Prohibition Against Porneia Man

One thing we should keep in mind here when approaching this text is that St. Paul was writing to Saints (3). The issues he touches upon were issues within the Church. If they had not been issues within the Church he would have had no need to touch upon them. It is interesting that he brings this subject matter up not only for the Ephesian Church but also for the Church in Colosse.

3 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. 5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to [c] immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come [e]upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.

To the Saints in Corinth St. Paul could write,

1 Cor.6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 1 Cor.6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 1 Cor.6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

And so it is to the Saints that these injunctions are made and they are consistently made in light of the fact that the people of God have been translated from the Kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of God’s dear Son.

In the Ephesians passage the Saints have just been reminded that Christ gave Himself for the Church. The injunction to walk in this new morality is connected to the new reality established by the fact that Christ gave Himself for us. In the Colossians passages the Saints were reminded that they were raised with Christ. This being raised with Christ is connected elsewhere with being raised to newness of life. In the Corinthians passage the Saints are called to purity in light of the fact that they have been purchased by God. The thought being, having been purchased by God we now have a responsibility to walk in light of His ownership.

So, these moral injunctions are not given absent of the objective realities of the Gospel of Christ for sinners. These moral injunctions are given in light of both these objective realities of what Christ has accomplished for us — outside of us — and the effect of the Gospel in the lives of Believers. Before the negative prohibitions are stated the positive is set forth. The positive is that we are a freely Redeemed people. We have been won and wooed by Christ. All of our acting, thinking, and living is now done in light of He who hath freely reconciled us with the Father. This is no moralism for the sake of moralism that the inspired Apostle is pursuing. This is morality in light of the fact that we are a people set free from the dead traditions of those who have the Devil as their Father.

But we circle back to the idea that these words were written to saints. Saints have a need to be reminded of these things for Saints are sinners also. The Church is a hospital and the Christian message, in the broadest sense of that idea, provides the elixir and the therapy whereby we go from renewal unto renewal. And so St. Paul reminds these Saints that because of who they have been declared to be in Christ Jesus they now have the mission of increasingly becoming. And this means that certain behavioral sins (Fornication, etc.) are not to be even named among the Saints.

That St. Paul would had to have written the several Churches about these matters is not surprising given the backdrop of the 1st century world.

The Greco-Roman culture in the 1st Century was devoid of the kind of moral standards that once characterized nations that had been leavened with the Christian faith. The moral life of the Graeco-Roman world had sunk so low that, while protests against the prevailing corruption were never entirely wanting, fornication had long come to be regarded as a matter of indifference, and was indulged in w/o shame or scruple, not only by the mass, but by philosophers and men of distinction who in other respects led exemplary lives.

As one example, in Corinth, the Chambers of Commerce maintained regularly around 2000 prostitutes for all visiting businessmen. Corinth was a manufacturing town and so had numbers of visiting businessmen and nobody thought that there was anything immoral with men having relations with prostitutes. This was all taken for granted. So, in the Gentile Churches the moral standard could be pretty low.

Everett Ferguson, whose scholarly work deserves high regard, writes:

“All kinds of immoralities were associated with the [Greco-Roman] gods. Not only was prostitution a recognized institution, but through the influence of the fertility cults of Asia Minor, Syria, and Phoenicia it became a part of the religious rites at certain temples. Thus there were one thousand “sacred prostitutes” at the temple of Aphrodite at Corinth.”

This first matter that is not even be named among the Saints is “porneia.”

The term “porneia” (fornication) is to be taken in its proper sense and is not to be restricted to any one particular form — the license practiced at heathen festivals, concubinage, marriage within prohibited degrees, serial intimate relationships, unnatural physical affections or the like. Porneia thus while inclusive of adultery, and uncleanness, might be considered broader in significance so as to include what has been mentioned.

Fornication then, like adultery, is an attack upon Biblical marriage and Family.

Where you find a culture characterized by porneia you will find the family on the rocks. But understand that porneia is a symptom and not a cause. Porneia and the disintegration it brings to the family is caused by a turning from the God of the Bible so that we should say that the cure to porneia will only come secondarily by laws legislating against it. There will no laws that can successfully legislate against the flood of porneia we see in our own times without a return to the Christian faith. Laws in general, and laws against porneia specifically arise and are successful only when men are affected by the Gospel.

And so we who are affected by the Gospel must live lives such as that which is called for by God. Among us porneia should not even be named. We should flee from it. If this becomes increasingly true in our assemblies then one of two consequences will arise.

1.) Either those outside of Christ will be attracted to the Gospel that makes for porneia free living

The Christian life is the abundant life. Our lives are set free from all the real dark drama that accompanies those caught in the net of porneia. Imagine how attractive Christianity might be to someone living with the consequences of porneia to witness a healthy Christian family. As our unbelieving culture spins further and further into dark night and old chaos the ability to function well as a Family unit based upon Christian truth will serve as salt and light for those wanting out of the darkness created, in part, by porneia.

2.) or those outside of Christ will attack us for the standing rebuke we are to their ongoing dissipation.

Harvard Sociological expert Carle Zimmerman could say,

“When familism is distinctly weak in a society, all the cultural elements take on anti-family tinge.”

And I would add that as familism can only be produced by Christianity the anti-family tinge will also be a anti-Christian tinge.

As porneia comes more and more out of the closet the expectation will be that those who are chaste will have to go into the closet.

When St. Paul reminds them that porneia is not even to be named among them we are reminded that to allow porneia to be named among our assemblies is to turn our assemblies into synagogues of Satan. When we turn a blind eye to unrepentant and indifferent unchasteness in our membership we do our Lord Christ, our congregations, our denominations and those persons a grave disservice.

