NUGGETS OF WISDOM

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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.

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

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EVERLASTING LOVE

I found this story on a website, and it touched my heart so I hope it touches yours. The writer did not give his name, but I’m glad he shared this story so all of us could be moved by everlasting love.

The gentleman who shared this was telling about how many years ago he spotted a wallet laying in the parking lot of a grocery store not too far from where he worked. He stopped, bent over, picked it up, hoping to find the identity of the owner inside. All he found was three dollars and folded up the envelope. So he quickly unfolded the envelope but the mailing address had faded out, only a return address label remained. He then opened the envelope to see if the owner’s name might be inside.

The letter had been written in beautiful feminine handwriting on a powder blue stationery with a little flower in the upper left-hand corner. It was a “Dear John”” letter that told the recipient, whose name appeared to be Michael, that the writer could not see him anymore because her mother forbade it. Even so, she wrote that she would always love him. It was signed, “Hannah.” He looked again at the letter and saw that it had been written in 1924. He quickly calculated the time and saw that it had been penned some sixty years ago.

He said it was a beautiful letter, but there was no way, except for the name Michael, that the owner could be identified. This was before the internet and Google, so he thought of calling the operator to see if there was still a phone listing for the return address on the envelope. He told her how he found the wallet, and why he was so interested in getting it back into the hands of the owner. The operator told him that she would be unable to help him because that information was private. But he insisted that they give him some clue as to where he could call to see if that individual was still there. The operator told him she’d have to speak to her manager. After a few seconds, the manager came on the line and asked how she could help him.“Miss,” he began, “I know this is an unusual request. I’m trying to find the owner of a lost wallet that I found. Is there any way you can tell me if there is a phone number for a return address that was on an envelope in the wallet? She agreed to call the number listed and tell them about the wallet and see if they knew who it belonged to.

He waited a few minutes and then the operator came back on the line. “I have a party who will speak with you who lives at that address.” A lady came on the line and so he asked her if she knew anyone by the name of Hannah who once lived at that address. She gasped, “Oh! We bought this house from a family who had a daughter named Hannah. But that was 30 years ago!” “Would you know where that family could be located now? he asked. “I remember that Hannah had to place her mother in a nursing home some years ago,” the woman said. “Maybe if you got in touch with her there, maybe she might be able to help you find her daughter.”

She gave him the name telephone number of the nursing home and he called the number. They told him the old lady had passed away some years ago but they did have a phone number for where they thought the daughter might be living. He thanked them and phoned. The lady who answered explained that Hannah herself was now living in another nursing home. By this time, he was wondering if all of this was worth his time. Why make such a fuss over finding the owner of a wallet that had only three dollars and a letter that was almost 60 years old?

Nevertheless, he called the nursing home in which Hannah was supposed to be living and the man who answered the phone told him, “Yes, we have a Hannah staying with us.” He discovered that the nursing home was only blocks away from the grocery store where he found the wallet. Even though it was already late in the day, he asked if I could come by to see her. “Well,” he said hesitatingly, “if you want to take a chance, she might be in the dayroom watching television.”

He thanked the man and drove over to the nursing home. The nurse at the desk and a security guard greeted him at the door. They accompanied him down the hallway to a large day room where the nurse introduced him to Hannah. She was a sweet, silver-haired lady with a warm smile and a twinkle in her eye. He introduced himself and told her about finding the wallet and showed her the letter. The second she saw the powder blue envelope with that little flower on the left, she took a deep breath and said, “Young man, this letter was the last contact I ever had with Michael.”

She looked away for a moment deep in thought and then said Softly, “I loved him very much. But I was only 16 at the time and my mother felt I was too young. Oh, he was so handsome. He looked like Sean Connery, the actor.” Then she continued. “Michael Goldstein is his name, and he was a wonderful person. If you should ever find him to give him his wallet back, tell him I think of him every day. And, she hesitated for a moment, almost biting her lip, “Tell him, I still love him.” She smiled as tears began to well up in her eyes. She explained that she remained single because she never met anyone who measured up to Michael.

He thanked Hannah and said goodbye. As he walked by the front desk toward the door, he still had the wallet in his hand. The guard asked if the elderly lady was able to help him. He told him she had given me a lead. “At least now he had a last name. But I think I’ll let it go for a while. I spent almost the whole day trying to find the owner of this wallet.” It was a simple brown leather case with red lacing on the side. When the guard saw it, he exclaimed, “Hey, wait a minute! That’s Mr. Goldstein’s wallet. I’d know it anywhere with that bright red lacing. He’s always losing that wallet. I must have found it in the hallways and outside at least a dozen times.”

When he heard the name “Goldstein” the man’s hands began to tremble. “You know Mr. Goldstein?” The guard nodded “yes.” Do you happen to know his first name, the man asked. The guard told him that his name was Michael but everyone called him Mike. His room is over on the south wing. He quickly thanked the guard and ran back to the nurse’s station. He told her what the guard had said. So this time the nurse led him to the south wing where they came to Michael’s room. She said that Michael was a darling old man and that he liked to read at night.

We went to the only room that had any lights on and there was a man sitting in a chair reading a book. The nurse went over to him and asked if he had lost his wallet. Mr. Goldstein looked up with surprise, put his hand in his back pocket and said, “Oh my, it’s missing!” “This kind gentleman found a wallet and we wondered if it could be yours?” He handed Mr. Goldstein the wallet and the second he saw it, he smiled with relief and said, “Yes, that’s it! It must have dropped out of my pocket this afternoon. I want to give you a reward.” “No, thank you,” he said. “But I have to tell you something. I hope you’re not mad but I read the letter in hopes of finding out who owned the wallet.”

The smile on his face suddenly disappeared. “You read that letter?” The man replied, “Not only did I read it, I think I know where Hannah is.” The old man suddenly grew pale. “Hannah? You know where she is? How is she? Is she still as pretty as she was? Please, please tell me,” he begged. “She’s fine…just as pretty as when you knew her,” he said softly. The old man smiled with anticipation and asked, “Could you tell me where she is? I want to call her tomorrow.” Michael then grabbed the man’s hand and said, “You know something, mister, I was so in love with that girl that when that letter came, my life literally ended. I never married. I guess I’ve always loved her.”

At this point, the man began to get very giddy with excitement. So he said, “Mr. Goldstein, would you like to come with me. I’ll show you where Hannah is.” Michael trembled as he rose to his feet. They went to the nurses’ station and then over to the north wing of the nursing. The hallways were empty now and only one or two little lights were on in various rooms. They made their way to Hannah’s room where she was sitting watching the television.

The nurse walked over to her. “Hannah,” she said softly, pointing to Michael, who was waiting in the doorway, you have a special visitor. Hannah adjusted her glasses, looked for a moment, but didn’t say a word. Michael said softly, almost in a whisper, “Hannah, it’s me, Michael. Do you still remember me?” She gasped, “Michael! I don’t believe it! Michael! It’s you! My Michael!” He walked slowly towards her and they embraced. The nurse and the man quietly left with tears streaming down our faces. “See,” he said to the nurse. “See how the Good Lord works! If it’s meant to be, it will be.”

