Modern Man Does Not Need God
It’s true. For all outward appearances, that person who denies the existence or relevance of deity can get along in life just fine without belief in one (see Psalm 73).
But this isn’t what we affirm. The Bible does not speak in terms of need or desire, except for some Psalms. The expression of desire or want of God speaks from the heart of a man who believes and trusts in the God of the Bible (Psalm 42) and the question of belief is not present.
The Bible doesn’t speak about want, need, or desire of God because that is not the problem. The secular humanism of the 1960s made it clear that man, in his current state, does not need God. God, therefore, is dead.
Of course, their assumption was that God was a psychological and evolutionary concept that was to be outgrown, but that’s another post.
No, the Bible speaks to another condition: rebellion:
[Genesis 14:4; Exodus 23:21; Numbers 14:9; Numbers 17:10; Numbers 20:10; Numbers 20:24; Numbers 27:14; Deuteronomy 1:26; Deuteronomy 1:43; Deuteronomy 9:7; Deuteronomy 9:23; Deuteronomy 9:24; Deuteronomy 21:18; Deuteronomy 21:20; Deuteronomy 31:27; Joshua 1:18; Joshua 22:18; Joshua 22:19; Joshua 22:29; 1 Samuel 12:14; 1 Samuel 12:15; 1 Samuel 20:30; 2 Kings 1:1; 2 Kings 3:5; 2 Kings 3:7; 2 Kings 18:7; 2 Kings 18:20; 2 Kings 24:1; 2 Kings 24:20; 2 Chronicles 13:6; 2 Chronicles 36:13; Ezra 4:12; Ezra 4:15; Nehemiah 2:19; Nehemiah 6:6; Nehemiah 9:26; Job 24:13; Psalm 5:10; Psalm 66:7; Psalm 68:6; Psalm 68:18; Psalm 78:8; Psalm 78:17; Psalm 78:40; Psalm 78:56; Psalm 105:28; Psalm 106:7; Psalm 106:43; Psalm 107:11; Isaiah 1:2; Isaiah 1:5; Isaiah 1:20; Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 1:28; Isaiah 30:9; Isaiah 36:5; Isaiah 48:8; Isaiah 50:5; Isaiah 63:10; Isaiah 65:2; Isaiah 66:24; Jeremiah 3:13; Jeremiah 4:17; Jeremiah 5:23; Jeremiah 6:28; Jeremiah 52:3; Lamentations 1:18; Lamentations 1:20; Lamentations 3:42; Ezekiel 2:3; Ezekiel 2:5; Ezekiel 2:6; Ezekiel 2:7; Ezekiel 2:8; Ezekiel 3:9; Ezekiel 3:26; Ezekiel 3:27; Ezekiel 5:6; Ezekiel 12:2; Ezekiel 12:3; Ezekiel 12:9; Ezekiel 12:25; Ezekiel 17:12; Ezekiel 17:15; Ezekiel 20:8; Ezekiel 20:13; Ezekiel 20:21; Ezekiel 20:38; Ezekiel 24:3; Ezekiel 44:6; Daniel 9:5; Daniel 9:9; Hosea 7:13; Hosea 7:14; Hosea 8:1; Hosea 9:15; Hosea 13:16; Zephaniah 3:1; Zephaniah 3:11; Mark 15:7; Hebrews 3:16]
This is a very surface survey, but it raises the question as to how we speak to others about the Gospel. Maybe we’re asking the wrong questions and making the wrong offer. “You need Jesus in your life,” can ring hollow to a person who is emotionally happy, physically well and economically doing well.
It is true that all people everywhere need a saviour, and that saviour is Jesus. But the Bible also tells us that we are in rebellion to the God we know:
Romans 1:18–25 (ESV)
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
The only solution to this cognitive disconnect between the felt needs of people today and their real needs, and their real peril, is a holy church (Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 5:27; 1 Peter 1:15-16).
What Christians must do is to stop trying to fulfill needs that are not needs and to continue to holiness. Isn’t an emphasis on holiness a path to irrelevance? Not for those who have an appointment (Acts 13:48). But offering a solution to what is not even perceived to be a problem will not bring salvation; obedience to the call of holiness will. The church must seek to be relevant only to her Lord.
A young home-schooling mother recently asked for some advice regarding which Bible commentaries in print would be helpful for her library. As to the online sort, there are many of varying quality, but some good material to be found in the public domain. But as to actual books that can be purchased, I offer the following. Please note, this guide is woefully inadequate, as I’m sure many of my collegues might point out:
- It is likely that a Bible commentary on the whole Bible by one man is not likely to be balanced. I prefer commentaries written by more than one person or a team of scholars and pastors.
That being said, there are three “one man” commentaries I do recommend. Two are very old, and one is more current.
- The first is Calvin’s commentaries, which cover every book of the Bible except Revelation (and that is really sad). Calvin is a towering theologian and, while he will not be equally as helpful on every book of the Bible, he is an essential read. His works are all still in print, and available online in the public domain. I’m not sure the entire set is still available in print, but individual print volumes are available here.
- The second is Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible. It is known for its devotional and preaching qualities. I appreciate his outlines. It is not strictly a one-man commentary. The sixth volume, on the New Testament, was published posthumously and was edited by a number of his fellows. His six-volume set can be had for a fair price from Christian Book Distributors. Spend a little extra and get the six-volume, unabridged edition.
- A more current commentary on much, but not all of the Bible is by the late James Boice. Various volumes are available from online sellers.
- As a preacher, I have tried to build a library with two or three commentaries on each book of the Bible. I have not done so in print but have a number of online resources.
Single-volume Bible commentaries can be useful but are often too brief to answer the questions you might have.
Commentary sets by multiple authors are often good, but again, the entire set may not be.
- The NIV Application Commentary is mostly very good (there is also an Old Testament set). It is the abridged version of the more challenging New International Commentary Series. The NICS commentaries assume some knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, while the Application Commentary does not. Do not confuse the Application Commentary with the Life Application Commentary which is not as good. The NIV Application Commentary, like any other set, is uneven: I would not recommend purchasing the entire set, because authors like Peter Enns (Exodus) are not reliable scholars.
- The Reformed Expository Commentary is very good. The link points to the New Testament set, but a 10-volume Old Testament set is also available.
- The Bible Speaks Today is a set of commentaries on the Old and New Testaments that are excellent on most books (my experience is mostly with the NT volumes). It was originally edited by the late John Stott.
- Unless theologically trained, I would stay away from the following publishers: Abingdon, Westminster, Fortress, Augsburg. Some older titles under these imprints might be good, but there are a number of scholars who have a very low view of Scripture and that is evident in their writing. The Hermeneia Commentary Set is one example. Be aware that a publisher can publish both wheat and chaff.
If I had a limited budget (and who doesn’t?), I would consider the following:
- Buy Matthew Henry’s unabridged set.
- As you are interested in various books of the Bible, add one or two on those books. For example, if studying Romans, look at John Stott’s volume in The Bible Speaks Today series and Douglas Moo’s NIV Application Commentary.
- Find a public-domain copy of Calvin’s commentaries online.
- Write to me and ask advice on other commentaries on other books. Check out https://www.bestcommentaries.com for a fairly complete list of commentaries, from devotional to scholarly.
Buying commentaries, dictionaries, and other resources is a daunting task (or at least it should be). Consultation with others who have more Biblical training is very important; don’t go it alone. There is truth to be found, but there are also those who wish to promolgate error.