After reading the account in judges of Samson, I am forced to remember that the majority of ecclesia evangeliorum holds a negative view of Samson, namely that he was some kind of vulgar philistine whose sole purpose of existence is to demonstrate that faith can result in even the most base of humanity into heaven. We can observe that most of these arguments rely on a legalistic interpretation of various life events. One of the most commonly cited events used to support this perspective is his supposed violation of the Nazarene purity code when he extracted honey from the carcass of a lion.
"Some time later, when he went back to marry her, he turned aside to look at the lion's carcass, and in it he saw a swarm of bees and some honey. He scooped out the honey with his hands and ate as he went along."
The logic of the accuser goes that if Samson was a Nazarene, and if he approached the carcass of a lion, then he violated the prohibition described in the law which states that
"Throughout the period of their dedication to the Lord, the Nazirite must not go near a dead body. Even if their own father or mother or brother or sister dies, they must not make themselves ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of their dedication to God is on their head."
However, it behooves the accuser to consistently apply this legalistic standard to the rest of Samson's life. After all, if Samson's purpose in life involved warring against the Philistines, then it logically follows that Samson naturally encountered not just one corpse, but many corpses of his enemies, and therefore simply by fighting Samson violated this legalistic interpretation of the Nazarene vow. Naturally, the accuser, when confronted with this syllogism, will demand nuance in the interpretation of the Nazarene vow. But that only raises the question: if it is possible that the Nazarene vow is, in this one case, flexible enough to accommodate the mass killing of many men, then is it also not flexible enough to accommodate the retrieval of honey from a corpse that was the result of his own slaughter? Furthermore, while it might be understandable (although not excusable) for a Judaizer to focus on legalities, there is no reason that Christians should utilize such deadly hermeneutics. After all, would not such legalistic reasoning result in David of being accused of breaking the purity code? (Matthew 12:4) And have we not learned the folly of such thinking from the gospels themselves?
Now, if one observes the passage in context, the real reason he took the honey from the carcass was in order to pose a riddle and reveal the treachery of the Philistines. Nonetheless, the accuser has more in his arsenal. In particular, if a legalistic violation was insufficient to discredit Samson, then perhaps his dubious consortia would be sufficient in discrediting him.
"His father and mother replied, ‘Isn't there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?’ But Samson said to his father, ‘Get her for me. She's the right one for me.’ (His parents did not know that this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.)"
This passage interprets itself; God himself states that his parents concerns were misguided, and He knew that Samson's request was in order to obtain an opportunity to strive against the Philistines. Of course, Samson used the wife (along with the lion incident) to reveal the deception of the Philistines, and he did so in a way that showed great wisdom. One cannot help but read these passages and come to the conclusion that if Solomon was the wisest who ever lived, then surely Samson was a close second, as the wisdom with which he tests the Philistines is only surpassed by the judgement of Solomon.
"One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her. The people of Gaza were told, ‘Samson is here!’ So they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They made no move during the night, saying, ‘At dawn we’ll kill him.’ But Samson lay there only until the middle of the night. Then he got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron."
Again, the passage interprets itself. The only reason why his accusers assume that Samson was a womanizer was because he visited a harlot's house. However, they have failed to understood that it was common in ancient Israel for spies to visit a harlot in order to provide cover. It is also helpful to note that the Bible never speaks gingerly about sex. If God wanted to tell us that Samson carnally knew the prostitute, then He would have told us quite clearly.
There is only one time where Samson actually sinned, and that is the incident with Delilah, but even then, there is much that is misunderstood. First, Samson was quite aware that Delilah intended to harm Samson, as he tested her with three lies that only she could have known, and these lies were always later known by the Philistines. (Judges 16:7-9, 11-12, 13-15). Samson's sin, the one that caused God to depart from him, was his failure to confide in God when Delilah continued to vex him. He figured that maybe he could have relieved his heart if he were to ‘help himself,’ but as the Psalmist says, Whoever is pregnant with evil conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment.’ (Psalm 7:14). Given his total cognizance of what Delilah was going to do with him, it was perfectly fair for God to have left him and for him to have suffered the consequences of his action. It is for this reason why Samson could only have begun to vanquish the Philistines, and not complete it.
Furthermore, most Christians would have had the wisdom to escape from the source of temptation, which made the sin far more grievous of a man of God's favor such as Samson to have committed.
I like the first part here, and especially the observation about Samson being different from the average person under Nazarite vows – being a warrior, a hero (in the sense of champion), and one of the judges of Israel on top of all that. The fact that no diminution of his powers attended to his eating of the honey speaks volumes on this score.
However, I wouldn't agree in terms of his consorting with prostitutes. This was something that many of the men of those days did as a matter of course, especially when unmarried (cf. the story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis chapter thirty-eight – she must have had a strong expectation that her father-in-law was likely to "hire" her on that occasion). It seems clear to me, even though as you rightly point out scripture doesn't actually describe Samson as fornicating, and also that the spies who stayed with Rahab had a different main interest than most of those frequenting her establishment, we see no reason in context for this judge of Israel to be conducting a clandestine mission. Indeed, Samson was powerful enough to defend himself – as the sequel shows. Also, the description of his entrance into Gaza doesn't seem in the least surreptitious. We may add to this the fact that latter on, as you agree, Samson did consort with Delilah for the usual reasons (scripture places it directly after this early consorting no doubt to demonstrate a pattern of devolution).
What can we say about all this? Samson was not perfect (who is), and his addressing his "needs" in this way was not visited by God with any direct removal of his power nor removal from his office as judge. Eventually, however, this consorting with prostitutes (and we are certainly free to assume that we have not been given the entire list of his dalliances in scripture) did prove to be Samson's undoing – indirectly, that is. Thus the manner of his fall has a lesson for us all that is not normally gleaned from this passage, which is, that sexual relations with another party, even if they are deemed "casual" or even "transactional", cannot be divorced from harmful emotional connection.
Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh."
1st Corinthians 6:16 NKJV
In his own way, Samson fell in love with Delilah (Judg.16:4), although since she was a prostitute it is fairly certain that such was not his initial intent. Had Samson been able to keep the matter purely physical, he no doubt would not have entertained Delilah's nagging, nor would he ever have taken her into his confidence. But becoming involved sexually with anyone cannot be divorced from becoming involved emotionally, nor from the other consequences that flow from doing things in an ungodly way:
For by means of a harlot
A man is reduced to a crust of bread;
And an adulteress will prey upon his precious life.
Can a man take fire to his bosom,
And his clothes not be burned?
Can one walk on hot coals,
And his feet not be seared?
Proverbs 6:26-28 NKJV
For this reason, Samson's story is a cautionary tale which was never more appropriate to hear than in our own libertine day:
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.
1st Corinthians 6:18 NKJV
Therefore those who would follow the Lord closely ought to take especial care to heed this advice:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.
1st Thessalonians 4:3-6 NKJV
It's a good (implied) point of yours that evangelicals today are quick to condemn vociferously anyone who errs in anything sexual, whereas all manner of legalistic horrors and many other sins for which Christ died are passed off as insignificant or even not sin at all. As those who are trying to know and believe and follow and teach the truth, it is possible for us to appreciate that sexual sin is sin without at the same going beyond what scripture has to say and investing it with a spiritually harmful mythic power that may on the one hand make it even more attractive to some and on the other convince other brothers and sisters that it cannot be forgiven (all sin is forgiven for believers upon repentance and confession: 1Jn.1:9). Samson continued to be effective for the Lord even after sinning (we all sin); but his repeated, casual attitude about his conduct eventually resulted in his destruction though natural consequences rather than through direct, divine discipline. If we play with fire often enough, the chances are that we will get burned.
Jesus answered him, "It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' "
Matthew 4:7 NIV
We should not overrate the power of any particular sin nor ever pronounce it unforgivable; but at the same time we can't afford to get the idea that what we do does not have consequences – and in the case of sin (all sin), those consequences are always counterproductive to the mission we have been given, and can in extreme cases, if we get too sloppy about what we think, what we say, or what we do, land us in irretrievable trouble – as happened to Samson.
But just as He who has called you is holy, you too should be entirely holy in your behavior. For the scripture says: Be holy, for I am holy.
1st Peter 1:15-16
Yours in the dear Lord Jesus Christ who died to free us from all of our sin, in whom we have redemption, forgiveness for all we have done.
Would you please explain what was originally meant by "ceremonially clean?" By contemporary standards, it seems equivalent to "standing on ceremony." That has been one of the more jarring differences between NIV and KJV. Should I understand this as nothing more than ritual and a demonstration of willingness to obey God or was there something more?
Thank you for your weekly email postings. They have been extremely helpful.
Yours in Jesus Christ,
You're most welcome. As to "ceremonially clean", this is not a term I'm aware of using myself. If you have in mind the usage of this phrase in English versions of the Bible, it's generally employed for translating things which are "holy" or "sanctified" as opposed to "defiled" or "common" (e.g., not ceremonially clean, as in Heb.9:13 NIV), and refers to items under the Law which are fit for sacred use according to its regulations, as opposed to those which are not. Food, for example, has to belong to the "Kosher" category to be so, as well as to be treated and handled in an appropriate way. True holiness is merely represented symbolically by these rites and regulations, however. Only what God makes holy is true holy, and that is why we are all "saints", ones "sanctified" or "made holy" by the Spirit on account of our rebirth through faith in Christ.
But you were washed, you were sanctified (i.e., made hagios or "holy"), you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1st Corinthians 6:11b NIV
Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
Dear Professor Bob Luginbill,
The leaders of the early church were all ‘Saints’. This practice is largely ignored by the present day church that does not consider ‘Salvation’ is a necessity for a leader.
I strongly believe ‘Salvation’ is necessary for the growth of the Church as well as the mission it intend to fulfill. Could you kindly advice of the Biblical view of this concept.
Good to hear from you – but I'm not sure I'm understanding your question. Unless the problem is that you understand that all believers are "saints", but the people you are talking about are using the medieval Roman Catholic definition of "saint". In the NT, a "saint" is someone who has been "made holy" (see the link: "Sanctification"), and all who are in Christ are "holy" or "sanctified" – not because of our own righteousness but because of the righteousness we have through faith. The Greek word here is hagios, and you can find it referring to all believers throughout the NT:
To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints (hagioi = "sanctified ones"), with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.
1st Corinthians 1:2 NKJV
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior in whom we have been "sanctified" by grace through faith.
Thank you for the prompt reply. Sorry for not properly explaining my question. Here in Sri Lanka many Church leaders are not ‘Saved’ means they are not Saints and Biblically they cannot be called Christians. Leaders of Christian church should be Christians. What I wanted to clarify was that whether it is correct to appoint unsaved church goers as leaders of the Church. Now it is clear that the practice is not biblical. Sadly some of the church leaders here does not know what Salvation is and why it is needed, yet hold office of leader.
That's interesting. Why would someone who is not a Christian go to church? It happens all the time, of course, in all countries, including the USA. But why would a person who announces to everyone he/she is not a Christian and not saved want to be part of a Christian church, or, perhaps more to the point, why would a church of genuine believers want to admit, much less promote, someone who is self-identified as a non-Christian? Unbelievers have been sneaking into churches for a variety of reasons since the beginning, but this is a new one on me – at least the open admission of the fact is. I don't think I would waste my time at such a place.
Yours in our dear Savior Jesus Christ the Lord,
Good day to you sir,
I thank the Lord for how He is using you and your ministry. Sir, if time will permit you, can you exegete this verse?
