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."
Psalm 53:1, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they,
and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good."
This morning, the intricacies of parallel passages is again upon our mind. When
doing research for a project, paper, etc, we learn that there are "primary
sources" and "secondary sources" (sometimes called auxiliary sources). The
primary sources are perceived as being more sound, trustworthy, and accurate and
include things such as books, reference journals, etc. The secondary sources are
perceived as not being as accurate (by themselves) as the primary sources, which
include internet references, undefended papers, and treatises. These should be
used to bolster the primary sources and not make or break the argument by having
them stand on their own. In aeronautics, there is a similar analogy between
primary and secondary instruments. While it is possible to fly a plane using
only secondary instruments, it is always dangerous to never look at the
altimeter, speed, etc. Therefore, when studying the Bible, we need to view the
primary source list as being very short: the Bible itself. All other references
must be viewed as secondary sources that can bolster a Biblical point, but
should never be used to "make or break" the argument of the theological point.
In our study of the Bible, we sometimes come across passages that we "assume"
are identical in our minds. The Psalm 14 and Psalm 53 parallel can be just such
an example as we see the same language throughout both sections, or do we? My
belief is that these two sections, laid side by side, will provide a more
thorough and complete look at the Psalmist's description of us by nature than
just one of them by itself. Let us examine just a couple of phrases from the
verses above, and so doing, may we be invigorated to look at both sections in
detail to discover the complete look that David had in mind. As a bit of
groundwork for this discussion, it should be noted that man, by nature, is
wholly given to sin and uncleanness. David will clearly make the point in verse
3, but that point is critical to understanding how to look more completely at
this picture. Thinking that man, by nature, has a "divine spark" that can be
flamed and bellowed into a roaring blaze is unbiblical, but it will also damper
the understanding of our thoughts today.
In Psalm 14, we see the phrase "They are corrupt," while in Psalm 53, it reads,
"Corrupt are they." Is there any difference to these two thoughts? One might
claim that the inverted structure of the sentence is just to "break up the
monotony of the reading." (i.e. not have identical language in two places)
However, let us look at the structure itself. In one phrase, the people come
before the corruption (They are corrupt), while the other phrase shows the
corruption before the people (Corrupt are they). So, which comes first, the
people or the corruption? Looking at both of these passages, we must answer
both, but the specific answer depends on the situation.
In the case from Psalm 53, the corruption precedes the people. Therefore, this
is speaking from the sense of being a sinner by nature. As trees bring forth
fruit according to their kind, so our nature is corrupt. When a pecan tree
sprouts out of the earth, it cannot decide one day to become an apple tree. To
do so would mock the very Creator that designed vegetation on this life to
produce fruit and bear out after the species that it is. Likewise, we read that
an Ethiopian cannot change his skin colour, nor a leopard alter his spots.
(Jeremiah 13:23) Jeremiah even compares this analogy to us - who are sinners -
doing that which is righteous and good. Can we hope for any better of ourselves
by nature than these other two could do to change their condition? The answer
is, of course, a resounding, "NO." As sinners by nature - corruption preceding
us - we cannot hope, of ourselves to change that nature.
Moving into Psalm 14, the people precede the corruption. Therefore, this is
speaking in the realm of sinners by practice. We sin, according to the nature
that we have, by our actions everyday. Before the grace of Almighty God comes
into our lives, our actions are steeped totally in sin with no desire to do that
which is right and good. This condition is known, quite commonly, as total
depravity. One thing I would like to mention is that the actions are done by the
"they." Some have made the claim that man commits these sins and transgressions
as a chained animal that is bound to helplessly do nothing else. Their reasoning
is that he would do something else but simply has no means to do so. While it is
true that we, by nature, have no means to do anything other than sin, it must
also be noted that man enjoys his sin to the fullest without a work of grace.
Even after regeneration takes place, the old flesh enjoys sin just as much as it
ever did. The difference is that the soul and spirit cannot thrive in it as
before (hence the warfare between the two). But, it is really and truly us
(they) that do these things, with the enjoyment thereof.
Looking at both of these thoughts together, we see that the Psalmist is building
the case that he thunders in verse 3. Before he gets to that the booming
declaration "none righteous, no not one" he wants to fully lay the groundwork
that there is nothing here of value. Whether the nature is examined or the works
themselves, every bit of it is wholly profitless and good for nothing. We think
of corruption as synonymous with death, decay, and ruin. Dear friends, examine
our nature and practice, and death, decay, and ruin is all that will be found by
nature. This complete thought is then added to by another phrase later in these
verses. Psalm 14 declares "have done abominable works," while Psalm 53 says
"have done abominable iniquity."
In this phrase, the Psalmist further states that every work that we could
consider is nothing short of iniquity. The Hebrew word for "iniquity" here is
transliterated as "evel." The very word for iniquity meaning injustice, wrong,
violence, or depravity is from the same root source as "evil" itself. Comparing
this iniquity or evil to the other Psalm, all our works are "evel" or evil. What
could we possibly bring before God to say, "This is good." He has declared every
work of ours, by nature, to be evil or full of iniquity. Since our righteousness
is as filthy rags in his sight, our very best state is nothing more than vanity.
(Isaiah 64:6, Psalm 39:5) Our Adamic nature is so entwined with our actions that
we cannot hope to be free from one until we are freed from both.
Consider for a moment what being removed from your iniquities (the practices
themselves) would bring. What if Christ came and through regeneration just
removed our sins and practices from us? We would still have a nature that
immediately went back to it and made more evil practices. What if Christ came
and through regeneration just removed our old nature from us? We would have
righteousness going forward, but there would be a multitude of past actions
that, without atonement, would forever bar us from standing with God in
righteousness and being satisfied. Therefore, Christ came that our old nature
might be put away as well as the practices thereof. (Romans 6:23, I Peter 2:24)
He put away our sin (nature) and sins (practices). Because of this, we, as
Jacob, are removed from our iniquities, eternally speaking. (Romans 11:26) We
cannot find them again.
May we not hide behind the thought, "If only Adam had not made me a sinner by
what he did." And may we not hide behind the thought, "If only I could do
something else by nature." Dear friends, Adam's plight was ours too. As our
representative, that cannot be hidden behind like some cop-out for failure, for
God will not grant leniency on that point on the final day. (Revelation
20:12-15) On the other hand, we cannot claim his action as our "chain" for
misconduct, for we, before regeneration fully enjoy doing those things. We enjoy
sinning by the old lusts. However, how thankful we ought to be that One who is
completely Just came and died for the unjust. We were unjust through and
through, but He has made us righteous inwardly by the washing of regeneration
and one day wholly and manifestly at the raising of the resurrection. On that
day, we will see the triumphant second man and last Adam that rescued corrupt
people with corrupt practices. We
will see One that saw none good but brought salvation by His own arm to those
that He loves eternally. The story of grace is made sweet when we understand
just how low we were, for knowing that, we then can glimpse just how far He
reached down to get us and bring us to where He is.