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The Letter to the Romans
by E. J. Waggoner
15. In expressing his desire to meet with the Roman brethren, the apostle declared himself to be debtor to both Greeks and barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise, and therefore ready to preach the gospel even in Rome, the capital of the world. The fifteenth verse, and the expression, "preach the gospel," give the keynote to the whole of the epistle, for the apostle glides from this naturally into his theme. Accordingly, we have next >>>>>>
The Gospel Defined
"Not Ashamed." - There is no reason why any man should be ashamed of the gospel; nevertheless, many men have been and are ashamed of it. Many people are so ashamed of it that they could not think of lowering themselves so much as to make a profession of it; and many who do make a profession of it are ashamed to let it be known. What is the cause of all this shame?
It is that they do not know what the gospel is! No man who really knows what the gospel is, will be ashamed of it, or of any part of it.
Christ not Ashamed. — Concerning Christ we read, "For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one; for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren." Heb. 2:11. "God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city." Heb. 11:16. Surely if the Lord is not ashamed to be called the brother of poor, weak, sinful mortals, man has no reason to be ashamed of him. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." 1 John 3:1. Ashamed of the gospel of Christ! Could there possibly be a worse case of the exaltation of self above God? For to be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, which is the power of God, is an evidence that the man who feels thus ashamed really thinks himself superior to God, and that it is a lowering of his dignity to be associated with the Lord.
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16. Saved by Faith. — The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes. "By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." Eph. 2:8. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Mark 16:16. "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." John 1:12. "With the heart man believeth unto righteousness." Rom. 10:10. "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." John 6:29. Faith works.
Time would fail to tell of those "who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, . . . out of weakness were made strong," etc. Heb. 11:33, 34. Men may say, "I can not see how it is possible for one to be made righteous simply by believing." It makes no difference what you can see; you are not saved by sight, but by faith. You do not need to see how it is done, because it is the Lord who does the work of saving. Christ dwells in the heart by faith (Eph. 3:17), and because he is our righteousness, "he also is become my salvation" (Isa. 12:2). We shall have salvation by faith illustrated more fully as we proceed in our study, because the book of Romans is devoted wholly to this one thing.
Desire for Power. - There is nothing that men desire so much as power. It is a desire that God himself has planted in man. Unfortunately, the devil has deceived the most of mankind, so that they seek for power in the wrong way. They think that it can be found in the possession of wealth or political position, and so they rush to secure those things. But these do not supply the power for which God has created the desire. This is shown by the fact that they do not satisfy.
No man was ever yet satisfied with the power that he obtained by wealth or position. However much they have, they desire more. No man finds in them just what he thought he would; and so he grasps after more, thinking that he will find his heart's desire farther on; but all in vain. Christ is "the desire of all nations" (Hag. 2:7), the only Source of complete satisfaction, because he is the embodiment of all the real power there is in the universe - the power of God - "Christ the power of God" (l Cor. 1:24).
Power and Knowledge. — It is commonly said that knowledge is power. That depends. If we take the statement of the poet, that "the proper study of mankind is man," then certainly knowledge is anything but power. Man is nothing but weakness and sin. All men know that they are sinners, that they do things that are not right, but that knowledge gives them no power to change their course. You may tell a man all his faults, and if you tell him nothing more, you have weakened rather that strengthened him.
But he who with the apostle Paul determines to know nothing "save Jesus Christ and him crucified," has knowledge that is power. "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." John 17:3. To know Christ is to know the power of his endless life. It is for lack of this knowledge that men are destroyed. Hosea 4:6. But since Christ is the power of God, it is quite correct to say that power is the one thing that men need; and the only real power, the power of God, is revealed in the gospel.
The Glory of Power. — All men honor power. Wherever power is manifested, there will always be found men to admire. There is no one who does not admire and applaud power in some form. Powerful muscles are admired and boasted of, whether they be those of man or of beast. A mighty engine that moves vast weights with ease always attracts attention, and men honor the one who constructed it. The man of wealth, whose money can command the service of thousands, always has admirers, no matter how his money is obtained. The man of noble birth and position, or the monarch of a great nation, has multitudes of followers who applaud his power. Men desire to be connected with such an one, because they derive a certain dignity from the connection, although the power is not transferable.
