Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday, November 30th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Corinthians 5-8
Today's scripture focus is Romans 11:1-6

11 I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.

Israel rejected Christ and God has set them aside in judgement. This is true, this is fact.  However, it is only partial.  He has not rejected Israel entirely, only partially.

Paul first uses himself as an example.  He says that he is an Israelite, and he is a believer, therefore God didn't set aside all Israelites.  Paul had been an unbelieving Jew - and a zealous one at that!  And God saved him.  And just as God saved Paul, so will He save other unbelieving zealous Jews.  He is not through with the Israelites yet.

Then we see that God has always preserved a remnant.  Pretty much throughout Israel's history, the majority of the nation has turned away from God, but there has always been a remnant.  And Paul uses Elijah as an example.

And we remember the story of Elijah - the great show down on Mount Carmel between Baal and God.  And when God dropped fire down on that drowned altar and burned up the whole thing, and Elijah slaughtered all the prophets of Baal - Elijah expected a national revival.  And it didn't happen.  Not only did it not happen, Jezebel swore on her life that she would kill Elijah by the next day.  And Elijah, after taking on 850 men by himself, succumbed to fear of this one evil and powerful woman, fled for his life, and became utterly despondent.  He prayed against his own people, and he prayed for his own death.  He felt completely alone.  But he was not alone.  And God told him so.  God had preserved a remnant of 7000.

There has always been a remnant.

There was a remnant in Elijah's time, in Isaiah's time, in Malachi's time.  The remnant includes people like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Mordecai, Esther, the remnant that returned with Ezra and Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem.  The remnant included John the Baptist, Anna, Simeon, the disciples, Paul, the apostles.  There are believing Jews now, and there will continue to be believing Jews in the future.  There will always be a remnant.

And I love v5&6.   So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
Chosen by grace.  A remnant chosen by God. Not because they were worthy.  Not because they were good. Not because they had worked hard to do the right thing. Not because they had the right parents.  Not because they had a lot of money.  Not because of anything to do with them at all.  God chose them and they responded in faith.  It was by the grace of God alone that they were saved - just like it is by the grace of God alone that any of us are saved.

God has not cast aside the entire nation of Israel - Paul's conversion proves it, and the remnant proves it.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Romans 11:7-10
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Corinthians 9-11

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Thursday, November 29 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Corinthians 1-4.
Today's scripture focus is Romans 10:16-21.

16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?”[a]17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.18 But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did:
“Their voice has gone out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.”[b]
19 Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says,
“I will make you envious by those who are not a nation;
    I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.”[c]
20 And Isaiah boldly says,
“I was found by those who did not seek me;
    I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.”[d]
21 But concerning Israel he says,
“All day long I have held out my hands
    to a disobedient and obstinate people.”[e]

I don't know what happened to me this week.  I'm behind on the reading.  I am tired.  I forget everything.  I finally managed to get my workouts back on track this week, after 2-3 weeks of not feeling well and/or having so many other things to do that I just couldn't get everything in, and now that I've got one thing back on track, everything else seems to be off the rails.  I can't cook anything without dropping things like raw eggs on the floor.  I start putting dirty dishes into the dishwasher, only to realize that the dishes in it are clean and I forgot to empty it.  This morning I spent two hours fiddling with my sewing machine because it wouldn't sew properly, and it was just FINE yesterday.  Finally I realized that when my needle dropped out due to a too-large thickness of fabric and improper tightening, I'd put it in backwards.  Sigh.  Maybe it's because I'm behind on  the reading.   Hmmmmmm.

None of this has anything to do with today's verses, however, so I'll move on now.

Basically, these verses are saying to Israel "You had your chance.  You had the message first.  You got to know Me first.  You have only to look at the many prophecies I gave you and how they've been fulfilled, but because they were not fulfilled in the way you hoped, you choose not to believe.  You refuse to obey.  Because of this, I extend the message and salvation to ALL people, to anyone who will listen and obey, since you do not."

