|"Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: 39 And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38).
|"To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:19).
|"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" (1 John 1:7).
|"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
|"I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake" (1 John 1:12).
|"And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Col. 2:13).
|"Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (Heb. 9:12).
|"For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9:26).
|"So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation" (Heb. 9:28).
|"By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10).
|"But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God" (Heb. 10:12).
|"For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14).
The death Christ died was and is sufficient to eliminate all of our sin debt. Such great theological words as justification, propitiation, and redemption all speak of this glorious truth. God has declared us righteous and has imputed to us the righteousness of Christ. God's wrath against us has been placated. The debt of sin we owed has been paid in full and cancelled. All of this is the substance of Romans 3:21-26.
|"But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3:21-26).
The reason why many do not enjoy the power of Christ's sacrifice is they do not understand what God did for them by means of Christ's death. The benefits placed on those who believe are marvelous.
|They are the forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31; 13:38; 26:18; Romans 4:7; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:22; 1 John 1:9; 2:12), our cleansing from sin (Eph. 5:26; Heb. 9:14; 10:22; 1 John 1:7,9), our healing (1 Peter 2:24), our salvation (1 Cor. 1:18), our life (John 6:51-56; 12:24); 1 Thess. 5:10), our justification (Romans 5:9; 8:33), and our sanctification (Heb. 13:12).1
The effectiveness of the sacrifice is diminished when we believe God is still dealing with our sin issue. If we have to answer for any sin, in any way, then we must answer for all sin.
Often it is said God punishes us when we do wrong, even as we would punish our own child if he did wrong. Yet, think about it. If our child did wrong and was punished for it, why would we punish him again for that which he was already punished? The only reason would be if we somehow felt the initial punish was not enough nor sufficient.
Let us assume your teenager bullied a teammate at football practice. The coach reprimanded him. When you child came home, you took away his driving privileges and cellphone. Why? Because the reprimand received at school was not enough. Now let us say the coach suspended him from the championship football game. Would you then add additional punishment on him when he came home? I think not (or at least hope not). Why? Because the punishment was sufficient.
Let us follow that thought through. If God punishes us for our disobedience after Calvary, is it not somehow being suggested that the initial punishment was not enough nor sufficient? Our own legal system has a procedure called "double jeopardy."
|Double jeopardy is a procedural defense that forbids a defendant from being tried again on the same (or similar) charges following a legitimate acquittal or conviction.2
If we could not pay for the penalty against sin initially, why would God now demanding payment for subsequent sin?
What happens to our sin committed on a daily basis? The effectual nature of His work begun at Calvary continues to this day. God's work of forgiveness in time continues unimpeded. Emphasis is placed on in time because from His vantage point we are as forgiven now as we will ever be. This is the genius of John 13 as well as 1 John 2:1, 2. Christ, unconditionally and unsolicited, continues His work of forgiveness. Without such a work on His part in our behalf, we could never enjoy what He has secured. Jesus Christ is our advocate.
This is what makes 1 John 1:7 and 9 so powerful. Because God is completing the work He has begun (Rom. 8:29, 30; Phil. 1:6; 2:12, 13; 1 Thess. 5:23, 24; Heb. 12:2) perseverance is both inevitable and certain for those who are His. Again, remember that inevitable and certain does not mean automatic or without means.
|"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:29, 30).
|"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6).
|"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12, 13).
|"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it" (1 Thess. 5:23, 24).
|"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" (Heb. 12:2).
Our Lord Jesus intercedes for us unconditionally. We do not believe we have to ask for His forgiveness based on 1 John 2:1, 2. Unfortunately, some have misunderstood this to mean believers do not confess sin. In the life of the believer there is legitimate remorse and an emotional response of hatred toward committed sin. This does not change the theological fact of our full forgiveness or the unconditional and unsolicited advocacy of Christ on our behalf. We believe the advocacy of Christ is unconditionally activated every time we sin. If the only sin forgiven is the sin we confess, then we are in a state of constant rebellion against God. To think we have to confess our sin in order to be forgiven puts too much stock in human ability. We are incapable of bringing anything to the plate. God must do it all; God does it all. Again, our minds have been so conditioned that to say we do not have to ask for forgiveness is tantamount to saying you can sin with impunity. Yet not to ask for forgiveness does not mean we do not have to be forgiven. God forgives without us having to ask. If God's ministry of forgiveness stopped in the believer's life, he would be without hope. Not to confess sin is like saying believers do not have to walk in obedience. Neither one is possible.
First John 1:9 says all believers confess their sin because it is what all believers do. The same is true with reference to verse seven. Verse seven is in the same grammatical structure as verse nine. We would no more say walking in the light results in the purifying of sin as we should say confession results in forgiveness. Why do we walk in the light and why do we confess our sin? Because we have been cleansed and we have been forgiven. (See Chapter 10 on Confession and 1 John 1:9)
The confession of sin is no different from good works or fruit bearing. The confession of sin is simply the outworking of the Spirit's ministry in our life. It is interesting to see how some hold to the idea that verse nine is referring to the initial act of repentance and belief for the unsaved (i.e. 1599 Geneva Bible, John Gill, Bob George, and Craig Massey).