But all the power of earth is frail and but for a moment, while the power of God is eternal. The gospel is the power, and if men would but recognize it for what it is, there would not be any who would be ashamed of it. Paul said, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Gal. 6:14. The reason for this was that the cross is the power of God. 1 Cor. 1:18. The power of God, in whatever form manifested, is glory, and not for shame.
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17. "To the Jew First." - When Peter, at the request of Cornelius, the Roman centurion, and the command of the Lord, went to Caesarea to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, his first words when he heard the story of Cornelius were, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." Acts 10:34, 35.
This was the first time that Peter had ever perceived that truth, but it was not the first time that that thing was true. It had been a truth as long as God had existed. God never chose anybody to the exclusion of anybody else. The wisdom that comes from above is "without partiality." James 3:17. It is true that the Jews as a nation were wonderfully favored by the Lord: but they lost all their privileges simply because they assumed that God loved them better than he did anybody else, and were exclusive. All through their history God was trying to make them see that what he offered them was for the whole world, and that they were to pass on to others the light and privileges which they shared.
The cases of Naaman, the Syrian, and of the Ninevites to whom Jonah was sent, are among the many instances by which God sought to show the Jews that he was no respecter of persons.
Then why was the gospel preached "to the Jew first"? Simply because the Jews were nearest. Christ was crucified at Jerusalem. It was from there that he commissioned his disciples to preach the gospel. At his ascension he said, "Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Acts 1:8. It was most natural that they should begin to preach the gospel in the place and to the people nearest them. This is the secret of all missionary work. He who does not labor in the gospel in his home, will not do any gospel work although he goes to a foreign country.
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18. The Righteousness of God. — The Lord says: "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment; and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner; but my salvation shall be forever and my righteousness shall not be abolished. Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law." Isa. 51:6, 7. "My tongue shall speak of thy work; for all thy commandments are righteousness." Ps. 119:172.
The righteousness of God, therefore, is his law. Let this not be forgotten. The term "the righteousness of God" occurs frequently in the book of Romans, and much confusion has resulted from giving it arbitrary and varying definitions. If we accept the definition given in the Bible, and do not abandon it in any instance, it will simplify matters very much. The righteousness of God is his perfect law.
Righteousness and Life. — But the ten commandments, whether engraved on tables of stone or written in a book, are only the statement of the righteousness of God. Righteousness means right doing. It is active. The righteousness of God is God's right doing, his way. And since all his ways are right, it follows that the righteousness of God is nothing less than the life of God. The written law is not action, but is only a description of the action, but is only a description of the action. It is a picture of the character of God.
The very life and character of God are seen in Jesus Christ, in whose heart was the law of God. There can be no righteousness without action. And as there is none good but God, it follows that there is no righteousness except in the life of God. Righteousness and the life of God are one and the same thing.
Righteousness in the Gospel. - "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed." Wherein? In the gospel. Bear in mind that the righteousness of God is his perfect law, a statement of which is found in the Ten Commandments. There is no such thing as a conflict between the law and the gospel. Indeed, there are not in reality two such things as the law and the gospel. The true law of God is the gospel; for the law is the life of God, and we are "saved by his life." The gospel reveals the righteous law of God, because the gospel has the law in itself. There can be no gospel without law. Whoever ignores or rejects the law of God, has no knowledge whatever of the gospel.
The First View. - Jesus said that the Holy Spirit should convince the world of sin and of righteousness. John 16:8. This is the revelation of the righteousness of God in the gospel. "Where no law is, there is no transgression." Rom. 4:15. Sin can not be known except by the law. Rom. 7:7. Therefore it follows that the Spirit convicts of sin by making known the law of God. The first view of the righteousness of God has the effect of making a man feel his sinfulness, just as we feel our littleness when gazing upon a lofty mountain. And as the grandeur of the great mountains grows upon us, so God's righteousness which is "like the great mountains" (Ps. 36:6) appears greater the more we look at it. Therefore he who looks continually at the righteousness of God, must continually acknowledge his own sinfulness.
The Second, Deeper View. — Jesus Christ is the righteousness of God. And "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." John 3:17. God does not reveal his righteousness in the gospel in order to cause us to cower before him because of our unrighteousness, but that we may take it and live by it. We are unrighteous, and God wishes us to realize it, in order that we may be willing to receive his perfect righteousness. It is a revelation of love; for his righteousness is his law, and his law is love. 1 John 5:3.
So "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9. If when the preaching of the gospel reveals to us the law of God, we reject it and find fault with it because it condemns our course, we are simply saying that we do not desire that God should put his own righteousness upon us.
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18a. Living by Faith. — "As it is written, The just shall live by faith." Christ is "our life." Col. 3:4. We are "saved by his life." Rom. 5:10. It is by faith that we receive Christ Jesus, for he dwells in our hearts by faith. Eph. 3:17. Dwelling in our hearts, he is life, for out of the heart are the issues of life. Prov. 4:23.
Now the word comes, "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him; rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith." Col. 2:6,7. As we receive him by faith, and we walk in him as we have received him, we shall "walk by faith, and not by sight."
"From Faith to Faith." - This seemingly difficult expression, which has been the subject of so much controversy, is very simple when we allow the Scripture to explain itself. In the gospel "the righteousness of God" is "revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith." Note that "from faith to faith" is said to be parallel with "the just shall live by faith." Just means righteous.
The reader may have noticed that some versions have "righteous" in 1 John 1:9 where the KJV has "just." Both are the same. God's life is righteousness; he desires that our lives shall be righteousness also, and therefore he offers to us his own life. This life becomes ours by faith. That is, just as we live naturally by breathing, so we are to live spiritually by faith, and our whole life is to be spiritual. Faith is the breath of life to the Christian. So just as we naturally live from breath to breath, we are to live spiritually from faith to faith.
We can live but one breath at a time; so we can not live spiritually except by present faith. If we live a life of conscious dependence upon God, his righteousness will be ours, for we shall breathe it in continually. Faith gives us strength, for those who have exercised it "out of weakness were made strong." Heb. 11:34.
So of those who accept the revelation of God's righteousness "from faith to faith," it is said, "They go from strength to strength; every one of them in Zion appeareth before God." Ps. 84:7.
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Special 2. Let us not forget that it is from the very words of the Bible that one is to learn. All the real help that any teacher can be to any one in the study of the Bible is to show him how to fix his mind more clearly upon the exact words of the sacred text.
Therefore, first of all, read the text over many times. Do not do this hastily, but carefully, paying particular attention to every statement.
Do not waste one moment in speculating as to the possible meaning of the text. There is nothing worse than guessing the meaning of a text of Scripture, unless it is the acceptance of somebody else's guess.
Nobody can know any more of the Bible than the Bible itself tells; and the Bible is just as ready to tell its story to one person as to another.
Question the text closely. Probe it again and again, always in a reverent, prayerful spirit, to make it reveal itself.
Do not be discouraged if you do not at once see all that there is in the text. Remember that it is the word of God, and that it is infinite in its depth, and that you can never exhaust it.
When you come across a difficult statement, go back and consider it in connection with what precedes. Do not think that you can ever get at the full meaning of any text apart from its connection.
By constant application to the words of the text, in order to be sure that you know exactly what it says, you will soon have them constantly in your mind; and it is then that you will begin to reap some of the rich fruits of Bible study; for at unexpected times new light will flash from them, and through them from other scriptures as you read.
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19. The Justice of Judgment — Let us repeat some verses
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in [or to] them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his external power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.
How Men Lost Knowledge
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
The Result of Ignoring God
Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleaness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves; who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections; for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature; and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one towards another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful,proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful; who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
All Unrighteousness Condemned. — The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. "All unrighteousness is sin." 1 John 5:17. "But sin is not imputed when there is no law." Rom. 5:13. Therefore enough of the law of God is known in all the world to deprive all people of any excuse for sin. The statement in this verse is equal to that in the next chapter, that "there is no respect of persons with God." His wrath is manifested against all unrighteousness. No person in the world is so great that he can sin with impunity, and no person is so insignificant that his sin will be overlooked. There is strict impartiality with God. He "without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work." 1 Pet. 1:17.
Restraining the Truth. — The statement is that men "hold down the truth in unrighteousness." Some people have superficially read Romans 1:18 as though it said that men may possess the truth while they themselves are unrighteous. It does not say so. Sufficient evidence that such a thing is not meant is found in the fact that the apostle is speaking in this chapter especially of those who did not possess the truth, but had exchanged it for a lie. Although they had lost all knowledge of the truth, they were in condemnation for their sin.
The statement is that people restrain the truth by unrighteousness. We might note the fact that when Jesus went into his own country "he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief." Matt. 13:58. But the apostle in the text before us means much more than this. He means, as the context plainly shows, that people by their perverseness restrain the working of the truth of God in their own souls. But for their resistance of the truth, it would sanctify them. And herein is seen the result.
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20. Righteousness of God's Wrath. — The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, and justly, too, "because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shown it unto them." Note particularly the statement that that which may be know of God "is manifest in them." Although in the common version the margin gives "to them" as an alternative reading, the Greek gives no warrant for any such rendering. No matter how blindly men may sin, the fact remains that they are sinning against great light, "because that which may be known of God is manifest in them." With such knowledge not only before their eyes, but actually within them, it is easy to see the justice of God's wrath against all sin, no matter in whom it is found.
Even though it should not be perfectly clear to us how the knowledge of God is really placed in every man, we may accept the apostle's statement of the fact. In the wonderful description of the foolishness of idolatry, given in Isaiah, we are told that the man who makes an idol lies against the truth which he himself possesses. "He feedeth on ashes; a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he can not deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?" Isa. 44:20.
Seeing the Invisible. — It is said of Moses that "he endured, as seeing him who is invisible." Heb. 11:27. This was not a privilege peculiar to Moses. Every other man may do the same thing. How? Because the "invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made." There has not been a time since the world was created when all men did not have the knowledge of God within their grasp.
"Lord, how thy wonders are displayed
Where'er I turn my eye!
If I survey the ground I tread,
Or gaze upon the sky."
"There's not a plant or flower below
But makes thy glories known."
Eternal Power and Divinity. — The invisible things of God that are known by the things that are made are his everlasting power and divinity. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork." Ps. 19:1. Jesus Christ is "the power of God." 1 Cor. 1:24. "For in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him; and he is before all things, and in him all things consist." Col. 1:16,17. "He spake, and it was." Ps. 33:9. He is "the firstborn of all creation." Col. 1:15. He is the source, or beginning, of the creation of God. Rev. 3:14.
That is to say, all creation springs from Christ Jesus, who is the power of God. He spoke the worlds into existence from his own being. Therefore the external power and divinity of God are impressed upon everything that has been made. We can not open our eyes, we can not even feel the breeze upon our face, without having a clear revelation to us of the power of God.
"We are His Offspring." - When Paul upon Mars' Hill rebuked the Athenians for their idolatry he said that God is not far from every one of us, "for in him we live, and move, and have our being." The men to whom he was speaking were heathen, yet it was just as true of them as it is of us. Then he quoted one of their own poets, who had said, "For we are also his offspring," and placed upon it the stamp of truth, by saying, "Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device." Acts 17:27-29.
Every movement of men, and every breath, is the working of the external power of God. Thus the eternal power and divinity of God are manifest to every man. Not that man is in any sense divine, or that he has any power in himself. Quite the contrary. Man is like the grass. "Every man at his best state is altogether vanity." Ps. 39:5. The fact that man is nothing in himself, and even "less than nothing, and vanity," is evidence of the power of God manifested in him.
God's Power in the Grass. — Look at the tiny blade of grass just pushing its way through the hard ground to the sunlight. It is a very frail thing. Pull it up, and you will see that it has not power to stand alone. Even scrape the soil away from it as it stands in the earth, and it will at once lose its upright position. It depends upon the soil to hold it up, and yet it is pushing its way to the surface through that very hard soil. Dissect it as carefully as you please, and you will find nothing to indicate the possession of power. Rub it between your fingers, and you will see that there is scarcely any substance to it. It is about as frail a thing as there is in nature, and yet it will often remove quite large stones that are in the way of its growth. ROM.01-108
Whence comes this power? It is not inherent in the grass, but is nothing less than the power of the life of God, working according to his word, which in the beginning said, "Let the earth bring forth grass."
