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Values / Manners / Morals Archives ~ Aletheia Baptist Ministries Skip to main content

My Grandfather’s Legacy

My Grandfather’s Legacy

by Rick Shrader

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I was born in 1950 with two grandfathers.  I loved them both.  “Grandpa Doc” Shrader was a dentist in Iowa, my father’s father.  “Grandpa Sam” Condren was a simple man, a butcher in a local grocery store in Springfield, MO, my mother’s father.  Both were WWI veterans, grandpa Doc in the medical core, and grandpa Sam a machine gunner in the trenches of France.  I didn’t know grandpa Doc as well only because I didn’t spend as much time with him as I did with grandpa Sam.  My brother and I spent almost every summer in Missouri with grandpa Sam and grandma Maude.  Though I just wanted to fish with grandpa on the river, grandma was a special lady for many reasons, among them being her biscuits and gravy and blackberry cobbler.  I remember the earlier days when grandpa was still cutting meat at the local market and we spent a lot of time playing games with neighborhood kids on the sidewalks and front porches.  But my best memories are after grandpa was retired and we spent weekdays at the cabin on the Niangua River.  On weekends we came back to their home in Springfield and always attended church on Sunday.  These summers continued during my formative years until other obligations and family schedules changed.

“Drop your line right over that log.  I think there might be a big one right there.”  Grandpa Sam had the paddle to the square-ended river boat and my brother Joe and I sat in the other two seats, simple boards stretched across the middle and ends of the boat.  Daytime fishing was done with cane poles and live minnows on the hook.  At grandpa’s suggestion (never really a command), I lifted my hook and minnow out of the water and lowered it beside the log in the river.  Almost immediately a heavy tug hit my line and the fight began.  “Help me, grandpa,” I pleaded.  I knew this was a good fish but I didn’t think I could get him in the boat myself.  “If you’re gonna fish with me, you have to land your own fish,” grandpa replied.  Moments later a 3lb smallmouth bass came over the side and landed in the boat.  I still have a picture of me (at five years old) holding the fish with my brother Joe crying to one side because it was my fish not his.  I learned a lot about life on that Ozark river and in the one-room cabin where we spent many summers.

“Keep your paddle on one side of the boat and keep the boat pointed into the current.  We need to tie a line on that big tree limb over there.”  Grandpa had lived his whole life, except for military service, in about a 50 mile radius of the cabin on the river.  He grew up on a farm nearby and had brought grain, with a wagon and team, to the old mill that used to be on the river.  He knew every fishing hole by heart.  Grandpa taught us how to look at the river, take into account the water condition, see whether the water level was low or high, and then pick the places to set the limb-lines and trot-lines for the night.  As a boy, the greatest thrill was to catch a big catfish on one of those lines we set overnight.  After we tied on the lines going up the river in the evening, we baited the hooks coming back down the river just before dark.

“Now, Tow-Joe,” grandpa’s name for a mystical giant catfish, “might be on that special line tonight, that one we tied on that big tree limb, and if he is, you boys may have to jump out of the boat and ride him to the shore.”  After returning to the cabin and eating supper, we would sit out in the yard and listen to grandpa tell fish stories.  My brother and I would laugh at the stories but we would also sit with glassy eyes imagining the story just in case it might be true.  “If you listen you might already hear the old fella slap the water with his tail.  Yep, I think he just might already be on that line.”

Grandpa Sam wasn’t just about fish stories and spending all day on the river.  He grew up in a log cabin the size of my living room where his father raised eight boys.  I still have the rocking chair that my great-grandfather had in that cabin.  Grandpa fought in the terrible trenches of France in WWI earning the purple heart.  He and grandma ran a small market and diner during the depression era in Springfield, and later he cut meat for a local market across the street from his Springfield home (until the market closed they used grandpa’s recipe for sausage).  One of my favorite pictures of grandma and grandpa Condren is a picture taken with their Sunday School class at High Street Baptist Church in Springfield.  He loved his pastor and his church.  It was this mixture of a veteran, depression era, plain spoken, Christian man that did so much in shaping my perspective on life.  Take your fishing seriously but have fun and laugh.  Work hard until your feet hurt but do it with pride.  Plant a garden, go bird hunting, spend time on the river, but always be back in time to go to church.

