The disciple’s justification (Phil. 2:12-13)

POST OVERVIEW. This post begins a short series of articles on Philippians 2:12-13, exploring how the disciple of Jesus can work out their salvation with fear and trembling. The first post examines the doctrine of justification as background for study of sanctification.

The New Testament introduces us to the incarnate Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and has as its central theme the gospel of salvation. This gospel states that, for anyone who will place their faith in Jesus and confess Jesus Christ as Lord, God will forgive their sins and will save them from His wrath and give them eternal life. After this salvation event, the believer commits to walk with Christ for the rest of their life in obedience to His commands. One of the words the New Testament uses for the event of salvation is justification, and the believer’s subsequent walk of increasing holiness is called sanctification. This short series is mostly on sanctification, but we first need to understand justification in order to fully understand sanctification.

JUSTIFICATION

We have already spoken about the salvation event as justification, but we need to be a little more precise. Justification is the event whereby a sinner is declared fully and forever righteous in the sight of God because of the sinner’s professed faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

Three things should be noted about this definition. First, this justification is an event, not a process. Although the journey to the point of salvation may take years, justification itself occurs at a point in time. It is a one-time, once-for-all event that has eternal results. This is the moment when the sinner passes from death to life (John 5:24). This is the moment of spiritual birth when one is born again (John 3:3, 5). God justifies the sinner when he initially professes his faith in Jesus. So, event, not process.

But second, in justification, the sinner is declared righteous on the basis of their profession of faith in the Lord Jesus. God declares as righteous the one who confesses Jesus as Lord. Thus the believer, having been declared righteous upon their initial faith in Jesus, is forever viewed as righteous. This also means that all true followers of Jesus are equally justified and equally righteous, even though there may be great differences in terms of the disciples’ actual progress in practical holiness. Justification is God’s declaration of righteousness, not a reward for the disciple’s own efforts.

Third, justification is based solely on the repentant sinner’s initial profession of faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. That is, “having heard the message of truth, the gospel of salvation” (Ephesians 1:13) and having understood that Jesus has come from heaven to die on the cross as a “ransom for many” (Mark 10:45), the sinner believes in Jesus and publicly professes Jesus Christ as their own Lord and Savior.

JUSTIFICATION IS ENTIRELY THE WORK OF GOD

Notice that, in justification, God is the only actor. The Bible presents justification as entirely the work of God. God is the One who justifies (Romans 8:33). God is just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26 in the powerful verses of 3:21-26). God is the One who justifies the circumcised (Jewish people) by faith and the uncircumcised (Gentiles) through faith (Romans 3:29-30). All this attests to the fact that our God is the One who does the work of justification. In justification, God is active and the believer is passive. God declares righteous and the believer receives righteousness. God is the actor and the believer is the object. It is God alone who “delivers us from the domain of darkness and transfers us into the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13).

Having gotten a good handle on justification, in the next post in this series we will turn our attention to the corresponding subject of sanctification.

SDG                 rmb                 10/5/2022                   #579

“Did Adam have a belly button?”

POST OVERVIEW. How to turn a silly question into an opportunity for extolling the glories of our crucified Savior.

Imagine you are trying to engage someone in a meaningful spiritual conversation, either for the purpose of introducing them to the gospel or because you wish to help them go deeper in their walk with Christ or simply because you are hungry for some spiritual meat in a cultural sea of baby food and pork rinds. Just as you attempt to turn the discussion Christ-ward, the other person asks, with a smirk on their face, “What do you think? Did Adam have a belly button?” The question is intentionally silly and irreverent, a meaningless query of utter insignificance, and your irritation burns. But before you turn and walk away, realize that the conversation does not need to end here. Your friend has brought up Adam’s belly button.

LET’S TALK ABOUT ADAM

“You bring up an interesting question. I am assuming you are referring to the first man, who was created by God, right?” Maybe. “Well, that means that you think that Adam really existed, and that God created him.” Hmmm. “And while the Bible gives no information about Adam’s belly button, either pro or con, the Bible is very clear that the second Adam, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, definitely had a belly button.” And now the direction of the conversation has changed for the better.

The Bible teaches that our Savior, Jesus, was born of a woman (Gal. 4:4) in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3), in the same way that all of Adam’s fallen posterity were born. Jesus, the second Adam, was given a body with flesh and blood so that His flesh could be broken and His blood could be shed. He was given a physical body so that He, the eternal Son of God, could die as a sacrifice for sin. [ASIDE: Consider the “dilemma” confronting God before Jesus’ incarnation. The Law demanded a blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin but, because of the magnitude of the sin that needed to be forgiven, only the death of God would be sufficient to pay for the sins of God’s people. But how would it be possible for God, who lives eternally and can never die, to die for His people? The gospel declares that Jesus, God the Son, was given a physical flesh and blood body that could die (see Hebrews 2:14-15) so that He could lay His physical life down (John 10:11-18) as a sacrifice for the sins of His people. END ASIDE]

Adam left this world fundamentally different from the world that he entered. Adam rebelled against God and so brought sin and death into the world. Adam’s sin ruined God’s perfect creation and brought all mankind into a state of sin, ushering the seeds of chaos and rebellion and destruction into the whole creation. This was the work of the first Adam.

Jesus, the second Adam, also left the world fundamentally different from the world that He entered. Jesus perfectly fulfilled the entire Law by His active obedience of all the Law’s demands and commandments. Thus, Jesus vanquished sin by His obedience (He never sinned) and by His sacrificial death on the cross (He atoned for the sins of His people by His own blood sacrifice). Jesus also conquered death when He was raised from the dead, never to die again (Romans 6:9). Jesus’ resurrection guaranteed that the groaning creation will one day be redeemed into the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21.)

The atonement of all the sins of all His people. The promise to all His people of a future resurrection. The redemption of the whole fallen creation. The fulfillment of the Law so that His perfect righteousness is imputed to all His people. This was the work of the second Adam.

A comparison of the work of Adam with the work of the second Adam, Jesus, is presented below. Paul’s inspired comparison is contained in Romans 5:12-21.

First AdamSecond Adam (Jesus)
• Rebelled against the one command he received in paradise.• Perfectly obeyed all the commandments of the Law.
•  Brought sin and condemnation into the world.•  Atoned for the sins of His people and removed condemnation.
•  Brought death into the world.•  Vanquished death for all His people.
•  Ruined man’s fellowship with God by his sin.•  Reconciled man with God by the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20).

