Showing posts with label Romans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Romans. Show all posts

Sunday, July 14, 2024

An Esophagus Full of Camel Hair

From the department of straining at gnats and swallowing camels, The Standard Bearer ran a series of posts by David Englesma in 2017 and 2018 criticizing the standard premillennial interpretation of Romans 11, culminating in this one and this one. Based on this chapter (though not exclusively), premillennialists anticipate (in Englesma’s own words), “a mass conversion and salvation of Jews, and their restoration as an earthly kingdom of God in Palestine”.

That’s a fair representation of my beliefs, an exegetical hill I’ll happily die on.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Deconstructing Romans 9

A recent letter to another Christian blog writer referenced this bleak little video, in which a young woman who formerly professed faith in Christ shares with her audience why she no longer calls herself a believer. In her video, she quotes and attempts to dissect five passages of scripture that she says “caused me to lose my faith”.

“Losing her faith” also inspired her to start her own YouTube channel debunking it, which currently has 76 videos mostly devoted to “deconstructing” scripture. Jezebel Vibes has over 54,000 subscribers. Naturally, this self-styled “Jezebel” has monetized her apostasy. Viewers are invited to buy one of her deconstructionist T-shirts to share their non-faith with the world.

Hey, it’s YouTube. Why wouldn’t you?

Sunday, January 08, 2023

Between Boredom and Bedlam

The pendulum swings. Even Christians are not inclined to be creatures of moderation, it seems.

At one end of the arc, believers sit docilely in pews being entertained. Assuming the pastor is not merely a well-packaged platform presence of minimal substance and that he genuinely possesses a spiritual teaching gift, he is the only one who gets to exercise it. At best, the performance holds our interest. At worst, we find ourselves constantly checking the time.

At the other extreme it’s a bit chaotic and unpredictable: men and women “share”, digress, pontificate, tell stories and interrupt each other to such an extent that impartial observers would be hard pressed to distinguish between spiritual gifts, natural impulses and mere gleeful enthusiasm at the opportunity to actually DO something in the church for once.

Few churches find the sweet spot between hierarchy and anarchy, between boredom and bedlam.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Inbox: Paul Denies All Righteousness

Anonymous writes:

“Paul denies all righteousness in the Old Testament by misquoting the Psalms and using them to make up his new doctrines on sin.

In Romans 3:10, Paul says that Abel was not righteous as Jesus said, Samuel did not understand, Moses did not seek God’s face, that Abraham has turned away, that Elijah and Elisha were altogether worthless, that Boaz had no true kindness, that Enoch’s throat was an open grave, the venom of the asp lay behind Jeremiah’s lips, Deborah’s mouth was filled with cursing and bitterness, Esther’s feet were eager to spill blood at any time, that Solomon knew nothing of peace, that they all deserve to burn in hell forever and ever. Jesus’s instruction to keep the commandments were obsolete, that, but that it is faith alone without works that gets you into heaven, not loving attitude, not good intentions, not benevolence, but choosing the right religion. That’s Paul’s message, and it’s nothing that Jesus taught, which was trusting that which is haShem of Jesus (righteousness and love), not intellectual assent that somehow magically makes you a new person.”

There’s lots to process here (some of it is almost poetic), but at least three points on which our commenter and I disagree. I’ll leave the first paragraph alone, because it stands or falls on the truth or falsehood of the allegations made in the second paragraph.

Sunday, October 09, 2022

Abiding in Sin: A Study in Romans 6

The word “abide” [Greek: menō] invariably carries the idea of staying put or remaining in a relationship or condition. Romans 6 teaches it is contrary to a saint’s calling and nature to remain in sin. Our “old man” (the person we once were) was crucified with Christ. We may sin, but sin has no longer has any legal right or claim to keep us enslaved.

The opening question — Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? — is what one might expect to hear from a lawyer at a trial. Paul has presented his case; believers are justified and have peace with God; a glorious future is ahead.

Monday, July 04, 2022

Anonymous Asks (204)

“Is the person Paul describes in Romans 7:14-25 saved?”

The passage referred to in Romans 7 is the one in which the apostle Paul begins by saying, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” and ends by posing (and answering) the question “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

I cannot see how this person can be anything but a believer.

Sunday, May 08, 2022

Beyond Condemnation

In my previous post we saw that we are either represented by Adam and what he did in Eden (sin) and became in consequence (a sinner), or else by Christ and what he passed through in his death and resurrection. The multiple benefits of the Savior’s work on behalf of those who have faith in him are the subject of large sections of the New Testament.

