[PODCAST] Longsuffering is Salvation

In this episode, I explore what the Scriptures teach concerning God’s longsuffering leading humankind to repentance. This attribute of God is mentioned by Paul in Romans 2:4 and discussed in detail by Peter in both of his epistles. I show how mercy, grace, and justice are expressed in God’s enduring patience and how we should respond.

The episode is available at the following links:

Anchor – Longsuffering is Salvation
Google Play – Longsuffering is Salvation
Apple Podcasts – Longsuffering is Salvation

Please feel free to leave comments, feedback, or suggestions for future episodes.

I hope you enjoy!

Advertisements

Judge Righteously and Love Mercy

As children of God and followers of Christ, our goal is to be more like the Father and his Son. We should desire to be transformed into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29) and to be holy like God (1 Pet. 1:15). In Romans 2, Paul speaks of God as a judge with two important attributes that govern how he deals with humankind—he is both righteous and merciful. If we are to be more like God when we deal with people, it is important that we learn how to judge righteously and to be merciful.

Judging Righteously

We must aspire to have the ability to discern between right and wrong and to guide those who are not inline with God’s moral standard. However, we need to be careful when we do this, because when we judge others, we could condemn ourselves. After exposing the sins of the Gentiles in Romans 1, Paul accuses the Jews of practicing the same sins. He says in verse 1, “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things” (Rom. 2:1 NKJV). The Jews condemned the Gentiles for practicing sin, yet they indulged in the same behavior. Sin is sin in God’s sight, and he does not excuse anyone’s transgressions based on any distinguishing factors, such as heritage. He simply “renders to each one according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:6; 1 Pet. 1:17). The Jews were just as guilty as the Gentiles, and therefore when they judged the Gentiles for their sinfulness, they condemned themselves in their hypocrisy.

Jesus taught on this principle in his sermon on the mount. He said, “judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1). The measure that we use to judge someone will be the same measure that is used on us. If we judge others according to their sins while practicing the same, we are considered hypocrites. We must remove the sin from our lives before we attempt to correct the behavior of others (Matt. 7:2–5).

God does expect us to judge. He does not want us to become desensitized to sin to where we do not even notice it in our own lives. We should not call evil good, and good evil (Isa. 5:20). However, we must judge with righteous judgment (John 7:24). When the people sought to kill Jesus because he had healed a man on the Sabbath, he accused them of being hypocrites. They wanted to condemn him, but yet they had no problem circumcising on the Sabbath. They showed partiality in their judgment, and they considered the good work of Jesus Christ an evil thing (cf. Matt. 12:12). We must be careful not to oppose what is good and to support what is wrong.

23It is not good to show partiality in judgment. 24 He who says to the wicked, “You are righteous,” Him the people will curse; Nations will abhor him. 25 But those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them (Prov. 24:23–24 NKJV).

When we judge others without recognizing our own faults, we excuse ourselves, and thus show partiality. The same is also true when, in the appropriate circumstances, we fail to point out wrong behavior. If we strive to be more like Christ, we must learn to discern between good and bad, know when to point out what is wrong, and be able to recognize our own errors.

Loving Mercy

The other trait seen in God is mercifulness. Although God is impartial in his judgment, he also delights in mercy and withholds punishment when we indeed deserve it (Micah 7:18). He is forbearing and longsuffering (Rom. 2:4). God gives us several chances to get things right. This attribute of God is what should lead us to be the same way; that is, because he has been merciful to us, we should be merciful to others (Matt. 18:33).

We read in Matthew 12 that when the disciples were walking with Jesus through the grain fields on the Sabbath, they became hungry and began to pluck the heads of grain to eat. The Pharisees saw this and questioned Jesus on why they were doing an unlawful thing on this holy day. Once again, Jesus’ response pointed to their hypocrisy, because knowing that David entered into the house of God to eat the showbread, which was unlawful, the Pharisees did not find fault in him. Nor did they find fault in the priests who offered sacrifices on the Sabbath.

What the disciples did was not unlawful; however, the Pharisees desired to twist the law in order to condemn them. Jesus therefore quoted Hosea 6:6: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” That is, holding fast to the law is worthless if one does not show mercy toward his fellow man. James says that mercy triumphs over judgment (Jas. 2:13). Although judging with righteous judgment is essential, God also requires us to love mercy (Hosea 6:7–8):

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

When we find ourselves in a situation in which we are required to correct a brother or teach a non-Christian, it is important that we examine ourselves first to see if we are in error. Furthermore, we need to remember that God is a forgiving God who shows mercy, and therefore we must also do the same.

