First sentence: Let me say just a word concerning Paul the apostle. With his writings we actually come now to a different method of revelation.
I am reading the Bible in 2020 using the daily M'Cheyne (Robert Murray M'Cheyne) plan. I thought it would add a layer of substance to in addition to the four chapters a day, to also read commentaries for those chapters. For that I am using Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible. But the plan goes through the New Testament (and Psalms, I believe) twice. So now that I've finished Henry's commentary for the New Testament, I am tackling the New Testament commentary section of J. Vernon McGee's series.
This is not my first time reading J. Vernon McGee. I've read twelve or so of his commentaries. (Most recently his volume on Luke.)
Overall, I like his laidback, casual, straightforward, tell it like it is approach to teaching Scripture. There is something so grounded and down to earth about him. Each reader is "his" friend. It's hard not to feel like he is a friend too.
One of the things that I love about McGee's commentaries is that he just speaks timeless truths.
I have read this book previously--in 2013. It was probably one of the first McGee commentaries I read.
I will tell you here and now I do not always agree with McGee when it comes to the book of Romans--or any book where God's sovereignty over man's salvation comes up for discussion. Though you can pick and choose McGee quotes quite carefully to make him sound Reformed (aka Calvinist), he would never in a million years self-identify as such. Free Will was big for McGee. And though he never once says anything hostile about God's Sovereignty in general or attacks the doctrine of divine grace, he hasn't reconciled himself to TULIP. Though oddly enough he likes to use the phrase Total Depravity!!!
The world likes to hear, friend, about the glory of mankind. It likes to have mankind rather than God exalted. Now I am convinced in my own mind that any ministry today that attempts to teach the glory of man—which does not present the total depravity of the human family and does not reveal that man is totally corrupt and is a ruined creature, any teaching that does not deal with this great truth—will not lift mankind, nor will it offer a remedy. The only remedy for man’s sin is the perfect remedy that we have in Christ, that which God has provided for a lost race. This is the great message of Romans.
God takes lost sinners—like I am, like you are—and He brings them into the family of God and makes them sons of God. And He does it because of Christ’s death upon the cross—not because there is any merit in us whatsoever. This is the great message of Romans.
Let me urge you to do something that will pay you amazing dividends: read the Book of Romans, and read it regularly. This epistle requires all the mental make-up we have, and in addition, it must be bathed in prayer and supplication so that the Holy Spirit can teach us. Yet every Christian should make an effort to know Romans, for this book will ground the believer in the faith.
Romans teaches the total depravity of man. Man is irrevocably and hopelessly lost. He must have the righteousness of God since he has none of his own.
The Lord Jesus Christ loved us and gave Himself for us, but He never makes us His slaves. You must come voluntarily to Him and make yourself His slave. He will never force you to serve Him.
It is wonderful beyond measure that you have the privilege of making yourself a bondslave to the Lord Jesus Christ. You must do it on your own; He will not force you.
When I hear some people talk, I get the idea that they are doing a spiritual striptease. They say, “I don’t do this and I don’t do that anymore.” Well, my friend, unto what are you separated? Paul tells us that the Thessalonians turned to God from idols. They did not get up in a testimonial meeting and say, “We do not go to the temple of Apollo anymore.” There was no need to say that because they were separated unto the Lord Jesus Christ. A Christian who is separated from something and not separated unto Christ will have a barren life.
We often hear today that we need the religion of Jesus. My friend, He had no religion. He didn’t need one—He is God. What we need today is to have a religion that is about Jesus, that surrounds Him, that is all about what He has done. Jesus Christ actually is God. He cannot worship; He is to be worshiped.
A saint is not one who has been exalted; a saint is one who exalts Jesus Christ. A person becomes a saint when Jesus Christ becomes his Savior. There are only two classes of people in the world: the saints and the ain’ts. If you are not an ain’t, then you’re a saint. And if you are a saint, you have trusted Christ. It is not your character that makes you a saint, it’s your faith in Jesus Christ and the fact that you are set apart for Him.
Paul says, “I am debtor…. I am ready…. I am not ashamed.” I’m debtor—that is admission; I am ready—remission; I am not ashamed—submission. These are the three “missions” of Paul: admission, remission, and submission.
