The Israel which God Loved

Lesson 34: Romans 9:6-13

The Israel which God Loved

by Bob Burridge ©2011

Does God love everybody? The general belief is that he does, and that this is a primary teaching of the “Christian faith”. Like so many of the theories people come up with, it is not what is taught in God’s Word.

Paul had been warning the Jews that because of their continuing rebellion, and now their rejection of the Messiah, God was going to judge them as a nation. They did not like the message of Jesus. Both Jesus and Paul warned that God was about to judge Israel and remove her national privilege. The Jews could not accept that. In their thinking they were God’s specially loved people.

If what Paul was saying is true, that her time of national honor and glory was about over, then what had gone wrong? Had God’s promises to the ancient fathers been a failure? Absolutely not!

So Paul explained that he had a deep concern for Israel and wanted them to know the truth. The fact was, apostasy had set in, and God was angry with those who called themselves his people but were not.

Paul takes up this central question in Romans 9.

Romans 9:6a, “But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. …”

The problem was not that God’s promises failed, or were ineffective. He was keeping his promises exactly. The problem is that they didn’t see that side of God’s covenant with Israel. The promises had been gravely misunderstood.

Misunderstanding God’s word brings confusion today as well. There are so many different groups, each promoting its own brand of Christianity. They imagine that we are all really God’s people and that our different beliefs are not important. The uniting assumption is that God loves everybody. There is the problem. God’s promises seem to have failed, because people assume things God never promised.

Paul goes on to show what they had distorted about the promises.

Romans 9:6b, “… For they are not all Israel who are of Israel,”

To begin with, we need to know who God considers to be his Israel. His promise to his people, both to church in the Old Testament and in the New, is made on two levels. We went into detail about his in our last study.

On one level, God establishes an outward organization we call the Visible Church. It is made up of professing believers and their families. This was the Nation of Israel in the Old Testament, and is the Apostolic Church of the New Testament. God set up this outward form to represent how he chooses some from an unworthy humanity. The outward national advantages to those of the seed of Abraham were listed in the previous verses (Romans 9:4-5).

On another level, within the outward visible church, there are the true children of God. This is the Invisible Church. It is made up of those actually redeemed by Christ. They are saved by grace from the deserved outpouring of God’s wrath. They are the spiritual seed in whom God puts the faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Since only God knows for sure who these are we say this group is to us invisible. God commands all the saved to join in the worship, fellowship, and discipline of the visible church. Not all members of the visible church are necessarily truly God’s redeemed people.

That’s what Paul said back in chapter 2 concerning the Jews.

Romans 2:28-29, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.”

The failure of the Jewish Nation in no way shows a failure of the promise. It shows the true nature of God’s promise. God has always been faithful to his true Israel. His covenant never fails to accomplish everything that was promised, but only to those for whom the promises were actually intended.

Paul tried to help the Jews understand God’s original promise.

The answer was actually proven in what every Jew already admitted. The promise was first made with Abraham, not with Israel.

Romans 9:7a, “nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; …”

God selected Abraham and his seed from all the other humans then alive on the earth. God called that one family to go to Canaan, and to become the visible nation of Jehovah. Within that visible nation God also chose some to be invisibly touched by grace. These only were the true sons of God. Being a physical descendant of Abraham did not guarantee being a child of the promise of grace. in Galatians 3:7 Paul had explained, “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.”

Jesus told the Jews the same thing. Some had boasted to Jesus saying, “Abraham is our father.” (John 8:39). Jesus answered implying that it was not that simple. He said, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.”

He went on to explain to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me…” (John 8:42) . Then Jesus revealed their true spiritual heritage. Though they were all descended from Abraham he said, “You are of your father the devil …” (John 8:44). Jesus made it clear, all those descending from Abraham were not necessarily the true sons of God.

Next, Paul showed that God narrowed the scope even more

Romans 9:7b-9, “… but, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called.’ That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. For this is the word of promise: ‘At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.’ “

From among Abraham’s sons God only chose Isaac and his descendants. [en Isaak klaethaesetai soi sperma ( ἐν ᾿Ισαὰκ κληθήσεταί σοι σπέρμα)]. These alone were to be the visible nation of God’s people. Obviously the Jews had no problem with this historic fact. They did not consider the race of Ishmael to be part of the called nation of God.

Their own understanding of God’s word taught that being a child of the flesh alone did not necessarily bring God’s promise. God never intended it that way. Only those to whom God extends his promise are counted as the promised seed.

Then Paul showed how God narrowed the scope even more.

Romans 9:10-12, “And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, ‘The older shall serve the younger.’ “

From all the lost families of the earth God chose the family of Abraham. Then he chose only the seed of Isaac to carry on that promise. But not all of Isaac’s descendants were of the promise either. Of his twin sons, Esau and his descendants were not to be part of the nation of God. Every Jew knew this. God chose only the line of Jacob, who was called Israel, to be the chosen Nation.

They both had the same father and mother. They were twins. This was to make clear that the choice was based upon God’s sovereign choice alone. Not all in the outward family were chosen to continue on the special promise. The one twin was chosen, and the other was not.

To further show the sovereign nature of the choice, the younger was chosen not the older. That was against the usual custom and God’s general law of primogeniture. God does not base his choices upon anything outside of his own eternal purpose. He makes it very clear that the choice was not based upon anything the sons did or would have done themselves. The determination was eternal, before they were even born.

Remember, Paul is using these obvious choices and rejections of the visible nation to show that a similar election of God takes place in the invisible nation. If God did not intend to include all the physical line of Abraham and Isaac in his visible nation, then certainly it is foolish to imagine that all the visible nation was to be saved eternally. That was never promised in the ancient Covenant of God. (We will see more about this spiritual election as Paul continues to develop his point in this section of Romans.)

No, God’s promise to Israel had not failed! The Jews had misunderstood who the true Israel was. Those who rejected Messiah, and who had perverted the temple worship and sacrifices were not true sons of God by the spiritual promise. They were only outwardly and by appearance the visible nation of God.

God’s promise had exactly succeeded, once that promise was properly understood.

Were all the Jews specially loved by God?

Paul quoted from the Scriptures to show that idea to be absolutely wrong.

Romans 9:13, “As it is written, ‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.’ “

Does this mean that God loved the one and hated the other?!! — Yes, that is what it says!

Paul quoted directly from Scripture. Malachi 1:2-3 had said, ” ‘I have loved you,’ says the LORD. ‘Yet you say, “In what way have You loved us?” Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ Says the LORD. ‘Yet Jacob I have loved; But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage For the jackals of the wilderness.’ ”

Note on the word, “LORD”: When the word “LORD” appears in all upper case letters in most English translations it represents the covenant name of God which is sometimes represented by the word “Jehovah”. In Hebrew, the Old Testament writers only wrote the four consonants יהוה which in our alphabet are “YHVH”. These four letters are often called the “tetragrammaton”. To avoid any careless use of this holy name the Jews would read it as “Adonai” (אדני) which means “Lord”. The vowels from Adonai were adjusted and put into the four letters. In older times the letter “J” was pronounced as our letter “Y” so the name “Jehovah” was invented. The reason the vowels don’t look the same in English has to do with rules of the Hebrew language. Even in the New Testament Jesus and the Apostles used Greek words for “Lord” (usually the Greek word “kurios” [κύριος]) when quoting the Old Testament where this tetragrammaton was used. This is why today we still use the word “Lord” when quoting those passages rather than attempting to pronounce the four Hebrew letters. This is the principle the Holy Spirit used in directing the writers of the New Testament, so it is the most biblical approach to reading and writing those passages. To let us know that the original word was YHVH the letters of “LORD” are often printed in all uppercase letters. The actual pronunciation of that name of God is somewhat uncertain. In older times they tried to pronounce it as “Yahweh” but there is no “w” in the Hebrew language. We now know that the letter “ו” that appears there should be rendered by our “v”. The best we can estimate is that the name would have been pronounced as “Yahveh”.

Those who want to believe that God loves everyone have a problem here. They must come up with some way to twist these words around in unnatural ways, otherwise they must admit that salvation is a sovereign work of God’s grace to some alone. That is something the fallen human heart cannot comprehend.

Several theories have been suggested to explain away the plain statements of the Bible.
1. Some say .. “hate here must only mean that God loved Esau less than Jacob”
That only brings in more confusion. It is clearly not what the same words mean in Amos 5:14-15. There it says, “Seek good and not evil, That you may live; So the LORD God of hosts will be with you, As you have spoken. Hate evil, love good; Establish justice in the gate. …” Does God want us to love evil less than we love good? That would be absolute nonsense.

If it only means that God loved one less than the other, what would that possibly mean relative to the point being made? If God loves some less than others, then what causes that distinction? The same problem remains.

If God loves everybody (which is never said in Scripture), what would love mean? Does God love Satan and the fallen angels just a little less than he loves the angels that remained faithful to him? Does he love the pagans just a little less than he loves the redeemed? If love is common to all, then it means nothing special to any.

