Hebrews Lesson 53 May 11, 2006
NKJ Acts 4:12 "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
Hebrews 5:13-15 focus on the fact that these Hebrew Christians had regressed in their spiritual life. They had become lazy with regard to taking in the Word and lazy with regard to doctrine. As a result they could no longer take in solid food. They could only take in milk.
One of the interesting things about being a pastor is that the local congregation is nothing more than an old fashioned one-roomed school house. That is one of the challenges because spiritually some of you are in kindergarten and some of you want to push into graduate school so to speak. You have one pastor who has got to communicate to everybody in between. We hit doctrines with different levels and we hit doctrines with different degrees of complexity. Sometimes you hit things that are a little tough for you to chew on. I recognize that probably the last month or so as we have gone through this stuff related to epistemology (how you know what you know). That is a little tough for everybody. If you notice I didn't use anything like epistemological rehabilitation. If you paid attention the last month, that is what I was talking about. It is a great term. It just a heavy complex term that most people don't know what it means. It means to renew your thinking and to learn how to think.
Part of learning how to think has to do with discernment. That is what we talked about, some with apologetics and some last week some when we were talking about CS Lewis. As you advance and mature as a believer because you have doctrine in your soul because you know doctrine and you start applying doctrine in terms of thinking, it challenges you because you have to learn how to sift things and how to take things that are good and keep those things and recognize things that aren't quite as good. Too often the decisions we make in life aren't always decisions between what is good and bad, they are decisions between what is good and what is better. That's where it gets a little challenging. But we all read things. We hear different pastors teach. We hear different interpretations of Scripture at times. You read different books written by different men. So you have to exercise discernment. That only comes from the study of the Word and practice at application.
That's what the writer of Hebrews is getting at here in these verses. Because they have regressed, they can't exercise discernment anymore. Because they can't exercise discernment, they aren't making wise decisions. Because they don't make wise decisions, they are regressing in their spiritual life. They are operating in carnality according to the sin nature. For the last month or so depending on which class you were in, Tuesday night in Genesis or here on Thursday night, there has been a complimentary study as we have talked about divine guidance, decision making, the role of reason and experience, mysticism, and all of these different things. Tonight we are going to come back and finish talking about something I began three weeks ago and we interrupted it and now we are going to get back to the leading of the Spirit.
NKJ Hebrews 5:13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.
What is the principle? The principle is that you can't grow beyond the level of the doctrine you are being taught. If all you are being fed is milk, you will never mature as a believer. You'll never get out of nursery school. You will never get out of spiritual diapers. You will never into the first grade.
One of my favorite statements that I love to quote was one made by Dr. Earl Radmacher. Earl is the chancellor of Western Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary up in Portland, Oregon. Earl is probably in his late 70's now. He is just one of these old school crusty theologians. I love Earl because he just doesn't hold back. About 13 or 14 years ago he was the keynote speaker at a pastor's conference that we had at a church in Phoenix, Arizona. At that conference he made a statement as he talked. One thing stood out in my mind. He made the statement that the problem with the evangelical church today is that it is the largest nursery in the world and the nursery workers (the pastors) don't have a clue how to get out the people of diapers. The sad reality is that he nailed it on the head. There is not one pastor out of ten thousand who has a clue what spiritual growth is all about.
I sit down with pastors all the time and say, "Draw a blueprint for me of how a person grows as a Christian."
You see this blank look on their faces. They don't know the process or procedures. They are stabbing in the dark every Sunday morning.
Every message tends to hang in a vacuum. Nobody is growing. They may learn Bible stories and they may learn a few principles here and there. They may learn lot of garbage in the mean time, but they don't have any idea how a believer grows from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity.
I know some of you are parents. I know some of you are good parents. I hope all of you are good parents. Some of you may have been lousy parents. I think one of the characteristics of good parents is that they take time to think about what is involved in maturing their children in taking them through all the different circumstances, decision making processes, learning experiences necessary to take them from being a child to being a mature adult so that at the age of 18 when they graduate from high school; they are ready to go make good wise decisions. Not that they always will. We know that. We don't always make good wise decisions. But that is the purpose of being a parent. The purpose of being a parent is to work yourself out of a job so that when they are 18 they don't need you as a parent anymore. You've done your job. It is supposed to be over. You need to understand facts about nutrition, vitamins, properly balanced meals and all those kinds of things so that they can grow well physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. That all goes into it.
