Exposition of 1 Corinthians 3:10–15 Grace and a test by fire

1 Corinthians 3:10–15

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved — even though only as one escaping through the flames.

Paul consistently gives credit to God, but he does not hesitate to speak about the responsibility God has placed on him. When Paul mentions “the grace God has given me” (1 Cor. 3:10), Fee says, it “would refer especially to his apostolic task of founding churches.”[1] The updated NIV says Paul’s role was “builder,” but most other translations say “master builder” (ESV, NET, HCSB, CEB, NASB, NAB, RSV, NEB, KJV) for the Greek architekt?n, a combination of recognized skill and project oversight.[2] In matters of identity, details matter because it is God who has given us our identity in Christ. In relation to the Corinthians, Paul was not merely a wandering teacher, he was the God-appointed master builder.

Paul changes from the metaphor of the church as a field (verses 6–9) to the church as a building. What makes him a “skilled master builder” is that he laid the foundation of Christ crucified (1 Cor. 3:11). Now others are building on that foundation, but with what skill? “Each one should build with care” (1 Cor. 3:10).

Ben Witherington makes the notable point that “Paul’s work could be harmed either by the Corinthians tinkering with the foundation and changing it or by the Corinthians building the wrong sort of superstructure on the right foundation.”[3] The reason to build carefully is based on the certainty that a fiery day of testing is coming to “test the quality of each person’s work” (1 Cor. 3:13). Garland pointedly says, “Whether one’s work will endure awaits more than the test of time; it awaits the test of the end time.”[4]

Whether or not the Corinthians have concern for Paul’s opinion, “the Day” (1 Cor. 3:13) is coming when “the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.” David Garland says, “’The day’ refers to the end-time judgment (cf. Rom. 13:12; 1 Cor. 1:8, 5:5; 2 Cor. 1:14; Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16; 1 Thess. 5:2, 4; 2 Thess. 2:2).” The more fully expanded name is the Day of the Lord, an Old Testament term that Paul converted into “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8).

Verse 14 seems plain enough — “if what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward” — and yet it has produced controversy. Gordon Fee says: “The theme of ‘reward’ harks back to v. 8, and suggests that appropriate ‘pay’ will be given for appropriate labor. For some this has been a difficult idea to reconcile with Paul’s doctrine of grace [God’s kindness toward us in Jesus Christ] . . . . How can grace receive ‘pay’?”[5]

Your understanding of grace — God’s kindness — will be greatly enhanced if you pay attention to what it says about God rather than what is says about us. Out of a heart of love, God sent his Son to die for the sins of the world (John 3:16). This act had nothing to do with obligation and everything to do with the merciful nature of God. On this basis of Christ crucified, this gift of grace, God made it possible for us to accept the amnesty he offered and be saved from eternal judgment.

In a similar way, God was not obligated to offer reward for faithful service, but it pleased him to do so. Jesus expressly taught his disciples that he expected their faithful stewardship until he returned and that they would receive reward commensurate with that service, some more than others. See Luke 19:12–27, Matt. 25:14–28 and Matt. 24:45–51 for the details.

There will be some whose work is consumed by the fire of judgment (1 Cor. 3:15), and yet their salvation will stand. Garland aptly summarizes both outcomes by saying, “Brilliant work does not earn salvation; lackluster work does not lose it.”[6]

Copyright © 2012 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987) 137–138.

[2] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 308.

[3] Ben Witherington III, Conflict & Community in Corinth (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995) 133–134.

[4] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003)117.

[5] Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 143.

[6] Garland, 1 Corinthians, 118.

Exposition of Romans 5:15–16 Through Jesus, grace multiplies to all

Most who read this study have never felt the terror of being caught in a hopeless trap. So, it is hard to imagine the depth of desperation involved. Thomas Howes knows, because he was held by FARC guerillas in the jungles of Colombia for over five years. Every day he wore a heavy chain which would be padlocked to a tree or some other object. Insects, heat, abuse, poor food, and boredom were his constant companions. No one was looking for him, and no one was coming.

On July 2, 2008, Howes and other hostages were taken to a FARC helicopter to be moved; they almost refused to board out of fear. Once they entered and took off, a brave group of disguised Columbian soldiers suddenly subdued the FARC guards and flew the stunned hostages to safety!

