Romans Lesson 24 - Pandora's Box
The old Greek legend about Pandora's box explains well the consequences of sin once you 'let it out of the box.' Though the story is a myth, the moral isn't. In Romans 1, the Apostle Paul also reveals the consequences of sin
In Greek Mythology, the god Prometheus stole fire from the chief god of the pantheon who’s name was Zeus. Prometheus then gave the fire to the race of men that he had created. Zeus became so furious with man for accepting the gift of fire that he decided to punish man and thus created the first woman (men, this is only mythology, amen? Ladies, this is only mythology, amen? It would have been good for the men to have been louder than the women!).
But Zeus didn’t just create a woman he named Pandora. Along with this beautiful woman, he created an ornate and beautiful box and gave it to Pandora as a gift. What he didn’t do was tell her that he had filled the box with all the evils and diseases and troubles and disasters that would bring endless pain and suffering into the world. When he gave it to Pandora he simply told her to never open it – for if she did, the result would be tragic. But eventually, driven by curiosity, she opened the box and everything began to fly out. In horror, she attempted to close the box, but before she could get the lid back on, all the evil and tragedy and pain had been released. Everything had escaped the box except one thing – as she quickly closed the box, she unknowingly left the one good thing trapped inside. Hope had been unable to escape and it was now forever trapped inside Pandora’s box.
Disease without hope of remedy; tragedy without hope of joy; pain without hope of relief; despair without hope of escape.
Pandora’s box wax a myth created in an attempt to explain the origin of evil and the despair of mankind. In a very small way, the myth of Pandora’s box is true.
Mankind is without hope. He is hopelessly wandering; hopelessly enslaved to tragedy and pain; hopelessly diseased and dying; hopelessly unfulfilled and in despair; hopelessly sinful and spiritually impoverished and needy.
Why? Because, as Paul has explained to us in Romans chapter one, mankind refuses the remedy. He refuses to know and follow after God; he swims away from the lifeboat; he throws away the antidote which is Jesus Christ and His blood shed for our sin.
But man would rather look within himself for the answer. Man would rather believe in himself than in Christ; man would rather place his faith in his own ability to create the cure for despair and guilt than look to the cross of Christ.
And man lives out the myth – he has everything it seems but hope.
Paul said in Romans 1:21 Their foolish hearts were darkened and they became futile in their speculations.
In other words, that can’t find the answer.
I was standing in the line at the grocery store reading all the titles once again which reveal the spiritual and moral wanderings of mankind.
Oprah Winfrey’s magazine caught my eye with the title of an article, “A Journey to the center of Yourself”.
I bought the magazine, after looking around to make sure no one from Colonial was in there . . . I never know anymore . . . was buying a cup of coffee the other day and the guy said just as I was about to walk away – “Sure am enjoying your sermons” – bought a sandwich and the lady said, “I sure am enjoying Colonial” . . . took my daughter to the pool the other day and the lifeguard said, “Hi Pastor Davey.”
I don’t mind – it’s good for me – keeps me polite and out of trouble.
I bought this magazine and was not surprised by the mixture of Christian terminology and Zen Buddhism; the humanism of self empowerment and self sufficiency right alongside the mention of Jesus.
One article was entitled, “Take Your Freedom”. Several of the comments this author wrote were these: “Your body is free but your heart is in prison. Our hearts are imprisoned for just one reason: the only language they can speak is truth. She wrote, “Your heart tells it like it is, without bothering to be tactful or socially appropriate. Free hearts rock boats, break rules, do things that disrupt the system. All our lives we’ve been hearing things like: What you are thinking/feeling/saying/becoming is rude, scandalous and sinful. . .but as the 13th century Zen master said, “The place is here; the way leads everywhere.” [In other words] the more you tune in, the deeper the truths your heart will tell . . . of course, your Inner Jailer might not agree (as I read this article it was quite clear to me that this Inner Jailer was the conscience). She goes on to write, “You may be flooded with reminders that your heart’s instructions are . . . rude. Don’t listen. Run . . . toward the fertile, gorgeous jungle of human imagination and possibility.”
