Cleaning a Mess and Adding Some Shine: A Brief Look at Romans 5:12–21

By | May 8, 2024

“In a passage that rivals [Romans] 3:21–26 for theological importance, Paul paints with broad brush strokes a ‘bird’s-eye’ picture of the history of redemption. His canvas is human history, and the scope is universal.”1

“Adam’s sin has wrought great devastation in the world, and we all know that cleaning up a mess is harder than making one. The depth of Christ’s grace is revealed by the undoing of Adam’s sin, for grace would not shine as brilliantly if it did not involve the conquering and subduing of previously existing sin.”2

I love quotations like these two by Moo and Schreiner, both commenting on Romans 5:12–21. The first helps us understand that Romans 5:12–21 gives us a bird’s-eye view of the Bible, and the second zooms in on how Christ graciously cleans up sin and death in order to bring about our salvation. We could get wrapped up in debates about whether this passage teaches seminal or federal/representative headship (I understand it to teach the latter) or take our time to guard this passage from the heresy of universalism. However, as seen in the quotations above, this passage demands our attention and understanding due to its the redemptive-historical scope and the brilliance of grace therein. As Christians, we should understand Romans 5:12–21 as best we can, and, having understood it, we should love our God all the more. In context, this passage strengthens our hope of eternal life.

Romans 5:1–11 speaks of the blessings of justification, and especially the blessing of our hope of eternal life (cf. Romans 5:2, 4–5, 9–10). Romans 5:12–21 grounds our hope further by explaining how “Adam… was a type of the one who was to come” (Romans 5:14). Briefly stated, eternal life is certain because God undoes humanity’s sin and death in Adam for those who receive His saving grace and the righteousness of Christ.

Explaining how Adam was a type of Christ, Paul compares and contrasts the two (Romans 5:12, 15–19). He also clarifies these matters in terms of before and after the Law (Romans 5:13–14, 20–21). The words just as, as, so, like, if, much more, all the more, as, and also tie these comparisons and contrasts together. The following describes these comparisons, contrasts, and clarifications, verse by verse.

Romans 5:12

Paul begins a comparison and contrast by speaking of Adam but does not complete this comparison until 5:18–19. Sin came into the world through one man who representatively sinned for all. As a result, death came to him and all mankind.

Romans 5:13–14

Paul clarifies that sin existed and death reigned from Adam to Moses, though the Law had not yet come to define sin for what it was.

Romans 5:15

Paul contrasts the free gift of Christ’s life with the trespass of Adam. Adam’s trespass brought death, but the life and death of Christ undid Adam’s sin and death and even abounded to give us righteousness and life.

Romans 5:16–17

In 5:16, Paul contrasts the results of the free gift of Christ’s righteous life and Adam’s sin. Adam’s sin brought condemnation, but Christ’s life (for those who receive it) brought justification. In 5:17, Paul elaborates this contrast. Death reigned because of Adam’s sin, but those who receive God’s grace and Christ’s righteousness reign in life.

Romans 5:18–19

Contrasts and clarification in hand, Paul now completes the comparison that he began in 5:12. In 5:18, Paul compares Adam to Christ. Both men did one thing that affected all men, though their acts and results were opposite. Adam’s trespass led to condemnation for all, and Christ’s act of righteousness (His life and death) leads to justification and life for all (i.e, all who believe; cf. 5:17). In 5:19, Paul elaborates 5:18 to shift from results to people—Adam’s disobedience made people sinners, but Christ’s obedience makes people righteous (again, by faith).

Romans 5:20–21

In 5:20–21, Paul clarifies the purpose of the Law and its relationship to grace. In 5:20, the Law’s purpose was not to save but to define sin for what it is. Yet, in spite of sin’s exposure, grace abounded all the more. In 5:21, Paul summarizes and closes off the whole passage by giving the purpose for why grace so abounded—so that, having undone sin and death, grace might reign both now and forever through the righteousness of Christ, leading to eternal life through Him.