Believers are taught there to see themselves as “in Christ”, for he fully represents what they now are before God.

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

On the Supposed Misuse of the Old Testament

Online commentators argue that the apostle Paul misuses the Old Testament.

Some of these are garden-variety cranks, determined to prove all English versions of the Bible inaccurate. They insist reading the Jewish Tanakh is the only way to go. There’s really no placating people like that. Others set Paul against Jesus, maintaining that only the words of Christ really matter, and that the writings of the apostles are unreliable, inferior and downright wrong. Still others, like Pete Enns, object particularly to Paul, arguing that he read the Old Testament out of context, failing to respect what its authors intended to communicate.

How does the average Christian reply to such accusations?

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Faith of the Calvinists

Okay, I’m writing this post because I came across something so bizarre I didn’t even know what to say to it at first. You’re going to have to bear with me, because you’ll probably have trouble believing anyone could get anything so wrong. But I promise you this is the truth.

I was writing back and forth with one of my Calvinist friends. As you know, I’m not one of them myself, but that doesn’t keep me from liking quite a few of them as people.

Don’t ask. I like a lot of strange things.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

When Life Really Hurts

There’s a woman in my church — a lovely woman, a mother and a wife, and selfless servant of the Lord’s people, one most highly esteemed. She has been a grief and addiction counselor, and has spent her whole life ministering to others in their moments of darkest sorrow. Her husband is also a wonderful person, and his career for several decades has been as chaplain to the elderly, caring for fragile souls on the doorstep of eternity.

This woman has just been diagnosed with aggressive, metastasizing liver cancer. The fatal kind.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Testimony in the Twilight Zone

I’m becoming a believer in snowblower evangelism.

I live in an area where big snowfalls happen several times a year. I mean the kind that are a meter or so (a few feet) deep, heavy and wet. If you’ve ever tried to shovel out a driveway in those conditions, you know it’s absolutely back-breaking work.

The Lord gave me a snowblower. I don’t mean he personally went down to the local John Deere store and picked it up for me, I mean that it came cheap and unexpected, as a kindness from one of the Lord’s people. I don’t deserve it, and I’m very grateful to have it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Bible Study 08 — Context [Part 2]

Another instalment in the re-presentation of our 2013-2014 series about studying the Bible using methods deduced from the Bible itself. The series introduction can be found here.

The second Bible study tool we are discussing is context. For justification, see the previous post on this subject.


It should come as no great surprise that the Bible is full of quotations, most of which are from some other book of the Bible. New Testament writers especially tend to reinforce their points with quotations from the Old.

Sunday, July 04, 2021

With One Hand Behind His Back

“This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you.”

It must be very frustrating to be Satan.

Picture this: you are bound and determined to thwart the will of God, to destroy his work, to make null and void his promises, to corrupt his servants and taint everything he touches, to remake the world in your own image and to make your name greater than his.

And God beats you every time. With one almighty hand metaphorically tied behind his metaphorical back.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Not-Fake Love

“Let love be genuine.”

Familiar verses describe the positive qualities of Christian love — that it is patient, kind, rejoices with the truth, is full of hope, and so on. Other qualities of Christian love are expressed by the New Testament writers as the absence of something bad — not arrogant, not rude, not selfishly insistent, not resentful.

Genuineness is a positive quality, but the word underlying Romans 12:9 is actually one of these Greek negations. We might translate it “not-fake”. Reflecting this, other translations go with “unfeigned”, “without hypocrisy” and “without dissimulation”, the last of which may be a little too archaic to be much use.

It reminds us that loving in truth demands we avoid insincerity.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Provided We Suffer

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Simon Peter didn’t want to suffer with Jesus.

Oh, he said he did. He thought he did. When he made his promises of loyalty, he wasn’t virtue signaling to the other disciples or pretending to love his Lord more than he really did. At least, it doesn’t read that way to me in the gospels. “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” Emphatic statements made from the heart, and quite ingenuous.

Then, to his horror, Peter found he wasn’t up to the job. His aspirations exceeded his execution. Put to the test, he discovered he wasn’t really ready to suffer with the Lord Jesus after all.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Putting It in Words

“They did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.”

Years ago I was blathering to one of my brothers about some girl who shall remain nameless, mostly because I can’t even remember who she was now; just another in a lengthy series of post-teen passing interests that remained unreciprocated, a blessing I appreciate more today than I did then.

Early in this conversation my brother told me to please shut up.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Anonymous Asks (147)

“What does Romans 14:5 mean?”

The verse in question comes in the middle of a passage in which the apostle Paul is seeking to discourage Christians from quarreling over opinions.

