Thursday, May 2, 2013

Examine Yourself

Who Are The Children of Wrath?


Among the things I have learned in the process of putting this together is that one can not simply go to just any source which claims to be a repository of data regarding how one is to follow Christ. The Bible is that repository of data, you see. Other sources may be written by respected organizations or individuals, but may only contain either varying degrees of truth, or very well worded opinion unburdened by actual truth. At best, I can use a source outside of scripture to expound on biblical truth, but it requires the lens of scripture, obtained by grace of God through study of the Word, a task of which actually reading it is but the first step, to see how much of that external source contains truth, and how much is, while perhaps popular or even traditional, in reality only unbiblical opinion.


I have found myself using what we have studied in the Bible as the optometrist uses a lens to permit us to see clearly, looking through what the Word itself says when considering any words or reading any writing, especially my own, to see what truth can be gleaned. Some very authoritative sources out there have a *lot* of false additives and by-products mixed in, obscuring the truth, or bending it to allow for our flesh which hates the truth. Chief among the obscuring vapors I have encountered of late is the teaching known as antinomianism, which for those of us unfamiliar with the term, is an amalgam of two Greek words; “anti” which means against, and “nomos”, which means law. Antinomianism = Anti law. It appears in contemporary terms today like this, “Jesus paid it all, so I am not under any law, so don’t put me under your legalistic bondage.” Even when Jesus plainly speaks to this kind of confusion Himself at the beginning of His ministry, this does not stop the flesh from hiding behind the fig leaf excuse of antinomianism.


In the end, the Word of God is the source the follower of Christ is to depend on for all truth, above that of tradition or even experience. It contains the nature of God our Father, details the love He has for His Son and how the Holy Spirit moves in harmonic accordance with the Father’s will, and shows us exactly what He loves and what He hates, lays out the fact of what we as His creation are, and precisely what He expects of us. All of our questions are answered in it. Why are we here? The answer in no way pleases our flesh, but it is in the Word. What is the meaning of life? The flesh doesn’t like the answer, but it is right there in the same place.


To put this premise to the test, Cyril sent out a request to all of us to ascertain what questions and doubts we all have about our faith, this Way which Jesus established and which we are following, this world view which is so completely contradictory to that held by our society as to be diametrically opposite in almost every instance. And one of the sets of questions which it fell to me to respond to was “Who are the children of wrath? How do we find out if we are one?”


Those are some seriously weighty questions. They are questions of the kind that one can not read without asking them of themselves if they have any semblance of self-honesty.


I am not certain why I thought the answers to these questions would be simple, but once I checked on what scripture had to say I realized that even a simple response would require understanding of terms that must also be defined and clarified. To understand who the children of wrath are, one must understand not only what the attributes of a child of wrath are, one must also obtain a full understanding of what sin, which drives the wrath, is, what Christ’s sacrifice for sins has done, and what the subsequent children of grace are, in order to see the full contrast and know what to look for to determine one’s designation.


I will say before I continue that what I learned of myself during the Scripture diving I have done terrified me like few things have. It terrified me because I learned in the searching that I have been operating under a false assumption regarding sin, and while I have at times spoken up about it in different forums, like among my brethren here and even on Facebook, during moments of the most severe conviction of sin in my life, I have not acted with consistency on what I was speaking about, and have instead allowed the prevailing opinions on sin and how it is to be treated enter in and give me comfort, where the Words of Jesus and the apostles do not support those opinions, but in fact come directly against them.


In other words, in the effort to learn the Bible’s definition on the children of wrath and their attributes, I found too many of those very attributes evidenced in me. And for most of the research period it was all I can do not to openly tremble in my fear.


So, to set the table, first I recognized that there are two kinds of children; those of wrath, and those of grace. Either we are going to suffer the wrath God has for sin, or we are going to be protected from that wrath by God’s grace through His Son, Jesus Christ. Let us go then to the only place in the Bible where the phrase “children of wrath” is found. 


Ephesians 2


“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.


“So then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh—called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised”, which is done in the flesh by human hands. At that time you were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In His flesh He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. He did this so that He might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross and put the hostility to death by it. When the Messiah came, He proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone. The whole building, being put together by Him, grows into a holy sanctuary in the Lord. You also are being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.”


This chapter hit me first with both conviction, and some confusion.