As a pastor you are the parent of a whole bunch of folks who are growing spiritually. It is my job (and the job of every pastor) to teach and to train people. I don't know what the word is - facilitators or they're CEO's of a large business which is the local church. All these other models come in and now one seems to understand that shepherding is a metaphor used in Scripture for a pastor. It has to do with taking the sheep to the fields where they can eat the right kind of food and keeping them away from the wrong kind of food. It has to do with leadership in that spiritual dimension in taking them to places where the sheep can grow and mature. This is what the writer of Hebrews is doing. This is a very pastoral letter. Maybe that will challenge your view of what it means to be a pastor. Even men I know who are great teachers (I have had tremendous teachers in seminary in Bible classes or heard them in conferences) but then when you go hear them on Sunday morning, what they do on Sunday morning is totally different from what they do on Tuesday night or Thursday night. If you have noticed what we do here on Sunday morning isn't any different from what we do on Tuesday night or Thursday night. There is a reason for that. The job of the pastor is to provide what is necessary to produce growth in the sheep. And Sunday morning sermons in typical homiletic classes focus more on encouragement rather than teaching how to live, teaching the skills for living the spiritual life. As a result of that people are encouraged. But they don't know what they are being encouraged about.
"Just go out there and live the Christian life."
"What is it? How do I do it? What are the skills involved? What are the techniques involved?"
They don't know. Most people show up when? Sunday morning. So 90% of the people only show up once a week and they are not being taught any content. That is reserved for the people who really want to go somewhere on Wednesday night or whenever. So, the other half gets pabulum on Sunday morning. They think that is all there is so they are never encouraged to want more.
Yet as Peter tells us…
NKJ 1 Peter 2:2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,
That's a command to desire and hunger for the Word.
We see this same use of this metaphor of milk in the Scripture in Hebrews 5:13.
NKJ Hebrews 5:13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.
I am going to translate that "message pertaining to righteousness." It is an objective genitive.
The word there translated unskilled is apeiros meaning inexperienced or unskilled or ignorant of true doctrine. He is not practicing those spiritual skills that we are talking about that are necessary to solve problems and move forward spiritual life. They are unacquainted with those things. All they get is basics related to salvation over and over and over again. I think there is a book somewhere that is called, 5000 Different Ways to Say the Gospel, and that is it. They have got 5,000 different gospel sermons and that is as far as it goes.
NKJ Hebrews 5:14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
What I am doing here right now and have been for several weeks is application. But it is a different form of application that what most people think of as application. Many folks think application means you are is you are going to give me five points on how to use grace orientation as a problem solving device or you are going to give me ten points on impersonal love or you are going to give me five ways I can be a better husband or six ways I can be a submissive wife or nine different ways I can have an effective prayer life. That is what most people think of as application. But that is a superficial application. It is good, and many of those are fine and good principles that we all need to learn, but there is something that goes beyond that. It's a little deeper. It's that whole framework of thinking that envelopes all of those skills. That relates to solid food.
"Reason of use" is really a bad translation. The word in Hebrew is hexis meaning skill or proficiency - those who consistently practice the spiritual skills – confession of sin, walking by the spirit, faith rest drill, grace orientation, doctrinal orientation, personal sense of your eternal destiny, personal love for God the Father, impersonal love for all mankind. All of these spiritual skills are what is necessary to grow as a believer.
By practice they have their senses exercised. Exercise is relates to discipline. Discipline from the Greek word gumnazo. This is discipline.
Discipline isn't always fun. If you have been in the military and you have been through boot camp that is what discipline is all about. It was not the most fun you ever had in your life probably going through boot camp with a drill sergeant because you had to practice certain things over and over and over again.
As a pastor, part of the pastor's responsibility is to teach things over and over again until they finally begin to click. And it is true for all of us. We go through and we listen to things. We hear the same lesson over and over again.
One day we go, "Yeah, that's what it is all about. I finally figured that out. That's what he is saying."
We all learn at different rates at different speeds. Different things come together at different times. It's that constant practice. I said earlier we can only grow to the level that we are being taught. I am a firm believer in the fact that teaching needs to be about an inch over everybody's head - not all the time (then you will drown), but a lot of the time. The professors that I remember in college and the teachers I had in high school that I liked and respected and was attracted to were the ones that made me stand on my tiptoes mentally to figure out it was that they were teaching and saying. I swear my freshmen Western Civ prof who I have communicated with now and then over the years who I don't think is a believer and I have argued with his liberal protestant theology for years. Those of you who know Paul Shockley over at Pine Valley he was one of Paul's mentors going through undergraduate work as well. We have that in common. I swear he gave us graduate books to read in undergraduate courses. I have never been so challenged and prepared for things that I did later on than somebody who was teaching just a little overhead. Sometimes if I am a little bit over your head that's why. I want you to stand on your tiptoes because there is a lot of growing that we all need.
