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Thursday, March 19 2020
Introduction: Apostle Paul’s knowledge of Jurisprudence (the theory or philosophy of law) coupled with his revelation of the mystery of the Christ (the Gospel) informed his exordium and exposition on the subject of - Jews and the Law. The complexities of this subject as it relates to physical circumcision and spiritual circumcision is rooted in his exploration of the dispensation of Conscience, Human government; Promise; Law and Grace rather than the subject itself. In our last study, we learnt about the hypocrisy of the Jew as it relates to the privileges they had in terms of receiving the Law, their ‘ego’ in God, knowledge of His will in the Law and their approval of the Law. Moreover, we learnt that Moral Law reveals the character and attributes of God (His holiness, righteousness, sovereignty, love and His will), it reveals the sinfulness of man, it is a tutor to lead the sinner to Christ (Gal 3:24), it is a restraint to evil in society, it reveals the will of God. In addition, we learnt about the confidence of the Jews as to the practice of the Law; with their belief as guide to the blind, light to those in darkness, corrector of the foolish and teacher of the childish. Lastly, we examined Paul’s challenging questions to the adherents of Law – Do you teach yourself? Do you steal? Do you commit adultery and Do you Rob Temples?
Today, we shall learn how best we can please God from moving from the condemnation of the Law to a life of Grace in the context of spiritual circumcision.
Text: Romans 2: 25-29 [Amplified Bible (AMP)].
25 Circumcision [the sign of the covenant of Abraham] is indeed of value if you practice the law; but if you habitually break the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision [it is meaningless in God’s sight]. 26 So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded [by God] as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps [the spirit of] the Law will judge you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, break the Law. 28 For he is not a [real] Jew who is only outwardly, nor is [true] circumcision something external and physical. 29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and [true] circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by [the fulfilment of] the letter [of the Law]. His praise is not from men, but from God.
The intricacies of circumcision. Vs 25
Paul explains why Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because the Jews, even though circumcised, do not live up to their profession. The verse reveals that circumcision is: Valuable if you practice the Law; It becomes hypocritical if you habitually break the Law. Hence, it becomes a futile effort and meaningless in the sight of God. Grace demands circumcision of the heart. Our liberty in Christ is not a call for wilful sin. See Heb 10: 26-29.
King David’s life is an example of genuine repentance. He never repeated any sin he confessed and repented of before God.
The Complexities. Vs 26
Paul continues his argument by asking a rhetorical question that demands a positive answer, though not all Jews would have agreed. He asks: if an uncircumcised man who keeps the righteous requirements of the Law can be regarded as “circumcised”, i.e., a member of the covenant community and heir of the promises of God? According to Paul, he will certainly be regarded as such. Further, that very man who is uncircumcised by birth and yet keeps the Law, he will judge the circumcised lawbreaker as though uncircumcised. And he will do this despite the fact that the man claims to have both the written code, namely, the Mosaic Law and circumcision as a sign.
The Standard. Vs 27.
Obedience to God’s word is the key. Our obedience in keeping to His word must be perfected.
Jos 1: 8 ‘This book of the law shall not depart …’. Psa 119: 11. ‘Your words have I hid in my heart …’ Lam 3: 40 ‘Let us examine and test our ways ….’. Psa 119: 105 ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet ….’
Circumcision not a ticket to the world to come. Vs 28-29
Paul maintained that circumcision is of no value if not attended by faithful practice of the Law for which it was a sign. Hence, he goes further than just to explain the reason for Gentile blasphemy- it is as though the man is not even circumcised. It means that such a man is not a true member of the covenant community and is unregenerate, as 2: 28-29 would seem to indicate.
In verses 28-29, Paul says there is a reason why circumcision by itself guarantees nothing. It is because true religion is first and foremost- and always – a matter of the heart (i.e., genuine faith) or the inner man. To be sure circumcision was a sign of membership in the covenant community of Israel, but it was only a sign. It could not create the reality of participation in the saved community, nor could it somehow replace the means of participation in the covenant community, i.e., by living faith (Rom 4). The true Jew, therefore, is one knowledgeable of what constitutes true religion should know this better than anyone. Now the Scripture gives a clue as to what is true religion:
What do you cling to as a sign of your Christianity? (2: 25-29)
The Need for Inward Transformation. The Centrality of God over Human Opinion.
We cannot but ask ourselves this question: Who is a true Jew? A true Jew is not one who is merely circumcised outwardly, that is, in the flesh. The true Jew is one who is circumcised inwardly, a circumcision of the heart done by the Spirit and not by the written code. The circumcision Paul intends here is keeping with the promise of Jeremiah 31: 31-33 and refers to a supernatural rebirth, the same thing about which Jesus spoke to Nicodemus (John 3:1).
