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Sin and Salvation, Confession and Forgiveness

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Question #1:  

Yes, I was hoping you could answer a question for me. Is there any sin one must stop in order to be saved?

Thank you very much,

Sincerely,

Response #1: 

Good to make your acquaintance. Let me say at the outset here that salvation is not about what we do or don't do (including sinning) but about Jesus who died for all of our sins that they might be forgiven and that we might have eternal life.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 NIV

Faith in Jesus Christ is an absolute. It divides life in two like the sharpest sword. Once a person believes, everything becomes new. There is no necessary preparation for salvation, only the willingness to accept God's free gift in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Whatever sins went before are forgiven at the point a person believes, and God's Spirit is given to all who accept Christ, both as a pledge of the eternal life we have ever after and also as a Helper in combating sin of every kind. Christians are not made perfect at salvation, but they do enter into a life of following Jesus Christ our Lord who ever calls us to obedience in all things – for which there is great eternal reward as we dutifully carry out His mandate for sanctification, spiritual growth, progress and production in this life.

If you believe in Jesus Christ, His perfect person as the Son of God who took on true humanity in order to save us from our sins, and His perfect work in dying to atone for those sins on the cross, then you are saved. If you have not put your faith in Him for salvation – who He is and what He has done – then you are not saved. It is as simple as that, and this is all explained in great detail at the following links (and I would most certainly be happy to explain further if you have any questions or concerns):

Salvation: God's Free Gift

God's Plan to Save You

I do understand the subtext of your question. Repentance is very often connected to salvation, although more in contemporary sermons than in the Bible. Biblical repentance is a genuine change of mind, and at salvation constitutes a definite desire and will to turn away from the world (including one's own sinful past) and towards God – which is accomplished by believing in Jesus Christ. As I often explain it, repentance is the other side of the coin from salvation. That is to say, one has to change one's thinking to come to God in Christ. Therefore, all who genuinely change their thinking/repent do come to Christ; and, conversely, all who come to Christ have changed their thinking (see the link: Repentance). This does not mean that believers are instantly relieved of all imperfection and will never sin again, but it does mean that in seeking to follow Christ they have committed themselves to a life of adapting themselves to what Jesus wants (rather than what their flesh may lust for). Believers are forgiven everything when they believe; they are also forgiven when they err thereafter upon confession of their sins (1Jn.1:9).

I have chosen to answer your question in this somewhat indirect way because the scenario you ask about is in my experience and reading of the Bible very unusual. People who are enamored of sin or of anything in this world which they feel would be compromised by salvation are not really interested in being saved at all – and that has always been the majority position of the human race by an incredibly large margin. On the other hand, people who are enmeshed in sin or anything else in this world which is antithetical to following Jesus, but who nonetheless are convicted either by their fear of death and judgment in the realization of their imperfection, or who out of delight of the possibility of eternal life find themselves drawn to the Lord, will "run to Him" and believe in Him in recognition of the value of salvation over everything and anything else:

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it."
Matthew 13:45-46 NKJV

The kingdom of heaven is indeed worth "all that we have", so that even for those who want to "count the cost" of discipleship before the fact (Lk.14:26-33), eternal life is certainly worth so much more than "the passing pleasures of sin" (Heb.11:25 NKJV), especially in comparison with eternal condemnation.

In some instances, people who are contemplating "giving up sin" to be saved are actually believers in dire spiritual trouble. Believers are saved. Unbelievers are not. The issue is one of faith to be followed by obedience after salvation. Sin is disobedience, and the danger of it is that it undermines faith so that if it goes unchecked it can potentially put faith to death (please see the link: Apostasy and the Sin unto Death).

If you are a believer in the grip of sin, you do have the power through the Spirit to overcome the "sin which easily besets" you (Heb.12:1), and restore and repair your relationship with the Lord (please see the links: "Recovery from Sin" and "Sin, Confession and Forgiveness").

If you are not a believer, I urge you in the Name of Jesus Christ to accept God's gracious and free gift of salvation through His Name. All you need do is believe in Him for live eternal (Acts 16:31). Do not try to perfect yourself before the fact – only God can make anything perfect. He stands ready to forgive everything and anything – because His Son our Lord Jesus has already died for all of your sins on Calvary's cross. He has already paid the full price for your salvation. All you need do is come to Him by putting your faith in Him.

We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God!
2nd Corinthians 5:20 NIV

In the One who died that we might have life eternal by placing our faith in Him, Jesus Christ the Lord.

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:  

Thank you for your honest answer, and fast reply. Ok, so you're saying that we don't have to stop any particular sin before we get saved and that after salvation there is no particular sin that has to stop either, rather we will be wanting to stop the sin or sins and over time we will sin less.

Would this not mean that someone, for example, a child molester does not have to stop molesting children in order to get saved, and then once saved they do not have to necessarily stop molesting children?

I appreciate your time and look forward to your response.

Thanks,

Response #2: 

It's a difficult question, and a hypothetical one at that. I will attempt to answer it, but first a few words about its hypothetical nature.

First, I personally don't of any instance where a child-molester wanted to be or was saved. Not that this is impossible, but consider: such a gross and horrible sin and crime is not something a person just wakes up one morning and commits – and in your hypothetical the person is a repeat offender, so it's certainly not accidental in any way but premeditated in every way. The more terrible the sin, the more horrible the crime, the more heartless and cruel it is, the more selfish and completely inconsiderate of the damage done to the victim, and the more often it is done, the more necessary it is for the perpetrator's heart to have already been hardened against God's truth – most likely to the point where said person will have no interest in the gospel whatsoever. The hardening of the heart (against accepting God's truth) is a process all unbelievers go through, but some go much farther down that road than others do. I see this described in scripture as a three-stage process: phase one - darkening of the heart (Rom.1:21); phase two - outright rejection of the truth as a result of darkening (e.g., Matt.6:23); phase three - perversion of the truth (e.g., Eccl.9:3). This is all written up in some substantial detail in BB 4B Soteriology under "The Problem of Unbelievers", but the gist of it is that in order to live their lives without God – which is the essential choice unbelievers make – some walling off of themselves from the truth about God which is written large in everything He has made is necessary (for peace of mind). Many unbelievers merely "black out" the truth of His existence or the truth of His nature or the problem of their mortality and sinfulness in the face of His clear perfection and righteousness (phase one); these individuals are often upstanding, law-abiding citizens of the highest moral character and admirable in every way (except in their response to the gospel). Some unbelievers, however, push things further, becoming enemies of the truth (phase two hardening – aggressive atheists and those who gladly persecute Christians when given the opportunity fall into this category as well as anti-social types and sociopaths who reject God's natural law); and some even create their own truth (phase three). In this last case, we find individuals without any conscience whatsoever, willing to do all manner of vile things (whether outright criminal acts or not). When this final stage of hardening is reached, like the Pharaoh of the exodus, there is usually no hope whatsoever that they are still capable of repentance and a return to the truth. In fact, I would say that if there ever was such a case, it would require such a horrific shock or near-death experience that if the person did turn from their evil they would be unlikely to be willing to ever get close to it again.

However, we need to consider that God is absolutely fair and wants everyone to be saved. The implication of that truth is that He is not going to wait until a person is beyond saving to lead them to salvation if said person has any inclination whatsoever to be saved. The unbelieving life and the process of the hardening of the heart is a like a series of barriers which a person has to break through willfully in order to reject the truth God has made manifest in His creation through natural revelation so as to harden themselves against it. So while what you ask may not be theoretically impossible (to tell the truth, I'm not sure), I regard it as so unlikely as to be virtually impossible that a person would be engaged in the activity you ask about, especially as a repeat offender, and still have any chance for salvation – not because Jesus has not died for their sins (indeed He has), but because getting to this point involves a prior rejection of God's truth to such an incredible degree that only those who are in their hearts already implacably disposed toward rejecting Him and His will that would be likely to fall into this category, that is, only those who would never agree to submit their will to His WILL in any case under any circumstances in order to be saved (cf. Matt.18:3-4). After all, the human experience is all about salvation – that is why we are here, namely, to self-select whether we are willing to accept Jesus and be saved, or whether instead living our lives on our own terms is more important to us (please see in BB 4B "Free will faith and the WILL of God"). People involved in heartless crimes of this nature committed without apparent remorse have already manifested such a violent refusal to accept God's truth, God's WILL, and God's standards even on the most rudimentary level that I seriously doubt any "change of heart" they might evince thereafter would be genuine – and God surely knows the difference.

