Studies in Romans (2)

Be sure to see the first part of this study: Studies in Romans (1)

In chapter 4, Paul points this out in a different way. He brings Abraham into the discussion.

  1. Abraham was not a Jew
  2. Abraham was not circumcised
  3. Abraham received not the Law (Law of Moses)
  4. Abraham did not live under the authority of the Law
  5. Abraham was justified before God

On what basis was Abraham justified before God? He was justified before God because of his faith, that is, his trust and obedience in and to Him who is the Giver of life. Because of his response to the Lord, the covenant of circumcision was given to him.  The Law of Moses, however, came much later; thus, the Law of Moses played no role in Abraham’s justification.

Abraham is called the “father of the faithful” because, as far as the Holy Record is concerned, he is the beginning point of the Lord’s declaration of those justified by faith, whether they are circumcised or not circumcised. Before Abraham, there is nothing in the previous fourteen chapters of Genesis that speaks of a person justified by faith (or anything corresponding to that). Because of his faith, the Lord said of him that he would become “the father of many nations,” and in this case, the term “many nations” means, contextually, the Jews and non-Jews (or Gentiles).

In chapter 5, Paul continues teaching about justification by faith, only this time moving from how Abraham was justified by faith before God (Gen. 15:6) to how one is justified by faith before God today, that is, by faith (trust and obedience) in Jesus (the “I am” of John 8:58 is the “I am” of Exodus 3:14).

Abraham’s justification was before the time of Moses and before the Law from Mount Sinai was given to Moses.

Because of one man (Adam), sin entered the world and God’s judgment followed; the judgment that followed was separation from God. Similarly, because of one man (Jesus), life entered the world and God’s judgment followed; the judgment/declaration that followed was God’s reconciling man to Himself (cf. 2 Timothy 1:10).

In chapter 6, Paul answers a reply that he, evidently, anticipated or fielded many times. If God’s grace is so great and abundant, then why not continue in sin to manifest the greatness of God’s grace? Paul addressed this by teaching that when one puts his trust in Jesus and is baptized into His death, burial and resurrection, that same person has now taken on himself a new life and new way of thinking. Thus, he is to give no ground to sin at all! In short, one becomes a servant to that which he obeys. If he obeys sin, then he is a servant of sin. If he obeys the Lord, then he is a servant of the Lord. The application of the words of Joshua 24:15 works well at this juncture.

Studies in Romans (1)

Jesus, born of the seed of David in accordance with the prophetic words of Scripture, has been resurrected from the dead. This message of Jesus being raised from the dead is a message God’s apostles preached to “all nations” (the importance of “all nations” is in relation to the Jewish way of thinking concerning their special privilege). As Paul preached to the Jews, he also felt the obligation to preach to the Greeks and barbarians (the cultured/learned and uncluttered/unlearned).

Why is the message preached? Because in this world there is much unrighteousness. Paul states there is no one not guilty because within each there is knowledge of right/wrong and that God exists (1:18-20). In summary to this point, the following is the case: It is not possible for people to know an ultimate moral foundation without God. An utter impossibility! Try as one might, without God, all one can do is assert a position and hope others agree. But such an approach is fluid; what one considers right, or wrong today was the opposite a generation ago, and might be reversed a generation from now. In the long ago, Scripture attests to this approach. People did (do) not want to retain God in their knowledge. Thus, they gave (or give) up on God, so God gave (gives) up on them. Moral chaos reigns in society as a result. Many of these same people realize the emptiness of life, but instead of religion (God) they call themselves spiritual. In their spirituality they float back and forth as the wind moves them, never anchored to something greater than themselves.

In chapter 2, Paul calls out the Jewish way of thinking. God is partial to no one, not even Jews (when it comes to righteousness). While the non-Jews had no codified law from God, still he was (is) guilty. The Jews did have a codified law and by that Law they will be judged – and the same codified law demonstrated their guilt before God.