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Special Note 3. The Gospel in Creation. — We have seen that in every created thing the power of God is manifested. And we also learned from the scripture studied that the gospel is "the power of God unto salvation." God's power is ever the same, for the text before us speaks of "his eternal power." The power, therefore, which is manifested in the things which God has made is the same power that works in the hearts of men to save them from sin and death. Therefore we may be assured that God has constituted every portion of his universe a preacher of the gospel. So then men may not only know the fact of God's existence from the things which he has made, but they may know his eternal power to save them. The twentieth verse of the first chapter of Romans is an expansion of the sixteenth. It tells us how we may know the power of the gospel.
The Stars as Preachers. —
"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard [or, "without these their voice is heard"]. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." Ps. 19:1-4.
Now read Romans 10:13-18:
"Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world."
In this text all the objections which men raise against the punishment of the heathen are answered. As stated in the first chapter, they are without excuse. The gospel has been made known to every creature under heaven. It is admitted that men can not call on one in whom they have not believed, and that they can not believe in one of whom they have not heard, and that they can not hear without a preacher. And that which they ought to hear, and which they have not obeyed, is the gospel.
Having stated this, the apostle asks, "Have they not heard?" and at once answers his own question by repeating the words of the nineteenth psalm, "Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world." Thus we learn that the speech which the heavens utter from day unto day is the gospel; and the knowledge which they show from night unto night is the knowledge of God.
The Heavens Reveal Righteousness. — With the knowledge that that which the heavens declare is the gospel of Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation, we can easily follow the nineteenth psalm through. It seems to the casual reader that there is a break in the continuity of this psalm. From talking about the heavens, the writer suddenly begins to speak of the perfection of the law of God, and its converting power.
"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple." Vs. 7. But there is no break at all. The law of God is the righteousness of God, and the gospel reveals the righteousness of God, and the heavens declare the gospel; therefore it follows that the heavens reveal the righteousness of God. "The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory." Ps. 97.6.
The glory of God is his goodness, because we are told that it is through sin that men come short of his glory. Rom. 3:23. Therefore we may know that whoever looks upon the heavens with reverence, seeing in them the power of the Creator, and will yield himself to that power, will be led to the saving righteousness of God. Even the sun, moon, and stars, whose light is but a part of the glory of the Lord, will shine that glory into his soul.
Without Excuse. — How evident it is, therefore, that men are without excuse for their idolatrous practices. When the true God reveals himself in everything, and with his power makes known his love, what excuse can men have for not knowing and worshiping him?
But is it true that God makes known his love to all men? Yes, it is just as true as that he makes himself known, for "God is love." Whoever knows the Lord must know his love. This being the case with regard to the heathen, how utterly without excuse are people who live in lands where the gospel is preached with an audible voice from his written word.
The Cause of Idolatry. — How is it that if God has so clearly revealed himself and his truth, there are so many who are in utter ignorance of him? The answer is given, "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful."
There is one thing which God has given as the seal and sign of his divinity, and that is the Sabbath. Speaking of men, he says,
"Moreover also I gave them my Sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them." Eze. 20:12.
This is in keeping with what we have learned in Romans; for our text tells us that God's power and divinity are perceived by thoughtful people through the things that he has made; and the Sabbath is the great memorial of creation.
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work; . . . for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it." Ex. 20:8-11.
If people had always kept the Sabbath as it was given, there would never have been any idolatry; for the Sabbath reveals the power of the word of the Lord to create and to work righteousness.
Vain Imaginations. — Men became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Gibbon says of the speculations of the ancient/ philosophers that "their reason had often been guided by their imagination, and their imagination had been prompted by their vanity." The course of their fall was the same as that of the angel who became Satan.
"How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High." Isa. 14:12-14.
What was the cause of this self-exaltation and fall?
"Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness." Eze. 27:17.
