Benediction: Establishing Spiritual Life
One thing I’d like to do is thank everyone for allowing me to be away for a couple of weeks and once again take a group over to Israel. It’s really hard if you’ve never been there to understand the dynamic that occurs when you’re on the ground. We often talk about this. You’ve heard it from people in the military that nothing replaces boots on the ground, eyes on the ground intelligence. You can have all the spy satellites, all the technology and all of the other whiz-bang tools they have out there today but nothing replaces human intelligence.
The same thing is true when it comes to understanding the Word of God. There are many things that come into focus. They’re just out of focus if you’ve never been there. You read and study some things but when you stand in locations like Mount Gerizim or on the crest of Mount Carmel and look over the Valley of Megiddo, there are things you see spatially get that you can’t get from looking at a map or from studying the Word on its own. Once you stand there it’s amazing the insights it gives you on the Word of God and the points that God is making.
You realize that there are about five places you can stand in Israel where you pretty much can see all the areas where Scripture took place. Just from those five locations because Israel is such a little tiny place. It’s just a compact nation. Many people think it’s large because so many things have happened there but if you’re standing on Mount Carmel you can look within a forty-five degree angle and you can see Nazareth. You can see Mount Tabor where Deborah and Barak defeated Sisera and the Canaanites. You’re overlooking the whole valley where the Kishon River flooded. If you look a little to your left you see the ridge top of Mount Carmel where Elijah challenged the priests of Baal and Ashtoreth. If you just move from Nazareth to Mount Tabor then you see Mount Moriah, which is where Gideon defeated the Midianites. If you move just a little to the right you see the spring of Herod, which is where Gideon sent out the three hundred. You go just a little bit beyond that because that’s at the foot of Mount Gilboa, which is where the Philistines defeated Saul and where Saul took his own life and where Jonathan died. Then if you move just a little more to the right and you see Beth-shan, which is where the people decapitated the body of Saul, and hung it up on the walls of the city. If you have a really clear day and you look through there you see all these areas where our Lord ministered during His lifetime in Galilee. All of that is from one location.
Then you can move down to Jerusalem and you have another place like that, such as Mount Nebo. This time the Lord intervened. We had such a windy morning. We had to get up at four o’clock in the morning in order to make the border crossing because it was about a four-hour drive. Plus we wanted to go to the top of Mount Nebo. The Lord sent a little wind, about a 50 mile an hour wind. We’ve been in hurricanes in Houston. Right? It was about 40 degrees that morning. We all got up and we made it but that wind with all the haze and all the dust made it hard to see much. We couldn’t even see the outline of the mountains in Jordan when we were ten miles away. In fact there were a couple of days when we were down along the Dead Sea when the haze was so bad we couldn’t see the mountains on the other side of the Dead Sea. But that day they were so clear from the top of Mount Nebo. We could see the ridgeline of the Mount of Olives. It was early enough in the morning to where the sun rising in the east was behind us. It was reflecting off the buildings on the ridge of the Mount of Olives. You could see the steeple on the Church of the Ascension, which is at the very crest of the Mount of Olives, and you could see the sun reflecting off that steeple. God took Moses up there and showed him all the Promised Land. We couldn’t see all of that but we saw a lot of it. I’ve been there before when you could barely see Israel from Mount Nebo. It was just remarkable.
I want to have John Williamson come up first. He’s going to say a couple of things about what he learned on the trip. Then Gregory Friehauf is going to come up and say a couple of things. Then we’ll get into Romans. So John, come on up first. John is going to Dallas Seminary so we’re going to have to teach John about how to speak from the pulpit. This is his first shot to give us a little report.
John: Howdy everybody, I had a great time over in Israel. I saw loads and loads of things but I figured I’d just go over Jericho. There are a lot of interesting things about Jericho and it really stood out for me on the trip. Before I talk about the sights there’s a few things you need to understand about cities in the Middle East and in Israel. First, you have to locate the source of water for the city. If there wasn’t a source of water there wasn’t a settlement. If there was a source, then there was a settlement. Jericho has three fresh water springs. In fact, it was one of the greenest places I saw in all of Israel. There were trees all around. The second things you need to understand are tels. I didn’t have a great understanding of what a tel was but I learned that a tel is basically a city built on top of a city built on top of a city. The reason why they do this is because of the water. A tel has a very distinct shape. It has the profile of a trapezoid. It has real steep slopes and a flat top. You can train a five-year old to locate a tel.
