Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Potter’s House: Romans 14:2-12; Authority’s Assault on Unity

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on April 2, 2015

Originally published December 21, 2014

HF Potters House (2)

Last week we talked about the mystery of the gospel. The mystery is God’s intention to bring Jew and Gentile into one body by the Spirit. Undoubtedly, this posed significant unity challenges because of the diverse cultures. When the Romans inquired of Paul as to whether or not they should bother associating with Jews due to these cultural differences, it sent Paul scrambling for his writing utensil because that issue is one of the core values of the gospel itself.

The bone of contention was dietary laws and the observance of days which would have been deeply entrenched traditions for the Jews. In addition, there were a plethora of issues among the Jews concerning the decadent culture of the Gentiles. Some of these issues included the eating of meat and its preparation according to Old Testament law. For sure, pork was out, but there were other issues, apparently, with meat sacrificed to idols and then sold on the open market at a reduced price. Hence, because what had been done with meat would have been ambiguous in many cases as far as its source and preparation, it’s possible that many Jews decided to play it safe and become vegetarians.

As far as convictions concerning the observance of days in this transition from the old covenant to the new, there would have been many days sacred to the Jews that would have had little significance among the Gentiles. So, what is Paul’s solution to these differences for purposes of fulfilling the mystery of the gospel?

In verse 2, Paul identifies the two parties: Gentiles who believe they can eat anything, and the weak Jew who understandably was not yet up to speed on the mystery of the gospel in regard to the law. Also consider, much like today, the Jews had been dumbed down in regard to Scriptural knowledge. The leadership of that day replaced Scriptural truth with the traditions of men. Specifically, like today, the integration of Gnosticism with Scripture saturated Jewish thought and religion.

In verse 3, Paul defines the attitudes that fueled the division between Jew and Gentile: the ones who eat should not “despise” the ones who don’t eat; i.e., the Jews, and the Jews should not “judge” the ones who eat according to what? Right, the law. And why? Because God had come to receive who? Right, the Gentile. Paul shifts his focus to the Jewish responsibility of accepting the ones God received into the one body regardless of the fact that they did not keep or regard much of the Old Testament law. This would have been a really challenging transition of thought for the Jew. But the main point here is that the Jew had a tendency to “judge” because they had the what? Right, the law.

The way Paul addresses this (v. 4) towards the Jew is very interesting. In that culture or the Jewish culture as well, it would have been very uncouth to tell another person’s slave what to do. It would have been absurd. In ancient times there were many types of slaves in regard to social strata, but let me use the types of slaves that were more like today’s employee as an example. It would be like a manager from Wendy’s walking into a Kentucky Fried Chicken and telling those employees what to do. Or, closer to the point Paul is making, openly criticizing them in some way. The absurdity demonstrated in this illustration falls a little short because the servants Paul is talking about only served their own masters whereas in my illustration you could argue that the Wendy’s manager was a customer at KFC and had a right to complain about something. But slaves of Paul’s day only served one master. Christ used the same kind of illustration Paul is using here when he said you cannot serve two masters.

So, what Paul is saying is that ALL Christians, Jew and Gentile, only have one master, Jesus Christ.

4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

“It is before his own master that he stands or falls” is a reflection of the slave culture. Typically, slaves only answered to one master. This is interesting to think about in our day. First, like most of the New Testament writings, and for that matter the Old Testament writings as well, the letter is addressed to the whole group. It also regards the problem with arguing over what Paul called, “opinions.” In all of this, where is elder involvement discussed? Thirdly, Paul is about to teach us that no one has a right to judge you or others in the Christian realm because everyone answers to one master and one master only—Jesus Christ.

The more one studies the Scriptures independently, the more one notices that elders (or pastors) are conspicuously missing. The context of Romans 14 makes the absence of elders odd in our minds because of what we have been taught about “elder authority.” We see this elsewhere concerning conflict among God’s people. In Matthew 18:15-20, again, elders are conspicuously missing. Often we hear the call to be willing to “place ourselves under the authority of godly men.” What I understand here is that we only have one master. Salvation is not in view here, the authority to pass judgment on another is what is in view. What is in view is a judge who is able to make the Christian “stand or fall.”

What becomes more and more clear is the fact that “pastor” or “elder” is just another gift and has NO element of authority. It has even been suggested that elders are optional for home fellowships where Christians gather together for edification and fellowship. The suggestion is that 1Timothy 3:1 could refer to a fellowship’s desire to have an elder and not necessarily an individual’s desire to be an elder.  Practically, this makes sense because wherever God’s people meet there may not be any elders. What I am saying follows: in geographies where there is no sound gathering of professing Christians, saints are not forced to fellowship there because eldership validates an assembly. Clearly, it can be surmised that some 1st century Christian fellowships had elders and others didn’t.

