Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1999
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 5: Confrontation with the King
Chapter 3: The Life of the King
Lesson 127 – Thinking Scripturally (from Romans), Human Accountability to Our Creator
30 Sep 1999
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
This series is kind of a combination of three things. If you’ve been here it’s good to recall what we’re doing. This is not a replacement for verse by verse exegesis of Scripture. There’s a place for that in the pulpit, outside of the pulpit, and it should be the nourishment and lifeblood of the church, which is the exegesis of Scripture. This course is not really concentrating on exegesis of Scripture; it uses it, but it’s not to replace that. Another thing, this course, while it touches on almost every subject, is not to replace specialized academic studies either; they have their place and there are godly Christians in many of the fields who do a lot of sacrificial work to conquer these fields and bring them under the dominion of the Word of God. What we’re trying to do is provide a framework. We’ve gone through the Scriptures so far in the last four years we’ve met; we’ve gone from Genesis up to the New Testament Gospels.
The idea with this framework is to be able to think through in a systematic way our Christian faith. One of the weaknesses that plagues the church in our time is that we have been infected from outside the church with sort of an existentialist, mystical approach to life. One of the features in every continent, in every land where this idea has come forward, people tend to be fragmented in their thinking. When you’re fragmented in your thinking, the dangerous thing is you can entertain conflicting views and never be conscious they’re conflicting. This is why, for example, a sad chapter from our American history, this is how the southern white church during the 17th and 18th centuries in this country became totally submerged in the economics of cotton growing to the point where they used slavery. At the same time they were preaching the gospel there wasn’t some sort of a thing here, you know, after all slavery is a capital offense, in the book of Numbers, to take a person into slavery, it’s called man stealing. There was no consciousness of this, this was fragmentation. Whenever we have fragmentation we can be very godly and orthodox in certain areas and totally out of it in other areas. A framework helps to control that.
We’ve also said that there are two basic objectives of a framework. It’s to help us worship God. If we worship Him we have to worship Him as God over all. In Scripture there’s not a difference between the sacred and the secular. That’s some man-made distinction. What that leads to is we can some on Sunday’s to church and hear nice things, but then even if we want to, we often have difficulty in trying to see how those things apply to our life during the week. That is a failure to worship God as the Lord and Creator of all things, not just the things we think about on Sunday morning. Probably another thing we want to think about is how do we obey Him in a day when the globe is being united very much with the internet, through communications like we’ve never seen; it’s unprecedented the kind of communication that the world is creating in front of our face. Seventy million people, or I don’t know how many, I saw some statistics, millions and millions of people are on the internet, and this is going to become a highway and a conduit of ideas, for good or for evil. It’s like all technology, it’s not bad in itself, it can be used for evil purposes but it can also be used for godly purposes, like the telegraph, like the train, it’s like all the technology, it’s a tool. Noah created our civilization and what did he do? He got drunk, he had an orgy, and he failed to control it very well, he wound up drunk and all kinds of things of happened in the origins of the different cultures as a result of that act.
So we have those kinds of things and they are coming to a head in our time, our world is becoming a very globally unified world. What that means is when there are falsehoods that are propagated through the system, they propagate very rapidly. Years ago the church could sit back and defend itself; it had time to respond to bad ideas and heresies. Today the heresies come in and in a matter of hours, all across the world in a matter of hours, a matter of weeks, and there’s not a time to pray about it, there’s very little time to think about it, these ideas just all of a sudden everybody is thinking the same way. It’s difficult to formulate, well how do we respond to all of this? That demands that we have some sort of systematic way in which we articulate our faith, in which we think about God, and the Scriptures have given it to us.
I’d like to go to a passage in the New Testament, and we’re going to look at Paul’s development of the two mentalities of thinking, scripturally and not thinking scripturally, and how much he emphasized these ways. Then I’m going to review how this plays out in the battle for our minds. Ninety-five percent of the Christian life, the defeats and the victories, occurs right here. It doesn’t occur out in society, it occurs in our responses and how we respond to the things around us. The Bible emphasizes thinking and thinking carefully, not that’s all there is to life, but that’s where the battleground is.
We’re going to review the last four years of the series. Turn to 2 Corinthians 10:5, this is one of those passages, it’s a nice rich metaphor the apostle used as he looked out upon the economics and the political structure of his time, using those as metaphors for the spiritual life. He says in verse 5, and commentators have speculated that the imagery behind this particular passage is that there were along the Roman lines of communication throughout the Roman Empire, bad guys that would often have these fortresses. Pirates would stay near the coast and in other areas there would be bands of marauding troops, plunderers, and they would have these protected enclaves. They would try to pick off people along the lines of communication, the major highways of their time. And it was up to the Roman armies to police the Roman Empire because the Roman army acted as internal police as well as defense against foreign powers, to patrol these areas and when they hit one of these strongholds they’d pull it down. They used grappling hooks and everything else, and when the Roman army got through, there wasn’t any more enclave; that would solve that problem for a while. Then they’d move on and do something else.
In 2 Corinthians 10:5 Paul picks up that imagery, but he applies it to our hearts as believers. He says “We are destroying the speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,  and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.” Then it goes on to describe the situation at the Corinthian church. But the point we’re making from verse 5 is that he recognized there’s a battle going on and it keeps going on; it’s a battle of good and evil and it starts in our hearts. It doesn’t start out in society in some external place, it’s internal to us. It’s the internal battle that we face as Christians.
I want to go to Paul’s classic exposition of the heart of man, Romans 1. This passage is absolutely critical to thinking through where we stand in an unbelieving society as Christians. The temptation is to think of our environment as sort of in darkness. We use that terminology, in darkness, the person who has not trusted in Christ is looked upon as the person who is like someone walking around in the dark, a person who is spiritual ignorant, is not aware of things. Paul, however, challenges that view, and I want to go through certain sections of Rom. 1 to set up for the structure of the framework.
Notice how he starts in Romans 1, he says I’m “a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,  which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures.” Right off the bat what is the authority? The authority is the Scripture. Not because it’s some ancient book by itself but because it is the Word of God, that God has spoken into the creation and He has enscripturated it in human language: Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. This Holy Scripture he said was “beforehand.” He’s talking here about the Old Testament. This is why it’s taken three or four years to move through the great sections of the Old Testament.
