Enemy Love

God’s enemy love is a reconciling love

“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.(Romans 5:9-11, ESV)

In these verses, Paul employs an argument from the greater to the lesser. You see much more repeated in verses 9, 10, and 11. In each case Paul says,

If God has done ________ in the past, he most certainly will do __________ in the future.

The thing in the past was the harder thing. If God has already done the harder thing in the past, then we can be confident he will do the easier thing in the future. So, let’s see what he has done.

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All About Him: Peace Through Jesus

Romans 5:1-2 begins a new section in Romans in which the implications of chapters 1-4 are applied to salvation, living as a Christian, the question of the Jews’ salvation, and practical matters in chapter 12 and following. Chapter 5, verse 1 has one of the most important “therefores” ever.

What is drawing to conclusion? Chapter 1 says all Gentiles are under God’s wrath. Chapter 2 says the Jewish people are under God’s wrath. Chapter 3 shows us that a right standing before God is possible by faith as God declares us righteous via justification. This is not earned, merited, or accomplished by us. It is entirely earned, merited, and accomplished by Jesus’ death on the cross in our place for our sins. His righteousness is given to us as a gift which grants us eternal standing before God and eternal glory to Jesus. It is a gift to us and glory to him. In chapter 4, we find that even Abraham, the hero of the Old Testament story, was saved by faith. How can anyone think they are saved by a good life if even Abraham had to be saved by faith? This leads to this wonderful “Therefore.” “Therefore” means, based on all that I have said thus far, it means this.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1–2, ESV)

How Faith Lives on a Promise

Sustaining Faith Does with Life What Saving Faith Does with Jesus

“But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:23-25)

We begin with saving faith, for surely that is Paul’s focus here. He reemphasizes that when Genesis 15 tells us that when God credited Abraham righteousness by faith, it was written down for our instruction. If even Abraham was saved by faith, then who are we to think our righteousness or moral awesomeness can save us? If Abraham was saved by faith, then so must we. Here is the promise. It will be counted to us [same words as Abraham] who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord. Abraham believed God and was justified. Paul urges us to Abraham-like faith.

By the way, who has it easier? You or Abraham? What if rather than the entire New Testament and the ongoing story of the gospel for the 2,000 years of the church, all you had was what Abraham had? Your descendants will be like the stars and through you all nations will be blessed. (Genesis 15:5; 17:16) That’s it. All you got. All you know to trust in. Now you see how we are in such a privileged and blessed place in history as we have so much more revelation and evidence of God’s trustworthiness. How? God fulfilled his Abrahamic promise. Jesus has come. The New Testament bears witness. History bears witness. The church bears witness. God’s people bear witness. We have so much more than Abraham! If Abraham could trust God’s promise with the little he had and be saved, might you today place your trust in what God’s promise fulfilled with Jesus dying for your sins? That’s where Paul goes.

“It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.(Romans 4:24-25)

The essential gospel. Jesus was delivered over by the Father to mankind for mankind’s sin. He was raised back to life for our justification authenticating that God’s promise of salvation is true. God will declare us righteous forever if our hope, faith, and trust are in Jesus and what he did for us on the cross and in his resurrection. That is saving faith. But notice that for Abraham there is a lot of living after God makes his promise in Genesis 15. Abraham would wait 25 years for God to fulfill his promise of a son.

This is so helpful as we sometimes think there is one kind of faith that saves us and one kind of faith that sustains us. No. Not at all. It is the same kind of faith. Abraham believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness and Abraham continued to believe and it sustained him as he waited a quarter century for God to fulfill his promise.

Faith’s role in the Christian life is the same. The same faith that I expressed in trusting my eternal destiny to Jesus, I continue to apply to the ongoing issues in my life. If I can trust God for the big things by faith, shouldn’t I trust him for the daily things by faith?

Scripture urges us to see that God’s promises include the big and the small. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) Do you see the argument from the greater to the lesser? Friends, what are we so afraid of? What are we worrying about? God’s promises are true even when life seems to call his reliability into question. That’s the power of Abraham’s example as there are probably no more unlikely circumstances in which God could come through then 100-year-old Abraham bearing a son by 90-year-old Sarah.

