Death Penalty

The important thing to know about  the “death penalty” is to understand whether such punishment is just. And to get the answer is to know the truth of the nature of sin and of the human nature.

Paul said, “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) Sin itself is the one that bringeth death unto us. James wrote, “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:15) God’s penalty of death on sin is not a punishment but mere result of sin.

God’s laws are not commandments out of whim; the commandments are commandments to life. God said of the commandment that he gave to the Israelites, “See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.  But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” (Deut 30:15-19) Proverbs 6:23 says, “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:” 

The commandments of God are ways to life, and thus breaking the law would result to death, or destruction.

What we see sometimes as good can be fatal to us. The Scripture says, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Prov 16:25) Many of the commandment seems a light thing to us, but the consequences of breaking such laws, or of transgressing the laws would result to more graver evils. The Scripture said, “Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.” (Eccl 9:18)

The justness of death penalty is relative to human nature’s ability to avoid sin. If man is able to correct himself, or rehabilitate himself, from sinfulness, then why impose death penalty? A dead person cannot be rehabilitated. The argument would posit the assumption that the imposition of death penalty is because of the lack of power of the sinner to be rehabilitated or corrected. The imposition of death penalty implies that the person is condemned because of his nature rather than just because of the gravity of the sin.

There are sins that are beyond rehabilitation. John wrote, “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.” (1John 5:16) There are sins that are beyond rehabilitation, and those sins are sins that we ought not pray unto God for remedies. Jesus said, “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.  And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” (Matt 12:31-32)

An issue on death penalty is related to the impact of the guilty person’s wrongdoing to the  affected person and, or, to the community as a whole. People often does not examine the consequences of sin, but they rather would project themselves as merciful and not mind the impact of the sin to the victims, or to the community. People will be deprived of justice by unjustly denying or approving the death penalty to a crime. If injustice rules in a community it will spring up a sick society. A sick society will be a haven of chaos and a playground for more graver evils. When injustices rule in the society, individual citizens will take the laws in their own hands. And when there is no peace and order, the tendency of the citizens is to be governed by subjective morals, where good and evil becomes relative to an individual’s perspective.

The effect of a crime sometimes necessitates the death of the wrongdoer for those affected, or victims, to have normal lives. And conflict arises when the wrongdoer is seen seems capable of rehabilitation. Sometimes, people who judge are only focused on the benefit of the wrongdoer without considering the effect to the victims, or to the community as a whole. And without considering the frailty of human nature, people easily ignore the flight of the victims, and the victims are even usually misjudged as unforgiving.

Considering our human nature should be a big influencing part when we make our judgments. Even when dealing with friends, there are things that ruins friendship by simple errors. Though there is room for healing, the closeness of friendship is already ruined when certain error is committed.

The laws of a nation are influenced by the way we understand human nature. We see a good example of this from the time when the US government was forcing the Apple Company to provide a way to open the security feature of its cellular phone. The big issue was not about invasion of privacy, but of giving trust to the people of the government. The issue is the human nature’s tendency to be corrupted of power. The limits of tenure of government leaders is itself a security against vulnerability of human nature over greed of power. Here we see how the rulers of our land generally accept the reality that man cannot be trusted. Likewise, the Bible itself tells us not to put our trust on men, saying, “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.” (Psalms 146:3)

Now some are using human weakness to discourage in enforcing the laws on capital punishments. But such is not a good excuse against fighting the human weakness itself. As the Bible itself recognizes human frailty, and commands us not to put our trusts in men, yet we are still commanded to make judgments and make condemnations of men. Human frailty does not mean that men cannot be trusted at all times. But to make human weakness an excuse that we cannot enforce capital punishment is to build a culture in our society that we should not trust men at “all” times. Human weakness does not meant that we cannot trust men at “all” times. And today we can experience how people judge their government as generally corrupt instead of pointing out the specific persons who are corrupt in the government. Such attitude towards the government has become a culture and is destabilizing almost every government. In such a scenario, those people who are corrupt is given advantage for it is easy to sow chaos when there is no trust amongst ourselves. When there is no trust amongst ourselves, there will be great tendency for the leaders to fight for taking leadership rather than seek among themselves a collective effort to fight evils in among ourselves; such is now a common scenario in politics. In such scenario is where we can have a clear understanding of what the Scripture says, “Wisdom is better than weapons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.” (Eccl 9:18) Yet, in such scenario is quite hard to discern the corrupt men because the corrupt men can cloak themselves as sheeps, and only works their evil deeds in secret. Evil men can easily deceive in such a scenario.  And when these corrupt men are known in view, they are merely seen as mere human possessing weaknesses rather than pure corrupt men. In such situation the holy men are not esteemed and are treated as equals to the corrupt men. Such state of chaos becomes ground of more form of evils to prosper.

