If you live life long enough as a Christian, conflict in inevitable. The New Testament is filled with words that address the subject—often because apostles were correcting local churches or providing counsel on how to pursue resolution and unity. Broken relationships are hurtful within the context of the local church—and they certainly don’t promote the gospel to a lost world outside the church in the local community. Therefore, it’s essential that we know how to deal with conflict within the family of faith in order to honor Christ and avoid hypocrisy.
Humility is Necessary
If you approach a situation of conflict, humility is required to achieve healthy and biblical results. If two parties who are in disagreement simply enter the conversation by throwing defensive bombs toward one another—the parties involved will spend their time talking past one another rather than talking to one another. The art of listening is key to conflict resolution. The humility to admit fault is also key to defusing conflicts that would serve as barriers to joyful friendships and Christian unity.
In Psalm 147:6, the Psalmist declares, “The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.” In Matthew 23:12, we find the following warning, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” It is God’s will for God’s people to pursue peace in a humble and gentle fashion. The one who is haughty and arrogant will never achieve reconciliation and will consistently find himself or herself in the midst of broken relationships. This pattern is not only damaging to the individual—but to the entire church. This is a sinful trap to avoid as a Christian.
Pursue Reconciliation and Unity
Jesus, in his famous sermon, stated the following, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). We want to be called the sons of God rather than children of wrath—like the rest of mankind. It’s essential to pursue peace in order to be called the sons and daughters of God. Richard Baxter once said:
He that is not a son of Peace is not a son of God. All other sins destroy the Church consequentially; but Division and Separation demolish it directly. 
We must likewise remember that reconciliation and unity do not rest upon the shoulders of one party alone. Each party involved in a conflict must value reconciliation more than their own pride. It may be that one individual pursues reconciliation while another individual remains in a state of bitterness and disunity. Paul addressed this issue in Romans 12:18 as he provided the following instruction to the church in Rome:
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:18–21).
We must likewise recall Paul’s words prior to this paragraph as he instructed the Christians in Rome to be genuine in their love and to outdo one another in brotherly affection (Rom. 12:9-13). Winning the argument is not always the way to reconciliation. Remember that as we gaze at the cross of Jesus Christ and see how Christ saved us through his brutal crucifixion, we will find that reconciliation is not only a workable solution but it’s mandated by God (Phil 2:5-11; Eph. 4:32).
Do Not Change Churches
Is there ever a time to leave a local church? Sure, there are biblical reasons, but if I’m perfectly honest, I believe far too often people leave their local church for unbiblical reasons. I’ve written on this subject in another article titled, “When Should I Leave My Church?“—but we can be quite certain that it’s never wise to leave under conflict. If you believe that changing addresses of where you worship will solve your conflict with fellow believers—you’re simply wrong. You will only change the address of your problems. So long as you never learn to do the hard work of conflict resolution as a Christian—you will find yourself walking a broken road of loneliness and isolation within your local church. Conflict builds walls and the devil is really clever at isolating people in local churches until they become so unfulfilled that they simply change churches. Until a person learns to work through conflict in a biblical manner that honors Christ—this pattern will continue in perpetuity. Ray Ortlund writes the following:
The gospel being what it is and always will be, “the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19), our churches should be the most reconciling, peaceable, relaxed, happy places in town. We are so open to enemies, so meek in the face of insults and injuries, so forgiving toward the undeserving — if we do make people angry, let this be the reason. We refuse to join in their selfish battles. We’re following a higher call. We are the peacemakers, the true sons of God (Matthew 5:9). 
Have you ever had to provide advice to your child after he had a scuffle on the playground with another child? What advice did you provide him? Did you instruct him to work through his problems and pursue peace and salvage his friendship or did you move him to another school the next day? We must remember that the children and immature believers (as well as the mature believers) are watching how we all deal with conflict. We should not disciple others in our local church to change churches when they experience conflict. The local church is family and what do family members do when faced with conflict? The family works through it together. Don’t give up. Don’t quit. The end result is worth it and Christ will be glorified through a proper and healthy conflict resolution.
