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Sin and Forgiveness

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Question #1:  My story begins about two years ago. After being convicted to serve God during a revival, I was on fire for God. I felt His Presence nearly constantly, and it was the greatest experience of my life. However, one of my close friends who was a Christian became an atheist. He and I were very close and discussed many religious topics previous to his conversion. Having him abandon the Christian faith hurt me. Further conversations with him filled up my mind with confusions and doubts, and I believe that Satan furthered this because my lifestyle changed along with my beliefs. It was a horrible time for me. I did not really know what to believe, and for some reason, if felt as if all I could see was the bad in the world. This lasted for roughly 5 or 6 months. The most extreme is got was in one incident I had I thought that was, "There most likely isn't a God, and if He does exist He must be a tyrant whom I will defy." I am glad to say that this is not what I believe now. After those few months of doubt, something happened. I believe God just simply showed me the right path. For no evident reason, I believe He just saved me from that lifestyle. I just started believing in God again. I realized that I could not ignore the Presence I felt before my time of doubt, and God showed me how much of a fool I was for those brief months of my life. I repented, and I believe He has forgiven me. I am currently further strengthening my faith and, through prayer, working on unhardening my heart. I even managed the feel God's Presence during certain times of worship. However, reading some of the articles on your site concerned me. I have always grown up to the "once saved, always saved" doctrine. The concept of losing salvation is not pleasant but completely plausible. If it is possible to lose your salvation, I'm concerned about my 5 or 6 months. I do not believe I have fully committed the sin of apostasy, simply because God called me back. However, I understand that your wisdom in this subject is far greater than my own. Could you please reply with comments on my story and my salvation and methods for unhardening my heart. I still struggle with old habits and sin problems.

Thank you and God Bless,

Response #1:   

Good to make your acquaintance. It is true that I do not believe that the Bible teaches "once saved always saved" because salvation is based on faith and faith can be abandoned. That said, I also do not believe that as Christians we have to be walking about on egg-shells for fear we might sneeze wrong and lose our salvation. If we believe, we are saved. If we do not, we are not. Those who believe in Jesus belong to Him, and nothing can snatch them out of His hands. Only by our own free will do we go to hell – by rejecting Him either deliberately (as in the case of a believer who decides to throw aside that so great salvation by abandoning their faith, or unbelievers who willfully reject God and/or Jesus Christ) or by default (in the case of unbelievers who delay coming to God until the clock runs out on them). You have certainly had some rough and challenging times already in your Christian life! It is certainly true that the devil opposes all our brothers and sisters, especially Christians who are truly dedicated to the Lord. I think that one thing your experience shows very clearly is that after salvation, spiritual growth through reading the Bible and learning the Word and its content through substantive teaching is critically important: the Word is the ammunition we need to face the threats to our faith and deal with the opposition to it of the sort you have encountered. We can't do it by a salvation experience alone; we have to so indoctrinate ourselves with the truth of the gospel, that is, the entire Word of God, that Satan finds no daylight between what we know and believe and the truth as it actually is (or at least as little as possible – we are all continually growing):

Christ Himself appointed some of us apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers in order to prepare all of His holy people for their own ministry work, that the entire body of Christ might thus be built up, until we all reach that unifying goal of believing what is right and of giving our complete allegiance to the Son of God, that each of us might be a perfect person, that is, that we might attain to that standard of maturity whose "attainment" is defined by Christ; that we may no longer be immature, swept off-course and carried headlong by every breeze of so-called teaching that emanates from the trickery of men in their readiness to do anything to cunningly work their deceit, but rather that we may, by embracing the truth in love, grow up in all respects, with Christ who is the head of the Church as our model. In this way, the entire body of the Church, fitted and joined together by Him through the sinews He powerfully supplies to each and every part, works out its own growth for the building up of itself in love.
Ephesians 4:11-16

It is very important in the Christian life to "go with what you know and not reel from what you feel". You know in your heart of hearts that you believe in Jesus, and you know from scripture after scripture that all who believe belong to Him (Jn.3:16; Eph.2:8-9). This is the victory that overcomes the world and its ruler: our faith (1Jn.5:1-4). Jesus Christ our Lord, though God blessed forever, came into this world and suffered beyond what we can even imagine, suffering the flames of hell in the darkness on the cross to wipe away our sin. Having done the most for us on the cross, will He not also take us to Himself on that day of days (Rom.5:8-11)? I am convinced that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ (Rom.8:31-39). Indeed, the Father would have every human being saved and delivered from hell (Ezek.18:23; Matt.18:14; Jn.12:47; 1Tim.2:4; 2Tim.2:24-26; 2Pet.3:9), a fact that only goes to prove that it is our faith that is at issue: if we accept what the Lord tells us, believe in Jesus and follow Him, we are saved. If we reject the truth, spurn faith or refuse to believe, and follow the devil (actively or by default), then we have cast aside the salvation that could be ours. Jesus died for the sins of those who cursed Him on the cross and for the sins of everyone who has ever lived or will. He did so and the Father sacrificed Him, His only beloved Son, so that we might have eternal life . . . not in order to cast us into hell. Our salvation is in fact very secure; it is just not absolute. For to be absolute, God would have to compromise the principle of free will, and choice is what we are here for. In fact, it is what life is all about (although 99.9+% of the world doesn't see it). We are here to demonstrate to God, to ourselves, and to the entire world of men and angels, what we really prize and what really makes us "tick". And that means our decisions in regard to God, His Son and His truth, through our lives, long or short.

I find it very encouraging that you passed through some very difficult seas without your faith being swamped, and also that you are now indeed seeking out the truth of the Word of God. Keep doing so. Find a good source of Bible teaching and stick with it consistently and systematically. Make it your practice to read your Bible, pray, and aggressively apply the truth to your life, your thoughts, your words, and your deeds, day by day as long as it is called "today". In so doing, you will not only save yourself, but others too through the ministry the Lord leads you to (whatever and whenever that may be: 1Tim.4:16).

