Summary of “THE MARK OF THE CHRISTIAN” by Francis Schaeffer

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In his book The Mark of the Christian Schaeffer points out the great Commandment to love God and neighbor is at the core of our message and it must be lived out if two things are to occur.  First, if men are to know that we are Christ’s disciples, there must be the humble preference toward one another that Jesus demonstrated to the disciples when he washed their feet in (John 13).  Love among the brothers lets the watching world see if we actually belong to Jesus or not.

We may very well be his, but if our actions are contradictory then the unbeliever has the right given by God to judge us.  This kind of life is costly, painful and accompanied by great loss, but our love for the Savior and for the lost must be what motivates us.

Second, we must be unified with believers so that our evangelistic endeavors are not hindered and the world may know that the Father sent the Son (John 17).  This unity must be evident in word and in deed.  Even when there are differences among us, and there will be, it’s critical that forgiveness, repentance, humility and kindness be evident when we part ways with our brothers and sisters.

This unity, according to Schaeffer, is not organizational, nor our mystical union with Him, it’s not our positional unity in Christ, not even a legal unity before Him.  But it’s a real, observable, practical unity that practices both God’s holiness and love.  Schaeffer rightly accentuates that this unity is never to be separated from His propositional truth (scripture) for it is these propositions that believers are called to live out before the world.

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Summaries__CHAPTER 1: APOLOGETICS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT    [Pgs.1-21] 

 

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Apologetics and specifically apologists have had a bad rap among modern Christians for various reasons.  Some have been known to be arrogant, pushy, snobbish, graceless, prayer-less people who ironically have diluted the gospel message. But a few bad apples “don’t spoil the whole bunch”.  There have been many who have been faithful to the cause of Christ and the kingdom of God and have paid the price for it as a result.

The church has been graced with many apologists since the inception of the primitive church who were marked by: prayer, erudition, genius, talent, and true piety.  In this book Avery Dulles aims to reveal how the heroes from the past understood and lived out what it meant to fulfill the mandate of 1 Peter 3:15.

Although nothing “new” can be said, recurring issues from the past resurface with “new” garb, which at the core are the same old problems.  Dulles gives special attention to both Catholic and Protestant contributors.  This text is a historical must read for those would learn from those who have gone before us.          

APOLOGETIC MOTIFS IN THE EARLY TRADITION

Christianity was a message before being an apologetic.  Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, crucified, buried, and Risen from the dead was at the story’s core [pp.2-3].  The Earliest Preaching focused on Christ’s Lordship (Acts 2:14-40; 3:12-26); backed up the claims of his Messiahship through fulfilled prophecy (Ps.2:7-8; 110:1; Acts 2:26; Heb. 1:5; 5:5); emphasized his resurrection as the core of the apostolic proclamation (Dan.7:13; acts 2:25-28); and Jesus’ passion was seen as the fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah’s account (Is.53):

Who has believed our message?  And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?  For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. 
He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.  Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.  But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.  By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. 10 But he Lord was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.  11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.

APOLOGETIC DEVELOPMENT:  [Pgs.3-9]

The early believers confronted and answered their objectors with amazing precision, penetration and practicality.  One objection was explaining: “the Ascension of Christ—where is He now?”  He’s presently in heaven (Ps.16: 11; 110:1); he will return as the judge of the living and the dead (Acts 3:21); and his dominion is presently exercised through the Spirit’s outpouring (Acts 2:16-21).

When it came to the Passion of Christ, Jesus was seen to be cursed by God through the crucifixion (Dt.21:23), but this humiliation was part of God’s redemptive plan (Is. 52-53, see 53:5) in order to justify many from the curse of the Law through faith in Jesus (Gal. 3:10-14).  Moreover, the blindness of the Jews was predicted by the prophet (Is.9-10; Acts 28:26-27); and was caused by God even though God has not forgotten them (Rom.9-11).

Another issue that had to be addressed was the betrayal of Judas.  How could Jesus have miscalculated the treachery of this disciple?  This betrayal was also predicted in scripture (Jn.13:18; cf., Ps.41:9) and points to the sovereignty of God in all things even when our choices are significant and we’re culpable.

