Every now and then I come across some scripture that leaves me stumped, and the question of predestination is one of those.
Here in Romans 8 is one such scripture. This verse is quoted by the proponents of predestination as proof positive that this is the way God chooses people to be saved.
For those who are not familiar with the concept of predestination, the doctrine basically suggests that everyone has already been predestined as to who will or will not be saved and that God will call those people and not the rest.
There are various camps between the proponents of this doctrine and slightly different shades or degrees to which they believe things are predetermined, but this is the essence in a nutshell.
This scripture would have to be one of the most quoted verses amongst Christians in the bible. And yet it is also one of the least understood. But when we understand the power of these words and the blessing that the Lord has bestowed upon us in the unselfish and obedient act of Jesus who died for us, then the wonder of the power of God becomes even more astounding.
Every person at some time in their life has done something of which they are ashamed and they wish they had never done. As a result they suffer from pangs of guilt whenever they think about this thing, whatever it was, and they suffer from self-condemnation.
Now there are plenty of people who will condemn others on the basis of their own standards, and for the most part they can be ignored. But we struggle to ignore the condemnation we heap on ourselves for what we recognise as our own shortcomings. And too often we ignore or forget the condemnation that comes from God when we fall short of His glory and fall into sin.
But these first few verses of Romans 8 change all of that for they are powerful words of transformation, specifically the transformation that now only becomes possible in and through Jesus Christ. Continue reading “No Condemnation”
When it comes to the old prophets, teachers and patriarchs of the bible, Abraham stands out as being THE man of the faith. All of us today along with those spoken of in bible times and everyone in between look to Abraham as our father, either as a direct descendant in the case of the children of Israel, or as our father by faith.
Abraham crosses the divide that exists between the old and the new covenants for he was the father of the adherents of the old covenant law through the covenant and sign of circumcision, and he is father of those who now come to God through Jesus Christ whose faith is like the faith Abraham had in the word of God.
This section of Romans 4 really spells out the strength and the power of Abraham's faith
Here is an interesting question worth considering, because it goes to the heart of what the New Covenant is all about.
Do you need the law?
Man reveres law because they seek order and structure. We see this reverence for law in the way that the law and lawyers are depicted in books, television shows and movies. We see it also in the similar reverence for lawmakers and politicians who, even though many individuals are fallible and have done some terrible things, the institutions of the political processes and democracy are held in high esteem as necessary to ensure stability in our society.
We know also that God gave the law to Moses, also for the purpose of giving Israel structure and to promote a better standard of life for those who followed the law. God wanted people to live well and it is His law that formed the basis of most of the laws that govern life today, albeit some have since been perverted.
Paul wrote in Romans 7 that the law of Moses given by God is holy, just and good because there is great wisdom in the law. They were after all the words of God given for the benefit of man.
But the question remains, in spite of all of this, do we need the law? The answer may be a surprise to some.
The righteousness of God does not depend upon, nor is it based upon works of the law. As I showed in my last post, the law served to show what sin is and to give man the knowledge of sin. The law is NOT sin but it showed sin up for what it is and through the breaking of the law sin became even more sinful.
But the righteousness of God is not based upon the law as these two verses now show us, for they say,
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
The righteousness of God in the New Covenant has been given to man and made manifest to all mankind, not by works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. This is where the righteousness of God is to be found…in faith. And those who seek God’s righteousness, his favour, his grace and all the other things God gives to us need to seek them through faith in Jesus Christ.
They say there are none so blind as they who will not see. And this is an apt and accurate description for those who choose to reject a God and seek to understand the world around us without accepting His sovereign power.
They also say that seeing is believing and many reject God because they cannot see Him. But even when the evidence is clear and in their face daily, they choose not to see. Thus it has to be stated that seeing is NOT believing, for although they see, they do not believe what they see.
In this section of scripture we see Paul begin to look at the issues facing man in the world. Man suffers under the power of sin, but worse than that is when man fails to recognise what is before his very eyes. The fact that nothing exists nor can exist except by the power and wisdom of God.
One of the foundations of Christianity includes laying on of hands. There were six key foundational concepts recorded in the book of Hebrews. We see these foundations defined in Hebrews 6:1-2.
1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
There are two primary reasons and purposes for this process. One of those is the laying on of hands for receiving the Holy Spirit as seen in Acts 19:1-6 and Acts 8:17-18.
The second reason for laying on of hands is for the purpose of healing and that is what we see mentioned in this section of scripture.
Paul makes a fascinating exclamation at the end of this section of scripture as he addresses Agrippa the king. He says,
Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?
Of all the many doctrines and teachings of Christianity, resurrection is the single most important and the one that causes the greatest controversy. It is important because if there was no resurrection there is no Christianity for we Christians worship and praise the RISEN Christ.
And it is controversial because the world cannot accept that it is possible for a man to be resurrected. They consider this question from a scientific perspective and completely disdain the very idea of resurrection as science has not been able to duplicate this event despite years and years of research.
“There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what happened.”
Christians fall into the first group. We make things happen. Not in the sense that the world understands, but in the spirit. Christians are in a work of transformation where they are being changed, molded & transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We know that faith can move mountains as Jesus taught and we believe the words of James when he wrote in James 5:16-18:
16 …The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects.
17 Eli’jah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.
18 Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit.
But this section of Acts is more interesting because it looks at those in one or the other of the other two categories. The new governor of Judea, Festus, was baffled and he was like the third group left wondering “Wha…wha…what happened?” So let’s take a look at these three aspects and see what value & insights they offer us today.