Exposition of Romans 5:18-19 Jesus used obedience to bring righteousness

We have said more than once that faith is an acceptant response to what God has said and done. Since God has said a lot about what he expects of us, including many explicit commands, it is obvious that obedience plays a central role in Christian faith. Is that not what you would expect since Christ is both Lord of lords and King of kings?

After we trust in Jesus, we still have a lifetime of choices to make about how best to obey our Lord. How will we proceed?

Romans 5:18-19 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

The parallelism built into Romans 5:18 is pervasive, as shown below:

Therefore
as one trespass [led to] condemnation for all men, } Adam

so one act of righteousness [leads to] justification and life for all men. } Christ

The square brackets [ ] indicate that the verb has been supplied to make literary English because the Greek sentence has no verbs. Different English translations have supplied different verbs:
NET (came), NLT (brings), HCSB (is), and NASB (resulted). Each of these choices is reasonable.

By dissecting 5:18 in this way, we can easily spot important points. First, each single act affected all men, a comprehensive expression. As to the scope of all, C.E.B. Cranfield says:

It will be wise to take it thoroughly seriously as really meaning all, to understand the implication to be that what Christ has done he has really done for all men, that [life-giving justification HCSB] is truly offered to all, and all are to be summoned urgently to accept the proffered gift, but at the same time to allow that this clause does not foreclose the question whether in the end all will actually come to share it.[1]

Of course, we have already discussed the gift-nature of the justification and life. The gift was explicitly mentioned three times in Rom. 5:15-17. Not all accept the gift by faith.

Using the interpretive principles of salvation history (see Introduction), we point out that Adams deed came first, to the undoing of humanitys privileged position in Eden and much more. The act of Christ came later and contained such grace as to overwhelm the damage done by Adam. James Dunn says: The inaugurating act of the new epoch [i.e. the Age To Come] is thus presented as a counter to and cancellation of the inaugurating act of the old [i.e. The Present Age], Christs right turn undoing Adams wrong turn.[2] Wrong turn is just another term for disobedience.

(ESV) Romans 5:19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Once again, Romans 5:19 has strong parallelism, but this time with actual Greek verbs:

For
as by the one mans disobedience the many were made sinners, } Adam

so by the one mans obedience the many will be made righteous. } Christ

It is clear from the parallelism that the major difference between what Adam did and what Jesus did is the difference between disobedience by Adam and obedience by Christ.

Sin wears many masks in life and in Romans, and Paul used a variety of terms to refer to it. In 5:12 we have the Greek noun hamartia meaning a departure from either human or divine standards of uprightness . . . sin.[3] In 5:15, 17, and 18 he switched to parapt?ma meaning a violation of moral standards, offense, wrongdoing, sin.[4] Here in 5:19 Paul switched to parakoemeaning refusal to listen and so be disobedient, unwillingness to hear, disobedience.[5]

We could say that hamartia means violating a revealed standard of God. The term parapt?ma is used figuratively of making a false step; think of hitting your bare toes against a chair leg and put that pain in the context of a false step in some moral situation. The word in 5:19 gives us the interesting insight that Adam failed to listen to Gods actual voice! God told him explicitly what must not be done (Gen. 2:17), and he did it anyway. Unfortunately, many people can identify!

Cranfield makes one clarification about 5:19 when he says, The many have not been condemned for someone elses transgression, for Adams sin, but because, as a result of Adams transgression, they have themselves been sinners.[6]

But the good news outshines the bad news by far: Jesus obeyed to bring righteousness to all who put their faith in him! The author of Hebrews says about Jesus: Although he was a son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered. And by being perfected in this way, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (Heb. 5:8-9, NET).

Following Jesus

Surely it is plain that to follow Jesus means we are obedient to the Father just as he was. As the old hymn says, Theres no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey. When you think about it, trusting and obeying are very similar because trusting is faith and obeying is faithfulness.

1. How many of us have heard Gods voice about something, but, like Adam, we come to a point at which we do not listen? When have you made that error, and what did you learn from it?

2. What do you consider a difficult thing about obedience? How do you get around that obstacle?

It is no accident that Paul begins the letter to the Romans with the phrase obedience of faith (1:5) and ends the letter with the same phrase (16:26). There is no such thing as faith without obedience!

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

 


[1] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 290.

[2] James D.G. Dunn, Romans 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books, 1988) 297.

[3] BDAG-3, hamartia, sin, q.v.

[4] BDAG-3, parapt?ma, offense, q.v.

[5] BDAG-3, parako?s, unwillingness to hear, q.v.