As this passage says, it is through discipline. Usually to learn discipline you have to have it imposed from outside – that is the pastor toward you by having your senses disciplined to do what? To discern both good and evil. This is the ability to evaluate and to distinguish. It is the ability to think critically about what you hear, what you read and what you see. That is sort of a framework for what I am going to do next as we go into a study of the leading of the Holy Spirit. This is a phrase that is misused and abused by way too many people, and good people too. I remember hearing a classmate of mine he was going to write his THM thesis on leading of the spirit. He told me what his view was.
I went, "Huh? Well, now I believe that."
I had never heard that because everybody that you hear talking about the leading of the Spirit has a tendency to equate it with divine guidance in decision making - not decision making related to the moral will of God as to what is right and wrong spiritually, but decision making in the non-moral areas of life, decision making related to whether or not I ought to go to Texas Tech or Texas A&M or whether or not I ought to live in Houston, Texas or Preston, Connecticut or whether or not I ought to go to the west coast or east coast or whether or not I ought to go - don't get too upset here – into the army or navy. These are non-moral decisions, but they are real decisions that we all have to make in life. We wrestle with them. Whether or not to invest money in this or that buy this house or that house, whether to have three kids or four kids face and all of these kinds of decisions that we face in life are non-moral issues. People wrestle with these things. We want God to tell us what to do. We have gone through this in divine guidance. We want for God to tell us what to do because basically then we can blame God if things don't go right. That gets down to the bottom line – if things don't go right we can blame God. We don't want to take the risk to make a decision and say, "I am going to go here and I am going to study this and risk this." And then have it fail. We want to make sure that God is going to tell us that it is okay. We are so insecure we want to treat God like - do you remember Linus in Peanuts and his security blanket? We think God is our security blanket. In some sense He is our security, but He is not our security blanket.
The leading of the Spirit is not the same as divine guidance. This is a question part of what we are answering here. Is the leading of the Spirit the same as divine guidance? One reason it is important to do this is because as American Christians we are the objects of a long train of historically poor Christian vocabulary. As a result we have people walking around asking folks if they want to invite Jesus into their heart. The Bible never expresses the gospel that way. Do you want to commit your life to Jesus? The Bible never expresses the conditions of salvation with that kind of terminology.
I walked into a grocery store today and there was a lady out there representing some church.
She said, "How are you doing?"
I was being polite and I said, "I'm fine. How are you doing?"
"I am blessed."
I've heard that so much. You hear that. What does that mean? We take these phrases from Scripture and we take them out of context and use them again and again. They end up becoming of impoverished of all meaning and all substance. The leading of the Spirit and divine guidance have gotten confused to where people think that the phrase "leading of the Spirit" (technically it is leading by means of the Spirit) (Galatians 5:18, Romans 8:14) is talking about God telling you what to do in the day-to-day, down-to-earth decisions that we all make.
Good theologians aren't much help at times, like Charles Ryrie. I just love this quote. We started with this several weeks ago. Part of this evening is review so that we get back on track. This is the kind of thing I used to love to do when I was teaching theology at the College of Biblical studies years ago. What I love to do in class is take a quote like this and put it on the final and tell them to write an 8-page critique of this quote. Any good Bible college student ought to be able to do that not to mention a seminary student. Just because it is written in a book doesn't mean it is right. Even if it written by a good theologian doesn't mean that he is always right. I recommend Ryrie's "Basic Theology" to many people. It is a very good basic theology. Actually it is intermediate theology today when you realize how low the bar of expectation has dropped. What used to be basic is pretty advanced today.
After quoting Romans 8:14, Ryrie states in his paragraph on divine guidance…
Leading is a confirmation of sonship for sons are led. This work of guidance is particularly the work of the Spirit. Romans 8:14 states it and the book of Acts amply illustrates it.
So he is going into Acts as an illustration.
One of the first things I learned in seminary is that you don't go to Acts for doctrine because it is a transitional book. That means it is a transition between the Age of Israel and the Church Age. And Ryrie recognizes that. He is not using Acts for the foundation; he is using it to illustrate. But as we pointed out when we went through and looked at all of these verses, they don't substantiate his point.
He then goes on to say….
This ministry of the Spirit is one of the most assuring ones for the Christian. The child of God never needs to walk in the dark. He is always free to ask and receive direction from the Spirit Himself.
Are we to pray to the Holy Spirit? That is one question. Look at that last sentence. No. We pray to God the Father. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us. That's in Romans 8. When we don't know what to pray for we know that the Holy Spirit is interceding for us. We don't pray to our intercessor. You pray to the one He is praying to. You don't pray to Jesus because He is our intercessor. We pray to the Father. All of the examples in Scripture of prayer are directed to the Father. He is the head of the family. We have trouble sometimes understanding that in terms of the relationships in the trinity. There is an authority structure in the trinity. The Father is the boss. That doesn't mean that He is more equal. As Americans we have problems with authority because we think if someone is in authority they are better than the person that is under them and someone who is under authority is inferior to the person in authority. That is not always true. Many of us have had to work for people who were mentally, spiritually, morally inferior to us. That is where the test was. We had to submit to their authority. So authority has nothing to do with inferiority or superiority. So we don't pray to the Spirit anyway.
What about receiving direction from the Spirit? How does that happen in an era today when revelation has ceased? There is no more special revelation. God doesn't give one flash for "yes" and two flashes for "no". You don't get the Urim and Thummim like the priests in the Old Testament had with these different vibrations. We covered all of that in divine guidance. So how are we going to look at this statement?
Another error that is made here is that the phrase "sons of God" in Romans 8:14 is a different word in the Greek than the phrase translated "sons of God" in John 1:12. John 1:12 was the second verse I memorized. The first was I John 1:9 when I was 2 years old. That was the first complete statement my mother said I ever stated. She knew I would need that. The second was John 1:12.
NKJ John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
But there is a different word there. It is teknon meaning a child, a member of the family. Here it is huios meaning an adult or matured son. It is important because it tells us that what Paul is talking about in Romans 8:14 is not entry into the family, but maturity within the family. Maturity within the family is a result of being led by the Spirit.
Now Ryrie about two pages after he has this comment has a great discussion on the differences between the two. I think there are some editorial differences here. This is almost a verbatim quote from on of the first books he ever wrote in the early 50's. In light of other things Dr. Ryrie taught I feel like (I have seen this in many places) he went in and took things from earlier works and put those in there without rethinking the paragraph. He relates being led by the Spirit to divine guidance.
The question we have to ask is to go to the passage itself and say, "Is Romans 8 really talking about divine guidance or is it talking about something else?"
Of course at a superficial level it will appear to us that because the word "led" is there that it means being guided or directed. But there is nothing in the context that suggests that. First of all daily down-to-earth decisions are not in the context. You can read the whole chapter of Romans 8 and not once does it talk about making daily decisions – where to go to school, who to marry, where to live, what kind of career to choose. That is nowhere in the context.
The second thing is that nothing in the context suggests directive guidance through inward impressions, vibrations, a sense of peace, still small voice or any of the other multitudes of ways that people have tried to articulate and explain this inner subjective directive ministry of God the Holy Spirit.
Some people may skip down to verse 16….
NKJ Romans 8:16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit
and stop there.
It's like they don't read the rest of the verse. The rest of the verse says what he is witnessing about….
that we are children of God,
He does bear witness to us. There is some sort of assurance communicated by the Holy Spirit – that we are children of God. He communicates that. He gives us a sense of assurance. It doesn't say that His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we ought to go to Texas A&M. I know some of you may have thought that. But, it doesn't say that. I will get closer to home. It doesn't that His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that I should marry you. It doesn't say that either. I know that is treading on sensitive ground for some of you, but the Scripture does not say that. It says that His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. We are saved. That is what that is talking about assurance of salvation.
Third, there is no suggestion in the context of the goal of decision making. It just isn't there. How do we import decision making into this passage? If it isn't there what in the world does "leading of the Spirit" mean anyway? This seems to be important.
Ryrie in that quote cited several passages that he said illustrated the principle from the book of Acts.
I just want to review these quickly.
NKJ Acts 8:28 was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet.
NKJ Acts 8:29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go near and overtake this chariot."
