Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Potter’s House: Sunday, November 4, 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on November 5, 2012

Paul’s Gospel Treatise to the Roman’s: Divine Anthropology; Romans 1:19-2:8

The first major part of Paul’s gospel treatise is about man. This is information about mankind that will equip us to preach the gospel. This first part speaks to unregenerate man. This is a model for preaching to mankind about the gospel—what they need to know about themselves in the appeal to obey the gospel. This is training in regard to what Christians need to know about unregenerate mankind and what they need to be told. This is gospel psychology 101.

This part is from 1:19 through 3:20 overall. Paul addresses the general populous of unregenerate mankind from 1:19 through 2:8. And then from 2:9 to 3:20, Paul teaches important facts about the Jews, Gentiles, and their relationship to God and His gospel. Paul then moves on to the next segment of his gospel starting in 3:21.

As aside, it should be noted that this part of Romans dispels a popular myth in our day—the whole idea that Romans 1:15 is a proof text for the following: Paul was eager to preach the gospel to the Romans because we are sanctified by the same gospel that saved us. In essence, the gospel is about the works of Christ only which is the sum and substance of the Bible. All spiritual growth comes passively through a deeper and deeper knowledge of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Only problem is, though the letter is written to the Romans who were Gentiles, Paul addresses unregenerate man and the Jews independently (note 2:1,17 among many examples). It is clear that the full orbed gospel has different applications for different people groups. Hence, the message and application for life is clearly different according to the specific need which is not the same for the unregenerate and the saved. Many of the Reformed tradition that propagate this taking away from God’s word and adding to it would do well to heed the fearful biblical warnings concerning those who teach such things. A prime example is Michael Horton, who wrote the following on page 62 of Christless Christianity:

Where we land on these issues is perhaps the most significant factor in how we approach our own faith and practice and communicate it to the world. If not only the unregenerate but the regenerate are always dependent at every moment on the free grace of God disclosed in the gospel, then nothing can raise those who are spiritually dead or continually give life to Christ’s flock but the Spirit working through the gospel. When this happens (not just once, but every time we encounter the gospel afresh), the Spirit progressively transforms us into Christ’s image. Start with Christ (that is, the gospel) and you get sanctification in the bargain; begin with Christ and move on to something else, and you lose both.

We noted a very important truth in 1:18. There are only two ways—the unregenerate way and the regenerate way. The unsaved way actively suppresses the truth whether wittingly or unwittingly. There is no neutral ground, and there is no such thing as an agnostic. It’s interesting: it seems Paul begins by refuting the idea that there is any such person as an agnostic, and then moves on to refute the idea that there is any such person as an atheist. How valuable it is to know that these labels are red herrings lest we fail to share the gospel in a way that it needs to be heard. Not knowing and pleading ignorance still suppresses the truth that God expects to be obeyed.

Paul speaks clearly to the supposed idea of the atheist:

Romans 1:19 – For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Aside from the fact that creation should be proof of God in and of itself, God takes a further step; Paul states that, “God has shown it to them.” They will not be able to stand before the one who showed it to them and claim that they didn’t know. As we progress, problems with a strict dichotomy between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will be seen. It’s true God must show man certain things in order for him to see it, but it is interesting that He has shown all men that He is the Creator God. They are without excuse.

Paul continues:

1:21 – For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

This is in the past tense, and it is significant. Paul seems to mention the invisible attributes of God first, and then, “they knew God.” Presently, He shows His invisible attributes to them through creation which is constantly before them and often preaching (Psalm 19:1). But there was a time when God revealed Himself through more than creation—He manifested Himself to man through direct acts on earth. In other words, they suppressed God to His face and often at the foot of His very throne. Paul seems to be smashing all of the popular presuppositions; let’s add another one, “Seeing is believing.” They saw, they knew, and rejected God to His face.

