NUGGETS OF WISDOM

__nature3

BELIEVING WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE

David recollected that as a young lad, with long unruly hair and a ruddy complexion, sleeping out in an open pasture under a starry sky after watching his father’s sheep all day long; how he would take his little harp and sing to the God above all gods. Looking up, he saw the sky as a huge tent with the sparkling stars as lights that lit up the night. He may have even tried to count them once or twice. But what really impressed him was that each night every star was in exactly the same place, not one of them was missing. He was so overcome with awe that he penned a hymn to the creator of that starry universe.

O my LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius, as You display Your grandeur all over the heavens for all the world to see. For through these small and tiny dots of light You communicate as a way of countering those who don’t take You seriously; yes, You do this to silence the doubter and unbeliever. When I look up into the sky and see the galaxies Your hands created, the stars and the moon You put into orbit I ask, “What role do humans play in this vast universe; why do You care and fuss over them?” Then I realized, You created them a little short of being angels; endowing them with attributes of honor and dignity; making them the smartest and most influential creatures on earth; putting them in charge to being stewards of Your handiwork, even taking care of the animals, both domestic and wild, including the birds that fill the sky and the fish that fill the sea. O LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius for all the world to see.” Psalm 8:1-9

Reflection: Back in the days of the hippy movement I sat in a coffee house in Stuttgart, Germany talking with a long-haired flower-child about God. The young man was respectful but adamant about his doubts concerning God’s existence because he couldn’t see Him or talk to Him. At that moment the Holy Spirit gave me an inspiration, so I pointed to a picture hanging on the wall beside our table and asked the young man if he believed that picture came into being due to an accidental collision of paint and paper. He laughed and said, “That’s ridiculous; that picture was painted by an artist.” I responded that I wasn’t convinced because I couldn’t see the artist in the picture; how did I know that maybe one day it just appeared on the wall by accident. The young fellow looked at me for a moment and then admitted that even though I couldn’t see the artist in the painting, I had to accept the fact that an artist painted the picture because it just makes sense. I told him that in the same way, one must exercise faith to believe an unseen talented artist created such a beautiful portrait, we can also believe an unseen God created the beauty of the universe. The magnificence of God’s creation shows His responsibility for man’s existence, and man’s responsibility to acknowledge God’s handiwork. The young man smiled somewhat embarrassingly as he bowed his head and said, “Okay, you got me on that one.” I asked him if we could have prayer for him to have faith, but he wasn’t sure. As he went away I asked the Holy Spirit to go with him and open his eyes to the truth.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

elgreco_paul154x200

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER FOURTEEN (Lesson XXIII)

John Bengel had an interesting insight when he said that the study of the nature of God (Theology) is meant to be peaceful and designed for edification. However, sometimes we know it can cause disputes and disharmony. This is especially true when believers argue and debate minor things such as which foods or drink to consume or abstain from.1 Adam Clarke also sees the same intent on the part of the Apostle Paul. Instead of the Romans continually contending about food, drink, and festival times, in which it is not likely that the Jews and Gentiles will soon agree, they should endeavor with all their power to promote peace and unanimity. Why be instrumental in tearing down one another when they can use the same effort in edifying each other? This will help in removing obstacles to spiritual growth instead of putting stumbling-blocks in each other‘s way.2

Robert Haldane points out the list of characteristics that are part of any Christian who by faith serves God and Christ: They live by doing right, that brings peace to their surroundings, it fills them with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and they are pleasing to God. You can’t pick and choose, you must have all three to be of any value to God and the world. As Haldane sees it, when Christians live the way the Gospel says they should, they are providing non-believers a living testimony. The conduct Paul recommends here is important to a Christian’s place in society and will certainly be noticed by even the most ungodly around them.3

Charles Hodge notes that in these verses the Apostle explains more fully what is meant by saying “he felt honored or esteemed.” It was all because God had allowed great success to be produced by his ministry which substantiated his claim that he was a divinely commissioned preacher of the Gospel. That’s why they need not compare his ministry to that of other Apostles. He was satisfied to rest his claims on the results of his own labors and the testimony of God. However, Paul took no credit for the things that were done through his anointed ministry. Christ and the Holy Spirit received all the credit and glory for every effect of the Gospel and the miracles people saw taking place before their very eyes. In other words, Hodge believes that what Paul is really saying is that there was nothing done through his ministry for which he would take the credit, it is all attributed to Christ who gave him strength.4

The contrast, therefore, is not between what he had done and what others had accomplished, but between what he may have tried to do and what Christ actually did by using him as a vessel. He wanted no praise or applause for anything that was completed, even those things that were humanly possible. His desire was that all the light shine on Christ as the source of his strength to accomplish anything that had been brought to fruition. The conversion of the Gentiles was Christ’s work, not Paul’s. Therefore, Paul could glory in it without lifting himself up for recognition. It is to be remarked that the Apostle represents himself as merely an instrument in the hands of Christ for the conversion of sinners. Any skillfulness involved he ascribed to his Redeemer.5 This should be the attitude of every servant of God and Christ.

Albert Barnes notes an important factor here we should keep in mind. In verse 19 Paul uses the Greek noun oikodomē [“to edify” – KJV], which means properly to “build,” as a house; then to “rebuild” or “reconstruct;” also to “adorn” or “decorate;” then to do anything else that will make it more likely to grow and blossom. When applied to the Church, it means to do everything through teaching, preaching, ministering, counseling, etc., which will promote its great objective: To aid Christians by enabling them to overcome difficulties which removes their doubts and misgivings and calms their fears.6 In these expressions the idea of “building” is retained, held together by a firm, tried, and tested Cornerstone, the Lord Jesus Christ.7 To be the Church is then regarded, according to Paul‘s noble idea,8 as one great temple erected for the glory of God, having no goal or purpose other than to do all that is possible, that each member of the royal priesthood9 be suited to carry out their assigned ministry and perform their functions appropriately in perfecting and adorning this Temple of God.10

Frédéric Godet points out that the Kingdom of God consists of those who willingly and lovingly serve their Heavenly Master. Developing goodwill toward God and all mankind comes only to those who cultivate the ethics and virtues of Christ in their lives. Godet contends that it would be normal to say that the person who serves Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit is acceptable to God. We must understand, however, this does not apply to everyone who calls themselves a Christian, but to those who seek to understand another person’s heart and is looked upon as someone to respect even through the eye of a critic. Everyone, Christian or non-Christian, recognizes them to be a person really animated with power from above. They are the opposite of a fool or a boaster. An approved Christian is one who has been tested and tried and proven genuine.11

One Jewish writer notes that Paul says not only would a person who does what’s right please God but also be admired by others. He asks a question related to the Church in Rome, “Who else might critique the behavior of these converted Gentiles?” He suggests that this could be converted Jews who were still tied to Synagogue rules who watched these former heathens to them to see if they were either acting like righteous Gentiles coming to faith in the God of Israel through Yeshua, or pagans following a false Messiah. Paul teaches that these Gentile believers were to “serve Yeshua” in a fashion approved by even non-believing Jews. He goes on to point out that Paul’s comments in this section reflect back to what he has said in previous chapters and indicate that he has been building his case to reach this conclusion. This is especially true of what he taught in chapter 12, which comes on the heels of his warning to Gentiles in chapter 11.12

14:20 Don’t let the eating of food destroy the work of God. All food is right to eat, but it is wrong for anyone to eat something that hurts the faith of another person.

