- Romans 08 (Contemporary English Version)
- If you belong to Christ Jesus, you won't be punished.
- The Holy Spirit will give you life that comes from Christ Jesus and will set you free from sin and death.
- The Law of Moses cannot do this, because our selfish desires make the Law weak. But God set you free when he sent his own Son to be like us sinners and to be a sacrifice for our sin. God used Christ's body to condemn sin.
- He did this, so that we would do what the Law commands by obeying the Spirit instead of our own desires.
- People who are ruled by their desires think only of themselves. Everyone who is ruled by the Holy Spirit thinks about spiritual things.
- If our minds are ruled by our desires, we will die. But if our minds are ruled by the Spirit, we will have life and peace.
- Our desires fight against God, because they do not and cannot obey God's laws.
- If we follow our desires, we cannot please God.
- You are no longer ruled by your desires, but by God's Spirit, who lives in you. People who don't have the Spirit of Christ in them don't belong to him.
- But Christ lives in you. So you are alive because God has accepted you, even though your bodies must die because of your sins.
- Yet God raised Jesus to life! God's Spirit now lives in you, and he will raise you to life by his Spirit.
- My dear friends, we must not live to satisfy our desires.
- If you do, you will die. But you will live, if by the help of God's Spirit you say "No" to your desires.
- Only those people who are led by God's Spirit are his children.
- God's Spirit doesn't make us slaves who are afraid of him. Instead, we become his children and call him our Father.
- God's Spirit makes us sure that we are his children.
- His Spirit lets us know that together with Christ we will be given what God has promised. We will also share in the glory of Christ, because we have suffered with him.
- I am sure that what we are suffering now cannot compare with the glory that will be shown to us.
- In fact, all creation is eagerly waiting for God to show who his children are.
- Meanwhile, creation is confused, but not because it wants to be confused. God made it this way in the hope
- that creation would be set free from decay and would share in the glorious freedom of his children.
- We know that all creation is still groaning and is in pain, like a woman about to give birth.
- The Spirit makes us sure about what we will be in the future. But now we groan silently, while we wait for God to show that we are his children. This means that our bodies will also be set free.
- And this hope is what saves us. But if we already have what we hope for, there is no need to keep on hoping.
- However, we hope for something we have not yet seen, and we patiently wait for it.
- In certain ways we are weak, but the Spirit is here to help us. For example, when we don't know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words.
- All of our thoughts are known to God. He can understand what is in the mind of the Spirit, as the Spirit prays for God's people.
- We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him. They are the ones God has chosen for his purpose,
- and he has always known who his chosen ones would be. He had decided to let them become like his own Son, so that his Son would be the first of many children.
- God then accepted the people he had already decided to choose, and he has shared his glory with them.
- What can we say about all this? If God is on our side, can anyone be against us?
- God did not keep back his own Son, but he gave him for us. If God did this, won't he freely give us everything else?
- If God says his chosen ones are acceptable to him, can anyone bring charges against them?
- Or can anyone condemn them? No indeed! Christ died and was raised to life, and now he is at God's right side, speaking to him for us.
- Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble, suffering, and hard times, or hunger and nakedness, or danger and death?
- It is exactly as the Scriptures say, "For you we face death all day long. We are like sheep on their way to be butchered."
- In everything we have won more than a victory because of Christ who loves us.
- I am sure that nothing can separate us from God's love--not life or death, not angels or spirits, not the present or the future,
- and not powers above or powers below. Nothing in all creation can separate us from God's love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord!
Paul outlines a progression of thought in this chapter that begins with the declaration that "no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus." (8:1) Paul goes on to describe two opposite mind-sets. One mind-set is on the flesh and leads to death, and the other mind-set is of the Spirit which leads to life and peace. This latter is the mind-set of those who are in Christ Jesus. This is due to the fact that the Spirit of God lives in those who are in Christ Jesus.
With this statement of God's Spirit living in those who are in Christ Jesus, Paul has introduced a new dimension for the believer. The believer is not left alone in his belief in Christ but has received God's Spirit, living in him, to give him a new mind-set that is not on flesh and death, but on life and peace. This Spirit living in us is the same Spirit that "raised Jesus from the dead" (8:11) and He will also bring our "mortal bodies to life through His Spirit who lives in" us. (8:11) Furthermore, God's Spirit living in us testifies that we are "God's children." (8:16) And, if we are God's children, then we are also "co-heirs with Christ" as members of God's family. (8:17)
However, if, through our identity with Christ, we are to share in Christ's inheritance as members of God's family, we must also share in His sufferings in "this present time." (8:18) But we are not alone in these sufferings, for again, we have God's Spirit living in us who "joins to help in our weakness" and "intercedes for us" with the Father. (8:26) With His intercession we can be confident that regardless of our sufferings, that "all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose." (8:28) Even the sufferings of those who love God can serve a good purpose.
Paul concludes the chapter with this tremendous statement of God's love: "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!" Having united with God through our faith in Jesus Christ, there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from His love!
Friday, September 30, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
- Romans 07 (Contemporary English Version)
- My friends, you surely understand enough about law to know that laws only have power over people who are alive.
- For example, the Law says that a man's wife must remain his wife as long as he lives. But once her husband is dead, she is free
- to marry someone else. However, if she goes off with another man while her husband is still alive, she is said to be unfaithful.
- That is how it is with you, my friends. You are now part of the body of Christ and are dead to the power of the Law. You are free to belong to Christ, who was raised to life so that we could serve God.
- When we thought only of ourselves, the Law made us have sinful desires. It made every part of our bodies into slaves who are doomed to die.
- But the Law no longer rules over us. We are like dead people, and it cannot have any power over us. Now we can serve God in a new way by obeying his Spirit, and not in the old way by obeying the written Law.
- Does this mean that the Law is sinful? Certainly not! But if it had not been for the Law, I would not have known what sin is really like. For example, I would not have known what it means to want something that belongs to someone else, unless the Law had told me not to do that.
- It was sin that used this command as a way of making me have all kinds of desires. But without the Law, sin is dead.
- Before I knew about the Law, I was alive. But as soon as I heard that command, sin came to life,
- and I died. The very command that was supposed to bring life to me, instead brought death.
- Sin used this command to trick me, and because of it I died.
- Still, the Law and its commands are holy and correct and good.
- Am I saying that something good caused my death? Certainly not! It was sin that killed me by using something good. Now we can see how terrible and evil sin really is.
- We know that the Law is spiritual. But I am merely a human, and I have been sold as a slave to sin.
- In fact, I don't understand why I act the way I do. I don't do what I know is right. I do the things I hate.
- Although I don't do what I know is right, I agree that the Law is good.
- So I am not the one doing these evil things. The sin that lives in me is what does them.
- I know that my selfish desires won't let me do anything that is good. Even when I want to do right, I cannot.
- Instead of doing what I know is right, I do wrong.
- And so, if I don't do what I know is right, I am no longer the one doing these evil things. The sin that lives in me is what does them.
- The Law has shown me that something in me keeps me from doing what I know is right.
- With my whole heart I agree with the Law of God.
- But in every part of me I discover something fighting against my mind, and it makes me a prisoner of sin that controls everything I do.
- What a miserable person I am. Who will rescue me from this body that is doomed to die?
- Thank God! Jesus Christ will rescue me. So with my mind I serve the Law of God, although my selfish desires make me serve the law of sin.
Paul continues to explain to those who are tied to the law of Moses for salvation why the law is not capable of saving a person. We can only be saved through faith in Jesus Christ and His death to atone for our sin.
Previously, Paul pointed out that the law is merely a teacher making us aware of how God wants us to live. Now he says that rather than keeping us from sin, through the law "sin sprang to life." (7:9) Prior to our knowledge of the law, we do things that are contrary to the law, but they are not willful acts against God. But once we become aware of the law we still do not stop doing them, but now they are willful acts against God, because now we know what He wants yet do not do it.
Paul goes on to explain that it is not the knowledge of what is wrong that keeps a person from doing wrong. For example, Paul says that although he wants to do good, he does not do it. Instead, he does the wrong that he does not want to do. He agrees with the law but he still does not do it. The problem is that the sin nature that lives within him causes him to go against the law. He says, "So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me." (7:17)
To Paul's Christian brothers who were formerly enslaved to the law, Paul says to quit depending on the law. Now that they have, through faith, identified with the death of Christ they are dead to the law: "You also were put to death in relation to the law through the crucified body of the Messiah." (7:4) Therefore, the law no longer has power over them(or us). They have been released from it. The law is good in that it makes us aware of sin, but it has no power to set us free from sin.
