Certainly, most normal humans, who do not suffer from any sort of mental distresses, want to do good to others and live a peaceful life. Why then has there been so much evil in human history, and why is there so much evil today? We will have to turn to the words of our Creator for the answers.

Mentally Bent Toward Evil

Psalm 51:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,[1]
and in sin did my mother conceive me.

King David had his adultery with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband exposed, for which he accepted full responsibility. His words about the human condition give us one reason for the evil of man. He says, “I was brought forth in iniquity.” What is iniquity? The Hebrew word awon essentially relates to erring, acting illegally or wrongly.

David stated that his problem was a corrupt heart, saying, Surely I was sinful at birth. He entered this world a sinner in nature long before he became a sinner in actions. In fact, this internal corruption predated his birth, actually beginning nine months earlier when he was conceived in the womb. It was at conception that the Adamic sin nature was transmitted to him. The problem of what he did, sin, arose from what he was, a sinner.[2]

David is not here casting the blame onto his mother, as God never intended mothers to conceive and give birth children who would sin. Nevertheless, when Adam and Eve rebelled, were expelled from the Garden of Eden, they lost their ability to pass on perfection. Therefore, every child was born missing the mark of perfection. The Hebrew term translated “sin” is chattath; in Greek, the word is hamartia. Both carry the meaning of missing the mark of perfection.

The verbal forms occur in enough secular contexts to provide a basic picture of the word’s meaning. In Jud 20:16 the left-handed slingers of Benjamin are said to have the skill to throw stones at targets and “not miss.” In a different context, Pro. 19:2 speaks of a man in a hurry who “misses his way” (RSV, neb, KJV has “sinneth”). A similar idea of not finding a goal appears in Pro. 8:36; the concept of failure is implied.[3]

Genesis 6:5 The American Translation (AT)

5 When the LORD saw that the wickedness of man on the earth was great, and that the whole bent of his thinking was never anything but evil, the LORD regretted that he had ever made man on the earth.

Genesis 8:21 The American Translation (AT)

21 I will never again curse the soil, though the bent of man’s mind may be evil from his very youth; nor ever again will I ever again destroy all life creature as I have just done.

All of us have inherited a sinful nature, meaning that we are currently unable to live up to the mark of perfection, in which we were created. In fact, Genesis 6:5 says we all suffer from, ‘our whole bent of thinking, which is nothing but evil.” Genesis 8:21 says that ‘our mind is evil from our very youth.’ Jeremiah 17:9 says that our hearts are treacherous and desperately sick.” What does all of this mean? It means that prior to the fall, our natural inclination; our natural leaning was toward good. However, after the fall, our natural inclination, our natural leaning was toward bad, wicked, evil.

We should never lose sight of the fact that unrighteous desires of the flesh are not to be taken lightly. (Rom. 7:19, 20) Nevertheless, if it is our desire to have a righteous relationship before God, it will be the stronger desire. Psalm 119:165 says, “Abundant peace belongs to those who love Your instruction; nothing makes them stumble.” We need to cultivate our love for doing right, which will strengthen our conscience, the sense of what is right and wrong that governs somebody’s thoughts and actions, urging us to do right rather than wrong. It is only through studying the Bible that we can train the conscience. Once it is trained, it will prick us like a needle in the arm, when we are thinking of doing something wrong. It will feel like a pain in our heart, a sadness, nervousness, which is the voice saying, ‘do not do this.’ Moreover, if we ignore our voice, it will grow silent over time, and will stop telling us what is wrong. (Romans 2:14-15)

James 1:14-15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own desire.[4] 15 Then the desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

We have a natural desire toward wrong, and Satan is the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:3-4), and he caters to the fallen flesh. James also tells us “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15, ESV) We resist the devil by immediately dismissing any thought that is contrary to God’s values found in his Word, which enters our mind, we do not entertain it for a moment, nor do we cultivate it, causing it to grow. We then offer rational prayers in our head, or better yet, aloud, so we can defeat fleshly irrational thinking with rational biblical thinking. The Apostle Peter, referring to the Devil wrote, “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” 1 Peter 5:9

Ignorance of Our Fallen Condition

The second reason that there is so much evil in the world is ignorance.