The Heidelberg Catechism reinforces what we are teaching when it teaches

Question 109. Does God forbid in the 7th commandment, only adultery, and such like gross sins?

Answer: Since both our body and soul are temples of the holy Ghost, he commands us to preserve them pure and holy: therefore he forbids all unchaste actions, gestures, words, (a) thoughts, desires, (b) and whatever can entice men thereto.

And here we pause to consider those last 6 words. This 7th commandment forbids whatever can entice men to the violation of the 7th commandment.

These are difficult words in our information age that so easily conveys the sensual. In our information age it seems as if it is almost impossible to escape the enticing. Listen to the radio. Watch the television. Go to the movies or plays. Drive down the highway being exposed to the billboards. Listen to music. Read a magazine or a novel. Surf the web. Attend your sex education class. Is it really possible to escape whatever can entice men to uncleanness?

Still, we must seek to cut out as much as we can in order to be innocent regarding evil.

Of course all of this will work to make us a peculiar people. This not naming porneia among us will distinguish us and make us different.

When we turn to Ephesians 5 again we notice this list of sins that are not to be named among us and I would like to suggest that this list is not random.

The prohibition to porneia, which by the Greek language construction is a prohibition expressed in the strongest of terms, suggests to me that the other sins listed are somehow connected to the prohibition against porneia. The connection between Uncleanness and porneia is rather more obvious but the idea of covetousness might not be. Porneia is pursued by people who want something that is not their’s to have. Behind porneia is a covetous disposition seeking to seize what is not rightfully to be had. And so, after forbidding porneia God can forbid that which drives porneia and that is illicit desire …. covetousness. So here we see a natural connection between the 7th commandment and the 10th commandment so that we might say that it is impossible to break the 7th without also breaking the 10th.

Further, I would suggest the foolish talking or coarse jesting is likewise related to porneia. That is to say that the speaking that is being forbidden here is connected to illicit intimacy. We sometimes call this “Potty talk,” or “Locker room humor.”

And finally the Apostle connects the 7th word and the 10th word with the 1st word. The Apostle says that the kind of man he is describing is an Idolater. Of course this fits. The porneia man who is driven by his illicit covetous desires is a man who is prioritizing himself above God. Depending on how one looks at it the porneia man has made a god above God out of whatever it is he is wrongly desiring or he has made himself, with his unnatural desires, his own God.

Well, then can we understand why the Apostle would say that such a thing is not to be named among God’s people. Should those who serve false gods be named among those who serve the true God?

As we end we are reminded that the reason we take seriously the 7th word is because of the love of the Father we have and the gratitude for all that He has freely given to us in Christ. We take the 7th word seriously because we can’t help but to take it seriously since we have been given the Spirit so that we might walk in the newness of life with God’s law as the standard of what that life looks like.


Question 108. What does the seventh commandment teach us?

Answer: That all uncleanness is accursed of God: (a) and that therefore we must with all our hearts detest the same, (b) and live chastely and temperately, (c) whether in holy wedlock, or in single life. (d)

I.) God’s Disposition Towards “Uncleanness”

Adultery proper indicates that a man, either married or unmarried, has unlawful relations with a married (or betrothed) woman. He takes into possession what does not belong to him (Deut.22: 24).

Notice that while the commandment forbids “adultery” the Catechism includes in its teaching on the 7th commandment that which is forbidden includes all uncleanness.

Leviticus 18 gives a list of the uncleanness that is accursed by God. In the list includes the prohibition against marriage within family lines, and prohibition against un-natural acts. It is interesting that when one gets to the NT there is reiteration of how God finds several of the un-natural acts listed in Lev. 18 to be accursed.

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,[a] nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

Scripture teaches that God visits the punishment of the uncleanness upon the land in the OT and so the land vomited the purveyors of such unseemliness out of the land.

(a) Lev.18:27 (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;) 28 That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.

The destruction of such civilizations that were practitioners of such uncleanness is not unique to OT times. Theodore Momsmen, in his book, “History of Rome,” writes of the breakdown of Greek and Roman civilizations,

“What ideas as to divorce prevailed in the circles of the aristocracy may be discerned in the conduct of their best and most moral hero, Marcus Cato, who did not hesitate to separate from his wife at the request of a friend desirous to marry her, and as little scrupled on the death of his friend to marry the same wife a second time. Celibacy and childlessness became more and more common, especially among the upper classes … we now encounter in Cato … the maxim which Polybius a century before traced the decay of Hellas, that it is the duty of the citizen to keep great wealth together and therefore not to be beget too many children…. In consequence of such a social condition the Latin stock in Italy underwent an alarming diminution, and its fair provinces were overstepped partly by parasitic immigration, partly by sheer desolation.”

We find here a number of social traits characteristics of civilizations in decline because of the uncleanness that is accursed by God of which the catechism speaks.

Playing off of Momsmen’s analysis Harvard Sociologist Zimmerman could write

What we find in families and civilizations in decline is increasing development of extra-family carnal relations, the decay of mores of the upper class families (which continually then move downward infiltrating the lower classes), the rise of unclean abnormalities, the increasing refusal of women to be sedate in an unsedate world; the decline in the seriousness with which adultery is considered, the purely formal adhesion to the moral code; the increased popularity and frequency of absolute divorce and separation; the rise of celibacy and aggravated birth control; … the replacement of the native populations by immigrants, slaves, and non-natives; and the development of an antagonism to the whole system of values upon which the society formerly operated.

So this uncleanness which was accursed by God in the OT record and which led to a removal of the former people from the land by God is an uncleanness that can be found elsewhere in recorded history and likewise was found to be accursed by God as seen in the eventual destruction of subsequent civilizations.