- Richard Baxter, The Practical Works of Richard Baxter: Selected Treatises, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010), 4.
- Ray Ortlund, “The Ministry of Reconciliation” — Accessed on: March 5th, 2018.
One of the greatest scandals of human existence is pornography. Many people believe that pornography was invented in modern times, but in all reality, pornography began in ages past and has only snowballed its way into magazines, movies, and smart phones in these last days. Pornography is one of the most addictive sins of the flesh—and it’s one that greatly insults God. Where does the word “pornography” originate and what does it mean?
In the Bible, we find the word πορνεία (porneia) which means “sexual immorality.” We find this particular word in verses such as 1 Corinthians 6:18. In ancient times, the Greeks viewed sex as a natural desire that was on the level of the hunger for food or water. They openly engaged in temple prostitution in cities such as Ephesus with the Temple of Diana as well as other cities. Ancient Athens and Corinth were both vile cities that were filled with sexual immorality. The particular word originated from “porne” which means a harlot for hire. The masculine form of the word—pornos—refers to a male prostitute.
Over time the word porneia took on a variety of meanings—which included almost anything other than the true definition of adultery. Such sins as sex outside of marriage, adultery (sex between a married person and an unmarried person), incest, lesbianism, homosexuality, and beastiality. As time progressed, the English term pornography emerged from this root word and today that particular English word is in reference to any image or movie of unclothed people used for the purpose of exciting and satisfying lustful thoughts.
How does pornography insult and offend God?
Pornography Makes a Mockery of Human Sexuality
It is no secret that pornography is a violent industry that fuels violent behavior toward women. Rather than being treated with love, gentleness, respect, and cared for within marriage—lust-fueled sexual sin disrespects women and misdirects the purpose of human sexuality as God intended for his creation in the beginning. According to statistics, “88% of scenes in porn films contain acts of physical aggression, and 49% of scenes contain verbal aggression.” We live in a sexually confused culture. Pixels that form an image of another human being for the purpose of satisfying lustful thoughts abuses the purpose of human sexuality and the act of sex itself.
In the earlier days of the pornographic industry, Hugh Hefner served as the expert who helped shape the industry as a whole. According to Hugh Hefner:
Sex is a function of the body, a drive which man shares with animals like eating, drinking, and sleeping. It is a physical demand that must be satisfied. If you don’t satisfy it you will have all sorts of neuroses and repression psychoses. Sex is here to stay. Let’s forget the prudery that makes us hide from it. Throw away those inhibitions, find a girl who is like-minded, and let yourself go.
The idea that you just let yourself go and pursue the crude desires of your depraved mind and body is insane. God designed human sexuality to be part of the marriage relationship instituted in the beginning and it was seen as good in the eyes of God. Sin temps people to lust after the flesh (1 John 2:16). It wasn’t until after the first sin that we see Adam and Eve in clothing. Sin changes everything and it certainly has affected human sexuality.
Today, we have every stage of pornography available—including the “soft porn” that has become mainstream entertainment in books and movies such as 50 Shades of Grey which are targeting women. Since Internet porn alone is a $3 Billion per year business—we should expect books and films to use porn to attract new customers. God designed sexual intimacy—and God demands that we move away from sexual immorality (1 Thess. 4:3-4).
Pornography Makes a Mockery of Marriage
The God who has revealed Himself in the pages of the Bible is responsible for creating everything in the vast expanse of this universe. This includes everything from the red hypergiant star named VY Canis Majoris (VY CMa) located in the constellation Canis Major, to the smallest molecule floating around on the surface of planet earth.
This same sovereign God also created marriage. The first Father to give away His daughter to her husband took place in a lost paradise known as the Garden of Eden. It was there that God united Adam and Eve and blessed their relationship. God gave them the command to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28). Everything about God’s creation, including marriage, was good.
