The Gift of Eternal Life

The Gift of Eternal Life

Yesterday I preached from Romans 5:18-21 in our series titled, “The Gospel According to Paul” (an exposition of Romans) on Sunday morning. Flowing from Romans 5:12 are verses 13-21 which provide an explanation of verse twelve while also comparing and contrasting Adam and Christ. In the final section, Paul drives home the excellency of Christ and points to the gift of eternal life that comes through Christ.

In verses 18-19, we see two comparisons. The first half of verse 18 points to the work of Adam in providing all of humanity with the curse of condemnation by sin. In the last half of verse 18, we see Christ and his work of justification. The next verse follows the same pattern with the first half of verse 19 pointing to the work of Adam in disobeying God and leading all men into sin. The last half of the verse points to Christ’s work of obedience and how he obeyed the law, submitted to the Father’s will, upheld the Word, and accomplished our salvation.

Moving on to verse 20, Paul points out that the law increases the trespass of our sin by pointing to the knowledge and reality of our sin. In other words, the law is incapable of saving us. It can only condemn us and in doing so it points to our need for an alien righteousness—namely the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We receive this righteousness in the great exchange as God places our sin on his Son and then imputes to our account the righteousness of Jesus thereby making us just before God. We are justified by faith alone in Christ alone and we receive eternal life according to verse 21.

Interestingly enough, in the verses that begin this section (18-19), there are two comparisons that provide categories that must be explained properly.

  • “All Men” — Romans 5:18 – Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.
  • “The Many” — Romans 5:19 – For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Some people teach that in Adam, all humanity (all men) are condemned as sinners and that in Christ, all of humanity (all men) are justified and receive the righteousness of Jesus Christ. While the same words are used in both verses to describe the work of Adam and Christ, we must understand the art of comparison and contrast and furthermore realize that this would lead to a heresy if pressed to the end. If all of humanity receive the guilt of Adam’s transgression and the same exact group without exception receive justification through Christ—that would mean that hell is empty today. Not one person who has received the righteousness of Christ has entered the gates of hell.

This is known as the doctrine of universalism which states that all people will eventually be saved through Jesus no matter what they do or believe in this life. That is heretical and certainly not the teaching of the Bible. Furthermore, sometimes words are used in Scripture to make a point, but we shouldn’t take it to the fullest end. One example is when the Pharisees were becoming angry with the popularity of Jesus, and they responded by saying, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him” (John 12:19). Obviously, the whole world without exception did not follow after Jesus, but to make the point of his popularity, the Pharisees spoke with that language.

What is happening in verses 18-19 is clearly an example of comparison where Adam and Christ are being contrasted closely by using the same words. So, what Paul is saying is that all of Adam’s people are condemned by his sin while all of Christ’s people are justified by his work of righteousness. Adam condemned the entire human race, and Christ will save every one of his people who were given to him by the Father before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1; John 10:28-29; Matt. 1:21).

Everyone who is in Christ receives their justification by faith and become the heirs of the promise and eternal life. What a reason to rejoice. Christ is far better to save than Adam is to condemn.

Christ Is Far Better Than Adam

Christ Is Far Better Than Adam

Yesterday I preached from Romans 5:15-17 in our series through Romans. In this paragraph, we see Paul explaining how Christ is far superior to bless than Adam was to curse. In verse 14, he called Adam a type of Christ, but now suddenly, he dives off into a three part comparison as to how and why Christ is far more superior to redeem than Adam is to ruin.

First, we see Paul’s explanation that human depravity is replaced by God’s righteousness. Through Adam, we inherited by imputation the depravity of the human heart. This leaves us helpless and hopeless in a state of spiritual death. However, it’s through Christ that lost and rebel sinners are brought to faith and redeemed from the curse of sin. In order for this to take place, we receive by imputation the righteousness of God in Christ. Paul repeats this pattern in this section of verses twice, but he writes, “much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many” (Rom. 5:15).

Secondly, Paul notes that condemnation is replaced by justification in Christ. The result of human depravity is that we are condemned by God. Yet, in order to be welcomed into heaven and reconciled to God, we must be justified. Justification is a legal verdict and pronouncement of our status before God. God declares us just. This is the only way to escape the wrath of God in the condemnation of sinners. This is only possible through the miracle of conversion that happens through Christ. It is the last Adam who is far greater in his work of redemption than the first Adam is in his work of corruption.