II. How does the Father currently see His children?
When God sees us, how does He see us? Does He see us in His Son? Does God even see our sin?
This question is intriguing. We do believe our identity is established in positional truth. God sees us as an individual with personality. However, our standing before Him is always based on the merit of Christ. This appears to be the message of Romans 6:3-4, Galatians 2:20, and Colossians 3:1-4.
|"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:3, 4).
|"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).
|"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col. 3:1-4).
When 1 John 4 speaks of "perfect love," he says we have within us His perfect love and as a result of this perfect love, fear of torment is removed. Why is this so? "Because as He is, so are we in this world."
|"Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us" (1 John 4:17-19).
God sees us just as He sees His Son. Why do we struggle with such a concept? Oh, what joy to embrace such truth; God the Father says of His children, "These are my beloved sons in whom I am well pleased." How can such a thing be true? Because they are standing on the merit of His only begotten Son. We live in a world of constant fear. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being unwanted, unloved, and unaccepted. We fear the pain of missing the mark, of not measuring up, and of being different. We fear the failure of failed expectations and desires. Such fear has no place in our relationship with God. Such fear is fueled by a theology that believes our standing before the Father is based on our ability to persevere. Such thinking is man-centered and denies the power of the cross to both justify and sanctify. The only merit we have before the Father has been secured for us by His Son. This is the doctrine of grace. This is the Christ life.
III. What about the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and divine chastening?
Many people treating the area of sanctification draw a distinction in God's dealings with His children in this way. Their reasoning is as follows. The believer will never face God as a condemnatory judge but he will face Him as a disappointed Father. Such thinking says a sinning believer will never be brought into God's courtroom, but because of his sin, he will not be allowed into the "living room" of God for fellowship. Is there a legitimate dichotomy between God treating me differently positionally than He does paternally?
Does our sin in any way affect God's dealings with us and His opinion of us? The idea of convicting is to reprove or convince of wrongdoing. It is used of the unbeliever in several passages (Luke 3:19; John 3:20; 8:9; 16:8; 1 Cor. 14:24; Eph. 5:11, 13; Titus 1:9) and of the believer (Matt. 18:15; 1 Tim. 5:20; 2 Tim. 4:20; Titus 1:13; 2:15; Heb. 12:5; Rev. 3:19). Jesus Himself, however, was never convicted of wrongdoing (John 8:46). In the life of the Christian the Holy Spirit reveals to them attitudes and activities of the "flesh" and works in them and through them to put it off. This is one of His ongoing ministries in the life of the Christian. When we sin God's Spirit convicts us of our sin, but we do not have the "feeling" of guilt that accompanies it as it would in the life of the unsaved. The guilt aspect of sin was taken care of in the atonement. The convicting work of the Holy Spirit is through Scriptural application and providential consequences.
IV. What about the providential judgment of God against all sin?
Calvary removed for us the divine penalty against sin. This does not mean that Calvary removed for us the providential penalty against sin. Providential simply means the natural outworking of events without direct or immediate suspending of natural laws. If we were a a drunk, or promiscuous, or a cheat, or a compulsive liar, or slothful prior to salvation and received Christ and are now delivered from the bondage of these things, this does not mean we will not face the consequences of those things - bad health, lost friends, legal troubles, etc. However, the judgment against those things will be providential and not divine. God will not "punish" us for our past transgressions.
Does God see our sin? God sees all sin and all sin grieves Him whether in the life of the believer or unbeliever. Nevertheless, such sin as it is found in the believer is never taken into account by the Father (Rom. 4:6-8). He never imputes to them its penalty or power.
|"Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin" (Rom. 4:6-8).
God the Father never reckons or "brings up" the sin of His children. He did it once and it "cost" Him His Son. He will never do it again.
Sin's inherent demerit is death. God has established providential laws concerning the judgment against sin.
Sin in the life of a believer is a failure to believe that God alone is enough. It is still there and nothing we do can make it less than what it is. Sin in the life of the believer fails to appropriate what is already theirs in Christ. Sin is our failure to grab, not God's failure to give. God has already provided all things in grace. Sin fails to appropriate all things because of greed. One's obedience no more merits blessing as one's disobedience merits judgment. Our standing in Christ merits the blessing and sin's inherent demerit brings the judgment. Neither one is capable of affecting God's "opinion" of us. Unfortunately, such truth appears startling; yet how tragic to continue living in a spiritual state of bondage.
Jerry Bridges gives teh following personal testimony:
|And I have come to the place where I acknowledge, almost reluctantly sometimes, that all hardship is God's discipline, either corrective or remedial. The rub comes in submitting to it.3
Thus, regardless as to whom we are, saved or unsaved, if we sin, there are providential consequences to that sin. Is there a divine judgment against sin? Absolutely, for the believer it took place at Calvary in full. For the unbeliever, there awaits a fearful sentence against sin at the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11).
Perhaps you are sitting back going, "whoa, slow down, doesn't this kick open the door to sin? If there is no divine judgment against sin in this life in my life, then why do right?" Paul's answer is still our answer; "shall we sin that grace might abound? God Forbid!" (Rom. 6:1, 2)
V. How does grace view sin?
If God is not judging any of our sins, then can we sin without restraint? Paul anticipates such a charge in Romans 6:1, 2, and 15.
|"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? . . .What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid" (Rom. 6:1, 2, 15).