So we can see in Scripture and in history that all such uncleanness is accursed by God. And we would add that such uncleanness that the Catechism teaches, following Scripture remains accursed of God. Finally, on this point we would offer that if God finds such uncleanness accursed among those who made no claim upon Him as His people how much more accursed is this uncleanness when it is found among those who makes some kind of claim upon God’s name?

II.) Our Disposition Towards Uncleanness

therefore we must with all our hearts detest the same

The catechism instructs us that our disposition towards these sins ought not to be merely casual but that our whole being is to be set in opposition towards this kind of uncleanness.

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines

DETEST, v.t. [L., to affirm or bear witness. The primary sense of testor is to set, throw or thrust. To detest is to thrust away.] To abhor; to abominate; to hate extremely; as, to detest crimes or meanness.

The idea here is that because God finds such uncleanness accursed we should, as His people, detest what is accursed by God. In the old legal sense we are to bear witness against such uncleanness.

But of course our detesting of uncleanness are as those who would point to a God who does forgive all such uncleanness. We are reminded in the very NT passage that we cited earlier that speaks of God’s opposition to uncleanness that immediately thereafter the Apostle can say,

I Cor. 6:11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

And so any detesting that we are called to is a detesting done so that people who are involved in various kinds of uncleanness, such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, etc. may discover and know the joy of being clean again in Christ Jesus who alone can take our uncleanness away and by His animating Spirit give us a desire to go from cleanness to cleanness as we walk in newness of life.

Another thing we should say about this detesting is that this disposition towards these sins is not done in these sense that we are made of better dirt than others. We are sinners who ourselves have been and are continually forgiven of our sins and so there is to be no self-righteousness about our detesting of these sins that we are called to.

Jude teaches what our manner here should be,

Jude 1:23 And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.

The whole purpose of our detesting is one of compassion. Those caught in adultery, or other uncleanness are caught in a lifestyle that is destructive to them. And so we oppose their uncleanness precisely because of compassion and sympathy for them.

Now let’s spend a moment speaking about the psychological end of this.

If one was to live in a culture that was characterized by this uncleanness and if one was to have the disposition that the Catechism calls for one could expect that the response might be that we will be detested by those who are involved in uncleanness. For example in 2008,

A Christian photographer in New Mexico was found guilty in 2008 of breaking state law for refusing to take pictures of a lesbian ceremony. Recently that decision was upheld by an appellate court. The appeals process continues.

Elaine Huguenin of Elane Photography was contacted in 2006 by a same-sex couple wanting pictures taken of their “commitment ceremony.”

After Huguenin told them she only photographed traditional marriages, the couple filed a complaint for discrimination against their sexual orientation.

The case was taken before the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, which heard the case in January.

On Wednesday, the state commission ruled that Huguenin violated the state’s Human Rights Act. An order was issued for the photographer to pay close to $7,000 for the couple’s attorney’s fees.

And so these Christian Photographers found out the price for detesting uncleanness and we may as well in the way of being unpopular, or losing friends, or even having other Christians break fellowship with us, or in other ways. We need to keep in mind here the words of Jesus here in John 15:18,

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”

III.) God’s Answer For Us To Uncleanness

live chastely and temperately

The word “chaste” has a similar meaning to the word “pure.” The word “temperate” means to exercise self control.

1 Thess.4:3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 1 Thess.4:4 That every one of you should know how to possess his own body in sanctification and honour; 1 Thess.4:5 Not in the lustful passion, even as the Gentiles which know not God:

In times where the world is spinning increasingly out of control when it comes to the issue of uncleanness an effective witness to the glory of Jesus Christ in his ability to freely save is to live in self control. Though it must be said even here that living in this way quite without saying a word can also earn the enmity of those who are convicted. I know of a person for example, many years ago who was relieved from her job simply because she would not join in the gutter talk at the work place with the other co-workers.

And here we can turn to speak to the Father’s for just a moment on this Father’s day. Fathers the ability of your family to live chastely and temperately will be largely reflective of your living chastely and temperately. You have the opportunity to set the standard, in the home, for the chaste and temperate lifestyle that the catechism calls for here.

Recently, I was encouraged in a conversation I had with one of the Dads here in his attempt to maintain a standard for the chaste and the temperate in an activity in which his children were involved. He had a sense of the chaste and the temperate and he desired that standard to be enforced. This is becoming a Christian father.

Fathers when you love your respective wives you are folding into your children, by way of living example, future families where adultery will most often be a stranger. Fathers your influence upon your children and their future families will either be an influence towards cleanness or uncleanness. There are plenty of influences in the broader culture upon them for uncleanness and so let your influence be towards cleanness.

IV.) This Lifestyle Is To Be Characteristic Of Us Regardless Of Our Marriage Status

The catechism speaks of the single life and we would admit how difficult it must be to live in this culture as a single person temperately and chastely. But we recall that the purpose of this section of the Catechism is to instruct us how we can live to the glory of God, and so, if single, by the Spirit’s aid, chaste and temperate lives are sought out.

One thing to keep in mind that might help to this end is all that uncleanness promises in way of allurement it can never deliver. Sin has its passing pleasure but it can never satisfy. This is perhaps nowhere more true than in relation to this issue.

Whether single or married we must keep in mind,

3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let them not once be named among you, as becometh saints;
4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not befitting, but rather giving of thanks.
5 For this ye know: that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God.

Those that are married are likewise called to this chaste and temperate life. The State of marriage is honorable

Heb.13:4 Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

Now what might we say to those who have slipped and fallen in the mire of uncleanness that is so prevalent in our culture. We would say that there is forgiveness in Christ Jesus. Following Scripture we would remind the believer that if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness. We would remind that all of us in Christ stand received by God only upon the basis of Christ’s cleanness put to our account.

