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Difficult Verses 4: 1 John 1.9

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Well, thanks to the people who suggested this verse as a difficult verse they want an explanation on.  I will do my best to help you grasp what this verse is saying.  The verse says this:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1.9, ESV)

And it is a difficult verse because it seems at face value that it contradicts the wealth of New Covenant Scriptures that we are forgiven because of the work of Jesus, not because of anything we do: that we are saved by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2.8-9), that the way to salvation is through believing in the work of Christ (Acts 16.31) and not by our works (Romans 4.16, 24).  If our forgiveness is dependent on our ability to confess, then we are in trouble – you don’t remember all your sins, and nor do I – so how can we possibly confess them all.

This verse is initially so difficult to reconcile with the New Covenant that some people actually seek to remove it from Scripture.  I have heard that, against all principles of letter-writing and grammar, that 1 John 1 was written to non-Christians and 1 John 2-5 was written to Christians.  I will give you three reasons why this cannot possibly be true, but firstly let’s just realize this: if your theology has to rip a New Testament letter to the church in two to avoid a verse, you are letting your theological system have more weight than the Word of God has.  That can only be reading into the text, not reading out of it.  

There are three clear reasons this verse applies to Christians today:

  • There is no chapter break between 1 and 2 in the original text.  You have to rip a letter written to the church into two to make this idea work
  • John uses first person plural pronounsin the verse: “we”, “our” and “us”.  Now if John says “we”, “our” and “us” he is including himself.  You cannot argue that this verse is not to Christians unless you want to make the case that John was not a Christian.  If this verse applies to John, it applies to you.
  • People haven’t thought through the implications of what they are saying.  For people who claim this verse isn’t for Christians, they have to then accept it is for non-Christians.  Some people say it is for all non-Christians, others have a special group of non-Christians that 1 John 1 is apparently written to (again, against all possible logic and grammar!).  One prominent teacher tells us that this first chapter of 1 John 1 is written to the Gnostics.   Now, let’s just ignore the fact that there were no Gnostics around in the 1st century when this letter was penned, and let’s just say that if it is not written to Christians then it must be written to someone!  Do the people who think that it written to non-Christians think that non-Christians (whether all of them or just a special group of them) think that non-Christians have to confess all their sins to be righteous?  Do they believe that for a certain group of Gnostics the normal rules of salvation by faith don’t apply?  It’s just not been thought through. 

I appreciate the passion people have for Christ and the complete work, but ripping verses out of the Bible, or relegating them to a secret group of people who no longer exist, because they are difficult to understand is not the way to honour the Word of God.  We have to engage with the Word and find out what it means.

So what does 1 John 1.9 mean?  Well, firstly, we have established that it is definitely written to Christians.  It is written to born-again, righteous, pure, holy, redeemed people.  John includes himself in the recipients of the letter – so it is definitely written to Christians, even mature Christians and leaders and elders!  Let’s just be honest – sometimes Christians, whether they are new Christians, older Christians or even church leaders – sin.  We get caught up in patterns of sinful behaviour and we need to get out.  This verse actually gives us a powerful route out of sin, and to relegate it to a 2nd century cult or rip it out of the letter is to do Christians a great disservice because this verse is powerful and will help you when you rightly understand it.

The first thing we need to do to find the meaning of the verse is examine the words that make it up.  Let’s start with the word “confess”, which in Greek is homologia.  Homo- means the same as, and logia means words, and homologia means to “say the same words as”.  It doesn’t mean we have to ball and squall on the floor and weep and wail about all our sins.  It isn’t talking about an emotional experience, although sinning, dealing with sin and making declarations can be emotional at times.  It is talking about you saying the same thing as God about your sin.  So what does God say about your sin?

Firstly, God says that sin is sin.  So stop calling it something else.  It’s not your personality type, it’s not a bad habit, it’s not my oopsie. It’s sin.  Gossip is sin.  Stealing is sin.  Outbursts of rage is sin.  Looking at a woman with lust in the heart, watching porn, is sin.  Sex outside of marriage is sin.  Cursing Christians is sin.  Pride and arrogance is sin.  Call it what it is.  Face up to the issue – man up and own your sin! Say out loud: “I have sinned.  This action I have done is sin, and I want to be free!”  Let’s exercise some responsibility.

Secondly, God says that your sin has been paid for on the cross.  It has been dealt with.  2 Cor. 5.21 tells us that Christ became sin with your sin so that you could be made the righteousness of God.  So your sin has been forgiven and you have died to sin.  Sin is not your master anymore because you are under grace (Romans 6.14).  Now you have accurately diagnosed your problem as sin, and are not hiding behind an excuse start to declare that you are free from sin, that you are forgiven, that you are redeemed, that you are righteous, that your spirit is pure and holy, that you are born again.  Start to declare this outloud.  That is confessing your sin – saying what God says about it.

You see you can only have God’s remedy for your problem when you admit God’s diagnosis for your problem.  Keep denying it is sin, keep blaming the other people for making you behave like that, you start to distort the world.  Your thinking darkens and you become corrupt.  Admit it is sin, declare it is sin, then you can declare God’s solution to sin: the blood of Christ and the cross of Christ.

So now you have confessed your sin, we find out that God will do two things.  Not because He is merciful and kind (though He is!) but He will do these things because He is faithful and righteous.  You see if you have sinned, and you have confessed that sin, then you need to know that God isn’t going to do what He does next because of His goodness but because of His righteousness and faithfulness.  Christ died for your sin because of God’s goodness, but now that Christ has paid the full price for sin, it would be unrighteous for God not to help you in your sin!

How does God help us?  Well, the Scripture says He forgives us and He cleanses us from all unrighteousness.  This again causes problems for us complete work people, we read this and go “well, I am forgiven” and “I am righteous” so what is this about?  Let’s just look a little deeper and find out.

Firstly, God forgiving us?  Aren’t we forgiven because of Jesus at the cross, rather than because of our awesome confession?  It depends what you mean by forgive.  The Greek word for forgive is also equally translated as separate, and even as divorce a couple of times.  It means to firmly and deliberately separate two things.  This verse isn’t talking about God forgiving us because we finally said sorry – I know it’s been preached that way, but God is not waiting for an apology!  Forgiveness is rooted in the cross, not our apology.  It’s talking about the fact that God will separate you from your sin – when you start declaring what the Bible says about your sin, you find that sin loses it’s power to tempt you, to control you, to hold you.  When you start declaring that you are free from sin, and sin has no dominion over you because you are under grace not law, that sin loses its power to con you into thinking you have to obey it.  That is what 1 John 1.9 means by forgiveness – it’s about being free from that sin.

Then the cleansing from all unrighteousness.  Look, we all should know that our spirits are righteous the moment we get born again. You are totally righteous in your spirit.  Therefore, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that this Scripture is not talking about our spirit! Then it shouldn’t be too difficult to realize it’s talking about our souls.  Your spirit is righteous, but your soul – not so much.  If you had an x-ray machine that could see spirit and soul, and you were standing next to Jesus and you set the machine to spirit – you would not be able to tell the difference between you and Jesus.  You are one spirit (1 Cor. 6.17).  That’s awesome – your spirit is the righteousness of God.

But if you turned the dial on the machine and set it to soul – to thought processes, to how we think and respond and feel.  I am guessing it wouldn’t be that hard to work out which one is Jesus and which one is us!  Our souls are not yet fully renewed and not yet fully restored – we are a work in progress in our souls.  But when we start declaring the Word of God and what God says about sin – confessing our sins – then God, in His faithfulness and righteousness – starts to cleanse our souls from that unrighteousness.  Our thoughts start to line up with His thoughts, our ways subsume into His ways.  It’s awesome!  You see now why the power of this verse means that it should not be relegated to non-Christians or Gnostics or ripped out of the Bible!  It’s part of grace!

