The Roman Catholic Church Changed the Ten Commandments

For some reason I do not think of it much, but the Roman Catholic Church changed the ten commandments. I have to suppose it was to try to hide from their members that bowing down in front of statues is idolatry.

I am not sure when they did this. It was probably in the late medieval period while they were putting people to death for translating the Bible into languages other than Latin.

You may be thinking this is an outrageous attack on the Roman Catholic Church, but it is simply fact. If you click this link, it will  take you to the Vatican web site. You will see three columns: the 10 commandments from Exodus, from Deuteronomy and the “Traditional Catechetical Formula.” The third column is the list as they teach to their members. The omission of the second commandment is obvious there, right on the Vatican web site. The way they turn the 10th commandment from Exodus into two commandments is not to split it down the middle, but to pluck a center part out.

Why would the only church in the world that bows and prays before statues remove the commandment that says not to make a graven image or bow down to it? 

No need to call a detective for that one. 

Really, it makes all the other unique claims of the Roman Catholic Church void, don’t you think?

I apologize if you think this post is rude or dripping with sarcasm, but this issue is off the charts outrageous. 

The Roman Catholic Church is the only church that does this:

That last site says, “Protestants, Jews, and Catholics number the commandments in slightly different ways,” but you will see the Protestants and Jews give them exactly the same way.

‘Nuff said.

Posted in Roman Catholic & Orthodox | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Real Church, Francis Chan, and the Roman Catholic Church

This was the newsletter I sent to my Christian-history.org newsletter list:

 
I was asked yesterday what I thought the best denomination was. I had a chance to address that at the “Heaven’s Family Reunion” in Pittsburgh in August. I focused on Hebrews 10:24-25.

One of the lines in that passage says that we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Everyone knows that line, but it seems that almost no one knows what the rest of the passage says. What are we supposed to do instead of forsaking the assembling of ourselves together? Does the Scripture say, “Don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves together, but be sure to sit in a pew, hear a sermon, sing some songs, and help pay rent and salaries?”

You know it doesn’t, but I bet you don’t know what it does say to do.

That passage says that we should “know,” “consider,” or “understand” one another so that we can provoke one another to love and good works. The specific sentence says, “Not forsaking …, but exhorting…”

Exhorting is a big word in Greek, and Bibles translate the word “parakaleo” as beg, plead, comfort, console, exhort, and other similar words. It covers everything we can say to help a brother or sister walk in the will of God. A good definition of “exhort” might be found in 1 Thessalonians 5:14, where we read, “Warn the unruly, comfort the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

When you assemble yourselves together, do you go to warn the unruly, comfort the fainthearted, help the weak, and be patient as you do so? Are you prepared to do these things because you have “considered” how your brothers and sisters are doing so that you can “provoke to love and good works”?

That is my answer to real church. “Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” is in the Bible, at 2 Timothy 2:22. These sorts of things are biblical commands, and they are what should be done rather than forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. There are no commands to go to Sunday school or listen to sermons every Sunday morning.

If your leaders have not trained you to do the work of ministry and edify the church, they have not done their job (Eph. 4:11-16). Until everyone is involved, we are not doing “real church.”

Those are my words and my teaching from Scripture, but Francis Chan has come out with some very similar teaching from the same passages. He recently released _Letters to the Church_ that talks about how he began to realize that his megachurch, Cornerstone, was not a biblical church. I would recommend the book.

Finally, I mentioned the Roman Catholic Church in the heading of this email. That’s because I only recently realized I had written a page on the origin of the RCC that I really like. Of course I really like it because I wrote it, but I also wrote my Roman Catholicism page, and I don’t like it. I am going to completely change it soon.You can read the good page at https://www.christian-history.org/when-did-roman-catholicism-begin.html.

Grace, peace, and mercy to you as you focus your life on the divine Son of the living God, Jesus Christ our Savior.

 

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Dealing with Scripture Honestly: Galatians 6:7-9

In my previous post, I explained why I am writing about honest interpretation of the Scripture. I can’t explain what I mean by dealing with Scripture honestly without giving you examples.

Galatians 6:7-9 is associated with an experience for me. Long ago, in the Southern Baptist church in which I met my wife, I dropped in on the church’s most popular adult Sunday School class. The teacher was an acquaintance, and I was on good terms with him.

As was common in those days, I “chanced” upon the class while a controversial passage of Scripture was being covered. In the 1980’s, it seemed to me that no matter how hard I tried to avoid controversy, God kept putting me in the midst of it. In this case the controversial passage was Galatians 6:7-9.

Galatians 6:7-9, In the New American Standard Version, reads:

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

The teacher (paraphrasing from memory) said, “This means we can lose our salvation.” Then he paused and added, “Just kidding. No, It doesn’t.” He probably addressed some other verses about why we can’t lose our salvation, but said nothing more about Galatians 6:7-8. He just moved on.

