Monday, March 31, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Twenty Eight

Here is my translation of Chapter 8--

So now there will not be eternal damnation for those who belong to King Jesus for the binding authority of the life giving Spirit has freed you from the power of evil that leads to death, thanks to King Jesus. The Mosaic Law could not save us because of our selfish nature but God has saved us by sending His own son as one of us to take our punishment and by doing so he destroyed the evil within our selfish being in order that the just requirements of the law might be fulfilled for us who no longer follow our selfish nature but instead are led by the Spirit. Those who live according to the selfish nature focus endlessly on rebellion but those who follow the Spirit focus on what pleases the Spirit. If your selfish, rebellious nature controls your mind then death awaits you but if the Holy Spirit controls your mind then there is peace with God and eternal life. You see, the selfish, rebellious nature within us hates God. It refuses to be subject to God, and, in fact, it is not even able to do so. That's why those who are slaves to this nature can never please God.

But you are not controlled by this rebellious nature but instead are controlled by the Spirit, that is, if you have the Spirit within you (and remember, that those who do not have the Spirit of our King living in them are not really his). Since we and our King are one, even though your body will die one day, your Spirit will live because you and God were reconciled. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you, so just as He raised our King from the dead, he will grant eternal life to your finite body by this same Spirit living within you.

So, my family, you are under no obligation any longer to do what your selfish, rebellious nature urges you to do and if you keep on following it then you will be condemned to eternal death, but if, thanks to the Holy Spirit, you turn from these urges which produce evil acts, you will live forever. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

So you should not live like a bunch of wussy servants but instead behave like God's very own children who have been adopted into His family and feel free to call Him "father" or even "daddy." For His Holy Spirit speaks to our innermost being, telling us that we are His children and since we are His children, we will share His riches--for everything God gives to his Son, our King Jesus, He gives to us also, however, remember that if we are privileged to share our King's glory then we are also expected to share in his suffering.

But remember, what we suffer now is nothing compared to the rewards He will give us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future time when God will pull back the curtain and reveal who His true children really are.

You see, against its will, everything on this earth was subjected to God's curse. All creation longs for the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation cries in pain as if it were in labor right up until now, in fact, even we followers of King Jesus that possess the Holy Spirit as a down payment of future honor, also scream in pain to be released from suffering. So, we too anxiously wait for the time when God will publically declare us to be His children and grant us new, eternal bodies just as He has promised. Now that we have been rescued, we eagerly look forward to this freedom. Of course, you don't need to hope for something you already have but we wait patiently yet confidently for that which we don't yet possess.

But during this time of distress, the Holy Spirit helps us. I mean, we don't even really know what we should pray for or even how we should pray but the Holy Spirit prays for us with painful cries that cannot be expressed in words and the Father, who knows all of our innermost thoughts and desires, understands the Spirit for it intercedes on our behalf in accordance with God's will. Moreover, we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His plan for them. For God knew His people in advance and He chose them to be like His son, so that His son would be like the firstborn with many younger siblings, and, having chosen them, He called them to come to Him and He gave them right standing with Himself and He promised them honor.

Man! What can even say about amazing things like these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since God did not spare even His own son but gave Him up for us all, won't God who gave us our King, also give us everything else?

Who then dares to judge those whom God has chosen to be His very own? Will God? HECK NO! He is the one who has given us right standing with Himself. Who then will condemn us? King Jesus? NO! For he is the one who died for us and then was raised for us and now sits at the place of highest honor next to God, speaking to Him on our behalf!

"Well, Paul, can anything separate us from the love of our King? (Now that he has ascended) does it mean that he no longer loves us if we face trouble or disaster or are persecuted or are hungry or cold or in danger or facing death? (I mean, even the Bible says, "For your sake we are killed every day; we are being ground up like animals at a factory")?" HECK NO! Despite all of these things, overwhelming victory is ours through our King who loves us.

In fact, I am convinced that nothing can separate us from his love. Death can't. Life can't. The Angels can't and the demons can't. The fears that grip us today, our worries about the future and even the powers of hell can't keep God's love from us. No matter where we are, nothing anywhere will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that we see in King Jesus our teacher, deliverer and high priest.

Notes on Romans--Part Twenty Seven

In chapter 7, Paul argues that death removes certain obligations and opens new opportunities. Because we so identify with our King, who has in fact even died in our place, then we too have died and risen to a new life. This new life is the move in salvation history from a relationship with God governed by the Mosaic Law to a relationship governed solely by King Jesus and the Holy Spirit which guide us.

The Mosaic Law was, in itself, perfect, just and good but, unlike our covenant relationship through Christ, it demanded total obedience without imputing the power to obey it. Thus, the result was knowledge of sin without the power to escape it.

Paul then anticipates the objection that the Law is to blame and is therefore evil. He retorts that it was not the law but sin (or evil) within us that is to blame. The Law then was good in that it specifically pointed out sin but we are weak because we do not have the power to do anything about it, in fact, we take perverse delight in flaunting the specific dictates of the law. I confess that before I became a Christian I darn near used Leviticus as a check list of laws to break every weekend!

In direct contradiction of the proponents of the New Perspective, Paul even uses himself as an example in vv. 14-25 of what his life was like before his redemption in Jesus. Now, he not only knows the ways of God, but has been set free because Jesus perfectly obeyed, took the punishment for his lack of obedience and then even imputes his perfect obedient record to Paul so that he is able to stand in the presence of God whose holiness will not tolerate imperfection. Moreover, the Holy Spirit grants him (and us) power to do good deeds that glorify God and expand His son's Kingdom.


Notes on Romans--Part Twenty Six

Here is my translation of Chapter 7--

"Now my family, those of you who know the Law, you need to understand that the law only applies to a person who is still living. Let me try to explain, when a woman marries, the Law binds her to her husband as long as he is alive, but if he dies, the laws of marriage no longer apply to her. So, while her husband was alive, she would have been committing adultery if she married another man, but if her husband died, she is free from that law and is free to remarry without worrying about being charged with adultery.

Okay, this is my point: the Law no longer holds power over you because you died to its power when you died with Christ on the cross and now you are united with him in his resurrection. The result? You can fight for God, that is, do good things for God.

When we were controlled by our old selves, rebellious passions burned within us and evil used the Law to stoke those flames producing crimes against God deserving eternal punishment BUT now we have been released from the Law, for we died with our King and, so, we are no longer a prisoner to its power. You see, now we can truly fight for God but not in the old way by obeying the letter of the Law but in the new way--guided by His Spirit.

