A Living Picture of Grace (Aphesis and Paresis)

A Living Picture of Grace
Robert Wurtz II

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. (1 Timothy 1:16-17)

It has been said that Paul was God’s representative of His long-suffering to a high-handed transgressor. Not that he had committed more sins than any other, but his sins were of a degree that placed him atop the list. If there had ever been a man who provoked God to wrath, it was Saul of Tarsus. In Galatians 1:13, Paul acknowledged God’s estimate of him in Acts 9:23 saying, “I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and wasted it.” 

This man was making a career out of persecuting the Church. Our verb tense shows continuous action; that is, He was relentlessly having people killed and compelling them to blaspheme Christ. Our word for “beyond measure” in Greek is huperbole, from which we get our word hyperbole. In other words, Saul moved in an exaggerated form of persecution. While in its infancy, he mercilessly attacked the Church and did everything in his power to snuff it out. This is a faithful account of the facts — worthy of all acceptance. 

Our Greek word makrothumia, translated as “long suffering” is very strong. In fact, the word thumos is an emotion stronger than anger.

“Thumos is a tumultuous welling up of the whole spirit, a mighty emotion which seizes and moves the whole inner man. The restraint implied in makrothumia is more correctly expressed by long-suffering. It is a patient holding out under trial, a long-protracted restraint of the soul from yielding to passion, especially that of anger.” (Weust)

God’s mercy towards Saul was not only a demonstration of His mercy in terms of forgiving a person of their sins, but of the restraining force He was moving in that was more powerful than Saul’s zeal to destroy the Church. In other words, God was moving in an exaggerated form of long-suffering as He looked over Saul acting out. Where sin was abounding — grace was super abounding. 

Given “Time” To Repent

Some might say, “Well, if God is righteous and just, why did He not strike Saul dead?” This question has a two-part answer. First, there are two primary Greek words for our English word forgiveness; aphesis and paresis. R.C. Trench gives this comment:

“These two words aphesis and paresis agree in that whether the one or the other occurs to you, no reckoning of your sins is made; they differ in that when the former is given, you never pay the penalty for your deeds, but when the latter is granted, you suffer no punishment for your deeds as long as he who has the right of chastising your transgressions decides to leave them unpunished.” 

If God were to judge people for their sins the moment they sinned, there would be no one left to save. Paul deals with this in Romans 3:25. It’s not that God is not just; it’s that His forbearance (long suffering) is giving people time to repent. This is what Paul told the people at Mar’s Hill: 

These times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead. (Acts 17:30–31 NKJV)

Notice the word ignorance in our passage. It denotes people who simply do not know better. They were blinded because of their love of darkness (John 3:1ff); by the god of this present evil world (2 Corinthians 4:4); and by God Himself (John 12:40). Theologians refer to this technically as the noetic effects of sin.  

Paul was moving in ignorance as well. He explained this in 1 Timothy 1:13 when he wrote, “Although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” This verse implies that Saul simply did not believe the claims of the Saints. This is not necessarily an obstinance in the face of the facts, but a genuine ignorance of who Christ truly is. This problem was solved on the road to Demascus. Had Saul continued to persecute after that event, his sin would no longer have been in ignorance, but would have been willfull. How we respond to Christ when He reveals Himself to us is the key. 

An End To His Blindness 

Paul was a living example of how the veil of blindness that is over the heart of many Jews is removed. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. (2 Corinthians 3:15–16 NKJV) When Saul finally “turned” to the Lord, as a consequence of the revelation of Jesus Christ on the road to Demascus, he fulfilled the requirements of Acts 3:19. He was also given the commission of duplicating that experience in the lives of others. 

For I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:16–18 KJV)

Paul (Saul) was to testify of his experience at Damascus as well as other experiences he would eventually have. This was to bring about the same effect in the people who heard the testimony as it did in him when he experienced it. A witness is a person who has seen something they can testify about. When the Holy Spirit anointed him to tell his experience, the people had Christ set forth before their eyes. If the people respond rightly their eyes will be opened and they will turn in repentance and faith. If not, they will be hardened all the more. Paul gives the progression in Acts 28:27:

For the heart of this people is grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should turn and I should heal them.

