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Peace, Reconciliation and Salvation

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Question #1:  

How does unforgiveness advance Satan?

"Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes."
2nd Corinthians 2:10-11

Response #1: 

Paul is being practical – and that's a good lesson for us. He took a stand on principle in ordering the Corinthian congregation to expel the immoral young man of 1Cor.5:1ff. Now that the point was made, enough was enough. Otherwise, the objective of "saving the spirit" of the young man (1Cor.5:5) might be lost by his being submerged in grief while the congregation might be tempted towards self-righteousness – as if they were not all sinners too. The devil is very good at exploiting all such situations, and Paul is taking pains to leave as few vulnerabilities exposed as possible. We should do the same with ourselves and with whomever we minister to. Confrontation of any sort, even in a good cause, even when done "on principle", and even when absolutely necessary presents the evil one with many opportunities as all manner of emotions flare up; so the sooner the controversy is resolved the better.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
Matthew 5:9 NASB

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.
Hebrews 12:14 NASB

And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
James 3:18 NASB

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Can you please define "peace" the way God wants us to understand it – it's not just a feeling, is it?

Response #2: 

On peace: I do have a couple of links ("Attaining Christian Peace" and "Called to Joy"). Essentially, biblical peace is the wholeness and tranquility that comes from a complete alleviation of hostility and trouble (Hebrew shalom: שלום; Greek eirene: εἰρήνη). First and foremost that entails the renewal of a family relationship with God through the blood of Jesus Christ (see the link: "Reconciliation"). That is the most important peace we have as Christians, namely, no longer being at odds with God but reconciled to Him through our Lord's death on our behalf.

This positional peace – which will in the end be eternal peace when we are with Him forever – very much parallels sanctification. Just as we are sanctified/made holy at salvation and look forward to our ultimate sanctification in eternity, but are nevertheless called to pursue sanctification, experiential sanctification in this life, so also we are called to "have peace" here in this life (Rom.5:1; it's a jussive command in the Greek, not a statement as in some versions). Embracing the positional peace we have and looking forward to the ultimate peace of eternity is a part of the mindset of peace we believers need to adopt to fulfill this command. Maintaining true Christian peace, tranquility in all circumstances regardless of the turmoil we are encountering, is a mark of spiritual growth and is very much tied to the growth of our faith. The more we accept deeply in our hearts the absolute faithfulness of God and therefore truly believe His promises so as to apply them to our circumstances no matter what betides, the more we are going to be able to endure the unexpected tests that come to every believer in this life without losing our peace, the inner tranquility that is based on a complete confidence of being in God's will and knowing all the wonderful things that are coming the way of those who are truly walking with Him and working for Him.

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.
Isaiah 26:3 NIV

Joy is an important counterpart of this peace, this confidence in the Lord which mature believers possess through drawing close to Him spiritually (referred to in the verse above). So whether we are joyously contemplating our resurrection and eternity with Christ or peacefully sailing over the sea of troubles that is this temporary life, our confidence in the Lord, nurtured by the Word of God, is at the base of all such joy and peace.

"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
John 14:27 NKJV

In Jesus Christ who is our peace.

Bob L.

Question #3:  

One thing I find it hard to understand is while the bible makes it clear that salvation is by grace, in Matthew it says that someone who says his brother is a fool is in danger of hell fire then states "therefore" this means this being the case or situation. it seems to be saying that if you have hurt someone since you are in danger of hell fire go and be reconciled seeming to imply the way out of hell fire is to seek reconciliation after confessing to God. It seems at the very least this is a fruit that proves salvation has taken place. So it seems certain fruits are important to salvation. In the sermon on the Mount Jesus said that the merciful, peacemakers and pure in heart are essential things. So saying salvation is by Grace alone isn't exactly true, because if you are constantly looking to see if you have the right fruits, then the attention is taken off Jesus and put on works.

In 1 John it says that if Christians are walking in the light they will have fellowship with fellow Christians. Fellowship is more than just a sharing it is also good relationships with fellow Christians, presumably if you don't have that then you are walking in darkness and have no part in Grace?

Thanks,

Response #3: 

Good to hear from you, my friend – hope you are doing well.

The Bible is very simple – once a person gets to the point of seeing the simplicity of it. That requires mastering certain basic principles which, sadly, in this day and age are taught by few and understood by few. That's a long way of saying that very often the initial impression given by a scripture read in English and in isolation from its context and considered apart from everything else the Bible says (which is obviously a lot) can be misleading. Case in point is this scripture you reference – and there are plenty more like it in this section of Matthew which have made many a believer feel insufficient. But that is exactly the point. There is absolutely no person in the world who is or could be so "good" that he/she would not be convicted by at least some of these verses. Paul gives catalogues of sins which apply to virtually everyone for that same reason (adding also, e.g., in Gal.5:21 "and [other] things like this" in case anyone feels left out), and we find out also from him that the Law has this very purpose, namely, to convict us of sin (e.g., Rom.3:19). In order to be saved, a person first has to realize that he/she needs to be saved. No one can, by dint of "good behavior", ever merit the kingdom of heaven, and in fact all of us by at least some things we have done can see very clearly that we merit just the opposite: condemnation in hell.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 7:24-25a NIV

So then there is no condemnation . . . for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom.8:1ff.). Are we called to sanctified behavior, spiritual growth, progress and production after we are saved? Indeed we are, and all believers will have something to place before the Lord on that great day, however small – that's in the nature of being a believer (what believer has never ever said a prayer or never ever encouraged a friend or never ever given a dime or never ever praised God's Name?, e.g.). But we are most definitely not working our way into heaven; heaven is ours, if we persevere in our faith.

On the second paragraph, it's very clear from this portion of 1st John, from that whole book, from the gospels, from the epistles and indeed from the whole Bible that love is the foundation of everything we are to think, say and do, loving God and also loving our brothers and sisters in Christ – this sums up the essence of the Law in its entirety (Rom.13:10). What does that mean in terms of how exactly we should behave in this life? This is a deeper question and one which strays into the realm of application. There are so many potential circumstances with which the believer is confronted in this life that no set of rules could ever be developed to delineate what is walking in love and what it isn't – but there doesn't need to be because we have the Spirit to guide us on this score. If we are grossly doing wrong towards our brothers and sisters, we are sure to know it, even as new or immature believers. As we grow, we will get better about figuring out what it really means to "do unto others as we would have them do unto us". Sometimes this is active (that it the spin most sermons put on this issue), but often it is more passive; that is, love is, more often than not, not meddling in the lives and circumstances of others when it is not absolutely necessary to do so, forgiving offenses, real or imagined (rather than pestering others), and adopting a live and let live attitude where no gross sin or crime or other such circumstance that might recommend action is involved.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
Romans 12:18 NASB

As I say, this is an involved subject, but here are a few links which may be helpful to you:

Christian Love

The Golden Rule

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

OK in Luke Jesus states when he comes those who knew the Lord's will and didn't do it will receive many stripes. The person who didn't know but did things worthy of punishment will receive few stripes. Unless Jesus command to be reconciled in Matthew 5 is meant to be applied in each case where offence has been caused, then how can a person possibly know whether they have fallen foul of even the few stripes since if you don't apologise/reconciled then you would fall foul of that, and no Christian hears the Spirit perfectly or always rightly. I see the Sermon on the Mount not as something that can be kept perfectly, but as something someone keeps as far as they can including seeking reconciliation as the natural result of having been saved. You seem to see a separation however loose between the 10 Commandments and Jesus summery of the Law. I see the 10 commandments as God's law of love and the way of living if we are truly loving God and neighbour. You seem to be implying that the reconciliation verses of Matthew are some kind of we can obey them if we think the Spirit is leading us that way, but isn't the Bible a better guide then our ideas or feelings of what the Spirit is saying, shouldn't scripture and Spirit be in agreement?

