Daily Archives: December 1, 2013

“Another Jesus” Calling – Which Jesus is Calling on You?

… During the next few decades I would dedicate much time to research these New Age practices as they were coming into the church. In 2002 my husband and I helped Warren Smith publish Reinventing Jesus Christ: The New Gospel. In this book Smith explained how New Age leaders were hearing a voice that claimed to be either “Jesus” or “God.” This voice, as it was channeled through these New Age leaders, sounded just like automatic writing! Authors such as Neale Donald Walsch, Helen Schucman and Barbara Marx Hubbard published the channeled writings of their “God” and their “Jesus.” He was giving a different gospel message, one that promised peace and prosperity on earth. Smith summarized these new teachings:
The “new gospel” teaches that when humanity collectively accepts and experiences itself as being a part of Christ and a part of God, we not only save ourselves, we save our world. The “Christ” of the “new gospel” warns that the hour is late. Peace must come. He will help. He has a plan. But everyone must play their part.[7]
When we were new believers both Warren and I never dreamed that these same old teachings would come into the evangelical church world and be believed! But they did. And they came in via the same old mystical methods we had once learned from the occult.

Fast-forward to the present. Warren Smith has  just published a new book “Another Jesus” Calling: How False Christs Are Entering the Church Through Contemplative Prayer (Lighthouse Trails, 2013). In this book Smith analyzes the “God” of God Calling (2005) and the “Jesus” of Sarah Young’s book Jesus Calling. Both this “God” and this “Jesus” have remarkably similar messages. Both deliver messages nearly identical to that of the New Age false “Christ.” Both are calling believers to engage in a new (old) spirituality. The “God” of God Calling and the “Jesus” of Jesus Calling both call upon people by delivering new words. Their words were transmitted, written down, and then published. The same method!
Millions of people have now read these popular books God Calling and Jesus Calling. Both books purport to be the voice of the Lord speaking meaningful new messages to us today. The dictated words, channeled through the authors, are uplifting messages promising peace and contentment, affluence and harmony. In fact, the words of the “Jesus” of Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling:

Enjoying Peace in His Presence are promising a closer intimacy and more elite spiritual walk. Smith observes:
The word “Presence” is found more that 365 times in Jesus Calling. The term is also commonly used in the New Age/New Spirituality. And in both God Calling and Jesus Calling, “Jesus” states that experiencing his presence will unlock secret teachings, new revelations, and future things to come.”[8]
Why do Christians believe they should to practice the “presence” of Jesus? Because it promises them increased intimacy with God, thus bypassing the Cross. It does seem to fill a spiritual void and/or an emotional need. And it is an easy device. Under these new teachings believers no longer need to trouble themselves about confessing besetting sins in their lives. Instead this new voice of “Jesus” speaks rosy promises of guidance and transformation, even wealth and power. This “Jesus” even promises co-creative power, the ability to transform the world by our meditative attitudes. By concentrating on the words “be still” believers learn that we can even become God.
Smith’s critiques all of this in a brief well-laid-out 174-page  book. This is Warren Smith at his best – his easy folksy style renders hard concepts accessible and understandable. Each chapter is very brief and to the point. Smith raises Ten Concerns about the original book God Calling, which entered the Christian world in 2005, and Twenty Concerns about Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, which has more recently taken the evangelical world by storm. Is Jesus indeed speaking a new word to us today? Or is this the voice of “another Jesus” who is calling upon the world to laugh at the future?[9] Smith’s analyses are insightful.
Sarah Young’s “Jesus” encourages believers to gain more spirituality through creative visualization. This “Jesus” flatters her readers with florid speeches such as “Let My gold-tinged Love wash over you and soak into the depths of your being”[10] and “When your Joy in Me meet My Joy in you, there are fireworks of heavenly ecstasy.”[11]  This same passionate “Jesus” is rapidly gaining traction elsewhere in the evangelical world. He offers spiritual experiences that are addictive and mind-altering, but not based on the truth taught in God’s Word the Bible. He promises intimacy without repentance, spirituality without salvation, and communion without regeneration. Nevertheless many believe these new words. Why?

Read More Here: http://herescope.blogspot.com/2013/11/another-jesus-calling.html

Questions about Prayer: What Is the Key to Effective Prayer?

Everyone wants their prayers to be “effective,” so much so that when we focus on the “results” of our prayers, we lose sight of the incredible privilege we have in prayer. That people like us can speak to the Creator of the Universe is itself an amazing thing. Even more astounding is the fact that He hears us and acts on our behalf! Now, the first thing we need to understand about effective prayer is that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ had to suffer and die on the cross to even make it possible for us to approach the throne of grace to worship and pray (Hebrews 10:19–25).

Although the Bible offers a great deal of guidance as to how we can deepen our communication with the Creator, effective prayer has more to do with the one doing the praying than it does with “how” we are to pray. Indeed, Scripture reveals “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16), and that the “eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer” (1 Peter 3:12; Psalm 34:15), and, again, “the prayer of the upright pleases Him” (Proverbs 15:8). Prayer saved the righteous Daniel from the lion’s den (Daniel 6:11), and in the wilderness, God’s chosen people benefitted enormously from Moses’ right standing with God (Exodus 16–17). The barren Hannah’s steadfast and humble prayers resulted in the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 1:20), and the apostle Paul’s prayers even caused the earth to shake (Acts 16:25–26). Clearly, the passionate prayers of God’s righteous children can accomplish much (Numbers 11:2).

We need to make sure that our prayers are in line with God’s will. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14–15). Praying in accordance with God’s will is essentially praying in accord with what He would want, and we can see God’s revealed will throughout Scripture. And if we do not know what to pray for, Paul reminds us that as God’s children we can rely on the Holy Spirit to intercede for us, as “the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:27). And since the Spirit of God knows the mind of God, the Spirit’s prayer is always in keeping with the will of the Father.

Additionally, prayer is something believers should do “continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). In Luke 18:1, for example, we are told to pray with persistence and “not give up.” Also, when we present our requests to God, we are to pray with faith (James 1:5; Mark 11:22–24), with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6), with a spirit of forgiveness toward others (Mark 11:25), in Christ’s name (John 14:13–14), and as stated above, with a heart that is right with God (James 5:16). It’s the strength of our faith, not the length of our prayers that pleases Him to whom we pray, so we don’t need to impress God with our eloquence or intelligence. After all, this is almighty God we are praying to, and He knows what our needs are even before we ask (Matthew 6:8).

Also, we should make sure we have no unconfessed sin in our hearts when we pray, as this would certainly be an impediment to effective prayer. “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2; Psalm 66:18). Fortunately, however, we know that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Another barrier to effective communication with God is praying with selfish desires and wrong motives. “When you ask you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). Rejecting God’s call or ignoring His advice (Proverbs 1:24–28), worshipping idols (Jeremiah 11:11–14), or turning a deaf ear to the cry of the poor (Proverbs 21:13) serve as additional obstacles to an effective prayer life.