God reached out to the Israelites again and again, saved them again and again, sent messengers to them again and again, and still holds His hands out to them, as well as the rest of us, for as long as the world stands, and though many hear, they do not understand.  MacArthur says this:

Paul is saying the gospel is not just one more local sect, the gospel is not one more Roman mystery cult, the gospel is not one more local religion, but the gospel is the good news which God has sent over all the world...that's what he's saying. It's a whosoever thing. It goes way beyond Jews to embrace Gentiles. Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord. And God showed it by sending His messengers all over the world. Their line and their sound is gone out everywhere. And he's saying to the Jews, as long as you believe that this is unacceptable to you, that you can't take a faith that belongs to others beyond yourself, then you have bound yourself in ignorance because the truth of God extends to the whole world. And sadly, tragically, many Jews rejected the gospel because it involved Gentiles. And many still reject it for that same reason.

Then he goes on to talk about not only Jewish people, but the people of the world in general.

Israel was blind and went around saying, "It doesn't isn't so," and showed their own ignorance. I pray, God, that you don't have ignorance in that regard because the same ignorance that condemned that people will condemn you. Are you ignorant of the righteousness of God? His holy standard? Ignorant of the provision of Christ? The place of faith? The proportions of the gospel called to the world? Are you rejecting Christianity because there's some people that are Christians that you don't like and you won't accept? Are you ignorant of the predictions of Scripture? Have you missed the prophecies that have been fulfilled to demonstrate the truth of the gospel? You see, it's a message that relates to Israel but has wide ramifications. 

I'm going to go one more step.  Say you have believed the message and accepted that Christ died for your sins.  But do you take it further?  Do you read your Bible to learn more about who God is and what it means for your life to be a Christian?  

We've accepted the message and believed it, but do we obey?  We can't be perfect on our own, it's true.  But do we listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit?  Or do we read that new secular book that breaks down the code for living in the REAL world instead?  Don't we take the word of society over the Bible at times?  Don't we forget to seek the will of God when making important decisions?  Don't we ignore that still, small voice telling us we know better than what we are doing?  

Food for thought.  Have a great weekend!

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Romans 11:1-6.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  1 Corinthians 5-8.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wednesday, November 28th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Acts 18:19 - 19:41
Today's scripture focus is Romans 10:14-15

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Only those who call on the name of the Lord can be saved. In other words, only those who ask can be saved. Only those who ask on God's terms. Only those who ask properly, understanding who Christ is, who God is and what the salvation provision is, only those who come on God's terms and ask can be saved. Then none can be saved who don't call, true? If only those who call are saved, then none can be saved who don't call. And none can call unless they believe, right? And none can believe unless they hear. And none can hear unless somebody tells them. And nobody can tell them unless they're sent....

You see, how are they going to call on one in whom they haven't believed? They're not. And how are they going to believe in Him of whom they haven't heard? They're not. And how are they going to hear without a preacher? They're not. And how are they going to preach except they be sent? They're not....God had to send preachers. There's no other way to believe than to hear the truth....

The gospel if it came to anybody, the saving message if it came to anybody, was sent by God, right? Was sent by God. And have you forgotten that God sent preachers beyond Israel? Have you forgotten that? Have you forgotten that not only Jonah but other of the prophets preached the message of repentance and faith to other nations? And have you forgotten that Jesus came to go beyond Israel? That the Apostles, including Paul, extended the gospel beyond the Jew?
Listen, the point is this, God has sent preachers beyond the Jew and that expresses the heart of God in His intention for salvation. The gospel is for whosoever. And God proved it by sending preachers to Jew and Gentile.
Did they miss this? Did they forget about Jonah? Go unto a bunch of wicked pagans? Did they forget that God cared about a whole world of people? Did they think God only cared about them and their ingrown exclusivity? And so he reminds them in verse 15, "As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that bring good news of good things." How beautiful are the feet of them that bring good news of good things...There's no real beauty in the feet. The beauty is in the message the feet are bringing

Isaiah 52:7-10
How beautiful on the mountains
    are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
    who bring good tidings,
    who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
    “Your God reigns!”
Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices;
    together they shout for joy.
When the Lord returns to Zion,
    they will see it with their own eyes.
Burst into songs of joy together,
    you ruins of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people,
    he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord will lay bare his holy arm
    in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth will see
    the salvation of our God.