1 Timothy 1:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

13 although formerly I was a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and a violent man. But I was shown mercy because I had acted unknowingly with a lack of trust,

The apostle Paul formerly went by his Jewish name, when he was an ardent persecutor of Christians. However, he acted in ignorance. Even though Paul had studied under Gamaliel, one of the greatest Jewish teachers of the first century, he was ignorant of God’s will and purposes. Yes, Paul, Like his former counterparts, the Jewish religious leaders, they had “a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” (Rom. 10:2) Yes, this has been the case since the days of Adam and Eve, man has been acting out of ignorance, committing great evils sometimes, believing that they are doing God’s will. Jesus warned,

John 16:2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

They will expel you from the synagogue. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.

The Father of Evil

The third reason for so much evil is Satan and his demon hordes, which are using the world, to cater to our imperfect fleshly desires.

John 8:44 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. That one was a manslayer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

We have those unseen forces, which have control over our senses, because they use fallen humankind to cater to our baser desires. Yes, we are talking about Satan, the Devil, who the god of this world, the father of the lie, as well as the other fallen angels. (2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 6:12; John 8:44; Rev 12:9-12) Yes, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”– Pet. 5:8.

Controlling Our Mental Bent Toward Evil

If we are to control evil that dwells within us, if we are to control our mental bent toward evil, and affect our lack of accurate knowledge, something more is needed. We might first ask, ‘if humans are born inclined toward sin, if their heart is treacherous, how can these things ever be removed?’

Jesus and the apostle John gives us the answer to human sin, i.e., how we can forgo our missing the mark of perfection,

Matthew 20:28 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his soul as a ransom for many.”

1 John 1:7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

but if we are walking in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

The apostle Peter tells us how this was accomplished,

1 Peter 2:24 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

24 and he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin[5] and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

The apostle Paul explains what Jesus meant by his being a ransom,

Romans 5:12, 18-19 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men,  because all sinned, 18 So, then, as through one trespass there was condemnation to all men, so too through one act of righteousness there was justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one the many will be made righteous.

A ransom is the release of a prisoner in return for the payment of something of equal value. Because perfect Adam brought sin into the world, it was going to take a perfect human to remove it. Humanity has been a prisoner of sin, in which Jesus paid the ransom price for our release.

1 Timothy 2:6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

who gave himself a ransom[6] for all, the testimony at the proper time,

Therefore, Jesus’ ransom sacrifice would offset the effects of Adam’s sin. Yes, Jesus’ death was the answer of how all of humanity could have the opportunity of removing our mental bent toward evil, so that our natural desire would be toward good. In other words, his ransom will restore the perfection that Adam had so easily forsaken.

There Will Come a Day When Evil Will Be No More

Daniel 2:44-45 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will the kingdom be left to another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. 45 Just as you saw that out of the mountain a stone was cut not by hands, and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will happen after this; so the dream is certain and its interpretation is trustworthy.”

On Daniel 2:44-45, Stephen R. Miller writes,

2:44–45 Daniel now reaches the climax of the dream revelation, the coming kingdom of God symbolized by the great rock (cf. v. 45; cf. also 7:13–14, 18, 27). First, it is revealed that this kingdom will be established “in the time of those kings.” In the previous discussion these “kings” were identified as the kings or kingdoms (symbolized by the feet and toes of the image) that will constitute the end-times phase of the Roman Empire. Therefore the establishment of Christ’s rule at his second advent during the time of these kings is the meaning of the rock striking the statue upon its feet and toes.

Second, the kingdom of God will be of divine origin. God himself (“the God of heaven”) will establish it. This verse (and v. 34) also emphasizes the supernatural origin of this kingdom (“the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands”).