Sin has defaced marriage as God originally designed it. Today, what is often called marriage is nothing more than a commitment to live in sexual sin with the permission of the government. In Hebrews 13:4, we find these important words, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” Pornography dishonors marriage and cheapens intimacy. Pornography often turns the intimate marriage relationship into an stage to act out lustful thoughts and passions. This is not what God intended for marriage and it dishonors the Creator.
First of all, when a person brings their pornified thoughts into the marriage bed, it bypasses marital love and this does violence to women in the process. God has commanded men to love their wives as Christ loved the church—which is an unconditional and sacrificial love (Eph. 5:25). The pornification of the marriage bed cheapens marital intimacy and is extremely selfish—not sacrificial. Such thoughts need to be barred from your mind and banned from the marriage bed completely.
Pornography makes a mockery of marriage and dishonors God by defiling intimacy and the marriage bed. In Matthew 5:28, Jesus said these words, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” It’s possible to commit adultery while engaging in intimacy with your wife if you pornify your marriage relationship with the lustful thoughts of pornography.
In a world that champions women’s rights—you would expect the pornography industry to be very unsuccessful. While the disrespect of women is a shameful practice—the disrespect of God is far worse. Don’t be trapped into believing that pornography is not damaging to both men and women. The industry as a whole takes what God intended for good and purposes it for evil.
When you hear the word “holy” what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of purity and perfection. When it comes to the holiness of God, we need to think of distinctness and separation. While the word holiness encompasses the idea of perfection and purity—it likewise points to the distinct nature of God. When we think of God, we must think of the fact that God is outside of his creation, distinct from his creation, and transcends higher than everything in the universe. God is God and there is no being or created thing that can remotely compare to him. God is radiant in purity, majestic in perfection, and sovereign in power.
When King Uzziah died and all of Israel was looking to an empty throne for leadership, God pulled back the veil of eternity and allowed Isaiah to see the enthroned King of kings and Lord of lords. It was as if God were communicating to Isaiah that the King is not dead—he is enthroned—high and lifted up on his majestic and sovereign throne. In the first few verses of Isaiah 6, we see two distinct names for God—”אָדוֹן” (the sovereign name of God) and “יהוה” (the sacred name of God). What Isaiah sees is breathtaking.
Isaiah sees into the throne room of glory and his eyes are captivated by the seraphim that are flying around the throne crying out with these words, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory” (Is. 6:3). As these echoes are hurled back and forth between the angelic beings, Isaiah takes note of what he sees. He sees the Lord of glory on his throne and the train of his robe filing the temple which I believe to be a reference to the throne room of heaven itself and a pre-incarnate vision of Jesus. They question remains, why did the angels cry out with the repetition of “holy, holy, holy” as they circled the throne of the King?
For the Purpose of Worship
The main purpose for the repetition of the word holy by the angelic beings must be centered on the goal of worship. Apparently, this was a routine day for the angels, but an extraordinary day for Isaiah. It appears that the angels are doing exactly what they were created to do—worship God. When John came into the presence of the angelic being and he fell down to worship the angel, but the angel rebuked him and directed him to worship God (Rev. 19:10). God desires for his creatures to worship him—both angels and humans. R.C. Sproul rightly explained the emphasis on God’s holiness by saying:
Only once in sacred Scripture is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree. Only once is a characteristic of God mentioned three times in succession. The Bible says that God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy, holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love; or mercy, mercy, mercy; or wrath, wrath, wrath; or justice, justice, justice. It does say that he is holy, holy, holy, that the whole earth is full of His glory. 
God is worthy of worship. There is no shame in the amount of worship that’s given to God by the angels. They can’t worship God enough—even they must shield their face with two of their wings as they worship before the very throne of God. John Calvin writes, “The repetition of Holy, holy, holy points to unwearied perseverance, as if the prophet said that the angels never cease from singing the praises of God since God’s holiness supplies inexhaustible reasons for them.” 