As we drove around we saw a few that weren’t dug. The reason why you have these tels is basically because of battery rams. When they first built their city walls on a plain, invaders invented a battery ram so they could knock down the walls of the city and kill everyone. So what they did to defend against battering rams is they go and build a retaining wall and fill it with dirt to make a little plateau. Then they built defensive walls on top. Jericho had two city walls, a lower wall right above their retaining wall and the upper city wall.
What I want to talk about particularly in Jericho is in Joshua 6:20. You all know about Jericho. Joshua and the people marched around the city a number of times blowing the trumpet. Eventually on the seventh day we read, “So the people shouted and the priests blew the trumpets and it came about when the people heard the sound of the trumpet that the people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down flat so the people went up into the city, every man straight ahead and they took the city.”
You couldn’t run straight into the city over the retaining wall. There’s always a fairly winding path to get up into these tells. One thing to note is that when the city walls fell down, they fell down like a ramp all around the city. I find it kind of ironic because these walls were built to defend the city but they became a ramp so the Israelites could charge right up over the retaining walls into the city. It was really quite impressive. Out of the stone and the clay from the old city wall, when Jericho was rebuilt people gathered material from that wall and made the structure we see at the bottom. It fits very well with the Biblical description. [Shows pictures]
Here we have burnt grain, which we know is significant because the conquest of Jericho happened in the harvest season. It happened quickly. If it had been a long, drawn-out thing they would have squirreled away their grain or left with their food. They didn’t have time to save their food. There was a lot of burnt grain found in the city, which attests to its quick destruction.
When you’re excavating a tel, it's sort of like a layer cake. You might have a white layer, a black layer, and you can tell a little bit about what happened in each layer based on how the layers look. The black, burned layer is caused by charcoal, carbon scarring on a fire. There’s been a little bit of debate about the pottery there. But long story, short, that pottery dates back to about 1500 or 1400 B.C., which is about the time of the conquest of the land. There’s a lot more to be said about John Garstang who was the first to excavate, and Kathleen Kenyon, and all the arguments but what I want you to take away from Jericho is that the Bible says we should find walls which fell down making a ramp to charge forward, burned grain and destruction by fire. We find all of that. Jericho has often been touted as the number one problem the Bible has archeologically but as we see here the Bible can be trusted in everything it touches upon.
Pastor: Thank you, John. One of the things John didn’t quite make clear, when this wall fell down, it fell forward and that created a ramp. As he pointed out from Joshua 6, the Israelites then could just run straight up. The debris from that wall formed a ramp for them and they could just run right into the city. What has been discovered is a number of homes and buildings constructed between the lower and the upper wall. As John pointed out, it really does substantiate what the Scripture says about how Joshua defeated the forces of Jericho. Okay, Greg is going to talk a minute about his impressions from the trip.
Greg: I’m not quite as well prepared as John was. I don’t have any slides or anything. I just want to give a quick overview of what really hit me, really solidified things for me. We had a guide who has been doing a lot of excavation of archeological things over there. He took us over to location of Shechem to discuss everything that happened there. God gave Abraham the covenant there and the reaffirmation of the covenant there. The blessings and cursings. When Christ came He talked to the woman at the well, the Samaritan woman. All of those things happened at that one spot and it really had an impression on me that everything, like Robby was saying, is just in a small area.
Being from Houston, you think of things all spread out and all over the place. It’s not that way there. That was very interesting. One of the things that Joel, our guide, really impressed upon me was when he would say, “The Bible says we’ll find these things in this area.” Then when they dig, that’s exactly what they find. There’s no question that what the Bible says is true because we can see the results. For instance, Ahab’s palace. It says there’s ivory in his palace for decoration and that’s kind of a rare thing. When they dug in that area that’s exactly what they found. They had the pieces of ivory in museums. It’s just incredible just to see all that kind of stuff. That was one of the things I found really, really impressive and it just solidifies that the Word of God is what it says it is. It’s true and you can depend on it one hundred percent. That’s one of things that really come across when you go on a trip of this nature.
Robby: You go to the Biblical sites and you see what’s there. As Greg was pointing out, when you stood on Mount Gerizim you can look down and you see Shechem and that’s where, of course, Abraham stopped when he first came into the land (Genesis 12:6) and he built an altar. God reconfirmed the covenant there. He left and goes down to between Bethel and Ai. We drove on the highway right next to the hill where he and Sarah would have camped. It all becomes so very real and once again, you realize how close everything is in terms of these locations. We’ll talk some more about this. I’m going to have some slides probably next Tuesday night. We’ve had a little time to recover and get organized.
