October 27, 2014

Romans 7

Notes from a small group study
Sources: MacArthur Study Bible, NIV
The Grace of God: A Journey of Discovery in Romans, by Alan Perkins
Romans, by Thomas R. Schreiner
NIV Application Commentary: Romans, by Douglas J. Moo

In chapter 6, Paul used different analogies to explain what it means for the believer to be under grace rather than under law: spiritual death vs. eternal life, slavery to sin vs. slavery to righteousness. In chapter 7, he gives us another analogy, comparing being under the law to being married and being under grace as having been widowed from the law.

In chapter 6, Paul has told us that believers are not under the law, but are under grace. In vv. 16-23, he denies that grace is a license to sin without restraint. Having dealt with that false view, Paul now contends that God has released Christians from the law, not so we would be free to sin, but so we would be free to serve our Lord, Jesus Christ.

1Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? 2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. 3 So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.
4 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh,[a] the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Paul’s point is that those who have trusted in Christ have become united with Him in His death (6:3-8; 7:4) and are therefore free from the authority of the law. Paul uses as his example the law of marriage. As long as a woman’s husband is alive, she is “bound” to him—that is, she is obligated to remain faithful to him. Under the law, if she violates this by marrying another man, she is called an adulteress.

Paul is using three parallels with this illustration:

1. Under the law, the wife was under the authority of the husband; so also the Jews had been under the authority of the law.

2. Just as the husband’s death released the wife from his authority, so our death to the law through Christ has freed us from the law’s authority.

3. Just as the husband’s death freed the wife to marry another man, so our death to the law has freed us to become united with Christ.

The analogies are not perfect, since it is the husband’s death that frees the wife, while it is our own death to sin that frees us. But Paul’s point is well stated. Death frees one from the law’s authority, and we have died to sin in Christ. Therefore, Christians are free from the law’s authority.

V. 4—Paul applies this principle to the Roman Christians (“…you also died…that you might belong to another…”). He is driving home the point that being dead to the law is a practical truth for them, not just an abstract theological principle: the practical point is in this verse—“…you also died to the law through the body of Christ.” That is, Christ suffered a real bodily death on the cross, and when we became united with Him through our faith, we shared in His death also in our being dead to sin but alive in Christ. Christ’s death on the cross released us from the law. Christ’s death released us from the law so that we might belong to Him and bear fruit for Him.

That fruit is our obedient service to God, in contrast to “…fruit for death…” (v. 5), the result of sinful passions. Galatians 5:22-23 gives us the list of the fruits of the Spirit, which constitutes God’s will for every Christian: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

In stressing that Christ is “…Him who was raised from the dead…,” Paul is careful not to leave his readers without emphasizing again that death is not the end. Not only did Christ die to free us from the law, but also He rose again to give us new life.

V.5—Paul explains why it was necessary for our old self to die in order to bear fruit for Christ. We were controlled by the sinful nature, and the law actually pointed out people’s sin nature to themselves. Paul held that the presence of the law actually aroused the sin nature in those controlled by the flesh.

V.6—The result of our freedom from the law is not independence, but rather a new kind of service. Our service to God is now guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, rather than guided by a list of regulations which, unlike the Holy Spirit, have no power.

7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”[b] 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.
13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

V.7—The law points out specific acts of disobedience and calls those acts sin. (In our culture, people prefer to call sin “a mistake” or “a character flaw.”) Paul chooses coveting (the 10th commandment, Exodus 20:17) as his example. All of the other commandments (for example, prohibiting murder, adultery, theft, etc.) could be interpreted as outward acts of sin, which possibly could be kept fully.

Matthew 19:16-22 provides an example of one coveting his wealth but having kept the other commandments:

16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[c] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

The commandment against coveting demonstrates that the law has to do with the heart and not merely outward actions.

V.8—Paul speaks of sin as an active force which uses the law to produce acts of disobedience: “…for apart from the law, sin is dead…” Every parent and teacher has experienced this: nothing is more certain to motivate a child to do something than to forbid it. Disobedience comes when there is a prohibition against an act.

Vv. 9-10—Paul is remembering the time in the past when, although he was instructed in the law, he saw the law merely as a set of rules to be obeyed to obtain God’s favor. But when he considered the law against coveting, he realized the depth of his own sin. He realized that his sinful nature produced in him all kinds of coveting (v. 8) and “…sin sprang to life…” (v. 9).

V. 11—“…sin…deceived me…” There is always an element of deceit in sin. It appears attractive and causes us to overlook its eventual negative consequences.

V. 12—The law is holy, righteous, and good. In this verse, Paul answers the question he posed in v. 7 (“Is the law sinful?”). The law is not sin, but it is used by mankind’s sinful nature to produce disobedience.

V. 13—Paul now moves on to a second question: Even if the law itself is not sin, doesn’t it cause death? The assumption is that something that causes death must be evil and not good. But Paul is emphatic in denying that the law causes death. Rather, it is sin working through the law that causes death. Paul illustrates the sin nature in vv. 14-25.

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Vv. 14-25 are the source of some controversy among biblical scholars. Some hold that the subject of these verses is Paul’s experience prior to his conversion, while others hold that vv. 14-25 refer to Paul’s ongoing experience as a believer. I believe the latter to be the case. The verb tense changes from the past (vv. 8-13) to the present (vv. 14-25), indicating to me that Paul is shifting from describing his past before ‘Christ to his present experience as a Christian. In addition, in vv. 14-25 Paul emphasizes that he desires to do good. The unbeliever, being a slave to sin, would not have this as his or her objective. But the Christian would, being a slave to righteousness. Only the believer truly desires to do morally good and live in complete righteousness before God and to keep from sinful and self-serving behavior. Also, only a believer would characterize himself or herself as a wretched person (v. 24) in need of deliverance, as he or she fights with the old nature. Finally, the struggle Paul describes in this passage is a common Christian struggle with the sinful nature, as described in Galatians 5:17: “…the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is contrary to the flesh.”

While some commentators hold that vv. 14-25 must be referring to Paul’s pre-conversion life, citing the fact that nonbelievers struggle with sin, too, according to their (flawed) consciences, it is a fact that believers struggle with sin because they are no longer slaves to sin. The sinful nature struggles against the Spirit, which lives in every Christian.

V. 14—“I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin…” A better translation would be “I am fleshly” or “I am made of flesh,” emphasizing that the physical body is the instrument through which sin works.

Vv. 15-25—For the first century Christian reader who subscribed to keeping the law, this passage emphasizes the futility of using behavioral standards to please God and earn His favor. To every Christian, Paul here describes that all-too-familiar dilemma—that of conforming our thoughts and actions to the righteousness that God has declared us to possess in His sight. Conversely, those trying to live by the law find that they cannot resist sin, because the law provides no power to do so.

V. 18—A more accurate translation of this verse would be: “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh.” There is no inherent righteousness in our human nature. Righteousness is imputed to us by God through Jesus, and righteous thinking and behavior does not come from our flesh, but through the power of the Holy Spirit. The indwelling Holy Spirit is the power in us to counteract the sinful nature of the flesh.

Vv. 24-25—“What a wretched man I am!” This is the testimony of every Christian. All of us face that constant struggle between the Spirit and the flesh. “Who will rescue me…”—probably addressed with the Christians in Rome in mind, who were trying to please God and gain His favor by obeying the law. Inevitably, they broke the law in their human efforts. V. 25 provides the answer to anyone trying to earn God’s favor through righteous behavior. It is Jesus, not our human attempts as righteous behavior, which delivers us.

Paul’s conclusion might be expressed this way: To those who minimize God’s Grace in favor of the standards of the law, it is not God they are serving but the flesh, which is the law of sin.

October 22, 2014

Romans 6

Notes from a small group study
Sources: MacArthur Study Bible, NIV
Romans Verse-by-Verse, by William R. Newell
The Grace of God: A Journey of Discovery in Romans, by Alan Perkins

In the opening verses of chapter 6, Paul is anticipating his readers’ reaction to his teaching in chapter 5.

The readers’ question may be something like, “If it is true that ‘where sin increased, grace increased all the more,’ then why not go on sinning and let God’s grace increase?” Those who favored holding to the law as the means of gaining favor with God used this argument to discredit the idea of that God saves and sustains the Christian through His grace alone. If God’s favor is by grace, the argument went, then there would be no reason not to sin.

Paul responded to these arguments in 6:1-2: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” A continuing lifestyle of unrestrained sin is not consistent with the Christian’s identity as a believer and a child of God. Note that Paul does not deny that more sin results in more grace. He does hold, however, that sinning more to cause grace to increase is not an acceptable way to live for and glorify God.

V.2—The reason we must not continue in a lifestyle of sin is that we have died…the person who previously was under control of sin has died and a new birth has occurred. Paul’s reference to our conversion experience as death emphasizes the complete change that has taken place within us. It is not consistent with his or her new identity in Christ for the Christian to live as though the change had not taken place.

Vv.3-4: “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

Baptism is a picture or enactment of what takes place for the Christian at his or her conversion. Its purpose is to help us to understand what has happened in our conversion: the old person, a servant of sin, died, and a new person, the servant of righteousness, has taken his or her place.

The picture that baptism paints for us is illustrative. First, we died: being submerged in baptism is a symbol of our identification with Christ in His death and burial. By being “baptized into Christ,” we were spiritually united with Him—that is, the old person died with Him.

Second, we were born again or resurrected, symbolized by our emergence from the water of baptism…we identified with Christ in His resurrection through the reenactment. Just as Jesus rose in newness of life, a new life now belongs to the Christian also: he or she is a new being, the old sinful self having been buried with Him and the new spiritual self having risen. Therefore, the Christian is intended to live according to the principles of this new birth into communion with God and the righteousness it affords. Baptism therefore represents what has taken place spiritually within us.

Vv. 5-7: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,  that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”

The Christian’s life in Christ has both a present and a future aspect. Spiritually, in the present, we are united with Christ and share in His life; the Holy Spirit literally dwells in us. But our physical resurrection takes place in the future. If through faith we have become united with Him in His death, then it is certain that we will live with Him through our future resurrection.

…our old self was crucified with Him”—The “old self” is how Paul refers to the person each of us was before our salvation experience—a person under the control of sinful impulses. Paul’s point is that that person has died with Christ, the result being that “the body ruled by sin”—that is, the physical body seen as sin’s instrument—has been rendered powerless by the rebirth. The Christian no longer is a servant of sin, and sin has lost its absolute power to use the Christian’s physical body to do evil. As a result, the Christian has been freed from sin. Just as a servant, when he or she dies, is freed from his or her master’s authority, so the Christian, having died in Christ, is freed from sin’s authority over his or her life.