So when a spiritual conversation turns to the question of belly buttons, let’s use it as an opportunity to extol the glories of our crucified Savior and the work He accomplished. He is the One who willingly left the praises of myriads of angels (Rev. 5:11) to receive a human body, with a belly button, so that He could be crucified for the sins of His people.

SDG                 rmb                 9/14/2022                   #572

All the advantages which do not save (Israel in Romans)

INTRODUCTION. A TECHNICAL, TEACHING POST. An article based on the book of Romans considering why all the advantages given to Israel did not result in their salvation. The Scripture passages are from Romans 2, 3, and 9-11. My musings on these passages will someday result in a completed work, perhaps a short book that carefully works through Romans 9-11 and shows the beauty of Paul’s argument in that section of Scripture.

One of the underlying themes of the book of Romans, especially in Romans 9-11, is the question of why Israel, with so many apparent advantages given to her, remained a religious but faithless nation with only a remnant coming to faith. So, let’s think about this together.

ROMANS 3 GIVES A BRIEF FORETASTE OF ROMANS 9-11

Paul states that the Jews did have a tremendous advantage over the other nations (Gentiles) in being “entrusted with the oracles of God” (Romans 3:1-2). That is, the Jews were the only people who had access to the Scriptures, to the word of the living God. Having the word of God not only was a demonstration of God’s special grace to the nation of Israel, but it also allowed the Jews to be aware of their sin. “Through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20; see also 7:7). To paraphrase 2 Corinthians 4:7, the Jews had this treasure in dusty scrolls.

But while Paul admits that the Jews had an advantage in being entrusted with the Scriptures (3:1-2), he also makes clear that merely having and hearing the Scriptures accomplishes nothing with regard to salvation.

For example, in Romans 2:12, we read that the Gentile who does not have the Law and the Jew who does have the Law will both be condemned because of their sin. Thus, merely having the Law is of no consequence regarding salvation.

In Romans 2:13, we read, “It is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified” (2:13). That means that a Jew who hears the Law and does not do the Law is no better off than the Gentile who does not hear the Law and does not do the Law, since doing the Law is what is required to be justified.

To summarize this brief discussion of Romans 2-3, we would say that, while it was a huge privilege to be entrusted with the oracles of God (3:2), this gave the Jews no advantage with regard to salvation. So, this “advantage” is really not an advantage.

ADVANTAGES FOR THE JEWS IN ROMANS 9-11?

Now I want to jump over to Romans 9-11 and consider what is going on in some of the verses here. In 9:4-5, Paul lists eight apparent advantages that the Jews had under the old covenant. To the Jews “belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh.” An examination of this list will reveal that these gifts from the Lord were fuel for religious pride, but they were unrelated to salvation. In other words, when we look at this list with a new covenant lens, it becomes plain that they provide no advantage to the Jew. Under the new covenant, faith is necessary for the sinner to be declared righteous. Ceremonial laws and fulfilled covenants and patriarchs were things of the past. Christ has come and the old covenant is obsolete. Therefore, clinging to the religious past is actually a disadvantage.

So, as we begin Romans 9-11, we are aware that despite all these apparent advantages, most Jews did not believe. They had heard the Word, as stated in Romans 10:18. Paul rhetorically asks, “Surely, Israel did not know, did they?” (10:19), and then twice answers it in the affirmative (“O yes, they did know”) by a quote from Moses in the Law and by a quote from Isaiah. Israel heard but did not believe. Israel knew the truth but did not believe the truth.

FROM HEARING TO CALLING ON THE LORD

We need to take a brief aside here to explore Romans 10:14-15. Here Paul declares that calling on the Lord, which results in being saved (10:13), requires believing in the Lord, and believing requires hearing the gospel, and hearing the gospel requires a preacher, and a preacher must be sent. This means that, for the ultimate end of calling on the Lord and being saved, it is necessary that a person hear a herald proclaim the good news. Paul makes clear that, if you do not hear the good news, there is no way to believe the good news, and if you do not believe the good news, you will never call on the Lord and be saved. So, to be saved, it is necessary that you hear the good news about Christ and His salvation. Paul states this truth in Romans 10:17, where he says, “So, [saving] faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.” So far, so good.

NECESSARY BUT NOT SUFFICIENT

But now things get much more interesting, for while it is necessary to hear the good news to be saved, it is apparently not sufficient. To be saved, a person must not only hear the gospel, but they must heed the gospel. Notice that in Romans 10:16, Paul says, “However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?’” (Isaiah 53:1). Paul says it is possible to hear and not to heed.

And this leads us back to the difficulty about Israel (the Jews). Under the old covenant, Israel had the Law but did not obey the Law. Under the new covenant, Israel heard the gospel but did not heed the gospel. Notice again that faith (salvation) comes from hearing (10:17), but the Jews had heard (10:18) and yet did not believe. Israel knew the truth (10:19) but did not believe the truth. Instead, with full access to the saving word of God, Israel remained “a disobedient and obstinate people” (10:21).

Meanwhile, after Pentecost, the Gentiles, who previously had been denied access to the Word, and who had been “separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise” (Eph. 2:12), began coming to faith in large numbers. These, “who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith, but Israel (the Jews) did not” (Romans 9:30-31).

WHY DO THE GENTILES BELIEVE AND ISRAEL DOES NOT?

But if Israel, with full access to God and to the oracles of God, did not believe, and the Gentiles, who for centuries were denied access to the Word and who were excluded from the worship of the Lord, began coming to Christ in large numbers, we must ask the question, “Why? Why is it that Israel, with all the advantages, who knew and who possessed and who heard the Word, did not believe, but the Gentiles simply heard the good news and believed?”

We could take another approach with this difficulty. We have seen that both Israel and the Gentiles had met the necessary requirement of hearing the good news, but that only the Gentiles had what was sufficient for them to believe. With this approach, then, the question would be, “What did the Gentiles have that allowed them to heed the good news that Israel lacked?” What is the mysterious ingredient that moves a person from merely hearing the good news to believing the good news? What supplies the sufficiency?

Paul write Romans 9-11 to answer precisely these questions, and the simple statement of Paul’s answer is, “The reason some are saved and others are not saved is entirely dependent on God’s sovereign election.” God is the One who decides who will and who will not believe the gospel. Whether you are steeped in all the teaching of rabbinical Judaism, like Paul and the Pharisees, or you come from a pagan culture, like those in Lystra (Acts 14), God is the One who decides who will and who won’t believe. The overarching message of Romans 9-11 is that God is sovereign in salvation.

