Believe in your heart

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that Jesus rose from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom. 10:9)

Many people misunderstand the meaning of “believe in your heart.” Biblically, the heart is not the organ that pumps blood to the body, but the thing that controls our thoughts, emotions, decisions, choices, hopes, aspirations, and fears. To believe in Jesus with your heart is to believe in Jesus in the place that controls all of your decisions, emotions, hopes, joys, and dreams; the place that controls the way you live your life.

Too many people assume that to believe in your heart is to believe in Jesus in the secret place that only God sees. The clear biblical witness is: what is in the heart is made evident by the way we live.

The interesting thing to consider here is that many people if asked the question: “are you a disciple of Christ?” would actually answer, “no, I do not follow him.”

Surprisingly, the same people if asked “will you go to heaven when you die?” will answer yes. The problem is, that Jesus taught that those who follow him, will follow him into death, and on to resurrection on the other side where we will reign with him; our lives embodying his authority in this world here and now.

Those who do not follow Jesus, will not follow him into resurrection. Those who do not follow Jesus, will in the end be condemned.

Following Jesus requires faithful membership in a church, a life characterized by learning from Jesus about what life is and how it is to be lived under his authority, and confession of sins and repentance. Without these three things, you cannot be a follower of Jesus (based on the writings of Jesus’s appointed apostles—The Bible)

As an atheist, earlier in my life, I embraced this fact. If Jesus is the real deal, then I will be condemned. I embraced this, and followed it up with, I am my own person, and I will do what I want, when I want. Screw Jesus, I will live my life however I see fit (I used a little more interesting language at the time). Strangely enough, I lived like all of the so called Christians, I merely added correlating words to my lifestyle.

I would encourage those who are clearly not a follower of Jesus to readily embrace the fact that they are not, and not cower away from the consequences of that decision. It is quite liberating to own up to rejecting Jesus, rather than pretending to love him in secret. Many times, this will become a watershed moment that leads to a significant moment where one wrestles with the gravity of life’s decisions.

For those who are not followers of Jesus, if you honestly think he is really the Son of God, embrace the fact that you will be condemned at the end of your life, and do your best to enjoy what is left of it. Without regrets (there will be plenty of time for that later—now is the time to enjoy). Perhaps, the weight of dealing with this reality will bring people back from their deep dream, and wake them like a whiff of ammonia to the reality that our decisions last much longer than today; not only in the lives of the ones we love, but also in the life to come.


Defense of Infant Baptism

With regard to New covenant baptism, Colossians chapter 2:11-13 makes it clear that baptism is the sacrament which corresponds to the new covenant, as circumcision corresponds to the Old covenant. There is a connection between the old covenant sacrament and the new covenant sacrament. Col. 2:11, “In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

It can be clearly seen, through an excursus of the old covenant that God viewed the children of his covenant children, differently than he viewed the non covenant children. If you look at the prototype of Abraham this can be clearly seen. He was commanded to administer the covenant seal (circumcision) to himself after he came to faith as a first generation believer. He was then commanded to administer this same seal to children who belonged to his household even before they were able to articulate “their faith.” (If faith is a trusting and receiving, then infants have faith in their parents; David even says that God “made him to Trust God at his mother’s breast,” Ps. 22:9) Protestants have wrongly exclusivised faith as an intellectual endeavor, when biblically, that is just not the case.)

This solidarity of households (as seen in Abraham’s family) can be seen throughout the old covenant. It establishes the way in which God set his expectations of his covenant people. The children of covenant children were themselves covenant children. They were to be raised as covenant children. They were not given the option of whether they would grow up to become covenant children, they were declared (by God), to be covenant children from the start. Outsiders are called to convert, covenant children are called to work out their salvation in faithfulness to God. This declaration was based, not on their ethnicity, or their bloodline, but on God’s will. His will was to include the children in the covenant to which he called their corresponding parents, as a reflection of who He is, of his nature and character.

Christ, the messiah of Israel, came in to fulfill this Abrahamic covenant. Abraham was to be the father of many nations, not just one nation. In Christ, this covenant was realized, as Gentiles were engrafted into this covenant, and so the single family of God was thus created (which is why when Paul speaks of Justification, he always speaks of Abraham). God, in Christ, was faithful to the original promises that he made to Abraham. Through Christ, God’s promise to Abraham was thus fulfilled.

We see here a significant continuity with the covenant God made with Abraham, and the covenant that now exists in Christ. We are even called the true offspring of Abraham. We are the true Israel. We are the single family which embodies God’s promise to Abraham.

If this is so, then, we have to see a break (a significant break!) in the way God deals with the children of covenant children, if we are to ascribe to the new covenant a different way of rearing and viewing covenant children. Up until the coming of the Messiah of Israel, God included the children of covenant believers in the covenant, and viewed them as covenant members. On what basis can we conclude that in the new covenant God has excluded them?

A look through church history shows that the church, historically, certainly from at least 250A.D., up until the mid 1500s AD, included children of covenant believers and considered them to be “in the covenant.” All of the churches greatest theologians, from Tertullian and Irenaues, to Augustine, and Athanasius, to Anselm, and Martin Luther, from Calvin to Zwingli, to Beza and Melancthon, from Owen to Edwards, all of these theologians spanning over a thousand years, dating back to the earliest part of the church (for which we have records) viewed the children of covenant believers in ways that were established by the Old covenant. This is due to the fact that in the New Testament, there are several texts that demonstrate a continuity of the children’s status in the new covenant, and even an intensification. In reality, we can actually go back to Abraham, and increase this timeline, and say that God has, through his people, established a particular orthodoxy in regards to covenant children and their status that ranges over three thousand five hundred years of covenant history.

What really determines the case, however, is the scriptures. First, let us set his discussion in the historical context:

What follows is the decisive example that should prove the propriety of infant baptism beyond all doubt.

A very strong case that can be made for covenantal reality of the new covenant from Acts 15 where the church deals with the dilemma of the status of Gentiles who are not keeping the Torah. The primary issue is with regard to the Gentiles, and whether or not they should circumcise their children. In Contrast to the Gentiles and circumcision, in Acts 21:17-26 however, Paul was accused falsely, of teaching the Jewish Christians to cease circumcising their infant sons. This is obviously a false accusation that Paul denies. Paul never told Jewish Christians not to circumcise their children; rather, he affirmed the practice. James therefore delivered a plan for Paul to demonstrate that he had not said this, and that he was “walking orderly,” by undertaking a Nazarite vow and doing sacrifices; to which Paul agreed and undertook. Many protestants are unaware of this event and its significance. This event in Acts 21 demonstrates that the Jewish practice of circumcising their infant sons continued as a regular practice of the Jewish Christian church. This is unquestionable. Jewish parents DID NOT begin waiting until their children made a profession of faith before circumcising them. However, circumcision, as a practice mandated for Gentile Christians was fiercely opposed according to Acts chapter 15. The Jews had to be persuaded to accept these Gentile Christians as members of the Abrahamic covenant, even though they were not circumcised. These Christians were accepted into this covenant on the grounds of their baptism, which signified their faith in the Messiah of Israel, in whom Abraham’s family had now been brought to fulfillment. Due to the acceptance of Gentiles and on this basis, there was no longer a distinction between ethnic Jews who trusted Christ and were circumcised, and believing Gentiles who were baptized.