What, then, is the solution? "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (7:24) To this, Paul answers, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (7:25) Jesus is the One who can rescue us from this body of death. Because Paul, through faith in Christ, has been credited for righteousness, his mind is now in agreement with "the law of God," even though his flesh is still enslaved to the "law of sin." (7:25) As a Christian, he still sins, but he no longer does so willfully. His will is in agreement with God's will.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
- Romans 06 (Contemporary English Version)
- What should we say? Should we keep on sinning, so that God's wonderful kindness will show up even better?
- No, we should not! If we are dead to sin, how can we go on sinning?
- Don't you know that all who share in Christ Jesus by being baptized also share in his death?
- When we were baptized, we died and were buried with Christ. We were baptized, so that we would live a new life, as Christ was raised to life by the glory of God the Father.
- If we shared in Jesus' death by being baptized, we will be raised to life with him.
- We know that the persons we used to be were nailed to the cross with Jesus. This was done, so that our sinful bodies would no longer be the slaves of sin.
- We know that sin doesn't have power over dead people.
- As surely as we died with Christ, we believe we will also live with him.
- We know that death no longer has any power over Christ. He died and was raised to life, never again to die.
- When Christ died, he died for sin once and for all. But now he is alive, and he lives only for God.
- In the same way, you must think of yourselves as dead to the power of sin. But Christ Jesus has given life to you, and you live for God.
- Don't let sin rule your body. After all, your body is bound to die, so don't obey its desires
- or let any part of it become a slave of evil. Give yourselves to God, as people who have been raised from death to life. Make every part of your body a slave that pleases God.
- Don't let sin keep ruling your lives. You are ruled by God's kindness and not by the Law.
- What does all this mean? Does it mean we are free to sin, because we are ruled by God's wonderful kindness and not by the Law? Certainly not!
- Don't you know that you are slaves of anyone you obey? You can be slaves of sin and die, or you can be obedient slaves of God and be acceptable to him.
- You used to be slaves of sin. But I thank God that with all your heart you obeyed the teaching you received from me.
- Now you are set free from sin and are slaves who please God.
- I am using these everyday examples, because in some ways you are still weak. You used to let the different parts of your body be slaves of your evil thoughts. But now you must make every part of your body serve God, so that you will belong completely to him.
- When you were slaves of sin, you didn't have to please God.
- But what good did you receive from the things you did? All you have to show for them is your shame, and they lead to death.
- Now you have been set free from sin, and you are God's slaves. This will make you holy and will lead you to eternal life.
- Sin pays off with death. But God's gift is eternal life given by Jesus Christ our Lord.
Paul addresses in this chapter an imagined argument that if forgiveness of sin is offered to us freely by God's grace, based on our faith, then why not sin all the more so God's grace can be multiplied? Paul's response to this imagined argument explains that anyone who has such a thought does not understand the nature of sin and righteousness.
Paul explained the nature of sin and righteousness in two ways. The first way was in relationship to Christ's death to sin. When a person accepts, by faith, Christ's death as an atonement for their sin, Christ's death becomes their death. They too have died to sin. Sin no long is their master. Furthermore, Christ's resurrection to new life also becomes the person's resurrection to a new life that is free from the desire to sin. Therefore, the idea that once one has received Christ's pardon for sin that they would want to sin more to experience more of God's grace is absurd. Besides, Christ died for sin once. If we receive His atonement for our sin but then return to sin, must He die again to again give us atonement?
The second way Paul explained the nature of sin and righteousness was to portray sin as a master that holds a person in slavery to it. We must choose whether we will serve sin as our master or righteousness as our master. Once we make that choice there is no going back and forth. We can't give righteousness mastery in our lives and also intentionally choose to sin. We cannot serve two masters.
In conclusion, Paul says in effect, why would one even want to sin intentionally? For the fruit of sin is death while the fruit of righteousness is eternal life: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (6:23)
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
- Romans 05 (Contemporary English Version)
- By faith we have been made acceptable to God. And now, because of our Lord Jesus Christ, we live at peace with God.
- Christ has also introduced us to God's undeserved kindness on which we take our stand. So we are happy, as we look forward to sharing in the glory of God.
- But that's not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure.
- And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope
- that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.
- Christ died for us at a time when we were helpless and sinful.
- No one is really willing to die for an honest person, though someone might be willing to die for a truly good person.
- But God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us, even though we were sinful.
- But there is more! Now that God has accepted us because Christ sacrificed his life's blood, we will also be kept safe from God's anger.
- Even when we were God's enemies, he made peace with us, because his Son died for us. Yet something even greater than friendship is ours. Now that we are at peace with God, we will be saved by his Son's life.
- And in addition to everything else, we are happy because God sent our Lord Jesus Christ to make peace with us.
- Adam sinned, and that sin brought death into the world. Now everyone has sinned, and so everyone must die.
- Sin was in the world before the Law came. But no record of sin was kept, because there was no Law.
- Yet death still had power over all who lived from the time of Adam to the time of Moses. This happened, though not everyone disobeyed a direct command from God, as Adam did. In some ways Adam is like Christ who came later.
- But the gift that God was kind enough to give was very different from Adam's sin. That one sin brought death to many others. Yet in an even greater way, Jesus Christ alone brought God's gift of kindness to many people.
- There is a lot of difference between Adam's sin and God's gift. That one sin led to punishment. But God's gift made it possible for us to be acceptable to him, even though we have sinned many times.
- Death ruled like a king because Adam had sinned. But that cannot compare with what Jesus Christ has done. God has been so kind to us, and he has accepted us because of Jesus. And so we will live and rule like kings.
- Everyone was going to be punished because Adam sinned. But because of the good thing that Christ has done, God accepts us and gives us the gift of life.
- Adam disobeyed God and caused many others to be sinners. But Jesus obeyed him and will make many people acceptable to God.
- The Law came, so that the full power of sin could be seen. Yet where sin was powerful, God's kindness was even more powerful.
- Sin ruled by means of death. But God's kindness now rules, and God has accepted us because of Jesus Christ our Lord. This means that we will have eternal life.
When we accept, by faith, Christ's death as our means to a relationship with God and eternal life with Him, then God declares us righteous. And the result of this declaration is that we have "peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (5:1) Another result is the ability to "rejoice in our afflictions." (5:3) Why is this? Because we know the outcome of afflictions in our lives when we are at peace with God. The outcome of affliction for those who are at peace with God is that it produces endurance, which produces proven character, which produces hope. So when we receive God's declaration of righteousness, we go from viewing affliction as something bad to viewing it as something that can produce good. But we have to get beyond the concept that being in right relationship with God means He will take away all our afflictions, and the accompanying concept that if we are having affliction it means God is punishing us or upset with us.
Following Paul's opening statements in this chapter about being declared righteous through faith, he then establishes our need to be declared righteous. It is because all of us have sinned. We have transgressed against God's instructions. No one is exempt. It all began with Adam. Sin entered the world and the human race through him resulting in death, both pysically and spiritually. The evidence that each of us are also sinners as he was is that we all die physically. Until the law was given to mankind through Moses, sin was not "charged to one's account." (5:13) But, nevertheless, death reigned in mankind. Thus, although God did not punish man's sin until the law, the result of sin, which is death, was still present.
But as sin entered the human race through one man, and through him all are sinners, thus separating man from God, it was also through one Man that mankind was again justified and the relationship restored. This one Man was Jesus Christ. However, the justification that Jesus made possible is not automatic. It must be received by faith. But once we receive by faith what Jesus did for us on the cross, God declares us righteous. Paul sums it up in this way, "So then, as through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone, so also through one righteous act there is life-giving justification for everyone." (5:18)
The result? "As sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (5:21)
Monday, September 26, 2011
- Romans 04 (Contemporary English Version)
- Well then, what can we say about our ancestor Abraham?
- If he became acceptable to God because of what he did, then he would have something to brag about. But he would never be able to brag about it to God.
- The Scriptures say, "God accepted Abraham because Abraham had faith in him."
- Money paid to workers isn't a gift. It is something they earn by working.
- But you cannot make God accept you because of something you do. God accepts sinners only because they have faith in him.
- In the Scriptures David talks about the blessings that come to people who are acceptable to God, even though they don't do anything to deserve these blessings. David says,
- "God blesses people whose sins are forgiven and whose evil deeds are forgotten.
- The Lord blesses people whose sins are erased from his book."
- Are these blessings meant for circumcised people or for those who are not circumcised? Well, the Scriptures say that God accepted Abraham because Abraham had faith in him.
- But when did this happen? Was it before or after Abraham was circumcised? Of course, it was before.
- Abraham let himself be circumcised to show that he had been accepted because of his faith even before he was circumcised. This makes Abraham the father of all who are acceptable to God because of their faith, even though they are not circumcised.
- This also makes Abraham the father of everyone who is circumcised and has faith in God, as Abraham did before he was circumcised.
