Daily Archives: November 9, 2013

“Netanyahu is in a state of shocked disbelief,” feels “misled” by Obama team. Rapidly intensifying crisis in U.S.-Israel relations developing due to disastrous Iran nuclear deal.

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

U.S. President Obama delivers remarks at the White House in Washington(Netanya, Israel) — I landed in Israel on Friday afternoon amidst a rapidly intensifying crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations.

The Obama administration is preparing to cut a disastrously bad nuclear bargain with Iran that relieves enormous economic pressure on Tehran without requiring the mullahs to dismantle a single centrifuge. The Israelis are stunned. Top officials feel betrayed by the White House, including by reports that the White House has secretly been easing sanctions for months. There have long been tensions between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu. There have been times I have  feared a “train wreck” between the two. Hopefully, the dynamic will change for the better, and quickly. But at the moment things are going from bad to worse in a hurry here.

Please pray that the terrible deal with Iran would be derailed for a real deal that ends Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Please pray that the White House changes direction and that…

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Arab allies of U.S. horrified by deal White House is about to cut with Iran. Saudis reportedly planning to buy nuclear warheads from Pakistan.

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

As details emerge of the deal the U.S. is about to cut with Iran — a deal that would not dismantle a single Iranian centrifuge and would leave Tehran in striking distance of rapidly building an arsenal of nuclear weapons — leaders of moderate Arab states in the Persian Gulf are horrified. They deeply fear a nuclear-armed Iran and have long pressed the White House to do everything necessary to stop this from happening. Now they fear they are being betrayed.

“A deal with Iran would be like discovering your partner of many years is cheating on you with someone he or she claims they hate,” a senior Arab official from a U.S. ally in the region told the Wall Street Journal.

The Saudis, reportedly, are in the process of purchasing nuclear warheads from Pakistan, so convinced they have become that the Obama administration has no idea how to stop Iran.

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Here are details on the contours of the nuclear deal the U.S. is offering Iran.

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

According to The (UK) Telegraph, these are the contours of the “first step” dealthe U.S. is offering Iran:

  1. Iran would stop enriching uranium to the 20 per cent level that is close to weapons-grade – and turn its existing stockpile of this material into harmless oxide. 
  2. Iran would continue enrichment to the 3.5 per cent purity needed for nuclear power stations – but agree to limit the number of centrifuges being used for this purpose. There would, however, be no requirement to remove or disable any other centrifuges. 
  3. Iran would agree not to activate its plutonium reactor at Arak, which could provide another route to a nuclear weapons -capability, during the six-month period. Iran may, however, continue working on the facility. 
  4. Iran would agree not to use its more advanced IR-2 centrifuges, which can enrich uranium between three and five times faster than the older model. 
  5. In return, American would ease economic sanctions, possibly…

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Counseling Related Questions: Does the Bible Mention Schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is mentioned nowhere explicitly in the Bible. Schizophrenia is a psychological disorder characterized most commonly by hearing voices and having hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking, and, at times, paranoia. Often mistaken for what was once called split personality/multiple personality disorder, schizophrenia is not associated with dissociative identity disorder. The symptoms can range from mild to severe and chronic. In most cases it is a debilitating affliction that causes disruption to one’s quality of life and ability to function. It is considered a psychotic disorder by the mental health field and is usually treated with psychotropic medications. The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown, as there is no physical test that can determine the source of the problem. The behavioral manifestations are the primary criteria for a diagnosis. Speculation about schizophrenia’s cause has led to a debate over how Christians should view the disorder in light of scriptural truths.

Medical research has theorized there are conditions present in the brain causing schizophrenia. Some research suggests that there are abnormalities similar to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The cause of these problems is still unknown; they could be a result of the disorder rather than a precipitating cause. However, genetics is theorized to play a role. Another variable is drug abuse. Many illicit drugs produce the same symptoms as schizophrenia. It is possible these drugs leave permanent brain dysfunction and lead to problems with thinking and perception.

There are also those who believe schizophrenia is spiritual in nature, as in demon possession. This idea comes from the Bible’s accounts of people whose symptoms appear to mirror schizophrenia. While demon possession is possible in some cases, it is unlikely to be the cause for the majority. Schizophrenics do not have a reaction to the name of Jesus, nor do they possess supernatural knowledge. Also, when the biblical accounts are carefully compared to cases of schizophrenia, the symptoms do not truly look the same (see Luke 4:41).

As with all mental health issues, schizophrenia might have several causes that are unique to each person. Although symptoms may be the same, the causes can differ. That is why it is important not to pigeonhole people with the diagnosis into “spiritual” or “physical” categories. Furthermore, while some patients may be guilty of malingering (faking or exaggerating their symptoms), that does not mean the problem is not very real for others.

Believers should be filled with compassion for those suffering from schizophrenia. We can think of it as a prison of the mind. People with schizophrenia and their families typically lack support from both the Christian and medical communities because neither has all the answers. Because the disorder has no definite scientific explanation, Christians often blame sin and withdraw from the schizophrenic and his loved ones. The church should minister to everyone, including persons with schizophrenia and their families. Those who struggle with mental illness should be considered part of a mission field. They need the gospel to help them understand where God fits into the picture and that there is hope in Jesus.

Although the Bible does not specifically address brain or psychological problems, it does refer to people being healed of all types of maladies. The Lord works not only through miracles, but also through medications, surgeries, counseling, and environmental changes. He does not want anyone to remain in hopeless suffering, and He calls all to come to Him with their burdens to find life (Matthew 11:28–30). The Lord also calls His children to extend love and the gospel to those who hurt, especially those who are the most vulnerable (James 2:1–4). The Bible says anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13). Those who suffer with schizophrenia can have hope in Jesus for life more abundant (John 10:9–11). The Lord can use all things for their good.[1]

 


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

Bible Commentary: How Should We Understand the Lion and the Lamb Passage?

Typically, when someone is thinking of the “lion and the lamb,” Isaiah 11:6 is in mind due to it often being misquoted, “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together …” The true “Lion and the Lamb” passage is Revelation 5:5–6. The Lion and the Lamb both refer to Jesus Christ. He is both the conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Lamb who was slain. The Lion and the Lamb are descriptions of two aspects of the nature of Christ. As the Lion of Judah, He fulfills the prophecy of Genesis 49:9 and is the Messiah who would come from the tribe of Judah. As the Lamb of God, He is the perfect and ultimate sacrifice for sin.

The scene of this passage is the heavenly throne room (Revelation 4–5). After receiving the command to write to the seven churches in Asia Minor, John is “caught up in the spirit” to the throne room in heaven where he is to receive a series of visions that culminate in the ultimate victory of Christ at the end of the age. Revelation 4 shows us the endless praise that God receives from the angels and the 24 elders. Chapter 5 begins with John noticing that there is a scroll in the “right hand of him who was seated on the throne.” The scroll has writing on the inside and is sealed with seven seals.

After giving us a description of the scroll, an angel proclaims with a loud voice “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” John begins to despair when no one comes forth to answer the angel’s challenge. One of the 24 elders encourages John to “weep no more,” and points out that the Lion of the tribe of Judah has come to take and open the scroll. The Lion of the tribe of Judah is obviously a reference to Christ. The image of the lion is meant to convey kingship. Jesus is worthy to receive and open the scroll because he is the King of God’s people.