About three weeks later the man got a call at his office from the nursing home… “Can you break away on Sunday to attend a wedding? Michael and Hannah are going to tie the knot!” It was a beautiful wedding with all the people at the nursing home dressed up to join in the celebration. Hannah wore a light beige dress and looked beautiful. Michael wore a dark blue suit and stood tall. They made him their best man. The hospital gave them their own room and if you ever wanted to see a 76-year-old bride and a 79-year-old groom acting like two teenagers, you had to see this couple.

As I read this story, I thought of how much I loved Jesus the day He came into my life. That was almost 74 years ago. But I’ve only seen pictures of Him, and I don’t really know what He actually looks like. But He made a promise that one day He would come to take me to where He lives so that I can be in His presence for eternity. I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait until that day comes when at last I will meet my Jesus face to face. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER THIRTEEN (Lesson XV)

Robert Haldane gives his explanation of this darkness. For him, if Paul meant heathen ignorance and darkness, that was already past and the day of understanding and knowledge about God was being spread among them. And as to the night of Gentile ignorance being nearly at an end, this is still far from over. Nearly nineteen centuries have passed since this Epistle was written and the night of godlessness, so far from being at an end, still broods over the greater part of the world. So Paul’s reference to the night must be the time of the believers’ life here on earth. In their human state, even with all its light of the Gospel, it is still dark compared to the light of heaven. The day which was at hand was not the day of judgment, but the day of their departure to await the resurection.1

Charles Hodge sees it differently. As far as he’s concerned, the meaning of this verse is very obvious. Night or darkness is the common emblem of sin and sorrow; day or light, that of holiness and happiness. The meaning of the first clause, therefore is, that the time of sin and sorrow is nearly over, that of holiness and happiness is at hand. However, if we adopt this understanding it will depend on the interpretation we give to the preceding verse. If that verse refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, then Paul means to say, that the night of persecution was nearly gone, and the day of peace and prosperity to the Gentile churches was at hand. But if verse 11 refers to our final salvation, then this verse means that the sins and sorrows of this life will soon be over and the day of eternal blessedness is about to dawn. The latter view is the one Hodge prefers.2

Then Hodge goes on to note that Paul continues this beautiful figure throughout the verse. That’s why Paul admonishes the believers in Rome, and us, to get rid of those things done that we don’t want others to see and put on the armor of light so we can do everything out in the open. This armor of light means those virtues and ethics which people are not ashamed of because they will be seen by all. Paul probably used the word armor, instead of works, because these virtues constitute the offensive and defensive weapons with which we are to use when we contend against sin and evil.3 The Greek verbs apotithēmicast off4 and endyōput on5 suggest the idea of bodily covering. We are to throw off what we are wearing and put on something different. The garments which belong to the night are to be laid aside, and we are to array ourselves in those suited to the day.6 We must also add, that such clothing and armor are figures of speech for our appearance to this world – the way people see us act, talk, and live.

Albert Barnes focuses on the armor each Christian should be equipped with. He notes that the word armor properly means arms, or instruments of war, including the helmet, sword, shield, etc.7 It is used in the Last Covenant to denote the “instruments” which the Christian has, or the “means of defense” in their battle where they are represented as soldiers contending with their foes and includes truth, righteousness, faith, hope, etc., as the instruments by which they are to gain their victories. When he wrote the Corinthians, Paul called it “the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.”8 It is also called “armor of light” because it is not to accomplish any deeds done in darkness or of crime; it is appropriate for those who are upright, who are seeking a pure and noble goal. Elsewhere, Paul says that believers are represented as “children of light.9 By the armor of light, therefore, the Apostle means those graces which stand opposed to the deeds of darkness; those graces of faith, hope, humility, etc., which are appropriate to those who are the children of the day and which will be their defense in their struggles with their spiritual foes10.11

Charles Spurgeon, preaching on this text, asks: “What, then, is ‘the time‘ which Paul would have us know is close at hand?” Spurgeon wonders if it is the early morning in this life or the dawning of eternal life? The Son, like the sun, has scattered the thick darkness of nature’s intelligence. We are now enjoying His first golden beams – the time that starts the birds to singing – the time of the dew of grace and of the fresh breath of the Spirit. It is not full day yet but, still, the night is fading and the perfect day of our salvation is arriving when body and soul will be delivered from every trace of the work of Satan. That day is “nearer than when we first believed.” The light and heat of day are increasing. The darkness and chill of night are diminishing. We are getting further away from the power of ignorance, sin, and despair. We are getting more and more under the influence of spiritual knowledge, holiness, and hope! The Apostle would have us know for sure that the true light of God now shines, especially that which will grow brighter and brighter unto a perfect day!

Spurgeon continues with his thoughts by asking what is the next thing a believer is supposed to do now that they are awake? Wouldn’t it be natural that they should get rid of their pajamas and get dressed for their day’s work? When you meet your friends in the morning, you don’t see them still wrapped in the sheets which covered them at night. If we did, we might conclude that they are being taken to a mortuary. Our bed-clothes must give way to our work-clothes if we are to get ready for a good day at work. Of course, it goes without saying that first, we must take off one before we can put on the other. Spurgeon says that as simple and plain as this illustration is, it conveys a lesson which we should all try to remember. Sins and worldly living are to be discarded when we put on the garments of the light of God. Spurgeon then tells about a man in his congregation who claimed to be a Christian but all he really did was cover his sinful character with the robes of religion.

Spurgeon goes on the point out that there is more to it than this. Think about it, Christ did not come to save you in your sins but from your sins! Anger and loose-living, and such like, must be gotten rid of! Christ never came that we might christen our anger in the name of being open and honest, and our immoral living in the name of personal freedom! The rags of sin must come off if we are to put on the robe of Christ. The love for sin must die before the love of Christ can take its place! There must be a renouncing of the practices and habits of sin, or else a person cannot be a Christian! It will be an idle attempt to try and wear religion as a sort of sanctified cloak to cover our present sins. As the Scriptures say, the King’s daughter is all glorious within, or she would never have been given her clothing embroidered with gold.12

Also, says Spurgeon, the vision of Zechariah teaches us the way of the Lord – when he saw Joshua [the High Priest] clothed with filthy garments, the Lord did not put upon him a clean, stainless garment over those rags. He first said, “Take away the filthy garments off of him.” And then He added, “See, I am taking your guilt away. I will clothe you in fine robes.13 Spurgeon then explains you must be cleansed in the blood of Jesus before you can be clothed in the white linen which is the righteousness of the saints!14 In other words, now that we have been awakened from being asleep in a backslidden condition we must take off our contaminated clothing in which we served our sinful tendencies, Until we do so, we cannot put on the pure robes of sanctification that are washed clean by the blood of the Lamb of God.

Spurgeon finishes by summarizing that up until now he has been describing believers getting up from their sleep of inactivity and getting rid of their worldly clothing. But now it is time to put the garments of a sanctified, awake Christian. They should go into their dressing room and get themselves dressed and ready for the day. But not just any garment, Paul says that we should put on the armor of light. Wait a minute! Did Paul say “armor.” Why armor? Isn’t the battle with sin over? Hasn’t the lack of awareness of being in such danger now gone? Are we are no longer afraid of those sinful tendencies and temptations which used to come at night because the daylight of God’s Word has come? If so, why then should we put on an armor? Here’s why. Because it makes sense to put on an armor when you know that while one battle has been won, the war is not over.