Today if you go into the average church service and you do a statistical survey, over say a year, and ask yourself how many times do you hear a sermon on the New Testament and how many times do you hear a sermon on the Old Testament, I think it’s about nine to one. The interesting thing is, when you pick up your Bible, how much of it is new and how much of it is old? About two-thirds is Old Testament. Why is it then that we’re getting ninety percent of our teaching out of the twenty-five percent of it? Is something wrong with the rest of it, or is this is somehow better in the end? Not really. The New Testament presupposes the Old Testament and Paul is presupposing the Old Testament.
In verses 2-5 look what he does. He’s going back to those Old Testament Scriptures and he says, because he doesn’t have the New Testament, this gospel that I’m preaching to you is a content filled message, “which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures,  concerning His Son.” Now he makes a statement in verses 3-4 concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, and notice he develops it completely out of the Old Testament. What does he says? He says “concerning His son who was born of a descendant [the seed] of David according to the flesh,  who was declared with power to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
We could get into that, go on word for word and spend hours and hours in it, but I just want to point to the fact that there’s a parallelism there. Look at the text where it says “concerning His Son who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,” or out of a descendant of David. Let’s look at the verbs: born, made, came to be. There’s a parallelism that he’s going to use here in this structure. The verb “was born,” the Greek preposition ek is “out of a descendant of David.” This gets into the theology of the Old Testament. Why David? Why not Moses? Why not Abraham, why not Jeremiah, why not Isaiah, why David? There’s a reason for that.
But let’s keep looking at the structure. He was “born” or He “came to be,” or He “was made” “out of a descendant of David according to the flesh.” This particular preposition, “according to,” means “with reference to.” So with reference to the flesh the Lord Jesus Christ came out of David. This takes us back into the Old Testament. David was the first fully authorized King of Israel. Saul was called but his line failed, and David, then the Davidic line assumed the throne of Israel. This is about 1000 BC, ten centuries before the Lord Jesus Christ there was this man David, a lot of Scripture in the Old Testament centers on the life of this monarch. He’s a critical figure in the history of Israel. But David was a fallen being, and David, therefore, did not fulfill the full desire of a monarch on earth that would be God-like. So David’s line came to be prophesied, the Holy Spirit worked through that line and prophesied to a greater David who would come centuries later, and David becomes a type. But this future descendant has to come from the genes of David.
This is why the New Testament, when you open the text, you come to these passages, both in Luke and Matthew, big genealogy. What is all this? It’s to prove a point, that David’s son is connected genetically, genealogically with him. Why is that important? Because of the Scripture, the whole basic underlying thing of Scripture, this is why there’s so much history tied into the New Testament and Old Testament; the Scripture is basically an argument that God makes a promise and He keeps His Word. This explains those texts that frustrate you when you first start reading the Bible and you get into these details, So-and-So begat So-and-So, So-and-So begat So-and-So, and So-and-So did this, and then they conquered this land, then they did this, then they did that. What is all this history going on in here? The history is a proof that God kept His Word.
What do we call the two parts of the Bible? The New Testament and the Old Testament. What is a “testament?” A testament is a legal document. What is a legal document? It’s a contract. Why do we make contracts, when you buy a house or buy a car, we have a mortgage contract, or some sort of legal controlling document. What would happen if we didn’t have those? Chaos. Documents are there in order to measure the behavior of the people who sign on the bottom line. The fascinating thing about the God of history is He’s condescended to lock Himself into contracts with the human race. He’s locked in to doing certain things, and this becomes the real reason for history.
Let me digress here to make a point, because this gets back to the framework. We said we want to learn as Christians to think systematically. Here’s the problem we face in a secularized education that we have today. Just this week I heard how Columbine High School, where we had the shooting, has a great Christian testimony going on there. If you notice the last few disasters in this country Christians have been right in the center of it, more media attention on Christians that have been caught in these caldrons of chaos. They were going to have a memorial for the students that were killed, and the invited the parents who had lost sons and daughters in that disaster, to come and paint on tiles a memory in the hall. So the Christian parents came in and they put a verse or two on, etc. and the end of the story that the school authorities walked through and pulled all the tiles off where the Christians had put verses on it. But if you didn’t have anything religious, then the tiles stayed on the wall. Here we have all these people, a great Christian testimony, a girl gets shot because she claims to be a Christian, this guy blows her away, and then the testimony goes in the hall and the school officials take the tiles off. This is just one in a thousand things that go on in this country, and the silly idea that you can secularize education. You can’t do it.
Let’s get back to David. If God structures history according to the contracts that He makes with particular parties down through history, how can you study history without studying the contracts that drive the history? The Davidic Covenant, the Mosaic Law Code, the Abrahamic Covenant. Who were the first writers of history? When I studied history in a secular school as a non-Christian one of the things the history teacher drilled into me was who were the first historians. I had to remember that for an exam. Herodotus, these Greek guys. Excuse me! When were these guys writing, the (quote) “first historians?” 400–500 BC, after that time. When was the book of Joshua written? When was the book of Judges written? 1000 BC; five centuries before the Greeks even put clothes on these guys were writing history books. Why were they writing history books? Here’s a secular historian, he has these magnificent ideas of why we have history, it’s because of the dates, it’s because of this, because of that. Why did these guys write history? The first man wrote history because they were recording what? In their selection, they could write a thousand different topics historically, every historian has to abbreviate, he takes this, this, and this and leaves out that, that, and that. Selection. Why did these guys select the materials that they selected? Because it proved the plan of God for history. Do you see what drove originally the first historians? It was the desire to track the footprints of God through time. What a tremendous motive for history.
I wish somebody had taught me that when I went through secular school. All I remember was that I had to remember a lot of dates and burp it back up on the test so I could forget that and move on to the next test. There was no pattern there, there was no structure there. This is why after you study and study and study and you get all the dates and all the rest of it, you finally think what does this do for me? And people are saying the students aren’t motivated. Of course they’re not motivated because the method of approach is totally wrong. You’re telling everyone from the get go that there’s no pattern here, don’t look for one, just memorize. Or just discuss your ignorant opinion with Mary’s ignorant opinion and John’s ignorant opinion, then we’ll all pool our opinions, because nobody has the truth, it’s just opinions that we pass around, and then wonder why we get frustrated.
What this does is not just in academics; this rubs off into how we think of our life. This happens to us, this happens to our parents, this happens to our husband, this happens to our wife, this happens to our kids, to our community, to our nation, it’s all meaningless, just chaos that’s happening. No! If God has a pattern for history then everything that happens has meaning, a cause and a motive. Something is going on, a story is being written and we are the characters in the story. There’s a great author writing something here. We have to back off and start asking ourselves, what’s the plot, where’s this thing going.
That never happens because we never get back to this point that Paul’s making that Jesus Christ came out of David according to a plan of God, according to his flesh. Then he says in the next verse,  “who was declared with power to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness,” that sentence is parallel and I want you to notice the verb difference, “declared” versus “born,” out of “the resurrection…according to the Spirit of holiness.” That’s his description of the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. In verse 3 he has talked about the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. He uses a verb that means come into being, “was born,” translated in the translation I’m using, “was born,” but the Greek word means comes into existence, He was made. Deity isn’t made, is it? Deity is eternal. So whatever is described by the verb in verse 3 it has to be His humanity. That’s the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. In that He’s related to us through David all the way back to Adam.
Then he discusses, He was “declared … to be the Son of God out of resurrection … according to the Spirit of holiness,” see the contrast in the sentence. Look at the verb contrast here. One has a start in time, boom: now it starts. “Declared” means it’s just revealed, He always was that, but it’s revealed. There’s no origin point to His deity because deity always existed. So Jesus Christ was declared out of the resurrection, just as this was out of David’s genes, the declaration of the revelation of who Jesus really was came out of this mysterious thing called the resurrection which we will study. We studied the birth of Christ and the life of Christ, now we’re going to deal with the death of Christ and the resurrection of Christ. This resurrection is a mighty powerful thing; it’s a total refutation of every human philosophy that man has ever created. In an instant of time the Lord Jesus Christ did not become a spirit; He became a body, He walked around, He ate food, He walked through walls. He disappeared, He reappeared. He took up space. He was able to have something to touch, people could touch Him. But the flesh was a flesh without blood; it was a flesh of flesh and bones, but it was a flesh that was designed for eternity, never again to fail, never again subject to illness, it was a flesh that was designed for the eternal state. As Jesus Christ was resurrected, that was the revelation of who He really was all along, the Lord Jesus Christ being God.
Paul discusses this, and then in verse 5 he says, “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the nations.” When you look at verse 5 do you notice in that verse any talk about Christianity being one of many religions, and that probably should be confined to Europeans. What does it say? It says to “the obedience of faith among all the nations.” This is a claim to absolute truth. As I’ve tried to warn you as we’ve gone through this series, from time to time we really get into it in a sense of offending world views. Here’s one that’s very unpopular today. There’s not a modern person existing in our culture, who thinks like a modern person, who can believe verse 5. Verse 5 is insisting that the truth is truth regardless of the culture. Truth is truth regardless of the continent. Truth is truth regardless of the century. It doesn’t matter whether it’s before 2000 or after 2000. It doesn’t matter whether it’s black skin, white skin, red skin, or yellow skin. It’s a command to all nations; it’s an absolute truth claim. The fallacy of our time is that in the academic world and the world of education, and in the talking heads on TV, everything is relative. Everybody has their opinion and it’s relative, relative to this, relative to that; that’s your opinion, this is my opinion.
As we’ve said again and again, there’s an internal fallacy in that kind of statement. The hidden fallacy is that I believe the truth, that I believe the absolute truth that everything is opinion. It’s never stated, but the idea that all things are relative itself is an absolute. It’s self-contradictory, how can all things be relative. Unbelief has built within it some very severe problems.
I want to move to verse 16 and review a little bit about the fragility of unbelief and the silliness of it so that we will not be intimidated as Christians. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, and we walk around like we’re to be ashamed or we have to apologize for the gospel. When you go through the Apostle Paul it’s the unbeliever that should be apologizing. Notice for example in verse 16, he says “For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” and he’s going to argue that the other side is the problem, the unbelief is the silliness. He says it is the Word of God that is powerful; it’s able to bring everyone to salvation, because in it is the righteousness of God. Notice right off the bat, why is it that the gospel is something that is reliable? It is because in the gospel and in the gospel alone is declared the righteousness of God. This gets us back to something we’ve learned in the past and we’ll review it again, we’re reviewed it a dozen times but everyone needs review, including me.
This gets back to our diagram of the nature of evil. Remember that God, from the standpoint of the Word of God there are two ways of looking at evil. Let’s go from truth to falsehood. In the Scriptures there is the only solution for evil, and very often it’s totally reversed because usually it’s the non-Christian who comes to you and says you Christians have really got a problem; you people really have a problem, because if your God was good, and He’s sovereign, and He’s omnipotent and He allows this and he allows that and something else, and they usually pick some heart-rending thing… if your God is sovereign, omnipotent and loving, then why did He let that happen? You’ve heard the argument. The insinuation is that somehow the gospel has a hidden internal self-contradiction. We’re going to turn that around. This is why Paul says in verse 17 it’s “the righteousness of God,” that is the power. Power to do what? To save. All that is just gobblety-gook language if we don’t see this point. In the Scriptures when God created the universe, did it have evil in it? No! When God created Satan, was Satan evil? No!
What does the Scripture say, God’s comment just like a craftsman, a craftsman sits there and he cuts this wooden duck and he looks at that and he says “that’s good.” When God worked through the creation and He set up the thing, what does it say He said to Himself as He finished? This is pretty good stuff! Very good! It’s His own self-evaluation of His handiwork. The first picture you get of God in the Bible is of a blue collar craftsman. Just think of that, how honoring that is to labor. Labor didn’t come in because of the fall. One of my sons thought that after the fall you had to work. God worked before the fall. Labor isn’t a result of sin. Labor was a high calling. Sin complicates labor and makes it grievous, but if we think labor is of the fall, we’ve got a problem because in eternity future, in the Kingdom of God, we’re going to laboring. Oh-oh, I thought I was going to cruise. No, we’re going to be called to do work. So labor in and of itself is good.
