Daily Archives: November 24, 2013

John Bolton: U.S. deal with Iran is an “abject surrender”

WINTERY KNIGHT

The Weekly Standard featured a column by foreign policy heavyweight John Bolton.

Excerpt:

Negotiations for an “interim” arrangement over Iran’s nuclear weapons program finally succeeded this past weekend, as Security Council foreign ministers (plus Germany) flew to Geneva to meet their Iranian counterpart.  After raising expectations of a deal by first convening on November 8-10, it would have been beyond humiliating to gather again without result.  So agreement was struck despite solemn incantations earlier that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

This interim agreement is badly skewed from America’s perspective.  Iran retains its full capacity to enrich uranium, thus abandoning a decade of Western insistence and Security Council resolutions that Iran stop all uranium-enrichment activities. Allowing Iran to continue enriching, and despite modest (indeed, utterly inadequate) measures to prevent it from increasing its enriched-uranium stockpiles and its overall nuclear infrastructure, lays the predicate for Iran fully enjoying its…

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ISRAELI MINISTER: Iran Deal Based On ‘Deception And Self-Delusion’

A senior Israeli Cabinet minister is criticizing the international deal over Iran’s nuclear program. Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is responsible for monitoring Iran’s nuclear program, says there is no reason for the world to be celebrating. He says the deal, reached in Geneva early Sunday, is based on “Iranian deception and self-delusion.”

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Israel’s Netanyahu calls Iran deal ‘historic mistake’

Israeli leaders denounced the interim Iranian nuclear pact signed by the United States and five world powers as a “historic mistake” that does little to reverse Iran’s nuclear ambitions and instead makes the world a more dangerous place.Israeli officials stressed that they would spend the next six months — the time frame for the interim agreement — seeking to push their friends and especially the White House to reach a deal with Iran that not only curbs Iran’s nuclear ambitions but dismantles its program.

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A Foreign-Policy Disaster – Daniel Pipes

“For the first time in nearly a decade we have halted parts of Iran’s nuclear program” announced a jubilant Barack Obama after the news of the just-signed Geneva six-month interim agreement with Iran.

But the American goal for the accord was that the Iranians not “advance their program” of building a uranium nuclear bomb (and perhaps a plutonium bomb too); the apparent deal exactly permits such advancement, plus sanctions relief to Tehran worth about $9 billion.

This wretched deal offers one of those rare occasions when comparison with Neville Chamberlain in Munich in 1938 is valid. An overeager Western government, blind to the evil cunning of the regime it so much wants to work with, appeases it with concessions that will come back to haunt it. Geneva and Nov. 24 will be remembered along with Munich and Sep. 29.

Barack Obama has made many foreign-policy errors in the past five years, but this is the first to rank as a disaster. Along with the health-care law, it is one of his worst-ever steps. John Kerry is a too-eager puppy looking for a deal at any price.

With the U.S. government forfeiting its leadership role, the Israelis, Saudis, and perhaps others are left to cope with a bad situation made worse. War has now become a much more likely prospect. Shame on we Americans for reelecting Barack Obama.

– Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum.

Source: http://m.nationalreview.com/corner/364712/foreign-policy-disaster-daniel-pipes

Characters in the Bible: What Should We Learn from the Tribe of Ephraim?

Israel’s 12 tribes were named for Jacob’s children or, in the case of Ephraim (and Manasseh), his grandchildren. Ephraim was born in Egypt to Joseph his wife, Asenath. Joseph named his second-born son “Ephraim” because “God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering” (Genesis 41:52). When Jacob gave his blessing to his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh, he chose to bless the younger Ephraim first, despite Joseph’s protests. In doing so, Jacob noted that Ephraim would be greater than Manasseh (Genesis 48:5–21).

Throughout the Old Testament, the name “Ephraim” often refers to the 10 tribes compromising Israel’s Northern Kingdom, not just the single tribe named after Joseph’s son (Ezekiel 37:16; Hosea 5:3). The Northern Kingdom, also referred to as “Israel,” was taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. (Jeremiah 7). The Southern Kingdom, also known as Judah, was conquered by the Babylonians nearly 140 years later (586 B.C.).