- God promised Abraham and his descendants that he would give them the world. This promise wasn't made because Abraham had obeyed a law, but because his faith in God made him acceptable.
- If Abraham and his descendants were given this promise because they had obeyed a law, then faith would mean nothing, and the promise would be worthless.
- God becomes angry when his Law is broken. But where there isn't a law, it cannot be broken.
- Everything depends on having faith in God, so that God's promise is assured by his great kindness. This promise isn't only for Abraham's descendants who have the Law. It is for all who are Abraham's descendants because they have faith, just as he did. Abraham is the ancestor of us all.
- The Scriptures say that Abraham would become the ancestor of many nations. This promise was made to Abraham because he had faith in God, who raises the dead to life and creates new things.
- God promised Abraham a lot of descendants. And when it all seemed hopeless, Abraham still had faith in God and became the ancestor of many nations.
- Abraham's faith never became weak, not even when he was nearly a hundred years old. He knew that he was almost dead and that his wife Sarah could not have children.
- But Abraham never doubted or questioned God's promise. His faith made him strong, and he gave all the credit to God.
- Abraham was certain that God could do what he had promised.
- So God accepted him,
- just as we read in the Scriptures. But these words were not written only for Abraham.
- They were written for us, since we will also be accepted because of our faith in God, who raised our Lord Jesus to life.
- God gave Jesus to die for our sins, and he raised him to life, so that we would be made acceptable to God.
Paul establishes in this chapter that we are made right with God by faith. To support his position, he refers to Abraham and to scripture. Many of Paul's readers were Jews who considered themselves to be right with God because they were descendants of Abraham. But on what basis did God consider Abraham to be righteous - that is, in right standing with Him? It was on the basis of Abraham's faith. If it was Abraham's faith that God accepted for his righteousness, it can be no different for his descendants or anyone else.
If this were the case, then, how does circumcision fit into the picture? Many Jews rely on circumcision for salvation. What is its significance if salvation is based on faith? Paul's answer to this was that circumcision was instituted with Abraham as a sign of the "righteousness that he had by faith while still uncircumcised." (4:11) Abraham was not circumcised at the time he was considered by God to be righteous. Therefore, it could not be an ingredient in his salvation. It played the same role as does baptism for the Christian, which is also a sign, or testimony, of what has already taken place. That is, one's acceptance of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Though many rely on baptism for salvation, it, too, is only a sign of what has already taken place.
A further question Paul addresses is the role of the law in righteousness, or salvation. Righteousness, Paul says, is an act of God's grace which He "credits" to a person based on their faith, and not on their works. It is not something that is earned, but is free. If it were by works it would not be a gift but would be something God owed a person. But God is not indebted to anyone. Instead, we are indebted to Him. Therefore, by God's crediting righteousness to a person based solely on their faith, Paul quotes David, the psalmist in saying, "How happy those whose lawless acts are forgiven and whose sins are covered!" (4:7)
Paul concludes by saying that what was written in scripture about Abraham's faith being credit for righteousness was not truly only for him but also for everyone. He says, "It will be credited to us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification." (4:24-25)
Friday, September 23, 2011
- Romans 03 (Contemporary English Version)
- What good is it to be a Jew? What good is it to be circumcised?
- It is good in a lot of ways! First of all, God's messages were spoken to the Jews.
- It is true that some of them did not believe the message. But does this mean that God cannot be trusted, just because they did not have faith?
- No, indeed! God tells the truth, even if everyone else is a liar. The Scriptures say about God, "Your words will be proven true, and in court you will win your case."
- If our evil deeds show how right God is, then what can we say? Is it wrong for God to become angry and punish us? What a foolish thing to ask.
- But the answer is, "No." Otherwise, how could God judge the world?
- Since your lies bring great honor to God by showing how truthful he is, you may ask why God still says you are a sinner.
- You might as well say, "Let's do something evil, so that something good will come of it!" Some people even claim that we are saying this. But God is fair and will judge them as well.
- What does all this mean? Does it mean that we Jews are better off than the Gentiles? No, it doesn't! Jews, as well as Gentiles, are ruled by sin, just as I have said.
- The Scriptures tell us, "No one is acceptable to God!
- Not one of them understands or even searches for God.
- They have all turned away and are worthless. There isn't one person who does right.
- Their words are like an open pit, and their tongues are good only for telling lies. Each word is as deadly as the fangs of a snake,
- and they say nothing but bitter curses.
- These people quickly become violent.
- Wherever they go, they leave ruin and destruction.
- They don't know how to live in peace.
- They don't even fear God."
- We know that everything in the Law was written for those who are under its power. The Law says these things to stop anyone from making excuses and to let God show that the whole world is guilty.
- God doesn't accept people simply because they obey the Law. No, indeed! All the Law does is to point out our sin.
- Now we see how God does make us acceptable to him. The Law and the Prophets tell how we become acceptable, and it isn't by obeying the Law of Moses.
- God treats everyone alike. He accepts people only because they have faith in Jesus Christ.
- All of us have sinned and fallen short of God's glory.
- But God treats us much better than we deserve, and because of Christ Jesus, he freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins.
- God sent Christ to be our sacrifice. Christ offered his life's blood, so that by faith in him we could come to God. And God did this to show that in the past he was right to be patient and forgive sinners. This also shows that God is right when he accepts people who have faith in Jesus.
- (SEE 3:25)
- What is left for us to brag about? Not a thing! Is it because we obeyed some law? No! It is because of faith.
- We see that people are acceptable to God because they have faith, and not because they obey the Law.
- Does God belong only to the Jews? Isn't he also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, he is!
- There is only one God, and he accepts Gentiles as well as Jews, simply because of their faith.
- Do we destroy the Law by our faith? Not at all! We make it even more powerful.
In the last verse of chapter 2, Paul says that being a true Jew is an inward condition rather than an outward status, and true circumcision is of the heart and not of the flesh. So in the first verse of chapter 3 he raises the question of whether there is any advantage to being a Jew in the flesh. Answering his own question, he says, yes, there is considerable advantage, and it is in that "they were entrusted with the spoken words of God." (3:2) So he establishes that we are indebted to the Jews, for they served a special purpose on God's behalf to mankind. They gave us the spoken words of God.
Following this point, however, Paul explains that though the Jew was privileged to serve God in a special way, they have no special privilege in regard to righteousness and judgment. In this regard, they are no different from any other people. In making this point, Paul establishes three very important truths: everyone has sinned, no one is justified before God through the law, and all are justified through faith in Jesus Christ.
In establishing the first truth - all have sinned - Paul quotes Psalm 14 saying, "There is no one righteous, not even one." (3:10) Later, in his own words, he states it again saying, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (3:23) There are no exceptions in this. Psalm 14 is emphatic in this, saying no one is righteous, not even one, no one understands, no one seeks God, all have turned away, no one does good, not even one. It leaves no doubt that there are no exceptions - all have sinned.
As for the second truth - no one is justified by the law - Paul states, "For no flesh will be justified in His sight by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin." (3:20) Thus, the law was never intended to be a means of justification. Its purpose was to provide mankind with the knowledge of sin, to hold up God's standard. By Paul's time it was plainly clear that no one was capable of perfectly keeping the law. Going back to Psalm 14, no one is righteous. Furthermore, not only was the law not intended to a means of justification, it was apart from the law that God revealed His righteousness, a fact that was attested to by the Law and the Prophets - in other words, by the Old Testament. Paul is not stating anything new here. It has already been established by the prophets of old.
Finally, as for the third truth - all are justified through faith in Jesus Christ - Paul says that God's righteousness which was revealed apart from the law, was revealed through faith in Jesus Christ "to all who believe." (3:22) Therefore, we are "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." (3:24) This leaves no room for boasting by anyone. We are justified, not by anything we do, but by what God has done through Jesus Christ. We merely accept what He has done by faith. We receive it freely.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
- Romans 02 (Contemporary English Version)
- Some of you accuse others of doing wrong. But there is no excuse for what you do. When you judge others, you condemn yourselves, because you are guilty of doing the very same things.
- We know that God is right to judge everyone who behaves in this way.
- Do you really think God won't punish you, when you behave exactly like the people you accuse?
- You surely don't think much of God's wonderful goodness or of his patience and willingness to put up with you. Don't you know that the reason God is good to you is because he wants you to turn to him?
- But you are stubborn and refuse to turn to God. So you are making things even worse for yourselves on that day when he will show how angry he is and will judge the world with fairness.
- God will reward each of us for what we have done.
- He will give eternal life to everyone who has patiently done what is good in the hope of receiving glory, honor, and life that lasts forever.
- But he will show how angry and furious he can be with every selfish person who rejects the truth and wants to do evil.
- All who are wicked will be punished with trouble and suffering. It doesn't matter if they are Jews or Gentiles.