We all have a past; none of is perfect. It is a faithful saying that "Christ came into this world to save sinners of whom I am the worst/first" (1Tim.1:15). But we don't have to dwell on our past mistakes. Indeed, we are told to forget what lies behind and press on instead toward the goal (Phil.3:13-14). And in this, Jesus has left us His peace, a peace that passes all understanding (4:7), a rest into which for faith's sake it is important for us to enter and remain (Heb.4:1-13). Jesus Christ is our rock. As long as we believe in Him, we can never be shaken, even if the mountains fall into the heart of the sea (Ps.46).

Keep on growing in Jesus through the words of Him who is the Word of God – that is what it means to fight the good fight of faith, and if we are fighting the fight, we most definitely still belong to Him. You may have peace in and rely on that truth.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:

Pastor,

I have been on the internet since 1994, and my gosh was it slow; it took 15 minutes just to open up a page. Now, I have fast access, although in following Christ I have really found this to be useless as it's more geared towards people who download large files, such as music and porn. I was involved in internet porn as a younger man but I saw the evil in it and it's no different than drugs or anything else in Satan's world. It's addictive and progressive in nature and the depths of which an individual can fall into are unbelievable. I believe a true porn addict could get trapped into any type of porn, being weighed down by demonic lusts. Fortunately, I didn't go that far down and stopped before things got out of control. I thank the Lord every day for this as I know people who have even gotten into homosexual porn and other horrible types, these are people that had no homosexual urges to speak of before getting into pornography, it's a very powerful demon trap (what I call it anyway.) It takes you to places that you would never normally go to and I believe it comes directly from Satan himself, because of the power it has. Some say it is the hardest addiction to break, there are Christian sites that are geared towards helping other Christians who have become addicted. Again, I'm glad I stopped when I did. The people I mentioned above are not friends but simply stories I have read about Christians who fell into the porn trap, very sad.

That mega-church is a tricky question, that is, because of all the wealth and size of the campus (and it is a campus) it's hard not to imagine that it's all simply too much! I do know that they do quite a bit of missionary work and I also know that there are some good people who belong. Again, I am in no position to judge but I think the Lord has spoken to me in regards to that church through people like yourself (who have expressed the same concerns.) I am not a wise man, not like you or other people who have devoted their entire lives to the Lord, for many years. I am still relatively new at this so I have to watch my step and pray constantly for help and of course, listen to people like you who do have a lot of knowledge and wisdom. I think, as time passes, the Lord will grant me more wisdom if I stay on course, reading the Bible and surrounding myself with good people and trying stay away from bad behaviors (but I'm far from perfect).

The reasons I don't approve of Catholicism are probably very familiar to you. The Virgin Mary, the Pope, priests and the church all seem to be on the same level as Jesus himself to many and this simply is NOT the way it's supposed to be. It took me years to realize this and like you, I would like to believe that Catholics can be saved but it certainly won't happen by going to a priest and confessing your sins or praying to Mary. I try very hard not to judge but this is my personal opinion. I know there are many different kinds of churches and obviously, I would consider myself evangelical, although I don't really think it's important to paint myself with that brush but it is important to take every single word in the Bible to heart, rather than just believing in 60 or 70 percent of it.

It must have taken you a long time to build your webpages up and plenty of money I would imagine, just the time alone and the website (although I have no idea how much it costs.) I believe it is important to donate to worthwhile ministries and although I am not wealthy, I would certainly be willing to donate to yours, if you need help building it up or covering the costs. Doesn't the Bible cover this somewhere, the need to give your money to a church or ministry of Christ? I don't do this now but perhaps I should be. If you don't want or except money, perhaps you could recommend a worthwhile Christian ministry or charity. They're all over the place but it's hard to know who's on the up and up, if you know what I mean. I've donated to the Christian Children's Fund because it's hard to turn your back on organizations who help to feed and cloth hungry children but there again, one needs to be careful.

God Bless,

Response #2: 

Yes it's true, sexual sin of every sort is one of if not the most difficult and common stumbling blocks by which human beings get tripped up (cf. 1Cor.6:18; 2Tim.2:22; 2Pet.2:9-10). As with all other addictions, giving in a little can end up doing a lot of damage in the end. Like orbiting some moon, the gravity is invisible but much stronger than it appears; it may seem that one can just pull away again without too much trouble but it gets harder and harder the closer one gets. The best thing is to stay far away in the first place, keep all such matters from one's thoughts, and never forget that while there may be some areas of sin which are not a problem for us as individuals (since we all have different areas of strength and weakness), when it comes to the lust of the flesh the problem will always be there for us all as long as we inhabit these sinful bodies (to one degree or another). Just because we are doing well today and have been for a long time doesn't mean we couldn't get trapped by that gravity again if we are foolish enough to fly too close again.

The problem I have with contemporary churches is similar to the problem I have with Catholicism – not precisely the same, but similar. At least the RC church is up front about the fact that their traditions and papal pronouncements take precedent over the Bible so that their enthusiasm for the Bible is entirely as an icon rather than having anything to do with content. But in so many Protestant and Evangelical churches today one finds quite a bit of "rah-rah-rah" for the Bible in principle, but almost no serious Bible teaching in the weekly service and very little elsewhere besides. This is a bit like going to the doctor's and getting tea and cookies while being advised to go read some medical manuals at home on your own if you're having any problems. I understand the history of how we got to where we are, but it's still not acceptable.

Thank you so much for your kind offer to contribute to this ministry. I am happy to be able to tell you that this ministry doesn't accept financial contributions (I do accept and am grateful for your prayers!). The Lord has blessed me with a good job – more than sufficient to cover the cost of keeping this website up and running et al. But I thank you and commend you for this appropriate and gracious sentiment. May the Lord grant you to find a worthy charity that is truly doing His work and needs your help (2Cor.9:6-15).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

I am constantly reminded of the sins of my youth from specific things I see in the world. Does scripture give us an indication that God would use such reminders of our past behavior (such as ones I continually notice) to keep our past sins in the forefront of our minds? Or could He use such things to tell us that we have missed something, forgotten to properly confess something, or are living the wrong way now? Is this God punishing me? Or is it the enemy trying to get to me?

As always, I am thankful for your consideration.

