Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Broken Off in Unbelief – Grafted in by Faith

Romans 11:19 “Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.”

In this verse, Paul seems to be anticipating an argument to his conclusion. The Gentile church will reason, “The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.” The key is in verse 17.

Romans 11:17 “And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree”

“Some” of the branches were broken off—not all. You were grafted in among them to partake of the root and oil with them (as companions or co-participants from the Greek).

Romans 11:20-21 “Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.”

The branches that were broken off were broken off because of unbelief. The Gentile believers are accepted as branches of the original tree because of their faith. Israel was set apart as a nation of faith before the nations. The nation as a whole did not fulfill their purpose; but there were many Jewish people of faith throughout their history. This should serve as a notice of warning, not as a reason to boast. The church should not have an attitude of arrogance, but should rather have an attitude of reverential fear. If God discarded some of the original branches because of unbelief, you can be sure that He will do the same to you. (I have to remind myself that every body of believers includes impostors. Paul is obviously not threatening true men of faith, but is exhorting the body of believers to examine themselves as to whether their faith is real. Does their life prove their faith?)

Romans 11:22 “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.”

God’s severity is demonstrated by cutting off His relationship with people of unbelief. The Greek for severity references “decisiveness” and is from a root that means “to cut.”

God’s goodness is shown by His acceptance and provision for people of faith. I thought it was interesting that the Greek for goodness reflected “usefulness, employed” as well as graciousness and kindness; in fact, the root word stated “to furnish what is needed.” God is useful to us; He is employed in providing our every need.

Again, continuance/endurance is the key proof of true faith. You may mess up a million times; but as long as you are repentant and ever seeking Him in faith, you will never be cut off.

Romans 11:23 “And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.”

God sovereignly determines when to cut a branch off, and also determines when to graft a branch in. Part of the difficulty of this chapter is determining when the reference is to a group (i.e., the nation of Israel or the church) or an individual. This verse is referencing the nation of Israel as a whole (Note the use of the words they and them.). When Israel as a nation turns back to God in faith and repentance, God will restore them to fellowship and their favored position among the nations; He will graft them back in to the tree.

Romans 11:24 “For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?”

I liked the phrasing of the NLT for this verse: “For if God was willing to take you who were, by nature, branches from a wild olive tree and graft you into his own good tree—a very unusual thing to do—he will be far more eager to graft the Jews back into the tree where they belong.”

The Gentile believers, the church, gained the favored position as God’s chosen people in an unusual way. Not many horticulturists would choose to graft from a wild plant to a cultured plant. Grafting is usually done to make a plant more desirable, stronger, or to provide variety; it would be done using strong, healthy, desirable plants—not wild ones. Although unusual as well, it would be more natural to graft “natural” branches back in to the tree than to use wild branches.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Israel’s Restoration will Increase God’s Blessing to the Gentiles

Romans 11:12 “Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?”

I think the wording of the CJB is very clear for this verse: “Moreover, if their stumbling is bringing riches to the world — that is, if Isra’el’s being placed temporarily in a condition less favored than that of the Gentiles is bringing riches to the latter — how much greater riches will Isra’el in its fullness bring them!”

Paul is pointing to the good that has come out of something bad. It is not good that the Jewish people rejected God’s Son, but something good did come of it. The church was born and resulted in a body of believers that were bold in their faith and committed to sharing the gospel message. The church was/is rich in the spiritual provision of God through the Holy Spirit. The inclusion of believing Israel into the body of believers will only serve to make that body stronger and more powerful in its influence on the unsaved world.

Israel will not really turn to God in faith until after the “church” has been removed. Though God has provided for our every need through the ministry of the Holy Spirit now, the day is coming when the Messiah, Jesus, will come to rule on His throne personally in His kingdom. That day will not come until the nation of Israel as a whole desires Him to return. So----when Israel turns to God in true faith in His Son, Jesus will return as King of kings and the blessings of the kingdom age will be ushered in! “How much more their fullness” is a reference to the Messianic Kingdom of 1000 years on planet earth.

Romans 11:13-14 “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.”

