Romans 8: 31-34, Four Questions
VV 31-34, 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
Paul used an imaginary critique to asked him 4 rhetorical questions and he answered all of them.
First Question: v 31, ”what then shall say to these things?” What things? All the things preceding Romans 8: 31, i.e. wrath of God, grace of God, etc. How do we respond to these? We do what it says.
Second Question: v 32, ”If God is for us, who can be against us?” God is for us because He declared no condemnation on us, justified us, adopted us into Sonship, santcified us, etc. If God is for us, who cares who is against us? Martin Luther said, ” with God, one is a majority”.
Third Question: v 33, ”who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?” If ever we begin to doubt the love of God, look back to the cross. On the cross, God did not even spare his Only Son. This is an argument from greater to lesser. If God gave us His Only Son, He can give us anything. If God gave us His best, He will give us the rest.
Fourth Question: v 34, ”Who is he who condemns?” Our own heart can condemn us. But God said in Romans 8:1, ”there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. Satan condemned us. Rev 12:10 b, ” for the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down”. But God justified us. John Newton said, ” I am a great sinner but Jesus is a great saviour”. Jesus died so that we can live. This is the final answer.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Jesus, Your final answer. You gave us Your Son to die for us on the cross to give us eternal life, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Heavenly Father, once again we come before You on bended knees, to learn, listen, apply, practice, and proclaim. We acknowledged that we are unworthy sinners. We claim the promise of 1John 1:9. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Mark 7: 1-23
VV 1-9. ‘ ’ 1The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands? ” 6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ 8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” 9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!’’
The Pharisees and some of the Scribes sent a delegate from Jerusalem to Galilee which was 70 miles away. Traveling 70 miles just to tell someone off for not washing hands before a meal was ridiculous. Scribes or teachers of the law were experts in the Old Testament laws. Pharisees were members of the conservative and legalistic Jewish sect who considered oral traditions of the elders as equivalent to Old Testament Laws. Rules for washing hands, pitchers, kettles, and cups, etc were part of the oral traditions. Jesus quoted Isaiah 29: 13, “‘Therefore the Lord said; In as much as these people draw near with their mouths, and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men.’’
VV 10-12, ‘’10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God), 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
The 5th commandment, Exodus 20:1, is, ‘’Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you”. They used the oral traditions to circumvent this commandment. If they gave money reserved for looking after their parents to God as an offering, they would have no more obligation to support their parents because anything dedicated to God is Corban or consecrated to God. The Pharisees and Scribes did many things like this.
VV 14-23, 14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”  17After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) 20He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thought comes—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
To protect them from certain diseases, the kosher law of Leviticus forbade Jews from eating certain animals. The law forbade murder but Jesus said having thoughts of anger or hatred in the heart was a murderous heart. The law had to do with an inward attitude, not an outward action. Food entered the stomach, digested by the body, and eliminated by the intestine. But words spoken by the mouth from the heart cannot be eliminated. Luke 6:45, ‘’A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.’’ What or how you eat does not make you more spiritual than others. What you say and think is more important. 1 Cor 8:8 ‘’But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.’’
Heavenly Father, help us not to operate by tradition and legalism but to operate by love and grace. We pray that You will purify our hearts and forgive us for being short-sighted, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
From Moblie Clinic to and Air Force
”Nothing that we do, is done in vain. I believe, with all my soul, that we shall see triumph”, A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens.
After completing the housemanship in the Ivory Tower of University Hospital, I joined the ministry of health Malaysia in the middle of 1978. My first posting was to Taiping District Hospital as a medical officer. This is a small hospital with very basic disciplines such as Medicine, General Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Orthopedic Surgery, Dentistry, Oral Surgery, and Anaesthesiology. Taiping is the second largest town in Perak with a thriving population of 245,182 in 2013. It is located 48 km north of Ipoh and 78 km south of George Town, Penang. It is famous for its Taiping Zoo and Night Safari, Taiping Lake Gardens, and Maxwell hill. By this time I was already married to my wife who was also posted to Taiping Hospital as a dental surgeon.