We learn from the tribe of Ephraim (and the other tribes) about our human essence, who we are as people. The history of the early Israelites reflects our universally flawed and sinful nature. As the book of Romans says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

There are several specific events regarding the tribe of Ephraim that we can learn from. While God gifted the tribe as warriors and valiant fighters (1 Chronicles 12:30), Ephraim failed to follow God’s order to remove the Canaanites from the Promised Land (Exodus 23:23–25; Judges 1:29; Joshua 16:10).

During the time of the judges, the Ephraimites became angry with Gideon because he had not initially called for their help in battling the Midianites (Judges 8:1). Gideon wisely displayed godly kindness and extolled the tribe’s commitment and willingness to serve the Lord, thus diffusing what could have become an ugly situation (Judges 8:2–3).

However, ugliness did arise later, and again it can be linked to Ephraim’s pride, jealously, and self-centeredness. When Jephthah chose to fight (and defeat) the Ammonites without the aid of the proud Ephraim warriors, a civil war erupted, and 42,000 warriors from Ephraim were killed. As Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, we are to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). Do not seek glory for yourself; all honor and glory always belongs to God, not to man.

Often, God chooses to use us in a manner less glamorous or spectacular than we would like. Do we pout? Do we yearn for glory? Do we control our pride and jealousy and accept God’s will? Many of us, like the Ephraimites, have difficulty learning those lessons well. God says that we should accept what happens to us as His will, regardless of how good or bad those circumstances seem to us (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).

Other lessons of Ephraim complete the picture of the wide-range of human behavior. We see Ephraim turning away from God and doing wicked things (Isaiah 28:1–3), yet we also find the tribe recognizing the need to repent and obey by following the prophet Oded’s instructions (2 Chronicles 28:12).

The biggest lesson from the history of Ephraim is that God loves us as the Perfect Father despite our failings. He is patient and merciful beyond our understanding. He hears our cries of anguish, disciplines and guides us, knows our moments of repentance, and yearns for us to be in perfect communion with Him (Jeremiah 30:22; 31:18–20).[1]

 


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

Questions about the Christian Life: Should a Christian Be Involved in Mentoring? What Does the Bible Say about Mentorship?

The word “mentor” is defined as “a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.” Although “mentoring” doesn’t appear in the Bible, Scripture does give us numerous examples of mentoring. Moses was mentored by his father-in-law Jethro, first as son-in-law and then as a leader (Exodus 18). The mentoring relationship between Eli and Samuel prepared Samuel for the tasks and responsibilities that were his after Eli’s death (1 Samuel 1–4). Jesus mentored His disciples (Luke 9), and both Barnabas and Paul excelled in mentoring (Acts 9–15).

Jesus made His style of mentoring clear: He led so that we can follow. He said, “If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24–26). Because He is our leader and we are to follow Him, Christian mentoring is a process dependent upon submission to Christ. Neither the mentor nor the candidate controls the relationship. As such, the process is best characterized by mutual sharing, trust, and enrichment as the life and work of both participants is changed. The mentor serves as a model and a trusted listener. The mentor relies on the Holy Spirit to provide insight, change lives, and teach through the modeling process.

The Apostle Paul spelled out mentoring as his leadership model very simply. “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice” (Philippians 4:9). In essence, he is saying, “Let me mentor you. Let me be your role model.” He reminds the new Christians at Thessalonica to “follow our example” (2 Thessalonians 3:7). Example. Teach. Model. These are all facets of mentoring which are indispensable in developing fully devoted followers of Jesus and in transmitting the faith from one generation to the next. It goes without saying that if mentors expect others to follow their example, they must be wholeheartedly committed to following Christ. Any hint of hypocrisy—“do what I say, not what I do”—will be detrimental to both the mentor and his charge.

Not only Jesus and the apostles, but elders in the local church also do their work by mentoring. Peter commands, “Be examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3), and Paul explains to the elders at Ephesus, “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you” (Acts 20:17). In other words, Paul is telling the elders, “I showed you, now you show them.” In all truth, if a Christian leader is not mentoring someone, to that degree he or she is not living up to his or her calling.