Romans 6:1-23 gives the triumph of grace over the power of sin. Verse 1-14 shows the freedom from sin's tyranny (it is no longer my master) and verses 15-23 give the freedom from sin's slavery (it is no longer my motivation). Some feel grace is a license to sin. Verse one asks, "Should we sin that grace might abound?" Here the question in verse 15 is, "Can we sin since graces abounds?" Paul's response to each is emphatic. Freedom from sin is not a freedom to sin.
|If one claims to be 'under grace' and yet lives as a slave to sin, then the claim is nullified by one's conduct. Those who live under grace show that they are under grace because they have a new master (God) and are liberated from their old master (sin). Paul refuses to accept any abstract understanding of grace separated from concrete daily living. Grace does not merely involve the forgiveness of sins. It also involves power in which the mastery and dominion of sin are broken.4
Paul answers this charge rather strongly in Romans 6:1-8. If any one believes God is most glorified when they sin and thus the expansion of His glory liberates them to sin, then the damnation of such is just. Anyone who thinks grace is a license to sin is theologically amuck.
Titus 2:11, 12 show the instructional aspect to the grace of God.
|"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world" (Titus 2:11, 12).
When one begins to comprehend the magnitude of God's grace toward him, it can only result in love. In addition, love always overflows into obedience (John 14:15, 21).
VI. What about the chastening of the Lord?
How do we handle the chastening passages like Hebrews 12, Acts 5, 1 Corinthians 11, and 1 John 5?
Traditional thought suggests that a believer can sin so grievously against the Lord and his fellow man that his heavenly Father will take him home prematurely. Hence, the sin is so indefensible that God is compelled to terminate life. Perhaps the key passage suggesting such a though is 1 John 5:14-17.
|"And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. 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 sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death" (1 John 5:14-17).
It is here we find the phrase a "sin that leads to death." To illustrate this idea some would turn to such passages as Acts 5:3 with Ananias and Sapphira and 1 Timothy 1:20 with Hymeneaus and Alexander. Yet, does this do justice to the larger theological picture found within the New Testament? And if this traditional thought is true, then what are the ramifications flowing from it?
1 JOHN 5:14-17
Let us begin with 1 John 5:16-18. In order to understand the verses under consideration we need to examine them in context. The paragraph containing these verses begins with verse thirteen and runs to the end of the chapter (v.21). Some would end the paragraph with seventeen, but that will have little bearing on its meaning. It is sad because of the theological error that has been promoted due to a mishandling of the text. It is sobering because of the propensity of proof-texting that takes place among Christians in the handling of the biblical text. It is also, in a way, amusing because the answer to the dilemma is actually quite simply. If the issue is looked at in context, then the answer will be immediately forthcoming.
|This section forms the conclusion and epilogue to the entire letter. It is composed of two subsections, the first composed of 5:13, the conclusion (which is also a transitional statement from the body of the letter) and the second composed of 5:14-21, the epilogue. The epilogue in turn consists of two subsections, 5:14-17 and 5:18-21, to which v. 21 forms a conclusion and final warning. In the conclusion the author tells his readers why he has written the letter (5:13). He is writing to assure and strengthen them in their christology (5:9-12) because this is what is threatened by the false teaching of the opponents, and as far as the author is concerned, only a faith that is based on a correct christology results in life. The correct christology is the one espoused by the author and his fellow apostolic eyewitnesses (1 John 1:1-4), with its emphasis on the salvific significance of the earthly life and ministry of Jesus, including his sacrificial death on the cross. Thus it seems best to conclude that when the author gives his readers a final warning to avoid idolatry, he is warning them once more to avoid the secessionist opponents with their heretical and dangerous false teaching, as he has done in 2:15, 2:27, and 4:1. This is also consistent with the author's admonition in 2 John 10 not to greet the opponents nor offer them any hospitality.5
John's intent is for his audience to "know" (oida) they have eternal life (v.13). One way they can "know" (oida [v.15]) they have eternal life is through answered prayer; verses fourteen and fifteen use "if" (ean) with a subjunctive. Such a structure leaves one with a certain level of contingency. If the petition we ask is in accordance with His will, then He will answer. There is certainty involved. First, we must be true believers. Second, we must ask. Third, it must be in accordance with His will.
It would appear John is giving his audience a statement about prayer, not about a sin leading to death. The sin leading to death is a simple illustration of what kind of prayer God does not answer. He will not answer a prayer prayed for those who have sinned a sin that leads to death. It would appear John's audience was aware of such a sin. Fortunately, we do not. The issue of what sin John is referring to is irrelevant. The application for us is not found in verses sixteen through eighteen, but rather thirteen through fifteen. God answers the prayer of His children prayed in accordance to His will.
If we were to dissect the three verses, we would make these observations.
We have created a whole "theology of judgment" from the New Testament. We need to work systematically through various New Testament passages to determine what exactly is meant and how it applies to us as Christians. A good place to begin is with Mark 3:20.
During the days of our Lord there was a sin so insolent in nature it was identified as being both unforgivable and eternal (Mark 3:20-30).