Back in Genesis 49:9, when Jacob was blessing his sons, Judah is referred to as a “lion’s cub,” and in v. 10 we learn that the “scepter shall not depart from Judah.” The scepter is a symbol of lordship and power. This was a prophecy that in Israel the kingly line would be descended from Judah. That prophecy was fulfilled when David succeeded to the throne after the death of King Saul (2 Samuel). David was descended from the line of Judah and his descendents were the kings in Israel/Judah until the time of the Babylonian captivity in 586 BC.

This imagery of kingship is further enhanced when Jesus is described as the “root of David.” This harkens us back to the words of Isaiah the prophet: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit … In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:1, 10). By calling Jesus the root of David, He is not only being identified as a descendant of David, but also the source or “root” of David’s kingly power.

Why is Jesus worthy to open the scroll? He is worthy because He “has conquered.” We know that when Jesus returns, He will conquer all of God’s enemies, as graphically described in Revelation 19. However, more importantly, Jesus is worthy because He has conquered sin and death at the cross. The cross was the ultimate victory of God over the forces of sin and evil. The events that occur at the return of Christ are the “mop up” job to finish what was started at the cross. Because Jesus secured the ultimate victory at Calvary, He is worthy to receive and open the scroll which contains the righteous judgment of God.

Christ’s victory at the cross is symbolized by his appearance as a “Lamb standing, as though it had been slain.” Prior to the exodus from Egypt, the Israelites were commanded by God to take an unblemished lamb, slay it, and smear its blood on the doorposts of their homes (Exodus 12:1–7). The blood of the slain lamb would set apart the people of Israel from the people of Egypt when the death angel came during the night to slay the firstborn of the land. Those who had the blood of the lamb would be spared. Fast forward to the days of John the Baptist. When he sees Jesus approaching him, he declares to all present, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus is the ultimate “Passover lamb” who saves His people from eternal death.

So when Jesus is referred to as the Lion and the Lamb, we are to see Him as not only the conquering King who will slay the enemies of God at His return, but also as the sacrificial Lamb who took away the reproach of sin from His people so they may share in His ultimate victory.[1]

 


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

How China Can Cause The Death Of The Dollar And The Entire U.S. Financial System

The death of the dollar is coming, and it will probably be China that pulls the trigger. What you are about to read is understood by only a very small fraction of all Americans. Right now, the U.S. dollar is the de facto reserve currency of the planet. Most global trade is conducted in U.S. dollars, and almost all oil is sold for U.S. dollars. More than 60 percent of all global foreign exchange reserves are held in U.S. dollars, and far more U.S. dollars are actually used outside of the United States than inside of it. As will be described below, this has given the United States some tremendous economic advantages, and most Americans have no idea how much their current standard of living depends on the dollar remaining the reserve currency of the world. Unfortunately, thanks to reckless money printing by the Federal Reserve and the reckless accumulation of debt by the federal government, the status of the dollar as the reserve currency of the world is now in great jeopardy. (Read More….)

Laodicean Con Man Joel Osteen Releases ‘Your Best Life Now’ Board Game

Joel Osteen preaches “another gospel”. A gospel designed to delight the hearer and tickle their ears. He is to bible preaching what Coca Cola and cotton candy are to a balanced diet – deadly. His “words of wisdom” have more in common with eastern mysticism than they do with the gospel of Jesus Christ. He wants to to imagine all the carnal goodies your flesh desires, then speak affirming words to “bring them to you”.

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Obama Turns on Israel – Daniel Pipes

I wrote before the last presidential election that “Israel’s troubles will really begin” should Obama win second term. At Obama’s second inauguration, I predicted that he, “freed from re-election constraints, can finally express his early anti-Zionist views after a decade of political positioning. Watch for a markedly worse tone from the second Obama administration toward the third Netanyahu government.”

That moment is now upon us.

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How Low Can You Go? (Romans 1:32)

Romans 1:32

Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve those who practice them.

Over the years I have collected questions about the Christian life that I wish someone had answered for me when I was much younger. One is “Why can’t a person sin just a little bit?” I think this is an important question, because it is where most of us find ourselves much of the time. Most of us would not admit to wanting to sin in big ways, and we probably don’t. We know that sin is destructive. We do not want to make an utter shipwreck of our lives. But we wonder from time to time why we can’t sin “just a little bit.” God forbids all sin, of course. But surely all sins are not equally terrible. What would be so bad about our just dipping into sin now and then—to sort of satisfy our appetite for it, have our fling, and then get back out and go on with our “upright” Christian lives?

Having studied most of the first chapter of Romans carefully, we should know the answer to that question. The problem with just dipping into sin is that sin never stops at that point. The problem with sinning “just a little bit” is that each bit is followed by just a little bit more, until God has been banished from life’s horizons entirely and we have ruined everything.

The Downhill Path

The way this happens is spelled out in the second half of Romans 1 by a threefold repetition of the phrase “God gave them over,” which we have already studied. (It occurs in verses 24, 26, and 28.) Just before this, Paul has shown how we reject God. We reject God by suppressing the knowledge about him that we have received from nature and by allowing the God-like vacuum in our lives to be filled with substitutes. We do it by saying, in effect (though we often do not admit it even to ourselves), “God, we do not want you. We want you to get out of our lives and leave us alone. We want to do our own thing without your interference.”

So that is just what God does! God does not abandon us in the absolute sense, since this is still God’s world and we still have to live in it and conform to the laws of this world, whether we want to or not. But God does abandon us to our own devices in the sense that he withdraws his restraints. He allows us to go our own way, abandoning us judicially to sin’s consequences.

That path is definitely downhill!

It cannot be any other way, of course. If God is the source of all good, as the Bible declares him to be, then to abandon God is to abandon the good and to launch oneself on a path leading in progressive measure to all that is evil. If we will not have God, who is truth, we will find falsehood. If we will not seek God, who is holy, we will pursue perversions. If we will not have God, who is the source of all reality, we will have unreality. We will pursue fantasies and dreams and be disillusioned.

A review seems appropriate at this point. In declaring that God gives us over to our own devices, Paul describes a downhill slide that looks like this:

1. God gave them over to sexual impurity (v. 24). The reference is to fornication and adultery, which, Paul says, have two outcomes. First, they result in the degrading of our bodies. People who have had a variety of sexual partners often testify to this. Second, they result in exchanging what is good and true for what is bad and a deception. Paul calls it “a lie.” Again, many who have sought personal fulfillment through sexual experimentation testify that promises of the “liberated” life were deceptions. The promised satisfaction and fulfillment did not materialize.

2. God gave them over to shameful lusts (v. 26). This refers to perversions, chiefly male homosexuality and lesbianism, and it is a step downward from mere sexual experimentation. This is because, in addition to being merely sinful, these perversions are “unnatural.” That is, they are against nature. Bodies were not meant to function in these ways. Those who sin in these ways do so, therefore, not only against God’s revelation in the Old and New Testaments, but also against the very order of creation.

3. God gave them over to a depraved mind (v. 28). When we looked at this verse before, I asked why this is a step further down the ladder of abandonment by God than items one and two. After all, sins of the mind precede sins of the flesh; a person has to think sin before practicing it. So why should this be the third item, rather than the first?

