Thursday, August 31, 2006
Monday, August 28, 2006
A Russian scientist and a Czechoslovakian scientist had spent their lives studying the grizzly bear. Each year they petitioned their respective governments to allow them to go to Yellowstone to study the bears.
Finally, their request was granted, and they immediately flew to Yellowstone. They reported to the ranger station and were told that it was the grizzly mating season and it was too dangerous to go out and study the animals. They pleaded that this was their only chance, and finally the ranger relented.
The Russian and the Czech were given portable phones and told to report in every day. For several days they called in, and then nothing was heard from the two scientists. The rangers mounted a search party & found the camp completely ravaged, with no sign of the missing men.
Following the trails of a male and a female bear, they finally caught up with the female. Fearing an international incident, they decided they must kill the animal to find out if she had eaten the scientist.
They killed the female and opened the stomach to find the remains of the Russian scientist.
One ranger turned to the other and said, "You know what this means, don't you?"
The other ranger nodded and responded . . .
"I guess it means the Czech is in the male."
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
I recently painted our office room, and had to move a lot of stuff--including my bookshelf--to get the job done. My grandfather has been preaching for more than 50 years. Several times now, he has brought me a load of books that he doesn't use much any more. There have been so many of them, it has taken me quite a while to sort through them all. Some of my favorites are the debates he's given me, such as the Warren-Flew debate and the Woods-Nunnery debate.
I started off thinking the other day that I would have to find some books to set aside, since my shelf is overflowing, and I figured that since these books are decades older than many other books I have, I might have to pick a few of them to put into storage. I figured the most likely thing to go would be some old periodicals that my grandfather had collected. I had them all in a stack on a high shelf. I got them down to thumb through them.
After my recent rant about preaching journals, I'm happy to announce that I found some that I actually like. Yes my friends, I am the proud owner of numerous volumes of The Minister's Monthly from around 1958-1965. These contain articles by many prominent ministers from churches of Christ during this time period, and several biographical sketches. There's one great on on Bob Hendren, whose articles I had recently been posting about Grace. Then there's old Foy Wallace, Jr., Guy Woods, Batsell Barrett Baxter, and E. Claude Gardner. I'm anticipating that of all the people reading this blog, the most likely to care about this would be the Stoned-Campbell Disciple (he's an expert on Restoration history and literature).
For any of you Harding folks, I decided to scan and post this one. Can you even recognize Howard Norton? This was WAY back in the day. I intend to go by his office sometime soon to show this to him. I'm curious how he'll react to it. Hopefully, it will be a fond memory for him.
At any rate, I need to thank my Granddad again for giving me these. It was kind of like Jesus' parable about finding a treasure in a field, except that I already own the field. Pretty cool. As I have time to read through these, I might have more musings about them.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Thursday, August 10, 2006
We had to leave them at our house along last night, because this morning in Memphis we had a very important appointment. You may remember a post from a couple of months ago where we were featured in a story on the 10:00 news about legal immigration. This morning was our big appointment. We've been waiting two years for this. We got out every legal document that we own, with lots of personal pictures (you have to prove to the government that you actually love each other and have a relationship to help prevent mail-order brides). We prayed a lot, and asked our friends to pray a lot.
We spent the night with our friends Robert and Angela at their new apartment in Memphis, which was about 10 minutes away from the National Security office. We got there at 7:30am, got in line, and they took us shortly thereafter. We went into the room, were greeted by a couple of friendly people, and led to an office. He just asked to see our proof of identification, asked us how we met each other, asked for some proof that we shared assets and some pictures of us, and that was it. He said, "Since you've been married for two years, you'll be in great shape. You should get your green card in the mail in about two weeks. It will be good for ten years. You can work, travel, and do whatever you want. After three years, you'll be elligible for citizenship. Good luck!" We were thrilled to death. We got out of there at about 7:50am (our appointment had been scheduled for 8:00). Carolina called a lot of our relatives and friends to tell them the good news. After that, we went shopping around Memphis with Robert and Angela.
