No Match For God.

1 An oracle concerning Moab.

Because Ar of Moab is laid waste in a night,
    Moab is undone;
because Kir of Moab is laid waste in a night,
    Moab is undone.
He has gone up to the temple, and to Dibon,
    to the high places to weep;
over Nebo and over Medeba
    Moab wails.
On every head is baldness;
    every beard is shorn;
in the streets they wear sackcloth;
    on the housetops and in the squares
    everyone wails and melts in tears.
Heshbon and Elealeh cry out;
    their voice is heard as far as Jahaz;
therefore the armed men of Moab cry aloud;
    his soul trembles.
My heart cries out for Moab;
    her fugitives flee to Zoar,
    to Eglath-shelishiyah.
For at the ascent of Luhith
    they go up weeping;
on the road to Horonaim
    they raise a cry of destruction;
the waters of Nimrim
    are a desolation;
the grass is withered, the vegetation fails,
    the greenery is no more.
Therefore the abundance they have gained
    and what they have laid up
they carry away
    over the Brook of the Willows.
For a cry has gone
    around the land of Moab;
her wailing reaches to Eglaim;
    her wailing reaches to Beer-elim.
For the waters of Dibon are full of blood;
    for I will bring upon Dibon even more,
a lion for those of Moab who escape,
    for the remnant of the land. – Isaiah 15:1-9 ESV

ruth_moabNow, God turns His attention to the land of Moab. Slowly and systematically, God is addressing all the people groups that have had anything to do with Israel and Judah. In the first two oracles, He dealt with Assyrian and Philistia, two nations located outside the borders of Canaan, that would both pose a threat to the people of God. The Moabites, while a relatively small nation, and one that had proven to be particularly hostile to the people of God, would hear from God as well. Located to the east of the Dead Sea, the Moabites were the descendants of Moab, the son born to Lot and his oldest daughter. This incestuous relationship is recorded in the book of Genesis and took place immediately after Lot and his family had been rescued from Sodom just before the city’s destruction by God.

When the people of Israel had begun their conquest of the land promised to them by God, the Moabites had become concerned over their sheer numbers and their relatively easy defeat of the neighboring Ammorites.

And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. And Moab was in great dread of the people, because they were many. Moab was overcome with fear of the people of Israel. – Numbers 22:2-3 ESV

King Balak ended up sending for a well-known diviner named Balaam, whom he offered a fee if he would curse the Israelites.

“Behold, a people has come out of Egypt. They cover the face of the earth, and they are dwelling opposite me. Come now, curse this people for me, since they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them from the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.” – Numbers 22:5-6 ESV

But God would not allow Balaam to do as the king had requested. He was prevented from cursing Israel. So, instead, he came up with an alternative and ingenuous plan to defeat the people of God. He recommended to King Balak that the Moabite women entice the Israelite men into having immoral relationships with them. And his plan worked.

While the Israelites were camped at Acacia Grove, some of the men defiled themselves by having sexual relations with local Moabite women. These women invited them to attend sacrifices to their gods, so the Israelites feasted with them and worshiped the gods of Moab. In this way, Israel joined in the worship of Baal of Peor, causing the Lord’s anger to blaze against his people. – Numbers 25:1-3 NLT

God ended up sending a plague on the people of Israel, resulting in 24,000 deaths. But this oracle makes it clear that God would deal with the Moabites as well. Their role in Israel’s moral and spiritual adultery would be avenged. And the prophet, Zephaniah, reiterates God’s plans for the people of Moab.

“Now, as surely as I live,”
    says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel,
“Moab and Ammon will be destroyed—
    destroyed as completely as Sodom and Gomorrah.
Their land will become a place of stinging nettles,
    salt pits, and eternal desolation.
The remnant of my people will plunder them
    and take their land.” – Zephaniah 2:9 NLT

Isaiah warns of Moab’s pending fall. Its two main cities, Ar and Kir, would end up destroyed, “laid waste in a night.” In other words, their destruction would be quick and complete. Isaiah pictures the people weeping in Dibon, where the temple to Chemosh, the Moabite god was located. But rather than praying to their false god for aid, they are shown crying over the fall of their cities. Chemosh has proven ineffectual and impotent against God Almighty.

As a sign of mourning, everyone has shaved their heads and beards. They are wearing sackcloth and crying out in sorrow over their great loss. Even the soldiers join in the dirge over the loss of their cities, lands, and people. It is a scene of abject destruction and unrelenting sorrow.

It is impossible to know exactly when this prophecy was fulfilled. Some believe it took place in 718 BC when Sargon and the Assyrians moved across the land. Others have speculated that the fall of Moab happened under Tiglath-pilesar 732 BC or even Sennacherib in 701 BC. But the important point is that Moab did fall, just as God said that it would.

One of the important things to remember is that this oracle, like all the others, was aimed at the people of Judah. It was intended to remind them that their God was in complete control. The nations of the earth were under His divine authority, including Assyrian, Philistia, and Moab. They had no reason to fear these nations unless they failed to fear God – which they had. They had no business putting their trust in these nations, rather than trusting God – but they had. The sins of Judah were many. They were guilty of idolatry and immorality. They had placed their hope and trust in false gods and pagan nations. When warned of God’s pending judgment, rather than repent, they had sought aid from others. Faced with news of the coming wrath of God, they always seemed to have one more trick up their sleeve, an alternative source of rescue.

But God wanted them to know that everyone, from the powerful Assyrians and Babylonians to the relatively helpless Moabites, would prove to be no match for Him. And God makes it clear that, even after all the mourning and weeping in Moab, He will not yet be done.

“I will bring upon Dibon even more…” – Isaiah 15:9 ESV

Dibon, the home of the Moabite’s false god, Chemosh, would experience additional destruction. The gods of the nations would prove no match for God Almighty. The armies of the pagan nations would be powerless in the face of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. And all of this was meant to remind the people of Judah of the greatness of their God.

The following proverb reminds us that the fear of man is dangerous because it illustrates our lack of faith in God.

Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORD means safety. – Proverbs 29:25 NLT

And Jesus Himself provided a much-needed reminder of our need to trust God rather than fearing man

“Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” – Matthew 10:28 NLT

Judah had lost its fear of God. In the face of all the turmoil surrounding them, the people of God had taken their eyes off of Him and had started trusting in human kings and man-made gods to protect them. But as God has made perfectly clear, there is no one or nothing that can provide protection from His judgment. Human kings fail. Mighty nations fall. And man-made idols prove to be false forms of salvation.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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Rejected and Despised.

18 Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood,
    who draw sin as with cart ropes,
19 who say: “Let him be quick,
    let him speed his work
    that we may see it;
let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near,
    and let it come, that we may know it!”
20 Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
    and shrewd in their own sight!
22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine,
    and valiant men in mixing strong drink,
23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
    and deprive the innocent of his right!

24 Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble,
    and as dry grass sinks down in the flame,
so their root will be as rottenness,
    and their blossom go up like dust;
for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts,
    and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
25 Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people,
    and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them,
    and the mountains quaked;
and their corpses were as refuse
    in the midst of the streets.
For all this his anger has not turned away,
    and his hand is stretched out still.

26 He will raise a signal for nations far away,
    and whistle for them from the ends of the earth;
and behold, quickly, speedily they come!
27 None is weary, none stumbles,
    none slumbers or sleeps,
not a waistband is loose,
    not a sandal strap broken;
28 their arrows are sharp,
    all their bows bent,
their horses’ hoofs seem like flint,
    and their wheels like the whirlwind.
29 Their roaring is like a lion,
    like young lions they roar;
they growl and seize their prey;
    They carry it off, and none can rescue.
30 They will growl over it on that day,
    like the growling of the sea.
And if one looks to the land,
    behold, darkness and distress;
and the light is darkened by its clouds.  – Isaiah 5:18-30 ESV

Isaiah has an additional four “woes” to pronounce against the people of Judah. Not only are they guilty of greed and debauchery, they seem to enjoy it. Isaiah describes them as leading their sins behind them like a favorite pet. He says that they “draw iniquity with cords of falsehood.” The Hebrew that is translated as “falsehood” is shav’ and it can mean “emptiness, vanity or worthlessness.” The New Living Translation reads, “who pull evil along using cords of emptiness.” There is an emptiness or meaninglessness to their efforts. Nothing good will come of it. And it’s as if they]re the weight of their sin is so great, that they are forced to use a heavy rope, like one designed for hauling a cart. 

And all the while they sinned, they goaded God, almost daring Him to act.

They even mock God and say,
    “Hurry up and do something!
    We want to see what you can do.
Let the Holy One of Israel carry out his plan,
    for we want to know what it is.” – Isaiah 5:19 NLT

No shame. No remorse. No fear of God. In fact, they were openly rebellious and blatantly disrespectful to God. Their sins weren’t accidental, but willful. It was as if they pulled them along behind them in broad daylight, virtually challenging God to do anything about it.

And they displayed no sense of right or wrong. Isaiah accuses them of confusing the two. They were guilty of saying “that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20 NLT). They were living morally subjective lives that contradicted the expressed command of God. He is the one who decides what is right and what is wrong. It is not something that He leaves up to mankind. We don’t get a vote. And with God, there are no grey areas in which we get the opportunity to apply our own personal opinions or outlooks. “God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all” (1 John 1:5 NLT). And yet, the people of Judah were saying just the opposite, promoting darkness as the norm and light as something to be avoided at all costs. The apostle John put it this way:

God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. – John 3:19-20 NLT

Sinful man loves to justify and rationalize his sin. He goes out of his way to paint his actions as acceptable and thoroughly normal. But in doing so, he contradicts the truth of God.

If we say we have not sinned, we make him [God] a liar and his word is not in us. – 1 John 1:10 NLT

The next two woes have to do with pride and injustice. So, not only are the people of Judah greedy, hedonistic, rebellious and morally subjective, they’re arrogant and unjust. Isaiah describes them as being “wise in their own eyes” (Isaiah 5:21 NLT) and proud of their own inherent cleverness. But the apostle Paul would have told them, “If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise” (1 Corinthians 3:18 NLT). Human wisdom is insufficient and a lousy source discerning the will of God. Once again, Paul would remind them, “So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish” (1 Corinthians 1:20 NLT). No one ever came to know God based on their own intellect or reasoning powers.

God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom. – 1 Corinthians 1:21 NLT

A man who boasts in his own wisdom is no better off than a drunk who brags about how much liquor he can hold. There is no redeeming value in either boast.

And because they rely upon own their own faulty and misguided wisdom, marred by moral subjectivity, they end up committing acts of injustice. They see nothing wrong in taking a bribe that lines their own pockets while allowing the guilty to go unpunished. In a world ruled by their brand of wisdom, they guilty prosper, and the innocent suffer. It is a topsy-turvy, upside down world that is nothing like what God intended.

Therefore…

That word marks the transition point in this passage. As a result of all that Isaiah has just described, God is going to act. He will no longer overlook their blatant disregard for His will and arrogant rejection of His ways. Isaiah compares God’s judgment to a fire that burns up everything in its path. Why? Because “they have rejected the law of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies; they have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 5:24 NLT). Isaiah leaves no doubt as to the reason for God’s coming judgment. They had rejected and despised. Those two words carry significant weight and meaning. In Hebrew, the word translated as “rejected” is ma’ac. It carries the idea of disdain or rejection based on contempt. They had rejected God’s law because they had no respect for it. And the second word, “despised,” is the Hebrew word, na’ats, and conveys the thought of rejecting God’s Word because it brings admonition and feelings of guilt.

The law of God was intended to bring conviction on the people of God, exposing their sins and calling them to repentance. Conviction should lead to confession. But the people of Judah rejected and despised God’s methodology, preferring to justify their own sins and turning a blind eye to God’s point of view.

And this was not the first time. God had punished the people of Judah before. He had been forced to judge them for their sins on numerous occasions over the years. And Isaiah warned his audience that God was not done yet.