Boys need fathers and they need grandpas too.  A father may raise the boy but a grandpa shapes his vision of what a whole life looks like.  My life still looks a lot like my grandpa Sam.

 

 

A.W. Tozer

A.W. Tozer

by Rick Shrader

“Those who try to give warnings to the Christian church are never very popular.  Still, I must voice the caution that our craze for “activity” brings very few enriching benefits into our Christian circles.  Look into the churches, and you will find groups of half-saved, half-sanctified, carnal people who know more about social niceties than they do about the New Testament.”

A.W. Tozer, Mornings With Tozer,    February 14

 

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

by Rick Shrader

“The theory of Behaviorism, [which] insisted that there is no such thing as ‘mind’ at all, only behavior, since behavior, not mind, could be measured and studied.  The concept of ‘mind’ had no proof, but actions did.  Of behaviorism, Lewis said later could no more have accepted it than he could have scratched his ear with his own toe.”

C.S. Lewis:  A Life Inspired, Christopher Gordon, p. 39.

 

A.W. Tozer

A.W. Tozer

by Rick Shrader

“Dante, on his imaginary journey through hell, came upon a group of lost souls who sighed and moaned continually as they whirled about aimlessly in the dusky air.  Virgil, his guide, explained that these were the ‘wretched people,’ the ‘nearly soulless,’ who while they lived on earth had not moral energy enough to be either good or evil.  They had earned neither praise nor blame.  And with them and sharing in their punishment were those angels who would take sides neither with God nor Satan.  The doom of all the weak and irresolute crew was to be suspended forever between a hell that despised them and a heaven that would not receive their defiled presence.  Not even their names were to be mentioned again in heaven or earth or hell.  ‘Look,’ said the guide, ‘and pass on.’”

A. W. Tozer, Of God and Men, p. 139.

 

J. Oswald Sanders

J. Oswald Sanders

by Rick Shrader

“F. W. Robertson was similarly stirred by righteous anger on one occasion.  Describing his reaction he said: ‘My blood was at the moment running fire, and I remembered that once in my life I had felt a terrible might; I knew and rejoiced to know that I was inflicting the sentence of a coward’s and a liar’s hell.’  Martin Luther claimed that he ‘never did anything well until his wrath was excited, and then he could do anything well.’”

J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, p. 62

 

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis

by Rick Shrader

“Thus the absence of anger, especially that sort of anger which we call indignation, can, in my opinion, be a most alarming symptom. . . . If the Jews cursed more bitterly than the Pagans this was, I think, at least in part because they took right and wrong more seriously.”

C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, p. 30.

 

Corrupting Good Manners

Corrupting Good Manners

by Rick Shrader

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             Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.

                          1 Corinthians 15:33

I have written at least three previous times about manners1 as many have done who grew up in the turbulent ‘60s when the civilities of society were turned on their head.  It was John Silber, past President of Boston University, who in a 1995 graduation speech, directed our thoughts back to John Fletcher Moulton (1844-1921) or Lord Moulton, English Judge and Councillor, and to his essay on Law and Manners.  Moulton described three domains of human action: total law and total free choice on the extremes, and manners in the middle keeping either extreme from becoming dominant.  When manners disappears or becomes weak, totalitarianism or antinomianism will take over a society.  It has been the observation of many in my life time that America, like our big brother Great Britain, has abandoned manners and unfettered freedom (disguised as individualism, human rights, etc.) is reigning.  As it does, big government is attempting to establish order in the vacuum of self government.

D.A. Carson wrote, “Many observers have rightly concluded that unless a democratic state is made up of citizens who are largely in agreement over what is ‘the good,’ that state will tend to fly apart, forcing the government itself to become more and more powerful and intrusive in order to hold things together.”2  But what is “the good”?  That is really our problem, isn’t it?  We are at a time when individual citizens do not know what is good and how to achieve it without outward constraint from government or inward restraint from ourselves.  That is, we have no manners.

In an ironic way we idolize figures who have shown us manners.  Of the days of William Wilberforce and John Newton of England, both of whom are admired for putting a stop to the slave trade, Os Guinness included this note, “There is little doubt that Wilberforce changed the moral outlook of Great Britain, and this at a time when the British Empire was growing and Britain was the world’s leading society.  The reformation of manners grew into Victorian virtues and Wilberforce touched the world when he made goodness fashionable.”3  It is ironic because while we idolize these men, we shudder at the Victorian virtues that came with them.