Effective prayer is a way to strengthen our relationship with our Father in Heaven. When we study and obey His Word and seek to please Him, the same God who made the sun stand still upon the prayer of Joshua (Joshua 10:12–13) invites us to come boldly before the throne of grace and pray with confidence that He will extend His mercy and grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).[1]

 


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

Questions about Marriage: What Does It Mean that Women Are the ‘Weaker Vessel’ (1 Peter 3:7)?

The context of 1 Peter 3:7 is the Apostle Peter’s instructions concerning living as godly believers toward one another beginning in the home (1 Peter 3:1–12). The wife is addressed first and then the husband. This is the same order the Apostle Paul uses in Ephesians 5:22–33. The husband is to “dwell with his wife according to knowledge, giving her honor as the weaker vessel” (KJV). The word “dwell” is in the imperative and has the idea of standing beside, dwelling with in a presiding position. In other words, the husband is to take his place as the head, according to God’s order.

The word “knowledge” in 1 Peter 3:7 could be translated as “understanding.” Both men and women have difficulty understanding their spouses. It takes commitment and surrender to God’s order on the part of both partners to come to a place of true understanding. Understanding is the basis for seeing one’s wife as a vessel to honor, respect and care for because she is weaker. This is not a popular idea among many women or even many men. However, the Scripture tells us that the woman was deceived (1 Timothy 2:14), she is subject to her husband (1 Peter 3:1) and that she is a “weaker” vessel. That women are usually physically weaker is undeniable, but the implication of the fall is that by virtue of her being deceived by Satan, women may also sometimes be weaker in other ways. That definitely does not mean she is less valuable (Ephesians 1:6) or that she does not have equal access to grace (Galatians 3:28). Rather, it is a basis for a husband to treat his wife with understanding, tenderness, and patience.

The Apostle Paul adds a lot of weight to this idea because he writes that the husband is the head of the family as Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23) and because of that the husband is to love his wife “as” (sets up the comparison) or in the same way that Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it (Ephesians 5:25). That means the husband has a great deal more responsibility in the marriage than the wife does. He is the leader, and he is to set the tone for the relationship, and a man who honors his wife and puts her first before all but God will have a wife that responds. The way a husband gives himself for his wife is that he understands she is to be honored for the fact that she is his wife. Of course, this is the ideal and it is not something that happens overnight. A man and a woman begin their relationship when they are married, but whether or not that relationship works is in direct correlation to both the husband and the wife taking their place in God’s order and their submission to obey God. The principles here are given to believers; however, these principles work whether or not the couple are believers or even if only one is.

As Christians, we understand the dynamics at work which are totally at odds with human viewpoints and worldly “wisdom.” This word “weakness” can cause great offense when there should be none at all. Women are weaker and need to be treated with understanding and respect. A husband shows his love for his wife by putting her first. A woman who resists this loving care by her husband is robbing herself of the joy of being the “weaker” vessel.[1]

 


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

Questions about Relationships: Should a Christian Wear a Purity Ring?

A purity ring is a ring worn by a single teenager or adult to signify that they have made a commitment to remain abstinent from sex until marriage. The purity ring was created in the 1990s by Christian abstinence groups, including Lifeway Bookstore’s “True Love Waits,” but may have been inspired by the band nuns wear to symbolize their lifelong commitment to serve God. There are several vendors of purity rings, and no standardized procedure to receive and wear one. In some families, fathers present a ring to their young daughters after an extensive ceremony. But purity rings can also be purchased from a store or online and worn at whim. Both men and women can wear purity rings. Purity rings are not mentioned in the Bible.

There is no doubt that God calls His children to sexual purity. “You should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God.” “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (1 Thessalonians 4:3–5, 7).

Abstinence training is essential, and it is equally essential that the training include accurate information. A purity ring is not a talisman that magically prevents pre-marital sex. A father who gives his daughter a ring does not “own” his daughter’s sexuality. A girl’s purity is not more valuable than a boy’s. A commitment to remain abstinent until marriage is a good and noble thing (Ephesians 5:3), but it should be done within the context of a relationship with God and a desire to lean on His understanding. It should not be motivated by the excitement of a rally or the fear of dishonoring one’s father.

There is nothing wrong with wearing a purity ring, as long as the commitment to remain abstinent is sincere. It can certainly act as a marker to identify others who have made the same commitment. In the end, however, one’s relationship with God is much more important than any outward sign. And understanding the benefits of abstinence and the ways to avoid temptation are more important than a ring.[1]


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

All Hearts Open, All Desires Known (Romans 2:16)

 

This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

I am not very attracted to liturgical prayers because, although liturgical language is often quite beautiful (like that of Shakespeare’s plays), the mere repetition of prayers tends, in my opinion, toward a love of language for its own sake and not meaning. There are exceptions, of course, and sometimes a particular phrase sticks in mind as expressing a great truth admirably.

I think of one such expression as we come to Romans 2:16: “This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.” The main idea is the uncovering of human secrets by God at the final judgment, and the liturgical expression of that truth, which I love, is from the opening collect of the Anglican Order for the Administration of Holy Communion. It begins, “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid.… ” I think that is a powerful expression—and helpful if it is used rightly. It reminds us that in a world ordered by an omniscient God there are, in the final analysis, no secrets. We may have secrets here, hiding from others what we are or do. But there will be no secrets on the day when all secrets will be brought to light before God.

The All-Knowing God

God knows all things even now, of course. God spoke of the Jewish people to Isaiah, saying, “For I know their works and their thoughts” (Isa. 66:18 kjv). King David wrote of himself:

O Lord, you have searched me

and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue

you know it completely, O Lord.

Psalm 139:1–4

The author of Hebrews declared, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13).

This is one reason why unregenerate people repress their knowledge of God, as Romans 1:18–20 declares they do. We looked at this when we were studying those verses. If God knows all things, as he must if he is God, he knows us not as we wish to project ourselves before others but as we really are, and none of us can stand the thought of such perfect and penetrating knowledge.

I pointed out in that earlier study that this is one of the characteristics of human nature perceived by the existentialist philosopher and playwright Jean-Paul Sartre. In his analysis of man, Sartre rooted man’s uniqueness in his being a subject, who observes, rather than an object, which is observed. A subject observes and acts. An object is observed and acted upon. The former pleases us. The latter is disturbing. In one of his works, Sartre imagines himself as a man who is standing in a hallway, looking through a keyhole at another person. As long as he is the observer and the other person is the object observed, Sartre is content. He is in control. But suddenly he hears footsteps in the hall, turns around, and realizes that someone has been looking at him as he has looked through the keyhole. Now he is no longer content. He is no longer in control, and he is overcome with feelings of shame, fear, guilt, and embarrassment. According to Sartre, to be fully human, man must be the ultimate subject rather than an object.

But what about God? How can one escape being an object before him, since God sees us always? Sartre’s solution was to banish God from his own private universe, to become an atheist.

In a series of essays called The Words, Sartre tells how he came to this point. He was a child at the time. He had been raised a Catholic, and as one of his assignments in the Catholic school he attended he had written a paper on the Passion of Christ. When the awards were presented for these papers, Sartre was given only a silver medal rather than the gold. He resented it and blamed God. Sartre wrote, “This disappointment drove me into impiety.… For several years more, I maintained public relations with the Almighty. But privately, I ceased to associate with him.”

Then he tells how, during these years, there was a time when he felt that God existed: “I had been playing with matches and burned a small rug. I was in the process of covering up my crime when suddenly God saw me. I felt his gaze inside my head and on my hands. I whirled about in the bathroom, horribly visible, a live target. Indignation saved me. I flew into a rage against so crude an indiscretion, I blasphemed, I muttered like my grandfather: ‘God damn it, God damn it, God damn it.’ He never looked at me again.”

That story alone explains the life and philosophy of Sartre. Yet it is sad and tragic. Sad, because it is mistaken. Sartre says, “He [God] never looked at me again.” But in reality God never ceased to look at Sartre. God looks on all things and sees them perfectly. Actually, it was Sartre who had ceased to look at God. Tragic, because by turning his back on God, Sartre turned from the one being in the universe who could have helped him.

I said earlier that Sartre’s solution to the problem of being beneath the gaze of God and of being overcome by natural feelings of shame, fear, guilt, and embarrassment was to banish God from his universe—to become an atheist. But it does not require a philosophical genius to realize that this is only whistling in the dark. If there is a God, as even Sartre indirectly attests, then he cannot be so banished, certainly not by human beings. Moreover, if God is omniscient, as he must be if he is God, then not only has he seen all the evil deeds we have done and known the evil thoughts we have had. He also remembers them. And one day he will produce them for exposure and judgment.

It is what Paul speaks about when he writes of “the day when God will judge man’s secrets through Jesus Christ.”

Naked Before God and Man

I now take you from that day of judgment to one of the very first days of human history. It is the day when Adam and Eve stood before God in the Garden of Eden shortly after having sinned by eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The story is in Genesis 3, but the theme is set in the previous chapter, before the fall, where it is said: “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Gen. 2:25).

I have said many times in considering this story that I have no doubt that this was a literal physical nakedness. Otherwise the matter of their making fig-leaf clothes for themselves, which we are told about later, has no meaning. But it was a psychological nakedness, too. Adam and Eve were not ashamed in their nakedness before they sinned. It was only after they had sinned that they were conscious of it.

Why were they unashamed before the fall? The answer is obvious. Nakedness has to do with exposure, not only with external, physical exposure but, more importantly, with internal exposure. They were not ashamed in their nakedness before the fall because they had nothing to be ashamed about.

1. They were unashamed before God. Adam and Eve had done nothing that would have been any cause for shame. They were without sin at the time, and their relationship to God was one of utter openness. They delighted to see God when he came to them in the garden. They conversed with him freely. We cannot do this, of course, and the reason we cannot do it is sin. Sin causes us to hide from God, as Adam and Eve later did when God came to them. Sin causes us to flee from him.

Some flee into atheism, as Sartre did.

Some flee into materialism.

Even Christians run away from God when they persist in sin.

Donald Grey Barnhouse had been preaching on a college campus and had been invited to speak in one of the women’s dorms following a meeting that had been held elsewhere that evening. When he finished, one of the young women remained behind, obviously offended by his teaching. Her face was scowling. “I used to believe that stuff, but I don’t believe it anymore,” she said.

Barnhouse asked, “What class are you in?”

“I’m a freshman.”

“What kind of a family do you come from?” The girl said that she came from a Christian family.

“Do you have a Bible?”

“Yes.”

“Do you read it?”

“I used to read it,” the student said, “but I don’t read it anymore. I told you I no longer believe that stuff.”

“Can you remember when you stopped reading it?” Barnhouse asked. The girl said that she had stopped reading it around Thanksgiving. “Tell me,” said Barnhouse, “what happened in your life around November the tenth?” The girl began to cry, and it soon came out that at that time she had started to live in sin with a young man, and it was because of this that she could no longer tolerate the gaze of God when she read her Bible.

Wesley said it well: “The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.” This is because the God who confronts us in Scripture is the holy God before whom all hearts are open.

2. They were unashamed before each other. Before the fall, it was not only God before whom Adam and Eve were unashamed. They were also unashamed before each other, and for the same reason. They had nothing to be ashamed about. They had not lied to one another. They had not falsely accused one another, as they later did, trying to shift the blame for their sin to others. They had not harmed one another. As a result they could be completely themselves. Today no one can be completely open in a relationship. In some good relationships we come close. But still, there is a residue of ourselves that we keep hidden even from a spouse or very close friend. Why? Because we are ashamed of ourselves, and we fear that if we reveal the fault, the other will cease to love us or respect us.

3. They were unashamed in their own eyes. Both Adam and Eve were without shame as they looked on themselves. In those first days, Adam could look at himself and know he had nothing to hide. And Eve could look at herself and know she had nothing to hide.

What about us? Today, most of us will hardly stop our mad race through life long enough even to take a brief glance at who we are. Generations ago, people lived more slowly; they could reflect on who they were and where they were going. Modern life has intensified the pace. Most of us cannot even come into a room and sit down for two minutes without feeling the need to snap on the television set or radio to fill our heads with stimulation—anything to keep from thinking. “All the news, all the time!” That is what we want. And the reason we want it is that we do not want to consider that we are naked before God and that nothing is hidden from him before whom we must give account.

Hiding from Thee

What we are and do comes out in the continuation of the Genesis story. Adam and Eve sinned, in spite of the warning God had given them concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So when God came to them in the garden they hid themselves—or at least they tried to.

Actually, they had already tried to hide, first from themselves and then from each other. They did it by trying to make clothing from fig leaves. Sometimes when people are trying to be funny they speak of prostitution as the oldest human profession, but they are wrong in this. The oldest profession is not prostitution but the clothing industry. Later, sin showed itself in sexual sins as well as in other ways. But the very first effect of sin was the opening of the eyes of Adam and Eve to perceive that they were naked, in response to which “they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves” (Gen. 3:7). In other words, as sinners they found their psychological exposure intolerable and tried to cover up. At first they used leaves. Later, when God appeared to question them, they used evasions and excuses and tried to put the blame on God.

I have sometimes spoken of these leaves as good works and of the attempt to be covered by them as “fig-leaf righteousness.” It was a way of saying, “We are all right. We are not sinners. We are good people.” Well, as long as it was just the two of them, they got by, since they were both sinners. But the fig leaves were inadequate when they finally stood before God, just as our good works will be useless at the judgment.

I do not know what happened to those fig leaves when God finally appeared to Adam and Eve and called them to stand before him. Perhaps they fell off. But whether or not they did, they might as well have, for nothing could have hidden from God what they were or had done. So it will be in our judgment. We commit our sins in secret. We present a false face to the public. We declare that God does not exist. We brand ourselves atheists. We think we are safe. But we do not need reporters hiding in the bushes to observe what we are doing and report it in the National Enquirer. We do not need a talk-show host to reveal our cover-up transactions. God knows. God remembers. And one day he “will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ.”

What a dreadful last scene to human history!

The Psalmist said, “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins [and he does], O Lord, who could stand?” (Ps. 130:3).

Naked—Yet Clothed by God

I come to the climax of the story of Adam and Eve’s sin, and it is chiefly for this that I tell it. God told Adam and Eve that the punishment for their eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would be death. But when he confronted them in their sin and exposed it, the death he had promised fell not on them but on a substitute. And here is a truly thrilling point: It was with the skin of the substitute that they were clothed.

The Bible tells it tersely, saying, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). The text does not indicate what animals God killed in order to get the skins with which he clothed Adam and Eve, but in view of the development of this idea later in the Bible, I tend to think that they were lambs and that the skins were lambskins. Certainly, the incident is meant to point to Jesus Christ as the only sufficient atonement for sin, and Jesus is pictured as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Whatever they were, God must have killed animals in order to have the skins with which he clothed our first parents.

Think what this must have meant to Adam and Eve. Their first thought, when they saw the animals lying dead in front of them, must have been, “So this is what death is!” They must have regarded the scene with horror. God had told them, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Gen. 2:17). But if they had not witnessed death before this, which we are to suppose they had not, they probably did not take this threat seriously. Now suddenly death was before them, and they must have sensed for the very first time how serious it is to disobey God. In that instant it must have dawned on them that if death is the result of sin, then sin is far worse than anything they could possibly have imagined. Moreover, they were sinners, and their sin was damnable.

But there is something else that must have gripped them in that instant, and that was a deep and growing wonder at God’s mercy. God had told them that their sin would be punished by death. And it was! But wonder of wonders, it was not themselves who died but the animals. They had broken God’s law. God had every right to take their lives in forfeit of his broken commandment. But instead, he showed that there could be a substitution. An innocent could die for them.

And there was another marvel, too. They were exposed as sinners. All the secrets they had were revealed. But although their sins were exposed— their nakedness was a symbol of it—they did not have to remain naked. Rather, God clothed them with the skins of the slain animals. So they were both exposed and covered at the same time.

This is what must be done for us. We cannot escape from our guilt. The guilt is there and is well documented. We can try to deny it, but everything in our lives, culture, and psychological makeup will refute the denial. We show our guilt by doors and blinds and shower curtains and the clothing industry—as well as by our calculated attempts to hide from one another. These patterns testify to the truthfulness of the Word of God. But the gospel tells us that God deals with this guilt. He does not just deny, forgive, or forget it. He deals with it in Jesus Christ. Christ died for sin; the penalty of sin has been paid. Now God clothes those who have believed in Christ with Christ’s righteousness:

Jesus, thy blood and righteousness

My beauty are, my glorious dress;

’Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,

With joy shall I lift up my head.

Whoever you are, the day is coming when you will stand before the judgment bar of God, and God will judge even the deepest secrets of your heart. How will you manage in that day? You can appear before God in only one of two ways. Either you will stand before him in the righteousness of Christ, your sin atoned for by his death, or you will stand in the horror of your own spiritual and moral nakedness. The Bible speaks of people who will be like that. It describes their terror. “Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’ ” (Rev. 6:15–17).

Do not wait until the day when God will expose and judge all secrets. Flee to Christ for his righteousness today.[1]

 


[1] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: Justification by Faith (Vol. 1, pp. 241–248). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Not Hearers Only, But Doers (Romans 2:12–15)

 

Romans 2:12–15

All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)

I mentioned previously that every preacher who spends time trying to answer questions people have about Christianity has heard the question about the heathen over and over again. “What about the poor heathen in a far-off jungle who has never heard about Jesus Christ? Will God condemn him for failing to believe on a person about whom he has not even heard?”

I have answered that question in various ways over the years. One of the answers I have sometimes given, particularly to those who are not yet Christians, is that if someday we get to heaven and discover that a number or even all of these untaught natives have arrived in heaven despite our failure to tell them about Jesus, all we will be able to do is praise God for his great mercy and unfathomable ways. We will be happy! But if, on the contrary, we get to heaven and discover that not one of the untaught heathen is there, all of them having been condemned for failing to do what they knew they should do (on the basis of the natural revelation), we will still praise God for his mercy (to those to whom it was extended) and acknowledge his justice in the heathens’ case, since the Judge of all the earth always does do right (cf. Gen. 18:25).

However, when I come to Romans 2:12, as we do now, I am reproved for this answer. For the text does not suggest that the heathen may somehow get to heaven in spite of their ignorance of the gospel, but rather that they will be condemned like the others. Not for failing to believe on Jesus, of whom they have not heard, of course! But for failing to do what they knew they should do, even apart from God’s special revelation.

Verse 12 of our text supports this view, using the powerful word perish. “All who sin apart from the law will perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.”

Principles of Judgment

It can hardly be otherwise, of course, given the nature of man and the principles of God’s judgment spelled out in this important second chapter of Romans. It is true that after reading verses 7 and 10 we might have some excuse for thinking that God may save some persons apart from the gospel, since those verses describe the hypothetical case of those who do good by God’s standards. “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. [There will be] glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” This might suggest that there are some untaught persons who, in spite of their ignorance of the gospel, nevertheless do good, strive for immortality, and therefore will be saved. But the fact that this is an entirely hypothetical case is proved by verse 12. If anyone actually could persist in doing good, there would be the reward of eternal life with God. But no one does! Therefore, “all who sin apart from the law will also perish.”

I mentioned the principles of God’s judgment as a reason why no one will be saved without Christ. Based on Romans 2, it is worth reviewing them at this point.

1. God’s judgment is according to truth (v. 2). Human judgment tries to live up to this standard. Witnesses in our courts are required to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” But obviously human judgment is at best according to partial truth, and it is often misled entirely when witnesses inadvertently misrepresent the facts or lie about them. God’s judgment is infinitely superior to human judgment at this point. It is according to full knowledge and perfect truth, because all secrets are known and all hearts are open to God. And no one will be able to lie in God’s court.