For all this his anger has not turned away,
    and his hand is stretched out still. – Isaiah 5:25 ESV

Past discipline would not cover their present state of sin. Their lack of repentance was going to require God to judge His people yet again. And Isaiah gave them a less-than-pleasant description of what was to come.

He will raise a signal for nations far away,
    and whistle for them from the ends of the earth;
and behold, quickly, speedily they come! – Isaiah 5:26 ESV

Just as He had done in punishing the northern tribes of Israel, God was going to use a foreign power to bring His judgment upon Judah. Israel had fallen to the Assyrians hundreds of years earlier. Now it was Judah’s turn. And, in their case, it would be the Babylonians who would show up on their doorstep. In verses 27-30, Isaiah provides his audience with a graphic description of what they have to look forward to, and it is not a pretty picture. It all ends in darkness and distress.

Rather than the light of God, they would experience the darkness of defeat. Instead of enjoying the blessings of God, they would undergo unbearable distress. They had allowed their own greed, love of pleasure, rebellious tendencies, moral subjectivity, pride and injustice lead them down the path of destruction. And Isaiah makes it painfully clear that “no one will be there to rescue them” (Isaiah 5:29 NLT).

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Hold Tightly To What You Have.

18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

19 “‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. 24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. 25 Only hold fast what you have until I come. 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”  Revelation 2:18-29 ESV

revelation_Turkey_mapJohn is told to address the next church by referring to Jesus as the Son of God, and describing Him as having “eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.” This is the exact imagery John used when describing his vision of Jesus in chapter 1. The eyes of the Son of God are like burning fire, indicating the penetrating nature of His divine judgment. As the Son of God, Jesus is all-knowing and able to see into the hearts of men. In the book of Daniel, we find a similar description of Jesus in one of the visions Daniel was given by God. Upon seeing Jesus, Daniel states that “his eyes flamed like torches.” Here in the book of Revelation, Jesus is described as having feet like burnished bronze. This image is a bit more difficult to comprehend, but it may refer to his purity and holiness. The feet are the means by which we navigate and make our way from one place to another. Jesus does so in perfect purity and righteousness. His way is always marked by holiness. The very designation, “Son of God”, speaks of the deity of Christ. The title, “son of man”, which was used in chapter one, emphasizes the humanity of Jesus, and ties Him to His role as the Messiah. 

As the all-knowing, holy Son of God, Jesus lets the church in Thyatira know that He knows. He tells them, “I know your works.” He is fully aware of all that is going on in this congregation. He sees their “love and faith and service and patient endurance” (Revelation 2:19 ESV). Nothing escapes His divine notice. If you recall, Jesus had warned the church at Ephesus to “do the works you did at first” (Revelation 2:5 ESV). Now, He commends the believers in Thyatira because their “latter works exceed the first” (Revelation 2:19 ESV). In other words, they were progressing, not regressing in their faith. They were loving better, believing more, serving faithfully, and enduring patiently.

But Jesus, with the aid of His penetrating vision, saw something going on in the fellowship in Thyatira that He could not commend. He tells them, “you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols” (Revelation 2:20 ESV). This is likely a reference to an actual woman in the local congregation. It is doubtful that her name was actually Jezebel, but that it is used here by Jesus to accentuate the wickedness of this woman’s actions. The original Jezebel had been the wife of Ahab, one of the most wicked kings of Israel. And Jezebel had played an important and influential role in her husband’s sin-plagued reign. The book of 1 Kings tells us that Ahab “took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria” (1 Kings 16:31-32 ESV). Jezebel had a polarizing and demoralizing influence on the nation of Israel, even attempting to rid the nation of the prophets of God. And evidently, according to Jesus, there was a woman in the church in Thyatira, who was deserving of the designation “Jezebel” because of her wicked influence on that local congregation. She was leading them astray by encouraging them to commit acts of immorality and backing up her words by claiming to be a prophetess for God. Like Balaam, mentioned earlier in the condemnation of the church at Pergamum, Jezebel had been guilty of causing the people of God to sin against God, by violating His commands for sexual purity and against sexual immorality of all kinds. One of the greatest threats against any church will be the attack that comes from within, perpetrated by someone claiming to be a Christ-follower, but who propagates and promotes ungodly behavior.

This woman had been given time to repent of her sins, but had stubbornly refused. So, Jesus warns that judgment was coming. Her sinful behavior would have dire and devastating consequences, for her and for all those who followed her lead. Jesus describes all those who willingly participate in her immoral activities as her “children” or offspring. And He warns that they too will face divine judgment, possibly even death, for their actions. Jesus is deadly serious. And He warns every church in every age to take heed to what He is saying.

And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.” – Revelation 2:23 ESV

This “Jezebel” and her followers would become lessons for what happens to those who commit spiritual adultery, violating their covenant commitment to God. That is the heart of the issue here. The sexual sins that these people were committing were in violation of God’s commands, but the more devastating aspect of their sin was that they were doing so in connection to the worship of false gods. They were practicing immorality as part of their worship of idols. So, in essence, they were committing adultery against God Almighty. What we see here is a reenactment of the sins of the people of Israel and Judah that ultimately led God to send them into captivity as punishment for their sin and unfaithfulness.

But Jesus realized that there were many in the congregation in Thyatira who had remained faithful and unstained by this woman’s influence, and He commends them. And He tells them, “I do not lay on you any other burden” (Revelation 2:24 ESV). He is assuring them that He is not going to ask anything more of them than that they hold fast until He comes. He simply asks that they remain faithful. He wants them to keep their eyes focused on their future reward, not immediate gratification through sinful behavior. Jesus is calling them to endure to the end and He offers them a reminder of what they can expect for doing so.

To them I will give authority over all the nations. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star! – Revelation 2:26-28 NLT

It is the one who conquers who will receive these rewards. But as we saw earlier, the term conqueror is more a designation referring to our future condition. When we stand with Christ in heaven, we will be conquerors, those who have conquered. We will be called conquerors at that point in time, not here and now. To be called a conqueror, one must have already conquered. He must have won the final victory. And that is what Jesus describes in these closing verses. We will receive authority. We will rule alongside the King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus had told His disciples, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV). It is Jesus who is the conqueror, the overcomer. And He is reminding the believers in Thyatira that the only burden they have is the one requiring them to remain faithful to the end. Their faithfulness will have the reward of standing alongside the conquering Christ in His Kingdom. Paul and Barnabas encouraged the churches to whom they ministered by reminding them that faithfulness in this life has its reward in the next life.

…they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God. – Acts 14:22 NLT

The final promise Jesus offers the believers in Thyatira is the gift of the morning star. We know from the closing verses of this book that Jesus is that morning star.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.” – Revelation 22:16 NLT

So, Jesus is offering them the gift of Himself. But in a real and physical sense. They will, as the apostle John wrote, “see him as he really is” (1 John 3:2 NLT). All those who endure to the end, refusing to give in to the temptations to compromise, will receive the reward of uninterrupted intimacy and fellowship with Jesus Christ and God the Father. And Jesus closes out His address with a message to all believers throughout all time, to hear what He has said to the church at Thyatira. It applies to us and should encourage us to hold tightly to what we have until He come. And come, He will.

 

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

David’s Achilles Heel.

There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker.

And sons were born to David at Hebron: his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam of Jezreel; and his second, Chileab, of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; and the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream, of Eglah, David’s wife. These were born to David in Hebron. – 2 Samuel 3:1-5 ESV

We already know that David was considered a man after God’s own heart. This was not a designation made by David or any other man. It was conferred upon him by the prophet of God under the divine inspiration of the Spirit of God. Years earlier, Samuel had broken the bad news to Saul. “But now your kingdom must end, for the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart. The LORD has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command” (1 Samuel 13:14 NLT). Centuries later, the apostle Paul, while preaching to the Jews in the synagogue at Antioch, reconfirmed this divine designation of David as a man after His own heart.

“After that, God gave them judges to rule until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people begged for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.” – Acts 13:20-22 NLT

But as we have already see, this lofty-sounding description of David did not mean he was perfect or without sin. Like any other man, David struggled with his own sin nature. He could be prone to disobedience and doubt, just like anybody else. And he had his own unique set of sins with which he struggled. One, in particular, would prove to be a constant source of temptation and testing for him: Women.

In the opening lines of this chapter, we’re told “There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David.” But there was another battle brewing in the life of David. While he was growing stronger in his military position over Abner and the house of Saul, David was literally sowing the seeds of dissent and future discord that would rip his kingdom apart. It is important to note that God had made ample preparations for the arrival of a king on the scene. In fact, He had ordained that there would be a king over Israel. And He knew that the people would tend to want the wrong kind of king. So, He provided them with very clear commands:

“You are about to enter the land the Lord your God is giving you. When you take it over and settle there, you may think, ‘We should select a king to rule over us like the other nations around us.’ If this happens, be sure to select as king the man the Lord your God chooses. You must appoint a fellow Israelite; he may not be a foreigner.

“The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself or send his people to Egypt to buy horses, for the Lord has told you, ‘You must never return to Egypt.’ The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.” – Deuteronomy 17:14-117 NLT

Somewhat hidden and overlooked in this divine command is God’s prohibition against polygamy. When it came to “the man the Lord your God chooses,” he must “not take many wives for himself.” And God was very clear as to His reason behind this command. “because they will turn his heart away from the Lord.” And yet, we read in these opening verses of chapter 3, “And sons were born to David at Hebron.” Nothing wrong with that statement, until you read the following verses and notice the various mothers listed: Ahinoam of Jezreel, Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel, Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur, and Eglah. And not in this list is Michal, David’s first wife, the daughter of Saul. So effectively, at this early point in his reign, David had five wives. He would go on to have as many as eight.

It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to determine that David had an inordinate attraction to women. And he tended to act on it. Abigail is listed as one of his wives. She was the widow of Nabal, whom God destroyed. But David barely let Nabal’s body cool off before he took Abigail as his wife. David could be impulsive. And if we fast-forward to one of the most famous or infamous events in David’s life, we will see that his impulsiveness also led him to commit not only adultery, but murder. Glance over at 2 Samuel 11 and you will see the story of David and Bathsheba, a personal low point in David’s life that got permanently chronicled in the Scriptures. At a time when David, as king, should have been leading his troops in battle, he had determined to stay home. And one day, while walking about the roof of his palace, he saw Bathsheba bathing on the roof of her own home. There are some who speculate that this was not the first time David had spied Bathsheba bathing. It could have been the very reason he stayed home from battle. And his act of voyeurism resulted in him having Bathsheba brought to him. Their illicit liasson would result in an unexpected pregnancy. And since Bathsheba’s husband, a soldier in David’s own army was off at war, it was going to be hard to explain how his wife became pregnant. That’s when David launched an all-out effort to cover his sin. But his strategy failed and he ultimately resorted to having Bathsheba’s husband murdered by commanding that he be exposed to enemy fire on the front lines.

This is not a stellar moment in David’s life. But it provides a glimpse into a highly vulnerable area of his life. David’s love affair with women would prove to be problematic throughout his reign. In fact, if we look at the list of sons mentioned in these opening verses of chapter three, we see Amnon and Absalom. These two brothers born to different mothers would grow up to cause David much pain and suffering. In 2 Samuel 13, we have the sad story of Amnon’s rape of Tamar, his half-sister. Later on, in that very same chapter, we read of Absalom’s orchestration of Amnon’s murder, out of revenge for what he had done to Tamar, his sister. Absalom would be forced into exile for what he had done, but would later return, only to orchestrate the overthrow of his own father’s kingdom.

Verses 1-5 of chapter 3 seem innocent enough, but they foreshadow a future filled with brokenness, pain and suffering. And it began with David’s unwillingness to obey the command of God. And while David never seemed to allow his many wives to lead him away from his love and worship for God, his son, Solomon would. Solomon would follow in his father’s footsteps, suffering from the same addictive tendencies. In fact, Solomon would outdo his father in a major way, eventually amassing for himself a staggering 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:1-3). And just as God had warned, these women, many of whom were from foreign nations and worshiped pagan gods, would eventually cause Solomon to erect their idols throughout his own kingdom. The book of 1 Kings paints a very bleak picture of the closing days of Solomon’s reign.