Vv. 8-11: “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Death was victorious over Jesus in His crucifixion, but death’s ultimate defeat came when its power was broken in the resurrection. Christians likewise share in Jesus’ victory over death. Christ’s death paid for our sin; just as His death defeated sin, so the death of our old self releases us from sin’s bondage. The power sin had over us was broken by Christ, and therefore we are called on to live in accordance to the defeat of sin’s power—to become righteous in fact just as we are seen as righteous in our position before God in His sight.
Vv. 12-13: “12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.”
The Christian has a choice now because of Christ’s victory over sin and death. The Christian can continue to let sin control him or her, even though he or she is no longer a servant of sin, or the Christian can choose to offer his or her body to God for Him to use “as an instrument of righteousness.” To continue to live in sin, however, would be analogous to a servant, having been freed from bondage to a wicked master, voluntarily returning to service to that master. Paul states it plainly: “14  .”
Vv. 15-16: “15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
Paul is arguing in a manner similar to verse 1. In verse 1, the question involved whether the Christian should go on sinning in order to experience more of God’s grace. But here in verse 15, the question is whether or not sin matters. It is as though Paul is asking, “If we are no longer under the law, then why be concerned about sin at all? Let’s go on living the way we always have lived and not worry about it.” Paul rejects this idea in very strong terms. In verse 6:1 and here in verse 15, he is posing possible attitudes the legalist Christian may have. The legalists in the Roman church seemed to be charging that it was a sin not to live under the law and that without the law there was only sinful behavior.
It was possible in Paul’s day for someone to voluntarily indenture himself or herself as a servant in order to pay off debts or just have his or her everyday needs for food and shelter met. By choosing to follow Christ, the
Christian has chosen voluntarily to serve and obey Him as master. The master/servant relationship often is used to show the relationship between Christ and the believer.
A servant is obligated to serve his or her master completely. Therefore, a life of compromise between sin and obedience is not an option for the Christian. No one can faithfully serve two masters (see Luke 16:13). The believer being a servant of Christ and the unbeliever being in bondage to sin demonstrates that complete independence is not an option. Therefore, the only option for the human being is which master to serve.
Vv. 17-18: “17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”
Paul now brings these ideas to a personal level by applying them to his readers, the Christians in the church at Rome. They had formerly been servants to sin, but through Christ had been set free from sin to become servants of righteousness instead.
Vv. 19-23: “19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“…because of your human limitations…” An alternate translation is “…because you are weak in your natural selves…”  Our present human existence provides a hindrance to our ability to fully grasp spiritual truth, so Paul repeats his point again: “Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.” The Christian’s devotion to righteousness and obedience to Christ should be just as strong and complete as was his or her former devotion to sin.

Before coming to Christ, our sense of right and wrong was skewed. We felt no consistent obligation to do what is right or righteous according to an accurate and constant definition of righteousness. We did the right thing with it suited us and otherwise made our own choices, right or wrong, according to an inaccurate and inconstant sense good and evil. While we felt “free,” in reality our freedom was actually bondage to our slippery standards of behavior.

Paul asks his readers to reflect on their former way of life. Was there any real benefits from their former way of life? The expected response is no, there was not real benefit; and, in fact, the only result is shame. Paul is speaking of shame in the present, not in the past, now that they are aware of and dedicated to the standards of righteousness in Christ: the grace of God and their present position of righteousness enables them to see their past sin for the shameful thing that it was.

Throughout the passage, Paul contrasts the results of sin and obedience. Sin leads to death (vv. 16, 21, 23) and obedience leads to righteousness, holiness, and eternal life (vv. 16, 19, 22, 23). Paul is not here laying out for us a doctrine of salvation. He is contrasting two kinds of lives—the life lived in bondage to tin and the life lived in bondage to God and His righteousness. The life of sin—that is, the life of the unbeliever—is death. Death here denotes eternal separation from God. The result of for the believer, however, is not something that is earned, but the gift from God of eternal life—that is, a life in His presence for eternity.

October 20, 2014

Confession of Sin

1 John 1:5-10

Every form of life has its enemies, and spiritual life has its enemies too. One of those enemies is sin.

John tells us in 1 John 1:5-7: This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

In verse 5 John is addressing the error creeping into the first century church that taught that God is not perfect. By saying that God is light, he’s affirming God’s holiness. There is no dark side to God. He is completely holy and perfectly perfect. 1 Timothy 6:15-16 says, “God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.”

In verse 6, the word “walk” is better translated “keep on walking.” If someone were to say that they are in fellowship with God and yet continues walking in darkness, they are lying. A practicing sinner may have a saving relationship with God but he or she is not in fellowship with God. To walk in darkness is to really try to hide from God, which is impossible by the way. If you find that hard to believe, just read the book of Jonah.

