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Sin, Faith and Suffering

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Question #1:

Hi Bob,

Our friend got the books I mailed to him.

[details omitted]

Response #1:

You're a good man to help out another believer you've never met like this. Thank you!

As you know, our Lord died for every one of our sins, the ones we feel ashamed of and the ones we barely notice. Guilt / shame is part of the legacy of the conscience given with eating from the tree of knowing [the difference between] good and evil (link). As long as revulsion to spiritual failure reinforces good behavior and helps ward off bad behavior, it is a blessing from the Spirit – but confess and let it go, because backward-looking inordinate guilt for things forgiven is not of God (link).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:

I conquered sin today.

Response #2:

It's a day by day, moment by moment struggle, but Christians who are truly growing closer to the Lord get better at this as time goes by – or certainly should – even though we never get to the point of absolute perfection this side of heaven.

Yours in the One who died for all of our sins, Jesus Christ our Savior.

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hi Dr,

I hope all is well with you and your family. I am just writing to see if you would look at this piece on living a sanctified life.

In Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior

Response #3:

It's really excellent work, my friend. Good for you!

I only have one comment. While everything you say is true, there are a couple of places where you give the impression that if a Christian is not doing as he/she should do, then they are lost and not saved. That is of course not the case – but may become the case if they persevere in their bad behavior, because sin undermines faith and disregard for the Lord undermines our respect for Him which is also fatal to faith in the long run – and it is believers who are saved, not unbelievers.

I tell you this to head off over-reaction from listeners. It is always dangerous to lean too heavily on one side of a true scriptural principle when there is another side as well. The false OSAS position is a result of just that sort of imbalance, being codified later into an out and out false doctrine. The opposite of that is what I call"pins and needles salvation" where a believer is given the idea that one false move results in damnation. I know that many pastors steer very close to the wind on this one because they wish to scare off their parishioners from bad behavior and turn the erring ones around. But in my experience and observation going over the line on this one seldom turns around the ones who need turning around but it often does throw those who are mildly erring or somewhat lukewarm into paroxysms of fear over having "lost my salvation!" when that simply isn't true.

Trust me, I have spent hours and hours over the years trying to "talk down" those who have been given this impression. So when you say, for example, that believers who are not obedient are "children of wrath" I would have to say that only unbelievers fall into that category. We want our charges to do well spiritually and scripture is very clear about the dangers of dabbling in sin, but there is a difference between erring and losing faith. The one may lead to the other – or it may not, and it usually does not do so overnight after committing one sin, e.g. In fact, as you have read, most who end up apostates do so from having become disappointed with God for some reason or other (loss of a loved one being a very common reason) rather than from getting involved in gross sinning and failing to recover. More often than not, those types die the sin unto death instead, that is, they refuse to give up either their sin or their faith, and the Lord takes them home in a very painful way . . . but they are saved, at least.

Anyway, this certainly represents a lot of good, hard work on your part, my friend, and I encourage you to keep on ministering the Word – the end of that is a great reward.

Keeping you and your deliverance in my prayers daily, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Thanks Dr for reviewing and I do agree with you there is a fine line that not only becomes pins and needles but also works. What I am trying to impart really from this study that habitual life of sin doesn't categorize a believer. I started it off by stating the only way to be saved is RO 10:9, and that is it. But the second part of RO 10:9 is critical, believe. If you believe something, you base your entire life on it. This is how we are supposed to look at the cross. I just want individuals to understand the necessity of an obedient life as a testimony of a sanctified life.

Here you see individuals 24/7 and they cannot hide their behavior as some who go to church once a week or so. Here, you see individuals reading their bible and immediately afterwards do sinful acts. This experience, the Holy Spirit is telling me, shows me the fallacy of saying you believe in Christ and live an opposite life. More than anything it makes me appreciate the level of obedience our Savior has to his calling and wants me to emulate it.

I have read many of the emails sent to you where individuals are tormented because they thought they lost their salvation because they were in the wilderness for a period of years and I agree that focusing on past bad actions is harmful. You are 100% correct. We have repentance through the Cross for that. I am speaking more of someone who is currently walking in a life of disobedience without repentance. Once true "biblically repentance" is applied, then the relationship in the family of God is restored and all things in the past has been forgotten and made anew.

Amen for the Cross.

In Christ Jesus our Lord

Response #4:

Well put, my friend. Here is something written by a good friend of ours, Odii Ariwodo, which puts the issue of action following faith "hand in glove" very nicely (at the link: "Foundational Principles II: Faith towards God").

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Well that's true thank you. I want to ask if addiction is sin? For example playing video games or smoking?

Response #5:

There are many behaviors such as the ones you ask about which are not necessarily sinful in and of themselves, even if they are somewhat, relatively, or really bad for us. However, the mental attitudes involved in engaging in them, the other behaviors they produce, and the choices they represent can certainly all be sinful. For example, there is nothing inherently sinful in playing a game of "pong" for ten minutes – unless it causes you to get back to work late, causes you to become a pong addict, contributes to you spending so much time on it that you lose your job and your family gets thrown out onto the street, etc. We are responsible for all of our choices. Writing rules and regulations about such things is no good because a) many things will be missed, and b) it will restrict believers who are not tempted to over-do it from doing things that are not sinful – that is creating a "law" which is not the actual "Law" without God's authority.

More important is the principle that sin in general and an obsessive pattern of sinning in particular is a hindrance to the believer which vitiates spiritual growth. Such "lack of restraint", (cf. Ex.32:25), whether impulsive (as with David) or chronic (as with Solomon) can trip up even great believers (e.g., David, Solomon), and can, if not nipped in the bud, produce spiritual regression, so as to risk making worthless/pointless what we've worked so hard for. Don't lose your crown! (Rev.3:11; cf. 1Pet.4:1-6).

In Jesus our dear Lord in whom we have freedom . . . meant to be used to serve Him.

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hello Mr. Luginbill.

So I was reading one of your links "Culture and Christianity XVI" and was reading one of your responses. In response #16 you said- "The rocky soil plant shriveled and died and actually didn't produce a single thing, since it didn't even survive the season."

Is Ezekiel 18:24 describing apostate believers? Would they fall in the rocky soil category then? I assume that when it says "their righteous acts will not be remembered" it means to say that in the end all they accomplished will have counted for nothing and thus they produced nothing while on this earth? So from what I can tell it agrees with your statement?

Response #6:

Good to hear from you.

"But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die."
Ezekiel 18:24 NKJV

As with many verses in scripture where this topic is discussed, the biblical phrasing "fits" regardless of how we are applying it. If we are applying it to someone who has rejected Jesus Christ and is now an apostate, that is, a person who no longer believes in the Lord and by their own choice is no longer saved, then indeed there will be no reward for good works because that judgment belongs to believers only: unbelievers have their own judgment at the Great White Throne where it will be demonstrated that they are the ones who made the firm choice to reject God and His solution to sin, the Gift of Christ, and that whatever supposed "good" they have done is not acceptable in God's eyes.

If we are applying this verse to a believer who has turned down a road of spiritual degeneration – yet without being willing to give up his/her faith – then the end result will not be apostasy and death without eternal life but the punitive "sin unto death" which befalls believers who force the Lord through their scandalously bad witness to take them out of this life before their time. In such cases too "he shall die", but the former case is the second death while in this latter case we have the "sin unto death" whereby the Lord acts as He does "so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord" (1Cor.5:5).

There is much more about this at the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death" in BB 3B.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hello Professor,

A friend asked me the same question I asked you years ago - about confession and John 20:23, a verse often used by the Roman Church to defend their unbiblical ritual of confession to a priest and one that was also quoted by a priest he spoke to.

I wanted to ask your view on the points that I wanted to include in my explanation of this passage.

Only God forgives sins, so our Lord couldn't have meant that the apostles were imparted the literal power to forgive sins and their power was declaratory. This declaratory power was through proclamation of the gospel which could be accepted or rejected and this would result in sins being forgiven or retained.

I'm not sure what the correct reading of the text is. If the UBS5 reading is correct, then it could be a further argument for the apostles' power being only declaratory, for then Jesus says "If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven", rather than "their sins are forgiven" or "will be forgiven" meaning that they have already been forgiven when the declaration was being made. So it was not for them to forgive, but this was something that only God could do. This could be taken to refer to the payment for all the sins on the cross already being completed and then, when someone accepted the gospel, for this payment being appropriated. However, the reading in the original hand in Sinaiticus is future indicative passive, so this argument wouldn't stand. There is no confession mentioned in the verse or in the context.

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #7:

On your question, the first thing to say is that your theological analysis of this is right on point.

The second thing to notice, is that while Sinaiticus does have future passive, the text has been corrected to the perfect. Whichever reading we adopt, your analysis is correct: forgiveness is based upon what Christ has done on the cross, not upon what the apostles (or anyone else) might do or so (most especially Roman Catholic priests). The ultimate mechanism for our participation in the forgiveness of the sins of anyone else is giving them the gospel so that they might obtain said forgiveness – there is no forgiveness for unbelievers.

Forgiveness or lack thereof is a matter of personal response to the Lord and His truth, and specifically here to the truth of His resurrection which has just taken place. The disciples are not to expect the kingdom and neither are they to overly fret themselves (especially in the meantime before the Spirit is given) over the hardhearted lack of response by the majority of their countrymen which reached such a pitch that they actually called for the Messiah's crucifixion. The sins of all those who seek forgiveness are forgiven but for those who do not desire forgiveness their sins are retained. This is directly parallel to John 9:41 and only tautological if that and many other statements involving parallelism made by our Lord and recorded by John are so.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hello Professor,

I wanted to ask you a question on an important subject that has been in my thoughts for a while now. If someone does not put their faith in Christ, they are condemned because they didn't accept the redemption for their sin. But technically is it because God will judge them for their sin which is not redeemed since they didn't accept the redemption for it, or is their sin also technically redeemed since Christ paid for all sin and so condemnation should be explained differently?

In our Lord,

Response #8:

As to your question, Christ died for all sins. All sins have been expiated, that is, the price has been paid for every sin. When it comes to individual SINNERS, however, we all have to be redeemed one by one (link). The price has been paid, but we have to be willing to accept our redemption which is of course based upon Christ's death for our sins. So when you say "If someone does not put their faith in Christ, they are condemned because they didn't accept the redemption for their sin", that is absolutely correct. The "problem" is that sins are paid for (expiated), that is to say, the justice of God is propitiated in regard to all sin since the blood of Christ suffices to take them out of the way – since He died for them all (see the link). So while all sins have paid for and, for believers, forgiven, it is people who are redeemed, believers, that is. And the Bible never even hints at unbelievers being redeemed, quite the opposite. So at the last judgment sins will not be an issue for unbelievers; rather their choice against God and rejection of His solution to their problem of sin and death – refusing to accept the redemption He made available – will be made clear, and also the fact that their "good deeds" are not sufficient for anything, certainly not for removal of a single sin. Christ died for their sins, but they do not get the benefit of the forgiveness and redemption because they rejected it.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hello Professor,

Thank you for your response. This was exactly what I have been wondering about - how should the reason for the condemnation of unbelievers be stated if all sin has been paid for. I understand from what you wrote that the we can explain the reason as twofold - rejection of God's solution to their problem of sin and inadequacy of their own works. Thank you also for the link to the section on propitiation - it was helpful and I will in fact read the adjacent sections as well. I'm looking forward to going through the Basics series (not far away from completing Peter's series again which has been my off-time, enjoyment reading recently).

A small reason for joy as today I started reading in Aramaic. I have worked through the textbook a few times now and began reading the annotated text at the end. You were right that this text itself was a good reason to get this particular textbook, as the notes link it back to the relevant chapters in the grammar and aid the comprehension. It also means I will be able to slightly reduce the time I commit to Aramaic daily now that grammar is in place.

Professor - on chapter three of this tiresome, I have read and re-read the text several times, but, as always, your feedback will be greatly appreciated.

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #9:

Well done you on the Aramaic!

On your file, very nice job, my friend! And extremely well written and carefully edited too. A few minor suggestions:

When you say, "Although it is true that a child below the age of reason cannot sin" – here I have to disagree. Sinning and being accountable before God for accepting Christ are two different things. As I often remark, anyone who's ever been around a two year old knows that sin starts at a very early age, way before accountability for salvation. And we are all always "accountable" for our sins because we are the ones who commit them with our sin natures, whether or not we are acting in ignorance or cognizance and to whatever degree.

So when you say, "If someone doesn’t possess a sin nature and doesn’t commit a personal sin throughout their life, including the period when they are a spiritually mature person capable of making free will decisions – then this person doesn’t need redemption or a Redeemer" – in my opinion this is a "null set" in practical terms; no one who has ever made a free will decision – such as crying as an infant – has ever "not sinned". In theoretical theological terms we would be talking about that small number of individuals who are born and die immediately before being able to have even a single emotion. If such a category even does exist, then it is only important to theologians, because Christ died for all sin, therefore salvation is available to all, and in His perfect justice, such individuals are automatically saved just as a naughty two year old would be, so there is no problem (except perhaps in hyper-theoretical theology).

Well done, my friend! This is really good stuff – and I dearly hope that it has a positive impact in rescuing so many of your friends and family for whom you have sweated over this labor of love.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hello Professor,

Am I correct to understand that:

a) We are accountable for all sins we commit, including the ones we commit as infants. These sins also are our free will choices.

b) While we are accountable for the sins we commit before we are spiritually mature enough to accept or reject God's salvation in Christ, these sins will not lead to us to being condemned if we were to die at that age of spiritual immaturity. This is because 1) these sins have been committed before one could accept or reject Christ, 2) these sins have also been paid for by Christ.

So this means there is an age when a human being has already started to sin (whatever age that would be), but is not yet able to respond to Christ and so these sins - although committed consciously - do not contribute to one being condemned.

I have so far failed to distinguish between the two.

Understood about the "null set". I'm just referring to what the Catholic Church is erroneously teaching. The latter point you make I will elaborate on based on what we discussed above.

You wrote: "but committing a personal sin, which is done by every human being who has matured to the point of being able to make free will decisions."

The correct sequence, as I understand it, goes:

1) We are born with a sin nature.

2) We begin to sin before we can accept or reject Christ.

3) We reach an age of accountability for accepting or rejecting Christ - and this is when one could say we are "in the pit".

