Matt Postiff's Blog
Posted May 13, 2013 under
Ever wanted to look at an outline of a book of the Bible? Maybe you have one in your study Bible, but would like another opinion? Maybe you are looking for a quick summary of the contents of a book of the Bible. We have some outlines that may help. Check the links below to see if your book is listed.
For the Old Testament:
For the New Testament:
Posted Jan 4, 2013 under
I'm doing some work in Romans in preparation for an upcoming expositional series on the book. Below is an outline I've put together, with the help of a number of other outlines.
- Introduction and Theme, 1:1-17
Paul will proclaim the gospel to the Christians at Rome.
- God's Condemnation of Sinful Humanity, 1:18-3:20
Humanity falls short of God's righteousness and is justly condemned under God's wrath. There is thus a universal need for the gospel.
- Imputation of Gospel Righteousness and Justification by Faith, 3:21-5:21
Christ satisfied God's wrath and provides righteousness for humans.
- Impartation of Gospel Righteousness, 6:1-8:17
God's grace in sanctification, and why Christians must not live in sin.
- Faithfulness of God to the Individual in the Gospel, 8:18-39
The individual's salvation is secure in God all the way to glorification.
- Faithfulness of God to Israel in the Gospel, 9:1-11:36
The promises of God in the previous era have not failed and will yet be fulfilled.
- Manifestation of Gospel Righteousness, 12:1-15:13
The individual Christian will exhibit the character of Christ, particularly by following the law of love. This section of Romans describes how to live as a justified person. This section is tied to section 4: there, the focus is on the source of sanctification in being freed from sin and the work of the Spirit, and the general application of not living in sin. This section shows how that sanctification looks in practice with specific applications.
- Apostle Paul's Proclamation of the Gospel, 15:14-33
Paul’s Ministry to the Gentiles, to Rome, and then to Spain.
- Closing, 16:1-27
Greetings, final exhortation and benediction.
Posted Jan 2, 2013 under
Tonight we uploaded 31 documents containing my sermon notes for the entire book of 1 Timothy. You can browse the notes by visiting this page.
Posted Jan 1, 2013 under
I uploaded notes for the last 24 sermons of my Hebrews series, from 11:20 through the end of the book. I hope they might provide some help to someone out there, for what they are worth.
Please visit this page to see them.
Posted Oct 8, 2012 under
The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body. (Proverbs 18:8 and 26:22 NKJ)
This proverb is a good reminder for one who finds himself on the receiving end of gossip and has a hard time resisting the temptation to continue listening. We know we are supposed to be good listeners. But in the case of gossip, I'm afraid we are too well-practiced at listening. We should shut off the flow of delicious morsels as soon as we see them coming.
Don't be a bad listener! Think about how you will respond the next time someone bears a tale.
Posted Oct 3, 2012 under
My verse for the day turned out to be Psalm 119:133:
Direct my steps by Your word, And let no iniquity have dominion over me. (Psalm 119:133 NKJ)
I was thinking about this recently in light of the idea of how we should pray for ourselves. The Psalms are filled with prayers to God from the author about the author. We too can legitimately pray these sorts of things for ourselves. Prayer for self is not necessarily selfish, although we can easily fall into that trap (James 4:3; consider the prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10).
Posted Oct 1, 2012 under
Judah's King Jehoshaphat had a tough time learning a key lesson: do not get cozy with wicked people. After he allied himself with Ahab and helped Ahab in battle to recover Ramoth Gilead from the Arameans, God sent a message to him through Jehu:
Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Therefore the wrath of the LORD is upon you.
This was about 863 B.C. About 10 years later, Jehosphaphat allied himself with Ahaziah of Israel, another wicked king. This time, Eliezer prophesied against Jehoshaphat and said:
Because you have allied yourself with Ahaziah, the LORD has destroyed your works."
This is a good lesson for us--do not tie yourself up in ventures with unbelievers. It will cost you. Remind yourself of 2 Corinthians 6:14.
