Timothy Keller :
-amazing grace closing set and message.
Today we continue with Romans 1 and 2 - combing through if for better understanding and application to our lives today
In Romans Ch 1:
Paul’s ‘a bond servant’ of the Messiah - (one who willing submits to the service of) that he’s become God’s messenger of a
Promise long ago, in the Scriptures, who would miraculously be born.. And die a redemptive’ death, and miraculously raised from the dead - in Paul’s lifetime..
All this was done so that ‘all might know’ the grace of God .
The grace of God has given us complete forgiveness that we don’t deserve .
- Loving us though we were un-lovely
Paul's life was miraculously touched by God‘s grace, and at the same time called to teach God‘s grace to all he could, for the rest of his life to both the Jews and the ‘non-Jews’.
His life has been set apart - by Jesus - to be devoted to God - and that process has given him this grace and this peace that he’ll describe elsewhere ‘surpassing all understanding’ and he’s passionately compelled that we might experience this also.
Paul thanks God in verse eight for the Roman’s
Faith becoming ‘known throughout the (Roman) world.’
Paul then explains that in the midst of the faith of the Romans…. There is an ‘unrighteous nature in mankind’ that desires to ‘repress the truth of God’ the truth of the gospel that we’re sinners needing reconciliation from the God who must judge sin.
In Romans 1 Verse 18 explain explains-
God‘s wrath is ‘revealed from heaven’ to those who are unrighteous, and in their wickedness represses. the truth of God.
So, in this sense, they act as enemies of God, and repress the truth of him from others as well as themselves.
In trying to understand Paul's phrase ‘revealed from heaven’ scholars suggest it’s simply the Jewish tradition of mentioning heaven as the source of God… essentially just another way of saying God is revealing his wrath on those who resist his lordship and repress the truth about who He is as our creator.
We wonder about the ‘ anger or wrath of God regarding sin…
It’s also interesting to wonder what kind of God we would have if He didn’t get angry at the presence of sin?…
An evil God would not be offended at sin . A truly holy God has to be.
?? How is this revealed according to Paul in this passage?
Perhaps the answer to that is in the texts that follow: essentially, God removes His presence from the presence of sin.
Genesis opens telling the story of God, creating man and woman blessing them, giving them the whole world.. to bless them…
The righteousness of God demands he give His creation a free will to accept God as creator i.e.: ‘I live a life listening to you’, obeying the creator. enjoying him learning of him, growing closer to Him.. in the ‘likeness’.. of Him.. accepting my role as a created being
Versus… The other choice… to strive to be… my own God..
When Adam and Eve made that choice, God honored it. He escorted them out of a garden made for them to dwell with Him, that God created for them to share with them.. And they enter the world under the influence of Satan, who also rebelled against God, and went his own way…
(The kindness of God allows what’s called ‘common grace’ to remain with us. While we live in a world ‘once’ free from sin.
Paul says the judgment of God is ‘revealed’ simply as we experience life, without all the goodness of God, that once rules over ALL His creation.
Bible commentators point to Genesis chapters 3 through 11 showing the lack of gratitude to God, and accountability to God - results in a “wide variety of distortions within various spheres of human community.”
Paul describes it in verse 25
“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served, created things rather than the creator.”
Interestingly, human nature seems to have the desire to worship something… if not ourselves
Something ‘created’ instead of our creator .
While the Bible tells us the wrath of God on sin is ‘something coming’
Paul tells us that it’s also something that mankind is already experiencing…
“ it is ‘being revealed’ (v18)
We see it in the temptations of how we should behave
John also explains it this way in John chapter 3, verse 36
Listen to this amplified translation
“And he who believes in (has faith in, clings to, relies on) the Son has (now possesses) eternal life.
But whoever disobeys (is unbelieving toward, refuses to trust in, disregards, is not subject to) the Son
will never see (experience) life,
but [instead] the wrath of God abides on him. [God's displeasure remains on him;
His indignation hangs over him continually.] referencing [Hab. 2:4.]”
When we remove God’s love for us from our thinking…
What are we left to think about?
‘Futile’ thinking.. (says verse 21)
‘Incapable of producing any desirable result… pointless’
When we realize our fellowship with God is cut off, by our own doing…
Where do we find our identity?
Instead of being linked with the glory of an immortal God, we trade that for
the worship of Temporary created things (verse 23).
Instead of finding our identity in the man and woman described at creation in genesis…
The temptation for perversion of God's design for sexuality hangs heavy over many (verse 24 through 27)
Three times Paul writes the phrase ‘God handed them over to’ …
Again, God, allowing free will, and stepping aside… though the sin will grieve Him to the point of bringing himself to the cross, to pay the price for us.
‘While we were yet sinners, Christ would die for us.’ (Rmns 5:8)
The amplified Bible translates verse 28 this way..
