Culture, Christianity & The Cross
God and Society
It is marvelous that in a world like this, where confusion seems to set in on every hand, we have a source, a realm of authority, by which we can know reality. That source is the Bible, the Word of God. There is no other source of truth like this, no other way to truly understand life. Therefore, we ought to pay great attention to what it has to say, because it gives us the only solution to the set of problems and concerns that confront us, in a world like this.
If ever there is a message, a lesson, which I have prayed would make an impact upon our lives, it is the thing which we are going to discuss in the coming pages. Were going to talk about the Maker of the universe and answer some basic questions about His relationship to the world. The first question is, Has God Given Up on Society? The Bible says: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
When we consider what is happening in society, and listen to the astonishing statements of non-faith being voiced by so many people today, we have cause to wonder, Where is God, and what is He doing, and how can society make it without Him, if indeed we have to?
Now to discover the answer to that question, we must look into what the Bible says. The Bible gives us the best short analysis of God and His relationship with the world, and the best short history of mankind that can be found anywhere in print. I am referring particularly to the first chapter of the Book of Romans, because that chapter is the key to understanding God and the world and how they work together. Amazingly, the Word of God provides an answer far different from that which is most popular in our world. Im moved by the fact that there are millions upon millions of people in todays world who dont know why God made the world; who dont know what the world is; who have invented fancy little theories of their own, if they have even taken the time to think about it at all! So they move along a pathway going nowhere, while life for them presents nothing but mounting confusion. And all of it could be straightened out so easily, if they would just take the time to look into the Word of God!
The question before the house, then, is Has God Given Up on Society? Now the first chapter of Romans is most interesting. First of all, it tells us about the Gospel. The Apostle Paul says: For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith (Romans 1:16-17).
That having been said, the Apostle Paul takes the balance of Chapter 1 and talks about the world, about the past and about you. He introduces that whole set of subjects that we must all know about, because without them we cannot live. He says the people of the world have: changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen (Romans 1:25).
They have taken that knowledge of God and hurled it under foot. They have said they dont want God to rule in their lives. The fact that God made the world, and that He sustains it, is outside of their thinking. They never imagine these things. And so do you know what the Bible says God has already done with the people of this world, particularly the ones who purport to think, the ones who believe they understand things? God has said that for this cause He has given them up, first of all, to uncleanness (Romans 1:24). He says that they have lived lives that are morally dissolute, and they have dropped into a form of living which makes them incompetent and incapable, so that they cannot think straight.
Secondly, the Bible says, God has given up this world to vile affections (Romans 1:26). And do you know what He says about that? Even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was fitting (Romans 1:26-27).
Then the Scripture says, God has given up this world to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28). What is a reprobate mind? It is a mind that can no longer distinguish between good and evil, that does not know right from wrong. As a result of reprobation, the moral order of society is destroyed, and you cannot even discern the right way, let alone find the capability to pursue that right way.
So what about the question, Has God Given Up on Society? Our first answer to that question is Yes, He has. The order of society, in the sense that it is moral, has been destroyed. One cannot find the right answers to moral questions in todays world, because the world has become reprobate. Now when we read in Scripture that the world is sinful to the point of reprobation, we have to take a moment to review why it is that way. God made man in innocence, but in perfection. He made man in His own image: in the image and likeness of God, you were made and I was made. But one day in the past, Eve reached out a hand trembling with anticipation, and she took of the forbidden fruit, and she ate. Then she gave some to Adam, her husband, and he also ate. And so the Bible says: Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned (Romans 5:12).
But think for just a moment. What has God done about this? Is He simply letting it go in that way? No. God first of all informed mankind that God is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6). Man has been given the hope that, by following the Lord, by believing in Him, he could be lifted out of sin and given a better existence. So the first commission to do that was to the culture. Mankind was supposed to understand itself, based on the instructions of Scripture, and look there to find the antidote for sin.
Who Killed Jesus?
However, mankind failed to do this. The story of moral failure is pretty much the story of the existence of humanity, so God raised up a special entity from among mankind. That entity was the nation of Israel. He commissioned Abraham to be the father of Israel, and through him the Israelis were given the promises of God. The Bible was written by and for Israel initially. Israel was commissioned, in the midst of a sinful world, to show that still, if you follow God, commit your life to Him, if you obey what the Bible says, you can be delivered from the terrible consequences of sin. Israel was commissioned to touch a world and tell it about the love of God and about the prosperity and blessing that its people would know if they would follow the Lord.
Did Israel fulfill this commission? The answer is no, it did not. Jesus Christ came as the Messiah of Israel, and Gods great representative to tell people how they could know the Lord. They rejected Jesus Christ: Israel did, and the world did. So the answer to the question of Who Killed Jesus? is We all did! He died as a result of the love of God. Acts Chapter 4, verses 26-28 says: The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against Your Holy child Jesus, whom You have anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever Your hand and Your counsel determined before to be done.
In the meantime, Israel has been set aside by God and ceased to be the instrument by which God intended to touch a world and tell the world what it must do.