In this chapter Paul is showing that God will judge self-righteous and religious people. There are many people like the man on the top of the hill who looks down at the man at the bottom of the hill and says, “Something should be done for that poor fellow. We ought to start a mission down there. We should start giving him soup and clothes and a shower bath. I am living on the top of the hill, and I do not need anything.” The hurdle to meet the demands of God is just as high on top of the hill as it is at the bottom of the hill. The only difference is that the man at the bottom of the hill will probably see his need sooner than the man at the top of the hill. Religious people, self-righteous people, and so-called good people need a Savior.
What should be the attitude of a believer today toward this awful, horrible group who are mentioned in Romans 1? It should be this: We should want them to get saved; we should try to get the gospel to them; they are poor, lost creatures. It should be as the hymn writer, Fanny Crosby, expressed it: Rescue the perishing, Care for the dying, Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave; Weep o’er the erring ones, Lift up the fallen, Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
If we could see ourselves as God sees us, we could see that we are obnoxious; we are repugnant! What contribution can you and I make to heaven? Would we adorn the place? I get the impression from some people that heaven is going to be a better place when they get there—yet the earth has not been a better place since they have been here! My friend, you try to deny God the same privilege you have of sitting in judgment on others. Well, God is going to judge you, and He won’t judge you by your standards, but by His standards. Does that begin to move you?
There are so many folk today, including church members, who live in a world of unreality. They do not want to hear the truth of the gospel. Now, I hear a great many pious folk who say, “Oh, I do want to study the Bible.” And then when they get into the Word of God, they find what John found in the Book of Revelation when he began to see the judgments of God. When he first started out, it was thrilling, it was “sweet in his mouth.” But when he ate that little book, it gave him indigestion, it was “bitter in his belly” (see Rev. 10:9–10). And there are a great many Christians today, who say they want Bible study, but they don’t want reality.
And, by the way, if you’re a lost man, don’t think I am the sort of preacher that tries to take everything away from you. If you haven’t trusted Christ and your only hope is in this life, brother, you had better suck this earth like it is an orange and get all you can out of it. Drink all you can, sin all you can, because you won’t have anything in the next life. You had better get it while you are here if that’s the way you want to live. Eat, drink, and be merry. Tomorrow you die.
Men are not saved by the light they have; they are judged by the light they have.
We have a false idea today that because we happen to be good folk, that is, we think we are, that we’ll be saved. God is going to judge the do-gooders. And He will judge them by Jesus Christ who said that if a man looks upon a woman to lust after her, he is guilty of adultery (see Matt. 5:27–28). This is only one example of the secrets of the human heart. Do you want the secrets of your heart brought out—not the lovely things you have said, but the dirty little thoughts that come to you? This should cause all of us to flee to Jesus to save us!
God has the world shut up to a cross. He’s not asking you to join anything or do anything. What God is asking the lost sinner to do is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and he shall be saved. And until a person answers that question, then God hasn’t anything else to say to him.
Man is a sinner four different ways. God is giving man four strikes (in baseball you get only three). (1) Man is a sinner by act. (2) Man is a sinner by nature. Sinning does not make a sinner; we sin because we are sinners. (3) Man is a sinner by imputation. We’ll see that later in this epistle. (4) The estate of man is under sin. We all are under sin—the entire human family.
How I wish that more men who claim to be evangelical really believed the Word of God—that it is the Word of God, that it is God speaking.
As I write this, a great many people believe that if you protest loudly enough you can bring peace to the world by human manipulation or psychological gyrations. Well, my friend, as long as there is sin in the hearts of men, there never will be peace in the world—not until the Prince of Peace comes. Christ will bring peace on this earth. But world peace is not the kind of peace that Paul is talking about here.
It is the Holy Spirit who actualizes, or makes real, the love of God in the hearts of believers—that is, God’s love for us. Today we need to be conscious of the fact that God loves us. How people need to be assured of that in their lives! Only the Spirit of God can make real to us God’s love.