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #10:

In regard to "these sins will not lead to us to being condemned if we were to die at that age of spiritual immaturity", since Christ has paid for all sins, sins have nothing to do with condemnation per se; people are condemned for the unpardonable sin of rejecting (or refusing to accept) God the Father's great Gift. That is why at the last judgment unbelievers are judged "according to their works" to demonstrate that nothing they had done or thought to do which was "good" was anything but an offense to the righteousness of God and in no way sufficient for eternal life. Unbelievers had their names in the book of life – because of Christ's sacrifice – but their names have been blotted out – because they refused to accept that sacrifice. That is the issue, namely, no eternal life because of non-acceptance of the Gift. In other words, condemnation is the direct result of their choice vis-ΰ-vis Christ, not the result of sin. So for the salvation of infants et al., this is right and righteous for God to do because of the fact that such individuals did not have the opportunity to make the choice for Jesus Christ (nothing to do with sins).

“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ “Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Matthew 25:41-46 NKJV

Our Lord uses the fact that these individuals did no works bespeaking salvation (cf. Jas.2:14-26) as the proof of their unbelieving status – He does not reproach them for sin per se.

We get the sin nature genetically even before "we" come to exist as "we" when the spirit is given at birth. That sin nature – and the fact that we are no longer in Eden – means that we will sin and that we will die physically and that we will experience the second death – absent God's merciful Gift and our acceptance of Him.

Keep up the great work for Jesus Christ, my friend!

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Dear Teacher

Thank you. That is very reassuring.

Thank you also for the encouragement and exhortation and also the tidbit about wanting to become a plumber. LOL. It helps a lot.

The application I made for an entrepreneurship program has been answered. I didn't make it. Obviously, I wasn't surprised although I was still saddened some. I am hoping that the land sale works out. This is still a hard place to be although I have not been as troubled by it over the past couple of months or more as I used to be. I am confident that our Lord will work it all out for good. It is always my own end that troubles me. I am not sanctifying Him in my heart as I ought. But I am not giving up. I intend to keep fighting to bring my body under subjection so that I will honor Him while I still live in it.

I have one question. Could you explain to me exactly what Paul means by "led by the Spirit" as he says, for example, in Romans 8:13? My thinking is that it is synonymous with a conscious effort to follow the Word of God as our consciences are educated by it. But is there more?

An observation I made in Romans 4 is that the Faith of Abraham which pleased God was that he took God to be true. He treated God as faithful and reliable. I know that we ought to be concerned with our outward behavior but it seems to me that the very beginning is to settle every question and every issue in our hearts with respect to the faithfulness of God first and it will flow out to our behavior. God says that we should walk in the Spirit and we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. My impression of that is that if we make the choice to occupy our minds with the Word of God, that is all we need to do to combat the desire to sin against God because then the desires that the Word of God stir up within us will oppose every fleshly desire that rises within us. If I believe what the Lord says regarding this, then I will bend all my energy toward filling my thoughts with the Word of God and leaving room for nothing else. I will take for granted that God is true when He says that if I walk in the Spirit, the flesh will not rule over me. So, the issue will not be about willing myself to do or not do this or that but to orient my thoughts to stay focused on the Word of God.

Incidentally, I find that the focus of every attack by the evil one is either to take up one's time with activity so that they fail to spend time studying the Bible and learning from a teacher or occupying them with some temptation whose allure makes them want to ignore the Bible "for just a little while" and then they find that they are ashamed to go back to it after falling to the temptation and sinning against God. The issue is always the Word of God: staying with it or straying from it. That seems to me to be the lesson from Abraham: sticking with what God says no matter what even physical evidence such as the proven state of one's own body may be.

Yours in our priceless Lord Jesus Christ

Response #11:

You're most welcome, my friend.

I'm sorry to hear that you didn't get that position. But on the other hand, the Lord knows what He is doing and we can be absolutely sure that there are good reasons why this didn't happen, reasons that have nothing to do with any deficiency on your part (so don't feel bad about this) and everything to do with the plans He has for you (so you are right to feel good about the Lord looking out for you). When it comes to making decisions about things wherein we have imperfect information, i.e., when one door looks as if it is leading to a good result in an honorable and godly way, it is a great blessing when the Lord shuts that door before we can go through it – if it turns out that we were wrong in our assessment, especially if that false assessment involved things we couldn't reasonably be expected to know. What I do know is that He does have plans for you, and that He will most certainly provide for you absolutely everything you need to get to the point He wants you to get to serving His Church. Your final paragraph seems to me to apply here. If the position had come to you but the result was that from there on your life would be absolutely consumed by it in your reasonable and godly effort to do a good job, that would essentially take you out of the mix in terms of spiritual growth – how much more so the time-consuming job of preparing for ministry. The Lord knows you have to balance these things and that it is not easy; my assessment is that He has saved you from a situation where the balance would have been impossible.

On Romans 8:13 and the question you raise in that regard, I would certainly agree that accepting just who the Lord is, His character and His essence, His absolute faithfulness, is a critical part of basic spiritual growth. But it is not the only part. Genesis 15:6 tells us that Abraham "trusted" the Lord, and that this trust is what He reckoned as righteousness. It is all very well to hear the gospel and have the Spirit make clear to us the truth of it, but unless that truth is accepted, the truth about the person and work of Jesus Christ, no good will come of it. Similarly, it is all very well to have an intellectual understanding of the character and essence of God, and even better to actually believe the truth of what the Bible teaches about Him, but unless this is mixed with faith in what we are called to do thereafter, in our application of these truths we have believed to our lives, there is not much profit:

For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them (the exodus generation); but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it (i.e., no follow-through of faith).
Hebrews 4:2 NKJV

This life is all about choice. Believers became believers by choosing to trust God and accept His promise of eternal life through putting their faith in Jesus Christ. After salvation, believers continue to face the issue of trusting God – or not – in all things great and small. And it is not just a matter of accepting information as true but also of acting on that information in a positive way – or not. When it comes to good things, we know (or soon will if we show the least bit of curiosity about what God wants us to do with our lives) that the way forward for Christ in this world involves growing spiritually through hearing and believing the truth, walking with Him and passing the tests that come through trusting Him, and eventually helping others do likewise in a consistent way through prosecution of the ministries He gives us. All of that takes effort, countless good decisions made every day to arrange our priorities and apply our energies in ways that are conducive to carrying out these mandates. Likewise, when it comes to negative things, keeping away from sin and living a sanctified life instead is also a matter of constant choice. For we are continually tempted in this world by its ubiquitous carnality and evil viewpoint, the evil one and his subordinates, and our own sinful flesh. Walking through this world in a sanctified way is thus a constant battle too – and all that much more difficult if we are not doing the positive things that we ought to be doing. But here too we are talking about choices. Reading our Bible – or not – is a choice. Committing the sin of slander is a choice – or refraining from doing so. No Christian will ever be perfect on the "offense" side of things: we can always do better in using our time and energy for Christ. No Christian will ever be perfect on the "defense" side of things either – although we will eventually get better at warding off, e.g., "the sin that easily besets us" personally as we grow in Christ (Heb.12:1). All this involves choices, and choices produce momentum; i.e., if we are in a positive pattern overall, positive decisions will be easier on a case by case basis; but if we are not, then doing the right thing in any individual situation will be that much harder.