It is logical to assume that the majority of the body of believers at Rome were Gentiles. Paul loved the Jewish people, but was also aware that his ministry to the Gentiles was a privilege and of great importance in getting out the gospel truth. He is hoping that his ministry to the Gentiles will have an impact on many of his Jewish brethren. He wants them to recognize the mighty work that God is doing on behalf of the Gentile believers, so that they will desire to experience the same. Paul wasn’t thinking years and years down the road; he was concerned about the Jews of his day.

Romans 11:15 “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?”

The Jews’ rejection of Jesus caused God to set them aside for the time being and empower and bless a people of faith from among the Gentile nations. The message of salvation was taken all over planet earth. When Israel turns back to God through faith in His Son, He will gladly restore them to fellowship and their place of favor among the nations. This pictures resurrection from the dead. A nation that has been dead in trespasses and sin will find new life in Christ.

Romans 11:16-18 “For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.”

“if the firstfruit be holy” – The firstfruits are the first crops harvested. In my mind Jesus is the holy firstfruit of all people of faith with distinct relationship to all Jewish people of faith since He is a descendant of Abraham through Jacob through Judah through David. He became the firstfruit (singular) when He resurrected to new life in order to provide that new life to the family of believers.

1 Corinthians 15:20 “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”

The context of this chapter is regarding Israel’s future in relationship to God. The lump would most logically refer to the nation of Israel, and that truth is affirmed by the prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 2:3 “Israel was holiness unto the LORD, and the firstfruits of his increase:”

Through Jesus, God imparts holiness/righteousness to people of faith (past, present and future). After the resurrection of Jesus, there were many Jewish believers who were resurrected as part of the firstfruits (plural) giving testimony to this truth.

Matthew 27:52–53 “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”

Paul gives a second word picture. The nation of Israel is pictured as growing from a root into a tree with holy branches. Remember that Paul is addressing a Gentile body of believers in Rome. He compares those of the nation of Israel who rebelled against God to serve idols and those who rejected His Son as the Messiah to branches that are broken off (because he is only referencing “some” of the branches). The Gentile believers who accepted Christ as Savior, the church, are pictured as a wild olive tree branches grafted in to the original tree to become part of the whole. Both the original branches of the tree and the branches that were grafted in are sustained by the root (Christ, the source of their holiness) and its oil (from the Greek for “fatness”). Oil often represents the Holy Spirit in Scripture (anointing for special service, used to bring light, comfort, healing, and refreshment).

Paul now warns the Gentiles not to “boast against the branches.” Don’t rejoice or brag as though you have replaced the original branches. You aren’t the one supporting the root of the tree; the root is supporting you. The root is ultimately Christ as representative of the spiritual nation of Israel through Abraham.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Israel’s Fall Brought Salvation to the Gentiles

Romans 11:7 “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.”

Written where? I think Paul is probably still referencing Isaiah although Jeremiah declares the same truth.

Isaiah 6:8–10 “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.”

What does the truth stated in verse 7 lead us to conclude? Though God had sent the promised Messiah, His Son Jesus, the nation of Israel as a whole continued seeking God’s approval through a legalistic system of works. Only those who accepted salvation through Jesus in faith had attained a position of approval before God. Those who rejected Him were spiritually blind and deaf; it’s like they were sleepwalking through a life filled with ritual and actions that were performed without a heart connection to God. God’s response--He gave them over to pride in their works.

Romans 11:9 “And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.”

“table” = a table or stool (as being four-legged), usually for food (figuratively, a meal); also a counter for money (figuratively, a broker’s office for loans at interest)

These words are from Psalm 69. David is praying for God to intercede for him against his enemies. This particular section of the Psalm appears to have prophetic application as well to the Messiah.

Psalm 69:19-23 “Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour: mine adversaries are all before thee. Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake."

Verse 22 of the Psalm defines the table as “welfare,” which Webster defines as “well-doing or well-being in any respect; the enjoyment of health and the common blessings of life; exemption from any evil or calamity; prosperity; happiness.” The Psalmist seems to be asking for the appearance of blessing and approval to serve as a deception to his enemies’ and the Messiah’s enemies’ understanding of their true condition. The Psalmist was asking for this to be a permanent condition of the enemies of God. It seems to me that would be a classification known only to God. Paul tells us in Timothy that he obtained mercy because he acted ignorantly in unbelief. I think I would have classified Paul as an enemy of God if I had been a part of the early church.

1Timothy 1:12-13 “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.”

