Vodpod videos no longer available.
Monthly Archives: October 2009
You are invited to a Celebrate India weekend in our church next weekend.
On Saturday 31st Oct we are having a Celebrate India evening with genuine Indian food, testimonies from people who have been brought up in India and found Christ there, some information about the church and orphanage we support in India and some time to pray for the nation and the situations over there. It will start at 7.30 and end at 9.30. You are more than welcome! If you want to know more information, please go to our church website http://www.treeoflifechurch.org.uk and contact us.
On 1st November, our preacher for the service will be Pastor Bal from Chandigarh in India talking about his conversion from Hinduism and the power of prayer to change nations. This service will be from 11am-1pm and you are more than welcome!
God Wants You Well!
In this Biblical, passionate and very practical sermon Benjamin will show you how to enjoy and keeping enjoying divine health every day of your life. Taking the lessons learned in the first three sermons in this series and applying them to victory over sickness, this message is indispensable to anyone who wants to enjoy health and minister healing.
Again to those of you who do not know what thread you are in: this is NO DEBATE. Thanks for respecting the rules of the forum!
Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
Paul is talking still about religious people: about people who come to God on the basis of what they have done, not on the basis of what He has done. Religion ruins lives.
As we have seen in verses 1-3, religion leads you to judge people for things that you do yourself. It leads you to criticise people for doing things wrong that you do yourself. It leads you to having a double standard for judging people – if person X commits sin Y then you condemn them and judge them. When you commit the same sin, you justify yourself because of your motivation or your other good works. In short, religion makes you judgmental, critical, acerbic and rude. No-one likes a religious person.
Jesus on the other hand is gracious, kind, redemptive, helpful, gentle and easy to live with. If people truly know Jesus they are great people to be around. They are easy to live with, they are kind, patient and gentle.
Religion is awful.
Now, this verse contains some wonderful instruction. It explains why religious people are so condemning, judgmental and hypocritical.
The reason is this: they hate the riches of God’s goodness, forbearance and longsuffering. Never, ever hate God’s goodness, forbearance and longsuffering.
Let’s look at these three elements of God individually:
1. God’s goodness
The Greek word for goodness is chrēstotēs. It can be translated as goodness or benignity or kindness. It means that God is never mean, never malicious, never hurtful. It means that God does not have plans to harm us, does not want revenge on us when we sin, is not holding back anything from us.
It means God is good and good means good. God loves us and God is for us. You can cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you. He adores you. He only wants to do good for you, He only speaks good words about you, He only acts for your good. He truly is awesome!
Religious people do not realize that God is rich in goodness. They think that if you do something wrong, God will immediately withhold His blessing and get revenge. Some religious people will tell you that God is behind all the evil in the world. Others will tell you that you are not healed or not wealthy because of your sin or your lack of goodness or lack of service.
All these ideas have their root in despising the goodness of God and not having a clue of who God really is!
2. God’s forbearance
The Greek word for forbearance is anochē. It means the ability to put up with things. God is rich in forbearance. God is tolerant.
If you have messed up today, God is not looking to get you and beat you up for it. God is rich in the ability to put up with things. Look how much you did wrong before you were born again! God put up with all of that, and still when you repented and believed accepted you fully and made you fully righteous.
Now you are in God’s family: He puts up with anything you do.
Religious people are not tolerant. They will not put up with anything. If you sin you are out the door. Heaven forbid if you do something wrong that people find out about. If you break the religious community rules you will be shunned. That is what religious people are like: they will turn on you as quickly as you can imagine. They are not tolerant because they do not know the tolerance of God. God is gracious! God can put up with things.
The more you realize the goodness and graciousness of God, the easier it is to develop a real genuine relationship with Him.
3. God’s longsuffering
God’s forbearance is God’s ability to put up with anything you do wrong and not shun you or kick you out of the community. It is a form of mercy: God’s mercy is God’s ability not to treat you as your sins deserve.
God’s longsuffering is God’s ability to love you and care about you and passionately desire to be with you no matter what you have done. It is a form of God’s grace. God’s mercy is not giving you what you deserve, God’s grace is giving you what you do not deserve.
God’s longsuffering is God’s ability to love you and bless you even when you do not deserve it. It comes from the Greek word makrothymia, which is translated patience or longsuffering in the KJV. It comes from two words: makro, meaning long; and thymos which means passion or heat.
Listen: even on your worst day, God still feels passion for you. He is the God of macro-passion. He dotes on you, cares for you, loves you passionately.
