Reflections from ROMANS 12:9-21 “LOVE LIVES BY TRUTH AND TRUSTS IN GOD’S RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE”

ROMANS

            In this section of Romans Paul gives many commands or imperatives that he grounds first with “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good” (v.9).  The command to love necessarily implies we are to resist, actually hate, what is evil or abhor its opposite.  It seems here that hypocritical love is evil when believers treat each other not in accord to God’s mercy they have already received.

John the apostle commands the church to love not only in words but also with actions (so does James), and Paul now is following suit.  Thus, I take hypocritical love to be masked by gracious words, not backed by actions.  Paul says that is evil and sadly many of us are not aware that we are transgressing.  So Paul now is going to describe what love looks like…and it is costly for it demands my time, treasure and talents to be used for the good of another.

(v.10) “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love”; I take this to be a familial reference since we believers relate to each other as “adopted children” by God, a special relationship obtains and is to reflect in our interaction.  Devotion is a powerful word, the opposite of indifference.  It means that my brother or sisters joy in God is my goal for them and will contour how I pursue their good, not hypocritically, but sincerely.

Give preference to one another”; is a call to serve one another since we’ve received this amazing mercy from Christ.  Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for the other”, Paul here is simply re-iterating what Jesus previously commanded.  And now attached to this command to love and give preference to one another is a string of participles modifying or nuancing what love looks like.

(v.11) “not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord”; this triad is a call to the relentless pursuit of seeking the others good by fighting sloth that so easily captivates our work, as we ultimately look to the Lord for our reward, not our brother or sisters as we serve them.  This reality should compel us to pray for God to show us how to minister to each person that crosses our path, not least believers.

(v.12) “rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer”; I take this to mean that our kingdom work is to be characterized by a joyful disposition because our focus is the kingdom of God and its purposes.  This purposeful kingdom work however is accompanied by hardships that often beat down the soul.  Regardless, what is to buttress said work is prayer, intercession by those devoted to Christ and his people.

(v.13)contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.  Here is where our treasure is shared with those in need and where our homes are the Bastian of where such acts manifest (e.g., at the dinner table, sofa, or patio) for God’s glory.  This is where we invite others to see how we live from a closer view.  These verses seem to focus on the redeemed community, but the following verses can apply to believers and non-believers alike.

(v.14) Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  This reminds me of Mathew 5:9-12 where the peacemaker as a kingdom subject is blessed and thus when persecution arises for the sake of the name of Christ, rejoicing is to be the response.  The reason is because unlike the rotting “lotto” ticket, an imperishable reward awaits in heaven.

I’m also reminded of Isiah’s vision of God in (Isa.6) where in the presence of the Ancient of Days he confesses; “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”  The holiness of God stripped the prophet of any possible pretense and his confession revealed the indwelling sin that the mouth reveals.  Jesus said that, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” and Isiah’s confession exposed his heart and that of his society’s.

Today, we are no different.  Gross conduct and lewd language is lauded and encouraged as a form of self-expression, it’s a form of art to many.  “F-bombs” are common place today.  It’s as if they were discipled by “Tony Montana”.  Why should this command be obeyed?  Because it demonstrates the reality of the mercy and grace believers have received, the reward that awaits for them in heaven, and a wake-up call to persecutors that there’s a heavenly reality of which they too can be partakers.

(v.15)“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. We tend to neglect both of these commands.  When someone is rejoicing it’s usually because an immediate good has come to them (e.g., promotion, marriage, children born, a home purchase) and if we are not finding our happiness in God, it becomes difficult to sincerely be happy for another.  What a waste of energy.  Why this attitude?  Many reasons I suppose but one seems to be core: we forget God has not overlooked us but is uniquely working out His purposes in and through our lives.

Moreover, we don’t like to be sad in the 21st century so why go and weep with someone down in the dumps?  It’s a sign we love them and that Christ whom we serve, came down from heaven to embrace suffering and remedy it, rather than avoid it and leave things as they’ve been. It’s a way of imitating Christ when he wept for his friend Lazarus and their family.  It reveals that we like Christ, are not “fair-weathered friends” but are ready to endure life’s hardships with them.

(v.16) Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.   Paul here is calling believers to walk humbly with each other, refusing to look down at each other because of social status, but rather associate with those unlike ourselves.  Too often, the rich and the poor think they have nothing in common, but in Christ we have adoption as sons in common.

Moreover, it’s been the tale of history that the rich are “better than” those less fortunate, but not ontologically, for we all share in the image of God, both male and female.  But not just that, as believers we share a common inheritance which Christ purchased for us through his bloody sacrifice on the cross.

(v.17)“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.   On the one hand, the first part of this command seems quite clear: two wrongs don’t make a right.  Again, we are never to mistreat even those who commit misdeeds toward us.

Now when Paul says to, “Respect what is right in the sight of all men”, does he mean that we are to value what is good, not what is evil, and by our lives show it?  Or, does he mean that we are to somehow value a relativistic view of truth and morals which the culture holds to be dear?  I affirm the former and deny the latter contextually, since the objective realities of the Gospel are true regardless of culture or historical chronology.