Let’s go to Romans 16. Tonight we’re going to finish up the book of Romans looking at the last section in Romans 16:25-27. What’s interesting here is that in some ancient versions Romans 16:25-27 occurs after Romans 14:23. It also shows up in a couple of minor versions in a different location in Romans 15. But in most versions it is at the end of the book. It’s not a question of whether or not it belongs in Romans. It’s more a question of where it belongs. It probably belongs at the very end as Paul is wrapping up what he is saying to the Romans.
I just want to go over the last part of it. I want to look at this final greeting from verses 21 through 24. He says, “Timothy, my fellow worker, and Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my kinsmen, greet you.” Then there’s a note from his amanuensis. There’s a good word for people. An amanuensis is a secretary, as it were, the one who is writing down the epistle as he’s dictating it. He’s named Tertius and it says he greets the Romans in the Lord. Then in Romans 16:23 he says, “Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the treasurer of the city, greets you, and Quartus, a brother.” He closes with a statement, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.”
In Romans 16:21 Paul mentions Timothy who is often referred to as a young man. In Jewish culture a young man was someone under the age of forty. Young is often relative. If you’re 90, you may be thinking of someone who is 60 as rather young, especially if you’ve known them your whole life. And it may be (if you’re 50) you think someone who is forty is rather young because you’ve known them your whole life. But in Jewish culture, you became a PRESBUTEROS, an elder, roughly around the age of 40. So 40 was a dividing line. The average life expectancy was around 65 or 70 so Timothy is considered young but he’s probably in his middle to late 30s at this point. He’s not exactly a wet-behind-the-ears young kid like John is. He was a little older. He had some experience, a lot of experience, working with the Apostle Paul. Paul sent him on a lot of missions, solving problems, and teaching the Word. At this point when Paul is writing Romans from Corinth, Timothy is with him along with these others that are mentioned.
We know little about Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater but he says they were his countrymen. Some people think this Lucius might be Luke but there’s a lot of discussion whether Luke was a Gentile or a Jew. He was likely a Gentile although evidence is not entirely clear. Here it’s very clear that this Lucius is Jewish so it’s probably not Luke because Paul would have used a different form of the name. Jason is the name of the man who took care of Paul and hosted him in his home in Thessalonica and is very likely the same Jason. Sosipater is probably another way of spelling Sopater who was in Berea when Paul traveled on his second missionary journey. He went from Philippi to Thessalonica to Berea and then to Athens so these were leaders in those congregations who had accompanied him down to Corinth so they are with him and they would have known a few people in the congregation in Rome so he sends greetings from them.
Tertius who writes his epistle as his amanuensis also inserts his greeting at this particular point. This was something that was standard practice in the ancient world where someone would write out the letter for the person who was dictating it. Paul would have dictated it and Tertius would have written it out. Then we have a reference in Romans 16:23 to Gaius and to Erastus who is the treasurer of the city. This is someone who has a significant role in the city of Corinth and then another believer by the name of Quartus. We don’t know anything more about them other than their listing here. This Gaius here who hosts Paul is very likely the person mentioned in Acts 18:7 and his name was Gaius Titius Gustus and his house was next door to the synagogue. Some of these names were common and so it’s a little bit uncertain as to exact identification.
Then in Romans 16:24 Paul concludes with this statement related to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is common with Paul to conclude with a statement like this. I went through this the last time but I’ll do it again. In 1 Corinthians 16:23 Paul concludes 1 Corinthians saying, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” In 2 Corinthians 13:14, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Galatians 6:18, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your Spirit. Amen.” Ephesians 6:24, “Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” Philippians 4:23, “The grace of our Lord Jesus be with your spirit.” Colossians 4:18, “Grace be with you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:2, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:18, “The grace of all Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” 1 Timothy 6:21, “Grace be with you.” 2 Timothy 4:22, “The Lord be with your spirit, grace be with you.” Titus 3:15, “Grace be with you all.” Finally, Philemon 25, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” So we see in all of these epistles Paul closes with this emphasis on the grace of God.
Grace is one of those vital concepts in Paul’s understanding of all of the gospel. Grace means unmerited favor. One thing that really strikes you when you take a trip into the older part of Europe where you have older established churches that have been influenced by Greek Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and some of the other Armenian or Syrian Orthodox and yes, indeed there are still people who consider themselves Syrians in the Middle East, is that you reutilize how horrible, horrible legalism is. We don’t have a clue here. You can go to a Greek Orthodox or Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. but you don’t see anything like what you see over in Italy or Greece or any of the countries in the Middle East with all of the different rituals and icons and the smells and the bells and all of the ritual that is just burdensome. I think you can talk to just about anyone who’s taken a trip over to Israel and when you go into these churches, whether it’s the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem or the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem or some of the other churches up in Galilee, it’s just oppressive. You just come away saying, “Thank God for grace.” Then you look at the kind of legalism that still dominates in a lot of the Hasidic or Haridim, the Ultra-Orthodox among Israel, you realize what a burden it is. When Jesus talked about the fact that the Law was like a yoke, a heavy burden, to the people then Paul comes along with this wonderful message of grace. We don’t do anything to earn or deserve God’s favor. God has freely given it to us because Jesus Christ did all of the work. He continuously emphasizes the importance of grace and we should as well. Grace should characterize our lives.
Now we come to the final benediction in Romans 16:25-31 and I just want to read these verses. It’s important when you see a complex sentence like this that you get to the heart of the sentence. Paul writes, “Now to Him who is able to establish you, according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began but now has been made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures has been made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God for the obedience to the faith, to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.”
When we look at this we ought to look at this three-verse section here and ask what’s the main idea? There are a lot of grammatically dependent clauses here. It starts off, “Now to Him…” What’s the subject? “Him” is in the dative but we don’t have a main verb yet telling us what the action is. “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and according to the preaching of Jesus Christ.” Then we have another prepositional phrase, “According to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began.” We still haven’t figured out what the main verb is. “But now…” This is a contrast. “He’s able to establish you according to the revelation of the mystery but now made manifest…” The mystery was something that wasn’t revealed but now something has been revealed and it’s revealed by the prophetic Scriptures.
Let me ask you … What are the prophetic Scriptures? Is this the Old Testament or is this the New Testament? You have to read it really carefully to figure it out. It’s important to understand what Paul is saying. It’s not the Old Testament. “Now made manifest and by the prophetic Scriptures made known unto all nations…” That’s not the Old Testament. That’s the New Testament, which we’ll see when we get there.
Then there’s another phrase, “According to the commandment of the everlasting God.” Then we finally get to Romans 16:17, “To God…” See, Paul is picking up where he started in Romans 16:25. “Now to Him…” Then he goes through two whole verses just describing what is so significant about the Him, who is God the Father. In Romans 16:27 Paul finally goes back to that when he says, “To God…” He again gets distracted by describing God a little more as the one who is only wise and then Paul finally gets to a verb. “Be” is not in the original but it’s necessary to make sense.
Glory is the only noun we’ve come up to so far that’s in the nominative case that can be the subject of the clause. What we see here is the dative or the direction of the action of the verb expressed in verse 25 as “to God.” What is “to God”? What is given to God? Basic grammar is so important to understanding the Scripture. Back in the sixth or seventh grade you learned something about direct objects and indirect objects and it may have gone right over your head. Whenever you have a verb or any kind of action it is always directed to or toward someone. Okay, so if you give a gift what you’re giving is a gift. That’s the object of the verb. That’s usually expressed in the accusative case. Then if you’re giving someone a gift, you’re giving a gift to your husband, your wife, your child, or your friend, that’s your indirect object. That’s what you have here at the beginning.
This Him is in the dative case, which expresses the indirect object. What we have here is the noun for glory, which is in the nominative case. This indicates glory is the subject of an unstated verb. That’s the only noun here that can be the subject. What we see is that Paul is bringing this to a conclusion and saying, “Now glory to God.” You look at these three verses and that’s the guts of what Paul is saying. That’s your independent clause. Paul is saying we need to glorify God or to give glory to God because God alone is the One who makes a difference in our lives.
That’s why he expands upon the concept of Deity, in particular God, the Father, so much in these three verses. All of those terms from “Who is able” down to “obedience to faith” all describes the Him, why God the Father and glorifying Him is so important. It’s because of who He is and what He has done.
In Romans 16:27 he goes back to the beginning and restates that this is “to God” and then he gets distracted by saying more things about God. We can’t understand God enough. The more we understand who He is, the more we realize that He alone is the One who is able to provide everything for us. So let’s break this down a little bit.