Now Paul focuses on a point of contention that existed between the Jewish church members who required kosher foods, and their objection to the Gentiles who ate the same food bought at the market that was offered in idol worship. As he told the Corinthians: “Food was meant for the stomach. The stomach needs food, but God will bring both of them to an end.13 In other words, the resources for food was provided by our Creator for our existence here on earth. Once we get to heaven it won’t be necessary anymore. So there is no such thing as a sanctified diet that will bring us closer to God.14 However, just because what you eat doesn’t bother you, don’t brag about it in order to tease someone who has trouble with consuming such foods.15 By being careful not to offend a less tolerant brother or sister in the Lord, we do so in honor to God.16

Whatever your lifestyle, says Paul, don’t insist on anything that may end up bringing discord and injury to the work and body of Christ. This is true even today. There are some churches who use communion wine and others grape juice for the Lord’s Supper. But this should not be a factor in keeping them from fellowshipping together. After all, Paul told the Ephesians we are God’s handiwork; He created us through Christ so we could do the work He has called and prepared us to do.17 This was Paul’s hope and prayer for the Philippians: “I am sure that God who began the good work in you will keep on working in you until the day Jesus Christ comes again. It is right for me to feel like this about all of you. It is because you are very dear to me.18

To show the minimal effect a kosher diet has on the spiritual life of a believer, and to show how vital it was that believers be cognizant of those around them, Jesus told His disciples: “It is not what goes into a man’s mouth that makes his mind and heart sinful. It is what comes out of a man’s mouth that makes him sinful.19 There are some people who are more worried about the external condition of their bodies than they are of the internal status of their souls. But Paul also knew that there were those even in his day who took this to the extreme by saying that it doesn’t matter all at what a person puts into, or on, their body because it is destined to decay in the grave. Remember, Jesus did not die to save our bodies, He died to save our souls. All that counts then is the soul. But, as the Apostle Peter instructed his readers: “Do not let your beauty come from the outside. It should not be the way you comb your hair or the wearing of gold or the wearing of fine clothes. Your beauty should come from the inside. It should come from the heart. This is the kind that lasts. Your beauty should be a gentle and quiet spirit. In God’s sight, this is of great worth and no amount of money can buy it.20

On the subject of not destroying the work of God in verse 20, Clement of Alexandria remarked, “It is the mark of a silly mind to be amazed and stupefied at what is presented at vulgar banquets after having enjoyed the rich fare which is in the Word of God.21 In other words, spending more time drinking in the Word at God would result in spending less time drinking at worldly parties. Chrysostom, on the other hand, believes that when Paul uses the phrase “work of God” here in this verse, he means the salvation of a brother or sister. For some people were so far away from building others up that they were prepared to destroy what God had started, and not for any good reason but over something very trivial. It is not the eating which is unclean but the ulterior motive behind it. If a super-spiritual believer entices a less-certain believer to eat something that goes against their conscience, they do it for no good purpose, they will only things worse. Thinking that something is unclean is not as bad as actually eating it even though you know it is unclean. In that case, you are committing two errors: first, by increasing the other person’s opposition by your quarrelsome attitude, and second, by getting them to taste what they believe is unclean. If you are unable to persuade them with spiritual insight, don’t try to force them.22

1 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 354

2 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 273

3 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 605

4 Philippians 4:13

5 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 680-681

6 Acts of the Apostles 9:31; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 14:4

7 Ephesians 2:20; Isaiah 28:16. Cf. Romans 9:33

8 Ephesians 2:20-22

9 1 Peter 2:9

10 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

11 Frédéric Godet: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

12 Messianic Bible: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

13 1 Corinthians 6:13a

14 Ibid. 8:8

15 Ibid. 8:13

16 Ibid.10:31

17 Ephesians 2:10

18 Philippians 1:6-7a

19 Matthew 15:11

20 1 Peter 3:3-4

21 Clement of Alexandria: Christ the Educator 2.1

22 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 26

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

elgreco_paul154x200

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER FOURTEEN (Lesson XXII)

14:18-19 Whoever serves Christ by living this way is pleasing God, and they will be accepted by others. So let’s try as hard as we can to do what will bring peace. Let’s do whatever will help each other grow stronger in faith.

After listing all the qualities, ethics, and virtues of a victorious, dedicated, spiritual life, Paul now gives the reason and purpose for such commitment to all things Christian. It’s what will set them apart from the world and make them significant members in the Family of God and leaders in God’s Kingdom. Jesus illustrated this same thing in many of His parables. In one such story, our Lord told about an estate owner who went away on a business trip and left his servants in charge, one of which was to keep watch at the door just in case he came back unexpectedly. The lesson was, don’t let the Messiah catch you sleeping when He suddenly returns.1

On another occasion, Jesus told His followers that those who care only for what they can have in this life will end up losing everything. But those who are willing to let go of everything they have down here for something better will end up keeping everything up there.2 Said Jesus: “If anyone wants to serve Me, they must follow Me. So where I am, the one who wants to serve Me will also be there. So those who choose to serve Me, My Father will honor them.3 Paul puts this same principle into a spiritual context. He told the Corinthians that any person who was self-employed before they became a Christian, now works for the Lord.4 To accept the free gift of salvation from God at the expense of His Son, and then to do nothing to show your gratitude and respect is not acceptable with God. Peter told the congregation that gathered in Cornelius’ house: “Whoever fears God and does what is right is acceptable to Him, no matter what race he belongs to.5