I wrote him a note that said, “Brother, even if you don’t believe that Galatians 6:7-9 does not say you can lose your salvation, it is certainly a warning. You should at least have passed the warning on to your class in some way.”

Rather than replying to me, he delivered the note to the pastor. The pastor called me into his office and asked how I dared send a note like to that to one of his teachers. (Both I and the teacher who sent the note to the pastor would learn over time that the pastor’s spiritual gift was intimidation. It was the teacher who would eventually be put out of that Baptist church for crossing the pastor’s wishes.)

Anyway, I told the pastor that I thought I was simply sending a note to a friend. Changing the subject, I asked if he objected to what I wrote. I don’t remember what he said, but I do remember it went nowhere, and he was as frustrated with me as I was with him.

Those conflicts make great stories, but I better get to the point.

How does one honestly interpret Galatians 6:7-8?

You need no advice or explanations to interpret Galatians 6:7-8. You already know what it means without my saying anything. If you sow to the flesh, you will reap corruption. If you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life. You cannot reap corruption and eternal life both. They are opposites of one another.

This is obvious, but the pattern I was taught as a young Christian was that if I don’t believe a verse, I should use every method I could find to make it say what it does not, whether that explanation is reasonable or not. In fact, I commonly heard arguments that were not only unreasonable, but entirely irrational.

“Galatians 6:8: Is Eternal Life Earned?” has one of those irrational arguments. Author Bob Wilkin says, “While all believers have eternal relationships with God, not all will have abundant eternal lives with Him.” He goes on to explain that reaping corruption means winding up with meager eternal life rather than abundant eternal life. In other words, what seems obvious–that one cannot inherit corruption and eternal life both–is false. We can inherit corruption and still have eternal life!

The answer to that ridiculous argument is to simply point out that it is ridiculous. We all know it is ridiculous. 

The author justifies his ridiculous interpretation by giving verses that he believes contradict the obvious meaning of Galatians 6:7-8. Those verses, in his mind, give him the right to say any ridiculous thing he wants about any passages that seem to contradict his interpretation of those other verses. 

I was taught this sort of ridiculous reasoning, too. As a young member of the Assemblies of God, I reasoned ridiculously with the Baptists, and they reasoned ridiculously with me.  Most Christians get used to this outrageous way of arguing.

I can’t. 

I’m begging you. Please stop being ridiculous. There are reasonable solutions to seemingly conflicting passages of Scripture. We can find them if we pursue them, but how can we expect to learn what is true using the ridiculous Bible interpretation method described above?

Galatians 6:9

The only thing I want to point out from Galatians 6:9 is that it says that if we want to “reap,” we must not grow weary in doing good. In context, what we reap for not growing weary in doing good is eternal life. In context, “sowing to the Spirit” produces “doing good.” There is another verse in Scripture that says “doing good” leads to eternal life as well. That verse is Romans 2:7. Hush, though, not too many evangelicals are aware Romans 2:7 is in the Bible.

More on this in the next post.

 

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Dealing with Scripture Honestly: Introduction

As a young Christian in an Assembly of God church, I was trained to deal illogically and dishonestly with Scripture. Because of the Christian atmosphere in my town, at least among evangelical denominations, I was also trained to argue vehemently on behalf of my own denomination. As I argued, I saw that both the defenders of other evangelical denominations and defenders of groups we called “cults” treated the Scriptures in the same irrational and dishonest manner.

I was only 9 months old in the Lord when the US Air Force sent me to Galena, Alaska on a remote assignment. There were about 700 Native Americans there in two small villages, about 300 military, and about 200 other government workers. The available choices for attending church were the Catholic service at the chapel, the Protestant service at the chapel (led by a North American Baptist chaplain), and the little missionary church of 10 members or so in the Indian village.

I tried the Protestant service at the chapel, but it was clearly meant not to bother the unbelievers, so it did nothing for me. In the small world of Galena Air Station, I quickly found out who the committed Christians were. Including the chaplain, there were seven.

I got them together for Friday night prayer and Saturday evangelism in the Indian village. The chaplain did not join us for these. The others were all from varying backgrounds, and it took only 6 weeks for them to stop speaking with each other.

At that point, I realized I needed to start over. I needed to get in the Scripture and read the Bible just for what it says. 

That is not as easy as it sounds. I was filled with preconceived notions that I had rapidly accumulated as I read the Bible and listened to sermons over my first year as a Christian. Divesting myself of those was not easy.

I have been working at reading the Bible honestly since that turn of mind in 1983. It is a chore that requires great effort. 

The great effort is not the study. I love looking up Greek words, reading commentaries, and comparing passage to passage. I love finding out about the various books of the Bible, and the writers. 

The great effort is fighting my desire to be right. The great effort is choosing what is right when I am embarrassed that I am wrong. Most often, this problem arises when someone else points out a solid truth in defense of a doctrine with which I did not agree.

