"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Chapter Three OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To understand the particulars of God's righteousness: grace, redemption, propitiation, faith in Jesus, and justification 2) To see the difference between a law of works and the law of faith SUMMARY As Paul continues to demonstrate the Jews' need of salvation, he proceeds to answer questions that he envisions protesting Jews might ask. He explains the advantage of being a Jew, the faithfulness of God in spite of the Jews' unbelief, and the right of God to condemn the unrighteousness of man even though it magnifies His Own righteousness (1-8). Though the Jews had the advantage of possessing the oracles of God, Paul still concludes that the Jews as well as the Gentiles are in sin and proves his conclusion by listing a series of Old Testament scriptures that speaks to those under the Law (the Jews) as sinners (9-19). His conclusion: a law (like the Law of Moses) could not save, but only reveal the knowledge of sin; a point he will elaborate upon in chapter seven (20). Paul now carefully begins to explain the "good news" of God's plan of salvation. Apart from law, yet witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, God's way of making man right through faith in Jesus Christ is now made clear, and made available to all who believe, whether Jew or Greek, for all have sinned (21-23). This justification of man is explained in terms of redemption, made possible through the blood of Christ, and offered to those who have faith in Christ. It also demonstrates how God can be both "just" (who takes seriously the sins of mankind) and "a justifier" (who is able to forgive sinners). God is able to do this by offering Christ's blood as a propitiation to those who have faith (24-26). This "justification" is a gift of God's grace to those who have faith, which prevents anyone from boasting as though they through the works of a law deserved it (27-30). This does not void the need for law, but rather meets the requirement of law (31). OUTLINE (adapted from Jim McGuiggan) I. THE JEWS' NEED OF SALVATION (1-20) A. THE JEWISH ADVANTAGE (1-2) 1. In many respects (1) 2. Especially in having the "Oracles of God" (2) B. ANSWERS TO POSSIBLE OBJECTIONS (3-8) 1. Unbelieving Jews will not make the faithfulness of God without effect (3-4) 2. God is right to be angry, even if "unrighteousness" demonstrates His Own righteousness (5-6) 3. Though sin might increase God's truth and give Him glory, people will still be judged for their sins (7-8) C. THE JEWS INDICTED AS SINNERS BY THEIR OWN SCRIPTURES (9-20) 1. Despite advantages, Jews like Greeks are under sin (9) 2. Biblical proof (10-18) 3. Application and conclusion (19-20) a. The Law condemns all, especially to whom it was given (19) b. Law cannot justify, but only reveal the knowledge of sin (20) II. THE PROVISION: JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH (21-31) A. GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS REVEALED (21-23) 1. Apart from law, but witnessed by the Law (21) 2. A righteousness through faith in Jesus (22a) 3. For all who believe, for all have sinned (22b-23) B. GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS EXPLAINED (24-26) 1. Justification by grace through redemption in Christ (24) 2. Jesus' blood offered by God as a propitiation through faith (25a) 3. This demonstrates God's righteousness toward the one who has faith in Jesus (25b-26) C. IMPLICATIONS OF GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS (27-31) 1. Boasting on man's part is excluded (27a) 2. For justification is based on faith, not deeds of law (27b-28) 3. God is God of Jews and Gentiles, for He justifies both by faith (29-30) 4. This does not void the need for law, but rather meets the requirements of law (31) WORDS TO PONDER redemption - "a releasing, a payment for a ransom; refers to being released from the guilt of sin by the blood of Christ" justified - "a legal term, indicating a verdict of 'not guilty'; in regards to sin, he who is justified is not held accountable for his sins" propitiation - "used to refer to an offering designed to appease; God offers the blood of Christ to appease for man's sins" sin - "a missing of the mark" (Ro 3:23) -- "a breaking of the law" (1Jn 3:4) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) List the main points of this chapter - The Jews' Need Of Salvation (1-20) - The Provision: Justification By Faith (21-31) 2) What advantage was there in being a Jew? (2) - They possessed the revealed oracles of God 3) What comes through law? (20) - The knowledge of sin 4) What came apart from law? (21) - The righteousness of God (God's way of justifying sinful man) 5) Who has sinned? (23) - All have sinned 6) What is the gift of God's grace? (24) - Being justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus 7) How is God appeased for our sins? (25) - Through the blood of Jesus Christ 8) How does man receive justification from God? (28) - By faith 9) How does "justification by faith" relate to the principle of law? (31) - It does not void the need for law, but rather supports the demand of law
"THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS" Chapter Two OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THIS CHAPTER 1) To see how people without a direct revelation of God's Will can still be lost 2) To see how people who may have a written Law from God are also in need of salvation SUMMARY Having vividly depicted the condition of the Gentile world in chapter one, Paul now addresses his comments to those who pass judgment on others when they themselves are guilty of the same things (1). He points out that they are in danger of God's righteous judgment, who "will render to each one according to his deeds" (2-6). This judgment will offer either eternal life or wrath and indignation, given without partiality, and the decision is based on whether one does good or evil (7-11). To justify the condemnation of Gentiles who did not have a written Law (like the Jews), Paul affirms that the Gentiles could "by nature do the things contained in the law" and that their own consciences will bear witness of their guilt on the day of judgment. In this way Paul demonstrated the Gentiles' need of salvation (12-16). Lest the Jews think their having the Law frees them from condemnation, Paul proceeds to demonstrate that they too are in need of salvation. Though they have the Law, their failure to keep it perfectly caused them to dishonor God and blaspheme His Name (17-24). Introducing a thought he will expand upon later in the epistle, he points out that a true Jew is one who is circumcised in his heart, and not just in the flesh (25-29). OUTLINE (adapted from Jim McGuiggan) I. THE GENTILES' NEED OF SALVATION (1-16) A. EVEN THE "JUDGES" WILL BE JUDGED (1-11) 1. The inconsistent judge judges himself (1) 2. The hypocritical judge is judged by truth (2) 3. The foolish judge reasons poorly (3) 4. The presumptuous judge treasures up wrath (4-11) B. NOT HAVING A "WRITTEN" LAW DOES NOT EXEMPT FROM JUDGMENT (12-16) 1. Those who sin will still perish (12) 2. The Gentiles DO have a law (13-15) 3. Jesus Christ will judge accordingly (16) II. THE JEWS' NEED OF SALVATION (17-29) A. THE JEWS CONDEMNED BY THEIR OWN LAW (17-24) 1. The Jewish self-portrait (17-20) 2. The Jewish inconsistency and dishonor of God (21-24) B. THE LIMITATION OF CIRCUMCISION (25-29) 1. Voided by transgressing the Law (25-27) 2. The true Jew is one circumcised in the heart, in the Spirit (28-29) WORDS TO PONDER judgment - in some places, the idea is "discernment;" in