Then there’s the issue of Jesus’ Origin being from Nazareth.  He’s in the line of David (Ps.89:3-4; Jn.1:45-46; Mic.5:1; Mt.2:5; Jn.7:42) seen by his birthplace to be in Bethlehem.

Again, there’s the issue of Jesus’ Public Life: where he never claimed to be the Messiah.  Nevertheless, God pointed to Jesus as his beloved Son (Ps.2: 7; Is.42:1; Lk. 3:22; 9:35; Acts 10:38; 2 Pet.1:17); the writers of the New Testament later understood that Jesus’ Messiahship was to be secret (Mk.1:34; 3:12; 5:42) perhaps because the Jews could not conceive of the type of Messiah Jesus was, or maybe because of Jesus’ ambivalent attitude toward the messianic appellations, or possibly because their hearts were hardened (Mk.6:52; 8:17; Jer.5:21).

When it came to the Miracles of Jesus they had a specific purpose.  Miracles were aids to faith, evoking wonder and amazement; they are seen (especially in the casting out of demons) as Satan being overthrown by the inauguration of the Kingdom of God; and they authenticate Jesus’ message because they blend in with the Good news of salvation.

CHANGING CONTEXTS: ACTS, PAUL, AND HEBREWS [Pgs.9-13]

In The Book Acts [pp. 9-11] we see Stephens defense of Christ and the gospel (Acts 7) by pointing to Old Testament redemptive history, where God is to be sought through the prophets, who ultimately point to the exclusivity of Jesus as the only means of salvation (Is.6:9-10).  Then there’s Peter’s address to the uncircumcised (Acts 10) where he undergoes a major paradigm shift of who can be saved and explains that Jesus is the healer, wonder worker, and risen Lord from the dead.

We also observe the Gentile world addressed through the agency of Natural Theology employed by Paul (Acts11…).  This apostle is seen contradicting polytheism (14:15-17); on the Areopagus address to the Athenians (17:23) Paul confronts their worship, explains God’s necessity and his transcendence.  Moreover, because Paul knew their authorities he could speak more forcefully to the gospel truth of coming judgment and Christ’s resurrection.

The Apostle Paul [Pgs.11-13]

This converted Pharisee who once persecuted the church was now its most influential spokesmen especially to the Gentile world.  When Paul addressed the Corinthian church he tackled the issue of Faith and Reason; refused to capitulate to their love of human wisdom (1 Cor.3: 6); would not ground his preaching on the hot philosophic views of the age, but instead rested his proclamation on the Spirit’s power so that their faith (the Corinthians) be not based on man’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

When Paul addressed the Romans, he focused on the hindrance to worship (Rom. 1).  This was the classic case against idolatry (vv18-23) that’s inexcusable, self-delusional, self-exalting, self-destructive, and is the reason for why God’s judgment obtains.

The Book of Hebrews [Pg.13]

We don’t really know who wrote the book of Hebrews but it’s the first apology to the Hebrew Christian Community where Christianity is seen as the perfect religion which eclipses the religion of Israel because of who Jesus of Nazareth is.  Here, the Old Covenant is compared to the New Covenant, Moses is compared to Jesus, the Levites are compared to Jesus’ Priesthood, the constant sacrifices are compared to Christ’s final sacrifice and Christ’s supremacy is placarded throughout the letter.

THE FOUR EVANGELISTS AS APOLOGISTS [Pgs.13-19]

The gospel accounts come from four different perspectives concerning the life and teachings of Christ.  At the core their message is identical, yet due to their audience, each biography has a different emphasis.   For example, Mark’s Gospel focuses on [p.14]; the edification of converts, the explanation for why Christianity began, the supply of preaching material for missionary preachers, an armory of apologetic arguments for Jewish and heathen opposition, with the view always to remember that Christ is risen indeed.

Matthew’s Gospel intentions [p.15] focused more on the believing community where apologetically the writer was concerned with fulfilled prophecy—as a summary of Jesus’ career (Is.14:1-4), with ecclesiastical hierarchy (Mt.16:19), with combating Rabbinic thought (Mt.23), and finally with unfolding the Passion narrative (Mt.27-28).

Luke-Acts intentions [Pgs.16-17] focused on demonstrating the accurate historical account of the life of Jesus (to know the truth of all Theophilus had heard (Lk.1:1-4), it was geared toward the Roman ruler it was focused on redemptive history, and the need to establish a harmonious relationship between the Church and the supreme secular powers.

John’s Gospel intentions [Pgs.17-19] are for people to come to believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the goal of which is eternal life.  This would be realized through; the Signs of the miracles, emphasis on Jesus as the Light of the world to a Hellenistic audience.  John’s aim in all of this is to sustain and intensify the life of believers.  As such, it has apologetic affinities.

CONCLUSION

The Resurrection of Jesus was indubitably the centerpiece of early Christian apostolic preaching.  Since the majority of audiences held the OT Scriptures as authoritative, it was the sacred text used apologetically to demonstrate Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, and Redeemer of all mankind.  However, when ignorance of such literature obtained, preachers like Paul would employ natural theology to proclaim the Gospel.

This brief outline is packed with Gospel truth that you believer would do well to meditate on, understand and impart to those God has called you to disciple.

Reflections From 2 KINGS 21-24: “WARNING COMES BEFORE…JUDGEMENT IS REALIZED”

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            The last chapters of 2 Kings, concludes with God’s judgment being exacted on idolatrous Israel and Judah.  The word was given at Sinai, God’s dealings in Israel were known, but the people followed their “hearts” to exile.  The patience of God was taken for granted such that the mind of the nation became mad due to their calloused hearts.

We’re no different.  As God used the Assyrians and Babylonians to discipline back-sliden Israel, so He may very well do it again today…even if it’s not as clear from a written text.  When the herald proclaims his masters will, eventually it will come to pass.

Idolatry at the core propels us to ask, “Has God said?…” or question what He has already clearly revealed.  We doubt His integrity and treat Him as the creature.  The creature ends up calling the creator a liar by implication and decides to become His judge.  But those who ontologically and epistemologically are finite can’t be trusted to become the infinite One’s judges, nor should they be trusted.  But as it was then so it is today.

Nothing has changed and nothing will until God transforms the stony heart into one of flesh by His Spirit.  In all my studies, I must give myself over to intercession and guard my soul from idolatrous bents the creature constantly encourages.  So must the church in a day where what is wrong is called right, what is evil is called good, and what is righteous is labeled wicked.

(SDG)

 

Reflections From 2 KINGS 10-13: “OF KINGS AND YAHWEH—IDOLATRY PERSISTS”

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The history of the kings of Israel is primarily a mixture of a few good ones and the rest abysmal, some righteous but most of them were evil.  The meaning of evil comes to bear through illustration of the people of God abandoning the covenant.  Evil is faithlessness to the God of creation especially from His rescued people Israel.

Often the refrain, “and he did evil in the sight of the LORD” speaking of a kings’ rule because they, “…departed not from the ways of Jeroboam’s sin the son of Nebat…”  The accusation was making Israel worship Baal which is no god at all, and the first commandment was continuously being violated, “You shall have no other gods before me.”

Doing evil in the sight of the LORD is not being careful to walk humbly before Him which is in accordance to the law of the LORD God of Israel (done with all the heart—10: 28-31).  Image bearers are created to worship their Maker, but when He is ignored idolatry is inevitable.  Consider the text;

28 Thus Jehu eradicated Baal out of Israel. 29 However, as for the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin, from these Jehu did not depart, even the golden calves that were at Bethel and that were at Dan. 30 The Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in executing what is right in My eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in My heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.” 31 But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel sin.

Acute is the sad reality that for most of Hebrew history, the LORD God of Israel is not loved by Israel as a whole.  Instead He is despised seen in the berating, hating, persecution and death of Israel’s prophets which God sent to the people.  This evil resulted because God’s word was rejected.

This theme is increasingly clear to me as I read the Scriptures and I must confess it never ceases to perplex me.  I’m perplexed at the relentless idolatry they fall into and God’s relentless tender mercies in spite of their treason.  This mercy of course is because of the covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to bless the nations through his seed (13:22-23).  What am I missing here in the text?

22 Now Hazael king of Aram had oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. 23 But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion on them and turned to them because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them or cast them from His presence until now.

Perhaps it’s the sad reality of our rebellion in the Garden where we are created to rule and reign as God’s vice regents but we’ve treated that glorious mandate like sewage excrement.  What glory has been given to mankind and the tragedy is deeply lamentable.

