Summary of CHAPTER THIRTEEN: THE GOD WHO IS VERY ANGRY [Pages 201-211]

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First, Carson opens the chapter by considering why talk about the wrath of God tends to make people so uncomfortable. In our culture according to Carson, “…it is hard to think about this topic because anger is often connected in the public mind with intolerance, narrow-mindedness, and bigotry”.  And yet, according to the “eternal gospel” in Revelation 14:6-7 the herald calls every nation, tribe, language and people to fear the God of all creation and give Him glory and worship for His judgment has come.  And the impending doom of paganism (e.g., Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great) is that of a “society that’s been set free of God is its own worst enemy”:

And I saw another angel flying in mid heaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”

Second, Carson considers how Revelation 4&5 unpack the gospel.  According to Carson, revelation 4-5 unpacks for us what the gospel is.  Chapter 4 reveals that God is the God of creation and the entire created order is dependent on Him to live move and have its being.  Chapter 5 reveals God’s purpose for judgment and blessing and only the Lion, who is the Lamb, can open the seals. 

 Third, Carson looks at the meaning of two agricultural metaphors found in Revelation 14:14-20.   The grain and the treading of the wine press are teaching about the final judgment. 

14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16 Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped.

17 And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. 18 Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, “Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.”19 So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. 20 And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses’ bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles.

Grain Harvest means that a set time is coming when the harvest will happen, and there’s no escaping it.  It speaks of the goal of history, and end in sight, where time will be no more after the final judgment.

The Treading of the Wine Press means to emphasize the violent thoroughness of God’s wrath when it is finally poured out.  This imagery is horrific—it’s about the trampled blood of people by God’s thorough wrath.

 Fourth, Carson addresses the issue of manipulation when we talk about hell.    Many have charged that talking about hell is manipulative.  Carson rightly emphasizes that it’s not manipulative if it’s true.  After all, Jesus spoke of hell more than any other person in the Bible and he warned people of impending doom (Mt. 10:28).  However, if it were a lie, then it would be manipulative and the charge would be warranted. But, if it’s true, to not sound the alarm is vicious, cruel, and unloving.  Jesus warned people, we must also…but many times we have not.  That’s troubling!

When we preach about hell we want to be faithful to Christ’s attitude about it, not betray Him.  Moreover, we who have been pardoned by the sovereign grace of God through the Son were once under God s wrath.  We’re no better than any other person.  We are beggars/prisoners who know where to find bread, and who have received pardon.  Plain and simple!

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.

Reflections From ROMANS 11:13-36 “THE GENTILES ARE TO WALK IN HUMILITY BEFORE THE JEWS LEST THEY TOO BE CUT OFF”

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            Paul goes from explaining the Jewish hardening of heart to warning the Gentile Christians he’s been called to reach to walk humbly before the Jews and God:

13 But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.

             Here, the apostle seems to continue explaining the hardness of Israel’s heart with the goal to achieve Gentile salvation.  He now glory’s in his ministry to the Gentiles wanting to magnify or placard its’ preciousness so that some Jews may be stirred by jealousy and come to salvation in Christ.  The reason Paul thinks in this manner is because if their rejection (the Jews) or stupor lead to gentile salvation, which is glorious, then their acceptance (i.e., reconciliation to God) is gloriously being raised from the dead (metaphor for salvation).

That’s my understanding but now verse 16 is a bit tricky.  The metaphor of bread and trees that follow seems to explain that the fruit or result of good bread is holy dough, and the reason that branches are holy is because the root also is.  Paul seems to be telling his Gentile converts that they owe their relationship to Christ in large measure to what God did in and through Israel.  He continues this argument:

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.

It seems that the apostle is arguing for the respect that is rightly due to Jews because of God’s choice to use them as a light to the nations through which Messiah would arrive.   Moreover, Paul here also appears to be accentuating that salvation is of the Jews (e.g., Jesus and the woman at the well) and as such a proper appreciation for them should in their lives.

