Monday, November 30, 2009

Romans 12

I'm writing a series of articles on the book of Romans, which, as you know, is one of the more difficult and controversial books of the New Testament. This is not going to be a verse-by-verse analysis by any means, but I hope to write a lengthy article about each chapter of this sixteen chapter book. I hope that you find this helpful.

In chapter twelve, Paul finally changes the course of the discussion. In the previous eleven chapters, the apostle analyzed the many different angles of the Jewish/Gentile controversy. He reiterated the point time and time again that the Jews were no longer God's chosen people, and that the Gentiles had been granted repentance unto life. Here in the twelfth chapter, Paul turns his attention to other issues regarding the church.

Humility and service are two concepts that we find in chapter twelve.

Paul begins the chapter by saying, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of GOd, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (vv. 1-2). In the Old Testament, the Jews made physical sacrifices, but in this New Testament dispensation, we are to be living sacrifices; that is, our whole lives are to be sacrificed for the cause of Christ. This is spiritual language, of course. To put it another way, "I have been crucified with Christ: it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). Is Christ living in you? Are you living for yourself or for Christ?

I love the way Paul says that this is our "reasonable service" in Romans 12:1. God is not asking too much of us. In light of all that God has done for us, it is reasonable for us to give our lives to Him! But really, when you think about it, what God has asked of us is NOT hard. After all, "His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3).

In verse two, the apostle urges us to NOT be conformed to this world. Christians today try too hard to fit in with the world, when we ought to be doing the very opposite. Are you willing to stand out, to be different? Are you willing to rebel against worldly fads if those fads contradict righteous and holy living?

Beginning in the third verse, Paul begins to discuss the body of Christ, and he focuses primarily on the different functions that we all have as members of the body, or church. God has dealt to each Christian a "measure of faith" in the sense that we all have different gifts or abilities that are to be used within the church (vv. 3 --> vv.6). Different gifts are listed here: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading and showing mercy. While miraculous gifts have ceased and vanished away (see 1 Cor. 13:8-11), the fact remains that we all have different abilities and talents. Some are natural leaders. Others are gifted teachers. Some excel in the area of service. Some are older while others are younger, and there are benefits to both. Some have more money than others and can contribute in that way. I could go on, but I'm sure you get the point. Each one of us is to actively use our gift(s) to promote edification within the body of Christ.

Having said that, I'm afraid that too many Christians are apathetic in this area. They are pew-warmers, but they contribute very little to the growth of the church. We see our brethren on Sundays and Wednesdays, but we have no desire to spend time with our brethren outside of services. God designed the church to aid us in our spiritual growth, not just to be something we mark off of our to-do list each week.

In the remaining part of the chapter, we find a series of random admonitions regarding the spirit and attitude of Christians. Let's summarize these:
  • Let love be without hypocrisy (vv. 9).
  • Be kind towards one another (vv. 10).
  • Serve the Lord with zeal and sincerity (vv. 11-12).
  • Do all that you can to help others; open your home to others (vv. 13).
  • Love and bless your enemies; leave vengeance to God (vv. 14, 17-21).
  • Be humble in your view of one another (vv. 16).

You'll notice here that God demands more of us that faithful church attendance and morality. He demands our hearts. He wants us to love Him and to love others. Attitude is a critical element to faith. How are you doing in this regard?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Romans 11

I'm writing a series of articles on the book of Romans, which, as you know, is one of the more difficult and controversial books of the New Testament. This is not going to be a verse-by-verse analysis by any means, but I will write a lengthy article on each chapter of this sixteen-chapter book. I hope that you find this helpful.

The eleventh chapter of Romans is often perceived as being one of the more difficult chapter of the book, but really, it is not that difficult. The theme of this chapter is nothing new: the Jews who were once God's chosen people were no longer God's chosen people for now salvation was through the Messiah, Jesus Christ and not the old law.

Oddly enough, many religious people interpret this chapter to mean that the Jews are still God's chosen people and that they have a special role in God's future plan. There are those, of course, who view all Jews at all times as automatically saved. In the political realm, these individuals are called Zionists because of their desire to preserve Jerusalem and the nation of Israel. Then there are others who acknowledge the apostasy of Israel but contend that there will one day be a great revival during which the Jewish people will finally embrace the Messiah. Both theories assign a special role to physical Israel in the current and/or future plan of God. I contend that both positions are false, and I hope to explain my reasoning as I commentate on Romans 11.