"Paul! Are you suggesting that the Law given by God Himself is evil?" HECK NO (see earlier notes!) The Law itself is not evil for it was the Law that showed me my sin. I would never have really known that coveting is wrong if the law had not stated, "Do not lust after what you do not have." But the darkness took advantage of the Law and pushed me to rebel. If there were no Law, there would be nothing specifically to rebel against!

You know, I felt pretty good before I understood what the Law demanded but when I learned the truth, I realized I had broken the law and was a criminal sentenced to death. So the Law, which is in itself good, did not give me life but helped condemn me to death! Evil seized the opportunity and seduced me--it took the good Law and and used it to sentence me to hell, but again, understand me, the Law, by itself, is perfect, just and good.

"Paul, I'm confused. This doesn't make sense! Is the Law, which is good, responsible for my death sentence?" HECK NO! The darkness used what was good to produce my guilty verdict, SO that we can see how disgusting rebellion against God really is. Evil used God's good commandments for its own dark purposes.

Okay, the Law is good, (we agree on that), so the problem is not with the Law but with me because I was sold to evil and it become my king.

You know, I don't understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don't. Instead, I end up doing the very thing I hate. I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong because my conscience tells me so (and it agrees with the good Law!) But I can't seem to help myself because of the evil within me that produces these actions.

It is a sad fact that when I want do what is right, I just end up doing what is wrong. I love God's Law with everything I have but there is another "law" within my very being doing battle with my conscience. Oh, what a depressed person I am! Who will free me from my prison of darkness?

Thank God! The answer is in King Jesus our teacher, deliverer and high priest!

So understand--In my mind I want to obey God's Law but because of my selfish nature I am a slave to evil.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Twenty Five

In Chapter 6, Paul anticipates a question raised from the doctrine of justification (i.e., being made right with God), which is, if we are no longer bound to the Mosaic law and we are forgiven thanks to Christ's work then are we free to do as we please i.e., keep on sinning like a recently divorced accountant in Vegas? Paul not only says no but gives a resounding emphatic no that can be properly translated as H-e double hockey sticks No!"

Paul reminds the Roman churches that they are "in Christ", which means that they so identify with Christ that they are to act like him and serve him as their new slave master (or, in better modern parlance) to serve their new king as faithful soldiers. They are to use their bodies as weapons in a war and they can either fight for the side of evil or for the side of justice and godliness. It is our choice as well. There is no middle ground. No room to be wussies in the midst of this spiritual war. No one can be friggin' France! You are either with God (which means you turn your back to a life of persistent, unrepentent sin and sacrifice for others) or you are with the darkness, which means you keep on sinning. Choose sides.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Twenty Four

Here is my translation of Chapter 6--

"Well then, should we continue dwelling in the land of evil in order to obtain more free gifts from God? HECK NO! (okay, I'd be even stronger if it wouldn't give the fundamentalists a heart attack because it is an emphatic no here!). Since we have left that land behind we shouldn't seek to return. Don't you know that all of us who have been baptized into King Jesus died with him? We were buried with our King by baptism and just as our King rose from the dead by the powerful hand of the Father, now we also have been raised to wholly different lives.

So, if we were with him in his death, then we will also be united with him when we are resurrected just as he was. So know this, your old, evil, rebellious self was crucified with him in order that our perverse existence would be annihilated, so that we would no longer be slaves to this evil rebellion. For the one who died has set us free from evil. Now, if we are so close to Christ that we died with him then we also trust that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has any power over him. His death defeated evil and he now lives to glorify God! So you too should consider yourselves dead to evil and capable to live for the glory of God through King Jesus.

Do not let evil control the way you live. Do not give in to its seductive call. Do not let any part of your body become a weapon of evil to be used to rebel against God. Instead give everything you are to God since you have been given a new life and use your whole body as a weapon to fight for the glory of God! Evil is no longer your king for you are no longer subject to rules which Satan uses to enslave you. Instead you are free thanks to the free gift of God.

"So, Paul, since God has graciously freed us from the law does this mean we can go on doing evil?" Heck no! (again, see note on above parenthesis). Understand something, whatever you choose to obey is your king! You can choose evil, which leads to death or you can choose to obey God and be reconciled to Him. Thank God!!! Once you were slaves to evil but now you have obeyed, with everything you have, the new teaching God has given you. Now you are free from evil, your old master, and you have become soldiers to new your new king--justice!

Please note, I'm speaking to you this way, using the example of slaves and masters, because it easy to understand.

Before you came to know our King, you allowed yourselves to be slaves of perversion and rebellion. Now you must choose to be slaves of justice so that you might be set apart for God's great plan.

In the past, when you were slaves of evil, you didn't care about doing what is right and what was the result? It wasn't good because now you are ashamed of the things you used to do, things that lead to eternal torture but now you are free from the power of evil and you have become obedient soldiers of God. Now you do those things that lead to godliness and result in eternal life. For the payment one receives for evil is death but the free gift of God is eternal life through King Jesus our deliverer, teacher and high priest.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Notes on Romans--Party Twenty Three

Paul moves from emphasizing faith (or belief and trust in Jesus) (33 times in 1:1-4:25 to only 3 times in chapters 5-8) to life (24 times chapters 5-8), both eternal and now.

In Chapter 5, Paul deals with the apparent contradiction that we have been eternally declared to be in the right with God now through our belief in- and trust in- King Jesus to the long held Jewish belief that all people would be judged by God on "Judgment Day."

Paul believes in Judgment Day but also believes that those "in Christ" have already been judged through King Jesus. He states that we have this hope and that this hope will not disappoint us (v.5) for the Holy Spirit is poured out and this is a sign of salvation and the symbol of the messianic age.

