Daily Archives: November 2, 2013

Do Not Be Surprised…This ‘n’ That (01 November 2013)

 

  • So, I may be more offended at the Jesus costume than the fact that the kid was kicked out of school for wearing it.
  • This is the first I’ve heard of the bitcoin.
  • The American Psychiatric Association has now classified pedophilia as a sexual orientation. Wait, maybe they didn’t. At least not yet. There’s little doubt that it will come eventually.
  • Speaking of sexual perversion and immorality; polyamory no doubt will be the next thing to be mainstreamed.
  • It’s probably going to cost some serious cash for Steven Furtick to furnish his new house, so why not think about grabbing a few copies of his newly-released Sun Stand Still devotional to help him out?
  • Um, wow. I made better graphics with Photoshop back in high school.
  • Here’s your weekly dose of adorable.
  • Rachel Miller explains why she doesn’t celebrate Halloween.
  • The Sola Sisters share their thoughts on yesterday’s holiday.
  • The Red Sox won the World Series. Of course, as a Cubs fan, and thus as an enemy of the Cardinals, I am mildly okay with this.
  • Doug Phillips has resigned as the president of Vision Forum.
  • Okay, there still are lots of articles floating around about Strange Fire. Let’s start here with Tom Chantry’s “two quick thoughts” on the matter.
  • Now let’s take a look at that ‘invitation‘ Driscoll issued to MacArthur.
  • Dr. Jason Allen of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary had a conversation with Dr. MacArthur about the conference.
  • And Tim Challies wants to ask MacArthur some tough questions.
  • Phil Johnson answers those who have incessantly argued that Strange Fire painted with a broad brush.
  • In the spirit of good, clean fun, here are some signs that you may be too charismatic.
  • Yesterday wasn’t just Halloween, it was Reformation Day. And some folks are eagerly counting down until the 500th anniversary of this event.
  • Speaking of the Reformation, what are some of the differences between Roman Catholic theology and the gospel?
  • Sorry, lady, but you weren’t talking to God.
  • Want to pack your child’s own lunch for school? You may need to send along a doctor’s note.
  • I’m not sure Mark Batterson understands the meaning of the word ‘incarnation.’ Kinda makes you wonder how he’s sold so many books, doesn’t it?
  • Today’s perversion of sound doctrine demands a new 95 Theses.
  • Here’s Phil Johnson’s first message from Strange Fire: ‘Is there a Baby in the Charismatic Bathwater?’

 

Source: http://www.donotbesurprised.com/2013/11/this-n-that.html

New article: Prayer for the Persecuted – Anticipating the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church This Sunday, November 3rd

Prayer for the Persecuted Masthead“An unexpected knock interrupted the house church meeting.  The believers inside, still grieving over the death of one of their leaders, had been on their knees into the night praying for the release from prison of another one of their pastors.  Then came a knock at the door in the dead of night. Was it the police, or just a stranger who had lost his way and saw a light in the window?

“And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, ‘You are out of your mind.’ But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, ‘It is his angel!’ But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. (Acts 12:13-16)

“Isn’t it ironic that when the Lord delivered Peter out of prison that night that every door opened up before him—except the church door?  This wonderful passage provides a kind of comic relief in the midst of Herod’s persecution: a prayer meeting interrupted by the very answer to those prayers. And if we are very honest with ourselves, these first-century Christians seem strangely familiar—like the 21st-century variety.  We pray, yes; but we usually keep our expectations low so that we won’t be disappointed with the results—and we rarely are.

“What does this have to do with our response to the rise in Christian persecution in our day?  It is interesting that one of the first recorded prayer meetings following Pentecost finds the church on their knees on behalf of a persecuted believer.  Even though their faith was small, their God was not.  Hebrews 13:3 commands us to ‘remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.’

Read More Here: http://www.frontlinemissions.info/?p=1652

New Article: The high cost of negligence

Sexual abuse | When pastors, churches, and other caregivers fail to report sexual abuse, they may aid and abet crime–and in some states are subject to prosecution themselves–along with subjecting abuse victims to lifelong trauma

Read More Here: http://www.worldmag.com/2013/10/the_high_cost_of_negligence

The Importance Of The Local Church -9 “The Blessings Of Church Membership”

Settled In Heaven Blog

SIH TOA ICON

“…The house of God, which is the church of the living God,

the pillar and ground of the truth.”   (1 Timothy 3:15)

In this ninth lesson of our study on the Lord’s church, we will be looking at the many blessings that can be had by those who join the membership of a local assembly…

 

THE STUDY:

Blessings Of Spiritual Growth:

1.  Receive the Teachings Of God’s Word
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;   For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:  Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:  That we [henceforth] be…

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New Podcast: Don’t Get Excited About the Latest Version of Jesus Based on Some “Lost” Gospel (Podcast)

J. Warner examines three recent efforts to recreate Jesus and talks about the historic effort to co-opt Jesus for a variety of reasons. J. Warner focuses on the use of alleged “lost” gospels and provides a number of reasons to reject these efforts. He also talks specifically about the claims of Joseph Atwill who claims “the New Testament was written by first-century Roman aristocrats” who “fabricated the entire story of Jesus Christ.” – See more at: http://coldcasechristianity.com/2013/dont-get-excited-about-the-latest-version-of-jesus-based-on-some-lost-gospel-podcast

Miscellaneous Bible Questions: Who Was Flavius Josephus?

Since their release in the first century A.D., the writings of Flavius Josephus have become a primary source of Judeo-Christian history. According to The Life of Flavius Josephus, Josephus ‘was born to Matthias in the first year of the reign of Caius Caesar’ (1:5), being 37 A.D. At ‘fourteen years of age, [he] was commended by all for the love [he] had to learning; on which account the high priests and principal men of the city came then frequently to [him] together, in order to know [his] opinion about the accurate understanding of points of the law’ (2:9).

Observing the Jewish sects of Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, Josephus spent three years with a hermit named Banus (2:11–12) and upon returning at nineteen years age ‘began to conduct [him]self according to the rules of the sect of the Pharisees’ (2:12). Traveling to Rome to defend persecuted Pharisees, he returned with an admiration for the Roman way of life. Soon after, a rebellion by Jewish forces against Rome occurred (66 A.D.), and Josephus found himself becoming a commander in Galilee in which he ‘took care to have arms provided, and the cities fortified’ (14:77). However, despite their attempts, Josephus surrendered at Jotapata which ‘was taken by force’ (65:350). When the ‘siege of Jotapata was over, and [he] was among the Romans, [he] was kept with much care, by means of the great respect that Vespasian showed [him]’ (69 A.D.) and was soon accompanied by the emperor’s son Titus, back to Jerusalem (75:414–416).

Despite Josephus’s attempts to quell growing revolts, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. Josephus returned with Titus to Rome, where he ‘had great care taken of [him] by Vespasian; for he gave [him] an apartment in his own house, which he lived in before he came to the empire. He also honored [Josephus] with the privilege of a Roman citizen, and gave [him] an annual pension; and continued to respect [him] to the end of his life’ (76:423).

