Reflections From ECCLESIASTES 7: IT’S BETTER TO MOURN THAN IT IS TO REJOICE? 

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There’s nothing new under the sun which includes our bent to avoid the issue of death.  Whenever I talked to my father about death he almost always side-stepped the conversation by changing the topic to one that was more “happy”.  The Preacher’s instruction here is hard to swallow for a society that worships wealth, health, entertainment and the absence of pain.  Death simply decimates those aspirations and reminds us that our appointment with it is looming:

A good name is better than a good ointment,
And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.
It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man,
And the living takes it to heart.
(Vv.1-2)

The house of mourning says the Preacher is “better than” or “preferable to” the “party” because it lurches us into questioning the meaning of life and forces us to confront our inevitable death.  A funeral, not a feast wakes us up to the ultimate issue of life after death which the naturalist denies (ala atheism), or the monist attributes as illusory (ala Buddhism or Hinduism), but Christian theism explains so well in the Gospel accounts and in Paul’s letter to the Romans.

LORD, help us and teach us to live our lives in light of our appointed death today in word and deed.  May we hold on to things loosely in light of eternity as we serve our fellow man for your NAME’S sake, and may we be vigilant.

(SDG)

ECCLESIASTES: WHAT IS THE MEANING OF VANITY?

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In Hebrew, the word for vanity is hebel—הָ֫בֶל, which means “vapor” or “breath”. This word is dominant in the book of Ecclesiastes compared to the rest of the Old Testament books.  Hebel can refer to that which is, worthless or       unsubstantial such as an idol (Jer.10:5) or life itself (Job 7:16).[1]  This word is found in contexts where the activity engaged brings no profit be it through: Egypt’s might (Is. 30:7); idol worship (Dt. 32:21) or Abel and Cain’s labor (Gen. 4).

Hebel evaluates people and things making value judgements on them and concluding that these lack any real “substance.”[2]  Deceitfully gaining riches in light of our finitude for example is hebel—worthless.  Among our worthlessness under the sun is our might, beauty and youth all of which in our culture are worshipped (Prov. 31:30; Is. 30:7; Ec. 11:10).[3]

To the Preacher, it is death that precisely makes life meaningless or vain (Ec.3:19) and that is why he is so pessimistic about human existence.  In Ecclesiastes the dominant use of hebel is the universally considered devaluation of a person or thing.[4]  The nihilism is very dark and gloomy for life without God is no life at all.  That’s the message, that’s the reality check, that’s the abyss.

(SDG)

[1] BDB, Pg.210

[2] TDOT, Pgs.313-314

[3] Ibid., Pg.319

[4] Ibid., Pg.319

A Tribute To Daniel Elijah Day

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After an exhausting day of work, the tragic news an old friend relayed speared my soul and sapped what strength remained.  Daniel Elijah Day passed away at the age of 23.  I knew him while in his mother’s womb, from a distance I saw him grow, struggle and mourn, but the poem of Daniels life his friends related was very Christ-like and comforting.

They described Daniel as a man who sought them out when all others ignored them, a soul that gave hope to hopeless youth, love and acceptance to those lacking it, a “Pied Piper” of sorts whose insight, compassion and words deeply touched the many friends he made.  To the “Trifecta” my heart and prayers go out to you.

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James Day (Daniel’s father and long-time dear friend) asked me to share some words at the majestic “Ranch” in Fort Collins Colorado. As the scores of people drove onto this family farm property (approximately 300-400 perhaps), and each young person spoke, I refrained from speaking sensing I’d hinder their many insights of Daniel.  What follows is some of what I wanted to share.

Before Daniel was born, I met James and Kristen (his parents) at a Mexico outreach Missions trip sponsored by Hope chapel.  A few years later they, like Trish and I were married.  We shared a lot of life together such that sleep overs at the Day’s Hermosa Beach apartment were frequent.

In the Summer or Fall of 1992 Kristen found out (through a pregnancy test) that she was pregnant with Daniel and as she spoke to Trish, a peculiar topic arose, my wife was late with her monthly cycle.  What transpired was epic.  James and Kristen came to our “love-shack” rental in El Segundo with a pregnancy test for Trish. The test was positive, the four of us elated with joy and James and I hugged each other as we screamed and jumped up and down like two little kids.

