Sin, Forgiveness, and Confession
I found your treatment of the Essence of God doctrine cogent and illuminating. Thank you for it.
The one thing I suppose I will never understand fully though is how it is that we still see the heavy footprint of the Roman Church on the teaching of confession of sins (1 John 1:9) and how precisely it relates to spirituality in the life of the believer. The mental attitude of so many "religions" concerning confession is that we must DO something to make ourselves "worthy" of returning to good standing before God. To fill in a vast vacuum in developing this notion of spirituality by works, as it were, most who follow this mindset immediately reach for metaphors. "Well, think of how it was with your own daddy. Who could consider not confessing your wrongdoings to daddy. And you know that daddy never wanted a half-hearted confession. Well God is the same way. So you had better must up the right mixture of sincerity and sorrow in order to get it right. Otherwise you're wasting your time.' My gosh. I just realized that you can glean from a person's understanding of confession and personal sins just how he views his relationship with God as a born-again believer. For most today it amounts to, I do for God, and He will in turn do something good for me. Quid pro quo. In order to get along better with God, I must make myself worthy... a better person. I stand slack-jawed at how easy it is for us to see grace and mercy and love on Calvary's cross but the very moment one has believed, the teachers come out and start cracking the whip. As the Mormons are fond of singing, "Put your shoulder to the wheel and push along!"
What is frustrating about this topic of confession especially how you have followed the beaten track is that objectively it is not your facts so much as it is your motivation which I think is messed up. Look, 'confession of personal sins' is in 1 John and the concept is seen throughout Scripture. That is a fact. Sin is always defilement before a perfect and holy God. That is a fact. Sin is serious business especially taking into account the dear price that was paid on Calvary's cross to resolve this issue forever. That is a fact. But we can't resist injecting the Roman church theology or even succumbing to our personal fears that there is going to be one Christian out there that might get away with something. So we impose our personal norms and standard on to 1 John 1:9. We never pause long enough to pull back and carefully consider the Apostle's entire train of thought in the opening chapter of this epistle.
My word, teacher, we just got done considering "Walking in the Light" (that once unapproachable Light) in 1:7. Light emanates from God because God is Light. Light speaks of His perfect essence. Light is what God reveals. Light is truth. Light is revealed. The Holy Spirit revealed Light at creation on the command of Jesus Christ. Adam in innocence was free to walk in the Light and fellowship with God. He chose to leave the Light. There was nothing then that he could do on his own to re-enter the Light. Light and defilement can not mix. It is because Light cannot form any bonds with defilement. It is impossible. So the only solution to this problem was that the defilement had to be completely removed. Sin was judged, condemned and a ransom paid to rescue Adam through the death of Christ on the cross. Now man through faith in Jesus Christ can rejoin God in the Light. We walk in the Light once again by trusting Him. We remember that while defilement can no longer consign us to eternal darkness, defilement still defiles and defilement and Light cannot mix. God no longer has to condemn. God does not need to be propitiated. There is nothing from you that He now requires but a sincere (truthful) heart (Hebrews 10:22) which is equivalent to putting off the shoes before God (Exodus 3:2-5). Who can make the unclean clean? God can make the unclean clean. He is faithful and just to do this every single time for you and for me because Jesus Christ Himself is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2). God wants to have fellowship with His beloved ones because "God is light and in Him is no darkness at all." God is worthy to be trusted. Confession, my friend, is a trust concept.
We are enjoined to walk in the Light and enjoy the fellowship of God. This means that if you draw near to God, you do not find a dark and foreboding truth. You find freedom and hope and joy. In God the stumbling logs and rattlesnakes and cliffs and low-hanging branches are all exposed and we are made safe from them. Our goal of ultimate and eternal joy is secured in God because there is no darkness in God. That is, there are no lurking shadows in God. There is no hidden agenda, no small print. He is Light, and in him is no darkness at all.
Sin is serious business way to serious for you to try to handle on your own. You, teacher, want to send the believer away from confession with holding on to the notion that he can do better next time if he will only try harder. That is the whole point. He cannot do it on his own. The Apostle said not to deny your personal sins. Don't be in denial. There is no need to do this. What is the opposite of denial? Will you hear His voice today, 'I, God will do it. Will you trust Me?' If you do then you approach God with a truthful heart in humility. Otherwise all you are doing, teacher, is imposing your human viewpoint on marvelous, wonderful teaching of God's love and grace for His believer.
Now I will make this final comment. I did not develop my defense of confession (against those who would browbeat the believer with it) to any great length. If you are entrenched in a striving to make yourself better in order to earn God's approval instead of trusting Him to work in you to bring out the image of Christ in you---well, your reaction to this e-mail will be violent. Otherwise, I look forward to any breadcrumb you happen to throw my way.
In His Matchless grace,
Good to make your acquaintance. Thanks much for your positive words about the Essence of God, by which I am supposing you mean that section of Bible Basics 1: Theology. I add this last part because when it comes to the issue of confession of sin, I was thinking you typed in the wrong email address or something. As far as I can tell, I don't find any strong grounds for disagreement in any of the statements you have made in this emails on the issue of confession. What I do disagree with is your characterization of what I have had to say about the scriptural issue of confession of sin. That subject is covered at the following link: "Repentance, Confession, and Forgiveness" (part of Bible Basics 3B: Hamartiology). I think it is fair to say that while you may very well disagree with some or most or all of what I have to say there, characterizing it as "following the beaten track" is very wide of the mark. What I know of teachings on this subject in individual churches, structured denominations, and systematic theologies leads me to believe that none would agree with all of what I have written, few would agree with most of it, and some would disavow it all (hardly "beaten track" stuff). Characterizing it as Roman Catholic would be particularly galling except that this is the most inapplicable thing said here. Roman Catholics believe in a sacrament of confession wherein grace is dispensed by a specialized priesthood. I teach what scripture teaches (quote from BB 3B):
Now it is true that I say many other things in this study, and you may have a bone to pick with some or all of them. But it seems to me that what you feel to be the correct biblical position regarding confession is consonant with the above quote (unless I am gravely misreading your words).
So I would ask to read the link above at length, reconsider your comments, and, if you still have criticisms, sharpen them somewhat. I can be pretty dense when it comes to "getting" what other people are het up about. A very specific list wherein the objections are precisely and concisely stated is always helpful and appreciated, especially when they are backed up with scripture.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I confess to overreacting to something or another that seems not so important anymore. I apologize. Probably something in your explanation that struck me as having to muster up the right potion of feeling sorry before God in order for confession to work---is how I read it. As far as I can see, the theology behind your understanding of John's homologeo is rock solid. When I unfairly characterized your take on confession as RCC-like, I'm sure you realize I wasn't really considering doctrinal distinctions. Having been raised in the RCC, I can tell you that it's heavily shame based. Perhaps a few of your word choices triggered the outburst. As you rightly point out, forgiveness and cleansing (both in the aorist tense) are a result of God being faithful and just (based on Christ's sacrificial work on Calvary's cross). Forgiveness and cleansing are timeless assets for the believer. Who can make the unclean clean? God can καθαρίζω (katharizo). I'm sure you recognize the O.T. temple ritual in καθαρίζω. The priest washed his hands and feet for service. But as Jesus Christ indwells every believer ( the Shekinah Glory) and as there are no brick and mortar sanctuaries for the time being, the believer-priest approaches God with a truthful heart to be purified from defilement for service. There is no sacrifice to be made of course because of Christ's finished work on the cross. This is a wonderful privilege we have as believer-priests and a good thing considering that the stark realities of the flesh, "The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9
The unfailing love of God is the key to our motivation in the spiritual life! When we discover God's love for us in eternity past, that He knew about us and graciously provided for us long before we ever existed, long before Jesus Christ created the universe, we will stand in awe. Our response to this overarching love of God becomes our love for God. Unfailing love describes God. He does not exist apart from love. You can only comprehend Him by comprehending His love. He deals with you in love. His plan for you is based on His love. 1 John 1:9 is about faith, trust and fellowship. Few teachers seem to emphasize enough that GOD ACTUALLY WANTS TO HAVE FELLOWSHIP with His beloved. I would warn you about relying too heavily on the parent (father) family metaphor. There are just a few of us for whom that metaphor may not conjure up warm and fuzzy. That's not to rule them out of course. But "We love, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). The love of God in the Bible is the most critical concept you will ever encounter. Now there's your repentance for you!
Thank you for your generosity.
Thanks for your email – no worries. I do understand how easy it can be to misunderstand when dealing with these sorts of issues. It is also true that I am far from perfect when it comes to clarity of expression. I would dearly love, for example, to be able to avoid using the word "repent" ever, but since the Bible does use metanoeo and its cognates frequently, a teacher/translator has a choice either to omit the material in effect by saying something like "change of mind" or else live with the baggage in "repent" and go to lengths to explain what that really means.
