easiest thing about praying is quitting.”  Many of us, when we come to passages like this, begin to feel guilt and shame because we feel we do not pray enough.  Of course, prayer is given for our good.  We must remember that our Lord said to the disciples in Matthew 26:41, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (cf Mark 14:38; Luke 22:40, 46).”

So, one of the benefits of prayer is that we avoid falling into temptation.   And there are other benefits, like just the whole idea of spending time with the Father!  Spending time in communion with the One, True God!

I love when I make time for prayer.  I really do.  I have to make time, to be sure, but I love when I do!  I love when I make time for prayer because I feel and sense the Father’s presence when I pray to Him.

This is one answer to the question, “Why pray if God knows what we need before we speak?”  Sometimes even Christians ask this.  “What’s the point of praying if God already knows what we’re going to say?”  Well, first of all, God loves to be asked!  Proverbs 15:8 says, “The prayer of the upright is His delight.”  He loves to hear His children talk to Him.  

But again, what about our experience in prayer?  Prayer is a two-way communal time of sharing.  We are in His presence.  We fellowship with Him in prayer.  This to me is the most important aspect of Grateful Praying: The presence of God.  

Communing in God’s presence also helps us to think about so-called “unanswered prayer.”  Why does God seem unwilling to answer every prayer?  Steadfast endurance in coming again and again to the throne of grace is God’s way of cultivating in us a sense of absolute and utter dependence upon Him.  We are by nature self-reliant, self-sufficient folk.  If God were instantly and at all times to answer our every prayer we would gradually lose our sense of urgency.  Truth be told, most of us would soon lose sight of the fact that it is God alone who is the source of all good.  By suspending His response, God is saying to each of us: Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; Grateful praying.  And Paul tells the Colossian Christians specifically how they can pray for him.  He writes: “Meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak” (verses 3-4).

Paul is saying, “Pray for us, pray for me, pray that God would give us receptive hearts – an open door to share the Word of God, to share the Gospel,” which Paul refers to as, “the mystery of Christ,” the unveiling, disclosing of the glorious plan of God to save sinners through Jesus Christ.

Paul says in verse 4, “Pray that I will make it manifest – or make it clear – as I ought to speak.”  In other words, “Pray that I say the right thing when I share the Gospel.”  It is always wise to ask someone to pray for you specifically when you are sharing the Gospel!  Call or text a friend something like: “Hey, pray for me at 3:30. I’m going to be speaking to John about Jesus Christ.  Pray, ‘that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.’”

This brings us to the next action: Gospel Sharing.  We’ll talk more about that in the next post.  For now . . .

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

 

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”