Having God’s Law, but not hearing and obeying it as designed by Him did not benefit a person (or nation) one single bit. “Circumcision” (a word that stands as representative of God’s Law), is not an exterior matter but an interior one (2:28-29).

In chapter 3, Paul continues with his point demonstrating the Jews, also, as guilty before God. Even though they received God’s oracles, or Law (in this regard they were privileged), it was their hypocrisy and the general failure to meet the standards of the Law that made them guilty, with Paul pointing this out in application to both Jews and non-Jews (3:9-20).

Even if one met the standards of the Law, still one would not be justified. Why is that?

By the Law (Law of Moses), no one is justified before God, but the Law does give testimony to two things: 1) one is justified by faith, 2) one is justified by faith in Jesus.

  1. Since all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, how can one attain the righteousness of God? (3:23).
  2. God’s righteousness is revealed apart from Law (3:21).
  3. God’s righteousness is witnessed by Law and Prophets (3:21).
  4. God’s righteousness is through faith in Jesus (3:22).
  5. God’s righteousness come freely because of what Jesus did (3:24)

God’s righteousness is not by anything in the Law, that is, the Law of Moses, but it is by “the law of faith” (3:27). What is this “law of faith”? It is the “law of liberty” (James 1:25), it is the “law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2), it is the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ” (Rom. 8:2).

“Law” is not and never has been a problem; it is always what man (a word that represents all people) does with that word that becomes the problem.


NOT POSSIBLE: It is not…

NOT POSSIBLE: It is not possible for people to know an ultimate moral foundation without God. An utter impossibility! Try as one might, without God, all one can do is assert a position and hope others agree. But such an approach is fluid; what one considers right, or wrong today was the opposite a generation ago, and might be reversed a generation from now. In the long ago, Scripture attests to this approach. People did (do) not want to retain God in their knowledge. Thus, they gave (or give) up on God, so God gave (gives) up on them. Moral chaos reigns in society as a result. Many of these same people realize the emptiness of life, but instead of religion (God) they call themselves spiritual. In their spirituality they float back and forth as the wind moves them, never anchored to something greater than themselves.

My story

I remember living in New Mexico, serving in the United States Air Force. I was somewhat moderately religious, but the moderation was because of heritage more than anything else. I did read the Bible and had some low-level knowledge, like knowing where the Ten Commandments could be found when someone asked me. I was also a member of the Nazarene Church, the church of which my parents were associated, but one to which my grandmother was loyal. My experience in the Nazarene Church was good, but my commitment to them was not as good.

As a member of the USAF, while in New Mexico, I was introduced to the “church of Christ” for the first time. To me, one church was a good as another and, by and large, they were all good. The churches I knew I had no real interest in would have been the Mormons and Catholics, but Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists – I had no real objections to these. Continue reading

#conversion-stories, #conversions, #my-story


Hebrews 11:1 reads, “Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen” (ASV), and then in verse 6 it reads, “and without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him.”

The other day some people came by the house to hand out literature on an upcoming (at that time) conference in Dayton. The people (women) were with the Jehovah Witnesses; Anne received them as she was tending to her flowers and garden. They invited her to the conference, but Anne declined. After a little while, the three spoke about the garden and flowers, then departed for wherever they were headed next.

As I reflect on that which these women from the Watchtower religious group did, I reflected on the idea of conviction. I asked myself, “exactly how convicted are we, as members of the Lord’s church, how convicted are we to tell people about Jesus, to speak aggressively about His holy name in a world of sin in which we live?”

False teaching is all around us, but we can hardly know what false teaching is being promoted around us if we don’t know the Lord and His way. How many of us are aware the very word of God that is made available to us, that is preached each Lord’s day is the measurement by which we will be judged? A good many of us know that already. Still, we have a hard time picking up the Bible and reading twenty minutes each day, while we have plenty of time to watch a favorite program or programs. “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my sayings, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:38, ASV). Rejecting comes in different ways. It could be out-right rejection or simply neglect. “For if the word spoken through angels proved stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard” (Hebrews 2:2-3). Instead of putting in effort to understand the Lord’s way, we want to have programming put in effort to entertain us.

I don’t pose all of this to you, as much as I pose these questions and observations to us. I certainly am a person of conviction; I engage people in discussion as often as I can, regardless of location or venue. I do so aggressively. I have not, however, gone door-to-door in my evangelistic efforts. Some may say that is not needed or not as effective as it once was and, perhaps, this is so. Still, I have not done so of late. The Jehovah Witness ladies did. RT

#conviction #evangelism

Letter to editor: Secularism and theism on campus

There are some who think there is no God (Movement on the move, B-6, Dispatch, 7.21.2017), but the evidence for such is overwhelming. Nevertheless, they hold onto that belief because it gives liberty to hedonism. Hedonism is rejected by many atheists, but for no good reason. Bertrand Russell once wrote, “We feel that the man who brings widespread happiness at the expense of misery to himself is a better man than the man who brings unhappiness to others and happiness to himself. I do not know of any rational ground for this view…” (Katharine Tait, My Father Bertrand Russell, p. 182).

Russell was a secularist; what values did he hold and, for that matter, those values that he held, for what reason did he hold them? His daughter, Katharine, took these words from his autobiography, thus an accurate conveying of a despairing sentiment, suggesting the values of a secularist have no foundations and are fluid.

In the battle of ideas, especially on college campuses, secularism and theism should be made available to each student to choose on their own. Let the debates begin, and let not the campuses shut them down because one might be conservative and the other progressive/liberal.

Printed in the Columbus Dispatch on 7.24.2017. Unfortunately, the editorial board signed my name “The Rev. Ron Thomas, Sunrush Church of Christ.”

#theism #secularism #atheism

Reflect on holiness

The Scripture teaches that Jesus gave up His life for us individually. That is, He gave up His life for all those who love the Lord and call on His name (John 3:16; Acts 2:21). Paul wrote to those of Galatia, “who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4, ESV). Reflect on this for a moment: Jesus gave up His life, that we might have life. We should respect this gift of life given to us in such a way that our lives are changed, changed in the direction of holiness. “…but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16, ESV). RT

#holiness #life

Word to the Wise. Proverbs 10:2

Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death. Why would someone seek wealth via wicked deeds or thinking? Because there is no real belief there will be a day of reckoning. While the thinking of great profit awaits, many hope, actually, it is the righteous who receive wealth, a wealth that is not of this world – which is of greater value. If the wicked thought as the righteous, the wicked would no longer be wicked, but righteous. Seems to be a truism; we also see another truism: the wicked far outnumber the righteous. The Lord’s way of educating the mind has a way of changing hearts that have no desire to live by this world’s standards, but those hearts need to want a wealth that is not of this world. RT

#wealth #truisms #Proverbs

See it through

An able man shows his spirit by gentle words and resolute actions (Chesterfield). He is able because he has been taught (or learned in some way). His words are gentle because he is secure in who he is, not threatened by others around him, thus no need to have harsh words. He has resolute actions because he knows what is right, will see it through to the end or be brought to an end trying to see it through. That which Chesterfield said, I am sure, came by experience and observation. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58, KJV). RT

#quotes #gentleness #action

A tweet with a clue?

I saw a cartoon in the “Columbus Dispatch” (6.5.201) that represents a “tweet” (mocking President Trump’s tweets on his Twitter account); it reads: “Children, I gave you life – you gave me climate change and a world leader who wants to bring me death. Is this how you treat your mother? Very upset bigly. Signed ‘Mother Earth.’” The hash-tag to this political cartoon is DJTHasnotAClue.

The cartoon is a mockery of the president (one’s thinking about the president is not the point of this article), but I want to suggest there is a mockery of One that is far more serious.

The mocking cartoon with the climate change message is part and parcel of paganism! Paganism is defined as a polytheistic way of thinking, a religion of sensuality, delight in material goods. Polytheistic ways of thinking that is a collection of various spiritual and materialistic ideas wrapped into one wherein a person chooses to live by its influences.