The answer, as we saw earlier, is that this is not the kind of mental depravity Paul is thinking of. It is true that thoughts about evil generally precede evil actions. But here Paul is speaking about the kind of thought perversion that results in the person involved regarding what is good as what (to him or her) appears evil, and what is evil as what (to him or her) appears good. This brings us to the verse with which this great chapter of Romans ends, our text for this study. Verse 32 says of those who have sunk to this point, “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” The key word here is “approve.” It means that these people sanction both the evil and the evildoers.

Moral Insanity

This is insanity, of course—moral insanity. But it is important to see that this is exactly the point to which rejection of God and suppression of the truth about God lead us.

It is helpful at this point to think of the story of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, as told in the early chapters of Daniel. The theme of Daniel is the identity of the Most High God, and it is established early in the book when we are told that after Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Jerusalem, he carried articles from the temple of God in Jerusalem “to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put [them] in the treasure house of his god” (Dan. 1:2). This was a way of saying that, in Nebuchadnezzar’s opinion, his god was stronger than the Jewish God. And so it seemed! Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Jerusalem. He did not understand that God had used him merely as an instrument of judgment upon his disobedient people, as he had repeatedly said he would do.

But Nebuchadnezzar was not really interested in proving that his god was stronger than the Jews’ God; he was not all that religious. Nebuchadnezzar’s god was only a projection of himself, an alter ego, and the real struggle of the book is therefore actually between Nebuchadnezzar himself and Jehovah. In other words, it is exactly the struggle that Paul depicts in Romans as being between sinful humanity and God. Nebuchadnezzar did not want to acknowledge God, precisely what Paul says we do not want to do. He wanted to run his own life, achieve what he wanted to achieve and then claim the glory for himself for those achievements.

The climax of his rebellion, recorded in Daniel 4, came when Nebuchadnezzar looked over Babylon from the roof of his palace and claimed the glory of God for himself, saying, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30). This is the cry of the secular humanist. It describes life as of man, by man, and for man’s glory.

The point for which I introduce this illustration comes now, in the nature of the judgment pronounced upon this powerful but arrogant emperor. Sometimes, when we think of God’s dispensing of judgments, we think of him as acting somewhat arbitrarily, as if he were merely going down a list of punishments to see what punishment he has left for some special sinner. “Let’s see now,” he might muse. “Nebuchadnezzar? What will it be? Not leprosy, not kidney stones, not paralysis, not goiter. Ah, here it is: insanity. That’s what I’ll use with Nebuchadnezzar.” We may think that is what happened, when we read about the voice “from heaven” that declared: “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes” (Dan. 4:31–32).

But this is not the way it happened. God is not arbitrary. He does not operate by sorting through a list of options. Everything God does is significant. So when God caused Nebuchadnezzar to be lowered from the pinnacle of human pride and glory to the baseness of insanity, it was God’s way of saying that this is what happens to all who suppress the truth about God and take the glory of God for themselves. The path is not uphill. It is downhill, and it ends in that moral insanity by which we declare what is good to be evil, and what is evil to be good.

Bestial Behavior

But it is not only insanity that we see in the case of Nebuchadnezzar. We see a dramatization of bestial behavior, too, in the words decreeing that Nebuchadnezzar would “live with the wild animals [and] eat grass like cattle.” Indeed, what came to pass was even worse. We are told that “he was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird” (Dan. 4:33). It is a horrible picture. But it is merely a dramatic Old Testament way of describing what Paul is saying in Romans: If we will not have God, we will not become like God (“like God, knowing good and evil,” Gen. 3:5); on the contrary, we will become like and live like animals.

At this point I always think of Psalm 8, verses 4 through 7, which say:

When I consider your heavens,

the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars.

which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him,

the son of man that you care for him?

You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings

and crowned him with glory and honor.

You made him ruler over the works of your hands;

you put everything under his feet:

all flocks and herds,

and the beasts of the field.

These verses fix man at a very interesting place in the created order: lower than the angels, or heavenly beings, but higher than the animals— somewhere between. This is what Thomas Aquinas saw when he described man as a mediating being. He is like the angels in that he has a soul. But he is like the beasts in that he has a body. The angels have souls but not bodies, while the animals have bodies but not souls.

But here is the point. Although man is a mediating being, created to be somewhere between the angels and the animals, in Psalm 8 he is nevertheless described as being somewhat lower than the angels rather than as being somewhat higher than the beasts. In other words, although between the angels and the beasts, man is nevertheless destined to look, not downward to the beasts, but upward to the angels and beyond the heavenly beings to God, becoming increasingly like him. If he will not look up and thus become increasingly like God, he will inevitably look down and become like the animals. Like Nebuchadnezzar, he will become beastlike.

Over the last ten or so years I have noticed something very interesting about our culture. I have noticed a number of articles (and sometimes books) that have tended to justify or at least explain bestial human behavior on the ground that we are, after all, “just animals.” We have perversions, but—well, the animals have perversions, too.

Some time ago an article appeared in a scientific journal about a certain kind of duck. Two scientists had been observing a family of these ducks, and they reported something that they called “gang rape” in this duck family. I am sure they did not want to excuse this crime among humans by the inevitable comparison they were making. But I think their point was that gang rape among humans is at least understandable, given our animal ancestry. These scientists had an evolutionary, naturalistic background, and I think they were saying, “After all, gang rape is not that surprising when you consider that even the ducks do it.”

A story of a similar nature appeared in the September 6, 1982, issue of Newsweek magazine. It was accompanied by a picture of a baboon presumably killing an infant baboon, and over this there was a headline which read: “Biologists Say Infanticide Is as Normal as the Sex Drive—And That Most Animals, Including Man, Practice It.” The title says everything. It identifies man as an animal, and it justifies his behavior on the basis of this identification. The logic goes like this: (1) man is an animal; (2) animals kill their offspring; (3) therefore, it is all right (or at least understandable) that human beings kill their offspring. But, of course, the argument is fallacious. Most animals do not kill their offspring. They protect their young and care for them. And even if, in a few rare instances, some animals do kill their young, this is still nothing to compare to the crimes regarding the young of which human beings are capable. In this country alone, for example, we kill over one and a half million babies each year by abortion—in most instances, simply for the convenience of the mother.

Worse Than the Animals

I want to take this a step further, however, and to do that I share the following story. Dr. John Gerstner, Professor Emeritus of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, was teaching about the depravity of man, and to make his point he compared men and women to rats. After he had finished his address there was a question-and-answer period, and someone who had been offended by the comparison asked Gerstner to apologize. Gerstner did. “I do apologize,” he said. “I apologize profusely. The comparison was terribly unfair … to the rats.” He then went on to show that what a rat does, it does by the gifts of God that make it ratlike. It does not sin. But we, when we behave like rats, behave worse than we should and even worse than rats. We are worse than “beasts” in our behavior.

Do ducks commit rape? I have never observed that particular family of ducks, and I do not know if they do or do not. Perhaps so. But I do know that if rape occurs in the animal world, it is uncommon. Not so with us. In the human race it is frightfully common. Or again, I do not know if baboons actually kill their young. They may. But they do not systematically murder them for their own convenience, as we do.

Is There a Bottom Rung?

Everything I have been describing to this point has concerned the downhill passage of the human race when it turns away from God, based on Romans 1:32, the last verse of this first great section of Paul’s letter. This verse describes the nadir of man’s fall. I have called it the lowest point, the worst point on the downward sliding scale.

But is it really the lowest point? Is it the bottom? Or is there a bottom? Is there a point beyond which sin will not go?

I have asked this last question from time to time in terms of our declining western culture—not so much in an absolute sense but in terms of the moral sensibilities of our nation. I have asked, “Is there a point at which we will pull back from our increasingly rapid decline and say, ‘This is where we stop; this is terrible; this is a point beyond which we will not go’?” Is there such a point in our culture?

If there is, it is certainly not adultery. We have plenty of that.

It is not prostitution. In fact, prostitution is actually legal in some places.

It is not pornography, though Christians have been opposing pornography effectively in some areas.

Where is the point beyond which our culture does not want to go?

I have noticed that in recent years there has been an attempt to define this point at the place where perversions impinge upon children. The argument would go, “It is not possible to forbid anything to adults as long as they want to do something or consent with each other to do it. But we must not allow these things to affect children. Pornography? Yes, but not child pornography. Prostitution? Yes, but not child prostitution.” That sounds good, of course. It gives us the feeling that we are both tolerant—God forbid that we should be intolerant—and moral. But it is sheer hypocrisy. I remember noticing, the first time I was beginning to think along these lines, that at the very time articles were appearing to protest against child pornography and child prostitution, a movie appeared starring Brooke Shields, who was only twelve years old at the time but who played the part of a child prostitute in a brothel in New Orleans at the turn of the century. It was called Pretty Baby. Certain elements of the media suggested that the young actress “matured” through her experience.

Do you see what I am saying? When we are sliding downhill we delude ourselves into thinking that we are only going to dip into sin a little bit or at least that there are points beyond which we will never go, lines we will never cross. But this is sheer fantasy. When we start down that downhill path, there are no points beyond which we will not go and no lines we will not choose to cross—if we live long enough. And even if we die, hell (as I commented in the previous study) is merely our continuing along this dismal, destructive, downhill path forever.

God’s Image Restored

I do not want to leave this section with us at the edge of this awful bottomless pit, however. It is true that our rejection of God has left us looking to the beasts and becoming increasingly like them—indeed, even worse than the beasts—and that left to ourselves there can be no end to this grim descent into depravity. But the gospel, for the sake of which Romans was written, tells us that God has not left us to ourselves. In Christ, he has acted to restore what we are intent on destroying.

I see this in five steps:

1.   We were made in God’s image.

2.   We rejected God in Adam and therefore lost that image; we became, not like God, knowing good and evil, but like Satan.

3.   Having lost the image of God and having ceased to become increasingly like him, we became like beasts and, as I have been pointing out here, even worse than beasts.

4.   Christ became like us, taking a human form upon himself.

5.   He died for us and opened up the possibility of our renewal after his image.

Paul writes about this in 2 Corinthians 3, first speaking of a veil that has come between ourselves and God, and then adding: “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.… And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (vv. 16, 18).

When we come to Christ, the question is not “How low can you go?” We are done with that. The question is “How high can you rise?” And to that question the answer also is: no limit. We are to become increasingly like the Lord Jesus Christ throughout eternity.[1]

 


[1] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: Justification by Faith (Vol. 1, pp. 193–200). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Lifting the Lid on Hell (Romans 1:29–31)

Romans 1:29–31

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

For several chapters we have been studying the most dreadful description of the sinful human race in all literature, the description provided by the apostle Paul in Romans 1:18–32. It began with the rejection of God by all people and has proceeded to God’s abandonment of us, as a result of which human beings rapidly fall into a horrible pit of depravity, to their own hurt and the hurt of others.

In the last verses of Romans 1, to which we come now, Paul rounds out his description by a catalogue of vices. It is a long list, containing twenty-one items. But how are we to handle this? How can we face such a devastating unmasking of ourselves? Some will not face it at all, of course. Indeed, even many preachers will not. These verses detail what theologians call “total depravity,” and people do not want to hear about that. So many preachers change their message to fit today’s cultural expectations. They speak of our goodness, the potential for human betterment, the comfort of the gospel—without speaking of that for which the gospel is the cure.

Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37, 39). But, as one writer says, “Man as sinner hates God, hates man, and hates himself. He would kill God if he could. He does kill his fellow man when he can. [And] he commits spiritual suicide every day of his life.”

The interesting thing about this, however, is that although the pulpit has been muted in its proclamation of the truth of man’s depravity, the secular writers have not. They write as if they have never met a good man or a virtuous woman. Psychiatrists say that if you scratch the surface and thus penetrate beneath the thin veneer of human culture and respectability, you “lift the lid of hell.”

All Kinds of Wickedness

At the beginning of this section Paul wrote that “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (v. 18). In that verse the second use of “wickedness” refers to man’s suppression of the truth about God. But at the beginning of the verse, where the term is used for the first time, “wickedness” is distinguished from “godlessness”; godlessness and wickedness are employed to designate two great categories of human evil. The first embraces all sins against God, that is, sins of the first table of the law. The second embraces the sins of man against man, those of the second table of the law. Generally speaking, it is the sins of “godlessness” that we have been looking at to this point; they are fundamental. However, in these last verses Paul lists examples of man’s “wickedness.”

1. Wickedness. It is probably to indicate that he is now moving to this second category of sins that Paul begins his catalogue of vices with this term. For “wickedness” in verse 29 is the same word that is used in verse 18. In Greek it is a composite negative term, made up of the positive word for “righteousness” (dikaios), preceded by the negative particle a, meaning “not.” Literally it means “not righteous,” or “unjust.” Since what is “right” is determined by the character or law of God, this term denotes everything that is opposed to that divine law or character. It embraces what follows.

2. Evil. The Greek word is ponēria, which is a general term for badness. One commentator says, “This refers to the general inclination to evil that reigned among the heathen and made them practice and take pleasure in vicious and unprofitable actions.” But, of course, it is not just the heathen who are evil, unless we rightly call everyone by that name. We, too, are evil.

3. Greed. In other places, this word (pleonexia) is translated “covetousness.” It is what God prohibits in the tenth of the Ten Commandments and what is nevertheless the apparent basis of our western economies. It is the desire always to want a little more. There is a proper kind of ambition, of course. There is a proper desire to improve oneself, particularly for the benefit of others. But that is not what is referred to by this term. It is “the passion for more,” the lust to advance oneself even at the expense of others.

4. Depravity. This word denotes that deliberate wickedness that delights in doing other people harm. It could be translated “maliciousness.”

As I have mentioned, there are twenty-one terms for evil in these verses, and these are just the first four. But these four belong together in Paul’s listing, since they are vices with which Paul says the human race is “filled.” What holds them together? They seem primarily to describe injustices that humans commit against the property of other people, and thus also against their well-being.

Hatred of One’s Fellowman

Having shown in the earlier part of this chapter of Romans that human beings hate God and would kill him if they could, Paul now shows how they also hate and attempt to destroy their fellows. In other words, the first four terms describe sins against the property and well-being of others. In the next five terms Paul details sins against the very persons of other human beings. The sins are: envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice.

5. Envy. Earlier Paul has spoken of “greed,” indicating that people never seem to be satisfied with what they have but instead clamor for more, often at the cost of others. Here he goes further. Envy is related to greed, but it goes beyond it, because it shows that the chief factor in our greed is jealousy over the fact that other people have more. Or worse! It is possible that they have less and that we are still greedy for what they have, simply because we envy them. In ancient Greece there was a man whose name was Aristides. He was a great man and was called “Aristides the Just.” But he was put on trial for something, as many just men were, and a citizen of Athens came to him not knowing who he was and asked him to vote for his own banishment. Aristides asked, “But what harm has Aristides done you?”

The man said, “None. I am just tired of hearing him called ‘Aristides the Just.’ ” That is envy in its most destructive form.

6. Murder. The Greek word for “murder” (phonou) sounds like the word for “envy” (phthonou), which is why they probably appear together so often in ancient texts. But they belong together naturally, too, since murder often flows from envy. Cain’s murder of his brother Abel, the first murder in history, is an example. “And why did he murder him?” John asks. “Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous” (1 John 3:12). Another early example is Lamech, who killed a young man who had injured him (perhaps only verbally) and then boasted about the deed (Gen. 4:23). We must remember here also that, according to Jesus, murder is not only the outward act of taking a life. It is also the hatred in the heart that leads to it (cf. Matt. 5:21–22).

7. Strife. The root meaning of this word is “debate.” But it came to mean the bad side of debate, which is contention, quarreling, or wrangling.

8. Deceit. Paul is going to return to this word in his summation of human depravity in chapter 3, saying in verse 13 that the “tongues” of the wicked practice this vice. It denotes outright treachery by which words are used to ensnare the unwary for the deceiver’s personal gain. Much of the business of the western world is carried on by this means.

9. Malice. This word is derived from two Greek words: kakos, which means “bad,” “evil,” “worthless,” or “pernicious” (we have it in our word cacophony, which is a bad or discordant sound) and ethos, which means “habit,” “custom” or “usage.” So the word has the idea of customary or habitual evil. The malicious person is one who is normally set against other people and is out to harm them.

The Central Sins

It is hard to group these vices to give logic to Paul’s treatment, and it may even be wrong to try to see meaningful groupings in his arrangement. Nevertheless, if the first four terms catalogue sins against the property or well-being of others, and the next five list sins against other persons, it may be that the next six terms are, as one commentator suggests, “those of which pride is the center.” They are certainly among the most harmful of these vices.

10. Gossips. Some words in every language sound like what they describe, and this is the case here. We have words like hiss, buzz, thump, and bang, for example. This Greek word is psithuristas, which sounds like a whisper and is, in fact, sometimes translated “whisperings.” It refers to the slanderous gossip that is often spread in secret and that is so harmful to another’s reputation. It is a deadly vice. It is interesting that the Hebrew word that denotes the murmuring of a snake charmer is translated in the Septuagint by the verb form of this very word: to whisper.

11. Slanderers. Slander carries gossip one step further, since gossip is unleashed in secret but slander is done openly. The Greek word literally means “to speak against” someone, or “defame” him.

12. God-haters. At first glance, this word seems to be out of place in this listing, because here we are dealing with man’s sins against man and “God-hater” seems more properly to belong in the earlier verses, in which man’s opposition to God was examined. For this reason some have taken the word in a passive sense, meaning “hated by God,” that is, as a term for hardened sinners. But surely it cannot mean that in a list of human vices. Actually, it does belong here, since it comes between the sin of slander and the sin of pride. It is as if Paul notes that in his “slander” man does not merely slander other human beings but is slandering God, too, not failing to speak even against the Almighty. That is the essence of insolence and arrogance, the next items the apostle mentions.

Not many people would admit that they hate God, choosing rather to think of themselves as rather tolerant of him. But nowhere do they show their hatred more than in their condescending attitudes. Scratch beneath the surface, allow something to come into their lives that they consider unwarranted or unfair, and their hatred of God immediately boils over. “How could God let this happen to me?” they demand. If they could, they would strangle him!

13. Insolent. This is the great Greek word hubris, which means “pride.” But it is a special kind of pride. It is pride that sets a human being up against God. The Greeks regarded this as the greatest of flaws, one the gods would not tolerate. No translation can convey all this in one English word, but the New International Version does a fair job when it renders it “insolent.”

14. Arrogant. Today people almost think of arrogance as a virtue, considering it a properly belligerent attitude toward hostile society. But it is rightly included in this list of vices. Arrogance rises from a feeling of personal superiority that regards others with haughtiness. Robert Haldane characterizes the word as describing those who are “puffed up with a high opinion of themselves” and who regard others “with contempt, as if they were unworthy of any intercourse with them.”

15. Boastful. Boasting is based on pride. It is to seek admiration by claiming to be or have what one actually is not or does not possess.

Creators of Evil

Up to this point all the vices mentioned are but one word in Greek. But now Paul seems to need two words each to describe the next evils: “inventors of evil things” (epheupetas kakōn) and “disobedient to parents” (goneusin apeitheis).

16. They invent ways of doing evil. Real creativity belongs to God alone, since at best we can only think his thoughts after him. But here, in an ironical way, Paul suggests that the one area in which our creativity excels is inventing new ways to do evil. The old ways are not enough for us. They are too slow, too ineffective, too unproductive, too dull. So we expend our efforts to make more. This was a term used by the author of 2 Maccabees to describe Antiochus Epiphanes and by Tacitus to describe Sejanus. It is this kind of invention that the psalm is speaking of when it says that people “provoked him [God] to anger with their inventions” (Ps. 106:29 kjv).

17. They disobey their parents. Few things more characterize our day than children’s utter disregard of their parents’ wishes. But this must have been common enough in antiquity, too, since so much is said against it in the Bible. The fifth of the Ten Commandments, the first of the second table, says: “Honor your father and your mother” (Exod. 20:12a). Paul refers to it in Ephesians, noting that it is the first commandment with a promise attached: “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Eph. 6:2).

Senseless, Faithless, Heartless, Ruthless

The Greek word for disobedience (the seventeenth vice listed) is a compound word beginning with the prefix a, meaning “not,” just like the term “not righteous” was used for “wickedness” in verse 29. That sound apparently stuck in Paul’s mind and led to a series of four similar terms, which conclude this devastating catalogue: asynetous, asynthetous, astorgous, and aneleēmonas. The New International Version captures a bit of this flavor by rendering the four terms as: senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

18. Senseless. To most of us “senseless” probably means unconscious, but that is not the thought here. “Without understanding” is a fuller translation, but even so we need to make clear the kind of lack of understanding we mean. Haldane has it right in saying that “the persons so described were not destitute of understanding as to the things of this world.” As to these they might be “most intelligent and enlightened.” Rather it was “in a moral sense, or as respects the things of God, [that] they were unintelligent and stupid.… All men are by nature undiscerning as to the things of God, and to this there never was an exception.”

19. Faithless. This word is not built on the Greek word for faith (pistis), which has to do with belief or trust in God. Rather, the root is tithēmi (“put” or “place”), and the term Paul uses actually has to do with breaking an appointment or covenant. “Breaking faith” is the idea. It means that what people solemnly commit themselves to cannot be trusted.

20. Heartless. This word literally means “without natural affection.” It can be seen in the mother who intentionally aborts or abandons her child or the father who abandons his family.

21. Ruthless. The Greek word means “without mercy.” Godet writes, “It calls up before the mind the entire population of the great cities flocking to the circus to behold the fights of gladiators, frantically applauding the effusion of human blood, and gloating over the dying agonies of the vanquished combatant. Such is an example of the unspeakable hardness of heart to which the whole society of the Gentile world descended.” Ah, but it was not only in the ancient world that people lacked mercy. Ours is a particularly ruthless age. We tend to think that others are unmerciful, particularly when they deal harshly with us. But the truth is that cruelty is at the heart of even the most gentle human being.