First, there was the fact that Paul is here speaking to the body of believers in Ephesus. He is not talking to unbelievers, and every reference to trespasses and sin is in the past tense. You *were* dead. Trespasses and sins in which you *previously* walked. We too all *previously* lived among them in our fleshly desires. We *were* by nature children under wrath.


Some translations read children unto wrath, or children of wrath. Greek transliteration: teknon orgè


1)       teknon = a child, descendant.

2)       orgè = anger, wrath, passion, punishment, vengeance


Children to undergo punishment in misery, doomed to God’s wrath or penalty.


The attributes, the “nature” of the child of wrath, are found in the sentence containing the phrase.


“We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.”


1)       Lives in fleshly desire.


Fleshly desire: Sarx epithumia. A state where the lust of the body is given up to the control of human nature, the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence, and is therefore prone to sin and opposed to God. Accordingly, it includes whatever in the soul is weak, low, debased, tending to ungodliness and vice. When Paul uses the term “sarx” or “flesh”, he refers to the whole man, body, soul, reason, and all his faculties included.


2)       Carries out the inclinations of his or her flesh and thoughts.


a.       Inclinations: thelèma, meaning; an act of the subjective, preferred will.

b.      Thoughts: dianoia, meaning; understanding, intellect, mind.



The “child of wrath” carries out, by preference, the will of his flesh--the lust within his mind, i.e., he does whatever the flesh and the thoughts desire.


I don’t know about you, but I see some of those attributes in me. That scares the h-e-double hockey sticks out of me, and I want to both thank the person with the guts to ask the question, and Cyril for encouraging me to answer it. I’m serious. The truth must be faced, and it is a mercy of God when such is done on this side of death, where I can get on my knees and repent now, instead of facing it when I am before the LORD on the other side and it is too late. If I am saved, if I am not a child of wrath, then living in a state where my body is given up to the control of human nature, carrying out whatever my flesh and thoughts desire, is to be in the past. There is no “For those of you for whom this is still going on…” in the missive. It was the way things *were*, the way things *used* to be. But it was no longer the case. Why? Because God, in His mercy, made us alive in the Messiah, to display the riches of His grace to us through His Son.  


The conviction deepened to the realm of fear once I went to the 10th chapter of Hebrews:


"For if we deliberately sin after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire about to consume the adversaries. If anyone disregards Moses’ law, he dies without mercy, based on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think one will deserve who has trampled on the Son of God, regarded as profane the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know the One who has said, Vengeance belongs to Me, I will repay, and again, The Lord will judge His people. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!" --Hebrews 10:26-31


Okay, that has to strip and sandblast away any remaining thought that the grace of God allows continued, habitual sin. No excuses or leeway is left for people who continue in the same sin after they receive the knowledge of the truth. All there is for people who do that is a fearful expectation of God’s wrath. Jesus was sacrificed only once. We can not receive His grace and then go back to the old habits. Peter spoke powerfully on this:


“These people are springs without water, mists driven by a whirlwind. The gloom of darkness has been reserved for them. For by uttering boastful, empty words, they seduce, with fleshly desires and debauchery, people who have barely escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption, since people are enslaved to whatever defeats them. For if, having escaped the world’s impurity through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in these things and are defeated, the last state is worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy command delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb: A dog returns to its own vomit, and, “a sow, after washing itself, wallows in the mud.”” 2 Peter 2:17-22


So far it’s all bad. I still see the aspects of the child of wrath in me and want to spend all my time on my face crying for mercy and grace from Him, because it is like checking off a list of more questions with implied answers. Does the fact that I am struggling with sin make me a child of wrath?? God have mercy!!


I mentioned earlier, however, that there was both conviction and confusion. I hoped both would go away by the end of this study, but… only the confusion did. Where Paul says in verse 15 of Ephesians 2.


“In His flesh He made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace.”


I was momentarily confused before I looked up the meaning of the words he used and discovered yet another “problem of language”. In other words, contemporary English strikes again, reinforcing rather than diffusing my growing certainty that it is barely above grunts and gestures of cave people. So much original depth of meaning is left out that my critical ear makes it sound less like discourse and more like what comes out of Cookie Monster’s mouth sometimes.


The law referred to here is *not* a reference to the moral Law of God, which He gave, written in His own hand, to Moses on Mount Horeb, which Moses then had placed within the ark of the covenant. This is in reference to the commands and ordinances which were given to the people afterward.


