Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Romans 6

I. Declaration (vs.1-2) – We are dead to sin (sin as a nature)
II. Description (vs.3-10) – How it is that we are dead to sin (standing)
III. Application (vs.11-23) – How this truth is to be lived out in daily life (state)

There are three key words in this chapter: "know" (v.3, 6, 9), "reckon" (v.11), and "yield" (v.13, 16, 19). I believe v.17 is a key verse on how to live the Christian life. God seeks to transform us from the inside out (Rom. 12:2). 
Doctrine > Know > Spirit > Head (vs.1-10)
Heart > Reckon > Soul > Heart (vs.11)
Obey > Yield > Body > Hand (vs.12-23)  

Declaration (vs.1-2) 
Paul anticipates and answers the wrong response to what he just stated (5:20-21). He knew that the natural mind that cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God would reason, “If grace is reigning in this age of grace, and the more I sin, the more grace God bestows, why not just continue in sin?” That is not the mindset of a true child of God that believes with all his heart that Christ shed His blood and died to take away his sins. Paul was slanderously reported as preaching grace as a license to sin (3:8). Those that stand for and preach the gospel of the grace of God should expect the same slander from religious people who vainly think that it’s the law that gives people victory over sin (6:14-15). Israel lived under the law for 1,500 years and was constantly backsliding from God! The law is righteous but it was given to show that we are unrighteous. It cannot make us righteous. Salvation by grace is not salvation TO sin but FROM sin (free from sin - 6:7, 18, 22). 

Description (vs.3-10)
Many think they must be emotionally stirred by preaching every Sunday if they are going live for God but at the root of our practical failures in the Christian life is our ignorance of the truth of God’s word, especially concerning our standing in Christ. We don’t know about this standing through our feelings or experiences. Do you feel dead to sin? But God said that we are! We must study the word of God daily if we are going to be spiritually strong. Sound doctrine is foundational to spiritual growth. We can’t believe and obey what we do not KNOW. We must know that upon salvation we were baptized by the Spirit into Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) and are therefore identified with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection (in Ephesians we learn that we are also ascended and seated with Him in heavenly places). We don't have to try and get victory over the flesh because Christ already accomplished it for us and we are complete in Him (Col. 2:10)! By the way, the spiritual baptism that Paul talks about in his epistles is NOT the same thing as the baptism "WITH the Holy Ghost" that was prophesied to Israel and was always accompanied by signs and wonders. There is a difference between Christ baptizing His disciples with the Holy Ghost for power and the Spirit baptizing us into Christ for salvation. 

Application (vs.11-23)
We must reckon (count it so) in our heart the doctrine that we know and then yield ourselves in obedience to the Spirit (Gal. 5:25; Rom. 12:1-2). Just like we chose to obey the lusts of the flesh we can now choose to obey the leading of the Spirit. Trust and obey! 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Fall Away?

There are certain passages of scripture on which theological battles have been fought for hundreds of years. Perhaps the chief battle ground on which the issue of the eternal security of the believer has been fought is Hebrews 6:4-6.
(4) For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
(5) And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
(6) If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
Is it possible for a member of the Body of Christ to “fall away” and lose salvation? There are many Bible teachers out there who persistently claim that this is the correct interpretation of this and other passages of scripture. The word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). When it is handled correctly it is the most beneficial thing there is. However, when it is handled wrongly it can be used to cause much damage and destruction. The Bible is also compared to fire (Jer. 20:9). A fire can be used for something good, like warming a house. But it can also be used for something bad, like burning the house down. The apostle Paul said that he was not guilty of “handling the word of God deceitfully” (2 Cor. 4:2) but sadly many others are. Satan had the audacity to misquote scripture to Christ as he sought to tempt Him! In Matthew 4:5-7 the Devil quoted Psalm 91:11-12 but purposely omitted the words, “to keep thee in all thy ways”. The promise of Psalm 91:11-12 was not given for the purpose Satan was trying to get Christ to use it for. Paul warned us that Satan has “false apostles, deceitful workers” and “ministers” who appear as “ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:13-15). Our only safeguard against deception is Holy Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16) and that “rightly divided” (2 Tim. 2:15).

As we rightly divide this passage it is very clear that it is not teaching that members of the Body of Christ can lose salvation. First of all, the passage is found in a book that was written to HEBREWS. There are no Hebrews in the Body of Christ (Gal. 3:26-28) for it is one new spiritual man (Eph. 2:15). We are not sure who wrote the book, but we are confident that it was not Paul. Apparently, false teachers wrote a letter to the church at Thessalonica and signed Paul’s name to it (2 Thess. 2:2). Therefore Paul gave an evidence of the letters he wrote to help the church determine the authenticity of his letters. Paul usually used someone else to actually pen the words that he spoke by inspiration but he personally wrote the salutation with his own hand in every letter. He cites this as a “token” to identify letters sent from him (2 Thess. 3:17). Every epistle in the Bible that was written by Paul starts with the same word – “Paul”. The book of Hebrews does not have this token salutation. The doctrinal material for this present dispensation is found in the letters of Paul (1 Cor. 3:10; 4:16-17; 11:1; Phil. 3:17; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:7) and his teaching on the eternal security of the believer is very clear. We are “sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30) by the Spirit. Because we have been justified, we are confident that nobody can lay “anything to the charge of God’s elect” (Rom. 8:33) and therefore we know that nothing shall be able to separate us from “the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39). Jesus told His Jewish disciples that they were in the hand of God (John 10:27-30). That’s a safe position but not as safe as being the hand of God! Believers in this present dispensation of grace are members of the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-13; Eph. 5:25-32). This standing is not based on our works but solely on the person and work of Christ (Phil.3:7-9). If we are ever lost, than that means Christ failed and His body has been mutilated! This can never happen. Men that teach we can lose salvation based on Hebrews 6 deny the clear teaching of the apostle to the Gentiles in favor of scripture that was written to Hebrews.

The Book of Hebrews was written to show Jews how much better the new covenant is as compared with the old covenant. Although both covenants affect Gentiles, they are actually made with “the house of Israel” (Heb. 8:6-13). It is primarily written to Jews in the tribulation period, exhorting them to ENDURE and be faithful in order to obtain salvation. The Bible is a complete revelation. Where is the scripture for the multitudes of tribulation saints? We believe that Hebrews through Revelation was written for them (of course there applications in these epistles for us too). For example, Hebrews 3:14 teaches that people in the Tribulation period are not “partakers of Christ” unless they remain “stedfast unto the end”. The “end” refers to the Second Coming of Christ to the earth at which point Israel will be saved (Rom. 11:26). This matches the teaching of Christ concerning the condition for salvation in the tribulation period (Matt. 24:13). Today, believers are INSTANTLY in the Body of Christ upon salvation. 

In Hebrews 3-4 the provocation of God at Kadesh-barnea is mentioned. This was the great crisis in the history of Israel as they were ready to go into the Land of Promise. In Numbers 14 we learn that Israel had been enlightened, they had tasted of the fruits of the land, they had experienced miraculous powers, and they had the good word of God. But they turned back in unbelief because of the giants in the land. That generation missed their opportunity to enter the land and died in the wilderness over the next 40 years. When judgment was pronounced by God, they had a change of heart and presumed to go in. God was not with them so they were defeated in battle and could not enter the land. They fell away and could not be renewed unto repentance. In the same manner Israel at Pentecost had been enlightened by the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, they had tasted of the heavenly gift, they tasted the good word of God that was preached to them, and they experienced the signs and wonders of the coming kingdom age (“world to come” Heb. 6:5b). They were on the threshold of the kingdom (Acts 3:19-21) yet they, like their fathers, turned back in unbelief. The kingdom was postponed in Acts 7 and God ushered in a new dispensation that He had kept secret since the world began. The risen and glorified Christ from Heaven revealed the mystery of this present age to the apostle Paul. After this age closes with the mystery of the rapture Israel will have a final opportunity to repent and receive her King and His kingdom. There will be a godly remnant of Israel that receives the King and His kingdom and will enter their land fully and finally redeemed by the blood of the new covenant. 

No one today could duplicate the experience of Hebrews 6:4-6 any more than they could Numbers 14. National Israel committed the "unpardonable sin" (Matt. 12:31-32) of rejecting the Holy Spirit’s testimony to the risen Messiah after Pentecost and they are now blinded in part until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in (Rom. 11:25). No one today is tasting of “the powers of the world to come” and so since the conditions laid down in Hebrews 6 are not being met today, neither are the consequences.

Acts 2 (part 3)

In our last post we considered the apostle Peter’s message to the men of Israel on the day of Pentecost (vs.14-40) in which he proved from the scriptures that the same Jesus that they rejected and crucified was raised and exalted by God and that He is both Lord and Christ. The end of the chapter records the response of the Jews to that message (v.41) and the manner of living of the church at Jerusalem (v.42-47). 

The Response (v.41)

3,000 Jews gladly received Peter’s invitation to repent and be baptized. They had been pricked in the heart and were troubled by their guilt of crucifying their Messiah and so when they heard that they could receive the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost they GLADLY responded. That 3,000 were saved on Pentecost is usually held up as example of great revival. However, there was a great multitude that heard the message and the majority did not repent. The whole nation needed to repent (note "every one of you" in v.38) and although 3,000 was a good start it was still a comparatively small number in light of the fact that the whole nation needed to repent.

This verse is often used as a proof text to teach that water baptism puts you into the church. However, what happens in this verse is in response what Peter said to Israel in v.38 which is not the message we are to preach today (compare with Acts 16:30-31). Peter did not tell these Jews to be baptized to join the church but to receive remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost. We should never rip a verse out of its context in order to support a preconcieved idea. In this present age every believer is baptized by the Spirit into the church which is the Body of Christ upon salvation (1 Cor. 12:13). That is the "one baptism" upon which the fellowship of the Body of Christ is to be based (Eph. 4:5). Yes, the apostle Paul baptized believers (Acts 16, 18) but there is no record of him commanding it as a requirement for church membership. I believe in the importance of the local church and that water baptism is for this age but I don't believe water baptism is required for salvation or fellowship. The only passages of scripture that REQUIRE water baptism are in the context of Israel and the gospel of the kingdom. 

The 3,000 repentant Jews were said to be added to “them”. Who are the “them” (v.47)? This is the first mention of the word “church” in Acts. A church is simply a called-out assembly and the term is NOT exclusive to this age (there was an OT church, Acts 7:38). The church in early Acts was made up of Jews that believed the gospel of the kingdom and were therefore called out of unbelieving Israel (v.40) and assembled as the “little flock” of true Israel (Lk. 12:32). This church was in existence before Acts 2, else how could the 3,000 souls be added to it (Acts 1:4, 15)? The church we read about in the beginning of the book of Acts is made up of Jews only (Acts 11:19) and they are still operating with the kingdom in view. Many preachers claim that we are to follow the pattern of the church in Acts 2 but I don’t see any of them doing it.

The Manner of Living of the Church at Jerusalem (vs.42-47)  

They were stedfast in:
1. The apostles’ doctrine – Which was the doctrine Christ taught them in His earthly ministry and in the 40 days prior to His acension. It was all based OT prophecy concerning the kingdom (Acts 1:3; Rom. 15:8). 
2. Fellowship – They were together and in one accord. According to the order of words in this verse, their fellowship was based on their doctrine.
3. Breaking of bread – Some say this refers to the Lord’s Supper but it probably just refers to meals (v. 46)
4. Prayers – They observed the hours of prayer in the temple (Acts 3:1)

Being baptized with the Holy Ghost, the apostles had power to work the wonders and signs of the kingdom which caused the Jews to fear because this was being done in the name of the One they had crucified (v.43; 5:12-16).

Because the kingdom was still in view and they were expecting the return of their King they sold all possessions just as Jesus had instructed them (Lk. 12:32-33). This proved their faith because in the kingdom they will gain much more (Matt. 19:28). They were able to have all things common because they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. This does not work in the world because of man's sinful and selfish human nature (Marx misused this passage to teach communism). Compare this passage and Acts 4:32-37 with Paul's instruction to us in 1 Thess. 4:11-12 and notice the dispensational difference.

This church was in the TEMPLE every day for prayer and worship. There was no revelation at this point that they were not to operate according to the Law (see Peter's attitude in Acts 10:14, 28). 

Because they were in fellowship with God and one another they had joy (1 John 1:3-4). At this point the people showed favor to the disciples but soon the Jewish leaders will begin to bring persecution as they stubbornly refuse to repent. 

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