Paul drags the problem back before the giving of the law to the entrance of sin and to the real remedy for the power of sin--the obedient life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul even anticipates an objection in v.13, "but there couldn't be sin before the law? to which Paul answers, "well, did people die before the law? Then there was sin before the law? Paul will go on to show at length that the law does not break the power of sin...only Christ.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Twenty Two

Here is my translation of Chapter 5--
"Therefore, since we have been declared to be in the right through faith, we have peace with God through our King Jesus the deliverer and high priest, through whom we have been granted access by faith into this sphere of grace in which we now stand. And we proclaim our confidence in the hope of the glory of God. Not only this, but we also remain confident in our suffering because we know that this suffering will toughen us up and make us soldiers filled with confidence in God's battle plans and this confidence will not disappoint us because God has empowered us with His selflessness by way of the Holy Spirit whom He sent. You see, just at the right time, when were morally weak, our King died for his own enemies. Very rarely will anyone die for a just man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die, but God demonstrates His own love for us in this--while were still in rebellion against Him, our King died for us. Since we have been absolved of punishment by his blood, how much more shall we be delivered from God's just anger through our King! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of His son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also testify in God through our King Jesus the deliverer and high priest through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Moreover, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through that sin to all persons, because all sinned, indeed, remember, that even before the Mosaic law was handed down, sin was in the world, but sin was not counted as sin because there was not law yet to break! Yet, everyone died--from the time of Adam to the time of Moses--even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam was a model of what was to come. Yet the redemptive gift is not the same as the death inducing sin. If one man's rebellion against God pushed innumerable persons into the realm of death, just think what God's unmerited gift poured out in the one man, Jesus the King, will do! Again, the gift of God is not like the product of one man's sin against God--judgment followed that one sin but the gift follows many sins and brings reconciliation with God.
For, if the rebellion of one man, Adam, death reigned, how much more will those who receive God's wonderful gift of grace and reconciliation live in triumph over sin and death thanks to one man--King Jesus.
Yes, Adam's one sin brought condemnation for everyone but our King's one act of justice brings reconciliation with God and new life for everyone. Because one person disobeyed God, many became rebellious but because one person obeyed God, many will be reconciled.
God's law was given so that all people could see how sinful they are but people just sinned more and more, yet God's wonderful grace multiplied. So, just as sin ruled over all people and brought them death, now God's wonderful grace reigns instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus our King, deliverer and high priest.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Interview with Ben Stein

R.C. Sproul interviews Ben Stein about his forthcoming documentary "Expelled--No Intelligence Allowed" over at Ligonier Ministries. Check it out at:

Notes on Romans--Part Twenty One

In Romans, Paul moves from his introduction (1:1-12) to the explanation for not coming to see the Roman churches earlier (1:13-15) to his thesis statement (1:16-17) to his supporting argument (1:18-15:13). Paul's argument in support of his thesis statement is, so far, (1) that all non-Jews are without excuse for obeying God and are therefore under condemnation (1:18-32) and (2) all Jews who know the law are also without excuse and, therefore, are also under condemnation (2:1-3:8) and, in fact, (3) all people everywhere are without excuse and condemned to an eternity in hell (3:9-20).

Paul then moves to argue that only through faith (belief in-and trust in-) in King Jesus is any person rescued from alienation from God. Paul then asserts that, in fact, it has been this way in redemptive history before, specifically, in regards to Abraham. In chapter 4, Paul sets forth Abraham as an example of someone justified (i.e., reconciled to God) by faith (belief and trust) alone.

Because Paul sees faith itself as a gift (we will get to election in Romans 9)there is, therefore, no place for boasting or bragging within the body (3:27 and 4:2).

As a side note, as one of James Dunn's former students, Simon Gathercole, has argued, this section is one of the toughest for folks like N.T. Wright and other adherents to the New Perspective on Paul to deal with because, in their view, one is welcomed into the covenant community by grace but maintain that status by works, would this not lead to boasting? Tim Keller has also noted that such a view could easily fall into the same legalism decried by Paul.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Twenty

The following is my translation of Romans 4:

"What about Abraham? In the flesh he was the father of the Jewish nation but remember how he was made right with God? If it was his own acts of kindness that reconciled him and God then he would have had something to brag about but that was not God's way. For the Bible states that "Abraham trusted God, and God granted him right standing solely because of that trust." Now, when people work their paycheck isn't a gift but is earned but people are made right with God not because of something they have done but because of their trust in God who forgives His rebellious children.

David also said as much when he wrote about the happiness of those who are reconciled to God without earning it: "Oh, how happy are those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose crimes against God are wiped away. Yes, there is great excitement for those who have been forgiven by God."

Now is this great gift only for the Jewish people or is it for all people? Well, we have been talking about the fact that Abraham was reconciled to God because of his faith. But think about how this happened--Was Abraham declared to be in God's favor only after he was circumcised or was it before he was circumcised? Clearly, God accepted Abraham before he was circumcised!
Circumcision was only the sign that Abraham already trusted God and that God had already accepted him and looked upon him with favor--even before he was circumcised. So, Abraham is the spiritual father of those who have faith but have not been circumcised--they are in God's favor because of their faith--and Abraham is also the spiritual father of those who have been circumcised, but only if they have the same kind of faith Abraham had before he was circumcised.
Clearly God's promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to the Mosiac law but on a right relationship with God that comes by belief and trust. If God's promise is only for those who obey the Mosaic law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it (I mean, the only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!)
So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift and we are all certain to receive it if we have the faith of Abraham whether or not we live according to the law of Moses for Abraham is the father of ALL who trust God. That is what the Bible means when God told him, "I have made you the father of many nations." This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing!
I mean even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping--believing that he would indeed become the father of many nations. For God said to him, "that's how many descendants you will have!" and Abraham's faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead--and so was Sarah's womb.
But Abraham never wavered in believing God's promise. In fact, his trust grew stronger and this honored God. Abraham was absolutely certain that God is able to do whatever He promises and because of this belief and trust--God looked upon him with favor and when God did this, it wasn't just for Abraham's benefit, it was recorded for our benefit too, assuring us that God will also look upon us with favor if we trust in Him, the one who raised Jesus, our King, from the dead. Jesus was handed over to die because of our crimes against God but he was resurrected from the dead to reconcile us with God.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Nineteen

