Sunday, October 27, 2013

Play Church

I was a little hesitant when I picked up this fictional novel about an associate pastor in a megachurch. It was supposed to be an extremely funny book that would keep the reader in stitches, so I decided to take a chance. I needed a little humor in my life anyway!

Well, the book was well written and actually pretty funny, so from that standpoint, it was well worth reading. However, the most important lesson I learned from it would probably have horrified the author! Yet, I'm glad that I read the book.

First off I'm not into megachurches. Members can and do get lost. Many church goers may actually like that so that they never have to take on any responsibility. In fact, after becoming totally exhausted in ministry at very small churches myself, I have many times threatened to go to a church where I could slip in on Sunday morning and slip out at the end where no one knew me or even seemed to care. I understand, but I don't believe that's what church is about.

However, I was appalled by the opulence in which the senior pastor and top people lived. Luxury cars, regular golf times at prestigious golf courses, magnificent offices, vacations in the Caribbean, and staff retreats at expensive spas were the way of life for this bunch. Was this author serious? I kept waiting for the cynical main character to disassociate himself from the church, wondering about the disconnect between the senior pastor and the third world where church and faith mean persecution, poverty, loss, and even death. But, the main character only spoke about how much good the church was doing, how many lives were changed, and how God had placed him in this wonderful church.

Also, I was bothered by the rigid set up of the Sunday morning service. It could only last exactly sixty minutes and the pastor's sermon could run no longer than twenty-five minutes. It was performance and entertainment oriented. The sanctuary was given a circus name.

Surprisingly, the main character seemed to have a personal relationship with God, although it got somewhat lost in all the references to popular rock music, movies and near swearing.

So why did I decide I was glad that I had read the book and what lesson had I learned?

There was a conversation in the book about someone wanting to become a Christian, but he was hesitant because it would mean giving up so many things. The associate pastor's answer blew me away. He said that Christianity was about freedom, even in those bad habits of his. He continued to say that God would change the believer's perspective and those habits just wouldn't seem so important any more. I almost fell off my chair! Most bad habits that we have are just plain sinful! God doesn't give us freedom to live in sin! It was then that I realized that this book was a prime example of where the church is going today. Satan must be ecstatic! There was no talk of sin or repentance. It was the "God accepts us just as we are" line that never gets around to stating how God will not leave us in sin. He demands repentance, the turning away from sin.

Where is the church headed? If we continue to follow in the line of this book, there soon won't be much of a church left, at least not the Church where there is repentance and true change to holy, righteous living. We'll just be playing church.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Romans 7:1-6 - Marriage and Salvation


When believers trust in Yeshua for their salvation, they become new creatures. The old carnal nature is dead and they are freed from sin and are able to become servants of righteousness. Paul continued with this:

Romans 7:1-6 (KJV)
1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?
2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
6 But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

Although Paul was continuing his discussion from chapter 6, he expanded his thought by drawing on another analogy, this time from the laws regarding marriage. He began by asking his readers another leading question (verse 1). Don't the believers know that the Torah has dominion over a man as long as he is living?  He added a parenthetical comment to make his readers aware that the coming argument was written with those in mind who understood the Torah. This undoubtedly was a reference primarily to Jews, although because the Roman congregation was largely Gentile, there seems to be an understanding on Paul's part that many of the Gentiles were at differing stages of understanding Torah.

In verse 2 Paul explained Torah law regarding marriage. A married woman is bound by Torah to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is free from that marriage.

Further, if while the husband is living, the woman marries another man, she is an adultress. However, if her husband is dead and she marries another man, she is not an adultress (verse 3).

Before going on to verse 4, it must be understood that in Paul's analogy, the woman, upon her husband's death, is no longer subject to the Torah law that says she cannot marry anyone else. The Torah itself and all the laws regarding marriage are still in force. She simply has the legal ability to marry someone else.

