Photo by Chad Runge / Creation Swap

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Battle Between Good and Evil

By: Agatha Villa on
What is it about human nature that causes us to do things that upon reflection we wonder why in the world do we do them?  We all have this problem, do we not?  In fact, when many of us make resolutions for a new year (as the one we have coming up,) would it be accurate to say that many of us break those resolutions within days, if not hours, of making them?

What about politicians?  Aren’t they always promising us the moon and then once they’re elected they do an about face and do something else?  Parents certainly can relate too.  Don’t parents always tell their children to do as they say and not as they do?  I’m sure there are parents that will say that’s different.  They’re adults; children aren’t old enough to understand.  While this may be true in some cases, the root of this surely has to be because even parents can’t live by the standards that they set.

Now how are we in our relationship with God?  Often we make promises and vows to change our ways, but do we really?  When things are bad, like losing a job, don’t we pray that if God helps us find a new job that we’ll be a better mom, dad, husband, wife, friend, etc.?  What about when God convicts us of sin, such as losing our temper?  Do we acknowledge our sin, confess it, and pray that God forgives us?  What then?  Do we end up in traffic and have someone cut us off and end up losing it?

How are you at honoring those commitments?  I do think that many of us are sincere when we pray to God.  But are we committed?  Sometimes commitments take sacrifice.  It requires us to sacrifice ourselves to honor those promises we’ve made.

So why is it that we have this problem?  Paul touches on this subject in Romans 7.  Look at this passage:

7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.

 13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.

In discussing the law, Paul was confronted with the question regarding its purpose.  Prior to this, Paul was explaining how those who are in Christ are no longer bound by the law.  In celebrating this fact, it would be easy for Christians to conclude then that the law is evil.  I mean, if Christ died on the cross on our behalf so we can be free from the law (as only one of the reasons for His sacrifice,) it must be something that we desperately need to get away from; so it’s bad.  But the first thing Paul emphasizes is that the law is not sinful!  In fact, Paul tells us that the law has the purpose of showing us how sinful we are.  That’s an important point.  Sin needs to be shown as “utterly sinful” to help us understand what the end result of its influence is:  death!  And that’s what the law does.

Paul goes on to say that, in fact, the law is good.  Look at the next section in the passage:

 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

   So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Paul goes on to explain that the law is spiritual.  In fact, in a previous post, C.S. Spurgeon was quoted as writing, “The law is holy, and just, and good; it is like the God who made it, it is a perfect law.”  The problem we have is that we are unspiritual.  Paul goes into the point that being unspiritual, we have the result of doing things that we don’t want to do even though we know we shouldn’t.  The amazing thing, though, is that because of what Christ did (remember, as believers we’re free from the law) is that sin doesn’t have the power over us anymore that it did before we came to Christ.  There are opposing forces at work at this point.  There’s this law “waging war” (as Paul puts it) against us, but then there’s this other law, the law that God writes on our hearts.  That is what C.S. Spurgeon was writing when he said:

[The believer] has the law of his God written upon his heart, so that, almost as soon as he looks at a thing, he begins to perceive whether there is evil in it or whether it is good. There is a sort of sensitiveness in his soul which makes him discern between good and evil. When God the Holy Spirit is dealing with him, there is a true, enlightened conscience within him, so that he no longer puts bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter, or darkness for light and light for darkness; but something within him tells him, "This is right," or, "That is wrong." It is a most blessed thing when this is the case, and it is always the work of the Spirit of God.

So, as in the case with Paul, let’s rejoice in God…Who through Jesus Christ has rescued us from the sin that is raging within us (in our old mortal selves.)  Is that it, though?  Certainly, when it comes to salvation, it’s all God.  He gives us faith, He delivers us, and He gives us this new life free from the law to live in the power of Jesus Christ.  So why do so many Christians struggle with doing the right thing?  Paul shows us, of course, that there are two forces at work within us, opposing each other.  But the key to help the good force, the one that wants to do good, is directly proportional to the time that we spend with God.  We shouldn’t expect God to fill us with His power and His Spirit if we spend no time with Him during the week.

There’s an analogy that seems to fit (though not taken from an exact Biblical perspective,) quoted from the blog at wizdompath:

One evening an old Cherokee Indian told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.’

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?’

The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed.’

This is such a lovely story: so simple and yet so true. I think each and every one of us has these two wolves running around inside us. The Evil wolf or the Good Wolf is fed daily by the choices we make with our thoughts. What you think about and dwell upon will in a sense appear in your life and influence your behavior.

We have a choice, feed the Good Wolf and it will show up in our character, habits and behavior positively. Or feed the Evil Wolf and our whole world will turn negative: like poison, this will slowly eat away at our soul.

The crucial question is “Which are you feeding today”?

From a Biblical standpoint, are you being fed through the Word of God?  Are you spending time with God and allowing His Spirit to fill you and help you to live a life of victory?  That’s the key, you know.  Let’s all make a resolution this new year to make our relationship with God a priority.  Then let’s see which nature wins out.  I’m betting that the wretched man will lose and the Spirit-filled man wins!  Let’s all be winners in 2011!

HAPPY NEW YEAR…and may God bless each and every one of us in 2011.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Divorced Biblically

In our culture, the word divorce no longer has quite the stigma attached to it the way it used to.  In the early history of the United States, for example, the New England colonies viewed marriage as sacred.  Divorce wasn’t typically viewed as an option.  But even though divorce wasn’t common practice, that’s not to say that divorce was nonexistent either.

Statistically speaking, divorce was barely a blip on the radar of the national consciousness even as recent as the mid-1800’s.  Unfortunately, however, divorce has become so rampant in the U.S. that today it leads the world in the divorce rate by country.  There’s no doubt there are as many reasons for this occurrence as there is sand on the seashore.  The main reason, though, would undoubtedly come from one main source:  SIN.

Sin is a very serious problem.  If that weren’t true, what would be the need for Jesus Christ to take on the form of flesh and die in our place as the penalty for our sin?  It’s the rebellious nature of man that brought us in direct enmity with God and it’s the nature of man that brought about the unfortunate result of divorce that rips apart marriages and families.  Jesus even said, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning."