One commentator observes that as we scan these lists, “we cannot but be impressed with the apostle’s insight into the depravity of human nature as apostatized from God, the severity of his assessment of these moral conditions, and the breadth of his knowledge respecting the concrete ways in which human depravity came to expression.”

The Road to Hell

I began this section by saying that it is hard to imagine anything more horrible than this great catalogue of human vices, not merely because they are horrible in themselves, but also because they are with us everywhere. To study a list like this does not mean that every individual is equally guilty of each vice or that there have not been periods of history when they have been either more or less prominent. But, at best, these are all just below the surface of our respectability, and they quickly become apparent whenever you cross our sinful human nature or scratch this surface.

Yet, horrible as this is, it is only a foretaste of what hell itself will be like. For hell is only what is described in these verses, going on and on for eternity. Lloyd-Jones writes, “Hell is a condition in which life is lived away from God and all the restraints of God’s holiness.” That is precisely what is described in this passage. The basic point is that the human race has chosen to go its way without God and that as a result of this choice God has abandoned the race to the result of its own sinful choices. We have made earth a hell! And we will carry that hell with us into hell, making hell even more hellish than it is already! We and hell itself will go on becoming more and more hell-like for eternity.

Oh, the horror of our choice!

Oh, the glory of the gospel!

A few weeks before I preached this study, after my earlier sermon on “The Psychology of Atheism,” I was roundly chastised in a local paper for preaching such a harsh message, as if I had no word of love in my teaching. It may have been that the love of God was not as apparent in that message as it might have been, and if so, I need to correct that fault. But I do know that it is only an awareness of the horror of our sin that ever leads us to appreciate the gospel when we hear it. What if we think we are basically all right before God? What if we think ourselves good? Then we think we do not need the gospel. We think we can do without God, which is exactly what these verses are describing.

When our blinders are stripped off and the depravity of the race—to which we contribute—is unfolded before us, the glory of the gospel bursts forth, and Romans 1:16 and 17 becomes for us what Martin Luther found it to be for him, namely, “the door to Paradise.” The gospel is then seen to be “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes”—no matter how sinful, no matter how corrupt.

We do not deserve this gospel. How could we? We could not even invent it. But because God is not like us—because he is not “wicked,” “evil,” “greedy,” “depraved,” “envious,” “senseless,” “faithless,” “heartless,” “ruthless,” or anything else that is bad—he not only could invent it, he did![1]

 


[1] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: Justification by Faith (Vol. 1, pp. 185–192). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

God Gave Them Up (Romans 1:24-28)

Romans 1:24–28

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.

I do not know whether Oscar Wilde was reflecting more on the divine nature or human nature in saying, “When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers.” But, according to the Book of Romans, he may well have been doing both, and have been correct in both instances.

Thus far in our study of Romans we have been concentrating on human rebellion against God, and we have seen—indeed, Paul has explicitly told us—that the wrath of God “is being revealed from heaven” against men and women because of this rebellion. In what way is God showing wrath? It is clear what we have done. We have (1) suppressed the truth about God; (2) refused to glorify, or worship, God as God; and (3) declined to be thankful. As a result human beings have become “darkened” in their thinking. We have become fools. Nevertheless, up to this point we have not been told specifically of anything that God has actually done to unleash his wrath upon humanity. Now this changes. For the first time in the letter we are told—three times in succession—that God has abandoned men and women to perversion. The sentence says, “God gave them over.” It is found in verses 24, 26, and 28.

But here is the irony. And here is why I quoted Oscar Wilde. Man’s punishment is to be abandoned by God. But, of course, this is precisely what man has been fighting for ever since Adam’s first rebellion in the Garden of Eden. Man has wanted to get rid of God, to push him out of his life. In contemporary terms he is saying, “God, I just want you to leave me alone. Take a seat on that chair over there. Shut up, and let me get on with my life as I want to live it.”

And so God does!

Like the father of the Prodigal Son, he releases the rebellious child, permitting him to depart with all his many possessions and goods for the far country.

Adrift in God’s Universe

Well! Isn’t that what we want? Yes, it is what we think we want. But the problem is that it doesn’t turn out as we anticipate. In fact, it turns out exactly the reverse. We think of God as a miser of happiness, keeping back from us all that would make us happy. We think that by running away from him we will be happy, wild, and free. But it doesn’t work that way. Instead of happiness we find misery. Instead of freedom we find the debilitating bondage of sin.

Many who have studied the Bible for a long time know the phrase I have quoted in the King James wording, but this is a case in which the modern translations do better in capturing the meaning for our day. The King James Version of the Bible used the words “God gave them up” at this point. The King James translators knew what they meant, of course. They meant a judicial abandonment of the human race to the consequences of its rebellion. But, unfortunately, for most of us today those words sound like a simple hands-off policy in which men and women really are freed up to pursue and practice whatever they think will please them. That is not quite the idea. “God gave them up” sounds as if God simply let people drift off to nowhere, like releasing a porcelain pitcher in space. The actual idea is seen much better in the New International Version. For it is not that God gives the human race up to nothing, but rather that he gives it over to the consequences of the rebellious, sinful directions it has taken.

It is like releasing the porcelain pitcher on earth rather than in space. When you let go of the pitcher it does not drift off into nowhere. You release it from your hand to the law of gravity, and when you do that it falls downward and breaks—if the fall is far enough and the ground hard.

The reason for this is in the very nature of things, and in the fact that what they are can never be otherwise. We need to see this. If you or I were God, then we could get away with the kind of rebellion or sin without consequences that we seem to want. We could make the universe run the way we want it. But we cannot do that. The universe with all its laws, physical and moral, is a given—because God is a given. Since God can never be other than he is, the universe will always be as it is. And this means that when you and I rebel against God, we must by the very nature of the case do it on God’s terms and according to God’s laws rather than our own. When we run away from God we think our way will be uphill, because we want it to be so. But the way is actually downhill. We are pulled down by the law of moral gravity—when God lets go.

The Downhill Slope

What happens is illustrated in the case of Jonah, the prophet who tried to run away from God. He rejected God’s call for him to go and preach to Nineveh and instead set off for Tarshish at the far end of the Mediterranean. But he didn’t get where he was going, and his path was constantly downhill until God turned him around and got him going to Nineveh. In the King James Bible, which makes this point a bit neater than the New International Version, we are told four times over that the prophet’s path was downhill. We read that he went “down to Joppa” and that when he found a ship bound for Tarshish he went “down into it” (Jonah 1:3). Then we are told that he had gone “down into the sides of the ship” (v. 5). Still later, after he had been cast overboard, he recounted the experience, saying, “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains” (Jonah 2:6). (The italics are mine.)

Down! Down! Down! Down! It is a sad life history, but it is the experience of all who run from God, and Paul says all men and women do run from God, trying to rearrange the universe to fit their own desires.

In Romans, Paul marks this downward lemming-like rush of the human race in three stages.

1. “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another” (v. 24). I do not know why, when he set out to trace this downward moral path of human beings, the apostle Paul concentrated on sexual sins, since he could clearly have chosen other sins as well. Perhaps it is because sexual sins are so visible (sins of the spirit are harder to detect) or because the damage in this area is so evident or because this was the obvious, stinking cesspool of corruption in his day and, therefore, something those to whom he was writing would clearly understand. Whatever the reason—and there may be even more reasons than these—it is an excellent example.