The opposition to capital punishment due to human weakness seem good at first glance, yet it leads our society into a culture that is destructive than death itself. For out of such destructive culture we make more people to suffer not only physically but emotionally and mentally as well.

Christ said, “And yet if I judge, my judgment is true….” (John 8:16) Judging in truth does not involve personal preferences. However, in this present generation, more people are being drawn to judge according to their own perspectives because they are being influenced by the wrong teaching that truth is relative. And such issue contributes further in the problem of not judging rightly and giving the just punishments for crimes.

 

 

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Mystery of the Atonement – Part 4

      Previously, I explained that the death and resurrection of Christ is a demonstration of the mystery of our salvation, used as a witness of the verity of the Godhead. The gospel of death and resurrection of Christ is used as a demonstration of God’s salvation. And so thus Paul said, “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:” (1Cor 2:4) And so, Paul said of the gospel, “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” (Rom 1:19-20) The gospel that the apostles preach, which is about our salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ, is God’s own creation to manifest his Godhead, even of the invisible things of his Godhead.

       Now the things that Christ came to fulfill were all written according to the Scriptures. When the disciples had doubts about Christ’s resurrection, Christ said, “… O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27) And when Christ eat with the disciples, he said, “…These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.” (Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them,) “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:44-48) Even before he would suffer, he said to his disciples, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished.” (Luke 18:31)

       Not only his death and resurrection was prophesied, but also of his coming and of his preaching. (Luke 4:17-21, Isaiah 61:1-3) Philip, one of the disciple, said to another disciple, “…We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (John 1:45)

       Now, as I said, the fulfillment of these prophesies are for to demonstrate the Godhead. And, like I explained about the death and resurrection where its historical completion further testify of the verity of God, so also are the other prophesies. And it is for this reason that the angel said to John, “… for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev 19:10)

        Now many are looking at prophecies without understanding the demonstration of the Godhead being revealed in them. Perhaps majority are simply looking and relating the fulfillment of prophecies to God’s ability to foresee the future. But the prophesies are more than of God’s ability to foresee the future, just like what I explained about the death and resurrection, its fulfillment serves as witness to understand the depth of the power, and the invisible things, of the godhead.

Mystery of the Atonement – Part 3

       I have explained from the previous post that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a demonstration of the salvation of God. And some may be pondering that if the death and resurrection of Christ is a demonstration of God’s salvation, what is the need that such a demonstration, as cruel and painful, be demonstrated in a real life situation? What did God accomplish in the death and resurrection of Christ?

       If one is a keen observer, he would notice that to realize a person as born again is not that easy; though my explanations seems plain and simple. Even now, many men of great character, and even endowed with great knowledge, tried to explain the atonement, but were not able to grasp its mystery. Without their knowledge of the atonement implies that they lack knowledge of the truth, and that the lack of knowledge of the truth implies not being born again, which mean they are not partakers of God’s salvation. If these men of great knowledge were not able to come to the knowledge of truth, how much more are those less in stature?

        Even in dealing with the depths of good and evil, there is much chaos among the wise. If the depths of good and evil is not easily understood by wise men, how much more will those of less stature able to come to the knowledge of the depths of good and evil?

       So, are those of less in stature will never come to the knowledge of truth and forever be condemned? Not so.

       As I previously discussed, the salvation must have to come from God because man is not able to raise himself from his deadness to sin. And that God himself will be the one to change us. Paul said, “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” (Col 2:12) The mystery of salvation being demonstrated through the death and resurrection of Christ is something that God will do to those whom God has chosen to save. And if our salvation is the work of God, then it is not impossible for those of less stature to attain the knowledge of truth. Paul said, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;” (1Cor 1:26-27)

       By what reason that God can choose those less in stature and reject those of higher stature?

