What the Bible says about
Carnal Human Nature
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Notice how strongly God expresses the concept of separation from what is spiritually impure. The Canaanites, and all of the other nations that are mentioned, were to be completely wiped out on religious grounds. This is because religion has such a powerful influence on conduct.
Israel never did this, and the Canaanites were a constant thorn in their side through their false gods. Through Israel's social and business interactions with them, they were persuaded to follow the Canaanites' god's practices—even to the extent of sacrificing their children in the fire.
In order to properly understand this command to exterminate these peoples, it must be understood that, though God was their Ruler, Israel was a nation of this world. Israel was put into the place of God's avenging angels—His agents—to take vengeance on those nations. However, the key is that Israel was a nation of this world, which is something that the church is not. When Jesus was before Pilate, He said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here" (John 18:36).
The lesson for us is that we are to be, as it were, this harsh with ourselves in getting rid of the sin within us. As Jesus says, "Pluck out your eye. Cut off your hand."We know that He does not mean this literally! He wants us to understand the spiritual principle that is involved. We have to be willing to go to that extent—to fight "tooth and nail" the contamination of sin that so easily besets us, which can so easily be picked up from contact with this world.
So the spiritual lesson for us is that God is equally demanding toward us—that we do not allow this world to influence us in any way that will contaminate our holiness, imputed as a result of Christ's sacrifice. Israel did not follow through, and soon no difference could be seen between them and the Canaanites. God's commands to be different make the witness and provide the means, the environment, for sacrifice.
In order to keep from being uncontaminated by the world, there must reside in us a strong measure of religious intolerance, or we will find ourselves compromising. What we call "human nature," and what the Bible calls "carnality," produced this world. It loves this world and is easily attracted to its practices and its attitudes. To attain the Kingdom of God, we cannot tolerate those things in ourselves.
The modern-day descendants of Israel seem to exhibit an especially high degree of idealism and perfectionism. These are not inherently bad traits, because God indeed requires us to strive to be perfect and to live according to His ideals. Sometimes, though, we can create stress for ourselves when we have expectations of perfection because, as Solomon teaches, our world is not perfect.
God has blessed the nations of Israel tremendously, and with those blessings comes the ability to overcome many obstacles. Yet there are aspects of our surroundings that are simply broken—words cannot be unsaid, deeds cannot be undone, and crookedness cannot be straightened.
This axiom in Ecclesiastes 1:15 is connected to the previous verse, which speaks of “all the works that are done under the sun,” giving verse 15 its context. All the works of man—everything in this kosmos, this world apart from God—include a crookedness that cannot be rectified. The number of things lacking in all of man's works is so great as to be uncountable.
By way of definition, the Hebrew word translated as “crooked,” 'avath (Strong's #5791), is used less than a dozen times in the rest of the Old Testament. Its basic meaning is “to wrest,” which is “to forcibly pull something from a person's grasp” or “to obtain by wrenching with violent, twisting movements.” In essence, it is the assertion of one person's will against another's, and the result is damage that can never truly be repaired.
In other places, 'avath is linked with the perversion of justice (Job 8:3; 34:12). It can mean wronging someone or dealing perversely with someone (Psalm 119:78). It indicates turning things upside down or upsetting the natural order of things (Job 19:6; Psalm 146:9). Finally, it can refer to subverting someone in his cause and falsifying the scales (Lamentations 3:36; Amos 8:5).
Solomon is saying that, once the natural order of things has been upset by this willfulness, it is essentially impossible to make those things right again. The order of things cannot be equalized (which is what the word translated as “straight” means), even though there may be a salve that can be applied. When something has been wrested from another—when one person's will has been asserted at the expense of someone else's—it sets things into motion that cannot be equalized. A measure of crookedness will always remain in man's works.
Thus, because of human nature and willfulness, anywhere we find human actions, we also find disorder and incompleteness. We see irregularity and deficiency. Not only that, but we also discover mankind's utter inability to truly fix them or fill in what is lacking.
David C. Grabbe
What a vivid example of the perversity of human nature! Instead of glorifying God as virtually everybody else in the crowd was doing, the Jewish leadership severely threatened the perpetrators of this wonderful and merciful act, giving no praise to God for His merciful part in it! Instead, they attempted to deny all the others in the crowd access to additional mercy God may have been willing to shower on them!
Human nature never changes, so we must be careful. Though subdued, it remains part of our makeup and must be held in check and overcome. These Jews, motivated by the same enmity we all have against God and His laws (Romans 8:7), were following the pattern set by their ancestors when they killed the prophets God in His mercy had sent to them.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Hebrews Was Written (Part Four)
English writer G.K. Chesterton, known for his wit as well as his insight, once wrote, “The word 'good' has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.”