Second, assuming a one-in-a-trillion scenario of the sort you suggest where a person did receive such a horrific "wake up call" that they did completely turn their backs on every aspect of their former, evil behavior and seek God's forgiveness, the revulsion at their previous misdeeds would have to be so complete as to obviate the possibility of any future occurrence. Most people who believe as adults have the experience of turning away from the world (repentance) and feeling shame about their previous behavior (e.g., Romans 6:21 NIV: "What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!"). How much more would that not be the case if the past sins were horrific crimes of this sort? God can forgive anything, since Jesus died for everything, but for the reasons discussed above there is a point of virtual no-return for most people because of their own prior choices, and if someone ever did or does return from such a hardened state, I would imagine that, like the apostle Paul, the contrast of the vitality of their new commitment to the Lord would be all the more profound because of it:

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
1st Timothy 1:16 NIV

This, I believe, is why the apostle John can say "Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him" (1Jn.3:15 NIV) – not because God cannot forgive murder, but because murder is one of those sins which requires such a complete putting to death in one's heart of any care or concern for God, for His truth, for the rights of others, etc., that it is virtually certain that anyone who commits it is no believer in fact. Therefore the issue of recidivism for such heinous crimes and behaviors is not just a question of God forgiving a believer's sins. He does forgive us when we lapse and then repent and confess (1Jn.1:9); but to get back to a place of being able to do such evil is not a quick or automatic process (assuming the person we are hypothesizing here really was saved). To get back to such evil means repeating the process of putting the truth to death all over again, that is, the three phase process of the hardening of heart. And in order to do such evil again, it is most likely that the third stage has again been reached.

It is certainly possible for believers to go backward. If they go backward far enough, whether through living a life of sinfulness or merely allowing their faith to be undermined, it is possible to lose salvation. That process of apostasy is well-described and vigorously warned against in scripture (please see the extensive discussion in BB 3B Hamartiology under "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"). To be honest, if someone was telling me about such a person (i.e., criminal, saved, now repeating crimes), my immediate guess would be that, even if their repentance and salvation had been genuine, like the seed which fell on the rocky soil and quickly died out (Matt.13:20-21), it had been short-lived and they had quickly turned back to their prior behavior because they were now no longer saved. For beyond all reasonable argument it is possible to fall away from Jesus Christ if a person abandons their faith (on this entire subject see "The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security II"). Such persons are worse off than if they had never flirted with faith at all.

If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud."
2nd Peter 2:20-22 NIV

So (1) I doubt the possibility, (2) I think it unlikely that a person would return to such evil if they really did constitute such a rare exception, and (3) I would imagine that they had lost their salvation all over again should they fall into repeating such offenses after "being saved". Much more likely, if we ever see such a thing reported, would be that the person in question was faking it (e.g., in order to get paroled out prison or some such thing). All sin is serious business, but some sins are worse than other, repetitive sin is worse still, and crime, especially violent, abusive crime, is representative of people who have little or no conscience and have already gone a long way down the road to putting God's truth to death in the hearts to such a degree that no recovery is desired or possible (for all practical purposes).

I hope this is of some help.

In Jesus who died for all of our sins that we might walk in holiness with Him.

Bob L.

Question #3:   

I thank you for your very through answer to my questions, but alls I was asking is if there are any sins one must stop to be saved, and from your responses I can gather that no there isn't, which is actually saving sinners IN their sins, waiting for God to clean up later. I send you this article, and just ask you to seek truth at all cost, because what you teach is a bit confusing to me.

When Does the Sin Stop? Is there any sin you must stop doing to be Saved? ALL the Pastors say an emphatic NO! ONLY the Sin of ‘Unbelief’ will exclude you from the Kingdom of Heaven. Basically what is being taught today as Salvation according to the Gospel of Christ is you get Saved as a poor helpless sinner, filled with the Holy Spirit and then God will magically empower you to ‘begin’ overcoming your vile habits over a period of time. Consequently you get ‘saved in your sins’ and then you repent. That’s how the process supposedly works.

However this method has some Serious flaws. First of all, the Sin NEVER Stops. The so-called ‘Saved’ Person continues to Struggle with all the same sins he allegedly repented of at the start. He is still ‘WAITING’ on God to change his desires and take away the vile habits. The Pastors keep telling him he is Saved and filled with the Spirit and that God will soon ‘empower’ him to overcome the sin. He should remain in his focus group and not worry about the things he has no ability to control. The Problem: His bondage keeps getting worse!

In his Study group he is told that according to the Bible he was born a wretched sinner, guilty of Adams transgression and is hopelessly in bondage to an ‘inbred’ Nature of Depravity. At best all he can expect to be in this World is the Chief of Sinners fully Wretched to the core. Although the Power of God is hypothetically Working to deliver him from his sin. Soon he will begin to Blame God for his constant faults and the lack of success in overcoming them. Since he has been told also that continuously admitting he is poor wretched sinner keeps him humble, he has no Clue that he is growing more and more callus in his Rebellion.

The Message is very Confusing and Contradictory. On one hand the Pastors are saying that a Saved person cannot be living in continual sin. But on the other they assure you that ‘some’ deeply engrained sins are difficult to root out. Although you certainly Remained Saved in the meantime, even if such a sin is as vile as Molestation. The Logical Conclusion: The Commission of sin (any sin) is between the Person and God and Clean up is on God’s timetable. The final outcome of Salvation is Secure in Christ so the person must continue to Trust that God is faithful no matter what happens in his flesh.

What is so Perplexing about their Message is Some of them teach that Repentance is a Fruit of Salvation. You Get Saved and then repent. But others (many others!) don't even mention Repentance. It’s not even a Mandate for Salvation! Therefore the Biblical Process of Godly Sorrow working Repentance UNTO Salvation is null and void.

They either have it in Reverse or Not at all. Nonetheless EVERYONE teaches that its God’s Responsibility to Clean you up according to His schedule, hence the Professing Masses are Wallowing in their sin while they wait for some Divine guidance to miraculously straighten them out. Although it NEVER happens.

Why is God so limited in His Power that all He can do is Cover man’s sin and Pretend He can only see the Perfection of His Son? The Bible says that He has given us all things that Pertain to Life and Godliness and that we are Partakers of His Divine Nature in order to escape the Corruption that is in the world through lust! (2Pet1:3-4) It also States that we can do ALL THINGS through Christ who Strengthens us. (Phil4:13) And the Same Power that Raised Christ from the Dead is at Work in us! (Eph1:19-20) So What’s the Problem? WHY (under their message) do people remain wretched sinners forever in bondage to lust? Would God intentionally limit Himself in dealing with man? If it’s His Job to Clean man up, Why doesn’t it ever seem to happen?

The answer is very simple. It’s NOT His Job to change man’s Desires from evil to good! In Repentance you Cease to do Evil and Learn to do Good. (Isa1:16) You Forsake your evil ways and unrighteous thoughts. (Isa55:7) You lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted Word that is able to Save your soul! (Js1:21) The Clearing of Wrong Doing is your Part. Granting forgiveness is God’s. (2Cor7:10-11) Unless man gets Clear of his sin in Repentance, it will NEVER Stop. Think about it! People Stop their vile habits all the time. They break free of alcohol, drugs, various addictions. (Without God!) Man is perfectly capable of Doing what is Right. It may not be easy, but NO one can deny that it has been done.

But you MUST Understand, Stopping your sin (or addiction) DOES NOT automatically restore you to favor with anyone. It only PROVES that you are making a sincere & Diligent effort to Change. As in the case of Adultery. Abandoning the adulterous relationship will not automatically reconcile the broken marriage relationship. It only Proves your remorse and sorrow for causing the separation. The offended party must be motivated by the effort made to Freely Grant forgiveness and restore the relationship.

God has Granted Man the Grace of Repentance PROVEN by DEEDS, to Forgive his sins and Restore him to a Right and Clean Relationship, Washed & Purged by the Blood of Christ. Man is Free to Choose, which makes him responsible to Obey. (Josh24:15) We are Workers Together with God in the Process of Redemption. (2Cor6:1) The Pastors have fallen prey to a Deadly Error by insisting man must be Saved in his sins. Flee them if you Can! www.standingthegap.org

Response #3: 

I am sorry you are confused. I looked over the last answer I sent you and it does address the question you asked in an orthodox way, one, moreover, which explains what is really potentially confusing about the issue of sin, repentance, and forgiveness. I would ask you to have another look at it.

As to the long insert you have sent me, this raises more questions than it answers, especially if you take the time to dig a little below its surface. This insert seems to equate salvation with sinlessness based upon prior self-cleansing from sin (in practical terms) which then results in God's forgiveness.

Let me ask you (and this person) a very simple question: Do you ever sin now . . . at all? If you do, then according to this proposition you are not really saved because you were not sincere in your repentance as is proved by your sin. If you say that you no longer sin at all, then let's just say that I have serious doubts about that and would have to conclude that you are either mistaken or have so redefined what "sin" is to your own benefit that the word has no meaning . . . and in this scripture concurs:

(8) If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives
1st John 1:8-10 NIV

The apostle John assures us that those who claim to have no sin (i.e., no corrupt sinful nature which produces sin) are only deceiving themselves (v.8), that those who claim to no longer commit sin are making God out to be a liar (v.10), and that believers are forgiven their sins when they confess (v.9) – something that would be completely unnecessary if believers were incapable of sin!

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.
1st John 2:1 NIV

As John himself tells us, the purpose of what he has just written (in 1Jn.1:8-10 as quoted) is "that you will not sin" – so it is possible to refrain from sin at times, no question about it. But John adds that we have our dear Lord Jesus to advocate on our behalf if and when we do fall into sin – which all believers do from time to time. None of this would be necessary (or necessary to say) if all "true believers" were sinless after salvation.