Having said that, Paul may however be saying that when we are mistreated because of our Gospel stance (I see no other reason here) that by “respect” we leave people to their own persuasions and let matters rest because in verse 18 he says, If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 

Paul continues on this vein and says:

(v.19)Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

(vvs.20-21) 20 But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

It seems that Paul wants to stay the tendencies for personal retribution by believers by reminding them that God is much better at meting out justice than they are, that He is better at repaying people for their evil deeds than we ever can be.  Again, this deals with personal revenge and retributive acts not the meting out of justice by the state as the following chapter considers.  May You Lord teach Your people to walk in the depths of this kind of love. A love that is grounded in the truth of Your existence and trusts in your divine justice.  (SDG)

Summaries of POLITICS FOR CHRISTIANS: Statecraft as Soulcraft

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PERSONAL NOTE

This is an election year and the candidates for both the Democrats and the Republican parties are less than stellar according to many.  Moreover many people while having opinions on their preferred candidates have no grid from which they clearly decide on a particular person for office.  As Christians, we divide on many things and our preferred political party is certainly one of them.  Whatever party lines believers find themselves coming under, a fundamental question needs to be answered: “what policies come closest to our worldview as ambassadors for Christ?”

Answering that question takes careful thought and humility.  It’s my hope that the summaries of this book will help the Christian in particular be salt and light as they engage to the glory of God, the political process.  Moreover, it’s my desire to see the citizens of heaven consider their temporary earthly citizenship as a means to rule and reign that honors Christ and their fellow man, rather than shaming his name.

 SERIES PREFACE (Pgs.9-27)

            This book is written for the busy student or parent in mind.  The goal of integration is both conceptual and personal.  The former blends its’ theological beliefs with one’s profession of faith into a coherent Christian worldview, where  the latter seeks to publically and privately live out the implications of what it means to be “Christ’s disciple”.  Moreland/Beckwith (series editors) argue that the reason integration is vital (among other things) is because the Bible is true in its teachings and our vocations and discipleship demand it.

One of the ways we love God is with our minds, thus to neglect it fosters a secular/sacred divide which works against the spiritual warfare in which believers are already engaged.  Our battle as Christians involves ideas that oppose Christ’s Lordship.  Grappling with epistemological ideas (i.e., ideas of what we know and how we know them) are part of that battle.

Moreland therefore emphasizes the need to bring back into culture Christian truth claims as part of the plausibility structure.  If they are not part of it, then our ideas won’t even be considered.  These are ideas, or set off ideas a person either is or is not willing to entertain as true.  To accomplish the aforesaid, Moreland explains that it is therefore necessary to employ the three integrative tasks.

First, is direct defense; here the goal is to show that the Christian worldview is rationally justified.  Second, is polemics; which involves criticizing rival worldviews to Christianity, and third, are theistic explanations; which are used to explain phenomenon in one’s profession.

The approach Moreland and Beckwith take of integration has its critics (Pgs.24-26), but one thing however is certain, for Christians not to engage in discipline (x) with their worldview, has actually aided in the secularization of our western culture.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS (Pgs.29-31)

Beckwith starts off by stating that to learn this “state craft” as “soul craft” one must take many years to hone these skills and contemplate these truths.  For me these years have become increasingly lessened because of my age (53).  Yet, there’s no time like the present to learn any subject and consider how it relates to my personal discipleship to Christ.  A grown man with grown children I thought it appropriate to gather as much knowledge as I possibly can from this source.  And thus I commend it to you for your careful scrutiny.

Reflections From PROVERBS 23: “A WORD OF CAUTION & PEACE CONCERNING WEALTH & ITS’ ACQUISITION”

 

Proverbs-Series

Do not weary yourself to gain wealth,
Cease from your consideration of it.
When you set your eyes on it, it is gone.
For wealth certainly makes itself wings
Like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.
”(23:4-5)

We are not to profit in an underhanded way, nor love it at the expense of our personal integrity and holiness (Prov.15:27).  We are not to go after wealth that comes quickly because it’s a snare (Prov.28:20).  Instead we are to trust God for His provision concerning our necessities, rather than worrying like the pagans do who don’t know Him (Mt.6:19).  In fact we are to store up treasure in heaven, where thieves (people) or the elements (moth and rust) can’t destroy it.

God is commanding us to put or store our treasure in heaven because it will certainly last.  What is this wealth (1 Tim.6:17-19)?  We are not to love money but we are to be content with what we have because God is our God (Heb.13:5).  We are to trust in the LORD with all of our lives and live in the fear of Him always as Solomon noted:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
” (Prov.3:5-7).

My take away from theses texts is that true wealth according to Scripture is eternal, not temporal.  What people tend to value most, God does not.  The love of the temporal over against the eternal, does not only dishonor God and ensnares us; it’s going to leave us ultimately empty, “we can’t serve or love money and God,” for one will trump the other.  These two don’t share allegiance.

The wealth that we do acquire should never be what we go to get a sense of well-being because it’s fleeting.  Instead, we are to put all of our eggs into God’s basket because He’s the eternal One.  Having said that, with our wealth (whatever it is) we are to worship God!  So we agree with the writer of Scripture who says, “Whatever we do in word or deed, do all to the glory of God, giving thanks to Him….”