Having cut my teeth theologically in an environment where the repent/metanoeo idea was largely sapped of all meaning to the point where it became an emotionless mental process (and confession as a result became a completely mechanical ritual), I long ago made the decision to use the biblical terminology while explaining that our emotion is not the basis of God's forgiveness. The other extreme (that is, on the other side of teaching that unless we are weeping and wailing, God will not forgive us), is what I was taught long ago, that is, that one can confess "with a smile on one's face" about the sin committed and still be forgiven. That may be true (in the abstract), but God knows how to wipe such smiles off of our faces.
This is serious business. God is not "kidding around", and neither should we be. That goes for ridiculous displays of emotion that are only worked up (along with assuming that how we feel has anything to do with the matter) as well as imagining that we may do whatever we want with impunity because we are forgiven by a simple prayer after the fact. The parent-child analogy has its limits, that is certainly true, and I have always striven not to exceed them, but it is also an analogy given to us by scripture, and not without good reason. On this point, one of the applications I would draw is that we would never imagine that our parents (or at least parents according to the ideal of what a parent should be) would put up with either of the silly extremes on this issue that have been advanced. In other words, God is aware of the reality of the situation, and we should realize that. He deals with us in truth, and we should realize that. He knows whether or not we are genuinely intending to adapt our will to please Him or not, and we should realize that no emotional display is necessary for forgiveness on the one hand, and that a cavalier attitude toward sin, even though it may be forgiven by confession, is not something that will endear us to Him or keep us out of future trouble on the other. He knows the truth and is serious about it, and so should we.
God is indeed love, and there could be no greater love than the love which saw all of the sins of mankind judged in Jesus Christ in the darkness on the cross. That God should send His Son to take on humanity and wed Himself to us forever, that He should come into this world, stooping down to help us and guide us, doing so in an irreversible way, and that He should endure all that Jesus endured to get to Calvary's cross – these things should be proof enough of His love. But that our Lord went into the darkness and faced the fire of hell to expiate each of our sins is something that leaves us speechless. God loves us. He is also serious about sin. If He were not, Jesus could have been spared what happened in those three hours of deepest, darkest fiery hell. But He could not be . . . not if we were to be spared.
God is love, perfect love. He is also justice, perfect justice. Jesus did the most for us while we were yet sinners, dying for us. He died for all, standing judgment for the sins of the entire world. And yet most human beings will be cast into the lake of fire which burns forever. The entire plan of God for human history is set up for all to be saved; that is the fundamental reason why each of us is here (see the link in BB 4B: "God's Plan to Save You"). But God's justice will not permit those who have rejected Christ (by omission or commission) to attain to eternal life. I can't imagine anything more serious.
As Christians, we stand secure in the righteousness of God through our faith, being accounted righteous not through our own efforts but having been justified through the blood of Christ. Love made that justification available, but not without death and sacrifice, the death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ for all we have sinfully done in our lives. That is something that we should all remember when we confess and are forgiven by the faithfulness and justice of God.
In Jesus our dear Lord,
Just another THANK YOU. I concur.
As I stated, "confess" is a faith concept. Trusting God is embodied in your statement: He knows whether or not we are genuinely intending to adapt our will to please Him or not, and we should realize that no emotional display is necessary for forgiveness on the one hand, and that a cavalier attitude toward sin, even though it may be forgiven by confession, is not something that will endear us to Him or keep us out of future trouble on the other. He knows the truth and is serious about it, and so should we.
I agree that on the one side you have emotional shame-based imbalance where our faith is in the amount of feeling sorry and emoting we can muster up AND on the other hand, we have mindless ritual where faith, trust and walking in the Light never really have to enter the picture because a mechanics has been executed. I believe I've heard it explained, "naming your sin" or "citing your sin."
Look, your explanation below brings into focus that metanoeo is really related to a "sincere" or truthful heart (Hebrews 10:22). One of God's mandates is that the believer is to walk by faith. I don't have to tell you that this "faith" is not only theological/doctrinal content but it actually includes reliance, dependence and oh yes, the sobering OBEDIENCE word. In my mind, confession principally is about restoration of our walk by faith. Yes there is the necessary êáèáñé æù from the defilement of personal sins and the appropriation of the Father's forgiveness which we have as a result of Christ's finished work on Calvary's cross. But to return to our walk in the faith cannot come about as a result of speaking condemnation to the child of God nor is it likely to be restored through observance of mindless yelling out the sin to God as if He did not already know what your sin was. God knows what the sin(s) are already so it cannot be about mindless ritual. It is about humility and trust and grace: 'I, God will do it. Will you trust Me?' It is about humility for every reason you mentioned below. It is about trust and grace because God alone can properly handle the disposition of sin in the life of the believer. The question is whether or not we will trust Him.
As you were kind enough to reveal some of your thinking behind this subject, let me leave you with one concern I have about what is NOT being taught in more than a few churches today. One might guess about here that he's gonna say something like 'Bible Doctrine' is what is missing. Well actually no that wasn't my first choice. There's plenty of fluff from the pulpit, sure. But what I think is sad, really sad is that the Gospel or "Good News" for Christians is hard to find in Sunday morning teaching. If I can grab a verse from Zechariah in order to sum it up: " 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts" (4:6). In other words, 'I, God will do it. Will you trust Me?' Obedience does not have to be a frightening word anymore. Confession does not have to be a frightening word anymore. I can embrace God's justice and be thankful that He condemned Adam. Without condemnation, salvation could not have come to fruition. Thank God! Yet teachers do not need to brow beat believers with condemnation or shame. God's love, God's immeasurable love is the way for teachers to motivate believers. You know what I say. Not human fickle warm and fuzzy love! But God's unfailing love. So many behind the pulpits seem to fret about what the believer is getting away with or that there is one Christian who's riding that Grace car right into the ditch. Really, that is what you want to focus on? "But" as the Apostle John wrote, "these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:21). There's John's true heart not only for the unbeliever but for the believer as well.
Thanks so much
I entirely agree about faith being at the core of this entire issue. We are justified by faith; we walk by faith; we please God by faith. Why would confession be any different? We have faith that the Father is satisfied with Christ's work so as to count us righteous in the first place and restore us to fellowship through simple confession thereafter. Without that faith, everything is meaningless (from our side).
Thanks for your very thoughtful and penetrating email. I will be sure to include this stream the next time I post something about these issues.
Your fellow servant of Jesus Christ,
I'm reading Peter's Epistles and one of the issues discussed there is the confession of sin.
In the R.C. church, priest is involved in this sacrament. You propose a confession that doesn't involve a third party, using 1John1:9 as evidence. The passage used to support the involvement of a priest by R.C. church is Jesus' statement to the eleven at John 20:23:
I'm confused regarding this matter, as both confessions seem to have support in the bible and having confessed my sins to a priest all my life I have found this sacrament very powerful and helpful in spiritual growth.
I would appreciate your view on the matter.
Good to hear from you. I did not realize that the RC church used John 20:23 to support the idea of confessing to a human being instead of confessing to God. Really, the model and true origin of this practice in the RC church is not John 20:23 but the Levitical rites (the latter is an apologetic development; few reading this passage would assume that this is what it means without first accepting the rite; see below). Under the Law, certain sins had to be symbolically atoned for by presenting an animal for sacrifice:
The person in question here may seem to be confessing these accidental sins to the priest in the process of the ritual. However, it should be noted that the penitent in question confesses first and it does not actually say that he/she confesses to the priest (i.e., the passage is consistent with a silent confession to God). Significantly, moreover, the types and variations of personal sins are an ocean wide and deep. A huge number of the sins we commit are not done in ignorance, and for such willful sinning there was no sacrifice:
Thus the RC model of confession is fundamentally faulty in my view even in its antecedents and even assuming that the Roman priesthood is the legitimate successor of the Levitical priesthood (which, of course, it most certainly is not). For even if one believes that under the Law there was confession to a priest, it only applied to sins of ignorance. And even if one wanted to forgo that temendously important point, it would still be a matter of importing yet another feature of the now-replaced by grace Law into the ritual of the church. This, as I have mentioned to you before, is a hallmark of Roman Catholicism, namely, investing that denomination with the trappings of ancient Israel for the purposes of assuming the authority of the ancient Israelite priesthood, as well as to benefit from its rituals. I say "benefit", but I mean this of course in a secular way, not a spiritual way. For beyond all argument doing things God's way is the only way to benefit spiritually, even if whatever else is done seems to pay earthly benefits.
After all, what we Christians are all about (or should be) is seeking to do things God's way according to the scriptures, not man's way, no matter how we may "feel about it". I have known many people and have a number of very good friends who feel that they are "benefitted spiritually" by the pomp and ritual of the RC church (or its Anglican and Episcopalian relatives). There are many people who like ritual and find it comforting. There are many people who draw a sense of security from being part of a very large organization with a storied history. And there are many people who claim that the dependency such organizations foster is "good for them spiritually" (the RC church itself most certainly does). But in fact, anything that is counter to God's desired approach is ipso facto "not good". It may not be readily apparent just why and how it is "not good" or just when and where it will create spiritual problems, but, in the end, going against the grain of the truth is always a mistake, the kind of spiritual mistake one always ends up paying for down the road in lost opportunities and fractures in one's faith.
Confession is a perfect example of this problem. I can certainly see how confessing my sins to some sympathetic priest who can't identify me personally, then having them "forgiven" by him could be incredibly comforting. I answer lots of emails in the course of this ministry, and the guilt people feel about their sins is a major issue with which a very large number of Christians struggle. It takes a certain amount of spiritual maturity to believe the truth of 1st John 1:9 and other pertinent scriptures and accept the fact of God's forgiveness based upon the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who died for those sins. If I just sent some of those tortured souls to a priest, perhaps they would have peace of mind – but upon what would their faith then be based? Wouldn't they then be confident (to the extent that they were confident) based upon the words spoken by a human being rather than the truth of scripture? Wouldn't they then be believing in a human being and a humanly developed organization instead of believing in God Himself and His faithfulness? And wouldn't they associate (as they are certainly meant to associate) their forgiveness with three false things: 1) the fact that they went to confession and confessed at confession; 2) the fact that a priest pronounced them forgiven; and 3) the fact that they then carried out whatever "penance" they were assigned? Under such circumstances, while they might "feel more like they were forgiven", the reality is that they would be less so in fact if forgiven at all. For forgiveness can only be given by God and is given to those who confess their sins to Him in simple faith. To the extent that anyone is really relying on the ritual of confession, relying on the words of the priest, or relying on any "good works" they might do to try to "make up" for their sins, to that extent they are not forgiven at all – because like Cain they would then be relying on what they were doing for God not what God has done for them in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the key, and in this RC process He and the grace provided by His death in our place are entirely lost in my humble opinion.
There is one further problem as well. The "good feeling" that participation in such a ritual produces, a false feeling of misplaced confidence in my view, is like a drug. It creates a dependency. Once a person is hooked on this drug, they will never be able to find any peace of mind through genuine confession and simple prayer (at least not until they break their addiction to it, and breaking addictions is never an easy process). They will ever after require this ritual to feel good about themselves when they sin as we all inevitably do (except in cases where the addiction is broken "cold turkey"). The result of this truth is that the person in question is now a prisoner of the organization which dispenses the drug. This is the brilliance of the RC church, a successful cult like no other. They dispense grace in the mass (and you can't get it anywhere else); they dispense forgiveness in the confession (only available from them); they are the only way to be saved (so you cannot feel secure unless you give yourself over to them). Given the above, the courage (both spiritual and physical) of the Reformers who stood up against these horrific practices is truly amazing.
To turn back to John 20:23, I will note that whatever the passage means, 1) there is no confession actually present in the text and no hint of the same in the context, and 2) these words are given to the apostles of Christ of whom there are but twelve, the last of whom died ca. A.D. 68. Since no apostles are around to whom we might confess, the idea that we should go to a priest instead is quite a jump of logic (and one for which I see no biblical mandate). This is an important point because of the way you have framed the question: "You propose a confession that doesn't involve a third party, using 1John1:9 as evidence". In fact, 1st John 1:9 is very clear on the face of it. Since priests and confession to priests do not occur in scripture, the burden of proof does not rest upon those who take the passage at face value but upon those who would twist it to mean something quite different from what it actually says. That is to say, no special "evidence" is required to take the Bible at its word; claiming it means something it doesn't seem to say does require much evidence and counter-argumentation.
Finally, even if we should wish to take Jesus' words at John 20:23 to mean that the power to forgive should be extended beyond the twelve, we have no grounds to restrict that transfer to ordained priests of the Roman Catholic church: if the passage applies to others besides the apostles, then it has to apply to all believers. In fact, however, this passage is speaking of salvation and the power to forgive mentioned here is the gospel through which all are forgiven when they believe: all who would accept the Word of truth the apostles would preach, Jesus tells them, would be forgiven, but those who would choose to reject the good news would only confirm their sins (cf. Jn.8:24; and see the link: "The Keys to the Kingdom"). Why, after all, would our Lord or His apostles ever want to confirm anyone in their sins (the critical second half of this verse)? That only happens in the case of those who use the precious gift of free will to reject the Savior.
I hope this has been helpful for you in your courageous efforts to find the truth. I encourage you to keep at it. This is the reason why we are here, and the only way to spiritual safety, spiritual growth, and eternal reward.
In the Name of the One who died for our sins that we might be forgiven and have eternal life with Him, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I was looking up the original Greek translation for 1st John 1:9 and came across your interpretation on your web site http://ichthys.com/mail-confession.htm.
I have been a follower of Jesus for over 25 years. I recently came to the truth that Jesus already died for my sins and that there is nothing I can do to earn salvation and therefore no longer need to ask his forgiveness. This felt strange to me since I had always said the Lord’s prayer and never thought twice about how I was spitting at Jesus when I asked him to do what he already did on the cross. I learned that there is nothing I can do to be forgiven because he already forgave me. For over 25 years I thought as you do that I need to continue asking for forgiveness to keep my sins forgiven. I have now finally found the truth that there is nothing I can do and that the only sin attributable to me is the rejection of God’s son Jesus and what he has already done for me. To think that I have anything to do with my salvation is to reject what he has already done.
Under The Law of Moses man proved he could not live a righteous life. Therefore Jesus took our sins away once and for all so that all we have to do is receive his gift of forgiveness through his death and eternal live through is resurrection.
Until only recently I had never realized that a part of the New Testament is in the Old Covenant where people were under the Law of Moses. I learned that before Jesus’ death, he was under The Law. That is why he said to pray The Lord’s Prayer. I realize now that I cannot forgive others as God has forgiven me – I am incapable of that. Therefore, if I put my faith in keeping my sins forgiven, I have not accepted what Jesus came to do. He came to die for the sin of all mankind from the beginning to the end of time. Man had proven that he could not keep The Law of Moses. Not that there was anything wrong with The Law at the time but simply that man proved he could not live it. So, man tried to work around The Law. Jesus even said, the if a man even looked at a woman with lust in his eye to cut it out. Another time he said that if we are angry with a brother, we have already murdered. Here he was trying to prove to us that man is incapable of keeping The Law. Therefore, Jesus came to fulfill the law and then when he died he said it is finished – referring to The Law. Now in his resurrection, we have The New Covenant where we are saved by grace – not by trying to keep our since forgiven.
I finally realize what he meant when he said "it is finished" – He had fulfilled Old Covenant and could therefore now usher in the New Covenant. The Covenant of Grace. Since the difference between the Law of Works and the Law of Grace is misunderstood, today’s churches are all practicing different ways to keep Christians forgiven and all argue about the various ways to salvation. We have a tendency to believe that by keeping some kind of law, that we can somehow earn his love, grace or forgiveness. I don’t know about you but if it were up to me to earn my salvation, I would lose the effort. Therefore I have to simply accept his gift of forgiveness and eternal life.
Have you ever thought about it that if there was anything you could do to earn salvation that Christ came for nothing?
So as to not get off track, I wanted to point out a flaw in your interpretation. You said that we need to confess our sins and that thereby we are forgiven of our sins. It is understandable that you would think that this is what 1st John 1:9 says. However, since I realized that Jesus already died for my sins, I had to ask myself "how many of my sins are after Jesus died?" All of them right? So, now I had to ask myself what does 1st John 1:9 really mean and who was he talking to? This passage was directed towards the Gnostics of that day because they believed that their immoral acts were not sinful. I had to find out what the verse meant so I looked up the original Greek meaning of the key words "forgive", "cleanse" and "all" in this passage. Here is what I discovered:
In the Greek language, the words "forgive" and "cleanse" mean past actions that have results today and will continue to have results in the future. Also, the word "all" used in these verses means all. It doesn't mean that we are cleansed of our past sins and our past unrighteousness, it means we were cleansed of all our unrighteousness. And if God cleanses us from all unrighteousness, then we are cleansed forever!
I realize that I don’t know you and that until recently I would have agreed with your interpretation. I don’t mean to offend you in any way. I only hope that I can help free as many Christians as possible with my new discovery of the Truth of the Gospel.
Here is a seminar I listened to that introduced me to the Truth and through this Truth I have freedom in Christ as was intended for Christians. Not to be under the Law anymore. Please reply with your comments when you are finished. It is a lot to listen to but you will know the truth about God’s perfect gift within the first few tracks:
Yours in Christ.
Good to make your acquaintance. I certainly believe in grace – where we would be without it? However, interpretations which oppose grace and law in an extreme way often run afoul of what scripture actually says. While I agree with many of the points you make, I have some serious problems with many of your conclusions. You raise a number of issues in this email, but since all of them seem to hinge upon two points – the meaning of 1st John 1:9 and the difference between our absolute position in Christ on the one hand and our continuation in the world in a less than perfect state on the other – I will confine my remarks to these two areas.
The above is my own translation from the original Greek text. If you compare it with other versions, you will see that they all say pretty much the same thing. That is really not surprising since the Greek here is very simple. In the Greek text, what we have is a "present general condition" with the standard meaning "If event A ever happens, then event B is always the result". Long story short, "if we ever confess, He is always faithful and just to forgive and cleanse us on each and ever occasion on which we do so". This is very straightforward and really needs no elaboration, except in cases like this where the clear sense is being taken to task.
First, your assumption that the words "forgive" and "cleanse" can only relate to the past here is incorrect – in Greek and in all the other languages with which I am familiar. Indeed, the condition here is anticipating multiple general situations that have not yet taken place, not explaining some single past event. Secondly, since the clause which talks about forgiveness is a final-clause in the subjunctive, its occurrence depends upon the fulfillment of the preceding condition. What this means in layman-speak is that when/if "we confess" then "God always does forgive". Since John puts these matters as conditional (subjunctive), dependent upon confession, and since he says "[in order] to forgive us", meaning himself and other believers, there is no other way to take this verse than as a promise for future forgiveness for believers when/if we confess our sins.
I have been a Greek professor for over twenty years and hold a Ph.D. in the field. Please do not take offense, but the interpretation you have been given on this verse has been concocted by someone who does not understand Greek at all. Or it may be that the person does have some rudimentary understanding, but no compunctions against doing whatever violence to the language (and to common canons of grammatical analysis) may be necessary to further his/her aim. In either case, calling this interpretation "gobbledygook" is only to give gobbledygook a bad name. Since all the versions have essentially the same thing, there would have to be some sort of massive conspiracy to distort this verse if the simple meaning were not the simple meaning. But the simple meaning is the simple meaning, and I vouch for it. I notice that your source does not provide an alternative translation that would "make clear" what all the gibberish means. I think that speaks volumes – because if the obvious meaning is incorrect, the "true" meaning would be clear from a "correct" translation – which would then be defensible. But if no new translation is given, no defense is needed.
Cults only need to cut out of scripture offensive passages to accomplish their goals. It is a very common thing for those who are advancing false teachings to throw out all of the verses that patently refute their claims. Appealing to the Greek or Hebrew with some "wise-sounding" and complicated pseudo-analysis is a time-honored tactic among those who distort the Word. Those who are really seeking the truth, however, attempt to understand what the Bible says – everywhere – and rejoice to find verses that challenge their suppositions, because these verses are really their best friends, turning them away from error and refining their assumptions until the truth be reached.
On the issue of "forgiven yet needing forgiveness", a word about methodology will not be out of place here either. True theology comes from scripture rather than imposing itself on scripture. If a doctrine be true, it will flow naturally from the Word of God. So much is this the case, that true systematic theology will have as its purpose connection and illumination (rather than correction and hyper-systematization). This may seem an obvious point, but it is one that interpreters of all stripes often miss in practice. That happens whenever an idea becomes a theory and that theory becomes a "doctrine" and that "doctrine" is then used to "back-interpret" the entire Word of God. When a human construct becomes more meaningful in the eye of the interpreter than the scriptures one is interpreting, the result is that such a dearly-held belief will run rough-shod over everything else in the Bible. The result is that even in cases where there is a grain of truth (take the evangelical over-emphasis on "dispensations", for example), the theory ends up coloring the actual truth to the detriment of all who believe what is then taught. I have seen this many times in the community of the faithful – how much more will it not be pernicious in the camp of those who are only wolves in sheep's clothing!
True teaching will say "verse 1 says A, verse 2 says B; here is how we can explain how both are true despite what some may see as apparent contradictions". False teaching says "verse 1 says A, therefore it must mean X, and we can forget about verse 2". This is all very much apropos of the issue at hand. We are most definitely forgiven; there is in fact nothing we can do to earn salvation. That being said, it is also equally true that as imperfect possessors of sin-in-the-flesh as long as reside in these present bodies, we are going to sin from time to time (1Jn.1:8; 1:10), and when we do we will need cleansing and forgiveness (restoration to fellowship is not automatic); and it is also equally true that while we cannot earn salvation, we do need to actually respond to Jesus in faith in order to be saved (salvation is not automatic).
There are a whole host of scriptural points containing "apparent contradictions" which are actually only expressing the aspects of that central fundamental truth that when we are saved we are not immediately translated into the next life. We belong to Jesus as believers; but we have been left in the world to fight the good fight of faith, grow and progress spiritually, and help others do likewise. We are in God's family, but we still operate in the arena of free-will, and will occasionally do things we ought not to do. As with children, when they err, we punish them and their error, especially if egregious, will throw a cloud over our fellowship with them for a time; but when they respond to our discipline and submit again to our authority, that relationship is repaired and restored (cf. the prodigal son).
If we had been forgiven in the sense of never needing any further repentance and confession, then divine discipline for sin would be unnecessary and inappropriate. Further, there would be no issue of sin at all. In fact of course both things are true. Our sins have been forgiven eternally and for all time; and we also require continuing repentance and confession of our sins when we sin after salvation for the restoration of our fellowship with the Lord, just as 1st John states.
As to the Lord's prayer, I shudder to see someone throwing it overboard in such a cavalier way. Do you not think it would be very odd if the prayer our Lord told His disciples to pray were really not meant for those who received the New Testament? After all, the gospels were written a generation after the 1st Advent of our Lord, and written for believers, not for the hardened generation to whom He came. If the Lord's prayer was really inapplicable to us, it probably wouldn't be in the Bible; if there were really some reason why it was there and still inapplicable, there would be some obvious, major teaching about that elsewhere in the New Testament. In fact, there is none. The entire New Testament – and all of scripture – is in reality a seamless whole for those who care enough to delve into all the details. The question is really one of understanding what it means: looking forward to the Father's Kingdom where all will be perfect forever (future focus); thanks for our provision (He takes care of us today); thanks for our forgiveness (the past is all about our salvation through Jesus' sacrifice); thanks for our deliverance (come what may, He will bring us safe through to the end); the doxology is not biblical; see the link: "The Lord's Prayer".
Over the centuries there have been many trends of teaching, false, partially false, and simply misguided, which have sought to over-draw the distinction between the Old and New Testaments. This is something which, of course, the apostles did not do. It is certainly the case that by failing to see what Jesus' fulfillment of the Old means can produce grave doctrinal error; however, attempting to link anything one sees as a contradiction in the scripture to the Old so as to discard it is equally fraught with spiritual peril. The Old looks forward to the cross in anticipation; the New looks back to it in gratitude for the fulfillment of the promised sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and we now rejoice in the gift and gifts of the Spirit which have overflowed unto us as a result of our dear Lord's victory at Calvary. When it comes to claiming that any proscriptive teaching has been obviated, there must be a careful investigation of the claim. As a rule of thumb, what has been "deactivated" in the Law falls into two major categories: 1) those things which apply to Israel as a model of the community of the faithful wherein sanctification was represented by ritual, and 2) those things which were shadows of Christ, wherein His sacrifice was represented by ritual. There is no longer a special community of the faithful; and of course our Lord Jesus Christ has now come. The cross is a reality; the shadows are now unnecessary (and harmful in that continuing in them suggests that His work was not sufficient; see the link: Hebrews 10:26). Temporal forgiveness of sin will continue to be necessary for us as long as we are afflicted with a sin-nature.
David is speaking here of himself (cf. v.5: "I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin"), sins he committed as a believer. And lest you say "he was under the Law; the cross had not yet happened", consider his exchange with Nathan:
The Lord did actually forgive David in time, even though the cross was many centuries future at that point. In a similar way, the Lord continues to forgive us when, as believers like David, we sin, even though the cross is many centuries behind us now. At salvation, David had overall forgiveness "on credit", but still had to confess for fellowship after salvation; we have overall forgiveness when we believe based on the actual death of Jesus for our sins; but we still have to confess for fellowship after salvation. The distinction in both cases is between our status as family members (in which we enjoy the status of "forgiven"), and our actual day to day relationship with the Lord (which, imperfect people that we are, has its ups and downs).
After all, depending upon how we are walking, we may be closer to the Lord today or farther away, and the latter may not involve sin so much as a less than red-hot zeal for Him. We are told to "draw closer" to the Lord, (Jas.4:8; cf. Heb.10:22); we are told to humble ourselves before Him (Jas.4:10); we are told to do and not to do all manner of things that affect our present relationship with Him – though not our eternal status. Confession of sins is one those areas of behavioral adjustment that God has enjoined and provided for us as we continue to walk in our present flesh through this corrupt world. Refusing to humble oneself, refusing to draw near in this way, refusing to confess sins as something unnecessary, is not a recipe for growth, and may result in spiritual trouble.