But at any rate, elders are not lords (1Pet 5:3), they are leaders. Even the apostle Paul stated that he was to be followed only as long as he followed Christ (1Cor 11:1).

Putting all of these ideas together, I like the rendering of 1Timothy 3;1 by the Complete Jewish Bible (CJB):

Here is a statement you can trust: anyone aspiring to be a congregation leader is seeking worthwhile work.

Elders lead by example. I believe their oversight is primarily a proper interpretation of the Bible. They are ministers of the word (Acts 6:4). We only have one Lord—Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul continually pointed to the authority of God’s truth as the only authority:

Galatians 1:8 – But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

1Corinthians 3:21 – So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

Paul sets forth another rule in verse 5: Each believer should be persuaded (KJV) in their OWN mind. There needs to be space given for everyone to grow in wisdom. See here that we don’t believe certain things just because certain people believe it. We are to be persuaded in our OWN minds through the continued study of God’s word. PERSUASION is a major theme in the New Testament. The idea of persuasion is often translated “obey” in English translations for some incredibly strange reason. Listen, “obedience” is not the heavy emphasis among believers, persuasion is the key. Here is the word for persuaded in verse 5:

g4135. πληροφορέω plērophoreō; from 4134 and 5409; to carry out fully (in evidence), i. e. completely assure (or convince), entirely accomplish:— most surely believe, fully know (persuade), make full proof of. AV (5)- be fully persuaded.

Listen, before I develop this important aspect of persuasion, I am going to jump ahead to Paul’s next principle of motive in verse 6:

The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Giving room for motive is huge in our day because we are all so dumbed down theologically. Admittedly, these are difficult waters, but if the home fellowship movement is going to work, we need to chill out on the dogma thing and emphasize the fact that we all need room to grow in God’s word. What we are looking for is honest seekers of truth—people who are persuaded by truth and the one mind of Christ that brings unity. Basically, a genuine love for the truth. That’s THE truth not A truth.

Meanwhile, Paul is saying that the spiritually weak have the right motives and are thankful to God. Other than a love for the truth, even the spiritually weak will have a spirit of thankfulness.

Probably, the beginnings of fellowship should begin with a fundamental agreement on the gospel of first importance and the sufficiency of God’s word. From there, you study the Scriptures together and let all be fully persuaded in their own minds. It boils down to this…

Does the person love THE truth? (2Thess 2:10).

Now, back to developing verse 5. I am going to develop this point by looking at Hebrews 13:17:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

As we can ascertain so far, no one among God’s people can demand that you believe anything—only Christ has the authority to demand that you believe something. Otherwise, it would have been like passing judgment on someone else’s slave which was an absurd notion in that culture. In contrast, what is in vogue in our day is this whole idea of “putting yourself under the authority of godly men” lest you be a spiritual sluggard. A verse often used is Hebrews 13:17.

The word for “obey” is the following word:

g3982. πείθω peithō; a primary verb; to convince (by argument, true or false); by analogy, to pacify or conciliate (by other fair means); reflexively or passively, to assent (to evidence or authority), to rely (by inward certainty):— agree, assure, believe, have confidence, be (wax) conflent, make friend, obey, persuade, trust, yield.

The idea is to be persuaded, or following as a result of being persuaded or convinced. The same word is used about 50 times this way in the New Testament. Here is just one example:

Matthew 27:20 – Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded (peithō) the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.

There is a Greek word for outright obedience, it is…

g5219. ὑπακούω hypakouō; from 5259 and 191; to hear under (as a subordinate), i. e. to listen attentively; by implication, to heed or conform to a command or authority:— hearken, be obedient to, obey.

Here is one example of about 20 in regard to how the word is used in the New Testament:

Matthew 8:27 – And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey (hypakouō) him?”

Again, among fellow Christians, we don’t demand obedience, we persuade. Elders lead, but they do not have Christ’s authority. You obey Christ no matter what.  Such is not the case with elders or pastors. Notice in all of chapter 14, the key to unity is not the authority of leaders.

Continuing on…

7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Honestly, I am not entirely sure of the point Paul is making in verses 7-9. There is even the transition “For” that links this idea to the previous thought in verse 6, but it’s like Paul just parachutes this idea in here out of nowhere. Each sentence in verses 7-9 link together with verse 6 by a conjunction, “For,” “So then.” Somehow, Christ being the Lord of those who have passed on figures into the equation, but I simply don’t know how.