(SDG)

Summary of CHAPTER FOURTEEN: THE GOD WHO TRIUMPHS [Pages 213-224]

 

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In this final chapter, Carson first explains what it means “For where your treasure is there your heart will be also” from the Sermon on the Mount (Mt.6:21).  He explains that it means we are to choose our treasure, not guard our hearts. Here Jesus presupposes that our hearts will follow our treasure.

The term heart is that aspect of our being created in God’s image that contains what we think, cherish, and who we are.  It’s not merely our emotions.  The heart is that apparatus of the soul where we eat, drink, breath, sleep and dream of (x).

Our imagination lingers on those things we treasure most.  Unfortunately, good things become bad things when they keep our appetites only on the present state of affairs, at the expense of the new heaven/earth that are forthcoming.  This however does not happen in places like the Sudan/China where persecuted believers await the deliverance from said evils.

Moreover, unlike the Greek dualism of salvation—consisting of the flight of the soul from the earthly and transitory to the spiritual and eternal, the Biblical view is where—man is always placed on a redeemed earth, not a heavenly realm removed from earthly existence.[i]  The future of this earthly existence is specifically described in the book of Revelation.

Second, Carson explains the forthcoming New Jerusalem.  When the scriptures describe the New Jerusalem being built like a cube, we must understand that its’ symbol laden.  The only place a cube is found in all of scripture is the tabernacle—the Most Holy Place. This is where the Ark of the Covenant lay, the place of meeting with God—on the Day of Atonement.  This was the place where God manifested his glory when the blood of sacrifice was poured on it.

The New Jerusalem, the entire city is a cube which is a way of saying that we will forever be in the presence of God.  We will no longer need a mediating priest, neither a blood sacrifice, equivalent when the veil was rent in two after the crucifixion.  So not only is it described as a cube, but it’s also described in terms of negation—what is not there.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Rev.3-4)

Carson is of the view that the reason we speak of the New Jerusalem in terms of negation rather than in a positive description is because it’s easier to describe it negatively in light of the effects of the fall in our lives.  The negative description assures us there will be the absence of: tears, pain, mourning, death and nothing bad.  The positive side is incalculable pleasure.  We have yet to experience anything like this!

There are also many things missing from this city: the temple, sun and moon, impurity.  The reason for the temple missing is because God Himself will be there.  Here the heart of God is revealed for in a real sense we’re in His heart!

The sun and moon are lights no longer needed in light of Gods glory and the Lamb our lamp.  The ancients were given structured times through these two lights.  Moreover, they experienced much danger when night came—hence cities were closed at night for safety.  Thus when it comes to this city there will be no more danger, curse, sin or rebellion because God is in the midst.  Thus, an immaculate perfect moral state will obtain.  Such a thought is utterly foreign to any of our references to life.  And yet, an absolute God-centeredness will be the norm because that is the way it should be. This means that the culture in the new heavens and new earth will be infused with absolute shalom—whose measureless source is the God of heaven and earth.

When it comes to the best feature of the New Jerusalem, is the its’ peacefulness.  This peaceful habitation of the lion and the lamb will be amazing.  It’s the unfettered, unhindered beatific vision that will be most joyfully glorious.  It is the contemplation of the manifold perfections of our spectacular, unimaginable God.  Here, we see face to face and live for our sins have “been burned away”.

Third, Carson explains what means to live now in light of the new heaven and the new earth.  He points to the need that we understand that all I have is Christ; to live is Christ and to die is gain; God alone is our true heart’s desire; it is truly making it our aim to: love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind and you’re your strength. 

Friend, are you ready for the new heaven and the new earth?  I’d like to say yes honestly and truly.  I fear that this world and the cares of this life want to drag me down so often.  I want to be more vigilant, resting in His grace that empowers me to say no to ungodliness and embrace the holiness purchased for me to walk in by Christ’s blood.  Lord, help me thirst for the new heaven and earth and help me be the light that I am.  (SDG)

[i] Mounce, The Book of Revelation, NICNT, pg. 368, © 1977 Eerdmans Publishing House]

Reflections From ROMANS 12:3-9 “TRUE LOVE IS TO MOVE OUR ACTIONS, NOT HYPOCRISY”

RomansGraphic

            Acceptable worship before God comes from holy living and holy thinking.  Both the thought life and the life lived affect one another.  David in Psalm 51 after having repented for his sin against Uriah and Bathsheba said:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.  12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.  13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You.” 

David understood that he would be able to impart God’s truth to sinners only after he was cleansed from sin, only after he was walking in holiness.  This aspect of the life of the mind and the heart is too easily dismissed by many and what results is a disjointed spirituality where the cognitive dissonance within paralyzes and distorts our living which does not glorify God.