In James chapter 2 James mentions giving out partial treatment within the synagogues. Later in 5:14 James identifies these synagogues as churches. This raises a poignant question. What was the relationship between circumcision and membership in the synagogue. Remember that a Jewish Christian synagogue, and a Gentile ekklesia were the same thing; namely, a local gathering of saints. Which brings us to a question, was the New Testament Jewish synagogues including the Jewish children as members of their ‘church?’ If we say “no,” then we are implying that the apostles should not have permitted the continuation of the circumcision of Jewish infants, seeing as this included them as members. Were the apostles correct in not only permitting, but endorsing such a practice within the new covenant? If we say “yes” then that leaves us with only one conclusion:

“If there was Christian circumcision in the church (and there was), and if there were Christian synagogues (and there were), and if the Christian who went to these synagogues were the same believers who circumcised their sons (and they were), then the necessary conclusion is that we know with certainty that some first century Christian churches had infant members.” (Wilson, 71, 1000 generations).

So believing Jews continued to practice circumcision, which placed their sons into membership in a visible assembly of Christian saints— the Christian synagogue. BUT the Jews were also to be baptized (eph. 4:5; Acts 2:38); and one could argue strongly that the Jews would need to be given explicit instructions to NOT ADMINISTER the new covenant seal to their children (seeing as salvation is of the Jews, and God has been working out his covenant with Abraham which was fulfilled in Christ, God would have to give a clear instruction for the Jews to stop treating their infants like covenant children). So the believing Gentiles had baptism, and the believing Jews had circumcision and baptism. We can therefore see clearly that baptism was intended for both Jew and Gentile. And, we can with certainty say that the first century church included at least some infant members— the circumcised sons of believing Jews. So the Gentiles were being included into fellowship with believing Jews, and we know that Jewish infants were not being excluded.

If we know that the Christian Jews were circumcising their children, and that baptism has the same theological import as circumcision had under the old covenant, we have to answer two questions “were the Jews also baptizing their children?”, and “if the Jews were including their children as members of the church (and they were), were the Gentiles also including their children?” Even if we let the first question lay untouched for a while, and assume the Jews were not baptizing their children there is still a serious dilemma that arises. We know that Gentiles were prohibited from administering circumcision to their children, not because they were children, but precisely because they were Gentiles. So, in the first century church, were the Jews permitted, and even expected to include their infants as members of the church, and the Gentiles expected to exclude their infants as members of the church (creating a dichotomy)? If the Gentiles were expected to wait to baptize their children until after they articulated their faith, then a situation would have immediately arisen where children of Jews would grow up as members of the church (because they had been circumcised), while the children of Gentiles were excluded (because they had not been baptized.) This would have had the opposite effect on the Gentiles and would have pressured them to circumcise their children to include them in the covenant, just as Paul expressly forbade them. Paul, rather emphasized the sign of their unity (baptism), and if Jewish children were included by circumcision (even without baptizing their children), then their children would have still been members of the covenant body, while Gentiles, who could not circumcise their children, would have had to, on that basis exclude their children. This view is untenable. It creates a dichotomy where the Jewish Christian Children are members of the new covenant body, while the Gentile Christian Children are not members of the new covenant body.

The Obvious issue and question in the first century church was NOT “do you mean to tell me that Gentiles were supposed to baptize their infants….where do you find that?” But the question was actually, “do you mean to tell me that the Gentile Christians ARE NOT to circumcise their children and thus include them in the covenant….where do you get that?” That is, it was assumed that something must be done with the infants; because in God’s covenant, something has always had to be done with infants. God’s covenant people have always understood this even from Abraham. This is why it is convincing to say that the Jews would have baptized their children. They would have to have been told not to baptize them; Paul and Peter would have had to explicitly tell them “hey guys, I know God used to include our children in the covenant, but that is not how this covenant works.” Seeing as the Jewish people were God’s chosen people, God established a way of relating to them that if this is to change, it must be instructed. The Jewish Christians, to give an example, continued to pray to the same God, even though they prayed in Jesus’s name to him. I say that to make it obvious, that they were INSTRUCTED BY GOD to treat their children in a particular way. This was not a matter of culture, or personal preference. When Christ comes and inaugurates the new covenant, which brings the Abrahamic covenant to its climax and fulfillment, the Jews would not have instinctively stopped including their children in the covenant. They would have continued to include them! And Paul and Peter would have had to correct them. Alas, Paul and Peter did not. And due to the historical context surrounding Acts 15 and 21, it is most reasonable to suppose that the Jewish people included their children in the covenant like they always have, and that they assumed the new covenant included their children just as the old covenant did (but marking the girls now too), and that they were to baptize their children. Gentile Christians, on the other hand, would not have been permitted to circumcise their children, and in order for there to be a unity in the early church with regard to the status of children born to covenant parents, they would have baptized their children.

We know that Jews included their children in the covenant, if at least by circumcision. The Gentiles would have also included their children; but they could not circumcise them.

Now we can move to more singular examples:

If we say that the new covenant children are not in the covenant, they are not covenant members, then we are saying that they share the same status as non-covenant children. For example, a Muslim parent who has a muslim child, has a child that shares the same covenant status as the new covenant parent’s child, whose parent is in union with Christ. According to Ephesians 2, this means that the new covenant child is a “child of wrath.” They are following the prince of the power of the air. They belong to Satan, and are born in bondage to him.

As a matter of consistency, someone who excludes their children from covenant membership, and declares that their children are not in the covenant, are therefore declaring them to be “under wrath,” and under the dominion of Satan. They are children of their father the devil (John 7).

This is received as repugnant to many new covenant members (and rightly so). However, the moment that they exclude their children from the covenant until a time of intellectual capacity where they become capable of articulating their faith, they are necessarily including their children in a corresponding status. [Calvin’s view of God’s Sovereignty was not at odds with viewing covenant children as covenant members, but was part and parcel of it. For Calvin, it was by God’s will alone that people become covenant members. And, it was by God’s will alone that he chose to include the children of covenant members in the covenant. Baptism, and covenant membership, is not something controlled or created by the church, but by God. If God determines to include the children of the covenant in the covenant, it is a Sovereign determination, that is based on sheer grace, and not anything inherent in the parent’s themselves, but inherent in the graciousness of God and his covenant. The same can be said of Luther. The Reformed heritage passed down to us through Calvin, is a heritage that includes a robust and biblical view of covenant children.]

On the other hand, if one views the solidarity of the covenant God made with Abraham, and the covenant God made in Christ, and that the children of the covenant believers share in covenant benefits with their parents, then the children are not seen as Satan’s children, and children of wrath. They are seen as children of promise, as graciously included int he covenant, and beneficiaries of God’s grace, as followers of Christ, as Spirit filled believers who have been taught by God to trust in Christ even at their mother’s breast (Psalm 22).

Being in the covenant is being in a relationship. As children, we do not say that our children are not yet in a relationship with their parents when they are born because they are not able to articulate that relationship. Parents do not wait for their children to reach a certain age before taking a responsibility for them. Infants have faith in their mother from day one, albeit not a ‘articulated’ faith, but a implicit faith that transcends intelligibility.