Wrong Response

1. Harden the heart (towards God)

2. Refuse to hear (the witness)
3. Close the eyes (to the revelation)

Right Response

1. See 

2. Hear
3. Understand
4. Turn
5. Be healed  

God’s Long Suffering

There are people in the world who hear the Gospel and struggle to believe that God could ever forgive their sins. God set forth Paul as an example of His willingness to save even the vilest of people. He has tolerated and overlooked a lot of sin as proof that He is, in fact,  a loving and long suffering God. He sets on a throne of mercy — with rainbow round about. However, the day will come when the colors merge into a searching brilliant white, and the throne will be one of justice and judgment. If every transgression and disobedience are given a just repayment, how will we escape if we neglect so great of salvation? (Hebrews 2:1)   

Paul could have easily said, “while I was yet the Chief of sinners, Christ died for me.” He turned from his former life and received eternal life. This is the force of Calvary. Nevertheless, everyone who hears Paul’s testimony must likewise “see; hear; understand; turn; and he healed.” God has demonstrated His long suffering, but it will not go on forever. 

These times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. (Acts 17:30)

A Worthless Mind

A Worthless Mind
Robert Wurtz II

Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him. (1 Samuel 25:17 NASB)

I have chosen this insightful text to introduce an important incident that took place just prior to David becoming king of Israel. It is relevant to our times because it is a picture of the mentality many people are moving in today. The story deals with a man whose behavior was so evil that he was called Nabal, the Hebrew word for fool.  

Now there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel; and the man was very rich, and he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. And it came about while he was shearing his sheep in Carmel (now the man’s name was Nabal, and his wife’s name was Abigail. And the woman was of good understanding and beautiful in appearance, but the man was harsh and evil in his dealings, and he was a Calebite). (1 Samuel 25:3 NASB)

You will notice that he is contrasted with his wife who was of good understanding and beautiful in appearance. Nabal was a very rich sheep-master on the confines of Judea and the desert. His ranch was on the southern Carmel, in the pasture lands of Maon. It was the custom of the shepherds to drive the sheep into the wild downs on the slopes of Carmel. While on one of these “pastoral excursions” they encountered David and his mighty men who protected them day and night. Nevertheless they did not take or receive anything from the shepherds in return for their services. (1 Samuel 25:7, 15, 18) 

Please Help Us

When David heard in the desert (cf. v. 1) that Nabal was shearing his sheep (which was generally accompanied with a festal meal), he sent ten young men up to Carmel to him. He told them to wish Nabal peace and prosperity in David’s name, and having reminded him of the friendly services rendered to his shepherds, ask for a gift of food for himself and his men. (see Keil and Delitzsch) Though exceedingly rich, he refused to share anything with David and his men– who had risked life and limb protecting his shepherds and flock. We read, Then Nabal answered David’s servants, and said, “Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each one from his master. Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers, and give it to men when I do not know where they are from?” (1 Samuel 25:11 NKJV) This response shows the level of madness this man was moving in. In order to justify his own covetousness, he posited David as a vagrant slave who had run away from his master! 

Nabal totally dismissed what he had been told about David’s kind protection of his sheep and shepherds. The information went in one ear and out the other so fast that it’s as if his mind was made up before the conversation began. Why? Because he was making all of his thoughts serve covetousness. The man had money on the brain. Everything is being spun to serve mammon. Was it reasonable? No, but that didn’t matter to Nabal. His twisted mind refused to see the wisdom of giving David and his men some basic food rations for their services. He was not asking for the farm; he just wanted something to eat and to get by on. 

A Warped Mind

This is an example of what theologians call “the noetic effects of sin.” Sin turns a decent mind into an utterly obstinate and irrational one. Nabal was covetous and therefore an idolater (Colossians 3:5). This was just one of the obvious sins that corrupted his thinking processes. Think about it. Would it not be common sense to give David and his men some “gift” for the services rendered? Nevertheless, this man could not see the sense of it. We can be reasonably certain that if it was Nabal in David’s place he would expect compensation; but this is how the mind corrupts itself into treating others in ways they would not want or accept being treated. 

A good rule of thumb is that if you would not do it, don’t expect someone else to. Nabal wanted something for nothing, but he certainly would want to be paid. In fact, he got angry and acted out because they asked! This is sin making its effect on the reasoning.

Deadly Repercussions

When word gets back to David, he is furious, and rightfully so. And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff. (1 Samuel 25:13) Things are about to go bad for Nabal. David could slay this man and his whole house as if it were a light thing. A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rages, and is confident. (Proverbs 14:16) Nabal went running headlong into mortal danger. A wise man would have had the good sense to know that David and his men deserved “something” — especially in light of how nicely they asked for it. Had David and his men been a band of thugs they would have just taken what they wanted and defied anyone to say something. Nevertheless, Nabal’s foolish heart was darkened to this fact.

A wise man would have been careful, thoughtful, self-mistrusting and reserved; a disposition which flows from the reverential awe of God (fear of the Lord). The fool, on the contrary, is self-confident, regardless and secure. While a wise man will avoid evil and carefully goes out of its way, the fool has no sense of the situation he or she is in. Death was at the door and he just kept being himself. 

Utterly Irrational 

Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him. (1 Samuel 25:17 NASB)

Talking to a person like Nabal is like talking to the wall. They simply cannot reason about moral and spiritual issues and will even act out so that no one can speak to them. This is the carnal mind at full enmity with God. But why? We have a few clues from the Psalmist, The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. (Psalm 14:1 KJV) Here is our word Nabal again, only it is translated as fool in English. 

The word for fool in Hebrew comes from a root nabel and it means “to wilt.” We have this word used in the negative sense concerning those that delight in the law of the Lord. 

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. (Psalm 1:3) 

Here wither is nebal. The Law is the revelation of God; that is to say, it is light. It is reduced to the two great commandments. Those who walk in the light as He is in the light will not wither. If we love God as He has commanded and our neighbor as ourselves; that is, if we will simply walk in the revelation of truth that God has provided us and delight in His word we will not wither. We would never behave like Nabal behaved towards David. Moreover, the word “wither” implies that the withering ones were once healthy.

Wilting Minds

Wilting in plants can be caused by either lack of water or sunlight. If this condition progresses, wilting becomes withering. Plants typically need water and light to maintain water pressure internally. When the pressure drops, wilting occurs. This is explained on a spiritual level in Romans 1:22, professing themselves to be wise they became fools. They became vain (emataiōthēsan) in their imaginations, etc. The word “became” implies that this was not the person’s original state. It took place through a process. As the old Greek proverb goes, “Empty persons think about empty things.”

Evil For Good

Now David had said, Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained unto him: and he hath repaid me evil for good. (1 Samuel 25:21)

Let us observe another facet of the mentality of a fool; they reward evil for good. Such dastardly behavior ought to smite the conscience, but not Nabal. His mind had been darkened until he could not make the most obvious moral judgment in providing for David and his men’s needs. Nabal refused to acknowledge that David had done good towards him. This is what a fool does. That is to say, they will not acknowledge the goodness of God, as coming from God, so as to acknowledge Him and repent. It is the goodness of God that leads men and women to repentance. If this goodness can be attributed to something other than God, then the person can pretend they don’t have to acknowledge. The problem for those that are bent on denial of God is that a day of reckoning is coming.   

A Closer Look 

Sin impairs the moral judgment by three things: 

1. His/her own personal sin and refusal to walk in known truth (Hebrews 5:12-14). 

2. The devil that blinds their minds (2 Cor. 4:4) 

3. God that sends strong delusion to those that have pleasure in sin. (2 Cor. 3:14, Romans 11:7, John 12:40, Matthew 13:11-15) 

When a person is moving in these three things, their judgment is totally out of calibration. They are self-deceived, and invite more deception. This is how Nabal can reward evil for good as if it was normal behavior. Everyone around him is in distress; David is nearly in a rage over his behavior; nevertheless, Nabal looks on as if it’s another day in paradise. Sin had pickled his mind. What a fearful thought! 

When God Chooses the Delusion

We read in Isaiah, Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not. (Isaiah 66:3b, 4) He continued in sin; Satan blinded him; and now God has come to serve judgment in choosing the delusion. The mind bent on sin and rebellion simply cannot see the truth no matter how much evidence is brought forward. The understanding is impaired. This ought to alarm us so that we are ever careful to make sure we follow the light of truth. We must hear His voice and hearken unto Him when He calls. 

Understand that the problem is progressive. It can subtly take over the mind. However, Nabal’s wife Abagail went to David and brought a large gift and pleaded with him to have mercy on the “scoundrel” (as she called him 1 Samuel 25:17). Though he had not the good sense to see the danger he was in, his wife interceded with the “soon to be king” for him. David spared Nabal for her sake. He received a short-lived reprieve. 

