The Man in Romans 7

The Man in Romans 7

In order to rightly understand what Paul taught in the latter part of Romans 7, we need to understand how he described two groups of people earlier in this epistle.

In Rom 3 & 4, Paul is teaching his kinsmen of the flesh why being Jewish is not enough, how children of promise are true Jews. In Rom 5:1-5 he is teaching – again – how those Jewish Christians were reconciled to God: righteous in faith, rejoicing in Christ and our afflictions, grounded in love, and possessed by the Holy Spirit.

In what follows in chapter 5 is an ongoing contrast between unconverted Jews and converted Jews, with an abbreviated history of sin – contrasting the first and last Adams. Throughout this chapter, the redeemed are described as righteous, justified, full of grace, saved from wrath, reconciled to God, having eternal life. The unconverted are described as helpless, ungodly, enemies of God, dead in sin, under judgment, condemned. Quite a difference – worth noting.

Chapter 6 is a continuation of Paul’s argument from the previous chapters, where he encourages the redeemed Jews (this is still his primary audience) are exhorted to walk in grace, not sin. These people are called dead to sin, joined with Christ, crucified with Christ, free from sin, alive to God, under grace, slaves of obedience and righteousness. He tells them – and us – not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies, for, he says, “sin will not rule over you because you are not under law but under grace.” (vs 14) We have new fruit resulting in sanctification and eternal life; we have a new master, grace – no longer slaves to master sin.

The unconverted man in Romans 6 has everything in common with his counterpart in chapter 5; he is in bondage and domination of sin, a slave to sin, ruled by death, obedient to sin, unrighteous, and ruled by sin; under law. This man is obedient to sin, under law not grace, a slave to sin – leading to death, weak in the flesh, morally impure, lawless, producing the fruit of death. Sin is his master, not grace.

The contrast between the unconverted sinner and the redeemed sinner is striking and it’s consistent: the one man is fleshly and full of sin, under the law and breaking the law; the other man is full of the Holy Spirit, rejoicing in all things, dead to sin and the law, producing good fruit unto eternal life.

A couple of observations: contextually, Paul has been describing his kinsmen of the flesh. The man in Romans 7 is a Jew, even though all people can identify with the spiritual struggle portrayed. The pious Jew  would see God’s law, instructions, Scriptures as good and holy even while he would be unable to comply with them.

When we then read about the man in Romans 7:13-24, who does he sound like? Let’s look at a list:

vs 13: dead, sinful

vs 14: of flesh, sold into sin’s power

vs 15 & 16: double minded

vs 17: full of sin

vs 18: no ability to do good

vs 19 -21: captive to evil

vs 22: he agrees, he knows the law of God is good

vs 23: he is a prisoner of sin

vs 24: he is a wretched man

While you and I see some of our Christian life in what Paul wrote about in this passage, it’s clear that this man has nothing in common with the redeemed man Paul described in chapter 5 & 6; but he has everything in common with the unconverted man in those chapters.  The context of the epistle indicates Paul is describing a Jew, not a Gentile, and a Jew that is struggling under a law he knows is good but without the ability to obey from the heart and produce good fruit unto eternal life. The man in Romans 7 does not have the Holy Spirit, but he is of the flesh, captive to evil, a slave to sin, producing fruit unto death.

The change to present tense does not mandate the view that Paul has changed course and began talking about himself as a Christian. It may very well be nothing more than a literary device to make the plight of the man all the more gripping. He is in a very dangerous condition! Present tense does not mandate the view that this man is Paul as a Christian. The description of the man and the larger context of the epistle provide a more sure guide to interpret this passage.

As with all Scripture, we learn from this passage. But we have no more reason to insert ourselves into this passage than we do with Jeremiah 29:11.

NOT Part of the Gospel

John MacArthur has started a new series from Ezekiel 18 entitled, “Social Justice and the Gospel.”  He is very thorough and rightly concludes from Scripture that “social justice” is NOT part of the Gospel.  Too many, even in evangelicalism, are being taken in by a society that thinks it is entitled.  In doing so, pastors are failing their congregations by adding to the truth of God’s Word.  I encourage you to listen to this series.

The Resurrection Fact

a book review by Stuart Brogden

Fellow Christian, do you doubt the fact that Christ Jesus was raised from the dead? Truth be told, nobody who has been born of the Spirit of God should doubt this fact. Reality is, many who deny God do. How do you and I respond when a well-educated reprobate throw up man’s wisdom that appears to crumble the foundation of our faith? If we well versed and studied up in what the Bible says about the centerpiece of its theme – the propitiating death of the Son of Man and His resurrection from the dead – we will be on firm footing. Understanding the arguments that will be thrown up against us is of benefit, and that’s the reason for this book.