Jesus did the same thing for us, even if we never knew how hopelessly chained we were. His gracious gift made it possible for billions of people to be justified. But will they accept the rescue by faith?

(NET) Romans 5:15–16  But the gracious gift is not like the transgression. For if the many died through the transgression of the one man, how much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ multiply to the many! 16 And the gift is not like the one who sinned. For judgment, resulting from the one transgression, led to condemnation, but the gracious gift from the many failures led to justification.

Romans 5:15 is arranged to emphasize the difference between the free gift from God and the willful rebellion begun by Adam. Douglas Moo says, “The first contrast is one of degree: the work of Christ, being a manifestation of grace, is greater in every way than that of Adam (verse 15).”[1]

Paul’s subtle literary artistry is apparent. In 5:14, where death and sin are emphasized, the name of Adam appears, but Jesus is referenced indirectly. In 5:15, where Paul emphasizes the gracious gift of God, Paul overtly uses the name of Jesus and references Adam indirectly.

(NET) Romans 5:15  But the gracious gift is not like the transgression. For if the many died through the transgression of the one man, how much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ multiply to the many!

Now that Moo has clarified certain general aspects of 5:15, we will dust off a few other items for clarity. “The one man” is a reference to Adam, whose transgression allowed the entry of sin into the world (5:12) and spread death to himself and all after him.

The gift meant by the phrase “the gracious gift” (5:15) is apparently “the free gift of righteousness” (5:17). So, Moo says the gift refers to “the righteous status and life conferred on ‘the many.’”[2]

Those affected by Adam, “the many” (Greek hoi polloi), is clearly a reference to all humankind. Moo represents one group who agree with that comprehensive scope but hesitate to apply the same meaning to the same Greek phrase when it relates to those affected by “the gift by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ” (5:15b).[3] In other words, they say “the many” means all humanity in the first half of the sentence, but less than that in the second half.

What is the concern that drives them to reject a conclusion so compelling (“the many” equals humankind) which is also supported by the words “one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men” (Rom. 5:18, ESV)? The concern goes by the name universalism, which means every human being will receive righteousness from God and ultimately go to heaven.

The Bible does not teach universalism. For example, in Matthew 25:31–46, Jesus taught about those “who will go away into eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:46). As for Paul, he was referring to a distinct group of people when he spoke of God’s wrath against human sin (Rom. 1:18-31). So, what is the resolution of this conflict of ideas?

Theologians come in all kinds, including some who say God saves all (i.e. universalism) and other theologians who say Paul contradicts himself. In the final analysis — and there has been extensive review — neither of these positions is worth further attention here.

How is the issue to be resolved? Does “the many” refer to all humankind or not? The solution comes in two steps. C.E.B. Cranfield quotes the reformer John Calvin’s remarks: “‘Many’ is put, not for a definite number, but for a large number, in that He sets himself over against all others. And this is its meaning also in Rom. 5:15, where Paul is not talking of a part of mankind but of the whole human race.”[4]  So, “the many” in Rom. 5:15 uniformly refers to the whole human race. That is the first step.

The second step is that we must account for the fact that the grace Christ brought came in the form of “the gracious gift” (5:15). Some accepted the gift by faith and some rejected it. Note carefully that it is “those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness [who will] reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ” (5:17). Not all receive the gift of God because they do not want to “honor him as God or give thanks to him” (1:21). But we who trust in Christ are different; “we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (5:2).

So, we find that the offer of God’s grace is made to all humanity, but the acceptance of it is limited to those willing to respond by faith. Universalism fails due to unbelief. In terms of faith as a response to God’s gracious gift, Thomas Schreiner says, “The use of [the Greek verb lamban?, ‘to receive’ (Rom. 5:17)] in Paul confirms that the reception of what God has given is prominent.”[5]

(NET) Romans 5:16 And the gift is not like the one who sinned. For judgment, resulting from the one transgression, led to condemnation, but the gracious gift from the many failures led to justification.

Paul continues the uneven comparison between Adam and Christ in 5:16. Adam sinned and ultimately brought condemnation for all, but the gracious gift through Christ overturned Adam’s sin and all other sins to bring about justification.

