Wednesday, June 24, 2009

When you are a man, sometimes you wear stretchy pants in your room, just for fun.

Who is the man in Romans 7:14-25?

Is it a non-Christian? Is it an immature Christian? Is it a mature Christian?

Cogitate about that some and share your thoughts in the comments section.

Paul writes in the first person in the present tense, which plays a large role in my thinking that he's speaking of the normal Christian life, the Christian's ongoing struggle with indwelling sin.

(However, I've not always held that view, and at one time I adamantly held that Paul was speaking of the experience of the pre-conversion person. Perhaps I'll finally put together an argument for my view, but not today.)

Although not conclusive, it is encouraging to me that so many of my theological heroes* share the view that Paul is speaking of a converted person's struggles.

The following quote is from John Piper speaking about J.I. Packer on this topic. (I've not been able to track down Packer's original source, but will cite it when able.)
J. I. Packer wrote an article on this passage two years ago to defend the view that I am taking here. He said...

Paul is not telling us that the life of the "wretched man" is as bad as it could be, only that it is not as good as it should be, and that because the man delights in the law and longs to keep it perfectly his continued inability to do so troubles him acutely. . . . The "wretched man" is Paul himself, spontaneously voicing his distress at not being a better Christian than he is, and all we know of Paul personally fits in with this supposition.

So I think what Paul is saying is not that Christians live in continual defeat, but that no Christian lives in continual victory over sin. And in those moments and times when we fail to triumph over sin, Romans 7:14-25 is the normal way a healthy Christian should respond. (emphasis Gunny's)


*This is not an appeal to authority per se, but rather an appeasing confirmation for me personally. Though these lads may disagree on various other things, the following all agree that the man in Romans 7:14-25 is a converted individual:
  • Matthew Bradley
  • John Calvin
  • Jonathan Edwards
  • John D. Hannah
  • Charles Hodge
  • John F. MacArthur, Jr.
  • John Murray
  • John Owen
  • J.I. Packer
  • Arthur W. Pink
  • John Piper
  • J.C Ryle
  • R.C. Sproul
  • Charles Spurgeon
(There may be others, but I didn't want to speak of those where I was unsure.)

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29 Comments:

At 24 June, 2009 08:43, Anonymous Chris said...

Thanks. This is helpful. I am getting ready to start Romans in the Fall. I put in in a note in my Bible software.

 
At 24 June, 2009 11:30, Blogger etoc said...

Glad to follow those on that list. It's the "Deep Do-Do" passage: "I do what I don't want to do, I don't do what I do want to do." For me, this passage is the passage that makes Paul a Pastor who is like me-who goes through the same struggles. If the text is not determinative, the life experience of Christians is. This is what we all experience, isn't it!? I know it is for me.

 
At 24 June, 2009 11:43, Blogger Marvin said...

Thank you for this commentary and encouragement and challenge to my soul. May the grace of God continue to deal with our hearts as we pilgrim through this barren land.

 
At 24 June, 2009 14:42, Blogger Matthew Bradley said...

Gunny,

How did I not make the list?

:^)

 
At 24 June, 2009 14:53, Blogger Matt said...

I don't see why it has to be either/or. I think Romans 7 is about anyone--saved or not--trying to live the law by the flesh. Romans 7 applies to everyone. Unbelievers, by nature of not having the Spirit, will always fail to obey the law. The power of sin is too strong for the flesh to prevail. Belivers, by nature of their incomplete redemption, will often fail to obey the law. When they don't keep in step with the Spirit, sin will overwhelm their flesh as well.

 
At 24 June, 2009 21:37, Blogger Kyle said...

If anything I agree with Matt. The list of big wigs who take it as Christian Paul is very intimidating. I respect just about everyone of the men you listed & view them as heroes.

However I take it as Pre-Conversion Paul based on some points within Chapter 7, but mainly due to the flow of thought in Romans. Romans 5- Salvation is based on faith, it is a gift. Romans 6, We are no longer slaves to sin b/c we died to sin. Romans 7- What of the Law? It doesn't fail, we do.
Romans 8- How grace is superior to Law.

Simplistic I know. I'll end with this: that which convinces me the most of pre-conversion is (Romans 6) "we are no longer slaves to sin" contrasted with (Romans 7) I am "sold in to bondage of sin"..."Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?" Romans 8 (the answer to his question) "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

 
At 24 June, 2009 22:25, Blogger Jade said...

Gunny, you need to add J.C. Ryle. He actually discusses this in his book Holiness. Recommend everyone to read that book! Also Lloyd-Jones unfortunately held to the idea that Romans 7 spoke of an unsaved person.

