Daily Archives: November 10, 2013

France scuttles disastrous U.S. nuclear deal with Iran at last minute. American delegation en route to Israel for high-level talks as crisis erupts in U.S.-Israel relations.

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

(Netanya, Israel) — It’s been a weekend of high drama and high tension on the Iran nuclear front — and in U.S.-Israel relations — and it’s not over yet.

On Friday and for much of Saturday, it seemed as if the U.S. was going to persuade the leaders of the P5+1 group to sign a disastrous “first-step” deal with Iran. The deal would have made enormous concessions but allowed Iran to keep enriching uranium, keep spinning their centrifuges, keep building advanced new centrifuges, and not being required to dismantle a single centrifuge.

Israel immediately and very publicly objected to the contours of the deal upon learning of the details on Friday afternoon. But a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli PM Netanyahu went so badly that the two weren’t able to hold a joint news conference before Kerry left Israel for Geneva in hopes of finalizing the deal.

The situation looked…

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Questions about Apologetics and Worldview: What Is Virtue Ethics?

Virtue ethics is one of the main categories of normative ethics. It teaches that moral behavior is directly linked to a virtuous life. An act cannot be ethical if it is performed by a corrupt character, and a virtuous person will naturally perform virtuous acts.

Unlike other secular schools of thought, virtue ethics explains exactly what is needed to perform a morally upright act. To be virtuous, a person will develop three specific characteristics. Arête is excellence in character that naturally exemplifies goodness, honesty, self-control, and other virtues. Pronesis is moral or practical wisdom that knows the right course to take in any circumstance. Edaimonia is a bit different. It isn’t an internal characteristic, but a good, flourishing life. Virtue ethics teaches that, by careful living, a person can develop all three qualities, thus embodying a character that is naturally moral, although external forces may damage or destroy edaimonia.

The Bible certainly promotes the development of an excellent, virtuous character. We have the example of Noah, “a righteous man, blameless in his time” (Genesis 6:9). Job 1:1 describes Job as “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.” And Luke 1:6 says Zacharias and Elizabeth were “both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.” But the Bible also teaches that no one is perfect. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And we cannot rely on ourselves to act properly, “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

The entire book of Proverbs is dedicated to the acquiring of pronesis. Proverbs 8:11 says, “For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with her.” However, wisdom is not something we can develop on our own. Wisdom is a gift from the Lord (Proverbs 2:6) and actually begins with reverence for the Lord (1:7).

Secular theories of ethics place a great amount of importance on happiness. Not giddy joy, but well-being and a fulfilled life. The pursuit of eudaimonia implies that the good life is necessary for a virtuous character. The Bible says otherwise. Romans 5:3–5 says, “We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” In other words, trials develop virtue. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33), and maybe that’s a good thing, if the hard times are what God uses to build our character. We can never be completely virtuous, and we cannot develop a virtuous character on our own (Hebrews 10:10). But virtue ethics is not far off when it says ethical behavior flows from a virtuous character. As Luke 6:43–45 says,

For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”[1]

 


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

Questions about Eternity: Will We Eat Food in Heaven?

Many people ask whether we will eat food in heaven because eating is not only necessary to stay alive, but it is also so very enjoyable! Because eating is enjoyable, many people conclude that what is enjoyable on earth (sex, family relationships, etc.) will naturally be present in heaven. Although the Bible does not give us a detailed answer to the question of eating food in heaven, a few observations from the Scriptures are in order.

It is interesting to note that when the Lord Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples shortly before His crucifixion, He referred to eating and drinking in the kingdom. “Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God’ ” (Mark 14:25). The earthly millennial kingdom is certainly in view here, and in that kingdom all who are His followers will have already received their resurrection bodies. It would appear from this statement that we, in our glorified bodies, will eat and drink in the millennial kingdom. But what about the heavenly kingdom?

When John the Apostle was given a vision of the New Jerusalem he was shown “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse …” (Revelation 22:1–3). The text does not say whether we will actually eat the fruit of the tree of life, but that is certainly possible.

If we will be eating in heaven, we don’t know for sure what the heavenly menu may contain, although it has been suggested that perhaps our diet will be like that of Adam and Eve in paradise before the fall. “And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food’ ” (Genesis 1:29).

In the end, we don’t really know if, or what, we will eat in heaven. Believers only “know in part” (1 Corinthians 13:9). The joys of being forever with our Savior who is the Bread of Life are beyond our limited abilities to comprehend for “… it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure” (1 John 3:2–3).[1]

 


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

Questions about Christianity: What Is the Salvation Army, and What Do They Believe?

The Salvation Army describes itself as “an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church with its own distinctive governance and practices.” Most people recognize the red-and-white shield of the Salvation Army as representing a social services organization that responds to disasters, feeds the homeless, and runs thrift stores. Many do not realize the underlying purpose of those efforts is rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Salvation Army was founded in 1865 by William Booth, who saw a great need for reaching the poor and destitute in England with the gospel of Jesus Christ (Luke 14:21). He began an evangelistic ministry on the streets, and as these people responded to the gospel, Booth directed them to the various churches and chapels in their neighborhoods. As these “undesirables” came into the very proper Victorian churches, they were often rejected because of their unorthodox dress and habits. To provide a place for them to worship and be discipled, William Booth founded the East London Christian Mission. When Booth was dictating a letter referencing believers as God’s army, the name “Salvation Army” was coined, and Booth began forming his mission in a military structure.

