Texting Romans 5:14

Just in case it’d be helpful, I’m passing along my answers to some questions someone texted me about the Romans 5:14.  The person was reading the NIV translation of it.  

Happy Monday!

Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. 

Which translation are you reading?  

Romans 5:13-14 “For sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.  Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” (ESV)

The Law given via Moses showed human beings just how convicted they were.  One of its purposes was a sort of public reading of what we’ve done and reading of our sentence.   We were already convicted murderers, but now a town crier was announcing it from a mountain top, so that we’d hear and angels would hear and everyone would know.  We were already convicted.   Already sentenced.  Death already reigned.  But because of the Law it was all the more plain now just how sinful we each and all were…

Yeah, I think they’re doing a little more interpretation than translation there…

The trespass caused the death.  The sin caused the death long before the Law revealed just how awful it was.  But now the awfulness of what we are and what we do and what we’ve done is plain as day, because it’s published on Mount Sinai and delivered to a million of God’s people and recorded in His unbreakable Word and held in His holy Ark of the Covenant. 

Sin reigned before the Law, death reigned before the Law, but now it’s public knowledge just exactly what our sin was and and what it deserves…

The literal language is just “who did not sin in the likeness of the offense of Adam.”  The NIV guys are trying to help you by interpreting that for you as “did not sin by breaking a command.”   But in my opinion they’re probably just making it more confusing…  That’s what preaching is for.  I’d prefer a translation to simply translate…

FYI: Paul uses a word there in the “their trespass was not like…” clause that specifically means “transgress,” not the normal NT word for sin, which would be “hamartia.”  So I think he’s saying that what they did post-Law was an additional layer of wrongdoing.  It was a trespass of a now-public edict…

Paul is saying Adam was a sinless human who sinned, thus death reigned because of him.  Over everyone, pre-Law and post-Law. “But, all my Roman Jewish Christian friends,” he says, “Out father Moses read out an even greater condemnation of us then [sic] Seth or Enoch or Noah had.  We’ve heard from Moses just exactly what we are and what we do.  The Law condemns, it can’t save, and it can’t wind back Adam’s death.  Noah was dead in sin, we’re dead in sin and KNOW just how and why, and we’re all screwed.   

Except that there’s a free gift.  And it ain’t like the trespass…


60 Seconds On Men and Women

You honor neither women nor their Maker by treating them as if they are identical to men.  Men and women are both made in the image of God, both reflect His beauty and glory, and (if believers in Jesus) are both co-heirs of eternal life.  

But they are not identical.  

A husband is called to honor his wife as the weaker vessel.  He is called to love her as her head as Christ loved the church, for whom He is head.  He is to manage the household of which she is a (vital) part.

He is called to these things.  

And he will not do them, will not even understand them, if he has been deceived into thinking his wife is exactly the same as he is, and that she is called to exactly the same purposes.  

I think the cultural confusion and deceit on what men and women are has spun out in a few different ways.  For instance, a man who knows (and loves) the truth about what he is and should be and what a woman is and should be is a man more likely to hold the door for a woman and a man more likely to lead his wife and daughters in prayer.  But a man who does not know (or hates) those truths is a man who has made himself primed and ready to watch strange women be debased on the  internet or to passively observe the disintegration of his marriage.  “Women are the same as men, remember?” Satan can whisper.  “No need to protect them and no need to step up to the plate at home.”  

Gender lies are not the only cause of the rampant pornography use in American men or of American divorce (obviously), but I think that they are, for many, a cause.  Our culture should call men to be men, hold them accountable to it, and then hold them in honor when they behave as men should.  But at the moment it seems to have a problem at that very first level:  It doesn’t really know (or want to admit) what men are to be.  

Men and women are not identical.  It does not honor a porcelain vase to call it a dining room table and then take a handsaw to it.  

Men and women are designed, and their designs reflect the good purposes of a great God.  

Here’s hoping (and praying) our culture recovers a sense of wonder at just how good.  

The Boy Mattered More

It’s a profound moral failure to think that an animal’s life is just as precious as a human’s.  It is not.  While both have value, they are not equal values.

Let me summarize my argument in three simple sentences:

  1. An animal’s life matters to God.  
  2. A human’s matters much more. 
  3. Therefore, it was right to kill the gorilla to save the boy. 