- But all who do right will be rewarded with glory, honor, and peace, whether they are Jews or Gentiles.
- God doesn't have any favorites!
- Those people who don't know about God's Law will still be punished for what they do wrong. And the Law will be used to judge everyone who knows what it says.
- God accepts those who obey his Law, but not those who simply hear it.
- Some people naturally obey the Law's commands, even though they don't have the Law.
- This proves that the conscience is like a law written in the human heart. And it will show whether we are forgiven or condemned,
- when God appoints Jesus Christ to judge everyone's secret thoughts, just as my message says.
- Some of you call yourselves Jews. You trust in the Law and take pride in God.
- By reading the Scriptures you learn how God wants you to behave, and you discover what is right.
- You are sure that you are a guide for the blind and a light for all who are in the dark.
- And since there is knowledge and truth in God's Law, you think you can instruct fools and teach young people.
- But how can you teach others when you refuse to learn? You preach that it is wrong to steal. But do you steal?
- You say people should be faithful in marriage. But are you faithful? You hate idols, yet you rob their temples.
- You take pride in the Law, but you disobey the Law and bring shame to God.
- It is just as the Scriptures tell us, "You have made foreigners say insulting things about God."
- Being circumcised is worthwhile, if you obey the Law. But if you don't obey the Law, you are no better off than people who are not circumcised.
- In fact, if they obey the Law, they are as good as anyone who is circumcised.
- So everyone who obeys the Law, but has never been circumcised, will condemn you. Even though you are circumcised and have the Law, you still don't obey its teachings.
- Just because you live like a Jew and are circumcised doesn't make you a real Jew.
- To be a real Jew you must obey the Law. True circumcision is something that happens deep in your heart, not something done to your body. And besides, you should want praise from God and not from humans.
Those who are followers of God may find their righteous indignation rising with the reading of Paul's description in chapter 1 of those who turn away from God. But with the first verse of chapter 2 he stops us dead in our tracks. Those who turn away from God are without excuse, he told us in chapter 1, because God has revealed Himself to everyone through His creation. Now he says that any of us to judge those who have turned away from God are also without excuse. "For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things." (2:1)
Those who turn away from God are judged by God, but those who seek God in the wrong way are also judged. And Paul devotes chapter 2 to the hypocrisy of those who judge the sins of others, thinking themselves to be righteous, while doing some of the same things as those they judge. Those who are judging may be making a show of seeking God, but they also are trusting in the wrong things to make them righteous. It soon becomes clear that Paul is specifically addressing the Jews who are trusting in the law and circumcision, and being a Jew to automatically make them righteous even though their actions do not reflect the teaching of the law nor their hearts the true nature of circumcision. Paul says that even though a man may not be physically circumcised, if he fulfills the law he "will judge you who are a lawbreaker in spite of having the letter of the law and circumcision." (2:27)
Paul then says something rather shocking for his Jewish readers: "For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, and true circumcision is not something visible in the flesh." (2:28) Being a true Jew is a matter of the heart. It is an inward condition rather than an outward one. We should keep in mind, though, Paul has not yet presented the way a person can gain a righteous standing before God, for no one, on his own, can gain such standing.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
- Romans 01 (Contemporary English Version)
- From Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus. God chose me to be an apostle, and he appointed me to preach the good news
- that he promised long ago by what his prophets said in the holy Scriptures.
- This good news is about his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ! As a human, he was from the family of David. But the Holy Spirit proved that Jesus is the powerful Son of God, because he was raised from death.
- (SEE 1:3)
- Jesus was kind to me and chose me to be an apostle, so that people of all nations would obey and have faith.
- You are some of those people chosen by Jesus Christ.
- This letter is to all of you in Rome. God loves you and has chosen you to be his very own people. I pray that God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ will be kind to you and will bless you with peace!
- First, I thank God in the name of Jesus Christ for all of you. I do this because people everywhere in the world are talking about your faith.
- God has seen how I never stop praying for you, while I serve him with all my heart and tell the good news about his Son.
- In all my prayers, I ask God to make it possible for me to visit you.
- I want to see you and share with you the same blessings that God's Spirit has given me. Then you will grow stronger in your faith.
- What I am saying is that we can encourage each other by the faith that is ours.
- My friends, I want you to know that I have often planned to come for a visit. But something has always kept me from doing it. I want to win followers to Christ in Rome, as I have done in many other places.
- It doesn't matter if people are civilized and educated, or if they are uncivilized and uneducated. I must tell the good news to everyone. That's why I am eager to visit all of you in Rome.
- (SEE 1:14)
- I am proud of the good news! It is God's powerful way of saving all people who have faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles.
- The good news tells how God accepts everyone who has faith, but only those who have faith. It is just as the Scriptures say, "The people God accepts because of their faith will live."
- From heaven God shows how angry he is with all the wicked and evil things that sinful people do to crush the truth.
- They know everything that can be known about God, because God has shown it all to them.
- God's eternal power and character cannot be seen. But from the beginning of creation, God has shown what these are like by all he has made. That's why those people don't have any excuse.
- They know about God, but they don't honor him or even thank him. Their thoughts are useless, and their stupid minds are in the dark.
- They claim to be wise, but they are fools.
- They don't worship the glorious and eternal God. Instead, they worship idols that are made to look like humans who cannot live forever, and like birds, animals, and reptiles.
- So God let these people go their own way. They did what they wanted to do, and their filthy thoughts made them do shameful things with their bodies.
- They gave up the truth about God for a lie, and they worshiped God's creation instead of God, who will be praised forever. Amen.
- God let them follow their own evil desires. Women no longer wanted to have sex in a natural way, and they did things with each other that were not natural.
- Men behaved in the same way. They stopped wanting to have sex with women and had strong desires for sex with other men. They did shameful things with each other, and what has happened to them is punishment for their foolish deeds.
- Since these people refused even to think about God, he let their useless minds rule over them. That's why they do all sorts of indecent things.
- They are evil, wicked, and greedy, as well as mean in every possible way. They want what others have, and they murder, argue, cheat, and are hard to get along with. They gossip,
- say cruel things about others, and hate God. They are proud, conceited, and boastful, always thinking up new ways to do evil. These people don't respect their parents.
- They are stupid, unreliable, and don't have any love or pity for others.
- They know God has said that anyone who acts this way deserves to die. But they keep on doing evil things, and they even encourage others to do them.
Paul states to the Romans in his introductory remarks that he is eager to "preach the good news" in Rome. (1:15) saying that he is not ashamed of the gospel "because it is God's power for salvation to everyone who believes." (1:16) The gospel, he says, reveals God's righteousness and then states the theme of his letter - "The righteous will live by faith." (1:17)
Having stated his desire to preach the gospel, Paul describes man's need for the gospel. Man's thinking has become nonsense, he says. For even though man knows God, they do not glorify Him as God. (1:21) In this, man is without excuse because God has clearly revealed Himself to mankind through creation. But claiming to be wise, man instead becomes a fool by replacing the "glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles." (1:23) Only a fool would credit creation to an inanimate object. But as a fool is prone to do, they claim themselves to be wise, and inversely, that those who glorify God as creator to be naive.
What is God's response to this? He leaves them to their "degrading passions." (1:26) The result is that they are consumed with unnatural sex - women with women and men with men - which, he says, becomes its own penalty. Furthermore, "God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong." (1:28) Paul lists a whole litany of behaviors that result as the fruit of worthless minds: They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, disputes, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful." (1:29-31) Lest we are tempted to think such people don't know God and thus don't know better, Paul has already established that they do know God and have chosen not to glorify Him as the creator. Now he says they do know better than to behave in these ways and know "full well God's just sentence - that those who practice such things deserve to die." This doesn't stop them, though. Not only do they continue in these behaviors, they "applaud others who practice them." (1:32)
Paul has left little doubt of the need for the gospel which is "God's power for salvation to everyone who believes." (1:16)
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
- John 21 (Contemporary English Version)
- Jesus later appeared to his disciples along the shore of Lake Tiberias.
- Simon Peter, Thomas the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, and the brothers James and John, were there, together with two other disciples.
- Simon Peter said, "I'm going fishing!" The others said, "We will go with you." They went out in their boat. But they didn't catch a thing that night.
- Early the next morning Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize who he was.
- Jesus shouted, "Friends, have you caught anything?" "No!" they answered.
- So he told them, "Let your net down on the right side of your boat, and you will catch some fish." They did, and the net was so full of fish that they could not drag it up into the boat.
- Jesus' favorite disciple told Peter, "It's the Lord!" When Simon heard that it was the Lord, he put on the clothes that he had taken off while he was working. Then he jumped into the water.
- The boat was only about a hundred yards from shore. So the other disciples stayed in the boat and dragged in the net full of fish.