Referring back to an earlier post you mention Hebrew 12:14 referring mainly to the peace of God. How can a person pursue chase after the peace of God with all people. That is a sentence that makes no sense.

Thanks,

Response #4: 

I would agree that 1) no one can keep all of the commands in the Sermon on the Mount perfectly – because we are all imperfect and all sin; and 2) the correct response to this realization is humility: we are called to sanctification and a perfect walk with the Lord; we all fall short, and we should thus always be aware that we probably are falling far "shorter" than we have any idea; but that should motivate us to adopt a humble approach and mindset on the one hand, and, very importantly, to set ourselves to do what our Lord would have us to do in this life on the other, namely, to grow spiritually, to progress in our walk with Him, and to help others do likewise through serving the Church with our gifts. Seen in this way, the "sermon on the Mount" is completely compatible in spirit and in detail with, e.g., the Law on the one hand and the epistles on the other (1st John is a good point of comparison here). There is no contradiction whatsoever.

I'm sure I don't know what you mean when you say "You seem to see a separation however loose between the 10 Commandments and Jesus summary of the Law". I can't imagine I've ever written anything that would give you such an impression, rightly understood.

On reconciliation, I would certainly agree that the Spirit and the truth of the Word are always in perfect agreement. However, believers are not perfect in interpreting the Spirit's subtle guidance when they are first saved; and they only get better through spiritual growth and progress; and even then, it is a grave mistake to equate emotions with the Spirit's guidance: it takes a great deal of spiritual growth to be able to separate the two correctly and with any consistency. If what we "feel" is not in accordance with what we "know by faith in the truth of the Bible", then our feelings are wrong (as they often are), for they are not "the still, small voice" of the Spirit's guidance – which in my experience, at any rate, is usually not particularly emotional: if we are actually willing to listen and respond, we are guided by Him toward what is right as He works in us with the truth we have bothered to learn and believe:

Therefore I entreat you by God's mercy, brothers, to dedicate your bodies as a living sacrifice, well-pleasing to God – [this is] your "priestly-service" spiritually performed. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by this renewal of your thinking, so that you may discern what God's will for you is, namely what it is good, well-pleasing, and correct [for you to do].
Romans 12:1-2

On Hebrews 12:14, as I wrote before (at the link), this verse is somewhat misunderstood; it says we are "to pursue peace with all" – meaning that in company with all other believers we ought to be pursuing greater and deeper peace with the Lord first and foremost. Thus, the main thrust is our relationship with the Lord; cf.:

So now that we have been justified by faith, let us take hold of the peace [we have] with God [the Father] through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1

As I also wrote about Hebrews 12:14, I certainly don't deny that there is an element here as well of our need to live at peace with others, as far as that is possible (Rom.12:18 cited in previous email; and cf. Ps.34:14; Is.26:3; Lk.19:42; Jas.3:19). The Greek allows and I believe necessitates that the reader envision peace as a circle which includes God and men. My quibble with your previous interpretation (if I'm remembering correctly – apologies if I'm getting this wrong) had to do with what the pursuit of peace in regards to other human beings might mean. Some wrongly take it to mean "working for peace in the world"; I believe you were applying it to some system of mandatory, legalistic reconciling which I found troubling in one way or another. In any case, I have no objection to seeing this verse as commanding believers to be at peace with others, as far as that is possible (it clearly does mean that as well); it's just that I would not wish to overlook the other more important part of the pursuit of peace with God in which all men should be involved: "pursue [God's] peace with all": unbelievers are thus commanded to make peace with Him in the first place (so as to be saved) and believers to develop our relationship with Him that our peace (Heb. shalom, "blessed wholeness") might increase day by day – indeed, I think that this is the most important part of the passage.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Dear Robert,

When you say I might see it as "some system" of mandatory reconciliation are you referring to seeking reconciliation with people we have hurt? Pursue means to chase something down, even hunt down vigourously. That is the definition as far as I'm aware. That is something that is non passive and does involve doing something does it not? The second half of Hebrews 12:14 "..without which no man shall see the Lord" is clearly stating that this is a fruit that true believers will exhibit, not that pursuing peace or sanctification ticks a good works box, but is rather the natural result of salvation like breathing is to being alive. I don't know of a person who is living who doesn't breath, if we try holding our breath we can't keep it up for long. It's instinct, presumably the new nature has an instinct too. It is mandatory in the sense that that is what we should expect to see in genuine born-again Christians. As far as possible that depends on what you mean that. If we try hard we could come up with a whole list of possible impossible reasons why no to seek reconciliation. The person might get upset, even though we can't know for sure, it could make the trauma worse, they could try to attack us, it was a long time ago they have probably forgotten and likely didn't even care about what was done. What would you consider a situation in which it is impossible to seek reconciliation with an individual?

Romans 12:18 Being peaceable is more about keeping the peace, rather than pursuing the peace? Isn't Paul telling them not to stir things up where it can be avoided by not causing Jews and Gentiles to stumble? This seems more a "prevention is better than cure" verse to me.

Kind Regards,

Response #5: 

That's not for me to say. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. If you have sinned, you should confess. If you have done something to someone in a tangible, material way that has an obvious solution, make it good – e.g., if you've stolen someone's watch, you should give it back. But looking backward is generally a bad idea and not recommended by scripture (Phil.3:13). Five-step programs are the stuff of popular psychology but have no place in the Church. I'm not saying this is what you recommend because I have no idea what you recommend: "Seeking reconciliation with people we have hurt" is not the same thing as "pursue peace with all", regardless of how one interprets that verse, and could easily devolve into a system of legalism. To my mind, this verse teaches exactly the same thing as Romans 12:18 and many other passages which speak about avoiding strife with our brothers and sisters in Christ. If someone has harmed us seriously, that is not Christian behavior, and I would argue that scripture teaches us rather that we have a right and in some cases an obligation to avoid said person in the future (1Cor.5:11) – and of course we should forgive them from the heart regardless of any attempts at reconciliation on their part (Matt.6:14-15; cf. Lk.6:36).

The details are what are important here. I can envision a lot of situations where contacting people from our past might do much more harm than good. When I think about even a short list of people who I feel have wronged me, I'm happy just to forgive them (as I have) and let the past lie in the past. The last thing I would want is one of these individuals showing up at my front door seeking absolution. In my view that wouldn't be any good for them or for me. I've forgiven them. If they've confessed to God, He's forgiven them. End of story. Granted, there are many possible situations and circumstances so I wouldn't want prejudge everything before the fact – nor should you. There is no rule to seek reconciliation and nothing ruling it out. We want peace. Sometimes that is accomplished by actively ending a quarrel; more often, in my experience and observation, it is accomplished by forgetting the past and letting bygones be bygones.

The NIV has done a pretty good job with the translation of this verse (making it clear that holiness/sanctification is what is needed to "see the Lord":

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
Hebrews 12:14 NIV

What that means is that as we move forward in the Christian life, we have persevere in order to see Him; if we lose our sanctification, that is tantamount to losing our faith (because as those who are "saints" by calling, we remain such as long as we are in Him, by grace through faith). But this second half of the verse and the whole verse read in context clearly shows that the Christian's perspective ought to be forward-looking in all things, not focused backwards on offenses long past. That is true of the guilty and the aggrieved. It doesn't do any Christian any good to look back – except to the cross – and based on our salvation looking forward to our Lord's return.

And they speak of how you are looking forward to the coming of God's Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead. He is the one who has rescued us from the terrors of the coming judgment.
1st Thessalonians 1:10 NLT

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

May I say your admission that you would be offended or put out if someone came to your door asking for your forgiveness is very un Christian in fact it is the opposite of what Jesus said. Jesus said if someone sins against us and comes to us each time doing the very thing you stated seeking absolution then we are to forgive them freely. That is the very opposite of what you have said in your e-mail below. Further you seem to be implying that pursue means something it doesn't, it is active no passive. I'm sorry but I don't for a moment believe that God wants us to be in broken relationships but wants us to everything we can to initiate reconciliation. The last thing you would want is people turning up on your door step? I'm sorry but that is the attitude of the world, not the type of warm and open and dare I say it welcoming people born-again people should be. In fact your e-mail has made me sad. Jesus followers are meant to have better than worldly attitudes. This is one reason I no longer go to church.

I hope as a Protestant you would at least agree that many Christians would disagree strongly with you on these verses for example Hebrews 12:14

And I hope you would agree with the right of the Christians conscience to disagree?

Response #6: 

I didn't say I would be offended. I didn't say I wouldn't forgive them. I did say I've already forgiven them. So there's nothing in my emails or postings which is inconsistent with our Lord's words – that is, if what I've written is actually read and then understood correctly.

As to pursue, I'm afraid you are imposing an English translation on a Greek verb a meaning and more particularly a significance it doesn't have. Just how we are to "pursue peace" is not spelled out here, and my explanation has the virtue of scriptural support, whereas making this about reconciliation looking backward is an assumption – there may be a place for that but certainly not with the force you are attributing to it.

As to relationships, that is a different matter altogether. If we are married, we definitely need to "make peace" whenever it is breached, e.g. For other "relationships" that are optional and not obligatory, why would a person want to continue in a friendship with someone who's done them terribly wrong? Why not rather move on? Forgive and live and let live. That would seem to me to be the proper Christian approach. If you have wronged someone, by all means feel free to apologize – but it is against the Lord that you have really sinned (Ps.51:4), so confession to Him is the main thing to be concerned about for He is the only One who can forgive sin.

As to sadness and un-Christian behavior, you have shown up at my doorstep many times (electronically), and each time I have taken time to try to help you with the encouragement and truth of scripture to get past this problem and move forward in your Christian life. That is what true Christian love does. Pretending to be friendly to people and telling them what the want to hear as opposed to what they need to hear is exactly the hypocrisy and spiritual infantilism which infests the church-visible today. And that is why I stopped going to church.

I am always willing to engage in a reasonable conversation with anyone who disagrees with the teachings of this ministry at any point. I'm not sure what most Protestants would say about Hebrews 12:14 because most Christians today aren't interested in the Bible at all, and most who are would approach this as an academic exercise. I'm not sure, based on this email, that you fully "get" what I'm saying about Hebrews 12:14, namely, that it is forward-looking not backward-looking, and that it has at least as much to do with our peace with God as it does our peace with other people – which in truth cannot be separated. And that if there is an element of reconciliation present there between the lines, it's not a mandate for going backward. If most people disagree with that, well, that is their right and your right too. But the point is that it's not about winning arguments; it's all about what really is the truth. Any time any issue, especially an issue of application where circumstances greatly affect how a principle will be applied, comes to dominate a believer's thinking to the virtual exclusion of everything else in the Bible and the Christian way of life (i.e., a mental "hobby-horse"), the result is always a warped view of things.

My heartfelt advice to you is to forgive whoever has wronged you and try to move forward spiritually in the love of Jesus Christ. Maybe they were wrong; maybe they should want to make things right by you. But are you going to stew and fester about this for the rest of your life? If they are wrong to have done what they did and wrong to refuse to acknowledge it or make up for it, you are certainly doing yourself at least as much wrong – and in truth more wrong – by letting this dominate your life and compromise your spiritual growth (1Cor.3:3).

I don't expect any thanks from you for the time and effort I have put in for you, but I am very sure that I have done you no wrong by trying to help you.

You are welcome at my "church", Ichthys, at any time.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:  

You are assuming that it is about someone having done something to me, rather than I have been doing something to them.

Do you recognise that believers can disagree on the interpretation out of Christian conscience? Do you recognise that there are Christians who believe that this (Heb 12:14) is referring to seeking reconciliation and that this is a necessary fruit? A Christian has a right to disagree out of faith and conscience?

Response #7: 

It's good to hear back from you, my friend. I have been keeping you in my prayers. I certainly agree with you that when it comes to matters of application, that is, areas where truth has to be applied to life and the circumstances must be considered with discernment, good Christians may disagree about the correct thing to do. That is, after all, what Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is all about. In fact, believe it or not, that has been the point behind everything I have been saying to you. Take marriage, for example. Paul tells us in 1st Corinthians 7:15-16 that since we are "called to peace", it is not necessary for a believer to pursue an unbelieving spouse in the matter of reconciliation if that is not going to be a peaceful activity. Some unbelievers may be willing to continue in a marriage with a person who converts; others may not. So what the believer chooses to do is not written in stone: it depends upon the two parties and their circumstances and what they are willing to do individually and collectively.

