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Rainbow Divider

Chapter 3

Different Kinds of Men

I believe that the scriptures teach that among natural men who know not God there are two types. These are described in Rom. 2:12: “For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.”

Notice that this verse concerns only sinners, yet a distinction is made relating to the law. One type of sinner has sinned “without the law”; the other has sinned “in the law.”

Rom. 5:12-14 sheds some light on this. Here we see that death passed upon all men as a result of Adam’s sin. Verse 13 is a key: “For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.”

It was a long time from Adam’s sin until God gave the law through Moses. Countless multitudes lived and died in sin. Yet their responsibility toward God was not the same as those under the law.

What does it mean that “sin is not imputed when there is no law”? The word “imputed” has to do with being “charged” with sin. It is one thing to commit a crime. It is another to be arrested, charged, and tried for that crime.

Paul, in his sermon on Mars Hill, referred to past idolatrous practices by saying (Acts 17:30), “and the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.” What does it mean when it says, “God winked”? Simply that He overlooked it.

Does that mean we’ll see them all in heaven? No. Rom. 5:14 says, “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.” The “similitude of Adam’s transgression” simply means that their sin was not like Adam’s. Adam rebelled against a clear command of God. They simply did what it was their nature to do.

It is true that they violated their conscience, no doubt to the point of totally silencing it, but that is still not the same as rejecting the revealed word of God.

Purpose of the Law

Rom. 3:19-20 says, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” That’s why Paul referred in his sermon to “the times of ignorance.” Those he referred to were ignorant of God’s law.

Notice back in Rom. 2:12 the difference in the consequences. Judgment will only be applied to one type. Those who have sinned without law will not be judged, they simply perish.

What does it mean to “perish”? It simply means that their death is the end for them. God’s pronouncement in Ez. 18:4 still stands: “Behold all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

Notice that the death referred to is that of the SOUL. Remember the scriptures that refer to the soul of the beast and that speak of a sinner’s death as like the beasts that perish. The same language is used — “perish.”

This is the answer to one of the unbeliever’s favorite questions: “What about those who have never heard?” I will not attempt to draw a precise line but I know that God knows and will rightly decide who has sinned “without law” and who has sinned “in the law.”

It does seem pretty obvious that the former group would include the countless millions that have lived and died in ignorance of God’s word together with the very young and the severely retarded. Beyond that I’ll let God draw the line.

I do believe that the scriptures do give us hope concerning young children with believing parents. I Cor. 7:14 concerns a marriage in which only one is a believer. It says, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.”

There comes a time when a child is responsible to repent and believe the gospel for himself. God knows when that is, but I believe where a loving God takes the child of a believer in infancy that we’ll see them again in a far better place!

All or Many?

Have you ever wondered about Daniel 12:2? This verse says, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”

Why would the Holy Spirit inspire Daniel to use the word “many” concerning the resurrection? Most of us have been taught that everyone will be there on the judgment day. But “many” and “all” are two different things. There is no way to make “many” mean “all.”

Obviously, then, there will be some who sleep in the dust of the earth who will not awake. Therefore this verse either sets forth or clearly implies three classes of humanity: those who sleep but never wake; those who wake to shame and everlasting contempt; and those who wake to everlasting life.

On the face of it, Jesus’ words in John 5:28-29 seem in direct conflict with the verse in Daniel. He says, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth;....”

Here Jesus uses the expression “all that are in the graves” concerning the resurrection. A moment ago we pointed out that “many” does not mean “all.” However, it is very possible for “all” to mean “many”!

This is very easily illustrated. Suppose I were to stand up in the church assembly and say, “I would like to ask all to stand, please?” In this instance “all” means all. However, if I were to say, “All over 40 years of age please stand,” then the “all” becomes “many,” restricted by the qualification “over 40.” If there is one in attendance under 40, “all” is not in the strictest sense all!

This is the case with Jesus’ words. Notice that John 5:29 goes on to say, “... they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”

Thus the “all” is restricted to those that have done good and those that have done evil. Most people think that everyone falls in one of these categories but this is not so. It is a question of imputation. Remember that sin is not imputed when there is no law. Those without law sin, but their sin is not imputed to them. Hence so far as God’s judgment is concerned they have done neither evil nor good!

It is interesting to note that of the three kinds of men, God does not impute sin to two of them — those outside the law because of ignorance, and those in Christ. Rom. 4:8 says, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” Paul is referring to believers in this wonderful passage!

Doing Good

Jesus uses the words, “they that have done good” of this latter class. Doing good, however, is not a matter of works! Once again this is a matter of imputation — in this case imputed righteousness. Rom. 4:6-7 says, “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.”

Rom. 4:5 says, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” It is clearly not a matter of good or evil works that makes the difference. It is a matter of faith or unbelief.

The three classes of humanity could be described as: those outside the law; those under the law; those in Christ. Another way to describe them: those in ignorance; those in unbelief; those in faith.

So we can see that Christ’s words concerning the resurrection actually only apply to the latter two classes.

The problem with unbelief is that it is not just the absence of faith. Rather it is willful refusal to believe. Rom. 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”

Most men when confronted with truth suppress it, hide from it, thrust it from them. This is because they love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil (John 3:19).

This is what Paul is speaking of in II Thess. 2:10 where he refers to unbelievers in the words, “... they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved.” The gospel of Jesus Christ with its message of forgiveness and of the hope of eternal life is an expression of God’s love. However, man, in his desperately benighted condition, doesn’t see it that way. He sees the word of God as his enemy, as a threat to his life of self will and self pleasing.

Thinking as he does, he rejects God’s love and the truth that comes with it. When this happens God sends “strong delusion that they should believe a lie; That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” Verse 11-12.

This parallels what Paul says in Rom. 1:26 about God giving men up unto vile affections and verse 28 where he says that “God gave them over to a reprobate mind.”

Thus the judgment is for those who have been confronted with revealed truth. The outcome of the judgment depends in the strictest sense not on works but upon the response to that truth, whether of faith or unbelief.

Of course works play a part, but they are only the fruit — either of faith or unbelief. The evil deeds of the wicked flow from their unbelieving heart. Likewise any good works of the righteous flow from faith. James 2:20 says “...faith without works is dead.” Gal. 5:6 says, “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.”

So on the one hand we have faith that works and on the other hand unbelief that also produces its own kind of works. Therefore the real issue is one of faith and unbelief. The evil that God judges men for is not just their sins but their unbelief.

In the early chapters of Romans Paul develops the truth concerning man’s need of the gospel. He begins with this basic principle found in Rom. 1:18 which we have previously quoted: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” It would be easy in thinking of those outside the law to confuse ignorance with innocence. Millions have died in ignorance of specially revealed truth, such as the law, but they are by no means innocent.

Paul plainly speaks of a knowledge of God that can be derived from creation (verse 20): “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”

The point of this part of Romans is not that some are responsible and others not, but that the level of responsibility varies according to the truth available. Romans 2:2 says, “But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.” A man born in heathen darkness who lives and dies ignorant of Christ is not as responsible as a man who sits under the ministry of a servant of God, called and anointed to preach the gospel, and then rejects that gospel. The latter has a fearful responsibility.

Peter, in writing of the apostate who hears and rejects revealed truth says this plainly in II Pet. 3:21, “For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” How could it be better if both face a never-ending hell?

However, even though there is a difference, both types are under the wrath of God as rejectors of the light they do have.

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