Unfortunately, church history is riddled and loaded with Jews being mistreated by the Christian (Gentile) Church and much of it is based on the arrogance Paul here denounces.  This arrogance as is often the case is based on ignorance, not knowledge.  Why this attitude towards Jews?  Human nature is such that often when one is privileged and another is not, the fortunate person brags and “rubs into another’s nose” that fact.  Ill feelings often arise and alienation between people takes place.  But such an attitude has no place in the lives of God’s redeemed people.  Undoubtedly Gentiles must have been made to feel inferior to Jews who kept kosher food laws and celebrated the festivals.

Now Gentiles (and Paul knows it) are in a similar place being in Christ to think of themselves as better than their Jewish counterparts who are apparently “not chosen” which utterly misses Paul’s point.  He continues and says:

19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.”              

Unbelief, broken off, faith and conceited are terms that refer to what Paul has already explained in Romans.  It’s because of unbelief that both Jew and Gentile alike are under God’s just wrath.  Broken off seems to metaphorically refer to those relying on law keeping to attain righteousness.  Faith contrarily is trusting in Christ’s righteousness alone to secure our peace before God.  Conceited  are those who boast in anything other than in Christ’s cross.

Paul is warning the Gentile believers to consider Israel’s past (the good and the bad) and walk humbly before God for if they don’t, God will deal with them as he did with the Jews.  Contextually it seems that arrogance and conceit mark the Gentile believer (a bad sign) and may indeed prove they are not in fact part of the remnant (chosen by God) even as so many Jews proved not to be.

The reason I say this and don’t believe it’s talking about one losing their salvation is in light of God’s kindness and choice—which is utterly up to Him, never up to us.  Paul continues:

22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

There’s no letting up in Paul, we demonstrate with our living whether or not we trust God in Christ.  To continue in His kindness I take to mean that we trust in Christ’s work alone to secure our salvation, while unbelief is to rely on law-keeping to secure salvation—it’s the means to attain a righteousness that’s acceptable before God.  Yet, recall that the purpose of the Law was to utterly show how sinful sin is by shining its’ light on it.  The Law can never make anyone righteous before God because that’s not its’ design.  Only Christ can make the unrighteous righteous.

I want to briefly mention the idea of bread and the root from this chapter.  According to Jesus, the things written in the Old Testament were in one way or another pointing to Him.  We know first that the manna God fed Israel in the wilderness was from heaven.  Jesus said that he was the true bread which comes down from heaven, “I am the bread of life”.  In this chapter I can see Paul playing off this Hebraic motif of bread and holiness, both of which bring life, both of which point to the resurrected Christ.

Another popular Old Testament motif is that of the “root”. The root sustains the “Tree of life” in the Garden of Eden, and the root is also used to speak of the coming Messiah’s Davidic lineage originating from the “root of Jesse”.  The idea of root is tied to that which brings “life” originating from the Holy One Israel.  The Holy One sent Messiah to rescue dead sinners from wrath.  Both lump and root are holy for they come from the Holy One of and this holiness is required to see the LORD according to the Hebrews account.  What’s the fruit of this holiness?  Not pride, arrogance, or conceit (which is Paul’s warning to the Gentile believer) but humility and gratitude for God’s kindness.  Paul proceeds:

24 For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?      25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” 27 “This is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”         28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

            I want to work backwards here with Paul’s argument to see if I can get at his point.  First, I take “gifts” and “calling” of God here to mean those God has sovereignly chosen to rescue in accordance to His promise to Abraham that he would be the father of faith for a multitude (that’s a lot of souls).  God has kept His word to Abraham through Christ’s redemptive work.

Second, the sad reality in Paul’s day was that Jews who rejected Christ as Messiah were enemies of the gospel, but why for “your sake”?  Perhaps to make it clear to the Gentiles the kindness and severity of God, moreover to highlight God’s mercy toward them which should and does work holiness, humility and gratitude in the recipient of said favor, not pride, conceit or arrogance in the soul.

Third, Paul wants the Gentiles to see this in light of Israel’s partial hardening of heart.  That is, this partial hardening has a purpose in God’s salvific design which is to bring into the fold every Gentile whom God has chosen from eternity past.  The point seems to be so that Gentiles don’t think themselves more “special” than Israel and thus fall into conceit and pride.  God has allotted a time to everything under heaven—this includes the time of Israel’s rescue for his names sake.  I want to note here when the text says, “all Israel will be saved” contextually means those whom God has chosen, the remnant.