This is a situation where the Ethiopian eunuch is returning to his land. On the way back he is reading from Isaiah and the Holy Spirit transports Phillip there and tells him to run up and overtake the chariot and talk to him and give him the gospel. Again that is special revelation.
NKJ Acts 10:19 While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are seeking you.
Special revelation again.
NKJ Acts 10:20 "Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them."
The context again is special revelation. It is not day-to-day decision making.
NKJ Acts 13:2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, "Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
So the Holy Spirit is again giving special revelation.
One of the questions that often come to young men who think they ought to go to the ministry is how you know that God has called you to the ministry. A lot of guys get wrapped up in that.
"How do I know?"
"Do you think you have the gift of pastor teacher? Do you think that is your spiritual gift?"
God is not going to flash the lights. You are not going to go to bed at night and say, "If I wake up in the morning and fleece is wet then I have got it and if the fleece is dry I don't."
You don't do that. There is no such thing as the call. There is no liver quiver that comes along and tells you that you have a certain spiritual gift or to go into the ministry. Once again it is a matter of wisdom. It is a matter of taking the doctrine in your soul and applying it. The tragedy today is that we don't have young men who have the spiritual gumption, guts, intestinal fortitude to go through the training to be pastors. We are raising a generation of male spiritual wimps. They don't want to go to the mission field. They don't want to go be pastors. They want to go make money. The really sad thing is that not only are we raising a generation of male spiritual wimps; we are raising a generation of female spiritual weenies.
There was a study done at Denver Theological Seminary about 5 years ago and they were concerned about the high divorce rate of their graduates. Fifty years ago we would have never thought about a high divorce rate among seminary students. Why were there high divorce rates? When their husbands got out of seminary and they went to Podunk Junction Bible Church and got paid $40,000 a year she couldn't have a BMW. She didn't like it and she couldn't shop where she wanted to shop and go to Neiman Marcus and all of these other places. There is such a thing as real sacrifice in the ministry at times. Women didn't want to put up with it. They didn't want to follow their man into serving the Lord and the material sacrifices that would go along with that.
So they said, "I am out of here."
They found out that the women had their career track and the men had their career track. As long as there wasn't a conflict it was okay. As soon as he got invited to pastor a church in one part of the country and IBM wanted to transfer them to another part of the country, they went, "Hasta la vista baby. You are one your own."
Now he is out of the pastorate. We are in a terrible state today. Young men aren't being challenged. Jim Myers has come back several times. He has been to a variety of doctrinal churches raising support.
One of the things he said is, "Robby, pastors today aren't challenging the people in the church to be missionaries. They are not challenging them to be pastors. Pastors today aren't challenging the young people in their congregation to look upon full time professional Christian work as a viable career alternative."
Do you know what one of the biggest obstacles is? Parents!
"You need to get a real job."
I can't tell you how many young men I have challenged over the years who really wanted to go to Bible college and then to seminary. They wanted to go into full time professional Christian work.
Parents came along and said, "You need to learn to be an accountant or you need to learn to be a lawyer. You need something where you can make some money - something you can fall back on."
And so parents have no vision.
"It is all great for us to have a pastor who teaches the Word and has gone through 6 or 8 years of sacrifice and training to be a pastor and we need that, but not for my little Billie. And my little Susie is going to marry a minister? A minister of what? Minister of state? A minister of education? Gospel minister? Oh no, we can't have that."
People have lost the vision. The most important job is the whole world is to be a pastor. I remember a professor saying this when I first went to seminary and I didn't really grasp it at the time. The most significant job is the whole world is to be a pastor. That is an awesome responsibility and an incredible privilege. If people don't have pastors that teach them how to live the spiritual life and grow spiritually how are they going to learn? How are they going to hear the gospel? How are they going to grow spiritually? How are they going to face the problems and difficulties in life without knowledge of the Word? No job or career is more vital or more significant than being a pastor. But people would rather have all of the facade of affluence and the material things that we have in life than to go through seminary. Seminary is costly.
You can't learn to be a really good pastor by listening to someone's tapes. You can't learn to be a surgeon by sitting up in the observation deck and watch a man carve up people. You aren't going to learn to be a surgeon that way. Yet we have all these churches and pastors who didn't go to seminary – there is your first clue. They didn't go to seminary out of pure arrogance. I am being judgmental, but then I know these guys. Out of pure arrogance they were afraid they were going hear something that they couldn't agree with. Why couldn't they handle it? Insecurity.