Light and darkness are opposites, and repel each other. One cannot have fellowship with God with one foot in darkness and one in light, since God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. Darkness and light are two opposing forces, each making their competing claims upon us.

Sin is darkness and God is light. The contrast is evident just as our walking in light should be in contrast with walking in darkness. Walking in light is blessed by fellowship with God and with our brothers and sisters in Christ…and that means we are experiencing the purification of Jesus' death for our sins.

Walking in the light also does something else. It intensifies our consciousness of sin and, therefore, our desire to get rid of it. We rid ourselves of sin by confessing it to God. No one can live in light without being overwhelmingly convinced that he or she is not pure.

Fellowship with God and with each other is broken unless we recognize daily that we miss the mark of the high calling of God and that we must confess our falling short of God’s glory. This honesty before God results in forgiveness and cleansing through…

1.                Recognition of sin (1:8)
2.                Confession of sin (1:9)
3.                Acknowledging our sin (1:10)

Verses 8-10 of 1 John 1 tell us: 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

When a person comes to Jesus Christ and accepts Him as both Lord and Savior, the Bible declares that he or she is a new creature; that the old things—the old life and its ways—are behind and passed away; that a new life has begun in the light of God’s mercy and grace. When this takes place, however, we find that we are still possessed by an old nature that likes to rear its ugly head and take control. The truth is that at some point in each and every day of every believer’s life the old nature wins, even if only momentarily. We sin daily. But we don’t like to admit it. We all like to think were ok. But God sees it differently and expects us to deal with our sin

Verse 8 teaches us that no matter how good we think we are, we must realize we are still sinning. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

The biblical scholar F. F. Bruce described sin this way: “There is something in man—even regenerate man—which objects to God and seeks to be independent of Him.”

Some people see sin as heinous evil such as murder or adultery. But sin is also the waywardness that plagues most of us day after day…daily we don’t believe, daily there are times we don’t think or act as we should as Christians.

But the closer you walk in fellowship with God—Who is light—the more you realize the absolute purity and holiness of God…and the more conscious you will become of personal impurity and sinfulness.

Proverbs 16:18 tells us that “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” If we are satisfied with our righteousness, we need to see what true righteousness really is. As we hear, read, meditate, study, and memorize the truth, we become more aware of how far short we fall…and aware of our great need for continuing to walk in the light.

Shara and I like to go down to Chapel, West Virginia, occasionally on Saturday night and listen to the country music. There’s one thing all the musicians do before they first start to play their guitars, banjos, fiddles, and mandolins. They make sure their instruments are in tune.

We need to recognize when our lives are in tune or out of tune with Jesus. The strings of moral conviction, once tuned to God's Word, can become loose through compromise or neglect. It happens to all of us. Usually it starts with the discord of selfish attitudes and negative thinking. Then there are the secret sins that rarely distort the tone of our outward respectability, but sooner or later an off-key word or deed betrays that something is wrong inside.

Daily we need to make sure we are in tune with God. The Spirit through the Word gives us the sure note to which we can tune our lives. When we are off key, confession retunes us.

There are questions we must ask ourselves. Do I listen for God’s true note? Do I recognize when I’m off key with God?

2.      Confession of sin (9)

Verse 9 of 1 John 1 summarizes the basic realization and need of sinful man: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

“If we confess our sins” in the original is interesting. The construction of this sentence indicates confession as a continuing activity. We could translate it, “If we keep on confessing our sins.” Confess means "to admit the truth of the accusation, to own up to the fact that one is guilty of having committed the sin, to say the same thing about our sin as God does.”

When’s the last time you truly confessed your sins? Psalm 130:3-4 says, “If you kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness;…”

Confession needs to be our constant attitude. We should be eager to have any sin in life exposed by the Holy Spirit and eager to confess it and have it put out of our life. When God’s Spirit convicts or His light exposes our sin…instead of trying to cover it up or rename it something less offensive, we need to agree with God about our sin. We need to confess it, for through confession there is always forgiveness.

