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Legalism, Past and Present IV

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Question #1:

Dear Teacher

Was my answer correct in all points? Are there things I missed here?


At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day. But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. '
Matthew 12:1-6

*Q: Doesn't this make it seem we can be excused from doing 'the right thing' if we have a 'good reason' for that? What do you think?

*A: The passage was about legalism. Legalists like the Pharisees did not really care what the Scripture said. They just loved to have the power to control people's behavior. This was not what the Law was about.

The Law was given to demonstrate to Israel first and the rest of the world second that it is impossible for sinful man to ever please God. So, the right application of the Law was to do what was prudent and to avoid presumption with God.

This was evident with David. He did not believe that the right application of the Law was to ignore the shewbread when he and those who were under his protection starved. This was why he accepted it to sate their hunger.

The Lord Jesus was teaching the same thing here. He was the Lord of the Sabbath but the Pharisees thought to dictate to Him about the Law. That made no sense. It was God Who decided what was right and what was wrong, not man. The Sabbath was made so that man could rest and fellowship with God rather than spend every waking moment struggling for his survival. Taking a break to fellowship with God was recognizing that all good things we have come from Him not from our strenuous efforts.

If you think back too, you will remember about the Sabbath year and the year of Jubilee. The Law taught that during these times, the Jews were to let the land rest and they were to trust that the Lord would provide abundantly enough to keep them from the sixth to the ninth year. The point was not to do no work but to trust God for provision and therefore do what He said.

The disciples here were hungry and acted like men who knew that God was not indifferent to their hunger and had provided all things richly for them to enjoy. The Legalists would rather they died of hunger than do anything that they themselves defined as work arrogating to themselves a position that was not theirs: that of judge.

This is why we are not to judge each other today. Each person is to follow the Lord closely according to a conscience properly educated in the Truth. And we are to encourage each other in the Truth as well. But all judgment calls are individual affairs governed by the Holy Spirit and each person's free will.


Your student in the Lord Jesus Christ

Response #1:

Wonderful! I couldn't have said it any better myself.

"Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent?"
Matthew 12:5 NASB

Keeping you and your families in my prayers.

[Related Links by this author]

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hi Dr Luginbill,

This is something I have struggled over for a long time and kept having to put it down. I was unable to reconcile different passages that mention the term 'law,' but maybe I have it now. The easiest way I can explain is to show you my understanding and please let me know if it seems near the mark. Please don't rush, because I know this is a thicker topic.

Here it is: The term 'law' is used to refer to a number of different things. Two of the things delineated:

1st definition -God's moral law that never changes that everyone knows at one point in their life (murder is sin-from Cain until now-is one, but to wear tassels or build an ark - unless God specifically tells someone to do so per below-is not) (consider when Paul referred to gentiles obeying His Law in their hearts-this could not have been the Mosaic Law-we gentiles don't naturally have an inclination to wear tassels for example, but do generally know murder is evil, etc)

2nd definition -(subset of the first): specific set of laws Moses gave, which includes both the 12 commandments (some parts of the Mosaic law are the general moral laws of the first bullet point), laws specific to the Ancient Nation State of Israel during a particular time period (including God allowing divorce for the hardness of heart).

*Part of His moral law is to trust and obey Him, so when these laws under the 2nd definition are binding (before His death), it was against the first definition not to follow these

Post the crucifixion, the second is completed and neither we nor the believing Jews are to follow. The aspects of the first that were in the second (ie treating parents respectfully, are not done away with). But in the Millennium it seems there will be new laws about the future nation of Israel and the new Temple that will be given and binding will therefore be part of the first.

Paul sees to move between these two when he writes (when he is referring to them), or sometimes refers to both at the same time.

Passages picked out:

Romans 7:4: We are dead to condemnation of the law (both definitions, Jews and gentiles to the definition that applies) due to having broke it. Also when the Lord died the Mosaic law (specifically) was completed, are we are dead to obeying that specifically (for those that were to obey it before), as it served its purpose.

Romans 6:14: He seems to mean both, because he seems to be talking to both Jews and gentiles (and gentiles never had the Mosaic law); and particularly that we are not under the law's condemnation (both 1st and 2nd definition). I think many read this and think only Mosaic law and that it means we don't have to follow. But if it means both like I think, it is just referring to the condemnation. We still follow the 2nd definition. But our relationship to it, too is different in that it doesn't have the power of condemnation anymore. We still follow the first definition so that it can't be regards to following it, only its condemnation (in this passage).

Romans 7:9: He must be talking about both definitions as gentiles know sin and sin without the Mosaic law. They know it is evil when they do evil, at least at one point in their lives. I don't think he means he was alive-not a sinner since we are conceived in sin. But in a sense that in day to day, when we come across a situation and know that something is wrong kind of thing. The main thing I was asking on is the idea of looking at the passages with these two definitions in mind and considering which it is he is referring to in order to understand passages that don't seem add up.

Response #2:

It's good to remember that the word "Law" in Hebrew, torah, means "teaching". While your approach is fairly common, that is, to split up and subdivide things, I tend to go the other way.

Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 22:35-40 NKJV

Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Romans 13:10 NKJV

The purpose of all "teaching" from God from the beginning to the end is loving God (responding to Him) and loving others (reflecting that response in the world).

In the same way the "Old Covenant" and the "New Covenant" are not really different . . . in that the New fulfills the shadows of the Old. Both are founded on the promise of eternal life in Christ through faith. That is the fundamental response to the love of God in His sacrifice for us; growing, progressing and ministering to others, helping them to be saved and grow is the after-salvation response.

So when we talk about these things it's important – from my point of view – to avoid being overly scholastic about points of interpretation. Yes, we want to be correct and truthful and absolutely so. But losing "the big picture", which is precisely what all commentators who get scribal and Talmudic about such things always do, is a "worse of than before" situation.

Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.
Romans 7:4 NKJV

This is Paul telling the Jewish members of the Roman congregation as well as those gentiles who have been "evangelized" by legalists that the strictures of the Mosaic Law given for Israel, to mark her out as a special nation, have not only been obviated by the cross but have actually become a stumbling block. Read carefully, this verse says that a person CANNOT follow the Law and Christ: to do so is to commit spiritual adultery, going back to the old husband when we have now been married to a new one.

For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
Romans 6:14 NKJV

The purpose here is also to show the zero-sum proposition of following the Law which has been superseded or following Christ by the way of grace.

I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.
Romans 7:9 NKJV

The purpose here is to show that the Old Covenant, the Law of Moses, could not save; what it did was lead to salvation (like a guide or tutor: Gal.3:24) by demonstrating our need for the grace of God, our need for the Savior to die in our place, the One who is foreshadowed throughout the Law

Certainly, there are places where the "10 commandments" stand for the Law or where a certain aspect of the Law is in view, but THE commandment is the essential one: respond to the grace of Jesus Christ through faith for life eternal.

For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.
2nd Peter 2:21 NKJV (cf. 2Pet.3:2)

Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.
1st John 2:7 NKJV

And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.
1st John 3:23 NKJV

So while there are different aspects "the Law", they are all part and parcel of the same thing, and the flip-side, so to speak, of the grace of the New Covenant vivified by the blood of Christ.

Here are a few links:

Dispensations, Covenants, Israel and the Church II

Dispensations, Covenants, Israel and the Church I

The Law of Moses

Grace versus Law II

Grace versus Law I

The Trinity and Messianic Legalism II

Apologetics, Legalism, Cults and Philosophy

The Law, Legalism, and Rome

Judaism and Legalism in the church-visible

The Trinity and Messianic Legalism

Believers in the World III: Prosperity Gospel, Tithing, Cults and Legalism

Legalism, Past and Present II

Legalism, Past and Present

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism IV: Unclean and Impure?

The Apostles, the Jerusalem Council, and Legalism then and now.

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism III

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism II

The Dangers of Messianic Legalism.

Combating Legalism VI

Combating Legalism V

Combating Legalism IV

Combating Legalism III

Combating Legalism II

Combating Legalism I

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:

If gentiles are bound to the Mosaic law, the Messianics are right about following as much as possible. If we are not, then we would we have to follow any of it? I feel frustrated because it is like Paul is like, don't follow the law, but do follow it. Somehow magically intuit which parts to follow. I don't know anymore, I just feel frustrated.

Response #3:

Where do you see Paul saying "do follow the law" (cf. Rom.6:14; 10:4)?

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully.
1st Timothy 1:8 NASB

But "using it", that is, for spiritual information (everyone who reads the Bible does that) is not the same as "following it" – which generally means ignoring the cross and reverting to the Old as if there has not been the coming of the New in Jesus Christ.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #4:

We have to harmonize whatever we conclude with that there will be a Temple again with sacrifices and the gentiles will be punished for not doing at least some rituals in the Millenium (like Sukkot).

