Romans 8:28, Faithful Suffering

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And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (NKJV)

Here is a familiar verse that is often left to stand on its own without context in our midst, and even that may be shortened to part of the first phrase (“All things work together for good”)! I have even heard Christians use this to support their disobedience to God’s commands, like going ahead to divorce one’s spouse. But, of course, in the larger context of Scripture, “those who love God” also  “… will obey my teaching” (John 14).

Some versions or footnotes read “in all things God works for the good” which relates to issues of text and translation. C. E. B. Cranfield, in his magisterial work (ICC), works through those issues and concludes that the interpretation, as quoted above (in NKJV, AV, RV, Vulgate), “is to be accepted as almost certainly right.” [“Dodd's objection seems to have no cogency, and we can see no other objection.”]

What is expressed is a truly biblical confidence in the sovereignty of God.”

The obvious limit placed on this, is the knowledge that this confidence is for “those who love God.”

The primary reference of ['all things'] is, no doubt, to ‘the sufferings of the present time’ (v. 18), to what Calvin in his comment calls ‘adversities’ or ‘the cross’. That this is so is confirmed by vv. 35-39.”

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:

For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul’s meaning is that all things, even those which seem most adverse and hurtful, such as persecution or death itself, are profitable for those who truly love God.”

“. . . such grievous things as are mentioned in v. 35, must serve to help them on their way to salvation, confirming their faith and drawing them closer to their Master, Jesus Christ.  But the reason why all things thus assist believers is, of course, that God is in control of all things. The faith expressed here is faith not in things but in God.”

C. E. B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans (ICC)

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I John 5:16, Sin Unto Death

Ichthys If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that1 John 5:16 NKJV

 

This passage is puzzling for many and, again, illustrates the importance of reading verses in context rather than isolating them from the whole which is a particular problem of the Christian habit of ‘proof-texting.’

Our first step, in the study of any of the epistles, should be to read the whole letter through.  As we do that in 1 John, we come to the key clue, which clarifies the context,“They went out from us…”(2:19). See introduction to 1 John 

 

The most plausible interpretation of this verse is that the “sin unto death” is like the apostasy of those who had been the brethren of these believers to whom John was writing, and who had followed new teaching that rejected the Incarnation.

“In that case, he [John] does not encourage prayer for the restoration of those who, like the teachers of 2. 18-23, had manifested the spirit of the Antichrist and shown where they properly belonged by quitting the fellowship [the Church] in which alone eternal life was to be found. With regard to such men John may have felt much as the writer of Hebrews did in another situation, that it was ‘impossible to renew them to repentance’; renunciation of the apostolic witness to Christ and His saving power was indeed a ‘sin unto death.’”—F. F. Bruce, Epistles…

“The person who consciously and deliberately chooses the way of death shall surely die. Sin that leads to death is deliberate refusal to believe in Jesus Christ, to follow God’s commands, and to love one’s brothers. It leads to death because it includes a deliberate refusal to believe in the One who alone can give life, Jesus Christ the Son of God. By contrast, sins that do not lead to death are those which are committed unwittingly and which do not involve rejection of God and his way of salvation.”—I. Howard Marshall NICNT

We can be distracted by such details and miss the important point: When we see a fellow Christian struggling with sin, it is urgent that we pray for him.

And we see the power of this as we read this verse in the context of Chapter 5: “. . . Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. . . .”

 

 

 

Good Friday–Dying for the Ungodly

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Romans 5

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, . . . the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

We, as Christians, need to hold onto a keen awareness of the facts to which Paul points us in Romans 5.

Christ died for the ungodly (v. 6).

While we were sinners, Christ died for us (v. 8).

Even while we were enemies, . . . (v. 10)!

Accepting this sharpens our hearing as we listen to the words of our Lord:  “ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”–Matthew 5

Christ tells us to imitate our Father.

