As I began preparing the teaching for Romans 9-11, I realized that this would be some tough sledding for me to prepare it and teach it and for all of us to grasp it and apply to our lives. Significant doctrines such as God’s sovereignty, election, free will, human responsibility, God’s dealings and plans for Israel in the past, present, and future, eschatology, etc., are all contained in these three chapters. You might say, what does all this have to do with my day-to-day life? This made me pause and reflect upon the emphasis Scripture places on knowing sound doctrine (versus false teachings, lies of Satan) in order to keep us from being “tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching” as Paul warns us in Ephesians: “Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” (Eph. 4:14) In short, the Bible makes it clear that we, even as believers, cannot discern good from evil apart from knowing God’s Word (and that includes “all the counsel of God” – Acts 20:27) and obeying God’s Word (John 8:31-32) as seen so clearly stated in Hebrews 5:11-14: “There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. 12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies (who need to be told what is right or wrong) who need milk and cannot eat solid food. 13 For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. 14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training (knowing and obeying God’s Word) have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.”
It all started in the garden and will continue until the end – “The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3 “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”6 The woman was convinced (deceived). She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom (to know good and evil apart from God’s Word and obedience to it) it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too (self-will). 7 At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness.” (Genesis 3:1-7a)[“The eyes of them both were opened.” It is not meant of the eyes of the body; Nor is it meant of any advances made hereby in true knowledge; but the eyes of their consciences were opened, their hearts smote them for what they had done. Now, when it was too late, they saw the folly of eating forbidden fruit. They saw the happiness they had fallen from, and the misery they had fallen into. They saw a loving God provoked, his grace and favor forfeited, his likeness and image lost, dominion over the creatures gone. They saw their natures corrupted and depraved, and felt a disorder in their own spirits of which they had never before been conscious. They saw a law in their members warring against the law of their minds, and captivating them both to sin and wrath.” Henry, Matthew: Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume. Peabody : Hendrickson, 1996, c1991, S. Ge 3:6]
It will continue until the end and even accelerate in the end (apostasy) – “And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. 19 And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book.” (Revelation 22:18-19; also see Deut. 4:2 and Prov. 30:6) False religions add to or remove God’s pure truth seen in the Bible. And this will accelerate in the end (apostasy): “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world? ”4 Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, 5 for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many.” (Matt. 24:3-5) “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (2 Tim. 4:3-4)
But even we as believers can add to or remove God’s truth in our minds and words when in our anger and despair of life we distort God’s character and truth to line up with our emotions: “God can’t be trusted. If God is all powerful and all loving this __________ would not have happened in my life.” So we remove the truth of God’s Faithfulness, Omnipotence, and Perfect Love. Or we hear, “my God wouldn’t send anyone to hell.” Or “my God just wants me to be happy”, etc.; i.e., we start our own little false religion.
The Bible says we are “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37) not defeated victims. Every man in this room and every person in the world has been wounded by sin and every man in this room and every person in the world has willfully rebelled against God. Though wounded and fallen, we are moral agents of God who can choose to receive Him or reject Him. By the grace of God we can receive His salvation and be empowered by the Spirit to love and obey Him. Or to say it another way, although original sin has defaced the image of God in us it has not erased the image of God in us (including the unsaved) and man can respond to God both for salvation and for obedience. For example, by God’s supernatural power we can even forgive and serve our worst enemies as we are commanded to do. “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 32 “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” (Luke 6:27-28; 32; 35-36) God loved us when we were still His enemies and continues to forgive us and do good to us even when we hurt Him and are ungrateful for the countless gifts He gives us daily. Christianity (being like Christ) means we treat our enemies like Jesus/God treats us. The Word of God gives us both the fuel and the path to follow to do this.
“Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. 47 They are not just idle words for you—they are your life.” (Deuteronomy 32:46-47)
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. True or false? It is one thing to see this on a high school or college exam but another thing entirely to try to make decisions that affect our family and friends and our relationship with the Lord day in and day out. Jesus said, “I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” 38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked.” (John 18:37-38) What does your use of time and your priorities say about how much you value the truth Jesus came to live and die for?
2. In short, the Bible makes it clear that we, even as believers, cannot discern good from evil apart from knowing God’s Word (and that includes “all the counsel of God” – Acts 20:27) and obeying God’s Word (John 8:31-32) as seen so clearly stated in Hebrews 5:11-14. How did Adam and Eve demonstrate this truth and how can we avoid doing likewise?
3. How do cults and how can we add to or remove God’s Word/truth?
4. “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” (C. S. Lewis) How does this relate to knowing God’s Word/truth?