Grace Series: Justified by Grace (Saved Through Washing and Renewing)

For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another, but when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared… He saved us” (Titus 3:3-5).

The word “for” (gar) gives a reason for the preceding words (cf. Titus 3:1-2).  Why should Christians be peaceable, gentle, and show humility to others, even sinful men?  Why should they not be arrogant and self-righteous?  The answer is: They too were once mired in sin.

However, the kindness and the love of God appeared.  The source of salvation is God, not man.  Let’s consider three words: (1) “Kindness.”  The original word (Chrestotes) has to do with “goodness of heart” (Vine’s).  It is translated in the KJV by the following words – “gentleness,” “good(ness),” and “kindness.”  Gary Workman commented, “Whenever these words are used in reference to God, the thought always has to with the offer of salvation” (Workman, Spiritual Sword Lectures: God’s Amazing Grace, p. 384).  (2) “Love.”  The original word (philanthropia) literally means “love for man.”  It is translated in the KJV by the following words – “kindness,” and “love toward man.”  It is from this word we get our word “philanthropy.”  It refers to love for man expressed in action (cf, Acts 28:1-2).  (3) “Appeared.”  This word occurs twice in the book in Titus (Titus 2:11; 3:4).  God made sure that His message of grace (Titus 2:11 cf. Acts 20:32; Colossians 1:5-6) appeared to all (Titus 2:11 cf. Colossians 1:5-6; 1:23; Romans 1:8; 10:18; 16:25-26).  God showed kindness and love toward man, while he was in sin.

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5).

These Christians had received salvation at some point in the past.  They were not saved by (ek, literally “out of”) works of righteousness which they had done (cf. Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:4-5).  Man is not the source of salvation.  Man’s good works cannot overcome or erase his sin problem.  God saved them.  He saved them according to (Kata, literally “down from”) His mercy.  He alone is the reason that they had the opportunity for salvation.  The source of salvation is His mercy.  Mercy (eleos) is: “Kindness or goodwill towards the miserable and afflicted, joined with a desire to relieve them” (Thayer); “the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it” (Vine’s).

He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit… having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5, 7).

There were (and are) conditions to being saved from sin and its consequences.  (1) They were saved through (dia, the means of instrument by which a thing is accomplished) the washing of regeneration.  The word “wash(ing)” is connected elsewhere with water (Ephesians 5:26; Hebrews 10:22) and baptism (Acts 22:16).  The word “regeneration” means “again birth” (Vine’s).  This reminds one of what Jesus said to Nicodemus (cf. John 3:3, 5).   This seems to refer to baptism (cf. 1 Peter 3:21).  Adam Clark commented, “Undoubtedly the apostle here means baptism…”  Richard Lenski commented, “God saved us by means of baptism.”  (2) They were saved through the renewing of the Holy Spirit.  (a) Some have thought that this is simply a rewording of the previous clause.  The conjunction Kai can be translated “and,”  but in some cases it is best rendered “even.”  (b) However, let us assume that this is a distinct point.  The Bible speaks of the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:20-24).  How does the Holy Spirit renew the mind?  Directly?  No.  Renewing comes through learning (Ephesians 4:20-21 cf. 4:22-24; Colossians 3:9-10).  The Holy Spirit supplied the message.  It is by this message man is changed.  His thinking is renewed.  His behavior is transformed.  One is to decide to change when he decides to be baptized.  When a man is baptized, he is raised to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3).

Watch this.  They were justified | by grace (Titus 3:7).  They were saved | by washing and renewing (Titus 3:5).  The words “justified” and “saved” are parallel. The word “grace” is parallel with “washing” and “renewing.” God’s offering of salvation through His plan of salvation (which includes baptism) is an expression of His grace.  Grace (Charis) can  refer to “a beneficial opportunity, a charitable act, generous gift” (Perschbacher); “gracious care or help, goodwill” (B-A-G); “goodwill, loving kindness” (Thayer); “the friendly disposition from which the kindly act proceeds” (Vine’s).  We have the opportunity for salvation due to God’s unmerited favor.  If we are saved it is due to God’s unmerited favor.  Baptism is not a meritorious work.  It requires a humble acceptance of God’s conditions for pardon.

God not only saved them, but He also provided them with the hope of eternal life (Titus 1:2; 3:7). The source of this was God’s grace and mercy. There is no place for arrogance or self-righteousness.

“Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see” (John Newton, Amazing Grace).

“I know not why God’s wondrous grace to me He hath made known / nor why, unworthy Christ in love redeemed me for His own” (Daniel Whittle, I Know Whom I Have Believed).

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Grace Series: It Has Appeared to All

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us…” (Titus 2:11-12).

The phrase, “the grace of God” refers to the system of grace which is found in the New Testament.  The message of the New Testament is “the word of His grace” (Acts 20:32), “the word of the truth of the gospel… the grace of God in truth” (Colossians 1:5-6).  This messages of grace had been preached throughout the world in Paul’s day (Titus 2:11 cf. Colossians 1:5-6; 1:23; Romans 1:8; 10:18; 16:25-26).

God’s desire is for all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Ezekiel 18:32; 33:11).  It is for this reason, God sent this message into all of the world (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47 cf. Acts 1:8).  He has no desire that we be lost.

His grace appeared to all (Titus 2:11); yet, not all will be saved (Luke 13:23-24; cf. Matthew 7:13-14).  Man, today, accesses this grace through Christ and the system of faith (Romans 5:1-2).

Teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts” (Titus 2:12a).

The New Testament  message teaches us how we ought not to live.  (1) We are not to be ungodly.  The word literally means “not well devout.”  We are not to lack devotion to God.  (2) We are not to live a life which is guided by worldly lusts.  There are desires from which we should flee (2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Timothy 6:10-11; 1 Corinthians 6:18; 10:14 cf. Colossians 3:5).

We should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12b).

The New Testament messages teaches us how we ought to live.  (1) We are to live soberly.  The word has to do with being of sound mind and thinking rationally.  We are to be thoughtful.  We are to be thinkers, testing all by the word of God (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21).  (2) We are to live righteously.  We are to strive to conduct ourselves properly according to God’s word (cf. Psalm 119:172; Romans 1:17; 1 John 3:7).  (3) We are to be godly.  The word means to be “well devout.”  Vine’s says that, “it denotes that piety which, characterized by a Godward attitude, does that which is pleasing to Him.”  Our lives are to be devoted to God.

Looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

The New Testament teaches us to live in anticipation of Jesus’ return, and to aspire to be right with Him on that day.  Some go through life thinking of little but the here and now.  The Christian should live knowing that there is more to life than the here and now.  There is a hereafter.

“What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see / and I look upon His face The one who saved my by His grace / When He takes me by the hand and leads me through the promised land / What a day, glorious day, that will be” (Jim Hill, What A Day That Will Be).

Note Jesus is called “God” in this passage.  Wayne Jackson writes, “In this passage the terms ‘God’ and ‘Savior’ both refer to Christ.  There is a rule in Greek grammar, known as the Granville Sharp Rule, which suggests that when a solitary definite article (rendered ‘the’ in our English text) precedes compound nouns which are joined by ‘and’ – in this case ‘God’ and ‘Savior’ the latter noun refers to the same person as the first noun” (Jackson, Notes From the Margin of My Bible, Vol. 2, p. 137).

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Holy Spirit: In Prayer (Part 2)

We know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.  Not only that, we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves…”  (Romans 8:22-23).

There are three common views about “the whole creation.”  (1) Some believe that it refers to all of creation including animals and plants.  Wayne Jackson commented, “Paul, in these passages, has personified the creation.  He has figuratively ascribed emotions to material creation” (Jackson, Notes From The Margin of My Bible, Vol. 2, p. 66).  Such personification is found elsewhere in scripture (e.g. Psalm 96:12; 98:8; 114; Isaiah 35:1; 55:12; Ezekiel 31:15).  (2) Some believe that it refers to all of humanity (cf. Mark 16:15).  (3) Some believe that it refers to the church.  Jesus “create(d) in Himself one new man from the two” (Ephesians 2:15).  “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus…” (Ephesians 2:10).  “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians  5:17). (4) Some think that the reference is to gentiles  Christians (Cf. Colossians 1:23).

