From Woe and Suffering to Joy and Gladness: An Overview of Romans 6-8

I preached this message Sunday, May 15, 2016 at Orwell Bible Church. You can download a copy here.

How does one go from hearing the just declaration of God’s universal wrath (1:18) to exulting in God’s gracious love (8:38-39)? Paul established that every man without distinction is condemned in sin and under God’s wrath (Rom 1:18-3:20), and that justification is by faith alone in Christ alone (3:21-5:21).

1. The Christian’s Responsibility with Regard to Sin, 6

→Each section teaches a fact with corresponding command

1) Christians are dead to sin and alive to Christ, and so must live that way, 6:1-14.

• The possible charge: “Since the gospel teaches believers’ every sin is covered by grace, this promotes the idea that they will sin with gusto so there’s more grace!”
• FACT: Believers are united with Christ so that sin’s power is broken and they will live for righteousness, 6:1-10.
• COMMAND: Therefore, Christians must live out this truth! Don’t be controlled by sin, serve God and righteousness, 6:11-14.

2) Christians are freed from sin and enslaved to Christ, and so must serve righteousness, 6:15-23.

• The possible charge: “Since the gospel teaches that believers aren’t under the Law (v. 14) this promotes the idea that they can sin all they want.”
• FACT: Being in Christ doesn’t give believers the freedom to sin, it frees them from sin and enslaves them to righteousness! 6:15-18
• COMMAND: Believers must zealously serve the Lord, their new master, 6:19-23

→The Christian’s responsibility with regard to sin is to stop sinning and serve the Lord.

2. The Christian’s Relationship to the Law, 7

→This section is about the Mosaic Law. Paul said that Christians are “not under law but under grace” (6:14). How is this? What does that mean? Does this mean the Law is sinful?

1) One must die to the Law to be joined to Christ to bear fruit for God, 7:1-6.

• This is illustrated by marriage: A woman who’s married can’t marry another man unless her husband dies, 7:1-3.
• One must die to the law to be joined to Christ, 7:4-6.
• Unbelievers’ life in the Law bears the fruit of death; believers’ life in the Spirit bears fruit for God.

2) Though the Law declares God’s holiness, justice, and goodness, it is the unwitting tool of sin, 7:7-12.

• The Law declares what is right and therefore identifies and condemns transgression.
• Sinners must be delivered from the Law, not because it is evil, but because it can’t justify or sanctify them.
• The only thing the Law can do for sinners is point out their sin and condemn

3) The Law is not to blame for sin, sinners are to blame for sin, 7:13-25.

• The struggle and failure to do good isn’t the fault of the Law but the sin nature. The problem isn’t the Law, it’s the sin nature.
• Sinners who depend on the Law for deliverance will always be frustrated and fail.
• Whoever relies on himself is without hope; whoever relies on Christ has victory.→

→ Despite the Law’s perfections it is powerless to justify and sanctify sinners. It always successfully discovers and prosecutes sin. The more one sins, the more the Law “works.” The problem isn’t the Law, it’s the sin nature.

→ Jesus, however, died on the cross for your sin, fully satisfying the Law’s judgment against it. The Law’s righteous demands have been fully satisfied by Jesus, not you. Because you died with Christ and rose with him and your sin has been forgiven, you are “dead” to the Law—it has no power or jurisdiction over you, you are free from the Law (Acts 13:39; Rom 7:3; 8:2; cf. also “under the Law,” Rom 2:12; 3:19; 6:14; Gal 3:10; 3:23; 4:21; 5:18).

→ The Christian’s relationship to the Law is therefore “dead” because his sin is forgiven and Christ’s righteousness is imputed. He is not justified or sanctified by the Law but by Christ.

3. The Christian’s Rest in Jesus Christ, 8

→ Every transgression the Law identified and condemned is “paid in full” by Jesus Christ, so that “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”

1) Through the Spirit believers enjoy justification, 8:1-11

• Believers in Christ through the Spirit are freed from the Law’s condemnation of sin, being justified on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice, 8:1-4
• Unbelievers cannot please God because the sin nature controls them and they are enemies of God, 8:5-8.
• Through the Spirit Christians are alive in Christ because of His righteousness, 8:9-11

2) Believers must participate in the Spirit’s sanctifying work, as He confirms they are God’s children, 8:12-17

3) The Spirit guarantees believers’ glorification in fulfillment of God’s gracious purpose, 8:18-30

• No matter what trouble believers experience now, through the Spirit their hope/yearning expectation is not for this world/life/now, but for eternity, 8:28-27
• Believers’ confidence in eternal glory despite present troubles lies with God’s sovereign, gracious purpose to save them, 8:28-30

4) Believers have absolute confidence in God through Jesus Christ, 8:31-39

• No charge can be made to “stick” against believers, 8:31-34
• Nothing can separate believers from the love of God in the Lord Jesus Christ, 8:35-39

There is but a step from Lent to Carnival

J. C. Ryle’s remarks on John 18:28–

It is no uncommon thing to find people excessively particular about the observance of trifling forms and outward ceremonies, while they are the slaves of degrading sins and detestable immoralities. Robbers and murderers in some countries are extremely strict about confession, and absolution, and prayers to saints. Fastings and self-imposed austerities in Lent, are often followed by excess of worldliness when Lent is over. There is but a step from Lent to Carnival. The attendants at daily services in the morning are not unfrequently the patrons of balls and theaters at night. All these are symptoms of spiritual disease, and a heart secretly dissatisfied…

A religion that makes a man neglect the weighter matters of daily holiness and separation from the world, and concentrate his whole attention on forms, sacraments, ceremonies, and public services, is to say the least, very suspicious.

The Truthfulness of Christianity

“Christianity, if it be not the true religion, is certainly the greatest cheat that ever was put upon the world; and, if so, it must be of the devil, who is the father of all lies: but it is certain that the doctrine of Christ is no doctrine of devils, for it is levelled directly against the devil’s kingdom, and Satan is too subtle to be divided against himself.”

–Matthew Henry, 5:1035 on John 10:19-21

Defend the Faith Biblical Challenge

I received an email today from one of many news services about religious items. Wow, talk about invective!

The low-down: An author asks folks to supply evidence that he has used the Bible incorrectly in his latest book, The Case Against Evangelical Christianity, specifically these points:

The book makes several controversial claims: among them I argue the Virgin Birth story is a fictional account, and that there is little credible evidence within the New Testament to support the physical resurrection of Jesus. With respect to the Rapture, I conclude belief in it reflects profound biblical illiteracy. Finally, I present important biblical evidence to shed doubt on the idea that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.

He offers anyone $100 if they can demonstrate that he has improperly used the Bible “as supporting evidence.” Perhaps that’s where the rub lies–the Bible isn’t viewed as the only source, just supporting evidence.

The author has some “rules” that you have to abide by to successfully mount a challenge, the most interesting of which is the first:

I will only pay for scriptural evidence I use incorrectly. I will not pay for evidence that supports another viewpoint.

So you’ve got to change his mind about what he thinks about the Bible. Given the blinding effects of sin and Satan upon the unbelieving mind, the only One who will successfully accomplish that is the Holy Spirit. And I doubt he’ll pony up the $100 then.

Matt 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God with us.'”

Matt 28:6 “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.”

John 14:3 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

Deut 5:4-5 “The Lord spoke to you face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire, while I [Moses] was standing between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord”

God’s Transforming Grace

Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison (Acts 8:3)

…serving the Lord with all humility and tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:20-21)

What a great illustration of God’s grace in transforming Paul’s heart and actions, from going house to house as a persecutor of Christ to going house to house as a proclaimer of Christ!

Introduction to the Gospels

You can download a PDF of this here.

Having introduced the New Testament, let’s now briefly consider some basic things about “the Gospels.”

The English word Gospel comes from the Anglo-Saxon word godspell and is made up of god (God) and spell (a story). Gospel, then, means either God-story or good story. This last meaning lines up with the Greek word for which gospel is commonly translated. Used over 70 times in the New Testament, gospel always refers to the message, the good news of what God has accomplished through Jesus Christ. Thus, we should understand the Gospels as referring to “the good news about Jesus Christ.”

Why were the Gospels written? It’s common to think of the Gospels as biographies of Jesus, but that’s not accurate. Biographies give a lot of information about someone’s life, but the Gospels are very selective as to what they tell about Jesus. Being guided by the Holy Spirit, the Gospel writers carefully chose what they wrote about Jesus. They had a goal or purpose in why they were writing.

The Gospel writers had at least three motives or goals for these accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus. First, they wanted to help the missionary work of the church, showing who Jesus was so that others would trust in Him. Second, they helped the church defend their beliefs, providing answers to questions about who Jesus was and what He did. Third, the Gospel writers wanted to help the church teach believers about their Savior and strengthen their faith in Him.

Why are there four Gospels? It is common—and probably correct—to recognize that because each gospel writer had a specific purpose in writing he also had specific people he was writing to. Thus the gospel writers tell about Christ in a way best suited to whom they were writing to. Matthew wrote to Jews showing Jesus as the promised Messiah, the Jewish King. Mark wrote to Romans, portraying Jesus as the tireless Servant of the Lord. Luke wrote to Greeks, depicting Jesus as the Son of Man who came to rescue the lost. John’s account is addressed to all men, proving that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who alone can provide eternal life.

The ultimate reason, however, why there are four gospels is inspiration—the Holy Spirit moved these writers to produce written records of Jesus, guiding and protecting them so that they wrote exactly and accurately the truth about Jesus Christ.

Before surveying each of the Gospels, there are five important things you must understand in order to interpret them correctly.

First, recognize the Old Testament background of the Gospels. For example, when the New Testament talks about the Christ or the Messiah it does so from the standpoint of what the Old Testament said about the coming Messiah—who He would be, what he would do, etc. The New Testament doesn’t ignore or change the meaning of the Old Testament—it builds on, continues, and fulfills it!

Second, recognize that Jesus’ earthly ministry was mainly to the Jews. Jesus was “born under the Law” (Gal 4:4), was “a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers” (Rom 15:8), and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 15:24). We should expect this as Jesus was first of all the Jews’ Messiah! Sadly, they rejected Him, with the result that revelation was given that the Old Testament gives no hint of—the church (Eph 3:5–6). Though the Gospels say little about the church they definitely show the gospel is for everyone and that disciples be made of all the nations.

Third, understand the meaning of the phrases “Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of Heaven.” These mean the same thing (Matt 19:23–24; Mark 10:23–25). Matthew uses “Heaven” instead of “God” because the Jews he wrote to had such reverence for God’s name they would say “heaven” instead. Also, this kingdom refers to the Messiah’s future, literal rule on earth. When Jesus talked about the kingdom, His Jewish hearers knew exactly what He was talking about—a literal earthly kingdom with the Messiah ruling. If Jesus was thinking of a different kind of “kingdom” He would have said so, but He never does this. Jesus is the head of the church (Col 1:18), he is never called the King of the church.

Fourth, understand the nature and purpose of miracles. Miracles are supernatural acts that only God could do. They were God’s “stamp of approval” on His messenger and the message to prove that they were truly of God (Matt 11:2–6; Acts 2:22). Jesus thus did miracles to prove to people that He was the promised Messiah (Luke 7:18–22).

Fifth, understand the nature and purpose of parables. People often think that Jesus taught in parables to help others understand what He was saying, much like using an illustration. The fact, though, is the exact opposite! Jesus didn’t start teaching in parables until after the Jews rejected Him (Matt 13:10, 34–35). Jesus used parables as a form of judgment. Parables gave truth to Jesus’ disciples but at the same time withheld that truth from those who rejected Him as the Messiah.

Introduction to the New Testament

For our Wednesday Bible studies at Orwell Bible Church we’ve begun a new series I’m calling Scripture Summaries. The objective is to give a clear, concise overview of one book of the Bible at a time. We started this past week with an Introduction to the New Testament. You can download a PDF of the following here.

Introduction to the New Testament

The last 27 books of the Bible are called the “New Testament.” “Testament” is the translation of a Greek word that means “covenant.” At one time “testament” referred to a covenant between God and man (compare the KJV with NASB in passages such as Luke 22:20 and 1 Corinthians 11:25, “this is the new testament/covenant in my blood”).

“Covenant” refers to a relationship. “Old Testament” refers to the relationship that existed between God and men before Jesus Christ, whereas “New Testament” refers to the relationship God now has with men through Jesus Christ. “New Testament” refers back to the “new covenant” of Jeremiah 31:31. There God reveals four aspects of the new covenant that He will establish with Israel. Today, all who trust in Jesus Christ participate in three of those aspects: they know and obey God, have forgiveness of sins, and have the Holy Spirit indwelling them.

We do have a biblical basis for referring to two sections of the Bible as “testaments.” In 2 Corinthians 3:14 Paul says that when Jews read “the old covenant” their minds are blinded to its truths because they do not believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

God gave His Word in written form through men, protecting them from error and guiding them so that every word they chose was exactly what God wanted written. This Word from God is inspired, meaning “God breathed.” As time progressed God’s people recognized the character of these writings and welcomed them as God’s Word, a process called canonization. Because the New Testament was originally written in the Greek language and Christians needed God’s Word, it was copied and translated into thousands of languages and thus transmitted to Christians.

As Christians, we know that the 27 books of the New Testament are the Word of God because the Holy Spirit has taken away the hostility toward it we had as unbelievers and has replaced that hostility with a love, certainty, and conviction that the Bible is from God and is His truth.

Because the New Testament is God’s Word Christianity is rightly called “a religion of the Book.” We do not worship the ink and pages, but the statements of truth conveyed by that ink on those pages tell us about the one true God so that we can worship Him in spirit and truth. Some may criticize our attention to and faith in the written Word of God, but the Bible is no mere human book, it is the very Word of God!

Why do we have the New Testament? What is its purpose? Why was it written? Answering these questions can be challenging as each book of the New Testament is unique, having its own characteristics and purpose for being written. However, as we look at all 27 books we are able to see that the purpose of the New Testament is to give the church God’s written revelation of Christian doctrine and practice. The New Testament tells us what believers in Jesus Christ should be convinced of and how they should live.

As we consider the entire New Testament, we are able to see two basic sections or divisions. The first section provides the basis for and growth of Christianity and consists of the four Gospels and the book of Acts. The Gospels provide the basis of Christianity—the person and work of Jesus Christ and Israel’s rejection of Him as their Messiah. Acts provides the birth and growth of Christianity throughout the then known world.

The second section of the New Testament sets forth the doctrine and practice of Christianity and consists of what are called epistles or letters, the books from Romans to Revelation. Doctrine is truth that believers in Christ must know and base their practice on. In the New Testament, issues of lifestyle, church life, and even petty problems are dealt with in light of God’s truth.