There are many things I find not only absolutely wrong but very spiritually dangerous about the insert you have included, but perhaps the most dangerous are the joint ideas that there can be any power over sin apart from the Holy Spirit (who is given after salvation, not before) or that repentance rather than faith is the basis for our forgiveness. The first part of the proposition is dangerous because it gives all who accept it the erroneous idea that something good can be done in this world apart from the power of God. The second part is dangerous because, in addition to being completely untrue, it encourages a kind of salvation by works in gaining mastery over sin. God has atoned for all the sins ever committed by judging Jesus in our place, and freely forgives all who desire forgiveness – based on what Jesus did not what we do. But our "fighting against sin" in heart or in deed forms no basis for our forgiveness. Repentance is the recognition that only God can save by grace, and that recognition is turned into salvation through faith in Jesus who made God's grace available to us through the cross where He was judged for our sins.

It is certainly true that we have free will and that this free will does not stop after salvation. We are responsible for what we do, and as believers in Christ we are responsible to pursue sanctification, turning away from sin and walking in a more holy way day by day. This we shall do if we are giving our attention to the truth in spiritual growth and fighting "unto the point of blood" day by day against sin (Heb.12:4; cf. 1Pet.4:1). What we will never accomplish, however, is perfect sinlessness (as the passages above make clear enough).

Your insert makes it sound as if anyone who sins was never saved. It also makes it sound like sin is the entire issue in salvation when the true issue is faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, this very poorly thought out insert gives no true answers; it only has the effect of casting doubt upon what little truth a person with a weak faith and still in spiritual infancy might have on these matters.

I would advise you to turn away from such false teaching. I am sorry if you find this ministry confusing. It is not everyone's "cup of tea". I do believe that if you give it a chance it can help you, but if not, well, I encourage you to find an orthodox ministry that is really teaching God's truth (as opposed to what you have shared with me here).

Please do feel free to write back about this (and please see the links:

Sin, Confession and Forgiveness

Confession of Sin, Fellowship, and the Filling of the Holy Spirit

BB 3B: Hamartiology

BB 4B: Soteriology

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:   

Hello again Dr. Luginbill,

I have a few questions regarding the biblical concept of forgiveness. I know that it is mandated that as Christians we are to forgive those who have wronged us. Jesus demonstrated this in the model prayer and also displayed forgiving others because they were not aware of their wrong. My question is how Jesus asked His Father to forgive those who crucified Him without them repenting or asking the Lord for forgiveness, and why this isn't applied to the doctrine of Salvation. In Salvation, we are to ask God for forgiveness and acknowledge that we are sinners and repent. God doesn't automatically forgive us as He did when Jesus forgave those who crucified Him when they didn't ask for forgiveness. How is it that God can forgive without those asking for forgiveness at times? and are we always supposed to forgive any and all who have wronged us regardless of them not turning from the error of their ways? If we forgive someone and yet they continue to harm us, do we continue to forgive them regardless? Thank you!

God Bless,

Response #4: 

Good to hear from you.

Two things here. First, although it is one of the most quoted "passages" in the Bible, the words, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" is most definitely not a part of the Bible (please see the link: The Interpolation "Father, forgive them"). This is very important, because this false verse is the genesis of much confusion and many dangerous interpretations of scripture (no doubt the reason the evil one was so interested in getting it inserted).

Clearly, those who reject Christ are not forgiven and not saved. If Christ were to forgive everyone, regardless of faith, then none of this process of human history would have any point. But we are all here on earth to choose where we will spend eternity. Those who choose God's mercy through faith in Christ are saved. Those who do not are condemned regardless of any prayer on their behalf:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV

The second part of your questions does require us to draw a distinction between personal forgiveness and God's forgiveness. Only God can truly forgive sin. Only God can grant salvation. He has atoned for all sin in judging Jesus as the Substitute for the sins of every human being who ever lived. He grants salvation to all who receive His Son through faith. We human beings, however, are made in the image of God. We do have free will. And as followers of Jesus Christ we are to act in a godly way. And one of the ways, one of the very important ways were are to emulate the Lord in this life is by "forgiving as He forgave" (Col.3:13). While our forgiving is only a personal attitude (i.e., we do not make atonement to enable this act, neither are we capable of granting a person salvation as a result of our forgiveness – this is personal forgiveness, not God's forgiveness), it is nevertheless a very important part of the Christian life and the Christian walk. We are supposed to love our enemies, and this is one of the ways we are to carry that mandate out. As those who belong to Jesus and who love Him more than life, we need to adopt His attitude in all things. No matter how evil, how wicked, how nasty, how annoying other human beings may be, Jesus died for all their sins. And the Father wants them to be saved. We should want that too, and the proof of taking on God's attitude on that score is forgiving them personally if we have anything against them. I do not take this truth to mean that we have to personally express that forgiveness to them – far from it, as many wicked people would take such pronouncements the wrong way entirely! But we are to adopt an attitude of forgiveness and mercy to all, one of truly desiring the salvation and deliverance of every other human beings, even if they are our enemies, even if we might otherwise have a good deal against them. We are not required to open ourselves up to abuse unnecessarily. We are required to maintain a genuine attitude of forgiveness to all, in our hearts making it a point not to "take account of wrong suffered" (1Cor.13:5), but instead to "let the person up" in our attitude towards him/her, putting all such matters in God's hands, truly forgiving any offense we suffer. And if we are not moved to this on each and every occasion out of goodness, well, there are practical reasons to walk in such forgiveness to all at all times as well:

"But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
Matthew 6:15 NIV

"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."
Luke 6:37 NIV

Let us ever strive not to hold anyone else to account before God or in our hearts, leaving the judgment to the Lord, and persevering in our course towards the goal of the high upward calling of Jesus Christ, letting nothing cause us to stumble in pursuit of His glory and our own great reward.

In Jesus our dear Lord who died for us,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Loving our enemies and blessing those who curse us to heap coals of hot fire on their heads are among the teachings of scripture that I take deeply to heart. On the other hand because I've done so it has also caused be some grief. It seems that when I apply this attitude people take advantage of me. Those who have wronged me and hate me often take advantage of this and now treat me as someone who better buy them lunch, be extraordinarily nice to them, say yes to their demands, etc, OR ELSE, they'll step all over me. In other words, it made matters worse. I now see an attitude of superiority coming from them and they feel that they control me and I am their slaves. I'm not sure if this makes much sense, but it's the best way I can explain it. Am I doing this in the wrong way?

Response #5: 

I would certainly not want to judge a personal application of a fellow believer especially when it has been made out love as in your case. For may part, I draw a very fine distinction between Christian love and "socializing". I see no need to have anything to do with those who are hostile towards me and my beliefs, unless that is necessary in the course of some professional activity. Even there, I don't see a need to allow myself to be "stepped on", as you put it. There is a difference between returning evil for evil on the one hand and offering oneself up for destruction on the other. There is "a time for every purpose", but in these sorts of cases and in most such areas of applying the truth, the best approach usually resides somewhere in the middle (please see the link: Poles of Application).

The Romans/Proverbs passage tells us to pray for our enemies and to minister to them in extremities. So there is a place for literally turning the other cheek. However, in a professional capacity a person should act professionally, and giving undue deference where it is otherwise not appropriate is not only not necessary but could run afoul of the professional standards our Lord wants us to uphold. I think it is possible to love and not kowtow, to walk in forgiveness and not approve or seem to approve of bad behavior. We are slaves of the Lord Jesus and should never become "slaves of men" (1Cor.7:23).

As mature believers in Jesus, we are all required to make these sorts of applications. However, were I to observe a fellow believer being taken advantage of by enemies on account of a determination to act in love, I would be inclined to counsel that person to be a little more self-protective in the interest of everything else Jesus has called him/her to do – if only through separating him/herself from such people so as to avoid such situations in the first place. The 7,000 who did not "bow the knee to Baal" went into hiding. There is a time to fight, there is time to submit, and there is a time to avoid both if possible. Getting better at telling the difference is a large part of what spiritual maturity is all about.

(1) Therefore I entreat you by God's mercy, brothers, to dedicate your bodies as a living sacrifice, well-pleasing to God – [this is] your "priestly-service" spiritually performed. (2) Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by this renewal of your thinking, so that you may discern what God's will for you is, namely what it is good, well-pleasing, and correct [for you to do].
Romans 12:1-2 (cf. Rom.2:17-18)

(9) And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in full-knowledge (epignosis: truth believed) and in all discernment, (10) so that you may be able to evaluate the things that are good and appropriate [for you to do] to be sincere and without offense in regard to the day of Christ (i.e., to gain a maximum reward at Christ's judgment seat), (11) full of the righteous production Jesus Christ [commends] to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

Please also see the link: "Applying Faith"

Do feel free to write me back about any of this.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

My first question regarding forgiveness came about as a result of a program that I saw on television. The host is a Pastor who had a guest speaker who was a forgiveness "specialist". I had written to the host of that show and the host himself actually replied. I copied and pasted what you wrote so I could see what his response would be and do some studying. Here it is in quotations:

"(Luke 23:34) it is to be remembered that the common people as a whole had little concept of what was taking place. In a certain sense what you say is true. Certainly God's forgiveness can be effective only if a repentant sinner accepts it true sorrow for his sin and turns from it. But the New Testament portrays God as forgiving even before we confess. I refer to the story of the lost boy of Luke 15. Even though the father knew the rebellion that led his son to the "far country," he was anxiously waiting and desiring the return of his boy. Verse 20 shows the forgiveness of the father--no questions asked! Not until verse 21 did the son get the chance to begin his confession--and he never did get it completed. The forgiving father had too much celebrating to do to wait for the full confession! Why is it important to remember that God has already forgiven us, as far as His heart is concerned? Because we become like the God we worship. And there is danger that our hearts may become hard and unforgiving toward those who may have wronged us – until they "properly" confess. (One more example: Jesus forgave the woman taken in adultery without her seeking forgiveness--although Jesus could read her thoughts.) God evidently is not as much interested in the bookkeeping aspects of forgiveness as in a change of heart. Repentance is that change of heart. In other words, as much as God loves a person, if the sinner clings to the sins of which the Holy Spirit has convicted him, he cannot expect forgiveness. God "will by no means clear the guilty" (Ex. 34:7). At the same time, He is doing all He can to warn the sinner and draw Him to His precious side. God is full of kindness and tender pity toward too who are exposed to the temptations of the evil one. The prodigal son was forgiven because he had changed his mind regarding his profligate course; those who nailed Jesus to the cross did not fully "know" what they were doing. One caveat: Important textual evidence is sometimes cited for the omission of Jesus' prayer in Luke 23:34."

