Category: R thru S


In the 1800s, before Darwinian evolution was popularized, most people, when talking about “races,” would be referring to such groups as the “English race,” “Irish race,” and so on. However, this all changed in 1859 when Charles Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

Darwinian evolution was (and still is) inherently a racist philosophy, teaching that different groups or “races” of people evolved at different times and rates, so some groups are more like their apelike ancestors than others. Leading evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould claimed, “Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1859, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory.”

The Australian Aborigines, for instance, were considered the missing links between the apelike ancestor and the rest of mankind. This resulted in terrible prejudices and injustices towards the Australian Aborigines.

Ernst Haeckel, famous for popularizing the now-discredited idea that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” stated:

At the lowest stage of human mental development are the Australians, some tribes of the Polynesians, and the Bushmen, Hottentots, and some of the Negro tribes. Nothing, however, is perhaps more remarkable in this respect, than that some of the wildest tribes in southern Asia and eastern Africa have no trace whatever of the first foundations of all human civilization, of family life, and marriage. They live together in herds, like apes.

Racist attitudes fueled by evolutionary thinking were largely responsible for an African pygmy being displayed, along with an orangutan, in a cage in the Bronx zoo. Indeed, Congo pygmies were once thought to be “small apelike, elfish creatures” that “exhibit many ape-like features in their bodies.”

As a result of Darwinian evolution, many people started thinking in terms of the different people groups around the world representing different “races,” but within the context of evolutionary philosophy. This has resulted in many people today, consciously or unconsciously, having ingrained prejudices against certain other groups of people.

Scientists today admit that, biologically, there really is only one race of humans.

However, all human beings in the world today are classified as Homo sapiens sapiens. Scientists today admit that, biologically, there really is only one race of humans. For instance, a scientist at the Advancement of Science Convention in Atlanta stated, “Race is a social construct derived mainly from perceptions conditioned by events of recorded history, and it has no basic biological reality.” This person went on to say, “Curiously enough, the idea comes very close to being of American manufacture.”

Get rid of this evolutionized term.

Reporting on research conducted on the concept of race, ABC News stated, “More and more scientists find that the differences that set us apart are cultural, not racial. Some even say that the word race should be abandoned because it’s meaningless.” The article went on to say that “we accept the idea of race because it’s a convenient way of putting people into broad categories, frequently to suppress them—the most hideous example was provided by Hitler’s Germany. And racial prejudice remains common throughout the world.”

In an article in the Journal of Counseling and Development, researchers argued that the term “race” is basically so meaningless that it should be discarded.

More recently, those working on mapping the human genome announced “that they had put together a draft of the entire sequence of the human genome, and the researchers had unanimously declared, there is only one race—the human race.”

Personally, because of the influences of Darwinian evolution and the resulting prejudices, I believe everyone (and especially Christians) should abandon the term “race(s).” We could refer instead to the different “people groups” around the world.

The Bible and “Race”

The Bible does not even use the word race in reference to people, but it does describe all human beings as being of “one blood” (Acts 17:26). This of course emphasizes that we are all related, as all humans are descendants of the first man, Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), who was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). The Last Adam, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:45) also became a descendant of Adam. Any descendant of Adam can be saved because our mutual relative by blood (Jesus Christ) died and rose again. This is why the gospel can (and should) be preached to all tribes and nations.

Can the Bible be used to justify racist atitudes?

The inevitable question arises, “If the Bible teaches all humans are the same, where was the church during the eras of slavery and segregation? Doesn’t the Bible actually condone the enslavement of a human being by another?”

Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible mention slaves and slavery. As with all other biblical passages, these must be understood in their grammatical-historical context.

Dr. Walter Kaiser, former president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Old Testament scholar, states:

The laws concerning slavery in the Old Testament appear to function to moderate a practice that worked as a means of loaning money for Jewish people to one another or for handling the problem of the prisoners of war. Nowhere was the institution of slavery as such condemned; but then, neither did it have anything like the connotations it grew to have during the days of those who traded human life as if it were a mere commodity for sale. . . . In all cases the institution was closely watched and divine judgment was declared by the prophets and others for all abuses they spotted.

Job recognized that all were equal before God, and all should be treated as image-bearers of the Creator.