SDG                 rmb                 7/22/2022                   #554

But does the Lord know you? (Matthew 7:21-23)

INTRODUCTION. While it is vitally important that a person come to that place where he knows the Lord, it is of much greater significance that the Lord knows him. This post considers the chilling situation where people found out on the last day that Jesus did not know them, despite their best efforts and impressive works.

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ – Matthew 7:21-23

This study is considering Matthew 7:21-23. In these verses, the question is not whether these people “know the Lord,” for it is apparent that they think they know Him. They call to the Lord in familiar tones. They assume they have a satisfactory acquaintance with Him to gain a favorable reply. These people even have impressive religious deeds that they present to the Lord as proof of their relationship. “Look, Lord, here’s all our work!” (7:22). But again, the question is not whether these people know the Lord. The question is, ”Does the sovereign Lord Jesus know them?  And on that day the Lord gives the terrifying reply,

“I never knew you.”

You may profess to know the Lord, but does the Lord know you? That’s the question we must answer. Notice that many will come to Him on that day claiming to know Him (7:22). Apparently, it is common for people to assume they know Jesus savingly, but to be wrong in their assumption. Then, on that awesome last day, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne and separates the sheep from the goats, many who anticipated entering into the joy of the Master will be thrown out into the outer darkness.

“I never knew you. Depart from Me!” (Matt. 7:23).

“Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire” (Matt. 25:41).

O, there are no more devastating words imaginable. “I never knew you. Depart from Me.” These are words of ultimate judgment from the highest Judge. The sentence has been passed, a sentence that cannot be altered and that brings eternal ruin.

HOW CAN WE AVOID THEIR ERROR?

How could these people have been so disastrously mistaken about their own eternal destiny? More importantly, how can we make sure that we do not make the same catastrophic error? I believe that we can have confidence about our relationship with the Lord by remembering that the Lord is asking questions of His own about our relationship with Him.

QUESTIONS THE LORD MIGHT BE ASKING

The Lord might say, “Those whom I know come to Me in prayer for sweet times of fellowship. But how often have you come to Me simply to enjoy My presence? Do you delight in My company?” If you delight in the Lord’s company, then you can be certain He delights in you. “For the LORD takes pleasure in His people” (Psalm 149:4). If you fear the LORD, then you can be sure He knows you and favors you. “The LORD favors those who fear Him” (Psalm 147:11).

He may ask, “When you are afraid, do you come to Me and cry out for deliverance from your fears or rescue from the things that are making you fearful?” “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Jesus may be saying, “Those who know Me ‘cry aloud with their voice to Me. They make supplication with their voice to Me’ (Psalm 142:1), but I have not heard your voice calling to Me when you were afraid.” If you cry out to the LORD when you are afraid and trust Him to deliver you, you can be certain He knows you.

DO YOU TELL OTHERS ABOUT YOUR FRIEND, JESUS?

Jesus may ask, “When have you talked about Me with other people? Have you ‘been My witness even to the remotest part of the earth’ (Acts 1:8), or have you more often been silent about knowing Me, almost as if you were ‘ashamed of Me and My words’ (Luke 9:26)?” Know that the bold witness for the Lord is certainly known by the Lord.

We may hear Jesus say, “When have you told other people about My work of creation or about My finished work of salvation? Have you boasted of Me to friend and stranger alike, ‘that you understand and know  Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth’ (Jeremiah 9:24)?

THE VOICE OF THE LORD

In the gospel of John, there is an emphasis on the voice of the Lord. In John 10, Jesus talks about the shepherd of the sheep, saying, “the sheep hear his voice and the sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:3-4). It is obvious that the Lord is speaking about Himself as the good shepherd (10:11) and the sheep as being those who truly know Him as their Shepherd. But as Jesus culminates His teaching, He says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). Have you heard Jesus’? Do you know what He sounds like? For Jesus knows His sheep, and His sheep know Him.

In John 20, after Jesus’ resurrection, Mary Magdalene is at the tomb weeping because the body of Jesus is gone (20:11, 13). The risen Jesus speaks to her (20:15), but in her grief and confusion, she does not recognize His voice. But notice that Jesus does recognize Mary and He does recognize her voice because Jesus knows His sheep (10:27). My point is Jesus knows her and knows her voice. But does the Savior know your voice? Is He familiar with your voice because the halls of heaven frequently ring with the sound of your voice? If you call to Him continually, you can be certain that He knows you.

SUMMARY

We can be confident on that day that the Lord knows us if today we are delighting in Him and trusting Him when we are afraid and calling out to Him so that He knows our voice.

SDG                 rmb                 7/7/2022                     #552

John 6:31-68 – Part 3: Eating the living bread (6:45-58)

INTRODUCTION. This third part of an in-depth study of John 6:31-68 is a continuation of post #523 and post #529 and focuses on the crucial teaching in John 6:45-58.

[NOTE: This part of the study is longer than the other parts because the concepts presented here are complex and are not easily explained in a few words. I feel that the additional reading will be rewarded by greater understanding of this beautiful passage. RMB]

OVERVIEW OF THE PASSAGE. This passage (6:45-58) is the heart of this section of Scripture (6:31-68) and contains important teaching about how Jesus, the bread from heaven, provides life to His people. The passage is also crucial in giving us a vivid analogy of what it means to believe in Jesus, teaching us figuratively to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

KEY CONCEPTS covered in this passage include:

  • believing in Jesus
  • eternal life/live forever/not die
  • the bread of life/the living bread that came down out of heaven
  • eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man (Jesus)
  • being raised up on the last day.

The main DIFFICULTY of this passage consists in correctly understanding what Jesus means when He instructs His disciples to “eat My flesh and drink My blood” (6:53-56).

REVIEW. The first part of John 6 tells of Jesus feeding the five thousand with five small loaves and two fish. The amazed crowd follows Jesus to Capernaum where they seek more bread and another miraculous sign. Jesus declares that the manna from Moses is not the true bread out of heaven, but that He is the bread of life.

In strong teaching from John 6:37-6:44 (see post #523 and #529), Jesus makes clear God’s sovereignty in salvation as He teaches the people that:

  • The Father has already given a people to the Son (election; see Eph. 1:4, etc.)
  • All those given to the Son will certainly come to the Son for eternal life. (predestination; see Romans 8:29-30)
  • Jesus will raise up all His people in glorious resurrection on the last day
  • By His providence and effectual calling, the Father draws people to Jesus

THE TEACHING OF JOHN 6:45-58

The passage is best understood by understanding WHO JESUS IS, then by seeing WHAT JESUS OFFERS, and finally by discovering HOW TO OBTAIN WHAT JESUS OFFERS.