It wouldn’t hurt America to have a Victoria or even a Miss Manners again!  It is still curious to watch Red Skelton read the Pledge of Allegiance on Facebook, or Paul Harvey tell the rest of the story.  But in real life we have few who have taken their place.  Emily Dickinson said, “The abdication of belief makes the behavior small.”4

When I was a pastor in Colorado, I liked to take the Junior kids to camp in the mountains.  I spent the week telling them to wash their hands and faces, take a shower each night, make their beds each morning, and eat something besides gummy bears.  After a number of years perfecting this cultural adventure, I settled on a descriptive theme verse, “And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness” (Acts 13:18).  But one can excuse junior behavior because it is necessarily immature, even laughable.  But things we laugh at about our children we should not laugh at as adults.

My childhood pastor, Harold Rawlings, used to say “The wilderness encroaches.”  Unless we keep cutting back the weeds and the forest it will quickly take over our space.  This has to be done with each generation or we won’t be reading about the pagans, we will be the pagans!  We used to see pagans only in National Geographic magazines, and now we can have them in our living rooms through sports, music, and even politics.

Paul’s use of “Manners”

Think again of that verse in 1 Corinthians 15, “Be not deceived, evil communications corrupt good manners.  Awake to righteousness and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame (vss. 33,34).”  Paul was arguing for the fact and necessity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Without this fact as our foundation, our house is built on shifting sand.  Don’t be deceived, one who does not know Jesus Christ has no sure way of keeping the wilderness of bad manners from creeping into his/her life.

The word “manners” is not a common word in the Bible.  The Greek word (ēthē) is used only here in the whole New Testament.  For that reason it is translated “good morals” (ASV, NASV, ESV), “good habits” (NKJV), “good character” (NIV), but preferably “good manners” because it means a manner of behavior, a settled habit, much as we use the word manners to describe self control or good conduct.  In other places we have the word “manner” (e.g. in verse 32, “the manner of men”) but that usually means the customary actions of people.

It is interesting also to realize that this is one of only a few places where Paul quotes extra-biblical sources (see also Acts 17:28 and Titus 1:12).  This is almost an exact quote from Menander in his Thais.  Grosheide says,

It may be that this is not a direct quotation from Menander but that this line had become generally known.  If so, its value as a potent argument would be greatly increased for Paul would be telling these Greek Christians, who had gone back to their former pagan customs, that their own proverb warned them against their evil conduct.5

The point is that these Corinthian Christians were carnal because they had allowed false teaching which denied the resurrection of Christ, and this false teaching was corrupting their very manners.

The Corinthians’ bad manners

MacArthur points out that the Corinthians would have been aware that many of the Greek poets and historians had advocated bad behavior based on bad theology about life after death.  He writes,

The Greek historian Thucydides reported that when a deadly plague came to Athens, ‘People committed every shameful crime and eagerly snatched at every lustful pleasure.’  They believed life was short and there was no resurrection, so they would have to pay no price for their vice.  The Roman poet Horace wrote, ‘Tell them to bring wine and perfume and the too short-lived blossoms of the lovely rose while circumstance and age and the black threads of the three sisters fate still allow us to do so.’  Another poet, Catullus, penned the lines: “Let’s live my Lesbia and let’s love, and let’s value the tales of austere old men at a single half penny.  Suns can set and then return again, but for us when once our brief light sets there is but one perpetual night through which we must sleep.’6

Paul knew that bad manners results from bad theology.  As only Paul could do, he scolds the Corinthians for their historians’ advice by quoting their historian’s advice.  No theology is as bad as denying the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Lenski writes,

Paul intends to say in the present connection that association with deceivers who are full of skeptical ideas is bound to react hurtfully on the good ways of life (ethe) of Christians.  Instead of letting the divine truth mold their manner of living they let the false and insidious ideas of their associates mislead them.  Even one bad apple spreads rot among many others.  He who rejects the resurrection cannot live and act like one who truly believes this divine reality.7

Paul said the same thing twice, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6, Gal. 5:9).  The Corinthian problem permeates modern Christianity too.  We borrow manners or habits or lifestyles from the world without a care that they were born into the world by bad theology.  We sing the world’s music, we exercise to Yoga, we watch movies from New Age astrologers, we mark our bodies like pagan sun worshipers, we even riot in the streets like Nazi Brownshirts.  Evil communications have corrupted our manners.