In summary, we sinned in Adam, and thus sin and death reign over us. Before the Law, men ignorantly but obviously sinned because death reigned during that time. After the Law, sin became worse because now it was transgression—violating God’s written, righteous Word. And even if ignorant of the written Word, man was at least violating the law of God written in his heart (cf. Romans 2:14–15). However, as we receive the saving grace of God and believe that Christ in His life and death fulfilled the demands and the penalty of the Law for us, His righteousness becomes ours, and grace reigns in our life instead, giving us assurance that we have eternal life through Him!

Photo by Oleksii Hlembotskyi on Unsplash

  1. Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (New International Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapid: Eerdmans, 1996), 314. []
  2. Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 285. []

An Overview of Daniel 11:2–12:3

By | May 3, 2024

Daniel 11:2–12:3 is a prophecy about Israel to Daniel from an angel, probably Gabriel (cf. Daniel 8:16; 9:21; 10:10–11). Much has been fulfilled (Daniel 11:2–35); some is yet to come (Daniel 11:36–12:3).

Daniel 11:2–35 covers almost 400 years (539–167 BC). Daniel 11:2 foretold three Persian kings and a fourth whose rules spanned 530 to 465 BC. The fourth was Xerxes (Ahasuerus in Esther) who would provoke Greece around 480 BC and receive a forceful response even 150 years later. Prophesied in Daniel 11:3–4, this force was through Alexander the Great who quickly conquered but died (336–323 BC), resulting in his kingdom dividing four ways—north, south, east, and west.

Daniel 11:5–35 then anticipated 160 years of war between the southern Ptolemy dynasty in Egypt and the northern Seleucid dynasty in Syria (323–163 BC). Daniel 11:5–9 runs through the first 50 of these years (323–227 BC), detailing warfare and intrigue between the north and the south. Daniel 11:10–20 covers the next 50 years in (227–176 BC) in which one northern king is primarily in view, Antiochus III (ruled 223–187 BC). This rule receives more attention in order to set the stage for the next king, Antiochus IV.

In Daniel 11:21–35, Gabriel foretells the rule of a contemptible northern king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes (ruled 176–163 BC), a madman whose military failures resulted in irrational rage against Israel. Daniel 11:29–35 closes this section with the sad story of how Antiochus IV would profane Israel’s temple, end her worship, set up something abominable instead (a statue of Zeus and using pigs for sacrifices on the altar), and persecute many to death. Antiochus IV is not only an evil king involved in Israel’s history, but he also previews the worst of kings to come—the Antichrist in Daniel 11:36–12:3.

So, in Daniel 11:36–12:3, Gabriel jumps from Antiochus IV to the Antichrist “at the time of the end” (Daniel 11:40), a “king” with no country specified and one who “shall do as he wills” (Daniel 11:36). He rejects all gods and God above to exalt himself and military might (Daniel 11:36–39; cf. 2 Thess 2:3–4). As he rises to power, the kings of the south and north attack, prompting his own invasion of multiple countries in return, overwhelming them with his soldiers, and easily passing through (Daniel 11:40). With his headquarters between Jerusalem and the sea, his campaign extends to Palestine (“the glorious land”) and the south, east, and north before his ignominious end (Daniel 11:41–45).

Before his end, however, the Antichrist provokes an unprecedented time of trouble, requiring the archangel Michael to come to Israel’s aid (Daniel 12:1; cf. 9:27; Revelation 12:7–17). Israel’s trouble ends with rescue for the believing remnant and resurrection for the believing dead (Daniel 12:2–3). Israel’s foes will awake to judgment in time to come (cf. Revelation 20:11–15).

Photo of Bust of Antiochus IV at Altes Museum (Berlin) by Yair Haklai

A Theology of Woman from Genesis 1-2: Reflecting God’s Image, Bringing Companionship, and Helping Her Husband

By | May 2, 2024
This entry is part 1 of 1 in the series A Theology of Woman

This blog series is adapted from Sunday School lessons I wrote several years ago for women and teen girls. The goal was to form a “theology of woman” by looking chronologically at all of the major portions of Scripture regarding women and womanhood. What does the Bible say are the roles, duties, challenges, and opportunities that we have as women?