Matt, I disagree with your assessment. When Paul states that, "For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind", an unregenerate man can never delight in God's law, because of his depraved state. No, Romans 7 is speaking of a regenerate man. That war that Romans 7 speaks of does not exist for an unregenerate man.

 
At 25 June, 2009 00:05, Blogger Kyle said...

I also add Douglas Moo to proponents for the pre-Conversion view.

It is only unfortunate if it is not true Jade. I'm not judging you or being mean or the like. I hope to stir our passion to know the truth as the Bible lays out. This is a passage that has been debated for quite a while, I hope that we look at the evidence within the chapter & come to the right conclusions -all for the glory of God. God is glorified by a correct understanding of this passage. If it is as many of you say, He is glorified in that He continually graces us through our struggles with self. If it is as I say then He gets glory b/c He rescued us from the frustration of seeing the perfect & falling short.

You quote: "For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind" & say an unregenerate man can never delight in God's law... I believe there's a big misunderstanding here. The Psalmist wrote in 119:97 "O how I love your law! All day long I meditate on it." & the people sang this psalm. Were they all being disingenuous? I say there were people who truly wanted to serve God, people who did love His law, but no matter what, they couldn't fulfill it b/c of sin's slavery. There were people who practiced the Law but had bad hearts, & there were people who wanted to practice the Law but made sinful decisions. Why? b/c they/we all were slaves to sin.

Was Cornelius regenerate before or after Peter's visit? If you say BEFORE, then you have no room to say that Romans 7 couldn't be a regenerate Pre-conversion Paul, wanting to follow God's Law (after all, he was a pharisee of pharisees) since Jesus eventually revealed Himself to Paul. If you say AFTER then how do you answer the fact that He is known as a "God-fearer" before hearing the Gospel?

To be clear. Total Depravity doesn't mean we are as sinful as we could be, but that every bit of us is tainted by sin.

 
At 25 June, 2009 14:15, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If this is post-coversion Paul, he is probably talking about sins we would find pretty minor. Paul is not a slave to ugly, heinous, vile, obvious ungodliness. He is Spirit-filled, obedient, and righteous, but may occasionally have an awareness of the presence of sin in his life.

 
At 25 June, 2009 18:31, Blogger Jade said...

Kyle wrote:

The Psalmist wrote in 119:97 "O how I love your law! All day long I meditate on it." & the people sang this psalm. Were they all being disingenuous? I say there were people who truly wanted to serve God, people who did love His law, but no matter what, they couldn't fulfill it b/c of sin's slavery. There were people who practiced the Law but had bad hearts, & there were people who wanted to practice the Law but made sinful decisions. Why? b/c they/we all were slaves to sin.

Kyle, the only people that wanted to serve God were the people that were regenerated, as the Old Testament Saints were. Apart from the elected saints, the rest were incapable of desiring to do so. They had hearts of stone as Scriptures tell us. Remember, the Psalmist was regenerated, otherwise he would not have been inspired to write that, so those Words were real for the Psalmist. For the rest that paid lip service, the Lord said of them, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me."

The Lord further said in Romans 3:
"None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one."

So who are you speaking about that sought God? Apart from regeneration, how can someone who does not seek God, love God's laws?! God Himself said, "NO ONE SEEKS FOR GOD".

Remember, as Romans states, "So then it depends NOT on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." It is God ALONE who gives the man the desire to seek Him via regeneration.

Kyle wrote:

Was Cornelius regenerate before or after Peter's visit? If you say BEFORE, then you have no room to say that Romans 7 couldn't be a regenerate Pre-conversion Paul, wanting to follow God's Law (after all, he was a pharisee of pharisees) since Jesus eventually revealed Himself to Paul. If you say AFTER then how do you answer the fact that He is known as a "God-fearer" before hearing the Gospel?

It seems you're confused about regeneration and conversion. Once regeneration sets in, conversion is inevitable. The two are blurred if not, the same! It's not like someone can be regenerated and failed to be converted. God ONLY regenerates/converts His elect. He's not going to regenerate someone who is not part of the elect. Regeneration is the transformation from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh which enables a man to believe. So I say just prior to the message Cornelius was regenerated. No one knows for certain when EXACTLY regeneration/coversion occurs as Jesus said, "the wind blows where it will, so it is with those who are born again." We only know when the fruits of regeneration appear, as in the case of coming to repentance and faith and belief. These are evidences that regeneration/conversion has occurred. Cornelius and Paul were regenerated just prior to coming to faith, otherwise they couldn't have come to faith. But clearly Paul was NOT regenerated/converted as he was seeking to kill believers because apparently that's not evidence of regeneration, is it?! :o)

 
At 25 June, 2009 18:45, Blogger Jade said...