“And so, since they did not see fit to acknowledge God or approve of Him or consider Him worth the knowing,
God gave them over to a base and condemned mind - to do things not proper or decent but loathsome,” Romans 1:28 AMPC
Notice the list doesn’t stop at yielding to temptations for sexuality outside of marriage…
While, many who turn their backs on God may not be tempted toward condemned sexual relationships… this list of other sins - that none of us escapes stumbling in.
Amplified bible translates-
“they were filled (permeated and saturated) with every kind of unrighteousness, iniquity, grasping and covetous greed, and malice. [They were] full of envy and jealousy, murder, strife, deceit and treachery, ill will and cruel ways. [They were] secret backbiters and gossipers, Slanderers, hateful to and hating God, full of insolence, arrogance, [and] boasting; inventors of new forms of evil, disobedient and undutiful to parents. [They were] without understanding, conscienceless and faithless, heartless and loveless [and] merciless. Though they are fully aware of God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them themselves but approve and applaud others who practice them.”
Romans 1:29-32 AMPC
Interesting list 21 items or more on that menu.
It’s also interesting that God says the answer to loving these things.. Is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself Matthew 22:37-39.
I know the sins and short-comings in my life that brought me to the foot of the cross.
Paul says the purpose of God giving us His moral laws, was to show us we couldn't keep all of them.. To show us our need for His mercy.
And the purpose of Christ the son of God on the cross, was to show us God understands the perniciousness of sin we struggle with; and that He was willing to die for our sins…
Jesus would redeem us with His pure undefiled blood..
So that we may have a ‘transfusion’ so to speak, that the ‘righteous’ blood of Christ may run through us again; and reconnect us with the DNA of God we had before we left the garden.
The problem Paul mentions as we move into chapter 2…
Is the person who thinks they need not the ‘grace of Christ on the cross’
They want to believe… “if there is a God who judges sin… all I have to do is convince myself that I am more ‘righteous than others… and God can judge them because THEIR sins are ‘worse’ than mine..
I.E. “I may have a short-coming in this area… God and I may not see eye-to-eye on this issue…
But when compared to all the ‘nice things about me’ I should not be in need of grace.. (Go to those others who do ‘far worse’ things than me.)
Ch. 2 begins…
2 [a] Therefore[b] you are without excuse,[c] whoever you are,[d] when you judge someone else.[e] For on whatever grounds[f] you judge another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge practice the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment is in accordance with truth[g] against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think,[h] whoever you are, when you judge[i] those who practice such things and yet do them yourself,[j] that you will escape God’s judgment?
(Jesus - "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
Why would we listen to Jesus? - He is the Son of God? Who died to redeem us?
?? How can people practice not judging others, without accepting HIm as their savior?
I think that would be very hard.
Unless I know I am forgiven’; for my sins.. Does my conscience not fear some sort of consequence? Some sort of justice, for the things I have done that may have hurt others.. That I have never ‘paid the price for’?
If I still feel ‘guilty’.. And am not looking to the forgiveness in Christ, am I not still looking for a ‘scapegoat’? Hoping someone else comes along with more sin than I, that I can point the Almighty judge to?
The Gospel? Jesus - God Himself is offered for you as the perfect ‘sinless’ scapegoat -
the good news of God dying for my sins.. Challenges me - as James did:
There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:12
(Paul will say much more to us on this subject here in this letter as we read it together.)
??Are Christans called to ‘judge’ some things? To live discerning and prayerful lives about who they spend time with, and why? And ask: ‘will this please the Lord and hopefully lead to fruitfulness for the kingdom of God?! ‘Yes for sure…
But not the type of ‘judging’ that ‘condemns’ from a position of ‘self righteousness.’
Jesus clears this idea up for us
in His parable to some “who trusted in themselves(L) that they were righteous(M) and looked down(N) on everyone else:” (words of Jesus 🙂) Luke 18:10 10 “Two men went up to the temple complex to pray,(O) one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee took his stand[e](P) and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people[f] —greedy,(Q) unrighteous,(R) adulterers,(S) or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast(T) twice a week; I give a tenth[g](U) of everything I get.’
13 “But the tax collector, standing far off,(V) would not even raise his eyes to heaven(W) but kept striking his chest[h](X) and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me[i](Y)—a sinner!’(Z) 14 I tell you, this one went down to his house justified(AA) rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
So for me? For us?
… I am set free from ‘Judging others’ because Jesus tells me not to- - to leave the judgment to Him…
- to remember God’s patience and mercy with me…
Paul says here: Ch2 v 4
4 Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know[k] that God’s kindness leads you to repentance? 5 But because of your stubbornness[l] and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed![m] 6 He[n] will reward[o] each one according to his works:[p] 7 eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality,
(Here, perseverance in good works includes - not judging others)
I am free from judging others as I remember “I am forgiven for all my sins!”
