Moving along, from Paul’s argument (3:21-31) that the establishment of the Law and the Prophets is the fulfillment of their message in Christ.  Here, both Jew and Gentile (who are presently condemned) can be justified by faith as a gift through grace by the redemption Christ alone offers.

Now, Paul continues unfolding the meaning of justification through grace alone apart from the Law by using Abraham as the example.  Consider this:

“What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,”   

             Here, it seems to be clear that if Abraham were to be justified by the Law (which he wasn’t) he still could not boast before God—point?  But Abraham was justified by trusting in God.  This trust is not like the employee/employer relationship where the two need each other in order to flourish.  Instead, Abraham is receiving God’s favor because he trusts in God’s word of promise which precedes the Law.  The fact is that when one works for something, his wage is earned and justly due.  But the way to having righteousness credited to our account (as it was to Abraham) comes by faith alone, not by works as David attests:

just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, And whose sins have been covered. “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”

Paul seems to be clearly establishing that righteousness is not something our souls intrinsically possess, but is a state of affairs credited to us because the believer trusts in God’s word of promise.  If that is labeled a “work” then it is a “work of faith/trust”, not a “work of Law”.  The former receives praise from God (2:29) and the latter gets the applause of man.



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            Paul continues his argument about how all are justly under God’s wrath Jew and Gentile alike, and that the law was never intended to justify anyone before God.  He says:

But now, apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,…” (V.21)

Here may be the Jews second advantage.  Recall Jesus came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel—that was his mission.  His apostles were to take his message to the Gentile world.  Thus, the oracles of God which were entrusted to the Jew gave witness to God’s righteousness apart from the Law.  And yet this Law and Prophets are putting their stamp of approval on God’s righteousness but how?

…even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe, for there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… ” (Vv.22-23)

God’s righteousness (i.e., He always does what is just, true, beautiful and holy) is shown through those who put their trust in Jesus Christs’ work on Calvary’s cross.  It’s the only rescue for Jew and Gentile alike.  Why this righteousness manifested is because all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.  What’s the glory of God here?  It’s the opposite of what the creature wanted in chapter 1 where the “infamous exchange” took place, the infinite for what is finite, the greater for the lessor, the creator for the creature.  It’s all backwards!

Remember, the glory of God is first, His wrath against all unrighteousness (1:18) because He’s righteous; secondly, His glory is the self-disclosure of attributes in creation (1:19-20); third, His glory is revealed in the truth of things designed (1:25, 32).  In other words, the glory of God as described above, is the perfections of His being demonstrated through just punishment on obstinate creatures refusing to live in accordance with the Creators design.  But as Paul further explains, God’s glory is not just manifest in wrath but also in mercy or justification:

24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;”     

Note here that the glory of God is magnified by justifying (acquitting) as a gift sinners who trust in Christ’s redemptive sacrifice.  And this act of redemption (i.e., a term meaning to buy out of the slave market) was a propitiation (i.e., a sacrifice that satisfied God’s wrath) publicly demonstrated not hidden (e.g., Prophets of Baal and Elijah).  This was done for a purpose:

25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

It seems that through Christ’s sacrifice the sins previously committed and unpunished were paid for to demonstrate God’s justice-His righteousness where sin’s penalty had to be paid.  Thus God in His forbearance was not unjust in staying David’s execution after his adultery and murder, for Christ at the proper time in history would pay also for his sins.

This was all Gods doing, His purpose—rescue apart from works of the law through faith in Christ’s work on the cross.  And while some may object, it should be remembered that the Creator alone can do whatever He pleases because of His ontological status (i.e., infinite, self-existent, and the source of all life), not the creature specifically because of his ontological status (i.e., finite, needy, dependent on sources outside the self to exist).  Now why did God do this?  Paul continues and asks:

27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

Thus, both Jew and Gentile have redemption apart from the law if they trust in Christ alone.  Both Jew and Gentile have no reason for boasting because this redemption is a gift.  Thus, God is now glorified through bringing to life in Christ those who were once dead in sins and trespasses.  Those who were once unrighteous have been made righteous, justified by faith by the Just One.  No one gets a “free ride”.  The payment for sins must be made and can only be made by God, not us.  Paul now concludes:

29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.

Here, he’s affirming monotheism.  That is, the God of scripture who created is also the one God who sent His Son to rescue all who believe in him—Jesus of Nazareth.  Now Paul asks:

31 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.