Booth named himself the General of the Salvation Army, and his wife, Catherine, was named “Mother of the Salvation Army.” From the beginning, women were given the same freedom and authority as men, and Catherine was an ordained minister in the organization. Ministers were given military officer ranks in keeping with their duties and experience, and church members were called soldiers. One reason for this military identification was a reminder that as Christians, they were in permanent mission to the unconverted. William Booth identified the approach to his work in “three S’s”—Soup, Soap, and Salvation. In order to give the message of salvation, the physical needs of the people were met. That method is still kept today.

While the Salvation Army was started as an independent Christian Church, Booth was careful to avoid criticizing other churches. He viewed each church as a part of the Body of Christ, and therefore harmony and cooperation were to be encouraged. One Salvationist expressed differences between churches this way: “In the overall economy of God there are no inherent contradictions, but there are creative paradoxes.” Since many in the churches seemed to rely on the outward symbols of the faith (baptism & communion), yet didn’t live out a personal faith, Booth eliminated all forms of outward observance in his church. The Salvation Army sees all of life as a sacrament to be lived for God, so baptism and the Lord’s Supper are not practiced, and the style of worship can vary significantly from location to location. The emphasis in the Salvation Army is on personal religion and individual regeneration, with a commitment to unceasingly proclaim the gospel.

The basic doctrines of the Salvation Army are like most evangelical churches: a belief in the Trinity, the full divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ, the full depravity of man at birth, the atoning death of Jesus Christ for man’s sin, and the essential need of repentance and faith for salvation. Following Arminian theology, the Army teaches that continued salvation depends on continued obedience to the Word of God and that the believer can attain whole sanctification in this life by that obedience.

Keeping with the social efforts that began the mission, the Salvation Army has always included social justice and charitable work as a key part of its ministry. In World War II, the Salvation Army operated 3,000 service units for soldiers and sailors, which led to the formation of the USO. Today the Army carries on a wide range of work, including prison visits, disaster response, refugee assistance, addiction and dependency treatment, daycare and children’s homes, homeless and domestic violence shelters, thrift stores, hospitals, clinics, and schools. They are recognized worldwide as a charitable organization which exists to help others. In fact, the Salvation Army is one of the world’s largest providers of social help. It has permanent ministries in 115 countries and 175 languages and provides assistance to millions of people every year.[1]

 


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

Abandoned by God (Romans 1:24-32)

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (1:24–32)

As Paul illustrates in these verses, and develops theologically through the end of chapter 4, man is not basically good but evil. His nature is innately bent toward sin. “There is none righteous, not even one; … there is none who does good, there is not even one. … all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:10, 12, 23). Those who ignore God’s provision for dealing with sin and seek to improve themselves by their own power invariably commit the most heinous sin of all, which is self-righteousness and pride. Only God can graciously remove sin or produce righteousness, and the person who tries to eliminate his own guilt or achieve his own righteousness merely drives himself deeper into sin and further from God.

Like an untended garden, when man is left to himself the bad always chokes out the good, because that is the inclination of his fallen nature. Man has no capacity in himself to restrain the weeds of his sinfulness or to cultivate the good produce of righteousness. Man’s natural development is not upward but downward; he does not evolve but devolve. He is not ascending to God but descending from God. He has continued a downward spiral of depravity throughout history, getting worse and worse, and when the restraints of the Holy Spirit are removed during the final Tribulation period, all hell will break loose on earth as evil reaches its ultimate stage (see 2 Thess. 2:3–9; Rev. 9:1–11).

Man cannot stop this slide because he is innately a slave to sin (Rom. 6:16–20), and the more he pursues his deceiving efforts at self-reformation apart from God the more he becomes enslaved to sin, whose ultimate end is eternal death (Rom. 6:16–23). As C. S. Lewis perceptively observes in his book The Problem of Pain, “[The lost] enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved” ([New York: Macmillan, 1962], pp. 127–28).

The major point of Romans 1:24–32 is that when men persistently abandon God, God will abandon them (see vv. 24, 26, 28). Even when God’s own people ignore and disobey Him, He may temporarily abandon them. “But My people did not listen to My voice,” the psalmist wrote in behalf of the Lord, “and Israel did not obey Me. So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, to walk in their own devices” (Ps. 81:11–12). Hosea reports the same tragic reality concerning the unfaithfulness of the northern kingdom, represented by Ephraim, to whom God said: “Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone” (Hos. 4:17).

In his message to the high priest and other religious leaders in Jerusalem, Stephen reminded them that when the ancient Israelites rejected the Lord and erected and worshiped the golden calf while Moses was on Mount Sinai, “God turned away and delivered them up to serve the host of heaven,” that is, the demon-inspired deities they had made (Acts 7:38–42). Paul declared to a pagan crowd in Lystra, “In the generations gone by [God] permitted all the nations to go their own ways” (Acts 14:16).

When God abandons men to their own devices, His divine protection is partially withdrawn. When that occurs, men not only become more vulnerable to the destructive wiles of Satan but also suffer the destruction that their own sin works in and through them. “You have forsaken Me and served other gods,” the Lord said to Israel. “Therefore I will deliver you no more” (Judg. 10:13). When God’s Spirit came upon Azariah, He told Judah, “The Lord is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you” (2 Chron. 15:2). Through “Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada the priest,” God again said to Judah, “Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord and do not prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, He has also forsaken you” (2 Chron. 24:20).