It is terms of the above that I would wish to consider Romans 8:13. Paul tells us there that eternal life will be ours if we are consistent about "putting to death the works of the flesh", by which he clearly means crushing over time the patterns of sinfulness that had beset us as unbelievers (or as regressing believers before we came back to the Lord). Not doing so is dangerous: "you will die" – meaning either the sin unto death which eventually comes to believers who are living such a bad witness for Christ in outrageous and chronic sinfulness that the Lord takes them out of this world (the "sin unto death": cf. 1Cor.5:5), or the gradual hardening of our hearts which giving oneself over to a life of sin will bring about; and if this hardening becomes total, the person in question eventually abandons Christ altogether (see the link for both eventualities: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death").

In terms of your specific question, Paul adds on the positive side of the ledger that we are to do so – and indeed can only effectively do so – "by the Spirit". This means availing ourselves of the Spirit's guidance, help and power to "put sin to death". This does not meant that believers can ever be totally free of sin (that is why confession is such a blessed provision God has given us: 1Jn.1:9); it does mean that with the Spirit's help it is possible (and necessary) to get rapidly to a point of acceptable conduct in avoiding "presumptuous sin" (cf. Ps.19:13), and gradually to make improvements in our walk in all areas, being better witnesses for Christ as the days go by. How does the Spirit help us do so (for details see BB 5 at the link)? First, He helps us to grow through illuminating the truth we apply ourselves to in order to hear and learn it, and the truth is key to all spiritual victory and progress. Second, He gives us power that we would otherwise not have to resist things that we would otherwise not be able to resist. Third, He speaks to our consciences in a still, small voice, not shouting at us, not making our guilt flare up, but very subtly suggesting to us what is good and what is not, what is dangerous and what is to be avoided if we are prudent. All three of these have in common the fact that our will and our choice is not only not uninvolved in the process but to the contrary absolutely critical for success. The Spirit makes victory possible in the individual case and in the long-term trend. But the Spirit does not make the decisions for us. Choosing the right thing is often hard to do. Following through with a firm and determined will to do X and to refrain from Y is harder still. Getting to the point of being consistent about that when it comes to our areas of particular vulnerability is hardest of all – but it is possible with the Spirit . . . and it is essential that we do so.

This is essentially what James means when he says that "faith without works is dead" (Jas.2:14-26); he's not talking about charity (as the two examples he uses of Abraham and Rahab at the end of the chapter demonstrates very clearly); rather he's talking about the follow through of trust. If we really do trust the Lord, we will act in a certain way that reflects that trust in Him. But if we say we trust Him, if we don't act that way, even if we really do accept in our hearts the truth that He is absolutely faithful, absolutely worthy of all of our trust, then we have failed the test.

Confident that you will pass the test, regardless of some minor turbulence in the journey.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hi Bob,

I would like to discuss the concept of "levels of hell", "degrees of punishment", etc. I had a conversation a while back with one of my sisters about this, and forgot about it for some time until I remembered recently.

Here's a Q/A from this email posting about it:

Question #17: Do you agree with the conclusion that there will be different degrees of punishment in the lake of fire: But having said all this, we repeat that there will be degrees of punishment (Luke 12:47f.; Rom. 2:5f.; Rev. 20:12f.), according to God's justice.

Response #17: Luke 12:47 is speaking of believers (they have a "Master"). Romans 2:5 does not speak of degrees. And Revelation 20:12ff. merely demonstrates that all will receive an individual judgment. There is nothing in the Bible which suggests that the lake of fire will be better for some and worse for others. It will be terrible for all, and equally so. Thiessen is perhaps getting this from Dante (and R.C. medieval, superstitious teachings).

Many of the passages that might first appear to talk about degrees of punishment (for unbelievers) either clearly do not or are ambiguous upon further inspection. For example:

Mat. 16:27 is pretty clearly referencing the reward of the Church at Christ's second coming, so it is certainly best to translate ἀποδίδωμι there as "reward" rather than "repay" (which can be good or bad). 2 Co. 5:10 is also rather clearly talking about believers (not unbelievers). Prov. 24:12 comes in the context of exhorting believing Israel to save their brethren, so is not necessarily determinative in the case of unbelievers. Luke 12:47, as you noted, is talking about people with a master, which would make the people in question believers (if marginal ones), and apostates if they are actually assigned a place with the unbelievers.

However, most of the conversation I had focused on Romans 2:5ff. so, let's start there. Sandwiched between vv. 5 and 8, it seems to me like v.6 is difficult to interpret only in regard to v.7, i.e., only "repaying" believers for the good that they have done (relative rewards). Similarly, I see no reason a priori to take Rev 20:12ff. as referencing only the manner of judgment (as on a case by case basis). It certainly could mean that. But it seems just as possible that krino could be taken in a way that implies eternal distinctions (i.e., rather than making a binary distinction between saved and unsaved, the judgment according to works might proceed actually according to the character of what was done).

Now, I'm not saying that these passages actually do imply eternal distinctions in reward. I just don't think I understand fully enough how we can say dogmatically that they don't. Could you give me an overview of these two passages as they relate to this issue?

Now, a related topic. It has bothered me for some time to read passages in Psalms and Proverbs, e.g., that talk about the wicked falling into their own snares (Prov 28:10) and the children of the righteous never being reduced to the state of begging for bread (Psa. 37:25). Why? Because I can think of many examples in my own life experience that don't appear to fit this pattern. Righteous people having everything ripped from them (one thinks of the family you correspond with who have been out on the streets), and wicked people prospering in their wickedness. Some observations/questions:

Are these to be taken as general patterns rather than absolutes? E.g., how absolute is the Hebrew quantifier "never" in Psa. 37:25? It is hard to accept that some wicked people live a long, prosperous life through the spoils of their immorality (cheating the innocent, stealing from the powerless, etc.) -- seemingly despite the thrust of these passages -- only to end up in a judgment "no more bad" than the state of their not-quite-so-evil-but-still-unbelieving compatriots. (The "Hitler certainly must be punished more than my peace-loving-but-unbelieving neighbor" argument). How are we to think about this with respect to the discussion above?

That's a good start for these issues.

Yours in Christ,

Response #12:

On "eternal distinctions in reward", there most definitely are these! Do you mean "in punishment"? I don't find that anywhere in the Bible. In the passage you ask about, Romans chapter two, the result of being "repaid according to their deeds" is spelled out in detail by Paul in the verses that follow with the "repayment" being all the good things that come to believers but for unbelievers:

But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile;
Romans 2:8-9 NIV

Note that this repayment of wrath and anger and trouble and distress is "for everyone" who falls into the UB category and gives no idea of a distinction between unbelievers in hell, merely of a monumental distinction between believers and unbelievers – which is, after all, the point of this passage.

People always come up with examples that seem persuasive to themselves – but the lake of fire is so bad that there doesn't need to be any distinction in punishment.

As to the description you mention in Psalms, the righteous most definitely do suffer tribulation and privation – but not from the Lord. That is the important distinction. Whatever trouble we find in this life, 1) if we are walking with the Lord and it is not corrective discipline, then we know that it is part of His plan and that it is meant for blessing not for cursing; 2) whatever tribulation we do fall into always has a godly end (think of Job) and results in a wonderful eternal reward (if only we remain faithful so as to pass the test). When trouble comes upon the wicked, it is only for cursing.

