August 29, 2011

Tuesday after the Tenth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps.41, 1 Sam. 20:1-7, 12-23, Lk. 19:47-20:8
Evening - Ps. 37, 26, Micah 4:9-5:1, Rom.5

Commentary
Romans 5

Chapter 5 marks a turning point in the Book of Romans. We could say the first four chapters have been about the means of our salvation, while chapter 5 begins to discuss the results of salvation. If we want to talk about this in more theological terms we could say chapters 1-4 are about "justification," while chapter 5 begins to talk about "sanctification." Anglican minister, E. H. Gifford, gave a good summary of the first four chapters, along with an introduction to chapter 5 in his commentary on Romans, published in London in 1886. He wrote:

"St Paul has shown that neither Gentile nor Jew had attained to righteousness by works (i.18-iii.20): he has described 'the righteousness of God,' which is exhibited in Christ's atoning death and bestowed by God's grace as a free gift without works, and therefore without distinction of persons, upon all who by faith accept it (iii.21-30); and he has proved by the example of Abraham, and the testimony of David, that his doctrine of 'righteousness without works' is in harmony with scripture (iii. 31-iv. 25). He now sets forth the blessedness of the justified, consisting in present 'peace with God' and joyful 'hope of the glory of God,' both resting on the death and life of Him 'by whom we have now received the atonement' (vv. I-II)," (The Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, p.109).

According to Gifford, Romans 5:1-11 describes the "Blessedness of the Justified." W.H. Griffith-Thomas said it describes the "Security of the Justified." Francis Schaeffer said it is about "The Results of Justification: Peace with God." You will recall we have said that Romans 1:1-4:25 is about Justification, and 5:1-8:17 deals with sanctification. Thus, we are agreeing with the commentaries that chapters 1-4 deal with how sinners become saints, and chapter 5 begins to tell of the blessings enjoyed by the saints. We are not saying this arbitrarily. We are simply following the natural flow of the Book of Romans, for in 5:1 Paul himself shows that he is beginning a new subject. "Therefore" is the signal. "Therefore" means a new subject is coming. It also means the new subject is based upon, and inseparable from, the preceding subject. Because the first subject is true, which is, justification by grace through faith, the second subject is also true, which is that we have peace with God. Thus Paul says in Romans 5:1, "Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Verse 1. The first result of justification is peace with God. We must remind ourselves again that justification means to be legally declared not liable for punishment for our sins because Christ has suffered for them in our places. We receive the "verdict" of "just" when we assent with our minds that Jesus died for us, believe in our hearts that His death is able to make us just, and trust Him in faith to justify us to the Father. This act of faith goes by many names, but it always includes acknowledging that our sin makes us worthy of God's wrath (confession), trusting that the sacrifice of Christ can forgive those who seek it (faith), and turning away from sin to "live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of [His] holy name" (repentance). Such people are declared to be justified apart from the law and works, and are the recipients of the results of justification, beginning with peace with God.

From our earlier studies in Romans we have seen that all people, by virtue of our sin, are under the wrath of God. We are at war with God. We are enemies of God. That is the nature of sin. But in Christ we have been forgiven of our treason and brought back into full privileges of citizenship in His Kingdom, just as if we had never sinned against Him at all. The Peace we now enjoy is not simply a "cease-fire." It is not just a pause in the hostilities. This Peace is a state of active acceptance and fellowship between ourselves and God. It does not simply mean we have ceased to make war on God and have received Him into our fellowship; it also means He has ceased to make war on us and has received us into His fellowship. He is the righteous King. We are the vile and guilty traitors who have despoiled His lands and broken His laws. We are worthy of a traitor's death, but He has instead invited us into the castle and seated us on golden thrones, given us wealth and glory beyond imagination, and called us beloved, friends, and heirs. He has made our peace with Him.

Our peace is "Through our Lord Jesus Christ." His sacrifice on the cross makes our reconciliation possible. It is not purchased by us through good works; our works, they have bought us only condemnation.

