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Passage: Romans 11-13

On Thursday, December 6, 2018, Yujin wrote,

Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts (Romans 13:11-14).

Paul writes that their salvation is nearer to them than when they first believed. He is certainly not referring to their justiification, for this one-time, past event has already occurred when they trusted in Jesus as their Savior. Sanctification is what he is calling for in the verses that follow.

He is referring to their glorification,the completion of their salvation in heaven in the presence of the Lord. Some would achieve this through death while others would achieve it in the future rapture of the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). 

Looking toward our glory, Paul exhorts us to do good and not evil, to keep moral company, to preserve personal purity, and to avoid the conflicts that arise from selfishness and envy. He exhorts us to immerse ourselves in the character and teaching of Christ and give no time, attention or resources to fulfill any ungodly desires. 

Friends, as we look to the new year, this is a good word for us to remember. Let us banish every bitterness in our hearts and forgive any offense we may be harboring. Let us recommit ourselves to the priorities of worship, including daily meditation on God's Word and prayer, so that we not fall into the devil's traps. And let us connect, brother to brother and sister to sister, so that we may encourage and help each other to overcome sinful attitudes and habits that can derail our witness for Christ.  


Passage: Romans 11-13

On Saturday, December 6, 2014, Yujin wrote,

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8).

Paul gives a string of commands in Romans 12 and 13. Some are designed for believers with respect to unbelievers (e.g. Romans 12:18 - "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men"), and some are designed for believers with respect to other believers (e.g. Romans 12:10 - "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love"). The kind of reference (e.g. "all men" vs. "one another") provides the clue as to whom Paul has in mind.

In Romans 13:8, it appears that the command has application to both believers ("one another") and unbelievers ("anyone" and "neighbor"). 

Now, consider the following clarifying translations of the expression "Owe nothing" (NASB):

"Let no debt remain outstanding..." (NIV)

"To no one owe anything..." (Young's Literal Translation)

The Greek word for "owe" is a term referring to a legal and economic obligation to pay off a legitimate debt. So debt here refers to an unfulfilled obligation, that is, a failure to pay what is owed or a failure to make a timely payment on what is owed. 

The command follows a series of commands related to the fulfilling of obligations, particularly to ruling authorities:

Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is duecustom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor (Romans 13:7).

The words "render to all what is due them" (verse 7) and "owe nothing to anyone" (verse 8) function like catch-all bookends to the list of commands to give what is due or what is owed to those to whom they are due or owed. "Render to all what is due them" emphasizes the payment or payments that lead to the fulfillment of a debt. "Owe nothing to anyone" emphasizes the result of the fulfillment of debts, namely, freedom from any obligation or debt. 

Friends, we live in a debt-infested world. As of December 2014 the total consumer debt reached $11.7 trillion; that's $11,700,000,000,000. This has arisen from an average credit card debt of $15,600 per American household, an average mortgage debt of $155,000, and an average student loan debt of $32,400. Notice, I said this is the total consumer debt. The federal debt is much higher at $18 trillion (see this live national debt clock). Interest payent alone on this debt is $430 billion. The irresponsibility of debt infects both our leaders to citizens alike. 

We live in a heavily credit-propped economy, so that it is hard to conceve of life without a mortgage or a credit card. As a result, most Americans are living in a continual state of financial enslavement to their lenders. 

People with mortgage debt are not demonized as long as they pay their monthly mortgages on time. People with credit card debt are not demonized as long they pay their monthly minimum payments. But most Americans fail to pay their monthly minimums, and foreclosures for failed mortgage payments were part of the reason for the crash of 2008. Our country and our citizens are quickly imploding from the weight of growing, unmanageable debt. 

Friends, are you one of these citizens, who find themself under the weight of unmanageable personal debt? Have you accumulated credit debt? Have you failed to make a payment or many payments? Do you rejoice when the credit card company agrees to allow you to pay just a portion of your debt to them, because they believe you are a dead-beat, such that it is better for them to settle with you for less than to get nothing at all?