He was not an enemy of God; he accepted the truth when Christ confronted him. Others rejected Christ knowingly and willingly, such as other Pharisees of Jesus’ day who refused to acknowledge the truth He presented to them. They were enemies of God who were more concerned about their pride and reputation before men than before God.

Romans 11:11 “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.”

To stumble implies a misstep, an error, a mistake; fall implies failure, “beyond recovery” (as the NIV puts it). Paul’s question then, “Have the Israelites put themselves in a place of total rejection by God?” His answer—an emphatic NO!

The second “fall” in the verse is a different Greek word that references “a side-slip (lapse or deviation), i.e. (unintentional) error or (wilful) transgression.” Because of the choice of the Jews to deviate from the course God had set for them and willfully reject the Son of God, the Gentiles are coming to saving faith in Jesus. The Jews were meant to draw the Gentiles to God through their testimony of the blessings associated with submitting in obedience and faith to God. Because they rejected God by rejecting Jesus, God is revealing Himself through the Gentile body of believers to provoke the Jewish people to jealousy—to make them want the salvation that was first presented to them.

I thought the Greek for “provoke them” was interesting; it stated “through the idea of a baffling wind (backward).” In other words, just opposite of God’s original intention. Again, this was not a surprise to YHWH; He knew it before the foundation of the world and provided for that knowledge in His plan of salvation. Webster defines jealousy as “earnest concern or solicitude; painful apprehension of rivalship in cases nearly affecting one’s happiness; painful suspicion of the faithfulness of husband, wife, or lover.” That poses an interesting perspective. The Jews prided themselves on being God’s chosen people; now they would have cause to question whether God had decided to bestow His favor on another group of people. Hopefully, that concern would translate into a response of repentance and faith. The Gentiles were responding with hearts of gratitude for their salvation; they had no reason to be jealous. Israel, on the other hand, would hopefully see that the Gentiles had appeared to replace them in the eyes of God and would desire to have their position restored.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Remnant of Grace

Romans 11:1 “I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.”

This is an emphatic statement by Paul that God has not disowned the nation of Israel. That would be a horrible thing for Paul to contemplate because he is an Israelite descended from Abraham through the tribe of Benjamin.

In Paul’s day the Jews were still well aware of their genealogy. When Titus conquered Jerusalem and burned the temple in 70 AD, all the genealogical records were destroyed. Today, no Israeli can prove their lineage (unless there has been a personal written record maintained for a given family). This provides another piece of evidence regarding Jesus as the Messiah. It was prophesied that He would be a descendant of David, of the tribe of Judah, born in Bethlehem. No one coming on the scene these days could establish that proof.

Romans 11:2-4 “God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.”

When Israel rebelled against God, it wasn’t something that caught Him off guard or surprised Him; He knew how they would respond to Him from the moment of creation, from the time He singled out Abraham. Elias is the Greek for Elijah. When Jezebel threatened to kill Elijah after he had demonstrated God’s power over the prophets of Baal, that mighty man of God became fearful and despairing. (1Kings 18-19) He was discouraged in his ministry and decided that he was fighting a losing battle and was the only one left that was faithful to God, but God assured him that there were 7,000 others who had remained faithful.

The key phrase in this section seems to be “I have reserved to myself.” God is ever interacting with man to ensure that His will be done. My simple mind tells me that the sovereign God who chose to give man a will, the power to make choices, through His foreknowledge ensured that these 7,000 men were living at this time to accomplish His purpose. To me that is an awesome demonstration of the power and authority of God.

Romans 11:5 “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.”

Paul makes application of that truth to the present. Just as surely as those 7,000 Israeli’s were the remnant of Elijah’s day, God had preserved a remnant during Paul’s day that was following Him through faith in His Son Jesus. God’s provision for His elect is and always has been an act of His grace—divine favor, kindness, mercy.

God has promised that there would always be a remnant preserved in Israel.

Isaiah 10:20-22 “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return….”

Jeremiah 23:2-4 “Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD. And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD.”

Ezekiel 6:7-8 “And the slain shall fall in the midst of you, and ye shall know that I am the LORD. Yet will I leave a remnant, that ye may have some that shall escape the sword among the nations, when ye shall be scattered through the countries.”

Micah 2:12 “I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold: they shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men.

Zechariah 8:12 “For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.”

