Tag Archives: grace

Romans 9: Magnifying the God of the Earth

For a class this semester I have to choose a passage from either Romans or Hebrews to study in depth. I wanted a “difficult” passage because those are the most fun for me to study so I chose everyone’s favorite chapter: Romans 9. You read that right. I decided to dive deep into Romans 9 for this project and have already started to love this passage. I wanted to share three things I’ve already seen thus far.

  1. Paul’s imitation of Christ
  2. God’s definition of injustice
  3. God’s sovereignty in human history

Paul’s Imitation of Christ: Romans 9:3 contains some very surprising words: “I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” To be honest, I’ve always thought this was a little over-the-top. Surely Paul is exaggerating, right? Surely Paul would never even consider being “accursed and cut off” from God, right? But this week I remembered something incredible. The words of Christ on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34; see also Psalm 22:1). Where Paul wished himself accursed and cut off from God, Christ actually was accursed and cut off from God the Father. Paul is merely imitating Christ in his desire to see others come to know the Father. They both desired to share Christ with others so much that they were willing to suffer for it.

God’s definition of injustice: After recalling the story of God choosing to love Jacob and hate Esau before either had been born (Rm. 9:13), the next verse asks this question: “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part?” (Romans 9:14) When we read this, we assume the “injustice” is that God hated Esau. But, in the context of the passage, this is completely wrong. Look at verses 14-16 and pay attention to the words I have made bold:

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

Notice anything? The injustice is not that God hated Esau. The injustice is that God loved Jacob! Think about it for a minute. What is justice? Merriam-Webster defines justice as: “the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments.” The key word there is merited: merited rewards or punishments. Justice is giving people exactly what they deserve. Because we’ve already established—in Romans, no less—that everyone has committed rebellion against God (Rom. 3:23) we know that everyone deserves eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Justice would be giving us our merited punishments. Injustice would be giving us grace, forgiveness, love, and eternal life. God’s grace to sinners is the ultimate act of injustice, but He has the right to have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and compassion on whom He will have compassion. Why? Because He’s God! J

God’s sovereignty in human history: Take a look at this list of historical people in Israel’s history:

  • Abraham
  • Sarah
  • Isaac
  • Rebekah
  • Jacob
  • Esau
  • Moses
  • Pharaoh
  • David
  • Daniel
  • Hosea
  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Malachi
  • Amos
  • Joel
  • Jesus Christ

Believe it or not, all of those people are mentioned, quoted, or alluded to in Romans 9. Just verses 4 & 5 contain all of this: “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9:4-5)” That is a ton of Jewish history and Paul was writing to Jews, which makes me think that he understood that they would understand many of these references.

So what’s my point? My point is that Romans 9 rapidly and succinctly traces almost all of Jewish history from Abraham to Jesus. In the context of a discussion about God’s sovereignty, and when we think about God’s sovereignty, I think it’s important to remember that God has been around a lot longer than us and He has guided all of human history for His purposes. If we view human history as being guided by God, we suddenly get a much larger view of who God is and how His purposes span centuries and even millennia.

Romans 9 is a humbling passage and I look forward to sitting under it, learning from it, and growing as a result.

John Piper on Irresistible Grace

“Irresistible grace is the commitment and power of God’s love to make sure we don’t hold on to suicidal pleasures, and to set us free by the sovereign power of superior delights.”

John Piper

holiness won’t be our aim

Sin is falling into grace and disappearing from our concerns… When we don’t see the gravity of sin, we won’t be reliant upon God for the grace of sanctification and transformation, and holiness won’t be our aim in life. So, let’s look at what sin is, where sin wants to take us and what sin does to us.

Scot McKnight, Why Doesn’t Anybody Talk about Sin?

Hate Sin.

Recently I ran across this Facebook status from a pastor friend of mine:

Yesterday, I ran across that age-old idea of “Hate the sin; love the sinner.” My response was, “Or just love the sinner?” I’m pretty sure the world doesn’t need anymore of my hatred, nor can I find any scriptural evidence where hatred trumps love.
So, here’s to Love!

First, I’ll say that it is completely possible I misunderstood the intention of that status update and that this blog post is a complete waste of time.

Second, I completely agree that Christians need to grow in love and grace. This is an area where we all fall short because we are imperfect humans. I know this to be true most vividly in my own heart because I know myself most truly. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater!

I think part of loving others more truly though, is by helping them, not tolerating that which is most lethal to them. I love my daughter, which is why, if I saw her playing with a cobra, I would rescue her! I love my wife, which is why, if I saw my wife running across an interstate during rush hour with ear buds in and a blindfold on, I would rescue her!

There were a couple things that I thought were a little unclear in the status. Most specifically, what does the phrase “nor can I find any scriptural evidence where hatred trumps love” mean? Does that mean there are no Bible verses where we’re told to hate something? That’s not true (as demonstrated below). Truthfully, you won’t find something if you don’t look for it.

I’ve spent some time reflecting on this status update and have decided that I very strongly disagree for a couple of reasons (in no particular order).

  1. Not only is this statement unbiblical, it’s actually counter-Biblical (which is far worse). Scripture is replete with verses that either directly tell us to hate sin or show us that loving God leads to hating sin. Please allow me to demonstrate:
    • Proverbs 8:13: To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.
    • Psalm 5:5: The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong… (This verse actually makes it sound like God hates the sinner and the sin.)
    • Psalm 11:5: The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion. (Like the previous one, this verse also makes it sound like God hates the sinner and the sin.)
    • Psalm 97:10: Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
    • Psalm 119:104: I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.
    • Psalm 119:128: and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.
    • Proverbs 13:5: The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves.
    • 2 Chronicles 19:2: Jehu the seer, the son of Hanani, went out to meet him and said to the king, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, the wrath of the LORD is on you. (This verse makes it sound as though we shouldn’t love those who hate the Lord.)
    • Ezekiel 35:6: therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I will give you over to bloodshed and it will pursue you. Since you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you.
    • Amos 5:15: Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph. (This is a direct command to hate evil.)
    • Romans 12:9: Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (Another direct, clear command to hate evil.)
  2. This statement doesn’t actually make sense when you plug specific sins into it. For example:
    • “Love the pedophile but hate pedophilia? Or just love the pedophile?”
    • “Love the hungry but hate starvation? Or just love the hungry?”
    • “Love the naked but hate nakedness? Or just love the naked?”
    • “Love the raped but hate raping? Or just love the raped?”
    • “Love the lonely but hate loneliness? Or just love the lonely?”
    • “Love the Godless but hate Godlessness? Or just love the Godless?”
    • “Love the idolater but hate idolatry? Or just love the idolater?”
    • “Love the sinner but hate sin? Or just love the sinner?”
  3. You can’t “love” a person and NOT hate that which is forever tarnishing and damning their eternal soul. It would be like someone finding out their spouse has an aggressive, lethal form of cancer and simply saying, “I love my wife but don’t hate the cancer that is destroying her body.” Love does not tolerate sin in others (1 Cor. 13:6), but seeks what is best for their soul.
  4. As my pastor so eloquently said, “GRACE and TOLERANCE are different. Grace points us toward truth (Tit. 2:11-14); tolerance let’s us run freely from it. Tricky.” Tolerating sin in someone’s life is not loving them. Loving them is helping them as they pursue holiness.
  5. Christ suffered for sins (1 Peter 3:18), therefore, if we love Christ, we must hate the thing which caused Him to suffer.
  6. Scot McKnight wrote an excellent article a while back. Here are some pertinent excerpts:
    • When we don’t see the gravity of sin, we won’t be reliant upon God for the grace of sanctification and transformation, and holiness won’t be our aim in life.
    • Humans ache to rule the cosmos. They want to be God. The ache to be God and acting as if we are God are what sin is all about.
    • Sin, at its core, usurps God’s place in this world and puts us there instead.
    • Sin damages our self-identity, changes our relations with God from love and trust to fear and mistrust, damages our loving union with one another to become a war of wills against one another, and sin also has cosmic effects—we find the world to be red in tooth and claw.
    • The Bible tells us not only that God is gracious and loving, but it reveals an unforgettable statement in Leviticus: “Be holy because I am holy.” Let us not forget we are summoned by God to make our pursuit in life a pursuit that is simultaneously after love and after holiness.
  7. Sin is toxic. James 1:13-15 and Romans 5:12 are clear where sin leads: death! How can we not hate that which kills everything it touches and alienates us from our Creator?
  8. This was posted by a pastor! A pastor who doesn’t hate sin is like an oncologist who doesn’t hate cancer, a fitness-guru who doesn’t hate obesity, a judge who doesn’t hate corruption, a teacher who doesn’t hate illiteracy, a policeman who doesn’t hate violence, or a fireman who doesn’t hate arson. In effect, what’s the point?

In conclusion, I think that a proper understanding of sin’s blatant affront to God’s character leaves us no option but to hate sin. Our love of God will produce a natural hatred of sin. Love of God is the point, but hatred of sin is an inevitable by-product. So, here’s to love!