There are seven basic points I see here. First of all, what Paul is saying is that because God, that is Paul’s God and Moses’ God, is the only one able to make us stand. That’s why we glorify God because God alone, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the only one able. Not Allah, not some nebulous force out in the universe, not nature, not the universe, but the personal, infinite God of Paul and of Moses who is the only one who is able to establish us, to make us stable.
The second thing he emphasizes is that we’re established according to “my gospel”, Paul says. What is so significant about the phrase “my gospel”? We’ll look at that shortly. Third, the gospel message Paul is talking about relates next to the proclamation of Jesus Christ. He says, “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching or the proclamation of Jesus Christ.”
The fourth thing he says is that this is related to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began. This is referring to the mystery doctrine of the Church Age, which had never previously been disclosed since the world began. God the Father had kept this secret. It had not been disclosed even partially, even a little bit, in the Old Testament. It is a new revelation. We’ve come to understand several things related to this term “mystery”. It doesn’t refer to an enigma. It doesn’t refer to a puzzle. It doesn’t refer to something that’s only partially revealed or incompletely revealed. It refers to something that’s never been revealed, never been disclosed at all, at any time in the past.
The fifth thing Paul states here is that this present gospel message, this mystery doctrine, was made clear or revealed or disclosed in the New Testament Scripture. Romans 16:26 says, “But now…” Not then but now in this present dispensation it has been “made manifest and by the prophetic Scriptures.” We would almost take a knee-jerk response and say the prophetic Scriptures would refer to the Old Testament, but the Old Testament was primarily written for Israel. Paul says the “prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations”. We don’t see an emphasis on the goyim or the Gentiles until we get to the Day of Pentecost, after Acts. So this is relating to the New Testament, not the Old Testament, because the mystery doctrine wasn’t revealed in the Old Testament.
Sixth, Paul says “this mystery which was held back by the present age by the commandment of the everlasting God.” This is a very interesting phrase that we find in the Greek because it indicates this timelessness to this particular command. So God mandates that the mystery will not be revealed.
Finally, this mystery of understanding this revelation entails a commandment to everyone. The last statement is that this mystery revelation is for obedience to the faith. It implies that we are to be obedient to something. So there is a commandment embedded in the mystery doctrine.
Let’s break this down. First of all, Paul emphasizes this because God is the only one who is able to make us stand. This is so important. Romans 16:25 begins, “Now to Him [God the Father] who is able to establish you.” This is the Greek verb STERIZO and here it’s an aorist active infinitive, which indicates His purpose. His purpose is to make us stand. Here it’s completing the concept of the verb able, which defines His power. Whenever you see that word for able DUNAMAI, it emphasizes God’s power and omnipotence. He is the One who has the power and the only one who has the power to make us stand and to establish us. The word STERIZO has a wide range of meanings. It means making us stable. I think that’s the core idea here for us as believers. The only way we can have stability in an unstable universe and an unstable ever-changing world, a world that is dominated by chaos, a world where we have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow, is by the power of God.
Many of us have had hopes and dreams thinking that somehow the past of the United States was going to continue into the future but we realize that the people in this country who are growing increasingly ignorant of our history have elected leaders who are willingly violating the Constitution of this country and we don’t seem to be able to elect leaders who know how to do anything about it. Now we have a president who is acting like a monarch or an emperor and is boldly flaunting the Constitution this very night. And there’s not anything that we can do about it.
This is the same pattern that was seen in ancient Rome. It’s the same pattern that’s been repeated down through the ages as leaders take office and people become lazy and complacent and are no longer involved or watching over their government. What we see in the cycles of civilization is that when people become ignorant and are no longer watching that they once again return to the status of slaves to government. This is exactly what this president intends to do. By his actions he’s becoming a criminal but no one seems to care and if they do they don’t have the power to do anything about it.
The only way we’re going to have stability in life is when we base our life on the doctrine of God’s Word. That’s the only thing that doesn’t change. We’ve had two hundred years of wonderful history in this country. Maybe there’ll be a change in the future but if things continue the way they are going, the only way you and I are going to survive with joy and happiness is if we base that upon the Word of God. That means we have to thoroughly know the Word of God.
