My number one frustration with false teachers is their refusal to be guided by the harmony of Scripture. Notice these two passages. Are they contradictory or complementary?
Romans 3:10-12 (NKJV)
"As it is written: 'There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.'"
Acts 10:34-35 (NKJV)
"Then Peter opened his mouth and said: 'In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.'"
Consider another example.
Psalm 51:5 (NKJV)
"Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me."
Luke 18:16-17 (NKJV)
"But Jesus called them to Him and said, 'Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.'"
Q: Are Romans 3:10-12 and Psalm 51:5 intended to prompt a literal interpretation or are they examples of rhetorical overstatement (hyperbole)? Other examples of hyperbole: "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother ... he cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14:26, NKJV) "And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3, NKJV)
Did Paul intend to indict all of humanity with the words of Romans 3:10-12? Is there no possibility that anyone ever did seek God or ever would seek Him? Certainly Noah sought after God and, as a result, was spared the results of the Flood. Abraham sought God and obtained at least enough understanding to enter into a covenant with God. In 2 Chronicles 17:4, the Holy Spirit says that Jehoshaphat sought after God and, later, the Holy Spirit even dated the year Josiah “began to seek the God of his father David.” (2 Chronicles 34:3, NIV). Don’t forget the words of Jesus in John 7:17 (NIV), “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.”
And what about David's words in Psalm 51:5? Did He intend for us to conclude that babies are conceived as sinners and, therefore, born sinful infants? Or is it possible that He was using rhetorical overstatement to expose the impact of sin on the entire human sphere and emphasize our lack of excuse? It is one thing to be born into a realm governed by Adam's nature (innocence removed), it is quite another to suggest that babies inherit Adam's guilty sentence.
When reformed theology bases its doctrine of original sin on rhetorical overstatement without filtering them through the rest of Scripture, they make God look like a hypocrite. There can be little unity among Christians as long as human doctrines dominate and selective obedience governs hermeneutics (principles for interpreting Scripture). Only by submitting to the harmony of the whole counsel of God can we correctly handle the Word of truth. We must raise our sights higher than the teachings of men.
Missed the beginning lessons in this series? Go to:
Difficult Doctrines: "Introduction, 2 Timothy 2:15"
"Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, Mark 3:20-30"
"Predestination, Romans 8 & Ephesians 1"
"Head Coverings, 1 Corinthians 11:1-15"
"Should Christian Women Teach Baptized Boys? Luke 2:49-52"
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