To those outside of Christ who might be weary and heavy laden with assorted uncleanness you can be assured that if you will come to Christ in faith He will wash your sins clean in Baptism and will pour out His Spirit so that you can say no to the lifestyle that promised so much but delivered so little. There is no need to amend your life before you turn to Christ for forgiveness and healing. Regardless of your present uncleanness, Christ will not turn you away.

Envy & Murder On A Collective Scale

Subject — Envy
Theme — Collective Envy

Proposition — An examination of institutionalized envy in a culture will help us to understand why Proverbs 27:4 suggests that envy is something that is nigh unto impossible to stand up against.

Purpose — Therefore having looked at collective envy let us seek, by God’s grace, to not be swept up and be participants in this collective envy.


We moved to this question of envy because of how it is connected to the sin of murder as mentioned by the Heidelberg catechism.

Question 106. But this commandment seems only to speak of murder?

Answer: In forbidding murder, God teaches us, that he abhors the causes thereof, such as envy, (a) hatred, (b) anger, (c) and desire of revenge; and that he accounts all these as murder. (d)

We pretty much understand hatred, anger, and the desire for revenge but it is my conviction that we don’t really understand envy, and that because it is in the air we breath, culturally speaking.

Last week we set the table for our discussion on envy. We considered some significant Scriptures that teach on envy. We briefly traced out how envy has been spoken about by some of the Early Church Fathers. And we spoke about envy on a personal and individual basis. And then concluded by looking at some solutions to envy.

As we continue now this week we return to the definition that we gave for envy.

Definition of Envy — Envy is the sin of jealousy over the blessings, prosperity, character, and achievements of others, but more than jealousy it is the positive anguish over the good of others and joy at the anguish and misery of others even if that anguish and misery does the envious no discernible positive good. While being indignant might find its roots in the injustice of the well being of evil persons, envy finds its roots in the happiness of good people. In brief envy is pain at the good in others, and it is most commonly found in those whom wish to lower others, even if that lowering of others does not mean that they will rise.

Well we can understand why God says in Proverbs that it is a rottenness to the bones.

Envy is wounded by our neighbors prosperity. Envy finds pleasure in the ruin or harm of those of whom we are envious. Envy is sickened at hearing praises of those of whom are envied and recoils at the virtues of those upon whom our envy is pointed. And the irony, which we will explore more next week, is that envy only grows more intense the more it is assuaged by those who are being envied. That is to say, that should the envied seek to practice charity towards the envious, with thoughts of reducing their reasons to be envious, the envious envy them all the more because of the their own sense that as being inferiors they had to be assisted by those they believe to be their superiors. The envious hate those who help them because it confirms, in their minds, their lower position. If the envious receive favor from the fortunate the envious suffers even more and the envy grows because the one in the favored position has the power to dispense favor while the envied does not. Envy is not concerned so much with reaching the happiness of others as it is in making everyone as miserable as the envious. Envy is complicated by the fact that it is slow to be self-diagnosed or confessed because of the shame involved in this vice.

Schadenfreude — taking joy or delight in another person’s misfortune.

What we want to ask this morning is what does envy look like when it becomes the norm among a people group and becomes institutionalized among a people and their culture.

Proverbs 27:4 asks rhetorically, “Who is able to stand before envy?”

This morning we want to see why the writer of proverbs views envy as being such a fearsome enemy.

And indeed Envy is a fearsome enemy. In Scripture we find envy stirred up against godliness in others

Daniel 6:3-5 Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm. 4 So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.”

Envy stirred up against prosperity of others

Ps. 73:3 For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Envy stirred up against who are favored / successful

I Samuel 18:6 Now it had happened as they were coming home, when David was returning from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women had come out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy, and with musical instruments. 7 So the women sang as they danced, and said:

“Saul has slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands.”

8 Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” 9 So Saul eyed David from that day forward.

And so Proverbs 27:4 asks “Who can stand before envy,” and in the last few examples of envy we saw how it can work on a basis of a individual against another individual but we want to probe this morning what it looks like as a collective culture operates with envy as a foundational starting point for the culture. Surely, if Proverbs 27:4 is correct that envy is a powerful enemy on a personal basis how much more so if envy becomes part of the bowels of a culture?

Organized cultural envy produces two children that we are going to consider this morning. These two children, if nurtured by the allowance of envy to proliferate and spread end up going a long way towards creating a anti-Christian mindset among all who are members of the culture.

I.) Egalitarianism as one offspring of Envy

Since envy is concerned with bringing the successful, prosperous, and superior person down, the long range effect of envy on a culture as a whole is to produce a culture where all are equal — equal in the sense of nobody being allowed to distinguish themselves by way of ability.

A Envious culture will set cultural wide norms that are not to be exceeded. There will be a kind of cultural coercion toward mediocrity and the mediocre will be increasingly defined downward.

This most often reveals itself via the move to insure that all think alike, that all belong to one class only, and that all share a similar heritage and inheritance.

A.) Think Alike (Intellectual Envy)

1.) For example in our Educational Programs we have largely institutionalized envy so those who have the skills to excel in learning are held back in order to insure that those who are slower and perhaps are not as gifted are not left behind. While well intentioned such a program has the effect of doing what envy always does and that is it works to level achievement to the level of the under-achiever. The one who might academically distinguish themselves, if given the opportunity, is retarded in their advancement out of our desire to make sure that that all advance together.

2.) In our culture with its mass media owned by a comparative number of small outlets, what is moved towards is a mass communication that gives people the same information resulting in a group think. This group think makes for a egalitarianism in opinion and goes a long way towards achieving the goal of envy by insuring that there will be protection against originality in thinking, protection against free and unfettered intellectual exchange of ideas, and
protection against superiority in thinking of individuals.

Remember the goal of culturally institutionalized envy is to pull down the superior so that the result is a grand leveling effect. This results in the creation of Mass Man — the herd — where no one distinguishes themselves and all are the same. All think the same, look the same, act the same, and all have the same.