Now you sin and most of the time, you can pick yourself up again.  This verse isn’t saying to confess all our sins, it’s talking about those times where a sin or group of sins just seems to be having the victory over us and our life.  Sometimes, and it happens to all of us, a certain sin just seems to get the better of us.  It seems to be winning.  In those cases, here are the 4 steps to victory:

  1. Agree with God that it is a sin.  Stop making excuses or blaming the others, or your DNA, or the situation.  It is sin.  Confess (declare) that your actions are sinful.  This is the diagnosis that allows the remedy – if you can’t make the right diagnosis, you won’t take the right cure!
  2. Agree with God that sin has been dealt with on the cross.  Start to declare and agree with God that sin has been dealt with.  That you died to sin, that sin is not your master.  Read Romans 6.1-14 out loud.  Declare that it is for freedom that you have been set free.  Declare that your spirit is righteous, that you are pure and holy.  Confess (agree with God) that this sin has been dealt with on the cross.
  3. God will then forgive (separate) you from your sin.  You will find as you declare and agree with God what He says about your sin that it’s power is dethroned.  Your confession gives you authority and wisdom.  It dislodges the sin from your thoughts, and God jumps in and separates you and your sin.
  4. God will cleanse you (your soul) from all unrighteousness.  He will start to help you renew your mind and think God thoughts.

The Christian life is not just health and wealth, it’s also manifest righteousness.  It’s living free from sin, living free from selfishness.  Never having to lose relationships because of your selfishness is one of the best blessings about living the Christian life.  And confession of sin, as defined Biblically – not culturally or dogmatically – is one of the most powerful tools in the Christian life.  Don’t follow the people who because of the misusers of this verse have become non-users of this verse!  Become a user of this verse and learn how to live a life free from sin today. 

Romans 2.8-9

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8But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;

There are people in this world who do not receive Jesus Christ and His righteousness. They give a whole host of reasons: religious reasons, intellectual reaons, reasons regarding the defects in Christians, reasons to do with their sophistication or reasons to do with their anger.

You have heard some of these reasons and so have I:

“There are too many hypocrites in the church”
“Where did Cain’s wife come from?”
“If there is a God why is there pain and suffering in the world?”
“If there is a God why is there pain and suffering in my life?”
“Religion is for wimps”
“Evolution has proved there is no God”
“I am a Muslim / Hindu/ Jehovah’s Witness, etc…”

But this verse is clear: the reason why people do not obey the truth of the gospel is that they are contentious. The word here translated contentious is eritheia,which means partisanship or putting yourself first. This word is normally translated strife in the New Testament and is found in the list of the works of the flesh (Gal. 5.20); James tells us that where eritheia is there is every evil work (James 3.16); and Php. 2.3 says to do nothing out of an attitude to eritheia. It is clear that eritheia is bad news!

The Bauer/Danker Greek-English Lexicon has an interesting comment about this word. It says that the word is only used in ancient Greek outside of the Bible by Aristotle. According to the BDAG Aristotle uses the word to “denote a self-seeking pursuit of political office by unfair means”. The picture is one of a politician doing everything he can to gain power and influence, not caring about other people, not listening to other people – on the outside he may look sophisticated, intelligent and sympathetic, but it is all an act! Inside all they are doing is selfish – no wonder they cause strife and grief wherever they go.

The fact is it is this self-promoting attitude why people do not become Christians. It is not the intellectual excuses, it is not the fault of Christians – it is their own self-promoting attitude why they are not obeying the truth. It is their attitude that they know more than God Himself that is the cause for them rejecting Him. No one on judgment day will stand before God and say “it was those hypocritcal Christians”. They will fall on their face, aware of their selfish, strifeful, self-promoting lifestyle that rejected the gospel because they could not bear the implications that they needed the grace and mercy of Jesus.

The more you hold on to this self-promoting attitude, the more three things develop in your life: unrighteousness, indignation and wrath. Unirghteousness in this context means injustice – you treat some people different from others. This could manefest as racism or sexism, or it could be someone that judges and shuns someone for a sin that they commit themselves.

Indignation means a bubbling passionate anger. One of the hallmarks of someone who has rejected Christ is that they end up out of control of their temper.

Wrath is where your anger leads you to hurt people, either with your words or with your actions.

Now, what happens when you step into this self-serving, unfair, angry attitude and reject the goodness of God? The NIV translation of v.9 is stark: There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil.

Now, that is actually not – in context – talking about in this life. If you go and read vv. 5-6 you will see that this verse is referring to judgment day. If you reject the goodness and mercy of God, if you do not believe in Jesus Christ, then when you die you will suffer trouble and distress. Every human who is not born again when they die will suffer trouble and distress.

The word trouble is the word normally used for tribulations and means pressure. The word for distress literally means a narrow place. The Greek says that this pressure and this narrow place are going to be brought into our soul: our mind, will and emotions.

There is a hell and hell is real. If you reject Jesus you will be eternally in a place where your mind is under pressure and afflicted. You will be in a narrow place – in other words you will never be able to turn around and change direction. Hell will be a place where your emotions, your thoughts, every part of your personality will be in pain. You will regret your self-promoting attitude, you will endure the pain of knowing that at any time you could have turned to Christ.

Hell is a real place. Do not end up in hell – turn to Christ and ask for His mercy. Believe in what He did on the cross to take your sin and death so that you can have righteousness and life.

The other thing I want you to know is that there are parts of hell that are worse than others. Just like in heaven some people have better rewards, in hell some people have worse punishment. v. 6 says that God will give to each people according to what they have done. If you have been more proud, more self-seeking and destroyed more people in life then you will have a greater punishment in hell. You will experience more anguish, more distress, more pain from the fire.

However, the good news is that Jesus descended into hell and suffered the agony of hell (Acts 2.42) so that you do not have to. You can call on the name of the Lord and be saved, no matter how many sins you have committed, no matter how bad you are. You could be a thief and a robber nailed to a cross and simply call His name and when you die you will be with the Lord in heaven. Praise Him for His grace forever!

Romans 1.29

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eing filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

This verse and the next two verses show the the end results of the “death spiral”. This is what it looks like when an individual or a community or a nation completely rejects God and His ways and His personality. They have started with rejecting God’s glory and not being grateful to Him and ended up with a personality and a society that is utterly broken down. Sin is like a montrous weed: you think you can plant a couple of seeds and enjoy life a little bit, but the pleasure is just for a season and then the consequences bring pain.

God is not a killjoy! He is the source of joy, and His joy is our strength. He outlines in the Word what brings joy and what does not. Following His will is not about a grey and sterile life, it is about a life of joy and wonder. A life of adventure!

Paul gives us a long list about what a society or individual that consistently and constantly rejects and ignores God ends up like. I am going to simply go through this long list and describe each of these qualities so you can see what a society that rejects God looks like.

adikia – unrighteousness – in this context, the word means unjust or unfair. A society that rejects God becomes unjust. People are penalized for things that they did not do, people who commit genuine sins against society are rewarded. A society hits the bottom of the death spiral when it fails to reward just behaviour and punish unjust behaviour. Both the US and the UK recently have seen high profile court cases where justice was simply not done.

In addition, adikia also means that the innocent are not looked after. Children are not cared for, orphans are not looked after and the elderly are ignored.

porneia – This is defined by Strong’s as:

1) illicit sexual intercourse
a) adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.
b) sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18
c) sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman; Mk. 10:11,12

Another hallmark of a society at the bottom of the death spiral is an “anything goes” attitude to sexuality.

ponēria – This word means “wicked”, but in the sense of rotten, like an apple that has spoiled. As you know a bad apple can make a dozen good apples bad, but a dozen good apples cannot make a bad apple good.

Any individual at the bottom of the “death spiral” will infect others with his ideas, his speech and his attitudes unless they are aware of what is going on and deal with it appropriately.

Many of us know people like this: they have gone bad. Beware – bad company corrupts good character.

pleonexia – this is the desire to continually have more. The KJV translates this as covetousness, but the NIV and NLT both use the word “greed”. We have made the word “greedy” in our generation a humorous term – a jokey kind of insult when someone takes the second doughnut, or steals someone’s client in the office, or even when someone is cheating on their partner. However, greed is a serious sin that has huge social consequences. Out of control greed is one of the main causes of human suffering in the world.

Greed is actually one of the truest expressions of unbelief. If you feel you have to get all you can, then that is because you do not believe that God will supply your needs. The Christian has no place for greed: seek ye first the kingdom, and all these things will be added to you. Remember the words of Jesus: “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” (Luke 12.15, NIV)

kakia – this is the word for malice. It means that you do things to deliberately hurt other people and you do not even care or feel ashamed that you do. It is one of the symptoms and one of the signs of a nation that is at the bottom of the death spiral is that people feel no shame at hurting others. They rejoice when they get one up on people, they are happy when people are hurt. They boast of how they put people in their place. There is no fear of the Lord, there is no humility. There is something so alien to Christ about taking pleasure in the pain of others and in causing pain to others.

phthonosThis is envy. A lot of people get confused with envy and jealousy. Jealousy can be sinful, but does not have to be – Deut. 4.24 tells us that God is jealous so we can know for a fact that not all jealousy is evil.

The difference is simple: jealousy is an intense desire for something. So if your neighbour gets a brand new car and you intensely desire a car like it, that is jealousy. This is why God calls Himself a jealous God – He intensely desires our attention. There is nothing wrong with having intense desires. If your desires take us away from God, then there is a problem. That is when jealousy becomes a sin.

Envy is always a sin. In the situation with the neighbour’s car, envy would lead you not to want the same car but to want your neighbour to lose his car, maybe to crash it or for it to be scratched. Envy and malice are linked: malice is where you want to hurt someone, envy is where you want their possessions or their reputation in life or their relationships to be destroyed because you want them for yourself.

phonos – Translated murder by the KJV and the NIV, phonos means to deliberately take an innocent life. If you think that is not part of our society, then what do you define abortion as?

eris – This word means strife or contention. This was the sin of the Corinthian church:

For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions (Greek eris) among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. (1 Cor 1.11-12, KJV)

The eris in Corinth was expressed by them forming gangs: the Paul gang, the Apollos gang, the Cephas gang, and the Christ gang. One of the signs of a nation or community hitting the bottom of the “death spiral” is a gang culture. This could be gangs on ethnic grounds, or the east end postcode gangs (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/6304345.stm). Football violence comes from eris as does most racism.

It is dividing yourself up into the “we’s” and the “not-we’s” and deciding that the not-we’s deserve to be treated differenrly. In Corinth there were all sorts of problems, but thankfully they had not reached the end of this cycle – though they did have huge problems. At its worst, eris is probably responsible for more violence, wars and death than any other sin on this list.

dolos – This word means “deceit” and comes from a root word meaning “bait”. It is not just lying, but lying and deceiving people in a way to trap them and entrap them. 1 Peter 2.22 says that dolos is not found in Christ. Isn’t it wonderful for us as Christians to know that our God and Lord will never do anything to trap us or entrap us? He is always honest, always true, always genuine. His goal is never to catch us out!

kakoētheia – This is a really simple compound word. Kako means bad in the sense of not fit for purpose, in the sense that a bad knife is one that will not cut your vegetables or a bad jacket has holes in it and will not keep you warm. Etheia is the word in which we get our English word ethics, and means “appropriate customs”. Kakoetheia means that your customs are not fit for the purpose. Your whole community, your whole set traditions are just without use – they do not build community, they destroy it. They do not bring a sense of family, they deny it.

Many people in society have bad ethics – unfit traditions. They are corrupt by habit – they are used to being selfish, hateful and unfair.

psithyristēs – this word means whispering, in the sense of whispering rumours and slandering people. Whispering is when you never know who is about to backstab you, when people will lie about you to get ahead, when you cannot trust people with your heart. When you have a problem, there is no-one you can trust to help.

Whispering destroys community, destroys churches and destroys families. If you have something to say to someone, say it to their face or say it to the Lord (and I do not mean phone up the church and give them a “prayer” request!) – they are your only two options. Do not ever become a whisperer, you will be destroying your life and your community.

Glory and freedom,
Benjamin

Romans 1.21

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Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

What has led to unrighteousness in the world? Why is the world so wicked? Why does the world ignore the truth of Jesus Christ?

Paul gives four clear reasons for this state of affairs in this verse.

1) They did not glorify God
2) They were not grateful and thankful to God
3) They became vain in their imaginations
4) Their foolish hearts were made dark

I believe this is an utterly comprehensive list. If you want to know why a community or a nation is unrighteous and wicked, it is that they did not glorify God, were not grateful to God, had vain imaginations, and their foolish hearts were dark.

Let’s make it more personal: if you feel far from God, if you feel like you are running on empty, feel confused, unable to deal with sin and conquer it, then I guarantee 4 things:

1. You are not glorifying God
2. You are not being thankful to God
3. Your imagination is out of control
4. Your heart is dark

Or let’s turn it around and make it applicable to you as a Christian who I would assume wants to have a dynamic excitiing relationship with God:

If you:

1. Glorify God
2. Thank God
3. Keep control of your imagination
4. Keep light in your heart

Then you: will always have a dynamic, intimate walk with God and have continual victory in every circumstance in life.

It is that simple. Let’s look at all four of these one by one and give a sentence or two on how to ensure they are active in your life. If you want a deeper study on these things, then I have a four part sermon series called “How Not To Be An Idiot” on our church website, if you click on the media tab, and this series covers each of these four points.

For the brief version, keep reading.

1. Glorify God. This is the Greek word doxa, which means to give weight to. Do you give weight to God? You do realize that God’s promises put on the scales with any of your problems will outweigh them a million times over? That Paul after being whipped, stoned, beaten and shipwrecked and continually persecuted – he called his problems “light”. Why? Because if you give God glory and weight in your life, you will be always praising, always dancing, always smiling. God is bigger than the problem!

2. Thank God. Many Christians spend their whole life thinking and dreaming about what they do not have. I dare you to thank God for everything you do have. It will take longer than you can ever imagine. Gratefulness leads to faithfulness.

3. Keep control of your imagination. Imagine what life would be like if God’s Word was true – NEVER imagine your future without God’s promises. Never imagine yourself sick, dying young, broke, in broken relationships. Imagine yourself healthy, happy, rich, flowing in the Holy Spirit with love and mercy, fulfilling your destiny.

4. Keep light in your heart. In other words, keep in the Word – there is light in the Word. Keep meditating God’s Word.

If you do those four things you will live in assured victory every single day.

Glory and freedom,
Benjamin

Romans 1.19

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Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

Remembering that our last verse told us the wrath of God was revealed against unrighteousness; and that the wrath of God is the judicial punishment of God – not the violent anger of God, then we can see in this verse WHY God is punishing sin.

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them – and them here is referring to the people who are ungodly and unrighteous.

God is right to punish the ungodly and the unrighteous, because what may be known of God is manifest in them.

What does this mean?

It means this: every person knows there is a God. Every person knows that there is an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good, all-loving being that created them and created the universe.

That is what the Bible teaches. That is why it is correct for God to punish sin, because everyone who sins knows that they have sinned, knows that they have done something wrong.

This “knower” is called the conscience, and it is a great Trojan horse when you are evangelising someone.

It is part of their mind, part of their inner being and it knows there is a God. It knows that God is good and it knows that they have not always kept the standards of this God. Athiest, Hindu, Muslim, JW, whatever – every human has this conscience, this knower.