The works of Josephus are few in number, but large in volume. The Wars of the Jews is the harrowing and partly eye-witness account of the wars involving the Jewish nation from the Maccabean Revolt (as told in the apocryphal 1 Maccabees) to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., through which he lived. The Antiquities of the Jews details the history of the Jewish people from the creation narrative (Genesis in the Old Testament) to the time of Josephus’s writing (New Testament and thereafter). Against Apion is an insightful apologetic of Jewish theology and thought against critics and students of Greek philosophy. He is best known however, among Christians for his referral to Jesus in The Antiquities of the Jews, one of the earliest pieces of historical evidence for Jesus outside the New Testament. Below is the paragraph from The Antiquities of the Jews (18:63–64), with what is commonly believed to be additions by a later Christian translator in brackets:

‘At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man [if indeed one ought to refer to him as a man]. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who received the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin. [He was the Messiah-Christ]. And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. [For on the third day he appeared to them again alive, just as the divine prophets had spoken about these and countless other marvelous things about him]. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out.’

Later in The Antiquities of the Jews (20:200), Jesus is again mentioned, in passing this time, as Josephus focuses his discussion on Jesus’ half-brother James (Matthew 13:55; Galatians 1:19). The quote is again worth quoting in full:

“But this younger Ananus, who, as we told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent … He assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus the so-called Messiah-Christ, whose name was James, and some others. When he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them over to be stoned.”

Despite the occasional bias of his historical works, Josephus is a relatively credible historian whose work provides a thorough understanding of Jewish life in the first century and the Jewish War and without such histories, our knowledge and understanding of these two areas would be far less rich.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Creation: Does the Bible Teach Geocentrism?

This is a very important question because the answer helps to shape our belief system and worldview, both of which have eternal consequences. The short answer to this question is “no.” Nowhere in the Bible are we told that the Earth is at the center of the universe. For many centuries, however, people believed that Claudius Ptolemaeus and others were correct when they advocated an Earth-centered universe. They wanted to believe this theory because some thought, incorrectly, that this is what the Bible teaches.

Taken in order, Genesis 1:14–18, Psalm 104:5, Job 26:7 and Isaiah 40:22 were often cited to support the geocentric theory of Ptolemaeus. Yet none of these Scriptures, taken in any order whatsoever, state that God designed the universe with Earth at its center. In fact, Earth isn’t even the center of its own small solar system; the sun is. We can understand why Copernicus and, later, Galileo, who posited the sun-centered (heliocentric) theory, caused such a controversy in the church. It was thought that heliocentricism contradicted the biblical teaching of geocentrism. But, again, the problem was that God’s Word doesn’t say that the Earth is at the center of anything. Sadly, as time went on and people came to understand that the Earth did in fact revolve around the Sun, many simply lost faith in God’s Word, because they had falsely been taught geocentrism.

We must remember that Scripture, not science, is the ultimate test of all truth. How ironic that science has never disproved one word of the Bible, yet it has caused many people to walk away from God. The ever-changing theories of fallible man come and go. Not so with the Word of God, however, as it endures forever (Matthew 5:18). Any time there is an irreconcilable difference between the two, the Bible is where we need to place our faith.[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Holy Spirit: Should We Worship the Holy Spirit?

We know that only God should be worshipped. Only God demands worship, and only God deserves worship. The question of whether we should worship the Holy Spirit is answered simply by determining whether the Spirit is God. Contrary to the ideas of some cults, the Holy Spirit is not merely a “force,” but a personality. He is referred to in personal terms (John 15:26; 16:7–8, 13–14). He acts as a Being with personality would act—He speaks (1 Timothy 4:1), He loves (Romans 15:30), He teaches (John 14:26), He intercedes (Romans 8:26), and so on.

The Holy Spirit possesses the nature of deity—He shares the attributes of God. He is neither angelic nor human in essence. He is eternal (Hebrews 9:14). He is everywhere present (Psalm 139:7–10). The Spirit is omniscient, i.e., He knows “all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10–11). He taught the apostles “all things” (John 14:26). He was involved in the creation process (Genesis 1:2). The Holy Spirit is spoken of in intimate association with both the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19; John 14:16). As a Person, He can be lied to (Acts 5:3–4) and grieved (Ephesians 4:30). Furthermore, some passages in the Old Testament that are attributed to God are applied to the Spirit in the New Testament (see Isaiah 6:8 with Acts 28:25, and Exodus 16:7 with Hebrews 3:7–9).

A divine Person is worthy of worship. God is “worthy of praise” (Psalm 18:3). God is great “most worthy of praise” (Psalm 48:1). We are commanded to worship God (Matthew 4:10; Revelation 19:10; 22:9). If, then, the Spirit is deity, the third Person of our triune God, He is worthy of worship. Philippians 3:3 tells us that true believers, those whose hearts have been circumcised, worship God by the Spirit and glory and rejoice in Christ. Here is a beautiful picture of worship of all three members of the Godhead.

How do we worship the Holy Spirit? The same way we worship the Father and the Son. Christian worship is spiritual, flowing from the inward workings of the Holy Spirit to which we respond by offering our lives to Him (Romans 12:1). We worship the Spirit by obedience to His commands. Referring to Christ, the Apostle John explains that “those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (1 John 3:24). We see here the link between obeying Christ and the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, convicting us of all things—especially our need to worship by obedience—and empowering us to worship.

Worship is itself a function of the Spirit. Jesus says that we “worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Those who are spiritual are those who are indwelt by the Spirit who testifies to us that we belong to Him (Romans 8:16). His presence in our hearts enables us to return worship to Him in the Spirit. We are in Him as He is in us, just as Christ is in the Father and the Father is in us through the Spirit (John 14:20, 17:21).[1]

 


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

New Article: Spoiled baby boomers infest self-indulgent White House

The Obama White House suffers from “the ’60s disease.” The affliction seems to be terminal. The president’s men — and women — are mostly boomers, spoiled, greedy and self-centered, nurtured and indulged in the decade of the 1960s, when the culture first began to rot.

The boomers taught each other many things, how to turn up the volume on their “music,” where to find the best pot and where to crash to smoke themselves into mellow stupefaction, how to avoid taking responsibility for their blunders, and above all contempt for the nation’s institutions and in particular for the men and women who wear the uniform.

The Clintons made no bones about their contempt for that uniform, even after Bubba took Hillary to the White House, where she treated her bodyguards like servants and the assorted White House military aides no better. Bubba had spent his youth dodging the draft and wore his contempt for the suckers who went to Vietnam as if it were the Medal of Honor, which he didn’t know much about except that it comes with a colorful ribbon. Bubba as the commander in chief finally learned to return a military salute without sticking his thumb in his eye, but it took awhile. Khaki still makes Hillary’s nose wrinkle, as if she smells something on the bottom of her shoe.

Barack Obama mostly grew up abroad and never learned much about America, and it shows. As an impressionable young man, he hung out with the likes of Bill Ayers, the unrepentant terrorist bomber, and was mentored by scruffy Marxists who drifted in and out of the house, teaching him that his country — America, not Indonesia — wasn’t worth much, but with a lot of work it might be transformed into something as noble as the People’s Republics of Lower Volta or Upper Slobbovia. But the military must always be kept on a short leash.

Read More Here

New article: Obamacare: Incompetence or treacherous genius? – Allan Keyes

Exclusive: Alan Keyes sees website distraction as part of totalitarian strategy

It must be true that sometimes things are just what they seem. But the elitist faction’s general offensive against America’s liberty has a thoroughgoing character that should warn liberty’s defenders against accepting this assumption without thoroughly thinking things through.

The brouhaha over the Obamacare website offers opponents of Obamacare a gratifying opportunity to vent their spleens in the aftermath of the recently staged funding theatrics in Congress. The funding battle was the first critical chance for Congress to stall the consolidation of permanent government control over America’s health-care system. Is it only a coincidence that the website debacle redirects some of the anger of the GOP’s rightly disillusioned constituents away from the treacherous quislings in the GOP leadership (Boehner, McConnell, McCain et al.)?

The GOP leadership’s collaboration with Obama offers ever more conclusive proof that, under their direction, the GOP has become the political equivalent of a heat sink. It exists to collect, then redirect or uselessly dissipate, the passions, political energy and material resources of Americans who want to restore and preserve constitutional self-government. This keeps the heat of their intense opposition from disrupting the sham partisan process whereby the elitist faction aims to substitute their totalitarian control for what is supposed to be constitutional self-government, of by and for the American people.

Read More Here

New article: Heartbreaking HBO Documentary Sheds Light On The Hidden Cost Of War

That’s just one of many heartbreaking statistics found in “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1,” a new HBO documentary which profiles the people working behind the scenes to help veterans and active-duty military members in their darkest hours.

The New York-based Crisis Hotline call center receives more than 22,000 calls each month, and the short film highlights some of the responders taking the calls.

Calls can be minutes or hours and can sometimes lead to dire circumstances — with supervisors calling local police to visit veterans on the line that have guns right by their side.

Read More here

New article: Food stamp cuts create high demand for food bank supplies

Food banks across the country, stretched thin in the aftermath of the recession, are bracing for more people coming through their doors in the wake of cuts to the federal food stamp program. Food stamp benefits to 47 million Americans were cut starting Friday as a temporary boost to the federal program comes to an end without new funding from a deadlocked Congress.

Read More Here

Reasons for the Wrath of God—Part 2 (Romans 1:22-23)

Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (1:22–23)

In Romans 1:19–23 Paul describes the character of fallen man. He gives four reasons why everyone is born under God’s wrath and condemnation. The first two reasons, God’s revelation and mares rejection, are presented in verses 19–21 and were discussed in the previous chapter. (See the previous commentary post “Reasons For The Wrath of God Part 1 – Romans 1:19-21” here). The third and fourth reasons, man’s rationalization and man’s religion, are presented in verses 22–23.

Man’s Rationalization

Professing to be wise, they became fools, (1:22)

In rejecting God’s clear revelation of Himself through His creation, men failed to honor and glorify God, failed to give Him thanks, became futile in their philosophical speculations, and became foolish and darkened in their hearts (vv. 19–21). Trying to justify themselves, they rationalized their sin, just as fallen mankind still does today. Professing to be wise about God, about the universe, and about themselves, they became still greater fools (see v. 21d).

Centuries earlier, David had declared that men who deny God and His truth are fools (Ps. 14:1; 53:1), and it is that very foolishness that deludes them into thinking they are wise. The natural man cannot think perfectly about anything. But his thinking is perverted most severely in the spiritual and divine realm, because that is where his sinful rebellion is centered. These things are also beyond his human perception and since he rejects revelation, he has no hope of coming to truth in himself. His foolish speculations therefore go the furthest astray when he philosophizes about his origin, purpose, and destiny and about the origin and meaning of the universe in which he lives.

The mind devoid of God’s truth has no way to discriminate between truth and falsehood, between right and wrong, between the significant and the trivial, between the truly beautiful and the monstrous, or between the ephemeral and the eternal.

These dominating worldly speculations often infect the church. Because, for example, gifted and articulate unbelievers have so long and loudly touted evolution as scientific fact rather than philosophical theory, many Christians have been intimidated into accommodating their theology accordingly. In the name of theistic evolution or progressive creationism, they not only compromise scientific integrity but also, and infinitely more disastrously, compromise God’s revelation. They accept the unfounded foolishness of unregenerate men above the flawless truth of God’s Word.

In a similar approach, many Christians try to adapt God’s revelation to men’s speculations in the areas of the mind and soul. Intimidated by the ever-changing and mutually-conflicting theories of psychology, sociology, and anthropology, they foolishly modify or exchange the truths of God’s revelation about man in favor of man’s absurd conjectures about himself.

The late Martyn Lloyd Jones perceptively wrote, “The whole drift toward modernism that has blighted the church of God and nearly destroyed its living gospel may be traced to an hour when men began to turn from revelation to philosophy.” Thinking they are wise, they have become fools because their own speculations can’t replace the revelation they reject.

Institution after institution that once firmly stood on God’s Word has progressively accommodated itself to the intellectual foolishness of the world system. In the name of man’s wisdom they come to reflect the foolishness, and inevitably the godlessness, of the world system of Satan.

Because he knew that “the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness,” that “God [has] made foolish the wisdom of the world,” and that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men,” Paul “determined to know nothing among [those to whom he preached] except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 1:18, 20, 25; 2:2).

The greatest fool in all the world is the person who exchanges God’s wisdom of truth and light for man’s wisdom of deceit and darkness.

Man’s Religion

and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (1:23)

The fourth reason why every person is born under God’s wrath and condemnation is man-made religion, reflected in the countless systems he has devised to replace the truth and the worship of God.

Yet although fallen man is not naturally godly, he is very much naturally religious. According to the 1986 World Almanac, approximately 2.6 billion people in the world have an identifiable religious affiliation of some sort. Many more are said to have some form of unidentified religion.

Hindus have some 330 million gods, which amounts to about eight gods per family. They also revere cows and countless other animals that they consider to be sacred. A two-inch-long discolored tooth, claimed to have belonged to Buddha and to have been retrieved from his funeral pyre in 543 b.c., is venerated by millions of Buddhists. The tooth is set in a golden lotus blossom surrounded with rubies and enshrined in the Temple of the Tooth in Sri Lanka.

The beliefs and practices of ritualistic Christianity differ little from such pagan superstitions.

Many humanistic sociologists, philosophers, and theologians maintain that religion is a mark of man’s upward climb from primitive chaos and ignorance, ascending through animism to polydemonism to polytheism and finally to monotheism. But the clear testimony of Scripture is that human religion of every sort, whether simple or highly sophisticated, is a downward movement away from God, away from truth, and away from righteousness. Contrary to much thinking, men’s religions do not reflect their highest endeavors but their lowest depravity. The natural trend of religion throughout history has not been upward but downward. It has, in fact, descended from monotheism.

That truth is attested even by secular history. Herodotus, the famous Greek historian of the fifth century b.c., said that the earliest Persians had no pagan temples or idols (The Histories, 1:31). The first-century Roman scholar Varro reported that the Romans had no animal or human images of a god for 170 years after the rounding of Rome (Augustine, The City of God, 4:31). Lucian, a second-century a.d. Greek writer, made similar statements concerning early Greece and Egypt (The Syrian Goddess, 34). The fourth-century Christian historian Eusebius declared that “the oldest peoples had no idols.”

Even many ancient unbelievers recognized the absurdity of worshiping something fashioned by man’s own hands. Horace, the Roman poet of the first century b.c., satirized the practice when he wrote, “I was a fig tree’s trunk, a useless log. The workman wavered, ‘Shall I make a stool or a god?’ He chose to make a god, and thus a god I am.”

The Apocrypha tells of a woodcutter felling a tree, stripping off its bark, and skillfully fashioning the wood into useful utensils and pieces of furniture. But the same woodcutter would take a gnarled leftover, of no practical value, and fashion it into the likeness of a man or animal, filling in defects with clay and painting over blemishes. After securing the figure to a wall or setting it in a niche so that it would not fall, he would then bow down and worship it, asking protection and health for himself and his family (see Wisdom, 13:11–19).

