32 But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness (Numbers 14:32–33, NKJV).
The children of Israel rebelled against the Lord by refusing to trust Him and enter Canaan (Num. 13-14). Because of Israel’s sin, none of that generation, except Caleb and Joshua, would see the land God promised their fathers (Num. 14:23-24, 29-30). They would die in the wilderness, and their children would enter the land of promise (Num. 14:31-32). A couple of principles of truth rise to the surface for our attention. (1) The sinner is accountable for his sins. “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:20). Children do not bear the guilt of their father’s sin. The doctrine of inherited depravity is itself depraved, corrupt, and false (Rom. 5:12). (2) The innocent often suffer due to the sins of others. The offspring of the wilderness rebels bore the brunt of their parents’ infidelity during forty years of wilderness wandering (Num. 14:33). Untold numbers of innocent souls continue to suffer the consequences of foolish, faithless people. For example, all humanity suffers physical pain, toil, and death as a consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin (Gen. 3:16-19). Do not confuse guilt and accountability for sin with the consequences and effects sin has on others. All have sinned, and Christ is our salvation from sin’s guilt and eternal death (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). And, the fact that our sin affects others is a reason to resist evil and not rebel against God.
7 “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:7–8, NKJV).
The Lord of the Sabbath did not violate the Sabbath, nor did He sanction its violation when His disciples plucked the heads of grain to eat on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-2). The Pharisees accused His disciples of being Sabbath-breakers. But Jesus pronounced them “guiltless” because His disciples acted consistently with the law and its provision of mercy (Matt. 12:7; Hosea 6:6; Deut. 23:25). The Pharisees had developed a tradition that such conduct was work, and so to do it on the Sabbath was a sin. They added their tradition to God’s word and bound it on others. Thus, they “condemned the guiltless.” Jesus was not approving situation ethics and justifying violating God’s law. Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets, not destroy them (Matt. 5:17). Neither does this occasion endorse breaking God’s word for a so-called greater purpose (mercy, for example). The law of God allowed for mercy, which the apostles received as they plucked and ate the grain. The tradition of the Pharisees denied compassion and condemned the innocent. Both mercy and truth are present in God’s law (Ps. 85:10). Beware of human traditions. They nullify both (Col. 2:8, 20-23).
For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. (Romans 16:19, NKJV)
Do others know you obey God? The Bible indisputably teaches obedience is the expression of one’s faith. For example, Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jno. 14:15). James put it this way: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (Jas. 2:18). Earlier, Paul noted the Romans’ faith was spoken of by others throughout the world (Rom. 1:8). People were talking about their faith because they knew about their obedience. Their faith was genuine because they obeyed the Lord. Obedience proclaims our faith, too. Just saying we believe is insufficient to save us (after all, “even the demons believe—and tremble,” Jas. 2:19). Our obedience to the Lord must be good and innocent (Rom. 16:19). The wisdom of the world calls evil good, and good evil (Isa. 5:20). Conversely, Christians shun such folly and choose to live by the wisdom from above (Jas. 3:17-18). We influence the world for righteousness when others see our faith by our obedience (Matt. 5:13).
8 “Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. 9 And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.’ 12 But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city.” (Luke 10:8–12, NKJV)
Jesus sent out seventy disciples to places He was about to go (Lk. 10:1). They were to heal the sick and preach the kingdom of God (Lk. 9:60; 10:9). Some would receive them and their message, while others would not (Lk. 10:5-7). By explaining what to do and what to expect, Jesus also gave them a reason not to be discouraged when a city rejected the gospel of the kingdom. He taught them there is a point at which the messenger is relieved of responsibility and the hearer is held accountable. Shaking off the dust of the city was a symbolic gesture that testified against the city for rejecting the gospel. They, not the messengers, would be held accountable (Lk. 9:5; Acts 18:6). The gospel teacher is not innocent when the truth is not faithfully preached (Acts 20:26). Such a failure does not excuse the sinner (Ezek. 3:16-21). But, when truth is taught and it is refused, the full weight of accountability on Judgment Day will fall on those who refused to hear and obey God (Lk. 10:12).
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. (Romans 13:3–4, NKJV)
God ordained “governing authorities” (human governments), and He expects “every soul” to respect and yield to such authority (Romans 13:1). Today’s passage explains that God set these authorities in place, to protect the innocent, and to punish evil doers. Lenski comment is worth repeating here: “The world is full of wicked men, and God has placed rulers among them to check and to control this wickedness by means of laws and penalties, all of them being directed, not against good deeds, but against evil deeds” (Commentary on Romans, 789). There is no hesitation in the apostle’s explanation that governing authorities have God’s permission to “execute wrath” on the evil doer. The use of capital punishment is approved, since “the sword” referred to in verse 4 is the actual sword used by the executioner, as he applies the death penalty on criminals. When governments become a terror to good works, God removes them (Daniel 4:25, 34-35; Jeremiah 18:5-11). For our part, let us “do what is good,” and thank God for the protection He provides us by means of governing authorities.
I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. (Romans 7:9, NKJV)
Babies are not born sinners; they are innocent before God. The Bible says “unless you are converted and become as little children you, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). Sinners are converted from sin and death into newness of life, not the other way around. Therefore, we correctly conclude that children are innocent and not sinners before God. This is what Paul describes in today’s verse. When Paul was a child he was “alive”, that is, he was not dead in sin. He did not have a corrupt nature. When he grew to an age of moral capacity he became responsible to keep God’s commands, one of which said, “You shall not covet” (Rom. 7:7-8). But, when tempted, he yielded and committed sin, producing his spiritual death. He needed to be saved from his sins. Like Paul and everyone else, we are sinners by choice, not by physical birth. We can choose to be “born again” and be doing so, become as a little child – humble and free of sin.
For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” (Romans 16:19, NKJV)
Faithful, obedient living has a positive influence that reaches much farther than you think. To keep a good influence the Lord wants you to develop the ability to discern good and evil. God’s word teaches us the difference between good and evil. By obeying God’s word you show yourself to be wise. Furthermore, by doing so you will be innocent of evil and your obedience will encourage others to also obey the Lord.