       Now, again, be keen to observe that all men are not worthy to receive God’s blessing because of man’s deadness to sin. Even the wise and the religious are all unable to avoid themselves of sin and suffer its consequence of death and destruction. So regardless some men are wiser and of higher stature than others, all are unworthy of God’s election. And this unworthiness of man is hard even for the wise and nobles to understand. Somehow, in their wisdom and understanding, they equate that something in man gives reason to make the man recipient of the salvation of God. Somehow they think man has an input in the completion of his salvation. But they miss to understand that man’s deadness to sin is the real issue and needed to get rid of. Deadness to sin cannot be remedied by anything except the man be get rid of that deadness.

       And it is this problem of deadness to sin that we are not able in our own to determine our fate. Even the wisest of the wise, and the religious, are doomed to fall in error that would lead them to death and destruction. Even given the knowledge of truth, because of man’s nature of deadness to sin, he is still subject to fall to errors, and this could spring doubt of his knowledge of truth. So what will give man the assurance that he is an elect? What will give man the assurance that what he had known and claimed as truth is real and not just a pigment of his imagination?

       Now those are issues, and among others, are which are being addressed by the historical demonstration of God’s salvation of man through Christ’s death and resurrection. The historical death and resurrection of Christ is being made as a witness of the verity of God.

       Now God, in demonstrating his salvation through a historical event, also demonstrates his almighty power that he is in control, not only of men, but also of time and places. It demonstrate his almighty power over creation. This will settle our doubts of his ability to take care of our deadness to sin, not only individually, but also in dealing with the chaotic nature of humanity as a whole. Seeing that God can demonstrate his salvation through making it in history, then God indeed have the power to take care of the whole saints in all time and places.

       Now what about the cruelty and painfulness of the demonstration of Christ’s death? Can there be other ways of demonstration of salvation where pain and cruelty does not exist?

       There is nothing more evil than killing. Death will deprive a person of any hope. The Scripture said, “For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.” (Eccl 9:4-6)

       But, again, if one is keen of the problem of the nature of the deadness of man because of sin, its remedy of total change, or rebirth, implies death of man of his self. And that after our death, God will make us live according to his own will and purposes in Christ. Paul said, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:10)

      Now Christ’s suffering of death demonstrates that man should deny his own life and subject himself to God’s will and purposes. It was accounted to Christ to suffer death and resurrection for the demonstration of God’s salvation. He prayed that that he will pass it; referring it as the “cup” in his prayer. (Matt 26:39, 42) But because it is God’s will he went on and suffered to die. What else is a truthful way of demonstrating dying in ourselves than literally dying itself? What else is a demonstration of God having power over our lives but by showing to us the very example he did to Christ?

       Now, dying in Christ do not mean suffering a physical death, but in living in Christ we suffer in avoiding the lust of our flesh. Physical death comes once, but suffering to avoid the lust of our flesh in the years of our lifetime is not easy, and even painful than the suffering of dying physically once. I do not mean that we will not have pleasures in life in Christ, but living in Christ meant changing our lives and discarding the kind of lusts that we once have in our former nature. This demonstrate that when God kills us, in order to make Christ live in us, it is inevitable that we suffer also in physical form. However, when God gives us the sound mind, we will have the peace to avoid the unnecessary pleasures in our lives. Will we ever regret having eternal life in spite we still suffer in that stage? To a sound mind he would never regret.

       Some may not understand this demonstration but our salvation itself requires that we need to die in ourselves. To put ourselves in subjection to God’s will and purpose is to die in ourselves and let God have control in our lives. We need to understand our deadness to sin so that we could understand the necessity of God’s power over our lives. It is for this reason that the commandment is given to us to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” (Matt 22:37) If we are not willing to submit the whole of our being unto God, then we will remain in our deadness to sin and suffer its consequence of death and destruction.

Mystery of the Atonement – Part 2

       In the previous part of this series, I discussed the nature of the law and the nature of sin. And we ended up on the problem in which man must get rid himself of sin, or else, he cannot avoid sin’s consequence of death.