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Jesus, in Matthew 10

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’

God, in Genesis 1

Last week, here in Cincinnati, a gorilla grabbed a 3-year-old boy after he got into the gorilla’s enclosure.  Knowing that tranquilizers take time and that the gorilla could kill or seriously injure the boy in a second, the staff shot and killed the gorilla to save the little boy’s life.

Now, while I can understand some sadness in the fact that the gorilla was killed, what I cannot empathize with is the particular kind of sadness that wails as though something wrong was done here.

It wasn’t.

Both the gorilla and the boy were made by God, but the boy mattered more.  He should grow up knowing that He mattered more.  He should grow up knowing that his neighbors and his friends and his enemies matter more.  Because to be wise is to value things the way God values them; to assign to individual things the weight that He does.  God did not die on the cross to offer His Gospel to animals, but to people.  God made man and woman in His image and gave them dominion over the animals and the earth.  And during the time of Israel God commanded animal sacrifice while condemning human sacrifice.

God says He values us and animals, but that He values us more.

This boy should grow up knowing that while a sad thing was done, the right thing was done.  Because that’s how much his life counts.  

One of the ways to make tell of a society’s wisdom, or lack thereof, is to see what it gets outraged over.  Animals are wonderful and made beautifully by an awesome God.  But human beings are the crowning jewel of His image on Earth.  And if a society can’t tell a pearl from a sandstone, it’s lost its moral high ground when it comes to being outraged.  

As someone who loves this society, I hope we retain our moral health, and so we prize things in their appropriate order.

Two final sentences:

  1. I love animals.
  2. The bodies and souls of humans, of children, take precedence over them.

But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Jesus, in Matthew 18

30 Seconds on Work


If work is about trying to prove yourself, you’ll never be really content or happy with it. But if it’s about diligently trying to bring beauty out of and order to creation? That’s something you can live with.  

In short, if your work is your identity, you’ll end up paralyzed or miserable. But if it’s a vocation, it can be rewarding and meaningful.

Work can’t bear the weight of your heart. It wasn’t meant to. 

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

From Genesis 2

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

From Matthew 11

Way Down Deep

One of the things my wife has illustrated for me is that mere talk about love isn’t love. If I FaceBook about how people need to be more loving but spend all my time and money and energy on myself, I’m not really a loving man.  I’m a talking man.  

Better to be both. 

And so one of the greatest blessings of my life is that the woman God gave me is a living example of fuller, more layered love.  The sort of love our Savior modeled.  Love that costs you things.  Sleep, free time, hobbies:  When you love well, it all gets put on the table for the good of another.  Prayers and thoughts and affections are spent on the souls of the ones you’re loving. 

Love is measured in personal sacrifice.  

But motherhood isn’t mere martyrdom.  Something I’ve never though to articulate until now is that Christlike motherhood both costs a woman herself and restores to her herself.  My wife has given of her hours, her energy, her heart, and her mind for several years to our three children, but rather than the well of her self being drained, it has actually been dug deeper.  It’s tapped larger springs.  My wife is more herself after 5 years of Christlike motherly sacrifice, not less.  

Our Savior doesn’t just kill our flesh, He brings it back to life. He doesn’t just rescue us, He re-makes us.  

God-ordained callings make a Christian more Christian, but they also make her more human.  More the human she was made to be, anyway.  

Parenthood, like work and church and all of the Creator’s mandates, makes us bear out more fully the Imago Dei.  In Eden, God designed marriage and parenthood and work and the people of God, and while creation is groaning under the weight of sin and death these things are still powerfully beautiful, Godly, and human.  

God can use any number of His instruments to sanctify a soul.  His Son, His Spirit, and His Word are necessary, but beyond them He may use creation, vocation, marriage, singleness, Christian brothers and sisters, education.  But in our lives, I’ve seen parenthood profoundly widen our hearts.  And for me, watching a woman who loves Jesus more than her family and so who is then able to come back to them with a full and generous heart, has helped me love others better.  It’s helped me live life better.  Her Christ-generated sacrifice has spurred me on towards better, more self-forgetful love.  And together, as we slowly (too slowly) become more like our Jesus, we both become more like the selves we were created by Him to be.  