What if you were told you that you were married to the law?  What would that mean to you?  Now consider that the law has authority over you, much in the same way a married woman is bound to her husband (Biblically speaking of course.)  Would you feel trapped?  Consider what the law does.  At, it is explained that knowing the law brings guilt, that the law condemns, it brings about God’s wrath, it increases sin by arousing sinful passions, and ultimately the law kills the sinner.

Now what if you were told that you could divorce the law?  That would sound like an attractive offer at this point, wouldn’t it?  I mean, who would want to remain bound by a law that sounds as bad as that?  In a sense, Jesus made that possible for us as well.  Technically, it would be wrong to say that Jesus divorced us from the law.  A more accurate statement would be that Jesus made it possible for us to die to the law.  What is meant by that?  Let’s look at the following passage:

1 Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? 2 For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. 3 So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man. 

4 So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. 5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

According to this passage, Paul is saying that for believers, they are dead to the law through the body of Christ.  Because of this, the law no longer has authority over believers nor is it able to arouse sinful passions in them at will the way it used to.  Interestingly, just as in a death in a marriage where the living spouse is free to remarry, the believer is free at this point to belong to another.  Of course, this freedom has the implication that you will belong to another, not maybe.  The reason being is that you either are bound to the law or you are bound to Jesus Christ and righteousness.  Which would be your choice?

Jesus paved the way for us to be released from the law through death, as the passage suggests.  But Jesus has also paved the way for us to be raised again to new life to bear fruit for God.  Though this is different from the technical definition of divorce, isn’t it great that we can Biblically divorce the law and be free?  This is a divorce we all can live with.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I have just been accepted as an examiner for  What this means for me right now is a chance to put my writing into practice in a format that is relevant for my town, Des Moines, Iowa.  Also, I'm hoping it gives me extra exposure to be able to share the gospel.  As a writer for, I need to stay brief and localized to my area.  But hopefully, it gives me an extra avenue to share what's really important to me, Jesus Christ.

So, if anyone is interested in checking it out, the link is provided as follows:

I will still continue to write in my blog, but it will not be as frequent obviously.  So stay tuned, hopefully this will open doors along the way.  Have a great day!  God bless!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dead and Alive!

Picture by Sandara Lee at CreationSwap
As I was growing up during my grade school years, I endured some difficult moments of taunting, teasing, and sometimes outright bullying. Those were some of the most painful years I've endured. I would literally embarrass myself trying to fit in. After several failed attempts of trying that, I would simply do my best just trying not to stand out. Unfortunately, maybe due to a problem with low self-esteem, I began acting out in ways that would cause great humiliation to my family and me. Even worse, I would get into so much trouble with stealing, lying, and other illegal activities that family members even had the notion to send me to Boy's Town. Those were difficult times to say the least.

After middle school, I was fortunate enough to move to a new school system 30 miles away and start over. Almost immediately, I began to notice a change. Other classmates didn't treat me with the same contempt because they didn't know me. I even found myself liking school again. My grades got better as I went from a D student to B student almost overnight. And I was no longer acting out and getting into altercations with law enforcement or other authorities. It was a dramatic change from what I was used to.

After only a half year of being a part of that school system, however, my mom and I moved once again…to yet another school, but only five miles separated from the same town and grade school where I once had those unpleasant memories. Starting over again, I was concerned about the reputation that was certain to follow me seeing how it was so close in vicinity. So I did my best to fit in and stay away from trouble. But over the course of the next three years, it was inevitable that some would eventually learn about my past. Unlike before, however, I wasn't treated with the same contempt. I even began to feel like I fit in. I was given a new chance in life.

In some ways, I feel like becoming a Christian is a lot like my story growing up. Of course, for me it is. Albeit, it wasn't until I was thirty-one before I was actually saved. What I'm trying to say is that for many people, there's a troubled past. You sin, you do things you regret, and end up at the end of your rope. But then there's this moment in your life when something happens, something like a wake-up call. Maybe it gets your attention. Maybe it doesn't. But inevitably, if it's by God's grace and mercy, God does eventually get your attention. God at this point brings conviction into your life, reveals your sin, and exposes it. Then He offers His Son Jesus into your life to save you. He gives you the faith to believe. You confess your sin, acknowledge and confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior and you're born again. Hallelujah!

Later on, days, months, or years, you begin to realize something. You realize you may no longer be a part of this world, but you're still in it. You know you're a new creation in Christ…yes; however, there are people who knew you how you once were. You had a reputation…and it follows you. You may think that you've moved on and your life is different now, but there are still some people who recognize you and sometimes go out of their way to remind you.

The great thing about being a Christian is that God gives you the grace to live your life as a Christ-follower despite your past. In fact, He gives you a new identity. In Romans 6, we see a picture of how this happens.

Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

As you read this text, do you see what happens? In verse 3, Paul shows us how when we believe we automatically identify ourselves with Christ. As we're baptized into Christ Jesus, we identify with His death! And as though we were buried with Christ, in verse 4, we also are raised to a new life as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of God the Father! We have a new identity! Isn't that great?

So, even though we may still have the consequences of our sin that we need to confront and deal with, we no longer have to fear our past…or our reputation if you will. God gives us the reassurance that we are different. This in some ways parallels the story I told earlier. When I moved to a town and school system that was only a few miles from where I grew up and gained a bad reputation, I was fortunate enough to be given a second chance. The same thing here. But by identifying myself with Christ, however, I get so much more than just a second chance; I get a new life. Paul says that when our old self is crucified with Christ, our bodies are no longer ruled by sin. We are, in that sense then, no longer slaves to sin because, as Paul says, "anyone who has died has been set free from sin." However, being "dead" is not the end of us. Just as Christ was raised from the dead, we too are alive, but this time we're alive in Christ!
Picture by Matt Gruber at CreationSwap

Being dead…and then alive! Is that amazing, or what? Truth be told, none of us can adequately understand or describe this great mystery. But when the Bible says, "count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus," I believe it.

There's one thing we need to understand about this new life, though. Just as when I was young and given a new chance, I could easily have blown it. I could have resorted to my previous habits and destructive behavior. In the same way, Paul exhorts us as Christians to, "not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires." He goes on and says, "Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace."