They do not have enough doctrine to have discernment. That is what Hebrews is talking about. The only way you are going to learn discernment is to hear something that you don't agree with. If you only hear things you agree with you will never learn to think. You will always be a spiritual cripple leaning on something else. Yet we have to have pastors who are challenging missionaries, challenging young people to be pastors.
If they don't have a vision to be missionaries or pastors, do you think these pastors in churches have a vision to support a seminary? No. A seminary is designed to train people. They aren't interested in challenging anybody to go do these things. That's why out of maybe out of 200 doctrinal churches across this country there are less than 20 in a legitimate seminary training. I bet that there are less that 50 wanting to go into the ministry. I remember years ago you would look on a prayer list in any of these churches and see 50, 60, 70 men listed going to Dallas Seminary, not to mention other seminaries.
We have got to get back to basics in the Christian life. The only way to do that is get our priorities back on Scripture.
You go through Acts. This is not the call to the pastorate. This is not a call to the ministry. Paul was already designated an apostle. This doesn't have anything to do with that. This has to do with special revelation during the transition period where Saul and Barnabas were going to begin the big transition which was taking the gospel to the Gentiles as opposed to just a Jewish orientation which it had been up to this point.
NKJ Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
So what is this talking about? To understand this, we have to understand the context. That is another place where I think exegesis and doctrinal teaching have broken down. We take so much time to analyze a phrase like "led by the Spirit of God" that we lose sight of the fact that it's in a context. Every phrase is in the context of a sentence. Different phrases take on different nuances depending on their context. For example, Romans 8:14 uses the phrase "led by the Spirit of God." We have that phrase used three times in the Scripture. It is used in Romans 8:14, Galatians 5:18, and Luke 4:1. What is the difference in those three contexts? Galatians 5 is almost a mirror image of Romans 8. It is a contrast between walking by the Spirit and walking according to the flesh. What is Luke 4 talking about? Jesus being led by the Spirit went into the wilderness. It is a totally different context. There you have the impeccable incarnate Second Person of the Trinity. What is going on there has to do with His divine mission as the Messiah. It's a totally different issue. It is in a different dispensation when there is still special revelation going on. So you see context makes all the difference in the world.
So you have to look at the overall context. You not only have the immediate context but every phrase is in the context of a sentence. Every sentence is in the context of a paragraph. Every paragraph is in the context of a subsection of a book. Every subsection is a subdivision of a book. Every subdivision of a book is in the context of the whole book that is within the context of the Pauline epistles, the Petrine epistles, the Johanine epistles. They are in the context of the New Testament. That is within the context of the whole Bible. I remember the first time I heard that with Prof. Howard Hendricks up at Dallas Seminary in Bible study methods.
I went, "Huh. I thought all you needed to do was sit there and make sure you knew how each verb fit grammatically within the sentence." You need to know a whole lot more than that. You have to look at the context.
Romans 8 is in the context of a three chapter section that began in Romans 6:1. Romans 6, 7, and 8 focus on the results of justification – in other words how the justified believer is supposed to live now that he is saved.
Romans 1:17 is actually the key verse for Romans structurally.
NKJ Romans 1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
It is the gospel.
The righteousness of God relates to God's justice. It is the Greek word dikaiosune which can mean either righteousness or justice depending on the context.
That is God's justice. His integrity is manifested in human history. It is revealed from faith to faith – from saving faith to spiritual growth faith - two different categories of faith.
"Those who are justified by faith shall live." That is different from the translation you have in your Bible. Your Bible probably translates that "the justified shall live by faith". That is not what it is talking about. The first part of Romans talks about what it means to be justified by faith. Then starting in chapter 6 it starts talking about how those who are justified by faith are to live the spiritual life. Paul develops his argument, his structure of what he is trying to teach, in a very orderly manner. The first three chapters he demonstrates that the Jew and Gentile alike all violate God's righteous standard. A verse that we should all have memorized and everybody here should know.
NKJ Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
That's the conclusion. The Jews have sinned. The Gentiles have sinned.
The example here is Abraham. God imputed His righteousness to Abraham when he expressed his faith. That's the foundation. So God freely gives His righteousness to the individual when they have faith alone in Christ alone. The result of that is the peace with God – chapter 5. Now that you have got them lost in chapters 1-3, justified in chapters 4-5, how do they live? That is chapter 6.