other places "condemnation" is the idea - the context must determine wrath - anger (in God's case, a just displeasure in response to sin) law - when preceded by the definite article "the" (in the Greek) it usually refers to the Law of Moses, otherwise it may refer to the principle of law in general; there are exceptions, and the context must determine by nature - "a mode of feeling and acting which by long habit has become nature" (THAYER) conscience - that faculty of thought which makes moral judgments (either excusing or condemning our actions); developed through training REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) List the main points of this chapter - The Gentiles' Need Of Salvation (1-16) - The Jews' Need Of Salvation (17-29) 2) Why is one who passes judgment without excuse? (1) - They are guilty of the same thing and so condemn themselves 3) How does God try to lead one to repentance? (4) - Through kindness, forbearance, and longsuffering 4) What is the reward given to those who do good? To those who do evil? (9,10) - Eternal life to those who do good; wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish to those who do evil 5) How will God judge those who do not have a "written" law? (14-16) - The law of their conscience will condemn them when God judges the secrets of their hearts by Jesus Christ 6) Without a "written" Law, how did the Gentiles know the difference between right and wrong? (14,15) - "by nature" (note the definition above); they are able to do the things contained in the Law, for they have the "work of the Law" written in their hearts 7) Why were the Jews in need of salvation? (21-24) - Through inconsistency and disobedience to the Law, they dishonored God
The Ancient Origins of Hinduism
The word Hindu originated, not as the name of a religion, but as a geographical marker. Hindu derives from the Sanskrit word for river, sindhu, from which the Indus River received its name. Sometime in the first millennium B.C., the Persians, who were then South Asia’s closest neighbors, mispronounced sindhu, and designated the land around the Indus River as hindu. Over a thousand years later, in A.D. 712, the Muslims invaded the Indus Valley. To distinguish themselves, they called all non-Muslims hindus; the name of the land became, by default, the name of the people and their religion (Schoeps, 1966, p. 148). Christians, upon entering Hindustan (as it was then called), committed the same error of reduction. From their perspective, the indigenous people were all idol-worshipping pagans, so they christened the Indians gentoo, a derogatory synchronization of “gentile” and “hindu.” Thus the name hindu originally was given by outsiders to denote a geographic territory, but through the encroachment of various other religious groups it came to encompass all native religions in South East Asia.
As the history of its name demonstrates, unity in Indian religion has been superimposed by outsiders, first by the Muslims, then the Christians, and much later by the British colonialists who through their censuses unintentionally reified the South Asian peoples under that banner. It has only been in the last couple of centuries that the Indian people have embraced the name Hindu as their own, though two Indians rarely use the word with the same meaning. Some scholars suggest that it is more appropriate to speak of “Hinduisms” than to risk giving off a false sense of unity.
The genesis of Hinduism is nearly as elusive as its contemporary definition. Unlike Islam, which began with Mohammed, or Judaism, which began with Moses, Hinduism has no founder, nor any traditional time or place of origin; it emerges from the jungle as a continually evolving religious system. Scholars debate the primary source of what would become the Hindu religion, though all agree that several cultures had an influence. Basham, Buitenen, and Doniger suggest that ancient Hinduism evolved from at least three antecedents: “an early element common to most of the Indo-European tribes; a later element held in common with the early Iranians; and an element acquired in the Indian subcontinent itself ” (Basham, et al., 1997). The oldest of these influences are the symbols and deities indigenous to the Indus valley, part of the ancient and abstruse Dravidian culture. Archaeologists date this magnificent society to the third millennium B.C., making it one of the oldest known civilizations. This early date also places the religion of the Indus over a thousand years before the writing of the Old Testament, in the time of the Patriarchal Age. If the archaeologists’ dating is correct, the Indus civilization was established soon after the Tower of Babel incident. The archaeological sites along the Indus have revealed many terra-cotta figures resembling gods and goddesses in the Vedic literature, some of which are still worshipped. Though religious figurines abound, temples inexplicably are absent from the Indus cities. Because the Indus valley script has yet to be deciphered, much of the Dravidian culture and religion remains a mystery.
The Christian must ask how the Hindu religion fits into the biblical narrative. Islam grew out of Judaism and Christianity, and Buddhism derived from Hinduism; Hinduism is the only major religion lacking an adequate explanation as to its origin. No substantial texts exist beyond 1000 B.C., and the texts after 1000 do not contain narrative. The earliest of these is the Rig Veda, which is nothing but a collection of praise hymns to the gods rather than the record of a people as in the Bible. Unlike western cultures, which tend to view time as a linear progression, the eastern religions generally reckon time to be cyclical. As a result, they emphasize the eternal over the transient and historical. Scholars are able to piece together the earliest Indian religion only through archaeology, clues in the later texts, and by extrapolating from existing traditions. Using these same resources, Christian scholars can reinterpret the available data so that the Hindu religion fits into a biblical scheme of world history. Reconstructing the ancient history of any civilization is tentative, however, and all such projects are educated speculations at best.
Bible believers would expect all civilizations to post-date the universal Flood, which destroyed every human save the family of Noah (Genesis 7). The peoples that sprang from Noah’s sons then spread over the Earth, though the Bible is silent as to when and how. Though it is possible that some colonies were established, the text indicates that most of the people stayed together in the land of Shinar (Genesis 11:2), where they began construction on that fateful tower. The hubris of Noah’s descendents kindled the wrath of God, Who, after He had confused their languages, “He scattered them abroad over the face of all the Earth” (Genesis 11:9). Josephus wrote that “each colony took possession of that land which they lighted upon and unto which God led them; so that the whole continent was filled with them, both the inland and maritime countries” (Antiquities I.v.1). From this point the Old Testament records the history of the children of Abraham; the events of the rest of the world can be known only through secular history. We must try to trace the origin of Hinduism back to an original belief in the true God—a belief passed down from the progeny of Noah. In a passage particularly descriptive of the Indian religion, Paul argues that the ancient Gentiles knew God, but they did not “retain their knowledge of God,” instead changing “the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:28,23).