My biggest concern in this discussion has been to avoid laying down a hard and fast "law of reconciliation", both because I don't find that in the Bible, and also because I know from much personal experience and observation that this is just the sort of thing which tends to legalism, disastrous decisions, and even spiritual collapse in some cases. Are there times when we should reconcile with those who have wronged us? Yes, if they are willing (and we cannot of course control their will). Are there times when we should make amends for our past sins and errors? Yes. But again, this depends on a great many factors and should always be approached with great care and humility (i.e., pestering others because of our guilt feelings is the opposite of true Christian love). If we lay down some set of procedures as a iron-clad rule, we are in error from the start, biblically speaking. For there definitely are times when such actions will only make matters worse. That does not mean there are not times when making some move or other towards reconciling with those from whom we have been estranged will be a helpful and a Christian thing to do. Discernment is the key. And discernment is not the stuff of spiritual immaturity. It takes growth to be able to get to the point of really hearing the Spirit's still, small voice – and a good deal of character and maturity to respond in the correct way when we do. One good rule of thumb here is to never ever do anything out of feelings of guilt. Guilt is often misread as "what God's wants me to do", but it almost never is that. Guilt clouds our discernment. The evil one knows that, and he is an expert at rubbing our wounds with the salt of guilt, making us want to "do something" to assuage it – and the result of such ill-motivated action is never good.

You are correct that I have no idea what your personal situation is. But I do know, obviously, that you are deeply personally concerned about this issue. That is always a dangerous place to be when trying to construct one's own doctrines from scripture. Because no matter how mature and discerning a Christian may be, once emotion enters the picture, a clear-eyed determination is virtually impossible. In all this I have had your best interests at heart. I want you to be happy in the Lord and confidant that you are doing what He wants you to do in all things. The best way toward that goal is to keep growing spiritual and making progress in your Christian walk. As you do, all these sorts of issues will grow in clarity day by day. However, trying to attain spirituality by "fixing things" never works. We stay away from sin – and confess when we fail – but digging up the past is something that is seldom profitable, whatever the motivation. There is, as I admit and affirm, "a time for everything under the sun". Figuring out the right time and the right action is something that requires spiritual advance to get right.

Keeping you in my prayers.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:  

OK do you agree that Christians have the right to believe that seeking reconciliation is always the right thing to do, in every situation? There are plenty that do.

Response #8: 

Yours is a short email but it will take a bit of long-winded answer to address it properly. First of all, when you say "there are plenty that do [believe this]", I have to say that numbers mean nothing when it comes to the truth of the Word of God. The truth is the truth, no matter how many accept it. Indeed, the majority is often in the wrong because what is easy and what is worldly and what is simplistic is more likely to be accepted than what is somewhat difficult to accept, to understand, and to do the right way. As to "having the right to believe", every human being "believes" many things. "Believing" is accepting on faith that something is true even though one has not experienced it first hand – as in evolution (which is not true) or the resurrection (which blessedly is true). There is no virtue whatsoever in believing something which is false . . . or even something which is not entirely true. So from my point of view it's not a matter of "having a right to believe": we have all been given the image of God and that image is essentially the free will we possess and the capacity to apply it . . . in faith, that is, to believe or not to believe whatever we choose. Unbelievers "have the right", I suppose you could say, to refuse to believe in Jesus Christ, but there is no virtue in that disbelief and in fact it is a horrendous mistake; but really not so much a mistake as a willful, arrogant and utterly bad choice.

The point is that whatever is true is what a Christian should believe; and Christians should not believe what is not true. If something is a principle of doctrine, such as the resurrection, there are no ifs and or buts about it – that is the truth (rightly understood) and should be believed with negative consequences to faith and spiritual growth if it is not believed. When it comes to matters of application where the correct thing to do is dependent upon a great many variables, making an absolute principle out of something which is not absolute would be a mistake and would lead to incorrect applications of the truth in many cases if resolutely followed. Clearly, that is not what the Lord wants from us.

So it very much depends what you mean here when you say "seeking reconciliation is always the right thing to do in every situation". For it depends on what you mean by "seeking" and what you mean by "reconciliation". I have already allowed as how, based on scripture, Christians should always desire to have peaceful relations with everyone as Romans 12:18 states. However, the fact that Paul says 1)"if it is possible" and 2) "as far as it depends on you" demonstrates conclusively that 1) it is not always possible even if a Christian is doing everything godly he/she can towards this end, and 2) it doesn't just depend on "you": it takes both parties being willing to effect reconciliation. Think about it. Our Lord Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life. Yet He was violently opposed by most of the very people He came to minister to (Jn.1:11). And I would argue that our Lord did make great efforts toward reconciling all of Israel of that day to Himself, to the Father and to the truth – but 1) He only made use of godly means to attempt to effect such reconciliation, and 2) He did not impose on the free will of those who were unwilling to be reconciled.

To take the second exception first, since this process of "peacemaking" is an area of application, which means that there can never be a precise method or set of rules as to how to go about it, it takes spiritually mature discernment to avoid the wrong time and the wrong methods for attempting reconciliation. If we know that the other party is unwilling to be reconciled – and I think we probably all have enough personal experience both direct and through observation to understand that some people make it quite obvious that they have no such desire – then trying to force the issue by forcing ourselves on someone who wants nothing to do with us is the wrong thing to do. It is wrong because it won't work; it is wrong because it violates (or attempts to violate) the free will of the other party – and after all if Christians "have the right to believe", surely those from whom we are estranged for whatever reason whether our fault or theirs or both or neither have the right "to refuse to be reconciled". That is what Paul tells when he says "as far as it depends on you". In many cases it does not depend on us, no matter what we might dream up to say or do.

Does that mean we are totally helpless in such situations? Not at all. We can always pray. When I think back upon my own life and cases where reconciliation was needed or desired, I have indeed taken extreme measures on occasion, measured actions at other times, but have at least, as far as I can recall, in all cases where conscience spurred me to wish for reconciliation, put the matter before the Lord in prayer. Sometimes this was answered positively in short order; sometimes after a long interval, often in ways I could never have dreamed of, and sometimes not at all – God respects the other person's free will too (that is why we are here on earth, after all, to make decisions, the most important of which is to be saved . . . or not). This approach requires patience and it requires trusting the Lord. If it seems more onerous or less desirable than the "show up on the doorstep" method, that is probably because it is, in those cases where one is tempted to reject it, the right method. Only the actual believer in the actual situation can make a correct determination, and only if said person is 1) spiritually mature enough to have the discernment to make the right call, and 2) in control enough of his/her emotions to judge the matter objectively in the Spirit and not out of guilt or some other impulse. So even in those rare cases where extreme measures are the right thing to do, a cool-down period prior to attempting them is a very prudent thing to make use of first. And of course it goes without saying – I hope – that between confrontation on the front porch and prayer only there are many intermediate things that might be tried (such as a good word through an intermediary, a smile or friendly greeting, a pleasant birthday card, just to name a few of a million possible things).

In terms of the first exception, "if possible", clearly, a complete unwillingness on the part of the other party makes immediate reconciliation "impossible". Also, if the Spirit is guiding us not to attempt reconciliation at this particular time, then we attempt to force the issue anyway at our own spiritual peril. There are many reasons why there might be an "impossibility" if the situation is correctly evaluated. One such thing would be if forcing the issue would make matters worse in any way. And often it would. Some people might take the extreme approach as bizarre behavior or even "stalking", and the effect might be to make reconciliation in the future even less likely or it might even sour the person in question on Christianity through our bad witness. Please note: the fact that we feel we are doing "the right thing" does not guarantee that this is how it will be received, and we most definitely are responsible for how extreme actions on our part will be received, especially since we know this other party and ought to be able to judge his/her reaction. This is a very important point. If "pursuing reconciliation" becomes really about making us feel better and in the process does damage to someone else, we have turned the Law of Love on its head.

