Archive for October, 2015

What Can We Learn From The Bible Sentence “The Wages Of Sin Is Death”?

October 30, 2015

Rom 6:23 informs us that “the wages of sin is death.” It is but a reiteration of what God told Adam and Eve in Gen 2:17 regarding eating the forbidden fruit – “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” What important lessons can we learn from this simple teaching about the consequences of sin?

First: It only takes one sin to displease God. The word “sin” is singular in Rom 6:23 and examples like Gen 2:17 (where it only took one sin for a person to be separated from God) are numerous. James 2:10 emphasizes this truth when it says “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”

Second: It doesn’t matter whether what we have done is deemed a big or little sin. No such distinction is made in Rom 6:23. The verse says the wages of sin is spiritual death, any sin – big sin or little.

Third: The doctrine of “Once Saved Always Saved” is false. Rom 6:23 applies to Christians just as much as it does to non-Christians – and so when a Christian sins, he is required to repent in order to be forgiven (Acts 8:22). Rev 21:27 also applies to Christians just as much as it does non-Christians, and there God lets us know that no sin will enter into heaven.

Fourth: I am not sure how much difference this makes, but it is not really the lack of repentance per se that separates us from God (causes our spiritual death). Like Rom 6:23 and Gen 2:17, Isaiah 59:2 makes it clear it is our sin that separates us from God (causes us to be lost). A lack of repentance usually comes later and keeps us from being forgiven, that is, having our fellowship (saved relationship) with God restored.

Conclusion: We may not like or agree with God’s teaching in Rom 6:23, but it is just wishful thinking to believe otherwise. Since each and every sin separates us from God, then we need to repent of each and every sin in order to be forgiven.

Our Righteousness Must Exceed The RIGHTEOUSNESS Of The Pharisees, Not Just Their Wickedness

October 23, 2015

Jesus teaches our righteousness must “exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” (exactly as Matt 5:20 puts it), not just their wickedness. It wouldn’t take much effort at all for our righteousness to exceed the wickedness of the average hypocritical Pharisee – an atheist almost does that. No, Jesus demands much more commitment than that out of us – our righteousness must actually exceed the righteousness of even those Pharisees (like Saul of Tarsus) that were living faithfully to God at that time.

The six “ye have heard it said by them of old time but I say unto you” cases in verses 21-48 interpret verse 20 for us. As Christians, our standard of conduct (the New Testament law) exceeds (is more strict than) the Old Testament’s standard of conduct. In all six cases, Jesus compares his NT law with what the OT law actually said. And the standard of Jesus’ new law exceeds (in moral stringency) the OT law quoted in each and every case.

The Sermon On The Mount is primarily “kingdom gospel” (Matt 4:23). The point of Matt 5:20 is that a New Testament saint is required to live on a higher moral plane than an Old Testament saint was. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What About Children Of Divorced And Remarried Couples?

October 16, 2015

Many preachers try to justify couples remaining in adulterous marriages (per Matt 19:9) because it might hurt the children of the marriage.

But notice Ezra 10:11,44 – … therefore make confession unto the Lord God … and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives. … All these had taken strange wives: and some of them had wives by whom they had children. These Israelites had to separate for a different reason than the issue raised by Matt 19:9, but having children did not justify them staying together.

Second, would children of polygamous marriages (I Cor 7:2) make remaining in those marriages okay? Would children adopted into homosexual marriages (Rom 1:26-27) make those marriages scriptural?

Third, “Suppose the husband of a childless couple has an affair and impregnates the other woman who happens to be single. If the familial needs of children outweigh biblical laws on marriage, would not the man be obligated to divorce his wife and marry his mistress to provide a home for his child?” (Kerry Duke)

Situation ethics never justifies sin (Rom 3:8, I Chron 13:7-10).

Does “Blessed” In The Beatitudes Just Mean “Happy”?

October 9, 2015

The KJV’s translation of the Greek word “makarios” (Strong’s #3107) as “blessed” in Matt 5:1-12 is an accurate translation. Many say the word should have been translated “happy,” but I doubt the meaning of “happy” would give us the full picture.

A check of a Greek concordance shows the word is question is translated into our English word “blessed” 44 times and “happy” only 6 times. And following are some appropriate definitions for our English word “bless” or “blessed” from The Random House College Dictionary – “to request of God the bestowal of divine favor on: Bless this house … to bestow good of any kind upon: a nation blessed with peace … divinely or supremely favored, fortunate: to be blessed with a healthy body.” Sure a person should be happy when they are blessed, but I don’t think that is the precise point the text is making.

The form of each of the eight beatitudes is a statement that a person will be “blessed” if they implement a specified godly characteristic in their lives, and then the beatitude proceeds to tell us what that blessing is. For example in the first beatitude, if we want to receive God’s promised blessing, we must be “poor in spirit” – and the blessing we will receive if we are poor in spirit is that we will be a member of the “kingdom of heaven.”