At any rate, Paul is back to the main point with verses 10-12:

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

This is clear, we will all give an account for ourselves regarding what we have done as Christians in the body (1Cor 3:10-15, 2Cor 5:10). Therefore, do not judge a fellow believer who is doing his/her best to honor God with what knowledge they presently have.

Second, let them be convinced in their OWN minds.

Third, stay focused on glorifying God in regard to the purposes of the mystery of the gospel.

Next week, we will look at the consequences of not doing this: causing a fellow Christian to “stumble.” Also, how can an authoritative demand for obedience in contrast to persuasion contribute to this stumbling?

Next week: “Authority’s Stumbling Block.”

Potter H. 1Related:

Acts Lesson 42

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 5, 2015

Tuesday Night Bible Study
December 30, 2014
Study of the Book of Acts

Tonight’s Text – Acts 16:16-34

Brief review

I. Encounter with the possessed girl

A. Greek mythology
– The Python – slain at Delphi
– Home of the Oracle (Pythia)

B. Similar power to that of the Oracle

C. Following Paul and Silas
– Being grieved
διαπονεω (dee-ah-poh-neh-oh) – To toil through

D. Authority over demons – Luke 9:1, Mark 6:7

II. Reaction of the girl’s masters

A. “Drew them” into the marketplace
ελκυω – (hel-koo-oh) – to drag. To pull out by taking hold of.

B. A public place

C. What customs?

III. A night in the Philippian jail

A. Continuous praying and “hymning”

B. Prisoners continuously listened to them

C. Reason for the jailer’s fear
– Compare with Acts 12
– Immediate concerns for his life.
– Not considering eternal consequences.

D. An opportunity for the gospel.


Romans 13:14B; Part 2, “Overcoming Sin and Living Righteously, a Righteous Life of Real and Lasting Change”

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on November 16, 2014

HF Potters House (2)

In part one we looked at condemnation and how it empowers sin. Christ went to the cross and ended the law’s condemnation. Fear of death is primarily driven by condemnation and the fear of judgment. One of the most important parts of a Christian’s identity is to know that we are no longer under condemnation.

However, in our day there is a return to authentic Reformed soteriology that actually posits fear of condemnation as the primary motivator in sanctification. In Reformed soteriology, sanctification is seen as a conduit to final justification. In order to remain in the conduit that gives us our best chance to “stand in the judgment,” we must relive our original salvation by faith alone in sanctification. How is that accomplished? By reliving the same gospel that saved us over and over again. This is done through what the Reformers called mortification and vivification. Mortification is something we can do, vivification is only a future glory experience. When you see a Charismatic-like Reformed worship service, what John Piper calls exultation worship, they believe they are experiencing the joy of “future glory.” Really, this is probably the New Calvinist claim to fame: they put feet on the vivification part of mortification and vivification through a more contemporary form of worship. Hence, the “Reformed Charismatic” movement shouldn’t surprise us.

The “mortification of the flesh” part of this doctrine is a return to the fear of judgment, the same fear of judgment that originally saved us. Said John Calvin:

By mortification they mean, grief of soul and terror, produced by a conviction of sin and a sense of the divine judgment [sec.3]… it seems to me, that repentance may be not inappropriately defined thus: A real conversion of our life unto God, proceeding from sincere and serious fear of God; and consisting in the mortification of our flesh and the old man, and the quickening of the Spirit. In this sense are to be understood all those addresses in which the prophets first, and the apostles afterwards, exhorted the people of their time to repentance. The great object for which they labored was, to fill them with confusion for their sins and dread of the divine judgment, that they might fall down and humble themselves before him whom they had offended, and, with true repentance, retake themselves to the right path [sec.5]… The second part of our definition is, that repentance proceeds from a sincere fear of God. Before the mind of the sinner can be inclined to repentance, he must be aroused by the thought of divine judgment; but when once the thought that God will one day ascend his tribunal to take an account of all words and actions has taken possession of his mind, it will not allow him to rest, or have one moment’s peace, but will perpetually urge him to adopt a different plan of life, that he may be able to stand securely at that judgment-seat. Hence the Scripture, when exhorting to repentance, often introduces the subject of judgment, as in Jeremiah, “Lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings,” (Jer. 4:4)… The stern threatening which God employs are extorted from him by our depraved dispositions [sec.7] [from the CI 3.3.3-7].