During the Spring months of 1993 both Day and Tangari families enrolled in “Bradley Birthing Classes” where drug-free natural child-birth is taught. While many of our friends and parents thought we were crazy in our approach that did not sway either family.  Daniel was born several weeks before my daughter Alexandra and that year the Day’s and Tangari’s learned the ups, downs and joys of parenting.

As so many people experience, the Day family moved out of state and eventually ended up in the “Rocky Mountain” state of Colorado.  Our family took a trip to Colorado in the summer of 2000 but then both of our families had grown.  The score was tied; Days three kids (Daniel, Jessie, David), Tangari’s three kids (Alexandra, Karina, Sergio D.).  We enjoyed the Ranch, the Cash la Poudre River, Estes Park, food and crashing at the Wellington home.  It reminded me of those early years in Hermosa Beach, California.  Those memories are forever precious to the Tangari clan.

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Several years later, Kristen and the children moved to Carlsbad, California.  I painted the house before they moved into it (Daniel’s room was painted black) and our families continued to connect whenever possible.  My son (who idolized Daniel) followed him and David with their skateboards bombing down the Carlsbad hills one summer as all the kids had a sleep over in that beautiful sunny town. Those were fun times, and Daniel loved to host fun.

Daniels wit can perhaps be captured by a game he taught us while driving down the road.  When we passed a sign, the object was to make a threatening “diddy”.  For example, “I’ll El your Segundo”—passing the town, or “I’ll Rancho your Park”—passing a street sign, or “I’ll Dough your Nuts”—passing Winchell’s.  I gotta say, I laughed long and hard along with my kids.

When the news of his death came, it pierced our family’s heart.  To Kristen, James, Jessie and David know that you are deeply loved by the Tangari’s and we will forever miss you Daniel Elijah Day.  A piece of us died with your death. (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!

On Death and Dying

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Death is not ultimate!  God is!  I used these words to open my eulogy to honor the life and mourn the death of Specialist Koran Pulido Contreras, born on December 15, 1989, in Redondo Beach California and died on September 8, 2011 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.  This man’s grief stricken family sadly experienced what awaits everyone one of us and belted out wails I had never before heard.  This last week, both the Lamay Family and Sovereign Grace Fellowship Church suffered the death of our Matriarch Pat Lamay, or Grandma Pat as many of us called her.

Too often the fact of death and the loss of loved ones are unbearable, even for Christians.  The loss of a father, a mother, a spouse, a child, even our pets can be utterly debilitating. Click here ON DEATH AND DYING_1 for pdf file.

 

Reflections From ROMANS 7:1-13 “TO BE IN CHRIST ONE MUST BE DEAD TO THE LAW”

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Paul now continues his argument from chapter 6 where he argued that we are enslaved to the one we obey whether it’s sin which produces death or grace which results in eternal life (6:22-23).  Here, he continues strumming the same note and uses the example of a woman bound by law to her husband while he’s alive.  Only after he dies is she freed to marry another without being an adulterous (Vv.1-3).  Then Paul makes the connection between the believers union with Christ:

Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.”   

Here’s what I gather from this text.  First, though the Law was a good husband, it could never produce life in us because of our sinful nature.  When Christ died on the cross, the believers in him also died to the Law so that they may be joined to another husband—to Christ who rose from the dead.  We have come to be His bride for the purpose of bearing fruit for God (i.e., sanctification).

The metaphor of husband and wife is penetrating.  The purpose of the 1st husband was to show us how sinful our sin is.  The purpose of the 2nd husband is to free us from death by vanquishing the grave.  Both husbands are good (Law and Christ) but only the latter husband can bring us life through His death.  Thus, to be in Christ is to be dead to the Law.  If one is not dead to the Law, they don’t belong to Christ.

This does not argue for antinomianism (being against the Law) nor for Libertarianism (we are free to sin) but for the actuality that new birth produces—new life which issues forth a life of continuous sanctification.  Paul buttresses his argument by recalling our state before and after new birth:

For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.

Paul however anticipates an objection and continues:

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead.

This section is somewhat tricky.  Paul begins affirming that the Law is not sin, but rather is a light that exposes sin (e.g., covetousness) and thus clarifies what sin is (covetousness).  Secondly, sin is shown to be such when the commandment is given and the object recoils, flinches and resists that light.  Third, when this light of the Law exposes sin, it produces more sin in him, not less.