Cranfield ably says: “That one single misdeed should be answered by judgment, this is perfectly understandable: that the accumulated sins and guilt of all the ages should be answered by God’s free gift, this is the miracle of miracles, utterly beyond human comprehension.”[6]

Two men — two destinies

Adam is the head of a race of people; he is the head of all who are dominated by sin and subject to the penalty of spiritual death. Jesus is the head of another race; he leads all who have put their faith in him, experienced his rescue from their sins and expectantly wait for a day when their salvation will be complete.

1. How have you taken advantage of the gracious gift which came to you through faith in Jesus Christ?

2. You undoubtedly know someone still in chains, and they may not even know it! What might you do to help them?

 “When the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared,
5 he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7, NET)

Copyright © 2012 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 334.

[2] Moo, Romans, 335, footnote 96.

[3] Moo, Romans, 336-337.

[4] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 285, footnote 1.

[5] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998) 292.

[6] Cranfield, Romans, 286.

Exposition of Romans 3:25b–26 Some confuse God’s forbearance with tolerance

Suppose one child grows up in a home where mom and dad impose discipline consistently after bad behavior. Another child has parents who forbid certain behaviors but never punish violation of their standards. These two children will become adults with very different expectations about standards and consequences.

Is either set of parents like God?

(ESV) Romans 3:25b–26  This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Perhaps the best answer to the question posed in the introduction to this lesson is “yes and no.”  :-)

Throughout the Bible God condemns sin (1:18–3:20), but those declarations mean little unless God is willing to punish those who sin. If he is not willing to punish sin, then his promises of punishment would be false. Under those circumstances, who could trust his promises of blessing either?

The veracity of God’s statements, his faithfulness in doing what he says, his fairness in judging, and the consistency of his actions are all part of what we may consider to be his righteousness. Douglas Moo takes God’s righteousness “to designate what we might call an aspect of God’s character, whether this be his ‘justice’ (. . .), his impartiality and fairness, or his acting in accordance with his own character.”[1] It is God’s own righteousness that is meant by the two instances of righteousness (Greek dikaiosun?) in 3:25b–26.

When Paul says, “This was to show God’s righteousness” (3:25b), he looks back to God appointing Jesus as an atoning sacrifice to propitiate God’s justifiable wrath against human sin (3:25a). The execution of Jesus on the cross provided a public demonstration of how seriously God takes sin.

In saying “he had passed over former sins” (3:25b), the temporary delay in the demonstration of God’s righteousness was a matter of “his divine forbearance” (3:25b). C.E.B. Cranfield shows insight by saying, “God has in fact been able to hold his hand and pass over sins, without compromising his goodness and mercy, because his intention has all along been to deal with them once and for all, decisively and finally, through the cross.”[2]

What is meant by “former sins” (3:25b)? Moo says: “The sins ‘committed beforehand’ will not, then, be sins committed before conversion, or baptism, but before the new age of salvation.”[3] That age began at the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, or perhaps as early as the incarnation.

(ESV) Romans 3:26 “It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

Cranfield lights the path here: “Paul recognizes that what was at stake was not just God’s being seen to be righteous, but God’s being righteous.”[4] This is not a matter of mere appearances.

Thomas Schreiner joins Moo and Cranfield in saying that the idea of the final clause is that “God is just even in justifying the one who has faith in Jesus.”[5] Only God could craft a salvation that imposes justice and offers mercy in the same act: the death of Jesus for our sins.

Like a compass needle which always seeks magnetic north, Paul always returns to “faith in Jesus” (3:26).

Is God just an old softy?

No! In an age that wants to focus on God’s mercy rather than his justice, we hear a lot about God’s love but little about his wrath. Yet anyone who minimizes the wrath of God against sin not only attacks the character of God but also demeans the sacrifice Jesus made for each of us on the cross.

1. Peter tells us that in the last days people will be saying Christ is not going to return, that there will be no reckoning for sin on a day of judgment (2 Pet. 3:2-4). But Peter says the delay is instead a matter of God “being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9, NET). How does patience show God’s mercy while repentance confirms God’s intention to judge? Describe how Peter and Paul agree.

