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What does God Thin about Suicide? 

Written by Pastor Nasser Jahan

It is sad to state that suicide is among the leading causes of death in the world. Based on recent nationwide surveys, suicide in some populations is on the rise. Up to 20 million people globally attempt suicide. 1.4 million of those attempts take place in the United States. Out of the 20 million global attempts, over 800,000 people globally succeed in taking their own lives. In the USA, annually over 47 thousand people succeed in taking their own lives. It is estimated that in 2020, we will have some of the highest suicide rates ever recorded due to COVID-19. All of this makes suicide the 10th leading cause of death globally (“National Institute of Mental Health” & “Why do people consider suicide?”)

People commit suicide for many reasons. Below, we will go through a few of these reasons. However, it is imperative to understand that almost all the reasons discussed in this paper manifest within them a sense of disparity due to life’s temporary circumstances. Also, it is noteworthy to mention that many Christians believe that the Bible does not adequately discuss the issue of suicide or that the Bible’s answers toward the subject appear to be insufficient and unclear. This paper, however, is written with a strong disagreement toward the above. The Scriptures give us just enough so that we can draw a biblically based, ethical conclusion on the topic. In fact, in this paper, we will be able to see that the Scriptures can help us answer three significant questions:

  1. What does God think about suicide?
  2. Where does the soul of a one who commits suicide end up?
  3. Is suicide an unforgivable sin?

Reasons Why People Commit Suicide

To begin, let us first examine a few reasons that motivate individuals to consider taking their own lives. Most of these reasons can be researched and studied extensively via many recourses. The below however, are mainly taken from National Suicide Prevention Line.

Mental Illness: Majority of individuals who commit suicide are diagnosed with some sort of mental disorder. Most in this category who succeed have already made previous attempts in taking their own lives and have not sought medical care for their condition. (Prabhakar et al. 2019, 7)

Traumatic Stress: A person who has had a traumatic experience, (childhood sexual abuse, rape, physical abuse, war trauma, etc.), is at a higher risk for suicide, even many years after the trauma.

Social Isolation: Social isolation is one of the biggest reasons that individuals commit suicide. It is estimated that after COVID-19, 2020, and 2021 will experience the highest annual suicide rates ever recorded in history.  Social isolation leads to mental disturbance, mental disturbance leads to mental disability, and thus, it causes individuals to believe their lives are not worth living.

Substance Use and Impulsivity: Drugs and alcohol can also influence a person who is already having suicidal thoughts to become more impulsive and likely to act upon their urges than they would be while sober.

Guilt: The shame of having done something wrong and thinking that there are no ramifications for salvations is yet another cause. A biblical example of such is Judas.

Matthew 27:3-4

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” And then, he went and hanged himself.

Pain: Some people live in tremendous amounts of physical pain. The unbearable daily pain causes them to believe that death would be a better alternative to living.

Religion: Some take their own life to satisfy the cause of their religion. Suicide bombers who are convinced of a false promise in their faith are an example of such.

Vengeance: Some individuals attempt to take their own lives simply to harm somebody else for a variety of reasons.

Love: Some commit suicide due to the loss of someone they love (breakup, death, etc.), and they think they cannot tolerate life without that person.

The belief of being a burden: A person with chronic pain or a terminal illness can feel like a burden to others (as it becomes harder and harder to ask for yet another ride to the doctor’s office, more help with household duties, assistance with paying for hospital bills, etc.). In fact, many who decide to commit suicide, often state that “the world, and those who love them, would be better off without them”.

A Cry for Help: many who attempt suicide do so, not necessarily because they really want to die, but because they simply do not know how to get help or ask for it.

Lack of value: Some commit suicide because they think they have no value, and somehow, they have come to believe that their lives are worthless.

Accidental Suicide: Some situations may be due to accidental deaths. Certain games that young people play may lead to accidental suicides. Games such as “the choking game” (also known as “pass-out challenge,” “flatliner,” and “space monkey”). Other accidental suicides may include unintentional overdoses, unintentional death with a firearm, and unintentional poisoning.

Loss, defeat, or failure: A person may decide to take their own life when facing a loss or due to the fear of a loss. These situations can include, academic failure, being arrested or imprisoned, bullying, shaming, humiliation, financial problems, end of a close friendship, end of a romantic relationship, job loss, or loss of social status.

(National Suicide Prevention Line & Why do people consider suicide?)

Biblical Suicide Examples

Below are a few examples of suicide due to loss, defeat, and failure found in the Scripture:

Abimelech—Judges. 9:54; He asked his armor bearer to kill him.

Samson—Judges 16:29-30; In his defeat and enslavement, he buried himself along with thousands of Philistines as he broke the pillars of a building.

Saul—1 Samuel 31:4; He threw himself on his own sword after being defeated in war.

Saul’s armor-bearer—1 Samuel 31:5; He threw himself on his own sword by following Kin Saul’s example.

Ahithophel—2 Samuel 17:23; He hanged himself when he felt rejected when King David did not listen to his advice.

Zimri—1 Kings 16:18; After his kingdom was taken, he burned himself in the king’s house.

The Jailer—Acts 16:27; When he thinks the prisoners have escaped, he attempted to take his own life, but Paul saved him from it.

What does God really think about suicide?

To adequately respond to this question, we must first look at why God created us. Our perception and understanding of God’s purpose for our creation is imperative in showing us the value, and the love that God has poured on us as His beloved creation.

  • Starting in Genesis 1, we see that humanity was created in the image of God. Also, throughout the entire Bible, God gives us indications that we are supposed to be representatives of Him as we have fellowship with Him.
  • Colossians 1:16, tells us that we were created by God and for God.

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him”.

  • Psalm 139:13-16, suggests that we were created with care and detail.

Thus, it can be concluded from the above that God created us for Himself, He created us for a purpose, and He desires a relationship with us.

What does God think about suicide?

The simplest answer to this is found in the 6th commandment within the Ten Commandments in the Mosaic Law. “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). Let us define murder and describe what biblically may be considered murder.

The term used in the Old testament for murder is an interesting word that depending on the structure of the sentence, can literally mean a few different things. The term can simply translate to the following: murder, to slay, to kill, and to strike down (Brown 1977, 953). In an expressional form of the language, the term murder, simply means:

  • Taking a human being’s life outside of the permitted boundaries.
  • Premeditated killing of another human being

In its essence, the term always signified a type of killing that is inherently evil (Killing someone for personal gain and satisfaction or taking a life that does not belong to you). ‘“you shall not murder” is also a prohibition that means, “you shall not murder yourself”’ (Grudem 2018, 607)

Based on this simplistic evidence found merely in one verse within the Bible, we can conclude that suicide is murder, and murder is a sin. Therefore, suicide is a sin. Now, some of us may be quick to say, “we do not live under the Mosaic law, but we live under grace”. In response to that, in Matthew 22:37-39 we read, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. Here, Jesus sums up the entire Ten Commandments into two, indicating that what the law of Moses says about God and humanity, is still applicable today. Thus, we can finalize our conclusion regarding God’s perspective about suicide by summing it up as follows:

  • Suicide is a sin
  • Suicide is murder.
  • Suicide is stealing form God, what does not belong to one.
  • Suicide is sealing form others by not accomplishing the purpose of which God created one

“Since suicide is also a form of homicide, it too comes under the prohibition against murder. Killing oneself is both a rejection of God’s sovereignty and an attack upon the sanctity of life” (Geisler 2010, 172-173)

Where does the soul of one who commits suicide end up?

Now, let us look at, the destination of Christians who would commit suicide. Would he/she go to hell or heaven? For a long time, the church and society established their views on suicide by adopting their views from the Scripture passages relating to Judas. The church for many years, particularly starting with the middle ages began to teach a perspective taken from John 6 and Acts 1, relating all suicidal actions to Judas.

“Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him” (John 6:70-71).

Many believe and advocate that Judas belonged to Satan, hence why he took his own life. In Acts 1, we read about Judas going to “his own place after death”. This “place” is identified as hell. Ironically, the church tradition has been wrong in this regard for centuries. Through years of exegetical examination of Scripture and studying the topic extensively, avoiding merely relying on the church’s traditional views has allowed us to see the real truth on the subject (Retterstol and Ekeberg 2011).

As we have already determined above, suicide is a sin. But, so is adultery, so is divorce, so is stealing, so is hatred, so is sex outside of marriage, so is selfishness, so is homosexuality, so is which craft, and the list goes on. In our sinful, human nature we often proceed to determine that an individual who committed suicide is hell-bound because that seems to be the easiest answer. We must realize that since we are not God, we must at all cost avoid acting as God. We cannot assume, nor pretend as though we know the outcome of an individual’s sin.  For that too, we rely on the Scripture.

“And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32).

There is only one sin that the Scripture identifies as the unforgivable sin—slandering the Holy Spirit. For those of us who are quick to throw those who have committed suicide in hell, we must realize and abide by God’s Word in John 8:7, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone”. If we have committed any sins (lied, sexual thoughts, stolen, and so forth), then we are just as wretched and sinful ourselves as the person who has committed suicide. Nevertheless, many people are always in the act of committing suicide; they just do not know it. You see, they do not take their own lives in an instant, rather, most people gradually kill themselves by the life choices they make. Whether it be through overeating, addictions, unhealthy habits, promiscuity, overindulgence in pleasure, or other things, most are on the path of taking their own lives in a more slow and rather painful way. “All people are sinful, so all need somebody looking over their shoulders to keep them in check” (Gushee and Stassen 2016, 337). The problem is that we are naturally creatures of immediate recognition and gratification, versus the ultimate differentiation. Thus, it is often easy for us to look at someone who committed suicide and conclude that they did it because they were horrible sinners and hell-bound by nature.

Some of you may say, “excuse me sir! I know I am a sinner, and I am asking God to forgive my sins now, but how can someone who committed suicide do that?” This is a question established on a mistake. God does not need your verbal confession as though without it, He is incapable of forgiving. The Scripture says,

“All a person’s ways seem pure to them,

but motives are weighed by the Lord” (Proverbs 16:2).

God knows the motives of the heart. He knows our pain; he associates with our sufferings. In the end, He has always paid for our sins with His blood. This is not to say that everyone who commits suicide goes to heaven. But it is to say that not all who have committed suicide are hell-bound. God is the only one who will determine for each person what the individual’s eternal destiny will be.

Conclusion

Regardless of what one may think about suicide or where one may end up spiritually if he/she commits suicide, one must remember and understand that the act of suicide is an act of disobedience and sinfulness. For those with suicidal thoughts, the Scripture brings comfort and promotes a desire to be set free from such wrong convictions. The word of God speaks actively on the issue by bringing us encouragement. 

Psalm 55:22

Cast your burden on the LORD,

      and he will sustain you;

                  he will never permit

      the righteous to be moved.

Psalm 34:18–19

           When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears

      and delivers them out of all their troubles.

           The LORD is near to the brokenhearted

      and saves the crushed in spirit.

            Many are the afflictions of the righteous,

      but the LORD delivers him out of them all.

It is important for those who have suicidal thoughts to surround themselves with people and speak to them with honesty. It is also imperative for us to remember that suicide is a permanent and irreversible solution to life’s temporary problems. We must not let the temporary distract us from the permanent legacy God has for us. Remember, God has made us, He loves us, and He wants us for His purpose. We must not allow Satan to deceive us. Satan’s only aim in encouraging one to take his own life is because he wants to stop the great and amazing things God is about to accomplish in and through one.

Bliography

n.d. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Accessed Nov, 2020. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/how-we-can-all-prevent-suicide/.

Brown, Francis. 1977. Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. N.p.: Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Geisler, Norman l. 2010. Christian Ethics: Contemporary Issues and Options. United States: Baker Publishing Group.

Grudem, Wayne. 2018. Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

Gushee, David P., and Glen H. Stassen. 2016. Kingdom Ethics. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

“National Institute of Mental Health.” n.d. National Institute of Mental Health. Accessed November, 2020. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide.shtml.

Prabhakar, Deepak, Edward L. Peterson, Yong Hu, and Christine Y. Lu. 2019. “Crisis.” The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, (April), 10. https://web-a-ebscohost-com.ezproxy.bethel.edu/ehost/delivery?sid=666f6532-90f8-4919-8212-f7c2eb544eba%40sdc-v-sessmgr02&vid=3&ReturnUrl=https%3a%2f%2fweb.a.ebscohost.com%2fehost%2fdetail%2fdetail%3fvid%3d2%26sid%3d666f6532-90f8-4919-8212-f7c2eb544eba%2540.

Retterstol, Nil, and Oivind Ekeberg. 2011. “Christianity and suicide.” Oxford Medical Online. https://oxfordmedicine.com/view/10.1093/med/9780198570059.001.0001/med-9780198570059-chapter-9.

“Suicide.” 2019. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/suicide.

“Why do people consider suicide?” n.d. Accessed November 25, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/why-do-people-commit-suicide#warning-signs.

 

 

Original question: Do all monotheistic religions essentially worship the same God as Christians? What is the difference? What is it that distinguishes the Christian God over the gods of other religions?

 
 Written by Frank Demsky

In answer to the first question: How do you reconcile the OT mass killings and wars with the NT teachings about God’s love?

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  When we read the events occurring in the Bible, we see that this is the one and the same God.  We must realize that God created man in His image because of His love.  Not only did God create us but He also provided us with everything that we need for both our spiritual and physical life because of his love for us.  The OT is just as much about God’s love as is the NT.  The word love may not be as evident, but God’s love for mankind is revealed and demonstrated throughout the OT.  Everything that God did for mankind in the OT was because of His great love for them.  

God’s holiness cannot tolerate any presence of sin whatsoever.  Sinners cannot enter into His presence (Ps.24:3-5).  God wants a relationship with us.  He is seeking true worshippers, people who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (Jn.4:23).  He wants us to know Him and He wants us to live in His presence.  

Some people struggle with the statement that God hates evildoers, we find the hatred of God hard to process.  They do not understand how God can hate anybody, especially in light of the NT teaching that denounces hatred and likens it to murder (1Jn.3:15; “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him).  Or, loving your enemies (Mt.5:43-48; “you have heard that it was said, ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you., that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” & Lk.6:27-36).  

(Lev.19:18; “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord.” (Rom.12:19; “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: It is His to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.”) (Rom.13:9-10; “The commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not cover, and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: Love your neighbor as yourself, Love does no harm to its neighbor.  Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.”) (Mt.19:17-19; Mt.22:37-40)

That seems to leave no room for hatred of any kind.  Hatred is not appropriate for the people of God.  Christians rightly understand themselves as a people called to love – therefore we struggle to understand a God who reserves the right to hate.

What we must understand is this: God’s hatred of sin and sinners is not an uncontrolled emotional response.  The hatred of God is not an irrational outburst, but God’s moral response to our immorality, or to those who do evil.  God’s heartfelt emotion toward sinners is love, love that was demonstrated in the sacrifice of His Son for our sins (Jn.3:16; Rom.5:8).  Hatred is the response of His righteous character toward sin, the response of His holy nature against those who continue in rebellion against Him.

It was because of man’s sin that we became separated from God.  When man didn’t confess his sins and return to God, his sins became even more wicked and man chose idol worship as opposed to a loving relationship with the one and only true and living God.

Genesis Chapter 6, Noah’s flood:  Earth was no longer the perfect paradise that God had intended, humanity forgot about God.  The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.  “The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.” (Gen.6:6) God was sorry that the people had chosen sin and death instead of a relationship with Him.  Sin cannot coexist with God’s holiness.  Man’s wicked sinfulness had also corrupted the rest of God’s creation and all had to be destroyed.  We must notice God’s love and patience for mankind in Gen.6:3; when God gave them 120 years to change their sinful ways.   In this event, God destroyed the sin & the sinner.  Noah and his family were the only ones left who still worshipped and lived according to God’s commandments.  Even though they sinned, they remained true to God. Because of God’s love, Noah and his family were saved because of His salvation and were kept safe because of their relationship with Him.  

This same condition of sin and sinners existed with the people who were living in the land that God was going to provide to his chosen people, the nation of Israel.  These people had also turned to wicked sin, worshipping idols instead of the true and living God, and they were separated from God.  The sin and the sinner had to be destroyed in order for God’s holy people to occupy the land.  In this event, God wanted His Holy people to recognize the sin and the sinner and purge them from the land, of course this was to be completed through God’s power. The holy cannot live with the sinful.  As we noted from the Scripture, the nation of Israel did not totally adhere to God’s commandment in regards to this purging of the sin and sinners.  The end result was the corruption of God’s people by those whom they did not eliminate.  

Deuteronomy chapters 7 & 8 provide us with a good explanation of God driving out the nations of sin for the Israelites.  As well as, a reminder for the Israelites to not forget the Lord and they themselves being destroyed.

The NT readily addresses the subject of love; our love for God and for one another.  But we are still to hate sin just as God hates sin.  But as believers, God has provided us with His Holy Spirit to assist us and guide us in adherence to God’s commandments.

 

How do we reconcile the hatred and desire for vengeance expressed by the Psalmist on a number of occasions with the NT teachings on loving our enemies?

We cannot simply say that the God of the Old Testament is different than the God of the New Testament.  This problem exists in every section of the Bible, even if it appears more frequently and most vividly in the Book of Psalms.

First, we must look at the word ‘vengeance’; in today’s world the word has a sinful and negative connotation. But to the ancient Israelites the concept of ‘vengeance’ was tied to the requirement of justice.  Where justice was trampled, vengeance was required.  

Although the command to “hate your enemy” is not found in the OT, there is hatred and anger expressed about evil doers.  In the Psalms, we read the accounts of the ‘righteous’ or ‘God fearing people’ who are being persecuted, slandered, etc., by the wicked and arrogant. Or, they are speaking of the wicked who are not following God’s commandments, who openly despise God, they are idol worshippers not worshippers of God.   They are crying out to God for justice, for God to take His vengeance out upon the ungodly.  Examples:

  • Psalm 5:5, “You hate all who do wrong.”
  • Psalm 7:11, “God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day.”
  • Psalm 26:5, “I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked.” Also, there are what is called, the “Imprecatory” Psalms which invoke judgment, calamity, or curses, upon one’s enemies or those perceived as the enemies of God. Examples:
  • Psalms 31:6, “I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord.” 
  • Psalms 119:113, “I hate the double-minded, but I love your law.”
  • Psalm 58:6: “Break the teeth in their mouths, O God; Lord, tear out the fangs of those lions!”
  • Psalm 109:9: “May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.”
  • Psalm 137:8-9: “Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us. Happy is the one who seizes your infants [or children — the age is not specified] and dashes them against the rocks.”
  • Psalms 139:21-22, “Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.” 

Although the specific command “love your enemies” is not in the OT, the concept cannot be restricted to the words themselves.  When enemies are fed and cared for and not killed or mistreated, then these actions show that love for the enemy is being practiced.  The OT did have something to say about helping enemies. Examples:

  • Ex. 23:4-5: “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it.”
  • Prov. 25:21-22: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” Paul quotes these verses in Rom. 12:20.

As we read through the Psalms the other observation is the mentioning of God’s hatred for wicked people.  “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.” (Psalms 5:5–6)How do we make sense of such a statement?  We can’t simply say, “God hates the sin but loves the sinner” because that plainly isn’t what the text says.  The text says that God hates the sinner.  We therefore must look again at the understanding of God’s hatred of sin and sinners previously mentioned.

God’s hatred of sin and sinners is not an uncontrolled emotional response.  The hatred of God is not an irrational outburst, but God’s moral response to our immorality, or to those who do evil.  God’s heartfelt emotion toward sinners is love, love that was demonstrated in the sacrifice of His Son for our sins (Jn.3:16; Rom.5:8).  Hatred is the response of His righteous character toward sin, the response of His holy nature against those who continue in rebellion against Him.

Therefore, we should just do what the Bible tells us to do.  The Psalms may speak of God hating evil doers and they may speak of David hating evil doers but they don’t tell us to do the same. On the contrary, the Psalms say that wicked, violent people will be rooted out from the world at the final judgment: “But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace” (Psalms 37:11).  That sounds very much like what Jesus said in Matthew 13:40-43:

“Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.  The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. (Matthew 13:40–43)

Jesus will do the judging and the sorting and the condemning – he is God and he is King and therefore that is his responsibility and right. Our job is to be meek and righteous.  At the end, he will remove all sin and all sinners, and we will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of our Father forever.

A final word about “love your enemies.”  We need to look at some considerations in encountering enemies at the personal level and at the level above, the government level.  The primary meaning of “love your enemies” is related to the Roman occupation of Palestine in the first century A.D.  It also carried over to apply to a personal level within general society.  There are two categories of ‘enemies’ at the personal level.  

The first enemy category at the personal level is related to those that are threatening life or physical harm.  We should still love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, but we do have a right to defend ourselves from any life threatening or serious physical harm situations.

The second enemy category at the personal level is related to people who are NOT threatening life or physical harm.  People who may dislike you for some reason, people who may disrupt your life in unpleasant ways, people who may strongly disagree with your Christian beliefs and lifestyle.  This may be the best category for the application of Jesus’ command to love your enemy.  Loving this category of enemy by showing acts of love or kindness and not retaliating with violence or revenge may change an enemy into a friend.

The loving enemies above the personal level, at the government level would entail situations such as war, use of deadly force to protect society from life threatening situations, and capital punishment.  We may not necessarily love people who are trying to destroy human life but we can always pray for them.

The primary difference between some of the people mentioned in the Psalms as compared to the NT teachings on loving our enemies is the Holy Spirit. 

Written by Robert G. Smith

Original Questions: What do you mean when you say every Sunday “God’s tithes and our offerings? Is God entitled to only ten percent? Are we entitled to 90%? Does this translate into everything else in life?

Matt 6:26.  Can you please explain how this might mesh with “expect trials of many kinds” and the extreme hardships that  Christians endure (in other countries)?  I know God protects us (many times without our knowledge) and he provides food through seed/plants/animals, etc., but children do starve to death in this world.  My perspective is that anything that happens negatively is the consequence of sin/the fall of man.  But thankfully, God uses evil for His good purpose.

Jesus said:  Matthew 6:26 (NIV2011) Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  How do you reconcile His word with the deep suffering that Christians (mostly other countries, not here) experience in other countries?

This is a great question, and is a clear reminder that the full counsel of God’s word is needed when studying theology  Taken only at face value, the verse seems to imply that since His people are valuable to God, they will be cared for in the same way that God cares for the birds of the air.  This is an analogy, and those who study scripture soon discover that every analogy has its respective limits in application.  The analogy of God’s care for His people in the same way He cares for the birds is a great example.  

The question itself implies that birds face no difficulties or similar challenges.  Of course, that isn’t accurate.  For most birds, there is sufficient protection and provision – but certainly not all.  The evidence is clear that birds some suffer or die from hunger, the result of not finding enough food, and others become the prey of other animals.  Certainly such examples happened in Jesus’ listeners’ own lifetime, just as it still does in contemporary times.  However, such untoward bird deaths were not normative.  While the word normative isn’t found in scripture, it is a very important word when studying theology.  The normative experience of birds then and now is that they live their full lives without starvation or being the prey of other animals.  The exceptional experience is that some die before their time, and in an untimely manner.  

Carefully applying the analogy to believers, the normative experience is that what is true for the birds is true for believers.  Both the birds and believers have provision for their needs.  (The work of gathering and planning is assumed for both.)  However, just like some birds die of starvation and others become prey, some believers do not have the normative experience most do.  Some in other countries (and perhaps even in the United States, though mostly unknown) have the exceptional experience and they suffer greatly.  In some places, Christians are indeed targeted and they suffer terribly because of it.  Some are specifically targeted and murdered.  Their untoward experiences should be acknowledged, but it should also be clear that such things are not normative.  They are exceptional.

In the passage above, Jesus was not making a flat, unqualified statement for either birds or believers.  Instead, He was saying that the normative experience of birds and believers is God’s care and provision.  However, though He made that statement, all of the apostles were beaten because of their faith, (Acts 5:40), and His own apostle James was martyred, (Acts 12:2).  The Apostle Paul specifically targeted Christians, literally beating some and imprisoning others, (Acts 22:19).  However, those were not the normative experiences of Christians then, and it certainly is not now.

Some unbelievers scoff at Christianity precisely because of such verses in scripture.  Seldom can unbelievers really grasp the biblical and spiritual principles behind the Christian life.  Instead they often mistakenly interpret scripture, feeding a spirit of disbelief in the bible’s message or giving ground for scoffing at matters of faith.  However, though most unbelievers will not find it understandable, the truth is that much of the Christian life can really only be apprehended by those who approach it from the perspective of faith.  Though unbelievers may apprehend some biblical truth, much of it will remain a mystery until it is approached by faith.  An unknown 14th century mystic wrote a clear truth in The Cloud of Unknowing:  “By love can God be gotten and holden, by thought and understanding never.”  The beginning place for understanding God has always been by faith.  Knowledge and human reasoning will forever remain comparatively useless.

What do you mean when you say every Sunday “God’s tithes and our offerings”?  Is God entitled only to ten percent?  As His are we entitled to 90%?  Does this translate to everything else in life?

When a church provides the opportunity for financial giving, something is often said to the effect, “This is our opportunity to pay God’s tithes and give our offerings.”  Those words might be understood to imply that God gets His 10% and the 90% is the believer’s to do with as he/she wants.  

First, from where does the idea of tithing come?   It is often said that tithing is under the law, and that is true.  However, what is not nearly as well known is that tithing actually precedes the law.  The first time tithing is mentioned in the bible, it is when Abraham paid tithes, (Gen 14:20), and that was hundreds of years before Moses was even born.  The New Testament is entirely silent about tithes, except for two verses.  The first is Matt 23:23 where Jesus told the Pharisees and church leaders that they should tithe, but they should not continue ignoring important things like justice, mercy, and faith.  The second is Hebrews where it says:  Hebrews 7:8 (ESV) In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives.  The author writes that “mortal men” at that time were still receiving tithes, referring to Jewish people who still paid their tithes at their temple or synagogue, but also Jewish Jewish Christians who continued to tithe to their church, as they had always done at their synagogue or temple.  They had done so all their lives and Jesus hadn’t given any instructions that stopped tithing.  Though the men on earth “received” the tithes that believers paid, the “other case” refers to heaven – where the tithes they are actually being received by someone unnamed – but the reference is to Jesus Himself, also described as a priest after the order of Melchisedec, who was noted as without beginning and without end.

Other than those two verses, the New Testament is silent about tithing – and they both suggest tithing continued both in Jesus’ ministry and after His resurrection.  The rest of the New Testament’s silence has led some to conclude tithing is no longer applicable.  However, Jesus spoke extensively about many subjects and how they were to be considered under grace vs. the law.  Yet, there is never a hint about ending the tithe.  Of course, in Malachi 3:8, God Himself portrays the non-payment of tithes and offerings as robbery, a very serious charge.  That instruction would make it seem of primary importance that the New Testament is remarkably silent about any end of tithing.  It could even be reasoned that Jesus Himself must have given what appeared to be the tithe, since others must have watched what Jesus gave, just as they had watched the widow give her two mites, (Mark 12:42).  Had His religious critics seen Jesus give anything less than what would have appeared to be a tithe, they would have included that failure in their list of His violations of the law.  They certainly had no hesitation about criticizing Him for a number of other things – and the Pharisees were lovers of money, (ESV/Lu 16:14). 

God’s portion – the tithe – is 10%, but that does not mean that believers may do what they wish with the remaining 90%.  All of the believer’s life belongs to the Lord, and that includes the 90% God has left for believers to steward.  However, while the biblical tithe is 10% of one’s taxable income, there is no scriptural foundation that suggests God expects 10% of everything else in the believer’s life – like 10% of the believer’s time.  However, the Lordship of Christ means that He is Lord over the believer, both for the 10% in tithes, and for how the believer uses the remaining 90%.  Some of the believer’s remaining 90% should be given as personal offerings.  Then, after believers have provided for their own households, they should give some of what remains to the poor and the community, as they feel led by the Lord.

Written by Frank Demsky

Original Question: If you have faith as strong as a mustard seed… Why don’t the mountains move sometimes?  Anything you ask in my name shall be given to you… I don’t mean a million dollars, but when you pray for things like saving a marriage or someone’s salvation, isn’t that in his name? Why is it not always given to us?

God’s Holy Word, provides us with many scriptures associated with prayer.  First and foremost, we must believe in God; as Creator, Savior, and Deliverer. He is worthy and deserving of our trust and praise; and that anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Secondly, we must know that God answers our prayers in accordance to His will and purpose. 

The Scriptures provide us with commandments and guidelines concerning our prayer life.  These include; prerequisite conditions and/or commandments for us prior to submitting our prayer requests, and commandments and guidelines on how to effectively pray to God. (Heb.11:6)

 There are a number of scriptures that describe certain conditions or hindrances that may exist in our relationship with God and in our prayer life.  These conditions or hindrances may impact how God receives our prayer requests and how or whether they are answered. 

The following are several prerequisite conditions and/or commandments stated in God’s Holy Word for us prior to submitting our prayer requests and that help us with answered prayer:

  1.       We must believe in the name and person of God’s Son, Jesus Christ (1 Jn.3:23).
  2.       God calls us to be holy, because He is holy.  (Eph,1:4; 1Pet.1:14-16; Eph.5:1)
  3.       Sin offends our holy God and separates us from Him.  We are to confess our sins to God so that    our sins will no longer stand in the way of our relationship with Him, and our prayer requests. Remember that to be forgiven, we must be forgiving of others before we pray.  Harboring      unconfessed sin will put a barrier between us and God. (Isaiah 59:2; Ps.66:16-20: Mt. 6:12;

            Mt. 6:14-15; Mk 11:25).

  1.       God hears the prayers of those who obey His commands (Jn.15:9-10, 17; 1 Jn. 3:22-23).
  2.       An ongoing abiding life in Christ (having regular fellowship with Him) will allow our prayers to       be heard.  When fellowship is broken, so is our communication with God (Jn. 15:7).
  3.       Jesus teaches us about the benefits of fasting in Mt.6:16-18; Biblical fasting means more than      just abstaining from food; it means to abstain from food in order to concentrate upon God and      His answer to a particular matter. Fasting involves prayer, intense supplications before God         (v.18), and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

The following are several commandments or guidelines on how we are to pray so that they will be effectively heard by God.  Certain practices or attitudes can hinder our prayers and, in such cases, God may not respond to them.  

  1.     Study the Bible to know and pray according to God’s mind and will (Jn. 15:7; 1 Jn. 5:14-  15; Mat. 4:4).
  2.       Ask God to guide and inspire you with His Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14-15, Rom. 8:26-27; Jn. 14:26).
  3.       Believe—have full faith in God’s love, mercy and promises—and expect answers (Psalm 34;

            Mk. 11:24; Heb. 10:22, Heb. 10:38-39; Heb. 11:6; Jam. 1:5-6).

  1.       Be extremely grateful to God and express thanksgiving and praise profusely (Psalm.34;

            Phil. 4:6; Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:16-18).