- When the disciples got out of the boat, they saw some bread and a charcoal fire with fish on it.
- Jesus told his disciples, "Bring some of the fish you just caught."
- Simon Peter got back into the boat and dragged the net to shore. In it were one hundred fifty-three large fish, but still the net did not rip.
- Jesus said, "Come and eat!" But none of the disciples dared ask who he was. They knew he was the Lord.
- Jesus took the bread in his hands and gave some of it to his disciples. He did the same with the fish.
- This was the third time that Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from death.
- When Jesus and his disciples had finished eating, he asked, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than the others do?" Simon Peter answered, "Yes, Lord, you know I do!" "Then feed my lambs," Jesus said.
- Jesus asked a second time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter answered, "Yes, Lord, you know I love you!" "Then take care of my sheep," Jesus told him.
- Jesus asked a third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus had asked him three times if he loved him. So he told Jesus, "Lord, you know everything. You know I love you." Jesus replied, "Feed my sheep.
- I tell you for certain that when you were a young man, you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will hold out your hands. Then others will wrap your belt around you and lead you where you don't want to go."
- Jesus said this to tell how Peter would die and bring honor to God. Then he said to Peter, "Follow me!"
- Peter turned and saw Jesus' favorite disciple following them. He was the same one who had sat next to Jesus at the meal and had asked, "Lord, who is going to betray you?"
- When Peter saw that disciple, he asked Jesus, "Lord, what about him?"
- Jesus answered, "What is it to you, if I want him to live until I return? You must follow me."
- So the rumor spread among the other disciples that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say he would not die. He simply said, "What is it to you, if I want him to live until I return?"
- This disciple is the one who told all of this. He wrote it, and we know he is telling the truth.
- Jesus did many other things. If they were all written in books, I don't suppose there would be room enough in the whole world for all the books.
In this final chapter of John's gospel he records a third time that Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples following His resurrection. It was not His final post resurrection meeting with his disciples, however, since they were present when He was ascended into heaven. Luke's record of Jesus' discourse with His disciples in the first chapter of Acts may also have been following this event in the last chapter of John's gospel.
In this chapter John tells of a miracle Jesus performed for the disciples. They had returned from fishing without a catch and Jesus told them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. When they did, it was filled with fish to the extent that they couldn't haul it into the boat. Was this a "sign" miracle? John does not speak of it in that regard. Certainly a sign miracle does not seem necessary at this point when the disciples had come to know and believe that Jesus was the Messiah. I see it more as a teaching miracle that Jesus used to show the disciples the outcome of doing His will.
We see also in this chapter Jesus' mercy and forgiveness demonstrated in His reinstatement of Peter following his denial of Jesus during the trial. Though no mention is made of Peter's denial, Jesus singles him out and asks about his love for Jesus. In fact, He asked this question of Peter three times, corresponding to Peter's denial three times. With each question of Peter's love, Jesus gave him a command - "Feed My lambs," "Shepherd My sheep," and "Feed My sheep." Then He concluded with the command, "Follow me!" Peter had not only been forgiven, but was given an assignment, or a calling, by the Lord. But in the course of this exchange, John points out that Jesus also referred to Peter's death as a result of following Jesus.
The world gets hung up with ideas of personal gain if one follows Jesus, or if God is a God of love that He will never allow bad things to happen to anyone. But Jesus was calling Peter to follow Him to his death by crucifixtion. Bad things were going to happen to Peter as a result of following Jesus. How does this fit our theology? Scripture does teach that there is personal gain for those who follow Jesus, but is it the same gain we have in mind? Our idea of gain is of prosperity and no problems and recognition, etc. The gain Jesus gives is much more eternal and relates to fellowship with Him, joy, inner peace, abundant life, eternal life, etc. Is Jesus idea of gain worth the possibility of bad things happening? Jesus taught that, "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it." (Mark 8:35)
Monday, September 19, 2011
- John 20 (Contemporary English Version)
- On Sunday morning while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.
- She ran to Simon Peter and to Jesus' favorite disciple and said, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb! We don't know where they have put him."
- Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.
- They ran side by side, until the other disciple ran faster than Peter and got there first.
- He bent over and saw the strips of linen cloth lying inside the tomb, but he did not go in.
- When Simon Peter got there, he went into the tomb and saw the strips of cloth.
- He also saw the piece of cloth that had been used to cover Jesus' face. It was rolled up and in a place by itself.
- The disciple who got there first then went into the tomb, and when he saw it, he believed.
- At that time Peter and the other disciple did not know that the Scriptures said Jesus would rise to life.
- So the two of them went back to the other disciples.
- Mary Magdalene stood crying outside the tomb. She was still weeping, when she stooped down
- and saw two angels inside. They were dressed in white and were sitting where Jesus' body had been. One was at the head and the other was at the foot.
- The angels asked Mary, "Why are you crying?" She answered, "They have taken away my Lord's body! I don't know where they have put him."
- As soon as Mary said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there. But she did not know who he was.
- Jesus asked her, "Why are you crying? Who are you looking for?" She thought he was the gardener and said, "Sir, if you have taken his body away, please tell me, so I can go and get him."
- Then Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him, "Rabboni." The Aramaic word "Rabboni" means "Teacher."
- Jesus told her, "Don't hold on to me! I have not yet gone to the Father. But tell my disciples that I am going to the one who is my Father and my God, as well as your Father and your God."
- Mary Magdalene then went and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord. She also told them what he had said to her.
- The disciples were afraid of the Jewish leaders, and on the evening of that same Sunday they locked themselves in a room. Suddenly, Jesus appeared in the middle of the group. He greeted them
- and showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they became very happy.
- After Jesus had greeted them again, he said, "I am sending you, just as the Father has sent me."
- Then he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.
- If you forgive anyone's sins, they will be forgiven. But if you don't forgive their sins, they will not be forgiven."
- Although Thomas the Twin was one of the twelve disciples, he wasn't with the others when Jesus appeared to them.
- So they told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But Thomas said, "First, I must see the nail scars in his hands and touch them with my finger. I must put my hand where the spear went into his side. I won't believe unless I do this!"
- A week later the disciples were together again. This time, Thomas was with them. Jesus came in while the doors were still locked and stood in the middle of the group. He greeted his disciples
- and said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and look at my hands! Put your hand into my side. Stop doubting and have faith!"
- Thomas replied, "You are my Lord and my God!"
- Jesus said, "Thomas, do you have faith because you have seen me? The people who have faith in me without seeing me are the ones who are really blessed!"
- Jesus worked many other miracles for his disciples, and not all of them are written in this book.
- But these are written so that you will put your faith in Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God. If you have faith in him, you will have true life.
Jesus' raising of Lazarus from the dead was a climax to His ministry leading up to the crucifixtion. It, possibly more than any other of His miracles, caught people's attention and raised the concern of the religious leaders leading them to a the decision to do something about Jesus. This is when they seriously plotted Jesus' arrest. But even this event did not bring full understanding or belief on the part of His disciples as to who He was. It was Jesus' own resurrection that led to full understanding and belief.
One of the greatest obstacles to the understanding and belief on the part of the disciples was their misunderstanding and false expectation of the Messiah. Even though Jesus' miracles pointed to Him as a person of special significance and probably a person from God, if He were really the Messiah why was He not taking a more victorious role over the Jewish circumstances? Why was He arrested and killed by the Romans, prompted by the Jewish leaders? None of this made sense to them so belief had not yet come. But when they saw Jesus following His resurrection His teaching suddenly made sense. All of the pieces came together.
Much unbelief is due to false expectation. We judge God based on our own ideas of how He should operate, and when He doesn't do things the way we think He should, we choose not to believe or even deny His existence. If we are to understand God and trust ourselves to Him, we will have to put aside our own perceptions and notions about God and let Him teach us about Himself.
Once Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples following His resurrection and they finally believed, He immediately made them His emissaries. When they rejoiced at seeing His resurrected body, Jesus told them, "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." (20:21)
Friday, September 16, 2011
- John 19 (Contemporary English Version)
- Pilate gave orders for Jesus to be beaten with a whip.
- The soldiers made a crown out of thorn branches and put it on Jesus. Then they put a purple robe on him.
- They came up to him and said, "Hey, you king of the Jews!" They also hit him with their fists.
- Once again Pilate went out. This time he said, "I will have Jesus brought out to you again. Then you can see for yourselves that I have not found him guilty."
- Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said, "Here is the man!"
- When the chief priests and the temple police saw him, they yelled, "Nail him to a cross! Nail him to a cross!" Pilate told them, "You take him and nail him to a cross! I don't find him guilty of anything."
- The crowd replied, "He claimed to be the Son of God! Our Jewish Law says that he must be put to death."