Working in Taiping was an entirely different ball game when compared to working in the teaching hospital of University Hospital. It was a service orientated hospital and not a teaching hospital. There was no emphasis on training, research, or continuous medical education. In those days, doctors were short and the patient load was heavy. The hospital had a vacancy for 15 medical officers but at any one time, there would be only about 5 medical officers in the establishment. This is in stark contrast to the situation today where doctors are way far too many. The medical library facilities were severely inadequate and the system was not at all conducive for any postgraduate medical education or research.
After the first 6 months of manning the outpatient department, I was posted to the mobile health clinic team. The mobile health clinic team consisted of one medical officer, me, one hospital assistant, one staff nurse, one dispenser, one attendant, and one driver. We offered our service 5 days a week, traveling by the mobile clinic van from Taiping Hospital to the rural towns in the district of Larut, Matang, and Selama. Upon arrival at the site, we open the doors to the public using the van as a mobile clinic. We offered consultation and treatment for simple, stable conditions and we dispense basic medications for hypertension, diabetes, antibiotics, deworming medications, creams, lotions, eye drops, and so forth. Patients who required hospitalisation or specialist care would be referred to the Taiping Hospital by way of a referral letter. The team leave Taiping Hospital at 7 30 am and return by 4 pm daily from Monday to Friday. In exchange for our services, some satisfied patients gave us fish, crabs, prawns, fruits, and vegetables to take home as tokens of appreciation.
Besides medical practice, my wife and I also attended the Taiping Gospel Hall church for Sunday service and weekly Bible studies.
After 1 year in Taiping, I joined the Ministry of Defence as an army medical officer on a 2-year contract. I was drafted into the army by the government of Malaysia. I underwent a 1-month army training course in Kinrara Camp Kuala Lumpur after which I was commissioned as an officer with the rank of a Captain. After the training, I was posted to serve in an army hospital in the Royal Malaysian Airforce Base (RMAF) in Labuan, East Malaysia for the next 2 years.
So towards the end of 1979, my wife and I left on an army aircraft, Charlie 130, from Kuala Lumpur en route to Labuan to report for my tour of duty. The flight took us three and a half hours and we arrived at the Labuan RMAF Airbase. We were provided with free accommodation in the officer quarters near the military hospital. My wife was also posted to Labuan District Hospital as a dental surgeon.
The military hospital in RMAF airbase Labuan was a small setup with a facility for outpatient consultation and a treatment room for minor surgical procedures. My job was to look after the healthcare needs of all the army officers, rank and file soldiers, airforce officers, airman, and all their family members. I was also required to do yearly medical examinations for all the soldiers as part of their service requirement. Patients who required admission or major surgery would be referred to the Labuan District Hospital nearby. The clinical workload here was very light. I only got to see about 10 patients per day. In the evening I like to play tennis, and at night I like to visit the officers’ mess for social gatherings, chit-chat, and refreshments. The beer was cheap as it was a duty-free item.
Life in the army was very relaxing. Clinical work was minimal and this gave me a lot of time to study for the MRCP part 1 examination, (Internal medicine specialist examination) which I managed to pass before my tour of duty comes to an end. As a Captain, I wore an army uniform at work and would be saluted to and called Sir many times a day by the rank and file, and I had to salute back as a sign of courtesy.
I get to know and made friends with senior air force officers, pilots, and their families. Sometimes, when I travel on army aircraft for official duty, I got to sit in the cockpit next to the pilot. There was once when sitting in the cockpit, I saw a genuine full-circle rainbow. It was breathtaking, to say the least. The panoramic view from the cockpit was extremely impressive and beautiful, especially during take-off and landing.
There was one unfortunate incident too. One of my pilot friends lost his life in a helicopter crash in his mid-thirties when he was on a search and rescue mission due to bad weather. He was survived by a young wife and small child, and she was devastated. This incident was so heart-wrenching and sad that even until now, I felt could emotional whenever I thought about it.
Apart from all these, my wife and I also attended an Anglican Church in Labuan, for Sunday service, weekly bible study, and other activities.
