Tuesday, July 19, 2011

God's Mercy: Motivation for Dedication (Romans 12:1-2)

The apostle Paul, moved by the Holy Spirit, wrote the book of Romans as an explanation of the Gospel of God’s grace and mercy through Jesus Christ toward undeserving sinners. The first three chapters of Romans establish the universality of sin (all are sinners both Jew and Gentile); the offensiveness of man’s sin to God; and the inability of sinful man to justify himself through his own efforts before God. It is the backdrop of the magnitude of our sin and offensiveness to God that the multitude of God’s mercies toward us are highlighted or displayed from Romans 3:21 to 11:36.

God in His grace sent Jesus Christ, His only Son, to accomplish for us what we cannot accomplish for ourselves. Jesus lived a sinless life under God’s Law upholding the Law perfectly and obtaining the Law’s promise of life – “So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them” (Leviticus 18:5). This we did not and cannot do. We are sinners by nature. This the Lord Jesus Christ did do. He is holy by nature.

Then Jesus died a sacrificial death to pay and uphold the penalty of the Law for those who had earned death by breaking the Law – “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all the things written in the book of the Law, to perform them” (Galatians 3:10); and, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Jesus, the sinless man, was crucified, died, and buried all for crimes that He did not commit.

Then Jesus experienced a supernatural resurrection from the dead to uphold the Law’s promise of life for the one who never sins and so that God could justify sinners on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ. Now sinners can receive mercy from God and be justified by the sinless life of Jesus, the sacrificial death of Jesus, and the supernatural resurrection of Jesus.

The first eleven chapters of Romans clearly show us God’s mercy towards sinners and the benefits of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Romans chapters twelve through sixteen show us the practical outworking of having received God’s mercy through faith in Christ. These chapters show us what God’s mercies motivate us to do.

Paul wrote Romans 12:1-2 in order to motivate the Christians at Rome by God’s mercies to dedicate their bodies, minds and wills totally to God for His service. This passage instructs us that we are to be motivated by God’s mercies to dedicate our bodies, minds, and wills totally to God for His service. God’s Mercy is the motivation for Christian dedication to God.

First, we are to be motivated by God’s mercies to dedicate our bodies totally to His service (Romans 12:1). Paul “urged” the Christians at Rome to present their bodies a living and holy sacrifice to God for His service. The word “urge” means to come alongside and help. Paul’s reminder to the Christians at Rome of God’s mercy toward them in the Gospel was his way of helping them to be motivated to dedicate themselves to God.

The word “present” means that this is to be a once for all commitment to God’s service. This is the language of the Old Testament priesthood and sacrificial system. The sacrifice was offered to God as a gift and it was not taken back – it was once for all.

The sacrifice God is looking for is to be “living” and “holy.” This means that we are to be dead to sin and alive to God. This is acceptable or “well-pleasing” to God. The reason it is “well-pleasing” to God is because we are dedicating our bodies to live for Jesus a life that is true based on His great sacrifice for us. We are being motivated by God’s mercies to serve God out of loving loyalty and not by legalistic manipulation. This is well-pleasing to God. This is also our “reasonable” service of worship. Dedicating our bodies to God because of His mercies to us is logical. We are to be motivated by God’s mercies to dedicate our bodies totally to His service.

Second, we are to be motivated by God’s mercies to dedicate our minds totally to His service (Romans 12:2a). Whoever controls the mind controls the body. The “world” or “spirit-of-the-age” wants us to “conform” to its ways and reflect its values. The world seeks to press us into its mold by bombarding our minds with its ungodly values and ungodly ways. Christians are pressured from every side to compromise with and conform to the world. The remedy for conformity to the world is not self-abasement or severe treatment of the body (Colossians 2:23); the remedy for conformity to the world is to be transformed by the renewing of your mind by dedicating your mind totally to God for His service.

Whoever controls the mind controls the body! This is why the world bombards the minds of men with its sinister thoughts and ideas. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The word “transformed” is where we get the word, “metamorphosis.” We are to be changed from the inside out by the renewing of our minds. This is why self-abasement and severe treatment of the body are of no value against fleshly and worldly indulgence (Colossians 2:23). We dedicate our minds to God by filling them with His Word and meditating on His Word and treasuring His Word (see Philippians 4:8). We are to be motivated by God’s mercies to dedicate our minds totally to His service.

Third, we are to be motivated by the mercies of God to dedicate our wills totally to His service (Romans 12:2b). Technically this phrase is a purpose clause – “So that you may prove what the will of God is....” We dedicate our bodies and our minds totally to God’s service so that we may prove what the will of God is. However, this does have to do with dedicating our wills totally to God’s service. By dedicating our bodies and minds totally to God for His service, we no longer do the will of the devil but now we do the will of God; we no longer to what “we will” but we do God’s will. We say and pray, “Not my will but Yours be done.” As we submit to God’s will, we experience the liberating truth that His will is good, acceptable, and perfect.