Of course, God has filled the body of Christ with many potential mentors besides those who are named as elders or shepherds. The official church leaders cannot personally meet all the mentoring needs of everyone. While it may not be possible for shepherds to personally, intentionally, hands-on mentor each sheep that needs mentoring, they are to help these needy sheep find godly mentors. To provide for the mentoring needs of their local community of faith, the leaders must be intentional, continually expanding the circle of mentors by “equipping others” to mentor.[1]

 


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

Questions about Sin: What Is the Sin Nature?

 

John Wayne Gacy was put to death by lethal injection in the early morning hours of May 10, 1994 for murdering 33 young men and boys, 29 of whom he buried in the crawl space beneath his own Chicago home between the years of 1972 and 1978. After Gacy’s death, he was delivered into the hands of Dr. Helen Morrison to perform a very unique autopsy. Dr. Morrison had previously interviewed Gacy, along with many other serial killers, in an attempt to isolate personality traits that were common among such ruthless murderers. Now at the request of Gacy’s family, Dr. Morrison was going to remove the brain of the notorious serial killer in hopes of discovering some sort of physical abnormality that would provide answers for why Gacy destroyed so many innocent lives.

In her book, My Life Among the Serial Killers, Dr. Morrison commented on what she believed to be a genetically predetermined factor in people like Gacy: “He is a serial killer when he is a fetus, even as soon as sperm meets egg to create the genes of a new person.” In other words, according to Morrison, there was no hope for Gacy; his genes determined his actions and his behavior. In some sense, Gacy could be excused for his behavior if there were no laws prohibiting his actions. Morrison did not see any separation between the natural ability in her patients and their moral ability.

Is such a thing true? Or is there instead a division between each person’s natural body and their intrinsic essence or nature—that which makes them who they are from a moral standpoint? Atheists and naturalists say ‘no,’ but the Bible counters with the reality that there is a spiritual and moral side to every person that is distinct from their physical body. And Scripture also states that it is this component of a person who has inherited what is called a ‘sin nature’ that produces everything from white lies to atrocities such as those committed by John Wayne Gacy.

The Reality of the Sin Nature
Some psychologists and scientists have attempted to deny that humanity is inherently sinful or ‘bad.’ For example, the founder of humanistic psychology, Abraham Maslow, said: “As far as I know we just don’t have any intrinsic instincts for evil.” Agreeing with Maslow is noted psychologist Carl Rogers who stated, “I do not find that … evil is inherent in human nature.” Both Maslow and Rogers dismiss sin and instead say if a person is committing evil acts, then the ‘patient’ is psychologically ill and must be brought back to mental sanity through medication and therapy.

However, history has shown that the evil actions of humanity transcend mere mental disorders. Commenting on the Nazi atrocities, Catholic monk and priest Thomas Merton observed, “One of the most disturbing facts that came out in the Eichmann trial was that a psychiatrist examined him and pronounced him perfectly sane. We equate sanity with a sense of justice, with humaneness, with prudence, with the capacity to love and understand other people.… And now it begins to dawn on us that it is precisely the sane ones who are the most dangerous.”

Various philosophers have also tried to either deny a sin nature or explain it away through various means. One example is Jean Jacques Rousseau, an 18th century philosopher, writer, and composer of Romanticism, whose political philosophy heavily influenced the French Revolution. He believed that mankind was naturally good and that each person was born an ‘innocent savage.’ If each person was born innocent, how did Rousseau explain humanity’s evil actions? Simply put, Rousseau claimed that society corrupted people, and that is why they end up exhibiting bad behavior. However, as various opponents of Rousseau’s claims soon pointed out to him, societies are comprised of people, and are therefore only a collective manifestation of individual wickedness.

Even some theologians have tried to deny an inherent sin nature in humanity, with the most famous being the Culdee Monk Pelagius who rejected the notion of a person being born anything but perfect and innocent. Pelagius’ theological wrestling matches with the famous Augustine resulted in the condemnation of Pelagius’ teaching in the early church, although it still lives on in various places today.