They took us to a place called World Market where I spotted these. Every year Alpha Tau (my social club at Harding) has a Toga mixer to meet potential new members. Everyone comes dressed in a sheet, prepared to guzzle lots and lots of IBC rootbeer and cream soda. I found this luxurious Virgil's brand rootbeer in one-gallon kegs, so I got two of them. I plan to get a couple of more, which I believe ought to be plenty for our mixer. These are just really well-decorated, not to mention the rootbeer is of the highest quality. Carolina posed for a rock 'n roll shot above. I just think these are so cool. I have to give credit to T Burns who introduced me for the first time to Virgils.
This was a day of cool surprises, but most importantly, answered prayers. For two years, we've been hoping that everything would work out for Carolina to get her green card. We finally see the light at the end of the tunnel!
Monday, August 07, 2006
The Faith – Commitment To God’s Grace!
Has the response of faith added anything to the merits of the cross? Not at all, for man has only come back down the same road along which he departed from God. He left God mentally and emotionally, and now he seeks the God who can restore him to his right mind and right inner being. But, in Paul’s analysis of sin in Romans 1:24ff, we noted that man had also been alienated from God in another way—physically.
The Response of Faith Adds Nothing To the Merits Of The Cross
But here is where we reach a tremendous barrier in our thinking. We do not think of the physical as having much of anything to do with a person’s spirituality. The whole person’s needs are frequently short-handed down to only emotional and mental needs. William Barrett was certainly right when he identified this strange mind-set:
Protestant man had thrown off the husk of his body. He was a creature of
spirit and inwardness, but no longer the man of flesh and belly, bones and blood, that we find in the Bible. Irrational Man, pp. 75-76.
An amazing return to Neoplatonic ideas of the body seems to have occurred since the Seventeenth Century. Is this a Scriptural view of man? Can faith be valid apart from the necessary return of physical man to God?
Our problem with sinfulness is not limited to our intellect and inner man. We are neck and shoulders deep in sinning with our bodies also. God has come in Christ (a physical incarnation) to deal with the sin of the whole person. Christ died on the cross (a physical death) to redeem the whole person. Jesus was raised from the dead (a physical resurrection) for our future welfare as whole persons. God gives His Holy Spirit to indwell our physical bodies (1 Corinthians 6), and intends to raise us bodily and give us a physical existence in a resurrection body (1 Corinthians 15:42ff). God does not despise bodies!
Christ did not despise a physical response to our needs. He actually because involved with sinful persons on every level of existence. Christ was intellectually, emotionally, and physically committed to our salvation. We must make a faith-commitment to God’s grace with this same totality of experience.
Baptism Is Not Something Added To Faith, It Is Faith
Baptism is the point at which faith in Christ makes a physical response to the cross and open tomb (Romans 6:3-6). Baptism is not something added to faith, it is faith. As James Denney, in his classic The Death of Christ, indicates in his discussion of Paul’s argument for the new life in Christ in terms of the encounter of baptism:
He is able to use [baptism] in his argument in the way he does because baptism and faith are but the outside and inside of the same thing…
“Baptism,” as Albert Schweitzer wisely remarked, “is not a staircase, but an elevator.” It is not a human work of righteousness, but a work of God Himself, a creative encounter from which the new man in Christ receives his faith-form. The Bible affirms this quite strongly:
Buried with Him in the act of baptism, in whom you were raised together through faith in the activity of God who raised Him from the dead…(Colossians ).
We had faith; God worked. We added nothing to the cross; we surrendered to it as whole persons. God does the work in our baptismal surrender out of which comes a new life in the Spirit (John 3:5; 1 Corinthians -13).
When baptism is seen as a response wholly appropriate to our need as sinners its meaning as “for the remission of sins” is clearly comprehended. J.R. Mantey, the great Baptist scholar, says it with profound insight:
When one considers in Ac. repentance as self-renunciation and
baptism as a public expression of self-surrender and self-dedication to Christ,
which significance it certainly had in the first century, the expression ‘eis aphesin
ton hamartion humon’ may mean ‘for the purpose of the remission of sins’. But if
one stresses baptism, without its early Christian import, as a ceremonial means of
salvation, he does violence to Christianity as a whole, for one of its striking
distinctions from Judaism and Paganism is that it is a religion of salvation by
faith while all others teach salvation by works. (Quoted in H.E. Dana and Julius
R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 104.)
