14What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part?… Here Paul foresees and anticipates what he knows will be an objection for surely Paul had received this objection before. Here the fallen man is prone to say that God is unjust in choosing one over the other. How can this be fair? And Paul emphatically answers: By no means!… There is indeed no injustice in God’s part. No one receives less than what they deserve. The elect receives mercy, which is more than they deserve, while the reprobates receive justice, which is exactly what they deserve. Paul continues to defend the justice of God in verse fifteen.

15For he says to Moses , “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”… This is the basis in which God elects His people, as Paul quotes Exodus 33:19. The context of this quotation was God’s response to Moses when Moses prayed for the salvation of the whole people. As if God said that it will depend entirely upon His good pleasure regarding who will receive His mercy and whom His wrath. God has the complete freedom to do what He wills. The basis of His righteousness in electing some and passing over others is that he can do what He pleases – that His authority alone is sufficient. This means that God is never externally influenced to make a decision. For to say that there was something external to God that incited him to bestow mercy upon one and not the other would be making mercy much less mercy, and God much less of a God.

16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy….Paul concludes his previous thought with this summary – that salvation depends not on human will or any sort of merit in man, but solely on God’s mercy. This is the very essence of grace, and no one has a claim to the mercies of God. This passage further reinstates salvation by grace alone, with nothing in the human will that can illicit the grace of God. Some theologians express the view that the grace of God co-operates with the will of man to bring about salvation and perseverance, but it seems to me that Paul’s argument thus far does not leave any place for the will of man as playing a part in salvation.

17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh,”… This refers to the Pharoah of Exodus. For this very purpose I have raised you up,…the Hebrew uses the causative conjugation of a verb here, literally meaning “I made you stand”. Paul here is arguing that God was perfectly sovereign even through Pharoah’s disobedience; that it was God who preserved Pharoah. That I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Pharoah then, as mighty as he might have been, and as persistent as he was in being disobedient to God was preserved by the will of God to show forth His power. This is used by Paul in support of God’s sovereignty in using the reprobate for His glory, and God was fully righteous in predestining Pharoah to destruction. It follows from this that it would be meaningless and futile to content against the will of God, that even the disobedience of the reprobate is used by God in the secret decree of His providence.

18So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills… Paul sums up his argument thus far, coming back to the fact that God has mercy on whomever it pleases Him, and hardens whomever He wills. This statement implies that all men deserve wrath and are not entitled to God’s mercy. The word “hardens” here does not mean mere permission, but also the operation of the wrath of God.

Flying

Posted: July 12, 2010 by graysutanto in Uncategorized

It still amazes me, how sin deceives.

It tells us we could be good enough for God.
That we don’t need the cross of Christ.

When I’m at my best, It stirs up my pride.
It tells me I’m pretty good at what I do.
That I could be self-sufficient in some way.

When I’m at my worst, it sneaks in by either giving me a false sense of humility
or it will make me believe that I’m at my best.
It is appalling how we love to be deceived.

It pulls on me like gravity, then convicts me as if I was supposed to be able to fly.

Sin is a phone call away. A click away. A heartbeat a way.
And it takes us there. It is our nature.

And I am a great sinner.
Whatever righteous works I can ever muster up for myself, I would happily fling it all away for the righteousness of Christ.

I have no hope in this body of death. There is no hope in religion.
Dream on. We will never be able to reach God.
Religion is a waste of time, and primarily prideful self-deceit.
Self-sufficient prideful hypocrites.

Why can’t we see that? Let’s take ourselves back to the law.
And we’ll see that we fall short of even our own moral standards.
We let ourselves down. We let others down. And we’d think we won’t let God down?
To think we could ever reach up to God’s standards is nothing but a sinful delusion.
We are never so in need of repentance than when we think we have repented enough.

Indeed, sin had gripped us the most tightly when we cannot see it in ourselves.

It’s all about the Cross. Christ died to save sinners.
And you and I, we’re all as good as dead without His atonement.