 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,  bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. . . .  and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”–Luke 6

What resources do we have to obey? The gift given when we were reconciled. Romans 5 tells us that   “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Adolf Schlatter writes, “The ungodly were loved by the one who did the will of God.  The act of love by which he unites the ungodly with himself, at the same time is the act of obedience by which he does the will of God. Hence his love originates from God’s love. He has demonstrated the extent to which God values the person and intently unites him with himself, in that Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans, p. 123f)

Thus, we (who were loved even as enemies) trust and obey and praise God for Good Friday! You might like to read Charles Spurgeon’s reflections on this day. See April 10 in his Morning and Evening book and read some of the days before and after. (You can find this to read on-line.) Spurgeon truly understood the effects and implications of Good Friday, both in what Christ did for us, and what He calls us to do for others.  Spurgeon Quotes Here

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Holy Week, Beware Idle Conjecture

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Amidst the joy that begins Holy Week, someone always dredges up an unfounded conjecture [today's example here] which says, “Apples are oranges.” That is this—that the crowds who shouted, “Hosanna!” were the same crowd that cried, “Crucify him!”

Such an idle charge has no foundation in the text, and bears false witness akin to that at Jesus’ trial. It is like saying that Peter not only denied Jesus, but also joined the mob that called for crucifixion.

We are told that Jesus, “six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus raised from the dead” (John 12:1).

Jesus, with the once-dead Lazarus, attracted a large crowd (v. 9). The next day, with pilgrims streaming into Jerusalem from every direction, some throngs on the east side who hear of Jesus’ approach, come and join the procession of Jesus and his disciples (remember, Jesus had more than twelve; he once sent out seventy). “As soon as He was approaching…the whole crowd of the disciples began…shouting:
‘BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD…’” (Luke 19:37f).

(Note: those who had earthly expectations of a King would not have expected fulfillment until after Passover. Israel was freed from bondage following Passover, not before.)

Days later, the chief priests and elders completed their stealthy plot to kill Jesus, but “not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people” (Matt. 26:5).

Remember, the Teachers of the Law all had their own disciples. A very different entourage accompanied the Jewish leaders as they held their night trial and then proceeded to Pilate’s judgment seat. It was the chief priests and elders, encouraging the crowd that they attracted, who together shouted, “Crucify him!” (Matt. 27:22).

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Why Don’t Christians Think?

Originally posted on THINKAPOLOGETICS.COM:

Introduction

Within Christian discipleship, scholars, theologians, and philosophers are asking, what ever happened to cultivating the intellectual life of the Christian? There have been several books written on this subject. One book that I recommend is Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul by J. P. Moreland.

It is imperative for Christians to understand the history of anti-intellectualism in the church. In this brilliant book, Dr. Moreland traces the history of what has happened in relation to the Christian mind.

Moreland discusses the history of the pilgrims arriving to the United States in the middle of the nineteenth century. The Pilgrims along with other American believers placed a high value on the intellectual life in relation to Christian spirituality. The Puritans were highly educated people (the literacy rate for men in Massachusetts and Connecticut was between 89 and 95 percent)…

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Love…When Basics Become Heresies

“Undiscerning love spawns and invites more heresy than any of us are ready to believe.”–Chuck Swindoll

InTestaments of Love, Leon Morris asks, “How do we
harmonize the assurance that ‘God is love’ with the assertion
that ‘our God is a consuming fire’? Most of us never
think about such problems, and in the end our idea of love is
indistinguishable from that of the world around us.”1

Love, Prayer, and Forgiveness: When Basics Become Heresies.

“…an excellent piece…one that many Christians need to hear”–R.C. Sproul on the essay, “When Love Becomes Heresy.”

The book (is)…an astringent corrective of misinterpreted love.” – Vernon Grounds, late Chancellor, Denver Seminary

[These posts  are excerpts from the book: Exhortaton...do right; Heart and Mind; The Love Chapter; Of Ponds and Pitfalls; Repentance and Forgiveness ]

Now, also, available in E Book format for Nook, Kindle, or Smashwords for 3 dollars.

[Note:  You do Not  Need a Kindle or Nook.  You can read on your PC or Laptop.]

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The print edition, here or Barnes&Noble ( Marketplace for UK)

“Sometimes really great books are written by unknown authors; this is one of them.”The Determined Christian

 New Review here