I say “did not” because I have learned to quash that defensive desire. Nowadays, when I realize I was wrong, I change. 35 years have given me a lot of practice at being wrong and changing sides. It is no less painful and humiliating, but I have gotten used to the pain.

This series, “Dealing with Scripture Honestly,” will describe some of my embarrassing experiences, if I can remember them. They’re painful. Mostly, though, I want to point out some of those irrational and dishonest interpretations of Scripture that you, myself, and others have held or still hold.

Posted in Dealing with Scripture Honestly, Far-fetched | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

All Sins: Past, Present, and Future … Or Not

So I’ve got a guy on Facebook telling me that when the Bible says that all our sins are forgiven (Col. 2:13), this necessarily means that even our future sins are forgiven. He wants me to show him a verse that says “not my future sins.”

This is ridiculous, of course. Imagine that your credit card company comes to you and says, “We forgive you all your debts.” Would you even consider the possibility that they mean all your future debts too, so that you can now go out and charge whatever you want on your card without having to pay for it?

Of course you wouldn’t. In the same way, it is silly to suggest that when Jesus forgave all our sins that all our future sins are forgiven too, whether we repent or not.

Another example is a humorous one. Back in Martin Luther’s day a Roman Catholic by the name of Johann Tetzel was selling indulgences, promising people that if they gave money to the church, their relatives would be released from Purgatory. A thief came up to Tetzel and asked if his donation would lead to the forgiveness of his own sins. Johann assured him that it would. The thief then asked if the donation would forgive future sins. Again Tetzel assured him. The thief gladly gave him the money, and that night he stole it back.

Johann Tetzel is real, though that particular story almost certainly is not. Nonetheless, it illustrates the foolishness of assuming that the forgiveness of all debts or all sins includes future ones.

It is the aforementioned Facebook person who needs to show that future sins are forgiven in some verse somewhere because Colossians 2:13 does not say, imply, or hint that our future sins are forgiven. Instead, 2 Peter 1:9 tells us that if we do not add to our faith (v. 5), then we will forget that we were ever purged from our PAST sins.

This person is making a further mistake in thinking that Colossians 2:13 says that our sins are “paid for.” Colossians 2:13 says that they are forgiven, not paid for. In fact, that verse uses an unusual word for “forgive.” The Greek word is charizomai, which is the word for grace (Gr. charis) used as a verb. “Forgive” here carries the idea of favor and compassion, not payment.

Jesus died for us, not God. God was merciful from the beginning. He IS love. A loving person forgives, and a loving God also forgives. The problem we had was that we were not a repentant race. We kept sinning, and God’s forgiveness is for those who repent (cf. Ex. 34:6; Ezek. 18:20-30). Therefore, Jesus died for US. He purged us of our iniquity, and purchase us as a people for his own possession. His grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and his death makes us a people zealous for good works (Tit. 2:11-14).

Jesus did not have to “pay” for sins. He had to pay for us. He redeemed us, as in buying us out of a slave market. He ransomed us, as in buying us back from a captor. He did become a curse for us, so that we are no longer subject to the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:13), but we Gentiles were never subject to the Law of Moses anyway. It was the law God put in our conscience that condemned us (Rom. 2).

All of us, Jew and Gentile, were the captives of sin. He redeemed us from that captivity, and he gives us grace (Rom. 6:14; Tit. 2:11-12), the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:3-13; Gal. 5, 6:7-9), the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17), and each other (Heb. 3:13; 10:24-25) to ensure we never slip back into slavery to sin. Nonetheless, even as Christians, we are warned that we are slaves to whomever we yield ourselves to obey, whether sin leading to death or obedience leading to holiness and its end, eternal life (Rom. 6:16-22).

As a final note, I would be surprised if no one noticed that I ended my reference to Romans 6 at verse 22. Let me address verse 23.

The wages of sin is death, and that is true for Christians or non-Christians (cf. Rom. 6:1-22 & Rom. 8:12). The gift (Gr. charisma as in a spiritual gift, not a birthday present) of God is eternal life, referring back to verses 16-22. Paul did not suddenly change his theology in between verse 22, where eternal life is the goal of holiness, and verse 23 when eternal life is the gift of God. Eternal life is the gift of God because he delivered us from slavery to sin, so that we could yield our members to him as instruments of righteousness, which leads to holiness, which has as an end eternal life (cf. also Heb. 12:14).

If you are at all honest, you have to admit I am just reading Romans 6 and Colossians 2:13 for what they say.

Posted in Bible, Evangelicals, Gospel, Holiness, Modern Doctrines | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

What Jesus Paid For

In the last post, Custom Shoe Arches and the Bible, I talked about it being easier to find what is NOT true than to find what is true. I then showed from just one passage that Jesus did not pay for all our sins, whether past, present, and future because the Bible says we can be punished for future sins.

What, then, did Jesus pay for with his death?

I thought the best way to determine this was to search for the words pay, paid, buy, and bought.

