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The Acrid Absenteeism from Christ
and the Robust Assurance of
Surely one of the most magnificent declarations of faith in Christ's power to keep past death, ringing with assurance, fragrant with fervour, a sort of response in courage to the presence of the Master whose alliance over time has been explosive in power while instilled with peace, intimate in provisions and explicit in character, is to be found in II Timothy 1:12.
It proceeds from the base in II Timothy 1:9-11, as a rocket proceeds from its foundational structure. Let us then first look at this, and then lift the eyes to that rocket of assurance in its motion aloft. Here is a test for the apostle, imminent death. It appears from such sites as Philippians with I Timothy and other hints, that Paul escaped or rather was delivered from his first imprisonment, and from Papias, we find that he probably visited Spain. Now, in the ferocity, not of a Claudius, from whom many suffered in his expulsion from Rome (Acts 18:2), but of Nero, Paul looks in the midst of vicious snapping from what might appear wolves in human form (II Timothy 4:14-16), to the execution that seems imminent.
How does he react ? Not in mere fanaticism, nor yet in faithlessness. He is stirred, as always, by the thought of Christ his mentor (Philippians 1:20-21), and the nearer approach to His sublimities (Philippians 3:8-11), in that massive surge that combined vigorous application on the one hand, seeking the heights of His calling, and total certainty, on the other, the end of the quest (Philippians 3:20-21).
Now he senses the end of the journey that has been one of faith, like that of Moses (cf. Hebrews 11:27), as seeing Him who is invisible; for after all, what is nearest to man IS the invisible, the love, the faith, the courage, the quietness, the peace, the personal evaluation, the moral attestation, the things on which and for which he works, however basely he may contort or distort them! When as with Paul, this has been implemented with power, initiated with repentance, based on history, confirmed by logic, verified in life in seasons innumerable, blessed in emotion, operative in faith, surrounded with discipline on the one hand (II Corinthians 1, 12) and deliverance on the other (Acts 20ff.), there is a certain beauty as in a sunset, which merely adorns the day and prepares for the next!
All this is verificatory of the faith, vindicates its initiatives, vanquishes the doubts of flesh, enlightening the heart with pure refreshing: it is the finale of authenticity.
II TIMOTHY 1:8-12
THE ROBUST ASSURANCE OF ETERNAL LIFE
Paul encourages Timothy to feel no shame that Paul is 'socially disadvantaged' as some of our day might call it, in prison! It is for the faith and part of the programmatic impulse of its application. It happens for a REASON, and it has a RESULT. Assuredly the seal of death on the life of faith is a resounding finale to this world, and a condemnation in such a case, of the predilections of its impassioned and corrupt rulers. In this way, Paul's death, rather like that of Stephen (Acts 7) is to be compared to the ceremonies at the end of a time at the Olympics. It has a certain epic quality.
Rather is Timothy, than feeling shame, to share with Paul in the sufferings of the Gospel, according to the power of God. How real that combination had been, as at Philippi (Acts 16), when earthquake not only released the prisoners, but gave Paul an opportunity to show kindness that in the case, where loss of prisoners could have spelt death for the jailer, which contributed to this man's conversion! Again, consider the apostle left for dead, having been stoned, at Derbe (Acts 14:19-20), when the disciples gathered prayerfully around him, and he arose for the rest of his extraordinary, active and triumphant missionary program, as led by the Lord.
What then is the basis that Paul here reveals in II Tim 1:9. This, it appears, was a favourite verse of Professor John Murray of Westminster, and assuredly not without reason! First it is one of the verses which refers to SALVATION as a thing PAST, accomplished. Structurally, this is so: once you enter the door of Christ by faith with repentance to receive His life, you are His sheep and neither can erosion nor evasion, assault nor attack remove the remedy or you from His shepherding (John 10:9,27-28).
This is simply a fact IN the scripture and IN the LIFE of the sheep! He has saves us! says Paul here, just as he does in Ephesians 2:8 and Titus 3:5-7. Not only so: it is not a mere rescue (though it is that - Hebrews 6:18-20), for it is a HOLY CALLING. You are saved to serve, and who would not wish to function in such unction, to work in such grace, to be vigorous amid such vitality of life in the Lord!
You are not left in hospital: you issue from salvation for sanctification and service.
This calling, we learn in II Tim 1:9, is holy, not according to our works. It is not a prize, or employer's bonus for service. Service is the result, not the cause. The bonus is not merely non-existent, but would be the opposite of the case (Ephesians 2:1-8, 4:17-19). In fact, as sinners (Romans 5:1-12) we deserve not delight but doom; for life at the level of God our Saviour is no matter of less and more, but of an intensity of purity of motive and heart, life and walk, that makes God unapproachable to flesh altogether (I Timothy 6:16). ONLY in Christ is the purity sufficient to enable, in His covering, in His clothing (Isaiah 61:10, Matthew 22:12-14), the donated light of life to shine in His presence,
No, it is nothing to do with works that we are chosen, nought with merit: it is contrary to merit, despite demerit that the merits of Christ are attributed to us, whether in will or work, race or blood (John 1:12, Romans 9:16). This work of divinity is according to His own purpose and grace. This grace is sufficient (II Corinthians 12), and is so broad that in its lustrous and overwhelming wonder, it may be said that God is the Saviour of all men, especially of those who believe (I Timothy 4:10), for in His scope of love, it is the case that He would like all men to be saved, yes all in heaven or on earth (Colossians 1:19ff., I Timothy 2, Romans 5:18).
Yet it is so narrowed in its attainment in this limited atonement (Romans 5:17,19, Isaiah 53:3-6, Romans 8:32), for love does not force, even when as here it transcends the corruption of flesh to secure its own in all integrity and sincerity, that there is a further wonder.
Those who receive Christ, such as Paul are saved "according to His purpose". It is not a blanket operation, but individual, however broad the desire. While its offer is total and imbued with a divine passion which stopped at no cost (I John 2:1-2, Hosea 12:10, 1-3), its impartation is to those who thereby become His sheep (John 8:24, 10:26), to the receivers, the believers, known before all time (Ephesians 1:4).
When it happens, it is as particular as the purchase of a new car in kind, though in fact, looked at without the gleam of grace, we are rather more like second hand ones, with many faults listed! It is according not only to His purpose for the purchase (Matthew 20:28, I Corinthians 6:20), but to GRACE as well. Though smashed almost beyond recognition (Isaiah 52:14), any disfigurement of His physical lips, which spoke such kindness, did nothing to limit the lavishness of His grace, since He was continually praying, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing!"
As always, even in death, He sought for the lost (cf. Luke 19:10, Matthew 23:37, Luke 19:42ff., with Hosea 7:1, Jeremiah 51:9, 9:1ff., Jonah 4).
It is all of His cheque book, made not with mere figures, but with flesh, in that He bore our sins upon the tree (I Peter 2), who have come to Him. Set to our account through grace by faith, its immeasurable merits are in line with the fact that Christ's are UNSEARCHABLE RICHES (Ephesians 3:8), more than competent for the enterprise of salvation from among men. The entire transaction is fashioned in, for and through grace, motivated by love, embraced by this kindness to mankind (Titus 2, 3, Romans 3).
This grace is not some intervening act as it were of impulse, or circumstantial flash. It has been realised in God "before time began". Its revelation, exhibition, manifestation NOW in its most express, explicit, practical, visible form in "our Saviour Jesus Christ" is part of that robustness which delights, that mercy to human weakness which entrances.
Not in philosophy is it wrought, but on the Cross.
Reason must bow to it (SMR Chs. 1-3, 5, 8-10); but merely perceives it.
In itself, this mercy was present before time. In this, God was active and knew those who were its own.
In its exhibition, it is shown in our own Age, by His own actions of healing, raising the dead, compassion, interpretation, declaration of truth amid the fusty, rusty, paunchy traditions of man (Mark 7:7ff.), as by His Holy Spirit in applying His attainment, for the liberation of souls form sin, their initiation into reality, their welcome in the place of children of light (Romans 8:16, I Thessalonians 5:5).
He has appeared, not in a mist, but in what has been called the "Messianic must", that glorious certainty, pre-written in prophecy (cf. Joyful Jottings 22-25, SMR Ch. 9), performed in history, irreproachable in its precision, even to the date of the death of this same Christ (cf. Highway of Holiness Chs. 4, 7). His DELIGHT in His duty of love is what makes it more delicious to the taste of the spirit (Psalm 40, Joyful Jottings 22).
But what has He done ? Has He shown a luminous vitality such that sickness in multitudes of cases, in one day, could be dismissed like so many bugs being sprayed with some super-chemical ? Certainly (cf. Matthew 4:24, 12:15, 14:13ff., Mark 3:7-12, Luke 6:19) He did this, and it struck unbelief like a hurricane; yet like a hurricane, it left many untouched! Their own devices, designs and comforts had another trade-mark. He has exhibited a grace, a compassion in such matters, a discretion, a discernment, a supernatural peacefulness of probing that touched and cured in His own presence, a multitude of afflictions, not only of flesh (cf. John 4, Luke 7:36ff., John 11-12), but of heart, and of mind (Mark 5), while probing and presenting, using simple occurrences as dynamic teaching instruments, if by any means more might be reached, or at least, through reproof and example, comparison and practicality, some might awake (Matthew 7:36-50).
Yet all this, with ever so much more, as in His ready ruination of the theological escapades of the witless and vying scholars (cf. Matthew 12, 19, 22:41ff.), and His liberation from self-inflicted compulsions (cf. Mark 2:27), in a way which yet did not violate the law, but applied it in spiritual beauty and holiness (cf. Mathew 5-7): it was only the beginning.
HE FACED DEATH, as a cat faces another, each staring. He felt its claws (Hebrews 5:7, Luke 22:39-46), but continued His course. He knew it was coming (Matthew 17:22-23, cf. John 1:29, 6:50ff.), as it was His role to meet it, quieten its claims and clamours with the vicarious offering of His substitutionary body, yes and soul also, as His life was cut off in darkness in the midst of the sins borne (cf. Psalm 22:1, Matthew 2:46, Isaiah 59:1-2). As man, it was fitting for Him to take the actual ardour of place for man, and to bear for all who should ever come by faith, the sins which excluded from the very friendship and presence of God (II Corinthians 5:17-21, Hebrews 2).
That was very wonderful. What however is the pith of it, is this, that He won. He WAS pure enough to have a void where the sin quotient would appear. He was deity, and therefore STRONG enough to overcome death with a life immortal, merely losing the format of man, His Spirit at once arising to the heart of His Father (Luke 23:46). He arose, invited them (especially Thomas) to FEEL His flesh, to assure themselves (as He had to do in another way, when walking on the water - Matthew 14:24ff.) that it was indeed Himself, risen in this spectacular yet simple way, voiding the voidance, and He ate with them (Luke 24), even on one day preparing their breakfast! (John 21).
In this way, in an express and written formula, coming as man (Isaiah 9, Micah 5, Psalm 2, 16, 22), He STAYED MAN after death, SHOWING to the experimentally minded, like Thomas, that one could indeed poke an investigatory finger into the hole made by the nails as the flesh sagged under His own weight on the cross. It was assuredly He! now revealed to the empirical, the pragmatic-seeming, the scientifically procedural Thomas, as "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28), who thus exclaimed TO Him!
The resurrection passed all tests, covered all cases, the fingering, the clinging (Matthew 20:17 -"Cease slinging to Me!"), the eating (Luke 24), the didactic (Acts 1:3), that of continuity (John 21:16ff. with Luke 21:31-32, Matthew 26:34), of kinship with God Almighty (Acts 1:7ff.), of authority (Matthew 28:19-20) and diction: and thus began for man not only a DECLARATION from God of the immortality available, but an EXHIBITION of it in the laboratory of life, and in the pressures of history! Predicted, it occurred; occurring it was indicated, validated, vindicated, verified and applied.
In this way, says the apostle Paul, awaiting his own execution, He "abolished death and brought life and immortality to light". It was not a sudden act. For thousands of years, it had been predicted, before its enactment at the stated date (Highway of Holiness ... Chs. 4 and 7). Moreover, in detail it had been described (Psalm 22, Isaiah 52-53), its implications shown (Hosea 13:14, Isaiah 54-55), its beauty relished (Isaiah 25:8), and the love back of it not only protested, and shown in much patience with many, but even set in a personal parable format by the prophet Hosea, in his very life (Hosea 1-3)! Parables having passed their stage of index, power provided the phase of performance! The sign-post was even transcended, but never amended, by the destination.
God prepared this cancellation of human indebtedness with applicability only through faith and repentance in the Saviour, Jesus Christ; declared it in imagery, in principle, in meaning, in historical detail; and then DID IT!
This always is the relation between declarative word and decisive deed in Him who is divine. There is never any divorce.
Now we happily have occasion to come to II Timothy 1:12. But first notice this, that Paul leaves no doubt about his own calling in this, that he notes he was APPOINTED a preacher, an apostle and a teacher for a particular GROUP, namely, remarkable for a Jew, that of the GENTILES! It is in their hands that he indeed now finds himself, with the mad Nero about to wield, via an executioner, it seems, an axe in no figurative fashion.
THIS IS WHY I suffer all this! says Paul, but I am not ashamed.