Baptism Is Important Because Christ Is Important
Dr. Mantey is certainly correct. Baptism from a New Testament perspective is a faith surrender to God’s grace. Baptism is important because Christ is important.
Baptism is so intimately connected with faith in the New Testament that to administer it apart from faith is to destroy its meaning entirely. Faith is a comprehensive response and all of its components are directed toward Jesus Christ.
For all are God’s sons through faith in Christ Jesus, for those who were
baptized into Christ became clothed with Christ (Galatians ,27).
Faith Is A Comprehensive Response—None Of Its Components Should Be Exalted Over Another
The Scripture upholds a view of faith which calls upon the whole person to come to Christ. Mankind is asked to respond to God’s grace with all his being. One component of faith should not be exalted over another. They are all important, because without all, faith is incomplete.
A radio may be spoken of as consisting of several components. Most radios have a signal detection stage, a tuning stage, and an amplification stage. Now if someone asked: “Which stage is the real radio?” We could not answer “the detection stage” or “the amplification stage” for each on its own is not a radio. But, when all the stages are working together it is still only one radio. So with faith in the New Testament. Even though it is a response to God’s grace which includes an intellectual, emotional, and physical aspect, it is still only faith.
Such is the nature of God’s grace. When it is appreciated and seen in its multi-varied form, it is a magnificent call for the salvation of our entire being. We must express our faith to this grace in a total response. God’s grace calls for nothing less than this.
All translations are the author’s own.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
What Is Faith?
One who believes he can create his own response to grace is dismissing the very channel God has provided for access to His grace. Salvation is “by grace through faith.” Whoever has read Romans 5:1, Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 3:3-8, and many other passages too numerous to mention, will arrive rapidly at that conclusion. In fact, no other conclusion could be reached. The concept of salvation by grace through faith is simply not debatable; it cannot even be questioned! The real question, though, is not whether we are saved by grace through faith, but “What is faith?”
The Real Question Is Not Whether We Are Saved By Grace Through Faith, But “What Is Faith?”
“What is faith?” Our temptation may be to answer this question from a historical perspective, or from a pre-digested theological stance based on creedal or traditional knowledge. But, can we afford to answer that way? Would we not be required by the sheer need for grace to answer: “Faith means whatever God has said that it means.” We know already that God’s definition will not be arbitrary, that it will answer to our real need. What definition does the New Testament give to faith? If we discover this fairly, should it not become our working definition which outlines for us the meaning of the faith response? We want to avoid all merely traditional answers and allow God to define faith for us. It is a radical inquiry, but can we be content with less?
We noted earlier that man’s sinfulness had invaded his whole being (Romans -28). We would expect, then, that God’s delineation of the faith response would be appropriate to this total need. This is precisely where the apostolic message of grace centers. Man’s sinfulness is mental, emotional, and physical in nature. We know that man’s outlook is sinful in perspective. His mentality is futile, vain, insensitive to God (Ephesians 4:17ff). We would expect that the apostolic definition of faith would say something about the human mental attitude.
This it uniformly does. The intelligent life of man is so dwarfed by sinfulness that he is constantly reminded to “repent,” which means to change his mental outlook radically. The initial proclamation of the Gospel on this side of the resurrection of Jesus occurs in Acts 2. The restored Peter preaches a sermon which centers on Jesus as the risen Messiah. When God’s message breaks through the wall of sinfulness surrounding the hearts of the persons listening, they are moved to shout: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts ). If Peter possessed any divine knowledge of the human need and the God-given answer he would surely have used it here. In fact he did:
Repent, and let each one of you be baptized in reliance upon the name of Jesus so that your sins may be forgiven, and you will receive the Holy Spirit as a gift (vs. 38).
At this point in his sermon Peter addressed the mental problem head on. “Repent” he said to the lot of them. Repent is from the verb metanoein, which incorporates two words, meta (change) and nous (the mind). Metanoein means to alter one’s thinking in a radical manner. God’s grace had confronted these people with the fact of their own sinfulness and then graciously offered them the way back to His favor. The first move in that direction is to alter one’s mental outlook so that one perceives the sinful condition of the soul and recoils from it. This is the creation of a wholly new mental perspective that delivers from insensitivity to sin. Without this nothing further is possible, for people who will not open their minds to God cannot be helped by Him.