We are to be motivated by God’s mercies to dedicate our bodies, minds, and wills totally to God for His service. We are to live for Jesus a life that is true because of His atonement for us.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Wonder of God in Salvation (Romans 11:33-36)

The apostle Paul ended Romans 11 with a doxology. A doxology is a brief formula for expressing praise or glory to God. Doxologies generally contain two elements, an ascription of praise to God and an expression of His infinite nature. This is true of Paul’s doxology in Romans 11:33-36. Here Paul begins with an expression of God’s infinite nature and then gives an ascription of praise to God. The final analysis is that God gets the glory for His ministry.

This doxology is based on how God has not and will not fail to keep His promises to Israel and how God is using Israel’s failure and turning it into salvation for the world. Understanding God’s plan of salvation for the Jews and the Gentiles should result in worshipping God and giving Him glory. Theology becomes doxology! Only a wise and worthy God could take the fall of Israel and turn it into salvation for the world. This doxology is based on the wonder of God in salvation. In it we see three wonders of God.

First, we see that God’s wisdom is unsearchable (Romans 11:33). Paul speaks of the depth of God’s wisdom and knowledge. The word “depth” means the extreme depth of something or that which does not have a bottom. Paul is saying that finite man cannot get to the bottom of God’s infinite wisdom. This infinite wisdom of God can be glimpsed in God’s plan of salvation but it cannot be plumbed. Just the truth alone that God is using the fall of Israel to save the Gentiles should give us a glimpse of God’s wisdom. Since the promises and covenants of God belonged to the Jews, if they would have received Jesus as their Lord and Savior, God would have sent Jesus to restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 3:19-21) and the Gentiles would not have a chance to be saved. In His wisdom, God has seen to it that the first would be last and the last first. In this way we Gentiles have the opportunity to be saved and God is able to accomplish His promises to Abraham (Galatians 3:14).

Not only does Paul speak of the depth of God’s wisdom and knowledge which has no bottom, he also speaks of the judgments of God that are also unsearchable. The opposite of unsearchable is searchable or apparent. What Paul is saying is that God’s judgments are not apparent; they are not searchable. Since the judgments of God are unsearchable, then we must be sure that we do not attempt to discern them by appearance. When it appears to us that God doesn’t know what He is doing, we can rest assured that He does and that it is we who don’t understand what God is doing. Since God’s wisdom and knowledge and judgments are unsearchable then it must be revealed to us in His Word. As we study God’s Word we do not get to the bottom of God’s wisdom but we do see that He knows exactly what He is doing. God’s wisdom is unsearchable.

Second, we see that God’s ways are untraceable (Romans 11:33-35). Unfathomable means that something cannot be traced out. God’s ways cannot be explored. God’s ways are incomprehensible. The word for “ways” means a road that is not heavily traveled. Doesn’t this mean that the way God does something will not be readily apparent to man? This is why God said, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). The ways of God are superior to the ways of man and are not easily understood.

We cannot trace or comprehend all of God’s ways because His ways are higher than ours. Since God’s ways are higher than our ways, we don’t give God advice for the way we think things should be done (Romans 11:34). Has God ever awakened you in the night to ask your advice on how He should do something? Me neither! We are not to argue with God and think that we could have a better plan of salvation than He has. We are to look and see that the wisdom and ways of God are infinitely perfect. Since we cannot get to the bottom of God’s wisdom or trace out His ways, we are to trust them completely because of who He is. We are to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). We don’t become God’s counselor and give Him advice for the way things should be done.

We have never given anything to God so He doesn’t owe us anything (Romans 11:35). What have you ever given to God that makes Him feel like He owes you back? What share do we have in causing God to be more God? What wisdom have we given God? What wealth have we given God? What worth have we added to God? None! God is completely sufficient in His own being. Nothing can be added to God and nothing taken away from Him. He is perfect in wisdom. He is perfect in love. He is perfect in power. He is perfect in His ways. God’s wisdom is unsearchable and His ways are untraceable. We cannot add one iota to better God’s wisdom or ways.

Third, we see that God’s worth is untouchable (Romans 11:36). Since God is perfect in His wisdom and ways and we cannot improve Him, His worth is untouchable. All the glory goes to God for His wisdom and ways in His plan of salvation. God’s wisdom and ways are from Him – they are out of Him – and absolutely have no other source than God Himself.

Salvation is based on the wisdom of God. It is from Him. He has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all (Romans 11:32). Salvation is accomplished by the ways of God. It is through Him. Salvation was offered to the Jew first whom God knew would reject his offer of grace. Now it is being offered to the Gentiles until the fullness of the Gentiles come in. After that it will be offered to the Jew and their fullness will come in (Romans 11:25).

Salvation witnesses to the worth of God. All the glory goes to Him. God owes no man salvation but He gives it to the one who believes the Gospel. And then, those saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ proclaim the excellencies of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light; for they once were not a people, but now they are the people of God; they had not received mercy but now they have received mercy.

His glory is great in thy salvation. We proclaim the excellence of God’s wisdom, the excellence of God’s ways, and the excellence of God’s worth. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.