Romans 11:1 says, "I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not!" Let's stop here for a moment. His people are the Israelites, and at first glance, it may appear that Paul is affirming the ongoing election of the Jews, but he is not. Notice what he says in the latter part of verse one. How was it that God hadn't cast away the Jews? "For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin." Had God utterly forsaken the Jews and flippantly cast them off? No! They still had access to salvation, and Paul was a perfect example of this fact. Paul was saved in that he, as a Jewish man, converted to Christ. So Paul is not saying that the Jews were all still saved because, after all, they're Jews and God would never forsake His precious Jews. The apostle is very clearly saying that God had not abandoned the Jewish people to hopelessness...they COULD be saved...through Christ, just as Paul had been saved through Christ. This is the point of the entire chapter.

"God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew" (vv. 2). After all, "I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal" (vv. 4). In other words, despite the faithlessness of Israel, there were some Israelites, like Paul, who were still faithful. They were faithful in that they had converted to Christianity. This "remnant" (vv. 5) was saved according to the "election of grace." The rest of Israel had been "blinded" according to verse seven (also see 2 Cor. 3:14-18).

Paul goes on in Romans 11:11-12 to emphasize one of the benefits of Israel's blindness and apostasy. The fall of Israel led to the salvation of the Gentiles. The salvation of the Gentiles was then intended to provoke the people of Israel to jealousy, that they might seek the Lord.

Notice verses 13-14: "For I speak to you Gentiles: inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them." Who can argue the fact that the Jews were and are lost? Paul implies as much when he says "...and save some of them." And this is consistent with such passages as Romans 10:1 which says, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved."

The entire middle section of Romans 11 contains a kind of metaphor. The image of a natural olive tree is contrasted with that of a wild olive tree. The natural tree represented salvation and the natural branches were the people of Israel while the wild olive tree represented the Gentiles. Wild olive branches were being grafted into the natural olive tree. In other words, the Gentiles were now partaking of the benefits of salvation which the Jews had long enjoyed. Even though this is great news for the Gentiles, Paul tries to humble and caution them. In verses 20-22, the apostle warned them, "Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off." This passage simultaneously denies the once saved, always saved theory.

For the sake of time, let's skip ahead to verse 26, another commonly misunderstood text. Paul says here, "And so all Israel will be saved..." As you might imagine, there are many, many people who love this verse simply because, in their mind, it reinforces the concept that physical Israel maintains its lofty place in the plan of God.

Based on this verse, it is argued that all Jews are saved, despite their rejection of Christ. But that is the very opposite of what Paul is saying. The word "so" means in this manner. In this manner, all Israel will be saved. In what manner? Paul answers that question by quoting a prophecy from Isaiah. "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins." It is through the Deliverer, Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, that the Jews could be saved. Isn't this wht Paul has been saying all along? It's not that all Jews are literally saved simply because they are Jews. ALL Jews can be saved through Christ. Romans 10 articulates the conditions of salvation in Christ. Belief, confession and obedience through repentance and baptism!

"For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable," Paul adds in verse 29. That's right! After embracing the Jews as His people for thousands of years, God did not suddenly abandon them to hopelessness; He didn't turn His back on them. They still had access to salvation, but it was now through Christ.

It is a simple point and one that we should never forget: whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, black or white, male or female, salvation is ONLY in Christ (Jn. 14:6; Ac. 4:12).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Romans 10

I'm writing a series of articles on the book of Romans, which, as you know, is one of the more difficult and controversial books of the New Testament. This is not going to be a verse-by-verse analysis by any means, but I will write a lengthy article on each chapter of this sixteen-chapter book. I hope that you find this helpful.

In Romans the tenth chapter, Paul gets right to the point. The way to salvation is clearly articulated in the word of God and even though this gospel had been extended to the Jews, they had rejected it. Did Paul rejoice in this fact? Not at all! In fact, it caused him a tremendous amount of grief. "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge." In other words, the Jews were religious people, but they were unsaved religious people. Likewise, it is possible today for a person to be religious yet unsaved. When our "religious zeal" is not according to knowledge--when it is not in harmony with the word of God--it does absolutely no good.

But the Jews were not only lagging way behind in the area of obedience, they also were self-righteous and self-reliant. That is the point of verses 4-5. They ignored the righteousness of God while simultaneously establishing their own righteousness. Their zeal wasn't directed towards God; it was directed towards their own system of meritorious works. Like the Pharisees of Jesus' day, they were outwardly pious, but inwardly they were full of dead men's bones.