Even after the Fall, at first “men began to call upon the name of the Lord” (Gen. 4:26), because He was the only deity of which they had any knowledge. The next two chapters of Genesis make clear, however, that merely calling on the name of the true God did not prevent men from falling progressively into worse and worse sin. As ancient Israel proved repeatedly throughout her history, merely knowing about and claiming the true God did not protect her either from sin or from spiritual unbelief and divine judgment. As Jesus clearly asserted in the Sermon on the Mount, simply claiming allegiance to the Lord does not guarantee entrance into His kingdom (Matt. 7:21).

Yet despite the rebellious and unrepentant wickedness of the world before the Flood, there is no evidence that men at that time were idolatrous. The earliest instance of idolatry mentioned in the Bible is that of Abraham’s family in Ur (Josh. 24:2). Idolatry had developed sometime previously among some of the descendants of Noah. There is no indication, however, that Noah and his family, as the only survivors of the Flood, even knew of the concept of idolatry when they began to replenish the earth.

But as mankind again turned away from the true God, they began to create substitute gods, probably first only in their imaginations and later with their hands. By the time God brought His people back into the land of Canaan, they discovered idolatry had become as rife there as it was in Egypt. The idolatry of the pagan inhabitants they had disobediently failed to destroy was a continuous threat to Israel until God allowed them to be taken captive to Babylon. Remarkably, however, by His sovereign protection, from that time until now even unbelieving Jews have never again manufactured idols in any significant numbers.

Before the Exile, Isaiah scathingly mocked the wicked foolishness of idolatry that had so corrupted his people:

Those who fashion a graven image are all of them futile, and their precious things are of no profit; even their own witnesses fail to see or know, so that they will be put to shame. Who has fashioned a god or cast an idol to no profit? Behold, all his companions will be put to shame, for the craftsmen themselves are mere men. Let them all assemble themselves, let them stand up, let them tremble, let them together be put to shame. The man shapes iron into a cutting tool, and does his work over the coals, fashioning it with hammers, and working it with his strong arm. He also gets hungry and his strength fails; he drinks no water and becomes weary. Another shapes wood, he extends a measuring line; he outlines it with red chalk. He works it with planes, and outlines it with a compass, and makes it like the form of a man, like the beauty of man, so that it may sit in a house. Surely he cuts cedars for himself, and takes a cypress or an oak, and raises it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a fir, and the rain makes it grow. Then it becomes something for a man to burn, so he takes one of them and warms himself; he also makes a fire to bake bread. He also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a graven image, and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he eats meat as he roasts a roast, and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, “Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire.” But the rest of it he makes into a god, his graven image. He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for thou art my god.” (Isa. 44:9–17)

Along with the rebellious, proud, vain, foolish, and darkened Gentiles, many Jews had also exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for that which is inglorious, shameful, and corruptible. They substituted the reality of the holy God for the vain image of every sort of His creatures.

In their spiritual blindness, intellectual darkness, and moral depravity, men are by nature inclined to reject the Holy Creator for the unholy creature. Because something even in their fallenness demands a god, but one they like better than the true God, they devise deities of their own making.

It is not incidental that the Ten Commandments begin with the admonition: “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them” (Ex. 20:3–5). Yet at the very time those and the other commandments and ordinances were being given to Moses, the children of Israel were making a golden calf to worship (32: 1–6).

Although the Lord continued to warn

Israel and Judah, through all His prophets and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments, My statutes according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you through My servants the prophets,” … they rejected His statutes and His covenant which He made with their fathers, and His warnings with which He warned them. And they followed vanity and became vain, and went after the nations which surrounded them, concerning which the Lord had commanded them not to do like them. And they forsook all the commandments of the Lord their God and made for themselves molten images. (2 Kings 17:13–16)

Man’s rejection of God and embracing of idols can be compared to a son who murdered his father and then made a dummy figure that he introduces to the world as his father. Yet what sinful mankind has always done and continues to do with God is infinitely more wicked and senseless than that.

The first creature man substitutes for God is himself, an image in the form of corruptible man. Instead of glorifying and worshiping God, he attempts to deify himself. Although he doubtlessly made this alleged statement in derisive sarcasm, Voltaire was correct in observing: “God made man in His own image and man returned the favor.”

Every form of idolatry is a form of self-worship, just as every form of idolatry is a form of demon, or Satan, worship. Whether his idols are fashioned out of his own depraved thinking or are inspired by Satan, every false god appeals to man’s fallen nature and entices him to glorify and indulge himself. In one way or another, all idolatry is worship of self and service of Satan.

The epitome of human self-worship will be that of Antichrist, who will demand that all the world worship him in the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem (2 Thess. 2:3–4). As Satan’s supreme emissary on earth in the last days, Antichrist’s demand of worship will also testify that, despite his self-glorification, his real god will be Satan-just as every idolater’s real god is Satan.

“The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons,” Paul declared (1 Cor. 10:20). In other words, even though a person may make an idol of his own design and for his own purposes out of wood, stone, or metal, demons take advantage of that ungodliness by impersonating the characteristics the man-made god is supposed to have. Supernatural happenings have been reliably reported in pagan cultures throughout history and into modern times. Although Satan is limited in his power over nature and even in his own supernatural realm, Scripture makes clear that he is able to produce his own kinds of miracles, as Pharaoh’s sorcerers did before Moses and Aaron (Ex. 7:11, 22; 8:7). Just as Pharaoh’s satanically-empowered sorcerers demonstrated enough supernatural ability to keep that ruler’s heart hardened, Satan allows enough astrological predictions to come true and enough supernatural events to be manifested to keep his followers deluded (cf. 2 Thess. 2:9).

Nebuchadnezzar was perhaps the greatest monarch of the ancient world. But he became so enamored of his accomplishments that he ignored Daniel’s warning and arrogantly declared, “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?” As Daniel goes on to report,

while the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes.” Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws. (Dan. 4:31–32; cf. vv. 19–27)

By exalting himself virtually as a god, the proud king exceeded the limits of God’s patience, and in an instant both his power and his sanity were forfeited for “seven periods of time” (see vv. 25, 32), meaning perhaps seven months or even seven years.

“At the end of that period,” the king himself reported, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever” (v. 34). It would seem that his chastisement brought him to believe in God, and he ended his confession with the words, “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride” (v. 37).

Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s successor, learned nothing from his predecessor’s experience. One night he gave a lavish banquet for his noblemen, and under the influence of much wine he ordered that the sacred gold vessels that his father had confiscated from the Temple in Jerusalem be used to drink from at the feast. As the revelers drank from those vessels, they “praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone. Suddenly the fingers of a marts hand emerged and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace.” When the conjurers and diviners of the terrified king could not decipher the message, he appealed to Daniel. After reminding him of Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment by God, Daniel told the king, “Yet you, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this, but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven. … But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and your ways, you have not glorified. … This is the interpretation of the message: ‘mene ’ – God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. ‘tekel’—you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient. ‘peres’—your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians” (Dan. 5:1–29).

Belshazzar deliberately and openly sinned against the knowledge of God that he had. He even flagrantly blasphemed God by profaning the sacred vessels from His Temple and worshiping man-made idols instead of God. Typical of all sinful men, the king’s natural inclination was to turn from the knowledge he had of the true God and to turn to false gods of his own choosing.

A. W. Tozer wisely observed that idolatry begins in the mind when we pervert or exchange the idea of God for something other than what He really is (The Knowledge of the Holy [N.Y.: Harper & Row, 1961], pp. 9–10).

An even more ludicrous form of idolatry noted by Paul is the worship of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Among the many birds worshiped in the ancient world were the eagle in Rome, and the stork and hawk in Egypt. It was because eagles were often deified by Romans that the Jews so vehemently opposed their being displayed in any form in Israel, especially in the holy city of Jerusalem. Some American Indians still worship various birds, as seen in their totem poles. The stylized Indian thunderbird has become a popular symbol in modern society.