Besides, If we can do that to the idea of “hatred” in this verse how can we make sense of the next part that says that God loved Jacob? Does that mean he only hated Jacob less than he hated Esau? You can’t make God’s hatred to be anything less than what the word hatred means, while at the same time you keep his love as really love. Such a tangled confusion denies the plain meaning of these very simple words.

2. So some have tried another theory.
They suggest, “Perhaps hate just means that God “slighted” him, or “treated him with an act of hatred.” Does this mean that God slights people he nevertheless loves? Does he treat them with an act of hatred when he does not actually hate them? This solution causes more confusion than it is imagined to eliminate.

We need to remember that God’s hatred of Esau is nothing more than what we all deserve. Jesus took on that hatred which resides in the hearts of some, in order to satisfy the demands of holy justice for them. That was an act of redeeming love that did not fail. It saved all those Jesus came to save. No one the Savior came to redeem is lost.

These foolish attempts to re-build the meaning of this text fail completely. Such ideas do not fit the purpose of Paul in showing why God’s rejection of national Israel was not a breaking of his ancient promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Those denying the obvious meaning of this verse often try to back up their position with a reference to 1 John 4:8. They quote the part that says, “God is love.” The problem is that this verse is not making a complete identity between God and love. It is not saying that the words are always interchangeable. The point is that God defines what love is, not that our idea of love defines God for us.

We should never use our confused human feelings about love to explain God. Rather God shows us what love is by his redeeming undeserving people. God is the original. All other love is derived from him. God’s love promotes his glory and furthers his eternal design. So our love should promote the same. That is John’s point. We who do not love as God loves, have not really known him.

The Bible also makes it clear that God hates the workers of iniquity. Psalm 5:5 says, “The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity.” Then in John 3:36 John the baptist said, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Some have tried to save this idea of universal divine love by saying, “Isn’t it God’s love that sends daily provisions for the wicked?” However, that is not what the Bible calls it. When Paul speaks of that in Acts 17 at Athens, he calls it a display of God’s long-suffering, not of his love. When the wicked receive God’s rain and sunshine, they imagine they deserve them. This only condemns them more because of their self-centered view of life. Daily care for the world in general is not done out of love for the wicked, but to display God’s power, and to provide a livable world for his own children.

There are some who with great sincerity explain that God loves the sinner but hates his sin. That is way too general a statement. Sin cannot exist without a sinner. To hate some abstract idea of sin when detached from the person doing it does not explain why there are those God says he hates and fits for his wrath. If persons are not personally responsible for their own acts, there is nothing left to hate. It is true that God loves those he chooses to redeem yet does not like it when they sin, but that is a far more narrow statement. No where in the Bible does it say that God loves all sinners while he hates only their sin.

Part of the problem is that some have a wrong idea of hate. Hatred is not sinful. Biblically, that which is sinful ought to be hated (Amos 5:15). But in us fallen creatures, our hatred of evil is mixed with evil itself. In God it is not. We horribly distort God if we see his love as his only or dominant attribute. God is not only love. He is also holy, just, and consistent. He judges as well as blesses. If God does not hate he is not the God of Scripture.

In loving Jacob God shows unmerited favor toward him. In hating Esau he acts justly toward him. That is what he and all humans, even Jacob, deserve. Even in John 3:16 God’s love for the corrupted world order does not offer to save everyone. In that verse the love of God sends a Savior to redeem only those who believe. And believing is not possible for any aside from the gracious work of God’s Holy Spirit. The Spirit applies the atonement of Christ to remove the offense and to reconcile. Without that grace, Jacob would receive the same deserved hatred, as would we all. Any godliness or faith is due only to the distinguishing grace of God.

God chose Abraham and his seed from all the fallen race, but not all his descendants were chosen. Only Isaac was chosen. Not all of Isaac’s seed was chosen either. Only Jacob was chosen. His brother Esau was rejected and cursed. Even of the 12 tribes of Jacob (Israel) not all were the spiritual seed of promise. Only a remnant will be saved. This becomes evident as Paul continues to develop his point in the remaining verses of this section of Romans.

Romans 9:27, “Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved.’ ”

Romans 11:5, “Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.”

Those rejecting Jesus as the Messiah were not of that chosen remnant of Israel. God only intended to redeem the “children of promise”. In Galatians Paul leaves no doubt about this fact.

Galatians 3:9, “So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.”

Galatians 3:29, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Obvious questions come up in our limited and fallen minds which want to find a way out. Paul deals with them in the next section of this chapter.

God has always been faithful to his true Israel.

His promises never change nor fail. His covenant accomplishes all that is promised to those for whom they are intended.

Confusion about God’s promises is not just a matter of debate among scholars. Confusion hurts people. The average church member struggles to live to please God. But there is no comfort in outward things. If we put our hope in our own goodness, in our own choices, in church membership, in baptism, in prayers, in a re-defined God who loves and wants to redeem everyone but is for some reason unable to do so, then we hope in a tragic deception.

If, on the other hand, our hope is placed humbly in God’s grace, which is ours by the sovereign work of Jesus Christ, then we learn that we are loved even though we on our own could never deserve it.

Grace is greater than what we now are able to understand it to be. That appreciation grows as we learn more of God’s nature and of ourselves, removing the myths and human theories about each.

Has God loved you? Here is how you can know. Has he brought you to deeply sorrow for your sins? Has he made you know that Jesus paid your debt as no other could? Has he shown you that he lovingly calls you to him for forgiveness and comfort?

If so, then you have a solid foundation for hope, hope in a promise that cannot fail. The faith implanted in you by grace is a seal on your heart that you are not only visibly one of his people, but that you are invisibly redeemed by a love that never fails.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Back to the Index of Studies In Paul’s Letter to the Romans

God’s Good Law

Lesson 23: Romans 7:1-12

God’s law is not appreciated by fallen man.

The corrupted moral nature we inherit from Adam makes us long to be free from moral obligations, and free from our feelings of guilt.

Some who abhor the idea of answering to some higher authority than their own desires make fun of the moral laws of Scripture. They ridicule the God of the Bible. They believe they are naturally smarter than believers because of what they see as superior assumptions about the way things are and came to be. By convincing themselves that they are more intelligent, they dismiss the moral principles they dislike.

When they get caught breaking a law, they point out how many others have violated it too as if that should excuse them. They might cite special circumstances that exempt them from compliance, or they put the blame on others implying that they were the ones who instigated them and got them in trouble. Shifting blame, and excusing immoral behavior are tactics as old as the Garden of Eden.

This is how the Bible describes the spiritually dead heart. The lost find it hard to show real respect for the law that condemns him. Today we hear a lot about the decline of the “rule of law” in our world. Even the unbeliever can see to a certain degree that a relativistic view of ethics does not work. When humans replace God’s absolute standard with his own attempts to adjust morality to fit varying situations, it creates divisions and anger among people with no foundation for settling differences or ensuring a safe society.

Even some who call themselves “Christians” look for ways to explain away God’s law. Some quote verses taken out of their context to imply that the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the principle of Grace have eliminated God’s moral principles. They use an unbiblical concept of what they call “love” as if it now replaces the commandments of God. Many treat biblical law as if it was just a Jewish concept with little importance to us today. They see it as the opposite of the gospel message. On the extreme there are those who claim that being a Christian is just a change of belief which involves no change of life.

From what they say, you would think they believe God made a mistake by giving his law, and in time he came to regret it. Hopefully no one would go that far. Such a concept makes God an error-prone deity who has to learn by his mistakes. This would be nothing less than horrible blasphemy.

These desperate attempts to escape our obligation to God’s commandments are tragic. They cannot be supported with Scripture taken in its true context. Those who are taken in by them live with an obscured view of God and of how his world works.

Romans 7 helps us understand the continuing
value for God’s law when it is rightly understood.

To explain this important benefit Paul takes us through a few steps. He wants us to understand that though God’s law is not and never has been a way to life, it is and always must be the way of life.

There is a sense in which believers are released from God’s law. Paul had been telling the Roman Christians about being set free from the mastery of sin. In Romans 6:14 he wrote, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” In Romans 7 he is dealing with some clarifying issues.

First Paul clarifies a general legal principle:

Romans 7:1, “Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?”

The word translated as “dominion” by this translation is rendered by others with the word “jurisdiction”. The word in the original text is related to the word kurios (κυριος) which is usually translated as “lord”. It carries the idea of authority. In the legal sense, it is the jurisdiction a court has over citizens in its district.

Death releases a person from legal relationships. Law is only designed in its most general sense to deal with the living. The greatest penalty law can impose is execution. If a person is already dead, then the law’s harshest demand has already been met.

Paul then gave an illustration no one would disagree with who knows the Bible.

Romans 7:2-3, “For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.”

1. According to God’s law Marriage is a bond for life.
Marriage is introduced in Genesis 2 where Adam and Eve are said to have become “one flesh”. The union of two into one flesh is to last as long as the two live. Death is the only moral means of ending a marriage in God’s sight. It cannot be ended by simply declaring it over. God is said in Malachi 2:16 to be abhorred by divorce. This is why in the traditional marriage vow we promise before God, “till death us do part.”