Susan and I sat in a Pentecostal service and listened to the pastor say in no uncertain terms that one is not really saved till they experience the “second blessing” usually manifested by speaking in tongues. Services from the Charismatic camps are predicated by these second blessing experiences such as speaking in tongues, Holy Spirit laughter, and “dancing in the Lord.” Though Charismatics emphasize mortification far less than the Reformed, it’s the same basic idea. The vast majority of all denominations in our day flowed out of the Reformation and are predicated by progressive justification; viz, keeping ourselves saved by the same gospel that originally saved us.

The result is a proper biblical definition of antinomianism: some sort of doctrine that separates the law from sanctification. The “Christian” remains under condemnation, and must prepare to “stand in the judgment” by other means apart from loving God and others through obedience to the law. But there is no future judgment for Christians to stand in that has to do with justification. Antinomianism, when it boils right down to it, is the fusion of justification and sanctification together. In any doctrinal construct where sanctification is the progression of justification—that’s antinomianism because the law must be separated from sanctification lest it be justification by works. This is probably the key to ecumenicalism because the primary religion of the last days, according to the Bible, will be antinomianism.

To the contrary, why is it critical that Christians know they are no longer under the condemnation of the law?

1John 4:18 – There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

The word translated “perfect” in the English is τέλειος (teleios), and is translated “mature” in many other passages of the New Testament. The word means “maturity,” or possessing everything one needs to be mature. Mature love is the idea here, not a “perfect” love.

So, what do we need to understand if we are to be mature in love, overcoming sin, and living righteously? We need to understand that there is no condemnation for us and no need to fear judgment, and we need to understand how sin works against us.

We need to understand that sin is a stand-alone element. It was sin that was found in Satan at some point in time (Ezekiel 28:15). Sin, whatever it is exactly, wages war against righteousness. The location of sin is in the body, and it uses desire to tempt individuals against righteousness. So, the four elements to understand are sin, righteousness, body, and desire. Sin is the problem; its enemy is righteousness; its location is the body, and it uses desire to tempt people to wage war against righteousness.

Let’s begin by looking at how these four elements operate in an unbeliever. Every person born into the world has the works of God’s law written on their hearts. Also within every person born into the world is a conscience that uses this law to either accuse or excuse behavior. So, every person born into the world has an intuitive law and judge within as part of their being. In the final judgment of condemnation at the end of the ages, those who have never been exposed to God’s written law will be judged and condemned because they violated their consciences on many occasions. As a cosmic principle, where there is no law there is no sin, so all babies go to heaven because they do not have a developed conscience. This would also apply to mental disabilities where a conscience is not present.

The Bible also states that repeated rebellion against one’s conscience can sear it like a hot iron. A refusal to obey conscience can reduce a person’s ability to feel guilt.

1Timothy 4:1 – Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

Sear: g2743. from a derivative of 2545; to brand (“cauterize”), i. e. (by implication) to render unsensitive (figuratively):— sear with a hot iron.

Those who lack a conscience or moral compass are referred to as sociopaths in our culture. Sin uses desire to tempt, so a person with a seared conscience will most likely follow every desire that sin uses to wage war against righteousness. Police are sometimes stunned that murderers confess to their crime and state the following motive: “I wanted to know what it felt like to kill someone.” So, the murder was committed to satisfy the murderer’s curiosity.

Civil and criminal law restrains evil when fear of punishment outweighs the desire to commit a certain act. If a person thinks they can outwit law enforcement they will be inclined to obey the desire that sin is tempting them with. They don’t see the desire as evil; they have a stronger desire to avoid punishment. Nevertheless, the desire can be strong enough that any kind of logic or self-preservation is abandoned.

Sinful desires can take on all sorts of forms. The question is whether or not we will obey the desire just because it is a desire. Sin is opposed to any kind of law and is empowered by condemnation. Sin is an entity that seeks to bring death through the condemnation of conscience and bad desires. It is a complex death system. Those who are under law are constantly bearing fruits for death although they are able to do good works. In fact, their consciences will reward them with good feelings when they do good, but they are still under condemnation and sin’s constant harassment.

In regard to the believer, sin still resides in the body, but it has been stripped of its power due to Christ dying on the cross for our sins. Sin is empowered by its ability to condemn. I can’t say that I completely understand this, but nevertheless, it is what the Bible states:

1Corinthians 15:56 – The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sin brings about some sort of temporary death, physical death, and ultimately eternal death. Sin is in the sowing and reaping business, and the sowing of sin is often interpreted as “getting away with it” because there has not yet been a reaping. But the point here is that sin is empowered by the condemnation of law. When Christ died on the cross to end the law, it stripped sin of its power. Hence, when a Christian is confronted with a sinful desire, they are not only able to say no to that desire, but do so for the proper motives; i.e., love for God and others.