Religious people cannot deal with this. They cannot sustain their passion for God or for people. They cloak their lack of passion for God and for people with religious cliches. They hate people who turn up and who pray with passion, preach with passion, love with passion, serve with passion. Religious people portray an austere God, not a God hot with passion.
There is even a doctrine many churches in the UK teach called impassibility. This means that God cannot experience pain or pleasure from our actions. It is heresy – the Bible is clear: he CAN be touched with the feelings of our infirmities (Hebrews 4.15). Not only that: it leads to people not being able to understand God, so it stops people having a real relationship with Him.
Muslims also teach that God has no emotions, no passion, no heat. It is simply not true: God can be made happy by your actions. God can be grieved by your actions.
Listen: God adores you. He is passionate about you. When you fail and you feel pain, He feels it more. His love for you is boundless, it is passionate, it is red-hot. He adores you.
When you realize that God is good, longsuffering and tolerant you start to enjoy His company. It is when you accept the lie that God is some short-fused difficult to please monster that you run far far away from Him.
People often get worried and concerned when you teach that God is good, that God forgives, that God does not hold sin against you. They start to panic: if you do that they say, people will do whatever they want. They will live in sin and rebel.
That is absolutely not true. It is the truth that sets people free. When the truth that God is good and kind is preached, it leads people to repentance. The Greek word for repentance means to change your thinking.
It is ONLY when you realize that God is good, can you actually change your life and live a pure, holy, loving, kind life. Religious people do not live a pure life, they are critical hypocrites. They are cruel, mean and condemning. If you sin they will judge you and fail to love you. They are not godly. They have a form of godliness, but no power. People who think that God is out to get them may look holy, they ARE NOT.
When you realize that God is good and that He adores you, that does not make you want to go and do what you want. It makes you want to tell God how much you love Him, to go and show that love and goodness to some stranger, to go and serve your family, to honour His life and goodness and to go and preach the gospel to the world.
I adjure you: NEVER NEVER NEVER despise the riches of God’s goodness, God’s forbearance and God’s longsuffering. Rather enjoy those riches and share them with the world!
Glory and freedom,
New message on faith and hope at our church website:
What is the difference between faith and hope? What should I hope for? How can I, in my life, have hope?
This message will answer your questions and inspire you to be a person of vision.
Hebrews 11.1 tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for. In this compelling message Benjamin teaches how to correctly be a person of hope and what every Christian should hope for. Then he explains in practical terms how to take your hopes, expectations and dreams and see them become real in the earth.
Glory and freedom,
But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?
Religious people often think that they are immune from laws that apply to everyone else, as if their religious rituals and rites make them immune.
If you read 2 Chronicles 26.1-15 you will the story of Uzziah, and it is a wonderful story of a brilliant king. He was a man of vision, a man who sought the Lord, a man who built many wonderful things. You could preach many sermons on these verses about the need to have a vision, the need to seek the Lord, the need to be bold and build great things for God and do great things for God.
But I want to focus on what happens next because we need to know what to do when we prosper. We need to know how to avoid the pitfalls of success. God wants us to succeed, and God will heal you, bless you, prosper you and make you a success. If you spend time in his Word you will be a good success and everything you do will prosper. Look at what happens next to Uzziah:
But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God, and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. Azariah the priest with eighty other courageous priests of the LORD followed him in. They confronted him and said “It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honoured by the LORD God.
Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the LORD’s temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead. When Azariah the chief priest and all the other priests looked at him, they saw that he had leprosy on his forehead so they hurried him out. Indeed he himself was eager to leave, because the LORD had afflicted him. King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house where he was relieved of responsibilities, leprous and excluded from the temple of the LORD. Jotham his son had charge of the palace and governed the people of the land. Uzziah rested with his fathers and was buried near them in a field for burial that belonged to the kings, for people said, “He had leprosy.” – 2 Chronicles 26.16ff
The Bible said as long as Uzziah sought the Lord he prospered. But at the height of his success, he went wrong. We have had in the charismatic church far too many people go wrong at the height of their success. And one of the reasons why some people go wrong is religious pride.
Now I am only writing this to people who are seeking the Lord and increasing in success because if you do not really care about the things of God, this problem will never happen to you. If you read 2 Chronicles 26.16 you find that when Uzziah got pride into his life he went to the temple of God. His pride led him to the temple of God – not to the world. This is not worldly pride; most Christians would be too smart to fall for worldly pride. This is religious pride – it goes to church, it prays and it wraps itself up in the pretence of being Biblical.