If the woman has another man while her spouse is alive, she is called an “adulteress.” The Bible demanded the execution of anyone who violated marriage by sexual infidelity. Since infidelity caused the execution of one partner, the marriage was ended by death. The innocent party was no longer bound because the condition of the vow had been met, “till death us do part.”

In the teachings of Jesus we see that in a society where execution is not practiced for adultery, a divorce of the innocent spouse is permitted (Matthew 19:9). It is as if the offender was put to death as God demands.

2. When death ends one legal relationship, it makes way for a new relationship.
If a spouse is dead, the living partner is free to be joined to another. Once the conditions of a legal bond are met, the bond is no longer in effect. Only then can a new bond be acceptable.

Paul used this principle, to explain the
bondage of our soul by the law of God.

Romans 7:4-6, “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another — to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.”

It can get a little confusing in this section if we fail to follow the flow of thought. Paul is trying to explain a complex idea. To make his point he sometimes speaks of bondage in one sense, and at other times in another. In one sense the sinner is bound to sin, in another it is the law that binds him.

This bondage was explained in detail in the first few chapters of Romans. Adam represented all humans. When he sinned, his guilt and corruption passed on to all his natural descendents. Everyone since Adam is separated from God and is called “spiritually dead.” This “spiritual death” makes them unable to do anything truly good in God’s eyes (Romans 3:10-12). They take God’s glory for themselves. They do what is forbidden. They neglect what is commanded. God’s law both reveals the crime, and demands the sentence. The result is eternal separation from God. That is how the law binds the sinner to sin as his master.

Only by fulfilling the demand of the law can anyone be released from its sentence. God’s justice demands eternal suffering and death, since all have sinned. The suffering and death of Jesus in the sinner’s place releases him from his bondage to sin. Christ satisfies the law’s legal demands, so the person represented is “delivered from the law” in that sense.

Verse 5 shows that our bondage to sin is exposed by our unlawful behavior. Sin is more than just guilt inherited from Adam. It is also a fallen disposition. The corrupted nature puts self ahead of God. It influences the motives that lay behind what may appear to us to be good deeds. When people sin they reveal their sinful passions. They look for perverted ways too satisfy human needs. The law is what defines and exposes sin. It is what condemns the person to the just punishment of death.

Since it is the inner work of new life that sets the sinner free from death by Christ, he is not only released from the old master, he is at the same time joined to a new master. The new lord is righteousness. It both declares the sinner to be innocent by the righteousness of Christ which is credited to him, and it enables him to do what is truly good. The good he does is rendered possible by his restored fellowship with God in Christ.

Verse 6 shows that through the death of Jesus we are set free from our former bondage. The Savior met the demand of death for his people. Instead of the foolish and vain hope of being saved by keeping the outward letter of the law, the redeemed person comes to understand that nothing he can do will remove his guilt. When the Holy Spirit applies Christ’s work he learns that his guilt has been fully removed by Jesus as his Substitute. He is made able to do what is truly good, and is bound to a new master altogether.

Though the Holy Spirit is clearly at work in the application of the work of the Messiah, many translators do not capitalize the word “spirit” in verse 6 (KJV, ASV for example). They see the contrast in the last part of this verse as between the words “letter” and “spirit.” The “letter” [grammatos (γράμματος)] is the law, the written expression of the spiritual [pneumatos (πνεύματος)] reality behind it which is fulfilled in the now finished atoning work of Christ.

The main point in this passage is that we are released from one bondage to be joined to another. Just as the fallen human is exposed by God’s law as a sinner, the law also lays out the kind of behavior that ought to be seen in the Christian. We are set free from sin to be bound to righteousness. Moral and godly living is the goal. The moral principles of God’s law remain binding, but not in the sense of condemnation of or dominion over the redeemed sinner. It is not the law that is put to death. It is our old relationship to it. That was the message Jesus was conveying in Matthew 5:17.

The law of God must be treasured, not despised.

Romans 7:7-11, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.”

Some might foolishly reason this way. If the law is what obligates us to a standard we cannot obey, and it condemns us inescapably, then is the law an evil thing? Is the law sin? That is the reasoning of the fallen heart. It wants to find fault with the judgments of God’s law.

Paul adds his answer immediately with an emphatic, “No!” Do not let such an idea even be considered! The opposite is true. The law has a very good and important purpose in God’s plan.

The revealed moral law of God exposes sin for what it is in our lives. Paul uses the 10th commandment, “You shall not covet,” to prove his point. It is not just the outward act that makes a thing sinful. It is also the inward greed and coveting that is in itself sinful. We would not know that even our motives and attitudes can condemn us if God had not revealed it to us. It was by God’s law that Paul learned about his corrupt nature and his need for redeeming grace.

Paul was a Pharisee before he was regenerated by grace. He imagined that he was good in God’s sight, spiritually alive, and had done nothing seriously wrong. When the Holy Spirit made him realize the inner truth of the 10th commandment, he realized that where he once saw life, there was really death.

Paul’s experience is like that of everyone else. The sinner is blinded and prejudiced against true justice. He finds fault in the system, in his circumstances, or in others, but not ultimately in himself. He adds up all the good he believes he has done, and imagines that it must count for something in God’s estimation. He fails to see that even his good deeds flow from a corrupt nature. He steals God’s glory and is discontent with God’s provisions. As the Prophet Isaiah said in Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags…”

God has given us his law. He graciously sends his Holy Spirit to apply the life-giving work of Christ. By these works of grace we are informed, convinced, and humbled before a Holy God. The law by which Paul thought he could earn God’s blessing, actually condemned him. It drove him to repentance and faith in his only hope, the Redeemer Jesus Christ.

By the new knowledge and life implanted in him, the law became a blessing not a curse. What he once imagined as his way to life, that way which frustrated him, became the rule of life, by which he could show God how much he loved him.

God’s law, therefore, is a good thing!

Paul concludes this section in verse 12.

Romans 7:12, “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.”

Being released from the law’s condemnation, Paul learned that his freedom meant being bound to another master, righteousness. The law had served its good purpose, and now had become his guide to living thankfully.

So many today claim that Jesus said that God’s law is now replaced by love. To that we answer, “No!” To use Paul’s expression, “Let it not be!” One of the most tragic of modern deceptions is that Christ ended the moral law of God. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

Later Jesus was asked which is the great commandment in the Law? Far from putting down the law, Jesus quoted from the law! First he quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5, which comes right after the listing of the 10 Commandments. In Matthew 22:37-38 he said, “… ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.”

Then Jesus quoted from Leviticus 19:18. In Matthew 22:39 he said, “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

After that, Jesus explained that these two words of the law are a summary of the whole of the law. In Matthew 22:40 he said, “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus saw the principle of love imbedded in the law. The law of God defines what love is all about. He used love as a summary of the law, not as a replacement of it.

Psalm 119 tells us that believers learn to love the law of God. The law is not a mean principle. It is one that is graciously given for our benefit. It shows us the high moral nature of our Creator. It convicts us of our depravity. It exposes what a great debt we owe to our Savior, and helps us appreciate the amazing love with which he loves his people.

Psalm 119:97, “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.”
Psalm 119:165, “Great peace have those who love Your law …”
Psalm 119:174, “… Your law is my delight.”

Now that we are set free from the old master, we are bound to the new one. The law no longer condemns us or dominates over us as those who remain under the slavery of sin.

The law now guides us as to how those redeemed by grace are to live for God’s glory. Therefore the Christian must keep the moral law of God in the very center of his thoughts. The law gives content to the wisdom presented in verses like Philippians 4:8. Without God’s moral revelations in his law, the terms there would remain undefined.

The Christian walk is not marked out by an attitude of self-pride, or moral arrogance. It is marked by humble obedience. In John 14:15 Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” That saying of Jesus was taken from the Old Testament law also. Five times in the books of Moses God identifies his people as those who love him and keep his commandments.

What once seemed a demanding and condemning set of rules, becomes a welcomed teacher. We use God’s law in evangelism. It is the tool God gives us for convincing the suffering and lost of their need for a Savior. We use God’s law as a guide for society. By it we know what will bring God’s blessing upon a nation and community. We use God’s law as a rule of life. By it we can know how to honor our God, and show him our sincere thankfulness for his grace.

Learn the commandments of God. Teach them to your children. Talk about them in your home. Bring them up in daily conversation. Use them to help the discouraged and depressed of heart diagnose the real cause of their misery. Use them to counsel your friends in Christ as they make decisions. List the promises and benefits of the Law laid out in Psalm 119. Do all you can to treasure and benefit rightly from the wonderful gift of God’s law.

by Bob Burridge ©2011

(The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

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Serving the Right Master

Serving the Right Master

Studies In Paul’s Letter to the Romans
by Bob Burridge ©2011

Lesson 22: Romans 6:15-23

The world has known its share of cruel masters. They have taken advantage of their workers and have driven them to sickness and death. They have often physically abused them, sexually defiled them, and treated them with inhumane cruelty as if it was their right.

Sometimes it was in the context of racial slavery where certain classes were subjugated as animals and bought as if they were mere possessions. Sometimes it was in the workplace where workers were driven into debt to the management and held in fear for their lives. Sometimes it was the enslavement of children who were forced to work against their will and considered easy prey to greedy and callused opportunists.