Nevertheless, according to the Gospel and God’s activity believers are commanded now to live a certain way.  Paul’s command in (vv.1-2) gives the reason for why the following imperatives can be obeyed:

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” 

Paul again is addressing the thought life and demonstrates its’ power: that it can be used either for self- exaltation (haughtiness) or as a means to honor God through sound judgment (sobriety).  This phrase “not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think” seems to refer back to Paul’s warning to the Gentiles regarding their view of the Jews in chapter 11.  It could also mean that the gospel message should contour and color our thought patterns as we relate to one another in Christ’s body for our position in this body is by grace alone.

Another observation here is that God chooses the measure of faith bestowed.  Again this is a gift for the body of Christ, not self-promotion.  This gift has the goal of serving and strengthening the people of God, not self-exaltation.  Sound judgment here thus seems to indicate an awareness of the gifts God has given each one of us without apology and without a superiority or inferiority complex.  The reason is because these come to us through God’s tender mercies and grace which cause our souls to rejoice in Him!

Paul continues and explains his command in verse 3:

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

I think it’s important to note that Paul commands the church in his apostolic role with the grace God had given to him (12:3) and now we are to exercise whatever gift God has given to us with the same grace God gave to Paul.  All of these gifts have certain functions the other lacks and needs to optimally perform (e.g., analogy of the body of Christ is relevant here).  Sound judgment (v.3) here regulates their use beginning with the attitude that one gift is not more important than the other.  And from that, each gift is to function according to its capacity.  We have much to learn here in the body of Christ.

Too often people tend to pit one gift against another considering it “superior” to the next.  For example, consider the debate raging within Christendom for the last two millennia regarding “faith and reason/heart and head”.   A lot of this issue is deeply misunderstood and thus not properly explicated because people don’t do a good job of coming to terms.  Nevertheless, some view that what certainly matters to God is our faith/heart (and it certainly does), rather than our reason/head (which is a false dichotomy).

Plainly stated, “Theology” is for the scholar, but for most of us we just need “to love Jesus” and not worry about deep thought.  The first eleven chapters of Romans obliterates that position for this letter was written to the Church, not to the scholarly elite, the purpose of which through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake,  (Rom.1:5).

How can we obey what is not understood or how can we understand this gospel without thinking deeply?  We can’t!  The fact remains that part of loving God with the entire being includes the use of our minds and Paul is bringing that application to the fore of his argument.

What about the Martha types?  These are the ones in the body of Christ that do much of the “grunt work”, underappreciated and overlooked, except when the toilets are plugged or the dishes need to be cleaned, or the food needs to be cooked and then served.  I think the point is clear: each gift has its proper function and need according to the need of the moment.

Paul continues this thought with a command to love in a certain way:

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”    

How can love truly be love, if hypocrisy is attached to it?  Perhaps Paul means that when love is demonstrated it does abhor what is evil and clings to what is good.  Implied here is that love (if real) flows from the base of truth rather than merely from the whim of feeling or emotion.  Perhaps, un-hypocritical love deals with the following verses that allow love to perform or express itself not just in word but also in our actions.  Consider the following verses:

10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.  14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Notice here that the call of the Christian is to a life of humble obedience to Christ which is revealed in how others are treated.  These constitute the Great Commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Perhaps that’s what Paul means about un-hypocritical love.  At the end of the day, this kind of love looks to the infinite God for the reward rather than to finite human beings for accolades.  It’s definitely the love Christ manifested to us when he walked among us.

Perhaps, Paul is also referring back to the use of God’s gifts which are to be exercised humbly knowing that they come from God for His purposes and ends not ours.  That truth should curb our sinful inclinations for self-exaltation rather than the edification of another.  (SDG)         

Summary of CHAPTER ELEVEN: THE GOD WHO DECLARES THE GUILTY JUST [Pages 169-185]

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In this chapter Carson tackles the issue of how and why God can and does declare the guilty just.  It’s largely Paul’s argument in Romans 1-11 and is perhaps the most misunderstood aspects of the gospel transculturally.

First, Carson explains why it’s impossible to be acquitted with justice on the ground of the good things we do.   The reason is because we are all law breakers: those with the Book, and those without the Book.  All of us have broken even our own lesser standards.  It’s ridiculous for the murderer to appeal to his “good deeds” before the judge after he in fact has been properly convicted of committing the crime.  How much more before the judge of Creation?!  And yet, people tend to flock to this absurdity when it comes to eternal matters.

Second, the main theme of Romans 1:18-3:20 is precisely how everyone is justly guilty before God.  All are under judgement; all are guilty, because they have denied God the Creator.  They have thus become fools and Paul reminds us that there are none righteous, none who understands, none who seeks God, none who does good, not even one—their deeds and words condemn them, none who fears God.  Humanity is the core of all the evil there is, for in wanting to go our own way we have all disowned the God who is there, The One, who has made us.

Third, Carson explains several ways in which the Old Testament anticipates the arrival of Jesus.  There’s the sacrificial system of the blood of bulls and goats which testify to what was to come in the new covenant.  Here the high priest came with sacrifices into the holiest place on the Day of Atonement—all pointing to Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.  Then, there are the Ten Commandments which anticipate a day when murder and adultery will not only be prohibited but unthinkable in the new heavens and new earth.  And there’s also the anticipated day from the law when the righteousness of God would be revealed in Christ. 

