Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Potter’s House 12/30/2012: Law and Grace; Romans Chapter 4

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on January 2, 2013

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We now come to chapter four in our study of Romans. Thus far, Paul has emphasized that all men, whether Jew or Gentile, are saved by faith alone. This salvation is a revelation of God’s righteousness, and is imputed to us when we believe in Jesus Christ. We have learned that the gospel is the full counsel of God which of course includes the death burial, and resurrection of Christ. We have learned that Paul was very concerned with a spiritual caste system that would render the Gentiles as second-class citizens in the church. Though the church is uniquely Jewish, God shows no partiality in regard to race and gives the various gifts of salvation to all men freely.

What we have in the book of Romans is a radical dichotomy between justification and sanctification; or said another way, salvation and its imputed righteousness set against the Christian life as kingdom citizens living on earth as aliens and ambassadors. However, there is NO dichotomy between law and gospel. Why? Because both are the full counsel of God. In the Bible, “law,” “truth,” “gospel,” “Scriptures,” “holy writ,” “the law and the prophets,” and other terms are used interchangeably to speak of the closed canon of God’s full counsel for life and godliness. Christ as well as Paul made it absolutely clear: man lives by every word that proceeds from God and ALL Scripture is profitable to make the servant of God complete in every good work.

Now listen: though the life application of some Scripture changes with time and circumstances, it still remains that all Scripture informs us in regard to our walk with God in the way we pray, think, and act. We do not stone rebellious children in our day. Nay, when we have a rebellious teen in the church, we do not gather the congregation together and stone him/her to death. With that said, does the fact that God at one time instructed the Jews to do so inform us in regard to many applications for teen rebellion in our day? Absolutely. Oh my, the contemporary applications in our day are almost endless. Not only that, Old Testament ritual and symbolism offers a built-in protective hermeneutic for the Scriptures as a whole. What do I mean by that? Well, you can mess with words, but symbolism is very difficult to mess with. If it’s a lampstand, it’s hard to change that to a Honda Civic. Right?

Paul delves into a paramount truth for Christians in the book of Romans: The relationship of the law to the unsaved verses the saved. And here it is: the lost are UNDER the law, and the saved are UNDER grace, but informed by the law. Let me repeat that: the lost are UNDER the law, and the saved are UNDER grace, but informed by the law. And we can see this right in the same neighborhood of the text that we are in.

Romans 3:21—But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—

That verse pretty much says it all. We are justified apart from the law, and as we will see, Paul means totally apart from the law. But we are informed by it. Paul states in Romans 3:28:

For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Now note what he states after a few verses following in Romans 4:3,

For what does the Scripture say?

Paul strives to make the point in this letter that law is not even on the radar screen in regard to justification. And this is extremely important to know in our day for many teach that law is on the justification radar screen and therefore Christ must keep the law for us in order to maintain our justification. Not so, there is no law to keep in regard to justification—a righteousness APART from the law, the very righteousness of God has been imputed to our account in full. Paul even writes (and this is very radical) that Christians are sinless in regard to justification because there is no law in justification to judge us:

Romans 7:1—Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives?

Romans 7:6—But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive….(v.8) Apart from the law, sin lies dead.

Now, the law can judge our sin in our Christian life, but that can’t touch the fact that we are “washed.” Therefore, in sanctification, we only need to wash our feet to maintain a healthy family relationship with our Father God and Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ. Turn with me and let’s look at this in John 13:1-11:

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Clearly, “washing” refers to salvation, and differs from needing the lesser washing of the feet. The example is set against the unregenerate betrayer among them. Note that Jesus said that even though we needed to wash our feet, we are still “completely clean.” My, my, what a strong contrast to much of the teachings in our day; i.e., the idea of “deep repentance” that is the same repentance that saved us and keeps us saved—as long as we are in a Reformed church where such forgiveness is available.