Many men and women have argued about the equality of and distinctions between genders. Some have oppressed women with the idea that man is superior to woman in every way. On the other extreme are feminists who claim that there are virtually no distinctions between male and female.

12 years ago, when I first wrote these lessons, I read an article in a parenting magazine that reported a mother who wanted her children to have more genderless thinking. She refused to push her children towards gender-specific toys. In a more extreme case, I read about a couple in Canada who were trying to raise a genderless baby. Today, these stories are commonplace and hardly even notable in the world’s eyes—unless of course you are refusing to be “pronoun hospitable.”

The above stories, in reality, illustrate rebellion against God’s created order and the gender-specific roles that He has ordained. The Bible clearly claims that men and women are equal yet distinct at the same time. Men and women share equal worth but maintain distinct roles.

God created men and women with similar obligations.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. (Genesis 1:26-29, ESV)

Men and women alike are to imitate God.

Men and women were created equally in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 states that God made mankind in His image; verse 28 follows it up by specifying that both man and woman were made in God’s image. Man and woman were made from the mold of their Maker. They were created to resemble their Creator, unlike any other created being.  Thus, they also share in the same goal—to be like their Creator.

The word image comes from the Hebrew tselem, which means basically “to carve” or “to cut.” The word likeness comes from the Hebrew demuth, which means “to be like.” Both men and women are to reflect our Sculptor, who sculpted us in his likeness.

Men and women alike are to procreate.

In Genesis 1:28, God commands man and woman to be fruitful and multiply. Men and women are responsible to fill the earth with children, who are also made in the image of God. In this “creation” of more image-bearers, we reflect our Creator as well.

Women are especially associated with this command, since they actually physically bear children. Genesis 3:20 states that “the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living” (emphasis added).

Men and women alike are to dominate.

The word subdue in Genesis 1:28 is the Hebrew kabash, which means “to bring something into bondage, to make it serve you by force, to dominate it.” The word rule comes from the the Hebrew rada, meaning “to govern something, to reign or hold sway over it.”

Mankind is to be diligent in the responsibilities God has given us: domination over creation. We are to be good stewards of the resources and responsibilities God has given us. God gives this command to “them,” both man and woman. As God called all of creation into existence, we who are made in God’s image are to rule over that creation.

God created men and women with certain distinctions.

Just as surely as there are similarities between man and woman, God clearly shows us that there are also distinctions.  These distinctions are God-ordained and intended for our good.

Men and women were created physically distinct.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27, ESV)

Quite simply and clearly, God states that he created them as male and female. God ordained that there be physical differences between a male and a female. In a world that too often refuses to recognize gender differences, it is absolutely necessary to recognize that God not only recognizes the differences, but he also created the differences.

The first man and woman were created in a distinct order and method.

Man was created first out of the ground (Gen 2:7). The woman was created after and from the man.

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:21-23, ESV)

 The woman was created to be man’s companion and helper.      

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. (Genesis 2:18-20, ESV)

The woman was created for the purpose of helping man and bringing him companionship. Although women do not have a monopoly in the helping arena, this is a specific role that the woman herself has been called to by God. The woman helps the man. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines help as “to give assistance or support to (someone) to provide (someone) with something that is useful or necessary in achieving an end.”

What were the responsibilities that the woman was created to help her fellow image-bearer accomplish? She was to help him fulfill his/their God-ordained tasks. Be fruitful. Multiply. Fill the earth. Subdue it. Have dominion over creation (cf. Genesis 1:28).

Helping and companionship are a good thing.

After God created Adam and the rest of creation, he saw that “it was good” (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31).  God, however, saw something that was not good. It was not good that man was alone. As Adam named all the animals that were brought to them, he noticed that the animals were paired up. He also finally realized that there was not a “helper fit for him.” So, God decided to make one.

Helping is within a framework of equality.

The woman was created to be a helper fit for him. Unlike all the animals, the woman was the only one suitable for Adam. She was his equal in essence (i.e., created in God’s image) but not in function/role.

When God brought the woman to the man, the man literally broke out in poetry: At last! Someone like me!

This at last is bone of my bones

and flesh of my flesh;

she shall be called Woman,

because she was taken out of Man (Genesis 2:23).

Helping is a task that God does as well.

In case anyone feels that being a helper is a miniscule, subservient task, she should be encouraged that God is called a help multiple times in Scripture (cf. Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:26, 29; Psalm 33:20; 70:5; 115: 9-11; 146:5; Hosea 13:9).

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2, ESV)

It should encourage our hearts to see the God of the universe helping us. We imitate God when we help others, specifically our husbands in the context of marriage.

In the history of the world and for many in the present, it has not been and is not easy to be a woman. As we will see in Genesis 3, this dysfunction between the genders is a by-product of sin. Women have often responded either by thinking of themselves as inferior to men or by clawing their way to the top to prove themselves superior.

But from woman’s very creation, she was made—along with man—in God’s image for the purpose of reflecting him. This is a glorious and humbling responsibility! This reflection includes the companionship and help we women give to our husbands, and this too is part of God’s divine plan for women. We help the men in our lives accomplish whatever God has called them to do, as God also helps us accomplish what he has called us to do.

Who Does Daniel See and Hear in Daniel 10:5–9?

By | April 25, 2024

Daniel received his final vision in Daniel 10–12. As with previous visions (cf. Daniel 7:16; 8:16–17; 9:21–23), Daniel saw angels and heard them speak (e.g., Daniel 12:5). In this vision, however, there is debate among Bible-believing theologians over the identity of the messenger who told Daniel of things to come (cf. Daniel 11:2–12:3).

Some identify Daniel’s messenger as an angel. Being awesome in appearance, the angel’s arrival caused Daniel to faint (cf. Daniel 8:18; Matt 28:3–4). Being under divine authority, the angel submitted to being “sent” (Daniel 10:11).Being powerful but not omnipotent, the angel claimed to have come after fighting a demon—“the prince of kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days” (Daniel 10:13; cf. 10:20). Even then, the messenger was there speaking to Daniel only because the angel “Michael, one the chief princes, came to help” him fight the demon (Daniel 10:13). As the angel Gabriel had previously come to Daniel (Daniel 8:16; 9:21), perhaps this angel was also Gabriel, maybe a chief angel alongside the archangel Michael (Daniel 10:21b), who was allowed an appearance similar to Jesus in a vision seen by John (Daniel 10:5–6, 10; Revelation 1:12–17).

Others identify this messenger as the Son of God.The similarities in appearance and actions between Daniel 10:5–9 and Revelation 1:12–17 (as well as Ezekiel 1:26–28 and Acts 9:4a, 7; 22:9) could identify this messenger as the Son of God. He was sent by the Father (Daniel 10:13), sovereignly withheld His omnipotent power as He fought a weaker being (Daniel 10:13, 20; cf. Gen 32:22–32), and enlisted Michael’s help just as He employs angels for other tasks (Jude 9).

Others identify two different figures, the first being the Son of God in Daniel 10:5–9 and then an angel as the messenger in Daniel 10:10 and following. I personally believe this option is best by combining the reasons listed above. There are undeniable parallels between Daniel 10:5–9 and other passages that clearly identify the Son of God (Ezekiel 1:26–28; Acts 9:4a, 7; 22:9; Revelation 1:12–17). In the progress of revelation, perhaps the New Testament passages provide a commentary to identify whom Daniel saw. Once Daniel faints, the Son of God apparently leaves after Daniel 10:9 so as not to overwhelm Daniel again. Then, in Daniel 10:10, an angel sent by God (most likely Gabriel; cf. Daniel 8:16–18; 9:21–23) arrives after receiving Michael’s help to fight a demon (Daniel 10:11, 13, 20). He extends his hand to strengthen Daniel who then hears a prophecy of things to come (cf. Daniel 11:2–12:3).

Image from p. 961 of The Art Bible: Comprising the Old and New Testaments (London: George Newnes, Ltd., 1896).

A Quote to Encourage Joy in the Midst of Trial

By | April 25, 2024

Going through a trial is a difficult part of life. Even in a trial, the Lord commands us, “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4).

Obeying this command can be hard to do. So, here’s a quick quote commenting on Philippians 4:4 to encourage anyone going through a trial right now.

Circumstances change; prosperity and adversity travel the same street. But the Lord is changeless, and our relationship with God in Christ is inalterable. We can lose the stuff of life that may from time to time put a smile on our face, but we can never lose Christ, the Source and Reason of true joy. If we are not content with Christ, we will have no defense against the depression or fear caused by the norms of life. But if our delight is truly in the Lord, it is absolutely impossible to be disappointed, because He will always give us the desires of our heart. He will give us Himself (Psalm 37:4).

~From Michael Barrett, God’s Unfailing Purpose: The Message of Daniel (Ambassador Emerald International, 2003), p. 161.

Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay

Hope in Romans 5:1–11

By | April 21, 2024

In Romans 5:1–11, Paul refers to hope three times (Romans 5:2, 4, 5) and speaks to the content of our hope as well (Romans 5:9–10). The following briefly examines these mentions of hope for our encouragement today.

Hope in the Glory of God

First, Paul sates, “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2). The object of our hope here is “the glory of God,” something that we anticipate and expect. What of God’s glory can we expect to experience in the future? In short, this is our glorification, when we are one day perfectly “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29). We will “be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:17). This is “the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18), “the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21), the climax of our salvation blessings (Romans 8:30).

Hope Produced by Suffering

Second, Paul mentions hope in a list of benefits that suffering produces. “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame” (Romans 5:3–5). Our hope is not yet realized, and it would seem that our suffering might squelch this hope. However, as we endure through suffering, we see that God’s transformation in us is real. Moreover, as we endure suffering time and again, we develop a proven character that in turn produces a steadfast hope (cf. James 1:2–4; 1 Peter 1:6–9).

Hope That Does Not Put Us to Shame

Third, this “hope does not put us to shame” (Romans 5:5). It will not disappoint us in the great day when Christ returns and calls us to Himself. It is not a vain hope that will fail to come to be. The cause of such certainty is “God’s love” to us through Christ which “has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). As we believe and persevere, the Spirit communicates the love of God to us through Christ, assuring us that our hope will be fulfilled one day.

Hope of Being Saved

Last, in Romans 5:9–10, Paul does not use the word hope but specifies its content. Because we believe that Christ died for our justificationwhile we were yet sinners—“much more,” Paul says, “shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God” and also “be saved by His life” (Romans 5:9–10). If God has turned us from enemies into friends thanks to our faith in the blood of Christ, then we can hope all the more as His friends that He will save us from the wrath to come, thanks to the ongoing life and ministry of Christ.

As you believe in Christ, so also you have hope—a hope in future glorification, a hope that brings you through present suffering, a hope that will never put you to shame, a hope that you will be saved. May God strengthen our faith in Him and thus our hope today.

Image by WOKANDAPIX from Pixabay

Shrimp Fajitas: It’s What’s for Dinner!

By | April 20, 2024

There was a lot of “Make this again!” and “Yum! This is so good!” at dinner tonight. I’ve made this before, but I’m going to definitely have to make this more frequently. It was really delicious. I served the fajitas with corn tortillas, homemade guacamole,  homemade restaurant-style salsa, and tortilla chips.

I used the fajita recipe (doubled) from Natasha’s Kitchen. I really liked using my cast iron pans to cook the shrimp and veggies; it helped give them some of the charred flavor. I made the jalapeno ranch  that she links to in the recipe, and it was delicious too! I only used half of a seeded jalapeno, and that was mild enough for my family. I warm my corn tortillas in either a dry skillet or  a skillet sprayed lightly with olive oil.

The salsa recipe I used tonight is from a favorite food blogger of mine, Iowa Girl Eats. This is a really quick and easy, but tasty salsa. I only used half of a seeded jalapeno for this as well (though I like a whole one). I also added an extra teaspoon of salt. Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly, and everyone loved it! It’s very fresh tasting, unlike jarred salsas.

My guacamole recipe is a simple family favorite (except for my poor youngest, who is highly allergic to avocados!). Tonight I used 4 avocados, smashed. I chopped 1/2 of a small white onion finely and 1/2 of a large roma tomato, which I stirred into the avocado. I added salt and pepper to taste, along with a squeeze of fresh lemon. The fresh onion and lemon really add good depth of flavor, although onion powder and lemon juice can be used.

I hope you try these recipes–you’ll be sure to enjoy them!

Joy in the Midst of Trials: A Quick Look at Three Passages

By | April 20, 2024

Some passages timelessly encourage believers in the midst of trials. What follows is a quick look at three such passages—Romans 5:3–5, James 1:2–4, and 1 Peter 1:6–9. We briefly examine their common themes to encourage us today.

Trial

Both James and Peter speak of “trials” (peirasmos), a word that can focus on the aspect of testing in a trial (James 1:2; 1 Peter 1:6). James speaks of “the testing of your faith” (James 1:2), and Peter, “the tested genuineness of your faith” (1 Peter 1:6). “Testing” and “tested genuineness” are translations of the same word (dokimion) and are related to the word “character” (dokimē), the result of such testing that Paul describes in Romans 5:4.

Paul refers to “sufferings” (thlipsis), focusing on a trial’s distressing nature (Romans 5:3). Peter similarly notes that trials can leave us “grieved” (1 Peter 1:6). Altogether, trials are grievous, distressing events allowed by God, meant to test our faith.

Joy

Joy in trial is indicative of a believer. Peter states, “In this [a trial] you rejoice” (1 Peter 1:6). “Rejoice” (agalliaō) is used again with a description that brings out the nuance of this verb—“you… rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:9).

Paul states more succinctly, “We rejoice in our sufferings” (Romans 5:3). Apart from this passage (Romans 5:2, 3, 11), this word for “rejoice” (kauchaomai) is translated “boast” (e.g., Romans 2:17, 23) and even “glory” (e.g., Philippians 3:3). We boast and glory in suffering, knowing that God means it for our good.

Joy in the midst of trial is also imperative for the believer. James commands, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (James 1:2). “Count” means to think about something in a certain way. Believers must think of various kinds of unexpected trials as reason for all joy. While thinking this way should be indicative of who we are, we often fail to do so, thinking of our trials as something other than joy. We need the Spirit’s commands to counter our temptation to think this way and to view our trials correctly.

Sanctification

So how do we achieve the joy that Scripture declares and commands that we should receive in and from these trials? It comes from thinking correctly about why God gives us these trials. One reason why God gives us trials is for our present sanctification.

As we respond rightly in trial, Paul lists what suffering produces—“endurance… character… hope” (Romans 5:3–4). James likewise lists “steadfastness” and “its full effect,” being “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:3–4). These lists from Paul and James are progressive, one item progressing to the next. Trials teach us to persevere, prove our character, and live with Christian maturity and hope, whatever we might experience.

Peter generally speaks of “the tested genuineness of your faith” but seems to describe later what that genuineness looks like—loving the unseen Jesus Christ, believing in Him, and rejoicing with inexpressible, glorious joy (1 Peter 1:8). Persevering in trials is not simply gritting our teeth and gutting our way to their end. A true and tested faith focuses on Jesus in the midst of a trial and is marked by love, faith, and joy.

Reward

Another reason why God gives us trials is to assure us of future reward. As we persevere, we know reward will come, giving us joy right now. Paul speaks of “hope” (Romans 5:3–4), later specifying its source—we will “be saved by him [Christ] from the wrath of God” and we will “be saved by His life” (Romans 5:9–10). This hope of future salvation also stems from the knowledge of “God’s love” for us in Christ, made certain to us in “our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

Similarly, James says that “the man who remains steadfast under trial” is “blessed.” And why? “For when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12). Peter likewise roots our inexpressible joy in the results of Christ’s return. At that time, “the tested genuineness of [our] faith… may be found to result in praise and glory and honor,” and we will receive “the outcome of [our] faith, the salvation of [our] souls” (1 Peter 1:8–9).

Trials are sure to come. But trials should be for our joy. They are meant for our sanctification now, which assures us of our salvation that will come. So, in the midst of grief and distress, look to Jesus Christ, love Him, and rejoice that He will honor your faith when He gives full salvation to your soul.

Image by Сергей Корчанов from Pixabay

Jesus Christ: Our Propitiation Displaying the Righteousness of God (Romans 3:25–26)

By | April 18, 2024

Romans 3:21–26 bursts with soteriological fireworks after the dreary darkness of man’s sin and unrighteousness in Rom 1:18–3:20. Though man is unrighteous, guilty of sin, and will therefore face the righteous wrath of God (Rom 1:18–3:20), God declares us righteous through our faith in Jesus Christ who suffered the wrath of God for us (Rom 3:21–26).

Not only are these saving truths enough to light up our sky in and of themselves, but their brilliance stands out all the more when seen against the backdrop of the Old Testament. I’ll focus on just three words in Romans 3:25–26 and try to highlight their glories in light of their background or connection to the Old Testament.

Romans 3:25–26: 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It 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. (ESV)

Propitiation 

Paul identifies Christ as the One “whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood” (Rom 3:25). “Propitiation” (hilastērion) is used only one other time in the New Testament, translated “mercy seat” in Heb 9:5, the primary word used in the Septuagint to refer to the mercy seat as well (e.g.,Exod 25:17; Lev 16:2). From Exod 25:17–22, 37:1–9, Lev 16:11–15, and Heb 9:5, we learn that this “seat” was a gold-covered slab that sat upon the ark of the covenant behind a veil in the Holy of Holies. The high priest sprinkled blood on it as atonement for himself and Israel once a year. Because this blood appeased the wrath of God (temporarily, while looking ahead to the full satisfaction of God’s wrath in Christ), the notion of “mercy” is in view. Because the Lord is “enthroned upon the cherubim” (Ps 80:2; cf. 1 Sam 4:4; 2 Sam 6:2; Ps 99:1), two of which were made to sit above the ark (Exod 25:18), some see the notion of this slab being a royal “seat” as well. However, though the Lord would appear over the mercy seat (Lev 16:2; Exod 30:6), its primary purpose involved propitiation, satisfying the wrath of God. The Lord would appear here when the high priest sprinkled it with blood as he offered a sacrifice for himself and the people (Lev 16:1–16).

Now, however, Jesus Christ is our propitiation, the One who has suffered the wrath of God for us. He is not hidden behind a veil for a high priest to access once a year, but rather He is the One whose flesh as a curtain was torn for us, giving us confidence to enter the holy places by His blood (Heb 10:19–20). He Himself is the sacrifice, High Priest, and propitiating mercy seat, all in one!

Put Forward 

Paul’s use of “put forward” (protithēmi) was likely a clever use of an Old Testament word as well. The Septuagint uses this verb and a related noun to describe what the priests would do with the shewbread and the lamp in the tabernacle (Exod 40:4, prothesis; Lev 24:8, protithēmi). These items were to be “put forward” before the Lord in the tabernacle, a place that the priests would regularly see (cf. Lev 24:9).

Speaking of Christ for us, Paul states that He was the One “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood” (Rom 3:25). Whereas the mercy seat was previously hidden in the Holy of Holies, other objects in the tabernacle were “put forward” for some to see. But now Christ, our “mercy seat” and propitiation, has been put forward by God so that His righteousness is seen by all!

Passing Over

For all the formality that went into the Day of Atonement (Lev 16), the blood sprinkled on the mercy seat in the Old Testament never appeased the wrath of God like Christ did when He shed His blood on the cross. “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb 10:4). During the time before Christ, then, God had not fully dealt with sin. His justice had not yet been on full display by pouring out His wrath upon Christ on the cross. As Paul describes it, the time before the cross was when God “passed over former sins,” thanks to His “divine forbearance” (Rom 3:25).

God lost nothing of His righteousness by not dealing fully with sin in the times before the cross. Rather, He was patient, knowing His wrath would be satisfied in Christ. Now, in “the present time,” God’s righteousness is obvious to all—He gave full justice to sin when Christ died for us and is therefore just in justifying all who believe (Rom 3:26). Our penalty for sin is met in Christ, and our righteousness comes from Him. What a righteous God we serve, and what a loving Savior we have who came to die for us!

Wrapping Up

We have seen that God passed over sins for a time until He put forward a propitiation for us in Jesus Christ. He was patient in previous ages until He would punish sin fully in Jesus Christ. But remember—this is “a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith” (Rom 3:25). Let us make our justification sure, believing in Christ and knowing that God’s wrath against us was satisfied in His Son on the cross.

Photo credit: The Mercy Seat, illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible

The Savior Who Died in the Place of a Sinner of Like You and Me

By | March 30, 2024

Four passages tell us of how Pilate released Barabbas from death on a cross instead of our Lord Jesus Christ— Matthew 27:15–23; Mark 15:6–14; Luke 23:18–23; John 18:39–40. The following examines their descriptions of Barabbas, the innocence of Jesus, and how they portray how Jesus’ death for us.

First, consider the descriptions of Barabbas. Beyond his name (literally, “son of the father”), he is called a notorious prisoner (Matt 27:16), a rebel who committed murder in the insurrection (Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19), and a robber (John 18:40).

Notorious Prisoner

Notorious (episēmos) stems from a word meaning “of exceptional quality,”* which can be either good (e.g., Rom 16:7, “Andonicus and Junia… well known to the apostles”) or bad, as it is found in Matt 27:16. Barabbas was not just a common criminal but a notorious criminal among them all.

Rebel

In both Mark 15:7 and Luke 23:19, Barabbas is a rebel (stasiastēs), “a factious person who causes public discord.”* In these same verses, he said to have committed murder in the insurrection (stasis), Related to the rebel, defined as “movement toward a (new) state of affairs, uprising, riot, revolt, rebellion.”*

Robber

A robber (lēstēs) could be a “robber, highwayman, bandit.”* This word refers to sellers who used the temple for illicit gain (Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46), people who wrongfully and stealthily enter the property of others as thieves (John 10:1, 8), and even people who strip, beat, and leave travelers for dead (Luke 10:30, 36; 2 Cor 11:26). These activities could be assumed for a more intense meaning of this word, translated as “revolutionary, insurrectionist, guerrilla.”* In this sense, the term robber applied to Barabbas and the two with Jesus on their crosses (Matt 27:44; Mark 15:27). Jesus also used this term as a humorous description of Himself whose primary activity was teaching—not the kind of person who needed be apprehended with soldiers, swords, and clubs (Mark 14:48; Luke 22:52).

In contrast, Jesus had done nothing wrong to deserve His death on the cross. The Synoptic Gospels show Jesus’ innocence through Pilate’s question, “Why? What evil has He done?” (Matt 27:23; Mark 15:14; Luke 23:22). John likewise gives Pilate’s declaration, “I found no guilt in Him” (John 19:38).

As the story continues, Pilate pleased the crowds by releasing Barabbas instead of Jesus. Though we do not know if Barabbas ever came to saving faith, the narratives use Barabbas and Jesus to picture salvation in this way—Jesus died in the place of a sinner, someone like you and me. And, better than the deliverance of Barabbas, our salvation is eternal through Christ who died for us, arose, and will come for us one day.

*All definitions are from Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Image by sspiehs3 from Pixabay