N. T. Wright argues that when Paul uses the term "justification" he means that God has declared a person to be a full member of the people of God (or a citizen of the Kingdom and a loyal follower of King Jesus) but that person only remains a member of the people of God by doing good works. Wright argues that Paul is clear that we are all judged on the totality of the life lived (see Rom. 14:10-12) and that God will specifically judge us according to our works, both good and bad (Rom. 2:6 and 2 Cor. 5:10).
Classical Reformed scholars argue that good works are a sign that a person has been saved by God, not a way to earn salvation in any way, shape or form. They counter that what Paul means when he speaks of good and bad deeds is the rewards (or lack thereof) bestowed on a Christian in the new Heavens and New Earth (1 Cor. 3:12-15; 2 Cor. 5:9-10 and Romans 14:10-12). They argue that we are all saved solely by grace in our election and that Jesus paid the price for our sins breaking its power over us and then granting us his status on judgment day which allows us to stand in the Holy presence of God (a doctrine known as imputed righteousness). Rewards are doled out by our savior later on according to how we have multiplied the talents allotted each of us.
In all fairness, the Reformed view with its emphasis on imputed righteousness is certainly the orthodox view (i.e., one traced back to the early church) and many of the verses Wright cites can fairly be interpreted as referring to rewards in the next life not as actions which keep us from losing eternal life. However, there are verses like Matthew 25:31-46, and, to a certain extent, Romans 2:6, which seem to support Wright's view.
Yet, on the other hand, Wright's contention that to be "justified" means a person "is in the covenant community" has no warrant outside of Scripture and little warrant within. There is simply no extra-Biblical texts to support Wright's reading that "justification" was ever read in such a way (as a side note, non-Biblical texts is a key scholars use to know how to interpret certain Greek and Hebrew words and phrases used by the inspired authors of Scripture).
Believe it or not this whole debate actually began back in the early 1960's with the publication of an article by the dean of Harvard Divinity School and continues to "rage" at scholarly conferences. Perhaps the truth will not come out until both sides admit their own weaknesses and work with the other for resolution. Reformed scholars need to admit that several verses do seem to support Wright's contention that we are all judged by our deeds not by Christ's righteousness and Wright needs to admit that "justification" = "welcome to the family" is a bit of a stretch.
Confused? Hey, who said the thoughts of God were easy to understand!!!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Eighteen

One of the points of contention I failed to mention is between classical Protestant Reformers and the proponents of the New Perspective on Paul. In Romans 2:6 Paul states that God will "render to each one according to his works (ESV)". This is not the only place the thought is stated in the New Testament, for example see Matt. 25:31-46, 2 Cor. 5:10 and Rev. 2:23 just for starters.

How does these verses comport with the Reformation assertion that Christians do not need to worry about judgment because Jesus imputes His righteousness to us? (see Rom. 4:6; 1 Cor. 1:30 and 2 Cor. 5:21)

Bishop N.T. Wright, Prof. James D.G. Dunn, Rob Bell and others deny that Christ imparts His righteousness (or right standing) before God and that we are judged by the totality of the life lived. Reformers argue that Paul explicitly states that nothing we can do can save us and that only through Christ's obedience and the gift of faith are saved. Who has the better argument? More later. In the meantime, work it out yourselves with fear and trembling.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Seventeen

One of the points that Dr. Carson notes during his lecture on Romans 3 is verse 26 which is often overlooked. I would translate the verse:

"It was to show his justice at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."

I have left "justifier" in for effect but what it really means is--"to be declared 'right' in His sight."

This is important because the problem presented is that (1) God is Holy (i.e., perfect, infinite, pure, etc.) and we are sinful (i.e., we spit in our creator's face) but (2) God loves us regardless. God's justice demands payment for the affront to His holiness but He loves us so much that He does not want us to be remain condemned. The solution is that Jesus pays the penalty and imputes his status to us. Thus, God's justice is satisfied and He "justifies" us (i.e., declares us to be right in his sight). We have done nothing to deserve this great mercy. It is all due to Jesus and we are to live in thanks for this gift.

Happy Easter...the tomb is empty!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Sixteen

Instead of my amateurish musings on Romans 3, click on the link below and listen to the great D.A. Carson's expert thoughts on Romans 3 entitled "Why Trust A Cross?" About an hour in length but well worth your time and attention. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Fifteen

Here is my translation of Romans 3. Will post comments later:

1 Then what's the advantage of being a Jew? Is there any value in the ceremony of circumcision?2 Yes, there are great benefits! First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the Bible 3 True, some of them did not trust in God; but just because they were not trusting, does that mean God is untrustworthy?4 Of course not! Even if everyone in the world else is a liar, God is true to His word. As the Scriptures say about him,"You will be proved right in what you say, and you will win your case in court." 5 "But," some might say, "our unfaithfulness serves a good purpose, for it helps people see how faithful God is. Isn't it unfair, then, for him to punish us?" (Here I am obviously arguing as one uninspired by God.)6 Of course not! If God were not entirely fair, how would he be qualified to judge the world?7 "But," someone might still argue, "how can God condemn me as a sinner if my dishonesty highlights his truthfulness and brings him more glory?"8 And some people even lie about us by claiming that we say, "The more we sin, the better it is!" Those who say such things deserve to be condemned. Now, all People Are Sinners 9 Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin. 10 As the Bible say,"No one is in right relationship with God— not even one! 11 No one is truly wise; no one is truly seeking God. 12 All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one." 13 "Their talk is foul, like the stink of an open grave. They lie constantly and.""poison drips from their lips." 14 All their words are laced with evil."15 "They rush to commit murder. 16 Destruction and despair always lay in their wake. 17 They don't know where or how to find peace." 18 "They have no fear of God at all."
19 Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, but remember that its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. 20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
21 But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the Bible long ago. 22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in King Jesus. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. 23 For everyone has sinned; we all stand guilty before God. 24 Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we have been acquitted. He did this through King Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the atonement for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life and shed his blood for them. This sacrifice shows that God was being just when He held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for He was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate His faithfulness, for He himself is fair and just, and He declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe and trust in- and are loyal to Jesus. 27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on belief and trust. 28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. 29 After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn't he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course He is. 30 There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. 31 Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Fourteen

Now that Paul has given the business to the Gentiles in Chapter 1, now he takes out his "butt kickin'" stick for his Jewish brothers and sisters. The whole point of chapters 1:18-3:21 is that ALL people are sinners and, therefore, all people are on a level playing field.
Remember that the Jewish-Christians had been banished from Rome for roughly 5 years and returned to find the non-Jewish Christians running the churches that they had founded. Add to this fact that many early Jews, as attested to by the Book of Acts, felt that the Gentiles were still second-class members of the People of God.

Paul argues that at this time in Salvation History (and until the return of the King), that all people have sinned and deserve an eternal death penalty but the great Apostle to the Gentiles will not leave all people roasting in the pit...he's about to set forth the solution...the only solution.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Thirteen

Here is my translation of Chapter 2:
Now some of you may be smugly looking down at others but you are just as bad because you do the same things! While you are pointing your finger at them you actually condemn yourself. You too are without excuse! Know that God is just and, as such, will punish ANYONE who continues to sin.
Do you really think that God will condemn others for these actions but ignore them when you do them? Don't you realize how kind, tolerant and patient God is with you as well? Or don't you care? Can't you see how kind He has been in giving you time to turn away from your sins? No, because you are stubborn and black hearted you are just asking for judgment on the day you stand before the just God of the World who will acquit or condemn everyone according to the life they have lived. He will grant eternal life to those who persistently do what is right in the hope of eternal life and He will condemn those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and who do what is evil. For those who persistently sin, Jew or Gentile, there will be horror and disaster but there will be glory, honor and peace from God for all who do what is right--for the Jew first and then for all others. For God does not show favoritism.
God will destroy the Gentiles who continue to sin even though they never had God's written law and He will destroy the Jews who continue to sin for they have God's written law. Understand something, it is not merely knowing God's written law but obeying them that places one in right relationship with Him. You see, when Gentiles, who do not have or know the Bible, instinctively obey the commandments found in it, then they show that in their hearts they know what is right and what is wrong. They show the world that God's ways are written within them and their own conscience guides them. You can count on this--the day will come when God, through King Jesus, will judge EVERYONE's secret life. This is the message I preach.
If you are a Jew and are relying on God's written law as a sign of your special relationship with God then you brag that all is well between you and God. Now, you know right from wrong because you have been taught His ways. You are convinced that you are "a guide for the blind" and a lighthouse for all those lost at sea without God. You believe you can teach the ignorant children of the world the ways of God because you are certain that in God's written law you have complete knowledge and truth.
Well, if you are convinced that you can teach others then you had better start with yourself! You tell others not to steal but have you ever stolen anything? You say it is wrong to cheat on your spouse but have you ever done it? You condemn other religions but have you ever committed idolatry? You are so proud of knowing God's written commandments but then you spit in His face by breaking them! No wonder the Bible says the "world dishonors God because of you!"
The Jewish ceremony of circumcision is worth something only if you obey God's ways. If you don't obey God's commandments then you are no better than an uncircumcised Gentile. But if the Gentiles obey God's Word won't God save them? In fact, uncircumcised Gentiles who obey God's written commandments will be much better off then than you circumcised Jews who know the law like the back of your hand but don't obey it.
Listen, you are not a member of the people of God just because who you were born to or because you were circumcised as a child. No, a true member of the people of God is one whose heart longs after God. True circumcision is not cutting the body but a change of heart produced by God's Spirit and whoever has undergone that change seeks praise from God not from people.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Twelve

Chapter 1 of Romans is a study in itself (and indeed we are barely through it after 2 weeks of reading it at CCC's infamous very early men's bible study). The introduction (vv.1-12) offer honest praise for the Roman Christians and also foreshadows some of the themes that are to come, namely: (1) the good news was promised long ago by God (i.e., Paul is not preaching something of his own creation and is the fulfillment of the law and the Old Testament); (2) the good news is about Jesus our King and High Priest who has delivered us from a shallow life and eternal death; (3) this good news is an unmerited gift for all, Jew and Gentile; and (4) all who receive it are commissioned to proclaim it to all in order to bring about obedience to the one true King.
vv.13-15, contains pertinent facts, including the assertion that he (Paul) has not snubbed the Roman churches in not yet visiting them and, in fact, really wants to visit them and hopes to soon.
vv.16-17 is the thesis statement of the letter and states that the good news is that deliverance from an empty life and eternal death has been made available to all persons everywhere who believe and trust in and are loyal to Jesus. In this good news, the saving action of God has been revealed and is only available through the gift of faith.
v.18-32 is part of the longer argument (ending in Chapter 15) supporting the thesis statement. Here Paul argues that ALL gentiles are "without excuse" re: obedience to God because He has made His commandments known to them intuitively. They are all condemned under the justified anger of God who has turned His back on them resulting in perversions, including, homosexual behavior.
This last part is controversial and it evoked a lot of discussion at our last Bible study. Some scholars argue that Paul believed that homosexual behavior was unnatural and, therefore, a sign of being abandoned by God but that we now know that some people are simply born homosexual and, therefore, Paul was wrong. Others, following a more Reformed doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture, argue otherwise and it is worth noting that the studies asserting that homosexual behavior is a trait ingrained into one's DNA have been challenged.
Work it out yourself with fear and trembling. Chapter 2 starts tomorrow. God bless,

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Eleven

We now move on to the translation of 1:18-32 which is part of the larger argument that runs through chapter 15 supporting the thesis statement of 1:16-17. Will comment on it tomorrow.
"for now the curtain has been pulled back to reveal the heavenly court room and the just anger of God against those who do evil and with nothing but wicked intentions try to conceal the truth because that which is capable of being know about God is plain to see because God has made it clearly visible! For since the creation of the world His invisible characteristics, including His divine power and divine nature, have been clearly visible through what He has made, so they are without excuse.
So, even though they know about God they refused to honor Him as God or worship Him as God and so they speculated like idiots and their hearts became black, while claiming to be brilliant they became morons and exchanged life eternal with the eternal God for material things and false gods. Therefore, God turned His back on them and they then lapsed into lust filled, impulsive animals . They exchanged the truth for a lie and worshipped and served things rather than the eternal creator, who is to worshipped forever, Amen!
For this reason, God continued to turn His back on them and they then lapsed into disgusting perversions, for example, women unnaturally lusted for other women and in the same way men turned their back on natural desires for women and unnaturally lusted for other men committing perverted acts and receiving within themselves a just punishment for their mistake.
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God refused to acknowledge them and they did these things which are not right, being filled with injustice, wickedness, greed, evil; full of jealousy, murder, disruptive attitudes, viciousness, lies, etc. they gossip, slander, hate God, disregard others and are full of themselves, furthermore, they love to create evil and disobey their parents while they don't know what they are talking about, they are untrustworthy, they are unloving and unmerciful; and although they know God's commandments and that those who break them deserve death, they not only break them but encourage others to do so as well!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Ten

Sorry for the delay but I spent yesterday driving through Pennsylvania.
We now come to Romans 1:16-17 which is the thesis statement of the whole book.
My translation of the Greek reads as follows:
"For I am not ashamed of the good news, for it is the dynamic power of God for deliverance from death and despair to everyone who believes, to the Jews first and then the Gentiles, for the salvific actions of God have been revealed in the good news from first to last by belief and trust in and loyalty to King Jesus, for as it is written, "those acquitted by faith will live."
A loose translation, I know but one that I think gets the point across without the need to belabor you unduly with a lot of word studies. We will see this thesis statement played out throughout the sixteen chapters of Romans.
We begin the argument of the letter tomorrow.
PS--once again, if this is boring you then check out my stuff on church planting over at my Myspace blog at:
God bless.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Nine

Romans 1:13-15

Next we come to the "fact section" of Paul's speech/sermon contained in Romans.

