The Salvation of the Jews: Rom 4 (“We uphold the law”)

jewish_starWe start with just a little bit of context —

(Rom 3:29-31 ESV)  29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,  30 since God is one– who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.  31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Verses 29-31 demonstrate that the issue at hand is how the Gentiles can be saved and yet not be bound by the Law of Moses. But if this is so, what is the point of the Law? And Paul begins with his conclusion: “We uphold the law.”

Now, there’s something of a pun here. The Jews used “law” to refer both the Law of Moses and to the first five books of the First Testament. Hence, God’s covenant with Abraham is, in one sense, a part of the law. It’s in Genesis, the first book of the Law. He means much more than that when he declares that he upholds the law, but that is part of what he means. The “law” is not just the 613 commands. It’s also the story of the Exodus. It’s also God’s covenant with Abraham. It all matters. Continue reading

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The Salvation of the Jews: Gal 3, Part 2 (Why Then the Law?)

jewish_starNow, this claim raises the obvious problem. If the Law of Moses could not save, why have a Law of Moses? What was its purpose?

(Gal 3:19 ESV) Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring [Jesus] should come to whom the promise had been made [the Jews], and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.

“Because of transgressions.” Because of sin.

(Gal 3:21-22 ESV) Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.  22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 

Does the Law contradict the Abrahamic covenant? No. The two covenants had two different purposes. The promise given to Abraham was to bring righteousness (by faith). The Law — indeed “the Scripture” — trapped the Jews in sin to demonstrate the necessity of salvation by faith. Continue reading

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Church Growth: Carey Nieuwhof on Multisite Churches

multisiteFascinating post by Carey Nieuwhof on the trend toward multisite churches, that is, churches with one leadership but multiple campuses.

Mega churches once used multi-site campuses as a Band-Aid strategy for growth. They either became too big for their space, or they were restricted by zoning laws to expand. Currently, there are more than 5,000 multi-site churches, and it’s out-pacing the mega church movement as a revitalization strategy for healthy churches whose growth has become stagnant.

It was this graphic that really got my attention: Continue reading

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The Salvation of the Jews: Galatians 3, Part 1 (It is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham)

jewish_starSo if I’m right — and I’ll admit that the evidence is sparse — my understanding of Jewish salvation should fit well within Gal 3 and Rom 4, the two chapters in which Paul argues that salvation by faith in Jesus comes from God’s covenant with Abraham.

Galatians is likely the earliest of the Pauline epistles (some would argue for 1 Thessalonians). So we start there.

(Gal 3:5-6 ESV) 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith — 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 

The issue before Paul is whether Gentiles must become Jews, by circumcision, to be saved. He begins his argument in Gen 15:6. He says that our salvation is based on “hearing with faith” just as Abraham’s was. “Just as”? The Greek is kathos, and can mean “to the very same degree as.” It’s not the same as “similarly to.” It’s stronger than that. Continue reading

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The Future of the Churches of Christ: More Statistics from Ed Stetzer

There’s a lot of false teaching going on within the evangelical church regarding statistics. Authors sell more books when they persuade their audience that sky is falling, the evangelical church is collapsing, and their book offers the solution. Preachers more easily persuade their members to knock on doors and attend next week’s gospel meeting when they are afraid of the imminent collapse of American Christianity. Politicians get more votes when the next election will decide the fate of the church in America.

But the stats say otherwise, according to Ed Stetzer, author and consultant on church growth — Continue reading

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The Salvation of the Jews: The Roll Call of the Faithful

jewish_starNow, I had to explain that in order to explain this.

Chapter 11 is a list of the faithful heroes of the First Testament. It begins with Abel and continues to —

(Heb 11:35-38 ESV)  35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.  36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated —  38 of whom the world was not worthy — wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 

These heroes did great things and suffered horribly for the sake of the coming Messiah. Continue reading

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The Salvation of the Jews: Once for All and Perfect Forever

jewish_starWhile Paul touches on the salvation of the Jews under the Law of Moses, Hebrews deals more thoroughly with the question, although the point of Hebrews is to demonstrate the superiority of the covenant under Christ to the Mosaic covenant.

To see the point, we need to trace a couple of thoughts through the text, beginning with the author’s doctrine of “once for all” salvation.

We should start, though, back in Romans —

(Rom 6:9-10 ESV) 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

The Greek for “once for all” is ἐφάπαξ  (ephapax), meaning all at once and never again (BDAG).

Paul’s point, of course, is that Jesus was crucified just once, and this sacrifice is sufficient for all time and for all who will follow him. His one sacrifice is fully sufficient for all and never needs to be repeated. Continue reading

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The Salvation of the Jews: Grace Abounding


Ponder for a moment this passage —

(Rom 5:20-21 ESV)  20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,  21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

It’s not so much difficult as surprising. Let me retranslate it a hair —

(Rom 5:20-21 ESV)  20 Now the law [of Moses] came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, [God’s] grace abounded all the more,  21 so that, as sin reigned in [eternal] death [before Abraham], grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord [under the Law of Moses!].

Now, in Romans, “law” means “the will of God as revealed in the Law of Moses or by other means.” The Law is considered by Paul as the ultimate revelation of God’s will, and hence the ultimate source of accountability. The Israelites, having been told God’s will on so many things, became accountable for violating God’s will on so many things. As a result, “sin increased.” And it’s obviously true.

The fact is that when God reveals himself more thoroughly, the likelihood of greater accountability for sin skyrockets. The more we know, the more we must obey, the more we fail to obey. Continue reading

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Christology: “Did Jesus Know Everything?”

shepherd3Interesting post from Peter Enns over at “Jesus Creed.” He raises an issue from Raymond E. Brown’s book Jesus: God and Man : Modern Biblical Reflections.

A Jesus who walked through the world knowing exactly what the morrow would bring, knowing with certainty that three days after his death his Father would raise him up, is a Jesus who can arouse our admiration, but still a Jesus far from us.

He is a Jesus far from mankind that can only hope in the future and believe in God’s goodness, far from a mankind that must face the supreme uncertainty of death with faith but without knowledge of what is beyond.

On the other hand, a Jesus for whom the future was as such a mystery, a dread, and a hope as it is for us and yet, at the same time a Jesus who would say, “Not my will but yours”–this is a Jesus who could effectively teach us how to live, for this is a Jesus who would have gone through life’s real trials.

Read the post and then consider: How much did Jesus as God-man know while in human form? Was he omniscient? Or was he walking in faith in the same sense in which he asks us to walk in faith?

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Suicide and the Unforgivable Sin

offer_hope_prevent_suicide_psaI get emails —

I have recently learned that the greatest part of the grieving from my friend’s son’s suicide comes from her belief that he son is eternally lost. She was taught that suicide is a sin and there can be no hope for him.

I want to be very careful in what I say to her, and we are naturally taking about grace, but I’m feeling inadequate in helping her. We have reasoned that he never left his faith, nor was there any rebellion in Him. Somehow I seem to not be able to see trees for looking at the forest.  

Can you give me some thoughts, scripture, directions, etc. to go with my quest to help my friend in her grief?

The Bible doesn’t address suicide specifically. However, in Heb 11:32, Samson is listed as among the ancient faithful of Israel, and yet he died by killing himself (Judg 16:23-31).

On the other hand, murder has been considered a sin going back to Cain and Abel. “You shall not murder” is part of the Ten Commandments. Continue reading

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