Daily Archives: October 12, 2013

Three Kinds of “Christians”?


A. W. Pink Header

Spiritual Growth by Arthur W. Pink

2. Its Root

Before attempting to define and describe what the spiritual growth of a Christian consists of, we should first show what it is that is capable of growth, for spiritual growth necessarily supposes the presence of spiritual life: only a regenerated person can grow. Progress in the Christian life is impossible unless I be a Christian. We must therefore begin by explaining what a Christian is. To many of our readers this may appear to be quite superfluous, but in such a day as this, wherein spiritual counterfeits and delusions abound on every side, when so many are deceived on the all-important matter, and because of such widely-different classes, we deem it necessary to follow this course. We dare not take for granted that all our readers are Christians in the Scriptural sense of that term, and may it please the Lord…

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Jesus Made People Feel Good About Themselves?

Intelligence is not a Sin!

A woman replied to another commenter’s reply to a blog post about the rich young ruler (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2013/10/07/letter-from-a-millennial-who-walked-away/?comments#comments), “It’s people like you that made me leave too. Jesus was cool [and] made people feel good about themselves. You sure don’t.” She was responding to a commenter who told the truth. Let me explain.

The original blog to which these commenters were responding was a sort of retelling of the story of the rich young ruler (cast as a Millennial). However, instead of telling the actual encounter between Jesus and him, it went on from there to deal with the ruler’s reaction – in the form of a letter explaining why he left (perhaps much like Millennials leaving churches today). In that letter, the “rich young ruler” stated “First of all, I get this feeling that I’m not good enough. That I’m lacking something. That I don’t measure up. This is…

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News Alert: China Relentless in Persecution of House Churches

Washington, D.C. (ICC) — A recent spate of attacks against Christians and house churches in China underlines the country’s relentless habit of persecuting Christians, even at the cost of its own reputation in the international community.

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News Alert: Jim Grant Warns America’s Default Is Inevitable

Authored by James Grant (of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer), originally posted at The Washington Post, “There is precedent for a government shutdown,” Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs, remarked last week. “There’s no precedent for default.” How wrong he is. The U.S. government defaulted after the Revolutionary War, and it defaulted at intervals thereafter. Moreover, on the authority of the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, the government means to keep right on shirking, dodging or trimming, if not legally defaulting.

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News Alert: Sen. Rand Paul: ‘Worldwide War on Christianity’ Ignored by Obama, Media

The “war on Christianity” is being ignored by the mainstream media and the Obama administration, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) charged Friday, addressing the global attacks on Christians around the world. “From Boston to Zanzibar, there’s a worldwide war on Christianity,” Paul said to applause Friday when speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C.

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Will America turn against Israel? Video of my address to the Values Voter Summit

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

FRC-VVS13-3(Washington, D.C.) — On Friday, I had the honor of addressing the Values Voter Summit in the nation’s capital. To watch the video of the speech — which runs about 22 minutes — please click here.

In my remarks, I noted that Americans increasingly fear for the future of our country. Today, nearly 8-in-10 Americans believe the country is on the “wrong track,”and they’re right. Families are imploding from adultery and divorce. We have chronically high unemployment, sluggish economic growth, and skyrocketing national debt. We are facing high rates of crime and drug and alcohol abuse, tragically high suicide rates among our young people and armed forces. And then there is the most haunting number — 55 million babies who have been aborted in 1973. Soon, if this is not changed, we will reach 60 million babies murdered. For these and many other reasons, America is in grave danger. Unless we repent and…

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Reformation Day Is A Time For Christians To Celebrate!

Samuel at Gilgal

If you are not familiar with Reformation Day, it celebrates the day that the Reformation began in Europe with Martin Lutherposting his 95 theses on the Wittenburg church door to protest the selling of indulgences on October 31, 1517. Little did he realize how his 95 theses would be used by God to change the world. His desire was to see the Catholic Church reform in terms of God’s Word. His intention was to begin a

discussion with other teachers in the Catholic Church. Instead, Luther was used by God to begin a reformation of the church by returning to the foundation of Scripture alone. Scripture alone taught that salvation was not earned or sold by indulgences and grace was God’s alone to give.

Martin Luther is widely considered the father of the Protestant Reformation. As a monk, Luther struggled to find peace with God. He dedicated…

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[New post] Sin Is at the Heart of What Is Wrong in Your Life

Marsha West begins her article with a stern warning from A.W. Tozer:

No one has any right to believe that he is indeed a Christian unless he is humbly seeking to obey the teachings of the One whom he calls Lord. Christ once asked a question that can have no satisfying answer, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”

Marsha then illustrates an important aspect of Christianity that is largely ignored by many professing Christians: Repentance. Sadly, believers have failed to realize that every sin we commit is first and foremost against the “One whom we call Lord.” Moreover, God is “independently, infinitely, immutably holy;” therefore our sins separate us from God and in some cases He will turn His face away from those who persist in sin.

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John Ankerberg Show: Did Jesus Really Claim to Be God?

The John Ankerberg Show Hosts Top New Testament Scholars to Discuss Bill O’Reilly’s bestselling Killing Jesus

This week, Dr. John Ankerberg addresses one of the most critical aspects of the Christian faith—and of Fox News host’s Bill O’Reilly’s new book Killing Jesus—asking, “Did Jesus claim to be the Jewish Messiah?”

Critics argue that Jesus was “made” divine or labeled the Messiah much later in church history. However, the Gospels offer substantial evidence to prove Jesus claimed to be divine and that His earliest followers also taught this message. Within 50 days of the death of Jesus, Peter and the other disciples taught a message of the resurrected Son of God that soon spread throughout the Roman Empire. This content would later serve as the same message taught by the apostle Paul. By the end of the first century, numerous churches had formed across the Mediterranean and beyond despite periods of intense persecution, built on the belief of Jesus as God’s divine, risen Son who came as the Jewish Messiah.

Dr. Ankerberg’s guests include Dr. Darrell Bock, Senior Research Professor of New Testament at Dallas Theological Seminary, and Dr. Gary Habermas, Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University. Both scholars are cited as sources used in O’Reilly’s new book and offer important analysis and insight regarding the evidence for Jesus used in O’Reilly’s book.

How does the evidence found in the New Testament writing and other early accounts fit into the story found in Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus? Released September 24 with a first print run of 1.2 million copies, this controversial title is bringing this topic to the forefront of conversation.

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Program 1

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Biblical Thematic Outline: World as fallen



The world has fallen into sin and rebellion against its Creator. As a result, it has come under the power of Satan.

The world is under the power of Satan

He is prince of this world

Jn 14:30

John 14:30 (ESV) — 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me,

See also Jn 12:31 ; 2 Co 4:4 ; 1 Jn 4:4

John 12:31 (ESV) — 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.

2 Corinthians 4:4 (ESV) — 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

1 John 4:4 (ESV) — 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

He holds the world in his grasp

1 Jn 5:19

1 John 5:19 (ESV) — 19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

See also Eph 2:1–4

Ephesians 2:1–4 (ESV) — 1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,

The world is opposed to God

It is evil

Jn 7:7

John 7:7 (ESV) — 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.

See also Jn 3:19–20 ; Ga 1:4 ; 1 Jn 2:15–16

John 3:19–20 (ESV) — 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

Galatians 1:4 (ESV) — 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

1 John 2:15–16 (ESV) — 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.

Evil extends to the unseen world of the heavenly realms

Eph 6:12

Ephesians 6:12 (ESV) — 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

It is opposed to God’s wisdom

1 Co 1:21

1 Corinthians 1:21 (ESV) — 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

See also 1 Co 1:25 ; 1 Co 2:6–8 ; 1 Co 3:19

1 Corinthians 1:25 (ESV) — 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1 Corinthians 2:6–8 (ESV) — 6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

1 Corinthians 3:19 (ESV) — 19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,”

It is opposed to the life of faith

Jn 15:18–19

John 15:18–19 (ESV) — 18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

See also Jn 1:10–11 ; Jn 17:6 ; Jn 17:9 ; Jn 17:14–18 ; Jn 17:25 ; Jas 2:5 ; Jas 4:4 ; 1 Jn 3:1

John 1:10–11 (ESV) — 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

John 17:6 (ESV) — 6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.

John 17:9 (ESV) — 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

John 17:14–18 (ESV) — 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

John 17:25 (ESV) — 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.

James 2:5 (ESV) — 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?

James 4:4 (ESV) — 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

1 John 3:1 (ESV) — 1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

It is opposed to Jesus Christ’s kingdom

Jn 18:36

John 18:36 (ESV) — 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

See also Is 40:23 ; Mt 4:8–10 ; Mt 24:14 ; Lk 12:30 ; Jn 8:23 ; Jn 14:17 ; 2 Co 10:3 ; Heb 11:38 ; 1 Pe 2:11

Isaiah 40:23 (ESV) — 23 who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.

Matthew 4:8–10 (ESV) — 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ”

Matthew 24:14 (ESV) — 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Luke 12:30 (ESV) — 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.

John 8:23 (ESV) — 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

John 14:17 (ESV) — 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

2 Corinthians 10:3 (ESV) — 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.

Hebrews 11:38 (ESV) — 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

1 Peter 2:11 (ESV) — 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

The world is under judgment

It is condemned

1 Co 11:32

1 Corinthians 11:32 (ESV) — 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

See also Ge 6:5–7 ; Ge 7:4 ; Ge 7:21 ; Is 13:11 ; Zep 3:8 ; Mt 18:7 ; Jn 12:31 ; Jn 16:11 ; 1 Jn 2:17

Genesis 6:5–7 (ESV) — 5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

Genesis 7:4 (ESV) — 4 For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.”

Genesis 7:21 (ESV) — 21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind.

Isaiah 13:11 (ESV) — 11 I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.

Zephaniah 3:8 (ESV) — 8 “Therefore wait for me,” declares the Lord, “for the day when I rise up to seize the prey. For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them my indignation, all my burning anger; for in the fire of my jealousy all the earth shall be consumed.

Matthew 18:7 (ESV) — 7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!

John 12:31 (ESV) — 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.

John 16:11 (ESV) — 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

1 John 2:17 (ESV) — 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

It will be judged in righteousness

Ps 9:8

Psalm 9:8 (ESV) — 8 and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness.

See also Ps 96:13 ; Is 26:9 ; Na 1:5–6 ; Ac 17:31 ; Ro 3:19

Psalm 96:13 (ESV) — 13 before the Lord, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness.

Isaiah 26:9 (ESV) — 9 My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.

Nahum 1:5–6 (ESV) — 5 The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. 6 Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.

Acts 17:31 (ESV) — 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Romans 3:19 (ESV) — 19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

It will be judged by the saints

1 Co 6:2

1 Corinthians 6:2 (ESV) — 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?


Miscellaneous Bible Questions: What Does the Bible Say about Pre-evangelism?

