Friday, March 09, 2007

Humanity in Sin Part 6 - The Degenerating Ancient World

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 4th March 2007 in GRIIS. It was preached in Indonesian and I personally translated to English. Newton Life has it preached in Mandarin with English translation.

Passage: Genesis 5 and Genesis 6:1-6

Man still retains God’s image after the Fall and after he was chased out from Eden. This explains why our world is the way it is. It tells why there is a huge difference between ideal and reality. We know that within ourselves there are a lot of wishes and dreams. But when we try to accomplish them, it is very different from what we imagine. Through God’s revelation, we understand why human culture is so powerless.

As Christians, we need to pursue the right understanding of our world through God’s Word. There is high tension between our goals and reality. 6000 years of human history proves one verse in the Bible, that the wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23). We seek after a great society but we alays fail. We need to think things through from God’s throne. It is not just limited to our personal problems but we learn to understand world phenomena that are so perplexing and complex, like why there are wars.

Cain was jealous of Abel so he killed him. This is how war began. When God asked Cain, “Where is your brother?” his response was that he did not know and he did not care. This is our fallen human culture that seeks only after personal profit and has no care for other things.

We will never harmonize horizontal relationship (human to human relationship) before setting right the vertical relationship (human to God relationship). Only when we are reconciled with God can we have true love and justice towards all mankind.

Cain’s descendants were full of talents and very advanced. They made bronze and iron and were skilled in music. But Cain had been driven out of God’s presence. Without God’s presence, the development of talents had no direction. It was towards building the kingdom of self.

Hence we ought not to boast of our talents and wealth. Mankind has been cast out from God’s presence in Eden. If we are cut off from God’s grace, in overall and ultimate sense our life is a sad one although we are talented. Happy is the man who lives in God’s presence. One who lives in God’s presence, enjoy heaven even in sufferings, like Abel.

Western world is shaped by two cultures, the Hebrew culture and the Hellenistic culture. The former inherit the Word of God while the latter inherit Greek philosophy. These two opposites live and grew in the same community. Hence we can find the most pious and the most rebellious in western nations. Which stream of culture do we belong to?

Gen.5:4 says that Adam had many sons and daughters after Seth. Cain feared that he would be killed by these people. But why did God prevent Cain from being killed by others, and pronounced curse on anyone who dare to kill him? This is a mystery of God’s wisdom. It is absolute necessity for evil to exist in the world because mankind must go through trials.

But when the world becomes exceedingly sinful, what was God’s response? Genesis 6:1-6 told of an account prior to the Flood, which is one of the most confusing passages in the Bible. The passage causes many questions to arise.

Who are the “sons of God”? Why the mention of the “beautiful daughters of men”? What about the “giants”? And God regretted creating men?

This passage seems to suggest the development of free sex in ancient world, where there was no ethics, only lust.

In the Old Testament, the “sons of God” never refer to human beings but always refer to angels. But do we have to apply it in this particular passage? Did fallen angels have sex with human ladies, so the children that were born become giants?

Angels are spirit so they cannot have sex. In Jesus’ own words, in the final resurrection we will all become like angels in heaven who neither marry nor are given in marriage. From this passage, we have reservation to interpret the “sons of God” as angels.

But if they refer to men, why then are they called the “sons of God”? In the New Testament, the sons of God refer to believers, those who are redeemed by Christ.

There is, though, a passage in the Bible that might allow the interpretation that the “sons of God” here refer to the fallen angels. Jude v.6-7 speak of the adultery of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, who were said to follow the evil of the fallen angels. Where did the seed of adultery come from then? It was given by fallen angels. Since angels were the tempter, were they not guilty of the same sin? Or because they are spirit, they can commit all kinds of sin except adultery which can be committed only by those who have flesh? However, Jesus Himself said that adultery was committed in the heart. So adultery could be committed in thought.

Moreover, what Jesus said regarding angels not marrying or given in marriage, refer to the elect angels in heaven, not the fallen angels who did not keep their position. This interpertation is indeed of a high theological value, but there is weakness to it.

The issue is, why did God get so mad with the world over free sex to the point of wiping off all mankind except Noah and his family? Compared to our world today, isn’t free sex also very rampant, perhaps more rampant, and has God become more linient?

There is explanation offered, if we still follow the previous interpretation. If angels have sex with humans, the descendants will be half-human and half-angel, neither human nor angel. This will disrupt God’s plan to save mankind. For God save only men, not angels (Heb.2:16). So could this be the reason why God had to destroy all inhabitants of the world who are of this cursed lineage?

This interpretation was generally accepted until the second century. Later the church no longer accept that interpretation. The next interpretation is that there are two streams of descendants, that of Cain and that of Seth. The sons of God refer to the godly men from the lineage of Seth while the beautiful daughters of men refer to the sinful people from the lineage of Cain.

The descendants of those rejected by God could still be very great and talented in the world. But common grace is different from saving grace.

When we are enjoying ourselves most, we are probably sinning and saddening God most. We need to take a step back to think after God’s thought and understand His heart. We need to learn to synchronize our thoughts, feelings and actions together with God’s Word, so that the presence of God become our greatest enjoyment.