As a parent, in terms of child rearing, I teach my child to speak a language in a fascinating way. I talk to him. I talk to him as though he/she understands everything that I am saying. I do not say to my child, “Hayden, you cannot understand anything that I am saying to you, therefore I will not speak with you until you learn how to speak, and at that time I will begin talking to you.” I do not hesitate with the mentality that I will convey to my child that he or she knows how to speak when they in fact do not know how, because as children, treating them like they are capable of speaking is precisely the way in which they learn how.
In a covenant theology, parents are to rear their children by telling what is true about them in light of the new covenant blessings and promises. We are to tell them what Christ has done for them, and and who they are in light of that. We are teach them that their sins are forgiven, that they are in covenant with God, and are therefore responsible to live out their responsibility in faithfulness to this God. The difference being that they are God’s children, God’s covenant children, and they are to be reared in that light. They are not to be taught that they are children of wrath like the rest of mankind, or followers of Satan. They are not to receive God’s favor from the outside as unbelievers, but to continue in the very favor that has saved their parents. This is part and parcel of God’s dealings with his people from the very beginning. God has always given the covenant parents a mandate to train up their children in light of their children’s covenant status.

So do we find an affirmation and intensification of this in the new covenant, or a radical break and withdrawal on the part of God in this regard? There are significant old testament texts which hope for a time where God will renew his covenant with Abraham with a new covenant, in which the prophets said would include promises to the new covenant members and their children. For people who were reared under the old covenant, whose children often strayed and broke their covenant with God, this promise did not imply that God would remove his covenantal favor from the children of his covenant parents, but that he would intensify its reward, and bring gladness from it.

In the new covenant, what sort of attitude do the apostles hold out for the children of the covenant? In Acts 2, Peter preaches a sermon that alludes to the “last days” dawning upon the world. The last days obviously an allusion to the new covenant, and its corollary blessings. Peter then says, 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”

The question that arises is, “what promise is to the children?” The text from Jeremiah 32 comes to mind: 38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them.”

If we bear in mind that Jews are hearing this, we can hear the allusions to the new covenant and its corresponding status given to the new covenant children.

We can go further than this however. Pay close attention to what is said and not said in this passage from Acts 16: 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

Let me point out several key details: 1. The only one who is said to believe in this passage is the Jailer. 2. He and his household were baptized. 3. The Jailer brought them into his house, and the jailer rejoiced, along with his house that he had believed in God. 4. To repeat point number one, The only person that is said to have believed is the Jailer.

If we take into account that the jailer is the only person who is said to have believed in this passage, and the fact that his whole household was baptized, we have here a case which demonstrates a strong connection to the way in which households operated under the old covenant, and the fact that this household solidarity is not only present in the new covenant, but extended and intensified (including females in addition to the males).

Given the context of the covenant of Abraham, the covenant that christ came to fulfill, it is not hard to see the contextual evidence which supports the covenantal status which extends over the family to which the husband and father is head. See for example Acts 3:25 which says, 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’

It would be difficult, but Can we find even stronger allusions than this? Maybe we can. Consider 1 Corinthians 7: 14 For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

What this text implies, is that the status of the child is affected by the fact that a spouse is a believer, a new covenant believer. And, that this status affects the standing of the child. The child is said to be “holy,” or “set apart,” due to the effect of the believing parent’s status.

What we should see from this is that the children of the covenant parent(s), is affected positively by the faith of the parent. This is not meritorious, or works based. It is sheer grace for God to extend this favor, and it is a reality established by his will alone.

These are the reasons why if we search the salvation history of God’s covenant people, there is virtually no debate as to the propriety of including infants as infants as members of the covenant family of God before 1522 a.d. (and all of the reformers answered with an affirmative “yes, baptism them.) If we set the question in its historical context, then we can see that this was simply the way God had always dealt with his people and their children. It is strange to consider how this rich and glorious aspect of God’s gracious provision has been lost in many of the protestant circles.

Jesus and the Temple Sermon Manuscript

If you remember last week, I looked back at verse 1 where John uses the phrase “in the beginning.” John is clearly calling to mind the symbols and events of Genesis as he tells his own creation narrative. One of the things that I said was John was telling the story of the new creation, the recreation, of the world through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

I believe that John intends his readers to follow a sequence of seven signs, with the water-into-wine story at Cana as the first and the crucifixion as the seventh. This number seven is actually found, guess where, in Genesis one; suggesting that John has selected these 7 signs to draw out and delineate how Israel’s God, through the Messiah, as set in motion the recreation of the entire cosmos.

On Friday, the sixth day of the week, Jesus stands before Pilate of says “Behold the man.” (John 19:5). Jesus, on the cross, says “it is finished.” Hearkening back to God’s statements of completion in Genesis 1. This finishing was followed by a sabbath, a day of rest. Which is what we find in John 19.

There follows, as in Genesis, a day of rest, a sabbath day (19:31: 31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away.)

Big Point: Jesus’ public career is to be understood as the completion of the original creation, with the resurrection as the start of the new. The whole gospel is a kind of preparation for Easter, with signs of resurrection to be expected at several points.

The first of the signs, indeed, carries its own hint: the wedding at Cana took place ‘on the third day’. The response of Jesus in the temple was that he would raise the temple on the “third day.”

So, last time I went over many of the ways in which Jesus, sums of the long story of Israel in himself, he embodies Israel, and the story of Israel is retold around him. Just as a way of reminder Matt: 2:15, Hosea 11:1.

So, before we can jump into our text and explore what is precisely going on, we need to stop and consider the function and importance of the temple: two quick points:
First, the Temple was regarded as the dwelling-place of Israel’s covenant god:
Quote: The Temple in conception was a dwelling place on earth for the deity of ancient Israel … The symbolic nature of the Jerusalem Temple … depended upon a series of features that, taken together, established the sacred precinct as being located at the cosmic center of the universe, at the place where heaven and earth converge and thus from where God’s control over the universe is effected.

Quote: Second, the Temple was of course the place of sacrifice. It was the place where forgiveness of sins on the one hand, and cleansing from defilement on the other, were believed to be effected. This can be seen dramatically in descriptions of what happened when the sacrificial system came to an end in ad 70:
The destruction of the Temple in 70 a.d. made an end of the whole system of sacrificial expiation, public and private, the scapegoat of the Day of Atonement. The loss was keenly felt…

So, let us take a look at John 2:13-22.

Ok, there are several things going on, and to draw them out, we need to travel around the gospels a bit to see some of the things Jesus says about the temple. Luke 19; Matt 24.

Luke 19: The gospel of Luke has an interesting section in chapter 19. In verses 41-44 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and pronounces judgement on her, and the temple (same as Matt. 24 but much shorter). Immediately after in 45-48 Jesus cleanses the temple. There can be no doubt that the cleansing of the temple and the pronouncement of judgement in the preceding verse are inseparably linked to one another. I think Jesus is acting out the judgement that is to come; and expressing his disapproval at what the temple had become. Many people see this action, and Jesus’s statements about the temple, whether they were misunderstood or not, as the primary factors that led to his crucifixion. Notably, this is what is brought up at Jesus’s trial; and also, when people are preaching the gospel in Acts 6, Jesus is portrayed as the one who talked about the temple being destroyed. Luke 19:48 is followed immediately by the chief priests and scribes coming to him and challenging his authority to cleanse the temple. This was extremely offensive to them. Jesus’s response is “by what authority does John the Baptist baptize?” John the Baptist was claiming that God’s people were not recognized by their temple or torah observance, not at this critical time; no, instead, they are going to be recognized by repenting and being baptized for the forgiveness of sins in preparation for their Messiah.