There are myriads of examples of this in Scripture. One is the tower of Babel. Many Bible historians think God’s disapproval of its tower project, resulting in the confusion of languages, occurred within 100 years of the flood. For certain, the huge ark resting atop a mountain was a gargantuan monument to the judgment of God. Other scholars note that the tower was built from water resistant materials. Therefore, the following is suggested: the builders thought they could overcome God’s expected judgment, and God’s promise to not flood the earth again was not believed as well (see endnote #1 for sources).

So, they refused to do two things: they refused to “honor” God, and they refused to be “thankful” unto Him. One would do well to note that Paul summarizes the crux of rebellion against God with two primary categories: recognizing God with the honor He deserves, and being thankful to Him. In this willful suppression of truth, darkness within their own souls deepened. People are always moving in two directions: further away from God and into deeper darkness because they are suppressing His truth, or into greater light because they are upholding truth and honoring God at the same time:

but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

This is the danger of secular philosophy and anything that is deliberately suppressing God’s truth: foolish darkness, though lofty sounding, is filling the void. Worse yet, it replaces God with His own goodness and creation:

and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

The image, or idol, is an ancient art of replacing God’s wisdom with dark foolishness. It focuses on a narrow concept that can be interpreted many different ways by many different people; ie, they can make its meaning anything they want it to be. A good example is the infamous “Butterball Jesus” in Monroe, Ohio. It is a giant 60ft. image of Christ that stands in front of a large Charismatic church visible from the I-75 interstate highway that runs by it. Testimonies concerning how the image “speaks” to many of those passing by, including salvation experiences, abound. The diverse ways in which the image “speaks” to detractors varies as well:

“It’s cartoonish,” “It’s the most retarded thing I have ever seen in my life,” “It makes Christians look foolish,” It’s racist,” “It’s a freak show,” “Couldn’t the money have been used for something more worthy?” (see endnote #2 for sources).

Idol worship is the meditation on a narrow concept that is a gateway to unlimited (or “eternal”) knowledge that is found within. Bottom line: idols can be interpreted according to a truth of our own desire. Various images are merely symbolic of the narrow concept or gateway. It can also be a concept that rejects images according to its own philosophy, but it almost always involves the deep knowledge being found within. The knowledge found within is unlimited because meditation on the narrow concept usually results in a uniting with the invisible which then relays the information to the inner being. It is a uniting of the invisible spirit world (the location of higher knowledge or vision of the good versus evil) with the material world. The many faceted ideas come from deep inner darkness and often appear to be profound.

Click on to enlarge.

This resulted in God removing certain forms of grace and mercy. God has always restrained certain kind of evils in the world according to His mercies. Again, this is a past event, a past judgment that is ongoing. In response to man seeking wisdom that suppresses God’s wisdom, God removed certain restraints as judgment:

Romans 1:24 – Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Apparently, at one time in human history, this sin was off limits according to God’s mercy. Man is restrained from reaching the total depth of darkness that he would find in his endeavor to suppress God’s wisdom. As a judgment, God removed this restraining mercy. This hearkens back to the revealing of God’s wrath for the deliberate suppression of His truth:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth (1:18).

As history unfolds, God will continue to reveal His wrath by removing His restraining mercies. In our day, His written word is the primary way in which He communicates His wisdom for life and godliness. Before this fact is used to illustrate the next point, let it be established:

Luke 16:19 – “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

This is because mankind rejects God just as readily in light of His mighty works on earth in times of old as He does the written word in our day. Despite the many dire warnings against taking away from God’s word (gospel) or adding to it, man will persist in doing so. Therefore, in his darkened state of undiscernment due to a lack of trembling before holy writ, God will further his misery and fall by not restraining “strong delusions.” A natural descent of “anomia” (anti-word) is lack of love towards others which will take its toll in the last days (Matthew 24: 12), but God will further compound the misery by not restraining supernatural delusions by Satan:

For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24).