Signs that We’re Rejecting God

Beginning at Romans 1:18, Paul gives a discourse in which he compares the sinfulness of the Gentiles to that of the Jews. His point is to expose the fact that, in regard to salvation, both groups were on equal footing. The Jews’ status as having been God’s people did not make them superior to the Gentiles because they were a sinful people. God opposes unrighteous no matter who it is. He is not a respecter of person (Rom. 2:11). Although Paul’s focus in Romans 1:18–32 is on the behavior of the Gentiles, we come to understand at the beginning of chapter 2 that he also accuses the Jews of the same things (Rom. 2:1–2). Both Jews and Gentiles had become extremely sinful, and Paul charges them in this text with suppressing the truth of God; that is, he accuses man with rejecting God by indulging in unrighteous behavior. This text is important for us today, as it presents to us at least five general warning signs that indicate if we are rejecting God in our behavior.

Refusing to Glorify God

The first sign that we are rejecting God is our refusal to glorify him. In verse 21, Paul writes, “although they knew God”, indicating that not glorifying him is a willful action that goes against nature. God’s existence and divinity are evidenced in the things that are made, and therefore, we are without excuse (v. 20). God wants his creation to recognize and glorify him. Jesus glorified God by offering himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world (Matt. 5:16; John 12:27–28; 16:14; 17:1–5; 21:19). Likewise, we are expected to glorify God by offering ourselves as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 4:16; 1 Cor. 10:31). Just as Christ honored God in his death, we must honor him with our lives. This sacrifice demonstrates our gratitude towards him and causes others to glorify him as well (2 Cor. 9:6–15).

Elevating Our Philosophies

Another sign of rejecting God is elevating our philosophies. Paul says that the Gentiles became futile in their thoughts, and they darkened their hearts. Although they professed to be wise, they became fools (Rom. 1:21–22). We often think that we can direct our lives on the basis of our own wisdom and traditions. The Israelites also were guilty of putting stock in their man-made traditions (Jer. 9:14; Matt. 15:1–9). We have to be careful not to elevate our philosophies and traditions over the doctrine of Christ (Eph. 5:6; Col. 2:8; 1 Tim. 6:20). This practice may give an appearance of wisdom; however, it does not lead to eternal life (Col. 2:20–23). God’s thoughts are higher than ours (Isa. 55:6–9), and his foolishness is wiser than our wisdom (1 Cor. 1:25). Therefore, we must understand and follow his will, not ours (Eph. 5:17).

Practicing Idolatry

Practicing idolatry also reveals our rejection of God. The Israelites were easily given into idolatry when they made a golden calf after Moses had gone up into the mountain for forty days and forty nights (Exod. 24:18, 32:1). They were rebuked severely for this sin (32:27–28). Before going in to possess the Promised Land, Moses reminded them of God’s law to not worship any carved images or heavenly bodies (Deut. 4:15–19). He knew they would feel compelled to worship the things they could see, and not the one who created them. That is, they would worship and serve the creature, and not the Creator (Rom. 1:25). This pattern of idolatry has been prevalent throughout the ages in all nations, and we continue to practice it today when we elevate our material possessions over God. People think their money, cars, houses, and political leaders can do more for them than the Lord. They continue to “change the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man” (v. 23). We must be careful not to fall into this modern-day idolatry. Our devotion needs to be towards our Creator.

Indulging in Sexual Immorality

Paul also names sexual immorality as a sign of rejecting God. He says that the people dishonored their bodies in their lusts (v. 24). They were given to vile passions: women lusting after women and men lusting after men (v. 26). These things were shameful, and those practicing them would receive their due punishment (v. 27). Sexual immorality comes in different shapes and sizes in our society, for example, rape, sex trafficking, and pornography. We are also bombarded with all types of images on T.V. and on the Internet, making them easily accessible to adults and children. We must understand the severity of this sin. Sexual immorality is different from other practices because it is a sin against our own bodies, which are temples of the Holy Spirit once we become Christians (1 Cor. 6:18–19). Therefore, we have to run as far as we can away from it.

Embracing and Approving Sin

The ultimate sign of rejection of God is seen in our mindset. Paul accuses the Gentiles of having a debased or corrupted mind, which shows the extent of their sinfulness. Notice all the depravities he enumerates (vv. 29–31):

29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful

They not only embraced these sins, but they also approved of those who practiced them (v. 32). When we have arrived at this point, we are in dangerous territory because we could become callous and hardened to the point of no return (vv. 24, 26, 28; Eph. 4:19). That is, we allow sin to rule over us by obeying it and becoming its slaves. Our goal, however, should be to free ourselves from sin and become slaves of righteousness (Rom. 5:12–18).