Romans 11:6 “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”

Grace and works are like oil and water; they don’t mix. Grace is a work of God. If man could provide for himself through works, then God’s grace would be unnecessary. God by grace provides for people of faith in ways that we cannot provide for ourselves through works. As I looked for connections with grace and faith, I was pointed to the following references:

Romans 4:16 “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace….”

Romans 5:2 “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand….”

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace are ye saved through faith….”

God’s grace in our lives is directly connected to our faith. Verse 5 above says that the election of the remnant is according to grace. Those who had not bowed the knee to Baal in Elijah’s day pictured the remnant of faith, the elect, the chosen. It would seem to me that God’s sovereign choice to give man a will in no way contradicts election by faith through grace. Grace is His divine influence on the heart; faith is man’s response to that influence; elect is the privileged designation of the person of faith known by God before the foundation of the world.

Friday, September 17, 2010

God Intends for the Church to Make the Jews Jealous of Their Relationship with Him

Romans 10:16 “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?”

This time Paul identifies the quote he uses with the prophet Isaiah. These are the opening words to the beautiful chapter 53 that prophesies the truth about the coming Messiah as a sacrificial lamb to heal people from their sins.

Just as Isaiah expressed dismay at the response to God’s message to Israel in his day and prophesied that it would be the same response in the days of Messiah, so Paul makes the comparison to the Jews of his day.

Romans 10:17 “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

In this verse Paul seems to be connecting the response to God’s truth to the preaching of that truth. It seems that point is made often in scripture that those who would follow God in faith and be messengers of the truth were few (e.g. Caleb and Joshua, Jeremiah and his fellow prophets, the 120 disciples in the upper room, etc.) in comparison to the people they represented.

Paul is also emphasizing that the message preached is to be the “word of God,” not the words of men.

Romans 10:18-19 “But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.“

Now Paul goes on to explain that Israel, the Jewish people, have no excuse to not understand God’s message of truth concerning salvation. Verse 18 seems to indicate that God’s dealings with the Jewish people and the revelation of His truth to them were well publicized in the known world of that time. God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt made world headlines so to speak. The words Paul uses here seem to be a quote from Psalm 19.

Psalm 19:1-4 “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”

In context, the Psalmist is referencing the testimony of creation, specifically the heavens, regarding the Creator. I think the comparison is that just as surely as the heavens declare the Creator, God’s workings on behalf of the nation of Israel declare Him as Almighty God, as opposed to the impotent gods of the Gentile nations. If the testimony of the heavens sends a message that can be understood “through all the earth,” the Israelites certainly had no excuse since they had God personally interacting with them and delivering them through His miraculous power.

Verse 19 goes on to tell us that God even told the people through Moses that he would provoke them to jealousy and anger through the Gentiles. The reason—their lack of faith. God knows the future. He knew how His people would rebel against Him.

Deuteronomy 32:18-21 “Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee. And when the LORD saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters. And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith. They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.”

“Not a people” is a reference to those that were “nothing special” (from the Hebrew) in comparison to the people of Israel, who were God’s chosen people. “Foolish nation” is a reference to wicked Gentile nations who had no spiritual understanding.

Romans 10:20 “But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.”

This is a quote from Isaiah: Isaiah 65:1 “I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.”

Isaiah boldly reiterated the truth spoken by Moses so many years previously. The Gentiles would respond to a gospel that was preached to them by faithful believers. They weren’t seeking God; men of faith shared the gospel in obedience to the command of Jesus. A good comparison would be the response of the people of Nineveh to Jonah’s message of repentance. The people of Nineveh were not seeking God; but when God sent Jonah to declare His message of “repent or be judged,” the people responded in repentance and were spared judgment.

Gentile believers who responded to the gospel of Jesus Christ found Him willing to reveal Himself to them through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Again, they were able to learn about God because they responded in faith to the gospel of Jesus Christ that was brought to them by men of faith—not because they were asking about or desiring to know Him.

Romans 10:21 “But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.”

This is a quote from the next verse in Isaiah 65.