HEB 12:14: Follow peace with all men and holiness, without which no man may see God.
I don't want to as, any question because I have many. If you can explain this and any links to help me, I give you my thanks in advance.
I take it that you are asking about the second half of the part of the verse you quote here? "Pursue peace with all men" stands on its own. It is only "holiness" to which the clause "without which no one will see the Lord" applies. We know that for certain because in Greek the word "peace" (eirene) is feminine and the word used here for "holiness" (hagiosmos) is masculine: since the relative pronoun "which" is masculine in the Greek, we have to understand the last clause as applying only to the masculine noun. In terms of our Christian walk which is being discussed here, "pursuing peace" means "avoiding hostility" and is the same as what Paul tells us at Romans 12:18: "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (NIV).
The second part of the verse requires a bit more consideration. "Holiness" is also sometimes translated "sanctification", and I prefer that translation because "holy" has become a bit of a "loaded" word in our culture and brings to mind certain incorrect notions which may not be helpful in correctly understanding the passage. There are in fact three types of sanctification referred to in the Bible: positional, experiential, and ultimate (see the link: in Peter 13: "Sanctification"). To be "sanctified" is to be removed from all that is profane and to be installed instead in a state and place of complete absence from sin. All believers are "sanctified" or "made holy" when they put their faith in Jesus and are saved. This is called "positional sanctification". Just as even though we are not perfect, nonetheless God the Father considers us righteous because we are "in" His Son through faith, in the same way we are considered "holy" because of our position in Jesus Christ (not because of our behavior). When we are resurrected, we will be incapable of any sin or uncleanness and will be actually and completely and unalterably "holy" or "sanctified" for all eternity thereafter (that is "ultimate sanctification").
But now, here we are in the world. We are saved, but we still have a body of sin. We love Jesus Christ, but we still make mistakes. We all know that as Christians we should be endeavoring to walk more closely with our Master every day; that every day we should know a little more of His truth, think about Him a little more and a little more clearly, give a better witness, be more effective in our personal ministries, etc. Every day should see us less like the world and more like our Lord whom we should strive to imitate. Part of that imitation involves our turning away from everything sinful, and closing the gap between the sanctification we have in principle and our actual behavior. That is sanctification too, or, as it is sometimes called in theological discussions to distinguish it from the other types, "experiential sanctification". We are "holy" as belonging to Christ; will shall be "holy" in every way when He returns and raises us up; and we ought be striving to be more "holy" or, better, more "sanctified" in our Christian walk day by day here on earth. This is the type of sanctification Paul is speaking of in this passage in Hebrews. It clearly has to be, because we cannot "pursue" something we already have (in the case of positional sanctification) or something that will only be ours when the resurrection occurs so that we have no control over its commencement (in the case of ultimate sanctification). But with proper effort we can get better about avoiding sinful conduct and behavior, and that is what Paul is telling his listeners to do. Keep in mind that these Jerusalem believers had fallen back into the practice of the Law and into a number of false doctrines which Paul systematically reproves throughout the course of the book, so that there was good reason for him to give this command to these individuals (and of course it is good advice for every Christian as well).
Finally, as to "without which no one will see the Lord", some further explanation is necessary. Let me start with what this does not mean. This does not mean that if we ever sin we are lost. It does not mean that if we are unable to achieve sinlessness in this present body and in this corrupt world that we are lost. Far from it. No human being – apart from our Lord who never sinned – has ever refrained from sin in the first place or achieved a walk of total sinlessness after salvation.
The three categories of sanctification outlined above are true, but it is important to note that scripture does not use different terms for each of them. The Bible just says "sanctification", and we have to determine what that means in any given context. The import of that fact is that the three types are really one blended whole, and that certainly makes sense: we are sanctified in Jesus when saved, (should) pursue a closer walk with Him day by day in our time here on earth, and on that great day to come will be dressed in white, holy and pure as His Bride forever. In other words, these three phases are of a piece: the Christian experience, from salvation, to life in the Lord, to eternity with the Lord. So think of sanctification as a three-sided object, part of a single whole but capable of being viewed and touched from any one of the three sides. We "pursue" only experiential sanctification, but without sanctification in general, no one is saved, because only believers are saved; and all believers are and will be sanctified. Therefore all believers ought to be working on their sanctification in this life too.
So why does Paul add the "rider" to this verse, if it doesn't mean that if we don't stop sinning entirely we are lost (the most common false interpretation of this verse). He adds this phrase to connect our position in Christ (positional sanctification) directly to our ultimate future in Christ (ultimate sanctification), telling his listeners and us that to follow Jesus the way we should we need to connect these two things that were and will be done for us with what we can and should do ourselves right now: walk in an ever increasingly holy way before the Lord. If we were not sanctified (which we are as believers) we would not see the Lord. And, clearly, if we do not persevere in our faith we will not be ultimately sanctified (and will be shut out of His presence forever). So we ought to respond to the status we have as believers and be holy in what we do, just as we also ought in reverent fear to walk in a holy way in anticipation of the actual perfect status we will enjoy forever with Jesus Christ. This is of course an unalterable reality – unless we abandon our faith. And one common way of losing faith is giving oneself over to a life of sin to the point of losing all respect for the Lord and eventually rejecting Him as Savior (see the link: Apostasy and the Sin unto Death). So Paul's command is right to the point when considered from this angle as well. Spiritual growth has two parts, the "offense" part (learning, believing and applying the truth), and the "defense" part (staying away from everything that is wrong and sinful). While it is certainly true that most Christians today ill-advisedly focus entirely on the "defense" and leave out the "offense" (and not only never get anywhere in the Christian life but also compromise their defense as well by this poor bargain), it is still the case that failing to give heed to our personal, experiential sanctification is a problem, even if otherwise we are pursuing the truth in a wonderfully positive way. None of the "good things" we do can ever excuse "something bad" – just as doing well at staying away from "the bad" does not excuse being disinterested in "the good", the Word of God, its application, and its ministry to others.
