JOB 16:1 – 18:21 and ROMANS 7:1–25
There is a certain consistency being seen in the dialogues between Job and his friends. Job is now answering the words from Eliphaz’s second speech. He expresses his frustration at the attempts of his friends to counsel him by calling them “miserable comforters”. He considers their words as being vain and having no end. The question is often asked, how long was Job’s trial? In reading the words of Job it seems like an eternity due the hopelessness of his condition. The trial came and soon thereafter his friends spent seven silent days with Job. The dialogue between Job and his friends began in chapter 4. Many estimate that his trial was for a few months and most probably less than a year. It certainly was no light affliction but when measured against a normal life span, not to mention eternity it is shown in a different light. Job had no advantage of seeing a way out hence his many comments of complaint against God. This is one of the reasons why we as believers must have vision; the ability to see beyond the here and now. We must also have the ability to remember and recall the faithfulness of God from times past. This is why it is important to journal and make a record of what God has done. We oftentimes forget how the Lord brought us through difficulties in our own history. Taking time to rehearse and reflect helps to strengthen the spirit man within so as to face the challenges of today and beyond.
Psa 77:6 I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.
We have Job’s record and the account of so many other Biblical characters to draw from. We have the example of many godly men and women who have touched our lives to spur us on in our challenges. We have God’s record through His Word that proclaims His faithfulness and mercy throughout all generations that we can anchor too. Job did not have anywhere near the luxury of benefits like you and I have. He is one of the pioneers that we draw strength and encouragement from. We can say his trial may have only been for a few months but for him it seemed like eternity with no hope or window of relief in sight. All of us as believers are so indebted to this man.
In verses 4-6 Job directs his comments to Eliphaz by saying if the roles were reversed I would be strengthening and encouraging you by words that would edify and comfort. He also says he could easily do to Eliphaz as was being done to him in heaping scorning and accusatory words in his direction. How easy it is to criticize someone else when we have not been in their shoes. This should be another one of the primary takeaways from the account of Job. We really do not know what other people may be going through when we make quick and hasty judgments concerning a person. Oftentimes if we saw or knew the bigger picture we might respond and counsel differently. Jesus was very clear on this point.
Joh 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
When praying for people or assessing their condition and struggle of a person its wisdom to ask God for His insight and mind. There are times when words may not be appropriate but rather an understanding concern and assurance that you are there for them. If we are going to be critical in our assessment of people we better first allow that analysis to come our way. This always serves as a good antidote in helping to keep us in check. (Math 7:1-5)
Job then directs his complaints back towards God from verse 7 onwards. He makes some strong statements in his charges against God such as those seen in verse 9 where he says he is hated by God. What is interesting in his comments is that he denotes the sovereignty of God even during the height of his trial. He misattributes the reasons for why God is working the way that He is but he places God as sovereign above everything. His words are beginning to be foolish in what he is saying against God but it is God, not the devil who is being charged by Job. The account of Jacob wrestling with God comes to mind in this context. That encounter at Peniel was between Jacob and God. Jacob was wounded but he was also desperate, seeing an opportunity to gain something from this encounter. It was here where his name and character were changed. The result was a man with a greater authority, a new name and character as well as a new measure of favor with both God and man. Job is focusing upon God throughout his ordeal. He makes unwise statements concerning God but his attention is directed His way; seeing Him as sovereign and responsible for all that was taking place. This is a key point and I believe it will help Job when God finally intervenes and speaks through Elihu a bit later on.
Job is now at the point of sheer hopelessness. He speaks of his breath being corrupt which could signify his seeing no good thing left in him. He compares himself to his friends in a sarcastic tone and basically challenges them to be willing to account themselves to God alongside himself. In verse 4 Job makes a very true statement by saying the following:
Job 17:4 For thou hast hid their heart from understanding: therefore shalt thou not exalt them.
The hearts of his three friends were indeed hid from understanding the unique work of grace that God was allowing to take place within Job. He is also being prophetic in saying that God would not exalt them as well. Job was speaking here to God and one has to wonder the manner of spirit in which he was speaking. Job was reflecting on how he has now become a byword amongst the people for the perceived punishment and affliction upon him when he used to be honoured and celebrated by tabrets like David had experienced (vs 6).
