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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Gospel of God's Grace # 80

A Study of the Epistle to the Romans

The Christian Life as One in Subjection to the State

The Christian's Duty to the State

Verse 5 unveils the external and internal coercion to submission. We submit to avoid God's wrath, and in reality it is God's wrath, because He executes it through the government. That is the external pressure. But there is an internal reason why the Christian should obey, namely, "for conscience sake." This becomes valid because God, here in His Word, has told us to do that. That last phrase, "For conscience sake," limits us in our obedience to the state. Someone may ask, "Is there no limit to my subjection to the state?" Of course there is a limit. If the state asks you to steal, would you steal? Certainly you would not. If the state asks you to bear false witness, would you do it? Of course you would not. If the state asks you to commit some immorality, would you do it? If the state asks you to kill another man, would you do it? The state is limited to the extent that the commands of the state agree with the duty that God lays down for you as an individual. There are several instances in the book of Acts. The apostles were arrested for preaching in the name of Jesus, beaten and released with the charge that they should speak no more in that name. They answered, "We must obey God rather than man" (Acts 5:29). It was the regular constituted authorities that spoke, but Peter did not allow any man to stop him from preaching. God has the prior right over the soul, and this was recognized by Paul. Who is over the state? God is! God will not contradict Himself in the expectations He reveals. If He has laid down something for me, and the state tells me to do something else, there is a conflict between God and the state. In a situation sch as this there is no question as to what the choice should be for the Christian.

Verse 6 brings us to a practical reminder. Tribute is the word meaning "taxes." Believers are to pay taxes, "for they [the government] are ministers of God's service." Remember that. It is supposed to be a fine indoor sport to beat the government, but "putting one over" on the tax collector. When the tax collector comes, he is a minister of God. The state cannot exist without taxes. When we turn in our income tax, we are not to take away anything that belongs to the government.

Paul outlines the different angles of the situation. Tribute has to do with personal tax and property tax. Render your personal and property taxes when they are due. Custom means the tax that is put on imports and export. Often people come into the country and try to smuggle something across the boundary. They think they have accomplished something. "Pay custom to whom custom is due."

"Fear to whom fear," as a phrase, has to do with our attitude toward the high officials of the land. Fear means respect, the recognition of position and the honor that should be paid to it.

"Honor to whom honor" means it is never right for a Christian to speak in a disrespectful way about any officer of the state. One day I heard a man standing on a soap box berating the President. He referred to him as "that old stiff." Everybody laughed, and I laughed too because I was not in sympathy with the administration. Yet that is forbidden here. No matter what the character of a man may be, we are to respect his office because he holds that office by divine commission, and we are to uphold the regular, divinely constituted authorities and not to help the world in its chaos of lawlessness. We are to uphold the authorities. There was never such a need for this as now. The utter disrespect that men have today for the voice of the law and of the government is appalling. It is the Christian's business to be the salt of the earth in everything.

The Christian's Duty to the Citizens of the State

Mere submission to the government is not the best way to discharge our duty to the citizens of the state. There is a better way which is described by the little word "love". It is not enough to be simply subject. We are to perform our duty in love.

Verse 9 exhorts believers to "owe no man anything." That almost sounds as if we are not to borrow money. Some people hold it to be so. There are some saints who never permit themselves or their mission to borrow  a cent. There is a great deal of wisdom in this attitude, for there has been more trouble through the borrowing of money than almost anything else in the world. Someone has said if you have a friend and want to get rid of him, lend him some money.

Perhaps we should not take Paul's statement so strictly, but rather in this sense: we ought to owe nothing that we cannot pay upon demand. A man should never assume an obligation that he cannot be reasonably sure he can pay. There are exceptions, and these must be handled on their own merits. But relations between men would be much sweeter and kinder if this were the principle that prevailed universally in the business world.

The previous statement provides Paul with a basis for a greater responsibility. There is one debt that you can never pay, and that is the debt of love. The more you pay that debt, the more you owe.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 81)

The Rock In the Mist

Because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son... I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven; …because thou hast obeyed my voice (Genesis 22:16-18).
And from that day to this, men have been learning that when, at God's voice, they surrender up to Him the one thing above all else that was dearest to their very hearts, that same thing is returned to them by Him a thousand times over. Abraham gives up his one and only son, at God's call, and with this disappear all his hopes for the boy's life and manhood, and for a noble family bearing his name. But the boy is restored, the family becomes as the stars and sands in number, and out of it, in the fullness of time, appears Jesus Christ.
That is just the way God meets every real sacrifice of every child of His. We surrender all and accept poverty; and He sends wealth. We renounce a rich field of service; He sends us a richer one than we had dared to dream of. We give up all our cherished hopes, and die unto self; He sends us the life more abundant, and tingling joy.
And the crown of it all is our Jesus Christ. For we can never know the fullness of the life that is in Christ until we have made Abraham's supreme sacrifice. The earthly founder of the family of Christ must commence by losing himself and his only son, just as the Heavenly Founder of that family did. We cannot be members of that family with the full privileges and joys of membership upon any other basis.
--C. G. Trumbull
We sometimes seem to forget that what God takes He takes in fire; and that the only way to the resurrection life and the ascension mount is the way of the garden, the cross, and the grave.
Think not, O soul of man, that Abraham's was a unique and solitary experience. It is simply a specimen and pattern of God's dealings with all souls who are prepared to obey Him at whatever cost. After thou hast patiently endured, thou shalt receive the promise. The moment of supreme sacrifice shall be the moment of supreme and rapturous blessing. God's river, which is full of water, shall burst its banks, and pour upon thee a tide of wealth and grace.
There is nothing, indeed, which God will not do for a man who dares to step out upon what seems to be the mist; though as he puts down his foot he finds a rock beneath him.
--F. B. Meyer 
~L. B. Cowman~