I’m grateful on Mother’s Day for a Christian wife who loves her children and adores her Savior.  

And each day the well is dug deeper, our family is blessed by what God brings out.

Cam Newton, a Sports Show, and Humanity


Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’   So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.

 From Genesis 1

Imago Dei (‘image of God’): A theological term, applied uniquely to humans, which denotes the symbolical relation between God and humanity. 

I’ve been listening to a lot of a certain sports radio show I like, because the host is funny and creative and original.  But almost every day he brings up racial disparities or issues, and often takes a very antagonistic and (I think) self-righteous tone.  I like hearing from people I disagree with or who have a perspective different from mine, and I otherwise enjoy him, so I continue to listen.  But after not being able to quite put my finger on why his angle was spiritually bugging me, I finally had a thought yesterday:

This guy seems to only take race into account.  

And I kept thinking, as I drove home for lunch.  

The secular worldview has to identify people by race, sexual attraction, gender, or economic strata.  It must classify people in tangible or political or physiological groups.  It’s bound to think of people as Asian or poor or rich or oppressed, because it has no room for the categories of saint and sinner, penitent and proud.  

A mind that doesn’t take God into account when analyzing people will usually only weigh material things.  

So, where the Bible would see Cam Newton as a uniquely made human man bearing the image of God and needing a Rescuer from his sins, the secular worldview (21st-century, Western secular worldview, anyway) sees him as some combination of heterosexual, black, rich, American, and famous.

My favorite radio host’s daily analysis of the sporting landscape wasn’t sitting right with me because he was downplaying individuals’ humanity by talking about them only in racial categories.  

The same thing often comes into play when the secular perspective approaches raising children or counseling adults.  Where a Biblical prism can take into account ADD and a sinful heart, a troubled childhood and a present-day idolatry, the secular way of looking at humans (and the world) has a limited number of categories at its disposal.  It has ruled out certain truths from the outset, mainly that humans are embodied souls created in the image of their God  and that they are sinners.  So it cannot diagnose your child’s sin and his sleeping problems.  And it cannot counsel the physical and sinful components of your lust or your anxiety.  It must give me Ritalin or call me a victim; it  has no class or heading for anything else.  
Two important addendums:  

  1. I am not saying Christians should only think spiritually because modern secularism thinks only physically/temporally.  That’s Gnosticism, the ancient heresy that the physical is somehow bad in God’s eyes.  I’m saying that the Christian can look at people and problems through a lens that brings both the physical/temporal and the spiritual into focus.  In other words, Christians and materialists are not looking at separate pictures, one spiritual the other physical; Christians are looking at the whole picture, materialists only the frame.  
  2. I am not saying that everyone who denies Jesus refuses to acknowledge sin, the imago dei, or the spiritual.  I am maintaining, though (and vigorously) that the secular mindset or worldview does.  

The Bible can give a fuller definition of “human” because the Bible is an account given to us from the One who authored humans.  On the other hand, all you have to do is watch the news for a couple of days (or listen to my favorite sports show), and you’ll see that the dominant worldview in our day and place can only seem to group people and define them by economics and race and gender and sexual attraction and nationality.  It can’t seem to probe into the heart, the sin, or the human’s created purpose.  

It can’t give a full, composite picture of you, me, or Cam Newton.  

If you take out the dei, it won’t be long before you lose the imago, too.  


60 Seconds on Environmentalism


Quick hits from our church’s preaching of Genesis 1:26-31 this morning:

  • God gave humans responsibility towards His earth:  Populate it, keep it, and use it for human flourishing. 
  • Humans have dominion over the environment, per its Creator.  
  • That dominion should be exercised responsibly. 
  • It is a misguided heart that that fears environmental catastrophes, government conspiracies, or the results of the next election more than it fears the God who made mountains, sets up kings, and causes demons to shudder.  You cannot be anxious and worship at the same time. Anxiety sucks the air out of awestruck worship of God.
  • Secular environmentalism worships creation rather than the creator. 
  • Human beings are not villains assaulting nature; they are the co-regents nature was made to serve and be (responsibly) subdued by. 
  • Lastly, greatest hope for the environment isn’t new legislation or initiatives; it’s the return of King Jesus, who will beautifully and perfectly remake it. All life, no death. All goodness, no sin.