All of which bring us back to your statement "that seeking reconciliation is always the right thing to do in every situation". That could only even possibly be true if we understand by this that while we want reconciliation and are always petitioning God for it, yet we also realize that it's not always possible, at least immediately, and that there are many reasons why trying to force the issue by invading someone else' privacy may be exactly the wrong thing to do. In other words, we are definitely not justified by scripture in using whatever methods may come into our head to achieve our aim just because scripture says "pursue peace with all". That would be exactly the wrong way to use scripture, namely, as a means of justifying what we really want to do rather than as a guide to tell us in the Spirit what we really ought to do.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

We it seems differ on what it means to "force the issue" I don't think approaching someone in the street or on the doorstep, forcing my will on someone else, they are free to say they are not interested. After do I not have free will as well?

Response #9: 

You most definitely do have free will and are free to make whatever decisions you choose. However, as Christians, it is our duty to put other people's interests before our own because love is not "self-seeking" (1Cor.15:3):

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4 NKJV

If walking according to the law of love in any given situation means that it is better to defer something that may make us feel better but might be taken the wrong way by the other person then to avoid tripping them up in any way we should defer. So just because I personally don't find an action intrusive, offensive or unwelcome, that is not the point; the point is whether or not the person I am approaching will find my behavior intrusive, offensive or unwelcome. If they do, then the best one can say is that I have sinned out of ignorance, but if I knew enough about them to know before I did it that they would find my behavior intrusive, offensive or unwelcome, then that is not even a justifiable defense.

Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be made subject to the authority of anything (i.e., let any behavior compromise spiritual growth).
1st Corinthians 6:12 (cf. 1Cor.10:23)

The point is to walk in love. Sometimes this will mean taking actions of the sort you are contemplating. But sometimes love will direct that we not intrude on the privacy of those who are not wishing contact with us. That is a judgment call. That demands the discernment of spiritual maturity. And if we force ourselves on someone to "pursue peace" and thus disturb their peace in an unwelcome way, we are in the wrong for doing it rather than them for not wanting it. It takes two parties being willing to reconcile any dispute to end it, and it's not always possible to do so as our Lord made very clear:

If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."
Matthew 18:15-17 NASB

Just as there are offending parties who are for whatever reason not willing to apologize/reconcile, so also there are offended parties who are not willing to do so. It doesn't mean we can't desire it; it doesn't mean we can't pray about it. It does mean that just because we feel hurt (if offended) or guilty (if having offended) we are not because of our emotional state allowed to ignore the law of love, all of the past and present circumstances of the relationship and the situation, and spiritual common sense . . . as if there were a set of definitive procedures set down in scripture for addressing this complex issue in every case. The passage above is actually given not as a set of procedures one must follow but to set a limit on what can be done: there must be no public dressing down at first, and no legal action; and since these procedures are obviously onerous, it is part of the Lord's lesson here to show us that it really is just better to forgive the person and move on (and avoid that whole mess). So what is godly is to put the matter in God's hands and act in a spiritually prudent and responsible way. That will, as I have written several times, be dependent upon all of the aspects of the "problem".

So without knowing the situation and without knowing the two individuals very well, it's not possible for me to say that a particular action / strategy aiming at reconciliation would be right or wrong. The thought may be a good one, but the tack taken cannot be divorced from all of the other factors talked about above (and before). What I am trying to avoid for your sake and the sake of anyone who is faced with this situation (and it is impossible to live in this world without facing this situation) is doing something wrong while dressing it in scripture. I don't find the Bible giving carte blanche to do as we please on this issue irrespective of the other person's free will or feelings. If they have wronged us, we should forgive them and be prudent and loving about approaching them to heal the rift; if we have wronged them we also have to take their feelings into account and not push them if they don't want to be pushed. There is no general rule that can be written for this – beyond the mandate to do everything in genuine love. The important point is that there is no scriptural justification for ignoring either of these two principles. Figuring out exactly where the lines are is, as I say, the stuff of Christian discernment. Ignoring the fact that there are lines is not godly, prudent, spiritually mature Christian conduct. It is also unlikely to work.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:  

In John he says "If we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." He seems to be saying we must do something to stay saved, not simply have faith in the covering of Christ's blood. He says that the sign of salvation in our lives is having fellowship one with another. I assume that is between fellow believers. What does fellowship me here does it mean being in a harmonious relationship with fellow Christians, reconciled relations as apposed to bad relations?

Thanks,

Response #10: 

"He seems to be saying we must do something to stay saved" – ??? I don't even find salvation addressed in this verse. In any case, we know very well, even if we restrict ourselves to John's writing, that salvation comes through faith alone (not "doing something"). What we need to "do" to "stay saved" is persevere in faith. For all believers are saved; only unbelievers are not saved (Jn.3:18, e.g.).

Also, what John says in regard to fellowship in this verse, 1st John 1:7, has to do with our fellowship with the Lord. Read the second half of the verse: "and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ." (NKJV). See also verse six.

Christian fellowship is a wonderful thing. We are supposed to "preserve the unity of the faith in the bond of love", e.g. (Col.3:14), but that is all about each one of us striving for the truth, to learn it, love it, and practice it. If we were all doing that, there would be no such problems. For "against such things there is no Law" (Gal.5:23 NKJV).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

What is your understanding of walking in the light mentioned in John and what does he mean when he says if we do this the blood of Jesus will cleanse us from all sin? It seem to be saying we can't walk in darkness and be cleansed by his blood. You argue the opposite you say a believer can wander off track and so long as they have faith in the blood they are still saved. Where does that say that? After Paul says we are saved by Grace he mentions good works. John also says in his letter that someone who hates has never see God or known him. Now if what you say is true that a person can have faith in the blood, hate wouldn't prevent them from doing that, now would it. john says you can't hate, disobey Jesus and claim to now him and have eternal life.

Response #11: 

To take the second part first, John also says:

Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.
1st John 3:6 NKJV

If we were to apply the interpretive template you supply in your second paragraph to this equally difficult passage, it would appear that neither you nor I are even saved . . . unless you have no sin (but in claiming that, according to this same epistle, you would be "making God out to be a liar": 1Jn.1:10).

The thing to keep in mind about first John is that John is constantly addressing both aspects of the believer's life: 1) the status we have in Christ (where no one should hate or sin or fail to walk in a perfect way), and 2) the reality where we are still human after being saved (and so do sin, do need to confess, do need an Advocate in heaven, and do need to remember that "God is greater than our hearts" even when they condemn us). The two sometimes also come together such as in the discussion of the "sin unto death" where sin which "not unto death" is contrasted with sin so bad it may result in terminal divine discipline. So John is not willing to give ground on the topic of what Christians should be – but he also lets it be know what we are and what we ought to be doing about it. That, after all, is the reason for writing the epistle, namely, to teach believers how to be better believers and to motivate them to that end. For more on this please see the links: "Sin in 1st John" and "The Interpretation of 1st John".

As to your first paragraph, when you write "You argue the opposite you say a believer can wander of track and so long as they have faith in the blood they are still saved", I don't believe that I ever expressed myself in that way. I'm sorry if that was your conclusion about my position, but I would ask you to re-read what I emailed you previously a little more closely. Believers can and do retrogress and, occasionally, end up in the sin unto death or even apostasy. That is a fact. In the case of apostasy, we do not lose salvation, however, because of some sin; salvation is lost when faith dies out (and sin certainly plays a role there since it undermines faith, especially when unconfessed and embraced). But a believer is a believer until such time as he/she stops being a believer by actively and deliberately rejecting the Lord he/she once embraced. It's not good to wander off (obviously); but some do come back (obviously); and no one is lost the moment he/she slips up – otherwise none could be saved.

As to "light" vs. "darkness", light represents the truth and the way/place of God, whereas darkness represents the lie and the way/place of the evil one. If a person is advancing spiritually towards Zion, closer to God, in the truth (through believing good Bible teaching and attending to the scriptures then applying these to their life), then that person is "walking in the light"; for all such confession of sin – for none is perfect – is natural, normal, and acceptable to the Lord. The blood of Christ is His work on the cross in dying for our sins. Since Jesus already died for everything we have done, if we are on the right path, the path of light, our prayers of confession are heard and we easily remain in fellowship with Him, although "we all stumble" from time to time even when on the right road (Jas.3:2).

John does not say what the situation is for someone walking in darkness. That is understandable. Walking in darkness would mean that the believer has stopped growing and worse has turned around, "backsliding" as it is sometimes called – or worse than that, regressing towards apostasy or the sin unto death. For all such, confession is still available, but confession is meant to allow the believer a fresh start, to get back into fellowship and start moving forward again. Simply put, believers who are regressing are generally not interested in confession – they are not really interested in facing up to their sins – or if they do confess they are generally not sincere in that confession, have no intention of not repeating their sins, and will no doubt soon cease to confess.

In other words, John in this passage is giving encouragement to believers on the right road, the road of light, who may be distressed about their lack of perfection. He assures us that we are cleansed by the blood of Christ, that we are forgiven when we confess because Christ has already died for all of our sins. Those who are on the wrong road, the darkness road, are out of the will of God, out of fellowship with Him, and headed for spiritual disaster. While it certainly remains available to them, confession will only do them any good when they get to the point of really and truly wanting to turn back to the light and do what the Lord wants them to do, what He wants us all to do, namely, grow spiritually and progress in a sanctified way in our walk with Him, eventually help others do the same.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:  

I think you will have to help me break this down for me to understand. 

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
1 John 1:7

It seems to me he is saying that those who are really saved will walk in the light, in other words do what he says, trying to keep the commandments as best as we can. That would seem to imply that those who are living, for example sexually immoral lives, adultery in the church for example are spiritually dead as they are not walking in the light and so, the fruit (walking in the light) is not there and so this is proof they are not being cleansed by the blood of Jesus. I tend to start with the source which is Jesus, he changes the heart (born-again) and the fruit slowly or quickly emerges but it has to emerge if a person is truly saved. There is nothing here that suggests that a Christian can be living a double life, it seems to be all or nothing being spoken about here.

Response #12: 

I will try:

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light . . .
1st John 1:7a

The above is the first part of a condition. Conditions in Greek are very similar in their grammatical structure and meaning to those in English. This is what is called a present general condition, meaning that if "A" (the protasis or "if" clause) is ever true, then "B" (the apodosis or "then" clause) is also true:

[then, i.e., assuming that we are walking in the light]

1) "we have fellowship with one another, and"

[also]

2) "the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."
1s John 1:7b

So according to what John is actually saying here (suppositions and interpretations aside), we Christians 1) do have fellowship with one another and with God (v.3), and 2) are the beneficiaries of the continuing cleansing of our sins . . . if we are "walking in the light". This verse then is a strong exhortation to "walk in the light" – which as explained in the previous email is doing what the Lord would have us to do, namely growing in Him, walking every closer to Him in a more sanctified way day by day, and helping others do the same. The opposite would be walking in the darkness, which is doing the opposite of what the Lord would have us do, namely, not growing through hearing and believing the truth, not growing closer to Him but wandering farther and farther away, not pursuing sanctification but indulging in sinfulness as a pattern, and not helping others in the Church (we are not much use to other believers when we are walking in darkness in any case).

As also mentioned earlier, believers who fall away do not do so overnight. I have never heard of a case and there is none recorded in scripture where a person was walking closely with the Lord one day, eager for the truth and helping others, then turned completely away from Him the next to the point of losing salvation by abandoning faith. Regression (as opposed to a serious lapse of the kind king David or Peter fell into) is a process just like spiritual growth and spiritual advance is a process – albeit a much "easier" and quicker one (going downhill is always quicker and meets less resistance); however I have put "easier" in quotes because those who begin to turn away from the Lord never have it "easy" since He will visit them with divine discipline for the purpose of turning them back around again.

So when you say that it seems to you that John is saying that "those who are really saved will walk in the light", the way this verse actually reads is that those who are really saved should walk in the light because of the benefits of so doing; and the reason for this verse, this chapter, this epistle, is to motivate us to do just that. If we all did this automatically without instruction and without the correction, guidance and reproof of scripture, there would be no need of scripture or teaching – but of course these things are the absolute bedrock of the properly lived Christian life.

I do understand that hyper-Calvinism sees all who are not doing things the right way (as they define things) were "not really elect in the first place". That position is not found in a single scripture and is in fact contradicted by everything scripture suggests – no one could go astray and come back in that case, just for example, and so we would have to ignore the prodigal son and king David and Peter . . . to cite only a few. As also mentioned before, John in various places does describe the proper Christian life as "the way we actually are [ = should be]", giving us our "job description" so to speak, and he is uncompromising about that. But if we misunderstand what he is saying in such cases (as in 1Jn.3:6), assuming this means we are in fact going to be sin-free just by virtue of being believers (and that we are lost if we are not), we will be making the grave mistake of not taking into account the verses in the first chapter which speak about sin, our universal sinfulness, and our need to confess (e.g.). Correct interpretation requires that everything in the Bible be properly taken into account – and certainly everything in the same book of the Bible.