Ancient idols in the form of four-footed animals were almost too numerous to count. The Egyptians worshiped the bull-god Apis, the cat-goddess Bubastis, the cow-goddess Hathor, the hippopotamus-goddess Opet, and the wolf-god Ophois. As already noted, even the ancient Israelites were guilty of fashioning and then worshiping a golden calf, which was intended to represent the true God! Many Egyptians and Canaanites worshiped bulls, some of which were buried with great riches just as were the pharaohs. Diana, or Artemis, a popular Greek goddess in New Testament times (see Acts 19:27), did not have the form of a beautiful woman but rather that of a gross, ugly female beast with countless nipples hanging beneath her, supposedly enough to suckle the world. Other ancient idols were in the form of such diverse objects as mice and rats, elephants, crocodiles, monkeys, and the sun and moon.

We also know from secular sources and well as from Scripture about many kinds of crawling creatures that were worshiped, many of which are still deified in parts of the world today. Among their many idols, the ancient Egyptians worshiped the scarab beetle, likenesses of which are sold as souvenirs in that country today. The insect lives in manure piles and is commonly referred to as the dung beetle. The Assyrians became fond of worshiping snakes, as did many Greeks.

The name of the Canaanite god Baal-zebub (2 Kings 1:2), or Beelzebub (Matt. 10:25), means “Lord of the flies.” Because so much pagan worship was associated with flies, many superstitious Jews believed that no fly would dare enter God’s Temple in Jerusalem (cf. Avot 5:5 in the Talmud). Modern Hindus refuse to kill or harm most animals and insects, because the creatures might be either a deity or the reincarnated form of a human being who is transmigrating from one stage of his karma to another.

Lest we think that contemporary, sophisticated man has risen above such crude foolishness, we have only to consider the monumental increase in astrology and other occultic practices during the last few decades in the United States and western Europe. Many leading world figures, including noted scientists, are said to consult their horoscopes or occult advisers for information from star movement or tea leaves before making major decisions or taking extended trips.

There have always been people who worship the idols of wealth, health, pleasure, prestige, sex, sports, education, entertainment, celebrities, success, and power. And at no time in history have those forms of idolatry been more pervasive and corrupting than in our own day.

Countless books, magazines, games, movies, and videos glorify sexual promiscuity, incest, rape, homosexuality, brutality, deceit, manipulation of others to one’s own advantage, and every other form of immorality and ungodliness. Many of those things are specifically occultic-involving magic, spell casting, witchcraft, sex rites, human sacrifice, and even demon and Satan worship. Moral and spiritual pollution is pandemic in modern society and is a degenerative and addictive form of idolatry. Tragically, it is being packaged and marketed to reach younger and younger ages.

Many years ago J. H. Clinch wrote the provocative and powerful lines,

And still from Him we turn away,

And fill our hearts with worthless things;

The fires of greed melt the clay,

And forth the idol springs!

Ambition’s flame, and passion’s heat,

By wondrous alchemy transmute earth’s dross

To raise some gilded brute to fill Jehovah’s seat.

When man rejects God’s revelation, whatever the form of that revelation might be, he regresses through rationalization and false religion ultimately to reprobation, which, in Romans 1:24–32, Paul proceeds to relate.[1]

 


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 87–96). Chicago: Moody Press.

Fools! (Romans 1:21-23)

Romans 1:21–23

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

I have often spoken of the rebellion of the first man and woman against God, pointing out that, although the woman was deceived by Satan, having been led to think that her disobedience would result in good both for herself and her husband, the man was not deceived and therefore knew what he was doing. Adam deliberately set his face against God. He said in effect, “As long as that tree is in the middle of the garden of Eden and I am not able to eat of it, I feel demeaned as a human being. I am not autonomous. So I am going to eat of it and die, whatever that may be.” Because he understood what he was doing, Adam’s sin was greater than Eve’s.

Yet there was a measure of “deception” in Adam’s case also—deliberate deception. For how else can we explain what Adam did? Adam was no ignoramus. He knew that he was rebelling against God and that he was rejecting the truth about himself and the world, which God had revealed. What did Adam think he was going to put in the place of God and God’s truth? In place of God, he wanted to put himself! That much is obvious. In place of the truth, he no doubt wanted to put a “truth” of his own making!

This is what Satan had actually offered Eve earlier. When she replied to the serpent—the great deceiver—about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, saying that she and her husband were not to eat of it or touch it lest they die, Satan had declared, “You will not surely die.… For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4–5). Ah, “like God!” That was what Eve and Adam wanted to become. God is the sovereign God, and one aspect of his sovereignty is that he makes the rules. Adam wanted to make his own rules. He wanted to say what was to be true and what was to be false. And yet, in rebelling against God, he became anything but sovereign or wise. He became the opposite, losing what strength and wisdom he had. Instead of becoming more like God, which Satan had promised the woman, Adam became like Satan. Instead of rewriting the truth so that it would better suit his own warped desires, Adam began a process in which he and the human race after him turned from the truth of God to lies.

Substitution and Moral Foolishness

What happened to Adam back in the earliest moments of earth’s history is what Paul declares in Romans 1 to be true now of every human being. Our study of Romans 1:18–21 has shown what human beings have done in terms of their relationships to God. They have (1) suppressed the truth about God; (2) refused to glorify, or worship, God; and (3) neglected to be thankful. Because of the first and perhaps also because of the second and third of these transgressions, the wrath of God has already begun to come upon them.

But the problem not only involves people’s relationships to God. It also involves what happens to them as a secondary result of their breaking of the ties that should exist between this holy and loving Creator and his rational creatures. When Adam rebelled against God it was not only his relationship to God that was broken. His relationship to Eve was broken also, and this, too, was to affect the history of mankind. Adam acted the fool, and he became one. So also with the race as a whole. Thus, having spoken of that cosmic rebellion by which the human race has set its face against God, Paul goes on to declare, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (vv. 21–23). According to these words, the first result of man’s rebellion against God, so far as he himself is concerned, is that he became a fool. His heart was darkened.

The words in this paragraph are wonderfully expressive and deserve careful attention. I start with three that are related.

1. Dialogismois. This is the word translated “thinking” in the New International Version, “imaginations” in the King James Version, and “argumentations” in J. B. Phillips’s paraphrase. It refers to the working of the human mind apart from revelation. We have it in our word dialogue. The point is that, having rejected the truth about God that God has revealed to all human beings in nature (and later through Jesus Christ and the Bible), human beings have been left to their own mental devices, which are, however, inadequate for working out or discovering reality. We will not have God. So, having rejected God, we can use our minds only to rearrange error.

2. Sophoi. This word is translated “wise” in most Bible versions, but its force comes from its use in words like sophistry, sophisticated, sophomore, philosophy, philosopher, and philosophical. A philosopher is one who loves wisdom. A sophisticate thinks himself to be very worldly-wise. This is what those who have rejected the truth about God imagine themselves to have become. It is what Adam imagined he had become. In ourselves we think that we are all very intelligent and sophisticated individuals.

Let me quote D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on this point:

Instead of accepting revelation they became philosophers. And what is a philosopher? A philosopher is a man who claims that he starts by being skeptical about everything, that he is an agnostic. “I am going to have the data,” he says, “and then I am going to apply my mind to it. I am going to reason it out and I am going to work it out.” And that is exactly what such men have done; they became foolish and wicked in their reasonings, in their thoughts, in their own conjectures and speculations and surmisings. And what is the cause of it all? Paul uses the word “vain” and it means not only foolish, but it means wicked as well.… The cause of the whole trouble was wickedness, and it is still wickedness.