Confession or owning up to our sin also helps rid us of guilt. Guilt is a serious disease. Confession is the cure for this dreaded spiritual disease. Confession to God is the beginning. Guilt is not an illness we can doctor on our own. Forgiveness is the needed treatment. And forgetting is the sign of final recovery.

Notice John says “our” sins in verse 9. The godly Apostle was including himself and all other Christians in this need for confession of sin.

Admitting we have sin—as verse 8 indicates we must—may cost us only comparatively little. Confession of particular sins, individually, one by one, can cost a great deal, however. Confession calls for a broken and contrite heart (Ps. 51:1-4). This may be the reason we refuse to do so. But one who refuses to individually confess sins perhaps may desire—but certainly does not seek—forgiveness. As Proverbs 28:13 teaches us: “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

If we are willing to lay our individual sins before God, the precious promise in the second part of verse 9 is ours also. “He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

We need to agree with God that we are sinners. The Bible says “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Even believers struggle against sin. John confronted this subject because there were false teachers spreading false teaching about sin. Some claimed to have no sin. Another group claimed that sin was of no consequence. Both groups had a bad attitude about sin. John’s premise is that the beginning place of being in tune with God is to agree with God that we are sinners.

Confession is man's part; forgiving and cleansing are God's part. God does His part after we do our part. God is faithful, true to His own nature, because He keeps His Word, and He is just, because He gives to each repentant Christian as He has promised.

If He says He will forgive us, He will. If through confession we desire to be cleansed, we will be. When God cleanses, He washes away the sin and its filth and infecting power.

There is the story of a man whose guilty conscience prompted him to send a letter to the Internal Revenue Service? The note read, "I haven't been able to sleep because last year when I filled out my income tax report I deliberately misrepresented my income. I am enclosing a check for $150. P.S.—if I still can't sleep, I'll send you the rest."

Now, it's commendable that the man confessed his wrongdoing, but his halfhearted restitution showed the shallowness of his regret. His confession was prompted by his desire for personal peace, not by remorse for a moral transgression.

When we believe in Jesus Christ, we are declared righteous. Our sins are forgiven. But because we are defiled by sin in our daily walk, we need the daily cleansing of confession. This restores fellowship between us and our heavenly Father. But we must be genuine. We must come to Him with a sincere sorrow for our sins and an honest desire to forsake them.

There's no question about it—when we confess our sins to the Lord and really mean it, He forgives. Remember, though, He not only hears our words but He also sees our hearts and reads our motives. Only when we are truly sorry that we sinned can we have the assurance that we have been restored to fellowship with God.

Notice the result of confession. First we are forgiven or absolved from sin's punishment, and second, we are freed from sin's pollution. The one affects our peace, the other our character. The forgiveness which is promised here is absolutely assured, because God “is faithful.” God can forgive us out of His sense of perfect justice because of Jesus’ payment for our sin. Forgiveness is accomplished because Jesus' death paid the penalty for our sin, and He shed His blood that we might be forgiven.

3.    Acknowledging our sin (10)

1 John 1:10 tells us: “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

John makes it clear that if men deny God’s verdict on their sin and sinfulness they have called God a liar. When we are confronted by God’s Word about our sins, we should admit them rather than deny them. To deny one’s personal sin in the face of God’s testimony to the contrary, is in effect, to “make” God “out to be a liar.” By contradicting God’s Word, a person rejects it and refuses to acknowledge its absolute truthfulness.

So another consequence of denying our sin is to cut ourselves off from God’s Word. In 1 John 1:1, John tells us that God’s Word is the “Word of Life”…The Word that gives life, or, God’s life-giving Word, finds no dwelling place in us when we deny our sin.

If we sit through church services and refuse to be touched by the Bible's teachings or think they apply just to others, we are saying that we don't need God's word because we are living just as we think we should.