Now the last phrase, “apart from the Law sin is dead” is problematic.  First, It could mean that when the Law does not expose sin (because somehow the Law is hidden from us) it does not have the opportunity to replicate itself, nor be amplified through the object’s motivation.  Second, Paul does argue that both Jew and Gentile are all under sin (chapters 1-2) even if the Gentiles did not have the Law.  Now if Gentiles did not have the Law, were they then sinless?  Clearly not!  Third, according to Adam’s rebellion, all men were thrown into a sinful state before the Law came.  So were they then sinless?  Clearly not!

What I think Paul is referring to is (Vv.1-6) where he explains that being dead to the Law is to be in Christ.  Thus, believers are no longer enslaved to sin but to Christ because of new birth.  Paul continues his thought:

I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.”     

             I’m not clear on how Paul can say that he was “once alive apart from the Law” since the absence of the Law does not eradicate the reality of sin from our first father Adam, it’s just not exposed.  Maybe he means that he thought all was well until the Laws’ light showed him otherwise and thus produced in him death?  Because of sin’s deceptive nature, perhaps instead of recoiling at the command Paul thought he could actually perform it without the motive tainted by sin (he was after all a devout Jew).

Paul concludes in a strange way lauding the Law and its characteristics of being holy, righteous and good.  He knows an objection is warranted to be raised and continues:

13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.”    

             Paul affirms that the cause of death is sin not the Law which is good.  The purpose for this is to show that sin is and is utterly sinful.  Moreover, it’s just not the cause of death by means of the commandment, but it’s also the effect of death.  Plainly put, the Law is neither the cause nor the effect of death—sin is; which the Law reveals to be real and deadly.  That is the purpose of the Law.            

            That’s why people suppress the truth of God in unrighteousness and that’s why God’s just wrath is on sinful rebels.  This section is amazingly profound and troublesome.  The extent that God went through to show rebels like me that wrath is just because of sin which has been exposed through God’s holy, righteous and good command is amazing.  Moreover, the need to embrace Christ alone as husband is clear in light of the Law’s purpose—to expose sin, not to cleanse it away.  Only Christ can cleanse from sin.

It’s troublesome because this truth is so backwards in the lives of many religious people who are trusting in their law-keeping.  Only death awaits those who trust in that.

LORD, thank you for the light of your word which brings us truth and life.  May I never  and leave this glorious treasure of the gospel, but may I and Your church proclaim it boldly, kindly, and relentlessly! (SDG)

Reflections From ROMANS 6:1-23 “JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH RESULTS IN SANCTIFICATION BECAUSE BELIEVERS ARE SLAVES TO GOD”

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            Whose slave are you?  In the last chapter Paul argued that the believers’ justification is truly certain because God acted in Christ before we came to be.  The last Adams’ obedience (Christ Jesus) secures our standing before God because it’s the gift of life which is unlike the first Adams’ rebellion which secured our death.  But now that grace has come in Christ, Paul asks a question:

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”  (Vv.1-2)

             Certainly Paul encountered religious Jews who argued that if one is justified by faith through grace then people can go on sinning; living the same rebellious life as before their conversion.  That is, “since these people are eternally secure in Christ in their salvation, who cares how they live!”  But such a position completely misses the point.  The reason is because when believers belong to Christ, his death and resurrection are applied to them so that as Christ presently lives a new resurrected life, we too might walk in that life (Vv.3-4).  Paul continues:

For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.(Vv.5-7)

                It seems Paul is pointing to our mystical spiritual union with Christ such that in his crucifixion we actually died to sin and in His resurrection we actually have come to eternal life.  Spiritual unions in the Bible, among other things, concern sexual intercourse between two people whether married or not.  As the Bride of Christ, this union is real not imagined, it’s spiritual not physical.

The “old-self” is the pre-regeneration self that was dead in trespasses and sins (Eph.2:1-4) which has been killed so that we believers would no longer be slaves to sin.  Thus, the purpose of Christ’s crucifixion in which believers are identified, was to release them from the chains of sin.  Thus to think that sin increases and thus makes grace more glorious is to totally miss the point (V.1), for the fruit produced by Christ in believers is a new life.

Paul resumes with his argument pointing to Christ’s victory over the grave which signifies that death is no longer master over Him and He says a profound truth here:

10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

             Christ is the example believers are to follow here.  They are to consider themselves as dead to sin, that is, they are to live in the reality that sin is no longer their master, God is, for Christ has vanquished the grave.  Here, Paul is exhorting and encouraging believers to live in the reality of new birth which brings new life.  And where new life exists, the “old-self” which was already killed is to be rebelled against.  This metaphor points to the reality of what being in Christ produces.  Too often we listen to “old tapes” believing lies about ourselves.  Make no mistake about it believer: you are no longer a slave to sin.  So don’t obey its’ commands.

Paul is not denying that sin remains and must be battled, but he’s exhorting believers not to be enslaved to sin which Christ conquered, instead:

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

The righteous can and do sin, but not because they are under its’ mastery (Christ fixed that problem), but because the battle(s) remain to be fought.  They however must be fought from the truth that as freed men and women from sin our enemy is relentless and thus we must also be unyielding in battle.  Moreover, because believers are under grace, not under the Law (which only increased sin, never was it to produce new birth) this means we have a new master—Christ the Lord of Life.  Believer, how much more vibrant would our lives and witness be if we constantly lived in light of this truth.

Paul has thus answered the first objection which was based on the faulty premise that grace would produce increasing sin in believers.  No!  Grace actually produces new birth, new life and a new master which says, “You shall be holy for I am holy”.  This new life has been secured by Christs’ work of redemption and having said that; Paul does not deny that sin has vanished.  For when believers sin and repent grace does shine.  What Paul wants to accentuate however is that grace does not produce a sinful lifestyle, but one of sanctification.  Paul now asks a second question connected to the first one:

15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!” 

Here he continues explaining that whoever is obeyed (sin or righteousness) to that one we are slaves.  The former produces death, the latter generates life (V-16).  But as believers once obeyed sin and were thus slaves to death, now in Christ after new birth, they have become slaves of righteousness resulting in sanctification (Vv.17-21).  One master produces death, the other master produces life.  Note that everyone, according to Paul, is serving something other than themselves.  He continues:

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

             Paul is concluding with what brings benefit and what brings destruction.  Sin while pleasurable for a time eventually yields death, but grace and new birth yield a life of grace and sanctification toward God which produces life.  Sin’s pay-off is death; graces’ pay-off is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

That is, if the Law (as described by Paul) is in what we trust to be right with God, then our end is death.  But if we trust as Abraham did in the free gift of God’s word of promise fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, then life is our end.  This smashes human pride on the one hand but on the other hand it calls for believers to walk humbly before our gracious God and the observant world.  (SDG)        

Summary of CHAPTER TWO: THE GOD WHO DOES NOT WIPE OUT REBELS (Pgs.27-42)

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In this chapter Carson continues in the book of Genesis.   He explains how the Fall took place, how it tarnished human relationships, and what God promised to do about it.

First, Carson tackles the issue of God’s ontological status compared to Satan’s.   Too often people mistakenly equate God and Satan as mirror images of each other (one good, the other bad), thus making him equivalent to God.  But Genesis reveals that Satan is a rebellious, contingent, dependent, “smart-mouth” creature, not on par with God at all.

According to Carson, Satan’s craftiness started out in prudence but ended in craftiness.  That is, he was crowned with more prudence than any of the other creatures but in his rebellion it turned into craftiness.  This virtue became a vice, the blessing became a curse (Prov. 12:23; 14:18):

 23 A prudent man conceals knowledge, But the heart of fools proclaims folly. The naive inherit foolishness, But the sensible are crowned with knowledge.

This craftiness is revealed in the question the serpent asks Eve where the pinnacle of evil is seen by assaulting God’s goodness.   Implied is that God’s out to keep you from having any fun.  The creature is telling the Creator (implicitly) “I know better”.  Moreover, it smuggles in the assumption that we have the ability and the right to stand in judgment of what God has said. 

            Secondly, he considers the tragedy and meaning of eating the forbidden fruit in Genesis 3Our children, like our first parents want to become independent of mom and dad.  Eve also thought that she wanted to become “independent from God” but she bought into the lie that the doctrine of judgment is not true.  Satan sold the lie:

The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

             Carson argues that there’s a vast difference between God knowing good and evil and Eve knowing it.  On the one hand, God omnisciently knows both good and evil, but He is not evil.  On the other hand, Eve will become evil experientialy through her disobedience, and she’ll know it. 