2. Why do people want to leave aside any discussion of God’s wrath?

Take a moment to express your praise to the One who is just even as he justifies us because of our faith in Jesus. Of course, if you have never expressed such faith, your time within God’s forbearance is running out!

Copyright © 2012 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 237.

[2] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 212.

[3] Moo, Romans, 240.

[4] Cranfield, Romans, 213.

[5] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998) 198.

Exposition of Romans 3:13–19 Plan on lacking words before God

Going to court is no fun. If you are the defendant, it is scary indeed. If you have no defense, the feeling defies description.

If God is your judge, luck plays no role and error is not possible. What will you say before God?

(ESV) Romans 3:13-19

“Their throat is an open grave;

they use their tongues to deceive.”

“The venom of asps is under their lips.”

14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”

15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;

16 in their paths are ruin and misery,

17 and the way of peace they have not known.”

18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

Douglas Moo tells us about the structure of the series of OT texts for today’s lesson: “The next four lines (verses 13–14) describe sins of speech, each line referring to a different organ of speech [throat, tongue, lips, mouth]. Verses 15–17, on the other hand, focus on sins of violence.”[1]

C.E.B. Cranfield notes that the amount of space devoted to sins related to speech is “striking.”[2] Paul is telling us that if you want to know about the human heart, just open your ears! If you watch much news, it may not be long before you hear yourself wishing someone’s death or severe punishment. After hearing your own words, imagine what a casual discussion is like in a drug cartel!

For thoughtful people, the prevalence of lies and the venomous nature of certain lips (3:13) is well known. We take it in stride and become blind to its frequency. For example, think about advertising; it is often the business of telling people they need something which they do not need. Consider what children tell parents and what single adults tell one another during the dance of dating. We are awash in lies!

While all major translations agree on the translation “bitterness” in 3:14, the noun may also mean “animosity, anger, [and] harshness.”[3] That means that some people who would think themselves exempt because they are not bitter would indeed be condemned as either angry or harsh.

NLT at times uses a bit of poetic license, but they probably get it right in 3:15 by saying, “They rush to commit murder.” Shall we talk about drive-by shootings, gang initiations, honor killings, abused children and all the rest?

Actually, the verse just discussed (3:15) should be taken together with 3:16–17, because they all come from Isa. 59:7–8a. Think of terrorism and the description of 3:15–17 falls right into place.

Thomas Schreiner offers keen insight on 3:18 by saying:

The ferocity and brutality of human sin as described in verses 13–17 might cause one to understand it primarily in sociological terms. Thus Paul reminds the reader [in 3:18] that the root and basis of all sin is the failure to fear and reverence God. Sin is fundamentally theological in nature, but it has terrible sociological consequences.[4]

Our challenge in 3:19 is to define terms and use the contextual clues to our advantage. Note that the word “law” (Greek nomos) occurs twice. In the first case, the law likely refers to the entire OT because Paul has just quoted from both the Prophets (including Isaiah) and the Writings (including Psalms). The second mention of law probably refers to the five books of Moses because of the phrase “under the law.”

When we get to “so that every mouth may be stopped” (3:19), we are talking about the Jews because their conduct under the law makes them accountable to God. Moo explains the metaphor by saying: “The terminology of this clause reflects the imagery of the courtroom. ‘Shutting the mouth’ connotes the situation of the defendant who has no more to say in response to the charges brought against him or her.”[5]

The Gentiles are no better off. Schreiner puts the matter well: “How could the whole world be liable to God’s judgment because of a law given to the Jews? The answer is not that difficult. If the Jews, who had the privilege of being God’s covenantal and elect people, could not keep the law, then it follows that no one, including the Gentiles, can.”[6] Oh my!

So, both Jew and Gentile stand before God guilty of sin, without excuse, and lacking a single effective word in defense of their actions. Many will be profoundly shocked to be standing there!

The longest day

How many times have you seen news about those who feel bitter because justice cannot be done in a certain situation? But wait! Everyone will stand before God and give an account of their actions, so how can anyone escape justice? They cannot. No one gets away with it!