- When Pilate heard this, he was terrified.
- He went back inside and asked Jesus, "Where are you from?" But Jesus did not answer.
- "Why won't you answer my question?" Pilate asked. "Don't you know that I have the power to let you go free or to nail you to a cross?"
- Jesus replied, "If God had not given you the power, you couldn't do anything at all to me. But the one who handed me over to you did something even worse."
- Then Pilate wanted to set Jesus free. But the crowd again yelled, "If you set this man free, you are no friend of the Emperor! Anyone who claims to be a king is an enemy of the Emperor."
- When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out. Then he sat down on the judge's bench at the place known as "The Stone Pavement." In Aramaic this pavement is called "Gabbatha."
- It was about noon on the day before Passover, and Pilate said to the crowd, "Look at your king!"
- "Kill him! Kill him!" they yelled. "Nail him to a cross!" "So you want me to nail your king to a cross?" Pilate asked. The chief priests replied, "The Emperor is our king!"
- Then Pilate handed Jesus over to be nailed to a cross. Jesus was taken away,
- and he carried his cross to a place known as "The Skull." In Aramaic this place is called "Golgotha."
- There Jesus was nailed to the cross, and on each side of him a man was also nailed to a cross.
- Pilate ordered the charge against Jesus to be written on a board and put above the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews."
- The words were written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. The place where Jesus was taken wasn't far from the city, and many of the Jewish people read the charge against him.
- So the chief priests went to Pilate and said, "Why did you write that he is King of the Jews? You should have written, 'He claimed to be King of the Jews.' "
- But Pilate told them, "What is written will not be changed!"
- After the soldiers had nailed Jesus to the cross, they divided up his clothes into four parts, one for each of them. But his outer garment was made from a single piece of cloth, and it did not have any seams.
- The soldiers said to each other, "Let's not rip it apart. We will gamble to see who gets it." This happened so that the Scriptures would come true, which say, "They divided up my clothes and gambled for my garments." The soldiers then did what they had decided.
- Jesus' mother stood beside his cross with her sister and Mary the wife of Clopas. Mary Magdalene was standing there too.
- When Jesus saw his mother and his favorite disciple with her, he said to his mother, "This man is now your son."
- Then he said to the disciple, "She is now your mother." From then on, that disciple took her into his own home.
- Jesus knew that he had now finished his work. And in order to make the Scriptures come true, he said, "I am thirsty!"
- A jar of cheap wine was there. Someone then soaked a sponge with the wine and held it up to Jesus' mouth on the stem of a hyssop plant.
- After Jesus drank the wine, he said, "Everything is done!" He bowed his head and died.
- The next day would be both a Sabbath and the Passover. It was a special day for the Jewish people, and they did not want the bodies to stay on the crosses during that day. So they asked Pilate to break the men's legs and take their bodies down.
- The soldiers first broke the legs of the other two men who were nailed there.
- But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, and they did not break his legs.
- One of the soldiers stuck his spear into Jesus' side, and blood and water came out.
- We know this is true, because it was told by someone who saw it happen. Now you can have faith too.
- All this happened so that the Scriptures would come true, which say, "No bone of his body will be broken"
- and, "They will see the one in whose side they stuck a spear."
- Joseph from Arimathea was one of Jesus' disciples. He had kept it secret though, because he was afraid of the Jewish leaders. But now he asked Pilate to let him have Jesus' body. Pilate gave him permission, and Joseph took it down from the cross.
- Nicodemus also came with about seventy-five pounds of spices made from myrrh and aloes. This was the same Nicodemus who had visited Jesus one night.
- The two men wrapped the body in a linen cloth, together with the spices, which was how the Jewish people buried their dead.
- In the place where Jesus had been nailed to a cross, there was a garden with a tomb that had never been used.
- The tomb was nearby, and since it was the time to prepare for the Sabbath, they were in a hurry to put Jesus' body there.
One has to wonder what was in the minds of the Jewish leaders and of Pilate throughout these events. They had all, sometime earlier, passed a point of no return, choosing a path down which it became very difficult to turn back. It was as if their choices had placed them in Satan's grip from which it was nearly impossible to pull free. It is enough to cause one to consider his or her choices very carefully. Once a path is chosen it can become very difficult to reverse. And each step down that path increases the difficulty. Not to mention the significance of these particular events and the forces at work for both good and evil.
I can remember leadership decisions I have made that were based not so much on what I thought was the best thing to do but more on self preservation. Such decisions, though, come back to haunt you. They tend to start you down that path of no return where events begin to move out of your control. It is not a pleasant circumstance in which to find yourself. Now, when faced with yet another such decision in which I am tempted to take the "easy" way out for the purpose of self preservation, I have come to realize that the easiest way out is likely the decision that may be initially the most difficult choice to make. But over the course of events set in motion by that choice, it will likely become the most pleasant path to take.
This is how I see the players in the events surrounding Jesus' crucifixtion. Those leading the charge against Jesus were all seeking self preservation. But in the end it was their own destruction that they accomplished. Choosing what at best could only provide a temporary gain is seldom a good choice to make. For the players in Jesus' crucifixtion there was no gain to be had. They were losers the moment they turned against Jesus.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
- John 18 (Contemporary English Version)
- When Jesus had finished praying, he and his disciples crossed the Kidron Valley and went into a garden.
- Jesus had often met there with his disciples, and Judas knew where the place was.
- Judas had promised to betray Jesus. So he went to the garden with some Roman soldiers and temple police, who had been sent by the chief priests and the Pharisees. They carried torches, lanterns, and weapons. Jesus already knew everything that was going to happen, but he asked, "Who are you looking for?" They answered, "We are looking for Jesus from Nazareth!" Jesus told them, "I am Jesus!"
- (SEE 18:3)
- (SEE 18:3)
- At once they all backed away and fell to the ground.
- Jesus again asked, "Who are you looking for?" "We are looking for Jesus from Nazareth," they answered.
- This time Jesus replied, "I have already told you that I am Jesus. If I am the one you are looking for, let these others go.
- Then everything will happen, just as I said, 'I did not lose anyone you gave me.' "
- Simon Peter had brought along a sword. He now pulled it out and struck at the servant of the high priest. The servant's name was Malchus, and Peter cut off his right ear.
- Jesus told Peter, "Put your sword away. I must drink from the cup that the Father has given me."
- The Roman officer and his men, together with the temple police, arrested Jesus and tied him up.
- They took him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year.
- This was the same Caiaphas who had told the Jewish leaders, "It is better if one person dies for the people."
- Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. That disciple knew the high priest, and he followed Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest's house.
- Peter stayed outside near the gate. But the other disciple came back out and spoke to the girl at the gate. She let Peter go in,
- but asked him, "Aren't you one of that man's followers?" "No, I am not!" Peter answered.
- It was cold, and the servants and temple police had made a charcoal fire. They were warming themselves around it, when Peter went over and stood near the fire to warm himself.
- The high priest questioned Jesus about his followers and his teaching.
- But Jesus told him, "I have spoken freely in front of everyone. And I have always taught in our meeting places and in the temple, where all of our people come together. I have not said anything in secret.
- Why are you questioning me? Why don't you ask the people who heard me? They know what I have said."
- As soon as Jesus said this, one of the temple police hit him and said, "That's no way to talk to the high priest!"
- Jesus answered, "If I have done something wrong, say so. But if not, why did you hit me?"
- Jesus was still tied up, and Annas sent him to Caiaphas the high priest.
- While Simon Peter was standing there warming himself, someone asked him, "Aren't you one of Jesus' followers?" Again Peter denied it and said, "No, I am not!"
- One of the high priest's servants was there. He was a relative of the servant whose ear Peter had cut off, and he asked, "Didn't I see you in the garden with that man?"
- Once more Peter denied it, and right then a rooster crowed.
- It was early in the morning when Jesus was taken from Caiaphas to the building where the Roman governor stayed. But the crowd waited outside. Any of them who had gone inside would have become unclean and would not be allowed to eat the Passover meal.
- Pilate came out and asked, "What charges are you bringing against this man?"
- They answered, "He is a criminal! That's why we brought him to you."
- Pilate told them, "Take him and judge him by your own laws." The crowd replied, "We are not allowed to put anyone to death."
- And so what Jesus said about his death would soon come true.
- Pilate then went back inside. He called Jesus over and asked, "Are you the king of the Jews?"
- Jesus answered, "Are you asking this on your own or did someone tell you about me?"
- "You know I'm not a Jew!" Pilate said. "Your own people and the chief priests brought you to me. What have you done?"
- Jesus answered, "My kingdom doesn't belong to this world. If it did, my followers would have fought to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. No, my kingdom doesn't belong to this world."