We have been given a tremendous gift. As Christians, we need to understand this grace that we have been given. And we also need to understand what our new identity is and what it means for us to live out a new life in Christ. Let's not fool ourselves. This is not something that we can do in our own power. We need God. And if we don't spend time with God, we're never going to have the resources we need that comes from the Holy Spirit to this out this life with purpose.

So let us be dead to sin…but alive in Christ!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Gift

Image: Master isolated images /

 Approaching the holidays, we all look forward to that special day. That day when we all gather together with our loved ones and exchange and open presents. What is the best part of this exchange? The getting or the giving? Undoubtedly, many would say that the giving offers the greatest euphoria. Someone actually did a poll on this where out of 33 people, 67% stated they like giving gifts more than getting.

It's not difficult to understand the joy that comes through gift giving. But what about God? Do you think that God enjoys giving gifts? Okay, I probably shouldn't get into this area of "feelings" when it comes to God because I really don't have anything to support that; and that's not really where I want to focus on right now. However, God does seem to put a great deal of emphasis on gifts. On one side, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers give us a  few instances where gifts were given as part of the sacrifices to the Lord. And on the other, Ecclesiastes tells us how we should enjoy the good of our labor because it's the gift of God.

So you see an exchange of gifts between us and God. But do you honestly believe that we have anything on God when it comes to this area of giving gifts? Even though we don't always look at tithes as gifts, there's an instance where God gives us a challenge. In Malachi 3:10, God says, "'Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,' Says the LORD of hosts, 'If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.'"

That's quite the challenge, isn't it? Is it possible to outgive God? Of course not! But Jesus even goes further than that. In teaching about our relationships with God and others, Jesus shows how God the Father even goes beyond the substance of the gifts. In Matthew 7:11, Jesus says, "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" In Luke 11:13, Jesus is quoted with an even greater emphasis on the gift Himself, "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Do you see that? God is giving Himself. But that's not all! Look at John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." God gave his Son!

Wow. If that doesn't grab your attention, I don't know what will. But for John 3:16 to make any sense to you, you have to know why God had to give His one and only Son...and how. The why can be answered by looking at our text:

Romans 5:12-21

Death Through Adam, Life Through Christ 
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—

13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. 

15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! 

18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. 

20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

"But the gift is not like the trespass." In the gift that came by Jesus we see the answer to the question, "why?" It was because of the trespass. Because of sin, death reigned. Death had a stronghold over man because of the trespass of the one man, Adam. By God's design, He demonstrated a pattern by which grace and eternal life would come to man. Much in the same way that sin and death entered the picture through Adam, grace and life would come to man through Jesus Christ. Beyond what can be mentioned here, the simple answer to the why is that God had to demonstrate His justice and righteousness while at the same time offering hope and life. The only way to do this was to send His Son Jesus to live as fully man and fully God and offer Him up as a sacrifice on the cross at Calvary as the sacrificial lamb of God. Jesus would pay the full just penalty due for our sins. But on the other end of the cross, Jesus rose again from the grave and defeated sin, death, hell, and Satan all in one fell swoop. And through His resurrection, Jesus offers those who place their faith in Him everlasting life. That's the how.

Despite this pattern, there's much to contrast between what occurred with Adam and Jesus. First, Romans 6:23 tells us that the "wages of sin is death." Death is the result of something we deserved. That came as the result of Adam's trespass. John Piper has a good way of describing this. the parallel between the two masters (sin and God) utterly breaks down. Sin will have absolutely no say and no hand in the gift of eternal life. But God will have total say and a sovereign hand in the wage of eternal death. Here is another great tragedy about sin's slaves. They keep thinking he is a true master because he seems to reward them with things they like. In fact, he is no true master at all, but a pretender to the throne. And in the end he simply disappears and leaves his slaves before the judgment of God. That's the real meaning of death, the judgment of God.

Hell is the wage that sin pays in the same way that a prostitute's venereal disease and prison sentence is the wage that a pimp pays. They don't really pay it. They just lure and deceive and lie and drain and ruin, and then disappear, and leave their slaves sick and guilty before the courts – before the judgment of God.

Contrast that with the second part of that verse, "but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Eternal life is a gift, not something we earned. We had nothing to do with it. It was all the result of what Jesus did. Again, look at how John Piper writes on this.

But all the slaves of God go into eternity with God as their Giver. That's what eternal life means. God remains the giver forever and ever. There will never be a time when God is not giving more new joys to his people. God will never run out of gifts and cease to be Giver. He will never cease to be God.

Ephesians 2:7 is one of the most amazing promises in this regard. Paul says that God raised us up with Christ, "so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." Do you see what this means? It means that eternal life is what it will take for God to exhaust the riches of his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. The gifts he has for us in himself are infinite in number and perfection. Therefore it will take eternity to give them to us for our enjoyment. There will be a never-ending display of new and wonderful things about God and from God for us to enjoy.

There will be no boredom in the age to come. His mercies will be new every morning. Therefore the reservoir of blessings to prompt the pleasures of gratitude will grow larger and larger. And the river of blessings still flowing from the future will never decrease, because the source is infinite. And you remember the definition of infinite: something is infinite if it can give away forever and never get smaller. Infinite gives and gives and gives and never becomes less. Eternal life will be the never-ending giving of God to make us ever-increasingly happy in all that he is for us in Jesus.

The contrast in Romans 6:23 reinforces what the text is telling us in verse 15, "But the gift is not like the trespass." Paul tells us that many died because of the trespass of Adam. But tells us that God's grace and the gift (which is life) overflowed more to the many. Paul even goes on to say that God's gift cannot even be compared to the result of man's sin. He says this because judgment followed one sin. On the other hand, the gift followed many trespasses. The one brings condemnation, the other brings justification.

The best part of all of this? That God, through His infinite wisdom brought in the law after the trespass. It sounds like a bad thing, but on the contrary it's the best thing that could have happened. Verse 20 tells us that the law actually increased the significance of the trespass. By doing so, it had the indirect result of making grace that much more significant. Paul says, "where sin increased, grace increased all the more." As a result of this? "Sin reigned in death...grace reigned through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Praise God! We have hope and it's all because of Jesus!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Law

Romans 5:12-21

12Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— 13for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.
Have you ever wondered about the law? No, I'm not talking about the police. Nor am I talking about the laws of the United States or any local government. More specifically, God's laws. We are all pretty familiar with the Ten Commandments, but how many laws are in the Bible exactly? According to Judaism 101, there are 613 commandments in the Torah (or the laws of Moses, the first five books of the Bible.)