And the thing is, God had made it easy for them to be saved. The truth of the gospel was not was not in some far off place (vv. 6-7), but rather was near to them--to every man for that matter (vv. 8). The Jews had access to the gospel; it had been openly offered to them time and time again.

Not only was the gospel easily accessible, but the conditions of salvation found therein were not overly-demanding. Paul tells us in the following segment of the chapter what a man must do to be saved: "That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (vv. 9-10), and then in verse 13, "For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."

Many religious people today like to quote this passage in their attempt to justify the "faith-only" doctrine. Others like to turn here for authority for what is called the "sinner's prayer." Just believe. Just call on the Lord in prayer, and He will save you. But that is not Paul's point. First of all, He does not say that we are saved by faith only. Confession is also listed as a condition of salvation. This is not a confession of our sins, but a confession of the Lord Jesus (see Ac. 8:37). So it is faith AND confession. Let me ask you this: if a person does not confess Christ openly, can they be saved...even though they believe in Him? The answer is NO! Both faith and confession are necessary, according to the apostle Paul.

But let's not forget verse 13. We must CALL on the name of the Lord to be saved. To many, this is a prayer that the sinner recites in order to be saved. "God, save me from my sins." That kind of thing. But once again, the average denominational person is wrong in this position. Paul is not advocating the sinner's prayer here. According to God's word, "calling on the name of the Lord" is a metaphorical expression that is tied to obedience, namely water baptism. Let me explain...

In Acts 2, Peter quoted this same passage in verse 21 as he spoke to the Jews on the day of Pentecost. "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." Later, as he concluded his sermon, the Jews asked Peter, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Did Peter tell them to pray or to believe only? No! He told them in verse 38 to "Repent, and be baptized...for the remission of sins" In Acts 22:16, Ananias told Saul of Tarsus, "And now why are you waiting? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." You see, we call on the Lord when we submit to His command to be baptized. When we humbly obey the Lord, we are, in essence, calling on Him to save us as He told us He would. That is the point in Romans 10:13.

I might also point out that while Romans 10 says much about the conditions of salvation, we cannot look to Romans 10 as the ONLY "salvation passage." After all, Romans 10 says nothing of repentance, yet the Bible repeatedly affirms that repentance is necessary for salvation (Lk. 13:3; Ac. 2:38; 3:19). Romans 10 is just one passage that addresses the topic of salvation, and all of these passages must be considered together in order for us to have a firm grasp of the conditions of salvation.

Okay, back to our examination of Romans 10.

In verses 14-17, Paul basically says that if we must call on the name of the Lord, then it is obvious that we must first HEAR about the Lord. In order for one to hear, someone must teach them about the Lord...and that's where preachers and evangelists come into play...and all Christians for that matter. We are to share the gospel with others that they may hear about the Lord and call upon Him. This is why Paul affirms in verse 17, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Faith is not derived from some special feeling, but from the tangible word of God!

In the last segment of the chapter (vv. 18-21), Paul cites several Old Testament passages in an effort to highlight the Jews' foretold stubborness. The Jews HAD heard (vv. 18). They DID known (vv. 19). But they were not interested in the truth (vv. 20). Israel could not blame God, however, for He had reached out to them despite their disobedience (vv. 21).

Questions? Thoughts? Disagreements? Please comment below.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Romans 9

I'm writing a series of articles on the book of Romans, which, as you know, is one of the more difficult and controversial books of the New Testament. This is not going to be a verse-by-verse analysis by any means, but I will write a lengthy article on each chapter of this sixteen-chapter book. I hope that you find this helpful.

After devoting several articles to Romans 8, here we chapter nine. This is another difficult chapter in the sense that it is often misunderstood and twisted to support certain Calvinist teachings, but really, when we read it carefully, it is not that difficult.

As we begin our study of Romans 9, let us first of all identify the primary source of contention in this chapter. There is a section in the middle of the chapter that seems to support Calvinism. Let's consider a few of these confusing statements:

"Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated" (vv. 13).

"I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion" (vv. 15).

"Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens" (vv. 18).

These above statements may appear to some to be saying that God chooses certain individuals to be saved while choosing to reject others. I agree that God chooses to save certain individuals, but I believe that God chooses those who of their own free-will meet the conditions stipulated in His word. And yes, God rejects others...He rejects those who, of their own free-will, reject His word. But Calvinism says that we humans have no free-will; that we're all robots predetermined to be either saved or lost. But that is not what Paul is discussing in Romans 9. To understand what he is saying, let's begin in verse one and move through the chapter.