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Gospel of God's Grace # 79

A Study of the Epistle to the Romans

The Christian Life is One in Subjection to the State

The Christian's Duty to the State

Paul himself experienced judgment during a trial before the Sanhedrin. He said something that was just a little bit rebellious, and he was slapped by the high priest. Not knowing the identity of the man, Paul rebuked him. He in turn was rebuked, "Revilest thou God's high priest?" (Acts 23:4). The priests, in a sense, were rulers. Paul apologized. His eyesight was poor, so he explained, "I did not know it was the high priest" (Acts 23:5). That is the Christian attitude. Paul stopped immediately. That absolutely shuts out the Christian's participation in all rebellion against existing forms of government. You may say that is difficult. Whenever a government becomes established, it is not your duty to ask, "Why?" but to submit. That is the true Christian's attitude, and it will accomplish more than all the rebellion in the world. That does not mean that we are not to try to improve a form of government; but we are not to use physical force in attempting to accomplish this result.

In verse 3 the government is described as "a terror to the evil." Paul is speaking generally. As a rule, governments reward the good and punish the evil. Sometimes they get things mixed up, but even so, the mixup is often from right motives. Even in those terrible persecutions in the early church, when the Roman emperors put thousand of Christians to death, the emperor acted on what he considered the best interests of the state, because he thought the Christians were a danger to the state. That does not justify him, but it does illustrate the fact that the state exists for the good of its subjects.

In verse 4 Paul discusses the officer of the state - "For he is a minister of God." Pastors are ministers of God. But let us not forget that the United States government is a minister of God, only in a different sphere. The pastor ministers in the spiritual; the state ministers in the temporal or the material sphere.

Moreover, the government is established "for good." The apostle Paul learned that in the course of many experiences. At Jerusalem the Jews were about to kill him, and he said, "I appeal to Caeser," Nero probably. And yet that monster of inequity, that man who is held up as the very acme of cruelty, saved the life of the apostle Paul because he was the state. Since the apostle's life had been saved through the existing authorities, he could say this.

"For he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." This verse undoubtedly justifies capital punishment. God's commission to the state is absolute! He has given the sword to the state and "he beareth not the sword in vain." It is the business of government to punish evildoers, and when a government seeks the extradition of a criminal in a foreign country, it is executing a divine commission. This will often require the exercise of physical force. The government is therefore discharging its divine commission. This divine directive was established immediately after the flood, as recorded in Genesis, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed" (Genesis 9:6). This does not mean in the sense of venting individual passion, but man in the sense of constituted government.

We often think that we  ought to leave vengeance to God, and He will take care of it at the judgment day. That is true in the ultimate sense, but God has another way and that is through the state. That is exactly what Paul means. To take a concrete illustration, if a man enters my house and steals something, it is not my duty to retaliate by stealing something from his house. I am not to avenge myself; that is not my duty. It is the state's duty to lay hold upon him and make him restore in corresponding value.It is God who is doing it, but He is using the state as a means to the end. That takes vengeance out of the individual man's hands and places it in the hands of  constituted authority. There is infinite wisdom in what the apostle teaches.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 80)

Seek God's Wisdom

The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand,  any who seek God. - Psalm 14:2

Do we understand the ways of God? Understanding God is different than believing in God. To understand means that we can come into alignment by acknowledging the decisions God makes on our behalf. We do not have to agree with the decision but because we understand that God's ways are higher than ours are, we can yield to Him. At that point, we show our trust in His ways as we continue to seek and submit to His will.

As a parent, I have been challenged to explain "why" I am making a certain decision. If my decision pleases my children, no discussion is necessary. However, if I disagree, I am sought out to discuss and debate why my choices did not match their hearts' desire. As a parent, I have the right to make final decisions as much as I have the right to explain or not explain the factors that went into making those decisions. My children then have the right to agree or disagree with my decisions but what a joy it is when they understand and accept them as is.
God wants a relationship with us. As our Heavenly Father, He knows what is best for us. He is more than willing to reveal Himself to those who seek Him. God does not want us to just believe in Him but to understand Him as well. God has not hidden Himself from us. He has given us His Son, Jesus, His Word, and His Spirit.

The Spirit of God intercedes for us, convicts our hearts and leads us into all truth. We have the opportunity to seek God and to find Him. But we also have the ability to understand Him as we continue to choose to read the Bible, pray and submit to the circumstances that He has allowed us to encounter in our lives.

If you are struggling with understanding why God is allowing certain circumstances to continue in your life, seek Him for wisdom. James 1 tells us that anyone who is lacking in wisdom should ask God for it because God will give liberally to all that ask. But when God answers, believe that answer and do not doubt. Doubting only leads us to becoming double minded. Double mindedness is a worse state than questioning God's decisions in the first place. And remember, God is looking down from Heaven to see if we understand and seek after Him.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Gospel of God's Grace # 78

A Study of the Epistle to the Romans

The Christian Life as One in Subjection to the State

There are in these three sections of the outline, three words which sum up and describe the duties which are set forth in each section: verse 1 - subjection; verse 8 - love; verse 11 - wakefulness. The Christian's duty to the state is subjection. The Christian's duty to the citizens of the state is love. The Christian's duty in view of the closeness of Christ's coming is wakefulness.

There is a harmony between the twelfth chapter and the thirteenth. Look at those two chapters as one single section. In 12:1 is stated the basis of Christian duty, the mercies of God. The last few verses in the thirteenth chapter present the great incentive to the Christian's duty, the Coming of the Lord. Paul starts out with the mercies of the Lord; and he closes with the coming of the Lord!