Illustration — Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeson”

“The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal.”

So begins Vonnegut’s 1961 short story.

Vonnegut goes on to describe the conditions of this equality brought on by the cultural wide presence of envy:

They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

This government enforced equality was achieved by imposing prosthetic technologies on those who were above average; these prosthetics, however, were designed not to enhance, but to diminish. So, for example, ballerinas who might otherwise rise above their peers in grace, elegance and beauty, were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in.

Then there were those of above average intelligence like the title character’s father, George Bergeron.

[He] had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. He was required by law to wear it at all times. It was tuned to a government transmitter. Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their intelligence.

Whenever George began to formulate a complex idea, which often involved questioning the status quo, a sharp, piercing noise would shoot in his ear distracting him and derailing his train of thought. Sometimes the noise was like a siren going off, other times “like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer.” Regular and incessant, the distraction overwhelmed and undermined natural intelligence.

3.) Political Correctness

Conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities should be eliminated.

Political correctness has as its goal this leveling conformity where all think alike. Thinking that leads to conclusions that one lifestyle should be preferred above another lifestyle because it is superior is not allowed because those who are living the inferior lifestyle use envy as a tool to make all lifestyles the same.

The envy of the intellectually mediocre establishes a conceptual standardization so that it may denounce and condemn those who don’t conform to the officially approved thinking mode.

B.) All Belong To One Class (Social Envy)

Roosevelt, in the 1936 campaign ran against the “Economic Royalists.” The incipient idea in casting one group of Americans as “Royalists,” over against another group who were not is a classic example of envy being used as a motivating tool. The idea was then to pull the Economic Royalists down so that economic egalitarianism, as fueled by envy, could be established.

But this applies to not only the moneyed but to any class of people who have developed some kind of superiority. Envy works to eliminate categories of superior and inferior so that all can be the same. We see this working itself out in children’s contests where it is insisted that everyone get a medal and that all are winners. Again, this is well intentioned but such a mindset reflects the work of envy which insists that all are the same. The refusal to recognize the achievers does not lift up those who tried but failed, but instead pulls down those who tried and succeeded.

C.) All similar patrimony (Familial Envy)

This is envy working to insure that no family rises above another. Estate taxation and death taxes are the way that our collective envy works to make sure that families which are inter-generationally gifted can not rise above other families.

If Abraham were alive in our time he would be severely faulted for sending his servant back to his own people to find a bride for Isaac. Because of familial envy it is thought that all families are equal and so no consideration should be given to a family background that a potential spouse may come from or that a potential adopted child might come from.

The end result of envy then when embraced collectively by a culture is to migrate ever downward to the lowest common denominator. Cultural envy when institutionalize leads to the constant integration into the void. Institutionalized envy leads to the flattening out of all distinctions and cuts at the roots any ability to distinguish oneself from the herd.

Culturally wide accepted envy forces those who are envied for some distinction that yet remains to avoid the eye of envy by insisting that they are not superior in any sense, that all others are equal to them, that they believe the catechism of envy and egalitarianism is true and that they join with the envious in condemning to exile all who not swear allegiance to the code of equality.

Now just a word about where all this culturally institutionalized envy leads eventually,

Envy intervenes with increasing negativity in several capacities. Envy shunts aside the intelligent, the strong, and the virtuous and does not encourage others to pursue and develop these abilities. Scholarly envy towards the best and most studious produces and promotes academic laziness and loss of interest in critical and analytical thinking skills. Social envy creates obstacles to the public recognition of the best.

In short … the more envy there is in a culture, the less the collective capacity to propel forth great men and women.

So, having considered all this we can better understand why the writer to Proverbs could say, “Who is able to stand before envy?”

And the ironic thing is that after all this work to achieve egalitarianism, the envious still do not have their envy lifted from them for envy poisons the sweetness of all the sources and streams of human enjoyment. Indeed, this is a sin that as the proverbs says rottens the bones.

By way of conclusion let us continue to probe some ways that we might cure envy in ourselves.


In Hebrews 11 the writer is encouraging those with a less than adequate faith to emulate the heroes of the faith.

Emulation is a cure to envy. Instead of envying those who are gifted or talented in some way we ought to try and emulate them. I will never be the Theologian that G. K. Beale is but I can admire him and seek to emulate him and even if I never become as talented and gifted as he is I can be as talented and gifted as I can be.


We can be thankful for our betters. Instead of trying to pull them down via envy we can thank God that he has raised them up to be a gift to us.

Mind our own business

It is enough for each of us to seek to be the best that we can be for the Glory of God. This means we haven’t enough time to be envious of others because we are so busy honing the gifts that God has given us. There is no need to preoccupy ourselves with what we don’t have if we preoccupy ourselves w/ improving what God has given us.

Remember our guilt is taken away by Christ

Envy is born of feelings of inadequacy and the resultant guilt. It may be the case that in some endeavor one may be inadequate because they simply don’t have the abilities but there is no need to feel guilty and so use envy to pull down the qualified. Instead, because we know our guilt has been taken away we can acknowledge our inadequacy and be happy for those who are gifted and talented.

We Weep w/ those who Weep and Rejoice w/ those who rejoice

The Christian rejoices with his fellow Christian who is talented above him. He glorifies God that God sovereignly distributed His gifts as he deemed best. Are we willing to say with John the Baptist … “He must increase and I must decrease.”

Family & Faith

Text – I Tim. 1:2-5, 3:14-15
Subject—Passing on the Faith
Theme – The place of the family in passing on the faith
Proposition – The place of the family in passing on the faith should make us very careful to raise our children with an eye to covenantal faithfulness on our parts

Purpose – Therefore having seen the place of the family in passing on the faith let us praise God that He has given us the privilege of teaching our children Christ.


