by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 4 Study # 13 September 28, 2004 Lincolnton, N.C.
(064)Thesis:Man's "fullness" of "wickedness, covetousness, and maliciousness" make him an aggressive enemy of God at every major point.
Introduction:Last week we took a bit of a break from the details of our text in order to step back and look at the bigger picture. We have seen that there are four major issues which God seeks to establish. The first is the issue that "Life" is what is "at stake". The second, third, and fourth are subsets of that basic issue of Life. The first subset principle of Life is that it is a relational reality in terms of "persons" interacting. The second subset principle of Life is that it is impossible without the consistent righteous treatment of "persons". And the third subset principle of Life is that "persons" are worthy objects of our service. In other words, the Righteous Servant of Men produces Life.
This evening we are going to attempt to fill in the details by looking again into the text of Paul's charge that men "have been filled up with" the four major oppositional issues.
I. "Filled with Unrighteousness".
A. This means that man is an aggressive enemy of "doing what is just".
B. The aggression is driven by man's lust for the status of being the one "in control".
II. "Filled with Wickedness".
A. The Issues of "Wickedness".
1. The word translated "wickedness" is used 7 times in the New Testament.
a. In Matthew 22:18 it is the term that describes the nature of the attempt to "ensnare Him in His words (22:15). It is clear that they seek His destruction through the "legal system". They seek to make Him the evil-doer while posturing themselves as the Law-abiding. Their "wickedness", then, consists of having murderous intent while posturing as saints.
b. Mark 7:22 is a list that is not helpful when looked at superficially.
c. Luke 11:39 records Jesus' response to an unspoken criticism by a Pharisee who was fixated upon the fact that Jesus did not "wash Himself" before He ate. In this response, Jesus accused Pharisees of having inward parts full of extortion and wickedness while attempting to make the outward parts appear to be very clean. The nature of the "wickedness" is not specified, but it is attached by this context to fundamental hypocrisy in attempting to make oneself appear to be one thing while actually being exactly the opposite thing. This harmonizes with the Matthew 22:18 context of harboring murderous intent while trying to look like a saint.
d. Acts 3:26 promises that Jesus will "turn everyone of you from your 'wickednesses' (translated "iniquities"), but the context is not specific enough to define "wickednesses". This verse specifically addresses Jesus as "God's 'raised up' Servant" and is notable for that fact.
e. Romans 1:29 is the fifth use in the New Testament and is the focus of our present inquiry.
f. I Corinthians 5:8 ties "leaven" to "malice and wickedness" and "unleavened" is tied to "sincerity and truth". This is a pointed parallelism that put "wickedness" in contrast to "truth", which harmonizes exactly with Matthew 22:18 and Luke 11:39 in their focus upon the attempt to present a false reality on the basis of external appearances.
g. In Ephesians 6:12, Paul characterizes the nature of our "wrestling" as "against spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies". This is in direct relationship to the "wiles" of the devil (6:11) and the "fiery darts of the 'evil'" (6:16); the word "evil" being the adjectival form of the very word under our specific scrutiny ("wickedness").
2. The word "wickedness" is the noun form of a word which is used 76 times in 71 verses of the New Testament in an adjectival form. The following are some samples.
a. Matthew 5:11 addresses "evil" as "slander" -- putting forth a lie as if it was the truth (harmonizing with the focus upon hypocrisy in the noun as well as the focus upon the intent to destroy).
b. Matthew 5:37 says that anything more than a simple "yea" or "no" has roots in "the evil".
c. Matthew 5:39 puts the focus upon the violent treatment to which the "evil" often subject the undeserving.
d. Matthew 5:45 is instructive because it contrasts "evil" with "good" in a parallelism that juxtaposes the "good" with the "just" and the "evil" with the "unjust".
e. Matthew 7:11 quotes Jesus as summarizing mankind's "problem" with "being evil". This means that the word "evil" has some fundamental characteristics that pull most, if not all, of man's depravities into a single summary term.
f. Matthew 7:15-20 uses "evil" to describe "false prophets" -- playing right into the idea that the essence of "evil" is "a false impression with the intent to destroy".
B. Summary: the word group tied to "wickedness" is heavily invested with the twin notions of "destructive intent" and "saintly appearance". The heart and soul of "wickedness" is the deliberate attempt to destroy someone, in the guise of doing righteousness, so that the destroyer may be the Sovereign Lord over All. The Bottom Line is that "Wickedness" absolutely rejects "Servanthood" as a fundamental principle of Life.
III. "Filled with Covetousness".
A. The Issues of "Covetousness".
1. The word translated "covetousness" is used 10 times in the New Testament.
a. Mark 7:21-23 has it as a part of a list of "evil things" that are within the heart of man.
b. Luke 12:13-21 records Jesus issuing a powerful warning against "covetousness" because "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things he possesseth". [One kinda has to wonder why men have invested as much as they have in the pursuit of something that does not address "life" except in a negative way.]
c. 2 Corinthians 9:5 uses the word in Paul's statement about the "nature" of a collection that is being taken up for the saints in another place.
d. Ephesians 4:19 uses the word in a context of "deceitful lusts" (4:22) where it is a fundamental associate of the "uncleanness" to which God delivered man in Romans 1:24 [the first of three enslaving conditions to which God delivered man]. In this Ephesians 4 context, there is the problem of the vanity of the mind and the hardness of the heart and the ignorance that results from both so that man is "beyond feeling" and has "given himself over" to "lasciviousness" to work "all uncleanness with greediness (covetousness)". The believer is exhorted to "put off" the old man who is being corrupted according to the deceitful lusts. Thus, "covetousness" stands in the midst of man's depravity.
e. Ephesians 5:3 puts "fornication, uncleanness, and covetousness" together as the triune corruption of "love"..."...walk in love ... but let not [these three] be once named among you...".
f. Colossians 3:5 has "covetousness" at the end of a list of things for which the wrath of God falls upon men, and it is parenthetically identified as "idolatry" [Ephesians 5:5 does this same thing].
g. 1 Thessalonians 2:5 has the word as Paul defends himself as "never" using flattering words as a "cloak of covetousness"...the implication is that it was pretty "standard" for men to use "religious teaching" as a way to enrich themselves.
h. 2 Peter 2:3 pointedly makes the same point as 1 Thessalonians 2:5 in that false teachers "make merchandise of you" by means of "feigned words" in "covetousness". These two texts make it pretty clear that "covetous" men manipulate relationships terribly.
i. 2 Peter 2:14 claims that these men have a "heart" that is exercised in covetousness and Balaam is used as the illustration of what Peter meant.
2. The issue of covetousness can be pretty broad -- desiring almost anything that another has -- but the primary focus has to do with "possessions" (materialism). Making "life" a consequence of what one possesses turns "life" into a relationship with "things" rather than "persons". This is fundamentally contradictory to Trinitarianism (where the issue is relational life), and that makes it a fairly aggressive attack upon the very essence of God. All manner of evil comes from denigrating relationships in favor of material wealth.
B. Bottom Line: Covetousness is an aggressive twisting of the basic principle of Life that Human Beings are more critical than Material Wealth.
III. "Filled with Maliciousness".
A. The Issues of Maliciousness...
1. The word translated "maliciousness" is used 11 times in the New Testament.
a. In Matthew 6:34, Jesus said that "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof". The verse is at the end of an exhortation by Jesus to His disciples regarding their concerns about the provisions for the physical man. Clearly, they are not to be "focused" here "as the Gentiles are". Their focus is supposed to be on the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. He claims that the "morrow" will "take thought for itself". Each day has sufficient "evil" in it to occupy the disciple's thought. "Evil" in this context appears to be "difficulties which challenge our ability to live". We are to face these challenges, not with a focus upon the outer man, but with a focus on the Kingdom/Righteousness of God.
b. Simon Magnus' "wickedness" in Acts 8:22 consisted of thinking that the "gift of God" could be obtained with "money". [This dovetails with the entire issue of "covetousness" dealt with above -- thinking that "life" consists of the ability to "buy" what it requires.]
c. In 1 Corinthians 5:8 "malice" and "wickedness" are contrasted with "sincerity" and "truth". These are the same two words used in our text in Romans. As a deliberate contrast, we must see a parallel between them. This means that "malice" is a sharp contrast to "sincerity" and "wickedness" is a sharp contrast to "truth".
1) The word translated "sincerity" is only used 3 times in the New Testament In 2 Corinthians 1:12, the word is used in contrast with "fleshly wisdom". In 2 Corinthians 2:17 it is used to refer to a complete lack of interest in misleading anyone. The conclusion I draw is that "sincerity" has a strong focus upon absolute honesty so that there is no manipulation of any kind. "Fleshly wisdom" is always seeking to make things work out as "I" want them to: this is fundamental manipulation and has nothing to do with honesty.
2) The word "truth" is enormously prevalent in the New Testament Its contrast to "wickedness" seems to make "wickedness" fundamentally false. This underscores our correlation of it with its fundamental opposition to servanthood: Servanthood is Fundamental as a characteristic of the God of Life.
d. 1 Corinthians 14:20 contrasts "understanding" with "malice". We are to be "men" in understanding and "children" in malice. The contrast implies that "malice" is the intent to press flawed "understanding" into service as genuine understanding. In other words, it is "malicious" to attempt to force "life" to work in contradiction to the principles of life.
e. Ephesians 4:31 puts "malice" at the end of a grocery list of evils so that it is implied that "malice" is included as an integral part of all of those other evils. This makes it a "bottom line" issue that has tentacles that reach into all kinds of directions.
f. Colossians 3:8 uses "malice" in a grocery list of evils to be put off.
g. Titus 3:3 says that we once "lived in malice". This is a pretty broad and inclusive characteristic of the life of the ungodly.
h. James 1:21 puts "malice" into the text as "naughtiness" and contrasts it with humility in receiving the engrafted word.
i. 1 Peter 2:1 is another grocery list.
j. 1 Peter 2:16 uses "maliciousness" as something that needs to be "cloaked" so that it does not come across as a violation of "servanthood".
2. Summary: "Malice" is the attempt to undercut the life of another by the forced imposition of principles of death in the place of principles of life. The focus is upon its aggressive opposition to life by attempting to supplant life by the practice of the ways of death.
B. Maliciousness in This Context.
1. With this correlation of the four issues of Paul's statement that men "have been filled with...", maliciousness is the fundamental aggression against life as the bottom line.
2. There is one bottom line: Life (opposed by maliciousness).
3. There are three "aggressors": opposition to righteousness (unrighteousness); opposition to servanthood (wickedness); and opposition to human beings in favor of "stuff" (covetousness).