If you are, you ought to take this command of Scripture to heart. Free yourself and determine in you heart to never get into this situation again:

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor,
    if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger,
you have been trapped by what you said,
    ensnared by the words of your mouth.
So do this, my son, to free yourself,
    since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands:
Go—to the point of exhaustion—
    and give your neighbor no rest!
Allow no sleep to your eyes,
    no slumber to your eyelids.
Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
    like a bird from the snare of the fowler (Proverbs 6:1-5).

A few years ago, I determined to be completely free of all debt. I've never carried a credit card debt, for I knew the dangerous pitfall of not paying the full (not minimum) balance on the card every month. I've never carried an automobile debt, for I understood that a car is one of the worst sinkholes for value; so, I've never purchased a car that I could not pay outright with cash. But I have carried a mortgage on my house, even several houses; And this was my burden a few years ago.

So from that time to now, I've slowly worked to pay off one house after another, even though it meant that I could not leverage my money in other ways to gain a greater profit. I believe that God has providentially blessed us these last few years to speed me along my way to being completely debt free with respect to all standard debts (i.e. not including taxes, fees, etc.), which are under my control. I have one house left to pay off, which by God's grace I will do in the next couple of years. When this is accomplished, I hope to rent our residence and pursue a simpler yet even fuller life experience, both in terms of giving as well as finding the freedom to travel all over God's world - to learn of His wonders in every place and to testify of His grace wherever He brings us.

I encourage you, dear friends, to find your course in obedience to God's Word. If you are debt-laden, I hope that you will work to free yourself from this burden. I pray that no matter the outcome, you will trust in His providence, as He leads your trust in Him so that Christ is most glorified in you. 


Passage: Romans 11-13

On Friday, December 6, 2013, Yujin wrote,

Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts (Romans 13:11-14).

Paul gives a moral charge in light of the nearness of the believer's glorification. He writes,

  • Lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light
  • Behave properly as in the day and not in carousing, drunkenness sexual promiscuity, sensuality, strife and jealousy
  • Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts

Clearly what is done in the dark is what we would normally be ashamed of if it were known. Carousing and drunkness and sexual impropriety happen in the dark. Bitter strife and jealousy are usually cloaked in the dark recesses of a person's mind and heart. 

Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ stands in contrast to satisfying our fleshly appetites. Paul is not telling believers not to supply what their body needs but not to make provision for what their sinful nature craves

This instruction is very similar to what Paul commanded in Galatians 5:16-25 with respect to the acts of the flesh and the frut of the Spirit:

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit,let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

This is very practical. The two lists show the evils to avoid and the virtues to pursue. They also reveal the character of the person, whether they belong to Christ as co-heirs of the kingdom of God or whether they are on the outside. 

Friends, let us do our best, according to God's grace and the measure of faith given to us, to serve one another in virtue and love.


Passage: Romans 11-13

On Friday, December 7, 2012 (Last Updated on 12/5/2014), Yujin wrote,

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come inand in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:

“The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.” (Romans 11:25-27).

When I was a student at St. Mark's School of Texas (a private boys' high school), I had a good Jewish friend. I shared the Gospel with him, and he responded by citing Romans 11:26, arguing that all Jews will be saved. I did not know how to respond to him at the time, but I knew that this verse did not mean that he, a Jew, could be saved apart from trusting in Christ. 

As I look at the passage now, I realize why this was confusing to me. It is true that "all Israel will be saved," but the context suggests that this would be after "the full number of Gentiles has come in." So, it speaks of a future time, and what will be the harbinger of this national salvation? The coming of a Deliverer and Israel's turning away from godlessness, even the application of the New Covenant promise, where God promised to take away their sins. This all speaks of the Jews turning to Jesus as a nation. 

As I think about when this might be, it reminds me of Revelation 1:7,

Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.

The reference to "those who pierced Him" is clearly a reference to the Jews. And this verse in Revelation is likely a fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 12:10,

I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.