Fourth, Carson considers how God’s righteousness is available to all people without racial distinction but on the basis of faith.   The reason it’s good news for the above mentioned caption to be true is because all are guilty before God, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  All means everyone under heaven’s sky, on earth’s dirt and in the oceans water.  Carson then explains three terms related to our salvation in Christ.

There’s righteousness, which is achieved through Christ’s redemption.  This redemption involves buying back from the slave market one who is indebted to another and has absolutely no possible means to pay for the debt.  A redeemer is one who purchases the one in debt and delivers him and his family from slavery to another.  Biblically, Jesus justifies us freely through faith by the redemption of his blood.  Thus, believers are justified before the God of heaven!

Then there’s the act of propitiation.  Propitiation is that sacrificial act whereby God becomes favorably disposed to us.  He is set over against us in wrath, but now by the sacrificial act of His son, He has become favorable toward us.

Another term is expiation, which is the act whereby God wipes out sin from the board, sin here is cancelled.  The object of expiation is sin, while the object of propitiation is God.   The text says that God propitiated God through the sacrifice of His son.  This is mind boggling in light of the fact that in the pagan world those offering sacrifices for propitiation to the gods were the worshippers.  Not so in the Bible, God propitiates God.  Thus, turning away of God’s wrath and the cancelling of sin are achieved by both expiation and propitiation.

 Fifth, Carson explains what is meant when Paul says that in the cross God is both just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus.  God’s holiness must be maintained.  Therefore He must punish sin which He did through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.  He maintained Justice!  God’s love has been demonstrated by paying for our sins on the cross. He displayed Love!  Unlike so many understand today, in the Bible faith is related to truth.  If it’s not true, it’s worthless.

In the Bible, Faith doesn’t mean that which makes you feel good and is not subject to verification.  Rather, it deals with that which is stated and argued as actually occurring in space-time history.  Paul does this in 1 Corinthians 15 where he affirms that if Christ has not truly been raised from the dead the first witnesses are all liars.  Again, if Christ has not truly been raised from the dead we are still in our sins.  Then if Christ has not truly been raised from the dead our faith is useless.  And that if Christ has not truly been raised from the dead we are to be pitied more than anyone else.  Our lives are a joke precisely because we consider that which is false to be true.

Conversely, if the resurrection is actually true, then all others rejecting the truth of these claims are sadly under the wrath of God and the “joke” is on them.  That’s sobering, sad, and must cause our hearts to live under God as we endeavor to shine in this world for Christ.

Summary of CHAPTER NINE: THE GOD WHO LOVES [Pages 135-149]

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The Bible says that God is love, but it also says that God is just, holy and good.  In the area of judgement and discernment many seems American Christians that are very confused, affirming things that flatly deny the Scriptures plain teachings on said matters.

First, Carson considers the difference between being morally discerning from being judgmental.  He argued that having moral discernment deals with making distinctions that are based on revealed truth, where we humbly recognize our need to first deal with our own shortcomings in order to be able to see for the aid of another (Mathew 7:1-6)

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2“For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. 6“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

To be judgmental is based on a hypocritical disposition where self-righteousness is in the heart.   This Jesus always condemns.

 Second, Carson lists five ways the Bible speaks about the love of God.  There’s love within the TrinityThis is a perfect love:  

 “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.” (Jn.3:35)

“For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” (Jn. 5:22-23)

but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me Get up, let us go from here.” (Jn.14:31)

Then there’s love and God’s general care over the creation (Mt.5:44-47).  This extends to friends and foes alike.

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47“If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”

What follows is God’s Love that invites, commands, and implores (Ez.33:11).  This is where God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’

Then there’s God’s Love that’s selective (Mal.1:2-3).  Here He chooses one and not another:

“I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have You loved us?” “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.”

Finally there’s God’s love that’s conditional (Jude 21).  This is where those in covenant with God experience his pleasure and displeasure based on obedience to Him: “keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.”

Third, Carson answers the question of the extent of God’s love.  To answer, “does God love everyone in the same way” is dependent on what is meant.  God does send the rain and the sun on both the righteous and the wicked, so the answer in this sense is yes!  But He chooses Israel over all the other nations as his special possession.  Thus in this sense, the answer is no!

Having said that, Carson considers the famously read/heard text of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world,” and points that what makes God’s love so wonderfully admirable is grounded on the objects of His love—humans. 

That is, we who are God hating, self-absorbed, murderous people, are nevertheless loved by God.  He loves all nations and ethnicities—Jews and Gentiles.  He does this not because we are so loveable, but because God is that kind of God.  He’s amazing!

