Paul and the Knowledge of God -- By: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 129:513 (Jan 1972)
Article: Paul and the Knowledge of God
Author: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Paul and the Knowledge of God

S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

[S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

Some messages are very pleasant to deliver, and others are very unpleasant. Both, however, may be necessary for the well-being of the recipients of the message. Donald Grey Barnhouse has illustrated this in the following way. “Suppose the case of a boy who goes to the employment department of Western Union in one of our great cities. He asks for a job delivering telegrams and the manager tells him he can start at once. ‘But,’ says the boy, ‘there is one thing I should warn you about. I am psychologically so constituted that I cannot stand any scene of unhappiness. I will deliver all of the telegrams that tell of fortunes being made, of congratulations for success, of acceptance of marriage—in short, all of the telegrams that are of joy and bliss. But all the telegrams concerning sickness and death and loss are alien to my nature, and I will not deliver them.’ It would not take the manager long to say that there was no place for such a messenger in the company. It is the duty of the delivery boy to take all the messages to the persons to whom they are addressed, by the shortest route and in the quickest time.”1 That which is true of the messages of men is to a far greater degree true of the messages of God.

Paul must have found Romans 1:18–23 very difficult to deliver. It is not a pleasant message, and down through the centuries of time men have found it hard to swallow. When, in his parting counsels to the Ephesian elders, the apostle said, “I have not shunned

to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), he must have been thinking of just such difficult messages as this one. The inclination of human nature is to soften God’s words of sin and judgment. The prophet Isaiah denounced in his time the tendency to gloss over moral distinctions when he cried, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa 5:20). Yet, in spite of its unpleasantness Paul did deliver the message,2 and man is the better for it. It is doubtful if there is a more perceptive analysis of human nature, its sin, guilt, and judgment, than this Pauline one. Speaking of the larger section of verses 18–32, Walter Lüthi claims that in it ...

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