How beautiful the feet of those who come bringing the good news of good things. And they were beautiful not just to the Jew who was hearing about the coming redemption in the future age but to the whole world as the salvation message extended to the ends of the earth. And when they heard him quote Isaiah 52:7 they should have remembered that this salvation message was to extend to the end of the earth. How very very sad that they missed the proportions of salvation and they thought they had to reject it because it was a Gentile message and all along in their own Old Testament Isaiah and Joel and again Isaiah indicated that salvation would extend far beyond the nation Israel...far beyond. It is a gospel to include all.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Romans 10:16-21
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Corinthians 1-4

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday, November 27th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is 1 Thessalonians2 Thessalonians
Today's scripture focus is Romans 10:5-13

Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: “The man who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Faith is essential, absolutely essential.

And here, Paul starts by, once again, quoting from the OT.  And basically  Moses says, if you're determined that you're going to make it to heaven by keeping the law, then that's what you're bound by, and perfection is the requirement, and you've got to live that way all the time.  Which is, of course, absolutely impossible.  So, if that's the way you think you're going to get into heaven, good luck to you.

MacArthur sums it up....
The man who pursues salvation by law keeping will stand or fall on that effort. Second, it is impossible to stand. Third, falling means eternal cursing. That's it. You put yourself under obligation to keep the law, you won't do it, you're cursed.

And then comes v6-8 which I find extremely confusing at first reading.  Thankfully, MacArthur explains it well.  First he starts by reviewing the fact that God chose Israel, redeemed Israel out of Egypt, and made a covenant with Israel - not because they deserved it, not because they fist loved Him, but because of His sovereign choice, His love, His grace.

Chapter 29 verse 9, the same idea, "Keep therefore the words of this covenant and do them that you may prosper in all that you do." In other words, be obedient to the words of this covenant. And why kind of covenant is it? It's a one-sided covenant, folks, did you get this? God determined to love you. God determined to call you. God determined to redeem you, make you His peculiar people for no good of your own but all of His mercy and grace. Now respond to that by obedience. That's the whole point of Deuteronomy, respond in obedience because of God's saving grace.

And based on that framework of grace, Paul paraphrases from Deuteronomy 30:11-14
11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