There has been a change that has taken place. You are not longer a slave to the sin nature; you are now a slave to righteousness positionally. But you and I both know that we like to go back to the old bad habits of being a slave to the sin nature. That is what Paul is struggling with in chapter 7. Perfect righteousness cannot be produced by the believer alone. He still goes back to being a slave to the sin nature even though positionally he has been freed. It is not until chapter 8 that you have the Holy Spirit is mentioned.
The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in chapter 6. The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in chapter 7. You don't get the Holy Spirit until chapter 8. Only the Holy Spirit can produce righteousness in the life of the justified believer. That is what Romans 8 is all about. It is a contrast between the believer who is living his life according to the Spirit and the believer who is living his life according to the sin nature. Haven't we seen that somewhere before? That is what Galatians 5 is doing. It is in that context that we have the statement that those who are led by the Spirit are the mature children of God.
Romans 8 has to be understood within the context of chapters 6, 7, and 8.
NKJ Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
The word for condemnation is the Greek word katakrima which is only used three times in the New Testament. All 3 (other than this time) are in Romans 5, because of condemnation and because of sin. What we learn is that the believer is no longer under a judicial penalty from the Supreme Court of Heaven. There is no judicial penalty. This very statement in Romans 8:1 throws us back to the use of condemnation in Romans 5, which is talking about justification.
The arena of application here - there is now therefore no condemnation to those who are where? In Christ. It's positional truth. At the instant you put your faith alone in Christ alone, you were identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. This is Romans 6:3.
NKJ Romans 6:3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
I bet some of you thought it was water baptism. There are so many people that come along and want to make it water baptism. There are 8 different types of baptism in the Bible. Only three of them are wet. The rest of them are dry. In fact when you have the baptism of Noah the wet ones are the ones that die. It is the dry ones that are secure. When you have the baptism of Moses the wet ones are the ones that die. It is the dry ones who went through the Red Sea dry that are saved. So we have to define baptism. It means identification. That's its significance. Baptism means to be identified with something.
This is the baptism by means of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who identifies us with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It positionally separates us and completely separates us from everything that preceded our salvation. The arena of application of Romans 8:1 takes us right back to what occurred at the instant of salvation.
Verse 1 (Romans 8:1) reviews the point established in Romans 6:1-5 which emphasizes the potential of walking in new life. That is what Romans 6 is all about.
It starts off with a rhetorical question.
NKJ Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
God is gracious. He forgives us. Let's just go out and sin. That is the antinomian answer. The more we sin, the more God gets to be gracious to us. The more grace, the more wonderful it is. Right?
Paul said, "No. Certainly not."
That is a mild way of putting it. It is a very strong negation. Of course not! How absurd! I like the old King James, "God forbid." It catches the sense of the Greek.
NKJ Romans 6:2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
We can't. That is what Paul is saying here. If you are a believer and you understand what happened to you at salvation in terms of your identification with Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection; how in the world can you think that you can just go on sinning and living like you did before you were saved? You can. But how can you? You obviously don't understand the divine transaction at the cross. Once you do, you begin to realize that things change. There is a potential of walking in new life because the old life is over with. There is emancipation from the tyranny of the sin nature, but not the presence of the sin nature.
Before you were saved the only thing you could do was live your life according to the sin nature. Did you realize that? Before you were saved that was all you could do. You may produce a lot of human good and a lot of morality and a lot of religious observance, but it still comes out of the sin nature because there are only two options – sin nature or Holy Spirit. If it's not coming from the Holy Spirit (it can't when you are an unbeliever), then it can only come from the sin nature. That's all you could do. You were a slave to the sin nature. But, you have been emancipated.
The trouble is – it is just like in the South after the War of Northern Aggression. There were all of these slaves that were freed but they didn't have any capacity for life. They didn't have any education. They didn't have any training. They just stayed on the plantation. You won't be taught that in schools anymore. They want to make it sound like there was black flight up to the North. But that's not true. Many of them stayed because that was the only family they knew. They stayed on that plantation for two or three generations. They were free. They had the potential to go somewhere else. Because they didn't have any knowledge, they couldn't live as if they were free. They still thought and acted like slaves. You see the same dynamic going on with the Exodus generation. They had no capacity. Capacity for freedom comes from knowledge – knowledge of the Word. Capacity for freedom in the spiritual life is the same way. It comes from knowledge of the Word and the transaction that occurred on the cross and its implication for our lives. That is what Paul is doing in chapter 6.
Romans 8:1 takes us right back to a summary of what he already said in Romans 6.