Pre-evangelism means different things to different people. Some see pre-evangelism as doing what Paul did with the philosophers at Mars Hill. He began with what they knew about an “unknown God” and argued for the existence of a personal God (Acts 17:22–34) who demands righteousness. This type of pre-evangelism seeks to meet people where they are. Others see pre-evangelism as “friendship evangelism” where the believer develops a friend relationship with an unbeliever and, by acts of kindness and living the Christian life before him, the truth of the gospel can be seen even before it is shared. Others see pre-evangelism as extensive preparation in apologetics before attempting to share the gospel with others.

Even though we can’t assume people today have heard about Christ, we have to understand that Romans 1:19–20 assures us that God created us to know about Him because He has made it evident within every human being ever born. The knowledge of God can be found by looking at creation and seeing “His invisible attributes, His eternal power, and divine nature,” as Paul states in this passage in Romans. God made us that way so that none of us can ever claim that we’ve not known about His existence. In other words, “we are without excuse.” That internal knowledge of God then leads mankind to search for Him, and we are assured that if we do that, He will be found because “He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:24–28).

So the presence of a “God-shaped hole” inside us drives us to search for God, find Him, and worship Him. Only by doing so will we gain eternal life and true satisfaction, peace, joy, and contentment. Sadly, many people instead begin to worship the created, not the Creator (Romans 1:21–23). They try to replace their need for God with anything and everything else. Jesus commissioned all of His disciples, past, present, and future, to go out into the world and proclaim the gospel, the good news of His sacrifice on the cross on our behalf. The reason He gave us this command is that, even though God created us all with the ability to know Him, many still reject and despise Him. To accept Christ as Savior means we must acknowledge the fact that we are sinners in need of salvation. So, to confess our sin means letting go of pride and bowing before God in a humble request for salvation. Too many people, even after hearing the message of Truth over and over, just will not do so.

To effectively reach people with the gospel requires followers of Christ not necessarily to go door to door in an evangelism outreach, although in many circumstances that is an effective tool, but rather to live out our salvation with such joy, hope, and peace that the people with whom we come into contact daily can’t help but see Christ in our lives. As 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” We followers of Jesus Christ truly are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

We have a responsibility to share the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ with those people within our daily sphere of influence, i.e., our neighbors, people we work with, anyone with whom we come into contact. There are no coincidences involved in the circumstances surrounding the people we meet each day, only opportunities provided by God to “let our lights so shine before men” that they may give glory to our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

Establishing relationships with the people in our sphere of influence requires us to get to know them and to have a genuine interest in their lives. Conversations that consist of asking questions in order to learn more about them and then actively listening and asking follow-up questions is an excellent way to start a relationship. As we get to know people, we can then ask more personal questions along the lines of, “Do you believe in God?” or “What do you have faith in or believe in your life?” which can go a long way in helping us determine what they deem most important in life. This can help lay the groundwork as we seek to share the Good News with them.

Everyone in this life goes through trials and tribulations, and letting people around us know that, when we experience difficulties, our faith and hope rest in Christ, and we can in turn help them realize they need Him as well. Nothing speaks more powerfully to those around us than the evidence of God’s supernatural peace in our lives in the midst of turmoil.

Above all, when we have conversations with people around us each day we are to use both our own personal testimony and the Word of God as tools in our toolbox. Telling someone how we came to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and using Scripture to back it up brings the power of God to our testimony. As we know, it’s not our words but the power of the Holy Spirit that convicts the world of sin (John 16:8).

While forming relationships and finding opportunities to share Christ with those whom we come into contact with each day may not sound like a strategy, it is turning out to be one of the most effective means of evangelizing the world today. And the best part of sharing Christ in this manner is, since a relationship with that person is already in place, it positions us to disciple him once he comes to faith. Discipleship is a crucial part of our spiritual growth and helps establish and strengthen a firm foundation for our faith that will last for eternity.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Creation: How Does the Cambrian Explosion Fit within the Framework of Young-Earth Creationism?

The earth’s crust consists of many layers of fossil-bearing rock. It was once believed that the lowest layer of fossil-bearing rock was the Cambrian and that Precambrian rock was totally devoid of any fossil remains. It is now known that there are actually some, though very few, primitive fossils in the Precambrian. But it is not until the Cambrian layer that we find a sudden burst of life.

The “Cambrian Explosion” refers to the sudden appearance of most of the world’s known animal phyla, all within a very brief period of geological time (by the conventional standard). The sudden appearance of so many of the major innovations to the basic structures of known animal forms has always been somewhat problematic for Darwin’s theory of gradual innovation. But how does the Cambrian Explosion fit with the framework of young-earth creationism?

The old-earth position is that the vast majority of earth’s strata represent long epochs of time, typically millions of years, and that the fossils found in the lower layers evolved before those found in the upper layers. The young-earth position is that nearly all of the strata from the Cambrian period on up were deposited in relatively quick succession as the result of a catastrophic global deluge and subsequent natural disasters, and that the order in which fossils are found is a result of hydrological mechanics (hydrologic sorting for example, the phenomenon whereby dirt spontaneously settles into layers after being kicked up in water).

The conspicuous presence of so many of the world’s known animal phyla in the bottom layer does not prove or disprove one position or the other. So young-earth proponents rely on other physical evidences to make their case, including poly-strata fossils (that is, fossils that pass through multiple strata), misplaced and missing fossils and strata, the lack of erosion between strata, the deficiency of bioturbation, undisturbed bedding planes, the limited extent of unconformities, soft-sediment deformation, and well-preserved surface features between layers, etc.

There are, for example, plenty of out-of-place fossils. Sometimes rock layers containing what are thought to be older fossils are found above rock layers that contain what are thought to be younger fossils (the younger fossils should be on top). The solution for Darwinian geologists is to argue that the strata containing the misplaced fossils were shuffled out of order by some natural geological process. They then reorganize the discrepant fossils and rock layers logically using the assumed order in which the creatures were supposed to have evolved; i.e., this organism was supposed to have evolved before this one, so it goes here on bottom, while this organism was supposed to have evolved after this one so it goes here on top, etc. Darwinian biologists then turn around and use the evolutionary progression organized by the geologists as evidence for the evolutionary progression that the geologists used to organize the strata. This is, of course, circular reasoning.

To summarize, each viewpoint, whether young-earth creationism, old-earth creationism, or Darwinian evolution, struggles somewhat with explaining the Cambrian Explosion. In no sense, though, is the Cambrian Explosion contradictory with young-earth creationism. In fact, young-earth creationism perhaps has the clearest explanation for the Cambrian Explosion, that of the global deluge. Whatever the case, the evidence for the Cambrian Explosion is no reason to doubt the veracity of Genesis’ account of creation (Genesis chapters 1–2, 6–8).[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Holy Spirit: What Is the Charismatic Movement?

The Charismatic movement is an interdenominational Christian renewal movement and is one of the most popular and fastest-growing forces within the Christian world today. The movement traces its roots to 1906, at the Azusa Street mission in Los Angeles, California, a Methodist-sponsored revival. It was there that people claimed to have been “baptized by the Holy Spirit” in the manner recorded in Acts chapter 2 during the celebration of Pentecost. People speaking in tongues and miracles of healing roused people to a spiritual frenzy. The people who attended those meetings spread their enthusiasm throughout the United States, and the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement began.

By the early 1970s, the movement had spread to Europe, and during the 1980s the movement expanded, with a number of new denominations evolving from it. It is not unusual to see its influence in many other denominations such as Baptists, Episcopalians, and Lutherans, as well as non-denominational churches.

The movement takes its name from the Greek words charis, which is the English transliteration of the Greek word for “grace,” and mata, which is the Greek word meaning “gifts.” Charismata, then, means “grace gifts.” It emphasizes the manifestations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit as a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit. These gifts are also known as the biblical “charisms,” or spiritual gifts which supposedly give an individual influence or authority over large numbers of people. The prominent gifts among these “charisms” are speaking in tongues and prophesying. Charismatics hold that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit given to those in the first-century church may still be experienced and practiced today.

The Charismatic movement is most known for its acceptance of speaking in tongues (also known as glossolalia), divine healing, and prophecies as evidence of the Holy Spirit. Most meetings are for praying and spirited singing, dancing, shouting “in the spirit,” and raising hands and arms in prayer. Also, anointing the sick with oil is often part of the worship service. These are the primary reasons for the movement’s growth and popularity. While growth and popularity are certainly desirable, they cannot be used as a test for truth.

The question remains: is the Charismatic movement scriptural? We can best answer that question this way: we know that since the creation of mankind Satan’s insidious master plan has been simply to put a veil between God’s children and God’s inerrant Word. It began in the Garden of Eden when the serpent asked Eve, “Did God really say …?” (Genesis 3:1), thereby raising doubt as to the authority and authenticity of what God had said. Ever since that day, he continues to attack the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Bible. Without question, we know that Satan has stepped up the pace of this strategy (1 Peter 5:8).

Today, we are witnessing a growing menace of demonic activity in the realm of the miraculous. Where Satan does not succeed in taking the Bible from us, he works hard at taking us from the Bible. He does this simply by getting Christians to focus their attention on the claims of men and women to some supernatural experience. As a result, those who seek after the experiences of others have neither time nor interest in searching the Scriptures for God’s truth.

There is no denying that God performs miracles. Some of what occurs in the Charismatic movement very well may be a true work of the Holy Spirit. However, the core truth is this: the Body of Christ does not need new apostles, nor new faith healers, nor self-styled miracle workers. What the Church needs is to return to the Word of God and proclaim the whole counsel of God in the power and love of the Holy Spirit.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Bible Commentary: Prayed for Constantly (Romans 1:9-12) – James Montgomery Boice

Romans 1:9–12

God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.

I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.

About the time I was beginning to prepare for these studies in Romans, I was asked to speak at an anniversary service in a nearby church, and I was given the title: “Passing On the Reformation from Generation to Generation.” It was a topic I had never addressed before, and I was not sure how to tackle it. As I thought about the matter, God led me to two sentences, one from the end of the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke and the other from the second chapter of Acts. The first is about Jesus. It says, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). The second is about the early Christian church. It says, “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people …” (Acts 2:46b–47).

What struck me about those two sentences is the word favor, for it is an insight into how Christianity must be passed on. Our word for it is “modeling.” Jesus so modeled faith that those who looked to him saw he was genuine and therefore favored him and followed him. It was the same with the early church. The early Christians so modeled their profession that those who looked on were attracted to them. We are not surprised to read, immediately after the sentence in Acts 2, that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (v. 47b).

That is the way God trains ministers. They see ministry modeled by some other minister before them, and they copy that example.

That is the way God makes evangelists. They learn from others who are already in the work.

That is the way God develops churches. One church models an effective ministry, and other churches learn from it and do the same things themselves.

I begin this way because our subject here is prayer, and the most significant thing to note about it is that our text is a prayer model. Yet this is not a treatise on prayer. It is not a “how-to” for an effective prayer ministry. Rather, it is a glimpse into the apostle Paul’s own prayer life—into his pattern of prayer for Christians in the growing church at Rome—and is therefore a model for us as we think about our own prayer patterns, or lack of them.

Work and Pray

There are a number of things I want you to see about this passage, and the first is this: A strong prayer life is not the least bit inconsistent with vigorous and fervent service for the Lord.

It should be unnecessary to say this, of course, but we often divorce the two in our thinking. Some are called to pray, we reason. Some are called to work. When we think of what we call “prayer warriors,” we often picture old ladies who are strong in faith but unable to “do” much, or we think of people who are hospitalized or bedridden and who can therefore “only” pray. I do not want to be misunderstood at this point, of course. So let me acknowledge that some people are given a special ministry of prayer, perhaps because of precisely these circumstances. Moreover, if you are bedridden or otherwise unable to be outwardly active in Christ’s service, I encourage you to spend much prayer time for others. Many who are incapacitated pray for me. I think of a woman named Cherrio Gridley who was crippled through an industrial accident years ago. She listens to The Bible Study Hour and prays regularly for me and my family, the church, and our ministry. Prayer warriors are needed. But this does not mean that those who are active in Christian work (or any kind of work) do not also need to be strong in praying for God’s direction and blessing.

Here is where the example of Paul is so helpful. We know of his life from the account of it in Acts, and we have additional insights from what Paul says about himself in his letters. We know that he was a pioneer missionary, taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to places it had not previously been known. In doing this he covered much of the Roman world.

His labors stretched from Syria to Rome.

He crossed deserts and traversed mountain passes.

He traveled by foot and by sea.

He was frequently beaten, once stoned, often imprisoned.

He was shipwrecked.

Everywhere Paul established churches, and after he had established them he constantly kept in touch with the believers, helping them work through their problems. In one place he speaks of the “daily pressure” of his concern for them.

No harried pastor has ever been more pressed for time than Paul.

No busy executive ever carried a greater burden of responsibility.

Yet Paul was a model of a strong and consistent prayer ministry. In our text he says that he remembered the church at Rome—only one of the many churches of a growing Christian movement, and one he had not even visited—“constantly” and “at all times.” Do you think Paul was exaggerating? I do not think he was exaggerating at all. I think he really did pray all the time, just as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and other effective Christian workers did. Luther once said that he had so much to do in a day that he could not get through it without spending at least three or four hours on his knees before God each morning.

Prayer is not inconsistent with fervent service. On the contrary, as Robert Haldane said, “Prayer and labor ought to go together. To pray without laboring is to mock God; to labor without prayer is to rob God of his glory. Until these are conjoined, the gospel will not be extensively successful.”

Prayer and God-Directed Service

So we see from Paul’s example, as well as from the lives of others, that prayer is not the least bit inconsistent with vigorous Christian activity. On the contrary, and this is the second point: Prayer directs Christian service properly.

Again the apostle Paul is our model. We can think of examples of people who are engaged in Christian work but who do not seem to be going about it in the right way. Either they use the world’s methods, which produce only the world’s results. Or else their goals seem to be secular rather than truly Christian. As we read what Paul says about his prayer life in this chapter, we see that this was not the case with him. He prayed about his work, and as a result God directed it to be done in a spiritual way and for spiritual ends. He says several things about it.

1. Paul’s service was sincere, or wholehearted. The older versions of verse 9 say, “whom I serve with my spirit,” a literal rendering of the Greek. But the New International Version is surely correct when it paraphrases the text to read, “whom I serve with my whole heart.” The point is not that Paul served God by means of or by using his spirit, though one of our modern versions paraphrases the text in this way: “to whom I offer the humble service of my spirit” (neb). It is rather that Paul served God from the depth of his being—wholeheartedly. What a valid point that is! Not all who profess to serve Christ serve him wholeheartedly. Many are lazy in their service. Many are trying to please other people rather than the Lord. Paul knew of people like this himself. He called them “detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good” (Titus 1:16b). But he was not like them.

What kept Paul from falling into these traps? Clearly it was his relationship to God, sustained by consistent and fervent prayer. As he sought God in prayer, God enabled him to serve the Lord Jesus Christ wholeheartedly.

2. Paul’s service was gospel-centered. This is the second thing Paul says about his service. It was carried out by his “preaching the gospel of his [God’s] Son” (v. 9). We know about the gospel, of course. We know that it is our task to make the gospel known. But it is surprising how many other things squeeze in as a substitute for this one essential thing, and as a result our service is not gospel-centered. We do not mean to let this happen. Other agendas are usually seen as ways to get the gospel out or to make it known, at least at first. But they take on a character and schedule of their own, and they become ends in themselves. What can keep us from this deviation? The answer is prayer. Prayer focuses our attention on God and his gospel, which was clearly Paul’s case, as is evident in the opening verses of this letter.

It is this more than anything else that I have found prayer to do for me personally. It has redirected my focus so that I have begun to see things in God’s perspective. When that has happened, some of the things in my life that have been most distressing have faded in importance.

3. Paul’s service was for others. This is the point most evident in Paul’s prayer for the Roman Christians, for he is saying that he had been praying to be with them in order that he might be a blessing in their lives. There is a sequence of three important ideas here, and it begins with prayer. First, Paul prayed that he might be permitted to see the Roman Christians. Second, he prayed that he might see them in order to impart a spiritual blessing to them. Third, he prayed that he might see them and impart a spiritual blessing to them so that they might be strengthened in their Christianity. How did Paul propose to do that? The answer is clear. It was by preaching the gospel to them with his whole heart, just as he had preached it to other people.

We need to see the importance of prayer here also, and the best way to see it is to realize that Christians frequently lose the desire to serve others. They lose it in different ways. Criticism will lessen our zeal for service. It is much harder to serve those who criticize us than to serve those who praise and think well of us. Fatigue will lessen it. We grow too tired to serve and thus inevitably think more of ourselves than other persons. Sin also destroys our desire to serve others. This is because sin breaks contact with God, who is the source of right motivation and desire, and because it focuses attention on ourselves. Sin is really self-centeredness rather than other-centeredness. These and other factors turn us from what we are to be as Christ’s representatives.

What will keep us on target? The one thing that will keep us from falling to these temptations is prayer. Prayer will overcome an undue oppression from criticism. Prayer will redirect our energies, so we will not be so tired. Prayer will strengthen us for doing what needs to be done in spite of our tiredness. Prayer will keep us from temptation.

Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged:

Take it to the Lord in prayer!

Can we find a friend so faithful,

Who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness:

Take it to the Lord in prayer!

Are we weak and heavy laden,

Cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Savior, still our refuge:

Take it to the Lord in prayer!

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

Take it to the Lord in prayer!

In his arms he’ll take and shield thee.

Thou wilt find a solace there.

Joseph Scriven, 1855

Powerful and Effective Prayer

The third point of this passage is that prayer makes the service of the praying one effective.

A perceptive student may observe at this point that Paul had been praying to visit Rome, and yet, however noble that request may have been, obviously he had not received a favorable answer. Paul was far from Rome. He had not been able to visit the believers in Rome even though he “longed” to see them (v. 11) and had “planned many times to come” (v. 13). At this point he was not even on his way to Rome. Well and good! Our prayers are often the same. But if this is the case, how can we honestly talk about prayer being powerful or about prayer making the service of the praying one effective? There are a number of things to notice.

First, to come to Rome to serve the believers there personally was not the only thing Paul had been praying about. Indeed, what he says is that (1) he remembered them in his prayers at all times; and (2) he prayed that now at last the way might be opened for him to come to them. When he remembered them in his prayers at all times, what do you suppose Paul prayed for as regarding the Roman church? Certainly it was not only that he might have a safe journey to them. Most of his prayers probably had little to do with that. Rather, Paul would have prayed for their maturity in faith, for their safety against Satan’s wiles and onslaughts, for their ability to bear an effective witness in the great capital of the empire, with its many perversions and vices. Were these prayers answered? We know they were, because Paul tells us that the faith of the Roman church was being reported all over the world.

If you are praying for someone, do not think your prayers are ineffective just because God is not using you to fulfill the request. God has infinite means at his disposal. He may be answering your prayers by others’ service.

Second, when Paul prayed that the way might be opened for him to come to Rome, he prayed, as he tells us, that the door might be opened “by God’s will” (v. 10). That is, Paul was praying first that the will of God might be done and only secondly that he might come to Rome. He wanted to come to Rome only if that was in God’s plan for his life. Do we need proof of this? The proof is in the way Paul graciously submitted to what hindered his plans. We must remember that Paul was a very forceful man and that when he made plans he undoubtedly did everything in his power to stick to them. Moreover, the proposed trip to Rome was no passing fancy on Paul’s part. Already we catch a glimpse of how seriously he took it. But in case we miss the point, we find him bringing it up again in chapter 15, saying in several places that his heart had been set on traveling to Rome and then, after being helped on his way by the Roman church, passing on to Spain to preach the Word of God there. Undoubtedly Paul wanted to preach the gospel from one end of the Roman world to the other, from Jerusalem to Tarshish. Nevertheless, when he was hindered in his plans, we do not catch any trace of agitation or frustration on his part. On the contrary, he graciously submitted to God’s will for his life and recognized that there was value even in delays. If nothing else, delays gave him additional time to preach the gospel to those in Greece and Asia.

Third—we can hardly miss this—Paul did get to Rome eventually. It was not when he would have chosen, and it certainly was not in the manner he would have chosen. But he did get there, and God did use him to reach many in the capital. In Philippians he tells us that while he was in prison the gospel spread throughout the Praetorian guard. And we know from other sources that eventually the message of the cross reached even the highest levels of the government. Were Paul’s prayers answered? Of course, they were. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16b, kjv).

Does Prayer Change Things—Or People?

There is one last thing I want you to see in this section. Not only is prayer not inconsistent with a life of active service for Jesus Christ, and not only (on the contrary) does it direct that service and make it effective—Prayer also changes the one praying so that he or she increasingly becomes the kind of person through whom God can accomplish his purpose.

This was true of Paul. By temperament he was not a particularly gracious individual—at least, that is how it seems to me. In his early days he was cruel. He killed those who disagreed with him. Even after he became a Christian I am sure he had his bad moments. He quarreled with Barnabas over John Mark, for instance. Yet how gracious he is in this letter! Paul writes of his desire to visit Rome “so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong” (v. 11). But no sooner has he said this than Paul, not desiring to set himself up above the believers at Rome as if he were somehow superior to them, immediately adds as an important qualification, “that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (v. 12). That is an insight into the life of a man who had been changed by prayer and who was being used by God greatly.

Sometimes people ask, “Does prayer change things, or does prayer change people?” It is a good question, and the answer probably is “both.” Prayer does change things, since God responds to prayer and frequently alters circumstances because of it. James points to this result when he says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God” (James 4:2b).

On the other hand, I am convinced that far more frequently God uses prayer to change us. Because by it he brings us into his presence, opens our eyes to spiritual realities, and makes his perspectives ours.