The phrase in v.29 literally reads "never have forgiveness in the age/eternal, but (alla) is guilty of eternal judgment." There is no middle ground in this passage. The sin damned eternally. There was no ground for repentance. It was as if it were signed, sealed, and delivered.
In light of Mark 3:20, we must ask ourselves, "What sin was so egregious that no forgiveness would be granted?" Verse 29 tells us: "Those who speak evil against the Holy Spirit." This still does not answer the question, but it does narrow down the transgression. Many suggest the idea in Mark 3 is that our Lord's work was being attributed to the devil. Because of the continued tension throughout the Gospels as to the audience's reception of Jesus, those who reject Him are those who commit the "unpardonable sin."
Might we suggest this is the sin (Mark 3:28, 29) committed by Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5? Why? Because the sin committed was against the Holy Spirit. If a sin against the Holy Spirit is unpardonable, then what exactly is this sin? If it is attributing the works of God to the devil, then the sin is very narrow. If it is more than that, then we do not know. And if it is more than that, it is conceivably possible we could commit the sin and not even know we have until it's too late. Such an event as described in Acts 5 is extraordinary and not normative.
Personally I believe if the unpardonable sin is still capable of being committed, then it is a sin only the unbeliever could commit.
1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:19, 20
The key is found in the phrase "may be saved" (1 Cor. 5:5). The verb is in the subjunctive mood. The subjunctive mood is the mood of possibility and potentiality. The action described may or may not occur, depending upon circumstances.
In both cases, it is believed we are dealing with unsaved people. This appears possible from 1 Corinthians 5:11 (so-called brother). This is also in keeping with Matthew 18:15-20. Apparently, both the incestuous man of 1 Corinthians 5, and Hymenaeus and Alexander of 1 Timothy 1 had not committed either the unpardonable sin or the sin that leads to death. How can such a conclusion be made?
Thus, we do not believe 1 Corinthians 5 and 1 Timothy 1 are in parallel to 1 John 5.
1 Corinthians 11:30
Of all the passages throughout the New Testament, the way in which they have traditionally been used can be explained by looking at the verse in the immediate and larger context. There is only one passage I find formidable concerning the area under discussion and it is 1 Corinthians 11:23-32.
Tackling the difficult passage . . . 1 Corinthians 11:23-34
What about 1 Corinthians 11:30 where some have died because they partook of the Lord's Supper with sin in their life? What about 1 Corinthians 11:32? "When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world." We offer the following observations.
We are not convinced we practice the Lord's Table in the same way as described in this passage. The historical context has the Lord's Table preceded by a meal taken in common. The abuse was in the meal preceding the celebration of the Lord's Table (vv.20-22, 33, 34). Thus, the problem as existing in the first century church was two-fold:
|(1) They have quarrels in the worship assembly, and (2) they have not made proper provision for the poor to join in the meal on an equal basis with the well-to-do.6
It is because of this abuse Paul says, "Do not eat the Lord's Supper" (v.20). By seeking to perform the Lord's Table with body division is not to perform the Lord's Table at all. It is an action without any significance.
By their lack of love for the body of Christ, they were celebrating the Lord's Table in an illegitimate way. The table speaks of body unity. We are one because of the cross work of Jesus Christ. To come with bitterness and division toward the body is to desecrate the Lord's cross work.
What we individualize and isolate, Paul speaks of corporately, collectively, and communally. We have so individualized the text of Scripture that we have lost all sense of community. The Lord's Table speaks of body unity, of family. Not that those who suffered or were removed were necessarily the actual delinquents, suffering because of their own misdeeds. The chastisement was inflicted upon the whole company. The guilt of actual offenders affects an assembly as a whole. It is to the whole gathering that the Lord here speaks.7
We lean toward the idea of the circumstances being in a period of a dispensational transition (Chapters within the Story are changing; pages are being turned). The idea that God is striking people dead for harboring sin in their hearts is overbearing. It is not repugnant, but difficult to interpret. This does not make it wrong. The same is seen with Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. If God is striking people dead who partake of the Table in an unworthy fashion, then why is "regarding iniquity in my heart" (Ps. 66:18) not on the same level? What is the theological distinction in categorizing sins? What constitutes a "sin leading to death" (1 John 5:16-17)? In fact, if one does commit the sin that leads to death, we are told not to pray for them. The question still begging to be answered is this, "Is God striking people dead for taking the Lord's Table with sin in their heart?" If so, who are these people? Is it even identifiable? The pattern of God striking His "people" down for sin is throughout the Old Testament [consider the book of Numbers or Judges]. However, is this a New Covenant pattern?
The Table is a celebration of God's work on the cross in our behalf for our sin. The Table says, "We can't, but God can." The Table is a celebration of what God did for sinners! Not perfected saints. We come to the Table because we are not worthy. We come because He alone is worthy. Can we imagine if the Table was only for those who somehow were meeting all of God's righteous demands? No one would be able to come.