Fourth, Paul argues from the lesser to the greater.  The lesser here is the “wild olive branch” which is the Gentile grafted into the greater “cultivated tree” which is Israel.  The point here is that if Gentiles can be rescued while being strangers to the commonwealth of Israel, the fathers and the covenant, how much more does the same mercy obtain for the Jews?  Paul continues emphasizing God’s mercy:

30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. 32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.

             Paul here hearkens back to Romans 1:18-20 where all are justly condemned for the purpose of showing His mercy to all.  The “all” again contextually I take to mean the called, the chosen, the elect both Jew and Gentile alike, not every human being that’s ever lived (which is universalism: a view of salvation fraught with contradictions).  And the jealousy motif earlier in verse (14) is connected to a means God uses in order to save both Jew and Gentile.  This motif of jealousy is clear in the book of Acts where Paul after repeatedly being rejected by the Jews with his message determines only to minister to the Gentiles.

Paul buttons off this long argument with a doxology.  Overwhelmed with God’s knowledge, power and wisdom, he declares what Job came to understand when confronted by the living God Himself:

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

             God’s election, choice and mercy are grounded in His being which the creature can barely began figure out, only perhaps to scratch the surface.  Because of this Paul can only declare the utter greatness of God comparable to nothing created, and as such, His ways supersede our abilities to understand.  What God has however revealed, has made known to us, is that this Gospel is the fulfillment of what Isaiah 40:11 said: Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.

Paul has argued for and laid out the Gospel indicatives (facts) that in Christ alone both Jew and Gentile alike are rescued from God’s just wrath through the righteousness of Jesus which is imputed to the believer (it’s an alien righteousness which is from God and never ourselves).  Now while this rescue is real it is nevertheless accompanied by a battle with sin which remains.  And lest anyone think they are something when they are nothing, Paul finishes accentuating God’s mercy with the emphasis on His being and attributes of knowledge and wisdom perhaps to aid the reader from pride and conceit.

The remainder of Romans will now focus on the Gospel imperatives (commands) which is the obedience of faith Paul mentioned in (1:5-6).

Reflections From ROMANS 11:1-12 “THE REMNANT IS ACCORDING TO GOD’S CHOICE, NOT OURS”

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            In this section of Romans we see here that God reveals how people become His precious possession.  Paul writes:

I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.”

             Paul here basis his view of God not rejecting His people whom He foreknew first by: pointing to himself, his nation, and his tribe.   Paul’s life is evidence that Jews were, are and will be saved.  They will be loved, not abandoned.  Secondly, Paul points to Elijah’s presupposition and uncloaks its’ deceptiveness.   The reality is that there’s way more children of God than we can fathom.  The main agent in this turn of events is not Elijah or any creature but God.  Finally, Paul assures his readers that this remnant like the former one is according to Gods’ gracious choice, implying not the choice of the creature.

Thus, Gods gracious choice is the centerpiece here, not the false notion that God forsakes His people.  So thus far according to the previous chapters salvation comes to both Jew and Gentile alike, through embracing the proclaimed word of God.  This word is not received by all which is evidenced by Israel’s rejection of it.  Lastly, this rescue results from God’s gracious choice, not ours.

I know this is a tough knot to untie or a hard will to swallow, but I can’t exegetically come to any other conclusion that it is God’s gracious choice by means of the preached word embraced, we come into God’s fold made of Jew and Gentile alike.  Specifically speaking of Israel, God has never removed His love toward them—which seems to be evidenced through the existence of the remnant contextually.  Thus, God has not rejected His people.

Paul continues explaining Israel’s state and says: But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.  Here I take Paul to affirm what he’s previously argued (chapters 5-8) that becoming acceptable (righteous) before God never entailed doing works of the law.  Instead, righteousness comes only through grace which is through the 2nd Adam Christ Jesus.  Remove God’s gracious choice of rescue from the Messiah, and the result will be death.   Paul ensues:

What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; just as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, Eyes to see not and ears to hear not, Down to this very day.”  And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, And a stumbling block and a retribution to them.  10 “Let their eyes be darkened to see not, And bend their backs forever.”     