In Christ the effects of The Fall are being reversed and yet in this present evil age we the covenant people go to our own “high places” of porn sites, work places or play places.  The idolatry is ever lingering and yet Yahweh for His names sake demonstrates mercy toward us.

(SDG)

Reflections From 1 KINGS 13-15 “CAN BEING A MAN AFTER GOD’S OWN HEART EQUAL SINLESSNESS?”

crown-8-persian-persepFor years I’ve considered the refrain, “David, a man after God’s own heart”, as somewhat troubling.  He indeed showed tremendous courage in battle, unflinching loyalty in friendship and great skill in leading a nation.  However, Scripture also records a David who used deception to save his own skin at another’s expense.  He’s infamously known for his adultery, murder and betrayal against Uriah, his loyal soldier, for having blurred judgment because of past sins, and tragedy that seemed to transpire often in his family.

So while David’s life was far from exemplary, he nevertheless is known as the man after God’s own heart.  What could that mean?  Far from being a sinless man, David nonetheless treasured God’s word and mercy understanding that ultimately all sin was against God.  We see this when he repented after being confronted by the prophet Nathan even though God assured him that trouble would not leave his home…and his family life was horrible after this betrayal of Uriah.

King Asa is said to have been wholly devoted to the LORD all his days (15:14) even though he did not remove the high places (i.e. where sexual acts were performed as part of pagan worship of other gods) form Israel.  That is, where idolatry and despicable acts of false worship occurred, Asa did nothing to eradicate it, or so it would seem.

Its grievous reading about the kings’ of Israel, for most of them did not emulate David or Asa.  Instead, they worshipped and served the gods of the Nations Israel once conquered.  Thus, when it comes to being one who pleases the LORD, sinless perfection (i.e., the present eradication of all sin now) is not in view.  Instead, it’s the life whose trajectory is Godward and God-centered even when some of our actions are evil, are sinful.

LORD Jesus, have mercy on me, on us and help us this day honor your great name in word, deed and thought.

(SDG)

Reflections From PROVERBS 18: “SPEECH, WORDS, AND WHAT THEY REVEAL”

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As I sit on my balcony watching the cars roll by, it occurred to that those driving all have stories to tell of whether or not they are for or against the God of creation.  It also occurred to me that the voices they hear on the radio by song or “rants” also are helping to shape or enforce their worldviews.  The philosophers of the day through their rap music and the media talking heads are with one voice advancing a relativistic, nihilistic view of life that is shamelessly opposed to the WORD!

Jesus said that, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”  Proverbs has much to say concerning this topic of which only humans in all of creation can boast—namely the ability to articulate thought through speech.  Consider what Solomon reveals:

 “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters;
The fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.” (v.4)

Perhaps this is referring to the skill that is acquired through wisdom of knowing what to appropriately say in a given situation because there’s an abundance of knowledge and wisdom the righteous can possess.  Often, I’m frustrated in a given situation not knowing how to express myself.  Again consider:

 “To show partiality to the wicked is not good,
Nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment.”
(v.5)

             Often with one’s speech justice can be averted from being executed as the truly guilty are acquitted and the truly just are condemned. This is not righteous judgement but the miscarriage of justice, an abomination before heavens’ court.  Consider:

“ 7 A fool’s mouth is his ruin, And his lips are the snare of his soul.

Those who mock Christians by saying, “Do you really take the Bible literally”, thinking their absurd notions prove how “stupid” believers are, can use texts like this one and completely miss authorial intent.  The point here is not that the physical mouth or lips are the instrument of ruin, rather the disposition of the soul revealed through speech is.  Snares are used by trappers to take the life of their prey, and like the unsuspecting doe, the fool’s life is a breath away.  Again:

“With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied;
He will be satisfied with the product of his lips.”
(v.20)

This text not literally, but rather metaphorically reveals to us that when we have knowledge and wisdom, the delight we experience in the soul is like no other.  An apt answer given in season truly is a delight for it brings life, not death.

LORD, keep me from being a fool.  Instead, strengthen my resolve to order my life in righteousness.  And as you said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied”, so do that in my life as I trust in Your provision to grant my request.