When you evangelise, ask people if they think they are a good person – if they say no, then ask why. If they say yes, ask them why. Ask them if they know any of God’s commandments and if they have ever broken any of them.

Awaken the conscience inside the person and evangelise them there. You won’t win over someone with an intellectual argument unless you awaken their conscience. As soon as it is awakened, it will start to deal with the person. Let them know what Jesus has done for them on the cross and that Jesus has redeemed them from all sin.

The Bible says in John 16.13 that the Holy Spirit convinces us of sin because we do not believe in Jesus. That is the ministry of the Holy Spirit, by the way, not to convince us of lying or stealing or adultery, but to convince and convict us of not relying on Jesus, not putting our faith in Jesus, not relating to Jesus, not trusting Him and His goodness.

Now when you have shown someone what Jesus did for them, and maybe illustrated it with an example or two from your life, then the Holy Spirit has material to work with.

That person walks off, but the Holy Spirit walks with them… you cannot escape the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit will work at convincing the person that they have failed to trust Jesus. They have to accept redemption from Jesus.

Most Christians seem to think the Holy Spirit goes around saying “sin, sin, sin, repent, you sinned, you are useless, you missed it again, you failed.” No – the Holy Spirit goes around saying “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, trust Jesus, put your faith in Jesus, Jesus has rescued you, Jesus has set you free.”

Same applies for us as Christians – it is not the Holy Spirit that is harping on about your sins. He harps on about Jesus and His redemptive power!

So, next time you share your faith realize that the person you are talking to, deep down, knows that there is a God. And that if you clearly show them Christ crucified and explain why (see Galatians 3.1), then the Holy Spirit can convince them of this truth and their spirit will bear witness to the Holy Spirit and they will be born again.

Glory and freedom,
Benjamin

Romans 1.18

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For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

This is a very serious verse and one that needs considerable contemplation by all Christians. Let’s first of all define the phrase “wrath of God”. The Greek word is orge (pronounced or-gay) and it can mean violent emotions or it can mean punishment.

Most commentaries I read seem to lean towards defining orge in this verse as violent emotions. This goes back to the Calvinist idea that God is angry with the world. I even read one commentary that said that God hates sinners – that if you sin, God hates you until you repent.

I believe whole heartedly that this idea of “sinners in the hand of an angry God” is a false one. We are not sinners in the hands of an angry God, and we were never sinners in the hands of an angry God! We were sinners, but God was not angry. Now, as Christians, we are not sinners any more: we are righteous saints in the hands of a loving Father.

The preacher of “sinners in the hands of an angry God” first transcribed sermon was about how God will not save anyone who comes to Him in sincere faith, as God can do what He likes and God will only save who He wants to save! People in his church were so depressed by his preaching that some of them committed suicide, including his own uncle. He then said that it was God that made them kill themselves! If I thought that unless I was specially chosen by God there was no way I could be redeemed from sin, no matter how much I wanted to be, I think I would be suicidal too! It is utterly Biblically incorrect to say that we are sinners in the hands of an angry God, yet many Christians use this era of Christianity as their benchmark of living Christianity and ignore the book of Acts!

Let’s look at this topic of the wrath of God across the wider Biblical teaching of God and then let’s look at this within the context of Romans 1 and unpick what this verse means. I believe it means that the legal punishment of God is revealed, not God’s emotional anger.

Firstly, let me say that the Bible is clear that God is pure and righteous and holy. Godliness is about being pure and acting right and living holy. I am not for sin – sin is a killer: sin will keep you enslaved and take you places where death can attack and destroy you. However, the sin problem has been dealt with. Sin will never affect your relationship and intimacy with God.

You see when God created Adam and Eve and when they first sinned, God did not punish them. Pain in childbirth, having to work and sweat to make the world produce, difficulty in relationships, being dead spiritually and eventually dying physically were not placed on Adam and Eve by God – they were just the natural consequences of kicking God out of your life and your planet. God gave Adam and Eve planet Earth and they booted God out of it – no wonder the planet is in a mess! No wonder marriages are in a mess – they booted God out of marriage! No wonder child-rearing and producing a living are such hard work – they booted God out of these things!

God wasn’t punishing them, they were just dealing with the natural consequences of their actions. If you live a promiscuous lifestyle and catch a sexually transmitted disease, God didn’t put that on you – it is simply the natural consequence of you actions. If you eat 5000+ calories a day, and you have a heart attack – God didn’t do it. If you drink and drive and crash your car, God didn’t do it. If you sin and end up in hell because you never accepted the redemptive work of Christ at Calvary, God didn’t send you to hell – it is simply the consequence of your actions.

God found Adam and Eve and clothed them with the skin of an animal. God brought death into an animal, so that Adam and Eve could live. That is not the actions of someone who is “violently emotional and angry”. You don’t make a sacrifice for someone you hate.

Now, God continually showed love and affection to the human race. Cain murdered his brother and God marked him. The mark of Cain wasn’t judgment it was mercy: it said that you couldn’t punish Cain. It was protection. You don’t protect a murderer if you are violently emotional and angry.

However, people took the love and mercy of God and the goodness of God for granted. The world became more and more wicked, and people such as Lamech said essentially if Cain could murder and God still loved him, I will go and murder who I like. The goodness of God leads to repentance (Romans 2.4) but not if we take it for granted.

So God had to develop a system of laws. He had to wipe out everyone in a flood. But God did it as a discipline and a punishment for sin – not out of a temper. He is our Father – if a father disciplines and punishes a son, that is fine. If my son was rude or stole something, I would punish them in some appropriate way. But, if I did it out of violent anger (which I have on occasion lost my temper at my children and had to repent of it) then you would say that this was bad parenting. How much more is God a good Father?

He flooded the world because He was the judge of the world, not because He violently hated mankind. Someone in a violent emotional state would not have led Noah to build an ark and waited 100 years to discipline humanity, spending that time calling them to repent with a powerfully anointed preacher. Violently angry people do not wait 100 years pleading with people to change!

He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because He had to stop their wickedness spreading. Violently angry people don’t wait until people escape before destroying a city – God did.

You see this idea of God being violently angry and needing to be placated is actually a pagan idea, not a Christian one. The truth is that sin does need a punishment, a death, but God is the one providing the lamb that takes away the sin of the world, not the one looking for it. We are the ones looking for it, and we found it at Calvary – the love of God in a human, giving up His life for us. That is the nature of God.

God must punish sin. The wages of sin is death, and if you die in sin you will go to hell. Sin cannot enter heaven. God’s justice demands that sin is punished. But the love of God triumphs over sin through Calvary. Mercy has triumphed over justice.

This is what this verse is talking about, not a God in heaven looking at people enjoying getting them and blasting them and being violently angry at them. It is a God who knows that sin must be punished and needs to deal with that so that He doesn’t have to punish sin. God doesn’t want anyone going to hell, God doesn’t want anyone sick, anyone suffering, God loves people! Your ungodliness must be punished, your unrighteousness has to be punished! But Jesus was punished so you don’t have to be!

The context of Romans 1.18 is the gospel. The whole reason we need the good news of Jesus is the wrath of God. Not the capricious anger of God, but the punishment of God. God must punish every sin you have ever committed, every impure thought you have ever had. But far from being violently angry with you, God loves you so much that He gave up His only Son to die your death, to bear your iniquity, to take the punishment for your sin – so you could have eternal life, so you could be righteous and pure and so you could have a relationship with God! Selah!

You deserved hell, Jesus went there so you don’t have to. You deserved death, but you are going to live forever if you accept by faith that Jesus took your place. This is the good news. The wrath of God is what makes the good news good news. If there is no wrath of God, then the gospel is meaningless. If sin did not warrant death, then the gospel is useless.

