by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 1 Study # 5 November 30, 2004 Lincolnton, N.C.
(082)Thesis:By considering the "rewards" that are possible to man, believers can better understand the nature of the promises of God.
Introduction:In our study last time, we put some deliberate "brackets" around Romans 2:6. We did not "manufacture" the brackets because they are established in the context. But, there is a huge problem with Paul's gospel if we do not accept the brackets he imposed. Without brackets, Romans 2:6 makes eternal life a reward for good behavior. This fundamentally contradicts the Gospel's promise of eternal life as a gift received by faith. So, what are the brackets? Paul is specifically writing about the events of the "Day of Wrath" when God will judge men for their deeds and determine whether they will obtain eternal life as a reward for those deeds or perish because of the worthlessness of those deeds. In that day, there will be two basic sets of standards set up. One set has to do with what is required for a man to be given eternal life as a reward for his works. The other set has to do with what will cause a man to be judged to be unworthy of eternal life. So, our conclusion last week is that Romans 2:6 is simply a statement of what the Justice of God requires for those who reject His kindness and refuse repentance as the method of acceptance by God.
This evening we are going to take a second look at the standards of that day to see what we as believers can learn from them. Though we will not be subjected to them in judgment, we will be subjected to their reality as defining characteristics. Paul wrote of "eternal life" in terms that we need to grasp. He also wrote of "eternal death" in terms we need to grasp. Much of the struggle believers have in this world is rooted in their lack of understanding of what God has promised in the terms of "eternal life". When believers read that Jesus promised "life abundantly", most of us don't have a clue as to what that means, so we go through life with a great deal of frustration because, though we have no clue, we think we do and when our experience isn't "abundant life" we think God's promise has failed. So, to clarify the promise and to solidify our understanding, we are going to look at what Paul said was the practical definition of eternal life.
I. The Relationship Between the Stated Method of the Pursuit and Eternal Life.
A. When we compare 2:7 with 2:10, we discover that Eternal Life consists of having three benefits come to us.
1. In 2:7 Paul said to "obtain" eternal life, one had to "patiently seek" three goals.
a. The first goal is "glory".
b. The second goal is "honor".
c. The third goal is "incorruptibility".
2. In 2:10 Paul said God would give "eternal life" in the form of three gifts.
a. The first gift is "glory".
b. The second gift is "honor".
c. The third gift is "peace".
B. When we plug these three benefits into their larger theological context, we have a pretty clear picture of what "eternal life" is.
1. The clearest contexts for understanding the issues of life and death are the temptation accounts...for this is where life and death were hinged. In those texts man is aggressively attacked at the levels of his make-up: he is tempted at the physical, emotional, and spiritual levels of his being.
2. The next most clear context for understanding is the Genesis 12 text of the Abrahamic Covenant whereby God intended to fortify a man against the success of temptation. In that text Abram is promised a land for the body, a seed for the soul, and a great name for the spirit.
3. And, finally, a comparison of Paul's words in Romans 2:7 and 2:10 gives us significant help.
a. Paul said eternal life consists of receiving "glory".
1) The biblical issue of "glory" is the "attributes" or "components" of which a thing/person consists and then, consequently, recognition for those "attributes" and what they can/do produce.
2) Without debate, one of man's greatest interests is being "praised" for what he is and can do. "Seeking glory" would, then, translate into an active pursuit of essential qualities and their subsequent abilities so that one might receive recognition for those qualities and abilities.
3) This seems to correspond to the Abrahamic Covenant promise of a "great name" in that the greatness of a name consists in recognition for what a person is and can do.
b. He then went further and said that eternal life consists of receiving "honor".
1) The issue of "honor" in the Bible is the issue of having a "set evaluation of worth". When one is given "honor", he is acknowledged to be of significant value. But, value is always relative to either a given objective, or a given methodology for the pursuit of an objective. So, "honor" is being considered to be "valuable" in light of a desired goal.
2) There is also little debate that another of man's greatest interests is being considered of sufficient value to be included in the fellowship of the approved so that there is a mutuality of appreciation and succour -- this seems to be the focus of the biblical concept of "honor". Thus, "seeking honor" would translate into developing the skills required to enable the accomplishment of desirable goals.
3) This seems to correspond to the Abrahamic Covenant promise of "a seed who would be able to accomplish the desired objective".
c. And then he finished up by saying that eternal life consists of receiving "incorruptibility" or "peace".
1) Biblically, "peace" is both the absence of conflict and the presence of cooperation. This is a very large and comprehensive subject, but Paul's context ties it directly to the issue of "incorruptibility" (being subject to the processes of decay and death). This means that he probably has the physical man in view in respect to the issue of "peace".
2) Additionally, then, there seems to be little debate about the fact that men seek "peace" in some form or another (this is really why they "kill" their opposition -- to eliminate conflict).
3) If we take Paul's contextual limitation, this "peace", as an issue of man's enduring conflict with his environment at the physical level, this is a promise of health.
4) This seems to also correspond to the Abrahamic Covenant Promise of a "land" -- the physical source of all of his "health" issues...food, vitamins, minerals, water, etc.
II. The Relationship Between Our Experience and Our Interpretation of Our Experience as an Interpretation of "Faith".
A. Eternal life is experienced by faith.
B. Thus, to "disbelieve" is to not experience eternal life.
C. Therefore, it is crucial that we understand what was promised and how our experience is to be understood in the light of it.
1. The promises are fundamentally present/future: i.e., only partially fulfilled in the present, but fully fulfilled in the future.
2. The promises are fundamentally a matter of perspective: i.e., every experience has multiple possibilities of interpretation. [A classic illustration is the beating the apostles received in Jerusalem and their interpretation of it as given in Acts 5:41.]
3. The promises are qualified by the revealed limitations in terms of the present.
a. The promises do not override the reality of being subjected to corruption until the resurrection (the "body" is not going to be protected).
b. The promises do not override the reality of the carnality of the saints until the arrival of the New Jerusalem (the "soul" is not going to be protected).
c. The promises do not override the reality of the animosity of the world until the establishment of the Kingdom (the "spirit" is not going to be protected).
4. The promises are unqualified in terms of two absolutes.
a. God absolutely rejects the opinions of the saints and the world.
b. God absolutely underwrites the final fulfillment.