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Faith, Forgiveness, Salvation

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Question #1:  

There are a few points in the section "The meaning of faith" that I'm not clear about. Thiessen writes:

It is, no doubt, in this sense (merely in the form of intellectual assent, as referred to in the paragraph) also that Simon Magus believed (Acts 8:13), for there are no indication that the repented and appropriated Christ (page 271).

Since the scripture says that "Simon himself believed", I take it quite literally, as there seems to be no indication in the context of a distinction drawn between actual faith and intellectual assent.

". . . and John 8:30f., where the writer distinguishes between the many who believed on him and those who merely believed him" (page 272).

Is there really such a distinction in John 8? Finally, Thiessen describes faith as consisting of the intellectual, emotional and voluntary element. Do you think that such an explanation is acceptable?

Response #1: 

I think these are dangerous distinctions to attempt to make. Even if it may be true that the English word "faith" admits of some ambiguity, scripture is certainly clear enough that pistis / pisteuo ("belief" / "believe") in response to grace brings salvation in every case. Whether the person in question remains faithful and maintains faith may be open to doubt (some do fall away, sadly), belief is belief and faith is faith, biblically speaking. What that "faith" consists of may be properly separated from "mental recognition" or the like, but still (real) faith is (real) faith – and God knows the difference even if we don't. I think T is falling into the trap of trying to weed out uncomfortable examples of believers in scripture and in his experience who do not seem "Christian"; the problem with that is that God knows the heart, and we have to accept as you note what scripture says about any given situations (so Simon was saved), and have little choice but to accept what people tell us as to whether or not they believe in Christ – up to a point (it's God whose opinion on this subject counts). But telling people that their faith might really not be faith is not only not scripturally justified – it is also potentially spiritually devastating in the case of weak believers who are already marginal in faith. Rather, we should be trying to help build up their faith. And, after all, I'm sure that just as in the case of the Pharisees there are many people today who call themselves Christians and whose conduct T would never reproach who are really not believers in Christ. For those seeking to be saved, all we can do is to make the issues of salvation clear without overly complicating them on the one hand (as with esoteric definitions of what faith is which will never make anyone comfortable and which will only send everyone off in doubt), and on the other without watering down the gospel but instead always making it clear that the work of Christ and Person of Christ are essential to believe in order to be saved.

Question #2:  

HI--I have a couple quick questions for you. Please look at the Hebrew in Ps. 32. Now, I Mormon I know says that God didn't forgive David his sin here, of adultery and murder, concerning Bathsheba and Uriah. She says that David is saying the people forgave him his sin and that it makes no sense to say it is God doing so, because in vs. 8, it would have David instructing God. I told her that FIRST David is saying what a low ebb his spiritual life was, before he confessed his sin to God. But THEN, he says that he "acknowledged my sin to thee" (RSV), isn't the "thee" here singular "you"? NOT plural? And then he goes on to say that he confessed his transgressions to the LORD (YHWH) and "THOU forgave the iniquity of my sin." I don't know HOW or WHY she keeps overlooking this part. Again, isn't the "thou" here singular, again? And doesn't the Hebrew word mean "forgive" that is used in this verse?

I then told her that David was still talking to GOD UNTIL vs. 8, when he switched to "I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go." Is the "you" here plural? The RSV makes a distinction between "thou" and "you" so I presume it is plural in vs. 8. OR I told her, it is GOD who is instructing the people here, though David, until the end of the Psalm. But either way, it is GOD to whom David confessed his sin and GOD who forgave him. And only GOD can forgive sins.

Oh, and in 2 Samuel 11:13, Nathan tells David that "The LORD has put away your sin; you shall not die." She said that "put away" in the KJV never means "taken away." I think the word is "abar." But again, I looked in our BibleWorks 4.0 and it translates it as "taken away" and "passe away." I told her I don't use the KJV exclusively and in other bibles, it has "taken away." She said it means God just "shelved" the punishment for later! I pointed out that God didn't take David's life for his sin, as the LoM demanded, but took his son's life, instead, and said the sword would never leave his household. He still had to suffer the temporal punishment for his sin, but NOT the eternal punishment--hell--since God DID for give him.

Anyway, I would appreciate your take on these things. Thanks and have a blessed weekend.

Response #2: 

The cross-reference (2Sam.12:13) removes all doubt. First "you will not die" is the result of this action on the Lord's part – if not forgiveness, then what? The verb is 'abhar, but it is in the hiphil stem which makes it causative. In other words, the NASB's literal alternative in their footnote, "[has] caused your sin to pass away" is correct. The verb in this stem is used in the same sense of forgiveness also in Job 7:21, Zechariah 3:4, and Jeremiah 11:15 (where it is in the negative of something that will not bring about forgiveness). In terms of vocabulary, however, the phrasing in Psalm 32:5 is even more clear since n'asah is frequently used with sin/iniquity in the sense of forgiveness. I am also unclear as to how the fact that the Lord enters into the conversation in verse eight could possibly change the clear meaning in verse five, especially inasmuch as the tone is completely consonant with what has gone before.

And, yes, just because we are forgiven when we repent and confess our sins does not mean that the Lord removes either the divine discipline we've got coming to teach us to do better (David suffered for fourteen years as a result of this horrendous lapse), or the natural consequences of our actions.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

I have a couple of quick questions: what do you mean by "asah" in your email to me? And what is a "hiphil"???

And one more thing, just to make sure. In Ps. 32:5, isn't the "you forgave the iniquity of my sin" in the singular "you"? Which is why the RSV uses the singular form "thou"? Just want to make sure. But this Mormon gal's reasoning really puzzles me, about this Psalm. She thinks that if it were God forgiving David, David would have written "but HE forgave the iniquity of my sin. BUT, it is easy to see that first, David is speaking directly TO God when he wrote that "thy hand was heavy upon me" and "I acknowledged my sin to thee". But THEN, David simply quotes himself, and what he was thinking to himself--namely "I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD'--and THEN he goes back to speaking directly to God, when he wrote "and THOU forgave the iniquity of my sin." I don't see what is so hard to understand about that. But do correct me if I am wrong. And also about the singular "thou" part.

Thanks again.

Response #3: 

The verb n'asah means "to lift up" but also often "to forgive" and in our context (as in the Lord "lifting off" the burden of our sins). On "hiphil", unlike Indo-European languages, Hebrew will modify a root into a number of stems which change the meaning. So, for example, the "niphal" generally makes a verb passive, the "piel" makes it intensive, and the "hiphil" makes it causative. So in the case of this verb, 'abhar, the simple "qal" stem means "cross over", but the "hiphil" means "make to cross over" (or "make go away") – and the Lord would be the one doing this, that is, by forgiving David's sin just as these scriptures clearly say. The number of the subject is a different issue; Hebrew generally distinguishes between numbers in verbal forms. I agree with you analysis of the persons in this Psalm – it's just as straightforward when read in Hebrew as it is in any English version. Best I can figure is that this individual wants to use the fact that the subject changes to the Lord to disprove the clear teaching of forgiveness earlier – the exact rationale is unclear, but it is very common for individuals who care more about their ideas than the truth to hide behind a perceived "knowledge" of the original languages so as to be able to twist the scriptures to mean anything they desire – exactly the opposite of the reason why a prospective pastor teacher ought to be learning Greek and Hebrew.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

If as you say the possibility of forgiveness were taken away only after death, then Jesus would not have said that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable in this age as well as the one to come?

Another reason is 1 John 5:16 teaches that there is a sin unto death which is pointless to pray about.


Response #4: 

Never underestimate the mercy, love and forgiveness of the Lord.

In his distress he sought the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. And when he prayed to him, the LORD was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD is God.
2nd Chronicles 33:12-13 NIV

Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown." The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish." When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.
Jonah 3:4-10 NIV

And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
Romans 11:23 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Yep but God can't contradict himself, right? Perhaps you mean. Reject Christ = no forgiveness in this age = no forgveness in the age to come. I was coming at from Result of speaking against the Holy Spirit (saying Jesus did things by the power of the devil) = no forgiveness in this age (even if you desire it) = No forgiveness in the age to come. Of course there is yet another interpretation that is it can't be committed today since Jesus isn't on earth casting out demons anymore and was a sin unique to those who witnessed Christ's deeds. Know of any more interpretations of Matthew 12?

Concerning Manasseh there is a chapter and verse somewhere that says God never forgave him for all the blood he shed. What is going on there? The verse below says God listened to his prayer and gave him back his Kingdom. That doesn't say he is saved. Jesus said people will be barred from the Kingdom who cast out demons by the authority of Jesus name. It says he knew the Lord is God, not that he knew God.

Response #5: 

Since we are expressing ourselves now in mathematical terms . . . our ignorance or lack of complete understanding of some things in scripture at first glance God contradicting Himself. Unbelievers talk about "contradictions in the Bible" all the time, not knowing what they are saying. Believers should understand that two things which seem to be contradictory to human logic are often not contradictory at all to God – free will and predestination coexisting in the plan of God, for example (which two things are in fact impossible without each other). So when scripture clearly says one thing and also clearly says another, it is we who have the problem. In this case, "never underestimate the mercy of God" is a principle from which I'm not willing to withdraw an inch (Ex.20:6; 34:7; Lev.16:15; Num.14:18-19; Deut.5:10; 7:9; 7:12; 2Chron.7:3; e.g.). Let us posit that not a single apostate has ever recovered from apostasy, that not a single Christian suffering from the sin unto death has ever recovered after repenting, and that not a single unbeliever who ever rejected the testimony of the Spirit ever changed his/her mind later. I don't believe that to be the case, but even if it were it would not be because God foreclosed His mercy to someone while still alive – rather it would be because they shut the door on themselves by refusing to repent. And consider. Why would the calls to repentance from God be so ubiquitous in scripture if there were never any point to it? After all, the whole reason God does call people to repentance is so that they will repent, not so that they won't.

To get back to scripture,

1) Matthew 12:32: "it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come" – meaning "absent repentance and salvation through faith in Christ". After all, unbelievers are all forgiven all of their sins because Christ died for them all – at the last judgment unbelievers are judged on the basis of their works (to show these are not sufficient to be saved) – with the only sin for which Christ did not and could not die being the refusal to accept Him and His death to sin as the basis for receiving God's grace and salvation through faith. That is what the "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" is, namely, the rejection of the gospel (see the link). The "no forgiveness" of that sin holds true as long as a person persists in unbelief, but if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be saved, for "God is able" to save anyone, anyone who turns to Christ (Rom.11:23). 

2) 1st John 5:16: When a believer gets to the point of being deeply entwined in gross sinfulness and refuses to repent to such a degree that he/she finds him/herself under the sin unto death, no amount of prayer for relief is going to alleviate the suffering – because the whole point of the suffering is to bring about repentance so that the person will finally leave off the exceptionally bad behavior. This is what happened to the incestuous believer of 1st Corinthians 5:1ff. – and he did repent and was relieved of the sin unto death (2Cor.2:6-11). Also, if a person wants to get technical about it, John only says "I do not say for you to pray about that [sin unto death]"; he does not command us not to pray or say we can't pray for the person's repentance. In such extreme cases it may be largely pointless most of the time, but perhaps not always. People pray all the time for all manner of things which are far less likely percentage-wise as to whether or not they are actually in the will of God (1Jn.5:14) – but sometimes they do turn out to be so (I'm sure we've all had that experience).

3) On Manasseh, I don't believe there is any such verse which states "God never forgave him". What I do read in scripture:

Now when he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.
2nd Chronicles 33:12-13 NKJV

In fact, it's difficult for me to read these verses and conclude that he did not legitimately repent unto salvation, especially given the fact that the way these things are phrased in the Old Testament is different from the way they are put in the NT – and both of these are different from the way Christians talk about these issues today. If we were to apply that sort of false litmus test you propose to almost any OT believer, I doubt you could prove with scripture that many if any of them were saved. God heard his prayer ("Also his prayer and how God received his entreaty"; 2Chron.33:19), after all, and we know "that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him" (Jn.9:31 NKJV). The only way Manasseh could be considered "righteous" is if his humbling of himself and his repentance were legitimate – which would require in turn that they had come from genuine faith. No doubt that never would have developed without the suffering he endured – but that is the whole point of punishment and discipline: "no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Heb.12:11 NKJV).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

No such verses about this King exist?