Here is where an ancient speaker would lay out pertinent facts before moving on to his thesis statement. From my translation below I think you can see that there may have been some rumblings in Rome about possibly being snubbed by the great Apostle to the Gentiles.

13 I want you all to know, brothers and sisters, that often I have planned to visit you but have been prevented so far, but I want to come and help you as I have done among all people in the Empire.

14 I have been commissioned to go to both to citizens and foreigners, both to the educated and uneducated.

15 So, you see, I really do want to preach in Rome.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Eight

Before we press on, here is my translation of Romans 1:1-12 (the introduction to the letter), do with it what you will--
1:1 This letter is from Paul, one solely devoted to Jesus the deliverer, commissioned to be His messenger, for the good news of God. 2 This is the new good news He promised long ago through His spokespersons, as recorded in the Bible, 3 concerning His son, who was a descendant of King David in His earthly existence, 4 who was royally proclaimed to be THE son of God by His resurrection from the dead by the Holy Spirit, Jesus our deliverer and King. 5 Through Him we have received many unmerited gifts and the commission to bring about the obedience of loyalty to Jesus among all peoples to the glory of His name. 6 You also are among those divinely commanded to belong to Jesus the deliverer. 7 To all of those loved by God in Rome, commanded to be set apart for God's work: Blessings and Peace to you from God our Father and King Jesus, the deliverer.
1:8 First of all, I thank my God through Jesus our High Priest for all of you, because your loyalty to and belief and trust in Jesus is spoken of throughout the Roman Empire. 9 For God, whom I serve with everything I have by proclaiming the good news of His son, is my witness that I think of you often and 10 pray regularly that I can now, at last, succeed in visiting you by the will of God. 11 For I really want to visit you, so that I may use my gifts to help you 12 and that you may use yours to help me.
Now, I have obviously made some theological judgments in my translation of the Greek but I'll let you work out your own translation with fear and trembling. More later.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Seven

Now we take a run through the world of "word studies." A note of caution here, the late Biblical scholar James Barr rightly cautioned to pastors to remember that words are always conditioned by their context and, therefore, their meaning is not always the same as the dry dictionary definition we find in many books like Vine's. This will become very important when we discuss the so-called New Perspective on Paul and the understanding of "justification."
If you have a good modern work on word studies like Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words or the "Bible Knowledge Word Study" set compiled by the good folks at Dallas Theological Seminary then you can run through Romans 1:1-12 and learn a lot.
For example, Paul refers to himself as a "slave" or "bond servant" of Christ Jesus. How do we interpret that today so that it makes sense to the average lay person? Most westerners associate the term "slave" with the abomination of African slavery in this country and the overwhelming majority of both the churched and un-churched have no idea what a "bond servant" is or was. Moreover, can you accurately define "Christ"? So, what to do?
The Bible Knowledge Word Study (and the study notes to the NET Bible found free at state:
"1:1 Servant (doulos)--This word has the idea of "one who is solely committed to another, slave, subject"
Christ (Christou)--Literally, "one who has been anointed"...a title for Jesus, the Messiah. The Messiah was to deliver Israel from Gentile domination.
So, I translate 1:1a as "Paul, one solely committed to Jesus the deliverer..."
The translation makes much more sense esp. to someone who is unfamiliar with the basics of the Christian faith. You may ask, "what is Jesus delivering someone from?" That will come later.
Next, in 1:1b we have "called as an apostle, set apart for the Gospel of God" (NASB).
According to Mounce, apostolos broadly refers to a "messenger, delegate," or "sent one." In classical Greek, apostolos referred to a person of merit sent as an envoy or on behalf of a master in an administrative role. (p.26)
If we read on then we find "Within Paul's letters, where the term is found more frequently than in any other part of the NT, apostolos...(refers) to an honored group of believers with special status as God's messengers or envoys..." (p.27).
We find that Paul sometimes uses "apostle" as a term of authority and other times generally to remind others of their mission.
Now, what about "the Gospel"? Literally it means "good news" but so of what? That will come later.
Thus, it is proper to render Romans 1:1
"Paul, one solely committed to Jesus the deliverer, called to be His messenger, set apart for the good news of God."
Next we tackle the area of historical background studies and how they help illuminate the message of Scripture.
Check back soon.

If You're Not Into Romans...

I'll continue posts on Romans later today but for those who are complaining that they are bored by these posts then let me point them to my Myspace page. I haven't updated it in a while because I've just been too busy but will do so soon re: thoughts on Tony Jones new book, which I just finished, as well as useless musings on the works of Alan Hirsch.
More soon.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Six

Okay, so we have read Romans several times and noted who wrote it, when it was written, where it was written, to whom it was written and why it was written. We have also taken copious notes on recurring words, themes, etc. Jotted down questions as to what particular passages or words might mean. We have then composed a provisional outline.

A seminary nerd would now attempt to translate the original Greek but you all have a life and, therefore, spent your time more profitably than a raging Geek like myself.

So now we need to start to try to answer some of the questions raised during our earlier readings as we work through Romans passage by passage. Let's start with Romans 1:1-12, which I believe is the exordium or introduction containing a greeting and key themes that will be unpacked throughout the epistle.

Romans 1:1-12 reads, in the NASB:

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.

For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.

For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine.

Okay, now my question is this--can you define each word above so that 3rd grader could understand it? For example, can you define, in simple terms, the words "bond servant (which is preferable to the translation "slave") or "Christ" or "apostle" or explain what Paul means when he writes that Jesus is David's descendant according to "the flesh" or that Jesus was "declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection"? If not, then you have work to do.