Secondly, this passage shows that the gratuitous pardon of sins is given us not only once, but that it is a benefit perpetually residing in the Church, and daily offered to the faithful. For the Apostle here addresses the faithful; as doubtless no man has ever been, nor ever will be, who can otherwise please God, since all are guilty before him; for however strong a desire there may be in us of acting rightly, we always go haltingly to God. Yet what is half done obtains no approval with God. In the meantime, by new sins we continually separate ourselves, as far as we can, from the grace of God. Thus it is, that all the saints have need of the daily forgiveness of sins; for this alone keeps us in the family of God (Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol. 45: Catholic Epistles).

So, Paul in chapter four, in his endeavor to get this into the heads of Christians, approaches it from another angle: the life of Abraham, the father of faith. This is so powerful. Again, you can fiddle with words in translation, but rearranging the order of Abraham’s biography would be a difficult endeavor and the order of his life from the Old Testament account solidifies what Paul is teaching here about justification:

Romans 4:1-8—What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.

We had a fellowship last night and a brother pointed out a common problem among Christians; they often don’t know when something should be simply applied and not figured out. And this is one—faith declares us completely righteous and no sin will be counted against us. Justification is a gift. Righteousness is a gift. If the gift is righteousness and God says so, that is the end of the discussion. Unlike a gift, any kind of work in justification equals a wage that is due. Paul then deals with the issue of justification through circumcision (something we do):

9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

What Paul is saying is that God deliberately waited to have Abraham circumcised so that he would be the father of the uncircumcised as well as the circumcised. Also, to make the point that no ritual saves us whether circumcision or baptism, and followed by an attitude that we are justified accordingly by the ritual alone, and can hence live anyway we want to. As we have discussed previously in this study, an attitude of obedience is part and parcel with saving faith. Obedience and saving faith are two sides of the same coin. This is NOT so-called “lordship salvation,” but a statement regarding the fact that saving faith is not accompanied by a libertine attitude towards God’s full counsel, but rather a love for the truth. No obedience saves anybody, but saving faith is also endowed with a love for the truth with natural results following. However, as we will see later in this same book, the flesh is weak and faith alone does not carry the day in sanctification like it does in justification; so, many other factors come to bear in sanctification. This is where the sanctification by justification rave of our day is most unfortunate.

This is not the only place in Scripture where Paul uses the chronology of Abraham’s life to argue for righteousness completely separate from the law:

Galatians 3:15—To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

This is the foolishness of any idea that the law is still a standard for our justification and the law must be maintained by Christ in our sanctification, or that Christ’s life was for the purpose of imputing his obedience to our sanctification. The promise of justification by faith alone was ratified before the law ever came through Moses—430 years before. Why would Christ have to maintain a perfect keeping of a law that had nothing to do with the promise whatsoever? Hence, look at the perfect fit we have in Romans 4:13-15:

13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

Again, no law, no transgression. Transgression is not absent in justification because Christ maintains the law for us in sanctification—there is no transgression to be counted against our justification because there is no law in justification period. It’s based on promise—not law. Christ came to die in order to fulfill the promise that was given 430 years before the law. And this brings us to a previous point. As some know, because of the focus of the particular ministry I am in, I use the ESV translation of the Bible. The ESV is a contemporary translation by New Calvinists and is their Bible of choice. Now note how Romans 4:16 is translated in the ESV:

That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—….

“Depends” is a very interesting choice of words here. Actually, there is no merit at all for the use of that word in Romans 4:16. The word, or even that idea doesn’t appear in any interlinear, expanded translation, or manuscript such as the Received text, Majority text, or Critical text. But it does have merit in regard to the Reformed view of justification; i.e., maintaining our just standing requires a continuance of faith alone in sanctification. Our justification “depends” on that. “Depends” also hints of an ongoing or continual dependence.