        Now there is a question about how God deals with sin which is not often discussed and answered. And the question is “why is man condemned for just one transgression?” James wrote, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10) The same is implied when the law said, “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen.” (Deut 27:26) Is such just? Well, yes! Because, as we have earlier pointed out in the previous post, that the consequence of breaking the law is death. So regardless we only transgress one of the commandments the consequences of transgression is death.

The Nature of Man

       But some may be in disbelief, and would argue that though they would agree that all men commit sin, are convinced that their sins are not worthy of the consequence of death. But the Scripture says, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Prov 14:12) The greatest challenge of man is that not only man is incapable to overpower sin, but he is also incapable to detect all sin; making him most vulnerable to commit sin. Man cannot even detect how the law leads him to death. This implies that man is incapable to avoid his death and destruction because he is powerless to avoid sin that leads him to it.

        The moment we sin we are already considered as dead, it will just be a matter of time when the full effect of our powerlessness to prevent our death or destruction will lead us to the physical death. Now that is the kind of deadness of which Christ is saving us from. And so how will Christ save us from this nature of deadness?

        The solution, as we can understand, is that the very nature of man must be totally changed. But how can man be changed if he is powerless to direct himself to avoid his death and destruction? It must be that it is God himself who will change man and direct his ways. Without God changing our whole being we will remain in our deadness because of our powerlessness to avoid our own death and destruction. And so we must be changed.

God’s remedy on the cursed nature of man: the Atonement

       Now how will God change man to save him from his state of deadness because of sin?
Paul said, “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” (Titus 3:4-5) What is this “washing of regeneration” and “renewing of the Holy Ghost” referring to?

       The “washing of regeneration” is what Jesus was referring to in saying, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) We need a rebirth, or to be born again, to be able to enter the kingdom of God. Rebirth, or regeneration, is the solution of change in us that we seek to resolve the problem of man’s nature of deadness because of sin.

       How does regeneration, or rebirth, happen to man? Peter said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (1Peter 1:3). So, it is God who begets us. It is not within our will to be born again. It is God who begets us.
And what does Paul meant of “by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead?” Does it refer to literal resurrection of Jesus from the dead? No, it is not.

       Rather Paul explained, “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. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:” (Rom 6:3-5) Now here we can see a clear implication that it is not the literal death and resurrection of Jesus that saves us, rather, that the death and resurrection of Christ is a figurative demonstration of God’s salvation of man. The resurrection of Christ is a figure of us “walking in newness of life.”

       Paul further explained this figurative death and resurrection of Christ in us, saying, “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) Paul implies that the death on the cross of Christ is the figure of us dying in ourselves, and that the resurrection of Christ is the figure of Christ living in us. Thus Paul said, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal 3:27) Now here we can conclude that the “washing of regeneration” is referring to the “baptism into Christ.” Washing and baptism is a figure of spiritual purification. And that baptism into Christ is referring of our regeneration, or of being born again, where Christ will live in us.

       Now how are we to know that we are baptized into Christ, or regenerated, or born again, or that Christ lives in us?

       Peter said, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:” (1Pet 3:21) The “resurrection of Jesus Christ” is referring of baptism into Christ, where we put on Christ. And that the resurrection of Christ in us will bring about our possession of a good “conscience” toward God. “Conscience” is referring to the state of our minds. Good conscience is about having a sound mind. Paul said, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2Tim 1:7) Having a good conscience is not about having a good feeling or confidence. Some people have a good feeling or confidence that what they do is good, but they do not know that what they do is leading to their destruction.

       And so the manner of Christ living in us is to have the same mind with Christ. Thus Paul said, “…I live by the faith of the Son of God…” (Gal 2:20) And so, Paul said, “… put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:” (Col 3:10) And how is our mind changed? Paul said, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (1Peter 1:23) It is the word of God which will bring about the change, or regeneration, in us. Jesus said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32) Jesus is referring about being freed from sin. (John 8:34-36) It is the knowledge of truth that will free us from the shackles of sin. It is the knowledge of truth which will enable us to answer with “good conscience” toward God. It is the possession of the knowledge of truth which made us regenerated, or born again, into the image of Christ. It is through possessing the knowledge of truth by which we attain putting on Christ. It is possessing the knowledge of truth by which we die in our old image of ignorance and resurrect Christ in us by living in the truth. It is by possessing the knowledge of truth that we live by the faith of Christ.