The fact is that the reality of a sin nature is clearly seen in human behavior. Such truth caused Reinhold Niebuhr to comment, “The doctrine of original sin is the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith.” Expounding on Niebuhr’s statement in more detail, R.C. Sproul describes the situation this way: “If each one of us is born without a sinful nature, how do we account for the universality of sin? If four billion people were born with no inclination to sin, with no corruption to their nature, we would reasonably expect that at least some of them would refrain from falling.… But if everybody does it, without exception, then we begin to wonder why.”

The Bible provides the answer as to why every person sins. Scripture says that God created humankind originally good and without a sin nature: “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.… God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26–27). However, Genesis chapter 3 records the fall of Adam and Eve, and with that fall, sin entered into the two previously sinless creatures that God had made. And when they, in turn, had children, their sin nature was passed along to their offspring. That sin nature immediately manifested itself in the very first man born from Adam and Eve, a man named Cain who became a murderer (Genesis 4:8).

Instead of only the image of God being passed down through the human procreation process, a sin nature was passed as well: “When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth” (Genesis 5:3, emphasis added). The fact is that each and every person born from the beginning has inherited the sin nature of his parents, with both the Old and New Testaments speaking to this fact. For example, David says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). In another Psalm, David states: “The wicked are estranged from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth” (Psalm 58:3). His son Solomon wrote: “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

The Old Testament prophets also affirmed that a sin nature exists in everyone born of human parents. Jeremiah said, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The prophet Isaiah stated: For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isaiah 64:6).

In the New Testament, Paul affirms an inherited sin nature when he says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). And the Apostle John says this to his readers: If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

Students of Scripture have all reached the conclusion that the Bible teaches each and every person possesses a sinful nature, with Charles Spurgeon summing up the reality when he said: “As the salt flavors every drop in the Atlantic, so does sin affect every atom of our nature. It is so sadly there, so abundantly there, that if you cannot detect it, you are deceived.”

In one sense, Dr. Helen Morrison was right in her assessment of human nature. When children are conceived, they are predetermined—not to necessarily become a serial killer like John Wayne Gacy, but to sin in some form or fashion.

Misconceptions about the Sin Nature
Although the biblical teaching of a sin nature is clear, there are a number of misconceptions that both Christians and non-Christians have about it. First, some people think that a sin nature means that a person cannot tell right from wrong or behave in a ‘good’ manner towards someone else. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Jesus acknowledged that someone could perform good acts and yet still have an evil sin nature when he said, “What man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9–11, emphasis added).

In fact, the Bible says each person is equipped by God with a conscience that instinctively knows right and wrong. Paul confirms this truth when he says, “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Romans 2:14–15).

Next, some believe that a sin nature means that every person will eventually end up a like a Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy. However, this isn’t the case at all. A sin nature does not mean that every person will be as bad as they can possibly be, but rather than each person is as bad off as they can possibly be from a spiritual standpoint. Every person is spiritually dead and cut off from God, but the degrees of wickedness in each person will vary.

Lastly, some Christians have been taught that they lose their sin nature once they receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. But Scripture says that the sin nature remains after a person becomes a believer in Christ and that a struggle with that sin nature will continue until they are glorified in eternity. Paul bemoaned his struggle when he said, “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.… But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me” (Romans 7:15, 20).

The struggle between the sinful and regenerated spiritual nature in a Christian will be quite evident to a person who has been born again, but such a battle will not occur in a person who has not become a believer in Christ. They remain spiritually dead and are not sensitive to sin as a Christian is.

The story is told of a man who once came to a preacher and said, “You talk about how heavy sin is, but preacher, I don’t feel a thing.” The preacher thought for a minute and then asked, “If we put 400 pounds of weight on a corpse, do you think he’d feel it?”