“Let us also remember, that the condition of us all is the same with that of Abraham. All things around us are in opposition to the promises of God: He promises immortality; we are surrounded with mortality and corruption: He declares that he counts us just; we are covered with sins: He testifies that he is propitious and kind to us; outward judgments threaten his wrath. What then is to be done? We must with closed eyes pass by ourselves and all things connected with us, that nothing may hinder or prevent us from believing that God is true.” (John Calvin) [1]

Imagine it’s the dead of winter and you, for whatever reason, must cross a frozen river. You must get from one side to the other side. But you hear the ice cracking and making noises and you wonder, will this hold me? So, you take your first step and you hear, crack! You take your next step and you hear a louder crack! You think you feel the ice giving way and so you quickly lay down on the ice spread eagle. You slowly inch your way across, each movement terrifying you that it will be your last. You are halfway across the river and are sure you are about to die when you look over and here comes across the frozen river a concrete truck. It passes by you. The driver grins and waves and you watch it get to the other bank and go up on to the road.

What do you do? Do you remain spread eagle and crawling? No. You think, if this ice can take the concrete truck than it certainly can handle my weight. You stand up and walk with confidence to the other side.

What is Romans 4 teaching? The ice is the power and promises of God. The cracking is the fearful sounds and terrors of life all around us. The concrete truck is Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. If God’s promise can hold up the weight of our eternal salvation, then should I be able to trust him in the cracking trials of life, in the scary health moments, in the parenting trials, the job loss, the relational pains, the cracking sounds of the uncertainties of life?

Faith sees God’s faithfulness to his promise in Scripture and in his Son and applies the same promise-trusting faith to the daily struggle of life. This fights our fears and allows us to stand up, brush off the snow and ice, and to walk forward in life confident that while I may tremble on the ice, the ice will never tremble under me.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2018 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] John Calvin as quoted by Douglas J. Moo, Romans: New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, p. 1132.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Missions, Romans, and Bethel Church

Gospel Mission was Paul’s “Oblitunity” (and Ours as Well)

I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” (Romans 1:14–15 ESV)

“Oblitunity” is a word we like to use around Bethel. I made it up. It is a mashup of obligation and opportunity and it describes Christian duties which also are our delight; when what we have to do is what we also very much want to do. Kissing our wives. Duty or delight? Both. Caring for our children. Duty or delight? Both. Obligation and opportunity. Oblitunity.

Missions and gospel ministry was for Paul his greatest oblitunity. We see it here. I am under obligation to preach the gospel to everyone. The word for obligation comes from a Greek word that means “debtor.” A debt is something you have to pay. It is something you have to do. Paul HAD to preach the gospel. Christ had commissioned Paul. God’s grace deeply moved Paul to want to share. Yet the next verse shares his heart. “I am eager to preach…to…Rome.” Eager means “joy, glad, happy.” Paul was enthusiastic about the opportunity.

This, of course, reflects the heart of Jesus who was no begrudging Savior. Rather he came with joy to save us. “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Paul was a happy apostle and Jesus was, and is, our joyous Savior. The Great Commission is rooted in this joy. Indeed, the word gospel means, “good news.”

Listen to the words of the great pioneer missionary to Africa, David Livingstone, who suffered so many things in his pursuit of Africa for Christ in the mid-1800s.

“People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa…. It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.”[1]

What turns sacrifice into joy? Love. Joy. Gladness in God. Romans is a letter animated by joy in God’s gracious mission to save sinners.

Why is Missions Urgent? The Reality of the Wrath of God

Paul begins the greatest explanation of the gospel, not with the good news, but with the bad news. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Romans 1:18) It is a hard doctrine, but the plain fact is that without a personal belief in Jesus as Savior, every single person who has ever lived will experience forever God’s wrath and judgment.

The final place for this is hell. Jesus spoke of eternal punishment often describing it as:

  • A place of fire and burning (Matthew 3:12)
  • Eternal weeping and “gnashing (grinding) of teeth.” (Matthew 13:42)
  • The gulf between heaven and hell is “fixed” (Luke 16:26)

Every description of hell is terrible beyond anything we can even imagine. You don’t want to go there for one second, much less forever.