Since only those saved are sanctified (positionally), it is the absolute truth that only these and no others will "see the Lord" and be ultimately sanctified at the resurrection. It is also absolutely true that any Christian, such as these wayward Jerusalem Christians, who plays fast and loose with the truth and gets involved in all manner of false doctrine and/or sinful behavior (these individuals were continuing to sacrifice and thus "trampling the Son of God underfoot", after all), risks becoming involved in a spiritual tail-spin that may in the most extreme cases lead to apostasy and the loss of faith – and only believers will "see the Lord".
Here are some other links on the subject:
In BB 3B: Hamartiology: "The Principle and Process of Sanctification"
The Doctrine of Sanctification (in Pet.#6)
The three phases of sanctification (in SR 5)
Sanctification and its phases (in BB 4B)
Keep fighting the good fight, my friend. I am keeping you and your family in my prayers for protection and deliverance.
Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,
"For all the firstborn of the children of Israel [are] mine, [both] man and beast: on the day that I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for myself. And I have taken the Levites for all the firstborn of the children of Israel.'' (Numbers 8:17-18)
Do these two verses imply that, because the first born of the children of Israel were sanctified, that they were saved?
In a word, no. The Law is very big on similarly "setting apart" or "sanctifying" the people of Israel as a whole as a "holy" nation (e.g., Ex.19:6) – and yet we know for certain that not all Israel is really Israel (Rom.9:6; cf. Heb.3:16-19). The Law's setting apart/making holy/sanctifying (all refer to the same word[s] in Heb. root: qdsh; and Gk. root: hag-) is symbolic. It only becomes "real" in the important sense of belonging to God forever through the positive heart response of faith in the person involved. In a "two dimensional" sense (so to speak), ancient Israel was holy while all gentiles were not. But in a "three dimensional" or spiritual sense, some gentiles believed even then (and were/are saved) while not all those who belonged to the earthly nation of Israel were/are. Just as 1st John presents the believer as he/she should be at many points in that epistle, so the Law presents the holy community as it should be. The physical actions represent appropriate spiritual realities, but there is a big gap between the two because of universal sinfulness and free will. But just as 1st John teaches us what we should be holy and therefore encourages us to rise to that challenge, so the Law, correctly understood for what it really is, namely, a similar spiritual model rather a code of regulations which could never really be "kept", is a spiritual guide and an encouragement for those who use it properly. In a world of paganism without the Bible (for the most part, or at all, before Moses), and without the indwelling of the Spirit, a system of behavior that was visible and tangible and a system of worship that taught the important underlying realities of salvation in a graphic way was not only helpful but necessary for the calling out of a special people to follow the Lord. The fact that only a percentage did so is unfortunate but not surprising, given what may be known about human beings from scripture.
Yours in Jesus our dear Lord who died that we might be saved,
I don't think you got my erratum. I wrote the children of Israel, but I meant the children of Egypt, in other words, the first born children that were sacrificed and sanctified (according to Numbers 8:17-18)
The "them" being sanctified in Numbers 8:17 are the "firstborn of Israel". The Egyptian firstborn were struck down as the final plague against Egypt. Those who died as children would have been saved as all who die before reaching the age of accountability are. There is no indication in the scriptures that there was any faith in the Lord outside of the Israelite community (and precious little within it; cf. Heb.3:16-19).
Please help me find info on the "Righteousness" of God the Father. I have already saved quite a few of your articles on my computer. Thank you for your interesting and informative articles.
Good to make your acquaintance. The word "righteousness" in English is sometimes distinguished from the word "justice", but in Greek they are the same (dikaiosyne, with a number of words built on the essential morpheme, dik-, referring to the same concept; similarly, in Hebrew, where the corresponding root noun is tsedhekh). The idea, taken either way, is the same, "always in every way right" or "always in every way just". Here is what I have written about this in part one of the basics series at the link:
6. God is Just (Deut.32:4; Ps.7:9; 11:7; 33:5; 45:7; 89:14; 111:7-8; 119:142; 145:7b; Is.30:18; 42:1-4; 61:8; Jn.7:18 [not NIV]; Rom.3:4, 21-24; 8:1-4; 11:22; 2Cor.5:21; 1Pet.2:23-24; Rev.16:5).
Demanding justice for His creatures is a natural consequence of God's holiness. Out of the intrinsic holiness of His character, God must deal with us in perfect justice, righteously condemning us in our sinful state. However, He does not overlook His goodness and love in the process and abandon us to our sins (as evil suggests He will). For God found a way to treat us as righteous without compromising His character, and did so through the gift and sacrifice of His only Son on our behalf. Mercy is the biblical name for God's policy of justly forgiving us on the basis of the death of Jesus Christ. We accept and receive God's merciful offer of justification by accepting and receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our savior.
The fundamental point is that justice/righteousness is an intrinsic part of God's character (the same way that holiness is); justice/righteousness is an essential trait of that holy character. He cannot possible be unjust or do anything which is not intrinsically "right" because He is righteous/just. The paragraph above thus is focused on explaining how that intrinsic justice/righteousness expresses itself towards mankind: the cross satisfies God's righteous demands for justice for all who accept Jesus as their Savior.
The only other thing needing to be mentioned here, since you ask specifically about the Father, is that the essence of God is something shared equally by all three members of the Trinity. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three distinct, individual Persons, but they all share one indivisible essence – the essence of God. Righteousness/justice is a character trait of that essence, the way we finite human beings have to express it and understand it, that is.
Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world,
Hope you are well. Romans 8:4 – how would you interpret this? Does it mean that the Holy Spirit enables us to obey God's law when we walk in the Spirit (sanctification) OR that even with the Holy Spirit's power we can never keep the whole law and as James says, "if we stumble at one point we are guilty of it all" so would this then mean Christ's righteousness being applied to our account by faith (justification) alone in Christ alone.
Which doctrine is it? am muddled up!
The dikaioma or "righteous requirement" of the Law is the demand for satisfaction for sin, something no human being could ever provide even for their smallest sin. Nor could the Law, even followed perfectly do so. As it says in Hebrews, "it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins" (Heb.10:4 NKJV). And more to the point, in the previous chapter of Romans, Paul had just gone out of his way to demonstrate that the Law, though "holy and just and good" was not designed for justification but for condemnation "so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful" (Rom.7:13 NKJV), that is, so that every person might be made aware of their need for a Savior, the Law being merely a "pedagogue" leading to that conclusion and therefore to Christ (Gal.3:24).
Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Romans 3:24 NKJV
This is the sense in which Paul speaks about the "righteousness of the Law" (KJV) in Romans 8:4, or, better translated by NKJV, NLT, NIV, ESV, NASB, RSV, the "requirement of the Law" . . . that we be just. As sinners by nature, sinners by commission, and sinners by occupation, that is impossible for any human being. But the impending condemnation that would otherwise have been ours, whether or not we knew or did not know the Law, whether or not we had or had not participated in its sacrifices, has been taken out of the way by the blood of Christ, as the context of the first four verses in Romans demonstrates:
(1) So now, there [awaits] no judgment of condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the Law of sin and death. (3) For what the Law could not accomplish (i.e., solving the sin problem) because it was weak on account of [its dependence on sinful human] flesh, God [did accomplish]: having sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for the purpose of [expiating] sin, [God] rendered summary judgment on [all] sin in [Christ's] flesh, (4) so that the [perfect] righteousness which the Law demands might be fulfilled in us – we who walk not according to the [sinful] flesh, but according to the Spirit (i.e., believers).
The "fulfillment of righteousness in us" who are believers, therefore, is not experiential but positional. This is another way to express our status as having been "justified by faith" (Rom.3:28; 5:1; Gal.2:16; 3:24).
However, the distinction between the believer's status through our position in Christ and our experiential position in terms of where we are in our Christian walk is an opposition we do see here, as well as in many other places in scripture. The former acts as a perfect standard with which the latter, clearly, ought to comport, and writers of scripture often combine or juxtapose the two in order to motivate us to close that gap (as Paul is doing here). We are sanctified (Acts 20:32; 1Cor.6:11); but we should pursue sanctification (Heb.12:14). We are saved (Rom.8:24; 1Cor.15:2; Eph.2:5; 2:8); but we anticipate salvation (1Pet.1:5; 1:9; 2:2). Similarly here, we are justified by faith, and that ought to motivate us to live in a completely righteous way – and if we walk by the Spirit what we do will in no way conflict with the spirit of the Law.
In this Paul is really not saying anything different from what he has already said, namely, that there is no "defensive" way to keep the Law – that is impossible. The only way to do what the spirit of the Law would have us do is offensively, that is, walking in love through the power of the Holy Spirit:
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Romans 13:9-10 NKJV
When we are truly walking in the Spirit, we are walking in love, walking in justice, and we are fulfilling what the Law really required in the first place – that is for all those who have first been justified by faith in Christ. For all others, the Law is a reminder that they fall short – and that Jesus Christ is the only solution to the problem of sin and death.
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Could you please clarify Revelation 22:11:
Let the unrighteous continue to act unrighteously, and let him who is filthy continue in his filthiness, and let the righteous continue to produce righteousness, and let him who is sanctified continue in his sanctification".
With regard to the part of the verse that says 'Let the unrighteous continue to act unrighteously, and let him who is filthy continue in his filthiness', I assume it refers to these, who have already made the choice to reject Christ? Please clarify.
Yes. The time is short so that all should confirm themselves in their present status. Of course, the last thing any unbeliever should do is to abide in unbelief, but scripture puts things in this absolute way to show that the degree of division which is prophesied to take place (and indeed is already trending toward taking place) between the two "sides". All believers are sanctified "positionally" by being "in" Jesus Christ. There is of course also a second phase (which we should be pursuing, ever perfecting our walk with the Lord) and an ultimate third phase: in resurrection, we shall all be perfectly holy in every way, regardless of our present failures.
John 17:19: For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.
What does our Lord mean by 'For their sakes I sanctify myself?' Is the sanctification to do with the cross?
Yes. Our Lord is sinless, so His sanctification is rather the ceremonial preparation of the sacrifice: our Lord was readying Himself mentally and spiritually for the most difficult thing anyone has ever done by untold orders of magnitude in dying for the sins of the world.
I read on your site that Christians are still sinners but have seen on other places that sinners are people who practice sin, that we are saints not sinners. So just what does the word "sinner" mean? People in unbelief or people who sin?
There is a technical difference between being "a person who sins [continually]" and committing a sin (seen frequently in, e.g., 1st John). This distinction is usually visible in the Greek but not necessarily in English translations (depending on the version and the passage). Everyone makes mistakes (Christians included), but being a sinner "by occupation" is an indication that a person has renounced Christ and returned to the world, having abandoned all faith:
(9) Don't you know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor practitioners of homosexuality (10) nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And this is [exactly] what some of you were – but you were washed [clean], but you were made holy, but you were made righteous by [faith in] the Person (lit., Name) of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God.
1st Corinthians 6:9-11
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies – and whatever is similar to all these things. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.
The reason why "occupational sin" is antithetical to salvation is because it is antithetical to true faith. If a believer refuses to give up a pattern of gross sinning, eventually that will wear down his/her conscience and erode his/her faith – and when faith has evaporated completely, the person is no longer a believer. All believers are saved (even if only by the "skin of their teeth"); but unbelievers are all lost (even if they once believed).
He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 3:18 NKJV
Please see the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death".
James 2:24: You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
I cannot understand why James says 'and not by faith alone'. The reason I cannot understand it is that genuine faith results in the works in any case, hence one could say that we are saved by 'faith alone', as this would imply and already contain works. Please correct my understanding and clarify.
This has bothered a lot of people, Martin Luther most notably. In my view, the answer lies in what James means by "justified", and that is elucidated by considering the examples he gives here in the context. Since Abraham's sacrifice "justified" his faith, and since Rahab's act of mercy "justified" her faith, we have to conclude, it seems to me, that James means "proved his/her faith valid". That is, after all, what legitimate Christian "works" do. For those who truly are believers, their acts of mercy, obedience, courage, self-sacrifice, and service demonstrate the reality of the faith within them. On the other hand, a "Christian" who is completely devoid of any such indication of the faith that person claims to have would have to be, at the very least, a marginal Christian – so that James, in his capacity of shepherd is certainly "justified" in trying to "spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (Heb.10:24 NIV) as Paul says. This verse is only a problem if we see the use of the word "justified" through the theological prism of the doctrine of justification at salvation – but James is clearly not talking about salvation (our positional status; cf. positional sanctification); rather he is addressing believers and their walk with Christ after salvation (our experiential status; cf. experiential sanctification). Just as we are "saved" but still throughout the epistles all of the apostles encourage us to strive for salvation, so we are justified at the new birth, but still ought to strive to "justify" ourselves as believers by living a life worth of Jesus Christ. As Paul also says, this is the power of the gospel (which is the whole realm of Christian doctrine), "from faith to faith" (Rom.1:17). As is often the case, we need to distinguish between the three phases of the Christian experience: 1) entry / being born again; 2) experience / living for Christ in this world; 3) eternity / eternal life based on #1 and rewards based on #2.
Regarding James 2:24 you wrote: This has bothered a lot of people, Martin Luther most notably. In my view, the answer lies in what James means by "justified", and that is elucidated by considering the examples he gives here in the context. Since Abraham's sacrifice "justified" his faith, and since Rahab's act of mercy "justified" her faith, we have to conclude, it seems to me, that James means "proved his/her faith valid". (...) As is often the case, we need to distinguish between the three phases of the Christian experience: 1) entry / being born again; 2) experience / living for Christ in this world; 3) eternity / eternal life based on #1 and rewards based on #2.
But doesn't verse 14 'stand in the way' of this interpretation?
What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?
Doesn't James have here in mind the point of salvation, the point number 1, of entry/being born again?
It seems to me that James' hypothetical person is a believer (after all he is writing to such persons), and someone who has been one for at least long enough to have become comfortable with making this pronouncement (an improper point of view which James is trying to correct – something which would only make sense of/for believers). I think James has in mind someone who is a very poor or marginal believer who is not interested in doing anything in the Christian life and responds to all helpful correction with the rejoinder, "but I have faith". James' point is that all believers who are following Christ correctly are doing the things that Christ wants them to do. If it were possible to have faith and yet have absolutely nothing to show for it, then it wouldn't really even be faith. That is James' point. True faith always motivates Christians to do at least something in terms of spiritual growth, progress and production, whatever that something is, so that at Christ's judgment seat even the lowest of the low in the order of reward will have at least something to show for the faith they put in Jesus Christ, even if only a cup of cold water offered in the Lord's Name, even if only one short instance of trusting Him, even if only having persevered to the end in maintaining faith through pressures to fall away. If we want to be literal about it, James does not fault Christians who actually have true faith. He faults someone who "says he has faith", but actually does not. And the proof of the "pudding", as we say, is whether or not the faith the person claims to have is measurable in any reasonable way. God, of course, knows, and can see what is in our hearts even if others cannot. So it is not a matter of showing off our faith; rather it is a matter of making a point of really responding to God with that faith so as to earn a good reward. James is trying to stir up his listeners to be more than just "forgetful hearers" of the Word of God, but to actually seek out the truth and respond to it appropriately, and the examples he uses are of exceptional believers trusting God in exceptional ways – which harkens back to the beginning of the letter:
(2) Brothers, when you are being beset with all manner of trials, take pains to be joyful. (3) For you should keep in mind that this testing of your faith develops perseverance. (4) So let your perseverance develop fully, that you may become fully mature and entitled to a full reward, having been found lacking in no respect.
How can the Lake of Fire be an eternal separation from God. I believe God's Word and it does say separation but I just want more of an explanation on how an eternal God who is Eternity itself can be separated from an eternal creation "Lake of Fire". That means he is separated from Himself, which is an impossibility. If the Eternal God is separated from the "Lake of Fire", that means He doesn't know what is going on in the Lake of Fire. Can you help me reconcile this?
While it is a fair question, I suppose, it is easy to "over-think" these sorts of issues which deal with the eternity of God. God existed before He created the heavens and the earth. Time and space are necessary for creatures, but not for God. For that reason we have no clear idea of what the eternity aspect of His divine essence really is like. So while it might be tempting to ask "where did God come from?", for example, we know that He always existed and never had a beginning; we know and believe that, even if we don't really understand it as well as we should like. The same sorts of issues pop up when it comes to His immensity and omnipresence. God cannot fail to be everywhere since the universe, a very small thing as compared to Him, only exists "inside" (for lack of a better word) of Him, that is, His essence. On the other hand, God does separate Himself functionally from sin and evil (and by extension from the place where these things and those who embrace them will ultimately be placed). The reason for the Father's self-sequestration in the third heaven today is precisely for this guarding of His holiness – and yet He is omnipresent. These things appear to finite human minds to be contradictory (I get lots of questions about this; see the link: "Angelic Issues IV"), but we know from scripture that they are both true, and we need to accept them both . . . in faith (as opposed to allowing our perception of supposed "logical difficulties" throw us off our spiritual stride). God is bigger, and smarter, and more powerful, and more able to do all He has promised than we have the slightest idea; our part is to trust Him that this is so and accept what He tells us about such things even if we don't see how certain things could coexist, for example – recognizing that what seems to us like a metaphysical incongruity is child's play to God.
Thank you for your quick response. I will read it further in depth but I just finished reading this section of CT6 and I believe this might clarify the question if separation from God.
You wrote "So while the earthly sea will be no more, it is likely that the heavenly sea will come to earth along with the New Jerusalem, with phrasing "go forth", indicating that the viewing port will be somewhere outside the city".
So basically, the current heavenly sea will descend and that will cause a separation from the Eternal God. The only reason why we are currently not experiencing separation is because His Spirit is in the world.
This will not let me lose faith and I won't ponder about the mysteries of God but I believe His Spirit led me to your exposition tonight and it seems satisfactory.
It's a good observation: just as the earthly sea is (in terms of heavenly "geography"; see the link) divides the world above from the world below, so the heavenly sea is also a (functional) divider which guards the Lord's holiness (though He cannot "not" be omnipresent), and in the eternal state that divider will stand between the New Heavens and the New Earth on the one hand and the lake of fire on the other. God will not be unaware of anything in His creation; indeed, we also will be able to view the lake of fire (see the link for discussion):
"And they will go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who rebelled against Me, for their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched and they will be abhorrent to all flesh".
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Dear Bob, I keep reading your series and have another question.
In the satanic rebellion, part 1, when speaking about Satan before his fall regarding 'he who covers' you say "Satan's original position can thus be described as that of the ultimate imperial guard, charged with warding off all that is profane from the exquisite holiness of God..."
My question is: this is before Satan's rebellion and fall, so I think we are talking about this first Eden, created in perfection. How could there be anything profane?
I hope and pray you are good.
Good to hear from you. As to your question, you are absolutely correct that the position was symbolic and ceremonial and, originally, unnecessary. But of course it did turn out to be necessary, perhaps somewhat ironically, because the devil did rebel and did profane that first Eden – the very one charged with preventing such a thing from happening.
Here are a couple of other links where issues related to this question is discussed:
Satan as the covering cherub
Satan's Access into the Presence of God
Satan Appearing before God
Thanks for your prayers!
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
I have found your web page and enjoyed it very much. You have given me many thing to re-think. I haven’t been able to read all the material, so maybe you have covered this somewhere.
2 Thessalonians 2:7
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.
My question is "Who is the He who now restrains"?
Good to make your acquaintance. This passage is speaking about the Holy Spirit, and the details of the interpretation may be found at the following links:
The Restraining Ministry of the Holy Spirit (in SR2)
The Restraining Ministry of the Holy Spirit (in CT 2B)
The Holy Spirit: Blasphemy against, Restraining Ministry, and Gender
The Restrainer is the Holy Spirit
Thanks much for your interest in Ichthys as well as your good words – do feel free to write me back about any of this.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Got an interesting question, today. Who is the Restrainer, the Holy Spirit or Michael? I have always thought 'he that letteth will let' was the Holy Spirit being withdrawn from the earth, am I wrong? Please share with me your thoughts? OR assuming Michael, the archangel, is the protector (he that letteth will let) of Israel on earth. Is it possible to consider, Michael, the protector of Israel, leaves the earth for The War in heaven at this time ( beginning the 7 yr Tribulation on earth), then the dragon and his angels are cast out of heaven down to the earth, now more evil is seen/done than ever was on earth. Woe unto the inhabitants of the earth, for the devil has come down.
This is an issue written up at Ichthys in some great detail, and I will give you the links below. Bottom line, you are correct: the Restrainer is indeed the Holy Spirit, definitely not Michael.
Here are those links:
The Removal of the Restrainer
The Restraining Ministries of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit: Blasphemy against, Restraining Ministry, and Gender
Michael the Archangel
Michael in Jude
Yours in our dear Lord Jesus.
Hi Dr. Luginbill,
I'm sure you address this already in detail somewhere, so please pardon me for asking. Nevertheless, why do you believe the Holy Spirit is the restrainer as opposed to possibly Michael the archangel or anyone else? I know the pretribbers teach that the Holy Spirit must be the restrainer because Jesus promised to always be with us – even to the end. So, they say, when we are raptured away, the Antichrist will then be allowed to move into place. Sounds good in theory. But you and I see the Scriptures for what they say – and I can't find anywhere that claims the Holy Spirit is the restrainer. Of course, Paul only mentions that "we know" who the restrainer is. But he never actually tells us. Some have suggested Michael is the restrainer because Daniel does mention that "At that time Michael, the great prince who watches over your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress unlike any other from the nation's beginning up to that time. But at that time your own people, all those whose names are found written in the book, will escape" (Daniel 12:1 NET). So, to me, this seems to fit the bill of who the restrainer is. What do you think? I'd be interested on your view.
Thank you and God bless,
Hello again – good to hear back from you.
I do have this written up in considerable detail in a number of places, so I will give the basics here and link to the places at Ichthys where this is covered further (and please do write back if you have additional questions):
1) 2nd Thessalonians 2:6-7 on its own can only be interpreted in this way – in my opinion. First, the Restrainer holds back antichrist from appearing in verse six, but also holds back the entire trend of lawlessness in verse seven. That means that the Restrainer is capable of keeping the entire course of the Tribulation from commencing by restraining human behavior worldwide in what can only be a mighty and supernatural way. While that is a rather tall order for an angel, however powerful, the Spirit has many worldwide ministries which of course He is easily able to perform, being God. Second, the Restrainer is described in verse six with the neuter gender, but in verse seven with the masculine gender. Angels are never referred to in the neuter (even the word angelos is masculine), but the Spirit is often referred to in the neuter, because the Greek word for spirit, pneuma, is a neuter noun. As a Person of the Trinity, however, the Spirit is of course masculine in proper gender terms. All this means that mixing genders, a very unusual thing in Greek, only "works" here because the Spirit is a "what" in terms of the Greek grammar and the word used to describe Him, but a "who" in terms of His actual Personhood. I have never seen this argument reasonably "defused" by those who take some alternative view.
2) The Spirit is the Restrainer elsewhere at other times in scripture; His role in history is that of providing sanctification and separation, and that means keeping evil from dominating so as to provide a measure of freedom of action for all who would choose for God. For example, He is the one who prevents the cosmos from being further used and abused by Satan and his minions following God's "blacking out" of the universe in the wake of the Satanic rebellion (Gen.1:2; other instances of the Spirit in His role as Restrainer can be found in the links below).
3) Michael does have a special role in the protection of Israel, and also in the ejection of the devil and his followers from heaven (Rev.12:7-12); having thrown Satan and company down, Michael is empowered to protect the believers in Israel in their escape to the desert at the Tribulation's midpoint. That is what "arise" means in Daniel 12:1; more literally, the verse says "Michael . . . will take his stand, he who stands over the sons of your people (i.e., in protection)". The Hebrew verb 'amadh is the same one behind both "stand" and "stands" here, and often has this meaning of sheltering (but not of withdrawing). So while in an English translation Daniel 12:1 may sound similar to 2nd Thessalonians 2:6-7, in the original languages the verses mean precisely the opposite of each other, with the Hebrew indicating an active intervention on behalf of Israel, and the Greek indicating an active disengagement from the entire world.
4) I know this idea that the Spirit is restraining through indwelling believers is a favorite "pre-Trib" argument, but that has always confused me (and did even when I was "pre-Trib" many years ago). The Spirit was most definitely "in the world" and active in the plan of God before the day of Pentecost in 33 A.D., even though He was not universally indwelling believers (and there were, additionally, many fewer believers, both in absolute and relative terms). Anyone who has read a history book knows that the world has always been a destructive, manipulative, and evil-infested place. The universal indwelling at Pentecost did not change that, therefore neither would any removal of universal indwelling be able to explain the unprecedented evil of the Tribulation.
Here are some links to places where these questions are discussed elsewhere:
The Restrainer (in SR 2)
The Restraining Ministry of the Holy Spirit (in CT 2B)
Holy Spirit Restraint and 2nd Thessalonians
Exegesis of the Restrainer in 2nd Thessalonians (note: long lead in question here may be skipped)
Michael (in CT 4)
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
I am interested to know more about Christian Religion. Please provide evidences from the Holy Bible.
Which is the true religion?
Who is God?
What is the true name of God(s)?
Why we cannot see God?
Which is the correct religion to go heaven?
Does God have any partner?
Does God have a wife and children?
Does God eat, sleep and die?
Who created us?
Which God control the universe?
Who was the first prophet?
Who was the last prophet?
Did God send all his prophets USA or Europe or Australia?
How many prophets did God send to mankind?
Who made some people beggar and some people rich?
Which Angel(s) spoke to Maryam and Jesus?
Is Jesus the Son of God?
Is Jesus a prophet?
Is Jesus messenger of God?
Was Jesus a Christian?
Did Jesus bring Christian religion?
Did God instruct Jesus to build Church?
How Bible was sent to earth?
Are there any mistakes in Bible?
Is Holy Bible for Christian?
Is the current Holy Bible word of God?
Why there are some many versions?
Is Holy Bible for the mankind?
Which is the correct version?
Was Bible written after the death of Jesus ?
What will be the tasks of Jesus after his second arrival to earth?
How is the appearance of Jesus?
Did Jesus marry?
Where is Jesus now?
Where is the grave of Jesus?
Whom we should worship?
How to worship God?
Are we allowed to wear Cross?
What are the benefits of wearing Cross?
Will God help me go to heaven if I wear the Cross?
When God will meet us?
What is Heaven?
How many Heavens are there?
Where is Heaven?
Anybody guarding the Heaven?
Who is there in Heaven?
How to go to Heaven?
What is Hell?
How many Hells are there?
Where is Hell?
Who is there in Hell?
What will happen after death?
Is there any punishment in grave?
Can a female wear man dress?
What are the prohibited activities?
What are the forbidden foods?
Are we allowed to drink Alcohol?
Are we allowed to eat pork?
Are we allowed to perform adultery?
Are we allowed to gamble?
Are we allowed to watch pornography?
Are we allowed to accept interest from investment?
Did Abrahim and his son build the first mosque on earth?
Did Holy Bible says follow the instruction of Muhammad (PBUH)?
I would highly appreciate if you could answers the questions.
Christianity – true Christianity (as opposed to denominations, buildings, and organizations, many of which are populated by unbelievers) – is not a religion but a supernatural, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. All who put their faith in Him, the God-man who died a spiritual death in Calvary's darkness to atone for the sins of the world, are born again, becoming spiritually alive. All who have not put their trust in Him for life eternal are spiritually dead.
God desires that you live! But the choice is one you must make. Jesus is God; He made the universe. And He came into the world, taking on true humanity since that was the only way that we might be saved – and He atoned for all of our sins. Here is the testimony of scripture:
(17) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (18) Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:17-18 NIV
Your sixty-five questions all have only one true answer: Jesus Christ.
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved."
Open your heart to the Lord Jesus, accept Him and His work for you in faith, and you will be born again! Please see the link: "Salvation: God's Free Gift."
In the One who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, our dear Savior Jesus Christ,