Serving in the army was a great experience, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. This unforgettable tour of duty is second to none. The highlight of my army life was the regimental night held once a year in the officer’s mess. All officers arrived in style, dressed in their official regimental attire. Sitting would be according to ranks. A multiple course meal was served according to protocol and all the officers had to adhere strictly to it. We had to know how to use different kinds of knives, forks, and spoons for the different courses and correctly hold them. It was a solemn affair. There would be speeches, toasts, and so forth. No one was allowed to leave the hall until the commanding officer had left. There was a rehearsal before the regimental night for those who are new to familiarise with the protocol.
Labuan is an Island located off the coast of Sabah. At that time, it was a tax-free port. Electronic products were very cheap. Imported cars were also very cheap as these were completely duty-free. Almost all the officers in the army and airforce drove flashy and expensive cars, waiting to ship them back to West Malaysia at the end of their tour of duty. I bought a Honda Accord and my wife bought a Nissan at a fraction of the cost in West Malaysia and we sent them back to West Malaysia by a Navy ship at the end of my tour of duty.
To be continued……..
The Mount Everest of Romans
Some scholars called Romans 8:28 the Mount Everest of Romans, while others called it the Grand Canyon of Romans. We are standing at the pinnacle of Romans, the lookout with the most breathtaking view of Romans. After all the groanings and moanings in Romans 8: 19-27, we now arrived at the peak. R. A. Torrey called this verse a soft pillow for a tired heart. One scholar said if the book of Romans is a feast, then Romans 8:28 is the main course.
The theme of Roman is the righteousness of God. The outline of Romans is, 1- 3:21, the Wrath of God, 3:22- 8:39, the Grace of God, 9-11, the plan of God, and 12-16, the Will of God.
28, And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Romans 8:28 is about God’s providential care.
Our Confidence in God’s care: ” And we know that”. And we know with absolute confidence that God cared for us. 2 Peter 5:7, ” Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” We do not know what will happen to us, especially with the dreadful Covid 19 virus lurching in every nooks and corner. We do not when the Lord’s second coming will be but His coming is eminent and can be at any moment. In spite of all that we do not know, we can rest in absolute confidence and certainty of God’s care. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. Romans 8:38, ”in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us”.
The Completeness of God’s care: ”all things”. Paul did not a few things, certain things, most things, good things, or things that have been prayed over before. There is nothing that is out of reach from God’s providential care. All things ultimately work out for our good. All things include bad things, sad things, bitter things, good things, happy things, and everything. God, through His omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient power, and providential care, causes all things to work for good by directing our life circumstances. Proverbs 3:5, ”trust in the Lord your God with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”.
The Synergy of God’s care: ” work together”. God’s care work together in synergy. God brings together all the circumstances of your life to work together in a synergistic way to result in a good out one. The omnipotent God mixed together all things to accomplish His purpose in you, for you, and through you.
The Ultimate Goal of God’s care: ” for good”. Paul did not say, for our comfort, for our prosperity, or for our physical health. When asked why God allowed suffering, Joni Erickson Tada, a wheelchair-bound paraplegic Christian woman for 50 years, replied, ‘’God allowed what he hates to accomplish what he loved’’. God has a goal in mind. He wants us to be conformed to the image of His Son. Romans 8:29 a, ”for those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son”. God is working for you 24/7 behind the scene so that all things happened for you and not to you.
The Recipients of God’s care: ” to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”. This is a conditional promise for Christians. The recipients of God’s care are those who are called by God according to His purpose. An example of Romans 8:28 is the life of Joseph. Genesis 50:20, ”But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive”.
The Continuity of God’s care, Romans 8: 30, ”And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified”. God’s eternal care starts from eternity past to eternity future, from predestination to glorification. From eternity past, He foreknew and predestined us. At the present time, He called you and justified you. In eternity future, He will glorify you.
Heavenly Father, thank you that you worked for good in everything that happens to us. Thank you that all things happened for us, and not to us. Amen.