In the same way, believers become dead to Torah by the death and resurrection of Messiah (verse 4). This is not saying that Torah or any laws of Torah are done away with. It simply means that the believers, because of trusting in Yeshua's death and resurrection for salvation, are no longer subject to the condemnation of Torah and the penalties sin requires. The believers are, in essence, able to "marry" or serve someone else besides the fleshly nature. That someone is Yeshua. The believers are then able to bring forth fruit unto God.

For prior to this, the believers were in the flesh (they lived according to their fleshly, carnal natures) (verse 5). The sin they committed which were by the Torah (the Torah showed what sin was and then brought condemnation on those who sinned) , worked in their body parts to bring forth fruit unto death.

But believers, upon salvation, are delivered from the condemnation of Torah, their old natures are dead, and they are able to serve in newness of spirit, rather than in the oldness of the letter. The Torah still exists, still points to sin, but believers have new natures (hearts) upon which the Torah is written. The believers receive power and desire to live Torah, rather than living under the Torah's condemnation.

In summary: believers are originally "married" to their fleshly natures (the old man), but after the fleshly nature is dead, they are free to "marry" Yeshua and serve Him in righteousness. Hallelu-Yah!


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Romans 6:16-23 - Servants of Righteousness


Paul had answered the question, "Shall we sin, since we are no longer under Torah, but are under grace?" His response was, "God forbid!" He continued with this:

Romans 6:16-23 (KJV)
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.
20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul's response in verse 16 reflected some surprise. Didn't the believers understand they were servants to whomever they yielded themselves? There are two choices. They can obey sin and receive death, or they can obey righteousness.

Paul then thanked God because he was speaking about believers who HAD been servants of sin, but who had from their hearts obeyed the doctrine of Yeshua which had been delivered to them. In other words, Paul was grateful for his readers who had turned in repentance and trusted in the death and resurrection of Yeshua and were born again (verse 17).

Because of their trust in Yeshua, they were made free from sin, and became servants of righteousness (verse 18).

In verse 19, Paul acknowledged that the manner of his speaking was due to the "infirmity" of  his readers' flesh. Although, they were believers, they still lived in human bodies that could be weak, sickly, or otherwise infirm. In the same way that they had yielded their members (parts of the body) to uncleaness and to iniquity unto iniquity, they were to henceforth yield their members to righteousness unto holiness.

For when they were servants of sin they were free from righteousness (verse 20).

In verse 21 Paul spoke about the sin, the sin that they are now ashamed of, and the fruit of that sin, that the believers had "harvested" prior to their conversion to believers in Yeshua. The end of those things is death.

But now they were free from sin, were servants to God, and would "harvest" fruit unto holiness. The end of which is everlasting life (verse 22).

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Messiah Yeshua (verse 23).

As a reminder, Paul was not speaking about a works salvation, but rather works being the outcome of the changed relationship that occurs at salvation by faith. It is still possible for believers to sin, but since they are no longer captive in sin, righteousness should be the believers' standard of living. The believers' status change to righteousness through Yeshua results in eternal life!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Romans 6:12-15 - Let Sin Not Reign!


Last time Paul had left us with two very important realities for believers. 1.) Our old man is dead and 2.) Our body of sin is destroyed. Through our identification with Yeshua in His death and resurrection we are freed from sin. Paul then spoke on the natural result of these realities.

Romans 6:12-15 (KJV)
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

Paul charged the believers not to let sin reign in or to obey the lusts of the physical body (verse 12). Now that the old man (the natural, carnal nature) and body of sin are dead, the believer's inability to refrain from sin has been severed. Through the Holy Spirit's indwelling, the believer's new man is able to live righteously. Let me say that again, believers are able to refrain from sin!

At the same time Paul admonished the believers not to use their bodies as "instruments of unrighteousness" (verse 13). Instead they are to yield themselves unto God. They are to live like those risen from the dead and to use their bodies as "instruments of righteousness."