Paul then concludes with a definition of this saving faith:

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Herein we have a definition of saving faith: it has a stubborn trust in the promises of God regardless of life circumstances. It hopes in God regardless of the hopeless motif continually posited by the world. And, Abraham grew in faith as he gave glory to God. What’s that mean? We have a clue from Matthew 5:14-16;

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

We are all saved and justified with an initial faith that varies according to the grace of God (Romans 12:3), but certainly, our faith in sanctification grows as we exercise it through obedience while giving glory to God. Obedience demonstrates trust. Applying God’s truth to our life demonstrates that we believe that He knows best and blessings will result. Peter said that we should be diligent to “add to our faith” (2Peter 1:5-11). Faith is a gift that justifies us once, and for all time with the very righteousness of God. But we participate in the growth of our faith through application of the full counsel of God. This is what the book of James is about (see James 1:25), and only one example among many in holy writ.

Of course, the life of Christ was very awesome for many reasons, but His life was not for the purpose of obeying the law perfectly so that His obedience to the law could be imputed to us in sanctification for the purpose of maintaining our just standing. The law is not the standard for maintaining justification; it is finished. Christ was the only Man ever born into the world under the law who could be the perfect sacrifice required by God. All others born under law are under its curse and provoked to sin by it. But note the last verse here in chapter four:

23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Paul states that our justification came through Christ’s resurrection, not His life. The Reformed construct of Christ living for our sanctification and dying for our justification is simply nowhere to be found in Scripture, and if it is, as with a myriad of other textual examples, Paul fails to mention such a crucial fact in these last verses.

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The Potter’s House 12/16/2012: “False Reformation” Published; Romans Study Resumes Next Sunday

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 17, 2012

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I am sooooo glad “False Reformation” is now published. We will resume our study in Romans this Sunday. We will be breaking into chapter 3, and the major theme of this chapter is the law/gospel issue that is addressed in detail throughout False Reformation.

Much of the book was inspired by what I have learned in Romans which has shown me why Calvinism is fundamentally a blatant false gospel. Election/freewill isn’t even the issue at all—a gospel that teaches us to live out our sanctification in an antinomian way in order to keep our salvation is the issue. If you have to do anything to keep your salvation—it’s works—you have to do something to keep it. That includes “resting and feeding.” Even if your “resting” is supposedly not a work—it most certainly is if it’s a condition to keep your salvation.

I look forward to resuming Romans next week, starting in 3:1.

Click on this link for preview of False Reformation:   False Reformation PREVIEW

Available now on Amazon.

paul

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The Potter’s House: Sunday, November 25, 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on November 26, 2012

Gospel Review from Chapter One of, False Reformation: Four Tenets of Luther and Calvin’s Egregious False Gospel

Something new has happened at the Potter’s House. We have a set schedule leading up to the 2013 TANC conference which includes the publishing of two, maybe three books. However, because contentions from our Reformed friends closely relate to our present study in the book of Romans, Susan and I have decided to write a book that addresses our contentions in a more specific way. Lord willing, what will hopefully be more of a booklet than a book will be ready for print in, or about ten days. The first chapter of the book will serve as an apt review of what we have covered in Romans thus far. So, the message this morning will be a reading of the first chapter: “What is the gospel?”

PPT visitors can follow the progress of the book on our blog. An updated pdf file will be posted periodically. The book will delve deeply into what Luther and Calvin specifically wrote about the gospel. It will also make the case that present-day New Calvinists have a factual understanding of what the Reformers believed about the gospel. These are men who understand enough to be dangerous, and have ruined Luther and Calvin’s masterful nuances.

All prayers are greatly appreciated. With that, let’s take another look at the gospel from chapter one.

Click here on this link: False Reformation: Four Tenets of Luther and Calvin’s Egregious False Gospel 

The Potter’s House: Sunday, November 18, 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on November 19, 2012

Divine Anthropology: The Law of Sin and the Law of Faith; Romans 2:12-29

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“This is the great antinomian evil of our day—practical application from the Bible for living life is replaced with gospel contemplationism and a habitual revisiting of the elementary principles of salvation while opining  about ‘pragmatism,’ ‘moralism,’ and ‘therapeutic deism.’”

We now begin a most critical portion of Romans. Nothing is more debated in Christianity than the relationship of the law to salvation; and in our day, confusion in regard to this subject reins. In this segment of Romans, Paul lays a foundation for the remainder of the letter for an understanding of the law’s relationship to salvation.

And while he is attending this great service to us via the word in all ages, he makes it clear to the Gentile Romans that this Holy dynamic is the same for the Jew as well as the Gentile—there is no difference. In regard to the law’s relationship to salvation, though the Jew was given oversight of God’s oracles, there is no advantage over the Gentile—there is no partiality. Paul begins this line of thought as follows:

Romans 2:12 – For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

This passage interprets and defines a lot of anthropology while refuting a vast body of bad theology. While unregenerate mankind is a sinner, he is also born with the “work[s] of the law” written on his/her heart. We are all created with a conscience as well that “bears witness” to that law and invokes conflicting thoughts within us that excuse or accuse. In the soul of every man, God’s court of law is continually in session. Man is directly responsible to God, and this reality throws much controversy into spiritual caste systems and the Reformed notion of total depravity. Man is capable of doing things that agree with his God-given conscience and the “work of the law.” This will not in any way earn salvation for him, but sadly, many are deceived otherwise. Living primarily by conscience will make eternal judgment more bearable, but of course, we long that every man would choose eternal life instead. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that the works of unregenerate man have merit of some sort which again brings a litany of Reformed ideas into question. The following is an excerpt from the teachings of Wayne Jackson:

On the opposite side of the equation, there is the matter of degrees of punishment. If anything, the Bible is even more decisive on this issue.

Jesus informed the citizens of certain communities in Galilee that in the day of judgment, it would be “more tolerable” for certain people of the ancient world (e.g., Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom) than for them (Mt. 11:20-24; cf. 10:15). The word “tolerable” means “bearable, endurable.” In the Greek Testament the word represents a comparative format. The difference was in the opportunities each had enjoyed. Judgment was to be balanced against this factor.

Christ told about a certain master who took a trip. While he was away, his servants, who had been charged with various responsibilities, disobeyed him. When the Lord returned, and discovered that some had knowingly been disobedient, while others had disobeyed in ignorance, he punished them according to the level of their culpability (Lk. 12:47-48). There is perhaps no clearer passage than this, that teaches degrees of punishment.

During the course of his trial, Jesus informed Pilate: “He who delivered me unto you has the greater sin” (Jn. 19:11). Does not justice require a greater punishment for a greater sin?

A man who set aside the law of God under the Mosaic regime, was executed without mercy. The writer of the book of Hebrews declares that the one who tramples on the Son of God and who treats, as a common thing, the blood by which he was sanctified, will deserve a much “worse” punishment (Heb. 10:26-31). The principle is this: there is a greater level of responsibility for those who live under the better covenant, and there will be appropriate punishment meted out for those who, through apostasy, reject that which they previously embraced.

The apostle Peter wrote regarding those who had “escaped the defilements of the world” by virtue of their knowledge of the truth, i.e., obedience to the gospel (2 Pet. 2:20-22; cf. 1 Pet. 4:17). He warned that should they become entangled again in these defilements, and overcome, their “last state” (their apostate condition) would be “worse” than the first (the pre-conversion state). Ominously, he says it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness, than, after knowing it, to turn back to their former lifestyle. This, most assuredly, teaches a greater level of punishment for apostate Christians than for those who never knew the truth.

James provides a word of caution appropriate to this topic. “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (3:1 ESV). Is there any question about the implication of that warning?

“The main thought in vv. 1-12 is the greater responsibility of teachers and the extremely dangerous character of the instrument [the tongue] which they have to use? Greater responsibility brings greater judgment” (James B. Adamson, The Epistle of James, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976, p. 141).

(Wayne Jackson: The Christian Courier; Are There Degrees of Blessedness and Punishment in Eternity? Online source: http://goo.gl/wM7Rq).

Again, we need to emphasize that the Bible is God’s full philosophical statement to man regarding truthful metaphysics, sound epistemology, God’s own ethics, and wise politics. Lost man will always be better off following the Bible, and we must remember that unrighteous activity by man in general continually provokes God’s anger (Psalm 7:11). Indeed, society at large would be much more peaceful, and would provoke God a lot less if they would yield to this simple principle:

Ecclesiastes 8:11-Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.

Many of the same principles of anthropology, and plain common sense if you will, need to be vigorously applied to the Christian life, and the anthropology of conscience is no exception. The Bible has much to say about how the Christian is to approach the conscience and utilize it in spiritual growth. To not do so greatly waters down the gospel. When the world sees that our wisdom is effective for real life, this gives our gospel validity. If Christians do not have wisdom for the earthly, it will be rightly assumed that we have no eternal wisdom as well. This is the great antinomian evil of our day—practical application from the Bible for living life is replaced with gospel contemplationism and a habitual revisiting of the elementary principles of salvation while opining  about “pragmatism,” “moralism,” and “therapeutic deism.” While some unbelievers will find hope in mystical ambiguity, many won’t. Salvation calls on man to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Salvation is a new “way.” The unregenerate will be little impressed if it is a way that has no more wisdom for life than their own though crystal balls will always appeal to the mindless element of any culture. Once again, we must remember that the gospel was problem centered from the very beginning. We should at least show the gospel as a different way. This is the way it has always been:

And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it (Isaiah 35:8).

This line of thought by Paul also answers the question regarding those who have never heard the gospel. What law will they be judged by? Answer: the law written on their heart and argued by their conscience. This introduces an extraordinary biblical principle. All those who are under the law will be judged by the law, and thereby condemned—whether the written law of God (the Scriptures) or the law written on their hearts. This is also the same law that informs them that God’s glory is revealed in creation (Romans 1:19,20), and incites them to judge others concerning right and wrong (Romans 2:1). God has always held man responsible for passing His law/gospel onto to subsequent generations, and one of the primary goals of the gospel is to show a way of escape from being “under the law.” All are born “under the law,” and will be judged by it (with poor results because the standard is perfection) unless they escape it via the gospel. The only man ever born into the world who could withstand the judgment of the law was Jesus Christ. But once one is saved from the law, they live by the law and honor God with it.

Paul’s argument is somewhat complex. A brain twister so to speak. Those who have never heard the law of God will “perish without the law.” And those who have heard the law and have “sinned under the law” (EVERYONE except Christ) will be “judged by the law” with horrible results. Hence, those who have the law, or have heard the law, but do not hear it in order to obey it, have not chosen the NEW WAY and are therefore still UNDER THE LAW and will be judged by it. Those who are declared righteous have made a commitment to the new way that they will continually learn by the law that they now love. They are declared righteous because they no longer hear the law only, but obey it. Therefore, they won’t be judged by it. The other  WAY, is the way of being under the law and will result in being judged by it in the final day unless they repent of that way.

Said another way: we are not saved by keeping the law, but we are sanctified by keeping the law. Repentance, a change of mind about one of two “ways,” justifies us and removes us from being “under the law” which guarantees that we will “perish by the law.”

This is Paul’s point in his indictment of the Jews starting in verse 17:

Romans 2:17 – But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded[b] as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

As a repeated aside, the fact that this letter is to the Roman Gentiles, but Paul here addresses Jews, again reminds us that this is the gospel that Paul begins to preach to them by this letter in 1:15 (here it comes) and 1:16 (first sentence of the treatise). Again, this is the full orbed gospel of God’s truth which of course includes the death, burial, and resurrection.

And Paul’s point is clear: the Jews had a problem with thinking that because they were the vanguards of God’s law—hearing the law and honoring it was all that was necessary along with being circumcised. In other words: a ritual hearing of God’s word along with the ritual of circumcision. James, in his letter to the Jewish Christians, notes that this is self-deception. It is remaining on the road of judgment under the law as opposed to obeying the perfect law of liberty:

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 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.

And the message to the Romans is clear: they will condemn the Jew if they have committed to believing and obeying the law of liberty, starting with what Christ did to abolish the law for purposes of justification. Because of what Christ did, the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, but yet, we are informed by the law for how we live and believe (Romans 3:21,22). Circumcision means nothing without a commitment to obey the law. That commitment frees us from the law by committing to love our savior by keeping His commandments. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Note carefully what Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

I Corinthians 7:19 – Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.

So does this mean that the Jewish heritage has no significance in the gospel schema? Paul cautions against that approach in the following sentences of his gospel treatise while taking the opportunity to use that question to further explain and clarify the relationship of the law to salvation.

The Potter’s House: Sunday, November 11, 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on November 11, 2012

Divine Anthropology: Jews, Gentiles, and the Law; Romans 2:9-10

It is obvious from the book of Romans that the apostles were fighting a spiritual caste system that divided Jew and Gentile, and this divide was detrimental to individual spiritual growth and the spiritual wellbeing of the church. The church was fundamentally Jewish in its conception, and the Gentiles were eventually included as recognized, equal members with much controversy. Acts, chapter 10 makes this abundantly clear. Before this, Gentiles were of the proselyte class, and their participation was confined to the Court of the Gentiles. Now, the Gentiles have become coequals with God’s chosen people, the Jews. We will develop this as we progress in the book of Romans, but the Western church’s relentless propaganda against Jewish uniqueness and its embodiment of the church is no less than utterly diabolical.

As we will see as we progress in Paul’s letter to the Romans (and don’t miss this), the stature of the Jews, and their future, and how that fits into end time prophecy is efficacious to THE GOSPEL. Many in the church have been dealt a woefully bad hand by the academics of our day through the idea of “secondary” or “less essential” (“essential” and “non-essential”) doctrine. Matthew 4:4 and 2Timothy 3:16,17 clearly brings this idea into doubt, and for very good reason. Eschatology is GOSPEL. We will see that one’s belief regarding the relationship of the law to grace will determine their eschatology—particularly in regard to the resurrections and judgments.

Therefore, Paul is laying the groundwork in his divine anthropology for an understanding of how law, grace, Gentile, and Jew relate to each other and the outworking thereof. The whole of Scripture is GOSPEL. Scripture is truth (John 17:17), GOSPEL is truth. All of these terms are used interchangeably throughout Scripture. When one merely believes in the saving work of Jesus Christ to be saved, the only authority for that information comes from the Bible. There is no reasonable criterion for accepting that part of the Bible, and not the rest.

Whether wittingly or unwittingly, gospel belief unto salvation recognizes the authority of the Bible for life and godliness—it is “obedience to the gospel.” The obedience does not save; you are saved when you recognize such and want it for your own. Certainly everyone agrees that saving faith is not a mere mental ascent to the facts of the gospel. It is also a commitment to mix the remainder of the Bible with our faith (see the book of James). Deciding to marry someone and getting their agreement is what makes us married. The commitment. Certainly, all agree that marriage is a commitment and participating in the marriage itself is not what makes us married.

However, some approach the gospel like they approach marriage: “We are going to live with each other for a while to see if we are compatible.” Hence, there is no trust in the idea that this marriage is the right idea; therefore, they are going to take it for a test drive. Many in our day approach the gospel the same way. Some gospel presentations beckon, “Try Jesus.” “Experience Jesus.” This goes along with the idea that salvation is primarily a “personal experience”; ie, “I have a personal relationship with Jesus.” This also often results in the idea that, “I tried Jesus and didn’t like Him, but since I decided to take Him for a test drive, I am still saved.”

We must remember that Christ’s own way of presenting the gospel was, “FOLLOW ME.”

Matthew 8:22

And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

Matthew 10:38

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 16:24

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Matthew 19:21

Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

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.

Matthew 20:34

And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.

There you have it. Saving faith is a commitment to follow the Lord. The following doesn’t save you; the commitment to follow saves you. A cursory observation of the gospels reveals many who engaged in a test following of Jesus and decided following Jesus wasn’t their cup of tea. They wanted to live with Jesus for a while and give Him a try. But that’s not trust. That’s not putting your trust in things yet unseen. That’s having faith in something that is verified; and usually, something that you prefer: “God agrees with me, so I will follow Him.” Christ Himself stated it this way:

Luke 9:62

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The vast majority of gospels in our day define salvation as an ambiguous “personal relationship” that is higher and more virtuous than, “a bunch of rules.” This is hyperbole for the purpose of rejecting the true gospel which advocates following Jesus for not only who He is, but also what He SAYS. To not follow Jesus according to that, starting with the basic truth that He alone made a way for us to be kingdom citizens is to follow a God of our own making. And frankly, a supposed “intimate” relationship with Jesus that is supposedly based on things of higher virtue than propositional truth is to lend credibility to a realm of uncertainty. Myriads of belief systems and theories are directly related to the abandonment of a goal to “be one mind in Christ”; ie, the Bible is God’s full truth statement to mankind for life and godliness.

The verse we begin with today begins with a contrast conjunction (“but”), so we must back up a little to understand the contrast. Hence:

Romans 2:6 – He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

Here, we have the criteria set before the crippled Romans who had angst regarding their significance in the church, but yet were serving with full diligence to the point of their service being known throughout the world (1:8). Regardless of their handicap, they served faithfully. Why? Let me use Japanese American citizens during World War II as an illustration. Though their families were interned and treated as second class citizens, Japanese American soldiers gave their all in the American military—despising the idea that they were “fighting against the motherland.” Why? They had faith in America, and deemed it as their best hope for a worthwhile future. Therefore, they strived to prove their worthiness as American soldiers and earn the respect of the American public. This is what was going on at Rome.

And Paul wanted to completely eradicate that misconception. He wanted to remove that handicap completely. If they were doing well as it was, just think how much better they would do if this hindrance was removed! Much of the letter is dedicated to completely explaining why the Gentiles were coregents with Israel at every level. Be sure of this: such is one of the primary themes of this letter and seen throughout. And it is not enough that Paul simply states the idea as fact, or the what, he fully explains the why in painstaking detail:

Romans 2:9 – There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

Whether Jew or Gentile, Paul reiterates the ONLY standard for the standard in verses 6-8. But verse 7 is packed with theological depth:

to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;

Why does it take “patience” to partake in “well-doing”? In this one verse, Paul eradicates volumes of hideous antinomian doctrine in our day. Oh the power of God’s wisdom! What men invest millions to propagate, God destroys with twenty human words! The fact that it takes patience to do well indicates a conflicting force within in us. Certainly, God doesn’t need patience to do well; it’s obviously talking about us. And if Christ obeys for us, why do we need patience? Is it saying that we need patience in order to let Christ obey for us through a Reformed formula of passivity lest we not live by faith? Then why would Paul not simply say so? To the contrary, Paul will revisit this later in the letter, explaining in detail why we struggle to obey Christ, and why it takes patience (hupomone).

Another  element that can be seen in this verse that also disavows antinomian theology (especially of the Reformed sort) is Paul’s affirmation that we can partake in “well-doing.” This is also confirmed by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 5:9

So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

By “away,” Paul is referring to being at home with the Lord. In context, the “pleasing” is the same whether here as Christians or in heaven. The goal is the same. Christians are able to please the Lord with our works here and now, and it goes without saying that we will be able to do so in heaven after our transformation is complete. As Christians, we look forward to the day when pleasing Him will not take patience. Coupled with the fact that the law is the standard for pleasing God, one must come to the sobering realization that those lifted up as the Doctors of Grace in our day refuted the idea that Christians are able to keep the law. John Calvin made his concurrence of this abundantly evident in the Calvin Institutes (book 3, chapter 14, sections 9-11). The crux is the issue of keeping the law in order to please God, versus the keeping of the law for justification (salvation). Calvin, like many others, though via nuance and doublespeak, saw no difference in the role of the law in justification versus the goal of sanctification: pleasing God with His truth as the standard for doing so. The result was all Christian works being “deprived of its merit” (Inst. Book 3, Ch.14, sec.11).

Paul will teach us the different roles that the law has in salvation versus a life that pleases God this side of glory; specifically in regard to salvation, the law has NO role. In fact, Paul will teach us posthumously that the law was completely abolished in regard to judging our fitness for heaven. This was the grave error of the Reformers: the law remained the standard for our justification; hence, Christ must keep it for us. Thus, it logically follows that we had better not try to keep it IN salvation—it still being the standard for justification. This would be, “legal fiction.” Yet, here is what Paul will teach us:

Romans 3:21- But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe…. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

No one is justified by “works of the law,” and I contend that means a work of the law by anyone—by us or for us. Righteousness is imputed to our account because of the “law of faith” that believes in the one act of Jesus Christ that demonstrated the righteousness of God:

Romans 3:25 – whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Paul will explain how being “under the law” is set against those who are no longer under the law in any respect. Christ doesn’t have to keep the law for us because we are no longer under it for justification like those who are still under it and will be judged by it:

3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

This is why the eschatological understanding of end-time judgments harkens back to the gospel that one believes in. If Christians will be judged by the law (whether Christ keeps it for us or not), we are still “under the law” rather than the “law of faith.” Yet, the difference between the law in sanctification verses justification can be seen in the way Paul writes to us. We are not under it for justification though we are informed by it for purposes of faith (underline added):

3:21 – But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

The law informs us about salvation and how to live, but it is not a standard for our justification. That standard is only the “law of faith.” But in regard to being guided in life, Paul states, “For what does the Scripture say?” (Romans 4:3).

The law is marriage wisdom, but mere commitment to the marriage covenant makes us married. Continuing in the marriage doesn’t make us anymore married than what we were when we made the commitment, but does verify that we were really committed to the marriage. Turning away from the marriage means we never really understood what marriage was about. Marriage can never make one married. Only the original decision to be married makes one married. The carrying out of the commitment only assures us that there was a real commitment to begin with.

And there are only two people groups. Those who obey the gospel, and those who obey unrighteousness. We saw this in a previous study. To not obey the gospel is to suppress truth and righteousness. We continue in using the verses prior to the conjunction of contrast:

2:8 – but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

This is Paul’s point: in regard to salvation, there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile; the only distinction is two different forms of obedience—obedience to truth or obedience to self. Jew and Gentile are both in the same boat. This is a metaphysical law that the Jews do not get a pass on because God chose them first as the nation from which He would disseminate His gospel. Though, “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22), they are saved individually by the same law of faith. This is the beginning of Paul’s dissertation to remove the Gentile angst. Jew and Gentile are in the same soteriological boat. The Jew has NO advantage over the Gentile because they are the vanguards of God’s law. The days of the proselyte and the Court of the Gentiles are gone. But what of the law and its special relationship to the Jew? Paul will unravel that further as we progress. Paul was not satisfied with the all-important primary argument—he wants the Romans to be deeply appraised of the issue. And we will glean the gospel treasure thereof.

But we must conclude with this: there are only two commitments among all those that breathe upon the Earth: a commitment to damnation, or a commitment to righteousness. In regard to justification, or salvation if you will, you can’t work for righteousness because there is no standard to work for. Christ cancelled the law by declaring the full righteousness of God by going to the cross. But in regard to the only other alternative, one can work for more and more wrath and damnation because they are still “under the law.” Choosing to be “under the law” is a choice to be judged by it. They are being judged daily by a spiritually discerning law while not being spiritually discerning themselves. They will stand at the judgment with the golden rule as a defense of how well they measured against the demand of God’s law. Every idle word will be on the indictment. Every bad thought will be on the indictment. Every unkind word will be on the indictment. Every half-truth will be on the indictment.

Those who follow Christ escape such a judgment. Our sin, past and present (see Romans 8:30), has been forgiven because Christ paid the penalty thereof. We will not stand in the judgment under the law. This goodness and mercy of God leads us to repentance. We want to be like the Holy God that saved us. Our hearts are changed.

We uphold the law that we will not be judged by. We uphold the law that cannot condemn us or touch us. We don’t have to obey God.

We simply want to as new creatures in God’s family.