"Surely at the command of the Lord it came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and also for the innocent blood which he shed, for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; and the Lord would not forgive."
2 Kings 24:3-4 NASB

Response #6: 

I was wondering if you had that verse in mind. However, what you wrote was: "Concerning Manasseh there is a chapter and verse somewhere that says God never forgave him for all the blood he shed".

The passage you quote does not have any "him"; the unexpressed direct object is not Manasseh but the entire nation of Judah (i.e., "them"). 2nd Kings 24:3-4 states specifically that it was Judah which was to be removed from His sight as a result; that is the punishment from which the Lord was not willing to relent (national destruction and captivity) and those are the people who are not going to be forgiven (the nation of Judah well after the death of Manasseh) – obviously, because at this point in the narrative Manasseh was long dead so that at any talk of "forgiveness" for him was at that point irrelevant. This passage is clearly referring to the punishment about to fall upon Judah as a whole. Forgiveness would have meant no Babylonian captivity; but the Lord was not willing to forgo the punishment of the entire nation for all of their past sins, very notably the ones committed during Manasseh's reign before his captivity and repentance. For as it says, "Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen" (2Chron.33:9 KJV), and this pattern of rebellion from the Lord before, during and after Manasseh's reign continued until the Babylonian captivity and was responsible for it.

Before his repentance, Manasseh was the archetypical "bad guy" for his excessive idolatry and blood-thirsty reign – but that does not change the other facts related by scripture about him. Paul was "the worst of sinners" and "persecuted the Church of Christ", but he did repent as well and became the greatest apostle. I have no stake in Manasseh nor do I carry any brief for him, and no one can or should defend his evil actions. I'm just reading the Bible, and when I read it I try to get the entire picture rather than taking a blinkered view from just one passage. What I am trying to head off here is the non-scriptural notion that a person while still alive can move beyond the grace and mercy of God to the point of being "unforgivable". People flee from God all the time, of course, but their ability to come back like the prodigal son is limited only to the extent that such is their choice. As long as they are alive and have the free will inherent in image of God we all possess, they can choose to turn to the Lord like the prodigal son did, even if in their own thinking they are beyond redemption.

But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
Ezekiel 18:21-23 NIV

In the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:  

"Surely at the command of the Lord it came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and also for the innocent blood which he shed, for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; and the Lord would not forgive."

Semantics, I wasn't quoting when I said "him" it is the same as "he". Talk of forgiveness at this time wasn't irrelevant at all. It is in the past tense, "he shed" "for he filled Jerusalem" "the Lord would not forgive" Yes Judah is mentioned, it then mentions the late King and the "he" after that is clearly the King being referred to. Not saying God didn't forgive, but no verses say specifically that the King did repent, they say he came to know that there was only one true God. You don't need to repent to come to understand that. He probably before that time took no notice of his father's teachings. He clearly believed in Molech and pagan deities. Even Pharaoh had to acknowledge God in the end. Did he repent I doubt as his heart had become hardened. Paul didn't kill anyone. Where does it say Paul killed anyone? He had people locked up in prison, he held the coats of Stephen's killers and approved. Didn't get his hands dirty as far as I can see.

Response #7: 

It's a good deal more than semantics to misread, as you are doing, the target of the judgment according to scripture, and then to draw principles from your misreading.  God wants all to repent and be saved, and therefore so do I, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over Manasseh. It seems irrefutably clear to me what the verses say on this. It's fine for you to disagree. I'm not insistent about Manasseh's status (though I haven't changed my view); I am insistent on the principle that God wants all to repent and forgives all who do.

It's very dangerous to assume that some sins are "so bad" God will never forgive them. That bespeaks a dangerous ignorance about the deceptiveness of sin. Any time anyone says or thinks "my sins aren't as bad as yours" or anything close to that, it's only a matter of time before spiritual problems arise.

"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ "And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Luke 18:10-14 NKJV

For the purposes of our discussion, it doesn't matter if Manasseh did or didn't repent; what matters is that if he really did come back to the Lord then he was saved (just as Paul was having done comparably terrible things); so that Manasseh could have been saved if he wasn't; just chose not to be in that case (if such is the correct interpretation of the verses – which it is not in my view).

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Hello again, Dr. Luginbill,

In your study of "Christology", you have the following comment:

"In short, we are spiritually dead at birth, being "children of wrath" with only the expectation of divine judgment and the execution of condemnation absent some miraculous intervention far beyond our power and ability to effect for ourselves. And that is precisely what God has done for us in Jesus Christ!"

Question: Would a child (infant) or one who does not know evil from good, be declared innocent (without sin), when they have no knowledge of what sin is? I got into a debate some time back with an individual that declared "Children are born with sin". I know that the Roman Catholic Church teaches that an infant is born with the original sin of Adam, and must be baptized in order for that sin to be removed. Now, I know that this is heresy, false doctrine. The Lutheran Church also believes something similar, when they quote the Scripture:

"Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me."
Psalm 51:5. NIV.

I am of the opinion that the meaning of this verse is that all children are born with the "sinful nature". We don't inherit sin from anyone, including our mother. Can you help me to understand your comment and this verse in Psalms?

Thanks again,

To Him who was, and is, and is too come, be glory and honor and praise.

Response #8: 

You are correct that "the imputation of Adam's sin" or "original sin" as it is usually called is one of many false Augustinian teaching that has infected the church-visible since the fifth century – and very unfortunately most mainline Protestant denominations and their offshoots still retain many of these. This particular issue is addressed in BB 3B Hamartiology (a good place to look for all doctrinal questions regarding sin) at the link: The so-called "imputation of Adam's sin".