Posted Mar 16, 2012 under
Reading through the book of Acts lately, I have been struck by the preaching of the gospel in the early chapters. These first Christian sermons talk about sin and forgiveness and repentance (2:38, 3:19), but they focus even more upon the identity and activity of our Lord. Here are some examples:
- Jesus: attested by God through miraculous signs, 2:22, 4:30
- Jesus: delivered up and crucified, 2:23
- Jesus: raised from the dead, 2:24
- Jesus: made Lord and Messiah, 2:36
- Jesus: glorified by God after being delivered and denied by the people, 3:13-14
- Jesus: the prince of life, killed and raised again, 3:15
- Jesus: the name by which miraculous healings in Acts were performed, 3:16, 4:10
- Jesus: the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, 3:18
- Jesus: coming again to restore all things, 3:20-21
- Jesus: the message of resurrection from the dead for all people, 4:2
- Jesus: the only one by whom someone can be saved from sin, 4:12
- Jesus: the focal point of opposition from Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and the Jews, 4:27
Posted Feb 22, 2012 under
I was invited a week ago to bring a message on "Cultivating Humility" for the seminary students at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. I enjoyed the visit and the opportunity to think on the subject of humility, though I am no expert on it! Let me share a couple of key points from my message to the students.
First, I noted that by obeying 1 Peter 5:7 (casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you) we demonstrate humility under the mighty hand of God. To the extent that we keep our cares to ourselves, we are showing that much pride, as if we can handle all our problems apart from God's provision.
Second, I mentioned how extensively humility and its opposite, pride, show up in our systematic study of God's Word. These ideas touch the doctrines of sin, Satan, salvation, sanctification, the church, Jesus Christ, and the Triune God. Pride is sometimes called the very essence of sin; Satan sinned through pride; salvation rescues us from our own pride and requires humility to receive; sanctification is, in part, about the gradual removal of pride; the church is often upset by Diotrephes types who love to have first place; Jesus is the best example of humility; and God hates pride.
Third, I explained how God will exalt the lowly. The Bible mentions in many places how God will bring down the proud and lift up the humble. But He does not lift up the humble to the place that the proud would like to have. Rather, 1 Peter 5:5 says just how God will exalt the humble—He does so by giving them grace. We don't need the fame or fortune that a self-centered proud person wants. Humble believers have the grace of God in salvation, sanctification, eternal life, a future dwelling with God, and all the other grace-based blessings that accompany our salvation. We don't want to take the low road to things that proud people want; rather we will receive exaltation by being given the very grace of God. What else could we really need?!
Finally, I emphasized that we must be diligent to exercise humility in all our relationships, whether toward our pastors (1 Peter 5:5), toward everyone (1 Peter 5:5), and especially toward God (1 Peter 5:6). –MAP
Posted Nov 18, 2011 under
I assigned one of our men this past Wednesday evening to bring a message from God's Word after our corporate time of prayer. He spoke from Mark 10:17-22 about the rich young ruler.
His message reminded me of the power of a question to engage the mind of the hearer in the message. Here are the introductory questions he asked:
- What kind of a ruler is this young man?
- Does his title (rich young ruler) tell us anything important?
- What is meant by "eternal life"?
- What's the significance of the discussion of what is "good"?
- Is there any significance to the specific commands Jesus mentions and the ones he leaves out?
- Is Jesus suggesting one can earn eternal life by keeping the commandments?
- Why does Jesus tell the ruler to sell everything and give to the poor in order to follow him?
- Is the giving away of possessions a universal requirement for all disciples?
- Why is it so hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God?
- What is Jesus' primary challenge or message to the rich young man?
Then, at the conclusion of the message and asked some more pointed questions:
- God sees into each of our hearts and knows very well the "one thing you lack." What might that be for you and me?
- Do we serve any personal idols?
- In what ways have we watered down the true cost of discipleship?
- What have we given up for the sake of the Kingdom of God?
- Are we trading treasures on earth for even greater treasure in heaven?
Food for thought...
Posted Aug 2, 2011 under
I had a conversation with some church members on the subject of marriage counseling and how submission fits into the picture. One of the gentlemen said that in some marriage counseling, there is no mention of the idea of submission. Not surprising, I thought, given the lack of popularity of the concept these days.
Later it struck me: how in the world could someone avoid talking about submission in marriage? The Bible is full of texts that talk about it. Then, I realized this amazing fact: every major Bible passage on marriage talks about submission, particularly regarding the wife. Maybe I've missed some passages, but there seems to be a pattern here.
Consider: Ephesians 5:18-33, Colossians 3:18-19, Titus 2:4-5, and 1 Peter 3:1-7. Add to those 1 Corinthians 7, which is next door to 1 Corinthians 11:3.
In each passage, either the verb for submit (hupotasso) or the word for headship is present.