Response #3:    

Your situation is not unusual in this respect. Indeed, I think it is the very rare person who genuinely fears God who does not hark back to past sins in times of trouble – especially past sins of which the person is particularly ashamed. Even a great believers of the likes of Job found himself doing this (Job 13:26), and even a superstar believer of the status of David felt the need to ask the Lord not remember the past sins of youth (Ps.25:7). However in Job's case, his reproaching of God was unjustified since, as we know very well from the first two chapters of the book, instead of being punished for past sins, Job was being paid the highest possible compliment by the Lord in allowing him to undergo this intensive testing at the hands of the evil one (of course he wasn't passing the test with flying colors by that point – but who would?). In the case of David, he certainly had plenty to regret (as most of us do), but we can see from the balance of Psalm 25, in spite of this one line and in spite of the plaintive nature of this prayer for help, a very definite confidence that God will help. And even in the case of the Job 13 passage, in the very next chapter we see Job rallying his faith and expressing confidence in God's forgiveness (esp. Job 14:15-17). I believe that both of these passages and their respective contexts are given to us for a reason, namely, to help us to understand that it is very human indeed to allow these past wounds that are loath to heal to get in the way of what we know by faith: when God forgives, we are forgiven, and He always forgives when we ask Him to forgive (Ps.130:3; 1Jn.1:9; cf. Is.54:4; Jer.31:18-20).

When we see great believers having this same struggle, it should be a source of comfort and an encouragement not to be shocked because we have this reaction, but not to give in to what we feel in the face of what we know by faith. For me, this is a decisive distinction between believers on the path to spiritual growth and those who are merely wandering. We have to get to a point where our understanding of scripture becomes so solid and our faith so unflappable that it is more real to us than what our eyes see or our ears hear – or our emotions feel. It is certainly true that whenever we sin in a big way, we may invite "big" punishment from the Lord, and there are occasions, as with David, when the discipline lasts quite a long time. David was forgiven immediately upon confession (2Sam.12:13), but his discipline played out over many years (cf. 2Sam.12:11-12). All the particulars and mechanics of the processes of sin, repentance, confession, forgiveness, and divine discipline are presented in part 3B of the Bible Basics series: Hamartiology: The Biblical Study of Sin. But I feel it important here to say that even in David's case, exceptional divine discipline (exceptional because of David's exceptional place of responsibility as ruler over God's nation and as a type of the Messiah) for exceptional sins (adultery and murder to cover it up) did come to an end – it did not go on and on forever. Forgiveness was instantaneous and we also see from David's Psalms of the period and walk with the Lord as recorded in scripture that his exceptional relationship with Him was repaired very quickly in spite of continuing discipline.

From all this one lesson I take is that in respect to feelings of guilt many years after the fact, after repentance, after confession (and often multiple confessions though one is all that God requires), after divine discipline has clearly run its course, after the person in question has demonstrated by a sanctified life-style that their change of heart was genuine, well, these feelings of guilt may be normal in our weak human state, but they are not particularly biblical if they get out of hand to the point of taking away our peace. There are things of which I will always be ashamed. But I know that I have been forgiven, and I further know that the divine discipline for them is over. Therefore though they may occasionally come to mind and make me uncomfortable, I try to make it a point of trusting the Lord and believing His words on the subject: I have been forgiven and chastised, but Jesus washed away the sin and matter is closed. As a result, though I do not have all the details, from what you have shared with me in the past it seems clear to me that in God's way of working with us on these matters, this is "old business".

It is prudent never to forget the mis-steps that got us into trouble in the past, if only to be very sure not to repeat them again in the future. But we are clearly not meant to torture ourselves over them forever. That of course doesn't mean that the adversary is not more than willing to do so. If he can't get us to repeat our past mistakes, he will settle for making us feel miserable about them to the extent that he is able to do so. It probably won't be easy, and I certainly don't mean to suggest that my own personal application in like matters is anything close to perfect, but it might not be a bad approach to see all those "reminders" as reminders of God's grace in forgiving you, of Jesus' blotting out all our sins on the cross, of the restoration to full fellowship with the Lord you have had from the point of confession onward, and of the victory God is giving you over the world, one that will be rewarded in the next as well despite the best efforts of the devil to trip you up. So much of the Christian life as we move into ever higher levels of spiritual maturity is mental application of the truth. We are called to a moment by moment Sabbath of peace as we walk through this world with Jesus, and to carry out that mandate and enjoy that fellowship requires constant vigilance in what we think against all the noise and distraction of the world (of which guilt, regret, and inappropriate fear are only a small part). I take this question among other things to mean that you are making progress in your walk.

In our gracious Lord Jesus Christ who gave Himself up to be forsaken on our account that we might ever have sweet fellowship with Him.

Bob L.

Question #4: 

I would like to know how I determine what it is that I did that caused God to give me the genetic disorders that I have, and my brother escaped all wrath. I may have talked to you before, or maybe not, but this has bugged me for years. I have a genetic causes hair follicles to be destroyed. I have tried everything to cure this, only to find out that there is no cure. I have had people tell me that God gave me the disease to show his love and compassion for me. I have had "Good Christians" tell me that I chosen to have this disease. I have to wear wigs, ball caps, etc. to cover it up, and have been forced to remove my head covering in come cases, so the children of God could get their kicks. A couple weeks ago I was told to leave a church because I would not remove my head covering, so they could have their Sunday Morning laugh session. A friend of mine in DC told me that I need to ignore these people. However, I am from the Midwest and stuck in a section of the Deep South, where "Ignorance is a Virtue." All I want to do is go home, so I can be around normal people, but God keeps stopping me by throwing up road blocks everywhere I turn. Now, He has really cranked up this disease, keeping me from getting a new job, because no one hires people with this disease, unless you are a basketball player. I have tried starting my own business, but people don't want to deal with someone that has to wear ball caps all the time. I guess all I am really looking for is some direction to find out what it was that I did that caused God to want to destroy my life hear on earth. I have even tried working with some of the local missions type groups, but have been told to leave, because my disease scares people. What does God want from me, and why did he pick me to be trapped in the house because of His Children, and their collective stupidity?

Response #4:   

Let me begin by saying that there is no way that I or probably anyone else who has not had to endure what you are going through can really appreciate the load you are carrying. Nevertheless, I will do my best to answer your question according to what scripture has to say about such things.