(and I am free to honestly pray for the grace of God to break through the struggle I believe another person is having with a particular ’sin’)
This ‘wrath and anger’ Paul speaks of cannot be avoided without embracing the cross of Christ for ourselves..
This ‘wrath and anger’ can speak to a sort of hell on earth, while waiting for an eternal hell.
This list of sins.. simply speaks of life.. without the grace of God in it.. Because we’ve personally forced Him to leave, by rejecting Him..
Lloyd-Jones explains “Hell is a condition in which life is lived away from God and all the restraints of God’s holiness” 🙂
Paul explains, as God’s apostle, sent by Jesus himself on the road to Damascus, the same truth Jesus explained.
- But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.
Jesus Himself explained the mystery of how His ‘holiness’ can rescue from the troubling waters of sin:
but have eternal life.(AB) 17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn(AC) the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned,(AD) because he has not believed in the name(AE) of the One and Only Son(AF) of God.
19 “This, then, is the judgment: The light(AG) has come into the world,(AH) and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who practices wicked things hates(AI) the light and avoids it,[k] so that his deeds(AJ) may not be exposed. 21 But anyone who lives by[l] the truth comes to the light, so that his works(AK) may be shown to be accomplished by God.”[m]
Sort of sounds like a summary of Paul’s romans 1 and 2, in which Paul ends speaking of
(2:29) a circumcision is of the heart[ay] by the Spirit
(Where we let God’s Spirit, by His word.. cut away the old sinful life to make room for the new)
Paul begins telling us this ‘good news’ of ‘redemptive forgiveness’ and escape from sin ‘ was alluded to by the prophets to the jews in their holy scriptures…
(Not to mention.. That the crazy story of God testing Abraham’ s faith - to offer Abraham’s son’s life to God..- that the son God promised Abraham…. would be a proof of Abraham’s faith…
Would actually be a picture of .. God himself, offering HIs Son up in death as a atonement for the sins of ANYONE who would apply that holy offering
to their sin.. And believe what God says about it. …. What Jesus says about it..
16 “For God loved(Y) the world in this way:[j] He gave His One and Only(Z) Son,(AA) so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.(AB) 17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn(AC) the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
Jesus said that to Nicodemus about how to become born again.. Into the kingdom of heaven… (john ch 3..)
Nidodemus was about as ‘religious’ as you could get - a jewish pharisee
Yet he comes.. to ‘Jesus’ because his Spirit is telling him ‘Jesus is the promised Messiah’ - the promised … ‘Savior’..
John 3:3 (turn)
God’s Spirit is guiding Nicodemus to the truth..
Jesus says to Nicodemus:
Today that should stop each one of us in our tracks..:
- If we are not ’religious’ .. and realize.. Whoa. Jesus just told.. A religious guy.. ‘You’ must be born again.
- If we see ourselves as ‘religious’ .. maybe we should stop in our tracks and say.. Am I ‘born again’?
?? it stopped Nicodemus in his tracks.. And he asked..
“But how can I be born again”?
Born of water? Natural birth.. Our eye’s truly opened for the first time..
Have you been born again in the spirit?
If so? The odds are, it included a sense of newness toward life that took all the pressure of ‘you’ carrying the weight of ‘your world’ and transferring it on the shoulders of Jesus.
All your sin.. Off you.. And onto Him..
All the searching for peace within yourself… from you.. And into HIm.
(26 the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you. 27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid… John 14:26
Jesus told this is religious Nicodemus who knew all about God’s story with the people of Israel: yet lacked peace with God!:
Jesus tells us all:
“ I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!"
?? Remember this scene after Jesus was resurrected?
“It was the first day of the week, and that very evening, while the disciples were together with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them. "Peace be with you!" He said to them.” (John 20:19)
To be born again, means to be free from trusting in ‘your good works’ to have ‘earned the love of God.’
But to let His Spirit come into our lives - through our ‘locked, fearful doors’ - to forgive us and set us free.
The love of God was ours from the day He made us…
It ‘becomes ours’ when we realize his love for us cost Him the torture of obsorbing all the darkness of sin that surrounds us -
- to set us free from it-
as we walk with Him afresh in ‘the forgiven’ life.
It's an ‘invisible life’.. But it's very real.. Spiritual life that is birthed in the heart of anyone who desires to commune again in peace with his or her creator..
the Spirit of God speaks through Paul… to the Romans saying..:
the (Good News) of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who ‘believed’, whether Jew or Greek (Gentile) -
whether from a Jewish ‘religious’ background, or a background believing in many other ‘gods’, or a culture believing in ‘none’.. Without the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the wrath of God rests upon those who were guilty of sins….