2. God’s judgment is proportionate to human sins (v. 5). This is why Paul speaks of sinners as “storing up wrath” against the day of God’s wrath. Those who sin much will be punished much. Those who sin less will be judged accordingly.

3. God’s judgment is according to righteousness (v. 5). Paul points to “his righteous judgment.” There will be nothing wrong about it. It will be according to the highest possible standard and a faultless moral code.

4. God’s judgment is impartial (v. 11). In human courts we often find the accused hoping to receive preferential treatment for one reason or another, and judges sometimes comply. Not so with God. At the final judgment all will be judged according to the same impartial standards and procedures, for, as Paul writes, “God does not show favoritism.”

5. God’s judgment is according to people’s deeds (vv. 6–10, 12–15). Considering the number of verses dealing with this principle, this must have been the most important point of all according to Paul’s way of thinking. Indeed, it is found throughout Romans 2, even in verses that seem to be making another point. Take verse 1, as an example. Paul is writing of persons who try to excuse their wrongdoing by saying that they have a firmer sense of what is right and wrong than other people. Paul’s reply is that these persons are nevertheless guilty, because they “do the same things.” That is, they are judged on the basis of their actual deeds. That phrase—“do the same things”—is also implied in verse 2 and repeated in verse 3. Finally, in verse 6, Paul says, “God ‘will give to each person according to what he has done.’ ” It is not what we know or even what we say we do that matters. It is how we actually perform.

Sinners Under The Law

How hard it is for our perverted sense of being righteous in God’s sight to die! As we read these verses we can discern at once what Paul was dealing with and how he is replying. I said earlier, when we began to study Romans 2, that in my judgment Paul is dealing chiefly with the virtuous pagan in the first half of the chapter (vv. 1–16) and with the Jew in the second half (vv. 17–29). But, although this is generally true, he nevertheless is also probably thinking of the Jew in this section. Paul can undoubtedly visualize the Jew’s response. He has spoken of those who are “under,” or exposed, to the law as perishing. But the Jew would not want to accept this. According to Jewish teaching, salvation was by the law. The pious Jew spent long hours meditating on the law and could always be found in the synagogue attending to its reading and exposition. I suppose Paul could almost hear the Jew gearing up to rattle off his accomplishments.

“I am not like all other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.”—“I fast twice a week.”—“I give a tenth of all I get” (cf. Luke 18:12).

“All these I have kept since I was a boy” (cf. Luke 18:21).

As a matter of fact, Paul had thought like this himself before he met Christ: “… circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless” (Phil. 3:5–6).

Later, Paul is going to deal with the religious person’s false hopes more directly, but here he focuses on such people’s actual performance. “I know you know the law,” Paul is acknowledging. “But do you keep it?” He reminds them that “it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous” (v. 13).

Not hearers only, but doers! That is the point of this passage, and it is the point at which each of us falls down. At the time of the release of the Tower Report on the investigation of arms sales to Iran, the newspapers carried a headline in which President Ronald Reagan was quoted as admitting, “Everyone fell short.” That is it exactly—except that in the matter of our standing before God, the outcome is of far greater importance. Since we are condemned by the law, all of us having failed to live up to its standards, we must seek salvation in another way entirely.

Sinners Apart from The Law

There is another problem here: the problem of Gentiles (whom Paul had chiefly in mind) who would excuse themselves on the grounds that, unlike the Jews, they had not been given the law. They would agree with the justice of God in the Jews’ condemnation. God had told the Jews how to live, and they had not done it. Indeed, they were even hypocritical about it, which is what Paul seems to bring out in the latter half of the chapter (vv. 17–24). The Jews had sinned under the law. But the Gentiles did not have the law of God. How, then, could they be condemned by it? In fact, how could they even be accused of sinning? Yet Paul wrote, “All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from law” (v. 12a). How can there be sin apart from a divine law code or revelation?

Paul’s answer is in verses 14 and 15. It has two parts. First, the Gentiles, even though they do not possess the law of God given to the Jewish people, nevertheless have a law “written on their hearts.” Second, they also possess “consciences” that tell them they ought to obey this law and condemn them when they do not.

This is a very important point, for it introduces for the first time in Paul’s letter what the older theologians called “the moral law” or “the law of nature.” Earlier we dealt with “natural revelation,” which means the revelation that God has given of himself in creation. (See chapter 15 of this volume.) It involves his “eternal power and divine nature” (Rom. 1:20); that is, confirms that there is a Supreme Being. But that is not what is involved here. In the earlier case, the natural revelation was seen to be sufficient to condemn all men and women, because on its basis they are obliged to seek out, thank, and worship the true God, which they do not do. But this goes beyond the natural revelation in that it involves a moral code or order that, Paul says, is possessed by all people. They may not have the revealed law of God. But they have something like it. They have “a law for themselves,” which condemns them.

No person has talked about this moral law more effectively in recent years than the late Cambridge professor C. S. Lewis. It is the initial argument in his classic defense of the faith, Mere Christianity. Lewis begins with the observation that when people argue with one another, an angry person almost always appeals to some basic standard of behavior that the other person is assumed to recognize: “They say things like this: ‘How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?’—‘That’s my seat, I was there first’—‘Leave him alone, he isn’t doing you any harm’—‘Why should you shove in first?’—‘Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine’—‘Come on, you promised.’ People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown-ups.”

What interested Lewis about these remarks is that the people making them are not merely saying that the other person’s behavior just does not happen to suit them, but rather that the behavior of the other person is wrong:

The man who makes [these remarks] … is appealing to some kind of standard of behavior which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies, “To hell with your standard.” Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse. He pretends there is some special reason in this particular case why the person who took the seat first should not keep it, or that things were quite different when he was given the bit of orange, or that something has turned up which lets him off keeping his promise. It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behavior or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed. And they have. If they had not, they might, of course, fight like animals, but they could not quarrel in the human sense of the word. Quarrelling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are, just as there would be no sense in saying that a footballer had committed a foul unless there was some agreement about the rules of football.

Lewis had a marvelously fresh gift for stating deep things simply. But it cannot escape us that this is precisely what Paul is saying in Romans 2:14–15, in reference to the Gentiles, though in more theological terms. It is true that Gentiles did not have the Jews’ law. But they had a law within, a law that did not merely say that some kinds of behavior seem to work better than others or produce better responses from other people, but, rather, went far beyond that either to accuse or excuse them of wrongdoing.

Witnesses for the Prosecution

There are three important witnesses against the natural man in these verses. We must see what they are.

1. The law of nature. Lewis points out that today the law (or laws) of nature usually refers to physical phenomena like gravity, the bonding of elements, combustion, or nuclear energy. But, when the ancient theologians used this term, it meant, as it does here, “the law of human nature.” The law of human nature is like natural physical law in that it comes from without and is meant to govern the way things operate or function. But there is this difference: In the physical realm an object has no choice as to whether or not it will observe the physical law. Those laws always operate. But in the human or moral realm people do have a choice, and the law is universally violated.

I know that many people object to belief in a universal moral law, pointing to the fact that some (the insane, for example) do not seem to be aware of it or to the fact that moral standards vary among different races or cultures. But those objections are not valid. It is true that there are people who do not seem to be aware of moral standards, and the insane are among them. But the very fact that we call such persons “insane” shows that we nevertheless recognize and want to adhere to the standards, regardless of what the problem may be in that individual’s case. If an insane man commits a crime, we usually excuse him; but we do not excuse others. The problem is the person, not the standard. Again, although there are obvious differences in the way various races and cultures look at morals, there is nevertheless far more agreement than we might think at first. Regardless of the culture, there is (with few exceptions) a general regard for life, honor, bravery, selflessness, and such things. And the law codes and moral treatises of the ancients are remarkably like our own.

Regardless of what people say or even how they act, the real proof of the moral law is in people’s objection when they perceive themselves to be mistreated. If they speak of “unfair treatment,” as all people do at one time or another, “have they not let the cat out of the bag and shown that, whatever they say, they really know the Law of Nature just like anyone else?” as Lewis argues.

2. Conscience. The second accuser in these verses is the conscience, which Paul introduces as “also bearing witness” (v. 15). Some have confused the law of nature and the conscience, but they are two very different concepts. The first is an objective standard of which all are aware; it involves knowledge, knowledge of the right. The conscience is the part of our being that tells us we ought to do the right thing personally. Robert Haldane says, “Knowledge shows what is right; the conscience approves of it and condemns the contrary.”

3. The Memory. The third of the prosecuting witnesses in man is something we have not touched on yet, but which is introduced in the very last phrase we are studying: “their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them” (v. 15). It is the memory. Why is the memory so important? Obviously because it is something within ourselves that can (and will) condemn us, even without an external, judging word from God.

What a picture we have here! Three accusers, combining their witness to prove that even the person without the law will perish!

Donald Grey Barnhouse was known for his vivid and often very original illustrations, and at this point in his treatment of Romans he refers to the famous Revolutionary War painting “The Spirit of ’76.” It shows a drummer, a standard-bearer, and a fifer marching briskly down the road. Barnhouse says that our conduct (measured by the moral law), our conscience, and our memory are like those figures:

Your conduct beats the drum that declares by your resounding good works that you know there is a divine law. Your conscience waves the flag that reminds you that often you have trampled your principles in the dust as you rushed past on your way to complete the desires of your own will. And the fife of your memory shrieks its refrain to remind you that you have sinned. The excuses and accusations of your thought run like shrill arpeggios in the counterpoint of your guilt. And the trio, conduct, conscience and mind, are all in step, in a perfect unison of condemnation because you have followed the road of your own will, refusing the road that forks at the cross of Jesus Christ that will lead you, if you follow it, even into eternal life.

Shall Not Perish

That is the point to which we should be led, of course. We should be led away from attempts to justify ourselves by our works, as the Jews did, or excuse ourselves as people who do not know what we should do, as the Gentiles did. Instead we should turn to Christ, where alone salvation may be found.

At the beginning of this study I spent some time talking about Romans 2:12, which says, “All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law.” I made the point that we must never think any person will ever be saved in any way other than by faith in Jesus Christ. Apart from him they will “perish.” But whenever we see that word perish, with all its proper force and terror, we must also think of probably the best-known verse in the Bible, John 3:16, in which Jesus uses that word but says that it need not be our end: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16 speaks of two destinies: eternal life and perishing, the very ends Paul speaks about in Romans 2 (vv. 7, 12). From birth we are all headed toward the second end, destined to perish miserably, without God and without hope (cf. Eph. 2:12). But Jesus died to make another and entirely different destiny possible. It is the way of atonement, with Jesus dying in our place, taking our punishment for sin upon himself. This is a wonderful end. It is, as Lewis says, “a thing of unspeakable comfort.” Still, it does not begin with comfort. It begins with the knowledge of sin, so that we might turn from sin to faith in Jesus.[1]

 


[1] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: Justification by Faith (Vol. 1, pp. 233–240). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Good for the Good, Bad for the Bad (Romans 2:6–11)

 

Romans 2:6–11

God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.

I am sure you have been in situations in which a person, perhaps yourself, has been caught doing something wrong and has immediately begun to make excuses. “I didn’t mean to do it,” the accused one might say. Or, “But so-and-so did it first.” Or, “You just don’t understand my circumstances.”

It may be the case in any given instance that the person involved really was “innocent,” because of his or her motive or because of circumstances. This is one reason why our judicial system takes so much trouble to determine motives and circumstances in criminal cases. Generally, however, the excuses people make are exactly that, excuses, and they need to be seen for what they really are. This is particularly true in our relationships to God. God accuses us of repressing the truth about himself and of violating his moral law even while we pass judgment on others for doing the same things, but as soon as we hear these truths we begin to make excuses. We claim that we did not know what was required of us, that we did not do what we are accused of doing, or that our motives were actually good. Whenever we find ourselves doing this, we need to rediscover the principles of God’s just judgment, which Romans 2 explains.

One important principle is that God’s judgment is according to truth (v. 2). On the basis of this principle alone we find ourselves to be guilty. For God, who is the God of truth, declares that we ourselves do what we find deserving of blame in others.

Another principle is that God’s judgment is according to our deeds (v. 6). We cannot plead extenuating circumstances with God, because it is what we do that counts. This principle is unfolded in verses 6 through 11 and is developed further in verses 12 through 15.

Two Different Paths

These verses speak of two very different paths. One is the path of good deeds, the end of which is glory, honor, peace, and eternal life. The other is the path of evil, the end of which is trouble, distress, wrath, and anger. The verses teach that a person is on either one path or the other.

Up to this point, particularly as a result of our earlier study of verse 5, a person might conclude that the judgment of God will be a finely graded thing—extending all the way from perfect happiness and bliss on the one hand to utter misery and torment on the other, and that most of us will fall somewhere in between. This is because of the principle of proportionality in judgment, which we developed from the idea of “storing up wrath” in verse 5. As we look at people, we see that some are better than others, and some are worse. Therefore, we reason, in the life to come some should be treated well, some should be treated badly, and the differences should be relative. A person reasoning along these lines might conclude that our future existence in heaven or hell (or whatever) should be somewhat the same as our present existence, which means a mixture of good and bad for most people.

Our text refutes this error. According to these verses, the two paths are mutually exclusive.

The Path of the Just

The first path is that of the person who does good. In our text Paul speaks of such people in two places. Putting together these verses, we have the following: “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he [God] will give eternal life.… There will be … glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (vv. 7, 9–10).