First of all, I have to say that if a person finds him or herself in a church where their appearance or dress is being made an issue because of some ailment, or being singled out for ridicule, then they are in the wrong church. This does not strike me as particularly Christian behavior. Finding the "right church" is a very difficult thing in this Laodicean age. Indeed, the reason why this ministry is on the internet is primarily because there is very little interest in the Word of God in the church visible in this country today. And where there is little or no interest in the teaching, learning, believing, and applying of the Word of God, then there is bound to be all sorts of odd, counterproductive, and even wrong behavior countenanced and institutionalized. All I can tell you on that score is that are certainly welcome at this ministry.

Secondly, while it is true that in some cases God does use disease for divine discipline, it is by no means true that all or even most disease, even severe disease, is of such an origin. When asked by His disciples in the case of the man born blind "who sinned, this man or his parents", our Lord responded "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be revealed through him" (Jn.9:1-5). We also think of the case of Job whose bodily affliction was repugnant to his friends and family, and we know from scripture that far from doing anything wrong Job was chosen to endure this suffering as a means of glorifying God, that it was part of the highest compliment that God could ever pay a human being in demonstrating that – no matter what – Job would stay faithful to God. That is not to say, of course, that you or I or any reasonable person would choose to suffer. But it is true that much suffering of every sort, disease included, comes about not as punishment but as part of our walk of faith in this world. The fact that we continue to believe in Jesus, continue to grow in Him, continue to put Him first in our lives, learning about Him from scripture, and helping others to do the same through the ministries we have been led to, is a testimony to the world of men and angels both that we have surely chosen for Him and will walk with Him in glory. It is a smell of the sweet savor of life for all who are being saved, and of death to all who have chosen instead the easy path that leads to destruction. When I think about the greatest believers of the Bible, it always seems that their road was harder than normal – not easier. Paul in particular had many physical tests, including disease, perhaps most notably the "thorn in the flesh" (2Cor.12:7-10). And we know from what he says in that passage that such afflictions had the effect in him, great believer that he was, of actually helping him spiritually by taking away all confidence in himself and causing him to rely entirely on God instead.

Thirdly, Our God is a loving Father, and when He uses discipline of any sort it is for our benefit, to change our behavior, bring about repentance, and cause us to consider our ways after the fact so that we may live holy lives of service to Him. In other words, divine discipline is a good thing, even when it hurts, and a matter of comfort in some ways because it assures us that we have a loving Father who cares enough about us to see to our spiritual growth. Unbelievers do not receive divine discipline, though they may indeed find themselves under divine wrath. Only faithful followers of Jesus Christ are privileged to have the correcting hand of the Almighty guiding them, and there is no believer in Jesus Christ who does not come in for divine discipline from time to time (Heb.12:7-8), for everyone sins (Rom.3:23; 5:12), even though sanctification is one of our primary goals as believers in Christ (2Thes.2:13).

Unless there is an absolutely undeniable and obvious cause and effect between gross sin and a particular condition, it is often very difficult for even the individual concerned to tell whether or not a particular illness is a result of divine discipline – and if it be difficult for the person concerned, how much more so would it not be impossible for a third party to judge the matter aright? As we grow in our spiritual lives and learn more about the Lord and draw closer to Him, it does indeed become easier to draw a distinction between when we are being tested and when we are being disciplined. This is something that grows as our relationship with Him grows, and which becomes more clear as our understanding of scripture becomes deeper and more solid (I invite your attention to the following study where the subject of divine discipline is covered in some detail: Bible Basics 3B: Hamartiology: The Biblical Study of Sin).

Finally, as far as other people are concerned, it very clear from scripture that God deals with us all as individuals. What tests you may not be much of a test for me and vice versa, and what you may find easy to bear I may not be able to tolerate at all and vice versa. God knows the best way to test us so as to train us up spiritually, and God knows the best way to discipline us so as to turn us back to the right way. Therefore it is impossible to build doctrine on what we observe happening to other people. The complaint, "why do the wicked prosper?" is one that for just this reason our Lord allowed to fall frequently from the lips of His prophets, but the ultimate answer is always the same: they don't, if we but wait long enough and judge aright (cf. Ps.73).

God is fair. God is just. God loves us. He loves us so much He gave up His one and only Son to the most outrageous sort of death in order to save us from the fires of hell. It only took Jesus the blink of an eye to make the universe, but He spent three hours on the cross, in the darkness, forsaken by the Father who had loved Him from all eternity with a perfect love, suffering and dying for you and me. We can trust Him that He is doing what is best for us (Rom.8:28). We have to trust Him. It is very tempting in such circumstances to get angry, to get bitter, to lash out, to blame God for what other people do. These are very human reactions, all too human. But we as believers in Jesus Christ have turned our backs on the world. To us, all of this is temporary. We have been crucified to the world and the world to us. We are seeking a better place where there are no more tears, where there is no more pain, where we will walk forever in resurrection in perfect bodies with our Lord forever. And so we live for the Lord, not for ourselves, and certainly not for what other people may think. One final thought on the ostracism you have been suffering and God's ultimate purpose; it just may be that God is really testing the people who take offense at you; all the more important if such is the case to cultivate a careful walk with Him.

I want you to know that Jesus loves you with a love that cannot even be measured in human terms. I cannot promise He will heal you, but I can promise you that He will give you the strength to do everything He wants you to, if only you will continue to follow Him faithfully with all your heart.

I promise to remember you in prayer.

In the Name of the One who bore all our diseases on the tree of the cross, our loving Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #5:

Have just read introduction to "The Satanic Rebellion: Background to the Tribulation. Two questions:

1) What is your take on Genesis 6:2 and also the appendix to G. H. Pember's "Earth's Earliest Ages", pp 310, "Fallen Angels Taking Human Form"?

2) What is meant by backsliding in your view and why would there be no repentance for it? Are we not able to be forgiven for every sin except the sin of unbelief?

Response #5: 

On your first question, I have dealt with this passage rather extensively (in the 5th part of the Satanic Rebellion series), and invite you to see the following link: Satan's antediluvian attack on the purity of the human line (the Nephilim). As to Pember, I don't have a copy of his work, but I believe from your title that he takes in general a similar view (to wit, that the Nephilim are fallen angels; although I would want some explanation as to what he means by "human form" before I endorsed his specific view).