NKJ Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
So right here we begin to see that there is a contrast between two polar opposites. There is a contrast between mutually exclusive realities or principles - law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus versus the law of sin and death. These are opposites.
Who is he talking to? Believers or unbelievers? He is talking to believers. When you talk about the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, he is talking about the fact that in Christ where there is no condemnation there is a principle of life. But see if you are not applying the principles of doctrine, it is not being actuated in your spiritual life. It is just a potential. A lot of believers are still living under the control of the sin nature. So law here recognizes a principle. You either have the principle of spirit of life in Christ or the principle of law of sin and death. Life and death are opposites. You have to remember that there are 7 different kinds of death is the Scripture – spiritual death (foundation of all the other kinds of death), physical death, sexual death, positional death, carnal death, operational death, and the second death. Those are all the different kinds of death. What he is talking about here? What he is talking about is operational death. He is not talking about dying physically. He is not talking about spiritual death. He is talking about the fact that when we operate on the sin nature we are operationally dead producing dead works. We are in carnality.
The term life also has different nuances in the Scripture. You have eternal life, which means never ending life. You also have life in the sense of fullness of life, the abundant life, that God has for us.
NKJ John 10:10 "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
It is the full rich orb dimension of life that Jesus Christ promises for us. That comes only by walking Holy Spirit. That is the contrast here to fully experience the potential of your new life in Christ or live like you were still an unbeliever.
To understand the context here we have to go down to verse 12. Paul speaks.
NKJ Romans 8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors -- not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.
The problem that we have here is that we (are running out of time) have all of these great sinful habit patterns. They really work for us, don't they? They bring us a lot of pleasure. They help alleviate a lot of adversity. When we come under a lot of tension, we blow off steam or we get mad at people and bite their heads off. Everybody has got their own thing. Those are our human viewpoint escape valves that deal with the pressure that has built up in our souls as a result of adversity. And we feel like that is how we have to respond in those circumstance because for 15, 20, 35 years that has been our habit pattern. And it works for us.
"I don't like a lot of what he says but some of what he says is good common sense. Dr. Phil says…."
That is really working for you, isn't it? Yeah! The sin nature works for us a lot. That is why we chose those habit patterns (and they are sinful habit patterns) because it appears to work for us. But, ultimately it breaks down. Ultimately we are going to have to pay the piper. Ultimately we are going to reap what we sow.
NKJ Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Now who is the "you" referring to here? Romans unbelievers? No, Roman believers. You West Houston Bible Church believers. That is who he is talking to. If you are living according to the flesh, you must die. It is operational death. He is not talking about physical death. It is not the sin unto death. It is not any of those things.
Ahh….That means when we get into those situations and the natural habit pattern that we have had for years we have all got them and we want to respond to that situation in sin the way we always have. What this is saying is you don't have to. You are not under obligation to do it. You can break that habit because you have the Holy Spirit who gives you the option to live according to the Holy Spirit and apply the principles of doctrine where there is real change. Some people believe that people can never change. The Word of God says you can change. Any body can change. There is real hope but it is only if you are using the Word of God with the Spirit of God and you are serious about it. Most people aren't serious because they have comfortable sin patterns that have been working for them for years.
Even when they get passed it they say, "Okay. I am out of that trouble." or "I am out of that jam. I am going back. They really work for me. That was my comfort zone."
See, what the spiritual life is all about is getting you out of your comfort zone and into a life of walking by the Holy Spirit. That isn't necessarily fun or pleasant. So you see a contrast in Romans between living according to the flesh and living by the Spirit.
We will stop there. I want to take some more time to go through these passages in Romans 8. Romans 8 is one of the most important chapters in the Scripture on the spiritual life. We will go from there into Galatians 5 to deal with a proper understanding of the concept of leading by the Spirit. It doesn't have anything to do with divine guidance.
I had a lady in my class this morning say, "The Spirit led me here."
The Spirit never led anybody to Houston - not in the Biblical use of the term "lead." Divine providence may have directed your steps here. Don't use a Biblical phrase in a non-biblical way. This is how Satan destroys biblical vocabulary. We start using biblical terms in non- biblical ways. The next thing that happens is those non biblical ways become imported in to the Scripture and now we are misinterpreting the Scripture because we are taking a non biblical use of a term or phrase and reading it back into the Scripture. I am trying to straighten out a lot of sloppy vocabulary and hopefully in the process give you a better understanding of how to live the spiritual life.