1 Paul, a servant of Yahoshua Anointed, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)
3 Concerning his Son Yahoshua Anointed our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;
The crucifixion of Christ as a "declaration of the righteousness of God" and a "condemnation of sin in the flesh," must exhibit to us the righteous treatment of sin. It was as though it was proclaimed to all the world, when the body was nailed to the cross.
"This is how condemned human nature should be treated according to the righteousness of God; it is fit only for destruction."
The shedding of the blood was the ritual symbol of the truth; for the shedding of the blood was the taking away of the life. Such a declaration of the righteousness of God could only be made in the very nature concerned; a body under the dominion of death because of sin.
It would not have been a declaration of the righteousness of God to have crucified an angel or a new man made fresh from the ground. There would have been confusion in such an operation. This is why it was necessary that Jesus should be "made of the seed of David according to the flesh", that he might partake of the very flesh and blood of man (Heb. ii. 14).
It was that nature that was to be operated upon and redeemed in him. It was needful that he should at the first "come in the flesh."
Sunday Morning 258
4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:
6 Among whom are ye also the called of Yahoshua Anointed:
7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Yahoshua Anointed.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
We must always remember that the Truth is a personal thing -- a matter of personal relationships to others -- not a mathematical or technical or coldly individual thing. Paul says that without ceasing he made mention of them always in his prayers. This is not exaggeration: This was Paul's whole heart and life.
First and above all, the whole meaning and power of the Truth is an intense personal relationship to God and Christ:
"This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (John 17).
Not just to know of them. Not even just to know about them: to know the truth concerning them (though that is truly vital in itself). But to know them personally as close and intimate companions, far more intimate and closer to us than anyone else can possibly be.
It is quite possible -- and if we observe ourselves we shall often catch ourselves falling into it -- it is quite possible to work diligently all day long on the work of God, and not once think of Him as a personal, living Reality, as a Friend, as a Companion, in terms of closeness, and affection, and communion. Yet this is the very essence of the Truth. This is the central, heart-purpose for which all else is designed. We may feel we are "always abounding in the work of the Lord," but it is meaningless if it is not built upon this.
There is no point, no value, no life, in doing God's work if there is not an ever-conscious personal relationship at the heart of it. It is this personal, affectionate relationship to God and Christ that draws us from evil, and strengthens us in good. Nothing else can. *
9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
Paul's whole life was the love and fellowship and welfare of his brethren; intense empathy with and sympathy for them. About three years after writing this letter, as he approached Rome as a prisoner, this same group of brethren came out thirty-five miles to meet him--
"Whom, when Paul saw, he thanked God and took courage" (Rom. 28:15).
Knowledge is essential. But knowledge is just a means to an end -- not an end in itself. Character is the vital thing that knowledge must be creating -- spirituality, holiness, integrity, purity, beauty. We are being put through exercises and experiences to create holiness. Even Jesus himself "learned obedience by the things that he suffered" and was "made perfect through suffering."
God does not actually need us to do anything for Him. All that we do for Him is training for ourselves. Now this needs qualifying to avoid misunderstanding. God does not need any particular one of us, but in His wise divine purpose there is work to be done by man, and the work itself is important. In the plan God has devised faithful servants are an essential part. It has pleased Him to condescend to make His beloved children co-workers with Himself.
And we must always be mindful that all we ever do of any good is God's working in us, and not of ourselves (Phil. 2:13):
"It is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure."
Our part is to yield, to submit, to conform, to put away other things that waste our time (God's time, for all belongs to Him) and distract our interest, to maintain our attention in the right direction, to discern and cooperate with the shaping and molding hand.
And further, character is not a self-centered operation. It is the very opposite. We cannot be holy in a selfish vacuum. We cannot turn inward and just work out our own salvation as if others did not exist, though that may be tempting to the flesh. It is so selfishly pleasant to get off into our own little corner of isolation.
Character is essentially a self-forgetting, outgoing relationship, primarily to God and Christ, but also to all members of the Body of Christ, and in a more general sense to the whole suffering world. Paul is our example, as Christ was his. *
10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.
11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;
12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
This is, and must be, the reason for our visiting and associating with one another, and this aspect must be constantly borne in mind. Any time of our association not spent for this purpose is time wasted, unfaithful stewardship, lost opportunity.
There are, of course, many different ways, direct and indirect, by which this purpose may be furthered, and, therefore, we must be slow and careful in judging others' activities, because we do not know their motive. But let us be sure that we ourselves bear this ever in mind, and that this is always our motive.
Our constant goal must be to do everything we do to the glory of God and to spiritual upbuilding of both ourselves and others. All else is empty, animal folly, leading only to rejection and death. *
...rarely attainable in our day on account of the scarcity of real faith. Friendly people are to be met with; people interested in your personal concerns, or the workings of the truth in an ecclesiastical sense; but where are those whose hearts, emancipated from the pettiness of this provisional life, are occupied with a genuine appreciation of the great things that are of God, and filled with hopes, and sighs, and prayers? They are here and there; their name is not legion.
You do not necessarily find them where people profess the name of Christadelphians; but, thank God, they are on the increase. They were naturally more numerous in Paul's day, on account of the powerful means employed in the sowing of the good seed; though even then, Paul had to lament that
"all seek their own, and not the things that are Jesus Christ's" (Phil. ii. 21).
No marvel if this lament should have a tenfold force in this cloudy and dark day. To discern the truth, and be able to define it is one thing: but to set about the service of it and those connected with it, in the spirit of self-sacrifice, is another and a scarcer thing, and yet the only thing that will stand in the day of trial; for the Great President at that trial has said:
"He that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it" (Matt. x. 38, 39).
The foundation or cause of the comfort in one another, that Paul desired the brethren to realise, is thus expressed by him: "Being knit together in love and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God and of the Father and of Christ." Love is an indispensable element in mutual comfort. Faith and hope are refreshing to behold -- so much so, indeed, in these barren days, that we can love intensely where they are manifested, even if they are unaccompanied by the manifestation of benevolence.
But the truly joyful and love-evoking combination is where the greatest of the three stands high in the centre of the group, and faith and hope stand obeisantly at each side. This love will flourish when faith and hope are swallowed up in the glories of God's realised purpose.
Bro Roberts - Consolation
13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.
This is interesting. Paul had many times planned to visit Rome, but so far had not been able to do so. At the time he was writing, it had been about seven years since he had first gotten as far as Corinth -- the closest he had been to Rome. It was his practice, as is clear from the history in Acts and from what he says to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 10:13-16) to gradually work toward Rome, establishing ecelesias and fields of activity on the way.
We know, too, of course, that he was guided by the Spirit, both directly and indirectly, as to where to carry the Gospel. He had recently spent three years in Ephesus, as headquarters for evangelizing Asia Minor -- first detained there by the tremendous opportunities and also by the opposition the Truth was receiving; and then he was suddenly driven away from Ephesus by the great uproar and agitation created under the leadership of Demetrius the silversmith.
So we see Paul's life was guided and laid out for him by the Spirit, often with great danger and violence and abruptness, and often in ways we would think strange, such as long periods in prison when he just ached and agonized to be out preaching the Gospel. But the enforced confinement, though a physical hardship, would be an opportunity for study and meditation, and for writing many needed letters of comfort and instruction that a busy outside active life would have prevented.
Certainly Paul never wasted his time, whether in prison or not, nor did he use his hardships and confinement as an excuse to neglect the service of his Lord, for he writes from prison (Phil. 1:12-14):
"The things which happened unto me have fallen out unto the furtherance of the Gospel, so that MY BONDS FOR CHRIST ARE MANIFEST IN ALL CAESAR'S COURT AND IN ALL OTHER PLACES." *
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
... the truth is his power by which his witnesses are able to do, what mere naturals are utterly impotent to effect.
But the truth in His witnesses is the power of the Deity to work intellectual and moral results; and is "the savour of life, ending in life" to those who believe; and of "death ending in death" to those who do not.
Hence, it divides the peoples in the Court into two general divisions, believers and unbelievers, between whom the truth generates implacable hostility; for as in the days of Isaac,
"he that was born after the flesh persecuted him born after the Spirit, even so it is now," "in all their days of the prophecy" (Gal. iv. 29).
This state of feeling is the "enmity" put between the two seeds by Divine Power (Gen. iii. 15); so that a man's foes are often those of his own house.
First of all, this is an important verse as to the vital necessity for salvation of believing the One True Gospel of the Kingdom. But why does Paul say, writing to brethren, that he was not ashamed of it? Why should there be any thought that he might be?