Romans 1:24–32 vividly portrays the consequences of God’s abandonment of rebellious mankind, showing the essence (vv. 24–25), the expression (vv. 26–27), and the extent (vv. 28–32) of man’s sinfulness. Each of those progressively more sobering sections is introduced with the declaration “God gave them over.”

The Essence of Man’s Sinfulness

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (1:24–25)

Therefore refers back to the reasons Paul has just set forth in verses 18–23. Although God revealed himself to man (vv. 19–20), man rejected God (v. 21) and then rationalized his rejection (v. 22; cf. v. 18b) and created substitute gods of his own making (v. 23). And because man abandoned God, God abandoned men-He gave them over. It is that divine abandonment and its consequences that Paul develops in verses 24–32, the most sobering and fearful passage in the entire epistle.

Paradidōmi (gave … over) is an intense verb. In the New Testament it is used of giving one’s body to be burned (1 Cor. 13:3) and three times of Christ’s giving Himself up to death (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 5:2, 25). It is used in a judicial sense of men’s being committed to prison (Mark 1:14; Acts 8:3) or to judgment (Matt. 5:25; 10:17, 19, 21; 18:34) and of rebellious angels being delivered to pits of darkness (2 Pet. 2:4). It is also used of Christ’s committing Himself to His Father’s care (1 Pet. 2:23) and of the Father’s delivering His own Son to propitiatory death (Rom. 4:25; 8:32)

God’s giving over sinful mankind has a dual sense. First, in an indirect sense God gave them over simply by withdrawing His restraining and protective hand, allowing the consequences of sin to take their inevitable, destructive courseú Sin degrades man, debases the image of God in which he is made, and strips him of dignity, peace of mind, and a clear conscience. Sin destroys personal relationships, marriages, families, cities, and nations It also destroys churches. Thomas Watson said, “Sin … puts gravel in our bread [and] wormwood in our cup” (A Body of Divinity [Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth, 1983 reprint], p. 136).

Fallen men are not concerned about their sin but only about the pain from the unpleasant consequences sin brings Someone has well said that sin would have fewer takers if the consequences were immediate. Many people, for example, are greatly concerned about venereal disease but resent the suggestion of avoiding it by restraining sexual promiscuity and perversions. Instead of adhering to God’s standards of moral purity, they attempt to remove the consequences of their impurity They turn to counseling, to medicine, to psychoanalysis, to drugs, to alcohol, to travel, and to a host of other means to escape what cannot be escaped except by the removal of their sin.

It is said that an ermine would rather die than defile its beautiful coat of fur; the animal will go to incredible lengths to protect it. Man does not have such an inclination concerning the defilement of sin. He cannot keep himself pure and has no natural desire to do so.

Not all of God’s wrath is future. In the case of sexual promiscuity-perhaps more specifically and severely than in any other area of morality-God has continually poured out His divine wrath by means of venereal disease. In regard to countless other manifestations of godlessness, He pours out His wrath in the forms of the loneliness, frustration, meaninglessness, anxiety, and despair that are so characteristic of modern society. As sophisticated, self-sufficient mankind draws further and further away from God, God gives them over to the consequences of their spiritual and moral rebellion against Him. Commentator Alan E Johnson said, “Without God there are no abiding truths, lasting principles, or norms, and man is cast upon a sea of speculation and skepticism and attempted self-salvation” (The Freedom Letter [Chicago: Moody, 1974], p. 41).

The divine abandonment of men to their sin about which Paul speaks here is not eternal abandonment. As long as sinful men are alive, God provides opportunity for their salvation That is the marvelous good news of God’s grace, which Paul develops later in the epistle. Like her Old Testament namesake, the Jezebel who was misleading the church at Thyatira was the embodiment of idolatrous, immoral godlessness, yet the Lord graciously gave her opportunity to repent (see Rev. 2:20–21). Despite His righteous wrath against sin, God is patient toward sinners, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

After giving a list of sins similar to that in Romans 1:29–31, Paul reminded the Corinthian believers, “And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). It is sin that makes the gospel of salvation necessary and that makes God’s offer of salvation through Christ so gracious.

In a second, direct sense God gave … over rebellious mankind by specific acts of judgment. The Bible is replete with accounts of divine wrath being directly and supernaturally poured out on sinful men. The flood of Noah’s day and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, for example, were not indirect natural consequences of sin but were overt supernatural expressions of God’s judgment on gross and unrepented sin.

God often allows men to go deeper and deeper into sin in order to drive them to despair and to show them their need of Him. Often He punishes men in order to heal and restore (Isa. 19:22).

It was because the lusts of their hearts were for impurity that God abandoned men to their sin. Men’s lostness is not determined by the outward circumstances of their lives but by the inner condition of their hearts. A persons sin begins within himself. “For out of the heart,” Jesus said, “come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man” (Matt. 15:19–20). Jeremiah had proclaimed the same basic truth: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9; cf. Prov. 4:23).