For the Purpose of the Isaiah (and the readers of Isaiah’s Prophecy)
God sovereignly planned for Isaiah to see this glimpse of glory. It would serve two very distinct purposes. First of all, it would be used to solidify his call to be a prophet for God. When the earthly king was gone, Isaiah was able to see that the true King of kings is very much alive and reigning from heaven’s throne. This event left an indelible mark upon his soul. As he was seeing the transcendent King of glory worshipped by angels—he was overwhelmed with his depravity. He understood that he needed forgiveness. God forgave his sin and then Isaiah was ready to be sent by God, as he repeated—”Here I am, send me.”
The secondary purpose for the recording of this scene of heaven was for the readers of Isaiah’s prophecy—which would include us in our present day. Not only is God sovereign over providing the vision for Isaiah personally, but he’s sovereign to use this scene in a portion of the canon of Scripture that would forever be preserved through the ages. Although Isaiah 6 is not a personal vision for us—it’s recorded for us to see and understand the transcendent holiness of God and how he deserves to be worshipped.
In Hebrew, rather than underlining or using exclamation points—they would repeat something in order to give attention and add significance. Here we see the angels doing that very thing as they cried out, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts.” As we read it today, we are reminded that God is the most holy being that is or every will be—and he alone deserves our worship. The most important truth that could occupy real estate in the mind of a human being is the holiness of God. From the holiness of God flows the love of God, the justice of God, and the mercy of God—along with all of the other attributes. God is God and he alone is worthy of our worship.
Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee.
Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!
—Reginald Heber (1826)
- R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2000), 26.
- John Calvin, Isaiah, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2000), 61.
When it comes to the doctrine of election, it’s clear that it’s controversial. We debate it. We write books about it. We talk about it. We preach sermons on it. We sometimes divide over it. Do you find it odd that Paul began his letter to the church in Rome by pointing to the doctrine of election? In fact, if you look closely, you will see the doctrine at the beginning of several letters in the New Testament—including Ephesians and 1 Peter. Paul began his letter to the church at Ephesus (and churches in surrounding cities) by pointing out the fact that God “chose” them in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). Peter began his letter to the scattered believers in his day with these words: “To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Pet. 1:1).
If we find the doctrine of election used in the opening lines of important letters to local churches in the New Testament intended to encourage believers in their walk with Christ—why do we have so much division, debate, and mud slinging over the doctrine? Charles Spurgeon, once said the following, “No doctrine in the whole Word of God has more excited the hatred of mankind than the truth of the absolute sovereignty of God.” Why do so many people hate the precious doctrine of election? Could it be that people have an issue with authority, and they want to possess control over their own soul? Could it be that people have learned a wrong view of election and view God as unfair in his treatment?
When rightly understood, the doctrine of election kills pride in two specific areas — anger and arrogance.
The Doctrine of Election Kills Angry Pride
When was the last time you talked about the doctrine of election with someone who differed with you on the subject and that conversation was calm, respectful, and ended in joy? It’s extremely common to have people who want to throw stones at you if you claim to embrace the absolute sovereignty of God over the entire universe—including the work of salvation. People would rather God be fair until they consider mercy. People would rather be in control of their salvation until they consider depravity. God is not fair. God is God. God is merciful, and we should be thankful.
There is no escaping the doctrine of election in the Bible (Col. 3:12; 1 Tim. 5:21; Tit. 1:1; Eph. 1:3-14; Deut. 7; Rom. 9; Mal. 1:2-3; John 15:16; John 6:44). The more you read, the more you see it. Paul began his letter to the church in Rome with these words:
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 1:1-7).
Notice several places where God makes a distinction between the church in Rome and the city of Rome. We find it in Romans 1:6 with the language of God’s “call” to salvation. It resurfaces in the next verse as Paul makes a distinction between the love of God for the city of Rome and the church in the city of Rome. What does election mean? To be the “elect” of God is to be chosen by God. The word often translated “chosen” or “elect” is from the Greek term ἐκλεκτός, meaning to be selected or chosen. According to Paul elsewhere in Ephesians, this choice was carried out in a very specific way, that when rightly understood, kills the pride of anger.