Job’s eyes were both physically and spiritually dim because of his ordeal. This is a judgement to those who do not grow in the things of God (2 Pet 1:9) or make allowance for sin in their area of responsibility as Eli did concerning his sons (1 Sam 4:15). This was not the case with Job although he did suffer in the area of his vision. The balance of his body was severely affected as well. It is a similar description we see of Christ when He was upon the Cross. When it comes to physical suffering and mental and spiritual torment I am not sure there is a better picture of Christ then what we see here in Job. You can hear the cries of “my God, my God why have you forsaken me” (Math 27:46). Jesus maintained control of His Spirit at all times even though there were times of struggle. He had a perspective and view that was much higher than Job’s, especially in his dealing with the enemy. In verses 7-10 Job begins to understand that men one day will reflect upon his ordeal and learn many things about God as well as Job. Men will see who is true and who the hypocrites are as they assess Job and his friends accordingly. Job then comes back to the present tense and tells his friends to go back to school or get more into themselves for there is no wisdom or instruction that can be found. It is a strong rebuke and indictment towards the comforters.
Job then changes tone and mood and goes back to his state of gloominess. He again speaks of the grave (vs 13) just like he did back in verse 1. He aligns and acquaints himself with darkness, corruption and death for they represent the only things he can readily identify with. The loss of hope is again brought forth as he sees the pit as his final resting place.
When going through such intense battles we can sometimes feel like we are the only ones who suffer to such an extent. Remember Elijah who saw himself as the only one who stood against the prophets of Baal?
1Ki 19:14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
In the midst of his suffering Job did feel that there would come a time when men would be able to assess and learn from his life (vs 8-9). He felt that he would be vindicated and that his friends would be seen as the hypocrites. There was a work taking place in his life that he could not yet perceive; a greater work that will bring Job to levels he never would have imagined. He felt that his life was pretty much done and was now longing to experience his escape to the grave. Bildad is up next and it will be interesting to see how he responds to Job’s latest message.
As would be expected the words of Bildad are cutting and filled with wrath. He is beside himself that Job would so discard his former counsel and those of his friends. The contention is now very ripe. This is the 2nd response from Bildad and he offers Job no hope or gives any counsel as he had done before. He brings many charges against Job as he now equates him with the fruits of the wicked. In verse 4 Bildad takes Job in his words from what he said in Job 16:9:
Job 16:9 He teareth me in his wrath, who hateth me: he gnasheth upon me with his teeth; mine enemy sharpeneth his eyes upon me.
He makes the point that it is not God who teareth but rather Job who has brought this upon himself. He adds misery to Job by saying that whatever light he had would be snuffed out never to be lightened again (vs 5-6). The more Job goes about seeking to justify himself the more ensnared he will become. Bildad is relentless in his verbal assault against Job. We see that something has been touched or tapped in his life that results in this extreme outburst. Even though Bildad and the others are not privy to that which God was doing in Job there should never be this level of rage. If nothing else it would be best to “drop it” and move on. There is no evidence of the fruit of meekness being seen in Bildad and the others. It is all about justifying one’s self without regard to the damage being done in the life of another. At best one should walk away from heightened contentions and wish the person well.
The fruit of Meekness is often a misunderstood attribute of God. This was on full display when the enemies of Christ were mocking, torturing and jeering at Him while he was on the Cross. Jesus exuded perfect strength in not retaliating and utilizing His vested power. He had all strength and the ability to come down from the Cross while summoning legions of angels to help. He didn’t but chose to plead with the Father that they would be forgiven (Luk 23:34). Think what someone like Bildad would have done if he possessed such power. What would we do? A person who is meek has chosen to yield all of his rights and privileges, even when they may have been wronged. It is a beautiful fruit that has an ability to see God at work in every situation. Job is not yet able to appreciate this but it is a quality that is being developed. His life and example help us to appreciate just how costly this fruit of the Spirit is. Much of what Bildad says about the wicked are true but it certainly does not apply to Job. His misdirected statements are a challenge to God because it is He who has allowed and authored the trial of Job. His attacks upon Job are in fact a challenge to God. This is why we must not be so quick to judge people and situations. This is especially true if we do not allow God to bring the sword into our own lives.