            God alone has the prerogative to call something good or evil and is in fact what He does after completing all of creation, “it is very good.”  Here, the image bearer desires to possess the ability to call what they want “good or evil”.  By doing this, the image bearer stands over against God.  This is what our present relativistic culture is all about.  Carson calls this thede-goding of God (so that “I” may be my own god).  Herein lays idolatry and thus the tragedy—the creature’s value is exalted above the Creators’.

Thirdly, he explains how defying God resulted in broken human relationships.  Carson points out that in the Christian tradition death has varied views.  Augustine, for example, held that both physical, spiritual death, the second death (i.e., lake of fire), and their nakedness before God is a display of His promise of judgment.  Thus, they traded the knowledge of God for guilt and shame which no leaf can ever cover.

We have here the loss of innocence which can’t be undone.  Fortunately, the Bible goes forward to the cross.  Carson argues that broken relationships with God are akin to adultery.  Human broken relationships result from the vertical relationship that’s tattered, where blame shifting is manifest with Adam (Eve is my problem) and Eve (the serpent is my problem).

            We also have the blueprint for self-justification which results when people cover up residing shame and guilt.  That is, denial is king!  Everything we do wrong is someone else’s fault, “I’m the victim,” its’ one more evidence of idolatry.  What resulted was that Eve wanted to control (rule) her husband, and Adam would rule her with brute strength.  This is all too familiar describing the 21st century American cultural milieu.  The marriage relationship is destroyed.

Fourthly, he explains that God promised in the gospel to remedy the alienation.  Genesis 3:15 is sometimes called the “protevangelium,” which means the first announcement of the gospel (that is, the “Good News” about Jesus).  For it foretells the redemption Jesus’ life death and resurrection would secure.  This first promise of hope comes immediately after this cataclysmic treason takes place.  Essentially, one will rise from the human race (the woman’s seed) that will crush the serpents head.  This occurs in a sense, when Christians are reconciled to God because of the gospel (Rom. 16:20).  Satan along with his work, in this sense, is being destroyed.

Lastly, Carson accentuates what humanity needs most.  Through idolatry, death came into the world.  That is, by the evil that belittles and defies God’s glory, death resulted.  This is the anti-thesis to God’s shalom—for it resists the peace, good order, well-being, human flourishing, and integrity that were part of God’s design for the created order.  Thus, our greatest need is to be saved from God’s wrath who has pronounced death on us because of our idolatry.  We need to be reconciled to God!  When things went awry, we tried to diminish God and thus we became impoverished.

Reflection From ROMANS 5:6-21: “JUSTIFICATION IS ASSURRED THROUGH CHRIST—EVEN AS ADAM’S REBELLION WROUGHT DEATH”

book-of-romans

            Paul seems to want to assure the Roman believers that their justification is certain because God’s work of redemption occurred at the right time:

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

Hardships might cause believers to doubt God’s goodness toward them (Vv.1-5), even their actual standing with God as judge.  But Paul argues that if while we were God’s enemies He showed His loved to us through Christ’s death, now, much more as His friends we must be confident that being justified now by Christ’s blood, God’s wrath is not ever again to be on us.

We are a lot of redeemed, reconciled sinners by the Savior (Vv.10-11).  Our state because of Adam’s rebellion assuredly resulted in death (Vv.12-14), but the free gift of God is not like the transgression.  This is because the transgression resulted in death and wrath, whereas God’s free gift brought life and mercy.

11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.  12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

The two Adams acted, the first disobeyed and thus death reigned, the second obeyed and thus life in Christ reigns.  The former brought condemnation to all men, the latter wrought justification for many (Vv.15-19)

15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.  18  So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

Finally, the Law came to increase transgression, but in this increase, grace all the more abounded the purpose of which is that even as death reigned because of transgression, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Christ (Vv.20-21).  Here Paul brings attention to the power of grace and righteousness over sin and death.  He uses the phrase, “much more” to contrast and heighten God’s favor and instill confidence in the work of Christ over against Adam’s rebellion.

Justification can be banked on more than death which came through the creature Adam because God’s grace and gift of righteousness came through God the Son, whose life would be brought to bear on those who love Him, who love God the Father.  That’s amazing grace!  (SDG)