There are three common views as to the identity of “we ourselves.”  (1) Some understand this to refer to humanity.  This does not seem to be correct, because this is speaking of those who “have the firstfruits of the Spirit.”  (2) Some believe that this refers to Christians.  The term “firstfruit(s)” is used early converts (e.g. Romans 16:5 cf. 1:13; 1 Corinthians 16:15; James 1:18).  (3) Some believe that the reference is to the apostles.  They were the first to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8 cf. 2:4) and through their hands others were miraculously endowed (Acts 8:14-18; 19:6; Romans 1:11; 1 Corinthians 1:4-7 cf. 2 Corinthians 12:12-13; Galatians 3:2, 5; 2 Timothy 1:6). (4) Some think that the reference is to Jewish Christians. They were the first Christians.

Regardless of the view, the basic point is the same: There is suffering in this life.  Moreover, the context tells us that Christians are not exempt (Romans 8:18, 36).

“…eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.  For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (Romans 8:23b-25).

How can we endure the sufferings and hardships of life?  First, we have hope for something better.  Paul said, “I consider the sufferings of this present time… not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).  We wait for adoption (Romans 8:23), literally “a standing as sons.”  T. Pierce Brown has written that the original word (huiothesia),  “Never refers, as far as we can tell, to coming into the family… It always refers to the standing or position of a son who has the rights and privileges (of such)” (article: Born or Adopted?”).  Vine’s commented, “God does not ‘adopt’ believers as children; they are begotten…”  There is a sense in which we have been given sonship (Romans 8:14-17).  But, we have not been taken home yet.  We have not yet received the full benefits of sonship.

Likewise, there is a sense in which we are currently the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5).  However, we are currently betrothed (2 Corinthians 11:2).  The marriage is to come (Revelation 19:7).  We do not currently dwell with Him (John 14:1-3).

Likewise, there is a sense in which we now have eternal life (1 John 5:13).  However, we now have it in promise and not in reality or actual realization (1 John 2:24-25; Titus 1:2).

We wait for the redemption of the body.  That is, “deliverance of the body from frailty and morality” (Deaver, Romans, God’s Plan for Man’s Righteousness, p. 285) cf. Philippians 3:20-21.

The hope of what is to come is spiritual armor in this difficult world (1 Thessalonians 5:8).  It helps us endure.

Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.  For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself (or, itself – KJV) makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

How can we endure the sufferings and hardships of life?  Second, we can pray and God knows what we wish to say even when we have trouble putting such into words.

Man has groanings.  The groanings are man’s and not the Holy Spirit’s (Romans 8:22-23, 26 cf. 2 Corinthians 5:2; Exodus 2:23-24).  R.L. Whiteside remarked, “Every man who is devoted to the Lord finds times when deep down in his heart there are vague desires and longings, and a sense of need, that he is unable to put in words.  These are groanings that cannot be uttered” (Guy Woods, Questions and Answers, Vol. 1, pp. 72-73). Howard Winters has written, “There are longings, gratitudes, and needs in the human heart that cannot be adequately expressed in words. Yet we strongly desire to express them to God – we want Him to know our deepest yearnings and devotions” (Winters, The Work of the Holy Spirit, p. 153).

God understands our groanings.  We have help.  (1) The Spirit helps in our weaknesses.  (a) Most take this to be the Holy Spirit.  Lynn Blair commented, “It is important to note that Christ alone mediates for us (1 Timothy 2:5).  However, since it is entirely permissible and even desirable for one man to intercede (pray for) another (1 Timothy 2:1; James 5:6; 1 John 5:15, et. al.), we should not be surprised to learn that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us” (Blair, Studies in Romans, Annual Denton Lectures, p. 170).  It is important to understand that this is the Holy Spirit doing something for us (helping us with prayer) and not directly to us (directly influencing the human heart).  (b) A few have understood this to be referring to the human spirit.  Foy Wallace Jr. has written, “It was suggested to me years ago by R.L. Whiteside that the Spirit in Romans 8:26-27 refers to the human spirit and not to the Holy Spirit, and the meaning of the text, is that our own spirit groans or yearns in intercession to God for that which cannot be uttered, or put into words” (Wallace, The Mission and Medium of The Holy Spirit, pp. 68-69).  The human spirit reveals man to God (Proverbs 20:7; 1 Corinthians 2:11).  (2) There is one who searches the heart.  (a) Many believe that this refers to God (cf. 1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 94:11; Acts 15:8; Hebrews 4:13).  Roy Deaver has written, “God knows the mind of the Spirit.  And God responds to the Spirit’s intercession in our behalf” (Deaver, Romans, God’s Plan For Man’s Righteousness, p. 292).  (b) Others believe this refers to Jesus (Revelation 2:28 cf. 2:8).  He intercedes for us according to the will of God (Romans  8:27 cf. 8:34).  Note: “He” in verse 27 is masculine and this does not refer to the Spirit.