The text seems to be saying that those who cared about knowing God, did not come to know Him (recall they rejected His word chapter 10), but rather those chosen obtained this knowledge of God which results in salvation.  The reason the former (Israel) did not obtain salvation is because God hardened them, and reason the latter did obtain it is because He chose them.  This reality is difficult to bear (and we must nevertheless remember that there’s no injustice with God), but I can’t make sense out of the passage in any other way.

God however is always working out the counsel of His will and Paul is thus going to explain the reason for why God hardened Israel:

11 I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.

             It seems that God’s end in Israel’s stumbling had the purpose of bringing salvation to the Gentile world and as a result would cause Israel to become jealous: jealous of what?  Jealous that now outsiders, foreigners, aliens and those once estranged from Israel’s common wealth are now partakers of it.  That wealth, that treasure is nothing less than being part of God’s redeemed family.  There’s nothing more precious here than to be God’s child, God’s friend.  Paul continues:

12 Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be”  

             Paul seems to be transitioning into a deeper thought concerning Israel and Gentile believers, the goal of which is going from degree of glory to the next level of glory.  I think Paul is arguing that if Israel’s sin is the means through which the riches of heaven have come to earth (i.e., salvation to non-Jews), then Israel’s salvation after their own transgression will be ever more glorious (11:25-27).  The drama of redemption truly is the greatest story ever told.  (SDG)

 

 

   

Reflections From ROMANS 10: “THE WORD OF FAITH IS NECESSARY FOR SALVATION—CONTRA INCLUSIVISM’S CLAIM”

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            Paul picks up where he left off in the previous chapter referring to Israel and their present standing before God.  He prays for Israel’s salvation but knows that their ignorance of the gospel is the reason they’re not yet redeemed.  Their zeal for God has blinded them (zeal without knowledge Scripture condemns) to God’s righteousness while trying to establish their own through law-keeping (Vv.1-3):

Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.

Paul continues to pound the anvil with the hammer of Christ’s work and says that, “Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes, for Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness” (Vv.4-5).  Paul here is quoting Leviticus 18:5 which is the giving of God’s moral commands and says:

You shall keep my statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD

It seems that the life of the individual is to rely solely on his ability to do the requirements of the law.  It seems that Paul is accentuating the motif again between Christ’s righteousness which is given not merited (thus crushing human boasting), it’s imputed not earned.  Recall that the Law’s purpose was never to be a means of “I do and God rewards”, but instead to shine the light on the sin within, never was it to liberate us from its jaws.  If one trusts in law-keeping to become righteous before God it will only result in death.

Having said that, a believer must not conclude all is well even if he lives an immoral life.  This is a gross misunderstanding of the gospel, for to be in Christ produces the fruit of obedience to God (never without the struggle of Rom.7).  Here, the believer has been freed from slavery to sin in order to live for God.  And by living for God we are thus freed to live for one another (Rom.5:17-6:23; 8:1-14).   By Israel trying to establish their own righteousness apart from Christ, they have rejected God and have been cut off from life indeed.

So the righteousness based on law can’t save, but the righteousness based on faith (i.e., Christ’s work) does save (Vv.6-7):

But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

I’m however a bit puzzled here about the meaning of verses 6-7.  First, verse 6 is a quote from Deuteronomy 30:12 where God is laying out before Israel the blessings and cursing if they choose to obey or disobey.  Now much attention in Deuteronomy 30 is given to what God did and will do for Israel: namely restoring them from captivity which we know occurred because of their idolatry.  God is said to:

…restore you from captivity…have compassion on you…etc”.  (Deut.30:3-8) “circumcise your heart (v.6) to love the Lord which is to obey the Lord (v.8)