James 1:13 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Romans 6:1 – What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sin resides in the body, but even though the body is weak, it is neutral. When the Bible authors speak of the “body of sin,” “desires of the flesh,” etc., they are speaking of when the body is being used by the individual to do the bidding of sin. In the case of an unbeliever, they are under law and sin can provoke them to yield their members up for unrighteousness to the point of slavery while the power of sin has been broken within the believer and they have a choice:

Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Therefore, let me comment on this passage:

Galatians 5:16 – But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

The “desires of the flesh” are really sinful desires spoken of in context of yielding up our members in service to sinful desires. At least for the believer, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit:

1Corinthians 3:16 – Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

So, even among Christians, if they “Let…sin…reign in [their] mortal bod[ies], it can lead to fruits unto death, or destruction. Not eternally, but present miseries of all sort.

Through learning God’s full counsel and applying it to one’s life, Christians can learn to say no to sinful desires and live according to the desires of the Spirit. The unregenerate do not possess the desires of the Spirit because they are not born of God. There is not a war between sin and the desires of the Spirit raging within the unbeliever, only a battle between the conscience and sin, and the motives for saying yes to the conscience involve motives other than those of a kingdom citizen. The battle is a single dimension. However, here is where the importance of evangelism comes in: the Holy Spirit convicts the world of unrighteousness, and the word of God is the sword of the Spirit. Evangelism adds another dimension in regard to showing people their need for a savior.

For the Christian, they have the testimony of conscience and the Holy Spirit. The New Testament has much to say about utilizing conscience in our fight against sin. The apostle Paul instructed us to keep a clear conscience before God. This also has much to do with assurance of salvation. Even though we know intellectually that the law has been ended by Christ and we are never condemned, sin nevertheless invokes feelings of condemnation and shakes our confidence.

In the final analysis, sanctification is the growing art of knowing how to control our bodies:

1Thessalonians 4:3 – For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Potter H. 1

Yes, In Fact, the Law does have the Power to Change Us: Romans 8:2

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on November 5, 2014

Originally published May 25, 2014

HF Potters House (2)

The confusion concerning sanctification in our day is totally over the top. Sanctification is the Christian life in which we are set apart for God’s purposes. The Bible has been around for a long time; yet, the debate rages. Those who would dare suggest that the Christian can change through obedience to God’s word are quickly muzzled by being accused of “suggesting the law has the power to change people” or “the law of God provides the power to produce what it commands.” These accusations send people running for cover for fear of being labeled a “legalist”, “Pharisee,” or worse.

In all of the discussion, it is assumed that the law has one dimension: that of exposing sin and death. Also, the discussion centers around an ambiguous understanding of what we mean exactly by the term, “law.” The word “law” for all practical purposes refers to the Bible, or the “Scriptures,” or the “law and the prophets,” or merely “law.”

In Matthew 5:17,18, Christ refers to all Scripture canonized at that time as “the law or the prophets.” But then in verse 18, he refers to everything as “the law.” In Luke 24, we have “the prophets” (v.25), “Moses and all the prophets” (v.27), “the Scriptures” (v.32), “the law of Moses, …the prophets…the psalms” (v.44), “the Scriptures” (v.45), “the writings” (v.46),  all used interchangeably in this chapter.

In fact, verse 27 officially calls the whole cannon of that time, i.e., the Old Testament, “the Scriptures.” In the first part of verse 27, Christ refers to the Scriptures as “Moses and all of the prophets.” In the second part of the verse, He calls Moses and all of the prophets “the Scriptures.” It’s all the same . It’s all the “law.”

There is no way you can take the Decalogue (a theological term for the Ten Commandments), the prophets, the psalms, the writings of Moses, or any other segment-like portions of Scripture and relegate it to less significance for faith and order. I even take exception to a present uselessness for parts of the law. Though we would not stone rebellious children in our day, the fact that God at one time commanded his people to do so should teach us how much God loathes rebellion in any form.

Other laws that declared things unclean for that time, but not now; such as, for example, Gentiles, should be instructive as well. Certainly, we are not obligated to the Old Testament Law that commands us to let the poor glean what’s left of our harvested fields, but does it teach us what God expects concerning our attitude towards the poor? Absolutely. Scripture has specific application, general application, and different purposes for different times.

It’s all the same. It’s all “Scripture” with equal authority. According to Matthew, 22:23-33 Jesus argued with the Sadducee’s from the writings of Moses and called it “Scripture.” He even based his argument on the present tense verb “am” to argue for a resurrection. Obviously therefore, technical arguments in regard to truth can be made from the Old Testament alone. Scripture is also called the “law” in Psalms 1:2 and James 1:25. Christ called Scripture “all that I have commanded you” in Matthew 28:20. The apostle Paul proclaimed his writings to be “the commands of the Lord” in 1Corinthians 14:37.