That makes it fairly important to understand what Paul means by “opinions”.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

The Commentariat Speaks (21)

A letter to Doug Wilson from an Australian named Ben poses a familiar question:

“Since I, like everyone else (except Adam and Eve), am born into this sinful state, how can God truly be just in judging me for committing sins I was destined to commit?

Our ‘free-will’ is not really free at all. I think our will is like a set of old-fashioned scales, then our scales are definitely not on the level. They are heavily weighed down towards the selfish side, causing most, if not all, of our choices to be made with a selfish heart; a heart I didn’t ask for or have any say in receiving. I was just dumped into this wretched state, into a wretched life, and then at the end destined to be judged by The Most High, for breaking laws I had no chance of keeping.”

Bound to get interesting, wouldn’t you say?

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Semi-Random Musings (22)

You really can’t make this stuff up.

As you have probably read or heard elsewhere by now, the 117th Congress got off to a rocky start January 3 with an opening prayer that concluded with the words “amen and awoman”. Naturally the video went viral.

Of course it did. In this emotionally-charged and hyper-politicized environment, how could it not?

Friday, August 21, 2020

Too Hot to Handle: Which Beer Do Christians Drink?

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Everybody’s favorite political football Bristol Palin has written a column on the subject of the Guinness Beer Company and its Christian origins.

Tom: This is not the first time I’ve come across this story, Immanuel Can. In another generation, a Christian brewer turns out to have been the voice of moderation and societal self control. But in some evangelical circles today, Arthur Guinness would be taken to task for corrupting the faithful. I mean, he sold alcohol for a living!

Is there a less cartoonish and more biblical position to be taken on the subject of alcohol consumption, IC?

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Mystery Beasts and Inscrutability

The forty-first chapter of the book of Job has thirty-four verses in an English Bible. Thirty-two of those describe a mystery beast you and I have never seen and almost surely never will. The remaining two are about God.

I think those two are probably the point of the chapter, no? At least it’s as good a guess as any.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Vessels of Wrath and Vessels of Mercy

We’ve been looking at the question of whether God really prepares some people for destruction and others for glory. How and to what extent is his sovereignty exercised within the human heart?

Romans 9 is much misunderstood where this subject is concerned. In yesterday’s post I made the case that nothing in the first 18 verses of the chapter deals with the subject of individual salvation. Paul’s subject there is God’s election of nations and other groups to strategic roles in human history for his own sovereign purposes.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Wikipedia vs. Baptism

Where does one begin on the subject of baptism?

If there is a more misunderstood Christian practice in all of the New Testament, I cannot think what it might be. I suspect even speaking in tongues can’t touch it with respect to the degree of confusion produced by the teaching about it currently circulating.

How widespread and how deeply rooted are the misconceptions surrounding baptism? I suppose one might look at different denominational opinions on the subject and assess them one by one, but I’m really more interested in what the man on the street (and perhaps even in the pew) thinks than in esoteric positions held by theologians that have failed to make an impression on the masses.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Purpose of the Sacrifices [Part 6]

Continuing an examination of the sacrifices of the Old Testament. We started with what the sacrifices WERE NOT and are now examining what they WERE.

In my last post we looked at the sacrifices as a reminder of sins and asked why a constant reminder was necessary for God’s people.

But what other purposes did the sacrifices serve?

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Purpose of the Sacrifices [Part 5]

Continuing an examination of the sacrifices of the Old Testament. We started with what the sacrifices WERE NOT and are now examining what they WERE.

In my last post we examined the way in which the sacrifices served the very practical purpose of providing food for God’s servants and their families.

What other purposes did the sacrifices serve?

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Time and Chance (4)

Up to this point in our study of Ecclesiastes, the Preacher has been primarily concerned with making general comments about the natural world from observation — the sun, the wind, the water cycle, biology and humanity as a species.

He has established several things: (1) that all aspects of both the natural world and of human existence are cyclical and endlessly repetitive; (2) that each phase of any given cycle is relatively brief and inconsequential; and (3) that understanding the meaning of it all is not an easy thing.

Now he narrows his focus and begins to consider human society and the various ways one’s life may play out within it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Ripple Effect

“For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.”

There’s a new law in Alabama, and it has become the occasion for a great deal of sin. I can’t go anywhere without hearing about it or being provoked to talk about it. If you’re on Twitter you’ll already know that most of the sin is verbal, and the vast majority of it advocates for wrongdoing: “I had one, and I feel FINE about it! If you’re a good person, you’ll support it too.”