There is also a cruel master that enslaves all the descendents of Adam. We are all born into a state of moral bondage that deceives us into obedience. It rewards us with unsatisfying promises, and ultimately pays off in eternal damnation. When the mind itself is held in moral chains, it does not realize its own disadvantage. The lost soul knows only the false promises of its master’s lies. It comes to crave more of the unsatisfying practices which only enslave him more. Living in that awful condition, fallen man lashes out in hateful vengeance at others, or he sinks deeper and deeper in to the quicksand of depression and despondence. Sometimes he imagines deliverances which are mere fantasies. They disappoint him all the more.

That is the slavery Paul describes in the first part of Romans chapter 6. But the message of Scripture tells of a way out, an effective liberation for the bound soul. The chains of moral bondage are broken in only one way, by the effectual work of Jesus Christ.

When Jesus died, he acted as a substitute for God’s people. He paid the debt that justice demanded for their sin and for the guilt they inherited from Adam. When the Holy Spirit applies that atonement to the individual, he is set free! The bondage of sin is ended and he is united to a new master, righteousness. Romans 6:6, “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”

We are told to live in the reality of this promise.

Romans 6:11-14, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

In that last verse, when Paul says we are not “under law,” he does not mean that God’s good law is cruel, or that we are free from obeying God’s law. No! The law was graciously revealed so we can know how to please God once enabled to do so when regenerated by grace. The law reveals our sin and our bondage to it as descendents of Adam. It shows us how much our Savior endured in paying the penalty in place of his people. When God’s grace delivers us by the work of Christ, the condemnation revealed by the law is gone since the penalty was satisfied by our Savior. We now serve a new master. We are set free!

The delivered believer still struggles with the remains of sin. Paul asks his next question to correct a horrible excuse some might suggest.

Romans 6:15, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!”

It is obvious as we read the New Testament that though we are not “under law” but are “under grace”, we are not now free to sin without any concern. Doing things contrary to God’s revealed moral principles offends our Creator, and does harm to our representing him as those made in his image. What Paul is saying here in the context is that we are delivered from the cruel mastery of sin, and have by grace come under a new mastery: the mastery of Christ and of Righteousness.

The same Savior who redeems us and pays for our guilt, also restores us to fellowship with God from whom we draw true spiritual life. When we are renewed this way, our moral desires are changed. Believers are no longer comfortable in their sins. The illusions and false promises are gone. We see sin for what it is; a horrible offense to God, and a wicked master who only destroys his blind servants.

What can be said about looking for such excuses to sin?

Romans 6:16-18, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

If the soul is really made alive, it will be seen in the person’s attitudes and behaviors. What you obey reveals who your master really is. This is the test the Apostle John gives in 1 John 2:3-6.

“Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.”

No one can stop sinning altogether in this life, but the believer is troubled by his sin. Since righteousness is his new master, sin weighs on the true Christian’s heart. It brings him to repentance and humbles him before God. He calls upon God to strengthen him to overcome sin. He uses the means God gives him in the battle to grow in his obedience. He isn’t going to be asking “How can I excuse my sin?” He will be concerned more with asking, “How can I overcome my sin?”

This leaves us with a clear duty.

Romans 6:19, “I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.”

Now that you are under a new master (the righteousness received through Christ) you need to be presenting the members of your body to serve holiness.

In the same manner that before you used you hands, feet, mouth and heart to serve sin, now you are to employ all you have to honor the one who redeemed you by grace. Just as in your past life of planning sinful opportunities, you need to plan for righteousness, spend time doing it, longing for, looking for, the next opportunity. Now that you are bound to serve your new master, Paul is saying that you must put forth your energy to use your hands, feet, mouth, and hearts to serve righteousness.

It is easy to get confused here. Many confuse what God does, with what we are called to do. One of the most destructive deceptions is the “Let go, and let God” mentality. It often makes holiness into a mystical state where we are just passive observers waiting for God to make us do what we should, rather than striving to live for his glory in all things. People sometimes excuse spiritual laziness with the deplorable excuse, “the only really important thing is to be born again.” In contrast with that, Jesus called us to “disciple all men”, to “teach them all he commanded.” We are called to live holy lives, to “be holy as he is holy,” not just to have forgiven lives.

Those taken in by this view believe they should not be concerned about doing good works or obeying law, since we are saved by grace and not by earning eternal life by the law. This is a total misunderstanding of the work of grace.

First of all, our hearts are changed by God’s work of grace alone, and not by our works. In fact law was never a means by which anyone could earn salvation from his fallen condition.

However, it is also true that after we are regenerated by grace we are made able to obey. We are commanded to do so. We are not only declared to be innocent by Christ’s righteousness being credited to us. We are also told to conform our lives to his righteousness. If we are saved from condemnation, our hearts are changed by becoming bound to a new master. We will not feel comfortable about our sins any more. The true believer is not the one looking for excuses, but the one looking for ways to change out of gratitude and love for his Redeemer.

Not striving with all our might to be holy is not Biblical. It is typical of the spiritual laziness of our apathetic world. It minimizes the offense of continuing sins, and looks for something to stop them without much personal effort or sacrifice. If the sins continue, they see it as God’s will for their lives and dismiss the issue from their minds. “No pressure Christianity” is a destructive illusion.

This kind of thinking turns the grace of God into a license to sin. Jude 4 warns about such dangerous influences in the church, “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is the very problem Paul was dealing with here in Romans 6. Saving grace does not liberate us to sin, or to have a careless attitude about our offenses to God. It’s just the opposite. Grace liberates us from bondage to sin so that now, by the power of Christ living in us, we have the strength to overcome our sins and to be progressing in holiness for God’s glory and honor.

Gardens are beautiful places when they produce lush, healthy plants. We know that God makes the seeds germinate and grow. He provides the sunshine and rain. If that is all that is required for a nice garden, they would fill up our lawns and fields. God produces gardens by means of gardeners. He told Adam to cultivate the land and to work to bring forth the fruit of the earth.

The gardener cannot make seeds germinate, grow and produce fruit. His job is to dig up and aerate the soil, plan for good sun exposure, irrigation and drainage. He may have to add nutrients to the soil and protect the plants from freezes or insects. The gardener cannot cause the fruit to be produced. God does not do the work of the gardener. He created us to carry out that work here on earth to demonstrate what he is.

In our spiritual lives, we cannot regenerate or empower spiritually dead souls. However, God has ordained to use means to accomplish his plan. He calls us to pray, to be instructed out of his word, and to strive to obey. He warns us to flee temptation and to pursue holiness. To accomplish this we draw from the power we have promised to us in Christ. We are enabled by changed hearts. God calls us to consider ourselves to be dead to the mastery of sin. We do this by resting upon the work Christ did as our substitute. This is not just an idea to simply inspire us emotionally. It is a God-revealed fact we need to relay upon. By grace he makes a change in the condition of our moral nature.

Our rewards will differ,
depending upon the master we serve

Romans 6:20-23, “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Those who remain as slaves of sin earn its just reward: eternal death. The Bible is filled with alarming descriptions of the pains of eternal hell and unending separation from God. It also points out how our present spiritual death is at the root of pain and depression. Sin is no real rewarder of men. It is a lying employer who gives out death as its paycheck. The temporary pleasures of sin only produce shame and continuing isolation from their Creator. The anticipated rewards of sinful pleasures are lies. What we earn is not what is deceptively promised by our tempter, nor what is expected by the lost human soul.

When we become slaves to righteousness, we are given the gift of life. This wonderful slavery spoken of in verse 22 is the only real freedom. Those who serve righteousness as their master learn of the satisfaction that can be found in honorable things. Loving, God-centered obedience of the redeemed soul is not only found in the peace and strength promised for here and now, it is also ours in the eternal union with God in glory.

Paul puts it quite bluntly in verse 23. When we sin, we earn a wage. The paycheck is death. When we are in Christ Jesus, we are given a gracious gift which is not earned. The paycheck is eternal life. This eternal life works in us now to change our attitudes about sin and holiness. We demonstrate the truth of it by striving to be obedient to that which pleases God in all things.

What a wonderful master we serve! Psalm 23:6 “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.”

As we grow in Christ,
sin ought to be detested, not defended.

When we continue in sin, we show an immature understanding of two things:
1. We fail to appreciate the deep offense of sin in the eyes of God. When the Bible’s description of sin is seen as a mere set of religious rules for earning salvation, the whole point has been missed. God gives us his word, his law, so that we might understand how offensive some things are to the Creator who made all things to reveal his nature and glory.

When we begin to comprehend how God is disgusted by our transgressions, we will have a new motive to stop sinning. We strive to obey not merely to avoid consequences for ourselves, but more importantly to show gratitude and love for our God. When the prophet Isaiah became aware of his sin, he said, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5)

2. We fail to appreciate the wonder and power of what Christ has accomplished. He did not just die as an example to us, or to inspire us to religious living. He died to actually satisfy divine justice in our place, taking that awful offense upon himself. He died to set us free so that we can become bound to a Master of Righteousness and life.

