Homosexuality, New York and Marriage

Posted by on Jun 25, 2011 in Contemporary Culture, The Gospel and the Christian Life, The Gospel and the church, The Gospel and the Ministry, What is the Gospel?, What We Write About

zv7qrnb

Introduction

Yesterday June 24th, 2011, the state of New York became the sixth state in the United States to legalize gay marriage. The New York Senate passed the bill earlier yesterday evening (June 24th, 2011) and then Governor Andrew Cumo signed it into law. New York joins Vermont and New Hampshire as the only states to legalize gay marriage through state legislatures. In every other state it has happened through the courts. This bill doubles the number of people in the United States who will have access to same-sex marriage.  In this article, I want to explain briefly the biblical arguments against homosexuality and how to minister the Gospel in this climate.

Biblical Arguments

In the beginning God created man and He created man in His image and likeness. The Lord saw that man was in need of a helpmate and He took from Adam his rib and formed Eve. Adam and Eve then became one flesh and the Lord established the institution of marriage. In Leviticus 18 the Lord gave laws related to sexual practices. These specific laws assume the general prohibition of adultery (Ex. 20:14). Leviticus 18:22 outlaws all homosexuality (Lev. 20:13; Rom. 1:27; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10).

Romans 1:26-27 make it clear that God gave them up to dishonorable passions a reference that goes back to Romans 1:18, 24. God gave them up is a judicial term in the Greek in Romans 1:24 used for handing over a prisoner to his sentence. When men abandon God he will abandon them (Judg. 10:13; 2 Chron. 15:2; 24:20; Ps. 8:11-12; Hos. 4:17; Matt. 15:14; Acts 7:38-42; 14:16). He accomplishes this indirectly and immediately by removing his restraint and allowing their sin to run its course and directly and eventually by specific acts of divine judgment and punishment.

The dishonorable passions mentioned in Romans 1:26 are identified in vv.26-27 as homosexuality a sin roundly condemned in Scripture (Gen. 19; Lev. 18:22; 1 Cor. 6:911; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-5; 1 Tim. 1:9-10; Jude 7). Rather than the normal Greek term for women, women in Romans 1:26 is a general word for female. Paul mentions women first to show the extent of debauchery under the wrath of abandonment, because in most cultures women are the last to be affected by moral collapse. Paul in Romans 1:27 gives the law of sowing and reaping and shows how it has come into effect. Paul refers here to the self-destructive nature of this sin.

Sexual Sin and the Gospel

Rather than just focusing on one specific sin (homosexuality) I want to speak generally to the issue of sexual sin and then close with how the Gospel addresses this issue. 1st Corinthians 6:9-11 is instructive on sexual sin and the Gospel. The kingdom of God is the spiritual sphere of salvation where God rules as king over all who belong to him by faith. All believers are in that spiritual kingdom and yet are awaiting to enter into the full inheritance of it in the age to come. People who are characterized by these iniquities are not saved. While believers can and do commit these sins they do not characterize them as an unbroken life pattern. When they do, it demonstrates that the person is not in God’s kingdom. True believers who do sin, resent that sin and seek to gain victory over it (Rom. 7:14-25). The sexually immoral are all who indulge in sexual immorality. Idolaters are those who worship any false god or follow any false religious system. Adulters are married persons who indulge in sexual acts outside of marriage.

The two Greek terms translated by the phrase “men who practice homosexuality” refer to those who exchange and corrupt normal male-female sexual roles and relations. Transvestim, sex changes and other gender pervasions are included (Gen. 1:27; Deut. 22:5). Those whom some translations refer to as “sodomites” or “effeminate” are so-called because the sin of male-male sex dominated the city of Sodom (Gen. 1820; 19:4-5). This sinful prevision is condemned always, in any form, by Scripture ( Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Tim. 1:10).

Paul in 1st Corinthians 6:11 says some of you which though not all Christians have been guilty of all those particular sins, every Christian is equally an ex-sinner, since Christ came to save sinners (Matt. 9:13; Rom. 5:20). Some who used to have those patterns of sinful life were falling into those old sins again and needing to be reminding that if they went all the back to live as they used to, they were not going to inherit eternal salvation because it would indicate they were never saved (2 Cor. 5:17).