I’m not exactly sure what it means to say that “…we establish the Law”.  Perhaps it points to God’s righteousness as being witnessed to by the Law and Prophets (V.21), and now that faith has come, fulfillment of God’s faithfulness has been demonstrated through Christ’s redemption.  That is, God’s faithfulness to do what He promised is seen as His truth shines and the Law’s purpose is fulfilled—by pointing us to Christ.  That is, the Law is good, but its’ purpose was never intended to make the hearer good (righteous), but rather to point them to Christ Jesus who has come in space time history to make his followers righteous, pure and holy.  (SDG)




             Paul begins this letter by immediately identifying himself as Christ’s “bond-servant” (V.1), owned by the Master and thus not free-lancing with the message about to be revealed.  This means he takes his orders from Christ Jesus, the promised Messiah, the one of whom the Law, the Prophets and the Writings spoke.  He is “called as an apostle” (V.1b) which means that God had a special specific plan for Paul—to be an apostle—to be a messenger bearing the king’s name heralding the king’s message through the king’s decree.

Paul is “set-apart for the Gospel of God” which is the message of God’s story, God’s good news, not about Paul’s testimony, nor his manner of life but of the Creator’s interaction with His creation.  That is, the Gospel of God is God-centered ultimately and makes (rightly so) much of God above and beyond the creature.  I say this because too often what passes for Christian ministry and gospel preaching is anything but those things because God’s word is ultimately neglected and self-serving egos are ultimately stroked.

Paul continues and says that this gospel of God is that, “which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures.” (V.2). Here, Paul is affirming that this gospel does not only originate with God but was previously promised by His spokesmen in the written word.  In essence, this Gospel of God is fulfilled Scripture.  What God said He would do, He did in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament.  Moreover, this means that this message is not new but old and has now come to fruition in the person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

This Gospel of God was, “concerning His Son who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh” (V.3).  That is, this Davidic king from the tribe of Judah, the line from which Messiah must come, is the gospel—He is God!  Speaking of Jesus, “who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness Jesus Christ our Lord”. (V.4)  Here, the vanquishing of death is proof of Christ’s claims to Messiahship, Sonship, and Lordship!

As in Acts, so now in Romans the emphasis is put on what God has done through His Son who is the fulfillment of what Moses and the prophets previously had written.  This is center stage, this is the gospel word fulfilled revealed in the person of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  It’s this Christ who gave Paul grace and apostleship for a purpose: “to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His names sake” (V.5).  He’s at the very least saying that his message has the goal of a faith that’s genuine, true, and real because it is obedient.

Obedient faith is true faith.  Obedient faith is trust in action, it’s what new birth produces, it’s what separates the free from the enslaved, it’s what authenticates if one is or is not a kingdom of God person, it’s what separates the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the tares, the lost from the found, and the light from the darkness.   All of this is grounded on what God has revealed in Scripture—the Old Testament Hebrew text and the New Testament Greek text (I.e., the Scriptures).

This gospel then, if it’s to be authentic must be sourced in God, reveal God, and thus produce the life of God in those who claim to know God.



The saga of turmoil, deceit, betrayal and murder continues in 2 Samuel.  King Saul, David’s number one enemy, is now dead but David’s troubles remain.  In chapter one the messenger who (supposedly) killed Saul thought he was bringing David good news (1:1-16) but unwittingly delivered his own death sentence:

10 So I stood beside him and killed him, because I knew that he could not live after he had fallen. And I took the crown which was on his head and the bracelet which was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my lord…14 Then David said to him, “How is it you were not afraid to stretch out your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?” 15 And David called one of the young men and said, “Go, cut him down.” So he struck him and he died. 16 David said to him, “Your blood is on your head, for your mouth has testified against you, saying, ‘I have killed the Lord’s anointed.’” (1:10, 14-16)

David’s understanding of not touching the LORD’s anointed king is once again seen as he avenges Saul’s (supposed) killer.  According to 1 Samuel 31:3-5, the Philistine archers had severely wounded Saul and rather than being made sport of by the enemy, Saul chose suicide by falling on his own sword.  Even Saul’s armor bearer chose suicide over killing the king because he feared the LORD’s anointed.  Somehow these men understood that God had exalted Saul to be Israel’s monarch and refused to be the instrument of his death.