And that NO ONE escapes the ‘challenge’ of ‘living by .. faith’…
- believing in a living God that we can’t see and touch.. But is ‘like the wind’ as Jesus says (you know it's real- and can see and feel its effects).
“The righteous.. by faith.. will live.”
?? Isn’t Paul asking: ‘Perhaps if you’re having a hard time believing in a God who is holy (and willing to pay the price to make us holy as well..)
?? what are you sensing.. Regarding sin?
Do we sense that in the world around us?
Many wonder about “a downward progression for unrighteous humanity; (that includes all of us by our sin nature.)
It begins with refusing to see in creation what God has made knowable about Himself - by what He has made.
Sinful humans do not want to see, and do not want others to recognize, God's eternal power or divine nature from what He has made..
?? Sense any of that in our world today?
Paul warns of the progression..
because stubborn, unrepentant sinners have eliminated the possibility that God is the source of it all…. our hearts become darker and darker (Romans 1:21–22).
Timothy Keller suggests its the appreciation of the death of a innocent savior that can give us the power to turn from sin:
“Repentance out of mere fear is really sorrow for the consequences of sin, sorrow over the danger of sin — it bends the will away from sin, but the heart still clings. But repentance out of conviction over mercy is really sorrow over sin, sorrow over the grievousness of sin — it melts the heart away from sin. It makes the sin itself disgusting to us, so it loses its attractive power over us. We say, ‘this disgusting thing is an affront to the one who died for me. I’m continuing to stab him with it!’
John Newton was brought to an appreciation of Christ after a life of guilt as a slave trader.. He authored the famous hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ … and he grieved for others who had..
“a seeming desire of salvation, which is not founded upon a truly spiritual discovery of their own wretchedness, and the excellency of Jesus.
Amazing grace how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found Was blind but now I see
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed
Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come
This grace that brought me safe thus far And grace will lead me home
When we've been here ten thousand years Bright, shining as the sun
We've no less days to sing God's praise Than when we first begun
Amazing grace how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found Was blind but now I see
As we consider the lists of sins Paul reminds us our world is plagued by…
?Can we consider afresh the beauty of the ‘Good News’ of salvation from the judgment of God on sin? 🙂
‘Salvation’… saved by grace from the judgment that must come on sin from a holy God who made us to be Holy.. and not leave His Holy presence.. His Holy Spirit 🙂
-------close with a few of David’s psalms of reflection---------
Psalm 8 v 4 -7
When I observe Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which You set in place,(E)
4 what is man that You remember him,
the son of man that You look after him?(F)
5 You made him little less than God[c][d]
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You made him lord over the works of Your hands;
You put everything under his feet
(that’s the potential we were designed for)
psalm 51 A Psalm of David, after his affair with Bathsheba, and sending her husband to die in battle:
Have mercy on me, O God, because of your loyal love.
Because of your great compassion, wipe away my rebellious acts.
2 Wash away my wrongdoing. Cleanse me of my sin.
3 For I am aware of my rebellious acts; I am forever conscious of my sin.
4 Against you—you above all—I have sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. So you are just when you confront me; you are right when you condemn me.
5 Look, I was guilty of sin from birth,
a sinner the moment my mother conceived me.
6 Look, you desire integrity in the inner man;
you want me to possess wisdom.
7 Cleanse me (with hyssop) and I will be pure;
wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Grant me the ultimate joy of being forgiven.
May the bones] you crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins.
Wipe away all my guilt. 10 Create for me a pure heart, O God.
Renew a resolute spirit within me.
11 Do not reject me. Do not take your holy Spirit away from me.
12 Let me again experience the joy of your deliverance.
Sustain me by giving me the desire to obey.
13 Then I will teach rebels your merciful ways,
and sinners will turn to you.
14 Rescue me from the guilt of murder, O God, the God who delivers me.
Then my tongue will shout for joy because of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, give me the words. Then my mouth will praise you.
16 Certainly you do not want a sacrifice, or else I would offer it;
you do not desire a burnt sacrifice.
17 The sacrifice God desires is a humble spirit—
O God, a humble and repentant heart you will not reject.
Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Heb 4 12
His word contains both promise and command, so we should respond with faith and obedience. And as Hebrews 4:13 says, nothing is hidden from God’s sight. He sees everything we do and knows our thoughts, and we must give account to him.
He became human, so he understands our weaknesses, but he lived without sin, so he can be our Savior. Since Jesus has done this, we can be sure that he will help us now.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Jesus knows what it’s like to suffer and to be tempted to quit. He can strengthen us, so we need to come to him with confidence that he will help us.
Author: Michael Morrison, PHD
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, for to this you were called as members of one body. And be thankful.