Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 1 Study # 5
Thesis: Trials are always of our "faith" and they always bring its true character to light.
Introduction: In our last study, we began to deal with Paul's claim that we "exult" in the experiences of the pressures of living in this world while not being of this world. We considered that those pressures are an integral aspect of God's development of us for the position of service in His Kingdom that He has always had in mind for us. That position is brought up in his phrase "we exult in hope of the glory of God" and His process is identified as subjecting us to the pressures of tribulations. We made note of two major facts: first, that in the world God has created, there is no such thing as "growth into a larger capacity for experience" apart from the subjection to stress; and, second, that in the salvation God has provided, there is a clear line of demarcation between those things that are accomplished "vicariously" and those things which will not be accomplished unless there is a "cooperative effort". In order for us to be "justified by faith apart from works", Jesus had to act "vicariously" on our behalf to do what none of us could do. But, by the same token, for us to "inherit in the Kingdom", we must enter into a "cooperative effort" with the Spirit of Christ within us in which we actively trust Him to produce His fruit through us. The "active trust" is the root of our "cooperation" with Him as "co-laborers together with Christ".
Now, this evening, we are going to pursue the fundamental issue that is caught in Paul's claim that "we exult ... by knowing". We are going to apply ourselves to "learning" what we are supposed to "know". And, the particular issue upon which we are going to focus our attention is the one that is given in the claim that "tribulation brings about perseverance". In order to understand this a bit better, we need to understand the issues of "tribulation" and "perseverance".
February 21, 2006
- I. The Issues of "Tribulation".
- A. The most basic sense of the term is "pressure".
- B. The reality that this basic sense addresses is to be found in two fundamental texts of this letter to the Romans.
- 1. The first of those texts is Romans 8:29.
- a. In this text, it is clear that God's plan is for us to be "conformed" to the image of His Son.
- b. It is an integral aspect of "conformity" that there is a "mold" into which a thing is pressed in order to produce a likeness of the image.
- c. It is an integral aspect of "conformity" that there is "pressure" upon the thing to be molded to compel its conformation into the same image of the mold.
- d. Thus, there is no escape from the fact that God has "predestined" His children to be subjected to both the "pressures" and the "mold".
- 2. The second of those texts is Romans 12:2.
- a. In this text, it is clear that the world also has a plan for us to be "conformed".
- b. The process is the same -- mold and pressure -- but the "mold" is different.
- c. Thus, there is no escape from the fact that the world is determined to attempt to force the children of God into its mold.
- C. Thus, the inescapable conclusion is that there is no escape from the process of "being pressured" and there is a significant danger involved that the pressure will generate the wrong "image".
- 1. The danger is real -- or Romans 12:2 would lose all of its meaning.
- 2. The danger is qualified -- or Romans 8:29 would lose all of its meaning.
- D. And, there is the ultimate picture of God's competition with the world over the final result in the life of the child of God.
- 1. The "problematical" issue is that this competition has a third "player": the believer.
- a. Inheritance in the Kingdom is not of the "vicarious" methodology.
- b. Inheritance in the Kingdom is of the "co-laborer" methodology of active trust.
- 2. The reality is that the believer is summoned to "believe" and there are real consequences for failure. [If God is going to condemn the world for "unbelief", He certainly is not going to reward His children for it.]
- II. The Issues of "Perseverance".
- A. The most basic sense of the term is the concept of "resistance to pressure".
- B. There are several issues involved.
- 1. "Pressure" is, by definition, the active attempt to press someone into something -- to compel, as it were, a "change of course", if not identity.
- 2. "Pressure" is, by reason of the revelation of the texts of 8:29 and 12:2, an inevitability.
- 3. "Pressure" is, by reason of Paul's appeal to "knowledge", easily misunderstood: it might be considered to be "of the world" when it is really "of God" and vice-versa.
- a. When Abraham was "told" to kill his son, the content of the demand contained a strong possibility that the "teller" was Abraham's adversary, not His Friend.
- b. Many are the times when the "pressures" are ambiguous by reason of our ignorance. This is why James insists that when we are faced with "various trials" we are to go to God and appeal to Him for wisdom on how to handle them.
- 4. "Pressure resisted" produces "perseverance", which is the ability to stay on a course when the pressures are attempting to get us on to another course.
- a. The principle is true: "resistance" produces "a greater ability to resist".
- b. The problem is that the principle works even when the resistance is against the pressures of God.
- 1) One can become "immune" to the pressures of the world by resistance over time.
- 2) One can also become "immune" to the pressures of God by resistance over time.
- C. In Romans 4, Paul declares the hopeful truth that our "pressures" are working in the direction of our participation in the glory of God.
- 1. He does not, here, address that possibility that the "pressures" are working against our participation in the glory of God (he addresses that elsewhere).
- 2. His "protection" theses are two: we are at peace with God and we stand in the throne room of His grace [thus, we can tell whether the "pressure" is from God or from the world on the basis of the strength of our faith in those protective theses].
- 3. Bottom line: if we are responding to the "pressures" as if we do not have peace with God and do not have access to sufficient grace, we are being conformed to this world; but, if we are standing firm on His "friendliness" and "willingness to provide", we are being conformed to the image of His Son.