- Chosen before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4).
- This choice resulted in the predestination and adoption through Jesus Christ—based on God’s will and for his glory—apart from any good deed or action on our part (Eph. 1:4-10; Titus 3:5; Rom. 9).
Pride causes anger in our hearts because we have a natural tendency to despise authority and sovereignty. We want to be the captain of our own soul, and the doctrine of election removes any means of boasting in the flesh.
The Doctrine of Election Kills Prideful Arrogance
We’ve all seen the man who escaped his cage and is running around like a lose cannon shooting election bombs at anyone who will give him a hearing. Such people do harm to themselves and it’s likely that many have yet to truly grasp the doctrine of election. If someone boasts about election as if they are one of the “chosen” ones to salvation and “chosen ones” to understand the doctrine—they fool themselves. The doctrine of election, when rightly understood, brings us low to the ground and causes us to see that on our very best day we could not save ourselves. From start to finish, salvation is a work of God’s mercy and grace. The entirety of God’s saving grace depends on God. From our election before the foundation of the world to our glorification at the culmination of God’s redemptive timeline—all of it is designed by God and performed by God.
When Paul writes to the church at Philippi, he writes these words, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). When God desired to provide Israel a reality check, he spoke these words to them through Malachi, “‘I have loved you,’ says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have you loved us?’ ‘Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ declares the LORD. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert'” (Mal. 1:2-3). It was a reminder that by outward appearances, Esau was the choice, but instead, God chose Jacob. It was a look back to Deuteronomy 7:6-8, as God declared his choice of Israel to be based on his choice to love a weak people.
If you know the doctrine of election, you will not walk around with a swagger. Instead, you will be humble. It will cause you to boast in the cross of Jesus—not the flesh of mankind. Listen to what Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the famous nineteenth-century English preacher, eloquently said regarding the doctrine of election:
Before Salvation came into this world, Election marched in the very forefront, and it had for its work the billeting [lodging] of Salvation. Election went through the world and marked the houses to which Salvation should come and the hearts in which the treasure should be deposited. Election looked through all the race of man, from Adam down to the last, and marked with sacred stamp those for whom Salvation was designed. ‘He must needs go through Samaria,’ said Election; and Salvation must go there. Then came Predestination. Predestination did not merely mark the house, but it mapped the road in which Salvation should travel to that house; Predestination ordained every step of the great army of Salvation; it ordained the time when the sinner should be brought to Christ, the manner how he should be saved, the means that should be employed; it marked the exact hour and moment, when God the Spirit should quicken the dead in sin, and when peace and pardon should be spoken through the blood of Jesus. Predestination marked the way so completely that Salvation doth never overstep the bounds, and it is never at a loss for the road. In the everlasting decree of the Sovereign God, the footsteps of Mercy were every one of them ordained.
The doctrine of election removes anger and arrogance when the pure doctrine is gleaned from the pages of Scripture. Do you know this truth? Have you struggled with it? Has it become a burden rather than a blessing? Allow this grand doctrine which runs through the entirety of the Bible be a source of encouragement to your soul.
John 15:16 – You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
- Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of the Bible: New Testament, vol. 4, “Things That Accompany Salvation” (London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1963), 77.
In life, there is always at least two different paths to choose from. Typically one is much easier than the other, and in the Christian life, that certainly is the case. Why do you think John Bunyan pictured Christian as one who was always put in a position to take the easier path rather than the more difficult or the more dangerous route? He was basing his story on the journey of faith as depicted in the pages of God’s Word. Sin breeds laziness and it’s the lazy route that capitulates and embraces error.
Today, I want to provide you with four key reasons why you should fight for truth.
Christians are People of Truth
As children of God, we are called out of darkness into the marvelous light of Christ (1 Pet. 2:9). This calling to live in the light involves living in the truth and loving the truth. As the Psalmist continually repeats in Psalm 119, “I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law” (Ps. 119:163). In Jude 3, we are called to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” If God’s Word is true, we should love the pure doctrines of Scripture and have a desire to be people who are marked by them.
