Undermined And UndoneSeries: The Way Of Salvation
UNDERMINED AND UNDONE
Sermon By Terry Siverd
Cortland Church of Christ / February 23, 2020
At our Simple Supper this past Wednesday, Vic Rossi led our devotional.
We examined a passage found in Mt.23:24, where Jesus referred to the scribes and Pharisees
as blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.
In the preceding verse (Mt.23:23), Jesus spoke of them as hypocrites.
You tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law:
justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are things you should have done without neglecting the others.
This verse, and others, testify to the fact that some things are more important than others.
As Christians many ethical actions demand our time - - some lesser and some greater.
In the living out of our faith we must be take care to tend to the lesser things,
but in so doing we must strive to stay focused on the weightier matters.
For several weeks now we have been speaking about good behavior and bad behavior.
Earlier on we spoke of the fruit of the Spirit and of late we are speaking about the works of the flesh.
Although not exclusively, our studies have drawn upon Paul's words found in Gal.5 and Col.3.
This morning we want to visit a passage found in the first chapter of Romans. Romans is a letter that Paul
wrote to a small pocket of Christians in the city of Rome. He was thrilled to hear of their faith in Christ and he
applauds them in Rom.1:8 saying, your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world (Roman Empire).
Paul assures them that he has been praying fervently for them (Rom.1:9-10).
He expressed genuine eagerness at the prospect of visiting with them (Rom.1:13).
He reminds them of the power of the gospel to save both Jews and Greeks (Rom.1:16).
In Rom.1:18ff, Paul segues from his warm and cordial opening remarks to get down to business.
Rather abruptly, he broaches the subject of the wrath of God.
He gives a brief synopsis concerning the ungodly status of the Gentile world, in general.
He tells them that the evidences of the One true God are abundant (Rom.1:19-20).
Then, with candor, he indicts them for their ignor-ance (Rom.1:21).
They are without excuse - - although given the opportunity to know God - - they refused to honor Him as God, or give thanks.
Professing to be wise, they became fools and chose rather to worship vain idols (Rom.1:22).
Three times in the balance of chapter one, Paul states emphatically, God gave them over (Rom.1:24, 26 & 28).
Other translations of these phrase include: God gave them up … God abandoned them.
Vs.24 in the NEB / God has given them up the the vileness of their own desires.
The NCV reads, Because they did these things, God left them and let them go their sinful way...
The Gentile world of the first-century, for the most part, had become the wild, wild, west(ern) world.
Vs.24 notes, filled with evil desires … Vs.26 adds, degrading passions … and Vs. 28f, a depraved mind - -
where Paul enumerates: they were filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; gossips,slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents.
Rom.1:31 is the specific passage that we want to focus upon this morning.
(They are) undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving (and) unmerciful.
The NIV uses four other synonyms: senseless, faithless, heartless and ruthless in translating these words.
The Roman Republic began with a measure of moral purity but it wasn't long until it evolved into
The Roman Empire, which one could describe with many words, but purity would not likely be one.
I think the apostle Paul chose these four words that we find in vs.31 quite deliberately.
Asunetos … Asunthetos … Astorgos … Aneleemon.
As I noted in a previous sermon, there are several “vice lists” that we encounter in Scripture.
Mk.7:21f; Rom.1:29f; 1Cor6:9f; Gal.5:19f; Eph.4:25f; Col.3:5f and 1Tim.1:8f.
All of these seven lists contain a litany of sins, but nowhere in these lists do we read that some sins
are cardinal while others are venial. We never witness some sins in small letters and other sins in all caps.
They are all sins, and all sins are serious.
This can be perplexing (vexing) to us at times because we prefer to have everything spelled out clearly.
Perhaps that is because legalism tends to be so much easier, requiring less thought and careful analysis.
Yet, Jesus spoke about some things being “weightier matters” (Mt.23:23).
My mind keeps going back to the story of the Good Samaritan (Lk.10:30ff).
On the road from Jerusalem to Jericho , a certain man was robbed, stripped, beaten and left for dead.
A Jewish priest saw him, but passed by on the other side.
A Jewish Levite (temple cleric) also came along, saw the man, and also passed by without helping.
A third man, a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him, saw him and felt compassion (for him).
He came to him, doctored his wounds, put him on his beast of burden, and brought him to an inn.