Voluntary suffering in the presence of God who
Such willingness to suffer for such a calling is following a divine example in redemption, in a human fashion in its verbal dissemination. It is now a matter of preaching it, teaching it, just as earlier, Christ performed it, and before that, the prophets predicted it.
It is God who did it; Paul with the other apostles, told it. Suffering was a price to be paid, in Christ in bearing sin, in the apostles in detailing the deliverance in the Gospel thus available, covered and complete.
"I KNOW," says Paul, "WHOM I HAVE BELIEVED!"
He does not make an inference merely: HE KNOWS. It is not a matter of book knowledge alone (though the verificatory, prophetic, unchanging scriptures of the millenia are there - Romans 16:25); for it is an issue of interchange, friendship as with Abraham, called the friend of God. He has known Him in suffering FOR HIM, worked for Him in POWER from Him, experienced Him in grace provided, in enabling, in overcoming, in directions fulfilled innumerable.
Consider merely Acts 23:11 with 28:11ff., with the events of Acts 22, 23, 24, 25, yes and the saga of the voyage and the safe arrival on the island of all those shipwrecked, as the Lord told Paul and he first of all told them. Likewise the apostle found His divine art and presence in personal enablings (II Corinthians 12:9 cf. Isaiah 66:13), tender to him like a mother, and effectual like a father. Such might be seen, as to the first, in his "thorn in the flesh" episode, and in terms of the second, in the direct assurance that all would be saved on the ship about to be wrecked (Acts 27:24-25).
I KNOW WHOM I HAVE BELIEVED!
Further, Paul affirms not merely that he knows the Lord, but that he has believed in Him; for faith is ever the operative ingredient in the vales of grace, that brings the sunshine of warmth and power, in the presence of the One trusted in. Ready for any need has He been, in every phase, so amply, so wisely, who is like the conscientiously plied tanker craft flying alongside the fighter airplane. When it runs low in fuel, it is always there, always adequate, also airborne, always at one's side.
I KNOW WHOM I HAVE BELIEVED AND AM PERSUADED.
Of what, then, is the apostle now persuaded ? Of Christ's ability to KEEP him in his extremities, Of these, not the least is death, glaring with its heady defiance. This, Christ's divine breach of this plague, the most decisive of all! as so amply emphasised earlier, what is it like ? It is like a Caesarean birth liberating a child unable to evacuate: no anodyne, but actuality is His provision. No psychic lift, but physical deliverance; not poetry but performance is His operation, wrought first in Himself, then applicable to those who are His own> His people are purchased in atonement FOR sin, and TOWARD service in Spirit, company in grace, friendship in goals and in participation in the functional premises provided: till all done, the end is the beginning of a more exalted clime, one free from the damages of curse, where cure is no more an application, but rather the prelude to consummation of restoration in the very presence of God (cf. Biblical Blessings Ch. 7).
As to Paul, in his declaration in II Timothy 1:12, deliverance in victory over death now awaits him, the leader first having done that operation Himself in open court! (Romans 1:4).
KEEP WHAT ?
Christ in whom he has believed, whom he knows, is able to keep what I have committed to Him! says Paul.
Now comes the issuance from the integrity of the past.
Paul did not make a compact with God for a beneficial income outcome. It was not a self-interested enlightenment of sorts which had actuated the apostle. Counting all things in competition and comparison with Christ as dross (Philippians 3:8), he was not safeguarding his retirement, status, income or position in society: scarcely could such things have been less in his estimation as he served Christ: the "offscouring of the universe" (I Cor. 4:!3) does not prize such things!
No, his was a commitment of his life to the LORD, who being such, did not utter inane or vain words. WHY, Christ had said, DO YOU CALL ME LORD, LORD and not do the things that I say! (Luke 6:46). The Lordship of Christ was real. Paul was far from perfect, but in one thing he was clear, Christ was his Lord, and he KNEW that he had UNRESERVEDLY yielded his life in trust to Him whom He received (John 1:12), clear in His covenant, sure in all His ways.
Just as one must exercise lordship over one's fingers, and not try to dissociate their work from one's own will, so as a Christian, however imperfect one may be, the finger of life propels one's living to life eternal with no interruption by judgment, an issue which is covered completely (Romans 8:1, I Thess. 5:9-10). In His own everlasting life, Christ confers on each of His people, a living reality. We are integumental with Christ's body by adoption, that great team of limbs and organs, where He is head. It is this figure which more amply illustrates the Lord's application of His own work, in the family of Christ sent from eternity, to bring man to it (Isaiah 26:19, I Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 1:5, 2, 4).
In this, the body of Christ, each has his or her place; and all have the place where the consummation is to be (John 14:1ff., Revelation 21-22, I Thessalonians 4).
KEEP WHAT HE HAS COMMITTED HOW LONG ?
It is AGAINST THAT DAY.
Of what does the apostle here speak ? Resurrection is sure; but what of the outcome ? THAT is the point. What of the judgment day ? Is this not a terror ? (II Corinthians 5:10-11). These are examinations in which it is not fitting to fail! ALL must appear before this judgment seat, but the Christian is exempt from its condemnation (I Thessalonians 5:9-10), being covered (Isaiah 61:10, Romans 3:23ff.), by the blood, by the vicarious death, by the substitutionary atonement wrought by and in Christ his Lord. TO ALL there is the impediment of the things done in the flesh, but to those whom God has found whenever and however, in the Gospel, in Christ, there is the countervailing reality of the Saviour. He Himself is both barrister and ground of acquittal!
What more does this wonderful word from the Lord through Paul have to tell us ?
It is this. There is the faith in "immortality", which Christ has "brought to light". Based in reality, it is exhibited in history, founded in fact, wrought by Christ as a manifest datum, available to faith and repentance in the Saviour, that same Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 1:7 -11), as predicted for millenia, fulfilled on time, wrought before the eyes of the disciples, enforced in the world which could not so much as keep His body.
It was in this that He who had raised the dead, then walked into immortality, from the pangs of mortal life: back into that immortality from which He had come (John 17:3), making the path clear and the way as white as snow (John 14:6, Isaiah 1:18).
It was His own divine purity, unsullied by His adoption of human form and living, which constituted the underlying value which nothing could shake, not even death, not even ridicule, not even contempt, not even religious condemnation, not even slow death by agonising crucifixion amid criminals.
Not even diminution of His body could decrease Him, Lord over all life. Not merely did He suffer it to be so, so to be wrought on His body as He proceeded to bear the sins of those who would benefit in faith, by receiving Him and all that He Himself had done: having suffered, He resumed it, He took it, He walked away with it. Irrepressible, irreducible, eruptive from death, transcendent, transformed, what He took was yet very much His OWN BODY! No like tanks on which minor weapons fling themselves in vain, but in acute humanity He suffered, man for man; but better than tanks, eschewing death, He tasted it and wasted it, breaching with the power that made man in the first place, the very sentence which is so awesome to many, but which it was in His domain to overcome.