People have used this text and ones like it to insulate popular televangelist’s from public criticism regarding their teaching, but that is a misunderstanding and resulting misapplication of this text (See Acts 17:11 the Bereans).  What I think we are to minimally understand is that those ruling are God’s vice-regents (however evil they may be) and to take personal vengeance on them is not our place but God’s.  David modeled this.  There are many issues here I’m not prepared to consider, so I’ll leave it you the reader to further investigate.  But David’s response is moving:

“Then David chanted with this lament over Saul and Jonathan his son, 18 and he told them to teach the sons of Judah the song of the bow; behold, it is written in the book of Jashar

This is called the “Song of the Bow” and the refrain, “How the mighty have fallen” is used three times for emphasis (1:19, 25, 27) and unveils to us that for David the Monarchy was highly precious to God and to him.  It’s amazing that David would weep over the man that persecuted him and longed for his death, but he did.  Why?  I think he understood but for the grace of God, the roles could have been reversed and he would have been the madman.  The reason I say this is because the man after God’s own heart understood divine mercy, through God’s mercy.

In chapters two and three David is crowned Judah’s king and Saul’s son Ish-bosheth becomes Israel’s monarch.  Sadly a bloody civil war ensues between the house of Saul and David, Abner the son of Ner is killed by Joab for spying on David, and David chants a lament for him.  Even though Saul is dead, his descendants remain David’s enemies and yet he weeps over their deaths.  Why?  Perhaps it’s because this warrior king understood how horrible death is—even of his own enemies, perhaps because he was heart broken over Saul’s rejection of him.

The bloodshed continues in chapter four where Saul’s son (Ish-bosheth) is murdered and David avenges his life:

David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said to them, “As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my life from all distress, 10 when one told me, saying, ‘Behold, Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him in Ziklag, which was the reward I gave him for his news. 11 How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous man in his own house on his bed, shall I not now require his blood from your hand and destroy you from the earth?”12 Then David commanded the young men, and they killed them and cut off their hands and feet and hung them up beside the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-bosheth and buried it in the grave of Abner in Hebron.”  

It’s a bloody and distressful history that preceded David’s monarchy.  Yet, he was eventually crowned Israel and Judah’s king.  Yet David’s troubles would continue.  His life reminds me that to live is to suffer regardless of any status.  Decisions to live for God or rebel against His will confront us daily, and while our enemies too often seem “only” bad, God often uses them to teach us to rely on Him, who is King over all.




As I read these four chapters my attention kept coming to King Saul’s disposition as a man and a leader of God’s people.  First, Saul did not understand the limits of his authority.  This is evident when he chooses to sacrifice offerings to the LORD which is only the duty of Samuel the prophet (13:9-14).  God calls Saul “foolish” because he did not heed the commandment given (13:13) but took matters into his own hands.  He, unlike David, was not a man after God’s own heart—one whose disposition is to love and live according to God’s inscripturated self-disclosure (13:14).

  Second, Saul put confidence in people rather than in God.  The king here has a lapse of faith and disobedience results (13:11-12).  Unlike Jonathan his son, who understood that victory in battle did not come from people or the performance of religious duties, but it came from the LORD (14:6-23), Saul did not get this.  In fact, it was Saul’s fear of people rather than fear of God that proved to be his snare.  To lead as God demands will usually result in angering the crowds / creatures, not the Creator.

Third, Saul was rash in making decisions.  Rash oaths are impulsive decisions made on the spot that increase the burden of leading and a tendency we should guard against.  Saul’s rashness to speak and to act clouded his judgement and often proved detrimental to Israel (14:24-52).  Again, disobedience to God’s word is the downfall of any leader (15:1-29) and Saul’s story is a sad example of said negligence.  Obedience that pleases God is never partial, but absolute (15:20-21).

Who can be totally obedient? For even David, the man after God’s own heart had horrible lapses of faith!  David’s son, Jesus of Nazareth perfectly obeyed.  As such, he is not only the true reigning king, but our assurance of acceptance before a holy God.  That is, because of his obedience, I’m to walk as he did who gave the Spirit to comfort and guide me in His ways.

Fourth, Saul did not delight in obeying God.  The text says, “…to obey is better than sacrifice…” (15:22) and is a loaded truth claim.  Essentially it’s telling God’s people that ritual apart from adherence to His revelation of how He’s to be worshipped and what is to be done, is greater than “mere” acts of religious actions.  Here again, God is exalting and showing the primacy of His word compared to “all other things”.  It’s God’s word that created everything, sustains everything and that gives His people light in their darkness—especially to his leaders.

May God’s word ever be our delight which always leads us to You LORD of heaven and earth, the source of all that is.



46638940.cachedREFLECTIONS FROM THE BOOK OF JUDGES: My goal in writing reflections from Judges are the following: First, to encourage you the reader that if you will pay attention to the words on the page and listen carefully you will mine a lot of truth for life without the need of a commentary or any secondary source.  That is, “take up and read” to enrich your soul Christian.

Second, I write to give you a model of how observations can be done in scripture that do not read into the text something foreign to the author’s intent.  This will help you experience the joy of discovery and increase your confidence in your ability to comprehend God’s word.