Brothers and sisters, says Spurgeon, you might as well get ready for conflict for it is sure to come. So it only makes sense to be ready from the start. Arm yourself according to the dangers you will meet with during the day. Your journey is not finished yet, the land of peace and joy is yet further down the road. Young converts often think that once they are saved that heaven is only a step away, but that is not so. They will get there one day, but the time is not yet. They are in enemy territory. That’s why the armor of light is so necessary. Perhaps, before you finish your breakfast an arrow of criticism will be shot at you by your detractors. Or you may come downstairs after your morning prayers feeling as safe as if you were among the angels, but must not forget there are fallen angels awaiting you with their stories meant to tempt you. That means, all of your foes may not be waiting for you out in the world but can be found in your own household and they may wound you at your own table!15 This may sound disingenuous to some of us, but it is all too true for some.

One Jewish scholar sees what Paul says here reflected in a number of verses in the First Covenant where God is said to be clothed in garments of strength and justice: (All quotes are from the Complete Jewish Bible).

Psalm 93:1 – Adonai is king, robed in majesty; Adonai is robed, girded with strength; The world is well established; it cannot be moved.

Isaiah 59:17 – He put on righteousness as his breastplate, salvation as a helmet on his head; he clothed himself with garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in a mantle of zeal.

Isaiah 63:1,2 – Who is this, coming from Edom, from Botzrah with clothing stained crimson, so magnificently dressed, so stately in his great strength? “It is I, who speak victoriously, I, well able to save.” Why is your apparel red, your clothes like someone treading a winepress?

1 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 590

2 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 639

3 See Ephesians 6:11

4 See Hebrews 12:1

5 See Matthew 27:31

6 Charles Hodge: ibid., pp. 639-640

7 Ephesians 6:11-17.

8 2 Corinthians 6:7

9 1 Thessalonians 5:5. Note Luke 16:8

10 See the full description in Ephesians 4:11-17

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

12 Psalm 45:13

13 Zechariah 3:34 – Complete Jewish Bible

14 Revelation 19:8

15 Charles Spurgeon: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Dressing in the Morning, #1614 Vol. 27, pp. 1-3

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER THIRTEEN (Lesson XIV)

Verse 12: The night is almost finished. The day is almost here. So we should stop doing whatever we do when its dark. We should prepare ourselves to fight evil with the weapons that belong out in the light.

When some read this warning by Paul to his Roman brethren, many think that by saying that the night is almost finished, he was implying that Jesus would return during his lifetime. But here is what we must all remember. God’s signal for His Son to return to collect all believers to go with Him to the place He has prepared for them is not based on man’s timetable, but the Father’s. And since there is no passage of time in God’s eternal present, to Him these past 2000 years have been nothing more than the blink of an eye. Not only that, but it has been the constant hope of every generation of believers that they would be the ones who would be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye and join Him in the air. That’s why they have remained faithful up to the end.

If this is Paul’s breathless anticipation for the return of Christ, his suggestion that the long night of anticipation is just about over reminds us of what Solomon said: “Before the morning comes and the shadows flee, return, my love. Be like a gazelle or a young deer on the mountains of Bether.12 And speaking of when someone expected arrives on a mountain, we think of what is said about our Lord’s final return to set up His kingdom here on earth: “On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, in front of Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives will be divided in two.3 But is that what Paul was talking about here? Could it be that he was talking about each person’s life here on earth represented as a day? So for them, it was their day that was coming to an end.

In response to Paul’s imagery of light against darkness, early church scholars have their views and understanding of the Apostle’s words. Origen contends that this may be understood in both a universal and in a specific sense. In the first instance, the light is dawning everywhere, and the reign of darkness over the world is rapidly coming to an end. In the second instance, if we have Christ in our hearts He gives us light. Therefore, if the knowledge of the Gospel we receive drives away our ignorance, and if we turn away from worldly involvement and do what is right, we are in the light and are walking as though it was already day.4

And Bishop Diodore sees it this way: The “day” refers to the time we still have in this life in which we must let our light shine for all the world to see God’s love and kindness. The “night” is when we let our light go out and it is no longer possible to see the goodness and generosity of God’s love. That will cause us to lie in darkness as though we are asleep and lose all opportunity to do the will of God for our lives in blessing others.5 But Ambrosiaster gives a different view. For him, “night” means the old man, who is renewed through baptism. Paul says that the old man has passed away as the night and that the day is near, namely, the Son of Righteousness, by whose light the truth appears to us so that we may know what to do. Before, we were in the dark, being ignorant of Christ. But when we learned of Him the light rose on us and we passed from the false to the truth. The “darkness” refers to immorality, which occurs when we give in to worldly temptations. But to “put on the armor of light6 is to do good deeds and acts of devotion.7

This is in line with what Paul calls things people do that God despises as “works of darkness.” Job has a good characterization of those who commit such evil deeds: “There are those who rebel against the light — they don’t know its ways or stay in its paths. The murderer rises with the light to kill the poor and needy; while at night he is like a thief. The eye of the adulterer too waits for twilight; he thinks, ‘No eye will see me’; but [to be sure], he covers his face. When it’s dark, they break into houses; in the daytime, they stay out of sight. [None of them] know the light. For to all of them deep darkness is like morning, for the terrors of deep darkness are familiar to them.8 If this was going on in Job’s day, should we be surprised that it is still going on today?

No wonder then that Paul wrote the Ephesians and told them: “Have nothing to do with the bad things done in darkness. Instead, show that these things are wrong. It is a shame even to talk about these things done in secret.9 And to the Thessalonians, Paul had this to say: “You are children of the light and of the day. We are not of darkness or of night.10 Even the Apostle John quoted what he heard Jesus say on this subject that the children of light should not want to live in darkness: “What we heard Him tell us we are passing it on to you. God is light. There is no darkness in Him. If we say we are joined together with Him but live in darkness, we are telling a lie. We are not living the truth. If we live in the light as He is in the light, we share what we have in God with each other. And the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, makes our lives clean from all sin.11

This is why Paul wrote the Ephesians and gave them these instructions: “Our fight is not with people. It is against the leaders and the powers and the spirits of darkness in this world. It is against the demon world that works in the heavens. Because of this, put on all the things God gives you to fight with. Then you will be able to stand in that sinful day. When it is all over, you will still be standing.”12 And to the Thessalonians Paul wrote: “Because we are men of the day, let us keep our minds awake. Let us cover our chests with faith and love. Let us cover our heads with the hope of being saved. God planned to save us from the punishment of sin through our Lord Jesus Christ. He did not plan for us to suffer from His anger. He died for us so that, dead or alive, we will be with Him. So comfort each other and make each other strong as you are already doing.13 Even though Paul was experienced in reading Hebrew writings, he was also familiar with Greek writing as well. So there is no reason why he may not have come across the words of Greek philosopher Antisthenes (440-365 BC) who made the statement: “Wisdom is secure, and virtue an armor which cannot be taken away.14