And one of the greatest problems of religious pride is that it makes you think that the rules that apply to every one do not apply to you. That what you judge and condemn other people for doing you will have no consequences for.
Uzziah knew his history – as a king he would have had to have known the history of his nation. In his case, it was even more important because the history of Israel is the history of a God who makes and keeps promises to people. Uzziah knew the stories of Abraham, Moses, Saul and David probably better than most Christians do today. Uzziah must have known that Saul offered a sacrifice he was not supposed to and stepped into a calling that was not his – and Uzziah must have known that this action cost Saul the kingdom. (The story is found in 1 Samuel 13, and contains one of the most important statements that will prevent religious pride: “To obey is better than sacrifice.”)
Uzziah knew that Saul tried to fulfil a priestly role and it cost him the kingdom. Yet Uzziah thought he could repeat Saul’s sin and not have Saul’s consequences. Why? Religious Pride!
When I was a teenager I remember reading in the newspaper about the Bishop of Gallaway who mysteriously vanished. When he was found again, it transpired that he had run away with a married woman. When he was interviewed in the newspaper, I remember he actually said that because he had spent 20 years sacrificing and serving God he was entitled to a weekend off. This was a blatant example of religious pride: the bishop saw the source of his serving God and sacrifice as himself, not the grace of God. He thought that he was above the rules that applied to other people because of his great service to God.
Now I am sure that most people reading this would never assume because they have twenty years good service they are entitled to a dirty weekend! However, we do act at times like we are exempt from rules that apply to other people. More recently in a discussion with a pastor he told me that he never tithed or gave offerings because he was in full time ministry and had given his life to Jesus. This is an example of making yourself exempt from rules that apply to others, because of his “great” sacrifice. It is religious pride.
I think sometimes we treat our religious services like a Tesco Clubcard. If we do enough religious works, we get enough points and we can trade them in for something we like. I can watch this rubbish on TV because I prayed this morning. I can be rude to that person because I lead worship at church and it is hard work.
This is the message of Romans 2: God does not work on a points system. It is all grace. So stop condemning other people. Stop pointing out how other people are unclean and unworthy – of course they are and so are you. Let’s realize we all need the grace of God and start showing that grace to the church and the world.
To serve God fully, we need a vision of God. We will never have a commissioning to bring the Word of God to this nation; we will never have a revelation of God’s holiness and goodness until we deal with the attitude of Uzziah – the attitude of religious pride – and eradicate it from our lives:
In the year king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim: each one had six wings, with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet and with two he flew.
And one cried to another and said:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.
Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
In Romans 1, Paul takes great pain to point out to us that every human who rejects God slips down a death spiral, that without God their condition is hopeless. This is why Paul is not ashamed of the good news that Jesus Christ is our Saviour, Redeemer, Healer, Prosperer, Lord, Protector, Comforter and Friend. Because everyone needs a Saviour.
In Romans 2, Paul deals with the biggest problem in people becoming Christians: organized religion. Since I have started feeding on the Word of God and realizing how much God loves me, I have developed an absolute hatred for religion. There is not an atheist or secular humanist on this planet that hates religion as much as I do.
Religion is a system of behaving to attempt to impress God. Whether it is a Muslim praying five times a day, a Hindu offering food to an idol, or a Christian tithing – if the motivation behind your behaviour is to impress God it is religion. Religion always leads to depression, failure, bondage and sin. Religion always leads to comparing yourself with other people, something the Bible describes as foolish (2 Cor. 10.12). It always leads to making judgments on other people, something that is a symptom of pride. Religion always leads to pride, and pride goeth before destruction (Proverbs 16.18). Religion is evil.
Christianity as it should be is resting on the completed work of Christ on the cross. It is knowing that I do not have to impress God because I already impress God because of Jesus. If I do anything for God it is because He loves me and I love Him; never because I am scared of Him or because I need to placate Him. The wrath of God and the justice of God are taken care of because of the gospel which is the message of Romans 1.
Romans 2 is setting out to prove that religion does not mean you do not need the grace and mercy of God. We know instantly that Paul is talking about religious people in chapter 2 of Romans because he is speaking to those “that judgest”, and that is religious people. The reason why more people are in the pub than in the church is because non-religious people are – on the whole – non-judgmental and they accept people as they are. Do you remember the old sitcom “Cheers” set in a pub, it used to begin with the lyrics:
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
That is why more people are down the pub than in church because with a few notable exceptions in church people do not know your name, are not glad you came and try their hardest to hide that they have the same troubles as you because they are terrified of being judged. It is not Christ, the friend of sinners, the merciful, the Redeemer, the one who eternally makes intercession for us, that makes people like that it is religion. It is the stinking lie that you have to reach a certain standard or do a certain thing to impress God.