Also, please keep in mind that there are things we do not know. But God knows all. Do we get upset or angry or dismayed by watching the suffering of the righteous? It is important to keep in mind that God knows 1) whether they really are righteous; 2) and if they are whether or not they need correction; 3) and if this really is undeserved suffering how much the person(s) can take and what they can take (we might not be able to take what they are enduring – which is why we are upset – but they are not being asked to endure things they cannot endure: 1Cor.10:13); 4) in the perfect plan of God this all working out for the good for those who truly do love the Lord (Rom.8:28). One positive benefit is that we are reminded of the need to stop being lukewarm and sloppy in our approach since we never know when we are going to be called upon to bear up under trouble. Secondly, we see the courageous conduct of our brothers and sisters in Christ and are encouraged thereby to be able to do likewise when our turn comes up. Third, their trouble may afford us an opportunity to help them and thus earn some good reward in so doing. And fourth, we know very well that all such suffering is only momentary light affliction scarcely worthy of mentioning in comparison with all the wonderful things to come, especially considering the good eternal reward it is producing for us when we do bear up the right way – and such suffering is necessary for us to earn that next level of rewards beyond the crown of righteousness (2Cor.4:17).

In other words, all these words are true and not in fact contradictory. If our experiences suggest that they are contradictory, then there is something wrong with the way we are processing all this.

In other words, trust the Lord. He is absolutely faithful to absolutely everyone. He has never ever been the least bit unfaithful to me or to you – would that we could even lift our heads to imagine the same for ourselves towards Him!

Your friend in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Hi Bob,

With regard to my questions:

I am quite aware of the concept of eternal distinctions in reward – I was entirely asking about distinctions in punishment.

I've mulled over what you have written, and I agree with the thrust of it. I even understood most of this going in, although you response has certainly crystallized my thought into something more cohesive. But I am still trying to figure out how this works:

1. The Bible, on the face of it, seems to speak of materially good things happening to righteous believers and materially bad things happening to wicked unbelievers.

2. The Bible also clearly teaches that suffering is not always a bad thing, as you point out above. That God's perspective is what matters, and that we should take heart in suffering because we know it is for some greater good. It also makes it clear that sometimes evil will only sufficiently be addressed in the end of things, not before then.

(2) is certainly the case. But I'm fuzzy on exactly what the statements that suggest (1) mean then. Obviously I'm missing something – believers can't both be spared from material trouble and yet go through material trouble for spiritual growth at the same time. Similarly, unbelievers can't both be punished temporally for bad behavior, but yet not be punished temporally because justice will be served in the eternal order of things.

I guess I just don't understand how the contradiction is resolved. I do trust that God has these matters in hand – I'm not trying to cast doubt on that. I just don't understand how we should interpret verses like Psalm 37:25 in light of what they seem to say. In other words, I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation and that there's no contradiction at all (as is ever the case in such matters). But I'm not currently seeing it, and would appreciate further clarification.

In Christ,

Response #13:

In terms of your question, here is something I read in scripture:

There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless.
Ecclesiastes 8:14 NIV

The book of Ecclesiastes is written from the human viewpoint (for the most part), that is, it is designed to provide a reasonable evaluation of life and the world in the absence of the wisdom of the divine viewpoint (i.e., everything without God is pointless). From the human viewpoint, the verse above is true. As you said (in essence), there are righteous people who get what the wicked deserve and vice versa, so David was wrong. Of course, we know that David, writing in the Spirit, was most certainly NOT wrong. We also know that the Lord is incapable of being "unfair" or in any way unjust.

The mistake of the human viewpoint (represented in Ecclesiastes) is to assume that the world is a place ruled directly by God (it is being ruled by the evil one) in which we are all immediately recompensed by Him for what we do – whereas in fact we are here to make fundamental choices and our true reward (or punishment) awaits us on the other side. In principle, what Solomon says is true – but only if we don't take into account the purpose of God, the plan of God, and the wisdom of God. In principle, everything David says is true – as long as we do take into account that God, for example, is "working all things out together for the good for those who love Him".

Now "the good" will be "THE good", not our estimation of what is good in our eyes. And here is where the problem lies. I see a righteous person suffering and I am tempted like Job to become exercised about it, especially if there is injustice involved. But I am not God. I do not know if this person is truly doing what the Lord wants, and if he/she is, whether or not this is particular testing designed for that person's good – and mine as well if only I allow myself to be encouraged by the person's faith under pressure and demonstrate my trust that in the end the Lord will work things out for the good in every way.

Consider: we often have a hard time figuring out even when something "bad" happens to us personally whether or not it is a test or divine discipline or a combination of the two or just the normal course of life. As we grow, we do get better at this of course, but if it is no easy matter in our own case (about which we have more information than anyone else), how likely is it that we can be confident of having "all the facts" in someone else' case? Job thought he had all the facts about his own situation – he was dead wrong; and he was an exceptional believer.

In the end, it all comes down to cases. Solomon generalizes, because that is what unbelievers do (cf. politics). But as believers we deal with specific cases (we care about individuals, not groups which in actuality do not even exist). David is speaking of specific cases and his experience with them. Maybe your experience is different; maybe mine is different. Maybe you or I have indeed seen "the righteous begging bread". Or have we really? Was the person – what is his /her name? – really righteous? And did we wait to see the end of the matter? Because the end of the matter is surely the intent of David's observations rather than a temporary situation: the wicked prosper . . . but not forever; the righteous suffer . . . but the Lord delivers them (n.b., the Hebrew of Ps.37:25 says, literally, "begging" as in a continual action [present participle; relatively rare usage in BH so significant]).

We know that this is true. And we have faith that it is true in absolutely every case in the history of the world. Why? Because we know that the Lord is faithful. If our eyes or ears or hearts tell us that this is wrong, they are the ones who are wrong. We trust the Lord that His faithfulness is absolute, and if we ever do get around to investigating specific cases – instead of generalizing based upon superficial observation as in Solomon's worldly analysis – we will also find the Lord absolutely justified in each case we dig into.

The judgment seat of Christ and the last judgment will make all of this completely clear as every single case of every single person who has ever lived is give an complete accounting. And this is what we will find:

“The Lord is just; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”
Psalm 92:15 CSB

Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
Psalm 9:10 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hi Bob,

Given that much of the discussion has centered here on Psalm 37:25, what do you think about taking the verse like this:

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread [on account of God having forsaken them] (i.e., this is not saying that no children of the righteous in the history of the world had to turn to such things, but that these things never happened due to God being unfaithful in his promises to the righteous; God is always using hardships like this for the greater good).

Such an understanding would seem to preclude the sorts of problems I had been having: this verse is not talking about Christians never going through suffering (represented here by the idea of begging for bread), but that they were never abandoned by God.

This would also mean there is no problem/contradiction with the righteous "getting what the wicked deserve" (by worldly appearances, as Solomon describes) because this verse is talking about God not abandoning people rather than people not going though suffering. People can have all the appearance of being abandoned by God while in fact being lovingly and carefully grown by Him, as in the case of Job.

Is this correct?

In Christ

Response #14:

I would delete the first part of the "i.e." parenthesis up to and including the "but" – BUT I really like your summary in the last paragraph.

