by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 2 Study # 4 May 24, 2005 Lincolnton, N.C.
(128)Thesis:Man is essentially devoted to destruction.
Introduction:In our last study we looked into the statement of, and description of, man in his absolute lack of an internal essence that has the ability to produce an external activity of blessing. Paul is not, in this Old Testament summary-theology of fallen man, ambiguous or accommodating. He leaves nothing for anyone who might hope that God will be kindly disposed to give blessing on the basis of a person's activities. Since man has no essential righteousness or kindness, he cannot produce actions which might have sufficient merit in them to persuade God to be inclined to open His Kingdom to their presence.
This is Paul's theological position on the essential glory of man. Man is totally lacking the inner essence required for the production of outer activities which contribute to true Life. This evening's study is actually "more of the same" as Paul continues to build his case for the claim that men are in bondage to Sin without human remedy. So, we are going to look into the "rest of the story" as it is given in 3:14-18.
I. From the Outside In.
A. Paul first appeals to the indisputable facts of the actual "production" of man.
1. He begins with the "mouth".
a. The underlying biblical principle is that the "mouth" ultimately exposes the heart: Matthew 12:34.
1) The operative word here is "ultimately".
2) This is not a contradiction to what Paul had just written regarding the use of words by the tongue to "bait" the unsuspecting so that they would get close enough to suffer from the poison that really exists.
3) This is simply the recognition that man cannot carry the deception forward indefinitely: the longer one is exposed to a person, the more clearly he can see the reality.
b. The "bottom line" of the production of the mouth is extreme antagonism.
1) "Cursing" is a term that has little to do with using certain "four letter words".
a) The word signals the inner desire for someone to be destroyed.
b) Generally it also signals the attempt to marshall one's resources to bring that destruction to pass...including any "gods" who may be disposed to side with the one seeking the destruction of another.
c) It is not a word that is used only in a negative way. In fact, the intensive form is used more of God's stated intention to destroy than it is of man's.
i. Note Paul's wish in Galatians 1 regarding false preachers.
ii. Note the fact that 4 of 5 uses of the intensive form refer to God's intent to curse, not man's desire for a curse to be imposed.
d) The problem for man is that he is so over-committed to his wicked agenda that he is unwilling to yield to God's fundamental requirement that man do nothing in terms of "vengeance" and leave that to Him.
2) "Bitterness" is a term that has been hijacked by the pseudo-psychologists who teach that "forgiveness" is needed to resolve "bitterness".
a) There is truth in that claim, but it is a hidden truth that is kept hidden by the false application of it. The truth is that the "bitter" person needs to seek forgiveness, but the false application is that the "bitter" person needs to extend forgiveness to the person who "made me bitter".
b) The Scriptures reveal that "bitterness" comes from an "ego-centered" person who has reacted to having his/her "agenda" frustrated by another and, thus, is "bitter" because he/she was not treated with sufficient "respect"...which boils down to "being allowed to fulfill the agenda". Bitterness is rooted in status-lust.
c) Bitterness is also, typically, reserved for those untouched by the "cursing". I am not typically "bitter" toward those I have been able to really get even with; my bitterness is typically reserved for those who are going on their way with no problems for the "problems" they caused me.
c. In a fallen world, cursing and bitterness are the fundamental attitudes for one basic reason: fallen people are only interested in getting their way and as soon as there are two or more fallen people in the mix, someone's "way" is going to get frustrated and cursing and bitterness are going to erupt.
2. He then moves to the "feet".
a. This is a metaphor that depends upon our understanding that the "feet" are the primary "means" to get someone "where" he wishes to "go"...whether the "place" is geographical or beyond geography. Most of man's agenda issues are not geographical, but the "feet" still serve as a valid metaphor as long as we understand that they represent man's efforts to accomplish his goals.
b. That his feet are swift so that he can shed blood simply means that murder is not a "last option" with men; it is a "first option". It is what is really desired. That it does not happen more often than it does is the result of the "Restrainer" and the fact that men are involved heavily with "competing desires" that often make it impossible to do what one really wishes could be done.
3. From there he moves immediately into the "consequences" of man's mouth/feet commitments.
a. Destruction is the breaking of something into "shivers" -- i.e., the total ruination of a thing in terms of its "usefulness". ["They are together become useless"].
b. Misery is the emotional reaction to being rendered totally useless.
c. This is a two-edged sword in that they both "destroy" and "create misery" and are "destroyed" and "made miserable" by their behavior.
4. Then he turns to the "causes"...
a. They do not "know" the "way" of peace.
1) It is not the way of appeasement: permitting others to always have their way.
2) It is the stolid commitment to God having His way: standing for the expressed will of God and against the perversion of His words in one's "own" experiences, not "another's". In other words, it is standing firm in the doing of what is right by the Spirit in one's own life; it is not the attempt to force others to do what is right.
b. They do not "fear" God.
1) The first question any creature ought to ask is whether the Creator would agree with a proposed line of thought and action.
2) Paul says not that it is not the first question: it is not a question atall.