1. Since all of us are accountable to God for our actions, how could or should that fact change your general behavior?

2. If you have trusted Jesus Christ, you will have something to say when we all stand before God. Express it in your own words.

“And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books.” (Rev. 20:11-12, NLT)

Copyright © 2012 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 202.

[2] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 194.

[3] BDAG-3, pikria, bitterness, anger, harshness, q.v.

[4] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998) 167.

[5] Moo, Romans, 205.

[6] Schreiner, Romans, 168.

Exposition of Romans 3:1–4 God is reliable; humanity is not

The Jews misunderstood the Law of Moses as their assurance of salvation when in fact it was given to bring their flaws to the surface of their awareness. But instead of running to God for mercy, they reduced the law to a one-sided promise and wrapped themselves in a cloak of self-righteous pride.

By tearing away this façade, Paul brings out countercharges from his opponents that God is being both unfaithful and inconsistent. Are the Jews of Paul’s day right to object? God’s faithfulness and constancy means just as much to us as it did to them.

(ESV) Romans 3:1–4  Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

The first eight verses of Romans 3 are considered some of the most challenging in the entire letter. Paul continues his imagined argument with a Jewish or Jewish-Christian opponent, a style known as diatribe.

Osborne does a great job summarizing the biblical text that includes today’s verses as well as tomorrow’s verses:

The basic issue is this: if there is no advantage in being Jewish, and if God can reject one of his covenant people, then how can it be said that God is faithful to his covenant promises? Paul’s lengthier response in Romans 9-11 is anticipated here: God’s response in judgment also constitutes being faithful to his promises. The covenant contained blessings and curses (= salvation and judgment here), and both are proper depending on the actions of the covenant people.[1]

Since the Jew has no special advantage over the Gentile during the judgment of God — thus has Paul argued in Romans 2 — why then would anyone think it preferable to be a Jew (3:1)? In light of all that is said in the Old Testament about the privilege of being God’s people, Cranfield points out a serious issue: “The question raised is nothing less than the question of the credibility of God.”[2]

The NET Bible does a great job translating Rom. 3:2 by saying, “Actually, there are many advantages. First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.” It is no accident that Paul begins with God’s revelation in words because that is the gateway to so much more! Cranfield explains that the phrase “the oracles of God” is virtually identical to “the Word of God.”[3] But possession of that treasure makes the holders all the more responsible to heed the words!

The other advantages held by the Jews are not taken up in this context, but Rom. 9:4–5 names many more: “the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises. . . . the patriarchs, and from them, by human descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever!” (Rom. 9:4–5, NET).

Paul’s question in 3:3 is a rhetorical method of putting the blame where it belongs, but translators are unsure how to punctuate the sentence.

(ESV) What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?

(NET) What then? If some did not believe, does their unbelief nullify the faithfulness of God?

For complex reasons, the NET Bible’s punctuation should be preferred here.[4]

Cranfield points out the heavy density in 3:2–3 of words based on the Greek root underlying the noun for faith and the verb for believe and entrust. Moo brings this insight to bear on 3:3 by saying, “These words point up the contrast between Israel’s ‘faithlessness’ and God’s ‘faithfulness.’”[5]

In case rhetorical questions tend to confuse you more than help you, the NLT fairly renders them more directly: “True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful?” (Rom. 3:3, NLT).

Cranfield summarizes 3:3 by saying, “It is unthinkable that God’s faithfulness to his covenant with Israel should be rendered ineffective even by the Jews’ unbelief.”[6] Romans 9–11 shows how God will fulfill the covenant, just as he promised.

Humanity — here epitomized by unbelieving Jews — always has an excuse, a justification, an argument to shield itself from judgment. Paul seizes instead on the Old Testament’s assertion that God is faithful at all times. Osborne says, “Behind the term true is the Old Testament term for ‘faithful’ (emet), meaning God is true to his promises.”[7]

By their unbelief the Jews had failed to keep the covenant’s provisions, yet they still wanted its blessings! Paul says it was God who was keeping the terms of the covenant by invoking the curses on covenant breakers. Osborne says, “God cannot be faithful to his covenant until he judges Israel; only then will he be proved right to his promises (and warnings).”[8] God’s judgments will in all cases be vindicated.