Third, the kingdom will be eternal. “Left to another people” (v. 44) refers to the fact that when each of the four empires was destroyed, it was absorbed by other nations. By way of contrast, no one will ever conquer the coming kingdom of God and possess it. It is the indestructible and eternal “kingdom of Christ.”

Fourth, this kingdom is best understood to be an earthly reign of Christ inaugurated at his second advent (e.g., Archer, Wood, Whitcomb). As noted previously, some scholars (e.g., Young, Leupold, Keil) interpret this kingdom to be Christ’s invisible, spiritual reign in the hearts of believers established at his first advent and evident in the church. Rushdoony holds a similar view but thinks that this kingdom will eventually overcome the world and bring in a golden age upon the earth, at the end of which the Lord will return (i.e., postmillennial). Yet for a number of reasons it is best to follow the first view, an earthly, future (millennial) kingdom of Christ that will continue into the eternal state.

1. Verse 44 most naturally would be understood to speak of Christ’s second coming. Even Leupold, who holds that the kingdom is the spiritual reign of Christ within believers, acknowledges: “To some extent this overthrow [of the earthly kingdoms] is still future, for the final victory of the church coincides with the day of judgment.”

2. The four kingdoms of the statue were all earthly and physical in nature. Christ, of course, is now reigning and will continue to do so throughout eternity, but in this context his kingdom would appear to be an earthly rule like the others. “The Last Kingdom replaces the first Four in the dream, and is, in the idea of the scene, spatially bound as are its predecessors; the Mountain fills the whole earth, is not a spiritual Kingdom of Heaven.”

3. From information in the text, a confederation of kings (kingdoms) will be ruling at the time Christ sets up this kingdom. No such coalition of kings was ruling the Roman Empire at Christ’s first advent.

4. The rock destroys these earthly kingdoms. Christ did not destroy the world kingdoms at his first coming but will put an end to them at his return. Moreover, this description is similar to that found in other Scriptures (cf. Matt 24:29–31; Rev 19:11–21) that portray Christ’s second coming in catastrophic fashion. The “gentle victory of the gospel which makes its gracious influence felt and conquers” has certainly been a reality in the experience of the church but does not appear to be in view here.

5. Christ’s kingdom is pictured as filling the earth. When one looks at the crime, atrocities, and injustices of this present world, it is difficult to sense that the kingdom of God has now filled the earth. All persons have not entered Christ’s kingdom, nor do they submit to his authority (the vast majority do not). Yet when Christ returns, all will acknowledge him as Lord (cf. Phil 2:10–11).

6. The vast majority of commentators agree that the dream statue of chap. 2 parallels the beast vision recorded in chap. 7. Regardless of millennial persuasion, scholars have generally interpreted the coming of the kingdom of God during the time of the ten horns in Dan 7 to denote the second coming of Christ. Since the latter part of the statue (with its ten toes) corresponds to the latter part of the beast vision (the ten horns), it is logical to understand the rock destroying this segment of the image as also symbolizing the kingdom of God established at the Lord’s return.

Fifth, Christ’s coming kingdom will be triumphant. Verse 44 reveals that this kingdom “will crush” (dĕqaq, “shatter” or “break into pieces”) all earthly kingdoms, and in v. 45 the rock “broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces,” that is, the world kingdoms represented by the statue are annihilated. When Christ arrives with his holy angels, all the evil empires of earth will be swept away.

Sixth, Christ’s kingdom will certainly come. In the latter part of v. 45, Daniel concludes his interpretation of the dream revelation by telling Nebuchadnezzar that “the great God has shown the king what will take place in the future” and emphasizes the certainty of the fulfillment of the revelation (“the dream is true [yaṣṣîb, certain, i.e., certain to occur] and the interpretation is trustworthy [ʾăman]”). As Montgomery observes, the writer was claiming to deliver “God’s interpretation, not his own,” and God’s word can be trusted. The prophecies of Daniel concerning past events (the four empires) have been accurately fulfilled, and his inspired messages concerning events yet future will just as assuredly occur.