Paul ends his discussion on sexual sin by revisiting the Gospel. He wanted the Corinthians and people today to understand who Jesus is and what He has done. Washed in 1st Corinthians 6:11 refers to new life, through spiritual cleansing and regeneration. Sanctified results in new behavior which a transformed life always produces. Sin’s total domination is broken and replaced by a new pattern of obedience and holiness. Justifies refers to a new standing before God in which the Christian is clothed in Christ’s righteousness. In his death, the believer’s sins were put to his account and he suffered for them, so that his righteousness might be put to an account, so that we might be blessed for it (Rom. 3:26; 2:22-25; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:8-9; 1 Peter 3:18). The Holy Spirit is the agent of salvation’s transformation (John 3:3-5).

Conclusion

The fact that New York has voted to support gay marriage ought not to surprise the Christian community. Christians, we live in a time where the truth is being devalued and where religion of all stripes and types are being privatized by people. The fact is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ calls men and women to come into the light of His presence and be exposed for who they are. Ultimately the Gospel will prevail over the gay community because one day whether they agree to it or not— they will stand before their Maker- the One who instituted marriage, and they will give an account for their perversion of the institution of marriage. The Lord God will not relent on those who dishonor His name and rob Him of the glory due unto His name.

All have sinned whether they have sinned by viewing pornography, adultery or committing homosexual behavior. The Gospel addresses the porn addict, the adultery, the young man or women who has sex outside of marriage, or who cheats on his/her spouse. The Gospel addresses the man or woman who has engaged in homosexual behavior. The Gospel is the only solution for men and women who are stuck in the sin of sexual sin. The Gospel is the only solution because it is the only means God has authorized to bring life out of death.

Jesus knew the woman at the well in John 4 was trapped and so He went out of His way to reach the women. Since He knew the woman’s sin and what she was struggling with in mercy He exposed her sin. The Lord God wants to expose your sin whether it is sexual sin or any other sin. He does this because of His mercy and His love towards you. There is coming a day though when that mercy and love will not be extended anymore. The Gospel calls for a response—what will be your response—will you respond to who Jesus is and what He has done or will you turn your back on Him, and be confirmed in your sin?

The institution of marriage is hill every born again believer ought to die on. God created the institution of marriage for the purpose of man and women becoming one. Paul teaches that the institution of marriage is a Gospel issue because the husband and the wife are to reflect Christ in their marriage. The Gospel itself needs no defense but it does call for our allegiance and as Christians—we ought to stand upon it firmly and proclaim it loudly whether online or wherever we are.

Marriage is a Gospel issue because it is divine institution God instituted between one man and one woman for life. God created this institution for our benefit, and therefore it is worthy of standing up for and proclaiming and celebrating; especially in a world that devalues marriage and treats it as common. Hold marriage high my brothers and sisters it is a God ordained institution. As Christians we need to hold firm to the truth God has declared to us in His Word for His Word is Truth, and His Gospel is sure.

 

Read More »

The Marks of Grace in the life of the Christian

Posted by on Jun 9, 2011 in The Gospel and the Christian Life, The Gospel and the Ministry, What We Write About

Introduction

Today were going to look at 2nd Peter 1:3-12 and conclude with what we can learn from this passage. In this first main section in 2nd Peter 1:3-12, Peter emphasizes that God’s grace results in godliness.

2nd Peter 1:3-4

His in 2nd Peter 1:3 refers to Jesus Christ. Christ’s power is the source of the believer’s sufficiency and perseverance (matt. 24:3-; Mark 5:30; Luke 4:14; 5:17; Rom. 1:4; 2 Cor. 1:29). The genuine Christian is eternally secure in his salvation and will preserve and grow because he has received everything necessary to sustain eternal life through Christ’s power.

To be godly is to live reverently, loyally, and obediently toward God. Peter means the genuine believer ought not to ask God for something more (as if something necessary to sustain his growth, strength, and perservance was missing) to become godly, because he already has every spiritual resource to manifest, sustain, and perfect godly living.