Thursday, March 12 2020
Contributor: Isekhua Evborokhai
This first major section of the book of Romans reveals mankind’s need for the Gospel. We see Paul laying a massive foundation upon which he will build our towering salvation. The taller the skyscraper, the deeper the foundation must be. Paul’s plan is to teach about the Gospel, that will soar to the heights of heaven, but first he must lay a firm base. You have to know the bad news before you can appreciate the good news. No one can be saved until they know their true need for the Gospel. In today’s study, Paul moves from addressing the Gentiles to addressing the Jews.
In verses 12-16, Paul focused on the one without the Law. This was referring to the pagan Gentile, who has never heard the Law or the Gospel. He said the Law was written upon their conscience and upon their heart. And that they are without excuse in their life of sin. In verse 17, the first word is "But," indicating Paul is making a sharp contrast from what he previously said. Paul shifts to addressing the Jew. He is putting his arms around all of humanity and reveals the universal condemnation of all mankind, both those who have never heard the Law and even those who have the Law.
Whether you are a Gentile or a Jew, whether without the Law or with the Law, whether you have never heard the Gospel or whether you have heard the Gospel, all people are under divine condemnation and in desperate need of the salvation that God gives in Christ Jesus. There are points in today’s study that will hit very close to home for us who live where the word of God is made known. We can put ourselves into the sandals of these Jews who have grown up in a privileged place of hearing the revelation of God. We must be wary of hypocrisy - saying one thing and doing another! Paul will argue that if we do not act upon this knowledge and believe in Jesus Christ, then, in reality, we are worse-off than those without the knowledge of the Gospel. There will be a greater judgment for those who have the light of the truth but do not act upon it.
“But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely on the Law [for your salvation] and boast in [your special relationship to] God, 18 and [if you claim to] know His will and approve the things that are essential or have a sense of what is excellent, based on your instruction from the Law,”
Paul begins with a bit of sarcasm, "If you bear the name ‘Jew,’" he is implying that they are not true Jews. In other words, they are Jews in name only, but not in heart reality. A true Jew would be one who is born-again. A true Jew would be one who is not only circumcised in the flesh, but circumcised in the heart.
The first privilege Paul mentions is they "rely upon the Law" (verse 17). This is their greatest privilege, because of the special revelation they have received in the Law. No one can be saved without special revelation, and the Law is a part of this special revelation. The Law can be divided into three sections: the moral law, the ceremonial law, and the civil law. The moral law is how the Jew was to live, the ceremonial law is how a Jew was to worship and approach God, and the civil law contains how the Jew was to function as a nation and society. When Paul mentions the Law in verse 17, he is referring to the moral law as stated in the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are still directional for our lives today. All ten commandments are repeated in the New Testament, and nine out of the ten are still binding upon us as originally given. The only one that has been fulfilled is the Sabbath requirements.
The second privilege of the Jew who has the Law is that they can claim a special relationship with God. Paul continues that those with the Law " and boast in [your special relationship to] God" (verse 17). They boast in having this special relationship with God, because they have received the Law. God has revealed His will to the Jew, and they know the holy character of God.
The third privilege is that the Jew knows God’s will. Verse 18 says: “and [if you claim to] know His will”. The Law reveals the will of God for their lives; it reveals the way God wants them to live & conduct themselves.
Fourth, the Jew gives hearty approval to, and fully affirm the teaching of the Law as from God. Verse 18b says: “approve the things that are essential or have a sense of what is excellent, based on your instruction from the Law”
THERE ARE FIVE MAIN PURPOSES OF THE MORAL LAW.
* It reveals the character and attributes of God: His holiness (distinguishing between the holy and unholy), His righteousness (promising His reward for obedience and punishment for disobedience); His sovereignty (making known His right to command our lives); His love (revealing the path that leads to abundant living); and His will. We learn much about God by simply looking at the Ten Commandments.
* It reveals the sinfulness of man: The Law is like ten plowshares that break up the hardened soil of our hearts. The Law prepares the heart to receive the seed of the Gospel so that it may be received into our hearts. When our heart is hardened by sin, the seed of the Gospel merely bounces off the surface. There is a necessary place for the use of the Law to bring about conviction of sin.
* It is a tutor to lead the sinner to Christ (Galatians 3:24): The Law is that which points us away from ourselves in order that we would look to Jesus Christ. Christ is the only One who obeyed the Law perfectly. Because Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law, He Christ alone can forgive our offenses against the Law. Christ alone can give His perfect righteousness that He achieved under the Law.