In between the basis and incentive, Paul sets forth Christian duty in two distinct realms. In 12:4 he shows that every member is set in his proper place in the church. So first there is the Christian's duty in the realm of the church. Then, in the thirteenth chapter, Paul shows the Christian's duty in the realm of the state. The Christian's duty in the church and in the state should be enforced and performed in just one way, in love.  Compare 12:9 and 13:8.

The apostle Paul here teaches what is dogmatic as to the realm of the church and the state, and therefore the first seven verses of chapter 13 constitute a passage without parallel in the whole Bible. Paul carefully avoids two errors concerning the realm of the church and the state. The first error is that view which would confuse the church and the state, uniting them, as Roman Catholic doctrine like to do, or as is seen in the Church of England.

On the other hand, Paul avoids the other extreme of setting them in opposition to one another. He steers his course very skillfully, keeping them separate - one spiritual, the other temporal - and yet he hows that  there is no essential opposition between the two. He does not oppose them; neither does he confuse them.

The Christian's Duty to the State

As to the scope of subjection, he declares it extends to "every soul." Not every church member, but "every soul be in subjection to the higher powers." That is the rule. When Paul speaks in the twelfth chapter about our relation to God, he says that is our "spiritual service." We render our service to God in the spirit; but in the thirteenth chapter we come to a different sphere. Our service to the state is not a spiritual thing; it involves "every soul" being subject to the higher powers." In place of the word "powers", the word "authorities" would be more exact.

The next phrase, "There is no power but of God," is significant. There is no government authority except through God. That is exactly what Daniel teaches. He says that God establishes kings and He dethrones kings. What happened to King Nebuchadnezzar was for the purpose that people might know that "the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will" (Daniel 4:17).

Our Lord pointed out this truth when He stood in the presence of Pilate. Pilate said in his anger, "I have power ... to release thee" (John 19:10). Then our Lord said, "Thou couldest have no power ... except it were given thee from above" (John 19:11). Even that profession of authority was authority that God Himself had invested in the man. This applies to the Premier of Russia, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and the President of the United States - all power comes through God.

No ruler can hold his place except by permission of the God of heaven, and in that sense every power that exists is of God, as Paul says, "And the powers that be," whatever they are, "are ordained of God." That is a solemn statement which is needed in these days of lawlessness. We ought to teach people that they have no right to flaunt the authority of existing powers in governmental reign.

Paul draws the conclusion that opposition to government is opposition to God. The word "damnation" in verse 2 is too strong; "judgment" is better. That is all it is. "They shall receive to themselves judgment." If you withstand the properly constituted authorities, you receive judgment from them. Not only that, but God will call you to account, for we know we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account (Romans 14:10-12). God will take a Christian t task if he rebels against the authorities.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 79)

Old-Time Religion

Amos 7:10-17

(10) Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, "Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. (11) For thus Amos has said:
"Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
And Israel shall surely be led away captive
From their own land."" (12) Then Amaziah said to Amos:
"Go, you seer!
Flee to the land of Judah.
There eat bread,
And there prophesy.
(13) But never again prophesy at Bethel,
For it is the king's sanctuary,
And it is the royal residence." (14) Then Amos answered, and said to Amaziah:
"I was no prophet,
Nor was I a son of a prophet,
But I was a sheepbreeder
And a tender of sycamore fruit.
(15) Then the LORD took me as I followed the flock,
And the LORD said to me,
'Go, prophesy to My people Israel.'
(16) Now therefore, hear the word of the LORD:
You say, 'Do not prophesy against Israel,
And do not spout against the house of Isaac.' (17) 'Therefore thus says the LORD:
"Your wife shall be a harlot in the city;
Your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword;
Your land shall be divided by survey line;
You shall die in a defiled land;
And Israel shall surely be led away captive
From his own land.""
Evidently, Amos' teaching was effective because the people responded - at least it caused a reaction. He was a good strategist; he preached at the shrines where the people were. His influence radiated out as the word spread that a prophet from Judah was proclaiming doom for the nation. The people listened and spoke to each other about his preaching. When Amos accused the religious leaders of Israel of failing to teach God's way of life, Amaziah, a high religious official of the shrine in Bethel, felt he needed to respond.

As we see in Amos' case, a person can obey God and still receive public persecution. God will not protect us from all persecution, partly because it affords an opportunity to witness for and glorify Him. Amos' answer to Amaziah's charges makes this witness and enables him to prophesy further. Additionally, his response instructs us regarding the nature and function of a prophet.

This also shows a clear example of the biblical use of aplumb line, a building tool used to determine if an object is upright (verses 7-9). Does God hold the plumb line against Amaziah or Amos? Actually, He judges both. Amaziah represents the false religions, and Amos represents the true religion. The content of their conversation reveals how God would judge them. Primarily, though, God was evaluating Amos.

We need to apply the plumb line to ourselves. Are we taking the grace of God for granted? Could God be angry with some of us in His true churchRevelation 3:14-22 shows that the Laodiceans are sincere when they assert that they are spiritually complete, but God is ready to vomit them out! Obviously, the Laodiceans are not judging themselves against God's plumb line, or they would have known they were out of alignment with His will.

Because they feel so secure in their own spirituality, they probably think it incredible that God would single them out for punishment. It is clear, however, that God punishes those who forsake their part of the covenant with Him.Revelation 12:17 shows that, on the other hand, Satanpersecutes those who keep the commandments of God and live godly lives.

God's religion is more than keeping the basic Ten CommandmentsThe Pharisees kept them, but our righteousness has to exceed theirs (Matthew 5:20). One difference between Christ and the Pharisees was that Christ's righteousness was positive while the Pharisees' was negative. Though both kept the commandments, the sincere Pharisee was righteous by avoiding sin, but Christ was righteous by always doing good as well.
The problem of the Laodicean is selfishness, self-concern. His opposite, the Philadelphian (which means "brotherlylove"), is commended by God for his obedience and for doing good. His religion is outward in practice because he has prepared himself to give and serve through his relationship with God. The Laodicean is too busy gathering his wealth and indulging himself to give much thought to his fellow man.

