Tuesday, June 26, 2018

What Adam Did, Jesus Undid

Part 15 of Romans: The Gospel of God

Text: Romans 5:12-21




Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men (v. 18). 


Jesus, the Undoer

Have you ever had to undo something that someone else did?

My wife is a hairstylist by trade, and there have been times when she’s been asked to undo a mess someone has made with their hair. Maybe they used a do-it-yourself hair colouring kit and turned their hair green. Or their child was playing with scissors and cut a chunk out of their hair.

In Romans 5:12-21, the apostle Paul tells us that by one act Adam brought great harm to the human race. But Paul goes on to share the good news: what Adam did, Jesus undid. 


What Adam Did, Jesus Undid

Death is a universal problem that has brought tremendous sorrow into the world. Humanity as been able to prolong life through medical science, but eventually all people still die. What is the biblical reason for death? In verse 12 we find the answer: “sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin” (v. 12).

God had warned Adam, “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Adam’s sin is called a “transgression” (v. 14) and a “trespass” (vv. 15, 17, 18) because it was “a willful violation of a known law.” [1] What kind of death did Adam bring into the world? Paul probably means both physical death (separation from the body) and spiritual death (estrangement from God).

“So death spread to all men [i.e., the entire human race] because all sinned” (v. 12). Why do all people die? “Because all sinned.” But what does that mean? There are three views concerning what “all sinned” means. (1) “All sinned” means imitation of Adam’s sin. In other words, we have sinned like Adam sinned. (2) “All sinned” means infection from Adam’s sin. In other words, we have sinned because we inherited from Adam a sinful nature. (3) “All sinned” means inclusion in Adam’s sin. [2] In other words, we sinned when Adam sinned. [3]

I believe the context favours the third view. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “God has always dealt with mankind through a head and representative. The whole story of the human race can be summed up in terms of what has happened because of Adam, and what has happened because of Christ.” [4]

You might see this as unfair. “Why should everyone die because of the sin one man committed thousands of years ago?” But the same could be said of justification through Christ: “Why should the death of one man thousands of years ago lead to eternal life for many?”


How Jesus Undid It

“Adam, who was a type [pattern, NIV] of the one who was to come [Jesus]” (v. 14b). How was Adam like Jesus? Both Adam and Jesus committed an act that affected the whole human race. But there’s a big difference between what kind of effect the acts of Adam and Jesus have had on us.

By one act (i.e., eating the forbidden fruit), everyone is condemned, which leads to eternal death (i.e., being estranged from God forever). By one act (i.e., dying on a cross for our sins), anyone can be justified, which leads to eternal life.

On our accounts, we either have the sin of Adam (by birth) or the righteousness of Christ (by faith).


Grace

“Now the law came in to increase the trespass” (v. 20). Sin is worse when it’s a violation of a clear command. “But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (v. 20). How does God view sin? In righteous anger. But God’s grace is greater than his wrath.

The cross shows us that our sin is not something that can be simply overlooked. It also shows us the amazing grace of God.

____________________

[1] Ben Witherington III, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, p. 144.
[2] The words “imitation,” “infection,” and “inclusion” are taken from Douglas J. Moo’s Romans (pp. 189-192).
[3] In Hebrew, “Adam” and “man” are the same word.
[4] Quoted in John R. W. Stott, The Message of Romans, pp. 152-153.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Reconciled by the Death of God's Son

Part 14 of Romans: The Gospel of God

Text: Romans 5:6-11




But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (v. 8). 


Saved from What?

Normally when Christians talk about being “saved,” they’re talking about a past event. (“When were you saved?”) But in Romans 5, the apostle Paul says believers will be saved (future tense).

What do we—those of us who have put our faith in Christ—hope to be saved from? When you’re in a swimming pool and you yell “Help!” to the lifeguard, you want to be saved from drowning. When you’re in a burning building and you yell “Help!” to a firefighter, you want to be saved from the fire. The kind of salvation that Paul is talking about is salvation from hell and God’s wrath.

There are a lot of people who would like to get rid of hell and God’s wrath. (“If God is a God of love, how can he send people to hell?”) But if you get rid of hell and God’s wrath, what you end up with is a less loving God. How can that be true?


Reconciliation

Notice how Paul describes us: “weak” (v. 6), “ungodly” (v. 6), “sinners” (v. 8), and “enemies” (v. 10). In other words, humanity is guilty before God and hostile toward God. We need justification (because of our guilt before God) and reconciliation (because of our hostility toward God).

God longs for people to be reconciled to him. God is like the father in the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). When the son finally comes to his senses and returns home, his father sees him while he’s “still a long way off” —which implies that the father has been waiting for his son to return. As the father has been waiting, has he been planning how he’ll punish his son? No, he’s been longing for reconciliation. He runs to meet his son. He receives him back. He celebrates. Jesus said, “There is joy [a celebration!] before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).


The Cost of Reconciliation

To what degree does God long for us to experience reconciliation with him? The answer is found in the words “Christ died for us” (v. 8). The cross shows us how much God loves us (“sinners,” v. 8) and desires reconciliation between us and him (“God shows his love for us,” v. 8). (Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it was easier for God to give up his Son than it would be for us to give up our child.)

What’s your reaction to the story of the prodigal son? Maybe your reaction is “He didn’t deserve to be welcome back by his father!” That’s the point.

We are no more deserving.