Matthew 24: Jesus’s disciples ask him when the temple will be destroyed, and his reply is that “this generation” (24:34) will not pass until all that Jesus had predicted came to pass. Within a generation (app. 40 years) the temple was destroyed by Rome. Jesus, here in Matt. 24, connects “the sign of his coming” with the destruction of the temple. The coming of the Son of man is a clear allusion to Daniel 7; which speaks of the vindication of the Son of Man. In good apocalyptic style, all sorts of imagery is used by Jesus to invest these future historic events with theological significance. If we accept that the conversation is centered around the “sign of Jesus’s coming” and the “time of the temple’s destruction,” then we are in a pretty safe place to understand that Jesus is explicitly putting the sign of his coming (Gr. erchomenon) together with to the fate of the temple; so that, if the fate of the temple turns out to be what Jesus said it would be, then Jesus will be vindicated in his ministry and prophetic role. In support of this: the words “this generation” refer to the current contemporary generation in every other instance that it is used; it always refers to the people who are living at that time. Jesus says that everything that he had predicted before 24:34 would happen in “this generation.”

What is very important to note here is that Jesus associates his vindication as the Son of Man, the vindication that that he did what God expected of him, via the destruction of Jerusalem. So when the temple was destroyed, this was God’s stamping again (after his resurrection) his approval on everything that Jesus had been claiming about his own life and ministry in relation to his critique of the temple.

So, Jesus is not merely setting out to clean up the temple, and rearrange a few ornaments: he intends to symbolize the imminent destruction of the Temple sharply and physically through his actions. So he was enacting God’s judgment on the temple so that when it was destroyed, his actions would be vindicated as in line with God’s desire to see the temple destroyed.

So what is the point of all of this: God People are being “REDEFINED.” HANDOUT.

What is the arch composed of before Christ, in the Old Testament: 1. Circumcision, 2. Dietary Laws, 3. Temple Observance. These are the things that mark out who is numbered among the covenant people of God. Within the covenant people of God you have both: those who are Not Truly Saved (NTS); and those who are Truly Saved (TS).

If a husband gets married to a woman, with the intention of committing adultery the day after the marriage; is the marriage a real covenant? YES! Or else, adultery would no longer be adultery. The question guy who gets married has to answer is whether he was and will be sincere in his marriage vows; or if he will be insincere and be a covenant breaker; either way he is in the covenant. This same reality is seen in the Old Testament. “They praise [God] with their lips, but their hearts are far from [Him].” They were circumcised, and they were following the dietary laws; this does mark them out as being “in the covenant;” it does not mean that they are necessarily truly saved.

Jesus, thus, is coming in and redrawing these covenant boundaries around himself instead of circumcision, dietary laws, and temple observance. The people of God are being redefined around their faith in and allegiance to Jesus of Nazareth. Now, those who confess faith in and allegiance to Christ and his authority via baptism initially, are marked out as “in the covenant”; as the person who goes through the ritual of marriage is now married; the question remains however if the person is sincere or not; either way, the person is “in the covenant.”

This will go a LONG way in recounting the hottest dispute in the early church. In Acts 10, and 15 along with much of Paul’s writings; one of the recurring themes is the teaching that the Gentiles are not under any obligation to undergo circumcision, or follow the dietary laws, or go to the temple; because they have received God’s Spirit as full participants in the new REDEFINED people of God by faith in Jesus the Messiah alone (of course this faith is expressed in every individual through baptism, and subsequent surrender of the ‘yoke’ and teachings to Christ).

So: what were the Jews so angry about in the early church: well, Jewish Christians, especially Paul, were claiming that circumcision (for example) was ok for Jews to do, but it emphatically no longer counted for anything (1 Cor. 7:19) because God’s people have been redefined around Jesus and no longer around torah-observance.

What is the point? The Covenant People of God: RE-EMPOWERED and REGENERATED as agents of RENEWAL for the sake of the whole cosmos; the renewal of all of creation.

God is creating a new humanity in and around the Messiah of Israel, Jesus of Nazareth, the only begotten Son of God. God in Christ has so redefined who his covenant people are in the Messiah that now Gentiles have found themselves in the family of Abraham (Gal. 3); in that single family through which God has always intended to bring salvation and renewal to the whole world.

The first day of the week a strange event had happened as this prostitute went to the tomb where Christ was buried. Many people, in order to deal with the fact of the empty tomb in history have formulated hypotheses that claim that the authors of these 4 gospels in our bibles were fabrications that were made up to make people believe that Jesus rose from the dead even though he didn’t. The major problem here is this: in the first century, and on for quite a while, the testimony of a women as an eyewitness was inadmissible in court and general opinion. If someone were trying to fabricate a story to get thousands of people to believe, what is otherwise a hard to believe story; the very last thing they would do is have a woman, prostitute to boot, as the first eyewitness of the risen Christ. This hypothesis fails.

Mary was the first to see the firstborn of the new creation; the risen Christ. What she saw was striking. Jesus’s body was like, and not like our own. He said to the woman “don’t touch me” because he had not yet ascended. But, to Thomas, he said “touch me.” He walked on the road to Emmaus and no one recognized him; yet he bore the scares by which he can be identified. He moves in and out of locked rooms, appears and vanishes; and yet, he is sitting by a fire eating fish with his disciples.

See many people think the goal of creation is for everyone to go to heaven. The fact is however, that the goal is for heaven to come here to earth, and for their to be a union of the two. Jesus’s body existed in both the heavenly and earthly realm at the same time. The world that God’s people will inhabit will be world in which God’s dimension and our earthly dimension are one. [In that world we will judge angels Paul says, this is because they are merely spiritual beings, and we will be both heavenly and earthly.]

Conclusion: God is creating a new humanity. These new humans and they only will inhabit God’s new world. Jesus is the first new human; and he has given us the Spirit of the age to come and so connected us to the source of this resurrection life. We are called now to live out the new humanity, the new ethics of the age to come. Why should I not have lustful thoughts in my mind? Because, God is creating in me a new humanity, a new way of being human, and by his Spirit, I am to be an agent of renewal in this world; living out now, the way of life that will characterize the world to come. God is at work recreating the world, and I am to be the sort of human that will inhabit this new world; indeed, the church is God’s agent within which God will bring this renewal. If anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW CREATION. We are the new temples. We are the place where God will deal with the sins of the world, we are the carriers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which alone contains the renewing power necessary to accomplish God’s purpose. We alone are the place where God’s presence flows into the world. If God’s will is going to be done on earth as it is in heaven it will be through the New Temple: the Body of Christ: The Spirit filled Church who proclaims and embodies the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Healing, forgiveness, renewal, the twelve, the new family and its new defining characteristics, open commensality, the promise of blessing for the Gentiles, feasts replacing fasts, the destruction and rebuilding of the Temple: all declared, in the powerful language of symbol, that Israel’s exile was over, that Jesus was himself in some way responsible for this new state of affairs, and that all that the Temple had stood for was now available through Jesus and his movement. It is not surprising, therefore, that when Jesus came to Jerusalem the place was, so to speak, NOT big enough for both him and the Temple together. The claim which had been central to his work in Galilee was that Israel’s god was now active, through him, to confront evil and so to bring about the real return from exile, the restoration for which Israel had longed; and that Israel’s god himself was now returning to Zion in judgment and mercy. The house built on sand, however—the present Temple and all that went with it, and all the hopes of national security which clustered, as in Jeremiah’s day, around it—would fall with a great crash. And on the other side: New Creation would come walking out, leaving behind an empty tomb, and so inaugurating a new people, who by His Spirit, God will reconcile peoples from all nations to himself, and finally raise us all with resurrection bodies in the new heavens and earth. The question for us: will we live out the new humanity that has been redefined around Jesus?

The story of Israel: RETOLD
The people of God: REDEFINED
The Presence of God in the world: REINTERPRETED
The Covenant People of God: RE-EMPOWERED and REGENERATED as agents of RENEWAL for the sake of the whole cosmos; the restoration of all of creation.