Being a Christian involves more than just going to church, reading your Bible, and saying your prayers. That’s why Paul told the Corinthians: “We take pains to do what is right not only in the sight of God but also in the sight of other people.6 Paul wrote them later, that everything that he tried to do was to show that he was serving God.7 The Apostle James dealt with this same thing. He wrote that some may emphasize faith and others action. But we must have both. Our faith without action is stagnant, and our actions without faith are senseless.8 And the Apostle Peter framed it in a different way when he wrote: “Keep letting your conscience tell you that what you have done was right. If people criticize you, they will end up being ashamed when they see the good way you live as a Christian.9

The point Paul was getting at is that when it comes to Christian virtues and ethics, whatever we are and the way we act in church should be the same way we are and act when we are out in the world. This was akin to the same advice that King David gave: “Don’t get involved in things that are sinful. See what good things you can do. Look for a way to keep things peaceful and do it.10 In another Psalm, David wrote: “Oh, how good, how pleasant it is for brothers to live together in harmony.11 Jesus echoes this same theme when he preached: “Those who bring peace are happy because they will be called the sons of God.12

In the closing of his second letter to the Corinthians Paul left this message: “Work to get along with others. Live in peace. The God of love and peace will be with you.13 When he wrote the Ephesians, he had a similar message: “Work hard to live together as one by the help of the Holy Spirit. Then there will be peace.14 Notice, Paul does not say be placid, passive, or pleasant, and peace will come. He said they should work hard to establish an atmosphere and provide the conditions through which peace can be achieved.

Paul describes the attitude and actions that can result in peaceful coexistence: “Your new life should be full of compassion. You should be kind to others and have no pride. Be gentle and be willing to wait for others. Try to understand other people. Forgive each other. If you have something against someone, forgive him. That is the way the Lord forgave you. And to all these things, you must add love. Love holds everything and everybody together and makes all these good things perfect; and let the peace that comes from Christ help your heart decide, for you were chosen as a part of His body. For that, you should always be thankful.15

But Paul has one more thing to add. The secret ingredient of being a positive peacemaker is thinking first of others before you think of yourself. He told the Corinthians that it was always his goal to make sure others were happy by doing his best for them to show his concern for their well-being.16 Paul said that he did this by seeking advice and strength from the Holy Spirit.17 He also practiced the axiom: If you can’t say anything good about someone don’t say anything at all.18 And finally, he said that we could encourage and mentor those over whom we have charge so that they can grow in experience and become as good as we are in the things of the Lord, just as we have respect for those who taught us.19

On the subject of living a life approved by God, early church scholar Ambrosiaster is convinced that if what a believer does and says is acceptable to God, it will be approved by those around them. Why? Because they have accepted the gift through which they appear worthy in the sight of God. Since disapproval leads to discord, Paul teaches us to be peaceful and to avoid arguments over things like eating or not eating certain kinds of food. Instead, he encourages everyone to get involved in things that help build up fellow believers20.21

Chrysostom also makes note that even worldly people will approve of such persons living next to them and working with them. Not so much because they are perfect in every way, but because of their devotion to peace and good relations. When it comes to Christians, this applies to both sides equally. The whole point is to live in harmony and not be looking for ways to be better than the other believer, and then throw it in their face. Without peace, it is impossible to help a fellow believer to grow and mature in Christ and God’s Word.22

Another early church writer, Pelagius, adds that we should never let ourselves get into arguments over such small matters as what to eat and not what to eat. Being willing to do without in order to help a less informed and less mature believer gives honor to God for calling them out of the darkness of the world into the light of His Kingdom. Keep this in mind, even if one believer insists on eating the foods they are comfortable with, while it may not end up hurting anyone, it certainly will not build up faith in another believer who disagrees.23

Martin Luther points back to the fact that in the three characteristics of a person being right with God is that it culminates with joy in the Holy Spirit. For this joy to come, says Luther, a Christian must be acceptable to God and then they must not insist on having what pleases them to the detriment of other believers. Of those who create disturbances and confuse others, it is commonly said that they do not have peace because they themselves do not permit others to live in peace. That is, they have little interest in living in peace with others because they always want to have their way. Luther goes on to say that not only should we try our best to live in peace with our fellow believers, but do everything we can to put them first, to edify them so that they can achieve more with our help than they could by doing it on their own.24

John Calvin also has something to say about what it means to live for God. He feels that unless a person lives in a way approved of God, it is impossible for the Kingdom of God to rule and flourish in their thinking and living. For Calvin, the person who, with a quiet and peaceful conscience, serves Christ by living right, provides a good reason for those around them to approve of their way of life, as well as the approval they receive from God. For Calvin, wherever there is right living and peace and spiritual joy, there the Kingdom of God is complete in all its parts. But Calvin warns that while a person who obeys God’s will is looked upon favorably by those around them, they must also be aware that there are some who, for no reason at all, keep looking for any opportunity to point a finger at them so as to denigrate and defame them even though they are innocent of their accusations. In other words, they want to turn a believer’s virtues into vices just for the joy of watching them become embarrassed by such counterfeit charges. It’s a case of being guilty until proven innocent. But Paul speaks here of honest judgment, blended with no moodiness, no hatred, no superstition.25

1 Mark 13:34-37

2 Matthew 10:39; Luke 17:33

3 John 12:26

4 1 Corinthians 7:22

5 Acts of the Apostles 10:35

6 2 Corinthians 8:21

7 Ibid. 6:4

8 James 2:18

9 1 Peter 3:16

10 Psalm 34:14

11 Ibid. 133:1

12 Matthew 5:9

13 2 Corinthians 13:11b

14 Ephesians 4:3

15 Colossians 3:12-15

16 See 1 Corinthians 10:33

17 Ibid. 14:12

18 Cf. Ephesians 4:29

19 1 Thessalonians 5:11-12

20 See Ephesians 4:11-12

21 Ambrosiaster: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

22 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 26

23 Pelagius: On Romans, op. cit, loc. cit.

24 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 205-206

25 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit. loc. cit.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

elgreco_paul154x200

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER FOURTEEN (Lesson XXI)

German scholar John Bengel wants us to see that the three points Paul makes on living right, living in peace, and living with joy constitute the core message of this entire epistle – in that order. Right living – is a special characteristic of living by faith, independent of the sinner’s justification. Peace – As it relates our fellow believers and neighbors.1 Joy – With respect to ourselves2.3 Then English theologian Adam Clarke notes these same three characteristics: Right living – because we have been pardoned and now practice holiness in heart and life. Peace – In the soul, from a sense of how God‘s mercy brings peace to regulate, rule, and harmonize the heart. Joy in the Holy Spirit – Solid spiritual sense of excitement which springs from a clear sense of God‘s mercy flooding our heart by the Holy Spirit. In a word, says Clarke, “it is happiness brought into the soul by the Holy Spirit, and maintained there by the same influence.” This is a genuine taste of heaven; Right living without sin; Peace dependent on God’s unfailing love, not the love of others; Joy dependent on God’s promises that help drive away any kind of mental agony or distressing fear.4

