Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 4 Study # 5
Thesis: The only solution to the condition of man is the creation of a new heart and a discipline that makes that new heart become dominant.
Introduction: In our study last week we looked into the question of what it was about God that man began to see with sufficient clarity that it moved him to rebel. Many think that it is God's demandingness that strikes a chord of rebellion in man, and, in a sense, that is true. But, there is something deeper than "demand" that man despises: it is God's willingness to sacrifice Himself for another's sake that makes man extraordinarily uneasy. Our argument last time was that it is not "demandingness", per se, to which man objects (since man does not object to being 'required' to do things if he likes doing those things), but, rather, it is the insistence that man adopt the characteristics of the love of God that man finds unpalatable. The reason? Man simply hates the thought of someone else's need bringing him to need. This is what the "law" surfaces. Law, as the expression of the true glory of God, requires man not only to limit himself for the sake of another, but to actually sacrifice himself for the sake of another. In Jesus' summary of the Law -- "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (Deuteronomy 6:5) and "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Leviticus 19:18) -- there exists a tacit understanding that "love" will sacrifice oneself for the sake of another. And, the Law not only demands this, it imposes the penalty of total loss upon those who refuse to voluntarily lose. So, in Paul's words, "...the Law worketh wrath..." (Romans 4:15). The question arises: if it is so bad to be "unloving", why does the Gospel approach the issue by taking the demand away? Does not the Gospel "promise" eternal life without the requirement of self-sacrifice? And is not the promise of eternal life a relegation of "sacrifice" to the level of an incidental matter? If "death for another" is followed by "resurrection to unending life", where is the "sacrifice"? In fact, does not the Gospel "promise" that anyone who will "believe" will be "secured forever" from the penalty of the failure to love? Is not the vision of "eternal life" that of Revelation 21:4 ["...and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more; neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more: the first things are passed away..."]? How does this "vision" appeal to man if not to "promise" him that the days of sacrifice are over? The answer to these questions is unveiled in the text before us this evening: Romans 1:21. This text tells us that man's flight from the truth about God is so profound that he cannot and will not flee to God unless the Gospel arrests his flight by revealing to what lengths God has gone to erase man's fear of self-loss.
August 3, 2004
- I. What Happened to Man?
- A. First, his realization that God's creation was an environment of "other-concern" at the expense of the "concerned" generated an ignorant rebellion.
- 1. Man, considering the power and personality of God as "givens", felt his obligation to yield to the requirements of the Person with the Power.
- 2. Man, feeling his obligation to yield, understood that he was being obliged to "give up his own desires to fulfill those of Another".
- 3. Man, understanding his obligation, began to deny the obvious -- that the Creation was necessarily a reflection of the Creator -- so that he was unwilling to pursue the Creator's principle of life through death.
- 4. Man, denying the obvious, began to pursue the death principle of life by killing.
- 5. Man, pursuing the death principle, began to attempt to "kill" God by rejecting His "known" truths and refusing to function by gratitude.
- B. Second, his rebellion against the obvious, generated a fundamental core-principle: "argue" about "truth"; don't "yield" to it.
- 1. Paul says that man "became futile in his speculations" (as the NASB translates it).
- a. The claim is complicated somewhat by the translation.
- b. What Paul claimed is that "man" was made "incompetent" in the pursuit of his objectives.
- 1) The word translated "they became futile" is actually a "passive voice" verb which typically indicates "action upon the subject" rather than "action by the subject".
- 2) This means that man's rebellion against the obvious had a built-in backlash that kicked into gear in re-action upon man so that he "was made futile".
- 3) The word "futile" (KJV says "vain") means "incapable of achievement".
- a) This means that man was rendered incompetent in light of his objectives.
- b) The text does not state these "objectives" but we know from the implications in it that man had made it his objective to "live" at the "expense of others".
- c) This is a "death principle" and cannot yield "life", so man's embracing of the principle renders him totally incompetent.
- c. The phrase "in his speculations" actually means "by means of his argumentative mentality".
- 1) The word translated "speculations" actually refers to the way men's minds work as they cast up "argument against argument" [this is illustrated by the New Testament example of the disciples "arguing" with each other over who is the greatest -- each is persuaded of his own superiority and seeks to prove it by countering all of the arguments of the others].
- 2) The point of Paul's use of the term here is that man is faced with the "obvious" but will not embrace it because of its implications, so he "argues" instead of "submitting".
- 3) This is not just one of the things men occasionally do; this is a core characteristic of man now that his whole "being" has been corrupted by rebellion.
- 2. The over-all meaning is that man has been rendered totally incompetent in view of his desire to "live" by means of the incessant arguing against the obvious.
- C. Third, his rebellion against the obvious generated a descending darkness upon his "heart".
- 1. This should not be understood as a consequence of his "argumentative nature"; it is not "third" in consequential order, but "third" in factual order...i.e. Paul is not saying "this led to this, which led, in turn, to this...".
- 2. The New Testament clearly declares that the "argumentative nature" springs from the darkened heart, not vice-versa.
- a. It is always "love" that drives "faith" [see Galatians 5:6].
- b. The darkness of the "heart" simply means that, though the impetus to live was not altered, all of the secondary "servant-values" were and the result is that the "heart" now values objectives which are completely unserviceable in the service of "life" and the "reasonings" which attempt to make them "serviceable" not only "fail" but cloud the issues altogether.
- II. What the Gospel Promises Man: the Creation of a New Heart.