As to backsliding, I agree entirely with what you say. The term "backsliding" comes from the KJV's rendering of a number of Hebrew words, most notably meshuba' from the verb shubh meaning "to turn back". The translation has not, to my knowledge, been followed by many other versions, but however that may be, the reference is to apostasy. You are absolutely correct that upon repentance/confession we are forgiven everything since Jesus died for all of our sins (of course that does not mean we are not disciplined for them), and that only the sin of unbelief cannot be forgiven because it is in essence the act of rejecting the only sacrifice which cleanses from sin and the only Person who can forgive sin. As to "no repentance", I would argue that while there are a few passages (in the gospels and Hebrews most notably) on the basis of which some suggest otherwise, in fact no scripture genuinely teaches the impossibility of turning to or back to the Lord as long as a person still draws breath. Clearly, in some cases of extreme hardness and/or apostasy, that eventuality is so unlikely that John can say "I do not tell to pray for that" (1Jn.5:16). But as long as there is life, there is hope and opportunity to benefit from the matchless grace and mercy of our loving God.

If you have a specific passage in mind that is troubling you on this score, I would be happy to address it. In the meantime, you might find the following links helpful in this regard:

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death (from Basics 3B: Hamartiology)

Hebrews 10:26

Does Hebrews 10:26 teach loss of salvation?

Does Hebrews 10:26-35 mean that a believer can lose his or her salvation?

Are those in Hebrews 6:4 who "crucify the Son of God afresh" lost?

What is the unpardonable sin?

Have I committed the unforgivable sin?

I hope this is helpful. Feel free to write me back about any of this.

In our Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6:   

The issue of whether or not there is such a thing as a "Carnal Christian" seems to be growing rapidly. I'm interested in what you have to say on this subject. I've been called that before and I personally believe that there are "Carnal Christians," but not as defined by many preachers. When a Christian is consistently walking in the world and in unrepentant sin, I do not believe that 'carnal Christian' is the proper term for them. Perhaps backslidden would be a better description of their current spiritual condition. On the other hand, I would have a serious concern for that specific person's salvation. The only place I see Paul speaking about "Carnal Christians" is 1st Corinthians 3, where he accuses the Corinthians of being Carnal for following after specific teachers rather than Christ; who is Spiritual. Nowhere can I find any scripture that classifies a continually unrepentant sinner as "carnal." To sum it up, I've somewhat come to a conclusion on the matter. And I also have a serious concern. My conclusion is that there are Christians who are carnally minded. I believe these to be Christians who believe the Gospel, profess Christ, and stand firm for Him; however they do not look at things from a spiritual perspective. My concern is that there are many people who profess to know Christ, yet live their lives as if they never knew Him; and instead of calling these people to repentance many pastors are declaring them saved; and labeling them as carnal. I don't wish to judge or discourage those who are struggling because I do, but I also do not wish to give an illusion of security to somebody who really has none at all. What do you think?

Response #6:    

This is really a question of terminology. None of us is perfect, and none of us have a perfect application of the Christian walk. Generally speaking, the term "carnal", another way to say "in the flesh", is used to mean "in a state of un-confessed, un-repented of sin" following what Paul says of the Corinthians in 1Cor.3:1-3. But really Paul is characterizing negative behavior in Corinth here and doing so in a general way. Scripture is very clear that if we sin we are to repent and confess that sin. It is also clear that if we resist, become sullen about it, are determined to walk in a particular sort of sin, that God will gradually increase the divine discipline to an unbearable degree. Sooner or later, we are going to have to repent and confess and change our ways, or else fall away from Him entirely. That is the real danger of sin for the believer. There comes a point where an attitude of unconcern about sin and sinfulness alienates a person from God to such a degree that such a person may fall away entirely rather than turn back. This is the process of apostasy. Rather than give this subject short shrift, please consult the following link: in BB 3B Hamartiology: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death". Also pertinent to this discussion in the same study is the section "Repentance, Confession, and Forgiveness".

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

OK, here's a subject that came up at our church bible study last night. In what is commonly known as The Lord's Prayer (quite a misnomer, as He could never have prayed it!), Jesus says we should pray that God would forgive our sins - and the impression is given that we should do this every time we pray. I don't have a problem with that and there are other passages that teach this e.g. John 13:10 and 1 John 1:9. However, something someone raised in discussion got me thinking - if Jesus paid for all our sins on the cross and we are justified freely by His grace when we believe - forever - and "in Him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins", then why would he command us to ask for forgiveness on a daily basis, if we are already forgiven? I suggested it was to preserve fellowship with God (cf I John 1:7), rather than relationship, but it didn't sound too convincing. I know we will always be sinful until Glory, but is there a way in which forgiveness is on two levels - judicial (justification - i.e. forever) and relational (hence the need to confess our sins and ask for forgiveness in order to maintain fellowship with God)? I'd often wondered why the man who raised the point never confesses sin or asks for forgiveness corporately when he is leading a public meeting in prayer - I guess it's because he believes that, as Christ has forgiven us already, it would dishonour the work of the cross, were we to ask for it again - but we are still exhorted to pray for forgiveness of sins! Any ideas?!?

Response #7:   

I agree with much of what you conclude. We believers are all "sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal.3:26). But like all sons and daughters, and like the prodigal son, for example, or like the sons needing discipline in Hebrews chapter 12, even though we are sanctified in Jesus Christ we still occasionally commit sins on account of the sin nature with which our mortal body is infused. When we do, we most definitely need to repent and confess – not because Jesus hasn't washed all of our sins away (He most certainly has and it is on that basis that we were able to become sons and daughters in the first place). But just as our children cannot on the basis of their status of being our children act with impunity and expect not to be disciplined or think they never need to admit what they've done, then apologize and atone for it, neither should believers feel that they don't have to do the "relationship work" which scripture prescribes (confession is, as you point out, in the Lord's prayer = the prayer our Lord gave us to pray). Now of course where our relationship with the Lord is concerned we don't need to apologize and we could never atone for our sins, and Jesus has indeed died for them all. But we do need to have a change of heart about our every failing and bring that failure to the Lord in prayer just as we would be penitent towards anyone we love in order to repair the rifts in a relationship we value (and it is "against Thee and Thee only" that we sin; Psalm 51:4a). Confession is a basic and essential tool of our relationship with the Lord, because it keeps us close to Him in terms of all errant behavior. If we stop confessing our sins (which is disobedient in and of itself), the next step is to stop being concerned about them at all – since we never have to come back to the Lord and admit that what we have done is wrong. That is the genesis of all apostasy. For much more on this see the following link:

Repentance, Confession, and Forgiveness (in BB 3B)

In Jesus who died for all of our sins,

Bob L.