This is humanism and self worship and self sufficiency. It is based on the lie that you are all wise and capable of directing yourself by your emotions and feelings toward the path of truth and freedom.
Ms. Winfrey spent a weekend of silence and wrote about it in her article: She and some friends had taken off to her farm for a weekend of silence. She brought along a yoga instructor for yoga, mediation and lectures – basically a convoluted mixture of eastern religion and humanism – they were to find themselves and rediscover “the center” or wholeness.
She completes her description of that weekend of yoga and silence by writing, “Our real power comes from knowing who we are . . . and that begins with looking inside ourselves in silence. I’ve always believed you really need no gurus, no leaders, no guides – just yourself. You have all your own best answers. What you’re trying to find is already there. Be still and know it.”
The Oprah Magazine, July 2001
She couldn’t be more spiritually deceived.
The Bible does not say, “Be still and know ourselves, but, “Be still and know God.” (Psalm 26:10)
The Bible does not teach that our real power comes from within ourselves for Jesus Christ said, “Without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). The Bible also says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) Our power and wisdom is from Christ.
Are the answers to life deep within your heart? The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, who can know it!” (Jeremiah 17:9)
Ladies and Gentlemen, because of sin and our fallen nature, wisdom is not within us, only sin and evil and pride.
Wisdom and truth must come from outside ourselves.
James did not write, “If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask his heart. . .” “If any man lacks wisdom let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally.” (James 1:5)
You want to know how to live? David wrote, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my pathway.” (Psalm 119:105)
You want to have a free heart? Jesus Christ said, “If you abide in my word (in other words, if you meditate on my word, not silence; if you focus on my word, not yourself; if you concentrate on my truth, not what your heart tells you to do. . .), then, Jesus says, “you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:31, 32)
The truth is, man does not want freedom in Christ, he wants freedom from Christ.
He doesn’t want the wisdom of God, he wants wisdom without God.
To abandon God, Paul informs us, is to be abandoned by God to yourself – and left to yourself, you will never generate anything other than speculation and futility and pride and sin.
The consequences of refusing to follow after the God of the Bible is similar to Pandora’s box being opened – every vile and sinful thing is now the potential experience of every person – the heart that abandons God finds everything but hope!
The latter part of Romans 1 describes the consequences on hopeless humanity:
- God gave mankind over to immoral defilement
Romans 1:24. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
B. God gave them over to immoral distortion
26. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27. and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
First, sexual defilement, then sexual distortion – the inversion of God’s creative order.
- Then, thirdly, God gave them over to immoral degradation.
The evil digression of rebellious society is revealed as Paul delivers the third abandonment by God in verse 28:
- And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them
over to a depraved mind;
In other words, they chose to ignore God – they didn’t see any worth in pursuing God and longer, so God gave their minds over to depraved thinking.
As one author wrote, the human mind that considers God worthless becomes worthless.
I would add, the person who has no purpose for God, condemns himself to life without purpose.
Paul goes on – ‘God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper – and he will list 21 sins.
29 being filled with all unrighteousness – categorical term that means,
“despising whatever God loves and loving whatever God despises.”
It is the opposite of everything related to God’s character.
2) wickedness – this is also a categorical term which could be defined, “totally bent toward corruption”; that is, “corrupt in every purposes and way.”
3) “[they are also filled with all] greed – greed is “grasping for what you don’t have” in other words, it is craving more of anything and everything”
Our western system of economics is largely based upon greed – it doesn’t thrive unless we are convinced that we don’t have enough.
4) evil – this is, “a vicious delight in harming others.” You could render the word, “malicious.”
5) full of envy – There is a difference between envy and greed. While greed is “grasping for more of what you don’t have”, envy is “grasping for what someone else already has.”
