23. Condemnation

Meditations in 2 Peter : 23 :  Condemnation

2 Pet  2:10-12     This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.

Peter has just said, “the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.” Thus when he continues, “This is especially true of those…” he is expanding his previous description of ‘the unrighteous’. Although we didn’t pick it up previously, he seems to indicate two sorts of God’s dealings with the unrighteous. The ultimate one is His judging them on the final day of judgment when they stand before him and will be condemned to hell. However there was also the reference at the end of that previous sentence: “while continuing their punishment.” This suggests that God does punish the ungodly and the unrighteous here and now.

The apostle Paul would agree with this way of thinking in his descriptions of God’s activity in Romans 1: “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.” (Rom 1:24) and “God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.” (Rom 1:26,27) and “Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.” (Rom1:28). In other words all of these increasing levels of sin are God’s punishment!!!!!

This increasing licentiousness is in fact bringing bad into the lives of these people and it is a direct outworking of God lifting off His hand of restraint. Now the more you turn from God the more this works, for this is God’s way of trying to show foolish men and women the error of their ways so that they may, perhaps, come to their senses and turn back to Him.

This is especially so, says Peter, of those who follow their corrupt sinful desires, are arrogant  and despise authority, say stupid things about angels and heaven’s activities. Now this isn’t a particularly easy passage to understand. When he talks about these people slandering celestial beings, we might say they are slandering all that goes on in heaven. Now if we put it in such general terms as that, we immediately see that this is exactly what the crusading atheists of today are doing. Without naming any well known and obvious names, sometimes the boldness and arrogance that is seen in their writings and their pronouncements on TV or in the press, are breathtaking.

Some of these men seek to convey a respectability, and one well-known American atheistic writer started his last book off with the tone of an elderly sage who was graciously tolerating these religious children who he hoped would one day grow up and abandon their silly ideas. However as the book developed the underlying harsh, arrogant, spiteful and hateful attitude in this writer became more and more obvious. These men are writing out of self-centred, godless arrogance and Peter says they are like animals in that they are operating purely on instincts and, by implication, not rationally and reasonably thinking through the issues. Although the media currently give these men credibility, one day we may look back on them and see them for what they are and will wonder how anyone ever believed what they said. It is interesting to note that one of these well known crusaders is particularly good at throwing up ‘possibilities’ and making them sound ‘probabilities’ if not facts! Yet I observe that other credible scientists now casually say, “Of course the idea of …. has now been generally discounted,” so that within a few years of them being put up even these ‘possibilities’ are seen for what they are – hot air!

Whenever we teach on cults, we always say, don’t only look at their teachings but also look at the people who started them off, see their lifestyle, see their character, and then judge. Look at the spite and venom that comes out of these people, these crusaders, and think again.

The reason these people that Peter is talking about, are doomed to destruction, is not so much the silly things they say or do, but the attitude that is fixed and unmovable and not open to correction. These are the people who will be condemned in the long ruin for these people will not come to repentance and will thus not be saved. (Please understand that we are not saying that individuals cannot be saved, but that if you absolutely refuse to ever think openly, refusing God until the end means you have no hope for eternity.) Shocking words, but the truth!

36. All sinned

Meditations in Romans : 36:  All have sinned

Rom 3:9-17 What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 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. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” Their feet are swift to shed blood;  ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

We commented in the previous meditation about the need to observe context to catch the meaning and now we need to think about context and the whole Bible. We are about to embark on a passage that reveals humanity in its worst light and in one sense that could be very depressing and so it is at times like this that we need to remind ourselves that we need to see any passage in the light of the whole of Scripture. Paul’s point here is to show the need that ALL mankind has of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, and therefore he focuses on the negatives aspects of human existence. Elsewhere he focuses on the glory of being a child of God and that is all very positive, but we can’t get to that until we have been through the negatives that bring us to our knees at the foot of the Cross. So let’s see what he says, with that awareness in the back of our minds.

What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! This is Paul summing up and arriving at a conclusion at the end of the previous paragraphs about the Jews.  Oh no, when it comes down to it, the Jews are the same as the Gentiles; we all have the same needs: We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. So, the starting place is that there is no distinction, ALL of mankind, Jew and Gentile are in the same boat! To justify this Paul starts quoting Scripture: As it is written: All that follows are Old Testament quotations.

We need to understand, when we observe New Testament writers quoting the Old, that often they simply convey the sense, sometimes they take bits and put them together and sometimes they quote from the Greek version of the Old Testament which was slightly different from the Hebrew version in places.

Thus Paul seems to quote from Psa 14:3 which reads, “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Or possibly Psa 53:1 “They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good,” or possibly Eccles 7:20 “There is not a righteous man on earth” as he writes, “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.” Within his summary, note the universality of sin. In verse 9 he had declared that “ALL are under sin.”  Now in his summary see the words he uses: “no one….. not even one….. no one who understands,  no one who seeks God. All have turned away… no one who does good, not even one.” Oh yes, he is saying, don’t think you might be an exception. There are NO exceptions!