Do you love the truth of God’s Word or do you find yourself drawn to error? The anti-God culture continues to grow, and they are asking for people to “come out” and embrace the ideas of atheism. Richard Dawkins, in his book, The God Delusion, writes. “I am quite keen on the politics of persuading people of the virtues of atheism.”  He goes on to write, “I think we’re in the same position as the gay movement was a few decades ago. There was a need then for people to come out. The more people who came out, the more people have had courage.” 
Truth Is Safer than Error
Does it require more courage to call God a liar or to call out the lies of culture? It doesn’t matter if you find yourself struggling through the study of of the doctrine of election or if you’re an unbeliever who is trying to make sense of the claims of deity by Jesus—make no mistake about it—truth matters. Regarding the unbeliever who is trying to discern the truth claims of Scripture, the deity of Christ, and the exclusive hope of the gospel—your soul depends on truth. Truth sets a person free from the bondage of sin and leads a person to the hope of salvation in Christ alone (John 14:6). Jesus said, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
As Christians, sometimes the road that’s easier is one that requires little reading, little meditation, little theological study, little memorization, and little prayer. It’s always easier to just take the popular opinion, but what if the popular opinion is wrong? When it comes to eschatology, boasting about being a “pan-millennialist” should not be viewed as a badge of honor. When it comes to the doctrine of election, claiming that God loves the whole world and without distinction while avoiding a serious study of Ephesians 1-2 and Romans 9 will not result in a healthy understanding of salvation. Avoid the lazy-minded approach to Christianity which undervalues the study of truth.
Theological error, even in the slightest form is not a safe position to hold. The moment that someone capitulates in theology and embraces error in one area the easier it will be to embrace it in other areas. Truth will cost you time and it may cost you friends—but always remember that truth is safer than error. Be mindful that truth is not always a safe place in this world, but it’s certainly the safest place to be in terms of eternity (Matt. 10:28).
Truth Is a Pride Killer
The study of doctrine is best understood as the study of God. To study theology at any level should be fueled by the pursuit of God. If truth is the desire of the heart, it will be a pride crusher. The person who is arrogant in his theology has not truly come to understand where the theology directs him. To the Calvinist who boasts in knowing the details of election, predestination, and the divine call of God—he has not truly immersed himself into the depths of that theology to the point that he views his own depravity and helpless estate. It’s only then that he can humbly call himself one of God’s elect.
- The truth of God kills the pride of atheism.
- The truth of grace kills the pride of antinomianism.
- The truth of the gospel kills the pride of legalism.
We study doctrine and learn theology not because we love words, sentences, and ideas—but because we love God. The study of truth humbles us. In order to learn truth, at some point we must be willing to embrace confrontation of truth in response to our error. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to admit that we’re wrong. Francis Schaeffer accurately writes, “Truth always carries with it confrontation. Truth demands confrontation; loving confrontation nevertheless. If our reflex action is always accommodation regardless of the centrality of the truth involved, there is something wrong.” 
Truth Demands Obedience
The Psalmist writes, “I hope for your salvation, O LORD, and I do your commandments” (Ps. 119:166). Those words should be for us the purest example of what it means to possess an understanding of truth. Once the Psalmist understood God’s law, it was joyful obedience that resulted. The same thing should take place in our lives. Those who know the truth should obey.
Remember it was Jesus who once said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Fight for truth because it will result in the purest of obedience in the end. It will also result in the most joyful testimony—for who can help but speak of what they have seen and heard (Acts 4:20; 1 Pet. 3:15)?
- Gary Wolf, “The Church of the Non-Believers,” Wired, November 1, 2006, accessed January 31st, 2018, https://www.wired.com/2006/11/atheism.
- Francis Schaeffer, A Christian View of the Church (Wheaton: Crossway, 1994), 110.