If the issue is one of present sin, then who is worthy to partake of the Table? To believe we can partake only if we have everything "right with the Lord" is to be blinded about the extent of sin in our own life and our ability to live the Christian life. If such is the case, then one will have to create a "Four step process" whereby all the bases are covered and the individual is safe from divine judgment.
|Of course in ourselves we are altogether unworthy, but we have found acceptance in the worthy One, and in Christ every believer is worthy to approach the Table of the Lord. If I truly feel my sinfulness, confess it, and put my trust in the Savior of sinners, then in Him I find my worthiness.8
The examination of verse twenty-eight can be viewed as determining whether one is in the faith instead of the one who is harboring un-confessed sin (2 Cor. 13:5-7). This is truly a violation of the Lord's Table - to partake when one is lost. Yet does this not happen every time it is celebrated?
As a fellowship, we practice an open Communion Service. We recognize that not everyone coming to the table will be a believer (Matt. 26:21-29 ["Judas"]). If you are a believer, we invite you to participate in our Communion Service. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, we invite you to observe the body of Christ as His body celebrates His Table as a loving and gracious family.
We want unbelievers to hear the gospel that is in the Communion Service (1 Cor. 11:26). The broken body and the shed blood are so that the charges brought against the unbeliever by his sins are addressed and dropped. Moreover, the only way this could happen is through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Again, we practice an open communion. This means you need not be a member or regular attendee of this church to participate. If you know Jesus Christ as your Savior, then we invite you to participate with us at the Table.
However, a different interpretation of how to approach the communion table is common within the church today:
|Before taking part in such a service it is important to conduct a rigorous self-examination (cf. 2 Cor 13:5f), so that we avoid communicating unworthily (v.27).9
|Before we partake we are to give ourselves a thorough self-examination, looking honestly at our hearts for anything that should not be there and sifting out all evil. Our motives, our attitudes toward the Lord and His Word, toward His people, and toward the Communion service itself should all come under private scrutiny before the Lord.10
|To partake while in an unspiritual state or while indulging in sin in the private life, or while entertaining bitterness of spirit against a fellow-believer instead of living in brother love, is to partake 'unworthily.'11
The word "unworthily" means "irreverently."
|The word anazios, unworthily, has been explained in a host of ways: with a bad conscience, and without repentance (Theodoret, Olshausen); with contempt of the poor (Chrysostom, Billroth); without faith in the words: given for you (Luther); without self-examination (Bengel), etc. etc.12
|Unworthily, refers to manner or behavior.13
Unworthy conveys the idea of unacceptable. Irreverent conveys the idea of treating it casually or of having disrespect, of not honoring its importance. This understanding brings a different slant than what we are accustomed. Traditional thought explains it as such: We think that if we are harboring sin in our life or have sin in our heart that we are not worthy to partake of the Lord's Table. But this would demand sinless perfection or the complete eradication of the old man, both of which are impossible at this time. The Table is for sinners such as you and me. The Table tells us we are forgiven and now have full access before our heavenly Father. We will never be worthy in and of ourselves. Our worth is an imputed worth unmerited and grace given. Such righteousness now makes us worthy to partake and remember the atonement and grace.
The issue is not whether or not we have sin in our life. The issue is how we view our Lord's death. Are we clinging to Calvary, are we praising His name for a more than abundant grace, are we standing in His Son? This is the issue.
To be judged by the Lord is to accept His evaluation of ourselves. He judges us as sinners in need of the Savior. The Table communicates this message loud and clear. We judge ourselves as having embraced His evaluation of us. Not to except this judgment is to be condemned with the world (v.32).
God judges us when we face the natural consequences of our sinful choices. We can avoid the judgment of God when through exposure to His Word the Spirit of God makes the necessary application and acts on me in such a way that we put off the deeds of the flesh. It is also through the Word we learn what is right and can perhaps avoid completely the judgment against ingrained sinful actions.
Alfred Martin provides an insightful thought.
|Distinction must be made between being unworthy and doing something unworthily or in an unworthy manner. We are all unworthy in the sense of undeserving of God's mercies. Grace, as we have seen, is essentially undeserved, unearned, and unrecompensed. If one were to wait to partake until he were worthy, he would never partake.14
|Needless to say, we must be extremely cautious about passing judgment on the reasons for the death of believers and professed believers. The seemingly premature death of a believer may have no relationship to the observance of the Lord's Supper. That is something completely in God's control.15
He then speaks of three judgments: (1) self-judgment (1 John 1:9), (2) divine chastening (1 John 5:16), and (3) God's condemnation of the world (1 Cor. 11:29, 32). Concerning divine chastening he adds this qualifier:
|As to this, while it is true that if an unbeliever partakes he certainly does so unworthily, yet the warning here has to do with the spiritual condition of the believer.16
If the judgment attached to the Lord's Table is "weak, sick, and some sleep [die]," then what do we do with the unbelieving who partake of it on a weekly basis? Is the judgment only attached to the people of God when partaken with a spirit of division?