In Matthew 27:17, Jesus is standing trial before Pilate, just before His crucifixion. The text reads, “When therefore they were gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”. 18. For he knew that because of envy they had delivered Him up.
The leaders wanted Jesus dead because, among other things, he had power, and they wanted it; He had the popularity and attention of the people – they hated Him for it. They wanted what He had – they envied Him.
The next word is:
6) murder – “the ultimate expression of selfishness”
Murder follows envy not only in this list, but also in life. It is the removal of a person who is causing someone misery – or anger – or envy.
7) strife – “affection for arguing”
some translations use the word debate, but the word debate does not denote the hatred and bitterness of this word – translated “strife”.
8) deceit – “luring others sinful bait”
original word literally means “fish bait”
- malice – “viciousness as a way of life”
The Greek word is a compound word: kakos – bad, evil (cacophony – a bad sound); and ethos – habit or custom thus – this word means “the habit of badness” – a person who is habitually vicious toward others – by the use of their hands – they are always hurting other people.
This is followed by a similar vice:
10) they are gossips – “one who ruins lives in secret”
A malicious person uses his hands to hurt – a gossip uses his tongue to hurt.
Notice Paul doesn’t say, “They gossip, but they are gossips” (correctly translating the implication of the Greek word)
The Greek word, “gossip” was created to sound like the very thing it describes. We have words like that in the English language – words like slam, bang, crash, thump.
The word for gossip is psithuristas – and it means whisperer. “Pssst, have you heard!” “Hey, have you heard.”
It is talking in private in such a way that another person’s reputation or character is ruined.
By the way – if you want to turn off a gossip, simply say at the beginning of their conversation, “May I quote you?!”
- V. 30. Slanderers – “one who ruins people in public”
While gossip is secret defamation, slander is public defamation of character.
In fact, the word can be translated “defamer”.
12) haters of God – this is “one who attempts to ruin God’s reputation”
It’s interesting to me that after gossip and slander you would find this word – at first it seems out of order or out of place.
But actually, it fits well. The gossip and the slanderer speaks against the character of another person in an attempt to ruin their reputation; so this word refers to one who speaks publicly against God and His church in an attempt to ruin His reputation . . . and the reputation of His church.
13) insolent – “one who mixes pride with brutality”
This is the bully – this is the one who expresses his pride by beating up on people.
Insolence – pride and cruelty – it’s the perfect word for describing The World Wrestling Federation. Oh, excuse me, I didn’t mean to get so practical.
We had a bully in my neighborhood – he was bigger and stronger and he knew it. He lived in the cull-de-sac around the corner from my house. One day when I was 11 or 12, my friend and I decided to ride out bikes past his house yelling names at him (“Frankie is a meanie, or white washed sepulcher,” names that fit Baptist parameters). Names that I’m sure were not very nice. So we did it; only in our sin of slander – we momentarily forgot that he lived in a cull-de-sac and we had shouted those names toward his house as we rode our bikes in, instead of out. And Frankie, who had been in the side yard, unknown to us, came barreling around the house after us before we even made the loop – he was incredibly fast. I will never forget the feeling of his hand on my shirttail – that’s right, he caught me . . . not my friend Ronnie – whom I would have gladly sacrificed to him.
The truth was, I was a slanderer and he was insolent – between those two sins however at the moment, he had the better one.
I lived to tell this story only because my two younger brothers saw it happening and yelled to Mom, “Frankie’s got Stevie.” She came racing out of the house, through the back yard, over a fence, and she saved my life. I found out later, my brothers had only yelled for my Mother while sitting on that fence so they could a better view. They were selling popcorn and tickets to the show. This is great – look at Stevie getting pummeled. My brothers will pay in the coming judgment!
Trouble is, some little boys never grow out of it – in fact, they never grow up. They still yell names at people and others punch people and swerve in front of people and demand their way with waitresses and retailers! They threaten people and push people and holler their point of view. They show up at corporate board meetings and even church business meetings.