Evidence for the historical digression from the worship of Jehovah God to the worship of nature and nature-gods is found in the ancient texts and myths of South Asia. The earliest Hindu literature, theRig Veda, speaks often of “the Creator,” of “the One,” a Great God over all the other gods. He is called Varuna, and is closely related to the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazdā (“Wise Lord”) and the Greek god Uranus (Ourania). Though an insignificant sea god in the current pantheon, Varuna was a prominent god in the ancient system, and the subject of many hymns in the Rig Veda. Zwemer writes that Varuna is “the most impressive of the Vedic gods. He is the prehistoric Sky-god whose nature and attributes point to a very early monotheistic conception” (1945, p. 86). This god is an ethical god, capable of great wrath or merciful forgiveness of sins. Note this passage from the Vedas:
I do not wish, King Varuna,
To go down to the home of clay,
Be gracious, mighty lord, and spare.
Whatever wrong we men commit against the race
Of heavenly ones, O Varuna, whatever law
Of thine we here have broken through thoughtlessness,
For that transgression do not punish us, O god (Rig Veda VII.lxxxix.1-3).
Varuna is already on the decline by the time the Vedas were committed to writing; Indra, a warrior god, takes prominence in the later Vedic period. Yet even then, Varuna is qualitatively different from Indra and all the other gods that follow him in the Vedic literature; he is less anthropomorphic and more majestic (cf. Zwemer, p. 88). Other Hindu deities act like humans in the same way as the Greek gods, yet Varuna is above that. It would seem that this god embodies many of the qualities of Jehovah, albeit diluted and removed by many hundreds of miles and years.
The myths of ancient Hinduism likewise contain echoes of the distant past similar of Genesis. There are several different, though not exclusive, creation myths in the Vedas (and even more in later literature), but in one of the earliest writings, Indra is the maker of all. “Who made firm the shaking earth, who brought to rest the mountains when they were disturbed, who measured out the wide atmosphere, who fixed the heaven, he, O folk, is Indra” (Rig Veda II.xii.2). This version of creation by a personal god is more similar to the Old Testament account than to later Hindu formulations. Hammer remarks, “In the early creation myth Indra was seen as the personal agent in creation, bringing existence out of non-existence. In later speculation the ‘One God’, described in personal terms, gives way to ‘That One’—the impersonal force of creation” (1982, p. 175). As time passed and the true God was forgotten, the creation myths became more fantastic, involving giant snakes and four-mouthed gods growing out of lotus flowers (Basham, et al., 1997).
In addition to the creation myths, a story persists in the epic tradition (written between 300 B.C.-A.D. 300) of a great flood. It was so great that “there was water everywhere and the waters covered the heaven and the firmament also” (Mahabharata III.clxxxvi). The hero of the story is Manu, who is analogous to Noah in the Hebrew story. One day a fish approached Manu and asked him for protection in exchange for a blessing (later tradition identifies the fish as the god Vishnu). Manu helped the fish, who gives him this warning:
The time for the purging of this world is now ripe. Therefore do I now explain what is good for thee! The mobile and immobile divisions of the creation, those that have the power of locomotion, and those that have it not, of all these the terrible doom hath now approached. Thou shall build a strong massive ark and have it furnished with a long rope. On that must thou ascend, O great Muni, with the seven Rishis and take with thee all the different seeds which were enumerated by regenerate Brahmanas in days of yore, and separately and carefully must thou preserve them therein (Mahabharata III.clxxxvi).
Manu alone survived the great flood, and from him the world was repopulated. The connection between the Hindu story and the Genesis account is strengthened by etymological ties between the name “Noah” and “Manu” (Sage, 2004).
The evidence from India’s earliest literary traditions reveals that Hinduism is a corruption of true religion. Though for most of its existence Hinduism has been an extremely pluralistic religion—being influenced by several cultures originally, and later by surrounding religions (Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity)—it appears to have grown out of monotheism. The renowned Sanskritist of Oxford, Max Müller, wrote: “There is a monotheism that precedes the polytheism of the Veda; and even in the invocations of the innumerable gods the remembrance of a God, one and infinite, breaks through the mist of idolatrous phraseology like the blue sky that is hidden by passing clouds” (as quoted in Zwemer, p. 87).
Basham, Arthur, J.A.B van Buitenen, and Wendy Doniger (1997), “Hinduism,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 20:519-558.
Hammer, Raymond (1982), “Roots: The Development of Hindu Religion,” Eerdmans’ Handbook to the World’s Religions (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Sage, Bengt (2004), “Noah and Human Etymology,” [On-line], URL: http://www.icr.org/pubs/imp/imp-083.htm.
Schoeps, Hans-Jachim (1966), The Religions of Mankind (Garden City, NY: Doubleday).
Zwemer, Samuel (1945), The Origin of Religion (New York: Loizeaux Brothers).
Critics and the Cosmos
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Some believe the Bible contains notions about the Cosmos that create a natural world which is completely foreign to reality. Because the inspired writers spoke of the heaven’s being “rent asunder” after Jesus was baptized (Mark 1:10, ASV) and the “windows of heaven” opening to allow rain to fall upon the Earth (Genesis 7:11), Bible critics have suggested that the writers believed the sky to be the same old blue, solid wall that uninspired men from so many other cultures professed.
Modern-day liberalism frequently has employed this type of argument to indicate the Bible writers’ alleged “unscientific view” of the Universe. Does the Bible imbibe ancient mythological misrepresentations? Is its information on the Cosmos “unscientific”? What is the truth of the matter?
The fact is, the Bible no more teaches that the heavens were a “solid wall” than modern day weathermen believe the Sun literally “rises” in the morning and “sets” in the evening. The Bible no more indicates that there are literal windows in heaven than doctors believe that a woman’s water can literally break. Technically, it is not correct to refer to a woman’s amniotic fluid as water; nor is it correct to refer to the water as “breaking.” Yet doctors frequently employ this kind of language. It is not scientifically correct to speak of the Sun “rising” and “setting,” but everyone understands weathermen to mean that the Earth is turning on its axis. Surely, if modern man, with all his advanced technology, can use such phenomenal language as “sunrise and sunset” in reference to the dawn and dusk of hisday, the Bible writers can be afforded the same luxury.