The further we get in the Christian life, the more we begin to see things with the eyes of faith, seeing them from God's perspective instead of from the worldly viewpoint. Part of that is understanding more and more (though none of us ever gets close to where we should) that God knows everything and we know next to nothing. That is an easy principle to accept. It is often a difficult one to apply in terms of all of its implications and ramifications. Too often we are like our dog or cat who is frantic to get food from us – as if we we're not going to give it to them today when we have always done so. And indeed, we are human and might possibly forget (in the wake of some tragedy, e.g.) – but God cannot forget. He cannot be unfaithful. That is impossible because of who He is.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hi Bob,

I'm glad I'm finally getting it. Out of curiosity, what is wrong with the "i.e. phrase" in parentheses the way I put it? Is it incorrect in terms of what is says, or did you just mean that you wouldn't put it this way when explaining the concept to someone else? I mean, what I was trying to get across was that while some Christians (and their children) have probably had to beg for food at some point in history, this in no way means God abandoned them.

Just want to make sure I'm 100% clear on this.

In Christ,

Response #15:

As to this part: "this is not saying that no children of the righteous in the history of the world had to turn to such things", how do you know "not to say it"?

Lots of people want to quibble about God's fairness regarding the gospel because of "so many who never got to hear it". Really? Doesn't God know everyone before they are even conceived or born (Jer.1:5)? Isn't He the One who "marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands . . . so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him" (Acts 17:26-27 NIV). Do we really want to say that there was ever a human being treated unfairly who would have responded to the gospel if only God had given him/her that chance? I don't think so. In fact I know it is not so. God knows more than we do and He is absolutely fair and cannot be otherwise.

Analogously, I'd be willing to entertain your language here if you could give me an example, one will do, of someone who falls / fell into that unfortunate category. If you can, then we can talk about the possible explanations for it (remember, Christianity is about the salvation of individuals; only worldly political thinking focuses on theoretical groups which in God's eyes don't even exist). But even if you think you have an example, keep in mind that just because that is how case X may appear to you – and it may appear very strongly so – neither you or I have all the facts. But God does. It's not about what we see with our eyes of flesh; it's all about what we choose to believe in the heart through faith.

We live in a skeptical society in a skeptical time, skeptical, that is, where God and the truth are concerned, skeptical of absolutes, especially spiritual ones, especially with no qualifications to lend an "out". But "having faith" in materialism, science, human good, etc., is very trendy. This is all certainly part of the devil's plan and is conditioning this society and the world in general to what's coming in the Tribulation.

To be honest, I'm inclined to accept these statements of scripture with absolute faith, even when reason wants to suggest some skepticism or qualification might be in order. God is bigger than our reason and our logic. Doesn't mean we don't have these faculties or can't use them – He gave us these things, after all. But He also gave us faith.

I would rather live with an absolute faith that all the things I read in scripture are true – without having to be apologized for – even if it means that I also have to live with some carking doubts that reason throws up against that faith from time to time. I greatly prefer this approach to the other one, namely, enshrining reason and pushing away the objections of faith. We have plenty of that in the church visible already.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hi Bob,

I've put some time in between when I last looked at this to make sure it wasn't just a temporary thing clouding my view. I'd like to make some observations about "where I'm coming from." I've read the passage a few times, and I'm still confused.

(1) I agree with the "unbelievers that have never heard" analogy 100%. This used to bother me, and now my conception of God is big enough that I don't even give it a second thought. (Still bothers people in my family though – no matter how many times I try to explain it to them).

(2) I cannot give you an example from my own life. But on the other hand, I couldn't give you the name of anyone begging bread (righteous or not) – I was raised in relatively affluent communities and I have been living (basically) on a college campus since I left home. Just because I don't have an example from my life personally does not mean it could not be so.

(3) I am not ashamed of the Bible. If I thought this passage was saying without qualification that no children of believers ever had to beg for food, then I wouldn't seek to qualify it to make it more presentable to our skeptical society.

(4) I take the point regarding faith and reason. I definitely lean on reason to the detriment of faith at times, and appreciate that you have repeatedly made it known to me.

Saying "well, that fellow over there must not be righteous since his children are begging for food" strikes me as unreasonable in exactly the same way that once-saved-always-saved people say "well, that fellow must have never been a Christian since he broke fellowship with us." As humans, we can never know the hearts of others, and ought to accept that we have a very narrow understanding of circumstances as compared to God.

At the same time, however, I can see how the verse seems to be making an absolute claim. In the same breath that David says that he has never seen God abandon the righteous (which is impossible), he says that he has never seen their children begging for food – seemingly lumping the claims together as if they carried the same absoluteness.

Here's the crux of my confusion. If we take the verse absolutely, it would seem to me to single out begging for food as some form of suffering that Christians/their children are specially exempt from, even though we will definitely suffer as Christians (as your Peter series explains quite well). This just seems odd to me. Could the Bible be saying that as Christians, we will suffer, we just won't have to beg for food? Why?

In Christ,

Response #16:

Good to hear from you.

1) Re: "I agree with the "unbelievers that have never heard" analogy 100%." Good!

2) "I don't have an example from my life personally does not mean it could not be so": True, in logical terms. It also doesn't mean that it is so, and actually it seems to me that this is some evidence of it being more likely to be so than not to be so, because from the worldly point of view it seems like it ought to be a common occurrence. So I would give God the benefit of the doubt then when it comes to unobserved theoretical occurrences. Suppose you do bump into someone who is incontrovertibly righteous or the child of a righteous person and yet is in such need as to have to beg. First, I'd tell you to double check since God blesses the righteous sufficiently to provide for their children. Second, I'd suggest providing for or organizing an effort to help to provide for that person so they don't have to beg – in which case the Word of God is proven true.

3) It's a valid point that this is what David says he has never seen and that this is different from saying it has never and will never happen ever. However, David says this emphatically with at least the presumption that it is extremely unlikely to happen (in my reading; otherwise, what point is there in him saying it?), and that is significant in and of itself; because as your wrestling with this issue makes clear, the secular thinking of this world finds the pronouncement absolutely ridiculous. So even if it were "only" unusual for this to happen, that would be scoffed at by unbelievers, and they would no doubt point to some person begging wearing a crucifix etc. But we know that "the righteous" are those who are born again and have God's righteousness; we know that He looks out for all who are His. Doesn't He? If we start doubting that, why would we have faith that He would take care of us in difficult circumstances? We're not better than anyone else, are we? Just because we live in a well-to-do country at present? Here's a proposition we accept: God is absolutely faithful and as a perfect God cannot be otherwise. Here's the proposition we're having trouble with: God will never put us in a position of having to beg for food to stay alive. But the latter is merely a corollary of the former.

"Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Matthew 6:25-26 NKJV

4) Re: "I definitely lean on reason to the detriment of faith at times". We all do that. And plenty of us get too wrapped up in emotion and give insufficient attention to common sense reasoning. As with almost all things, sticking to the middle of the path is best way not to get tripped up.

Suffering is most certainly a part of the Christian life and we are never told that we won't suffer or be put under pressure – exactly the opposite (and especially I assume in the difficult times of the Tribulation to come). But we can have absolute faith that the Lord will bring us through in just the right way if only we keep faith with Him, putting a mustard seed of faith into the ground of His infinite faithfulness. We can trust Him no matter what. That is the point. Trust Him no matter what we see or hear or feel.

