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Romans

Exposition of Romans – Part 55

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Exposition of romans graphic_phixrThe Absolute Finality of ‘No Condemnation’

Text: Romans 8:1

Introduction:  Are you sure?  This question has become the calling card of Evangelicals who have embraced Postmodernism and as such very much like being identified as “post-conservatives.” The postmodern mindset, with its pronounced epistemology that emphatically denies the possibility of (or need) for propositional truth, is warmly embraced by these purported Evangelicals. Truth, they declare, is not found in statements that correspond to reality (an old fashioned notion they proudly tell us, that is rationalistic and rooted in the Enlightenment).[1]  Truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It is only a matter of one’s perspective.[2]  Evangelicals associated with what goes by the name the Emergent Church embrace this postmodern mindset about truth and then turn around and apply this strange concept to the Bible. The Bible, we are told is “true” only in the sense that it is personally meaningful to the Christian community. For example, Brian McLaren, the leading spokesman for this group, asserts that the Bible is not our foundation nor is it authoritative in the traditional sense.[3]  In McLaren’s most recent work, he attributes this to humility. “A generous orthodoxy,” he explains, “in contrast to the tense, narrow, controlling, or critical orthodoxies of so much of Christian history, doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is humble; it doesn’t claim to answer some questions that will not rest without an answer.” In this case, a non-answer is an answer.[4]  McLaren and those associated with him in the Emergent Church seem to revel in a theology of perpetual doubt. They prefer questions to answers and are seeking to convince (note the irony here) their fellow Evangelicals that this sophisticated and sugarcoated form of relativism is the most effective way of reaching our postmodern world.[5]

But this kind of humility is false. The comments of G.K. Chesterton are as relevant today as ever. “What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition … [and] settled upon the organ of conviction, where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.”[6] More importantly the Apostle asserted very forcefully that he was absolutely sure of theological certainties. “It is a faithful (very trustworthy, i.e. factual) saying that Christ came to save sinners.” (I Tim. 1:15); “The saying is sure, deserving full acceptance (another way of affirming the absolute truthfulness of this statement that we have put our hope in the living God who is the Savior of all men, and especially those who believe.”(I Tim. 4:9, 10); “The saying is sure (another trustworthy affirmation). If we die with Him, we will also live with Him.” (II Tim. 2:11; Titus 3:8); “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced (Paul’s personal conviction that this truth was indisputable) that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”(II Tim. 1:12). In Rom. 8:1 Paul affirms another Apostolic absolute.

I.          Four Great Words & A Key Expression:  Romans 8:1 makes sense only to those who know themselves to be sinners “in the hands of an Angry God.”

A.        No (Ouden):  The word order in the Greek text is very significant. The word OUDEN is highly emphatic by its position at the beginning of the sentence. Literally it could be translated “none at all, of any kind.”

B.        Now:  This is a time word. It harkens back to Romans 5:6, “For while we were still weak at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”

C.        Therefore:  This points back, as we sought to establish earlier in this series, to the nature and effects of justification that is grounded in Christ’s work of making propitiation (Rom. 3:25).

D.        Condemnation:  It’s not that we are not worthy of condemnation—we certainly are (Rom. 3:9-20). This statement is not simply descriptive of our present estate but our future estate as well.