 Fourth, Carson explains why the measure of God’s love for us is Jesus.  God gave us Himself in essence, the cost of which was the life of his treasured Son for God-haters!  Consider Jesus’ tenderness when he had compassion on a leaderless people; how he embraced little children; how Isaiah speaking of Jesus said that a bruised reed he would not break.  He is a tender God.  And while he rebukes the hardened one’s; He also weeps for them:

Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. (Mt.9:36)

 But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Mt.19:14)

Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen; My Beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased; I will put My Spirit upon Him, And He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles. 19 He will not quarrel, nor cry out;
Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.
20 “A battered reed He will not break off, And a smoldering wick He will not put out, Until He leads justice to victory. 21 And in His name the Gentiles will hope.” (Mt.12:18-21)

 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.  16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.(Mt.23:15-16)

Then, consider Jesus’ individual-nessWhen he approached the rich young ruler he dealt with him in a very different way then he approached the Samaritan woman.  They were both broken lives who were both addressed truthfully yet compassionately.  What a Savior.  The rest he offers to all who are weary and burdened is precious:

 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”(Mt.11:28-30)

Then consider His crucifixionHe loved us to the end “forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” (Lk.23:34)  Forsaken by the Father on Calvary (Mt.27:45-46)

Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? ” that is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Fifth, Carson explains the purpose of God in giving us His Son.  It was that we might have life.  God gave his son not to condemn but to save the world!  He came in order that those already condemned may be delivered, rescued and set free.  To not believe means that people remain condemned.  Whereas to believe means that one has been rescued from impending doom.

Carson concludes the chapter by explaining that God’s love will rightly stir in us gratitude and joy as we consider our weakness and need as finite creatures who are rightly dependent on an all-wise infinite God that has revealed himself in the creation and ultimately in his precious son.  Nothing do I bring, to the cross alone I cling.

Reflections From ROMANS 9: “GOD’S ELECTION IS NOT UNJUST BUT MERCIFUL”

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This chapter begins a new thought in Paul’s letter.  The first eight chapters dealt with what the gospel is, why it is the only hope for Jew and Gentile alike, and because in Adam all sinned, everyone is justly under God’s wrath and in need of divine mercy for salvation.  This salvation, redemption is a work of God that affects our word and deed.  And while this salvation is real, residues of rebellion remain in the believer’s heart such that until final glorification, a war is constantly being waged within.

Now, Paul turns his attention to the theme of Israel and her rejection of the gospel of God.  He first reveals his passion and longing to see his kinsmen according to the flesh saved and loving Christ, because after all it’s through them that this gospel came (Vv.1-5):

“I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Second, he points out however that God’s word has not failed concerning their rejection of Christ because the descendants of Israel actually come through Isaac not Abraham.  He explains this further in relation to the flesh vs. the promise motif.  That is, through Isaac’s seed the Messiah would come, never through Ishmael.  This word of promise is a major Scriptural theme pointing to God’s faithfulness to execute His word.  Jesus said, “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Mt.5:18)  This means that God always keeps His promises.  And what He will and will not do is more certain than the heavens above or the earth below—which accentuate God’s constant faithfulness.  And as God told Abraham, so it has come to pass that through Sarah, not Hagar, Messiah would come.

Consider Rebekah’s twins Esau and Jacob which again reveal the motif of God’s certain promise which points to His sovereign will ruling over all rather than man’s finite choosing:

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “through Isaac your descendants will be named.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”        

             This passage clearly demonstrates God’s choosing or election of what He has decided to do through Jacob and Esau.  I noticed here something previously overlooked: could it mean that God hating Esau is equivalent to Him serving his younger brother or is that hate based on what Esau treasured which was a bowl of soup over against his birth-rite?  This needs further inquiry, but I’m leaning towards the latter option, not the former.  Nevertheless, Paul asks a question he anticipated would be raised:

14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!”

 Third, often God is accused of being unjust in light of election but the apostle emphatically says that is never the case.  Thus he proceeds to recount Pharaoh’s hardened heart and concludes that God chooses who will receive mercy and who does not.  The reason:

15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.

             God had a purpose for Pharaoh’s rise to power and that was so that His power and Name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.  This means that the central reason for God’s purpose in his dealings with Israel and Egypt are ultimately about God’s power and person as Creator and Redeemer.  God is utterly God-centered in his dealings and an aspect throughout Scripture that’s too often unnoticed or discarded.  One reason for this is our human tendencies to make much of ourselves and very little of God:

19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”

             I think this is the logical conclusion to ask such a question.  I can hear the philosopher (and rightly so), grappling with this issue for at stake is the justice of God.  So what does Paul think?  He poses the rhetorical question of the potters right to do whatever he pleases with the clay’s purpose.  He concludes that the potter has the right to choose the purpose for the clay vessel: either for honorable purposes or dishonorable purposes:

20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?”   

             Fourth, but God is not unjust, for through His wrath justly poured on evil doers He demonstrates His righteousness.  And all have come under this just condemnation.  Recall that Paul hearkens back to Job in principle and that righteous man’s utterly silenced before God’s inquiry: “Where were you when I…?”  The fact is we creatures are out of line to question God’s actions as if we had the moral upper hand on the Holy One.  This attitude while understandable shows our pride of not trusting in God’s word of promise, questioning His goodness and justice within the salvation history framework.

Paul goes on to explain however that vessels of wrath (those not chosen) are necessary in order for vessels of mercy to know God’s glory in salvation.  Consider the following:

22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. 25 As He says also in Hosea, “I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people,’
And her who was not beloved, ‘beloved.’” 
26 “And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not My people,’  There they shall be called sons of the living God.”  27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved; 28 for the Lord will execute His word on the earth, thoroughly and quickly.” 29 And just as Isaiah foretold, “Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left to us a posterity, We would have become like Sodom, and would have resembled Gomorrah.”