Paul takes his first swipe at religion here in this verse: if you judge people according to a standard, you are inexcusable. The Greek word here is anapologētos, which literally is: without apology. Apologetos in the Greek means a defense or justification for your actions.
People in the Roman church, just like in my church and your church, often when they have done things wrong and sinned against God and man do not rest in the truth that they are justified by faith in Christ and have peace with God (Romans 5.1), but rather try to hide the seriousness of their sin by comparing themselves with other people and judging other people:
I might have lost my temper at my wife, but at least I provide for her, unlike Bob in the church.
I might have eaten too much cake, but at least I don’t have a glass of wine like her.
I might have had a glass of wine, but at least I am not a greedy glutton like him.
I might have had an affair, but I tithe and turn up every week – most people in here don’t care for this church and do that!
I might have an anger problem, but I am a deacon, not like everyone who is not a deacon.
It is a horrible attitude for two reasons. Firstly and obviously, it means that church becomes just another rat race. You can never be the holy building God wants you to be while one stone is thinking it is better than the other stones. Every stone is needed, and it is need in the shape it is to fit into the master plan for the building. No one wants to go to church where the leaders are smug, where the ushers are sneering and where people do not genuinely love them.
Secondly, it means that people are self-justifying. They are acting in a way to impress God. It totally bypasses the work of Christ. In Romans 1-5, Paul is showing the Romans – in the most powerful way ever put to paper by any individual in all of history – how to enjoy being made righteous. One of the key ways is to realize that righteousness frees you from religion.
Then Paul says something so accurate and powerful: if you judge someone, you condemn yourself because you do the same things. Look at the verse in some modern translations:
You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. (NLT)
THEREFORE YOU have no excuse or defense or justification, O man, whoever you are who judges and condemns another. For in posing as judge and passing sentence on another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge are habitually practicing the very same things [that you censure and denounce]. (AMP)
Therefore, anyone of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things. (Holman Christian Standard)
Whenever you judge another person for their sin, two things are true:
1. You are condemning yourself.
If you are pointing out the sin in another and holding it against them, you are saying implicitly that Jesus Christ’s redemptive power is not enough to deal with sin. If someone comes to your church for healing and you tell them God cannot heal them when they are wearing ripped jeans (I have heard someone say that to someone), you are saying that the blood of Jesus is less powerful than rips in clothes! The blood of Jesus is more powerful than ripped jeans! The blood of Jesus is more powerful than alcohol, than drugs, than adultery, than immorality. Healing is a fact achieved for us by Christ – there is no minimum standard necessary to receive healing.
But the minute you set a standard, you condemn yourself because you are not perfect. The next time you come to the Lord for healing, the devil will jump in there and your own conscience will jump in there and tell you that you had a lustful thought, you had an angry thought, you haven’t prayed enough, you aren’t good enough and your faith will not be enough to overcome this because you are the one that said there was a standard. Yes, you set the standard in such a way that you are doing better than Mr Jones, so you should be more blessed than Mr Jones, but by setting a standard you are being legalistic and you obscure Christ and His redemption, so when you come to the Lord you condemn yourself and make it impossible to receive from God.
If you are telling other people they are not good enough for God, but you are coming to God on grace alone, then you are double minded (see James 1 to find out what you will receive from God being double minded!)
2. You do the same things!
This is very difficult to misunderstand. When someone in the church starts aggressively judging someone in sexual immorality, that person according to Romans 2, does the same things.
One of the main reasons why some Christians are so judgmental of people living in sin is that they secretly want to! They live the life in their mind, never letting it out and hide it away. This is what religion does to people: because it makes God this critical wrathful Judge, it keeps people away from Him. People who know the Father, who walk with Him, genuinely do not want to sin. Like Moses they would give up the pleasures of sin in a second just to be known as one of God’s people and enjoy fellowship with Him (Hebrews 11.25). They know that God is more wonderful than any passing folly.
Religious people keep away from God: He is painted as a God of wrath with exacting standards who we have to continually impress or be attacked. I would stay away from God if He were like that, but He is not: He is humble, He is gentle, He is gracious. He redeemed us and He loved us and He gave the most precious thing He had to set us free! But religion tells people that God needs to be impressed.
So religious people have no relationship with God, they only have relationship with rules. Their hearts are still wicked and selfish as they have never been given a new heart. They have no intimate relationship with God, so they turn to rules and try and keep the rules. But their heart is not in it. So on the outside they have never committed adultery, but on the inside they are burning with lust. Jesus said that if you look at a woman with lust and imagine having sex with her, you have committed adultery of the heart (Matthew 5.28). The reason someone committing adultery of the heart disdains and hates and judges someone committing adultery is because they are jealous: their heart’s desire is to commit adultery. They do not do it not because they know the love of God, but because they are terrified of the punishment of God. They are only keeping the rules because of fear.
They are like the little boy who tells Jimmy angrily that he cannot come out to play because “Mum won’t let me.” Everything on the inside of the little boy wants to go and play, but he is scared of his mother. As soon as mother’s back is turned, the boy will be out the house. If mum does not turn her back, Jimmy will not have a good relationship with mum, but sulk and hate her. That sums up many Christians relationship with God perfectly.
When your secret heart desire is to commit a sin, you hate and judge the people who do commit that sin because you are jealous.
Christians who are not religious, who love God and know God loves them, do not want to commit adultery. They are not stupid – they know that breaking a marraige covenant would cause so much pain in the world they will not do it. They do not want to catch STDs, or hurt their families, or bring pain into their life. They trust God to satisfy them with one woman or one man, they believe God’s plan for sex and marriage works because they know God and they know He is love and that He is wiser than them! They walk with God and do not fill their minds with thoughts of adultery. They are not avoiding adultery to make God love them, because they know God loves them.
When someone like that meets someone in adultery, they do not condemn them. (John 8.1-11, compare Jesus’ reaction of love with the Pharisees’ reaction of judgment – that story sums up what I am saying here perfectly). They love them. They do not want them to commit adultery because they do not want them to be in pain, but if they keep doing it they will still love them. They will still know their name, they will still welcome them. But because our churches do not show the unconditional love that the pubs do, people are going to go “where everybody knows their name” and stay away from church in droves.
Religion kills. It stops people from accessing the grace of God for themselves and it then means that they stop others receiving that grace. Hopefully as we examine Romans 2 we are going to see how destructive religion is and get out of it. Religious death is just the same as Conscienceless death (Romans 1) and has the same negative effects. But when we reject religion and accept redemption and righteousness, we enjoy life, we enjoy God, and good things happen to us.
Glory and freedom,
Thanks for continually reading this blog and searching through it and reading some of the faith filled articles. I haven’t updated it for ages due to a whole host of reasons. Mainly I have been busy and I was not convinced that this blog was the most constructive use of my time.
However today the Holy Spirit nudged me to keep writing on Romans, and keep talking about God’s Word and God’s power to protect us, prosper us and heal us.
I will do so,
Please I know from the stats that hundreds of people are reading this blog, yet we have very few comments. I want to hear testimonies, I want to hear how God is helping you increase in His goodness daily.
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.
The first remarkable thing that Paul closes his commentary on an individual or society that rejects God is that he says that such a person or such a group of people KNOW THE JUDGMENT OF GOD.
In other words, even though they deny God, reject God, hate God, and ignore God: they still know that God is a judge. They are aware deep down inside that living the way they live means that when they die. Even someone with a completely reprobate mind, someone without natural affection, someone completely merciless knows that God will judge them when they die. They know that unless they run to a Saviour that they will die and end up in a Christless eternity of hellfire. That is why we need to preach grace and reconciliation to the world.
They still remember God is a judge and they hate that, but they do not know the message of reconciliation and redemption.
If you preach to someone in the street: you are going to hell, that message will be rejected and ignored. We need to do what Paul said and be ambassadors of Christ with a message of reconciliation and a message of hope and destiny for the world. A message that their sins have been paid for, that there is a book better than the book of their life to be judged by and that is the Lamb’s book of Life. As soon as you are in this book, your book of life is ignored and never used to judge you again.
You must know this if you are to be an effective witness of Christ: every single individual knows that God is their judge. They might supress, ignore and hate that knowledge. They might say – and scream – that they do not have this knowledge. But they do!
So go and tell them boldly that Jesus has paid the price for them.
This verse concludes Paul’s assessment of individuals and societies that completely reject God. After letting us see the 22 characteristics of a society without God, Paul tells us that these people still know God is a judge.
Paul also tells us a second piece of information about these people. Not only do they do the things wrong that they do, but they have pleasure in them that do them.
In the Greek, this word “have pleasure in” is one word: syneudokeō. It comes from three Greek words syn-, eu- and dokeo. Syn means together, eu means good, and dokeo means opinion.
Together these words mean: to have a good opinion with someone. In other words, someone does something that is sinful and evil. Let’s use a very real example: abortion. In today’s society, not only do many people have abortions, but they celebrate and exalt people who do. They fight and agree for the rights of people to sin and rebel against God. Being bitter, getting revenge, all sorts of sexual behaviour – even if people are not involved in the behaviour – they do not want to judge people, they do not want to say it is wrong. Instead they say loudly that it is good and they have pleasure that people do these things.
People take pleasure in sin. Look at the entertainment industry: based entirely around sexual immorality. We now have television programmes in the UK where they lock people up in a house and hope they strip naked and have sex on camera. We are one step away from gladiators and lions in our entertainment!
One of the translations of syneudokeō is applaud or to clap. There are talk shows in the UK (and all over the world, I know) where people go on these shows, describe the most outrageous sins, and are applauded. If someone went on these shows and said they were a virgin or they forgave someone who hurt them they would not be applauded! The audience reserves their applause for the sinners!
One of the hallmarks of a reprobate society is that it applauds and approves the wrong things. It is even worse that some churches are involved in this as well – accepting and applauding homosexuality, ordaining and promoting homosexuals, seeker-friendly no-offense no-truth services, and so on.
Let us not be like this. Let us never applaud evil. Let us not watch TV programmes that promote evil lifestyles and hatred and malice. Let us not find sin entertaining.
Glory and freedom,
Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
In this final section of his list of the characteristics of the man or the nation without God, Paul lists five things that they do not have.
In the Greek, this verse is five words, all beginning with the prefix a-. The prefix a- in the Greek means without or the opposite, similar to un- in English. For example, someone who believes in God is a theist. Someone who believes there is NO God is an a-theist.
Let’s examine these five words and see exactly what someone who has reached the bottom of the death spiral is doing without:
asynetos – without understanding, intelligence, wisdom and education. This is what happens when you reach the bottom of the death spiral. You start to lose intelligence.
A society that reaches the bottom of the death spiral becomes a society without intelligence. The government often prefers the people to be without intelligence and without education as they are easier to manipulate.
Look at education in the UK at the moment: every year the examination results increase and statistically the students are smarter. Then we look at the examination papers and the mark schemes and find out that the examinations are continually being “dumbed down” (for just a small example of this, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6244942.stm and http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/1507358.stm). More and more students are going to universities, but then we find out that these universities are jumped up polytechnic colleges offering what are pejoratively called Mickey Mouse degrees!
It also means that they cannot draw parallels or make inferences. Their logic skills are completely flawed. So many young people cannot use logic to make an argument or formulate a decision. People are passion led, not intelligence led. Intelligence is not always the right answer, but someone who follows reason will be healthier, wealthier and happier than someone who lives on passion.
Jesus only uses this word once (read through Matthew 15.1-21, it is in v.16 Jesus uses the word and the KJV translates it as “without understanding”) when Peter fails to understand a parable that He told the disciples. People without understanding cannot grasp a parable or analogy – especially a spiritual one, it is simply beyond them.
This phrase does not just mean without an education or without intelligence, but it also means without understanding morality.
People at this level of the death spiral commit sins and then are genuinely surprised at the consequences. It is no longer a case that they do not want to walk in holiness, they honestly do not know what is pure and what is impure any more.
They exalt things that the Bible calls sins such as homosexuality and the murder of unborn children, and reject and mock things that the Bible calls pure such as humility, walking in forgiveness and having an absolute standard of truth.
asynthetos – This word means without agreement or without a joining together. It is only used here in the Bible because you absolutely have to be reprobate to be in this place.
It means that no-one agrees with you and you agree with no-one. The Jews would use this word to describe someone with no faith in God at all.
Someone without agreement is someone that is always contrary. If you say “black”, they say “white”. They could not even explain why they say white, they just have to disagree.
Obviously someone with a mind this disturbed cannot follow God. Whatever God says, they say and do the opposite.
These are people that enjoy and relish rubbing others up the wrong way, take pleasure in arguments and disagreements. They will deliberately try and start arguments and fights.
One of the greatest things about being a Christian for me is that when you find another Christian, you know there are so many things you agree on. There is so much you have in common. It is wonderful. Just today I went to see a friend who is part of our church, I was only in his house for 10-15 minutes on the way back from a bit of shopping.
But it was wonderful. There was just so much harmony and agreement. I had just had some non-Christians disagree with me and were rather rude to me, and it was lovely just to be with a Christian and be in harmony with someone.
We all like walking in harmony with people. But, imagine having no harmony, no agreement with anyone. That is what this word reveals about people at the bottom of the death spiral.
astorgos – Storge is one of the four Greek words for love. It means affection: the love you have for things you are accustomed to.
Just as a quick reminder: phileo love is the love you have for your family and your friends. It can often be translated in the Bible as brotherly love.
Eros love is the love you have for someone that you are romantically and sexually linked with. For Christians this should only be your marriage partner! Eros is not a sinful lust, but a true romantic and sexual attraction that is God-given.
Storge love is the love you have for something you are familiar with. If you say that you love a particular song, it is storge – it is the song that you know and hear and love. You love your slippers – that is storge, they are your slippers and you know them and you love being in them. Brand new slippers would be worse than your pair of slippers even though they are old and tatty. Why? Storge. We are designed to be affectionate to things that have been in our life.
This word is often used for the love a mother has for a baby: the mother does not have a friendship with the child in the same way sisters or good friends do – there is no reciprocal relationship. It certainly is not eros love, but the infant child is cherished. Why? Because it is a major part of your life and you could not ever imagine being without that baby.
Agape love is the highest kind of love: it is the love for something that is not lovely. It is compassion and love that manifests in action. The other three loves are conditional (phileo: you have to still be my friend; storge: you have to still be in my life; eros: you have to stay sexually attractive) but agape is completely unconditional. You love because you are loving, not because the other person is lovable!
Now, as soon as you start to descend down the death cycle, agape goes. You stop unconditionally loving anyone and everyone who you love must fit certain conditions.
As you continue down the death cycle, eros dies and all your are left with is lust. You cannot love someone as a partner. All your relationships are casual, immoral sex or vile passions.
As you continue further down the death cycle, phileo dies. You cannot form friends any more, you do not hesitate to backstab the people you used to call friends. You are so prideful that you consider these people to be worth nothing so what is the problem of abandoning them.
But, storge only goes when someone is at the very bottom of this cycle. When someone has no natural affection they are certainly someone with a reprobate mind. We are talking about someone who could never even treat a pet properly. Even criminals look after their pets. Even the Mafia treat babies well.
Only someone with a reprobate mind could hurt a baby, or an innocent little animal. I mean hurt them just for cruelty. They simply have no natural affection. If you know someone and you think they could easily murder a kitten, that is someone without storge.
In addition, possessions mean nothing to them. They would smash their own bed and house into pieces in a fit of rage and not care.
They are not even nice when being nice costs nothing. A “hello” at the shop, or a thank you if someone moves out of their way.
There are people at this stage in our nation. I praise the Lord the whole nation is not like this. I believe that everyone in the time of Noah was like this: how else could it be that not one single person joined him in the ark? Not one person even thought: I will just sit in the ark on the day Noah said it was going to rain and then if it does not rain I will get out and have a laugh at Noah.
No people at the time of Noah were completely without understanding, without agreement and without natural affection. Noah must have lived in a dreadful world.
aspondos – The KJV translates this word as implacable, the NKJV goes with the more understandable word “unforgiving”. The NIV and most modern translations follow the NU-manuscript and do not have this word in their Bible translation.
I am not going to spend any time discussing the merits of the different Greek manuscripts or textual criticism, I am just going to state that I believe that aspondos is in the original text and that I believe I have good reasons for believing that. If you do not believe that, fine – just go straight onto the final word and do not read any more of what I say about this word!
Aspondos means without an offering. Spondos is the Greek word for a drink offering (see Php. 2.17 and 2 Tim. 4.6 for the word spondos). Aspondos means without a drink offering (In theology, libation is the technical term for a drink offering)
The drink offering is first found in Genesis 35.14 where Jacob pours a bottle of oil onto the ground to thank God for speaking to Him. Jacob is now at a place where his hardship has ended and God is moving powerfully in his life, so Jacob offers a drink offering.
Drink offerings had to be from pure wine (Numbers 28.7). Wine is often in the Bible a symbol of joy (Psalm 104.15) and gladness. When a Nazarite had finished his season of separation and could return to living normally he had to make a drink offering (Numbers 6.1-21). Finally, every feast day had to have a drink offering (Lev. 23.13, 18, 37).
Drink offerings in the Old Testament are a pouring out of wine onto the ground to represent the joy and gratitude of having God work in our life. In the New Testament, Paul refers to his life as a drink offering (2 Tim. 4.7) – in other words, Paul says that his life was wine given over to the ground as a sign of joy of having God work in his life. No wonder Paul could say “Rejoice in the Lord always!” (Php. 4.4) – his whole life was full of joy because he was living for Jesus, being poured out for Jesus. Every day for Paul was a day of destiny, of adventure, of joy – for me to live is Christ (Php. 1.21) he told us.
Now, people at the bottom of the death spiral are completely without joy. They know nothing of living for a cause, they know nothing of living for another person. They do not know the joy of having God work in their life. Nothing in their life ever feels finished, feels right, feels complete. They are without a drink offering.
The drink offering is the moment when God delivers you and you say thank you. It is the moment you stand in front of your church and tell them God delivered you and people are delivered and encouraged and inspired.
People at the end of the death spiral know nothing of the joy of being set free by God or setting anyone else free. They do not even know how to encourage someone or bless someone.
They live a life without joy. No wonder so many of them turn to drinking wine as a cheap substitute for the wine of the drink offering. No wonder so many of them live life from one moment to the next using chemicals to either dull the edge (Prozac) or take them to a new high (cocaine).
aneleēmōn – without mercy. In Matthew 5.7 Jesus said “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy”. Mercy is the ability to withhold judgment and not treat someone according to their sins. It means the ability to let offenses pass.
People at the bottom of the death spiral cannot do this. If you look at them the wrong way, they might kill you. If you say something they do not understand, they might hit you. If you believe in a God they hate, they may try and destroy your life and humiliate you. The NIV translates aneleemon as ruthless, and that is an excellent translation. If you cross someone in this state, they will do anything to get you back. They will not be upset spending time in jail because they know they had to get you back.
Any crime against them will result in their judgment, their fury and their rage being thrown in your direction. They cannot forgive, they are eaten up inside day after day replaying the offenses they have received from people over the years.
A nation that is without mercy is a terrifying prospect especially in the day of nuclear weapons. Yet, there are nations in this place on the planet today.
This is the last item in Paul’s 22 item description of someone who is reprobate. I believe it is last because it is the worst place to be. To be unmerciful is a horrible thing to be for three reasons.
1. You cannot ever have internal peace. You are always imagining the hurts other people have caused you, you are always thinking about and imagining ways to hurt the people who have slighted you.
If you have ever seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Gollum is someone who could be described as someone who is aneleemon. If you remember the scenes where he is muttering to himself about Bilbo stealing from him, or some other slight against him. His lack of mercy drove him insane, leading him to have some form of split personality. There are people just like that in the world: insane simply because they refused to let an offense go!
2. You cannot form relationships. Listen – every single relationship (your marriage, your employment, your church, your family, your friends, your cell group, your neighbourhood – EVERYONE!!!) will cause you grief at some point or another. No-one is perfect, therefore someone at some point is going to say something you did not like, do something you did not want them to do, or have an opinion you do not appreciate.
Most people are able to look past people’s imperfections and still love them and fellowship with them. Mature people realize that they are imperfect themselves and give a little because they would appreciate people giving a little with them!
People without mercy cannot do this. If the wife burns the dinner, she must be punished. If the pastor attacks your pet doctrine, not only must you leave the church but do so in the most hurtful and disruptive way possible. If the family let you down, leave them.
It must be horrible to never be able to form long term relationships. The saddest thing is that because someone is astorgos as well, they do not even care that they are alienating everyone around them. This is indeed hell on earth.
3. You cannot receive mercy. Jesus was quite clear: the merciful are blessed because they receive mercy (Matthew 5.7). He also told us more than once that if we did not forgive, then we could not be forgiven.
Merciless people end up in hell. The same justice they have ruthlessly put on others is the same measure God will use on them. Like Haman, merciless people build the gallows that they will be hung on.
Read through Matthew 18.21-35 and see a perfect picture of aneleemon. The unforgiving servant will punish anyone that crosses him, which is the only reason he ended up being punished.
Make sure today that you are merciful. If people sin against you, forgive them seven times seventy times. Yes for them so that they are free, but also for you because an unmerciful person is never free and will never be free until they forgive.
Glory and freedom,