Kyle wrote:

To be clear. Total Depravity doesn't mean we are as sinful as we could be, but that every bit of us is tainted by sin.

Kyle, with all due respect, which part of the phrase "Total Depravity" don't you understand? TOTAL DEPRAVITY. Total means complete. Depravity means, morally wicked, corrupt. How can something completely morally bankrupt have any hint of desiring for God's law? Total Depravity means there is NOTHING, NOTHING in us that seeks or loves or desires God or His laws apart from the Holy Spirit's regeneration. NOTHING. God Himself declared that in Romans. We didn't seek God, God sought us! God alone worked out our salvation ... there was no meeting in the middle here between God and man. God ALONE takes FULL CREDIT of our salvation and even the choice of choosing us! It's not like I had a bit of desire to love God's law and therefore I was able to "work up" to receiving the message! NO! I was hopeless! My desire was only for MYSELF! And that is true of EVERYONE of US prior to regeneration! You, me, Gunny --- we only cared about ourselves! But God in His infinite MERCY sought me out and gave me a heart of flesh so that I can see, repent and believe. All GRATITUDE and CREDIT AND PRAISE belongs to GOD ALONE and NONE TO US! WE TAKE ABSOLUTELY NO CREDIT! This is why we are SOOO THANKFUL to the Lord. We OWE EVERYTHING TO HIM and TO HIM ALONE.

No, Romans 7 speaks of only a regenerated/coverted person. The battle between the spirit and flesh can only exist because God gave us a heart of flesh and that war begins. An unregenerate person does not have spiritual battles because he's already on side of the devil and his flesh. Once the regeneration sets in, then there's a new guy in town and the war begins.

I'd strongly encourage you to read John Owen's Triumph Over Temptation". He covers this issue of Romans 7. J. C. Ryle in his book Holiness also covers this.

 
At 25 June, 2009 23:55, Blogger Kyle said...

I agree with you Jade about Regeneration. I believe that a person is regenerated by God at the hearing of the Gospel which then allows him to convert, a desire given by God.

My whole point of 'when did Cornelius become regenerate?' was to challenge your statement that "only a regenerate person could love God's Law." I assume you'd say the same about loving God. The Bible doesn't give us details on Cornelius view of Scripture, but it calls him a God-fearer; this means that before God regenerated him he at least believed & respected that there is only One God & it is the God of the Jews.
Another example that comes to mind is the Ethiopian Eunuch. He was reading the Scripture wanting to understand it.
The point is, these people were not SAVED but yet they at least wanted to follow God.
You even bring up Paul's murdering of Christians before he converted. Paul did that b/c of his (misplaced) ZEAL for God. You can't honestly believe Paul the Pharisee didn't WANT to follow God. He devotes himself to God so much that he kills people b/c he thinks God wanted him to do that. His knowledge was wrong, his zeal was misplaced, yet he had zeal.

The point of Romans 7 is that even if you agree that the Law is good & spiritual, you on the other hand are not. No matter whether you want to follow the Law or not, you can't.

See we have the exact same view on regeneration, election, salvation.
Where we are differing, which is affecting our interpretations of Romans 7 is Total Depravity.

 
At 26 June, 2009 00:54, Blogger Kyle said...

I still stand by my statement.

"To be clear. Total Depravity doesn't mean we are as sinful as we could be, but that every bit of us is tainted by sin."

I think you are being too literal with the word TOTAL.
My first statement is, "Total Depravity doesn't mean we are as sinful as we could be" I will defend this by asking you, Gunny, & even myself, 'could you have committed more sins than you have in your current lifetime?' In other words, you could have committed more sins than you have, you could have lied more often, or murdered people, tried to steal more, etc.
We could do more sin.
We are not all Hitlers, but are all sinful.
Doesn't the words of Jesus suggest that even rank sinners can do some level of good from time to time, be it tainted? "Luke 11:11-13 "What father among you, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Total Depravity means everything you do is tainted. You are tainted, your love is tainted, you are idolatrous; however it doesn't mean that you are as sinful as possible.

As for Romans 7 it means that Paul thought he loved God & loved His Law, but couldn't seem to ever really obey it. On the outside he may have been blameless but he was tainted. Sin enslaved him to the point that whenever the Law (that he WANTED to follow) said don't covet, he coveted.

Jade, if God didn't elect me & give me the faith to believe His Gospel, I would shake my fist at God in rebellion. Yes, everyone does. Some shake their fist by explicitly saying they hate God, others shake their fist by wanting to worship their own version of God. My point is not to deny that we are totally sinful. I agree. I'm saying that it doesn't mean that we break every rule all the time. I'm also saying that even the unregenerate can have & follow some level of love & morality. Lost parents can love & care for their children, the lost can even want to follow God. The issue is that their methods &/or desires are wrong b/c they are slaves to sin.

I end with this from the text: Romans 7:14 "For we know that the law is spiritual – but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin."
Romans 6:6 "We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin"

How do you reconcile those two ideas?

 
At 26 June, 2009 10:10, Blogger Lance said...

Does Nacho say, "Just for fun," or, "It's for fun"?

I have not been able to decipher.

 
At 27 June, 2009 05:33, Blogger GUNNY said...

Your comments are most appreciated!

Matthew Bradley --> My bad. I have updated the list.

Jade --> I have added J.C. Ryle also. Thanks to you and Kyle for the good conversation so far.

Lance --> I ALMOST put, "It's for fun," but wasn't sure.

etoc/CJC --> I know that's how I roll.

 
At 27 June, 2009 05:42, Blogger GUNNY said...

Anonymous --> I've wondered about that as well. Paul's self-perception isn't typically very good, but he tends to be very hard on himself. I'm sure his sins wouldn't even show up on the radar screen for most of us, but I think his struggle is as ours, differing perhaps in degree.

Chris --> Romans in the fall? Sweet. What commentaries do you have? Looking for others?

Marvin --> Amen to that. Thanks for stopping by.

Matt --> I agree with the spirit of what you're saying, but the question has to do with whether or not a believer could experience Romans 7:14-25. Some would say, "No," while others would say it describes the norm for a believer when he/she sins. Likewise, the question comes up as to whether or not an unregenerate person could speak in the first person as though he/she loved God and His righteousness, when Jesus says the unbeliever loves the darkness and won't come into the light (John 3:19-20).

All that to say, I think the struggle can be similar, but I think Romans 7 lends itself more to the "either/or" discussion.

Kyle --> This caught my eye. You wrote: "The list of big wigs who take it as Christian Paul is very intimidating. I respect just about everyone of the men you listed ..."

"just about everyone"? I'd be curious as to which of those theologians you DON'T respect.

In fairness, Moo & Lloyd-Jones are not insignificant proponents for the pre-conversion view.

 
At 27 June, 2009 20:48, Blogger Lance said...

Contrary to the views of some, I don't see how Nacho's donning of stretchy pants was a fleshly indulgence, since his intent did not go outside the bounds of the turnbuckle.

I DO understand that my belief here is a bit controversial and tricky, but I think that those who believe otherwise lack credibility.

 
At 28 June, 2009 00:48, Blogger Kyle said...

It's not that I believe some are not respect-worthy; I said I "respect just about everyone" b/c I don't know some of them.
I've heard of the names of:
J.C Ryle
Charles Hodge
But I haven't read any of their stuff or know their main teachings.

I haven't heard much of:
Matthew Bradley
* John D. Hannah
* John Murray

 
At 28 June, 2009 22:20, Blogger Jade said...

Kyle,
Sorry for the late reply; been busy. Let me me quote you some notes on Total Depravity from the Reformation Study Bible:

Rather, "original sin" means that sinfulness marks everyone from birth, in the form of a heart include toward sin, prior to any actual sins; this inner sinfulness is the root and source of all actual sins; it is transmitted to us from Adam, our first representative before God. The doctrine of original sin makes the point that we are not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners, born with a nature enslaved to sin.

The phrase "total depravity" is commonly used to make explicit the implications of original sin. It signifies a corruption of our moral and spiritual nature that is total in principle, although not in degree (for no one is as bad as he or she might be). No part of us is untouched by sin, and no action of ours is as good as it should be. Consequently, NOTHING we do is ever meritorious in God's eyes. We cannot earn God's favor, no matter what we do; unless grace saves us, we are lost.

Total depravity includes TOTAL INABILITY, that is, being WITHOUT POWER TO BELIEVE IN GOD OR HIS WORD (John 6:55; Rom. 8:7,8) [let alone to love God's laws!]. Paul calls this universal unresponsiveness a form of death; the fallen heart is "dead" (Eph 2:1, 5; Col 2:13). As the Westminster Confession (IX. 3) explains, "Man by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his won strength to covert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto." To this darkness the word of God alone brings light (Luke 18:27; 2Cor. 4:6).



Sin is not merely just an action carried out that that offends God but our thoughts. God has testified concerning the thoughts of man in Genesis 6:

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.

While you may say that most of us are not like Hitler, we are not really any different from him in thought ... that is we might have different types of evil thoughts, but it's still evil thoughts that will qualify us for hell! God does not just hold us accountable by our actions ... He holds us accountable way before that --- in our thoughts, where most of our sinning occurs!

