[PODCAST] You’re Just Not Good Enough

The topic of this episode is based on Romans 3:9–18. I discuss the doctrine of total depravity and the idea of being “good.” I use Cornelius as an example of someone who was good, but not good enough for salvation. You can find a commentary and an essay that I wrote based on Romans 3 here and here.

The episode can be found at the following links:

Anchor
Apple Podcasts
Google Play

I hope you enjoy!.

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Let God Be True

As we study the epistle written by Paul to the Romans, we learn that, although the Jews were God’s special people, God always intended to grant salvation to the Gentiles also (Read Isaiah 56). Jesus’ death put an end to the separation between Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:11–16). Several of Paul’s writings focus on the reconciliation of these two groups into one body (See Colossians and Galatians). Jewish Christians had to get used to God’s acceptance of their Gentile counterparts as his people without the requirements of the Mosaic Law. They became children of God through faith in Christ (John 1:12; Rom. 3:21–26; Gal. 3:26). In his Roman letter, Paul anticipates four objections that the Jews could have in response to his teaching (Rom. 3:1–7). The focus of this discussion is the answer Paul gives to the second objection (vv. 3–4):

For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: “That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged.”

The Jews overlooked that they also were justified by faith, and not by works of the law (Rom. 3:30). Although God gave them a written law, they were not able to live by it perfectly; therefore, they needed to put their faith in the Lord in order to be saved. Anyone who thought they could achieve righteousness strictly based on their adherence to God’s ordinances, and not because of their faith in Christ, would be condemned (Gal. 5:4, John 3:18). The Jews’ objection to this principle, however, would be that God is unfaithful in not saving them if some did not believe. They probably thought their unfaithfulness could nullify the faithfulness of God. Paul’s answer to this false conclusion is, “Certainly not!” Man is a liar, but God is always true. No one will ever be able to find fault in him. He will accomplish anything he wills to do, because he is faithful to his promises. As Christians, we can always count on the faithfulness of God. We read in his word that he is not like man that he should lie or go back on his word (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Mal. 3:6). He will always fulfill his promises.

Several examples of God’s faithfulness and commitment to his word are evident in the Scriptures. In Numbers 11, God fulfilled his word to give the Israelites enough meat to be able to eat for a whole month. Although Moses could not believe it, God told him, “Has the Lord’s arm been shortened? Now you shall see whether what I say will happen to you or not” (v. 23). In Numbers 14, when the Israelites refused to enter Canaan because of fear, he promised that no one in that generation—except for Joshua and Caleb—would possess the land. When the people tried to enter despite God’s decree, they were defeated by the Amalekites and the Canaanites (vv. 39–45). In Numbers 22­–24, when Balak, the king of Moab, asked Balaam to curse the Israelites, Balaam was able to utter only blessings upon them. He said, “Behold, I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.” The most significant promise God made was to Abraham (Genesis 12, 17, & 22). He promised that all nations would be blessed through Abraham. God fulfilled this promise by sending Christ to die on the cross, thus granting the opportunity of salvation to those who have faith in Christ (Gal. 3:29).

Because of God’s track record, we know that we can always trust him. When we sin, John says that if we confess those sins, God is faithful and just to cleans us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). James writes that, if we ask God for wisdom as we endure trials, he will give it to us liberally and without reproach (Jas. 1:5). He also writes that we will receive the crown of life the Lord has promised when we have successfully endured trials and temptations (v. 13).

The Jews were indeed unfaithful. Some disobeyed God and did not walk holy and blameless before him. They refused to believe that God would give them power to overtake their enemies and possess the land that was promised to them. However, their disbelief did not nullify the faithfulness of God. The Hebrew writer confirms this in verses 2–3 and 6–8 of chapter 4,

For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said:

“So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest,’”

although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said:

“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts.”

For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

Clearly, in these verses, the author shows that the promise God made in former times concerning Canaan was not reversed because the Israelites refused to enter. Since God made the promise, some must enter. Who will possess the land—that is heaven—will be those who have heard, believed, and obeyed the word of God.

Paul writes in Romans 11:29 that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Here he refers to Israel’s salvation if they put their faith in Christ. However, we can apply these words to our lives by understanding that whatever God decrees, he will carry out. Whatever he promises, he will fulfill it. God is not slack concerning his promises (2 Peter 3:9). For this reason, we know that whatever we deal with in life, we can continue to have hope, because God is faithful. As long as we strive to live righteously, according to what he commands, he will make a way for us.

Let every man be a liar, but let God be true!

[PODCAST] Baptism of No Avail

In this episode, which is based on Romans 2:25–29, I discuss the meaning of being circumcised in the heart. This topic is a continuation of my commentary on Romans 2:17–29 and the essay titled “Dishonoring God’s Name.” I talk about Christian conduct and baptism, which I then connect to the spiritual circumcision received when a person is in Christ.