If we say doing the holidays is spiritual adultery and throwing away the Lord, how would we say that to the saints -Jews and not- doing the holidays under HIS supervision and HIS threat of punishment if not followed?

If there is more than one Law, then I am not wrong trying to delineate them. If it is all one law then we have to put all of it together somehow.

Response #4:

The Millennium will have different rules; the Jewish Age had different rules; the Church Age has different rules. There is a reason for all this, namely, for the dispensing of the essential truths of salvation as appropriate to the times God has laid out (see prior links). But the truth is the truth at all times: Jesus is the Rock upon which the entire plan of God is based. We benefit from considering, reading, learning all of God's truth – but the "old things have passed away" (2Cor.5:17), and so we aren't going to be sacrificing animals in Jerusalem anytime soon, because "Christ our Passover has already been sacrificed for us" (1Cor.5:7; cf. the entire book of Hebrews).

This is no small point. The festivals and the sacrifices can only take place in Jerusalem and not without a temple and officiating Levitical priests. People who want to "follow the Law" are really making up their own "law" and calling it "the Law". That is worse than following the actual Law because it has nothing to do with God. If we were to remove the sixth commandment from our consideration and observation, freely eliminating anyone with whom we disagree, e.g., we could not then claim that we were following the Law.

For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
James 2:10 NKJV

One cannot "pick and choose", and in this case "something" is NOT "better than nothing" – partial observance is a whole lot worse than non-observance.

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4 NKJV

As this passage affirms, reading and learning from the Old Testament, however, is extremely valuable (as long as a person does not try to be something he/she is not, namely, a member of the no-longer-existent-at-present nation state of God's Israel).

In any case, the line seems very clear to me, and I think the links previously provided set things out fairly clearly as well. I do realize that very many people are confused about this issue, however, so I am willing to discuss it with your further. The key point is that Jesus Christ is the issue, and going back to the foreshadowing Law now is by definition turning a blind eye to the cross.

[Jesus] having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.
Ephesians 2:15 KJV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hello Bob my friend,

I know that there are things that I have asked of you before and I may be repeating myself but there are things that I am stumbling over at the moment. When I do research on the Internet, I only feel more confused.

I know that Jesus fulfilled the law, does that mean he fulfilled the Commandments too as one of them is to keep the Sabbath holy? I'm really confused about this.

I know that our salvation is all about Grace and not works and not being under the law but there is also the passage that faith without works is dead.

About the dietary laws, if I decided not to eat pork or shellfish, will I be cursed under the law?

I have felt very conflicted about Christmas. I know it's pagan and Nimrod's birthday. Should we not celebrate Christmas?

Does the passage in Jeremiah about not decorating a tree apply to a Christmas tree? In Exodus, when the Israelites worshipped the golden calf whilst waiting for Moses, is that what we are doing by putting Christ into a pagan holiday? God said that we are not to worship him in the way of the pagans/ heathens. Also I haven't found any biblical evidence to support celebrating Christ's birth. Should we be keeping the holy days of the Old Testament such a Hannukah, Passover etc?

At what point does obedience to God become legalism, living under the law and grace plus works?

I'm sorry to ask you so many questions and to come across as so panicky about it. There are so many contradictions in people's interpretations. It makes me think of William Blake writing "Both read the bible day and night, where one reads black the other reads white".

I guess the part of the bible that causes me worry is Matthew 7:21.

"Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven."
Matthew 7:21 NKJV

It causes me distress that I could be "getting it all wrong!" I know that these aren't contradictions but my own limited understanding of Christianity. Reading through what I have written, I guess the overview is the question, "Should we be looking at the Old Testament on how to live?" I guess the embarrassing fact is Bob, I simply do not know at the moment what being a Christian means, what it looks like. I'm sorry if that sounds terrible, what I mean is that most of my study has so far been around the Old Testament and so I have a better understanding on how to be a Jew than a Christian. I still am a baby Christian but I am joyful about being a Christian. I talk with God and Jesus every day and my relationship has bourn fruit for me. Whenever I persevere with study and getting closer to our Heavenly Father, I feel the Holy Spirit leap for joy inside me.

Thank you so much for helping me and encouraging me on my walk.

In Him,

Response #5:

I'm not surprised that internet searching has led to confusion!

If I remember correctly you had asked sometime back about English Bible reading. That seems apropos of your comments here. First, I always advise against reading the Bible from front to back. That is because it is vital to read from the New Testament every day. So I always advise a balance – otherwise a person will be getting lots of the Law without any of the NT explanation of the Law as it applies to us today (more on that below). Second, while reading the English Bible is important to do, accessing (whether by reading or listening) a good Bible teaching ministry is even more important as a daily commitment. That is because this is the way to receive the truth – beyond basics that may be understandable from reading the English Bible. But Bible reading will often also raise more questions than it answers for the non-pastor teacher, and those questions are only going to be answered in a systematic way through the teaching of a good Bible-ministry (of which I sincerely believe that Ichthys is one).

As to your questions here (and apologies in advance if I miss anything), the Christian life for believers in this Church Age, believers under grace, indwelt with the Holy Spirit, and possessing the entirety of the scriptures (and with access to teaching ministries that explain them), is all about spiritual growth (through hearing, learning, believing and applying the truth of the Word), growing closer to Christ (through putting into practice the truth committed to the heart through this process and passing the tests that come to all who would grow in Christ), and finally helping others do the same (Jesus has a particular ministry for each Christian which corresponds to his/her gifts).

We are directed by the Spirit, not by rules alone. If we walk in the Spirit, if we walk in love, then our lives will fulfill the true purposes of the Law; but attempting to obey the letter of the Law 1) was never possible to do (the Law was meant to prove our utter sinfulness); 2) is certainly not possible to do now (since the temple does not exist and the Levitical priesthood is not functioning); 3) and could never produce salvation or true righteousness (Jer.23:6; Rom.4:1ff.). The power of the Law, its true power, was always spiritual. And while the Jewish people in the divinely constituted state of Israel in the past were responsible to abide by its letter, this was so that they might be a witness to others. We Christians today are not residing in the same state and geographic locality. Thus our witness is the witness of our individual lives lived for Jesus Christ. The love and the truth and the righteousness and the grace that we reflect when we do walk in the Spirit is a witness that cannot be ignored. However, partially keeping the letter of the Mosaic Law is in many ways antithetical to the very grace that constitutes the true inner power of the Law. The Law – rightly understood – is truth. But it's main purpose is to hold out a brilliant standard of purity which is so pure that no one with an ounce of humility could imagine keeping it perfectly.

So the Law acts as a guardian to us [who leads us] to Christ so that we might be justified by faith.
Galatians 3:24

Thus the Law leads us by its righteous standards to consider the other main aspect of the Law: the teaching of a sacrificial Substitute for all our sins and violations of the Law, a Sacrifice which only God could provide, through faith in whom alone we can be saved. Now that Christ has come, now that Christ has fulfilled the Law and its requirements for us all by dying for the sins of all (Rom.10:4), now that He has been revealed and resurrected, ascended to the Father and been glorified, now there is no longer any need for the shadows of the Law. For now we have the truth of Jesus Christ in the flesh, the revelation of the mystery of salvation with no further veiling of the wonders and the glories God has provided for those who love Him.

It is of this [Church] that I, [Paul], have become a minister according to God's mandate given to me for dispensing [the truth] to you, in order to bring completeness to God's plan (lit., "word", Gk. logos), that is, [to make known] the mystery hidden from ages and from generations [past], but now revealed to His holy ones (i.e., believers). To all such God desired to make known what wealth there is in this glorious mystery regarding the gentiles, for it is that Christ – your hope of glory – is in you.
Colossians 1:25-27

Going back to the Law, therefore, is in many ways wandering away from Christ. Here is a good link which will lead to many others on this involved topic:

Legalism, Past and Present III: Sabbath observance, tithing, dietary regulations and other issues

As to specifics:

1) We know that our Lord was perfect and that everything He ever did was perfect. If He had made a single small mistake, He would not have been worthy to go to the cross and we would all be damned. So His doing of God's will on the Sabbath was not a violation of the will of God but precisely what the Father wanted Him to do.

2) The word "work" is the problem here:

Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
John 6:29 NKJV

Whatever we think or say or do can be "work / works"; and as the passage above indicates, our placing of our faith in Christ is the "work" that saves us. This is the work God asks us to do – putting our trust in Christ and walking in faith and trust and belief thereafter – and NOT work we decide we are going to do for God whether He wants it or not.