Dependent entirely upon God for all the wisdom and glory that he had, he did not glorify God, but assumed that all his talents sprang from himself; and so, as he disconnected himself in his pride from the Source of light, he became the prince of darkness. Even thus it was with man.
Changing the Truth into a Lie. — "There is no power but of God." In nature we see the manifestation of mighty power, but it is the working of God. All the different forms of force which philosophers name, and which they declare to be inherent in matter, are but the working of the life of God in the things that he has made. Christ is "before all things, and by him all things consist," or hold together. Col. 1:17. Cohesion therefore is but the direct power of the life of Christ. Gravitation also is the same power, as we read of the heavenly bodies, "for that he is strong in power; not one faileth." Isa. 40:26. But men looked upon all the operations of nature, and, instead of seeing the power of the one supreme God in them, they attributed divinity to the things themselves.
So, as they looked upon themselves; and saw what great things they could achieve, instead of honoring God as the giver and upholder of all things, the One in whom they lived and moved and had their being, they assumed that they themselves were by nature divine. Thus they changed the truth of God into a lie.
The truth is that the life and power of God are manifested in everything that he has made; the lie is that the force which is manifest in all things is inherent in the things themselves. So men put the creature in the place of the Creator.
Looking Within. - Marcus Aurelius, who is accounted the best of the heathen philosophers, said: "Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up, if thou wilt ever dig." That expresses the spirit of all heathenism. Self was the supreme thing. But that spirit is not peculiar to what is know as heathenism, for it is very common in these days; nevertheless, it is nothing but the spirit of heathenism. It is a part of the worship of the creature instead of the Creator. It is but natural that they should put themselves in his place; and when they do that, it is a necessary consequence that they look to themselves, and not to God, for goodness.
When men look within, what is the only thing that they can see?
"Evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness." Mark 6:21, 22.
Even the apostle Paul said, "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing." Rom. 7:18. Now, when a man looks at all this evil which is in him by nature, and thinks that it is good, and that he can get good out of himself, the result can be plainly seen: the vilest wickedness must be the result. He virtually says, "Evil, be thou my good."
The Wisdom of this World. — "The world by wisdom knew not God." Keenness of intellect is not faith, nor is it a substitute for faith. A man may be a brilliant scholar, and still be the basest of men. Several years ago a man charged with half a score or more brutal murders was hanged, and yet he was a scholar and a scientist, and had held a high position in society. Learning is not Christianity, although a Christian may be a learned man. Modern inventions will never save men from perdition. Some modern philosopher has said that "idolatry can not live by the side of the highest art and culture that the world has ever known." But at the same time men were sunk in such wickedness as referred to by the apostle in the last part of the first chapter of Romans. Even the reputed wise men were such as are there described. It was the natural result of their looking at themselves for righteousness.
In the Last Days. — Read the last verses of the first chapter of Romans if you wish to have a picture of the world in the last days. The one who believes in a millennium of peace and righteousness before the coming of the Lord will doubtless be shocked; but he needs to be. Read that list of sins carefully, and then see how exactly it tallies with the following:
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lover of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." 2 Tim. 3:1 5.
This all springs from self, the very source of the evil with which Paul charged the heathen. Those things are the works of the flesh. See Gal. 5:19-21. They are the natural result of trusting in self.
In spite of the declaration of the apostle, there are very few who will believe that this state of things will ever be general, and especially among those who profess godliness. But the seed which produces such a crop is already sown broadcast. The Papacy, "that man of sin," "the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped," is the strongest force in professed Christendom, and its power is daily increasing. And how is it increasing? Not so much by the direct accessions as by the blind acceptance of its principles by professed Protestants. It has placed itself above God in thinking to change his law. Dan. 7:25. It boldly adopted the heathen sun festival day, Sunday, in the place of the sabbath of the Lord, the memorial of creation, and defiantly points to it as its badge of authority. And the majority of Protestants follow in its train, accepting a custom which stands for the exaltation of man above God, the symbol of justification by works instead of by faith.
When professed Christians cling to a human ordinance in spite of the express command of the Lord, and support their custom by appeals to the Fathers, men who were learned in the philosophy of heathenism, the road to any evil which their hearts may choose is but a down grade. "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
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