Here then came the great decision, about how God would deal with the world. That great decision came out of the death and burial and resurrection of Christ. God instituted an entity, a great program. That entity is called the Church, which is the Body of Christ. That entity is believing Christians, who would accept Jesus Christ on the basis of faith in the Savior. Not works, as was so much the center of things in the nation of Israel, but rather, to these people who would believe and desire to know Christ, the Bible says: For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
And so an amazing, amazing message came out of the rejection by Israel of the Lord, and God instituting the Church which is the Body of Christ: one of the most marvelous things the soul can imagine! Because of it, a dissolute sinner can believe in Jesus Christ, and as a result, be lifted out of sin by accepting Gods Son as personal Savior. A world of iniquityit was a terrible thing. But in the midst of that world, God reached out to individuals and said, Come to Christ, believe the Gospel, and if you do, you will have the wonderful gift of life everlasting.
The World of Sin
Now having said these things, let me ask you to remember, and never forget, that our world is a sinful world. The culture of the Earth today is not generally the object of Gods visible, external working. Rather, God is using individuals, whove had the amazing miracle of salvation, to reach a world with the marvelous message called the Gospel. We know that we live in a sinful world, not only because we can see it when we walk the streets of our cities, but also because the Bible says so, and organizes it in great detail.
People often ask about the barbarian worldthose people beyond the light of the Gospel. How can they be lost? The Bible says that a barbarian world is lost because it had the knowledge of creation, and it sinned against the reality of creation by denying His revelation that He gave in the natural world. The Bible takes another group of people, in Romans Chapter 2. These are the pagan moralists, the outwardly ostensibly righteous people. God says that kind of person is also a sinner and has sinned, not only against the world of nature, but against conscience. Scripture says their conscience will bear witness one day: In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel (Romans 2:16).
I earnestly pray for you. You may be quite religious. You may even be committed to some denominational program. But I want to tell you something: if you do not know Christ as personal Savior, on the basis of receiving His finished work on the crossif you are trusting in anything else save the shed blood of Jesus Christ, you are lost, you are not saved.
Now this question of the basis of salvation came up as a great concern in the early Church. That great concern took the form of one of the early churches, the one at Galatia, starting to believe a different message than the message of salvation by grace through faith alone. Paul wrote to these people and said: I marvel that you are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ to another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:6-8).
Anathema maranathaLet him be damned of God. Thats what the Bible says about those who do not believe truly and sincerely the Gospel of Christ. These people had heard of the grace of the Lord Jesus. Paul came and preached it to them. But then they had subversive individuals that came and called them away from grace. They said, You are not saved by grace alone. You are saved by grace plus works. You are saved by grace plus keeping the Law. You are saved by grace plus helping others, plus baptism, plus confirmation, plus membership in one thing or another. A person who talks like that does not know what the Gospel of the grace of God is. Hes a tragic professional liar and should not be listened to by anyone! There be some that trouble you, Paul said, and would pervert the gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:7).
I think just about the most dangerous thing going on in the world today is the subversion of the Church to believe something else besides the Gospel of the grace of God. The Bible calls for absolute purity as to faith in the Lord Jesus. You must not trust in your own works. You must trust in the finished work of the cross, so that you are saved, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy (Titus 3:5). The Galatian church was beginning to slip down from Christianity to what we might call nominal Christianity. A nominal Christian is one who is a Christian in name only. But their life and their faith and the realities to them are secular and human rather than sacred. Watch out for nominal Christianityit is one of the most deadly viruses going on in the Church of our time! I beg of you to think another time about the basis of your faith.
Look, dear friend: God has called the Church to move the world with the Gospel and He has given us the capability of doing it. But we will lose that capability and our influence in the world, and will amount to nothing (as thousands of churches in the world today are amounting to nothing), if we do not truly represent the Gospel of the grace of God. You are not saved by faith plus something. You are saved by faith alone. If the doctrine of salvation of faith plus works prevails, were going to lose the world. The Church will come apart. In fact, the landscape of America and other nations of the world is littered with the moldering ruins of churches that once were great, but they began to believe another gospel. Maybe it was the social gospel. Maybe it was existential religion. Whatever it was, if its less than the Gospel of the grace of God, it will ruin a church, and will ruin a culture in the midst of which it lives.
Look across the world today. Europe and America have quite a strong Christian background. But if you look closely, you will see that the landscape is dotted with buildings where people sing songs, if they sing at all, that have nothing to do with the Gospel. They talk about many things going on in the world, but not the grace of Jesus Christ. They are nominal ChristiansChristians in name only. And what they are attempting to accomplish will not come to pass. In fact, if you believe a social gospel, and you simply want to change the world, youve forgotten that God has already given the culture up. You cant change it. You may put millions of dollars into your efforts, but you will discover that things are changed, not by money or social programs, but by the Gospel.
If you would like to see spiritual revival in your church, or accomplishments in the world, start by committing yourself to God with the promise, I will tell these people the Gospel. Dont buy the bad argument which says, Well, they wont believe unless first you give them something. You give them the greatest gift God ever gave to mankind, when you give them Christ and His power to save. Lets get back to the Gospel. If we dont, we will lose the world, no matter what may be our other attempts at accomplishment. May God help us to be people of faith, who the grace of God still moves, to tell a world about the only real way of salvation.