8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring… Paul argues that it is the spiritual offspring of Abraham that is the true Israel; those who believe, by faith, in the promises of God. Hence, if Isaac was the seed, Ishmael was not, and Jacob was the seed while Esau was passed over, it follows that not all of Abraham’s natural descendents are of the True Israel. Paul is also making a comparison to chapter 4:11-18, where Paul states that Abraham is the father of all who believes by faith. This inheritance is not given through the flesh or from the law, but a spiritual inheritance received by having faith on the promises of God.

9For this is what the promise said:”About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.”…This quotation comes from Genesis 18:12, the context is God promising that the seed will come forth from Sarah’s womb, foretelling the birth of Isaac. At about this time Ishmael was already born, again further proving that not all of the fleshly seeds of Abraham are of the true seeds of Abraham. It is worth mentioning that Paul seeks to prove that God’s election is not based on the physical seed of Abraham all the way from the Old Testament, reassuring his Jewish readers that he is not teaching something new but that God had always been consistently doing this from the very beginning. This is why Paul exegetes and argues from the Old Testament.

10And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac,… Here Paul turns to the even more poignant example of Jacob and Esau, as if anticipating in the former comparison of Ishmael and Isaac that some might object saying one was conceived by a slave and was done out of true faith. In this case, Jacob and Esau were both of equal standing on a physical level; both coming from the same mother, and were even twins. It is made clear that the fulfillment of the promise is not under the fleshly seed but in the Spiritual.

11though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—… This coheres with what Paul teaches in the first chapter of Ephesians; that God had predestined his elect from before the foundation of the world. Here also Paul begins to exposit the basis in which the elect are called, and excludes the possibility that it might be in God’s foreknowledge of an individual’s positive response to His calling. The view of God electing those whom he foresaw would positively respond to His call is normally inferred from Romans 8:29. However the word foreknew in this verse had been used before as always the opposite of rejection, therefore it does not signify a mere foreknowledge of a certain individual, but is more of an emphasis of God’s special choice or covenant affection for that individual (consider Gen 18:19, Jer 1:5, Amos 3:2). in order that God’s purpose of election might continue,…Instead the basis of Jacob’s election over Esau rests solely upon the purposes of God, His sovereign will and good pleasure. Not because of works but because of him who calls—…This would cohere with what Paul had just stated, that God’s election is not based upon any sort of works or even foreknowledge of good works. It follows from this that there is nothing in man that could have incited God to elect Him, and the basis of their election rests solely on the mercy of God.

12she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” … This was from the birth account of Rebekah in Genesis 25:23. The Tyndale commentary interprets this prophecy as being related not to the individuals of Esau and Jacob but to their descendents for Esau had never rendered service to Jacob. (182) This interpretation seems plausible, but I would also add that this emphasizes how God’s will is to be done and how it is sovereign over human traditions, and is what He wills will be done.

13As it is written,  ”Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Paul confirms, from Malachi 1:2-3 an even stronger testimony of God’s divine will. Jacob received the blessings of the Lord through the kindness of God and not of His own merit at all. By nature, and to our human intuitions, the younger should have served the older, but it was God’s good pleasure to have mercy on Jacob while passing over his older brother Esau.

5To them belong the patriarchs, … It was from Israel that the primary recipients of God’s promises flow. This would include Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his twelve sons. And from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ… Paul reaffirms that Christ too had come forth as a descendent of Abraham and David, alluding to Romans 15: 8 where he explicitly teaches that Christ came to show God’s faithfulness in fulfilling His promises to the patriarchs. Who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen….Paul reminds his readers of the divinity of Christ, mentioning that Christ glories and is God over all, not just of ethnic Israel.

6But it is not as though the word of God has failed…Here Paul turns to the basic issue that had already been mention in the beginning of this paper. No doubt that God’s faithfulness in keeping His promises to the Patriarchs is being called into question and Paul seeks to defend the righteousness and the Sovereignty of God in keeping with His word in the following section. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,…Paul explains that God had never promised the certainty of the salvation of all ethnic Israel, but there are some descendents from ethnic Israel that are not a part of the true Israel. It follows from this then that the existence of a multitude of unbelievers in ethnic Israel does not mean the promises of God had been thwarted, neither has the word of God failed.