That’s what Paul seems to be arguing.  But then he concludes his thought with another question which goes back to Israel’s standing with God compared to the Gentiles—all of which are under condemnation (Chapters 1-3) and in need of redemption through Christ, the last Adam:

30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33 just as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”

Israel misunderstood the purpose of the Law of Moses, turned it into something foreign to God’s purposes and thus perished.  That is, law-keeping is impossible because sinful hearts need to be renewed.  The Law’s purpose was only to shine the light on our sinful state so that we might look to the 2nd Adam, the Messiah whose purpose was to save us through His own blood and thus renew our dead hearts to God.  The Law was never a list of “do’s and don’ts” in order to be acceptable before the Holy One.

Fifth, this faith of which Paul speaks is Abraham’s who believed in God’s word of promise evidenced by how he lived.  Paul’s purpose for writing Romans (1:5) of the obedience of faith props itself up again here.  This faith is trust in God’s word of future fulfillment that He alone will and can accomplish.  Thus, when we talk about salvation through election, it’s never unjust, because all are under God’s just wrath and none possess the remedy for rescue.

The fact is that election is all about God’s mercy demonstrated toward vessels of wrath so that the glory of God may be seen and known by vessels of mercy. This is severely humbling and troubling.  It’s humbling because there’s no boasting except in God’s works, never ours.  And it’s troubling because of how many do despise this plain truth, thus dishonoring the Creator and Redeemer to their everlasting damnation.

(SDG)

Summary of CHAPTER EIGHT: THE GOD WHO GRANTS NEW BIRTH [Pages 121-134]

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In this chapter Carson addresses the issue of new birth in light of the Bible’s story-line.  He first considers our human dilemma and the three things we people need.  They are; to be reconciled to God, to be morally transformed or else our rebellion will continue to perpetuate itself, and we also need the effects of sin somehow to be reversed.  These include not only our interrelationships but also death itself.  Otherwise, death just keeps on winning as the universe keeps on decaying, creatures continue to go through pain, sorrow and disappointment.

Carson notes that justification by faith alone remedies these three problems, but it’s by no means alone.  For, Jesus is the revelation of God himself—incarnate deity is He.  Thus, he can authoritatively speak to our plight—we are God’s enemies.  But on Calvary’s cross, Jesus rectifies the enmity for it was there that God’s justice and mercy kissed the earth and brought hope to our doom.

            This hope comes through new birth which produces inner transformation.  This is not complete until Christ finishes the work of sanctification in our lives through glorification.  Thus, we are continuously to be in the process of becoming increasingly more like the Son of God.  Here, our motives are of the utmost importance for outer transformation varies from person to person be it the rescued drug-addict or the straight-laced person seeming to be “squeaky clean.”

             Secondly, Carson explains what “new birth” or what “born-again” means in Jesus’ mind.   In our world, the term’s “new birth” or “born-again conjures up a car changing its name (e.g., from Datsun to Nissan) or a delegate changing from one political party to another (e.g., a Democrat becomes a Republican).

            But for Jesus these terms point to the impossibility of man to do a single thing to attain salvation which utterly crushes human pride.  And if this language of “new birth” is based on the decision of the one being born, it’s frankly bizarre.  It’s weird because in our usage when a person is “born” their volition is never in the equation.  Some other agent is always responsible for their existence. Moreover, to be born-again in Jesus’ view guarantees that one will see the kingdom of God.

Carson reminds us that what we really need are not new institutions but new men and women; what we need is not new laws but new lives; what we need is not new creeds but new creatures; what we need is not new power plays but new people.

Thirdly, Carson compares the difference in the flow of logic between Barna’s view and the Bible’s concerning new birth.  Concerning Barna’s position (this is a group dedicated to gathering statistical information about the role of Faith in America, known to possess the nations’ most comprehensive databases of spiritual indicators) Carson sees a radically man-centered approach, not a Biblical one.  For being born-again depends solely on ones profession of faith, saying a prayer or going to church.  But a mere profession or decision by an individual is not what’s required.  Instead, what’s required is a radically transformed life.

The Bible’s view however is radically God-centered and humbles our pride, for its’ the impossible which is required to be born again.  We must start over, we must become something we can’t do ourselves, because in ourselves it’s impossible and we know it or do we?  Regardless, nothing less than transformation must occur for assurance to be Biblically grounded.

             Fourthly, Carson peers into what the meaning of “born of water and the Spirit” according to (Jn. 3:5) is.  He affirms that it means to be born-again; it’s a parallel meaning, not two births, but one.  In fact the reason in John 3, Jesus could speak with such knowledge and authority about new birth is because the revelation was divine; that is, it was God the Son speaking of what only God knows.  God the son is the revelation and this is stunning.  He comes from heaven and hence he speaks of what he knows.  His identity grounds his authority to speak and to know.