Why do skeptics not allow the biblical writers as much literary license as they themselves employ? No doubt it is because they take extreme measures—by ignoring the type of language used in different parts of Scripture (i.e., literal or figurative)—in an attempt to find some kind of error in the Bible. Such arguments are destined to fail because common sense has been omitted from the interpreting “equation.”
Atheist Parenting Book
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
In the July 16, 2007 issue of Newsweek, Lisa Miller informed readers about a new and different parenting book, titled Parenting Beyond Belief. Edited by Dale McGowan, this volume “aims to help folks who are raising their kids without religion deal with the sticky questions that come up about Santa Claus and heaven, and it raises more serious concerns about how to bring up ethical, confident, non-believing kids in a culture saturated with talk about God” (Miller, 2007, p. 10). According to McGowan’s Web site, Parenting Beyond Belief “is the first comprehensive parenting book by a major publisher on raising children without religion” (2007). McGowan added: “We hope it isn’t the last” (2007).
Included in Parenting Beyond Belief is discussion about a new summer camp for children of atheists. Camp Quest: The Secular Summer Camp, which operates in six different locations in North America, claims to be “the first residential summer camp in the history of the United States for the children of Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists, Brights, or whatever other terms might be applied to those who hold to a naturalistic, not supernatural world view” (Camp Quest, n.d., emp. added).
It seems as if atheists are more determined than ever to indoctrinate children with godless materials and ideologies. In the end, Dale McGowan’s hope of seeing more atheistic materials for families ultimately fails to provide reasonable, not to mention comforting, answers to life’s biggest questions. Imagine the child who ponders his origin for the first time: “Mom, why are we here?” “Ricky,” mom replies, “we’re here because, by chance, billions of years ago a tiny ball of matter exploded. Eventually Earth was formed, life emerged from lifeless matter, and millions of years later humans evolved from lower animals.” “So we’re here by accident?” Ricky asks. “That’s one way of looking at it,” says his mother. Parenting Beyond Belief and Camp Quest no doubt help atheistic parents explain origins and ultimate destinations to their children in a more creative way. However, the bottom line is, children will learn that life ultimately is meaningless because their existence is accidental and there is no life beyond death.
The key to an abundant life, both in the present and in the afterlife, is found only through Christ Jesus (John 10:10). May God help us to teach our children this truth, as well as reach out to those reared by atheists, who may never have heard the answers that Jesus and His Word can provide.
Camp Quest: The Secular Summer Camp (no date), [On-line], URL: http://www.camp-quest.org/.
McGowan, Dale (2007), “Parenting Beyond Belief,” [On-line], URL: http://www.parentingbeyondbelief.com/.
Miller, Lisa (2007), “BELIEF WATCH: How To,” Newsweek, July 16.
Be Fair When Interpreting the Bible
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Twenty-first-century Americans think very little about how contradictory our communication sounds to those unfamiliar with modern American English. Driving on parkways and parking on driveways seems very illogical given the definitions of parking and driving. Receiving shipment from trucks and cargo from ships sounds equally bizarre, though not to Americans. We have feet that smell and noses that run. We eat hamburgers made of beef and hotdogs made of pigs. What’s more, we drive on interstate highways that never cross into other states (e.g., Hawaii’s interstate H1), and we are programmed to read speed “limit” signs as speed “minimum” signs.
One of the most awkward questions Americans ask is, “You didn’t do that, did you?” How are we supposed to answer such a question? We generally say “No,” but mean “Yes,” and if we mean “No,” we say “Yes.” Recently I asked my two young sons a similar question. One said “No” and the other said “Yes,” but they meant the same thing. They simply were confused as to how to answer such a question. When one pauses to consider the many figures of speech Americans use in communication, he is overwhelmed with the number of paradoxes we regularly invoke.
It is essential for students of the Bible to recognize that the inspired writers also used many figures of speech. If we fail to identify these idioms, we may ignorantly draw the same conclusion that so many Bible critics have drawn—that the Bible writers made mistakes. In actuality, the “mistakes” are on the interpreter’s part, not God’s or His penmen’s. When skeptics allege that Jesus lied when He stated He would rise from the grave “after three days” (Mark 8:31), because on other occasions He indicated that He would rise “the third day” (Matthew 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; cf. Acts 10:40), they fail to recognize a common figure of speech in ancient times. “After three days” and “on the third day” frequently meant the same thing (cf. 2 Chronicles 10:5,12; Genesis 42:17-18; Esther 4:16-5:1; see Lyons, 2004). Even Jesus’ first-century enemies used these expressions synonymously (Matthew 27:63-64).
One critic of Christ has condemned Jesus for calling His mother “woman” in John 2:4 (see McKinsey, 1995, p. 134). Allegedly, the Son of God would not use such an impersonal noun in such a disrespectful way. In truth, however, though this expression may sound rude in the 21st century, 2,000 years ago it was used in a most respectful manner (cf. Matthew 15:28; John 19:26; 20:15).
If Bible critics would pause to think of the plethora of figures of speech we use everyday (which to some sound perplexing at best, and contradictory at worst), likely far fewer alleged discrepancies would be levied against the Bible. A fair approach to Scripture is one that takes into account its many figures of speech, rather than simply assuming the worst of its writers.
Lyons, Eric (2004), “Three Days and Three Nights,” Apologetics Press, [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/570.