The episode is available at the following links:

Anchor – Baptism of No Avail
Google Play – Baptism of No Avail
Apple Podcasts – Baptism of No Avail

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

I hope you enjoy!

Dishonoring God’s Name

God has always made his will known to the world through a special group of people. During the Mosaic dispensation, this group was the Israelites, but now that we live in the age of Christianity, the knowledge of God’s will comes through Christians. We have the duty of spreading God’s word so that the world may learn how to receive justification through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:17; 10:17). This great responsibility, however, has to be carried out with care. Christians must have the proper disposition as they seek the lost and show them the path to salvation. If not, we run the risk of doing more harm than good. If our conduct does not align with what we teach, we could be charged with being hypocrites and with causing the lost to move farther away from God.

In Romans 2, Paul touches on this topic as he exposes the sinfulness of both Jews and Gentiles. He points out the Jews in particular for being hypocrites because, historically as God’s special people, they had knowledge of his law but did not live according to it (Rom. 2:17–20). He writes the following in verses 21–22:

21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?

The Jews had a problem with hypocrisy, which Jesus pointed out during his ministry. He told the people to observe the things that the leaders taught but not to do as they did (Matt. 23:3). The scribes and Pharisees desired to have the appearance of piety; however, their hearts were not right. They used the law to oppress and take advantage of people, not to build them up with justice, mercy, and faith (Matt. 23:14; 23–28). They sought to elevate themselves, teaching the people to keep the law while they were breaking it.

We as Christians must be careful not to fall into this pattern, because the consequence will be condemnation for us and for those we try to convert. Notice that Paul says in verse 24, “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” The people of God had a serious problem with apostasy and hypocrisy, which throughout history has caused the nations around them to stumble (Mal. 2:8). We read about this in the Old Testament. The Israelites were so sinful that even the Gentiles were ashamed of their acts (Ezekiel 16:27:30):

27 “Behold, therefore, I stretched out My hand against you, diminished your allotment, and gave you up to the will of those who hate you, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior. 28 You also played the harlot with the Assyrians, because you were insatiable; indeed you played the harlot with them and still were not satisfied. 29 Moreover you multiplied your acts of harlotry as far as the land of the trader, Chaldea; and even then you were not satisfied. 30 “How degenerate is your heart!” says the Lord God, “seeing you do all these things, the deeds of a brazen harlot.

They brought shame to the name of the Lord (Isa. 52:5; Ezek. 36:22):

Now therefore, what have I here,” says the Lord, “That My people are taken away for nothing? Those who rule over them make them wail,” says the Lord, “And My name is blasphemed continually every day.

22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went.

Jesus accused the religious leaders of converting people and making them even worse than them because of their behavior (Matt. 23:15):

15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

These passages clearly show us the influence our behavior can have on the lost. We cannot expect to bring anyone to Christ if we do not hold to the things we preach. Surely, we make mistakes, but our general disposition should be that of godly people in order to be pleasing to God and to not cause others to stumble. Our conduct as a royal priesthood and holy nation must be honorable, so that when people look at us, they will glorify God because of our good works (1 Pet. 2:9–12).

[COMMENTARY] Romans 2:17–29

This post is part of a series of essays based on my study of Paul’s epistle to the Romans. They are simply drafts and not intended to be well-polished essays. I would appreciate any constructive feedback.


Romans 2:17–29

 

Click here to read the passage.

Paul outlines in verses 17–20 the will of God for the Jews. They were God’s special people, who relied on his law. They had knowledge of God’s will and were taught all of his statues and righteous judgments (Deut. 4:8). Their purpose was to instruct the lost according to God’s law (vv. 19–20). That is, salvation for the rest of the world would come through them, since God chose them as a priestly nation (Exod. 19:6). However, the Jews dishonored God by breaking the same law they were supposed to teach, causing God’s name to be blasphemed among the Gentiles (Ezek. 36:22). They were stealing, committing adultery, and worshiping idols. They believed they could sin without consequences because they were God’s people (Mic. 3:11).

The Jews, who were physically circumcised, broke the law; therefore, their circumcision became as if they weren’t circumcised. Here we see that we can be God’s people, but if we break his law and do not repent, we will become his enemy. The Gentiles, who were not circumcised, were considered as if they were circumcised if they kept the requirements of the law. By keeping the law, they condemned the Jews—who had the law and were circumcised—because they broke the law. According to God, a Jew was not a Jew just because of his physical circumcision; they also had to be circumcised in the heart by the Spirit because God looks on the heart (Deut. 10:16, 30:6; Phil 3:3).

People use verses 25–29 to refute the necessity of baptism. They argue that one can please God and be justified without baptism in the same way Gentiles were justified without being circumcised. This argument, however, is incorrect. First, Paul does not teach in this passage that Gentiles were justified without circumcision. According to Genesis 17 and Exodus 12:43–49, all males living among God’s people—both natives and foreigners—had to be circumcised in order to enjoy the benefits of the covenant. Circumcision was never excluded from the law. It was an essential component that initiated the covenant relationship with God (Gen. 17:11). Paul is simply making the point that circumcision is not profitable if you break the rest of the law. That is, just because the Jews were God’s people, it did not mean that they could escape the wrath of God if they sinned, as that would be a breach of the covenant. A Gentile—being physically uncircumcised but yet keeping some requirements of the law—showed how sinful the Jews truly were.

Second, Paul says that a Jew is one who is circumcised inwardly, that is, of the heart and in the Spirit, not of the law. Here he makes reference to a spiritual circumcision that occurs in faithful obedience to God. Before the death of Christ, people were justified according to their faith (See Romans 4). The same is still true after Christ’s death. Jesus Christ was the one who commanded faith and baptism in order to be saved (Mark 16:16). According to Colossians 2:11–12, baptism is the spiritual circumcision in which we put off the body of the sins of the flesh, being buried with Christ and then raised with him through faith in the working of God.

Christians are considered spiritual Jews, forming part of the spiritual Israel that God has established in his new covenant with both Jews and Gentiles united in one body through baptism (Eph. 2:11–22). Therefore, Paul does not exclude baptism in verses 25–29, but rather, upholds it as being essential to salvation. However, even with baptism, Christians cannot go on deliberately practicing sin after becoming part of the body of Christ. Paul discusses this idea more in chapter 6.

[PODCAST] Idolatry: When God Gives Us Up

In this episode, I discuss the idea of God giving sinners up to their sin and how that relates to idolatry. Does God purposefully cause us to sin? Do we have a role to play in God giving us up to sin? Does God give up on us when we constantly sin? Is there a particular context in which God decides to give us up to our vile passions, lusts, and debased mind? This discussion is based on Romans 1:18-32.

The episode is available at the following links:

Anchor – Idolatry: When God Gives Us Up
Google Play – Idolatry: When God Gives Us Up
Apple Podcasts – Idolatry: When God Gives Us Up

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

I hope you enjoy!

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.

[PODCAST] An Invitation to Be Holy

My first full episode is now available! I decided to discuss the significance of being set apart or called to be a saint. The main text is Romans 1:1,7, but I also explored other passages from the Epistles, the Gospels, and the Mosaic Law.

The episode is available at the following links:

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

I hope you enjoy!

Introduction to New Podcast

Hello everyone!

I’ve decided to start a podcast to complement this blog. I’m going to use it to explore a little further some of the topics I write about. You can access the introduction episode by clicking the link below:

“Welcome to my podcast!” from Syd’s Notebook on Anchor

I hope you enjoy!

Please feel free to contact me at sydsnotebook@gmail.com, or you can find me on Twitter and Instagram as @sydsnotebook.

 

[COMMENTARY] Romans 2:1–16

This post is part of a series of essays based on my study of Paul’s epistle to the Romans. They are simply drafts and not intended to be well-polished essays. I would appreciate any constructive feedback.


Romans 2:1–16

Click here to read the passage.

After dealing with the sinfulness of the Gentiles, Paul then turns to the ones who judge—the Jews (See v. 17). They were hypocritical in that they judged the Gentiles for their sins, but yet they too were just as sinful (Matt. 7:1–5). They believed that they would not be held accountable for their actions because of their heritage and status of being God’s people. They took for granted the riches of God: goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering. Instead of living a life of repentance because of how good God was towards them, they continued to practice sin. Many today do not realize that the goodness of God is manifested in that he is patient with us—waiting for us to change our lives before he returns. He does not wish that anyone perish (2 Pet. 3:9,15), and therefore, he is waiting for all to repent (Rev. 2:21).

The Jews had hardened their hearts like the Gentiles, and they were storing up wrath for themselves. Their punishment would be justifiable because God had been merciful and gracious towards them. He renders to us according to the things we have done (Job 34:11; Ps. 62:12; Matt. 16:27). If we do good by seeking for glory, honor, and immortality, we will receive eternal life. If we are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, we will receive death. This warning is for everyone—Jews and Gentiles—because God shows no partiality.

He justifies those who do the law, not those who just hear it (Jas. 1:22,25). Although the Gentiles were not under the Law of Moses, they still fulfilled some of the requirements of the law instinctively, because these requirements were written on their hearts (See Genesis 12:14–20). Their conscience told them what was right and wrong according to God’s moral standard. Verses 12–15 indicate that Gentiles were able to sin, because there was a law that governed their thoughts and actions. We learn from the Scriptures that where there is a law, there is sin. However, where there is not a law, sin is not imputed (Rom. 5:13). Since all are under God’s law, Christ will judge all according to that law, which is the gospel.