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods. – 1 Kings 11:1-8 ESV

And it all began with David. A little compromise. A giving in to the desires of the flesh. A refusal to obey God fully and heed His warning. The long-term ramifications for sin can be devastating. Yes, David would be forgiven by God when he repented of his sin with Bathsheba, but the child she bore would die as a result. There are consequences to disobedience. God blessed David’s kingdom, but his many wives would prove to be a constant source of trouble in his life. David’s battle with the house of Saul would be nothing compared to the spiritual war he would wage as a result of his own sin nature.


English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Living His Way.

I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. – 1 Corinthians 7:7-11 ESV

Paul understood well the necessity of marriage. He knew it was ordained by God and, when treated properly, could provide believers with the full benefits of their sexuality as intended by God. As far as Paul was concerned, marriage was the only appropriate context for sexual expression between a man and a woman, because that was how God had planned it. But Paul had a personal appreciation for singleness. Evidently, Paul was unmarried at the time this letter was written. We do not know if he had ever been married. But when he writes, “I wish that all were as I myself am,” he is stating a personal opinion, not the will of God. He is in no signifying that singleness is better than marriage. He simply knew that marriage required a great deal of commitment and sacrifice, requiring each person in the relationship to put the needs of the other ahead of their own. For Paul, being single allowed him the freedom to dedicate all his time and attention to the spread of the gospel and for ministry to the growing number of churches around the world.

For Paul, singleness was a gift from God. He believed it was God who had given him the self-control to live as an unmarried man and to not, as he put it, “burn with passion.” He had a supernatural, God-given capacity to resist the temptations associated with lust. Even Jesus alluded to the existence of this gift. One day He was confronted by the Pharisees and asked whether it was “lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause” (Matthew 19:3b ESV). Quoting from the Old Testament, Jesus replied, “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:5-6 ESV). Jesus went on to explain that “whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful” (Matthew 19:9 NLT). Marriage was a binding covenant. This statement led one of the disciples to state, “If this is the case, it is better not to marry!” (Matthew 19:10 NLT). And Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this statement. Only those whom God helps. Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.” (Matthew 19:11-12 NLT). Jesus Himself never married, for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. He said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38 ESV). 

Singleness has its advantages when it comes to ministry. But it is not for everyone. So Paul goes on to address those who were married. He speaks to the women first, reminding them that they should not divorce their husbands. Paul was simply repeating the words of Jesus. “Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11-12 NLT). Paul knew, just as Jesus did, that just because divorce was prohibited, it would not stop it from happening. So they both commanded no remarriage after divorce. To do so was to commit adultery. Paul states that if a woman divorces her husband, “she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:11a ESV). And then he adds, “and the husband should not divorce his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:11b ESV). Jesus seems to have given only one exception to His no-divorce mandate. When He stated, “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9 ESV), He appears to present sexual immorality on the part of one of the married partners as the only grounds for divorce. In that case, it would seem that the offending partner has broken the covenant of oneness. But Paul emphasizes that whoever finds themselves divorced for whatever reason, should remain single or be reconciled to their partner.

It is important to remember that Paul is calling the Corinthians believers to live out their faith in the midst of a dark, pagan culture where virtually anything was considered acceptable behavior. Divorce was commonplace. Sexual immorality was rampant. Sexual sins of all kinds were prevalent and regularly practiced. He is demanding that the Corinthians live lives worthy of their calling as followers of Christ. They are to be distinctly different in their actions and attitudes. Their approach to life was to be determined by their faith, not their feelings. They were to be driven by a desire to please God, not their own desires. It is highly possible that there were some in the church in Corinth who were divorcing their spouses in order to escape having sexual relations altogether. More than likely, these individuals were influenced by the philosophy of dualism that flourished in Greek culture. It led them to believe that anything associated with the body was evil. Divorce allowed them to experience “freedom” from involvement with sex altogether. But their views were unbiblical and un-Christlike. While the culture around them was distorting God’s views on everything from marriage to human sexuality, Paul was reminding them that they were the church of God, “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2 ESV). Like the Corinthians, we have been called to live lives that are set apart from the world. We are to be holy, different and distinct. We exist to bring glory to God. We are His children, His workmanship, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV).

 

The Christ-like Life.

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. – 1 Corinthians 7:1-6 ESV

As is usually the case in any congregation, there were two views or opinions influencing the church in Corinth. We have already seen that their Greek, dualistic way of thinking to see all sin as something done in the body and, therefore, permissible. They viewed themselves as being made up a two natures: the body and the spirit. And they were using this pagan outlook on life to excuse their immoral behavior. But there was evidently another group within the church who viewed believed in dualism, but viewed it as a threat. Their solution was to practice a form of abstinence. Since they viewed the body as evil or sinful, they would simply deny the body anything that might cause it to sin, including sexual relations. In a letter written to Paul by the congregation, they had commented: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman” (1 Corinthians 7:1b ESV).  And while Paul sees a seed of truth in this statement, he also see a serious danger. Their ongoing struggle with temptation toward sexual sin was going to make abstinence extremely difficult to carry off. The solution, according to Paul, was God-ordained marriage. He tells them, “because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband. The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs” (1 Corinthians 7:2-3 NLT). It is not as if Paul did not believe in abstinence or celibacy. In fact, in just a few verses he tells the unmarried and widows in the church , “it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:8-9 ESV).

Abstinence may result in the absence of sexual contact, but it cannot eliminate the problem of lust. It was Jesus who said, “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28 ESV). Simply refraining from sexual intercourse does not fix the problem, because the problem lies within the heart. Again, Jesus said, “For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander” (Matthew 15:19 NLT). Their attempt to separate the spiritual and the physical was based on man’s logic, not God’s Word. God had created marriage as the proper means by which men and women could enjoy His gift of sexual intimacy. And while marriage does not eliminate the problem within the hearts of men and women toward sexual, it does provide a God-ordained outlet for the expression and experience of the act of sex between a man and a woman.