Note: this post is one-sided because it is dealing with a one-sided error.
Posted Jul 20, 2011 under
I was recently asked this question: "How do you account for the total non-mention of repentance in John's Gospel? Does this mean that believing includes repentance? Is repentance a requirement for salvation, or only for discipleship?"
Here is my answer:
1. In the absence of other clear teaching, arguments from silence are tenuous at best. Esther does not use God's name, but God is behind the scenes and the book does belong in the canon. You could probably say most books of the Bible are silent on one or more doctrines, but that does not warrant a big conclusion from that silence. If I grant the premise of the question, that John does not mention repentance (and that is a widely held premise), I would not grant that means that repentance is not part of saving faith.
2. I do not believe you can legitimately build your theology of salvation on John's gospel alone, and upon an argument from silence at that.
3. I believe that saving faith is repentant faith. That is, saving faith includes a change of mind not only about Jesus but about sin. So, I could say that believing includes repentance. Mark 1:15, Acts 2:38, Luke 24:47, Acts 5:31, 11:18, 20:21, Romans 2:4, Hebrews 6:1, and 2 Peter 3:9, among other verses make it clear that repentance is not dispensable. Repentance is "built in" to John's use of belief. In other words, Suppose you were to ask John, "Is belief that is unrepentant over sin (as in James 2:19) the kind of belief you were talking about in your gospel?" I believe based on the Scriptural evidence that John would answer, "Absolutely not!"
4. I question the premise (mentioned in #1 above). I agree that John does not use the word "repent" in his gospel. He does use it often in Revelation. But the word does not have to be used for the concept to be present. Let me suggest several places where repentance is conceptually present:
4.a. Jesus tells two people to "go and sin no more" or words to that effect: John 5:14, 8:11.
4.b. John 12:40 quotes Isaiah 6:9-10 (see Matt. 13:15, Mark 4:12, Acts 28:27) and says "lest they should understand with their hearts and TURN and I should heal (forgive) them." Here we see the idea of conversion, turning away from sin and turning to God. I understand this to be synonymous with repenting and believing. Luke 1:16-17 uses the same word twice, from epistrephw, in a similar manner. See also Luke 22:32, Acts 9:35, 11:21, 14:15, 15:19, 2 Cor. 3:16, 1 Thess. 1:9, 1 Peter 2:25. All of these verses use the concept of turning away from sin/idolatry/etc. to God. Acts 3:19 and 26:20 even use the term immediately next to "repent."
5. The nature of belief that John presents assumes repentance about at least one thing--who Jesus is. Now, some interpreters limit repentance to just that--one's view of Jesus. I disagree that repentance is that specific. I believe it has to do with sins more generally, and one very notable sin is unbelief in Christ's person and work. John focuses on this notable sin of unbelief and calls his reader to change his mind about it. You could say this accounts for the non-mention of repentance--John is using "unbelief/belief" terminology in calling his readers to turn away from unbelief (repent) and turn toward belief. Consider:
5.a. The Spirit will convict of sin "because they do not believe in Me" (John 16:8-9).
5.b. The whole purpose of John's gospel is to get the reader to change his beliefs so that he believes in Jesus as the Christ and Son of God, John 20:31. This implies a change of mind away from a wrong belief to a right belief.
5.c. John 8:24 says a person will die in his sins if he does not believe in Christ. Obviously a change of mind is needed.
5.d. Jesus appeals to several witnesses in John 5:31-47, all of which testify to Christ. Yet, many of the Jews refused to change their minds/beliefs about Christ. Jesus is calling on them to change their minds.
6. Saving faith is more than mere mental assent to the facts of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It also involves the man's will and affections such that he desires to seek pardon from sin and that he understands the personal application of forgiveness from God. To believe, according to John's use of the term, a man has to understand his lost condition due to sin, and want to get the remedy for that lost condition. The idea of repentance is built in to this kind of belief.
Posted Jan 5, 2011 under
I just got a copy of David L. Allen's Hebrews commentary in NAC. I was interested in his take on Hebrews 6:1-3 since that is where I am preaching on Sunday. What caught my interest was his interpretation of the plural "baptisms" at verse 2.
Allen lists the following interpretations of the "baptisms" on pages 341-343:
- Jewish ritual ablutions.
- Differences between Jewish and Christian baptism.
- Multiple events of people being baptized.
- Purification ceremonies of a Jewish sort that probably would have been employed by Jewish Christians as well.
