Which Paul? (Rom. 7:14-25) Part 1 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 05 September 2017

The key to understanding this passage may be how Paul uses the word “alive” in association with sin—that sin came "alive" when the commandment came. This certainly doesn't mean that there was no sin before the giving of the law. Sin had been alive and active ever since it came into the world through the Fall of Adam and Eve. So then, being "alive" here cannot mean coming into existence. Rather, it means becoming "official," if you will. What had been experientially true--man's sinfulness--was becoming legally and officially recognized by the law, God's official standard of righteousness. So Paul says in v. 13, “[What brought death to me] was sin, producing death in me through what is good [i.e., the law], in order that sin might be shown to be sin…,” such as covetousness. Maybe we can liken it to Newton’s discovery of gravity. It had been at work all along and we’ve been under its influence all that time. But when Newton discovered it, it came to be alive in our consciousness. For Israel to be alive apart from the law, then, doesn't necessarily mean that they lived in a sinless state. Paul's emphasis here is the impact of the law--specifically, making clear the sinfulness of sin and its deadly consequences.

So then, what is described in our passage seems to be the condition of God’s people after the law came. But here is what makes this complicated. Paul says, “…when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died” (Rom. 7:9); “For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me (Rom7:11). But the person in our passage is not quite dead. What he wants to do is what the law of God commands: "I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good" (vv. 15-16); "I have the desire to do what is right…" (v. 18); "I delight in the law of God, in my inner being" (v. 22). Can a totally depraved sinner delight in the law of God and desire to do what it commands? Paul says, no: "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh…. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God " (Rom. 8:5, 7-8). Is the person in our passage a believer or an unbeliever?

The Method of Sanctification: the Word (2 Tim. 3:14-17) Part 5 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 11 August 2017

The goal of biblical teaching is transformation, not just transmission of information. It is to make us complete in all of our being, not just knowledgeable about the Bible and its doctrines. It is to make us equipped for every good work, not just fluent in articulating what we believe. So, when we hear the Bible read and preached, or when we read it ourselves and study it with others, our question should not stop at "What is God saying here?" to "How does God want me to respond to it?" When we receive teaching, believe and trust. But don't forget that the biblical teaching is not just to inform us but also to transform us. So, when we receive reproof and correction, confess and repent.

We need to have more of this growth mindset in our approach to sanctification. When it comes to our sanctification, we tend to give up too easily, don't we? Since we will never be perfect, the point is to grow and not stop growing. Failures and setback may be inevitable. But there's no training which does not include such things. What matters is that we learn from them and grow through them. Let us not be discouraged even when our progress seems slow. Let us preserver. God's will is our sanctification and He will not fail. Let it not make us lazy and idle. Let it spur us on to an indomitable hope and unbreakable will to persevere in our discipleship--until we shall be made complete in our holiness on that glorious day!  

The Method of Sanctification: the Word (2 Tim. 3:14-17) Part 4 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 10 August 2017

If the law of God, which is the least favorite part of God's Word for many, is so profitable, how much more delightful and beneficial must be the rest of God's Word? How about this description of the blessed man in Ps. 1? Because "his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night," he is like "a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither…" (Ps. 1:2-3). If so, can we be satisfied with the most basic, minimal amount of the knowledge of God's Word?

Add to this what the Bible is about. It is ultimately God's self-revelation. That means, if we approach the biblical knowledge properly, the more we know about the Bible, the more we come to know God--who He is, what He has done, and what He will do because He loves us so much. So, what would you say--is it the case that the more we know God, the better it is? It's hard to imagine anything more profitable than knowing God in a saving manner as our heavenly Father. But God is abounding in His goodness. He offers us not only the privilege to know Him but also the blessing of becoming like Him. Maybe I can explain it like this. Imagine someone you really respect and adore extending his friendship to you. That would be an amazing privilege. Can anything be better than that? Yes, if he is willing to spend time with you and help you to share in all the qualities that you admire about him! This, so you don't have to just admire him from distance while he does his thing; you can stand with him on the stage, for example, and sing with him! How amazing that would be! That's what the Bible is for.

The Method of Sanctification: the Word (2 Tim. 3:14-17) Part 3 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 10 August 2017

The fact that God teaches us through the Bible shows us that we need to be taught. Why? Who needs teaching? Those who are ignorant. It's not that we are completely ignorant about what the Bible teaches, especially as Christians. It's just that none of us know everything God wants us to know (for our own good). Even the most knowledgeable among us must confess that he is ignorant of much of what God wants him to know. We all have so much more to learn from the Bible--about God and His ways, about ourselves and God's will for us, about what God has done for us and how we ought to live as His people.

There is a sense in which ignorance is bliss. There are many things in life, which are better not to know, especially the bitter experience of sin. But ignorance is no bliss when it comes to the useful and profitable kind of knowledge. Think about what your life would be like if you didn't know how to read or write, or how to use the computer. Much worse is the ignorance of God's Word. Insofar as Scripture contains the wisdom that leads us to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, our knowledge of Scripture determines our eternal destiny, whether in heave or in hell.

The Method of Sanctification: the Word (2 Tim. 3:14-17) Part 2 of 5

  • Written by James Lee
  • Published: 10 August 2017

Establishing this fact is important for what we are going to address next: the purpose of the Bible. According to today's passage, the purpose of the Bible is two-fold: 1) to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus; 2) to equip the man of God for every good work through teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. (By the way, though we don't have time to demonstrate this, "the man of God" refers not only to a minister of God's Word but also to all Christians.) What gives the Bible the authority to speak on these weighty issues and to do so efficaciously? How can the Bible make us wise for salvation? How can it make us complete, equipped for every good work? Because it is the Word of God, our Maker and Redeemer! We can go to it and depend on it to accomplish its purpose.

When William Tyndale was in exile and Henry VIII extended clemency to him and urged him to return, Tyndale’s only condition was that the king would allow the Bible to be translated in England. If the king would, Tyndale would surrender himself immediately and receive whatever punishment the king had for him. Why? Because he believed that people’s lives would no longer be the same once they could read the word of God for themselves! That is how much Tyndale believed in the power of God's living Word! Not too long after that, Tyndale was captured and burned at the stake for trying to put the Bible into people's hands, as you do now!

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