A few years ago I talked to a young man who had love written on his cap, on his funny coat, on his trousers, and even on his shoes! I asked him why. He said, “Why, man, God is love.” I agreed with that. Then he said, “God saved me by His love.” I replied, “I disagree with that. God does not save you by His love.” Now that seems startling to a great many folk even today. But actually, friend, God does not save you by His love. You see, God is more than love; He is holy and He is righteous. God cannot open the back door of heaven and slip sinners in under the cover of darkness, and He can’t let down the bars of heaven and bring sinners in. If He does that, He’s no better than a crooked judge who lets a criminal off. God has to do something for the guilt of sinners. There must be judgment, you see. As I was talking to this young fellow with love written on his clothing, I asked him to show me a verse in the Bible that said God saves us by love. Of course he didn’t know any. I said, “The Word of God says, ‘For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God’ (Eph. 2:8). God saves us by His grace, not by His love. ‘God so loved the world’ that He saved the world? Oh, no—He couldn’t. A holy God has to be true to His character. But He did this: ‘… God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16).” God has demonstrated His love for you, my friend, in that He gave His Son to die for you. He paid the penalty for your sin, and our holy God now can save you if you come His way.
There is a mistaken idea today that you can come to Him your way. This isn’t your universe; it’s His universe. You and I don’t make the rules. He makes the rules. And He says that no man comes to Him except through Christ (see John 14:6).
There is a difference between justification and sanctification. These are two words from the Bible, my friend, that you ought to cozy up to and get acquainted with. There is a difference between merely being saved from sin and being made the type of folk we should be because we are separated unto God. Identification with Christ for justification is also the grounds of our sanctification. We are in Christ. These are two different subjects, but they are not mutually exclusive. Justification is the foundation on which all the superstructure of sanctification rests. Now let me put it like this: justification is an act; sanctification is a work. Justification took place the moment you trusted Christ—you were declared righteous; the guilt was removed. Then God began a work in you that will continue throughout your life. justification is the means; sanctification is the end. Justification is for us; sanctification is in us. Justification declares the sinner righteous; sanctification makes the sinner righteous. Justification removes the guilt and penalty of sin; sanctification removes the growth and the power of sin. God is both an exterior and interior decorator. He is an exterior decorator in that He enables us to stand before Him because He has paid the penalty and removed the guilt of sin from us. But He is also an interior decorator. He moves into our hearts and lives by the power of the Holy Spirit to make us the kind of Christians we should be. God does not leave us in sin when He saves us.
We died to sin in Christ—that’s our position—but we are never dead to sin in this life.
Don’t argue with me about whether the Jews crucified Christ—He died on the Roman cross—but let’s not argue that. My sin put Him up there, and your sin put Him up there, my friend. We were identified with Jesus Christ. That is something that we should know, and it is very important for us to know. We’re identified with Him. My friend, there are only two places for your sins: either they were on Christ when He died for you over nineteen hundred years ago—because you have trusted Him as your Savior—or they are on you today, and judgment is ahead for you. There is no third place for them.
A little girl fell out of bed one night and began to cry. Her mother rushed into her bedroom, picked her up, put her back in bed, and asked her, “Honey, why did you fall out of bed?” And she said, “I think I stayed too close to the place where I got in.” And that’s the reason a great many of us fall, my friend.
You are saved by faith. You are to live by faith. You are to walk moment by moment by faith. You cannot live for God by yourself any more than you can save yourself. It requires constant dependence upon Him, looking to the Lord Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit.
Today we as believers need to know that we cannot live the Christian life; we need to learn that we cannot do it ourselves. In fact, we need an undo-it-yourself kit; that is, we need to turn our lives over to the Spirit of God, yield to Him, and let Him do for us what we cannot do ourselves.
Sin, like a Pied Piper, leads the children of men into believing that they can keep the Law and that God is not needed. This is the false trail that he has been talking about, which leads to death. It was ordained to life, Paul says, and he found it led him to death. Sin at last will kill, for the Law did bring the knowledge of sin, and man is without excuse. Again, the difficulty is not with the Law, but within man.
Man in his natural condition, if taken to heaven, would start a revolution, and he would have a protest meeting going on before the sun went down!
If you are a child of God and you have unconfessed sin in your life, do you want to go to church? Do you want to read your Bible? Do you want to pray? Of course you don’t. You are separated from God.
My friend, the lost are lost because they want it that way. There is not a person on topside of this world that is being forced to be lost. They are lost because they have chosen to be lost.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible