Exhort 2007-02-11 Readings: Romans 3–4 Bro Michael Edgecombe
2007年2月11日讲道词 读经：罗马书第3-4章 麦克尔艾吉柯姆弟兄
Righteousness—our greatest need, our greatest challenge
Righteousness—it is our greatest need. ‘By one man sin entered the world, and death by sin’ (Rom 5:12). So death is the consequence of sin: sin is the root of the problem: and righteousness is God’s answer to that problem.
But how to become righteous? That is a tremendous challenge. How can we change from the self-interested, self-absorbed, self-indulgent people that we are by nature, and become loving, patient, gentle, self-controlled? Everywhere around us in the world we see the evidence of selfishness—of greed, of lust, of the selfish pursuit of wealth and power, of violence, of corruption, of deceitfulness. Our world—our human society, even the environment in which we live—is far from righteous. And too easily we reflect our society. Too easily we slip into patterns of selfishness, of rudeness, of deceit or manipulation, of covetousness, and a host of other sins and weaknesses that plague all human beings.
Paul agonized over this problem. ‘I am carnal,’ he said, ‘sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good . . . For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do . . . when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ (Rom.7:14-24).
Here was a wonderfully spiritual, very focused, highly disciplined man who struggled continually with a perverse force within himself so powerful that he called it a ‘law’. As he monitored his mind, he observed that what he did was very different from what he wanted to do. He delighted in God’s law, but repeatedly found himself doing the things that he hated. Even when he was doing good, evil was lurking in the background, infecting his motives, his attitude, his words, his actions, so that he could never be entirely free of sin.
And that is the problem at the very heart of our lives. If the power of sin has taken such deep root in our psychology, how can we ever hope that God will reach out to us, will choose us, will befriend us, will love us as His children, will share His kingdom and glory with us? How can we enjoy a deep and close relationship with Him if we are so far from being righteous? As Paul says, we are very wretched—or would be, if God had not handed us a solution ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (7:25). That is ‘good news’ indeed, ‘good news about God’: and to spread that message was the single-minded focus of Paul’s life in Christ. He was ‘a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God . . . concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord’ (1:1-5).
‘There is none righteous, no, not one’“没有义人，一个也没有”
In the first three chapters of his letter to the Romans, Paul reviews the world of his day: first the completely immoral men and women of the pagan society around him (1:18-32), then those who appointed themselves the moral judges of their society (2:1-16), and finally, the Jew, who took comfort from his possession of the Law of Moses, and boasted in God’s covenant with Israel, and knew God’s will—and yet committed similar sins to every other person (2:17–3:8). Had any been righteous? Had any evidenced the character of God, His perfect blend of justice and mercy? Had any been utterly truthful in their words and upright in their behaviour? ‘No, in no wise,’ says Paul: ‘for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: that is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God’ (3:9-18).
We might think that Paul’s judgment is too extreme. We can look around the world today and find examples of self-sacrifice, of generosity, of courage and heroism, of love. There are people who have given their lives to rescue others, or dedicated themselves to some great work, like bringing sight to the blind of India or Africa, or saving the world from environmental disaster. If we put God aside for just one moment, then we can admire the dedication and commitment that leads people to give their lives for another person, or a greater cause.
But that is far from righteousness. Righteousness is about being right—as decided by God, according to His criteria. It is about doing things that He has asked for, speaking words He would endorse, in a spirit that He would approve. It is about becoming the kind of person that is pleasing to Him, the kind of person that He would be pleased to have in His Kingdom. It is about being in perfect harmony with a true, holy, pure and righteous God. That is why Paul could say of the world in his day, ‘There is none righteous, no, not one.’ And we are compelled to say the same about the world of our day.
God’s righteousness, and ours
What is God’s solution for this problem at the very heart of our lives? His solution is to put forward His Son as the pattern of perfect obedience; to reach out to us in His Son and invite us to put our trust in Him, and in Him only; to accept us, when we put our trust in Him, as righteous, even though we are still sinners; and then to work in us and in our lives to change us into the kind of person He wants us to become, to change us into ‘the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren’ (8:29). That is the process Paul sets out in his letter to the Romans. That is the process by which God has always worked with men and women, although it was not so plainly stated until after the death of the Lord Jesus, and his resurrection and ascension to heaven, when God made him ‘both Lord and Christ’ (Acts 2:36). And that is the process by which God works with us today.
Abraham our father我们的父亚伯拉罕
In chapters 3 and 4 of the letter to the Romans, Paul takes Abraham as his great case study of how God works with men and women to make them righteous. Paul focused on Abraham because every Jew looked back proudly to Abraham as the founding father of the Jewish nation, the man who received God’s promises, and the man who received in his body the mark of circumcision, which became the distinguishing physical feature of every Jewish male. Oh yes, they were proud of Abraham! So Abraham made a very good case study.
