Here the psalmist shows what is the root of all ungodliness. It is the "foolishness" of thinking that God does not exist. The agnostic is undecided. He has doubts about the question of God. What is called practical atheism is not an opinion but a way of life. This attitude may coexist with a weak belief in the being of God, but the person lives as if there were no God. The statement made here goes further. Here we find the complete rejection of Christian theism. Now when atheists argue that they are absolutely certain that there is no god, they implicitly claim to know all things. This is nonsense. For the atheist to claim that there is no God, and that there are no traces of God's existence anywhere, the atheist must have explored all the infinite regions scattered throughout the universe. This requires omnipresence, or in other words, it would imply that the atheist is God himself. Atheism is irrational. It’s not a system that satisfies the intellect. You can never be sure that there is no God. It assumes a kind of knowledge that the human mind simply does not have. David is right! Only a fool would be satisfied with the claim that there is no God.
Among the multitudes of problems oppressing humanity, in Romans 1:18-27 repression is described as the most catastrophic. The problem of repression is introduced in verse 18:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
This text assumes that people already know something about God, for otherwise there would be nothing to suppress. It also presupposes that the act of repression has become a persistent rejection of the evidence for God in creation. In verses 19-20 Paul continues saying:
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
People simply refuse to act on what creation tells them about God. Repression, in Paul's psychology then, is an intense resistance to the natural contents of consciousness regarding God. The divine properties of God are clearly visible in the physical environment. This knowledge is part of our life. It’s displayed everywhere in the created order. It provides reliable information about the Creator. Paul tells us that through the created things God has made it perfectly clear that he is a Being of incomparable power and intelligence. But human beings insist on their excessive attempts to ignore God. This cognitive effort traps the person in an endless tension of opposites. As long as people experience this conflict, that is, the tension between the inescapable presence of God and the persistent repression of God’s self-revelation in nature, they will always live in opposition to God and in opposition to themselves. When there is tension in consciousness, life cannot be enriched. On the contrary, life is impoverished. Paul tells us that this useless attempt to empty consciousness of the knowledge of God makes an outlet for itself in repulsive acts of theriomorphic worship (verse 23), and attempts to seek enrichment of life in sexual acts outside the psychophysical operations determined by the biological structure of the individual (verses 26 and 27). That’s the consequence of personal repression. Humans are sexually confused. They deify visible things. Even worse. They give themselves passionately to the creature, instead of acknowledging God. This strategy of ignoring God by numbing the human conscience with forbidden behaviours very quickly loses its charm and after a while what promises freedom turns out to be slavery. The evidence is all around us: boredom, the endless search for cheap thrills, the pursue of pleasures that offer no deep, lasting fulfilment. As long as humanity is fully occupied with repressing the knowledge of God, it will experience a sense of lack. The inborn tendency of consciousness is to recognise God in the world. Repression, however, encourages the misuse of the body and mind, and degrades human life with all the despicable and irrational things that God rejects. If there is a certain amount of knowledge about God and his properties to be perceived in the data of physical world, and, therefore, in consciousness, the entire world must accept the truth that everything in universe is a declaration of the glory of God. While it’s true that the natural knowledge of God is not enough to save people and make them feel his fatherly love, it’s an important fact; a fact that must be recognised if the human population wants to recover social morality, sustain mental wellbeing and avoid idolatry. Of course, this can only be done by giving up active resistance to the evidence of God in the external world. In the end, Romans 1:18-27 makes one thing pretty clear. It’s a historical certainty that if the natural knowledge of God is suppress, the world is always dysfunctional.
What makes the Bible the Word of God is the fact that God speaks in it. We can summarise this doctrine with a simple statement: What the Bible says is exactly what God says. Now if all this is true, then what God said and what God will say in the Bible it’s going to be very different from what we say to ourselves and what other people say in the culture around us. The Word of God always tells us something fresh, something that we have never heard before. And what’s that? That God made us for his glory. This is why God makes himself heard in Scripture. The Triune God says things in the Bible to change us and to prepare us for the perfection of glory, a condition of life which is free from sin, evil, suffering and imperfection. So in that sense the Bible is perfect. There’s nothing lacking in the Word of God for growing in holiness and developing a passion for the perfection of God. Psalm 19:7-8 says this about the Word of God:
The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
Here, the Hebrew poet tells us that God’s revelation is specific and is also perfect for the spiritual community. Since the Word of God is complete it would be a crime to add or to subtract anything from Scripture. In fact- we have strong warnings in Scripture against the practice of manipulating the content of divine revelation. In Deuteronomy 4:1-2 Moses said:
Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.