Isaiah 65:2-3 “I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts; A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face; that sacrificeth in gardens, and burneth incense upon altars of brick;”

“gainsaying” = to dispute, refuse, contradict, deny

In contrast, God was ever trying to get the people of Israel to turn to Him in faith and repentance. “Stretched forth hands” are a picture of open arms waiting to receive a repentant child who has been disobedient and rebellious. How did the people of Israel respond? In Isaiah’s day--in rebellion and outright provocation through public rejection of God and worship of man-made idols. In the days of Jesus--through rejection of Him as the Messiah and by placing faith in their works according to a corrupted law. The Gentiles who responded in faith and repentance to the message of the gospel didn’t have to be begged or cajoled. Once they heard and understood their need and that Jesus could meet that need, they responded in belief.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Jew and Gentile are on Level Ground at the Foot of the Cross

Romans 10:12 “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.”

At this point Paul is emphasizing the truth that in the matter of faith for salvation, there is no difference in Jew and Greek. He has been making this case throughout the whole first portion of this letter to the Romans. All people are on level ground at the foot of the cross. There is not one Savior for the Jews and another for the Gentiles. Jesus is the only Savior for all; He is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

Again, the emphasis is made that all we have to do is call upon Him for salvation. To call upon Him includes recognizing that He is LORD and trusting in His provision—accepting it as a gift. A reminder, verse 9 defines LORD as Jesus. This is the key truth in this letter since the Jews rejected Jesus as LORD.

Those who accept Jesus as LORD will find that He is generous with His provision for them. Most often when we think of wealth, we think of material wealth. I believe the context here is regarding spiritual wealth—eternal life and all the blessings that accompany it. In Christ we become joint-heirs with Him to all of God’s power and authority through the Holy Spirit. God does not differentiate between spiritual blessings for believing Israelis and believing Gentiles. There will be some differences in material blessings for the two groups in the Kingdom Age, but there will be no differences in spiritual blessings for the body of believers based on ethnicity.

Romans 10:13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

This verse brings in the connection to the verses from Joel that I quoted in the previous post pertaining to verse 11.

Joel 2:32 “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered:”

The key word in these verses is “whosoever,” meaning “any person whatever” (cf Webster). The Greek for call included “invoke for aid, appeal to.” The Lord will not refuse anyone who comes to Him in faith for salvation.

I just don’t believe the Spirit would have inspired these words if they didn’t mean what they said. God has sovereignly chosen to allow man to choose his own destiny. It is man’s choice to accept His gift of salvation or not. The offer is to all.

Romans 10:14-15 “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”

Again, Paul quotes from the prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah 52:7 “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!”

Those of us who know Christ as Savior are responsible for sharing the “good news” with others. The great commission is for all disciples—followers of Jesus.

Matthew 28:19 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

We have all been “sent.” These verses explain why. We are to preach, to proclaim the divine truth of the gospel (from the Greek), so that people are encouraged to believe the truth of the gospel and recognize their need to call upon Him as LORD in faith for salvation. What is the gospel? Paul sums it up in a nutshell in ICorinthians.

1Corinthians 15:1-4 “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:”

Those who accept the gospel will experience peace, a relationship that is “at one” with God again. This is a message that is full of good news about good things, blessings, for the one who chooses to believe.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Confessing Jesus Christ as Lord

Romans 10:6-9 “But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

After reading through several translations and looking at a few commentaries, I think the key truth being presented is that faith doesn’t depend on the presence of the Messiah to impute His righteousness; it is a matter of confessing with the mouth and believing in the heart—a matter of faith.

Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

That is why Paul references the words from Deuteronomy; the application of the truth is the same.

Deuteronomy 30:11-14 “For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.”

Verse 9 ties it all together. Salvation is provided to the one who will confess publicly that Jesus is Lord. The word Lord is defined as “supreme in authority.” Every Jew would recognize that as an admission that Jesus was who He claimed to be—the Messiah, the Son of God, God in flesh. The Apostle John affirms this truth.

1John 4:15 “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

Jesus declared that to confess Him as Lord implies a willingness to do what He says—to obey Him.

Luke 6:46 “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”

Along with the confession of Jesus as Lord, one must believe that God raised up Jesus from the dead. The resurrection was divine proof of the YHWH’s acceptance and approval of His Son’s sacrifice for man’s sin.

Romans 1:4 “And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:”

Romans 10:10 “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

I thought the CJB translation was quite thought-provoking: “For with the heart one goes on trusting and thus continues toward righteousness, while with the mouth one keeps on making public acknowledgement and thus continues toward deliverance.”

