Tag Archives: Epistle to the Romans

Harbinger Of Demise

The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts (1850)

That they have committed adultery, and blood is in their hands, and with their idols have they committed adultery, and have also caused their sons, whom they bare unto me, to pass for them through the fire, to devour them. (Ezekiel 23:37)

Ezekiel prophesied to the Jewish captives in Babylon. These were the first carried into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar.[1] Nebuchadnezzar appointed Jehoiakim’s brother, Mattaniah (a.k.a. Zedekiah), as “king,” i.e., figurehead, over the remnants of Judah. [2] It is to these that the words of our verse above were addressed.

God compared Samaria, capital of the Northern Kingdom, and Jerusalem, capital of Judah, to a couple of adulterous sisters, Aholah and Aholibah.[3] The text does not say whether these were two actual women; however, the name Aholah means “her tent” as in a place of worship. Aholibah (Jerusalem) means “my tent is in her.”

The Northern Kingdom had long abandoned the worship of Yahweh for pagan gods like Baal and Molech, and established their place of worship as Mount Gerizim. Jesus encountered this when He spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well. “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain [Mount Gerizim]; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (John 4:20). So, Mount Gerizim was where Aholah (Samaria) had pitched “her tent,” but God had placed “His tent,” i.e., the Temple, in Jerusalem.

God places Himself in the position of a jilted husband whose wives persistently commit adultery against Him. This adultery comes in the form of idolatry with pagan gods. The idolatry included the live sacrifice of their babies – they had “caused their sons, whom they bare unto me, to pass for them through the fire, to devour them” (Ezekiel 23:37). For this, God “put away,” i.e. “divorced,” His wives. Both Israel and Judah went into captivity, and even though Judah returned to the land after 70 years, they never again enjoyed the same relationship they previously had with God.[4]

If God did that with His “chosen” people, what makes us think that the United States of America will fare better in her idolatry? America may not worship the grotesque idols of the ancients, but we do have our idols. Our greatest idol is egocentrism. We worship self. We offer up to self our time, our efforts, our money, and yes, even our babies. Babies are a major inconvenience to our own desires. They can cramp our style, so mothers can “choose” at any time to sacrifice their babies to the god of self. Just as the ancients placed their live babies onto the firey hands of Molech, modern mothers can place their live babies into the murderous and greedy hands of Planned Parenthood abortionists.

That is not all the ancients did. The worship of their gods included ritual sex with temple prostitutes – male and female prostitutes. These were not only for heterosexual sex; the practice included homosexual sex. God considers such acts as abominable.[5] Today, our god of self allows for this practice even to the point of assigning your preferred gender to yourself. This perversion is not only acceptable; it is encouraged. As the decline of social mores rapidly accelerates in decay, the words of Paul to the Romans ring ever truer.

“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools … Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves … For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Romans 1:22, 24, 26-32, emphasis mine).

That is the true state of our union. I was proud of our President Trump in his State of the Union address. His message was positive, encouraging and hopeful. However, in the gallery sat those who applauded only when their selfish interests were addressed. When the President spoke for the sanctity of life, for religious freedom, and against socialism, those same white-clad egotists sat grimacing on their hands. Sadly, these are the ones in power who will thwart every well-intentioned effort by our President.

The light shines brightest when it’s darkest I’ve been told. However, if the dark is a black hole, no light will ever penetrate. If God turned His back on His chosen people, for, arguably, less than our national sin, why should we expect to fare any better? Our only hope is for Jesus to return to reign on earth. From the “signs of the times,” that event can happen any time.

I hope, as you read this, that you are ready for that moment. If you are not sure, please read my page on Securing Eternal Life.

