Sunday, June 23, 2024

Gentiles Never Had the Law and Never Died to the Law

When Paul brought the gospel to the Jews, they had been under the law as a people for 1500 years and they were pursuing righteousness by trying to keep it - and yet falling short (see Rom 9:31). Paul told them that there was no life or righteousness in the law, and that they had to die to the law in order to be joined to Christ and bear fruit to God (Rom 7:4).

When Paul brought the gospel to he Gentiles, he told them no such thing. They didn't need to be freed from the law or die to the law, because they had not been under the law. In fact, they had not even been pursuing righteousness (according to any law or works)! (Rom 3:30) Rather, Paul simply told them that they had been aliens and strangers from Israel and the covenants and God's promises, and they had been been "far off" from God, "having no hope and without God in the world." (Eph 2:12-13)

The Gentiles had never had a covenant between them and God.  People who have never been in a covenant with God - a covenant that He Himself came up with - have no clue what it's like to actually be in a covenant like that, and would have no clue what it's like to have to die to that in order to be joined to God. Dying to the law was for unbelieving Jews, in order for them to be joined to Christ and made alive to God.  It wasn't for Gentile believers who had resorted to the foolishness of adding law to their lives.  Gentiles didn't need to (and couldn't!) die to the law.  The Gentiles who were already believers simply needed to stop the foolishness of believing the lie that adding the obsolete Jewish law to their lives would further perfect them. What had happened is that they had been brought near to God, not by freedom from law, but simply by the blood of Christ.  A great big "PERIOD" needed to be added there.  That's it.  It was done.  They were in Christ and perfected by the blood of Christ.  Period.

It wasn't until the Gentiles - who, again, had never been under the law and never had any relationship with it whatsoever - began believing in Christ, that certain Jews began to tell them that they had to keep the law in order to be further justified or "perfected." In Galatians 3, Paul called them "foolish" for believing this, and proceeded to tell them of what life was like for himself and for other Jews who had actually been under the law. They had been under a curse. The law had kept them "under guard." They had to keep the law in its entirety, which was an impossibility.

The law had been in effect until the Seed (Christ) should come. And then Christ redeemed Israel from the curse of the law, and led them to God's promise of righteousness by faith. The Gentiles had never been under anything at all like this! (The law, the curse, the bondage, etc.) So why would they want to subject themselves to it? This is the freedom that Paul was desiring for the Gentiles. They had never been in bondage like the people of Israel had been, but now they were beginning to subject themselves to this yoke that Israel could never bear!

Paul wrote to the Galatians, not to tell them that they must die to the law. But rather to question why they would want to subject themselves to the law that he and the people of Israel had to die to. When Paul told them in Galatians 5 to stand in the liberty by which Christ had made them free, he was talking about the freedom they initially had - when they had never been under any law toward God, but had come to him simply by faith.

But what about Romans 2?  Doesn't Paul say the Gentiles had some sort of "law unto themselves"?  Well, in order to understand what Paul is saying, we've got to read him as a whole, not just in bits and pieces.  Paul brought up several things in Romans 2 that aren't actually true, such as saying that it's those who do good who will obtain eternal life, and that people will be justified by being "doers of the law."  We've got to understand that much of what Paul said in Romans 2 was a matter of him building up to a larger point. 

It's the same as the hypothetical example Paul gave in Romans 2 of a Gentile keeping the law, and having the work of the law written in their heart.  Even the Jews didn't have the work of the law written in their hearts!  Paul was simply pointing out to the Jews that just because they had the law, that didn't mean they were "doers of the law," and therefore they weren't justified by the law like they thought they were.  Paul had just told them that they have no right to judge others, because they themselves do the same things.  Paul isn't actually saying that Gentiles have the work of the law written in their hearts.  He's saying that if a Gentile, who does not have the law, was to do "by nature" what is written in the law, he would be justified as a doer of the law.  And the Jew, who has the law, but doesn't do what is written in the law, would not be justified.

But in the end, what Paul is leading up to is that no one actually keeps the law, whether Jew or Gentile.  Paul is simply showing the Jews that just because they are the ones who have the law, that doesn't mean that they're righteous.  Jews had the law, and were pursuing righteousness by the law, but in the end they weren't actually "doers of the law."  So they had to die to the law and believe in Christ in order to become righteous - by faith alone.  Gentiles never had the law and therefore never died to the law.  They came to God simply through the blood of Christ, as they were once "far off" from God but believed and were brought near.