Regardless of the view, the basic point is the same: He knows what we feel.  He receives our groanings.  He knows our needs (cf. Matthew 6:8).  He cares.  He understands even when we have trouble wording our prayers.

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Grace Series: In Christ

Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling not according to our own works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9).

The “who” is God (2 Timothy 1:9 cf. 1:8). God saved Paul and Timothy (2 Timothy 1:9 cf. 1 Timothy 1:15; Acts 22:16).  Moreover, He called them with a holy calling.  Does this refer to their being called by the gospel to salvation and glory (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)?  Or, does this refer to their receiving a special call to preach (cf. Acts 16:10)?  Ultimately it does not matter.  The point is that salvation and their calling were from the grace of God.

Salvation is not according to (kata, literally “down from”) our own works (cf. Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:4-5).  Man is not the basis or source of salvation. Man’s good works cannot overcome or erase his sin problem.  Gary Workman has written, “Many New Testament passages say that God does not save us ‘according to’ our works or ‘by’ works, yet a number of passages in the New Testament affirm that on judgment day God or Jesus will render unto every person ‘according to’ his deeds or work (Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:6; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 2:23 cf. 22:12).  How can these statements be harmonized?  It is clear that no amount of good works can save a person, but it is equally clear that the absence of good works can cause one to lose his salvation (Colossians 1:23; Romans 11:22) and that degrees of reward and punishment will be rendered according to one’s deeds (1 Corinthians 3:8, 12-15; Matthew 10:15; 11:24; Luke 12:47-48)” (Spiritual Sword Lectures, God’s Amazing Grace, pp. 390-391).

Salvation is according to (kata, literally “down from”) God.  It is according to His purpose.  His purpose to save man existed before creation (cf. Ephesians 3:8-11; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 1 Peter 1:10-11; 1:18-20).  It is according to His grace that salvation is available. He provided (Genesis 22:8,14). His grace is located “in Christ” (cf. Ephesians 1:3, 7, 11; 2 Timothy 1:9; 2:1; 1 John 5:11).  Man, today,  begins to access this grace by being baptized into Christ (cf. Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-29).

“O the love that drew salvation’s plan! O the grace that bro’t it down to man!  O the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary!”  (Song: Years I Spent in Vanity by William R. Newell).

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Grace Series: Salvation, The Gift of God (Grace through Faith)

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves” (Ephesians 2:8a).

The word “for” (gar) points backwards.  The gentiles, before salvation, were dead in trespasses and sins [Ephesians 2:1 (“you” refers to the gentiles.  See – Ephesians 2:11-13, 19)].  The Israelites were no better.  They were children of wrath, just as others (Ephesians 2:3).

God had mercy on man, because of the great love He had for man (Ephesians 2:4-5 cf. John 3:16; Romans 5:8).  The word translated “mercy” (eleos) in Ephesians 2:4 means: “kindness or goodwill toward the miserable and afflicted, joined with the desire to relieve them (Thayer); “the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it” (Vine’s).

It was by grace that these Christians in Ephesus had been saved.  The original language is interesting.  Wayne Jackson commented on the Greek “‘Been saved’ is passive voice… The passive voice reflects the fact that the saving is of God; we merely submit to his plan.  The perfect tense suggests that we were saved (at the time of our resurrection) and so we now stand (the result) in a saved condition… the verb ‘have’ in this passage is a present tense form.  When the perfect is combined with the present it suggests the thought of ‘you were and still are being saved'” (Jackson, Treasures From the Greek New Testament, p. 57).  A Christian may view salvation as in the past (Ephesian 2:8; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 2:4-5), and in the present (1 Corinthians 1:18; 15:1-2; Hebrews 7:25; Philippians 2:12), and as in the future (Romans 13:11; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Timothy 4:18; 1 Peter 1:9).  Salvation is given when one is baptized into Christ.  It is maintained by continuing to walk in the light.  It is fully realized with all of its benefits in the hereafter.

