I once heard a preacher explain why there was no prohibition on smoking in the Bible. “It’s simple to explain the absence of any prohibition on smoking in the Bible.” He said, “No one smoked back then, because tobacco only came on the scene after Christopher Columbus discovered the New World. Can you imagine the difficulty translators and Bible Scholars would have had for thousands of years, if there was an eleventh commandment saying, ‘Thou shall not partaketh a Marlboro.’ For all that time until Colombus, they would have scratched their heads and asked one another, ‘What is a Marlboro?’ That’s why it is not in the Bible.”
Though I prefer the evangelist’s opinion when he said, “Smoking won’t send you to Hell, it will just make you smell like you’ve been there.”
But I did not relate those two anecdotes to slam smokers. I simply wanted to borrow the reasoning of the first quote. The difficulty of putting something in the Bible, when that thing would only come into existence at a much later time. If a Bible Prophet was given a glimpse of life in the 21st Century, it would be impossible for them to explain what they saw.
Imagine if when Paul was caught up into Heaven that he was given an hour to explore the Gold Coast as it is today. How would he explain in his writings the things he would see? Perhaps the greatest difference he would notice was not the gadgets and technology, but the hearts of people.
In writing to Timothy, Paul describes the people of that last generation before the return of Jesus. As I look at what he sees, I am astounded at how well he describes our generation, a generation like no other. Many are familiar with the passage in 2 Timothy 3:1-7, which begins with describing people as lovers of self and ends with their love of pleasure replacing their love of God. In English, it is confronting. In the original Greek, it is far more compelling.
Let me lead you through the list of adjectives that Paul uses in the first four verses but rather than follow the order Paul puts them in, I will do it alphabetically. There is a reason for this. Greek words that begin with the letter ‘a’, will often mean ‘without’ or lacking in the virtue’. If they begin with ‘an’, then it is often opposite to the virtue. ‘pro’ equals a tendency towards, the same as in English, ‘Hyper’ is our ‘hyper’, meaning excessive and we have five words which include ‘Phil’. Phil is fondness, and if we put the letter ‘a’ in front of Phil, it is without fondness, so ‘aphilagathoi’ ( a+phil+agathoi) is no fondness of agatha which means goodness.
The ‘a’ prefixed words.
Akrateis – without self-control. This is an impulsive, devil may care attitude.
Alazones – translated as ‘arrogant’. It has a forcefulness about it. It is brazen and in your face, without fear or regret.
Aneemeroi – without gentleness. A willingness to run roughshod over others without a care for them.
Apeitheis – without belief and therefore disobedient. It is applied to children, having a spirit of disobedience that comes from the idea that they know better.
Aspondoi – without peace. Not willing to suffer offense, or being able to turn the other cheek.
Astorgoi – stergia is family love. That which children should have for parents and parents for their children. So this becomes without family affection. Abortion is the ultimate expression of astorgia.
Acharista – without gratitude. It is where the recipient has a sense of entitlement.
The one ‘an’ word.
Anosoi – It is the opposite of holiness. The unholy despises that which is sacred. There is a darkness and the essence of moral filth here.
Blasphemoi – Obviously this one is blasphemy. A no brainer you think, how many times a day is the Lord’s name taken in vain? But there is more to this. It means to use words to devalue another and typically though not exclusively, thus is applied to God. When a comedian gets up and speaks irreverently about his wife, he is blaspheming her. When we belittle someone, that also is blasphemy.
Diaboloi – Again obvious and again much deeper. Yes, it translates as ‘devil’. But the word is compound, dia meaning through or at, and here it has a sense of targetting. Bollo is to throw. It means to target people with accusations to bring them down. When we do that, we are doing the work of the devil.
Prodotai – is to give forward. It is a peace offering to an enemy. It is used to denote betrayal. The giving another person into their enemy’s hands.
Propeteis – is headstrong, rash, or reckless. Giving no thought to consequence or the harm caused to others.
Tetuphomoi – puffed up with pride, conceited. Means ‘up in the clouds’. The pretense of being superior.
Hypereephanoi – it is the excessive contempt or disdain for others.
And now the ‘Phils’.
Aphilagathoi – as already shown, without goodness.
Philarguroi – ‘fond of silver’ = lover of money.
Philautoi – autoi means self so this is lovers of self.
Phileedonoi – ‘Phil’ + ‘Hedonism’ Loving self-gratification, it is indulging the senses.
Philotheoi – Theos is God and so the love of God is a good thing. However, Paul tells us that it has been replaced by phileedonoi, loving the gratification of our senses.
I find this list doubly confronting. First, because I see it so blatantly portrayed in every aspect of our society, at levels far exaggerated over any previous generation. Unfortunately, I can also see that I am not immune. My real struggle is that often we can display these same attitudes and consider them to be evidence of godliness. This should cause us to revisit the fruit of the Spirit. At almost every point, the spirit of the world and the Spirit of God are in direct conflict.
Almost daily we are confronted by godless and diabolic attitudes, and we are called to respond to such with grace, mercy, and gentleness. Now more than ever, we need to turn the other cheek and exhibit patience and a willingness to suffer. When tempted to respond with ungodly passion, turn your eyes upon Jesus and see Him enduring cross, silent before His accusers.