- "So you are a king," Pilate replied. "You are saying that I am a king," Jesus told him. "I was born into this world to tell about the truth. And everyone who belongs to the truth knows my voice."
- Pilate asked Jesus, "What is truth?" Pilate went back out and said, "I don't find this man guilty of anything!
- And since I usually set a prisoner free for you at Passover, would you like for me to set free the king of the Jews?"
- They shouted, "No, not him! We want Barabbas." Now Barabbas was a terrorist.
In this chapter we are told of Jesus' arrest and initial questioning by the authorities, both religious and governmental. On display throughout these proceedings is the length to which man will go to defend his pride in contrast to the length to which God's love will go. It was obvious even to Pilate what the Jewish leaders were doing. He knew they had no crime with which to charge Jesus and their concern was a Jewish religious matter rather than a legal one. Did he know their concern was one more of jealousy than of religious concern? He may have known that as well.
One who does not know God and understand His working in history and the lives of people will not understand the dynamics taking place in these events surrounding Jesus' crucifixtion. On the one hand is God's fulfillment of His purposes and plans while on the other hand not interfering with the freedom of choice He allows all people. Since He knows all things including His knowledge in advance of the choices and actions people will take it would sometimes seem as if He interferes with this freedom of choice. But knowing in advance what people will do allows Him to make plans based on those choices. In such cases He has not forced their choice, He has simply used it. This is what was happening in regard to the choices made by the Jewish leaders and by Pilate in the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixtion. It was because of of God's foreknowledge that He could make prophecies centuries before of what would happen. He does not bend people's choices to fulfill prophecy but prophecies based on His foreknowledge of their choices.
It is fitting that God's plan to redeem man should be enabled through the failures of a religious institution demonstrating the inability of religion to connect mankind with God. Only God can do that, and He has made it possible in His own way and not through man's crafting of a religious system. Though Judaism was initially of God's design, man eventually subverted it into something of his own making, thus it became selfserving rather than serving God. Such is the case with anything religious when man seeks the fulfillment of his own will rather than God's. When we truly seek what we often mindlessly recite in the Lord's Prayer, "Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven," we will come to know the truths of God.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
John 17 (Contemporary English Version)
- After Jesus had finished speaking to his disciples, he looked up toward heaven and prayed: Father, the time has come for you to bring glory to your Son, in order that he may bring glory to you.
- And you gave him power over all people, so that he would give eternal life to everyone you give him.
- Eternal life is to know you, the only true God, and to know Jesus Christ, the one you sent.
- I have brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you gave me to do.
- Now, Father, give me back the glory that I had with you before the world was created.
- You have given me some followers from this world, and I have shown them what you are like. They were yours, but you gave them to me, and they have obeyed you.
- They know that you gave me everything I have.
- I told my followers what you told me, and they accepted it. They know that I came from you, and they believe that you are the one who sent me.
- I am praying for them, but not for those who belong to this world. My followers belong to you, and I am praying for them.
- All that I have is yours, and all that you have is mine, and they will bring glory to me.
- Holy Father, I am no longer in the world. I am coming to you, but my followers are still in the world. So keep them safe by the power of the name that you have given me. Then they will be one with each other, just as you and I are one.
- While I was with them, I kept them safe by the power you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost, except the one who had to be lost. This happened so that what the Scriptures say would come true.
- I am on my way to you. But I say these things while I am still in the world, so that my followers will have the same complete joy that I do.
- I have told them your message. But the people of this world hate them, because they don't belong to this world, just as I don't.
- Father, I don't ask you to take my followers out of the world, but keep them safe from the evil one.
- They don't belong to this world, and neither do I.
- Your word is the truth. So let this truth make them completely yours.
- I am sending them into the world, just as you sent me.
- I have given myself completely for their sake, so that they may belong completely to the truth.
- I am not praying just for these followers. I am also praying for everyone else who will have faith because of what my followers will say about me.
- I want all of them to be one with each other, just as I am one with you and you are one with me. I also want them to be one with us. Then the people of this world will believe that you sent me.
- I have honored my followers in the same way that you honored me, in order that they may be one with each other, just as we are one.
- I am one with them, and you are one with me, so that they may become completely one. Then this world's people will know that you sent me. They will know that you love my followers as much as you love me.
- Father, I want everyone you have given me to be with me, wherever I am. Then they will see the glory that you have given me, because you loved me before the world was created.
- Good Father, the people of this world don't know you. But I know you, and my followers know that you sent me.
- I told them what you are like, and I will tell them even more. Then the love that you have for me will become part of them, and I will be one with them.
Jesus concluded instructions to His disciples with prayer. First He prayed for Himself that the Father would glorify Him, through His death and resurrection, so He might give eternal life to "all You have given Him." He defined eternal life to be to "know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent--Jesus Christ." (17:3) His word for "know" was one of intimacy. Eternal life involves an intimate relationship with God.
Jesus also prayed for His disciples that the Father would "protect them from the evil one." (17:15) And He prayed that the Father would sanctify them by the word of God's truth. To be sanctified is to be set apart for a special use. So Jesus was praying that the disciples be sanctified so that as the Father had sent Him into the world, He was also sending the disciples into the world. He was setting them apart for the special use of telling the world about Him.
Finally, Jesus prayed for "those who believe in Me through their message." (17:20) That is, those who believe through the message of the disciples. This was a prayer for all future believers. Since the disciples were the first to go into the world with the message of Christ, this would be a reference to all who have believed since then. His prayer for future believers was that they may "all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me." (17:21) The building up of God's kingdom was based on the unity of believers. Jesus prayed that all believers would have a unity that was like the unity between the Father and the Son. This is a unity of character rather than a unity of agreement in all things. As believers have a unity in exhibiting the character of God and of Christ it will cause the world to believe that God send Christ.
If we are to have the eternal life that Christ came to give, we will have an intimate relationship with God which involves this unity for which Christ prayed. It is being in the Father as the Son and the Father are in one another. If we seek to be in unity with God we will also be in unity with all others who are in unity with Him. Without this unity our words to the world about Christ will have little influence.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
- John 16 (Contemporary English Version)
- I am telling you this to keep you from being afraid.
- You will be chased out of the Jewish meeting places. And the time will come when people will kill you and think they are doing God a favor.
- They will do these things because they don't know either the Father or me.
- I am saying this to you now, so that when the time comes, you will remember what I have said. I was with you at the first, and so I didn't tell you these things.
- But now I am going back to the Father who sent me, and none of you asks me where I am going.
- You are very sad from hearing all of this.
- But I tell you that I am going to do what is best for you. That is why I am going away. The Holy Spirit cannot come to help you until I leave. But after I am gone, I will send the Spirit to you.
- The Spirit will come and show the people of this world the truth about sin and God's justice and the judgment.
- The Spirit will show them that they are wrong about sin, because they didn't have faith in me.
- They are wrong about God's justice, because I am going to the Father, and you won't see me again.
- And they are wrong about the judgment, because God has already judged the ruler of this world.
- I have much more to say to you, but right now it would be more than you could understand.
- The Spirit shows what is true and will come and guide you into the full truth. The Spirit doesn't speak on his own. He will tell you only what he has heard from me, and he will let you know what is going to happen.
- The Spirit will bring glory to me by taking my message and telling it to you.
- Everything that the Father has is mine. That is why I have said that the Spirit takes my message and tells it to you.
- Jesus told his disciples, "For a little while you won't see me, but after a while you will see me. "
- They said to each other, "What does Jesus mean by saying that for a little while we won't see him, but after a while we will see him? What does he mean by saying that he is going to the Father?
- What is this 'little while' that he is talking about? We don't know what he means."
- Jesus knew that they had some questions, so he said: You are wondering what I meant when I said that for a little while you won't see me, but after a while you will see me.
- I tell you for certain that you will cry and be sad, but the world will be happy. You will be sad, but later you will be happy.
- When a woman is about to give birth, she is in great pain. But after it is all over, she forgets the pain and is happy, because she has brought a child into the world.
- You are now very sad. But later I will see you, and you will be so happy that no one will be able to change the way you feel.
- When that time comes, you won't have to ask me about anything. I tell you for certain that the Father will give you whatever you ask for in my name.
- You have not asked for anything in this way before, but now you must ask in my name. Then it will be given to you, so that you will be completely happy.
- I have used examples to explain to you what I have been talking about. But the time will come when I will speak to you plainly about the Father and will no longer use examples like these.
- You will ask the Father in my name, and I won't have to ask him for you.
- God the Father loves you because you love me, and you believe that I have come from him.
- I came from the Father into the world, but I am leaving the world and returning to the Father.
- The disciples said, "Now you are speaking plainly to us! You are not using examples.
- At last we know that you understand everything, and we don't have any more questions. Now we believe that you truly have come from God."
- Jesus replied: Do you really believe me?