If you wronged someone near and dear to you, when you next see and speak to them, will you ignore that issue and not beg for their forgiveness so as to restore the relationship? You may say "God already knows", but so no doubt does the friend or spouse or family member who has been wronged. Will you really come to God after sinning and act as if nothing has happened? Confession is the way He has given us to acknowledge our errors that He may be "justified when you judge" (Ps.51:4; Rom.3:4). We are commanded to repent whenever we turn to the wrong and sinful path (e.g., Rev.2:5; 2:16); the opposite side of the coin to repentance is always confession.
Do we really imagine experiencing "godly sorrow" about our sinful deeds, followed by true repentance from such dead works – but no confession of sin? By the logic of "by grace we need no confession", then why would we need "godly sorrow"? Why would we need repentance?
As this passage makes clear, without the self-examination that results in repentance and confession – important at all times but especially before the remembrance of our Lord – judgment results. This is, therefore, no small matter. Confession of sin is the way our Lord has given us to "wash our feet"; as believers in and followers of Jesus Christ, we need no more baths, having been cleansed by the blood of Christ (Jn.13:10), but as long as we walk in the world, our feet will get dirty from time to time, and if we refuse to wash them, then we risk falling afoul of our Lord's warning: "you have no part with Me" (Jn.13:8; see the link: "Footwashing").
As a good rule of thumb, it often turns out to be the case that the truth tends to lie between two extremes. We are not walking on egg-shells so that any sin will damn us but are secure in Christ as members of His Body and His Bride, having been forgiven all our sins and cleansed of them by His blood; we are also not liberated from the issue of sin as long as we are on this earth – meaning that we must beware of it and repent of it and confess it when we do fall into it. Any other course will run into spiritual danger.
There is much more about all these issues at the following link:
In the love of Jesus Christ whose we are forevermore.
I understand repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. I read a commentary that said that repentance does not occur over night. If that's the case, then wouldn't this mean that it takes a while to be saved? That's incorrect to me. I was always taught that the moment we believe by faith, we are saved. And that faith which is genuine accompanies repentance. This is the commentary:
"In the Bible there is a word called repentance and it means that you are taking a 180 degree turn from a life of self-direction of sin to a life that follows Christ and that wants to have righteous behavior. This doesn’t happen overnight."
I believe that this commentary better describes my view of repentance:
They're not the same. What are your thoughts on this? Thanks in advance!
Yes, I very much agree with your "two sides of the same coin" description, especially if we are speaking about unbelievers. One first has to turn away from the lies of this world ("there is no God"; "I'm not a sinner"; "there is no eternal judgment") and then turn (or race!) to God for the only relief from the horrible pressure that facing the truth brings: the relief that comes from accepting Christ as Savior through faith. Sometimes faith leads and repentance follows; sometimes repentance leads and faith follows. On the one hand, everyone's experience is the same, because salvation only comes through faith in Christ by believing the truth of the gospel in God's grace. On the other hand, since no two people are the same, no two people are going to have the same exact salvation experience. Some may crawl to God over a lifetime; some may run to Him at the very first opportunity. Some may react to their horror at the problems of sin, death, and judgment; some may be attracted to the promise of eternal life and God's goodness so as to repent in their belief.
It is true that repentance is, biblically speaking "a change of mind", but it is also true that it is a fundamental shift in a person's way of thinking. That shift may be instantaneous or it may be a long time in the making; it may be truly very close to "once and for all" when it comes or it may be followed by vacillation. No two people react precisely the same way to the truth.
The danger in discussing the issue of repentance is twofold: 1) some people overplay the issue of repentance and turn it into a hyper-emotional activity, often going so far as to suggest that unless a person has had a visceral emotional experience and has made a point of overtly and verbally and publicly repenting then they are "not saved" (nothing could be further from the truth); 2) on the other extreme, some people would maintain that merely mentally indexing a change in one's thinking is true repentance even if a person does not change how they behave in any way thereafter (that is also not true). Repentance is a true change, a true "reorientation to the truth", but the nature and manner of its expression is not at all universally uniform.
For the full details of how I explain this issue, please see the following links:
Part of the issue in discussions of this sort is the occasional failure to distinguish between the repentance that accompanies salvation (i.e., of the unbeliever who turns to God) and the repentance that accompanies the believer's confession of sin. They are similar in process, but for believers there is certainly going to be a difference in intensity of the experience and the actual need for change for a believer who is on the right track, growing in grace, then has a minor "slip", and a believer who is headed entirely the wrong way, close to falling into apostasy, then responds positively to an overwhelming dose of divine discipline. Both "repent", but the former is, viewed strategically, only, say "10 degrees off" in his/her direction, while the latter may be "150 degrees off"; neither is doing a "180" as an unbeliever must do. But in all cases, repentance reorients to the "true north" of God's truth (if it is genuine, complete, and followed through on).
Hope this gets to some of your question. Feel free to write me back.
In our dear Savior Jesus Christ,
Hi Dr. I was curious which bible verse affirms - as per your statement: " We must also understand that personal sin separates us from God"
Separation ? - Romans says - there is now no condemnation ....in Christ. ?
Personal sins are different to any other sins ?
Look forward to hearing from you.
Good to make your acquaintance. By "separation" in the case of believers I do not mean ultimate separation but temporary and temporal alienation. As with many things in the Christian life, there is a difference between our position "in Christ" and our experience here on earth. When we believe, we are "sanctified" (2Thes.2:13), and yet we are told to pursue sanctification thereafter (Heb.12:14). When we believe, we are "saved" (Eph.2:8-9), and yet we are told to work out our salvation thereafter (Phil.2:12). When we believe, we are "made near" (Eph.2:13-17), and yet we are told to draw near to God thereafter (Jas.4:8). In all such matters, it is a question of being members of the Body of Christ by profession, but still living in bodies of sin by situation. But that is, of course, precisely why we are left here in the world after receiving Jesus Christ, namely, to grow up spiritually, to pass the tests of life, and to produce a crop for our Lord. That is to say, we are still here so that we may demonstrate just how much we do love Him by aligning our spiritual behavior to our spiritual pedigree; we are still here on earth so that we may match our Christian deeds to the potential we each have as result of belonging to Jesus Christ.
Apropos of your question, the first verse cited above is clearly talking about the reconciliation of salvation. Once we were God's enemies in an absolute sense, but He has brought us back to Himself through the intervention of Jesus Christ on our behalf. The second verse, while often taken in a similar vein and while certainly not excluding or being inapplicable to the reconciliation of salvation, is being addressed by Paul to the carnal Corinthians (cf. 1Cor.3:1-3). Since his hearers are Christians, the reconciliation mentioned is primarily a reconciliation of repentance – not from unbelief to belief, but from sinful conduct to repentance from sinful conduct. If a believer can be reconciled to God, then, at least in the experiential sense, that believer had been separated from Him so as to require it.
The Hebrew root shubh ("return") used here is very frequently employed in this sense of repentance, reconciliation, and drawing back near again to God after a separation. Since here too we have the community of the faithful in need of restoration rather than a gospel appeal to unbelievers, the notion of "distance from God" caused by our own sinful conduct is the key point in the metaphor.
Our relationship with God in Jesus Christ is perfect because God made it so through the blood of Jesus Christ. But does anyone doubt that sin sours that relationship, not eternally (assuming our backsliding is not unto spiritual death) but temporally? That is the separation I am speaking about in this context. "Separate" is not a perfect word, but no word would be immune from misunderstanding since we are dealing with the dichotomy between our Christian position (absolute) and our Christian behavior (relative). In absolute terms, "nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus". In relative terms "You have rejected us, O God, and burst forth upon us; you have been angry—now restore us!" (Ps.60:1 NIV).
The story of the prodigal son provides a good example of this same dynamic: he continued to be a son – not separated in a positional sense – but he was certainly separated in the sense of having gone to a "far country", analogous to the alienation from God we impose on ourselves when we indulge in sin and rupture the fellowship we otherwise would be enjoying with Him. When we "return", repenting of and confessing our sins, we find our fellowship restored, just as the father in the story gladly welcomed his son back, although he did not and we do not fall out of being "sons" in an overall sense.
This is an important point because while it is wrong to suggest that Christians can attain sinless perfection or that occasional lapses can cost a Christian his or her salvation, going the other route and assuming that sinning can take place with impunity is equally wrong. Sin does have the potential of separating us from God ultimately as well. That happens in extreme cases where believers give into a pattern of sinful behavior without confession and repentance. The sin is not the cause of renewed spiritual death, but the undermining and eventual destruction of faith is (i.e., apostasy; please see the link in the study you ask about: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death").
Finally, I use the term "personal sins" to distinguish individual acts of sinning from the sin nature or "sin in the flesh". Since scripture uses the word hamartia for both, the use of this "term of art" to distinguish the two helps avoid confusion (though I grant you it can seem a bit pleonastic).
I hope you find the above helpful. Please do feel free to write me back about any of the above.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the One who died for all of our sins.
Hi bro Robert - It has been some time since I received your lengthy reply and I wanted to thank you - I found your comments interesting - I have been in the Lord for just on 28 years and have always enjoyed exploring the scriptures - I am comfortable with the dispensational approach to the scriptures even though I studied Covenant theology with the Anglicans. I intend to present/challenge you with a totally different approach to the issue of forgiveness for the believer. It took many years to come to the position I now hold. This is not a hobby horse of mine but rather a very serious matter that I wish to share with those who are interested. Looking forward to your reply.
Good to hear from you. I certainly take these and all other biblical questions very seriously as well, and would be most interested to hear your response to my previous missile.
On dispensations, my main disagreement with the classic application of that system of interpretation is its stunning "over-reach". Recently, I received a communique from Chafer Theological Seminary, a conservative, independent institution here in the states (though you may be familiar with it even in Australia) which adheres to this view, informing me that "we teach that in God's eternal plan there is a clear distinction between Israel and the Church forever". That is a very good synopsis of the problem with dispensationalism as it is usually developed, namely, the use of different periods of God's provision of truth to carve out false distinctions within the Church. Everyone is resurrected when Jesus returns; all such form His Bride, His Church, wherein there is "neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal.3:28 NIV). I think the hyper-divisional structures and strictures which hyper-dispensationalism fosters have done a lot to perpetuate the false doctrine of the pre-Tribulation rapture (a teaching which will prove a grave liability for all who embrace it the closer we come to the end).
I love all my brothers and sisters in Christ, and would certainly not withdraw my love over such points of doctrine. That is not to say, however, that they are not of critical importance in the objective we all should have of drawing closer to Jesus day by day. That is a matter of will (love), but it is also a matter of truth (faith).
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Dear Dr. Luginbill
I must begin by thanking you for your dedication to the Truth and the vast resource you have made publicly available (along with personally walking so many through the thorns to the Highway). The recent correspondence of 'Angel of the Lord' has been made clearly and I see what you proclaim. I will not follow anyone onto a road unless they can clearly show me they are not taking me into 'la-la land' (that's a technical term), but you have consistently proved yourself and your doctrine with scripture, systematically and effectively, and to that I am grateful. I do believe your blessings for this ministry will be a -fold, but to the extent I can not be sure.
I have many accusing me until my head is swimming again with doctrinal statements, arguments, and accusations so seemingly unclear - and yet clearly on the opposite side of the scriptural meaning as I so clearly see it (and am unable to discount or sweep under the rug the plethora of scriptural passages which call me to another direction). I must say that I see a peculiar parallel to the liberal democrat addressing the conservative republican as I do the Calvinist (which seeming holds the majority seat as well) to the Wesleyan. I have become cautious of people who are quick to go to blows, and when they [finally] do defend their opinion it seemingly either is full of holes or is not a vessel at all, but a house of cards. This greatly confused me in the beginning, and just as I thought I was standing strong, I feel I have lost my footing in the undercurrent again.
I have just been challenged by the 'justification by faith alone' or 'perseverance of the saints' doctrine again, and after making sure we are not on the 'faith gone to seed' trail, I explain why I see what I see. But time and again, they try to twist my view of the scriptures into a 'salvation of works' - but it is not. I lived twenty years living in sinfulness but speaking to Jesus. I also hear what so many now say of 'perhaps their conversion was not real'. I heard and I believed and I went to the street preaching. Whether my seed was sown on the rocky places or the thorns, I was unfruitful. I believe it was 'real', but it lacked 'selling everything'. At some point He stripped me of everything, and there I stood, poor, naked, and ashamed, willing (and wanting) to do whatever, be whatever He wanted. Not until then did I get a glimpse. Not when I 'said the prayer', not anything of the sort - I was dying on the vine without a clue that anything could be different. He didn't leave me, but I hadn't died yet either. I believe He stood at my heart knocking. Obedience. It was spoke unto me by the Spirit as strong as anything. I began reading, not knowing a thing (but John 3:16) and I saw it [obedience or else] over and over - break you off, blot your name out, all these things concerning those who say they follow Him yet live in disobedience. His patience was long for these (look at the exodus), but without obedience they seemingly perished.
Let me clarify what I do believe - I understand we are so inept that we cannot even see the Kingdom without being called [John 6:44], I am not implying there is salvation apart from Jesus. I also don't believe we can't stop sinning without Him. Some of the more ingrained (enslaved) sins I have had to overcome has taken constant pleading, crying out, repenting for months...but He has been faithful in the giving of Grace to lift me up over these. And I believe this is asked of us, even required. Maybe you only inherit a higher level of heaven, but I don't see it happening. What is 1Cor 6:9, Gal 5:19, Eph. 5:5 speak of...and why must Paul say do not be deceived? Jesus Himself describes the beauty of heaven, but outside the gates are these same people, along with the people who love and practice a lie. A lie! You have to think that if God is truth, even a white lie (if there were such a justifiable thing) would position you opposite God - perhaps outside the gates.
Let me expand on this briefly. If I have not addressed and given up every sin that has been illuminated to me, I am not in obedience. If it is, say, outbursts of wrath, my every focus is to overcome this through looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith [Heb 12]. I must know that the reason I am in this position is by His hand, and to not address this as a test that will produce fruit is to deny the power and authority of God [James 1:2-4, Rev 14:12, Heb 12:2, 1Peter 1:6-9, 4:12-16]. I pray earnestly (as I described) and I gain victory over it through Him. If I slip, this is an accidental sin (mentioned below), but if I am prone to anger, gossip, tailgating and I know it and don't do anything about it, I believe I tempt Christ [1Cor 10:9, Num 21:5] and I am not believing in the Son of God with His Directive for man [1John 2:3-6, Rev 2:25-26], His Power and Authority and Righteousness. Faith in God is expressed more in my every action than just believing He is who He is [James 2:19]. To many this would sound like a lot of work, and oh yeah 'where's the free gift?', but it is going to cost you everything. They want to shirk from works, but works is a judging point throughout scripture. Of course we could look at James [Jas 2:20], but more so look at practically every church that our Lord is judging in the first part of Revelation [Rev 2:2, 5, 9, 13, 19, 21-23, 3:4-5, 8, 10]. And blaspheming God's name in one instance is simply favoring one brother over another [Jas 2:6-7]. He sends the rich away empty! Didn't they believe? Or did they not believe in their works [Jas 5:4]?
Peter describes false teachers, these particular ones are 'following the ways of Balaam' (so they are into debauchery [Rev 2:14]), and he says " While they promise them liberty [freedom to sin], they themselves are slaves of corruption". But it concludes to an interesting point: For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. [2Pet 2:21]. So if I read this correct, it would be better to have not been saved than to be saved and go back to a life of sin.
Again in Luke 12:42 there is a parable of a servant and his master. He is a servant of God, not of the devil. And when he speaks of Him tarrying and he begins his wickedness, He will come and '... will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.'
I have found it to be key that anytime two doctrines are proposed, the one that is more palatable and favored by the flesh should always be the one scrutinized the most. In only reading the Bible and somewhat previously unaware of a 'rapture', I never found it, and that greatly upset a lot of people I talked to as well. They discounted me as being young (in the Word) and said things of me - and they still do.
In Numbers 15, if you sin unintentionally, the Lord calls for a sacrifice of a bull, grain, and of drink - plus a sin offering. But if the sin is presumptuous, or with a high hand, that person is cut off from his people. Hebrews 10:26 is the New Testament equivalent of that:
26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
. . . then furthering with trampling the Son of God underfoot and treating His blood for our sins a common thing?
I believe the Calvinists as well use the cities of refuge as a type of the Christ, but again these are only open to those who kill accidentally - not the willful murderer. There is no portion for those in these cities.
With all of the verses in favor for "once saved, always saved", I see, well, how they can mean something else as well. I mean you can put that spin on them, or not. I don't see where we have to come to God if He calls us - we're still tested (irresistible grace I think they call it). But at times I am seemingly the only one on this side of the field, while I am looked at either like Jeremiah (which to me would not only be appropriate considering the scripture view of the last days, but ok) or a false prophet (not so ok), I have to wonder if it is me. I do pray you can shed some light on what I consider to be the way, a narrow (not 2.2 billion current adherents, as WikiP states) path.
I thank you again in advance for helping me through this matter. I believe there is so much to support this, but I am not here to change your mind - and my letter is too long already. I would like to know that even though I am unpopular, I am reading into these things correctly, however I am not committed to any point of view, rather the Truth of God, as He shows and guides me.
In Him who is my every hope the Pearl I have sold everything for.
You are very welcome, and welcome at Ichthys any time. As to the rest of your missive, you have covered a lot of ground here, so apologies in advance if I in any way either misconstrue your position(s) or fail to answer any of the questions and issues you bring up (you are most certainly welcome to write me back for clarification – for me or from me).
Perhaps the best way to proceed would be to give you a short synopsis of what I believe scripture teaches about these matters. They are all fundamental questions which I have dealt with in many ways and many places in the past, so forgive me if I refer you to links from time to time.
Since the fall of Adam and Eve (BB 3A), every human being ever born has been born with a corrupt body, a body infested by sin – with the sole exception of our Lord Jesus Christ. This indwelling sin is the cause of our alienation from God at birth, our spiritual death (BB 3B), and that alienation/death is only transformed into life and a renewed relationship with Him when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior by believing the gospel message about Him (BB 4B): He is the Son of God become a true man as well who died for the sins of the world (BB 4A).
Being saved is the most important thing that happens in our lives on this earth, but it is not the end. We are not rendered perfect in our mortal bodies when become children of God, nor are we immediately transported to heaven. Instead, we are left here in the devil's world to serve Jesus Christ. That service to the Lord who bought us requires us to grow spiritually (through hearing and believing the truth of God's Word), to advance spiritually (through applying that truth we believe to our lives, especially in testing), and to produce spiritually (aiding our fellow believers in this same process through the gifts and ministries we have been individually assigned). In every Christian life, even in those of the some of the greatest believers of the Bible, that process of growth, advance and production is never a straight line; it often involves many ups and downs, even for those who do go on to do what Jesus has left us here to do.
Of course, sad to say, as you point out so well, there are those who fail to grow, or fail to advance if they do, or fail to produce anything of particular significance for Jesus Christ. Even sadder is the fact that there are many who fall away altogether, who allow their light of faith to be extinguished, their plant of faith to wither and die. Sin is indeed always involved in this process of apostasy, but in the opposite way of what many think. A genuine believer, a person of true faith, is a child of God and servant of Jesus Christ. No such person can continue in a life of total disobedience to Jesus forever. More often than not, sin wears down faith; rather than having to deal with the guilt and the continual calls by our Lord to repent, many who go down the road of self-will just persevere in that perversity until they learn to ignore the calls, until their hearts have hardened, until faith dims and finally dies. That is the way of apostasy, the loss of faith. There is, however, a type of person who is a child of God and will not let go of faith no matter what, yet still persists in disobedience. The first child "ran away from home", so to speak, and never looked back. The second child refuses to leave a good home, but also refuses to obey its Lord and Master. In cases of gross and intensifying sinfulness on the part of believers who even so refuse to relinquish their faith, God turns up the heat of divine discipline in an ever intensifying way. If the Christian in question never responds by turning away from their disreputable conduct, he or she is "disciplined to death", the "sin unto death". Neither of these behaviors is anything to be proud of, but the latter is better than the former:
For believers who are not fighting against God in either of these two ways, spiritual progress is still nothing that is guaranteed. Indeed, in our day the percentage of our fellow Christians who are seriously committed to learning what the Bible says and means, to putting that into practice in their lives so as to walk closely with Jesus, and to helping others do the same through ministering to them seems to be minuscule. The weeds grow thick in the era of Laodicea (see the link).
For believers who are trying to imitate Christ and to do with their lives what He would have them to do, this "spiritual offense" I have described several times above is the key. Now it is very true that in order to live as Jesus would have us to live we also need to abstain from sin as best we can. I qualify this statement because scripture makes it very clear that no human being will ever completely conquer sin. Only Jesus ever lived a sinless life. There is no such thing as sinless perfection, not in these mortal, sin-infested bodies.
We most certainly ought "live godly", and the key element in eusebeia, "godliness" in the Greek, is our fear of God, our respect and veneration of Him coupled with our healthy and reverent fear of His discipline (of which we as sons have all had our share). We most certainly do need to confess our sins and in our growth learn how to stay away from sin more and more. But in this we will never be perfect, and it can be a dangerous proposition to attempt to court such perfection. In my experience and observation, the only way to ever achieve "peace" that one has become "sinless" is to redefine what sin is to our own benefit. In fact, of course, sin is an incredibly subtle and immensely multifarious and insidious adversary, and no doubt even comprises things of which many of us will not be aware this side of heaven. The rituals of the Mosaic Law were mostly concerned with "sins of ignorance" for that very reason.
The second problem with an over-focus on sin is that the only real way to make headway against it is to change from the inside out, not the outside in. Our fight against sin will never amount to anything more than a cosmetic endeavor (if we are honest about it) until we begin to be transformed into the image of Christ through the process of spiritual growth. Certainly, if we are fond of some type of sin, we are going to have to get over it and stop it. However, it is only by becoming more spiritually mature that we will find this to be both possible in the short term and sustainable in the long run. And if we prefer focusing on our behavioral issues to the detriment of our spiritual growth, we are going to get absolutely nowhere in the Christian life. That is to say, we cannot win (or even score) with defense alone. We need to push forward, and that will help us to push back against sin.
To take but one small example, once we learn about and truly come to believe all of the wonderful and quite specific things the Bible has to teach us about our potential future heavenly rewards (see the link: The Judgment and Reward of the Church), we cannot help but be better motivated to cull out of our lives everything which impedes our advance and future reward (as sin, its natural consequences, and the divine discipline it brings most assuredly do). We need to, as scripture says, "hold onto the one and not let go of the other" (Eccl.7:16-18). The Christian life requires growth and sanctification, but while growth does not always produce correspondingly concomitant sanctification (since this involves the persistent application of our free will and we are not perfect), true sanctification always proves impossible without spiritual growth. Simply put, if a person is sinning, they should stop it. If they have trouble stopping, it is either because they really haven't determined to do so or because they have not grown spiritually to the point of being able to do so (and most probably both). After all, sins of omission are just as much sin as sins of commission. Jesus wants us to grow, move forward, and produce a crop for Him. If we aren't doing what our Lord and Master wants us to do, how is that not sinful?
All of this is a very brief synopsis of issues which are covered in great detail elsewhere, most of which you find at the following link: Bible Basics 3B: Hamartiology: the Biblical Study of Sin.
As to "once saved, always saved", people very commonly reference "the many scriptures which teach it", but, honestly, I have never seen a single Bible verse which directly teaches that once a person puts their faith in Christ and becomes a genuine believer they can never fall from that status, even if they stop believing in Him at some future point. The verses that teach the opposite are ubiquitous in scripture, and your email documents that quite well. As I am unsure what your specific questions are on this point, allow me to direct you to some links where the issue is covered in some detail (with links to similar studies as well):
I pray that God will give you peace and direction in all these matters, and lead you to a place of growth in and service to Jesus Christ.
I have to bring this point up, perhaps in the light of the Gospel being so washed out and diluted, if you were to go to church and never read the Bible today, you would most likely be in serious trouble. I gave you (in a previous letter) the vision of a van just about mowing me down as I slowed for a school zone (I think 25 is awful slow just like the next, but it is 25), and as he floored it with the delayed swerve around my car almost catching the bumper (of course, still in the school zone), I read on the side '___ Ministries' (please edit this name out if you choose publicly display this correspondence). I still speak of the woman or man in traffic angrily flipping people off and driving off with a fish on the back of their car. I understand many who proclaim are not, but in this whole scenario of blasphemies, how do you think the Lord will judge? Do you think of the people 'outside of the gates', say the one 'who loves and practices a lie', is he not the one who has decided he will not lie, not on his taxes, not to get that job, not to his wife when she asks what he was looking at? Or did He just say, "God's not through with me yet" or "not perfect just forgiven" and live a life of lies that proclaims his absence of trust in God and his disobedience to His commands and statutes, that proclaims "you think you've been mistreated before, just wait till I marry you/work for you/do business with you." Then, if he believes - not a little but really believes - He will give him white garments and wash his sins clean. Oh, and all the false witnessing that is so on display to all who are outside the Kingdom, that just putrefies the people outside of the faith (that was me) to even considering being hooked up with these self righteous hypocrites - well that too will be washed clean by Jesus.
Paul talked about letting wrong be done. Be sued and don't sue back. Why don't you just let wrong be done to you [and do right back]. I believe the following lists can not be glossed over.
Just like the OSAS crowd can immediately be focused on some 'I will not lose one' in part of the verse, I don't believe we are to jump hastily to 'we were justified' and say 'There!'. These verses explain more than most are willing to hear.
You say you have to be cleansed from the inside out for this to take place fully. In the past I was involved in all manner of sinfulness, but I was a caring, good guy (so I thought). I took stupendous care of my family, waited on my wife hand and foot, tried to be right to all people (more of a Robin Hood thing - you know the industry machine is an evil, we need to band together). Now upon this call (the calling from our Lord), I put myself under great duress by giving up all of these at once. To be realistic, it took a couple weeks of stumbling, but if I hadn't, and six months later I died, would Jesus tell me 'I know you have done a lot of wrong...well I know you're not all the way clean on the inside. The way you behaved so poorly in all those areas - I know I destroyed all those, just for not believing that I would sustain them in the desert and a couple idols, but you fall into a different category.'
I can remember being so tempted but I fought and fought them, crying out with a loud voice 'are You a god of Power or of impotence!! I beg you relieve me of this!!' This one might have been the hardest to gain victory over, and I truly feel I have overcome. But that fight, that constant struggle of crying out, straining and fighting, filling myself with all His Words, to finally not just not look, but to see them as people, people of God or people without a God. I don't fool myself into thinking I should help them at all, for most that do drown. But I can see them without those eyes, that feeling in my heart whatsoever. You wouldn't believe the obvious sins committed by some of the pastors in the church I presently attend.
Does not the fool fall in the hole [pit]? Does his foot not slip? Do you think I am taking too strong of a view on sin? I understand for every sin I see there are probably five I don't see, but to focus and overcome [Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26, 3:12, 21:7] in these that have been shown to me, to pray that I might see the others, not just to clean myself up, but that - contrary to what I knew and most self righteous people still believe -that our sins mow people down. They murder them, they rape and pillage and they don't even see it. They kill conversationally and yet these go on believing 'I don't hurt anyone. I am just trying to bless everyone's life'.
Like I said before, I really am like the fly in the ointment at this Baptist church, and I will probably leave. Paul did speak to their face [Gal 2:11], but I don't believe He said "He came to divide 'brothers against brothers'". I would just bend to all of this, but my heart is convicted so strongly. I don't know if you can imagine quitting/changing all these things at once, but it was like standing in one place, arms down and fists clenched, and not moving for like a month - before it even started to subside. Do you think I was too hard on the sin problem? Most would agree 'no, you have to stop sinning' but out of the same mouth it is 'but it's not the criteria'. While I was in it, it felt like the criteria. To do it again (don't think I am not tempted), it feels like the criteria.
This has gotten kind of personal on my part and have spoken about people I would not speak publicly about. You seem to be a man who knows, so if you do post this on the internet, please use serious discretion in regards to the specific examples [left out].
By no means do I want to be divisive to you/with you, but I can not see smooth sailing on any other path apart from this. I value your opinion, so I have made myself transparent in hopes to work this through to a conclusion.
In Him who will wash our robes and make them white in the Blood of the Lamb
Thanks for the email. Rest assured that when and if this gets posted (posts tend to run a year or two behind time of writing unless there is a theme-posting that calls them up early), I always do my best to remove anything that might be identifying (and that includes very specific descriptions).
I think what you have said here is entirely consistent with everything I believe and have so far shared with you. First, the fact that you find obvious sinfulness in an environment which is highly legalistic (as all Baptist churches I have every had anything to do with surely are), certainly proves decisively that simply focusing upon prohibition, "preaching sin", ginning up people to "feel bad" for what they have done, "rededicate", "repent", "revive", etc., etc., somehow never ever works. That is because these (mostly) legitimate points are not married up with proper teaching of the entire will and counsel of God which would lead to personal spiritual growth. That is to say, the people who are being encouraged to turn away from sin are not strong enough, wise enough, mature enough on the inside to get any real traction in the matter of personal sanctification. The best they can do is learn how to hide their weaknesses and sinful proclivities better, learn how to rationalize their continued dalliances with sin, learn how to redefine what sin is to their own benefit. In other words, by not helping Christians grow on the inside, such organizations only succeed in making them bigger hypocrites on the outside – the very thing that has you so exercised, and very rightfully so. That is one of the most insidious things about legalism: it not only petrifies spiritual growth, but it also does not even succeed in accomplishing what at least on the surface it seems to be seeking to accomplish, namely, keeping people from sin (in fact, it usually makes things worse, just whitewashes its objects so on cursory inspection they may seem more sanctified). I think the fact that some of the most appalling behavior you have witnessed comes from the church leadership proves the point in spades. Please see the links:
Secondly, your response to these things, also demonstrates precisely what I am talking about in terms of the way the process of sanctification ought to work. Saying things like "not perfect, only forgiven" or "God's not finished with me yet" are true, to a point. But the reason they rankle you and me, I believe, is that they are used as excuses and rationalizations; they are used to ignore the ministry of the Spirit and the prodding of the conscience – just the opposite of the response God wants from us. Your success in turning away from a cocktail of gross sin in your life came about because you began reading the Bible, I'll wager, and because the Spirit spoke to your conscience through the truths you read there. A very large part of spiritual growth is the cleansing our consciences and the building up in our heart of a foundation of truth that makes us better at discerning what is right and wrong for us to do, and this makes us more willing to act – not only in regard to sanctification and avoiding sin (where the issues are really pretty clear and easy for our consciences to detect), but also in regard to everything else in our lives and in how we are to view and deal with the world at large and to live our lives in every respect.
This is the process of spiritual growth, and it requires not only a deep understanding of sin (beyond the basics of what things are sin) but also of the entire content of the truth of God's Word. For this, believers really do need some source of orthodox and substantive Bible teaching to get beyond a certain point. When a believer does begin to learn "all about God and all about the Bible", and when that believer really does believe these truths and really does begin to start seeing and evaluating the world and everything in it from God's point of view and does begin to live his life thereby, the refining of the conscience and increasing sanctification become, while never "automatic", much more natural and a matter of course. The change that spiritual growth effects on the believer's inside demands sanctification, and such sanctification is a natural result of that spiritual growth.
That is why, for example, the apostle John who makes the issue of confession of sin extremely clear (1Jn.1:9) and who writes "that you may not sin" (1Jn.2:1), later in his first epistle can also describe believers as those who "cannot sin" (e.g., 1Jn.3:9). That is because on the one hand believers are forgiven, but on the other hand they are also called to be perfect. If we follow Jesus as we should, the ideal end result is indeed our complete and total "sanctification"; on the other hand if we go to extremes in the other direction the end result is "the sin unto death" (1Jn.5:16). In realistic terms, we have to accept that there is "sin which does not result in death" (1Jn.5:17). But we should not be embracing that untenable "middle ground" as our goal! Sin is an aberration for the believer, and is not part of who we are. Sin impedes our growth, our advance, our production. Sin is contrary to the will of God, does not please Jesus Christ, and results in unnecessary tribulation and divine discipline. Sin hurts, and it hurts our proper function as Christians. Anyone who is growing in Jesus has a conscience which understands that entirely. In fact, the only way to stand pat in a morass of rationalization where sin is tolerated and only covered up is by consistently refusing to grow spiritually. Unfortunately, that is easy enough to do, especially in the dearth of good Bible teaching we are presently experiencing. But for those who are seeking Jesus, seeking His truth, and seeking to walk in His path, sin is less of an issue because it becomes ever easier to fend it off once spiritual momentum is achieved: a boat moving very slowly is much more easily influenced by countervailing eddies and currents than one which is moving very fast. This makes perfect sense, moreover, because if we have committed our will resolutely to growing in the truth, we cannot hold back our will from sanctification; on the other hand, if we have held back our will from spiritual growth, it is not really possible to engage in sanctification with that same will. We cannot follow Jesus with one foot but not the other. If we would do what He would have us to do, at some point we have to begin doing everything He would have us do.
We will never be perfect in either aspect of this fight, but the only way to be consistent in living with the standard of perfection is to become stronger on the inside. As long as we continue to allow ourselves to be "tossed to and fro" by every wind and wave of false teaching (Eph.4:14-16), we will never get to that place of spiritual momentum where fending off sin is a normal part of our Christian walk, one that we are able accomplish without undue difficulty. No one is perfect. We will always have to be on the lookout for sin and sinfulness, we will always have to be quick to confess any deviation from the perfect standard, and, from time to time, we will stumble (David, Moses, and Elijah come to mind). But even if we make sanctification a top priority, without growing in Jesus we will only be grinding our gears, and we will only be accomplishing a part of the mission for which we have been left here on earth – spiritual "defense", a large part of whose very purpose is to allow us to be effective on the offense for Jesus Christ.
Keep fighting the good fight of faith; hold up your shield – but don't forget to use that sword, the Word of God (Eph.6:13-17). To be what Jesus wants us to be, we have to take up "the full panoply of God".
Please see also the following links:
Yours in the One who died to wash away all our sin, Jesus Christ the Righteous.