 Early church preacher Chrysostom looks at the “day” as a call for us to get ready for the battle. Do not be afraid at the thought of bearing arms. It is a heavy and distasteful duty when we have to bear a visible suit of armor, but in this case, it is desirable and worth it. For the arms we are called to bear are those of the light!15 And Augustine believes that Paul is issuing a warning to believers. The night is symbolic of how many years have passed since Christ came to share the good news of salvation. So how much closer are we now to His return when our work here on earth will be done. So “day” is a reference to His return. This is especially important when we realize how much closer we are now to the end!16

Then Pelagius sees this: Paul likens knowledge to the day and ignorance to the night, in accordance with what Hosea says: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.17 So let us end our involvement in works done only in the dark and put on the armor of light, that is, works of light.18 And Theodore adds that by “day” Paul means the time since the coming of Christ, for His appearing has made it much easier to tell the difference between good and evil. “Night” refers to the time before His coming.19 To which we add the thoughts of Theodoret: “Night” refers to the time of ignorance before Christ came, whereas “day” refers to the time after the Lord came.20

Martin Luther has an enlightening comment here. He finds it interesting that the Apostle Paul places “light” and “darkness,” “works” and “armor” in contrast to one another. But Luther says that it is no wonder. For the life of the new Law (– the new spiritual life in Christ) – means war and warfare, and for this, we need armor21.22 John Calvin sees it from a different perspective. For him, the sum of what Paul says is that just as we can conclude that at the first light of dawn the day is upon us and the sun will soon rise, so we ought to look forward to the coming of Christ.23 Calvin goes on to say that we should not allow ourselves to become overwhelmed with the thick darkness of ignorance as unbelievers are. They have no spark of new life. But the hope of the resurrection is the light that sustains us in our faith.

John Bengel says that Paul seems to be speaking to someone just waking up, who doesn’t realize that daybreak is about to occur. For someone who is wide awake, they know what time it is, but for a person just coming out of sleep isn’t sure how late it is. That’s why they must be informed that it’s time to get up, the day is dawning, it’s time to get ready and go to work. And that’s exactly what Paul is doing.24 As to shaking off the works of darkness that Paul speaks about, Bengel attributes that to the things done while people are spiritually asleep.25 That’s why when they wake up, they should take off their night clothes and put on their armor and be ready to go out and fight for what is right.

Adam Clarke understands that what Paul is saying when he said, “The night is far spent,” was that the days of the Gentiles living in the darkness of ignorance as to who God really is, was coming to an end. Clarke then gives us this paraphrase: “The night is far spent – heathenish darkness is nearly at an end. The day is at hand – the full manifestation of the Son of Righteousness, in the illumination of the whole Gentile world, approaches rapidly.” Clarke explains that the manifestation of the Messiah is regularly termed by the ancient Jews as “yom” (day) – the day of the Messiah. It suggests that to this coming of the Messiah, the world lay in the darkness of ignorance. So for Clarke, casting off the works of darkness means getting rid of the beliefs and practices of the unconverted.26

1 There is no such mountain identified in Israel as “Bether.” It is a Hebrew term that means “separation” or “dividing.”

2 Song of Solomon 2:17

3 Zechariah 14:4

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

5 Diodore: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

6 Romans 13:12

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

8 Job 24:13-17

9 Ephesians 5:11-12

10 1 Thessalonians 5:5

11 1 John 1:5-7; See 2:8-11

12 Ephesians 6:12-13

13 1 Thessalonians 5:8-11

14 Antisthenes: quoted in Wisdom, Wit and Whims of Distinguished Ancient Philosophers, by Joseph Banvard, Published by Heldon, Lamport & Blakeman, New York, 1855, p. 28

15 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 24

16 Augustine: Letter 77

17 Hosea 4:5-6

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

19 Theodore of Mopsuestia: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

20 Theodoret of Cyr: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

21 Cf. Ephesians 6:10-20

22 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 190

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

24 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 349

25 Cf. Galatians 5:19

26 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 261

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

elgreco_paul154x200

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER THIRTEEN (Lesson XIII)

The Apostle Paul also had a wake-up call for the Ephesians: “The light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light’.12 This was Paul’s warning for those who had become complacent in their Christian walk with God. That’s because from the moment Christ disappeared from the view on the day of His ascension the countdown began on His return. It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to figure out that with over 2000 years having passed from that day till now, the time left between and departure and return has shortened considerably.

John Calvin called Paul’s words here an exhortation. In other words, an attempt to incite them into action. We should all be aware that the rays of eternal life are already shining on us, as it were, at the dawn of Christ’s coming. We ought, therefore, do out in the open what needs to be done for everyone to see. But at the same time, don’t be guilty of doing things in the open that are only done in the dark. When we are not careful and do things not expected of a believer, we cancel out all the good things we’ve done up until then.

That’s why we, who always stand in the sight of God and of angels, and whom Christ, the true Sun of righteousness has invited into His divine presence, must be aware that He sees everything we do, good or bad. So be careful, be conscious of the fact that you are walking in a world full of moral pollution. Keep your heart and hands clean so you do not become contaminated. Calvin says that the importance of these words is this: Since we know that the seasonable time has already come in which we should awaken from the sleep of indifference, let us get rid of whatever is done in the dark because the light is coming in which all we say and do will be seen by everyone. It’s daytime! Get up! Get busy! Get going!3

John Bengel illustrates what Paul is saying here. When a believer hears the alarm bells of faith, it means the morning has dawned. They must shake off sleep, get up, and get ready to go to work. To just lay there will only invite sleep to take over again. The message of the Gospel always aims at higher and higher degrees of competence and presupposes that the old way of doing things is not getting the job done. Something newer must be implemented and followed, something that corresponds with the knowledge that our salvation is nearer now than ever before.

In Bengel’s mind, the Apostle Paul believes that the path a Christian follows, once begun, proceeds onward continually and draws nearer and nearer to its goal. Paul had long ago written both his epistles to the Thessalonians. Therefore, when he wrote of the nearness of salvation, he wrote about it constructively. But now, years have passed and he must repeat his message with greater urgency.4 We find in the Book of Hebrews where the day of salvation is spoken of as being near.5 But here, salvation is as near to us as daybreak. The believer who starts out with great energy and enthusiasm must not tire now that they are much closer to their goal. They are nearer to the finish line because they’ve made progress. So now is not the time to recede, but proceed!6

Adam Clarke tells us that some Bible scholars think that this passage should be understood this way: We have many advantages over those who lived in Paul’s day. Salvation is nearer – the whole Christian faith system is more fully explained, and the knowledge of it more easily acquired than before. Because of that, greater progress in religious knowledge and in practical righteous living is now expected and required of us. Unfortunately, many have been too neglectful in taking up the challenge to go all out for Christ. Deliverance from the persecutions like those in Paul’s day is more common today, so it has been easier to grow comfortable in this world. So Paul’s message for us today is that we must be cautious not to develop a lackadaisical attitude toward the urgency of his call to action.7

And Robert Haldane echoes those same thoughts by noting that a considerable amount of time had passed since the church at Rome was organized and the brethren who were first called to the knowledge of the truth were now approaching the day when they would be called from this earth to their place of rest to await their entry into the land of promise. The closer we get to leaving this world and entering into a state of glory ought to have a greater impact upon Christians today. It should make them think less of this world, and more of that land in which they are about to become eternal inhabitants.8

Charles Hodge gives his interpretation of what Paul is saying here about the Day of Salvation being so near. He explains that there is nothing in the Scriptures, nor in this immediate context, that would make us believe that Paul thought the return of Christ was at hand when he tells his readers that their salvation was nearer than when they believed. The third and most common, as well as the most natural interpretation of this passage,  is that Paul simply meant to remind them that their personal time of deliverance from this world of sin and sorrow through death was near. Furthermore, that any sins and temptations they had to deal with along the way would soon disappear like the morning dew does at the rising of the sun.