In Ray C. Stedman’s book Talking to My Father, the well-known pastor of the Peninsula Bible Church of Palo Alto, California, tells the story of a missionary couple who were returning to the United States by ship after a lifetime of service in Africa. It was during the presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, and Roosevelt, as it happened, was sailing on the same ship. He had been game hunting in Africa, and when he came aboard there was a tremendous fanfare. Bands played. Dignitaries appeared. Crowds of people stationed themselves to see and greet the president. When the ship arrived in America it was more of the same thing. Roosevelt was applauded, and many of the important people of the government came out to welcome him.

Nobody paid any attention to the missionary couple, and it greatly depressed the old man. The two were broken in health. They had no pension; no one had much in those days. They had nowhere to go. They were afraid. “It’s not fair,” he said to his wife. “We have served God all these years, and when we come home there is not even a single person here to welcome us. We have no money. We have nowhere to go. If God is running the world, why does he permit such injustice?”

His wife said, “You had better go into the bedroom and talk to God about it.”

The missionary did, and when he came out a while later a great change had come over him. His wife said, “You feel better now, don’t you, dear?”

“Yes,” he said. “I began to pray and tell God how unjust the whole thing was. I told him how bitter I was that the president should receive a grand welcome and that we should receive nothing. There was not even a single person to welcome us home. But when I finished, it seemed as if the Lord just placed his hand on my shoulder and said in a quiet voice, ‘But you’re not home yet.’ ”

That is quite true, of course. That is the true perspective on what we are doing. But we will see it and live it only as we commune with God in prayer and learn to trust him and look forward to our homecoming.[1]


[1] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: Justification by Faith (Vol. 1, pp. 77–84). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Bible Commentary: A Reputation Worth Having (Romans 1:8) – James Montgomery Boice

Romans 1:8

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.

In the well-known Shakespearean speech “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” the melancholy Lord Jaques speaks of a soldier as one “seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannon’s mouth” (As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7). In this speech “reputation” is depicted as worthless, unimportant. How different in Othello! Othello, who is also a soldier but who acted foolishly and tragically, says, “I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part, sir, of myself, and what remains is bestial!” (Act II, Scene 3).

How are we to think of reputation? Is it a fragile bubble, or is it immortal? Is it worth having, or is it better for us not even to be concerned with such matters? The answer is that it depends on what we have a reputation for.

In the first chapter of Romans, in a section that is the second, informal introduction to his letter (vv. 8–15), the apostle Paul speaks about a reputation that the Christians at Rome had acquired, and the important point is that he thanks God for it. Their reputation was for faith, and what Paul tells us is that their faith was being spoken about all over the world. This does not mean that every individual in every remote hamlet of the globe had heard of the faith of the Roman Christians, of course, but it does mean that their faith was becoming widely known—no doubt because other Christians were talking about it. “Do you know that there is a group of believers in Rome?” they were asking. “Have you heard how strong their faith is, how faithfully they are trying to serve Jesus Christ in that wicked city?” Since Paul begins his comment by thanking God for this reputation, it is apparent that however worthless some worldly reputations of some worldly persons may be, this reputation at least was worth having.

Why is a reputation for faith worth having? The text suggests four reasons.

A Genuine Faith

The first reason that the reputation of the Christians at Rome was worth having is that the faith on which it was based was genuine. It was a true faith. This is an important place to begin, because there is much so-called faith that is nonbiblical faith and is therefore a flawed and invalid basis for any reputation.

In some people’s minds, faith is thought of chiefly as a subjective religious feeling, entirely divorced from God’s written revelation. I once talked with a young man who thought of faith in this way. When I had asked him if he was a Christian, he said he was. But as we talked I soon discovered that he did not believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, his bodily resurrection, his sacrificial death for our sin, and many other cardinal Christian doctrines. When I asked the young man how he could reject doctrines central to Christian belief and still call himself a Christian, he replied that he did not know how to answer that question but that nevertheless, deep in his heart, he believed he was a Christian. Clearly this was no true faith. It was only a certain variable outlook on life based on his feelings.

Another substitute for true faith is credulity. This is the attitude of people who will accept something as true only because they strongly wish it to be true. Sometimes a faith like this is fixed upon a miraculous cure for some terminal disease, like congenital heart failure, AIDS, or cancer. But credulity does not make a cure happen. Wishful thinking is not genuine faith.

A third false faith is optimism. Norman Vincent Peale has popularized this substitute faith through his best-selling book The Power of Positive Thinking. He suggests that we collect strong New Testament texts about faith, memorize them, let them sink down into our subconscious, and then recall them and recite them whenever we find faith in ourselves wavering. “Everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23). “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matt. 17:20). Peale says, “According to your faith in yourself, according to your faith in your job, according to your faith in God, this far will you get and no further.”

In this statement, however, faith in yourself, faith in your job, and faith in God are all apparently the same thing, and what this means is that the object of one’s faith is irrelevant. John Stott challenges this distortion accurately: “He [Peale] recommends as part of his ‘worry-breaking formula’ that the first thing every morning before we get up we should say out loud ‘I believe’ three times, but he does not tell us in what we are so confidently and repeatedly to affirm our belief. The last words of his book are simply ‘so believe and live successfully.’ But believe what? Believe whom? To Dr. Peale faith is really another word for self-confidence, for a largely ungrounded optimism.” There is some value in a positive outlook on life, of course, just as there is some value in a positive self-image. But this is not the same thing as biblical faith, and it is not the faith for which the apostle Paul thanked God on behalf of the Roman Christians.

Why do I say that the faith of the believers at Rome was a genuine faith in contrast to these other, mistaken views of faith? There are two reasons. First, their faith was in Jesus Christ and in the gospel, which centers in him. Surely this is unmistakable from the context. In the first seven verses of this letter Paul has spoken at length of the gospel, defining it as the gospel “he [God] promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son [Jesus Christ]” and concluding that it had been Paul’s task “to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith” (vv. 2, 3, 5). Then Paul praises God for the faith of the Roman Christians, and it is evident that it is precisely that kind of faith he has in mind. Their reputation for faith was worth having because theirs was a true faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and our Savior. As far as salvation is concerned, all other “faiths” are worthless. They will save no one.

Second, this is a faith that God himself brought into being and not something that welled up unaided in the heart of mere human beings. This is why Paul begins by thanking God for these Christians and not by praising them for their commitment. If faith were a human achievement, then Paul should have praised the Roman Christians. He should have said, “First, I thank you for believing in Jesus Christ” or “I praise you for your faith.” But Paul does not do this. Faith is worked in us by God as a result of the new birth. Therefore, Paul praises God, not man, for the Roman Christians.

Robert Haldane wrote that in thanking God for the faith of those to whom he is writing “Paul … thus acknowledges God as the author of the Gospel, not only on account of his causing it to be preached to them, but because he had actually given them grace to believe.”

Calvin said of this verse, “Faith is a gift of God.”

This is the point to ask whether your faith is like that. Not faith in some nebulous subjective experience or something that you are able to work up by yourself, but a faith worked in you by God, as a result of which you have believed on his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as your Savior. If your faith is like that, then yours is a reputation worth having, because it will bring praise to God himself, who is the author of that faith.

A Contagious Faith

The second reason why the reputation for faith that the Christians at Rome had was worth having is that it was a contagious faith. I mean by this that it was a faith not merely heard of and talked about throughout the known world, but that it was also a faith picked up by and communicated to others. Because of this faith, the Roman church grew and the gospel of the Roman congregation spread.

I think this is suggested by verse 17, even though I know the phrase I am referring to can be interpreted in two ways. In Greek the verse contains a repetition of the word faith in a phrase that literally reads “from faith to faith” (ek pisteōs eis pistin). This can be understood, as the New International Version apparently does understand it, as meaning “by faith from first to last.” But it can also mean—and a more literal translation suggests it does mean—“from the faith of one who has believed in Christ to another who comes to believe as a result of the first Christian’s testimony.”

As I say, the phrase “from faith to faith” does not necessarily mean this, since both translations are possible. But I think it does, and whether or not this is the correct meaning, there is no doubt that this is the way the gospel spread in the first Christian centuries, undoubtedly (at least in part) from the strategically located and growing church in the capital city of the Roman empire.

And the church had no modern media at its disposal to “get the message out”! There were no Christian magazines, no inspirational books, no television preachers. How do you suppose these early believers succeeded, as we know they did, without the tools of modern communication? D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has the answer:

A revival never needs to be advertised; it always advertises itself.… Read the history of the church. When revival breaks out in a little group, it does not matter how small, the news spreads and curiosity is awakened and people come and say, ‘What is this? Can we partake in this? How can we get hold of this?’ Man does not need to advertise it; it becomes known; it spreads throughout the whole world. It had happened here. This is revival! This is Pentecost! This is the work of the Holy Spirit, and the news had spread like wildfire in that ancient world with its poor means of communication, and its absence and lack of advertising media. Isn’t it time we began to think in New Testament terms?

If we think in New Testament terms, we will be concerned with both the quality of our faith and with its contagious nature. We will be concerned that people talk about Christianity and inquire after Christ as the result of our lives and those of our fellow believers.

Faith that Encourages Others

There is a third reason why the reputation for faith that the church at Rome had was worth having: it was an encouragement to other believers elsewhere, including even the apostle Paul himself. In verse 12 Paul speaks of this as an anticipated outcome of his proposed trip to Rome: “that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” That expectation was still future. But Paul could look forward to it and speak so confidently of its happening because reports of the Roman Christians’ faith had undoubtedly already been a source of encouragement to him.

Did Paul need encouragement? We can be sure he did. Paul was an apostle, of course, a man of great faith. But he is the first to tell us that he was often adversely afflicted by the trials and burdens of his work. In 1 Corinthians he admits that when he came to Corinth it was “in weakness and fear, and with much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3). In his second letter to Corinth he writes, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8–9). Yet he concludes, “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God” (v. 15). Later in the same book, after a lengthy passage listing the many persecutions, hardships, and dangers he endured as Christ’s ambassador, he concludes, “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches” (2 Cor. 11:28).

Everyone needs encouragement, particularly those who are engaged in spiritual warfare against Satan. But what is to encourage them? God, of course. But God also works through human instruments, and one great means of God’s encouraging Christian workers is the report of genuine, growing faith on the part of others elsewhere.

This is an encouragement to me. Is it not an encouragement to you?

Doesn’t your heart respond thankfully when you hear of thriving churches in formerly Communist nations such as Romania, even when believers there have been harassed and sometimes beaten by the civil authorities? Doesn’t your spirit rise when you hear of the courageous stand against apartheid by many believers in South Africa?

Isn’t your load made lighter when you are told of those in high levels of our own government, in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, who regularly meet for prayer and Bible study, asking God to lead them as they seek to direct the affairs of the United States of America?

Aren’t you also encouraged by the reports of those who are working for Christ in the tough neighborhoods of our cities?