All human beings are born as you rightly surmise with a sin nature; that is, our flesh is corrupt, a body of sin and death (Rom.7:24) which, obviously, will not live forever and which "cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1Cor.15:50). So just because a child has not sinned in the manner of Adam does not mean that said child would be saved absent Christ's sacrifice for sin. All who die without reaching the point of accountability for their choices are saved, but not because they are sinless or innocent but because they did not have the opportunity to express their accountable free will in favor of or against the gift of Christ. The automatic salvation of children still required Christ to die for all of that child's sins and for the sins of the entire world. Since He did die for all sins – and since "all sin" (Rom.3:23) – the question of infant sin is entirely a moot point, and involvement in the issue by theologians such as Augustine has merely led to confusion.

Besides, children do sin – as anyone who has ever even been around a two year old knows very well. Sin is a much deeper and wider and extensive area of human behavior than is generally appreciated, even by Christians who should know better. So we are all born with a body that will die, and none of us have any claim on God to fix that problem of problems which not only destines us to physical death but also to judgment and eternal damnation . . . without the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. For even as we all sin, from a very early age, we also have no way personally to atone for that sin. Embracing Christ's death for us is the only way anyone is saved, and only those who don't get a chance to express their will on the matter (dying to young or being mentally handicapped) are saved without having done so. Worrying about the far less than one percent case of someone born without time or opportunity to sin (even this is doubtful in my view) is the stuff of theology-with-too-much-time-on-its-hands concerned with how-many-angels-can-dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin, and inevitably results in wrong conclusions and false doctrines (as with Augustine and original sin).

Whenever theology is developed by deduction, its much more often wrong than right. Worrying about this less than one percent issue requires positing "what if Christ did not die for us" – which is insane because not only do we know that He did die for us but also that the plan of God was predicated on His sacrifice of sacrifices before creation was ever initiated. Since Christ's sacrifice is the fundamental fact of creation, and since that is the basis for the salvation of us all, both those of us who have fled to Him for deliverance and those who never get a chance (through an early death or mental incompetence), it is beyond pointless to worry about that less than one percent. I suppose we could say "maybe someone making this argument at the throne of judgment would have a point if there were no cross of Christ, but since there is there is no profit in making it". That is more than I care to say in any case (see also the link: Can you explain Romans "sin was not imputed").

Psalm 51:5 is exactly along the same line of interpretation. We are born with a sin nature, and that guarantees that we will die physically and also that we will sin and be condemned . . . absent Christ's sacrifice – which blessedly is now a historical reality – and absent our acceptance of Him and His work for us on the cross by grace through faith.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Hello--I just have a quick question about a couple of Bible verses--Roman 1:5 and Romans 16:26, where it says "obedience of faith." I know "faith" in both cases is genitive, but is Paul saying that it is the obedience that is OF faith or comes from faith, or that obedience IS faith, in Jesus Christ? That having faith in Jesus is obedience to Him?

This website seems to think the latter: https://faithalone.org/magazine/y1993/93july3.html The Obedience Which Is Faith--Romans 1:5 and 16:26

So, in your opinion, which is correct? It makes no never mind to me which is, since it means that faith is the forerunner of obedience. Thanks and God bless you.

Response #9: 

It's very common in the NT for genitive phrases such as this to be used after the manner of Hebrew construct phrases. In the case of the latter, the possibilities of interpretation are many and must be narrowed down by context. It's not as if Greek doesn't do this too, however, independent of Hebrew influence. But what is natural enough in Greek and Hebrew is often problematic in English since we have essentially dumped, for example, the use of objective and subjective genitives (as we are dumping all elements of complexity in grammar . . . and thought, sadly, as well). This is a complicated way of saying that 1) the KJV (and other versions) take the easy way out in not being more specific, and that 2) really, the best way to answer the question is to translate the verse:

[Jesus Christ], through whom on behalf of His Name I have received [this] grace and [my charge of] apostleship, for the [fulfilling of His] purpose among all the gentiles of their obedience [consisting] of [their] faith.
Romans 1:5

Romans 16:26 has an identical phrasing with an even clearly context of evangelizing the gentiles. So it seems to me very clear what is being said: "the obedience / response the Father calls for is to put one's faith in Jesus Christ". What I am less clear about is the difference between the two interpretations given to choose from which you link. There seems to be no important distinction between these two things as far as I can see. We obey God by believing the gospel, and that obedience is carried out through our faith in Jesus Christ.

Yours in the dear Lord who died for us all.

Bob L.

Question #10:  

Thanks again

Romans 14:23 seems to be translated in many ways according to different translations. How would you have the verse translated?

Response #10: 

Hello Friend,

But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.
Romans 14:23 NKJV

On Romans 14:23, I had a look at a few versions and they all say pretty much the same thing, at least as it seemed to me – and I don't think I would render the verse much differently from what I found. The idea is that one should not eat food that one has a "problem" with, spiritually speaking, just because another brother or sister does eat it. In terms of Paul's audience and also primarily for us today, this has to do mainly with Jewish brothers and sisters who were brought up under some aspects of the dietary code in the Law, and now feel very uncomfortable consuming certain foods which the Law does not allow. Paul tells us in the Spirit that while it is unquestionably not a sin nor even a problem for us to partake of any food (cf. Mk.7:19; Acts 10:1ff.), it would be a mistake for anyone to take away from what he says here or elsewhere that a Jewish believer should throw out his/her scruples in this regard just because the gentile believers are not likewise troubled. That is because we have to act in faith., complete confidence and trust in the Lord that what we are doing is acceptable to Him. If someone does not have faith that any action is correct and godly, then it may be the Spirit's voice we are hearing and we ought to withhold ourselves from doing it because if we are acting contrary to what we believe that is sinful (taking care to avoid the opposite pitfall of doing or refraining from doing something out of a baseless sense of guilt).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

Hi Bob,

"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, he will have what he says. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will have it."
Mark 11:23

What Jesus is saying here is that faith can overcome anything. But more importantly is what Jesus is implicitly saying here by negative: the only thing that cannot be overcome is faithlessness. Jesus is saying in an extremely positive manner that faith is our superpower and faithlessness is our kryptonite. Faith can do anything except heal faithlessness. Or to use a Biblical metaphor instead of a comic book metaphor, faith is Samson's super strength and faithlessness is having his hair cut.

Response #11: 

Nice comments!

