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The Times They Aren’t A-Changing

March 23, 2009

Romans 1:28-32
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

There’s a lot of bad stuff in this passage, but what I find interesting is the last line. It appears that giving approval to these evil deeds are worse than doing them. That seems strange, doesn’t it? After all, isn’t murdering someone worse than not murdering them, but giving your approval? Not according to Paul. Why is this? Well, the answer is simple enough, but in order to answer adequately, we need a little background.

Genesis 3:1-6
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

There was one tree in the garden that Adam and Eve could not eat from – the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. There are a lot of things to unpack in this passage, but let’s tackle Satan’s deception first. The Serpent lied to Eve about not dying, but the real deception is found in the last part: “You will be like God, knowing good and evil.” What does this mean? Does this mean she would be omniscient like God? No. Only God is omniscient and Eve could never attain this. But she could be “like” God in the same way that God is The Creator and we are little image-bearing creators. While knowing good and evil certainly refers to the ability to discern between good and evil, ultimately it carries with it the notion of judgment and authority. By eating the forbidden fruit, Eve was usurping the ultimate authority and judgment of God and claiming it for herself. She was “like” God in her ability to decide what was right and wrong, but that is where the similarities end. Unlike God, Who decides what is right and wrong by declaring it so, she could only distort the truth – which is what happened when she ate the fruit and then tempted Adam with it.

So what if this had never happened. What if Adam – who was standing there when the serpent deceived Eve – had taken a rock and crushed the Serpent’s head, thereby protecting his wife? Or what if Adam, after realizing that Eve was sinning against God, refused the fruit, banished Eve from his presence, and humbly asked God for a new wife that was obedient? Adam, as the representative of man – the federal head – could have done this and it is quite possible that he would have eventually been able to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. After all, the point of the tree was that it bestowed judgment and authority when eaten. This was God’s design for man. We see it in later administrations of the covenant. Noah is given the authority to enact the death penalty; God consults Abraham about Sodom and Gomorrah; God gives authority to judges and kings, etc. If Adam had waited, God would have given him permission to eat of the tree at the right time, and he would have exacted judgment and authority in a righteous way. Instead, Adam gave in to Eve, ate the fruit, and the rest is history.

So what does this have to do with Romans? Well, it appears that Paul says the approval of evil is worse than the evil action itself. I believe this is true. There is always going to be evil deeds – it’s really a matter of how many. In a God-fearing nation, evil deeds will be punished, thereby limiting them. In a God-mocking nation, evil deeds will be approved, thereby multiplying them. Take Ancient Israel for instance. When Israel was at the height of its faithfulness, the sins mentioned in Romans were met with severe punishment – usually stoning. Evil was not tolerated. When Israel was at the height of its unfaithfulness, King Ahaz was sacrificing his children to a pagan god,and the people did likewise (2 Kings 16 & 17).

Which brings us to today. America is quickly (if not already) becoming a nation that gives approval to evil. We are rejecting what God has declared right and wrong for our own version. We are a nation that murders millions of babies every year when God has declared that murder is evil and that life begins at conception. Homosexual unions are considered normal and we are well on the way to legalizing gay marriage even though God has declared that marriage is between a man and a woman and that homosexual acts are sinful. We are known world wide (and proud) for being greedy, corrupt, power hungry, and gluttonous, when God has said that we are to be selfless, giving, caring, self-controlled, and faithful. And Christians idly sit and watch it happen… passive approval. In fact, we make things worse, because we believe in the god of Conservatism and Liberalism, the god of patriotism and the god of tolerance. We ship our children off to public schools to be shaped by the ungodly state, and we leave their “Christian” education up to youth programs that pop up on every corner of this country. Paul says the approval of evil is worse than the act itself because we are spitting on what God has declared to be right and wrong and creating our own law. And that leads to destruction.

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