E.        In Christ Jesus:  Charles Hodge has an excellent section in his masterful commentary. “Those who are in Christ are not exposed to condemnation. And this again is not to be understood as descriptive of their present state merely, but of their permanent position. They are placed beyond the reach of condemnation. They shall never be condemned. The meaning of a proposition is often best understood by the arguments by which it is sustained. It is so in this case. The whole chapter is a proof of the safety of believers, of their security not only from present condemnation, but from future perdition. Nothing shall ever separate them from the love of God, is the triumphant conclusion to which the apostle arrives. Those to whom there is and never can be any condemnation, are described, first as to their relation to Christ, and secondly as to their character. The first assigns the reason of their security, the second enables us to determine to whom that security belongs. First, they are in Christ. In what sense? This must be determined, not so much from the force of the words, as from the teachings of Scripture. 1. They are in him federally, as all men were in Adam, I Cor. 15:22; Rom. 5:12-21. 2. They are in him vitally, as the branch is in the vine, John 15:1-7; or, as the head and members of the body are in vital union, I Cor. 12:27; Eph. 1:23. This union arises from the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, I Cor. 12:13; 6:15, 19. 3. They are in him by faith, Eph. 3:17; Gal. 3:26, 27. It is not in virtue of any one of these bonds of union exclusively, but in virtue of the all (so far as adults are concerned,) that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. It follows from the nature of this union, that it must transform the character of those who are its subjects. If, therefore, any man is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature, II Cor. 5:17; John 15:4; Phil. 3:20; Col. 2:6; I John 2:5; 3:6.”[7]

Conclusion:  Douglas Groothuis in his analysis of Postmodernism (especially as articulated by the Emergent Church crowd) says that, “any view of truth that makes truth somehow dependent on our culture as a whole or on our minds or wills makes truth something that we (either collectively or individually) create and control.”[8] This is NOT the Biblical view of truth. People like McLaren relish emphasizing the element of mystery, doubt and uncertainty—all of which are part of our finiteness. Since we are finite (and sinful) beings we cannot know anything exhaustively—which is true—but that does not mean we cannot actually know things. The Emergent crowd view objective truth and concrete propositions with deep suspicion and skepticism. Rob Bell, another influential voice in the Emergent Church has recently come out and advanced the Postmodern notion that the Bible has to be read “open-ended” i.e. we cannot possibly claim any degree of certainty in our interpretations because we cannot know anything with certainty.[9] The Apostle thought otherwise. Paul was absolutely certain of the fact that Christ has secured for His own the verdict of “NO CONDEMNATION.”

References:

 


[1] “Today we’ve lost the confidence that statements of fact can ever be anything more than just opinions; we no longer know that anything is certain beyond our subjective preferences. The word truth now means ‘true for me’ and nothing more. We have entered an era of dogmatic skepticism.” F.J. Beckwith and G. Koukl, Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air (Baker, 1998), p. 20.

 

[2] Postmodernism epistemology is self-refuting as James Parker III points out, “Since postmodernists have shown their hand, one can easily avoid being taken in by their verbal con game. Most simply stated, postmodernism is guilty of being self-referentially absurd. When postmodernists give up the idea of objective truth, there is no reason whatsoever to take what they say as true—particularly since they have conceded up front that nothing is genuinely true.” Cf. his chapter “A Requiem for Postmodernism-Whither Now?” in Reclaiming The Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodations in Postmodern Times eds. M.J. Erickson, P.K. Helseth, J. Taylor (Crossway, 2004), p. 308.

 

[3] B. McLaren, A New Kind of Christian (Jossey-Bass, 2001), p. 53.

 

[4] B. McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy (Zondervan, 2004). Albert Mohler in a very good review of this book correctly pointed out, “The problem with ‘A Generous Orthodoxy,’ as the author must surely recognize, is that this orthodoxy bears virtually no resemblance to orthodoxy as it has been known and affirmed by the church throughout the centuries. Honest Christians know that disagreements over issues of biblical truth are inevitable. But we owe each other at least the honesty of taking a position, arguing for that position from Scripture, and facing the consequences of our theological convictions. Orthodoxy must be generous, but it cannot be so generous that it ceases to be orthodox. Inevitably, Christianity asserts truths that, to the postmodern mind, will appear decidedly ungenerous. Nevertheless, this is the truth that leads to everlasting life. The Gospel simply is not up for renegotiation in the 21st century. A true Christian generosity recognizes the infinitely generous nature of the truth that genuinely saves. Accept no substitutes.” Cf. his article “Is a Generous Orthodoxy Truly Orthodox?” in The Banner of Truth (May 2005), p. 11.