If I have despised the cause of my male or female servant when they complained against me, what then shall I do when God rises up? When He punishes, how shall I answer Him? Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same One fashion us in the womb? (Job 31:13–15)

In commenting on Paul’s remarks to the slaves in his epistles, Peter H. Davids writes:

The church never adopted a rule that converts had to give up their slaves. Christians were not under law but under grace. Yet we read in the literature of the second century and later of many masters who upon their conversion freed their slaves. The reality stands that it is difficult to call a person a slave during the week and treat them like a brother or sister in the church. Sooner or later the implications of the kingdom they experienced in church seeped into the behavior of the masters during the week. Paul did in the end create a revolution, not one from without, but one from within, in which a changed heart produced changed behavior and through that in the end brought about social change. This change happened wherever the kingdom of God was expressed through the church, so the world could see that faith in Christ really was a transformation of the whole person.

The forced enslavement of another human being goes against the biblical teaching that all humans were created in the image of God and are of equal standing before Him.

Those consistently living out their Christian faith realize that the forced enslavement of another human being goes against the biblical teaching that all humans were created in the image of God and are of equal standing before Him (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). Indeed, the most ardent abolitionists during the past centuries were Bible-believing Christians. John Wesley, Granville Sharp, William Wilberforce, Jonathan Edwards, Jr., and Thomas Clarkson all preached against the evils of slavery and worked to bring about the abolition of the slave trade in England and North America. Harriet Beecher Stowe conveyed this message in her famous novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. And of course, who can forget the change in the most famous of slave traders? John Newton, writer of “Amazing Grace,” eventually became an abolitionist after his conversion to Christianity, when he embraced the truth of Scripture.

“Racial” Differences

But some people think there must be different races of people because there appear to be major differences between various groups, such as skin color and eye shape.

The truth . . . is that these so-called “racial characteristics” are only minor variations among people groups.

The truth, though, is that these so-called “racial characteristics” are only minor variations among people groups. If one were to take any two people anywhere in the world, scientists have found that the basic genetic differences between these two people would typically be around 0.2 percent—even if they came from the same people group. But these so-called “racial” characteristics that people think are major differences (skin color, eye shape, etc.) “account for only 0.012 percent of human biological variation.”

Dr. Harold Page Freeman, chief executive, president, and director of surgery at North General Hospital in Manhattan, reiterates, “If you ask what percentage of your genes is reflected in your external appearance, the basis by which we talk about race, the answer seems to be in the range of 0.01 percent.”

In other words, the so-called “racial” differences are absolutely trivial— overall, there is more variation within any group than there is between one group and another. If a white person is looking for a tissue match for an organ transplant, for instance, the best match may come from a black person, and vice versa. ABC News claims, “What the facts show is that there are differences among us, but they stem from culture, not race.”

No big difference between any two people

The only reason many people think these differences are major is because they’ve been brought up in a culture that has taught them to see the differences this way. Dr. Douglas C. Wallace, professor of molecular genetics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, stated, “The criteria that people use for race are based entirely on external features that we are programmed to recognize.”

If the Bible teaches and science confirms that all are of the same human race and all are related as descendants of Adam, then why are there such seemingly great differences between us (for example, in skin color)? The answer, again, comes with a biblically informed understanding of science.

 

Resources: AnswersinGenisis

 

unclean-things“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isaiah 64:6). This passage is often used as a proof text to condemn all our acts of goodness as nothing more than “filthy rags” in the eyes of God. The context of this passage is referring specifically to the Israelites in Isaiah’s time (760—670 B.C.) who had strayed from God. Isaiah was writing concerning his nation and their hypocrisy. Yet he includes himself in the description, saying “we” and “our.” Isaiah was redeemed and set apart as a prophet of God, yet he saw himself as part of a group that was utterly sinful. The doctrine of total depravity is taught clearly elsewhere in Scripture (e.g., Ephesians 2:1–5), and the illustration of Isaiah 64:6 could rightly be applied to the whole world, especially given Isaiah’s inclusion of himself in the description.

The term “filthy rags” is quite strong. The word filthy is a translation of the Hebrew word iddah, which literally means “the bodily fluids from a woman’s menstrual cycle.” The word rags is a translation of begged, meaning “a rag or garment.” Therefore, these “righteous acts” are considered by God as repugnant as a soiled feminine hygiene product.

As Isaiah wrote this, the Israelites had been the recipients of numerous miraculous blessings from God. Yet they had turned their backs on Him by worshipping false gods (Isaiah 42:17), making sacrifices and burning incense on strange altars (Isaiah 65:3–5). Isaiah had even called Jerusalem a harlot and compared it to Sodom (Isaiah 3:9). These people had an illusion of their own self-righteousness. Yet God did not esteem their acts of righteousness as anything but “polluted garments” or “filthy rags.” Their apostasy, or falling away from the law of God, had rendered their righteous works totally unclean. “Like the wind, [their] sins were sweeping them away” (Isaiah 64:6). Martin Luther said, “The most damnable and pernicious heresy that has ever plagued the mind of man is that somehow he can make himself good enough to deserve to live forever with an all-holy God.”

Though self-righteousness is condemned throughout the Bible (Ezekiel 33:13; Romans 3:27; Titus 3:5), we are, in fact, commanded to do good works. Paul explained that we cannot do anything to save ourselves, but our salvation comes only as a result of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8–9). Then he proclaimed that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10; see also 2 Corinthians 3:5).

Our salvation is not the result of any of our efforts, abilities, intelligent choices, personal characteristics, or acts of service we may perform. However, as believers, we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works”—to help and serve others. While there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation, God’s intention is that our salvation will result in acts of service. We are saved not merely for our own benefit but to serve Christ and build up the church (Ephesians 4:12). This reconciles the seeming conflict between faith and works. Our righteous acts do not produce salvation but are, in fact, evidence of our salvation (James 1:22; 2:14–26).

In the end, we must recognize that even our righteous acts come as a result of God within us, not of ourselves. On our own, our “righteousness” is simply self-righteousness, and vain, hypocritical religion produces nothing more than “filthy rags.”

What does the Bible say that would apply to selfies?

The term selfie, which was the Oxford Dictionary’s 2013 word of the year, refers to a photo taken of oneself, usually with a camera phone, and posted on a social media site. Selfies can range from silly “duck-faced” snapshots to pornographic videos. A “selfie culture” is one in which people take a lot of selfies, of course. But, for the purposes of this article, we will further define a selfie culture as a widespread obsession with self-expression, self-esteem, and self-promotion, evidenced by the proliferation of self-portraits on social media. The Bible was written before the advent of camera phones, but God’s Word still has plenty to say about one’s view of self.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with taking a selfie and sharing it with others, selfie culture, as defined above, is steeped in narcissism. Need yourself to appear thinner before posting? There’s an app for that. The selfie mentality seems to find a boldness and arrogance behind the camera that would never be expressed in person: there are selfie sub-categories such as “selfies with homeless people” and “selfies at funerals.” By posting selfies, any person can taste a droplet of fame, which can quickly become addicting. However, this obsession can impact self-worth and true relationships when personal value is based upon the number of “likes,” followers, replies, or comments received in response.

When we apply biblical standards to the mindset commonly advanced in the selfie culture, we find an immediate clash of values. Jesus called John the Baptist “the greatest in the kingdom of God” (Luke 7:28). Yet John’s approach to personal fame is summed up in his famous statement “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Jesus was clear that to be great in the kingdom of God one must become a servant (Matthew 23:11). His life was the antithesis of the selfie culture’s obsession with self. Whenever the people tried to make Jesus king, He slipped away from them and went to lonely places to pray (John 6:15).

Jesus also rebuked what we could call a selfie culture among some of those who desired to follow Him. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26–27). In direct opposition to our self-centered desires, Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25).

For the modern church living in the selfie culture, the New Testament expounds upon Jesus’ words, exhorting us to stand firm in the teachings we first received. Galatians 5:24 reminds us that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Those “passions and desires” are described in 1 John 2:15–16 as “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” The “pride of life” certainly defines self-absorption.

A selfie culture obsessed with self-expression cannot get enough of itself. Like lust or greed, an insatiable thirst for attention only grows when indulged. We are told not to chase after self-gratification and so distinguish ourselves from those who do not know God (1 Thessalonians 4:3–7). We are also instructed not to desire to be rich but to seek wisdom, godliness, and contentment instead (1 Timothy 6:6, 9–10; Proverbs 3:13–16).