Spheres – Family Sphere

The importance of the Family Sphere in the work of the Church

I.) Paul Sees The Instrumentality Of His Lineage In His Faith (1:3, Acts 24:14-15)

Literally the inspired Apostle writes here “whom I from my forefathers serve.” What he is communicating is “whom I serve with a faith derived from my forefathers.” Or, “with a faith which had its roots in their religion, and is therefore similar to theirs.”

It should be said immediately so that no confusion is engendered … Paul is not teaching here, and neither am I teaching that we are saved by our families or by our family heritage and connection. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, but Reformed people, because of their strong covenantal theology, have always believed that by God’s sovereign ordering, grace runs in familial channels so that a connection can legitimately be made between the grace that comes to us as individuals and the reality that God’s grace includes God’s favor in making us descendents of Godly forefathers and, as we shall see – foremothers.

This truth is important to keep repeating in a culture that wars against the Christian faith by constantly seeking to cut each successive generation from the remnants of its Christian past. Each new generation is mired in the attempt by a faith, that is other than Christianity, to be peeled away from their forefathers.

If your refer back to Acts 24:14-15 you see another place where St. Paul makes this familial faith appeal to his Fathers. There in his defense before Felix he can say,

14 But this I confess unto thee, that according to the Way, which they call heresy, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.

Like here in I Timothy Paul in Acts is providing a significant linkage between His Faith and the Faith of His Fathers. Doubtless, the Fathers he has in mind in both places are the patriarchs. What He believes now is what Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob believed and bequeathed to their seed. He as one of their seed believes the same thing.

Of course we can not miss an important implication here. If Paul is hammering the connection between what he believes and what his forefathers believed there therefore must be significant continuity between what is called the Old and New Testament. In Acts 24 Paul makes the connection between the belief of the Fathers in the resurrection and in his missionary travels the Resurrection becomes, along with the Kingdom of God, a major theme. They looked forward to a coming Messiah, Paul proclaims the same Messiah. They passed the faith along to their children. Lois and Eunice has passed the faith along to their child as well.

Christian Faith expressions that do not think inter-generationally and practice the faith inter-generational will eventually die on the vine.

This way of thinking stands in marked contrast to the last 75 years or more of American Christianity. One of the mottos of evangelical Christianity is that “God has no Grandchildren.” Many of us grew up in Evangelicalism and heard that refrain many, many times. The purpose of that statement was to impress upon young people in particular, but everyone in general, that a person’s religious identity derived from claiming the faith for himself and was not ascribed by birth.

And there is a sense in which that is true BUT there is also a sense in which that is not true. The sense in which it is true is that every individual is called to own the faith for themselves. The sense in which that is not true is that who we are as individuals is connected to the family we were birthed into. It is precisely because we believe that God has Grandchildren that we therefore Baptize our children believing that God will be God to us and to our seed for a thousand generations. To deny that God has Grandchildren in a specific sense is to play havoc with Reformed covenantal theology.

Another thing we want to touch on here is the specific corporeal forefathers that Paul speaks of. When Paul speaks of his forefathers he is not spiritualizing the text. He has in mind the generations before that were blood related to him. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses, Isaiah and the Prophets.

The reason that I bring this up, is because in just a bit Paul invokes the blood relatives of Timothy. Paul could have as easily recalled to Timothy the importance of His Spiritual Forefathers, but instead he invokes for Timothy what he invoked for Himself and that is the faith of his blood relatives.

All of this is to say that who we are, as God has constituted us in our families, is important. No Covenantal Reformed person would ever say otherwise.

II.) Paul Sees The Instrumentality Of Timothy’s Lineage In Timothy’s Faith (1:5, 3:14f)

Paul thanks God for Timothy’s genuine faith. Perhaps Paul lands on the word “genuine” here because he has experienced the spurious faith of other co-workers such as Demas (4:10) and as such the reality of Timothy’s genuine faith gives the Apostle cause to praise God.

Paul then, just as he referenced the importance of his familial legacy references the importance of Timothy’s. He makes mention of his Grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice.

This is the only place in the NT where these two Mothers are named. In Acts 16 we see Eunice but we do not know her by name there.

16:1 — but Then Paul came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there named Timothy, the son of a certain woman who was a Jewess who believed, but whose father was a Greek.

Given that the Father was apparently a pagan it is easy to surmise that Lois would have been the Mother of Timothy’s Mother Eunice. Consistent with Paul’s reasoning in I Cor. 7, by virtue of this believing Mother Timothy would have been a covenant child.

14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband. Else your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.

And so Timothy is a child of the covenant, who by God’s gracious dealings with him, has had the faith handed down to him in the context of two generations of Godly Mothers.

Let us be very clear here … in God’s ordination and by God’s sovereignty Timothy was who he was, in regards to his Christian faith, as his Mother and Grandmother pointed Him to Christ alone.

And on a day that is set aside to recognize Mothers we should note the tremendous impact that Christ centered women can have on their children – even in homes where the Father’s influence is not what it might be.

Look at what Eunice and Lois did in raising Timothy.

II Tim. 3 14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing from whom thou hast learned them,15 and that from childhood thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

As Paul did earlier in his letter to Timothy in chapter 1, so he does again now in Chapter 3. He invokes not only the faith but also from whom the faith came. In doing so God casts linkage between the truth of the Scriptures and the family that taught the Scriptures.

Calvin can speak of this text in a rather arresting way,

“Accordingly he sets before him his Grandmother Lois and his Mother Eunice, by whom he had been educated from his infancy in such a manner that he might have sucked godliness along with milk. By this godly education, therefore, Timothy is admonished not to degenerate from himself and from his ancestors.” “Timothy is admonished not to degenerate from himself and from his godly ancestors.”