The Consequences of the Sin Nature
The reality of the sin nature brings with it many disappointing consequences. The first effect is that each and every person in born spiritually dead. That is, they are devoid of any spiritual life or desire for the things of God. Jesus affirmed this condition when asked by a person if he could first go bury his father before following Christ. Jesus responded by saying, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22). In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul (describing his readers’ condition prior to being born again) says simply “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

The lack of spiritual life in a person results in behavior that is both hostile toward God and mindfully ignorant of His truth. In Romans, speaking about the hostility and inability of spiritually dead people to respond to God, Paul says, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so” (Romans 8:6–7). The Apostle underscores the same fact in his first letter to the Corinthian church: “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

The final and natural consequence of the sin nature is eternal death—an eternal separation from God. God’s wrath remains on those who are not born again (John 3:36), and so their destiny is only one of judgment, which is spelled out in the book of Revelation: “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14–15).

The Cure for the Sin Nature
Fortunately, there is a cure for the sin nature and a way to escape the judgment of God. The cure is the new birth, which is described by the Apostle John in Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus: “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again. The Spirit breathes where He desires, and you hear His voice, but you do not know from where He comes, and where He goes; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit’ ” (John 3:3–8).

The good news is that Christ’s sacrifice supplies spiritual life for any person who calls on the name of the Lord for salvation. Paul says, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10). The Apostle also highlights this spiritual regeneration when he writes, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The Spirit of God takes up residence in each person who is born again and supplies the power to not only defeat the effects of the sin nature, but to supply strength to defeat the old sinful nature’s pull to do wrong in God’s sight. Paul says it like this: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16–17).

The great news is that the sin nature can be defeated by the One who did not inherit a sin nature from His earthly parents (Jesus was born of a virgin). Through His finished work on the cross, Jesus, being sinless, satisfied God’s wrath for sinners and rose again to offer life to those devoid of spiritual life.

Conclusions
The fact that each person ever born possesses a sin nature is verified by human experience and the Word of God. The good news is that Christ provides a way of conquering the inherited sin nature and a victory that can be experienced both in this life and the next. No matter how bad off the person is, Jesus can defeat the sin that enslaves him. As John Calvin put it, “For certainly, Christ is much more powerful to save than Adam was to ruin.”[1]

 


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

Wrath Stored Up (Romans 2:5)

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.

In Romans 2:5 we come for a second time to the idea of the wrath of God, and for the second time we need to defend wrath as a proper element in God’s character. It is strange this should be so.

Several years ago newspapers reported the discovery of a “house of horrors” in north Philadelphia. A man named Gary Heidnik had been luring prostitutes and other rootless women to his home, imprisoning and torturing them, and finally killing some. When his crimes were uncovered, two women were found chained to the walls of the basement, and body parts of others were discovered in Heidnik’s refrigerator. Heidnik was criminally insane, of course. But the interesting thing about this case is that much of the outrage it engendered was directed, not so much at this man, who was obviously insane, but at the police, who had been alerted to the strange goings-on in the house earlier by neighbors but had done nothing. The police maintained that until they were finally told about Heidnik by a woman who had been in his home but had escaped, they did not have “probable cause” to interfere.

The position of the police may have been technically and legally correct, of course. But the point I am making is that people naturally feel that evil demands both intervention and outrage, and they are deeply upset if this does not happen. If nothing is done or if the situation is allowed to continue unchallenged for a long time, the outrage is intensified!

Why are we unwilling to grant the rightness of a similar outrage to God. The only possible reason is that we consider our sins and those of most other people to be excusable—forgetting that in the sight of the holy God they are not much different from those of Gary Heidnik. They are measured not by our own relative and wavering standards of good and evil, but by God’s absolute and utterly upright criteria.

Wrath Revealed

The first time we came in Romans to the idea of the wrath of God, we were at the beginning of the first great section of the letter. There Paul wrote, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Rom. 1:18). This is a thematic verse and therefore very important, for it is saying that the wrath of God is not something merely saved up until some long-delayed but final day of judgment, but rather is something that God has been revealing to us even now. Romans 2:5 is going to say that there is also a day of wrath to come, but the first thing Paul says about God’s wrath is that it is already being revealed from heaven.

This means that the wrath of God is a very real thing. Moreover, we can know the certainty of a future day of wrath by noting the past and present revelation of that wrath.