“The law of positive commandments. This does not refer to the “moral” law, which was not the cause of the alienation, and which was not abolished by the death of Christ, but to the laws commanding sacrifices, festivals, fasts, etc., which constituted the uniqueness of the Jewish system. These were the occasion of the enmity between the Jews and the Gentiles, and these were abolished by the great sacrifice which the Redeemer made; and of course when that was made, the purpose for which these laws were instituted was accomplished, and they ceased to be of value and to be binding.” --Albert Barnes


John Gill clarified the law of commandments contained in ordinances similarly, saying that they “consisted of many precepts, and carnal ordinances; and is so called because it was an indication of God’s hatred of sin, by requiring sacrifice for it; and because it was an occasion of stirring up the enmity of the natural man, it being a burden and a weariness to the flesh, by reason of its many and troublesome rites; and because it was the cause of enmity between Jew and Gentile”.


Besides all that, Jesus Himself was pretty clear in His own words recorded in the Book of Matthew.


“Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” –Mathew 5:17-20.


I looked out the window, saw that the earth and heaven was still here, and that effectively dealt with my confusion which law Paul was writing about and which ‘law’ was being referred to there. But that conviction remained, because the acceptance of lifelong sin against God has been ingrained into us as though it is a permissible thing, where neither the Father nor His Son has indicated that this is so. That we are told to ask for forgiveness for our trespasses when we pray is not excuse to go on living according to our flesh. The Lord’s Prayer does not touch deliberate sin at all. That prayer is an acknowledgement that we aimed for the mark of obedience and missed it. We worked, by the grace God gave us in salvation to obey Him, to walk in His ways, to walk after the Spirit, and we failed in our *ignorance*, and ask for the debt to be forgiven even as we forgive the debts of others.


Willful sin, doing the sin which permeates the body and governs the thoughts of a person given over to human nature, is what the Bible tells us the child of wrath does.


“I know its wrong, but I’m going to do it anyway and ‘repent’ after…” This assumes 1) we’ll still be alive ‘after’, and 2) God will forgive our premeditated rebellion against Him.


I felt the need to be certain that the scriptural definition for sin was nailed down, so I knew for sure what I was not to do what the child of wrath does. In all of scripture, no one was as succinct about this as the Apostle John. 1 John 3, he not only defines sin, he lays out the difference between God’s children and those belonging to the devil.


“Everyone who commits sin also beaks the law; sin is the breaking of law. You know that He was revealed so that He might take away sins, and there is no sin in Him. Everyone who remains in Him does not sin; everyone who sins has not seen Him or known Him.


“Little children, let no one deceive you! The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. The one who commits sin is of the Devil, for the Devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil’s works. Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because His seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God. This is how God’s children—and the Devil’s children—are made evident.” –1 John 3:4-10


I’ve been around this block many times before. These passages in 1 John are like a brick wall I would slam into and totally cave my whole front grill in. The verbiage is blunt and stark, and seems to come against every sound teaching regarding sin and the complete inability of a person to be without it in this life. Coupled with the words of Jesus, on two occasions, just as starkly saying “Sin no more”, I have been locked in a quandary over this for 3 years at least. And now here I am tasked to actually find the answer right here in Scripture.


Before fear turned to panic, by God’s grace, I looked deeper and found that the word translated as commit is also translated as “practice”. He who practices sin. He who practices righteousness. It even has the same reference to the words Jesus spoke, both to the woman He saved from stoning and to the man He healed in the Temple, “Go and practice sin no more.” To practice is not just to do something, but to do or perform something customarily or habitually.


This was my first piece of good news in the whole process, because now I could read the 1 John passage in context as a discussion of habitual sin. I always knew in my heart that the pieces fit. I believed it by mercy of God, but I did not know how, beyond the face value of what I was reading.


He who practices sin walks after the flesh, is of the devil and therefore a child of wrath. A person can not live as the world lives, practicing whatever its lust has conceived in the mind, and be saved from God’s wrath.