Sex is a wonderful gift, a gift imparted to the human race by God. It is a gift to be enjoyed. But it is be enjoyed within the bonds of marriage, not outside of marriage and, above all, not in casual entanglements. If it is, the result is always what Paul declares it will be, namely, “impurity” and the “degrading” of one’s body.

It is evident that hardly anything in Romans 1 is more contemporary so far as our own culture is concerned. Today we are witnessing a frantic pursuit of pleasure that has been called rightly, even by the secular media, “the new hedonism.” That is, ours is seemingly a culture in which casual sex and every other kind of casual pleasure is an ideal. And it is an ideal that has been actualized by many! With what results? At the start of this path the Prodigal Son would no doubt extol it for its freedoms. He would speak of being free to think new thoughts, have new experiences, and shake off all that old inhibiting sense of guilt that bound him previously. But, given time, the feeling changes, and the one who is running away comes inevitably to feel used, taken advantage of, dirty, and betrayed.

Not long ago CBS television ran an hour-long special on the freewheeling lifestyle in California, interviewing particularly many women who had been caught up in it. Interestingly, their nearly universal opinion was that they had been betrayed by the sexual revolution. As one woman said, “All men want from us is our bodies; we have had enough of that to last a lifetime.”

Isn’t it the case that these women were expressing precisely what Paul says in verse 25, when he observes that those who act this way “have exchanged the truth of God for a lie”? Let’s say it clearly, as the world is beginning to recognize: The “new hedonism” and the “sexual revolution” are a deception!

But there is more. There is a second downhill step on this path.…

2. “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion” (vv. 26–27).

I wrote a moment ago that there is nothing more contemporary in terms of today’s culture than Paul’s description of a declining society in this great first chapter of Romans. This has been clear already in terms of today’s forms of hedonism and the sexual revolution. Unfortunately, the decline becomes even more apparent as Paul, with almost shocking candor, begins to talk about sexual perversions, namely, lesbianism and male homosexuality. For centuries these matters were hardly spoken of in western society. Although some were no doubt practicing these acts, they were considered so reprehensible that a moral person not only was not to speak about them, but he or she was not even to know what such vices involved. But today? Today they are written about with explicit detail in virtually every newspaper and magazine in our land. Grade-school children discuss them. Not only are we not shocked—but we have become complacent, as if this were a natural expression of an upright spirit.

“Natural” is the important word here—Paul uses it in verse 27, and the opposite term, “unnatural,” in verse 26—because it explains why this stage is a further step along the downward moral path.

Let me elaborate on that statement. Fornication and adultery (which are in view in verse 24) are not “unnatural” sins, for they are not against nature. Of course, they are true sins, for they break the moral law of God. They result in “impurity” and in the “degrading” of our bodies, as Paul says. But they are not unnatural. On the contrary, they are in one sense quite natural. They are accomplished by using one’s body in a natural way. Not so with homosexuality! Homosexuality is “unnatural,” and it is accomplished by using one’s body in an unnatural way, that is, against nature. In the first case, we may well need the Bible to tell us that fornication is wrong. The popular song asks, “How can it be wrong when it seems so right?” But in the case of homosexuality we do not even need this special revelation. A look at one’s sexual apparatus should convince anyone that practices of this kind are not normal. They were not meant to be.

Perhaps this is why at this point, and at no other point in his discussion of the results of our rebellion, Paul speaks of a specific judgment of God upon the sin itself: “Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion” (v. 27). Up to this point Paul has not been saying that God punishes these or other particular sins with particular penalties, but rather that the abandonment of human beings to the committing of the sin is itself the punishment. That is, God punishes you by letting you do what you want. But not here, at least not only that. Here Paul speaks of a particular penalty “received in themselves” by those who sin in this way.

Is Paul speaking of AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome)? No! He had never heard of AIDS, though he was probably thinking at least in part of other sexual diseases. But the point is irrelevant. What Paul is saying is that sin does and will have consequences, and “unnatural” sins will have particularly “unnatural” consequences.

Indeed, it is not only Paul who would say this. Not long ago Time magazine ran a cover story on AIDS, called “The Big Chill: Fear of AIDS,” in which even this obviously secular magazine spoke religiously. It spoke of AIDS as “a vague sort of retribution, an Old Testament-style revenge.” It quoted novelist Erica Jong, author of Fear of Flying and a former high priestess of sexual abandon, as saying, “It’s hard enough to find attractive single men without having to quiz them on their history of bisexuality and drug use, demand blood test results and thrust condoms into their hands. Wouldn’t it be easier to give up sex altogether and join some religious order?” Time also quoted a Los Angeles entertainment writer: “AIDS pushes monogamy right back up there on the priority list.”

Why is this? Why are even secular magazines and newspapers beginning to sound like prophets? It is because of the given, because of the unchangeable physical and moral character of the universe in which we live. We may not like it; most of us don’t. We would change it if we could. But we cannot. It is God’s universe. It does not change. Therefore, the only wise thing is to come to terms with it, repent of sin, and come back to God in the way he has provided: through faith in the sacrifice of himself for us by Jesus Christ.

Yet there is something more…

3. “Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done” (v. 28). The first time I began to think about this threefold repetition of the sentence “God gave them over” in this section of Romans, it seemed to me that at this point something was apparently wrong with the order. Paul is tracing a downward declining path, resulting from humanity’s rebellion against God, yet here the order doesn’t seem to be downward. We can understand that when men and women abandoned God, God abandoned them: first, to sexual impurity and, second, to sexual perversions. That is surely downhill. But now we find that God abandons them “to a depraved mind.” Isn’t that something that should have come first? Doesn’t sin originate in the mind? Shouldn’t the third of these consequences have been listed first, before the other two consequences?

I was puzzled by this sequence until I realized that the “depraved mind” about which Paul is writing is not just any sinful mind—he has earlier talked about the generally foolish minds and generally darkened hearts of human beings—but about the specifically “depraved mind” created by continuing down this awful path for a lifetime. At the end is a mind not merely foolish or in error, but totally depraved. It is a mind so depraved that it begins to think that what is bad is actually good and that what is good is actually bad. May I say it? It is the mind of the devil, which is what Adam chose to pursue when he followed the dangling carrot: “You will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Adam did not become “like God,” knowing good and evil; he became “like Satan.” And, being like Satan, in time he came to call the good bad and the bad good. How else can one explain man’s continual flight from him from whom alone all good gifts come (cf. James 1:17)?

The evidence of this bottom stage of depravity is disclosed in verse 32, the end of Romans 1: “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” The new word here is “approve.” It is not only that people do what is sinful. A person might do that, be ashamed of his or her action, and then repent of it. But here, at the very end of this awful downhill path of judicial abandonment described in this chapter of Romans, the individuals involved actually come to approve of what is evil.

How do you appeal for good to a person who has become like that? Every argument you could possibly use would be reversed. The case is hopeless.

“How Can I Give You Up?”

Hopeless? Yes, but not for God. For if it were, why would Paul even be writing this letter? As a matter of fact, if it were hopeless, he would not be writing it, for he was one of the most hopeless cases of all, as he reminds us several times in his epistles.

We are focusing here on the idea that “God gave them up.” The way I want to state this is to say that although in a sense God has certainly given the race over to the natural outworkings of its rebellious ways—a judgment we see about us on all hands—in another sense God has not “given up” at all. At least he has not given up on those on whom he has set his affection. I think of the way in which he speaks through Hosea to the sinful nation of Israel:

“How can I give you up, Ephraim?

