After Sunday’s rather intense sermon about the sinful condition of man, I received a humorous note that said, “Thanks Randy for telling us how bad we are!” You’re welcome.
Malcom Muggeridge, the British journalist and author, is famous for noting that “sin is the one thing that man tries to deny, but the one doctrine most easily proven.” Indeed, if you can’t see the problem in the world around you, just look into the mirror.
Before one can be “found,” one must understand that they are “lost.” Reflecting back to even my high school years and in times of sharing the gospel with people, I recall early on that it seemed to me that the majority of people with whom I spoke had no sense of being lost or being in eternal danger.
I am unlikely to go to the doctor and pharmacy to get a prescription for something unless I am convinced that I have a medical condition that needs medicinal treatment.
Martin Luther famously wrote that … “The [manifold corruption of nature] should be emphasized, I say, for the reason that unless the severity of the disease is correctly recognized, the cure is also not known or desired. The more you minimize sin, the more grace will decline in value.”
So just how bad is the problem of sin? It’s bad … very bad. Paul writes …
2:18 – The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Paul says that God’s wrath — his anger at sin — is justly focused upon human sin, godlessness and wickedness. This is because people have suppressed the truth that is plainly evident to them, having been put there for them to clearly see by the creator God.
We are talking here about what we call “general revelation” or “natural revelation.”
John Calvin wrote best in speaking of this. In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, he taught that man was to look at himself, and also to look at the majesty of creation, and to sense that he was a creature in a created world. This should cause him to desire and seek to know the creator. But over time, this truth was lost, the natural condition of sin prevailed, and truth has been set upside-down.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
This is a history of the natural decline of the human condition after the fall of man. Truth was forgotten, foolishness and futility prevailed, and rather than the creature worshipping God, man fashioned his own stupid gods out of the materials of creation.
The remaining verses we look at today contain a statement repeated three times: “God gave them over…”
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
So, what does this mean that God gave them over? Does it mean that he gave up? Well, yes, in a sense. It is a Greek word (paradidomi) that means to give over, to hand over, to allow something — in the sense of giving up the resistance against an action.
So in this context it has the idea of God withdrawing his restraining and protective hand, thus allowing the consequences of sin to have their inevitable and destructive outcome.
That’s cold, that’s hard.
But wait, there’s more …
This is not the only time that “paradidomi” is used of God giving up. It is the verb in this sentence as well, later in Romans (8:32) “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
But wait, there’s more …
It is used of what Christ did … “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
But wait, there’s more …
Again, of what Christ did as a model for us … “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
But wait, there’s more …
Again, of the model of Christ’s sacrifice … “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”
So aren’t you glad that God didn’t give up on us, but that he gave up for us?
I missed the sermon. I glean from your blog entries that it had some aspect of the classic evangelical sermon. The classic evangelical sermon is like a great movie that we go to, with a huge terrifying plot point, but then at the end of the movie everything is resolved and we either leave the theater or turn off our TV and go on with our lives. Jesus paid the price, he is the hero who resolved the crises. He fended off the wrath of God. And perhaps we then tell everyone what a good movie we just saw.
In one sense, everything is finished through Jesus. Jesus said, “It is finished” when he was on the cross.
On the other hand Jesus is now casting us in the sequel. As the Father sent him into the world Jesus now sends us.
We are now to engage in the same life that Jesus engaged in. He called us to follow him. And if that seems too ridiculous, — to think that we mere mortals can walk in Jesus steps … and maybe there are theological reasons some put forth saying that we don’t have to follow Jesus. After all… for us to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” is not something that he seriously expects us to do … right? I mean he paid the price? He doesn’t want us focusing on “works” does he?
However, as brothers of Jesus, he has passed the baton to us now. We can celebrate the race that he ran and think about that. However the baton has now passed to us … and we are just standing there half the time with a baton in our hand wondering what to do.
The apostle Paul, (who to put it mildly had a tough life) wrote, “follow me as I follow Christ.”
It wasn’t that long ago that we had a sermon series on Peter, and it dealt in part with us handling suffering didn’t it?
Are we then to be soldiers for God, or spectators? Is this to be a race that we run too?
Analogies always fall apart at some point … Jesus led by example, Paul led by example.
We are urged to stir up one another to love and good deeds. We too have a baton to carry.
I mean evangelicals are strong at carrying the message about Jesus. We are called “evangelicals” – I guess because we like to evangelize?
How are we doing as disciples? Do people see the love that we have for each other? Do they say, “These people truly have deep love for each other! They must be followers of Jesus?”
Do we even pray for each other? It isn’t right for me to even be writing about all this since my prayer life for all you is so sporadic and weak. Isn’t there something about taking a “plank” out of my own eye so I see clearly enough to remove specks from others eyes?
Sorry for yammering. I should perhaps have spent the time praying instead. Maybe God will let me step away from my computer to do that.