Relax, I’m not going to recycle badly overheated rhetoric. I have a more general point to make.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Olive Tree in Romans

Significant numbers of Christians over the years have had difficulty understanding the image of the olive tree the apostle Paul uses in Romans 11. If you doubt this, consult any combination of online commentaries. You’ll quickly see interpretations differ wildly.

For those who wonder why something like this matters enough to merit an entire blog post, bear in the mind that Romans 11 speaks of the future place in God’s purposes of his earthly people, the nation of Israel. An increasing number of Christians are convinced all God’s promises to Israel are fully realized in the Church, and that the “Israel” of which the Old Testament speaks is actually … well … us.

How you understand the olive tree is all tied up in that.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Religious Flesh

“It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: ‘About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.’ ”

Fruit is often used both in the Bible and elsewhere as a metaphor for children, and with good reason. You don’t need to be a geneticist to observe that the fruit of a tree carries in it the nature of the tree on which it grows, and expresses that nature to the world in the next generation. Or at least it should. Real-world results with human beings vary, as we have all observed.

Turnabout being fair play, perhaps you will excuse me using children as a metaphor for fruit. Well, metaphorical fruit at least.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

When Life Really Hurts

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Faith of the Calvinists

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

On the Supposed Misuse of the Old Testament

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Trinitarian by Osmosis

I tend not to get into the whole Trinity argument much.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe in a triune God; one Divine Being manifest in three persons. But how that’s all worked out within the Godhead, like many theological issues, is simply too big for my head. When I see highly educated believers in the Lord Jesus going hammer-and-tongs at one another over the fine details of Trinitarian dogma, I’m often perplexed as to what the disagreement is actually about.

And I’m definitely reluctant to weigh in. I mean, what happens if I inadvertently use a theological term incorrectly and get read out of polite Christian society for heresy?

Nobody wants that.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Testimony in the Twilight Zone

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Say Yes to the Dress

“The fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.”

The book is Revelation, and before us is the marriage supper of the Lamb. The Bride is a certain subset of God’s people (we shall not revisit that discussion in detail here), and others among God’s redeemed are present to celebrate. The Bride has clothed herself with “fine linen, bright and pure.”

It’s the most uplifting picture in several chapters of what is, at times, a very dark book, and it is the great hope of the Church.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

What Does Your Proof Text Prove? (5)

David Brainerd is a little worked up, asking “Can anyone defend Paul’s misuse of scripture in Romans 3?”

He’s referring to verses 10 through 18, in which Paul strings together a lengthy series of Old Testament quotes in order to demonstrate that both Jews and Greeks alike are under sin.

Mr. Brainerd’s beef is that in their original contexts, none of these verses prove what Paul says they prove. Is he right?

Monday, October 09, 2017

Implementing the Peace Principle

Legally speaking, a conflict of interest is a situation in which a person owes a duty to more than one party, the execution of which duties are either incompatible or mutually exclusive. In other words, discharging one’s responsibility to the first party may result in negatively impacting or failing to discharge one’s responsibility to the second.

This is not a situation with which Christians are unfamiliar. Conflicts of interest are part of the package.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Everybody’s a Theologian

Augustine of Hippo (called Saint Augustine by some) defined theologia as “reasoning or discussion concerning the Deity”.

A theologian, then, is someone who engages in the study of theology, or has learned something about God.

Hey, by that standard everyone’s a theologian.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

In a Nutshell

Have you ever been taught how to effectively share the gospel? Some of us have, some of us haven’t.

Better question: If you had only a few seconds to communicate the essence of salvation, which verses would you choose to put it across? How much could you get in there in, say, thirty seconds?

My son was asked how he would explain it this week.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

No Quick Fix

Things I would not have known if the media didn’t insist on telling me:

“Toymaker Mattel’s Ken dolls now come in three different body types: broad, slim and original. There are new cultural tweaks, too: An African-American Ken comes with cornrows, an Asian Ken rocks a sharp, design-director look and another version of the figure sports a man bun.”

Not quite so promoted but also available: the “broad” version, a 40-ish Ken doll that looks like a slightly better-dressed version of every dad you know, complete with flagging physique.

If they were selling these things to boys, they’d offer a couch, big-screen TV and a Denver Broncos jersey as accessories. But since they’re still primarily marketed to girls, I suppose an authentic Ken Sr. ought to come with lawnmower and a pair of garbage bags to lug to the curb on Tuesday morning. 