Therefore, “All Scripture” is profitable for the things that make a person of God equipped for every good work (2Timothy 3:16). And Christ said that we don’t live by bread alone, but every word that comes forth from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). When we use the term ‘law” we are really talking about the Bible.

The Bible has two different purposes, or applications: one for the lost, and one for the saved. It has two dynamics in this regard, and that is completely absent from the present-day discussion on sanctification. Your relationship to the law determines your spiritual state before God. By the way, the fact that the law is only discussed from the perspective of a single dynamic should be alarming to us. Let’s begin our study by examining Romans 8:2,

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

If the law does not have the power to change us, we are not free from the law of sin and death. Both words for “law” in this verse are the same:

g3551. νόμος nomos; from a primary νέμω nemō (to parcel out, especially food or grazing to animals); law (through the idea of prescriptive usage), genitive case (regulation), specially, (of Moses (including the volume); also of the Gospel), or figuratively (a principle):— law.

It is this law in Christ that sets us free, that is why James calls it the “law of liberty.”

1:25 – But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

James also stated the practical use of this law as well:

1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

As did Christ:

Matthew 7:24 – “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Clearly, in any discussion these days about sanctification, only our relationship to “the law of sin and death” is discussed as if that is the only law; this is very telling. This defines Christians as yet being under that law and not free from it. Hence, lots of verbal wrangling about how Christians make some sort of a relationship with that law and sanctification. Ironically, being under that law is the very definition of a lost person:

Romans 6:12 – Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

The problem with only recognizing one law is invariably, in one way or the other, “Christians” remain under law and not under grace. You have to be under one or the other. Clearly, the Reformers kept Christians under the law, and concocted a formula that fulfilled the demands of the law of sin and death through faith only in the idea that Christ fulfilled it. They say themselves that the law is God’s “standard of righteousness.” This is otherwise known as the “third use of the law.” Not so, the law of the Spirit of life is the standard of righteousness, which by the way is love, and also known as the law of Christ (Gal 6:2). To be under grace is to be under the law of Christ and fulfilling it.

This is the law that Christ came to fulfill, NOT the law of sin and death. He came to fulfill the law of love through us (compare Matt 5:17 and Rom 8:4). It’s peculiar; the Reformed ESV translation adds the word “requirement” to Romans 8:4. Why? Because they assert that there is only one law and that it “requires” perfection as a standard for righteousness. This is only true for those who are under it. For those under grace, that law is ended (Rom 10:4). Many assert that the law of sin and death is not ended and must be fulfilled by Christ for us through faith in the cross alone. As I have said before, this idea asserts that there is life in the law of sin and death if it is kept perfectly; viz, “fulfilled.” Galatians 3:21makes it clear that there is not a law that can give life regardless of who keeps it.

But as we shall see, “walking in the Spirit” does give life, and that is obedience to the law of the Spirit of life. We may aggressively pursue obedience to this law, which is the Spirit’s counseling book, because it has nothing to do with our justification. We are sanctified with the word of truth (John 17:17). What is that? That is the law of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). Yes, disobedience brings present consequences, but our sins are not increasing an eternal judgment because we are no longer under that law. Hence, this is why Paul states in our verse at hand, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Be sure of this: making the Bible ONE law is at the core of ALL the confusion over sanctification in our day, and yes, it has gospel consequences. UNDER LAW is under law no matter who keeps it. This is Galatians 5. In the early 70’s when the Australian Forum was reeducating the church in regard to what the Reformers really believed about the law, Jon Zens contacted Robert Brinsmead, the brainchild of the Forum, and warned him that the new resurgence was in jeopardy because of this flawed theological math. Together, they came up with what is known today as New Covenant Theology. Seeing the problem with Christians still being under law, and only under grace because Jesus keeps the law for us, known as the active obedience of Christ, or double imputation, NCT concurs that the law is ended, and replaced with the “single law of love” determined and ruled by one’s conscience.

This is an attempt to take the apostle Paul’s concept of the biblically trained conscience according to rules and make it a law unto itself. In the final analysis, the standard of love is what everyone sees as right in their own eyes. But actually, not any different than authentic Reformed doctrine, NCT makes pastors the final authority on what the right application of love is in any given situation. I have seen this in action in real life and in real time. In arguing for a right position on a certain topic, Reformed pastors who hold to NCT have said to me, my conscience and that of the elder board are clear on this matter. Remember that we learn from the apostle Paul that a clear conscience does not always mean we are right.