[6] Cranfield, Romans, 290.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 3:17–19

Genesis 3:17–19
17 But to Adam he said, “Because you obeyed your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground thanks to you; in painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.  18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, but you will eat the grain of the field.  19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat food until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you will return.”
 (NET Bible)

The Going Gets Tough

The difference between listening and hearing can be vast. Only listening leads to action.

But listening raises new questions. To whom will I listen? Why do I listen to some but ignore what I hear from others? Why am I responsible for what I hear? Whose voice will lead me where I need to go?

Remember that each message from God about sin’s consequences involves a life function and a relationship, as we have seen before. For the man the life function is work, and the relationship is his bond to the land.

As in Genesis 3:14, God’s statement purposely begins with the word “because” to emphasize the connection of consequences with sins. At bottom the issue is very simple: God said not to eat from one particular tree, but the man ate from it anyway. How did this take place?

When the man only had God in his personal, relational universe, life was simple. As soon as the woman enters the scene, the communication possibilities become far more complex. God had said do not eat, but the woman offers fruit from the forbidden tree. To whom will the man listen? The answer was not long in coming — he listens to the woman.

A very common Hebrew verb — it occurs almost 1200 times in the Old Testament—means (1) “hear,” and (2) “listen to.” The latter meaning essentially amounts to “obey.” The man had heard the voice of God commanding him, but the voice he obeys is the woman’s. Humanity’s very first act of obedience responded to the wrong voice. In obeying Eve, he disobeys God.

As a direct result of listening to the wrong voice, the arable ground is cursed. The ground which had been man’s origin (Gen. 2:7) and had been given to the man to care for (Gen. 2:15) now yields “painful toil” (Gen. 3:17) instead of bounty and fulfillment. Gordon Wenham rightly says: “Work itself is not a punishment for sin. Man was placed in the garden to cultivate it (2:15). Rather it was the hardship and frustration that attended work that constitutes the curse.”[1]

The NET Bible teaches us something about the pattern of divine judgment: “The curse focuses on eating in a ‘measure for measure’ justice. Because the man and the woman sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, God will forbid the ground to cooperate, and so it will be through painful toil that they will eat.”[2]

Genesis 3:18 gives a fuller description of how things change for Adam and his wife. In Genesis 2:9, God caused fruit-bearing trees to sprout for man’s enjoyment and sustenance; in Genesis 3:18 the land causes thorns and thistles to sprout instead. Of course, humanity will still eat: “you will eat the grain of the field” (Gen. 3:18). What is this “grain”? The standard lexicon says it is “herbage, weed,”[3] the non-perennial plants (including vegetables and cereal grains) that spring up after a rain. God had previously given this organic material to both humanity and the animals for food (Gen. 1:29–30).

Adam’s toil will end with his return to the ground (Gen. 3:19); a humbling end for one exalted to paradise by the creative hand of God. Wenham says: “It may be that the narrator avoids life-and-death language in this verse, because for him only life in the garden counts as life in the fullest sense. Outside the garden, man is distant from God and brought near to death.”[4]

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 82.

[2] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 3:17.

[3] L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner and J. J. Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), translated and edited under the supervision of M. E. J. Richardson. 5 vols. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994-2000) ‘eseb, herbage, q.v.

[4] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 83.

Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 7:24-27

Matthew 7:24-27

Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, but it did not collapse because it had been founded on rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, and it collapsed; it was utterly destroyed!
(NET Bible)

To do or not to do; that is the question

The movie series Star Wars tells the story of an epic battle between good and evil set in a galaxy far, far away. The young hero, Luke Skywalker, gets instruction in the Force from the wise old Jedi Master named Yoda.

Yoda proposes a difficult training exercise using the Force, which Luke says he will try. To this Yoda sharply replies, Try? No! Do or do not; there is no try!

Those who hear Jesus words have the same choice. Do or do not; which will it be?

We already know that Jesus is talking to the disciples, and a crowd of listeners has also gathered to hear him (7:28). When verse 24 starts off with the word everyone, it sounds as if Jesus is speaking to the whole group, but in fact the grammar of the verse makes it clear that he is speaking to each person as an individual. So, the parable Jesus tells will draw a line between those who respond and those who do not. And that line will also divide some insiders from other insiders!

It would be better to translate the opening phrase as, Each one of you who hears these words of mine . . . . (my translation of 7:24a). Jesus is presenting a choice to each individual who hears him, and no one else can make it for you! Further, Jesus is not directing attention to the words of the Law but to his own words as the authoritative interpretation of the Law.