Monday, May 01, 2017

The Commentariat Speaks (10)

Ministers ... er ... ministering.
From the department of “If I live long enough, absolutely everything will get covered here at least once”, here is commenter Nate on the subject of women in church leadership:

“actually we [Methodists] aren’t nearly as hung up on this as you guys are. The point is ... regardless of how you can twist scripture ... women factually were leaders in the apostolic church. Yes ... including pheobe [sic] and more importantly lydia.

Not to mention Timothy’s own grandmother who paul credits.”

No scripture twisting required, but perhaps a little actual scripture reading would help.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

On Leaving One’s Glasses At Home

Gratefulness is good. It is definitely better to be thankful than not to be thankful. The apostle Paul tells the Christians in Rome that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against men and women who knew God but “did not give thanks to him”.

So sure, absolutely, by all means be grateful. Appreciate what you’ve been given.

But is thankfulness enough?

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Yet Another Rigged Election

Does God really prepare some people for destruction and others for glory?

It’s a good question.

Most Christians accept that God is, by definition, able to control all that he creates down to the last detail; it is difficult to read the Bible and come away with any other picture of him. But the question of how and to what extent his sovereignty is exercised within the human heart is what generally divides believers.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Perception Is Not Reality

Perception can be fantasyland
My former boss used to love to say “Perception is reality”. All he meant by it, I think, is that it’s important in business to consider how our actions appear to others. That’s certainly a relevant concern when your income depends on your ability to convince people to buy stuff, but it’s not quite what the person who coined the phrase intended to convey.

The line has been attributed to eighties political strategist Lee Atwater. I dislike it thoroughly: communication is tough enough without deliberately eroding the meaning of words. Our general failure to apply our critical faculties to aphorisms like Atwater’s simply accelerates the disintegration of language into meaningless babble.

I’m not kidding. Hey, we’re talking about the nature of reality here.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Sound and Silence (or Banishing the Banshee)

I have a neighbour that screams like a banshee — or at least she used to. She doesn’t anymore, and herein lies a tale.

Like many families, we live in a semi-detached house with nothing more than a cinder-block partition and a little ancient insulation separating us from our neighbours. You can’t hear everything that occurs on the other side of the party wall, but you can hear plenty, especially when voices are raised.

We heard plenty. Regularly. Our neighbour made sure of it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Visceral Atheism

Atheists contend their position is so intellectually robust as to be unassailable.

In Psychology Today, Satoshi Kanazawa makes the argument that atheists are more intelligent than religious people because “humans are designed by evolution to believe in God”, meaning that those who have become aware of this are smarter than those who have not.

That view makes atheism the red pill and the rest of us benighted Matrix-dwellers, if you’ll excuse the metaphor.

Monday, September 05, 2016


Here is the apostle Paul describing his gospel to the Romans:

“I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience …”

“… through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.”

That’s an awfully funny way to put it, don’t you think? Bring the Gentiles to obedience. The obedience of faith. Those sorts of catchphrases could put people off.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Taking 31 Kingdoms

When I read Romans 12, I get a bit overwhelmed. There’s a lot there, after all.

This should not surprise us. Paul’s “therefore” in verse 1 follows not only the wonderful doxology at the end of chapter 11, but really follows logically out of the entire argument presented beginning in chapter 1 with the words, “The wrath of God is revealed ...”

It’s as if in chapter 12 he now tackles the question “How should we then live?” Okay then.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Inbox: Timing Is Everything

God’s timing is always impeccable.

The gospel spread like wildfire in the first century precisely because God had put all the pieces in place centuries prior. As James noted when the apostles and elders gathered in Jerusalem to discuss the issue of imposing the Law of Moses on Gentiles, “from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues”.

Ironically, the fact that the whole world of James’ day had access to an obscure set of Jewish laws was a function of Israel’s disobedience.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Meaning of Life in Three Rounds

On paper, the apostle Paul vs. Solomon, king of Israel doesn’t add up to much of a fight.

If you get them both in their primes, Solomon has world class trainers and equipment and the most lavish possible facilities in which to prepare, along with all the wisdom in the world with which to strategize.

Paul, on the other hand, is almost guaranteed to be convalescing after any or all of a recent stoning, beating or flailing, as well as taking his regular buffeting from a messenger of Satan. There’s also an off chance he has not eaten recently or that he’ll miss a scheduled bout because he’s serving a jail sentence or pulling a Robinson Crusoe somewhere in the Mediterranean.

In short, on the physical plane Paul is a pushover (though he does have a disturbing tendency to beat a ten count when his opponents are sure he’s done and dusted).

On the spiritual plane, though, Solomon is fighting with both hands tied behind his back.