Death is a penalty; He paid for His own, offered the payment to all, and then, like a huntsman who has made secure His prey, He released believing man from the thrall and dominion of that dread plague (Hosea 13:14, I Corinthians 15:51ff.) which had held Him.
In this, Paul with all Christians participated; and hence this his rallying call, yes his fearless word of faith as he faced this death.
"I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him against that day."
That is one side of our interest at this point.
THIS IS THE ROBUST ASSURANCE OF ETERNAL LIFE, the norm and form for the Christian (Romans 8:16, Philippians 3:20ff.).
What however of those who play with religion, who parley with it, whose minds are elsewhere than on Christ, whose empty form of religion is their uttermost and whose hope is in their own selves, organisations which they run in their own sweet way, convictions within the flimsy films of autonomous flesh, confused clamoring, hoping in casuistical arguments of their own finding and funding, for religions or living or hoping of their own prescription ?
Alas, this is the contrast. What might it be called ?
ABSENTEEISM FROM CHRIST
(Romans 1 leading onto
II Timothy 3:1-5)
Here we shall excerpt from Divine Agenda Ch. 6 some of the apostle's characterisations of
the Syndrome of Sin (1) - Dissavour in Romans 1 (with some additional material),
and the Crisis of the End of the Age (2) in II Timothy 3
THE SYNDROME OF SIN
THE GENERICS OF ROMANS 1
This outline follows an earlier and more general statement. It is found in Romans 1:17-19*1. That sets forth the initial conditions in this decline phase, like a great ski glissade, but far less lovely.
Here we learn that God is wrathful towards a certain kind of provocation which is chronic and audacious.
It is this. All ungodliness and unrighteousness. That is, efforts to avoid God, do without Him, institute one's own standards and call them right (or for that matter, anything else, in installing them or applying them: it is all 'unrighteous', since God being the only POSSIBLE truth, substitutes are not right, but imagination replacing actuality cf. SMR pp. 101-102 (Endnotes 30,31), Ch. 3, That Magnificent Rock Ch. 5, Barbs, Arrows and Balms 6, and 7, Repent or Perish Ch. 7 ).
Those who indulge in this particular practice are characterised accordingly, in verse 18. They are suppressing the truth.
What makes this the more obvious is the fact cited, that the reality of God is manifest not only TO them but IN them (Romans 1:19).
That is, there is an obvious attestation
- conscience and
- the sheer force and power of the designs, so profound, so delicate, so liberal in their many millions, so extinguishable in a moment, at sudden death;
- in their aspirations to truth, and
- in the necessary pre-conditions of ever finding it whether to assert this or that, including the concept that neither this or that is true, so assuming truth in and for its denial;
- in personality and its power of assessment and surveyal and so on,
- as we have so often considered before, but especially in SMR Chs. 1-3,10.
The invisible realities of this world are manifest, namely God's eternal power and divine nature. Invisible peace, truth, love, mercy, understanding, assessment, attribution of right and wrong by wisdom, beauty, creativity, the creator of creativity and the buttress of truth: such things as these do not disappear because they are assumed in all man's endeavours even to think. They are pre-conditions of his discourse, of validity, of truth.
From this institution of man and his awareness of his commencement exercises, on the part of God, to the present is a tortuous course. There are however some basic ingredients, and here they are traced. The direction of slide is observed, and something of the terminus of this action!
The normal progression to a substitute:
- as in atheism, where it is the self which has implied but not supplied, the divine powers to KNOW;
- as in agnosticism,
- where it lacks the validity which can make it even a meaningful question so that there is ANY answer at all, however vague,
- and hence bends its victims once again to the self,
- to some object like a Buddha, to some person like a guru,
- all born, all dying, all without start or finish to adorn them into something explanatory,
- mere irrelevances to the giant questions, and substitutes for the only answer:
- this has consequences.
Associated with such spiritual movements, are of course certain dimmings of sight and dumbing of understanding, certain moral substitutes, since all men have morals, even if it is only to condemn those who admit they have them. The end of the line is where vast layers of humanity now are:
"vile affections", "unnatural" usages in the procreative line (since this has some touch of divinity, in that it leads on to pro-creation, and is relative to the love which makes the jointness of parenthood such a boon to those who gain it and keep it! and is likely to go astray when the actual divinity is lost). It is then that we discover some of the spiritual qualities which are found in this realm of diseased spirit.
In what follows we shall use the following translation abbreviation, where it is not the KJV: C for Conybeare, P for Phillips, T for Thayer's dictionary, G for Goodspeed, W for Weymouth, M for Moffatt, NASB for the New American Standard Bible, ASB American Standard Bible..
In the end, we come to find (vv. 28-31) such things as these: an outcast mind (C), that is one without foundation. Hence we get the 'identity crisis' and the lost children of the universe, the vain quest for meaning with Maker, and so on. These are lost without tanks and machine gun bullets. Their state is inward. It is pandemic on the earth, and shows itself in multiplied symptoms, which again multiply, like an obsessive plague, never stopping, always targetting in new ways, the same old things.
Again, there is what is deemed by one translation 'unmentionable deeds' (P). In Florida, recently, we have the verified account of a man, one who was a former officer of distinction in the armed forces, walking out with his wife, and then being openly accosted by a man with reference to some infamous bathing venue. On noting his wife to the group, he was met the appalled cry, "Your wife! Your wi...fe!" as if the thing were past belief. So does the topsy-turvy zeitgeist that would make the natural usage abhorrent, the defence of the perversion of design obligatory, the love of God to be mauled into a hatred of His creation, the wisdom of truth become instead the delight in the Lie, the very continuance of the race by natural means a mockery, expand its virulence.
Providing its lust against all reason, its rendez-vous with death as a gala-event, it yet expects not the plagues it gets and has got, not the wrath of God as the little creaking world descends to dangerous depths, its seams cracking, not the outrages of spirit which this merely exhibits symptomatically, in all other manner of clamour and contention, but ... peace. Alas this cannot be manufactured, any more than can love by lust or personality by the love of pleasure.
These are things unbecoming, unseemly, improper, indecent. They are offence to righteousness in bending the rules and making the way without the qualities of right, soundness, seemliness, agreeableness with and adaptation to reality. Many are the symptoms of the underlying zeitgeist, varied its manifestations, yet they are all in this scripture relayed from, related to and derivable from the underlying departure from design, from the Designer, from His moral law, from His careful instructions and explicit word, so that they "professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" and "their foolish heart was darkened", so that God having given them up to their contrivances and alienation, suffered them to course into "vile affections" (1:26-27 with 1:23-24), in a line of syndrome which readily finds equally unhappy alliances and allies. What are some of these ?