Finally, Paul makes it clear that Christ is far superior to Adam in the fact that death is replaced by life. Adam brought death into the world and it reigned through Adam. Through one man’s transgression, sin entered the world and death was the result. Not only physical death, but spiritual death. In Adam all die physically and spiritually. The very moment that Adam ate of the forbidden tree, he died spiritually. He would later die at 930 years of age a physical death. Genesis began with an explosion of light and life, but it ended with the veil of darkness and death.

However, that’s not the end of the story. Christ is the light of life and through his work of redemption, he defeated death. The gospel (good news) is the announcement of the reverse of the curse of Adam. The degeneration of Adam’s curse is overcome by the regeneration of life through Jesus Christ. The gospel denounces sin in the death of Christ and it announces hope in the resurrection of Christ. Christ is far more powerful to save than Adam is to curse.

Through Adam’s one sin spiritual death death came which introduced degeneration, pollution, corruption, rebellion, sickness, pain, brokenness and lawlessness—resulting in physical death.

Through Christ’s work of redemption we see the following work of God’s saving grace:

  • Sins are forgiven.
  • Atonement is made.
  • Propitiation is accomplished.
  • Death is defeated.
  • Righteousness is granted.
  • Justice is satisfied.
    Reconciliation is achieved.
  • The head of the serpent is crushed.
  • The curse of sin is reversed.
  • One day – Christ will return – and make all things new!
  • The entire world will be renewed.
  • Death will be no more.
  • No more weeping.
  • No more pain.
  • No more sorrow.

All of this is the work of Christ. The work of Christ in redemption is far more superior than Adam’s work in rebellion.

Lectio Continua for the Pulpit and Pew

Lectio Continua for the Pulpit and Pew

If the church is unified in a lectio continua approach to Bible reading and Bible preaching—it will create a solid and healthy foundation that will mark the life of the church. Lectio continua is a Latin phrase that means, continuous reading. This phrase has been used to describe the continuous approach to systematic expository preaching—the popular method of the Reformers and towering giants of church history.

The long cherished lectio continua approach to preaching has been a healthy method for many years throughout church history. Unfortunately, in recent years, preaching has fallen on hard times—even among those who claim to be Reformed expositors. There seems to be a wide and shallow definition of exposition within even the most healthy pockets of evangelicalism. The typical pulpit method today is fad-driven and man-centered. This pragmatic approach to the pulpit ministry results in informal and often immature talks that are shallow, short, chatty, and filled with more cultural cliches than biblical theology. After all—it works.

If the church today will indeed see a revival—it will be based on a firm commitment to God’s Word rather than the shallowness of man-centered gimmicks. We need a return to the lectio continua approach to reading and preaching that will cause the church to gain massive theological growth. Those old paths were walked once before and it brought great results. May the Lord be pleased to do it again.

Lectio Continua as a Bible Study Methodology

How can we expect the people in the church to have an appetite for sequential expository preaching if they are not practicing sequential expository Bible reading in their home? If your personal Bible study looks like a cherry picked verse or paragraph from day to day—it will not only leave you with a superficial understanding of the Bible, but it will likewise leave you with a discontented spirit on the Lord’s Day when your pastor is seeking to preach verse-by-verse through books of the Bible.

The random Bible verse approach or the mainstream boxed devotional approach to Bible study will often lead a person to adopt poor study habits as well as a low view of a expository preaching. Why would you approach the pages of the Bible in a way that you would never approach your mother’s will after her death or a legal document that you received in the mail? Why would you read those documents line-by-line in an attempt to understand the meaning, intent, and message of the documents rather than merely picking out a line or two from the center of the letter? With that in mind—why would anyone dare to read the Bible with that type of approach?

The benefits of a continual and sequential reading of the Bible in your personal study is that it allows you to deal with the original author, his grammar, his intent, and his meaning in each verse and the entire book as a whole. With all of this information, you can then have a good grasp of the entire book of the Bible and its place within the canon of Scripture as a whole. At this juncture, you can begin to connect the dots to your personal life and make proper application.

Before a church can learn to love expository preaching—the people must first be capable of expository listening which emerges from expository reading on a personal level. Solid corporate worship begins in the home.

Lectio Continua as a Preaching Ministry

As stated previously, the lectio continua approach to the pulpit was the common method of the early church and the patristic eras. When Huldrych Zwingli sought to lead his congregation back to this historic approach in 1519—he was met with many questions and concerns. However, his commitment to a sequential exposition of God’s Word proved to be the right move. John Calvin would adopt this same approach as he labored in the pulpit. As we read church history, we get a glimpse into the ministry of Calvin:

  • He began his series through Acts in 1549. He completed it in 1554.
  • He preached 46 sermons through 1 and 2 Thessalonians.
  • 1 and 2 Corinthians – 186 sermons.
  • He preached 86 sermons through the pastoral epistles.
  • His series through Galatians was 43 sermons.
  • He preached 48 sermons through Ephesians.
  • 159 sermons through Job. Many modern preachers haven’t preached one sermon from a text in Job.
  • His series through Deuteronomy was 200 sermons long.
  • He labored through Isaiah in 353 sermons.
  • His series through Genesis was 123 sermons in length.

We get a glimpse into his commitment to lectio continua preaching as he finished his sermon on Easter in 1538 and was banished by the City Council from his pulpit. Calvin would not return for more than 3 years. On the first Sunday back in the pulpit, he picked up in the very next verse. He was communicating something to the people. He was making it known that he was committed to sequential preaching through books of the Bible. He wasn’t finished. His work was not complete.

Standing upon the shoulders of the Reformers have been men like D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, James Montgomery Boice, and in modern times—John MacArthur. It seems that God blesses the faithful proclamation of his Word—yet modern man-centered preaching styles are headed in a different direction.  In an interview with Ed Stetzer in 2009 regarding his book titled, Communicating for a Change, Stetzer asked Stanley about preaching.  The question was, “What do you think about preaching verse-by-verse messages through books of the Bible?”  Andy Stanley responded, “Guys that preach verse-by-verse through books of the Bible– that is just cheating. It’s cheating because that would be easy, first of all. That isn’t how you grow people. No one in the Scripture modeled that. There’s not one example of that.”

Not only does Andy Stanley have a skewed understanding of expository preaching, he apparently has a skewed understanding of preaching throughout church history—beginning with the apostles. Yet, Andy Stanley is not alone. The popular church growth techniques are rolled out at conferences each year and those methods get results. Often, they get fast results. Such pragmatism fills empty seats and offering plates and so for that reason, lectio continua has been pushed to the backseat in modern times.

Historically, the first mark of an authentic church is the right preaching of the Word. If you get this mark wrong, everything else will be negatively impacted. Yet, today, when you ask someone why they chose their church, they will talk about the choir, the programs for the children, the way the church made them feel, and various other things—but they rarely if ever discuss the fact that the church has a proper expository preaching methodology. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the top priority in many professing Christian homes.

Shallow preaching leaves people spiritually dry and hungry. The evangelical church is not a picture of health. Modern preaching is using every gimmick known to man in order to fill worship centers including rock concerts, slick movie clips with media presentations, and every other trick you can imagine. Only through a robust pulpit where the Bible is sequentially explained verse-by-verse on a weekly basis can we have confidence that God will usher in a revival, change people’s hearts, and ultimately reach the world.

God doesn’t need our tricks and gimmicks. God’s Word is sufficient. Sola Scriptura lives on. Preach the Word!

 

Christ as our Savior

Christ as our Savior

Yesterday I preached from Romans 5:9-11 in our series through Romans. The focus of the text was on Jesus Christ as our Savior. In the previous text (Romans 5:6-8) we explored Jesus as our substitute. In this rich section of Romans, we see the work of Christ in bringing us to God and reconciling us to the Father through the ministry of his blood.

As we consider the work of Jesus to save us from the penalty of sin – we would do well to pause and rejoice. Far too often we enjoy the benefits of salvation without the joy that should go alongside it in our hearts. We often talk of being saved without the joy of salvation that should flood our hearts and minds through Christ. So, how did Jesus save us?

First of all, Jesus provided our justification by his death. The word “justification” is linked to Jesus’ blood. The point is, we were in a state of sin as the enemies of God and stood in need of justification. We were condemned, guilty, and vile sinners who had offended the sovereign God who created the entire world. Yet, through the ministry of Jesus a great exchange took place. Through the death of Jesus, God took our sins and placed them on his Son and then took his Son’s righteousness and placed it upon us which delivered us from the wrath of God.

We were made just through the just system of God’s justice system. Our sins were not swept under the rug, they were paid for by the crushing blow of Jesus’ death. Yet, we must remember that we were under the wrath of God. The text doesn’t say that we were under the wrath of Satan or the wrath of the devil. It says that we were in danger of God’s wrath. In an age where people fear the devil, it would be far better for people to fear God (Matt. 10:28). Too many people view salvation as being saved from sin or from the devil. The truth is, salvation is being saved from God, by God, and for the glory of God.

Secondly, Jesus saved us through his resurrection. It’s through the ministry of his resurrection that Jesus reconciled us to God. Through the resurrection of Jesus, he did something that Mohammad or Joseph Smith were capable of doing. Jesus predicted his own resurrection (John 2:19) and then on the third day—he walked out of the tomb after the brutal Roman crucifixion. Impossible—yet factual. This is illogical, but confirmed.  And it was through this miracle of the resurrection that Jesus proved he is God and is also able to reconcile guilty sinners to God.

Hebrews 7:25 – Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Take a moment and examine yourself. Do you have the joy of salvation provided by Jesus? If not, could it be that you are seeking joy from the world and finding yourself consistently disappointed? According to the Bible, all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). We deserve the wrath of God (Rom. 6:23; Rom. 1:18; 5:9). Yet, anyone who calls upon the Lord for salvation will be saved and will experience the joy of reconciliation.

  1. Do you recall how Jesus saved you? Do you remember what a burden was lifted from your shoulders the moment you repented of your sin and trusted in his saving grace?
  2. Does the death of Jesus and his resurrection provide you with consistent joy?
  3. If you don’t have joy through Jesus and peace with God — why not bow to him today and call upon the Lord for salvation?
The Purpose of Suffering

The Purpose of Suffering

Yesterday I preached from Romans 5:3-5 on the subject of suffering as we continue to work our way through Romans. As Paul develops his thought, he points out the fact that we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God—and we likewise rejoice in our sufferings for following Christ. Paul uses the word “καυχάομαι” which means to boast, brag, or pride oneself in. How many people do you know who are boasting in their suffering for following Jesus? What is the purpose of such suffering?

Suffering Produces Endurance

First of all, we have a promise that suffering will occur at some level for following Jesus. It could be oppression on the workplace, marginalization at school, loss of friendships, division among families, and even physical suffering and death. In each situation—God is absolutely sovereign over how it plays out. In the same way that God was sovereign over the way the cross played out, in the same way, every detail of the suffering of his people is used for his glory and to bring about the endurance of his people.

The word endurance “ὑπομονή” has in mind “the capacity to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty. It also can mean patience, endurance, fortitude, steadfastness, perseverance.” In other words, suffering produces endurance that allows the believer to stand firm in the midst of the pain. Rather than giving up, the true believer endures to the end and goes through the suffering.

Hebrews 12:1 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Endurance Produces Character

In the ESV the word “δοκιμή” is translated “character” but if you look at the NASB, you will see it rendered, “proven character.” The word here is one that indicates or reveals the results of being tested. This is proof that a person has passed the test in life. The Christian life is filled with testing. This testing produces proven character. It’s through the fire that we are proven.

Romans 8:29 – For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

James 1:2–4 – Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, [3] for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. [4] And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Perfect = “τέλειος” – to meeting the highest standard, mature.

With that in mind – that goal – consider why it is that God provides you with pastors who labor for your soul.

Character Produces Hope

Hope “ἐλπίς” has in mind the idea of  “looking forward to something with some reason for confidence in the sure fulfillment.” Here we find that Paul goes full circle in his teaching of the Christian life. In verse 2, he mentions the “hope of the glory of God.” Here, he returns to the idea of hope and we must understand what he means. He is not suggesting that we hope that the promises rooted in Christ will come to pass. Instead, he is making the point that all of the promises rooted in Christ will come to pass. This is our absolute hope!

Romans 8:24–25 – For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Our salvation is both already accomplished (remember Jesus cried out in his dying hour, “It is finished) and our hope has been secured and we have obtained our inheritance and our justification has already been granted by faith. However, there is so much yet to come. We long for that day when our Lord will return and will make all things new. He will judge the living and the dead – separate the sheep and the goats.

Until then, we have this hope that is brought to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit who has poured out the love of God in our hearts. In all of the pain of this life and the suffering we endure—we have absolute confidence that our God is sovereign, he has a plan, and it will be accomplished for his glory.

Rejoice in Suffering

Rejoice in Suffering

Yesterday I preached Romans 5:1-5 in our series through Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. After spending an entire chapter on the faith of Abraham and demonstrating that he was justified by faith alone—Paul turns to chapter five and points out two things that cause the Christians to rejoice.

Rejoice in the Peace of God

First, Paul begins by talking about rejoicing in the fact that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. The fact that we were once enemies of the cross and enemies of God and have now been reconciled to God through the work of Jesus is something to rejoice about for sure. We were once under the wrath of God which is just and righteous and settled indignation against transgressors of the law. God has brought us near and settled the account against us through the suffering and bloody death of Christ. We should rejoice indeed.

Rejoice in Suffering

Paul goes on to make the point that not only do the Christians rejoice in their salvation, but Paul says, “we” rejoice in our sufferings. He included himself in the equation. Not only is he a sinner who has been justified by faith and brought into a peaceful relationship with God through Christ, but he also rejoices in the fact that he is counted worthy to suffer with him as well.

The word Paul uses here for rejoicing is “καυχάομαι” meaning to boast, brag, glory in, pride oneself in. In other words, it’s not only something the Christians were willing to endure, but something they found joy in as they were identified with Christ in the pain of public opposition and suffering for following Jesus. That should not only be true for the Christians in Paul’s day, but it should likewise be true for us today.

According to The Voice of the Martyrs, approximately 171,000 Christians are martyred for their faith each year around the world. We hear far more about political parties, political agendas, and other lesser important new stories each year through the news media, but we rarely hear anything about Christians dying for their faith.

According to Persection.com, on September 20th 2018 the following story was shared as a matter of prayer:

Authorities in Chiapas have forced nearly 30 Christians out of their homes and off their farmland simply because they are Christians. The men and women, who are also losing most of their personal belongings, are being humiliated, beaten and detained for days at a time by local government authorities.

As we survey the Scriptures, we find many warnings about the suffering that will come upon those who would follow Jesus. We must take these words seriously since it has always been dangerous to follow Christ around the world.

Matthew 10:21-22– Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, [22] and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

John 16:2– They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.

Romans 8:16-17– The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, [17] and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with himin order that we may also be glorified with him.

Philippians 1:29– For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,

2 Timothy 1:8– Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospelby the power of God

Acts 5:41– Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.

We must not forget the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 3:12 where he made it clear that anyone who desires to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. As we survey church history, we find these words are strikingly accurate. Consider how men like William Tyndall, John Rogers, John Leaf, and many others. One man, John Hullier was taken to the stake in chains, and placed in a barrel of pitch. As they lit the flames, the crowd began to throw books by the Reformers into the flames with Hullier.

As Hullier was being burned, he reached out and caught a book on the sacraments – a book that was written to counter the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine of transubstantiation. He opened it and read it joyfully and loudly to the crowd holding it up above his head. He read until his eyes were consumed with smoke and he couldn’t see any longer, and he then held it to his chest and prayed aloud one final prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of that little book in his dying moments.

How can men go to the flames with such resolve and joy as they’re martyred for following Christ? The answer is found in what Paul says in the first two verses of the fifth chapter of Romans. It’s because of the fact that they have peace with God through Christ. They may not have peace with the world, but they have peace with God—so they can endure the pain of the world while longing for the eternal peace that they will soon enjoy in the presence of Christ Jesus.

If there is one thing we can learn from these verses it’s the reality that the Christian life is not an easy life. It will be filled with pain, rejection, and suffering. We must rejoice when we are called upon to suffer for Jesus.