Several years ago, a pastor named Joe Wright was asked to open the new session of the Kansas Senate. Everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is what they heard:

“Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, ‘Woe to those who call evil good,’ but that is exactly what we have done.

We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.
We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism,
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery,
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare,
We have killed our unborn and called it choice,
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem,
We have abused power and called it politics,
We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition,
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression,
We have ridiculed time-honored values and called it enlightenment.

Pastor Wright continued, “Search us, Oh, God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.  Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of Your will and to openly ask these things in the name of Your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.”


What are we going to do with sin? We can cover it, claim that we have no sin. We can rename it, denying what we did is really sin and call it a mere mistake. We can disclaim it. We can say our sin is someone else's fault.

Or we can confess it and ask for forgiveness. Which do you choose to do? Be hard and insensitive to sin?... or be ready to recognize it…deal with it…and rid your life of it?

The most deceptive sins don’t leap on us, they creep up on us. Maybe there are some sins that have crept into your life. With the help of the Holy Spirit and His Word, identify them. You can admit your guilt and find God’s forgiveness and cleansing…you can get rid of your sins before they lead you into deeper darkness.

If you have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you have become part of the family of God, and that relationship can never be broken. Sin, though it cannot cut our family ties, can break our fellowship with God. And if our fellowship with God is broken, it is broken with our brothers and sisters in Christ, also.

The way to restore fellowship with God is to listen to Him. When He points out our sin we need to simply agree with Him about it. What God says is sin, is sin. We can acknowledge it and let Him forgive us for it and cleanse us of it.

John describes the person who is walking in tune with God. The person who is in tune with God has the right attitude about sin. The person who is in tune with God desires to be obedient to God. The person who is in tune with God reflects a supernatural love. This person is walking in a way that reflects his fellowship with God.

I urge you today to make the decision to be humbled and contrite before God, as David prayed in Psalm 51…let us make David’s heartfelt words our closing prayer today:

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge…
…10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me…
…12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.


October 10, 2014

Romans 5

Notes from a small group study
Sources: MacArthur Study Bible, NIV, and Romans Verse-by-Verse, by William R. Newell

Romans 5:1-2—Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

The Greek construction in v. 1 indicates one act with permanent or everlasting results: our justification. Literally, the verse begins “…having been justified by faith…” or, alternatively, “…having been declared righteous…” we have peace with God: that is, God has fully judged our sin with Christ as our substitute, for all eternity.

God has fully judged our sin. He is so fully satisfied with Christ’s sacrifice that He will remain satisfied forever, never taking up judgment of our sins again. God is therefore at rest about us forever, however poor our understanding of truth, however weak our walk. God is looking at the blood of Christ and not at our sins. All claims against us were met in Christ’s death, so “we have peace with God.” (From Romans Verse-by-Verse, by William R. Newell.)

In Romans, we come across several terms which bear more explanation: regeneration, justification, and sanctification. (The following discussion of these terms is from MacArthur Study Bible, NIV, pp. 2054-2055.)


Regeneration is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit by which the divine nature is given (John 3:3-8; Titus 3:5). It is instantaneous and is accomplished solely by the power of the Holy Spirit through the word of God (John 5:24), when the repentant sinner, as enabled by the Holy Spirit, responds in faith to God’s provision of salvation. Genuine regeneration is manifested by fruits, as demonstrated in righteous attitudes and conduct. Good works will be the evidence and fruit of regeneration (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Ephesians 5:17-21; Philippians 2:12; Colossians 3:12-17; 2 Peter 1:4-11). This obedience causes the believers to be increasingly conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Such conformity is climaxed in the believer’s glorification at Christ’s coming (Romans 8:16-17; 2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 3:2-3).