“Knowledge” is a key word in 2nd Peter (2 Peter 1:2, 5-6, 8; 2:20; 3:18). Throughout Scripture, it implies an intimate knowledge (Amos 3:2). The knowledge of Christ emphasized here is not a superficial knowledge, or a mere surface awareness of the facts about Christ, but a genuine, personal sharing of  life with Christ, based on repentance from sin and personal faith in him (Matt. 7:21).  This call “called us to his own glory and excellence” as always when mentioned in the New Testament epistles is the effectual call to salvation (1 Peter 1:15; 2:21; 5:10; Rom. 8:30). This saving call is based on the sinner’s understanding of Christ’s revealed majesty and moral excellence evidencing that he is Lord and Savior. This implies that there must be a clear presentation of Christ’s person and work as the God-Man in evangelism, which attracts men to salvation (1 Cor. 2:1-2). The cross and resurrection must clearly reveal his “glory and excellence.”

Precious and very great promises refer to the promises of abundant and eternal life. The expression “partakers of the divine nature” is not different from the concepts of being born again, born from above (John 3:3; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23), being in Christ (Rom. 8:1), or being the home of the Trinity (John 14:17-23). The precious promises of salvation result in becoming God’s children in the present age (John 1:12; Rom. 8:9; Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27), and thereby sharing in God’s nature by the possession of his eternal life. Christians do not become little gods, but they are “new creations” (2 cor. 5:17) and have the Holy Spirit living in them (1 cor. 6:19-20). Moreover, believers will partake of the divine nature in a greater way when they bear a glorified body like Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:20-21; 1 John 3:1-3). The word corruption has the idea of something decomposing or decaying. “Escaped” depicts a successful flight from danger. At the time of salvation, the believer escapes from the power that the rottenness in the world has over him through his fallen, sinful nature.

 

The Marks of grace in the life of the Christian

Because of all the God-given blessings in 2nd Peter 1:3-4 the believer cannot be indifferent or self-satisfied. Such an abundance of divine grace calls for total dedication. Make every effort means to make maximum effort. The Christian life is not lived to the honor of God without effort. Even though God has poured his divine power into the believer, the Christian himself is required to make every disciplined effort alongside of what god has done (Phil 2:12-13; Col. 1:28-29). Supplement is to give lavishly and generously. In Greek culture, the word was used for a choirmaster who was responsible for supplying everything that was needed for his choir. The word never meant to equip sparingly, but to supply lavishly for a noble performance. God has given us faith and all the grace necessary for godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4). We add to those by our diligent devotion to personal righteousness.

First in Peter’s list of virtues is a word that, in classical Greek, meant the God-given ability to perform heroic deeds. It also came to mean that quality of life that made someone stand out as excellent. It never meant to cloistered excellence, or excellence of attitude, but excellence that is demonstrated in life. Peter is here writing of moral energy, the power that performs deeds of excellence. Knowledge means understanding, correct insight, truth properly comprehended and applied. This virtue involves a diligent study and pursuit of the Word of God.

Self-control literally means “holding oneself in.” In Peter’s day, self-control was used of athletes, who were used to be self-restrained and self-disciplined. Thus, a Christian is to control the flesh, the passions, and the bodily desires, rather than allowing himself to be controlled by them (1 Cor. 9:27; Gal. 5:23). Moral excellence, guided by knowledge, disciplines desire and makes it the servant, not the master, of one’s life. Steadfastness, that is patience or endurance in doing what is right, never giving in to temptation or trial. Perservance is that spiritual staying power that will die before it gives in. It is the virtue that can endure, not simply with resignation but with vibrant hope. Brotherly affection is brotherly kindness, and mutual sacrifice for one another. The love Peter has in mind here is described in 1 Cor. 13 and 1st Peter 4:8.

To be ineffective is to be indolent and empty (Titus 1:12; James 2:20-22). With these virtues increasing in one’s life (2 Peter 1:5-7) a Christian will not be useless or ineffective. Unfruitful means unproductive. When these Christian qualities are not present in a a believer’s life, he will be indistinguishable from an evildoer or a superficial believer. But when these qualities are increasing in a Christian’s life, there is the manifestation of the “divine nature” within the believer (2 Peter 1:4).