Like the Laodiceans, the ancient Israelites concentrated on self-advantage, self-pleasing, and covetousness. This resulted in their being very hard on the needy and the poor. They ignored doing good works and serving their brothers. Amaziah apparently felt he needed to speak out and defend "that old-time religion."

~John W. Ritenbaugh~

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Gospel of God's Grace # 77

A Study of the Epistle to the Romans

The Christian Life as One in Subjection to the State

Romans 12:1-14

The subject of this chapter is clearly indicated in the first verse: "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers." In the third verse appears the word "rulers". There seems to be no question that the subject is the Christian and his relation to the state.

There was need for instruction on this topic in the early church, as there is need for it today. The church at that time was undoubtedly made up to a large extent of Jewish members, and the Jews had a peculiar feeling when it came to bending the knee to the Gentile ruler. Notice the account in Mark of Jesus being questioned by Jewish leaders concerning His attitude toward the Roman government. The Pharisees declared it was wrong to acknowledge a Gentile ruler; the Herodians, being politicians, thought the best policy was to acknowledge Caesar and Herod. The same question was in the minds of the early church members.

An instance of the attitude of the Roman government toward the Jews appears in Acts 18:2: "Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome." One of the reasons why the Jews were told to get out of Rome was undoubtedly because of their attitude toward the Roman government.

The church was at this time filled with Jews, and the church held the doctrine of the kingship of Jesus. Whether a man was a Jew or a Gentile in the church, he believed that Jesus Christ was King of kings and Lord of lords - and he was right. In Acts 17:7 is a little hint of this. This is an accusation brought against Christians: "These all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus." They held to the doctrine of the kingship of Jesus, and they deserve every bit of credit for doing so.

But unfortunately, some men had difficulty in reconciling the doctrine of the kingship of Jesus with the Gentile rule on earth. The doctrine might not pose difficulties to the actual Christians, but tempt those who were professing Christians, who might desire to use this doctrine as a pretext to license the exercise of human passion. Therefore it was very essential that Paul deal with this subject.

There is a connection between this chapter and the one preceding. There are some who have denied any connection. Verses 19 and 20 had taught the avoidance of vengeance and the exercise of mercy toward an offender. When Paul taught that people might respond, "If we act upon that rule, the world will be plunged into a veritable chaos, for wicked men  will take advantage of us." For our Lord Jesus Christ, when he was struck, turned the other cheek; when He was insulted, did not give back insults; He did not fight evil; and He did not conquer His enemies either. They put Him to death upon the Cross. There are sometimes men who have no regard for your kindness. Thus, the charge is that if we treat men on this basis, the very foundations of human government will be swept away.

Now we come to the thirteenth chapter. The twelfth chapter is the rule for those who are Christians, those who belong to the church. But the state is different. The state is a divine institution with its own definite duties. It is not our business as a church to see that the world is not plunged into lawlessness, but it is easy for the believer to conclude this.

Now for the outline. Here is the key to the outline: Verse 1 presents the "higher powers", which can be summed up in one word, the "state". Verse 8 proposes another idea, "Owe no man anything save to love one another: for he that loveth his neighbor hath fulfilled the law". After referring to the state itself, Paul goes down to the individuals in the state, so we will see that this section in the outline deals with the citizens of the state. Verse 11 points to "the day." What day is that? There is only one day, the day of the Lord's coming is always in mind when Paul talks that way.

All three of these topics are linked together very closely. Perhaps the outline and its exposition will help to illuminate this relationship. The outline is threefold:

1. The Christian's duty to the state (vv. 1-7).
2. The Christian's duty to the citizens of the state (vv. 8-10).
3. The Christian's duty in view of the near approach of the coming of the Lord (vv. 11-14).

There are in these three sections of the outline, three words which sum up and describe the duties which are set forth in each section: verse 1 - subjection; verse 8 - love; verse 11 - wakefulness. The Christian's duty to the state is subjection. The Christian's duty to the citizens of the state is love. The Christian's duty in view of the closeness of Christ's coming is wakefulness.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 78)

Developing Faith Through Adversity

It doesn't seem fair, does it? Paul spent his life serving Christ, and yet he experienced continual suffering. Why would God let one of His most faithful servants go through so much pain? This isn't just a question about Paul; it's an issue we face today. In our minds, the Lord should protect His loyal followers from hardships, but He doesn't necessarily do so.

Maybe our reasoning is backwards. We think faithful Christians don't deserve to suffer, but from God's perspective, suffering is what produces faithful Christians. If we all had lives of ease without opposition, trials, or pain, we'd never really know God, because we'd never need Him. Like it or not, adversity teaches us more about the Lord than simply reading the Bible ever will.
I'm not saying we don't need to know Scripture; that's our foundation for faith. But if what we believe is never tested by adversity, it remains head knowledge. How will we ever know the Lord can be trusted in the midst of trouble if we've never been challenged by hardship? God gives us opportunities to apply scriptural truths to the difficulties facing us, and in the process, we find Him faithful. For example, how would Paul ever have known the strength of Christ if he had never been weakened by pain, persecution, and adversity?

Depending on your response, trials can be God's greatest means of building faith or an avenue to discouragement and self-pity. If you'll believe what Scripture says and apply its principles to your situation, your trust in God will grow, and your faith will be strengthened through adversity.