What is interesting about this host is that he seems at most times biblically accurate, although there are some thing I disagree with, and he is a SDA. With that aside, is what he wrote biblically accurate?

My floor where I work at has a reputation for being notorious for its gossiping, mistreating others, verbal abuse, slander, etc. Every day I come into work, it is as I am entering into a firing squad. Without the full armor of God I would stand no chance. I can literally feel the presence of evil spirits as I enter the workplace. Those who work on other floors in my building also testify to this. If they ask me what floor do I work on and I say the 12th, they will respond by saying, "I feel sorry for you, you might as well quit your job!". So at this point I am trying to decide what the biblical mandate is regarding this situation. I attempted to heap coals of fire upon them but they see this as an opportunity to take advantage of me. What is also interesting is that most of them claim to be Christians and boast about how they go to church. Would it be biblical to respect them as persons but at the same time not to be stepped on? I tried to confront a co-worker about this and she twisted my words and now I am being sneered at. I prayed over this that God grant me wisdom so now I am waiting for the Lord to give me the answers in His own timing. Thank you!

God Bless,

Response #6: 

Let me begin by assuring you again that the false interpolation, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" is not a legitimate part of the Bible (please see the link: The Interpolation "Father, forgive them").

Secondly, I am somewhat nonplussed by the response you included here. It seems to me we are confusing the issues. Are we talking about our forgiveness of others or God's forgiveness of us? It does make a very big difference, because 1) only God can completely forgive sins – all we can do is cease from an attitude of judgment towards others (but it is still up to God to do the atoning in Christ and substantive forgiving); 2) God's forgiveness of believers is different from His forgiveness of unbelievers: unbelievers are forgiven everything when they accept Jesus Christ, becoming immediate heirs to the atonement which comes through His death to all sin; believers, on the other hand, have already "had their bath" and need only to "have their feet washed" when we fall into sin (and are forgiven everything on confession: 1Jn.1:9); and 3) while unbelievers have to accept Christ to be forgiven, and while believers have to confess their sins to the Lord to be forgiven, we believers are commanded to forgive without reference to the attitude of our debtors expressed or not. So these are all somewhat different things, both substantively and in terms of practical application, so that lumping them all into "forgiveness" as if there were no distinction can lead to some gross misunderstanding and misapplications of scripture.

I would certainly disagree with what this person takes from the parable of the prodigal son. Certainly, the parable shows God's attitude of being deeply desirous of forgiving us as believers and receiving us back into fellowship, but the father sees the son returning ahead of time, which says to me that it is the attitude and actual change of mind which precedes the verbal confession which show that the verbal confession is genuine, not that either is unnecessary (both are as scripture elsewhere confirms and as this parable in no way contradicts).

Thirdly, the "woman taken in adultery" is also most decidedly not a part of the Bible. This is perhaps the second most commonly quoted forgery (and any good study Bible will point this out – it is only out of cowardice that the passage is even printed in modern versions). Here is what Metzger's A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament has to say about the passage:

The evidence for the non-Johannine origin of the pericope of the adulteress is overwhelming. It is absent from such early and diverse manuscripts as Papyrus66.75 Aleph B L N T W X Y D Q Y 0141 0211 22 33 124 157 209 788 828 1230 1241 1242 1253 2193 al. Codices A and C are defective in this part of John, but it is highly probable that neither contained the pericope, for careful measurement discloses that there would not have been space enough on the missing leaves to include the section along with the rest of the text. In the East the passage is absent from the oldest form of the Syriac version (syrc.s. and the best manuscripts of syrp), as well as from the Sahidic and the sub-Achmimic versions and the older Bohairic manuscripts. Some Armenian manuscripts and the old Georgian version omit it. In the West the passage is absent from the Gothic version and from several Old Latin manuscripts (ita.l*.q). No Greek Church Father prior to Euthymius Zigabenus (twelfth century) comments on the passage, and Euthymius declares that the accurate copies of the Gospels do not contain it. When one adds to this impressive and diversified list of external evidence the consideration that the style and vocabulary of the pericope differ noticeably from the rest of the Fourth Gospel (see any critical commentary), and that it interrupts the sequence of 7.52 and 8.12 ff., the case against its being of Johannine authorship appears to be conclusive.

Therefore while some of the person's general comments taken out of context might not be objectionable, some of the underlying ideas not only are, but are also based upon two famously false texts. If we stick with the Bible, we know very well that we are to forgive others – it's in the Lord's prayer (Matt.6:12-14; Lk.11:4). And we know very well that we are told to do this without regard to their behavior (e.g., Mk.11:25 when the person is not even present). We also know that only God can forgive sins in the sense of atoning for them, and that this required the death of Jesus on our behalf (Mk.2:10; 3:28; 2Cor.5:21). So, clearly, what God does in forgiveness is exponentially of a different quality from what we do (comparable to the difference between our will verses the WILL of God). Finally, we also know that we are to confess our sins (1Jn.1:9). All of these things are clear from scripture. My major disagreement with the quote you included is that to me, apart from being wrong in the cases indicated, the rest of this treatise makes the biblical principles less clear (at least to me as a reader) than they would be just from reading scripture. A Bible teacher's job is to clarify, to make the principle of truth in the Bible more not less understandable, and to do so by "rightly dividing the Word of truth", that is, what is made simple must also be correct in every facet.

As to your other report, I sympathize with your plight and will be in prayer for you for a better work situation. In regard to your personal application, I have nothing to add, except to say that confronting people about this sort of thing is only very rarely going to end up doing good, and will usually only cause more trouble:

Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you.
Proverbs 9:8

In light of the present great dearth of "wise men", silence would seem to be preferable on most occasions.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #7:  

Dear Bob,

A friend asked me, "What is sin?". I've been mulling over that one. The bible says to confess one to another. Would you share with me your sins of, say, the past week? Is there any way to be specific? I'm really trying to get a handle on this. I'm doubting that it's possible to be specific as far as an actual act seeing that God is the judge. Am I right? (and it occurs to me that asking this may be a sin, so disregard).

Response #7: 

Sin is a subject "deep and wide" and very many things are sinful which we might never suspect (especially in the early stages of spiritual growth). That is no doubt one of the reasons why the sacrifices of the Law were aimed almost exclusively at "sins of ignorance". I have dealt with your question in some substantial detail at the link in Bible Basics 3B Hamartiology in section II, "The Nature of Sin".

As to the issue of confession, you are citing (indirectly) James 5:16 "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." (NIV). James is not the easiest book to interpret. Martin Luther famously called it "an epistle of straw". Over-emphasizing that quote is perhaps unfair; I merely bring it up as proof that there are passages in James which can be misread and can be disturbing for that reason, i.e., not, because James is not divinely inspired (it most certainly is), but because on account of his way of approaching things he can easily be taken the wrong way. Luther's problem was clearly with the notion of "salvation by works" against which he was fighting might and main in his conflict with the Roman church. James does not in fact teach that works produce salvation, merely (and quite rightly) that all genuine faith cannot help but produce an active response of faithfulness. It is interesting to note from the context, by the way, that the examples of "works" James gives in this regard are Abraham's (near) sacrifice of his son Isaac and Rahab who protected the Jewish spies – not exactly the sorts of works of supererogation the Roman Catholic church would have people do. In both of these instances faith was given a test by God and the person passed that test, demonstrating that their faith was genuine – that is the sort of "works" James has in mind. And if God had not given them the particular test, they would certainly not for that reason not be saved!