When we justify certain sins (as if we are set free from moral law to do what we please) we pervert grace into license, and cast doubt that we have been liberated to serve a new master. We live in a world where even so called “Christians” steal God’s Sabbath Day for themselves, and excuse it by imagining that the 4th Commandment given as Creation was completed has somehow expired. Many take the tithe of their income which God commands to be brought to the Elders, and they spend it themselves, making excuses by doing some good things with it. Many abandon marriage as the only moral setting for sex and family. Many kill their unborn to avoid unwanted responsibilities. They lie to serve themselves, and cheat to become rich and powerful. They cultivate the attitudes of the world. These are the socially “accepted” sins. The list in Galatians 5:19-21 includes the sins of sexual impurity, improper worship, hatred, jealousy, selfishness, envy and such things.

In the next verses (Galatians 5:22-23) God commands that we cultivate the fruit of the Holy Spirit: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

The Bible calls all these things “sin.” The wage is death. They deeply offend God and cast doubt that the soul is converted and bound to a new master.

These are our enemies. They are not the way to success as the world pretends. Do not give place to them! Do not let their cruel mastery continue another moment! If you try to pull against the chains of cruel oppression in your own strength, it will only gives you sore wrists. Come to Christ if you have not been set free. He will give you a new master.

Once you are liberated in Christ, trust in and act upon the promises God has given. You have the power in Christ to really progress out of sin and into holiness. It is not just a promise to some select few fortunate believers. It is a promise of grace to all who are in Christ. You are liberated! Live that way!

Keep striving in prayer, trusting in the change God promised he has made in you. Never let sin become less than the greatest enemy in your life. Make holiness your greatest goal.

(The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

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Remembering 9/11

Remembering 9/11

by Bob Burridge ©2011

There are times when evil shows itself so boldly that even those who know no Savior are horrified. On that September day in 2001 we were all reminded about the depth of human moral corruption. We saw the ugly side of the fallen human nature. We saw what any of us could be and would be, were it not for the restraining hand of our Creator who rules over all things, shaping them to reveal his nature and glory. It is God’s power, mercy and grace which alone keep individuals from falling into the depths of such pure depravity.

The tragedy of America’s 9/11 was not the only time in history when the pawns of wickedness took the lives of thousands, and destroyed the illusion of our temporal peace and prosperity. There was the slaying of the infants of Bethlehem by the paranoid pride of Herod when hearing of the birth of Christ, the new born King. Roman troops surrounded Jerusalem in 70 AD slaughtering over a million Jews in the siege of Jerusalem. These are but a few of the many sad glimpses at how the simple eating of forbidden fruit in Eden corrupted those made to display the glories of the Creator.

The message of hope is not found in our nation’s resolve, or in memorials to loved ones senselessly taken from us in a moment of repulsive horror. True hope is found in the hand of God that not only keeps us all from descending to the same depths of evil, but also sent the Savior to redeem from that fallen race some who would be adopted into the family of God. To love and redeem the good is wonderful. To do the same to the unworthy is astounding. Since there is no one who is truly good, considering the depth of our corruption, the work of our Savior amazes us and humbles us. We are driven to solemn worship of the Redeemer and King of all kings.

Romans 5:5-11, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.”

What Happens When Someone Dies?

Bible Basics

by Bob Burridge ©2011, 2021
Lesson 12: What Happens When Someone Dies?

The primary meaning of death in the Bible is “separation”. When a person dies his soul is separated from his no longer functioning body. The soul part of the person continues to function and is aware of things.

Death happens to all humans because of sin. It’s not just each person’s own sins that bring about that penalty. When Adam sinned the whole human race was condemned to die because Adam represented all who would descend from him. Our own sins continue to confirm that we have earned that well deserved penalty. In Romans5:12 it says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned”

But there are two kinds of death in the Bible:
Physical Death: the body stops working and the soul is separated from it
Spiritual Death: a person is separated from fellowship with God

When Adam sinned he didn’t die physically right away, but he immediately died spiritually. He experienced that tragic separation from fellowship with his Creator. This is the condition from which we need to be delivered before physical death ends our time in this world where we now live and are called to live for God’s glory.

When we are born as new babies we are already spiritually dead because of that sin of Adam. He represented all of us in Eden. The guilt of Adam’s sin, and our own guilt when we sin, offends God. It becomes a barrier that keeps us from enjoying his comfort and promises. If we die physically when we are still dead spiritually we cannot go to Heaven and be with God forever.

The Gospel is that good message that those who are transformed by God’s grace are restored to fellowship with their Creator. When Jesus died he paid the penalty of sin in the repentant sinner’s place. All who sincerely trust in that saving work of Jesus Christ have the spiritual barrier removed. The separation ends. Romans 6:23 tells us that spiritual death can be overcome, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” When someone who trusts in Jesus as his Redeemer dies, his soul goes immediately to be with the Savior. He will enjoy God’s blessings forever.

When people who trust in Jesus die, their soul goes immediately to be with their Savior. He paid the penalty of sin for his people. He died in their place. They will enjoy God’s blessings forever.

Resurrection is the rejoining of things separated in physical death. After Jesus died on the cross his body was laid in a tomb while his human soul went to that spiritual dimension where all go as they await the great day of resurrection. But Jesus was resurrected three days later on that Resurrection Sunday. At that time his human body was changed into a glorified form and re-joined with his human soul again.

When the end of our present world comes, Jesus will come again and the bodies of all his people will be resurrected too. Their glorified bodies will be joined again with their souls in Heaven. There they will live forever with God and all the other believers. This is physical resurrection.

There is also a spiritual resurrection when a person separated from God is re-joined in fellowship with their Creator. This is the Christian life we can enjoy here on earth while we are still alive. Jesus removed the barrier of our guilt so that we will enjoy fellowship with God again, and we will enjoy his blessings while we live here.

When we trust in Jesus as our Savior, we are raised up from spiritual death and are alive in a new way. Romans 6:4 explains that this is what Baptism represents, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

Those who are made alive by the Gospel should live as those who are again made right with God. Their lives should show how thankful they are for God’s mercy and love.

The sad part of this is that those who are not changed by faith in Jesus Christ are left in their spiritual death. They have no spiritual resurrection as they struggle here on Earth. In the final day of judgment they will suffer tragic un-ending agony with no hope of deliverance. They are forever separated from the God they offended.

Those who are spiritually alive have the privilege of taking the Gospel to those still lost. Some will come to love the one true God who makes them alive too. It’s a wonderful thing to be used by God to bring life to those who are spiritually dead. When they sincerely trust in what Jesus did, God promises that they will be with him and all of us believers forever in glory.

(Bible verses are quoted from the New King James Version of the Bible)
Index of all our lessons on Bible Basics

The Way to Hope

The Way to Hope

Studies In Paul’s Letter to the Romans
by Bob Burridge ©2011

Lesson 17: Romans 5:1-5

Our world is filled with insecurity, uncertainty, and fear.

There are a lot of things people generally worry about. They wonder what calamities or accidents might be ahead for them. They know that sometimes they will become ill, will it be serious the next time? They sometimes wonder how long they have left to live, and how their lives will eventually come to an end. In a world where economies balance upon fragile markets and perceptions they wonder if the day will come when they will not be able to pay their bills and keep all their things. Some live in fear of embarrassment, or loneliness, or of crowded elevators.

It doesn’t help much when false hopes are offered in the infomercials and ads that promise quick fixes for all the little things in life that concern us. Misguided or intentionally misleading preachers promise things God never promised. They build up people’s hopes with irresponsible assurances, ask for money, and if things don’t work out they blame it on their victim’s own lack of faith.

So many experts, so many needs, so many claims to examine. Can we ever be sure we will not be disappointed? really 100% sure?

When people usually speak of having hope it doesn’t mean much. Hope has come to mean little more than a wish, a dream of things imagined. Empty promises are made, and with a pleading sigh people say, “Oh, I hope so!” Since they hope in fallible things, or in the promises of mere men who cannot deliver what they offer, deep inside they know that it is little more than a wish.

Most troubling is the dreaded feeling many have deep inside when they wonder if they will be accepted by God when they stands before him to be judged at the dawn of forever.

The Bible uses the word “hope” in a very different way. There, it is connected with the promise of God. The word “hope” appears 3 times in the short passage of Romans 5:1-5. The Greek word used there is elpis (ελπις). It means, “to anticipate with confidence, faith, trust”. Here it builds upon the solid foundation of the first four chapters and paves the way for a realistic optimism.

Paul begins Chapter Five by declaring that
believers have peace with God.

Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

The first three chapters of Romans lay out the reason for our fears and insecurities. There is good cause for them. All have inherited the guilt of Adam because they were represented in him when he sinned. The spiritual death he brought upon himself was passed on to all of future humanity. By birth we are enemies of God.

Fallen man twists God’s truth into a religion that pretends that a person can control his own fate. However the Bible teaches that in his fallen estate there is no one who can do anything that is purely and truly good (Romans 3:12). As Jesus said of the unbeliever in John 3:36, “… the wrath of God abides on him.”