This word of salvation is not far, seems to be the point or would eventually manifest (which it did in Christ the Logos), but is now here.  Still a bit hazy on verses 6-7.  Nevertheless, the word is being preached and its content is faith (trust) in Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah who conquered the grave and offers the righteousness of God as a gift to all peoples and this word will not disappoint because God always keeps His promises.  Let God be true and every man a liar (Vv.8-13):

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him;13 for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”                  

This word of faith however comes in a specific way which if not given dooms sinners with no hope of rescue.  Paul now asks four rhetorical questions which an inclusivist view of salvation seems to contradict.  I’m going to point these out in reverse order because the apostle Paul begins with the end and ends with the beginning of the logical order (Vv.14-15):

“14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”

First, there’s the bearer of good news whose beauty is too often hidden from those presented with the Gospel (v.15).  Second, there’s the need to send vessels willing to impart this good news which means they must be supported with finances and prayer.  Third, the sent must be preachers who proclaim the news of the Kings arrival in a way that’s understandable so that people may have the opportunity to both hear and respond to the message.  Fourth, hearing is essential for belief to arise, otherwise they will not trust in Christ which is the word of faith that requires preaching.  Fifth, after the message is preached and the preacher heard, people then have an opportunity to believe and when belief arises, then one is ready to call on the Name of the LORD and be saved.

Now Paul says that that word is preached in both creation (v.18 cf., Ps.19:4) and through the prophets (Isa.53:1; Dt.32:21; Isa.65:1-2).  And so in response to Israel’s hard heart, God will stir them to jealousy by revealing to the pagan world Christ’s righteousness of which the apostle has been writing.  Thus, Israel has no excuse for their unbelief and God is not unjust having mercy on whomever He wills.

But when the word goes forth and people respond we must understand that God has ordained conversions to happen through the word of Christ—God’s word of promise fulfilled in the Messiah by the lips of a preacher proclaiming it.  This is foolishness to the Greeks, and a stumbling block to the Jews, but to the called, Christ is both the wisdom of God and the power of God to us who believe.  (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 8:20-39 “COMPARING PRESENT SUFFERINGS WITH FUTURE GLORY IS INCOMPARABLE”

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Paul here seems to springboard from (v.18) to the end of the chapter concerning our suffering.  As God’s children, our suffering entails fighting the remaining sin but that again does not disqualify us as children because the Spirit testifies with our spirit that we indeed are God’s children:

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.” 

             Now, Paul argues that the sufferings we presently experience are not comparable to the glory in the future to be revealed in us: 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.”  He then goes on to explain the multifaceted aspects of this glory which is first a creation that’s set right again (Vv.19-25).  Secondly, this glory will be brought about by the Spirit’s intercession for us and the creation (Vv.26-30).  And finally, no one or thing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Vv.31-39).  Several observations are of note.

First, present sufferings are bearable in light of the hope we presently possessOne ploy demonic spirits use to paralyze believers is to veil this future glory with hardships and often what results is despair.  Paul is saying to the believer, “Don’t despair, because the eternal glory to be revealed is worth the pain you are momentarily suffering”.  Many people abandon their pursuit of God because of pain and suffering.  There’s a breaking point where the creature deems God not worthy to be trusted.   Yet, true believers are to press through and trust God in hope.

Biblically, the term “hope” is not wishful thinking but rather it’s a confident expectation in God’s word of promise.  Consider what Paul says:

 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”   

I take this to mean that when God gave over Adam and Eve for the lesser glory of the creation over against that of the Creator, the result of this sin was the entire damaging of the created order.  This brought a slavery to futility (i.e., things were no longer in harmony with their intended design and the Designer) but were and remain at war with Him.

Secondly, God had a plan to rectify the chaos in hope.   Even though this war obtains, God gave over to sin Adam and Eve in hope.  That is, He had a plan to restore the catastrophic results of sin caused by His children’s rebellion and is the proof the rest of creation will once again come into order.  The chaos will be dealt with as Paul continues:

22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

By “groans” I take Paul to be saying that the creation also suffers because of sin and the pain is likened to “child birth”.  I understand this to mean that the pain will be worth the wait because of the life which awaits us.  Now when Paul says, “we await our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies”, he seems to indicate that that already as children of God, a future word of promise is yet to be fulfilled.  Moreover, this includes resurrected bodies not subject to death or corruption or futility as the rest of creation has experienced.