But Paul knew that the dualistic viewpoint of the Corinthians could even be used to mess with God’s divine design for marriage. There would be those who chose to practice abstinence even within the context of their marriage. Paul makes it very clear: “Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer” (1 Corinthians 7:5a NLT). They were not to deny one another sexual intimacy, unless they had a very good spiritual reason for doing so, and the only one Paul lists is prayer. And even if they practice abstinence for the purpose of prayer, they are to do so for a very limited time period. Why? Because Paul knew their hearts. Which is why he warned them , “Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:5b NLT).

At the heart of Paul’s commands on this topic are his concern for the spiritual well-being of the congregation in Corinth. He had a burden that their relationship with Christ be lived out and permeate every area of their lives, including their marriages. He made a concession toward abstinence in marriage only if it was done in order to concentrate on more pressing spiritual matters, such as prayer. For one spouse to deny the other their rightful access to sexual fulfillment would be un-Christlike and selfish. Paul makes it clear that the husband’s body does not belong to him, but to his wife. And the wife’s body belongs to her husband. There is to be a selflessness and an attitude of sacrifice at the heart of every Christian marriage. It is not more spiritual to deny your spouse what God has intended for their good, in order that you might satisfy your own desires.

I think Paul’s admonition to the Philippian believers echoes his thoughts here. “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (Philippians 2:3-4 NLT). What better place to practice those practical warnings than within the context of a marriage? Any attempt to live a more godly life that ends up hurting someone else or denies the other person their rights, is misguided at best. We are to die to self. We are to put the other person first. We are to sacrifice. Spirituality is not about abstinence, but about obedience – obedience to the will of God as expressed in the Word of God and as lived out by the Son of God. He is our model. The Christ-like life is one of sacrifice, service, humility and selfless love for others.

One With Christ.

But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:17-20 ESV

The Corinthians were not taking their union with Christ seriously. Because of the dualistic approach to life, they seemed to believe that what they did with their bodies really didn’t matter. This led them to look on any sins they committed with their bodies as somehow separated from their spiritual lives. You can see the logic behind their thinking in the phrase, “All things are lawful for me” (1 Corinthians 6:12 ESV). This was a common expression used by the Corinthians to excuse their behavior. And it had led them to commit all kinds of sin with impunity, including sexual sin. The very fact that they had refused to deal with the man in their church who was having sexual relations with his stepmother shows how skewed their thinking had become. But Paul is out to confront and correct their improper views of the body and its relationship with sin.

Paul commands them to “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18a ESV). He uses the Greek word, φεύγω (pheugō), which means “seek safety by flight or to escape safely out of danger” (“G5343 – pheugō – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). It is the same word he used when writing to Timothy. “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11 ESV). Paul had been warning Timothy about those who have an “unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Timothy 6:4-5 ESV). Paul warned Timothy to flee from these things. Instead, he was to διώκω (diōkō) righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness. The word Paul used means “to run swiftly in order to catch a person or thing, to run after” (“G1377 – diōkō – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). It is not enough to simply run from something. We must also run to something else. But if the Corinthians would not see sexual sin as wrong and dangerous to their spiritual well-being, they were going to continue in it. That was unacceptable to Paul.

So he attempts to paint a vivid picture of the dangers of sexual sin, by emphasizing that every other sin a person commits is “outside the body,” while sexual immorality is a sin “against” the body. The word he uses is a Greek preposition that is most often translated “into.” There is a physical union that takes place in sexual sin unlike any other sin. There is no doubt that all sin requires the use of my body. In order to lie or slander, the tongue is necessary. In order to steal, the hands and feet must be used. To murder another human being requires the mind to plan it and the body to carry out that plan. And while these sins are no less serious than sexual immorality, Paul’s point is that there is a difference. Sexual immorality is a blatant sin against the body, and that body, Paul stresses “is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God” (1 Corinthians 6:19b NLT).

As followers of Christ, we enjoy a mystical, but real union with Him. His Spirit lives within us. We take Him with us wherever we go. Paul told the Colossians, “Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory” (Colossians 1:27 NLT). And so, there is a sense that when someone commits sexual sin with his or her body, they are dragging Christ into that experience. Paul asks the Corinthians, “don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her?” (1 Corinthians 6:16a NLT). There is an intimacy and interconnection established. Which is what led Paul to ask, “Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute?” (1 Corinthians 6:15 NLT). And just to clear up any possible confusion, Paul’s provides the correct answer: “Never!”

For Paul, union with Christ was an essential doctrine that needed to be understood and made a part of the believer’s daily life. John Murray wrote that “union with Christ is . . . the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation. . . . It is not simply a phase of the application of redemption; it underlies every aspect of redemption” (Redemption – Accomplished and Applied, Eerdmans, 1955, pp. 201, 205). We are one with Christ. We share His identity. We are progressively being transformed into His likeness. We not only share in His death and resurrection, and all that those things imply, we share in His righteousness. We have the capacity to live like Christ in this lifetime. The very same power that raised Him from the dead lives within us and is available to us. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:3-4 ESV). He went on to emphasize their oneness with Christ:

 In him we have redemption through his blood – vs 7

In him we have obtained an inheritance – vs 11

In him you also … were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit – vs 13

We are in Christ. We are one with Christ. Sexual sin uses the body that belongs to Christ and re-purposes it for immorality. It takes what God has bought with the precious blood of His Son, our body, and uses it for ungodly purposes. And in so doing, we degrade and desecrate the very temple of God. Which is why Paul ends this section with a call to “honor God with you body.” Why? Because “You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NLT). We belong to God – body and soul. Your body is no longer yours to do with as you want. It is the temple of God’s Spirit and is to be used to bring God glory and honor. As Paul reminds us, “give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will find acceptable” (Romans 12:1 NLT).

Sin In The Camp.