Used metaphorically in Scripture, “the heart” does not represent the emotions or feelings, as it generally does in modern usage, but rather the whole thinking process, including especially the will and marts motivation. In its broadest sense, the heart represents the basic nature of a person, his inner being and character.

In our day, the basic ungodliness of man is nowhere more clearly exposed than in the popular admonition to do one’s own thing. Man’s “own thing” is sin, which characterizes his whole natural being. Self-will is the essence of all sin. Although Satan was responsible for their being tempted to sin, it was the voluntary placing of their own will-s above God’s that caused Adam and Eve to commit the first sin.

Men reject God because their preferences, their lusts, are for their own way rather than God’s. Lusts translates epithumia, which can refer to any desire but was most often used of carnal desire for that which was sinful or forbidden.

Speaking about believers as well as unbelievers, James declared that “each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust” (James 1:14). Because even Christians are tempted to desire their own sin above God’s holiness, Paul warned the Thessalonians about falling into the lustful passions that characterized pagan Gentiles (1 Thess. 4:5). He reminded the Ephesians that “we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” (Eph. 2:3).

Akatharsia (impurity) was a general term for uncleanness and was often used of decaying matter, especially the contents of a grave, which were considered by Jews to be both physically and ceremonially unclean. As a moral term, it usually referred to or was closely associated with sexual immorality Paul lamented over the Corinthians “who [had] sinned in the past and not repented of the impurity, immorality and sensuality which they [had] practiced” (2 Cor. 12:21). He used the same three terms to introduce the list of “deeds of the flesh” that are in perpetual conflict with “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:19–23). He exhorted the Ephesians: “Do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Eph. 5:3; cf. 1 Thess. 4:7).

The effect of men’s rebellious, self-willed impurity was that their bodies might be dishonored. When men seek to glorify their own ways and to satisfy their bodies through shameful indulgence in sexual and other sins, their bodies, along with their souls, are instead dishonored. When man seeks to elevate himself for his own purposes and by his own standards, he inevitably does the opposite. The way of fallen mankind is always downward, never upward. The more he exalts himself, the more he declines. The more he magnifies himself the more he diminishes. The more he honors himself, the more he becomes dishonored.

No society in history has given more attention to caring for the body than has the modern Western world. Yet no society has caused more degradation of the body. The more human life is exalted for its own sake, the more it is debased. In tragic irony, the same society that glorifies the body has no regard for the body, the same society that exalts man incessantly degrades him. The world echoes with demands for men’s fights; yet books, movies, and television often portray brutality and murder as all but normal, and sexual promiscuity and perversion are constantly glamorized.

Because humanism rejects God, it has no basis for man’s dignity. And therefore in the name of humanism, humanity is dehumanized. While lamenting man’s inhumanity to man, fallen men refuse to recognize that in rejecting God they reject the only source and measure of man’s dignity. Therefore, while loudly proclaiming the greatness of man, modern society abuses man at every turn. We sexually abuse one another, economically abuse one another, criminally abuse one another, and verbally abuse one another. Because they reject the God who made them and would redeem them, “the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil, and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives” (Eccles. 9:3).

The well-known founder of a contemporary pornographic empire is said to have commented: “Sex is a biological function like eating and drinking. So let’s forget all the prudery about it and do whatever we feel like doing.” That such thinking is not the modern invention of a sophisticated “world come of age” is dearly seen in the fact that Paul confronted precisely the same thinking in Corinth nearly 2,000 years ago. A common saying in that day was “Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food,” and the apostle intimates that it was used even by some Christians to justify sexual immorality, comparing eating to sexual indulgence. Both were claimed to be merely biological functions, which could be used however one might choose. Paul’s stinging reply to that perverted reasoning was, “The body is not for immorality but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body” (1 Cor. 6:13).

As the apostle goes on to explain in that passage, sexual immorality not only is sin against the Lord but is sin against one’s own body (v. 18). That is his point of the present passage. The body that indulges in sexual impurity is itself dishonored; it is debased, disgraced, and degraded.

Newspapers abound with reports of senseless beatings for no other purpose than the perverted fun of it. Brutal wife and child abuse have become epidemic. The Indianapolis Star reported that child toolesters have their own national organization called nambla (National American Man Boy Love Association) that publishes a newsletter for members (Tom Keating, “Molesters Have Own Organization” [15 April 1981], p. 17). One of the shocking things the article mentioned was that at a large seminar to discuss prevention of child pornography and related crimes, a man interrupted the proceedings and loudly defended his and other men’s rights to indulge in such perversion. Lately nambla has been in the news again because it is becoming more bold and open about its activities.

That is the legacy of those who have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. Having suppressed God’s truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18), rebellious man submits himself to untruth, a lie. The basic divine truth that fallen man suppresses is that of God’s very existence and therefore His right and demand to be honored and glorified as sovereign Lord (see vv. 19–21). Scripture often speaks of God as being the truth, as Jesus declared of Himself (John 14:6). Isaiah described a pagan who held an idol in his hand but was too spiritually blind to ask what should have been an obvious question: “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” (Isa. 44:20). Through Jeremiah, the Lord declared to apostate Judah, “You have forgotten Me and trusted in falsehood” (Jer. 13:25). To forsake God is to forsake truth and become a slave to falsehood. To reject God, the Father of truth, is to become vulnerable to Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44).