If you're like me, you have many questions about the laws in the Bible. Such as, "How can anyone know all the laws?" Or, "Are we still supposed to follow the law? Don't they seem cruel or even barbaric?" Maybe you've even asked this, "Jesus said that He came to fulfill the law, not to destroy it and the Prophets. What does He mean by that?" These are good questions, and you probably have more to add to this list. This is not an attempt to answer all those questions, but to gain a better understanding of the law and what that means for the unbeliever and the believer alike.

In trying to learn more myself about the law, I came across a sermon written by C.H. Spurgeon, God's Law in Man's Heart. This is a good read, if not a little difficult. The sermon is written like Old English, but much of it is still clear enough for someone like me to read it. At the very beginning Spurgeon writes, "WHEN God gave to Israel his law,—the law of the first covenant,—it was such a holy law that it ought to have been kept by the people."At first thought, one could wonder how can anyone keep the whole law? But Spurgeon is right, God's laws should have been kept. Romans 10:5 references Leviticus where Moses says, "Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD." Wait, I thought that was impossible!?!? Well, after becoming a Christian I came to the belief that the Old Testament was valid but not applicable...because it's the old covenant. We don't have to follow the laws now that there's grace and the new covenant. But there's something wrong with that thinking. Jesus said that, "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill."

So what purpose does the law have now that we live in the era of grace? The answer lies in what the law does - and one purpose is that the law reveals our sin. Does that mean if there was no law, there wouldn't be sin. No, because in Romans 5:12-13, Paul says, "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law." So you see, sin was already in the world. What the law does, however, is magnify our sin. In verses 20 and 21 of Romans 5, Paul states, "The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

C.H. Spurgeon wrote much in this regard in his sermon:
"Who can stand before this terrible law? Who can ever hope to keep these commandments?" You looked to the flames that Moses saw on Sinai and you shrank and trembled almost unto despair, and you entreared that these terrible words should not be spoken to you any more. Yet was it good for you thus to be made to know the law,—not in the letter of it only, but in its cutting crushining, killing spirit for it worketh death to self-righteousness and death to all carnal boastings. When the law comes, sin revives, and we die; that is all that can come of it by itself. Yet is it necessary that there should be such a death as that, and that there should be such a revival of sin that we may know the truth about it, and under the force of that truth may be driven to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the end of the Iaw for righteousness to every one that believeth."

Interestingly, before the law, sin was not taken into account. Did you catch that in verse 13? I've read this before and passed on by without giving it much thought. But now, I do want to know. In some commentaries, in regards to this topic, some come close but ultimately fail in my opinion of adequately explaining the text. Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary is one that I believe that does do a very good job of explaining it. One thing that I do know in regards to God's Word is that it is consistent. Though in our limited understanding we can't always find a reasonable explanation for what is written is Scripture, it doesn't make it less true.

One thing the Bible is clear on is this, "...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." Romans 3:23 And that, "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes." Romans 3:10-18

So let's consider this..."before the law, sin was not taken into account." What does "before the law" mean? The law seems to be referencing the laws of Moses. Does that mean there was no law or commands from God before Moses? No. Romans 2:12-16 tells us this:

Romans 2:12-16
12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

God had a grander purpose in mind when He gave Moses the law. It wasn't just to give the Israelites a bunch of rules to live by. Spurgeon actually says, "It is a perfect law, in which the interests of God and man are both studied; it is not a partial law, but impartial, complete, and covering all the circumstances of life. You could not take away one command out of the ten without spoiling both tables of the law, and you could not add another command without being guilty of making a superfluity. The law is holy, and just, and good; it is like the God who made it, it is a perfect law. Then, surely, it ought to have been kept. When men revolt against unjust laws, they are to be commended; but when a law is admitted to be perfect, then disobedience to it is an act of exceeding guilt."

Nor did God give Moses the law out of meanness or spite. Though it is true that the law exposes our sin, God actually demonstrates his love to us through the giving of the law. This is because the law ultimately reveals God's character, thus Himself, to us. Greg L. Bahnsen, Th.M., Ph.D. says that, "The law reflects the holiness of God, and God's holiness is o permanent standard of morality." It would have been worse for mankind by keeping the law from us because as Romans 5:14 points out, "...death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come." Death came upon man and reigned in our mortal bodies. At this point, spiritual death was man's only clear destination.

But even more than exposing our sin and revealing God's holiness, the law does something else. C.H. Spurgeon commented on this at the end of his quote earlier, "When the law comes, sin revives, and we die; that is all that can come of it by itself. Yet is it necessary that there should be such a death as that, and that there should be such a revival of sin that we may know the truth about it, and under the force of that truth may be driven to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the end of the Iaw for righteousness to every one that believeth." The law brings us to a point of decision. It reveals our depravity and clearly shows us that we are incapable of keeping God's commands. That in and of ourselves we are incapable of a righteousness where we can stand before a holy God and declare our self-worth. The law brings us to our knees and helps us to acknowledge our need for a Savior.

Here are other quotes from Spurgeon that are relevant to this discussion:

Now, as you all know right well, that covenant [which was built upon living according to the law] was broken all to pieces; it was unable to stand by reason of the weakness of our flesh and the corruptness of our nature. So God set aside that first covenant, he put it away as an outworn and useless thing; and he brought in a new covenant,—the covenant of grace; and in our text we see what is the tenor of it: "I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts." This is one of the most glorious promises that ever fell from the lips of infinite love. God said not, "I will come again, as I came on Sinai, and thunder at them." No, but, "I will come in gentleness and mercy, and find a way into their hearts."

When the Lord thus writes his law upon our heart, he makes us to know the far-reaching power and scope of the commandment. He causes us to understand that it touches not only actions and words, but thoughts, ay, and the most transient imaginations, the things that are scarcely born within us, the sights that pass in a moment across the mind, like a stray passenger who passes in front of the camera when a photographer is taking a view. The Spirit of God teaches us that even these momentary impressions are sinful, and that the very thought of foolishness is sin.
[The believer] has the law of his God written upon his heart, so that, almost as soon as he looks at a thing, he begins to perceive whether there is evil in it or whether it is good. There is a sort of sensitiveness in his soul which makes him discern between good and evil. When God the Holy Spirit is dealing with him, there is a true, enlightened conscience within him, so that he no longer puts bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter, or darkness for light and light for darkness; but something within him tells him, "This is right," or, "That is wrong." It is a most blessed thing when this is the case, and it is always the work of the Spirit of God.

The law. It still has its purpose, does it not? For the unbeliever, it points them in the way of the Savior. How amazing is our God that He wouldn't leave us in our sinful state? And for the believer, it instills in him a deepened desire to love God. When a believer has the indwelling Holy Spirit leading him, he is then given the power to live according to His commands. Jesus even reassures us that by keeping His commands, we show our love for Him. John 14:21 It's a way for us to reciprocate the love that God has shown for us when He writes His law upon our hearts. Isn't it amazing? This certainly confirms this fact: We love because God first loved us. 1 John 4:19

Aren't you thankful for the law?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

There is Hope!

Floods, tsunamis, hurricanes. Poverty, hunger, homelessness. Murder, rape, betrayal. These are several instances where people find themselves tested in the midst of tragedy.

How would you respond to these kinds of life-changing moments? Or if one of these did happen to you, how did you respond? Did this incident bring out the best or the worst in you?

If you've never gone through trials or difficulty, it may be easy for you to think that there's nothing to it. That somehow you will remain strong and persevere through the storm. But for many, it turns their lives upside down. I think all of us would agree that, if given the choice, we would most likely avoid these situations as much as humanly possible. These are never easy circumstances to go through emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually.

The question, however, is why? Why do we go through these struggles? The simple answer is sin. Because of sin, the world has been thrown into disarray. It seems odd that a single decision back in the Garden of Eden actually would do more than change the relationship dynamic between God and man. It affected the whole world, man and beast, ground and sky, everything created by God's hands.

As a result of this "disarray," we can respond in one of four ways. We can let the circumstances of sin, that has permeated the world, paralyze us and cause us to fear and despair and do nothing. We can also respond by ignoring all the bad stuff that is going on and live in ignorance. Or we can choose to hope in something, anything, that makes us feel better about our situation (this can be seen as false hope in money, career, fame, power, etc.) and our lot in life. Or we can put our hope in the One who can rescue us from our dilemma.

I believe God has a purpose for taking us through these difficulties in life. Not to dig too deep into this theologically... Though I believe that there are those that God has predestined to receive mercy, this goes far beyond my understanding. This is my feeble attempt at understanding and explaining God's purpose. God already knows our circumstances, our beginning and our end, and how we'll respond. Part of the reason God uses these events in our lives is to test us and let us see how we'll respond. Will we turn to Him by faith? Will we seek His answer for our problems? Will we truly follow Him, even if it doesn't make sense to us on a human level? These are certainly questions to consider. In the text below, I believe we'll see another purpose in God's plan.

Previously, throughout Romans, we have seen how God has brought us into a relationship with Him through His Son Jesus. We learned we are justified by faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross and not by anything we did. Jesus took our sin and gave us His righteousness so that we can be made right before the Father. Among the many other lessons Romans has taught us so far, we also see that God has given us a precious gift by including us as heirs in the promise of His Son. So now we take a look to see how else this truth is manifested in our lives.

Romans 5:1-11

Peace and Joy

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Going back to our discussion regarding the trials we endure because of sin (as I mentioned at the beginning of this post), we need to understand another important concept here in regards to the consequence of sin. Something that goes beyond the disasters and tragedy we discussed. One particularly dismal consequence is that we became enemies of God. It's true! In verse 10 of this text, Paul says, "...when we were God's enemies..."

An amazing thing happened though. Despite our rebellion, despite our sin, and even despite ourselves, God brought peace between Him and us through Jesus. Undeserving as we were, God gave us the faith in order to be justified and to gain access to His grace - unmerited favor! He brought us into a new relationship whereas we can now be at peace with God. How can we not be in awe of this kind of love that God has shown for us? Verse 2 says "we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God."

But then Paul says something very peculiar. He says, "...we also rejoice in our sufferings." How does that even make sense? On the surface, it does seem to run counter to common sense. But just as earthly parents allow a baby to cry, or a son to learn how to deal with a bully, or a daughter to learn she can't always have her way, our Heavenly Father allows circumstances and events in life to occur in order to teach us something. Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

For the believer, Romans 8:28 is an amazing promise. Consider how God accomplishes this. In the text above, in verses 3 through 5, Paul says, "...that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Does anyone enjoy suffering? Of course not. However, if we look forward to how God can use those circumstances in our lives (for the good of those who love him,) we know that there is a far greater reward when we endure and persevere: God pours out His love into our hearts! So when He accomplishes this by giving us the Holy Spirit, we can then say we have hope.

Paul, of course, takes the time to help us understand this a little better. In verses 6-11, Paul seems to explain again what God has done for us here. While were were yet powerless, Christ died for us - the ungodly (verse 6). And in case we somehow think that this was no big deal, Paul emphasizes in verse 7 that though "very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man...for a good man someone might possibly dare to die." The point is, none of us were good. (Romans 3:12 "They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”) But then Paul exclaims that even after all of this, that "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Isn't that amazing?!?!

The last part of the text seems to expand on the hope that we now have in Jesus. "9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." Think about this. Paul's saying that on one hand, we have been justified by Christ's death. Reconciled through His death even! But then Paul says that even more than the death on the cross, there's the fact that we will be saved through His life! That is no small thing. Paul points out the only obvious response that we can have, since there's really nothing we could have done to contribute to this anyway, is to REJOICE! Rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, the One who reconciled us to God the Father!