       And thus is the mystery of the atonement of our sins by the death and resurrection of Christ.

Mystery of the Atonement – Part 1

         A core foundation of the gospel is the preaching of Christ’s sacrifice to take away the sins of the people.  Termed “atonement” in theology, christians are divided as to how it works. Different theories are made, such as the  Ransom theory, Recapitulation theory, Moral Influence theory, Governmental theory, and the Penal Substitution theory.  But I will not  delve with those theories, and rather I will present a realistic way to understand how Christ’s sacrifice for our sin truly works to save us from sin.

        To understand how the atonement works, we need to understand the nature of sin and of the nature of man. We need to understand the nature of sin to answer the questions of the need of atoning for sin. And we need to understand the nature of man to answer the questions of why another person, in this case Christ, could suffer for the sin of the people.

         The question of universality of the atonement should also be answered. We need to answer how the atonement works for those outside Christianity. There are other questions that need to be answered which may be discussed or not in this writing.

The Nature of Sin

        Sin, according to John, is the transgression of the law. (1John 3:4) And to understand the nature of sin is to understand the nature of the law.

         And what is the law? Does the law refers specifically to the Mosaic laws, or the spirit of it?

        When Christ was asked what is the great commandment, he said, “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.”  (Matt 22:38-40) Paul teaches the same about the law, commanding, “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Rom 13:8-10)

       The “love” which Christ and Paul speaks of is not referring of our emotional affection but of giving moral value and priority. Thus when Christ says “to love God with all thy heart,” it is a command to value and prioritize our emotional affection on God. Same valuing and prioritizing of God in regards to our soul and mind. And when we are commanded to “love our neighbor as thyself” it simply meant to value our neighbors as ourselves, it is not about acting to express emotional affection to our neighbors. Thus, giving our emotional affection does not necessarily meant the person shares love. Paul said, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” (1Cor 13:3) The Greek word used for “charity” is agape, which is also the word used by Christ and Paul of the word “love.” And so, Paul was saying that we can give our emotional affection to other people, such as helping the poor and sacrificing ourselves, but that would not amount to having charity, or love. The more we read how Paul described charity, or love, the more we will notice that he is not speaking about emotional affection. He says,

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.”  (1Cor 13:4-8)

         One can read the whole of the chapter and truly notice that the charity, or love, that  Paul speaks about is not about giving affection. And it is this kind of love in which Christ said which the law is hanged. So many christians presumes that pouring their emotional affection on God and their neighbors is an act of love. It is this flawed understanding of love that they were not able to relate how the Mosaic laws are hanged on love. Such ignorance is also the reason why they get stuck to adhere to the laws of God literally, instead of pursuing the spirit of the law.

          Even before Christ came to reveal the truth, the Scripture already gives hint about the issue of not getting literal with the commandments. The book of Ecclesiastes says,

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;  A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;  A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;  A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;  A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”   (Eccl 3:1-8)

         The Jews themselves accepts the book of Ecclesiastes and therefore agree with its message that implies that the law itself does not have to be followed literally. There is time when men are allowed to kill, though the law tell us not to. When Jesus was asked about the law of divorce, he answered, “He saith unto them,  Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.  And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” (Matt 19:8-9) So, there are times when laws are followed and there is time also when laws are removed.

        Paul said, “the law is good, if a man use it lawfully.” (1Tim 1:8) So, the goodness of the law depends on the lawful use of the law. Christ made an example about not working in the Sabbath, he said, “What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.” (Matt 12:11-12) If a man follow the law of not working in the sabbath by ignoring a sheep in the pit, then he practice the law unlawfully ignoring the purpose of the law to use it into good ends. James wrote, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

      We therefore then should understand that the law has its limitations in its effectiveness towards attaining good. Laws are written to achieve good ends. But when fulfilling the law becomes ineffective to attain its goal to achieve good ends, it loses its lawfulness. Such is the case when  obeying the law of not working in the sabbath and ignore a sheep in the pit. Such act of obedience to the law becomes ineffective towards the goal of good end.