Applications to make

1) Even lost people should have basic manners.  Human beings are made in the image and likeness of God their Creator.  We are not animals even though we may receive life and breath from the same source (Acts 17:25).  When any society forgets this, their civility will quickly be lost.  Kenneth Myers said,  “If the Noble Savage is the highest form of man, you can hardly protest if his table manners are deplorable.”8  A whole society can be brought to a higher level by the influence of a few believers or by laws that reflect their belief.  Of course, the Devil hates this, and the lost soul soon loathes the misunderstood restrictions.  As Chesterton said, “It is assumed that equality means all men being equally uncivil, whereas it obviously ought to mean all men being equally civil.”9  Look now at Western Europe and Great Britain that were influenced for centuries by the Reformation.  Now they loathe the expected public demeanor.  America is also losing its patience with a Christian history that has given us good manners as well as morals.  They will soon cast it off because the lost soul will not abide a lifestyle formed by a theology it no longer believes.  Don’t be deceived, Paul said.

2) Manners is not the same thing as salvation.  We often make the mistake of meeting someone who believes in God, maybe goes to church, and does a lot of good things, so we call him a Christian.  Again, human beings are capable of many good and wonderful things.  But good and wonderful works do not magically become grace.  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).  Vance Havner said, “Greatness does not excuse unseemly behavior, it only makes such misconduct more serious.”10  The lack of civility ought to teach to repent rather than trust our own goodness.

3) A believer has a new source of information.  Once we are saved, regenerated by the Spirit of God, we are introduced to a whole new avenue of information:  revelation from God! Now we will accept the Bible as the Word of God and we have a built-in interpreter, the Holy Spirit.  Paul was glad for the salvation of the Thessalonians because, “when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thes. 2:13).  John told his readers, “But the anointing [Holy Spirit] which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you” (1 John 2:27).  John was also aware of false teachers who brought in error and bad manners with it.  “They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.  We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us.  Hereby know ye the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:5-6).  These were “evil communications” that were corrupting good manners.

4) The believer’s new life raises his manners above his fellow earth dwellers.  We are not so much reclaiming a fallen culture as we are living out a new culture created in us as new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  Paul showed that the works of the flesh are “contrary” to the fruit of the Spirit and that you “cannot” do the thing which is contrary to you (Gal. 5:17).  “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him; rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught” (Col. 2:6-7).  Again, Havner said, “Age and experience in the things of God do not accentuate our crudities, they remove them.”11

5) A believer’s manners are for the purpose of drawing the unsaved to Christ.  One way in which we see manners corrupted in our day is because we think we must become more like the world to win the world.  Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).  The Spirit desires the lost person to see his sin and then desire righteousness and then choose righteousness over sin.  “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8).  When Paul witnessed to Felix and his wife, “he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled” (Acts 24:25).  Years ago Eric Sauer wrote, “Enriched in Christ, the practical realization of these riches is now our duty.  This is at once our task and privilege.  The redeemed must live as redeemed.  Bearers of salvation must walk as saved.  They who possess heaven must be heavenly-minded.”  C.S. Lewis said, “Those who want Heaven most have served Earth best.  Those who love Man less than God do most for Man.”12

6) The believer’s manners should not, therefore, be corrupted by the world.  Paul has warned us, “Be not deceived’ (1 Cor. 15:33).  We should not let our manners be corrupted first and foremost because God has warned us not to let this happen.  That must be our highest priority.  We cannot apply a popular pragmatism and argue that we will accomplish more for God if we become like the world to win the world.  We can call it reclaiming culture, or following a cultural mandate, or even loving them so much we’re willing to change.  That would be a mistrust in what God has said.  Rather, we must strive to be what God has called us to be and trust that this will be the best for all these purposes.  Surely having God on our side is the best we could do.