Christians living in the selfie culture must beware of creating a “selfie Christianity.” Rather than challenge our culture’s self-absorption, many Christian leaders cater to it. The shift has been subtle but unmistakable. Rather than glorify the character of God, many sermon points now begin with the word you and focus on how God can help you in your life with your dreams. Instead of teaching the cost of discipleship as Jesus did (Luke 14:26–32), too many teachers promote seeking “your best life now” or tantalize with the promise of blessing for those who “pray this prayer after me.” Rarely is the depravity of man mentioned in the cathedrals that attract the carnally minded. Instead, the messages are light on Scripture and heavy on flattery and self-worship. Couched as “encouragement,” these selfie messages substitute biblical words like sin, repentance, and sacrifice with more pleasing terms such as mistakes, change, and believe in yourself. This selfie culture is seeing a fulfillment of 2 Timothy 4:3, which warns, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

The battle cries of New Testament Christianity have always been “Take up your cross and follow Jesus! Be crucified with Christ. Store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, not here on earth” (Luke 9:23; Galatians 2:20; Matthew 6:19). But the battle cries of selfie Christianity sound like this: “God thinks you are awesome! Follow your dreams! Speak positively, and God will bless it.” This pseudo-gospel has integrated with the selfie culture, and the heresy is going virtually undetected by millions.

Psalm 119:36 says, “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain.” The focus of the Bible is God, not us. The Bible is the historical account of God’s limitless love pursuing undeserving Man. It is the story of redemption, accessed only through repentance (Matthew 4:17; Acts 3:19). God does bless His people (Genesis 24:1; Psalm 128:1). He does delight in pouring out His grace, mercy, and blessing on those who fear Him (Ephesians 1:6; Psalm 112:1). But when we view God as a merely a means to obtain earthly blessing, we have bought into a false gospel. When Jesus is presented as the ticket to get what we want from God, “another Jesus” is being preached (see 2 Corinthians 11:4).

As we take our selfies and post them for others to see, we must take care to maintain godliness, modesty, and propriety. Selfie culture tends to foster a love of self. But Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Mark 12:30). When we love God, obedience follows naturally. We cannot love God biblically and continue to be infatuated with ourselves. The closer we draw to God, the more we see the depravity of our own hearts. Self-infatuation has no room for the love of God. We can only serve one master (Matthew 6:24). Jesus came not to refine our flesh but to kill it (Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20), and until we are willing to crucify our selfie mindset, we cannot be His true disciples.

232228-i-have-decided-to-stick-with-loveEthnocentrism is the belief that a particular race or ethnic group is superior to all others and all other races and ethnic groups are to be subjectively measured in relation to that race or ethnic group. It is a system of belief that leads to extreme pride and lack of concern for others. Simply put, ethnocentrism is another name for racism, which has been a plague on humanity for centuries and the cause of the death of millions. It is time for this to stop for there is no place among God’s people for the ethnocentric attitudes which lead to racism. Such attitudes are contrary to Scripture and displeasing to God.

Biblically, ethnocentrism is sin. All men and women are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27, 9:6), although that image is corrupted by sin. It is because we are created in His image that God does not show partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34). I think it important to note here Jesus did not lay down His life for a particular race of people, but by His death He “purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). The Israelites were ethnocentric by virtue of being God’s chosen people, but His choice was not based on their merit, but on His mercy and grace. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus came to save the world, both Jews and Gentiles. Paul bears this out by saying, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28) and “there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Colossians 3:11).

Jesus destroyed all barriers of race and ethnicity with His death on the cross. As Paul said in Ephesians 2:14, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” Ethnocentrism, whether based on historical grudges or on the erroneous teachings of men, is wholly contrary to God’s Word. We are commanded to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34), and such a command precludes any discrimination based on race or culture.

How can I quit?

Many Christians who have been heavy smokers for years can readily empathize with the plight of anyone trying to quit smoking and can fully understand the struggle experienced by those who desire to quit. It’s certainly not easy, but it can be done. Many two-pack-a-day smokers are now smoke-free and can attest to the fact that it can be done when we turn it over to God and rely on His strength and power.