McKinsey, C. Dennis (1995), The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Worship of Jesus
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, “Jesus is not God,” and thus should not be worshiped by Christians. The Watchtower, a magazine published twice a month by Jehovah’s Witnesses, has repeatedly made such claims through the years. In their September 15, 2005 issue, for example, they stated quite simply that the Scriptures “show that Jesus is not God Almighty.” The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ official Web site (jw.org), which republishes many items from The Watchtower, briefly answers the question “Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe in Jesus?,” concluding, “we do not worship Jesus, as we do not believe that he is Almighty God” (2015). After all, allegedly “in his prehuman existence, Jesus was a created spirit being…. Jesus had a beginning and could never be coequal with God in power or eternity” (“What Does the Bible…?,” 2000, emp. added). The October 15, 2004 issue of The Watchtower concluded a section about Jesus not being the true God with these words: “Jehovah, and no one else, is ‘the true God and life everlasting.’ He alone is worthy to receive exclusive worship from those whom he created.—Revelation 4:11” (p. 31). Since God alone is worthy of worship, and since Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is only an angel and not God (see “The Truth About Angels,” 1995), He allegedly should not be worshiped.
GOD ALONE IS WORTHY OF WORSHIP
There is no argument over the fact that God alone is worthy of worship. Jehovah revealed His will to Moses on Mt. Sinai, saying, “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:3-5). Regarding the Gentiles who were sent to live in Samaria after the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the Bible says:
To this day they continue practicing the former rituals; they do not fear the Lord, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances, or the law and commandment which the Lord had commanded the children of Jacob, whom He named Israel, with whom the Lord had made a covenant and charged them, saying: “You shall not fear other gods, nor bow down to them nor serve them nor sacrifice to them; but the Lord, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, Him you shall worship, and to Him you shall offer sacrifice” (2 Kings 17:34-36, emp. added).
The Bible reveals time and again that God alone is to be worshiped. Luke recorded that King Herod was eaten with worms because, instead of glorifying God Almighty, he allowed the people to glorify him as a god (Acts 12:21-23). Herod’s arrogant spirit stands in direct contrast to the reaction that Paul and Barnabas had when the citizens of Lystra attempted to worship them (Acts 14:8-18). After Paul healed a man who had been crippled from his birth, the people of Lystra shouted: “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men.” They even called Paul and Barnabas by the names of their gods (Hermes and Zeus), and sought to worship them with sacrifice. Had these two preachers had the same arrogant spirit as Herod, they would have accepted worship, and felt as if they deserved such honor. Instead, these Christian men “tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out and saying, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you’” (Acts 14:15). Paul recognized that it is unlawful for humans to worship other humans, and thus sought to turn the people’s attention toward God, and away from himself.
The Bible also reveals that man must refrain from worshiping angels. When the apostle John fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who had revealed to him the message of Revelation, the angel responded, saying, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God” (Revelation 22:9, emp. added; cf. 19:10). Angels, idols, and humans are all unworthy of the reverent worship that is due only to God. As Jesus reminded Satan: “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Matthew 4:10, emp. added).
JESUS ACCEPTED WORSHIP
The dilemma in which Jehovah’s Witnesses find themselves is that they believe Jesus was a good man and prophet, yet unlike good men and good angels who have always rejected worship from humanity, Jesus accepted worship. If worship is to be reserved only for God, and Jesus, the One “who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22), accepted worship, then the logical conclusion is that Jesus believed that He was deity. Numerous times the Bible mentions that Jesus accepted worship from mankind. Matthew 14:33 indicates that those who saw Jesus walk on water “worshiped Him.” John 9:38 reveals that the blind man whom Jesus had healed, later confessed his belief in Jesus as the Son of God and “worshiped him.” After Mary Magdalene and the other women visited the empty tomb of Jesus, and the risen Christ appeared to them, “they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him” (Matthew 28:9). When Thomas first witnessed the resurrected Christ, he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Later, when Jesus appeared to the apostles in Galilee, “they worshiped Him” on a mountain (Matthew 28:17). A few days after that, his disciples “worshiped Him” in Bethany (Luke 24:52). Time and time again Jesus accepted the kind of praise from men that is due only to God. He never sought to correct His followers and redirect the worship away from Himself as did the angel in Revelation or the apostle Paul in Acts 14. Nor did God strike Jesus with deadly worms for not redirecting the praise He received from men as He did Herod, who, when being hailed as a god, “did not give praise to God” (Acts 12:23).
Sadly, Jehovah’s Witnesses have attempted to circumvent the obvious references to Jesus accepting worship by changing the word “worship” in their New World Translation to “obeisance” every time the Greek word proskuneo (the most prominent word for worship in the New Testament) is used in reference to Jesus. Over 30 times in the New World Translation (first published by the Jehovah’s Witnesses Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in 1950) proskuneo is correctly translated “worship” when God the Father is the recipient of glory and praise. This Greek word occurs 14 times in the New Testament in reference to Jesus, yet not once do more recent editions of the New World Translationrender it “worship;” instead, every time it is translated “obeisance.” Allegedly, Mary Magdalene, the apostles, the blind man whom Jesus healed, etc., never worshiped Jesus; rather, they only paid “obeisance” to Him.
In 21st-century English, people generally make a distinction between the verbs “worship” and “do obeisance.” Most individuals, especially monotheists, use the word worship in a positive sense when talking about God, whereas “obeisance” is used more often in reference to the general respect given to people held in high regard. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines “obeisance” as “1. A gesture or movement of the body, such as a curtsy, that expresses deference or homage. 2. An attitude of deference or homage,” whereas the verb “worship” is defined as “1. To honor and love as a deity. 2. To regard with ardent or adoring esteem or devotion” (2000, emp. added). The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society agrees with the distinction often made between these words in modern English: God should be “worshiped,” while Jesus (we are told) should only receive “obeisance” (i.e., the respect and submission one pays to important dignitaries and superiors).
The Greek word proskuneo, which appears in the New Testament 60 times, literally means “to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence” (Thayer, 1962, p. 548; see also Mounce, 1993, p. 398). According to Greek scholars Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker, this word was used in ancient times “to designate the custom of prostrating oneself before a person and kissing his feet, the hem of his garment, the ground, etc.; the Persians did this in the presence of their deified king, and the Greeks before a divinity or something holy” (1979, p. 723). Admittedly, the word “obeisance” could be used on occasions to translate proskuneo. The problem is that Jehovah’s Witnesses make an arbitrary distinction between obeisance and worship when it comes to the token of reverence that Jesus in particular was given. They translate proskuneo as “obeisance” every time Jesus is the object, yet never when God the Father is the recipient of honor and praise.
As with other words in the Bible that have multiple meanings, the context can help determine the writer’s intended meaning. Consider the circumstances surrounding some of the occasions when Jesus is mentioned as the object of man’s devotion.