Does the Church Replace Israel?

Jesus Christ, in himself, sums up all that Israel was meant to be because “Christos” (the Greek word for Christ) is Israel’s representative.When Paul uses the word “Christos” he intends for that word to carry a incorporative and representational connotation. As Wright says, “Because the Messiah represents Israel, he is able to take on himself Israel’s curse and exhaust it.” (Climax of the Covenant, 151). The “Christ’s” ‘headship’ or ‘representational identity’ is the basis of many texts like Romans 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15, and Gal. 3.

Furthermore, in light of the coming of the “Christos” the covenant people of YHWH are now being redefined in terms of faith in “Christos” instead of “works of the law.”

So, within ‘good’ covenant theology, it is the “Christ” that comes where Israel is, and sums up everything that she was called to be, and thus redefines Israel. In him it is those who trust in and follow the “Christ” that are marked out as God’s covenant people. They are the true Jews (Romans 2:28-29); and they are the true offspring of Abraham (Gal. 3-4).

To clarify: I do not believe that the church “replaces” Israel. Rather, in Christ, Israel reaches her pinnacle, her apex, her climax, her fulfillment; at which time God’s covenant people are subsequently redefined in and around the Christ, specifically by their faith in the Christ and their baptism into him.

So, the church is Israel, the true Israel who has reached a new era within God’s covenant where Jews and Gentiles share as equals in the family of God (Gal. 3:29) because they are the “Christ’s;” they belong to him.

Romans 7 Official Exegetical Paper

Who is Romans 7 about?

[A Copy of part of my Exegesis paper]
Josh Shelton

Who is the “I” in Romans 7:14
There are several views taken on the precise identify of the “I” in 7:14. Here are some of the main ones: 1. Autobiographical-as a lost Paul. 2. Autobiographical- as a saved Paul. 3. “Ego” in solidarity with Adam. In this view, Paul, is saying “I sinned in Adam, and now, the nature in solidarity with Adam is in me;” and this Adamic nature (indwelling sin), when it is under the law, behaves in the manner delineated from 7:12-23. 4. “I” or “Ego” as representative of Israel. This is also known as the salvation historical view.
Dealing with the first two alternatives, the most powerful argument for the first view is a simple juxtaposition of a few statements from Paul:
1. that we should no longer be slaves to sin”(douluein, 6:6)

2. “but now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God” (6:22)

3. “but now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter” (7:6)

4. “for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death”

5. “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you” (8:9).

Juxtapose that with:

1. “I am sold under sin” (7:14c)

2. “I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin” (7:14c)

3. “but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner to the law of sin which is in my members” (7:23)

4.“making me a prisoner of the law of sin” (7:23c)

5. “but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.” (7:14)

With such a juxtaposition it is easy to see the strengths of the argument.
On the other hand, there are arguments for the opposing view as well. In 7:18, why does Paul say that nothing good dwells in him, and then specify, “that is, in my flesh?” Verse 22, Paul refers to his inner being. Dunn says that this is probably referring to the regenerate life attained through solidarity with Christ; whereas the flesh is attained through solidarity with Adam. The most formidable argument, however, is concerning verse 25. Dunn writes, “It is the stone on which the majority interpretations of Rom. 7, 14-25 break and fall—hence the rather feverish attempts to omit the verse as a later gloss or to rewrite the last section of 7 with v. 25b interposed between v. 23 and v.24.”
Consider verse 25 briefly. Assume that some readers believe that Paul is referring to himself as an unregenerate person for reasons demonstrated in the juxtaposition. When they read Paul’s cry “who will deliver me,” followed by his triumphant celebration, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord,” there is only one conclusion that is viable. Paul has been delivered from the state he has in outlined from 7:7-24. So far, then, what is being argued is that being a servant of “the law of sin” is something that cannot describe, in context, someone who has experienced the deliverance of Jesus Christ. But, immediately after Paul’s celebration, he writes “So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Dunn writes,
The antithesis between the inward man and the flesh is not overcome and left behind, it continues through and beyond the shout of thanksgiving—as a continuing antithesis between mind and flesh… [Paul] confronts the believer with both sides of the paradox, both sides of his nature as believer…in short, the Christian lives on two levels at once—he knows both life and death at the same time.

So, it would seem that being in the flesh can coexist within someone who has experienced the deliverance of Christ. The cry of verse 24 then is not the cry of a non-Christian for the Christian freedom, but rather the cry of a Christian for the full freedom that is his in Christ.
Hae-Kyung Chang criticizes Dunn’s position in favor of the “Paul embodying Israel” view. Moo points out that Paul in Romans 3:7 uses “ego” as a rhetorical device that does not describe himself personally. Chang, utilizing Moo’s commentary on Romans, and argues that Paul conceived of the world in terms of two aeons or ages. One age headed up by Adam in which the powers of sin, law, flesh, and death rule. Then, on the other hand, there is the age headed up by Christ in which the powers of righteousness, grace, Spirit, and life rule. As such, the world is broken into two categories for Paul. Chang argues that 7:14-25 reiterates the world headed up by Adam. Chang’s most potent argument runs thus:
In Rom. 6 and 8, respectively, Paul makes it clear that “being free from under sin” and “being free from the law of sin and death” are conditions that are true for every Christian. If one is a Christian, then these things are true; if one is not, they are not true. This means that the situation of depicted in Rom. 7:14-25 cannot be that of the normal’ Christians, nor of an immature Christian. Nor can it describe the condition of any Christian living by the law because the Christian who is mistakenly living according to the law is yet a Christian and is therefore not “under sin” or a “prisoner of the law of sin.”

However, Chang’s analysis falls very short with regard to verse 25. Chang says,
v. 25a is not strictly an essential part of what Paul argues, but must be recognized as an interjection, a strong and sudden emotion of gratitude, exclaiming anticipatory over the victory believers have in Christ.

For Chang, Paul’s celebration of Christ’s deliverance is an unnecessary aside that is irrelevant to the flow of Paul’s thought. Dunn’s analysis at this specific point is much more coherent. However, the contrasts between chapter 6,8 of Romans with chapter 7 of Romans is quite formidable. Moreover, the context and the content of 7:1-13 seems to coincide with the view of Israel’s experience under the law. Normally under this view Paul is thought to be recounting his own experience in solidarity with Israel as a regenerate, but non-Christian Jew; under the law, and in bondage to sin. Be that as it may, the Achilles heel, even of this line of thought is still verse 25a and its subsequent statement in 25b. This is so even in N.T. Wright’s, and Douglas Moo’s commentary on Romans; Paul’s statement is hard to fit in after his celebration of deliverance accomplished by Christ.
There are particular strengths in each view. Some of the strengths in each view are mutually exclusive and automatically exclude other views, while some of the strengths can pass through the permeable membrane which divides each position. Now, to attempt a synthesis!