Then came the fall, so in an interim period of time was the universe good or bad? The universe was good. Also, since God is immutability, He changes not, He is the same today, yesterday and forever, from eternity to eternity God never changes, He’s good. How does the Bible explain the origin of death, natural evil and human evil, suffering, sorrow, storms, earthquakes? It’s interesting, the last three earthquakes are all on the same latitude if you plot them on a map, Mexico, Taiwan, Turkey. It looks like the center part of the earth has a problem right now: earthquakes, all this chaos, hurricanes, where did it come from? The Scriptures claim and you can disbelieve it, react to it and try to allegorize it, but the Scriptures claim that all evil originated because of creature rebellion toward the Creator, that it was not there from the very beginning, that it was brought into the system by an act of sin. The Bible is equally adamant that it will be dealt with, finally and permanently, in judgment.
We don’t like to mention the heaven/hell issue, but if we don’t, we don’t have a solution to the problem of evil. Heaven and hell is the biblical answer to the evil problem, that God will one day totally, completely and permanently separate the good from the evil. That’s His plan and that’s His answer to the issue of evil, it will be separated and it will be a very painful thing. This is why when we become Christians the act of struggling with sin in our lives is hard, it’s painful, it hurts. It hurts because it’s a tearing, a tearing away between the good and evil. In between the fall and the judgment is a period when good and evil are mixed together and that’s what we live in now.
If you look at this chart carefully, what does the chart do for one who is trapped in this interim time period between the fall and judgment? We go through this period of good and evil but we have hope. We have the hope that one day it will be dealt with. That’s where the resurrection comes in, that’s where the prophecies of Scripture come in, that’s where the work of Christ on the cross comes in, that’s where the great promises of God come in. There is hope in the face of real evil. The Bible is not a magic formula that says oh, it’s just on your mind. The Bible fully recognizes that evil is so seriously present that God’s Son has to come down to planet earth as incarnate man and Himself die a horrible death in order to cope with the results. The Bible is very, very realistic about the existence of evil. It’s not a dream. The Bible never says evil is a dream, evil is some sort of an imaginative thing. The Bible says evil is very, very real.
That’s the Christian position. Now let’s turn the tables on Mr. Non-Christian. Here’s our unbelieving friend, we call him Mr. Pagan, and I deliberately use that term. I know it offends people sometimes, but I believe that in our country, in our culture, in our time we’re “paganizing out,” that we’re going to see a polarity in our society. It’s becoming more and more evident each year that the Christian position is over against the pagan position. Paganism doesn’t mean a person is always corrupt in the social sense. There were great pagans down through history, great pagan moralists. A pagan is defined as one who does not believe in the God of the Scripture, that’s all. It’s not a nasty word although people take it that way. It’s not originally a nasty word; it just means someone that doesn’t believe in the God of the Bible.
The pagan is left with this mess, because from eternity to eternity, he’s got a mixture of good and evil. He never can point to a time in the past when there wasn’t evil. Look at the picture you get of evolution, survival of the fittest. You always have this chaos between good and evil. The Oriental pagan thinkers have thought this through very, very carefully. That’s why if you look on the bottom of that chart you’ll see that there’s actually … you can see it in the flag of Korea but that’s the yin yang symbol, and that symbol is a symbol traditionally of dualism between good and evil, the dark side of the yin yang is bad, the light side of the yin yang is the good. You’ll often see that, you’ll see it in jewelry, in art, etc. It’s the ancient formulation of the darkness and the light conflict forever. So we have this good and evil situation. Good and evil is forever normal.
Paul says that if you start with the pagan position you wind up making good and evil normal. If you come to the Christian position then you say that what we’re living in is an interim period in which good and evil is abnormal. You can’t agree between those two positions. You’ve got to take one or the other. Is life today in this universe, in this world, normal or is it abnormal. You can say, oh that’s just an academic argument. Oh really? Let’s think about a sociological study; you hear it all the time, a poll, we’re going to take a poll, a statistical poll. We’re going to sample opinion about x, y, and z. Who do we sample? All fallen beings, and what does our statistical data come up with after we formulate our “normal” curve? It’s the average sinful person. But somehow because in the pagan way of thinking we’ve got to find some sort of normal here, so we plot a normal distribution and call it normal. Then we have the weirdoes on the extreme of the bell-shaped curve, but this is the normal.
There’s only one person in history that you can go to to find what a “normal” person thinks: the Lord Jesus Christ! He’s the only sinless person. So if you’re going to have a poll you’ve got to go to the Gospels and find out how a normal person thinks, and then set that over against all the rest of your data base. That’s the way to biblically look at a thing, but that’s never done, because everybody says oh, I like the normal distribution. Sure you do, but normal distributions aren’t going to solve this theological problem and the deduction from a normal distribution of sociological statistic doesn’t tell you because the average sinner behaves this way that I should behave this way. That’s just another application of this point. Paul insists that at the heart of the gospel the righteousness of God is the key, because God is right and He is going to deal with this problem of evil.
Paul goes on to say certain other things about the unbelieving mind. He says in verse 18, the gospel points to salvation because the righteousness of God is there, and this is the only solution because the wrath of God is also revealed. Think about in our own evangelical circles. When you hear the gospel preached, how often do you hear the topic of the wrath of God discussed? There might be some polite words about God punished Jesus for our sins, but you can trust in Christ, etc. And that’s true … that is true, you can trust in Christ. But the problem is if we trivialize the work of the cross, we trivialize automatically the wrath of God. Paul, in verse 18 says “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness,” why do we have to bring up the wrath of God? Because if we don’t we don’t solve the problem. The Bible is realistic, God is an angry God. It’s “revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” God gets mad and that’s a message of Scripture. It’s not a politically correct view of God, but we’ve got to deal with this because hidden in the heart of all of us is our own guilt situation; we don’t feel we’re accepted with God. Where does that come from? Because we have this residual awareness, we can deny it all we want to, go through all kinds of psychological gimmickry, but deep down we become aware that God can get angry, and God is angry at sin. We can try to suppress it, say it doesn’t exist.