Another example of this sort of thing in James is in chapter one:

When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
James 1:13-14 NIV

Now the above seems perfectly reasonable, but the problem is that the Greek verb translated "tempted" here is peirazo which more often means "test", and it is very problematic to say that God never "tests" anyone (cf. the book of Job, Jn.6:5-6, and James' own examples of Abraham and Rahab in chapter two as discussed above). Some English versions gloss over the potential problem of there being no discernible difference between "test" and "tempt" in the Greek. Clearly, the only way for these verses to square with scripture, however, is if we understand James as using peirazo here in that specialized sense of "tempt" – and that is certainly what the context does suggest since the topic is sin. This is a long way of saying that James can easily be misinterpreted if careful attention is not paid to his context. That is also the key to understanding the reference to confession in chapter five about which you ask:

Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.
James 5:14-16 NIV

Succinctly put, one cannot divorce the particular "confession" here from the context of a person who is sick and calls the elders of the church to help him through their prayers. In such cases, as an elder or pastor, it would certainly be good to know if a person has been laid low as a result of divine discipline for some egregious sin or pattern of sinning. For in such an instance "if he has sinned, he will be forgiven" as the elders make intercession for him to be healed – but they cannot pray effectively for his forgiveness if they are not aware that sin may be responsible for his serious illness. In other words, there is absolutely nothing here that indicates believers should be confessing their sins to each other as part of their normal Christian process – quite the contrary: this is a very specialized case.

I am a sinner, saved by grace. The more I have learned about the Bible and its truths, the more I have discovered how insidious and ubiquitous sin is (cf. Paul's experience in Romans 7). I confess my sins to the Lord on a daily basis, praying for forgiveness for "anything I may have thought or said or done that was sinful whether I realized it or not", for, as mentioned above in the case of the sacrifices for sins of ignorance in the Law, it is in my view impossible that a person could ever get to the point of being so tuned into the WILL of God and the entire meaning of the Bible and the precise way in which his/her behavior relates to these and to the world as he/she walks along that he/she is able to recognize every single sin as sin when it happens. Given this truth, and given how much of our behavior is in fact sinful (if we really do appreciate God's perfect standards in all things), then were we to be confessing our sins "one to another" in the sense that the verse in James is often erroneously taken to mean, we would have time for little else in this life. And to whom should we be confessing? To just one person? James' "to each other" would, under that erroneous understanding, seem to have mean every other believer we can reach.

As a Bible teacher with a mandate to protect the sheep who place a degree of trust in what I have to say, I cannot imagine a better way to completely undermine the spirituality of believers than to adopt such a policy. Even the Roman church recognizes this and restricts such "one to another" confession to telling a priest and doing so in strict privacy. That clearly is also not what James says, but to take the passage in this false sense would result in so many hurt feelings, so much outrage, so much shame and humiliation, so much hypocrisy on the part of many and probably most (who are unwilling to be completely honest) – and so much temptation too – that any church which tried this would implode in a matter of days. Blessedly, that is not at all what James means. In 1st John 1:9 where the issue of confession is addressed directly and not in a context of prayer for the sick and the summoning of the elders for the relief of serious illness, John merely says "if we confess our sins" with the obvious meaning of "confess them to God".

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
Psalm 51:4 NIV

Finally, the "rider" in your email makes the point. Since in many cases we often cannot be sure if what we have thought, said or done is a sin, best to keep the matter between ourselves and the Lord. He certainly knows.

Here are some other links on the subject that may prove helpful:

Confession of Sin in 1st John 1:9

Repentance, Confession and Forgiveness

The Lord's supper and confession of sin

In Jesus who died for all of our sins, whether committed in ignorance or cognizance,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Jeremiah 29:13 (paraphrase) says that we will find God if we seek Him with all our hearts. Is this a verse regarding seeking God to be saved? As I understand, God seeks us out and saves us through the drawing of the Holy Spirit. Dr. MacArthur stated that it doesn't refer to Salvation but a saved person's seeking the Lord for guidance, strength, wisdom, etc. Is this correct?

God Bless,

Response #8: 

The context of this verse is the restoration of Israel after the Babylonian captivity. It would be difficult to maintain, since this is addressed to the entire surviving remnant, that the verse does not envision the salvation of unbelievers as well as the restoration of believers. Yes, God does draw all who wish to be saved. It is a two-sided proposition. Arminianism stresses free will, Calvinism stresses the Will of God, but both are involved in the salvation of everyone who is saved "by grace (God's provision of a Savior), through faith (our acceptance of that Substitute)". God provides, we accept. Take out either one and the entire plan of God is misconstrued. So I find no contradiction between God drawing (His will for all to be saved and His special provision for all who will be saved) and our seeking (our willingness to be saved expressed in a heartfelt search for the one Way to be saved). I do agree that this verse also applies to believers. After all, we are saved through faith in the truth, but we also grow by means of faith in the truth (something many believers in lukewarm Laodicea have apparently not clued-in on). There is much more on all this at the link: part 4B of Bible Basics: Soteriology.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Your answer on Matthew 12:31-32 matter helped me develop a better understanding of this matter and I have read your posts on the unpardonable sin. I know that sin of denying Our Lord's work is the one sin from which his death on the cross cannot save us. Although, one thing I still cannot comprehend is how a word of blasphemy against the Son of Man can not automatically imply blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

My current understanding is that whatever someone says against Our Lord or in whatever way one blasphemes against Him, this automatically means speaking against the Holy Spirit, as all of Jesus' ministry was through the Spirit. Could you please clarify this and maybe provide an example of a blasphemy that is against the Son of Man, but not against the Holy Spirit? What possibly could be said against Jesus that wouldn't automatically mean blaspheming the Holy Spirit?

Response #9: 

I think the point here in our Lord's words is that only believers can be saved. Every sin can be forgiven, even one so egregious as blaspheming the Son of God who came to save us. The one thing that cannot be forgiven is refusing to believe in Him and His work on the cross. That is the channel through which we are saved: our faith. If we do not have faith, if we do not believe, if we do not place our faith in who Jesus is and what He has done, then we are lost. The Holy Spirit is the One who makes the truth of the gospel clear to those who hear it, and He is the One who does so on each and every occasion of the giving of the gospel. If a person hears the gospel, then that person also hears the Spirit's still, small voice making the truth of gospel clear to his/her spirit. To refuse to listen is a bad thing. To reject completely what has been said is worse. But to call the Spirit a demon is the worst thing – blaspheming the Spirit and His ministry – because by doing so the person in question has made it demonstrably clear that he/she has forever rejected Jesus Christ, and that is the one sin which cannot be forgiven. Jesus died for every sin so that all who believe in Him and His work and claim Him and His work as their substitute will be saved. But to reject Him and His work absolutely makes salvation impossible by definition. That is the substance of the "blasphemy", especially as in the context of the verses where this is treated in Mark 3:30 it is explained "He said this because they said 'He has a demon' " – thus equating the Spirit with an evil spirit and thereby rejecting the gospel in a most fundamental way.

See the links:

The Unpardonable Sin and Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

Have I committed the unforgivable sin?

Question #10:  

Could you please clarify the meaning of 1 Samuel 16:14?

Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD terrorized him

Footnote says that instead of 'evil', some translations use 'harmful' and I'm not sure whether it's God directly acting upon Saul, or God allowing an evil spirit to affect him. I don't know what is the difference here between 'of the Lord' and 'from the Lord'.

What is usually the mechanism God employs for divine discipline - is it his direct intervention or allowance for evil or harmful spirit to punish us?

Response #10: 

This situation certainly shows how horrible a mess we risk putting ourselves in when and if we stray from the Lord. It is "an evil spirit" in the context. God makes use of everything in His creation for the accomplishment of His perfect plan and complete will, and that includes using "the enemy" who may think they are opposing Him but are really only fulfilling their role as they exercise their free will. This is not the only place where this sort of thing happens in scripture. Please see the link: "God's Employment of Evil Spirits".

Question #11:  

You wrote: 'He may use mental anguish or conscience (Job 33:16-18; 1Sam.16:14; 24:5)'.

I thought that conscience, being an 'internal' part of our being acts in accordance to our values, knowledge of the Word of God and sensitivity that we have nurtured or not, but I didn't consider it a subject to God's intervention. Is that how I should understand 1Sam. 24:5, that it is God causing the bother through the conscience rather than the conscience itself?

Response #11: 

The conscience must be "calibrated" to be effective. Unbelievers often "sear" their consciences through turning away from the truth (1Tim.4:2), whereas believers develop "more accurate" consciences as they grow spiritually (Heb.5:14). The Spirit does prod us through the conscience (Rom.9:1; Gal.5:16-17; cf. 1Kng.19:12; 1Pet.3:21; and compare 1Jn.3:20 with Rom.8:16), but you are absolutely correct that the efficacy with which we are able to receive His ministrations in the regard is a direct function of how much we have grown. For immature believers in particular, separating mere emotion from the Spirit's "voice" is often problematic. When in doubt, the scriptures can easily be consulted to see whether we are being reminded and warned by Him or are just being emotional about something based upon some flaw or wound from our old life which has not yet been healed or addressed.

Question #12:  

One clarification regarding the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and Matthew 12:31. Would you say that this passage could be explained in the following way: blasphemy against the humanity of Jesus (His poverty and 'earthly' attributes) is pardonable, but blasphemy against His deity (His ministry and attributing His teaching to the devil) is the unpardonable sin and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

And the second way to define it would be, based on what you said, that this is a sin of rejecting Jesus' teaching absolutely and forever, as in order to do it one has to first get to the point whereby His teaching and the ministry of the Holy Spirit is attributed to the demon, which, as you said, is the one sin for which our Lord couldn't die. This can be opposed to a sin of ignorance (like Saul's), whereby one can commit blasphemy against Jesus, but it's character isn't absolute and the attitude can still change.