But let that realization of a clear punishment for sin lead you to say that God is an angry God – He is a God who only has thoughts to prosper you not to harm you. Angry people cannot think like that. God is angry – but not at humans, He is angry at injustice, He is angry at ignorance, He is angry that the devil keeps tripping people up and lying to them and making them think that He hates them. He is angry at anything that stops you and Him enjoying fellowship and friendship. But He is not angry at you.

Look at Isaiah 54.7-8:

8In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.
9For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.

God compares His never being wroth (angry) with us again like the promise that He will never flood the earth again. They are as important to Him. Every Christian knows that God will never flood the world again like He did. You need to know as well and as deeply in your spirit that God will NEVER be wroth with you. Ever.

Next time you see a rainbow, thank God that He is not and will never be angry with you. The wrath of God was entirely poured out on Jesus, the entire punishment for the sin of the world was laid entirely on Him.

That is good news!

Run Through Romans (4:1-8)

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So far Romans 1 has shown us that immoral people are unrighteous, and that God must punish all unrighteousness.  These people have no excuse because they have a conscience and can see creation.

Romans 2 has shown us that moral people are unrighteous as well – they do not keep the laws they have been given.

Romans 3 starts by emphasizing that by works and actions there is no one righteous.  When we finally realize that even our most righteous work is worth nothing to the Lord due to our impure motives, the sins we have committed and our inability to change, then Paul lets us know that there is another way to be righteous: by placing our faith in the work of the Lord Jesus.

This is the great truth of the Protestant Reformation: salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone.

Ephesians 2.8-9 say it like this:

8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

9Not of works, lest any man should boast.

You are saved and made righteous only because Jesus Christ bore all your sin and iniquity on the cross.  2 Cor. 5.21 says:

21For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Jesus, who never sinned – never did anything to make himself unrighteous, became unrighteous on the cross.  He literally became sin on the cross with your sin.  All of the sin you have ever committed and ever will commit was laid on the Lord Jesus.  All of the righteousness He committed was laid on you.

He became sin with your sin so that you can be righteous with His righteousness.  This is the central truth of Romans and the central truth of the entire New Testament.  Yet there are still so many Christians trying to work for their salvation, to earn God’s merit, to strive hard enough that they can be healed, be assure of heaven, be this that and the other.

But the gospel message is this: you will never be good enough for God.  But that is ok – He is good.  And in His goodness sent a man to die on the cross and take the punishment for all of your sin.  If you put your faith in Him, that completes the exchange and you will be made the righteousness of God.

Do you realize this: believing in Jesus makes you the righteousness of God.  You are as right with God as Jesus is.  You can stand before God without fear, without inferiority, without shame.  Not because of anything you have done – not that you can boast (Eph. 2.9), but because of what Jesus has done.

If you are a Christian, you are righteous.  You do not have to go to hell when you die and you do not have to endure hell on earth.  You can go to heaven when you die and you can enjoy heaven on earth.  If you are not a Christian all you have to do to become righteous is believe – Romans 10.9-11 says:

9That 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.

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

11For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

All you have to do is believe that Jesus rose from the dead and say out loud that Jesus is Lord.  Then you are saved and you are righteous.  Then you shall never be ashamed.  You might feel ashamed – but that is because you are trying to approach God on the basis of your actions and your actions are not enough to be righteous.  If you approach God on the basis of Jesus’ actions, you will not feel ashamed because you never have to be ashamed because the work of Jesus is complete.

Let’s look at the first few verses of Romans 4.  Here Paul is writing to the Jewish people, but the principles apply just as much to people from any religion.  You can only be righteous by faith, not by what you do or don’t do.  Stop thinking about what you have done and what you have not done – and start thinking about God’s grace and what He has done.

1What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?

Paul here brings the Jewish people back to Abraham.  He is making the clear point that Abraham lived before God as a righteous man, but that contrary to what some people might have thought, Abraham was not considered righteous because of his actions.  He was righteous because He believed God.

2For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.

3For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Paul is saying that Abraham was not good enough to be righteous by his actions.  You must realize that even the most moral people are not good enough to be righteous by their actions.  They have to believe God and that He makes people righteous by faith.

4Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

5But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

If you are still working and doing good works to make God impressed with you, then you are saying God owes you something.  That you deserve every blessing you have.

This is nonsense – it is pure pride.  Yet so many Christians talk and act like this.  Even word of faith people act like this.  It is not true.  You cannot work for any blessing.  Every blessing you have – righteousness, peace, joy, health, wealth – came because Jesus Christ took the curse on the cross, bore your sin on the cross, and made the blessing freely available.  All you have to do is believe and receive.

God makes the ungodly righteous by faith.  Say it out loud.  Write it on a piece of paper, learn it, meditate on it.  Get it into your heart – you are righteous because of Jesus Christ, not any good works you have done.  When you look at your works and feel righteous, you are not righteous because of your works, you cannot boast.  You are righteous because of Jesus.

When you feel unrighteous because of your works, you are not unrighteous.  You are righteous because of Jesus.  Your righteousness never changes because what Jesus did never changes.  You can always approach God by fiath in His grace.

6Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,

7Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.

8Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

Even King David sinned, as any student of the Old Testament is aware.  David did not say that you were blessed because you never sinned.  He said you were blessed because the Lord will not impute sin.  Impute is an accounting term which means not put into the account.

Because Jesus took all of your sin, then every sin you commit if you put your faith in Jesus is not put into your account.  No matter what you have done wrong, no matter what you ever will do wrong, no matter what sins you have committed, no matter what you have done.  It doesn’t matter because it will not be put against your account.

It was put against Jesus’ account.  He was punished for you.  He died your death because of your sin so you could live His life.

Many Christians do not accept this powerful Scripture because they think it is too good to be true, but it is true.  If you are a Christian, then no sin you have ever committed and no sin you ever commit will EVER be laid at your account.  You will never have to be stand before God on the basis of your sin, because Jesus Christ has completely dealt with the sin issue.

You can stand before God right now as if you have never sinned, with no sense of fear, no shame.

That indeed is a place of blessing and there is nothing you can do to earn it, you cannot boast about it.  God has given it to you freely.  That is what grace is: you have been given what you do not deserve: complete forgiveness of sins.

You are the righteousness of God in Christ.

A few months ago I was talking with a Muslim man.  He has committed a number of sins that are disturbing his conscience.  He feels guilty – and he should he is guilty.  He has broken the commandments of God and is unrighteous.

He told me that he prays, that he fasts, that he goes to mosque, but feels no relief.  I told him he wouldn’t, that makes sense to me.  That surprised him because he felt that religious rituals and prayer would assuage his guilt.

I told him it couldn’t deal with his guilt.  I said if he was in a court of law he couldn’t claim innocence of the crimes he had committed because he has prayed or done other rituals.  Rituals cannot make you innocent.  I understood his anguish as I showed him that there is none righteous not one.

It is important to show people the futility of having any faith in their ability to do right and be righteous, because they are then open to the good news that there is another way to be righteous.

I then said that what he needed was someone to live a perfect life and then offer up that perfect live as a sacrifice for him, then – and only then – could God count him as righteous.  Only then could he have peace with God.

He said that no one would ever do that for him, so I told him all about what Jesus did.

He did not became a Christian that night – the peer pressure of his family being part of the issue – but he knows the gospel now.  And one day he will receive the love and mercy of Jesus and put His faith in the work of Jesus.

But, although this was a Muslim man, there are many in the churches that are not Christians or are Christians but because they do not know why they are righteous, are condemned, lacking peace, feeling defeated and unloved because they know that according to their actions they are unrighteous.

Listen – according to your actions you are.  But you are blessed – every sin you have ever committed or ever will commit is not being put against your account.  You can approach God as if you have never sinned.  You can stand before God as a righteous man.