In Romans 1:29 we begin to see the contours of the countryside in view. There is one direction, there are many facets, features, or if you prefer, symptoms: not all always appear, but overall, the impact is as sure as that of a supersonic fighter when it hits, sometimes more of this, at other times more of that, being littered on the lacerated earth.
Maliciousness, covetousness, envy, murder; contention ... wrangling (T);
with the qualities of being
conscienceless, treacherous (G),
without natural affection or without pity ((Weymouth)
or callous, merciless (M)
or implacable, unmerciful.
In addition, we find these symptoms: they are characterisable in those who become -
whisperers; gossips ( G)
ingenious in evil (G), or inventors of wickedness (C),
scoffers at duty to parents (P), or impersuasible, uncompliant, contumacious to parents (T)
which last intractability rhymes ethically with the 'wranglers' notation earlier. With all this, there is yet more in the slithering line, for it is not all bold, but evil:
stabbers in the back, God-haters (P); or slanderers (G), defamers (M), or slanderers, abhorrent to God (G)/ hateful to God or exceptionally impious and wicked (T).
Again, the theme continues: they are insolent, haughty, boastful (ASB). Shame is forgotten, the impudence that despises God, the living and true God, or considers the fear of Him backward, retrogressive, and serves slander and contumacious contempt, it is here.
In all this, we are reminded of Paul in I Timothy 6:5, where those who reject the sound words of Jesus Christ, such as those to whom he specifically refers, are deemed "men of depraved mind and depraved of the truth" (NASB).
This then is the prognosis of giving short-shrift to God in the very midst of His revelation. Who better fit this category of placement, than those who for centuries have heard the gospel, have even had it formally established in their land (however improperly when any kind of force was employed), have had it presented in ever so many translations, languages, by sound waves, by digital mode, on CD-ROM, in books, in explanations and compilations, in defence in exposés, sermons, by coffee shop methods, in tenderness by bed-sides, in robust vigour in Armies, on land, in sea, in air, and to some extent, in space!
Is it happening ? Are such symptoms, now here, now there, now in immoral radio, TV, dance, exposures and dramatisations of exposures, in indecency which it is now being made indecent to CALL indecent, in cover-ups, in shams, in shames, in strident calls to natural conduct, where nature is defined as promiscuously dismissive, in fact a mere fulfilment of "worshipping the creation rather than the Creator" as in the indictment of Paul.
Are there not even some who deem themselves irreligious, at least to the point that it cannot 'touch' them so that they can do what they want, so that they may become self-styled towers of ethical wonder, or self-styled beasts of slush, allegedly at will (though the price tag is there) : are there not some of these, who are beginning to waver and quaver. WE CANNOT HAVE THIS, they cry. The PLACE IS GOING TO THE DOGS.
They want up, but find down, and have dismissed the elevator. It is a quandary indeed for them. It is necessary if you want to fly, to find the craft to take you, since men cannot fly. It is essential if you want the things of God, first to find Him, for He is without imitation or precursor, successor or parallel.
Thus when we read of
the implacability in Palestine that was,
Israel and the Moslem states surrounding that are,
so that Israel is to be muted, commuted, disputed,
while merciless meanderings with diplomacy, money and power are to impress on it that they can, as Arafat seems to feel, go to hell,
an interesting peace proposal:
when we read of the new shoot-a-settler program, as noted in an earlier news, and find that Jerusalem MUST not be really Jewish,
it is then, not surprising.
When we find that West Timor should actually be maimed and blamed, and bled white and assailed and assaulted, and that there is really no way to bring back 100,000 or so displaced persons, because it is all so sensitive, don't you see, we are not staggered at the sheer inhumane offensiveness, the gluttony of gracelessness, nor are we incredulous at the ferocity, the indifference to all natural affection, the remorseless intents, the merciless ways through the haze of the days of wickedness.
When we find that Hitler is not enough: Israel MUST be subdued by the many Moslem millions, we do not stagger in unbelief, believing ourselves in another universe, perhaps some lost realm of thought. We can, though at that, with difficulty, credit that yes, perhaps such things could be.
When we find Arab youths sporting stones trying to outface and subdue Israeli protectors of the nation, and that these are heroes because they get hurt, and ponder the lives of these sacrifices so readily made by those who embrace that religion of Islam, indeed submission, we do not weep for the sheer extravaganza of woe and wickedness so to defile the vulnerable and use the weak to overcome, perhaps by world distortions, the Jews.
If force did not work, as according to the divine plan as shown for example in It Bubbles, It Howls... He Calls, then subtlety can implacably be tried, and the price paid, in the flesh of the young, sent like the Iranian boys earlier, feckless into the throng in the interests which seem like that of Mars, for Rome, the god of war. Is this Islam ? It is certainly submission.. Is this Islam ? It is certainly submission.
Or if we find that the UN wants Israel out of control of its little bit of former Palestine, so shamelessly NOT made available according to treaty, by Britain, and understand that that international body is somehow supposedly an international repository of some kind of morality: we do not shudder in unbelief. It is no more impossible to believe that the institution set up AFTER Hitler, should so forward the line of dispossession. It does it differently. It has some of the same sad results.
The misuse of the mouth flourishes as perhaps never before: right is called wrong, weakness strength, conscienceless conduct morality, slander is a way of life, schism is a practice that adorns, as those who insist on the Bible are disregarded in the massive whirlpools of philosophy and convenience, convention and arrogance which draw the deluded to their doom. To add to it, many USE the Bible but do not view it, talk of it, but do not obey. For them, it becomes an ethical status symbol, a thing for the ode, but odious for the performance. In the same theme, many like freemasonry, put it all into some sort of unhallowed vitamiser of opposites, and come out with the sheen on their armour, but its trademark unknown.
If then there were need of seeing the end of the road, to which the highway of the 21st. century so nearly approaches, in terms of the degenerative dynamics so faithfully traced in Romans 1:17ff., we have only to look at our contemporary period of the restoration of Jerusalem to the Jews as in Luke 21:24, which marks the ending of the Gentile period, and the onset of the end, the terminal events. Jews had an innings; Gentiles are about at the end of their own. Furore about Jerusalem is predicted, and it is CERTAINLY OCCURRING with a vengeance bordering on vendetta! It is in the news, the views, the pews, in the papers, in the magazines of the press and the gunners alike just as in Zechariah 12. It is this which likewise traces the triumphs of glory in deliverance, before that epochal event of their SPIRITUAL deliverance and restoration in large numbers, to and of the Messiah.