In the first several verses, Paul declares his sorrow and regret that the people of Israel were not in a right relationship with God. Because they had rejected the Messiah God sent them, they were lost. "For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh" (vv. 3). Physically speaking, Paul was of Jewish lineage. His "countrymen according to the flesh" were the Jewish people. The apostle here indicates that they were NOT saved. Why? Because they were not in Christ.

Paul goes on in the following passage to make the point that the Israelites had every opportunity to be saved. They had received the covenants and the law (vv. 4). The promised Messiah had risen among them (vv. 5). Yet they had turned against Him!

And this is why the apostle says, "For they are not all Israel who are of Israel." In other words, the Jews may have been physical Israel, but because of their rebellion and lack of faith, they were not God's chosen people. Galatians 3:9 says, "SO then those who are of fa ith are blessed with believing Abraham," and in verse 29, "And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Galatians 6:16 refers to all faithful Christians as the "Israel of God." Who is true Israel today? It is not the Jewish nation, but the kingdom of Christ which is comprised of Christians!

Beginning in Romans 9:8, Paul begins to show that the chosen nation of Israel came through certain men who were chosen by God. These men represented Israel. Isaac, for example, was the chosen son while Ishmael was not (vv. 8-10). Isaac hadn't done anything to merit such an honor, but "that the purpose of God according to election might stand" (vv. 11). Likewise, the lineage went through Jacob, and not Esau. In fact, in verse 13 Paul quotes a verse from Malachi 1 which says, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated." Let's pause here for just a moment. What does it mean that God hated Esau? The contrast here of love and hate is intended to emphasize preference and choice. God chose Jacob instead of Esau. In this sense, he preferred to carry on the lineage through Jacob. It is also important to note, once again, that Paul is not talking about Jacob and Esau as individuals. In Genesis 25:23, the Lord told Rebekah, "Two NATIONS are in your womb..." Jacob represented what would be the chosen nation of Israel (which is why his name was later changed to Israel), while Esau represented what would be the nation of Edom.

I am saying all of this simply to remind you that in Romans 9, Paul is not emphasizing individual election (Joe is chosen to be saved while Sally is chosen to be lost), but rather national election. God had chosen the NATION of Israel over all other earthly nations. But now, they had rejected Jesus the Messiah, and so God extended the benefits of election to the Gentiles. The Jews had no right to question God. He was/is the potter and it is up to the potter what he does with the clay.

I can imagine that the Jews thought it unfair that the Gentiles had been granted repentance unto life. They had always been the chosen ones and the Gentiles had always been the heathen. The Jews came to view the Gentiles with disdain and animosity, but now they were equal before God. This didn't please the first century Jews and there are countless examples to illustrate this fact...hence Paul's admonition in Romans 9.

To further cement this point, consider Romans 9:24..."even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles," and again in verse 30, "What shall we say then That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith..."

You see? Paul is not talking about individual salvation. He is discussing the election of nations, and the manner in which God dealt with the Jews and Gentiles now that the old covenant had been nailed to the cross! It's as simple as that!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Romans 8.4 (vv. 28-30)

I'm writing a series of articles on the book of Romans, which, as you know, is one of the more difficult and controversial books of the New Testament. This is not going to be a verse-by-verse analysis by any means, but I will write a lengthy article on each chapter of this sixteen-chapter book. I hope that you find this helpful.

I'm going to spend a little more time on chapter eight, being that it is the most challenging of all sixteen chapters, in my opinion...

This passage (vv. 28-30) is one of the Calvinist's favorites. It is often manipulated to teach Calvinistic Predestination as well as Perseverance of the Saints (Once Saved, Always Saved). While I can understand why the Calvinist's love this text (it is difficult, and at first glance, it may seem to support T.U.L.I.P.), the fact is, it does not support Calvinistic theology!

Let's begin by reading the text. "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified."

The Calvinists will argue here that certain ones are predestined by God to be saved while others are predestined to be eternally lost. Those who are predestined to be saved will be saved no matter what, and it is impossible for them, once saved, to be lost, for, according to this passage, they have already been justified and glorified.