1.) Christians who have grown up in a Christ exalting home like Timothy realize that if you ever turn your back on the Christian faith, you at that same moment turn your back on your family so that in the words of Calvin you degenerate from yourself and from your godly ancestors.

2.) Taking a hint from Calvin, we can reverse it to say that Christians who have grown up in Christ exalting homes need to realize that if your ever turn your back on your faithful Godly ancestors, you are at that same moment turning your back on your Christian faith.

There is an inexorable relationship between Christian family and Christian faith. You can distinguish family and faith but you can not separate them. This is part and parcel of covenant theology. If my children abandon my wife and I as we continue in the faith, they abandon the faith. If my children abandon the Christian faith they have, in Calvin’s words, “degenerated from their ancestors.”

From the text in Chapter 3 we must make a few points in the way Eunice and Lois raised Timothy.

1.) Eunice and Lois taught Timothy the Scriptures.

39 “Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and it is they which testify of Me.

Of course we need to keep in mind that the Scriptures here referred to are the OT Scriptures which teach Christ, thus again reinforcing the continuity between the covenantal epochs.

2.) In teaching Timothy the Scriptures, Eunice and Lois taught Timothy salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

There was a Christocentric focus. Christ for sinners. Christ as the one in whom, through whom, and by whom is our peace with God.

Of course for both Mothers and Fathers we can not teach what we do not know. And so if we are to teach our Children the Scriptures we must be a student of Scriptures ourselves. I have been encouraged as your Pastor to see many of you do that, through your Bible reading programs and through your resolve to read through Calvin’s Institutes or Matthew Henry, or some other weighty reading, by your attendance on Word & Sacrament.

3.) In teaching Timothy the Scriptures Eunice and Lois were doing Evangelism.

Evangelism begins at home.

There are many joke about how Reformed people only do Evangelism by having children and I suppose we should laugh at ourselves but we need to keep in mind that if we can not keep our children what is our evangelism to those who are not our children? I fear that Reformed people are losing their families at the cost of trying and too often failing to win the world.

They evangelized Timothy From Childhood – The Greek there signifies, a child at birth or of tender years. According to Jewish custom the parent was begin instructing the child in the law when the child reached five years of age.

Note that from this passage and others like it I get the idea that you can not draw out of children what you do not first pour into them. Eunice and Lois trained trained trained Timothy.

The Principle Here Then is,

** Those of you that have been privileged to have been raised yourselves w/ a Christian heritage have a charge to keep from your Forefathers or Foremothers unto the generations that follow you. If the faith dies out in the generations it is not because God has been unfaithful.



Emphasize Christ’s sufficiency again

Encourage those who don’t come from Covenant families that God delights in starting new covenant family heritage.

Murder & Envy

Question 107. But is it enough that we do not kill any man in the manner mentioned above?

Answer: No: for when God forbids envy, hatred, and anger, he commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves; to show patience, peace, meekness, mercy, and all kindness, towards him, and prevent his hurt as much as in us lies; and that we do good, even to our enemies.

Whitman’s sampler of Envy in Scripture

Genesis 26:14 for Isaac had possessions of flocks and possessions of herds and a great number of servants. So the Philistines envied him.

30:1 Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, “Give me children, or else I die!”

37:11 And Jacob’s brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Psalm 106:16 When they envied Moses in the camp,
And Aaron the saint of the Lord,

Isaiah 11:13 Also the envy of Ephraim shall depart,
And the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off;
Ephraim shall not envy Judah,
And Judah shall not harass Ephraim.

Ecclesiastes 9:6 Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished;
Nevermore will they have a share
In anything done under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 4:4 Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.

Proverbs 14:30 A sound heart is life to the body,
But envy is rottenness to the bones.

27:4 Wrath is cruel and anger a torrent,
But who is able to stand before envy?

Deutero-Caononical Book — Wisdom of Solomon

2:23 For God created man incorruptible, and to the image of his own likeness
he made him. 24 But by the envy of the devil, death came into the world:

I Corinthians 3:3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?

Philippians 1:15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill:

Matthew 27:18 For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy.

Galatians 5:21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Definition of Envy — Envy is the sin of jealousy over the blessings, prosperity, character, and achievements of others, but more than jealousy it is the positive anguish over the good of others and joy at the anguish and misery of others even if that anguish and misery does the envious no discernible positive good. While being indignant might find its roots in the injustice of the well being of evil persons, envy finds its roots in the happiness of good people. In brief envy is pain at the good in others, and it is most commonly found in those whom wish to lower others, even if that lowering of others does not mean that they will rise.

Well we can understand why God says in Proverbs that it is a rottenness to the bones.

Envy is wounded by our neighbors prosperity. Envy finds pleasure in the ruin or harm of those of whom we are envious. Envy is sickened at hearing praises of those of whom are envied and recoils at the virtues of those upon whom our envy is pointed. And the irony, which we will explore more next week, is that envy only grows more intense the more it is assuaged by those who are being envied. That is to say, that should the envied seek to practice charity towards the envious, with thoughts of reducing their reasons to be envious, the envious envy them all the more because of the their own sense that as being inferiors they had to be assisted by those they believe to be their superiors. The envious hate those who help them because it confirms, in their minds, their lower position. If the envious receive favor from the fortunate the envious suffers even more and the envy grows because the one in the favored position has the power to dispense favor while the envied does not. Envy is not concerned so much with reaching the happiness of others as it is in making everyone as miserable as the envious. Envy is complicated by the fact that it is slow to be self-diagnosed or confessed because of the shame involved in this vice.

This vice is executioner to itself so that the envious have their punishment in themselves. However, it is not enough to let it alone at that for as we shall see next week envy will not rest until it pulls down those who are envied that they might be as miserable as the envious. As such Envy curses both those who have it (its subjects) and those it is pointed towards (its objects).

