Friday, February 10, 2017
The Vision (2.10.17): For there is not a just man
Note: Devotion taken from sermon on Ecclesiastes 7:19-29.
For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not (Ecclesiastes 7:20).
The theme of this portion of Ecclesiastes is sin. The catechism defines sin as “any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God.” The theme is expressed in v. 20. Compare the opening of Psalm 14 (cf. Ps 53):
Psalm 14:1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. 2 The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. 3 They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
The apostle Paul picked up on those words in Romans 3 to describe the condition of unregenerate man:
Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Solomon did not have to look far for illustrations for this assertion. He could look at the life of his father David, who had been a man after God’s own heart, and yet also a notorious sinner. And the apple had not fallen far from the tree. Solomon could look in the mirror and declare, there is not a just man upon the earth.
Solomon is here demolishing two falsehoods:
First, he is destroying the idea that the unregenerate man is basically good and that he can do good things which please God, including seeking out and deciding for God. He is demolishing the viewpoints later expressed in what is called Pelagianism (man is basically good) and Semi-pelagianism (man is only slightly damaged by sin, but still basically good), as well as Arminianism.
This point was also made by the prophet Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
It is also affirmed by Paul in Romans 7:18a: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.”
Second, he is also destroying the notion of Christian perfectionism, the idea that the regenerate man can attain complete holiness in this life. Surely, there were saved men in Solomon’s time (himself included), but he can say there is no just man on the earth who does good and sins not. This is just what John said in 1 John 1:8: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
In this verse Solomon sounds very much like the apostle Paul. He is describing the depths of man’s condition in sin, so that he might point to the solution in Christ.
Solomon knew of no just men in his times. Yet, there would come, in the fullness of time, one of whom it would be rightly said, “Certainly this was a righteous [just] man” (Luke 24:47). He would suffer for sinner, “the just for the unjust,” to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle