27 January 2011

Question of the Week:
Aren't Rules of Forgiveness Unfair?

by Anne Lang Bundy

"We are most like men when we judge.
We are most like God when we forgive."
~ Anonymous

If God required a sacrifice to forgive, why should I be asked to forgive without receiving one?
~ Anonymous

In the parable of the unforgiving servant, how could the master put the servant in prison for a debt that had been forgiven?
~ J.F.

Since the master in the parable represents God, both questions imply that God unfairly applies the rules of forgiveness. There are innumerable responses that might offered for the first question. The answer offered here today will address the aspect of ownership, nicely illustrated by the parable in the second question.

Declaring bankruptcy was not an option in ancient times. Debts were paid by selling your possessions, by selling your family members or yourself as slaves, or by going to prison unless someone of means paid the debt on your behalf. Jesus tells a parable of a servant who owes millions of dollars. His master says the man, his family, and his possessions will be sold in payment. The man begs for mercy and patience to make good on his debt—as if he can. The master shows great mercy by simply forgiving the debt.

Take note that the servant is already a slave (Greek doulos). All he has belongs to the master anyway. Being sold would have separated him from his family and given him a different master, but forgiveness has not given him ownership of himself. The forgiven slave still serves at his master's pleasure, and he has incurred a new debt—the debt of gratitude.

The master owns the slave, the debt, all assets the slave considers his own, and all the slave's service. The master also owns a fellow slave whom the first slave assaults and imprisons for a minor debt. And since the master owns both slaves, he actually owns that minor debt, too. In forgiving the first debt and wiping the slate clean, the master has effectively wiped out the associated debt of the second slave.

If debtor's prison serves as punishment and deterrent for willfully acquiring debt without ability or intent to repay, then the first slave deserved prison in the first place. His refusal to extend a small measure of mercy not only proves him evil and unworthy of the mercy he received, but his ingratitude trivializes the master's goodness. The slave's actions say to the master: "What you gave me is insignificant compared to what this other slave should give me."

Jesus Christ is the payment for our sins, and not only for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world.
~ 1 John 2:2 (GW)

When Jesus was crucified, His sacrifice paid the death penalty every one of us owes God for our sins. Once I accept application of that payment to my account, it also wipes out whatever sin debt I think someone else owes me, and which is actually owed to our mutual Master.

Though we may ask for our offenders to be held accountable, we cannot ask for sacrifice. The sacrifice for all sin has already been made.

[POST SCRIPT: Please see the comments below for more discussion of Jesus' atonement and God's authority to require it.]

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For more on the reasons to forgive and the associated blessings, see Why Forgive?

What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below (anonymous questions welcome), or email buildingHisbody [plus] @ gmail.com.

© 2011 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
image source: jshinn.wordpress.com

20 January 2011

Question of the Week:
What about the Jews?

by Anne Lang Bundy

Western Wall, Temple Mount, Jerusalem
Photo credit: Rafael Ben-Ari

Are the Jews of today heirs to the covenant made with Abraham? Are all Jews saved? Will the Lord ... allow resurrected Jews to accept Christ?
~ T. Anne Adams

God does not forget the people of His covenants or fail to provide for them.

When Jeremiah 31:31-37 prophesies of the New Covenant (the covenant established through Jesus's death), the Lord makes clear that not only is Israel heir to that covenant, but He gives the covenant specifically to Israel.

Jesus directed His Jewish followers to actively seek converts to the New Covenant. More Gentiles than Jews accepted it, and those New Covenant Jews assimilated with Gentiles and ceased practicing the Old Covenant. In time, New Covenant Jews were no longer distinguished as Jews, while Old Covenant Jews still are. This has resulted in a notion called Replacement Theology, which says the church of Jesus has replaced Israel as heir to the promises which God made to His chosen people.

Replacement Theology is not Scriptural. Although the covenant made with Moses was made obsolete by the New Covenant, covenants made with Noah, Abraham, and David are still in effect.

However, Jews are not heirs to God's covenants because of their human bloodline, but because of their faith:

Abraham "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.
~ Galatians 3:6-7 (NKJV)

Righteousness has always come by faith in the Lord and calling upon His name (Romans 10:11-13). All Jews are not saved, because not all Jews have the faith of Abraham. But there are many Jews with the faith of Abraham who do not yet know Jesus is their Messiah. God has promised a day when they will accept Jesus as their Lord.

Blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved.
~ Romans 11:25-26 (NKJV)

"All Israel" refers not to every Jew, but every Jew of faith. There are numerous interpretations of how Israel will be saved in connection with The Tribulation and end times. But the Bible indicates there is no second chance to come to faith after death.

The Lord has already begun to fulfill this last verse. He not only restored Israel as a nation just 63 years ago, after 1878 years with no country, but many Jews have come to faith in Jesus since that time. My own take on "until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in" is that a day will come when the Lord reveals to all of faithful Israel that Jesus is Messiah, and that the Holy Spirit will not bring any more Gentiles to faith when that point is reached.

I personally believe the end is very near.

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What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below (anonymous questions welcome), or email buildingHisbody [plus] @ gmail.com.

© 2011 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

14 January 2011

Question of the Week:
What does Sanctified Mean?

What did Jesus mean when He said He sanctified Himself?
~ Bud Ezekiel

This question comes from the following prayer of Jesus, immediately before His crucifixion:

"They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth."
~ John 17:16-19 (NKJV)

The word "sanctify" means to set apart as holy. Jesus was already absolutely holy before His crucifixion, so what could sanctify Him?

He appears to be referring to the sacrifice of Himself He is about to make, and how this affects us. When considering what the words may have meant to Jesus, these words can be applied to a Christian's day to day life.

In the Old Testament, some animals were set apart from the rest of the herd or flock for the purpose of being sacrificed to God. But if a priest rejected an animal as blemished, it would be used for other, non-sacred purposes. The set apart animal wasn't completely sacred, or sanctified, until the sacrifice was completed.

During Jesus' earthly ministry, He was completely set apart to do
His Father's work. If He had healed and driven out demons, preached repentance, revealed the Father to us, set a good example for us, and then returned to Heaven without dying on the cross, we would have surely judged His ministry excellent.

But His ministry would have served us for only this world.

Jesus went further. He also set Himself apart as a sacrifice for sin, and then perfected that sanctification with the completion of sacrifice. Jesus didn't simply come to make our lives better in this world. He laid down His life in payment for our sin so we could have the eternal life that begins in this world, bypasses all spiritual death, and continues into the next world.

We receive eternal life when we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and give ourselves to Him. Although salvation justifies us by changing our status before God from "sinner" to "righteous saint," the process of being set apart from the world—while at the same time being sent out into the world—continues with every choice we make. Even matters as simple as what to wear or eat provide opportunity to testify, "I live for this world," or, "I live for God."

Truth sanctifies us. Example: If I make lifestyle choices which indulge my desires, and I tell myself it doesn't matter, I believe a lie and live for this world. If I know the truth which says my body is set apart to God as His Holy Spirit's temple, and that knowledge prompts me to make healthy choices, then the truth sanctifies me.

Each sacrifice, however large or small, sanctifies us. The process of being increasingly set apart to God not only honors Him, but enables us to experience His presence and eternal life more fully.

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What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below (anonymous questions welcome), or email buildingHisbody [plus] @ gmail.com.

© 2011 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
Image source:

07 January 2011

Question of the Week:
Do Christians Sin?

"Good and Evil: The Devil Tempting a Young Woman"
Andre Jacques Victor Orsel 1832
Image source:

Is it true that Christians "can't" sin?
~ Hannah Meyer

This question usually arises from 1 John 3:9-10. Here's the Analytical Literal Translation (ALT) text:

Every one having been begotten from God is not practicing sin, because His seed abides in him, and he is not able to be sinning, because he has been begotten from God. By this are revealed [who are] the children of God and the children of the devil: every one not practicing righteousness is not from God, and the one not loving his brother.

Here is why the child of God, born again in Jesus, does not sin.

God's Word reproduces spiritual life in His children, not sin.
To be "begotten from God," is to be born again through the seed of God. Whether seed is of a plant, human, or God Himself, "seed" implants and reproduces life. God's seed is His Word (logos, Greek for "word"), whether manifest as Jesus, the Word made flesh (John 1:14), or as the living sayings of God from the Bible (Hebrews 4:12). If the Word of God is implanted in a person and takes hold, the spiritual life of God is reproduced in His new child.

God's children gain the legal standing of Jesus—"righteous."
Those who receive God's seed—His Word, Jesus—and allow it to reproduce spiritual life are born as immortal, spiritual beings. God does not call us His children as only an affectionate metaphor. We receive a legal status of child and heir. We receive Jesus' life (sinless) in place of our life (sinful). Our standing before God is changed from "sinner" to "righteous." We are no longer guilty of any sin. No matter what we do, it is not counted against us as sin.

God's children grow in likeness to God, hating sin ...
Though we gain a new spiritual status, we continue to live in sinful flesh, which dies. As we grow in likeness to God, sin is something we will become increasingly aware of (see Romans 7:15-20), continue to repent of, and hate enough to not willfully practice. Paul describes the situation of sinning but hating it as "wretched," and comforts us with the words, "Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me."

... while practicing righteousness and love.
Children of the King are royalty, who are not judged by the law, but are instead members of His court, outside the law. However, the King holds His royal children to a higher standard of character than mere duty to obey the law. We are to behave as royalty, like the King Himself, out of love for our Father. And though we are no longer subject to the death penalty of law, we are subject to the discipline of our Father, Who takes a dim view of His children defaming His name with bad behavior.

A shorter explanation might modify the cancer mantra and simply say, "I may have sin, but sin doesn't have me."

For further information on this topic, readers may be interested in
Lie of Hell #2: No More Worry About Sin."

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What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below (anonymous questions welcome), or email buildingHisbody [plus] @ gmail.com.

© 2011 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.