Saturday, December 03, 2022

God Desired a Sacrifice for Sins

There are some who say that God didn't need or desire Christ's sacrifice for sins. Even though there aren't too many who believe that, it's still worth addressing. They say that it was men, not God, who desired some form of a sacrifice for sins, and so Jesus obliged by going to the Cross - just to "show" us God's love. They say God didn't call for the sacrifice Himself, and in fact did not desire it at all. They say the Cross was not necessary, but God did it to satisfy man's thirst for blood.

Ridiculous, right? This line of thinking, just like most universalist and inclusionist thinking, comes from a handful of Bible verses that are each taken completely out of context.

One of these verses is Romans 5:8, which says that "God demonstrates (shows) His love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." See, Christ's death was just a matter of God "showing" or "demonstrating" His love, that's all. But read on to the next verse, and we see, "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him" (vs 9). "For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (vs 10).

Much more happened through Christ's sacrifice than a mere showing of God's love. We were justified, and saved from wrath.

Another passage that is used to build this line of thinking is found in Hebrews 10:5-10. Here are the words that are blatantly ripped out of context: Verse 5 says, "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire." Verse 6 goes on to say, "In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure." And Verse 8 says, "Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, not had pleasure in them."

Makes a solid case that God didn't want Jesus' sacrifice for sins, right? Not so fast. The last verse above, Verse 8, goes on to say, "WHICH ARE OFFERED ACCORDING TO THE LAW." The sacrifices and offerings for sin that God did not desire were the ANIMAL sacrifices that were offered according to the LAW. They conveniently leave that part out, and to top it off, they leave out some other very important parts of that passage:

Verse 7: "Then I [Jesus] said, 'Behold, I have come - In the volume of the book it is written of Me - To do YOUR WILL, O God.'" The beginning of the chapter shows how the animal sacrifices could never make anyone pure, or remove their consciousness of sin, but only provided a reminder of sins. They could not take away sins. So those were not God's will or desire.

But CHRIST came to do His will, as we see if we complete Verse 5 (rather than taking it out of context) - "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME." Jesus offered His own body as the sacrifice for sins, which was God's will. Verse 10: "By that will we have been sanctified through the OFFERING of the BODY OF JESUS once for all." Verse 14: "For by ONE OFFERING He has perfected forever those who are sanctified."

There are some slick talkers out there who will try to convince you that everyone has always been OK, and there was never a need for the Cross or the shed blood of Jesus. There are a handful of scriptures that might seem to make that case --- if not for the MYRIADS of other scriptures that show us what was accomplished through His blood!

One more verse to look at, for now. Colossians 1:21 says, "You, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh..."

They highlight the phrase "IN YOUR MIND," as if to say that it was all in our minds. We weren't actual enemies of God. "We just thought so." Several things to point out here. For one, if it was only in our minds, then why would we need to be reconciled!? We wouldn't need reconciliation. We would just need a mind adjustment. And then, just keep on reading: "...He has now reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight - IF indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard..."

They had heard this message, which Paul goes on to say "was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister," and they had a choice of whether or not to "continue" (remain, abide, stay) with the truth of the message, or to reject it. The point is that there is a big "IF" regarding being holy, blameless and above reproach," and that it wasn't already true, and merely needed a shift in the mind to "realize" it or "awaken" to it.

I'll also point out that in versions such as the ESV, it's worded like this: "And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled..." I think this brings out what Paul is really saying. He's not saying that they were enemies only in their minds, but rather than in their minds they were hostile (toward God) and did evil things.

A bit long here, not for everyone. 😃 But if you've made it this far then hopefully that means this interests you as it does me.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

"If we confess our sins." Not an ongoing confession for believers, but an end of denial for Gnostics.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9

This verse has a much different meaning than an English language face-value reading gives it. Many have interpreted this verse to mean that believers are to continually confess their sins in order to be forgiven and cleansed over and over again by God.

But looking at the context of the culture, as well as the context of the surrounding verses, and also looking at the meanings of the words in the original language, all work together to give us a different picture of what John is really saying.

