Three Chains II: Guilt


The solution to fear is deliverance. The answer to guilt is justification. The solution to shame is the honor of glorification. To release someone from one of these chains requires that he be released from all. And Jesus Christ is the only one who can do any of it. Last week we considered the authority of fear, and the deliverance provided by the fear of God—which is love for God, given by the grace of God. This week we move on to the chain of guilt in order to address how God has released us from it.

The Text:

“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19).

Summary of the Text:

In the first chapter of Romans, we learned that the Gentiles were under the power of sin. In the second chapter, Paul argued that the Jews were also under that same power. Here in the third chapter, he is showing us that Jews and Gentiles together were sinners together, and that all are under the power of sin. Everyone is a sinner, and everyone is a sinner in accordance with the law. God gave the law to those who are under the law (meaning under the condemnation of it), and God’s purpose in giving the law was so that every mouth would have to shut up, and so that whole world would become objectively guilty before God.

Guilt Outside and Inside:

In Scripture, guilt is not primarily existential guilt. When we say “guilt” our primary meaning for this is guilt feelings. But guilt is created by, and measured by, the law of God. In other words, guilt is objective, regardless of how the guilty party feels about it. Once the judgment of the law is passed, and the accused has “his mouth stopped,” there are certain subjective sensations that come when the holy law of a holy God comes into the conversation and shuts you down. But that is a consequence.

Babel and Pentecost

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #166

There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me” (1 Cor. 14:10–11).

The miracle at Pentecost was a reversal of Babel, which meant that it was a unifying miracle. When God confused the tongues at Babel, the result was that men scattered, divided by their different languages. When God gave different languages at Pentecost, the intent was to move men in the opposite direction, to gather them all to Christ. At Babel, the different languages scattered. At Pentecost, the different languages gathered. They all heard, in their own tongues, “the wonderful works of God” being declared (Acts 2:11).

God has set the direction, and so our worship services should continue to move in that same direction. There are many voices in the world and all of them, Paul says, have specific signification. There is a meaning there, but if I don’t know the meaning, what effect does that have? It has the effect of making the speaker a barbarian to the listener, and the listener a barbarian to the speaker. But God’s purpose in the church is to make us all members of the same household, the same holy nation (1 Pet. 2:9). We are not supposed to be foreigners to one another.

The word barbarian came from this idea of what alien chatter sounds like. When someone is a foreigner talking away aimlessly in my presence, I am going to tag him with an onomatopoeic label – they sound like they are saying nothing other than bar bar bar bar. And so, Paul says, don’t do that to your brothers in church. And if you withhold from your brother the signification of what you have said, that is exactly what you are doing. You are exiling your brother, who ought to live right next door to your meaning, and you are exiling him to a distant and barbarous land.

When you do this in church, you are introducing the tongues of Babel, and not the tongues of Pentecost.

Three Chains I : Fear


Over the course of the next few weeks, we are going to be considering three chains that the enemy of our souls wants to use in order to keep us in bondage. But in Christ, we have been set free, and set free means set free from each of these chains, and from all of them. The three chains are fear, guilt, and shame. All three are common to the human frame, but different cultures can develop different emphases. The Western world is concerned with righteousness, and is therefore afflicted with guilt. The Eastern world is very concerned about honor, and is therefore afflicted with shame. The Southern world is concerned about survival and safety, and is afflicted with fear. The North generally does okay because it is cold and no one lives up there.

The Text:

“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt.10:28).

Summary of the Text:

In this part of Matthew, Jesus is telling His disciples that He is sending them out as sheep among wolves. We need to be shrewd therefore (Matt. 10:16). We need to beware of men, because they will in fact persecute (Matt. 10:17-18). Even when we are delivered up, we need to trust God for the words we must use (Matt. 10:19). The persecutions will be both intensive and extensive, and if they treated Jesus this way, we cannot be surprised when they treat us in the same way (Matt. 10:20-25). Do not fear them, the Lord says, because everything is going to be revealed (Matt. 10:26). The entire story will eventually be told. Be bold (Matt. 10:27). Do not fear men, who can only kill the body and not the soul. Rather, fear the one who can wreck both body and soul in Gehenna (Matt. 10:28). We are told not to fear for two reasons. The first is that God will tell the whole story one day, and the second is that they can only kill the body, which means that all they can do is help you escape from them.

Tangled Blatts

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #165

And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air” (1 Cor. 14:7–9)

Paul’s argument here is a fortiori, a “how much more” argument. A melody cannot be made out apart from a distinction of notes, whether from a pipe, or harp. And if a trumpet gives a series of tangled blatts, how will the troops know to get ready for battle? Unless there is distinction in the notes, the whole operation is just a disturbance in the air. In the same way, speaking in an unknown tongue apart from interpretation is just so much noise.

Therefore, in a Christian worship service clarity and ease of understanding are to be prized. We are to stand opposed to anything that gets in the way of such understanding, even if that something is edifying to this person or that one individually. The body needs to be able to say amen.

Idols and Tyranny


One of the reasons we have trouble dealing realistically with evil in this world is that we have drawn mental cartoons of the evil beforehand. When someone says “tyranny,” we think of goose-stepping armies, missile parades, and funny looking helmets. But then, when something genuinely bad happens in our own lives, and we see it with our own eyes, because it doesn’t match the cartoon we treat it as an anomaly, a one-off occurrence . . . a thing we don’t have a category for. But we need to have a category for something this common.

I am a child of the Cold War, and my first glimpse of an actual communist country taught me this lesson. Don’t fight the caricature—fight the real thing. In the early seventies the submarine I was on was pulling into Guantanamo Bay, and when I came topside I was astonished and taken aback because this commie land was emerald green. Bright green. But all my childhood images of communist countries resembled something like a grainy black and white newspaper photo of Budapest in the rain.

The Text:

“And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto him, Take thy father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath, and cut down the grove that is by it . . .” (Judg. 6:25–32).

Summary of the Text:

Earlier in this chapter, an angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and told him that he would be the instrument for saving Israel from the oppression of the Midianites. After his interaction with that angel, that same night the Lord spoke to Gideon and told him to use his father’s bullock to tear down his father’s altar to Baal, along with the grove by it (v. 25). The groves were part of the way the idols were set apart as holy. They would have been planted, and tended, and cultivated. Idol worship does not occur in fits of absent-mindedness.