Seventh, as previously indicated this kingdom of God will be ruled by none other than God the Son—Jesus Christ. He was despised and rejected, yet someday every knee will bow before him and every tongue will confess that he is Lord.

What a comforting passage this is. In this present world of injustice, wars, and crime, it is reassuring to know that Christ is coming; and when he comes, all of the evils of this age will end. There is indeed coming a day when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14), for Messiah’s reign of righteousness will extend to the ends of the earth.[7]

Christ’s Judgment on the Disobedient

2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 Updated American Standard Version Standard Version (UASV)

in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These ones will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, from before the Lord[8] and from the glory of his strength,

Once Satan, his demon hordes, and wicked humans are removed, Jesus will rule over the earth from heaven for a thousand years. He will restore things to the way they were originally intended. In other words, Adam and Eve had been commanded to procreate, and to fill the earth with perfect humans, cultivating that paradise garden, until it was earth wide. God wanted the earth to be filled with perfect humans.

1:8. Paul then explained who would receive Christ’s judgment. It is reserved for those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. Various opinions exist as to whether one or two groups are in mind here, or if Paul is giving a different description of a certain type of people.

The phrase “those who do not know God” possibly refers to people who, not having heard the gospel, nevertheless stand guilty because they refuse to acknowledge the general revelation of God. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven … since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:18a, 19–20).

The phrase “those who do not obey the gospel” may refer to people who have been exposed to the truth of Jesus Christ, yet have refused it. Having turned their backs, they have not obeyed. They have denied his sovereign right as Lord.

1:9. Having described those who would be judged by Jesus, Paul stated the nature of Christ’s judgment. There will be no deliberations, no appeals, no lessening of the sentence, no possibilities for parole. Judgment will be final and irrevocable. The punishment will be everlasting destruction.

We do not know exactly what Paul meant by this “destruction.” What is certain, however, is that those who have rejected Christ—and so become enemies of God—will receive a punishment commensurate with such a high crime. [This author would certainly agree with this assessment. If humans are mentally bent toward evil, their heart is treacherous to the point where they cannot know it, and the natural desire is to do wrong, and they have sinned in minor ways for 70-80 years, does it seem the compensatory punishment would be eternal fire. God said to Adam, ‘if you eat of the tree of knowledge, you will die,’ which coincides with Ezekiel, “the soul that sins will die,” and Paul, “the wages of sin is death.”][9] As the author of Hebrews wrote, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). This is not annihilation or extinction. These people are sentenced to eternal punishment and separation from God, the source of life. [This author would disagree here for the very reasons stated above. However, this does not take away from Knute Larson’s other insightful points.]

These people who have rejected God while in this life on earth will be shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power. This, then, is hell. As physical beings, we tend to think of the punishment of hell as excruciating pain, the damned dancing and writhing in flames. But the greatest pain is spiritual, as evidenced by Christ’s own cry of agony from the cross, not at the nails or spear, but at his being forsaken by God the Father. Paul’s description of eternal punishment is in keeping with Jesus’ experience. Paul sketches the punishment of hell in terms of separation from God.

In contrast, heaven holds delight and wholeness for body and soul. Here the complete person will find fulfillment of desire by being joined in unhindered fellowship with the God for whom he was created. Hell, its opposite, is the banishment from this completeness—the futility and agony of incompleteness—as people are severed from the purpose for which they were given life.[10]

Ongoing Conflict Within Us

Some Bible writers (e.g., Apostle Paul) revealed to their readers that there is an ongoing conflict within the Christian, with one side being the fallen, sinful flesh. In this revelation, the Bible writers use such expressions as “the inner man,” “our inner man,” and comparable expressions. At Romans 2:14-15, Paul speaks of us saying, “The law is written on their hearts.” Because man and woman were made in the image and likeness of God, they were given a moral nature that was in harmony with God. This moral nature produces a mental power or ability such as reason and conscience. Even though, we are imperfect, we retain a measure of this moral nature that is in harmony with God’s moral standards. This moral nature operates in “the inner man,” as a law, a moral law. However, because of our fallen condition, there is also ‘the law of sin, which is in our members.’ This ‘law in our members of our body, wages a war against the law of our mind and can make us a prisoner of the law of sin.’ (Romans 6:12; 7:22-23)

7:21–23. Here Paul uses the law motif to illustrate from another angle the conflict he experiences. Two laws are mentioned: the law of my mind (his desire to obey God’s law), and the law of sin (that which wars against the law of his mind). He states a principle by which these two laws conflict with one another: when I want to do good, evil is right there with me. All of us can identify with the apostle’s succinct summary of the spiritual experience.

Not only Paul, but all believers, have “left undone those things which we ought to have done.” And as the Anglican confession rightly concludes (“there is no health in us”), Paul is about to explode with his own spiritual diagnosis.[11]

Nevertheless, not all is lost, because Paul also tells us that we can ‘be renewed in the spirit of our minds.’ (Eph. 4:23) We can ‘put off the old person with its practices and have put on the new self. We will then be renewed in knowledge according to the image of our Creator.’ We will be transformed by the renewing of our mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.’ (Colossians 3:9-10; Romans 12:2)

The Believer’s Deliverance from Law (7:24–25)

One of the results of the gospel is that it delivers us from the condemnation of the law. “Of what use then is the Law? To lead us to Christ, the Truth—to waken in our minds a sense of what our deepest nature, the presence, namely, of God in us, requires of us—to let us know, in part by failure, that the purest efforts of will of which we are capable cannot lift us up even to the abstaining from wrong to our neighbor” (George MacDonald, in Lewis, p. 20).

The law did its perfect work in the apostle Paul, reviving his soul (Ps. 19:7a). It convicted him of his sin and showed him that the only deliverance for him was Jesus Christ. No wonder Paul could call the law a “tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24, NASB). That is exactly what the law did for him. Once delivered from the law, Paul was able to serve the ends of the law—righteousness—in the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 7:6).

Paul summarizes the entire chapter—the conflict of the believer that causes him or her to remain dependent upon the Spirit—in the final verse. When it is Paul the believer talking, he makes himself a slave to God’s law. But when his sinful capacity speaks out, he is a slave to the law of sin. As mentioned in this chapter earlier, it is a shame that chapter divisions in our Bibles cause us to “stop” at certain points in the consideration of the text. While this is a logical point in the flow of Paul’s thought for a pause, Romans 7 and 8 should be read together. Immediately, Paul moves from wretchedness to victory in declaring that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set him “free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2). The gospel is indeed good news, delivering the believer from death by law to life by grace through the Spirit.[12]

We are ‘baptized into Christ Jesus we are baptized into his death. Our old self is crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. Nevertheless, while we are in the imperfect condition, the law of God is in our inner being, but in our members, is another law waging war against the law of my mind and making us captive to the law of sin that dwells in our members. While we serve the law of God with our mind, but with our flesh we serve the law of sin.’ (Rom. 6:3-7; 7:21-25) The premise of this book is quite simple, how do we take off the old person and have the new person put on, and then what must we do, to keep on sustaining that new person.

12:2a. The person who has truly sacrificed himself or herself to God will be distinguished by one overriding characteristic that informs the rest of life. That characteristic is the unwillingness to be conformed to the pattern of this world. Or, as J. B. Phillips put it in his widely-known translation of this verse, “Don’t let the world … squeeze you into its mold.” Paul gives the offensive key to this defensive posture—but first a closer look at that which the believer is committed to avoiding.

The NIV rendering of aion by world is not quite as telling as its primary translation, “age.” The NIV’s pattern is not in the Greek text. It is an expansion of the verb suschematizo, to conform to. Literally, the verse says: “Do not be conformed to this age.” “Age” carries with it a sense of the beliefs, the philosophies, the methodologies, and the strategies of the fallen world in which we live. It is not just the world and its people in their fallen state. It is the worldviews and practices that derive from the fallen state that define the age in which humans live at any time in history.