The word "confess" in English isn't necessarily a 'bad' translation, but it also doesn't really get to the gist of what is being said. Many take this to mean that they are to confess their individual sins to God. But that's not really what is being said. The word is homologeō (Strong's 3670), and it does not mean to make a confession of guilt before God for each of our sins. The word can mean "to say the same thing as another," but I think an even better definition, straight from a Greek lexicon, is "not to deny."

This fits the context of both the culture and of the previous verse. In the culture of that first century church that John was writing to, there were people known as Gnostics who were spreading false information about Jesus and the gospel. According to the introduction to 1 John in Nelson's Study Bible:

"Gnosticism was a teaching that blended Eastern mysticism with Greek dualism (which claimed that the spirit is completely good, but matter is completely evil)... Based on the concept that matter is evil and spirit is good, some Gnostics concluded that if God was truly good He could not have created the material universe. Therefore, some lesser god had to have created it... The dualistic views of Gnosticism were also reflected in the prevalent belief that Jesus did not have a physical body."

Because of their belief that the human body (which is "matter") is completely evil, and that the spirit is completely good, they denied that they had any sins. What was done with the body was irrelevant. And also, because of their belief that Jesus could not have possibly had a physical body, they denied that He had come in the flesh.

If you have this in mind while reading the entire first chapter of John's epistle, it makes a lot more sense. Right from the start, John is declaring to them that he and the other apostles have "heard," "seen with our eyes," "looked upon" and "touched with our hands" a physical being - the word of life, Jesus. He is declaring that Jesus did actually come in the flesh. Why? He wants those who don't believe that Jesus came in the flesh to understand that He really did come in the flesh, "So that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3)

It then makes all the more sense why John, in Chapter 4, would go on to say, "Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God." We understand that as believers, we don't need to continually confess (over and over again) that Jesus came in the flesh. It's the same with 1 John 1:9 and sins. It's a matter of an unbeliever (specifically, a Gnostic unbeliever), stopping their denial that they have sinned and that Jesus came in the flesh.

In Verse 8, John says, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." It's not believers who say they have no sin. And of course, it's not believers who deny that Jesus came in the flesh. Believers already believe that Jesus came as a physical human being ("in the flesh") and that He came as the propitiation for our sins. John would not need to declare any of this to believers. It's the Gnostic deniers-of-sin and deniers-of-Jesus-in-the-flesh who needed to hear this.

On top of all this, the "confession" of sins is not a requirement to be forgiven of sins or to be saved. In all of Paul's explanations of the gospel, throughout his epistles, not one time does he tell anyone to confess their sins! Also, in Paul's dealings with sinful behavior in the churches that he wrote to, not one time did he ever tell anyone to confess their sins in order to be forgiven and have fellowship with God!

Paul was clear in his epistles that believers are already in the light (1 Thess 5:5, Eph 5:8). They already have fellowship with God (1 Cor 1:9, 6:17). They are already forgiven and cleansed of all their sins (1 Cor 6:11, Eph 1:7-8, Eph 4:32, Col 3:13). Look especially at those last two verses. They are exhortations from Paul, saying, "forgive others because God has already forgiven you."

1 John 1:9, and the epistle as a whole, isn't about believers continually confessing their sins to God in order to be forgiven and to have fellowship with Him.  In Chapter 2, John says, "I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for His name's sake" (1 John 2:12).  How would John know whether or not they have "confessed" all their sins in order to be forgiven?  He wouldn't know, of course, and that is why it should be easily understood that his words in the first chapter were not directed toward them, but rather toward unbelievers - specifically Gnostics who denied that they had sinned, and who denied that Jesus had come in the flesh.

John was declaring the truth to them, in hopes that they would stop deceiving themselves, and end their denial of these things so that they could come into the light and have fellowship with God and with the rest of the believers.

The screenshot below is from

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Faith Without Works Is the Only Faith That Justifies and Saves

Faith without works is the only faith that justifies and saves.

It's not a big secret that I believe Paul and James disagreed on the issues of justification and salvation. After all, we did a 21-part series about this on our podcast in 2020-21, where we talked about the evidence that we see not only in James' epistle, but also in other NT writings (including Acts and Paul's epistles) that point to James believing in and preaching salvation and justification by faith and works mixing together, whereas whenever Paul writes about justification or salvation, he writes about it as being by the blood of Jesus, by faith alone, apart from works.