Don’t you rejoice when you hear of even one person who has become a Christian?

Let me interject this additional thought. The thing that distinguishes Paul’s words to the believers in Rome from what he says elsewhere—to believers in Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi or some other city he had visited—is that he had not founded the church in Rome. Although he was planning to visit Rome and be encouraged by a mutual sharing of faith with the Roman Christians, up to this point he had not done so, and I would suppose that for that reason alone he was especially encouraged.

Let me speak personally. I am encouraged when some message or word of mine is used by God to bring another person to faith in Christ, as often happens. I am encouraged when something I do for Christ prospers. But notice: I am especially encouraged, doubly heartened, when the blessing of God occurs elsewhere as the result of someone else’s work. Why? Because it means that I am not alone in the work. It means that there are other soldiers in this spiritual warfare and that victory is in the strong hands of our one true commander. I am sure this was true for the apostle Paul and that it was one reason why he thought so buoyantly of the Roman Christians. In hard times it must have cheered him just to know of these Christians and to be aware that their faith was being spoken of “all over the world.”

Faith: The Central Item

The last reason why the reputation of the Christians at Rome was worth having is that faith, and not some other attainment or virtue, is the essential item in life. Faith in Jesus Christ is what matters. Knowledge is good; Christianity considers knowledge quite important. Good works are necessary; without them we have no valid reason for believing that an individual is saved. The fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22–23)—is what we want to see. But faith alone—faith in Christ as Lord and Savior—is essential. For “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6a). Without faith no one can be justified.

I wonder if we have the spirit of the apostle at this point. Is this the way we actually evaluate other Christian works and testimony?

Here is what I think we do. I think we evaluate other works first on the basis of size. When we hear of a church that has ten thousand members, we are ten times more impressed than if we learn of a church that has only a thousand members. What of a church with a congregation of ten? Let me be clear. I am not against large churches. I am glad for them. I have often said that large churches can do things smaller churches cannot do—launch specialized Christian ministries, for example, or have prospering subgroups that focus on the specific concerns of only some members. Moreover, large churches are often the result of a strong expository ministry, as are some of the largest churches in Southern California, or of strong faith and piety on the part of their members, like the exceedingly large Korean churches. But we must not think, just because the blessing of numbers is good, that a small church is therefore not as favored by God or is not bearing as faithful or strong a testimony. What about the house churches in China, for example? Or the struggling church in North Africa? We may thank God for numerical growth, but what we should be especially thankful for is strong faith.

Is that what we modern Christians are known for? Strong faith? Is our faith, like the faith of the Roman church of Paul’s day, spoken of throughout the world?

Another thing we do is evaluate Christian work on the basis of programs. The more the better! Or, the more original the better, particularly if the people involved can write a book about it! Again, I am not against programs. Right programs are for the sake of people and rightly minister to them. But is this the proper way to evaluate churches? Do programs prove God’s blessing? You know the answer to that. I do not think the fledgling, first-century church at Rome had many programs, certainly not the kind of things we mean by programs. But it was a famous church—and rightly so. For it was known for what was essential, which is faith.

Is that what we are known for? Do people say of us, “How strong is their faith in God and in Jesus Christ”?

I think we are also impressed—perhaps we are most to be pitied here— by big budgets and big buildings. Again, I am not against either budgets or buildings. Without adequate financing many worthwhile Christian works cannot be done, and without adequate meeting spaces much important activity is hindered. Even in countries like Romania, a chief concern of the thriving Christian congregations has been the repeated attempts of the Communist government to destroy the church structures. Still, a proper concern for budgets and buildings is quite different from evaluating a work on the basis of how large the budget is or how spacious and modern the church structure has become. The Roman church of Paul’s day probably just met in people’s houses. Yet it was a church whose faith was known throughout the world.

Are we known for that? Or is the best thing that other Christians can say about us is that we have a seven-figure budget or impressive church structures?

Faith really is the essential thing, not numbers or programs, not budgets or buildings. It is by faith that we “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). The apostle John said, “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).

I will tell you the kind of reputation I pray we might have at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. I pray that Tenth Presbyterian might be known as a church where people believe what God has told us in the Bible and then actually try to live by what they find there. I want Tenth to be a church known for strong faith in Jesus Christ, where people speak often, lovingly, and fearlessly of him. I want our church to be known for faith where God has placed us, not in some theoretical time or setting, but in the city of Philadelphia, demonstrating that Jesus is the answer to the city’s problems and the problems of those who live here. I want Tenth to be rock hard in faith, in adversity as well as in prosperity, when praised as well as when persecuted.

Is that too much to ask? I think not. I think that is a reasonable goal and a reputation worth having.[1]

[1] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: Justification by Faith (Vol. 1, pp. 69–76). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Bible Commentary: True Spiritual Leadership (Romans 1:8-15) – John MacArthur

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you in order that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. And I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented thus far) in order that I might obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. Thus, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. (1:8–15)

In seminary I learned a great deal from the books I read, the lectures I heard, and the papers I wrote. But I learned most from the attitudes and actions of the godly men under whom I studied. While around them, I discovered their true priorities, their true convictions, their true devotion to our Lord.

In the opening verses of his letter to the Romans, Paul also set himself forth for his readers to see before he attempted to teach them some deeper truths of the gospel. He opened his heart and said, in effect, “Before I show you my theology, I am going to show you myself.”

People serve the Lord from many motives. Some serve out of legalistic effort, as a means of earning salvation and God’s favor. Some serve the Lord for fear that, if they do not, they will incur His disfavor and perhaps even lose their salvation. Some, like Diotrophes (3 John 9), serve because of the prestige and esteem that leadership often brings. Some serve in order to gain preeminent ecclesiastical positions and the power to lord it over those under their care. Some serve for appearance’s sake, in order to be considered righteous by fellow church members and by the world. Some serve because of peer pressure to conform to certain human standards of religious and moral behavior. Children are often forced into religious activities by their parents, and they sometimes continue those activities into adult life only because of parental intimidation or perhaps from mere habit. Some people are even zealous in Christian work because of the financial gain it can produce.

But those motives for service are merely external, and no matter how orthodox or helpful to other people the service might be, unless it is done out of a sincere desire to please and glorify God, it is not spiritual nor acceptable to Him (cf. 1 Cor. 10:31). It is, of course, possible for a person to begin Christian service out of genuine devotion to God and later fall into an occasion or even a habit of performing it mechanically, merely from a sense of necessity. Pastors, Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, missionaries and all other Christian workers can carelessly leave their first love and fall into a rut of superficial activity that is performed in the Lord’s name but is not done in His power or for His glory.

Even when the Lord is served from a right motive and in His power, there always lingers near a ready temptation to resentment and self-pity when one’s work is not appreciated by fellow Christians and perhaps goes completely unnoticed.

The apostle Paul was doubtlessly assailed by many temptations from Satan to give up his ministry when he was opposed, or to give up on a difficult, fleshly, self-centered, and worldly church such as the one at Corinth. But Paul was greatly used of the Lord because, by God’s grace and provision, he always kept his motives pure. Because his single purpose was to please God, the displeasure or disregard of other people, even of those he was serving, could not deter his work or lead him into bitterness and self-pity.

In his opening words to the believers at Rome, Paul tells of his sincere spiritual motives in wanting to minister to them. With warmth, affection, and sensitivity that permeate the entire letter, he assures them of his genuine devotion to God and his genuine love for them. Although Paul had not personally founded or even visited the church at Rome, he carried the heartfelt passion of Christ for their spiritual welfare and an eager desire to develop their spiritual and personal friendship. The letter to Rome reveals that Paul not only had the zeal of a prophet, the mind of a teacher, and the determination of an apostle, but also the heart of a shepherd.

When they first received Paul’s letter, the believers in Rome probably wondered why this great apostle whom most of them did not know would bother to write them such a long and profound letter. They also may have wondered why, if he cared so much for them, he had not yet paid them a visit. In verses 8–15 of chapter 1, Paul gives the answers to both of those questions. He wrote them because he cared deeply about their spiritual maturity, and he had not yet visited them because he had thus far been prevented. In these few verses the apostle lays bare his heart concerning them.

The key that unlocks the intent in this passage is the phrase “God, whom I serve in my spirit” (v. 9a). Paul had been raised and educated in Judaism. He had himself been a Pharisee and was well acquainted with the other Jewish religious set, the Sadducees, the scribes, the priests, and the elders. He knew that, with few exceptions, those leaders served God in the flesh and were motivated by self-interest. Their worship and service were mechanical, routine, external, and superficial. Paul also was well acquainted with the Gentile world and knew that pagan religious worship and service were likewise external, superficial, and completely motivated by self-interest.

Referring to such religion, Jesus told the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, “An hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23–24). Worship that is true and acceptable to God does not involve a particular location, ritual, or any man-made activities or forms.

During the years before his salvation, Paul himself had worshiped and served God in an external, self-interested way (Phil. 3:4–7). But now that he belonged to Christ and had Christ’s own Spirit indwelling him, he worshiped and served Him in spirit and in truth, with his whole being. Paul was now motivated by a genuine, inner desire to serve God for God’s sake rather than his own, in God’s revealed way rather than his own, and in God’s power rather than his own. He was no longer motivated by self-interest or by peer pressure and no longer focused on Jewish religious tradition or even on self-effort to keep God’s law. He was not interested in trying to please other men, even himself, but only God (1 Cor. 4:1–5). The focus of his life and his ministry was to glorify God by proclaiming the saving grace of the gospel. He lived in conformity to the divine standard he proclaimed to the Ephesians, serving God “not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Eph. 6:6). As he reminded the eiders from that church, “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me” (Acts 20:33–34).

Paul did not serve because it was “fun” and self-pleasing. “For even Christ did not please Himself,” points out later in the epistle; “but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached Thee fell upon Me’ ” (Rom. 15:3; cf. Ps. 69:9). Nor did Paul serve in order to gain glory and honor from men. “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16). In a later letter to the church at Corinth he declared, “We do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor. 4:5; cf. 1 Cor. 9:19).

In verses 8–15, Paul’s words suggest nine marks of true spiritual service: a thankful spirit (v. 8), a concerned spirit (v. 9–10a), a willing and submissive spirit (v. 10b), a loving spirit (v. 11), a humble spirit (v. 12), a fruitful spirit (v. 13), an obedient spirit (v. 14), an eager spirit (v. 15). A tenth, a bold spirit, is mentioned in v. 16a.

A Thankful Spirit

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. (1:8)

The first mark of true spiritual service, which Paul had in abundance, is thankfulness. He was grateful for what God had done for and through him, but he was equally grateful for what God had done in and through other believers. He perhaps did not thank the Roman believers themselves, lest it be considered flattery. He said, rather, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you.

Paul’s thankfulness was intimate, first of all because of his spiritual closeness to God. I thank my God, he declared. No pagan would have made such a statement, nor would have most Jews referred to God with a personal pronoun. For Paul, God was not a theological abstraction but a beloved Savior and close friend. As he testifies in the following verse, he served God in his spirit, from the depth of his heart and mind.

Paul gave thanks through Jesus Christ, the one eternal Mediator between God and man. “No one comes to the Father, but through Me,” Jesus said (John 14:6), and believers in Him have the privilege of calling Almighty God, my God. “There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). It is because we have been given access to the Father through Jesus Christ that we always can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16), and can say, “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15).

Paul’s thankfulness was also intimate because of his spiritual intimacy with fellow believers, even to such as those in Rome, most of whom he did not personally know. I thank my God … for you all, that is, for all the believers in the church at Rome. His gratitude was impartial and all-encompassing, making no distinctions.

In every epistle but one, Paul expresses gratitude for those to whom he writes. The exception was the letter to the church in Galatia, which had defected from the true gospel of grace to a works system of righteousness and was worshiping and serving in the flesh because of the influence of the Judaizers. It was not that the other churches were perfect, which is apparent since Paul wrote most of his letters to correct wrong doctrine or unholy living. But even where the need for instruction and correction was great, he found something in those churches for which he could be thankful.

Paul wrote the letter to the Romans from Corinth, and at the time the Jews there were plotting to kill him (Acts 20:3). He was on his way to Jerusalem, where he knew imprisonment and possibly death awaited him. Yet he was still filled with thanksgiving.

Some years later, as he was prisoner in his own house in Rome while awaiting an audience before Caesar, Paul was still thankful. While there, he wrote four epistles (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon), commonly called the prison epistles. In each of those letters he gives thanks for the believers to whom he writes (Eph. 1:16; Phil. 1:3; Col. 1:3; Philem. 4). During his second Roman imprisonment, he may have spent time in the wretched Mamertine prison. If so, we can be sure he was thankful even there, although the city sewage system ran through the prison. I was told on a visit there that when the cells were filled to capacity, the sewage gates were opened and all the inmates would drown in the filthy water, making way for a new batch of prisoners. But Paul’s thankfulness did not rise and fall based on his earthly circumstances but on the richness of his fellowship with his Lord.

The specific reason for Paul’s thankfulness for the Roman Christians was their deep faith, which was being proclaimed throughout the whole world. From secular history we learn that in a.d. 49 Emperor Claudius expelled Jews from Rome, thinking they were all followers of someone named Chrestus (a variant spelling of Christ). Apparently the testimony of Jewish Christians had so incited the nonbelieving Jews that the turmoil threatened the peace of the whole city. The believers had, then, a powerful testimony not only in the city, but throughout the whole world. What a commendation!

By faith Paul was not referring to the initial trust in Christ that brings salvation but to the persevering trust that brings spiritual strength and growth. Faith like that also may bring persecution. Believers in Rome lived in the lion’s den, as it were, yet they lived out their faith with integrity and credibility. Some churches are famous because of their pastor, their architecture, their stained glass windows, or their size or wealth. The church in Rome was famous because of its faith. It was a fellowship of genuinely redeemed saints through whom the Lord Jesus Christ manifested His life and power, so that their character was known everywhere.

A thankful heart for those to whom one ministers is essential to true spiritual service. The Christian who is trying to serve God’s people, however needy they may be, without gratitude in his heart for what the Lord has done for them will find his service lacking joy. Paul could usually find a cause for thanks so that he could honor the Lord for what had been done already and hope for what God would use him to do.

Superficial believers are seldom satisfied and therefore seldom thankful. Because they focus on their own appetites for things of the world, they are more often resentful than thankful. A thankless heart is a selfish, self-centered, legalistic heart. Paul had a thankful heart because he continually focused on what God was doing in his own life, in the lives of other faithful believers, and in the advancement of His kingdom throughout the world.

A Concerned Spirit

For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers (1:9–10a)

The second mark of true spiritual service that exudes here, and that Paul exemplified in his life, is that of a concerned spirit. Although he was grateful for what had been and was being done in the Lord’s work, he was also deeply concerned about balancing those off with what yet needed to be done.

It is here that Paul presents the key phrase of verses 8–15, God, whom I serve in my spirit. Latreuō (to serve) is always used in the New Testament of religious service, and is therefore sometimes translated “worship.” Except for two references to the service of pagan idols, the term is used in reference to the worship and service of the true God. The greatest worship a believer can offer to God is devoted, pure, heart-felt ministry.

Godly service calls for total, unreserved commitment. Paul served God with everything he had, beginning with his spirit, that is, flowing out of a deep desire in his soul. In chapter 12 of this letter, he appeals to all believers, “by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (v. 1). Such spiritual devotion is accomplished by refusing to “be conformed to this world” and by being “transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (v. 2).

Paul used a similar statement about true worship in writing to the church at Philippi: “We are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3). When his shipmates had given up all hope of surviving the fierce storm on the Mediterranean Sea as they sailed to Rome, the apostle assured them, “I urge you to keep up your courage, for there shall be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.’ Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God, that it will turn out exactly as I have been told” (Acts 27:22–25).

Paul could declare to Timothy, “I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience” (2 Tim. 1:3). Because he served God from a sincere heart, he also served with a clear conscience. Paul’s worship and service were inextricably related. His worship was an act of service, and his service was an act of worship.

Because his young friend had appeared to stumble spiritually, Paul admonished Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). A few verses later he also warned: “Flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (v. 22).

Paul’s primary service to God was the preaching of the gospel of His Son, the ministry to which the Lord had called him and to which he gave every breath of his life. But as he goes on to explain, that service to God included deep, personal concern for everyone who believed the gospel, whether they heard it from him or from someone else. He was not concerned for the saints in Rome because they were “his converts,” which they were not, but because he and they were brothers who had the same spiritual Father through trusting in the same divine Son as their Savior.

As he mentions several times in the opening of the epistle (1:10–11, 15), and reiterates near the closing (15:14, 22), he was writing to the Roman church somewhat as an outsider and stranger, humanly speaking. That fact makes his intense concern for the believers there even more remarkable and touching.

Perhaps because most of them did not know him personally, Paul here calls the Lord as witness to his sincere love and concern for his spiritual brothers and sisters at Rome. He knew that God, who knows the real motive and sincerity of every heart (cf. 1 Cor. 4:5), would testify as to how unceasingly he made mention of them always in his prayers. He was not redundant by using both unceasingly and always but simply gave a negative and positive expression of his concern.

Although he rejoiced in and gave thanks for their great faithfulness, he knew that apart from God’s continuing provision even strong faith falters. Those saints were therefore always in his prayers, never taken off his prayer list. Although for different reasons, the faithful saint needs the prayer support of fellow believers as much as the saint who is unfaithful.

Paul assured the saints of Thessalonica that “we pray for you always that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power; in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:11–12). In his earlier letter the apostle admonished them to have devotion to unceasing prayer (1 Thess. 5:17). He likewise counseled the Ephesian believers to “pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18).

Near the end of his Romans letter Paul pleads: “I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me” (Rom. 15:30). He did not ask prayer for himself for selfish reasons but for the sake of the ministry, that he might “be delivered from those who [were] disobedient in Judea, and that [his] service for Jerusalem [might] prove acceptable to the saints; so that [he might] come to [Rome] in joy by the will of God” (vv. 31–32).

Although Paul does not state the particular petitions he made on behalf of the Roman Christians, we can safely assume they were similar to those he mentions in other letters. “I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,” he wrote the Ephesians, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God” (Eph. 3:14–19).

That is praying in depth! Paul prayed that those saints would be strengthened by the Holy Spirit, that Christ would be at home in their hearts, that they would be filled with God’s own love, and that they would be made perfect in His truth and likeness.

Paul prayed that believers in Philippi would abound in love “still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that [they would] approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ,” demonstrating that they were “filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:9–11).

He assured the Colossian church: “We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience” (Col. 1:9–11).

The content of all Paul’s prayers was spiritual. He prayed for individual believers, but he also offered many prayers for groups of believers. He prayed that their hearts would be knit with the heart of God, that their knowledge of His Word would be made complete, and that their obedience to His will would be made perfect. The depth and intensity of prayer measures the depth and intensity of concern.

A willing and Submissive Spirit

making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. (1:10b)

Paul not only prayed for the spiritual well-being of the Roman church but was eager to be used by God as an instrument to help answer that prayer according to His divine will. The church has always been full of people who are quick to criticize, but seems short of those who are willing to be used by God to solve the problems they are concerned about.

Many Christians are much more willing to give money to an outreach ministry than they are to witness themselves. In his book The Gospel Blimp (Elgin, Ill: David C. Cook, 1983), Joe Bayly tells the imagined story of a man who hired a blimp to bombard his neighborhood with gospel tracts. The point of the book, and the popular movie made from it, was that some believers will go to great extremes to avoid personally confronting others with the gospel.

A man once came up to me after a worship service and suggested that the church provide $25,000 to create a sophisticated telephone answering service that would give a gospel message to callers. Like the man in The Gospel Blimp story, this man wanted to use his scheme primarily to reach an unbelieving neighbor. I therefore suggested, “Why don’t you just go over and tell him the gospel yourself?”

It is much easier, and therefore more attractive to the flesh, to pray for others to be used by the Lord than to pray that He use us. But like Isaiah, when Paul heard the Lord’s call for service or saw a spiritual need, he said, “Here am I. Send me” (Isa. 6:8). There is, of course, an important place for praying for others in the Lord’s service. But the true measure of our concern for His work is our willingness for Him to use us.

Paul had been making request to God for a long time that he could visit the church in Rome in order to minister to them and be ministered to by them (vv. 11–12). Apparently he hoped to make the journey soon, saying, perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.

Paul’s eagerness to serve God was always directed by the will of God. He did not serve in the direction of his own desires and insight but according to the will of the One he served. When the prophet Agabus dramatically predicted the danger that awaited Paul in Jerusalem, the apostle’s friends begged him not to go. But “Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ Upon hearing those words, Luke and the others also submitted to God’s sovereignty, saying, ‘The will of the Lord be done!’ ” (Acts 21:11–14).

Some people ask, “If God is going to sovereignly accomplish what He plans to do anyway, what is the purpose of praying?” Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse designed an analogy to illustrate the relationship of a believer’s prayers to God’s sovereignty.

We will suppose the case of a man who loves violin music. He has the means to buy for himself a very fine violin, and he also purchases the very best radio obtainable. He builds up a library of the great musical scores, so that he is able to take any piece that is announced on the radio, put it on his music stand, and play along with the orchestra. The announcer says that Mr. Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra are going to play Beethoven’s seventh symphony. The man in his home puts that symphony on his stand and tunes his violin with what he hears coming from the orchestra. The music that comes from the radio we might call foreordained. Ormandy is
going to follow the score just as Beethoven wrote it. The man in his living room starts to scratch away at the first violin part. He misses beats, he loses his place and finds it again, he breaks a string, and stops to fix it. The music goes on and on. He finds his place again and plays on after his fashion to the end of the symphony. The announcer names the next work that is to be played and the fiddler puts that number on his rack. Day after week after month after year, he finds pleasure in scraping his fiddle along with the violins of the great orchestras. Their music is determined in advance. What he must do is to learn to play in their tempo, in their key, and to follow the score as it has been written in advance. If he decides that he wants to play Yankee Doodle when the orchestra is in the midst of a Brahm’s number, there’s going to be dissonance and discord in the man’s house but not in the Academy of Music. After some years of this the man may be a rather creditable violin player and may have learned to submit himself utterly to the scores that are written and follow the program as played. Harmony and joy come from the submission and cooperation.