How can I hand you over, Israel?

How can I treat you like Admah?

How can I make you like Zeboiim?

My heart is changed within me;

all my compassion is aroused.

I will not carry out my fierce anger,

nor devastate Ephraim again.”

Hosea 11:8–9

If God actually did give up on humanity forever, all would be hopeless. The Lord Jesus Christ would not have come. He would not have died for our sin. There would be no gospel. But that is not the case. Jesus did come. There is a gospel. The way back to the eternal, sovereign, holy God is open. This is the Good News. Hallelujah!

And need I say more? If there is the gospel, if this is still the age of God’s grace, if God has not given up on us ultimately and forever—though he will eventually do that for some one day—then we are not to give up on other people either. How can we, if we have tasted the elixir of grace ourselves?

We tend to give up, at least if the sin of the one we are abandoning is different from our own. We think of others as too far gone, or as having sinned beyond the point of a genuine repentance. Or, terrible as it is, we think of their sin as proof, evidence, that God has abandoned them forever. Many have done that with homosexuals. They regard AIDS as the kind of divine judgment on this sin that precludes our having any pity on the victims or working to bring them the only salvation they can know. Is AIDS a judgment? I believe it is, just like many other consequences of sin. But it is not the final judgment. And until that final judgment breaks forth on our race, it is still the day of grace in which all who know the Good News and are obeying the voice of Christ in taking it to the lost can be hopeful.

Someone once spoke to John Newton, the man who had been a slave trader and a “slave to slaves” earlier in his life, about a person he regarded as a hopeless case. He despaired of him. Newton replied, “I have never despaired for any man since God saved me.” We should not despair either. The consequences of sin are dreadful. But they alone, if nothing else, should compel us forward as agents of God’s great grace and reconciliation.[1]

 


[1] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: Justification by Faith (Vol. 1, pp. 177–184). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Theology: GOD IS OMNIPRESENT

 

Omnipresent means that God is present everywhere there is at any given moment. God is simultaneously everywhere at once and is present at all times.

 

Many years ago when I was young and foolish I went squealing around a corner and took off down the highway. That night my dad very casually said, “Where were you going in such a hurry this noon when you were heading east on Highway 30?” I had to wonder if he were omnipresent. I didn’t know where he was, but was sure that I didn’t think he was anywhere near when I was speeding.

 

 

God is everywhere in the universe present at the same time. The deist may hold to omnipresence however He will see God’s presence as far off while He is omnipresent in his effect on the creation.

 

Anselm stated, “Nothing contains thee, but thou containest all things,” (quoted by Shedd, William G.T.; “Dogmatic Theology”; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984, p 340)

 

Augustine mentions that God “is not at some particular place. For what is at some particular place is contained in space; and what is contained in some space is body. And yet because God exists and is not in space, all things are in him. Yet not so in him, as if he himself were a place in which they are.” (Shedd, p 341) How would you like to be a member of his congregation and trying to take notes?

 

Pardington, “He is present everywhere and there is no point in the universe where He is not” (Quoting Farr, Pardington, Revelation George P. Ph.D.; “Outline Studies In Christian Doctrine”; Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1926, p 86) I’d add there is no point outside the universe where He is not.

 

Bancroft mentions, “He is present everywhere, and there is no point in the universe where He is not.” (Taken from the book, Elemental Theology by Emery H. Bancroft. Copyright 1977 by Baptist Bible College. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. p 87) Sound familiar? It is the same as Pardington’s quote from Farr.

 

Strong, “By this [omnipresence] we mean that God, in the totality of his essence, without diffusion, or expansion, multiplication or division, penetrates and fills the universe in all its parts.” (Strong, Augustus H.. “Systematic Theology”; Valley Forge, PA: The Judson Press, 1907, p 279)

 

Do you agree with these Definitions? Let us consider the facts for a few moments.

 

1. Is He not larger than the universe? We don’t know the limits of the universe but most assume there are limits. God, if there are limits to the universe is everywhere in the universe, and outside the universe as well.

 

2. Do you agree with the statement that God is everywhere there is to be? How about within the nonbeliever? We believe that a demon can’t enter into the body of a believer because the Holy Spirit dwells there. Thus we must concede that quite probably the Spirit is not within the lost person. However, indwelling may well relate to His special manifestation while His presence is everywhere — even the nonbeliever. (He can be present in hell so this would be consistent. Christ descended to Sheol after the resurrection.)

 

The term “ubiquitous” may be a better word than omnipresence in that it has within its definition the idea of simultaneous presence everywhere. Ubiquitous relates to a being that is present everywhere at the same time.

 

My definition would be, God is totally unhindered by space or time and is in all places totally and completely at all times. His holiness limits his indwelling manifestation within the unrighteous, yet they are in Him.

(Acts 17:27,28)

 

He is everywhere present in totality. In other words his big toe isn’t in India and his heel in Japan.

 

1 Kings 8:27,

 

“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee;

how much less this house that I have builded?”

 

The very least we can draw from this text is that the highest heaven is above the heavens of the universe. We know that the throne of God is beyond the universe.

 

See also, 2 Chronicles 6:18, Psalm 139:7-10, Isaiah 66:1, Jeremiah 23:23,24, Acts 17:28, Hebrews 1:11, 12.

 

How do we explain the phrase in Genesis 11:7 which tells us that God came down to the tower of Babel? (“Come, let Us go down,” vs 5 also).

 

The answer is that God usually manifests Himself in some specific place. At that point in time He was in heaven. In the 40 years of wondering He was over the Ark of the Covenant. In the days of the Temple He was in the Holy of Holies. Another example is Matthew 6:9, “…..Our Father which art in heaven…..”

 

 

APPLICATION

 

1. If we are in Him and He is everywhere then there is no way that Satan can get us out. We are secure. This may be a doctrine that would help teach security of the believer. We are in Him so Satan can’t carry us away, nor can we exit on our own power. God is much more powerful than Satan or us.

 

2. If we really believed that He is with us and in us then, you would think that we would clean up our acts some. Many Christian’s lives do not reflect their belief in this doctrine.

 

3. If He is really this big then He is one to serve under, rather one to dictate to.

 

4. He is within us. We have a resident friend and strength.

 

“Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” John 14:23

 

5. It should be a warning to the lost. Amos 9:1-4 mentions the extent of God’s ability to find those that try to evade Him. vs. 2-4,

 

“Though they dig into hell, thence will I bring them down: And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence; and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them: And though they go into captivity before their enemies, thence will I command the sword, and it shall slay them: and I will set mine eyes upon them for evil, and not for good.” (Jonah 1:1-3 also.)

 

I would like to quote Bancroft at this point.

 

 

The parish priest of austerity Climbed up in a high church steeple, To be nearer God so that he might Hand His Word down to the people. And in sermon script he daily wrote What He thought was sent from heaven

And he dropt it down on the people’s heads Two times one day in seven.

In his age God said, “Come down and die,” And he cried out from the steeple,

“Where art Thou, Lord?” And the Lord replied,

“Down here among My people.”

 

(Taken from the book, Christian Theology by Emery H. Bancroft. Second revised edition Copyright 1976 by Baptist Bible College. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. p 80)

 

God is great, immense, limitless, and yet He desires to dwell among His people. Remember this as you seek to minister to them.[1]

 


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