C.H. Spurgeon wrote, “If Christ has died for me, ungodly as I am, without strength as I am, then I cannot live in sin any longer, but must arouse myself to love and serve Him who hath redeemed me.  I cannot trifle with the evil which slew my best Friend.  I must be holy for His sake.  How can I live in sin when He has died to save me from it?13

And So . . .

If the ship of state goes down, the church of Jesus Christ will not.  The future of Christ’s church depends not on any human organization but on the promises of God.  Yet the church has often, and will yet, go through troubled waters.  If those waters are created in this beloved country it will be because it loses its manners.  When the middle ground of manners disappears either totalitarianism or antinomianism will take over.  Right now we are watching the fight between these two, even in the extremes of political candidates.

How great it would be if Americans could again practice self-government or manners.  If we could police our own language, have respect for other peoples’ property or businesses, obey the laws of the land even when they are inconvenient, refuse to flaunt our crudities and nakedness in public, and even allow our neighbor to practice his faith in private and in public, we would keep the unwanted extremes from happening.  But the believer will do these things regardless of what the world does, and he will find his rest and inward peace in knowing God is pleased.

Notes:

  1. See my Aletheia website for articles from 10/95, 3/99, 6/02. www.aletheiabaptistministries.org
  2. D.A. Carson, Christ & Culture Revisited (Chicago: Eerdmans, 2008) 137.
  3. Os Guinness, Character Counts (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999) 87.
  4. Quoted by Bruce Lockerbie, Dismissing God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998) 35.
  5. F.W. Grosheide, Commentary on First Corinthians, in The New International Commentary on the New Testament, F.F. Bruce, Gen. Ed. (Eerdmans, 1979)378.
  6. John MacArthur, First Corinthians (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984) 429.
  7. R.C.H. Lenski, Interpretation of I and II Corinthians (Minneapolis: Augsburg Pub., 1963) 699.
  8. Kenneth Myers, All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes (Wheaton: Crossway, 1989) 142.
  9. G.K. Chesterton, St. Francis of Assisi (New York: Doubleday, 1990) 99.
  10. Vance Havner, Rest Awhile (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1941) 84.
  11. Ibid., 83.
  12. C.S. Lewis, Present Concerns (New York: HBJ, 1986) 80.
  13. C.H. Spurgeon, Autobiography, Vol. I (Pasadena: Pilgrim Publications, 1992) 99.

 

 

Good News & Bad News About Human Identit

Good News & Bad News About Human Identity

by Rick Shrader

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There are some things about which the Bible speaks clearly and one of those is the makeup of human beings. Yet it is amazing how far away from the plain language of the Bible our society has moved within one generation. In my youth it was risky enough to refer to homosexuals or lesbians rather than men and women. We would not even say the word sex in public and terms such as bi-sexual were a strange anomaly. Now we learn that “sex” only refers to biology but “gender” refers to however a person (I think we can still use that term with some certainty) feels about one’s identification in the world of anything-goes identities. In the 80s the acronym LGB (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual) became popular in an attempt to lessen the embarrassment of the categories. In the 90s it became LGBT, adding Transgender to the list, and now Q is added, obviously referring to queer or sometimes questioning. On a website that offered a list of terms now used, the title had LGBTQ+ because it listed over 50 gender identities, any of which a person may claim as one’s own and for which one may also rightly claim to be slandered. Today one may claim androgyny, binary, cisgender, pansexual, transgender, and even two-spirit gender! In our schools and public places, any offense given to someone who claims one of these, could end in accusations and even lawsuits.

Is all of this important? Well, I think it is and that it may partly determine how the government looks at the church, and sooner than we think. In a Weekly Standard article, writer Jonathan Last titled his article on this subject, “You Will Be Assimilated.” He summarized the growing problem this way,

All of which is a very long way of saying that whatever the Supreme Court rules in the coming weeks in Obergefell v. Hodges, the same-sex marriage campaign is far from over. It hasn’t even reached the point of consolidating its gains. Rather, it is still in its aggressive expansion phase. Next up on the docket are transgender rights . . . and polyamory. Then the push to bring religious organizations—schools, charities, and para-church groups—to heel will intensify. Already, Catholic Charities has been driven out of adoption and foster care in places like Illinois, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia because that organization doesn’t place children in same-sex households. (Tellingly, this rebuff has been deemed not a regrettable by-product of the gay-marriage movement, but a victory for it. The goal is not live-and-let-live.) then will come the big fight over breaking the churches themselves. And if you think that the same-sex marriage movement will stop short of trying to force churches to perform gay weddings, then you haven’t been paying attention.1