The Finality of the Fool

So it was, in the morning, when the wine had gone from Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became like a stone. (1 Samuel 25:37) 

Nabal was not only drunk with wine, but he was staggered in the strong drink of sins’ intoxication. Somehow in the morning he sobered up. Once he realized that he narrowly escaped death for himself and his whole house, his heart died. What a terrible way to go. Perhaps Matthew Henry summed up his life best when he wrote; “His heart overnight merry with wine, next morning heavy as a stone; so deceitful are carnal pleasures, so soon passes the laughter of the fool; the end of that mirth is heaviness. Drunkards are sad, when they reflect upon their own folly. About ten days after, the Lord smote Nabal, that he died. David blessed God that he had been kept from killing Nabal. Worldly sorrow, mortified pride, and an affrighted conscience, sometimes end the joys of the sensualist, and separate the covetous man from his wealth; but, whatever the weapon, the Lord smites men with death when it pleases him.”

The Effects of Sin Upon Beliefs

The Effects of Sin Upon Beliefs
Robert Wurtz II

But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till [there wasno remedy.(2 Chronicles 36:16)

I sometimes wonder what it will take before some people finally turn to Christ sincerely. As a young boy in the seventies, I recall in Sunday School and church being told about all kinds of terrible things that would happen in the ‘last days.’ It would send terror through me. Nevertheless, the truth is, nobody in those days even had the mental and moral depravity to be able to express the level of evil and wickedness that exists in our times. I doubted things could ever get as bad as what the teachers and preachers used to say; but, here we are and in many ways we have blown past their wildest imaginations. Why is this happening? How has it come to this?

The Noetic Effects of Sin

Theologians refer to the condition in which there is an obstinate refusal to acknowledge simple facts about God and His creation they call “the noetic effects of sin.” The fall of man and his and her insistence in continuing in sin has dropped a cloud of darkness over multitudes. Because people refuse to acknowledge God as His creation puts forth its evidence of His existence, He gives them over to their foolish hearts. Denial is, likewise, described by psychologists as a defensive means of coming to terms with difficult facts. People refuse to allow the truth to come into their consciousness. They are stubbornly and deliberately obtuse. This would be bad enough if we were talking about trivial matters; but this is the mentality behind the machinery that is building our culture! 

Some people envision a world that can determine morality independent of God and His word. As Dawkins has put it, “God is no longer necessary.” Nevertheless, we see where it is heading. Recently, an article was put forth in the British newspaper, ‘The Telegraph’ stating, “Killing babies (sic) no different from abortion, experts say. Parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed because they are “morally irrelevant” and ending their lives is no different to abortion, a group of medical ethicists linked to Oxford University has argued.”

Experts? Expert in what? Rebellion? In light of this, it is obvious that fallen man is becoming increasingly incapable of rightly choosing what is good and evil (moral). Why? Because of the noetic effects of sin. Sin and rebellion have a direct effect on a person’s moral judgments. This is almost scary to think about. In the 1980s, there was a campaign promoted by the Partnership For A Drug-Free America (PFDFA)using the slogan, “This is your brain on drugs.” A person would say “this is your brain on drugs” and drop a couple of eggs into a hot frying pan. The searing sound and sight gave the impression that drugs fry your brain. In like fashion, sin fries your moral judgment. The more you partake the more dull it becomes. In fact, we can see from scripture that sin hardens a person’s heart. The problem is that it plays out in three ways:  

1. The heart is hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 

2. The devil comes in and further blinds their minds. 

3. God sends strong delusion to those that have pleasure in sin. 

This is the process by which the masses have their judgment totally out of calibration. This is the consequence of rebelling against truth- while enjoying the temporary pleasure of sin. This is how men and women are conditioned to call good evil and evil good.

God has given us an inward “a priori” knowledge of Himself. This is why the Bible never makes a case for the existence of God. People try to put God on trial, but they already know God exists. Moreover, His moral law is the basis of civilized society. When God and His word are removed- the society ceases to act civilized. They may never admit it or they may insist on constantly updating their definitions (v 1.01, v1.02, v1.03, etc.); but their own heart condemns them. This is why they hate Christians. Anyone that says something to awaken their conscience is violently detested. 

We know God is good (moral) because it is His very nature. Like Job, we may not understand at the time what God is doing, but we can trust that He is good. However, indolence and pride rule the day. They reject the light and eventually lose their moral reasoning ability. Ever wonder why its seems impossible to rationalize with people on hot-button moral issues? To them fornication, abortion and to some even infanticide passes muster as “moral.” It is “immoral” to them, to inhibit folk from expressing fornicative acts and prohibiting abortion! And there is no reasoning with some even when the baby is being killed out of the womb. They obstinately refuse to SEE it as immoral. The masses keep on rebelling against what God has told them and then have the nerve to sit back and blame Him for so much of the problems in our times. Amazing! But again, it is the noetic effects of sin on their reasoning ability. The more they sin the darker their mind and reasoning gets. If some of these minds were moral calculators, 2+2 = 6. 