Taken together, these two blasphemies could be defined in the following way: a) the pardonable blasphemy is a blasphemy against the humanity of Jesus, and it's character is not absolute - the one committing this sin hasn't yet reached a point whereby changing his mind is impossible; b) the unpardonable blasphemy is against the deity of Jesus and it's character is absolute - Jesus' works are attributed to demon and the one responsible for this offence has rejected salvation conclusively, hence committing the one sin, for which our Lord could not die.

Finally, I wanted to ask you about two views on this sin. Some say that this sin cannot be committed by a believer (once we believe it's impossible to reject the fact that our Lord's miracles where completed through the Holy Spirit), others say in order to actually commit this sin, one needs to 'reject the light' and Spirit's testimony, meaning that it is not a sin of complete ignorance ('not knowing the light at all') - it's a sin of consciously shutting this light out and separating oneself from it.

This is the understanding of this passage at which I have arrived, please correct wherever needed.

Response #12: 

Blasphemy against the Spirit is something that happens in the heart. The Spirit testifies to the heart of the unbeliever the truth of the gospel. If the unbeliever rejects the truth as untruthful, that is the blasphemy because it amounts to calling the Holy Spirit a liar (whether the person even knows there is a Holy Spirit). Blasphemy against the Spirit is rejecting the truth about Jesus Christ so as to refuse salvation. I am sensitive to the distinction here about unbelievers who may hear the gospel and not "take it" at that point. I am certain that this is not necessarily unpardonable. That is to say, there are unbelievers who take their time in accepting Jesus Christ. What our Lord has in mind here is the flat rejection of the truth that admits of no change – and that is unpardonable – rather than an agnostic reception or a rejection which will later change. Paul was a very adamant opponent of the gospel – he must have heard it – but did not block it out of his heart entirely and forever, otherwise he would not have kept searching the scriptures and so become responsive to the truth when our Lord appeared to him. Again, I don't mean in any of my writings on this subject to reduce "blasphemy against the Spirit" to a particular sin or a particular category. Jesus is making a point when He says this and to me the point is clear enough: if you call Jesus demon possessed, you are blaspheming the Spirit who is the real power doing the miracles, and if you have no room in your heart for the words of the Spirit about how to be saved through faith in Christ, that is something for which you cannot be forgiven, because only through faith in Christ is there any salvation. I'm not sure I have satisfied your concerns on this one but would be happy to have another go.

Question #13:   

You wrote: 'Yes, these things in Galatians 5:23 are obviously not unlawful and that is Paul's point: instead of trying to refrain from doing things which are drawn up on a list (which list is really only for the purposes of example anyway), those who truly do love God should be living as God wants them to live: in love. Acting in love fulfills the Law because "love does no harm" (Rom.13:10). So if we are actively living as God would have us to do we will not have to worry about running afoul of negative prohibitions.'

If my understanding is correct, this means that if we're living in love, we don't have to constantly look into a code of rules, checking if we sinned or not, but rather we 'naturally' start obeying this code. I thought maybe it could be even taken a step further (love not only as what helps us 'not sin', but love also as something that helps us grow and produce). Am I correct to link what you wrote to your concepts of spiritual 'defense' and 'offence'? There are things from which we must abstain and not get drawn into sin (defense), but we need to grow and produce (offence), and this doesn't come just through obedience to a set of rules, but is a result of love.

Response #13: 

Yes, I agree entirely. I suppose the one caveat I would use with someone like yourself who is training to be a teacher is that this "offense/defense" analogy is one which I find helpful, but like all teaching analogies is not a "doctrine" in its own right. In the Christian walk, "offense and defense" are impossible to disentangle since they are really two sides of the same coin of imitating Jesus Christ. Sanctification, for example, is accomplished through learning the truth (which is "offense"), while seeking the Lord in prayer and prayerful study is impossible without confession, repentance and separation from sin ("defense"). Also, I would wish to add that as human beings we not only have our particular weaknesses (the sins to which I am more prone may not be the ones which plague you and vice versa) but we also have a tendency to develop "blind spots" in the course of fighting this difficult fight against all the opposition that is thrown at us. So it is certainly also very salutary from the standpoint of personal sanctification to continue to listen to the words of scripture, the Law, the Prophets, the Writings, the Gospels, and the Epistles, and pay close attention where there are prohibitions et sim. which, when we consider them carefully, reveal that we are doing something in not the best possible way or doing something we from which we ought to refrain. It is always good to have these rough edges filed away by the Bible in our private time rather than having them either get us into trouble or embarrass us when we are confronted by some gap in our witness. Paul is the most anti-legalistic person of whom I know, yet it is fair to say that a very good portion of his epistles are remonstrances telling his correspondents to stop doing things they ought not to do, to avoid things that are bad, and to do things they may not be doing but should be. We can take a lesson from that.

Question #14:   

Could you please clarify 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12: (NASB)

9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness

Understanding the mechanics of hardening of Pharaoh's heart shed the light on this passage to - God effectively gives people what they desire. One matter that isn't clear about it is the reason for God's judgment.

The passage says: 'For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth'. It could be interpreted that God sent a deluding influence as a requirement for judgment to take place, as if not receiving 'the love of truth' was not 'enough' to be judged.

Is this passage to be linked with John 12:47, whereby Jesus says He doesn't judge, so that God in His mercy is patient with us (2 Peter 3:9), giving everyone a chance? And those who show no desire whatsoever to receive the truth may be given just what they want (as in the case of Pharaoh), in this case 'a deluding influence'?

So God doesn't judge straight away when somebody doesn't receive the truth, but can, as I called it when describing the case of Pharaoh, can take one from A to B (using Satan to achieve that) on 'the axis of evil', whereby there is no turning back. Please correct my understanding.

Response #14: 

I agree with much of what you say; we just need a bit of "fine tuning". The sending of "strong delusion" (KJV) or, better translated, "the empowerment of error" upon the human race is a unique situation which will obtain only during the Tribulation. As such, it will contrast strongly with the special restraint of the Holy Spirit which we are presently experiencing (the removal of which is outlined just prior to the passage you quote at 2Thes.2:6-8). Just as the Holy Spirit's restraint of lawlessness has given the Church unique opportunities to pursue God's truth (see the link: "The Restraining Ministry of the Holy Spirit"), so during the Tribulation, after that restraint is removed, God will allow a deterioration of human morality and godlessness to occur at an unprecedented rate and to an unprecedented degree - - precisely along the lines of the special empowerment to harden his own heart extended to Pharaoh. As I say in CT 3A under "The Unleashing of the Mystery of Lawlessness":

"The empowerment of error" (2Thes.2:11) = future divine facilitation of unbeliever susceptibility to the satanic influence of the previous three passages during the Tribulation.

And . . .

As He did with the Pharaoh of the Exodus (Ex.14:4), God is simply giving the unbelieving world of the tribulational period a special ability to overcome the present psychological barriers that would cause even an unbeliever to tread lightly.

Thus there is nothing fundamentally different in the way that God will treat unbelievers during the Tribulation. It is only that instead of being able to live a "quiet life" of passive unbelief, because of the exigency of the times all who live on the earth will be subjected to unique pressures that will result in unique results – for bad (in the case of unbelievers who go from bad to worse as their "error" is "empowered", or in the case of believers who abandon their faith and apostatize) or for good (in the case of believers who rise to the occasion and give a good account of themselves as they are martyred or survive to be resurrected while yet alive at Jesus' return). Therefore the language about judgment here is merely suggesting that God's purpose is for unbelievers of that time to get precisely what they have bargained for in their free will choice of the devil's son over His Son.

Question #15:  

You wrote: 'As long as this Holy Seed remains in us, we are incapable of continuing in the life of sin which leads to death (1Jn.3:9; cf. Is.6:13; Rom.8:9; 1Jn.5:16-18)'.

I begin to understand and see in my life, how growth in faith helps to distance oneself from sin. Although, I certainly wouldn't say I'm 'incapable' of sinning - sadly, quite contrary. What is meant in the scripture passages you cite - should there be a complete absence of sin once one has been born again? Or is it a case of changing a general direction in one's life, without a complete immunity to sin (and you wrote that believers are Satan's target, even if in 1Jn.5:16-18 John says we are kept safe from him).

Response #15: 

As believers, we are described in 1st John several times as "those who don't sin" (e.g., 1Jn.3:6-9), but, clearly, it is possible for believers to sin, otherwise John would not have given us the procedure for confession at 1st John 1:9 in the very same book. And in fact, though John says he is writing "that you may not sin" (1Jn.2:1), he has just said prior to this that to claim to "have no sin [nature]" is self-deception (1Jn.1:8, and that to claim "not to sin" is to make God out to be a liar (1Jn.1:10). So it is clear even from the apostle who makes some of the most emphatic points about our need to be sinless that "sinless perfection" is not possible, even for the most mature believers. As I often remark on this subject, sin is a topic "wide and deep" and many things which are not seen as sins by most really are sinful. That is why sacrifice under the Mosaic Law is primarily concerned with "sins of ignorance", not sins of cognizance. However, as you suggest, we are called to be "holy" and "without sanctification, no one will see the Lord" (Heb.12:14). So beyond all argument, 1) sin is serious business, and 2) believers must fight against it "to the point of drawing blood" (Heb.12:4) if they want to be spiritually safe, continue to grow, and serve Jesus effectively and honorably. Most of these subjects are covered in BB 3B Hamartiology, and you might also see the recent posting: Sin, Confession and Forgiveness.