Question #8:

I have heard people point out how David's adultery and Samson's womanizing is not mentioned in the NT, because God overlooked their sin (forgave it, wiped it away). I always accepted that explanation - but now wanted to verify it in some way. As I was thinking about various OT characters, I cannot recall ANY of the believers' sins being mentioned in the NT. Sure, the sins of the nation as a whole - because that affected everyone - but not individual's sins.. No mention of Lot's compromise in 2 Peter (just that his righteous soul was vexed by their sin); no mention of Rahab's lying in the three places she is mentioned (just her faith); no mention of Adam and Eve's fall (just their marriage, etc.) - except for those passages dealing with sin entering into the world and Adam's sin is used as the explanation; Eve being deceived is mentioned, but not her sin; the cities and world around Lot and Noah are mentioned as examples, but no mention of their personal sins. Am I overlooking anyone - or is this a fact (that the NT does not mention the sins of believers from the OT)? Is the Lord showing/reemphasizing by this omission that the New Covenant does in fact wipe away all our sins - that they are remembered no more? Elijah is mentioned as a reminder of God's stated promise. Romans 9 is a reference to the lost in the nation of Israel. None of these fit what I am looking for. Basically, what I am wondering is are any of the sins of OT saints mentioned in any other circumstances - like, don't be like this believer who did such and such... Or David was a man after God's own heart except in this matter... (which kind of statements we do find in the OT).

Response #8: 

I am not sure how to decide why something that otherwise would not come up is not in the New Testament. I can't think of a particular passage where I have said to myself, "why in the world didn't "X" mention David's sin of murder (and also adultery) here?" This same quibble would apply to the other examples. Lot's various compromises (and quite a bit could be said about them for they are many) are not mentioned in 2nd Peter because the point is Lot's righteousness not his sin. I think the writers of the New Testament all assumed that those reading what they wrote had a very good understanding of basic Old Testament content, and each of the examples you cite certainly fit into the category of very well known stories. As to forgiveness and the wiping away of sin, well, that is something we are all counting on – and can rightfully count on it through our faith in Jesus' atoning sacrifice. We are all Christ's Church, from Adam and Eve to the last the believer in the Tribulation, and all partake of the same forgiveness. I can't think of any other examples, but would add here that in most of the places where an NT writer adduces exceptional OT believers in this way, it is always for positive encouragement and the building up of our hope (cf. Rom.15:4), in the same way that unbelievers like Balaam and Pharaoh are used for the opposite purpose. So, for example, when we hear of Job it is his "patience" of which we are reminded rather than his exasperation in the face of his poor comforters' comments (Jas.5:11), so that we may be encouraged to follow him in what he did right (there are plenty of unbelievers like Esau to serve the purpose of negative examples we should avoid). The New Testament writers had plenty to say about the forgiveness that is Jesus through faith in Him and His work, and plenty about which to reproach the sinful in their midst. I suppose they didn't see any need to bring up the occasional shortcomings of otherwise great believers to no particular purpose. The only thing that could add is to prove that no one is perfect (a fact of which anyone who has read much scripture should be very well aware).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Dear Dr Luginbill;

I am missing something. What is the mistranslation of Romans 5:12 ff to which you refer in Bible Basics Essential Doctrines of the Bible, Part 3B?

Thank you,

Response #9:    

I believe you are referring to that place in BB 3B where I say, "What is generally misunderstood about this passage (at least partly on the basis of the near universal mistranslation of the last clause of Romans 5:12 above) is that personal sins are a result of having a sinful nature, not the other way around, and that death is likewise a result of birth in corrupt bodily form, not of personal sins committed after birth." That is to say, as I read this verse, Romans 5:12, I find that its final clause refers to the effects of spiritual death (universal sin) in order to show the fact of universal spiritual death, and not to the process that brought about spiritual death in the first place (which is what the versions imply).

Here is an example of what I am referring to in the NIV where it certainly sounds as if we have a case of the latter rather than the former:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—
Romans 5:12 NIV

But here is how I translate the same verse (with amplification):

So just as through one man (i.e., Adam whose antitype is Christ) 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 (i.e., universal sinning proves universal spiritual death), . . .
Romans 5:12

The operative distinction thus lies in the generally universal failure to appreciate that what we have in Paul's specific use of the verb hamartano is a so-called "gnomic aorist" (that is, the not uncommon use in ancient Greek of the aorist tense to express not a specific past event but rather a universal truth). This is reflected in the difference between my "for [obviously] everyone sins" and, for example, the NIV's "death came to all men, because all sinned" (cf. other versions where while translations may differ the same essential [incorrect] semantic force may be seen in each: e.g., KJV: "for that all have sinned", NASB: "because all sinned", RSV: "because all men sinned"). Once the gnomic aorist is missed, there are really only two "reasonable" ways to interpret the passage (and I use the adjective advisedly): 1) to assume that no one is a sinner until they have sinned personally (cf. Pelagius), or 2) to construct an elaborate theory of corporate sinning passed down by divine judicial "imputation" to all of Adam's progeny. Neither explanation can easily be made to square particularly well with the scriptures, the former being directly contradicted by many passages, even the near context of Romans, the latter requiring an uncharacteristically illogical and somewhat legalistic mode of behavior on God's part (and since no two theologians of note have ever expressed the imputation of Adam's sin in precisely the same manner, let alone doing so in a perspicuous way, we are right to be suspicious of this solution too). Most theologians (at least the ones I have any regard for) have chosen the latter path, however problematic. But understanding the verb in the final clause of Romans 5:12 as a gnomic aorist expressing a general truth rather than a specific historical event allows us to interpret these words not as an explanation for the cause of universal spiritual death at birth, but instead as a proof of the fact of universal spiritual death at birth. That is to say, the last few words of this verse do not mean "all sinned when Adam sinned [even though they were not yet born, only receiving the judicial imputation of this sin once they actually came into the world]; rather, they mean "we can see plainly that everyone sins [and that is clear proof that everyone is born with a sin nature and spiritually dead at birth as a result]". This explanation also fits particularly well with what follows in Romans 5, namely, Paul's discussion of sin and the Law in verses 13-14. His (I believe fairly clear) point in those verses is that a sin is a sin, whether or not there exists a specific scriptural prohibition against it (cf. "and things of this sort", Gal.5:21). Thus "everyone sins" makes a much more clear candidate for what is being explained in verse 13 where Paul says "For before the law was given, sin was in the world", i.e., "because everybody sins", whether or not there is a Law to break in an explicit fashion.