- Teaching about the difference between Christian baptism and ritual washings.
- Baptism of blood, that is, martyrdom.
Allen notes that in the early church, the fathers interpreted the passage as a reference to Christian baptism. In the modern era, commentators broaden the reference to Christian baptism and other washings.
I have interpreted the passage in a way different than all the options Allen lists. It seems to me most natural to interpret the plural baptisms to refer to the two important Christian baptisms given attention in the New Testament: water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism.
The normal emphasis in Christian teaching today is placed on water baptism. But the NT gave Spirit baptism at least as high of a place, if not higher. Note its important placement in texts such as Matthew 3:11, Acts 1:5, Acts 11:16, 1 Corinthians 12:13, and Galatians 3:27. Both baptisms, their meaning, and the distinction between them, would have been taught by the apostles to their converts. I could see the teaching also including the contrast with the baptism of John or other ritual Jewish baptisms, but primarily the two key Christian baptisms are in view.
Maybe I'm just weird to hold an interpretation that is not too common. I am a dispensationalist, so that might explain most of the weirdness!
Full disclosure: I have not read the whole commentary and cannot render an opinion on it.
Posted Dec 29, 2010 under
The idea in these two verses is that we are to avoid complaining and disputing with the goal of being children of God who are blameless and harmless and without fault.
Complaining is a sinful expression of discontent and selfishness; of displeasure or grievance.
Disputing is reasoning or negative contemplations that may spring forth in arguments that come out verbally in a conflict situation. It is the sinful type of verbal exchange that occurs when conflicting ideas meet.
It takes discernment that comes through careful thinking about your reactions, speech, attitudes, etc. to determine whether something is a legitimate "complaint" or just sinful complaining. It takes practice to determine if someting is a reasonable and sin-free exchange about a conflict or whether it is a sinful type of dispute. There are so many possible situations in which complaining and disputing may take place that each needs to be examined in light of the Bible's teaching, as the Bible is the metric as to whether something is sin or not.
Posted Dec 28, 2010 under
Jesus was introduced by the title "Great High Priest" in Hebrews 4:14. Chapter 5 begins to explain His priesthood, a topic which will take up the majority of the following several chapters in Hebrews. In the first 10 verses of the chapter, two main points of comparison are made between the Aaronic priesthood and the priesthood of Christ.
The two points of comparison are introduced with Aaron. First, Aaron was a man. He had solidarity with man and could have compassion on people who often are ignorant and go astray from God. Second, Aaron was called by God to be priest. He did not take that honor to himself.
Similarly, Jesus was (and is) a man. He shares with man the part of human nature that is without sin and can sympathize with our weaknesses (4:15). He earnestly prayed in time of trial, he learned obedience through suffering, and he thus became a perfect high priest for mankind. That is, not that He had sin that needed to be purged, but that He is proven to be a complete and perfect human high priest. Jesus was also called by God to be priest, as the Melchizedek quotation demonstrates in verses 6 and 10. Christ did not take the honor or glory of priesthood to Himself, but was appointed by God to that task.
The author of Hebrews demonstrates the two principles in the OT texts and shows how they apply to Jesus in the present era. Jesus fulfilled both of these qualifications for priesthood. To a Jewish believer or "almost" believer, this would be strong assurance that God has indeed prepared a new priesthood which is a new way to God. The old priesthood has been superseded by the fulfillment of the promised Melchizedekian priest. On the basis of Hebrews 5, we can be sure that Jesus is the legitimate God-appointed high priest taken from among men to bring man to God.
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
The early chapters of Acts record several persecutions against the church. In ch. 4, the apostles Peter and John were jailed and interrogated by the Sanhedrin. In ch. 5 the apostles were incarcerated again. After a miraculous release, they were brought before the Sanhedrin. This time they were beaten and reprimanded. In all three cases, the Jewish authorities were disturbed and angry that the apostles were preaching and teaching about Jesus (4:2, 5:17, 5:28). A fourth persecution came about on the occasion of Stephen's preaching (Acts 6-7).
After each persecution, the believers still spoke of Jesus (4:29, 5:20-21, 5:42, 8:4). They were not doing so from a childish spirit of rebellion against the authorities, as if to spite them, but they were compelled to speak by God, as our passage in 4:18-20 shows. Instead of considering their witness as an optional Christian activity, they saw it as a matter of right and wrong. It was right to obey God, not the authorities, because God through His Son commanded them to be witnesses (1:8). They could not help but speak of what they had witnessed. It had changed them, it was changing thousands of others (2:41, 4:4, 6:7), and it was poised to change the world.
Certainly we ought to feel the apostles' compulsion. Inside as believers we know we ought to speak about Christ (5:29). But spiritual laziness, lack of preparation, fear of men, peer pressure, or threat of persecution too often sideline us from doing what we know to be right. It would do us all well to consider the apostolic compulsion to speak of Jesus, and to determine whether we are likewise compelled or not. We should be so compelled. After all, the Lord's command to be a witness did not expire with the apostles, but extends to us. MAP
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.
Stephen's speech to the Sanhedrin contained several references to the Jewish people rejecting God and his messengers. The first is in v. 9 where the patriarchs sold Joseph into Egypt as a slave because they were jealous of him. The next is in v. 25 where Moses was rejected by his brethren from delivering them from the hand of Pharaoh (see also v. 35). Verse 39 tells us that Moses was rejected again when the people wanted to go back to Egypt. The nation also rejected God, attempting to replace Him with a golden calf and other idols (v. 41).
Stephen has summarized that the most revered OT saints and even God himself were rejected by the Jews. Stephen did not list all the other prophets that the Jews also rejected. And now, he says, the Jews have done it again. They rejected Jesus, their Messiah, just like their forefathers rejected God.
The point is not to pick on the Jewish people, for we are all as depraved as they were. But we should see that here was a pattern in Israelite history: the Jews rejected God again and again. Those of Jesus' day did not learn from the ill example of their fathers and repeated the same mistake.
This is a clear warning to us that we ought to give heed to what we learn from God through the Bible. In it are plenty of examples to help us avoid sinning like those of earlier days (Rom. 15:4, 1 Cor. 10:6, 11). We must not resist the Spirit's teaching through the Word. This is a real danger. Verse 42 says that in response to their rejection, God "turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven." He let them go their own way. They rejected God; then God rejected them. MAP
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
And a voice came to him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." But Peter said, "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean." And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God has cleansed you must not call common."
Acts 10:1-11:18 is a crucial passage in the history of the gospel as it expanded to the Gentiles. Peter's vision of the large sheet with all kinds of animals was central in this. God gave the vision teach him something. It seems obvious from 10:9-16 that Peter would have understood the vision to mean that animals he formerly considered unclean were now clean (God had declared them to be so) and he could eat them. As a Jewish man, he would have been very particular to observe the various food laws and it would have been repulsive to him to eat anything unclean (Lev. 11:1-47). This understanding of the vision certainly agrees with the teaching of Mark 7:19 where Jesus "purified all foods." Also, 1 Tim. 4:3-5 teaches that food is to be received with thanksgiving and prayer instead of being rejected by a legalistic kind of religion.
But in addition, Peter clearly testified that "God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean" (10:28). The question then arises, what is the link between food and men? In the one case, the animals are not to be called common; in the other, men are not to be called common. The connection is brought out in 11:3, where Jewish believers contended with Peter that he had gone to be with Gentiles and eat with them. The uncleanness of the Gentiles related, at least in part, to the uncleanness of their diet. To keep company with Gentiles would be defiling in itself. But to eat with them would be even worse (see Gal. 2:12). By removing the dietary restriction, God makes clear that not only is the food acceptable, but to be with those who eat the food is as well. Thank God: the gospel went to the Gentiles despite the restriction of the Law and traditions that would have prevented it. MAP
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practice magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.
Ephesus had its share of trouble in the spiritual realm. There were men who had not heard of the gospel of Christ nor of the Holy Spirit (1-7); there were Jews who were hard-hearted (8-9); there were demon-possessed people (8:12); there were self-proclaimed exorcists (13-17); there were those who practiced the black arts (19); and there were many idolaters who worshiped the Greek goddess Diana.
Even though this was the situation, God used Paul and his friends to call many Ephesians to salvation. The initial ministry there lasted about three years (Acts 20:31). During that time, there was good evidence that those who believed were genuinely saved. One instance is elaborated in our text. The first thing mentioned in v. 18 is that those who believed came together and testified about their former lifestyle, undoubtedly magnifying God's grace as they showed what a great change had taken place in their lives.