Making ‘Adjustments’

I’m amazed at how easily one can get used to outrageous behavior. Think of the workers in the death camps of WW II that could do their work and go home to their family at night with seemingly no pain of conscience. This ought to shake us. What are human beings really capable of? I think the thing most dangerous to mankind is their proficiency in willful ignorance. They are ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the Truth. Why? Because there is a dishonesty with themselves at the core of their reasoning. The noetic effect of sin has done this. They don’t follow Divine evidence, they tamper with it mentally until it goes in the direction of their wretched lifestyle and evil desires. But what about Christians? Can they be effected by the mindset of the world? Absolutely! This is what Paul expressed in Romans 12 when he said, Do not be conformed to this world.” We have to get away from worldly influences that can mess our minds up. Soon we will think all manor of sin is ‘moral’ and ‘ok’ if we are not careful. 

Universal Madness

Imagine the madness of our times. We have tsunamis wiping out whole cities, bodies washing up on shore by the thousands, earthquakes unsettling the masses in divers places, volcanoes erupting in a wild spectacular combination of molten rock and lightening storm; and yet there is almost a yawn in the mouth of the people. What hardness of heart has allowed even the most spectacular phenomena to have no effect? Sinkholes open up in the earth in South America as if we were facing a foretaste of the Abyss. People seem to carry on as if these foretastes of Hell are merely assessed for their shear entertainment value. Christians being brutally murdered by machete wielding Islamic fundamentalists in third world nations as if they were demon possessed. Men and men and women and women getting married. And then if someone says something about it somehow they are “politically incorrect” or “intolerant.” Has there ever been such high-handedness as we see in our times? It’s almost as if the people have convinced themselves that they have effectively killed God and now are free to act out and do whatever foolery they can imagine no matter how vile.

Where do things go from here?

Imagine a tour bus load of people heading down Pikes Peak with no brakes. The bus is starting to perform all manor of wild acrobatic acts as if Evil Knieval were at the wheel. All the while the people are looking out the windows, popping their champagne and toasting to their fine accomplishments and education. Nobody seems to be hearing the sound of rubber burning off the tires or the creek of the suspension- taxed to its design limits. It’s as if they have convinced themselves that, “Were so educated, we don’t even recognize Newton’s basic laws anymore! Were the generation of the Antinomianists; we do what’s right in our own eyes no matter what it is.” The problem is, the bus is picking up speed and we just passed acceptance of homosexual marriage, and a sign that says, “Sharia Law Ahead.” Stop and ask yourself a question; whether you are an evangelical or an atheist; “Where is this ‘midnight bus to Memphis’ headed?” What will be acceptable in 10 years that would horrify us now? How long until child molestation is legal or until various forms of murder is acceptable? How long until we pass the moral degeneracy of the Nazi’s? Because this bus is rolling on the unlocked wheels of unrestrained wickedness and hardly a rider on board seems to be blushing no matter how reckless and hopeless their plight. 

The Long-Suffering of God

God is waiting today even as He did in the days of Noah. Yet men and women are hardening thmselves more and more. The Galileans are lying dead in the streets and the Tower of Siloam seems to fall every night and folk just keep on as they whist not that unless we all repent we all will likewise perish. It will be too late to mock God when the tide of His judgments are carrying all before it. It will be too late when Hell enlarges itself once again to make room for the bus riders that die by the billions on the way down the mountain. God is not willing that any perish, but man is not willing to hearken unto God and repent. Yet, there will come a point, when the hand of God is directly responsible for the plagues that come upon this earth. There will be no guessing. The Revelation gives a sobering and frightful account, “yet they repented not… but rather blasphemed the one that had power over these plagues…” This is hardness ad infinitum.

Calling Upon God

Hardness brings with it an anger towards God and a destructive self-confidence. Think of Pharaoh. He pursued the people of God after seeing the Finger of God manifest over and over. Soon… he was face down in the water. This is a grim picture of our times. So many are rejecting the Light that they have and partying on as if there is no bottom on this bus ride. The light that now shines is now passing through the prism of God’s longsuffering and grace; but the time will soon come when the rainbow around His throne will turn a brilliant and blinding white as the prism of mercy is gone forever. May men hearken to His voice and receive His grace even now before it is finally too late.