As I write this article, the Supreme Court has ruled that gay marriage must be legally recognized in all fifty states. But my purpose is not to delve any further into this sad underworld of our society. Rather, I want to give the good news of what God has created, allowed, redeemed, and proclaimed. Only Christianity has a message of redemption. It describes the world realistically and offers the only solution to fallen human beings who are trapped in their own sin. To understand this, one has to believe that the Bible is indeed God’s Word, a revelation from Him to us, and an infallible record of what God has to say to our situation in any age and culture. In this revelation there is much good news and also some bad news.

Good News! We are made in God’s image.

Francis Schaeffer once said, “Man, made in the image of God, cannot live as though he is nothing.”2 Of all the things God created, human beings are the zenith. Only of human beings did God say that they are created in His very image. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:26-27). Even though God created Adam first from the dust of the ground, and created Eve second from the side of Adam, the Scripture declares that both are made equally in the image of God. We may share life with the other creatures of God, yet none but mankind are given this unique and favorable position. G. Campbell Morgan once wrote, “There was life in the plant, and life in the lower animals, but when God inbreathed to man the Breath of lives, He bestowed a life in which lay the elements of light. In man, creation first looked back into the face of God, and knew Him.”3

In creation language there is only one race and that is the human race. There are only two sexes, or genders, and that is male and female. Jesus said, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh” (Matt. 19:4-5). Because there are only two sexes, male and female, marriage, says the Lord, can only be between a man and a woman. Every other kind of “marriage” is fornication.

Bad news! We are sinners.

The Bible makes no mistake about the existence of Adam and Eve, and neither is it unclear that our first parents sinned. Having been warned of the consequences of their disobedience by God, regardless, they ate of that which was forbidden, “and the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Gen. 3:7). Millard Erickson wrote,

If we choose to investigate the Bible’s depiction of man, we find that man today is actually in an abnormal condition. The real human is not what we now find in human society. The real human is the being that came from the hand of God, unspoiled by sin and the fall. In every real sense, the only true human beings were Adam and Eve before the fall, and Jesus. All others are twisted, distorted, corrupted samples of humanity.4

But the Bible tells us something deeper, more personal than the fact that our first parents sinned: we sinned with them! They were the head of the human race, and we sinned also as part of that race. Therefore we are born sinners. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12, NKJV). L.S. Chafer wrote, “No other human being than Adam has ever become a sinner by sinning. All others were born sinners. Distinction is made at this point between sin as an evil act and sin as an evil nature. By a sinful act Adam acquired a sinful nature, whereas all members of his family are born with that nature.”5

Our whole human race has substantive guilt, i.e., since we received our nature from our parents, both physical and spiritual, material and immaterial, and they from their parents all the way back to Adam and Eve, we were actually present in them when they sinned, and we sinned with them. Sin was imputed to the entire race at the moment of that sin, our “original sin.” In addition, we have inherited sin passed down through the generations in the sin nature accumulated from all of our ancestors.

What a contradiction we are! Created in God’s image but so marred by the fall and past generations of sin that we are hardly recognizable. “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen” (Rom. 1:21-23). Blaise Pascal described us, “What a freak then is man! How novel, how monstrous, how chaotic, how paradoxical, how prodigious! Judge of all things, feeble earthworm, repository of truth; sink of doubt and error, glory and refuse of the universe.”6

Good news! God loved us.

The reason why John 3:16 is the most well-known verse in the Bible is because it speaks such an obvious truth—if God does not love us, we are without hope. But God does love us! “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The apostle Paul pointed out that this love came to us, not because we were lovely, but while we were unlovely. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). What love is this? God loving the unlovely? Yes! The word agape is a word virtually unique to the New Testament. It is not a human love of give and take, but an all-giving love. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). God did not need anything in return from us in order to love us. He just loved us. And since He loved the whole world of sinners, any may come to Him without price and without worth, and find divine forgiveness. C.S. Lewis wrote,

I call this a Divine humility because it is a poor thing to strike our colours to God when the ship is going down under us; a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up ‘our own’ when it is no longer worth keeping. If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud, He stoops to conquer, He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is ‘nothing better’ now to be had.7

“How could God like the sinful, foul, stinking world? How could he embrace and kiss it? He would have to turn from it in revulsion. But he could and he did love it, comprehending all its sin and foulness, purposing to cleanse it and, thus cleansed, to take it to his bosom.”8 Praise God for His great love wherewith He loved us!