This creates missional urgency. This prioritizes reaching our children and neighbors for Christ. This motivates pioneer missions work in places where the gospel has not been heard. The wrath of God urges on Wycliffe Bible Translators to translate the Scriptures into obscure languages. The gospel forces us to look at the people of the world through the lens of impending wrath and judgment.

Stop this week sometime and just look at the bustling people around you in the restaurant or at college or on the interstate. Take a moment and consider the incredible reality that every person you see will spend eternity either in torment beyond what we can imagine or eternal bliss and joy beyond what our minds can conceive. What determines that destiny? Whether they are under God’s wrath as the due punishment for their sin or under God’s grace by faith in Jesus. That’s the bottom line. And most of what you and I worried about this week won’t matter one bit one second after we die, and these realities are unchangeably fixed forever.

Missions is motivated by the wrath and grace of God.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2018 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

 

[1] David Livingstone as quoted by John Piper, “I Never Made a Sacrifice,” www.desiringgod.org, March 19, 2018.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

If Abraham was Saved by Faith Alone, Then…

All Jews and All Gentiles Can be Saved by Faith Alone

“Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.(Romans 4:9-12 ESV)

Here is the power of Paul’s argument. He merely points out that Abraham was declared righteous before he was circumcised. There’s no way to get through Romans without getting over the awkwardness of talking about circumcision. There. I acknowledged it. I won’t again and hope we can see circumcision maturely and theologically. For the Jews this had become more than a sign of the covenant. It was a sign of God’s favor and blessing; dare I say a guarantee of eternal forgiveness and life. Similarly, the lack of circumcision was seen essentially as a sign of divine disfavor. So, all the Gentiles were under God’s wrath. They were uncircumcised.

What does Paul do? He points out the obvious. God reckoned Abraham righteous while he was uncircumcised. At least 14 years before, maybe 29 by some opinions. For up to three decades, the not-yet-circumcised Abraham lived declared righteous. Here is the skeleton in the Jewish closet: Abraham was saved without the sign!

Human Pride and Salvation by Faith Alone

Look who I am!

“Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.” (Romans 3:29-30 ESV)

The key phrase here is, “since God is one.” He is clearly addressing the Jews at Rome since the oneness of God was and is to this day the central truth of Judaism. Every practicing Jew quotes each day the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one.”

Paul applies the singularity of God to salvation and says, because God is one there is only one way to God. What’s that? Justification through faith. See it, “who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised by faith.” (Romans 3:30) “Circumcision” is code for Jews. “Uncircumcised” is code for Gentiles. In other words, one God. One way to God that is the same for everyone.

Here Paul is challenging ethnic pride or the assumption that so many Jews had, which was that because they were physical descendants of Abraham, the chosen people of God, their ethnicity was a basis for saving favor from God. We are Jews! God likes us more!

No. With God there is no discrimination or partiality. The most non-racist person in the universe is the one who made all the races and loves them—God. This was the lesson Jonah had to learn in Nineveh. This was the lesson Peter had to learn with his vision of the sheet coming down. Are we better than the prophet and the apostle? Do we subtly assume God’s favor because of some category we find ourselves in?

Christ Appeases the Father’s Anger

“Through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:24-26 ESV)

Forbearance

Our sixth word in the text is forbearance. You see it here. Divine forbearance. Paul anticipates the person who is tracking with propitiation saying, so God is angry with our sin, right? Yes. Jesus died for our sins, right? Right. What about all the people for centuries who sinned before Jesus was even around? What about them? Great question. What about them?

God would have been completely just to immediately usher the sinner into eternal punishment. Adam and Eve, you sinned. To hell you go. Complete justice. But what did God do with Adam and Eve? He promised that from Eve’s offspring one would come who would crush the serpent. (Genesis 3:15) He made them clothes to cover their nakedness and their shame. He gave them children: Cain, Abel, and Seth. He gave them long life. How could God do that when their sin seemed to demand immediate punishment?

The answer is forbearance.