According to verse 14 sin no longer has dominion over believers because they are no longer under Torah, but are under grace. But what does " no longer under Torah" mean? Traditionally, it has been accepted that believers are no longer held to Torah observance, but that meaning doesn't make sense in the context of the verse. It would be saying that sin no longer has dominion over believers because they no longer have to obey the Torah. This gives the idea that sin was wiped away by grace. This is not true. Rather, "no longer under Torah" reflects the change in status of the believer. Sin no longer has dominion over believers because they are no longer under the condemnation of Torah that law-breakers deserve, they have been saved and changed by grace.

Paul then asked the leading question, "Shall we sin because we are not under Torah, but under grace? Again, Paul answered negatively, "God forbid!" If believers are no longer under the condemnation of Torah, what is the big deal if they sin? Paul will further explain in the next post!

born again Believers not standing under the condemnation of the Torah upon Law-breakers, - See more at:
born again Believers not standing under the condemnation of the Torah upon Law-breakers, - See more at:

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Romans 6:5-11 - Death and Resurrection With Yeshua


Paul had been comparing the death and resurrection of Yeshua to what believers experience through faith as symbolized in baptism. He further explained in this next section.

Romans 6:5-11 (KJV)
5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.
8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul began in verse 5 by saying that believers are "planted." This is reminiscent of John's discussion in John 12.

John 12:24 (KJV)
24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

Yeshua was like that seed of wheat that is planted in the ground (a kind of dying), that would bring forth much fruit. Believers are similarly planted with Yeshua in His death and they will also experience a similar resurrection.

Because believers have been crucified with Yeshua, their bodies of sin are destroyed (verse 6). Henceforth, believers should not serve sin.

Paul introduced a couple of terms in this verse that need clarifying.  The "old man" is the entity that is crucified. "The old man was the natural man, the Adam man, earthy, natural, carnal, dead in personal trespasses, weak through the flesh, and could not please God" (Pearl, Michael. Romans 1-8, Verse by Verse. No Greater Joy, Pleasantville, TN, 200l. p. 112). This "old man" is now gone and is replaced by the "new man" in believers.

When the "old man" is crucified, the "body of sin" is also destroyed. The "body of sin" is "the physical body with all of its natural and accumulated lusts, tainted and depraved by a life of disobedience." (Pearl 113). Because the "old man" and the "body of sin" are gone believers should no longer sin.

According to verse 7 believers are virtually dead and are freed from sin.

Next, Paul turned to the subject of resurrection. If believers are dead with Yeshua, they are also alive with Him (verse 8). Because Yeshua was raised from the dead, He cannot die again. Death has no dominion over Him (verse 9). He died to sin once (verse 10). Now He lives unto God.

Paul then concluded that believers are to consider themselves dead to sin, but alive unto God through Yeshua (verse 11).

The burden of sin that surrounds us in our human state is removed by Yeshua, our Messiah, when we trust in Him! We are freed! Hallelu-Yah!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Romans 6:1-4 - Cheap Grace?


Having finished the analogy between Yeshua and Adam, Paul began a discussion on the believer's position in Messiah. He asked another leading question that connected to the material he had just covered. If sin should cause grace to abound ......?

Romans 6:1-4 (KJV)
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Simple reading of the text might lead someone to conclude that if grace abounded because of sin, sin should be increased so that grace would abound even more (verse 1). But Paul's response in verse 2 is a very strong negative, "God forbid!" Then he reminded his readers that believers are dead to sin. How could someone dead respond as he had in the past? How could a believer ever want to live in a sinful manner again?

To many of Paul's detractors Christianity appeared to be an easy religion. Salvation wasn't based on works, all you needed to do was believe. It seemed as if the Christian God overlooked sin. The Jews especially had a difficult time and thought that Paul was down playing the Torah too much. What they didn't realize was that by true faith, a believer is changed internally. No longer is the believer bound in sin. Paul wasn't describing a cheap grace, or the overlooking of sin. A believer should want to live perfectly!

Verse 3 begins another analogy, this time comparing the believer's experience of faith to Yeshua's death and resurrection. With Christian baptism, believers are baptized into Yeshua's death. Although Paul was using the word baptism and, indeed Christians are to be baptized upon faith in Yeshua, it isn't the baptism itself that causes the connection to Yeshua's death, but rather the coming to faith which is then symbolized by water baptism. Just as a believer is immersed into water, it is as if he experienced a death like Yeshua's. Another way of looking at it is that Yeshua paid for all the sin of the world in His death. The believer symbolically participates in that death when he or she is immersed.

Verse 4 continues by comparing the believer's baptism to the burial of Yeshua. Then just as Yeshua was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, believers are "raised" from the waters of immersion to walk in a new life. They are changed and are no longer held in the power of sin. Again, this is not cheap grace that overlooks sin, but rather a heart change! The true believer will be different regarding sin!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Romans 5:18-21 - Yeshua and Adam Part 4


Paul had explained how one man, Adam, sinned and brought death into the world. He then connected and finished his thought of verse 12 with verses 18-21.

Romans 5:12 (KJV)
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

The new material:

Romans 5:18-21 (KJV)
18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

The first part of verse 18 is a repetition of verse 12. By the sin of Adam, the judgment of death came upon all mankind. The last part of verse 18 gives the comparison. In the same way, by the righteousness of Yeshua, the free gift of justification comes upon all mankind. Paul was describing how one man acted and how many received from the action without doing anything to deserve what was received. In other words, when Adam sinned, death came to all his descendants even though they had not done anything to deserve that punishment. (Remember, this is not saying that man does not suffer because of his own sin, but that the death penalty comes upon man before any sin is ever committed. The punishment is undeserved.) The same is true of Yeshua. By His righteousness, the gift of justification is available to all men even though they have done nothing to deserve it.

By Adam's disobedience many were made sinners (through the estrangement between God and man) (verse 19). In the same way, by Yeshua's obedience many shall be made righteous.

In verse 20, Paul reminded his readers that with the Torah, sin abounded. The amount of sinning was not more, but rather, the understanding of sin increased with the Torah, and man knew, not only by conscience but by Law, that he was committing sin. The accountability or guilt of sin increased. How much more, then, did grace abound by Yeshua's obedience? With the increased accountability for sin, God's gift of grace also expanded.

Sin reigns until man's death (verse 21). By contrast, grace reigns through righteousness unto eternity by Yeshua, the Messiah, our Lord!


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Romans 5:15-17 - Yeshua and Adam Part 3


Paul had begun using Adam as a comparison and contrast to Messiah Yeshua. His points so far have been:
          1. Through one man (Adam) sin and death entered the world.
          2. Man has inherited death as a consequence of Adam's sin.
          3. Man does not inherit the guilt or accountability of Adam's sin.
          4. While Adam brought sin and death, Yeshua brings the cure.

 Romans 5:15-17 (KJV)
15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.
17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

This section of Scripture is still a part of the parenthetical comment Paul was making, in explaining how death came upon the human race through Adam.

In verse 15 Paul stated that there was a contrast between Adam's sin (the offence) and Yeshua's gift of righteousness. For if through the sin of Adam many die, how much more, through the death and resurrection of Yeshua, the gift of righteousness abounds unto many? The grace given would far outweigh the sentence of death.

Paul further stated that Adam's sin led to condemnation whereas Yeshua's gift of righteousness leads to justification (verse 16). Nor does Yeshua's gift cover only Adam's sin, but all the sins of the entire world.

Finally, in verse 17, Paul contrasted the reign of death that Adam's sin brought to man, to those who by abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness, brought by Yeshua, shall reign in life. Not only did Yeshua defeat death, but He brings abundant life to those who believe in Him.

Although there are similarities between Yeshua and Adam, the work of Yeshua far exceeds Adam's!