How has the wrath of God been revealed? Robert Haldane says:

It was revealed when the sentence of death was first pronounced, the earth cursed, and man driven out of the earthly paradise, and afterward by such examples of punishment as those of the deluge, and the destruction of the cities of the plain by fire from heaven.… But, above all, the wrath of God was revealed from heaven when the Son of God came down to manifest the divine character, and when that wrath was displayed in his sufferings and death, in a manner more awful than by all the tokens God had before given of his displeasure against sin. Besides this, the future and eternal punishment of the wicked is now declared in terms more solemn and explicit than formerly. Under the new dispensation, there are two revelations given from heaven, one of wrath, the other of grace.

I do not anywhere know a statement regarding the nature of the revelation of God’s wrath that is more complete or accurate than this statement by Haldane. Yet, in Romans 1, Paul’s point is that the wrath of God is revealed to us chiefly in the debilitating downward drag of sin upon our lives. We think when we sin that we can sin “just a little bit.” But we cannot! Sin captures us and pulls us down inexorably, until—if we are allowed to continue in sin long enough—we end up calling what is good, evil and what is evil, good. And we perish utterly!

This means that the moral turmoil and chaos of the world, including our own personal world, is evidence that the wrath of God is no fiction. This is something to be gravely concerned about.

Wrath Deserved

In Romans 2:5, Paul has other things to say about wrath, and his first point is that the wrath of God toward the sin of men and women is deserved. That should be perfectly evident by now, of course—at least if we have understood the argument of Romans 1. God’s wrath is deserved, because our ignorance of God is a willful ignorance and our refusal to seek him out and worship him is a willful refusal. We have already seen that God has revealed his existence and power in nature and that this alone should be sufficient to lead every man, woman, and child on the face of the earth to give thanks to God. But we do not do it, and the fact that we do not do it is proof that we do not want to.

But the case is even stronger than this, which is what Paul is chiefly teaching in chapter 2. Romans 1 declared God’s wrath on the basis of the evidence for the existence of God in nature, which we refuse to acknowledge. Chapter 2 goes beyond this, with verse 5, our text here, speaking of the wrath of God as coming to us because of our stubborn refusal to repent.

The word repent takes us back to verse 4. For in that verse Paul has spoken of two paths open to human beings as a result of God’s kindness, tolerance, and patience. One path is the path of contempt for God’s blessings. The other path, the one Paul recommends, is repentance. Paul argues that the kindness, tolerance, and patience of God are to lead us to repentance. But will this happen? Is it happening now? The answer appears in verse 5, where Paul speaks of our “stubborn” and “unrepentant” hearts. Apparently, the kindness, tolerance, and patience of God do not have the effect by themselves of leading men and women to repentance. On the contrary, those who have already suppressed the truth about God revealed in nature now add to their evil a hardening of their hearts against the kindnesses that have been bestowed upon them for their good.

So the wrath of God against the race is deserved on two counts: (1) we have rejected the natural revelation; and (2) we have shown contempt for God’s patience and kind acts.

Wrath Proportionate to Sin

In my judgment, the most important teaching in this verse is that the wrath of God is proportionate to human sin, in the sense that those who sin much will be punished much and that those who sin less will be punished less. This has been a problem for some Christian people who have thought of hell’s punishments as being poured out on unbelievers only because of their adamant refusal to accept Jesus Christ. Since that sin—a great sin, to be sure—seems to be the same for everybody, the punishments of hell should be equal, such persons feel.

But this is not correct. For one thing, even the basic premise is in error, for not everyone has a chance to hear of Jesus Christ, and therefore not all will be punished for refusing to believe on him. We saw this in our study of Romans 1, when we dealt with whether it is just for God to condemn those who, like the natives in a far-off island jungle, have never had a chance to hear the gospel. We saw there that God does not condemn people for failing to do what they did not even know they should do, but rather for failing to follow the revelation they do have. The native is condemned, not for failing to believe on Jesus, about whom he has never heard, but for failing to seek God out on the basis of the revelation of God found in nature.

If this is true, however, as it is, then it also follows that some people are more guilty than others and must be punished accordingly. The native is perhaps least guilty, in spite of what we may regard as his particularly debased worship and immoral practices. The person who has heard of Jesus but has refused to come to God through faith in Jesus Christ is more guilty. He has rejected not one but two sources of revelation: the revelation in nature and the special revelation of the gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ disclosed in Scripture.