Pay and Paid

The first thing I noticed in searching for “pay” and “paid” is that God does not need a payment to forgive sin. Most of the uses of the word “pay” in the New Testament are found in one parable in Matthew 18:23-35. It is the parable of the unforgiving servant. His Master forgave him because he could not pay $10 million in debt. Then the servant went out and throttled his own debtor over $10,000 with no mercy at all. The Master heard about this, and he reinstated the servant’s debt.

The word “pay” is used six times in that parable. No one’s debt is paid. The Master simply forgave the debt, then reinstated it when the servant did not forgive his debtor. Luke 7:42 uses “pay” in a similar way, about two debts that could not be paid, but then were forgiven.

Maybe we should change the song from “He Paid a Debt He Did Not Owe” to “He Forgave a Debt Without Payment.” According to the parable, we did owe a debt we could not pay, but rather than paying for it himself, he simply forgave it.

Returning to “Jesus paid the price,” my search for the words “pay” and “paid” found no verses that had anything to do with the atonement. There was the parable just mentioned and then some references to paying taxes.

Buy and Bought

A search for the “buy” and “bought” found nothing related to the atonement in the Gospels, but it found a few important verses in the apostles’ letters.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:20: “Ye are bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (KJV).
  • 1 Corinthians 7:23: “Ye are bought with a price; be not the servants of men” (KJV).
  • 2 Peter 2:1: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (NASB)

I used the KJV because I think my Bible program searches it better. In 2 Peter 2:1, I looked up the NASB because the KJV used the word “damnable,” which I did not want to write in the post, but now I have.

My Bible’s search program also brought up Revelation 14:4, in which the KJV says that the 144,000 virgins were “redeemed from among men.” I checked the Greek real quick and the NASB more slowly, and Revelation 14:4 can be translated “purchased from among men.”

Thus, the words “buy” and “bought” in the New Testament lead me to say, so far, that Jesus “paid the price” for us! He bought us!

Revelation 14:4 led me to the word redeem, which is very interesting.

Redeem

The Greek word for “buy” is agorazo. It literally means “to be in the market place.” Thus, Thayer’s lexicon says that it means “to do business” in the market place. It can even mean sell. The Greek word for “redeem” is exagorazo, which is agorazo with an ex in front of it. It literally means, “out of the market place.” Thayer’s lexicon’s first definition is “by payment of price to recover from the power of another.”

While I am not qualified to give new meaning to Greek words, anyone is qualified to see the pictures that are in the Greek words. The picture is “out of the market place,” and the meaning is “by payment of price to recover from the power of another.”

More simply put, the picture is buying slaves out of the market place.

When the Bible says Jesus has redeemed us, it is saying he has “paid a price” to purchase us out of slavery.

What happens when someone buys a slave from a slave owner? The slave is not set free. He is turned over to a new owner. That new owner can set the slave free, but redemption in a slave market does not mean to be set free. It means to be purchased.

Both those things apply. We have seen above that Jesus bought us, and thus we belong to God. We are his slaves. The Bible also says that Jesus set us free, although we shall see in the next post that “setting us free” is simply a reference to his paying the price to redeem us from slavery to sin.

This road—following the New Testament words that have to do with purchasing, buying, and paying a price—is a long one. It is also a consistent one, without a lot of branches or forks.

Because it is a long one, let’s break here. In the next post, we will look at what the Bible says about Jesus freeing us. After that, we will go further down the road with the various Greek words for redemption. Of course, we must also cover the word “ransom,” which also means to purchase, though it is a unique kind of purchasing.

We have seen so far that Jesus paid the price to buy us, so that we are now owned by God. We have also seen that he bought us out of slavery. In the next post, we will talk about the freedom Jesus gives us and who or what it was that held us in slavery.

Posted in Evangelicals, Modern Doctrines, Protestants | Tagged , , , , , ,

Custom Shoe Arches and the Bible

Despite three large windows, our living room is quite dim in the morning. I was peeling back the cushion in the heel of shoe to see which one of my custom arches was in there. Because of the darkness, I could not tell whether it was the black or brown set. I could, however, see which set was NOT in my shoes. I would have been able to see the white ones even in the dim light.

Reading the Bible is like that. Sometimes it is hard to tell exactly what the Bible is teaching on a subject, as evidenced by all the disagreements we see in the churches around us. On the other hand, most of the time we can tell what the Bible is NOT saying, IF we are willing to consider it.

Unfortunately, considering what the Bible does not say has gotten me in a lot of trouble.

For example, it is commonly taught that Jesus “paid the price” for all sin, whether past, present, or future. I have heard people take that so far as to say that the only sin for which anyone will be judged is not believing in Jesus. It might be difficult to examine this idea by going to all the passages people use to support it, but it is very easy to examine the doctrine by going to the Bible passage that says it is not true.

For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. (Eph. 5:5-7, NASB)

That’s simple. The sons of disobedience are going to face the wrath of God because they are immoral, impure, and greedy. They will be judged for something other than disbelieving Jesus.

What about the idea that all our sins are paid for, whether past, present, or future?

That’s not true, either. Even Christians are warned that if they practice the works of the flesh, they will be punished for it (e.g., Rom. 8:12; Gal. 5:19-21). We can go to the passage quoted above to see that. Though the sons of disobedience are mentioned, the passage is written to Christians. We Christians can know “with certainty” that if we are immoral, impure, or greedy, then we will be disinherited of the kingdom of Christ and God. That is why Paul ends that passage with “Do not be partakers with [the sons of disobedience].”

The apostle Paul even warns us not to let anyone deceive us about this with “empty words” (v.6)

Perhaps now you can see why I find myself in hot water for considering what the Bible does NOT say. When people say that Jesus paid for all our sin, whether past, present, or future, they are deceiving us with empty words, according to the apostle Paul. That’s not a very popular thing to say, but it is true.

Perhaps in another blog post, we can talk about what Jesus did pay for. That’s harder. Just as I needed more light to see exactly what custom arch was in my shoe than I needed to see which one was NOT in my shoe, so we need more light to see what Jesus did pay for than what he did NOT pay for.

The principle that it is easier to see what is NOT true than what is true applies to much more than just what Jesus paid for. It applies everywhere in the Bible. It is important not to neglect this principle, for otherwise there are plenty of tricky and cunning man who are scheming to deceive you with empty words (Eph. 4:14; 5:6).

Passages like Ephesians 5:5-7 are not “difficult verses.” They are lighthouses, warning you that tricky, cunning men are pulling you off course.

Posted in Modern Doctrines, Protestants, Verses Evangelicals Ignore | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Are you missing what may be the most important verse in the Bible?

All of us know that the Bible says, “… not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together.” Why, then, do almost none of us know what it says to do instead?

We all think that instead of forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, we should sit in a pew, sing a few songs, pay some money, then listen to a sermon. At least, that is what we seem to think. We all do it, and if we don’t do it, then someone will tell us that we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together.

Hebrews 10:25 has a different alternative to forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. Instead of forsaking the assembling, we should be exhorting.

Go ahead, look it up.

Did you exhort last Sunday morning?

And who said it was talking about Sunday? There are arguments—some weak biblical ones and some strong historical ones—that we should assemble ourselves on Sunday. But where does the Bible suggest we assemble only on Sunday? In fact, that same book of the Bible says we are to exhort one another every day! How long should we continue exhorting one another every day? As long as it is called today (Heb. 3:13).

Let’s take a moment to define the word exhort. It is one of the most awesome (and most used) words in the Bible. The King James Bible translates it as “beseech” 44 times, “comfort” 23 times, “exhort” 21 times, “desire” 8 times, “pray” 6 times, “intreat” 3 times, and four other miscellaneous translations. Young’s Concordance says it can be translated address, speak to, call upon, exhort, entreat, comfort, instruct, admonish, beg, console, and strengthen.

Exhort is a big word. Thirty years ago, I looked up all the uses of “parakaleo” (the Greek word for exhort and all those other words), and chose “to say something to get someone else to do something” as the definition.

That definition works really well because immediately before “… not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together,” in Hebrews 10:24, the Bible says, “Get to know one another so that you can provoke to love and good works.”

The alternative to forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, biblically, is to get to know each other so that you know how to exhort, plead with, encourage, console, admonish and thus provoke each other to love and good works.

Did you get to know your brothers and sisters in Christ last Sunday, thinking about how to provoke them to love and good works? Did you beg them, plead with them, encourage them, console them, admonish them, and in whatever way possible come alongside them to help them to love and to do good works?

If not, then you have been forsaking the assembling of yourselves together.

There are examples of people who are not forsaking the assembling of themselves together. Many are small, but some are very large. For example, there is Francis Chan’s “we are church” movement in San Francisco. There is Torben Sondergaard’s “Last Reformation” movement. Whether you agree with their theology or not, they are definitely exhorting one another day by day. Our own Christian community, Rose Creek Village, is very small compared to those movements, but we are begging, pleading, encouraging, consoling, and helping one another to do love and good works day by day rather than forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.

You can do the same. It would be great if the leadership of your Sunday “one-guy-exhorts-everyone-else” meeting would encourage you in doing this. Even if he does not, though, you can begin pleading with, helping, and consoling your brothers and sisters today. Maybe someone will see your example and do the same.

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. (1 Thes. 5:14)

Posted in Church, Leadership | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Rebuilding the Foundations: The Just Judgment of God

“ButterintheField,” whose comments have occasionally led me to create a post, has reminded me in a comment that I had better finish up at least one part of the Rebuilding the Foundations series.

I stopped doing this project on the blog, and I am working on finishing it as a Word document. I am praying that I can complete it, print it as a pamphlet, and have it available when I speak in Pittsburgh in a month. Here is the section on the judgment, it is a little long for a blog post.

Summation of Previous Posts

In the word document, the following is at the end of chapter 4. Most of the first few chapters are covered in the previous posts:

Everything we have looked at is very simple to understand. Paul said that if a person tried to obtain glory, honor, and immortality by patiently doing good works, God would reward that person with eternal life. We all agree that people in general are slaves to sin (Rom. 7:7-24; Eph. 2:1-3). Thus, the obvious solution to this dilemma would be to free people from their slavery to sin. We have seen that the New Testament provides power to patiently continue to do good works through many means, all revolving around the Holy Spirit, grace, and the Scriptures.
     There is no other problem to be resolved. Romans 2:6-7 works for Christians who are born again, filled with the Spirit, empowered by grace, and equipped with the Scriptures. I have not even touched on the fact that we have each other so that we can provoke one another to love and good works (Heb. 10:24; cf. 3:13) and grow together with each other’s help (Eph. 4:11-16).

I am basically saying here that we have followed simple steps in looking at God’s foundation, followed by examining what the New Testament has to say about works. Then I describe the problem that arises with what I have written. I wrote the description of the problem before ButterintheField wrote his comment to me. His comment is longer, but it does show I was guessing accurately the problem my readers would find.

This would be as simple and obvious for my readers as it is for me except for one more false teaching that is more devious, deceptive, and destructive than anything we have looked at so far.
     That false teaching is that God will not let anyone into heaven who is not perfect. It is the accusation that God is not a just judge.

Almost everything ButterintheField wrote in his comment is covered in my chapter on the judgment even though it is not completed. I am trusting he is going to comment further if I did not answer his comment sufficiently.

The Just Judgment of God

This is a copy and paste from the Word document I am writing. It is 1766 words, and a lot of those are from Ezekiel. Bookmark this page and read it over a couple days, maybe?

Here goes:

I am encouraged that the idea that God requires absolute perfection at the judgment is losing traction. Ligonier, a Reformed theology ministry, has a web page called “The State of Theology.” On it, they report that a survey showed that 61% of participants strongly disagreed with the statement that “Even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation.” (2017. “The State of Theology.” Ligonier. Retrieved July 8, 2018 from https://thestateoftheology.com/)

I rejoiced when I read this statement. In my mind, torturing a person eternally for one sin that they committed in their life is horribly unjust. It is not just unjust; it is wicked. Ligonier does not agree. “If [God] is perfectly holy and just,” they say, “He cannot let sin go unpunished. But God is no longer holy—in the minds of six out of ten Americans.”

This kind of thinking is unthinkable to me. In fact, on a logical basis, it is so unreasonable that it is silly. Try applying the same kind of thinking to a Christian. If you met a Christian who would not forgive the smallest sin, would you think that Christian was perfectly holy and just? No, you would think he is incapable of mercy. It would not matter to you if the Christian tried to justify himself by saying, “I will forgive this small injustice done to me by someone else if you will let me slap you in the face. You see, I am holy, and I must punish sin, but you can take the punishment if you want.”

Such a person might be regarded as insane, not holy or just. Why, then, would we lay such a charge upon God?

The answer is that we have taken one passage in James 2 that is talking about our judging one another, and we have turned it into the standard on God’s judgment and mercy. That passage reads:

But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. (James 2:8-11)

If there were no verses talking about God’s judgment on the last day, then we might be justified in concluding that God will judge us the way James describes in this passage. There are many verses describing God’s judgment of humans, however, and none of them list “any point of the law” as a standard. This passage has to do with judging one another. Since we are all law-breakers, we sin if we give preference to some individuals as though we were not all law-breakers. More specifically, in the context of James 2, we sin if we prefer rich people over poor people because both are law-breakers.

One of the passages that talks about God’s judgment of humans is a vehement protest by God against Israelites who were complaining that God did not judge justly. In response, God gives a careful explanation of the terms of his judgment. Please excuse the length of this quote from Ezekiel. God gives a better explanation of the judgment than I ever could.

“The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.
     “But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
     “But if a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked person does, will they live? None of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness they are guilty of and because of the sins they have committed, they will die.
     “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, you Israelites: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? If a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin, they will die for it; because of the sin they have committed they will die. But if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life. Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die. Yet the Israelites say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways unjust, people of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust?
     “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live! (Ezek. 18:20-32)

This is God’s idea of a just judgment. God commands the wicked to repent, and if they do, he forgets all the wickedness they have every done. Their righteousness will reap life for them.

It is obvious that God cannot be talking about perfect, sinless righteousness. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament teach that no one is without sin, not even the righteous or the born again (1 Kings 8:46; Jas. 3:2; 1 Jn. 1:8-10). Instead, under both the Old Testament and New Testament, there are those “whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” (Ps. 32:2; Rom. 4:6-8).

On top of this description of the judgment, Ezekiel gives a very interesting picture of righteousness in the eyes of God that is pertinent to this discussion.

“Son of man, if a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it to cut off its food supply and send famine upon it and kill its people and their animals, even if these three men—Noah, Daniel and Job—were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezek. 14:13-14)

Through Ezekiel, God lists three men who were so righteous that they could not only save themselves, but intervene for the sins of others. Of course, in this case, God has reached the point where he has crushed the kingdom of Judah and they are in captivity. He is not going to forgive them until the prophesied 70 years are fulfilled (Jer. 29:10). Nonetheless, God holds these three men up both as righteous enough to save themselves from judgment, and he clearly implies that their prayers carry weight with him for deferring judgment on the sins of others based on their righteousness.

We know that these men sinned because there is no one who does not sin. Even under the New Covenant, the Apostle John states that anyone claiming to have no sin is a liar (1 Jn. 1:8). Nonetheless, God has the highest regard for their righteousness.

This is a good spot to dismiss another myth. We evangelicals regularly quote Isaiah 64:6 and interpret it to mean that even when we do good, our righteousness is as dirty as filthy rags. This is not the case. Isaiah 64:6 is a specific lament by Isaiah in regard to Israel at a specific period of time. The passage is regularly quoted by us, but it is never quoted by Jesus or the apostles. And as you can see, the righteousness of Noah, Daniel, and Job are not considered filthy rags by God.

This is not just true of Noah, Daniel, and Job. God tells us through Ezekiel that anyone who turns from their wickedness and begins to do righteousness will live because of their righteousness. Their wickedness will never be brought up to them! (Ezek. 18:22).

I will not make you read through a passage you are surely familiar with, but in Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus tells us that when he sits down on his throne to judge us, he is not going to take stock all the little imperfections we accumulated in our lives. Instead, he is going to recount to us whether we have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and visited the sick and imprisoned. There is nothing in that passage about distinguishing between those who had faith and those who did not. He will know who had faith by whether they fed the hungry or not.

Blamelessness

The fact that God will not require sinlessness at the judgment does not mean that we cannot arrive at the judgment blameless, without stain or blemish (1 Cor. 1:8; Eph. 5:26-27; Jude 1:23). We have already discussed the fact that there are those to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Who are these people?

The Apostle John has a lot to say about this. For example, in 1 John 1:7 he tells us that “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” While in 1 John 1:9 we read that he will forgive and purify us if we confess our sins, 1 John 1:7 tells us that we will continually be cleansed if we will walk in the light.

Of course, we then have to ask, “What does it mean to walk in the light?”

Ephesians 5:8-15 addresses this directly. There Paul tells us that if we live as children of light, then the fruit we bear will be “goodness, righteousness, and truth” (v. 9). Light exposes (v. 13; Jn. 3:19-21). It is safe to conclude, then, that the person who is seeking to live a godly life, confessing his sins to God (1 Jn. 1:9) and others (Jas. 5:16), can expect to be forgiven on an ongoing basis. Such a person can expect to be among those to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

All the above was cut and pasted from what I wrote in the Word document. Let me add this to show you the direction I am going with the rest of the chapter.

This idea that there is a standard that much be met in order to be among those whose sins the Lord will not take account is in the New Testament in a number of places. We have already looked at 1 John 1:7, which says that walking in the light is what leads to fellowship with one another and to continual cleansing by Jesus’ blood. Walking in the darkness provides us with no fellowship with God at all (1 Jn. 1:6).

More directly, 1 John 3:7 tell us that we need to be practicing righteousness if we expect to be righteous as Jesus is righteous. It tells us not to be deceived about this.

Finally, Galatians 6:7 says, “God is not mocked.” There is a place where our sowing to flesh will lead to corruption. This place is not at one sin, but there is a such a place.

Any time I bring up these verses, or suggest that we as Christians will face the judgment, I am asked about “the line.” Where is the line? How badly must I sin before I am mocking God. How much righteousness must I practice in order to be sure that God is attributing the righteousness of Jesus to me and not accounting sin to me?

Normally, this is not even a real question. Normally this is a challenge. Those who ask me this are saying, “Your teaching is wrong because it leaves us wondering where the line is.”

The answer, though, is that we are supposed to be wondering. Look at Paul’s response to his own teaching in 1 Corinthians 9:27 and Philippians 3:8-15. Paul is discipling himself daily, and he is pressing forward with all his might. Why? Because he wants to attain to the resurrection of the dead. He does not want to be disqualified after preaching to others. What does he mean by disqualified? Well, he uses the same word that he uses in 2 Corinthians 13:5, where he tells us that we should examine whether we are in Christ. In 2 Corinthians 13:5 if we are disqualified, it is contrasted with being in Christ.

I know this is a horrifying thought to most of us, but it is definitely Paul’s attitude. Peter seems to agree because he tells us to live our lives in fear because of the judgment (1 Pet. 1:17). He also tells us to be diligent to make our calling and election certain (2 Pet. 1:10).