Now I ask you, is there hope in tragedy? Is there anything to look forward to when life seems to be falling apart? There may even be other questions on your mind. Like, does it seem fair that one person should experience heartache and pain when another seems to coast along in life? On a human level, there will always be these kind of questions and very few answers. But that's why faith is what it is. Faith is believing in God and placing your hope in His Son Jesus, when what you see seems to contradict hope. Let me reassure you, if you don't have faith in Jesus, you don't have hope. Hebrews 11:6 says, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." Him being Jesus! So, if you do have Jesus, let me then encourage you...THERE IS HOPE!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

That's My King!

I'm sure many people have seen this video. The first time I saw it in church, I wanted to jump out of my chair in excitement. I think everyday I need to watch this or listen to this because I need a constant reminder of who my King is! Unfortunately, I don't live my life that way. But I know, despite what I do or don't do, Jesus is still King! My King!

I dare you to watch this and say it doesn't grip your heart. I hope it does. And like Dr. S.M. Lockridge asks, "Do you know Him?" I hope you do!

That's My King


Wednesday, September 29, 2010


There is a concept in our culture that seems to have gone by the way-side over the years. Not much is thought of about this concept when ancestors pass away. What ever became of the idea of heirs? You know, the someone next in line in the family hierarchy that says he/she will carry on the family heritage?

If you were to look up the definition of heir, you're more likely to find a definition more suited to the idea of assets, possessions, or something of monetary value being passed on to descendants, loved ones, or those that were close and trustworthy. But there was a time when heir had a greater meaning. A time when there was greater consideration given to the notion of passing on a legacy...a reputation if you will...that directly identified a person(s) to the family line.

This was a concept not lost on many before us. Look at a few of these quotes found at

To state the facts frankly is not to despair the future nor indict the past. The prudent heir takes careful inventory of his legacies and gives a faithful accounting to those whom he owes an obligation of trust. John F. Kennedy

Those in supreme power always suspect and hate their next heir. Tacitus

Father was the eldest son and the heir apparent, and he set the standard for being a Rockefeller very high, so every achievement was taken for granted and perfection was the norm. David Rockefeller

I'm the heir apparent to the heir presumptive. Princess Margaret

This idea of passing on a heritage was not lost on the people of Israel (in biblical times) either. God actually made this a priority. Let's look at Deuteronomy 6:1-9:

Deuteronomy 6:1-9
1 “Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, 2 that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. 3 Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’ 4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

So you see that God's heart is for a heritage to be passed down from generation to generation. God wanted heirs to the legacy for all He did for the people of Israel.  It's a legacy not only to remind them of God's faithfulness but also regarding their own commitment to God. It's important for them to know where they came from, to know how they got there, and equally as important, a vision for where they were going. This was a legacy as much for God, who brought Israel out from bondage, as it was for the Israelites to commit themselves to God and to ensure this commitment was passed on to future generations. They needed to remember.

But is this concept any different for us today? Has the idea of heirs become moot and irrelevant for our time? Why is it we don't place more of an emphasis of teaching our children the things that are important to our families so they can be passed on throughout generations?

What about the dad or mom who want the best for their children? Are they modeling the Christian life? Are they emphasizing the transcending nature of God to their son or daughter? Is the dad showing his son what a real man, one with integrity and a strong character, looks like in a perverse and ungodly culture? What about the mother and daughter relationship? Is the mom showing her very impressionable daughter the virtues of womanhood and what it means to be a Proverbs woman?

So much is lacking in the church today in this regard. Too many children and grandchildren are growing up in broken homes, living in sorrow and despair, and without any semblance of love within their four walls. And the church is partly responsible!

Our culture for years has been on the attack against families, breaking down the building blocks and foundations of marriages and healthy relationships between parents and children. Statistics would show a disturbing trend in the family dynamics. It's no wonder more and more people are turning to drugs, alcohol, sex, etc. as a means to cope with it all.

How did we arrive here? Why have so many generations past let go of what truly binds families together? I believe it's because people are turning their backs on God. The church is turning a blind eye to blatant unrighteousness. And the world is teaching children its version of virtue and morality, whether that's in the public schools, television, government, or other medium.

Many in the world today are looking for truth and leaders to point the way. Is that to say there are no leaders? No, but too many have busied themselves with church programs and itineraries, that they're neglecting what should be their primary focus. Christ needs to be their focus. OUR focus! Our shepherds need to be helping the flock cling ever more closely to our Great Shepherd.

God is offering hope through His Son, Jesus! Jesus is the only one who can meet our problems head-on and do something about it. So if our leaders know God's promises and know that God will always do what He says, why are there so many problems in the world? And why is the church virtually absent in these matters?

The church could certainly learn some valuable lessons from Abraham. In Romans, Paul tells us that Abraham received a promise from God. In contrast to the church today, when Abraham received that promise, he responded in faith. He became "the heir of the world," receiving God's promises not because he was exceptional at obeying the law, but because he believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.

So, instead of programs and telling people they need to try harder to be good, the church would do well to point them to Jesus, draw near to Him, and to believe in Him by faith. Unfortunately, the church is doing more to confuse people about God than they are at clarifying the gospel message. They present misconceptions that somehow we can make ourselves right with God through works. Some churches would suggest the false notion that someone other than Jesus (a saint perhaps) could intercede on their behalf. Even worse, some would suggest (like Oprah) that we are our own gods, in some weird kind of way. This, by the way, goes ridiculously farther than the notion that we can get right with God on our own.

If we want to understand what God wants from us, what's important to Him, we need to delve into His Word and pray. Without the Holy Spirit's guidance, we're not going to have a clue in how to turn our families and marriages around. But if we look carefully and listen to what He has to say, we'll see that He has a plan. Look at this following passage in Romans:

Romans 4:13-25
13It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14For if those who live by law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless, 15because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. 16Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations." He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. 18Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." 19Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah's womb was also dead. 20Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." 23The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, 24but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

By reading this passage, do you get the sense of what Paul is saying? Here's a man that despite the odds and circumstances, Abraham still trusted God! Like us, Abraham could have been looking at the circumstances surrounding his wife's age and infertility and had thought that God was crazy for saying that he would be the father of many nations. But no. Paul says that Abraham believed God, "being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised," and that "it was credited to him as righteousness." Abraham understood the legacy that God was giving him. He didn't try to establish his own righteousness before God, but rather believed by faith, and because he did he received the promises of God. And even more than that, this passage says the offspring received the promise as well. The offspring became heirs through Abraham's faith.