But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
James 2:20 NKJV

James is making the point that if a person is a believer in Jesus Christ and truly so, that will change his/her life in every way. Now the person is praying. Now the person is reading the Bible. Now the person is attempting to grow, trying to figure out how to live for Christ, asking questions about every aspect of life in order to please the Lord, and helping others to find the Lord or be encouraged in the Lord or learn about the Lord. A cup of cold water offered in the Lord's Name receives its due reward (Matt.10:42). Was there ever a genuine Christian who failed to do any of these things? Never. Even the poorest of Christians has said a prayer, encouraged a brother or sister, read a page of scripture (and many other things). And ALL such things proceed from faith, from our belief in Christ and our trust in God.

But by putting things the way he puts them, James is encouraging the slackers to realize that they need to be doing ALL the things the Lord wants done, spiritual growth, progress and production, and not just be resting on the laurels of their salvation (see the link: Q/A #6 in "Free will faith").

3) Neither eating nor abstaining has any particular value:

But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.
1st Corinthians 8:8 NKJV

The only exception would be if a person erroneously believed the opposite of what our Lord taught (cf. Mk.7:18b-19). We are not responsible for keeping the Law. But if we try to keep it as some sort of favor to God, we risk "falling from grace" (Gal.5:4) and being obligated to "keep the whole Law" (Gal.5:3), which is impossible to do.

4) Christmas is not in the Bible. It is a cultural holiday, one near and dear to the hearts of many, even Christians, but not necessarily of great spiritual value (in my opinion). Nothing in the Bible obligates us to celebrate Christmas, but it is not necessarily terribly harmful for believers who know the truth. In any case, the pagan associations are absent from the hearts and minds of 99.99% of those who celebrate the holiday, so I don't think that is an argument against it. My personal policy is not to ruin the day for those who are enamored of it, even though I consider it "just a day" like any other day. Jesus Christ is my Lord every day, and the day He went to the cross to die for my sins is the "great day of all days", for otherwise I would not have been saved. Here's a link on this which will lead to others, addressing some of the other things you mention here: "Christmas".

5) True obedience to God means doing what God actually wants us to do, not what we imagine or falsely interpret Him to want us to do. Knowing the will of God is something that becomes more clear as we grow – so again it all goes back to spiritual growth whereby we become ever more sensitive to the guidance of the Spirit as well as possessed of ever greater spiritual common sense. As we grow, we will change many of our applications and opinions about things. The truth levels and sifts us all. But this growth happens by learning and believing and applying the truth, not by becoming overly concerned with non-essentials in the manner we see most baby Christians running around and doing in this world. That is doing things in reverse. That is white-washing the tomb. To change, to really change, requires the inside-out change that only genuine, serious spiritual growth can produce.

You are on the right track, my friend! Be pleased to make Bible study the bedrock upon which you are building this new life with Jesus Christ, and all such questions will be answered by and by – and powerfully so by the Spirit and in the Spirit.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Peter says 'respectable clothing.' I know there aren't hard lines, but when I think respectable clothing/appearance...I am more familiar with what women have to do, so am going from there...that means well-placed hair as you said in an article on head coverings, that means certain upkeep (usually makeup, some jewelry, and decent clothing). And it can also mean creams if your skin isn't good. No offense but men often don't realize that what goes into what most people think of as a 'respectable' woman-that takes a good deal of time and money. If nearly all women are having their nails done all the time, you will not look respectable (or as competent) if you don't too. I just mean that I would say as respectfully and quietly as possible to the Apostle Peter that women can do respectable and good time and money going into that, or we can do looking normal (which comes off as tired and sloppy and incompetent since you are surrounded by women doing all that stuff) and not spend plenty of money and time. But you really can't have both. I really like Peter and his courage and enthusiasm, but this is a bit of a mixed message (as I already tried to show).

Response #6:

(9) I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, (10) but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
1st Timothy 2:9-10 NIV

The point of this passage (and Peter's companion passage: 1Pet.3:3ff.) is that what is going on on the INSIDE is far more important than the outside. Note the "not" in v.9 contrasted with the "but" in v.10.

Three qualifiers here given by Paul: 1) "modestly" in NIV is actually "well-ordered" or "well-organized" apparel; that is, not disheveled or noticeably out of the ordinary in a bad way; 2) "with decency" is a good translation but the Greek word actually means "with a sense of shame" or perhaps better, "avoiding anything shameful out of a sense of decency, modesty, and propriety"; 3) "propriety" is actual "prudence" or more literally "safe-mindedness", namely, staying away from things that are dangerous, risky or risque. So all three of the qualifiers are negative in function, telling women what NOT to do; whereas what they SHOULD do is given next in Paul as in Peter, namely, focus on the spiritual inner-person (i.e., growth, progress and production). So I think drawing the conclusion from either passage that women should pay more attention to these matters rather than less is the opposite of what either apostle is saying.

Here are some Ichthys links on this:

Appropriate Dress for Christian Women (1Pet.3:3-5)

The Bible on female dress

Women's jewelry

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

This was the point I was on. What is out of the ordinary will depend on the environment. If you are surrounded by men wearing suits with cufflinks, a pocket watch, and the whole nine yards, you would look out of the ordinary wearing a t-shirt. For women it is other things, like heels, and jewelry and other things. But the point is if he wants us to fit in, that may mean spending money on appearance. It WILL draw attention and make you look disheveled or untidy if the social norm is a wig and tights (think 1770s) and you don’t do that. You would need to buy a wig and tights to fit in and not look out of the ordinary.

Genesis 41:14 is a Biblical example of the idea that part of appropriateness is matching with societal expectations. Joseph was no one to them at that time. But the expectations were that he have decent clothes and shaved. And I would not be surprised if, when he was lifted into a higher station, he did more (I guess that would be the eyeliner and fancier clothing, etc). In our day, it is generally common to do other things than maybe in Ancient Egypt, but the idea that to fit you do likewise is what I mean. In modern America, the standards and expectations tend to be higher even for commoners (like me). And that means spending money and time on appearance if I am to follow this. Do you see what I am trying to say?


Response #7:

Yes indeed, this is "relative". That is to say, it's a matter of application. If a woman in "normal" dress for the 1st cent. A.D. in Corinth appeared as such in New York today, she would look beyond odd – and the reverse is true as well.

In my experience of Christian women interpreting or, better, being told how to interpret these verses by pastors, be they legalistic or hyper liberal, I have seen two extremes. First, dressing "to the nines" for "the sake of Christ", or on the other hand not wearing makeup and taking pains to be as plain as humanly possible. Both things are bound to "get people's attention" – which is exactly the opposite of what the Bible is saying. In my opinion, if how a person dresses is "getting attention", whether on account of excessive adornment or excessive plainness, "beyond what is normal", THAT is what is to be avoided. And analogous to that, if dress and appearance are in either case at either extreme becoming a point of morbid over-focus, THAT is the problem that Peter and Paul are trying to have Christian women avoid. What is going on INSIDE is what is important. Anyone who is really adorning themselves inside will have that come out because the Lord will bring it out, but excessive plainness or excessive ostentation will obscure the more important witness of the life . . . and also hinder it through taking up the time and energy and focus that ought to be going to spiritual growth, progress and production.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Yes! I completely agree! And there are a lot of gray areas. Many of my female coworkers will each have a thing or two they like to do (some wear no makeup, but do jewelry, and some do nice hair but no jewelry or heels), and I don't think badly of them for not doing 'it all.' It was more me trying to correct my own mindset about it. Thanks again. I know talking about female stuff is frustrating for guys; I appreciate your patience. It does help to correct the plainness side of the legalism you mentioned.

Response #8:

Thanks. Yes, that is another important point I meant to make: it doesn't behoove any Christian to be judgmental about the dress of another Christian, even if in "our opinion" he/she is being too plain or too ostentation or not enough of whichever.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Small quibble on what you just said: If someone is not judgmental in the world, they will probably die early. We are actually commanded to judge about people's appearances in the Bible in certain instances. Like I said, I don't look down on my coworkers. But if they came in looking terrible all the time, I might think their choice to do so (unless they were in poverty or for a health reason or something like that) is not the best one. I will still do my best to treat them with love. Saying we can't judge means we can't have values or virtues.

Response #9:

I make the point many places at the site that there is a difference between being hypocritically judgmental and prudently discerning. The former is usually accompanied by slander and all manner of negative emotion; the latter is a necessary feature of the walk of the mature believer (see in BB 6A: "Spiritual Discernment").

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #10:

I do think you kind of proved my point about not being able to do much for God because I can barely function in the world or communicate or understand basic things, and not for lack of serious effort over years. I also got another taste of it at work today. So...yeah. I am not looking forward to the Judgment seat, but when it is over, it is over forever. I just have to be careful not to build up resentment and bitterness towards God. But thanks for trying to help me understand the Scriptures.

You have helped me a lot. Thank you.

I pray for you every day too.