Notes:


[1]  2 Kings 24:11-16; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8

[2]  2 Kings 24:17-19; 2 Chronicles 36:10-12

[3]  Ezekiel 23:4

[4]  The final prophet to speak for God after Judah’s return to the land was Malachi. For 400 years after that, the voice of a prophet was not heard in Israel until “the voice of one crying in the wilderness,” (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23) John the Baptist. He announced the coming of Messiah whom the Jews rejected. That rejection resulted in the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the Diaspora that lasted almost 2000 years until the rebirth of Israel on May 14, 1948.

[5]  Leviticus 18:22; 20:13

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All Things Work Together For Good

Everything will be alright

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Were you to ask me what my all-time favorite verse of the Bible is, without hesitation I would say Romans 8:28.  I favor many verses for various reasons, for example, Genesis 1:1 is foundational: “In the beginning God created the heaven[s] and the earth.” God as Creator settles a lot of unanswered and unanswerable questions. Along with that is John 1:1-3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” reveals that Jesus Christ is the Creator, who “was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). It was He who, “being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8) because, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). I take comfort from knowing that, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). He will meet my every need.

Sometimes, everyone comes to a point in life, maybe more than once in a lifetime, when we feel abandoned by our Shepherd, and we feel that our needs are not being met. In those times, I take refuge in the assurance of Romans 8:28, but it can easily be misunderstood to mean that everything will always be good. That has certainly not been my life experience. To properly understand the significance of this verse, we must see it in its context and examine it in its original language, Greek.

In context, Paul is addressing a group of Christians in Rome. He assures them that for those who have placed their trust in Christ, there is “no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). Those who “are in Christ Jesus” manifest that fact in the way they conduct their lives, i.e. “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” and he explains what that means in the succeeding verses. Those who walk (conduct their life) after (according to the leading of) the Spirit have the Spirit of God dwelling (residing) in them (v. 9). Let that thought sink in and penetrate your heart. If you are a child of God, you have His Spirit taking up residence in you! Because that is true, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (v. 16). If you are truly God’s child, you should never have a doubt about that. If you do, the Holy Spirit is there to reassure you of that fact. Now, if you never get that reassurance, you need to reexamine your status before God and get that settled. God will let you know whether you are His or not; He does not want you to be deceived.

Another benefit of being a child of God, is that you share the same inheritance with Christ (v. 17). All the unimaginable glory of heaven belongs to God’s children for eternity! The condition (“if so be that we suffer with him”) means we “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (v. 1). Here in America, we have not experienced persecution like many of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, but we should not get too comfortable in that thought. Persecution may yet come. Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18-19, emphasis mine). Unless you have just not been paying attention, there is a growing animosity toward Christians in this nation. Have you sensed it? Have you been rejected by friends or family because of your faith in Christ? Have you suffered with Him and because of Him? Take heart, such suffering is only temporary for God’s children, but the payoff is out of this world (v. 18)!

God’s Spirit in us also helps us in our weakness. When we stray and “walk after the flesh,” the Spirit is there to remind us and bring us back in line. Also, when our heart is burdened to the point that we cannot express what is in our heart so that “we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (v.26). Because God’s Spirit indwells us, He knows us intimately, better than we know ourselves, and He gives expression to the Father of what is on our hearts.

Verse 29 tells us that God, in His foreknowledge, predetermined (predestined) that His children would be conformed – molded into – to the image of His Son. That is God’s purpose for our lives. We are not completely passive in this process, but as we make ourselves available and malleable to the Holy Spirit’s leading in our life, God, not we, shapes us into the form of Jesus Christ to minister to the world around us, and yes, even to suffer for Him.