These qualities refer to the qualities mentioned in 2n Peter 1:5-7. A professing Christian who is missing these virtues mentioned above, is therefore, unable to discern his true spiritual condition, and thus can have no assurance of his salvation. The failure to diligently pursue spiritual virtues produces spiritual amnesia. Such a person, unable to discern his spiritual condition, will have no confidence about his profession of faith. He/she may be saved and possess all the blessings of vv.3-5, but without the excellences of vv.5-7, he/she will live in doubt and fear.

“Make your calling and election” expresses the bull’s-eye Peter has been shooting at in vv.5-9. Though god is “sure” who his elect are and has given them an eternally secure salvation, the Christian might not always have assurance of his salvation. Security is the Holy spirit-revealed fact that salvation si forever. Assurance is one’s confidence that he possesses that eternal salvation. In other words, the believer who pursues the spiritual qualities mentioned above guarantees to himself by spiritual fruit that he was called (2 Peter 1:3; Rom. 8:30; 1 Peter 2:21) and chosen (1 Peter 1:2) by God to salvation. As the Christian pursues the qualities enumerated by peter (2 Peter 1:5-7) and sees that his lfie is useful and fruitful (v.8), he will not stumble into doubt, despair, fear or questioning, but enjoy assurance that he/she is saved.

Peter piles up the words “richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal king” to bring joy to the weary Christian’s heart. An abundant entrance into eternal heaven is the hope and reality for a Christian who lives a faithful, fruitful life here on earth. Peter’s point is that a Christian who pursues the listed virtues (vv.5:7) will not only enjoy assurance in the present, but a full, rich reward in the future lfie (1 Cor. 4:5; Rev. 22:12). I intend always refers to the fact that truth always need repetition because believers forget so easily (2nd Thess. 2:5; Jude 5).

Conclusion

Before Peter gets to listing the virtues that a believer is to possess increasingly in his/her life- he grounds his teaching  in 2nd Peter 1:3-4 in the work of Christ. 2nd Peter 1:3-4 says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”

Peter emphasizes in 2nd Peter 1:3-4 that God’s grace results in godliness. God has acted in his infinite power to accommodate salvation, something only he could accomplish and what human ability could not accomplish. God Himself through the person and work of Christ calls us to grow in and make every effort to possess the qualities listed in 2nd Peter 1:5-6.  This list is not a legalistic code but rather the desires and features of a transformed heart. The exhortation to live a new life is grounded in the divine power and promises that were granted to believers when they came to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

When Peter says “supplement”  your faith in 2nd Peter 1:5 he is exhorting Christians not merely confess faith in Christ but to live as He taught. He is not saying that works are a prerequisite for salvation but rather is arguing that faith must take concrete form in life. All the virtues listed in vv.5-7 are results of faith, so faith is listed first, while love is listed last.

The godliness that peter speaks of in verse 5 means devoutness, piety, devotion to God. Can you’re walk with God today be described as Peter does in 2nd Peter 1:5-7? Are you growing in virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love? Peter says in vs.8 that if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Peter is saying that a lifelong a pattern of growth in Christlike character is expected of Christian and is the key to fruitful ministry. By contrast knowledge of Christ is ineffective and unfruitful unless accompanied by a life that increasingly exhibits the qualities of vv.5-7.

I urge you today in the name of the Risen Savior who has given you new life in Him, and caused you to be “partakers of the divine nature” to grow in knowledge and understanding of Christ so that your life may increasingly reflect the qualities listed in 2nd Peter 1:5-7. Peter emphasizes two things- first the grounding of our faith in the work of Christ and second, the outworking of our faith in Christ.  When the grounding and outworking of our faith are combined together Peter says that our lives as believers will be effective. When we neglect the inward working of grace in our lives, Peter is saying that we will be ineffective and unfruitful for God and His kingdom. Grow in your personal walk with God. Grow in your knowledge of His Word, His Son and the work of God.