What to Do

We need to use these signs to examine ourselves as Christians to make sure that we are not walking on the path of unrighteousness and that we are continuing in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). God is kind, forbearing, and patient; however, we should not take advantage of these characteristics by willfully living a life of sin without repentance, expecting to receive his grace and mercy at the end. These attributes should prompt us to strive to please God (Rom. 2:4), and when we fall, we need to be conscious of our faults and repent. Our mindset should be to walk in the light, seeking God’s forgiveness by confessing our sins to him daily (1 John 1:7–9).

False Knowledge

We are living in a time in which people are so smart that their intelligence has become foolishness. Even in so-called Christendom, some have begun to deny basic truths that have been established since ancient times and have been laid out clearly in the Scriptures. For example, in the name of their earthly agenda, people deny the biblical conceptualization of the body-soul distinction and the after-life. If they cannot completely negate certain doctrines, they will twist God’s word around to create foreign theologies and then claim that there are multiple truths. They also deceive others in efforts to achieve their ultimate goal of fame and personal gain. This behavior is not new. Paul warned Timothy about times like these. He told him, “Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Tim. 6:20). The Scriptures teach that the work of the deceivers and the deceived will finally be made manifest, and as God’s people, we must resist their deception by continuing in the doctrine of Christ.

In 2 Timothy 3:1–9, Paul describes how people would be during the times of apostasy. He says that they would love themselves and their money (vv. 1–2). They would be blasphemers and would disobey their parents (v. 2). They would also be ungrateful, unholy, unloving, and unforgiving (vv. 2–3). Paul also describes them as being slanderers and despisers of good without self-control (v. 3). The apostates would love pleasure instead of loving God (v. 4). They would appear to be pious, professing to know God, but denying him in their works by being detestable, disobedient, and unfit for doing good works (v. 5; Titus 1:16). Furthermore, Paul points out that the people whom apostates deceive would be sinful and gullible, easily led astray by their passions—constantly seeking knowledge but never learning truth (vv. 6–7).

Notice in verse 8 the reference to the sorcerers Jannes and Jambres during the time of the Exodus. When Moses demanded the liberation of the Israelites, Aaron performed miracles to confirm their authority received from God (Exod. 7:1–7). Pharaoh, in response, appointed the sorcerers to perform similar miracles (Exod. 7:11–12). Although they were successful at replicating some (cf. Exod. 8:18), Aaron’s works always overcame the deception of the magicians’ enchantments (Exod. 9:11). The same will happen to the deceivers of our times. We should find comfort in that they will not be able to continue any further with their lies and manipulation of the truth and that their evil works eventually will be reveal (2 Tim. 3:9). Until then we must continue to devote ourselves to the truth of God’s word, knowing that, not some, but the entirety of his word is inspired and is necessary for teaching, persuading, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:15–17).

Our Duty as Bondservants of Christ

The word “bondservant”—also translated as “slave”—comes from the Greek word doulos (Strong’s Greek Concordance #1401) and is used in the Bible in its literal sense to refer to a person in a position of servitude (1 Cor. 7:21). The duty of a bondservant is to be obedient and pleasing in all things to his master, and to be sincere and honest in his work (Eph. 6:5; Col. 4:22; 1 Tim. 6:1; Titus 2:9). The term is also used in the Scriptures metaphorically. For example, in 1 Corinthians 7:22, we read that the one who is called being a freedman becomes Christ’s slave; that is, he is a spiritual servant. Paul opens up his epistle to the Romans with this concept of spiritual enslavement that, as Christians, we must seek to emulate in our lives if we want to be obedient and pleasing to our master.

In his greeting to the Christians in Rome, Paul refers to himself as a bondservant of Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:1; See also Gal. 1:10, Phil. 1:1 and Titus 1:1). He had given up everything for Christ’s sake. He had studied under a highly honored teacher of the law (Acts 5:34; Acts 22:3). He considered himself a Hebrew of the Hebrews and a Pharisee of the Pharisees, being zealous and righteous according to his religion and heritage. However, he counted all as loss in order to serve Christ (Phil. 3:5–7). We see in Luke’s record that Christ had a plan for Paul (Acts 9:15–16):

“But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.’”