Third, Paul accentuates how this hope will be realized.  The apostle now transitions from the previous state of affairs to inform us how all this hope will be realized through the Spirit’s intercession which is always in line with God’s will:

26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”  

We have divine help from beginning to end, for the Spirit prays for us because we lack the requisite knowledge on how to properly pray and thus explains God’s purpose in salvation for His present and future children (Vv.28-30).

Why can we trust in future glorification?  The reason is because Christ’s past mortification of death on the cross and resurrection to new life has been won by the Master (Vv.31-36).  Paul says that regardless of life’s circumstances (and they can sometimes be unbearable), because of Christ’s love for us, we are thus super conquerors (Vv.37-39).

Those who are in Christ are no longer under the sentence of death, yet suffering is real and painful.  Nevertheless, suffering is momentary and it’s pain can’t compare to the glory that awaits believers and the creation, where we anticipate our resurrected bodies and the creation is set right.  Thus, we can bank on God’s word of promise of “hope” because forever his word is settled in heaven.  Let God be true and every man a liar—that contradicts Him! (SDG)

Summary From CHAPTER SEVEN: THE GOD WHO BECAME A HUMAN BEING [Pages 101-119]

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Carson begins this chapter by first pointing out that before Jesus was born, the prophet Jeremiah promised a new covenant.  What this promise implicitly says about the old (Mosaic) covenant is that in some sense, it is becoming obsolete (Jer. 31:31-34):

31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Secondly, Carson explains how in Jesus God became human.  For starters, “Jesus’” name means “Yahweh saves.”  This is the covenant name of God given to Moses at Sinai.  The importance of this name in Mathew’s gospel is that it sets forth the entire theme of the book; namely that Yahweh has come to save his people from their sins (in Christ).

He then explains the doctrine of the Trinity to mean that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are God.  Not three Gods, only one.  One way of explaining this, is that the Word shares one substance with the Father, but is distinguishable from Him.  That is, there are three distinct persons within the Godhead who are equally the One God, co-existing, co-equal, and co-eternal.

In John’s prologue (John 1:1-18) it’s clear that the “Word” is simultaneously God’s own peer and God’s own self?  In verse 1 this is emphatic: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  God reveals, himself to the prophets through his word; God creates through the spoken word in (Gen.1; Ps.33:6); God transforms his people through the word (Ps. 107:20), and Jesus is God’s self-revelation, self-expression; God’s own agent in creation; and he comes to save and transform his people.

Thirdly, Carson explains what the incarnation means.  It means that the Word becomes a human being (i.e., the infleshing). God becomes something that previously before the incarnation, he was not.  What John does not say is that the Word merely clothed himself in animal humanity, pretended to be human, coexisted with a man called Jesus, nor is all of God exhausted in Jesus.  But John does say that the Word (God’s own peer) became a human being.  Jesus is the “God/Man.  God in his divinity cannot change, but in Christ’s humanity there’s a distinct addition: a human nature.  This is mind baffling.

Fourthly, Carson makes the connection between the Old Testament Tabernacle and New Testament incarnation.  He does this by thematically connecting John 1:14-18 on the one hand and Exodus 32-34 on the other hand.  He explains that the Tabernacle and Temple, point to the fact that Jesus is the ultimate meeting place between a holy God and rebellious sinners.  He is said to have “tabernacled among us”.  This is where the meeting place of peace with God can be found in Jesus Christ.

Glory is what Moses wanted to see of God on Sinai, but when Jesus tabernacled among us the wonder of his glory, God’s glory, is seen in the miracles and ultimately on Calvary’s tortuous bloody cross.   Grace and Truth (Love and Faithfulness) God reveals himself not only as the One who punishes evil doers but is also kind and forgiving.  Full of grace and truth is that which brought him to the cross to pay for our sins.  Here is where justice and love kiss!