Is it truly the case “mother earth” gave life? Who is mother earth? Continue reading

#evolution, #mother-earth

Is one church as good as another?

This question is fraught with danger. To begin, the word “church” is understood by some to mean a denomination of one sort or another. For others, the word “church” refers to the building.

The English word “church” can mean building, but in a New Testament context it does not mean that at all. For instance, in Acts 11:22 (ASV) the Scripture reads, “And the report concerning them came to the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas as far as Antioch.” A building does not have ears!

Again, notice in Acts 15:22, “Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men out of their company, and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren.” The word church in this context is not Paul, Barnabas having chosen to work alongside the “brick and mortar,” but certain members of the local church to travel with them. Continue reading

Do I have to be a member?

Have you heard that question before? It is likely you have, or some variation of it. How do you answer? Here is a conversation that is not that far from something that might actually take place.

“Do I have to be a member of your church to go to heaven?”

“I don’t have a church.”

“You know what I mean! I am talking about the church where you attend.” Continue reading

The Reformed doctrine of faith alone

The Reformed Doctrine of “faith alone” is a cornerstone of protestant theology. This cornerstone, however, is put in place by inserting into Scripture a term that does not exist, building on it a man-made theology, such as the sinners prayer, God’s sovereign choice of salvation apart from one’s free-will and interpreting the word “works” to refer to either God’s commands or to anything that a person might do (otherwise).

One advocate of faith alone theology wrote, “I won’t defend the truth of justification by faith alone in detail, but it’s clearly taught, for example, in Romans 3:28: ‘A person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.’ Or, as Paul teaches in Romans 4:5, ‘God justifies the ungodly.’ Both Abraham and David were justified by faith and not by works (Rom. 4:1–8; Gal. 3:6–9).” [1]

It is my intent, in this article and the next, to address these passages, noticing the context and how it does not support to teaching “faith alone” and, finally, give some attention to James 2.

This is no small matter. Continue reading

#doctrine, #faith-alone

What good is it?

What good is it to call oneself a Christian and yet find reasons to not attend the service of the Lord’s church wherein saints gather together to worship the Lord? The many who identify themselves as Christians and fail in this area are Christian in name only, not in heart. They think they will be received by the Lord because of some semblance of attendance and some semblance of “the Lord knows my heart.” Surely, they think, “I am in better position than you might think I am.” Really?

Compare what you think with what the Lord said (as in the Charles B. Williams translation).

“Let us continue so to consider one another as to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Let us stop neglecting our meeting together, as some do, but let us continue to encourage one another, and all the more because you see that the great day is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Those who love the Lord consider one another in their attendance, desiring to stimulate others toward faithful service and good works, glorifying the Lord. Those who love the Lord do not neglect their attendance.

The word “neglect” is an interesting word. The dictionary defines it to mean to give little attention to, to give little respect, to leave undone or unattended. Those who fail to regularly attend the services of the Lord’s church are guilty of exactly this, the words of denial not withstanding!

What good is it to be called a Christian and fail to meet with the saints because the kids have activities “to which I have to get them!”? What good is it?

It is only good in one’s mind, but not certainly the Lord’s mind. Those who love the Lord memorialize Him in the life lived. RT

#attendance, #priorities, #worship

A difficulty that needs to be addressed

Reflect on Proverbs 18:19 for a moment or two. As you look at the three translations below, it is easy to see that each version conveys the same idea. To separate oneself from another by thought, words and/or actions makes for a difficulty that must be addressed.

The KJV read, A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle. The ESV reads, A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle. The NET reads, A relative offended is harder to reach than a strong city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a fortified citadel.

What does the word “offended” mean? We are not to understand the word to mean “What she said offended me!”  Instead, what is in view is something much different. One Hebrew scholar used the word “wounded” in this context. A wounded person is one who had been attacked. Another scholar gave this sense, “The proverb is talking about changing a friend into an enemy by abuse” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary-Revised). Continue reading

#offense, #sin, #unity