Synthetic Reflections

Moo rightly notes that the three views discussed so far, in addition to the Adamic view, provide particular insights into the text. Think of these theological directions as tunes that must be synchronized to the right pitch, and harmonized, in order to hear the particular symphony that Paul is playing here at this point in Romans. Consider the following hypothesis, and see if it adjusts the different tunes into a recognizable symphony that harmonizes the flow of Romans 7.
What if Paul is writing Romans 7 from the Christian perspective; and from that perspective demonstrating the necessity of dying to the “Torah” as a means of sanctification? So that, Paul could say “This is what life under the law looked like for Israel (7:13-24). Because of the death Christians died in Christ, they have died to the law and are therefore free from the dominion of sin.” To which his opponents would respond, “You are treating the law as the problem, Paul.” Paul could respond, “No, the culprit is indwelling sin. The nature in solidarity with Adam is the true culprit, and because of the weakness of sinful man, the law was, is, and will continue to be incapable of transforming sinful people like us into the people that God wants us to become. The Christian still has indwelling sin in him, and because of this sin, life under the law will continue to look this way; the same way it looked for Israel. But now, the basis of the Christian’s relationship with God has changed. God, in his Son, has done what the law could not do, weak as it was in the flesh (8:3). Through the death of the Son, and their death in him (see 6:2), Christians (the Jewish sort in particular) have been liberated from their bondage to the law (Romans 7:1-6). The reason such liberation was necessary was because of indwelling sin, not because of some inherent evil within the law (7:17). Indwelling sin used the law to enslave, deceive, and kill all who were under it (7:11). It was because of this that such a revolutionary change has been wrought by God through Christ. Through Christ, Christians have been translated from “under the law” and are now “under grace” (6:14). This entails that sin will no longer have dominion over Christians (6:14), that that they will be slaves of righteousness (6:18), and slaves to God (6:22).
So then, “this,” Paul says, “is what life under Torah consists of: slavery to sin, and bondage to law, the end of which is death (6:20-21); but now that you have been set free from sin by being taken out from under the law, you are now a slave to God, not sin; and the fruit of this slavery is righteousness, and the end of this righteousness is eternal life (6:22).” “Therefore,” Paul is saying, “if your bondage to the Torah has been severed, and you have been set free from that which has been holding you captive to sin (because of indwelling sin); then, why would you want to return to the Torah as the basis of your relation with God. Sin does not have dominion over you because you are not under the law, but under grace; and because of this, you are a slave to righteousness bearing fruit to eternal life. If you return to the Torah, you will return to the bondage that Israel experienced under the law; and sin will then begin to dominate your life once again. In order to be set free from sin, you must be set free from the law!”
In this case, Paul could be retelling his struggle, using the stories and symbols of Israel’s struggle under the law, but telling it also from the vantage of a Jewish, but converted Christian, who struggled to continue believing the gospel with all of its entailments. One can imagine that Paul returned the power sphere of the law more than once as his default state. The product of Paul’s failure is a life that resumed its existence under the law, and therefore under sin’s dominion. Such a life becomes totally inconsistent with the person the Christian truly is. Romans 7:7-25, then, could quite possibly be an autobiographical warning, that a failure to relate to God on the basis of what God has done for Christians in Jesus the Messiah will result in the domination of sin, as experienced by Israel under the law. Therefore, the need to abandon the Torah, and to participate in the gospel by faith, is a need that remains crucial throughout the Christian life.
It would seem most plausible (I think) to say that Paul is speaking of himself in solidarity with Israel before coming to Christ. However, it must be emphasized, that Paul is writing this to Christians from a Christian perspective. Moo writes “The experience of Israel with the law should remind Christians to never return to the law–Mosaic, or any other list of ‘rules’ as a source of spiritual vigor or growth.” Moo and Wright both hear a noise in Romans 7 that causes a deja-vu of James D.G. Dunn’s earlier comments, but due to some of his exegetical shortcomings, the noise from Paul’s symphony that Dunn was picking up (and playing too loudly I might add) has dropped off and is barely audible in their exegesis. I want to turn that noise up a notch and keep as much of their exegetical harmony as possible.
To sum up, Paul can thus be speaking of himself in solidarity with Israel as Jew in order to delineate life under the power sphere of the law. He does this, it seems, in order to vindicate the law, and simultaneously demonstrate that it is not the true culprit for the death and destruction that followed in its wake. Paul identifies indwelling sin as the real problem. Indwelling sin connotes the nature in solidarity with Adam (already treated by Paul in Romans 5). Israel, then, corporately recapitulated the sin of Adam and they were deceived and killed. All of this is written by Paul from the Christian perspective. His aim is to show that because of indwelling sin (i.e. solidarity with Adam), the law has had a negative impact on all those who are under it. He does this with an autobiographical warning of what will happen to those who are under grace, if they begin to relate to God under the power sphere of the law (and I think Paul knows this from personal experience). Paul is thus saying, “Relating to God must always be on the basis of the gospel, and under the power sphere of grace and the Spirit.” Whether Paul is converted or not in verse 14 is almost irrelevant; regardless of whether he is or not, operating under the power sphere of the law will yield the same results. For Christians, the Adamic nature is still present with them, though they are under grace. Therefore, they must not refer back to the law as a way of life because the law will still unwillingly provide sin with an opportunity to usurp dominion over them.
Where does 7:25 fit in with this new view? After Paul exults in celebration over his liberation accomplished by Christ, he says, “I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” The law of sin is served by the flesh (which is the nature in solidarity with Adam, not Christ). Paul is in the flesh when his basis of relating to God is as one who is “under the law.” He does this as one who is not truly under the law, but under grace (his true identity, which is in solidarity with Christ, not Adam); and as such sin does not have dominion over him. So, Paul is not in the flesh, but, when he is (I note the tension here with 8:9), he serves the law of sin. Paul is in the flesh when he fails to relate to God “under grace.” Therefore, is incumbent for the Christians in Rome to abandon the law altogether as a means of sanctification. The law will only serve indwelling sin, and place the believer back under its dominion. Paul knows this all too well. He knows that his failures as a Christian are at root failures to believe the gospel, and subsequently to participate in the person and work of Christ by the Spirit. The law, in fact, has become the very thing that hinders such participation in the gospel. This is why Paul begins chapter 7 by saying we have died to it and are now totally free from it. Specifically, then, Paul in 7:25 is saying that after Christ’s deliverance, there remains in the believer a nature that serves sin; and thus relating to God on the basis of law is totally out of the question. The basis of the Christian’s relationship to God is that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ, for, God in Christ has done what the law could not do…and in Christ, the righteous requirement of the law has been fulfilled, and it is now being fulfilled in those who walk according to the spirit; so, don’t walk according to the flesh, this is not who you are in Christ, for, in Christ, God is creating a new humanity, he is doing this now with you, and that humanity is not characterized by life in the flesh; so do not walk in the flesh…and do not lose hope or become weary, for, those whom God justifies he will also glorify.

Carson and Moo, Introduction to the New Testament,

Douglas Moo makes some interesting comments about the Greek word “nomos” in Paul that are very beneficial. To summarize 4 of Moo’s points:1. “Paul discusses the law as a single entity rather than as a series of commands,” 2. “The law can refer to power or systems of authority: ‘the law of the Spirit of life has freed me from the law of sin and death.” Are two uses of the Mosaic Law intended here, or are two opposing systems to be interpreted? Moo says that the latter is clearly the case, 3. “Occasionally, Paul appears to use “nomos” of the will of God, without regard to any definite, historical form in which that will is expressed.” Passages that Moo uses to illustrate this: “The work of the law’ written in the hearts of the Gentiles (2:15) may reflect such an idea, as may 2:26-27—–that the law is fulfilled by those who are in an uncircumcised state — clearly implying that the historical revelation of the divine will through Moses cannot be intended,” 4. Paul’s use of nomos most often and most basically is referring to that of the Mosaic Law.Douglas Moo, “law,” and “works of the law,” and “legalism” in Paul, Westminster Theological Journal, (1983): 78-84. Quoted from Josh Shelton, Paul and Law Research Paper, submitted to Robert Kendall at Liberty University May, 2012.

