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Archive for the ‘Romans’ Category

I read the following quote in Jim Hamilton’s book God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment (a book I’m reviewing and have enjoyed thoroughly) during his discussion on the sentence of death in Genesis 3 (p78), and it got me thinking.

Adam, at the moment of his sin, brings death into the world.  Death is alienation from the life of God.  Death truly removes the couple from the freedom and innocence and lack of shame and fear that is found only in perfect obedience.  The moment they sin, Adam and Eve are removed from that realm of life, and in the opening of their eyes (3:7), they find themselves in the realm of death.  This spiritual reality is made a physical reality when they are banished from the garden of Eden (3:23-24).  But even here there is mercy: they will not have access to the tree of life, whereby they might live forever in a fallen state.  God gives the gift of physical death (3:22; 5:5).

I’ve italicized the sentences that give me the most trouble theologically.  This is not the first time I’ve encountered this viewpoint, but I’ve never been able to understand how one squares this with the biblical teaching on death.  Even within his own paragraph, Hamilton is holding two views that seem to me to be contradictory: death is both a judgment and a gift.  How can that be?

There are strong arguments against this view, besides the context of Genesis 3 and following.  Look at Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 15.  There he refers to death as an enemy, in fact, the last enemy to be defeated when Chris himself returns (vv20-26).  Or how about these verses from Romans 5, where “gift” appears:

But the gift is not like the trespass.  For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: the judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.  For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

Here, there is a true gift- grace, righteousness, life- that overthrows the sentence of death brought about by sin.  It seems odd to me that God would give a gift to overthrow a previously given gift.  If that’s the case, was the first “gift” really a gift at all?

Now, I understand the logic behind what Hamilton is saying.  The problem with it, however, is that he doesn’t (can’t?) back it up scripturally.  Death is never referred to as a gift, at least not that I’m aware of. It is an enemy that has been defeated in Jesus’ resurrection (see 1 Cor 15, previously quoted).  Death did, for a time, have reign, but that reign has been cast aside by the reign of life in Christ (Rom 5).  And its end is pictured so powerfully in Revelation 20:14, when death itself is thrown into the lake of fire.

So what do you think?  Is Hamilton drawing a valid inference from Gen 3:22?  Can death be a gift from God, as Hamilton asserts, and an enemy of God (as I’m sure he also believes)?

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It is certainly no accident that with his [the Holy Spirit] entry, there is no further talk of defeat.  In Romans 7:14-25, a rough count that I made indicates that the words “I,” “me” and “my” (in the RSV anyway) were used over 40 times. In that context there was no reference to the Holy Spirit, and thus, defeat.  In chapter 8 where the Holy Spirit’s presence is all pervasive, confidence and assurance are set forth.  The warfare between the two natures goes on, but where the Holy Spirit is in control, the old nature is compelled to give way.  And as long as Christians seek to carry on the warfare at their own charges, they fight a losing battle.  But when the avail themselves of the resources of life and power that are their’s in Christ Jesus, they are more than conquerers. 

From Peter O’Brien, Freedom from Death Talk 1 (on Romans 8:1-4)

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Keener on Romans 7:7-25

It’s Craig Keener Week here at BBG!  Or, more accurately, it’s Craig Keener-Related Link Week.  CKRL Week, as the kids call it.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago Marcus at Seeking the Truth… (ellipsis original, though unexplained) posted a review of Keener’s (apparently) excellent commentary on Romans.  In this review he refers to a table used to explain Keener’s understanding of Romans 7.  Marcus wrote:

There he showed 10 statements from Romans 7:7-25 that would contradict what Paul says elsewhere if we were to understand them as referring to Paul’s present struggle with sin.

So, in the comments, I asked Marcus if he’d reproduce the chart for those of us unlucky enough not to own the book.  He has kindly done so.  I found it quite helpful, and now has me searching for an excuse to get Keener’s commentary.

Go check out Marcus’ post and see what you think.  And while you’re at it, add his blog to your reader.  Other than a couple oddities (he’s a Mets fan- no, seriously) and downright craziness (the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is only the 3rd biggest in sports?  Puh-lease), it’s quite good.

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Leviticus & Romans 8

Memorizing Romans 8 and studying/teaching Leviticus at the same time has been an eye-opening experience.  I admit to my limited knowledge of Leviticus, and realize that I am (unfortunately) in the majority in this.  I’ve made it a point this year as I teach through the Pentateuch to grow in my understanding of this neglected book.