WHO JESUS IS. Jesus uses direct statements and the metaphor of bread to make His identity unambiguously clear. First, He says, “I am the bread of life” (6:48). This is a repetition of 6:35, when He also said that those who come to Him will never hunger or thirst. What Jesus means by His metaphor may not be clear, but this much is clear: Jesus is the bread of life.

Next, He says twice that He is “the (living) bread that came down out of heaven” (6:50, 51). Here, Jesus is contrasting Himself with the manna that the children of Israel ate in the Exodus. They ate that manna (“bread from heaven”) and they died (6:49), but Jesus is the “true bread out of heaven” (6:32). Jesus is the bread of life and, “if anyone eats of this (living) bread, he will live forever” (6:51). Jesus is the living bread that gives eternal life.

Finally, notice that Jesus is the bread that came down out of heaven sent by the Father. “The living Father sent Me” (6:57), and Jesus has come from heaven to give life to the world. Since He came down out of heaven and was sent by God the Father, Jesus is divine.

SUMMARY. From this passage, we see that Jesus is God in the flesh, the living bread sent by the Father from heaven to give eternal life to the world.

WHAT JESUS OFFERS. As the bread of life and the living bread that came out of heaven, what does Jesus offer the people? From the passage we see, first, “one may eat of it (the bread) and not die” (6:50). As strong as this verse is, Jesus states the truth even more clearly in the next verse: “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (6:51). Eat of Jesus and you will not die but will live forever. Of course, we need to determine what it means to metaphorically eat of Jesus as the living bread, but at this point we see that Jesus is offering people the opportunity to live forever. (NOTE: “Live forever” is the same as “have eternal life.”)

A few verses later, Jesus again declares His offer of eternal life and connects this eternal life with participation in the resurrection on the last day. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (6:54). Once again, we are confronted with the need to understand Jesus’ metaphor about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, but what He offers us is in plain view. He offers eternal life and a resurrection.

SUMMARY. Jesus offers His hearers the opportunity to not die, but to live forever, to have eternal life, and to be raised up on the last day (in glorious resurrection).

HOW TO OBTAIN WHAT JESUS OFFERS. We see the incarnate Son of God offering the people eternal life and declaring to them that He Himself will raise them up on the last day. This spectacular offer is available to all who hear His voice, but obtaining it is not automatic. We have already seen that Jesus imposes conditions on His offer and it is only those who satisfy Jesus’ conditions who will obtain the eternal life that He offers.

This, then, becomes the critical issue. Every person must first identify and then satisfy Jesus’ conditions before they obtain the eternal life He offers.

TO OBTAIN WHAT JESUS OFFERS, YOU MUST SATISFY HIS CONDITIONS. Our first task, then, is to identify Jesus’ conditions. In this passage, when we were discovering what Jesus was offering, we also heard Him state His conditions.

ONE SET OF CONDITIONS.

“If anyone eats of this bread (Jesus)                                                  he will live forever.”

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood                                      has eternal life.”

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood                          I will raise him up on the last day.”

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood                                      abides in Me, and I in him.”

Here, then, is one set of conditions that must be met to obtain eternal life.

ANOTHER SET OF CONDITIONS? We also need to notice, however, that Jesus has talked about another condition for obtaining eternal life. In fact, in the gospel of John, the major message of the book is that anyone can receive eternal life by believing in Jesus. John 3:16, perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible, declares that whoever believes in the Son (Jesus) will have eternal life. According to John 20:31, the whole reason for the gospel of John is “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” In this very passage that we are studying, Jesus repeatedly tells men and women how to obtain all the blessings that He offers. “He who comes to Me will not hunger and he who believes in Me will not thirst” (6:35). “Everyone who believes in the Son will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (6:40). “He who believes has eternal life” (6:47). Throughout the gospel of John, the one who believes in Jesus has eternal life.

So, is Jesus now imposing another condition for obtaining salvation?

ONLY ONE CONDITION. When we compare side-by-side two verses from this passage, we will see that there is, in fact, only one condition that separates the sinner from salvation.

Everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” – John 6:40

He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. – John 6:54

As we compare these two verses, we notice, first, that the results of the sinner’s action in 6:40 (“believes in the Son”) are exactly the same as the results of the sinner’s action in 6:54 (“eats My flesh and drinks My blood”). In both cases, the sinner’s action yields eternal life and a resurrection on the last day.

Next, we observe that John 6:40 falls within a section of teaching where Jesus is speaking in literal terms. That is, when Jesus speaks of “beholding the Son” and “believing in the Son,” we observe that Jesus is speaking literally.

By contrast, in John 6:54, Jesus is speaking metaphorically about Himself as the bread of life. The Lord has established His identity as “the bread of life” (6:48), as “the bread that comes down out of heaven” (6:50), and as “the living bread that came down out of heaven” (6:51). Jesus has thus made clear that He is now speaking figuratively about Himself as bread. Therefore, in this context, the Lord speaks about how to obtain eternal life in figurative terms.

Jesus intentionally parallels these two verses to teach that “believing in the Son” should be understood metaphorically as “eating His flesh and drinking His blood.” Throughout His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus has been proclaiming that anyone who believes in Him will obtain eternal life. “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him (Jesus) whom He (the Father) has sent” (John 6:29). Here, then, the Lord is giving a vivid picture, an illustration of what believing in Him means.

What we see is that “eating My flesh and drinking My blood” is actually an explanation and an intensification of “believing in the Son.” Imagine a person who is there in Capernaum listening to Jesus teach or imagine someone who is reading John 6 in our own day. This person is convinced that believing in Jesus is the only way to eternal life and the only way to be saved, but then they ask the question, “What does it actually mean to ‘believe in Jesus’? Can you give me an illustration of what that looks like?” The Lord Jesus answers that question by saying, in effect, “Believing in Me is like eating My flesh and drinking My blood (6:53-56).”

EATING HIS FLESH AND DRINKING HIS BLOOD. For the disciple of Jesus, believing in Him is a matter of life and death. If the disciple cannot eat of Jesus and cannot drink of Jesus, then he will die of hunger and thirst. Communion with Jesus is the disciple’s means of survival. When Job considered his relationship with the LORD, he said, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). This gives a taste of what it means for the disciple of Christ to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

The Lord Jesus Himself, when tested by the devil after forty days without food, declared, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). For the follower of Jesus, Jesus is more to be desired than food that will sustain our physical life.