The basis of salvation is God’s grace.  The word “grace” (charis) has a wide variety of meanings depending on the contextual usage.  The following definitions seem appropriate to the context: “gracious care or help, goodwill” (B-A-G); “goodwill, loving kindness, used of a master toward his inferiors or servants, and so especially of God toward man” (Thayer); “a beneficial opportunity, a charitable act, generous gift” (Perschbacher); “the friendly disposition from which the kindly act proceeds” (Vine’s).  The word grace is commonly described as “unmerited favor.”

What is the antecedent to the pronoun “that”?  (1) Some suggest that it is “faith.”  Some of these even suggest that faith is directly infused into man by God.  These are some serious problems with this view.  First, “that” is neuter gender and “faith” is feminine gender.  The pronoun and its antecedent must agree in gender and number (Summers, Essentials of new Testament Greek, p. 43).  Moreover, faith “comes by hearing , and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17 cf. Luke 8:11-15; John 5:45-47; 17:20; 20:30-31; Acts 17:11-12; 18:8; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2 Thessalonians 1:10).  Various passages indicate that one can hear and obey before receiving the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:4-5, 12, 14-17; 19:1-6).  (2) Some have suggested that it is “grace.”  However, again there is a gender agreement problem.  “That” is neuter gender and “grace” is feminine gender.  (3) The reference is to salvation.  A.T. Robinson commented that the reference is “not to pistis (faith – B.H.) or charis (grace – B.H.)… but to the act of being saved by grace conditioned on faith on our part” (Word Pictures in the New Testament).  Marvin Vincent commented, “that” refers “not to faith, but to salvation” (Word Studies).  Roy Deaver commented, “The neuter ‘this’ (Greek tauto) can (and does here) refer to the total subject, rather than a single word.  The subject under consideration here is: Salvation…” (Spiritual Sword Lectures,  God’s Amazing Grace, p. 428).

The point is this: Salvation is not of (ek, literally “out of”) self.  The basis of salvation is God, not man.  Salvation does not originate with man.  It originates with God.  Is salvation 50% God and 50% man?  Is salvation 90% God and 10% man?  If we are discussing the basis or source  of salvation, and not conditional requirements for salvation, then the answer is: it is 100% due to God’s grace that man can be saved!

However, God requires that man accept this salvation by faith.  The condition for salvation is not “grace only” or “faith only.”  It is “grace through faith.”  The question is not: Does faith save?  The question is: When does faith save?  Faith saves when it leads one to comply with the specific conditions(s) stated for such (cf. Hebrews 11:6-7, 28-29).

It is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8b-9).

The basis or source of salvation is God.  Salvation is the gift of God to mankind.  It should be understood that gifts can be offered on conditions.  The Promised land was a gift (Joshua 1:2; 6:2).  However, it was offered on conditions (Joshua 6:2-5).  It was received on obedient faith (Hebrews 11:30).  Likewise, salvation is a gift that must be accepted by faith (Ephesians 2:8 cf. Acts 2:36-38).

The basis or source of salvation is not man.  It is “not of (ek, literally “out of”) yourselves” (Ephesians 2:8).  It is “not of (ek, literally “out of”) works” which we have done (Ephesians 2:9).  Man’s works, apart from God’s grace, left him dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1).  Man has nothing, personally, to boast about when it comes to his salvation [Ephesians 2:9 cf. Romans 4:1-8 (remember that “works” is used in Romans 4 of perfect flawless works which does not need the forgiveness of sin or the grace of God)].  It is very humbling.  It is only by the grace of god any of us can have the hope of heaven.

It is important that we keep in mind that this is speaking of man’s works as the basis or source of salvation.  This is not speaking of conditions for salvation.  There are conditional works for salvation (e.g. John 6:27-29; Romans 6:17-18; Philippians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 5:9).  However, man is not the basis or source of salvation.  Man cannot, by his own works and without the grace of God, resurrect himself out of spiritual death.

Since man’s work is not the basis or source of his salvation, what should this do to pride, boasting, and self-righteousness?  It is “not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:9).  Paul said, “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).  We sing: “Forbid it Lord that I should boast save in the death of Christ my Lord…” (Isaac Watts, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross).

For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

While it is true that our works are not the basis or source of our salvation, such does not mean that God does not care how we live.  He prepared a standard by which we are to live.  David Lipscomb commented, “God prepared works in which his children should walk before he created them in Christ Jesus.  He who fails to live that life fails to fulfill the ends for which he was created in Christ Jesus” (Gospel Advocate Commentary on Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, p. 44).