So it is with the plan of God. It is rolling toward us, unfolding day by day, as He has planned it before the foundation of the world. There are those who fight against it and who must ultimately be cast into outer darkness because He will not have in His heaven whose who proudly resist Him. This cannot be tolerated any more than the authorities would permit a man to bring his own violin into the Academy of Music and start to play Shostakovich when the program called for Bach. The score of God’s plan is set forth in the Bible. In the measure that I learn it, submit myself to it, and seek to live in accordance with all that is therein set forth, I shall find myself in joy and in harmony with God and His plans. If I set myself to fight against it, or disagree with that which comes forth, there can be no peace in my heart and life. If in my heart I seek to play a tune that is not the melody the Lord has for me, there can be nothing but dissonance. Prayer is learning to play the tune that the eternal plan of God calls for and to do that which is in harmony with the will of the Eternal Composer and the Author of all that is true harmony in life and living. (Man’s Ruin: Romans 1:1–32 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952], pp. 122–23. Used by permission.)

The popular practice of demanding things from God and expecting Him to meet those demands is perverted and heretical, an attempt to sway God’s perfect and holy will to one’s own imperfect and sinful will. Paul sought the advancement of God’s kingdom and glory through God’s own will, not his own.

Self-styled messiahs are always megalomaniacs. They have grandiose schemes for winning the world for Christ. They always think big, and their plans seldom show evidence of being limited by God’s plans, which, from a human perspective, sometimes seem small and insignificant. Jesus’ ministry did not focus on converting the great leaders of His day or evangelizing the great cities. He chose twelve ordinary men to train as His apostles, and most of His teaching took place in insignificant, often isolated, parts of Palestine. He did not raise large sums of money or attempt to use the influence of great men to His advantage. His sole purpose was to do His Father’s will in His Father’s way and in His Father’s time. That is the highest goal for us, as well.

A Loving Spirit

For I long to see you in order that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; (1:11)

Another mark of spiritual service is a loving spirit. Paul wanted to visit the Roman believers in order to serve them lovingly in God’s name. He did not want to go as a tourist to see the famous Appian Way or the Forum or the Coliseum or the chariot races. He wanted to go to Rome to give of himself, not to entertain or indulge himself.

The Christian who looks on his service to the Lord as a means of receiving appreciation and personal satisfaction is inevitably subject to disappointment and self-pity. But the one who focuses on giving never has such problems. Paul’s ministry goal was to “present every man complete in Christ. And for this purpose also I labor,” he said, “striving according to His power, which mightily works within me” (Col. 1:28–29).

The apostle’s loving spirit is reflected beautifully in his first letter to Thessalonica. “We proved to be gentle among you,” he wrote, “as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God” (1 Thess. 2:7–9).

The foremost characteristic of genuine love is self-less giving, and it was out of such love that Paul assured the church in Corinth, “I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls” (2 Cor. 12:15). Willingness to spend was willingness to use all his resources and energy in their behalf, and willingness to be spent was willingness to die for them if necessary.

Paul was burdened for the physical welfare of the Roman believers, but his overriding concern was for their spiritual well-being, and therefore his principal purpose for longing to see them was that he might impart to them some spiritual gift.

The gift Paul wanted to impart was spiritual not only in the sense of being in the spiritual realm but in the sense that it had its source in the Holy Spirit. Because he was writing to believers, Paul was not speaking about the free gift of salvation through Christ about which he speaks in 5:15–16. Nor could he have been speaking about the gifts he discusses in chapter 12, because those gifts are bestowed directly by the Spirit Himself, not through a human instrument. He must therefore have been using the term spiritual gift in its broadest sense, referring to any kind of divinely-empowered spiritual benefit he could bring to the Roman Christians by preaching, teaching, exhorting, comforting, praying, guiding, and disciplining.

Whatever particular blessings the apostle had in mind, they were not of the superficial, self-centered sort that many church members crave today. He was not interested in tickling their ears or satisfying their religious curiosity.

Paul wanted to impart the spiritual blessings in order for the Roman believers to be established. He wanted those spiritual brothers and sisters “to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:15).

A young woman once told me that she had been teaching a Sunday school class of young girls for some while and thought that she loved them dearly. But one Saturday afternoon at her college football game the Lord convicted her about the superficiality of her love for them. Because of her busy Saturdays, she seldom spent more than a few minutes preparing her lesson for the next day. From that day on she determined to make whatever sacrifice and give whatever time necessary to give those girls something of eternal significance. That was the kind of committed, self-sacrificing love Paul had for the church at Rome.

A Humble Spirit

that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. (1:12)

Lest his readers think that he had in mind a one-way blessing, Paul assures them that a visit would be to his benefit as well as theirs. Although he was a highly-gifted and greatly-used apostle, having received revealed truth directly from God, Paul never thought that he was above being spiritually edified by other believers.

The truly thankful, concerned, willing, submissive, and loving spirit is also a humble spirit. The person with such a spirit never has a feeling of spiritual superiority and never lords it over those he serves in Christ’s name.

Commenting on this passage in Romans, John Calvin said of Paul, “Note how modestly he expresses what he feels by not refusing to seek strengthening from inexperienced beginners. He means what he says, too, for there is none so void of gifts in the Church of Christ who cannot in some measure contribute to our spiritual progress. Ill will and pride, however, prevent our deriving such benefit from one another” (John Calvin, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960], p. 24).

Peter warned eiders not to lord it over those given to their care but rather to be examples to them. In doing so, “when the Chief Shepherd appears, [they would] receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Pet. 5:3–4). He then went on to advise both older and younger men to clothe themselves “with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (v. 5).

Paul, the greatest theologian who ever lived, was also one of the most humble men of all. He was blessed beyond measure, yet he had no spiritual pride or intellectual arrogance. Because he had not attained spiritual perfection but genuinely pursued it (cf. Phil. 3:12–14), he was eager to be spiritually helped by all the believers in the Roman church, young as well as old, mature as well as immature.

It is unfortunate not only that many learned and gifted leaders in the church think they are above learning from or being helped by younger and less-experienced believers but also unfortunate that less-experienced believers often feel they have nothing to offer their leaders.

When he was about to board a ship to India to begin missionary service there, some of William Carey’s friends asked if he really wanted to go through with his plans. Expressing his great desire for their support in prayer, he is said to have replied, “I will go down [into the pit itself] if you will hold the rope” (S. Pearce Carey, William Carey [London: The Carey Press, 1934], pp. 117–18).

A Fruitful Spirit

And I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented thus far) in order that I might obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. (1:13)

Paul frequently used a phrase such as I do not want you to be unaware as a means of calling attention to something of great importance he was about to say. He used it to introduce his teaching about such things as the mystery of God’s calling Gentiles to salvation (Rom. 11:25), spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:1), and the second coming (1 Thess. 4:13). Here he uses it to introduce his determined plan to visit the saints at Rome. Often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented thus far), he assures his readers. As far as his own plans were concerned, he would have come to them long beforehand had he not been prevented from doing so.

His intent was not to make a social call but to obtain some fruit among the believers in Rome, even as among the rest of the Gentiles to whom he ministered.

Paul’s ministry was an unending quest for spiritual fruit. His preaching, teaching, and writing were not ends in themselves. The purpose of all true ministry for God is to bear fruit in His name and with His power and for His glory. “You did not choose Me, but I chose you,” Jesus declared to His disciples, “and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16).

In regard to spiritual life, the Bible uses the term fruit in three ways. In one way, it is used as a metaphor for the attitudes that characterize the Spirit-led believer. This nine-fold “fruit of the Spirit,” Paul tells us, “is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23).

In a second way, spiritual fruit refers to action. “Now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God,” the apostle declares, “you derive your benefit [lit., ‘fruit’], resulting in sanctification” (Rom. 6:22), that is, holy living. The active fruit of a Christian’s lips is praise (Heb. 13:15), and the active fruit of his hands is giving (Phil. 4:16–17; “profit” is literally “fruit”).

In a third way, spiritual fruit involves addition, the increase of converts to Christ and the increase of their spiritual growth in Him. Paul spoke of Epaenetus as being “the first convert [lit., first-fruit] to Christ from Asia” (Rom. 16:5).

Among the Romans, the fruit Paul longed for was of the third kind, addition. It included both new converts and maturing converts. They were spiritual fruit in the broadest sense of being the product of the gospel’s power in men’s lives, both to save and to sanctify. The apostle wanted to be used to help the Roman church grow through new converts and grow in sanctification, which includes growth in service to Christ. When, some years later, he wrote to the Philippian church from Rome, he was able to give greetings even from believers within “Caesar’s household” (Phil. 4:22), believers he may have been instrumental in bringing to Christ.

As already noted, in the name of the Lord’s work some people strive for prestige or acceptance or money or crowds or influence. But a Christian who serves from the heart and whose spiritual service is genuine strives only to be used of the Lord to bear fruit for Him. The Christian who settles for less is one who serves only externally.

Nothing is more encouraging to pastors, Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, and other Christian workers than to see spiritual results in the lives of those to whom they minister. Nothing is more deeply rewarding than the lasting joy of leading others to Christ or helping them grow in the Lord.

An Obedient Spirit

I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. (1:14)

Paul continues to talk about his attitudes and reasons for ministry, explaining that he did not preach and teach the gospel because of personal reasons or because the calling seemed attractive, but because he was under obligation. “I am under compulsion,” he said to the Corinthians; “for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me” (1 Cor. 9:16–17).

When the Lord called him to salvation and to apostles hip, Paul was doing anything but promoting the gospel but was rather bent on destroying it at all costs. He seems to be saying to the Romans, in effect, “Don’t thank me for wanting to minister to you. Although I love you and sincerely want to visit you, I was sovereignly appointed to this ministry long before I had a personal desire for it” (cf. 1 Cor. 9:16ff.).

Every sincere pastor and Christian worker knows there are times when ministry is its own reward, when study, preparation, teaching, and shepherding are exhilarating in themselves. There are other times, however, when the work does not seem very attractive, and yet you still study, prepare, teach, and shepherd because you are under obligation to God and to those you are serving. Christ is our Lord and we are His servants; and it is a poor servant who serves only when he feels like it.

Paul was under obligation in at least two ways. First, he was under obligation to God on behalf of the Gentiles. Because God had appointed him as a unique apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 1:5; Acts 9:15), he was under divine obligation to minister the gospel to them.