Question #16: 

You translated:

'Now the stinger of death is the sin [nature] (i.e., it produces our sin), and the power of sin is the Law (i.e., it reveals our sin). But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!'
1st Corinthians 15:54-57

I wanted to ask why you added 'nature' in square brackets -is it an issue of translation/interpretation?

Response #16: 

The Greek just says "sin" (hamartia), but this noun has a number of meanings which are technically significant and important for understanding precisely what scripture means. Just as pneuma "spirit" is sometimes 1) the human spirit; sometimes 2) the Holy Spirit; sometimes 3) an angelic being, so with the word hamartia, "sin", it is important for purposes of interpretation to differentiate between 1) a specific, personal sin; 2) sin as a concept; 3) the sin nature or "sin in the flesh". The "stinger of death" here is best understood as the source of human sinning following Eden, namely, the sin nature or "old man", our corrupt body which produces sin regardless of our good intentions (see the link). Producing sins, we are clearly dead – and that is the "sting". But we who have believed may truly give thanks to the Lord Jesus for the victory over sin that comes through faith in Him, giving us live instead of death, eternal life in which will one day rise in resurrection in a perfect body over which sin and death will no longer have any power.

Question #17:  

You wrote: 'For Adam, the first personal sin produced a sin nature'.

The previous study on Biblical Anthropology and the study I'm currently reading - Hamartiology, allowed me to finally get a good grasp of what exactly 'sin nature' means and through it helped me become even more aware of the need for Our Saviour.

Although, I've got one question about how the 'sin produced a sin nature', as you wrote. Could you just briefly explain the mechanics of how sin translates into sin nature? 'Nature' encompasses the whole of our character and I would like to understand how one sin changes that. Is it the case that the nature can be either completely righteous or sinful and the path from the former to the latter was made only with one sin (as God's standards are perfect and a person being equipped in free will could only be righteous without committing any sin and even one sin would mean that the nature of that being is 'sinful' and no longer 'righteous' - obviously this thinking only refers to Satan and Adam, as we are now born with this sinful nature)? Please correct my thinking.

Response #17: 

Since the sin nature is synonymous with our present corrupt body or our "flesh" (e.g., Rom.7:18; Gal.5:16-17; please see the link in BB 3B: "The Sin Nature"), it ought to be completely physical and be passed down through physical birth – and that is precisely the way scripture describes it:

That which is born from the flesh is flesh, and that which is born from the Spirit is spirit.
John 3:6

Human beings are dichotomous, possessing a body and a spirit. The spirit is the true "us" inside, but it perceives and interacts with the world through the present body which is corrupt and disposed to sin. When Adam sinned by eating the fruit of the tree of knowing good and evil, his body was immediately corrupted, and that corruption has been passed down through the seed of Adam ever since.

So just as through one man sin came into the world and, through sin, death, and thus (i.e., Adam physically passing on his sin nature resulting in universal spiritual death) death spread to all mankind – for [obviously] everyone sins, . . .
Romans 5:12

This is why the virgin birth of our Lord is so theologically important: being virgin born was the only way that Christ's humanity could have avoided having a corrupt body like the rest of us (as the sin nature is passed down "in Adam", that is, through the male line).

I take the eating of the fruit as producing the physiological change in Adam and Eve (but for theological purposes it is Adam's sin that matters since the sin nature or corruption is passed down through the male seed as the lack of corruption in Jesus' body demonstrates).

So the sin nature is "in the flesh" (Rom.7:17-18; 8:3), and will never be removed from these corrupt bodies we now occupy. Only through resurrection will we finally be liberated from the temptation and virtual impossibility of avoiding sinning entirely.

On the other side of things, we are positionally righteous and sanctified. By virtue of being "in Christ" instead of "in Adam", we believers possess God's righteousness "on account", so to speak. That does not mean that we always act righteously (that is impossible to do in a perfect way this side of the resurrection). It does mean that we ought to act righteously and that, through the power of the Spirit, we can do so. But, dwelling in sin-infested bodies as we do, being less than fully apprised of all of God's truth, and having wills that are not strong enough to overcome the prompting of our flesh at all times, we will at times err and fail (which is why confession of sin is so important). This distinction – between what we have in principle by virtue of belonging to Jesus and what we actually do to live up to the perfect standard to which we have been called – explains many aspects of the Christian life. It is very sad, therefore, that so many Christians do not understand this critical doctrine (please see the link in BB 4B: "Our New Position as Reborn Believers"). Failure to distinguish between our positional perfection and our experiential need to pursue sanctification has caused the shipwreck of faith to occur in many who, because they could not be perfect, either despaired of salvation on the one hand or legalistically redefined sin to their own benefit on the other.

Question #18: 

You wrote: 'The status of being "un-circumcised of flesh", in addition to referring to gentiles as opposed to Jews, also suggests the possession of a sin nature'.

Could you clarify the origin of the second meaning of the 'un-circumcised of flesh', referring to the possession of a sin nature? Does this interpretation has anything to do with the fact that Paul puts the 'un-circumcised of flesh' in quotation marks, suggesting a meaning beyond the literal one is meant?

Response #18: 

The quotation marks are mine, used here as is often the case in my writing to indicate something metaphorical (i.e., precisely to bring out the fact that we are not talking about literal circumcision here but rather about the uncleanness all human beings share in at birth by virtue of possessing a sin nature). A person who is literally "un-circumcised of flesh" has not been circumcised, but Paul is using the phrase "in the un-circumcision of your flesh" in this context as a synonym for possessing a sin nature. This seems very clear to me 1) because anyone who has read Paul knows very well from his earlier epistles that being Jewish and being ritually correct has nothing to do with salvation; 2) the phrase is defined by the other two phrases which precede and follow it: "dead in your transgressions" and "having forgiven you all your transgressions". The first of these two is parallel to prior "uncircumcision" while the latter is parallel to "being made alive in Christ". This verse, therefore, is very clearly talking about the salvation experience without regard to actual circumcision; and 3) notice that there is no indication here that literal circumcision accompanied salvation. We know that Paul vigorously opposed this for gentile converts (Gal.2:3-5). Since it is impossible that he is advocated that here and even more impossible that he is saying it is necessary for salvation, why would literal un-circumcision be an issue? It is not, but the possession of a sin nature is certainly one factor which makes it clear to unbelievers that they do in fact require salvation: in addition to the actual sins we have committed, the fact that we lust for all manner of things and cannot stop doing so is a clear indication that we are sinful and in need of divine assistance if we are going to be saved.

Question #19:  

You wrote: 'Sin, as we have defined it, is an act, a willful disobeying of the will of God (regardless of whether the perpetrator knows so or thinks so)'.

Could you please clarify this sentence - how is it possible that sin is a 'willful' act of disobedience on one hand, and on the other it can be committed regardless of whether one knows it or not - I thought this was essentially the same thing.

Response #19: 

We may be deceived when we sin, by ourselves or someone else (Eve was deceived but what she did was still sin). We may know exactly what we are doing when we sin (as Adam did). We may not realize at all that a certain behavior is sinful or it may escape our attention for one reason or another (mental attitude sins often fall into this category). The fact that we did not recognize our sin at the time or did not really "mean it" or were tricked or pressured into committing it does not change the fact that we used our free will to sin. The sacrifices of the Law are predominantly aimed at "sins of ignorance" (a fact which is often overlooked), no doubt because sins which are obvious were mostly capital offenses under the Law, even if hardly ever prosecuted unless they involved crime: i.e., the man who was caught gathering wood on the Sabbath is the only recorded scriptural case I can think of when someone was executed for violating the many Sabbath provisions of the Law (Num.15:32ff.). There may have been others, but one would think that we would know about more if such a thing were common, and given the depths of idolatry Israel often sank into in my view it is unlikely that it was common to carry out these provisions of the Law (just for example).

Question #20:  

You wrote: 'This is true whether we sin in full knowledge of the wrongness of our actions or do so out of complete ignorance that what we are doing is wrong'.

I'm quite sure that I've been taught that unless we are aware of the sin we are committing, we are not committing a sin - I assume that was a wrong teaching and a sin is a sin regardless of one's awareness?

Response #20: 

I think we covered this above, but, yes, a sin is a sin whether we know it is a sin or not. I am quite confident from the biblical description that Eve did not think she was sinning (cf. 1Tim.2:14), but her eating of the fruit of the tree of knowing good and evil still caused her immediate spiritual death (as Genesis chapter three shows quite clearly). And, as also mentioned before, the sacrificial regime of the Law would not be so intensively focused on atoning for sins of ignorance if sins committed in ignorance were not considered sins. We have a saying in this country vis-a-vis secular statutes: "Ignorance of the law is no excuse". I.e., if you didn't know insider-trading was illegal that won't keep you out of jail if you get caught doing it. Now the judge may go easier on you if he believes your excuse – and God may go easier on you in terms of discipline if it is true that you didn't know (of that in fact I am sure), but Jesus still had to die for that sin, even if you didn't know it was one when you were committing it.