I might go on (for example, Paul's use of the rather difficult relative pronoun phrase eph' hoi to express the relationship between this clause and what proceeds has complicated things as well), but I hope this is enough to prove helpful. Please do feel free to write me back about any of this. I think you can probably tell from the above why I didn't go into any more detail on this in BB 3B itself.

In the One died to expiate all our sin, our dear Lord Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #10: 

Robert,

Thank you for your interesting email. Does anyone else translate this verse the way you do? Any other translation of the Word? John Gill, part way into his commentary on Romans 5:12, says the following (this program is not converting the Hebrew - which I do not know)

This corruption of nature they call erh ruy, "the evil imagination," which, they say {o}, is planted in a man's heart at the time of his birth; and others say {p} that it is in him before he is born: hence Philo the Jew says {q}, that sumfuev to amartanon esti, "to sin is connatural," to every man that is born, even though a good man; and talks {r} of suggeghnhnon koukon, "evil that is born with us," and of {s} suggeneiv khrev, "spots that are of necessity born with" every mortal man.

Does this fit with what you are saying? I am trying to nail this down. Perhaps more context would help, too. You said you might "go on". Please do - for at least another verse.

Thank you,

Response #10:   

Thank you for your e-mails. I'm not sure exactly how to respond to the Gill statements (as far as I can make them out without the Hebrew upon which he is commenting). My hermeneutic method is fairly conservative and I use little in the way of extra-biblical material (like Philo, for example), and certainly would never invest them with any authority. To the extent that non-Christian writers reflect through observation a fairly accurate picture of human nature (Thucydides certainly comes to mind as well), I would attribute that to general rather than special revelation. After all, part of the reason why we human beings have no excuse before God at the last judgment is that certain things are obvious to all because He has made them obvious in His construction of the material universe, and the conscience's apprehension of our personal, inveterate sinfulness is certainly part of that.

The two possibilities suggested in Gill's quote are not, however, precisely reflective of the dichotomy of traditional interpretation in Romans 5:12. Both suggest universal human sinfulness, and it is somewhat of a moot point whether or not that "sin" is implanted in a functional sense immediately upon birth or as part of the process of procreation. Either way, "man is sinful" would be the bottom line (and I would certainly agree based upon the Bible). What I am saying is that in Romans 5:12, if false interpretation #1 is accepted in the manner of Pelagius, man would then be born without sin in his nature at all, and would only acquire a sinful nature when and if he sinned (a position which, as I say, is easily refuted by other scriptures). If false interpretation #2 is accepted, then man is born with a sinful nature ("sin in the flesh"), but is not condemned by God for his own sin (since it may be some time before the infant in question is capable of sinning), but condemned for Adam's sin (imputation / "original sin"). This interpretation, as I suggested, I also find difficult to square with the general tone and tenor of the Bible where personal responsibility and culpability for one's own actions underlies virtually ever passage in my view.

In Romans 5:17, Paul explains that "death reigned through that one man [Adam]", making it fairly clear that as a result of Adam's sin, all mankind is spiritually dead (a condition which leads to physical death and, without divine intervention, eternal death). But by what mechanism? If Pelagius were correct, then Adam would only be a pattern (and not a comprehensive one since it would be possible, at least theoretically, to live a life without ever committing a sin). If Augustine and most more conservative theologians are correct, then Adam is not merely the pattern but the judicial precedent on the basis of which all are judicially condemned at birth as a result of Adam's sin ("original sin"). Translating as I do, however, we have Paul instead debunking the erroneous idea that the Law and its teachings completely circumscribe the topic of sin (a constant theme in all his writings, after all, and present here in context immediately following our phrase in verses 13-14). Seen in this way, the final phrase of Romans 5:12 would then be an explanation or expansion of that purpose: "[you can see the truth of universal sinfulness with your own eyes]; for everyone sins". Looking backward to verses eleven and twelve, 5:12b is offered as proof that sin (i.e., the sin nature or "indwelling sin") transmitted physically from Adam to all of his progeny (except of course for Jesus Christ who was virgin born) results in committing personal sin. Looking forward, 5:12b is expanded upon in vv.13-14 in particular connection with the Law where it is explained that personal sin existed before the Law. Although it was not necessarily recognized as such by human beings (NIV: "not taken into account"), yet it "reigned" or dominated humanity even so, even though no one was in a position after Adam to sin in his unique fashion (i.e., of eating from the fruit of the tree of knowing good and evil). Therefore sin must have been passed down [biologically, as we should say]. The center-piece of this discussion in Romans 5 is "everybody sins", and not "all have sinned [in the distant past in Adam]".

As to others, no, I don't know of anyone else who translates it this way, but that is not unusual at all. Translations tend to follow former translations and only rarely break away from traditional interpretations. But as every translation is of necessity an interpretation (in that it has made choices about what the exemplar means), it is very important to "get it right", or at least get as close to communicating what is actually there as possible. This passage is a good example of that principle, because by failing to take into account the one correct possibility, doctrine on this issue has been very much confused historically speaking. For while these explanations may be a bit long in the tooth and a bit difficult for the layman to digest, the effect is simple: we are all born with a [biological] sin nature; as a result of this, we all commit personal sins; being born tainted with sin we are spiritually dead at birth (a condition which makes our own committing of sin inevitable), and all this quite apart from any invented or imagined elaborate divine judicial "imputation" – that is not Paul's point but rather our universal sinfulness and universal need for a Savior who died for all those sins.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Hi Dr. Luginbill:

I know that Scripture has general guidelines on how we should treat others, but I would love to discuss a specific situation with you. I have talked with other people about this, but their responses often seem vague and perhaps not well-grounded in God's Word.