His words strike at the heart of a question theologians, philosophers, artists, and many others have debated for millennia: Are people good or evil? Is man's nature on the side of the angels or the demons? Are we beings of light or darkness? Why do otherwise good people do evil things?
People are split on the subject. A few years ago, Debate.org, a website devoted to arguing such questions and polling the public on them, asked, “Is human nature good or evil?” Their results, which are not scientific, show 49% of respondents answering that it is good and 51% saying that it is evil.
Some Christian churches teach a doctrine of total depravity. Theopedia defines this doctrine in this way: “. . . as a consequence of the Fall of man, every person born into the world is morally corrupt, enslaved to sin and is, apart from the grace of God, utterly unable to choose to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation.”
This belief does not mean that humankind is utterly evil, that is, that people are totally incapable of good. It means that, while not all of human nature is depraved, all human nature is totally affected by depravity. Even the goodness that we do, then, is tainted by our sinful nature. This agrees with God's description of the tree from which Adam and Eve partook in Genesis 3: It was a tree that allowed them to know good and evil (Genesis 2:17; 3:22). Human goodness is insufficient to satisfy the righteous requirements of God.
It is somewhat surprising that more people, especially Christians, do not know the basic nature of mankind. It should be evident from the lives of men and women throughout history. For Christians, who should know their Bibles, a cursory survey of Scripture brings out many plain statements that show what God thinks of human nature. No philosophizing or critical thinking, even by the greatest of human minds, will change God's view into something else.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Are Humans Good or Evil?
2 Timothy 2:10-13
The apostle gives this warning directly to God's children. Despite how we may personally relate to Him in how we live, God cannot deny what He truly is. We may be highly variable in our attitude and conduct because we are lackadaisical and tolerate human nature having its way. We may yield to this world's influence on us and backslide into the same careless way of life that dominated us before God called us into His church (Ephesians 2:3). Yet, our God and Savior is constant and faithful to what He is. His character and purpose never change. God loves, and because He does, He also judges. Does not Proverbs 13:24 instruct, "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly"? Our Savior will not overlook this need in us.
Sometimes His discipline can be very stressful (Hebrews 12:11), but that is the cost of following Him where He leads. He will act as He truly is regardless of what we personally think or fail to think or whether we allow Him to be closely or only marginally involved in how we live our lives.
This world's nominal Christianity has so wrongly overemphasized God's grace that it makes salvation assured if we will only accept Jesus Christ. However, it does so without equally teaching that we must meet the responsibilities that God also clearly reveals. We must faithfully walk to the Promised Land. To keep our part of the New Covenant, we must live His way of life to be prepared to live in the Promised Land.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Accepting God's Sovereignty (Part One)
An old Yiddish proverb reads, “Der Spigel iz der greste farfirer,” meaning “The mirror is the greatest deceiver.” We find this statement especially true when we use mirrors that distort the image. How many of us have:
seen mirrors at amusement parks that make us look taller or fatter than we really are?
tried to shave or perhaps to insert contact lenses using those stainless steel mirrors at Interstate highway rest areas?
tried to judge whether to pull out into traffic using a side-view mirror with the warning etched onto it, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear”?
Jesus' brother, James, advises us that looking into God's law—“the perfect law of liberty”—and becoming a faithful doer of the Word is the only accurate and reliable mirror to evaluate spiritual progress (James 1:22-25). But many of us prefer to judge our spiritual progress by making comparisons with one another, something the apostle Paul points out in II Corinthians 10:12 as being unwise.
Human nature, very standardized and predictable, seems to have a blind spot to its own faults and shortcomings. Like the car mirrors mentioned above, human nature distorts what we see in ourselves. This mirror is the great deceiver when we apply it to ourselves, but so clear when observing the faults of others.
Jesus' admonition in Matthew 7:1-5 reflects this principle:
Judge not, that you be not judged [Jesus refers to condemning or passing sentence, something we are not authorized to do]. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me remove the speck from your eye”; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
In Romans 2:19-24, the apostle Paul gives a parallel warning to Jewish religious leaders for hypocritical condemning:
. . . and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.
In both instances, the topic of judging is ancillary to the egregious evil of tolerating sin in oneself. In other words, the anger both Jesus and Paul express is far more intense against concealing or tolerating sin in oneself than against judging. As we learn in the first chapter of Amos, the sins of Israel's enemies were hideous and disgusting, but the concealed hypocritical sins within Israel—from the people who allegedly made a unique covenant with God—produced a more noxious stench in God's nostrils.
Other people's sins do and should make us angry. But the things that intensely annoy or anger us about other people's behaviors should serve as warning indicators of the very things that God finds offensive in us.
David F. Maas
Specks as Mirrors
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