Don't think that you have to respond to God by ascending into heaven or by descending into the deep to collect the truth. Don't think you have to go on some impossible journey. The righteousness of faith is available, verse 8, is near you. It's in your mouth, it's in your heart, it's been revealed. It's in the covenant of grace you simply believe and receive it.
You see, the Jews were trying to do the impossible. They were trying to ascend to heaven. That's what a work system does, save yourself, get up, crawl up to heaven on your own. Descend into the deep. Those are two kind of Jewish proverbs. In fact, to be high and afar off was a Jewish way of saying something is unattainable. Thou art high, it says of God, that art very high. It says of the wicked, God sees them afar off, that is there's no way to reach them. To the Jew to be high in the heavens or deep in the depths, to ascend to heaven, to go down to hell was to do what was impossible. So he reaches back to Deuteronomy 30 and says Moses says that the righteousness of faith is not available just for those who can do the impossible. It's available for anybody. It's right there. Rather than say Moses said, or Scripture says, he says the righteousness of faith speaks like this...don't think you've got to do the impossible, keep the law. Don't think you've got to scale your way to heaven by perfection, by some esoteric experience, by some philosophical speculation, by some legalistic effort you're going to vault yourself into heaven. You can't get the message that way.
And then Paul adds to the Deuteronomy passage these little parentheticals that are just marvelous in verse 6, "Don't say in your heart, Who can ascend to heaven? How can I attain it? Parenthesis, that is to bring Christ down." What does he mean by that? As if you had by your own effort to crawl up to heaven to accomplish the bringing down of the messenger. In other words, don't think you've got to go all the way up there as if to bring Christ down, He already came. Listen, works righteousness is a flat out denial of the incarnation. It says, "I've got to do it on my own, I've got to get up there, nobody ever came to do it for me."...And when you try to crawl up to heaven to gain your own righteousness and to crawl up into God's domain to gain the truth, you are denying the incarnation of the Son of God who brought it to this earth. You don't need to do that.
And, he says, in verse 7, who's going to...don't say in your heart, Who will ascend into the deep? Who can go way down, the opposite of the heaven? In other words, from one end of the universe to the other, who can attain these truths? Who can descend literally? Paul uses the word abyss, abussos, who can go into the bottomless? Who can go into the depths? Back in Deuteronomy the word used there has to do with the sea. But it's the same idea. Deep down in the caverns of the earth that hold the waters, deep down in the pit, the abyss, hell, the bottomless place, whatever you want to call it, it's the same concept. You don't need to go all the way into heaven to pull Christ down and you don't need to climb way down into the pit to find some truth. Why? Do you need to do that...I love bring Christ back from the dead? That's the resurrection. What a thought. He has been deep in the pit. He has been as deep as the pit gets. He's been in the bottomless place. And right in the midst of hell's carnival when He was dying on the cross and His body was still there and they were celebrating His death, He greeted them in the pit and proclaimed His triumph over them.
So we learn from the words of Paul and Peter, He's been there and He came out. And the righteousness of faith says you don't have to go to heaven to bring Christ down, that denies the incarnation. And you don't have to go to the depths of the earth to bring Him up, that denies...what?...the resurrection. You see, a works righteousness system negates the work of Christ and that's what this whole point is saying. They were ignorant, yes, of the person of God. They were ignorant of the provision of Christ and of the place of faith and trying to go up to heaven and pull down the message and dig down into depths of some kind of experience into the other extremity and pull it up from there...was a denial that Christ had come and brought it to them and descended in to the pit and come back and claimed the victory. To seek to attain righteousness on your own is to deny both His incarnation and His resurrection. And the language of self-righteousness says God hasn't brought to us anything. The incarnation didn't bring us anything, there is no incarnation, there is no resurrection of Christ, there is no righteousness of faith, we've got to attain it by going to the heights and the depths. And all they're doing is denying Jesus Christ.
But Moses says, verse 8, what does it say, "What saith it? The word is near thee, even in thy mouth and in thy heart, it's right there. You don't have to go anywhere to find it." God doesn't mock the sinner. God doesn't laugh at the sinner. God doesn't scorn the lost soul by mocking him with an offering of salvation that is utterly unattainable and expecting him to go on an impossible quest. Jeffrey Wilson writes, "The sheer perversity of unbelief is shown by the many who prefer to undertake an impossible odyssey rather than put their trust in an accessible Christ."
What does it say? It's near's near you. How near? It's in your mouth. It's familiar to you. The message of salvation is familiar discussion. I mean, people even in our society are like those Jews to whom Paul speaks or refers here. We know the gospel, people in our society know the gospel. It isn't some foreign thing to them. It's common that Jesus came, common knowledge that He came, that He died, that He rose, everybody knows that. It's in their mouth. It's common discussion, it's familiar stuff. God has made the word of incarnation and the word of resurrection a familiar word. It's not only in your mouth, it's in your heart. People think about it. Jewish people read about it, heard about it, talked about it. The truth's familiar. What truth is it? Look at the end of verse 8, "It's the word of faith." The truth about salvation by faith, salvation by faith, salvation by believing not attaining. 

And how do we receive this faith?  The answer is in v9-10.  By faith (believing in our hearts) and confession with our mouths.  In v9 Paul's still referencing Deuteronomy 30 which talked about the mouth and heart and so he keeps them in that order here.  But in v10 he reverses it because that's the actual sequence of salvation.

When you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, that God raised Him from the dead, and you confess it with your mouth, Christ's righteousness is imputed to you - you are righteous, you are forgiven, you gain access to God.  You also receive salvation which means you've been saved from hell, redeemed from the pit, delivered from your sins.  Both technically mean the same thing, but salvation focuses on the negative (what you've been saved from) and righteousness on the positive (what you've received, what you've become).

Salvation and righteousness comes from believing in your heart, in the very core of your being. What do you need to believe?  That God raised Jesus from the dead.   Why that?  Because the resurrection confirms and proves everything else that Jesus said, did and claimed in His ministry.

MacArthur says....
In other words, the resurrection, the resurrection was the ultimate approval substantiation, verification of the ministry of Christ. It showed that He indeed was God in human flesh, able to conquer death, hell, Satan. It showed that He had lived a perfect life for death had no right to hold Him, there was no sin for which He must pay. It showed that He conquered death, all of that, that the Father approved of His work on the cross and took Him out of the grave and set Him at His own right hand.....The resurrection was the Father's stamp of approval, an infinitely holy God put His stamp of approval on the work of Jesus Christ. So when you say you are to believe in your heart that God hath raised Him from the dead,....that you believe in your heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, you're saying something that's far more than just believing in an isolated event. In essence, what you're saying is that you believe that this is the incarnate God who came into the world God in human flesh, lived a perfect life, died a substitutionary death, went into the grave and conquered death, came out the other side having purchased salvation for us, is now seated at the right hand of God the Father, some day will come as the Father's appointed judge and King to judge men and to rule the world forever. That's all bound up in the resurrection....

The resurrection says He is Son of God. The resurrection says He is Messiah, He is Savior. He is the ultimate lamb, the sacrifice for the sins of the world. He is the perfect one, the sinless one, the one exalted at the right hand of God, the one to be the judge, the one to be the King. The only Savior, the judge of all men, the conqueror of death, the coming King, the eternal monarch of glory, all of that is bound up in the resurrection. And that's what we're called to believe....

And it's not just believing the resurrection to be an historical fact, it's believing what the resurrection actually did, all that it meant, all that it implied.
It is when you see in the resurrection the divine verification of all that Jesus claimed to be and do, that's the issue. It's believing that.

Knowledge is not enough.
you can know what you have to know, you can believe what you have to believe, you can fear God's judgment, feel conviction for your sin, desire eternal life, be religious and go to hell. It has to be more than knowing, believing, fearing judgment, desiring forgiveness, eternal life, being religious....

True saving faith acknowledges Jesus as Lord...

Will you acknowledge Jesus as your sovereign ruler? That's the issue.

We need to fully submit every area of our lives to the lordship of Christ.

Who does this apply to?  To whom is salvation available?

Absolutely. every. single. person.

And apparently the phrase in v 11 isn't "will never be put to shame" so much as to not be disillusioned or disappointed.  The gospel will always accomplish the work God intends for it to accomplish.

But this gospel is available to everyone.  Jew or Gentile - there is no difference.  And, oh, was that so incredibly offensive to the Jews. They should have known it was true (they knew the story of Jonah, after all!), but they refused to accept it.  But it is true.  Anybody who calls on the name of the Lord, anyone who believes God raised Christ Jesus from the dead and all that signifies, anyone who is willing to submit to His Lordship - they will be saved.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Romans 10:14-15
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Acts 18:19 - 19:41

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday, November 26th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Acts 17:1-18:18
Today's scripture focus is Romans 10:1-4

10 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

We saw in Chapter 9 that Israel was given immense privilege - they were chosen by God, adopted by God, they saw His glory, they were given the covenants, the law, the promises of a Messiah and men of faith through which was born the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ.

But they didn't believe.  We saw that in yesterday's passage.  Jesus was a stumbling block, an offense.  And they didn't believe.

And Paul wept for them.  He desperately wanted the Israelites to be saved, and he reiterates that here.  And he says that they think they know God, but the reality is that they do not.  They do not.  They do not believe because of God's sovereignty and because they are willfully ignorant.  They sought salvation by works not by faith.

As MacArthur says....
God's sovereignty always acts concurrently with man's willful choice. The two must go hand in hand. And so Paul shows, first of all, that Israel's unbelief fits the sovereign plan of God, doesn't change it, isn't a surprise to God, isn't a shock, doesn't overturn the plan, fits into it. But God is not independently responsible for what happened to Israel, they made a choice themselves. And that's where we move into chapter 10. And if the theme of chapter 9 is the sovereignty of God, the theme of chapter 10 is the volition or choice of man. And chapter 10 goes on to unfold the factors of Israel's unbelief, that Israel is set apart because of ignorance, that's the basic theme here...because of ignorance. And remember last time I told you five things that we need to note. They were ignorant of the person of God, they were ignorant of the provision of Christ, they were ignorant of the place of faith, they were ignorant of the perimeters of salvation and they were ignorant of the predictions of Scripture. And that takes us right through the tenth chapter.

It's important to note, first of all, that they weren't naively ignorant.  They were willfully ignorant.  They had the information but they chose to ignore it.

They were ignorant of God's righteousness.
God's right. That's right, always right, always does what's right, thinks what's right, says what's right. God is right. If you want another word for righteousness it's...just take out the middle, rightness, the rightness of God. He's never wrong. He's never erring, never sinning, always right, the rightness of God. They were ignorant of His moral perfection. Another way to say it is His holiness. His holiness and His righteousness are inextricably linked. And I guess we could say that His rightness or His righteousness is His manifest holiness...holiness is that which is true of His essence, it manifests itself in His rightness....

They missed the fact that God was absolutely holy. They thought God was less holy than He was and they were more holy than they were. They didn't understand how absolutely morally perfect God was. They didn't know how utterly free from wrong, how utterly unable to touch sin. I'm just enthralled with that thought because I fear that so many people today don't understand that either and they are equally ignorant of God's righteousness. Most people think God is just...just a nice guy, just somebody up there who wants everybody to feel good. I mean, we sort of make God into that. And that's the God of the liberals, isn't it? Just loves everybody. They don't know how really right He is, they misjudge His moral perfection. They misjudge His utter and absolute holy purity. They imagine that God is more tolerant of evil than He is. And that we're better than we are. So we pull God down a little, shove us up a little and we're pretty close....and a few religious activities and we're right on the line. That's a fatal error....

He is holy in that He is totally separated from us. He is holy in that He is manifestly right and morally perfect....

The truth here is so basic. If a person doesn't understand God's rightness, that is the supreme ignorance. If we imagine that God is less than He is, we have made a fatal mistake because we find God less than perfect, therefore He tolerates sin and imperfection, therefore we're going to be okay if we just improve a few things...fatal mistake

Clearly the Jews were willfully ignorant.  It's certainly not that they didn't have the information - they had the revelation of God Himself!  He set the standard for holiness and He let them know it.  He gave them rules about family life, worship, society, wealth, morality, everything to do with day to day life and all those rules revealed to them the absolute perfection and holiness of God. God's standard has always been and will always be, absolute perfection. They had the information.

MacArthur says....
God says be holy. You say, "How holy?" Just as holy as I am, now that's God's standard. Now if we don't know how holy God is then we don't know how holy we ought to be. And if we don't know how holy we ought to be, we don't know how holy we aren't. Did you get that? That's the essence of what the Old Testament is endeavoring to communicate that you have an infinitely holy God who conveys an absolutely perfect standard of righteousness against which we fail miserably and are left with the overwhelming guilt of sin to be alleviated by a redeemer who is pictured in all of the sacrifices and symbols of the old covenant....

He has to always demand perfection because it is His nature to be perfect and a perfect God must demand perfection. So all His laws are always perfect and they are to point up our imperfection and our need of a Savior. And God's grace then and God's mercy come to our rescue because and only because of the provision of Jesus Christ....the death of Jesus Christ was just as efficacious and applicable to people who lived before the cross as it is to people who live after the cross. And it was the death of Jesus Christ that released the grace and the mercy of God.....

He is holy. Ask Nadab and Abihu who thought they could fool around a little the first day in the priesthood and they offered strange fire and instantly dropped dead on their very day of ordination. Ask Uzzah who thought he ought to reach his hand and steady the ark so it not fall off and was instantaneously dead. Ask those who were swallowed in the ground when they tried to usurp the role of a priest. Ask Ananias and Sapphira who gave a lot, they just didn't give all they said they'd give and dropped dead in front of the whole congregation. God is an infinitely holy God and history is marked with illustrations of what every man deserves. And listen, we look at that and we say that's unjust but that's because we're so used to mercy that we think justice is unjust. We are so used to mercy. We are so used to grace. That when God does what an infinitely holy God has every right to do, we think He's unfair. Why? Because we don't know how righteous God is. And if we knew how righteous He was, we would know how utterly unrighteous we are.

We must not make the same mistake the Jews made.  We must not ignore the information we've been given.  We must not be willfully ignorant.  God is holy.  We are not.  And Christ is our only hope of reconciliation.

But the Jews didn't understand that either.  V4 shows that they were ignorant of the fact that Jesus Christ came to provide the righteousness that they could never attain on their own.

MacArthur explains that verse this way...
this verse is saying Christ is the termination of the law for righteousness only to people who believe. The point is, once a person believes in Christ the quest for righteousness through works ends....When people come to believe in Christ, He ends the effort at self- salvation. There never was, there never will be righteousness by law by works. But in a lot of peoples' minds there is and they're after it with all they can get. They're going to get into heaven by their good works.

And then they see the reality of Christ and His gracious gift of faith and their impossible quest ends. And in faith they receive Him and given to them is the righteousness they never could attain on their own. So when a person sees Christ and the gift of His righteousness, the legal ritual religious quest is ended....

It isn't necessarily talking about Mosaic law, it's just talking about the idea of law. That is, saving myself by keeping commandments, keeping laws, religious rules and so forth.  

And the key is faith.  The key is believing.
Believers receive what workers never get. And not believing in Christ forfeits the righteousness of God. Faith signs the covenant and makes His righteousness our own.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Romans 10:5-13
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday, November 25th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Galatians 4-6
Today's scripture focus is Romans 9:30-33

30 What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31 but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” 33 As it is written:
“See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble
    and a rock that makes them fall,
and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

MacArthur continues directly on the heels of yesterday's passage.....

Now these are [not] mutually exclusive things...the absolute and utter sovereignty of God planned before the world began, all worked out according to His plan, and our faith and our responsibility. They're [not] mutually exclusive. They appear to us to be contradictory and opposite, they are in truth, however, not. It's just that our minds are too limited, we can't perceive it. In God's mind they have perfect harmony.
Now Paul's been saying the Jews have no claim on salvation. The only reason any Jews at all are saved is because God in His sovereignty chose them, only a remnant was supposed to be saved. So we're not surprised at that. It's no change in God's promise. It's no violation of His person and it's no alteration of His plan. And now he says what we've been waiting to hear, it was also their own fault. That's right, it was also their own fault. And if you can't figure how those two go together, just be happy that you're like every other person who ever faced this doctrine. We can't figure it out either. We just believe it.
He shows that unbelief was their responsibility and due to their own unbelief and their own rejection, they were guilty and they were judged on the basis of their own guilt.

V30 asks - what's the conclusion to all this?

First of all, the fact is that it is simply not the main goal of the world to pursue God or to pursue having a relationship with God or making things right with God.  It's not.  And yet, some obtained it!  How?  By faith!  Human responsibility.

The Jews, on the other hand, had pursued righteousness their whole lives.  But it was one of works.  It was self-righteousness.
the greatest obstacle to salvation is self- righteousness. You understand that? Because you can't get saved if you don't know you need it, right? And that's what hung up the Jews. They thought they were already righteous. You see, they had spend their whole life pursuing a right relationship with God through their own efforts. So when the gospel came and condemned their sin, it did not compute because they thought themselves righteous. So the Jews rejected, except for a small remnant....

The only thing you can do to be saved is to believe you can do nothing to be saved and cast yourself on the mercy of God.

But the Jews pursued righteousness by works, not by faith.
In fact, a gracious merciful salvation given as a free gift was an offense to a self-righteous Jew because it said none of your works matter, none of your works count and he couldn't handle that. That's why they rejected Jesus with such anger, such bitterness, such hatred because they were so offended that all their life long of all these righteous deeds added up to..what? Zero. ... it offended them.

Note that in both cases - the Gentiles belief and the Jews unbelief - Paul talks about their faith (or lack of faith), not election.  And this is the balance to the doctrine of election.  There is still faith, there is still human responsibility.  And somehow, the two work together.

And then Paul backs this up with scripture, once again.

Isaiah predicted that there would be a stumbling stone.  In Isaiah 8:14 it says that God is the stone, in the NT it says that Christ is the stone, which is another statement affirming Christ's deity.  Isaiah 8:14 speaks of a stumbling stone, and Isaiah 28:16  speaks of a rock of offense, and here Paul combines the two.  And Jesus was indeed a stumbling stone and a rock of offense to many Jews. For those who are offended, He becomes a smiting stone of judgment.

