About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Things That Are Not


While growing up as a child my dream was to drive a car.  A career at General Motors designing Corvettes, or, at the Ford Motor Company designing the latest Mustang would have been my dream job.  Ford introduced the Mustang in 1965.  I still recall the day when my brother drove his brand new red 65 Mustang into our driveway. 


My parents never put a damper on my dreams, but they knew that unless Jesus performed a miracle they'd be just dreams.  Jesus had already healed me of Juvenile Diabetes at the age of 5, so we all knew He could heal my legally blind eyes before I could take my drivers test at the age of 16.  As each year passed, disappointment began to set in and thoughts of driving became questionable.  "Maybe I could drive a small car; like a Chevy Corvair", I thought.  By the time I turned 15 my thoughts of driving a Corvair were replaced by riding a motorcycle.  Reality set in when I turned 16.  There'd be no car.  There'd be no motorcycle.  There'd just be my bicycle. 


When I ride my bike these days I follow the lead of my wife, that is except for the time I didn't.  As the rain began to fall, I darted off in front of her.  "Let's get home before it pours", I shouted.  I barely got those words out of my mouth when my face smashed head long into an aluminum ladder that I didn't see sticking out of the back of a pickup truck.  My bloody face and broken teeth seemed to make the tough looking construction workers a bit squeamish. 


A Christian brother once told me that if I demonstrated my faith in practical ways I'd be healed.  He obviously wasn't speaking from experience since I could see well enough to notice he was wearing glasses.  I should have told him that if he thought I should demonstrate my faith he should give me his car keys and I'd drive him home from church in his car.  We'd see how much faith he had then. 


Where do people get these ideas?  Why do people smash their glasses as an act of faith?   Why as an act of faith did my friend stop taking medication for his bipolar disorder, and then, why did he jump off the highest bridge in town?  Why do we approach the Bible from a faulty hermeneutical perspective and make it say something it doesn't say?


Romans 4:17 is a verse that many people totally demolish in their attempt to justify the practice of saying they're healed when they're not.  In part, the NIV reads, "God calls things that are not as though they are".  This phrase is often pulled out of its immediate context to prove that we should call things that aren't as though they are.  In other words, even though I have 4% vision, I should stand up in a church meeting and tell everyone that I've got 20/20 vision.  Then I could ask for volunteers to let me drive them home in their car.  My guess is that the faithful would be hard pressed to muster up the faith for that.          


To understand Romans 4:17 you've got to go back to the beginning of the chapter.  In Romans 4:1 to 3 the Apostle Paul said that because Abraham trusted what God told him, God blessed him by viewing him as being righteous, even though he was far from righteous.  This blessing had nothing to do with anything he had done or hadn't done.  This blessing was purely and simply a gift based on the premise that he believed what God promised him.   


In Romans 4:9 Paul then asked a key question.  "Is this blessing only for the circumcised or also for the uncircumcised"?  The circumcised are Jews.  The uncircumcised are Gentiles. 


Paul answered his question by making a big deal over when Abraham first believed God and when God proclaimed him to be righteous.  In verse 10 Paul said that both took place prior to God commanding Abraham to be circumcised.  At the precise moment God made His proclamation, Abraham had done nothing but believe what God had promised him.  That's it.  He had not obeyed the Ten Commandments or the command to be circumcised because neither had been instituted by God at that point.     


In verse 16 Paul reminded his readers that Abraham wasn't only the father of the Jews that were born through the lineage of his son Isaac.  He was also the father of many nations that descended from the lineage of his other sons.  As a matter of fact, when God proclaimed Abraham as a righteous man, he was a Gentile.  Therefore, since Abraham was proclaimed righteous while being a believing Gentile, Paul concludes that when Gentiles now have the same faith as Abraham, they are declared righteous by God as well.  That's simple Biblical logic     


Now we come to our important verse.  In light of what Paul has systematically set forth, God calls things that are not as though they are.  In context, God calls Gentiles; those who traditionally are not, as though they are those who traditionally are known as Jews.    


We cannot take Romans 4:17 out of its context and make it say something it doesn't say.  The contextual placement of this verse tells us that the things that are not are Gentiles, and, the things that are, are Jews.  This verse doesn't tell me to play mind games by attempting to trick my brain into believing I have 20/20 vision when in fact I don't.  This verse does tell me that anyone, either Jew or Gentile, can be viewed as being righteous by God if he has the same faith as Abraham.  It's as simple as that.   


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