        Now, when we take the law according to its purpose to achieve good end, that is when the law is said to be hanged on love. Love, as I earlier discussed, is not about expression of emotional affection. Thus the law is not about expressing emotional affection, rather the law is given for the purpose to achieve good ends, which is what love is about.

          Now, God said of the law, “For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?  Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?  But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;” (Deut 30:11-15Proverbs 6:23 says, “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:” What those mean is that God’s commandment are ways of life and good, and that thus the transgression of God’s commandments are the ways of death and evil.

          Now here we come to understand that death is not a punishment for transgressing the law, or sin. Rather, as what Paul said, “the wages of sin is death.” (Rom 6:23) Death is a consequence of sin, rather than a punishment. It is important that we understand the difference of death being a “consequence” of sin to  death being a “punishment” for sin. For if death is the consequence of sin, then it is necessary that man should get rid of his sin.  It is also becomes unnecessary for Christ to suffer for our sins because we will suffer ourselves the consequence of sin, and that it will be useless for Christ to die for our sins if we remain in our sins; for as sins remain in us we will suffer itself its consequence of death. Delve on these for it is important in making our conclusion of the mystery of the atonement.

         So we’ll go to the next issue: is man able to get rid himself of sin?

Worship Him in Truth

         Many christians  claim  to understand the  Bible but they do not actually have a clue of what the word of God is saying. When you tell a christian that “Jesus is the Truth” they readily agree. And when we ask them what it meant by “Jesus is the Truth,” in my experience,  a great majority will answer that it meant Jesus is the true God. Unfortunately, that is not the context of what Jesus was claiming of himself as the Truth.

          Many Christians indulged themselves in claiming things as true yet they cannot explain what it meant. They claim to be “born again”, “baptized of the Spirit”, received Jesus as their “personal savior,” that they were “redeemed by the blood of the lamb”, etc. All these things they claim to be true in their experience without knowing what those concepts really mean. Some of these christians are living in their own fantasies of the words in the bible, not knowing what is real, or what is not.

          In my observation,  many  christians are forced to claim to believe biblical concepts only to shield themselves of the conviction of unbelief. Because of fear of the judgment of eternal damnation, some believers are forced to submit to believe without understanding the word of God.

          The word of God is guide in our walk. As written in Psalms: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Ps 119:105) And also, apostle Paul wrote: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2Tim 3:16-17)   So, the words of God are not mere words of mystery for us to wonder and just accept without understanding.

          The epistle of John said,

 “5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 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.”  (1John 1:5-7)

           And so, anyone who accept the word of God without understanding it is walking in darkness and do not the truth. The word of God is truth. So, if a believer does not understand the word of God, how then can he walk according to the truth unless he also understands the word of God, which is the truth? If a believer does not understand the word of God, he then walk as blind, not really knowing what he says or affirms. Paul warned us not to handle the word of God in deceit. He wrote, “

 “1 Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; 2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”  (2Cor 4:1-2)

            Again, I say, the word of God is truth, and it guides  and leads our path of walk.  Paul thus said,

 “17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, 18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: 19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. 20 But ye have not so learned Christ; 21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:”   (Eph 4:17-21)

              We are therefore commanded to walk in truth, and that the truth was given to us by Christ. And so now that the truth was revealed by Christ, it is now the time where we are commanded to worship God in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)  And so therefore, we should strive to seek the word of God as truth, and not worship God out of fear and ignorance and fantasies. The book of Psalm says,

“103 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.”  (Ps 119:103-104)

“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. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”     (John 4:23-24)

 

 

The Love of God is not “Personal”

     The believer’s attitude towards his enemies can be influential in a believer’s conception of the character of God. When a believer had experienced so much suffering, or unable to grasp the sufferings that he witnessed in his environment, the tendency of the believer is to imagine God to be vengeful, full of wrath, and unforgiving. And when a believer is affiliated to a wicked person, and that believer does not experience the evil itself, the believer’s tendency is to believe of God as full of mercy, gracious, and compassionate. This is because the believer wants to believe that the wicked person of which he is affiliated with will ultimately be forgiven.