You might say that NCT is closer to the truth because it endorses an ending of the law of sin and death as opposed to a fulfillment of it, but the application is an ambiguous standard in regard to what walking in the Spirit is. Rather than a grammatical obedience to the law as acts of love towards God and others, it is a “guiding” of the Spirit according to how one feels.

Therefore, actual guidelines, or a grammatical interpretation does not transcend the ending of the one law to the other. In fact, both camps hold to a redemptive interpretation rather than a grammatical one resulting in even more confusion! In the one camp, we must live by faith alone in our Christian life so that Christ will continue to fulfill the law of sin and death for us in order to keep us justified. In the other camp, we must be “led by the Spirit” apart from a literal interpretation of the Scriptures. Either way, the means is the same: every verse in the Bible is about the cross, and the meditation thereof yields the results of the Spirits work completely apart from anything we do.

Please note that one of the most popular applications is the view that the two “laws” in Romans 8:2 are two laws of nature or two realms. The very definition of salvation is positional only in regard to one of these two realms. If you are unsaved, you are only pressured by the “law of sin” that is like the law of gravity. If you are saved, you feel the force of both realm and at any given time “yield” to one or the other. This is determined by the degree of grace given to us by the Spirit at any given time. In essence, he determines whether we obey or not, and thus, “the Christian life is as much of grace as our original salvation.” Please understand that this view is VERY popular in both camps.

While the propagators claim that those who disagree with them are guilty of being the Judaizers that Paul argues against in Galatians, the extreme opposite is true. The prevailing gospel of our day is the Galatian problem all over again with Galatians 5 being paramount and 5:7 being the crux:

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?

If you look to what Paul said prior to this statement, it makes my point, but note that living by the law of the Spirit of life involves an obedience to a truth.

Nothing is changed in our day—the goal is to separate us from running well in obeying the law of the Spirit of life.

A related conversation: 

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Romans 13:11 | What’s in the Word “Saved” Part 2: The Other Salvation

Posted in Uncategorized by pptmoderator on November 4, 2014

Originally posted March 23, 2014

HF Potters House (2)

Last week we laid a foundation critical for understanding the Bible: the dichotomy of justification and sanctification. Justification is a finished work; sanctification is not a finished work. If this is not understood, a biblical dichotomy is contradiction. Furthermore, sanctification is not a matter of being empowered, or God working “through us” alone, but our new creaturehood  makes our colaboring with God possible. In fact, we will be judged according to how we participate in kingdom living:

1 Corinthians 3:1 – But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

This is a long passage, but it speaks much to our subject, especially the other salvation. As discussed last week, there is still a salvation left for God’s people—the salvation from mortally that was previously under law. Though the old us died with Christ, as long as we are mortal, the flesh that once enslaved us can wage war against our minds that are now enslaved to righteousness. Unfortunately, by and large, Christianity defines itself as still enslaved to the flesh—this is perceived everywhere you look as testified to by the following popular Christian placard.


So, as Christians, we are still a “mess.” The only difference is the Jesus label. We were a mess, and we are a mess. Not only does this stand in stark contrast to the corpus of Holy Writ, but it is far from being good news to the world who would normally have one eye towards escaping a world that they know is a mess—why would they want to trade one mess for another one?

Last week, we discussed the fact that Paul made it plain in Romans 7:25 that Christians await a salvation from the weakness of the flesh. Again, in the passage we are starting with today, we see that Christians will stand in a judgment that will determine rewards, and even though we will suffer loss of rewards to some degree, we will be saved “by fire.” There are two different salvations: one from eternal judgment, and a second one for Christians in regard to mortality, or the “flesh.” Let’s establish the fact that two separate judgments coincide with two different salvations:

Revelation 20:4 – 4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

These are two different resurrections, and two different judgments. Those in the first resurrection are “holy” and the “second death” has no power over them. The great white throne judgment concerns those who will be condemned under the law. I believe the “first resurrection” spoken of here concerns those who die during the tribulation period. Notice that there will be multiple judges; I believe these are the apostles and this judgment concerns Israel:

Matthew 19:28 – Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

I believe the judgment that Paul wrote of in 1Cor 3, what we are presently examining, speaks to what is commonly known as the Bema Seat of Christ. This follows the “resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:12-14) at the end of the “church” age and will be immediately followed by the rapture of the assemblies or “church” (1Cor 15:51,52, 1Thess 4:15-18). It is clear that the next coming of Christ is imminent and will occur at a time when people least expect it—this is hardly the case during the tribulation period. I suppose the Bema Seat of Christ and the first resurrection could be one and the same, but with certainty we can ascertain that the great white throne judgment is a separate event. So therefore, we are saved from the final judgment and also saved from the warfare with the flesh. The Bible must be interpreted in that context.