Salvation is a result of true faith and commitment to proclaiming the truth about Jesus. This type of faith will obviously be reflected in how you live. This ties in directly with more words from the Apostle John.

1John 2:19 “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”

It was the idea of continuance that jumped out to me from the CJB. I personally believe we are imputed the righteousness of Jesus at salvation, but that sanctification is a continuing process of becoming more righteous and Christ-like in how we live—our demonstration of God’s righteousness in us to others.

Salvation brings about a miracle in the life of the person of faith; he/she becomes a new creation that is sealed by the Holy Spirit of God. It is the power of God that preserves the work He begins in us and carries it to fruition.

Philippians 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”

1Peter 1:3-5 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

What God starts He will finish. Continuance in the faith is a proof of the profession made.

Romans 10:11 “For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”

My first thought when scripture is referenced is to find where. The closest verse I found was in Isaiah 49.

Isaiah 49:23 “And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.”

The word wait is a reference to expectation and patience in waiting. Obviously, those who are waiting on the Lord with expectation would describe those who believe Him and are looking to Him for deliverance.

I also found some beautiful verses in Joel that apply here.

Joel 2:26-27 “And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed. And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed.”

“My people” is obviously referencing those that have faith in God, those who have accepted Him as LORD and are trusting Him for their salvation.

Many of the commentators reference Isaiah 28:16 I think because the wording is a little bit closer and because Paul quoted it at the end of the last chapter, but I don’t think the meaning is as clear in association with this verse.

Isaiah 28:16 “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.”

The Hebrew for haste references “hurry, to be eager with excitement or enjoyment, ready.” The key seems to be in reference to the precious corner stone, Jesus, that allows us to cease from our efforts, our busy-ness to work out our own salvation. In Him we can find rest and peace because He has done the work necessary by laying down His life for our sin. All we have to do is accept what He has done.

Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Jesus Christ Fulfils the Law

Romans 10:4 “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”

“end” = the point aimed at as the limit, the conclusion

The whole of the sacrificial system pointed to the provision of Christ. Jesus said that He came to fulfil (complete) the law; He was the conclusion.

Matthew 5:17 “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”

He was sent by God to provide righteousness for man. The sacrificial system allowed for the sins of the people to be forgiven on a temporary basis. I found another quote from Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s “Israelology” that applies here: “The law was never designed as a permanent administration, but only a temporary one, as is evident in Galatians 3:19, ‘Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made….”

The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus allows those sins to be permanently forgiven for every person who will believe or have faith in that provision. Paul stated it this way in his letter to the Corinthians. (I like the NIV wording.)

2Corinthians 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

No longer does man have to be judged according to the law; through Christ one can be declared righteous, not guilty, according to the law. If man chooses to try to earn his salvation by keeping the law and rejecting Jesus, he will be found guilty. To fail in one point of the law is to fail.

James 2:10 “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

Scripture tells us that ALL have sinned; there is not one person that will be able to be declared innocent based on the law alone.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.”

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.
Those who believe, put their faith in Jesus, however, will be declared righteous in Him and, therefore, not guilty. Those who choose to reject Jesus will be condemned.”

John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

2Corinthians 5:20-21 “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

Romans 10:5 “For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.”

I like the wording of the CJB for this verse: “For Moshe writes about the righteousness grounded in the Torah that the person who does these things will attain life through them.”

The word doeth references observing these laws continually. Scripture was referenced above that states the truth that not one person is capable of such obedience. If that were possible, Christ would never have had to come to sacrifice Himself to redeem us.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Paul’s Burden for the People of Israel

Romans 10:1 “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.”

“Brethren” = fellow believers

Paul’s desire is that Israel, the Jewish people, would accept Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, and turn to Him for their salvation. The Greek for the word prayer comes from a root meaning “to beg (as binding oneself).” This gives strength to the word desire; it is a deep longing. Paul feels this so intensely because he was once in their position of unbelief.

Romans 10:2 “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.”

Paul is very aware, through past personal experience, that the Jewish people (and especially their leaders) were zealous/passionate about God. The problem was that their passion was not based on “recognition, full discernment” (from the Greek) concerning Him. The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) words it this way, “But it is not based on correct understanding.”

Paul gave a prime example from his own life in the book of Acts as he spoke before Agrippa.