Two points jump out at me as I’m also working through Romans 8.  The first seems somewhat obvious.  In verse 3, Paul writes, “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful humanity to be a sin offering” (TNIV).  For now I won’t get into the discussion over whether that last phrase should be translated “to be a sin offering” or simply “for sin” (ESV).  Either way, the point I’m making is not affected.

All throughout Leviticus we read about various types of sacrifices and purifying rituals to deal with the issues of sin and uncleanness.  Paul is well aware of the levitical background and is making a powerful statement here- that the problem of sin and broken relationship with God was solved by God Himself in His Son.

The second point is the relationship between holiness and uncleanness.  To quote T D Alexander’s book From Paradise to the Promised Land, “… holiness and uncleanness are totally incompatible… [it was] impossible for anyone or anything to be holy and unclean at the same time” (p.212).  Immediately when I read these words, I was reminded of Paul’s refusal to accept that the people of God (those who have been made holy by Him) should be slaves of sin.  “You, however, are not controlled by the sinful nature but are in the Spirit” (Romans 8:9).  “Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness” (6:19). 

For Paul, and Leviticus, the mixture of holiness and impurity is impossible.  This should disturb all of us who are accustomed to having our feet planted firmly in both worlds.  But Paul reminds us that God has made us holy through Jesus, and is continuing to make us holy through the power of His Spirit.  We are to “become as we are,” as it has been said.  God has made us holy.  Now let’s act like it.

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Note: We, along with everyone else in our missions training school, are memorizing Romans 8 this fall semester.  Since our desire is not simply to recite words, but to understand and implement what Paul is teaching in this chapter, we will be periodically posting thoughts, insights or questions from a variety of sources to provoke thoughtful interaction.

Consider these thoughts on the work of the Holy Spirit and how it relates to dealing with sin in our lives.

Not only do Christians have the verdict of “no condemnation” when they convert, they are also empowered by the vivifying presence of the Spirit to walk in newness of life.  The Spirit does not merely convey the Good News.  The Spirit enacts that news in the believer. 

– Ben Witherington w/ Darlene Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, p219

… deliverance from the tyranny of sin, effected through the atoning work of Christ, as an experienced ongoing reality, is the work of the indwelling, life-giving Spirit. 

– Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence, p528

So, given what is said here about the role of the Spirit, how should we approach our battle with sin?  How often do we neglect the fact that we have the Spirit of the Living God dwelling within us?  Do we really view the Holy Spirit as the key to implementing the gospel & our deliverance from sin in our daily lives? 

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Moo on Romans 5-8

Note: We, along with everyone else in our missions training school, are memorizing Romans 8 this fall semester.  Since our desire is not simply to recite words, but to understand and implement what Paul is teaching in this chapter, we will be periodically posting thoughts, insights or questions from a variety of sources to provoke thoughtful interaction.

“At the risk of oversimplifying a complex section and obscuring many other significant connections, we may view the main development of chaps. 5-8 as a ‘ring composition,’ or chiasm:

 

            A.  5:1-11                                 assurance of future glory

 

                        B.  5:12-21                   basis for this assurance in work of Christ

 

                                    C.  6:1-23         the problem of sin

 

                                    C.’  7:1-25        the problem of the law

 

B.’  8:1-17                    ground of assurance in the work of Christ, mediated by the Spirit

 

            A.’  8:18-39                             assurance of future glory”

 

 

“In chaps. 5-8, then, Paul invites the Christian to join with him in joyful thanksgiving for what the gospel provides—a new life given to God’s service in this life and a certain, glorious hope for the life to come.  …the person who has experienced the gospel as the justifying act of God (cf. 1:17) is assured of finding that gospel to be truly ‘God’s power for salvation’ (cf. 1:16)—power for dedicated Christian services in this life and for deliverance from all the forces of evil and of judgment in the next.”

— Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, pages 294-295

What do you think of Moo’s understanding of the structure of these chapters?  Does this help you understand the flow of thought in Romans 8 any better?  Moo splits up chapter 8 into 2 main sections (vv1-17, vv18-39), how do you think they relate to each other?

For anyone interested, Dr Moo has made some of his shorter writings available online at his website (you can also find a link to the right).

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