Justification before God is the act of God (Romans 8:30-33) by which He declares righteous those who, through faith in Christ, repent of their sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 11:18; Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10; Isaiah 55:6-7) and confess Him as sovereign Lord (Romans 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 2 Corinthians 4:5; Philippians 2:11). This righteousness is apart from any virtue or work of man (Romans 3:20; 4:6) and involves the placing of our sins on Christ (Colossians 2:4; 1 Peter 2:24) and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us (1 Corinthians 1:2, 30; 6:11; 2 Corinthians 5:21). By this means, God is able to “be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).


Every believer is sanctified (set apart) unto God by justification and is therefore declared to be holy (sanctified). This sanctification is positional and instantaneous and has to do with the believer’s standing, not his or her present walk or condition (Acts 20:32; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 30; 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 2:11; 3:1; 10:10, 14; 13:12; 1 Peter 1:2).

There is also by the work of the Holy Spirit a “progressive sanctification” by which the state of the believer is brought closer to the likeness of Christ through obedience to the word of God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit. The believer is able to live a life of increasing holiness in conformity to the will of God, becoming more and more like our Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:17, 19; Romans 6:1-22; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4; 5:23).

In this respect, every saved person is involved in a daily conflict—the new creation in Christ doing battle against the flesh—but adequate provision is made for victory through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The struggle nevertheless stays with the believer all through this earthly life and is never completely ended. All claims to attaining perfect sinlessness in this life are unscriptural. The eradication of sin is not possible, but the Holy Spirit does provide for victory over sin (Galatians 5:16-25; Philippians 3:12; Colossians 3:9-10; 1 Peter 1:14-16; 1 John 3:5-9).

Vv. 3-5— Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Some terms in these verses are worth further discussion:

Suffering—this means testing or proving. The term is borrowed from the practice of refining metals by melting them and removing the impurities.

Perseverance—patience or endurance

Character—another term borrowed from metallurgy. Once purified, the metal is said to have character. Literal translation: “approvedness.”

Hope—in the first century, the Greek term “hope” meant the assurance of something that has been promised. When Paul talks about “hope,” he is communicating something that is sure to happen because God has promised it.

We can compare vv. 3-5 to James 1:2-3, a similar passage— Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. The terms “trials” and “testing” are translations of the same Greek term and again allude to the removal of impurities in metallurgy.

No matter how much the world troubles us, no matter the testing and trials we endure, our hope is secure—we have the inward consciousness of God’s love through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Vv. 6-8—You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Verse 8 (But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us) is a radical statement, both in the first century and today. Jesus died for us not because we accept Him and not because we are good or righteous people, but while we were yet sinners—at the time when we were rejecting Him in our sinful condition before we were saved. God’s love for us is unwavering because it is based on His character: He loved us when we were in our most undesirable state with a supreme act of love.

“How much more”

Vv. 9, 10, 15, and 17 feature the same type of comparative—“…how much more…

V. 9— Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!

God has done what we might call the harder thing: He had Christ to die for us while we were still sinners and His enemies…how much more will He see that we shall be saved from the coming wrath through Christ, because we are now believers and counted as righteous in His sight.

V. 10—For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

Again, having had Christ to die, how much more shall He see that we share Christ’s risen life forever.

V. 15—But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!

Whereas death came through Adam’s sin, how much more has eternal life come to so many through the grace of Jesus Christ. One man brought death; another brought eternal life.

V. 17—For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

V. 17 is a restatement of the “one man-one man” theme. Death reigns in the world through one man, but how much more will those who have been saved through God’s grace live eternally through one man, Jesus Christ.

Vv. 18-19—Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Vv. 18-19 both repeat points Paul has made before and wants to stress even more strongly.  Christ’s death enabled all people to be justified by trusting in Him; one man’s disobedience brought death, while one man’s obedience allows many to be declared righteous (justified).

Vv. 20-21—The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The law made man more aware of his sinful nature and his inability to keep God’s perfect standards, which were defined in the law.

God’s objective is as follows: as death has reigned, so grace now reigns through the declared righteousness (justification) of those who believe and have been justified through Christ.