It is in this context we read, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (v. 28). The Greek syntax places the words of greatest significance at the beginning of the sentence, and those of secondary significance at the end of the sentence. The strict translation of the Greek text is: “We know, moreover, that to those [who are] loving God, all things work together for good, to those according to [His] purpose called [are] being.” First, we who are His children know. This is not up for debate. It is firm. It is assured, and this we know because the Spirit informs us. We are those “who are loving God” consistently. For us, “all things” – the Greek panta is all inclusive – work together for our “good” (Greek: agathon, meaning benefit). This does not say that everything that happens to us will be “good.” Just look around. We see our brothers and sisters suffering with cancer or other illnesses. We see them losing employment or in financial difficulty. We see them struggle with familial difficulties or other relationship problems. Perhaps we experience those things ourselves. No one can say these things are “good.” But the promise of this verse is that God will use those trials for our benefit. God blesses us with many good things, but often, when things go well, we forget the source of those blessings. Sadly, it is the trials that come into our lives that draw us closer to God. Those are the times of our greatest benefit, and God uses those times to help conform us into the image of His Son. Remember, our inheritance is not in this world but with Christ.

God uses ALL things – good and bad – to work for good for His children. This promise does not apply generally to all people. This promise is specifically for God’s people – those “who are called according to His purpose” – that of being conformed to the image of His Son.

When I experience trials in my life, Romans 8:28 gives me the assurance that God works all things for my benefit, and I trust Him for that. Paul ends this chapter in Romans by asking, “If God be for us, who can be against us? … Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (vv. 31, 35). His answer, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us … [nothing] shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vv. 37, 39). No, all of these things work together for our good – our benefit.

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A Day Is A Day

Evening and Morning Was One Day

Evening and Morning Was One Day

For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:4)

In a previous post, No Gap, I discussed the “Gap Theory” compromise of the biblical creation account.  The Gap Theory is only one of several compromises of theistic evolution.[1] Another popular compromise is the “Day-Age Theory.” This offshoot of theistic evolution maintains that God used long ages – billions of years – and evolution to create rather than the six literal days stated in the Bible. The Day-Age Theory attempts to stretch the days in Genesis 1into six long periods of undetermined time. “[The] ‘days’ of creation were interpreted figuratively as the ‘ages’ of geology.”[2]  In order to back up that assertion, the proponents of the Day-Age Theory will cite the psalm above or 2 Peter 3:8: “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

Besides the hermeneutical problems with this view, a logical dilemma arises that refutes any form of theistic evolution. To see this, one must have a clear understanding of who God is and what His attributes say about Him. To begin with, God is inconceivably great beyond anything the human mind can imagine. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9, emphasis mine). Considering God’s “thoughts,” one of His attributes is that of omniscience; He is “all-knowing.” Hence, He innately knows all that can be known, and there is nothing He does not know. “Shall any teach God knowledge?” (Job 21:22). “Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him?” (Job 40:2). “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him?” (1 Corinthians 2:16). Since that is so, why would God need to take billions of years to create by means of evolution, slowly developing from a single cell one thing, and then the next, and then the next, etc. until in the end He evolved man? That makes God out to be something of a mad scientist experimenting in a laboratory to see what He can come up with next. God does not need to experiment! God has nothing to learn; He has no need to practice. Besides all that, billions of years of evolution also involves billions of years of death. This is contrary to God’s nature. “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4, emphasis mine). God is concerned with life, not death. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26, emphasis mine). If death existed before the completion of creation, God would have erred when He said that it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Besides that, death before the fall creates greater theological problems. (I deal with this issue in No Gap.)

In addition we must consider God’s omnipotence; He is “all-powerful.” There is nothing He cannot do. “Is any thing too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14). “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27). “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

Given that God is all-knowing and all-powerful, i.e., there is nothing impossible for Him, it is not unreasonable to believe the Genesis literal six-day account of creation. In fact, given His omniscience and omnipotence, He could certainly have created in an instant what He took six days to create.

Simple logic with a basic understanding of God’s nature refutes theistic evolution and the Day-Age Theory. Furthermore, these compromises fail when applying proper hermeneutical principals. A plain reading and understanding of the text of Genesis 1, as I explained in No Gap, precludes any possibility of long ages. The Hebrew word, yom, for day can only mean a normal 24-hour day. To further stress this point, God encapsulated the completion each creation day between the boundaries of “evening and morning.” There is no other way to interpret this narrative without pulling in from outside sources information not contained within the text. This system of hermeneutics is known as eisegesis – reading into the text what is not there.