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.– 1 Corinthians 5:1-8 ESV

Paul has threatened to come to Corinth, wielding a rod of discipline like a father to his disobedient children. And there is more going on within the congregation there than simply their prideful bickering over who is following which leader. While they were busy arguing over whether Paul was better than Apollos or Cephas was a better leader than Paul, a other sins had crept into the congregation. They had been so busy boasting over their spiritual superiority, that they had failed to recognize what happening right under their noses. In fact, according to Paul, it didn’t even bother them.

Paul had received word that there was a man in the church who was having sexual relations with his father’s wife. It seems that this involved the man’s stepmother, not his biological birth mother. And their is some indication that the man’s father was no longer alive. But Paul still referred to what was going on as “sexual immorality.” The Greek word he used is πορνεία (porneia). The Greeks primarily used the word to refer to prostitution or the act of going to a prostitute and paying for sexual pleasure. But the Jews had adapted the word and given it a much more robust meaning. For them, it covered “adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.” (“G4202 – porneia – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). Paul seems to be using the word with its Hebrew meaning in mind. He describes what is going on as a form of porneia “that is not tolerated even among pagans” (1 Corinthians 5:1 ESV). The unbelieving Corinthians would never have condoned a man sleeping with his father’s wife, even if she was a widow. And yet the church was not only tolerating it, they were evidently proud about it.

“It is this lack of a sense of sin, and therefore of any ethical consequences to their life in the Spirit, that marks the Corinthian brand of spirituality as radically different from that which flows out of the gospel of Christ crucified. And it is precisely this failure to recognize the depth of their corporate sinfulness due to their arrogance that causes Paul to take such strong action as is described in the next sentence.” – Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 203

They displayed no remorse, regret or repentance as a fellowship. Their understanding of Christianity was missing any ethical or moral dimension. It seems that they had allowed their faith in Christ to become nothing more than a pursuit of knowledge, but without any ramifications on their behavior. Paul calls them proud and arrogant. It is as if they believed that their moral tolerance was somehow a badge of honor. They were distorting the concept of grace by turning a blind eye to sin in their midst. They had become accepting and tolerant of anything and everyone. They had somehow rationalized the man’s behavior, deeming it not only acceptable, but normal. But Paul had a radically different view. He demanded that they “throw this man out and hand him over to Satan so that his sinful nature will be destroyed” (1 Corinthians 5:5 NLT). Paul practiced a zero-tolerance policy when it came to sexual sin. It seems clear that this man showed no repentance or even remorse. He had not divulged his sin to the congregation asking for forgiveness and pledging a change in his behavior. He was arrogantly practicing his immorality right in front of them and they were readily accepting of it.

Paul’s recommendation that they turn this man over to Satan simply means that they were to cast him out of their fellowship and allow him to suffer the consequences of his immoral decision. Paul firmly believed in the truth that you reap what you sow. He told the Galatian believers: “Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit” (Galatians 6:8 NLT). He also told the believers in Rome: “But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death” (Romans 6:21 ESV). Just two verses later, he wrote, “the wages of sin is death.” While sin ultimately leads to physical death, it can also bring about a death to our life here on earth, even while we still draw breath. Paul was suggesting that they remove this man from their midst and allow him to reap the full consequences of his immoral choices. The English Standard Version translates verse 5 as “you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh.” There are certain commentators who believe Paul is referring to the man’s physical death. The Greek word Paul uses is σάρξ (sarx) and while it can refer to the physical body, it was also commonly used to refer to “the sensuous nature of man, ‘the animal nature’” or “the animal nature with cravings which incite to sin” (“G4561 – sarx – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). It would seem that Paul was interested in seeing this man suffer the consequences of his immoral lifestyle. In a sense, it recalls the words of Paul in his letter to the Romans, when he spoke about the sinfulness of mankind: “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves” (Romans 1:24 ESV).

For Paul, the issue was the moral state of the church. This man’s sin was like yeast that, if tolerated, was going to spread through the entire congregation. Undisciplined sin in the body of Christ is like a cancer that will eventually permeate its way, leaving a path of destruction. The prideful permissiveness of sin in the body of Christ is dangerous. Our willingness to tolerate unacceptable behavior among fellow believers usually has little to do with the practice of grace. But it has everything to do with complacency and a lack of understanding about the corporate culpability of sin. The church is an organism and, like the human body, every part has an influence on every other part. There really is no such thing as individual sin. And Christ’s call for us to love one another includes the kind of love that cares about the spiritual well-being of one another. To think that the sin of a brother or sister in Christ will not eventually impact the body is naive at best. The overall health of the body of Christ is completely dependent upon the health of its members. When we tolerate sin, we allow the enemy to have a foothold in our midst. Which is why Paul so boldly demanded, “Get rid of the old ‘yeast’ by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are” (1 Corinthians 5:7 NLT).

 



Wait For It.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. – 2 Peter 3:8-13 ESV

There were those in Peter’s day who were saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4 ESV). Peter and the apostles had been teaching about the coming Day of the Lord, but it had not yet happened. Like the prophets of the Old Testament they had warned of coming judgment, but so far, nothing had happened. So people had begun to assume that the Second Coming wasn’t going to happen. There were even false teachers propagating the idea that there wasn’t going to be any judgment at all. This led them to mock and scorn the teachings of the apostles. With no fear of coming judgment, they followed their own sinful desires (2 Peter 3:3). They promised freedom, but were slaved of corruption themselves (2 Peter 2:19). They seduced others to abandon godly living. Without the fear of God’s judgment, they promoted a lifestyle based on sinful passions of the flesh (2 Peter 2:18). They operated on the philosophy of “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die.”

But Peter had some bad news for these people. They were allowing God’s gracious delay  in bringing judgment to lead to denial of its very existence. But Peter reminds his readers to “not overlook this one fact … that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8 ESV). Time isn’t an issue with God. He is not bound by time. And while we may think that God seems to be taking His sweet time when it comes to the return of His Son and the final redemption of His creation, God is in no rush. And Peter tells us why. “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9 NLT). It is not God’s desire to destroy people. He does not love condemning the disobedient and rebellious to hell. But as a holy, just and righteous Judge, He is obligated to do so. It is His moral responsibility to deal with the sinfulness of men. To not do so would violate His very character as God. He would love to see all men repent, but He knows that will not happen. As a matter of fact, without the sovereign intervention of God Himself, no one would repent. Jesus Himself said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44 ESV). In that same chapter, Jesus is recorded as saying, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them” (John 6:65 NIV). And He also claimed, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37 ESV).

