Scripture often pivots on a three letter word: “but.” It’s a small word that packs a huge punch. Often times we will read a passage and gloss over what is being said because we are in another world, simply trying to get through a reading schedule, or not grasping the magnitude of what has been said. Here are my Top 10 mind-blowing “buts” of Scripture.
10. Exodus 20:6
As God gave the second commandment, He forbid the use of idols and graven images. No one was to profane God by making Him look like a creature rather than a creator, and anyone who dared do so would be punished. To do so was to declare verbally and actively a hatred for God. God would visit this iniquity upon the father and his children to the third and fourth generation:
“but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
Not a punishment, but rather steadfast love. Steadfast love is love that endures. We could liken it to what Paul described in 1 Corinthians 13. It bears all things, believes all things, and hopes all things. God’s agape love will be upon his people who worship him, as Jesus would say, “in spirit and in truth,” (John 4:23).
9. 1 Samuel 16:7
We are a prejudice people aren’t we? All of us are. Some are prejudice about a person’s skin color while others are prejudice about a person’s place of education. Here in St. Louis it used to be (and to some extent still is, but not like it was) a thing to ask where someone went to school. By that, it was meant high school and not college. Finding out what high school one went to often determined the relationship amongst people. Beyond education, some of us are prejudice toward economic status (some think all rich people are a certain way while others think all poor people are a certain way).
When Samuel was told by God to look for Israel’s next king, he was told to go to Jesse in Bethlehem. He had quite a few sons that seemed like they’d make good prospects. When the oldest stood before him, Samuel looked him up and down and thought surely this was to be the next king. Yet we read:
“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.'”
Just because we think someone is acceptable, or just because we think someone couldn’t possibly “make the cut,” doesn’t mean God does. We don’t choose for God. We are prejudice about many things and so determine a person’s “value” toward us, but rather than looking outwardly at a person’s appearance or bank account or anything else, God looks at the heart. And David was a man after God’s own heart.
8. 1 Thessalonians 4:7
Antinomianism is a thing. Sadly, people believe that they only need Jesus as Savior. They only need a get out of hell free card, “fire-insurance” as it has often been referred. Praying a prayer, signing a card, walking an aisle, getting baptized, being born into a “Christian” home or nation, or whatever else one tends to grasp on to making themselves feel better, will be the downfall and judgment of so many. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that they did not have the right to do as they please as long as they called Jesus Lord. If he was Lord, he was Master. He called the shots. Thus Christians are to abstain from those things that are sin. Sexual immorality, lust, lack of self-control, wronging fellow believers, etc. must be abandoned.
“For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”
God didn’t save people so that they could live any way that they wanted. But rather, He saved people because He is holy and demands holiness from His people, knowing that they (we) could never be holy on their (our) own. His salvation is salvation unto holiness, not more sin. He called us in holiness for holiness.
7. Romans 6:13
In much the same vein as the previous verse, we are not called to continue on in sin so that grace can abound. We are to put up a fight daily against sin and the desires of the flesh. In fact, our baptism ought to remind us of the fact that the part of us that controlled us is dead. Our master has changed, and our old master has been killed and is buried. Now, we are to pick off all the little minions that rage against us.
Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
Sin is no longer our master, so there is no need to kowtow and bow down to it as if we are still its instruments in this battle. But rather we are to bow before our new Master, God and allow Him to use us as He so wishes.
6. Romans 1:21
God can be seen in creation. It’s what we’d call general revelation. Unfortunately, evolution is the religion of the day that has infiltrated all other religions, basically denying that God created or even that God exists. Yet, there is much that is not and cannot be explained in this world apart from God. There is still the question of the uncaused cause of all things. There is still the innate understanding that there is someone (or “something”) greater and more powerful and wonderful than we. There is still the question of how people intrinsically know that right and wrong exist (even if they cannot agree on what those matters are). But people tend to push those thoughts aside.
“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.”
One must be taught there is no God. One must be taught (either by a person or by circumstances) to disbelieve what they know in their hearts to be true. I have often said that I have never met an atheist who was one for purely scientific or logical reasons. Digging deep enough, I find there is always a story, a sad, heart-wrenching story behind their abandonment of theism. They think they are being intelligent, but rather they’ve become futile in their thinking.
Okay, so this is part 1. I’m not doing parts on purpose, but it seems the last three weeks have been that way. I will continue my top 10 next Thursday. How about you? Have you seen any of the “buts” in Scripture that make you rejoice or cause you to pause? I’ve got my next 5 already picked out, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below.
All Scriptures quoted were from the ESV.