Paul says you’d better not do that, “the wrath of God is revealed,” the question now is, let’s get it all out on the table. God is angry. After we get that out on the table, what do we do with the anger? Why is He angry? Verse 19 is the conviction of sin for every man, woman and child in the existence in all of history, whether they have heard the gospel of Christ or not, whether they have a Bible or not, this is a conviction of sin, and here’s the basis of the conviction of sin for every person in the human race. He says in verse 19, “because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” How can you say that Paul? People honestly tell me that they don’t believe in God and they don’t see any evidence of Him.
The Bible insists that evidence is in us, behind us, around us, and through us, because he says in verse 20, “For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen,” now Paul is making a point here. Paul usually uses words pretty economically, but notice something about this sentence structure. He says … [blank spot]
… and he says the unseen things, that’s not visible, it’s equal to that in the English language, the invisible. Those things which cannot be seen, that’s the subject of the sentence. Now let’s come to the verb. What’s the verb of the sentence: “are clearly seen?” Just so show you what he has done here, let’s diagram the force of this verb. He says it is “clearly seen.” In the Greek language he has put a prefix on the verb, kata, and he adds that to the stem. The stem of the verb is “to see,” he enforces the verb with a prefix; it is “clearly seen.” If that doesn’t get it across he uses the present tense, it is constantly clearly being seen. That’s his answer to the fact of someone saying well I don’t see anything. It’s like a blind man doesn’t see you when you turn the light on. It’s not a comment on the bulb; it’s a comment on the eyeballs. So what he says is that all men constantly see these things.
Then he goes on to describe two things, he says “His eternal power and divine nature.” If you want an exposition of that, if you want to see how Paul uses “eternal power” look at Acts 14:17, that’s when he’s preaching to Gentiles, he’ll give the illustration of weather, rain, etc. and if you want to see how he uses “divine nature”, that is exposited when he went to Mars Hill, the sermon to the Greek philosophers, in Acts 17:24-29, and you’ll see how he uses Greek poetry to show the divine nature. It’s clear from usage what he’s talking about, you just have to look at how the apostle preaches. He says,  “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen,” how can you see the invisible? At the end of the sentence he is going to give a participial clause that explains the dichotomy between the subject and the verb. He’s set up an antithesis and it’s got to be resolved somewhere in the sentence. So at the end of that sentence he’s going to put in a participial clause. He says, “being understood through what has been made.” His argument is that… it’s the word for mind, nous, our minds, we come equipped, our children come equipped; our mind is taking in all this information. It’s clearly seeing it but we don’t directly see God. Paul recognizes we’re not seeing God, but we understand from what we see that God is there.
He says it’s understood by the things that are made, and then he’s so sure of it he says in the last part of verse 20 there’s a purpose clause that closes out the sentence [“so that they are without excuse.”] What’s the result clause? So that no man will ever be able to come before the throne of God in eternity and say I didn’t have enough information. Excuse me! No one will ever be able to say that. All of a sudden the penetrating holiness of God will project itself on every human heart and people are going to let down their guard and say yea, I know, I just fooled myself, and I may have fooled a lot of people around me. The tragedy of this is that men and woman will go into eternity without God because they have self-deceived themselves. That’s how insidious sin is. Sin affects how we think. If we think that we can’t see the evidence of God, that itself is damage that’s already been done in our minds. There’s a pathology here that the Scripture is arguing about that affects our minds, our way of thinking. That’s why sin is so serious. Sin is so serious that it keeps us from seeing what we should see. It’s a disease, it’s damage, it’s a cancer to the brain, it’s computer code that doesn’t compute. It’s all screwed up.
Saying that, Paul then goes on in verse 21, and here’s his analysis of what results in the energy of the flesh in our minds, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks” here’s the essence of sin. Notice that there’s not a sin of morality here, there’s not some sin of theft, there’s not some flagrant social thing, it’s far more deep and profound than that. It says because they knew God, they simply didn’t thank Him.” That doesn’t sound very dangerous, it doesn’t sound very rebellious. But when we fail to give thanks to Him we’ve already transgressed because we’ve already reanalyzed our experience in such a way that we’ve absorbed the false idea of good and evil. We haven’t recognized that He is working all things out for good. We have bought into the pagan worldview; we have borrowed this idea of good and evil. We don’t give Him thanks because we don’t really think He’s sovereign, or if we do think He’s sovereign we think He’s bad. That’s where it all starts—simple lack of thanksgiving. That’s where it shows up inside the soul.
So he says let me trace it out for you in all of its grotesque results. He says, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” The word “speculation” is a Greek word which means dialogue. It means the inner reasonings of people. He is saying this is an attack upon all unbelief. He is doing something here that is again very politically incorrect, and not for polite company, but he is arguing that unbelief … he uses a word that you’ll see in Scripture, vanity.
We don’t have time to develop that word but let me guide you to its meaning. Vanity is exposited in gruesome detail in Ecclesiastes. Who wrote the book? King Solomon. In the Old Testament you go through that book and you’ll see what this technical word means. This is a technical term; it’s a descriptive term for something about human thinking. It means that unbelief—the picture is of vapor. It’s not that it doesn’t show up, it’s just that it’s really irrelevant and transient. There’s nothing enduring about it, it’s not truth. Falsehood doesn’t endure; it endures for a moment just like vapor on a cold morning, but finally it dissolves, and woe to those who trusted in it, they also dissolve.
What he’s saying is that there’s a dangerous fallout of sin, and it affects the mentality and the way we think, which leads to the final thing tonight. I want to show some slides that try to depict what this does to our thinking, and show it in contrast to how the Scripture wants us to think. In the Scriptures, here’s the way thought comes, here’s the way God pictures how we think. First, there’s a saying that the Christian thinks God’s thoughts after Him; think about that—thinks God’s thoughts after Him. What’s this “after” business? Who thought it first? You do an equation, and think, “Ooh, I got a multi-term polynomial equation, this is so slick!” Who thought of it first? Who thought of the rules of flight? Who designed the bird? Airplanes don’t use any different aerodynamics than God used in designing birds and butterflies. He had it first. We come along after Him and we think some of His thoughts after Him. That’s what that means.
By saying that I think God’s thoughts after Him takes me into a subordinate position. Now I’m discovering truth that was there before I walked around. It’s a humbling status that I acknowledge that I am discovering truth that pre-existed me. I have nothing to do with the truth, I just discover it. The Creator has preexisting thought, language and meaning. He has an eternal plan for creation and salvation. The creature has derivative thought, language and meaning, and we experience providential history. The result is, bottom line in the mentality of Scripture, we faith-rest in the Word of God. That is our authority in every area, because it is the Word of God alone that gives meaning alone. Apart from the Word of God the creature has no source of meaning. What does this do for me in experience?
I want to show this slide. What I’ve tried to do here is diagram the polls; we’ll get into the different extremes later on. In our lives we tend to oscillate between two polls, the legalist poll, this is when we’re optimistic; think we’ve got everything under control. The other poll is when everything goes to pieces, depression, and in any given day you find yourself moving between these polls. Everybody does because we encounter different things. How do we control this oscillation in our souls scripturally? There are many, many promises in Scripture, but I want to give you two.
Turn to James 4:13. Here’s one of two promises that are something to remember about this optimism, when we get the fathead and think we’re in control. “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” A business plan.  “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.  Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.’” Please notice the end of verse 15, he’s not saying don’t have business plans, notice that. He’s saying if the Lord wills we will do this and that, meaning go ahead, make your business plan. It’s just that somebody upstairs has a veto, and He can say thumbs down. That’s what James 4 is saying.
So the spiritual control against arrogance and pride is to remember that the plans have to be submitted to the Lord, and He has the right to veto your plan and my plan. It may look great to us and we can say I was led by the Lord to do this. Well maybe not, you’d better check, He can say no. All the Scripture is saying is He can take you tonight. He’s saying you live in a fallen world, I control life and death, I can call you home tonight. Now what happens to all your plans? They’re up in smoke. That’s one poll, and it’s not that we get morbid about this, absent from the body face to face with the Lord, we’re better off. But it’s rather that instead of getting fatheaded about how great we are, and how in control we are, and how great and wonderful our plans are and what a wonderful person I am because I do this and that and everything else, ignore the things that I want to ignore, that’s one control.
The other control is depression. What happens often in our lives is that we go for this period and then we encounter a defeat, or we encounter an adversity, or some problem comes into your lives and because we’ve handled it the wrong way to start with, we didn’t see our lives as under the hand of God, we’re going to do it our way, and it doesn’t work out our way and then we go into depression and go to the other extreme. Nothing makes sense, I give up, the heck with it, and the pieces fall apart. We’ve all been through this, so let’s go back to the famous promise of Romans 8:28. This promise is built on the opposite. So we have two promises at both ends of the oscillation to protect us from going off into the tulies somewhere.
Romans 8:28, be careful what this doesn’t say. This says when we’re depressed, when things fall apart, because they don’t go my way they don’t have any way to them, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” He does not say that we know what the good is that it’s working towards. That’s why in this diagram we’ve chosen to complete the jigsaw puzzle above the dotted line. What’s that dotted line across that chart? That’s the distinction between the Creator/creature. The jigsaw puzzle is solved in His mind. We may never ever, even in eternity, find out all the pieces, but in His mind the pieces all fit together in a very meaningful way. Back to that old song, I don’t know what the future holds but I know the One who holds the future.
It’s a very simple thing but it’s a very profound thing, because on the non-Christian basis I can’t do this. I can’t do this! On the non-Christian basis I’m locked out of that dotted line. If I don’t have the dotted line, now what do I do? I’m doomed like a ball that bounces between two walls all the time, either I’m in control, I’m in control, or I’m out of control. And this is just a frantic oscillation back and forth, back and forth. One time I’m a legalist and I’m in control and I’m going to do it this way and I can show God all the great things I do. Then I give up, the heck with it, and you go into the licentious poll, the depression poll, the drugs poll, or all the rest of it. This comes about because of what’s going on up here.
One of the things we want to accomplish in our framework is to think through the Scriptures, because when we die we’re going to appear before God as an individual. You wife isn’t going to be there to hold your hand; your husband isn’t going to be there to put his arm around you. You’re going to face Him as an individual, just like you came into the world, by yourself, alone. You have to stand before Him; I have to stand before Him, every one of us. It’s ultimately Him with whom we have to do, we have to orient our lives to this and we can’t memorize the whole Bible. Some people have but in a normal world people don’t memorize the whole Bible, so what can you do? You have a framework of enough so that when the mud hits the fan you at least have some inkling where to go for an answer. That’s what we’re trying to do. You can’t give all the answers in Scripture, we don’t know all the answers in Scripture, but we can give an outline, a framework, sort of “how to” procedures so that we know and have the confidence.
Doesn’t it help to know that there are answers even if you don’t know what that particular answer is, there’s One to whom we can go for the answers. A lot of them He’s already told us about in Scripture. And He’s given us assurance, in a generation when it seems like everyone is attacking the Christian faith, it seems like we have no assurance of the truthfulness of our own [can’t understand word].
We’re going to erase all that stuff. When you go through the framework you will have confidence that this is truth, and that the rest of the people that are attacking Scripture are full of hot air and bologna. It doesn’t last; they haven’t got an argument that they can stand on to the Scripture. I don’t care what area of science you want to talk about; science itself is built on Scripture.
There’s been a call for a review of coming attractions. What I want to do is next week, I’m going to review what we did last year on the person of Christ and His nature, and the doctrine of the Trinity. He was born as undiminished deity and true humanity; we went through the doctrine of the hypostatic union. That’s very important that we recall that because when we get into the death of Christ on the cross, this can be very misconstrued if we don’t have our feet on the ground solidly about who the person of Christ is. The problem is that people often turn the death of Jesus into … it’s like a human martyr, gee this guy gave up His life, isn’t that inspirational. Liberal theology has done that. By the way, in the 20th century the liberal modern theologians have contaminated the pulpit and contaminated a lot of seminaries with the idea that Jesus’ work on the cross is inspirational, not salvational. By that they mean the image of a martyr dying for his cause uplifts me and gives me motive. But what a trivial concept of the death of Christ, Buddha could have done the same thing, so what does that do for me. We have Viet Nam protestors that doused themselves in gasoline and burned themselves, so ... what else is new in history?
Before we get to the death of Christ we want to review the person of Christ, and then we want to remember that in the Garden of Gethsemane, prior to His death, He had that agonizing prayer that He had to make, and that decision, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me, but nevertheless, Thy will be done.” That’s where we want to review the doctrine of kenosis, because it’s very important that we understand the impeccability and the kenosis of Christ, otherwise we don’t really have the tools to appreciate what was going on there in Gethsemane.
When we get through that we’ll discuss the death of Christ. This is going to take some time to do and the reason isn’t because the work of Christ on the cross is necessarily, from what has been revealed in Scripture, is necessarily incomprehensible (ultimately everything is incomprehensible), but the Scripture gives an awful lot of revelation about the cross of Christ and the atonement. The difficulty is that because of the systems of Reformed Theology that have come in since the time of Calvin and Luther, we have segments of the Christian church that are arguing that the cross of Jesus Christ applies only to the elect and has no connection with anyone else, it’s not quite as crudely put as that. But this is a problem, the so-called limited atonement. In fact, if you know Calvinism, traditional Calvinism, this “TULIP,” Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, so we have to discuss this issue of limited atonement, and to discuss that forces us to get into the issue of Reformed Theology and what it’s all about.
So it’s not going to be quick when we get to the death of Christ. I’m sure, however, when we get through it we should appreciate all that He did. And of course we’re going to say that Reformed thinking is valid in an area. Reformed Theology is not wrong, the problem is it never went far enough; it never completely reformed. We’ll deal with the atonement of Christ, and then we’re going to move from there to the resurrection of Christ and deal with that issue. That’s one that usually, for some reason, I don’t understand it but in our evangelical churches we don’t deal much with the resurrection. We tell Jesus stories, but we don’t really come to grips with the resurrection of Christ. That would end the fifth block of material.
Then we’re going to start the final block which will deal with the Church Age which begins with the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ into Heaven. That’s yet another aspect of His work. If the resurrection isn’t taught well in our evangelical circles, surely the ascension of Christ isn’t. What did Jesus do? What was different when He ascended the throne in Heaven? Something changed, and how history moves, is controlled, by what Jesus is doing in His ascension. In His ascension He’s assuming a crown right, and then there’s a discussion about what is the crown right? Is the ascent of Christ to the throne, is that equal to the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant and the end of Old Testament history, or is it a preliminary to another fulfillment of Old Testament history.
In other words, think for example of the life of David. Do you remember when David was ordained? Let’s think of a parallel. David was anointed by whom? How was every king anointed by? He had to be anointed by a prophet. Why is that? You hear politically, we talk about the king-makers; it’s not so facetious, in the Old Testament there were king-makers. Kings were not democratically elected, they didn’t have to go out and raise funds for their political campaign. The kings of the Old Testament were anointed; often as children … often as children, as David was, a teenager, anointed by a prophet, and did not ascend the throne for years after his anointing. David’s life, if you think about it, who was his great opponent? From the time that David was anointed and as an older teenager in whose camp did he fall? He came into the monarchy of his time, and who was the reigning monarch in David’s time but Saul. David, at first, had a cozy relationship with the reigning royal family. Then what happened? He had a falling out because of jealousy, and because Saul deep down in his heart knew very well that he was going to lose, that he would not be able to create a Saulite dynasty over the nation Israel.
When Saul realized that and he looked at his son, Jonathan, and he realized that there was no future for the house of Saul he became very angry, profoundly angry at God for not electing him as the dynastic ruler of Israel. So he decided he’d take things into his own hands and seven times he tried to kill David. There were seven assassination attempts in David’s life in the Scriptures. All through that you have this marvelous interplay that no dramatist has ever done well, that I know of. It’d be an excellent movie of the relationship between David on the one hand and this son of Saul, called Jonathan, on the other. Here’s this son of Saul, who would have been the crown prince of the nation, who would have inherited all the reigning rights and who does he help but the man who is going to replace him. That’s the irony of this: there’s a high drama of those books of Scripture.
My point in applying this as an analogy to Jesus is this: though David was anointed by Samuel early in life, he had to fight; he had to endure until he finally ascended the throne. There’s a long interval there, and I think there’s a parallel in that the Lord Jesus Christ, though He has ascended the Father’s throne, He has not yet ascended David’s throne. And He’s going through a long night. In fact, there are passages in the New Testament that say Jesus Christ is waiting … waiting … at the Father’s right hand for the hour. What’s He waiting for to happen? That opens up the whole question of what is the Church Age doing? What is the church doing? Something the church is doing is absolutely necessary to get finished before the next era of history begins, which will be the Millennial Kingdom. We have to say then, what function does the church have. So that’s part of it, and it’s related to the ascension of Christ, what He is doing now at His Father’s right hand.
Those are some of the topics coming up, but all of them, I warn you about this, all of them draw heavily on our understanding of the Old Testament. That’s why I didn’t start out with this. You want to know your Old Testament well enough to appreciate the covenants that go into this. When Jesus stands up in the communion service, we celebrate it, in all the Christian churches we celebrate this, we go through it once a month or so. The pastor usually quotes the Scripture, “This is the new covenant in My blood which is shed for thee, do this is remembrance of Me,” etc. Do we really know what the New Covenant was all about, and why that was such a dramatic announcement the day before He died?