Tragically, as in the Corinthian church of Paul’s day, many people who claim the name of Christ today have succumbed to the world’s self-oriented view of morality. An advice columnist to singles received a letter asking how Christian singles can deal with their sexual desires and still uphold their Christian beliefs. The columnist referred to a woman on her surf who conducts Christian singles retreats, who replied that such decisions were up to each couple to make for themselves. If having sex before marriage would harm their relationship or compromise their personal value systems, they should refrain, she said. Otherwise, “sex in a loving relationship is all right without the sanction of marriage” (Joan Keeler, “The Single Experience,” Glendale News-Press [13 August 1981], p. 10).

When men turned from God and His truth, Paul goes on to say, they then worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator. As the apostle had just pointed out, they found themselves foolishly and wickedly worshiping lifeless images of their own making, “in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” (v. 23).

Perhaps unable to continue discussing such vile things without “coming up for air,” as it were, Paul inserts a common Jewish doxology about the true God, the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Paul could not resist adding that refreshing thought in the sea of filth he was describing. That word of praise to the Lord served, by utter contrast, to magnify the wickedness of idolatry and all other ungodliness.

The Expression of Man’s Sinfulness

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. (1:26–27)

For this reason, Paul declares-that is, because of man’s rejecting the true God for false gods of his own making, for worshiping the creature rather than the Creator-God gave them over to degrading passions. For the second time (see v. 24) the apostle mentions God’s abandonment of sinful mankind. He abandoned them not only to idolatry, the ultimate sexual expression of man’s spiritual degeneracy, but also to degrading passions, which he identifies in these two verses as homosexuality, the ultimate expression of man’s moral degeneracy.

To illustrate the degrading passions that rise out of the fallen human heart, Paul uses homosexuality, the most degrading and repulsive of all passions. In their freedom from God’s truth men turned to perversion and even inversion of the created order. In the end their humanism resulted in the dehumanization of each of them. Perversion is the illicit and twisted expression of that which is God-given and natural. Homosexuality, on the other hand, is inversion, the expression of that which is neither God-given nor natural. When man forsakes the Author of nature, he inevitably forsakes the order of nature.

Some women of ancient times and throughout history have exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural. Paul does not use gunē, the usual term for women, but rather thēleia, which simply means female. In most cultures women have been more reluctant than men to become involved either in sexual promiscuity or homosexuality. Perhaps Paul mentions women first because their practice of homosexuality is especially shocking and dismaying. In commenting on this verse, theologian Charles Hodge wrote, “Paul first refers to the degradation of females among the heathen, because they are always the last to be affected in the decay of morals, and their corruption is therefore proof that all virtue is lost” (Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983 reprint], p. 42).

Chrēsis (function) was commonly used of sexual intercourse, and in this context the term could refer to nothing other than intimate sexual relations. Even most pagan societies have recognized the clearly obvious fact that homosexuality is abnormal and unnatural. It is also an abnormality that is unique to man.

And in the same way also the men, Paul says, again using a Greek term that simply denotes gender, in this case, males. The usual Greek terms for women and men, like corresponding terms in most languages, imply a certain dignity, and Paul refused to ascribe even an implied dignity to those who degenerate into homosexuality.

Those males, says Paul, abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts. There is a burning level of lust among homosexuals that beggars description and is rarely known among heterosexuals. The homosexuals of Sodom were so passionately consumed with their lust that they ignored the fact that they had been made blind and “wearied themselves trying to find the doorway” into Lot’s house in order to pursue their vile passion (Gen. 19:11). Those ancient people were so morally perverse that in Scripture the name Sodom became a byword for immoral godlessness, and sodomy, a term derived from that name, became throughout history a synonym for homosexuality and other forms of sexual deviation.

In the United States and many other western countries it is not uncommon for homosexual males to have 300 partners a year. Even when relationships are on a friendly basis, the most bizarre acts imaginable are committed, and mutilation is common. In his biography (Where Death Delights, by Marshall Houts [New York: Coward-McCann, 1967]), the New York City forensic expert Dr. Milton Helpern, who makes no claim of being a Christian and avoids making moral judgments about homosexuality, nevertheless comments that, after having performed thousands of autopsies, he would warn anyone who chooses a homosexual lifestyle to be prepared for the consequences: “When we see … brutal, multiple wound cases in a single victim … we just automatically assume that we’re dealing with a homosexual victim and a homosexual attacker. … I don’t know why it is so, but it seems that the violent explosions of jealousy among homosexuals far exceed those of the jealousy of a man for a woman, or a woman for a man. The pent-up charges and energy of the homosexual relationship simply cannot be contained. When the explosive point is reached, the result is brutally violent. … But this is the ‘normal’ pattern of these homosexual attacks, the multiple stabbings, the multiple senseless beatings that obviously must continue long after the victim dies” (pp. 269–70).

A San Francisco coroner estimated that ten percent of his city’s homicides were probably related to sadomasochistic sex among homosexuals (cf. Bob Greene, “Society’s Been Given Far Too Much Rope,” the Chicago Tribune [19 March 1981], sec. 2, p. 1). Yet in spite of such impartial and damning evidence, many people, including a large number of psychologists and other social professionals, persist in maintaining there is no scientific proof that homosexuality is abnormal or harmful to society. Some even assert that attempts to convert homosexuals to heterosexuals are ethically questionable. The city government of San Francisco has even conducted workshops to teach homosexuals how to avoid serious bodily harm while engaging in sadomasochistic sex-although by definition, both sadism and masochism are destructive! The very purpose of both deviations is to inflict pain and harm, sadism on others and masochism on oneself. Many mass murderers seem to be homosexuals.