The first thing we see here is the connection between the Promised Land and the commandments of Yahweh. If Israel and the generations to come want to live on the land and enjoy physical wellbeing, they must be faithful to the words of the Lord. But something more important than the “land” is at stake here. The verse implies that God will be their Lord as long as they don’t mess around with his commandments. So the thing that Moses wants the people to understand is that listening to words with inferior authority will make our commitments to God become weak or even neutral. The other text that forbids adding or subtracting to the Word of God is Revelation 22:18-19:
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.
The warning is serious. And it shows us that God himself puts a tremendous importance on his words. God obviously wouldn’t be saying this if He didn’t think that his divine revelation wasn’t perfect. It seems to me that the church hasn’t fully appreciate the weight of this text. We’ve downplayed the seriousness of the warning by insisting that God doesn’t mean what he says or by deliberately adding things to the prophecy. We need to remember that God has a meaning for every word he says and that “all” his works and words are perfect.
Since the Bible is the basis of our faith and necessary for our salvation and perfection in glory we need to love Scripture. How do we do this? I have some suggestions for you: First, people who want to live for the glory of God must interact with the Word of the Lord as if God himself is speaking to us though his mouth. In 1 Thessalonians 2:13 Paul tells us that the church should engaged the Scripture.
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.
You see. The church in thessalonica received the message of the gospel as Word of God and God immediately began to work in their lives. I believe this also applies to how we listen to the preaching of the Bible. Some people listen to a sermon but they they say to themselves “there was nothing” in that sermon for me. This attitude is very often the outcome of pride or because we’re listening sermons with the anticipation of finding things to criticise. If we’re doing this we are telling God: Lord I’m not ready to let You say anything to me. What is needed here is repentance and humility. The second reason for why we should love the Bible is because God is the author of it. Don’t forget: God is not an everyday person. He is the King of kings and Lord of Lords, Father-Son and Holy Spirit -the great and only immortal God. If we love the literature produced by poets and theologians and philosophers and scientists, why we shouldn’t we love the writings of God, especially when all human writings are limited and imperfect. I love the way Psalm 12 describes the speech of God:
And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.
Another reason for why we should love the Bible is because the Bible equips us to live with glorious purpose in life. Without the Bible we are dead to God and if we are dead to God life becomes tedious and exhausting. The Word of God helps us to experience the joy of living for God and the comfort of “being” loved by the God of the Bible. There are many more reasons to love the Word of God but I think we have enough to see that the Christian life must be interpreted, guided, conditioned and transformed by the Word of God.
The ability to live for the glory of God is not a behaviour that we are born with. This is something we get from God and it must be conditioned by God. And the Bible is the "only" frame of reference that helps us to live in the way God wants us to live. I don't know if you noticed my emphasis on the word "only". I want to emphasise this "word" because many Christians today speak of God's revelation as something that you can find in feelings, mystical experiences or in the private voice that speaks to us during the day.
This is not a good way of speaking about God's revelation. Why? Because it gives more credibility to our physical organs than the Word of God. For me it's difficult to believe that the God who speaks in Scripture would take us to anything else that is not already in the Bible for evidence of his speech. In the Christian church, we believe that "God has spoken" and this supernatural revelation of God has been communicated to the human writers of the Bible. The Bible is therefore the finished product of God's self-revelation.We should never put our trust in feelings, experience, logic or even "worship-songs" in the place of the Bible. I don't think it's an accident that Psalm 150, the last hymn in the Hebrew Psalter calling us to praise the Lord great enthusiasm is where it is. This Psalm is found at the end of the Psalter. But before we get to this Psalm we have go though Psalm 119 which is the longest in the Psalter. Here we find verse 176 telling us about the importance of the law, the testimonies, the ways, the commands and ordinances of the Lord. The sacred poet is showing us that our spiritual wellbeing and our faithfulness depends on our obedience to the Word of God. Okay. What I want us to do now is to see what Bible say about itself though the words of the authors of the Bible. A passage that we all know and is fundamental for understanding the supernatural character of the Bible is 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
The apostle Paul has been encouraging Timothy to a develop meticulous study of Scripture. And he gives him two reason for doing that. First, all Scripture is "breathed out" by God.Here, the word "all" means "any passage of Scripture" or the "every Scripture". This is a comprehensive statement. And even though Paul never calls his own writings Scripture, Peter clearly regarded them as Scripture. In 2 Peter 3:16 he says:
And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
Peter tells us that he regards the writings of Paul as "Scripture". So he puts them in the same level with the Old Testament. Now Paul also shows us the basis for encouraging Timothy to read Scripture. The Scripture is breathed out by God. 2 Peter 1:21 tells us what this means:
For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
The Bible is the Word of God. This doesn't mean that the sacred book fell from heaven. The Bible came to us through the ministry ofmen who spoke from God by the Holy Spirit.The biblical authors were the instruments of God and what they said was exactly what God wanted them to say and to write. The second reason for serious study of Scripture is the transformative power of the Bible.