The destructive power of envy in the Scripture

It was the animating action of the Devil in His work against God and man in the fall (Wisdom 2:23-4)

It was there when the first blood was spilled (I John 3:12)

It was the disposition that propelled Jesus enemies to hand Him over to be crucified (Matthew 27:18)

If present in us without repentance it will bar us from the Kingdom of God (Gal. 5:21)

It is present against every person who does skillful work (Ecc. 4:4)

It is a mindset that brings about physical illness (Proverbs 14:30) (Mind body relationship)

As we trace what others have written about “envy” through history (diachronic study) we discover the following.

Church Fathers

Clement —

In his epistle the first 6 chapters are dedicated to “the unjust and impious envy though which death entered the world. He reminds his audience that because of envy Cain killed his brother Abel, Jacob had to take flight, Joseph was sent into slavery, Moses had to leave his people, Aaron was set aside … Saul and David were at war. Clement offers that envy was the cause of the persecution of the Apostles, the sufferings of St. Peter, of the many martyrs under Nero. Clement holds that envy is in sum the root of the most wicked happenings against humans.

Justin — 165 AD (Apologist for the Church)

Following Mt. 27:18 Justin, presents envy as the reason for the supreme crime of Christ’s crucifixion. Justin advises,

“Wash your souls of ire, avarice, envy and hate and your body will stay clean.”

Cyprian — Writes a treatise on envy

To envy according to Cyprian is to “suffer at the joy of others.” Cyprian holds Lucifer guilty of evil envy against God. Cyprian wrote that cosmic evil originates in the feeling of envy, the root of all evil in all of us. Further he wrote that envy is the source of hostility, avarice, ambition, pride, cruelty, perfidy, discord, etc.

Cyprian makes a important point when he writes that the “envy is a hidden vice we carry closed within so that the envious never declare their envy.” This will be important to keep in mind for later considerations.

As a remedy (which we will examine more next week) Cyprian offers as the only antidote Christianity and encourages the Christian virtues of “simplicity of mind, humility, fraternity, love, and charity. His last advice is to “rejoice and be happy at the fact that others are better.”

What is interesting with Cyprian is that he offers that Envy is the Mother lode of evil. Evil is born of envy and all other vices flow out of envy.

Basil Of Caesarea — 4th century

Does a Homily on Envy

“As oxide eats up iron, so envy eats up the soul.”

Basil examines the question if envy may be placated or annulled through favors to the envious by the envied and concludes that contrary to what happens with other hostile feelings that others may have that are diminished through attentions, “the envious become more envious with favors, for the suffering that is caused by the power of their benefactors is greater than the gratitude they feel.”

Basil adds a new wrinkle in the consideration of envy when he probes as to who the envious envy. Do the envious envy those distant to them or those close to them? Basil offers that “We are trapped by envy through familiarity,” and goes on to offer,

“The Sythian does not envy the Egyptian, but those of his own nation, and from among those, he does not envy stranger but those he deals with, in particular and those of the same job.”

Chrysostom — (354-407) Homilies

The “envious enjoys the suffering of others … and considers as his own joy the misfortunes of others.”

Like Cyprian, Chrysostom holds that “no other vice is comparable to envy, for it is the most evil, most perverse, and most abominable of all passions.”

Chrysostom introduces a social element into envy when he notes,

“Envy subverts the Church and causes the whole Universe to shake.”

Here we understand envy in its basic role as a adversary of all hierarchy that comprises social order. Chrysostom gets to how envy begins to get translated into the desire for absolute undifferentiated equality among men in society. For Chrysostom envy is the root that accounts for the impulse towards social leveling.

If for Cyprian envy was the root of all evil, for Chrysostom envy is both the root of all evil and the highest expression of all evil.

Leaning towards cure for envy

Scripture teaches us that we are to,

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Identify the Problem, thank God that in Christ we are forgiven, and then pray God for deliverance

“Deliver us from evil…”

How little we value prayer in the matter of getting rid of all bitterness. If we see ourselves slipping towards envy who better to turn to then our Lord Christ who knows our hearts and can deliver us?

The Problem of comparison

“When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” II Cor. 10:12

The kind of comparison that leads to envy does not help us but only pulls others down.

The Need To Remember Providence

If we must compare ourselves with others it would be helpful to recognize that whatever differences exist (maybe we are not as wealthy, not as polished, not as good-looking, not as smart, not as popular, not as talented, (the list could be endless) those differences exist because of God’s wisdom in distributing His gifts. (I Cor. 4:7 teaches that it is God who makes us to differ.)

God has made us, both individually and in our families, to be precisely what he desires in order to gain glory, reputation and renown through us. We don’t need to be someone else in order to advance what God has created us to advance. When envy strikes at us we must remember God’s providence.

The Need for contentment

Phil. 4:10-12

The Need To Remember All The Benefits We Have In Christ

Ephesians 1:3 teaches that all believers have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

The Need To Remember That God Uses The Foolish Things Of The World To Confound The Wise

Even if others excel we need not let envy have its way. Those who God has used throughout History have seldom been MENSA candidates or Beauty Queens. Remember in our weakness God is made Strong. II Cor. 12:9

Most importantly the need to remember we are forgiven in Christ

When we see these ugly things about ourselves our motivation for putting these character faults off is gratitude for all that we have been forgiven in Christ. The Gospel is what propels us towards grateful obedience. Because I am forgiven I am free from the condemnation that would frighten me into lethargy. Because I am forgiven I have no need to be so frustrated with the failure of my obedience that I give up the necessity to put off the old man.

I am forgiven in Christ and because of that I can move forward in putting off all bitterness and every form of malice.