Unimaginably, many church denominations in the United States and elsewhere have ordained homosexuals to the ministry and even established special congregations for homosexuals. One denominational group claims that homosexuality is no more abnormal than left-handedness. An official church organization for homosexuals is called Dignity.

Instead of trying to help their children become free of sexual deviation, many parents of homosexuals have banded together to defend their children and to coerce society, government, and churches to recognize and accept homosexuality as normal. In many cases, religions that hold homosexuality to be a sin are blamed for the tragic results that homosexuals bring on themselves and on their families and friends. Evangelical Christianity in particular is often made the culprit and is accused of persecuting innocent people who cannot help being what they are.

But in both testaments God’s Word condemns homosexuality in the strongest of terms. Under the Old Covenant it was punishable by death. Paul declares unequivocally that, although homosexuality can be forgiven and cleansed just as any other sin, no unrepentant homosexual will enter heaven, just as will no unrepentant fornicator, idolater, adulterer, effeminate person, thief, covetous person, drunkard, reviler, or swindler (1 Cor. 6:9–11; cf. Gal. 5:19–21; Eph. 5:3–5; 1 Tim. 1:9–10; Jude 7).

All people are born in sin, and individuals have varying tendencies and temptations toward certain sins. But no one is born a homosexual, any more than anyone is born a thief or a murderer. A person who becomes a habitual and unrepentant thief, murderer, adulterer, or homosexual does so of his own choice.

Any attempt at all to justify homosexuality is both futile and wicked, but to attempt to justify it on biblical grounds, as do many misguided church leaders, is even more futile and vile. To do that is to make God a liar and to love what He hates and justify what He condemns.

God so abhors homosexuality that He determined that the disgraceful, shameful acts that women commit with women and men commit with men would result in their receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. They would be judged by the self-destructiveness of their sin. The appalling physical consequences of homosexuality are visible evidence of God’s righteous condemnation. Unnatural vice brings its own perverted reward. aids is frightening evidence of that fatal promise.

The Extent of Man’s Sinfulness

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (1:28–32)

Because fallen mankind did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over in still another way, in this case to a depraved mind. The God-less mind is a depraved mind, whose predetermined and inevitable disposition is to do those things which are not proper.

The basic meaning of adokimos (depraved) is that of not standing the test, and the term was commonly used of metals that were rejected by refiners because of impurities. The impure metals were discarded, and adokimos therefore came to include the ideas of worthlessness and uselessness. In relation to God, the rejecting mind becomes a rejected mind and thereby becomes spiritually depraved, worthless and useless. Of unbelievers, Jeremiah wrote, “They call them rejected silver, because the Lord has rejected them” (Jer. 6:30). The mind that finds God worthless becomes worthless itself. It is debauched, deceived, and deserving only of God’s divine wrath.

The sinful, depraved mind says to God, “Depart from us! We do not even desire the knowledge of Thy ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him, and what would we gain if we entreat Him?” (Job 21:14–15). Although God-less people think they are wise, they are supremely foolish (Rom. 1:22). Regardless of their natural intelligence and their learning in the physical realm, in the things of God they are devoid even of “the beginning of knowledge,” because they lack reverential fear of Him. They are merely “fools [who] despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7; cf. v. 29).

Even God’s chosen people, the Jews, fell into that foolishness when they rejected or neglected the revelation and blessings He had showered on them so uniquely and abundantly. “For My people are foolish, they know Me not,” the Lord declared through Jeremiah; “they are stupid children, and they have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, but to do good they do not know” (Jer. 4:22; cf. 9:6). Those who reject the true God are wholly vulnerable to “the god of this world [who] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).

The catalog of sins Paul proceeds to mention in Romans 1:29–31 is not exhaustive, but it is representative of the virtually endless number of vices with which the natural man is filled.

The first two terms in the nasb text, all unrighteousness and wickedness, are comprehensive and general, synonyms that encompass the entire range of the particular sins that follow. Some versions include fornication between those first two terms, but that word is not found in the best Greek manuscripts. The idea is certainly not inappropriate to the context, however, because fornication is universally condemned in Scripture and is frequently included by Paul in lists of vices (see 1 Cor. 6:9; Gal. 5:19; Col. 3:5). Fornication is implied in the sin of impurity, which has already been mentioned in the present passage (1:24).

The sins mentioned in the rest of the list are basically self-explanatory: greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful. The Greek term behind untrustworthy means literally to break a covenant, as reflected in some translations. Unloving relates especially to unnatural family relationships, such as that of a parent who abandons a young child or a grown child who abandons his aging parents.

Reiterating the fact that rebellious, ungodly men are without excuse, Paul declares that they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death. The apostle has already established that, since the creation of the world, God has made Himself known to every human being (vv. 19–21). People do not recognize God because they do not want to recognize Him, because they willingly “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (v. 18). “This is the judgment,” Jesus said, “that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:19–20).

Whether they recognize it or not, even those who have never been exposed to the revelation of God’s Word are instinctively aware of His existence and of His basic standards of righteousness. “They show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Rom. 2:15).