(SDG)              

Reflections From PROVERBS 24:30-34 “THE SLUGGARD AND I”

 

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“I passed by the field of the sluggard And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense, 31 And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles; Its surface was covered with nettles, And its stone wall was broken down.  32 When I saw, I reflected upon it; I looked, and received instruction.  33 “A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest,” 34 Then your poverty will come as a robber And your want like an armed man.

The sluggard and I have much in common; let up a little bit in life’s affairs and the results will be seen in the pocket book, the yard, and in physical health.  Why is it that it takes so much effort to live well and such little effort to come to ruin?  Maintenance!  It’s been said, “Give the Devil an inch and he’ll take a mile”.  Frankly, it doesn’t take much for my life to go awry if I’m not paying attention to the simple daily details.

God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden to tend it not neglect it.  It’s from here the lesson must be applied: neglect God’s good gifts and they will perish.  As I see it, chaos is ever lingering at the threshold of our lives and it’s only a diligent soul that can stay it’s destructive force.

The will choosing maintenance rather than sloth is the soul embracing peace by keeping chaos at bay.  And it’s the “little things” that are the “big deals”.  I have too often missed it here in my life, and yet today is a new day that brings another opportunity to be diligent.  So soul, onward!

(SDG)

Reflections From PROVERBS 24: “DO WE DESIRE WHAT EVIL PEOPLE POSSESS?”

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          How often do we (I find myself here) being envious of what evil men have and what they can do as a result of their possessions?  I have to guard my heart from that foolish disposition of soul.  Consider what Solomon wrote regarding this issue:

“Do not be envious of evil men,
desire to be with them;
For their minds devise violence,
And their lips talk of trouble.
 (Vv.1-2)

This is wise counsel not merely to youth, but to elderly men.  The fact is that youthful snares if not conquered or managed early on in life will prove to be constant menaces as the years wear on the soul.

A good barometer for the soul to gage its’ progress or not, is how much it delights in God; be it His provision, care, discipline, instruction, etc.  My soul is always tilting one direction or another.  As I consider my desires today, may they lean upward to you LORD God and may your eternal peace replace my anxious thoughts to relish in the joy which is unspeakable as I walk in the light of your countenance.

(SDG)

Reflections From ROMANS 12:1-2 “GOD’S MERCIES GROUNDS HOLY LIVING & HOLY THINKING”

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In this chapter Paul makes an inference to the previous chapter specifically (“therefore”) and I think generally to the entirety of the book going back to Romans 1:1 where God chose Paul to be an apostle of the Gospel of Christ.  Paul starts with:

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Many years ago I practiced praying these texts over myself and others.  They were and still are “go-to-prayers” for power to walk with God.  Paul now makes a break in this letter that can be missed but hurts the readers understanding when it occurs.

In his letters, Paul has a habit of going from the indicative to the imperative which means that he explains the revelation of the gospel first (indicative=facts) and secondly he gives the implications of the gospel (imperative=command) where believers are to live in accordance to that message.

A quick recap of Romans up to this point will be helpful.  Chapter 1&2 shows Paul being eager to preach the Gospel of Christ (God’s Son) because both Jew and Gentile are under God’s just wrath (1:1-2:29).  In chapter’s 3&4 Paul argues that the true Jew is not the one circumcised in the flesh but the one who has Abraham’s faith.  In chapter 5 the two Adam’s are compared where the 1st one brought death resulting from his rebellion, and the 2nd Adam (Christ) through his obedience and death brought life.

Then in chapter 6 we see that believers are dead to sin but alive to God because of Christ’s resurrection, yet in chapter 7 Paul considers the battle of sin within believers still fight, a battle that Christ alone can/does help us win.  In chapter 8 Paul then assures believers that in spite of this battle with sin, God’s condemnation passes over them—working in them to be more like Christ.

Finally, in chapters 9-11 Paul argues for the election of both Jew and Gentile alike (9), that this salvation and election is accomplished through the preached word of God (10), and finally that God has not rejected Israel, but has a plan for them to also be rescued (11).  The bow around these three chapters is the grandeur of God’s being which includes His wisdom and knowledge which are unsearchable.  The proper response to all of this is doxology—praise, worship and adoration.