Semper Fi Ultra!

Christians have a critical stake in the issue of God’s faithfulness toward the Jews. If God has broken his promises to the Jews, then his promises to us are meaningless. Not to worry! Paul makes it plain that doubting God’s reliability is pointless; worse, those who accuse God of breaking his promises are liars.

1. Name one or two key promises from God are you relying on.

2. Over the centuries believers have had to resolve the issue of God’s reliability; how do you suppose they did so? How did you resolve the issue for yourself?

David had it right; “I will bow down toward your holy temple, and give thanks to your name, because of your loyal love and faithfulness, for you have exalted your promise above the entire sky” (Ps. 138:2, NET).



[1] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 79.

[2] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 177.

[3] Cranfield, Romans, 178-179, footnote 1.

[4] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 183-184.

[5] Moo, Romans, 184.

[6] Cranfield, Romans, 181.

[7] Osborne, Romans, 82.

[8] Osborne, Romans, 83.

Exposition of Romans 2:6–11 God does not play any favorites

When the kids chose up teams in your school, did they choose you first? In my school it was always the favorites who were chosen first, and certain people got left for last every time. If you were one of the fastest, smartest, best looking, most sociable, life was good. The alternative was painful — a lesson learned from a distance.

Playing favorites is also common among adults. How about with God? Does he play that way too?

(ESV) Romans 2:6–11  He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

Keep in mind that Paul is still in the midst of addressing the argument of the Jews that their special status as children of Abraham and recipients of the Law ensures the salvation of every Jew. Paul is tearing away that illusion. In today’s Scripture he does so using a literary arrangement known as chiasm, as shown below:

A   God will judge everyone equitably    verse 6

B          Those who do good will attain eternal life   verse 7

C         Those who do evil will suffer wrath   verse 8

C’        Wrath for those to do evil     verse 9

B’         Glory for those who do good    verse 10

A’  God judges impartially    verse 11[1]

Grant Osborne points out that Paul is trying to “demonstrate divine justice by showing how God judges fairly with both Gentiles and Jews.”[2] This accounts for the phrase “the Jew first and also to Greek” (2:10), which overtly shows that both Jew and Gentile stand in the same relationship of responsibility to God.

In short, verses 7 and 10 refer to those who are justified by faith and prove it through a life of obedient works before God. C. E. B. Cranfield says, “Paul was probably actually thinking only of Christians; but there is little doubt that, had he been asked whether what he was saying also applied to OT believers, his answer would have been affirmative.”[3] There is more than one way to reach this conclusion. Douglas Moo holds that Paul is teaching here (2:6–11) that God will impartially judge all men by their works; later Paul will show that no one can reach a positive verdict in that way (3:9; 3:19–20); later still Paul will show that faith in Christ enables the believer to have good works “as the fruit of faith.”[4] So, Moo effectively arrives at a similar conclusion by a different thought process.

Verses 8 and 9 refer to those who “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (1:18) and prove it by doing those evil deeds outlined in Romans 1:18–32. The nature of the works depends upon the human heart behind them; the works provide an image of the heart. Be sure to notice the chilling vocabulary of Romans 2:8–9. God’s wrath is bad enough; his fury is worse than unthinkable!

Critical to Paul’s argument is the fact that God impartially judges the works ? and thus the heart behind them ? without regard to whether a person is a Jew or a Gentile. God does not play any favorites.

The verb used in 2:11 confirms what has been said above about God showing no partiality in judging the works of Christians. That is exactly how the same verb is used in Eph. 6:9, Col. 3:25, and James 2:1.

Only one name to know: Jesus

Think carefully about God’s impartiality! This means that the rich have no advantage over the poor; the powerful have no edge on the weak, and the socially-connected have no insider pull. Jesus said the same thing in these words: “Many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:31).

1. Read Matt. 7:1–2. How do these commands guide you in the same direction as Paul’s words in Rom. 2:6–11?

2. Since every human is judged on the same basis before God, how does this influence the way you make choices and behave?

During Prohibition the only way to get into many private clubs was to know the right name to give at the door. Heaven is the most exclusive club of them all, and the only name to know at that door is Jesus. If Jesus knows you, you enter without question. If not, there is another door ? you do not want to see what goes on in there!