I am always glad to hear from readers. Feel free to leave a comment or write me at dave@servantsfograce.org Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com.DaveJJenkins or follow us on facebook athttp://www.facebook.com/Servantsofgrace

 

Read More »

Preaching the Gospel to Oneself

Posted by on Jun 8, 2011 in The Gospel and the Christian Life, What We Write About

C.J. Mahaney gives five ways that one can preach the Gospel to themselves. First, keep the Gospel the main thing, second, pray the Gospel, third, sing the Gospel, fourth review has the Gospel has changed you, and finally, study the Gospel.[1] Dr. Piper notes that, “The gospel of Christ crucified and risen is meant to be preached to our soul–both in corporate worship where we hear it week after week, and from hour to hour as we preach it to ourselves in the daily fight for joy…The cross must be central in the fight for joy. We must put ourselves under is preaching on the Lord’s Day, and we must preach it to ourselves all day every day”.[2]

Preaching the Gospel to oneself is a reminder that the Gospel is more than what initiates one’s salvation. The Gospel is an ongoing activity which the believer must believe and live every day of our Christian lives for, because it makes one more like Christ. The Gospel saves the believer (moves them from spiritual death to spiritual life) and also sanctifies them (progressively becoming like Christ).

One doesn’t become a Christian by faith, by cleaning oneself up, by works, by effort, or by trying harder. Christ is the one who clears up the sinner- change happens when the believer clings to and embraces Him in faith. In other words the believer is justified by faith alone in Christ alone, so too they are engaging in a process of being sanctified by Christ.

The Gospel helps believers’ to see their sinful responses, recognize it for what it is by revealing the need to repent and believe (Mark 1:15). To preach the Gospel to oneself means that as a believer one faces up to one’s own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life.  Preaching the Gospel to oneself means that one appropriates again by faith, the fact that Jesus fully satisfied the law of God, that He is your propitiation, and that God’s holy wrath is no longer directed toward you.[3]

Preaching the Gospel to oneself means that one takes at face value the precious words of Romans 4:7-8. It means that one believes on the testimony of God found in Romans 8:1. It means one believe the truth of Galatians 3:13. It means one believes that Jesus forgave one of all his/her sins (Col. 2:13 [and now] “presents you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:22).

Preaching the Gospel to oneself means dwelling on the promise that God has removed one’s transgressions from one as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12), that He has blotted out one’s transgressions and remember one sin no more (Isaiah 43:25). It means realizing that all of these wonderful promises of forgiveness are based upon the atoning death of Jesus Christ.

Preaching the Gospel to oneself means preaching the Cross. The Gospel is the means by which the Christian has been saved, and by which one must live every day. Paul in Romans 3:24 teaches that one is justified by grace, referring to what one might call the point-in-time salvation, the day one trusted in Christ. Paul in Romans 5:2 spoke of “this grace in which we now stand.” Here he refers to the day-to-day standing before God as being on the basis of one’s justification- that is, on the basis of grace. This grace- unmerited favor to those who deserve wrath- comes to us through the Lord Jesus Christ.

God is the “God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10) and is disposed to deal with people by grace, but not at the expense of His justice. With justice satisfied, God can now deal with sinners in grace, both in salvation and in one’s day-to-day relationship with Him. Preaching the gospel to oneself will help one seriously pursue holiness. Preaching the Gospel to oneself will cause one to realize what an awful sinner one is. If one is not firmly rooted in the gospel and has not learned to preach it to oneself one will soon become discouraged and slack off in one’s pursuit of holiness.


[1] C.J. Mahaney, Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing (Colorado, Multnomah, 2006), 132-145.

[2] John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy, (Wheaton, Crossway, 2004), 76-77.

[3] Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness (Colorado Springs, NavPress, 2006), 59.

Read More »

Indicative and Imperative

Posted by on Jun 7, 2011 in The Gospel and the Christian Life, The Gospel and the Ministry, What is the Gospel?, What We Write About

Running as a constant motif through Romans 6 is the interplay between what is called the indicative and the imperative. In the former mode, Paul insists that God has himself accomplished our decisive break with sin: “We died to sin” (v.2); “our old self was crucified with him” (v.6); we are “dead to sin but alive to God” (v.11); we “have been brought from death to life” (v.13); “sin shall not be your master” (v.14); “you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness” (v.18); “you have been set free from sin and become slaves to God” (v.22).

But Paul regularly intersperses his indicatives with imperatives that make us responsible for winning the battle against sin: “Do not let sin reign” (v.12); “do not offer the parts of your body to sin but offer yourselves to God” (v.13); “For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members(C) as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.” (v.19). the combination of these emphases presents both a theological and practical problem.