Nothing is more important that trusting the Lord and believing all He tells us. He is 100% faithful, cannot be unfaithful; we owe Him 100% trust that He is working it all out for the good for us who love Him, even when our eyes and ears and hearts tell us different.

Question #12:  

Hi Bob,

This is what CARM says about the Great Apostasy:

The verse at the top of the page tells us that there will be an apostasy that is associated with the appearance of the Antichrist. Most Christians are looking for the arrival of the Antichrist, but very few are looking for "the apostasy" that must come first. The arrival of the Antichrist cannot occur until sufficient apostasy has happened in the world. The Antichrist, who is the ultimate of liars, cannot abide in a world where the truth of God's Word is taught. This is why the Bible says that the apostasy will come first and then the Antichrist will be revealed.

What CARM teaches on the Great Apostasy is very different from what you teach on the subject, because according to CARM the arrival of the Antichrist is the culmination of a process of previous apostasy, while you teach that the Great Apostasy is the successful persuasion of one-third of the Christian church to defect and serve the Antichrist. However, CARM has a definite bias in defining apostates in this way, because it allows them to be justified in opposing any Christian who is skeptical regarding gay marriage activism or anti-abortion activism as apostates. This is really what apostasy means according to CARM: not being deemed a good evangelical, as they define it. But the only way to be a "good evangelical" is through mindless obedience to whatever fundamentalist churches are teaching.


Response #12: 

Thanks for the vote of confidence!

Question #13:  

Hi Bob,

The reason I sent you this email is to ask for a clarification.

"Let no one in any way deceive you, for it [Jesus' return] will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,"
(II Thessalonians 2:3)

Why is CARM's interpretation of the above verse incorrect?


Response #13: 

It depends how you read their vague language. The Great Apostasy and the revelation of antichrist must precede the second advent (that is Paul's point at 2Thes.2:3); as such, both events are linked and specifically associated with the end times, namely, the Tribulation. We can I suppose see antecedents of the apostasy today . . . but these could be pressed back even further (to Adam and Eve if necessary and Satan's fall). The important point is that there will not be an obvious desertion from Christ to antichrist until there is a revealed antichrist to desert to. If that is what CARM means and understands, well and good, but like you I saw too much waffling to sign off on their article.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:  

Just found your web site. I appreciate the non-aggressive way that you write, and your explanations. I am surrounded by OSAS believers, and wanted a good explanation of what it means to be sealed by the HS. Thanks for your article.

In Christ,

Response #14: 

Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks so much for your kind words!

As I have often had occasion to note, I was theologically "brought up" on "once saved, always saved", but it is clear that this is not what scripture actually teaches. Reading scripture in the original languages made me change my mind eventually. Free will is incredibly important, and faith has to be maintained to the end for salvation, since only believers are saved. On the other hand, only rejection of Christ reverses a person's status – becoming by choice an unbeliever again after once believing (i.e., apostasy: Lk.8:13; see the link), and that never happens accidentally.

There is a good deal about all this on the site, so please do feel free to ask if you're having any trouble navigating.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:  

Hello Professor,

Thank you for this response, it was very helpful, as always. I haven't taken this statement as a hyperbole and was thinking of the way it should be understood in an absolute sense. Another question I wanted to ask you here - inasmuch as in Psalm 14 we can take the term "all" as a hyperbole, you also made a point that the statement that "There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God" can be understood literally as being true of all of us before we come to salvation.

I'm not sure if I won't press the literality of these statements too far with the following hypothesis, but could we take Paul's words as meaning that there is a period in the life of every man whereby he doesn't seek for God, so that none of us can say that we respond to General Revelation as soon as we are spiritually mature enough to do that, but rather there is a period of time between achieving this point of sufficient maturity to seek God and the actual commencement of this search for those who desire the truth? This would make Romans 3:11 true in a literal sense - until we turn to faith, we are fools. And because none of us searches for the truth as soon as we are able to, there is a time when we all deserve do be described that way. Let me know your thoughts.

Also, I'm attaching a slightly expanded fragment of the text on salvation - talking about God's righteousness and our sinfulness. I added a few references and thought it would be appropriate to include the issue of judgment there also.

I already have ideas for systematic studies, but writing up these responses has already helped me to put together some thoughts and references on several subjects, so that has been my primary focus. I think it is already helping me to build frameworks for future studies which I may begin to write this year, unless you would recommend commencing this task already?

In our Lord,

3. The problem of sin

3a. God’s holiness and His perfect standard of righteousness

Even before we take hold of the scriptures for the first time, God’s revelation in nature and creation displays aspects of His character – His power, His wisdom, His infinity – so that those who reject Him are without excuse.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Romans 1:18-21 NASB

When, however, we get to know God’s word, His holy character becomes evident:

45 For I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.’"
Leviticus 11:45 NASB

48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:48 NASB

9 Exalt the Lord our God
And worship at His holy hill,
For holy is the Lord our God.
Psalm 99:9 NASB

1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said,
"Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory."
Isaiah 6:1-3 NASB

15 Then it becomes something for a man to burn, so he takes one of them and warms himself; he also makes a fire to bake bread. He also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a graven image and falls down before it.
Isaiah 44:15 NASB

8 And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say,
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come."
Revelation 4:8 NASB

Out of this holiness results His perfect standard of righteousness:

4 "The Rock! His work is perfect,
For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He.
Deuteronomy 32:4 NASB

7 For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness;
The upright will behold His face.
Psalm 11:7 NASB

5 He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the Lord.
Psalm 33:5 NASB

6 And the heavens declare His righteousness,
For God Himself is judge.
Psalm 50:6 NASB

14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;
Lovingkindness and truth go before You.
Psalm 89:14 NASB

13 Before the Lord, for He is coming,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
And the peoples in His faithfulness.
Psalm 96:13 NASB

142 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
And Your law is truth.
Psalm 119:142 NASB

8 For I, the Lord, love justice,
I hate robbery in the burnt offering;
And I will faithfully give them their recompense
And make an everlasting covenant with them.
Isaiah 61:8 NASB

5 And I heard the angel of the waters saying, "Righteous are You, who are and who were,
O Holy One, because You judged these things;
Revelation 16:5 NASB