It’s these gospel truths to which Paul is inferring when he now commands believers to live a certain way.  Here’s a powerful lesson in the proper use of authority to bless people rather than manipulating and controlling them for selfish means.  Paul grounds his “urging” or “appeal” on God’s mercies to vessels of mercy, which formerly were objects of wrath, to live and to think in a certain way.

Both living and thinking are to be impacted by Christ’s Gospel already revealed in this letter.  This mystery revealed must now be evidenced in how believers relate to each other and to the observant world (both enemies and the state.)  Unlike Monists who deny the reality of the physical realm by denying real distinctions and claiming they are mere illusion, or those who claim that the body is bad and the spirit is good (thus what one does in the body is inconsequential), the Gospel of Christ says no!  God says that, “My people are to be holy as I Am holy”:

 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”       

The sacrifices offered on the altar in the Old Testament, for example, were dead so they could not feel any pain of being burnt.  But here “somewhat like the Master” on Calvary’s cross, his followers are expected to in one degree or another suffer.  Minimally, when we are tempted to misuse our bodies (as in chapter 1:18-32 with illicit sexual acts) and we don’t succumb to it, we truly suffer hardship because of our love for God.  This is evidenced not only through a chaste life, but also by denying homosexual tendencies overall.

But our bodies also are involved with other degrading passions such as gossip with the tongue, murder with our hands, etc.  Our bodies house our soul and while they are decaying these bodies will one day be resurrected to immortality.   For Paul, the body is the tool believers are to use to honor God, but it’s just not our bodies, it’s also our minds which engage this worship:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”   

             Here, Paul not only affirms our bodies but also our minds (i.e., not the brain which is physical, but the mind which is an immaterial substance) as the means to worship God.  These two are gifts from God and should be used in accordance to their design.  An atheistic worldview denies any such notion of immateriality or spirit, this is called physicalism.  But according to God’s revelation such a view is an example of “suppressing the truth of God in unrighteousness”.  The point here is that our thinking in light of the gospel must be disciplined so that foreign ideas to it are not adopted and thus dishonor God.  Instead, our thought life is to align with God’s thoughts as revealed in this letter of Romans.

One thing is certain in light of election (Chapters 9-11) all human pride is crushed, boasting before God is eliminated because only sovereign grace can rescue anyone from God’s wrath.  This means that any “works of the Law” righteousness people rely on in order to be acceptable before God will utterly disappoint because that foundation of “sand” can’t save from Holy wrath, but actually assures it on the participant.

Note that to prove or to know God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will our thinking must change, it must be transformed from the way this present evil age thinks.  The application here is massive.  The point is that our bodies and minds, what makes us image bearers, are included in the true worship of God (see Mt.22:34-40).  Thus, how we think and how we live demonstrates our understanding of reality in light of the gospel of Christ.  LORD, have mercy on us!  (SDG)          

Reflections From ROMANS 7:14-25 “THE LAW IS GOOD, BUT THE WAR OF SIN IN BELIEVERS STILL RAGES WITHIN”

book-of-romans

Paul continues his argument that the Law is good, but sin remains within him still—even though he’s got new life in him.  In verses 14-17 he reveals what seems to be a “schizophrenia” within where he desires to do one thing (obey God), but instead Paul does what he hates (disobeys God).  He writes:  14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.  Now what can he be referring to by describing the Law as spiritual?  In light of the contrast between the flesh, it seems to mean that the Law righteous, holy and good (c.f., Vv.12-13).  Paul continues:

15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.”  

             I think these two verse support my former view that by the Law being spiritual, it is referring to it being good.  Now Paul is in a quandary, and seems puzzled in that new birth is to produce new life and actually does.  Nevertheless, it seems there’s still remaining vestiges of the former life within that war in Paul and he thus chooses death rather than life.  And when he does what he hates, he’s saying Amen to the Law, to God’s holy command, “you shall not covet” by agreeing that it’s a transgression—sin—which results in death.  He continues:

17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”  

My answer to Paul on the surface is, “Paul, you’re the guilty party don’t pass the buck”.  “Don’t play the victim and don’t act like Flip Wilson who famously said, ‘the Devil made me do it’”.  But am I correct?  The caption in my Bible under this section writes, “The Conflict between Two Natures”.  What is meant by nature and do we assign an outside, unbiblical metaphysical meaning here?