A SECOND EXCERPT from the Divine Agenda Ch. 6 follows.
THE CRISIS FOR THE END OF THE AGE
THE END OF AGE OUTCOMES IN II TIMOTHY 3
Horrendous as are these trends traced by the apostle Paul, as inspired of the Lord, in Romans 1, there is a special noxiousness about the terminal agues of the sickness of man, to be found at the end of the Age, at which we now press (cf. Answers to Questions Ch. 5).
Now therefore let us consider something of the music of the language deployed through the apostle Paul, in this text, in characterising the abysmal decline of the Age.
This returns us to our start:
aspondos astorgos asunqetos asunetos
The first two of these terms appear likewise in Romans 1, being here specified in particular for what is in that chapter, a more general descent than that of II Timothy, though of course, one ending in precisely the same place! The first four terms occur in two separated pairs in Romans 1, and the first two in a pair in II Timothy 3:3.
The assonance and alliteration is intense: it involves moreover a salient REMOVAL of various good things with the 'a' prefix, leaving the result a sonorous moral wasteland of negation.
It reads and sounds like a death sentence, the sonar spectacular mixed with intellectual denial. In a literary way, they resemble the Churchillian 'on the beaches', though this is undoubtedly, on the breaches, which are virtually of everything.
These terms, then ? They mean:
1) without treaty, contrary to treaty, truce-breaking, hence irreconcilable, implacable;
2) without natural affection, lacking affectionate and cordial relations with kindred;
3) without understanding;
4) merciless, harsh;
5) odious towards God, God-hating, characterised by hate relative to God: hence from the earlier times, hated by God, God-forsaken.
That is a good contour of ethics for association with the events to come. From the NASB, in II Timothy's prophetic of the ethics of the last days, as it strives and arrives, we have this:
- "lovers of self,
lovers of money,
boastful, arrogant, revilers,
disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving,
irreconcilable, malicious gossips,
without self-control, brutal (or savage),
haters of good, treacherous,
reckless (or headlong), conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God."
That too seems to set the tone for what is to follow, rather aptly to say no more.
Even in religions, there is FORM rather than FACT, "holding a form of godliness without its power" (II Timothy 3:5). In their religious clothes ... we shall for the moment avoid this extension! WHEN you lack the power of God, the tendency is either to use your own, ally with others to make your own, or deplore the lack, and perhaps seek to find it, or simply lack power. The last contingency is not so popular, on the world stage today: with independence throbbing like a pulsing head-ache, blocking thought very often as does a thrombosis the blood, hate for those who disagree about territory becoming a butcher of bodies, a strangler of minds, an arrogant detester of peace, fortified with zeal in the irreconcilable, as immune to truth as to reason.
This of course is all part of the DIVINE AGENDA, to descry from the distance these intemperate follies as LIKEWISE TO ASCRIBE THEIR CAUSE, as we have just seen in detail from the general coverage found in Romans 1.
And this ? Not least it described: Alienation from God, from truth, hence peace, from reason, from evidence, from duty to God, to each other, from beauty, with wilfulness and vice disadorning the debased and carrying everything the more rapidly to its illogical but merited conclusion, blind to mercy, merciless.
More may be seen on II Timothy 3: 1-5 in SMR pp. 661-664.
(End of Excerpt)
Meanwhile, consider the ludicrous contrast between the thing from which multitudes absent themselves,
the TOWER OF CHRIST,
the refuge of Rock, and that to which they consign themselves,
spiritual inmates of the hospital of
the COLLAPSED LUNG.
THE COLLAPSED LUNG
II Timothy 3:1-5. Here you see the syndrome of suffering and sorrow which formalism and evasion present to mankind.
“Lovers” – yes of themselves, with their self-esteem and self-fulfilment, ogling life as if it were a business for profitable returns to themselves. “Disobedience to parents” is compounded with the “unloving, unforgiving” conduct of many, while the “brutal” manner, now famous for Islam in jihads and al Qaeda, joins with others whose attitude is that of being “despisers of good”. All this comes amid a torrent from the tongues of “blasphemers” and a mad search for money (3:1), amid unthankfulness and unholiness: all a picture of distortion and doom.
Dying without life, these cannot reach the Tower of Christ the truth, being unwilling at first, and disenabled at the last. Many like Esau, might seek repentance, but find their own hearts so hard and their spiritual breath so laboured with their collapsed lung, long inhaling the spiritual tobaccos and tars of this world, that they end like radioactive waste, where they belong. It is unwise to play with salvation.
WOULD YOU RATHER LIVE IN THE GRACE OF GOD ? Then avoid mere formalism, trust His power and USE IT by faith in prayer (Mark 11:23-24), knowing that the name of the Lord is a refuge into which you may run and be safe (Proverbs 18:10), a strength by which you may walk and not faint, the signal of salvation, by which you live and find life eternal, the cleansing agent of sin, by which you are made acceptable (Eph. 1:6), the place of promise, by which you may grow in grace, knowledge and being filled with peace, know what it means to live in the power of the Lord.
What then of the acrid absenteeism from Christ!
Just as in II Timothy 1:9ff., you see the devout, stout and singular spiritual bond between Paul and the Lord, equipped with energy, intimation, information, provision and texture of spirit, so here in II Timothy 3, the listing for the last times, for the end of the Age, we see the ultimate contrast, for here we find
the suffocating and acrid,
the contemptible and directionless,
the impure and the unmodelled,
the extravagant and the vile,
the pretentiously self-important and the unseemly,
filled with its own makings, like a bilious stomach,
contorted, eruptive, incontinent, spewing forth on what it is all around.
When this occurs, it is only natural that others, involved in similar occupations, but perhaps in a different phase (for not all have ALL the symptoms, it is a generic thing with different exponents specialising more particularly in different aspects of its virulence), do not entirely appreciate the work of their close-by neighbours!
Hence intense is the evil, passionate is the outrage, the dynamism, the vile or contentious intention often disguised as if it were some form of legitimate religion, while in fact it is merely the outcome of false prophecy, whether in the genus of philosophy, or more explicit delusion in religious apparel. After all, declares Paul in II Corinthians 11:13-15), the devil can transform himself into an angel of light!
Some kind of amoral, on the one hand, and pseudo-moral on the other, complex arises, and you hear of the interest of this nation or that, as if it were some sacred pledge. It is in our interests! they say, and so increasingly do individuals. What is of social interest may also obtain, but often in little more than palliative ways of extending a superficial peace among contenders.
What other interest do they have ? To please their partners in business or marriage, if indeed there is more than mere sexual intimacy involved ? To secure some continuity in their lives ? To assure themselves that they are at least better than others, or even to make of themselves a very standard in their pride, that any just and sensible 'god' could not fail to appreciate and take under his wing ?