David had the attitude of “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” when he wrote,

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water. – Psalm 63:1

David’s soul thirsts for the LORD and his flesh hungers for Him, not literally but figuratively, as a thirsty man would yearn for water in the middle of the desert.

To believe in Jesus means to receive Him and embrace Him without reservation as a starving man would consume a loaf of bread. The believer eats and drinks all of Jesus in all His incarnate deity to satisfy his sinful soul. And the one who eats Jesus’ flesh and drinks Jesus’ blood is the one whom Jesus will certainly not cast out.

CONCLUSION

From this study of John 6:45-58 we have seen that Jesus, as the metaphorical bread of life, has been sent by the Father to earth to offer eternal life to the world, and that everyone who believes in Jesus will receive eternal life and will be raised up by Jesus at the resurrection on the last day. Jesus uses the metaphor of “eating My flesh and drinking My blood” to help His disciples understand the depth and the intensity of true saving faith.

SDG                 rmb                 7/5/2022                     #551

1 Peter 2:9 (Part 4) – Purpose: proclaiming excellencies

INTRODUCTION. The first letter of Peter provides a sound foundation for the newly converted disciple of Jesus Christ to begin their journey with their Savior, and the heart of their conversion is captured powerfully in 1 Peter 2:9-10. Here Peter declares the disciple’s new identity, their new purpose, and their new people.

This post is about the new purpose the disciple has received as a result of their new identity. (Also see post #544 on June 16, 2022, about the disciple’s new identity.)

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:9-10

In the first chapter of 1 Peter, the apostle has already told us that we were redeemed from our futile way of life (1:18) by the precious blood of Christ (1:19) and that, by God’s great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope (1:3). As we have studied 2:9-10, we have learned about the four-fold identity that the disciples of Jesus received when they trusted Christ as Lord and Savior (see post #536 and #544). Now we are going to discover the purpose for this new identity. There is a purpose for God giving His people their new identity and there is a mission to which He has called us. We are called to proclaim.

CALLED TO PROCLAIM

The chosen race, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the people for God’s own possession is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is now being gathered from all the nations of the earth to receive the unfathomable riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8) for the primary purpose of proclaiming the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15).

The church is called to proclaim the excellencies of God. The one true and living God whom we proclaim is a God of excellencies. He has displayed His own glory in a creation of astonishing beauty and complexity, where His excellence is manifest in an abundance of life. His excellence has been made known in the wonder of the gospel, such that His perfect holiness is not violated by the forgiveness of sinners. His excellence has been visibly seen when the Lord Jesus Christ took on flesh and dwelt among us. The church is called to proclaim these excellencies.

Ever since Adam sinned, all people have come into the world as lovers of darkness and haters of the light (John 3:19-20). We are born as blind and dead lovers of darkness and we would forever remain in that wretched condition, but the one true and living God, in His grace and mercy, calls His enemies out of darkness and into His marvelous light. And so the church, the gathered assembly of redeemed wretches, is called to proclaim to the nations the transforming power of the gospel, for in the gospel God calls people from darkness into light.

But the church’s most important proclamation is to tell the world about Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ we have a Savior and a Redeemer and a conquering King who is worthy of all our loudest praise. “Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. Say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns!’” (Psalm 96:3, 10). In heaven now the voices of many angels say with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (Rev. 5:12). But what myriad angels are saying in heaven the church is now to be proclaiming on earth.

In Acts, the church was facing a growing hostility to their message about the resurrection. So, in light of the threats, the church prayed that the Lord would “grant that Your bondservants may speak Your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29). In that instance and in every instance until Jesus returns, the church is to proclaim the glories of Jesus with all boldness regardless of threats. “We are not of those who shrink back to destruction” (Hebrews 10:39). We have been chosen and called to proclaim Jesus’ name to those who are in darkness. For Jesus warns us that “whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory” (Luke 9:26). Therefore, His church is to proclaim His excellencies.

APPLICATION

The true church is a chosen race and is a people who have been called to be holy so that we can proclaim His excellencies. Since that is the case; that is, since we have been chosen and called for the purpose of proclamation, each of us should evaluate how we are doing with our own proclamation. I offer several questions to help in our evaluation:

  • How do you intentionally seek opportunities for “proclamation” within your network of relationships? (season your speech with salt (Col. 4:6), let your light shine before men (Matt. 5:16), throw out baited hooks for fishing (Matt. 4:19))
  • What is your strategy for “proclaiming His excellencies” when an opportunity presents itself? In other words, have you considered how to move the conversation toward a gospel-related topic?
  • How can you increase the boldness of your “proclamation?” How can you prevent fear from producing disobedience?

SDG                 rmb                 6/29/2022                   #550

Worshipers are Christ’s reward (Acts 20:28; Rev. 7:9)

INTRODUCTION. A meditation on Christ’s reward for perfectly accomplishing the work given to Him by the Father. Christ purchased a people, and they were purchased to worship Him.

One of the themes of the Bible is that Jesus came to accomplish the mission given to Him by the Father and having accomplished that mission Christ now has earned His reward.

SCRIPTURAL BACKGROUND

To begin this post, I wanted to present some Scriptures that support my opening statement.

‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.’ – Psalm 2:8.

In this psalm, the LORD promises the Son that He will give Him the nations and the ends of the earth. That certainly sounds like this may be a prophecy of a reward.

27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord,
And all the families of the nations will worship before You. – Psalm 22:27

This verse speaks of worship, but the main context of Psalm 22 is of a man who is suffering agony as he is being put to death in the presence of his enemies. We now know that this psalm contains explicit prophecies of Christ’s sufferings that were fulfilled by Him on the cross. The point is that, in this psalm, the suffering was rewarded by worship.

1 The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” – Psalm 110:1

We see the LORD (YHWH) is speaking to the Lord (Adonai). We now know that “the Lord” is Jesus and that this conversation took place after Jesus accomplished His work on the cross, was resurrected, and ascended back to heaven to be at the right hand of the Father (YHWH). The Father is telling the Son to wait until the time comes for Him to return to earth to receive His full reward.

Isaiah 53, a passage about the “suffering servant of the LORD,” serves as a remarkably detailed prophecy of Jesus’ life and crucifixion. Then, after telling of the servant’s suffering, we read that the LORD “will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong.” The picture is of one who suffers and then is rewarded because of his suffering.