In most societies of the world, even in those considered uncivilized, most of the sins Paul lists here are considered wrong, and many are held to be crimes. Men inherently know that such things as greed, envy, murder, deceit, arrogance, disobedience, and mercilessness are wrong.

The absolute pit of wickedness is reached, Paul says, when those who are themselves involved in evils also give hearty approval to others who practice them. To justify one’s own sin is wicked enough, but to approve and encourage others to sin is immeasurably worse. Even the best of societies have had those within them who were blatantly wicked and perverse. But a society that openly condones and defends such evils as sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, and the rest has reached the deepest level of corruption. Many of the most socially advanced societies of our own day are in that category. Sexually promiscuous celebrities are glamorized and the rights of homosexuals are ardently defended. These acts of sin are in direct contradiction to the revealed will of God.

A certain species of ants in Africa builds its nests in deep subterranean tunnels, where its young and its queen live. Although they may be great distances from the nest foraging for food, worker ants of that species are able to sense when the queen is being molested and they become extremely nervous and uncoordinated. If she is killed, they become frantic and rush around aimlessly until they die.

What better illustration could there be of fallen man. Even in his sinful rejection and rebellion, he cannot function properly apart from God and is destined only for death.[1]

 


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1991). Romans (pp. 97–110). Chicago: Moody Press.

Theology: GOD IS OMNISCIENT

 

The term omniscient comes from two Latin terms, “omnis” meaning “all,” and “scientia” meaning “knowledge.” Calvin said of the term, “that attribute whereby God knows Himself and all other things in one Eternal and most simple act.”

 

I like the thought of “and most simple act.” It isn’t really a biggy with the Lord. It isn’t even an activity. It just is the way He is.

 

HIS KNOWLEDGE IS ALL INCLUSIVE

 

God’s knowledge is all inclusive (1 John 3:20). It includes all that is. It includes all that was. It includes all that will be. It includes all that is possible.

 

It includes the material world (Job 28:24). He knows the number of grains of sand on the beaches of the world as well as the pounds of dust on the books in my library.

 

It includes the animal world and all that are in it (Matthew 10:29). He knows of the needs of the animals, as well as their passing from life.

 

It includes the world of the dead (Job 26:6). He knows every soul in it and from what generation they came. None will be lost from His great accounting.

 

It includes the human world (Psalm 33:13-15, Matthew 10:30, Acts 15:8).

 

It includes the inner world of man, the minute details of life (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:15, Psalm 139:1-4, Psalm 56:8, Job. 14:16,17, Matthew 10:30, Proverbs 5:21). From before our conception, throughout our days unto our returning to the dirt of his creation. From our thoughts to our intents, from our hair to our steps, from our rights to our wrongs, He knows all there is to know about us.

 

It includes the past, and the future world (Isaiah 46:9-11).

 

 

HIS KNOWLEDGE INCLUDES MORAL PURPOSE

 

It is always directed toward a good end. Even judgment is directed toward a good end — the culmination of God’s great plan.

 

Man’s knowledge generally is destructive. Smoking, war, fast cars, immorality, etc.

 

HIS KNOWLEDGE IS ETERNAL, COMPLETE AND PERFECT

 

He has perfect knowledge of every detail of life for every believer throughout the past ages, as well as all of those that are to come. Indeed, He knows the detail of the lives of all lost people both past and to come. He knows the tides and the details of the sea. He knows the woods and the intricacies of the forest. He knows the deserts and the vastness of their dunes. (Acts 15:18, Job. 37:16, Hebrews 4:13.

 

He promises to raise all of mankind to stand before Him in the future. He knows where to find each and every one of us, no matter where we die and are buried.

 

HIS KNOWLEDGE MUST BE UNDERSTOOD IN THREE WAYS

 

First, it is not like man’s. Heaven Forbid. We learn by comparing one piece of knowledge with another. He has His knowledge directly without comparison. He in eternity past knew all there was. He has always known all there is.

 

Secondly, it is not learned as is man’s. He did not have to go to kindergarten to learn the ABC’s. We learn step by step, fact by fact, and principle by principle, while there is no sequence to His knowledge.

 

Finally, His knowledge is complete and certain, while man’s is incomplete and not certain. Man learns as he ages, he learns as he makes mistakes, and he learns as he is taught. God is free from all of these limitations.

 

HIS KNOWLEDGE IS ALWAYS USED WISELY

 

His knowledge is always used toward good ends which shows His wisdom. His omni-sapience or all wisdom is usually covered in this section. Cambron is the only author I have found that separates and gives title to God’s all wisdom.

 

He knows past, present and future as one entire whole. He knows all at all times without sequence. He knows all and uses that knowledge in a responsible manner to bring about His ends.

 

PROBLEMS WITH THE DOCTRINE

 

1. How do we explain Deuteronomy 8:2 if God knows all there is to know? “And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.”

 

First of all, God communicates in a form that the people He is communicating with, can understand. Would they have understood if God had said, “I’m omniscient?” No, I don’t think so.

 

He was not doing this to learn something He did not know. He was trying them to see what was in their heart — to show them what was in their heart.

 

How do we explain Genesis 18:20,21? This speaks of Sodom and Gomorrah and God mentions, “I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not I will know.” vs 21. The answer is the same as for the preceding text.

 

There is also the declaration of God, in the anthropormorphisms, as having physical features. He does not have the ears that the Psalmist mention, yet He does hear His people.

 

2. Isn’t God too great to be interested in every detail of our lives? It is this point that adds to God’s greatness. It does not detract from any of His attributes nor the doctrines that we hold concerning Him. He can see to the details of life while controlling nations. He provided food, water and raiment in the wilderness for 40 years, yet was able to lead Moses and the other leaders to what He wanted for the nation.

 

 

APPLICATION

 

He knows all there is to know about our particular problems and troubles.

 

I once read a poem that detailed the bitter, the hard, the fights, the wounds, the struggles of life, yet it ended with the thought that we can bear all that He allows because we know that He knows what is going on in our life.

 

The doctrine should be a warning to the wicked. Proverbs 15:3 mentions that He sees evil as well as good. Proverbs 15:11 — Sheol and destruction are before Him. The real threat is seen in Revelation 20:15ff where John describes The Great White Throne. This throne is where the judging of all the lost of all generations will be held. All that has gone on throughout the ages will be brought before those involved, and they will be judged accordingly.

 

The doctrine should be a warning to the erring Christian. Proverbs 15:3 mentions that He sees evil as well as good. Hebrews 12:6,7 mentions that He chastises His children. The judgment seat of Christ will be the occasion of the believer being judged according to his works. This will be a sad time, a time of losing of rewards and a time of acknowledging our short comings to the Lord face to face.

 

God’s omniscience should be a consolation to the believer. Matthew 6:8

— He knows our needs before we have them. He numbers the hairs of our head. How can anything miss His attention to each and every one of us?

 

He knows our every feeling. He is our Father. We are His children. He feels for us as a Father feels for his natural children. A friend that I used to work with had married his daughter off on a Thursday evening. She had to go to work on Sunday and my friend and his wife felt very sorry for her having to return to work so soon. On the way to work she wreaked the car and had to have emergency room treatment. She called her folks in tears and my friend said, “I felt so sorry for the little kid but couldn’t do a thing.” Fathers hurt when their children hurt. He was very frustrated because he didn’t have enough money to help the new couple out.

 

The difference with our heavenly Father is that He feels in a most perfect way for His children, and He can do something about it. He can comfort us for He is the God of all comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3. If there is a need of finance, He can intercede, if there is a need of emotion, He can lift us up, If there is a need of strength, He can empower us.

 

He knows what is best for us for He knows the future. How Bout That One? We should pray as Jesus prayed, “…not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Matthew 26:39b. We should not hurry into things which are not clearly His will. Wait upon His will.

 

At the same time we should be satisfied with the situation and position in life that He has given us. It is perfect for us at this time in our life.

 

He knows all the evil that others do to us whether it is a believer or a nonbeliever. We should learn to leave those things alone and not worry, fret or seek revenge, for He will keep close accounts of all things.

 

If we realize He knows everything. If we realize He can lead us. If we realize He cares and knows about even the little things. THEN We can let Him lead us in the smaller areas of our lives as well as those major moves. While living in Nebraska and Colorado I always went shopping for snow tires before winter set in. I went out to find snow tires in the mid 70’s and found several very good buys which I had money to cover. I did not have peace about buying any of them. I decided not to get any for the first winter in several years. That winter we did not need snow tires once. God knew a light winter was coming along. If you don’t have complete peace about something don’t do it.

 

He knows all things which should bring us to confess our sins more quickly and completely. If we know He knows, why are we so slow to confess and correct our state before Him? Why don’t we confess our sin immediately? It is illogical.

Ryrie lists four applications which I would like to include: “Omniscience and security.” We are safe in His hands for His hands are directed by perfect knowledge of what is and is to be.

“Omniscience and sensitivity.” His warnings are based on true and complete knowledge, thus we should be sensitive to mind them carefully. “Omniscience and solace.” God knows what happened, as well as what might have happened and what will happen from what happened. “Omniscience and sobriety.” He relates this to our lifestyle and walk. (Reprinted by permission: Ryrie, Charles C.; “BASIC THEOLOGY”; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1986, p 42)

 

CONCLUSION

 

Since we know all of these applications are true then we know that we have one Person on our side that is all of the following: Complete consolation, our Father, our Comforter, our Fortune teller (if I may use that term), our Avenger and our Guide.

 

Remember, He has the knowledge, and the only way that we can tap into it is to be communicating with Him through prayer and the Word.

Ryrie quotes A. W. Tozer (pp 61-62 The Knowledge Of The Holy). “God knows instantly and effortlessly all matter and all matters, all mind and every mind, all spirit and all spirits, all being and every being, all creaturehood and all creatures, every plurality and all pluralities, all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, all enigmas, all feeling, all desires, every unuttered secret, all thrones and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in heaven and in earth, motion, space, time, life, death, good, evil, heaven, and hell.”

 

“Because God knows all things perfectly, He knows no thing better than any other thing, but all things equally well. He never discovers anything, He is never surprised, never amazed. He never wonders about anything nor (except when drawing men out for their own good) does He seek information or ask questions.” (Reprinted by permission: Ryrie, Charles C.; “BASIC THEOLOGY”; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1986, pp 41-42)[1]

 


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