However, there is the good news. Paul tells us here that those enemies who come through Christ can have peace with God. The world seeks peace by hoping in vain to avoid bad things happening. The gospel tells us that there is a peace which is different from the empty hope the world imagines. Instead of promising deliverance from calamities, sickness, and adversity, the gospel promises a peace even in the midst of our troubles.

It is that peace of which the ancient prophets spoke. Jesus promised it in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

We have this peace when we are restored to fellowship with God by grace. This section starts with the connective, “therefore”. It builds upon all that Paul had been explaining up to this point. We are all unworthy and unable to do anything that is purely and truly good. There are no exemptions because of our nationality. Jews and Gentiles stand together as part of this fallen and condemned race. There are no ceremonies that have the power to deliver us independently of the promises of God’s covenant which has always pointed to the work of our Savior.

It is obvious that this peace cannot be found by keeping God’s law or by doing good deeds. These are unable to remove the existing guilt that separates us from our Creator. No one can do anything that can make him who is lost to become right with God.

Since the obedience and intentions of the sinner cannot help him, salvation can only be the work of God’s grace. Jesus paid the debt by his own suffering and death in place of his people. That salvation is applied to the sinner by the work of the Holy Spirit. In this deliverance the righteousness of Christ is given to the sinner, and the guilt of the sinner is placed upon Christ. When the sinner’s guilt is removed by grace, he is also given faith to confidently rest in the provision of Christ alone. By that graciously implanted faith he is declared to be justified. With the barrier of moral guilt removed, he is “reconciled” with God. The former enemy at war with God, becomes a child at “peace with God.” When men are at peace with God, a sense of true inner solace emerges.

So the gospel of Christ delivers from turmoil, uncertainty, and insecurity. We do not have peace by being delivered from bad circumstances. They are a part of living in this present world and age. We instead have a peace independent of our circumstances, a peace that passes our understanding.

By the gospel we have a gracious hope.

Romans 5:2, “through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

The peace we long for is not a vain dream or wish. It is not based upon the questionable promises of men, or in a vain hope that nothing can go wrong. It is a firm and certain confidence based upon the promise of God himself. This is the kind of hope spoken of in the Bible. It gives us a firm promise to stand upon.

This verse tells us that the hope we have is in “the glory of God.” In our natural state, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (3:23) When we studied that passage we noted that the word for glory, “doxa” (δοξα), has several meanings. It speaks here of a glory that comes from God. In this kind of construction it most commonly means to approve of something.

Jesus said in John 12:43 when he spoke to the Pharisees, “for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” The same word is used. The Pharisees received the “praise”, the approval (glory) of men, but they will not get the same from God. Here we find by grace, that we can stand firmly knowing that we have God’s approval. We appear in his sight not clothed in our own offensive garments, but clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

This is why we rejoice triumphantly in that hope which we have in Christ. As the Reformer Martin Luther pondered this truth he wrote, “Where Christ is truly seen, there must needs be full and perfect joy in the Lord, with peace of conscience, which most certainly thus thinketh: Although I am a sinner, by the law, and under condemnation of the law, yet I despair not, I die not, because Christ liveth, who is both my righteousness and my everlasting life…” (Haldane on Romans 5:2 pg. 187 of his commentary).

The joy, hope, and peace that comes out of this graciously implanted faith is a distinguishing characteristic of the Christian. He rejoices even through situations he would not have expected he could survive.

This triumphant rejoicing extends also to our tribulations.

Romans 5:3, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;”

This peace is not tied to just good circumstances. No Scripture denies that bad times come, or tells us that they are not unpleasant. However, for the child of God trials have a good purpose, even when that purpose is not seen. Hebrews 12:11, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Paul wrote later in this same book, Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

In the Beatitudes Jesus spoke of the blessedness of those who endure trials (Matthew 5:4,10-12).

This is the kind of joy and peace that strengthens us in hard times and trials. The confident hope we have in the love of the God who redeems us leaves no grounds for uncertainty or fear of judgment. While in prison and wrongly accused, The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:11, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content”

As he wrote to the troubled Corinthians he said in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.”

Beyond our contentment and comfort in trials there is more promised here. The tribulations produce perseverance. James wrote about this in James 1:2-4, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

When we confidently rest in what God has said by the faith Christ implants in us by grace, we learn that good will emerge to accomplish its greater ends, even when how it all fits together remains unseen.

Patience is hard to learn. We often have to wait for things we long for. We often fail at things and have to keep trying again and again to accomplish them. The good things we set about to do in our lives often take a long time to realize. We do not lack opportunities to practice patience. What we need to learn is that the source of growing in patience is that we better appreciate the promises and power of God. We need to grow in our confidence in the gospel, that which makes unworthy sinners into forgiven children by Christ. We learn to rest in the wisdom and love of an all powerful and all knowing God who loves his children dearly.

Verse 4 adds that this perseverance produces proven character and hope.

Romans 5:4, ” and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

The first words are often translated as “proven character.” It means that virtue which is proven by trial. Dr. Haldane comments, “trial may detect a hypocrite as well as a manifest saint.”

It is when we persevere through trials that the power of the gospel is seen in us. The world sees that work of God which testifies to the truth of our message. We see it in ourselves, and become confident of God’s love, that he will not give up on us. It is not “perfection” that shows us that we are his. For in this life no one is perfect. It is this repeated coming in humble petition to Christ for help that evidences a living faith. James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

That proven character produces real hope. Our confidence grows as we find Christ’s power in us to bring us joy even through trials.

Fallen religion takes the evidences of being made right with God, and make them into causes of being made right with God. It teaches the error that man’s works, his obedience, his rituals, his innate goodness, or his sincerity become the confidence in which he stands before God.

In reality it is God’s undeserved grace alone that causes us to be made righteous in Christ. If truly redeemed, there will be these evidences: a confident faith in Christ alone for our righteousness, and a perseverance in pursuing the joy God has promised to his children.

Verse 5 concludes: this is a hope that does not disappoint us.

Romans 5:5, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

This hope will not fail us. It will not leave us abandoned before God to stand on our own. It is not like the vain hope of the world that rests upon uncertain things. That is just wishful thinking. It will instead bring with certainty that which is hoped for. It is not only a hope for blessings in the final judgment. It is there for us in life’s daily and special trials as well. There is no disappointment when we rest in the truthfulness and greatness of God.

The promises at the root of our hope flow from the love of God. That love is not simply seen by us at a distance. It is poured into our hearts. It is given in a flood of abundance. It comes by the Holy Spirit himself, who was given to us who are the redeemed in Christ.

When you face those trials, when patience is tried, when hope seems a mere dream: rather than living in denial, getting angry, hoping in vain things, or imagining how things could have been worse, turn instead to the heart of the gospel. Hope in the promise of God.

First we remove the fear that we have not done enough or lived holy enough. We are not made right with God by our attitudes, choices, or works. It is God’s grace that implants a simple faith in our hearts to find confidence in Christ alone.

Then we trust the promise of his continuing love as ministered by the Holy Spirit. That teaches us to find joy in knowing that we are approved in Christ by the Almighty God. That implanted life helps us through the trials. It shows us joy even in the midst of calamity. It comes by knowing the God who is Lord over all. It drives us to persevere, strengthening our character, and strengthening the hope that cannot fail.

Paul recorded an ascription of glory to God in Romans 15:13, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

(The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Back to the Index of Studies In Paul’s Letter to the Romans

We Need to Help Other Believers

Bible Basics

by Bob Burridge ©2011, 2021
Lesson 11: We Need to Help Other Believers

We need to help each other live in ways God says are right and pleasing to our Sovereign Lord. God calls us to be a family. Believers should look after one another just like brothers and sisters. We should pray for one another and try to find ways to stir up other believers to live the way God prescribes for his children. We are told in Hebrews 10:24, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works”.

We need to be good friends and good examples toward other believers. When someone does a good thing, or lives the way God says we should, we should encourage him.

We should also help other believers when they sin. When someone does wrong things, Christian friends should encourage him to repentantly admit his sins and to change his ways. Go to the person kindly and in private to help him do what’s right. If the person does not listen to what you tell him, then you should get another friend to go to him with you. It’s often good for the person you bring to be a Pastor or Elder from your church. They are specially able to help the person overcome his sin. We should never talk about other people’s sin with others in the form of gossip. This would hurt the person rather than helping him.

Jesus told us to help other believers this way in Matthew 18:15-16, “… if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ ”

Sometimes when the person sinning is a Church member, and he still will not listen to personal warnings about his sin problem, the officers of the church may have to try to help him more formally. Be sure you go to the officers privately and with a kind heart. The officers should try to help the person overcome his sin. If he will not listen to the church leaders, they might tell him not to receive the Lord’s Supper until he is ready to change his ways and admit to God that he has done wrong. He eventually may even have to be removed from membership in the church. Jesus explained in Matthew 18:17, “And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”

When a member has to be removed in this way, we still must treat him kindly. The difference is that he should then be treated as someone who needs the life changing work of Jesus Christ. We should continue to pray for him, and do all we can to encourage him to sincerely repent, trust in the redeeming work of our Savior, and to live in a way that honors God. Our goal is always to help the person back to where he is living as God has commanded us.