This radical change did not only exist in the realm of theory. Rather, it led them to publicly destroy things which had influenced them. This was a way to give public testimony to God's transforming work, and to tell everyone that they rejected their former ways. The text mentions books in particular. Many books (even so-called "Christian" ones) are godless and should find no place in the Christian's library. The same principle must be applied to music or any other thing that held us before we were saved. And money is not an issue. If it is evil, no matter how expensive, it must go--and quickly.
In the end, the word of the Lord spread (v. 20). True belief and transformed practice have a way of doing that. MAP
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.
The apostle affirms that the gospel not only reveals the righteous standing available from God (1:17), but also the wrath of God (1:18). This wrath is directed toward mankind, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. The truth that is rejected is nothing other than the truth about who God is. Our text then tells us three things about this truth of God.
First, God has shown Himself clearly to mankind. The things that may be known about God are obvious (manifest).
Second, God's invisible attributes have been clearly evident since the very beginning. They are understood by viewing the creation. Two characteristics of God are seen: His omnipotence and deity. Looking at the vast heavens and the minuscule details of creation demonstrate both (see also Ps. 19:1-6).
Not only has God shown Himself clearly to mankind, and has done so since the beginning through the creation, but third, these things make man without excuse. To be sure, not everything that there is to be known about God is revealed in nature. To say it another way, natural revelation does not show all of God's attributes, or God's plan, or God's love, or the gospel. Without the Bible (special revelation), it is impossible to know these things and be saved. But even though creation does not show enough for salvation, it does show enough for condemnation. There is no man who will have a legitimate defense (excuse) for himself in the face of the incredible magnitude of God's self-revelation in creation.
Rejecting the truth of God amounts to denying the obvious. This leads to an inability to see the obvious due to the effect of sin. But believers can thank God for the abundant evidence of his power and deity obvious in all of creation. MAP
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
This quotation comes from Genesis 15:6 which describes Abraham's reaction when God again confirmed the promises to Abraham which we call the Abrahamic covenant. The apostle Paul appeals to Abraham's "discovery" of this truth (Rom. 4:1) to bolster his conclusion from 3:28 that men are "Justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law." To be justified means "to be accounted righteous" just like Abraham was. In chapter 4, we learn that people are justified apart from three things: works, religious ordinances, and the Mosaic Law.
First, the Bible says that justification cannot be obtained by works (4:1-8). If it were based on works, then Abraham could brag because justification then would be a remuneration for services that he performed (look at me!). But God does not work ths way--salvation is not a reward for works, but is a gift of grace. Grace and works are mutually exclusive (4:4).
Second, the Bible says that justification cannot be obtained by religious rites (4:9-12). Abraham was justified according to Gen. 15:6; but circumcision came in Gen. 17:9. Therefore, Abraham was justified before being circumcised. Salvation does not come by doing religious activities--not circumcision or baptism or confirmation or any other such thing.
Third, the Bible says that justification cannot be obtained by keeping the Mosaic Law, or any other law (4:13-22). Abraham exercised strong faith in the promise of God, as an illustration that all who exercise faith in God receive His grace. It is not those who were given the Law, nor those who strive to keep a law, who obtain righteousness. Rather, it is those who fully believe in God who are justified.
This was not written for historical interest, but to help us understand that we need to believe in God and in His Son Jesus Christ to be saved. Faith is the only way to be justified. Works, rites, and law cannot do it--not now, not ever. MAP
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!" Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits."
Some in Corinth believed the heresy that there is absolutely no resurrection of any dead people (v. 12). As true believers, we understand that this is utter foolishness. But the "resurrection chapter" gives us a number of implications of this hypothetical doctrine. First, Christ would not be risen (v. 13, 16). Second, gospel preaching would be vain (v. 14). Third, personal faith would be useless (v. 14, 17). Fourth, gospel preachers would be liars (v. 15). Fifth, believers would remain in their sin (v. 17). Sixth, all who had died in Christ would be without hope (v. 18). Sixth, Christians would be a miserable bunch if all they had was hope in this life, and no hope after death (v. 19). Seventh, to be baptized behind those who have died to fill in the "gap" left by their passing would be silly (v. 29). Eighth, it would be a total waste to risk life and limb for the gospel (v. 30, 32a). And finally, ninth, it would be a natural conclusion that we should eat and drink to enjoy life now, for soon comes death and the unknown after it.