Third, by doing the above my hope is that you will be able to hear God’s voice all the more clearly and follow Him all the more closer.  For, it is the word of God that is forever settled in heaven, and not our subjective impressions however valid they may be.  That is, we have a more sure word of prophecy according to Peter—meaning the inscripturated word of God—then a glorious experience we may claim to have (2 Peter 1:16-21).  Too often we Christians have bizarre ideas of what “God” is supposedly speaking to us and when it contradicts the Bible, be assured we are not hearing his voice.


            Joshua the son of Nun is dead (2:8), most of Israel does not take complete possession of the land (1:27-34), because they had forsaken the God of the covenant and wandered in their hearts to worship and serve the gods of the nations they had conquered (2:1-5).  Israel continuously served the Baals, thus forsaking the LORD, the God of their fathers and thus provoked God to anger (2:11-13).

Just as the LORD fought for Israel against her enemies, now He was in a sense Israel’s enemy and would fight them (2:14-15).  God’s anger rightly burned against Israel because they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for the worship of created things—“gods”—which are no gods at all but rather demons leading them astray from worshipping the pone true God.  Thus, God gave them over and yet, in their rebellion, God still sends them judges to rescue them from their enemies (2:16-18).

But the cycle of unbelief returned on the death of these judges and Israel’s wickedness would increasingly outdo the previous generation’s unrighteousness because they forsook the LORD:

19 But it came about when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them; they did not abandon their practices or their stubborn ways. 20 So the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers and has not listened to My voice, 21 I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died   (2:19-21)

When rebellion is at an all-time high Gods anger will be kindled against unrighteousness and would result in God no longer fighting for Israel in order to test whether or not Israel would be faithful to the LORD:

23 So the Lord allowed those nations to remain, not driving them out quickly; and He did not give them into the hand of Joshua.(2:23)

 Forever God’s word is settled in heaven, thus what He promises to do, will be fulfilled whether or not it’s favorable to us (2:1-5).  His faithfulness which springs from his holiness is such that God will always keep His promises (even if it hurts His people for a time).  This is because from Him, and through him, and back to Him are all things.  God’s the author of the drama, people are the players in this redemptive story and when God’s own forsakes Him, death awaits—except for mercy.

This scenario of rebellion and restoration, sin and salvation, and victims becoming victors is a biblical theme.  It reminds us that when the God of creation decrees a thing and choses a people, there’s never a dull moment because the choices people make are significant and thus have real life consequences.


True Truth and Why it Matters: —“What are Three Enemies of Truth?” Part 6b



Truth has many enemies as we’ve been discovering.  The misunderstanding between faith and reason is a particular one we covered in our last section.  We discussed the three philosophical positions of; strong rationalism, fideism, and critical rationalism.  Only critical rationalism avoided the extremes of disproportionately exalting reason (strong rationalism) or having too low a view of reason (fideism) when considering religious truth claims.  As a result, we concluded that strong rationalism offered a more attractive balanced approach to this enterprise, and is thus preferable.

In this section and final article to the series, True Truth and Why it Matters, we’ll continue our quest for clarity regarding faith and reason by getting our definitions of faith and reason from scripture and by revealing that these two aspects of thought and life are not adversaries but rather allies.  For full article click here


truth“In a sense the marriage of faith and reason is the most important question in apologetics because it is the overall question.  If faith and reason are not wedded partners, if faith and reason are divorced or incompatible, like cats and birds, then apologetics is impossible.  For apologetics is the attempt to ally reason to faith, to defend faith with reason’s weapon.”[i]

In both religious and secular circles, faith and reason are understood in ways that contradict the Judeo/Christian Scriptures.  This phenomenon in the West is partly due to Darwinian philosophic naturalism that pits science against religion, where the former gives us objective knowledge binding on all, but the latter produces personal preferences binding only on the subject.

It’s also partly due to equivocating terms (I.e., misrepresenting the meaning of a word in context).  This is evident when professing believers affirm that, “to argue your religious convictions removes the need for faith”.[ii]  With positions like this, it’s understandable why many nonbelievers see Christians as foolish stupid sheep believing in fairy tales.

Defining faith in such terms is not only unbiblical, but it mutes the Christian worldview from significantly informing areas of education, law, bioethics, philosophy, and political theory.  The reason is because “faith” understood in the above manner, does not provide knowledge, but only offers private personal preferences or values.

Hence, to remove the misunderstanding between faith and reason, we will consider three views regarding their relationship, the definitions of faith and reason and the ways in which the two are allies, rather than enemies.  To read the entire article click here.