The proponents of the Day-Age Theory in attempting to legitimize their compromise will cite 2 Peter 3:8 and Psalm 90:4, but when properly interpreted, in context, these passages speak of God’s eternal nature and have nothing to do with specifying time limits. God is not bound or limited by time; His transcendent nature places Him outside and inside of time simultaneously. Therefore, one day with Him is like one thousand years and one thousand years is like a day. Peter employs a literary device known as simile; otherwise he would have left off the “like.” Likewise Moses in his psalm says, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night” (Psalm 90:4, emphasis mine). But when God says He completed the work in one day, He means one day. So, why did He take six days to create rather than an instant? He created in six days and rested on the seventh day to set the pattern for our work week – six days of work, one day of rest. Have you noticed that the seven-day week is ubiquitous around the world? Furthermore, He wrote it in stone: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11, emphasis mine). The Hebrew word yom for “day” used here in the Fourth Commandment, is the same word yom used in Genesis 1. God was not talking about long ages when He gave this commandment, and He was not talking about long ages when He gave His creation account.

Another argument offered by the compromisers suggests that Genesis uses “poetic” language. This argument falls apart simply by comparing the narrative text of Genesis 1-4 with the literary style of parallelism employed in the Wisdom Books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon). One does not even need knowledge of Hebrew to see the difference. So, claiming that Genesis 1 employs poetic language is a weak argument in support of a sad compromise.

No long ages fit into the narrative of Genesis 1. The Day-Age Theory compromises and weakens the Word of God. It is a diabolical instrument of Satan to create doubt for God’s Word, and disparage the very character and nature of God. There is no gap in Genesis 1, and there are no long ages. A day is a day, plain and simple.

Notes:


[1]  Henry M. Morris, “Evolution and the Bible,” http://www.icr.org/article/evolution-bible/, accessed 10/23/15.

[2]  Ibid.

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A Special Kind of Stupid

Image Credit: The Greanville Post, http://www.greanvillepost.com/2014/04/29/his-day-in-court-a-chimpanzee-makes-legal-history/

Image Credit: The Greanville Post: “His day in Court—A Chimpanzee Makes Legal History

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  (Genesis 1:26)

This week “Two research chimps got their day in court … Steven Wise, an attorney with the Nonhuman Rights Project, told Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Barbara Jaffe that Hercules and Leo, the 8-year-old research chimps at Stony Brook University on Long Island, are ‘autonomous and self-determining beings’ who should be granted a writ of habeas corpus, which would effectively recognize them as legal persons. The chimps, he argued, should be moved from the university to a sanctuary in Florida”[1] (emphasis mine).

Well, what can one expect! For years now evolutionists have been claiming that chimpanzee DNA is 98% the same as that of humans. If that is so, then it stands to reason that they should at least be considered 98% persons. Is that not so? However, the DNA findings exaggerate the similarity in a narrow segment of the genome and deemphasize the vast differences that clearly separate chimps from humans. Biologist Dr. Jeffrey P. Tomkins, Research Associate in Life Sciences for the Institute for Creation Research, researches these claims made by the evolutionists. In comparing 40,000 chimpanzee genomic sequences against the human genome, Tomkins found “that reported levels of human-chimp DNA similarity were significantly lower than commonly reported … For the chimp autosomes, the amount of optimally aligned DNA sequence provided similarities between 66 and 76 percent, depending on the chromosome. Only 69 percent of the chimpanzee X chromosome was similar to human and only 43 percent of the Y chromosome. Genome-wide, only 70% of the chimpanzee DNA was similar to human under the most optimal alignment conditions.”[2] The 28% (give or take) variance may seem small, but in genomics, it is huge. “While, chimpanzees and humans share many localized protein-coding regions of high similarity, the overall extreme discontinuity between the two genomes defies evolutionary timescales and dogmatic presuppositions about a common ancestor.”[3]

I am no scientist, but even without getting into the coded information contained in DNA, the differences between chimps and humans seem obvious to me. To make an evaluation, one needs only to ask a few simple questions.  Aside from some basic similarities like: chimps have hands, humans have hands; chimps have feet, humans have feet (albeit chimps have “thumbs” on their feet and humans have a big toe); chimps have faces, humans have faces; chimps express emotions, humans express emotions; chimps nurture their young; humans nurture their young; chimps live in communities, humans live in communities; chimps communicate (as do most other animals), humans communicate; chimps make “tools,” humans make tools. There may be other similarities, but basically, it ends there. The questions reveal the differences.

Chimpanzees can make simple “tools,” but can they replicate a tool or mass produce it? Do they teach their tool making techniques to others in their community? Do they improve their tools to make them more functional or employ their tools for a variety of different purposes? Chimpanzees can build shelters, but can they build permanent structures? Do they employ aesthetic design in their building efforts or are their shelters simply utilitarian? For that matter, do chips create anything – paintings, sculptures, music, etc.? What is the extent of their creative abilities, if any, and how do they compare to those of humans? Can chimpanzees do even simple math? Do they develop economic systems or practice even the most basic exchange systems? We know that chimps can communicate in some rudimentary ways, but have they developed a language? Do they exchange ideas, and if so, how is that accomplished? Have they ever developed a system of writing, and if they have, do they value it enough to preserve it? Do chimps study chimpanzee anatomy in order to “doctor” on one another? Do they research in order to find cures for chimpanzee diseases? Along the same lines, do chimps study other animals to learn their habits and habitats? Do they observe the stars at night and dream about visiting other worlds? Chimps play, but do they develop games with rules and teach the game to others in order to stimulate healthy competition?

The comparisons are endless, but the more questions one considers, it becomes all the more obvious that chimpanzees fall far short of human achievements and capabilities. Sure chimps have greater strength than humans. They can swing from tree to tree even using their feet to grasp branches; but they do not have the manual dexterity to play a flamenco guitar, harp, piano, or violin; or the grace to match the agility of a gymnast or to dance a ballet or to figure skate.

The evolutionists claim that humans and chimps originated from a common ancestor. If that is the case, then why have chimpanzees not advanced even to the level of the most primitive human tribes? Supposedly they have had the same 100,000 years as humans (according to evolutionists) to evolve beyond their lowly “animal” status. So why are they stuck at the point of their origin? The fact is that they are animals and humans are, well, humans. Chimps were created by the spoken word of God (Genesis 1:24-25); humans were formed (Hebrew yâtsar meaning form or mold) in the image of God (Genesis 2:7; 1:26-27). The difference in creation between beast and man is so distinct, from the Creator’s point of view as recorded in Scripture, that one would really have to be some special kind of stupid to attribute personhood to an animal on par with that of a human being. But, this should really not surprise us. The Bible teaches that those who profess such things have “changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever” (Romans 1:25, emphasis mine).

So, if these chimps really are “legal persons” – the “autonomous and self-determining beings” their lawyers claim – they should go out and hire their own lawyers!


 

 Notes:

[1] Krishnadev Calamur, “Research Chimps Get Their Day in Court in New York,” (http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/05/27/410058029/research-chimps-get-their-day-in-court-in-new-york). Accessed May 28, 2015.

[2] Jeffery Tomkins, “New Research Evaluating Similarities Between Human and Chimpanzee DNA,” (http://www.icr.org/i/pdf/technical/Research-Evaluating-Similarities-Human-Chimp-DNA.pdf). Accessed May 28, 2015.

[3] Ibid.