Response #10:

And remember, even a cup of cold water offered in the Lord's Name will not fail to receive its reward (Matt.10:42).

We are all different but the Lord has a "job" for us all, and it is a mistake to think that because our "job" is not traditionally defined that we are not meant to do it or won't be rewarded for it. That is the foot saying "because I am not a hand, I'm not part of the body" (e.g., 1Cor.12:15). Many people make the mistake of doing nothing because they can't do everything, but doing something is always better than doing nothing – and you can always pray (as you are doing).

Finally, the Lord wants spiritual growth and progress from us all, and that is the basis of two of the three eternal crowns – and the vast majority of the Church won't get one let alone both of these. Once you've gotten farther along the road of growth and progress, you may be surprised by what the Lord does for you and has for you to do. But don't be too surprised. Nothing is impossible for Him.

Thanks for your prayers!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hebrews 12:14 - Why do you interpret the Greek as say to pursue peace "among" rather than "with"

Why wouldn't the author simply say Pursue peace, why the "among all"? What does that even mean?

Matthew 5 "Blessed are the peacemakers..." Does that mean personal making peace with God rather than just bringing people to God?

Response #11:

"With" is not absolutely wrong, but the problem with "with" is that an English reader might assume that this is the normal construction for this idiom in Greek as it is in English, and thus miss the important difference we have here. In Greek, if I wanted to say "be loving towards all", I would use the preposition pros; and the same thing goes if I wanted to say "be at peace towards all". But here we have the preposition meta, and it is a bit unusual. The reason for that unusual usage is, in my opinion, Paul wanting to head off misinterpretation of this verse as in, for example, going overboard with "peacemaking"; whereas in fact what he is saying here in Hebrews 12:14 is essentially the same thing he says in Romans:

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:18

And Peter too:

For "He who would love life
And see good days,
Let him refrain his tongue from evil,
And his lips from speaking deceit.
Let him turn away from evil and do good;
Let him seek peace and pursue it."
1st Peter 3:10-11 NKJV

By avoiding the pros construction, Paul ensures that his (Greek) readers will think twice before making more out of the "pursue peace" command than they ought to (because, obviously, every verse should be read both in local context and in the overall context of the Bible).

What does it mean? First and foremost, our peace is with God, the reconciliation we have with Him positionally through faith in Christ, and a growing peace with Him that increases with spiritual growth (see the link).

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 with the two great command, to love the Lord and also our neighbors, so we should pursue peace with God and with all Christians, the complete, perfect "shalom/peace". Peace, a wholesome and rancor free relationship when it comes to two human beings, is the desired state. We should want that in all of our relationships and we should do whatever is reasonable, possible, and up to us to do to get/maintain that.

But harassing people is not the way to get there, obviously. If we behave in a loving way, that will be about the best we can do from our point of view to fulfill that command. Taking measures that intrude on the privacy of others is exactly the opposite of what Paul has in mind – because that serves to take away their peace, even if it might make us feel better for some reason or another.

Matthew 5:9, "Blessed are the peacemakers", is a general statement and encompasses interpersonal relationships and, as you very correctly notice, the more important relationship between God and individual people. If we act in a careful, righteous way to help someone come to Christ – or return to following Him – that would be a biblical "peacemaking" thing to do, that is biblical "reconciliation" (see the link). Likewise if we see two believers at odds and can actually help mitigate the situation and do so, that too would be biblical "peacemaking". But let me hasten to add that in this second case not everyone is capable of acting in such a capacity – in fact very few are (even though very many think they are). Being a busybody is condemned by scripture (e.g., 1Pet.4:15), so the proof of true peacemaking versus merely getting involved in someone else' business and probably making things worse is very much "in the pudding".

I would advise anyone to think twice before attempting something like the above (Prov.26:17), because only 1) a genuinely mature believer, 2) who has the requisite spiritual gifts for this as well as the experience, and 3) has standing with both parties so as to be viewed as unbiased will even have a chance of being an effective mediator and not making things worse in most cases.

One last thing: political "peacemaking" is not peacemaking, biblically speaking. Getting involved in politics to that degree requires 1) a blasphemously low opinion of God (He's not getting the job done so I have to intervene), and an arrogantly high opinion of oneself (I know best what needs to be done, better than God) – and few people who think that way are even saved, let alone spiritually mature.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:

OK In Matthew 5 Jesus states that if you know someone has something against you go and be reconciled. Proceeding it he states that whoever calls someone a fool is in danger of hell fire, then state "therefore" which means this being the case or situation, in other words if you have said something or done something abusive you are in danger of hell fire and this being the situation go leave your gift at the alter and go your way and be reconciled, to avoid hell fire indicated by "therefore" this being the situation do such and such.

Even if this was the only verse talking about reconciliation in the Bible it would be enough to prove we try being reconciled in every case because being in danger of hell fire is situation and seeking reconciliation is the way to mitigate. Not seeking reconciliation in every case would be to put one soul in danger wouldn't it?


Response #12:

Matthew 5:21 precedes Matthew 5:22 and demonstrates that our Lord's purpose here is to make it clear that merely keeping one's nose clean regarding "major issues" in the Law is not enough to be saved: even something so small as a careless word is sin enough to be thrown into hell -- absent the Father's provision of a Substitute. Notice too that this passage is buttoned up by Matthew 5:25 where our Lord tells us that once in "prison" there is no way out without full payment. Now in secular terms, anyone in that day in prison for debt was probably in forever (i.e., if said person had the money to pay in the first place, he wouldn't have gotten into the pickle at all -- which is why we are urged to reconcile "on the way" before we get there); in spiritual terms this makes it clear that if a person is cast into hell, there is no way out (so be reconciled to God, saved, here and now because once in hell there is no way out).

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny."
Matthew 21:21-26 NKJV

This entire passage (Matt.5:21-26) is part and parcel of many things our Lord says which demonstrate that we are all sinners, all unable to keep the Law, all in need of grace therefore, and, specifically, all in need of salvation through faith in Him and what He was about to do for us on the cross. Trying to tease out other aspects of the truth from passages such as this may have some value, but not if 1) it obscures these underlying main truths, or 2) results in faulty interpretation because the main truth has been missed (and taking things out of context is a good way to fall into that trap). The R.C.'s use Matthew 5:25 to support their false doctrine of "purgatory", and that false teaching turns the main point of the passage – human hopelessness and helplessness without God's deliverance – completely on its head.

And I'm afraid the interpretation you are trying to tease out here is somewhat in danger of the same thing. For if you take from this that saying or doing something abusive puts a person "in danger of hell fire", and then conclude from this that aggressive reconciliation-seeking (in ways that may violate other scriptures) is the solution . . . to "avoiding hell fire", then salvation is now based on what we do, not on what Christ did. For beyond all argument, Jesus has already died for your sins, and if you are a believer in Him, you are in absolutely no danger of "hell fire" . . . as long as you maintain your faith in Him. And that is true whether or not you are in need or reconciliation with some other human being, or whether or not you seek it, or whether or not you accept it if it is offered.

For while it is certainly true that we should do what may be done "as far as it is possible" to be at peace with others, and that may well include taking some reasonable steps to reconcile – when they don't, for example, impinge on the privacy of others or stand to create more problems than they might solve. Please remember also that God is very much capable of reconciling us to others from whom we may have become alienated (for whatever reason and whoever's fault that may be), so that prayer to Him is the logical step to take if something like this is bothering us.

But engaging in something like a "twelve step program" to "solve" human problems is very much a works approach rather than a grace approach. It may make us feel better, but such things can be quite spiritually destructive. For as David said, "against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight" (Ps.51:4). That is the right perspective. We should be more concerned with what the Lord thinks and our relationship with Him than with what people think and our relationships with them (Matt.10:37-38; 12:48-49).

So the best policy as always is to confess to the Lord our sins against others, forgive them theirs readily, and move forward, leaving the past behind. We have been reconciled to God, and that in the end is the only reconciliation, the only "peace-making", which really matters.

Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
2nd Corinthians 5:18-21 NKJV

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Jesus still made it clear that those who knew the Lord's will but didn't do it will get many stripes and those who didn't know his will but did things worthy of stripes will receive few stripes. Sounds like different severeness of punishment in hell to me

Now suppose a person should try for reconciliation with someone but they are ignorant of this then they would be guilty of disobedience and worthy of punishment.

If we take the case by case position you take then can person know they are obeying God since even mature Christians can give poor advice and they are not inspired. I refer to the Luke 12 versed of course.

Note Jesus when he speaks of the servants, the term servant most likely refers to believers. Seems to me he is saying believers who don't obey his word will go to hell to be punished. There is nothing here that states their disobedience is covered by the blood of Christ. Paul said forbid we would sin because we are under Grace. Sin is disobedience, like disobeying Matthew 5 for example.