You seem to misunderstand about Cornelius. Apparently God regenerate Cornelius way before that. Evidence of that is the fear of God that Cornelius had that Scriptures testified to! It was evident by his life that he was regenerated, though he might not have not heard the Gospel in it's full revelation at the time, but so did many other OT saints (read Hebrews 11)! The point is the fear of God was in them and they sought out after God ... NOT because they were able to, but because God regenerated them!

Again, I stand by the doctrine that NO ONE can desire God's law without God's regeneration.

I found Owen's work online. You might want to take a read of it.

 
At 29 June, 2009 14:05, Blogger Kyle said...

Jade I don't see how my comment on Total Depravity is in contradiction with the helpful study Bible notes you quote. I said "it doesn't mean we are as sinful as we could be" & the notes you left have a very similar It signifies a corruption of our moral and spiritual nature that is total in principle, although not in degree (for no one is as bad as he or she might be).

This probably best describes my view: No part of us is untouched by sin, and no action of ours is as good as it should be.

Now on to Cornelius. 1. I understand neither of us know when he was regenerated. 2. He was not saved, born again, etc. until the Gospel came to him by Peter.

What started this whole discussion was the statement that Romans 7 is a converted Paul b/c no one say "I delight in God's Law unless he is regenerated. I reference your quote an unregenerate man can never delight in God's law, because of his depraved state. No, Romans 7 is speaking of a regenerate man.
So I assume you disagree with me saying that it's a Pre-converted Paul?
Yet the way you explain Cornelius comes off like he was regenerate for days, weeks, maybe even months or years before he was actually converted, or saved. I don't like that explanation very much, perhaps after I consider it more, but if it is so why can't we apply that answer to Paul's statement here?
Paul was speaking in Romans 7 about his experience as a regenerated man but before conversion.
This answer is indeed very ridiculous to me b/c that would mean a regenerated Paul killed Christians...
I'm showing the absurdity here.

What is more likely to me it that God showed grace to Cornelius in that he would believe that the God of the Jews is true instead of his pagan gods. B/c God revealed this basic yet oh so important knowledge to Cornelius, God decided to make Cornelius the first example of gentile Gospel expansion by sending Peter. That is when he was both regenerated & converted.

As for Paul, he was shown grace in that he was born a Jew, & was taught a very zealous and conservative view for Scriptures (Pharisees). Growing up in this environment God gave Paul the grace to have a zeal for God's Law. We don't know if his motives were skewed, such as wanting to gain authority, or popularity, or just gain blessing from God by obeying Him. We do know that Paul's service was wrong; he thought he was doing good for God when he was actually fighting against God. Therefore, I conclude that Paul really wanted to follow God's Law as he understood it. He was trained to love God's Law, it was his life as a Pharisee of Pharisees.. yet he couldn't keep it. His enslavement to sin overridden his zeal. It wasn't until conversion by the Gospel that Paul could please God.

We all struggle with sins as Christians. Yet I don't think we need Romans 7 to tell us that, as if there are no other Scriptures that show us Christians still struggle with sin.
In other words, I see no reason why Romans 7 can not be a pre-converted Paul.

4 things left to say:
1. Jade you have been very helpful in this discussion & I thank you for your courteous arguments.
2. Rest assured, I agree sin is a realm that the lost live in, not just actions. We are judged for being in the sin realm as well as the sins we committ as individuals.
3. I'm making comments that seemed to suggest "Utter Depravity" as opposed to Total Depravity.
4. with respect, you have yet to tell me how you would reconcile the verses I listed previously.
Romans 7:14 "For we know that the law is spiritual – but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin."
Romans 6:6 "We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin"

 
At 29 June, 2009 23:59, Blogger Jade said...

Kyle wrote:
Jade I don't see how my comment on Total Depravity is in contradiction with the helpful study Bible notes you quote. I said "it doesn't mean we are as sinful as we could be" & the notes you left have a very similar It signifies a corruption of our moral and spiritual nature that is total in principle, although not in degree (for no one is as bad as he or she might be).

Kyle, you seem to have overlooked the part where it stated:
Total depravity includes TOTAL INABILITY, that is, being WITHOUT POWER TO BELIEVE IN GOD OR HIS WORD (John 6:55; Rom. 8:7,8) [let alone to love God's laws!]. Paul calls this universal unresponsiveness a form of death; the fallen heart is "dead" (Eph 2:1, 5; Col 2:13). As the Westminster Confession (IX. 3) explains, "Man by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his won strength to covert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto." To this darkness the word of God alone brings light (Luke 18:27; 2Cor. 4:6).

So I ask again, is there any truth to the statement that an unregenerate/uncoverted person (note I am equating unregenerate with uncoverted --- some might object to this but from man's stand point, it's very difficult to pinpoint where the two differs!) could love God's laws? According to the paragraph above, NO. I've quoted you several verses where God testifies the state of man. I don't know how you can argue in light of what God has thus testified about the state of man, that a man can love God's law apart from regeneration. According to God, man CANNOT. If it is said that no man seeks God (and it's not just any man who said this, God Himself said this!), then how can he possibly love God's law?!

