Saturday, June 3, 2017

Are Christians Still Capable of Sinning?

More and more lately I have become aware of how Christians are not understanding how we are made in God's image and what our response to God is to be in our relationship with Him. I have already written an article on living a holy and obedient life, for those who take freedom in Christ as a license to live in disobedience or licentiousness, but now I feel I need to address the other side of the coin, where it is taught that once saved, one can no longer sin. I was first introduced to this concept in college when I attended a Christian college. The college was affiliated with a particular denomination, and the pastor of that denominational church in town was often called upon to lead our chapel services (which were held daily). At one point he mentioned that he no longer sinned, since being saved. That brought quite a bit of a stir, as there were a number of denominations represented in the student body, and most of them did not agree with that concept. I understand why he believed in this concept, for I now know what he based it upon, however I disagree with it, as in my understanding of Scripture, he was ignoring a a big piece of the story, which he needed to address. That is what I intend to do in this article. I am going to look at that part of man (and the Scriptures) which he was ignoring.

On the sixth day of creation, God created man. He created man in His image, but His image was not just “My” but “Our.” Genesis 1:26 "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." God was not just creating man in the image of the Father, but also of the Son and Holy Spirit. Man was made in the image of God, but God is a Trinity, so when He created us, He created us as a trinity also. People find it hard to grasp how God is a Trinity, but it becomes a little easier to understand when one sees how our own trinity works.

Man has three separate parts to him, body, soul, and spirit. When man was first created, he was perfect. He was perfect in body (we would have lived forever), perfect in soul (the soul is our will, but also our intellect or mind, which is essentially our personality), and perfect in spirit (that part of us which connects to God, which at the beginning was alive and sinless, sometimes referred to as our heart in Scripture). Our soul is that part of us that is the go between, between our spirit and body. The spirit in its perfect and sinless state, being in connection with God, would influence the soul (the intellect/mind and will) to do righteously, and the soul or will would translate (decide whether or not to obey) those instructions to the body to carry out those ideas. Our brain and our soul (or mind) are not the same thing. Our soul is that part of us, the mind and will, which transcends the body, as does the spirit, which is the connection to God (when it is alive). The body is the material part of us, the shell which houses our soul and spirit, and the brain is merely an organ in the body which carries the message that the soul gives it to the rest of the physical body to make the body work in accordance with the will of the soul. The body, though, does have a will (so to speak) of its own, just as each of the divine Trinity has a will of their own. But just as the Son (God's “body”) and the Holy Spirit (the “spirit”) submit to the will of the Father (the “soul”), our soul dictates to the other parts of our trinity what decision will be made, regardless of their influence. This can be seen in Adam and Eve.

To see how these three parts of us, body, soul, and spirit work together, we need to look at what happened at the fall. When Adam and Eve sinned, their soul (their intellect and will) chose (note that they were perfectly sinless in all ways when they chose this, so to say that once the spirit is redeemed it is impossible to sin is disproved in the first chapter of the Bible) to depart from the inclination of the sinless spirit, (which would be to obey God) and instructed the body to carry out an act of disobedience against God. The soul was deceived in Eve's case. Adam made a willful disobedient choice. God created man sinless in all ways, but He gave our soul the ability to exercise free will choice apart from the influence and choice of the sinless spirit or the body. We still have that ability. Satan can deceive us (in our case he can also use our body's carnal inclinations), so that we find ourselves in sin without having malicious intent to sin, or we can willfully disobey. In disobeying God, whether intentional or not, the connection the spirit had with God was broken, not only for Adam and Eve, but for all their descendants, as we were born out of that corruption. Not only did the spirit die on that day, but their body began its descent into death. Their disobedience had corrupted all three parts of them - their body, their spirit, and their soul. To really understand how redemption works it is first necessary to understand what took place.

God had told them that the day they disobeyed they would die. They died spiritually by severing the connection they had with God, for sin or lawlessness (they had only one law and they broke it) cannot exist in God's presence. He cannot look upon it. So their spirits entered into the realm of Satan's control. They were spiritually dead to God, just as Satan is dead to God. In other words, disconnected from the source of true life. Next their bodies were forfeit to Satan also. He had won the battle for their lives when he got them to listen and obey him, for in so doing, he became their god. Not only did he become their god, but the god of this world, as they also forfeited their stewardship of the world to him. 

As God tells us the life is in the blood, Leviticus 17:11 “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul,” their life and therefore their blood was forfeit, because of the decision their soul made. It needed to be sacrificed to make atonement for the sin of their soul. But if they died physically right then, all of God's creation and plans would come to naught. God did not want them to die right then (although they did begin the process of death), for He had a plan in place before He even created man to be able to redeem man, which was why Christ died for our sins. The body, however, was not redeemable. It had to die, because the blood or life force was forfeit. This worked for our benefit though, so that we would not end up with a redeemed spirit trapped in a sinful body for all eternity. That is why God barred them from the tree of life. By dying, God could then provide us with a new sinless body upon the resurrection, so that a redeemed spirit could live in perfection, as being born again, our soul would have chosen to want to be with God, so now all three would be sinless again by mutual agreement.

So God offered in place of their blood, the blood of an innocent victim. One whose blood was not forfeit, but because of its innocence could provide a temporary reprieve from the demand for the righteous justice of their blood. In this case God used animals. Animals have not sinned against God, so their blood could hold Satan's demand for the life blood of the person at bay, giving the person time for reconciliation with God by faith. And so animal sacrifices began as a temporary way to stave off immediate death, so that people would have a chance to have their spirits and souls redeemed. But an animal's blood was not the same as their blood. It could never really atone for their sin, nor hold off the demand for justice forever. (Hebrews 10:4) There needed to be a more perfect, sinless, innocent offering. One that would fulfill the requirements and yet free them of the penalty. What better substitution than God Himself offering His own blood, which was not forfeit, as a replacement for ours. And that is what God had planned. Christ would become a man, for only a man's blood, a son of Adam, a kinsman, could atone for man's sin of the soul and redeem him. But only God's blood would be perfect, sinless, and innocent enough to qualify and satisfy the punishment that sin wrought, the offering of the life's source, the blood.

But while the offering of blood, especially Christ's, would atone for the sin of the soul, it would not redeem the spirit without something more, for another penalty of sin is the spirit's eternal separation from God. The spirit had to be reconnected, so someone had to suffer that separation from God. Christ also paid that. When He hung on the cross, He cried out to God asking why He (the Father) had forsaken Him (the Son). God had to spiritually separate Himself from Christ or turn His back and break the connection in order to lay upon Christ the sins of the world, for God cannot look upon sin or have it in His presence. As God does not live in time, but in eternity, what appeared to us as just a momentary separation between the two of them, was in fact an eternity of separation, for God does not experience time as we do. The past, present, and future are all one to Him, so a moment of separation would essentially be experiencing an eternity. I sometimes get the impression that those who no longer think they can sin believe that somehow the actual commission of their sins are considered as Christ having committed the acts Himself, totally alleviating them of all guilt, when they say their sins were laid upon Him, so therefore they do not see any of their actions as sinful and do not think they are held responsible for any of their wrong actions (if they even consider them wrong actions) after conversion. It was not that Christ was held responsible for committing the sins in our place, and so no matter what we do now, we are not held responsible for the temporal consequences of those sins, big or tiny, as He took them from us. It was that Christ had the sins themselves laid upon Himself, taking the blame for them, so that God would see all of them at once and separate Himself from them, and so Christ suffered the penalty of eternal separation from God which needs to be paid for those sins, for us.