There are numerous reasons why quitting the smoking habit is a good idea for everyone, but especially for Christians. If a Christian is unsure of why to quit smoking and unsure as to whether or not it constitutes sin, our article entitled “What is the Christian view of smoking? Is smoking a sin?” would be a good place to start. The reasons outlined in the article should provide ample motivation to a smoker who is still unsure whether or not to quit. If one has already determined to quit smoking, it should be understood that stopping smoking is known to be one of the most difficult things to do. Research has shown that nicotine is a very addictive substance, even more addictive than heroin, some say.

But that fact need not discourage us. Paul tells us in Philippians, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Philippians 4:13 (NKJV). Even though it is difficult, and full withdrawal may take time before one no longer desires cigarettes, as Christians we are to look to God from whom our help comes. We set our hearts on things above and pray the Lord will give us the strength to gain the victory in this trial. So many people leave the Lord out in their attempt to overcome bad habits, and that is a huge mistake. Prayer is expressly for these types of situations, where we can take our problems directly to the throne of God and to Him who can solve them.

Relying on the power of the Holy Spirit does not necessarily mean that medical stop-smoking aids cannot be used as well. Many have received great help through the various patches, gums, pills, etc. After prayer and consultation with a doctor, if God gives you peace about using a medical stop-smoking aid, there is no biblical reason why you cannot.

God has declared that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). Where we are weak, He is strong. Our desire for cigarettes will be reduced as we grow and gain strength in the Lord. The power of God will work within us to alleviate the pressure to smoke, all to His glory. God will give us the strength to put Christ first and ourselves last. In this we will find that what we give up will be more than compensated by what we gain.

Is smoking a sin?

The Bible never directly mentions smoking. There are principles, however, that definitely apply to smoking. First, the Bible commands us not to allow our bodies to become “mastered” by anything. “Everything is permissible for me—but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me—but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Smoking is undeniably strongly addictive. Later in the same passage we are told, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Smoking is undoubtedly very bad for your health. Smoking has been proven to damage the lungs and the heart.

Can smoking be considered “beneficial” (1 Corinthians 6:12)? Can it be said that smoking is truly honoring God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:20)? Can a person honestly smoke “for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31)? We believe that the answer to these three questions is a resounding “no.” As a result, we believe that smoking is a sin and therefore should not be practiced by followers of Jesus Christ.

Some argue against this view by pointing to the fact that many people eat unhealthy foods, which can be just as addicting and just as bad for the body. As an example, many people are so helplessly addicted to caffeine that they cannot function without their first cup of coffee in the morning. While this is true, how does that make smoking right? It is my contention that Christians should avoid gluttony and excessively unhealthy eating. Yes, Christians are often hypocritical by condemning one sin and condoning another, but, again, this does not make smoking honoring to God.

Another argument against this view of smoking is that many godly men have been smokers, such as the famous British preacher C.H. Spurgeon, who was known to smoke cigars. Again, I do not believe this argument holds any weight.  I believe Spurgeon was wrong for smoking. Was he otherwise a godly man and fantastic teacher of God’s Word? Absolutely! Does that make all of his actions and habits honoring to God? No.

In stating that smoking is a sin, we are not stating that all smokers are unsaved. There are many true believers in Jesus Christ who smoke. Smoking does not prevent a person from being saved. Nor does it cause a person to lose salvation. Smoking is no less forgivable than any other sin, whether for a person becoming a Christian or a Christian confessing his/her sin to God (1 John 1:9). At the same time, we firmly believe that smoking is a sin that should be forsaken and, with God’s help, overcome.

No sin is greater than another sin in the eternal sense. All sin separates us from God, and all sin needs to be atoned for. Also, there is no “greatest sin” in the sense of “mortal” and “venial” sins, as the Catholic Church teaches. All sins are “mortal” sins in that even one sin makes the offender worthy of spiritual death and eternal separation from God. At the same time, the Bible does state that on the day of judgment some sins will merit greater punishment than others (Matthew 11:22, 24; Luke 10:12, 14).

Jesus also referred to one sin being a “greater” sin (although not the “greatest”) in John 19:11. Speaking to Pontius Pilate, He said that the one who had handed Him over to Pilate was guilty of the “greater sin.” He meant that the guilt of the person who delivered Him to Pilate, whether Judas or Caiaphas, was greater than Pilate’s because of the deliberate and cold act of handing Jesus over after seeing the overwhelming evidence of His miracles and teaching, all pointing unmistakably to Him as the Messiah and the Son of God. That sin was greater than that of those who were ignorant of Him. This could indicate that those who have been given knowledge of Jesus as the Son of God and still reject Him would be subject to a greater punishment than those who remain ignorant of Him: “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” (John 9:41).