Kyle wrote:
Now on to Cornelius. 1. I understand neither of us know when he was regenerated. 2. He was not saved, born again, etc. until the Gospel came to him by Peter.

What do you mean we don't know. Of course we do. Scripture tells us. Prior to the full Gospel being disclosed to Cornelius, the Scriptures testifies this concerning him:

a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.

Now let's put 2+2 equals 4 here. God said, no man seeks him, let alone prays to him. So is God a liar in light of the verse above? God-forbid! The only logical conclusion is, clearly God intervened way before the full Gospel was disclosed to Cornelius so as to give him a heart that feared and revered God!

Now, you're going to think: "Jade, what could you be possibly be saying here?! Could Cornelius have been saved way before the full discloser of the Gospel was brought to him by Peter?!" Before I answer this question, let me ask you several questions to get you thoughts rolling (or some might accuse me of mudding the water!). How were the OT saints saved? Were they not saved under the same Gospel as all the NT saints are? Or were they saved under a different Gospel? What does Hebrews 11 say? If they were saved under a different Gospel, then what was that Gospel? If they are saved under the same Gospel as we are, how were they saved without the full disclosure of the Gospel (e.g. Christ hasn't come yet)? How was Job saved? How was Noah saved (aside from the flood)? How was Abraham saved? Or Jacob? Did they all go to hell because the full disclosure of the Gospel didn't come yet? Again, what does Hebrews 11 say? Remember what Jesus said about Abraham ... "Abraham saw my day and rejoiced in it!"

 
At 30 June, 2009 00:16, Blogger Jade said...

Kyle wrote:
Yet the way you explain Cornelius comes off like he was regenerate for days, weeks, maybe even months or years before he was actually converted, or saved.

BINGO! Well I was already getting to this in the previous post. :o)

Kyle wrote:
I don't like that explanation very much, perhaps after I consider it more, but if it is so why can't we apply that answer to Paul's statement here? Paul was speaking in Romans 7 about his experience as a regenerated man but before conversion.
This answer is indeed very ridiculous to me b/c that would mean a regenerated Paul killed Christians...
I'm showing the absurdity here.


I guess you've answered your own question, here. As you can see, that defense is just not logical.

Kyle wrote:
What is more likely to me it that God showed grace to Cornelius in that he would believe that the God of the Jews is true instead of his pagan gods. B/c God revealed this basic yet oh so important knowledge to Cornelius, God decided to make Cornelius the first example of gentile Gospel expansion by sending Peter. That is when he was both regenerated & converted.

I agree with your part about God showing Grace, but Cornelius could not have come to believe in the God of the Jews had God Not regenerated him --- read again what the Westminster confessions states concerning total depravity. NO ONE can come to believe, nor fear God apart from regeneration. I say the minute Cornelius came to fear and believe in the God of the Jews ... maybe even years before the full disclosure of the Gospel came to him, God regenerated him! Apparently Cornelius had been praying that the truth of God's Word be revealed to him (and of which God gave him a desire for!) and God replied with this:

About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!”
And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?”
So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter.


Mind you, Cornelius was not the first gentile that came to faith in the history of man. There were many gentiles that came to REAL faith in the God of the Jews (and were regenerated and saved!) prior to the coming of Christ, though they themselves were not considered part of national Israel. In fact, Jesus mentioned one of these gentiles in the Gospels. Can you guess who I'm referring to?

But the Holy Spirit coming over to Cornelius after having the full Gospel disclosed to him, was definitely a sign to the Jews that the promises of God made to the elect was not only for the Jews but to the Gentiles as well. As you know there were many prejudices toward the heathens then and this had only confirmed what the prophets had prophesied many years earlier concerning the Gentiles.


Kyle, I realized I haven't answer the last several questions you've brought up. But it's kind of getting late here and I'm kind of tired and it's been a long day. Will try to answer the rest of your questions when I'm a bit more coherent. :o) BTW thank you for your kind words. I hope what I have left you with, will bless your soul more of the depth of God's Word! God's Word is such an eye opener and is such a challenge for our finite minds concerning our thoughts of an infinite God! :o) But keep that in mind WHO we are trying to understand and His works ... an INFINITE GOD! Praise be His Name!

 
At 30 June, 2009 00:19, Blogger Jade said...

Lance dude, you've completely lost me in your comments. :ob I don't know if you and Gunny are just having this totally separate discussion apart from the context of discussion?! Maybe I'm just slow.... hahaha. Or maybe it's just getting late....

 
At 30 June, 2009 12:57, Blogger Matt said...

Gunny,

Thanks for the thought-provoking post. I am sorry I stepped away for so long and missed all the fun!

You asked me two questions: (1) Can the believer experience Romans 7:14–25, and (2) Can the non-believer speak like Paul does in Romans 7:14–25?

(1) I think the believer can experience Romans 7:14–25 because of the incomplete nature our redemption. Paul talks of being "of the flesh" (v. 14) and "in the flesh" (v. 18), language which, to Paul, describes unbelievers (Rom 8:9). To Paul, life in the flesh is that of a non-Christian (Rom 8:5–8). When you walk "in the Spirit," you do not satisfy the desires of the flesh (Gal 5:16, Rom 8:13–14).

But, as we are all reminded every day, we are not yet completely perfected. The flesh has been mortally wounded, but it is not dead yet. God is still working on us, and we will not be fully redeemed until the eschaton (Rom 8:23). Until then, we experience "life in the Spirit" in an incomplete, already/not yet, capacity.

(2) Can an unbeliever say Rom 7:14–25, specifically, can they say "I delight in the law in my inmost being"? The more appropriate question for Paul would be "could a first-century non-Christian Jew say those things?" As Kyle pointed out, they could and did. Paul is not addressing pagans here, but Jews--Jews who "delighted" in the law. Paul says that they had zeal for God (Rom 10:2) and that they pursued Torah (Rom 9:31). If he can say that about them, why can't the things in Rom 7 apply to them?

Paul is being rhetorical in Rom 7--he is using the language of a typical Jew of his day who would claim to delight in Torah (Psalm 1:2) against them. The argument of Romans 7 is "even if you 'delight' in the law, without the Spirit you cannot obey it."

I hope this doesn’t draw boos from the audience, but as long as we are counting noses this is the view of James Dunn and N.T. Wright.

 
At 30 June, 2009 13:01, Blogger Matt said...

Jade,

Calling the Old Testament Jews "regenerate" is an anachronism. What happened at Pentecost? (Thus, Kyle's observation that non-Christian Jews claimed to "delight" in the Torah" stands.)

Thanks for the comments about my view. Please read my above post for my responses.

Grace and peace!

 
At 30 June, 2009 13:10, Blogger Jade said...

Matt, do you seriously think that regeneration only happened at Pentecost?! Pentecost happened more for a sign of the beginnings of the church age. But regeneration has been happening since the fall of man.

Seriously how do you think OT Saints were saved?! Did God lie when he said NO ONE SEEKS Him?! Scriptures teaches that no one can come to God apart from regeneration ... This is why we say it's purely GRACE. And it's the SAME Grace that OT Saints came to God.

 
At 30 June, 2009 13:33, Blogger Matt said...

Jade,

I believe that something unique happened at Pentecost so that followers of Jesus are indwelt with the Holy Spirit in a way that OT folks were not. I call this regeneration.

The OT faithful looked forward to the outpouring of the Spirit (Joel 2:28), which seems to have been fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2:17). John says that the Spirit could not be sent until Jesus was glorified (John 7:39). So, no, I do not think that the OT "saints" were "regenerated."

As far as "coming to God," I don't see that phrase in the OT. God called his people, Israel, out of slavery, but that wasn't so much their coming to God as God bringing them to himself.

As for "no one seeks God," where does it say that in the OT? I suspect that you are referring to Paul's quotation of Psalm 14 in Romans 3, but read what Psalm 14:2 says. Paul seems to have changed it for his purposes in Romans 3.

Do I believe that an unregenerate person can "seek God" in a manner that leads to salvation. No. But is that the same as "delighting in the law"? No. That seems to be Paul's point in Romans--delighting in the law does not lead to salvation.

Obviously, part of what is at issue here is that I am a Dispensationalist and you are Reformed. We have different views of what was going on in the OT. You want to stress continuity and I was to stress discontinuity. I think we would both agree that there is a bit of both.

 
At 30 June, 2009 21:32, Blogger Jade said...

Matt wrote:
Obviously, part of what is at issue here is that I am a Dispensationalist and you are Reformed. We have different views of what was going on in the OT. You want to stress continuity and I was to stress discontinuity. I think we would both agree that there is a bit of both.

Aahh... I suspected that. :o)

Matt wrote:
As for "no one seeks God," where does it say that in the OT? I suspect that you are referring to Paul's quotation of Psalm 14 in Romans 3, but read what Psalm 14:2 says. Paul seems to have changed it for his purposes in Romans 3.

Aah ... you're dispensationalism is rather extreme. :o) You clearly take a strong separation between the OT and NT. Actually it's not just from that one Psalm but other parts of Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah and Ecclesiastes 7:20 where it states:
For there is not a just man on earth who does good
And does not sin.


And so now you're saying Paul (mind you he was a Pharisee who studied the law) has suddenly changed the meaning of those OT texts?! I don't know about you, but the quote above is pretty redundant and quite consistent to what Paul said in Romans. And we also acknowledge that this was not merely Paul's view, but rather under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote this .... you do believe that, right? Otherwise, we're going to have to go back to basics here, concerning the author of Scriptures. So if you want to accuse Paul of "changing the meaning" of the OT text, you're going to have to contend with the Holy Spirit, who is the author the ALL Scriptures! :o)

As far as Psalm 14 (as well as Psalm 53), it speaks of an unregenerated/uncoverted man because he lives as if there is no God and no day of accountability.

As I already noted in previous posts Genesis 6 also records God's testimony of man's thought, which was found to be continually evil. Was God a liar? Never! Nothing is new under the sun since the fall of Adam. So why should Paul interpret differently what has already been said many times over in the OT?! He has only expounded on that doctrinal truth in Romans 3.

And you will also find this in the NT concerning the OT:

And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

and

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

And it is the same Holy Spirit that have moved OT prophets to record God's word, that then moved Paul to write those Epistles. The author of the OT and NT is one and the same. So naturally they are consistent and not to be treated as detached volumes. The NT interprets the OT. The OT spoke of a shadow of which was to come and the NT sheds light to that shadow, which the reality is found in Christ. The OT always pointed to Christ. As Ephesians reminds us that our redemption (both OT and NT saints) was determined before the creation.

So as a dispensationalist, do you also not believe in the doctrines of Grace?


BTW Kyle, one other book I had forgotten to mention to you the other day ... read John Murray's Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Classic and one of my favorite books!

 
At 01 July, 2009 12:19, Blogger Matt said...

Jade,

Thanks for the response. My point in asking where it says that “no one seeks God” in the OT was not to show that the OT did not teach the fallenness of mankind, but to show that that particular phrase is not in Psalm 14 (or Psalm 53). My view on the inspiration of Scripture has nothing to do with what I said, I was just pointing out what is there. Psalm 14:2 says “if there are any who understand, who seek after God” and Paul says “there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks after God.” The two are not the same. If calling a spade a spade makes me “extreme,” so be it.

On a side note, I think that Paul was being faithful to the meaning of Psalm 14, and I am willing to give him a little bit of liberty given his giftedness as an apostle.

But the OT discussion really is a distraction from the real issue. Regardless of whether or not theologically we think that non-believing Jews should have said “I delight in the law,” the fact is they did say that.

What is key here is your statement that because Paul says about all unbelievers in Romans 3 “no one seeks after God,” he can’t say about unbelieving Jews in Romans 7:22, “I delight in the Torah of God.” This begs a serious question—that “seeking after God” is the same thing as “delighting in the Torah.” I would argue that not only are they not the same, but in the context of Romans they are almost polar opposites.

You have also neglected to address the issue I pointed out to Gunny—that Paul speaks positively of unbelieving Jews’ relationship to God and the law. He says in Rom 10:2 that they had zeal for God, even if it wasn’t according to knowledge. He says in Rom 9:31 that they pursued Torah, even though they didn’t attain righteousness. He says in Rom 2:17–23 that they “rely on the law,” “boast in God,” “know his will,” “approve what is excellent,” are “instructed from the law,” and “boast in the law.” Is it that much of a stretch to say that they would also “delight in the law”? Keep in mind that these were the same people that tried to lynch Paul for teaching against the law (Acts 21:28 and elsewhere). I think you are so caught up with what Paul can say based on your theological convictions that you are missing what he does say in the text. That is putting the theological cart before the biblical horse.

So what about Romans 3? Paul’s point in Romans is that in pursuing and delighting in Torah, the Jews were not actually seeking God. They were seeking something else, namely their own righteousness. His point in quoting Psalm 14 in Romans 3 is to show that Jews and Gentiles are alike under sin (3:9), not to express a thought similar to Gen 6:5 that mankind’s thoughts are always sinful all them time. Having the law does not make you righteous, doing the law makes you righteous (Rom 2:13). Paul thought that his Jewish contemporaries failed to find righteousness because they sought it as if it were by works of Torah, not faith in Jesus (Rom 9:30–33). They were ignorant of the righteousness of God and instead sought their own righteousness (10:3). In Romans 3, Paul essentially says, “Just because you are a Jew and you have the law does not mean that you are better off. After all, Psalm 14 says ‘no one (not even people with the law) seeks after God.’”

Thus in Romans, someone can “delight in Torah” and still not “seek God.”

 

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