Consider the term “walk” in the book of Ephesians.  We are to walk in good works (Ephesians 2:10).  We are to “walk worthy of the calling… with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).  We are to “no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk” (Ephesians 4:17).  We are to “walk in love” (Ephesians 5:2).  We are to “walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).  We are to “walk circumspectly” (Ephesians 5:15-16).

Our goal should be to live a life which honors God.  Jesus instructed “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).  Peter instructed us to have our conduct “Honorable among the Gentiles, that… they may, by (our) good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).


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Holy Spirit: In Prayer (Part 1)

If a son asks for bread from a father among you, will he give him a stone?  Or if he asked for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish?  Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” (Luke 11:11-13).

This passage teaches that God cares about us.  He is not cruel.  He does not give us what is harmful to us.  We can pray to Him.  He gives us what we need.

What is meant by the Father’s giving of the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?  (1) Some believe that the Holy Spirit is directly given to man (even today) in answer to prayer.  However, only once in scripture do we read of anyone praying for the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17).  The context is miraculous, not non-miraculous.  Miracles have ceased (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10).

(2) It is likely that this is in anticipation of the coming miraculous age in which the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh.  Stephen Wiggins has commented, “This passage on praying for the Spirit must be understood in the light of Joel’s prophecy where the prophet foretold that God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28-32).  Peter later quoted this prophecy on Pentecost showing the initial fulfillment of the giving of the Spirit (Acts 2:16-21).  When Jesus instructed His disciples to pray for the Spirit, Joel’s prophecy was in the background, whereas the day of Pentecost and the initial pouring out of the Spirit was in the foreground.  In fact, all the passages where Jesus discussed the Holy Spirit had as their background the prophecy of Joel that foretold the time in which God would give the Spirit to mankind.  And, always in the foreground is Pentecost and subsequent outpourings of the Spirit in the book of Acts which was a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.  A failure to recognize this results in confusion of the rankest sort when trying to interpret passages on the Holy Spirit that Jesus uttered” (Wiggins, Praying for the Spirit, Hammer & Tongs, November – December, 1992).  Consider this: Jesus once taught His disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come” (Luke 11:2).  It was still in the future for them.  However, the Kingdom, for us, has come (Colossians 1:13; Revelation 1:9).  It would be improper for us to still be praying for such to come.  Stephen Wiggins has written, “Once the Kingdom had been established and the Spirit had accomplished its work of miraculous activity through spiritual gifts, it became inappropriate to continue to pray for that which God no longer promised.  The early disciples did indeed pray for the coming of the kingdom and for God to give them the Holy Spirit.  And God answered these requests in harmony with His will by setting up the Kingdom on Pentecost in Acts 2, and also by sending the Spirit in conjunction with the establishment of the kingdom beginning at Pentecost, and then on subsequent occasions throughout the first century.  But it is no more scriptural to pray for a reception of the Holy Spirit today than to pray for the kingdom to come.  Prayers uttered by first century disciples concerning the coming kingdom and the giving of the Spirit have been answered in harmony with their Old Testament predictions and New Testament fulfillment.  It is no  more scriptural  to pray for a reception of the Holy Spirit today than it is for a Pentecostal to pray for a miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  The only difference between some of my brethren praying for a non-miraculous reception of the Spirit and the Pentecostals praying for a miraculous outpouring of the Spirit is that the Pentecostals are more consistent with the proper meaning of Luke 11:13.  Both of these positions, however, are false as they can be” (Wiggins, ibid).

(3) There is another possibility.  This could be figurative language (a metonymy), whereby the cause (the Holy Spirit) is put for the effect (good gifts).  The parallel record reads, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will you Father who is in heave give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11).  Wayne Jackson commented, “A comparison of these passages (Luke 11:13 cf. Matthew 7:11 – B.H.) reveals that Matthew’s emphasis is upon the blessings received, while Luke is stressing the divine source of Heaven’s benevolence” (Jackson, Notes From The Margin of My Bible, Vol. 2, p. 26).  It is possible that the Holy Spirit is a means by which God providentially answers prayers.

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Grace Series: Shall We Continue in Sin?