And it is according to this perfect standard of righteousness that God will judge us:
11 God is a righteous judge,
And a God who has indignation every day.
Psalm 7:11 NASB

7 But the Lord abides forever;
He has established His throne for judgment,
8 And He will judge the world in righteousness;
He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity.
Psalm 9:7-8 NASB

11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
Let the sea roar, and all it contains;
12 Let the field exult, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy
13 Before the Lord, for He is coming,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
And the peoples in His faithfulness.
Psalm 96:11-13 NASB

8 Let the rivers clap their hands,
Let the mountains sing together for joy
9 Before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth;
He will judge the world with righteousness
And the peoples with equity.
Psalm 98:8-9 NASB

20 But, O Lord of hosts, who judges righteously,
Who tries the feelings and the heart,
Let me see Your vengeance on them,
For to You have I committed my cause.
Jeremiah 11:20 NASB

31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a
Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the
Acts 17:31 NASB

8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
2 Timothy 4:8 NASB

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." 17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;
1 Peter 1:14-17 NASB

Every aspect of our life teaches us the inevitability of judgment as we observe our actions cause consequences in accordance with their character. The scripture only confirms that:

27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment,
Hebrews 9:27 NASB

3b. Our sinfulness

Similarly as we begin to recognise some parts of God’s character before we take hold of the scripture, so also before we get to know God’s word our conscience often tells us we do things we shouldn’t (Romans 2:14-15). When, however, we begin to read the Bible and come to understand the holiness of God who commands us to be holy as He is holy (Leviticus 11:44-45, 19:2, 20:7; 1 Peter 1:14-16), when we learn about His perfect standard of righteousness, it becomes clear that we are all sinners (1 Kings 8:46).

9 Who can say, "I have cleansed my heart,
I am pure from my sin"?
Proverbs 20:9 NASB

20 Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.
Ecclesiastes 7:20 NASB

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 3:23 NASB

8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
1 John 1:8 NASB

When these truths get through to us, we recognise our difficult position. God is holy and commands us to be holy. His standard of righteousness is perfect and He will judge us according to this standard. We, on the other hand, are sinners and if we are honest with ourselves, we realise that we cannot attain to this perfect standard by our own efforts. Sin creates a chasm between us and God and we cannot bridge it ourselves. We all fall short.

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 3:23 NASB

3c. We cannot solve the problem of sin ourselves and attain to the perfect standard of God’s righteousness

We are not capable of not sinning and we are not capable of cleansing our own sin. When explaining this problem I often use a comparison to a glass with perfectly clean water. If you taint this water with something – and we all taint it – it will never again be perfectly clean, as before it got tainted. Even if you were to pour an infinite amount of perfectly clean water, the taint remains. Those who teach that salvation can be achieved by works (as it’s the case with the Roman Catholic Church), ignore this fact – as if a certain amount of good works existed thanks to which the contamination will disappear. It won’t. Not only the contamination will not disappear, but those following this path fail to understand one more key issue – that the water they pour into the glass in order to cleanse it is not clean itself. All that tainted water can bring forth is… tainted water. Tainted water cannot of itself produce untainted water. So if someone thinks they can redeem a bad deed with a good one, they are mistaken. Not only a bad deed remains a bad deed – the problem is still unsolved – but the "good" deed is not perfectly good, because it is polluted by sin. If someone believes they redeem the evil they committed through, for example, paying a certain amount of money to charity, they ignore the fact that this gift is not free from sin that lives in us – whether it’s some hidden pride through which someone becomes good in his own eyes (this is very frequent among people who believe in salvation by works), or self-interest or anything else. So we have a problem – there is sin in us (and anyone who still has a healthy conscience realises about it) and we cannot erase this sin.

Response #15: 

Always a pleasure.

It is certainly "literally true" that every human being, even the most prominent of biblical believers, had/has a sin nature and falls short of the glory of God – any "righteousness" or "understanding" or "good" we may have or do is a result of grace in its entirety; so from the human viewpoint of the Psalmist and the "Preacher" (of Ecclesiastes) this is in fact a valid way to describe the world of human beings.

I'm thrilled to see you coming to the point of instituting your own ministry in a formal way! Of course you have been "ministering" for many years now in many ways (not least of all to me).

As to your attachment, I find it to be an excellent and effective "protreptic" – anyone reading it and the verses attached ought to realize the impossibility of working their way into heaven and at the same time the impossibility of standing before a righteous God for judgment . . . absent being cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Your friend in Him.

Bob L.

Question #16:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I have a question on Romans 3:25.

"25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins".

My question refers to the phrase in this verse as "passed over former sins". There are a number of occasions in the Bible where God did punish the sins of mankind immediately: Sodom and Gomorrah, Cain, Ananias and Sapphira, Herod, and so on. Is this phrase referring to the judgment specified in the Book of Revelation or? Or does this phrase mean something else? Knowing that God is merciful beyond our human understanding, how do we reconcile this verse?

Perhaps the answer lies in Verse 26, following the context of scripture?

Thanks always for your gracious input.

Your friend,

Response #16: 

Good to hear from you, my friend.

To answer your question succinctly, this verse, Romans 3:25, explains that Christ died for every sin of every human being; but of course He could not die for the sins of those who lived (and sinned) before He came to the cross until He came to the cross. So before that time, the Father "passed over" those sins until it came time to pour them out in Christ's body "on the tree" (1Pet.2:24; cf. 1Cor.5:21), along with every sin which would be committed by anyone in the future as well – such is the wisdom, power and grace of God. Here is how I translate the verse:

(25) God made Him a means of atonement [achieved] by His blood [and claimed] through faith, to give proof of His justice in leaving unpunished in divine forbearance [all] previously committed sins, (26) so as to prove His justice in the present, namely, so that He would be [shown to be] just [in this] and [justified] in justifying the one who has faith in Jesus (i.e., because all sin of all time, past present and future, had thus been righteously judged in and atoned for by our Lord on the cross).
Romans 3:25-26

As I say in one posted response:

Every sin ever committed by the entire human race had to be individually atoned for in order for anyone to be saved. The only difference between pre-cross salvation and post-cross salvation is that the Father extended salvation before the cross "on credit", so to speak, then Jesus "paid the past bill" when He died for all sin. After the cross, the situation is that all of our sins have been "pre-paid" by our Savior's work, so that all we need do to be saved is believe in the One who stood as our substitute in that judgment.