Bad news! We cannot recover ourselves.

Human beings, in their sinful condition, find it a difficult thing to accept the unconditional love of God. Surely there is something in us that God sees as acceptable and therefore loves us. We want to give something to God first, something of value, so that God will say, “Ah, this person has something I can accept.” But this is not the case. Though God loves us because of what He did in creating us in His own image, yet because of our own sin there is nothing left in us that can merit salvation. God must love us in spite of our moral bankruptcy. And morally bankrupt we are!

The devil’s lie is that sinful human beings can work hard enough and finally produce enough “good works” that will make them acceptable to God, or at least enough to outweigh their bad works. All false religions are built on this premise. But the fundamental error is that man is basically good enough, or that man has more good than bad in him, or that man, being God’s creation, is all that is necessary for him to one day stand before a holy God and be accepted and not rejected. But man is fallen. He is sinful. Even his good intentions have selfish and evil roots.

The law of God, whether we mean the law of Moses written in the Old Testament, or we mean every moral or “natural” law that God has revealed, has proven that man is unable to produce righteousness that will redeem his soul. In fact Paul states, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:19-20). So Paul can conclude, “There is none righteous, no not one” (Rom. 3:10), and “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). There is a “curse” that comes with the keeping of law for salvation. “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:10). Or, as James so aptly put it, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). But since the Bible plainly shows that no one is without sin, we are therefore all condemned.

Good News! Jesus Christ provides a way for God’s love to save us.

John Newton’s beloved song, Amazing Grace, is so popular even among those who know nothing of that grace, because it seems to say that grace accepts “a wretch like me” simply because God loves me. This, God cannot and does not do. On the one hand God does not accept us just as we are. In that case there would be no need for Jesus to die for us on the cross and resurrect victorious over sin and death. God cannot accept us without our sin being forgiven. But on the other hand we do come just as we are. when we sing “Just As I Am” we mean that we must come to God with no righteousness of our own, with no good works for salvation. We come to God as sinners and undone, needing to be clothed in the righteousness of the sinless Christ. The old song, Rock of Ages, has it,

 

“Nothing in my hand I bring,

simply to Thy cross I cling;

Naked, come to Thee for dress;

helpless, look to Thee for rest;

Foul, I to the fountain fly,

Wash me, Savior, or I die.”

 

In a strange way, the good news is that we are all sinners. Paul concludes in Romans 3 that, happily, “there is no difference: For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:22b-23). That is, it is a good thing that we are not saved by law keeping because then it would be unfair. Some might make it and some might not. But since the fact is that all have sinned, and that salvation cannot come to sinners, God has made salvation by grace through faith, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). You can be saved because, even though you are a sinner, God allows you to come by faith, not by your worthless works.

But one more thing needs to be said here, and Paul makes this plain as well. Jesus Christ died for you and rose again. God accepts Jesus Christ and all who attach themselves to Him by faith. He doesn’t save you by your righteousness, but by the righteousness of Christ. If God merely excused your sin then He would be unrighteous. So Paul concludes, “To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay; but by the law of faith” (Rom. 3:26-27). Faith in Christ leaves me nothing with which to boast, except the righteousness of Christ.

And So . . .

We human beings cannot act or boast as if we set our own rules of right and wrong. Outside of Jesus Christ we will choose wrong because that is our nature. And we will be condemned for it. But in Jesus Christ, in His righteousness alone, we can be sinners saved by grace.

Notes:

  1. Jonathan V. Last, “You Will Be Assimilated,” The Weekly Standard, June 22, 2015.
  2. Francis Schaeffer, Escape From Reason (Downer’s Grove: IVP, 1968) 53.
  3. G.C. Morgan, Understanding the Holy Spirit (AMG, 1995) 40.
  4. Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991) 496.
  5. L.S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. II (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1969) 217.
  6. Blaise Pascal, Pensees (London: Penguin Books, 1966) 64.
  7. C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, (New York: MacMillan, 1962) 97.
  8. R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1961) 259.