This is too convicting . . . let’s move on!
14) arrogant – “a person with a pedestal personality”
This person is filled with himself and consider themselves above everyone else, even God. They considers himself to be superior and regards other’s with contempt, as if they were unworthy of his time or interaction.”
15) boastful – “the dialect of the arrogant”
In other words, this is the way a person speaks who is filled with himself. Their chief subject of conversation is themselves. And that’s irritating to most people isn’t it?!
Maybe it’s irritating because of what Vance Havner said. He said, “An egotist is someone who talks so much about themselves that you don’t ever have a chance to talk about yourself.”
Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Robert J. Morgan; Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville; 2000 p. 633
Often times they will manufacture things about themselves that are false, only to make themselves look better.
This past week, according to an article in Newsweek Magazine, Pulitzer prize winning author and teacher Joseph Ellis was revealed as having liked about his military exploits in Vietnam, his role in the antiwar movement and even his high school athletic record. He was featured in a Boston newspaper with wide circulation – only then did someone who knew his past say anything. At the time he claimed he was leading a platoon in Vietnam, he was in a classroom teaching history. Newsweek Magazine, July 2, 2001, p. 34
The article went on to catalogue some more instances in an article called The Great Pretenders.
For years, Franklin Roosevelt claimed credit for writing a front page scoop at his university’s paper, The Harvard Crimson – a story he was later forced to admit had been written by another student. Douglas Ginsburg, the Supreme Court nominee who said he’d taken 34 cases to court for the Justice Department, had, in fact, only taken one. The list went on and on.
Boastful – inventors of tall tales to make oneself look good.
It is rampant within the church by the way – we imply spirituality when we’re not; we speak of praying when we don’t; and when we do, we make sure everybody knows it.
Charles Spurgeon said, “The average Christian can’t kill a mouse without it being published in the Gazette.
Boastful – I wonder if the reason God doesn’t do more through us is because we are too busy patting ourselves on the back.
16) inventors of evil – “committed to corrupt creativity”
They invent ways of doing evil things; while God is the creator of all things that are good, man is the creator of all that is evil.
Someone comes up with the idea of global communication through the Internet – and man invents a new way to use it to peddle pornography.
The world of fashion is continually inventing new ways to depict sensuality and provoke lust.
Sinful mankind is incredibly innovative with displaying, encouraging, promoting, legalizing, advertising, broadcasting, selling, showcasing, sin.
17) disobedient to parents – “refusing to accept God’s primary arrangement of authority and influence”
This addition to the list should strike fear into the heart of every young person. It is intended to strike fear however into the heart of every parent.
Disobedience is not a small thing to God. It’s something He hates and it is to be no more tolerated in the life of a child than stealing or lying or malice or any other sin listed here.
I have heard children call their parents names and get away with it. I have seen little children stomp their foot and say no to Mom and hear Mom say, “Well, you know how children are.”
I know how children are - they are like little savages, born selfish and stubborn and dishonest. And God has given you the responsibility to civilize them. You can’t make them spiritual, but you can make them civil.
And it begins by requiring obedience to you as a parent.
- without understanding – “an irreparable learning
disability regarding spiritual things”
An unbeliever cannot discern spiritual things or matters, because, the Bible says, “They are spiritually discerned.”
- untrustworthy – “someone with whom a handshake is meaningless”
These are men and women who make promises but never keep promises.
Everything from not keeping appointments, not following through with responsibilities, signing contracts they will not keep, making marriage vows they break, nations signing peace treaties knowing all along they will not follow them – evil man says to one another, “We will do this or that,” knowing that they will not.
Society that abandons God will be filled with people who will abandon one another if the price is right or the circumstances are convenient.
20) unloving – “without a heart of affection”
Literally, “without natural affection – between mother and child; children and parents.”
This word characterizes the breakdown of the family unit.