* It is a restraint to evil in society. It is a limited restraint, but nevertheless, it does serve to some degree as a restraint. That is why we want laws in a general way to say you cannot kill, you cannot steal.
* It reveals the will of God. It points us into the very centre of God's will. It tells me how I should relate to my parents. It tells me what I should teach my children. It shows me how I am to work. It shows me how I am to be content. It shows me how I am to use my mouth and my lips.
“and [if you] are confident that you are a [qualified] guide to the blind [those untaught in theology], a light to those who are in darkness, 20 and [that you are] a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the [spiritually] childish, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth”
Paul says in verse 19, “And if you are confident that you are” This confidence brings about a false assurance to the Jew. Just because they have the Law and are using it, even telling others about it, does not mean that they have taught themselves the Law. They are preaching it to others, but they have not applied it to their own life.
* A Guide to the Blind: The Jew is confident that they are, number one, a guide to the blind. To be a “guide to the blind” means to be a teacher to those who are without the Law. It means to bear witness to those who do not have special revelation in the written word of God. But the Jews were not doing this. So Paul was using sarcasm, almost prodding or shaming them.
* A Light to those in the Darkness: Second, Paul says they are “a light to those who are in darkness” (verse 19). God declared that Israel was appointed to be a “light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6). Christ Himself became the ultimate fulfilment of this passage, when He declared, "I am the Light of the world" (John 8:12). In reality, they were not actually being light to those in darkness.
* A Corrector of the Foolish: Paul then says they are confident that they are "a corrector of the foolish" (verse 20). The “foolish” refers to those who have worldly wisdom. Those who sat at the feet of the Greek philosophers and presumed that wisdom was found in the brilliance of the Greek intellectual mind. Paul says that the Jew was supposed to be teaching the Law, the wisdom of God, to these foolish men.
* A Teacher of the Childish (Immature): The Israelites were to teach the younger generations, those who were immature, the Law of God (Deuteronomy 6:4,6-7) says: "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God; the Lord is one…. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them” Again they failed to be this to themselves.
“well then, you who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal [in ways that are discrete, but just as sinful]? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who detest idols, do you rob [pagan] temples [of valuable idols and offerings]?”
Paul is aggressive in exposing sin. Most preaching today pulls back from this kind of exposure. Most witnessing today pulls back from exposing of sin in the life of other people.
* Do You Teach Yourself? “Well then, you who teach others, do you not teach yourself?” (verse 21). The Jew was good at running everyone else's life. But Paul wants to know how they are at running their own life.
* Do You Steal? "While you teach against stealing, do you steal?" (verse 21). It is as though Paul is putting the religious Jew on the witness stand and examines him with questions. Paul’s appeal in this statement is to the eighth commandment. He is still dealing with the moral Law.
* Do You Commit Adultery? " You who say not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery?" (verse 22). That is the seventh commandment in the Law. Paul will not let go of the Law. We need more appeal to the Law in our evangelism and Christian living.
* Do You Rob Temples? "You who abhor and loathe idols, do you rob temples?" (verse 22). Again he is appealing to the Law in the first and the second commandment. “You shall have no other gods before Me” and “you shall not have a graven image by which you worship Me.”
“You who boast in the Law, do you [repeatedly] dishonor God by [f]breaking the Law?”
This now leads to one grand judgment, one great indictment, found in verses 23 and 24. These verses may have seemed to be somewhat difficult to follow. Paul writes, “You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonour God?” (verse 23). The Jew boasts in his possession of the Law. He boasts in his knowledge of the Law. He boasts in his ministry of the Law, in his teaching, preaching, and speaking of the Law. But despite all this ministry with the Law, the religious Jew is a lawbreaker, just like everyone else. He is no better than the man on the other side of the globe who has never heard the Gospel. He is in the same category.
VERSE 24 - CONCLUSION
For, “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written [in Scripture].
When our lives don’t line up with the Gospel we preach and teach, we bring shame to God’s name.
What are we to learnt?
First, the necessity of personal, saving faith in Jesus Christ. To only know about God without coming to faith in Jesus will still condemn you. You must be born again.
Second, we should note the importance of personal obedience to the word of God. Be careful to practice what you preach. Your life should reflect the Gospel that you share with others.
Third, we see the importance of bearing witness with the word to those without the word. Jesus Christ has charged us, His followers, to share the Gospel with all the nations.