The spiritual penalty, the eternal separation from God was what the issue here was, not the making it impossible for us to ever sin again, for God had to place the sin where He could turn from it, as it could not be in His presence. It would be as if we robbed a bank, and Christ stepped forward and took the money and was holding it when the police came, and He took the blame, and suffered the penalty of jail, but He did not commit the crime in our place. We still committed the crime and we still had to live with the consequences of that knowledge. We might even have to suffer temporal  consequences, such as someone saw us and no longer wants to be our friend. Then if we were to shoplift later on, even something really small and insignificant, Christ is still standing there holding the object, and taking the blame and paying the jail time for our theft, but He still has not committed the crime. We are responsible for committing it, even though the crime itself is not laid at our door and we don't have to pay the penalty. It does not mean that we can never commit a sin of some kind again. We still have free will choice to do that if we want. In this way, even now if our soul chooses to sin, once we accept Christ, our spirit is not separated from Him, for Christ already suffered that on our behalf taking the blame and penalty, but we do suffer the temporal consequences of those actions, and also the spiritual problems, such as causing obstacles in our relationship with God, that they bring. Christ did not negate our free will and the ability to choose to not live every moment perfectly in accord with God's will. If it were so that we cannot sin, because Christ took all the sin including the commission of it, then once He took the world's sins on Himself, nobody should have ever sinned again. It should have been finished for all time that anybody could sin, but the fact is, people do still sin. Not just unbelievers, but believers too. If you don't think so, then take a closer look at the churches and congregations. We can still choose to sin, although as one grows closer to Christ, one will choose less and less to follow the carnal inclinations. The “big” sins aren't even a temptation for most. However, as one grows closer to God, they also see the teeny tiny sins that they once didn't even know existed, so they never really see themselves as being sinless. They always are aware of how far short of Christ's perfection they fall. 
We are told that salvation is by grace through faith, (Eph 2:8-9) and it has always been so, not only after Christ, but also before. The atonement would be offered when Christ came, but it also had to be believed in and accepted, for it to be applied, both before and after. God gave the promise to Eve that He would send a redeemer to atone for their sins, and they had to have faith in the coming of that redeemer for God's grace of forgiveness and atonement to be applied to their spirit. Belief and faith would redeem their spirits, whether before Christ's coming or after it. We know this to be true, for in Hebrews 11, otherwise known as the faith chapter, many of these people are listed as heroes of faith. They had faith in the promise that was afar off, not having seen it come to pass in their lifetimes, but their faith by God's grace saved them and upon death they entered Paradise, as until the final atonement was actually sacrificed, they could not have it applied to allow them into the presence of God. We on the other hand look afar off to the past and believe by faith, but the atonement can be applied immediately for us. 
The difference between those before and after Christ was that after Christ, He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell us and write the law on our hearts, being an internal Reminder and Conscience for us to guide and teach us. We need no outer trappings or rituals to be a constant reminder to obey God's laws. On the other hand, before Christ, God provided external reminders that they had to keep God's law. It wasn't written on their hearts internally, but God told them to bind them to their foreheads and arms, and rituals, feasts, and sacrifices abounded to try to keep them on the straight path. Jews literally do bind them to their foreheads and arms using phylacteries, even though God may have meant it more in a spiritual sense rather than physical one. It isn't that we don't sin, because we have the Holy Spirit. That isn't what He does. He guides and directs and chastises us, but He doesn't make decisions for us. He does not keep us from sinning, for we can quench His voice. Nor did the lack of indwelling of the Holy Spirit keep those from before Christ from obeying God's laws. They were not unable to keep them, because they weren't indwelt by the Spirit. They had external reminders that they should obey, and they had a soul that decided which path to follow. Some obeyed and some didn't. We have an internal Reminder that we should obey, but we still have a soul that decides which path to follow. It may be somewhat easier for us, having it be internal, but it was no less of an expectation for them than for us. And it is just as easy for us to quench that internal reminder as it was for them to ignore the external ones. I will elaborate further on this Old Testament vs. New Testament situation later.

Now for a closer look at our trinity's three persons. Let's start by discussing the spirit. Because of the fall, we are all born spiritually dead. This is why Christ died, to restore that connection with God, by taking upon Himself the penalty (sacrificing the life force of the blood and suffering separation from God) to atone for our sins. The result of that is that when we accept that payment Christ made, or accept Him as our Savior, our spirit is redeemed and made sinless. But it is the only part of us that is made sinless. The soul still has free will choice, and the body will die in its sinful state. The spirit no longer desires to sin against God. It no longer has the stain of sin. It is reconnected to God and wants to be obedient to God's will. It will do its best to influence the soul to always make the same choice.
Next we have the body. At the fall, God cursed the body and said it would die. It became corrupt and non-redeemable. Because the body is sinful and cannot be redeemed, it will always lust after carnality and not righteousness. There is no good thing in it. When someone speaks of the residual effects of sin that Christians still have, and have to deal with, they are referring to the flesh and its carnal desires, which can influence our soul's choices. Paul spoke of this struggle that he (and we all) had. He tells us that sin still dwells in us (in the body of flesh) and it wars against the redeemed spirit, which is the inward man. We have a war waging inside us that we must constantly fight and strive to win. The closer we draw to God and the more we resist the devil, the more our soul will choose rightly. However it is a race that must be run to finish the course. We must endure to the end. 

Romans 7:14-25 " For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
Hebrews 12:1-13 “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.” 
Paul was telling us that we have two natures inside us and we need to strive against sin and run the race to partake of His holiness. Why would God have to chastise us if we were not wandering off from the path? He would not if we were sinless. If we never receive chastisement, then it is doubtful that we are truly children of God, for whom He loves, He will chasten, as a father does his child to keep them on the path. If a redeemed individual cannot sin, as some believe, they would not be able to stray from that path. But we are told we can stray, which is why God chastises us. He purges us and prunes us so that we will produce good fruit. John 15:1-2 tells us that He must do this for us to bring forth good fruit. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” Luke 6:41-43 “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye. For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” These passages are not saying, as some teach, that if you are a good tree you will never bring forth corrupt fruit. Ask any farmer if he can get some bad fruit off a good tree and he will say, yes. The adverse affects of weather can affect it; lack of pruning will affect it. I see it on my own farm, where the branches were not pruned on old apple trees, so while they were once good trees, producing abundant fruit, the previous owner stopped pruning them, and they went “wild,” as they say. The fruit is no longer of a good quality. In Luke, Christ was telling His disciples and the multitude that they shouldn't be so quick to judge others sins, for if they took a good look at themselves they might find their own sins were actually bigger. A corrupted tree (one that has gone wild or was never tended to begin with), will never bring forth good fruit. And a good tree, which is being tended, fertilized, and pruned (pruning is essential for getting good crops of fruit) will bring forth good fruit. But to believe that a good tree can never bring forth bad fruit is to simply to close one's eyes to reality and Scripture both. God prunes us (nips our bad fruit in the bud), so that we will hopefully only bring forth good fruit. It is essential and necessary if we are His children, because the truth is, we will sin on occasion. If not, why would God say all these things to us and tell us about all this? 
The third part of us is the soul. What some people and teachers/preachers and theologies do not seem to understand, is that the soul is separate from the spirit and can act apart from and even in opposition to the spirit, just as it did with Adam and Eve. It is our free will which can always choose to either obey the redeemed spirit or listen to the carnal body. It is caught in the middle of the war of the two opposing forces. If it were not so that our soul can still choose to sin, even once our spirit is redeemed, then Adam and Eve could not have sinned to begin with, for they were without sin even in body, so there was no struggle to be righteous as we now have between body and spirit. But they did choose to sin, and so can we. How much easier is it for us, who live in a sinful body, to be influenced to have our will choose to sin against the spirit than they who were totally without sin and connected to God? 

While the body dies, and the spirit is either connected to God or not connected to God, our soul (intellect and will) is very much a separate part of us that is self-aware and understands that we make choices. It is as much eternal for people who die and go to hell (those whose spirit is dead or disconnected from God) and who are very much aware of where they are, and how they got there (free will choice to disobey God and repudiate Christ), as it is for those who are redeemed. Free will means that. Free will. It can choose to obey God or not to obey God. It is not under blind subjection to the redeemed spirit. Now, should a person who has been redeemed be choosing sin? If they are walking with the Lord in complete harmony, I would think that they would not do it regularly or with malice aforethought or that their sins would be “big” ones. However if one allows sins (no matter how small) to accumulate, allows apostasy to creep in (due to lack of study) and does not repent (or turn from) these things, it will lead one further and further from a close walk with the Lord, and then sin begins to grow in a person's life. The more the Spirit is quenched, the easier it becomes to listen to Satan, the world, and the body. To think that one is not capable of being deceived into that state is to set oneself up to be deceived, for Satan likes nothing better than to convince someone that it is not possible for them to be deceived or sin, for then they are just ripe for the picking. And it is not just the sins of commission that cause us to have relationship problems with the Lord. It is sins of omission. Things such as not praying, not studying God's Word, not doing the positive things we are supposed to be doing like feeding the hungry, helping the needy, etc. 

Some theologies teach that once we accept Jesus, we are completely sinless. They focus exclusively on that one third of our trinity as if it is the only part of us, and ignore the other two-thirds, one part of that two-thirds being completely, irredeemably sinful. While our spirit is redeemed and without sin, we still have a free will soul and a carnal body to contend with. Some other theologies teach that Christ set us free from the law, so they ignore God's laws and live with free abandon to licentious behavior. If one ignores all the Scriptures that tell us about these other two parts of our body, that we need to mortify our body and bring it under subjection to the spirit, they risk the very thing of which they do not think they are capable. They can sin. Romans 8:13 “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” I Corinthians 9:24-27 “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

If we are born again, our spirit wants to serve God. If we are born again, our will or intellect has also chosen the path of God and wants to serve God, but it can sometimes be deceived and convinced that sin is okay, and it allows the body to have its way. The odds of a Christian's mind giving into the "big" sins, such as murder, adultery, etc. are very slim, however we are easily convinced by the flesh that "little" sins are not really sins. I hear people calling them faults, mistakes, immaturity, being impatient, lacking in the fullness of fruit, freedom in Christ, or whatever term they like to use to justify what God actually sees as sin. We must remember that Christ said that if we hate (even if it only lasts 30 seconds), it is the same as murder. Lust (if you get momentarily aroused by someone – other than your spouse) for only 10 seconds is still adultery. Gossip can actually "murder" someone's reputation. Coveting is an easy sin to fall into. Who doesn't see things that they would like to go out and buy? There are a myriad of "little" sins one can commit without even thinking about it. Did you provoke someone to anger by insisting on your own way, when God would have had you sacrifice your own way instead? That's the sin of selfishness. Do you see yourself as spiritually superior to someone else, because you see their sins but not your own? That's the sin of pride. I could go on all day listing these types of things. So while some like to pretend that these are not sins, that they are just not bringing in the fullness of the fruits of the spirit, or an example of immaturity, they do what John says in 1 John 1:8 & 10 "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.... If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." John was speaking to believers, not unbelievers about receiving salvation. We know this from the next verse in Chapter 2:1 "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." He warned us that we are capable of still sinning and gave us the remedy for this in 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." For us to sin, the body, the world, or Satan's forces can entice us, but the soul is responsible for choosing sin, as the spirit is now without sin due to being redeemed. Therefore these sins are still held to our account, because they are committed by our trinity, regardless of the opposition of the spirit who refuses to sin with them, as it is redeemed. It still resides in a sinful shell. So therefore we must confess these sins to repair the damage done to our relationship with God in grieving Him. They are not faults, they are not mistakes, they are not immaturity, they are not "not quite the fullness of the fruit," they are sins. And sin disrupts our relationship with God and allows Satan to then continue to deceive us away from the truth. And the more we deny that these "little" things are sins, the easier it is for them to become bigger ones. In fact to believe that one is incapable of committing a sin is the same sin of the Pharisees, self-righteous pride, pride being one of the big sins. The one that felled Satan in fact.

For those who do not believe that Christians can sin, they will point to verses that say that our spirit is redeemed and sinless as the final say on the matter. I concur. It is, on the matter of the spirit, however they ignore all the verses that tell us that our spirit is not our entire being, as they pose a problem for their desired theology. One must take all of Scripture together to arrive at the truth. When there is a contradiction, it means that there is something between the two opposing thoughts that reconciles them. 1 John is an example of this contradictory problem for this subject, for in 1:6-7 and 2:3-5 it says “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.....And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” That is the argument given for the “we do not sin anymore stance.” The argument is made that it says we cannot have any darkness in us (no sin) for if we do, then we are not of Him and lie if we say we are. Yes, when we are saved, we have no darkness in the spirit, we desire to keep the commandments, we are cleansed from sin, and we have fellowship with Him. But that is in the spirit. The problem comes in verses 1:8-10 and 2:1-2 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.....My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” The argument is made that this is speaking to unbelievers, that they can confess their sins and be saved, but that is not keeping in context. John is writing to believers. The entire book is directed at believers. He didn't write a couple verses to believers, then a couple to unbelievers, then a couple to believers and a couple to unbelievers. It is all aimed at believers and is in the same context of the letter. To reconcile this, we need to just acknowledge and understand that we have a sinless spirit residing in a sinful body and that the two war with each other and that we must strive to have our soul always choose to side with the spirit, so that we walk with the Lord. Once you understand that this is how our trinity works, then these verses are no longer contradictory. John is telling us that we have no sin in our spirit and as such should strive not to sin, but there will be times when we do, and when we do, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus, for He is the propitiation for our sins. If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us. It is only in this way that these contradictory verses make any sense at all. Or any of the other passages, such as what Paul wrote in Romans 7.

A couple more passages that are not understood are found in Hebrews 6 and 10. Some say that one slip up or major sin (and some of those “small” sins really are bigger than you'd like to admit – hate/murder, lust/adultery for example) and you have lost your salvation. This is another defense that we must not be able to sin, for if we could, we would all be condemned, because one sin and you've had it. That is not what these passages are saying. Hebrews 6:4-6 “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” To fall away means to walk away from Christ, to become apostate, to not seek repentance anymore or a relationship, to simply stop believing. There is a huge difference between deliberately turning away for all time in unbelief, and committing a disobedient act in the flesh. Committing a sin does not translate into a state of unbelief. The parable of the seeds in Matthew 13 would show us how to interpret the idea of falling away in this passage in Hebrews 6. This is the person who loses all interest due to no depth of commitment, lack of understanding, the cares of the world, persecution, and produces no fruit as a result. The only fruit he ends up with is unbelief. He simply walks away from Christ.

The other passage is Hebrews 10:26-29 “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” This is speaking of deliberately, willfully, and continually considering Christ's blood an unholy thing and doing “despite” or in other words, doing something in a hate-filled spiteful way as a means of repudiation, because of despising God. It has been my experience that people turn from God in this manner when they blame Him for something that has deeply hurt them. They possibly have been told the lie that God only wants you to be happy and will give you all the good things in life, and then tribulation hits. Since they didn't get what they wanted (health, wealth, and happiness), they decide to get even by hating God. Even more than simple unbelief, this is out and out hatred that manifests in deliberate stomping on Christ, so to speak. They repudiate Him. This is much more than just falling away in unbelief. This is hate-filled vengeance. In both cases the act is one of deliberately turning from God in unbelief for all time, not a momentary letting down of one's guard against the enemy and committing an act of disobedience. These passages are speaking of the unforgivable sin. All other sins can be forgiven when repented. This cannot.

There are several passages in Scripture that list sins as the ones keeping one out of heaven. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 is one of those passages. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Another is Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” And another is Galatians 5:5 “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” There are a number more of them, which list sins. What is overlooked, as is stated in the first verse above, is that these people are “the unrighteous”. The unrighteous are those whose spirits have not been redeemed. These sins are listed as those of unrepentant, unregenerate sinners who never had Jesus' blood applied to their lives. There is really only one sin that leads to spiritual death. 1 John 5:16 “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a (note the use of a singular article) sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it (again singular).” First of all, any sin that does not lead to spiritual death, is a sin which God will forgive and still give the person eternal life. The sin which leads to death (spiritual death) is blaspheming the Holy Spirit, which is the same thing as repudiating Christ, for the Holy Spirit is the one who reveals Christ to us. This is the unpardonable sin. All other sins against God and Jesus can be forgiven, but not repudiating Him. Mark 3:28-29 “Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:” The key here is - are you an unrepentant, unbelieving thief, murderer, etc., because if you are, then the sin that sent you to hell was being unrepentant and unbelieving, not the sin for which you will be judged as to your level of punishment. These people kept out of the kingdom who committed these sins are identified by their sin, but it is not the sin which condemned them to eternal damnation. They could have been forgiven, had they repented. They did not. Therefore they cannot enter the kingdom and must be judged by their sins. That is why there is a Great White Throne Judgment. The unbelievers are judged according to their works, good and bad.

Earlier I had said that I would address the Old Testament vs. New Testament situation in this matter. In the Old Testament we see an example of someone, who was a believer in God and the promises of the Messiah coming to save people from their sins, in the person of King David. That means that his spirit was redeemed by grace through faith in God's eyes. Now remembering that the Holy Spirit does not make us sin-free, and that we still have a will to choose good or evil, we can see that while some think that a Christian may be able to commit “little” sins without worrying about calling them a sin, but the “big” sins will condemn them to hell, we can see that it is not the size of the sin, but the repentance of the heart that makes all the difference. King David was a man after God's own heart - Acts 13:22, one of whom God said that he kept all of God's commandments and statutes - 1 Kings 3:14, yet David was guilty of murder and adultery. Two sins that are listed in the sins that are in the “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” list, yet clearly David made it to heaven, and not only that, God called him a man after His own heart and one who kept His commandments and statutes. Clearly David did not keep them all the time. In fact, he committed two that had the death penalty. The excuse is given by some that well, David was under the law and we are under grace. He didn't have the Holy Spirit. I guess that means it didn't count, because he couldn't help himself? Of course it counted. He had a free will choice just as Adam did or we do. He knowingly chose to sin, knowing they were sins with the death penalty. David meditated on God's Word day and night. It wasn't something he didn't know. He didn't need the Holy Spirit to nudge his heart and tell him that. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit does not make us impervious to sin either. Our faith and Christ's redemption of us makes our spirit sin-free. The Holy Spirit is simply there to help, guide, direct, etc. He does not make our choices for us. He merely influences. If we sin, no matter the sin, if we still believe and repent, God forgives us. We will have to suffer the temporal consequences, but our spirit will not be damned.

The penalty for the sins David committed under the law was death. Yet God did not have David executed. Instead He forgave him when David repented. David's spirit was still redeemed. God still saw him as keeping the commandments and statutes, just as He still sees us as redeemed and law abiding when we sin. Did David suffer the consequences of those sins? You had better believe he did. Just as we suffer the temporal consequences of our bad choices and sins of the flesh. The difference between before and after the advent of Christ is not in what or how much is forgiven and what is not. It is, as said before, that instead of having to have constant visual and physical reminders of the law and our sin before us in the way of offerings and sacrifices, the temple, the phylacteries bound to forehead and arm, the rituals, the feasts, the memorizing of the Torah, etc., we have the law written on our hearts by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We don't have external reminders of God's law, we have an internal reminder in the person of the Holy Spirit who guides us and acts as our conscience. People were not saved by observing the law, people were saved by having faith in God and the Messiah to come. They looked forward, we look back. They went to Paradise until Christ shed His blood, we go directly to heaven upon death. They were beholden to walk with God and be obedient to Him just as we should, but just as they failed on occasion (as David did) and had to offer sacrifices in repentance and suffer the consequences, we fail on occasion, need to repent and ask forgiveness, and look to the sacrifice that was already offered as covering that sin. But we should not pretend it does not exist, nor ignore it by chalking it up to immaturity, or failure to exhibit the fullness of the fruits of the spirit, or just a lapse, any more than they could. We should go to God and confess that we allowed the flesh to overcome our spirit's directions and that we are sorry. When you love someone and you hurt them, do you not owe them an apology? It doesn't mean that our spirit has lost its connection to God, or some sin has been laid against our spirit as a debt unpaid, it means that our soul has made a free will choice to be lazy and give in to the flesh rather than striving to conquer the inclination. We owe God an apology for that.

In conclusion, we can see that Jesus told us that we are more than just our spirit. Matthew 22:37 “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Notice that Jesus said we need to worship God with our heart (our spirit) our soul (our will) and our mind (our intellect). He did not include the body, because the body cannot worship God, now being totally corrupt. We are not just our redeemed spirit; we are a body, soul, and spirit and must worship Him with the latter two while bringing the first under subjection. This is the part that too many people ignore at their peril. It is because these other two parts of us are ignored that some believe they no longer sin, or some believe that they can sin with impunity. Neither is what God's Word teaches.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Does Truth Really Matter in Doctrines and the Peripherals?

Does truth matter? I have attended a number of different denominational churches over the years as the Lord has led me. Some of them brought tremendous questions to my mind when I felt God's leading, as I knew the denominations were not necessarily known for their adherence to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, nor did they always take it as literally as I did. I always found God's purpose in my attending these churches (usually to point them to truth and warn them of apostasy), but was disturbed by how truth seemed to be of minor importance to them. The same could be said of some of the fundamental evangelical churches I attended, for their theologies were radically opposed to each other in some cases.

I have been exposed to Calvinism vs. Arminianism; election vs. free will; eternal security vs. conditional security; amillennianism vs. premillennianism vs. post millennianism; pre-trib, mid-trib, and post-trib rapture, although never the one I espouse, a last trump rapture; grace alone salvation vs. works alone salvation vs. grace plus works salvation; infant baptism vs. believer's immersion baptism; the Lord's Supper as transubstantiation, consubstantiation, and symbolic. I have heard it taught that the Old Testament God and New Testament God are two different Gods vs. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I have been exposed to teachings that say that Jesus died for our sins as in “paid the penalty”, but that we need to keep repenting as we sin against God, because we still live in a sinful body vs. Jesus did not pay the penalty, He merely wiped all sins out and now when we accept Him we are sinless in a sinless body. The list of discrepancies in beliefs can go on and on.

The one common factor in all of these organizational churches and theologies is this, they all think they have the truth. The problem is, they cannot all have the truth, as they are in disagreement. So what is the truth? Does it matter? I was once told by a friend, who had started her Christian walk in a church I was attending and then when she got married and moved had started attending a church with diametrically opposed teachings, that she felt as long as she was faithful to the teachings of the denomination whose “umbrella” she was under, that God was fine with that. When she made that statement to me I think for the first time in my life I was literally, quite literally, speechless. She had so shocked me that I was unable to react. Where in the Bible is it ever taught that it is acceptable to believe anything, provided you stay under the “umbrella” of the church's teachings and remain faithful to them? Nowhere, that's where. I could not believe, coming from the background that she had, that she had made this turn in her thought processes. I wish I could say that this was the only time in my life that I saw this happen, but it wasn't. I have seen more friends than I care to acknowledge suddenly make a 180 degree turn in their beliefs. Now this would not bother me at all, if they were turning from lies to truths, but here is what bothered me, they didn't care whether it was the truth or not, they only cared that it was convenient for their life or comfortable. There was a complete lack of concern with truth. In fact when confronted with Scripture that contradicted things they were now espousing, they dismissed the Scripture as irrelevant. I was told that they trusted the messenger.

Years ago the division of beliefs between denominations meant that there was no communing between them. This past century has seen a move to ecumenicalism where they have come to say that as long as the core doctrine (and I don't know that they all can even agree on this) is in agreement, the peripherals are not important. We can agree to disagree. While I agree that we can disagree with someone and still be friends, I do not agree that peripherals are unimportant. I do not feel that truth is unimportant, nor do I think God does, and the peripherals are as much truth as the core doctrine is. And now the core doctrine is under attack. The fact is, there is only one truth, so obviously somebody or all of them are wrong about something.

C.S. Lewis made a comment about truth. “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort, you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” I believe this is the problem. We are told in Scripture that in the end times people will have itching ears. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” The world has become a frightening and violent place in which to live. Life is uncomfortable for most everyone in one way or another. If not physically, then emotionally and definitely spiritually. Truth, unfortunately, is a commodity that is generally not pleasant. Truth is convicting. It is usually a source of great discomfort. So consequently most people do not want to hear it. They ask questions as if they do want the truth, but the fact is, they want comfort. Let us take for example this question. “Does this make me look fat?” That is a loaded question any husband or boyfriend wants no part of. The truthful answer probably is, “Yes, it makes you look fat and you know that or you wouldn't have asked me in the first place.” God help the poor man that says that, as he will be in dire need of God's help. What is desired is to be comforted with a nice lie, so that you can wear this piece of clothing which does not flatter you, but which you have convinced yourself will make you look like your fantasy of what you want to look like. With a comforting lie, you can shove aside the the truth and convince yourself to enjoy wearing the attire, but do you really enjoy it? Is the truth not in the back of your mind just sitting there and nagging at you? The truth is, to everyone else, you may very well look fat in that outfit, so nobody has been comforted by the lie. So you have neither the truth nor real comfort. Just imagined comfort. It was soft soap and wishful thinking. The truth may not have brought comfort immediately, but maybe have caused you to diet, and so bring comfort in the end, as then the outfit will not make you look fat, because you aren't fat and you can wear it feeling great and looking great.

I have never made a practice of telling lies, because have never been able to tell a lie with any degree of success due to my comfort level (conviction of the Holy Spirit) getting so stressed that it is obvious I am lying. The only time I have been able to convincingly lie is when it is just for the purpose of keeping a secret party from the honoree or some such thing as that. When it is for an innocent reason, to give someone pleasure such as a present or party, my comfort level is not taxed, because I know it is not that they will not learn the truth, just that the truth is being delayed as a pleasant surprise, and I don't want to spoil that surprise. I have never had to lie to save someone's life, but I think I might do my best to lie convincingly under those circumstances, as the midwives in Egypt did for the women of Israel. I hope I never have to learn whether or not I could. What I have found is that my truthfulness has made me disliked in many places. I try not to deliberately look to offend, but it is very hard to cushion blunt truth when you know it is not the answer that is desired. I am straightforward in speech as it is, so this is almost an impossible feat for me to give truth and not make someone get mad at me. When applied to for my opinion (which I often try to beg off from giving for this very reason) and it is insisted that I say what I think, people are not happy about with my response, because I cannot bring myself to lie. It sticks in my throat and I gag on it, and it is obvious that I am gagging on it. And try as I might, there is no nice way to cushion an answer that will be despised, no matter how you say it. It is going to offend no matter what. They were looking for affirmation, and I gave them the truth. Most people are not looking for the truth, but for affirmation of their choices. They do not want to hear negative comments about their choice, as that is a condemnation of their thinking and/or values. As a result of this mind set, the world has learned to pander to people's feelings with lies instead of trying to direct people to good choices by giving them the truth. We have become a society of pathological liars.

As an example of what I have dealt with in people's reactions to truth, I will tell a story of something that happened to me in a church I attended. As background information, I have both a Bachelor's and Masters degree in music. In the church I was attending I was the only trained musician. The organist was an elderly lady who had learned to play years before and was still playing, but nobody had any formal training except me. The church wanted to have a children's Christmas program. They had about two months to pull it together with one rehearsal a week and they intended to sing about eight songs. I was not asked to help with the music in the program, so therefore stayed out of it. Now having taught music in school, I was aware of how long it can take to teach children one song well enough to perform, let alone eight. The songs that the people in charge wanted to do were some contemporary songs that Christian pop stars were singing, not familiar Christmas hymns. When given a chance to listen to the songs, I was asked if in my professional opinion I thought they would work. They were so sure I would give my approval and affirmation of what they dreamed of doing, but given my background and experience, I knew the answer was an emphatic “no” and that is exactly what I told them. That the songs were far too hard for these children to learn in so few rehearsals, as the songs would have to be memorized as well as sung. The response was immediate and it wasn't pleasant. They got very angry and started making comments about how could I be so certain, why was I being negative, what was wrong with the songs, and a list of other complaints. I hadn't volunteered the information on my own accord, in fact when asked for my opinion, before giving it, I said that I would rather not, as I knew what the response would be, but they insisted. At that point I spoke up and said, “You asked me what my opinion as a professional was. I gave you my professional opinion. If you don't want to take it, you don't have to.” And of course they didn't. And what they ended up having to do was play the tracks from the CD's of these artists and have the children try to sing along with it. Nor did that even work, as the children didn't know the songs at all. So basically what happened was we watched some children stand up in front and try to occasionally mouth the words to sing along with some songs being sung by the artists on the CD. I felt embarrassed for the children and the people in charge, who had put them to this embarrassment simply because they did not want to hear the truth. They wanted what they desired. They did not get it. Neither soft soap or wishful thinking worked to accomplish their desire.

The Church has fallen into the same trap with God's Word, as society has in all other areas. The Church should be above that, for we worship the One who is the way, the truth, and the life. John 14:6 “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life.” We should be preaching the truth, for the truth is the only way. Yet the Church continues to set aside truths for the temporary comfort of its people. The Church should be in unity over what the truth is, yet there are more differences than there are things in common. Why is that? Because we have forgotten how to understand Scripture. We should first take it at face value except where grammatically it is otherwise indicated, and where visions are given and explained by God. The first lie and the most useful lie Satan ever spoke was “Yea, hath God said..?” By making us question what God has said is truly meant, God's Word can be made to mean anything, and that is precisely why we have so many variations on theology. Truth has become irrelevant in the light of respecting some “scholarly” or “great” man's opinion of what he thinks God's Word says. People do not even bother to take this man's words and go to the Bible to check to see if he is reading it correctly. He is a scholar, so that means he knows more than the average person (not true), so he is accepted without question. Satan cleverly used this mentality, and then led astray those who were the “scholars” (usually by puffed up pride) to get them to either have “revelations” about God's Word which were not accurate or true, or to spiritually interpret the Word in a way which did not coincide with a face value interpretation. Another way was to have people pick and choose what they liked o build a theology around those verses, ignoring the verses which might disagree, as Thomas Jefferson did when he took a pair of scissors to the Bible and created his Jeffersonian Bible, removing those things which he did not like. And from there things progressed until we have wandered so far from God's Word in some cases that even God Himself would have trouble recognizing from where it came..

God's Word is filled with verses about truth.

Joshua 24:14a, “Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth.”

1 Samuel 12:24 “Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.”

Psalms 25:5 “Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.”

Psalms 26:3 “For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in thy truth.”

Psalms 40:11 “Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O LORD: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me.”

Psalms 86:11 “Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.”

Psalms 91:4 “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.”

Psalms 96:13 “Before the LORD: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.”

Psalms 119:151 “Thou are near, O LORD; and all thy commandments are truth.”

Proverbs 3:3 “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart.”

Mark 12:14a “ And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth:”

John 4:23 “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”

John 4:24 “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

John 16:13 “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”

John 17:17 “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

These are just the tip of the iceberg in what God has to say about truth. So why is it so important to have the peripherals correct if you have the core tenets in truth? Why does it matter whether we have truth on the details that seem less important? If one envisions doctrine in concentric circles, the “core” doctrine of Jesus as the Son of God, who died for our sins, rose from the grave, ascended to intercede for us, the Trinity, and those things which are essential for salvation will be in the center circle. Going out to the next circle would be those things which are essential for our walk with God, obedience to the ordinances and commandments and those things. Then the next circle out might be things such as end times beliefs, etc. and so on. If one thinks of each circle as a wall protecting the beliefs within it, the assault starts on the outer circle and works its way in. As one wall falls and lets the enemy in, he can attack the next wall. And so on. Eventually he stands at the wall surrounding the core doctrines and starts assaulting that wall. We have so let down our guards, that the enemy has actually broken down the inner most wall and has made inroads into corrupting the core doctrines. How is it possible to have come so far?

The problem has come from the fact that we have not sought truth all along. We have settled for the traditions and even lies of men, instead of being Bereans and weeding out those things which are not upheld by Scripture. We do this because we have itching ears looking for easy salvation and comfortable living. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” We have allowed wolves into the sheepfold. Acts 20:29 “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 2 Timothy 3:6-8 “For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.” Romans 1:18, 25 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;.. Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” 2 Peter 2:2 “And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.”

When you have believed the lies Satan has implanted, when the time comes that he needs you to let go of them for his purposes, he will not have trouble convincing you to let go of them. You will be deceived, because you have already been deceived. Only those who know that they are firmly planted on the truth of God's Word will be able to withstand the assault on their beliefs. Truth stands. Truth endures. Division was necessary to conquer God's people at the beginning, as the rule is divide and conquer. Now that we are sufficiently divided with the lies he has sown, and we are far enough from the truth, he is creating a false unity of the church through compromise, for the sake of the new world order, over which he intends to reign.

God will have us worship Him in truth, and if we will not seek it on our own, He will put us in a place where we are forced to accept it in a harsh reality. If you love the Lord, you must desire truth above all else, for He is the truth. Any lie that we accept only puts an obstacle between Him and us. The question is, are you willing to sacrifice all for the truth? How important is it to you? Have you prayed and asked God to show you the truth at all costs? Most who call themselves Christian know the truth of the death and resurrection of the Son of God, but are you willing to take your long held traditions of men and ask God to help you examine each and every one in the light of Scripture - all of Scripture, not the pick and choose type – to see if what you believe is actually what is taught by Him? Are you willing to let go if it is not? From painful experience I can tell you that it will be one of the most excruciating things you will ever undergo. I am reminded of a story in the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis when a boy named Eustace was turned into a dragon because of his greed, and the only way he could become a boy again was to have Aslan the lion (the prototype of Christ) literally and with excruciating pain rip the dragon skin off of his body to get back to the human boy. Christ has to painfully peel away all the lies in your life to get to the truth. I was forced to change so many peripherals as I examined Scripture that I ended up with a very different theology, except for my belief in being born again through Christ. It was a shattering time in my life. And yet it was the most freeing time also. When He said “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” John 8:32, He was not kidding. Knowing that you have found the truth, a truth that Scripture will uphold at every verse that deals with the subject, is a deeply spiritually grounding experience. It removes any room for deception. It removes any room for compromise. It removes any room for doubt. And this is why we have to have the truth, all of the truth, even in the peripherals. They do not have to keep you from loving others, but they do matter in your personal walk with Christ.

Friday, March 17, 2017

What Is the Explanation for Canaan's Curse and Being In the Line of Christ?

There are a couple of incidents in the Bible that have confused people, as there is no immediate explanation for them. They both concern the same person. The first is found in the story of Noah when he got drunk.

Genesis 9:18-27 “And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread. And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.”

When Noah awoke and found out what had occurred, he cursed Canaan and not Ham. This has always been a puzzlement, for why curse the son for the sin of the father? Maybe we need to take a closer look at exactly what is said. First notice that when it speaks of when they went forth from the ark, that it mentions not only the three sons, but also that Ham was the father of Canaan. Was Canaan born aboard the ark? Or is Canaan mentioned because he is about to become important in some way? Noah was drunk, and he was uncovered within his tent. It has always been assumed that Noah stripped down. I have not been around drunk people as a rule, but how many drunk people go around stripping when they are that drunk? It seems to me that they are beyond being able to take their clothes off. They can generally not even sit up straight, much less stand up to disrobe. What if what is meant was that someone else uncovered him within his tent, while he was drunk. What if he were not the person committing the action, but the victim receiving the action while he was unconscious?

It is pointed out again, immediately after telling that Noah was uncovered in this passage, that Ham is the father of Canaan. Why point that out a second time within the space of five verses of the story, and immediately after this event, if Canaan is not a party to the event? Why bring it up at all? It is almost as if it is pointed out that Ham is the father of the offender. Perhaps Canaan, who is the only grandchild mentioned up to this point (and whom we know was the father of the pagan ungodly Canaanites, which consisted of a number of pagan tribes of the family) was an ungodly young person already, (we are not sure of how many years had passed by this time) and was aware that his grandfather had been drinking. He could have crept in and uncovered his grandfather either as a joke, or for spite, and then bragged to his father what he had done. Ham then went to see for himself and then, thinking it was amusing, mocked Noah by telling the others of his shame. (Or possibly they did it together.) Noah blamed Ham, but then he cursed Canaan. He held the father responsible for his son's actions, but he cursed the offender rather than the father, so that the other children would not be cursed. So it would seem that Canaan had a hand in this somehow, for there is no reason to mention Canaan to start with, or curse Canaan for his father's actions otherwise. We know that Canaan's descendants were pagan, so it seems that rebellion started with Ham and ran through Canaan down the line. This should be kept in mind as we go to the next puzzle.

Now we come to the second problem. In the genealogy of Christ we find the following lineage in Luke Chapter 3 within verses 35-36. “which was the son of Sala, which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem, which was the son of Noe” This has caused a problem for scholars as Cainan (or Canaan as it is spelled in the O.T.) was not a son of Arphaxad. Sala (or Salah) was his son, according to Genesis. Genesis 10:22-24 “The children of Shem; Elam, and Asshur, and Arphaxad, and Lud, and Aram. And the children of Aram; Uz, and Hul, and Gether, and Mash. And Arphaxad begat Salah;” Genesis 11:10-12 “These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood: And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah:”

According to both of these Scriptures, Arphaxad was the father of Salah. In fact the age at which he begat Salah was thirty-five years of age. This was thirty-seven years after the Flood. It does not seem that there was a generation between them. There is a possibility that can be surmised though. We are told that Arphaxad was born two years after the Flood. He was of the first generation after the Flood. We are told the names of the other males who were born of Noah's sons. Genesis 10:2 “The sons of Japheth; Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras.” Genesis 10:6 “And the sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, and Phut, and Canaan.” Genesis 10:22 “The children of Shem; Elam, and Asshur, and Arphaxad, and Lud, and Aram.” Within this first generation, we can see the the only Canaan is Ham's son. And he is also the only Canaan within the next generation as well. So when Canaan is spoken of in Luke, we must assume that the Canaan mentioned is Ham's son. We can also see that the three couples got busy repopulating the earth. Needless to say, they had daughters also, for we are told that they did, and the sons had to marry someone. Cousin marriage is an approved marriage in Scripture, (even to today) and at this time sister marriage was also allowed. So the first generation had to marry either their sisters, their first cousins, or their cousin's children.

Next we must look at another matter. It is assumed by many that the names of the offspring are always in line with their birth order, but that can be shown to not be true. For instance Shem is assumed to be the oldest as he is always mentioned first, when the three sons of Noah are listed.

Genesis 5:32 “And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” Genesis 6:10 “And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” Genesis 7:13 “In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah” Gensis 9:18 “And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan.” Genesis 10:1 “Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth:”

In each of these cases, Shem is mentioned first, therefore many teach that he is the eldest, however Scripture contradicts that. Genesis 10:21 “Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder, even to him were children born.” Japheth is clearly said to be the elder brother. Then some say that Shem is the youngest, but in Genesis 10:24 we find that neither is he the youngest. “And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.” This verse is speaking of Ham and it designates him as the younger son. Had he been the middle son, it would seem that he would have been addressed as his middle son, so it would seem that Shem is the middle son. Shem appears to be mentioned first, as he is the most important of the brothers, for he is the one in whom the line of the Messiah will begin. These two verses are the only ones that actually mention birth order, so we need to pay attention to them even though when the sons are spoken of, they are listed with Shem first. In the line of Shem, we know that Arphaxad was born two years after the Flood, yet he is the third son mentioned in the line of Shem. It is probably unlikely that Shem's wife had three children in two years unless the first two were twins. The godly patriarchal line did not have to come through the eldest son. It had to come through the godly son. So birth order does not seem relevant in the list of names.

The reason for bringing all this up is that the children of Ham are listed in the following order. Genesis 10:6 “And the sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, and Phut, and Canaan.” If sons were listed from the oldest to the youngest, this would put Canaan as the youngest, but I do not think that is the case, based on the above reasoning. I think the sons are listed with Cush first for a reason, which will be made clear in a moment. The implication when mentioning the three sons of Noah coming off the ark, and mentioning Canaan along with them is that he might have been born on board the ark, or if not coming off the ark as a baby, then Ham's wife was pregnant with him. This would make him the eldest of Ham's sons. The only grandson mentioned at all before these genealogy lists is in fact, Canaan. In the case of the above order, Cush is mentioned first, but then there is a reason for this, just as there was for mentioning Shem first. Shem was the first of the Messianic line. Cush was the father of Nimrod, who is first mentioned at this time as the mighty hunter, and the king of Babel, who became a very important person at an important event later on and from whom ultimately the antichrist will come. This could explain his being first in the list of Ham's sons. If Canaan were guilty of the sin with Noah, his name would have been mud, as they say, which may be why he was relegated to the last name mentioned. But that was earlier on in his life, and he seemed to be of no importance later on, as much as who his descendants were became important to Israel, so he is just listed last. As other than being one of the partriarchs, Arphaxad didn't do anything in particular to merit mention, nor did his brothers, there seems no particular order to their names.

Given now that we know that Canaan was most likely born immediately after if not before the end of the Flood, and most likely the perpetrator of the sin against Noah, and that his descendants would become depraved pagans, there is every reason to believe that he was not a young man who observed restrained behavior. It is then quite likely that by the time he was a teenager or in his early twenties at best, which would have been only that many years after the Flood as well, that he was sexually active and took a wife (either sister or cousin) and started a family. The objective was to repopulate the earth, after all, and he was probably eager to cooperate with that mandate. By thirty-seven years after the Flood, he could very well have had a daughter of the age of fifteen to seventeen years of age. By this time Arphaxad was thirty-five and was wanting a wife of his own. The number of females to go around for the males was probably not equal in number, so some had to wait to get a wife this early on. As the first generation might not have produced enough females for the males of that generation, someone would have to take a wife from the next generation. A girl of sixteen or so would have been considered old enough to start a family. It is quite possible that Arphaxad took as wife the daughter of Canaan. That would make Canaan the grandfather of Salah on his mother's side.

When one looks at the genealogies of Jesus, it can be seen that Matthew included several very important women in the list - Rahab the harlot, Ruth the Moabitess, and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah (although her name is not mentioned, we know it was her). On the other hand, Luke did not list any women. He could have, but he didn't. So when he listed that Salah which was the son of Canaan, which was the son of Arphaxad, and there was only one Canaan at that time, we can surmise that what was most likely being said was that Salah was the son of the daughter of Canaan and her husband, Arphaxad. This is the only reasonable way to reconcile this account, as Canaan, the son of Ham, was the only Canaan at that time. The only other way to deal with this is to say that Canaan and Arphaxad shared a wife so Salah considered both men his father. While it was common for a man to have multiple wives, nothing indicates that a woman ever had multiple husbands or that this was the situation. There are some who would like to make this work by saying it was a levirate marriage, but there are two problems with this interpretation. First, the laws of levirate marriage did not exist then, and secondly, Arphaxad and Canaan were cousins, not brothers.

The importance in even bringing Canaan up in Christ's lineage seems to be the fact that Abraham was promised the land of Canaan as an inheritance for his offspring forever. The reason that Abraham could make claim to this land is that it is rightfully his by lineage. Salah was the descendant of Canaan, but also the descendant of Shem. He was the only descendant of Canaan who was in the godly Messianic patriarchal line of Shem. So he brought both lines together, so that the descendants of Shem down through to Abraham were the legal heirs to the land of Canaan, as the pagan tribes were not heirs in God's eyes, due to their rejection of Him. And thus Israel is the rightful heir to the land of Canaan.

While it is true that this information is surmised, we have to look at exactly what we are told and try to make logical sense of it. This interpretation seems to do that.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Should Christians keep the Entire Law of Moses, the Ten Commandments, or Are We Stricly Under Grace? Pt.2

In the first part of this study, I focused on the various aspects of the Law and why they do not apply to us, due to the lifting of them in the New Testament. I also spent some time on why the Ten Commandments are still in effect and should still be observed. As the Hebrew Roots movement continues to move further and further into demanding that people observe the laws of the Torah for not just a righteous walk with God, but some say it is required for salvation, I felt the need to add even more to my article and so have created a part 2.

When God told Moses that He wanted to speak to the children of Israel, He said that He was going to give them a covenant. Ex. 19:5-6 “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” After God had spoken the Ten Commandments to the children of Israel, there was thunder and lightning, the noise of trumpets, the mountain was smoking, and they wanted Moses alone to be the one to have to hear anything else God had to say and then relay that information to them. Exodus 20:18-19 “And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” God then told Moses to speak to them all that He was about to say. Ex. 20:22a “And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel....” What followed were the covenant rules. It is not that the Ten Commandments were not a part of it, they were the central core of it, as they are the divine laws of God that tell us what our moral sins against God are, so are a part of any covenant with God, (Gen.26:5Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”) including the new covenant (God said He would write His law on our hearts (through the Holy Spirit)– Jer. 31:33 “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”), but they were apart from the specific law of Moses, for the simple reason that they are much bigger than that covenant. The Ten Commandments are universal for all people for all time. They are the moral laws which condemn us before God and show us why we need salvation. They show us our sins. The rest of the laws that Moses wrote down were specifically for Israel as a covenant with them alone. We will see that the covenant with Israel alone was written by Moses, and the part of the covenant that is eternal between God and man were written in stone here on earth, and also written down in heaven.
Getting back to the order of events, after he had spoken all these laws to the people, Moses wrote down these laws which he had spoken to them. Ex. 24:4 “And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel.” Ex. 24:7 “And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient.” To seal the covenant, Moses made a sacrifice. Ex. 24:5-8 “And he sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.”

Now to show that these were two different sets of laws, we see that Moses wrote down all that followed the Ten Commandments, and it was called the Book of the Covenant, but as we will see, God Himself wrote down the Ten Commandments on the tablets of stone, which were to be in the ark of the covenant or as it is actually referred to in Scripture, the ark of the testimony. The commandments were on tablets of stone. The rest of the laws were in a handwritten book which Moses wrote. After Moses had related all this from the Book of the Covenant to Israel, God called him up to the mountain top to give him the specifications for the temple and priests, and to give him the tablets upon which God Himself had written the testimony or Ten Commandments. Ex. 24:12 “And the LORD said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them.” Ex:31:18 “And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.” After that Moses returned to the people. Ex. 32:15-16 “And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.” When Moses came down and found the people sinning, he broke the tablets. Ex. 32:19 “And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.” God called him back up to the mount again so that He could give Moses His law again. Ex. 34:1 “And the LORD said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first: and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest.” Ex. 34:28 “And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.” (The part of the covenant that was God's Law, God wrote, and He specifies here that the only thing on these tablets was the Ten Commandments.) Deut. 10:1-4 “At that time the LORD said unto me, Hew thee two tables of stone like unto the first, and come up unto me into the mount, and make thee an ark of wood. And I will write on the tables the words that were in the first tables which thou brakest, and thou shalt put them in the ark. And I made an ark of shittim wood, and hewed two tables of stone like unto the first, and went up into the mount, having the two tables in mine hand. And he wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the ten commandments, which the LORD spake unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and the LORD gave them unto me.”

If there is any question that the Ten Commandments are the only thing on these tablets, these verses clearly answers that question, as it says that he wrote, “according to the first writing, the ten commandments.” And it is clear that they were to be put in the ark. Ex. 40:20 “And he took and put the testimony into the ark, and set the staves on the ark, and put the mercy seat above upon the ark:” Deut. 10:5 “And I turned myself and came down from the mount, and put the tables in the ark which I had made; and there they be, as the LORD commanded me.” The testimony on the tablets was sealed within the ark and then the mercy seat was placed upon it. When it came to the Book of the Law, or the Book of the Covenant that Moses wrote, it had a different place to be placed, for the Book of Moses or Covenant is not eternal in the same way as the Ten Commandments are. Deut. 31:24-26 “And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.” The word “side” is “tsad” in Hebrew and the phrase “in the side” would indicate “against the side of.” In other words, beside the ark, but not in the ark. In fact, the word “tsad” has another interesting meaning. It can figuratively mean “adversary.” This is a good description of the law for it was put there to be a witness against the people.

How is it that the Law of the Covenant is to be a witness against the people. We know how the Ten Commandments are, for they were given to show the entire world their sin against God. The Book of the Covenant was a witness against them for if they kept the Law, they would be blessed, but if they did not keep the Law of the Covenant (sometimes also called the handwriting of ordinances in Scripture) they would suffer the curses issued by Moses. Note that this has to do with blessings and curses upon the people and land. Nothing is said about this providing them with salvation. Unfortunately, they did not keep the law. The people had heard the law at the beginning of the forty year wilderness experience, but all the adults of that generation died before they could enter the land (as punishment). The younger generation now had to have the law read to them also before they entered the land, and they had to covenant with God themselves. And this covenant was not just for those who had come out of Egypt, and those standing there hearing it, but those who would be a part of Israel in the future.

Deut. 29:1, 9-29 “These are the words of the covenant, which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb. Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do. Ye stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the LORD thy God, and into his oath, which the LORD thy God maketh with thee this day: That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath; But with him that standeth here with us this day before the LORD our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day: (For ye know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which ye passed by; And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them:) Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood; And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven. And the LORD shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law: So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD hath laid upon it; And that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and burning, that it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath: Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger? Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them: And the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book: And the LORD rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day. The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” The Book of the Law (the covenant) had blessings and curses written in it. It was for the nation of Israel as Israel will always be a peculiar nation before God.

Now that the Law of Moses or the Book of the Covenant has been explained we need to examine the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are the testimony against all mankind. Once engraved in stone, they resided in the ark, which in Scripture is not the ark of the covenant. That name is a misdirection, as people think that means the covenant with Israel. Scripture never calls it the ark of the covenant, for it is not the ark of the Book of the Covenant. It is the ark of the testimony of the Ten Commandments for that is what it holds. It is always referred to as the ark of the testimony. Ex. 25:22 “And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.” Ex. 26:33, 34 “And thou shalt hang up the vail under the taches, that thou mayest bring in thither within the vail the ark of the testimony: and the vail shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy. And thou shalt put the mercy seat upon the ark of the testimony in the most holy place.” Ex. 30:6 “And thou shalt put it before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee.” Ex. 30:26 “And thou shalt anoint the tabernacle of the congregation therewith, and the ark of the testimony,” Ex. 31:7 “The tabernacle of the congregation, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is thereupon, and all the furniture of the tabernacle,” Ex. 39:35 “The ark of the testimony, and the staves thereof, and the mercy seat,” Ex. 40:3, 5, 21 “And thou shalt put therein the ark of the testimony, and cover the ark with the vail....And thou shalt set the altar of gold for the incense before the ark of the testimony, and put the hanging of the door to the tabernacle......And he brought the ark into the tabernacle, and set up the vail of the covering, and covered the ark of the testimony; as the LORD commanded Moses.” Joshua 4:16 “Command the priests that bear the ark of the testimony, that they come up out of Jordan.”

When Christ came, he established a new covenant. (testament means covenant). We would no longer be under the laws of the Book of the Covenant of Moses. 2 Cor. 3:14 “But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.” Heb. 9:15-20 “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Colossians 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” The first covenant was the Book of the Law which Moses wrote and read to the people. It was his handwriting of the ordinances mentioned in Colossians that was blotted out. Remember Moses didn't write the Ten Commandments. God engraved those on stone. They are not blotted out. It was a covenant between God and Israel that Moses wrote out by hand that was annulled. The new covenant would be with all men who believe, including those of Israel.

Matt. 26:28 “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Mark 14:24 “And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.” Luke 22:20 “Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” 1 Cor. 11:25 “After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.” 2 Cor. 3:6 “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” The old covenant brought condemnation. The new covenant brought life.

How do we know that Christ did not mean the Ten Commandments when He said He was creating a new testament or covenant? Because He told us that if we loved Him, we would keep His commandments. John 14:15 “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 15:10a “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love;” Some like to say that there were only two commandments that Jesus gave, love God and love your neighbor. That is not exactly what Jesus said. Matthew 22:36-40 “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Mark 12:28-31 “And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” Jesus did not say that there were no other commandments, He said that these two were the greatest, and that all the laws and prophets hung on them. The interesting thing is that these are not Jesus condensing the ten into two out of the blue. He was quoting the Old Testament which had already presented these two concepts. Deut. 6:5 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Leviticus 19:18 “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.”

Jesus was not doing away with the Ten Commandments or condensing them. He was quoting these verses to show that all of the law hung on the fact that the commandments did either one or the other. The first four commandments tell us what we need to do to show our love for God. We are to have no other Gods before Him. We are not to make any graven images or worship them. We are not to take His name in vain. We are to keep His Sabbath day holy. Those are what we have to do in order to love God with all our heart, our soul, and our mind or might. To break them is sin, for the definition of sin is lawlessness, or not doing the law of God. The last six commandments have to do with showing love to our neighbor. Our first “neighbor” is our parents. We are to honor them. We are not to kill anyone, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness, or covet their possessions. This is how we show love to our neighbor. It is not in words that we love, but in deed. In the New Testament verses can be found that tell us not to do these things, which in most people's eyes means that they should observe them, even if they will not admit that they are keeping the Ten Commandments. The one they object to and say was not reiterated is the one about the Sabbath. I had a link to my article on the Sabbath in part 1, but if it wasn't read, here it is again.

Jesus Himself said that when the abomination of desolation occurred, people should worry that they would not have to run on the Sabbath. Since Jesus was speaking to believers in Him (Christians) at the end of time, and He expected them to be observing the Sabbath, I believe that is reason enough to consider that we should still be observing the Sabbath for in Christ there is no Jew or Gentile so it does not apply only to the Jews. The Sabbath has been holy to God since creation. It is one of the Ten Commandments and is still in effect.

We also know that the Ten Commandments are eternal because they are in heaven in the ark of the testimony that resides in the heavenly tabernacle. Rev.11:19 “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.” Rev. 15:5 “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.”

Lastly, Jesus gave us a couple parables that indicate that the laws in the Book of the Covenant had to pass away so that the new covenant could come to pass.

Matthew 9:10-17 “And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast. No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.”

The Pharisees were upset that Jesus and His disciples were not observing the law the way they thought they should. Jesus was eating with the publicans and sinners. His disciples were not fasting. Jesus told them that He didn't come to help those who were righteous, that He came to call sinners to repentance. To do that, He had to break with tradition and go to where the sinners were. This was a radical idea. And as far as His disciples were concerned, there was no need for them to fast and afflict themselves with mourning, for He (the bridegroom) was with them now, so they should celebrate what He was teaching and giving to them. When He left (when He was crucified and ascended) there would be plenty about which they would mourn and fast. Then He went on to give two parables that showed that He did not come to fix up the old covenant to include what He was teaching. For His teachings to be put into practice, the old covenant had to go by the wayside, for what He taught was mercy, not law. It was love, not judgment. It was forgiveness, not vengeance. The law was full of legalities that gave justice, but it did not have room for mercy. Jesus was going to radically change the way people interacted with God and each other. To do that, the old law had to give way. It was nailed to the cross as it says in Colossians. The new cloth (new covenant) could not be put on the old garment (old covenant), for the tear would be worse than ever when it was washed. The old wineskin would burst if new wine was put in it, for it could not hold all that the new wine was. That is what these parables were about. So for those who insist upon having to go back to the Torah, that is not what Jesus taught. Choosing to keep some of the old laws, such as kosher, as just a personal choice is fine as long as it does not get in the way of the new covenant ways. Love should always come before the old law. To insist that the old law is a better way is wrong, for the new covenant cannot be contained in the old one.

So in the end, we are to keep the commandments if we love Jesus, but we are not obliged to keep the law, with the exception of things that were reiterated in the New Testament. Most of these were moral laws which were actually just more detailed behaviors of the Ten Commandments. There are some things that do fall under that category. Homosexuality is still a sin. Remarriage is now wrong after divorce except for one condition. We are not to eat blood or things strangled. There are many more. One needs to read the New Testament to see what God still does or does not require. It is up to the individual to be in their Bible learning what those things are.