He likely spent the night at his side. The next day he gave the innkeeper two denarii (two days' wages), and asked
him to “take care of him”, specifying that if additional funds were needed, he would repay him when he returned.
We are struck by two extremes when we read this story told by Jesus.
First of all, we are made to smile at the random act of kindness displayed by the Samaritan.
Secondly, we are saddened and find ourselves ashamed of the behavior of the priest and Levite.
The only way to explain their lack of care and concern is to step into their world of legalism.
Was it for fear of touching blood (which would render them impure)?
Did they justify their apathy by rationalizing that they had more important things to do (the temple service)?
If we are honest, this story speaks truth to us in a very powerful way.
By virtue of this text, the word of God becomes a mirror, and in that mirror we don't always look so good.
I've recounted this good Samaritan story to lay a foundation for Rom.1:31.
There are some negatives, which if they accurately describe us, they prove to be particularly ABHORRENT.
To be looked upon by others as senseless, faithless, heartless and ruthless is a serious mark against us.
To be undiscerning, unfaithful, unloving and unkind goes against the very core of what we represent in Christ.
When and if this kind of negative behavior should come to characterize us, our witness
for Christ will be undermined and we will find ourselves undone (unraveling).
Wouldn't it be nice to know if the priest and Levite felt badly about doing nothing?
Is it possible that “men of God” could be so undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving and unkind and feel no remorse?
It might be possible, but it would never be right with God.
Flipping these negatives into positives reminds us of the words of God spoken through Micah the prophet.
(God) has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with you God? (Mic.6:8).
The mighty Roman Empire of ancient times began to spiral out of control.
It came to be known for debauchery … decadence … degradation … dehumanization … depravity … and deviancy.
The behavior of many came to be deplorable and detestable. Human lives were devalued and disposable.
DECENCY CAME TO BE A VERY RARE VIRTUE.
William Barclay writes concerning these words (Letter To The Romans, pgs.38-39).
It means to be faithless or untrustworthy - - breakers of agreements, discarding covenants.
Instead of “I do” meaning “I will”, such words became worthless and empty.
The early Rome Republic was a world where honesty was highly valued and a man's word was as good
as his bond, but in the first-century those golden days could only be seen in a rear-view mirror.
Storge was the special Greek word for family love.
In the days of the Roman Empire things the life of a child had become ever so precarious.
“There was never a night when there were not thirty or forty abandoned children left in the Roman forum.”
The natural bonds of human affection had been destroyed.
Pitiless; Ruthless; Unkindness; Cruelty.
These were days when human life was horribly cheapened.
Gladiators were killed for sport, while multitudes cheered and laughed.
Servants were snuffed out for the slightest mistake.
(One fell while bringing his master a tray of crystal glasses and he was tossed into a pool to be eaten by lampreys).
Tiberius often chose to “escape” to his palace on the isle of Capri.
He engaged in orgies with children, and when they did not please him, their young bodies were tossed
off of “Tiberius's Leap” - - a 1000' high cliff that abutted his luxurious (and decadent) palace.
No one could survive that fall into the jutting rocks of the Gulf of Naples.
All of the above and more amounted to nothing but senseless behavior.
So many were living the life of fools refusing to use the mind or brain that God had given them.
But to all in Rome and to all throughout the Roman Empire, Paul wrote about a new way of living - -
a newness of life that was offered to everyone by being baptized into the death of Christ (Rom.6:1-4).
He invites all (them and us) to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom.12:2).
Read from Rom.12:9-21.
Paul closes his letter to the Romans (Rom.16:19): I want you to be wise in what is good, and innocent in what is evil.
To not possess these pillar virtues of trustworthiness, love and kindness - - the very antithesis
of the negatives Paul delineates - - will squelch any voice for good that we might have.
On the other hand, to be adorned with these first-responder, trail-blazer, gateway Christian graces will help
propel us in shining ever so brightly as children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse
generation among whom we will appear as lights in the world. cf. Rom.13:13; Eph.5:8 and Philp.2:15.
One final postscript: I'm just wondering - - if the priest and the Levite in the story of the good Samaritan later felt remorse
and sought after the man left for dead, do you think that he would be interested in having a Bible study with them?
Very likely NOT! But, after showing such care and interest to the man left for dead, if the good Samaritan asked him
if he would like to study the Bible about Jesus, it is not hard at all to imagine him saying, “YES! I would love to!!”