Finally, I have never said or implied or even suggested that Christians can "lead double lives", that they can pursue some sinful agenda without spiritual peril. In fact, if you have read this ministry to any depth, you will understand that I teach exactly the opposite (see prior links; or read BB 3B: Hamartiology: the Biblical Study of Sin). Sin is, in addition to being destructive, very insidious and deceptive. There are many things which are sinful that most Christians, often Christians who have one or two gross "target sins" they like to search out in others, do not even recognize as sinful. The Pharisees are good to remember in this regard, because they looked to all the world to be upstanding and righteous, but behind the facade was spiritual death; whereas the "publicans and sinners" they looked down on had in many cases repented of their sinfulness and been born again, following Christ. The Lord knows who are truly His. No one should think that sin of any kind, be it of the heart, tongue or body, is a trivial thing. Some things, clearly, are worse than other things, things which are crimes as well as sins, things which involve other people directly and can ruin their spirituality, things which bring a bad name to Jesus and His Church, and in particular things which by their nature are virulently destructive to spirituality (e.g, 1Cor.6:18). As we grow in Christ, we ought to be turning more and more away from all such things – and also from sin in general. But we can't afford to deceive ourselves into thinking that we will ever be pure and free from sin entirely as long as we live in these mortal bodies. That is actually a very dangerous thought pattern to get into – and it happens to be completely incorrect. The good news is that God forgives us when we confess our sins . . . when we are walking in the light and when and if we are ready to return to it assuming we have wandered away . . . because Christ already died for every single one of them. That is not a "license to sin" (e.g., Rom.6:15-16); that is a license to live the way God wants us to live, "walking in the light".

I would agree that being born-again is a life-changing thing. We get from God at that point a "new start for our heart", but what happens next is not automatic. God gives us His Spirit and He works in us, on us, and through us – but He does not take away the image of God He originally gave us. Whether or not we are determined to follow Jesus Christ the way we should depends is in our court, and our effectiveness in so doing will depend on a million daily choices – the most important of which have to do with the truth, seeking it out, remembering it, believing it, living it, sharing it. Everything else in this life is merely window-dressing.

So I would be careful about pronouncing others "spiritually dead". That means that the person in question is not saved. So that if said person was ever saved, they are now no longer so. What determines whether or not a person is (currently) a believer? Precisely that, namely, whether or not they possess saving faith in Jesus Christ. Beyond all argument the Bible contains many examples of genuine believers who were not perfect – in fact none of them were perfect any more than any of us are perfect. Whether or not some reputed Christian guilty of gross sin is saved or ever was saved is something that may only be known to the Lord – and it is surely a sad state of affairs if a brother or sister's status is unclear based upon how they are behaving. But do rest assured: if said person is a believer and is bringing reproach upon the Lord Jesus Christ, He will bring divine discipline upon them which will force them to repent – or will take said person home via the sin unto death. It's only a matter of time. In the meantime, our role is to keep out of the way and leave this to the Lord (Rom.14:4; cf. Prov.24:17-18).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13:  

In the letter to the Corinthians Paul says to hand over a person to Satan for the destruction of the flesh or body so that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. I thought it was the Lord who saved the spirit, not the act of handing him as indicated by the words "so that the spirit may be saved".

Response #13: 

This is talking about the "sin unto death", that is, when the Lord takes someone home via terminal divine discipline – in lieu of apostasy (where a person who may be under such pressure rejects Christ). This person in 1st Corinthians chapter 5 was involved in a type of gross carnality which put his salvation at risk by necessary degradation of faith in a course of arrogant disobedience to the Lord. By putting him under the "sin unto death" instead (only apostles have ever had this power – God is the One who elsewhere levels that penalty), the issue will be forced one way or another: either the person will repent (and that will remove the danger of apostasy and also the sin unto death) or, if he doesn't, he will be taken out of life in an extremely painful way but before he can turn apostate, that is, before his behavior kills his faith off completely – and thus "his spirit shall be saved".

More at the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:  

You state on your website that people are saved by Faith, and that the person handed over to Satan was so he didn't leave the faith. But as you state even though he was immoral he was saved. Morality not in view but apostasy. How should I understand verses such the ones in James that state faith without works is dead. John in his first letter states that anyone who hates has never seen or known God and doesn't have eternal life and without holiness no man shall see the Lord. Why are there such verses if apostasy is the problem in terms of losing salvation?

Thanks,

Response #14: 

Yes, I do state that Christians are saved by grace through faith:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV

As to the young man in 1st Corinthians 5, I merely affirm what Paul says about him:

. . . deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
1st Corinthians 5:5 NKJV

By "leaving the faith", if you mean apostasy, that is, the death of faith, that hardening of heart to the point where a quondam believer loses all faith and reverts to being an unbeliever, rejecting the Lord he/she had once embraced – and, yes, that is the supreme danger of becoming involved in a pattern of outrageous sinfulness from which a person refuses to repent and confess. Not that the "sin unto death" is not horrible – it certainly is. But beyond all argument it is still better to be taken out of this life by the Lord in an excruciatingly painful way with the loss of all eternal reward than it is to end up in the lake of fire. That is where all unbelievers end up, even if at one point in their lives they did believe "for a time" before they fell away (Lk.8:13).

All Christians sin (e.g., Rom.3:23; Jas.3:2). And one doesn't have to look too far and wide in today's world to see that all too many Christians involve themselves in immorality of every sort. That doesn't cause them to lose their salvation . . . immediately. It does bring them in for serious divine discipline from the Lord. When that process begins, a Christian will normally either turn around and repent – just as most children respond to discipline from their parents, even though they don't like to be punished (cf. Heb.12:9-11) – or else said person will harden him/herself against the Lord because of dislike of punishment and arrogant resistance to it (as some children who "go bad" also do):

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Hebrews 3:12-13 NIV

As this passage makes crystal clear, sin leads to hardness, hardness leads to having an "unbelieving heart", and that in turn leads to "turning away from the living God", namely, "apostasy". In fact, the verb here translated "turn away" is aphistemi, of the same root from which the noun apostasy is derived.

So when you say "Morality not in view but apostasy", I'm not certain that I have brought you along to understand the above sufficiently. Apostasy is a choice. Sin leads to discipline. Discipline forces the issue. Those who respond / repent are restored. Those who do not either will harden themselves and leave the faith, or, in some cases, refuse to give up either their terribly bad witness or their faith, and in those instances the Lord takes the offending and refusing to repent (or apostatize) believer out of this life via the sin unto death (see the link in BB 3B: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death").

I'm not sure how the two passages you bring in affect or bear upon any of the above. But I'm happy to discuss them anyway. As to James chapter two, James gives us a hypothetical of a person who claims to have faith but has absolutely no results from his/her faith. That is actually impossible – it's merely hypothetical. There has never been a believer who didn't at least say one prayer or have one godly thought or utter one godly word or trust the Lord just one little bit. That is actually James' point, namely, that all Christians should be producing and not merely resting out our laurels of salvation faith. Indeed, the two examples that James gives in this context are not what our contemporary culture would think of as "works" at all, i.e., the godly behavior of Abraham and Rahab adduced as models of faith producing "works" have nothing to do with charity or the like. What they show is that a person of faith lives by faith and acts in faith – that is what godly "works" truly are.

So since this (i.e., a genuine believer with not one single godly "work") is an "empty set", why does James make this argument? He does so to cut the ground from under individuals who are claiming that sitting sedately on some sort of intellectual faith (even if a manifestation of saving faith) is the proper way for a Christian to live. James demonstrates that this is not much to be proud of since the person in question is not actually living the way our Lord wants, the way others in the past who pleased the Lord did live. This is typical of the exhortation to spiritual growth, progress and production one finds in all of the New Testament epistles. James is taking away an excuse for not doing what one is supposed to be doing as a follower of Jesus Christ.

