Theme: Christ as Judge
This week’s lesson teaches us that we hate God, and only by his grace learn to love him
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be prophet.
Years ago the great American theologian Jonathan Edwards developed this theme at length. His sermon was entitled “Men Naturally Are God’s Enemies,” and it was based on Romans 5:10 (“For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son. . .”). Most of us, when we take a text like that, focus on the good part—in this case, on the wonder of the death of Christ. Edwards did not go about things in that way. He saw that no one could appreciate the death of Christ, the second part of the verse, until he understood that he was an enemy of God, the first part. So in that discourse he examined how we are God’s enemies until regenerated.
We are God’s enemies in several ways, says Edwards: in our judgments, in the natural likes or dislikes of our souls, in our wills, in our affections, and in our practice.
1. We are God’s enemies in our judgments. We have mean opinions about God. Edwards used an illustration here, asking: What do you do when you are present in some gathering and a friend of yours is attacked? The answer is that we go to his or her defense. And how is it when an enemy is praised? In that case, we introduce negative factors to put down anything in the enemy that might be thought good.
So it is in people’s judgments of God, Edwards argues. “They entertain very low and contemptible thoughts of God. Whatever honor and respect they may pretend, and make a show of toward God, if their practice he examined, it will show that they certainly look upon him as a Being that is but little to be regarded. The language of their hearts is, ‘Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?’ (Exod. 5:2), ‘What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit should we have if we pray unto him?’ (Job 21:15). They count him worthy neither to be loved nor feared. They dare not behave with that slight and disregard towards one of their fellow creatures, when a little raised above them in power and authority, as they dare, and do, towards God. They value one of their equals much more than God, and are ten times more afraid of offending such, than of displeasing the God that made them. They cast such exceeding contempt on God, as to prefer every vile lust before him. And every worldly enjoyment is set higher in their esteem than God. A morsel of meat, or a few pence of worldly gain, is preferred before him. God is set last and lowest in the esteem of natural men.”1
2. We are God’s enemies in the natural relish of our souls. Relish is an old-fashioned word which we use today only to refer to condiments for the table. In Edwards’ day it meant “likes” or “desires.” So what he meant here is that we do not naturally like God. In fact, the opposite is the case. By nature we find Him and His attributes repugnant. Here Edwards discusses our hatred of the four great attributes of God—holiness, omniscience, power, and immutability—which I have often referred to in other messages, picking up on Edwards’ insights.
This explains why men and women will not have much to do with God, why they try to keep at such great distance from Him. I had a neighbor once who was so adverse to God that I could not even begin to witness to her. The moment the name of God came up, she cried out, “Don’t talk to me about God!” She was even adverse to letting her six-year-old daughter hear God’s name mentioned. This is why people will not go with you to church, will not read Christian books and will not pray. It is why even Christian people have such a difficult time with some of these items.
1Jonathan Edwards, “Men Naturally Are God’s Enemies,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Edinburgh and Carlisle, Pa: The Banner of Truth, 1974), vol 2, p. 131.
Why is it important to understand that apart from Christ we are God’s enemies?
Why is God’s omnipotence so distasteful to men?
Why do people try to keep such distance from God?
Offer a prayer of confession to God for your selfishness and lack of desire to please him.