One British physician suggests “doing away with the family completely” he says, “because it is a primary conditioning device for an imperialistic western world view.” Kate Millet who is a very prominent feminist wrote a book called Sexual Politics and in it she writes that the family must go because it oppresses and enslaves women.”
A leader within the National Organization of Women, seeks to eliminate all marriage and all motherhood because as she say, “Marriage is legalized servitude and family relations are the basis for all human oppression.”
The trouble is, these are the elitists of our day, teaching in our universities and schools. These are the views that are considered politically correct.
Paul calls it a distortion and a characteristic of rebellion and sin.
Dr. Armand Nicolai of the Harvard Medical School sees the trend to destroy the family as a devastating trend. He points to married women with children working outside the home, the tendency for families to move frequently, almost constantly, the dominance of television in the home, the lack of controls in society, the chaos of moral confusion are threatening the very life which we live. These trends, he writes, will incapacitate the family, destroy its integrity and cause its member to suffer such crippling emotional conflict that they will become an intolerable burden to society. What about the future? First the quality of family life will continue to deteriorate producing a society with a higher incidence of mental illness than ever before. [Society] will be characterized by a lack of self-control. Murder of people in authority will be frequent occurrences. Crimes of violence will increase, even those within the family. The suicide rate will rise. As sexuality becomes more and more unlimited and separated from family commitment, the deadening effect will cause more bizarre experimentation and wide-spread perversion.”
Above quotes taken from John MacArthur Jr’s. Broadcast transcripts, “A Plan For Your Family: God’s vs. The World’s” 1/26/2001
It’s interesting to me that the last characteristic of perverted, distorted, self-centered society is the word,
21) v. 31b. unmerciful – “without a shred of compassion”
This word could be translated, “ruthless”.
Characterized by the biggest sport in Rome which was the Gladiatorial games . . . where bloodthirsty people regularly watched people kill one another for the pleasure of the crowd.
These are the ultimate expressions of depravity.
But we haven’t reached the bottom of the sewer yet.
Paul now describes for us the ultimate endorsement of depravity.
- and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such
things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
Let me summarize Romans 1:26-32:
- Rejection of God leads to an . . . acceptance of sin.
- Acceptance of sin leads to the . . . approval of sin.
- Approval of sin finally degenerates into . . . applause for sin.
Accepted, then approved, then applauded.
“To justify one’s own sin is wicked enough, but to approve and encourage others to sin is immeasurably worse.”
John MacArthur Jr. Romans, Moody Press, Chicago; 1991, p. 109
The absolute depths of wickedness are reached, Paul says here when those involved in evil applaud and encourage others who do the same.
Thus a person’s life is destroyed by sin and society as a whole is destroyed and perverted by those who insist that sin is good and evil is tolerable and immorality is the way to live.
The prophet Isaiah warned his generation and this
generation: “20. Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute
darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for
bitter! 21. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!
- Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine and valiant men in mixing strong
drink, 23. Who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away the rights of the ones who
are in the right! 24. Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes stubble and dry grass
collapses into the flame, so their root will become like rot and their blossom blow
away as dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts and despised the word
of the Holy One of Israel.
In like manner, Paul in the New Testament has delivered the same warning. He has revealed God’s judgment on sin and sinners as chapter one comes to a close.
He has recorded for us the ultimate expressions of depravity and the ultimate endorsement of depravity.
What is The Ultimate Escape From Depravity
- Admission (I am a sinner, corrupt and proud)
- Confession (Lord, please forgive my sin – I confess it to you and make no excuses or defenses; I have found me in this list!)
- Submission (Lord, I repent and turn from my hearts yearnings and deceptions and I turn my life over to Your Spirit, the Giver of truth and to follow and obey your Word, the true guide to pure and holy Living.
There is a way to escape sin and it’s judgment.
Hope, by the way, did escape Pandora’s box. Hope has come, not in mythology but in true theology, in the gospel of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)
Just as I Am . . .
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