This idea of being established really frames or brackets Romans. In Romans 1:11 in the introduction, Paul said, “For I long to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift [his teaching] so that you may be established.” The key to being established is to study the Word. It’s to know what God has revealed to us. In the introduction Paul says he’s going to impart some spiritual gift [his gift of apostleship and teaching] so that they can be established. In his conclusion he says that ultimately it is God who is the one that establishes us.
We see this in other passages where Paul uses this word. He only uses it twice in Romans. In 1 Thessalonians he used it several times. He said he sent Timothy back to the Thessalonians on his second missionary journey to establish them and to encourage them concerning their faith, that is, the content of what they believe. So the way Timothy helped in the way of establishing them was to teach the Word.
In Paul’s benediction here in Romans 16:25 he says that ultimately God is the one who establishes us. But how does He do that? What is the means that He uses? It’s through His Word. It’s through His Word that communicates the content of our faith. In 1 Thessalonians 3:13 Paul uses the verb again saying, “So that He may establish you.” This again emphasizes that it is God who is the one who ultimately provides stability in our lives. In 2 Thessalonians he uses the term twice. In 2 Thessalonians 2:17 he says, “Comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.” Who is it that comforts us and establishes us? It’s God the Father. 2 Thessalonians 3:3, “But the Lord is faithful who will establish you.” Again, it is only God who can establish you. Here the word “Lord” could be God the Father or it could be the Lord Jesus Christ. But ultimately it’s Deity, God the Father and God the Son are one so it can refer to either or both.
Then in James 5:8 James says, “You also be patient. Establish your hearts.” The verb “establish” there is an imperative. It’s a second person plural imperative telling us that we have a role in establishing ourselves. It’s not just up to God. He’s ultimately the only basis for stability but we have to be involved as well. In 1 Peter 5:10 he says, “May the God of all grace who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus after you have suffered a while, perfect, strengthen, and establish you.” So here it relates to God the Father’s role but not at the expense of our volition. We see that in many places. 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 states that. James 5:8 uses the word. It’s an aorist active imperative.
This is where grammar plays an important role. It’s not a passive concept. You take an active role in establishing yourself. You have to make a decision as to whether or not you’re going to study the Word of God and apply it in your life. It’s not something that just happens automatically. One of the problems we have is that there’s been an overemphasis on Ephesians 5:18 to be filled by the Spirit. A misdirection and a mis-emphasis on this. “Be filled” is a passive voice verb. A lot of people think that all they have to do to be filled by the Holy Spirit is to confess their sin. That’s a starting point. Let me use an illustration. It’s like a house. The only place you’re going to ever get fed if you’re inside your home. If you’re outside your home, there’s no food. Inside the house there’s food and growth takes place. Confession is comparable to getting back into the house. Just being inside the house doesn’t mean you’re going to stay there. Just being back inside the house doesn’t mean you’re going to eat. It just puts your into a position where now you can find food and you can eat but it doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to be fed and it doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to grow. It just puts you in the place where food is available and growth can take place.
We have other terms that are comparable and are related to being filled by the Spirit. We’ve studied this many times. We’re filled by the Spirit. What are we filled with? Not the Spirit. He’s the means of filling. The content of filling is the Word of God. Now a comparable term is “abide in Me”. If we put it in the vernacular Jesus is saying, “Stay in me. Stay there. Don’t get out. Abide in me.” When we sin we’re out of fellowship. That’s the term that we use. What that means is that we’re walking by the sin nature. We’re living our lives by the sin nature. When we confess our sin it restores us to a position where we can walk by the Spirit.
Walking by the Spirit is a moment-by-moment, day-by-day decision. Step by step. One step at a time. On our trip to Israel this time, I had a new app on my iPhone called the Pacer. It measured our steps. Every day people wanted to know, “How many steps did we take today?” We would take between 13,000 and 23,000 steps a day. The day we did all of our hiking at Petra we covered 23,700 and something steps. I totaled them all up on the way home and we had somewhere in the order of 180,000 to 185,000 steps for the whole trips. That roughly works out to between 75 to 80 miles.
We didn’t do all at once. Everyone had a great time doing it and everyone really did a fabulous job on the trip. You have to do something to walk off all those Magnum bars, you know. We had a great time but you do it one step at a time. You don’t just sit there and say, “Golly, I’m going to walk 80 miles in the next two weeks. No, you just look at all the fun things you’re going to do that day and you go out and do them. At the end of the day you realize you walked about 18,000 or more steps. That’s impressive, six or seven miles. The next day you do it again. You have a lot of fun but it’s one step at a time. Each day.
That’s the same thing in the Christian life. You take one step at a time. Notice “abiding in me” is an active voice verse. That means you do the action. You abide. It’s up to you to abide in Christ. It’s up to our volition to say, “I’m going to stay in fellowship.” Walking by the Spirit means I’ve got to make a decision to walk by the Spirit each and every day. It’s not something that if I confess my sins I’m filled by the Spirit and He’s going to make decisions and I’m just going to automatically grow. It’s amazing how many Christians think that. They think that confession basically means that now it just puts me back into position that if I just sit in Bible class and listen I’m going to grow. Guess what? You’re wrong. You can sit in Bible class till the cows come home and unless you’re engaging your volition to be obedient day-and-day you’re not going to grow. You may have 15,000 notebooks filled with all the doctrine in the world but that doesn’t mean you’re going anywhere or you’re going anywhere in your Christian life. It just means you know a lot but it doesn’t mean you’re implementing it and application is the necessary step.
That means we also have to walk in the light of God’s Word. It’s an active voice verb. So we have to make ourselves available to the Holy Spirit to fill us with the Word but then we have to apply it. That’s walking and abiding in the light. In order to obey the Word we have to walk by the Spirit. Now watch this. If you’re going to walk by the Spirit, you have to obey the Word. Jesus said the way we know we love God is that we obey Him. What do we have to do to be able to obey the Word? We have to know the Word. In order to know the Word, you first have to learn the Word. If you’re not in Bible class or you’re not listening online regularly, you’re not learning the Word. If you’re not learning the Word, you won’t know the Word. If you don’t know the Word, you won’t obey the Word. And if you don’t obey the Word, you’re not going to be walking by the Spirit. So you have to listen to the teaching of God’s Word in order to learn the Word.
Now that’s just all related to that first point of how we become established. It’s according to Paul’s gospel. That’s what he says in Romans 2:16, “In the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” When is this going to take place? “In the day.” When is that? That’s at the Judgment Seat of Christ. It could also refer to the end times, the Great White Throne for unbelievers, according to one’s destiny. What I’m pointing out here is that when Paul uses the term gospel he has a much broader implication than just simply believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. It incorporates everything that flows from that in terms of our spiritual life.
What is Paul’s gospel? There are some people who think that the Apostle Paul invented Christianity, not Jesus. You often hear this in a Jewish context. Greg mentioned a guide we had the day we went into Samaria named Joel Kramer. Joel said that he was one of three guys he knew studying archaeology in Israel right now who were committed to Biblical infallibility in terms of Biblical archaeology. One of them is a young man who just received his doctorate from the University of South Africa by the name of Titus Kennedy. His father is Todd Kennedy who is the pastor of Spokane Bible Church and has been on the board of Chafer Seminary. Some of you know him. His son is very active. That’s how I came to know Joel, who was our guide. The other guy that he mentioned was a guy by the name of Andrew Cross.
When I was in Israel with that AIPAC group in May 2012, I stayed about three days after the trip. Joel was supposed to guide me into Samaria but he got called in that day for a meeting over his visa so he sent Andrew Cross, one of his friends. I never made the connection but he is John Cross’s son. John is the head of Good Seed and he used to be on the governing board for Chafer Seminary. He is committed to the inerrancy of God’s Word and here he is over in Jerusalem.
A lot of Christians go over there and it’s amazing how many have their faith shipwrecked by what is taught in some of the classrooms over there. He said one of the things that’s taught is that Paul invented Christianity, not Jesus. But Paul talks about the gospel many different ways. In Galatians 1 he says he received his gospel, not from man, which means the other apostles, but through Jesus Christ who revealed Himself to Paul in Acts 9.
He goes on to say there’s only one gospel and the Galatians believers had deserted a different, or another kind of gospel, a HETEROS gospel. We know the word HETEROS from heterosexual. Someone who is heterosexual is someone who has a relationship with someone of the opposite sex, someone who’s different. If not, then they are homosexual and they have a relationship with someone who is of the same sex. This is the word HETEROS here meaning a different kind of gospel. Then Paul says it’s not another gospel, meaning another of the same kind but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. Then he says there’s only one gospel.
Later he goes on to say that this gospel which he preached is not according to man in Galatians 1:11. In verse 12 he says, “I didn’t receive it from man nor was I taught it but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” So it’s Jesus Christ’s gospel, not Paul’s gospel. He calls it that in Romans 1:16, “I’m not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” In 2 Corinthians 2:12 he talks about proclaiming Christ’s gospel. In 2 Corinthians 9:13 he talks about the gospel of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 10:14 at the end he talks about the gospel of Christ. It’s Christ’s gospel and it’s also God’s gospel. In Romans 1:1 he says, “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God.” The gospel of God is the gospel of Christ. Paul says the gospel of Christ is his gospel. Romans 15:16 also talks about the gospel of God. 1 Thessalonians 2:2 talks about the gospel of God as does 1 Thessalonians 2:8. This is the gospel message that is related to the proclamation of Jesus Christ. The word there is KERUGMA, something that is proclaimed.
The fourth thing which I pointed out which he goes on to say at the end of Romans 16:25, “According to the revelation of the mystery.” A mystery is a previously unrevealed or undisclosed idea. So something new is disclosed. That’s the mystery doctrine related to the Church Age. What happens in the Church Age? All believers, Jew and Gentile, are united in Christ where there’s no distinction. That’s Ephesians, chapter 2. That’s what Romans 14 and 15 were all about, dealing with the difference between Jewish and Gentile believers and they needed to learn to love one another. As part of his benediction he says, “According to the revelation of the mystery which had been kept secret since the world began.” God in His foreknowledge, before the foundation of the earth, had planned for the Church Age and what would be accomplished in Christ. So the mystery reveals this previously unrevealed dispensation. It was not partially disclosed information or prophetic material related to the Messiah in the Old Testament.
The fifth idea that he has here is that this present gospel message was made through the New Testament Scriptures which is where we learn of the mystery of the body of Christ. It’s not Old Testament but New Testament. It was made known to all the nations according to Romans 16:26. This was according to the commandment of the everlasting God. God has established this within His decrees so that this would not be revealed until after Christ was rejected by Israel and crucified, buried, and rose again on the third day.
The result of that mystery doctrine, our new position in Christ, is that it entails a responsibility for every believer. God expects us to be obedient to the content of the faith. Not faith in Christ but the whole body of Christian doctrine. This is seen again as a reflection of what Paul says at the beginning of Romans. In Romans 1:5 he says, “Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience.” Some people think that grace means we don’t have to be obedient. It’s all free but that’s not what the Bible says. The Bible says you’re not obedient to get salvation but you’re obedient because you have already received salvation and because it’s through obedience that we grow and mature as believers. We are to be obedient to the faith, that is the body of doctrine that has been revealed to us among all the nations.
In Ephesians 2:10 which comes after one of the great passages on grace, “For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourself. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” So we stop there and say, “See, there’s no works involved.” There aren’t any works involved in salvation. There are no meritorious works involved in sanctification but we are to work. We are to serve. We are to grow. We are to engage our volition. That’s what Paul says in the next verse, which is too often forgotten. Romans 2:10, “We are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for a purpose…” What purpose? “…for good works.” Not so you can just live your life the way you want to because now that your eternal destiny is secured it really doesn’t matter. “After all, I’ll just use 1 John 1:9 and I’ll be cleansed.” That’s not what Paul is indicating here. We’re His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for the purpose of good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. We’re to walk by the Spirit. We’re to walk in the light. We’re to walk and have our life characterized by good works.
This is how Paul concludes the gospel of Romans. Then he says, “To God who alone is wise.” A lot of translations indicate that what Paul is saying is that God alone is wise. He is saying that but I think he is saying more than that. He is saying to the “only God who alone is wise.” He’s emphasizing the uniqueness of God, the uniqueness of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It would be better as a few have translated, “To the only God, who alone is all-wise.” Because He is omniscient He has been able to give to us everything we need for our spiritual life. Romans says a lot about justification but it doesn’t stop with the gospel of justification. It goes on to talk about sanctification and our need to grow and mature as believers. This is the heart of Romans. It lays the foundation in understanding the gospel of justification but goes on to emphasize the fact that we need to be sanctified. We need to grow to spiritual maturity because that’s where the action is. It’s becoming a mature adult, not being conformed to the world but being transformed by the renewing of our minds. That’s the last section in Romans.
With that we bring out study of Romans to a conclusion. After Thanksgiving, because we won’t have a class next Thursday night, we will begin a study of the gospel according to Samuel, 1 and 2 Samuel in the Old Testament.