For more, see the link: in BB 3B: Hamartiology: "The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ".

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:  

As I have been updating some references in the text I wrote about the basic message of salvation, which goes from natural revelation, through special revelation and the gospel, a question appeared to me as to what we discover first - whether it's God's holiness and perfect character, or own sinfulness. I know these are two sides of the same coin, but I'm just wondering if there may be a sequence here in which in our heart of hearts we learn our need for the Saviour. It could be that by seeing the creation, its beauty we acknowledge that there is a Creator and that He must be perfect. Or is it rather the case that we first recognise our own sin, with our conscience bearing witness against us and that it's a problem we cannot solve ourselves and then in the scriptures we learn of God's perfection to which we cannot attain.

It also occurred to me that through the gift of the conscience both the notion of right and wrong is engrained in us from the time we are born and through this we may somehow from the beginning have it us that God must be perfect.

Response #17: 

Your question is an interesting one. I can't think of a scriptural indication of sequence. I will say that passages which speak of the issue of natural revelation seem to place the character of God at the center of things; that is what I have also always chosen to emphasize. Of course we fall short by any reasonable comparison (it just takes growth in the Word to start to realize how short). I think your point about the conscience is a good one.

Question #18:  

Hello Professor,

How did the procedure go?

Also, based on our recent correspondence and what you wrote regarding "not seeking God", I wanted to ask what you think of the following interpretation. We could argue that none of us responds to General Revelation as soon as we are spiritually mature enough to do that, but there is rather a period of time in between the point of sufficient maturity and the commencement of the search for God. This would mean that Romans 3:11 can also be true in a literal sense - until we turn to faith, we are fools. And since none of us searches for the truth as soon as we are able to, at least for a period of time we all deserve to be described as "not seeking God". What do you think?

In our Lord,

Response #18: 

I survived – thanks for asking! This was apparently a bigger problem than I had realized, and may have been responsible for a number of other health issues. We shall see. I'm healing well, and will be back at the university tomorrow (that'll be a long day, no doubt).

I wouldn't wish to state dogmatically nor even opine that there are never cases of some responding to the truth just as soon as it is revealed (I rather suspect that there are). But even from a very early age when we are not able to understand the most obvious general revelation, nevertheless we are all sinners from birth – as anyone who has had any serious contact with a two year old can affirm. So this verse is true of all at some time. I don't think it's necessary to conjoin actual opportunity to respond with lack of response here.

Wishing you a good week ahead, my friend.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:  

The first part [of David Hume's treatise] stated that it is not possible to take an idea in one's mind, apply pure logic to that idea, and reach a conclusion that is based entirely in the observable universe.

Yes it is. Here's an example of just that:

(1) I can conceive of my car.

(2) I can conceive of being green.

(3) By logic, either my car is green or it is not green.

I can then go outside and look at my car and confirm that it is either green or not green. I reached a conclusion based entirely in the observable universe using pure logic.

The ontological argument is fascinating because it's never mentioned by people. Most people mention the cosmological argument or the argument from design, and accept these as valid reasons to believe in God, but the ontological argument is (as far I can tell) both sound and valid, but yet nobody uses it to defend God.

The most important thing I learned from Hume is that science doesn't work, because science is based on induction and induction is a logical fallacy. So logically speaking you can always take anything a scientist says as not knowledge (justified true belief, because the result of induction is never justified).

Response #19: 

I've always found the ontological argument pretty much indistinguishable from Platonism, in practical if not purely logical terms. And from that point of view, well, Plato and his ideas have had a massive (negative) influence on theology, especially in the middle ages. The problem with using the O-argument vs. the C-argument is that people can see the world and really can't pretend they cannot. But with the O-argument we are confronting people with what they thought about the world when they were young and not intellectually sophisticated, "having an idea of perfection", e.g., which to my mind cannot be properly divorced from realizing in their hearts that God exists (Eccl.3:11). But most people who have come to reject God have no problem being disingenuous about their early experiences, and they can't be refuted because their memories are hidden from sight – and possibly even repressed.

On science, I've always found it a bit maddening that the rest of us are supposed to accept scientific pronouncements as holy writ when for scientist themselves everything is always open to change, development and re-litigation, and in fact every scientific theory is being (slightly) modified on a daily basis.

Wishing you a good week ahead, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:  

Good comments on the ontological argument. Aquinas argued that the ontological argument was only useful in persuading God that God exists, but not for the rest of us because the only way we learn is through sensory input.

Response #20: 


Question #21:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Just wanted to comment on some things I saw on TV religious shows:

1. I listened to one minister on TV who made the following statement:

"We are paying for our sins, and the sin of Adam".

He was talking about 1 Corinthians 9 and 10 when he stated the above.

2. Another minister stated this: "Jesus died for our sins", but made no mention of how.

After reviewing one of your studies, which one I can't remember, where you said that Jesus also, during the three hours on the cross, died "Spiritually", and what took place in those three hours is not written, so we don't know what happened.

Now the first minister, I believe did not elaborate on his comment, so I give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he meant that we have a sinful nature, and that is what we are paying for, I can't be sure, but one thing I can say, that we did not pay the penalty for our sins nor anyone else's. He should have elaborated, but he didn't, which can lead to confusion among a believer.

The second minister failed to elaborate on his statement, so as I was, I believe so are many believers today: Let me explain:

I never realized that the "Real" penalty that Jesus paid for our sins was "Spiritual Separation". I always thought of physical death on the cross until I studied your dissertation of Jesus and how He died. Again, this second minister did not elaborate on what the ultimate death was that Jesus endured.

Now I know that indeed His physical death and His Spiritual death are both inter-connected with the penalty of sin being paid, but my point is, most ministers that I have heard never ever mention the second death that Jesus endured, only the physical.