Then he turns from generalities to specifics of sin and goes on to cite the Old Testament speaking out what people say:  Psa 5:9 – “Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit.” He writes, Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” Then Psa 140:3 “They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s; the poison of vipers is on their lips.” He quotes the latter half of that verse exactly. He then cites Psa 10:7 “His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue.” He writes, “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” He then quotes Isa 59:7,8 “Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are evil thoughts; ruin and destruction mark their ways. The way of peace they do not know.” He writes, Their feet are swift to shed blood;  ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” Finally he cites Psa 56:1 “There is no fear of God before his eyes,” as he writes, There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Yes, rather a negative collection of verses from the Old Testament but in so doing he shows us that this is no new doctrine but simply the teaching of the whole Bible. Throughout the whole Bible the teaching is the same, that without God we are sinners who are lost, helpless and hopeless! Have no illusion about being a nice person. Any niceness you have is the grace of God. Left to ourselves we are not nice, left to ourselves sin rises up and we can be thoroughly unpleasant. Left to ourselves we desperately need God’s help.

54. Righteous?

Meditations in Job : 54.  How can a Man be Righteous?

Job 25:4 How then can a man be righteous before God? How can one born of woman be pure?

Job has been protesting his righteousness and the three ‘friends’ have been struggling with that!  Bildad comes in, for the last time, with an attack on that assertion. It is in fact the last of the words from the friends. In the remainder of the book we will see Job speaking, then Elihu an outsider speaking, and then the Lord.

To start this last argument, Bildad exalts the Lord: “Dominion and awe belong to God; he establishes order in the heights of heaven. Can his forces be numbered? Upon whom does his light not rise?” (v.2,3) i.e. God is the supreme ruler who brings peace (implied)  and order to heaven. He calls upon countless angels to serve Him and His glory shines on all of creation. This is the God with whom we have to deal. So far, so good! Implied within all this is God’s perfection, perfection in His being and perfection in all He does. Before Him, Bildad continues in our verse above, how can any man stand righteous? How can any human being claim to be righteous?

He then sets up a strange comparison: “If even the moon is not bright and the stars are not pure in his eyes, how much less man, who is but a maggot– a son of man, who is only a worm!” (v.5,6) If the moon and the stars are not bright in comparison to His glory (implied), how much less be a mere human being, who is but a maggot in God’s order of things?  I have heard the same being said in the sceptical derision of modern day atheists: If God is so great how could he possibly worry about such mundane and minute figures such as we are? And there is a great mystery – the love of God!

When we seek to examine Scripture as a whole, we come across two amazingly different pictures of mankind. The first puts us down:

  • For instance the apostle Paul wrote, “death came to all men, because all sinned.” (Rom 5:12) and “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23)
  • David said, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me,” (Psa 51:5) and “All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one,” (Psa 14:3) and, agreeing with Bildad, “no one living is righteous before you.” (Psa 143:2).
  • Jeremiah spoke similarly: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.” (Jer 17:9)

So, this first position shows mankind as utterly sinful and in that respect, in their original state, there is nothing good about them. But there is a second view of mankind:

  • “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honour and put everything under his feet.” (Heb 2:6-8 quoting Psa 8) – this is mankind who God made to rule over the earth.
  • Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” (Prov 8:30,31) i.e. God delighted in mankind when He made us!
  • “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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (Jn 3:16,17) i.e. God still loved this world – the people on it – even though we are sinners.

This latter position shows that we were created to a position of authority and rule and honour and even though we are fallen, God still loved us enough to send His Son to die for us. So, can we be righteous? That is Bildad’s concern. Can we be righteous apart from Jesus, we might add?

Consider: Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” (Gen 6:9) and “Return his cloak to him by sunset so that he may sleep in it. Then he will thank you, and it will be regarded as a righteous act in the sight of the LORD your God.” (Deut 24;13) and “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.” (Psa 1:5) and “But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God (Psa 68:3) and “Thus you will walk in the ways of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous.” (Prov 2:20) and “The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry” (Prov 10:3). ‘The righteous’ in all of these cases (and very many more in the Old Testament) are those who walk with God and follow His ways and are morally upright.

Let’s move on a step: Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” (Gen 15:6) and “to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Rom 4:5). Here we see ‘righteousness’ clarified as that which God declares over a person when they simply believe Him! Where there is faith, there is righteousness.  Can we be righteous? Yes, by walking with God – by receiving His salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ, and being led by His Holy Spirit. This IS righteousness. We could say so much more on this subject but space forbids for the moment. Bildad, you’ll  need to see the wider testimony of Scripture and realise that although we are fallen, we are loved and, being loved, we can enter into a living relationship with God whereby He declares us righteous for believing what He has done for us and then for what He is doing in us.