But Paul also focuses on Abraham because he is such a powerful example of how God works. When God called Abraham to leave the city of Ur, in southern Iraq, he had done nothing special to deserve God’s attention. He was a sophisticated city-dweller. He came from a family that worshipped idols (Josh 24:2). Abraham did not choose God: God chose Abraham. ‘The God of glory’ appeared to him (Acts 7:2), and called him to leave his country, leave his relations, leave even his family, and start walking. God’s initiative was extraordinary: and Abraham’s response was also extraordinary.
Imagine if we were asked to leave our neighbourhood, our employment, our city, our family and start walking. Even if we were willing to obey God, we would want to know where we were going, how we were going to get there, and what we would receive as a reward for our obedience. But God gave Abraham no street directory. He simply asked him to ‘get out’ (Gen 12:1). And Abraham ‘went out, not knowing whither he went’ (Heb 11:8).
It was an extraordinary act of trusting faith. And that is why he is called ‘the father of all them that believe’ (Rom 4:11). All who come after him, whether Jewish or not, who put their trust in God, and His Son, and His process of salvation and righteousness, and His promises, are the spiritual children of Abraham, ‘the father of us all’ (4:16).
An even greater challenge一个更严峻的挑战
But Abraham faced an even greater challenge than this. He and his wife Sarah desperately wanted a child of their own. But Sarah was unable to have children: and as year followed year, and Abraham and Sarah grew steadily older, the hope they shared between them, that one day she would nurse a child, faded.
And yet this too was in God’s purpose: because God had from the beginning made promises not only to Abraham, but also to his seed, ‘when as yet he had no child’ (Acts 7:5). It was a way of developing the faith of Abraham and Sarah, of making it even stronger:
Trial and testing are never easy to handle, but we must always remember that the key question is not, ‘Why did this happen to me?’, but ‘What can I learn from this?’ Jesus himself, the very Son of God, ‘learned obedience by the things which he suffered’. Although he never sinned, his faith was nevertheless made stronger or ‘perfected’ by the things which he suffered. The extraordinary pressure on him throughout his life—his own internal wrestling with temptation, his struggle to balance personal responsibilities with his special work, his control over his mental state, his emotions, his words and actions, the pressure of his adversaries—came to a focus in the garden of Gethsemane, where he ‘offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared . . . and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him’ (Heb 5:7-19).
The difficulties which God or others bring upon us are not joyful. They are very distressing, as they were for the Lord Jesus. We might find ourselves praying in tears for relief, as Jesus did. Yet if we are exercised by our trials—if we use them as opportunities to learn more about God, to draw near to Him, to grow our faith and trust in Him—they can help us to develop ‘the peaceable fruit of righteousness’, and in the day when the Lord Jesus Christ returns, share God’s holiness (Heb 12:1-11).
So it was with Abraham. His sadness at Sarah’s inability to bear a child did not drive him away from God. It led him to God. Challenged to believe that God would give him not only one son, but as many children as the innumerable stars of heaven, he looked up at the night sky and with all his heart ‘believed in Yahweh: and He counted it to him for righteousness’ (Gen 15:1-6). Notice that he did not only ‘believe God’: rather, he ‘believed in God’. He did not simply believe that God’s words would come true. He trusted God absolutely to deliver what He had promised, even though at the time it seemed so unlikely. As Paul said, ‘Against hope he believed in hope . . . he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness’ (Rom 4:18-22). Because he trusted God’s ability and willingness to perform, therefore God accounted him righteous.
It was not written for his sake alone不是单为他写的。
Paul continues, ‘It was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also’ (4:23-24). Here we are, gathered around the bread and wine which represent the body and blood of the Lord Jesus, surrendered to death for our sakes. Yet he is not dead. He is marvelously, powerfully, gloriously alive, and is exalted far above all in this world, and the world to come. Just as God was able to bring a wonderful new life from the dead womb of Sarah, so He was able to raise up Jesus our Lord from the dead, and give him glory and power at His right hand.
Do we believe God when He says that through the death and resurrection of His Son He is reaching out to us to save us? Do we believe Him when He says that in all the twists and turns of life He is working with us to change us into ‘the image of His Son’? Do we believe Him when He says that whatever may come our way in life, nothing, not even death itself, can separate us from His love, and prevent us from entering His Kingdom?
If we put our trust absolutely in God, He receives us this morning as righteous men and women: and the day will come when we shall ‘shine forth as the sun’ in the kingdom of our Father (Matt 13:43).