Grace and Law means that we have received grace in place of grace already given.  The gracious gift of the Law was superseded by the ultimate revelatory expression of God in the 2nd person of the Triune God who through his sacrificial death on Calvary’s bloody cross purchased the redemption price required for wrath doomed sinners to be rescued and thus adopted into God’s family.  It’s found in the new covenant, which replaces the old covenant.

Seeing God can only be accomplished through seeing Jesus. We cannot look directly on God, according to John 1:18.  What is at present, the closest we can come?  Presently, we can see the character, holiness, wrath, forgiveness and glory of God in Jesus.  He is the ultimate revelation of God the Father—he is the incarnate son of God.

And as such, Jesus most spectacularly showed that he is full of grace and truth on the cross.  Both God’s justice and love are fully expressed there.  This field will forever be marveled on by the redeemed age without end.

Summary of CHAPTER SIX: THE GOD WHO IS UNFATHOMABLY WISE [Pages 85-100]

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In this section of the book, Carson first focuses on Biblical wisdom literature.  He points out that Psalm 1 is called a “wisdom psalm” because it shows us that there are only two paths to walk on in this life.  There’s the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked.  The former will be remembered, the latter forgotten.  There’s no “third way” by which to live (c.f., Mt. 7:24-29).  Wisdom literature demonstrates the polarity’s of life (a notion utterly denied by pantheistic monism).  There’s the way of the wise, and the way of the fool.  There are only two ways, not a third.

These polarities in wisdom literature have two qualities: they are absolute and they establish parameters by which to live, an actual border for life.  We either live for the self-existent holy Creator God, or for the needy, unholy creature man.

Secondly, Carson admits the scary reality that we neither always live as lovers of God nor always walk in His ways.  Often we act like the wicked indeed (e.g., King David)The truth about us is that often the counsel of the wicked sounds really good, the Law of the Lord is not our delightJesus also emphasized the realities of two roads, two gates, and only two ways to live (Mt. 7: 24-29).  This accentuates the holy from the unholy, the righteous from the wicked, and while it clarifies for us this state of affairs, it cannot save us. 

Carson then considers the fool as illustrative of the bent of those who lack wisdom.  The reason those who deny Gods’ existence are considered fools (Ps. 14:1), is because the God who is there has disclosed Himself in nature and in the Scriptures (see Rom. 1:18-22).  They are fools because they deny the obvious.  They and we, are without excuse and yet, the denials persist which disclose how deep humanity’s corruption goes, and how desperately we need God’s amazing grace.

Thirdly, David is used as an example of how man’s foolishness must be dealt with, “Against you only have I sinned” David says to God in (Ps. 51:4).  But how does this make sense in light of the fact that he sinned against other people?  Carson affirms that David understood that his sin was ultimately and most importantly, treason against His Maker.  It’s not that he didn’t think that he was not guilty before the people, he was and knew it.  But, he was so in touch with his offense toward the Holy One of Israel.  The fact is that what makes sin so heinous is that it defies God.  To defy the One who made us and will judge us on the last day is utterly absurd.

Fourthly, Carson considers the life of Job to provide an answer to the problem of innocent suffering.  But the humility that follows is noteworthy.  The innocent do suffer and in the most extreme cases, they are to trust in the person of the God who is there.  In the end Job is a microcosm of what’s forthcoming in the end—wrongs will be righted, and the Just judge will set things right.  This too is wisdom.

Ecclesiastes warns us that we will all face God and give an account of our lives; we must all face Him in the end.  Its “good news” in the sense that we are directed to focus on what really matters—living for God.  That is, our ultimate pursuit in life must be to fear God and keep His commandments—because in the end, nothing else will matter.

Lastly, Carson considers how we are to live in light of coming judgment.  Judgment—the first doctrine in Genesis 3 revealed, is denied by many professing Christians.  Death approaches, and it is death we in our culture strain at avoiding, sanitizing, we speak of Sister Sue “passing away” or she’s “gone”.  We can’t bear to say that she is “Dead.”

When we die, regardless of the cause, the ultimate reality is that we stop breathing.  There’s no life in us anymore.  We’re separated from; our body, our loved ones and the life we once knew.  Now we must face God.  This is sobering.  (SDG)

 

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!