Paul elsewhere calls this age “evil” (Gal. 1:4), and says that “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers” to the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4). This age has wise men, scholars, and philosophers who believe that their answers to life are to be preferred over God’s (1 Cor. 1:20), but whose wisdom will lead them to nothing (1 Cor. 2:6). Paul warns believers against being deceived into measuring true wisdom by “the standards of this age,” and suggests instead that believers become “fools” with regard to this age so that they might become truly wise (1 Cor. 3:18). This age (world) is a dangerous place: “We know … that the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).

If we do not allow ourselves to be conformed (present passive imperative of suschematizo), then we will not be one with (sun) the schemes (schema) of the age in which we live. While the same word for schemes is not used in the Greek text (schema), the same sense is implied by Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2:11 and Ephesians 6:11 where he makes reference to Satan’s schemes and strategies against believers. If Satan is the god of this world (and he is), and if the whole world lies in his power (and it does), then the believer must resist the pressure to conform morally, intellectually, and emotionally—and ultimately behaviorally—to Satan’s schemes for life. We are not to act like the “wise” of this age—those who follow their own satanically-inspired will and practices rather than God’s.

And what offensive measure keeps the believer from being conformed to this present evil age? The consistent and deliberate renewing of the mind. To make new (Paul here uses the noun, renewal, anakainosis, instead of the verb anakainoo, to make new) is a combination of “new” (kainos) and “again” (ana). Paul uses the verb form in 2 Corinthians 4:16 where he says “we are being renewed day by day,” and in Colossians 3:10 where he says that the new self “is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

Both of these uses of the verb shed light on his use of the noun here, especially the Colossians reference where he highlights a renewal of knowledge “in” (kata, according to) the image of God. In other words, believers are coming out of Satan’s domain where lies and depravity are the language and currency and depraved minds (Rom. 1:28) are the norm. Therefore, our minds must be renewed in knowledge according to the image of God, not the age in which Satan rules.

The ongoing, repetitive nature of the renewal is drawn from the present passive imperative of metamorphoo, to change form. It is from this Greek word that our “metamorphosis” derives—“a transformation; a marked change in appearance, character, condition, or function” (American Heritage Dictionary). The English definition describes perfectly the “metamorphosis” which took place before the disciples’ eyes as Jesus was transfigured (metamorphoo) before them: “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light” (Matt. 17:2), “whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them” (Mark 9:3).

These dramatic images are a picture of how different the believer is to become as, day after day, he or she is being transformed by the renewing of the mind. Instead of being conformed to the present evil age, believers are to be transformed into the image of God insofar as knowledge and behavior are concerned. Paul has already stated that it is God’s ultimate goal for believers “to be conformed to the likeness of [God’s] Son” (Rom. 8:29). But in this verse, the “conformation” is of a different sort than the “conformation” to the world that we are warned against in our present verse. We are warned against being shaped into (suschematizo) the patterns and schemes of the world, system in which we live.

On the other hand, Paul says that we are being “made like” Christ. Here the word conformed is summorphos, made up of sum (with) and morphe (shape or form). The former word for conformed has to do with exterior structures and designs, things which are changeable, not permanent. The latter word, suggesting how we are being conformed to Christ, has to do with being made like something else in essence or in form, something that is durable and not just an exterior structure. W. E. Vine clarifies, saying “Suschematizo could not be used of inward transformation” (Vine, p. 122).

12:2b. But how exactly is the renewing to take place? What is to “fuel” the metamorphosis that takes place in the believer’s life? Transformation (“conformation” to the image of Christ) happens when the renewed mind begins to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. It is the will of God—his standards, his desires, his motives, his values, his practices—which gradually pull the monarch butterfly of the believer out of the world’s cocoon into which he or she has been squeezed. It is a knowledge and practice of the will of God that leads to spiritual growth and maturity in the Christian’s life.