These incidents, however, do not prove that one sin is the “greatest sin” of all. Proverbs 6:16–19 is a catalog of the seven sins God hates and are detestable to Him: “Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” But none of the seven are identified as a greater sin than any of the others, and none are identified as the greatest sin.

Although the Bible doesn’t name any one sin as the greatest sin, it does refer to the unpardonable sin, which is the sin of unbelief. There is no pardon for a person who dies in unbelief. The Bible is clear that, in His love for mankind, God provided the means of eternal salvation—Jesus Christ and His death on the cross—for “whoever believes in Him” (John 3:16). The only condition under which forgiveness would not be granted concerns those who reject the only means of salvation. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6), making it clear that He and He alone is the path to God and salvation. To reject the only means of salvation is unpardonable and, in that sense, is the greatest sin of all.

The Roman Catholic Church divides sin into two categories, mortal sin and venial sin. The issue of sin as the Bible teaches it is one of the most fundamental aspects of understanding life with God and what it means to know Him. As we walk through this life, we must know how to respond biblically to our own sin and the manifestations of humankind’s sinfulness that we encounter moment by moment, day by day. The consequences of not having a biblical understanding of sin and, thus, not responding to sin accordingly, are devastating beyond words. An incorrect understanding of sin can result in an eternity separated from God in hell. But praise to the glorious name of our God and Savior Christ Jesus! In His Holy Word, God has shown plainly what sin is, how it affects us personally, and what the proper response to it is. Thus, as we try to understand the concepts of mortal and venial sin, let us look for final answers in God’s all-sufficient Word.

In order to know if the Bible teaches the concepts of mortal and venial sin, some basic descriptions will be helpful. The concepts of mortal and venial sin are essentially Roman Catholic. Evangelical Christians and Protestants may or may not be familiar with these terms. Working definitions of mortal and venial sins could be these: Mortal Sin is “sin causing spiritual death,” and Venial Sin is “sin that can be forgiven.” Venial sin is invariably used in contrast with mortal sin. Mortal sins are those sins that exclude people from the kingdom; venial sins are those sins that do not exclude people from it. Venial sin differs from mortal sin in the punishment it entails. Venial sin merits temporal punishment expiated by confession or by the fires of purgatory, while mortal sin merits eternal death.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church is found this description of mortal sin: “For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: ‘Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.’” According to the Catechism, “Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments.” The Catechism further states that mortal sin “results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell.”

Regarding venial sin, the Catechism states the following: “One commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent. Venial sin weakens charity; it manifests a disordered affection for created goods; it impedes the soul’s progress in the exercise of virtues and practice of moral good; it merits temporal punishment. Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. However venial sin does not set us in direct opposition to the will and friendship of God; it does not break the covenant with God. With God’s grace it is humanly reparable. ‘Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness.’”

In summary, mortal sin is an intentional violation of the Ten Commandments (in thought, word or deed), committed in full knowledge of the gravity of the matter, and it results in the loss of salvation. Salvation may be regained through repentance and God’s forgiveness. Venial sin may be a violation of the Ten Commandments or a sin of a lesser nature, but it is committed unintentionally and/or without full consent. Although damaging to one’s relationship with God, venial sin does not result in loss of eternal life.

Biblically, the concepts of mortal and venial sin present several problems: first of all, these concepts present an unbiblical picture of how God views sin. The Bible states that God will be just and fair in His punishment of sin and that on the day of judgment some sin will merit greater punishment than others (Matthew 11:22, 24; Luke 10:12, 14). But the fact is that all sin will be punished by God. The Bible teaches that all of us sin (Romans 3:23) and that the just compensation for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). Over and against the concepts of mortal and venial sin, the Bible does not state that some sins are worthy of eternal death whereas others are not. All sins are mortal sins in that even one sin makes the offender worthy of eternal separation from God.

