Thursday, January 15, 2009

Binding Men Over to Disobedience


Today I would like to discuss the following passage:

For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. Romans 11:32 (KJV)

The context of this passage is how the unbelief of the Jews led to the good news being preached to the Gentiles. I could discuss the various causal connections that the apostle Paul had in mind when penned this (through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit), but I have different aspect of this that I would like to explore.

When I first read this passage this week, I read it in the NIV, which reads as follows:

For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

In place of any discussion of the merits of the various translations, I want to illustrate truths concerning God’s qualities that are brought out in the latter rendering.

How has God bound all men over to disobedience?

Ephesians 2:2 says, “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:”

God allowed the inhabitants of the world to be put, in some sense, under the authority of Satan (he is called prince). But God did not do this arbitrarily, so as to do evil so that good would result, but had justification for doing so. This justification is namely Adam’s sin.

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:22 (KJV)

Because we sinned first, this justifies, and even necessitates that God hand the world over to Satan’s power. What if, when Adam sinned in the garden of Eden, God didn’t cast him out (see Genesis 3). What if God allowed Adam to continue to eat of the tree of Life and live forever? Then he (and we) would never have learned that God knows what’s best for us and that He deserves our unconditional obedience.

As time goes on, to the extent to which wickedness increases on the Earth, God “binds all men over to disobedience” all the more and this finally will culminate in the events of Apocalypse, and in particular, the arrival the Beast or the Man of Sin (or of Lawlessness).

“…that man of sin be revealed, the son of perditionAnd now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3-6 (KJV)

The mercy God shows us when he does this “binding of men over to disobedience” is further illustrated in God’s instructions for the Church. Concerning the unrepentant within the Church, He says: “…deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” 1 Corinthians 5:5 (KJV)

By finding out the consequences of sin, man becomes prepared for obedience.

Notice he doesn’t say “so that he may have mercy on all who believe.” This is not stating Universalism, but illustrates the point that God has mercy on all, not just the “Elect” or some special group of His choosing. Christ died, not only for every person, but for every sin that every person has ever committed. (see I John 2:2) But not everyone will accept it and therefore will not all will reap the benefits of it.

In conclusion, God has good reason to hand people over to Satan. This does not mean that God is evil or that God is colluding with Satan. To the extent to which man rejects God’s authority, God allows Satan to govern man more, which results in less freedom because Satan seizes upon man’s frailty and manipulates them, but ultimately results in mercy for all.

If you would like to know exactly what it is that is so bad that it has led God to teach us such a harsh lesson, and what God requires to get us back into His good graces, click here.

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