You can pray and have your prayers answered.  You can lay hands on the sick and have them healed.  You can do the works Jesus did.  You can be a force of life on the world.

Bless God forever!

Ben

Run Through Romans (3.22-31)

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So far Paul has proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that every human being has the same basic problem: our actions have made us guilty before God. This guilt is called unrighteousness. It means that when we die, we shall be judged by God, found guilty and be sentenced to hell. It also means we shall endure hell on earth as we have life without a relationship with the living God.

It has not been the most positive experience reading and studying Romans up until this point.  This is why many Christians can quote Romans 5 and Romans 8 a great deal, but they simply do not understand the context.  The context is this: Paul shows beyond the shadow of a doubt that you cannot be righteous yourself either by a good life or by religious rituals.

So when Paul now introduces a new way of becoming righteous –  a new way of becoming accepted by God and declared not guilty; a way of going to heaven when you die and enjoying heaven on earth –  when Paul introduces this new way of being righteous we jump at it.

The only way we will jump at righteousness by faith is if someone takes the time to explain and prove to us that we cannot be righteous by works.

Ray Comfort explains this by using the analogy of an aeroplane.  If you give someone on a plane a parachute and make him wear it for the journey, he probably will not because it will be uncomfortable and make the journey more difficult.  If however you take the time to explain to the person that the plane is about to crash and is completely unreliable, he will put the parachute on and be glad to wear it.

If you convince someone to put their faith in Jesus Christ for righteousness, without first showing them that their righteousness by their works and rituals and self-opinion is utterly worthless then they will eventually backslide right out of a relationship with Christ.

Before you tell a person to accept Christ by faith for righteousness, for entrance into heaven, you first must show them that their righteousness is worthless as Paul has done in Romans 1-3.  Some people are already convinced – they know that nothing good dwells in them.  People like that you simply share the gospel with and encourage them to trust the Lord Jesus Christ.  Other people still think that God owes them a favour or that God will judge their deeds with a giant set of scales and they think that the scales are tipped in their favour.  These people need to hear the message of Romans 1-3.  But once they have realize that they are unrighteous and nothing they could ever do will make them righteous, they will ask just one question – though it might be expressed in different forms: how can I be righteous?  how can I be saved?  how can I know God?

21But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

After Romans 1.18-3.20, Paul is convinced that people will have realized that they are unrighteousness, that they are guilty before God.  So now, he explains the good news: there is another way to be righteous.  A way that has nothing to do with obeying the law of Moses.  In fact, in v. 21 Paul claims that this way is actually found in the law and the prophets – the Old Testament – which it is if you read it carefully.  Perhaps after we have run through Romans, I will show where the gospel is found throughout the Old Testament.  It is an interesting study to say the least.

22Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

This is the revelation that Paul has being building up to – the crescendo of all the evidence that we are unrighteous and cannot be righteous by works – the fact that we can have the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ.  If we place our faith in Jesus Christ, irrespective of our actions, our sins, our lifestyle, we become righteous.  We can stand before God as if we never sinned, as if we lived a perfect lifestly.  We can stand before God and be declared innocent.  We can go to heaven when we die and enjoy heaven on earth.  And it does not come by working for it, it comes by faith.

23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Nearly every Christian knows Romans 3.23 and knows that our sin, which everyone has committed, mean we fall short of the glory of God.  Very very few Christians know Romans 3.24 which says that we are justified (made righteous) freely by the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

Our sin cut us off from the glory of God.  Jesus Christ has now made us righteous if we believe in him, and we are now plugged back into the glory of God.

25Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

This is some of the much powerful and beautiful truths in the Bible.  The word propitiation means: a sacrifice that deals with wrath.  Can you understand how powerful this is?  Jesus’ sacrifice has completely dealt with the wrath of God.  The wrath of God is the element of the justice of God that demands that every act of unrighteousness must be punished.  Jesus, on the cross, bore the entire wrath of God, the entire punishment for the unrighteousness of every single human being in the entire world.

If you believe in Jesus you are declared completely righteous – no matter whether you have been religious or not, no matter your background, your history or anything.

26To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Remember that the word just means the same as the word righteous.  This verse paraphrased is saying: God is righteous and if you believe in Jesus, God will make you righteous too.

This is not a process.  This is an instant event the moment you place your faith in Jesus Christ you become totally righteous.  You become as innocent as God.  You become as right with God as Jesus was, as right with God as someone who has never sinned.  You will go to heaven when you die, and start to enjoy heaven on earth.

27Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

People who are self-righteous, the people Romans 2 was aimed at, boast.  They are people Jesus referred to who pray at night “I thank you I am not like…”.  But people who know the truth that they could do nothing to become righteous, but that they have received perfect righteousness by believing in Jesus don’t boast.

28Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

This is Paul’s argument and something that every Christian needs to meditate on: you are not right with God because of any deed or action, but only by faith.  Many Christians still feel that God does not love them because they have acted a certain way – rubbish! You are righteous because of Jesus, not because of your actions.

Many Christians are striving to do this and do that to make God love them, hoping that God will receive them.  Waste of time – God loves you and receives you on the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus, and only on the sacrifice of Jesus.  You are righteous because of Jesus.  When you lay hands on the sick, don’t think “well, I have done this wrong this week, and lost my temper this week and done this and that, so God won’t come through” – that is nonsense.  Rather think, “I am right with God because of what Jesus has done, I can live in victory because of what Jesus has done, I can ask and receive because of Jesus.”

The devil and your own flesh will accuse you and pressure you.  To be a good Christian, to get your prayers answered you have to live right, you have to do this and that, and not do that and this.  It is all a lie.  The truth of the gospel is that you are loved and accepted by God and declared and made righteous, totally innocent before God, because of Jesus.  There is nothing you can do that will make God love you and accept you less; there is nothing you can do that will make God love you and accept you more.

It has nothing to do with your actions: you are righteous right now if you believe in Jesus.  His shed blood has made propitiation and satisfied God’s wrath.  You cannot and will not be punished in any way for any sin you have committed or will commit.  You are righteous.

29Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:

30Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

This process of being justified – made and declared right and innocent – is available to the Jew and to the Gentiles.  Whether you have been religious and a goody-two-shoes all your life, or whether you have been the most selfish scumbag who ever lived, you need and have access to the grace of God through Jesus Christ that makes you righteous before God.

31Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

Does this mean the law is now useless?  No – it means the law is in its right place.  It is not there to show you how to live right, it is there to show you that you cannot live right.  It is there to condemn you and show you that you are unrighteous no matter how religious you are.  It is there to shut your mouth and shut up all your bragging about how wonderful you are and to make you realize that you, just like me, just like every human on the planet, need a new way of being righteous.  The way of faith.

Tomorrow we will follow Paul’s argument as he convinces us from one of the most famous characters in the Old Testament that your actions have nothing to do with your right standing with God.  You are righteous due to the work of Jesus Christ.  You are completely righteous the moment you believe in Jesus and that cannot be added to or taken away from by what you do.

If you realize this truth, the truth will make you free.  Free from striving, free from fear, free from condemnation, free from feeling yucky, dirty and defeated.  Free to walk in truth and love.  Free to pray and know your prayer will be answered.  Free to lay hands on the sick and see them recover.  Free to be as bold as a lion.  Free to enjoy your relationship with God.  The price has been paid, the wrath has been satisfied.  You are declared innocent.

You will be in heaven when you die and enjoy heaven on earth.  Not because of anything you have done or ever will do.  But because of what Jesus has done on the cross 2000 years ago.

Praise His name forevermore!

Run Through Romans (chapter 3:1-21)

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In Romans 1, Paul tells us two rather alarming truths: firstly, that all the nations of the world are involved in a spiral of increasing unrighteousness.  Secondly, that the justice of God means that God must punish all unrighteousness.

In Romans 2, Paul destroys any hope that religion or religious ritual might protect us from the wrath of God.  Everyone has done unrighteous deeds therefore everyone is unrighteous, therefore everyone must be judged by God as guilty and sentenced accordingly.

In Romans 3, Paul now shows that both Jew (religious people) and Gentile (unreligious people) are unrighteous.  He further nails down anyone who might be trying to say “I am not that bad” by looking at every single person on the earth and pointing out: “Yes, you are that bad.”

But also in Romans 3, Paul lets us see the light at the end of the tunnel.  He lets us see that although no human being can stand before God innocent and be acquited because of their perfect lifestyle, maybe there is an alternative route to being righteous.  Let’s run through the text:

1What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?

 2Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. #

Because Paul in Romans 2 is so scathing of the ineffectiveness of religion, and in particular the Jewish religion, that he feels he must say that there is benefit in being religious.  There is a benefit in being part of the Jewish nation, and the benefit is this: the Jewish people were trusted with the oracles (the words) of God.  The Jewish people were trusted to receive the Word of God and preserve it.   Here Paul is talking about the Old Testament, more specifically the law of God.  The Jewish people were told the whole law of God – all 613 commandments. 

None of the other nations knew about God’s laws, although we know from Romans 1 that ignorance of the law is not an excuse for being unrighteous due to the conscience and creation.  However, the Jews were trusted with all of God’s law.  Psalm 19 tells us that the law of the Lord is perfect.  The Jews were given something perfect: a perfect standard of how to live a perfect live. 

 3For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?

Now Paul is saying that just because people did not receive or accept the law, and because the Jewish people many times rejected the law, that doesn’t actually matter.  God had faith in them, God gave them the law, God’s law is still the perfect standard.

This lie seems to have permeated our society.  That if we reject God’s law and decide it is not real or not for today or whatever, that we think that the law doesn’t apply.  But crimes against the law of God are statutory crimes – whether you know the law or not, it still exists.  You would have a better chance of assuming that gravity is not for today or not real and jumping off the top of Canary Wharf and flying around London than assuming that God’s laws are not for today or not real and expecting to survive the judgment day of the Lord.

Sean McDowell used an excellent illustration of this in a sermon I heard recently.  He said that society treats God’s law and God’s revelation like ice cream flavours – you have your favourite flavour and I have mine, and it doesn’t really matter.  However, he says that God’s law and God’s revelation are more like a medical prescription.  You cannot just choose which medicine you like – you have to take the medicine prescribed or you will not recover.  God’s law is real and relevant – just because the laws of the nation have changed does not mean God’s law has changed.

 4God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.

Or more simply put: if you disagree with God about the standard to be righteous, then you are wrong and God is right.  Here Paul quotes Psalm 51.4, which in the NLT reads: “You will be proved right in what you say, and you will win your case in court.” You have to realize that one day you will stand before God and he will declare you righteous or unrighteous.  If you try and stand based on your good deeds, you will be found unrighteous because you have sinned.  You have done the things listed in Romans 1.  You have broken the Ten Commandments: you have told lies, you have stolen things which are not yours, you have used the Lord’s name as a swear word. 

Now if you say that these standards for whatever reason do not apply to you, then God is telling the truth and you are lying.  God will win the court case and you will be sentenced to hell.

 5But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)

This is a powerful argument Paul is making.  Many people have shyed away from hell, and mocked hellfire preachers.  Now Jesus said more about hell than anyone else in the Scripture, so are people who are not talking about hell being Christ-like?  No.  However, I will qualify this: Jesus spoke about hell to his disciples, not when preaching the gospel.  When he preached the gospel, Jesus Christ healed the sick and preached about the kingdom of God.  He preached the gospel, which means good news.  At this stage in our study of Romans, we have not actually gone through what the gospel is fully, though we have spent time on it while looking at Romans 1.16-17.  All that needs to be said is that you don’t evangelise by telling people: you are going to hell.

Why? Because telling people that they are going to hell makes no sense to them.  They don’t know the law of God mostly.  They don’t know that they are unrighteous.  Telling someone who is not aware they are guilty that they are going to receive a sentencing is nonsensical and they will not listen. 

If however, you explain to someone the way Paul has done through Romans 1-3 that they are unrighteous because they have broken the perfect law of God and that religious acts and good deeds cannot make them innocent, then they are likely to listen to you.  Their own conscience will start to remind them of the times they have done things that they did not want to do, and the Holy Spirit will be hovering over them and convincing them of sin, and then they are open to the gospel.

What Paul is essentially saying in this verse is that because we are unrighteous, because we are guilty – then for God to judge us on judgment day shows that God is righteous, that God is innocent.  If a judge just let criminals off, that judge would be as guilty as the criminals.  Those people who expect mercy from God simply because He is good are mistaken: God is not going to show you mercy and the reason why He will not show you mercy is because He is good.  His goodness means that He must punish all unrighteousness.

 6God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?

 7For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?

The more we reject God’s judgment and act unrighteousness, the more truthful God will be when He judges us for being unrighteous.

 8And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.

Paul is saying here: if our sin makes God act in a good way, the answer is not to sin as much as you can.  When we reach Romans 6, we will deal with this fully.

 9What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;

In Romans 1, Paul shows us the Gentiles are all unrighteous.  In Romans 2, Paul shows us the Jews are all unrighteous.  Just in case you have missed the point, Paul is about to show that everyone is unrighteous:

 10As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

 11There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

 12They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

 13Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

 14Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

 15Their feet are swift to shed blood:

 16Destruction and misery are in their ways:

 17And the way of peace have they not known:

 18There is no fear of God before their eyes.

The above description applies to every human being on the earth.  It applies to you and it applies to me.  Verse 10 sums up Romans 3 – there is none righteous, no, not one.  This is the key message of this chapter: if you think you are righteous, if you think on judgment day you will be found innocent before God, you are completely wrong.  I will not go through vv. 11-18, but if you have any shred of self-righteousness – if you believe you could be worthy before God on the basis of your goodness – I suggest you read it, meditate on it and study it until you know that there is nothing in you that could please or impress God.

 19Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

Now Paul is telling us something very important.  The whole purpose of holding your life up to the law of God and showing you that you are unrighteous, that you do not fear God, that you do not live right, that you will be judged on the day of judgment is for one reason only: so that you will have your mouth stopped and be guilty before God.

The law was not given to you because God knew that if He only gave you enough strict instructions you would be able to obey them all and please Him.  The law was given to you because God knew that you can not obey it and that the law would shut your mouth and show you that you are guilty before God.

Before the law of God was revealed through Moses, people did not shut their mouth and did not think they were guilty before God.  Cain was protected by God after he murdered Abel, and Cain’s descendent felt that meant he could murder who he liked.  And in today’s society, generally a lawless society, people do not shut their mouths – they say things that are so inappropriate, so disrespectful to God.  They do not know they are guilty.

This is such a key point.  Many Christians still feel that they impress God with their actions.  No – the law was not given so you could impress God by keeping it.   The law was given so that you know that you could never impress God by keeping it.  You could never do all the things in it.  You could never even keep the Ten Commandments.

 20Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Can you see Paul’s point?  By doing good things no flesh – not you, not me, not Mother Theresa, not anyone shall be justified.  The word justified simply means “made righteous” or “declared innocent”.  Can you see the purpose of the law – it is not for you to obey and for God to give you brownie points for obeying it so well.  It is to show you beyond the shadow of a doubt that you are not innocent before God at all.  You are guilty.  You are unrighteous.  You are damned to hell by God’s goodness and justice and righteousness because you are unrighteous.