There are two things that such a person is described here as doing: (1) he or she does good and (2) persists in doing good. There are three things that are highlighted as his or her essential motivation: (1) glory, (2) honor, and (3) immortality. Elsewhere in Paul’s writings, these terms are used of the Christian’s ultimate expectations. “Glory” refers to the transformation of the believer into the image of God’s Son, by which the glory of God will be reflected in that person (cf. Rom. 5:2; 8:18, 30; 9:23; 1 Cor. 2:7; 15:43; 2 Cor. 3:12–18; 4:17). “Honor” refers to God’s approval of believers, as contrasted with the dishonor and even scorn accorded to them by the world (cf. Heb. 2:7; 1 Peter 1:7). “Immortality” refers to the resurrection hope of God’s people (cf. 1 Cor. 15:42, 50, 52–54). One commentator writes, “The three terms have indisputably in the usage of Paul redemptive associations, and this consideration of itself makes it impossible to think that the eschatological aspiration referred to is anything less than that provided by redemptive revelation. The three words define aspiration in terms of the highest reaches of Christian hope.”

Likewise, there are four things that God is said to dispense to such people as rewards for their aspirations: (1) eternal life, (2) glory, (3) honor, and (4) peace. “Eternal life” refers to salvation—life in heaven with God rather than damnation. “Glory” and “honor” are two of the goals the people described are striving for. The last term, “peace,” seems to parallel “immortality” and therefore points, not to peace with God, which we can enjoy now as the result of Christ’s death for us and our resulting justification, or even to that supernatural peace of God, which “transcends all understanding” (Phil. 4:7), but to the peace of heaven. It is deliverance from sin and its conflicts.

But here comes the big question. Has anyone ever chosen this path by his or her own will and then walked along it by his or her own strength? Does anyone of himself or herself actually do good and persist in it apart from the gospel?

I have spoken of the aspirations of the one who walks this path being “Christian” aspirations. Therefore, it is a path walked by Christians. But the question I am asking is whether any of us actually choose this path and then persist in it of ourselves, that is, unaided by the work of the Holy Spirit in turning us from sin to faith in Christ and by joining us to him. I hope that by this time we know the answer to that question. It is no! No one chooses to do good (as God defines it) or seeks glory, honor, or immortality by the path of rigorous morality. In fact, as we will see when we get to Paul’s summation of the human condition in Romans 3:10–12:

As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;

there is no one who understands,

no one who seeks God.

All have turned away,

they have together become worthless;

there is no one who does good,

not even one.”

This first path would be a wonderful option if anyone could actually walk along it. But none can! And none do! Therefore, when God judges men and women by an accurate and comprehensive examination of their deeds, as he says he will do, all will be condemned. “For God does not show favoritism” (Rom. 2:11).

The Way of Sinners

The second path is the one all persons naturally take, apart from the intervention of God. It is the way of destruction. Again, Paul speaks of it in two verses of our text. Putting these together we have: “For those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (vv. 8–9).

In these verses there are four things that the wicked are said to be or do, which reveal their sinfulness. First, they are “self-seeking.” This is the opposite of the first and second “greatest” commandments, which say, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.… [and] your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37, 39). It is the sin of Satan who said, “I will make myself like the Most High” (Isa. 14:14b). Second, they “reject the truth.” In the context of these early chapters of Romans, this refers to the rejection of the truth of God revealed in nature and, of course, all other rejections of truth that flow from it. Third, such a person “does evil.” Romans 1:29–31 was an exposition of what this means, and there are other like passages later on (cf. Rom. 3:13–18). Fourth, they “follow evil.” This could mean simply that they do evil, but this would be redundant in light of verse 9. Here it probably refers to the continuing downward path of evil described in 1:18–32.

What is the result of these choices? Again, there are four items: “wrath and anger” and “trouble and distress.” The first two and the last two closely parallel each other, and there is a relationship between the first pair and the second. “Wrath and anger” both concern God’s fierce and absolute opposition to all evil. “Trouble and distress” refer to the effect of God’s resulting judgment upon evildoers. The words are frequently used of the sufferings of the wicked in the life to come (cf. Isa. 8:22; Zeph. 1:15, 17).

This is what awaits the ungodly and why even those who think that they are better than other people also need the gospel.

The Two Paths in Scripture

Many people find this section of Romans to be extremely difficult, for it seems to be saying that salvation is by good works. If you do good and persist in it, you will be saved. If you do evil, you will be lost. This is not what Romans 2:6–11 is saying, of course. No one is saved other than by the work of Jesus Christ and by faith in him. Nevertheless, it is significant that the inspired apostle does speak of two paths, and he does not encourage us to suppose that a person can reach the goal of eternal life without actually being on the path of righteousness.

Should we be surprised at this? Hardly!

This is the message of Psalm 1, which speaks of the righteous man “who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers,” but rather delights “in the law of the Lord,” and speaks also of the wicked man who is “like chaff that the wind blows away” (vv. 1, 2, 4). This has present implications. But, like Paul’s parallel thoughts in Romans, it has eternal implications as well. “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous” (v. 5), and “the wicked will perish” (v. 6).

Matthew 19:16–21 records that the Lord Jesus Christ replied in similar terms to the rich young man who asked him, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

We might have expected Jesus to reply that the man should have faith in him. But instead Jesus said to obey the commandments: “ ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

The young man thought he had already done this. “All these I have kept,” he said.

Again, instead of telling him to have faith in himself or even pointing out that he had not actually kept these commandments as God intended he should, Jesus merely brought to mind the young man’s debilitating love of possessions: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (v. 21).

The introduction to the parable of the good Samaritan is along the same lines. An expert on the law tried to test Jesus by asking the same question posed by the rich young ruler: “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25).

Jesus pointed him to the law: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ ” (v. 27). The parable that followed was given to show who one’s neighbor is and what it means to love him.

The most striking of Jesus’ words setting out the two paths are those that come at the end of his last great sermon before the crucifixion, the sermon preached on the Mount of Olives:

[Jesus said,] “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They will also answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Matthew 25:31–46

I do not want anyone to think that I am substituting good works for faith as a means of salvation. I am not. If good works are even added to faith—not to mention being substituted for faith—as a grounds of salvation, this becomes a false gospel and deserves the anathema Paul pronounces on such error (Gal. 1:8–9). Salvation is achieved by Christ for all who are to be saved, and it becomes theirs by simple faith in him and his work. But we must not mock God either! It is an equal error, as Paul also shows, to think that one can be saved by faith and then continue down the same path he or she has been treading, doing no good works at all. A person doing that is not saved, regardless or his or her profession.

Here is the wonder of the Christian gospel. On the one hand, it is utterly by grace received through faith—and even that faith is of grace (cf. Eph. 2:8). No one who is saved can possibly boast of anything. We are saved on the sole grounds of Jesus’ death in our place. But, at the same time and on the other hand, those who are saved by grace through faith are placed on a path of righteousness where they do indeed perform such good works as the world about them cannot even begin to dream.