Very perplexing to listen, and I don't often do that, to minister's who don't fully explain themselves. I believe that when we get behind the pulpit, we need to explain fully what the scripture says, and not just want to get through the sermon. This is very important, as we will be held accountable to God more than others are.

I would appreciate your thoughts.

I am trying not to be critical, but these things do bother me a lot because the Word of God is important, so important that it must not be brushed off or run through hastily.

Blessings to you my friend,

Your friend,

Response #21: 

You are absolutely correct. It is the height of blasphemy to say that we could pay for a single sin – and it takes away the rightful glory of the Son of God who did so that we might be His. The lack of elaboration by the second person is not blasphemous but sadly typical because it doesn't do justice to what our Lord did for us – which is the foundation of all that is and all what we will be with Him forever.

This is why I disdain (and have always disdained) sermons. At best, they are "spiritual pep-talks", but the vast majority of them always do just what you have noted here, namely, put more questions into the minds of listeners than answers – that is the opposite of good teaching, and is more discouraging than encouraging (exactly the opposite of the purpose of assembly: Heb.10:24-25). Such performances "do more harm than good" (1Cor.11:17; cf. Is.1:11-12; Amos 5:21, Mal.1:10). A deliberate (often Baptist) variation on this theme is to produce a large measure of vague guilt which is not attached directly to any specific solution – so as to keep 'em coming back, giving money, doing service, etc. Any time vague dis-ease is the result of going to church, consider finding another church (one other good online place besides Ichthys is "Bible Academy").

As to specifics, yes, spiritual separation (of His humanity) from the Father did take place when the Father was judging Christ for our sins. This was a terrible thing which no mere human being such as we are can really appreciate, but it was not the only thing Christ endured to propitiate the sins of the world. And while we do not know the precise mechanics, we know that it was terrible beyond understanding (cf. Ps.22:1ff.; Is.53:1ff.). Peter tells us that Christ physically "bore our sins in His body" on the cross (1Pet.2:24) and Paul very graphically states that Christ was "made sin for us" (2Cor.5:21); meaning that He was considered sinful though perfect and made to bear and suffer the judgment for all of our sins. I would venture to say that if all our personal sufferings, pain and tribulation could be rolled into a ball, it wouldn't equal what Christ endured to propitiate the very least of our sins, nor would all human suffering from the beginning of history to the end be even close to His dying for the least of all human sins ever committed. Therefore the cross is astounding beyond anything imaginable. Therefore the cross is "bigger" than the universe and all human and angelic experience or imagination. Therefore the smallest part of what Jesus did for us on the cross exceeds to infinity everything else in the created world put together – and He died for every single sin of every single human being who will ever live, the penalty seared out in His flesh in Calvary's darkness. The meaning and the magnitude and the magnificence of Christ's death for us is so profound that eternity will not be long enough for us to praise and thank Him and the Father for it. The physical suffering that our Lord endured to get to the cross and the observable suffering He endured while on the cross before the darkness fell was of course enormous: He was falsely arrested, accused and condemned, betrayed abandoned and denied, made to carry His own cross to the hill of death, nailed to the cross and hung out on public display, shown the loss of all that He had in this world, mocked and dared to come down – and so He could have done, for, after all, we all turned out backs on Him (or would have done, were we there). But though we were unworthy and completely so, He was faithful to us . . . and completely so. He did not refuse His back from scourging, beard from plucking, face from spitting, and though we were unfaithful to Him, for us He gave Himself over to endure physical and emotional abuse that would have destroyed any other human being – and without a single misstep, and without faltering for a single moment. And that was only the beginning. When the darkness fell, all of the sins of human history were poured out on Him and were paid for by Him as He bore them and was judged for them, paying a price we cannot even guess our for every single one individually – except to say that if we possessed the world and laid it at His feet it wouldn't be enough to take away a single one of those sins; He made the world, after all, and sustains it by His "Word of power" (Heb.1:2-3). One purpose of our Lord's intense suffering before His spiritual death, therefore, as it seems to me, was to give us some small inkling, some small frame of reference, for what He had to do – and what the Father had to do – to take away our sins that we might not die but live with them forever. The price was ineffable. That is why the cross cannot be underestimated. It is the plan, the goodness, the grace, the glory . . . it is the love of God.

I hope this answers your question. The main link at Ichthys on Christ's substitutionary death for us is this one: "The Spiritual Death of Christ".

Yours in the One whom we owe everything, far more than we can ever know in this world, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #22:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you so much, I value not only your opinion, but also your knowledge which God has given you. You have helped me a great deal. What I don't understand is, that the majority of Christians are gullible or ignorant of God's Word, and when they hear something spoken from a minister of the Gospel? They most always accept it and swallow it hook, line, and sinker. Great Apostasy.

I pray that the Lord bless you even more and provide more inroads to spreading the knowledge and kindness He has given you to many others.

Your friend,

Response #22: 

It is disappointing, but it is not without culpability. We all make choices all the time. Anyone who knocks, has it opened unto them. Those who are happy being lukewarm and never look or seek or knock for something better, don't have it dropped in their laps. And a good thing too, because they wouldn't then appreciate it or take advantage of it.

I praise the Lord that you are genuinely interested in the truth!

Your friend in Jesus Christ who is the very Truth.

Bob L.

Question #23:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Yes, I understand, I was raised Catholic, and I might say a Very devout one at that. When I was 40 years old, I was standing at a bus stop one morning to go to work, and I opened a little Gospel tract that one of my co-workers gave me, and I read it through. When I finished reading there was a question which asked, Do you want to be a Christian, and I immediately in my heart said yes, yes. I was a Catholic but not a Christian. I have a long story of how God dealt with me, while still a Catholic, and my wife. God has been wonderful to me and my family, I could never thank Him enough for what He has done. He suddenly opened my eyes to the truth of the Catholic church some few months later. We serve a living God.

Blessings to you in the name of the one who died for us so that we might live in Him.

Your friend,

Response #23: 

That is most interesting, my friend – and quite in line with almost every conversation I've ever had with used-to-be-RC folks. They're good people and in my experience better than most, by and large. But being a moral individual and a good citizen doesn't save a person.

Keeping you and your family in my prayers.

In Jesus,

Bob L.


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