In John 17:4, Jesus speaks of accomplishing the work He has been given to do by the Father. It is clear that “the work” Jesus was given was the work of redemption by His death on the cross. Then, in John 19:30, with His dying breath Jesus gives His cry of victory when He says, “It is finished.” Jesus accomplished His work of redemption and therefore is entitled to a reward.

In Acts 20:28, Paul charges the Ephesian elders to “shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” The only possible interpretation of this verse is that Jesus is God and that, by His death on the cross, He has purchased (redeemed) the church, which is all those who will believe in His name. Again, we see that, by His death, Jesus merits a reward. We see almost the same thing in Ephesians 5:25 where Paul teaches that “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” This expression means that Christ died for the church. He purchased her for Himself and He is entitled to the church’s worship.

Finally, in Revelation we read:

“You were slain and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” – Revelation 5:9

Here the heavenly creatures are praising the ascended Jesus (the Lamb) because He has purchased a people with His blood. Then in the new heaven and the new earth (Rev. 7:9-10) we read:

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,

“Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” – Rev. 7:9-10

Here we see those whom Jesus (the Lamb) redeemed from every nation in heaven worshipping Jesus. Thus, we see that Jesus was rewarded for shedding His blood to purchase a people, and His reward is those people worshipping Him for all of eternity.

THE SCRIPTURE APPLIED

With these passages presented as background, we will now apply this teaching to the Lord Jesus, His work on the cross, and His merited reward.

Jesus was sent from heaven to earth by the Father to accomplish a mission, the mission of redemption. Jesus’ mission consisted in two parts: 1) live a sinless life of perfect holiness and righteousness, fulfilling and obeying the entire Law; and 2) die on the cross as an atoning sacrifice to pay for the sins of His people.

If Jesus accomplished His mission, the Father would raise Him from the dead as a visible sign that Jesus had accomplished His mission perfectly and then would give Jesus the Son His merited reward, which is an inheritance of a myriad of people from every tribe and tongue and nation worshipping Him for all of eternity.

In that sense, then, my personal salvation is not about me at all. Oh, it is true that I eternally benefit from God’s gracious work in rescuing me from judgment and in granting me eternal life through faith in Christ. But while I benefit from God’s saving work in my life, my eternal benefit of salvation is incidental to the purpose of my salvation. For God’s purpose in my salvation is for me to give unending praise to God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ has finished His mission and, therefore, has earned His promised reward. Myriads of myriads of people were chosen by the Father before time began (Eph. 1:4) and were promised to the Son to be His worshipers on the condition that the Son perfectly accomplish the work that the Father had given Him to do, and that condition has been met. Therefore, all those worshipers who were promised to the Son must now be gathered into the church. The Father’s promise and the Son’s performance guarantee that every worshiper purchased by the Son (Acts 20:28; Rev. 5:9) will certainly be gathered in by the gospel call and will glorify and praise the Son forever and ever (Rev. 19:1-8).

Therefore, brothers and sisters, as those who have been chosen by the Father and purchased by the blood of the Son and made alive by the effectual call of the Holy Spirit, let us fulfill our intended purpose of giving glory to Jesus Christ. Now, while we live in this life, let us offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) as we witness to Jesus to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:8). Then, in the new heaven and the new earth, we will praise Him forever with a loud voice saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9).

SDG                 rmb                 6/22/2022                   #546

Scattering seed and inviting to the feast

INTRODUCTION. A study of two parables of Jesus and how they teach us to be obedient in our proclamation of the gospel.

I have been spending time in Jesus’ parables lately and have seen in them many new applications that I had not seen before. In this post, I want to review two parables, the parable of the sower in Matt. 13:3-9 and the parable of the wedding feast in Matt. 22:2-14 and see how Jesus teaches us about our task of being His witnesses (Acts 1:8).

THE SOWER WENT OUT TO SOW

We will begin with the parable of the sower in Matt. 13:3-9. This is one of the best known of the parables and is also one of only a few parables that Jesus interprets for us. In Jesus’ interpretation in Matt. 13:18-23, we find that the seed that is scattered is “the word of the kingdom,” which we would understand to be the gospel. We also discover what each of the soils represents and why the seed is unfruitful. Finally, we see that the seed is certainly potent and that, in the good soil, it produces a hundredfold, or sixty fold, or thirty fold.

It seems obvious that this parable is about proclamation, about evangelism. The sower is the disciple of Jesus Christ. We had already stated that the seed is the gospel. The places where the seed is scattered is any place and every place that the sower (disciple) goes. But let me make some other observations about this parable and about the sower himself.

SOME OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE SOWER

Matt. 13:3 says, “The sower went out to sow.” Having acquired a big bag of seed, the sower intentionally goes out into the world to sow that seed. The sower’s purpose and aim is sowing his seed.

Also notice that the sower’s task is very simple. Sow the seed. That’s it. Sowing is an unskilled task that can be done by anyone who has seed. There is nothing sophisticated or nuanced about sowing seed. Any obedient worker can fulfill the task.

Observe that even though most of the sower’s seed is wasted and proves unfruitful, Jesus makes no comment about the sower’s wastefulness. The sower recklessly and indiscriminately scatters seed wherever it might go and yet there is no rebuke or criticism given. This is because the sower’s task is to sow seed. He is not responsible for the results. Just so, the disciple of Jesus is to scatter the seed of the gospel extravagantly and generously wherever he goes, believing that the Lord is sovereign over the harvest and that He will direct the seed to the good soil.

Thus, for the sower, the measure of success is faithfulness to their appointed task of sowing seed, and not the quantity of the harvest. The Lord is sovereign over the harvest, but He has entrusted the scattering of the gospel seed to His disciples.

THE MESSAGE TO US. Putting this together, then, the disciple of Jesus (the sower) is called to intentionally go out into the world and indiscriminately and extravagantly scatter the seed of the gospel anywhere and everywhere, recklessly sowing the seed, trusting that the Lord in His sovereignty will bring the harvest. (See also 2 Corinthians 9:6.)

INVITE THEM TO THE WEDDING FEAST!

Now we turn our attention to the parable of the wedding feast in Matt. 22:2-14. In this story, there is a king who wants to give a wedding feast for his beloved son. The king desires to have as many guests as possible at the feast, so he sends out his slaves to call those guests who had already been invited long ago, but those who had been invited refused to come. The king is enraged by the rudeness of his subjects and has them destroyed. Then he commands his slaves to go out into the main highways and invite anybody and everybody to his son’s wedding feast.