 

[5] A good example of this kind of thing is McLaren’s recent remarks on homosexuality. He writes, “I hesitate in answering ‘the homosexual question’ … Most of the emerging leaders I know share my agony over this question. We fear that the whole issue has been manipulated far more than we realize by political parties seeking to shave percentage points off their opponent’s constituency. We see whatever we say get sucked into a vortex of politicized culture-wars rhetoric—and we’re pastors, evangelists, church-planters, and disciple-makers, not political culture warriors. Those who bring us honest questions are people we are trying to care for in Christ’s name, not cultural enemies we’re trying to vanquish … Frankly, many of us don’t know what we should think about homosexuality. We’ve heard all sides but no position has yet won our confidence so that we can say ‘it seems good to the Holy Spirit and us.’ That alienates us from both the liberals and conservatives who seem to know exactly what we should think … If we think that there may actually be a legitimate context for some homosexual relationships, we know that the biblical arguments are nuanced and multilayered, and the pastoral ramifications are staggeringly complex. We aren’t sure if or where lines are to be drawn, nor do we know how to enforce with fairness whatever lines are drawn.” According to McLaren the Bible simply is insufficient on this issue. He rejects Sola Scriptura and goes on to make this rather astonishing proposal, “Perhaps we need a five-year moratorium on making pronouncements (on Homosexuality).  In the meantime, we’ll practice prayerful Christian dialogue, listening respectfully, disagreeing agreeably … When decisions need to be made, they’ll be admittedly provisional. We’ll keep our ears attuned to scholars in biblical studies, theology, ethics, psychology, genetics, sociology, and related fields … Then in five years, if we have clarity, we’ll speak; if not, we’ll set another five years for ongoing reflection. After all, many important issues in church history took centuries to figure out. Maybe this moratorium would help us resist the ‘winds of doctrine’ blowing furiously from the left and right, so we can patiently wait for the wind of the Spirit to set our course.” Leadership Journal (Jan. 23, 2006) It comes as no surprise that McLaren chooses to identify with that strain of the Anabaptist (Arminian) tradition that traces its roots back to the radical reformation with its contention that the Spirit speaks outside of Scripture. Contra the position of the Reformers that the Spirit only speaks in Scripture and never apart from it. What McLaren is listening to is not the voice of the Spirit speaking in the Scriptures, he is listening to the voice of the spirit of the times. Michael Horton made this observation very clear to McLaren in the book The Church In Emerging Culture: Five Perspectives ed. Leonard Sweet (Zondervan, 2003), p. 211.

 

[6] G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Doubleday, 1957), p. 31.

 

[7] C. Hodge, A Commentary on Romans (rpt. 1972), p. 249.

 

[8] D. Groothuis, “Truth Defined and Defended” in Reclaiming The Center (p. 78).

 

[9] R. Bell, Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith (Zondervan, 2005), p. 28. Echoing the old Liberal mantra, Bell says rather candidly that the Bible is a “human product … rather than the product of divine fiat.” (p. 7) As a result, the Scriptures are not primarily the factual revelation of God acting in human history, but simply various metaphors to help us understand our own subjective experiences. Listen to his account of the Fall, “Is the greatest truth about Adam and Eve that it happened or that it happens? This story … is true for us because it is our story. We have all taken the fruit. We have all crossed boundaries … This is why the Bible loses its power for so many communities. They fall into the trap of thinking that the Bible is just about things that happened a long time ago.” (p. 8) This is in direct contrast to the Apostle Paul, who did not see Adam’s fall as a metaphor to interpret our own experiences! The whole point of Romans 5:12-21 is to establish the historical fact and theological truth of the disobedience the First Adam and the obedience of the Last Adam. Is Christ’s act of obedience a metaphor to help us understand our own experience of obedience?!! The distressing thing about McLaren and Bell is that they were both recently named among the fifty most influential Evangelicals in America.

 

READING OF THE LAW:

 

Leader:   Then God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

 

People:  “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

                 “You shall not make for yourself an idol.”

                 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”

                 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”

                 “Honor your father and your mother.”

                 “You shall not murder.”

                 “You shall not commit adultery.”

                 “You shall not steal.”

                 “You shall not bear false witness.”

                 “You shall not covet.”

 

Leader:   Hear also the words of our Lord Jesus, how He said,

 

People:  “You shall love the lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

 

Romans: An Expositional Commentary

by R.C. Sproul

Dr. Sprouls sermons at St. Andrews Chapel are the foundation of these never-before-published expositions on Pauls epistle to the Romans.

Chrysostom had it read aloud to him once a week. Augustine, Luther, and Wesley all came to assured faith through its impact. The Reformers saw it as the God-given key to understanding the whole of Scripture.

Throughout church history the study of the book of Romans has been pivotal to understanding Christian life and doctrine. Convinced that Pauls fullest, grandest, most comprehensive statement of the gospel is just as vital today, R. C. Sproul delivered nearly sixty sermons on Romans from October 2005 to April 2007 at St. Andrews Chapel, where he has pastored for more than a decade. These never-before-published, passage-by-passage expositions will enrich any study of this weighty epistle.

Endorsements:

“‘R. C. Sproul,’ someone said to me in the 1970s, ‘is the finest communicator in the Reformed world.’ Now, three decades later, his skills honed by long practice, his understanding deepened by years of prayer, meditation, and testing (as Martin Luther counseled), R. C. shares the fruit of what has become perhaps his greatest love: feeding and nourishing his own congregation at St. Andrew’s from the Word of God and building them up in faith and fellowship and in Christian living and serving. The St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary will be welcomed throughout the world. It promises to have all R. C.’s hallmarks: clarity and liveliness, humor and pathos, always expressed in application to the mind, will, and affections. R. C.’s ability to focus on the ‘the big picture,’ his genius of never saying too much, leaving his hearers satisfied yet wanting more, never making the Word dull, are all present in these expositions. They are his gift to the wider church. May they nourish God’s people well and serve as models of the kind of ministry for which we continue to hunger.” Sinclair B. Ferguson (Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina)

“R. C. Sproul, well-known as a master theologian and extraordinary communicator, now shows that he is a powerful, insightful, helpful expository preacher. This collection of sermons is of great value for churches and Christians everywhere.” W. Robert Godfrey (President, Westminster Seminary California)

“R. C. Sproul is the premier theologian of our day, an extraordinary instrument in the hand of the Lord. Possessed with penetrating insight into the text of Scripture, Dr. Sproul is a gifted expositor and world-class teacher, endowed with a strategic grasp and command of the inspired Word. Since stepping into the pulpit of St. Andrew’s and committing himself to the weekly discipline of biblical exposition, this noted preacher has demonstrated a rare ability to explicate and apply God’s Word. I wholeheartedly recommend the St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary to all who long to know the truth better and experience it more deeply in a life-changing fashion. Here is an indispensable tool for digging deeper into God’s Word. This is a must-read for every Christian.” Steven J. Lawson(Senior Pastor, Christ Fellowship Baptist Church, Mobile, Alabama)

Click here to download a sample chapter of this book.

Hardback; 520 pages

About Pastor Gary L.W. Johnson

Gary L. W. Johnson (Senior Pastor of Church of the Redeemer in Mesa, AZ) holds a B.A. from Edison State College; M.A. from Faith Theological Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; Th.M. and PhD. Studies from Westminster Theological Seminary; D. Theol. (cand.) from University of South Africa. He has held several pastorates, and has taught at several colleges. He has written for Table Talk, The Reformation and Revival Journal, Modern Reformation, and The Westminster Theological Journal. He was a contributor to The Coming Evangelical Crisis (Moody Press, 1996), co-editor with Fowler White of Whatever Happened to the Reformation? (P&R, 2001), co-editor with G. P. Waters of By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification (Crossway, 2007), editor of B. B. Warfield: Essays on His Life and Thought (P&R, 2007), and co-editor with Ron Gleason, Reforming or Conforming? A Critique of Post-Evangelicalism (Crossway, 2008).

View all posts by Pastor Gary L.W. Johnson

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