In My Place Condemned He Stood

The night before Jesus was crucified, he prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matt. 26:39). What was the “cup”? In the OT, God’s wrath is sometimes described as a cup (“the cup of his wrath,” Isa. 51:17). Christ dying for us meant that the God’s wrath was poured out on him. This is why if we get rid of hell and wrath that God is made less loving.

From the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Jesus faced God’s wrath so that we could be reconciled. We are “reconciled by the death of his Son” (v. 10).

Because of what God has already done for us, we can be sure that we will be “saved” (vv. 9, 10).

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

We Are Servants, Not Consumers

Part 4 of Jesus, Continued...

Text: 1 Corinthians 12:1-20




To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7). 


A Consumer or a Servant?

In a church, there are two types of people: consumers and servants.

A consumer goes to church with a shopping list. A consumer says, “I want a church that _____. The church is supposed to give me _____.”

A servant goes to church with a to-do list. A servant says, “How can I help this church be _____? How can I give _____?” 

Are you a consumer or a servant?


Spiritual Gifts

To help us be servants, God has given us spiritual gifts. A spiritual gift is a God-given ability for service.

  • Every Christian has at least one spiritual gift (“everyone,” v. 6; “each,” v. 7; “each one,” v. 11). 
  • No spiritual gift in unimportant. The church is like a human body (v. 12). Each part of the body has an important ability. So does every Christian. Nobody has all the gifts. We need one another. (The eye shows the hand where to throw the baseball. The hand stops the ball from hitting the eye.) 
  • Spiritual gifts are expressed in unique ways. Having the same gift as another Christian doesn’t mean that both of you will use the gift in exactly the same way. And don’t try to be someone else. 
  • Spiritual gifts do not determine spiritual maturity. Earlier, Paul writes, “You [the church in Corinth] are not lacking in any spiritual gift” (1:7). But he goes on to say, “I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ” (3:1). Love is the real measure of spiritual maturity.
  • Spiritual gifts do not limit a Christian to only one kind of service. If there’s a pressing need, don’t say, “That’s not my gift!” Don’t use your spiritual gift as an excuse not to serve. Certain spiritual gifts are given to some, but commands (e.g., “Encourage one another,” 1 Thess. 5:11) are given to all.
  • Spiritual gifts must be developed through constant use. “Having gifts…let us use them” (Rom. 12:6). Paul wrote to Timothy, “Do not neglect the gift you have” (1 Tim. 4:4). 
  • Don’t wait until you “discover” your spiritual gift before you start serving. Just do something! 

A Servant's Heart

We have been given spiritual gifts “for the common good [i.e., to help one another]” (v. 7). The apostle Peter writes, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10). Don’t ask, “What can I get?” Ask, “What can I give?”

Jesus declared, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). To be a giver is to be like God. God has a servant’s heart.

Are you a consumer of a servant? Do you carry a shopping list or a to-do list?

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

It's All About Love

Part 3 of Jesus, Continued...

Text: 1 Corinthians 13:1-7




…but have not love, I gain nothing (1 Cor. 13:3). 


All for Nothing?

Have you ever assembled a piece of IKEA furniture? Have you ever neglected one important step in the instructions and had to take it all apart and start over? All of your work was for nothing.

Now let’s replace assembling a piece of IKEA furniture with living the Christian life. Let me describe to you how Fred (not a real person) lives the Christian life.

Fred is at church whenever the door is open. He’s at church more often than the pastor! He gives not 10%, but 11% to the church. And that’s off his gross income, not his net income! He reads the entire Bible once every year. He doesn’t even skip over the genealogies!

But when Fred’s life is over and he stands before God, God says to Fred, “It was all for nothing.” How could it be all for nothing?


“But Have Not Love”

We shouldn’t rip 1 Corinthians 13 from its context. In chapter 12, Paul brings up the topic of spiritual gifts (“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed,” 12:1). What is a spiritual gift? A spiritual gift is a God-given ability for service (“there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit,” 12:4)

Why have we been given these gifts? It wasn’t so we could boast about how gifted we are. We have been given spiritual gifts to help others: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (12:7). Paul likens the church to a human body—many parts with different abilities. We are the different parts of the body of Christ, and we are to work together to help each other become more like Jesus.

Then at the end of chapter 12 Paul says, “And I will show you a still more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31b). What is the “more excellent way”? It’s the way of love—using our spiritual gifts in love.

If we don’t have love, we miss the point of being a Christian. We can do lots of impressive things, but it’ will all be for nothing if we don’t have love (13:1-3).


What Is Love?

But what is love? The clearest expression of love is the cross: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

The kind of love Paul is talking about is not merely a feeling. Love is behaviour. “To love is to act; anything short of action is not love at all” (Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 628).

To love others is to treat others as God has treated us. “Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph. 5:2). “Concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another” (1 Thess. 4:9). “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34b-35).

[Read verses 4-7 saying “Jesus” instead of “love.” Then add your own name instead of “love.”] 


Evidence of the Spirit's Presence

How do we know if we have the Holy Spirit within us? Galatians 5:22 says that “the fruit of the Spirit is love.” The Holy Spirit has been given to us to produce love in our lives. The presence of love in our lives is evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

Love should be the reason why obey God’s will. (This doesn’t mean that people can’t be helped when we don’t do something in love.) The Holy Spirit has been given to us to produce in us the love we need. “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezek. 36:26-27).


Can't Blame It on the Instructions

The Bible isn’t unclear about love like IKEA assembly instructions are sometimes unclear. We can’t blame our lack of love on the instructions.