We have established from Ephesians 2, and elsewhere, that salvation from God’s wrath is an act of God alone through His Son Jesus, for His Name’s sake, according to His pleasure and will. In Ephesians 1, Paul establishes God’s preeminent choice in all things, as was covered by Cyril last week in full, and established, at least for me, how utterly helpless and out of control we really are of our fate. Invictus, the poem talking about our unbowed heads and how we are masters of our souls, is a complete, defiant lie. I suspect that this teaching is for many of us as it is for me not without a healthy dose of personal fear to the flesh, as I eluded to earlier; that we have mechanisms built into our flesh that resist the thought of such complete helplessness. Yet we have Jesus telling us in the scriptures that we are to yield our selves up in order to follow Him, and our selves includes what our flesh fears—what Paul calls a living sacrifice. In the face of this truth, if anything remains in us that would presume otherwise—attempts to rely upon our own desire and effort to somehow procure our own safety from designation as child of wrath, that fear I referred to increases, and then it does one of two things; either breaks upon the Stone of Christ in acceptance and obedience, or rejects it, either outright or *covertly*, and has the time allotted for continued rejection until the lungs and heart stop, and then that the will is ground to powder beneath the same Stone. It’s that covert rejection that I hate and terrifies me most, because it is completely dishonest; it lets me appear to be in agreement, and nod with a good poker face plastered on, when in my heart the truth has not been sown, and does not therefore bear the fruit of obedience. Meanwhile the Vinedresser is standing there, prune shears in hand, waiting for obedience to show itself on my branch.

John 15 begins with Jesus saying, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.

"I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples."

In Matthew 3, 7, and 15, the recorded words of Jesus are along the same vein. Chapters 3 and 7 specifically contain, "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire." Chapter 15 records Him saying, "Every plant that My heavenly Father didn't plant will be uprooted. Leave them alone! They are blind guides. And if the blind guide the blind, both will fall into a pit."

Suffice it to say, by this point in the task, I was in distress. At best, pain is destined for the branch, the child of grace, because what is pruned is a part of that branch. That it was blighted or diseased or had corruption in it does not lessen the pain that must be endured.


Then again, the child of wrath is completely cut off from Christ, without whom we can do *nothing*, and is summarily thrown in the fire.


So in recognition of this, I beg the LORD to remove all such deceitfulness regarding willful sin from my heart, even if I have to be filleted open to accomplish it, because harboring that is harboring rebellion against Him, and all that is going to do is prove myself to be a child of wrath and fail the test of a child of grace.


You see, *that* act, is God’s alone. He makes the choice. He said through His prophet Ezekiel;


“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place My Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe My ordinances.” –Ezekiel 36:26-27


Cyril covered it in Ephesians 1 with us last week. He chose us in Him. He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself. He favored us with His glorious grace.  He predestined an inheritance in Him. All according to His purpose, His favor, His pleasure. God establishes His will. He decides it, and then as it says in verse 11, “works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will.”


Amen. But here’s the thing. The “us” was not walking after the flesh, practicing sin like the world does. Like the children of wrath do.



Examine: “dokimazo” δοκιμάζω, meaning: Prove. Put to the test. Distinguish by testing. Approve after testing and recognize as fit and genuine.


“Fail the test”: “adokimos” “ἀδόκιμος, ον”, meaning: “unapproved, counterfeit, unfit, worthless, castaway, rejected, reprobate.


So we are to test ourselves, prove ourselves fit. Do we not recognize Jesus Christ in us?—unless we are unfit. Unless we are rejected.


So how can we be certain we are not children of wrath? How can we verify that we pass the test and are children of grace?


While not an actual phrase found in scripture as “child unto wrath” is, the LORD also, thankfully, covers the issue through His apostle, John, in the same letter.


“If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen. And we have this command from Him: The one who loves God must also love his brother.


“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of Him. This is how we know that we love God’s children when we love God and obey His commands. For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden, because whatever has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. And who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?“--1 John 4:20 – 1 John 5:5.


The child of grace obeys the moral commandments of God. This is the very definition of what it means to love God: to keep His commandments, made un-burdensome because of our faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.


In short, continuing in willful sin with the "Jesus paid it all, stop stressing about it!" argument covers a human soul about as securely as an umbrella covers a human body from being pulped by a falling piano.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 that an attribute of the follower of Jesus is to "take every thought captive to obey Christ". Not some thoughts. Not most thoughts. Not as many thoughts as our human flesh will permit us. *EVERY THOUGHT.* Our freedom in Christ is to obey the commandments of God. This can not happen without God's grace of salvation, and to do otherwise is to trample on that grace, and treat the sacrifice of the Son of God as vain, just as the world, and its children of wrath, treat it.


He who practices sin walks after the flesh, is of the devil and therefore a child of wrath.


He who practices righteousness (obedience to God's commands) walks after the Spirit, is born of God, and therefore is a child of grace.



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