Moo, Romans, 409.

This is known as diatribe style and it is composed of a question, emphatic rejection, and explanation. Chang, 269.

Wright, 559.

Moo, 423.

Paul argues that a person’s bondage to the law must be severed in order that he or she may be put into a new relationship with Christ. This awakens concerns about the status of the law. Moo, Romans, 409.
Ibid., 417.

Dunn, 257-273.


Man as a Christian is still part of this world, still belongs in some sense to this world (Rom. 6,19, 1. Cor. 1,29, 6,16, 7,28 etc.). Man as a believer still lives in some sense at least “in the flesh” (2. Cor. 10,3, Gal. 2,20, Phil. 1,22, Phm. 16). [Ibid.]

Ibid. “That is to say, the two dimensions of the believer’s existence run counter to each other and prevent his living wholly in one or other; the Spirit prevents his fleshly desires coming to effect, but so too does his fleshliness prevent the Spirit inspired desires coming to effect. In consequence the believer finds himself torn in two by conflicting desires and impulses, and his experience as a man of Spirit in the flesh is one of continuing frustration.” [Ibid]

Moo, Romans, 427.

Hae-Kyung Chang, 267.

Ibid., 268.
Moo, Romans, 427.

Moo, Romans, 417. The law is a text case, applicable to all people.
Moo’s conclusion of 7:7-12 says “the experience of Israel with the law should also remind Christians never to return to the law–whether the Mosaic or any other list of rules– as a source of spiritual vigor and growth. [Moo, Romans, 441].

For Paul, this would include working out all of its entailments of course.
Such is the case because of the solidarity with Adam in what Paul designates “sarx.”

Those statements that seem to point to some nature in Paul opposed to the evil that is within him can be attributed to his status in the covenant as a Jew.

Wright, Romans, 553.

Ibid., 441.
This would call for something similar to Paul’s exhortation in Romans 6 to “reckon yourselves dead.” You are dead, so reckon yourself dead. You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, so “reckon yourself in the Spirit.”
Being under grace is something far more radical than merely God’s willingness to forgive. I am thinking of the new humanity being created in the Jesus the Messiah. Through God’s call, we are translated in this humanity and we are to carry out God’s mandate for us on that basis. “Under Grace” is a way of telling the whole story of Jesus Christ and its ramifications.

The problem with The Righteousness of God

The problem with God’s Righteousness in Romans 3:21-26; the problem that threatens God’s righteousness is not, contra Wright, the heretofore unfulfilled promises of God (in Abraham). The problem that threatens God’s righteousness is the fact that God passed over former sins. This problem is why God put forward his Son as a propitiation, to show his righteousness, because he formerly passed over sins. God’s righteousness demands, by its very nature, that God put forward his Son as propitiation if he so desires to pass over sins. If God passes over sins, his righteousness demands that he put forward his Son as a propitiation.

God’s covenant faithfulness may demand that God pass over former sins. But, its not covenant faithfulness that demands the putting forward of his own Son for a propitiation, but his righteousness.

God’s Righteousness is God’s unswerving committment to act and govern things in such a way that he demonstrates the supreme value of his name and worth above all things.

When God imputes his righteousness to us, he imputes a status that is counted as though it has always acted and willed in ways that maximized the glory of God over all things.

When God imputes our sin to Christ, the same is true. God imputes a status to Christ, at which time God accounts Christ as having done what actually had not done.

Short Testimony

Life before being a Christian

I think of the word Christian in two different senses. I will delineate these senses in narrative form. First, from the time I was a kid I believed in Jesus, that he was God, and God’s Son, and that he died on a cross and rose again. Until I was fourteen, other than going to church, these specific beliefs had little to no impact on my life, values, goals, etc… As far as I was concerned I was a Christian. When I was fourteen however, I watched my Dad get saved. I knew that he believed in Jesus before this event, he believed that Jesus was God’s Son, and God, and that he rose from the dead after dying on the cross for his sins; so, to see him “get saved” scared me. Me and my dad, left church, and ended up driving to the pastor’s house because I wanted to understand what I could be missing. In short, my pastor said, belief in Jesus, as you mean it, is not sufficient. You must commit your life to Christ and follow him. After committing to Christ in that moment I thought “now I am really a Christian.” For the next two and half years I studied the Bible relentlessly (on average 3-4 hours a day). I was faithful in church. I was actively sharing my faith. I was involved with prison ministry (my pastor was the chaplain.) I was fighting lust with all my might. I unplugged my x-box and replaced all of my hobbies, except lifting weights, with scripture memory, theological studies (I became a Calvinist within 6 months and was very hungry to understand all this new stuff), etc…

About three years later I started having some issues. One issue, in dealing with a friend that doubted his salvation in the most morbid introspection imaginable, he began to express doubts that I myself had felt before, but ones in which I ignored. In dealing with him and discussing his doubts and trying to disciple him, I began to open up about some of my uncertainties. I wondered how many times the “presence of God” was something that I was manufacturing. I even wondered if I had ever “felt God” ever before in my life in a way that wasn’t self-generated. I began to pursue an experience that was totally authentic, a relationship that was truly God and not a mask that I wore.

What happened next? The harder I pursued a relationship with God that was real, the more I realized that I had never really had one. So, I started fasting, and cutting out any known sin from my life. My focus began to be to stay conscious of God all day long and to live life without regrets. To do what was right, no matter what, so that nothing would put a barrier between me and God. Nothing happened. No God. No experience. No relationship.

So, I told God that reading my Bible was something that I enjoy very much, but that I think I enjoy it for the wrong reasons and not because through it I know him (since I didn’t think i had a relationship at all). So I quit reading it. I told God that if I didn’t know him that everything that I was doing was a waste of time. Why not have sex? Why not drink alcohol? If I don’t know Jesus, who cares?

Becoming a Christian

So I walked away. A couple of months later my Dad died. And soon after I went to college. I was in the party mode. Within two years I was a self-proclaimed atheist.

One night I was faced with the reality of meaningless, truly faced with it, and it scared me. But I thought, no sense in pretending everything is not meaningless, if it is. I felt I needed to just man up. But, there came a series of experiences that made me recognize that the belief that all is meaningless doesn’t really account for reality as I was experiencing it. I realized that I had many friendships that were important to me, people that I cared about, that these things were evidence that I had to account for in my view of reality. Not in a wish-fulfillment kind of way, but, as relevant realities that are a part of life. I couldn’t just ignore those facts and focus on scientific ones.

I messaged a friend of mine and he met me. I was quite a handful for most Christians, having studied so much myself, so I had him in bad way. He called up my pastor and my pastor told him about a Book by D.James Kennedy called “Skeptics.” He told me to give me that book.

The book was not anything special to be honest, but, the specific time in my life, and the years of prayer behind that book led to a cataclysmic event in my life. As I read that book, in my normal way I started deconstructing the arguments of Kennedy. Then I had this strange impulse that made me say to myself in my mind, “you need to weigh these arguments fairly, and sincerely, your destiny is in the balance. If you are not convinced after this, then put the book down and walk away, but if you are, you must surrender to God.” I said to myself, “OK.”

Within a matter of hours I went from Atheist, to Agnostic, to Theist, to believing “Jesus is God.” I told myself, “I have already vowed to surrender, I guess I have to follow through.”

