by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 8 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1 February 12, 2017 Humble, Texas (Download Audio)
(069)Thesis: We are under obligation with very real consequences that follow.
Introduction: The underlying reality that presses the need for every person to take "Love" and "Truth" issues to heart is this: we do not live in a consequence-free universe. All of our studies of Paul's teaching of sanctification truths rest upon the fact that those who take his words to heart have a great deal to gain and every one who rejects them will suffer a great loss. Paul's words are "to live" or "to die".
Thus we set out this evening upon a new tack in his thought so that we might enter more fully into life. This new direction is, of course, not "new" as a truth, just "new" as the next concept for us to embrace. This "new" addition to his teaching is the concept of our identity as "debtors". His words are, "As a consequence, therefore, brethren, we are debtors...".
What does he mean and how much of our thinking in life is supposed to be rooted here? There are several "identity" declarations in our text and its context. The closest is in this same sentence: "brothers". Another not far off is "possessions of Christ" by virtue of the Spirit Who indwells us with multiple "identity" issues of His own. And a third follows quickly as "sons of God" and another as "children of God" and then "heirs".
However, the summons to a conclusion ("As a consequence, therefore, ...") indicates that this particular identity brings several of Paul's sanctification truths together and lays the foundation for our understanding of the ones within this local context.
I. What Does It Mean To Be a Debtor?
A. The basic concept is that of "being under a conseqence-governed obligation".
B. The term is used in illuminating ways in the New Testament
1. Matthew uses it twice with two major elements involved.
a. Matthew 6:12 uses it in a direct application to the question of how much "obligation" is to impact our relationships with others (forgive us for failing in our obligations as we forgive those whose failure has affected us adversely).
b. Matthew 18:24 uses it in the related, but specific sense, of legal, financial obligation.
1) Interestingly this is also directly related to the question of how much of an impact a failure to meet the "obligation" is to have upon our relationships with others.
2) This case is directly "legal" in the face of the possibility of "forgiveness".
2. Luke uses it once in an odd way (Luke 13:4) that reveals how a specifically destructive event was being interpreted in Jesus' day by those heavily invested in legal theology.
a. The tower of Siloam collapsed and killed 18 people.
b. Those who heard and/or observed this death-dealing event jumped to the conclusion that God was particularly angry with the 18 for their major failures under "obligations".
c. The idea of "debtors" in this text directly means "those who have significantly failed to live up to their obligations" (the Authorized Version translates the word "sinners above all men that dwelt in..." the surrounding area.
3. Paul uses it four times (in the noun form) in his letters, three of which are in Romans and one of which is in Galatians 5:3.
a. The Galatians text is extremely heavy in terms of the meaning of "debtor" as one who will be dealt with according to whether, or not, he/she lives up to the obligation: there will be no "forgiveness".
b. Two of the three uses in Romans are superficially less "threatening".
1) The first is 1:14 where Paul claims to be a debtor to the Gentiles in respect to whether he fulfills his commission to preach the gospel to them.
a) There is no obvious contextual warning regarding what happens if he fails in his obligation.
b) But 1 Corinthians 9:17 in its context makes it clear that there was, indeed, a pretty severe outcome upon Paul if he dropped the ball, not to mention what happens to those who do not hear the Gospel because he failed.
2) The third is 15:27 where Paul comments upon the Gentiles' "debt" to the "believing Jews" in Jerusalem and their fulfillment of that debt in the sending of relief to those Jews.
a) Again, there is no contextual warning regarding what happens to a "debt" that is in default.
b) But 2 Corinthians 9:6 specifically says (in regard to this effort) that "...he who soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly and he who soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully".
C. Thus, we are able to conclude that being a "debtor" is being under obligation with real-life consequences to come as a direct outcome of whether, or not, the "debt" is met or left in default.
II. What Is The Present "Debt"?
A. Paul, interestingly, decided to state the negative first.
1. The "debt" is not "to the flesh to live according to the standard of flesh".
2. This is somewhat odd, yet something very pragmatic.
a. There are not a lot of folks who, being believers, think that they are obligated to the flesh; at least superficially.
b. But there are a lot of folks who, being believers, will yield to the appetites of the flesh when crunch time comes.
c. It is "crunch time" that reveals whether, or not, we will act as "obligated" to act in a given way.
B. Then he turns around and states the positive.
1. There is, because of the gift of God's Spirit to us, an "obligation" to permit His intended impact upon us.
2. This "obligation" is to use His promises and presence to "put to death" what he calls the "praxis" issues of the body.
a. The word translated "deeds" is used in Romans 12:4 to help us understand what Paul is saying.
b. The basic idea is the activities that arise out of a given creation function.
c. The problem is that the "body" is the equivalent of the "flesh" in our text and it means that there are certain demands that members of the body make upon the rest of the body, as well as the inner soul and spirit of the person, that are directly the outcome of the way the member was created by God.
d. The bottom line here is this: Paul is saying that God gave His Spirit to dominate what the body will, and will not, do, and we are under "obligation" to cooperate with Him.
1) The "praxis" of the body is simply what happens when the body is allowed to be the boss.
2) God's Spirit is supposed to take that title and function away from the body.
III. What Are The Consequences?
A. In stark terms, "death" comes to those who fail to meet their "obligation".
B. In beneficial terms, "life" comes to those who live up to their "obligation".
IV. Where Is "Grace" In This Scenario?
A. The "grace" is in the gift of the Spirit and in the responses the Father gives to those who are under the obligation: failure, coupled to genuine repentance, is met with "forgiveness"; but failure without repentance is met with "what is due".
B. Grace is not about making the universe consequence free; it is about God making a way for the consequences to be good.