The salvation, therefore, intended here is the consummation of the work of Christ in their own lives and their deliverance from this present evil world and introduction into the purity and blessedness of heaven. Eternity is at hand! This is the solemn consideration that Paul urges on his readers as a motive for increased devotion and determination.9 In other words, for those who die in the faith and go to there eternal rest, their days are over. There is no returned to complete unfinished work. The Day of Resurrection is not the end date for everyone, only those who are living at the time. Our time to finish this journey here on earth may be only years, months, weeks, or even days away. That’s why Paul’s message is so relevant for us today.

Albert Barnes offers his insight on Paul’s call for believers to awaken. He believes that Paul has chosen a beautiful illustration. The dawn of day, the approaching light of the morning, is the time to open one’s eyes and get ready to face the day. In the darkness of night, people sleep, but in the brightness of day, people get up and get busy. The world had been stuck in the night of paganism and sin. At that time it was to be expected that they would sleep the sleep of spiritual death. But now the morning light of the Gospel has dawned. The Sun of Righteousness has arisen. It is time, therefore, for people to stop sleeping and get up to greet the day. It is no longer time for sleep, but spring into action.10

The same idea is beautifully presented by Paul when he wrote the Thessalonians.11 The meaning is, that up until now many believers have allowed themselves to fall asleep in a world dark with sin. But we are supposed to walk in the light of the Gospel. We know our duty. We are sure that the God of light is around us, and is a witness to all we do. We are soon going to meet Him, and it makes sense that we should get busy and to do those things Jesus commanded us to do. They are deeds which allow the bright shining of the light of truth to shine through us for all the world to see. So get up! Get going! Before you know it the day will be over when we can no longer do what we were saved to do. Who wants to meet our returning King with empty hands?12

Preacher Octavius Winslow speaks about what he calls the believer’s progress in the divine life. He suggests that believers commune with their own heart as to their progress in holy living. It is impossible to know exactly how far we’ve traveled on our heavenward way, the stages we have completed, the goals we have reached if we don’t communicate with ourselves. The sea captain examines his ocean-chart, the traveler the milestones along the road to mark the progress they have made toward home. How much more should each pilgrim do the same as they make their way toward that heavenly city of eternal light!

Winslow continues by pointing out that everything in nature is advancing – nothing is stationary. You don’t plant trees and expect them to remain the same. They grow and get bigger. Progress is the universal Law of the universe. So why should the renewed soul of a heaven-bound traveler be the only one to stand still? Should the living water poured into the soul of the regenerate be left to grow stagnant? Is the kingdom of grace alone exempt from the operation of this Law of progress? So ask yourself this question: How high is my sun in the spiritual heavens? How near is it to its glorious setting? How far away am I from the haven of rest for my soul, where I will be sheltered from the storm as I await my glorious resurrection? Paul says it is high time to awaken out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed.13

Charles Spurgeon preached a similar message. He was concerned at how deep in sleep some professing Christians had drifted! How utterly insensible they had become to the sins and sorrows of those around them. Yes, they believe God has His people and they are very glad they are His children, that is, as long as He doesn’t bother them while they take a nap. They don’t seem concerned that the world around them is under the control of the wicked serpent, causing multitudes to perish in their sins. They are sad to see it happen, but being sorry is about as far as they will go. It doesn’t cause them any sleepless nights, and it doesn’t interrupt their dreams. They are not interested in it enough to make them uncomfortable. After all, God is in control so they really have nothing to do with what’s going on. As long as all is well with their souls, that’s what really matters.

Spurgeon then goes on to make this point: Christ is preparing heaven for us, and His Spirit is preparing us for our arrival. Well, then, if we are getting ready for heaven, we ought to be more awake, for sleepiness does not apply to heavenly beings. Heaven is the home of activity, not the dormitory of unconsciousness. When our bodies are raised from the dead, they will enjoy life and energy, and be forever free from fatigue and sluggishness. Let us, as we are getting ready for our celestial gathering be more full of life and energy.14 In other words, heaven will take care of those things that make us tired and weary down here, but it will not be a place where people lay around doing nothing. You may wear yourself out doing what He wants you to do here on earth, but once we arrive in heaven there will be enough energy to keep us going for eternity.

1 Ephesians 5:14

2 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 186-190

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

4 Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:15

5 Hebrews 6:9

6 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 348-349

7 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 261

8 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 589

9 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 639

10 Cf. Acts of the Apostles 17:30-31

11 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8

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

13 Works of Octavius Winslow: “Self-Communion,” Text Psalm 4:4

14 Charles Spurgeon: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Wake Up! Wake Up! #1445, On Romans 13:11, Vol. 24, p. 7

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

elgreco_paul154x200

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER THIRTEEN (Lesson XII)

Karl Barth makes the point that Love is incapable of contradiction. Love does not enter into competition; and, therefore, it cannot be defeated. And since it can only hate when it comes to evil,1 it is, therefore, the action which is altogether preeminent over all evil. If it were possible for Love to do wrong in the midst of evil, it would make itself incompetent under all circumstances. That would mean, that if, as a protest against the course of this evil world, we would stop loving, that would prove that we do not love God. Therefore, we would be unable to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice and would not have our minds renewed.2 This is the relentless, impelling, earnestness of the command of Love; and – therefore, Love does fulfill of the Law.3

Jewish scholar David Stern admits that even Messianic Jews live with that tension. But so do Gentile Christians, and likewise non-Messianic Jews. For even the most orthodox Jew, even one who, for the sake of argument, knows every halakhic [Jewish Law] ever enacted, would, as a practical matter, have to reach their own conclusions as to what the Law requires of them, at least in border-line situations; if at such moments, they are not operating in love, their decision will be wrong. Conversely, an approach which disregards legal rules and precedents guarantees a lower standard of ethical action, since each individual will have to “reinvent the wheel” as they rediscover for themselves accumulated wisdom and expertise. This Jewish writer thinks the best position is to avoid both the stiff application of the Law and the unreliability of subjective love-feelings. It combines the sensitivity of Spirit-inspired love (which is more than a mere feeling – it implies loving action) with respect for ethical instruction in Halakhah [Jewish Law] and other laws seeking to draw from the full complement of God-given human and supernatural resources – good and loving responses in all circumstances.4

Verse 11: I say this because you know that we live in an important time. Yes, it is now time for you to wake up from your sleep. Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

When these words were written, in the mind of the author the coming of Christ was imminent. Now over 2000 years later as we read them, should we take them seriously since they were apparently meant for another time and place? By all means! Paul was a tool of God’s divine inspiration. Even though he spoke to his generation, God knew that future Christians would need this admonition, not in the future tense, but with the impact of the present tense imperative.