Granted, this passage also shows that those of the law, the Jews, were part of the promise. Verse 16 tells us that the promise came by faith, that by grace it was guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring - not only those who are of the law but also those who are of the faith of Abraham. The emphasis is not that those who received the law (the Jews) would be the offspring to receive the promise, but that those who would later believe by faith (believers in Christ) would be the offspring of Abraham. This is confirmed when Paul says in verse 17, as it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations." So you see that we're all heirs in the promise, just as Abraham was, if we put our faith in God's promise, Jesus Christ. Just as it was credited to Abraham as righteousness, it is credited to us as well.

So what can we do? How can we make a difference? I think just like Abraham, we look at our families and our particular circumstances, and "against all hope, in hope believe." "Believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification." If you want to pass on a heritage to your family, believe in Jesus. Your sons and daughters will be heirs to a legacy that will pass on to generation after generation.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Same-Sex Marriage

The following is from the editors at National Review Online. When I write on the Biblical case for marriage, I tend to believe there are reasons to uphold the traditional view of marriage that can appeal to non-Christians as well Christians. I've heard, and I believe this, that God's principles work whether we accept them or not. Meaning that if God has a plan for marriage, even a nonbeliever can adhere to the principles set forth by God and experience a fruitful marriage. Conversely, if a Christian rebels against God's principles, that person can expect much hurt and pain through their poor choices.

Whether the editors at National Review Online hold to a Biblical perspective of marriage or not, there are great truths written in this article that all of us would be well to heed. The article can be found at, but for your convenience I've included the entire article here. God bless!


September 7, 2010 4:00 A.M.
The Case for Marriage
From the Sep. 20, 2010, issue of NR.

If it is true, as we are constantly told, that American law will soon redefine marriage to accommodate same-sex partnerships, the proximate cause for this development will not be that public opinion favors it, although it appears to be moving in that direction. It will be that the most influential Americans, particularly those in law and the media, have been coming increasingly to regard opposition to same-sex marriage as irrational at best and bigoted at worst. They therefore dismiss expressions of that opposition, even when voiced by a majority in a progressive state, as illegitimate. Judges who believe that same-sex marriage is obviously just and right can easily find ways to read their views into constitutions, to the applause of the like-minded.

The emerging elite consensus in favor of same-sex marriage has an element of self-delusion about it. It denies that same-sex marriage would work a radical change in American law or society, insisting to the contrary that within a few years of its triumph everyone will wonder what all the fuss was about. But its simultaneous insistence that opponents are the moral equivalent of the white supremacists of yesteryear belies these bland assurances. Our tolerance for racism is quite limited: The government, while it generally respects the relevant constitutional limits, is active in the cause of marginalizing racists and eradicating racist beliefs and behaviors. Moreover, social sanctions against racism, both overt and implied, are robust. If our society is truly to regard opposition to same-sex marriage as equivalent to racism, it will have to undergo change both dramatic and extensive. Churches that object, for example, will have to be put in the same cultural position as Bob Jones University was in the days when it banned interracial dating, until they too join the consensus.

If proponents of same-sex marriage thought through these implications, their confidence might evaporate, for it seems highly unlikely that this project will succeed at all, and impossible that it will do so without decades of arduous and divisive social "reform." That is no reason to shrink from the task, if it is truly a just one. But we should first consider whether the historic and cross-cultural understanding of marriage as the union of a man and a woman really has so little to be said for it.

We think that there is quite a bit to be said for it: that it is true, vitally true. But it is a truth so long accepted that it is no longer well understood. Both the fact that we are debating same-sex marriage and the way that debate has progressed suggest that many of us have lost sight of why marriage exists in the first place as a social institution and a matter of public policy. One prominent supporter of same-sex marriage says that the purpose of marriage is to express and safeguard an emotional union of adults; another says that its purpose is to make it more likely that people will have others to give them care in sickness and old age.

So at the risk of awkwardness, we must talk about the facts of life. It is true that marriage is, in part, an emotional union, and it is also true that spouses often take care of each other and thereby reduce the caregiving burden on other people. But neither of these truths is the fundamental reason for marriage. The reason marriage exists is that the sexual intercourse of men and women regularly produces children. If it did not produce children, neither society nor the government would have much reason, let alone a valid reason, to regulate people's emotional unions. (The government does not regulate non-marital friendships, no matter how intense they are.) If mutual caregiving were the purpose of marriage, there would be no reason to exclude adult incestuous unions from marriage. What the institution and policy of marriage aims to regulate is sex, not love or commitment. These days, marriage regulates sex (to the extent it does regulate it) in a wholly non-coercive manner, sex outside of marriage no longer being a crime.

Marriage exists, in other words, to solve a problem that arises from sex between men and women but not from sex between partners of the same gender: what to do about its generativity. It has always been the union of a man and a woman (even in polygamous marriages in which a spouse has a marriage with each of two or more persons of the opposite sex) for the same reason that there are two sexes: It takes one of each type in our species to perform the act that produces children. That does not mean that marriage is worthwhile only insofar as it yields children. (The law has never taken that view.) But the institution is oriented toward child-rearing. (The law has taken exactly that view.) What a healthy marriage culture does is encourage adults to arrange their lives so that as many children as possible are raised and nurtured by their biological parents in a common household.

That is also what a sound law of marriage does. Although it is still a radical position without much purchase in public opinion, one increasingly hears the opinion that government should get out of the marriage business: Let individuals make whatever contracts they want, and receive the blessing of whatever church agrees to give it, but confine the government's role to enforcing contracts. This policy is not so much unwise as it is impossible. The government cannot simply declare itself uninterested in the welfare of children. Nor can it leave it to prearranged contract to determine who will have responsibility for raising children. (It's not as though people can be expected to work out potential custody arrangements every time they have sex; and any such contracts would look disturbingly like provisions for ownership of a commodity.)

