Romans and Romans

We’ve been going through Romans in a Bible study on Tuesday and Thursday mornings before work. It’s pretty neat. I want to talk about some of the things we talk about there–for two reasons. One, they’re radical and life-changing. Two, the people at the Bible study already know a lot of those things. I’m hoping to pass them on to people who don’t already know them.

The problem is, John McCain just conceded the presidential elections, so everyone’s mind is on the election, not on our Bible Study in Romans. So I thought I’d tie the two together.

First, just so you have an idea who I am, I voted for Obama. Why? Because my concern was the economy, not the nomination of the next Supreme Court justice. Despite the “tax and spend” reputation that the democrats unfairly have, I believe it’s clear that they’re the party that–currently–cares most about living within their means. Balancing the budget means only spending the money you have. That’s a good way to run a business. I’ve done and am doing some learning about that myself.

A lot of Christians won’t agree with me on that. I voted for a guy that supports legalized abortion. I think abortion is just murder, and I’m astonished that anyone could claim to have a clean conscience while they’re killing a baby. I have no understanding of that sort of behavior at all.

What I want Christians to agree with me on, though, is this: God appoints every president, every Supreme Court justice, and every congressman to their position. He appoints governors and mayors, too. The Scripture says that there is no authority except that which is ordained by God (Rom. 13:1). 1 Peter 2:13 adds that we are to submit ourselves to every established authority of man. He adds in the next verse that they are sent by God. So, like it or not, even an immoral president like Bill Clinton was sent by God.

Okay, I called this “Romans and Romans” because I want to say something from our Romans Bible study, and my political comment was from Romans as well (all authority is ordained by God–Rom. 13:1). So, on to the Bible study comments:

There’s a really neat passage in Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, c. A.D. 155, which you may have read, but probably not:

If they repent, all who wish for it can obtain mercy from God, and the Scripture foretells that they shall be blessed, saying, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” That is, having repented of his sins, he may receive remission of them from God, and not as you deceive yourselves, and some others who resemble you in this, who say that even though they be sinners, but know God, the Lord will not impute sin to them. (ch. 141)

Now who are these people who believe that even though they are sinners, but know God, the Lord will not impute sin to them? Justin is talking to Jews in this dialogue, and it is the Jews he is accusing of believing this doctrine. Justin goes on to argue that it is not true, pointing out that king David himself wasn’t forgiven until he repented with mourning and tears.

What does this have to do with Romans? Well, Romans addresses the whole issue of the claim: “I’m one of the elect.” The Jews in Paul and Justin’s time believed that they were the elect of God. They made their boast in the Law, as Paul says in Romans. What most of us don’t realize is that they didn’t boast in keeping the Law; they boasted in just having the Law. Yes, they were circumcised, kept the Sabbath, offered sacrifices, and celebrated the feasts. But do you notice how confidently Paul asserts that they’re hypocrites when it comes to actually keeping the Law? In Romans 2:1, he states that everyone in his audience that judges is guilty of the same behavior they judge others over. In vv. 21-22 he names a couple of those behaviors: stealing and adultery. In vv. 23-24, he tells them they’re lawbreakers and that the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of them. Obviously, he was talking about Jews, and he was confidently asserting that they were lawbreakers.

The reason this was happening is because what Justin described in A.D. 155 wasn’t new to A.D. 155. It was around in Paul’s time, too. They were making their boast in the Law (2:23), but they were breaking the Law and dishonoring God’s name. For them, it was enough to possess the Law and be circumcised. As one brother put it at our Bible study, they were holding to “once saved, always saved.”

Paul addresses this very directly. In v. 26, he tells those Jews that if they break the Law, their circumcision will become uncircumcision. In v. 27, he tells them it works the other way around, too. If Gentiles keep the righteousness of the Law, then their uncircumcision will become circumcision.

God’s not interested in ceremony. If you do not walk in the righteousness that comes from faith in Christ, then your baptism will become non-baptism. There is no partiality with God. We read that often in Scripture, but most Christians don’t believe it when they read it. God will not be partial to you because you accepted Christ. He will ask more of you. You’re supposed to have the Holy Spirit and be walking in the light of life. You will not be judged less strictly than non-believers; you will be judged more strictly.

The apostles try to warn you often. You are warned there in Rom. 2:26, but Paul warns you even more clearly in Ephesians 5.  There, in v. 5, he tells us that no immoral man, unclean person, or covetous man (who is an idolater) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Then he says something very important. Let no one deceive you with empty words. Don’t be deceived! It’s like Paul knew that men would come along telling you that you can be unrighteous and still go to heaven. You cannot! Don’t be deceived by bloated teachers, full of hot air, speaking empty words to you.

What does Paul use as proof for what he says? He uses a line of reasoning. He says, “For because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”

Do you see how Paul does not distinguish between saved and unsaved? He’s saying, “If the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience for these things, don’t be deceived; it will come upon you as well.” Peter says it, too, and very plainly. “If you address as Father the one who judges impartially according to each one’s work, then conduct yourself throughout the time of your sojourning here in fear” (1 Pet. 1:17). God is an impartial judge, and he will judge you impartially as well.

This is the reason for running to Christ. Only he can give you the repentance that leads to life. He can unite you to God so that your arrive at the judgment seat holy and blameless and will not need to shrink back when you see him.

There’s one more interesting passage on this subject I want to point out. 2 Cor. 10:1-14 is one of the best arguments against false security in the Bible, but it doesn’t get noticed much. I’m not sure why. Paul begins in vv. 1-4 by arguing that the fathers in the wilderness, the Israelites of old, were, in a sense, as saved as you and I. They were baptized by being baptized into Moses in the sea and in the cloud, and they had Christ. They drank from that spiritual Rock that followed them, which Rock was Christ.

Verse 5 then tells us that God wasn’t pleased with them, despite their being baptized and saved. Then in the next verse, he makes his intent clear by telling us that they are examples to us, so that we won’t lust like they lusted. He goes on like that to v. 10, and then in v. 11 he tells us again these were examples to us.

What’s his point? He states it as plainly as anyone can state anything: “Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

Shoot, if you can read all that from 2 Cor. 10 and say, “Well, I know I’m saved because I accepted Jesus on June 3, 1993,” then nothing will wake you up. You’re probably hopeless, and you’ll go straight to hell. Pray that someone is praying for you because you don’t have a chance on your own.

Oh, and some commentary on the passages we’ve been studying is at http://www.oldoldstory.org/commentary/commentary.html. I’m a couple weeks behind, and I’ll probably fall further behind, but I am getting some up. They’re very interesting, in my opinion; definitely not your typical commentary, any more than what’s above is your typical commentary.

Grace be with you!

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