There is an indication that the eyes of national Israel will be opened, and they will recognize that Jesus,  the one they nailed to the cross, was their true Messiah. Revelation speaks of a 144,000 from the tribes of Israel, who would receive a special seal of God and be His servants in proclaiming the Gospel to the world in the Days of God's Final Judgments. 

My understanding is that this is antecdent to the reference to "all Israel will be saved." There will be a time when Israel as a nation will have their eyes opened, just as Jesus opened the understanding of His first disciples to see and believe Him after His resurrection. And when their eyes are opened, they will en masse believe in Jesus, their "Deliverer from Zion" and be saved.

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Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh (Romans 13:13-14).

Friends, time to time I come across insightful and helpful commentaries and messages online. The following links give a two-part message from John Piper on Romans 13:11-14. I find it both biblically sound and practically helpful, and so I recommend it to you:

Put On the Lord Jesus Christ - Part I

Put On the Lord Jesus Christ - Part II


Passage: Romans 11-13

On Monday, March 12, 2012, Bill wrote,

Paul writes about living sacrificially and having our minds transformed by the message of the gospel.

(Romans 12:1-5)

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others

The Jews were required to sacrifice animals for atonement of certain sins, as a reminder that blood or life is required as payment for our sins. God requires that we remain holy. As Christians we are the benefactors of Jesus sacrifice which through His blood paid for our sins past, present and future. Paul reminds us that our proper response for Gods grace is a sacrificial life where we keep our eyes on God.

Christians struggle with remaining in this world and living as Christians, Paul reminds us to be transformed by renewing our mind. If our thoughts are constantly on maintaining our lifestyle in this world then we cannot life sacrificially, and remain focused on Gods will for us. For me "Renewing of our minds" was the recognition and understanding of who I was in Christ. That meant understanding what Gods will was for me - I came to this through spending time in his Word. What a difference it made in my life and in the way I think - it truly renewed or 'made new' my thinking. When we remained fixated on God, life becomes more focused and clear (not necessarily easy). But as Paul writes you will then test and approve what his good and pleasing perfect will is.

The other key point in this message was remaining humbly part of the body of Christ. We are all benefactors of much grace and forgiveness and thus we should afford others (particularly believers) much grace as well. Remaining a part of the body of Christ is so important as we develop as Christians. We cannot hope to grow as Christians without Christian fellowship - serving together, encouraging each other and seeking God together.


Passage: Romans 11-13

On Wednesday, December 7, 2011 (Last Updated on 12/6/2013), Yujin wrote,

Friends, there is an expression in Romans 12 that I use often with respect to this matter of election, namely, "We should not think too highly of ourselves" (Romans 12:3). Paul uses it here to argue that, both for himself as well as for every believer, their privilege in ministry and the exercise of gifts is by the grace of God and in proportion to a God-given faith.

Now, it has been argued that Paul is not talking about justifying or saving faith here because he is addressing Christians; however, notice that this faith is universally given to every Christian ("God has dealt to each one a measure of faith," Romans 12:3. Unless we are ready to argue that there is a separate spiritual gift known as the "gift of faith," it is not to be classified as just one of the gifts. Every other spiritual gift is not universally shared, so why would Paul single it out here.

Also, Paul refers to faith here in such a way that it is not to be considerd among the gifts but something upon which all the gifts depend. This is his argument here for why believers should not think too highly of themselves. It is not because one is better or more spiritual than another but rather that God has sovereignly given the "measure of faith," out of which the gifts arise. In this text, grace and faith are used interchangeably. So, in Romans 12:6 Paul speaks of believers having "gifts differing according to the grace that is given."The point is that whether you call it "grace" or "a measure of faith," they are from God. Recall that this is not the first time "grace" and "faith" are spoken of almost interchangeably. For example, although Paul speaks heavily of the contrast between "faith" and "works" in Romans 3-4, when we come to Romans 11, the contrast is between "grace" and "works" (Romans 11:5-6). Even though they are not the same thing, we are led to understand that both grace and faith are gifts from God. Thus, when we come to a passage like Ephesians 2:8-9 where both are found, we can more clearly understand that the whole work of salvation, which includes both God's grace and our faith, are from God, so that in no way is there any room for boasting:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Finally, to punctuate this point, Paul leads off the series of gifts with the prepositional phrase "in proportion to our faith" (Romans 12:6). A case can be made that Paul is using this modifier to apply to every gift that follows, which would be consistent with Paul's initial argument that God has given each "a measure of faith" so that no one should think too highly of themselves.

Now, for those who think that "faith" and "grace" in Romans 12 mean something different, I would contend that the burden of proof is upon them, especially since throughout the entire Book of Romans the terms "faith" and "grace" are not casual terms used by Paul but are used with great deliberation. Why would Paul all of a sudden radically change the meaning of them here?

On what basis would anyone argue that the faith after salvation is different from the faith before salvation? Further, what right does anyone have to say that God gives the faith after salvation but not before salvation? In fact, at the very beginning of the Book of Romans Paul argues that whether speaking of faith at the beginning of salvation or at any point thereafter, it is all of God:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith."

Paul chastises the Galatian believers for thinking that there is a distinction between justifying faith and sanctifying faith:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1-3).

What is Paul's point here? The same Spirit that saved them is the Spirit that sanctifies them. The same faith by which they were saved is the faith by which they are sanctified. Again, whether speaking of faith prior to salvation or subsequent to salvation, it was the same faith. The faith that saved them was the faith that kept them saved. And if it is the same faith, then we must argue that both are from God.

Friends, are you not daily amazed that God has saved you? There is not a day that goes by that I am not again floored by His grace. The more I am aware of His sovereign election, the more grateful I am that He chose me and the more sobered I am of the depth of my own depravity. And when I obey God, there is no sense of entitlement in me or any delusion that there is some good in me that leads me to obey Him. I acknowledge that it is all of His grace. When I bear witness to the Gospel, I am not frustrated when people don't believe, for it is their nature, but I am amazed by the power and grace of God when they do.

Therefore, I gain no sense of false pride that somehow my great preaching led people to the Lord. It's not by my preaching but by God's power that people are saved. As Paul wrote, God made it that people might not be saved by the "wisdom and eloquence (of preaching), lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power" (1 Corinthians 1:17).

When I pray, it is not as though I want to change God's mind into giving me something that He would not have given otherwise. When I pray, it is not so that my life might be "better" than it is. When I pray for the sick or the hurting, it is not primarily for their health and wellbeing. Does God not hear? Does He not already know, even better than myself, my needs, as well as the needs of everyone in the whole world? After all, the Bible says He knows the very number of our hairs, which for me these days seems to be changing every day Frown. My prayers certainly do not inform God of things He did not already know. And my prayers are not what change the world, as some have erroneously preached and taught. As one wise devotional writer once observed: "It is not so much that prayer changes things, but prayer changes me." By prayer I gain perspective. By prayer I can grow in humility. By prayer I perceive from God what is His will and what is my own. By prayer, therefore, I can learn to align my will with God's will, so that the ultimate testimony of my life is like that of Jesus Christ, whose modus operandi of prayer was "not my will but Yours be done."


Passage: Romans 11-13

On Tuesday, December 6, 2011 (Last Updated on 12/6/2013), Yujin wrote,

Friends, there has been some discussion on the matter of the meaning of "foreknowledge," particularly in relation to God's elective choice, whether it be of Jews as a special nation for God or of Christians as heirs of eternal life in Christ. A prevailing argument may be stated as follows:

God knows in advance the free choices of people, but He does not determine them.

This was the view espoused by a Southwestern Theological Seminary professor at a Baptist pastor's retreat some years ago. This was also the view that I held as a young Christian and even defended vigorously at Bible College. However, the less I rely just on "my logic" and the more I know the Scriptures, the more I am drawn to a different understanding. We must always derive our understanding from the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 4:6).