Consider the thoughts of the following paragraph. What is the conclusion you would come to after reading it?
|It was a warning judgment, specially inflicted by God, such as He sends to awaken a man to salvation. The believer ought constantly to judge himself; such is the normal state. If he fails in this task, God reminds him of it by judging him by some chastisement which He sends on him, he is judged; and if he does not profit by this means, nothing remains for him but to suffer in common with the world the final judgment from which God sought to preserve him, to be condemned. The world denotes unconverted and lost humanity.17
The issue of God judging His people in verses 30 and 32 is difficult. Is the judgment miraculous or natural? Could the judgment be the inherent demerit due to the sins of factions and divisions? Consider the psychological problems of living in a factious, stress-filled family and the manifestation of those issues in physical ailments. Perhaps this is the judgment being addressed in verses 30 and 32.
|There are eternal consequences for sin. Receiving a free ticket to a sports event guarantees one entrance to the stadium, but it does not guarantee one a front row seat. Similarly, receiving the free gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ guarantees a person entrance into God's eternal kingdom, but in no way guarantees one an exalted position in that kingdom! Our "position" in heaven and the rewards associated with that position are totally dependent upon the holy life and godly works which we manifest in this life time (1 Cor. 3:11-17; 9:24-27; 2 Cor. 5:10-11). While the pleasures of sin in this life may at times appear more important than some distant hope of future rewards in heaven, scripture teaches that those who barter away their 'inheritance' (their future rewards in heaven) for the pleasures of sin will one day weep uncontrollably when they see the unspeakable rewards which they forfeited when they pursued their own sinful pleasures in this lifetime. (Hebrews 12:14-17, Luke 19:11-27, Matthew 25:14-30)18
Why does God not strike these people dead? Where is the divine chastening in their life?
It should also be maintained there is more to the text than we know. If what we have said is not true and we are capable of committing this "sin" today, then the Lord's Table is not necessarily a celebration, but a fearful self-examination. If what is stated is for today, then why are people not falling over dead?
It was said of one church that they had not celebrate the Lord's Supper for at least two years because the pastor felt there was sin in the church family.
Consider the upper room scene with Peter and the ten. Why did they not fall over dead? How many people honestly believe their heart is sinless because of something they did (i.e., confession)?
What does the Table represent?
The Table represents the cross work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
|"I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me" (John 17:23).
|"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26-28).
|"by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace" (Eph. 2:15).
|"being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. . . until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ" (Eph. 4:3, 13).
|"Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity" (Col. 3:14).
When we come as a fellowship to the Table with open division and a spirit of not loving the brethren, we are something other than Christian.
|"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).
|"Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law" (Rom. 13:8).
|"For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another" (Gal. 5:13).
|"with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love" (Eph. 4:2).
|"and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you" (1 Thess. 3:12).
|"Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another" (1 Thess. 4:9).
|"We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater" (2 Thess. 1:3).
|"Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart" (1 Pet. 1:22).
|"Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Pet. 4:8).
|"For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another" (1 John 3:11).
|"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God" (1 John 4:7).
When we partake of the Lord's Table let us review why we meet as Christians, and then let us celebrate the sufficiency and supremacy of His cross work.
This always raises the question as it relates to Hebrews 12:5, 6. If God always sees us in His Son and will never bring our sin into account, then how do we answer the issue of chastening in the life of the believer?
Consider this truth in light of Hebrews 9:23-10:4. There are several points to consider.
What is the larger context of Hebrews 12? Notice what the following authors say about the context of this passage.
|The writer to the Hebrews sets out still another reason why men should cheerfully bear affliction when it comes to them. He has urged them to bear it because the great saints of the past have borne it. He has urged them to bear it because anything they may have to bear is a little thing compared with what Jesus Christ had to bear. Now he says that they must bear hardship because it is sent as a discipline from God . . . 19
|So, then, the writer insists that we must look on all the hardships of life as the discipline of God and as sent to work, not for our harm but for our ultimate and highest good20
|The main purpose which the sacred writer has here in view is to reconcile the minds of his readers to the sufferings entailed by their Christian profession, that is, the cross in the proper sense of the word. But all sufferings imposed by God upon His children, whether for discipline, trial of faith, or witness for the truth, have this one feature in common, that they are all proofs of divine love, not signs of anger. The Christian in every trial sees a proof of the Father's loving care for his good.21
|The classic treatment of chastisement is found in this portion of Scripture. Chastisement, therefore, involves discipline and correction of the child of God through directive punishment and suffering. It is altogether different from the penal retribution of the unsaved.22
|The point of the statement (12:1) is that the experience of these Old Testament saints testifies to us of the importance of persistent faith (257). The second incentive to encourage faithful persistence in suffering is a reminder of the experience of Jesus (258). The explanation of suffering (12:4-11 ). He is not suggesting that God is responsible for the evil which wicked men bring upon believers. He is, however, saying that God has incorporated even these circumstances as instruments to accomplish His will. In times of affliction caused by opponents to their faith, God's people are to realize that persecution is actually overruled by God and used for the training of believers. It is all too common to conclude that sufferings are always sent by God as punishment for sin. It must be remembered that Christ, God's unique Son, learned through His suffering (2:10), and believers should adopt His mind on this matter (261). When believers are confronted with the prospect of enduring hardships, they must understand that it is not as punishment coming from God's wrath, but is a part of the heavenly Father's program of educating His sons (262).23
|God's children may go through excruciatingly painful experiences. God has not promised to save His children from the fiery furnace, but He has promised to be with them in their time of need. The chastisement is hard to endure, but God will give the grace of endurance. The believer knows that God knows what He is doing.24
|Two thoughts are suggested by the consideration of Christ's sufferings (3). The sufferings of the Hebrews were relatively light (4); and all sufferings which come from God are the wise discipline of a Father (5, 6 [p 396]). Sufferings are tempered by the providence of God, and they are a sign of sonship. (399)25
|(vv.4-13) This casts a new and a wonderful light on all the persecutions and the hardships the readers are to endure perseveringly, for these inflictions are plain evidence of the sonship of the readers: only a father who is deeply concerned for his sons chastises them. (431, 432). (verse 6) Chastisement in its severest form is thus strong evidence of one's sonship. This casts the clearest light on all persecution that God lets us bear in this life for Christ's sake. It does correct us, drive out the sin that is still in us, but only in order that we may be more truly the sons that God would have us to be (434).26
|The persecutions which we endure for the Gospel's sake, are on another account useful to us, even because they are remedies to destroy sin; for in this way God keeps us under the yoke of his discipline, lest our flesh should become wanton; . . . 27
|Suffering comes to all; it is part of life, but it is not easy to bear. Yet it is not quite so bad when it can be seen as meaningful. For Christians all suffering is transformed because of the Cross. The writer points to the importance of discipline and proceeds to show that for Christians suffering is rightly understood only when seen as God's fatherly discipline, correcting, and directing us. Suffering is evidence, not that God does not love us, but that he does.28
In light of the preceding statements, how can we rightly conclude Hebrews 12 as punitive for sin?