A. Righteousness—our greatest need, our greatest challenge义—我们最大的需要，也是最大的挑战
1. Sin is the root of the problem (Rom 5:12) 死是从罪来的.(罗马书5:12)
2. Righteousness is God’s answer—but how to become righteous? A tremendous challenge义是神的回答— 但是怎样才能为义呢?这是一个巨大的挑战
3. Too easily we reflect the sinful patterns we see in our society—even Paul agonized over this problem (7:14-24)—called it ‘a law’ 我们很容易受平常见到的罪恶的影响—甚至使徒保罗也分析了这个问题,将之称为“律”
4. Sin so deeply embedded in our psychology that we could never hope to relate to God—unless He had given us the solution in Jesus Christ (7:25) 罪是如此深植于我们心中, 我们就没有了与神联系的希望— 除非他赐予我们耶稣基督作为获救的途径(7:25).
5. ‘The gospel of God’ (1:1-5) “神的福音” (1:1-5)
B. What is righteousness?什么是义?
1. Paul reviews the world of his day—the immoral (1:18-32), the moral critic (2:1-16) and the Jew (2:17–3:8)—and condemns them all (3:9-18)保罗回顾了他那个时代的面貌— 淫邪者(1:18-32), 审判者(2:1-16) 和犹太人(2:17-3:8)— 并指责了所有的人(3:9-18)
2. Our world today is as unrighteous as the world of Paul’s day我们今天的世界和保罗时代的世界一样不义
3. Not extreme: self-sacrifice, generosity, heroism, dedication, commitment are good things, but no substitute for righteousness这样的指责并不为过: 自我牺牲, 慷慨大方,英雄主义, 奉献都是好的,但都不能算为义.
4. Righteousness is being right with God, according to His criteria为义是按神的标准行义事
C. God’s solution神的办法
1. Jesus the pattern of perfect obedience耶稣是完美顺服的样式
2. Through Jesus, the offer of righteousness and salvation to those who believe通过耶稣, 赐予信徒义和救赎
3. Transformation into ‘the image of His Son’ (8:29)变成“神子的模样”(8:29)
D. Paul’s case study: Abraham保罗分析的例子:亚伯拉罕
1. The founding father of the Jewish nation—of whom every Jew was proud!犹太人引以为傲的犹太民族始祖!
2. But more importantly, a powerful example of how God works 更重要的是, 他是神在人身上做工的有力证明
a. An idolater (Josh 24:2)—had done nothing to deserve God’s attention一个拜偶像的人(约书亚记24:2)— 并不值得神的关注
b. But God appeared to him in glory (Acts 7:2) and called him to leave (Gen 12:1-3) 但是神的荣耀向他显现(使徒行传7:2), 呼召他离开(创世记12:1-3)
c. An extraordinary initiative, and an extraordinary response (Heb 11:8)非凡的旨意,非凡的回应( 希伯来书11:8)
3. Because of his trusting faith, the father of the faithful, whether Jew or Gentile (Rom 4:11, 16)因信,成为一切有信之人的父,无论是犹太人还是外邦人( 罗马书4:11,16)
E. The challenge of trial考验的挑战
1. God made promises to Abraham’s seed, when Sarah was unable to bear children (Acts 7:5)—a test of faith神在撒拉不能生育的时候应许亚伯拉罕要得后裔 (使徒行传7:5)— 信心的考验
2. Trial never easy to bear, but essential to spiritual perfection—as even Jesus found (Heb 5:7-19)考验是不容易经受的,但是对于完善信心却是重要的— 对耶稣也是一样( 希伯来书5:7-19)
3. The key question is not, ‘Why?’ but ‘What can I learn?’ (Heb 12:1-11)重要的问题不是“为什么”，而是“我能学到什么”(希伯来书12:1-11)
4. Trial led Abraham to God—he believed (Gen 15:1-6)考验让亚伯拉罕接近神— 他相信(创世记15:1-6)
a. Not only believed God, but believed ‘in God’—absolute trust in God’s ability to perform不仅仅是相信神,而是信赖神— 全心信赖神的能力.
b. Therefore accounted righteous (Rom 4:18-22) 所以算为义(罗马书4:18-22)
F. For us also也是写给我们的
1. Not written for his sake alone (4:23-24)不是单为他一人写的(4:23-24)
2. Just as God brought life from the dead womb of Sarah, so He raised Jesus from the dead正如神让撒拉生育一样,神让耶稣从死里复活
3. Do we believe God’s offer of salvation? That He is working with us, to transform us? That His love will endure beyond death? That He will give us a place in His kingdom?我们是否相信神的拯救，神在我们身上做工来改变我们， 他的爱永远不会离弃我们， 他会让我们进入他的国?
4. If we believe, we will receive glory in the Father’s Kingdom (Matt 13:43)如果我们相信,我们就会在父的国中得着荣耀( 马太福音13:43)