We get an idea of what some of these strong delusions will be in the book of Revelation. Apparently, images will come alive and begin speaking. Surely, the undiscerning masses that have long abandoned the sufficiency of the Scriptures will be helpless against such delusions. And therefore doomed to eternal destruction:

2Thessalonians 2:9 – The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Three times in the passage at hand, the Bible states, “’Therefore,’ ‘For this reason,’ ‘Since they did not…’ ‘God gave them up to…’” Throughout history, and in individual lives, God will continue to remove His mercies and grace for those who suppress His truth. He restrains His mercies in two general areas: passions and ability to reason, or think. The first ranges from all kinds of sex addictions and cravings to the unnatural act of same sex. The second is in regard to reasoning. So, the following laundry list presented by Paul is indicative of an inability to reason:

Romans 1:28 – And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

God gave them up to an adokimos mind, or a “worthless” mind. A mind that does not uphold God’s wisdom and seek to know it more is WORTHLESS, and more and more is given over to deeper and deeper worthlessness leading to more and of what Paul describes as the result. In verse 32, Paul again reiterates that mankind “know[s]” the righteous decree, and deliberately defies God regardless of knowing that death is the final result. Moreover, they commend those that partake; eg, in our day much humor and entertainment abounds that glorifies such behavior. We must beware that we are not beguiled accordingly:

Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Paul concludes this part of God’s divine anthropology with another surprising proof that mankind is well aware of what God’s truth is, and in effect, His righteous standards as well. He presents it as proof that Man is “without excuse” accordingly. And what is this proof? Unregenerate man indicts other men for the same behavior that they partake in! Paul states it this way:

Romans 2:1 – Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?

Agnostics and atheists are quick to judge others according to wrongdoing. This proves they really know the truth, but deliberately reject it. By the same token, they are given over to their own worthless minds and can’t help but to practice the immorality that defies a standard that they deny, but expect others to live by. Moreover, they constantly judge and accuse God of winking at the same sin that they partake in, and note that God is silent. In other words, their worthless minds not only misinterpret reality in general, but misinterpret the mercy of God:

Romans 2:4 – Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

Hence, God’s mercy is unthankfully trampled upon. Paul concluded this part by again reminding us that there are only two ways:

Romans2:6 – He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

There is obedience to righteousness or obedience to unrighteousness. Both ways compound their own essence of what they are paved by: righteousness, or unrighteousness. These are the only two ways, whether one is a Jew, or a Gentile. There is no difference regardless of the Jewish heritage that posited Israel as the vanguards of God’s law.

Paul addresses this, and their relationship to the law in the next part.




7 Responses

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  1. paulspassingthoughts said, on November 5, 2012 at 10:50 AM

    Reblogged this on Clearcreek Chapel Watch.


  2. gracewriterrandy said, on November 6, 2012 at 9:52 AM

    To me, it sounds as if the apostle is digging a hole tkat “free will” can’t get us out of.


    • paulspassingthoughts said, on November 6, 2012 at 12:01 PM

      I said, “strict dichotomy.” Again, please don’t comment unless you take time to read it.


      • gracewriterrandy said, on November 6, 2012 at 1:18 PM

        I did read it, and I confess I don’t have a clue what you are talking about.


      • paulspassingthoughts said, on November 6, 2012 at 2:20 PM

        That wouldn’t surprise me. Some teens were there who had no problem understanding the message at all. Should I have them call you? Maybe they could be of some help.


  3. gracewriterrandy said, on November 6, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    A strict dichotomy between God’s ,sovereignty and the sinner’s inability to choose that for which he has no desire and to which he is completely averse isn’t an issue. If you are saying one aspect does not exclude the other, of course that is true.


  4. gracewriterrandy said, on November 6, 2012 at 3:32 PM

    Perhaps they could. Maybe even you could try to explain what you mean by the problem of a strict dichotomy between God’ sovereignty and free will. It could be explaining exactly what you mean by “free will” would be a good start. BTW, I hope I am not keeping you from voting. Unless, of course, you had planned to vote for Obama. If you were, please stay home.


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