Robert Haldane also says that rather than concentrating on our liberty in choosing what food and drink we feel comfortable in partaking of, look for those things that involve service to God under the Final Covenant. He then speaks of the characteristics Paul mentions here. When it comes to Right Living [Because of our right standing with God]This is not the righteousness of God which is imputed to believers, but the righteousness to which they are now subject. Righteousness sometimes refers especially to the duties which we owe to others, but in its most comprehensive sense, it includes our duty to God. Peace [Our peace of mind knowing we have a right standing with God] — This is a standard for all true servants in the kingdom of God. By having peace with God they endeavor to have peace with their fellow believers and neighbors. Nothing is more unlike the spirit of genuine Christian faith than a contentious temperament. Joy in the Holy Spirit [Because we have peace with God due to our right standing with Him] – The joy brought by the indwelling Holy Spirit cannot be obtained from anywhere else, or given by anyone else. The believer rejoices even in the midst of trouble and is often most happy when the world thinks they are the most miserable. Peace and Right Living are what results in having Joy in the Holy Spirit, brought into effect in the believer by His daily presence.5

Charles Hodge also comments on these three fruit of the Spirit: Right Living, Peace, and Joy are those of which the Holy Spirit is the author. Right Living is that which enables us to stand justified before God because it satisfies the demands of the Law. Peace is the agreement between God and the soul, between reason and conscience, between our heart and the hearts of others. And Joy is the delight of our salvation; that joy which only those who are in fellowship with the Holy Spirit can experience.6

Albert Barnes gives his interpretation. For him, Right Living means the “virtue and integrity,” by which a believer faithfully discharges of all their duties which they owe to God and to their fellowman. It means that the Christian must live as any righteous person is expected to live, not as a person whose whole faith is wrapped up in mere ceremonies and outward forms of religion. Peace referred here is not the internal “peace” and “happiness” which each Christian has in their own mind.7 Rather, to the “harmony” and “accord” among believers instead of “controversy” and “contention.” The tendency and design of the Kingdom of God is to produce harmony and love and to put an end to alienation and strife. And Joy, which refers to the personal happiness produced in the mind and heart under the influence of the Gospel, that can only be produced by the indwelling Holy Spirit.8 As we can see, there are many different interpretations of what Paul is saying here. But thankfully, all of them qualify as sound and proven.

Reverend Octavius Winslow gives his view in a sermon on this subject and minces no words. He is impressed by the way the Holy Spirit reveals this to the Apostle Paul. To begin, the Righteousness of Christ forms the foundation on which of the believing sinner’s acceptance with God is based. Then, Peace, the effect of righteousness, followed by Joy which is peace at a higher level. Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Should we modify this great spiritual truth without which there is no salvation – no grace down here, and no glory up there. In its place, some have substituted a rite, a ritual, a ceremony, a symbol, and the sign of the cross. Are we to believe that thousands of regenerate, saved, and sanctified believers, who when they die will die standing right with God, are now living a life that is hostile to the Word of God? No! They who do so are captives of Satan and the servants of sin! That’s why we should not hesitate to denounce the dogma of sacramental grace – the doctrine of baptismal regeneration – to be one of Satan’s biggest lies! This constitutes the most subtle and fatal weapon which the number one foe of believers ever forged to bring about the destiny of mankind’s destroyed soul being cast into an everlasting raging inferno.

I love the illustration Winslow uses to introduce his sermon based on the words of the Alpha and Omega in His letter to the church in Sardis: “You have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead.9 Winslow asks if anyone who has ever visited an art gallery possessing a taste and an eye for the fine arts, ever stood entranced before a picture of natural still-life in which, with masterly genius of the artist has portrayed the subjects with such vivid effect that all of its charm and power seemed absolutely real? So successful is this artistic illusion, and so intense is the feeling produced by it, that while gazing upon the painting the deer seem to be bounding off the canvas; the grapes seem ready to pick, and the perfume breathe from the rose fills the air. And yet, with all this appearance and glow of illusory animation, it is, nonetheless, just a painting of still-life.10 What a graphic picture of people who claim to be right with God appearing to be doing right for God but are really do nothing right for God or anyone.11

Charles Ellicott finds agreement in what many of the commentators have said about Right Living, Peace, and Joy that are an inherent part of the Kingdom of God. For Ellicott, righteousness and peace do not mean imputed righteousness, or justification, and reconciliation with God. Rather, the moral condition of righteousness in Christians themselves and in harmony with their fellowman. These are crowned in the confirmed Christian by that feeling of joy that is formed in then by the presence and influence in their hearts of the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is remarkable how with all differences we see in the terminology found in the writings of St. Paul and the Gospels they all amazingly come around to the make the very same point: This is the “Kingdom of God!12

Ellicott continues by pointing out that it has not been beyond the power of heathen or Christian philosophers, such as Marcus Aurelius, to arrive at the conception that right living and peace are duties to be observed and worked hard for.13 The peculiarity of Christianity consists in the unity which it gives to these attributes as naturally flowing from a spring of deep religious conviction, and from the finish and perfection which it adds to them by the introduction of that third term, “joy in the Holy Spirit” Many individuals have shown, with greater or less reasoning, what a real Christian should be. But the great and only Perfect Example is Jesus Christ Himself, which finds expression in the Sermon on the Mount. This is meant for all believers to emulate.14

Pulpiteer Charles Spurgeon spoke on this subject as he saw it in his day. As he looked around, he spotted some who tried to find out what could be done to enhance their salvation by abstinence from meats and drinks, even advertising their efforts for applause. This is a very proper thing to do in its place and may lead to useful results. But Christ’s teaching is this: “Not that which goes into the mouth defiles a man, but that which comes out of the mouth that defiles a man.’15 It is the heart which must be affected! And nothing that a person may think of, or that can be manipulated by the human hand, will be able to accomplish that. No doubt that’s why the prophet Joel called out to God’s people, “Rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God.16 If this is demanded even under the First Covenant, how much more under the Final Covenant of God. That’s where we read that, “God is Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.17 No wonder that Paul says here in verse 17, the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. And, therefore, no impression can be of any saving use to a man unless it reaches his heart.18