People Who Will Not Open Their Minds To God Cannot Be Helped By Him
God makes this possible. In Acts 10 the same Peter visits, reluctantly, the Gentile home of Cornelius. Later, in accounting for this unprecedented intrusion into a Gentile’s home, Peter explains to the inquiring brethren that God had ordered this new direction. Cornelius was to hear words “by which you and all your house will be saved” (Acts ). The investigators rejoiced at God’s gracious reaching out to the Gentiles in these words: “God has indeed given to the Gentiles repentance unto life” (vs. 18). God had made it possible for Gentiles to find repentance as He had caused His Word to be preached unto them.
Our repentance adds nothing to the cross. It is the first necessary move of faith that we make to receive God’s grace. This action is possible because God makes it possible. God’s word has furnished the spiritual realities about our distorted mental state which brings the necessity of repentance home to us. Only God’s thoughts are powerful enough to deliver a perverted mind.
Man’s emotional life, as Paul outlined in Romans , is also perverted. In returning to God there is a need to re-orient the heart of man. The Bible does not use the word “emotion” in quite the same way we do today, but the heart of man is recognized in Scripture as that combination of perception and feeling which needs to center on God. “You shall love the Lord you God with your whole heart…” Jesus directs in Matthew 22:37. Here the heart is distinguished from the soul (psuche) and the reasoning power of man (dianoia). The heart (kardia), according to Arndt-Gingrich in their A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, frequently means “the source and center of the whole inner life” (p. 404).
The analysis conducted by Paul in Romans 1:18ff on man’s sinfulness demonstrated that man had a problem with sin in all his being. The physical distress of dishonoring the body (vs. 24) grew out of “lusts of the heart.” This same connection is maintained in verse 26 where their passions (emotions) are dishonorable. In other words sin has gripped man’s inner being and his emotions and physical body are used in the service of sin. We have seen where man has to come back to God mentally; now we see man has to come back to God from the center of his being, his emotional and volitional life.
Faith requires that sinful persons make a heart-decision about Christ. The center of man’s being must cry out to the One who has the power to deliver him from his sin. Mankind must admit the centrality of Christ and admit also His claim to be Lord and Savior. Paul points to this truth in Romans 10:
Because if you will admit (confess) with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved; for if this is believed with the heart justification results, and if this is admitted to (confessed) with the mouth salvation results (vss. 9,10).
The form of this though is parallel. Justification and salvation are synonymns (sic) for the same process, not separate actions. There is to be no separation between what the heart believes and what the mouth confesses. What happens in this faith-admission? The inner being of man cries out to the Lord Jesus for cleansing and a new center. No longer will the lusts of the heart be dominant in such a life:
Now let thanks be expressed to God because though you were sin’s slaves you obeyed from the heart that type of teaching you were committed unto (Romans ).
Friday, August 04, 2006
Man’s Response to God’s Grace
What a tragedy it would be if mankind neglected this priceless grace of God. In World War II a sinking Nazi ship was approached by a British rescue vessel. The Nazi sailors spit at their would-be rescuers and refused to be saved. Sinners certainly have this option, but what a sad waste it would be. Even God will not impose life on an unwilling sinner. You cannot keep life in what is determined to die. Man must respond to this loving outreach of God for grace to be effective in redemption.
Even God Will Not Impose Life On An Unwilling Sinner
When a person appreciates the work of the cross, its adequacy for salvation, and its unique nature, he or she will want to know how it may become a factor in one’s life. The preachers of ‘good news’ in the New Testament, as any casual reading of the book of Acts will show, were not slow to communicate the necessity of a response to God’s grace. Thought they never conceived the idea that the human response deserved God’s grace, they did affirm its necessity. Paul’s famous grace-faith statement in Ephesians 2 is a clear model of this approach. A somewhat literal translation follows:
For by the grace you are in a saved condition through faith. And this
circumstance does not originate in you. It is God’s gift; not originating in works,
lest anyone should boast, for we are his created thing, having been created in
Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance so that we could
walk around in them (vss. 8-10).
I prepared this clumsy translation only to illustrate certain points in the text. Notice the definite article in front of ‘grace.’ This article, which is in the original in verse 8, serves to contrast ‘grace’ in verse 8 with the more general use of the same work in 2:5 above. There (vs. 5) grace without the article means that the Divine solution to our deadness in sin is a grace solution. The quality of God’s salvation is grace. Verse 8 makes grace much more specifically available, saying in effect, that the very grace alluded to above as God’s answer to sin is actually available to humans on the basis of faith.
Grace is what places us in a saved situation. “Saved” is a perfect participle indicating our present state is “saved” because of God’s gracious forgiveness of sin. This forgiveness became a reality when we responded in faith to His grace. Then Paul reminds the reader that the entire circumstance—of there being grace to save, of faith as a possible response, and of salvation itself, all is God’s gift. The word ‘this’ in ‘this circumstance’ is a neuter pronoun, which of course would not agree grammatically with faith (pistis, a feminine noun), grace (charis, a feminine noun), or saved (masculine participle). Neuters like ‘this’ are used to sum up the thought of the entire section. Paul is stressing that grace and salvation are from God, yes, but even faith itself is possible because of God! Even our faith possibilities come from God.
God makes faith possible. If God had not graciously sent Christ into our world, in what would we have had faith? Faith in faith certainly does not save. Faith in Christ saves, not faith in faith. But we are totally dependent upon God’s action and revelation of Christ to find out about this possibility. We could never have dreamed up such a radical solution on our own. God’s word in the Good News about Christ is the source of all our salvation possibilities.
God’s Revelation Has Made It Possible For Man To Respond To God.
God being the source of our faith possibilities leads us to realize another wonderful truth. Even the response we humans make to grace is a gift from God. That is to say, we who are sinners cannot create our own response. We can respond, thank God, but it will have to be to what God has revealed. In this sense we see that even our response is an extension of God’s grace, because God’s revelation has made it possible. If we decide to substitute any other response at this point it will be futile since only faith can answer to grace. God, not man, revealed this. The response we make is grace extending itself into our lives. To create our own response would be a true abrogation of grace, for grace takes hold of our concrete lives only in the response of faith revealed by God in the Good News about Christ.
God Has Made It Possible For Us To Be Saved—We Must Make The Appropriate Response To The Real Solution
Just any response will not do. The response must be appropriate to the situation. After all, we cannot create our own physical universe—why should we think we can create our own spiritual universe? Conditions in the physical universe do not respond on the basis of our wishful thinking. We cannot wake up and desire the sky to become yellow, the grass purple, or birds to live like moles in the earth. These things do not respond to our whims; what makes us think God will? We accept the reality we find in the physical universe and adjust to it. The same thing is true in the realm of the spiritual.
An airplane pilot, for example, does not create the possibility of flight. No matter how clever, how warm, how witty, he has to accept the reality of the universe and fly on that basis. He could not announce to the passengers: “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen; welcome aboard Flight 901, which I will graciously permit to become airborne today, and which, as I decide, will stay in the air until we reach our destination.” In fact, his decision to become airborne is a possibility only when he operates to conform to conditions already there long before he ever became a pilot. The action of air-foils in motion and their properties is a function of the real universe. The pilot did not invent them, though by skill and the proper equipment he is able to take advantage of them.
In a way his knowledge serves only to take advantage of what is already available. If our pilot decided to provide adequate power to the engines, keep the plane on a good heading, observe atmospheric conditions, etc., he would continue to fly. But never, never would it be by a mere arbitrary decision on his part. His response to the flight situation is satisfactory only with respect to the comprehended principles of aerodynamics. He created none of these conditions and can add nothing to them. These conditions are there whether he or any other person pilots the plane.
No doubt there are multitudes of possible responses to the problem of flying. Hindu mystics affirm they can fly ‘out of the body’ to the moon and other planets at will. All they have for verifications are their own statements, for they are simply immobile to the objective viewer. One thing for sure, though, no swami has ever brought back any moon rocks from such a journey! This type of ‘flight’ is strictly in the mind. But is it flying? No more than a drug ‘trip’ is a real journey. We are not interested in imaginative flights of fancy about salvation. We need the real thing! Our response must be appropriate or it will be ineffective. We are open to those possibilities that God makes available. We are not apt to fly if we stand around flapping our arms as fast as we can. We are not going to be saved if we substitute our own responses for God’s revelation about faith in Christ Jesus.
Salvation is a real situational need. God has made it possible to be saved (Ephesians 2:8-10). Yet, similar to the pilot who desires to fly, we must make the appropriate response to the real situation. Failing to respond appropriately would be like a pilot who expects to fly without starting the plane’s engines. This would be an inappropriate response. Response which is thoroughly correlative to the object that calls it forth is appropriate. A person who goes on a salt-free died when his physician discovers hypertension is not responding arbitrarily. He does what is appropriate and what satisfies the need. God’s revelation of the faith response is likewise. Nothing is arbitrary in God’s requirement of faith from human beings who expect salvation. God revealed the conditions of the response, as the physician revealed the conditions of the diet, so that the right action might be taken.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
A Desperate Problem – An Extreme Solution!
Why did Paul stress grace so strongly? Paul knew the ever-present tendency of man to believe in his own ability. Sinners constantly give in to the fatal temptation of attempting to pull themselves up by their own spiritual bootstraps. Paul knew mankind would have to see its utter desolation apart from grace. “All have sinned and continue falling short of God’s glory…” (Romans 3:23). This concise statement of man’s moral bankruptcy underlined the need for a Divine solution. That solution is in grace. Paul’s grace emphasis constantly refers man back to God. It stands as a prominent warning that salvation is never to be achieved by human effort.
Even in our day people are all too ready to say: “You are a grace man, I am a deeds man. You may talk on and on about salvation by grace, but after all, it is we doers who get the job done. God helps those that help themselves.” This last bit of bragging is all too typical, but it deserves only the thoughtful reply of an unknown wit of days gone by: “God help those that help themselves.” You cannot have it this way. Grace and deeds that claim merit before God cannot co-exist (Romans 4:4): “Now as far as the one who is working, the reward is not calculated on the basis of grace, but on the basis of an obligation.” But no one can put God in his debt, no one has a claim on God. All we have a right to expect is our just condemnation, but James tells us “mercy triumphs over judgment” (James ). Our need is mercy, not judgment!
No One Can Put God In His Debt
Mercy is available at the cross. But our problem is not only that we have so much pride we refuse to accept our lost state. It is also that we have failed to grasp how absolutely profound our need is for forgiveness by God. We simply are unaware of the deep sinfulness that has caused our rebellion against His holiness. We will develop a capacity to respond to grace only when we realize the magnitude of the sin problem of mankind. Then, and only then, will we see the amazing dimensions of God’s solution to that problem. An analysis of man’s sinfulness will help us see how magnificent God’s grace is in obtaining man’s reconciliation and forgiveness.
Romans 1:18ff carries the most penetrating analysis of sin and its effects on the life of mankind to be found. It is against this sin that the ‘wrath of God is revealed.’ Notice in this section of Romans that two things are revealed in the Gospel. God’s righteousness (vs. 17) and wrath (vs. 18) are revealed. God’s way of putting men in the right with Himself is revealed, and that is of immense importance. But before that can happen, sinners must also understand God’s wrath is revealed against their sinfulness. Unless the terrible nature of the moral disease called sin is revealed as absolutely repugnant to God, mankind is apt to go on ‘suppressing the truth’ about this dangerous condition.
God Is Not Hostile Toward Sinners, He Is Hostile Toward Sin
God’s wrath does not mean a personal hostility, for God loves us even as unforgiven sinners (John ). Rather, His wrath indicates God’s intense hostility toward sin. This hostility is so serious that God cannot overlook, condone, or dismiss sin. He can forgive it, but never can He accept it. Mankind in attempting to rationalize its sinfulness succeeds only in permanently being alienated from God. It’s no good trying to rationalize our sin; we must listen to God’s revelation of what it is doing to us.
But what exactly has sin done to us? How are we affected? What parts of our being have been involved? Paul’s analysis carries three crushing accusations about our sinfulness. He introduces each of these three thoughts by the frightening statement “God gave them over…” (1:24, 26, 28). God recognized our utter alienation and reluctantly cast us upon ourselves. God abandoned us in our sinfulness, first, in verse 24f because He saw the way we “dishonored our bodies.” God had to abandon us to our physical misuse of the bodies He had given us to glorify Him. Our hearts were not right and our bodies acted out the illicit desires of the heart.
Secondly, in verse 26, Paul mentions that God saw how we had taken legitimate emotions and dishonored them. Mankind had allowed love to become only sex, and that sex degenerated into perversion. All concepts of natural anatomy were violated in this selfish search for emotional thrills. Man’s emotional life was so thoroughly distorted by sin as to place him outside God’s original intentions for this part of his being. This is a very present reality, as is the sin of .
What follows in verse 28, is what you would inevitably expect. As mankind is abandoned in his physical sin, and his emotional sin, he is also abandoned to his intellectual sin. His mind is recognized by God only as a “reject” (Greek adokimos). This is what the old confession means when it speaks of sins in “thought, word, and deed.” In other words, we have sinned as total beings.
The Total Being Of Man Is Touched By Sin
We have sinned with all of ourselves. Our minds, given us by God to think His wonderful thoughts after Him, are used now only to rationalize our sinfulness. The mind which could enrich our lives and contribute to other’s happiness serves only the selfish desires and thinks up more novel ways to sin. God must reject this prostitution of the thinking process. The mind of man made this tragic decision and now supports what is unworthy and wrong-headed. The total being of man is affected by sin. No part is un-touched.
Such is the picture the Bible reveals of man’s absolute lostness, and thus his absolute need for God’s grace. A sordid, ugly, but accurate picture. There is no use trying to pretend a major problem does not exist. There is no use suggesting halfway solutions like curing man’s monetary poverty, or providing him with a better environment, or giving him a better education. None of these solutions contain the right answer. A major problem takes a major solution.
A big problem takes a big solution. When residents of an area near Buffalo, New York called Love Canal discovered they were living on top of a witch’s brew of noxious chemicals, and when they saw these chemicals were slowly poisoning their children and effectively shortening their own lives, it was no good telling them to relax, all would be well, as some officials tried to do. That was no good; that was no answer. They could not stay on there, and “work it out.” They had to get out!
The Bible says we cannot go on living in sin and try to “work it all out” somehow. We have to get out! Sin has so damaged our relationship with God that we are in no position to make any kind of proposition to Him. If we are to get out, if anything at all is to be done, God must do it. God must give us the means to get out of this moral sinkhole or there is no getting out at all.
The Cross Is God’s Masterpiece of Salvation
God has. God has provided a solution by His grace. The cross is God’s answer to the problem of sin. God’s own solution to the sin problem is a major solution, in fact, the only solution. This is exactly what we need, but for God the extreme cost of this solution is staggering. The cost is extreme—to God. The cost is—His Son!
The One who did not know sin, He made to be sin on our behalf, that we
might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians ).
God, as you can see, takes no halfway measures. The fact that God was willing to adopt such an extreme solution to sin indicates two concepts: one, God completely understood the desperate situation of mankind; secondly, God was willing to do for us what we were in no position to do for ourselves. God’s grace is the Master solution to a problem so huge no human can fully understand, much less solve. This is why we can add absolutely nothing to the cross of Christ. The cross is God’s masterpiece of salvation. It is the only adequate answer to the sin problem and can never be replaced or supplemented.
Humans can add nothing to the cross. The cross represents the finished work of Christ for redemption, sanctification, and total salvation (1 Corinthians ). To preach “Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians ; 2:2) is not to preach the details of the crucifixion but the total adequacy of the cross for salvation. Paul’s use of the perfect participle for “crucified” is a strong indication of his realization of the cross as central in God’s gracious plan to save mankind.
The adequacy of the cross is why God’s grace is a masterpiece which will never be replaced (Hebrews ). Those who understand this truth know this is why the possibility of “latter day revelations” is so incredible. What could such revelations say that could add to the cross, or top the grace of God? It would be like some art student bragging that he was going to paint the Mona Lisa over again. Or some music student claiming he was going to put out a better version of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Leonardo and Beethoven are quite capable of standing on their own. So is the cross! This mountain peak of redemption towers far above any human efforts at reformation, rehabilitation, or rescue.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
By Bob Hendren
Few words have stirred the heart and history of Christianity like ‘grace’. Believers in Christ rejoice to be able to sing “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…” God’s amazing grace is much more than a word. It is a living demonstration of the love God has for sinful man. Grace for God is not just a concept; for Him it means nothing less than the death of His Son for sinners (John 3:16). What does this great word actually mean and how can God’s grace become a reality in the life of the lost? First, let us examine the word itself.
‘Grace” is an English translation of the Greek word charis. Charis is derived from the verb chairo, ‘I rejoice.’ Related is the noun chara, ‘joy.’ In Secular Greek prior to the First Century charis meant ‘what brings delight,’ ‘charm,’ ‘that which pleases.’ In later Hellenistic Greek the word came to be almost a technical term for ‘demonstration of a ruler’s favour.’ (Cf. Hans Conzelmann, Article ‘charis,’ TDNT, Vol. IX, pp. 372-402.)
E. De Witt Burton, in his monumental commentary on Galatians in the International Critical Commentary remarks that charis is used:
In a sense found neither in classical Greek nor in the LXX, but apparently
occurring in the N.T. first…: “Favour towards men contrary to their desert” (p. 424).
“The law was given through Moses, and grace and truth appeared through Jesus Christ” is a fairly literal translation of John 1:17. God has always been a gracious God, but His grace is brought to focus in Jesus Christ.
Grace cannot be over-emphasized. Not if the emphasis is Biblical. Man’s need for God’s grace is so acute as to make human-centered schemes of salvation truly criminal in their power to delude the pride of man. Man does not want to believe he needs a salvation so absolute as to be utterly dependent upon God’s grace, but human pride is devastated by the teaching of grace found in Holy Scripture.
Critics of Paul, for example, found his grace emphasis difficult to comprehend. Twice in Romans he alludes to this criticism. In 3:8 he mentions those who alleged his preaching was an invitation “to do evil that good may come.” In chapter 6 he expands on this misunderstanding by asking, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Paul’s grace emphasis was so strong that thoughtless persons saw it as an invitation to moral permissiveness.
Perhaps the greatest attack on the concept of grace is answered by Paul in the Letter to the Galatians. Grace was supposed to be ‘man-pleasing’ and soft (Galatians 1:10). Paul shows that grace was far from pleasing men, for in stressing God’s grace he had seen the ruin of his own highly successful religious career in Judaism. Paul strongly recognized that grace was not just one religious option among many. For men to leave grace for legalism was not a human possibility if one wanted salvation, for to leave grace was to leave God! (See Galatians 1:6.)
These articles are on the subject of God’s grace. I think this is a fantastic picture of how God saves us, and what the true relation of grace and faith is. So in my upcoming posts, I intend to retype this series of articles by Bob Hendren. I don’t have anyone’s permission to do this, so I hope that if whoever does comes across these, they will take this as a compliment, not as my effort to take credit for something I didn’t create or to break copyright laws.
Originally, these articles appeared in the Fall 1979 issue of Alternative, a “non-profit publication printed and distributed for the purpose of promoting a return to primitive Christianity as defined in the Word of God.” I have not since come across Alternative, and have no idea if it is still being published. It lists Don Shackelford on the editorial board, who was my Hebrew teacher…I guess I should ask him.
As far as the author goes, Bob Hendren preached at the Donelson Church of Christ, where I grew up, for many years. He was there when I was born, and left around the late ‘80’s when I was still young. I certainly remember him better than he would remember me. People at Donelson still talk about his time there as the good old days. Attendance was the highest it has ever been. A wonderful scholar, he preached directly from the Greek, which probably explains some of why I have taken such an interest in biblical languages. He has fantastic insight and common sense. He is also a very talented observer of cultural trends. I don’t know for sure, but I think he’s now located in Texas. I wouldn’t know how to contact him if I wanted to (and I would actually very much like to). He is the same age as my grandfather, around his mid ‘70’s now.
I post these without his permission, and I hope it doesn’t get me in trouble, but I think these are good enough that it’s worth me taking the risk. If there are any typos or misspelled words, I will take the credit for those.
It is my hope that you, o reader, will really take the time to think about these, so I am going to post the sections in 5 parts. After that, I'll post the whole thing as a .pdf for anyone who wants it. Hope you enjoy.