The Apostle James articulates this fact in his letter (James 2:10): “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” Notice his use of the word “stumbles.” It means to make a mistake or fall into error. James is painting a picture of a person who is trying to do the right thing and yet, perhaps unintentionally, commits a sin. What is the consequence? God, through His servant James, states when a person commits even unintentional sin, he is guilty of breaking the entire law. A good illustration of this fact is to picture a large window and understand that window to be God’s law. It doesn’t matter if a person throws a very small pebble through the window or several large boulders. The result is the same–the window is broken. In the same way, it doesn’t matter if a person commits one small sin or several huge ones. The result is the same–the person is guilty of breaking God’s law. And the Lord declares that He will not leave the guilty unpunished (Nahum 1:3).

Second, these concepts present an unbiblical picture of God’s payment for sin. In both cases of mortal and venial sin, forgiveness of the given transgression is dependent upon the offender making restitution of some type. In Roman Catholicism, this restitution may take the form of going to confession, praying a certain prayer, receiving the Eucharist, or another ritual of some type. The basic thought is that in order for Christ’s forgiveness to be applied to the offender, the offender must perform some work, and then the forgiveness is granted. The payment and forgiveness of the transgression is dependent upon the offender’s actions.

Is this what the Bible teaches regarding the payment for sin? The Bible clearly teaches that the payment for sin is not found in or based upon the actions of the sinner. Consider the words of 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” Take note of the wording, “Christ also died for sins once for all.” This passage teaches that for the person who is believing in Jesus Christ, all of his or her sins have been taken care of on the cross. Christ died for all of them. This includes the sins the believer committed before salvation and the ones he has committed and will commit after salvation.

Colossians 2:13 and 14 confirms this fact: “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He [God] made you alive together with Him [Christ], having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” God has “forgiven us all our transgressions.” Not just the sins of the past, but all of them. They have been nailed to the cross and taken out of the way. When Jesus, on the cross, stated, “It is finished” (John 19:30), He was stating that He had fulfilled all that was necessary to grant forgiveness and eternal life to those who would believe in Him. This is why Jesus says in John 3:18 that “he who believes in Him [Jesus] is not judged.” Paul states this fact in Romans 8:1: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Why are believers not judged? Why is there no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus? It is because the death of Christ satisfied God’s righteous wrath against sin (1 John 4), and now those who trust in Christ will not bear the penalty of that sin.

Whereas the concepts of mortal and venial sin place responsibility to gain God’s forgiveness for a given transgression in the hands of the offender, the Bible teaches that all sins of the believer are forgiven at the cross of Christ. The Bible does teach by word (Galatians 6:7 and 8) and example (2 Samuel 11-20) that when a Christian gets involved in sin, he or she may reap temporal, physical, emotional, mental and/or spiritual consequences. But the believer never has to reacquire God’s forgiveness due to personal sin because God’s Word declares that God’s wrath toward the believer’s sin was satisfied completely at the cross.

Third, these concepts present an unbiblical picture of God’s dealings with His children. Clearly, according to Roman Catholicism, one of the consequences of committing a mortal sin is that it removes eternal life from the offender. Also, according to this concept, God will grant again eternal life through repentance and good works.

Does the Bible teach that a person who is truly saved by God through Christ can lose his salvation and regain it? It clearly does not teach this. Once a person has placed his faith in Christ for forgiveness of sins and eternal life, the Bible teaches that that person is eternally secure–he cannot be lost. Consider the words of Jesus in John 10:27-28: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” Consider also the words of Paul in Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Reflecting back upon the fact of the total satisfaction of God’s wrath toward our sin in the death of Christ, our sins cannot separate us from God’s love. In love, God chooses to take Christ’s death as payment for believers’ sins and doesn’t hold them against the believer. Thus, when the believer commits sin, the forgiveness of God in Christ is already present, and, although the believer may experience self-inflicted consequences of sin, God’s love and forgiveness are never in jeopardy. In Romans 7:14-25, Paul clearly states that the believer will struggle with sin throughout his earthly existence, but that Christ will save us from this body of death. And “therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Whereas the concept of mortal sin teaches that a person can lose his salvation through personal sin, the Bible teaches that God’s love and favor will never be removed from His children.

God’s grace not only redeems the believer from every lawless deed, but it also guides the believer into holy living and makes the believer zealous for good deeds. This doesn’t mean that the believer never sins, but that his passion will be to honor God because of God’s grace working in the believer’s life. Forgiveness and holiness are two sides of the same coin of God’s grace–they go together. Although a believer may stumble and fall into sin at times–maybe even in a big way–the general path and direction of his life will be one of holiness and passion for God and His glory. If one follows the concepts of mortal and venial sin, he or she may be deceived into viewing sin with a flippant attitude, thinking that he or she can sin at will and simply seek God’s forgiveness at a point of personal desire. The Bible instructs us that the true believer will never view sin flippantly and will strive, in the strength of God’s grace, to live a holy life.