Ultimately, the will of God is all that matters, as Martin Luther King, Jr., so eloquently said, “Like anybody else, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will” (Ward, p. 282).

Test and approve in the NIV is actually one word, dokimazo, which means to test and (by implication or extension) to approve. Both words can be subsumed under the idea of “prove,” as rendered by the NASB—“that you may prove what the will of God is.” The idea here is that the renewed mind can discover and put into action—thereby proving or demonstrating—the will of God. His will is good, pleasing and perfect, and in doing his will, the believer demonstrates sacrificial living.

That is, when a person chooses to sacrifice the preferences of the flesh (the normal human disposition), and chooses to do the will of God instead, the life of sacrifice is seen. It is as the seventh-century Spanish archbishop and scholar Isidore of Seville said: “The whole science of the saints consists in finding out and following the will of God” (Ward, p. 45). And is one whose safety was threatened on many occasions said, “The centre of God’s will is our only safety” (Betsie ten Boom, sister of Corrie ten Boom, in Ward, p. 239).

This concludes Paul’s introductory exhortation following eleven chapters of doctrinal foundation. It would not be off the mark to say that all of Romans 1–11 could be summarized under the rubric of “the mercy of God.” Starting with the initial chapters when the utter sinfulness of humans is revealed, it quickly becomes obvious that mercy is all that can save the human race. By the time we get to the end of chapter 11, Paul declares that God’s grand purpose is to have mercy on all (the elect) without exception. Therefore, when Paul says in Romans 12:1, “in view of God’s mercy,” he is saying, “in view of Romans 1–11”; “in view of your sin, God’s salvation, your sanctification, and God’s sovereignty, it really is a spiritually reasonable thing for you to sacrifice yourself for him.” That is Paul’s conclusion to Romans 1–11 and his introduction to Romans 12–16.

If the first eleven chapters of Romans demonstrate God’s mercy, the next four chapters are how believers respond to God’s mercy by demonstrating sacrificial living. In the rest of chapter 12, sacrifice is expressed and evidenced in the body of Christ and in personal relationships. In chapter 13, sacrifice is seen as believers submit to civil authorities and to the dual commands to love God and neighbor. And finally, in chapters 14 and 15, sacrifice is seen as believers give up their personal preferences in the church so as not to cause a weaker Christian to stumble and sin.

To return to the point made in the introduction to this chapter, the contents of the next four chapters contain much practical advice for Christian living. But to disconnect these chapters from Romans 1–11 is to disconnect them from their power source, for the motivation to sacrifice in the Christian life is the mercy of God.[13]

Review Questions

  • What Scriptural evidence is there that imperfect humans are mentally bent toward evil (bad)?
  • How are we tempted?
  • Why is it imperative that we understand our fallen condition?
  • Who is the Father of evil?
  • How can we control our mental bent toward evil?
  • What hope is there for the future?
  • What is the ongoing conflict within us?

What is the moral law and sin’s law?

[1] Iniquity “signifies an offense, intentional or not, against God’s law.” (VCEDONTW, Volume 1, Page 122) Really, anything not in harmony with God’s personality, standards, ways, and will, which mars one’s relationship with God.

[2] Anders, Max; Lawson, Steven (2004-01-01). Holman Old Testament Commentary – Psalms: 11 (p. 266). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[3] G. Herbert Livingston, “638 חָטָא,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 277.

[4] Or “own lust

[5] Or be finished with sin

[6] Gr antilytron; See Ransom

[7] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, vol. 18, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 99–102.

[8] Lit from before the face of the Lord

[9] See WHAT IS HELL? Basic Bible Doctrines of the Christian Faith by Edward D. Andrews

[10] Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 91–92.

[11] Kenneth Boa and William Kruidenier, Romans, vol. 6, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 231.

[12] Kenneth Boa and William Kruidenier, Romans, vol. 6, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 231–232.

[13] Kenneth Boa and William Kruidenier, Romans, vol. 6, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 364–367.