What of those, like ourselves, who have heard the gospel repeatedly and have even seen its power demonstrated in the lives of other persons? If we refuse that repeated and amplified revelation, we are the guiltiest of all.

There is an interesting image suggested by Paul’s language at this point, for Paul speaks of the stubborn and unrepentant person “storing up wrath” for the day of God’s judgment. It is the image of a greedy individual, a miser, who has been storing up wealth which, contrary to his expectations, is destined to destroy him. I think of this man as storing up a great horde of gold coins, placing them in an attic above his bed where he thinks no one will find them and where they will be safe. He keeps this up for years, amassing a great weight of gold. But one day, while he is sleeping and oblivious to his danger, this great weight of gold breaks through the ceiling of his bedroom, comes crashing down onto his bed, and kills him. He thought of his wealth as salvation, but it was death.

That is the way it is for those who pile sin upon sin and show contempt for God’s kindness. They think of their sins as building up a life of future happiness and freedom. But each sin is actually a storing up of wrath. Haldane says, “A man is rich according to his treasures.” Therefore, “the wicked will be punished according to the number and aggravation of their sins.”

This is true even of the good we receive and enjoy without giving proper thanks to God.

Each little indulgence of sin is a coin of wrath stored up.

Each neglect of others is a saved-up ingot of anger.

Each angry word, each selfish thought, each mean retort, each harmful act, is a piling up of wrath’s treasures.

Each pleasure enjoyed without genuine thanks to God builds wrath.

Each year of grace, each day enjoyed without the experience of God’s swift and immediate judgment, each moment of indifference to the mercy of God, is wrath’s accumulation.

If life has been good to you, you only increase your guilt and build a treasure of future punishment by ignoring God’s kindness.

Certain Wrath

There is another thought about wrath in verse 5, and it is that the wrath of God against sin is certain. People who spurn God’s patience inevitably think that in the end they will somehow get free and escape what they deserve. That is what the people being addressed in this chapter were thinking. They looked at the debased moral practices of the heathen and concluded that they themselves would escape God’s wrath because of their imagined superiority to the heathen in such things. But it is not so, Paul says. In fact, it is quite the contrary. Their very awareness of high moral standards, coupled with their refusal to repent of sin and come to God, intensifies their guilt and assures their final condemnation.

Certainty of judgment is seen in the phrase “the day of God’s wrath.” Why is the time of the outpouring of the wrath of God called a “day”? In my opinion it is not because it is to unfold in what we would call a twenty-four-hour day, like the day of the invasion of the Normandy beaches in World War II, which one writer called The Longest Day. I think the Bible speaks of various and manifold judgments that may actually be spread out over a considerable period of time. The use of the word day in the phrase “day of wrath” is similar to its use in the phrase “the day of Jesus Christ.” In that phrase the word encompasses the events of a thirty-three-year ministry.

Why, then, is the day of God’s wrath called a “day”? It is because it is as fixed in God’s calendar as any day you can mention—December 7, 1941, to give just one example. That day is determined! So when the day rolls around, the wrath of God will be poured out, whatever you or anyone else may hope to the contrary.

A great German preacher by the name of Walter Luethi wrote:

If the time should ever come (for these things are conceivable nowadays) when we should succeed in demonstrating that black is white and white black, that good is evil and evil good, if we should ever be successful in invalidating the fundamental moral principles of the universe, so that sin were no longer hated and everyone took a fancy to evil, then there would still be a stronghold where evil would be hated, and that is heaven. And there would still be one who has sworn to fight the evil in the world to the last drop of his blood, and that is God, whose “wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men.”

Wrath that is Just

Romans 2:5 makes another point about wrath that we also need to see. God’s wrath is a just wrath, not arbitrary or petulant but rather according to “righteous judgment.” When Paul mentions judgment he brings in thoughts of God’s law and reminds us that the judgment of God will be according to law. Indeed, as he is going to show, those who have done good—it there are any—will receive good from God, while those who have done evil will receive evil.