One of the easiest contrasts that is plain to see is when James asks the question, "What does it profit if a man says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?" (James 2:14) After giving a regular-life example to show his belief that faith is dead if it doesn't have works, and then examples of a work that Abraham did and a work that Rahab did in addition to their faith, he concludes, "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only." (James 2:24) And yet Paul plainly states, "To the man who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness." (Rom 4:5) Not only does Paul not mix works in with faith in order to justify or save a person, he explicitly states that it's the person who does not work who is justified. You see this throughout his epistles.

Now, you may have some other interpretation of James' words in James 2, and of his actions in Acts 15 (where he OK'd the idea of Gentiles not having to keep the law, but not so much for the Jews), and in Acts 21 (where he told Paul to deny that he taught that people didn't have to keep the law of Moses), and Paul's words about him in Galatians 2 (where Peter had no problem eating with Gentiles, but suddenly became fearful and withdrew from them when James sent men there). If you have another way of seeing James, that's fine. We don't need to part ways or squabble over it.

But somehow we have to make it clear that the gospel that saves - the good news - is that God has given the gift of justification, righteousness and salvation to those who believe - completely apart from works. The faith that justifies and saves is faith apart from works. According to Paul, faith without works is FULLY ALIVE (!), because this faith - faith without works - is the only faith that saves. It is faith, apart from any work, through which man is saved and receives the free gift of justification and righteousness. According to Paul, if a work is added to faith, a person has something to boast about - "but not before God." (Rom 4:2).
"Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness." (Rom 4:5)

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Sowing and Reaping Is Not About Gaining Financial Prosperity, But Rather Helping Others

First, I don't want anyone to read into what I'm about to say, thinking that I'm against being financially wealthy or prosperous in this world. Go for it, if you're able to make a lot of money and have a lot of stuff or do a lot of things!

So with that said, that's not what sowing and reaping is about. In the famous chapter on sowing and reaping, 2 Corinthians 9, it says nothing about sowing so that you will reap wealth and prosperity for yourself. Now again, I want to say that there's nothing wrong with being financially or materially wealthy or prosperous! But that's not Paul's message in 2 Corinthians 9. Not one time does he encourage a person to sow/give for the purpose of reaping and abundance for themselves. 

Each time, he says that the abundance is for the sake of others. Look at how he begins: "Now concerning the ministering to the saints..." Right off the bat, he's writing about the Corinthian people ministering to others. In verse 5, Paul talks about their gift to the saints being a matter of generosity and not grudging obligation. 

Then in verse 6 he says that "he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." This sole verse, taken way out of context, has been the source of many people teaching that "sowing" generously causes God to bring wealth and prosperity to people, so they can live comfortably in this world. Once again - nothing wrong with living comfortably or being rich - but that's not what Paul is saying! Read on. 

"So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work." (2 Cor 9:7-8) 

The abundance that comes from God's grace abounding toward them is not given as a means of providing an abundant lifestyle for themselves, but rather for them to be able to do the good work involved in ministering to others. Paul then quotes from the OT a verse that shows how God has given to the poor. This comes from Him providing grace to people so that they may have an abundance "for every good work," which is ministering to the poor saints. 

In verse 10 Paul says God supplies seed to the sower. Where does this supply come from? Paul has already told us. It's through God's grace that He has made to abound toward them. And what is this seed to be used for? It's to "increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving to God." They are "enriched in everything," not for their own comfort, but so that they can give liberally. What they have sown is for the benefit of others (those they give/minister to), and as God enriches them in everything, it causes liberality in their giving... and it causes thanksgiving to God! 

So far in this passage, there is nothing said about them sowing for the purpose of reaping God's blessings to make themselves prosperous for their own sakes... but rather for the sake of others. And it continues that way. 

Verse 12: "For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God..." Once again, their generous sowing is not for themselves, but for supplying the needs of the poor saints that they are giving to. In the very next verse (13) Paul again says that their ministry (sowing for the needs of the saints) brings about those saints glorifying God "for your liberal sharing with them and with all men." 

Sowing and reaping is not about giving to get something from God! It's about giving for the benefit of others, so that their needs may be met, and so that there may be much good fruit, and then thanksgiving to God, who is the one who, through His grace, supplies the seed in the first place. 

One more time... this isn't an "anti-wealth" message. Be free to be wealthy if you're able! But sowing and reaping is not about becoming wealthy. It's about helping others.