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
1st John 5:4 NKJV

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Hi Bob,

Thanks for bearing with me on this. It is easy enough for me to see that the vast majority of cases today could in no way qualify as the "the righteous/their children begging." After all, most places in the world have welfare/foodstamps programs set up, there are soup kitchens/homeless shelters that at least feed people, etc. It's just not really how our world operates any more, for most people. Moreover, real Christians, as a group, are more likely to try basically everything else before burdening others (at least this has been my observation), so that the sets "people willing to beg" and "real Christians" rarely intersect anyways.

No, what has been throwing me for a loop on this one is placing the statement within the context of antiquity. There are a lot of beggars healed by Jesus in the New Testament, most of them begging due to infirmities of some kind. John 9:2ff. (cf. especially v.8) makes it clear that at least some of these people were not forced into these circumstances due to divine discipline. So what gives? Were all these people unrighteous? That would seem to be how we would have to interpret things to make this work.

I apologize if it seems we are going round and round in circles. I really do trust that God provides for those who love him – Romans 8:28 and the Matthew passage you quote makes us certain of it. But this one keeps nagging at me in the back of my head, like a puzzle piece that doesn't seem to fit no matter how you turn it about.

Here's to hoping we're nearing the end on this.

I'm going to spend some time over break trying to figure out what I should do moving forward, but I'm not sure my 15-hour semesters of Greek, Hebrew, and computer science classes all at once are going to be doable after all. Yet I really need them to graduate in the next two years (rather than sticking around undergrad for even more than 6 years...), and I'm still convinced that I'm supposed to do all these things.

Yours in Christ,

Response #17:

When you say "There are a lot of beggars healed by Jesus in the New Testament", I only find two, this man whom you cite in John chapter nine and also Bartimaeus (Mk.10:46). Interestingly, both of them were blind, and this was felt to be not only a condition which excused begging as the person was not capable of earning a living otherwise in that culture but also the result of some sin. But our Lord tells us in the case of the young man in John's gospel when the disciples ask Him about it . . .

Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him."
John 9:3 ESV

And in both cases both men believe and are healed of their blindness and have no further need to beg. So "in the end", they were neither forsaken nor needed to beg for bread. It is often true that we are tested, but that does not mean that the testing will not come to an end. Similarly, I suppose we could find fault with the Lord on Abraham's behalf for giving him no heir even thought he had been promised one – but in the end he did get Isaac.

I'll be praying for you to figure things out. I have always worried about you having a tendency to over commit. On the other hand, just because something is hard, doesn't mean that we can't do it and that God won't bring us through it. It's a set of decisions which will take wisdom and the guidance of the Spirit. I am confident that the Lord will bring you to the right answer, honor all your good intentions, and help you to accomplish all that He wants you to do.

Your friend in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18:

As for me, I have nothing to lose, I am already out of the social mainstream, and I wont get better in this body. I really mean that, I have already decided that if on the asteroid-wipes-us-out chance the antichrist wants to heal me, I will say no and no thanks to you.

1) How do you put 1 Samuel 2:30 where the Lord seems to take away the office He promised to Eli's family, with the quote that His calling is irrevocable in the New Testament.

2) I want to ask you if abc is a sin, but it is a very sensitive topic.

PS: I wanted to share a short 1.5 mn vid with you that is kind of disturbing. I was watching this and it occurred to me that if you just switch the message with a message the antichrist would want put out... it kinda shows how the world could be led to follow after the beast if he does come soon with this system already in place. These are news outlets from both sides saying the same thing word for word. It is very disturbing, especially at the 34-57 second mark:


Response #18:

That's right! Whether it is the offering of "something we want" or the promise of avoiding persecution, no short term, temporary, temporal, worldly "benefit" is worth loss of life eternal.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wants to follow Me, let him [first] abandon his own aspirations, [then] pick up his cross and follow Me. For whoever makes it his purpose to preserve his life will end up losing it, but whoever forfeits his life for My sake will find that he has preserved it. What point is there for a man to come to possess the entire world, if he should then come to lose his life? Or what can a man pay to regain his life? For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay every man in his own coin."
Matthew 16:24-27

I'm having trouble with the video; I heard something about this issue (don't really understand it), but anyone who takes anything in the media or the political realm seriously is locked into a "this world" perspective that is inimical to spirituality and spiritual growth. I think it is good that you are noticing this and that you have the right perspective on it, namely, observing how things are swiftly moving in the direction of the events described in scripture to be fulfilled without too much trouble.

On your question #1, the context you mention in the NT, Romans 11:29, is also one of "many called, few chosen". All Israel in the flesh is called, but only those who respond spiritually are saved. That is the same sense in which I understand 1st Samuel 2:30.

On #2, I get this question a lot. I think the answer is pretty obvious, even if it is not specifically delineated in scripture as a sin. Lots of things are sinful even though "not listed" – anything that is not "of faith". That is why Paul uses the universalizing "and anything of the sort" in his catalog of sin at Galatians 5:21b (see the link). After all, "sin reigned" even before the Law delineated sin to a large degree (Rom.5:14), meaning that sin is sin whether or not there is a specific regulation which tells us so. We have our consciences and the Holy Spirit to let us know if we are in doubt. See the links:

Some Sensitive Topics IV

Some Sensitive Topics III

Some Sensitive Topics II.

Some Sensitive Topics

Hope this gets to your concerns.

Also, I've added a prayer request for your health/healing.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hello Dr Luginbill, I pray you are well.

I was wondering if you had any answers for the following questions:

1) In 1st Corinthians 13 statement on love, how far can we take the "keeps no record of wrong part"?

2) What symbolism does silver have in the Bible i.e Judas betraying Jesus for silver and the story of Micah stealing his mothers silver to make an idol in Judges 17

3) Will the 12 tribes have a ranking system when Jesus reigns ?

Thanks as always

Response #19:

Hello Friend,

Always good to hear from you – thanks so much for your prayers!

As to your questions:

1) The verse says what it says. If we are walking perfectly in love, we will not be the type of people who "have a little list" of all who've wronged us. Because the purpose of such lists is repayment in kind when opportunity offers, and that is not loving by any measure. Does that mean we are literally not supposed to be physically able to remember? That would be impossible, but it is possible to get to the point of truly not caring – because we choose not to care – about the wrongs done to us in the past. For one thing, it really doesn't matter, because the plan of God is perfect and has not been hindered even a tiny bit by whatever was allowed to be done to us; God has it all in hand and everything happens for a reason. That is not the stuff of the spiritually immature, but as we grow we start seeing things more and more from God's point of view, and God wants all to be saved because Christ died for all. Of course this verse also doesn't mean that we are to be stupid; if someone has wronged us is a serious way we should forgive them but we are in many cases wise to "love them from afar" in the future, having nothing further to do with them so as not to become victim to like depredations tomorrow.

2) Silver was the most common currency at the time of our Lord's first advent, so much so that the word for "love of money" in Greek is actually "love of silver" (1Tim.6:10 et passim with cognates). So there is nothing about silver per se; the issue is money or "Mammon" (see the link: "Money cannot provide security").

3) Israel is the ultimate organization of the Church of Christ which will comprise all who have believed from Eden to the end of the Tribulation (see the link). All believers will be organized into one of the twelve tribes, based upon relative accomplishments for Christ in this life (see the link:  "The Judgment and Reward of the Church"), with places in the New Jerusalem assigned correspondingly in terms of the gates, each of which is named after a tribe.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Why "Second chance afterlife" is unjust

The idea that you get a "second chance" when you die seems really appealing to many people, but it is actually unjust.