     We should not let our feelings influence our belief of the character of God. God is just. He is either vengeful or compassionate, depending on the just judgement that a wrongdoer should receive. People who sin greatly will receive greater condemnation, and some, such as those who sin against the Holy Ghost, will never be forgiven.

To some believers, their worst weakness is portraying the character of God who caters on the believers’ comfort and, or, success. Many believers are influenced by their “comfort zones” in dealing with God. These believers tend to portray the character of God as one that do not lay much burden to the believer. When they are face to deal of God’s commandment that are burdensome, they twists those commandments to ease themselves of the burden. And when they are not able carry the burden to obey the commandments, they tend to disregard the law excusing that God will not give them commandments that are burdensome. They try to follow the commandments but taking it lightly, and allow themselves to disregard it when faced with difficulties.

     Those who are influenced by “success” easily falls to prosperity gospels. But take into considerations of the reality that we are not all given the same talent as others. Some have less talent yet succeed and attain less in prosperity than others. We should not assume that people who strive and succeeded in their lesser talent, and attained less prosperity, are less loved of God. In this we see the error to base God’s blessing and love according to one’s prosperity. In the end, those who succeeded and prospered greatly tend to have the feeling that they have served God better than others. And some having talent in wisdom and understanding were looked up blessed than others.  And those who do not succeed are judged as if they lacked the faith in God and dedication to strive to lift themselves up economy wise. One thing for sure, one’s failure in life does not imply lack of faith in God. God himself ordained others to pursue their calling knowing they will fail in the end.

     One thing overly looked by preachers nowadays is of knowing God as the king of the whole community of believers. It is about knowing God and his kingdom. Christ said, “Seek first the kingdom of God.” Trying to understand the character of God based on our feelings, our comfort and, or our success, does not lead to knowing the kingdom of God. Such search only leads to seeking God from our individual perspectives. The common bywords of evangelicals of having “personal relationship with God” caters to individualizing our approach to God and sway us away to understand the kingdom of God. Individually seeking God makes every believer autonomous from others, even to the Church authorities. This has led other pastors to ignore the importance of the Church, and fail the importance of seeking “first” the kingdom of God. To some pastors, they merely encourage believers to seek a church that seemly agree to some of their core beliefs.

     As a community, it is natural that individual believers clash in achieving the goals of our community. It is natural that we become divided and have factions. Not all of us think alike, there will be differences in the way we wanted to be governed, or to be administered. We will have different preferences, and this preferences can cause damage to our unity and would lead to chaos to the community of believers, i.e. church. The leaders are then burdened to resolve matters not individually, nor by factions, nor should they set multiple standards in treating each individual members. Things truly gets complicated when dealing with a community, and it is never enough that niceties would resolve the unseemly chaos. The kingdom is truly hard to understand, and the failure of pastors to understand it has led many to preach individual personal relationship with God that lead to allowing schisms in the churches.

     God has ordained us to be part of his kingdom. And thus it is of prime importance that we learn of what the kingdom of God is all about. As a kingdom, we have to learn to learn how to deal with each other, to learn the importance of recognizing the hierarchy of authorities in the Church. This acknowledgement of God’s way of dealing on every one of us as his kingdom is beyond seeking him as our “personal” savior. One mystery of the kingdom is that those who are chief will serve rather than to be served (Luke 22:26), and those who lacked are given more abundant honour (1Cor 12:24). So we ought not to judge a person’s stature of holiness by his/her personal advantages over other believers.

     Those who preach to seek personalized relationship with God actually miss to preach the truth of the gospel. The gospel is about the kingdom of God itself (Matt 4:23). And so those pastors who preach God as a “personal” God also fails to understand the mystery of the kingdom of God. And of their preaching of a “personal” God they led many believers not to seek first the kingdom of God, nor understand the mystery of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is a mystery, and the elect are the only ones who will understand it (Matt 13:10-17). Those pastors who are ignorant of the gospel of the kingdom of God are the hirelings in Christ’s parable, hirelings who scatter the sheep, feeding themselves of their own interests from the flocks of believers. (John 10:11-14)

     Pray that you be not deceived by these pastors.