Paul’s point is that such persons are not being honest with the data they claim to be treating, and the reason they are not honest with the data is that they do not like the direction to which the data points them. Therefore, instead of using their minds to recognize and pursue the truth, they use them to provide philosophical justifications for their actions.

3. Emōranthēsan. This is a long Greek word, but it is derived from a very simple root found within it: mōros, which means “fool.” It is used in the sentence, “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools” (v. 22).

What kind of fools? Well, in the Greek language, “fool” does not mean merely to be guilty of intellectual folly, though it includes this error, but to be guilty of moral folly or wickedness as well. That is why in the Bible it is so often connected with a denial of the existence of God, as in Psalm 14:1 (“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’ ”). It is why it is such a reprehensible term (cf. Matt. 5:22). If “fool” referred only to a deficiency of intellect, it could hardly be a bad thing, at least in terms of our relationship to God. None of us can ever know God fully; he is infinitely above us. But if the word includes a moral or ethical element, as it does, then it is truly bad, for it refers to our willful rejection of whatever truth about God we are capable of receiving.

This compounds our guilt, for it adds the sin of hypocrisy to the prior sin of rebellion. We have rebelled against God by rejecting the knowledge about himself that he has revealed to us. In addition to that, while willfully scorning the truth, we make exalted but ridiculous claims to great wisdom.

The Downward Sliding Path

Beginning in verse 24, Paul is going to show that turning away from God launched the race upon a downward path, leading inevitably to great moral depravity. We are going to look at that aspect of the slide of the human race in detail when we come to those verses. But even here it is important to see that what is involved is a falling away from a high level of truth, received by revelation, and not an upward climb to it.

It is important to see this, because the world believes exactly the opposite. It tries to teach that the path of the race has been consistently upward from its original “animal” beginnings and that our present world religions or philosophies are a step upward from whatever religious sensibilities went before them. We have been taught that primitive ages of the race were marked by animism and that animism progressed upward to polytheism, which in turn produced monotheism.

But this is not the way it happened. Some years ago a student of comparative religions named Robert Brow published a book entitled Religion: Origins and Ideas in which he argued correctly that this popular theory of evolutionary religious development simply does not fit the facts. On the contrary, he argued, the work of anthropologists suggests that the original form of religion was monotheism and that the polytheistic or animistic religions we see today among certain “primitive” peoples are actually a falling away from that much higher standard. Brow wrote, “Research suggests that the tribes are not animistic because they have continued unchanged since the dawn of history. Rather, the evidence indicates degeneration from a true knowledge of God.”

In his reconstruction Brow argues that an early knowledge of the true God came first, accompanied by animal sacrifices that were a way of acknowledging that the worshiper had offended God and needed to make atonement for his or her offenses. In time polytheism entered, providing a pantheon of gods and goddesses who were worshiped not because they were imagined to be higher or greater than the original true God but because they were lesser and therefore less to be feared. At this point priests emerged to take over the functions of sacrifice, and the religions degenerated even further. So it has continued. According to Brow, the so-called primitive tribesman is actually closer to the truth of religion than our civilized and sophisticated contemporaries.

If this is true, as the Bible also declares it to be, then our pretension to progress in religion is only another sharp example of our great wickedness and inordinate folly. Claiming to be wise, we have become fools. For what could be more foolish than to have “exchanged the glory of the immortal God” for gods of our own devising?

Trauma, Repression, Substitution

In the midst of these important verses, Paul introduces another word that is extremely significant for understanding the nature of nonbiblical religions and the human psychology that has produced them. This is the word exchanged. It occurs in the verses we are studying, where Paul says, “… [they] exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (v. 23). Two verses further on it occurs again: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen” (v. 25).

This word explains why the human race has been so determined to invent religions to replace worship of the one true God. It explains it by a term we in our day are particularly well equipped to understand.

In psychology there is a recognized sequence of common human experiences known as trauma, repression, and substitution. Here is an example of the way these concepts are used: Suppose that a certain man is having difficulty concentrating on his work and that he cannot sleep at night. Not knowing what is wrong, he goes to a psychiatrist for help. “I can’t seem to concentrate,” he says. “I like my job. I am not particularly pressured by it. But I am not doing well, and at night I can’t sleep. Something is wrong. I don’t know what it is. Can you help me?” The psychiatrist says he will try. So he asks the man to tell something about himself. When was the first time he noticed being unable to concentrate? What was his life like at that time? How was his relationship with his wife? How was his relationship with his children? How have things been at home? Did anything happen at that time that might have upset him?

Suppose that during these exploratory sessions, the psychiatrist notices that every time he mentions the house in which this man lives, the man’s brow furrows and his answers to the therapist’s questions get shorter. This happens a number of times, and eventually the psychiatrist, who is trained to observe such things, asks, “Did anything bad ever happen to your home? Do you have any bad memories about it?”

The man furrows his brow again and says, “No.”

“Are you sure there isn’t something bothering you about it?”

The man assures the doctor that there is nothing. Nevertheless, as the doctor probes this area he discovers that about the time the man began to have trouble with his job, his house was burglarized one evening, and both he and his wife were threatened by the burglar. Suppose in addition that the psychiatrist discovers that the robber was never caught, that the man has installed the most sophisticated burglary devices, and that he is constantly calling home. When these facts emerge it is not hard for the psychiatrist to explain what has happened. The robbery and the threat to his wife were so traumatic to this man that ever since he has been worried that another robbery (or something worse) might occur. The man has not admitted these fears to himself. In fact, he has repressed the experience, perhaps because he thinks he is not supposed to show such unmanly emotions as fear. But the trauma is with him, and his inability to concentrate at work is one evidence that the problem has never been dealt with adequately. To do so the psychiatrist will get the man to talk about his experience, face up to his fears and try to work with them.

What the man has experienced are the three stages of trauma, repression, and substitution, which I mentioned earlier. The robbery was so traumatic that the man repressed his memories of it. But the trauma did not go away. The memory of the event was only repressed. So a set of unnatural behavioral patterns emerged to fill the void.

This is precisely what Paul says has happened to the human race. Because of our primitive break with God in Adam and the resulting sinful state in which we live, whenever we experience the revelation of God in nature (or in Jesus Christ, the Bible, Christian preaching, or whatever), we find echoes of the original trauma emerging and inevitably attempt to repress them. But we cannot erase the trauma, and an act of substitution takes place by which we become “religious,” creating substitutionary deities to take the true God’s place.

This is the explanation of the universality of religion on this planet. The fact that people are religious does not prove that we are all seeking God. It proves the contrary. It proves that we are all running away from God. Although we are unwilling to know God and do not want him, we are nevertheless unable to do without him and try to fill the void with our substitute gods.

R. C. Sproul has dealt with this very well in the book I referred to earlier: If There Is a God, Why Are There Atheists? He puts it like this:

In the case of God’s revelation, man encounters something ominously threatening which is traumatic. The memory of conscious knowledge of the trauma is not maintained in its lucid threatening state but is repressed. It is “put down” or “held in captivity” in the unconsciousness. That which is repressed is not destroyed. The memory remains though it may be buried in the subconscious realm. Knowledge of God is unacceptable to man and as a result man does his best to blot it out or at least camouflage it in such a way that its threatening character can be concealed or dulled. That the human psyche is capable of such repression has been thoroughly demonstrated in a multitude of ways. The critical factor, however, … is that the knowledge is not obliterated or destroyed. It remains intact though deeply submerged in the unconscious.