Wednesday, March 04 2020
Contributor: Dolapo Olaoye
INTRODUCTION: Last week we started in the topic “God’s righteous judgement” where we studied how dangerous judging others could be. Romans 2:3 reminded us that by pointing fingers at others does not mean God will be distracted from seeing our misdoings! We have all heard the question before: “Is God fair to judge those who have never heard about Jesus Christ?” Will they go to hell because they did not believe in Jesus when they never heard of Him? Another variation of the question is, “Won’t those who have done the best that they could do get into heaven?”. Hopefully, after today’s teaching, we will better understand how to answer such questions.
Those who do not obey the truth, that is, the light God has given them, stand under the wrath of God. God will judge according to the result of obedience or the lack of obedience to truth in a person's life.
Romans 2:10 "Tribulation and anguish on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first, and also the Gentile. But glory, honour, and peace, to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.”
The wrath of God is coming upon all those who do evil. It is upon every soul; none will be free of this judgment. No person can plead innocent; all will know themselves to be guilty. This judgment will come first on the Jew and then on the Gentile. Why? Both have rejected God's light, but the Jew had so much more light.
These blessings are for those who give genuine evidence of inner salvation by their good works. Possibly the Jew who has responded to Christ will be rewarded before Gentiles who have received him.
Romans 2:11-13 "For there is no partiality with God. For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified;”
God is holy, just and shows no favouritism towards any man. God will judge everyone with perfect justice. Paul is anticipating a Jewish objection, “But surely God will treat us more favourably than the pagan Gentiles. We know God’s ways as revealed in His Law, but they don’t!”
Or, perhaps a Gentile would object, “It’s not fair for God to judge me for disobeying a standard that I knew nothing about! I’ve done the best that I could with what I knew. God won’t judge me, will He?”
Paul therefore highlights that God will impartially judge everyone for sinning against the light that they were given. His line of reasoning - The Gentile sinned without the Law, so he will perish without the Law. The Jew sinned under the Law and so he will be judged by the Law (2:12). In other words, as verse 6 stated, God “will render to each person according to his deeds (actions).” Paul is not looking at how a person enters into a life of obedience, but rather at the results of it. Note carefully that both groups have sinned and both groups will be judged for their sin. The Gentiles who sinned without the Law will perish, which refers to eternal condemnation. We will see later in verses 14 & 15 how to answer questions such as: “How could the Gentiles be guilty of sin if they didn’t have the standard of God’s Law to live by?” The point of this verse 12 is that God will judge every person, Gentile or Jew, regardless of: Background, education, position, privilege, upbringing nor heritage. So, God can’t be accused of partiality.
Merely hearing God’s Law is a waste of your time if you don’t do what He commands (2:13). The Jews boasted in having God’s Law. They heard it read every week in their synagogues. But here Paul says, “Hearing it is not enough. Hearing the Law doesn’t put you in God’s favour ahead of the Gentiles, who have not heard the Law. The issue is, doing it. Only those who do God’s Law will be blameless.”
Romans 2:14-15 "For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them).
Those who do not have God’s Law are a law to themselves in that they still have an inner sense of right and wrong that convicts them when they violate it. Sometimes they do what they know to be right. But they often disobey what they know to be right, so that their conscience condemns them. Paul is not saying that the Gentiles automatically know all of the Laws but rather, he is pointing out the obvious fact that even pagans, who have had no exposure to God’s revealed Law, have a built-in sense of right and wrong that matches with God’s Law. The work of the Law [is] written on their hearts,” (teaching the difference between right and wrong).
The issue is even though we all have this built-in sense of right and wrong, we all have violated our own standards. When we do, we justify it by various arguments. “I know that I treated him wrongly, but he had it coming!” “I know that I shouldn’t cheat on my taxes, but everyone else does it. Besides, the government wastes so much money. And I’m not a millionaire!” So, our conscience and our thoughts go back and forth, either condemning us or trying to defend us.
Our conscience is not an infallible guide, but we should never go against our conscience. It is not infallible in that it needs to be informed by Scripture, not just by what our culture may think is right or wrong, or by what we may unconsciously feel is right or wrong.
Romans 2:16: “in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”
Whether a person had God’s Law or not, he will stand guilty before God on that day.
Romans 2 springs a trap on any religious person who read Paul's lists of sins at the end of Romans 1 and thought it wasn't about them. Paul calls them out for making themselves judges when they are also guilty. He shows that God will judge everyone, including those under the law, based on their works. This prefaces this letter's theme of salvation by grace, through faith, rather than by works. Many benefits come with having the law, but only if those under the law keep it.