The Lord set Paul apart to carry out a special task, and Paul obeyed him as a servant would obey his master. The task involved being an apostle of Christ and preaching obedience to the gospel among the Gentiles (vv. 1 & 5). The Scriptures teach us that Paul fulfilled the requirements for his work as an apostle by being an eyewitness to the resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 9:1, 15:3–10) and being chosen (Acts 9:15). We also learn that, after his conversion, Paul was zealous for proclaiming the word. He says in verses 14–16,

“I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”

This description of Paul as a bondservant also extends to all Christians. We too have to consider ourselves slaves to Christ.

Notice that Paul says in verse 6 that the Romans were the called of Christ. God calls all people by his gospel. In Romans 10, Paul explains that it is the word that produces faith, and that faith is what enables us to respond to the gospel in order to be saved (Rom. 10:8–17). He writes in chapter 1 that the gospel of Christ is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16). The Romans were not called only to obey the truth, but also to be saints, set apart by God (Rom. 1:7).

We as Christians have become God’s special people, and we have a special task that we must carry out as Christ’s bondservants, having been bought with a price (1 Cor. 7:23). Our duty is to proclaim the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). If we truly want to live as bondservants of Christ, we must be dedicated to the work of glorifying God and spreading the word about the forgiveness of sins through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We cannot be ashamed of the gospel, because without it, men cannot receive the free gift of salvation. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to give up our will to carry out the will of God in the best way we can.

Five Ways to Walk in Christianity

When we hear the word “walk”, what probably comes to mind is the physical activity involving our legs that we do everyday to get from point A to point B. Sometimes, when we want to get some fresh air, we take a leisure walk around the park. There are several instances of the word “walk” in the Bible, many of which exhibit a figurative sense of conducting or regulating one’s life. That is, the verb is used in the context of living a certain lifestyle. Paul employed the word “walk” throughout his letters as he instructed the early Christians in how they should conduct their lives. It is clear from his writings that Christianity is more that just a leisure walk in the park. Here I give five ways in which a Christian should walk.

Walk in Unity (Ephesians 4:1-6)

As Christians, we belong to one body, which is the church (Col. 1:18). Therefore, it is imperative that we all walk in unity. We do this by living a life that is worthy of our calling, that is, with humility, gentleness, patience, and love toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. Just as there is one Spirit, one Lord, one hope, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, we should be eager to conduct ourselves as one body united in peace.

Walk in Love (Ephesians 5:1-7)

Christ loves us and gave himself for us as a sacrifice to God. We should be imitators of God and Christ by walking in love and giving ourselves as a sacrifice to God. Walking in love involves leading a disciplined life and abstaining from sins that hurt one another (vv. 3-4; cf. 2 Thess. 4:9). Sin takes the focus off God and puts it on us, which in turn prohibits us from offering up ourselves in thanksgiving to him for our salvation. The practice of sin also prohibits us from inheriting the kingdom of God.

Walk in Light (Ephesians 5:8-14)

Those who have obeyed the gospel have come out of darkness and have become children of light. Now we have to walk continuously in the light of the Lord, bearing fruit that is good, right, and true. Our light should not be hidden, but rather, it should shine in order to expose the unfruitful works of darkness and make visible our good works so that the world may glorify God (cf. Matt. 5:14-16). When we sin, we must continue to walk in the light by confessing and repenting of our sins so that the blood of Christ cleanses us (1 Jn. 1:5-10).

Walk in Wisdom (Ephesians 5:15-21)

God expects us to walk in wisdom and have an understanding of his will in order to please him (Col 1:9-10). Speaking through the prophet Hosea, he told the Israelites that they were destroyed because of their lack of knowledge. Not knowing the will of God has grave consequences. We learn in Paul’s letters that having an understanding of God’s mystery brings riches and treasures. (Col. 2:1-2). We must not let human wisdom, philosophies, and false doctrines deceive us and lead us astray, but rather, we must walk in truth and obey God’s commandments, having faith in his wisdom and not in ours (1 Cor. 2:5; 2 Jn. 1:4-6; 3 Jn. 1:3).

Walk in Newness of Life (Romans 6:3-11)

Christians are required to change their lifestyle. They are expected to walk in newness of life by putting off the old self and putting on the new self (Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:9-10). This change is a continuous process that is initiated in baptism. Baptism is the way in which you die to sin and come alive again (Rom. 6:3-6):

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

You must be united with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection through baptism in order to come alive to God and be added to the church that belongs to Christ (Rom. 6:9-11; cf. Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:47):

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Only after this change can one truly walk in unity, love, and wisdom and be a light to the world so that others may come to God for their salvation.