~Charles Stanley~

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Gospel of God's Grace # 77

A Study of the Epistle to the Romans

The Christian Life as Exhibited in Transformation

A Life of Love (12:1-21)

Verse 18 confronts believers with a most difficult task, and only by the grace of God can we do it. "If it be possible" - there he is talking not about you, but the other fellow. The second phrase talks about you: "As much as in you lies" - the emphasis on you - "live at peace with all men." That does not mean peace at the expense of righteousness, but the point is this: you are never to be the one to break the peace. If the other fellow breaks it, even then you are to do all you can to keep the peace. When the peace is broken, don't look at the other fellow, but look at yourself and see if you have done all you can do.

We are not to use this exhortation for simply giving in to everything that comes. For instance, when it concerns me individually, then it is right for me to give, give, give to the last drop, and never break the peace! But I also have a duty to others in my life, and when, by permitting somebody to run over me, I fail in my duty to others, then that is a different matter.

Verse 19 explains the underlying reason for saying this. Paul begins, "Dearly beloved." He knows he is uttering a hard thing. The people of his time were accustomed to taking revenge, perhaps even more than today. "Do not avenge yourselves, but give place to wrath," that is, the wrath of God. Let us not imagine this means the wrath of other men or even the wrath of ourselves. It means the wrath of God. The word "God" ought to be supplied at this point, for He is involved. Apparently the translators of the ASV thought it meant that, for they rendered it that way into English. "Give place to wrath." Why? "Because it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay saith the Lord." It is not our business to repay men for what they do to us. Any effort on our part to administer justice will fall far short of the true situation.

But if the believer is not satisfied with that and feels that he must do something in repayment, then there is a way to do it. This is set forth in the twentieth verse: "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink." That is the only kind of repayment that is permitted the Christian. In doing that, what will you do to him? "Heap coals of fire on his head." What do you think that means? A lot of folks are at sea and do not know just exactly what it does mean. Here is my best judgment in the matter, as God has given me grace to understand: "In so doing, thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head." If you actually heap coals of fire on his head, you will destroy him in the sense that you will destroy him as your enemy. That is the kind of repayment to make. Or, if you want to look at it as some others do: Very often there is nothing that burns and brings greater remorse than for a man who has done you damage to realize that you have forgiven him for all of it, and that you have treated him kindly. In that sense, it would be a revenge and would destroy him as you enemy.

Paul sums it all up in the twenty-first verse: "Overcome evil with good." Paul had begun his exhortations by saying, "Be not conformed ... but be ye transformed." The word "good" ought to be the dominant word in the Christian life, from one end to the other. God's people who have been listening to the mercies of God ought to be very prayerful in the presence of these exhortations to holy living. We ought to have regard for the exhortations to holy living. We ought to have regard for the exhortation that says, "I beseech you by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice!"

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 78 - "The Christian Life as One in Subjection to the State")

Both Near and Far

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.  Isaiah7:14

We read this prophecy written thousands of years ago and understand that the fulfillment was Jesus, as it is quoted again in Matthew 1:22, testifying to the virgin birth of Jesus as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah.

However, there was also a closer fulfillment of that prophecy as we read in Isaiah 8:3, “So I approached the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. Then the Lord said to me, ‘Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz’.”The prophecy for us is about the virgin birth of Jesus, but it was also immediately about this prophetess having a son as a sign to the people during Isaiah’s time. This verse is an example of near and far prophecy. “Near” to Isaiah but also predicted “far” for us.

Prophecy still works like that in our lives today. There are prophecies that have near and far fulfillments. As we read the Scriptures, we know that those verses were placed in the Bible for a set time and place. But, those same verses pop out to us as verses that we can claim for our own lives. How does that work?

God’s Word is alive and His Word has the ability to reach through all places, settings, times and events. His Word is as applicable and real to us and for us today as it was when written. I have seen near and far fulfillments in verses for myself. Many times, I receive a verse (or promise) from the Lord for the circumstance I am currently facing, and then years later in my life, I see the Lord further fulfill that verse in a new way.

God wants to speak to you and He does that by prophesying through His Word. Claim those verses but then relax. If God said it to you, He will fulfill it….again and again…both near and far.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Gospel of God's Grace # 76

A Study of the Epistle to the Romans

The Christian Life as Exhibited in Transformation

A Life of Love

Now we come to the flower of the Christian life. There is the further appeal in the words, "Let love be without dissimulation". Dissimulation is actually the word "hypocrisy." It is a tragic thing that the greatest grace of the Christian life is sometimes made a cloak for hypocrisy. No wonder Paul admonished against it.

The remainder of chapter 12 explains how love should manifest itself.

This covers an area that is twofold: first, love within the church, and then, in the latter part of the section, love outside of the church.

Verse 13 identifies love with the church: "distributing to the necessities of the saints" - that is in the church. Notice also verse 10. What kind of love is mentioned? "Brotherly love," that is, in the church.

Verse 17 identifies love outside the church: "recompense to no man." Now you are including everybody. Verse 18 strengthens the idea: "live peaceably with all men." So, first it is love in the church, and then love outside the church.

In verse 9 the word "cleave" in the Greek, means "to be glued." "Glue yourself fast to the good thing." It is the same word used in the eighth chapter of Acts, where the Spirit said to Philip, "Go near, and join [glue] thyself to this chariot" (Acts 8:29).

Verse 10 in the ASV reads somewhat differently: "In love of the brethren," and the original says "in Philadelphia". That is what it is literally - brother love, not "brotherly love." It is the love that ought to exist between brothers. Anybody could have "brotherly" love, love like a brother loves; but what God wants us to have is brother love itself.

In verse 11 Paul touches on a delicate matter when he says, "not slothful in business." Business in the church dare not be neglected. The church ought to be run as businesslike as any other organization. Paul is still talking about love when he says this, for love in business is not slothful.

The expression "fervent in spirit" in another version has been translated beautifully: "in enthusiasm be at the boiling point." The figure in the Greek actually indicates something that is about ready to boil over! The Lord help the church that is dead and has no enthusiasm! Be fervent! Do not be afraid to say "amen" once in a while, if the Spirit so moves you.

"Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessities of the saints" (vv. 12, 13). If you see a Christian that is in need, you ought to share with him. "Given to hospitality." The word "given" literally  means "pursuing." Do not merely be ready to entertain folks when they come in on you, but pursue hospitality! Paul said in Hebrews, "Some entertained angels unawares." And in the Old Testament account, Abraham ran after the three strangers and said in effect, "You must come in and eat" (see Genesis 18:2-3).

Verse 14 sounds like the Sermon on the Mount. Verse 15 continues, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice; weep with them that weep." Do you remember how the Lord Jesus Christ beautifully exemplified those two things? He went to the marriage feast and rejoiced with them that rejoiced. Then a little later, He stood beside the grave of Lazarus and He wept.

Verse 16 points to another aspect of love. "Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate." He brings in the matter of humility again. Love will not manifest itself in refusing to associate with those of a lower class. But love condescends. What a lesson in condescension we have in the example of our Lord and Saviour! "Who, being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation" (Phil. 2:6, 7). He didn't hang onto His high position, but He condescended to take on Him our flesh and blood and walk in the midst of sinners. Paul is saying, "Do you see what I am doing now? I am beseeching you by the mercies of God, because it was by the mercy of God that he came down."

Verse 17 reaches beyond the church and takes in the outsiders. When a man does evil, do not pay him back that way. The word "honest" means honorable or beautiful; so, "take the thought for the things honorable in the sight of all men." Whenever you see a Christian who says, "I do right and I don't care what people think about me, " he is not paying heed to Paul's exhortations. We ought to have some regard for the sight of men. Of course we are not to be slaves to public opinion; yet it is wrong to have this attitude: "I do as I think God leads me, and let the chips fall where they may." Rather, let us take thought for the things that are beautiful, and then there will be no reproach upon the church of God.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 77)

A Matter of the Heart

And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? Genesis 4:3-6 NKJV
What’s the big deal about Cain’s offering? You might think he simply gave what he had. The real issue was not the offering itself, but it was a matter of Cain’s heart, and the real motive behind it.
Remember God knows our motives better than we do. Cain brought what he thought was befitting the Lord. Cain gave what he wanted to give rather than what God expected.
How many times have we done the same thing? We think “look Lord see all these good things I have done for you?” But does God require all these good deeds? No. He looks for the humble and contrite heart. He longs for us to truly seek Him.
Self check: What are my real motives for the activities I choose to do?
Lord God above, forgive us for the times we, like Cain, come bringing our offering rather than humility of the heart. Help us to remember you desire our inward most beings rather than the good deeds of our hands. In Jesus’ name we pray Amen.
~Elizabeth Marks~

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Gospel of God's Grace # 75

A Study of the Epistle to the Romans

The Christian Life as Exhibited in Transformation

A Life of Humility

The Christian life should be a life of humility.

Verse 3 introduces the general thought, "I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you." This is for all of you folks who are being confronted with this message, every man and woman. Man is a generic term and includes both. He insists that each believer is "Not to think of himself [or herself] more highly than he [or she] ought to think but to think soberly according as God hath dealt to each man a measure of faith."

A man should not aspire to be something that is not in the will of God for him, because God has made him what he is and has a particular place for him as a Christian. How often we find people who do have some real gift, but who are dissatisfied with the gift they have, a gift which may be lowly but worthy, not spectacular but useful; and so they are desiring to be something else other than what they are and what God has purposed.

There is a rule of measure. God has provided this for each man. You may question God's will in dealing with you in this way, but remember that His will is good, acceptable, and perfect. The measure of His dealing with you is according to your faith. You may depend upon it that if you are His child, He has given you just as great a gift, just as high a position as your faith could stand. It would be a terrible thing to be judged as if we were standing in other people's shoes. We could  discharge that responsibility. He knows what we can stand. He knows the capacity of our faith, because He has given us our faith.

Paul moves on from that idea to the fourth verse: "For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; so we, being many, are one body in Christ." There are many members in the body of Christ. Each one has its place. God, in His eternal sovereign foresight, has apportioned to you just the proper place for you. I have heard men say, "If I could only be like D. L. Moody." God knows you better than you know yourself, and it takes a man who is completely open to God to stand where Moody stood, and to give what Moody did. Men also say, "Look at the need of the world today. What does not God give me a fortune?" Well, He knows whether you could stand a million dollars, whether it would be good for you.

So, be satisfied with the place God has given you. That would be true humility. To deprecate yourself is false humility. But use that place God has given you - occupy it.

Paul passes on from the idea of membership in the church to the actual gift given each member. Are all the gifts the same? No, they are different. How do they differ? "According to the grace that is given us." And then he names seven gifts. Prophecy, ministry, teaching, and exhortation are the four major gifts. Then follow three minor gifts: giving, ruling, showing mercy. That is a beautiful seven-fold presentation of the gifts of the Spirit. There are other catalogues in the Bible that are more specific, but these are inclusive.


That gift was given to the men who wrote God's Word. We do not have that gift today. They spoke for God directly, and when they did, they prophesied "according to the measure of faith"; they spoke in harmony with what had been spoken already. men who come today and prophesy not according to this Word are not prophets - according to the marked out proportion that God has already given. Even when the men wrote the New Testament, they remained in accord with what had already been written.


This is that great, broad ministry within the church that ought to be performed by the deacons. In fact, that is the word used: "Let us give ourselves to deaconing." The office of deacon is a very broad office and may cover almost any kind of service in the church. They are really the closest assistants to the pastor, to help him in every duty and to help the church. It should be a place of service, not a position of power.


Teaching is a gift always. The teacher is a gift; let him give attention to his teaching. Teaching is the art of making the unchanging divine message understandable to the unlearned.