Matthew 5 if this is law verses grace here. The presumably in Matthew 5 if he were saying what he did trying to point out that the law can't save, (which it can't) this would make no sense. Since he would be saying in effect. "If you want to be saved by the law you must be go and be reconciled, but if you want a Saviour you must place your faith in me" Trouble is that would mean all a person could do to be saved by the law was to be reconciled. Which would make no sense to such estrangement from another should have happened at all and no amount of being reconciled could undo what had already been done. So the law verses grace argument I find hard to understand. No one is saying the law saves since no one can do enough and sin should never have happened in the first place. However genuine salvation will result in obedience in what we can do and a person can approach some and attempt reconciliation ie "I did such and such and that was wrong, please forgive me" and if they don't want to know then nothing can be done about that but a person can try. No excuse for not trying.

Response #13:

1) Hell is bad enough. There are no degrees of punishment in hell (that comes from Dante and the R.C. church). Discipline from the Lord only occurs in this life for believers – but many will be reproached before the judgment seat of Christ as your verse indicates – for not growing, progressing and producing for the Lord, the critical purposes of the Christian life which may be hindered by fixation upon hurt feelings and looking backward (demanding others "seek your peace", e.g.).

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.
2nd Corinthians 5:10-11 NASB

2) Looking backward is almost always a bad idea and Christ's example in Matthew 5:21-27 is not directed primarily at the issue of reconciliation but to demonstrate that salvation is more important than anything else – and since none of us is perfect (on this or any other topic), this discourse leads to repentance. I don't think anyone can read this section of Matthew, namely, all of chapters 5-7, and not be convicted of serious faults on many topics. How do we deal with our failures, according to the Bible? If we are unbelievers, we repent of our hardness against God and seek salvation through trusting in Jesus Christ. But if we are believers, we have already had the salvation "bath" and are only in need of having our "feet washed" for a restoration of fellowship. In other words, believers are to confess their sins.

Please consider carefully: in this situation our Lord relates in Matthew 5:21-27 or indeed in any situation where our "brother has something [legitimately] against us", what does that mean but that we have sinned – against God? If it were possible to live a perfect Law-keeping life, then going to our brother and making amends would be the solution to this offense. But what about God? What does God demand when it comes to sin, any sin? Does He demand "works of supererogation" – that is what the R.C.'s believe. They believe they can "make up for sin" by doing works of charity or giving money – or making amends. But none of these things can wipe out any sin, however small. A sin, once committed, is done. And nothing any human being could ever do with all his/her effort exercised over a thousand years could ever propitiate God's holy character regarding that sin. That is to say, even if we do "make amends" and even if we do manage a reconciliation with whomever, that does not result in the forgiveness of our sin. Christ had to die for the forgiveness to be available to us and we have to confess to receive it. That is the underlying truth to this passage; making it instead about something we do – rather than what Christ did – stands the truth on its head. Indeed, someone who "goes the extra mile" to "make amends" and feels righteous and justified by doing so is in grave danger of falling into a legalistic, works trap – especially if he/she fails to realize that the bigger problem was the sin committed against God which resulted in the situation in the first place and fails to confess it as a result out of "not needing to confess because I have fixed it myself".

Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge.
Psalm 51:4 NKJV

Honestly, I don't pretend to understand your final paragraph or its logic. I do know that if you have done some brother Christian wrong and that if the Holy Spirit is telling you to attempt to reconcile / make amends, then that is what you should do (having first confessed the sin of doing wrong). However, if the Spirit is not guiding you in this direction but you are merely reacting to your emotions, feeling guilty about things which happened in (distant?) past, then such efforts stand to do you (and him/her) more harm than good.

There is a right time and place for everything (Eccl.3:1ff.). Knowing how and where is a matter of spiritual maturity in discernment. Such things cannot be reduced to a formula, and Matthew chapter five does not teach that.

Finally, I'm disturbed by your statement, "Seems to me he is saying believers who don't obey his word will go to hell to be punished". Let me assure you that all believers are saved and go to heaven; only unbelievers are not saved and go to hell (Jn.3:18(. If we can't agree on that, there is little more to discuss.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

OK If meta makes it more general and less directive could this not be because the author know that even if a person goes and apologizes to someone and seeks reconciliation they may get turned down? So if that is the case wouldn't the author make it more general?

And isn't that the exact meaning of:

If it is possible,(because may get rejected) as far as it depends on you,(meaning it requires at least the attempt at reconciliation, except where they have made it clear their not interested) live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:18

You can only know it isn't possible if you have tried and been rejected.

Response #14:

I agree with everything you say here . . . except with your conclusion ("You can only know it isn't possible if you have tried and been rejected"), which bears no logical (or theological) relation to what precedes it.

There is a time and a place for everything. If you feel the loss of a relationship with person X, then praying about it and waiting on God's timing and His intervention to repair it is appropriate. Taking the matter into your own hands and relying on your own understanding and desires is more than likely to result in disaster (as always happens when we fail to trust the Lord). I'm not saying that there aren't times to reconcile; I am saying that making a rule that one must do so in every instance is dangerous and not biblical. If someone cuts you off in traffic and you both get mad and exchange angry gestures, once you cool down and repent, should you track them down . . . to apologize?

"Seek peace" is not at all the same as "go find everyone whom you've ever wronged and make it up to them" or "go find everyone who's ever wronged you and demand they make it up to you". Rather, it means to live in a way that avoids conflict as much as possible and instead promotes harmony for the sake of spiritual growth, one's own and that of others.  As with most everything else in scripture, this command looks forward, not backward. We should avoid doing things that put us at odds with others. But if we are determined to tear the scabs off of old wounds, that will result in exactly the opposite for ourselves and also for the others we importune.

If something happened a long time ago, best to let it go. Because at present you and the other person are "at peace" in that you are not at each others' throats. But if you dredge up the past it has at least an even chance of reopening old wounds. After all, there were reasons why you and person X fell out. Is person X different now? Are you different now? The only thing that can change person X for the good is the gospel and spiritual growth and the same thing goes for you. Now if you are really a Christian and doing what Christ would have you to do, then you have already forgiven person X from the heart, and the same thing goes for person X towards you, assuming he/she is likewise saved and growing spiritually. And if that is the case, then you both most certainly are "at peace with" one another and with the situation. If you are not, then you are either not saved or not acting in love on this point. And if you are at peace, that certainly fulfills this command. Whereas doing something that might upset brother/sister X by getting back in touch with them and apologizing for something they'd rather not be reminded of or, even worse, demanding that they apologize to you, is the exact opposite of Christian discernment and love, and accomplishes the exact opposite of the command given in Hebrews.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:

OK do you think that the author with his use of meta meant we can apologize? Did you mean the author meant we don't have apologize to everyone we have hurt, indicated by the fact he was saying pursue peace in a more general way?

Response #15:

The Bible doesn't say we have to apologize; it also doesn't say we don't have to apologize. These are matters of discernment. The Bible does say that we do have to forgive others if we want to be forgiven. Paul's comments spur us towards wanting and seeking peace without at the same time contradicting other scriptures or forcing us into some legalistic set of procedures in this regard.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:

So in Hebrews 12:14 are we to believe Paul didn't mean ALL when he said "all"? Matthew 5 are you saying the term "reconciled" doesn't mean what it says? Reconciliation is one of the things included in pursing "peace"

Leviticus 6:5 which Zacchaeus followed to the letter states we be be honest about ALL we have done. Zacchaeus said he would repay to all he had defrauded, knowing the reputation of tax collectors in Jesus day, how do you think they might have reacted to this hated tax collector turning up which would have involved a confession of guilt (Leviticus 6:5) Do you think they would have been very angry with him? Do you think things would have been better had he left it alone?

I don't know of restitution without confession of guilt without the motive to build bridges. Who is to decide especially uninspired Christians which cases are worth perusing and which are not.

Let's say sexual abuse cases should be left because it could make things worse, if you start there then you could go saying you should seek it with someone who's home you burglarized in case they may be scared or someone you beat up, excuse after excuse could be made.

Which brings us back to Luke and the many and few stripes. You say this is referring to leaders, well won't God also have a similar standard for lay people. And if we try and pick and choose when is appropriate even with the help of a mature Christian, whatever that means, how can you ever know that the right call has been made?

Response #16:

I think perhaps you're confusing me with some other email stream. I wouldn't want to allow that the way you have characterized what I have written to you before has much to do with how you seem to have taken it in your latest response.

We all believe in peace, in harmony, in apologizing, in reconciliation and in making appropriate amends – where appropriate and where possible. The general way in which Paul puts things wherever he discusses the issue makes it very clear that such is what is being recommended. What is not being recommended or commanded – and what is certainly not being spelled out - - is a system of works to put things right. The Mosaic Law doesn't even do that (beyond a few specific instances). We are under grace and if we are acting in love we are fulfilling the Law. Producing a Procrustean system of mandatory amends-behavior is worse than what the Pharisees did or the Roman Catholics do.