In the substitution-exchange process, the repressed knowledge manifests itself outwardly in a disguised or veiled form. The original knowledge is threatening; its disguised form is much less threatening.… In theological terms, what results from the repression is the profession of atheism either in militant terms, or its less militant form of agnosticism, or a kind of religion that makes God less of a threat than he really is. Either option, atheism or religion, manifests an exchange of the truth for a lie.

From Darkness to Light

There is one more word that we need to look at before bringing this chapter to a close, and that is the word darkness. It occurs in verse 21: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Darkness is an image, of course. It is the equivalent of Paul’s saying that “their thinking became futile” or “they became fools” or “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”

When men and women turn away from God, they do not admit this, of course. Instead, they speak of “bright new ideas,” “enlightenment” or “seeing the light.” One whole movement in philosophy in Europe a century or so ago was called the Enlightenment. But, since God is the sole source of light, any ideas of enlightenment apart from him that we may think we have are an illusion. And what we need is the revelation and power of God to bring us back from self-inflicted darkness into God’s light.

That is what has happened to Christians. We do not have any ability to rediscover the light of God by ourselves. Before God worked in us we were as much in the dark as anybody. Paul writes in Ephesians of what we were like in our unsaved state, much as he writes of the heathen in Romans: “They [the unsaved] are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts” (Eph. 4:18). However, as the result of God’s illuminating work, “… you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8). To return to our illustration from psychiatry, in the case of Christians God has uncovered for us the cause of our great spiritual trauma. He has dealt with our rejection of his revelation (as well as with all our other sins) in Christ, making that known to us. Then he has brought us back into harmony with himself so that we no longer need fear him or run away from him but rather bask in his light.

We are also to live by his light. For in the passage from Ephesians cited above, Paul goes on to say, “Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord” (Eph. 5:8–10). If we are of the light, we must live by the light. If we know God, we must show it by being like him.[1]

 


[1] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: Justification by Faith (Vol. 1, pp. 169–176). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Theology: GOD IS GREAT, SELF-EXISTENT AND ETERNAL

GOD IS GREAT

 

This is an attempt to look at the great God that we worship. His greatness is not a thing that we can comprehend for He has not even revealed all of it to us. We are limited to seeing His greatness in the Scriptures and that directs us to observe His greatness in the creation.

 

 

Indeed, we do not really comprehend that amount of His greatness that He has revealed to us in the Scripture and nature. We do not really, even in a lifetime of study, gain all there is to know of His greatness from these sources. We are limited in scope and mentality.

 

It has occurred to me in this study of His attributes that there may be many other attributes that God possesses which He has not revealed to us. There may be parts of Him that we could never comprehend so He just did not even mention them. We may have a long theology class when we get there to help us understand even more about Him than He revealed to us in the Word.

 

Since we are finite beings and deal with only what we can comprehend, we cannot imagine what other attributes He might have. He is a great God, an infinite God thus we must probably assume that He does have other attributes as well.

 

Deuteronomy 10:17,

 

“For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and an awesome, who regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward.”

 

Mighty and awesome. He is not a God to be trifled with, yet lost mankind does just that on a daily basis. They talk of their praying to Him, yet never approach Him in the area of salvation. They talk of him in their everyday conversation as if He is a personal friend, yet never make Him a personal Savior. God ought not be treated this way. Indeed, there are believers that use the Lord’s name in vain that ought to be aware of their error.

 

1 Chronicles 29:10-13,

 

“Wherefore, David blessed the Lord before all the congregation; and David said, Blessed be thou, Lord God of Israel, our father, forever and ever. Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the Heaven and in the earth is thine. Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name.”

 

“…..in thine hand it is to make great…..” Don’t be so bold as to decide that you are going to make yourself great. Leave all that in God’s hands and allow Him to mold and shape you into something great — something that he can use. If you mold yourself into something great, the chances are that the Lord will not be able to use you.

 

Nehemiah 9:32, “Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awe-inspiring God…..” Years ago in a Sunday School class the teacher assigned each person a verse, and asked us to define God in one word based on the verse. My verse was in the Psalm and ran along this same vein. My one word definition of God from the verse was “aweful”. He is full of things that should bring us to our knees in awe, or else He truly will be an awful God.

 

Psalm 145:3, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.” Yes, try to learn all you can of God’s greatness, but don’t get frustrated if you never find an end to the study, for the topic is unsearchable. Even if we had time to do all the research we wanted to do on the subject, we could not search out all there is to know of His greatness. His greatness will continue to be revealed throughout eternity. We will be constant witnesses of the things that He will do.

 

Jeremiah 32:17-19,

 

“Ah, Lord God. Behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and outstretched arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee; Thou showest loving-kindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them; the Great, the Mighty God, the Lord of hosts, is his name, Great in counsel, and mighty in work; for thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men, to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings;”

 

Within the greatness of God we have some subdivisions. He is self-existent and eternal.

 

 

GOD IS SELF-EXISTANT

 

It is logical to assume that either you believe in a self-existent God or a self-existent universe.

 

The term “aseity” is sometimes used instead of self-existence. You many run into it in your studies. It means, to have a free, or independent existence. To have an existence apart from all other things, be it being or material.

 

Thomas Aquinas said of God, “the first cause, Himself uncaused.” In saying this he was stating his believe that God being the cause of all that exists was not caused by anything or anyone not even Himself. The last part of the phrase is something that would bother someone that is logical in thinking. How could a being bring itself into existence? If it could bring itself into existence, then it had to have existed prior to the act. Something that does not exist cannot bring anything into existence, much less itself.

 

In the past many have tried to define the self existence of God. The thinking went along the line that God was the cause of Himself.

 

Lactantius: “God, before all things, was procreated from Himself. God, of His own power, made Himself. He is of Himself; therefore He is such as He willed Himself to be.”

 

Jerome: “God is the origin of Himself and the cause of His own substance.” (Taken from the book, Elemental Theology by Emery H. Bancroft. Copyright 1977 by Baptist Bible College. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. pp 72-73)

 

Their error was in assuming that every effect must have a cause. God did not have a beginning; these two definitions are automatically defective.

 

Their thought allows for God bringing Himself into existence and this would dictate the possibility of God taking Himself out of existence. Self annihilation is not an option for God for He has revealed Himself to us as eternal and has promised man and angels eternal future existence.

 

God does not depend on anything or anyone for his continued existence. God is independent. He is not dependent on anything for continued existence, not even Himself.

 

 

As animals, man, and all created creatures depend upon God for their existence, God depends on nothing. He exists because of all that is within Him and nothing that which is without.

 

Indeed, He does not depend upon Himself for continued existence. He, by His nature exists. Continued existence is automatic within His nature. To cease to exist would require a shift in His nature — a nature that is unchangeable. Can He cease to exist? A totally mute question. To cease to exist is not consistent with His nature. In fact the idea of continued existence may well be foreign to His nature. He is that He is. This eliminates even the need for continued existence. He exists as He exists.

 

He could wipe out all of creation, all of the angelic host, and all of mankind and there would be nothing left but Him. He would not be hindered or decreased by one smidgeon.

 

We not only depend upon God for our existence in the first place, but we depend upon Him for our continued existence. He preserves the creation. He on the other hand depends on nothing.