If we would make it evident that our conversion is sound we must loathe and hate sin from the heart; now a man shall know his hatred of evil to be true, first if it be universal. He that hates sin truly hates all sin. Secondly, where there is true hatred it is fixed; there is no appeasing it, but by abolishing the thing it hates. Thirdly, hatred is a more rooted affection than anger; anger may be appeased, but hatred is against the whole kind. Fourthly, if our hatred be true, we hate all evil in ourselves first, and then in others. He that hates a toad would hate it most in his own bosom. Many like Judah are severe in censuring others but are partial to themselves (Genesis 38:24). Fifthly, he that hates sin truly, hates the greatest sin in the greatest measure; he hates all evil in a just proportion. Sixthly, our hatred is right if we can endure admonition and reproof for sin and not be enraged with him that tells us of it; therefore those that swell against reproof, hate not sin; only with this caution, it may be done with such indiscretion and self-love that a man may hate the reprover’s proud manner. In disclosing our hatred of sin in others, we must consider our calling; it must be done in a sweet temper, reserving due respect to those to whom reproof is offered, that it may be done out of true zeal, and not out of anger nor pride.

– Richard Sibbes (via Tim Challies)

John Piper on conducting grace to others

No man is complete unless he is conducting grace (like electricity) between God & another person.

John Piper, Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2011), 210.

Grace and Then Truth

For a long time now, I’ve been giving a lot of thought and prayer to what it looks like to be “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). So I wrote a guest post over at a friend’s blog called Grace and Then Truth, take a look here: http://graceandtruthblog.com/2012/01/26/guest-post-grace-and-then-truth/

He’ll forgive me…

In an article called Why Doesn’t Anybody Talk About Sin?, Scot McKnight shares a rather disturbing story. I say disturbing because it sounds far too familiar…

One day after I spoke at a church, a college student approached me and began telling me about her roommate, and I’m guessing you know someone like both of these young women. First, she told me her roommate had slept with more than one guy that semester; that her roommate got drunk most Saturday nights; that her roommate was very active in a Bible study; and that she was also in a worship band.

I asked, “Does your roommate consider herself a Christian?” The young woman responded: “Of course she’s a Christian.”

I was perhaps more bothered by that last response than by the actions of the roommate. For this person talking to me, the issue wasn’t Christian-or-not, but why I would even ask such a question.

Her final words to me were, “God forgives, you know.” Her tone wasn’t a tone of gratitude for God’s grace but presumption of God’s grace. I was troubled as much by her attitude as I am by what I see as a trend among our culture: Sin is falling into grace and disappearing from our concerns.

There you have it: When we don’t see the gravity of sin, we won’t be reliant upon God for the grace of sanctification and transformation, and holiness won’t be our aim in life. So, let’s look at what sin is, where sin wants to take us and what sin does to us.

I have a good friend whose wife divorced him a few years ago. I’ll never forget the story of her telling him she wanted the divorce. After she broke the news to him, he asked her what she thought God would think of her actions. Her response: “I think he’ll forgive me.”

The college student’s tone was a presumption of God’s grace, my friend’s ex-wife presumed on God’s grace, and in Romans we read a harsh correction against such a presumptuous, ungrateful attitude.

Or do you presume onthe riches of his kindness andforbearance andpatience,not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? – Romans 2:4

Wow, talk about painful! Here’s how the Message phrases it…

Or did you think that because he’s such a nice God, he’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change. – Romans 2:4, Message

But before we cast the first stone, let’s face it, we’ve all—at one time or another—sinned with the assumption that God was going to forgive us. Maybe it wasn’t a divorce, but I think we’re all guilty here. I’ve done it. I knew that my actions were sinful and yet I just assumed God would forgive me for my actions. I look back at these actions with deep regret and embarrassment, but they are on my long list of failures.

That verse in Romans serves as a good reminder that God’s mercy isn’t meant to give me a license to sin against Him. It would be like me cheating on Connie and then, if she forgave me, viewing that as a free pass to keep on cheating on her. “She’ll forgive me.” In the Old Testament, God often compares His relationship with Israel to a marriage. In Ephesians 5, we’re told that Christ is the Groom and the Church is the bride. Thus, willfully sinning against God is no worse than repeatedly cheating on a spouse; in fact I’d say it’s actually far worse. God’s grace is not a free pass for rebellion.

No, God’s kindness is meant to lead me to repentance. Instead of literally destroying us for our rebellion, God gives us yet another chance; not to keep on sinning, but to repent! Repentance is about turning away from one thing, and moving towards something else. God lavishes his rich, undeserved grace on us so that we may turn away from our sins and run to Him.