These beatitudes are all true regardless if we are happy or not (though we have every reason to be happy). For example a person is not likely to be happy while he is mourning (verse 4), but he will receive the blessing of being “comforted” – possibly at a later date. And we all know a sinner can be happy even if he doesn’t exhibit the Christian traits encouraged by the beatitudes … but he won’t be “blessed,” will he?

Consider how we see the same use in many other passages where the word is found. For example, Rev 14:13 says “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.” This is not talking about being happy per se after we die, but the fact as stated in the verse that men will receive “rest from their labours” (heaven). Rev 20:6 says “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection” – the blessing is explicitly stated as “on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God … and shall reign with him a thousand years.” Rev 22:14 reads “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” Just like with the beatitudes pattern, a blessing is promised upon a condition, and the blessing we are to receive is specifically stated – heaven.

The term “blessed” is applied to God in I Tim 1:11 and I Tim 6:15 and I doubt anybody thinks that is referring to the fact that God is happy. Furthermore, in Jesus’ illustration in Matt 24:46-47, the faithful servant is “blessed” by being made “ruler over all his (the lord’s) goods.” It has the same pattern as the beatitudes, that is, do such and such and you will be “blessed” (“bestow a favor upon” – Rick Duggin).

In Luke 14:14 we see that a man will be “blessed” in the sense he will be “recompensed at the resurrection of the just” – if he helps the needy in this life. Notice from James 1:12 that a man will be “blessed” in the sense that he shall “receive the crown of life” – if he endures temptation. And James 1:25 teaches a man will be “blessed” if he is a doer of God’s word. Should these three men be happy? Yes they should – because they are going to receive a blessing by God for being faithful to him.

And we see this exact point being made in the last beatitude (Matt 5:10-12). If a man is persecuted for righteousness sake he is “blessed” in the sense that he will receive the blessing of entering the “kingdom of heaven,” and such person should be happy (“rejoice, and be exceeding glad”) because he is to eventually receive this blessing (“reward in heaven”). So blessed and happy are not being equated; instead happiness is to come with the prospect of receiving the blessing.

Conclusion: The Greek word translated “blessed” in the beatitudes means “blessed,” not just “happy.” Instead, being happy should be a bi-product of being blessed by God.

Should We Forgive Our Brother, Even If He Refuses To Repent?

October 2, 2015

Luke 17:3 reads “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.” This verse clearly indicates we should not forgive our brother until he repents. Compare the verse to many other simple passages of the same form, for example one like I John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Doesn’t I John 1:9 indicate by the use of the word “if” that God does not forgive a Christian unless he confesses his sins? Then why wouldn’t the same sentence form prove the parallel in Luke 17:3?

Some Christians contradict the plain sense of Luke 17:3 by saying we have the option of forgiving our brother even if he doesn’t repent. But this idea would mean we have to forgive every time at the very moment the sin occurs, even with no forthcoming repentance on the part of the offender – because Matt 6:14-15 teaches we must forgive one another if we expect to be forgiven by God. If we don’t forgive others, then we will not be forgiven by God. And so if we have the option to forgive one who has sinned against us (but is not repenting), then we must do so in every case (and immediately), or we ourselves will be lost … according to Matt 6:14-15.

And it would also then follow that we would never have to withdraw from a fallen away Christian as texts like I Cor 5 and II Thess 3:6,14 require. Withdrawal is basically a strong form of rebuke and if we can forgive a person in sin before they repent, that forgiveness means we have to stop rebuking them (that’s one thing forgiveness implies – Luke 17:3), and we can’t ever bring up that sin against them again (Heb 8:12). Withdrawing from them would be ruled out if we have forgiven them (II Cor 2:6-7).

It is true that “if A then B” does not always imply the reverse “if not A, then not B,” but in this case we can tell the reverse is implied if you take the whole verse. The point of the verse is that when someone sins against us, we are to rebuke them. And if they repent, we are to cease rebuking them (forgive them). The verse implies we are to keep rebuking the offender (as we have opportunity) until they repent, but forgiveness means we quit rebuking them. So obviously if they haven’t repented we are to keep rebuking them which is the same as not forgiving them. You don’t keep rebuking someone that has repented and been forgiven, but you do keep rebuking someone if they haven’t repented and been forgiven.

Remember, when we withhold forgiveness from a person until they repent (as God does – Acts 8:22), that doesn’t mean we hold a grudge against them or treat them mean and ugly. God forbid. Instead, it means we lovingly and kindly continue to remind them (as we have opportunity) that they need to repent of their sin before they lose their soul over it at God’s judgment (Rev 21:27). That’s exactly how I would want to be treated if I fell into sin, and that is exactly what God requires us to do in relation to an unrepentant Christian (Gal 6:1, James 5:19-20). Luke 17:3 means exactly what it sounds like it means; there is no reason to compromise it.