When a marriage involving children breaks down, or a marriage culture weakens, government has to get more involved, not less. Courts may well end up deciding on which days of the month each parent will see a child. We have already gone some distance in separating marriage and state, in a sense: The law no longer ties rights and responsibilities over children to marriage, does little to support a marriage culture, and in some ways subsidizes non-marriage. In consequence government must involve itself more directly in caring for children than it did under the old marriage regime - with worse results.

Thoughtful proponents of same-sex marriage raise three objections to this conception of marriage. The first is that law and society have always let infertile couples marry; why not treat same-sex couples the same way? The question can be tackled philosophically or practically. The philosophical answer boils down to the observation that it is mating that gives marriage its orientation toward children. An infertile couple can mate even if it cannot procreate. Two men or two women literally cannot mate. To put it another way: A child fulfills the marital relationship by revealing what it is, a complete union, including a biological union. A man and a woman who unite biologically may or may not have children depending on factors beyond their control; a same-sex couple cannot thus unite.

The practical problems with using fertility as a criterion for marriage should be obvious. Some couples that believe themselves to be infertile (or even intend not to have children) end up having children. Government could not filter out those marriage applicants who are certain not to be able to have children without extreme intrusiveness. Note that we do not generally expect the eligibility criteria and purposes of marriage to exhibit a rigorous fitness in other respects. This is true about those aspects of marriage about which proponents and opponents of same-sex marriage alike agree. Nobody believes that people should have to persuade the government that they really are capable of a deep emotional union or that they are likely to stick around to take care of an ill partner before getting legally married, because that would be absurd. Nobody would try to devise a test to bar couples with no intention of practicing sexual exclusivity from getting married. It does not follow that marriage is therefore pointless or has nothing to do with monogamy, emotional union, or caregiving. (Those are indeed goods that marriage advances; but if sex did not make children, they would not be a reason to have the institution of marriage.)

The second objection proponents of same-sex marriage raise is that the idea that marriage is importantly linked to procreation is outdated. In our law and culture, the ties between sex, marriage, and child-rearing have been getting weaker thanks to contraception, divorce and remarriage, artificial reproduction, and the rise of single motherhood. Yet those ties still exist. Pregnancy still prompts some couples to get married. People are more likely to ask nosy questions about whether and when children are coming to couples that have gotten married. And we have not at all outgrown the need to channel adult sexual behavior in ways conducive to the well-being of children: The rising percentage of children who are not being raised by their parents, and the negative outcomes associated with this trend, suggest that this need is as urgent as ever. Our culture already lays too much stress on marriage as an emotional union of adults and too little on it as the right environment for children. Same-sex marriage would not only sever the tie between marriage and procreation; it would, at least in our present cultural circumstances, place the law behind the proposition that believing that tie should exist is bigoted.

The third objection is that it is unfair to same-sex couples to tie marriage to procreation, as the traditional conception of marriage does. Harm, if any, to the feelings of same-sex couples is unintentional: Marriage, and its tie to procreation, did not arise as a way of slighting them. (In the tradition we are defending, the conviction that marriage is the union of a man and a woman is logically prior to any judgment about the morality of homosexual relationships.)

And does marriage really need to be redefined? The legal "benefits" of marriage - such as the right to pay extra taxes, and to go through a legal process to sever the relationship? - are overstated. Almost all the benefits that the law still grants could easily be extended to unmarried couples, including same-sex couples, without redefining marriage. The campaign for same-sex marriage is primarily motivated by one specific benefit: the symbolic statement by the government that committed same-sex relationships are equivalent to marriages. But with respect to the purposes of marriages, they're not equivalent; and so this psychic benefit cannot be granted without telling a lie about what marriage is and why a society and legal system should recognize and support it.

Same-sex marriage is often likened to interracial marriage, which the law once proscribed. But the reason governments refused to recognize (and even criminalized) interracial marriages was not that they did not believe that such marriages were possible; it is that they wanted to discourage them from happening, in the interests of white supremacy. Sexual complementarity is a legitimate condition of marriage because of the institution's orientation toward children; racial homogeneity has nothing to do with that orientation. Laws against interracial marriage thus violated the right to form an actual marriage in a way that laws defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman do not violate it. The argument about what the equal rights of all citizens entail for marriage laws turns, in other words, on what marriage is. If marriage just is by its nature oriented toward procreation, the refusal to redefine it to accommodate same-sex partners unjustly discriminates against them no more than the military does against the flat-footed.

Same-sex marriage would introduce a new, less justifiable distinction into the law. This new version of marriage would exclude pairs of people who qualify for it in every way except for their lack of a sexual relationship. Elderly brothers who take care of each other; two friends who share a house and bills and even help raise a child after one loses a spouse: Why shouldn't their relationships, too, be recognized by the government? The traditional conception of marriage holds that however valuable those relationships may be, the fact that they are not oriented toward procreation makes them non-marital. (Note that this is true even if those relationships involve caring for children: We do not treat a grandmother and widowed daughter raising a child together as married because their relationship is not part of an institution oriented toward procreation.) On what possible basis can the revisionists' conception of marriage justify discriminating against couples simply because they do not have sex?

How, for that matter, can it justify discriminating against groups of more than two involved in overlapping sexual relationships? The argument that same-sex marriage cannot be justified without also, in principle, justifying polygamy and polyamory infuriates many advocates of the former. There is, however, no good answer to the charge; and the arguments and especially the rhetoric of same-sex marriage proponents clearly apply with equal force to polygamy and polyamory. How does it affect your marriage if two women decide to wed? goes the question from same-sex marriage advocates; you don't have to enter a same-sex union yourself. They might just as accurately be told that they would still be free to have two-person marriages if other people wed in groups.

We cannot say with any confidence that legal recognition of same-sex marriage would cause infidelity or illegitimacy to increase; we can say that it would make the countervailing norms, and the public policy of marriage itself, incoherent. The symbolic message of inclusion for same-sex couples - in an institution that makes no sense for them - would be coupled with another message: that marriage is about the desires of adults rather than the interests of children.

It may be that the conventional wisdom is correct, and legal recognition of same-sex marriage really is our inevitable future. Perhaps it will even become an unquestioned policy and all who resisted it will be universally seen as bigots. We doubt it, but cannot exclude the possibility. If our understanding of marriage changes in this way, so much the worse for the future.