John Stott gives us his exegesis of what Paul says here for us to compare with what others have said. In his thinking, the right living, peace, and joy inspired by the Holy Spirit are sometimes understood as one’s personal conditions of being righteous, peaceful and joyful by their own works. But in the wider context of Romans, it is more natural to take them as something we receive as a gift, namely, by justification through Christ, peace with God and rejoicing in hope of God’s glory,19 of which the Holy Spirit Himself is the pledge and foretaste.20 And the reason for the greater significance of the kingdom is that anyone who serves Christ in this way, that is, who show themselves as servants of Christ in this way,21 who seek first God’s kingdom,22 and who acknowledges that food and drink are secondary matters, is pleasing to God along with the joy and contentment of their fellowman and fellow believers.23

1 Cf. Romans 15:13

2 Ibid.

3 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 354

4 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 273

5 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 604-605

6 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 658

7 See Romans 5:1

8 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

9 Revelation 3:1

10 Winslow: Ibid.

11 Works of Octavius Winslow: Sermon titled: “What is Not the New Birth,” Text: Revelation 3:1

12 See Matthew 15:11; Luke 17:20-21; Matthew 6:22; 5:6, 9, 12

13 MARCVS AVRELIVS ANTONINUS THE ROMAN EMPEROVR, HIS MEDITATIONS: TRANSLATED OUT OF THE Originall Greeke; with Notes: BY Meric Casavbon, B. of D. and Prebendarie of Christ Church, Canterbury. And now Edited, with an Introduction, Appendix, and Glossary, by W. H. D. ROUSE. New York: E. P. DUTTON & CO. London: J. M. DENT & CO. MDCCCC. Bk. 3, VII.

14 Charles Ellicott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

15 Matthew 15:11

16 Joel 2:13

17 John 4:24

18 Charles Spurgeon: Sermon titled: “Heart Piercing,” Delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, England, Thursday, November 12, 1874

19 See Romans 5:1ff

20 Ibid. 8:23

21 Ibid 14:18

22 Matthew 6:33

23 John Stott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

POINTS TO PONDER

silhouette-man-top-mountain-sunset-conceptual-sce-scene-48015806

Les Brown is one of the world’s most renowned African-American motivational speakers, Les Brown is a dynamic personality and highly-sought-after resource in business and professional circles for Fortune 500 CEOs, small business owners, non-profit and community leaders from all sectors of society looking to expand opportunity. Les was a quoted as saying, “Every man dies. Not every man lives. The only limits to the possibilities in your life tomorrow are the “buts” you use today.” In other words, the only thing that can keep a person from going forward and climbing higher in life is when they keep standing at the bottom of the mountain and repeat the same phrase over and over again, “I should start climbing, but…..”

Kari Farmer, the owner of Manifest Connection, a website focused on personal growth and self-improvement for the body, mind, and soul, tells her personal story of three things that almost kept her from exploring the possibilities that were there just for the taking. She was successful at what she was doing but had settled into a comfort zone that had little potential of helping her business grow. Wherever she would see an add or read about new adventures, she brushed it aside. But while she was sitting comfortable tied up in her little harbor, others were branching out, making new contacts, and seeing their businesses grow. Finally, she decided to give it a try. And man-o-man what a difference it made!

Here are some of the obstacles that kept her from taking the challenge before. First, there was the fear of “rejection.” Rejection can lead a person to feel like they’re not good enough, since it often leads to criticism, from oneself or someone else. But such criticism can be used to learn how one can improve in order to succeed. Once a person knows what they must do to grow, they can work on those areas and keep trying. If a person keeps learning and growing, they will succeed.

No matter what criticism or lack of enthusiastic response a person may get for a project they are very proud of, use it to improve the project and make it better. When a person continually rejects and advise or constructive criticism, there’s little possibility of advancing and doing better. A person can learn from what others may be doing in the same area adapt some of those ideas into their own. With some practice and persistence, they will finally get the kind of response they were hoping for. A little rejection is inevitable, but if a person is willing to keep trying, they will see both progress and results.

Then there is the fear of failure. Such unfounded fear holds so many people back in life. Fear of the outcome, fear of the unknown, fear of not being good enough, and fear of failing – we all go through them all. If a person keeps piling fear on top of fear, eventually they will find it easier to just forget the whole idea and try something that makes them more comfortable.

Fear stems from our beliefs about ourselves, which come from our experiences and feedback from family and friends. If we have had a negative experience with something, then we may fear experiencing that negative feeling again. If we have been told that we can’t do something, then we might be fearful that we really can’t do it.

We need to remove these limiting beliefs and push past the fear. We can do this by using positive affirmations about ourselves and consistently using positive self-talk to boost up our confidence level. It also helps to surround oneself with people who believe in us and our abilities and push us forward to face our fears.

Also, there is the sense that we are just not capable of doing what we what to do. This then exaggerates our sense of inability. Yes, sometimes we know that we can’t do something, and sometimes we have tried to do something before and failed. For instance, if you have never tried writing an article before, then taking on the challenge of having a book published may seem unrealistic. On the other hand, if you have tried to write an article or story before and failed, then you may hold the belief that you just can’t do it.

Fortunately, inability is something that everyone can push past. With enough effort, we can learn almost anything we set our minds to. We just have to find the information or help and start learning and practicing. For example, we can take a writing course, even if we need to start with the simplest instruction. Eventually, we will move on to more advanced writing lessons, and soon we will be writing on our own. Then we can practice writing longer articles until we feel confident we can finally start thinking about a magazine article or a book. We may have to start small and keep going.

Don’t let your comfort zone hold you back from taking risks, reaching your potential, and experiencing success. The more you push through your comfort zone, the larger it will become. Soon it will come much more naturally and easily to do things that move you toward your dreams! And don’t forget, the Word of God says that we were all created in His image. He is the great Creator.1 That spirit of creativity is what has pushed the world from sailing across the ocean to flying across the ocean.

Not only that, but in the Bible, we read where the Apostle Paul tells us that since we are the work of His hands, then we should let Him work with our hands. And since we belong to Christ, He is the one we’re working for. That was part of God’s plan for our lives.2 So remember, whatever it is you want to do, just think, “I’m doing this for my Master.” You may be surprised at how much courage He will give you to do what you never thought you could do. That’s why Paul also tells us that with God’s help, we can do so much more than we dreamed was possible.3 The Apostle made that clear when he declared that in his own life he found out that he could do things that he never could have done because of the strength he received from Christ.4

Listen to how the Apostle Peter put this. We weren’t created just to wander around like animals looking for food as they try to stay alive. We have been chosen by God to be something special. We have received a calling in life to be more than a physical being, but also a spiritual being. Look at it this way, we are God’s instruments to do His work and speak out for Him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference He made in our lives. We went from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted. So every morning that we wake up we can say, “Here I am Lord, ready for Your use. Do something great in my life that will help make others great in Your eyes!” – Dr. Robert R Seyda

1 Genesis 1:27

2 Ephesians 2:10

3 Ephesians 3:20

4 Philippians 4:13

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

christian-love-symbol-vector-drawing-represents-design-30448883

YOU DIDN’T KNOW I WAS LOOKING

I read this story about a woman who was standing in front of the casket, viewing her dear departed mother. She was so choked up she couldn’t talk. Her handkerchief was already soaked with tears as she looked into her mother’s beautiful but peaceful face. Later on, she decided to write down the thoughts that were going through her mind, and here is what she penned:

I saw you place my first finger-painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately wanted to paint another one.

…I saw you feed a stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind to animals.

…I saw you make my favorite cake for me and I learned that little things can be the special things in life.

…I heard you say a prayer, and I knew there was a God I could always talk to and I learned to trust in Him.

…I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I learned that we all have to help take care of each other.

…I saw you give of your time and money to help people who had nothing and I learned that those who have something should give to those who don’t.

…I remember when you would kiss me good night and I felt loved and safe.

…I saw you take care of our house and everyone in it and I learned we must do our best to take care of what we are given.

…I saw how you handled your responsibilities, even when you didn’t feel good and I learned that I would have to be responsible when I grow up.

…I saw tears come from your eyes and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it’s all right to cry.

…I saw that you cared and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

…I learned most of life’s lessons that I needed to know on how to be good and productive person when I grow up.

…looked at you lying there and wanted to say, “Thanks for all the things I saw you do when you didn’t know I wasn’t looking.”

When I finished reading this touching story, a thought flashed through my mind. I wondered if when we stand before Jesus on Judgment Day if He too would look at us and say, I saw you give someone who was hungry something to eat. I saw you give water to someone who was thirsty before they even asked for it. I watched you take boxes of clothes to the Salvation Army for people who had little to wear. I saw you go visit someone who was sick and spent time taking care of them. I even saw you read in the newspaper that a run-away teen had been arrested and put in jail and that there was no one in town to visit her. So you went to visit her and have prayer with her. Then Jesus said to you, I want to let you know, that what you did for them you were doing for Me.1 Yes, I saw all the things you did in My name even when you didn’t know I was looking. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

1 Matthew 25:35-40

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

elgreco_paul154x200

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER FOURTEEN (Lesson XX)

On one Sabbath day, Jesus was invited in to have a meal at one of the leading Pharisee’s house. While waiting for the meal to be served, Jesus asked his host if he invited only friends to such an occasion, or did he sometimes have people just come in off the street because if he did, God would pay him back on at the resurrection, Someone reclining at the table with Jesus heard this, they stated enthusiastically: “How blessed are those who eat bread in the Kingdom of God!1 But Jesus had one revelation He wanted everyone to know about this Kingdom of God: “The Kingdom of God will not come with visible signs; nor will people be able to say, ‘Look! Here it is!’ or, ‘Over there!’ Because, you see, the Kingdom of God is already among you.2 In other words, it is a spiritual kingdom. That’s why Jesus told Nicodemus: “I tell you that unless a person is born-again from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God… And unless a person is born from water3 and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. 4

It was very important to Paul that the Roman believers also knew exactly what the Kingdom of God was all about. Perhaps he was reminded of when he was told that some self-styled experts had gone to Corinth and were telling everyone how they thought real Christians should live. So Paul wrote the church in Corinth and told them: “If the Lord allows me to, I will come to visit you. I will find out when I come if these proud people have God’s power, or if they just use a lot of big words. The Kingdom of God is not a matter of words but of power.5 One does not stray into the Kingdom of God, nor do they gain entrance out of the sheer luck of being in the right place at the right time. Paul also did not mince words when he wrote the Thessalonians: “We told you with strong words that you should live to please God. He is the One Who chose you to come into His Kingdom and to share His shining-greatness.6

We can gather from this, that with Gentiles and Jews fellowshipping in many churches throughout the known world in Paul’s day, that the customs and manners in which they were raised were always subjects that caused a lot of discussions and no doubt disagreements. The writer of Hebrews had to tell his readers: “Do not let the many strange teachings lead you the wrong way. Our hearts are made strong by God’s loving-favor. Food does not make our hearts strong. Those who obey Laws about eating certain foods are not helped by them.7 Paul told the Corinthians: “God Himself made the way so you can have new life through Christ Jesus. God gave us Christ to be our wisdom.8 Paul had good advice for the Philippians. He told them Christ had revealed to him that he could not be right with God by what the Law told him to do, but he was made right with God by what Christ told him to do.9

The Apostle Peter was also aware of how much sway the words and writings of church leaders had on those out in the far-flung reaches of the Roman Empire. So he started his second letter to them by letting them know that he knew this letter was going to people who shared the same faith as he did, faith that was of such great value that no amount of money could purchase it. He wrote: “This faith comes from our God and Jesus Christ, the One Who saves. May you have more and more of His loving-favor and peace as you come to know God and our Lord Jesus Christ better.10 God’s Kingdom was to be known as a kingdom of peace that was inhabited with peacemakers. Not peacemakers who only made peace with the world, but with each other. That’s why Jesus told His disciples that even though they would encounter only trouble and tribulations in this world, that everything He taught was designed to bring them peace of mind and peacefulness to their souls.11

There was nothing that brought Paul more peace of mind than when he got the news that the churches were working together to spread the Good News about the Messiah and the Kingdom of God. That’s why he wrote the Philippians telling them that if they were strong because they belong to Christ; if His love brought them comfort; if they had joy in their gifts from the Holy Spirit; if they had loving-kindness and compassion for each other, that he shared their joy by knowing that they all think the same way. He told them to keep exercising the same love. Be as one in thought and action.12

Paul also commended the Philippians as follows: “Be full of joy always because you belong to the Lord. Again I say, be full of joy! Let all people see how gentle you are. The Lord is coming again soon. Do not worry. Learn to pray about everything. Give thanks to God as you ask Him for what you need. The peace of God is much greater than the human mind can understand. This peace will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.13 Paul was convinced of the fact that Christians may try all they want to get along with and become friends with the world so that they would suffer less persecution and ridicule, but it will not work. Jesus made it clear, we ARE NOT of this world,14 meaning the secular system, human philosophy, situational ethics, and corrupt virtues by which sinners lived and moved and had their being.15 Christ told Pilate: “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.16

On the topic of righteousness not being found in what we eat or drink, early church leader Origen points out that just as there is no marriage in heaven,17 so is there no eating and drinking there either. All that will be over and done with and will have no place in God’s presence. Rather, there will be pure morality and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Because of this, Origen believes that Paul is urging everyone to concentrate on spiritual things, realizing that it has already been placed in our souls here below which we will take with us when we go into the heavenly kingdom. Peace and holy living and whatever else we are given by the Holy Spirit will be our food and drink in the Kingdom of Heaven.18 It is clear that as far back as the second-century theologians knew that no earthly body would be taken to live in heaven.