This latter conclusion is the philosophy called hedonism. The argument is "if no resurrection, then live for self pleasure." Wrong belief on resurrection leads to this godless philosophy of life. Be assured that if you keep company with such people, you will be negatively affected (v. 33). But as believers, we know that God has and will resurrect the dead. Thus, the implication is reversed: "If there is a resurrection (and there is!), then we cannot live for self pleasure." Formal logic would not allow for such a conclusion (maybe you can still live for self pleasure even though there is a resurrection?), but anyone who knows God will not be bothered by this, because we have been awakened to righteousness and understand that we must not sin (v. 34). See also 2 Cor. 5:14-15. MAP
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
This devotional is a companion to Romans 8:5-9, "Two Kinds of People." The major point of those verses was to say that there are only two kinds of people: saved and unsaved. We saw there that the saved have certain characteristics.
Let it not be mistaken that these traits are not "worked up" by our own doing, but are produced by the Holy Spirit working in us and with us. The Scriptures are clear that the salvation is "obtained" by faith, not by works. At the time one is saved, there are a number of wonderful things that occur. One is that the believer is indwelt by the Spirit. Several passages teach this truth. Rom. 5:5 "the Holy Spirit who was given to us"; 1 Cor. 2:12 "we have received...the Spirit who is from God"; 6:19-20 "your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God"; 12:13 "by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body...and have all been made to drink into one Spirit"; 2 Cor. 5:5 "God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee"; Gal. 3:2 "Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?"; 4:6 "because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts"; 1 John 3:24 "And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us"; 4:13 "By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit."
And so, the presence of the Spirit is the litmus test as to one's salvation, as it says in verse 9. If any person does not have the Spirit, he does not belong to Christ (Jude 19). But if he has the Spirit, he belongs to Christ. This clearly teaches us that all Christians have the Spirit. There is no special class of believers who have Him, while the rest do not have. No--all believers are indwelt by the Spirit. So the answer to "Who is Spiritual?" is this: the one who has the Spirit! MAP
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
"So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body."
The point of this section is to help us understand the nature of the new body that we will receive upon resurrection. Paul has already established that there is a resurrection. Now he turns to answer the foolish man who, doubting the resurrection in the first place, asks the question, "Well, what kind of body will come out of that grave?"
To begin his answer, Paul uses an agricultural illustration (vv. 36-38). What is planted in the ground is not what ends up coming out of the ground. A corn seed turns into something far more complex and glorious than another corn seed. Rather, a whole corn plant is formed with a stalk, leaves, and multiple ears of corn, each with hundreds of other seeds on it. Then, he points to creation to show that there are different kinds of bodies with different levels of glory (vv. 39-41). Heavenly bodies are of a different sort than earthly ones.
The resurrected body is likewise different than the body before the resurrection, just like the plant is different in quality from the seed that it came from. Our passage distinguishes the two bodies in four dimensions: corruptibility, glory, strength, and spirituality. The limited, weak and fleshly body that we have now will be transformed into something far better at the resurrection. The agricultural illustration comes to a point when we think of committing a believer's body to the grave--as if we are actually planting it into the ground.
Dear believer, have you experienced the death of a saved loved one this year? That one's body has been planted into the earth. Like the farmer, we must patiently wait for the "seed" to germinate and bring forth a body which will be far better than the former one. God guarantees it! Let's thank him for it. MAP
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods...
2 Kings 17 records the final demise of the northern kingdom, the one
called "Israel" after the split from Judah when King Solomon
died. The Assyrian king took the people captive to Assyria, and
re-populated the land of Israel with Babylonians and others
(v. 24). The antecedent of "They" in our text consists of those
foreigners transplanted into Israel.
When they first came to the land, "they did not fear the
LORD," so he sent lions among them (v. 25). They asked for help to
know how to worship the "god of the land." They wanted relief from the plague of the lions! So the Assyrian king sent an Israelite priest to help them know how to "fear the LORD" (v. 28).
The question is, what kind of fear did they have? Was it genuine? The following verses indicate that it was not-there was a certain type of fear, but not a wholehearted devotion to the LORD which would indicate true salvation. The peoples continued to serve their own gods (vv. 29-31). Verse 32 juxtaposes the two notions--"they feared the LORD" and appointed their own priests for their own religion. "They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods" (v. 33). They "feared the LORD, yet served their carved images" (v. 41). They were told they had to fear God (v. 39) but they did not obey (v. 40).