(Bible verses are quoted from the New King James Version of the Bible)
Lesson 12:What Happens When Someone Dies?
Index of all our lessons on Bible Basics

Aware of Our Firm Foundation

Aware of Our Firm Foundation

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Questions 41-44)
(watch our video)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

God’s creation is beautiful, vast, and amazingly complex.

Our Creator’s nature and glory are infinite and eternal. The immensity of his power and purpose is stamped upon everything he made. As Psalm 19:1-2 tells us, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge.”

We were created with the ability to observe and to be a part of that declaration of God’s glory. There is a lot to take in, so much to understand.

Knowing our limitations as finite creatures, God made to be able to group things together, and to sum up complicated ideas. Our ears take in sounds people make, and our brains are able to organize them into words that make us able to communicate. We can see marks people make on paper, then turn them back into sentences. We learn to recognize people from a quick glance at their facial features. We have learned how to teach and to remember the flow of history, the findings of science, and relationships in mathematics. We summarize what we learn with charts, diagrams, and generalized rules.

After long conversations people often have to ask, “What’s your point?” When we have read all the details in business contracts we often ask, “So what’s the bottom line?” Parents often teach simple rules to children like, “Don’t talk with strangers,” “Ask permission before you go somewhere,” “Bed time is at 9:00,” “Eat your vegetables.”

Without going into all the reasons behind them, simple rules help us. We need to simplify things to be able to make fast judgments and daily decisions.

God also summarizes the things he reveals
so we can remember and handle them better.

There are parts of the Bible that summarize the long history of God’s people. Our main duties and God’s grace are summarized in simple verses we can learn. His redemption is summarized in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Our obligations to our Creator/Redeemer are summarized in Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?”

These summaries are not meant to be exhaustive. They are given to us to point out main principles to help us organize God’s truth and to remember what he teaches us.

It is reasonable to expect the moral principles God
built into His world would be summarized too.

Question 41 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “Wherein is the moral law summarily comprehended?”

Answer: “The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments.”

God made himself known by giving us his word in the Bible. His basic moral principles are summed up in the 10 Commandments.

When asked, Jesus summed up the moral law even more concisely in Matthew 22:37-40. There he gave us two general principles that sum up what is right: ” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

The Answer to Question 42 of our Catechism quotes this comment by Jesus. It says,

“The sum of the ten commandments is, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbor as ourselves.”

The Bible regularly links love and obedience. We were created to live morally, doing the things that show respect to our Creator. When we live that way, intent on truly honoring God and helping the people around us, we are being loving and therefore are keeping his commandments inwardly as well as outwardly.

Love for God and others is expressed by keeping his moral commandments. In the commandments God defines what things are loving.

This connection was made by Jesus many times in his ministry. For example, the Gospel of John records some of his direct comments about this.

John 14:21, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me…”
John 15:12, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
John 15:14, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”
John 15:17, “These things I command you, that you love one another.”

Then in 1 John 5:2-3 the Bible says, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”

Love does not mean much if we do not show it by our attitudes, thoughts, and actions. John 13:35 says, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

God’s summation of his moral principles help us remember and obey what honors him. It is how we fulfill what we were created and commissioned to be. It is how we love. It is what real “love” looks like.

This summation by Jesus fits exactly with the order of the Commandments God gave through Moses.

The Ten Commandments divide into these two main sections.

The first section is about our loving God above everything else. When Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” he was quoting from the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 6:5.

This sums up the first 4 commandments. It is always wrong to worship other gods, to make images of God who is pure spirit, to use God’s name without respect, or to forget honoring the Creator’s work on the Sabbath. These first 4 Commandments show us who God is, and how we should worship and live for him.

As the second great commandment, Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Again he was quoting the words of Moses, this time from Leviticus 19:18. We must love our neighbor as we already look out for ourselves.

This sums up the last 6 Commandments. It is never right to show disrespect to those God puts in authority over us, or to murder. No one should be unfaithful in marriage, steal, lie, or covet. These last 6 Commandments show how God designed us to live together.

Moral law is the way things ought to be in a place created by the one True God. They show that we submit to his lordship as our Creator and King, and they teach us how to live lovingly with those God puts around us in our lives.

God’s moral principles are not just baseless rules.
They are founded upon the fact of God.

God introduced his commandments through Moses by explaining his right to issue commandments. Question 43 of the Catechism asks, “What is the preface to the ten commandments?”

The answer simply quotes from Deuteronomy 5:6. This verse leads into the giving of the Ten Commandments. It says, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”

The preface leads into these moral principles by laying out the foundation for them. Israel was a defeated nation of oppressed slaves in Egypt. There was no hope for them by any efforts they could make on their own. Since God delivered her, and gave her back her nationhood, he alone had the right to say how she should live as a nation.

However, there was more. God was the Creator. He made all things for his own glory, so he alone knew what would honor that glory in a moral way. He also made the promise of a Redeemer, a Messiah who would die for the guilt of his people. Since all deserve eternal bondage to sin and unending separation from their Creator, only he could describe what freedom from sin and fellowship with God would be like.

Just as Israel owed her life to God alone, we all owe ours to him also. He created us to promote his glory, and redeemed us to be his children forever, therefore only he has the right to say what he made and redeemed us to be. That lays out the preface and foundation to this summation of God’s Moral Law.

When I worked in a commercial laundry the employees often complained. We worked hard under rough conditions. They would see the managers in air-conditioned offices and often asked, “who do they think they are to tell us how to do our job?” But, they owed their jobs to the owners and managers. It was what went on in that office that enabled them to earn their living.

Similarly, we owe our lives and salvation to God alone. He is the only one who has the right to describe our purpose and what is right.

In Romans 9:20 Paul put it this way, “But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ ”

Catechism question 44 explains the reason for this preface to the Commandments. It says,

Answer. “The preface to the ten commandments teacheth us, that because God is the Lord, and our God and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all his commandments.”

That is how important these commandments are. They were not first given to Israel. They were summarized for Israel. Every moral law in them goes back to creation itself. They show us how we can show our love for our Creator, our Redeemer.

Do you say you love Jesus Christ dearly?

Do you do what he says and live morally as God describes it for you? That is what it is to love God. Do you treat those you meet and work with the way our Creator says you should? That is what loving your neighbor is about.

Satan is subtle and knows how to play to our imperfect nature. He will suggest that such moral ideas have exceptions, and do not always apply. Like Israel in the wilderness we are easily persuaded to set these principles aside, and to take on the standards people accept in our fallen culture.

Since God created us, gives us life day by day, redeemed us, and blesses us, he alone has the absolute right to tell us how he made us to live.

It is not only unwise, but evil, to fail to see this important foundation to all that is right. We need to read these Ten Commandments with the prayerful intent of conforming our lives to them.

In each one, as we peel away the deceptions that hide the moral principle behind it, we see how short we fall in bringing glory to our God. We also see how much our Savior suffered as he took on our guilt. We see a loving light shining on an otherwise dark and confusing path.

God shows us how to be better children in his family. These summary principles teach us to see Grace at work in our otherwise disobedient hearts. They are not laws by which we merit salvation or blessings. We imperfect creatures could never keep them without God’s Redeeming Grace. They light up the unseen opportunities that would otherwise be hidden in the dark. They teach us what glorifies God, and how we enjoy living as his loved children.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

Profitable Obedience

Profitable Obedience

(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q: 39-40)
(watch our video)
by Bob Burridge ©2011

Even before sin came into human hearts,
we had a purpose.

God created us to live for his glory and to enjoy doing so forever. That’s how our Westminster Shorter Catechism begins.

Sin did not change that purpose, but it separated us all from fellowship with God. It made us unable to be all we were made to be. In our frustrating fallen condition we cannot do anything truly good in the eyes of God, therefore we lost all hope of true joy forever.

For us to fulfill that purpose again, God sent the Messiah to redeem and to restore his people. This redemption is purely by grace. It clothes the unworthy with perfect righteousness, and enables them to joyfully glorify God.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us what the Bible principally teaches. In Question 3 it organizes it all into two major categories. It asks, “What do the Scriptures principally teach?” The profound answer is, “The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.”

These are the main things God tells us about in his word. What we believe about God and about who we really are effects how we put things into practice in our everyday lives. Belief and duty need to stay together. They can never really ever be separated. You have to know what to do, and you must put into practice what you know.

The first part of the Catechism, questions 4-38, are about what we ought to believe concerning God. This next section is about how we go about the duties he gives us to do.

God requires us to obey his revealed will.

Question 39 introduces this next part of the Catechism. It asks, “What is the duty which God requireth of man?” This is the answer:

“The duty which God requireth of man is obedience to his revealed will.”

We often hear people worry about being “out of the will of God”. They fret over every decision and circumstance thinking they might mess up God’s plan. The confusing part is that God does not tell us all that he planed to do. Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us that much of God’s plan is kept secret from us. It says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

We cannot know how all things work together to fulfill his purposes. However, his word does tell us to focus on the things he has made known. That is our duty.

God’s decrees are unchangeable. Nobody can ever make a choice or do anything that makes God deviate from his eternal plan. Nothing can frustrate that eternal will of God.

This the consistent teaching all through Scripture. It could not be more clear.

Job 42:2 “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.

Psalm 115:3 “But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.”

Psalm 135:6 “Whatever the Lord pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places.”

Even the wicked things people do are part of how his plan works out. It does not excuse their evil, but evil cannot operate independently from God’s decrees.

When Joseph’s brothers conspired to kill him and to sell him into slavery, Genesis 45:7-8 says, “And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.”

In Genesis 50:20 Joseph explained this to his wicked brothers. He said, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”

This is not an isolated text. It is the pervasive center of all Scripture. Psalm 76:10 says, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise You; With the remainder of wrath You shall gird Yourself.”

God employs men’s sins for his ultimate glory. However, sin is never condoned, and remains contrary to the moral principles God reveals.

The things he calls us to do are the things we need to be concerned about:. He reveals what is right for us to do. When that is violated, it is called “sin.” While we can never change God’s eternal plan, his decreed will. We can and do at times violate this revealed will of God.

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 Paul reminded Timothy how we know God’s will for our lives: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

This means that all of the Bible is God’s word, and therefore is profitable for these 4 duties:

1. It is profitable for teaching: It offers us a complete curriculum of all God wants us to know. There he tells us about himself and about how everything else relates to him.

Psalm 119 illustrates how God’s word is our teacher. Verse 24 says, “Your testimonies also are my delight And my counselors.” Verses 98-99 say, “You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, For Your testimonies are my meditation.”

2. It is profitable for reproof: The Bible warns about errors and shows us the truth which exposes them. There is no other standard against which what we learn can be compared.

Psalm 119:21 says, “You rebuke the proud — the cursed, Who stray from Your commandments.”

3. It is profitable for correction: Once error is exposed, the proper path needs to be found. Only the Bible as God’s word can show a person that right path.

This is also well summarized throughout Psalm 119.

9 “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.”
11 “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.”
30 “I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me.”
105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.”

4. It is profitable for training in righteousness: Righteousness is when we live according to the things that please God. Deuteronomy 6:25 defines righteousness as obedience to God’s revealed will. It says, “Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.”

Biblically, righteousness means innocence before God’s law. There is no other standard than God’s own word for knowing what pleases him.

Again we turn to Psalm 119:

40 “Behold, I long for Your precepts; Revive me in Your righteousness.”
116 “Uphold me according to Your word, that I may live; And do not let me be ashamed of my hope.”
117 “Hold me up, and I shall be safe, And I shall observe Your statutes continually.”
142 “Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, And Your law is truth.”
160 “The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.”

This pastoral advice to Timothy points out these four ways God’s word is profitable. God’s revealed will enables his people to be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The Bible is a book of content. It is not just interesting reading material. We need to learn and then to do what it says in order to live in a way that pleases our Redeemer. This is the only way to enjoy fulfilling what we were made to be.

The standard for our obedience is the moral law of God.

Question 40 of our Shorter Catechism says,

“The rule which God at first revealed to man, for his obedience, was the moral law.”

It is one thing to say we should live morally, obeying what God says is right and what truly satisfies our real needs. It is quite another thing to know which attitudes and behaviors are really moral.

There are many different views about morality. Some things are universally accepted as right and wrong. God built into our nature an awareness that it is evil to commit murder, and to steal. Most agree that it is wrong to be unfaithful in marriage, to be greedy, and to lie. Most agree that it is good to help others in need, to worship, and to be kind to others. However, there is a lot of confusion about when some of these things are binding upon us. There are many views about how worship should be done, and when ambition becomes greed.

To clear up the confusion in our fallen nature God gave us his written word. The Bible tells us what is good and acceptable in the eyes of God. These principles are called God’s moral law. This is not a set of baseless rules made up for us as tests, or for earning our way to heaven. Moral law is the way things must be in a universe created by the one True God.

It is always wrong to worship other gods, to make physical images of God who is spirit, to use God’s name without respect, or to forget honoring the Creator on the Creation Sabbath. It is never right to show disrespect to those God puts in authority over us, or to murder. No one should be unfaithful in marriage, steal, lie, or covet.

The Ten Commandments were not just laws for Israel.
Not one of them was made up in the time of Moses. They all go back to creation itself. They are a summation of these ethical principles that can never be annulled. The first four tell us about how the Creator should be worshiped. The last six tell us how we should live together as his creatures designed to live for his glory.

In our era, even some churches teach that not all of God’s revealed moral principles apply today. They explain away one after another of these universal standards, making excuses or loop holes to justify violating what remains.

That is exactly what many of the people of Israel did in the time of the prophets. It is what the Pharisees were doing in the time of Jesus and the Apostles. It is what corrupt churches have done since the time the Bible was completed.

Some are quick to point out that Jesus fulfilled all of God’s law. This is certainly true. But we need to let Scripture alone tell us what it means to fulfill the law.

It certainly does not mean that he eliminated any of these moral principles. Jesus made an important contrast in Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

The word translated “to fulfill” is “plaero-o” (πληροω) which means to make something complete. Jesus makes it clear in verse 17 that this does not mean he destroyed the law.

The ceremonial laws of the Old Testament given in the time of Moses were completed in Christ. He fulfilled what they were teaching. They showed in advance that God would send a substitute to pay for the sins of his people. To continue the sacrifices, washings, and dietary rituals, the priestly system, or the added ceremonial Sabbaths, would be to deny that they all pointed to Jesus Christ as the final sacrifice, as our High Priest, as our only washing from sin and clothing of righteousness. He did not end the principles taught in these ceremonies. He brought them to completeness and satisfied their demands for us.

Jesus also fulfilled the moral law for us. He paid the penalty demanded by eternal justice for us. We deserve death for violating the Creator’s moral principles. Jesus suffered and died in place of those who come to him trusting in his Atonement.

He also perfectly kept the moral law in our place, fulfilling all its demands as our representative. The legal benefits of his obedience are credited to us. We are clothed in his Righteousness. By his completed work he brings believers back into fellowship with God. This makes them able to do things that are truly good. He breaks the chains of sin so that it is no longer our master or motive. This moves us to want to honor our Creator out of gratitude. Jesus never made it acceptable to dishonor God’s name, break the Creation Sabbath, murder, steal, or lie. Only unbelief or dispensational extremism could eliminate any one of the moral laws of God.

Jesus and the Apostles often spoke of God’s moral principles as still binding. For example, in Romans 7:7 Paul said, “I would not have known sin except through the Law”

We who love the Lord know we are saved by grace alone, not by our obedience. Our desire in response is to honor our Creator and Redeemer, and to enjoy doing so forever. Our great passion is to hunger to know what God says is right and good. We prayerfully work to do those things, and to say “no” to thoughts and actions that offend him.

(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)

What can we do to be stronger Christians?

Bible Basics

by Bob Burridge ©2011, 2021
Lesson 7: What can we do to be stronger Christians?

To have stronger and healthier bodies we need to eat foods that are good for us, get enough exercise, get enough sleep, and take our medicines when we get sick.

To grow as better Christians there are things we should do too. God’s power and blessing is what makes us grow, but he tells us to obey him, and to make use of the tools that he promises will make us stronger spiritually. We call these the “means of grace“.

1. We need to learn God’s Word.
God’s word tells us what is true, and what things are right to do. When we read and study the Bible God uses it to make us more like our Savior, Jesus Christ. We should read our Bibles every day. On Sundays we need to pay close attention during the sermons and lessons at Church. We should listen carefully when we do our Bible study times together as a family and with other believers.

2. We need to talk with God in Prayer.
God tells us we should come to him in prayer. We should tell him how wonderful he is as our Creator and as our Savior who died to forgives us for our sins. We should thank him for his many blessings. We should repentantly admit our sins to him, and ask him to help us not do things that offend him. We should bring our needs to him, both our own needs and those of others we know. We can pray any time from anywhere. A healthy Christian should pray throughout the day.

3. We need to take part in worship, specially the Sacraments.
When we go to Church to worship we should pay attention to every part of the service. Worship is a very important exercise to keep us spiritually healthy. We should be sure we have been properly baptized to show we are members of the covenant community bearing the name of our Savior. When we understand the Lord’s Supper we should go to the leaders of the church and ask them to let us join with the congregation in humbly and thankfully receiving the bread and wine during Communion. God promises to help us grow spiritually when we receive the sacraments in the right way.

4. We need to help each other to live by what God says is right.
When we do wrong things, our Christian friends encourage us to admit our sins and to change our ways. When we do right, we should encourage one another too. Sometimes when Church members will not admit their sins or will not make things right again the officers of the church may correct them. They might even tell them not to receive the Lord’s Supper until they are ready to change their ways and admit they have done wrong..

These are ways God works in our lives to help us grow as Christians. They make us stronger. In our next studies we will look more closely at each of these means of grace.

(Bible verses are quoted from the New King James Version of the Bible)
Lesson 8: We Need To Learn God’s Word
Index of our lessons on Bible Basics