- The time will come and is already here when all of you will be scattered. Each of you will go back home and leave me by myself. But the Father will be with me, and I won't be alone.
- I have told you this, so that you might have peace in your hearts because of me. While you are in the world, you will have to suffer. But cheer up! I have defeated the world.
We think faith is built on what we can see and know for certain, but God knows better. And, in fact, by definition, that is not even faith. The writer of Hebrews defines faith in this way, "Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) God came to mankind in the form of the man Jesus and performed many sign miracles to demonstrate who He was and instead of believing, they killed Him. Obviously, God's kingdom will not be built by having God live on earth through Jesus.
Jesus told His disciples that it was really best for Him to go away so He could give them the "Counselor." (16:7) If following Jesus were dependent on His physical presence, not everyone would have that opportunity, for He could not be present with everyone at the same time, nor could He be present with anyone permanently. But the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, could be present, living in every believer permanently. The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin and He "will guide you into all the truth." (16:13)
It is in this way that true faith can be built. We can't do it on our own, but we first must take a step toward God. With what faith we are given, we must accept Jesus as God's Son which entitles us to being given the Holy Spirit. With the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we are then taught and we begin to see life from God's perspective, and faith grows. But it is not always a consistent process of growth for we are prone to seek solutions and answers to our questions apart from the counsel of the Holy Spirit. We have an independent nature in us that defaults to trying to do things on our own, but this hinders the growth of our faith. It grows as we become dependent on the counsel of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.
Monday, September 12, 2011
- John 15 (Contemporary English Version)
- Jesus said to his disciples: I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
- He cuts away every branch of mine that doesn't produce fruit. But he trims clean every branch that does produce fruit, so that it will produce even more fruit.
- You are already clean because of what I have said to you.
- Stay joined to me, and I will stay joined to you. Just as a branch cannot produce fruit unless it stays joined to the vine, you cannot produce fruit unless you stay joined to me.
- I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I stay joined to you, then you will produce lots of fruit. But you cannot do anything without me.
- If you don't stay joined to me, you will be thrown away. You will be like dry branches that are gathered up and burned in a fire.
- Stay joined to me and let my teachings become part of you. Then you can pray for whatever you want, and your prayer will be answered.
- When you become fruitful disciples of mine, my Father will be honored.
- I have loved you, just as my Father has loved me. So remain faithful to my love for you.
- If you obey me, I will keep loving you, just as my Father keeps loving me, because I have obeyed him.
- I have told you this to make you as completely happy as I am.
- Now I tell you to love each other, as I have loved you.
- The greatest way to show love for friends is to die for them.
- And you are my friends, if you obey me.
- Servants don't know what their master is doing, and so I don't speak to you as my servants. I speak to you as my friends, and I have told you everything that my Father has told me.
- You did not choose me. I chose you and sent you out to produce fruit, the kind of fruit that will last. Then my Father will give you whatever you ask for in my name.
- So I command you to love each other.
- If the people of this world hate you, just remember that they hated me first.
- If you belonged to the world, its people would love you. But you don't belong to the world. I have chosen you to leave the world behind, and that is why its people hate you.
- Remember how I told you that servants are not greater than their master. So if people mistreat me, they will mistreat you. If they do what I say, they will do what you say.
- People will do to you exactly what they did to me. They will do it because you belong to me, and they don't know the one who sent me.
- If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have no excuse for their sin.
- Everyone who hates me also hates my Father.
- I have done things that no one else has ever done. If they had not seen me do these things, they would not be guilty. But they did see me do these things, and they still hate me and my Father too.
- That is why the Scriptures are true when they say, "People hated me for no reason."
- I will send you the Spirit who comes from the Father and shows what is true. The Spirit will help you and will tell you about me.
- Then you will also tell others about me, because you have been with me from the beginning.
Jesus continued to teach His disciples as they remained around the table following their last meal together and just prior to His crucifixtion. Jesus had announced just a few minutes before that one of them would betray Him. Now He tells them that not all who profess to be His followers are true followers. True followers can be identified by their fruit. He compared it to the branches of a grapevine. Those branches that do not draw sustenance from the vine do not produce fruit and the same is true of those who profess to follow Christ but do not draw sustenance from Him. They are unfruitful, and as the unfruitful vine branch, they will be removed and destroyed. In other words, those who profess to follow Christ but are unfruitful are no different from those who make no profession of following Him. They are not really Christ's followers and their outcome, eternal fire, will be the same as those who are non-professing.
A further identifying mark of Christ's disciples is that they keep His commands. Jesus told His disciples that, "If you keep My commands you will remain in My love." (15:10) It might be said that this is the fruit of His followers - keeping His commands. He lists only one command, however, - "love one another as I have loved you." (15:12) The word "command" may sound to many as being restrictive. But this is not Jesus' intent. His intent in giving this command is that "your joy may be complete." (15:11) This is the nature of all God's commands. They are given for our good rather than to be restrictive.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
- John 14 (Contemporary English Version)
- Jesus said to his disciples, "Don't be worried! Have faith in God and have faith in me.
- There are many rooms in my Father's house. I wouldn't tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you.
- After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together.
- You know the way to where I am going."
- Thomas said, "Lord, we don't even know where you are going! How can we know the way?"
- "I am the way, the truth, and the life!" Jesus answered. "Without me, no one can go to the Father.
- If you had known me, you would have known the Father. But from now on, you do know him, and you have seen him."
- Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father. That is all we need."
- Jesus replied: Philip, I have been with you for a long time. Don't you know who I am? If you have seen me, you have seen the Father. How can you ask me to show you the Father?
- Don't you believe that I am one with the Father and that the Father is one with me? What I say isn't said on my own. The Father who lives in me does these things.
- Have faith in me when I say that the Father is one with me and that I am one with the Father. Or else have faith in me simply because of the things I do.
- I tell you for certain that if you have faith in me, you will do the same things that I am doing. You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father.
- Ask me, and I will do whatever you ask. This way the Son will bring honor to the Father.
- I will do whatever you ask me to do.
- Jesus said to his disciples: If you love me, you will do as I command.
- Then I will ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you.
- The Spirit will show you what is true. The people of this world cannot accept the Spirit, because they don't see or know him. But you know the Spirit, who is with you and will keep on living in you.
- I won't leave you like orphans. I will come back to you.
- In a little while the people of this world won't be able to see me, but you will see me. And because I live, you will live.
- Then you will know that I am one with the Father. You will know that you are one with me, and I am one with you.
- If you love me, you will do what I have said, and my Father will love you. I will also love you and show you what I am like.
- The other Judas, not Judas Iscariot, then spoke up and asked, "Lord, what do you mean by saying that you will show us what you are like, but you will not show the people of this world?"
- Jesus replied: If anyone loves me, they will obey me. Then my Father will love them, and we will come to them and live in them.
- But anyone who doesn't love me, won't obey me. What they have heard me say doesn't really come from me, but from the Father who sent me.
- I have told you these things while I am still with you.
- But the Holy Spirit will come and help you, because the Father will send the Spirit to take my place. The Spirit will teach you everything and will remind you of what I said while I was with you.
- I give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give. It isn't like the peace that this world can give. So don't be worried or afraid.
- You have already heard me say that I am going and that I will also come back to you. If you really love me, you should be glad that I am going back to the Father, because he is greater than I am.
- I am telling you this before I leave, so that when it does happen, you will have faith in me.
- I cannot speak with you much longer, because the ruler of this world is coming. But he has no power over me.
- I obey my Father, so that everyone in the world might know that I love him. It is time for us to go now.
Jesus was preparing His disciples for His death and for life following His death. He had been telling them many troubling things, but He did not want them to be troubled in heart. The first reason He gave them for not being troubled was that although He was going away He would prepare a place for them so they could join Him. Those who know Jesus know the way to this place because He is the way as He told the disciples, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (14:6) So we know that not only is Jesus the way to this place, the place is with the Father - with God.
A second reason Jesus gave the disciples for not being troubled was that although He was going away, in His absence He would send them "another Counselor." (14:16) This other Counselor is the Holy Spirit who Jesus referred to as the "Spirit of truth." (14:17) Jesus said that He, Himself, is the truth, and then He said that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. This Spirit of truth will remain "with you and will be in you." (14:17) In Jesus' physical absence the Holy Spirit will teach His followers "all things and remind you of everything I have told you." (14:26)
So Jesus' followers in all times may be assured that they may one day be where He is, and in the meantime He will send His Holy Spirit to dwell in them and be a constant presence with them, teaching them and reminding them of Jesus' teachings. Should we who are followers of Jesus ever doubt that we belong to Him we have the presence of the Holy Spirit with us to confirm that we belong to Him, and we can also know we belong to Him through our obedience to His commandments. For Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (14:15)