Pelagius joins the others in making the point that we are not justified by what foods we eat. He also points out that Paul did not say that fasting and abstinence are not part of the Kingdom of God but rather food and drink. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are more easily maintained when we stop depending on what others have to give in order to bring us contentment. For where there is righteousness (by loving one’s neighbor as oneself) there is also peace, and where there is peace there is also spiritual joy. This helps us avoid the distress and trouble that arises out of discord.19 Bishop Theodore writes somewhat humorously: “We ought to laugh at those who think that after the resurrection we shall eat and drink [in the Kingdom of Heaven] when Paul’s words so clearly say the opposite.20

Martin Luther sees more here in what Paul is saying than it being just a dispute over what is permissible or not permissible for a Christian to eat or drink. He takes those who insist on their spiritual rights as wanting to claim the Kingdom of God for themselves. Such people are willing to disturb the harmony and peace among church members just to satisfy their own likes or dislikes. Luther feels that this is unacceptable because such things are not essential to God’s Kingdom thriving here on earth. Our joy, says Luther, is in being filled with the Holy Spirit, not certain foods and drinks. That is what brings us peace and joy because we are right with God. As Luther sees it, nothing disturbs peace more than the offence or resentment which is shown to a fellow believer, especially in matters violating their conscience.21 Could this be what Jesus was referring to when He said: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they are the true children of God?”22

John Calvin has several interesting things to say about Paul’s statement here. First, he notes that Paul is teaching us that we can abstain from using our liberty without any feeling of loss because the Kingdom of God is all about greater things than what we want or think we need. Furthermore, those things needed to either build up or to preserve the Kingdom of God are by no means to be neglected, even though someone may not totally agree on how or why they are implemented. If it is considered lawful to abstain from certain meats, this should have no negative effect on the harmony of the Church’s members as long as God’s honor is uninjured; while Christ’s kingdom suffers no harm, and our faith in Him is not hindered.

Calvin then goes on to share that by connecting peace and joy together, it seems to him that Paul is expressing the characteristics of joy. It doesn’t matter how quiet or loud those who are not happy about the way things are being done express themselves. Some won’t be joyful or have peace of mind until God lets them have their way. However, no joy will come to them unless it is first preceded by peace. And Calvin notes that although it would have been nice had Paul declared that the Holy Spirit was the author of what he was saying, nevertheless, it is clear that the Holy Spirit inspired him to point out that God is less concerned with external things than He is that we might know that the things which belong to the Kingdom of God will continue to operate in our lives with or without such foods.23

1 Luke 14:15 – Complete Jewish Bible

2 Luke 17:20-21

3 Nicodemus, being a Jew, understood the role of “water” in Jewish theology related to cleansing. Therefore, this should not be interpreted as referring to baptism.

4 John 3:3, 5

5 1 Corinthians 4:19-20

6 1 Thessalonians 2:12

7 Colossians 13:9

8 1 Corinthians 1:30

9 Philippians 3:9

10 2 Peter 1:1b-2

11 John 16:33

12 Philippians 2:1-2

13 Philippians 4:4-7

14 John 15:19

15 Cf. Acts of the Apostles 17:28

16 John 18:36

17 Matthew 22:30

18 Origen: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

19 Pelagius: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

20 Theodore of Mopsuestia; On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit. See Revelation 7:16

21 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 204-205

22 Matthew 5:9

23 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

elgreco_paul154x200

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER FOURTEEN (Lesson XIX)

Charles Hodge follows a similar line of thinking by noting that even though the thing being done is right in itself, yet if indulging in it becomes injurious to a fellow Christian believer, that indulgence is a violation of the Law of Love. Following the Law of Love is one of the firsts things the Apostle Paul urges the congregation in Rome to consider. They should always be careful not to put a stumbling block in their fellow believer’s pathway. Paul’s use of the Greek verb lypeō (“grieved” in KJV), which means: “to make someone feel sad or heartbroken at what they see being done.” It causes them grief because it offends their conscience. Therefore, if a fellow believer becomes emboldened by another believer’s example and is led into doing what they think is wrong by their standards, it will end up making them feel sad and miserable. This is caused by the fact that this person’s conscience was injured by letting this other person lead them astray, and they didn’t care.1

In his notes, Albert Barnes touches on this sensitive subject that has plagued the Church throughout its history with embarrassing blood stains for all the world to see. There have been times when one branch of Christianity has used their Christian liberty to speak out against and make unkind remarks about one another so that it produced contention and strife. This gave the Church’s opponents all the ammunition they needed to fire off shots at the “holier than thou” branch who had the tendency of preaching love but practicing loathing. They circulated rumors containing damming reports for the world to read about such behavior. How much strife both in and outside the Church could have been avoided if all Christians had high regard for the Law of Love in relation to their spiritual and moral standards in the church? While one group may consider their view to be right, they should not by any hardheaded enforcement on others only give rise to contention and angry discussions.2

Charles Ellicott also addresses an insight that Henry Alford mentions. Alford says that by Paul first speaking of offending and then destroying, he is making a big difference between a small offence and the great damage that can result. For Alford, even a tiny act that causes grief to a brother or sister in Christ is an offence against love. How much greater is the offence then if this grieving ends up destroying the faith they already had?3 Ellicott further explains that there are two stages implied in the words “grieve” and “destroy.” When a weak believer sees a strong believer do that which their own conscience condemns, it causes them anxiety, but when they are further led on from this to do it themselves, their conscience condemns them and they are in danger of a worse fate. This can lead to their being morally and spiritually crippled. The work of redemption that Christ has wrought for them is in danger of being canceled, and all those great and beneficial promises taken out of their hands by an act of thoughtlessness or lack of consideration on the part of a fellow Christian.4