Rome was not only a strategic city in Paul’s day—it was a powerful city. From politics to ideologies, the city of Rome was at the center of the world and in God’s providence, God raised up a church in this important location at this juncture in history to accomplish his purpose. The church at Rome found itself as part of the story of redemption. Paul’s letter was holy Scripture that not only would encourage the church in Rome—but would be used to encourage the Universal Church through the ages. For God so loved the church in Rome that he sent his Son to die for her and then mobilized his apostle to write to her.
In the opening words to the church in the city of Rome, Paul makes a statement that should cause us to pause and reflect. Paul writes, “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:7). When Paul addresses the believers (the church) in Rome, he refers to them as “those in Rome who are loved by God.” So, why did God not love all of Rome?
God is Sovereign
The first thing we must understand when it comes to salvation is that God is not obligated to save one single person in human history. God’s love is a sovereign love. Not even one person is worthy and deserving of God’s love. When discussing the love of God, some people become contentious—making the case that God loves the entire world without exception and without any measure of distinction. Often this debate will find its way to Romans 9 for clarity. However, long before arriving at Romans 9, we see the sovereign love of God on display in Romans 1:7.
While God was not forced to love one single person in Rome, he chose to love specific people in the city—effectually setting them apart and calling them to be saints. When contemplating the sovereign love of God for guilty and wretched sinners—it causes the value of our salvation to increase dramatically especially when we consider the free choice of God and the inability of fallen man to make any choice for God. Who is to call into question the love of God? Does God have freedom to choose to love whom he wills (Rom. 9:14-15)?
God’s Love Is an Electing Love
The love of God for the church in the city of Rome is clearly distinct from any generic love that God has for the entire city of Rome. In a general sense, we can say that God loves Rome (as God loves the world in John 3:16). However, in a special way God has chosen to love the church in Rome and this is God’s electing love.
This love speaks of God’s initiative in salvation. The church in Rome loved God, but not until God first love them (1 John 4:19). The language of this text points back to how God loved the nation of Israel. It was not based on the size, power, or value of the nation of Israel. God’s choice for Israel was based on his redemptive plan and mercy alone.
Deuteronomy 7:7–8 — It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,  but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
The language used here by Paul connects the love of God for the church in Rome with the love of God for the nation of Israel and will be key as he develops these truths over the first half of the letter. Too often people minimize the depth of theology in God’s love and seek to generalize it—making God into a generic god of salvation to the entire world as opposed to the covenant keeping God of Scripture who sovereignly saves his people for his glory. James Montgomery Boice explains:
Some think that people become believers by their own unaided choice, as if all we have to do is decide to trust Jesus. But how could we possibly do that if, as we have seen Paul say, each of us is “dead in . . . transgressions and sins”? How can a dead man decide anything? Some have supposed that we become Christians because God in his omniscience sees some small bit of good in us, even if that “good” is only a tiny seed of faith. But how could God see good in us if, as Paul will later remind us: “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:12; cf. Ps. 14:3)? Why, then, does God love us? The answer is “because he loves us.” There is just nothing to be said beyond that. 
God loved the church in Rome and as we consider the realty of God’s love—we must look to our local churches and see the expression and reality of God’s love among us. It’s not that God simply loved the church at Rome and we can only read about it from the pages of holy Scripture. We too are part of the story of redemption. For God so loved us that we too should be humbled and look to our purpose to live for his glory. Paul would later write in this very letter to the church in Rome, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5). For God so loved the church at Rome that he saved her for his glory. That same truth can be embraced for us—and our local churches today.
Jerry Bridges has rightly stated, “The great God not only loves His saints, but He loves to love them.” The next time you hear someone profaning the doctrine of election—before you engage in a doctrinal dispute with them—take time to pray for them that they would see and understand Romans 1:7 long before you turn to Romans 9. Since God’s love is sovereign—and therefore unmerited, eternal, and unchanging, we can find comfort in the very words that Paul writes in Romans 8:33-39:
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- James Montgomery Boice, Romans, Vol. 1 Justification by Faith Romans 1-4, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1991), 65.