As to the first epistle of John, apologies if I have not already given you these links: "Sin in 1st John" and "The Interpretation of 1st John". Even though what John is doing is exactly what James is doing as explained above, this latter epistle is also prone to incorrect interpretation because of John's special method. John, in a godly effort to have his flock be as good as they can be, rightly emphasizes the perfect standard to which we have been called. A Christian never hates – but of course there has never been a Christian who has never had a hateful thought. A Christian is perfectly holy in his/her behavior – but of course there has never been a Christian who has always behaved in a perfectly sanctified way. In other words, emphasizing the perfect standard to which Christ most definitely holds us is a good and godly way to encourage us to do better rather than to feel it is OK to bump along in the shoddy fashion many prefer – which, by the way, is also dangerous for the reasons described in the first part of this email. The fact that the first and second chapters of 1st John speak about how to recover from sin, tell us that we have an Advocate to pray for us when we do sin, and emphatically proclaim that we are lying if we say we don't sin, makes it clear that the rest of the epistle is not saying that we as Christians can ever be sinlessly perfect – "merely" that this is what we should shoot for because this is the standard to which we are being held.

When you conclude with, "Why are there such verses if apostasy is the problem in terms of losing salvation?", I confess to being a bit befuddled. First and foremost, apostasy IS losing salvation: that is the only way salvation can be lost, namely, by choosing to abandon one's faith by overtly and deliberately rejecting Jesus Christ so as not to be a believer any longer. The way that happens is through the hardening of one's heart against the Lord and against the truth most commonly "through sin's deception" as the passage in Hebrews quoted above confirms.

Hope this clears things up a bit!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:  

Sorry I couldn't see exactly where you interpreted the meaning of

"Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him"

So I gather then that your understanding of this is talking about our position in Christ? "....and holiness without which no man shall be the Lord" Isn't this saying that unless we are baring this fruit we are not saved?

Response #15: 

I don't recall you citing or referencing 1st John 3:6 in your email. The correct interpretation, however, is along the lines of what was said. "Sinneth not" is not the best translation; NIV has "No one who continues to sin". Either way, it's not easy to bring out the fullness of what John means, and the KJV makes it sound as if anyone who sins is lost (untrue), while the NIV dilutes the effect too much, which might wrongly lead some to think sin is not as big of an issue as it is: our "job" as believers is to be holy in our behavior, not "mostly holy". However, it would also be wrong to conclude from this passage that a true believer never sins. That would contradict numerous passages in 1st John itself (e.g., 1Jn.1:7-10; 2:1-2; 5:16-17). This verse is speaking about our fellowship as well as our position in Christ. Sinning puts us out of fellowship with the Lord. Confession restores it. And believers are supposed to remain in fellowship with the Lord at all times (cf. 1Jn.2:28).

On Hebrews 12:14, I did deal with the substance (and have done so with you before at great length); that verse is not speaking about production or growth or spiritual progress (the 'offense' of the Christian life) but about refraining from sin (which is defensive). Not sinning, living in a holy and sanctified way, is not only important but actually essential in order to be qualified to produce for the Lord – but it is not bearing fruit per se. And in fact, it is impossible to separate a good offense from a good defense. Both things are necessary and mutually supportive. Doing both helps each in turn, whereas failing to do one will undermine and enervate the other. But all Christians who engage in the process of actually striving to do what the Lord wants from us here in the devil's world, namely, to grow spiritual, to pass the tests that lead to further growth, and to help our fellow believers through ministry, will, in the process of moving forward, begin to live in a more holy way day by day. It doesn't happen in reverse, however. One can't whitewash the tomb and expect results. Merely trying to avoid sin will not produce growth in and of itself. Case in point is this discussion. Until a believer has learned through diligent attention to the Bible and to solid Bible teaching all about sin and all about how to deal with it biblically, even one's defense will be weak.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:  

How can the John verse be referring to both our position and to fellowship since, since if we sin each day we would always be out of fellowship?

Response #16: 

Believers are permanently "in Christ", part of Him, His Church – that is our position. Unbelievers are not. Believers are "in fellowship" with Christ when walking with Him in the light, remove themselves from experiencing this fellowship when/if we sin, but are restored to fellowship upon confession (as the first chapter of 1st John explains).

Have we sinned? Then we should confess – and we will be restored every time.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:  

Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him

What makes you thinks this verse by John is meant to convey two meanings. Isn't this overloading this verse, and reading it into the paper? If everyone sins how can "whosoever sinneth.. etc" make sense in terms of fellowship as no one would ever be in fellowship since by you admission we sin all the time. Take the Parable of the Sheep and Goats. Jesus tells the righteous to inherit the Kingdom for when he was naked they clothed him, in need of a drink quenched his thirst, when in prison visited him. Where are the selfish sheep mentioned here. It seems Jesus expected all believers to be doing these, and clearly all at the throne when he judges them have. No self-centered sheep there. So their can't be so-so Christians in heaven. The warning not to sin can't mean don't ever sin, it must mean don't set out to live in sin, to continue in previous ways. It can't mean be perfect. So isn't it just an assumption that John meant literally not sin at all, when he said whoever is born of God doesn't sin. Doesn't it mean that whosoever is born of God is not a slave to it any longer. As it says in the OT a righteous man may fall a number of time but each time he gets up and goes on. Sounds like a non slave to me.

Response #17: 

What "two meanings"?

Question #18:  

You said it was talk about salvic and fellowship "abideth" for example would have two meaning salvic "in Christ" and fellowship.

Response #18: 

All Christians are positionally "in Christ" at all times; the only way that stops is if a person reverts to being an unbeliever through rejecting Christ and abandoning faith completely (apostasy). Sin puts a Christian out of fellowship with our Lord, but when he/she repents and turns back to the light, confessing his/her sins, he/she is restored to fellowship. 1st John affirms both principles in many places, and understanding the two-sides of this single coin is key to properly interpreting that epistle. I don't disagree with your last paragraph in the previous email (if I am understanding it correctly). However, the sheep and goats judgment concerns the evaluation of the Millennial believers on the one hand and unbelievers from the beginning of human history to the end on the other (see the link). In the case of believers, any evidence of salvation is proof of salvation; in the case of unbelievers, absence of any evidence of salvation is proof of not being saved. I would stay away from non-biblical categorizations such as "so-so Christians", because scripture always commends to us the perfect standard, even as it recognizes that we – not a single one of us – meet it completely. The only way to be safe is to run the best race we can run; trying to calculate how poor a race may be run and still "make it" across the finish line may not guarantee failure (loss of faith in apostasy) but such an approach will certainly flirt with "the sin unto death" at the very least – which we know from this very epistle is a very real possibility for Christians who are behaving very poorly.

So I suppose the bottom line is that from what I can see we don't seem to be seeing things from a particularly different point of view (which explains my last response), even if our mode of expression (and interpretation of some passages) is different.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

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