My husband's brother is __. My brother-in-law is funny, talented and extremely kind to me and to my children. In fact, my children adore him. He lives far away, and we only see him two times a year at my husband's parents' house, so we are not in contact very often. However, he is very good about sending cards and gifts to my children for holidays, birthdays, etc. He is very thoughtful... often, because of my confused thoughts and feelings, kinder than I am! He knows my beliefs, and I think I have (very clumsily) made it clear that while I love him I do not approve of his lifestyle. Beyond that, I don't know what to say or do when I am around him. This might seem silly, but I agonize over how much influence I should allow him in my children's lives --- a decision which is not wholly mine to make --- and over communicating with him about what is going on in his life. For instance, he just called me to tell me the news that he and his boyfriend were approved by the co-op board of the building in which they wish to buy an apartment. I congratulated him because I didn't know what else to say, but I feel a deep dread of anything, such as a major purchase, which further cements an unrighteous relationship. Could you give me some guidelines or insight from Scripture that would help me to establish firm footing about this issue? As always, thank you for your answer. It gives me great peace that I know you ground your writings and teachings in the Bible.

Response #11:   

This is indeed a difficult question for exactly the reasons you put forward. As I see it, there are two issues here. The first is, as you frame it, our Christian responsibility in regard to our behavior towards other adults. This is mostly a question of where to draw the line on interaction with unbelievers in the secular realm and with straying believers in our Christian fellowship. Christians who wish to live sanctified lives and stay true to Jesus are often put into difficult situations in this world, and I think that this is true of our own particular society at this time in our history possibly to a greater degree than ever before, at least in terms of the wide range of behaviors and etc. that are legal and permissible but clearly not in keeping with our own biblical values. There are some who say that we should break off all contact with anyone who is not living a sanctified life (cf. 2Thes.3:6-15). But that would make it very difficult for us even to leave our houses (cf. 1Cor.5:10). There are some who would say let others do what they will and not bother about it because that is their concern not ours – but if we take that to extremes then how are we providing a Christian witness (cf. Gal.6:1; Jude 1:23)? On this scores you seem to me to be doing a creditable job of walking that delicate line.

Your situation is complicated by the fact that this is a family member in a circumstance over which you are, to some extent, involved whether you would like it or not. It seems to me that there is much to recommend what you are doing in exercising a balanced, scriptural approach, namely, not beating the person over the head with your objections, but nevertheless having made your point of view clear so as not to offer justification for it. Those would seem to me to be reasonable terms upon which to proceed. In all such cases, we can't help but feel "clumsy", and are bound to find ourselves in situations where we don't know what to say (as in the apartment story you relate). I confess that I or any other brother or sister in Christ in this present state of affairs in our society might well find themselves in just such a situation at any given time. Clearly, we want to withhold justification for the behavior; just as clearly we want to express Christian love from a personal point of view. Where to draw the line is always a dicey business, and sometimes this requires an answer which only the Lord can give us in prayer. We are apt to make mistakes as well, whether it be laying it on too strong at some inappropriate time ("pearls before swine"), or being a bit too encouraging in ways that might be misinterpreted. When it comes to individuals with whom we must work or live, that is an occupational hazard. The main thing is to be courageous in Jesus to restrain ourselves or express ourselves at the proper times as the Spirit gives us guidance.

As to what the scriptures say about this, the best I can offer comes from comparing 2nd Corinthians 6:14-18 with 1st Corinthians 5:9-12. In the former passage, Paul tells us not to be "unequally yoked together with unbelievers". The yoke metaphor quite clearly refers to close association (cf. 1Cor.15:33; Eph.5:11; and compare Joshua's words at Josh.23:12). It is used elsewhere of the marriage relationship. We know well from 1Cor.7 that marriage to unbelievers is something to be avoided, but also something that is not to be put asunder if the unbeliever is willing to live together with the believer. So that avoiding entering into relationships of a serious nature with unbelievers is something we must avoid, but if we nevertheless find ourselves already in them in some sort of binding way, we need to take care as to how it may or may not be permissible to extricate ourselves from them (e.g., presumptuously dumping a long-time unbelieving business partner using this excuse may not be God's will if it causes the person undue hardship). The second passage makes it clear that the command to avoid grossly sinful unbelievers is not referring to casual contact in the world – for, given the prevalence of the same we would have to "leave the world altogether" to accomplish this feat. But if a person is a member of our Christian fellowship, calling him/herself a Christian and flaunting his or her outrageously sinful contact, at that point we are definitely supposed to take action, "expelling" the person (and I would add, leaving that particular fellowship if we are not in a position of authority so as to effect such a policy). Where family members are concerned, moreover, it seems to me that absolute separation has a higher threshold than would be the case with anyone else. Shunning family members is something that ought to done only in extreme situations (e.g., when their negative behavior threatens consequences for ourselves of those under our charge).

That brings me to the second issue involving the children. Here I have more qualms. Scripture is pretty clear about our responsibilities to young ones under our charge both in positive terms to build up their relationship with the Lord (Matt.19:14), and in negative terms to avoid their exposure to spiritual stumbling blocks (Matt.18:5-6). Clearly, I don't know the details of the situation or the personalities or options involved, but it does seem to me that regardless of any other consideration this is a sort of influence best limited where children are concerned. It also seems to me from your e-mail that that is precisely what you have been feeling too, and what you have endeavored to do. The decision may not be entirely in your hands, from what you share here, and as I say I don't know these people, but if it were me, I would be loathe to send any sort of message to my own children that I thought compromise on this issue was an option.

As I often say, and this time is no different, in such cases of applying the Word of God to a unique and complicated situation which is not precisely delineated in scripture, the individual believer has to be the one to decide exactly what the dynamics of said situation require under the guidance of the Spirit, in consultation with scripture, and with the Lord Himself through prayer.

You certainly have my prayers that the Lord will give you an answer, help you to do whatever it is needs to be done, and also give you peace on this.

In Him who is our peace, and the only truth, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

 

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