Jesus pointed out to the religious leaders of His day that while they are cognizant of the signs they see in nature such as a red sky at night is a sailor’s delight but a red sky in the morning is a sailor’s warning, they seemed oblivious to the spiritual signs being shown to them.5 Later on, Jesus would tell His own disciples that they too must be aware of the signs of the times. So he told them to always be on the lookout.6

 That’s why the Apostle Paul cautioned the Thessalonians: You do not need anyone to write to tell you when and at what kind of times these things will happen. You know for sure that the day the Lord comes back to earth will be as a robber coming in the night. When they say, “Everything is fine and safe,” then all at once they will be destroyed. It will be like pain that comes on a woman when a child is born. They will not be able to get away from it.7

When we see some Christians who are seemingly asleep in their walk with Christ, we want to be like the ship captain with Jonah on-board. In the middle of the storm when things started getting bad, we read that the “ship’s captain found Jonah and yelled at him, ‘What are you doing sleeping down here? Get up! Call on your god!’8 Jesus had His own illustration about ten young ladies who were part of a wedding entourage. Five of them thought ahead and took extra oil just in case their wait would be longer than they planned, but five of them didn’t bother to plan ahead. So when the call went out that the groom had arrived, those who didn’t bring extra oil were left in the dark.9

And what about the parable Jesus told His disciples the estate owner who went on a long trip. Jesus said: “The man gave each one of his servants some work to do. He told the one standing at the door to watch. In the same way, you are to watch also! You do not know when the Owner of the house will be coming. It may be in the evening or in the night or when the sun comes up or in the morning. He may come when you are not looking for Him and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all. Watch!10 And to the Ephesians Paul wrote: “You, brethren, are not in the dark so that the Day [of judgment] might take you by surprise like a thief; for you are all people who belong to the light, who belong to the day. We don’t belong to the night or to darkness, so let’s not be asleep, like the rest are; on the contrary, let us stay alert and sober.11

Such alerts are not without merit. Jesus was telling His followers that there will be plenty of signs that will warn them of His impending danger. He told them: “When these things start to happen, stand up and hold your heads high; because you are about to be liberated!12 And Paul had already written the Corinthians and told them: “While you live in this world, live as if the world has no hold on you. The way of this world will soon be gone.13 The Apostle Peter alerted his readers: “You must be the boss over your mind. Keep awake so you can pray.14

When it comes to the reality of doing all the good we can, not to earn salvation, but to earn the words of our Lord: Well done, you good and faithful servant, several early church scholars made comments. Diodore, Bishop of Paul’s hometown of Tarsus tells us that when we realize what the advantages of doing good to others and in charitable giving are, the message of salvation and the reason we were saved becomes easier to understand than it was when we first believed. For when we believed in Christ we did not immediately acquire an exact understanding of what we should be doing, nor was it clear to us what we should stop doing, and what we should continue doing. Wisdom comes with time.15

Bible scholar Ambrosiaster also saw it as an awakening. As far as Paul was concerned, it was time for the Roman believers to realize that they were not doing all that they should be doing to let their light shine in the darkness of Roman depravity and idolatry. This is what it means to wake up from sleep even though it is still dark – to start working in God’s vineyard as though it were already daytime. For living a good life is a sure sign that a Christian believes in their future salvation. For when a person believes and is baptized they are forgiven but not rewarded. Later, as they walk in the newness of life, they draw nearer and nearer to their home in eternal life.16 Be reminded that Ambrosiaster is not advocating that living one’s life for the glory of God is a way to salvation, but in gratitude for salvation. This is what Jesus clearly meant when He said: “Let your and good deeds shine out for all to see so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.17

And Chrysostom sees a sense of urgency in what Paul is saying. The day of reckoning and judgment is drawing nearer and nearer for each individual. Anything you want to do for God must be done before you die. There are no good works to perform in the grave. So always keep this in mind: The time is short, the day of resurrection and of God’s judgment is fast approaching. Remember, there is no passing of time when you are at rest with God awaiting the call of resurrection to a new life.

From the moment you die to the moment you are awakened by the sound of the trumpet will seem like only seconds. If you have done everything that was asked of you and are prepared for it, then you have nothing to fear, but if you have not, then look out! Paul is not trying to frighten his readers but to encourage them, so as to detach them from their love of the things of this world. It was not unlikely that at the beginning of their endeavors they would be more dedicated and slacken off as time went on. But Paul wants them to do the opposite – not to slacken as time goes on but to become even more dedicated. For the nearer the King is the more they ought to be ready to welcome Him.18

And early church scholar Pelagius tells his readers to Grow Up! It is the hour for you to strive for that which is more perfect and complete, for you should not always be children and infants. Let everyone rise from the sleep of indifference and lack of attention. It’s time to let the light of Christ shine in this dark and dreary world. With the increase of knowledge, our salvation is nearer than it was when we became a believer.19 To which we add the words of Bishop Theodore: “Our salvation” means the general resurrection on the last day, for it is then that we will enjoy true salvation.20 And for Gennadius: Every day the end comes closer; we are already on the threshold of getting in line for our call from the grave.21

Verses 10-11 of this chapter generated one of the larger portions of Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans. It is worth reading to understand his take on Paul’s instructions from the point of view of a Reformer in the 16th Century. When it comes to loving our fellowman as much as we love ourselves, Luther says that this command is immeasurably deep, and every Christian should thoroughly explore their heart, mind, and attitude with respect to those around them, as they conscientiously examine themselves to see where their weaknesses and strengths are.

Luther then says that after Paul has instructed us, he admonishes us. This involves what Luther calls indoctrination and exhortation. Indoctrination is needed when someone is ignorant of the facts and cannot distinguish the difference between truth and heresy. According to Luther, Paul uses metaphorical and figurative expressions which are not suited for those who are still infants in their knowledge of God’s Word. He points to where Paul said to the Corinthians: Think carefully about what is right and stop sinning.22

1 1 Corinthians 13

2 Romans 12:2

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

4 David H. Stern; On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

5 Matthew 16:1-3

6 Matthew 24:42

7 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

8 Jonah 1:6

9 Matthew 25:1-13

10 Mark 13:34b-37

11 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6

12 Luke 21:28 – Complete Jewish Bible

13 1 Corinthians 7:31

14 1 Peter 4:7

15 Diodore: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

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

17 Matthew 5:16 – New Living Translation

18 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 23

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

20 Theodore of Mopsuestia: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

21 Gennadius of Constantinople: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

22 1 Corinthians 15:34

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I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

elgreco_paul154x200

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER THIRTEEN (Lesson XI)

Martin Luther comments on this verse by saying that humans (by nature) prefer themselves in a selfish way. This negative disposition cannot be corrected unless they put themselves in their fellowman’s shoes.1 However, fellow reformer John Calvin sees nothing more in what Paul is saying in this verse than that he wanted to prove his point about love being the cornerstone of our obedience to the law by putting |God first, our fellowman second, and ourselves last. Since God intended nothing else by all His commandments than to teach us that our first duty is to love, that’s the priority list He gave us. So it is incumbent upon us to try and do our best to show our love in that order. So it only makes sense that by putting others second, that we show our love toward those in authority, some of whom may be our neighbors. By so doing, we will nourish peace to preserve brotherly love.2

Robert Haldane shares that Paul cites several of the precepts of the second tablet of the Law (Commandments 6-10),3 and observes with respect to each of them, that they are understood in the Law as something that tells us to love our fellowman as ourselves. Nothing can be more evident than that if we loved our fellowman as we should we would not commit those things that hurt or harm them. The Law of the Lord is admirable, both in its simplicity and comprehensives. It is also very reasonable and fair. It requires nothing but what is implied in love. Its prohibitions, then, are not unreasonable restraints upon our liberty, but requests to use our liberty for what’s good concerning those around us.4

Douglas Moo makes these points: (1) Paul may mean that love for others is the essential ingredient that must accompany obedience to all the other commandments. We must still obey these commandments, but they cannot truly be obeyed without a loving spirit. (2) Paul may also mean that the demand of love for others replaces the other commandments. When we truly love each other, we automatically do what the other commandments of the Law required. As Paul puts it in verse 10, “love does no harm to its fellowman.” No one who truly loves another person will murder, commit adultery, steal, commit perjury or covet things they possess. Paul has proclaimed that believers are released from the binding authority of the Mosaic Law.5 But here in verses 8 and 10, he justifies that by using the term “fulfillment,” which suggests that he views the love command as the prophetic replacement for the other commandments of the Mosaic Law6.7

Verse 10: Love does not hurt others. So loving is the same as obeying all the Law.

Paul reiterates the maxim that Jesus certainly established,8 you don’t need so many Laws if you simply follow one, and that is to treat and love others in the same way you want to be treated and loved. When the Apostle wrote the Corinthian believers, he defined love in such a way that when expressed to others it would eliminate any need for moral platitudes.9 Bible scholar John Gill tells us that in the Jewish Book of Enlightenment’s (Zohar) commentary on Deuteronomy, it says that the person who loves God has fulfilled all Ten Commandments.10 Also, “There is no service like the love of God. In fact, Rabbi Abba says it is the sum of the Law.” In other words, obey this and you have obeyed the entire law11.12

Speaking of love as seen demonstrated in their early church period, several scholars had this to share. Ambrosiaster believes that Paul is using the words of the Law to arrive at the meaning of the Gospel. Therefore, when he records the fulfilling of the Law he ties it to the Gospel, demonstrating that both have a single author. Yet, during the time of Christ physical presence here on earth, it was necessary to add something else, that is, that we should love our enemies as well as our neighbors. What does it mean to love an enemy, except to choose not to hate them any longer and to seek to do them no harm? For the Lord on the cross prayed for His enemies to demonstrate what the fullness of righteousness, which he had taught, actually was.13 We must keep in mind that when Jesus or Paul speaks of loving and not hating our enemies, they are excluding those who come against us in combat to do violence.

Then Augustine implies that what Paul is saying can be understood like this: The rule of love is that one should wish their fellowman to have all the good things they themselves would like to have. Nor should they wish that some misfortune or harm would befall their fellowman that they themselves would hate to have happened to them. They should show compassion and be generous to all mankind. Believers should not rejoice when an accident or tragedy happens to their fellowman. Loving one’s fellowman has no room for harmful or mischievous deeds. So Paul says that by having this attitude it will help us to show kindness even to those who do not like us, This is the best way to avoid becoming abused or misused.14 Another early church scholar remarks that the Apostle Paul clearly said that we must render to each person what they are due as the best way to show that we love one another. Therefore, if we always give our brethren the love which we owe them, we shall always be linked together in mutual love.15

Later on, Pelagius goes so far as to say that even if we have an opportunity to do good but don’t take the time to do it, we have done wrong. For if one sees that one’s fellowman has no food, wouldn’t it be the same as trying to kill them if we had all we needed and more but we refuse to share and end up throwing away what we can’t eat ourselves? For anyone who is able to help someone avoid dying no matter what the situation becomes liable for their death because they do not come to their aid.16 Then one hundred years later Caesarius adds that whatever we do, do it for the love of Christ, and let the intention or end of all our actions be the same as if we were doing it for Him. Do nothing for the sake of human praise but everything for the love of God and the desire for eternal life.17

Martin Luther shares his view. For him truly loving someone does much more than just what is needed, it even includes going beyond as a form of adding a blessing. This is the nature of a loving attitude that continues to show kindness even when it must endure thanklessness and a total lake of gratitude.18 And fellow reformer John Calvin adds that the person who is blessed with a gracious disposition will never entertain the thought of injuring others. What else does the whole Law forbid, but that we do no harm to our fellowman? This, however, ought to be applied to the present subject of how we treat government officials who are the guardians of peace and justice. Everyone who desires that their own rights are respected so that everyone may live freely in safety should be willing to defend, as far as they can, the rights of others and the power of those in charge to guarantee such respect. But those who see the government as their enemy do everything they can to be a nuisance. So when Paul repeats that the fulfilling of the Law is love, we must understand, as before, that this pertains to the second part of the Ten Commandments, because the first part pertains to what we owe to God.19

John Bengel points out that all acts of love are by design positive and not negative in character. Such positive duties are pleasantly and spontaneously performed. And where true love exists, we do not find adultery, theft, lying, or greed. In other words, love does not extinguish itself. That’s because doing what’s right goes on without interruption unless some obstruction is erected or it is interrupted by evil. Therefore, simply by avoiding evil the Law is fulfilled without anything really being done. At the same time, doing what is good flows from living a Lawful life.20 Adam Clarke echoes what Bengel says here and adds that love can never wish ill towards another person. Therefore, love in and of itself is the fulfilling of the Law.21

In fact, Robert Haldane says that love will prevent everything which the Law forbids.22 Charles Hodge agrees. Since love delights in the happiness of its object, it effectually prevents injuring those that are loved, and, consequently, leads to fulfilling all that the Law requires because the Law requires nothing which is not conducive to the best interests of our fellowman. Therefore, the person who loves those around them with the same sincerity that they love themselves, will not only treat them the way they would want to be treated but will thereby fulfill all that the Law requires. That’s why the whole Law can be fully appreciated in this one command, You should love your fellowman as yourself.23

Albert Barnes also notes the value of love in relationship to the Law. It sounds simple but is so profound. Since love only seeks to do that which is good, it is incapable of doing any wrong, especially toward others. It will promote justice, truth, and kindness. If this Law were engraved on every person‘s heart, and practiced in their lives, what a change that would make in our society! Everyone would immediately stop doing anything that would hurt others. How many plans of fraud and dishonesty would instantly come to a stop? How many voices of the slanderer and gossiper fade into silence? If would put an end to cheating, lying, and back-stabbing. No longer would a neighbor plan to steal what their fellowman had; it would be perfectly satisfied with what they already had. It would fulfill the wish of the angels who sang on the night of our Lord’s birth, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to all those want to please Him.2425