One great problem with sin is that it leads to self-justification, so that anything that happens to us that we do not like is immediately perceived as being unjust, a reason to fault God for his ordering of the universe. The cry of the rebellious heart is always: “The only thing I want from God is justice.”

God forbid that you should receive justice from God!

The justice of God will condemn you. And the terror of the very thought of justice is that God is indeed a just God. The God of all the earth does do right, as Abraham well knew (cf. Gen. 18:25). Sin is punished now in large measure, and it will be punished fully and equitably in the life to come. Do not ask God for justice. Seek mercy. Seek it where salvation from the wrath of God may alone be found.

Wrath Poured Out

Where is that salvation to be found? If God’s wrath is deserved by us, proportionate to our sin, as certain as the calendar, just, and even partially disclosed in the natural unfolding of the effects of sin in our lives, how can it possibly be avoided—since we are sinners?

The only place is in Christ, who bore the full measure of the wrath of God in our place. Do we doubt that God’s wrath is real and threatening? If we do, we need only look at Jesus in the hours preceding his crucifixion. He was not like Socrates who calmly quaffed the hemlock that was to end his life. Jesus’ soul was “troubled” (John 12:27), and he agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane, asking that the “cup” God had prepared for him might be taken away (Matt. 26:36–44). Jesus was not afraid of death. He had as much courage in that respect as Socrates. The reason Jesus trembled before death is that his death was not to be like the death of mere mortals. Jesus was not going to die for himself. He was going to die for others. He was going to take upon himself the full measure of the wrath of God that they deserved. He was to drink the cup of wrath to the very dregs—in order that the justice of God might be satisfied and sinners might be spared.

And so it was!

The time came when Jesus was led away to be crucified. He was hung on the cross, midway between earth and heaven, a bridge between sinful man and a holy God. There he, who knew no sin, was made sin for us. There God’s wrath was poured out.

For centuries the wrath that men and women had been storing up had been accumulating—like coins in the attic or water behind a great dam. Oh, here and there a little of the flood of God’s judgment had sloshed out over the top as God reached the end of his patience in some small area, and a Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed or a Jerusalem was overthrown. But, for the most part, the wrath of God merely accumulated, growing higher and broader and deeper and increasingly more turbulent. Then Jesus died! When he died the dam was opened, and the great weight of the accumulated wrath of God was poured out upon him. He took God’s wrath for us. He bore its impounded fury in our place. No wonder his righteous soul shrank back from the atonement. He had never committed a single sin. He was spotless and without blame. Yet because he was blameless and because he was God, he was able to stand in the breech for us and secure our salvation.

God demonstrated clearly that he had! In Jerusalem there was a temple the central feature of which was a room called the Most Holy Place. God was understood to dwell symbolically in that place. Before it hung a thick curtain, symbolizing the barrier that sin has raised between God in his holiness and ourselves in our sin. For anyone to penetrate beyond that barrier meant instant death, as occasionally happened, for the wrath of God must flame out against any sin that would intrude upon holiness. That curtain was torn in two when Jesus died. For centuries it had hung there, proclaiming that God was holy, that man was sinful, and that the way to God was therefore strictly barred. But now that Jesus had died for sin, taking the place of any who would trust him and receive the benefit of his sacrifice, the wrath of God was expended, the way was open, and there was nothing left but God’s great love and kindness.

This is the gospel. It is what is open to you if you will approach God, not on the basis of your own good deeds or works, which can only condemn you, but on the basis of Christ’s having borne the wrath of God in your place.

That wrath is thundering down the chasm of history toward the day of final judgment, and one day it must break upon you unless you stand before God in Jesus Christ. Martin Luther began his spiritual pilgrimage by fearing God’s wrath and then came to find peace in Christ. But he never forgot the reality of the final judgment, and he always warned his hearers to flee from it to Christ. He said in one place, “The Last Day is called the day of wrath and of mercy, the day of trouble and of peace, the day of destruction and of glory.” Luther was right. It must be one or the other. If it is to be a day of mercy and peace for you, rather than a day of wrath and trouble, it must be because you are trusting in Christ.[1]

 


[1] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: Justification by Faith (Vol. 1, pp. 217–224). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.