- In John chapter nine, Jesus miraculously healed a man who was “blind from his birth” (vs. 1). When the man upon whom this miracle was performed appeared before various Jews in the synagogue and called Jesus a prophet (vs. 17), he was instructed to “give glory to God,” not Jesus, because allegedly Jesus “is a sinner” (vs. 24). Later, after the man born blind was cast out of the synagogue, Jesus informed him of His true identity—that He was not just a prophet, but also “the Son of God.” At that moment, the gentleman exclaimed, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped Him (vs. 38). Although the Greek word proskuneo was used in ancient times of paying respect or doing obeisance to people, no such translation is warranted in this passage. In the Gospel of John, this word is found 11 times. In every instance, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation renders it “worship,” except here in John 9:38 where it is arbitrarily translated “obeisance.”
- Following a day in which Jesus miraculously fed 5,000 men (not including women and children) with only five loaves of bread and two fish, Matthew recorded how Jesus literally walked on the water in the midst of the Sea of Galilee during a violent storm, saved Peter from drowning, and then walked onto a boat where He was met with those who “worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God’” (Matthew 14:33). Jesus’ worshipers did not merely pay Him the same respect (or “obeisance”) that one pays a respected ruler, teacher, or master—people incapable of such feats. On the contrary, they recognized that Jesus had overcome the laws of nature, and that His actions warranted praise and adoration—not as a man, but as the “Son of God.” If Jesus was not worthy of such praise, why did He accept it? If Jesus was not to be adored, why did the angel of the Lord not strike Him with the same deadly worms with which he struck Herod (Acts 12:23)?
- After defeating death and rising from the grave, a sign which declared Him to be “the Son of God with power” (Romans 1:4), Jesus accepted worship (proskuneo) from Mary Magdalene and the other women who went to visit the tomb of Jesus (Matthew 28:8-9), as well as all of the apostles (Matthew 28:17). Jesus was not the only one ever to be resurrected from the dead, but He was the only resurrected individual the Bible mentions as afterwards receiving praise and adoration (i.e., worship) from man. The widow’s son of Zarephath (1 Kings 17:22), the son of a Shunammite (2 Kings 4:32-35), the daughter of Jairus (Mark 8:21-24,35-43), the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:11-16), Lazarus (John 11:1-45), Tabitha (Acts 9:36-43), and Eutychus (Acts 20:7-12) all were raised from the dead, but none received proskuneo. The Bible never reveals any resurrected person other than Jesus who ever received and accepted worship. Jesus’ followers recognized that His resurrection was different. It verified His claims of divinity.
- The disciples worshiped Jesus again at His ascension. After recording that Jesus was “carried up into heaven,” Luke wrote: “[T]hey worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the Temple praising and blessing God” (Luke 24:52). Notice that the word “worshiped” (proskuneo) is used in this passage along with such words as “praising” and “blessing”—words that carry a religious connotation in connection with God. This fact highlights that the use of proskuneo in this context is not merely obeisance. Also, notice that the disciples offered worship to an “absent” Savior. It would make no sense to pay obeisance to a respected individual that has departed, but makes perfect sense if, rather, the individual is God and worthy of worship. The disciples did not just bow before some earthly ruler; they worshiped their Lord Who had defeated death 40 days earlier, and had just ascended up into heaven before their eyes.
Jesus did not receive proskuneo on these occasions because He was a great teacher, or because He was viewed at these moments simply as an earthly king. Rather, all of these instances of worship were surrounded by miraculous events that were done to prove He was Heaven sent, and that “in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). There is every reason to believe that on such occasions as these, Jesus’ disciples meant to pay divine, religious honor to Him, not mere civil respect or regard that earthly rulers often receive.
WAFFLING ON THE WORSHIP OF JESUS
To the church at Philippi the apostle Paul wrote: “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him [Jesus] and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11, emp. added). The reference to the bowing of the knee is an obvious allusion to worship (cf. Isaiah 45:23; Romans 1:4). Such worship, Paul wrote, would not only come from those on Earth, but also from “those in heaven” (Philippians 2:10). This statement harmonizes well with Hebrews 1:6. In a section in which the writer of Hebrews exalted Jesus above the heavenly hosts, he affirmed that even the angels worship Christ. He wrote: “Let all the angels of God worship (proskuneo) Him.” The KJV, ASV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, NIV, RSVand a host of other translations render proskuneo in this verse as “worship.” How does the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translationrender this passage? Unfortunately, as with all other times in the NWT when Jesus is mentioned as being the object ofproskuneo, the word is translated “do obeisance,” not “worship.” Hebrews 1:6 reads: “Let all God’s angels do obeisance to him” (NWT).
Interestingly, however, the NWT has not always rendered proskuneo in Hebrews 1:6 as “do obeisance.” When Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Watchtower Bible and Tract Society first printed the NWT in 1950, the verse actually rendered proskuneo as “worship” instead of “do obeisance.” Even the revised 1961 edition of the NWT translated proskuneo as “worship.” But, by 1971, Jehovah’s Witnesses had changed Hebrews 1:6 to read: “Let all God’s angels do obeisance to him.”
The fact is, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has been very inconsistent in their teachings on whether or not Jesus should be worshiped. In the past few decades Jehovah’s Witnesses’ flagship magazine (November 1964, p. 671) has claimed that “it is unscriptural for worshipers of the living and true God to render worship to the Son of God, Jesus Christ” (as quoted in Rhodes, 2001, p. 26; see also The Watchtower 2004, pp. 30-31). But, “from the beginning it was not so.” Notice what Jehovah’s Witnesses used to teach in The Watchtower (called Zion’s Watch Tower in the early days) regarding whether or not Jesus should be worshiped:
- “The wise men came at His birth to worship Him. (Matt. 2) The leper worshiped Him. They in the ship worshiped Him, as did also the ruler and woman of Canaan. Yet none were ever rebuked for it…. [T]o worship Christ in any form cannot be wrong” (Allen, 1880, emp. added).
- “[A]lthough we are nowhere instructed to make petitions to him, it evidently could not be improper to do so; for such a course is nowhere prohibited, and the disciples worshiped him” (Zion’s Watch Tower, 1892, emp. added).