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Worship vs. Emotion

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.   (Romans 12:1)

This topic has been on my mind for quite some time now, but I have been hesitant to write about it because, well, it stirs up a lot of emotion. The topic of worship is a hot-button topic in church circles because Christians take worship personally – and it is personal. Most of the debate centers around the kind of music used in worship services. The conflict usually boils down to hymns vs. “praise and worship” (P&W) music, or “reverent” vs. “up-beat” music. Personally, I like all kinds of music – classical, country gospel, “high” church and regular hymns, and, yes, even some P&W music. In a recent article I remarked about listening to “godless” rock and roll; I like that too. For me, it is not about the style of the music, but rather the substance. My personal assessment of modern P&W music is that it is shallow in content, overly repetitious, and manipulative. By manipulative I mean that it is designed to excite and stir up the emotions. Hymns sometimes do that for me, but that happens when the truth of the lyrics strikes a chord in my heart that reveals my fallen condition and God’s awesome grace shed on one so undeserving. That puts a knot in my throat and brings tears to my eyes. It is, for me, an emotional experience that brings to mind the great “worth” of God – worship. Some P&W songs do the same, but by and large, not so much.

But worship has little to do with music, or the lyrics of songs. Worship means to “assign ‘worth’ to.” The hosts of heaven assign worth to the Lamb of God: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Revelation 4:11). The first occurrence of the word “worship” in the King James Bible is found in Genesis 22:5. Here we see Abraham on his way to sacrifice Isaac in obedience to God’s command. As they arrive at the location of the sacrifice, Abraham tells his servants “Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” Abraham wasn’t on his way to a song service. In fact, I imagine that he did not feel much like singing at that time. He was on his way to worship. The Hebrew word here is shâchâh and it means to “prostrate (especially reflexively in homage to royalty or God): – to bow down; to crouch; to fall down flat; to humbly beseech; to do or make obeisance; to do reverence; to make to stoop; to worship.” Nothing in that definition says anything about singing or music. I am not saying that music and singing should not be a part of worship. Indeed, the Psalms are a collection of hymns and many of them, like Psalm 150, talk about singing and making music unto to Lord. Psalm 66:4 says, “All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah.” It might be worth noting that the “worship” comes before the singing, not the other way around. So, there is an aspect of worship that calls for music, but even in the Psalms the focus is on God and His majesty, greatness and awesomeness. Often when a complaint is leveled against modern P&W music the retort comes back, “We’re just singing the Psalms.” That is only partially true. The fact is that one or two lines are taken out of a Psalm (and usually out of context), and repeated ad nauseam. The worshipers seldom know the source of the Psalm much less the context, but it makes them “feel” good.

Worship is more than music. Our lead verse exhorts us to make our bodies, i.e., our lives, a “living sacrifice” (recall Abraham’s sacrifice above) holy, i.e., set apart/sanctified from this world, and acceptable unto God. In the O.T. an acceptable sacrifice had to be spotless and without blemish (Exodus 12:5). In our sinful nature, that is impossible, but when we have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb (Isaiah 1:18), we qualify. Finally, our verse says that our sacrifice is our “reasonable service.” The Greek word translated “service” here is latreia which means “ministration of God, divine service or worship.” That it is “reasonable” (Greek logikos) means that it is logical, or rational. It is not “mindless.”

We may never fully understand God. How can the creature comprehend the Creator! But the closer we get to Him, the better we get to know Him, the more we realize His power and His awesomeness, the more we will recognize and acknowledge that HE IS GOD. And our lives should reflect that. It is not about the style of music we sing. It is not about emotion. It is not about how we feel. It is about who He is and how well we know Him. Worship has little or nothing to do with emotions. We may not feel like “worshiping,” but God is always worthy of our worship; and we show that best with how we conduct our lives.