 

 

The End For Which God Created The World

The End For Which God Created The World

by Rick Shrader

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Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) is best known for his role in the Great Awakening and his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Edwards was one of the greatest theological minds America has ever produced. I read this well-known work on Kindle, and I must say, I had to wade through it more slowly than usual. Edwards was proposing, of course, that God created the world for His own glory. He writes, “Why has God created the world? When God answers that question, he does not slip from his own mind. His ultimate goal in creating the world is to plainly show a supreme honor and respect to himself. He has clearly stated this to us. Furthermore, he is self-sufficient, unchanging, and absolutely independent of any other being. Therefore, he is morally obligated to show the highest honor to himself, a fact that he is unable to forget.” Since there is nothing higher or holier, or more good than God, everything that exists is best when it mimics Him. In fact, God loves what He is ultimately for this reason.

He then writes, “This leads us to the reality that the creature’s true good and God’s adoration of himself, are both united as one thing. They are not divided goals. After all, the happiness that the creature aims at is a happiness that is only found when he is in union with God, and this union is what brings God glory. In fact, true happiness will rise no further than the height of union between the creature and God. A man’s level of happiness and his level of union with God rise and fall together. The more true happiness he has, the greater the union he has with God. So when God makes the happiness of the creature his ultimate end, he is making his own glory his ultimate end.”

 

Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhoo...

Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

by Rebekah Schrepfer

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“At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.  At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.”

This is the main premise and definition of the book.  Excellent!  It is a much needed comprehensive book outlining the nature and roles of men and women from a Biblical perspective.  Be warned that it is not light reading.  The book begins by examining all controversial Scripture passages, not just some, in a scholarly and detailed fashion including Genesis 1-3, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; 14:33-36; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 5:21-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Timothy 3:11-15; 1 Peter 3:1-7 and others.  Those chapters were helpful, educational and encouraging.

I enjoyed the exercises in textual criticism as well, though many may cringe at the tediousness.  For those who seek to find extra-biblical basis for sexual role distinctions, the chapters on sociological and biological studies will be very interesting and thought-provoking. A chapter on legal ramifications is included as well.  Every conceivable facet of the debate is carefully examined and answered.

I loved the Forward by John Piper, “For Single Men and Women (and the rest of us).”  So often these discussions of men’s and women’s roles is dismissed as something only pertaining to married people.  Often I’ve seen single men and women act in such a way that undermines their own God-given roles and the authority figures God has placed over them.  This negligence can cause huge problems in the churches where they attend or in their extended family and friendship relationships.  Scripture is relevant to all men and women no matter their marital status.  Yet the author addresses single men and women in a compassionate way, and I like what is said right off the bat,

“Because married people were all single once, they tend to think that they know all there is to know about singleness.  I suggest this is not so; that there is a vast difference between being single at 25 or 30, with marriage still a viable possibility, and being single at 45 or 50 or 60, with little or no prospect of ever being anything else.  Singleness has a cumulative effect on the human spirit which is entirely different at 50 than at 30.”

I agree with my brother who labeled modern feminism as one of the most aggravating of the liberation theologies.  In their thinking, since all of human history is a conspiracy against women, one must never trust any author past, present, or future who disagrees with them!  Almost as aggravating is much of modern Christianity which tries to answer the feminist claims with an incomplete philosophy of Manhood and Womanhood.  This book was written in contrast to the Danvers Statement which is shown to be a wholly inadequate and compromising answer to modern feminism.  The authors sought to publish a book that “represents a critical sifting of tradition, a rejection of all that is not Biblical, and a preserving of all that is.”

The only downside for me is that I wish at least one fundamental dispensational Baptist would have been included in the authorship.  The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is  one of the more theologically conservative groups in comparison to most of Christendom, but yet is not fundamental nor dispensational per se.  For instance, John Piper’s reformed theology does come through in subtle ways, but I can tolerate that since the subject at hand was not impacted by the authors’ views, I still loved the book.

While this book may not be a good choice for a group Bible study, it ought to be an essential part of any pastor or pastor’s wife’s library.

 This book was also reviewed at MostlySensible.com.