What bothers me about what you have written to me in the past is that it has seemed from some of what you've said that 1) you are in favor of just such an "always / every time" policy (which is going to cause you and anyone else who engages in it very serious emotional, social, and perhaps even legal problems), 2) you believe it is necessary to follow said non-biblical policy or else God won't forgive you (spiritually dangerous to the nth degree), and 3) you may even be saying that failure to do so can cost a person their salvation (even the R.C.'s don't go that far). If this is the policy you are following personally and if you are not actively trying to impose it on others, then it is only your concern and the damage will only fall on your own head. But if you are placing this yoke of legalism on other people's shoulders, beware that you are not pointing out a mote while ignoring a beam in your own eye.

But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 5:28 NKJV

As our Lord's example shows, what we think may be sinful, and it may do wrong to others (as in this case). Do you advocate confessing such thoughts to those against whom you've had them, and do you do so in every case? What about a hateful thought, or ridiculing someone else in your heart, or judging them in your heart, or any other of a multiplicity of negative thoughts you may have had against someone else on a score of topics from a score of motivations? Do you make amends personally for these? What if it is some umpire or referee on television, or a celebrity or politician you've never met? Do you write them letters of apology in each and every case?

What we say is also potentially sinful and harmful to others of course (e.g., Jas.1:26; 3:5ff.). Anyone who opens their mouth is liable to sin (e.g., Prov.10:19). So if you have never slandered anyone else or spoken ill of anyone else or lied about anyone else, then I dare say you would be unique in that. Do you apologize to those who heard you and those against whom you've spoken in each and every case? Are there cases from the past, when you were younger, that you've not yet "fixed" in this way?

And of course what we do may be sinful. But not just the serious crimes you use as examples in this email. Have you ever cut someone off in traffic? Have you ever eased into a parking place before someone else could get there? Has this happened to you and did you get mad, then think, say or do something un-Christian as a result? Have you ever been short with someone on the phone who interrupted your dinner to sell you something? Have you ever gotten angry with a sales person who was not treating you right? Did you apologize and make amends?

If you were to give this serious thought, it would be very easy to expand the lists in all three areas and find many times when you (or I or anyone else) has not behaved up to par in regard to other people, often Christians. But it is not practical to, e.g., chase someone down in traffic after impetuously honking at them . . . to apologize. In this country, it's a good way to get shot.

If you will object that you don't mean that it's necessary to apologize / make amends in "trivial matters", my response is that biblically speaking there are no trivial matters (Matt.23:23). Christ had to die for every sin, and while person X slandering person Y may seem a small thing to person X it may very well seem . . . and actually be . . . a very big thing to person Y (if he/she lost a friend or a job or business, etc., because of it – or even was "just" hurt by it).

The above is meant to point out the painfully obvious. First, that it is not possible to apologize / reconcile / make amends at all times and in every situation. Second, that it is a very bad idea to even try to do so in many situations (more details provided in previous emails). Third, that even contemplating such behavior is so obviously contrary to spiritual common sense and the principle of grace and forgiveness of us by God (as long as we forgive others) that the folly of it need not really be demonstrated to any painful degree. In short, such behavior is legalism pure and simple – but we are saved by grace through faith and NOT by works (Eph.2:8-9)/

There is time for everything (Eccl.3:1ff.). There are times to apologize, to seek reconciliation, to make amends. If the Spirit is moving you to do so in a particular situation, and if it is not a case of someone stoking up irrational guilt feelings, then by all means follow the Spirit. But there are few things as spiritually dangerous as taking an area of life where we are directed to use discretion and instead considering it an area of absolute mandate instead (especially when we are making the details up out of whole cloth). That is what religions do. That is what the Pharisees did. That is what the R.C.s do. That is legalism. But that is not what believers in Jesus Christ are told to do. And that is not what Hebrews 12:14 (or Matt.5 or any other proffered examples) tells us to do.

Looking out for you spiritual welfare in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:

There are time when it would either be impossible to apologize, impractical such as chasing someone down in practice (know idea why you think I was suggesting that) or if someone is dead, moved away because you wouldn't know how to contact them or if through someone mediating for them such as a friend they said they did want you to got near them. As for dirty thoughts about married women, that is of course obvious you would keep quite as that is not something that has caused offence, it is sinful and enough to land a person in hell. That is why Christians regularly ask forgiveness of God. You quote James, he makes it clear to confess one's sins to one another, the idea he limited that confession to people not effected, although in specific cases it might be only them who needs to hear is ridiculous.

The idea that John in his first letter only meant depending on the case confession is only to be made to God is also ridiculous. In some cases it would be only to God in others God and others. I'm not the one saying a one size fits all approach. You seem to be insisting that such attempts at reparation is a rare thing which is itself setting a hard and fast standard.

Appropriate and possible - Again you have explained to me why the few and many stripes a) only apply to clergy, one standard for leaders another for laity? Certainly with clergy it would result in greater judgment "to whom much is given" as James also states, however a few stripes, many stripes would also apply to laity too. So again I ask how can a believer know that they are not going to fall foul of greater or less judgment if they even with mature Christians make a personal judgment as to when it is appropriate?

The Pharisees were condemned by Jesus because they argued that put God first meant the were exempt from honoring their father and mother, now that seems to me to be a similar thing to what you are claiming that the rules don't apply all the time, with the exemption of impossibility and non practicality - chasing someone down the highway would be dangerous and possibly kill people - exception not the rule. Someone dead - exception not the rule - helping someone on the Sabbath (Jesus day) exception not the rule. A matter of priorities. Not get out clauses.

Response #17:

I'm sorry you find my responses "ridiculous". I stand firmly by everything I have written to you, although you are giving it very short shrift (and I don't agree with your latest analysis nor your representations of what I have written).

One thing I hope you can agree with, however, is that I have been consistent and clear.

So let's get down to it.

You initiated this conversation, and it seems pretty clear that you really don't have a question but that you think you have the answers.

So what is your teaching on this?

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Luke 12:47 about the many and few stripes how does that fit in with grace, if grace isn't about having to have specific work as fruit?

He says that to know God's will and not to do means punishment. Jesus will is for us to be meek, if I don't do this and know I should then doesn't that bring many stripes. The same principle would apply to lay as well as church clergy.

to do something wrong and not to know the will of God leads to few stripes what does that mean. And where does the servant go, but to be with the unbelievers.

Response #18:

"And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes."
Luke 12:47 NKJV

To take the last part first, I can't see how this passage you ask about, Luke 12:47, can have anything to do with unbelievers. Everyone in this category of punishment has the same "Master", so we are talking about a group of believers. In any group of believers there is going to be the issue of relative knowledge and ignorance. Believer A and B will always be different in this respect; our Lord gives only two extreme categories, a believer knows much and a believer who knows little, to make the point of variation.

Meekness (being humble and not arrogant) is one characteristic of godly behavior and an important one – but there are many other virtues listed in scripture, all of which describe collectively perfect conduct (to which standard none of us can completely attain; e.g., Gal.5:22-23; 2Pet.1:5-8).

As to "work", first, let me assure you that our "work" is merely responding to the grace of God. That is to say, it is completely non-meritorious. So for example we are saved by placing our faith, our trust, in the Lord and His sacrifice for us. That is not what most people call work or "works", even though it is "doing something", it is exercising our free will. If we believe in the Lord, if we trust in Him, our job is to do so more and more day by day until we get to the point where His 100% faithfulness is met by 100% trust in Him by us. Naturally, few believers ever get anywhere near that point, so there is room for improvement every day (accomplished by spiritual growth, progress and production). Ideally, as our faith grows, so does our faithfulness. Our faithfulness consists of "doing" what the Lord wants us to do, and that can be broken down into two main categories: 1) sanctification (staying away from things we are not supposed to be doing), and 2) spiritual growth (in learning, believing and applying the truth), spiritual progress (in test-passing), and spiritual production (in ministering the truth to others or supporting some ministry which does so). But in all these things, we are merely "unworthy servants" (Lk.17:10), who are only dong what we ought to be doing in the first place, and are doing so entirely through the wisdom, power and support that God provides (otherwise we are not "doing" it God's way and it doesn't count: 1Cor.3:12-15):

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV

So our salvation is "not by works" but "by grace through faith", and that is the pattern we are to follow so as to "do the good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do". Just as the Israelites had to gather manna in order to have something to eat, it shouldn't be lost on us that they "did" very little even though it was "work" to go out and collect it (i.e., it was not allowed to look for it on the Sabbath). But this "work" which responds to God's grace provision and benefits from it is very different from the "works of supererogation" taught by the R.C. church, for example, and very different too from the legalistic loads of nonsense many putative Christian churches pile on their members.