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Cannot Sin

Romans 12_2

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (1 John 3:9)

This is one of the many paradoxes found in Scripture. How can a Christian not sin and yet sin? The Greek phase “does not commit sin” is in the present tense denoting continuous action or, in other words, a “habitual” practice of sin. The rest of the verse explains why the child of God cannot sin: “for [God’s] seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

Paul tells us that true Christians, those who are “born again” are given a new nature: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). That means our old nature has been done away with: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). When we are truly “born again,” we are given a new nature so that we have the ability not to sin, but that ability comes from the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit (“Christ liveth in me”). We have the power not to sin, yet we keep our sinful flesh that retains that bent toward sin. Paul expresses his dilemma this way: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:24-25).

For the Christian, both natures exist within the individual. Someone who claims to be a Christian and continues in “habitual” sin without remorse has not truly been regenerated, i.e., born again. An authentic Christian instantly recognizes when he sins (because the Holy Spirit within him makes him aware) and immediately turns to God for forgiveness, and “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

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Is the Law Sin?

The Law

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? (Romans 7:7)

In recent years I have heard Christians reject the Old Testament as if it no longer applies. One young man tattooed the inside of his left arm with: ουδεν αρα νυν κατακριμα τοις εν χριστω ιησου. In case you do not read Koine Greek, it says, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1, NASB). This reading is translated from the liberal Westcott-Hort Greek New Testament. That text omits the phrase: μη κατα σαρκα περιπατουσιν αλλα κατα πνευμα – “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1, KJV). This additional phrase is included in the Textus Receptus Greek New Testament from which the KJV is translated. (Bear with me; there is a point to this.) When I pointed out the biblical prohibition against tattoos (Leviticus 19:28) to this young man, a seminary student at the time, he lashed out at me pointing out that we are not under Law, but under Grace. Then when I pointed out the missing phrase in his tattoo, he lashed out against the King James Bible. Hmm! The missing phrase “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” suddenly takes on greater significance. Perhaps the compilers of the Westcott-Hort Greek New Testament did not like that phrase either.

So Paul asks an important question: “Is the Law Sin?” Judging from this seminary student’s reaction the answer must be, “Yes!” But what does Paul say? “God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (Romans 7:7, emphasis added). So, where do we get the idea that we are to disregard the Law contained in the Old Testament? Jesus quoted from the Old Testament exclusively. Of course, that was all that existed at the time, but He never gave any indication that it no longer applied. In like manner, all the New Testament writers referred constantly to the Old Testament and never hinted that it was passé. In writing to Timothy, Paul affirms that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16, emphasis added). When he penned these words, there was no New Testament, only the Old. Instead of rejecting the Law, Paul says that “the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12).

Salvation does not come through the keeping of the Law. That is impossible. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). We know that “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works [of the law], lest any man should boast” (Ephesian 2:8-9, emphasis added). So, does the Law serve any purpose? Paul seems to think so. “Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful” (Romans 7:13, emphasis added). The purpose of the law is to shine a spotlight on what is sin.

The Christian is saved by Grace, not by attempting to keep the Law (which is impossible to do), but the Law should be to the Christian a guide as to what God regards as sinful. God wants His children to be holy – set apart from the world, and the Law guides us to what pleases God. Can we keep the law flawlessly? Probably not, but we have the assurance that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). But how can we confess, if we do not know that we sinned? The Law helps us see that.

That young seminary student thought his tattoo would be a great witnessing tool. I venture to say (although I do not know for sure) that his tattoo has not helped him lead a single person to Christ. Perhaps, if he had taken to heart the omitted qualifying phrase in Romans 8:1 – “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” – he would not have violated the commandment against tattoos. I do not question the young man’s salvation, and I fully understand his motive however misguided; but when Paul said, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22), I doubt that he meant for us to go out and get tattoos in order to win over tattooed people.

Is the Law sin? No, but it serves to show us what sin is and what we should avoid. God does not change (Malachi 3:6), and He has always expected holiness from His people. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). The Law is not sin; it reveals sin. The Law should be heeded, not disregarded.

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