- “Yes, we believe our Lord Jesus while on earth was really worshiped, and properly so” (Zion’s Watch Tower, 1898).
- “[W]hosoever should worship Him must also worship and bow down to Jehovah’s Chief One in that capital organization, namely, Christ Jesus…” (The Watchtower, 1945, p. 313).
For more than half a century, Jehovah’s Witnesses taught that it was acceptable to worship Jesus. Now, however, they claim it is unscriptural. Such inconsistency regarding the nature of Christ, which is no small matter, reveals to the honest truth seeker that the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is an advocate of serious biblical error.
Sadly, Jehovah’s Witnesses not only reject the worship of Jesus because of their belief that He is not deity, they also must deny Him such religious devotion because they teach He actually is an angel. The Watchtower has taught such a notion for several years. The November 1, 1995 issue indicated, “The foremost angel, both in power and authority, is the archangel, Jesus Christ, also called Michael” (“The Truth About Angels”). More recently, an article appeared on the Jehovah’s Witnesses official Web site affirming “the Bible indicates that Michael is another name for Jesus Christ, before and after his life on earth…. [I]t is logical to conclude that Michael is none other than Jesus Christ in his heavenly role” (“Who Is Michael…?,” 2015). Since, according to Revelation 19:10 and 22:8-9, good angels do not accept worship, but rather preach the worship of God, and no other, Jehovah’s Witnesses must reject paying religious praise and devotion to Jesus. But, notice (again) how inconsistent Jehovah’s Witnesses have been. In only the fifth issue ofZion’s Watch Tower magazine (originally edited by Charles Taze Russell, the founderof The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society), regular contributing writer J.H. Paton stated about Jesus: “Hence it is said, ‘let all the angels of God worship him’: (that must include Michael, the chief angel, hence Michael is not the Son of God)…” (1879, p. 4, emp. added). Thus, at one time Jehovah’s Witnesses’ official publication taught that Jesus is not Michael the archangel, and that Heshould be worshiped. In the 21st century, however, Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus is Michael the archangel, and that He should not be worshiped. Clear contradictory statements like these found throughout the years in The Watchtower should compel current and potential members of this religious group to question their teachings in light ofthe Truth found in God’s Word.
“WORTHY IS THE LAMB”
One additional passage to consider regarding the worship of Jesus is Revelation chapters four and five. In chapter four, the scene in this book of signs (cf. 1:1) is the throne room of God. The “Lord God Almighty” is described as sitting on His throne while “the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him” (4:9). Also, “the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: ‘You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created’” (4:10-11). In chapter five, the Lamb that was slain is introduced as standing “in the midst of the throne” (5:6). No one argues the fact that this Lamb is Jesus—the One Whom John the Baptizer twice called “The Lamb of God” (John 1:29,36), and Whom Peter called the “lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19). Regarding this Lamb, the apostle John recorded the following in Revelation 5:11-14:
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever (emp. added).
In this chapter, John revealed that both God the Father and Jesus are worthy to receive worship from all of creation. In fact, Jesus is given the same praise and adoration that the Father is given. Just as God is “worthy…to receive glory and honor and power” (4:11), so Jesus is “worthy…to receive power…and honor and glory…” (5:12). Indeed, “[b]lessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever” (5:13, emp. added). Although Jehovah’s Witnesses use Revelation 4:11 as a proof text for worshiping God the Father (see “What Does God…?,” 1996, p. 4), they reject and call unscriptural the worship that Jesus rightly deserves.
Jesus once stated during His earthly ministry, “[A]ll should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23). Sadly, Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse to honor Jesus in the same way they honor God the Father. While on Earth, Jesus was honored on several occasions. His followers worshiped Him. They even worshiped Him after His ascension into heaven (Luke 24:52). Unlike good men and angels in Bible times who rejected worship, Jesus unhesitatingly received glory, honor, and praise from His creation. Truly, such worship is one of the powerful proofs of the deity of Christ.
Allen, L.A. (1880), “A Living Christ,” Zion’s Watch Tower, March,https://archive.org/stream/1880ZionsWatchTower/1880_Watch_Tower_djvu.txt.
American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
Arndt, William, F.W. Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker (1979), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press), second edition revised.
“Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe in Jesus?” (2015), http://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/believe-in-jesus/.
Mounce, William D. (1993),Analytical Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Paton, J.H. (1879), “The Name of Jesus,”Zion’s Watch Tower, November,https://archive.org/stream/1879ZionsWatchTower/1879_Watch_Tower_djvu.txt.
Rhodes, Ron (2001), The 10 Most Important Things You Can Say to a Jehovah’s Witness (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers).
Thayer, Joseph (1962 reprint), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
“The Truth About Angels” (1995), The Watchtower, November 1.
The Watchtower, 1945, October 15.
The Watchtower, 2004, October 15.
The Watchtower, 2005, September 15.
“What Does God Require of Us?” (1996), Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of New York.
“What Does the Bible Say About God and Jesus?” (2000), Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.
“Who Is Michael the Archangel?” (2015), http://www.jw.org/en/publications/books/bible-teach/who-is-michael-the-archangel-jesus/.
Zion’s Watch Tower, 1892, May 15, https://archive.org/stream/1898ZionsWatchTower/1898_Watch_Tower_djvu.txt.
Zion’s Watch Tower, 1898, July 15, https://archive.org/stream/1892ZionsWatchTower/1892_Watch_Tower_djvu.txt.
5 Reasons Racism is Ridiculous
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Atheism has no rational basis upon which to call anything objectively just or unjust, including racism. If mankind is merely the result of billions of years of mindless evolution and is nothing more than animals (as atheistic evolution contends; Marchant, 2008), then man can logically make evolutionary-based racist remarks that are consistent with the godless General Theory of Evolution. In fact, Charles Darwin’s “Bulldog,” atheist Thomas Huxley, did just that in his 1865 essay, “Emancipation—Black and White.” He alleged, for example, “no rational man, cognizant of the facts, believes that the average Negro is the equal, still less superior, of the white man.” In truth, if there is no God, mankind could just as easily look down upon and mistreat others (whom he deems are less evolved), as he does roaches, rats, and orangutans (Lyons, 2011; Lyons and Butt, 2009). Those who are Christians, however, logically contend that since (1) God exists, and (2) the Bible is the Word of God, racism is morally wrong—and completely ridiculous for the following five reasons.