Those are all the things, the richness of truth that comes up, that erupts out of the pages of Scripture, that God is a God of order, He is a God of planning, He’s a God of perfect execution. I think that’s one reason why I always like to approach the Scriptures historically. There are many ways to approach Scripture, I’m not saying this is for everyone, but I know many of you like it because you have expressed the fact that when you view God’s program historically it gives you confidence, in that here we are in our lives and we’re just part of a bigger picture, a more grand scheme. It’s just spiritually strengthening and encouraging to look at Scripture historically, that nothing stops God. Men fling their fist in His face but He always has the last word. It’s a master chess game, go ahead, move your pawns, watch them die. God has perfect control of the chess board. We want to know when our lives are in a mess, or when we aren’t coming to grips with a problem, I want to know that the big picture is sound, even though the little Charles Clough picture may be unraveling all over the place; at least the big picture is sound. We need that; all of us need that to get through life. That’s what the Scriptures give us.
Are there any particular questions that you might want discussed as we go along, so that I can try to weave that in as we go through the series?
Someone says something about the Old Testament sacrificial system and how that relates to Christ’s death, maybe a little more specifically.
Clough says: He has asked if we could tie in the Old Testament sacrificial system in some detail, that after all, for centuries … when you think about this, this is an element totally missing in our religion, but if you’ve been reading the papers in the last three or four years about Israel, very interestingly they’re breeding red heifers. The red heifer was an extinct cattle sub-genre and the Israelis … There are certain animals under the sacrificial system that had to be sacrificed. We don’t have a clue, I once did some calculations based on Solomon’s sacrifices, and I tell you, it’s a bloody mess. When you think of the sheep and cattle that were slaughtered at the temple, and I try to picture myself in the middle of having to see, carry this lamb and see its throat slit, and the poor animal is bleeding to death, and then you burn it, you think gosh… what kind of shock does this do for your system when you see this happen? The tender heart who had been circumcised by the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament had to have gone through some cycle of repentance when they saw that this is what my sin led to; I have to do this, I have to see this bloody mess of these animals because of my sin. The poor animal didn’t do anything; I’m the one that did it. But look what I caused here, right in front of my face, blood all over the place. It’s just a shock for us to see blood. It’s messy stuff. Think of that going on century after century after century. Then for Jesus Christ to get up and say, “I am the Lamb of God!” We think it’s cozy because of our art form in church, He holds the lamb. That wasn’t what He was talking about when He said “I am the Lamb of God.” When Jesus said “I am the Lamb of God” He was talking about that bloody mess. That’s the kind of thing that the New Testament is loaded with.
Question asked: Clough replies: It supports a form of slavery. The point is, it’s understanding what the word “slave” was in the Old Testament. The word “slave” was indenture. The irony is that most of us are slaves by Old Testament definition. Do you know why? Because we all owe money, we have mortgages; we’re a slave to the bank. Anybody that has a mortgage is a slave to the bank under the Mosaic Law. But the slavery that existed in our country led to a demeaning of the people that were enslaved. That was the difference. We had people in the south and maybe in the north but at least in the south, that were from the pulpit arguing that the black man had no soul. Excuse me, but that is not Scriptural and this country is paying a price for this and will go on for centuries paying a price for that. That was tragic, stupid, short-sighted, unbiblical maneuvering on the part of the church.
I’ll get in conversations about why are you evangelicals making such an issue out of abortion? Do you know what my answer to that is? I say hey, that’s not the only issue out there, but do you know what the church is trying to do? We’re trying to redeem ourselves from the screwed up mess in the 19th century. The church in Germany didn’t speak out in the 1930s, there was just a very few. I went to school with a Germany boy whose dad was a pastor in Nazi Germany and he gave me the scoop how his dad had to take him and his mother out of the place because there were many evangelicals in Germany that said hey, wait a minute, the Fuhrer may be great for the economy of Germany but we’ve got some problems here, he’s not the Messiah. He’s not? You’re not a patriotic German. So the church, when we try to speak out we get chewed out with the radical right. And when we don’t speak out then Christianity is impotent. Either way you get criticized. It’s just that I think the church is doing [can’t understand word/s].
Francis Schaeffer, in the 1970s argued that if we didn’t wake up as to what abortion was really about, we were going to encounter the next move which would be euthanasia, and infanticide, and what is happening now. What’s the guy in Princeton saying right now? He’s teaching ethics, right in Princeton, he’s from Australia, he’s been written up in national magazines, he teaches right here in the school that Jonathan Edwards was President of in Colonial America and here he is teaching in Princeton University the fact that a child who is deformed isn’t fully human and therefore you can kill them, put them out in the garbage. What did Francis Schaeffer tell us? It’s a slippery slope and once you lose control of the basic definitions of life before God, everything else follows because we are creatures of convenience. More and more of our American population are going to be older; it’s going to be a medical burden. And you watch, there will be all kinds of economic reasons to get rid of the old people that are weighting down the economy.
Holland already does it. The Netherlands that had a Christian man for Prime Minister of Holland, who wrote the text book in theology on the Holy Spirit, Abraham Kuyper, and today, ninety years later, Holland blesses euthanasia. That’s how rapidly the situation can change, and it can change just like that in this country. This country is walking right into it if we as Christians don’t stand for the Word of God. It doesn’t mean you have to be out yelling on a soap box, it just means that in your soul you are convinced this is right, and when a conversation opens with people, you say your opinion and you’re able to give reasons for it, and able to warn people why we’re going down a primrose path.
This guy that I mentioned, he said his dad to the dying day regretted that the German evangelicals who in 1932 and 1933 saw what was happening in Germany and they were just afraid to say anything, and by 1936-1937 the Nazis in the brown shirts had ganged up in the street, they’d club you to death, they’d beat you if you dared to say anything. It was too late to talk then. And he said it happened so fast, it was only five years that this happened, we lost control.
Those are things where it’s going to be an interesting lifetime. We certainly don’t live in a ho-hum generation. This is going to be exciting times and we as Christians are going to be called upon to exercise … I’m thankful that the young people are so aggressive. I think we’ve seen wonderful witnesses on the part of some of those young people at Columbine High School, and some of the other disasters, this air crash that happened in Alabama, do you know who rescued the people out of that burning fuselage? It was a choir group, and one boy lost his life because he went in again and again to pull passengers out of that burning airplane. Neat times, the young people, there’s hope, the Holy Spirit is working.