In summary, they supposedly feared the LORD but they did not really do so. Even though they were supposedly taught to fear the LORD (v. 28--by a false priest), and the text says three times they "feared" (v. 32, 33, 41), verse 34 makes it clear: "they do not fear the LORD." Is this double-talk? Not if we account that their fear was only on the surface and not in the heart, only apparent and not real, only in some externals but not with real devotion, and only induced by the desire to avoid the consequences of their sin. They feared in a superstitious way, but were certainly not saved. Note well: fear of God admixed with service to other gods is no real fear. MAP
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. And Moses said to Aaron, "This is what the LORD spoke, saying: 'By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.'" So Aaron held his peace.
This passage has a lot to teach us about the proper worship of God. First of all, worship must not be profane. This word carries the connotations of strange, foreign, unlawful, unauthorized, forbidden, and illegitimate. Nadab and Abihu took it upon themselves to invent a different act of worship to God, a way that was out of bounds. By application, we must strive to pattern our worship after that which is authorized.
Closely related to the notion of profane worship is worship in ways which have not been commanded. There was no instruction from God on how to offer incense before the LORD with the censer (see Lev. 16:12-13). Exodus 30:9 actually commanded against the offering of "strange incense." It is clear that inventive ways of worship are not acceptable.
Third, proper worship is done by those who personally regard God as holy. In other words, they fear God and have a proper attitude about Him. They are reverent and not flippant about their worship. Many churches in the USA as of this writing are missing the personal reverence for God that is necessary. God is a dispenser of good feelings to them, not an altogether different, awesome, infinite God who calls for reverent worship.
Fourth, true worshipers must treat God in such a way as to bring Him public glory. Entertainment-worship that is driven by a desire to please the audience is wrong. Our public portrayal of God must be that He deserves the recognition and glory. He is the center of everything, not we ourselves! MAP
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean, and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them by the hand of Moses.
As an outgrowth of what happened earlier that day to Aaron's sons (Lev. 10:1-3), God commanded Aaron to avoid wine or any intoxicating drink when performing priestly functions (v. 9). An implication of this is that Nadab and Abihu may have been drunken when they tried to worship God in their own way. Their senses would have been dulled by their intoxication in such a way that they behaved unwisely in their priestly duties. They paid for it with their lives.
The penalty for not heeding this command to avoid intoxicating drinks was death. It may seem quite severe to us, but this should serve to point out that God is serious about proper worship. He is not pleased with those who treat Him lightly.
The injunction about wine and strong drink was given for two reasons. First, it served to distinguish between holy/unholy and clean/unclean. God set a boundary for his servants so that it would be abundantly clear that they were distinct from the worldly way of living. Christians today should also desire to be different than the world in many ways, not just by separating themselves from alcohol. They are to be set apart for God, not living like the world. Just to be holy and set apart is enough of a reason, not to mention all the other good reasons.
Second, the command about wine helped the priests to be able to teach properly. Judgment clouded by anything, especially by alcohol, is not fitting for a teacher of God's Word. We need all of our cognitive faculties to be ready and sharp to share God's Word with others. Opportunities will be missed and our teaching will be impoverished otherwise. MAP
Posted Nov 21, 2009 under
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally [fleshly] minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal [fleshly] mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
God sets forth in this passage the extreme difference between two types of people. On the one hand is the carnal or fleshly person. They a) live according to the flesh; b) have a fleshly mindset; c) live a life that is spiritually dead; d) are at enmity against God; e) are not subject to God's law; f) are unable to be subject to God's law; g) are "in the flesh"; h) cannot please God; and i) do not have the Spirit and therefore do not belong to Christ. This is none other than the unsaved person.
On the other hand is the spiritual person. They a) live according to the spirit; b) have a spiritual mindset; c) live a life that is spiritually alive and at peace with God; d) are in the Spirit; e) have the Spirit of God dwelling in them and therefore belong to Christ. This is none other than the saved person.
Dear reader, please know that you fit into either one or the other of these categories. Some have suggested a three-fold division of people: spiritual, carnal, and natural (based on 1 Cor. 2-3). Certainly a spiritual person (one who has the Spirit) can sometimes behave carnally; but it is very dangerous to suggest a third category of people who are supposedly saved but live according to the flesh, who look no different than the unsaved person. Romans 8 clearly portrays only two types. Don't rest if you think you are a "carnal Christian" and therefore will be OK in the end. What sometimes passes as carnal Christianity is not really Christianity at all. MAP