The Gospel is a simple, "unlearned," unworldly thing. It requires simple, unworldly people to believe it and value it. The Gospel, in its simple beauty was providentially unearthed for our benefit in these last days by the labours of brethren Thomas and Roberts.
There were those in Paul's day, and have been ever since, who -- enamoured of worldly learning -- were not satisfied with the simple teaching of the Gospel. They were, in effect, ashamed of it. It did not appeal to the worldly wise, or the speculative-minded. They desired greater scope for worldly learning and philosophy and theory.
Why is the Gospel the "power of God unto salvation"? ....v17.
17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
To Paul, this is a key Old Testament passage: "The just shall live by faith." In these early chapters of Romans, Paul is establishing the truth of salvation by faith, as against salvation by works. He is contrasting a gracious gift of eternal life with legally earned life.
But he is certainly not contrasting faith with righteousness or with obedience or with holiness. Rather he is establishing faith as the only gateway to, and power of righteousness:
"Therein is the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God revealed from faith to faith."
"The just (or righteous) shall live by faith."
--the Diaglott and some other versions have it more clearly:
"The righteous by faith, shall live."
That is to say:
"He who becomes righteous through faith, shall live."
Faith is not an end in itself, but a means to an end, a power to accomplish an end: "Faith without works is dead." Faith, if it does not lead to works, produce works, is dead. Faith is never a substitute for holiness. To the Hebrews, in very direct and decisive exhortation, Paul says plainly (12:14):
"WITHOUT HOLINESS SHALL NO MAN SEE GOD."
And the context clearly shows that he is not giving a soothing assurance of something that will flutter down from heaven upon us at the last day. Rather he is solemnly warning us of something that must be accomplished by the mighty power of faith and love right now. If we hope for salvation, we had better give far more attention to this matter of holiness, and what it involves of transformation of our lives, than most -- in or out of the Truth -- appear willing to give. *
The faith which justifies is the love-working belief of the exceeding great and precious PROMISES yet unfulfilled, and of the FACTS and their DOCTRINE concerning Jesus as the Christ; in other words, justifying faith Abrahamically embraces the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ.
The promises, facts, and doctrine, are essential to that faith "without which it is impossible to please God." These understood and appreciated, will lead men to repentance, because they exhibit comprehensively "the goodness of God," and "knowest thou not," saith Paul, "that it is the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?"
The reason why immersed people produce no better fruits than the undipped, and many of them not so good, is because their "faith" is a mere belief of history-of a narrative of facts-leaving them altogether in the dark respecting the heart-touching and mind- renewing promises of the gospel. Ignorant of these, they fail of becoming "partakers of the divine nature"-2 Peter 1: 4. Bethanian, and other species of "orthodoxy divinity," ignore the promises of God, or double-distil them into the absurd follies of spiritualism.
Their repentance is not the mind that was in Abraham-an unstaggering mind, strong in faith, giving glory to God; being fully persuaded that what he had promised, (and the things promised he knew and understood) he is able to perform-Romans 4: 18-23.
Their repentance is sorrow because their sin has found them out. Their minds are in torment because of the apprehended tortures of the damned, which may seize upon their "souls" if they do not appease the fury of God! "Fear hath torment," and their "repentance" is the offspring of their terror. This is a repentance that needeth to be repented of; for it is a repentance that worketh death. It is "sin working death in them."
Repentance of this sort pervading the inner man is evidential of that heart being untouched by "the goodness of God," for faith in this goodness produces no such result. Its legitimate fruit is "faith working by love and purifying the heart;" and, a belief of facts combined with hell-terrors never since the world began, nor while flesh is flesh will it ever yield that perfect love which casteth out fear, which is essential to a scriptural purification of the soul.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, September 1853.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
We should note the "all," for it is essential to Paul's line of reasoning. In reading the stomach-turning description of natural human corruption that follows, we are apt to be put off the track by its very vileness. Paul gives as examples some of the worst forms of unrighteousness, but he is speaking of all unrighteousness, large and small.
Often the only difference between big sins and little ones is that the little ones take less courage, and are more cowardly and despicable. This is not to belittle serious sins, but to illustrate the deadly seriousness of what we may consider "minor" sins.