In Gen.6:3 God said that men’s life would be 120 years. This clearly does not refer to the age, for clearly even after Noah’s generation mankind still lived longer than 120, like Abraham. But this 120 years is the time span God gave before He destroyed the world. He decided to tolerate for another 120 years.

What then is the meaning of God’s tolerance? Will more people repent the longer He tolerate? Rather, it is more probable that the longer He holds, more people will be damned. With the population growth, one more day means more will go to hell, because men in their fallenness reject God. God’s tolerance reveals His will and revelation, as Noah’s ark would be a type of Christ’s salvation for His chosen ones.

We need to learn to be responsible in what we decide and do, and not try God’s patience. When God has decided to judge, there is no more appeal we could go to. He is the Creator, and He is the Judge too.

To be continued next week…


At 1:42 AM, Anonymous michael said...

Thank you for your effort.

At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When we are enjoying ourselves most, we are probably sinning and saddening God most. We need to take a step back to think after God’s thought and understand His heart. We need to learn to synchronize our thoughts, feelings and actions together with God’s Word, so that the presence of God become our greatest enjoyment.

The first sentence is a very narrow interpretation of the Bible. We can have the greatest enjoyment when we are with God. We do NOT have to sin to have the greatest enjoyment. When a couple is having sex, if the love of God is with them as they enjoy each other bodily - it is joy beyond physical pleasure. When you are having the best food and wine, you can be most thankful to God to give you the sense to appreciate the flavor and thank Him for giving you those food and you can enjoy them heartily. When you see a beautiful waterfall or standing on top of a mountain and enjoy the beautiful creation of God, again, you can be most thankful and have the GREATEST enjoyment in life. To think that all enjoyment has to be connected to sin is a very narrow view of God's attribute. It is also a reflection of a narrow or subconsicous "holy living" mentality. To have God is to have "Joy Unspeakable" and full of glory - no matter what you are doing. Real enjoyment is NOT equal to sin, it is possessing God.

At 11:36 PM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for your comment. I agree with you that pleasure is not equal to sin. I think Rev.Tong will agree with that as well, that's why he said "when we are enjoying ourselves most, we are PROBABLY (not certainly) sinning and saddening God most."

I think there are 2 kinds of pleasure, sanctified and unsanctified ones. Sanctified pleasure means we enjoy God and all His blessings on this earth, including the examples you have mentioned.

I believe when Rev.Tong talks about pleasures that sadden God, He is only referring to the unsanctified ones, like indulgences that would eventually hurt ourselves and others. Hope that clarifies.

At 5:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think when you said "santified" and "unsantified" pleasures - you are putting us back under the law. It is like the Jews or Pharisees who have 100s of "Thou Shalt NOT" and 100s Thous Shalt. There is nothing "clean" or "unclean" as it is clearly taught in Acts and in the Corinthians - it depends on whethr God is in it or not. Thus a married couple can have sex, but it depends on where/when/how it is done. It can be most thrilling physically but sinful; but it can also be most fulfilling and satisfying if God is involved. The former thrill will pass and more and more thrills are needed to satisfy the sensation which ultimately leads to depravity. The latter leads to love, joy, peace and contentment.

By saying that pleasure = probably sin - you are looking at pleasure just like a non-believer. Some are good and some are not good. We are to have a completely different value. That is why I believe his basic assumption is wrong. Now if he were to separate "pleasures with God" and "pleasures apart from God" - then it would be very different.

Also, by saying that "we need to take a step back to think after God's thought and understand His heart" - that, again, seem to stem from "what we can do for Him" - it will again put you in Romans 7 - trying to please God with "your" effort. The key is not what you can do, it is what God can do through you. This is too big a topic to cover here.

At 1:33 AM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

By sanctified pleasures, it means pleasures with God. Unsanctified pleasures mean pleasures without God. So I guess we are in agreement? =)

At 9:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure if we are in agreement - I think I sense a slight difference. It all depends on what you mean by pleasure with God. I think may be the basic difference is you may have pull God down to our level - and thus view it from our points.

For example, a kid may want to eat candy and enjoy it, the parent can give it and have pleasure in seeing the kid enjoying it, but the parent may not like it at all but still gets pleasure watching the kid. So the parent is not eating or sharing the candy WITH the kid, but the parent is still pleased.

Similarly, God does not have to be with us to enjoy the food, our social gathering or our private time with our spouse - but He can still be pleased. The act is not santified because He is there, as He is omnipresence, it is not santified because it is considered to be right or proper by our standard. Thus Peter was asked to eat "animal" which were not clean, Paul in Corinthian says that we are able to do all things, as long as it glorifies God.

We are given the sensation of taste for food, sight for pretty things, feel or touch from other human or sexual pleasure with your spouse. These are our "human" need. We are made according to His image - these are His given attributes - enjoy them accordingly and give thanks to Him as you enjoy them.

At 8:46 PM, Blogger Dan said...

Is there any of his sermons available on the net that I can download and listen?


At 1:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As long as we have pleasure in God within his law of liberty. Outside of it is sin....


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