Exhortation is sometimes "run into the ground," but it is necessary for those who have been given this gift to exercise it. Prayer meeting is a good place for it. Exhort those Christians that are growing weak. Strengthen them, encourage them.


"He that giveth" refers to a gift that is seldom regarded as one. Every one of us has that gift to a certain extent. This exhortation is for those who have some degree of material wealth. God has granted to some laymen in the church the ability to acquire and dispense wealth. He has prospered such men in order that they might use their money for God.


"He that ruleth" applies to those in the place of authority. The church is not, in the absolute sense, a democracy. We read in other places in the New Testament of the elders who rule. They are to rule under God, of course. They are the shepherds. But there is a gift for those who are elders. The boards of the church come in at this point, men who have the ability to exercise oversight. "Let them give diligence."


"He that showeth mercy" undoubtedly has wide application. This may be in relation to the poor, taking care of them. The church has always had a ministry there. Down through the ages it has been the church that has led the way. Men never started a hospital until the church started one. Men generally did not show mercy to the sick. Within the church there are folks who go about their business in an unspectacular way, and yet they have a wonderful ministry visiting the poor and the aged. If God has called you to this, you ought to be using that gift and not be trying to exercise the more spectacular gift of teaching.

When God has called a man and given him a certain gift, he is not to do something other than that for which God has called him.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 76 - "A Life of Love")

Signs of Today or Eternity?

He [Jesus] answered and said to them, "When it is evening you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red'; and in the morning, 'It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. Matthew 16:2-3

Jesus understood how much the weather plays a part of our daily lives. He spoke about discerning the face of the sky, trying to predict the day’s events. Just think about how much we know today from the weather channel, newspapers and computers. We have local and remote forecasts available in an instant, unlike in Jesus’ day. And just as we have advanced in understanding the weather, we also have advanced in understanding the signs of end times. Our lives can change as a result of a natural event, and our eternity is shaped by being tuned in with the signs of end times.

Do you live your life for today or for eternity? Everything we live for here will burn some day, but our soul has a choice to burn in the fire or live in the presence of the light of Jesus. In a moment, the weather can change completely. It is the same with our lives. Today, pick up the Bible and read something in Revelation or find a book that can update you with the signs of end times. Until I studied the book of Revelation, the thought of reading it frightened me. That fear is gone because the love of God is even so evident in the book of Revelation. He wants all to come to Him and He has made a way for all to understand.  Ask the Lord for discernment to understand. We can never be sure of the future outcome of the weather, but we can know the outcome of our eternity.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Gospel of God's Grace # 74

A Study of the Epistle to the Romans

The Christian Life as Exhibited in Transformation

A Life of Consecration

Let us now consider the meaning of the word "present". Remember we are dealing with that same word appearing in chapter 6 back where Paul said we died with Christ, we rose with Him, we are to reckon it to be so, and we are to "yield." Paul did not develop it in the sixth chapter, but here he develops it. "Present your bodies" as an act of consecration.

You may wonder why he mentions the body in the exhortation "Present your bodies." There is a reason in that. The body, at the present time, is the instrument of the soul and spirit, and God gets no service except it be manifested through the body: the hands, the feet, the mouth, the tongue. Therefore, he speaks of the body, and that includes the soul and spirit, everything, the whole man. In fact the word "body" is a way of describing an organism in its entirety. 

"Present your bodies," but what kind of a sacrifice should it be? The answer is clear. It should be "a living sacrifice." Very often we have thought of this word "sacrifice" altogether wrongly, as simply giving up something that we would rather not part with. This sacrifice is not only giving up something, but it is giving it up to God with eagerness and joy - presenting it to Him; and furthermore, in contradistinction to the sacrifices of the Old Testament which were dead, these are living sacrifices. He died for our sins; we are not called upon to die - we are called upon to live for Him! We might die in a moment of time, but to live for Him will require a lifetime.

Concerning this sacrifice, Paul says three wonderful things:

First of all, he tells us what kind of a sacrifice it should be, namely, holy. You are a sinner, and you come now in His merit, in His blood, and the sacrifice is considered holy.

Second, it is acceptable. He will receive it, because it is well-pleasing. It is attractive to and excites the pleasure of a holy and loving God.

Third, it is reasonable. "Your reasonable service." There are two ideas in the word, perhaps three. Basically the word means logical, in the sense that it is the response of a man who  recognizes that he was bought with a price and therefore belongs to the one who bought him (1 Co. 6:19). It is reasonable in the sense that it is the response of a moral creature made in the image of God and unlike a beast or a mere chattel (2 Peter 2:12). It is spiritual in the sense that it is the response of a creature who now rises to the highest point of priestly service under the direction of the Spirit of God (Heb. 9:1, 6). Obviously all three of these ideas go together.

The exhortation continues: "Be not conformed [fashioned] to this world, but be ye transformed." There are two words "conformed" and "transformed." The first one, translated "conformed", is the word from which we get our English word "scheme." It means a conformation that is outward, without any necessary connection with inner essence, and it is like the world that passes away.

The word "transformed", however, reaches deeper. This refers to an external form that clearly represents inner essence. To be transformed means that inner essence will make an external manifestation. It is the same root word that is used in Philippians: "Who existing in the "form" of God." The inner reality of Christ, which was essential deity, made itself known in outward manifestation.

Consider first the appeal: Do not be "conformed" to the age. There is nothing so hateful and abominable in the eyes of God as for the Christian to conform himself according to the present age, an outward age which does not truly represent the new nature in purity nor permanence. This age is an evil one and a passing order of things. If you conform yourself to this age, you will pass away with it. Of course, Paul must use a word that describes transience, not permanence.

