Romans 5.15-17 Podcast

In Romans 5.15-17, Paul contrasts the trespass of Adam and the gift of Jesus Christ.

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Ali Kaboli Released on Bail

Via Compass Direct. For my first post on this subject, go here.



Formal court case apparently pending against Ali Kaboli.

20060522ir001.jpgJune 13 (Compass Direct) â.. A convert Christian jailed six weeks ago in northern Iran was released last night and reunited with his family.

The family of Ali Kaboli, 51, continued to decline comment on the reason for the long-time Protestant believerâ..s arrest or any conditions of his June 12 release by police authorities in his home city of Gorgan.

But sources told Compass that a hefty bail was posted to the court for Kaboliâ..s release, indicating that a formal case could be pending against him. Reportedly he is prohibited from receiving guests at his home and is not permitted to travel to Tehran.Â

Kaboli was arrested without explanation on May 2 from his carpenterâ..s workshop in Gorgan, capital of Golestan province. With the exception of one telephone call to his family, he had been refused any outside contact. A former Muslim who converted to Christianity as a teenager, Kaboli hosted house church meetings in his home and traveled in the Caspian Sea region as an itinerant evangelist. In recent years, he has been threatened, arrested and interrogated a number of times for his Christian activities.

Under Iranâ..s strict apostasy laws, Kaboli could face the death penalty for converting to Christianity 35 years ago.  In recent years, authorities in Iranâ..s northern provinces along the Caspian Sea coast have been particularly harsh toward the growing number of house churches cropping up in the region, arresting lay pastors and individual members known to be involved.

Government officials have warned that anyone caught conducting these â..illegal religious meetingsâ. would be duly prosecuted.  Nearly two years ago, local Protestant denominations had been ordered to cut their ties with any house church groups meeting throughout the country.

Since then, church leaders have been under relentless intimidation to compromise with government investigators by providing the names of their members, particularly any who are converts from Islam. Since last yearâ..s election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian authorities have ratcheted up their pressures against the handful of remaining Protestant congregations still allowed to meet in official church buildings.

Another Iranian convert Christian has remained jailed since September 2004, allegedly convicted of â..concealingâ. his Christian identity from the Iranian military while serving as an army colonel. Incarcerated in Tehranâ..s Evin Prison, Hamid Pourmand had converted to Christianity more than 25 years ago.




Original Sin (Romans 5.12-14)

What is original sin?

When our Puritan forefathers taught their children the alphabet, they made sure to include small doses of theology along the way. So, for example, the New England Primer, first published in 1690, used this couplet for the letter A:

In Adam’s Fall,
we sinned all.

That’s about as succinct a statement of the doctrine of original sin as you’ll ever find. The original sin is “Adam’s Fall,” his disobedience of God’s commandment in the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately, Adam’s disobedience brought death into the world as God’s judgment against sin. But that judgment did not just affect Adam. It affects us too.

Here’s what Paul writes about the topic in Romans 5.12-14:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned-for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.

Notice the logic of Paul’s words.

First, Adam introduced sin into God’s creation by disobeying God’s commandment. The story of Adam’s disobedience is found in Genesis 3.1-19. Here’s the background to the story. God had created a perfect world and placed Adam and Eve in the middle of a garden paradise. He told them that they could eat from any tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Instead of rejoicing in the bounty of food God had provided them, Adam and Eve chose to eat the one fruit God had forbidden them. Why? Because a snake told them to go ahead and try it. The lesson here is that sin always begins with ingratitude and ends with irrationality.

Second, Paul teaches us, disobedience requires punishment. According to Genesis 2.17-19, the punishment for disobedience of God’s commandment is death. Death is first and foremost separation from God and his blessings, then it is physical death, then it is eternal punishment. Death in all its dimensions entered the world through Adam’s sin.

But it is not as if God were unfairly punishing us for Adam’s sin. Paul goes on to say, “in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” Adam’s actions brought about negative consequences for him and for us. But we should never think that God is treating us unjustly. Adam is not to blame for our shortcomings. We’re very capable sinners all on our own.

Paul concludes this paragraph by talking about the law. What he means is the Old Testament law. People sinned and experienced God’s judgment even before God revealed the law to Israel through Moses. What God expects of us is written in the Book of Nature as well as the Book of Scripture. So, none of us can claim ignorance as an excuse for our behavior. One way or another, we know what is right, but choose to do what is wrong nonetheless.