The next day, I had this moment when years of guilt suddenly landed on me. I quickly went into the bathroom and I fell to my knees and I began to weep. Then, I began to feel someone in the bathroom with me. Someone that made the guilt get worse, whose presence made me cry in ways that I had never before in my life cried; and yet a presence that I had longed for all my life. I could barely breath, and the presence just got stronger and stronger until I felt I was going to die; I wanted the presence to leave, but, strangely, I hoped it wouldn’t. I knew it was Jesus Christ. He came to make good on my vow. That was his voice in my head the night before, not mine. At the point where my guilt was unbearable, the old story about the tax collector beating on his breast begging mercy went through my mind and I began doing the same. Then a voice (much like my own voice in my head) spoke to me, and said that this is what God’s presence does to sinners. This is what it did to Jesus on the cross when God forsook him. He felt what you are feeling to the full. He felt it so that you would be forgiven and counted righteous, so that you would never have to fear this presence again. The light bulb went off! And the guilt, along with the presence, left me. Now, I was truly a Christian. I had been regenerated and now Christ, in his work, truly looked precious to me.

The same day I told my girlfriend, who lived with me, about my experience. She told me she loved God. I laughed, and told her that those who love God do not ignore everything that he tells them to do. I explained that she didn’t love God and that she wasn’t following Christ and that she was lost. She had an experience the next day (she has her own story; this is mine). I told her that I was going to live for God and that that meant that we were not having sex before marriage, and that I was going to be the weirdest guy she had ever known, and that it was probably best that we split up. She told me that she had always wanted someone who truly followed God, and then I explained to her that she didn’t know what she was asking for. Strangely I saw a sincere desire to follow Christ in her, a real transformation over the next couple of days. I decided we could try out this relationship, but that I was only interested in one long term relationship in which marriage was going to happen, or nothing at all. I told her she needed to move out.

My struggle

Through much deliberation, within two weeks I decided to ask her to marry me. I told her that we could get married in three months, but that she needed to move in with her parents until then. Her parents and her brother were not on good terms with her. She couldn’t move back in (she said).

So, we went and got an apartment together, and began preparing for our wedding. I struggled to share my faith because I was living with a girl that was not my wife. I felt I was sending the wrong message. I prayed that God would get me through these miserable months. I lived under guilt and disappointment with myself for not handling this situation better.

This cloud did not leave with marriage. The effects of that decision had negative effects for years to come. I look back with immense regret. The gospel could have spread much more effectively if we had done it differently.

But: The gospel doesn’t say that God accepted me because I was going to make stellar decisions for the rest of my life. God accepts me because of Christ taking all of my guilt on himself and satisfying God’s wrath.

The thing that has changed in me the most is my treasuring the gospel. Let me finish the scene from the bathroom. After my guilt left, I began to stand up. Within seconds I asked myself, “Is this it?” I wondered if I was done, if God had truly saved me. I felt like I needed to solidify it, or do something to make sure. I began to kneel back down and suddenly I heard “I did not pardon you because of anything that you did, or said, I saved you because Jesus Christ, my Son, paid for you with his blood. It wasn’t your tears, it wasn’t your prayers, it wasn’t anything in you at all, it was all Him.” Then I said to myself “oh yea, I just trusted and embraced that!” Then I realized, the light bulb that went off earlier was God’s gift of faith to me. Three seconds, that is how long it took for me forget what my status before God rested on; to forget what my only hope is.

The gospel is not something merely for lost people. It is our only hope each day. This truth has depths that as I have unraveled them, I have been transformed. I encourage you to reflect on what your only hope in life and death is. Whatever your struggle is, whether it be anger or lust. Trust in Christ for strength and turn to him as your only hope.If you have known Christ in this way, know that as you struggle, you do so as God’s Son or Daughter, and let that reality strengthen you; and always remember that such a blessed status was bought by Christ’s blood.

The End of the Law

Exegetical Analysis of Rom. 10:3-4 [from my research Paper on Paul and the Law]

Rom 10:3 says, “For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”4 Here in this text, there is a contrast between seeking to establish one’s own righteousness juxtaposed with submitting to God’s righteousness. Christ as “the end of the law” comes immediately after this contrast of establishing one’s own righteousness and submitting to God’s. Therefore, however one is to grapple with Paul’s intended message, it is vital that one does so with sensitivity to the context.
So, what are the possible interpretations of Christ as the “end of the law?” 1. The Law is completely abolished. This view is supported with Paul’s use of the law as an indivisible whole and with Paul’s statements that we are no longer under the law.5 However, the weakness of this view is “that other statements in Romans (2:26; 8:4; 13:8-10; cf. also 1 Cor. 7:19; Gal 5:14) indicate that Paul expected believers to obey the moral norms of the Mosaic law for example, in Rom 13:8-10 Paul lists some specific commands from the OT, and makes it clear that he expects believers to fulfill them.”6 2. Still many others believe Paul is referring to the law’s termination as a way of salvation. Proponents of this view believe that righteousness in the Old Testament came through “law-keeping.”7 These people believe that there are two ways of salvation. The problem with this interpretation is that Paul teaches the precedence of faith in Christ as the only means of attaining God’s righteousness by appealing to Abraham as proof that salvation has always been by faith (cf. Gen 15:6; Gal 3). 3. Another view is that “turning to Christ” puts an end to seeking to establish one’s own righteousness through works of the law. Schreiner’s interpretation is to the effect that those who turn to Christ will cease using the law as a means of establishing their own righteousness. This view is textually faithful and its only weakness is that it doesn’t touch the salvation-historical importance of Christ as the “end of the law.”8 4. The last and best view is to understand that with the coming of Christ “the authority of the law of Moses is, in some basic sense, at an end . . . there is also a teleological nuance that is also present. . . because the end of the Mosaic Law is a natural result of something else.”9 What Moo is saying, then, is that the law was designed to end and terminate with the arrival of Christ. Schreiner’s and Moo’s conclusion can be synthesized and this synthesis will offer a full understanding of the meaning of Christ as “the end of the Law.”10 Schreiner points out the experiential experience when people turn to Christ for righteousness; then, Schreiner says, they no longer seek to establish their own through the law. Schreiner understands it as a cause and effect relationship: turn to Christ and the effect is that all attempts to establish one’s own righteousness will cease as natural result. Moo says that the Law was designed to terminate with Christ and so the attempt to use it to establish one’s righteousness was a misunderstanding of its purpose. A proper understanding of the Law would have inevitably led to the recognition that the telos of the law had come. So, the reason the law has the experiential effect that Schreiner points out is because of the salvation-historical significance of the arrival of Christ. But, the Jew’s misunderstanding of the Law led to legalism and a rejection of the telos of the law. This misunderstanding demonstrated their ignorance of the “righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3). So that, the attempt to establish their own righteousness resulted from their failure to recognize the salvation-historical importance of the arrival of Christ and the inauguration of the New Covenant; which failure was a result of their ignorance of the righteousness of God that is to be attained by believing God11 and not by “establishing one’s own through works of the law.”

[Moo is emphasizing Christ as the “end of the law” from a “historia salutis” perspective; whereas Schreiner is emphasizing Christ as the “end of the Law” from an “ordo salutis” perspective. Moo is closer to the point it seems, though Schreiner’s argument fits very nicely with the text. The synthesis, then, is that the “historia salutis” aspect of the end of the law has ramifications for the “ordo salutis” aspect of the end of the law. Using Schreiner’s terms, faith in Christ is the end of individual legalistic endeavors. The point is this: the reason Christ puts an end to legalistic endeavors is because of the salvation-historical impact his coming had on the law and believer’s relationship to it.]