It is fatal to belittle any sin, however "small." If we can deliberately choose to sin deliberately, knowingly choose to do anything displeasing to God and contrary to His law of holiness, then it does not matter how small or big it is, as it is always deadly, because the heart is wrong. Any heart that can choose to displease God in order to please the flesh is still dead in sin; it has not been reborn and transformed to the way of life and love:
Whosoever is born of God DOTH NOT COMMIT SIN . . . he CANNOT SIN, because he is "born of God" (1 Jn. 3:9).
Such may repeatedly stumble and fail, but they will be quick to cleanse themselves with repentance and tears, and renewed efforts to overcome. *
Bro Thomas replies
Holding the Truth in Unrighteousness
About holding the truth in unrighteousness I can truly say, I am unconscious of the offence. I have not hypocritically sworn to thirty-nine articles, more or less, contrary to my conscience, for the sake of the loaves and fishes. I do not funereally trade "in bodies and the souls of men;" neither do I squeeze tithes out of parishioners by law or force of arms, under pretence of "curing their souls."
I do not write complaints to governments, as the Bishop of Nova Scotia did, because soldiers do not present arms on passing me. I seek no honour of men, but repudiate all their ecclesiastical honours. I do not wring "rascal counters" from rich or poor for reading other men's prayers out of stereotyped books, and
"Grind divinity of other days
Down into modern use; transform old print
To zigzag manuscript, and cheat the eyes
Of gallery critics by a thousand arts."
I do not pander to royalty, or court the favour of the rich under pretence of being an ambassador of Christ, and a successor of the apostles, and treat the poor as if they were made of other blood, and only planted in the earth as a medium for the manifestation of the pietism of hypocrites, and of the ostentatious charity of proud and lordly reverences. I do not denounce heresy and heretics to turn men's minds from my own errors, and to conceal from their view my own ignorance of the gospel I profess.
I do not hypocritically swear to renounce the Devil and all his works, and to eschew the pomps and vanities of this vain and wicked world, and at the same time serve him, and seek his honours and riches with all the might of body, soul, and spirit! I do not make merchandise of the truth to clothe myself in purple and fine linen, and to fare sumptuously every day.
These things, and many more equally reprehensible, practised by the clergy and dignitaries of the "United Church of England and Ireland"-the Anglo-Hibernian Daughter of the Old Mother-I do not do; but I the rather exercise myself in reading and studying the Word, that, coming to the understanding of it myself, I may show to men of ingenuous minds and honest hearts what the "great salvation" so intensely darkened by thirty-nine article theology is, as revealed on the page of holy writ. Being sustained by no sect, Protestant or Papal, I am free; and being free, I call no man Rabbi but Christ; and prove all things, and hold fast what appears to my own mind, and not another's, to be good.
Believing, then, with full assurance, that I understand Moses, the prophets, and apostles; and because no two truths or systems of truth can possibly be antagonistic; and seeing that there is an antagonism between my understanding of those writings and the theological systems endorsed by the multitudinous divisions of "Christendom" in nearly all their generalities and details-I therefore of necessity repudiate as intense and outer darkness the Act of Parliament and Nonconformist theology of our day.
It is a conviction ascending from the bottom of my heart that the most "orthodox" theology of "Christendom" is but a form of that departure from the goodness of God, and of faithlessness of the gospel, which Paul foretold would overspread the Gentiles, and on account of which God would cut them off judicially. "They receive not the love of the truth, that they may be saved. And for this cause God sends them Strong Delusion that they should believe a lie; that they all might be condemned who believe not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness."
This strong delusion continues until the appearing of Christ, who consumes it with the Spirit of his mouth, and destroys it with the brightness of his coming: for, as Isaiah testifies with Paul, when he shall reign in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem before his ancients, gloriously, "he will there destroy the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory."
Convinced, then, with full assurance that this is descriptive of the present state of American and European "Christendom," and that there will be a remnant for Christ at his appearing who will have believed and obeyed the truth, and be patiently waiting for him; and that their being brought to this acceptable position will result from the assistance they may obtain for understanding the scriptures through the press, and the reasonings of those who know the truth; and recognizing it as an apostolic precept binding on all believers to "contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints" according to their ability, and the means placed at their disposal-swayed by these considerations, I exercise myself as I am wont to do.
I visit Halifax to arouse the people from that intellectual and moral torpor into which they are thrown by the word-nullifying traditions of its State-Church and nonconformist clergy. Hither-to my endeavors have been crowned with some success. By opening the scriptures to the people with scarcely an allusion to their spiritual guides, their astonishment has been excited at the utter destitution of scriptural information characteristic of the ministrations of their pulpit incumbents.
They "go to church" from week to week, and with the exception of a few minutes' dissertation upon a "text" of a few words, or a verse, they hear prayers read for the ten-thousandth time which they nearly know by heart-prayers composed hundreds of years ago; so that as far as the church's teaching is concerned, the clerical flocks are no further advanced in spiritual knowledge than they were 300 years ago! The clergy know that stagnation pervades their system; and with a very few exceptions, they feel their absolute inability to do more than to try and prevent the dead and corrupting stillness of their whitened sepulchres from being disturbed.
They can give their flocks no light, a call for which even is highly inconvenient. Their policy therefore is to raise the old cry of "heresy" and "infidelity" against every disturbing influence; so as that, by creating a prejudice in the minds of their as yet unenlightened nurselings they may be deterred from hearing things dangerous to the hoodwinking ascendency over the public mind they have hitherto enjoyed. This is the policy of The Church Times. Its conductors are ignorant of the truth; and experiencing some inconvenience from Elpis Israel, the Herald, my lectures there, and the continued endeavors of our friends, all they can do is to "rail lustily," in the hope that "some" of their raillery "will stick."
I claim then that I am not guilty of "holding the truth in unrighteousness." I suspect, however, Alumnus Vindesoriensis in this accusation admits more than he intended. If I am charged with holding the truth in unrighteousness, it is at the same time an admission that I hold the truth; but that I make an unrighteous use of it. I do hold the truth then, Alumnus himself being judge; and because I hold the truth, I know that his church is a harlot, and do not fear to proclaim it in Britain and British America. Its institutions are defiling, and those who are the subject of them are defiled, and without part with the "redeemed from among men."
The sprinkling of unconscious babes in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is a mark upon his church's forehead, that proclaims her to all who know the word, a Defiling Woman of the Roman Family. She calls this "baptism!"-and it is the only baptism she practises. But it is no baptism; for no use of water is baptism, where there is no faith, or a wrong faith, in the subject. The Anglo-Hibernian woman is therefore a communion of unbaptized errorists; and being unbaptized, not buried with Christ, but dead in their sins and the uncircumcision of their flesh, not being circumcised in the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Jesus Christ.
Talk of my being "an uncircumcised and infidel unitarian Jew!" The charge of uncircumcision recoils upon Alumnus, and upon those who nursed him. They stone me, they say, for blasphemy, because I do not shibbolize the Trinitarianism of their god Athanasius; but what greater blasphemy can be conceived than that of hiring Lambeth cabmen or watermen at a shilling apiece at Easter, to stand godfathers to babes they never saw before and may never see again, to enter into lying covenants to train up the children in the way they should go, preparatory to the priest sprinkling them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
This is notoriously practised under the shadow of the palace of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England, and its ecclesiastical dependencies! If this be not blasphemy, then blasphemy is an impossible offence. It is only the ignorance of the people of what Christianity consists in that enables the Anglo-Hibernian woman to pass current among the respectabilities of the time.
We may grant that she does not hold the truth in unrighteousness, for the very obvious reason, indeed, that she does not hold the truth at all; but that she is full of all unrighteousness and abomination every one must admit who knows her history, her constitution, her practices; and is not spoiled by the philosophy of her deceit.
Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, June 1854
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Why is the wrath of God against all unrighteousness? Verses 19-20 are very significant. They state very decisively God's view on a very important issue, especially important today, in the light of man's current learned foolishness:
"Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are CLEARLY SEEN, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead (divinity), so that they are WITHOUT EXCUSE" (1:19-20).
God considers that in His works of creation He has given unmistakable and overwhelming evidence of His power and His divinity; that is, His supreme nature and position. Observing the works of creation, both within himself and around him, man has absolutely no excuse for not clearly recognizing the existence and the hand of God, and seeking knowledge of God, and submitting to God.
There is absolutely no excuse for the new, modern, man-centered superstition of "Evolution." It does not rate a moment's consideration, any more than the absurdities of "learned" platonic mythology. It is a tissue of impossibilities woven to obscure the reality and authority of the holy, sin-hating God who is everywhere obvious in His mighty works, staring man in the face. That is God's view, and it is conclusive, and we must thankfully recognize its truth and justice. On the strength of God's testimony here, we can be absolutely sure that anyone who is so abysmally blind as not to be able to see God in Creation has nothing of value to tell us about that Creation.
Daily, almost hourly, in this marvellous modern age of investigation, we are ever anew struck by the fantastic wonders of the infinite intricacies of created things. The deeper man probes into the construction of living things, the more wonderful are the things he finds in evidence of wisdom and power and design, and the more utterly impossible the superstition of evolution is shown to be.
What a perfect description of modern, "learned" man! If this was true of the pagan Roman world, with their very limited knowledge of the details of the construction of all living things, what must be the stupidity and guilt of man today? No wonder Christ is to be revealed from heaven in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who refuse to face the reality and authority of God!*
21 Because that, 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.
Such is the carnal mind, or thinking of the flesh, as illustrated by the works of the flesh: a hideous deformity, whose conception is referable to the infidelity and disobedience of our first parents; by whom "sin entered into the world and death by sin" (Rom. 5:12). It is the serpent mind; because, it was through his untruthful reasonings believed, that a like mode of thinking to his was generated in the heart of Eve and her husband.
The seed sown there by the serpent was corruptible seed. Hence, the carnal mind, or thinking of the flesh, unenlightened by the truth, is the serpent in the flesh. It was for this reason, that Jesus styled His enemies, "serpents, and a generation of vipers" (Matt. 23:33).
Their actions all emanated from the serpent thinking of the flesh, which displayed "a wisdom not from above," which was at once "earthly, sensual, and devilish;" as opposed to that which "is from above," and which is
"first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy" (James 3:15-17).
Elpis Israel 1.3.
The Carnal Mind
Now, the law of God is given, that the thinking of the flesh, instead of being excited by the propensities within, and the world without, may be conducted according to its direction. So long as Adam and Eve yielded to its guidance, they were happy and contented. Their thoughts were the result of right thinking, and obedience was the consequence.
But when they adopted the serpent's reasonings as their own, these, being at variance with the truth, caused an "enmity" against it in their thinkings, which is equivalent to "enmity against God." When their sin was perfected, the propensities, or lusts, having been inflamed, became "a law in their members;" and because it was implanted in their flesh by transgression, it is styled "the law of sin;" and death being the wages of sin, it is also termed, "the law of sin and death;" but by philosophy, "the law of nature."
The thinking of the flesh, uninfluenced by the ameliorating agency of divine truth, is so degenerating in its effects, that it reduces man to savagism. There is nothing elevating or ennobling in fleshly thoughts; on the contrary, they tend to physical deterioration and death; for "to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Rom. 8:6).
If ferocious creatures become tame, or civilized, it is the result of what may be termed spiritual influences; which, operating from without the animal, call into exercise its higher powers, by which the more turbulent are subdued, or kept in check. It is unheard of that wild beasts, or savage men, ever tamed or civilized themselves; on the contrary, the law in the members when uncontrolled in its mental operations is so vicious in its influence as to endanger the continuance of the race.
If, therefore, God had abandoned Adam and his posterity to the sole guidance of the newly developed propensities, the earth would long ere this have been peopled by a population not a whit above the aborigines of New Holland, or the Ghelanes of Africa.
Notwithstanding the antagonism established between His law and the flesh, by which a wholesome conflict has been maintained in the world, a vast proportion of its people are "blind of heart" and "past feeling," in consequence of their intellect and sentiments having fallen into moral desuetude, or of being exercised upon the reasonings of the flesh, as were Eve's upon the speculations of the serpent.
The unilluminated thinking of the flesh gives birth to the
"works of the flesh; which are, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, dissensions, sects, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like" (Gal. 5:19).
Unchecked by the truth and judgments of God, the world would have been composed solely of such characters. Indeed, notwithstanding all His interference to save it from the ruinous consequences of its vicious enmity against His law, it seems to have attained a state of immorality in the apostolic age well nigh to reprobation. Rom 1. 20-31
Elpis Israel 1.3.
22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
If we walk in wisdom's ways
To walk in these ways requires that a man make up his mind meanwhile to be considered a fool; because the wisdom of God is esteemed foolishness by the world, and the man a fool who embraces it.
A truly enlightened man will be able to bear the reproach gladly, because he knows that in becoming a fool in the estimation of the wise of this world, it is as Paul puts it,
"that he may be wise."
True wisdom is all on the side of those who submit to God. When Paul speaks of the "foolishness of God," it is not that he admits foolishness as attaching to either: it is an accommodation to the language of men who think so. When he says,
"Where are the wise?"
he means the wise so-called, but who are really foolish; for as he quotes from the Scriptures,
"The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise that they are vain."
"He brings to nothing the understanding of the prudent."
When his advice concerning a man is, "Let him become a fool," he means a fool so-considered - not a fool in reality, for the man who becomes a fool in the estimation of the world by submission to the requirements of God as revealed in the Gospel, becomes, in reality, a wise man for the first time. Let the scorners scorn as they may, it is a fact that-
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
The man who does not fear God is a fool, however much he may know of the works of God; for his knowledge of the works of God is of no use to him if he know not God himself. To God, he is merely a presumptuous gossiper about God's property. His disappearance from the face of the universe is only a question of time - and that a very short time. Whereas, the man who knows God in the affectionate submission He requires, may be ignorant of the works of God in nature (and where is the man who knows the millionth part of these?) and he is yet a very wise man, for he is on the high road to the highest good.
Even the things on which the wise of this world plume themselves will become his unbounded possession. Endless life and boundless opportunity secured in Christ, he will have ample time in the ages to come to learn all the marvels of the universe, great and small, while he will have power to study and understand them to an extent that the wisest of mortals has not even dreamt of, and capacity to apply them, and develop their objects and resources in the delights of truly efficient life, such as mortal has never yet tasted.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Again, a perfect description of modern, "evolutionary" man. What time has ever been like today in this respect of moral uncleanness and "vile affections?" Not that these abominations are new. From the days of Sodom -- and doubtless from before the Flood -- this has been the nature and bent of the common, grovelling, unclean human animal. Ancient Greece, the philosophical brains of the ancient world, with the marvelous, timeless beauty and splendour of its art and literature and architecture, is proverbial for vile abominations and immorality.
But with the rise of Christianity -- even a corrupted Christianity -- these vile things were relegated to darkness, and a veneer of respectability and religion was carefully laid over the "Christian" world. Men at least had a "form of godliness." Officially, these vile things of the flesh were condemned and proscribed. Laws were passed against them, as far as any public activity was concerned. And those laws have remained, and been enforced, up until very recently, well within memory.
But today, within the past twenty years or so, the holy laws of God against these abominations -- long recognized and outwardly accepted, if not actually obeyed -- have been cast aside. And foremost in the new Canaanitish trend are those so-called "Christian" religious bodies who claim the duty and privilege of teaching and upholding the pure and holy Word of God.
But there is a great and sobering lesson for us in these things, as we see the great churches of the world oozing and dripping with the leprosy of Canaanite immorality. There is a deep underlying principle that explains this phenomenon, and that comes much closer home. It is in that three-fold knell of hopeless doom of verses 24, 26, and 28: "God gave them up." Terrible words!
"God gave them up to uncleanness ..."
"God gave them up to vile affections ..."
"God gave them up to a mind void of judgment."
Let us ponder those words, and tremble. Where much is given, much is required, and we have been given very, very much of the goodness and revelation and condescension of God in these last days. Because they chose the first steps in a certain path, God gave them up to go all the way -- to uncleanness, to vile affection, and finally, to a mind void of judgment, hopeless of return. And these vile things are now lapping at the doors of the ecclesias.
It seems clear that many who bear the name Christadelphian are very shallowly rooted. Their thinking (or rather, feeling) flows with the vissicitudes of the world; they sway with the world's fashions, they sway with the world's morals. Things unknown and abhorred among us a generation ago now press at the doors, simply because the world's morals and manner have changed.
There is no safety except in complete, whole-hearted dedication and allegiance and service to God. Come ye out from among them and be ye separate, separate, SEPARATE! What does it mean? Does it mean anything to us? Do we tremble at the Word? Has it all become so commonplace and thoughtless?
God may give us till tomorrow to repent, to put away the thick clogging clay of worldly interests and lusts and pleasures and pursuits. He may give us till tomorrow to decide to give all our heart and soul and mind and spirit to Him. He may, and we fervently hope and pray that He will; but we have no assurance that He will. We dare not presume on it. He may give us UP." He is infinitely longsuffering when His wisdom so dictates, and He sees reason so to be; but He will not be mocked, and He is also a consuming fire. *
* Bro Growcott - God gave them up.
29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.