by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 1 Study # 2 November 9, 2004 Lincolnton, N.C.
(076)Thesis:Man's inexcusability rests upon his ignorant and evil attitude.
Introduction:Last week we began to look into the second stage of Paul's presentation of God's case against humanity. It might be well for us to include Romans 3:9 in our consideration as we prepare for the study this evening. In that text, Paul tells us why he wrote 1:18-3:20. He pointedly says it was his intention of bringing every human being "under sin" and, thus, (according to 3:19) "under the judgment of God". Thus, in that light, this "second stage" of Paul's presentation of God's case against humanity is a further pursuit of man's "inexcusableness". In chapter one he levied the final charge that men knew beyond doubt that those who do evil were subject to the judgment of God and, in spite of that knowledge, revel in the performance of that evil that so justly condemns them to Death. Then, last week, as we broke into this second stage argument, we saw that man's inexcusability rests upon his irrationality. His knowledge that men do evil is abundantly witnessed by the fact of his willingness to express his "judgments" against "others". But, his problem is that he does the very things that he criticizes in others.
This evening we are going to see more of this "problem".
I. The Problem of Man's Irrationality.
A. Paul first addresses the foolishness of man's apparent way of thinking.
1. Paul assumes that his theoretical reader is going to attempt to distance himself from those in 1:32.
a. In his description of the thinking of his "tr" (theoretical reader), he uses the word "another" in the form of "another of a different kind (than me)".
b. It is an automatic assumption on Paul's part that men will make this attempt because he knows 1) that men know what he said in 1:32, and 2) that men invariably scramble to exclude themselves from "worthiness of Death".
c. This automatic assumption shows up again in 3:19 (every mouth will be stopped in its production of excuses).
2. He then points out why that attempt will not work.
a. He asks if his "tr" is so foolish as to think that knowledge (that an act is evil) alone is sufficient to deliver him.
b. That thought is ridiculous on two levels...
1) If man's problem was ignorance, he would have an excuse [John 9:41], so to think the problem is solved by knowledge is ridiculous.
2) Man's culpability is rooted in what he does, not what he knows...everyone intuitively knows this [1:32]...so to think one can do with impunity is ridiculous (God is not mocked...).
B. Paul reinforces his claim of 1:22 and 1:28: men are fools who cannot think straight.
II. The Problem of Man's Attitude.
A. Paul raises the spectre of an evil attitude.
1. He calls it "despising" certain aspects of God's character.
2. What he means is that man is so "upside down" in his reason that he fails to pay attention to what is important and focuses on the insignificant.
B. He expresses the revealed attitude in respect to one major attribute of God that is buttressed by two of its natural corollaries.
1. The major attribute is called by the translators "the goodness of God".
a. The verbal root of this noun is a word that means "to make use of; to implement for the accomplishment of the objective".
b. The associated adjective is a word that means "acceptably pleasant", or "superior in attraction", or "appealingly beneficial".
c. The word itself is used in contexts where...
1) There is a correlation between "usefulness" and "appealing action" so that both of the ideas of "making use of a thing" and doing so in a way that creates an "appeal for cooperation" is involved [Romans 3:12].
2) There is a contrast between being treated with "severity" and being treated with "acceptably pleasant actions" [Romans 11:22].
3) There is a presentation of a "non-offensiveness" that is contrasted with something really "objectionable" (not in the "moral" sense, but in the "appreciation" sense -- i.e., sometimes the "moral" thing to do will be "objected to" because it is "unappreciated", like the "severity of God").
2. The natural corollaries are translated "forebearance" and "longsuffering".
a. The first is "forebearance".
1) The verbal root of this word is acceptably visualized by the picture of the demi-god who is standing on nothing and holding the world in his hands above his head -- i.e., he is supporting the world, bearing up under its massive weight. We have developed a figure of speech that adequately expresses the same idea when we say of someone who is giving the impression of being extremely emotionally stressed that "he is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders".
2) This word in its form as a noun is only used twice in the entire New Testament, though the verb is used in 15 contexts. It is clearly used in respect to two related ideas: on the one hand, there is an illegitimate burden being created by someone less than "spiritual"; and, on the other hand, there is at least a temporary "tolerance" of the burden for the sake of staving off the legitimate consequence due to the one who is generating the offense.
b. The second is "longsuffering".
1) This noun, as the OnLine Bible implies, focuses upon the prolonging of the time between an "offense" and the "retaliation" of justice.
2) The "built-in" difficulty of the word is that "long" is relative. In the days of Noah, God was long-suffering for 120 years (not to mention all of the years prior to the onset of that 120 year period). In the days of national Israel, God was long-suffering for several centuries before He visited the just due of the nation's evil upon it. But, in the wilderness wanderings, sometimes the "long suffering" was only a matter of a couple of years, or, perhaps, only a matter of days. It is an extremely imprecise word that only encourages a willingness to tolerate evil for a while, though not indefinitely.
III. The Problem of Man's Ignorance.
A. On the one hand, he foolishly "despises".
1. It is expressed by the word translated "despise".
2. It is expressed in terms of giving far too little consideration of a person, or matter, because the person/matter is seen as having such a small ability to possess significance that it is dismissed.
a. Man's attitude is strengthened because God has not cut him off at the knees in his hatefulness.
b. Man's attitude is that his continuing ability to function with an appearance of impunity means that he does not need to worry about God.
B. On the other hand, he is apparently "ignorant".
1. Man's ignorance rests upon one basic fact: the only reason God has not already cast him into Gehennah is that He seeks to woo man to repentance by treating him kindly.
2. Kindly treatment does not mean Gehennah isn't a real and present danger. Rather, it means that there is a way of escape.
a. There is little point to "kindness" if there is no hope of salvation.
b. There are two reasons the ungodly continue to exist...
1) To give them ample opportunity to repent [Revelation 2:21].
2) To be a useful instrument in the hands of God to develop the saints as they have to learn how to deal with the grief the wicked generate.