Is there any hope for us sinners? Yes! Paul speaks of Adam as “a pattern of the one to come,” that is, Jesus. We’ll talk more about him and how he reverses the pattern of Adam’s disobedience next time.

The Foundation of Christian Hope (Romans 5.9-11)

When are we saved: in the past, the present, or the future?

I think about this question when I listen to people share their testimonies. They often say, “I was saved on such-and-such a date.” What they mean is that they came to Jesus on that date, whether in response to a public altar call or in the private of their own homes. For them, they were saved when they converted.

But then I remember a remark attributed to the great theologian Karl Barth. He reportedly said that he was saved on or around A.D. 30. Barth’s point was that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ saved him, not his decision to follow Christ.

But then I read Romans 5.9-11, which says:

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Here, salvation is a future event. Two times, Paul asks “how much more shall we be saved?”

Douglas J. Moo explains the background to Paul’s question.

Jews in Paul’s day generally thought that God’s justification was something that would take place at the end of one’s life. God would analyze a person’s adherence to the law, as evidence of covenant faithfulness, and determine whether he or she was to be justified or condemned… Paul transforms this Jewish view of justification by proclaiming that a person can experience this eschatological [end-times] verdict in the here and now. (Encountering the Book of Romans [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002], 102)

So, we come back to our original question: are we saved in the past, the present, or the future?

The answer, it turns out, is all three. Notice the time frame of Romans 5.9-11. The time frame of the statement “we were reconciled” is the past. The time frame of “we have now been justified” is the present. And the time frame of “we [shall] be saved” is the future.

The foundation of our salvation is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which happened in the past. Barth was right: we were saved on or around A.D. 30 “through the death of [God’s] son.” But we experience the blessings of Christ’s action in the here and now. Paul writes, “we have now been justified by his blood” and “we have now received reconciliation” (emphasis added). Because we have been justified by Christ and reconciled to God in the present, we can be confident that we will be saved by God at the Day of Judgment, which is still in our future.

You have been saved. You are being saved. You will be saved. These truths are the foundation of the Christian hope and optimism.

Two Kinds of Heroism (Romans 5.6-8)

Whether we agree or disagree about the justice and advisability of our country’s war in Iraq, I think we can all agree that individual soldiers have demonstrated incredible heroism on the field of battle.One such soldier is Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith. Here’s how his Medal of Honor citation describes his heroic actions:

On [April 4, 2003], Sergeant First Class Smith was engaged in the construction of a prisoner of war holding area when his Task Force was violently attacked by a company-sized enemy force. Realizing the vulnerability of over 100 fellow soldiers, Sergeant First Class Smith quickly organized a hasty defense consisting of two platoons of soldiers, one Bradley Fighting Vehicle and three armored personnel carriers. As the fight developed, Sergeant First Class Smith braved hostile enemy fire to personally engage the enemy with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons, and organized the evacuation of three wounded soldiers from an armored personnel carrier struck by a rocket propelled grenade and a 60mm mortar round. Fearing the enemy would overrun their defenses, Sergeant First Class Smith moved under withering enemy fire to man a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on a damaged armored personnel carrier. In total disregard for his own life, he maintained his exposed position in order to engage the attacking enemy force. During this action, he was mortally wounded.

The citation described SFC Smith’s deeds as “acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty,” which they obviously were. SFC Smith sacrificed his life for the safety and wellbeing of his fellow soldiers. Such actions are the stuff of heroism.

And yet, Jesus Christ displayed an infinitely greater level of heroism on the cross. Consider what Paul wrote in Romans 5.6-8:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Compare and contrast these two forms of heroism. Both involve sacrificing your self for the wellbeing of others. But the similarities end there. Heroes such as SFC Smith died to save their comrades. Jesus Christ heroically died to save his enemies. Without in any way taking away from the heroism of SFC Smith’s actions, I would suggest that Jesus’ death on the cross is the infinitely greater form of heroism.

Paul tells us that Jesus’ death for sinners is a demonstration of God’s love for us. We are sinners. We have dishonored God and disobeyed his commandments in numerous ways. And because of our actions, we deserve nothing but judgment. We are, as it were, enemy soldiers fighting against God. God fights back with the weapon of love. Jesus Christ does not send his enemies to their deaths. Rather, he dies for his enemies, giving them a life they do not deserve. This is an act of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty. Love always is.