Because all men are dead in their trespasses and sins, all men are condemned to die and to spend an eternity separated from God. That is the righteous punishment reserved for them by God. But God has made it possible for some to be saved. His desire would be that all be saved, but that will not happen because not all will accept His offer of salvation through faith in Christ. But God is graciously delaying His judgment on all mankind until all those who are going to be saved have been. God knows that number. In fact, Paul told the believers he wrote to in Rome, “I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ” (Romans 11:25 NLT). There is a divinely appointed number of those who will be saved. And when all those who have been called by God have been restored to a right relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, then His Son will return. Jesus Himself said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14 ESV). So we should view God’s delay as a sign of His grace, not as a reason to deny to His coming judgment.

God’s judgment will come, Peter assured his readers. And it will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. Jesus told His disciples, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36 ESV). So Jesus told them, “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42 ESV). Peter gives his readers similar advice:

Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along.– 2 Peter 3:11-12 ESV

Jesus is coming back. Judgment is coming. God will finish what He has started. So as we wait for the promised fulfillment of His plan, we are to live holy and godly lives. Our hope is based on God completing His redemptive plan for mankind and for the universe. That’s why Peter writes, “we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13 NLT). Our hope is not based on this world, but the one to come. God’s final judgment will have to take place before His plan for the glorification of His creation can happen. Jesus had to suffer and die before His glorification could take place. As followers of Christ, we are experiencing suffering in this life, but we will one day be glorified. We are to live with the end in mind. Which is why Paul encourages us with these words:

While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 5:4-5 NLT

 

Left To Our Own Devices.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. – Romans 1:26-27 ESV

What happens when man abandon the truth of God for “the lie?” The lie is, in essence, that God does not exist at all or that He exists according to man’s invention. And if the one true God does not exist at all or exist as He truly is, then man is left to create his own order of things and his own laws for life. Three times in this section of Romans 1, Paul uses the phrase, “God gave them up.” Paul is attempting to demonstrate what life looks like when God releases men to pursue and believe “the lie.” Thinking themselves to be wise, their foolish hearts become darkened, and they lose any ability to make decisions based on the wisdom and righteousness of God. In this condition, they find themselves believing and practicing practically anything. “Those who turned against God turned everything on its head. For those who forsook the author of nature could not keep to the order of nature” (Pelagius, Commentary on Romans). Paul refers to women who “exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature” and he mentions men who “gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another” (Romans 1:26-27 ESV). There are those today who would like to write this off as simply the opinion of Paul. There are others who attempt to explain away what Paul says by insinuating that he is only speaking against “improper” homosexual acts, not the act itself. Still others want to believe that Paul is only referring to homosexual acts that were taking place in the context of pagan worship. But these are not the words of Paul. They are the words of God. They are part of the powerful explanation Paul has provided in this letter regarding the gospel of God. Men are without excuse. They have abandoned the truth about God and His will for mankind. They have ignored God’s clear revelation of His invisible attributes and divine nature in His creation. Rather than worship God, they have ended up worshiping anything and everything but God. And Paul makes it painfully clear that what sinful man always ends up doing is distorting the truth of God. They exchange the natural for the unnatural, what is right for what is wrong, the holy for the unholy, the will of God for the will of self. They become consumed with passions – all kinds of passions, both good and bad. But the time comes when they can no longer tell the difference. The lines become blurred. Their consciences become seared. They lose the ability to discern right from wrong, and even become rabid defenders of their actions and attitudes.

It doesn’t take a biblical scholar to read the words of God recorded in Genesis 1 and to reach a conclusion. “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it’” (Genesis 1:27-28 NLT). They were to bear fruit, to multiply their kind. That is why God created them as a male and female. It was together, as man and woman, that they were to fulfill the command of God. Adam could not do it alone. Eve was incapable of multiplying by herself. God built into nature and into their physiology, the ability to live within His will. But man, in his sin, has determined a “better way,” a preferred way. Natural passions end up being replaced by unnatural, ungodly passions. Paul calls them “dishonorable passions.” The Greek word he uses is atimia and it is very graphic in nature. It was “used of the unseemliness and offensiveness of a dead body” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). It was also used to refer to the dishonorable use of a vessel or container. Bodies are meant to have life. A dead body is unnatural and offensive to our senses. It is lifeless and no longer operating as it was intended to. The same thing is true of those who are consumed with passion for those of the same sex. They are no longer operating as God intended them to. Their acts are unnatural and against the ordained will of God.

But in our day and age, any attempt to make this claim is met with disdain, hatred, cries of bigotry and intolerance, and a violent defense of individual rights and freedoms. But, according to Paul, we should not be surprised. Their foolish hearts are darkened. The claim to be wise, boasting in their enlightened understanding and progressive comprehension of all things moral and ethical. But they are fools. They have “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man” (Romans 1:23 ESV). Of course, Paul was referring to idol worship here, but the real issue is that of man-worship. When the best expression we can come up with for God’s revealed power and divine nature is the image of man, we are in trouble. When we make a god out of man, we end up worshiping ourselves. And we sacrifice truth at the altar of our own corrupt passions and desires. Self-satisfaction and self-gratification consume us. God releases us to pursue our increasingly perverse passions.

We must not lose sight of the fact that Paul is attempting to explain and expound upon the gospel of God. The good news of Jesus Christ must be displayed against the backdrop of man’s darkened state of sin. Paul is going to show that man is in trouble. Apart from God, things will always for from bad to worse. In Paul’s estimation, it doesn’t matter if you’re pagan or pious, immoral or a moral icon of virtue. Without God’s glorious gospel, all men will ultimately receive “the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:27 ESV). Man without God is hopeless. Man, left to his own devices, will always gravitate toward ungodliness and unrighteousness. But the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed” (Romans 1:16-17 ESV).