This is the context in which we should understand Luke 12:47. We all have responsibilities to the Lord. Some of these are common to us all (spiritual growth, progress and progression); but as we grow the time will come (or should) when we are ready to engage in the individual ministry Christ has for each of us (1Cor.12:5). Once we come into the life-ministry Jesus intends for us, absolutely we may expect blessing for doing it but also discipline from the Lord for letting down those who depend upon us. That is the thing about "servants": their "masters" expect them to carry out the responsibilities with which they have been entrusted – and if they do not, it's a problem:

For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me.
1st Corinthians 9:16-17 NIV

Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.
1st Corinthians 4:2-5 NKJV

The second passage makes clear that the behavior of servants is between them and their Master, and that the place where the reward or loss will be mostly felt is at the judgment seat of Christ (1Cor.3:12-15). That is all the more reason to be motivated to serve the Lord as best we can with the resources we have been given – not less reason to do so. But until that time, this is a matter between every individual believer and the Master who bought them:

Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
Romans 14:4 NKJV (cf. Jas.4:12)

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:

So why does he call one wicked if they have Jesus righteousness and why are they sent to have their place with the unbelievers?

Response #19:

Our Lord does refer to this second servant as a kakos doulos ("bad servant") in the parallel passage in Matthew (Matt.24:48), but only after the servant has had the change of heart described with the resulting change in behavior. The meaning is as translated above, namely someone doing a terrible job as opposed to someone doing a good job. The fact that this "bad servant" has his place assigned with those of unbelievers (Lk.12:48) and hypocrites (Matt.24:51) as a result of his change of heart and behavior demonstrates the worst case scenario (apostasy). But it also shows that the servant was a believer at one point before this change, being a servant of the Master, but then he has status noticeably changed in the end (i.e., it wouldn't need to be said that his "place" was appointed with unbelievers if he were one in the first place).

As mentioned last time, these two servants provide the best and worst case scenarios, a wonderful teaching technique on our Lord's part to encourage all to cleave as close as possible to the good scenario and to have a godly fear of the bad one. In order to "achieve" what the bad servant does, namely, not only to lose reward but also to be cast into the lake of fire, would require apostasy, the complete loss of / abandonment of one's faith in Jesus Christ. There are a lot of "poor servants" who will lose their rewards for not doing their jobs for Christ in this life as they should without at the same time falling completely from grace through rejecting Christ, and even some who behave in the scurrilous way described here but nonetheless do not abandon faith – these later risk being "cut in twain" by the Lord and taken out of this earthly life via the sin unto death (horrible to contemplate but not resulting in loss of salvation because faith has not been lost: 1Cor.5:5; 11:32; see the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death").

But, again, our Lord only gives us the two extremes in this parable, the perfect servant who does it all the way the Lord desires every time (who of us can claim to be such?) and the one who completely disobeys, disregards and rejects our Lord and His will in every way (falling away from the faith in the process). Most of us fall in between the two; our Lord's cutting words are good incentive to strive to be more like the good servant and stay away from anything that even inches towards the bad servant's example.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20:

I how can it be two extremes the servant who received few stripes didn't know his Lord's will. The extreme in the good sense would be someone knowing their Lord's will and then doing it. How do you know the servant with the many stripes given a portion with the non believers committed apostasy? Presumably because it states he goes to the unbelievers

You said that "..even some who behave in the scurrilous way described here but nonetheless do not abandon faith -- these later risk being "cut in twain" by the Lord and taken out of this earthly life via the sin unto death (horrible to contemplate but not resulting in loss of salvation because faith has not been lost.."

How do I explain that that Jesus said unless we forgive others our sins won't be forgiven and in the letter of John it says that the person who hates hasn't known or seen him

Response #20:

The two servants covered in the last email were "good" and "bad" respectively. That is the end of it in the Matthew passage. Our Lord gives an addendum in Luke, but the two possibilities described in the addendum do not correspond to the good and bad servants. Obviously, because in the addendum both servants are beaten – and the one beaten less is not beaten less because he is not as bad but because he is even more ignorant of what he should be doing than the other servant. So one cannot take this passage (i.e., Lk.12:47-48) and use it to interpret what preceded, because they do not correspond. That is perhaps more obvious in the Greek where our Lord uses the far demonstrative pronoun ekeinos as a means of changing the subject (or better, expanding the subject to a slightly different area).

The point of the addendum is that if you know what to do you'd better do it or you will rue it, and the fact that others are not doing what ought to be done is no excuse because they may not know what they are supposed to do like you do.

Finally on this point, the "stripes" and relative punishment show that we are not talking in the addendum about anyone losing their salvation (hell is hell without differentiation); now we are talking about 1) divine discipline here on earth coming to the believer who is not carrying his load (with leaders/teachers being in the most direct view), and/or possibly also if the deficiency continues 2) reproach before the judgment seat of Christ when the Lord evaluates our lives. In the latter instance, it will not be a case of literal physical punishment (since that only occurs here on earth for believers in divine discipline) but of feeling shame before the Lord (and that is most definitely something to fear: compare 2Cor.5:10 with 2Cor.5:11; and cf. 1Cor.3:12-15); this will happen when such gross faults are pointed out, and worse they are if we knew what we should have been doing but didn't do it.

As to the last paragraph, you seem to find the two passages alluded to to be inconsistent with the doctrines of apostasy and the sin unto death. I'm sure I don't see why. To stay in fellowship with the Lord, yes, we have to forgive others when we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness for ourselves. And if we hate our brothers in Christ, we are certainly not walking in love which is the greatest virtue (1Cor.13:13), or loving our neighbors (brethren: Eph.4:25) and the Lord, which is the essence of the Law (Matt.22:36-40; cf. Gal.5:22-23); love is the fulfillment of the Law (Rom.13:10). These principles are entirely consistent with what I've written you before.

I certainly do believe that if we are indebted to anyone in any way, we should pay them back – if that is possible (see previous emails for potential problems with a one-size-fits-all policy of "making amends"):

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
Romans 13:8 NASB

But if someone owes you something, even if you only think they do, I know what the Bible says about that too:

And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
Matthew 6:12 NKJV

“The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Matthew 18:26-35 NKJV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21:

You are not understanding me. How can John in his letter say that the brother who hates has not known or seen God, if salvation is only lost through apostasy, since you don't need to commit apostasy to hate. John says it is those that love who are in God meaning those who hate are not, so how is apostasy or falling away from faith the only thing that can lose a person salvation?

As for forgiveness Jesus said how wouldn't be forgiven by God unless we forgive others, again how does that go with the idea that apostasy loss of faith as the thing that causes loss of salvation? As he is saying if you don't forgive others you won't be forgiven. Where does the Bible even say that not having seen or know him is only concerned with fellowship only? John also says "Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him" Eternal life is salvation not just fellowship

Again how does this line up with apostasy as being the only thing that can rob a person of salvation?

Response #21:

John puts things in absolutes – much like our Lord. This is the reason why many have misinterpreted his epistles. For instance, at 1st John 3:6 he says "Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him" (NKJV), but earlier he had said, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1:Jn.1:8 NKJV) and "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1:Jn.1:9 NKJV) and "If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us"(1:Jn.1:10 NKJV) and "if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1Jn.2:1 NKJV). So based just on 1st John 3:6 (and other verses in 1st John), out of context a person might get the impression that a Christian doesn't sin or is no longer a Christian if he/she does – but we know that is not the case from many other places in scripture AND from these verses I've quoted for you earlier in 1st John itself. So what you are not understanding is what John means. That is a pretty common thing (see the link: "Interpreting 1st John" which will also lead you to other links on the subject).

To apply the above (see the details at the links) to the passage you ask about, John's point is that we should not hate our brothers but love them, and that if we go down the other road it will lead to loss of fellowship, spiritual decline, and even the sin unto death (1Jn.5:16) or possibly even apostasy if we take that road. Analogously to the good and bad servant, John uses the two extremes to make his point: the perfect believer and the complete retrograde believer who becomes an apostate. In between is where most of us are, and John's purpose in the Spirit is to warn us off of the bad in the strongest possible terms and encourage us towards the good.

In terms of your question, "how is apostasy or falling away from faith the only thing that can lose a person salvation", you have clearly not been reading the links I have been sending you nor carefully considering what I have been saying. Apostasy does not cause us to fall away from faith. Apostasy is falling away from faith – entirely – and reverting to being an unbeliever. That is the absolute against which our Lord (and John) are warning (along with the sin unto death; see prior links).

