Archive for March 21st, 2017

Everything Is Good

March 21st, 2017

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Tim. 4:4-5 ESV)

There were in the First Century church communities some who put strict limitations on certain behavior – even marrying – and certain foods as well as on certain created things, labeling some impure or even evil. This passage gives us a very simple but clear principle by which we can live with, understand, and enjoy the world God created.

The false teaching characterized some animals, and probably plants, as evil or impure, associating species with evil. We do this in our fairy tales, especially those of European origin, characterizing wolves as evil or foxes as sly and swans as pure. Of course, even the Bible does this, comparing Satan to a snake and also to a “roaring lion seeking whom he might devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

But Paul reminded us of the biblical principle proclaimed in Genesis 1, that God made the earth and pronounced it good. So we may saw that every created thing has its place in this world. We have developed an entire science of this in Ecology and the study of the environment. There was and is order and symmetry in creation, placed there by the Creator. There are even the means in the created order for adjustments, migrations, lateral evolutionary developments, and the capacity to restore balance when it is upset.

Because of evil in our hearts we have found the means to corrupt many things, but the things themselves are not evil. We have been able to ferment fruit and grains and some lives bear witness to the tragedy of alcohol addictions. We have made sophisticated poisons out of other plants and killed people. Yet these same plants could be used for good; many cures we have discovered for deadly diseases are found in the plants themselves.

There was an indirect curse put on the world when mankind sinned, as Paul described for us in Romans 8:

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:19-23 ESV)

“Creation was subjected to futility” due to the hardness of humanity’s heart. The world was made o bear witness of God (Psalm 19:1) but man’s heart is blind to this reality so its original purpose is frustrated. Mankind received direct curses (Genesis 3:16-19) but creation received the indirect result as well due to the role God created us to play in caring for creation. We could easily say that after so many years of human civilization that the ecological problems we have in this world are caused by human sin, and not that creation was flawed in and of itself.

So how are we to use the creation?

First, it should be made holy by the Word of God. That is, we should not use the created order in ways that are contrary to the teachings of the Bible. Immoral sexual behavior is often excused along these lines – people say, “We are just admiring a beautiful creation of God!” The reality, however, is that lust and pride are perverting hearts and turning that which God made to be shared in holy matrimony, in intimacy between husband and wife, into unholy things.

Sin is fundamentally a perversion of what is good. Sin needs good to exist – cursing is a perversion of blessing, lying a perversion of telling the truth, sexual immorality a perversion of marital faithfulness, etc. Good, however, does not need evil to exist. Good can exist all on its own.

Secondly, it is to be received in prayer – meaning in the daily communication with God by His Spirit. As we walk with Him and converse with Him, He guides us. We are to use things in accordance with His Word and in accordance with His Spirit’s leadership in our lives.  There should be no contradiction here for the Spirit is the Author of the Bible and will lead us in the upholding of its principles. The Word of God applied under the Lordship of Christ, which is another way of saying in the filling of the Spirit, is the Christian ideal.

Thirdly, it is to be received in thanksgiving. We are different from the animals in that we have the capacity of inner gratitude and outer thanksgiving. Whatever we receive, however much we receive, we should be grateful for, sincerely thanking God for His grace and bounty.

So, in these few short words Paul has instructed us on how to use the created order around us. We should not be dominated by fear but by “power, love, and a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). W should be wise and spiritual, guided by His Word and Spirit, and we should be grateful, not greedy. In living like this we will enjoy God’s creation which still holds a great beauty.

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