Second, he had an obligation, or debt, to the Roman believers directly, because of their spiritual need. That is the kind of obligation a person has to someone whose house is on fire or who is drowning.
When someone is in great danger and we are able to help, we are automatically and immediately under obligation to do what we can to save him. Because unbelieving Gentiles, like unbelieving Jews, face spiritual death, Paul was obligated to help rescue them through the gospel.

To Greeks and barbarians and to the wise and to the foolish seem to be parallel phrases, Greeks representing the wise and barbarians representing the foolish. The Greeks of that day included people from many lands who were educated in Greek learning and trained in Greek culture. They were highly sophisticated and were often looked upon as being on a higher level than others. They certainly looked on themselves in that way. The Greek language was thought to be the language of the gods, and Greek philosophy was thought to be little less than divine.

The term barbarians, on the other hand, was frequently used to designate those who were not hellenized, that is, not steeped in Greek learning and culture. The word is onomatopoeic, having been derived from the repetition of the sound “bar.” To a cultured Greek, other languages sounded like so much gibberish and were mimicked by saying “bar, bar, bar, bar.” In its narrowest sense, barbarians referred to the uncultured, uncouth, and uneducated masses, but in its wider sense it was used of anyone who was non-Greek.

Paul was therefore expressing his responsibility to the educated and the uneducated, the sophisticated and the simple, the privileged and the underprivileged. Like the Lord he served (1 Pet. 1:17), Paul was no respecter of persons. The gospel is the great equalizer, because every human being is equally lost without it and equally saved by it.

The first person to whom Jesus revealed Himself as Messiah was an adulterous woman who had a number of husbands and was living with a man who was not her husband. Not only that, but she was a Samaritan, a member of a race greatly despised by Jews. Yet Jesus drew her to Himself in loving compassion, and she was used to bring many of her fellow Samaritans to faith in the Messiah (see John 4:7–42).

An Eager Spirit

Thus, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. (1:15)

Paul’s external obligation to minister did not preclude his internal desire to fulfill that obligation. He not only was willing but eager to preach the gospel to believers in Rome.

He was as determined to preach … in Rome as he was to go to Jerusalem, although he knew great danger awaited him there. “And now, behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me” (Acts 20:22–23). In his spirit he was compelled to go because that was God’s will for him. Therefore he said, “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (v. 24). Paul knew that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21), that “to be absent from the body [is] to be at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).

Paul had the same concern for the Roman believers as for those in Colossae, to whom he wrote, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col. 1:24).

Life had but one value for Paul: to do God’s work. He was consumed by an eager desire to serve God, which included serving others in His name. That absolute commitment was shared by Epaphroditus, who “came close to death for the work of Christ” (Phil. 2:30). Such godly servants are like racehorses in the gate or sprinters at the starting blocks. They cannot wait to get on with the race of serving Christ.

A final characteristic of spiritual service, a bold spirit, is seen in the following verse, which will be studied in more detail in the next chapter. Paul declared, “I am not ashamed of the gospel” (Rom. 1:16). He knew that Rome was a volatile place and that Christians there had already experienced persecution. He knew that the capital city of the empire was steeped in immorality and paganism, including emperor worship. He knew that most Romans would despise him and that many probably would do him harm. Yet he was boldly eager to go there, for his Lord’s sake and for the sake of the Lord’s people.[1]




[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 31–48). Chicago: Moody Press.


Purposive according to Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary is, “…..having or tending to fulfill a conscious purpose or design…..” (By permission. From Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary copyright 1991 by Merriam-Webster Inc., publisher of the Merriam-Webster (registered) Dictionaries.) Purposive is acting upon some goal or design that is yet future in the mind.


In God’s purpose we see a completed aspect to it, as well as an active aspect. He has a specific purpose in mind and is now acting toward that end; however He, in His mind has accomplished that purpose. We are justified and glorified yet we are in the process toward that end. We have the standing before God; however our state at present is not quite adequate.


His purpose is seen in a number of ways.


He Will Judge: Isaiah 14:26


God has a number of purposive lines of action; however they are all along the line of His one main purpose. Here we see his purpose is in the area of judgment however this is in line with the general purpose of showing the Devil who’s boss — so to speak.


He Will Direct: Romans 8:28


God has called us according to His purpose. He has a goal or plan in mind and is acting upon that goal or plan. If we are open to His direction through the Word and prayer, He will lead us into the things of life that He desires for us. This includes a spouse, a ministry, an occupation, schooling, investing, etc. He is interested in gaining as much benefit from our lives on this earth as He can, not only for His own glory, but for our benefit, joy and reward.


He Will Work Through Christ: Ephesians 3:11


Christ is included in this purpose and the purpose is eternal in nature. Christ has accomplished some of His purpose in the work of the cross, yet has the ongoing duty of interceding for us, as well as the future work of setting up the kingdom, and ruling over the earth for a thousand years.


He Will Carry Out His Plan: 2 Timothy 1:9


The purpose of God was set before creation and is His Own Purpose — not something man dreamed up, but HIS.


Why would we say that purpose is an attribute or distinctive of personality? The beasts of the field have no purpose for themselves. They react to what is going on now, and have no thoughts to the future. They react to only that which is going on at the moment, and at times they react to their instinct and the seasons.


A snake does not go out looking for someone to attach. They attach only out of fear. An animal on the highway isn’t there because he wants to make you late for an appointment. It is there because they walked across, and the sun felt good so they stopped to warm themselves.


Man on the other hand has future purpose in mind. This is not fully developed in the child for if you offer them a $.25 candy bar now or a $1.00 bill tomorrow they will probably take the candy bar. They operate in the NOW.


On the other hand most people, including Christians, are tied up in their plans for the future. They are opening savings accounts, IRA’s, investing in homes and all of those neat things.


Purpose is not bad in man. Without some future purpose man becomes akin to a beast of the field. He becomes bored and tends to react to the NOW situation. Can you picture a woman or a man that spends hours in front of a television set for soaps or sports? She or he, as the case may be, is reacting to the NOW and has little thought to anything further future than the next commercial breaks for a snack. It can and does become their life.


When servicing televisions, quite often when in the homes of these addicts they would talk to me about the characters on the shows as if they were part of their family. Now and then when returning a set, one of them would get all excited because they hadn’t seen Joe Blow for two weeks and they were dying to see how he was doing.


Thus, we must conclude that purpose is a characteristic or attribute of man. So, in God the thought of purpose is that of a trait or attribute that makes God what He is. It is part of His very nature.




1. Prayer changes me and not God’s purpose, ways, plans or whatever. He sees all things complete and I need to see it His way and conform to it. Prayer changes Things only. (Daniel 6:27, Philippians 2:13) He is working within us to bring about His purpose. Daniel 4:35 mentions, “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” As If Anyone In Their Right Mind Would Ever Ask God If He Knows What He Is Doing.


Then again, I’m not sure that many of us don’t question what God is doing in our lives when He moves counter to what we had planned and get upset with Him.


2. Are you on the right side of His purpose? This can involve one of two things. WALK: Are you walking with Him as you know you should? He has a goal for our lives and we need to be seeking that goal and be working toward it. IF we are God’s children, He has a plan for us. IF we aren’t heading for that plan — THEN He will bring problems into our life which will help us change our direction. SALVATION: Are you on His side spiritually?


The old 45 rpm records were famous for having a good side and a bad side. The Lord has a good side and a bad side in the spiritual realm. Side one: Eternal life with Him as a reward for being obedient to His purpose in Salvation. Side two: Eternal damnation as a penalty for being on God’s bad side in His plan of salvation.


I would like to illustrate this doctrine with a story. Friday P.M.: A man developed a toothache. He had very poor sleep that night. Saturday A.M.: He made an appointment for 1:00 PM Tuesday. Saturday noon: Pain was terrible. He called the dentist and the nurse said come in. Saturday 2:00 P.M.: Pain quit. Saturday 4:30 P.M.: The dentist couldn’t find the problem — come back Tues. and we’ll x-ray and fill it. Saturday 4:50 PM: Pain began. Sun.: Misery upon misery. Monday: Agony upon agony. Tuesday: The dentist pulled the tooth. Wednesday: The same toothache returned only worse. Called Dentist — it was his day off. Thursday A.M.: The dentist pulled the correct tooth. Thursday P.M.: Same tooth ache returned only worse. I went to the dentist and he started a root canal.


Thoughts Of The Man: That stupid idiot dentist. He must have gotten his diploma out of a Cheerio box. There’s a guy in California with a law suit for $35,000 over one wrong tooth pulled. That’s $70,000 for two teeth. However, the man was a believer and the Lord brought a verse to his mind. Romans 8:28, “…we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,”


Some of his possible conclusions “for good” were as follows: Maybe God saw bigger trouble with the teeth if they remained in the mouth. They weren’t prize specimens anyway. Maybe God was going to send him to a far off country where there were no dentists. Maybe God was going to allow him to witness to the dentist. Maybe NOTHING — He waited to see how God would use it.


He was able to use his experience in his Sunday School class that Sunday. His lesson was on God’s everyday purpose for our life.




Before the dawn of time God said, “I can — I will” and He did. He had a plan — He began moving toward the completion of that plan.


He created — He formed man — He breathed into man the breath of life — man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7) — thus began God’s trek down a bumpy, if not rutted road with mankind. We are thankful that He had a plan, for if He hadn’t, He wouldn’t have continued past the first road block with such as us.


Man tried to trip God by eating the forbidden fruit, but (Genesis 3:5) God tripped man right out of the garden (Genesis 3:23).


The coats of skin (Genesis 3:21) showed God alive and heading toward His goal. The skins meant shed blood — the only way to rectify the wrong in any age.


As time wore on, God saw wickedness across the land. None were seeking His goal save one (Genesis 6:5-8). Noah and his family found grace in the eyes of God.


Mankind gathered at Babel with a purpose — to build a tower to heaven. This however, as is normal, was not God’s purpose — He scattered them across the face of the earth (Genesis 11).


God purposed to move toward His goal through the line of Abraham. This ultimately will happen but no thanks to man (Genesis 15).


God made a nation from Abraham which found itself in bondage in Egypt (Exodus 1). Pharaoh was there for one purpose — God’s — to declare God to the earth (Romans 9:17).


Out of this nation came Jesus Christ — the one that would complete the plan. Christ was to destroy the work of the devil (1 John 3:8) — Christ was to set up the church which would show God’s wisdom to the heavenly powers (Ephesians 3:8-11). Christ’s blood enabled God to gather unto Himself a people — a people desiring to follow and serve Him (Titus 2:14).


God set the path with the coats of skin — all sin must be dealt with by shed blood — the blood of Jesus Christ — God’s purpose was to gather a people for His own — the people were sinful — God provided a remedy — those washing themselves in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, become a part of His people — a part of His eternal goal — a part of the people in His eternal city (Revelation 21).[1]