1Co 11:31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
The above verse serves as a healthy reminder in how our approach to God and people should be. It will help to keep us in check so we do not go down the same road of these miserable comforters.
As mentioned in the previous commentary I am going to share a portion of a project I am working on entitled the Two Streams. A primary portion of this project is centered in chapters 6-8 of the Book of Romans. Today, we will look at the message of the Cross and the Law which are prominent themes throughout these two chapters. Tomorrow we will look at the themes of Grace/Sin and Choice. It is hoped that this study will help shed some additional light on these subjects while aiding our respective walks with God. The theme of the Cross and the Law is shown below:
The Way of the Cross
Let’s face it! The Cross of Jesus Christ is an enigma. The presentation of the beaten and marred Son of God on a wooden cross is not a pretty sight. Is this what leadership looks like? Do you think today’s culture would celebrate such a pathetic display of a man? Try and place yourself in this event and honestly consider how you would feel. Is this the Saviour of mankind? Is this the man that the prophets of old foretold? By all worldly accounts this man was a failure and anyone associated with Him would be bearing His reproach. This is the reality of the Cross. It represents death and finality. Ah, but there is the other side of the Cross to consider. What God accomplished through His Son and the agency of the Holy Spirit was in fact the greatest demonstration of God’s power to man (Col 2:15).
The Cross represents death over sin and resurrection life. As believer’s this is our primary focus. We celebrate the fact that Jesus, as the Son of God, died for our sins. We acknowledge our need for a Savior by faith resulting in our being born again. We take note of verses like Rom 8:11 whereby we can claim the gift of resurrection power at work in our lives. Paul makes clear of his desire to know the power of His resurrection. He also emphasizes the desire in knowing the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil 3:10). He also adds the following: Being made conformable unto His death. That is the choice we are confronted with in approaching Romans 6. In taking the narrow road through the heart of Romans, Paul is addressing both sides of the cross. It is more than just knowledge of Jesus dying on the Cross, it is personal and it is costly. (The signpost again beams “The just shall live by works”) Romans 6:6 reads: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” This is an experience. It requires a “choosing” to know more of this unique fellowship in Christ. It is a side of the cross that many seek to avoid or minimize. The Romans By-Pass soon becomes a desired alternative that allows for a circumventing of this direct narrow and costly path. This By-Pass comes into view in numerous ways. It can be subtle and logically affirmed. It also requires initial slight alteration of doctrine so that it can be justified and accepted. Make no mistake! The entrance to Romans 6 is a clear line of demarcation. It begins with the Cross. A choice is required. “The Cross before me, the world behind me, no turning back, no turning back.” Will this be your choice?
The Cross Becomes Personal
In December of 1982 a man of God came and ministered to our church in Erie Pennsylvania. The Lord impressed upon him to speak on the subject of the Cross. This was by no means the first time he spoke on the subject however he had a difficult night at the hotel he was staying at in our city. The Lord was giving him new insights and revelation regarding the cross which he faithfully shared in the morning service. It was a weighty message nonetheless there was something liberating about it. As the message closed the minister asked who would be willing to take up their cross? This was no ordinary appeal; in fact the congregation was warned about responding unless God was truly putting it into the heart. I would like to digress here and share a dream I had just 4 days before this service. I shared the dream with a church member before the service. You can imagine the impact this message had upon me in lieu of my dream which I will convey below:
In the dream I found myself amongst a large group of church believers. We were carrying on with our lives when all of a sudden a loud voice rang out stating “Who will take up this cross and follow me”? I looked and saw there was a large cross and I noticed that no one was willing to take it up. I boldly made my way forward and as I did the crowd gasped in admiration that there was a person willing to take up the challenge of the cross. I remember acknowledging them as if I was some sort of star about to receive a reward. The oohs and aahs were resonating around me. I took up the cross and made my way down “Halleluiah Boulevard” (funny how this name sticks in my mind.) I came to the place where I was going to be put onto the cross. Suddenly, the gravity of the moment hit me. I was going to die! A huge spike was by my side with my name on it. It was destined for my feet. The gripping fear was made so real; no more bravado or foolish pride. Remarkably, for a moment all of the spectators turned away, no one was looking at me. Guess what I did, yes I got up and ran away. The dream then ended. My initial sense was one of devastation and heartbreak. I had no ability to live the life of the cross.
Now fast forward 4 days where the message of the cross is being presented afresh. You can imagine the soberness of the moment when the man of God made his appeal. This was not meant to be an ordinary show of hands. It wasn’t and the subsequent impact this message had upon our church soon played out. It can be said that the church divided into two streams. This event happened 35 years ago. Having the advantage of many years of observation it is clear that the message of the Cross presented to our church serves as a picture of the dividing church of the last days. Many were offended at the message while others simply chose not to embrace what God was saying to the church. It is sad and sobering to see how each one ended up.
It would be instructive to see what transpired during this period with one of the primary offended members. He chose a by-pass. Let me illustrate. Several weeks after the Cross message was presented to the church; this member took a trip to the west coast. While there he attended a conference featuring one of the most well-known “faith” based evangelists in the USA. The messages that were spoken countered the realities of the Cross that God was speaking to our church. These series of meetings deeply impacted this church member resulting in his sharing these truths with other congregants soon after his return to his home church. The senior pastor was aware of what was transpiring. He warned and exhorted the church to hold fast to what God had spoken to the church. Sadly, the message of an easier way, a by-pass road was infecting much of the church resulting in a painful split and separation. I witnessed first-hand this event and it left an indelible mark upon me. The events of 35 years ago (as of this writing) is a clear picture of what is about to take place on a larger worldwide scale. Can you see the narrow road of Romans 6 in the above account? Can you also see the road of the By-Pass? Can you see the subtlety in how one can segue into the wrong stream? It may not be obvious at the beginning but over time its evidence is acute. We all desire God’s blessings and miracles. We all would like to be free from suffering and prison like experiences. The appeal of an easier path will at times stand in stark contrast to what God is speaking. The apostle Paul clearly alluded to this as he neared the end of his life. (2 Tim 4:3 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers having itching ears.”)
The warning above must not be taken lightly. It is imperative that a church and its people understand and know their respective calling. I am part of a fellowship that has the call of Zion upon it. This is the vision that was birthed in the spirit of its founder, Dr. Brian Bailey. It’s not a man construed vision but one that God Himself has established. It is a very high calling. (Psa 15 and Psa 24) There are many recognized ministries today that God is using whose vision is different. (This will be brought out in more detail later) There may be insights and methods that can be gleaned from such ministries but what is their final destination? Where does their vision ultimately lead them? The vision of Zion in many ways is an exclusive one. Yet, it is one that is afforded to all. The question is who will ascend the hill of the Lord? Who is willing to pay the price? Who is willing to allow God to take them through the narrow Romans Road in chapters 6 through 8?
Ok, let’s bring a familiar passage of scripture into the equation and see the study of the by-pass at work. If I were told that I could only preach from one chapter in the Bible it would be John 6. This chapter gives a comprehensive view of the different type of believers that exist in the kingdom. Secondly, you have the message of the Cross expressed in tangible terms which puts people into a position of having to make a choice. Will the message be one that is embraced or will it bring an offence?
Let’s begin with verse 2 in John 6 which serves as a key launching pad. “And a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His miracles which He did on them that were diseased.” Here we see that Jesus is popular. The Bible states that multitudes surrounded Him. Why? Is it possible that Jesus was popular for many of the same reasons people profess their faith today? Jesus quickly builds on this momentum in the midst of several days of public meetings. The people were tired and hungry and there was scant provision. How does the Lord handle this situation? Does He panic in His prayer to the Father? Is His focus on the masses of people in the light of such small provision? Oh no, Father what shall I do? You must meet this need etc. Think about it! This is how we often petition the Lord. We focus on what we do not have in light of great need. Jesus on the other hand put His focus on what he had. Yes, those few loaves and fishes had His attention. He thanked the Father for what was in His possession and the result was the multiplication of the loaves and fishes that fed thousands of people. This was a notable miracle. Can you imagine the reaction of people in view of such a miracle? Do you think this noteworthy miracle would draw a crowd and attention today? He was now so popular that the people wanted to take Him by force to become king (John 6:15). Is this not Biblical, Jesus, king of kings? The Book of Revelation mentions this on two occasions where He seeks to make us into kings and priests (Rev 1:6, 5:10).
This is all true but what is the reason, the motive for the people wanting Him to be king? It was all for the wrong reasons. The problem was that they did not want the Lord to be king and lord over their lives. This is not the first occurrence of such a motive. For the first 3000 years of Israel’s history they were never ruled by a king. It was in the heart of God that this would indeed be a reality at some point. In fact from the very beginning we see this through the life of Melchizedek (Gen 14:18). Let’s turn our attention to the time when Israel was seeking after a king.
1 Sam 8:4-5 “Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, And said unto him, Behold thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the other nations.
Israel had been governed by judges for several hundred years. They experienced success and failures throughout their reigns. Samuel had been an upright judge but now was getting old. The people cited the corruption in his sons (1 Sam 8:3) which only affirmed their belief that now was the time for a king. They persisted for a king as seen in the entirety of 1 Sam 8 however it was not God’s will nor timing. Several warnings were conveyed to the people if they kept pressing their demands nonetheless they persisted. In the end, God indeed gave them a king but it was not for their good (Psa 106:15). Note what the Lord speaks to Samuel in summing up the matter:
1 Sam 8:7 “And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.”
There you have it! They did not want God to be Lord over their lives. Once again this gets to the heart of the Romans Road. Have you ever considered the consequence of what transpired here? God answered their prayer; in fact Saul and Israel had early successes in the beginning of his reign (1 Sam 11). This by-pass route had initial merit. God answered them according to what was in their heart. Please be warned because God will answer in similar ways in these last days. God is after a bride, a pure stream that flows from righteousness unto holiness. It is the narrow Romans road of chapters 6-8 that gets to the heart of the matter. This will be further developed when we look at the Law. The by-pass route will have many seeming successes, especially in the early stages. Let these sobering verses from Ezekiel remind us of this potential danger (Eze 7:3, 7, 9 and 20:25).
Is it any different in the account with Jesus in John chapter 6? Jesus in perceiving that this was their motive withdrew Himself, and in so doing recalibrated His message. Or dare I say He introduces the way of Romans 6? He reappears on the other side of the sea and it is here where the people reconnect with Him. There was little doubt in their minds that the miracles and blessings would continue as before.
It is here where a clear line of separation is about to take place. The teaching of our Lord will be clear, direct and one that will require a definitive choice. We call this good doctrine. The kind of doctrine Paul says will be rejected in the last days (2 Tim 4:3). So how did Jesus go about the teaching of the cross message?
He illustrates the profound truth of the cross through the example of his previous miracle in the broken bread. Absolute Genius! It is wisdom at work. Jesus illustrated that the breaking of the bread was able to feed the thousands in their time of hunger. Jesus put the emphasis upon Himself in being the broken bread that would feed the spiritual hunger of all who would call upon His name. The difference here is that an actual body, the Lord’s body would serve as that broken bread. (Please refer to Gen 14:18 for the origin of the broken bread) It was going to be costly. In fact, to identify and continue on with Him it would require the taking up of our own cross. How do you think this message was received? Was it an appealing one? Not at all, the Word offended many. In fact it caused many of His disciples to seek an alternative way or a by-pass as opposed to following the Lord through Romans 6. (Hmm, John 6:66 records this account. Do you think that is coincidence)?
As we near the end of chapter 6 the Lord turns to the twelve and asks this simple question. Will you also turn away? Will you also take the by-pass where the message proves not so weighty? The response of Peter needs to resonate deep within our spirit as we are presented this pertinent question. The answer that is to be given affects destinies. We can say this is a defining moment. The message of the Cross, though not totally understood was nonetheless presented in a manner where it was either embraced or rejected. Peter said, Lord, where else can we go? You alone have the Words of eternal life. From that time forward Jesus had a very close group of companions. They were part of His inner circle, He even called them friends. They were with Him in the upper room when Jesus broke bread amongst them. All of them (except Judas) were part of the upper room company of believers who experienced the Holy Ghost outpouring at Pentecost. Do you think that decision was worth it at the end of John 6? John chapter 6 is all about the cross. You have 2 groups of believers, the message of the broken bread as well as the cost involved in going on with the Lord.
The highway as seen so far in Romans chapters 1 through 5 was one where one comes face to face with sin and sees the need for a Saviour. In addition, the traveller comes to know Him as the one who justifies and aligns us according to His purpose and way (Rom 4-5). Now we are face to face with the cross as we contemplate the journey forward at the entrance to Romans 6. What does the cross mean to you? We will find that the message of the cross takes on even deeper meaning as we come upon hidden gems and treasure in chapters 6 through 8. We will next look at the subjects of law and sin. So now that we have stepped into chapter 6, let us continue our journey. Oh by the way, there is another sign or guidepost at the entrance to Romans 6.
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Mat 7:13-14)
The Law-Understanding the New Covenant
As the journey penetrates deeper into Romans 6, the traveller is confronted with a whole new reality regarding the law and sin. There is the understanding that we are all sinners; after all that was made clear earlier in this tour or trip. Now there is a heightened awareness of the reality of sin. Perhaps this is a result of that fresh encounter with the Cross. To be honest it is an uncomfortable sense that something is different. It is difficult to explain. In fact, there is a vileness being felt that was not known or felt prior to this moment. Perhaps in the past sin was trivialized due to one’s sense of living uprightly or minimizing its consequences. After all, the church continues to make allowances in matters that contradict God’s Law resulting in a certain casualness regarding sin. To understand sin and its consequences one must first understand the reality of God’s Law. They are intrinsically linked together.
There is a potential trap that seems to be placed on this route as another sign comes into view:
“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom 6:14)
This brings a round of applause and relief to many and it is here where several go on their way paying no heed to other signposts. The themes of Law and Grace are now redefined however there is careless regard for other clear reminders along the path which brings balance and perspective to these two vital themes. If one were to look closer they would immediately see another sign
“What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” (Rom 6:15)
There is an amazing departure from the potent message of the Cross as these many passengers go on their way outside the boundaries of the narrow path.
God’s Law and His abhorrence to sin are no trivial matters. For those who choose to stay on the straight and narrow path a greater revelation with regard to the law and sin are about to be presented.
Oh how maligned the law has become in today’s secularized world which often includes the church. God puts an extremely high premium upon His law so we do well to heed to its meaning and not seek to trivialize and redefine it. Many draw the conclusion that the law is outdated and relegated only to the Old Testament. Jesus was challenged on this very point when confronted by Pharisee’s. Note His response below:
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” (Mat 5:17)
They were mindful of the Old Testament law, the law they could not keep. The answer the Lord gave was not what they were looking for. “I have not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it” If that was not enough He then zeroed on several of the Old Testament laws and elaborated. “Ye have heard that It was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill…” (Mat 5:21) Let’s stop here for a moment. Jesus was making reference to the law as given to Moses by His father. It was a law that the children of Israel were never able to live up to. Jesus then elevated the standard of the law they were unable to keep by stating that if one is angry at a man it could be equated to the judgment of a murderer (Mat 5:22). Think about that, does this mean that if a person gets angry he could be charged, in God’s eyes with murder? Wow! It’s no wonder that the law is offensive to many. What was Jesus really saying in this passage? In short, I feel He was speaking to the power of the New Covenant.
What is the New Covenant? It is the law of God being written on the fleshly table of the heart (Jer 31:33). What does that mean? Well Jesus Himself defined it by saying that He had come to fulfil or to be an expression of the law of God through His life. If one wanted to summarize Christianity it can be said that it is an issue of the heart. “Guard your heart with all diligence for out of it come forth the issues of life” (Pro 4:23. Consider again the Lord’s remarks concerning murder. How is it possible for anger to be equated with murder? Let’s return to Genesis and examine the account of the first murder found in scripture. It involves Cain and Abel whereby both present an offering unto the Lord. One is accepted and the other rejected. Cain did not take this rejection well. He became ANGRY at both Abel and God. “But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell” (Gen 4:5). This anger festered in Cain resulting in the MURDER of his brother in verse 8. You see, the seeds of anger which were harboured in the heart of Cain later gave way to murder. The power of the New Covenant is its ability to get to the root where all sin originate. It’s a matter of the heart. Why should we discard the law so dismissively? Why do many go to great lengths to redefine the law, presenting it as something that is binding and restrictive? It is because many prefer the way of the By-Pass. This route shields the believer of having to confront the realities of one’s heart. Can you see how Jeremiah could come to the place of seeing his heart as deceitfully wicked above all things (Jer 17:10)? Jeremiah walked a narrow and solitary path. He can be likened to one who walks through the heart of the Romans path. Jeremiah will be examined in more detail in the subject of the Two Prophets.
Taking the narrow path of Romans 6-8 helps to give clarity to how the law should be defined. It brings into clear view its importance and relevance for today’s church. It must not be lightly regarded. So, how can we define the law? Let’s consider 3 quick definitions.
1. The Law Defines God
When the commandment of God commands us to not have any other gods before Him it is clear that He is a jealous God (Exo 20:3). This law (10 commandments) gives an insight into the personality of God. The law makes clear that He highly esteems those who honor authority, specifically their parents. He does not tolerate liars, murders or those who covet. Instead of seeing the law as rules that constrict us may we rather see it as a means of knowing God in a greater way. In rejecting or lightly regarding the law of God we are in essence diminishing our ability to know Him. Put another way we are not interested in really knowing Him and His ways. This is contrary to the man who was given the Law. Moses had a desire to see His glory and know His ways (Exo 33:13, 18).
2. The Law Defines Man
When the law of God confronts man he sees himself in light of who God is. Ouch, this can be sobering especially when we see how woefully inadequate we are; how short we come in being like Him. This is another reason why the law is so easily dismissed in many churches today. People simply do not want to know or confront the truth about themselves. It is here where a false understanding of grace may be employed to ease or circumvent this unpleasant reality of who we are in the standing of God’s law. Do we opt for a By-Pass option by redefining grace and minimizing sin? Do we now put extra emphasis on kingdom related values to comfort ourselves at the expense of dealing with who we really are? Jeremiah, Isaiah, Moses and others saw themselves as undone. They acknowledged who they were and did not hide. The law is offensive due to its ability to get to the heart. It defines who we really are. How will we respond? It’s true; such a revelation is humbling and sobering (Isa 6:4). It’s here however where a true divine exchange can take place. This is a big IF. Will we choose to allow God to bring us to this place?
3. The Law Defines and Gives Strength to Sin
Remember the first law given to man in Gen 2:16-17? Up until that time Adam had free reign in the garden. Now a law, a clear cut boundary was being established by God. This was a law that had a clear cut consequence if it were to be violated. Man was now placed into the position of “choosing” to either obey or disobey the law. The violation of God’s law results in sin. Prior to the giving of the law there was no knowledge of sin (Rom 7:7). If we are among those who choose to embrace and uphold God’s laws we must then be prepared for an even greater battle against sin. Understanding this truth will help us in navigating through the intensive struggle characterized in Romans chapter 7.
This may be a good place to introduce the subject of holiness. The subject of holiness and the law are closely linked. How would you answer this question? When God created man was he created holy? The answer surprises many due to the fact that man was created in innocence but was not holy. Remember, God formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed life into Him whereby becoming a living soul (Gen 2:7). Holiness is an attribute of who God is. Man was made after His image but he was not taken from God. True, he knew no sin but he did not have divine attributes. Holiness can be defined in this manner. It is a separation from the world the flesh and the devil and a separation unto God. It also requires these other two components. There must be a choosing to be holy (Lev 11:44, 1 Pet 1:15-16) and holiness must be tested. Let’s see what happens when God introduces man to His Law in Genesis chapter 2. If we can grasp the dynamic of this event it will help broaden our understanding of the realities of the Roman Road.
Adam in the garden
God had an intimate loving relationship with Adam in the garden. There came a time however when God needed to test man. This demonstrates what is really in the heart of man. The first recorded law that God gave to man is recorded in Gen 2:16-17.
“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
God put a restriction on a certain tree. He made clear that the breaking of His law would result in severe consequences. The initial giving of God’s divine law would be met with reverential fear. God gave the commandment and Adam made the choice to obey. The tree (knowledge of good and evil) was a clear boundary that God established and we can assume that Adam did his best to keep his distance. The 2nd definition given above with regard to holiness is that it must be tested. How would this test come about? Who will administer this testing? We see in Gen 3:1 that the serpent (Satan) makes an immediate assault on the one LAW God gave to man. No fancy introductions or beating around the bush. He drew man’s attention to the LAW. His words “did God say…?” demonstrates the threat that God’s laws represent to the kingdom of darkness. Is it any wonder he seeks to undermine, to sugar-coat or minimize the law, as seen today in many of the doctrines being taught? Let’s continue to investigate his tactics as seen in Genesis 3. Eve does a good job of responding to the serpent’s initial brazen approach. This is an insight we should not quickly pass over. The tactics are to overwhelm and intimidate from the start. What must be appreciated is that he does not give up easily. He is smart enough to recognize that a change of approach may be needed. His next statement to Eve is an insightful one and it is a statement that lays a foundation for many of today’s false teachings.
“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.” (Gen 3:4)
God said the consequence for sin was death. The enemy countered by stating that a loving God would never allow such a thing to happen. Here we have the foundation being laid for many of the damaging doctrines confronting today’s church. The sting and consequence of sin has been removed. That tree which was forbidden has now become one to be desired. Sin now has an appeal; doctrine and God’s perspective has now been redefined for something more palatable and pleasing to the uncircumcised heart. It is here where we see a distinction between soul and spirit. Can you see how loaded and insightful these initial chapters in Genesis are? Can you see how the enemy works in a similar way especially as we approach the divergent paths seen in Romans 6? The cross identifies and deals with these tendencies but how many are willing to choose that narrow path? Is our tendency one of yielding more to the flesh or the spirit? The soul of man is the battleground. It needs to be fed and nourished by God’s Word and His laws as opposed to emotional reasoning. What God clearly presented as sin in Gen 2:16-17 has now been redefined in Gen 3:5-6. The sting and consequence of sin has been removed. Truth has now given way to perception. The law now becomes what man deems it to be.
The last days will be characterized by lawlessness. It will be in this environment where the antichrist will be able to operate. The responsibility for much of this will be placed at the doorstep of the church. Eve’s discourse with the serpent was at a soulish level. She allowed the serpent to dictate her perception of God; a God who would not allow eternal separation from Himself (Gen 3:4). Is not this the same argument today in many of the churches? Does the doctrine of “eternal security” sound familiar? Its origins can be seen in Gen 3:4.
The subject of the law will again be addressed when we look at the Two Priesthoods. The world today is beginning to come apart at the seams. The primary reason for this is the disregard and minimization of God’s law. “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant (Isa 24:5).
May God grant that we truly become New Covenant believers; whereby the laws of God become written upon the fleshly table of our hearts. This will only be realized through the heart of the Romans Road. The by-pass route will have a seductive appeal to many. The serpent is working today in much the same way he did with Eve. It is in his interest to undermine and redefine God’s law. May God grant that we respond as Jesus did by countering “It is written”