1 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 184

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

3 What Haldane is referring to here is that the breastplate of the high priest show two tablets side by side, much like what Moses carried down from Mount Sinai. See Exodus 32:19

4 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 588

5 See Romans 6:14–15; 7:4–6

6 See Galatians 5:13-15

7 Douglas J. Moo: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

8 Matthew 22:37-40

9 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

10 Zohar in Deuteronomy, folio 111.3

11 Zohar, ibid, folio 113.1

12 John Gill, Exposition of the Whole Bible, op. cit., loc. cit.

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

14 Augustine: Of True Religion 87

15 [Pseudo-]Constantius: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

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

17 Caesarius of Arles: Sermon 137.1

18 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 184

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

20 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 348

21 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 260

22 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 589

23 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 636

24 Luke 2:14

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

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POINTS TO PONDER

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Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States (1801-1809), often took the opportunity to advise his children, grandchildren, and others on matters of personal conduct. Over the years he developed a list of axioms for personal behavior. Some seem to have been of his own invention; others derived from classical or literary sources. Jefferson’s most extensive list is the one he sent to Cornelia Jefferson Randolph, his granddaughter, while she was visiting her older sister and brother-in-law. One of those rules reads as follows: “When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, a hundred.1

Today we would interpret what Jefferson this way: Think before you speak! Psychologists have suggested several rules to follow on how to make sure you say what you ought to say and not be sorry later. This is especially true when responding to someone or some situation that has upset us and caused our hot righteous indignation to rise to the surface.

One of the first things to do is recognize how you got yourself into this situation. Think! Is what you are going to blurt out by virtue of your feeling indignant in response to what this person or persons have said? Is your response to what struck a bad cord on your emotional heartstrings the thing you really want to say? Also, does this happen mostly with one particular person or a particular group of people or just groups in general?

People are often put on the spot to make a comment to offer a defense of some principle because they are either asked to say something or they feel pressured to give their opinion. These are often spontaneous occurrences that find us unprepared. However, we can prepare ourselves ahead of time by practicing what we would say when challenged to do so.

Another thing to keep in mind is this: quickly appraise your situation on how the discussion or debate began. If you know ahead of time that such gatherings often produce this unwanted effect, try to be very observant so that you are warned when conditions begin manifesting themselves that this is about to happen. The more skilled you become in recognizing this, the better you will be at controlling your approach. This applies especially to whether or not the group involved represent a family circle, a social group, a religious community, or a work-related unit.

Once you get involved in the conversation, keep your mind open to anything you hear that might tell you that one of “those” situations seems to be developing. This will alert you to process very carefully what is being said, the tone, and at what emotional level. Often when we respond in a less than appropriate way, it’s because we didn’t fully comprehend what was being said. As soon as we realize this, it is best to ask the individual to repeat what they said because you don’t feel that you really understood. Don’t start focusing on what you’re going to say; just absorb what they are saying. Your mind will process this information in the background.

It also helps to observe those involved. Who is speaking and how do they communicate? Some people are very literal and some people use examples. Some people use a lot of facial expressions and body language to augment their conversation, whereas others rely on complex verbiage. How people convey information is a very good indicator of how they best absorb information. This should help you from saying something superficial they make them feel it is beneath them, or something intended to make them look uninformed.

To go along with this, consider your options on how you might respond. You should always have more than one. There are many different ways to say things. and your goal here is to find the best way to convey what you want to say in a way that has a positive impact. Communication is primarily a function of the recipient, so you have to communicate based on what you know about the listener and why they are so emotionally involved.

It has also been suggested that you consider the information being given to you before you respond. Ask yourself, is what you’re about to say Accurate, Necessary, Timely, Appropriate, and Effective (ANTAE)? If you are just responding because other people are talking, then it’s possible your communication doesn’t fit the ANTAE model. If not, then sit back and continue to listen. You want what you say to have a positive impact, not just to make noise.

As you listen, take the time to gauge the possible reaction of what you plan to say. Is the information you’re going to present formulated in a way to make a constructive impact? Creating a negative atmosphere will guarantee failure in communications. You want people to understand that you are contributing rather than adding confusion. Your initial response can either attribute to or ruin your reputation for communicating in such situations.

Make sure that you are thoughtful about your tone: How you say it is, in many ways, as important as what you say. Your tone of voice can convey enthusiasm and sincerity, or it can rebuff and show sarcasm, and as most people have experienced, what we say can be taken in the wrong way. The most likely reason is that the tone of voice, what was said, body and facial language, as well as content. Did we thoughtfully consider how to integrate our response with the listener’s most effective method of receiving communication?

The whole purpose for saying anything under these circumstances is to communicate not complicate. You now know what you’ll say – it’s ANTAE! How you’ll say it will influence the most likely reaction. Wait for an appropriate break in the conversation to speak. It’s usually best not to interrupt, although there are occasions when that will work best. When to interrupt is something that you look for, not plan for.

And one more thing, stay focused. While you’re talking, consider what you’re saying and keep a close watch on the reactions as they emerge. After the conversation is over, review the whole process again in your mind and note what you might have done differently and why. This is an ongoing process. Over time, you will refine and improve – you will become a better communicator and people will accept your responses with a more open mind.

The Holy Scriptures has quite a few things to say about this process of saying what is right at the right time and not blurting out what is wrong at the wrong time. The wise King Solomon made it clear that even a very uninformed individual can come across as being very informed by keeping their mouth shut when they really don’t have anything to contribute to a discussion or debate.2 And later on, he adds that only a fool would blurt out something just for the sake of saying what they’re thinking and not what will help the situation.3 King Solomon goes on to recommend that everyone keep a lock on their mouths because a loose tongue can get a person into real trouble.4 He then goes on to say that when someone is quick to say something without thinking, they may end up looking even dumber than a fool.5

The Apostle Paul must have been addressing this same problem among the believers in the city of Philippi because he tells them that before they say something they should be thinking about how it is going to affect others instead of themselves. It’s okay to find out why people are doing or saying what they are, but don’t give your opinion just as a form of criticism just because you didn’t like the way they said what they did.6

And the Apostle James must have been confronted with a similar dilemma among his constituents because he does not hesitate to tell them to do more listening than talking. That way they can better control their anger.7 In other words, what good does it do to insist on getting a word in if it only ends up dividing rather than bringing together? Remember, if you speak before you’ve really thought about what you’re going to say, then you will have created another problem that must be taken care of. I’m sure most of us have heard our parents or teachers tell us what has become a common word-to-the-wise: Make sure your brain is engaged before you put your mouth in gear. – Robert R Seyda

1 Jefferson’s Ten Rules, #10

2 Proverbs 17:28

3 Ibid. 18:2

4 Ibid. 21:23

5 Ibid. 29:20

6 Philippians 2:4

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