Verse 2 continues to tell us that our justification is through Christ. It is by Him that we have access to the grace of God. It is by grace that we stand before God in reconciliation, rather than fall before His wrath. And it is in and through Christ that we rejoice in "the hope of the glory of God." "Hope" is not a wish. It is confidence in God combined with the assurance that we are forgiven and will join God in Heaven where unimaginable joy awaits us forever. Our hope is based on the confidence that God, who has proved Himself faithful, good, loving, and reliable, will keep His promises. His word is His bond and His word is peace to all who believe in Christ in Biblical faith. "Whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life."

Verses 3-5 reveal that the difficulties of life strengthen, rather than weaken, our hope. In a real Christian, trials do not cause us to loose our faith; they serve to strengthen our confidence in God. This does not mean Christians will never sin, or doubt, or fear. It means God will never let us fall completely away. He will hold on to us. He will keep us in His Kingdom. He brought us into it by His power and His choice, and He will keep us in it by His power and His choice. Therefore, our trials will ultimately build up our confidence in God. I will expound these verses more fully in future sermons. For now I simply want to say that our trials make us desire Heaven. Only those who have seen the trials of life can begin to appreciate the wonders of Heaven, a place completely without sorrow or tribulation. Adam and Eve did not appreciate the perfection of Eden, while it was theirs to enjoy, but I am sure they longed for it once it was gone forever. Verse 5 tells us "hope maketh not ashamed." It means that the hope we have in Christ is not in vain. God will not disappoint us. He is faithful. He will keep His word, forever. We will receive that eternal joy for which we now hope. He sheds His love, not hate, abroad in our hearts.

Verses 6-11 show that the love of God secures our hope. We could put it another way, saying our hope is founded on the love of God shown to us by dying for us while we were yet sinners. He loved us because He is love. He loved us without regard for our unlovableness. He loved us in spite of our sin and rebellion. If God loved us that much while we were yet in our sin and rebellion, He will certainly keep His promise of salvation to those who have turned to Him in faith. Such love can be trusted to the very depths of infinity.

Verses 12-14. Many people miss the point of these verses by focusing on the words, "not imputed" in verse 13. Not imputed does not mean sinners were not counted as sinners prior to the giving of the Law. Nor does it mean sinners did not know they were sinners until the Law was given. That would contradict everything Paul has written about to this point in the Book of Romans. We must remember that all people have access to the knowledge of God and His will. It is revealed in nature and it is written on our consciences (Rom.1:18-20), so that we know God exists, we know something about His nature and will, and we know that certain things are right while others are wrong. Romans 1:18-20 are foundational to understanding the Book of Romans and the entire Bible, and the doctrines taught in 1:18-20 culminate in the teaching of Romans 2:12, "For as many as have sinned without the law shall also perish without the law; and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law." This theme is stated over and over again in Romans. See Rom. 1:18, 2:1, 2:12, 3:9&10. Paul is not negating this here. He is strengthening it. He is showing how it applies to people who lived before God's Law was given. His point is that they were in the same situation as those who lived in the Old and New Testament eras, but did not have the Bible. Everything Romans 1:18-20 says about people who did not have the written revelation of God in Scripture, is true of those who lived before Scripture was written, The knowledge of God was still given in nature and in conscience. They had this knowledge, but rejected it. Therefore, they were under God's wrath as fully as anyone else (Rom 1:18), without excuse (Rom. 2:1), and will perish in their sins (Rom. 2:12) unless God chooses to save them. This is Paul's point in 5:12. Sin entered the world by one man, Adam. Because of sin came death, and death passed upon all, for all have sinned. Thus, sin reigned from Adam to Moses. Even those who lived before the Law was fully given through Moses were dead in sins and under the wrath and curse of God. They were in the same spiritual state as those who live in the Gospel era but have not heard of Christ or have no access to the Bible. They were without excuse and worthy of God's wrath.

To sin after the similitude of Adam's transgression (vs. 14) is to disobey a direct commandment, as Adam did. Adam had a direct commandment from God not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. When he sinned it was a willful choice to disobey that commandment. All others have sinned, even if they did not have a direct commandment to transgress like Adam. Again we must return to the fact that the knowledge and will of God are revealed in nature and in conscience. So, even though most people from Adam to Moses had no direct commandment to disobey, they disobeyed the revelation they had indirectly through nature and conscience. Therefore, they are without excuse and justly condemned. This statement destroys the primary excuse people make for their sin. "I can't be held responsible for sin because I didn't know it was sin because I didn't have the Bible." Another version of this is, "I can't be held responsible for my sin because I didn't know about Jesus. Since I did not know about Jesus I did not know I should repent and believe in Him and that I could be forgiven and saved by believing in Him. Therefore I cannot be held accountable for not believing in Jesus." The point God is making in this verse is that even though such people did not have the full light of the Bible, they had enough light to know they were sinning, therefore, they are accountable for their sin and without excuse. I know I repeat this often, but it is critically important to understanding the great gift of God's grace. The more we understand about sin, the more we see our need of a Saviour; the more we realise the grandeur and glory of our salvation; and the more we comprehend "what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us" (1 Jn. 23:1).

Verse 14 calls Adam The figure of him that was to come. "Figure" here means a symbol. Adam was a symbol of Christ. But Adam threw us all into sin, how can he be a symbol of Christ? The answer is found in verses 15-21.

Verses 15-21 contain an idea repeated and restated several times, explaining how Adam is the figure of Christ. The statement is that the sin of Adam, brought death to many, and the righteousness of Christ brought life to many. This idea is stated in verse 15, again in verse16 and again in verse 17. But it is most clearly stated in verse 18, "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."

So how are Adam and Christ alike? Both of their actions had eternal consequences for their followers. They are alike in that the people who follow them are like them. They are both "Fathers" of a family of people. Adam is the father of sinners. All his children are sinners who are under God's wrath. Christ is the Father of saints. All who believe in Him are under God's grace.

How is Adam the father of sinners? Adam was created righteous, and fully free. Adam is the only human being, other than Christ, to ever have really free will. He had both the freedom and the ability to choose God or choose sin. The rest of us have such great limitations and influences on our wills that we cannot say we possess real "free will." I often say we choose sin of our own free will, but I am using the words, "free will" in a very narrow sense that recognises the restrictions imposed upon our will by our limitations, influences, and our natural inclinations. Thus, I would say we are free to choose righteousness, but we our wills are limited by a lack of the ability to choose it 100% of the time. We are free to choose good, but we are influenced by many things to choose evil. We are free to choose good but our wills are inclined toward sin, and our actions follow this inclination. We call this "Original Sin." Again, Original Sin refers to the origin of our sinful actions, or Actual Sin. Why do we commit Actual sins? Because we are naturally inclined toward them. How did we become inclined toward sin? We inherited the inclination from Adam. So in Adam we all became sinners by nature. Our wills became inclined toward sin.

In some places the Bible uses much stronger language than I have been using here. It tells us those who are not in Christ are of the devil, the slaves of sin, under the dominion of Satan, and enemies of God. This is true of every one of us in our natural state. It is in our nature to go against God. This is why every one of us needs to be fundamentally re-created to become Christians. We need to have our natures, our wills, our emotions, our desires, our intellects, our entire beings re-formed. We need to be completely re-oriented and turned from our sin to God. To use the illustration of an inclination again, let us imagine a Roman aqueduct. An aqueduct directs the flow of water. Since water naturally wants to go downhill, an aqueduct is built to incline toward the point where the water is needed. If the direction of the water is to be changed, the whole aqueduct must be changed. The inclination must be redirected. It must, in essence, become a new aqueduct. Our nature is like an aqueduct directing our actions toward sin. Before we can fully begin to choose good and God, we must be rebuilt, so that the inclination of our beings directs us toward God.

This rebuilding is an essential part of the work of Christ. Actually it is performed by the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, so let us not become bogged down at this point. I am trying to say that the work of Christ in our salvation includes two things. First it accomplishes our redemption by paying the price for our sin. Christ dressed Himself in our sins and died for them on the cross. He dresses us in His righteousness so we are regarded by God as righteous, as though we have no sin. Second He remakes us, rebuilds and redirects us in our inner being. He begins to tear down our old nature, which is inclined toward sin, and rebuild us so that we are inclined toward God.

So in Adam all die because from him we have inherited our sinfulness. Every person is conceived in sin and is by nature a rebel against God. Adam is the father of sinners. But in Christ we who believe are made righteous. We have been forgiven of our sins and have been rebuilt into new creatures who now desire God and the things of righteousness. We have been brought into the family of Christ.

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