I would not recommend running to a commentary or to most books on word studies. At the risk of sounding smug, most of these works are simply poor. For example, Barclay's commentaries are woefully out-of-date for no other reason then they often rely on ancient documents that we now know were written several hundred years after the writing of the Gospels. Thus, to quote New Testament scholar Don Carson, relying on such documents would be like reading the New York Times today to discover what Abraham Lincoln thought! Books like Vine's Expository Dictionary are also guilty of this move and also suffer from being written decades before software programs revolutionized our study of Greek.

There are up-to-date popular works out there like Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words and the NIV Application Commentary series but far too Christians have easy access to these works. So, we will begin to work through these problems tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Five

Okay, before we jump headlong into word studies, historical background, etc. we need to take a few posts to talk more about different Bible versions and the politics of translating Scripture.
In the previous post, I uploaded two different translations of Romans 1:1-12. The New Living Translation is a looser, reader friendly interpretation and the English Standard Version is stricter more literal interpretation of the Greek (both are excellent, by the way). Note that both translations were produced by committees of top Reformed Evangelical Bible scholars, yet there are obvious differences.
What this should teach you is that there are actually many ways to interpret the original Greek text. Interpreting an ancient language is not as simple as just looking up the English equivalent in a dictionary. First of all, Greek does not follow the western convention of subject, verb, object that we all learned in school. A Greek author could place the verb first and the subject last if he or she so pleased. For example take a look at the following "word by word" translation of the Greek of Romans 1:18:
"Revealed for wrath God's from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men the truth in righteousness repressing."
Okay, so just untangling that mess into a coherent English sentence is not easy! Then there is the challenge of finding out out exactly what the various Greek words actually mean. You see, many Greek words can mean different things depending on how they were meant to be interpreted by the author.
As for Romans, Paul sent the letter with Pheobe who probably helped to interpret it once it was read aloud to the various Roman house churches.
Let's take a for instance, Romans 1:17 reads, in the NRSV, "For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, "the one who is righteous will live by faith."
Now there are actually a number of very difficult problems within the Greek. For one thing no one really knows how to render the last part of that verse beginning with "through faith for faith." The Greek is simply not clear. It could be interpreted "By faith, from first to last" and many other ways.
Next, the word translated as "righteousness" can be rendered a number of different ways. The word in Greek can mean "just" or "innocent" or "right" or it could mean "faithful" and, in fact, was often used in the prophetic literature of the Greek Old Testament to speak of God's faithfulness to His covenant with Israel. It could also be interpreted as God's faithfulness to His Holiness or to His salvific activity. Then there is the issue of whether it was written in the objective or subjective case which can switch everything around. If it is in the objective case then 1:17 can actually mean "our righteousness (or standing) before God (as if in a law court with God as the judge)."
Start to see how difficult this can be.
To make matters worse, the word can mean one thing in one paragraph and something else in the next!!!
One of the reasons Bible translators still use words like "justify" or "righteousness" (they both stem from the same Greek word group) is that they don't have the guts to state what they really think the word means one paragraph to the next! This is a shame because how many people on the street really know what "righteousness" means?
If this has your head spinning then join the group but we will do our best to tease all of this out as we go along.
Just pray hard, keep reading Romans as many times as possible in as many different translations as possible and wait to see what God has in store for us.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Four

The next step in tackling the Book of Romans is to translate it from the Greek but many, if not most of you, were not dumb enough to sit through hour upon hour, semester upon semester of memorizing, parsing and translating the dead language of koine Greek, so the next step for you would be to compare the various translations paragraph by paragraph.

I would recommend comparing at least three different translations from three different interpretative philosophies (more on that later) like the New Living Translation, the NIV and the ESV or the Message, the NRSV and the NASB. The goal is to try to utilize as many different scholars to get as close to the original meaning of the author, which is not easy (more that later too).

If all of that confuses you then you probably have the glazed, stunned look of most 1st year seminary students. Anyway, all of this will be unpacked later but for now take a look at the first section of Romans in two different translations--one that is a "loose translation" of the Greek (NLT) and the ESV that is more "literal." Just read them, spend at least a moment thinking about it and we'll begin to clear all of this up tomorrow.

1:1-12 (NLT)

1 This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News. 2 God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. 3 The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David's family line, 4 and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name. 6 And you are included among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. 7 I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.God's Good News 8 Let me say first that I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in him is being talked about all over the world. 9 God knows how often I pray for you. Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God, whom I serve with all my heart* by spreading the Good News about his Son. 10 One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you. 11 For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. 12 When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.

1:1-12 (ESV)

1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Longing to Go to Rome

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Three

What provoked Paul to write the epistle to the Romans? Scripture and history help us paint a background to the book.
The church was probably founded by Jewish Christians who were baptized in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Acts 2:10). The new Christians most likely faced the same opposition from Jewish leaders that Paul faced throughout the Roman world. The arguments apparently became so heated that, in 49 A.D., Emperor Claudius expelled all of the Jews from Rome to put a stop to it. However, when Nero ascended to the throne in 54 A.D., he was persuaded by his wife to allow the Jews to return. Yet, when the Jewish Christians returned, some of which may have even helped to establish the church, they found the Gentile Christians large and in charge. Undoubtedly, this would have created some tensions and Paul addresses the problem in his Epistle.
Paul also wanted to let the Romans know that the great "apostle to the Gentiles" had not been snubbing them by not visiting them as of yet (1:13-15) and also wanted their assistance in going to Spain on a missionary journey (15:23-24).
The confluence of all of these events, along the urging of the Holy Spirit, provoked Paul to dictate a grand letter to a fellow Christian named Tertius (16:22) around 58 A.D. and 1950 years later it continues to challenge and form Christians. Praise be to God.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Notes on Romans--Part Two

Outlining the Epistle to the Roman Church is no easy task. Few scholars agree with every jot and tittle of another scholar's outline of Paul's masterpiece.
Douglas Moo, in his fine technical commentary, argues for an outline following a conglomeration of different guidelines for ancient letters while Luke Timothy Johnson and Robert Jewett argue that Romans should be viewed as a piece of ancient rhetoric. I think Johnson and Jewett have the stronger argument. Few ancients could read and Paul's letters, with the exception of the epistles to Timothy and Titus, would have been read aloud to the congregation by someone in the congregation who possessed some education.
Ancient rhetoric was taught in every school in the Roman world. Paul almost certainly attended the fine university at Tarsus and, thus, would have been educated in the ancient art of rhetoric. The discipline had fairly strict rules. Each speech, with some notable exceptions, was expected to contain an exordium (an introduction that contained key themes and sought to favorably dispose the audience to the forthcoming message), a narratio (a brief statement of relevant facts), a propositio (a brief thesis statement), a probatio (a supporting argument), and a peroratio (conclusion aimed at stirring the audience to action).
I believe Paul followed the rules of ancient rhetoric and structured Romans as following:
Exordium (introduction) 1:1-12
Narratio (facts) 1:13-15
Propositio (thesis) 1:16-17
Probatio (argument) 1:18-15:13
Peroratio (conclusion) 15:14-16:23
Read through Romans using a reliable reader friendly translation such as the New Living Translation (find it over at and see if you agree.
Blessings to you all.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Notes On Romans--Part One

I briefly attended Kentucky Christian College before moving on to seminary at Abilene Christian University. At the beginning of the semestar, one of my KCC profs asked the rather elementary question of a class, "how do you begin to study a book of the Bible in order to preach and/or teach it?" A number of answers were lobbed at the prof such as "research the historical background" or "outline the book in detail", etc. My prof then made the radical suggestion that the first thing any pastor should do is to actually read the book! Read it in one setting as many times as possible in as many different translations as practicable. He then suggested that as we read we take notes along the lines of "Who wrote it?" "When was it written?" "Why?" "Who were the original recipients?" "What are the recurring themes or words in the book?" and, of course, questions as to what particular puzzling passages might mean. Once this step was complete then one could turn to making a provisional judgment on who, what, when, why, etc. as well as a detailed outline.
The very influential preacher/scholar Fred Craddock cautioned that while this kind of initial work is necessary, that the pastor should then turn to a good Survey/Introduction and at least two good commentaries to check his or her provisional judgments against before moving on because, in Craddock's words, "This stuff is too important to leave to just your opinion."
With all that in mind, the first thing I did when attempting to tackle the monumental book of Romans was to read it in the NASB, ESV, NKJV, HCSB, NIV, NLT and the NET Bible while making copious notes. I then made my provisional outline and judgments on who, what, when, where, why, etc. and then checked it against Carson & Moo's "Introduction to the New Testament", Doug Moo's NICNT commentary on Romans as well as James Dunn's influential, but controversial Word Biblical Commentaries.
For those without an overpriced library in their homes then I would suggest going first to and reading Romans in as many different translations as possible while taking notes. I especially commend the New Living Translation (or NLT) for the initial run. I have found it to be a very faithful yet readable Bible translation. I would then go to web pages like, The Paul Page and even search for classics like Calvin's Commentaries, which are online, to check against your notes.
God willing, I'll post an outline and the other steps tomorrow.
Grace and peace.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Will The Real Apostle Paul Please Stand Up?

I've been studying Romans for the last few months exclusively as I prepare to teach it at CCC's Infamous Saturday Morning VERY Early Men's Bible Study. There
are a number of critical issues in the interpretation of Romans for the church today.
For example, if the New Perspective on Paul is right then we may get into the Body purely by grace but we only stay in by good works. If the Reformers (and Augustine) were right then we get in and stay in by election and demonstrate that election by good works.
Beyond those rather weighty matters which largely rest on fine points of exegesis, there is the question of what is THE theme of Romans? Justification (Chapters 1-4)? or union with Christ (5-8)? or the inclusion of Gentiles into the covenant people (9-11)? or unity of the church (12-15)? Or is it the righteousness of God (ala Greib)? or, simply, The Gospel (Douglas Moo)? More as time permits.
God bless,

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Vision for a Church--Steps Not Programs

We now return to our regularly scheduled podcasts and the theme of my vision for a church.
Just a side note, as many of you know, I plan to leave the church I now serve as an associate pastor and either plant a church or yield myself to God to be His instrument to rebuild a small or dying church.
My vision for a church is based on a number of works such as the book by Thom Rainer & Eric Geiger "Simple Church" as well as Jim Collins' "Good to Great", Richard Reising's "Church Marketing 101", Erwin McManus' "The Barbarian Way" as well as various works and models set forth by Ed Stetzer, Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller and Matt Chandler.
To break it all down, the church will be focused solely on the Great Commission. Everything the church does MUST fit within a clear step toward reaching the unchurched and assisting them in their growth toward a predetermined, Biblically informed vision of what a disciple in the immediate context should look like.
The steps generally fall within Connection--Community--Contribution or Bridge--Brotherhood--Battle. Connection or Bridge focuses on the worship service. Rainer's research demonstrates that the majority of visitors to a congregation will decide to return or not based on the preaching and Reising has shown that if the preaching (as well as other components of the church such as childcare, parking, etc.) is exciting, conservative and relevant then your church will naturally grow by at least 15% without any assistance from marketing, special programs, etc.
The bridge between Connection-Community or Bridge-Brotherhood is a new member's class. Rainer & Geiger believe that the evidence for the need for a new member's class is overwhelming and I believe they are right. A new member's class focuses on the A-B-C's of the Christian faith and life set forth in very clear terms that even a 3rd grader could understand.
The community or brotherhood step involves small groups. I think North Point Church is right to offer a variety of small groups depending on the need but all focused on teaching Scripture and the basics of how to follow King Jesus into battle.
The next step is contribution or battle. The staff, small groups, etc. help each growing disciple, get to know their own strengths via tools like Myers-Briggs or whatever to help them find their particular spiritual gifts while constantly demanding that each member remember that evangelism is not a gift, it is a command.
The most important part of the church, perhaps, is that NOTHING is done unless it fits within this model. No fairs, special services or whatever. Everything is focused on growing disciples. The staff is rewarded not for the number of people they are ministering to but the number of people they are successfully passing on to the next level of discipleship.
I could go on and on about schedules, marketing, cool worship, cooler music, etc. BUT you get the point. I have no timeline. Don't know where this will take place and am fully aware that 80% of church plants fail. SO, prayers are greatly appreciated.
I'll begin posting on Romans and the Apostle Paul this week. God bless,

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Keller Mania Hitting an All-Time High

I'm preparing to read Tim Keller's new book, "The Reason for God." The publisher has set forth a web page for the book containing a few of Keller's sermons.
By the way, sorry for the lack of recent posts but have been travelling extensively. More on a vision for a church later this week. I'm also beginning a teaching series on the book of Romans beginning this morning at the infamous VERY early real men's Bible study at CCC. Will be posting about Romans as well.
God bless!