In his Bible Study, H. A. Ironside advises believers that are weak in faith, that is, those whose immature or uninstructed consciences cause them to be troubled by things that may seem small to others, are to be welcomed and embraced as being a genuine Christian. They should not be judged for their questionings or doubtful thoughts. This principle is a most far-reaching one and indicates the breadth of Christian love that should prevail over the spirit of legality into which it is so easy to fall. Some believers find it hard to explore the Christian privileges provided in the Gospel. Nevertheless, all those who are children of God are to be recognized as fellow-members of the Body, and unless living in open wickedness, to be accorded their blood-bought place in the Christian family. Wickedness and weakness are not to be confused. The wicked person is to be shunned,5 but the weak believer is to be received and protected.6

Karl Barth gives this very eloquent paraphrase for us to always keep in mind of what Paul is saying here: “By forgetting the brother in my fellow men, the One in the other, Christ in the neighbor, in the weakness of the neighbor – I walk no longer in love, I am justified neither by the possibility that they may be right nor by the fact that God is right… Christ died for him, and I – [eat what distresses him!] This is the ridiculous impossibility of my most possible possibility: this is the wrong of my supreme right. No triumphant freedom of conscience, no triumphant faith to eat all things justifies me, if, at the moment of my triumph, I have seated myself upon the throne of God and am myself preparing stumbling-blocks and occasions of falling instead of making room for God’s action. Gone then are my faith and my freedom, and all my knowledge is as though I knew nothing.7

John Stott poses some questions that we all need to ask ourselves whenever a lesser informed believer finds something we are doing objectionable because it goes against their conscience. We should begin with the fact that since Christ loved them enough to die for them, should we not love them enough to refrain from wounding their conscience? Another thing to consider is since Christ sacrificed Himself for their well-being, should we then assert ourselves and do them harm? Furthermore, since Christ died to save them, should we not be careful not to do something that may end up losing them? But Stott is not finished. He has read and heard of many Bible scholars and teachers say that the destruction Paul speaks of here more or less means sending them to hell because of our unwillingness to come to an agreement for their sake.

Stott is not hesitant to object and states four reasons why he would disagree with such an attitude that one small offence against a believer would end up sending them to hell. First, are we really to believe that a Christian believer’s single act against their own conscience – which in many cases is not their fault but the fault of a strong who have misled them, and which is, therefore, it was an unintentional mistake, not a deliberate disobedience – will bring upon them eternal condemnation? No! A fiery hell is reserved only for the devil, his fallen angels, the stubborn, the unrepentant, and those individuals who willfully persist in sinning against God and His Word. Secondly, such a view (the eternal destruction of a fellow believer) is inconsistent with the doctrine of final perseverance, which the Apostle Paul has eloquently expressed here in Romans,8 affirming that absolutely nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. The hallmark of every authentic brother or sister in Christ is that he or she will, by God’s steadfast love, persevere to the end as long as they depend on Him as their Savior.

Thirdly, Paul writes, in verse 15, that the strong are capable of damaging a weak believer’s conscience, but Jesus said that God Himself is the only one who can and will damn people in hell.9 Fourthly, the context in what Paul says here in verses 15-16 demands a different interpretation of “destroy.” Paul uses the Greek verb apollymi which has a broad spectrum of meanings which range from “killing” to “abolishing”. Paul contrasts “destroy” with “edification,” which means to “build up”.10 Therefore, Paul warns the strong believer not to mislead the weak believer in going against their consciences because it may do serious damage to advancing their Christian walk with Christ. He urges the strong, do not allow what you consider good (namely, the liberty you have found in Christ) to be spoken evil of all because you flaunted it to the detriment of the weak.11

Jewish scholar David Stern points to the Jewish writings as a possible source for what Paul learned and what he is passing on here to the Romans, especially the Jewish members of the congregation. In the Talmud, we read where Rabbi Johanan was discussing with other Rabbis whether what the Written Law said could also apply to the oral laws written by the Rabbis? His conclusion was, “Yes. Even if something was taught as permissible, yet some treat them as prohibited, you must not allow them to be done in their presence because it is written, “he shall not break his vow”12.13 Stern says that when someone is in bondage to rules to the point that anything outside those restrictions would be considered bad, we should not flaunt our freedom to do as we wish.14

14:17  In God’s kingdom, what we eat and drink is not important. Here is what is important: a right way of living in peace and joy – all which come from the Holy Spirit.

Now Paul teaches the believers in Rome that they must prioritize what are the most important things in their lives, and this is not “self,” but “selflessness.” This was the main theme of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.15 It’s like a person driving on the highway where they must not only keep their eyes on the road but be very aware of those coming and going and those around them. They must be conscious of the fact that every turn they make has the potential of affecting them all, either for the good or for disaster. We all know there are few things that frustrate us any more than drivers who change lanes without signaling; pull out in front of us without looking left or right; who suddenly cross from the far left lane into the far right lane seconds before exiting, or race through a red light. So it is in life. There are people all around us, and what we say and do can have a positive or negative effect on them. This is especially true of our fellow believers.

These are not temporary tenets or ethics. Daniel was told: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed. And it will never be taken by another people. It will outlast and bring an end to all these nations because it will stand forever.16 That’s why when John the Baptizer came he had this message: “Repent for your sins and turn from them! The Holy Kingdom of Heaven is near.17 John the Baptizer went on to say that this new Kingdom of God would be established by Yeshua, the one spoken of by the Prophet Isaiah.18 And Jesus was not hesitant in letting it be known that people should reorganize their lives so that they put the Kingdom of God first in their thoughts and deeds.19 Yes, we are all on the Highway of Holiness,20 but we abide by God’s rules, not ours.

1 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 656-657

2 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

3 Henry Alford: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit. p. 121

4 Charles Ellicott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

5 1 Corinthians 5:13

6 Harry A. Ironside: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

7 Karl Barth: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

8 Chapter 8:28–39

9 Matthew 10:28

10 See Romans 14:15 and 15:2

11 John Stott: On Romans op. cit., loc. cit.

12 Numbers 30:2

13 Babylonian Talmud: Seder Nashim, Masekhet Nedarim, folio 15b

14 David Stern: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

15 Matthew 5-7

16 Daniel 2:44

17 Matthew 3:2

18 Isaiah 40:3

19 Matthew 6:31-33

20 Isaiah 35:8

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment