The Reformation really hangs on how one defines grace. Salvation by grace alone is wonderful, but what do we do when Paul exhorts us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling? How do we encounter such a God that causes us to be fearful and to tremble? How is it that we are saved by grace, but yet we have to work out our salvation? Do we rely on the Lord for our justification, but then really work hard to make sure that we conform to our justification? Or does Paul mean something else by this exhortation that shows we are just taking this verse out of context?
It is a good thing to desire the Lord’s sanctifictifying power. We should want such a thing if we take hold of Christ by faith. It is honorable, but do we think about what we are asking? We are people who are stained with sin. We are people who honor strength and not suffering. How does the Lord conform us to Him? Do we always enjoy this conforming power of the Lord? When is the Lord working us the most when it seems he has abandoned us?
The Apostle Paul gives some strong words regarding the call for members in the church to examine themselves. It is rather frightening to hear Paul talk about people actually dying in the midst of the congregation. Why would we as sinners desire to partake of such a meal? Who is worthy to eat at the Lord’s table? Who can claim a worthiness to be a partaker of this food? So, how can one come to the Lord’s Supper without knowing that one is not going to be struck dead? What does Paul mean when he exhorts us to examine ourselves?
We might be tempted to think that there is not a whole lot we can learn from Israel or the history of Israel. They are a people who lived under the Old Covenant and they were people who did bad things while we are the people who are going to do good things because we are more informed right? The apostle Paul wants the church to learn things from Israel’s history. How does Paul use their history to show that we can fall into similar things? What does the history of Israel have to do with us, our sacraments, and even the Lord’s Supper?
Many times people will say that the sacraments are a sign of our faith. We might not think that it is important to see that sacrament is a sign of God’s faithfulness verses the sign being a sign of my faith. Ultimately we need to look discussion in light of the covenant of grace. Did Abraham receive the sign because of his faith or because of the Lord’s faithfulness? In other words does the sign point to Abraham’s faith or does it point to the promises of God and His faithfulness? What does Paul say in Romans 4:11 regarding the sign that was given to Abraham?
Romans 7 is a passage that is debated about its application. Some say that this is Paul under judaism, Paul in a pre vs post conversion, a regenerate man looking at unregenerate man, and the theories continue. How can Paul be talking about the issue of human sin and the law? What if Paul is just laying out that fallen man is so sinful that fallen man cannot attain the holy God apart from Christ?
We are exhorted to strive to enter the Sabbath rest of the Lord. Does this mean that we have to work really hard to please God? Was the problem with Israel that they just did not understand the gospel? Was it that they did not have Christ? Why would the letter to the Hebrews appeal to Israel when we are being exhorted through the words of this letter? What can we possibly learn from the Israelites that is relevant today?
The claim that there is one mediator that we have in Christ seems like a poor arrangement. We think that it stands to reason that to have more eggs in more baskets provides for us additional security. So, why would we wantto rest in the one God-Man who resides in the glory of heaven? So, why is it good that we have one mediator? What does it mean that He is the mediator of all? Why would we be content with such a mediator?