Although there are some important details to this story that teach us about the unbelief of the Jews and about the events of the end of the age, the main message of this parable is also about evangelism. Before we focused on the sower, but here we will concentrate on the slaves. The slaves represent disciples in the church. The king is God the Father and, of course, the son is the Lord Jesus. Thus the church has been sent out into the world to invite “as many as they find” to the wedding feast. The “wedding feast” represents the church with Jesus in heaven at the end of the age.

SOME OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE SLAVES

The first thing I want to point out about this parable is that the slaves have been commanded by the king to invite people to the wedding feast. No other instructions have been given, no guidelines about who to choose or who to avoid. Therefore, the “slaves went out into the streets and gathered all they found” (22:10). They were indiscriminate about who they invited. If they found them, then they invited them. It did not matter whether they were evil or good. Whoever they found, they invited. That was their assignment from the king.

Notice also that this assignment was not complicated or difficult. There were no special skills or talents required to fulfill the assignment. No amazing spiritual gifts. Inviting people to the king’s feast was simple, an unskilled task that could be accomplished by anyone who would faithfully obey the king.

Finally, we see that, even though there are some false guests among those that are invited, the king does not rebuke or correct the slaves for inviting the wrong people. The king takes responsibility for the quality of those who are at the feast, while the slaves are responsible for the quantity. In other words, the measure of success for the king’s slaves was faithfulness to their appointed task of inviting guests, not the quality of the people invited.

THE MESSAGE TO US. Putting this together, then, the disciple of Jesus (“the slave of the king”) is called to intentionally go out into the world and indiscriminately invite as many as he can to “come to the wedding feast” (that is, call people to believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior), trusting that the Lord in His sovereignty will inspect all the guests.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION

What I have attempted to do in the interpretation of these two parables is to show that the Bible consistently calls the disciple of Jesus to the task of proclaiming Christ to the world indiscriminately and extravagantly so that many will hear the message and respond. These parables demonstrate that the disciple has been given the task of scattering the gospel recklessly and inviting to the feast extravagantly so that many will  come to faith in Jesus and to enjoy the final wedding feast.

We have been called to faith in Jesus so that, as His disciples, we can declare His glory among the nations (Psalm 96:3) and proclaim His excellencies who has called us into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

SDG                 rmb                 6/17/2022                   #543

Inauguration, identification, and commitment in Jesus’ baptism

INTRODUCTION. An examination of Matthew 3:13-17 with the goal of discovering why Jesus was baptized, then applying those ideas to the life of a believer/disciple.

When He was about thirty years old (Luke 3:23), Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Here is the account from the gospel of Matthew 3:13-17:

13 Then Jesus *arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” 15 But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he *permitted Him. 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

The Scriptures are clear that Jesus was baptized. All four gospels unambiguously attest to this fact. But the question that must be answered is, “Why was Jesus baptized?”

WHY WAS JESUS BAPTIZED?

Let’s explore this question. We can start by saying what is not the reason Jesus was baptized. John the Baptist was “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). In Matthew 3:6 we read that John was baptizing people “in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins” (Matt. 3:6). But since Jesus was sinless (John 8:46; 2 Cor. 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; etc.), He had no sins to confess, so He was not being baptized for repentance.

So, we are back at square one. “Why was Jesus baptized?”

MATTHEW 3:15

Jesus’ words in Matthew 3:15 seem to provide some helpful information. First, Jesus commands John to permit His baptism. In the Greek, this is an imperative, meaning Jesus is giving John a command. “Allow My baptism!” With this command, Jesus is telling John, “I know you do not understand why I am doing this, but I know why, and so I am commanding you to baptize Me and to trust Me about this.”

Notice also that John is to permit this baptism “at this time.” This phrase could also be translated from the Greek as “at the current time” or simply “now.” There is something about this particular time that is significant and that makes it “fitting” (or “proper”) for Jesus to be baptized at this specific time. This new information has changed our question to, “Why was Jesus baptized at this specific time?” As we consider the timing of this scene, we see that this is the time Jesus began His earthly ministry. And it is “fitting” (or “proper”) to mark the start of Jesus’ earthly ministry “in this way,” that is, with baptism.  

WHY JESUS WAS BAPTIZED AT THIS TIME

Putting these pieces together, then, we would say that it was appropriate and fitting to fulfill all righteousness for Jesus to mark the launch of His earthly ministry with baptism. To say this more simply, it was right (or righteous) for Jesus to mark the start of His earthly ministry with baptism. So, the answer to the question, “Why was Jesus baptized?” is that He was baptized to mark the start of His earthly ministry. But that is not the complete reason.

At His baptism, Jesus emerged from complete obscurity and was publicly identified as the Son of God when God the Father declared from heaven, “This is My beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17). Prior to this event, Jesus had been an unknown carpenter in the backwater town of Nazareth, quietly living His days with His mother and brothers. Now, by His baptism, His days of quiet obscurity are forever ended and His anonymity is gone. Through His baptism, He is now identified as the Son of God. Thus, a second reason for His baptism was His identification as the Son of God.

But there was another reason for Jesus to be baptized, for at His baptism, Jesus committed Himself to the cross. After He emerged from the waters of baptism, there was no turning back, there would be no distractions, there was no other possible ending to the story. His baptism was the visual sign that Jesus was committed to His mission all the way to His death. As Jesus went down into the waters of baptism, He was picturing His own physical death on the cross and subsequent burial, and when He was raised up out of the water, He was picturing His own glorious resurrection. His baptism, then, was also about His commitment to be obedient till death (Philippians 2:8).

APPLICATION TO THE BELIEVER

We have seen that in His baptism, Jesus inaugurated His mission, He identified as the Son of God, and He committed to the cross. But Jesus’ baptism has even more significance than that.

When I was baptized, after my pastor requested from me a verbal testimony of my faith in Jesus Christ, he said these words before he plunged me under the water: “Based on your profession of faith, IN IMITATION OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST and in obedience to His divine command (Matthew 28:19), I baptize you, my brother in Christ, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Buried unto death in Christ (plunge into water), rise again to walk in newness of life (bring up out of the water).”

As believers, we worship a crucified Savior, but we also worship a baptized Savior. Jesus Christ was baptized, and He thus left His disciples an example of what we are to do when we make disciples, according to Matthew 28:19. And as Jesus was baptized as a sign of inauguration, identification, and commitment, so the baptism of a disciple is also a sign of inauguration, identification, and commitment.