 

Bancroft quotes Pendleton as saying, “When He [God] interposes His oath to confirm His word He swears by Himself saying, ‘As I live,’ leaving His oath to rest on the immutable basis of His self-existence. In the boundless range of human and angelic thought there will never be found a deeper mystery than the self-existence of God. It defies finite comprehension. God alone knows how He exists, why He has always existed, and why He will exist forever.” (Taken from the book, Elemental Theology by Emery H. Bancroft. Copyright 1977 by Baptist Bible College. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. p 73)

 

Now, I would challenge you to consider that statement. Realize fully there are things that God knows that we cannot possibly ever know, unless we can talk Him into telling us someday 30 billion years into eternity when he has taught us a little bit about Himself.

 

Exodus 3:14, “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM. . . .” I am all that I am. There is no more or no less than what I am. In short might we somewhat tongue in cheek say, “Don’t try to stick me in a pigeon hole.”

 

 

John 5:26, “For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;”

 

Acts 17:24-28

 

“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshiped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”

 

Bancroft quotes Harris, “God is. His name is evermore, I AM. It certainly can be no limitation of God that He is absolutely unlimited and independent, that He is uncreated and eternal, endowed from all eternity with all possible perfection as the absolute Spirit” (Taken from the book, Elemental Theology by Emery H. Bancroft. Copyright 1977 by Baptist Bible College. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. pp 73- 74)

 

Bancroft mentions that it is God’s nature to exist. That seems to be what God said when He said, “I Am That I Am.”

 

APPLICATION

 

1. We can be assured that if God is self-existent that we are at the source of all life, and as such, if we have accepted His conditions and promises then those promises will assuredly come to pass.

 

2. God is the source of life and thus is the only one that has the right or ability to offer eternal life a commodity which He controls. He may offer this to whomever He so desires, and indeed He offers it to whomsoever will come. This should help us with election and predestination. It isn’t mean. It isn’t arbitrary. He controls all of eternity — His will is what will be.

 

 

GOD IS ETERNAL

 

There are three usages of the term eternal:

 

The eternal mountains suggesting great age from the beginning, of the mountains.

 

The eternal life or damnation of man. A beginning in time with eternal future existence. This would apply equally to the angelic host.

 

True eternal existence is found only in God Himself. He alone has the eternal attribute of existence from eternity past to eternity future.

 

All else can be viewed as everlasting, rather than eternal, for all else has a beginning since eternity past.

 

Years ago I witnessed to a young man about the fact that we can have eternal life. He replied that he agreed 100 percent, in fact he had eternal life, indeed, all of mankind had eternal life. I asked him to take a moment and explain to me just how he could state that all of mankind had eternal life. He mentioned that he believed that one of Einstein’s theories states that as we travel in space time slows down and we actually can get ahead of time. He went on to explain that if we go fast enough and long enough out into space that at some point we could stop and look behind us and see ourselves coming. This was his “eternal life.” We can keep going out into space and keep looking back to see ourselves coming. I trust that your concept of eternality is a bit more promising than that.

 

In dealing with the eternality of God we must take Schleiermacher’s advice, when he suggests that we eliminate from God all limits of time, indeed, time itself. Time is a medium which the Lord created for us to operate in. (Schleiermacher was a liberal theologian.)

 

God has, at any moment of His existence, the total of His duration. We have our existence in a sequential order and gain it piece by piece through our experience and living in time.

 

The attribute of self-existence suggests and requires the eternality of God. To have always existed, would demand that He always has been.

 

 

There are past, present and future to God however due to his knowledge of past, present and future events He is actually in an ever present or “now” existence. He is the perfect NOW generation. He knows all events; he can combine some past and future events into those events going on in the present.

 

SOME QUOTES TO CONSIDER

 

Bancroft states that “The Bible asserts the fact that God is eternal; His existence had no beginning and will have no ending; He always was, always is, and always will be.” (Taken from the book, Elemental Theology by Emery H. Bancroft. Copyright 1977 by Baptist Bible College. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. p 75)

 

Buswell puts it this way, “The Bible writers explicitly teach and continuously assume that the being of God is eternal, both as to the past and as to the future. God has always existed and always will exist; He never began to be. He never will cease to be.” (Buswell, p 40)

 

Ryrie quotes Berkhof as saying, “that perfection of God whereby He is elevated above all temporal limits and all succession of moments, and possesses the whole of His existence in one indivisible present” (Reprinted by permission: Ryrie, Charles C.; “Basic Theology”; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1986, pp 36-37)

 

Pardington states, “Eternity means existence without beginning or end:” (Pardington, Revelation George P. Ph.D.; “OUTLINE STUDIES IN CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE”; Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1926, p 85)

 

Genesis 21:33,

 

“And Abraham planted a grove in Beer-sheba,

and called there on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God.”

 

Deuteronomy 32:40, “For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live forever.”

 

Deuteronomy 33:27, “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms;”

 

 

Psalm 90:2,

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isaiah 41:4,

 

 

 

“Before the mountains were brought forth,

or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”

 

“Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he.”

 

Isaiah 57:15,

 

“For thus saith the high and lofty One

who inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy….”

 

Habakkuk 1:12, “Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord, my God, mine Holy One….”

 

Romans 1:20 mentions his eternal power and Godhead. 1 Timothy 1:17,

“Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

 

1 Timothy 6:18,

 

“Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see; to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen.”

 

Revelation 1:8,

 

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

 

Revelation 4:10 tells of the 24 elders casting their crowns before the one that “liveth forever and ever,”.

 

Revelation 10:6,

 

“And swore by him that liveth forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, and the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things which are in it, that there should be delay no longer;”

 

Shedd mentions that the French Bible translates Jehovah by the term “l’Eternel”.

 

Wordsworth related man’s time in this life as an intervention of noise in God’s eternal silence. Parents find times when their children get on their nerves noise wise and long for a moment of silence. I wonder if God gets sick and tired of the noise His children raise?

 

Bancroft quotes J. M. Pendleton on p 75. Pendleton relates that God is the only true eternal being. He existed in all of eternity past, which no other being has. He also mentions that God only will sit on God’s throne.

 

“Eternity transcends all finite bounds of time, Knows nothing of Duration, with successive years, Before Thy vision, panoramic and sublime

Past, present, future, at one glance appears, Unnumbered cycles pass before thy review, The new is as the old, the old is as the new.”

 

(From an unnamed poet, Taken from the book, ELEMENTAL THEOLOGY by Emery H. Bancroft. Copyright 1977 by Baptist Bible College. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. pp 74-75)

 

The doctrine has three aspects to it.

 

a. God’s existence cannot be measured in time.

 

b. God’s existence is above time. Men live in time.

 

c. God is the originator and ruler of time. Indeed, we could even say that God’s existence cannot be measured.

 

Man is a finite being and is limited to time. We overcome this limitation at times through memory of the past and predictions for the future. Haley’s comet is predictable and is a very limited sense in which we know the future.

 

In closing a quote from Bancroft which is from an institutionalized person that was ask to describe God’s eternity.

 

 

“It is duration, without beginning or end; existence, without bounds or dimension; present, without past or future. His eternity is youth without infancy or old age; life without birth or death; today, without yesterday or tomorrow.” (Taken from the book, Elemental Theology by Emery H. Bancroft. Copyright 1977 by Baptist Bible College. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. p 75) I am left to wonder why he was institutionalized.

 

The logical application is that if God is eternal then that is our guarantee of our own eternal existence from this point forward. That is why we can have a real trust in our salvation.[1]

 


[1] Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. B.A. (n.d.). DERICKSON’S NOTES ON THEOLOGY: A STUDY BOOK IN THEOLOGY.