This Guy Walks Into A Blog…

I don’t normally do requests, but I do consider recommendations.  From a blog I follow, I was directed to an entry on another blog about biblical perspectives on hell, and from there entered into a discussion about life and death.  That discussion led me to Romans 5.  I don’t typically study topically, my method of study makes topics excruciatingly difficult and inordinately long.  I’ve spent around 30 years, off and on, studying the biblical meaning of life and death…see what I mean?

So, I want to begin by thanking Amanda from “Kindling Truth” for the nudge toward this chapter.  She actually had a very long page of references, but many at the top were from this chapter.  Anyway, she can’t be blamed for what I say here, she’s simply the one the Holy Spirit used to direct me to this chapter.

I believe that Romans 5 is a “hinge” in Paul’s explanation of his understanding of the good news of Jesus.  I see in this chapter a point where Paul’s explanation pivots, swinging from an emphasis on the problem to an emphasis on the solution.  In chapters 1 through 4, Paul describes that we are separated from our Creator, whether we have the law of God from the Hebrew Scriptures or not.  Basically, after chapter 4, the conclusion is that we’re all lost, Jews and Gentiles.

In chapter 5, the discussion swings into a focus on the solution, and how the solution perfectly fits the problem.  In this chapter, Paul uses a lot of different words, all referring to a covenant violation of some sort.  If you want to know how Paul can pin “covenant violations” on Gentiles, the answer is found in Romans 2:12-16.  And, honestly, calling these actions “covenant violations” is simply convenient, more than being accurate.  Essentially, our Creator doesn’t want us to do them.  Call them what you will, define them how ever you like, but the basic truth underlying the problem of humanity is that we do what our Creator doesn’t want, and don’t do what He does want.

But, why? There are lots of answers to this question.  The writer of the blog I followed to find Amanda’s believes that we have no choice.  God’s sovereignty means that every thought and action that follows is predetermined by God, and we are powerless to do otherwise.  I don’t subscribe to that belief, but I don’t fault him for it either.  He supports it through Scripture, Jesus is his Master, and his relationship with God is through the Jesus of Scripture.  So, disagree all you want, he’s still a fellow disciple.

Still, if the answer to why isn’t predetermination, then what?  In Romans 5:12, Paul introduces a theme he will return to later.  He writes of the “one through whom sin entered the world”, and most readers agree he refers to Adam in Genesis 3.  Paul begins a contrast between Adam and Jesus, point for point, showing how Jesus solves the problem created by Adam.  He will return to it again in Romans 7 in much more detail.  Here, Paul simply touches lightly the points of contrast.

But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. (Romans 5:15 NASB)

Did you notice the “much more” element of the contrast?  Look again at verses 9, 10, and 17, and you will see this same element.  The solution through Jesus overwhelms the problem.  Wait, have you noticed that I haven’t defined the problem?  Okay, here’s the “hint” from Paul:

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2 NASB)

The problem is defined here, by the solution, “…we have peace with God…”.  The problem is that we have been aligned against Him, enemies of our Creator.  And, because of this, we deserved wrath (see verse 9).  This is described in a lot more detail in chapters 1 through 3, but here, in this “hinge” of his discussion, Paul contrasts the resulting “death” with the gift of “life”.  Look at verses 17, 18, and 21.  These are contrasts where our death is traded for life.  Why? Because of what Paul has said in verse 10,

For if while 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. (Romans 5:10 NASB)

The solution through Jesus overwhelms our problem.  We were dead, but the life of Jesus overwhelms our death.  We are supposed to be dead.  We earned it, death is our “wages” earned as a part of the rebellion against our Creator.  Many today embrace it, they love death, revel in it, consider it their privilege.  Yet, read, again, verse 10, “…while we were enemies…”.  Yes, many do wallow jubilant in their death, but that didn’t stop our Creator from solving their problem, and ours, through His Son, Jesus.

What I learn from this is that death is optional.  I know my buddy at Perfect Chaos disagrees, and that’s fine, but even he agrees that the problem of death, predetermined though it may be, is solved in Jesus, even if for another predetermined population.  It’s still Jesus, He’s still the answer to the problem of death.  I believe I have a choice in this, he doesn’t, you may nor may not.  Regardless, a solution exists.  I don’t have to remain in death.  Neither do those who claim to revel in that existence the Scripture defines as death.  Even though they “love” it, they can be saved from it.  Jesus’ willing action in death overwhelms the problem of our death, and, as He rose from death, so His life now becomes ours.  And the life defining our existence has no end, no wrath, and no death.

I have chosen life, others have submitted to the determination of our Creator to live, and both of us call Him Lord.

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:19 NASB)

What does your view through the knothole lead you to believe this morning?  Are you bound for eternity in the promised land?

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8 thoughts on “This Guy Walks Into A Blog…

  1. Hi Matt!

    Some interesting thoughts here. But I just wanted to clarify – I don’t believe events are predetermined (at some point in the past), instead I believe God is actively controlling all activity in existence. So events are determined by God, but not predetermined by God (although it’s quite possibly God makes plans in the same way as humans make plans).

    Apologies if you realised this is my view already, it’s just that the ‘pre’ in ‘predetermined’ can give people the wrong idea. I don’t want people to think I believe events were set in motion at the beginning of creation, as many materialists and determinists believe. On the contrary, I believe God is living and actively unfolding events in the ‘now’.

    Peace be with you and have a blessed week 🙂

    Steven

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    1. Hey Steven, that’s actually a really good distinction to make, and I apologize for misrepresenting your view. The way you put it seems much more relational to me, and I like the picture of my Master being so involved in His creation, it is a great image. Thank you for clarifying!

      Blessings, Steven!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Matt!

    I hope you are doing well. I had some time to look over your articles more closely, and I have some thoughts.

    I agree that Romans 5 is centered around the solution presented as the good news of Jesus Christ. For my thoughts on Romans 1-3, you can look at this article:

    https://kindlingtruth.com/2018/04/26/there-is-none-righteous-no-not-one/

    You write in your article, in the fourth paragraph that our creator does not want us to perform the covenant? Am I understanding that correctly? You referenced Romans 2:12-16. Here is my thoughts there:

    “12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;

    13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

    14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:

    15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

    16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.”

    It does not seem to me that God does not want us to do the law. We are not to be hearers of the law of God, but doers. How can we be doers of the law? That, dear brother Matt, is the gospel. Let me explain.

    We cannot do what is good according to our ability. The laws of the Jews did not make them truly righteous, because either they were hearers and not doers, or they found loopholes that justified themselves in wickedness. For this cause, whether gentile or Jew, law brings death because man’s nature will always sin. Law cannot change the heart of man. Jesus can. In writing the laws of the kingdom in our hearts, we are of the circumcision of the heart (rather than the circumcision of the flesh, as the law). That is a good example of the difference.One is death, the other is life.

    We are not to perform law according to man or old covenant law. We are to perform the law given by grace through faith, a law that is perfect and keeps the will of God and changes the natures of those who seek to keep the commandments of God. There most certainly is a covenant to keep. It is the second covenant as written in Jeremiah (also in Hebrews 8:10 and 10:16) I recommend reading Hebrews as part of your life/death study.

    “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people (Jeremiah 31:33).”

    In Jesus, we are passed from the death of law and man’s sinful ways and justified by faith in the promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This gospel is forgiveness of our sins, and also, it is having a change of nature that creates true obedience. Righteousness brings that peace you mention in your article, “Life a Relationship Restored.”

    “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever (Isaiah 32.17).”

    Why can man not do what God wants?

    I agree with the predestination point of view. Mine is not quite the same as Stevens, but I do believe that God is in control of all things — including those who can accept Jesus and who cannot. However, that is a discussion for another time. We can agree on one thing. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, it is in our nature to sin, and to sin is to do things that bring death. Law does not offer sufficient freedom from sin and death, because man will pervert law unless they have a change of heart that restores them to the righteous ways of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. A law given by grace through faith. The laws and path of life and peace.

    I will write up a study that details the theme of life and death in Romans 5 and answer those questions you emailed me also. I will email that to you.

    I believe your understanding is heading in the same direction as my own, other than some doctrinal differences. Your article on Life a Relationship Restored shows this. However, consider what death and life really are. We cannot underestimate the promises of the gospel, and the fact that there is a law we are expected to perform by the grace-given things of the kingdom of God that dwells within the hearts of sincere worshipers of Jesus Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Amanda, I’m glad you had a chance to spend some time reading the entry. I’m not clear on why you think I said we don’t have a covenant to keep though. In the fourth paragraph, I’m making two assertions. First, I’m claiming that Paul is saying that the fundamental problem of all humanity is disobedience. Second, I’m saying that the terminology used, whether “sin” or “covenant violation” is immaterial to the problem, we do what God doesn’t want, and don’t do what He wants. We’re disobedient and rebellious.

      Neither of these assertions claims we don’t have a covenant to keep. In fact, my preferred term, covenant violation, assumes the opposite. I refer the reader to Romans 2:12-16 to show how Gentiles, without the law, are also under a covenant, as you point out, written on their hearts. That’s how Paul can claim in verses 13 and 14 that, even though sin isn’t “counted” without the law, everyone still died from Adam to Moses. It’s because even Gentiles had the law written on their hearts, and were still in a broken covenant relationship with their Creator.

      That said, I agree with most of what you have as an explanation to me of why Gentiles, and believers, are under “covenant”. I’m not really one for determinism, except on a macro scale of my Master’s purposes and designs, but I’m not opposed to the view either. As to why we can’t do what God wants, that’s pretty much what Paul is going on about from here through chapter 8. In chapter 5, he points out that grace solves the unsolvable problem, and from there on, he discusses what we are to do and be in response to the solution of grace.

      That’s a gross oversimplification, but I think it’s at least a decent summary of Romans 5 through 8. I’m not sure how you interpreted what I wrote to mean that we don’t have to be obedient to a “law” of God, but, regardless, I hope you will be pleased to discover that’s not my view, not even close. As Paul says, “may it never be!”

      I don’t know if that clarifies sufficiently, but perhaps you can ask clarifying questions via email.

      Blessings upon you!

      matt

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for clarifying! It was you statment in paragrah 4, “our Creator doesnt want us to do them.” I missread that, and I apologize. Do you agree that obedience comes from grace? I do. I think we agree on that. Grace is not a means to continue in disobedience, right? Im sure you would agree. It bring life and freedom from sin. Praise the Lord for his mercy and healing grace!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Totally agree that grace isn’t a means to continue in disobedience. Paul is very clear about that. I believe that our life lived with our Creator, through the gracious gift of His Son, has the effect of changing us more and more in the image of our Savior, Jesus.

        Liked by 1 person

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