The theological problem is to combine these two so that we can achieve a coherent picture and at the same time do justice to Paul’s teachings on related topics. No theologian completely ignores one of these emphases or the other, but many focus on one side or the other. One popular option has been to isolate the two into separate compartments. This is the approach of the liberal theologians of the late 1800s and the early 1900s, who emphasized the ethical teaching of the Bible at the expense of its religious teaching. What people did was severed from what they believed. At the other extreme are those who virtually subsume the imperative under the indicative. What God has done is so overwhelmingly powerful that Christian obedience becomes a kind of automatic response. It is almost as if God acts through us.

Most scholars recognize these two views as extreme and seek some way to integrate the indicative and the imperative without dismissing either one. One thing is clear in Paul: The imperative grows out of the indicative. In Romans 6, for instance, Paul does not call on people to wage a war against sin with the hope that god will take their side and win the war for them. Throughout his teaching-and, indeed, throughout the Bible- God takes the initiative. In grace, he acts to help his people, and he asks them to respond. As the title of one of the most influential essays on this subject says, “Being precedes act.” Or to use the phrase found throughout the literature: Christians are called to become what they are.

While, then, it is clear that the imperative is based on this indicative, we must be careful not to separate the two, as if our obedience is the product of our own unaided effort. Justification by faith and sanctification by struggle is the slogan that has been coined to describe this kind of view of the Christian life. We must recognize that the grace and power of God that justified us continue to be at work to sanctify us. God expects us to obey him, but our very obedience is the product of his grace. The Puritan Jeremiah Bourroughs put it like this: “From him Christ as from a fountain, sanctification flows into the souls of the Saints: their sanctification comes not so much from their struggling, and endeavors, and vows, and resolutions, as it comes flowing to them from their union with him.”” Or to use the imagery of theologian Helmut Thielicke, believers are responsible to open their mouths so that they may drink from the river of sanctifying grace.

In the practical experience of living the Christian life, we find both extremes as well. The one extreme we call moralism or legalism. In its strict sense, legalism is the effort to gain salvation by our own efforts. While some religions tends toward legalism, it is seldom found, at least in its pure form, among Christians. But common is a softer legalism; the belief perhaps not even clearly articulated that we can obey God  by our own efforts or through our own program. Many well-intentions believers fall into this trap, implicitly separating the indicative of God’s grace from the moral effort of Christians so that the two are virtually unrelated. Self-help programs are a fad these days, and believers easily bring this human-centered perspective into their life of faith.

To guard against moralism we must root all of our obedience in those disciplines of the Christian life that put us in touch with god’s own power: reading Scripture, worship, and prayer. It is through these means that God has promised to communicate his grace to us. We must always evaluate our own personal as well as the church’s programs of Christian living against this test: Are they effective channels of God’s grace? No program that does not pass this test will make any real or long-lasting change in the lives of believers.

At the opposite extreme from moralism is what we might call the magical view of the Christian life. Again, we find sincere and dedicated believers who fall into this trap. They write books, preach sermons, and present seminars, all with the basic thrust that the key to the victorious Christian life is simply letting our new redeemed natures take their course. “Let go and let God” is the slogan. The indicative is given pride of place in this approach, and it is often attractively presented as an alternative to legalism or moralism.

But the magical view gives insufficient emphasis to the reality of the imperative. God commands us to act, and the very fact that Paul’s letters are peppered with commands shows that obedience is not automatic. True, Jesus compared the believer to the tree that automatically produces good fruit. But as one theologian has noted, people are not trees. Trees do not refuse the water that trickles down to their roots; they do not remove themselves from fertile soil to plant themselves in bad soil. People, yes even Christians, do these kinds of things.

Thus, we need to listen to and respond to the commands of Scripture. Particularly troublesome is the tendency of Christians to think that the indicative is all they need. If God has already given me “all things” in Christ (Romans 8:32), why do I need to bother to obey him? As we have noted, Paul has already said in Romans 6:2 that no genuine Christian should ever think this way, for we no longer live in the realm of sin. But Paul goes on to make clear that our enjoyment of eternal life is contingent of our obedience (Romans 8:12-13). Paul agrees with James: Faith without works is dead; it cannot save (James 2:14-26).

 

Read More »