Based on the above biblical truth, the concepts of mortal and venial sin are not biblical and should be rejected. In Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, the problem of our sin is completely taken care of, and we need look no further than that amazing demonstration of God’s love for us. Our forgiveness and right standing with God is not dependent upon us, our failings, or our faithfulness. The true believer is to fix his eyes on Jesus and live in light of all that He accomplished on our behalf. God’s love and grace are truly amazing! May we live in light of the life we have in Christ! Through the power of the Holy Spirit, may we be victorious over all sin, whether “mortal,” “venial,” intentional, or unintentional.

Isn’t believing a work?

Our salvation depends solely upon Jesus Christ. He is our substitute, taking sin’s penalty (2 Corinthians 5:21); He is our Savior from sin (John 1:29); He is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). The work necessary to provide salvation was fully accomplished bySalvation is through Faith in Christ Jesus Jesus Himself, who lived a perfect life, took God’s judgment for sin, and rose again from the dead (Hebrews 10:12).

The Bible is quite clear that our own works do not help merit salvation. We are saved “not because of righteous things we had done” (Titus 3:5). “Not by works” (Ephesians 2:9). “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). This means that offering sacrifices, keeping the commandments, going to church, being baptized, and other good deeds are incapable of saving anyone. No matter how “good” we are, we can never measure up to God’s standard of holiness (Romans 3:23; Matthew 19:17; Isaiah 64:6).

The Bible is just as clear that salvation is conditional; God does not save everyone. The one condition for salvation is faith in Jesus Christ. Nearly 200 times in the New Testament, faith (or belief) is declared to be the sole condition for salvation (John 1:12; Acts 16:31).

One day, some people asked Jesus what they could do to please God: “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus immediately points them to faith: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:28-29). So, the question is about God’s requirements (plural), and Jesus’ answer is that God’s requirement (singular) is that you believe in Him.

Grace is God’s giving us something we cannot earn or deserve. According to Romans 11:6, “works” of any kind destroys grace—the idea is that a worker earns payment, while the recipient of grace simply receives it, unearned. Since salvation is all of grace, it cannot be earned. Faith, therefore, is a non-work. Faith cannot truly be considered a “work,” or else it would destroy grace. (See also Romans 4—Abraham’s salvation was dependent on faith in God, as opposed to any work he performed.)

Suppose someone anonymously sent you a check for $1,000,000. The money is yours if you want it, but you still must endorse the check. In no way can signing your name be considered earning the million dollars—the endorsement is a non-work. You can never boast about becoming a millionaire through sheer effort or your own business savvy. No, the million dollars was simply a gift, and signing your name was the only way to receive it. Similarly, exercising faith is the only way to receive the generous gift of God, and faith cannot be considered a work worthy of the gift.

True faith cannot be considered a work because true faith involves a cessation of our works in the flesh. True faith has as its object Jesus and His work on our behalf (Matthew 11:28-29; Hebrews 4:10).

To take this a step further, true faith cannot be considered a work because even faith is a gift from God, not something we produce on our own. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). Praise the Lord for His power to save and for His grace to make salvation a reality!

I am reblogging this because I think it’s worth illustrating once again for believers who question faith and salvation

altruistico

This is perhaps the most important question in all of Christian theology. This  question is the cause of the Reformation, the split between the Protestant  churches and Catholic Church. This question is a key difference between biblical  Christianity and most of the “Christian” cults. Is salvation by faith alone, or  by faith plus works? Am I saved just by believing in Jesus, or do I have to  believe in Jesus and do certain things?

The question of faith alone or  faith plus works is made difficult by some hard-to-reconcile Bible passages.  Compare Romans 3:285:1 and Galatians 3:24 with James 2:24. Some see a  difference between Paul (salvation is by faith alone) and James (salvation is by  faith plus works). Paul dogmatically says that justification is by faith alone  (Ephesians  2:8-9), while James appears to be saying that justification is by faith plus  works. This apparent…

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