 21But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

Romans 1-3 is a serious message, and it needs to be understood.  You are not righteous because of your actions.  You are not righteous because of your religious rituals.  You are certainly not righteous because of your attempts to obey God’s law.  You are unrighteous because of your actions.  Your religious rituals cannot change the fact that your actions have made you unrighteous and guilty.  Your attempts to follow God’s law cannot undo your unrighteous actions and besides you fail to follow the law again and again.  The purpose of the law was not to show you a way to be good, but to show you that you are not good.

When you truly understand that, and only when you understand that, are you ready for the good news of the New Testament.  And this is the good news of the New Testament in one sentence: But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested.  Paul spends three chapters stripping every human being – religious or not, Jew or Gentile – of any form of self-righteousness.  Self-righteousness is your attempt to stand before God and presumptiously declare yourself good enough for God based on your actions.  If you can read Romans 1-3 and still feel you can stand before God and declare yourself good enough for God based on your actions, you must be spiritually blind and have a very hard heart.

But once you realize that there is nothing you can do to make yourself good enough for God and that you are unrighteous and deserve hell on earth and hell when you die, Paul then decides you are ready for the good news: there is another way to be right with God that has nothing at all to do with the law of God.  In fact, it has nothing to do with anything you can do or have ever done or ever will do. 

And tomorrow, we will examine what this way is.

As always any questions or comments are more than welcome.

Every blessing,

Ben

Run Through Romans (chapter 2)

3

If you have to sum up Romans 2 in one sentence it would be this: religious people are filled with unrighteousness. We operate in the misconception that religious acts and rituals make us better than everyone else. Let’s look at the text and examine it:

1Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.

At the end of Romans 1 we find out that all nations have fallen to some degree or another into a spiral of unrighteousness, their minds becoming darker and darker.  The natural response of a religious person when they see the nations and their communities acting unrighteously is to judge them

Paul is saying here something very powerful: he is saying that religious people who judge the unrighteousness of others are just as unrighteous and do the same sinful acts.  Why do religious people judge others then?  They think that their religious acts and deeds make them righteous even though they have committed unrighteous acts.  Even though they have been selfish, ungrateful, they have lied, they have stolen, they have lusted after women and men in their hearts, they actually believe – and many people believe this today – that performing religious rituals makes them righteous!

We need to realize that righteous and unrighteous are legal terms.  We could replace them with innocent and guilty.  Do we honestly think that a man in a court of law who has brutally murdered a child could be found innocent because he has read a nice poem?  That because he goes to church every week he should be innocent?  No – we know that a court of law is not based on ritual but on actions.  Paul is saying that the court of heaven is the same: merely being religious and going to church and reading your Bible is not going to make you righteous.  If you have done unrighteous deeds, you are unrighteous, and God declared you guilty.  You will endure hell on earth and go to hell when you die, and religious can not and will not save you.

2But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.

3And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?

Paul is saying that God judges fairly – according to truth.  You do not become God’s buddy because you read your chapter today and therefore God will let you off from your actions that have made you guilty.  God is not a corrupt judge but a pure, honest and truthful judge.  If you are guilty of breaking God’s law on even a single point, you are guilty.  You are unrighteous.  And a religious ritual cannot mean you can avoid God’s judgment. Let me say this unequivocally: there is NO religious ceremony that can make you innocent before God.  In fact, there is no action you can take, religious or otherwise, that can make you innocent before God.

4Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

I love reading Paul’s writings.  He is a man with such a passion for the Lord.  Paul is trying to make a logical argument.  This step of the argument involves Paul teaching us that religious ritual cannot make you righteous before God.  But two whole chapters before he introduces the solution, Paul cannot help but blurt out: “the answer is in the goodness of God.  That makes us change.”  It is wonderful to know that God, in His goodness, has provided a solution for man’s unrighteousness.  We shall examine that solution in Romans 4 and 5, but for now just know: the solution to the universal, inescapable unrighteousness of mankind is found in the goodness of God.

5But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;

Even your rituals cannot save you if your heart is hard.

6Who will render to every man according to his deeds:

God is not judging you by your rituals or your religiosity but by your actions.  If you have committed one unrighteous act, you are unrighteous and you will be found unrighteous.

7To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:

8But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,

9Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;

10But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:

11For there is no respect of persons with God.

God rewards good and punishes evil.  He does not play favourite.  Being Jewish will not make you righteous.  Going to church will not make you righteous.  Only consistent good actions will make the grade, and no-one has ever lived according to that standard – even religious people.

12For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;

13(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

14For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:

15Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

16In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

If you have never been told about God’s law, will God be fair in judging you according to it on the day of Judgment?  The answer is yes because God has put a law in your hearts and will judge you according to that.  Every time you do something you know in your heart is wrong, you are unrighteous and will be judged by God on judgment day and no amount of religious ritual will count for you.

God does not have a giant set of scales in heaven and He weighs all your good deeds against your bad deeds.  That is heresy.  Muslims believe that, some Christians believe that, but it is the exact opposite of the Biblical teaching.

One act of unrighteousness makes you unrighteous, and no amount of religius ritual can change that.

17Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God,

18And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law;

19And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,

20An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law.

And those that have heard the law of God will be judged according to the law.  If you have the law of God and think it makes you better than other people, actually all you are admitting is that you had more knowledge of right and wrong than other people and yet you still acted wrong.

21Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?

22Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?

23Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God?

24For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.

In fact, doing religious acts while being unrighteous simply makes you a hypocrite.  You steal and then go to church.  You lust and then pray, you make idols and worship them and then worship God.  Not only that, but your hypocrisy blasphemes God’s name because everyone realizes that religious people are just as bad as anyone else.

25For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

Here Paul is specifically dealing with circumcision and saying it is worthless if you have ever broken the law of God.  But his argument could apply to any religious ritual.  You understand if you are unrighteous, and you go to church, going to church is worth nothing.

Think about it: if someone picks up something you have dropped and is kind to you, that will mean something to you.  If you later find out that the person who was kind to you is a serial killer and worse, their act of kindness is meaningless to you.  It is the same when someone who lies or steals goes to church to worship God, it is meaningless.

26Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?

27And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?

28For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:

29But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

I am not going to engage the question what is a real Jew because I want to run through Romans not crawl!  If you want to discuss that issue, leave a comment and we can do it there.  However, let me say this: Paul concludes this chapter by saying the single most important religious ceremony of the Jewish faith is of no value at all if you are unrighteous.

And we know from Romans 1 that every human is unrighteous.  Soon we will find out the solution of God, but like Paul does in Romans, we need to realize how precious that solution is.  The only way we can realize how great our salvation is, is to realize how great our unrighteousness is and how futile religion is at dealing with unrighteous.  Too many Christians have failed to realize that it is essential that we know that we by our actions are unrighteousness and that religion is no solution to the problem of unrighteousness.  Therefore their salvation is shallow and their lives are unfruitful.  So many Christians who love Romans 5 and Romans 8, but don’t know how Paul logically took the Romans to those chapters.  By going through the book like this, we are forced to follow Paul’s argument.  It will make us stronger Christians, and more effective witnesses.  It will also make us more peaceful and more joyous.

There will be many people on Judgment Day expecting their rituals, their rites, their religious acts to weigh against their bad deeds.  They are so wrong.  There are many people judging themselves against other people, saying they are so bad, but I am not so bad.  But Paul’s words are as true today as they have every been: you do the same things.

James says it like this: For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2.10).

Imagine that: you break one law and you are unrighteous, as guilty as if you had broken them all.  That is the truth of the Bible.  God will judge you on Judgment Day and your punishment will be eternal hell unless you know the answer to the question: how can a man be made righteous.  Unless you realize that Romans 1-3 shows that conclusively there is none righteous no not one, then the righteousness that you will see in Romans 4-5 wil be meaningless to you.

In the next couple of studies we are going to examine this in detail.  You will not ever be able to say you do not know how to be made righteous.  And you will not ever be able to say you did not know how unrighteous you were.

Every blessing,

Ben

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