Consider finally the result, and compare the word "transformed" in 2 Corinthians 3:18 with the phrase "Be ye transformed" in this verse. This is not something that you are to do, according to the Scriptures. If you present yourself to God as a living sacrifice and "behold the glories of the Lord" in His Word, you will be transformed progressively. This is the Spirit's word, but it also calls for cooperation on the part of the believer.

The end result is "that you may prove," that is, out to discover and approve as the assayer tests the ore to discover and approve it. The issue is the will of God described in three of its aspects: "good," that is pure; "acceptable," that is, meeting the pleasure of God; and "perfect", that is, lacking in no respect. Surely nothing can stand in higher priority in the activity of a saved man than this.

A man who sees the mercies of God will then present himself to God as a living sacrifice. The issue of such consecration will be to know by proof and test what is the will of God. The unbeliever does not know, he cannot know, and therefore he must falteringly grope his way through the darkness.

That "will of God" is here described by three words which deserve further explanation:

1. Good. God's will is always good. It may be hard, but it is always good.
2. Acceptable. It ought to be acceptable to you, because it is acceptable to Him.
3. Perfect. Sometimes the will of God leads you into places that you cannot see the reason for, and it seems that everything is going wrong. But remember that His will is perfect. o matter how devious the way may be, His will is perfect because "He knows the end from the beginning."

We can sum up the meaning of the first two verses of this chapter in three statements: 1. The basis of holy living is revelation; 2. The method of holy living is consecration; 3. The result, or the outcome, of holy living is transformation.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 75 - "A Life of Humility")

Have You Dug a Pit for Others?

In order to get out of the pits, you need to make sure you haven't dug any pits for others.  Psalms 7:14-16 tells us,

Behold, the wicked brings forth iniquity; yes, he conceives trouble and brings forth falsehood.  He made a pit and dug it out, and has fallen into the ditch which he made.  His trouble shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down on his own crown.

Then there is Psalm 9:15-16,

The nations have sunk down in the pit which they made; in the net which they hid, their own foot is caught.  The LORD is known by the judgment He executes; the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.

Finally, Psalm 57:6,

They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down; they have dug a pit before me; into the midst of it they themselves have fallen.

When people dig a pit for somebody else, they end up falling into it themselves.  In fact, Proverbs 26:27 says it most directly,

Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him.
Pretty plain, isn't it?  If you are asking God to get you out of a pit, you need to take time to consider if it is a pit of your own construction.  If you have done something to get someone else in trouble—even if you think you are justified in doing it because that person has hurt you—you need to repent.  Until there is repentance, God will not intervene.

God is not going to get you out of your pit while you have a shovel in your hand. 

~Bayless Conley~

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Gospel of God's Grace # 73

A Study of the Epistle to the Romans

The Christian Life As Exhibited in Transformation - Romans 12:1-21

In the broad sense chapter 12 deals with the theme of the Christian and his manner of life.

Some scholars who do not have a very great regard for God's Word and have rather loose ideas about inspiration, have made a severe attack upon this chapter, declaring that it has neither head nor tail, no systematic arrangement, and that it is just a mass or collection of exhortations. Not only does this criticism show the unspirituality of these men but also their lack of ability to decide in literary matters. Most certainly there is a very beautiful and logical order in this chapter if men have eyes to see it.

Here are the three main ideas in this chapter: 1. consecration (v. 1), 2. humility (v. 3), and 3. love (v. 9).

We are going to make our outline with those three ideas in view. First of all, the Christian life should be a life of consecration (vv. 1-2). Second, the Christian life should be a life of humility (vv. 3-8). Third, the Christian life should be a life of love (vv. 9-21).

Those three ideas in those three sections also present three different attitudes of the Christian. Consecration is the attitude of the Christian toward God. We are to present ourselves to God. Humility describes our attitude toward ourselves. Love describes our attitude to others.

A Life of Consecration

"I beseech you." That is the method of the gospel! What would the law say? "I command you." We are now out from under the law. For "Christ is the end of the law." We are outside the law entirely. So Paul says, rather, "I beseech you." In your attitude toward others, use the beseeching manner rather than the one of command, for that is pleasing in the eyes of God.

"I beseech you therefore." There are three "therefore"s" in the book of Romans, and they mark three great divisions in the book. "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (5:1). "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus" (8:1). "I beseech you therefore" (12:1). Of course, when he uses the word "therefore", it points back to what has gone on before. In the twelfth chapter, where he says, "I beseech you therefore," he is pointing back to all that we said before.

The word "brethren" identifies the group to whom these words are addressed. This word indicates that this chapter is for Christians. When you go out and try to get other men to steer their lives according to this chapter, you will encounter difficulty. If you go to a man who is not a Christian and say, "If thine enemy hunger, feed him," he resents this and rebels. This appeal is directed to the "brethren". It is most essential that we remember that. This is for the Christian and you cannot take the Christian rule of life and apply it to the man who is not a Christian. It is a spiritual impossibility.

"I beseech you therefore, brethren." What does he beseech them by? "By the mercies of God." Shut your eyes and think back through all those eleven chapters. Mercies! That word sums up all that is contained in those chapters, just mercies upon sinners who did not deserve any mercies. Paul does not talk about what we did. He is just talking about what God did for us. He uses those mercies as a great moral dynamic and spiritual incentive.

When you have not revealed to people the mercies of God, you have ignored the most powerful moral factor that the world has ever seen. There is a great mistake of modernism. Assuming that we may give them credit for sincerity, and giving them credit for a desire to see the church live on a higher plane of life, still like the blind leaders that they are, they have lost the one motive, the one factor that is powerful enough to get hold of the hearts of men and raise them up to that plane of righteousness where they ought to be. Until sinners have experienced God's mercies, you will get no place. The mercies of God are the basis of all living that is really holy.

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 74)