Question #21:  

You wrote: ' Guilt adheres to all sin, whether or not we are aware that what we are doing is sin'.

I just want to make sure I'm following your logic here and I'm unsure what you mean by that, as I would think that awareness of sin is a condition that needs to be fulfilled in order to feel guilt. Or do you mean here a situation whereby a sin was committed without awareness and one realizes about it later on, and consequently guilt appears?

Response #21: 

Perhaps this is a language or cultural thing. In English and in the US, we are comfortable with the idea of guilt being both objective and subjective. A person may be objectively guilty of a crime, but that says nothing about how he or she may feel (many criminals show no remorse). It is also possible to commit some crimes and not be aware of it. The legal code in the USA is many thousands of pages long, and some of the laws are quite bizarre. The Marine Mammal Protection Act, for example, makes it a crime to do all sorts of things which may actually be done in the spirit of help, e.g., trying to rescue a stranded whale counter to the legalities of this act. Sin is similar but for different reasons. Anything not done out of love risks being sinful, and no human being, even a Spirit-filled spiritually advancing mature Christian, is capable of living up to that perfect standard 100%. Even if we do or say or think something which by our human lights is "not bad" or "not so bad", it may be sinful notwithstanding our personal feelings about it. The bottom line is that if we sin, we incur the guilt of that sin, whether or not we are aware that we have sinned. Conversely, we may feel guilty about things which are not sins. Many immature Christians torture themselves with guilt over things they have done some of which were sinful and some not. This is a poor practice in any case, since God forgives us when we confess our sins (1Jn.1:9). It is doubly pointless if what we have done was not sinful at all. A very common example of this is when a young soldier in combat kills an enemy. Some men cope with this necessity well; others are tormented by it. But acting to defend oneself and one's comrades in legitimate national defense is not a sin – even if the person later feels horribly guilty about it. Guilt is one of those areas where the potential divergence between the emotions and the truth is very high.

Question #22:  

You quoted 1 John 1:8-10:

If we say that we do not possess sin (i.e., a sin nature which is producing personal sins), we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just so as to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, that we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word is not in us.
1st John 1:8-10

Does the explanation you provide about the sin nature stem from the translation of this passage, is it a case of interpretation? In the beginning of this passage, could 'sin' be understood as an act of sinning?

Response #22: 

This is my interpretation but it is based upon what the Greek says. John is clearly distinguishing three different things: 1) claiming we have no "sin" (v.8); 2) confessing our "sins" (v.9); and saying "we have not sinned" (v.10). In the Greek, all three are very sharply differentiated: v.8 "sin" (hamartia, ἁμαρτια) singular and without the definite article; v.9 "sins" plural and with the definite article; v.10, "have sinned" is the cognate verb hamartano (ἁμαρτανω). Starting in the middle, "confessing our sins" is entirely straightforward. Here we are talking about specific personal sins we have committed which are forgiven when we confess them with the result that we are cleansed and restored to full fellowship with God. Verse 10 is also talking about action and the verb "to sin" is used in the perfect tense to sum up all that has happened in the past up until the present time: "if we say we have not sinned". This takes into account all cases where a person denies having sinned, whether ever, or since salvation, or in any particular situation. We all sin, but if we start to say "I didn't sin and have no need of confession" we are "making God out to be a liar" because His Word most definitely demonstrates the ubiquitous nature of sin, even among believers. Since verse 9 talks about confession and verse 10 talks about the dangers of claiming one doesn't need to confess, what is verse 8 talking about? The first clue is found in the fact that the noun is anarthrous (i.e., has no definite article). According to standard Greek usage this should mean then "If we say that we do not have a sin". What would it mean to "have" – "a sin"? There is a verb for sinning (hamartano); and as an alternative there is also a correct way to construct a periphrasis instead, i.e., to say "commit-a-sin": that is done by using the Greek verb poieo with a noun, but not the Greek verb we have here, echo, which means "have". As is common throughout the Pauline epistles, hamartia in the singular refers here not to a particular sin but to the indwelling sin nature (e.g., Rom.3:9; 3:20; 6:12; 7:14; 8:4; 8:10; 1Cor.15:56; Heb.3:13 – and see also 1Jn.3:5b). Theologians (as those who understand these matters) and translators often say "sin nature" instead of "sin" in such cases, and that would be the best thing here as well:

If we say that we do not possess sin (i.e., a sin nature which is producing personal sins), we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1st John 1:8

So John approaches this all in a very logical way: (8) "Do you claim that you are perfect and do not have inherent sin dwelling within you since birth? That's a lie. (9) Understanding now that you are a sinner, even as a believer, confess your sins whenever you commit them and God will cleanse and forgive you. (10) But if you want to maintain that even though you have a sin nature you have not sinned (from whatever point in the past up till now), that's a lie too."

Question #23:  

You wrote: 'Christ has eliminated the impossible problem of sin for all mankind, even in the case of all sins committed before our Lord's death on behalf of the world:

For all sin and fall short of God's glory, [but we are all] justified without cost by His grace through the redemption (lit., "ransoming" from sin) which is in Christ Jesus. God made Him a means of atonement [achieved] by His blood [and claimed] through faith, to give proof of His justice in leaving unpunished in divine forbearance [all] previously committed sins, so as to prove His justice in the present, namely, so that He would be [shown to be] just [in this] and [justified] in justifying the one who has faith in Jesus.
Romans 3:23-26

The passage above very plainly refers to all sins committed before the historical crucifixion of our Lord (v.25), and corresponds directly to the critical fact with which the passage begins: all sin, therefore all stand in need of atonement'.

I understand your explanation that Christ's crucifixion is universal in its span, but what is not quite clear to me is why Paul uses the word 'forbearance' with regard to previously committed sins. Is there any difference in relationship between Christ's crucifixion and the sins committed before it and after it? Please clarify.

Response #23: 

No, there is no difference at all. Every sin ever committed by the entire human race had to be individually atoned for in order for anyone to be saved. The only difference between pre-cross salvation and post-cross salvation is that the Father extended salvation before the cross "on credit", so to speak, then Jesus "paid the past bill" when He died for all sin. After the cross, the situation is that all of our sins have been "pre-paid" by our Savior's work, so that all we need do to be saved is believe in the One who stood as our substitute in that judgment.

Question #24:  

You wrote: 'A priest ministers to God, but only Jesus in His humanity could present Himself as the ultimate sacrificial offering and so fulfill the promise of the High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek'. Since you wrote 'A priest ministers to God, but only Jesus...', do you mean that 'A priest ministers to God (offering animal sacrifices), but only Jesus in His humanity could present Himself as the ultimate sacrificial offering' (and in that way He ministered to God the Father)?

Response #24: 

Yes. All other priests are intermediaries "need something to offer" (Heb.5:1-3; 7:27; 8:3-4; 9:25). Jesus offered Himself, the only Sacrifice capable of atoning for our sins.

Question #25:  

You wrote: Thus the fundamental transformation of what was before creation, what creation meant (because of what in the grace of God it was going to entail in terms of Jesus' sacrifice), and what now will endure to the ages of the ages is completely bound up in the unique Person and work of Jesus Christ. What do you mean by 'fundamental transformation of what was before creation, what creation meant'?

Response #25: 

Merely that before creation there was no time/space or moral agents or, most importantly, no necessity for Jesus to become a man and die for the sins of the world. Initiating creation transformed that pre-creation reality into what now are observing: the perfect working out of the Plan of God for salvation through the blood of Christ.

Question #26:  

What suffering does Peter have in mind in 1 Peter 4:15-16 when talking about a murderer, thief or evildoer? Is it associated with the consequences of these sins on part of God (divine discipline), consequences executed by other people (exclusion, negative perception of the sinner) or the consequences felt by the sinner himself (guilt, shame)? It seems that the second explanation could hold the water judging by how the rest of the passage could be interpreted, but I wanted to be clear on this.

Response #26: 

The word "suffer" in this context is the generic Greek verb pascho (cf. English "passion" and "pathos"). Peter does not say but in my view while "all of the above" are in view, the overt punishment that comes from authority (household or civil) is what he has primarily in view. The companion passage here is in the previous chapter: 1st Peter 2:18-25, cf.:

But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.
1st Peter 2:20 NIV

We Christians should not be surprised if we are unjustly treated by those in authority – the same thing happened to our Lord (and to Paul and the other apostles too).

Question #27:  

Could you please explain the relationship between 2 Corinthians 1:8:

8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life;

and 1 Corinthians 10:13:

(...) and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able (...)

Response #27: 

Well, Paul did survive and endure. It seems to me that my usual comment about this is apropos: God will never force us to bear anything we cannot bear, but it seems to be often the case that we may sometimes think our suffering unbearable nonetheless. Paul's greater point is made later in the book: His strength is "made perfect in our weakness" (2Cor.12:9), so that this sort of pressure is a fundamental part of Christian growth, at least at the upper levels of maturity. Finally, the operative part of 2nd Corinthians 1:8 is "beyond [my] strength": Paul did reach the end of his rope: but God sustained him. We can be grateful and confident that whenever we face challenges and troubles beyond what we can deal with or cope with, this is precisely when God demonstrates His mercy and His goodness and His faithfulness – and His power. For He is "able" to do all things, even when we have no strength left.
 

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