Fifthly, Carson rightly challenges us that to eventually understand Christianity we are going to have to come to terms with the claims it makes.  This starts what we will do with Jesus.  If you accept what he says then you must bow to him, but if we dismiss his claims we deny his very identity which is not good.  One correlation to Christ’s identity is the connection between the account of new birth in John 3 and the Old Testament account of the bronze serpent in (Numbers 21:6-9)

The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the Lord and you; intercede with the Lord, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.

The problem of the serpents was death at the door and the remedy was looking at what was killing them—snakes—which were on the pole (this prefigured the cross) and by doing so would save the people.  Bizarre as it may seem, looking at the bronze serpent on the pole was God’s way of rescue, and that was a type of the cross of Christ.  That is, in order for people to be delivered from death they must put their trust in the provision of Christ’s cross. But if that provision is rejected, only death awaits.  Carson asks, “Have you been born-again?” At times I’ve doubted my conversion based on struggles with sin, actually feeling as if God did not care for me.  But then again, I’ve seen my affections turn God-ward increasingly as the years of struggle and sin persist.  My struggle sounds like the one described by the apostle Paul in Romans 7.

Reflections From ROMANS 8:1-19 “WE’RE NOT CONDEMNED BECAUSE OF CHRIST’S LOVE FOR US”

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Paul continues his thought of the two battle fields in which believers wage war: on the one hand there’s the flesh/sin/evil that resides causing Paul to not obey God and somehow partake of death.  On the other hand there’s the spirit/the regenerated self that loves to obey God and partake of life.  The struggle is thus real and can be utterly disheartening, which may cause despair in life.  But, because Jesus delivered us from the body of death—sin, we are not under condemnation, for to be in Christ, even though sin beckons, guarantees our right standing before God.

Now to be “set free from the law of sin and death” (v.2) can’t mean we don’t sin because in chapter 7 Paul deals with our struggle with sin.  Instead, it seems to point to the fact that this law within “sin” is not our master, Christ is, and as such we are free to obey God, not unrighteousness.  That is, the freedom Christ secured for us was never intended for acts of wickedness, but for humble submission to the Father’s will.

But wait a minute.  If I’m freed from the mastery of sin to obey God and still find myself obeying the law of sin and death, then in some sense am I free also to disobey God’s law?  And, from where comes this freedom?  Paul comments:

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

 This principle of life in Christ comes from the Spirit of life who brings resurrection to our dead souls and that’s why we are free (i.e., God’s power of life is the source for the power to obey God) to obey God.  He argues that Christ did what the Law could never do because of human weakness (sin) and thus through his sacrifice condemned sin on the Cross.  Death really died (v.3).

Now, this condemnation of sin was done in order that the “requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (v.4)  Paul seems to be arguing that only in Christ, because of his work on Calvary, is the Law’s fulfillment accomplished in us.  Thus, obedience can only occur because one is in the Spirit—belonging to Christ.   That’s Paul’s argument in verses 5-9:

For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

Paul now turns his attention on what it means for one to be “in Christ”:

10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

I take this to mean that even though sin remains and the body is dead, nevertheless righteousness reigns and is real because “the spirit” the principle of life abides within.  Now Paul seems to further explain the effects of the Spirit’s life on our mortal bodies and assures us that as Christ was raised from the grave, we too will rise by the power of the indwelling Spirit (v.11).  He thus concludes this subordinate thought:

12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”    

 Notice our obligation is not disobedience but rather obedience to God displayed through the mortification of our sinful acts (Jesus does call disciples to take up the cross and follow).  If we live according to the former, Paul says the Spirit is not in us.  But if in step with the latter, then we are in Christ.  Note his theme of calling for an “obedience of faith”.

What I see Paul saying is that to not fight within is a sign that Christ is not our Shepherd and we are thus in peril of damnation.  However, if we are fighting sin it’s a sign that we belong to God.  He continues in verses 14-17:

14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

 Here Paul argues that that the evidence of Sonship is being led by the Spirit of God which is submitted to God’s will; to God’s law.  This is astounding for in Christ we can now keep the Law because of our new hearts.  Before Christ, the Law only produced death.  But wait a minute: didn’t we already die to the Law so that we might be in Christ?  Isn’t the Law our old husband?  Then in what sense do we keep the Law?  I think we keep it as secure children, not as indentured slaves.  The former are heirs of the Father’s house, the latter have no such privilege because of sin, because of unrighteousness.

Now, the fact of being heirs is evidenced in us who partake of Christ’s sufferings (v.17).  To be in Christ requires us to take up our cross and follow Him.  Those hardships evidence the veracity of our profession, they never merit our justification—nothing can but God’s mercy.

Paul now shifts from assuring us of our Sonship by the Spirit if in Christ’s sufferings we are partakers to how the whole created order is suffering.  But hold on for Paul says something of great worth we need to consider before continuing:

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”     

 What’s this glory to be revealed?  Besides a new heaven and a new earth and a new resurrected body it has to be beholding Christ behind the veil of sin.  It’s this glory I think was exchanged by the creature (Rom.1), which brought our ruin through God’s wrath.  What we formerly rejected in the 1st Adam (God Himself), we have embraced in the 2nd Adam and have been restored because of mercy alone—that’s truly awesome!