First of all, we need to distinguish between biblical predestination and Calvinistic predestination. Ephesians 1:5 says that we have been "predestined," but in the context of that verse, it is clear that Paul is talking about the plan of redemption, not each individual's eternal destiny. In other words, when we, of our own free-will, embrace Christ, we are partaking of the redemptive plan which was set in motion before the world began (Ac. 2:23; 1 Pet. 1:18-20). Because God foreordained that salvation would come through the blood of Christ, we become the elect when we are washed by the blood of Christ. In this way we are predestined...not because God chose us before the foundation of the world to be saved while CHOOSING to condemn others.

So in Romans 8:29-30, the notion of Calvinistic Predestination is NOT under consideration.

Now that I've clarified that oft misunderstood point, let's return to the text under consideration. What does it mean that we are foreknown, predestined, called, justified and glorified?

Adam Clarke, the famous commentator, is persuaded that Paul here is not talking about individual salvation, but rather the collective salvation of the Gentiles. According to Mr. Clarke, Paul is making yet another argument in favor of the equality of the Jews and Gentiles. Even though the Jews were God's chosen people for so long, God all along knew that He would one day extend salvation to the Gentiles. Thus, they were foreknown and predestined. It was God's predetermined plan that the Gentiles would be saved. Likewise, the Gentiles were called (by the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14), justified by the blood of Christ, and glorified along with the believing Jews (raised up to sit in heavenly places in Christ, Eph. 2:6). Clarke says, "And as he knew the Gentiles then, when the scheme was laid, and before any part of it was executed, consequently, in reference to the execution of this scheme, he foreknew us. This is the first step of our salvation, and the end or finishing of it is our conformity to the Son of God in eternal glory"

While I have never really accepted this position, I must admit that it fits the text quite well. Even if it is not what Paul intended when He, by divine inspiration, wrote this great text, the points made by Clarke regarding the Gentiles are correct. Interestingly enough, the only other place the word foreknew is found in the New Testament is in Romans 11:2 where the apostle says of the nation of Israel, "God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew." If the term is used in relation to the Jewish nation in chapter eleven, then perhaps it is being used in reference to the Gentile nations in chapter eight.

But even if Paul is NOT talking about the Gentiles specifically in Romans 8:28-30, he is talking about collective salvation (i.e. the church) and not individual salvation. In other words, the church as a whole has been predestined, called, justified and glorified. God foreknew the church as a whole according to Ephesians 3:11 (it was a part of God's eternal purpose). The church is made up of the called, or the elect. We as Christians are justified by Christ's blood, and we have also been glorified.

What are your thoughts on this controversial text?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Romans 8.3 (vv. 26-27)

I'm writing a series of articles on the book of Romans, which, as you know, is one of the more difficult and controversial books of the New Testament. This is not going to be a verse-by-verse analysis by any means, but I will write a lengthy article on each chapter of this sixteen-chapter book. I hope that you find this helpful.

I'm going to spend a little more time on chapter eight, being that it is the most challenging of all sixteen chapters, in my opinion...

The most difficult part of Romans 8 is this passage concerning the intercession of the spirit. Let's read the passage together first and then discuss the different interpretations afterwards. Paul says in verses 26-27, "Likewise the spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the spirit himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts know what the mind of the spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God."

As with yesterday's article, I'd like to first of all establish what is clear in this text. It is clear that, as Christians, we often struggle in prayer. That is, we have trouble articulating to God what it is that we're trying to say. "We do not know what we should pray for as we ought" (vv. 26). It is also clear that, despite our imperfections, intercession is somehow made so that in the end, God knows our needs and He attends to our needs.

These things are clear.

The difficulty comes in trying to determine the meaning of the word spirit.

It is commonly understood that Paul is talking about the Holy Spirit, that the Holy Spirit intercedes between us and Christ, and Christ intercedes between us and the Father. In other words, the Holy Spirit, in some mysterious way, intercedes by groaning.

Another interpretation is that Paul is speaking of our spirit, not the Holy Spirit. Even though we don't know what to pray for and how to articulate our needs to God, Christ, our intercessor knows our needs and what we're trying to say and He conveys that to the Father.

These are the two primary interpretations of Romans 8:26-27, but which one is accurate? I'll admit to you that I've gone back and forth between these two positions in the last several years, but the position that has most occupied my mind, and which currently occupies my mind, is the latter position. Yes, I believe that the spirit here is our own spirit, not the Holy Spirit.

It is often assumed that the word spirit here MUST be the Holy Spirit. After all, the word is capitalized in most translations (e.g. Spirit), and furthermore, it does say that the "Spirit HIMSELF," and so therefore this must be an individual being. Others simply run with the traditional position of the text, while others, desperate to assign some work to the Holy Spirit, take this position.