As man is engulfed in his own explosive mixtures, so his environment suffers, in the realm of the psychic, social, political and physical, moral and spiritual; and many consider the very thought of coming to GOD - and not to some new false prophet expatiating airily in sonorous vacuities about Him, or of some new spiritual enzymes, useless alone and wrongly attributed - to be old-fashioned, if not archaic. New Age page has yet to be written on (cf. SMR pp. 867ff.), they seem to feel, and in that script appear the most blood-thirst, inhuman, inhumane, artificially pseudo-moral, inconsistent evasions one could ever wish in wildest imagination to find, even if only in order to see what the genus could hold! (Cf. News 19.)
CHRIST HAS NO SUBSTITUTE,
TRUTH DOES NOT VARY
Absenteeism from Christ is like a slender yacht, stripped of sail, mast and rigging, splashing gracelessly because far from its design, going nowhere in particular, it is unable to catch the winds and but poorly adapted for windless voyaging. For it, no target calls, nor does finishing line draw it. There IS no finish, for such a vessel: indeed it is finished already; or as Christ put it to Nicodemus, "He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" - John 3:18.
Absence may make the heart go stronger in some things, but when it is wilful, it can lead to distorted desires, strange fires of spirit, disquietude or complacency alike, underpinned with rusty stanchions that are ready to disintegrate. The end is then merely a time issue, its ingredients already active and, without intervention, it is to an evil assured! The criterion of stability and truth airily dismissed, the conclusion is in the DD field: doctor of darkness.
To revert to our yacht figure: if the wind is absent (John 3:8), it is not least because there are no sails to take it! If doldrums are deadening, their location is here not geographical but spiritual. Refusing restoration, the stricken vessel wallows in the ocean, and calls it living.
He who seeks, being called, has sails uplifted, prepared for what is to come: to be equipped with map and movement, the whole cleansed deep at sea: and when the Oceanic Captain to come is aboard, there is wisdom and counsel (Ephesians 1:17-18), yes and power (Eph 1:19), for propulsion attends (Acts 5:31).
Fearless of death, filled with life, its wonders and vision, like Paul, those who sail in this way now meet constantly with their noble and triumphant Master (Isaiah 64:5). To depart and be with Him is far better (Philippians 1:21-23), though it is well first to finish all the voyages assigned in His service on this earth!
The beginning and the end (Revelation 2:8), He is the end of all ending for those who find their beginnings in His saving grace (II Timothy 1:9-10), their destiny with Him, face to face (Rev. 22:1ff.).
BRIEF OVERVIEW of the THRUST and
SEQUENCE in the Epistle to the Romans
*1 It is of great interest to realise that in Romans 1:16-22 and on, there is a vital progression of thought. While our main interest here is Romans 1, there is a continuation edifying to pursue, and consistent in theme. Hence we here look over some of the essential thrust in Romans as one whole.
First is the POWER of the Gospel in salvation. No mere word, it is the word of GOD whose words carry inherent efficacy, do what they say. That is in Romans 1, verse 16. In 17, as in Isaiah 1, you see the vast rush of divine righteousness thereby exhibited and flowing on for the deliverance of man. At first sight, contradictory, it is in fact the kernel of the Gospel, for it is in the PROTECTION of His righteousness that the Lord acts in making it available to and through faith. From the faith of those to whom He revealed His plan of salvation, which focusses the Gospel, to the faith of those receiving this same Gospel, it provides the door to a righteousness which is nothing less than riches of redemption.
Thus is it written in Romans 1:17, declaring that in the GOSPEL "the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.' " What is the relevance here of the last point ? This we shall now see. First however, we need to revert to the fact that it is the righteousness of GOD which is revealed in the Gospel, not that of man. This then is the second emphasis, the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God in salvation.
In accord with this fact, Isaiah 1casts aspersions on the 'works' of religious 'duties' when these, instead of being the symbols of realities which are found, known, loved and lived, become the substitutes for them, one more wave of useless imagery: vain because misunderstood, and that most wilfully, for they then become the artifices of religion to accompany the wickednesses of flesh, not the symbols of a salvation which brings to God. WASH, incites Isaiah (1:16), for though your sins be as scarlet, they will be white as snow (1:18).
HOW this may be so is shown in Isaiah 49-55, in particular when we find that BY HIS KNOWLEDGE SHALL MY RIGHTEOUS SERVANT JUSTIFY MANY (53:11). How is this wrought ? Is it then by checking out their righteous works ? Hardly. The reason provided for this justification is not at all of this character as the indictments of Isaiah 1 make all too clear, not to mention those of Isaiah 30. It is by an entirely different method which on the one hand, makes the horrific toll of sin capable of immediate dismissal, its angry cries for judgment stifled with truth; and on the other hand, makes the payment of the same something which only the perfectly pure Messiah, God as man (Isaiah 9, 43:10-11, 53), could possibly cover.
How is this ? It is firstly because He, being God, sent from the divine Godhead (Isaiah 48:16, Psalm 45, Micah 5:1-3, Zechariah 2:8), has no LIMIT to the AMOUNT of righteousness, its scope, its variety, its richness, its depth, its certainty before time, in it, over it, beyond it. NOTHING is too much for this righteousness. Secondly, it is because His purity, as exhibited in the transfiguration symbolically and in His life actually (John 8:29, Hebrews 5, Luke 22, Mark 2), is of a giant radiance, being integrally of the very nature of that true God who dwells in light inaccessible, in His own form (I Timothy 6:16), since His is light and He is its very source (James 1:17, Deuteronomy 32:4).
In quality and quantity, then He is more than adequate to cover by the expression of love, in the sacrificial destiny of the cross, in cursedness borne, the whole debit account of all who receive His credits (II Corinthians 5:17ff., Romans 8:32, Isaiah 53:3-6), healing ALL whose sins He bears as it is written in Isaiah Isaiah 53, cf. I Peter 1:19-20, 2:22-24.
What then is the REASON given by Isaiah 53:11, for Christ's JUSTIFYING MANY, just as He also showed in the last Supper as the ministration of the blood of the New Covenant (Matthew 26:28), where His blood is shed for many ? It is statedly this: BECAUSE HE SHALL BEAR THEIR INIQUITIES.
That is the Gospel in the foreground. But what is its background on this earth ?
Thirdly, in Romans 1:18-20, we find the MANIFEST FACT OF GOD, His eternal power and Godhead. This has been obvious since the creation, made manifest on this earth, and it has been one of the tasks of this Biblical Christian Apologetics series of some 63 volumes, In Praise of Christ Jesus, to show just HOW obvious!
To this third point in the sequence from Paul in his inspired writing, and closely joined with it, is the fourth, namely the result that since this obvious fact has been with a certain moral criminality held down and subjected to evasive devices by man, the WRATH OF GOD has been revealed from heaven. It is a marvel for man that this wrath is not alone, but is accompanied by the GOSPEL of salvation by grace through the DIVINE RIGHTEOUSNESS ONLY (as in Psalm 71:14-16, Romans 3:23ff.,Ephesians 2:1-12).
The fifth element in the series given in Romans 1 at this point is the internal, spiritual,mental and social RESULTS of this evasion by man of the reality of God, conjoined with the judgments of God poured out on it.
Here of course there is not only the wrath of God as if separate, and incited from without, but internality in this, that the misuse of the imagination of man becomes soon a vehement spiritual cancer, so that all his ways are subjected to a corruption so intense, so immense, that it consumes him in all sorts of moral, spiritual, religious perversion, including pride, malice and a "debased mind" (1:28), so that the unforgiving, unmerciful, boastful and the proud erections of man in the idolatry in his heart makes of him a subject so unlovely that only in a complete washing in the blood of another, or more directly, a complete pardon and regeneration through the power of God, manifested in the Cross of Christ, and demonstrated in His resurrection, is enough (cf. Titus 2-3, esp. 3:5-7).
Let us move on a little to see some of the sequence in Romans (and for more, see The Biblical Workman, which covers the Epistle). In fact, Romans 2 shows the useless futility (not redundancy alas, but reinforcement in words to cover the force of the field itself!) of mere religious pretension, ceremonial or other, when as Romans 3 declares, ALL HAVE SINNED and fallen short of the glory of God so that there is only one way, a WORK-FREE righteousness as a GIFT from the GRACE of God, so that God has given the Christ, and Him "set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate HIS righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time HIS righteousness, that He might be JUST and the JUSTIFIER of the one who has faith in Jesus."
Boasting then becomes irrelevant, diseased, contrary to fact (3:27). THIS is the same grace of God in the same reality which in preliminary form was both shown and given to Abraham, we learn in Romans 4 (esp. 20-25), so that whether we or he, we are ALL who believe, justified by faith, and so have peace with God (completing the point in Romans 1:17). It is a fact fulfilled, for we are those who HAVE BEEN justified by faith, and who will be kept by the power of God (I Peter 1). If God, says Paul in Romans 5, made peace with us when enemies, how much MORE will He keep from the wrath to come; and if by His death we are delivered, how much more are we saved by His life.
The sin of ONE MAN provided what CONSTITUTED ALL as sinners (Romans 5:19), and the righteousness of ONE MAN (God as man) provided for those who believe, what CONSTITUTED believing man regenerate, freely receiving "justification of life". Hence the integrity of the life for life transaction secures the whole life, as so vastly emphasised in Romans 5:1-12.
Yet this is no mere symbolic seance. In Romans 6, Paul is at pains to renew the initial stress on the divine righteousness. If we die in Christ, our sins and sinful natures crucified with Him, when borne by Him, how then can we be ruled by what is dead, when there is the direct dynamic of the presence of the Saviour at work in our redeemed lives!
Certainly, there is a fight as sin tries its wares, but there is a regeneration which makes the base and source in Christ now subject to His direct control, which, being in the very line of our heart's desire as Christians, does not fail. If we slip, it is no more slippage which constitutes the case, than does a slippage of a hawser over a bollard. It may occur: but it is of the order of the rupture of procedure if it does, and steps at once are to be taken to restore the slipping member. We realise... "knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be rendered inoperative, that we should no longer be slaves of sin."
Much difficulty is commonly found by and in those, whether in writing or in living, who not having found Christ by faith, but fooling about with this or that theological name or doctrine, never actually come in faith to receive Himself and His gift of eternal life. In such cases, many act as if needing endless words to substitute for the lack of the reality of which they speak. YOU WILL NOT COME TO ME! said Christ (John 5:39-40) of many who were better at trifling with words than acting on them!
Romans 7 shows in dramatic monologue format, the stress which may precede conversion, uncovering the depths in psychic dynamism, and the relief in the power of God which in its various outworkings is seen in Romans 8. While as in Galatians 5:5ff., 5:17ff., the abyss may seek at times to soar as a cloud, its nature is not unknown and the fruits of the Spirit of God are far different. In Romans 8, moreover, Paul traces not only the personal, but the divine and the coming consummation where as always, since God is love, the love of God is seen penetrating as the sun to the earth, covering all with assurance in Him.
In Romans 9, accordingly, comes the repudiation of any of the psychic furnishings of man as the ground of salvation, or any part in it, while Romans 10 laments the condition of many of Paul's countrymen in seeking to establish their own righteousness, showing through the prophetic scriptures, the unhappy malady of Israel in at first rejecting the Gospel.
The overall wonder of the Gospel to Jew and to Gentile, and the interweaving in historical brilliance of the entire operation of the plan of salvation, ending in a wonderful renewal for a vast swath of Israel, is seen in Romans 11, while 12 shows the issue in holiness, spiritual functionality, and the joint usage of gifts from God, received by many, in one integrity in the "body of Christ".
Romans 13, in turn, deals with State and Church issues, which may affect and do affect Christians, and the need of practical performance in society of the Christian life; while Romans 14 has issue in the questions of making allowance for immaturity for fellow pilgrims, for we are not born as ready-written encyclopedias, and must learn and help one another on the way. In Romans 15, the theme in Gospel application proceeds in terms of love and weakness more generically, pointing out the simple fact that Christ did not please Himself, so how should we ? With this is noted the fact that this was as predicted, which is part of the inheritance of the Church in the Bible, which is food for all, inspiration and orientation.
Paul's own intentions for further service in the Church FOR Christ are then considered, while in Ch 16, acknowledgement of a particular nature of the work and worship, service of many is exhibited, since with the Lord nothing of His work is in vain, and the epistle proceeds to a strong exhortation: DO NOT TANGLE, MIX with those who move away from the Biblical, the apostolic faith, the things received (as in Galatians 1), for any change whatever is poison, bad for the body, foolish from the first, perilous to the last. How much would have been spared, and by how many, if only this need of discipline and purity had been heeded, TOGETHER WITH the love and helpfulness of which the apostle spoke so roundly in Romans 14-15.
How closely does all this resemble Isaiah and the Psalms! (cf. Barbs, Arrows and Balms 17). It is one Gospel from Abraham on as Paul shows in Romans 4; indeed from the first in Eden, have its workings in quality, tenor and tone been exhibited. It is to this theme that Paul refers as the epistle comes to its conclusion, in that glorious passage in Romans 16:26-27 (see Of the Earth, Earthy or Celestial in Christ Ch. 14).