7and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring…By mentioning Abraham, Paul argues that the true Israel are those who receive justification by faith alone, which he had already argued in Romans chapter four. but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”… This is a quotation from Genesis 21:12. The context of this quotation is God telling Abraham to allow Sarah to throw out Hagar and Ishmael, confirming that not all of the flesh offspring of Abraham are of the true Israel.

8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring… Paul argues that it is the spiritual offspring of Abraham that is the true Israel; those who believe, by faith, in the promises of God. Hence, if Isaac was the seed, Ishmael was not, and Jacob was the seed while Esau was passed over, it follows that not all of Abraham’s natural descendents are of the True Israel. Paul is also making a comparison to chapter 4:11-18, where Paul states that Abraham is the father of all who believes by faith. This inheritance is not given through the flesh or from the law, but a spiritual inheritance received by having faith on the promises of God.

1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—… Paul realizes that he is about to address an important topic. An issue that is indeed worthy of an oath as many at that time were calling Paul an enemy of to his own kinsmen. Many thought that Paul was telling his nation to forsake the law of Moses, betraying his very ethnicity. He then prepares the minds of his reader, anticipating that many of which would be Jewish Christians, that he is speaking the truth, even making an oath by the name of Christ. I am not lying;… Hence he reaffirms that he is speaking truth, and that he takes the subject matter very seriously. My conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— … To add even more reassurance upon his readers, he brings in the testimony and the witnessing of the Holy Spirit towards His conscience. Paul assures readers that he is free from evil motives, or any sort of desire to lead others astray and what he is about to speak is under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit.

2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. … Paul expresses his sorrow and sadness over his Jewish family, signifying that he cares very much for his kinsmen. This passage shows that Paul, even when knowing that what is happening to the Jews is of the will and providence of God, is still struggling and is in anguish with this very issue in his heart.

3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ… Another expression of Paul’s care and love for his Jewish family. So much so that the Greek word anathema is used here, which means not only a temporal death but an eternal separation from Christ. Paul was wishing that it was possible for him to be condemned if it would mean that salvation would come to his kinsmen. for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh… Such was the love of Paul for his people and his sorrow is further expressed in witnessing that many from his own nation are missing from the sovereign election of God.

4 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption,… Paul here begins to acknowledge the many blessings that the Israelites had received from God, signifying how Israel had been set apart from the other nations. First, the glory,…signifying God’s dwelling among them, setting them apart from other nations. Secondly, the covenants,…there had been some dispute on whether this should be given a singular reading (in which case, it might be referring to the covenant of Sinai in Ex 24.8), however it seems most probable to me that Paul meant this to be understood by a plural reading, which would include the many covenants that God established with the Patriarchs of Israel and the New Covenant as expressed in Jer 31:31. The giving of the law,…referring to the Mosaic law and legislation which was exclusively handed down to Israel, again setting the nation apart. The worship, … this refers to the ways that God wanted to be worshipped as revealed to Israelites, mainly in the book of Leviticus. And the promises… referring to the Messianic promises, including the ones God established to Abraham and David.

As Americans, we love talking about ourselves. We think we are the center of the universe and think that everything revolves around us. This kind of self-focus has trickled down to the pulpit and has done a great disservice to American Christianity. Unfortunately, it affects the way we preach and evangelize to one another. What is more important: our personal story (testimony) or God’s story?

Something that really irks me is when, on Wednesday night (or Sunday morning), there is a guest speaker that shares their personal story of transformation (and that is the extent of the sermon or “teaching”) with the congregation INSTEAD of preaching the Word of God. Now, I am not saying that because I am anti-testimonies. I say that because we, as Christians, grow when he hear the Gospel preached to us. But perhaps even more importantly, there are people in the audience that have no clue who Jesus is and what He has accomplished. Whose story has more power: Jesus’ or ours? Which one is going to transform lives? Which is going to be the means of replacing a heart of stone with a heart of flesh? Although a testimony may be encouraging and fun to listen to, IT IS NOT THE GOSPEL! The Gospel is Jesus’ perfect life, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. It is about the empty tomb. If our stories are preached instead of God’s story during church services, how are we (Christians) going to spiritually mature and how is the non-Christian going to be saved? As remarkable and miraculous of a story that Paul had, he proclaimed nothing but “Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). This is the danger we have in sharing our testimony at all: it may not always lead to the Cross. Now I’m not going to say that telling someone your testimony is ALWAYS a bad thing, because I do not think that is true. But if the Gospel is not the focus, then something is wrong. God’s stories are ALWAYS better than our own.

My personal testimony: I am sinner in need of a savior. Miraculously, and ill deservingly, God saved me.

We need to remember whose story we a part of, who the main character is, and who the supporting characters are. What do you think?

Romans 9, Pt. 2

Posted: June 22, 2010 by graysutanto in Romans 9
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Big Idea and Interpretation

Romans 9:1-23 fits into the argument addressing this question: how is God’s promise still being fulfilled to ethnic Israel with so many Israelites rejecting the Christ? This calls God’s faithfulness into question. Has the Word of God failed? The Roman Church was first started by Jewish Christians, and is now being outnumbered by Gentiles, there was no doubt that such questions were being raised. The Jewish Christians had a worldview that believed their race was and always would be the chosen people of God, and that God held them in favor over other races. How then can the lack of Jewish believers be reconciled with God’s declared purpose with ethnic Israel? This calls for a theodicy, and Paul seeks to show the righteousness of God and His divine purpose through election, clarifying who truly are the elect. God had never promised the sure salvation of all of ethnic Israel, instead not all of Israel is part of the true Israel – the elect people of God. The big idea of this passage is: God’s promise to Israel is irrevocable since they depend upon His mercy and His electing grace.

Romans 9, Pt. 1

Posted: June 21, 2010 by graysutanto in Romans 9
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Here is the first of many parts of an exposition of Romans 9:1-23
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Genre and Context

The Genre of the Book of Romans is Epistolic, which means that it is a letter. Epistles are very flexible in their content, usually following a structure that consists of an opening, a body and a closing, and they were meant to be read in a single sitting. These are not narratives like the Gospels, instead, they are generally written with an aim of addressing a certain need or issue that the recipients of the epistle are currently dealing with. A common theme that the epistles share is a reflection upon the significance of Jesus Christ, and what He had done on the cross, how this affects God’s promises on Israel and the life of the new believers. The Epistles are not philosophical or theological treatises that try to expound and explain every issue exhaustively. Instead, they seek to address specific situations facing churches. A key thing to keep in mind while interpreting the Epistles is to try to understand the specific circumstances that the original recipients were facing. Living a long time after these issues were current, means that we could be disadvantaged if we only hear the answer without comprehending the question. Often, we can infer from the text itself a basic idea of the issues that the writer is trying to address. An understanding of the context is therefore crucial.

The book of Romans contains the fullest expression of Paul’s theology, but knowing that it is an Epistle, he still never meant it to be a full or exhaustive theological treatise, leaving out eschatology, major doctrines of the church and Christology. From the text itself, we can deduce that Paul was addressing issues that interested both Jews and Gentiles. The ESV study bible outlines some:

1 Can one be right with God through obeying the Law? (Rom 1:1-3:20)

2 What can be learned from Abraham, and is he the father of both Jewish and Gentile Christians (Rom 4:1-25)?

3 What role does the law play with reference to sin? (Rom 5:29; 7:1-25)

4 What does the salvation of Gentiles indicate about the future of Israel as God’s people? (Rom 9:1-11:36) and

5 Should Christians observe Old Testament food laws, and how should they relate to fellow believers on such matters? (Rom 13:1-15:13) (ESV, 2152) The focus on Jew-Gentile issues implies some sort of tension between them in the Church of Rome, and Paul is seeking to reconcile the Roman Christian body.

God Defines Morality

Posted: June 17, 2010 by graysutanto in Uncategorized
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There is a single Christian explanation for the nature and status of morality. I will attempt to explain this Christian perspective, explicate some arguments in defense of it and finally explain how it may be applied. According to the Christian, morality is grounded in God’s very character as revealed in the Holy Bible. The moral laws are not something outside of Him or irrelevant to Him. Instead they are derived from His very being. God’s holy character is the source of the objective moral standard. Therefore we should judge whether or not a state of affairs is morally significant according to what is contrary or complimentary to the character of God. This is why many testimonies of Scripture affirm that Christians are to be imitators of God as He defines rightness. Hence, ultimately the good moral life depends on an obedience to the Holy Bible.

God’s moral standards are never arbitrary for they are all consistent with his own Character. As God is the standard for righteousness, it is an ontological necessity that whatever He wills or decrees must be the very essence or what is right. Hence because He is the standard, we must submit to His will even when His decrees may seem contrary to what we know about righteousness. Anything that is opposite to His nature must be considered as abhorrent. Since Scripture is the way through which God had chosen to reveal Himself to us, knowledge of His nature and character can only be learned through a proper understanding of Scripture.  God’s very being determines the nature of morality and it is also God’s very being that determines how things ought to be. Euthyphro should not have had a dilemma; God commands what is right and what is right is determined by God’s commands, He necessarily does both.

According to the Christian, being made in the image of God is the source of our moral intuitions. Though our moral intuitions have been distorted by the fall, one does not have to be a Christian to have some knowledge of what is right or what is wrong. Being made in the image of God also entails man’s moral standing, giving an explanation and justification of our deep intuitive beliefs that all men should attain a higher moral standing than animals and that all men are equal. It is on the basis of this doctrine that we should care for others, seeking to alleviate suffering for each person reflects their Creator. Hence, to purposely harm a fellow human being would be to desecrate God himself.

The good, as defined by the bible is based upon what is pleasing to God and that whatever is not done in faith on God is considered a sin (Rom 14:23) It follows from this that non-believers are constantly living and breathing in wrong doing. Some may object that this is counter-intuitive because surely there are exemplars of good deeds seen in non-believers. In response to this, the Christian would not deny that in the sights of men, there have been a lot of good non-believers. In fact, the Christian would argue that there are a lot of things from virtuous non-believers that believers could learn from. The Christian will also admit that much of these deeds may be things which God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others. Nonetheless, the good works of these men in the sight of a holy God is nothing but an abomination for they do not acknowledge God for their gifts, and neither do they have the glory of the true God as foundation or end in mind.

An understanding of the Biblical or Christian perspective of ethics implies that God’s moral standards, when rightly understood or applied are for all people, transcends all cultures. Hence, observing His commands would be what was best for all humans universally as He is the universal Creator. Observance of His commands does not necessarily mean obeying all of Scripture. There are straightforward instructions in the bible that directly applies to the present times such as the New Testament letters of Paul but much of Scripture is context-dependent and thus not all commands in Scripture apply to the present times. Therefore, according to the Christian perspective, to improve one’s morality one would need to make a commitment to a lifelong study of the Bible.

In conclusion, I have tried to explain the single Christian perspective for the nature and status of morality. I have also raised some arguments that a Christian might use in defense of this explanation and have tried to show some further implications of this doctrine.

Oregon, here I come!

Posted: June 14, 2010 by adamrodriguez in Uncategorized

I am off to Oregon this morning for a week to see one of my good friends, Billy, get married. We are all super excited for him and Kristen. Alex and my flight leaves in a few hours and we are pretty stoked. Regretfully, I will not be stopping by the Monergism Warehouse during our stay. The wedding is in Medford and the warehouse is in Portland.

Billy the left and Alex on the right.