Matthew 7:24 is a simple sentence with verbs that are in the present tense. The present tenses are used here to make a statement of a general, timeless fact.[1] The one who hears these words of mine and does them is the one who is figuratively like a wise man who built his house on a rock (7:24).

Of course, on a sunny, pleasant day it does not matter where you built your house. But Jesus says a storm came and pounded the house with rain, swollen rivers and strong winds (7:25). The rock foundation prevented disaster for the house and its sheltered builder.

In speaking of that all-critical foundation, Jesus uses a verbal form that is rare enough to require a deliberate decision on the part of the speaker. Concerning the house, Jesus says, it did not collapse because it had been founded on rock (7:25b). The words in italics reflect the choice Jesus made to show that the survival of the house depended upon action completed in the past before the storm arose. What action is meant? Jesus refers to the doing of his words after first hearing them!

Unfortunately for the foolish man, the storm will also strike the house built on sand. The NET Bible aptly catches the catastrophic nature of that moment by saying it was utterly destroyed (7:27).

Craig Blomberg resolves the meaning of the storm when he says, So too Judgment Day will come like a flood to disclose which spiritual structures will endure.[2] But the issue has already been decided by action or the lack of it long before that stormy day comes.

Faith only begins with knowledge!

The faithful actions of a disciple begin with knowing Jesus words, but they end only when those words are put into action. Those who meditate on his words are not the ones Jesus honors; thoughtful doers of his words are the ones who will prosper in the storms of Gods judgment. In just moments after the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus will start walking. Who is going with him?

In this active life of doing what Jesus has said, take heart in these words: By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. (2 Pet. 1:3, NLT).

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995) 523.

[2] Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992) 134.

 

Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 7:21-23

Matthew 7:21-23
Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of heaven — only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day, many will say to me, Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds? 23 Then I will declare to them, I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!
(NET Bible)
Note: any Bible reference containing only a chapter number and verse number is understood to be in the Gospel of Matthew.

Last-minute protests

One of the biggest problems that employers face at this time is resume inflation. Take George O’Leary for example. He was hired to be Notre Dame’s football coach, but he was dismissed twelve days later when officials discovered his resume contained false claims about a certain college degree and about having played college football.

Nobody will enter the kingdom of heaven with an inflated resume. But many will try.

As we begin this section, keep in mind R. T. Frances idea that the people Jesus describes here are people who consider themselves insiders (true disciples) but who are not. This is a troubling category for some Christians to think about, so we will dive right in.

The phrase on that day (7:22) places this outcry ‘Lord, Lord (7:21) on the day of judgment, which is part of the longer period known as the Day of the Lord (see Joel 1:15; Isa. 10:20; Zech. 12-14).

R. T. France explains that Jesus now presents himself as the one who decides who does and does not enter the kingdom of heaven, and even more remarkably the basis for that entry is a person’s relationship with him, whether or not he knew them.[1] This is a powerful affirmation of the idea that Christianity is about a personal relationship to Jesus rather than belonging to a church or even having been baptized.

As Christians we are accustomed to think of Jesus as Lord. But in the ears of those who first heard Jesus say these words, learning that on the day of judgment many would say to me, Lord, Lord (7:22) would have been a shocking claim of authority and power. Jesus asserts that he not only has the authority to admit people into the kingdom of heaven, but also the authority to send others “away from me” (7:23). Life in the kingdom will be life with Jesus; those excluded from him from that assembly of lawbreakers we call hell.

Jesus is not saying that there is anything wrong with prophesying, casting out evil spirits, or performing miracles in his name (7:22). He is saying that none of those activities can replace knowing him and being known by him.

It is important to make a stronger connection between having a relationship to Jesus and doing the will of my Father in heaven (7:21). In the Gospel of John, Jesus said: The person who has my commandments and obeys them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him. (John 14:21).

Perhaps it is helpful to say that having a relationship with Jesus does not mean it is an equal relationship. The fact that he is both Lord and God to us means that he has legitimate expectations of us that do not conflict with the fact that he loves us. His love for us is not based on our works, but our love for him is expressed, in part, by our works.

Those who have put their faith in Jesus can rest confidently in his words: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14).

Safety for those who know Jesus

Jesus’ words were not designed to dishearten those who love him. They were meant as a warning to the sort of fast-talking con artists who make their way through life manipulating others. That will not work when Jesus judges all people.

To his own, Jesus said: “My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand.” (John 10:27-28).

Jesus gave his life to make a way to include you in the kingdom, not exclude you. Put your faith in him and rest in his hand.

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007) 294.