“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet."--Matthew 5:13

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Loved and Called by God

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus...to all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
Romans 1:1; 7

The everyday first century Jew believed he was loved by God based on his nationality. The Jews were God's chosen people. He had promised to create the Jewish people from faithful Abraham. This people had been called to be set apart from the other nations of the world. Thus, they had certain dietary and lifestyle restrictions, they had to perform bloody sacrifices to atone for their sin, and they had to follow the law of God. The fact that one had Abraham's, Issac's, Jacob's, and David's blood flowing through their veins was a source of pride for a Jew. Thus, many Jews believed that God had a greater love for them because, of course, they were His chosen people. So the fact that Paul opens the letter by calling the Roman Gentiles "loved by God" would have been sure to make any Jewish reader gasp. But the fact is that God does not make a distinction between races, as we will discuss in further detail in the coming chapters. God loves His own. He loves those who put their trust in Him, no matter whose blood is flowing through their veins. He loves His people, His chosen elect.

Not only does Paul note that God loves the Gentile Romans, he says that God has called them. In essence, God had chosen them to be His saints, thus reiterating the fact that God makes no racial distinctions but chooses whom He pleases. God's election is mysterious, but wonderful. God effectually calls His people, drawing them near to Him by faith. 

Finally, Paul extends his usual standard of greeting to the Roman believers, wishing them grace and peace which only God can provide through the death of His Son. God has set His elect apart from sin, drawing them near to Him so that they are called holy, regardless of their race.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Paul's Greeting to the Romans

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be 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 descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
Romans 1:1-6 

To begin our study of Romans, we will take a look at Paul's greeting. Deep theological truths are prevalent in the greetings in Paul's other epistles, but none more so than in Romans. Here, Paul outlines the whole gospel in a single paragraph, a feat that many people would not be able to do in a single page. But of course, Paul was writing through the direct work of the Holy Spirit. 

Paul identifies himself as "a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God". Paul wants his readers to know that he has given his life over to the Lord. He is no longer a slave to sin, but to the Lord. In identifying himself as an apostle, Paul means that he has been sent directly by Christ Himself. Christ appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus and called him to be set apart as a minister for the gospel--the good news of Christ. This good news that Christ brought was the same one that was promised through the prophets in the Old Testament. It is the promise of a Messiah that would save God's people from their sins. This was not a revolutionary message that went against Scripture, as the Jews had accused. This was a message that had been foretold by Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others.

Christ Jesus, the Son of God, was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies because He is a blood relative of David (II Samuel 7:12-13, Matthew 1:1-17, Luke 3:23-38). But not only that, He proved Himself to be the Son of God by His resurrection from death. In coming to earth, Christ submitted Himself to the will of the Father by voluntarily giving up His throne in heaven to become a man, born through a sinful woman. It was the Holy Spirit that guided and directed Christ during His ministry on earth. It is that same Holy Spirit that directs and guides God's people today. Through Christ's death and resurrection, His people receive grace through their faith. This grace is not given through our own meritorious works, but through the love and sovereignty of God. 

Since the grace of Christ is given through faith, therefore it is granted to all who believe, regardless of race. This is the supreme theme of this epistle. Those who are called, or the elect, of God are of many colors, cultures, and people groups. John MacArthur notes, "the 'call' of God refers to God's effectual call of elect sinners to salvation, rather than the general call to all men to believe. Salvation comes to those whom God has elected for Christ to save. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

An Introduction to Paul's Epistle to the Romans

After having taken a look at specific verses in the Bible for the last couple of months, I have decided to take a more in depth look at the book of Romans. My resources for this study will include the English Standard Version of Scripture, John MacArthur’s commentary on Romans, and my own personal notes and thoughts that I have compiled over the years.

Of the letters written by the Apostle Paul, his letter to the Roman church is the longest. Paul’s purpose for writing the letter, stated in 1:16-17, is to proclaim that the gospel of Christ is “the power of God for salvation for everyone that believes”. This includes those who are not Jews. He proves this by showing how our righteousness does not come from ourselves, but from God. It is He who justifies sinners by their faith in the finished work of Christ alone. 

Paul also wrote to officially introduce himself to the Roman believers. Although Paul had never visited there, we know that he planned to be there soon because he wrote to edify the believers (1:11), preach the gospel (1:15), and so that the Romans would be able to pray for him (15:30) and help him with his planned ministry in Spain (15:28). 

Many scholars believe that Paul wrote this letter from Corinth during his third missionary journey in approximately 57 A.D. Shortly after this, Paul was arrested upon returning to Jerusalem.

Throughout this study, I will discuss difficult doctrines, such as original sin, election, and the sovereignty of God. I hope that the Lord will encourage you through your reading as we traverse the theologically challenging epistle of Paul to the Romans.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Multitude From Every Nation

 "And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,
12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
12,000 from the tribe of Gad,
12,000 from the tribe of Asher,
12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali,
12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,
12,000 from the tribe of Simeon,
12,000 from the tribe of Levi,
12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,
12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun,
12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,
12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands"
Revelation 7:4-9

Any interpretation of a passage in Revelation should be carefully considered. The book of Revelation is apocalyptic in nature and is therefore full of allegories and symbolism that can be confusing for the casual reader. Even those scholars and ministers who have dedicated their lives to study of God’s word have trouble interpreting certain parts of Revelation.

However, Revelation 7:4-9, while symbolic, can be interpreted literally. The reality is that the Apostle John heard the number of God’s elect from each tribe of Israel. Each of the twelve tribes had 12,000, totaling 144,000. Even today, the old covenant people of Israel are dispersed. Most have turned their backs on the God of their fathers. However, there are a select few of the Jewish people who worship or will worship the one true God of Israel, Christ. These are those who will be numbered as the 144,000.

But the passage does not end there. In the verses following, John writes that he also saw an innumerable crowd of people from every culture of the world. These are Gentile believers who have turned from their pagan idolatry, worshipping Christ alone. 

While only a select few Israelites will turn to the Lord, the number of Gentile believers is so great that they could not be counted. And in the Kingdom of God, Jews and Gentiles will join together in worship of the Lamb. Thank the Lord for His sovereign election and for His new covenant of grace toward all those who call on His name.