God does provide assurance, but it is not the kind of assurance we are typically offered by American preachers. He provides the witness of the Holy Spirit that we are his children (Rom. 8:16; 1 Jn. 3:24). We can also assure our hearts before God by loving in deed and truth rather than just talking about loving (1 Jn. 3:18-22).

We have to contrast this kind of strictness with the nature of God, who is merciful. The primary marker of God’s character is love (1 Jn. 4:8), but mercy is a close second (Ex. 34:6). When we sin, we are not supposed to run away from God, but we are to run to him because he will show mercy and “freely pardon” (Isa. 55:7).

This balance can be both frightening and amazing. Frightening because we must follow Paul in disciplining our body and bringing it under subjection (1 Cor. 9:27), and amazing because when we fail we find his mercy to be new every morning (Lam. 3:22). Surely God is as willing to forgive us as he commands us to forgive others. Jesus told Peter to forgive his brother 70 times 7 times if his brother offended him (Matt. 18:22). Surely God is more merciful than we are.

Okay. I will quit there except to say that if you are struggling with the fact that there is a line that you should fear, you should make sure you have Christians around you with whom you are in real fellowship (friendship). You need them anyway (Heb. 3:12), but they can provide an outside perspective besides our own faulty judgment of ourselves. They can tell you whether you are being too hard (or ridiculously hard) on yourself or whether they wonder with you whether you are really a Christian.

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We Can’t Do Anything Without Jesus

I hope at least a couple of you are wondering why I haven’t posted in a couple weeks. If you are one of those two people, lol, here is why.

My attempt to expand last year’s “Rebuilding the Foundation” series into a booklet on this blog is floundering. I took a look at the outline of the original teaching I did last year, and I realized I could probably expand the outline more successfully than what I am accomplishing here. I have been expanding that outline on my computer rather than posting here.

I don’t want to stop posting here, though, so I am going to post articles that are related to the “Rebuilding the Foundations” teaching (RTF). Today, the topic is …

We Can’t Do Anything Without Jesus

I am the vine. You are the branches. He who remains in me, and I in him, the same bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (Jn. 15:5, WEB)

That about says it. I don’t have to add anything at all to scripturally prove the premise of this post. So instead, let me explain how this relates to RTF.

Good Works and Grace

I am regularly told that I should tell the other side of the good works story. “Yes,” I am told, “good works are important like you are teaching, but you need to tell the other side of the story as well.”

I have two answers to this. One, the other side of the story is told weekly in pulpits, daily in contemporary Christian songs, and daily in our comfortable and unmotivated Christian lives. Two, I never stop telling the other side of the story, even when I am talking about good works.

Back on May 8, I posted “The Bible’s Amazing Focus on Good Works. Let’s review what I covered:

  • We are commanded to “affirm constantly” that God’s people should be “careful” to maintain good works (Tit. 3:8).
  • We are to think about how to “provoke” (or “annoy”) one another to love and good works (Heb. 10:24).
  • One of the main purposes of Scripture is to give us the tools to equip one another for good works (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
  • Grace will teach us and enable us to reject worldly living and to live godly (Tit. 2:11-12; Rom. 6:14).
  • Jesus died to purify us from all lawlessness and to purchase for himself a people zealous for good works (Tit. 2:13-14).
  • We will be judged by our good works (1 Pet. 1:17).
  • We are enabled to do good works by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 2:6-7 w/ Gal. 6:8-9).
  • Being born again sets us on a path of good works (Eph. 2:8-10)

These Scriptures not only show us the importance of good works, but they show us that God gave his Son, bought us with his blood, and gave us grace, the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, the new birth, and each other so that we would be able to do the good works that lead to eternal life. That’s a pretty heavy dose of “the other side of the story,” don’t you think?

As we saw in John 15:5, we cannot do anything apart from Jesus. As I pointed out when I wrote about Romans 2:6-7, the problem with that verse is that the very next chapter points out that “no, not one” actually patiently continues to do good works. Even those who come close are going to include among the sinners, so that Jesus can be the one Redeemer and the One who justifies us all (Rom. 3:21-26).

Along with these lovely passages about grace and spiritual power, I also pointed out that God still expects us to patiently continue to do good works and that we will reap corruption rather than eternal life if we do not (Gal. 6:7-9). This is not a popular thing to point out even though it is repeated over and over and over again (e.g., Rom. 8:12-13; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-7; 2 Pet. 1:9-11; 2:20-21, etc.). Pointing it out seems to negate everything I said about God’s amazing benefits to us in grace, the Spirit, and each other.

The fact is, neither should be said without the other. Every time we are told that belief in the Son leads to eternal life (Jn. 3:16), we should also be told that disobedience prevents life and leads to the wrath of God (Jn. 3:36).

Do not be deceived, little children, the one doing righteousness is righteous as He is righteous. (1 Jn. 3:7)

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