The Resurrection Fact – Responding to Modern Critics, is a compendium detailing the elements and weaknesses of the enemy’s assaults and the reasoning that gives thinking Christians more confidence in this core aspect of our theology. The 8 chapters first examine the importance of the resurrection of Christ and facts recorded about it, followed by a helpful rehearsal of the impotence of the scientific method regarding historical events. The last 6 chapters review various attacks by people – some claim to be inside the camp of Christ, some deny there is reason for a camp.

Chapter 3 takes a look at an apostate Roman Catholic – but I repeat myself. One former apologist for Rome, John Dominic Crossan, has gone further off the reservation by embracing what the editors of this book call “progressive Christianity.” Typical of this movement is the idea that Christ Jesus’ resurrection was spiritual only, not physical. The editor for this chapter (John Bombaro)  call this “unbelief masquerading as “faith.”” (page 61) In a platonic scheme of dismissing the physical for the spiritual, these progressives write off the physical as unimportant, obscuring the meaning, often embracing the gnostic gospels for support. “Progressive Christianity believes it can skirt the pitfall of establishing the historicity of the resurrection because “the truth of a parable – of a parabolic narrative – is not dependent on its factuality.”” (page 66 & 67)

When facts are not important to one’s religion, any collection of stories will suffice. And that’s why spurious documents no one takes seriously are held up as authoritarian by these new style heretics. Contrary to what Crossan and his fellow-travelers claim, “God redeems the totality of a human being according to a Hebraic (not Platonic) anthropology.” (page 69) The result of the progressives’ view is the lack of eschatological hope – if Christ be not raised from the dead, bodily, neither will we be! “Crossan makes the parable primary and the person and work of Jesus secondary. This distinction is akin to the difference in importance between Jesus showing the way and Jesus being the way.” (page 69) This is related to the error many evangelicals make in reducing the life of Christ to an example for us to follow. It is that – and much more! If Jesus had not lived without sin, compliant to the law of the Old Covenant, if He had not submitted Himself to take our place under the wrath of God, propitiating that so we would be judged righteous, then all the good examples in the universe would be nothing more than a cruel hoax.

Bombaro closes out this chapter observing that, “while Crossan may claim that it is the meaning that matters, that meaning has ceased to be exegetically derived and has become altogether eisegetical. There is no Christ risen from the dead, not really, not historically. … Crossan, it turns out, is really that cynic he makes Jesus out to be.”

You can have all the riches in the world, just give me Jesus – the biblical Jesus. None other will do ruined sinners good.

Rethinking Conditionalism – (Part 6a) Eternal Life and Immortality

Rethinking Conditionalism – (Part 6a) Eternal Life and Immortality

(Notice: the blog series has moved to Rethinking Conditionalism on Our Common Salvation)

I read someone asking a conditionalist in a Facebook thread concerning how they define death. Then one of them responded with, “It depends on how you define life.” I couldn’t agree more! Unfortunately, this is an area that Chris Date and some within Rethinking Hell sorely deviate from. In a debate with Len Pettis during a Striving for Eternity Conference in September of 2016, Chris Date stated that Jesus does not define eternal life as knowing the Father and the Son just as He taught in John 17:3. Chris then wrongly exegetes this Scripture by comparing the translation of the Greek word “is” with other Scriptures that contain the same word. He neglects to make a linguistic and contextual interpretation of John 17:3 by failing to see the other words which Jesus used that explicitly define eternal life.  It is presented below in English and in Greek so that you can see why Jesus defines eternal life as knowing (having intimate fellowship with) God. And please don’t run. As I did in Part 2a, you don’t have to be a Greek scholar to understand what I’m about to show you.

John 17:3

  • (English – ESV) And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
  • (Greek – MGNT) αὕτη δέ ἐστιν αἰώνιος ζωή ἵνα γινώσκωσιν σὲ τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεὸν καὶ ὃν ἀπέστειλας Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν

Now, if you noticed, I highlighted the words that Chris used to make his case in blue. The Greek word ἐστιν is the conjugated form of the word “eimi” that he mentions in the video link above.  It is this word that Chris wrongly interprets in this context. But since conditionalists tend to define death in hyper-literal terms, it is no wonder that they look at Scriptures like this and have to make it fit their own annihilationistic hermeneutic. Nevertheless, Chris explicitly states that “is” does not “equate” eternal life with knowing God the Father and the Son. But let’s look at the other words within this context to help us to understand the semantic function of “is” in this context.
Continue reading

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 4b) – Irenaeus

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 4b) – Irenaeus

(Notice: the blog series has moved to Rethinking Conditionalism on Our Common Salvation)

***Please read part 4a first***

In this continuation of Part 4a, we will look at different chapters of Irenaeus’ work that reveal that he really believed in the wicked who continue in eternal punishment, not annihilation. I worded it that way on purpose because those within the Rethinking Hell network believe that this Church Father (and others) simply used “biblical language” to talk about hell, not meaning that the wicked would reside there forever. In the future, I will show why that is simply not true depending on who you mention. You should read the article I’m referring to here if you have not read it already.

Although, I will not elevate the writing of the Church Fathers above Sola Scriptura, I am only taking the time to write about this simply because a claim is made, and being familiar enough with the Church Fathers’ writing, wanted to re-investigate these claims. And predictably, they are out of context. The principles of textual analysis that I will incorporate here in understanding Irenaeus can easily be applied to other writings if need be. One of them being, systematic study of the whole of their writings. Or at the very least, a good chunk of it.

Below is a list of chapters I will reference so that you can click on each of them and read them at your leisure. They will be numbered, and I will quote from them so that you know which link I am referring to.

1. Against Heresies (Book V, Chapter 27)

2. Against Heresies (Book IV, Chapter 28)

3. Against Heresies (Book II, Chapter 33)

4. Against Heresies (Book IV, Chapter 39)

5. Against Heresies (Book IV, Chapter 40)

1. Regarding Book V, Chapter 27, Irenaeus recognizes that not only will there be a greater punishment awaiting the wicked than those of Sodom and Gomorrah (a city Chris affirms is an example of annihilation), Irenaeus goes on to say:

Continue reading

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 4a) – Irenaeus

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 4a) – Irenaeus

(Notice: the blog series has moved to Rethinking Conditionalism on Our Common Salvation)

On an article posted for RethinkingHell.com, there is a misquoted and misguided reference to Irenaeus, a 2nd Century Church Father, that wrongfully places him as supporting a conditionalist/annihilationist position. You can find the article here. I do not put much stock into the Church Fathers as I do the authority of Sola Scriptura, but I do hope to show how it doesn’t seem like those at the Rethinking Hell ministry take the time to read the other chapters of Irenaeus’ work. They conveniently only quote (out of context) parts of Book 2 Chapter 34. Chris Date, the author, states:

  • Contrary to the claims of traditionalists (those that believe in eternal conscious torment), however, [Irenaeus’] work is one of the earliest explicit affirmations outside of scriptures of the final annihilation of the wicked.” 

Open the link to Chris Date’s article above in another tab or window, and compare what I am going to say in light of what he says. Excuse the swiftness of what I write as I am trying to be brief and clear.

After you’ve read the whole article, if you focus your attention on the sub-heading that says “Existence and Continuance” you will notice that Chris only quotes pieces of the Irenaeus’ work in this whole chapter. If you don’t have time to read the whole article, here is the main portion of Irenaeus work that Chris quotes from :

  • For as the heaven which is above us, the firmament, the sun, the moon, the rest of the stars, and all their grandeur, although they had no previous existence, were called into being, and continue throughout a long course of time according to the will of God, so also any one who thinks thus respecting souls and spirits, and, in fact, respecting all created things, will not by any means go far astray, inasmuch as all things that have been made had a beginning when they were formed, but endure as long as God wills that they should have an existence and continuance. (underline mine)

Now, before we show the parts he doesn’t quote, if you read the previous chapter of Irenaeus’ work, Chapter 33, you’ll find that he is opposing those who believe that the souls of people can transmigrate from body to body, and that those souls have no previous knowledge of their prior existence.  He even goes on to point out how just as those that rise to eternal life will go into that life with soul and body, so will those that go to punishment, having body and soul. But Chris would predictably respond that this chapter does not say that people in hell will suffer eternally. A point that will soon be refuted.

Now that you know the background, Here is the whole of chapter 34 here, with the bolded areas revealing what was left out from his article, as well as numbered markers in between to reference my explanations afterward.

Continue reading

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 2c) – Eternal Fire

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 2c) – Eternal Fire

(Notice: the blog series has moved to Rethinking Conditionalism on Our Common Salvation)

I was recently told that I have not made any coherent arguments in my previous articles and podcast, and that my position against conditionalism (conditional immortality) was hard to follow. Here are some points to chew on, plain and simple (although what I am about to say will not be an exhaustive argument).

If the fire is unquenchable in that it can’t be “put out” as conditionalists say, and that it will not be put out until the work is finished. Then, when the work is finished, and the wicked are annihilated, will the fire be done doing its work? In other words, will it no longer burn? If a conditionalists says yes, that it will no longer burn when it has finished its work, then the fire must not be eternal. It would follow, then, that it either does die out, or it goes away somehow. So making the distinction between put out vs die out is unnecessary and linguisitically deceptive. Furthermore, in Matthew 25, the fire is described as being in and of itself eternal and is not exactly equivocal in nature to the fire coming down from God (Sodom), nor indicative of exclusively being God’s glory or holy presence somehow. Such attempts are trying to explain away the obvious. It is a categorically different fire. It is the fire of God’s eternal wrath. It is a fire of judgment that is permanent and perpetual. If you have a wrathful fire burning against sinners, which is the purpose of the fire, and the fire is supposed to be forever burning, how do you have a fiery wrath burning against an enemy that will eventually no longer be there? Some conditionalist will retort that the fire can be in and of itself eternal, but those that are in it are not (and they say I am proposing some kind of “eternal fuel” theory when I am not). But that still doesn’t solve the problem. Because the fire is still indicative of God’s wrath against sinners. So why will His wrathful anger still burn? If the people are consumed, the fire should cease. But it will not.

But also, another thing that is pointed out by Conditionalists is that the worm will not die. They make a distinction to say that the Bible doesn’t say it will “never” die (although linguistically there is proof that it implies that), but simply that it does “not” die. In other words, it will not die until it is done doing the work that it was set out to do, just as the the Rethinking Hell ministry has affirmed many times. The worm’s purpose is eating the corpses of the dead bodies that they say Isaiah 66 illustrates. So if the fire and worm exist to accomplish what it was meant to accomplish, what happens when the worm dies? Wouldn’t the fire die out as well since both are an illustration of God’s judgment? That is what the contributors at Rethinking Hell are implying. And if the fire stops too, why does Matthew describe the fire as eternal?

What you have here is a huge inconsistency that basically makes the future punishment of unquenchable, eternal fire as Jesus explains it in the New Testament being a complete equivalent to the nature of the Old Testament fire that destroys its adversaries (which eventually went out when the work was finished). Even though Jesus used Old Testament language to describe God’s wrath and burning judgment against wicked, Jesus further expounds upon the nature of the future judgment in the New Testament. In Matthew 25’s case, it is eternal. And, it is explaining what happens after you die. Not the first time you die like in many Scriptures used to substantiate annihilationism.  So either the fire is truly temporal and not eternal, or the worms and fire are eternal thus making the punishment eternal. It’s not hard to understand. But of course, Jude 7 is used, again, to substantiate their claim that the fire can be eternal. But this is categorical and semantical mistake. I will exegetic Jude 7 for you all in the future, but just know this for now. The eternal fire spoken of by Jude 7 is teaching us that the wicked are suffering NOW in torment.

But let’s add Jude into the mix for a second. If we use Jude 7 to interpret how the eternal fire can still be eternal because it is God’s glory, or is coming from God’s holy presence down from heaven as some conditionalists say, and it doesn’t have to burn forever, then why does Matthew’s grammatical construction (see part 2a-b) make eternal fire categorically different from other fires? Also, Matthew refers to the location of those thrown into eternal fire as a separate “place” 6 times in his writings (Mathew 8:12; 13:42; 13:50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30), “prepared” for Satan and his angels, where there is outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth. Keep this in mind that this place is still a place of wrath, anger, fire, judgment. If conditionalist wish to make the fire that Matthew describes like that of Sodom, which they wrongly assume Jude means – a fire that comes down from God upon Sodom and Gomorrah and burns for a period of time only to kill and annihilate – if God already dished out the punishment with eternal fire, then why is He resurrecting them to do the same thing again? In other words, He already “annihilated” them with “eternal fire” in Sodom. That was their punishment, right?  I’ve asked this question before in Part 3 of this series. And if this is the case, why would Jesus say that it would be better for Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt 10:14-15; 11:22-24) on the day of judgement than for those that reject the gospel if the same kind of death-by-fire (or should we say annihilation-by-fire) punishment is coming? It doesn’t add up. Oh, and by the way. The example in 2 Peter 2:6 is not describing annihilation after death, but is illustrating that God will preserve the righteous and judge the wicked. Not that Sodom serves as a direct parallel describing annihilation. Context is key.

Lastly, the rebuttal and arguments to make the eternal fire in Matthew something other than an instrument of wrath located in a place that is categorically different is plain ludicrous. The fact that this fire will never go out, be put out, or die out (whichever wording you choose) implies that God’s wrath will abide there forever. And if God’s wrath abides there forever, on whom is it abiding against when the wicked will sooner or later be annihilated? This isn’t eternal fuel. This is eternal punishment. The fire existed prior to them begin thrown in their because it is a place “prepared” and a place that endures forever for those that are not born again. I wish I could be more plain, but I’m not sure how. If this isn’t good enough for conditionalists I’m not sure what is. Nevertheless, I will continue to write and extend an open invitation for conditionalists to come on a podcast with me to discuss what they believe and why. So far, they have declined for emotional reasons.

Tune in to part 4 coming within the next week about how the Church Father, Irenaeus, believed some of the very same things about the punishment and fire enduring eternally, even though the ministry of Rethinking Hell take him out of context.

-Until we go home