Why? Well, it would mean that your reward or punishment is completely disjoint from what you do in this life, so what you did in this life isn't important.

Response #20:

It also happens to have not a shred of biblical support – whereas the correct position is clear from nearly every page in the Bible.

But people construct their own gods all the time, precisely in order not to have to face (in this life) the truth about THE God.

Besides, the essential bent of heart that leads people to ignore God's grace in the one life they do have would lead them to do the same – given an actual chance to say no – if they had it to do over again a million times.

Yours in Jesus Christ our one and only Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:

"When you come into the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination, a soothsayer, or an augur (that is, an enchanter, one who looks for and uses omens), or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord; and because of these abominable practices the Lord your God is driving them out before you."
(Deuteronomy 18:9-12)

In the Garden of Eden, God commanded Adam not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, but he did not command him to not to touch it, study it, or even play catch with it. Here, on the other hand, we see that God is commanding more than not to do it: he is also commanding not to even study it or play with it.

Even if reading fiction where voodoo, sorcery, and witchcraft are the primary themes--I am not talking about Shakespeare's Macbeth where the beginning opens with witches and divination, because that is just used as a plot device, but rather opi like Harry Potter or the Hobbit--are not sin, they are part of Satan's marketing effort to make him look good and friendly.

Response #21:

Stay away from anything that [even] looks [like] evil.
1st Thessalonians 5:22

Question #22:

Dear Ichthys.com,

I’m suffering a terrible dilemma. I feel I might have commuted the unforgivable sin. One day some people were laughing and joking with me. I had forgotten my love for Jesus Christ at the time. I said something terrible about the Lord. I was joking and wasn’t at all serious but now I’ve felt so bad. After throwing up for worrying about it so much I couldn’t handle it. Please help me. Did I commit an unforgivable sin? I’ve prayed so hard for forgiveness and I’ve become so much closer to God. But will I be unforgiven?

Response #22:

Dear Friend,

Let me assure you that the only "unpardonable sin" is the sin of rejecting Jesus Christ as one's Lord and Savior.

"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

These are our Lord's own words to us. If you have faith in Him, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you have eternal life and nothing can separate you from Him apart from the death of that faith. But if you do believe that He is the Son of God, that He died for all of your sins, and if you have put your trust in Him, then you are saved and sin has nothing to do with it.

"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!"
Acts 16:31

There is no believer who has completely conquered sin. Jesus died for all of our sins so that they have already been paid for, and every believer is forgiven whatever he/she does if only he/she will confess their sins to the Lord (1Jn.1:9). So if you confess to Him whatever you have thought or said or done, He forgives you every time. That doesn't mean that there are no consequences to sin or that there isn't divine discipline for it – there certainly is. But the Father treats us as His own dear children in Jesus Christ and only punishes us not out of anger but as a perfect father would to train his children to do better (Heb.12:1ff.).

The fact that you reacted so violently tells me that you most probably ARE a believer in Jesus Christ, that you understand and believe that He is God, the Son of God, and that in His humanity He did die for your sins, paying the whole price for them. That being the case, no doubt this incident is for your benefit to draw you back to Him or closer to Him. That is only accomplished by consistency in spiritual growth. This ministry, Ichthys, is devoted to helping believers grow spiritually and to get to the point where joy and peace in Him who is our joy and peace replaces all doubt and all fear. And that is also the only way to earn a good eternal reward that glorifies Him. You are welcome here any time (and do feel free to write back should you have further questions). Since this is a very common question, I will also give you here a few links:

Salvation Lost and Found

Lost my salvation?

Lost my salvation II?

Have I Lost My Salvation? (III)

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #23:

Stubbornness is so destructive that it is the worst sin. Worse than pride and worse than anger.

The core teaching of Buddhism is that stubbornness is the root of all suffering and they're right. Question: how singularly awful is a particular sin when a whole religion started just to teach its followers to avoid it?

Response #23:

One man's stubbornness is another's perseverance.

I don't find the word in the Bible (especially not in any catalog of sins). All of the phrases which might be (and sometimes are) translated that way have to do with hardening one's heart against the truth. It's all about the truth. Being persistent about loving the truth is good; hardening one's heart against it is not. So being "stubborn" about refusing to take the mark of the beast – while all family and friends and associates are rebuking you for being "stubborn" – would be a virtue not a vice.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #24:

Hello again Dr Luginbill,

Need your thoughts and input into the following comment that I saw on a teaching of Romans 6 from another person on the Web. Was wondering if you could comment on it. I don't believe that we can achieve sinlessness in this life as I believe he is suggesting. If we could, then why did John write in 1John 1:9?

When repentant sinners are baptized into Christ the power of sin over their lives is broken, and they need never yield to its power again. Paul stresses this fact as he exhorts us to be totally separated from sin in order to live a completely new resurrected life in Christ. Through Christ God's resurrection power flows in us, and thus we are able to live holy, righteous lives. Henceforth we must not allow the old man to reassert itself in the life we now live in Christ (CP Mt 11:12). Mt 11:12 expresses the earnestness every believer must have in getting rid of sin and walking in obedience to God's word. This typifies the force required to take hold of the kingdom and is presented as the life task of every New Testament Christian (CP Ro 8:1 -13; Ga 2:20; Eph 4:17- 32; Col 3:1- 10). If we have truly died with Christ then our old man cannot reassert itself in our new life (CP Ga 5:16- 26). V17 here is one of the most misunderstood scriptures in Christendom. It has been taught as referring to constant warfare between the flesh and the spirit, making one a victim of the flesh and helpless to live right, but that is not what Paul is teaching at all. Of course it does describe the condition of anyone who is walking in the flesh, but it does not refer to the normal life of a Christian in grace, living and walking in the spirit, which is evident from V16, 18, 22 25 and numerous other scriptures.

Thanks again Dr. Luginbill for your great and gracious help. Perhaps he is thinking about 1 John 3:6, 8,9, 10. That is the very reason I question his doctrinal thoughts.

He is coming soon, and until "the day", may He continue to shower His blessings upon you according to Ephesians 3:20, 21.

Your friend,

Response #24:

I agree that this snippet is "leaning" in the direction you suggest, but I would have to see more to say so for certain. The only thing I absolutely disagree with here (and perhaps this is the person showing his true colors) is when he says "If we have truly died with Christ then our old man cannot reassert itself in our new life". That is clearly not the case inasmuch as our sin nature asserts itself daily, and it takes concerted effort and carefully following the Spirit's guidance to keep "him" suppressed. That is the clear meaning of the passage quoted by this person, namely, Galatians 5:16-26.

One of the things I most despise in "Christian" teaching is a pastor/teacher telling people things that are not true, making them feel guilty about things that are a normal part of Christian warfare, and sending them into despair instead of helping them fight the fight. Because if a person buys into "sinless perfection or you are no Christian", then the only alternative to despair (for those honest enough to know that they are still sinning even if making good progress against it) is legalistic self-righteousness which "dumbs down sin" into only being "things I can resist". That is what some people who teach this sort of mush do – but in my experience most who teach sinless perfection are sinning, sometimes spectacularly, all the time, even as they tell others that they're not really Christians if they make even small mistakes in the course of truly fighting the fight.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.


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