Justification necessarily encompasses the prophecy issue—it reflects the true gospel and this kind of continuity in the Bible shouldn’t surprise us: separate judgments and resurrections in regard to the finished work of justification versus kingdom living. In both cases we are judged by our works, but Christians escape the judgment of condemnation. As strange as it seems, what we do in our Christian lives will determine what we do for God in eternity (Matt 25;23). Christianity lacks a biblical informed vision of what we will be doing in eternity. Such a study is a wide-open frontier of knowledge. This shouldn’t surprise us either if the main focus of the Christian life is being ready for a judgment that determines our eternal destiny.

In all probability, there are three resurrections and four judgments: a resurrection and judgment at the end of this age regarding believers and including the rapture; a judgment of the nations at the end of the tribulation period; the first resurrection, and the second resurrection which have their own judgments associated with them. There will necessarily be a judgment of the living at the end of the tribulation period because the millennial kingdom will be inhabited by mortals who are left alive at the end of the tribulation period. Many will be those who heed the instruction of Matthew 10:23. Prophecy must be understood in the light of a proper soteriology. It all fits together.

So, we are looking this week at a biblically developed argument for more than one type of salvation that allows for our eternal salvation to be a finished work while the other salvation waits for redemption, or salvation from our mortality. This brings us back to 1 Corinthians: Paul addresses the problem of man-following in the Corinthian church at that time. The assembly at Corinth would have been like most New Testament assemblies at that time, the single assembly was made up of several home fellowships, and some of those fellowships were made up of families only. In Jewish tradition, “small sanctuary” was another term for synagogue, and many were merely extended families that met together for the breaking of bread and Bible study. The primary tenets of a synagogue follow:

• A Jewish “church” is called a synagogue, shul or temple

• A synagogue is a place of worship and study, and a “town hall”

• Synagogues are run by laypeople and financed by membership dues

• There are several important ritual items found in the synagogue

• Non-Jews may visit a synagogue, but dress and should behave appropriately

• The Temple is the ancient center of Jewish worship where sacrifices were performed

This pattern goes all the way back to the exodus, and when the Temple was destroyed, all that remained was the synagogues. This pattern carried over to the New Testament Jewish church. At Corinth, home fellowships that were not following the misguided behavior of the other fellowships reported to Paul what was going on (1Cor 1:11; best translated, a group associated with Chloe or “Chloe’s people” ESV).

Let’s first note that Christians can behave according to the old us that died with Christ, otherwise known as “the flesh” which is the weakness of mortality (Matt 26:41, 1Cor 15:50-58). Paul accuses them of acting like “mere mortals” (NET). We have the treasure of the new birth, the seed of God (1Jn 3:4-9) in jars of clay (2Cor 4:7). Because we are born of God, we are in fact holy, our mortality notwithstanding. Hence, Christ came to do two things through us: fulfill the law and put an end to the works of the devil (Matt 5:17-20, Rom 8:1-4, 1Jn 3:8) Why would Christ come to fulfill a law that empowers sin? (1Cor 15:56). Christ came to end the law (Rom 10:4) so that he could fulfill its righteous requirements with us and in us. Christ didn’t come to fulfil the law FOR us, He came to end the law so that He could fulfill it with us and in us. The institutional church doesn’t get this; therefore, the institutional church is a plenary waste of God-given time.

In verses 6-9, Paul explains our role clearly in the sanctification process; it’s no different from farming. The farmer plants and waters, but who is responsible for the miracle of a dead seed bringing forth life? Ultimately, God gets the glory, but we will be judged according to how we plant and water. But Paul also states that we will receive a “wage” for our planting and watering. This couldn’t be talking about justification!  Clearly, this must be talking about reward for how we build on the foundation which is Christ. The “foundation” is the gospel of first order (1Cor 15:3-6).

We will clearly “suffer loss” because of “wood, hay, and stubble” (bad behavior), but yet we will be saved in this judgment by “fire.” Debate rages among theologians about what that means exactly, but the definitive point here is that there remains a salvation for Christians that has nothing to do with justification. It is a salvation from mortality, and in both cases, whether the resurrection with Christ via the new birth for our justification, or the resurrection unto immortality, both are a work of God alone. Even when we choose God, the sending of the Holy Spirit to regenerate us in obviously ordered by God Himself and totally out of our control, albeit a promise if we believe.

And this is how the word “salvation” must be discerned in the Scriptures.