Salvation of any kind is not for any one who does not personally interact inwardly with scripture. Every other gospel is bent to either a universalist or theologically front-loaded gospel. The woman at the well knew who Jesus was and eagerly desired the power to live His kind of life. But the disciples were sluggish to understand which is why He commanded upon their return, "Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look" (John 4:35). His coming signals a complex mixture of both salvation and judgment.
The Vessels: Pouring out Wrath
Is the wrath of God only for unbelievers? Or is it for believers as well? Most free grace people agree that even believers experience the wrath of God. But they claim there will not be an experience of wrath in judgment at the Bema seat. Instead wrath is only temporal, for a short period in life. I don't understand, then, six passages I read that suggest a severe experience for some believers at judgment. One - 1 Cor 3:15
If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved — even though only as one escaping through the flames.
Two - Hebrews 10:26-29
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
Three - Matt 12:31-32
Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
Four - John 15:6
If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
Five: Psalm 95/Hebrews 3&4
So I swore in my wrath, they shall not enter my rest.
Six: Hebrews 10:37-38
Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.
I have a lot to learn on temporal and treasured wrath, so on to Romans.
Pouring out Spirit: The Gift of God in Romans
In the last post we read that "the gift of God" is eternal life, and it is also the gift of the Spirit, and it is also the regenerating work of our baptism with Christ, which is also the circumcision, described in Ezek. 36 and performed by Christ in Col. 2. Both Jews and Gentiles recognize as they work out their beliefs that their consciences are violated and that they do not have the power to live up to them. This is the "God-shaped hole" that only circumcision can allay.
Jesus said, "If you knew the gift of God..." (john 4:10). The Book of Romans mentions "the gift" (eternal life; the Holy Spirit) more often than any other. Paul is separated to the gospel of God, and says, "Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations." How is this grace received? There is no other way to receive this grace and achieve this obedience than through the name of Jesus. As we saw in a previous post, God-fearing Jews already believed in Him before they identified Him. God-fearing Gentiles already received whatever light they had been given before the gospel. Jesus' ministry ratified and paid the deposit of their longing. Ready to preach, Paul says in 1:16-17
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.'
The power of God? The "power" is essential in Paul's description of the gospel because everything else, even Judiasm by and large, is religion apart from knowing God. Righteousness is being revealed by this power. Revealed means: "to lay open what has been covered up; make bare; to make known, to make manifest."
Righteousness is not the only thing being "revealed". The next verse says
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness....
Two things are revealed (manifest, known by intimate relation): Wrath, and Spirit (God with Us). In fact the word "wrath" has a connotation beyond emotion. It also means a vessel. Thayer's lexicon says,
To teem, denoting an internal motion, esp. that of plants and fruits swelling with juice.
Babylon is the spirit of independence and rebellion against God. In the great day of His wrath, she will have no choice but to drink the cup of the wine of the fierceness of God's wrath. She drinks, Satan will also drink this wine, and so will "all nations" who follow her because she deceives them to take part in her punishment.
This is very important to the study of Romans. The wrath of God is being poured out. But the Spirit is also being poured out. The Spirit is our only refuge and hope from the wrath of God.
All men receive God's wrath - all who exchange the truth of God for a lie, those who choose to worship and serve a false image. When they make this choice for themselves, Paul claims that God makes their foolish hearts darkened. He makes them given up to uncleanness of conduct. They commit what is shameful. They receive a debased mind. Romans 1:28-29
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality [etc.]...
So the order is established: Those who do not worship and serve God are darkened in their understanding. God gives them the sort of mind that does those things which are not right. This is God, revealing His wrath - and the objects of it.
Christian or not - when you see someone who practices unfitting things, this is a revealing of their inner suppression of God. Christian or not - when someone chooses to suppress God, and they practice unfitting things, they also lose the knowledge of having known God. Isn't this good of God? Imagine a person filled with unrighteous behavior who also holds every enlightenment from the scriptures... May the world never know witnesses of God like that!
Wrath On Every Soul Of Man That Does Evil
Paul exposes the utter failure of man's every fantasy of justification opposed to God's grace. Chapter two was written to begin to disspell every variety of self-righteousness. Romans 2:1
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.