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1)

Paul has told them that there is more than enough grace to cover man’s sin problem (Romans 5:20-21). Paul was not discussing the conditions for man to receive pardon. He was simply stating the fact that God’s grace is more than sufficient to cover sin. No one has sinned so much that he cannot be saved. God’s grace is “in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1 cf. Galatians 3:26-27). It can be accessed by faith (Romans 5:1-2).

Paul anticipated a misunderstanding. He knew that some might respond – “Since it is the case that grace is more than sufficient to cover sin, can’t we just continue in sin and let God’s grace cover it?”

Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus was baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Romans 6:2-6).

Shall those who have received God’s grace continue in sin? “Certainly not!” (NKJV), “God forbid!” (KJV). The literal language is “let it not be!” meaning – “Away with the thought” (Vincent).

Why should those who have received God’s grace not continue to live a life of sin? First, consider the significance of baptism (Romans 6:2, 4-6). New Testament baptism includes a death to the love and practice of sin (repentance), a burial (immersion in water), and a resurrection to walk in newness of life. J.W. McGarvey commented, “Only the resurrected rise from the grave. Therefore, one who has not fully resolved to live as having died unto sin has no right to be lifted from the waters of baptism. If he is still dead in trespasses and sin, he should remain buried” (McGarvey, Thessalonians, Corinthians, Galatians and Romans, p. 343). Second, consider the death of Jesus (Romans 6:2). Baptism is into the death of Jesus. It took the blood of Christ to justify man (Romans 5:9; 1 Peter 1:18-19). The love of Christ ought to motivate us to live differently. He died for our sins. Those who continue to sin willfully count the blood of Christ a common (unholy) thing (Hebrews 10:26-29). It is as if they do not mind sending Him to the cross again (Hebrews 6:6). Third, consider the command. Paul commanded – “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:12-13). The old man is to be put to death (Romans 6:6; 8:13; Ephesians 4:22, 24; Colossians 3:5; 3:9).

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?” (Romans 6:15).

Paul has just told them that they were not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14). He did not mean that they were not amenable to law. [They were, and we are amenable to law (Galatians 6:2; James 1:25; 2:8; Hebrews 10:16 cf. Jeremiah 31:33; Isaiah 2:3; Romans 8:2; 8:6-7; 1 Corinthians 9:21). One cannot sin unless law exists (1 John 3:4; Romans 4:15; 5:13). “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and His word is not in us (1 John 1:10)]. He meant that they were not under a legal system alone, without grace, a system which demanded sinless perfection. Robert Taylor, Jr. commented, “They were not under a law system that demanded sinless perfection and condemned in its absence. They were under grace with provisions richly made for pardon…” (Taylor, Studies in Romans, p. 115). R.L. Whiteside commented, “Sin would have dominion over us if we had no means of escape from it, but through grace there is a way to escape sin” (Whiteside, A New Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Saints at Rome, p. 137). Man is not under a system of law only (note the term “law” is not with the definite article in the Greek). He is under a system which includes grace.

Paul anticipated a misunderstanding. He knew that some might respond –  “If it is the case that we are not under law but grace, then can’t we continue in sin and let grace cover it?”

Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slave whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or obedience leading to righteousness?… For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:15-16, 23).

Shall we continue to live a life of sin? “Certainly not!” (NKJV), “God forbid!” (KJV). The literal language is “let it not be!” Meaning – “Away with the thought” (Vincent).

The fact that grace is available to cover sin does not mean that one can continue to live a life of sin. God’s grace does not automatically cover a willful life of sin. So long as one keeps on living such a life, there keeps on remaining no more sacrifice for sin (cf. Hebrews 10:26-27).

We must decide whom we will serve. If we choose to serve sin, it will earn us death. If we choose to serve God, it will result in us being given what we don’t deserve, eternal life. Those who choose to serve God, by God’s grace, will be accounted as righteous (Romans 6:16 cf. 4:5). Who do you serve? Thomas Warren has written that there is: (1) No middle inviter between Christ and Satan; (2) No middle message between the truth and false doctrine; (3) No middle gate between the narrow gate and the wide gate; (4) No middle way between the straightened way and the broad way; and (5) No middle destiny between eternal life and eternal punishment (Warren, Jesus – The Lamb Who is a Lion, p. 145).

The choice of whom we will serve should have been made at baptism. We were raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4), in righteousness and holiness (Romans 6:17-19).

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