That is why Jesus could say, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). “Righteousness” in this verse means “good deeds.” So the teaching is that the people of God will—if they truly are the people of God—do good works surpassing even the best of the righteous (but unsaved) people of Christ’s day.

Getting on the Right Path

What can you do if you are on the wrong path? How do you get out of the company of the wicked—who are rejecting the truth, pursuing evil, and thereby treasuring up wrath against the day of God’s judgment—and into the company of those who are doing good deeds and who seek glory, honor, and immortality? Let me ask that twofold question again more clearly: What do you do if you are on a wrong path in order to get off the wrong path and onto a right one? Here are some specific answers:

1. Recognize that you are on the wrong path. Nobody is ever going to get off a wrong path and onto a right one as long as he or she entertains some hope that the present road will eventually lead to where he or she wants to go. So long as you think the way of your own self-seeking and of the rejection of the biblical truth about God is going to get you to happiness or fulfillment or salvation in the life to come (or whatever), you are never going to take even the first small step toward being saved. You must begin by recognizing that you are on the wrong path and that the end of that path is destruction.

2. Admit that the path itself will not change. Strangely, some travelers will admit that they are on a wrong road, but rather than go back to the right one they keep hoping that the road itself will change or that they will find a fork they can take that will get them to their proper destination. That will not happen in the physical world—nor in the spiritual! The path of self-seeking will always take you further from God and happiness. It is the downward path of Romans 1. It ends in the wrath of Romans 2.

3. Turn around and face the opposite direction. This is a way of speaking about what the Bible calls repentance or conversion. “Repentance” means to have a change of mind, to think differently and act differently as a result. “Conversion” literally means to turn around. You need to reject the way you are going and choose a different path entirely.

4. Commit yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in his death on your behalf. This is the fullest meaning of faith, which does not stop merely with an intellectual assent to certain truths about God or Jesus but involves a commitment to Jesus as one’s personal Lord and Savior. You must be able to say, as Thomas did when Jesus appeared to him a week after his resurrection, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

5. Get on with following Jesus and obeying his commands. When you are wandering down the path of your own self-seeking and finally begin to realize what you are doing, you sense that you are hopelessly far from the true path—and in a sense you are. As long as you continue as you are going you will always be far from it. God seems infinitely removed. The return to God seems hopeless. But when you stop and turn around, beginning to seek God rather than your own will and pleasure, you will find (much to your surprise) that Jesus is not far away at all. In fact, you find him right there beside you. It was because he was with you and was calling you that you even turned around. That is why in the Bible repentance and faith always go together, so closely together that it is often impossible to say which comes first and which second. To believe on Jesus is to turn from sin—and vice versa.

And there is something else, too.

In the same instant you turn from sin and believe on Jesus, you find that you are already on the right road. You do not have to seek it, because the first step on that road is believing on Jesus. It is being where he is. He starts with you at that precise point. Therefore, as you step forward you find the darkness dispel, the light break through, and a glimpse of glory, honor, immortality, and eternal life rise up before you as your goal.[1]

 


[1] Boice, J. M. (1991–). Romans: Justification by Faith (Vol. 1, pp. 225–232). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Theology: GOD IS INFINITE

The term infinite only appears in scripture once in Psalm 147:5, “Great is our Lord, and of great power; his understanding is infinite.” The term seems to have the idea in the Hebrew of without number. (This is Strong’s word number 4557 “mis-pawr”) The term is used in purely mathematical thought of number, or is also used to tell of God’s wonders that are without number. Psalm 40:5 mentions that His thoughts and works are so many that we can’t number them.

 

Another term you may find is “immensity.” Immense according to Webster is, “…..marked by greatness esp. in size or degree; esp: transcending ordinary means of measurement…..” (By permission. From Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary copyright 1991 by Merriam- Webster Inc., publisher of the Merriam-Webster (registered) Dictionaries.)

 

What is the difference between immensity and omnipresence? Immensity is the size or extent while omnipresence is the fact that He is everywhere, or his presence if you will.

 

Infinite has two directions of definition. First, He is in size, limitless. Secondly, He is in characteristics, limitless to the extent of his attributes and nature.

 

He may be limited by some of his attributes. For example we saw that His power was limited in that He cannot act inconsistently with Himself. He cannot make a rock too big to lift. In this sense He has limitations within His attributes, however not in His size.

 

He is limitless. It is not that we don’t know His limits, but that He is truly limitless.

 

 

Theissen says, “By the immensity of God we mean His infinity in relation to space.” (Thiessen, Henry C.; “Lectures In Systematic Theology”; Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1949,p 122)

 

References You Might Want To Consider: 1 Kings 8:27, 2 Chronicles 2:6, Jeremiah 23:24, Job. 11:7-9, Psalm 139:7ff, Isaiah 66:1, Acts 17:28.

 

POSSIBLE PROBLEMS

 

1. Does the person that rejects Christ diminish God’s mercy? Does the person that rejects Christ diminish any of God’s attributes? NO. That person rejects and refuses to accept those perfect gifts of mercy, grace and salvation that have been set before him. God is not diminished in any way.

 

2. Psalm 78:41 mentions, “Yea, they turned back and tested God, and limited the Holy one of Israel.” How do we answer this statement if we say that God is infinite and that man cannot diminish God? They limited what God could do for them but they set no limit on God as such. His attributes, character and nature were unaffected. He could not do the great things that He wanted to do for them.

 

3. Some suggest that man is infinite as well. Job. 22:5 mentions that man’s sins are infinite. The thought being that, if we can sin infinitely, we must be infinite in other ways. WRONG. This is a different word than we have been considering. Our sin is infinite for it is toward an infinite God. Our sin is infinite for we can do nothing with it in and of ourselves. Our sin is infinite for it will go on for eternity if it isn’t cared for. The infinite thought is carried into hell which is for all of eternity.

 

APPLICATION

 

1. God is infinite so as we learn of Him we can know that we can never run out of things to learn about Him. We can study for years and never know all there is to know about Him.

 

2. Would it be safe to assume that the attribute of infinite is why God is so longsuffering? He allows man to run on as long as His justice will allow.

He is infinitely gracious, at least to the limits of His justice and righteousness.

 

 

3. He is infinite in understanding. He can understand any mixed up mess or problem that we present to Him. Sometimes I have a big truck load of facts that just boggle my mind and I have a terrible time figuring out all the details of the mess. He instantly knows all of the ins and outs of such messes and has no problem in understanding. He is the one to go to when you have a mess that you can’t sort out.

 

4. I wonder if this does not relate to the infinite types and looks of people. We are created in His image. He would have infinite creativity. I can be very pleased and thankful that I am one of a kind.[1]

 


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