A Suggested Overview
|10:23||Let us hold fast|
|10:32ff||Remember you endured a great conflict of suffering being made a public spectacle|
|11:36||Others experienced mockings, scourgings, chains, and imprisonment|
|12:1||Therefore (in light of what has preceded) run the race. Do not give up in the face of persecution. In the midst of our affliction for righteousness' sake, let us "put off" the old man...|
|12:2||Fix your eyes on Jesus. Jesus is the perfect example of one who suffered at the hands of sinners, who did nothing wrong.|
|12:3||"So that you will not grow weary and lose heart (This echoes back to 10:23ff).|
|12:4||In your stance for righteousness and against sin, you have not yet been harmed.|
|12:5ff||Here begins the exhortation. Why the exhortation? I believe the intent of 12:5ff, is to let the people of God know that what they are currently enduring is coming from the hands of a loving Father.|
|12:12||Therefore, be encouraged
Hebrews 12 has always been looked to as a pivotal passage to "prove" God will chasten His people for their sins. Yet, in light of all that is found in the doctrines of justification, imputation, etc. and the exchanged life, how can this be? By looking at the larger context of chapter 11 and 12:1-4 it will be seen that the discipline being referred to is the hardship one will naturally incur by living a godly life in this world (John 16:33; 2 Tim. 3:12; Acts 14:22). All of the hardships we encounter are providential in nature. Why providential versus miraculous? Miraculous means natural laws are suspended. For example, if we were to jump off of a building only to float in the air that would be a miracle. The natural law of gravity was suspended thus allowing us to float.
Are the various trials encountered by the Christian providentially or supernaturally launched? There are various passages such as James 1:2, 1 Peter 1:6-8 and Acts 5:41 that speak of the believer encountering hardship. They are all providential. By saying providential, we do not mean random, arbitrary, or pointless. Because of God's sovereignty, we believe every act is divinely controlled. We believe this is why James can tell us to rejoice in the midst of hardship (James 1:2; Acts 5:41). Does God bring trials into our life? Absolutely! Why? In order that our faith is purified and Christ is seen. The hardships He sends are not penal or punitive, but rather the purging of dross.
What about those passages seeming to address the Lord's discipline of His children? Perhaps we are looking at the Lord's chastening in a penal way versus a training way. Instead of looking at chastening in the context of punishment, what keeps us from looking at it in the context of sports? Through exercise, we are "punishing" our bodies. It has done nothing wrong to deserve it; we simply mold it for service. So is God.
|"And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4).
|"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16).
|"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" (Heb. 12:5).
|"If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" (Heb. 12:7).
|"But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons" (Heb. 12:8).
|"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" (Heb. 12:11).
The Greek word paideia is used six times with four of those times in Hebrews (Eph. 6:4; 2 Tim. 3:16). The Hebrews passage would read dramatically different if instead of the word chastening we used the word instruction, admonition, or nurture. Yet, if we note the context in which it is found, the idea of penal judgment seems foreign; especially in light of the previous statement of v.3. The hardship/chastening/instruction of vv.5ff is the persecution endured for living a life of faith as noted in chapter 11. This is consistent with the other New Testament passages.
|"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed" (2 Cor. 4:8, 9).
|"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (2 Cor. 12:9, 10).
|"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12).
|"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial, which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf" (1 Pet. 4:12-16).
Hebrews 12 simply notes a truth all of us are aware of that regardless as to the reason or cause God is ultimately behind the scene orchestrating the events to accomplish His purpose (i.e., Job's hardship, Paul's thorn).
If Christians can commit some type of sin that results in the judgment of God against it, then activity becomes subjective (for we never know when we cross the line), then forgiveness is not full and finally, and His death was not sufficient.
1 PETER 4:17
|"For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?"