Copyright © 2012 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 

[1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 135, citing K. Grobel.

[2] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 63.

[3] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 152.

[4] Moo, Romans, 142.

Exposition of Romans 2:4–5 Do not waste God’s patient forbearance

There is little that is worse than self-deception. I know that from bitter, personal experience!

Imagine the shock when a Jew who thinks that relationship with Abraham has sealed heaven finds out he can expect God’s wrath. Nor should Christians take a complacent attitude about their salvation either!

(ESV) Romans 2:4–5 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

While Paul is still talking to his opponents of Jewish background, the principles he cites apply to all of us. Every human being has received abundant “kindness and forbearance and patience” (2:4) from God, who would have been fully justified in putting us to death the first time we rebelled against him and many times afterward!

If we offered a starving beggar $50 for food only to find our money thrown back in our faces with a demand for $100 instead, there is little doubt that the outcome would not be pretty. Yet Paul’s rhetorical question in 2:4 implies the Jews have done far worse. By denying that their own sin deserves God’s judgment, they are scorning his “kindness and forbearance and patience.” Instead, the appropriate response would be “repentance” (2:4).

Note that we who have trusted in Christ did roughly the same thing as the Jews up to the moment we surrendered our lives to the Lord. We too abused God’s kindness, though we did not hide behind Abraham or possession of the Law of Moses.

The Greek verb kataphrone? here (2:4) means “to look down on someone or something with contempt or aversion, with implication that one considers the object of little value, look down on, despise, scorn, treat with contempt.[1] ESV says, “presume on”; NET and NIV say, “have contempt for”; NLT paraphrases with “Does this mean nothing to you?” The idea — deeply flawed — is that if I already have salvation by being a descendant of Abraham, then I do not need God’s kindness!

Grant Osborne clarifies “forbearance and patience” (2:4):

The second area of abundance is God’s tolerance, referring to God’s postponing his judgment and giving people time to repent (so also 3:26). The third area is quite similar, God’s patience or “longsuffering” as he puts up with sinners, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).[2]

In a letter devoted to explaining the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must face the fact that repentance occurs only in 2:4. Douglas Moo observes, “Repentance plays a surprisingly small part in Paul’s teaching, considering its importance in contemporary Judaism.”[3] C.E.B. Cranfield speculates that the reason for this low level of usage may be that Paul considers repentance to be an integral element of faith.[4] Perhaps, but our task is to understand Romans rather than to bring Paul’s theology nearer to our own thoughts.

It is difficult to select a favorite translation for Romans 2:5. Each of the following two has a small flaw:

(NET) But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed!

(ESV) But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

NET correctly translates “your stubbornness” and thus preserves the emphatic, singular personal pronoun; Paul is still in his argument-with-single-opponent mode. But ESV does better with “storing up wrath for yourself because it has preserved the Greek singular while NET has employed the English plural “yourselves.”[5]

Instead of storing up merit and waiting for assured salvation, Jewish stubbornness is simply storing up wrath, a very ironic use of this verb! Moo refers to biblical references (Ps. 110:5; Zeph. 1:14–15; Rev. 6:17) in adding, “’Day of wrath’ is quasi-technical biblical language for the time of final judgment.”[6]

What are you storing up?

God’s patience has a limit; his forbearance will not last forever. Paul told the philosophers of Athens that God “has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30–31).

1. Like the Jews of Paul’s day, it is easy for someone with Christian parents or who attends church to think they have it made with God. What is the flaw in their thinking?

2. Even if we have trusted in Christ, we may still squander our opportunity to store up something positive for the day of judgment. Read Eph. 2:8–9 and Phil. 2:12–13 and then write down what God expects of you as a Christian.

Our opportunity to live for Christ is brief, and we must make the most of it. Give praise to our gracious God who allows us to serve in his kingdom.

Copyright © 2012 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 

[1] BDAG-3, kataphrone?, treat with contempt, q.v.

[2] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 61.

[3] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 133-134.

[4] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 144, footnote 2, extending to page 145.

[5] HCSB probably has the most accurate overall translation of Romans 2:5.

[6] Moo, Romans, 134.