Wow! If man was already guilty because "although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful" (Romans 1:21), how much more will he be guilty for the subsequent acts of a debased mind! This is not just a judgment but a filling up, of His judgment. God says hogwash to any righteousness of man, and He's about to manifest it to the world. There are those who glorify Him, and those who do any-thing else. That is why those who judge pass judgment on themselves, for they also have not glorified God nor given thanks to Him in the most basic form.
In accordance with their impenitent (no change of mind, unrepentant) hearts, those refusing are "treasuring up for themselves wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each one according to his deeds" (Rom 2:5). Eternal life (the gift) is for those who obey the portion of truth they already have been given, whatever that is. This is why Jesus could have a complex teaching about condemnation as He does after revealing humanity's need to be born again in John 3:18-21
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. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.
God is not partial. Did we Christians expect He'd be partial to us just because we have the indwelling of His Spirit? Every soul of man will experience "tribulation and anguish" (2:9) for willful rejection. They will be rendered according to their deeds, Jew and Greek alike. Whether people have the law or do not have the law, reciting what is right does not amount to an experience of being approved. "You who say, 'Do not commit adultery,' do you commit adultery" (2:22)? There is no such thing as good unbelieving people, no such thing as a Jew who really observes the law, without being transformed first by the power and Spirit of God.
"I don't deserve His wrath!" says the Jew; "I am a child of Abraham." "I don't deserve His wrath!" says the Christian; "I am a child of God." When God's covenant makes no impact on our conduct, God proves Himself justified in judging. The Jews received promises in Isaiah that God would glorify Himself through Israel even as they refused Him. Christians say the same today - "...whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also has glorified" (Rom. 8:30). They think that their destiny is without angst regardless how they live with the gift. It's so easy to be a Jew. Just be born as a physical descendant, and you're in. And, it's so easy to be a Christian. Just believe in Jesus, and you're in. God has laid a gracious and merciful foundation for our entrance into His Kingdom. Satan's deception is to think we can live as if we do not on-goingly need the Spirit.
People who already have a covenant-deal with God oftentimes grow ungrateful, which is the same sort of man in Romans chapter 1 who had known God as revealed in creation and had to choose to give thanks and glorify God, or else suppress the truth. Those who recognize that they are ungodly know they need the gift of the Spirit and its power, and their faith is accounted for righteousness. The kind of faith that saves is the kind that hopes in God to perform that which cannot otherwise be done. The entire book has the hope of Christ's circumcision as its focal point.
Hope Does Not Disappoint
We rejoice as Christians in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 2:6-7 says that God will "render to each according to their deeds: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor and immortality...". Now that we have been justified by faith, we have the access to the Spirit to powerfully and accurately obey the heart of God. When we do so, we receive glory. Lest we forget and lose our way into a state of bondage again to sin, Paul begins the doctrine of eternal life by saying in 5:6,
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
Get familiar with it, baby; the way we started is the way we conform all aspects of life. Romans 5:9,
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
"Through" Him means to be "in" Him. If someone is not abiding in Him, they cannot be saved from wrath, cannot be saved by His kind of life. The free gift is not like the offense. Even with death done away by our Lord, man's attempts can only reproduce the life of Adam, apart from the Spirit. We hope that grace might reign for Christians, but sin still reigns in us if we allow it to; Romans 5:20-21,
Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
You know how the sinful nature works - it does not submit to grace nor does it understand grace. People want to be accepted by God without obeying Him. The sinful nature is looking for a loophole to do as it pleases, constantly. This nature asks in Romans 6:1-2,
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
Grace does not abound for willful disobedience. The solution? Our sufficient baptism! Baptism is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant point of circumcision. We ought to walk in newness of life, because of baptism! 6:6 "...our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." Hebrews chapter three commands believers that they do not harden their hearts in turning away from the living God. This proves that even circumcised Christians have free will, and a responsibility to steward their freshly-cut hearts on life-support.
Grace Reigns Through Circumcision
The recipients of Romans do not completely understand. "Live how you want" - is this why Jesus died on the cross, is that the kind of salvation He provided for us? "Shall we sin, that grace might abound?" (6:1) Just ask God to forgive it all, in Christ, and poof! All one's rebellion simply doesn't matter? After all, He died for every sin didn't He?
Grace doesn't reign by cleansing us on the surface; antinomians are still thinking out-in instead of in-out. The gift is an inner act of creation (Ezek. 36:24-27) which can save us (and bring us honor) if we obey it.
Still the sinful nature asks, "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?" Paul knows the thoughts of men when they hear that they are no longer under law. Man makes false doctrine as a tool to deny need for God. This is a great verse showing there is no honor for Christians who follow the sinful nature; Romans 6:16,
Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?
Consider Romans 6:23 in the context of a call on the church to live in the Spirit. Romans 6:21-23,
What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Eternal life is not just a regenerative-substance but here it is the byproduct of Spiritual choices. The wages of sin for those who are already believers, is death. Why not? Hebrews 10:28-30 says,
Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.”
Christians have officially died to the law. Is that enough to escape from God's wrath? No! Believers who do not need to drink from the fountain of living water everyday - even these - are doomed to struggle and destruction ("perdition" Heb. 10:39). There is only one Way. And we have not known it. We will never know it intuitively. Only God can reveal the path of righteousness. Listen to Paul's teaching on how he discovers the Way. Romans 7:15-25,
For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Alternately when we follow His Way, we find the Body of life! Only the Spirit illuminates the path of righteousness for our feet. Did you notice that Paul finishes with a reversal of the original sin problem in chapter 1? "...nor were they thankful..." (vs. 21) -- but he sees Jesus as deliverance for an unsanctified believer, and is thankful! The doctrine of the Spirit continues.... Romans 8:1-2,
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
The rest of chapter 8 of Romans is glorious.... And in the margin I found myself writing, "don't we need this kind of living?" He has given us so much power and capacity and victory in utilizing the gift of circumcision.
There were physical descendants of Abraham who never believed at all. These unbelievers are counted among the vessels of His wrath. They chose first - they did not submit to the righteousness of God - they stumbled at that stumbling stone. God can harden and blind who He pleases, but He hardens and gives a spirit of stupor to those who reject Him repeatedly. Is that unfair? No; they heard the truth (Rom. 10:18), but the message was not mixed with faith.
Then there are those decendants who were desensitized by sin and forsook God's power and presence. For this saved remnant of Israel, God is depending on us to reveal His grace through obedient Christian living. We are vessels of His mercy where He pours out the Spirit, in order to make them jealous and graft them back in to the Root. God is not partial! What He did to Israel He will do to Christians who repeatedly refuse to abide in Christ. He will not spare unfruitful Christian branches. Romans 11:20-24,
Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?
This is not Arminianism, because children of Abraham are those who have had faith even if they've fallen away (easy to do when they are awaiting the fulfillment of true circumcision). I believe all scriptures on "branches" show that on an individual level or a national level, God can also choose to "cast away" (Romans 11:1,2,15) or push or reject (essentially: ignore) those who ad nauseam "judge themselves unworthy of everlasting life" as Paul preaches in Acts 13:46 in his original turn from the Jews to a ministry toward begging Gentiles!
Few Accept the Invitation
Jews had little heart for glorifying God, just as the nations. "The gift" is the hope that all that can change. It is the cure for the bleak reality that so few people are responding to the invitation of God. Christ provided salvation from every name that is named so we would be appropriately attired at our salvation-judgment in His coming Kingdom. Will we be so dressed?
It is okay to associate the gospel of eternal life with a call to godly living. This does not associate works-righteousness with the message -- it means Spirit-powered righteousness is associated with the message! God expects a Jew to be able to tell the difference between a works-associated gospel and a Spiritually-associated gospel, so why can't we expect the difference? Making godliness associated with the heart of the gospel does not mean we can look at works and determine the saved from the unsaved as Calvinism claims - we still can't! But we ought for sure to be able to differentiate those who are inheriting the Kingdom from those who are not, and aren't those the second-most important lines to draw? Calvinism has frustrated the believer's privilege to make godliness our secure and sure pursuit.
How Much We Need Need (part 2)
How Much We Need Need (part 1)
How Much We Need Need (introduction)