In his public baptism, the disciple publicly inaugurates his discipleship and starts his lifelong walk with Jesus. Baptism is the fitting sign to mark the start of a disciple’s earthly journey with Jesus.

Also, in baptism the disciple publicly declares his faith in Jesus and vows to follow Jesus forever. His baptism publicly identifies him as a follower of Jesus Christ. From that moment on, the baptized disciple is always identified with the crucified and risen Savior.

Finally, in the disciple’s baptism he visually makes a commitment to follow Jesus until death, no matter the cost and no matter the consequences. To live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21), and so as long as he draws breath, the disciple is a committed witness for Jesus Christ.

Thus, the disciple is baptized IN IMITATION OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST.

SDG                 rmb                 6/10/2022                   #542

Can Paul’s compassion for the Jews save? (Romans 9:1-5)

INTRODUCTION. Considering Paul’s compassion for his fellow Israelites, does this influence God’s sovereign choice? Is Paul suggesting that Israel gets special treatment because they had been “God’s chosen people?” Evaluate compassion and duty in evangelism. How can we use these ideas to equip a congregation to proclaim Christ more effectively?

These are my notes and thoughts copied from the Study Guide for “Romans” by John MacArthur. These notes are from page 75 in the chapter on Romans 9-11.  

When talking about Paul’s earnest desire for the salvation of his fellow Israelites, MacArthur writes, “Paul’s love and concern for his countrymen was such that he wished he could trade places with them, literally that he could go to hell so that they might be saved.” Then MacArthur asks a question about how we might increase our compassion for the lost.

My response to that question was, “I do not see evangelism as a matter of compassion but as a matter of duty and obligation.” (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Cor. 9:16-23; 1 Thess. 2:4)

Below that answer, I observed that “Here in Rom. 9:1-5, Paul expresses his compassion for his fellow Jews.” We can see Paul’s compassion for his fellows as admirable, and it certainly is admirable, but I do not think Paul wrote these emotional words in the inspired Scripture to highlight his own compassion. Rather, I think it is more likely that Paul told of his fervent desire for the salvation of his fellow Israelites to show that not even apostolic compassion or deep longing for another person’s salvation can influence God’s sovereign choice in election. Despite Paul’s most impassioned pleas and his deepest longings for the salvation of his fellow Israelites (see also Romans 10:1), God is always fully sovereign over the salvation of every human being.

THOUGHTS ON COMPASSION AND DUTY

[NOTE: In this section, “proclaim the gospel” (or something similar) refers to the believer’s intentional attempt to encounter the unsaved and to bring up topics or ideas related to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We might also call this “intentional evangelism.” The believer may be “scattering seeds” or he may be “reeling in a hooked fish,” but the gospel is in the believer’s mind and winning a lost soul to Christ is the ultimate aim of the effort. This is what I mean by “proclaiming the gospel.”]

So, let’s consider compassion. Compassion is good, but compassion is unreliable. My level of compassion ebbs and flows depending on my emotional level or my physical energy, and compassion varies widely from one individual to the next. In some, compassion may motivate to action, but in others, compassion, whether great or small, does not motivate. Notice, however, that in either case, compassion cannot save. Emotional feeling for the lost cannot save them. To be meaningful, compassion must compel us to proclaim the gospel to the lost, for it is the gospel that has the power to save (Romans 1:16). Compassion that remains divorced from action is simply a feeling.

Now consider duty. As a believer, it is my duty to be Christ’s witness (Acts 1:8), regardless of my level of compassion. It is simply a matter of responsibility, part of my “job description” as a worshiper of Jesus, whether I feel emotions about it or not. (Consider these verses: Matt. 4:19; 13:3; 28:18-20; 1 Cor. 9:15-23; 2 Cor. 5:20.)

Notice also that all Paul’s compassion and emotion for his fellow Israelites did not save a single soul and did not influence God’s sovereign choice in the slightest way. Romans 9:16 says, “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs but on God who has mercy.” Thus, the Scripture explicitly says that salvation depends on God’s mercy, not on man’s compassion.

“Compassion is subjective, but command is objective.” This statement is not meant to dismiss human compassion, but rather is intended to put the emphasis where it will produce results. So, I witness to the lost because of the commands of Jesus Christ and because of the clear teaching of the New Testament (objective), rather than waiting until I feel compassion about the perilous position of the unsaved. To paraphrase, “To obey is better than compassion, and to fulfill your duty than to have fervent emotion” (modification of 1 Sam. 15:22). Compassion has no power to rescue the lost, but preaching the gospel, regardless of how I feel, “is the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16).

PRACTICAL APPLICATION IN A LOCAL CONGREGATION

With these thoughts fresh in our mind, how can we work with our congregation to make them more active in their evangelism, in “proclaiming the gospel?” My suggestion would be to make the congregation more aware of their biblical duty of witnessing for the Lord Jesus. That is, review those verses in the New Testament which make it clear that it is every believer’s duty to be a witness for the Lord Jesus and to be an ambassador for Christ. This means that the believer does not seek to win the lost primarily because they feel compassion for them, although the believer certainly should have compassion for those who are perishing. The disciple of Jesus does not sow the seed of the gospel primarily because of the emotion they feel for those outside Christ, although we should feel emotion for those outside of Christ. The believer is an ambassador for Christ and a fisher of men and a sower of the gospel seed and a witness for Jesus and a proclaimer of the excellencies of our gracious Redeemer primarily because of the believer’s love for Jesus Christ.

Therefore, the more we understand about our responsibility and our duty to be witnesses and ambassadors of the Lord Jesus, the more we will be compelled to reach the lost. So the leadership of the church (pastors and elders) focuses their teaching energies on making the congregation aware of our duty to our Lord to proclaim the gospel.

But awareness of a duty without equipping to fulfill that duty only produces guilt and resentment. So, the pastors and elders must go beyond awareness and must also train the congregation how to fulfill their duty. The leadership should provide means and methods for “proclaiming the gospel” so that the congregation can discharge their duty. This means that the leadership of the church (or other members of the church) should make available regular and tangible proclamation vehicles.

“Regular” means that proclamation vehicles are regularly scheduled on the church calendar. “Regular” also means that these opportunities for proclamation are preceded by training to equip the participants so that their experience is edifying and successful.

“Tangible” means that the proclaiming activity gives the participant the sense that they meaningfully participated in a bona fide evangelism event. The goal is for participants to have the sense that they genuinely proclaimed the gospel and discharged their duty to their King.

SDG                 rmb                 6/1/2022                     #538