Acts 26:9-15 “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.”

I believe that has been the truth of “Christians” throughout history as well, e.g. the Crusaders. They have acted with zeal to support/defend a wrong understanding of God and His will/purposes.

Romans 10:3 “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”

“ignorant” = not to know (through lack of information or intelligence), to ignore

I’ve always defined ignorance as lack of knowledge, but never associated the word ignore with it; that would include a conscious decision to refuse or reject the facts. When Jesus taught the righteousness of God in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), it was a revelation of how differently God looks at things vs. how men look at things. Through the centuries the spiritual leaders of Israel had developed an interpretation of the law that was far from the original intent of the Lawgiver; they had “established their own righteousness.” The ministry of Jesus was full of examples of His revealing the error of that system. Matthew 23 contains one of His strongest accusations of the spiritual leaders; verse 23 emphasizes their wrong understanding of God’s law. They were focused on outward acts of obedience with no understanding that it is the character of the inner man that is the key issue.

Matthew 23:23-25 “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.”

They were so caught up in their own “wisdom,” that they ignored the wisdom of God in the person of Jesus Christ. They refused to accept the facts/proofs that He gave of His position as the Messiah, the Son of God. They did not recognize Him because they revered the teaching of men more than the teaching of God through the scripture. They should have recognized Christ at His coming from the teaching of the prophets.

Matthew 16:1-3 “The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?”

Luke 12:54-56 And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?”

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Salvation for the Gentiles

Romans 9:30 “What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.”

Based on all that Paul has just presented, What should we conclude? What is the state of things?

The Gentiles (who make up the “church”) from the wicked pagan nations have been imputed the righteousness of God through faith in the Son of God. The Israelites, who had begun as nation of faith, had resorted to focusing on the keeping of God’s law and had failed (as does everyone who tries to live by the law).

Romans 9:32-33 “Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

Why did they fail? Because they were trying to work their way into God’s good graces through ritualistic practices instead of just following Him in faith and obedience as LORD.

Again, Paul quotes from Isaiah.

Isaiah 8:13-14 “Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Isaiah 28:16 “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.”

In Isaiah 8 the “LORD of hosts” is identified as the stone of stumbling. In Isaiah 28 YHWH states He will lay a “precious corner stone” in Zion. Isaiah 28 is a passage about the Messiah and serves to equate Him to the Lord of hosts.

Psalm 118 is another Messianic passage that is referenced by the Apostle Peter in his great sermon recorded in Acts 4. He identifies this stone as Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Psalm 118:21-22 “I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation. The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.”

Acts 4:10-11 “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.”

In the book of 1Peter, the Holy Spirit connects all the dots.

1Peter 2:5-8 “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.”

The people of Israel were so caught up in their legalistic practices of empty ritual, that they rejected Jesus the Messiah when He came. They (the nation as a whole) refused to accept Him as the promised Messiah in spite of His many miraculous proofs.

Why were they so eager to reject Jesus as the Messiah? It’s like they never had read Isaiah 53. They were so eager for Messiah the King to deliver them from the bondage of Rome, that they were blinded to the truth. They just didn’t expect the suffering servant. They were so proud of their adherence to the law, that they couldn’t understand the message of salvation through faith that Jesus taught.

As I thought about this some more, I thought again about how false expectations impact us. The people of Israel were so focused on a deliverer who would become their king that they rejected the scripture that spoke of Messiah’s suffering. They just didn’t understand that He had to die and conquer death through the resurrection to atone for sin before He could set up His Kingdom. The suffering servant was to become the king. As a result, they rejected the Messiah. Their response to Him was based on their desire and expectation rather than the truth. God had given them the truth through His prophets, but they chose to accept only part of that truth—not the whole truth.

The “church” today has the same mindset. We want to interpret God’s truth according to our desires and expectations. That doesn’t change the truth. It just puts us in the dangerous position of missing out on the blessings of God and in many instances in leading people away from true saving faith. I am continually asking the Lord to help me read and hear His word without prejudice and with an open heart to His truth. It is only through knowing His truth as revealed to us by the Spirit through His word that we can develop a growing relationship with the Savior and live a life of victory and obedience over sin. It is dangerous to try to box God in to our expectations of Him from a human mindset. His wisdom is so very far beyond our understanding.