The Scripture, says Paul is useful for:
teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
The Bible not only gives us information about spiritual things. The Bible changes us to become spiritual people, completely equipped to do what is good in all spheres of life: civil good, moral good and spiritual good. To read the Bible is to be transformed for righteousness.
A goal is a vision of the life that we want for ourselves. When we have a goal everything we do in life contributes to the objective we have in mind. Paul speaks about the power of personal goals in 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Paul is using metaphors from the Roman world of athleticism. And he sees himself as a runner in the stadium. But then he says something really interesting. He tells us that the struggle to win the spiritual prize is not a competition against others. The struggle is with himself. That’s why he practices self-control. This is the kind discipline that gave him the focus to live a life of complete devotion to God. The apostle Paul was indifferent to the things that most people value today: social recognition, pleasure, beauty and possessions. From a non-christian perspective, Paul was not getting anything out life. But he shows us here that his life was pretty exciting, organised, and always moving in the right direction. What direction was that? What was Paul striving for? The prize! The eternal crown, which in Romans 5:2 means “the glory of God” - the never-ending joy of praising the beauty of God. That’s what Paul wanted in life. That what his goal. And that’s what God wants for us. He wants us to live for his glory. But what exactly does it mean to live for the glory of God? It means at least two things:
Brothers, I share with you some biblical reflections that can be used at the beginning of elder's meetings.
1. Read Acts 6:1 -7. 1. This paragraph says that there are two things that should happen in the local congregation. One, the fellowship of Christians must create new ways of caring for people in need. Two, and this point is especially relevant for church leaders. No matter how important the work of helping others might be, the leaders in the congregation, must never allow this work to be a substitute for the activity of devoting ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Brothers, be careful that our genuine preoccupation with assisting people doesn't take away the focus from the responsability of doing all things in prayer.
2. Read 1 Corinthians 2:4-6. This text has a direct application to preaching elders. Here apostle Paul tells us that he thought carefully about two things in connection with his ministry. First, his own wisdom and the use of persuasive words. In verse 4 Paul said: "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words". This is critical in preaching. Sometimes we can be so concerned with human eloquence and rhetoric and beauty of style that the impact of God's truth is lost. But why was Paul so afraid of using his own wisdom and persuasive words in telling the Gospel? Because Paul didn't want the faith of the Corinthian church to rest in his verbal skills, but on the "demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but God's power" (verses 4b, 5). Brothers, our task as preaching elders is simply to cooperate with God in weakness, in the awareness that not focusing too much on ourselves is the secret of preaching in the Spirit.
This text tells us two things about God. First, the God of the Bible is the only God that can give us deliverance from oppressive situations. Second, God wants to give us more than what we have. This means that we should never think that we have enough from God. That is why God says to his people, “open wide your mouth and I will fill it” (v 10). God can do great things for us. He proved to Israel that he has power to do awesome things. What we need to do as his people is to believe God and ask for fullness. The Lord wants us to have large expectations of him because he is able to fill every want with plenty. The only limitation to the promise of God is our lack of faith. Our God is a God of overflowing grace, always ready to meet our need.
The Youth and Fellowship Committee have announced the main speaker for our Biennial Camp is going to be Rev. Andre Scheepers, Minister of our Ulverstone Congregation. Andre is going to be talking on the topic of The Gospel in Isaiah. We look forward to hearing the talks.
Applications will be available soon, so start planning now for a New Year's trip to the Biennial PCEA Camp.
Welcome to the PCEA News page. This will, in time, DV (God Willing), become a place for News and views from Ministers and guest writers for everyone to read and reflect on. We look forward to your comments and hope you will find this useful and edifying.