[i] Peter Kreeft & Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics, p. 29. © 1994 by Peter Kreeft & Ronald K. Tacelli, InterVarsity Press

[ii] Radio Talk Host Greg Koukl fielded a caller on Stand To Reason broadcast.  This occurred sometime in the 1990’s



News got out that the Gentiles had received the word of God (V.1) which indicates a very important aspect of what true conversion is: it’s the reception of God’s word and submission to it that produces kingdom life as it is preached (Rom.10:9-10).  Without the word preached there’s no salvation, but by submitting to the word one evidences genuine conversion.

This implies that the apostles’ model is to be the model we use for reaching people for Christ.  Without the word, men remain dead in their trespasses and sins, they remain in darkness.  In the same way Peter needed his worldview to shift, so did the Jewish community in Jerusalem who disapproved of Peter’s exchange with Cornelius:

“And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” (Vv.2-3)

 Apparently they didn’t get the memo that Jesus had declared all foods to be clean.  According to Jesus, what makes men unclean is not foods but motives and attitudes of the heart that lead to murder, adultery and gossip (Mk.7:1-23).  By this declaration Jesus admitted to be divine for no prophet ever spoke on his own initiative as he does in Mark’s account.

Nevertheless, Peter explains the turn of events and points out the following which Luke emphasizes. First, what God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.  In the New Covenant the ceremonial laws which God instituted to make Israel stand out in the world, no longer apply (V.9).  It’s because these have been already fulfilled in Christ.

Second, “the Spirit told me to go with them” (V.12).  Peter and six of his companions obeyed God’s command so that Christ who came to seek and to save the lost might be glorified by rescuing this Gentile—Non Jew!  There should have been much rejoicing here but it was slow coming from the Jews.

Third, God’s angel had to instruct Cornelius to specifically ask for Peter—the preacher.  Why Peter?  Because he, “will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.” (V.14). Here again emphasized is the primacy of preaching the word in order for sinners to be saved.

Fourth, “…who was I to stand in God’s way” Peter concludes after explaining that these saved received the Holy Spirit as the disciples did when they had first spoken in tongues.  If God wants to gift them as he did us, then something much bigger than we anticipated is taking place in the Name of Jesus.

Fifth, “well then God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance which leads to life” the Jews rejoiced in God only after Peter explained the meaning of the events.  The early church’s theology was developing concerning the gospel of the kingdom and salvation.

In short, only after the light of God’s word is revealed, explained, understood and received can anyone be set free.  The hesitation of preaching to the Gentiles unfortunately remained to be an issue of contention for many Jews (V.19), but thankfully others got the message that Gentiles, not Jews alone, need the word also (Vv.20-24).   God answered prayers and converted many through the preached Gospel evidenced by many who “turned to the Lord” (V.21).

If the word of God is not central in our Gospel proclamation then many will not come into glory, but everlasting doom.  It’s sobering and yet it seems that many today enjoy their stupor in church week after week, not preaching this most glorious message.


TRUE TRUTH AND WHY IT MATTERS: Can Our Technologies Be An Enemy of Truth? Part 5


Friend, do you ever feel personal angst about how your family life unfolds?   I’m referring to busy schedules of work, school, play, entertainment, sports, etc. that make it impossible to have a family sit down dinner.  Our priorities are challenged constantly; parents feel guilty when quality time is excised from children; spouses feel alienated when date-night is pushed aside; singles feel anxiety when the mortgage is late; students feel overwhelmed when term papers are due; etcetera, etcetera.

Responsibility is good, but it can crush us.  If we don’t take the time to reevaluate the pace and clamor of life, our “train” inevitably goes off the rails destroying what we love most.  Thus, taking inventory of our lives periodically is wise to do.  But often the gadgets which are designed to enhance our lives keep us from a lifestyle of reflection—an indispensable quality for knowing and discovering what is true.

These technological wonders often rob us from being industrious, from living in meaningful community, from walking in holiness and from redeeming the—time.  Too much time is wasted.  Most of us can’t remember a time when the; television, radio, cell phone, car, washer, dryer, etcetera did not only exist, but also a time when these “servants” are not on.  These technologies have made our lives easier in certain respects, but they’ve also deeply hurt human flourishing.

In part 5 of this series on truth, we will specifically consider the issue of Technopoly which explores the good and bad effects our technologies impose on most of us without our understanding.  Depending on the technology, it can affect our abilities to think critically, they can present obstacles in our pursuit of truth, they can twist our understanding of what knowledge is and technologies will often prevent us from living in community.  To read the complete article click here