This passage is very similar to Hebrews 11 and 12. Again, we have the idea of suffering for the sake of righteousness (vv.12, 14, 16, 19). Yet our attitude in the midst of this is to be one of "rejoicing," "overjoyed," (v.13) "praise God" (v.16) and "according to the will of God" (v.19). All who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (John 16:33; 2 Tim. 3:12; Acts 14:22).
Is this not the voice of James 1:2 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trails of many kinds?" As believers, we are not under the heavy hand of God against us. When facing difficulties we should rejoice. Why? Because the difficulty will purify our faith. Trials remove dross and cause us to throw ourselves upon our Savior.
REVELATION 2 AND 3
|Repent v.5a||Remove Lamp stand v.5b||Overcomes v.7a||Eat of the tree of life/Paradise of God v.7b|
|Overcomes v.11a||Not hurt by the second death v.11b|
|Repent v.16a||Make war against them v.16b||Overcomes v.17a||Give the hidden manna and a new name v.17b|
|Repent v.22a||Throw into great tribulation vv. 22, 23||Overcomes v.26a||Authority over nations v.26|
He shall rule v.27
Given the morning star v.28
|Repent v.3||Come like a thief vv.3, 4||Overcomes v.5a||Not erase from the book of life and will confess his name v.5b|
|Overcomes v.12a||Make him a pillar, not go out, write the name of God v.12b|
|Repent v.19||Wretched, miserable, poor, blind, naked vv. 17, 18||Overcomes v.21||Sit w/ Him on His throne v.21|
With reference to overcoming and the consequences of not overcoming, let us consider the following thoughts. Only seven of the twenty-nine occurrences are found outside of John's writings. Our study will by default focus on John's usage of the word.
First, let us consider the idea of overcoming.
The conditions to being one who overcomes
The condequences of being one who overcomes
This promise should not be construed as reward for only a special group of Christians but a normal expectation for all Christians.29
In his commentary on Revelation, Walvoord makes this notation concerning 2:7. . .The promise here mentioned for overcomers is not a message to a special group of Christians distinguished by their spirituality and power in contrast to genuine Christians who lack these qualities; it is rather a general description of that which is normal, to be expected among those who are true followers of the Lord. Those in the Ephesian church who were genuine Christians . . . are promised.30
The second death is a rabbinic term for the death of the wicked in the next world. In Revelation 20:14 it is identified as the lake of fire, and in 21:8 as the final lot of the [unsaved].31
Second, what happens if you do not repent or overcome? Is the believer ever described in this manner?
The condequences of being one who does not overcome
Repenting of sin and confessing Jesus as Lord is the only required condition. In so doing, the believer is now identified as one who overcomes. Not to be an overcomer is to be lost.
Third, who has the ear to hear (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22)?
The statement is a formula. There is a contrast between those who have ears that hear and those who have ears but do not hear. It is a proverbial saying. It is an appeal for the audience to listen up and take note.
The statement is used by Jesus with regard to His instruction (Matt. 11:15; 13:9, 43). This is also seen in Mark 4:9, 23 and 7:16 (Luke 8:8; 14:35). The one who has ears and does not hear is an unbeliever.
Fourth, are believers ever described as being wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (Rev. 3:17, 18)? It would appear that the answer is no.
In our present study there are several verses that appear not to fit. This is true regardless as to the side you take. The overwhelming body of evidence surely weighs in for the position noted in this chapter. As believers, we are to rejoice in all Christ is for us and all we are in Him. We are here to make much of Him. Such a study does just that.
1Francis Foulkes, "Death of Christ," Baker Theological Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996), p. 158.
3Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace, (NavPress:Colorado Springs, 1991), 184.
4Schreiner, Romans, 332,333.
5John Ruef, Paul's First Letter to Corinth, 113.
6Vine, First Corinthians, (Grand Rapids:Zondervan, 1961), 161.
7Ironside, First Corinthians, (Lifeline Philippines, 1938), 358.
9Leon Morris, First Corinthians, (Grand Rapids:Wm B. Eerdmans Publ., 1985), 161.
10MacArthur, First Corinthians, (Chicago:Moody Press, 1984), 274.
11Vine, First Corinthians, 160.
12Godet, First Corinthians, (Grand Rapids:Kregel Publ, 1979), 591.
13Ironside, First Corinthians, 358.
14Alfred Martin, First Corinthians, (Neptune NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1989), 106-107.
15Martin, First Corinthians, 107.
16Vine, First Corinthians, 160.
17Godet, First Corinthians, 596, 597.
18Ronald R. Shea, "The Gospel," 23 [overall Shea explains well his perspective of the gospel, but this final paragraph has much to be desired]
19Barclay, Hebrews, 175.
20Barclay, Hebrews, 177.
21Franz Delitzsch, Hebrews, 2:312, 313.
22Gromacki, Hebrews, 200.
24Pfeiffer, Hebrews, Everyman's Bible Commentary, 111
26R.C.H. Lenski, Hebrews, etc.
27Calvin, Hebrews, 314.
28Leon Morris, Hebrews, Expo Bible Commentary, 12:136
29BKC, NT, John F. Walvoord, Revelation, 934.
30Walvoord, Revelation, 59
31Mounce, NICNT, Revelation, 94.
Waukesha Bible Church
S53 W24079 Glendale Rd
Waukesha, WI 53189