First, there’s clearly a conflict with sin that the Law of God exposes because it is holy, righteous and good.  Second, now that Paul is born-again, it seems that sin—the battle of obeying God—still remains and is an evidence of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.  Third, the term “I” he uses eleven times pointing to his identity.  Could it be that Paul means “he” the image bearer or the “individuated self”, or the “new man” in Christ, or the “old man” before Christ?

I would answer yes to the first two, most likely to the third option, and no to the last possibility considered.  The reason for the first two options seems self-evident, and the reason for the last two options—the former being much more probable than the last option.  This is Paul’s awareness of sin and the purpose of the Law which is to expose sin, not to remedy it.  Here, Paul seems to be pointing to another reality: sin within the believer still remains.

He uses the word “sin” as an entity of sorts which causes rebellion to God’s Law to occur.  But is it a “nature”?  And, under what category does it belong?  I understand Paul is not or seems to not be making this category distinction, nevertheless assigning two natures to the re-born person is obviously one way to understand this passage.  He continues the argument:

18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. ”   

             This text argues for and gives the reason for why verse 17 is true.  When Paul says that “nothing good dwells within his flesh”, he’s not coming from a dualistic view that matter is evil and spirit is good.  That was not the point.  Instead, it’s that entity, that parasite, in the soul rebelling against God.

Now when he uses the word “good”, to what does that refer?  Contextually it must be the Law which is good, righteous and holy.  So, somehow Paul is saying that there’s a “tug-a-war” happening in his soul.  On the one hand, in his flesh Paul is rebelling against God’s Law, while on the other hand, a desire to submit to God’s will is remains.  He thus continues:

19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

             Notice how he equates evil with sin.  What is evil?  Evil is disobedience to God’s Law, to His way of thinking and living, to His design.  These two verses seem to clarify what the “two natures” means.  It’s not that Paul has two “I’s” meaning two distinct natures, but rather that as a redeemed man, unrighteousness remains even though he’s righteous before God.  He’s an individuated self that now has a battle previously non-existent in him.  When he was dead in trespasses and sins to God, all he could was to sin.  But now, because of new-birth, he has the option to obey or disobey God.  Thus, though Paul is cleansed, he nevertheless is in process of sanctification.

In my view, Paul affirms the following: 21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. Paul here reveals what he’s discovered—namely that evil/sin remains but so also does the good/obedience to God’s Law and ways obtain.  Here’s the battle the believer has, that the non-believer does not possess.  Now Paul continues here but the way he uses “law” it takes on a different meaning:

 “ 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.”    

             Could the “inner man” and “my mind” be referring to the same thing?  It seems that the term “law” refers not to the Law of God but to the principle God has placed in Paul.  That is, there’s a side of him that desires to walk in holiness but there’s a side that continuously battles the “law” or “principle” of sin which manifests in his body?  I’d say yes.

The law of God which he agrees with (he desires to obey God’s commands—walk in holiness) seems to be akin to the law of Paul’s mind because it’s waging war against the law of sin and death.  Moreover, when he obeys the principle of sin—unrighteous disobedience—he becomes imprisoned to what Paul obeys.  He argued this in chapter 6 and is being consistent with the metaphor.

Thus, I see here that Paul has not two natures but one.  He’s a creature bearing the divine image of the male category.  He once was dead to God because of the Law, but now in Christ is alive to God because of imputed righteousness.  There are however two principles in Paul’s soul: one that’s evil/sinful, and one that’s good/the one being sanctified because it comports to God’s Law—in Christ’s obedience we have imputed to us the 2nd Adam’s obedience, holiness and goodness.  Paul concludes not with gloom but hope and joy:

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”      

             The sinful state of human beings, our abnormality as Scheaffer once noted, is a deeply lamentable reality that can only be remedied by the Great physician Christ Jesus the risen Lord.  Now that this battle has been exposed, Paul is going to comfort believers who may feel awful because of their battle with sin in chapter 8.

While this chapter has been very cerebral, it’s also quite visceral for it demands both mind and body to live out the implications of our struggle, Christ’s remedy, and practically working them out daily.  How much of this chapter I don’t understand remains to be mined.  (SDG)