But to those who did believe, they shall not be ashamed, they shall not fear God, they shall be at peace with Him.

And so the issue is faith.  Do you believe or don't you believe?

So justification by grace through faith is true. And the unbelief of Israel doesn't... violate God's promise, His person, His plan or His prerequisite. His prerequisite has always been the same, we're saved by..what? There is a remnant because God chose a remnant. There is a remnant because it is only a few who believe. And that's the way God knew it would be and that's the way He planned it to be and that's the way it works out, so it doesn't obviate the truth of the gospel.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Romans 10:1-4
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Acts 17:1-18:18

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Saturday, November 24th

Today's passage from the Chronological Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Galatians 1-3
Today's scripture focus is Romans 9:25-29

25 As he says in Hosea:
“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;
    and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,”
26 and,
“It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them,
    ‘You are not my people,’
they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”
27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel:
“Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea,
    only the remnant will be saved.
28 For the Lord will carry out
    his sentence on earth with speed and finality.”
29 It is just as Isaiah said previously:
“Unless the Lord Almighty
    had left us descendants,
we would have become like Sodom,
    we would have been like Gomorrah.”

In today's passage, Paul shows that Israel's unbelief at the time of Christ is not inconsistent with God's redemptive plan.  And he uses the OT to prove it.

Hosea married Gomer who was or became a harlot, and their relationship demonstrated the relationship between Israel and God.  Gomer had 3 children named Jezreel (which means "scattered"), Loruhamah (which means "not pitied") and Loammi (which means "not my people").  And that's exactly what happened to Israel isn't it?  They were scattered, God no longer pitied them and they were no longer His people.  Not only was that prophecy fulfilled in Hosea's time, but it was also a prediction of what would happen around the time of Christ.  In Hosea's time the southern kingdom of Judah was conquered and scattered and temporarily rejected by God because of their unbelief as a nation.  And in 70AD that prophecy came true as well and the Jews were once again scattered, not pitied and no longer His people.

Thankfully, that's not the end of the prophecy.  V26 proclaims restoration.  The Israelites were restored in Hosea's time, and they will be restored once again prior to the Second Coming of Christ.  Prophecying a future restoration of Israel obviously implies that Israel had fallen.  After all, you don't need to restored if you haven't fallen.  And Paul shows that Israel's unbelief is not inconsistent with God's plan at all and in fact, should have been expected because God promised their restoration from unbelief.

Isaiah also saw Israel's unbelief.  Though they were many, as many as the sand by the sea, only a remnant would be saved.  And once again, this was both a fairly immediate prophecy and a future one as well. There were only a few who were saved out of the Assyrian conquest, and in the time of Christ and since the time of Christ right up to today there are only a few Jews being saved as well.  As a nation, they remain mainly in a state of unbelief at this time, but there is a remnant now, just as there was in the time of Isaiah.

In v28 we see that God is going to judge Israel, and it will be a thorough judgment and a fast judgment and very few will escape it.   Again we see that Israel's unbelief is not inconsistent with God's plan or with prophecy.  It is, in fact, a fulfillment of it.

V29 shows us that the only reason that any believe at all, is because God chose a remnant.  If He had not, all Israel would be like Sodom and Gomorrah - completely destroyed and wiped off the face of the earth

Again, I am so thankful for godly men like Pastor John MacArthur.  I had found that passage completely confusing, but after I read his sermon, it made complete sense.  He summarizes....
So he draws from Hosea and he draws from Isaiah Old Testament proof that God ... planned that not all Israel would be saved. The Jews would enter into a time of great unbelief, be scattered, not pitied, and not the people of God. And out of it there would be a small remnant. And so, when you look at the time of Christ and you say, "Well, if this is the true gospel, why did all the Jews reject?" You can say because that's the way the prophets said it was to be, that was the plan. And the only reason any believe is because the Lord of Sabaoth chose to leave a seed. And again would you please note? Paul makes his point using what? Scripture.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Romans 9:30-33
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Galatians 4-6