As to forgiveness, we are all forgiven all of our sins, past, present and future, for salvation when we believe in Jesus Christ (Eph.1:17; Col.1:14). Does sin thereafter remove our salvation? No, of course not. Why do we pray every day "forgive us our sins" if we've already been forgiven? Because while we were forgiven for salvation when we first believed, we have to ask for forgiveness whenever we sin thereafter for restoration of fellowship (1Jn.1:9). As Jesus tells Peter who was likewise confused on this point: "Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean" (Jn.13:10 NIV). Believers are "clean" in terms of being saved; but we do get our "feet dirty" in this world, and require confession of our sins daily thereafter (it's in the Lord's prayer, after all).

As to "no murderer" – this proves the point of what I have been saying. If a person is a murderer, that person has no eternal life according to this verse – and no eternal life = not being a believer in Jesus Christ, because all believers in Jesus Christ have eternal life. This is the extreme end of the process represented by John in order to dissuade us from going the wrong way and in order to encourage us to go the right way.

This is all pretty basic stuff, but we seem to be talking past each other. If you have further questions on this issue – now that it has been explained many times – I would urge you to get a good grounding on the topic before further discussion. Here is a link to the study which covers all these issues in detail: BB 3B: Hamartiology: the Biblical Study of Sin.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Dear Bill,

In response to one person commenting on

"If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we are lying and are not acting truthfully. But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we do have fellowship with one another (i.e., with the Father and the Son; cf. v.3), and the blood of Jesus His Son is cleansing us from all sin"

You wrote "It may sound like that in translation, but that is why I add "cf. v.3" which says "And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ". Fellowship between believers is not directly precluded by sin (although obviously that doesn't help!), but fellowship with God is directly precluded by sin, and that is what John is discussing throughout this chapter. The Greek can go either way; translations make it sound as if "other believers" is the better way to take it; context makes it clear (to me at least) that Jesus (and the Father) are the Ones with whom we have fellowship when we walk in the light. We might not get turned away from the coffee cake on Sunday morning if we are harboring some sin in our heart, but our prayers will be hindered until we own up to our sins, turn away from them and confess them."

John however mentions at the beginning having fellowship with fellow believers so what makes you think 1) It is referring to fellowship with the Lord? 2) What can't it be referring to fellowship with fellowship among all Christians, as you admit the Greek can go either way. 3) If John meant walking in the light results in fellowship with others walking in the light and Jesus cleanses from all sin, to be in fellowship with fellow believers we need o be in good relationships with them, that is the fruit of walking in the light, if the fruit isn't there then we are not being cleansed by the blood of Jesus as that is the evidence of such. Doesn't this then prove that there isn't different standards in between the extremes?

Further staying with the extremes standards and people in between. If that is how God judges people not having one standard which all must keep as a fruit of faith, then it makes no sense for scripture to state God is impartial. Impartial implies recognizing one standard, even if you believe that works will be judged in terms of rewards, there would still be certain works for certain rewards, for a particular crown in heaven to be received he couldn't have different sizes to fit different people, that wouldn't be impartial. Peter states that people will receive the wrong for the wrong they have done, even if this is referring to rewards he would still have to be impartial, but as you said you believe God is more flexible then that, not a one size fits all


Response #22:

That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
1st John 1:3

The above verse makes it clear that the fellowship is all inclusive and can't be separated out. We are forgiven all of our sins and all of our unrighteousness when we confess (1Jn.1:9). That is an absolute without qualification. So whatever you or I or anyone else has done to anyone else, while there may be discipline for doing it, and while – under some circumstances – it may sometimes be a good idea to try and make peace, that has nothing to do with our forgiveness which is an absolute promise from God when we confess. On the other hand, if a brother gets his nose bent out of shape because of something we have done and we confess, while we are forgiven, he is not until he confesses his sins of hatred, anger, pride, jealousy, lack of love, etc.

But on the subject of extremes as John portrays them later in terms of believer's conduct, you have to understand that we are not God nor like God and cannot be 100% consistent as God is. That is the goal for which we should shoot (John's standard of absolute good) while we need to avoid the other extreme.

For anyone who wants to suggest that absolute compliance / goodness is necessary for being a Christian, staying a Christian, being in fellowship, etc., that person should consider that he/she is not 100% good, not 100% sinless, and is in absolutely as much need of God's grace and forgiveness every day as any of the rest of us.

"So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."
Matthew 18:35 NKJV

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23:

No one is speaking about 100% perfection what I am talking about is the same, doing our best to do what he says. I am saying that God is impartial. What you have said below make my point. You said sometimes we should try to seek reconciliation with a brother, meaning that you don't think that we should try for that each time. Jesus makes no exceptions, which you are doing. You are using it's not one size fits all kind of argument when it comes to obeying such a command. If is isn't one size fits all when it comes to obedience of such a command and God judges that person worthy of such reward, the same as someone who had obeyed that command, how is that impartial? Since some will be doing what he says and someone won't be consistently keeping those commands. Do both deserve the same reward?

As for the walking in the light and we have fellowship as a result it is clear that it can be interpreted either referring to God, fellow brothers or both. So how you concluded in a previous e-mail that it had to be referring to fellowship with God only I don't understand. Also I made the point that the evidence of walking in the light is fellowship with believers. Fellowship is more than just sharing a common set of creeds, it is good relationships with other brothers and sisters. So if a person claims to be walking in the light and doesn't have a good fellowship-relationship with other Christians they can't be walking in the light and so the blood of Jesus can't be cleansing them from all sin can it?

Response #23:

Rewards are given for carrying out the mandate to grow, progress and minister (see the link). Rewards are not given for keeping one's nose clean. That is expected. Sanctification and growth do go hand in hand, but you can't grow inside out. Growth leads to sanctification and sanctification is necessary for growth, but to focus exclusively on the sin side never gets a believer anywhere – just like it never got the Pharisees anywhere.

Now grow up through the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
2nd Peter 3:18

Similarly, fellowship is first and foremost with the Lord and it is as a result of that fellowship that we also have it with our brothers and sisters in Christ. "Love the Lord" is the first command; "Love your neighbor" the second.

But if we walk in the Light (i.e., with Him) as He Himself is in the Light, (then) we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
1st John 1:7 NASB

I'm not sure what the problem is here – what you are finding fault with – except that there seems to me to be a lot of daylight between what I am understanding that I am writing to you and what you are understanding by it.

Seems to me this all gets back to the issue you have with reconciliation between believers. So let me try to get this discussion back on track. I have said repeatedly that it is a good and a great thing to be on good terms with fellow believers. I have also said that if we have done something that can be and should be fixed then we should fix it, situation and circumstances permitting and assuming that our efforts won't do more harm than good – and if that is what the Spirit is guiding us to do. I have explained to you the problems with a legalistic approach. I gave you a number of examples of when it would be a bad idea to allow misplaced guilt to produce some ill-advised action on the basis of a false doctrine of "you are damned if you do not reconcile absolutely in absolutely all cases". You replied that "obviously" in extreme cases it would not be good to do so. So your position is not absolute either. The question then becomes, where to draw the line?

So here is a question for you: Who determines when it necessary to reconcile and or make amends, and just how amends must be made, the person wronged or the person who did the wrong? You may feel you have done enough but what if the other person doesn't see it that way? You may feel you are the one who was wronged, but what if the other person doesn't see it that way? Or what if they feel you are the one who is actually in the wrong? Of course God is the only Judge whose opinion counts, but He will act as He sees fit quite apart from any attempt to seek reconciliation by one or get recompense by the other. So do we appoint judges in the church to sort all this out (1Cor.6:1-8)? Before you know it, if we try to solve this "problem", we will need volumes of canon law and many believers sitting in judgment over other believers. You don't think so? You have had this issue for several years now without such intervention.

Here is a better solution in my view: just forgive the person who wronged you (Matt.6:12; 18:26-35), forget about it, and move on. After all, while you may feel that you are perfect, it is just possible that at some point in your life you said something or did something which offended someone else – even though to you it might have seemed to be a small thing or you may not have even paid it any mind at the time, but it may have been a big deal to them. Would you like that person to be able to "bind you over" into some sort of lengthy "amends process" until he/she felt satisfied? Who determines, after all, what is enough in terms of making amends? If we get into the legalistic and backward-looking game of counting up offenses and wrongs by others against us (out of anger) or of us against others (out of guilt) there will be no end to it and the effect will most definitely not be "walking in the light" (not to mention the problems I have brought up in the past of unwanted attentions by those who've wronged us or want recompense from us).

Jesus forgives us when we confess – regardless of whether others do or ever will (Ps.51:4). I counsel you to forgive and forget . . . and move forward with your Christian life. That is the way of love.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
1st Corinthians 13:3-4 NIV

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Matthew 6:14-15



Don't try to fix the past

Sins of long ago

Peace, Reconciliation and Salvation

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

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