Let us look at the word "foreknow" as it is used in our present text. Paul has been arguing in the three chapters beginning in Romans 9 that God has not completely rejected His people. In chapter 9 Paul argued that not all Israel is true Israel but only those chosen by God. In chapter 10 Paul argued that while the basis of God's judgment of Israel is their ignorance and unbelief, the basis of God's salvation is His special revelation in Christ, even to the Gentiles. Then, in chapter 11, Paul asks the question that he began with, namely, "Has God cast away His people?" This was the objection, and Paul answers: "Certainly not!" What follows is a further defense.

First, he argues by personal testimony. If God has rejected His people, then Paul must also be rejected because Paul is a Jew. Thus, since Paul is not rejected, God has not rejected His people -- at least not all of them, as we shall see.

Second, Paul argues by God's decree: "God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew" (Romans 11:2). Does Paul simply mean here that God was aware about the Jews before they came to be? This really would not advance Paul's argument and would provide no certain assurance. However, if we understand "foreknow" as foreordain, that God had uniquely chosen Israel beforehand to be His special people, then it would certainly advance Paul's argument and also provide assurance.

On this second point Paul elaborates. He cites 1 Kings 19, where Elijah, who was running away from Jezebel's murderous threats, complained to God that there was no one but himself left. God corrects Elijah. He was not the only one left, because God had "reserved" for Himself "seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal."

When Paul cites this passage, he does not emphasize the character of these seven thousand men but rather the sovereign choice of God. The parallel he draws to God's current dealings with Israel is one of election: "Even so, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace" (Romans 11:5). He contrasts this "grace" with "works." Grace is simply "undeserved favor." As Paul writes elsewhere, "For by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:5).

Now, Paul further explains this grace. It is not sought but given: "What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it" (Romans 11:7). Further, and remarkably, Paul writes "and the rest were blinded" (Romans 11:7). In other words, except for the ones God chose, He kept everyone else in the dark about this grace. Then Paul cites two Scriptures to support his argument (Isaiah 29:10; Psalm 69:22-23).

Therefore, "foreknowledge" must be understood in the immediate and larger context not simply as God knowing things beforehand but of God predetermining these things to be. This is also the meaning of it in Romans 8:28-30,

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Here we have it more clearly stated. Paul has just been talking about hope amidst suffering (i.e. primarily over enduring sinfulness in the body) and the comfort of the Holy Spirit in interceding on behalf of believers in keeping with God's will. Paul continues his message of comfort by declaring that God will bring everything to a good end for "those who love God, to those called according to His purpose." Again, we get our word, "For whom He forenew." And again, it is more than merely pre-knowledge. It is God's choice of the very ones "who love God,...who are the called..." to be His special people in salvation. These ones, who are His chosen people, are those "He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son..." (Romans 8:29). Thus God's foreknowlege is intimately connected with His predestination. In many places these words are used conjunctively and interchangeably to specify not only God's election to salvation but also to the doing of certain good works, which God had prepared in advance for those chosen to do (Ephesians 2:10).The last verse, Romans 8:30, lists a string of blessings for Christians, even putting what is future as past ("these He also glorified"). This is called a "proleptic aorist" and is used often both in the OT and NT to show the certainty of the promises given. Once again, because people are chosen by God, their eternal security is based on the bedrock of God's unchanging nature and not on the flimsy, uncertain and depraved "free will" of men. In keeping with the context of Paul giving comfort, this word of confidence in God's certain foreordination would certainly give great comfort to the believers in Rome.

This past Sunday, a message was preached about the calling of Jeremiah to the prophetic office. The preacher said that Jeremiah did not volunteer for service but was chosen by God, and he was chosen even before he was born. Then, he applied this kind of a calling to all Christians. I would give my hearty "Amen!" to this. As Jeremiah, as Israel, so for every believer, though we are nothing in and of ourselves, deserving only of destruction, God in His mercy and grace has chosen us to represent Him as the recipients of this grace to the praise of His glory.