First of all, the word spirit is not capitalized in the Greek. It was capitalized by translators who perceive it as the Holy Spirit. Second, the word Himself in verse 26 is a poor translation of the text, as I understand it. The Greek actually says, "the same spirit." So really, Paul is pointing back to the same spirit he mentioned earlier in the verse. This doesn't rule out the Holy Spirit, but at the same time, the "Himself argument" is weak. Third, we cannot hold to the traditional interpretation of a text if the traditional interpretation is wrong, and finally, we cannot declare that the spirit here is the Holy Spirit simply because we are desperate to assign to Him some work. That is not a good reason at all!

So far, we haven't settled anything, but we have at least addressed some of the arguments used to justify the "Holy Spirit interpretation" of Romans 8:26-27. Having said these things, I want to now set forth my reasoning as to why the spirit here is OUR own spirit, not the Holy Spirit.

First of all, context is key. Let's connect what is said in verse 26 to what is said earlier in verse 23. In verse 26, Paul says that "the [same spirit] makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." Back in verse 23, the inspired apostle said, "Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves..." While many assume that the Holy Spirit groans on our behalf, the context of Romans 8:26 indicates that we groan within ourselves. This is not a literal, outward groaning, but a groaning that occurs in our spirit. One might say that our spirit is groaning. Paul also says in 2 Corinthians 5:2, "For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven."

Also, consider with me 1 Corinthians 2:11: "For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God." The language here is similar to that of Romans 8:26-27. The spirit of man is, in a way, distinguished from the man himself, and the point is made that our spirit knows our thoughts and what is in our mind. Does this not fit the wording of Romans 8:26-27 very well? Even though we sometimes cannot express to God what it is that is in our mind, our spirit knows and Christ, who knows our spirit and deals with us on a spiritual level understands the groanings of our spirit and intercedes for us!

Doesn't this make more sense than saying that the Holy Spirit groans to Christ who then interprets the groanings of the if Christ couldn't understand our thoughts and our intentions to begin with? It just seems superfluous, doesn't it?

Maybe I'm wrong. If you disagree, I'd love to hear from you. Comment below or email me at

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Romans 8.2 (vv. 18-23)

I'm writing a series of articles on the book of Romans, which, as you know, is one of the more difficult and controversial books of the New Testament. This is not going to be a verse-by-verse analysis by any means, but I will write a lengthy article on each chapter of this sixteen-chapter book. I hope that you find this helpful.

I'm going to spend a little more time on chapter eight, being that it is the most challenging of all sixteen chapters, in my opinion...

In today's article, let's focus on Romans 8:18-23. First, let's read the passage together: "For I consider the suffering of this present tme are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the cration was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption in to the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan, within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of the body."

Some things in this passage are clear. For example, it is clear that Paul is talking about the last day upon which Christ will return with all the angels (the sons of God, vv. 19). That day will be one of redemption and glory (vv. 18, 21, 23). It is also clear that there is a certain sense of anxiety regarding the final day of redemption, for the bondage that we all endure because of sin will come to an end; freedom from this bondage will be achieved on that day.

The main question here in this passsage is, what or who is the creation?

Some have conjectured that the creation here is the earth, and that when Jesus returns, the earth will be transformed into its initial state of paradise and glory. Because of sin, the paradise of Eden and the perfection of that world came to an end, but finally, its former glory will be restored. This theory fits will with Premillennial theology, the theology of Jehovah's Witnesses, and with the general belief of "paradise earth," but it runs into problems when you try to harmonize it with such passages as 2 Peter 3 which plainly teaches that the earth will be destroyed.

Another idea, and this is the position of Adam Clarke, is that the creation here is the Gentile world. This theory fits the context of Romans which pertains to the Jewish and Gentile controversy. Adam Clark points out in his commentary that the Gentile world was subjected to futility (vv. 20) when they erected the tower of Babel in Genesis 11, a sign of their wickedness and idolatry. Those Gentiles who embraced Christ, along with the believing Jews, would experience the glory of redemption. The Jews have no special right to redemption. It is for the Gentiles as well. That is the theory set forth by Adam Clarke.

And Adam Clarke's theory seems to be right. It DOES fit the context of Romans, and it makes the most sense. I admit, though, that this is a difficult text.

What are your thoughts on this passage? What is the creation?