Thursday, January 30, 2014

Romans 9:6-14 - Israel Identified


Chapter 9 of Romans began with Paul revealing his heaviness of heart and sorrow due to so many of his fellow Jews rejecting their Messiah. Had God failed?

Romans 9:6-14 (KJV)
6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son.
10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;
11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

Immediately in verse 6 Paul concluded that God's Word had not failed. He then made a shocking statement. Not all those who claimed to be Israel were Israel! This would have cut the Jews to their hearts. They counted on their physical ethnicity as the key to God's kingdom, and yet, here was Paul denouncing the very foundation on which they stood.

Paul explained beginning in verse 7. Abraham, the man whom the Jews called their father, had several children. Yet, it was only through Isaac's seed that the Jews descended. The other children, even though they could claim descent from Abraham, were not part of God's people.

In verse 8 Paul made a further distinction. The other descendants of Abraham, not from Isaac's line, were children of the flesh and were not children of God. Only the children of the promise were counted as God's children. In verse 9 Paul reminded his readers that God had promised Abraham a son, but Sarah and Abraham had tried to fulfill God's promise by their own devises (by fleshly means). Although Ishmael was born a descendant of Abraham, he was not the son promised to Abraham. That distinction fell to Isaac who was born by miraculous means through God's Word of promise.

When Rebecca was pregnant with twins by Isaac (verse 10), God had already made a determination of which twin would be called by God (verse 11). Paul made this point to demonstrate that God's process of election had not resulted from any works that an individual had done, but that it was solely through the sovereignty of God.

Verse 12 relates what God had said to Rebecca concerning her sons. The elder (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob).

Genesis 25:23 (KJV)
23 And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.

Paul then quoted Malachi 1:2-3 (verse 13).

Malachi 1:2-3 (KJV)
2 I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob,
3 And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.

The use of the words "hate" and "love" are not due to strong positive or negative emotion for or against Esau and Jacob, but rather a comparative term relating to preference. God decided that it was to Jacob that the blessings of promise would flow.

Was God unrighteous in His decisions (verse 14)? Paul answered strongly, "God forbid!"

Stay tuned for part 2!


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Romans 9:1-5 - What About the Jews?


Paul had been painting a glorious picture of God's faithfulness to His children, the believers. But what about the Jews? Had God's promises failed?

Romans 9:1-5 (KJV)
1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,
2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

In verses 1-3 Paul emotionally turned his attention to his Jewish kinsmen. He truthfully expressed that he had great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart. While many Gentiles were coming to a saving knowledge of Yeshua, many of Paul's fellow Jews were rejecting their Messiah. He even wished that he could be under God's curse if it meant that he could help his brethren.

After all, to the Jews belonged the adoption (Exodus 4:22), the glory (God's actual presence), the covenants (including the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31-37), the giving of the Torah, the service of God (in the Temple), and the promises (redemption and reconciliation) (verse 4). The patriarchs were theirs and Yeshua, the Messiah was also a physical descendant (verse 5). Paul ended by blessing God for all that He had given His people. Yet, had all the promises, given to the Jews in the Old Testament, been rescinded? Stay tuned for Paul's answer!


Monday, January 20, 2014

Romans 8:35-39 - More Assurance


If God is for us, no one can be against us! This assurance, written to us by Paul, is continued in the next verses.

Romans 8:35-39 (KJV)
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul asked a related question in verse 35. Who can separate believers from the love of Messiah? Can tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or the sword separate believers from Yeshua's love? Although Paul had already stressed that no one could be truly against believers, humans can be hard to convince. Paul understood that when believers go through difficult times, especially those related to persecution, they can feel that God is far away and is not caring for His children.

In verse 36 Paul began by looking at Psalm 44:22, "as it is written."

Psalm 44:22 (KJV)
22 Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.

Believers are often killed because of their faith, but in spite of how God's enemies mistreat them, believers are more than conquerors through Yeshua (verse 37). Obviously, this is not a reference to God's keeping His people from danger or death, but refers back to verse 28, and how all things work for good. The end result is an eternity with God and a glorified body. Also, persecution can be a powerful witness to unbelievers. It is amazing how the Body of Messiah can actually grow during times of persecution.

In verses 38 & 39 Paul said that he was persuaded that death, life, angels, principalities (evil spiritual kingdoms), powers, things present, things to come, height, depth, nor any other creature could separate believers from the love of God, which is in Yeshua. This list covered everything that Paul could think of. Nothing can separate the believer from the love of God.

Side note: Verses 38 & 39 are often used to prove that believers can never fall away to the point of no longer being saved. This would be a discussion for another time. The point of this section of Romans was to give the believers assurance that even though they were going through much, the outcome was by far greater than anything that they had gone through. I will leave the discussion at that.

God has His program! Believers are called, justified, and they will, without doubt, be glorified! It is a great assurance that we have in Yeshua!


Friday, January 17, 2014

Romans 8:31-34 - Assurance


The believer can count on God's program of foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification.

Romans 8:31-34 (KJV)
31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.
34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

In this section of Romans Paul asked a series of questions. What can believers say in response to the things spoken of in verses 28 & 29 (verse 31)? Since it seems so readily apparent that God is for believers, who can be against them?

And if God didn't even spare His own Son, but allowed Him to be crucified on the believers' behalf, won't God continue to bring His program about, freely bringing the believers each step to glorification (verse 32)? If He doesn't wouldn't Yeshua's death be in vain?

Who can bring any charges (legally) against God's elect (verse 33)? The elect are all those that God foreknew. It is another word for the believers. Paul's answer was that it is God who justifies. In essence, since God is the judge, He is the one to grant pardon to the believers by applying to them the righteousness of Yeshua. No one else matters.

So, who is it that condemns (verse 34)? Again, no one has the right. It was Yeshua that died, rose from the dead, and sits at the right hand of God making intercession for us. Paul continued to stress that if God is for believers, no one can be against them.

We can trust God in all that happens to us, if we are believers. Assuredly, one day we will receive our glorified bodies! Hallelu-Yah! 


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Romans 8:30 - The Golden Chain of Salvation


Previously Paul had been expounding on why Christians suffer in this life. In the last post we discovered that God, through His foreknowledge, predestines those who would respond in faith to become conformed to the image of Yeshua.

This next verse has become known in some circles as the "golden chain of salvation," the step by step process of Christian life. Let's examine this further.

Romans 8:30 (KJV)
30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

According to this verse those that God predestines, He then calls. Those that are called are then justified. Finally, those that are justified, God glorifies. This is the clear progression spoken of in this verse.

1. Since God knows the future, He knows who will respond to Him.
2. Based on this knowledge He predestines them to be conformed to the image of Yeshua.
3. They are then called by God.
4. They are then justified (a legal description of a change in status). The penalty of sin has been paid for them by the death and resurrection of Yeshua.
5. They are then glorified. At the end of the ages, believers are resurrected and receive glorified (heavenly) bodies.

The difficulty comes in the third step. Calvinists believe that only those that go through step two will go through step three. But if we remember that verses 29 and 30 are not referring to salvation, but only to believers and why they experience trials and tribulations, it is evident that this progression is not speaking of unbelievers at all. Therefore it is not saying that unbelievers are never called. It is only addressing the progression of what believers experience.

Matthew 22:14 (KJV)
14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

According to Matthew many are called, but only a few become believers. Paul was trying to assure his believing readers that the trials they were experiencing were for a purpose that had a definitive outcome, the becoming more like Yeshua and receiving glorified bodies. As believers we have this glorious hope!


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Romans 8:29 - Who or What is Predestined?


Believers suffer through trials and tribulations in this life. Yet, Paul said that we could trust that God works all these for good because we love God and are called according to His purpose. Paul continued.

Romans 8:29 (KJV)
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

In the first phrase of this verse, "for whom he did foreknow", "he" refers to God. "Whom" refers back to verse 28, to those who love God and who are called. In other words "whom" refers to believers. Paul was revealing that God had known before the ages even began, who would be believers. In the second phrase, "he also did predestinate", "he" again refers to God. Besides foreknowing the believers, God predestined them.

These two rather simple phrases have led to unbelievable divisions in the body of Messiah. Primarily, the differences in understanding separate those known as Calvinists and those known as Arminians. However, this post is not intended as a proof on one side or the other. The debate between the two sides is multifaceted and beyond the scope of this post. At the same time, this discussion will touch upon the topic as the plain meaning of the text is dissected.

The word "predestine" means "to determine beforehand." Therefore, according to this verse God determines something in advance. This determination is based on God's foreknowledge. Large segments of Christianity believe that this means that God determines, in ages past, who is saved and who is not, removing any choice on the individual's part. But is this true?

God is omniscient. He knows everything. He also knows the future. But just because He knows that tomorrow John Doe will repent of his sins and trust in Yeshua, God did not cause him to make that particular choice.

Acts 2:23 (KJV)
23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

Similarly, this verse in Acts confirms that although God foreknew that Yeshua would be crucified and He allowed this to happen, it doesn't negate the responsibility of the wicked men who chose this course of action.

Still, the word "predestine" does mean "to determine beforehand." But in looking at the verse and at the context of what Paul was discussing, it is obvious that the topic is not salvation. This verse is part of Paul's teaching on why believers suffer. The second part of the "predestine" phrase, "to be conformed to the image of his son," also tells us what is being predestined. It is that God predestined believers to be conformed to the image of His Son, Yeshua. This is the goal of all the suffering that God uses for good.

Finally, the last phrase confirms that God's goal is to mold believers into a body of brethren, with Yeshua being the firstborn.

In summary: Through God's foreknowledge He predestined those whom He knew would be believers, to be conformed to the image of His son, Yeshua. This process of conformation often involves suffering. But the good that results is the molding of a body of Yeshua-like believers with Yeshua as firstborn.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Romans 8:28 - The Called


In the last few posts Paul had been discussing the hope and groaning that believers go through while waiting for the redemption of the body. Paul now turned to begin his explanation of why we go through this suffering.

Romans 8:28 (KJV)
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Paul first stated that all the things that believers go through are for good. This does not mean that believers only experience "good" things, but that God can take the most difficult and terrible things and use them for good. In fact, we can trust that God will only allow those things in our lives that are beneficial and fit in with His purpose.

Paul also said that these trials and difficulties are meant for good to them that love God and who are called. Paul was making the claim that all believers love God and are called. Unbelievers do not have this same assurance.

Many Christians have memorized this verse, but often stop before the final phrase. Believers are called according to His purpose. Health and wealth, and other, gospel preachers will teach that God will bless His children with whatever they desire. This often comes from taking Psalm 37:4 and other verses out of context.

Psalm 37:4 (KJV)
4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Instead, God's main purpose for believers is His own glory. We bring glory to God by increasingly becoming more Yeshua-like and God will do whatever is best to achieve this goal. As God has promised, eventually we will come forth as refined gold ready for eternity. In other words, God is in the process of creating and saving a people for Himself. This is how we are called according to His purpose.

Paul continued his thoughts in the next verses. Stay tuned for the next post!


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Romans 8:24-27 - Hope and Help


Believers are earnestly waiting for the future redemption of their physical bodies, which will be changed into incorruptible glorified bodies!

Romans 8:24-27 (KJV)
24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

Biblical hope is not a term that signifies some desire that may or may not come about. Rather, hope and faith are waiting for something that assuredly will happen in the future. In verse 24 Paul stated that believers were saved by hope. This demonstrates how closely hope and faith are related. In fact, they are elements of the same concept. Faith is the actual trust in God's promises, specifically in this case, the promise of glorified bodies. However, hope is the waiting for the promise, knowing that God is faithful. Paul went on to say that hope that comes to fruition is no longer hope. Compare the definition of hope to the definition of faith in Hebrews.

Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)
1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

In verse 25 Paul continued by saying that in hoping for a future promise, believers will wait patiently for it.

Likewise, the Holy Spirit will help our infirmities (verse 26). Remember that Paul's discussion concerns the curse and the groanings that creation and mankind are going through. Waiting for our gloried bodies is difficult. We go through many hardships because of our sin, but also because of the cursed and fallen world that we live in. However, believers have help through the Holy Spirit. When believers don't even know how to pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groanings that can't be uttered.

And the Holy Spirit searches the hearts of believers and intercedes for them according to the will of God (verse 27).

As we wait in patient hope for the return of Yeshua and the redemption of our bodies we have help from the Holy Spirit. Stay tuned for more!