#1—ALL HUMAN BEINGS ARE MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD
Not only did God specially create Adam and Eve in His image and vastly different than all other living things on Earth (Genesis 1:26-27), since then, every human being has been made according to God’s likeness. While preaching to Gentiles in Athens thousands of years after the Creation, Paul, a Jew, did not contend that man was once the offspring of God; he said, “We are” the offspring of God (Acts 17:28-29). [The Greek word esmen in 17:28 is the first person plural of eimi (to be). This recognition of being God’s offspring served as a basis for his argument, as the next verse indicates: “Being then the offspring of God….”]
James wrote: “But the tongue can no man tame; it is a restless evil, it is full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we the Lord and Father; and therewith curse we men, who are made after the likeness of God: out of the same mouth cometh forth blessing and cursing. My brethren these things ought not so to be” (3:8-9, ASV, emp. added). [The English verb “are made” (ASV) derives from the Greek gegonotas, which is the perfect participle of the verb ginomai. The perfect tense in Greek is used to describe an action brought to completion in the past, but whose effects are felt in the present (Mounce, 1993, p. 219).] The thrust of the expression, “who are made after the likeness of God” (Greek kath’ homoisosin theou gegonotas), is that humans in the past have been made according to the likeness of God, and they are still bearers of that likeness. For this reason, praising the Creator at one moment, while hurling unkind, racist remarks at another time, is terribly inconsistent in a most unChristlike way. All human beings (of every color and ethnicity) are divine image bearers.
#2—GOD ONLY MADE ONE RACE—THE HUMAN RACE
Although people come in different colors, shapes, and sizes, and although they often associate more closely with those whom they find more similar in ways to themselves, the fact is, there is only one human race. Racism is ridiculous because we are all related, not by means of naturalistic evolution, but by special Creation. No one person is inherently of more value than another person. We are all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve—the specially created couple whom God made thousands of years ago in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:20). What’s more, we are also sons and daughters of Noah and his wife, through whom the Earth was repopulated after the worldwide Flood of Genesis 6-8.
As the apostle Paul informed the idolatrous Athenians 2,000 years ago, God “made from one blood every nation to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). Adam and Eve had children, who had children, who had children…who had you and me. We are all physically related. We are all of one race—the one human race. We are all (as modern science classifies us) of the same human species—Homo sapiens. We all trace our ancestry back to Noah, and then back to Adam. We may have different skin color, facial features, hair texture, etc., but we are all brothers and sisters! We are family—a part of the same human race.
#3—GOD DOESN’T PLAY FAVORITES…AND NEITHER SHOULD WE
Although God is omnipotent, He is actually color-blind. His all-loving, perfectly just nature will not allow Him to love someone more than another based upon the color of a person’s skin or the nation in which one was born. Similar to how God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), God cannot show favoritism.
Moses wrote: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19). Peter said: “God shows no partiality. But inevery nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35, emp. added). According to Paul, God “does not receive a face” (Galatians 2:6, NASB literal footnote rendering); that is, “God does not judge by external appearance” (Galatians 2:6, NIV).
In short, it is impossible to hold “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, (the Lord) of glory, with respect of persons” (James 2:1, ASV). The Christian’s care and concern for his fellow brother by Creation and by Christ is to be color-blind.
#4—LOVE IS NOT RACIST
Whereas racism is fueled by earthly ignorance and hate, the Christian is filled with the fruit of Heaven’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). The child of God is directed by an omniscient, omni-benevolent Father Who expects His children to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). To the Philippians Paul wrote, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (1:9-11, emp. added).
In two of the more challenging sections of Scripture, Paul wrote: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6, ESV). “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another…. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…. Repay no one evil for evil…. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:9-18).
No Christian can be a racist, and any racist who claims to be a Christian is, in truth, a liar. As the apostle John explained, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21).
“[W]hatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor [regardless of his or her color and ethnicity—EL]. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:9-10, NIV).
#5—JESUS IS EVERYONE’S SAVIOR
In one of the earliest Messianic prophecies, God promised Abraham that it would be through One of his descendants that “all the nations” and “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:18; 12:3, emp. added). It certainly was an honor for Abraham’s family to be chosen as the one through whom the Savior of the world would come, but Jesus did not come only to save the Jews. God did not enact a plan of salvation to save one particular color of people. He did not send Jesus to take away the sins of a particular ethnic group or nation. Jesus is the answer to the whole world’s sin problem; He is “the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14). “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17, emp. added).
“God…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4, emp. added). For this reason, “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations” (Luke 24:47, emp. added)—to people of all colors, in all cultures, in whatever countries.
The Gospel “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16, emp. added). And when individuals in the world “obey the Gospel” (2 Thessalonians 1:8; see Lyons and Butt, n.d.) and are added to the Lord’s Church by God Himself (Acts 2:47), we all become one in Christ Jesus. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:29).
I do not claim to be an expert on race relations, but I know that some people genuinely struggle with the sin of racism. Some struggle with being the recipients of racism, which in turn may cause them to be tempted to react in racist ways. Others struggle with cowardly silence as they tolerate the sin of racism in their homes, churches, schools, businesses, and communities. Still others seem so preoccupied with advancing their own racial agenda that they appear to hastily interpret most everything as a racial problem, when most things are not.
Jesus once taught the hypocrites of His day, saying, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). May God help us to see as He sees: “for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). What a better world this would be if everyone realized the foolishness of judging a book by its cover. Racism really is ridiculous.
Huxley, Thomas (1865), “Emancipation—Black and White,” http://aleph0.clarku.edu/huxley/CE3/B&W.html.
Lyons, Eric (2011), “The Moral Argument for the Existence of God,” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=4101&topic=95.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (no date), Receiving the Gift of Salvation (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press), http://www.apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/Receiving%20the%20Gift%20of%20Salvation.pdf.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (2009), “Darwin, Evolution, and Racism,” Apologetics Press,http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=2654.
Marchant, Jo (2008), “We Should Act Like the Animals We Are,” New Scientist, 200:44-45, October 18-24.
Mounce, William D. (1993), Basics of Biblical Greek (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).