Men are Liars

Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.
– Jeremiah 17:5-11

The point about deceitfulness of hearts is not that every individual human heart is deceitful and incurable. There are hearts that trust in the Lord; they are blessed and flourish. But there are also hearts that trust in men and depart from the Lord. Saying “the heart is deceitful” is like saying “men are liars.” Both are generally true. Neither is true of every individual. And because men are liars, sorting out the honest from the dishonest is tricky work. Who can do it? But there is a judge in heaven who searches the hearts and will render to every man according to his works; to those who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honor from God, immortal life; to those who disobey the truth and trust in men, wrath.

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Savior of All Men

For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.
– 1 Timothy 4:9-10

If salvation is synonymous with forgiveness, then this saying is difficult. It would endorse universalism and there isn’t any good way out. But salvation is a bigger concept than forgiveness. If you have sinned, you need to be saved from the wrath of God. But if you have not sinned but are oppressed by an enemy unjustly, then you need God to save you from your enemies.

…Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
– Hebrews 9:28

When Jesus comes again, it isn’t to save men from their sins. That has already been done. But they do need to be saved from those who persecute them without cause. And because God is a just judge, he will do that.

O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge;
save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,
lest like a lion they tear my soul apart,
rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.
O LORD my God, if I have done this,
if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have repaid my friend with evil
or plundered my enemy without cause,
let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it,
and let him trample my life to the ground
and lay my glory in the dust. Selah

Arise, O LORD, in your anger;
lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;
awake for me; you have appointed a judgment.
Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you;
over it return on high.
The LORD judges the peoples;
judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me.
– Psalm 7:1-8

In many psalms, David cried out to God for salvation; not because he had done wrong, but because he had not and wrong was being done to him. His enemies were stronger than him. He was an outcast in Israel and suffered reproach. But he trusted in the living God who saves men, and he was vindicated, as we also shall be.

Because God is a righteous judge, he gives to every man according to his deeds. All men get justice. And so he is the savior of all men, especially of those who believe. And so it is worth it to wear oneself out for the Gospel, and it is worth it to suffer the reproach of those who do not believe, for in the end we will be vindicated. “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thess 1)

And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.
– Luke 18:7-8

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Baptized for the Dead

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

…Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead? If the dead rise not at all, why are they then baptized for the dead?

– 1 Corinthians 15

It strikes me that there is a very simple interpretation of “baptized for the dead” that fits very well with the logic of the passage: Christ is the dead man. If the dead rise not at all, every Christian baptized into Christ has been baptized into a dead man. And what’s the point of being baptized in the name of a dead man, if the dead are just dead forever?

But why does he say “they” here, instead of “we” like he does in the verses before and after? I think the “they” here refers to those who are denying the resurrection. He is using their logic against them. If they really believe the dead are all just dead, then Christ is just dead — and what are they doing getting baptized on behalf of the dead?

And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

In contrast to them, Paul risks death daily because he believes. They have no reason to even get baptized for a dead man; he puts his life at risk constantly because his hope is in the resurrection of the dead.

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If I am a Father

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you?” says the LORD of hosts.
– Malachi 1

We typically say that because God is our father he is happy to receive anything we bring to him. But God’s argument here is the opposite of that. Because he is our father, he deserves to receive the objectively best things. Because he is our father, he is insulted by anything less.

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Judging the Law

Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?
– James 4:11-12

If one speaks evil of his brother and judges him, he is judging the law. That is, he has weighed the law and found it wanting, thus arrogating to himself the authority to contravene God’s law.

Now, if your brother is an adulterer, and you declare him to be an adulterer because that is what the law teaches, then you are not contravening the law; you are upholding it. You are, in that case, a doer of the law. So James isn’t talking about that, when he speaks of judging one’s brother.

(If he were, he would be guilty of the very thing he is condemning. “Who art thou that judgest another?,” could in that scenario be reasonably be answered with, “Wait, are you judging me for judging another?”)

Thankfully, the letter itself supplies context that illuminates what he means by judging a brother.

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
– James 2:1-4

To seat the rich in the nice seats while relegating the poor to the cheap seats is to judge your brother.

Indeed, just a few sentences on we find that James argues against such treatment of the poor on the basis that to do so is to break the law and incur judgment on one’s self.

If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

James is not against calling out the sins of one’s brothers. That is precisely what he is doing in his epistle. He is not even against calling a disobedient brother names: he does that. What he is against is judging your brother by some standard other than the law of God. To do that is to judge the law itself, and hence the Lawgiver Himself, which is an extremely foolish thing to do.

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All Men

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
– 1 Timothy 2:1-8

What is the chain of logic here? Why does it matter that there is one mediator or that Paul is an apostle? And when it says that Christ Jesus gave himself a ransom for all, does that mean universalism?

I think the key is to understand what objection Paul is answering. He wants men to pray for all men in authority, that the church might live a peaceful, quiet life. For us moderns, that is completely uncontroversial. But imagine you are a Jew in the first century. Paul is asking you to pray for gentile rulers. He wants you to intercede on the behalf of the uncircumcised. That’s not an easy thing to do. That’s not something that even seems right to do. That may well be an affront to your sensibilities.

So Paul makes his case.

God wants to save all men, both Jews and Gentiles. He isn’t saving just the Jews. He is saving Gentiles too. Only one mediator has been appointed between God and men. There isn’t one mediator for Jews and another for Gentiles. There is only one, who gave himself for all, Jew and Gentile alike (thus making of two one new man). Paul has been given an apostolic office and appointed as a teacher of the Gentiles. Really, he has, he isn’t making this up or kidding. He has been sent to preach to the gentiles. He swears it’s true. So men should pray, and they shouldn’t get angry about doing so and should have full confidence that they are praying in accord with the will of God.

I submit that in this passage, ‘all men’ does not mean every individual human being. It means all kinds of men, i.e., both Jews and Gentiles.

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What Revenge!

For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
– 2 Corinthians 7:8-11
But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
– 2 Corinthians 10:2-6

Paul is praising the Corinthians for heeding the rebuke of his last letter and cleaning up their act. They have done well. Their godly sorrow produced good fruit: indignation, fear, strong desire, zeal, and, yes, revenge. Paul is commending the Corinthians for taking vengeance.

What’s more, he warns them that he himself will take revenge when he arrives, if it turns out that certain people haven’t actually straightened up their act.

Revenge isn’t a bad thing. It’s a good, godly thing.

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