  1.       Be wholehearted, fervent and passionate in prayer (Jam. 5:16; Psalm 119:145; Hosea 7:14).
  2.       Pray in the Spirit (that is, under the control of the Holy Spirit). This verse instructs us that we            must also persevere in our praying (Eph. 6:18).
  3.       Pray with expectancy and no doubt in our heart (Mk. 11:23-24).
  4.       We are to submit our prayers to God in the name of Jesus Christ (Jn.14:13-14; Jn.15:16; Jn.   16.23-24).  Jesus Himself makes it very plain and very clear that we are to direct all of our personal prayers directly to God the Father.  We must come to God as “Our Father which is in        heaven, (also reference Mt.7:11).  We are not to pray directly to Jesus, or the Holy Spirit.  But   we are to submit our prayer requests to God in the name of Jesus.

The first part of this question asks; If you have faith as strong as a mustard seed… why don’t the mountains move sometimes?

One of the best scripture passages that helps us to understand the answer to this question is found in Mk.11:22-25.  Jesus is speaking to us about the power that comes through faith and prayer. 

  1.       His first words in verse 22 are “have faith in God.”  Jesus is telling us that God is the “object of        our faith”.  Faith by itself has no power, it is the object that has power.  Faith requires us to    know the object, God.  We gain our knowledge of God through reading and studying His Holy         and True Word, and through our fellowship, worship and prayers. 
  2.       Jesus also tells us that the way to possess faith is through prayer; no doubting in our heart, and       believing in God’s authority.
  3.       Jesus tells us that the purpose of faith is to “move mountains.”  This doesn’t mean to physically   move a mountain, although God does have the power to do so; the mountain represents those     immovable objects or issues in our life that obstruct us in any number of ways, and that they are   impossible for us to remove.  But if we have faith in God, even as small as a mustard seed He          will help us with these obstructions in our life.
  4.       Jesus tells us that we are to have no doubt in our heart but to believe that what we request will    be done.

5,        Jesus tells us that whatever we ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it.  This    condition is expectancy, the spirit is to believe.

  1.       Jesus also provides us with one final condition and that is forgiveness.  “And when you pray, if     you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you           your sins.”

The second part of the question asks about praying in His name.  We are to specifically speak the words to God that we are making our prayer requests to Him in the Holy and Glorious name of His Son and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  (Jn.14:13-14; Jn.15:16; Jn.            16.23-24).

The third part of the questions asks why our prayer requests are not given to us all the time?  In Mt. 7:7-8 Jesus helps us with this answer.  Some even ask, why do we need to ask at all when God knows our needs even before we ask?

 

  1.       Jesus tells us to persist in pursuing God.  True prayer is persevering prayer.  Our genuineness   and sincerity are known by how much we persevere in prayer.  People often give up after a few      halfhearted efforts and conclude that God cannot be found.  Failing to persevere in prayer    shames God and ourselves.
  2.       Prayer teaches us to communicate and fellowship with God and to trust and seek God more and   more.  When God holds back the giving, we keep coming to talk and share with Him even more.
  3.       Prayer teaches us both patience and hope in God and His promises.  When God does not give           immediately, we patiently (enduringly) keep coming into His presence, waiting and hoping in what He has promised.
  4.       Prayer teaches us to love God as our Father more and more.  Knowing that God is going to           answer our prayer and having to wait on the answer causes us to draw closer to God and His gifts.  When the prayer is answered, our hearts are endeared to Him much more than before.
  5.       Prayer demonstrates how deeply we trust God and how much we love and depend upon Him.

Hopefully, the answers provided to the questions so far, would partially respond to this question.  As we can readily see, our prayer life is a two-way communion with God, it requires our active participation prior to prayer, during prayer, and while awaiting God’s response to our prayers.  

This is why it is so important that we read and study the Bible every day and that we have a quite time of fellowship with God.  God speaks to us through His Word and in those quite times with Him.  It is during these times with God, that He will speak or bring to mind something about our life or our relationship with Him that requires our attention and action.

For example; we may be reminded of harboring some known/unknown unconfessed sin; unforgiveness towards another person; knowingly or unknowingly not abiding to certain commandments; we may be suffering from some guilt or shame in our lives; perhaps our faith is weak; we don’t thank or praise God enough, we don’t pray with expectancy, etc. 

Possibly, God gives us actions to perform and with His help, it resolves a certain condition or hinderance in our prayer life, or in our relationship with God.  Maybe, there is something that God is wanting to teach us that might be associated with certain prayers and until we learn the lesson by taking the appropriate action(s) our prayer may continue to be hindered. 

We must always put forth our greatest effort to sustain our relationship with the Holy Spirit; so that we are dependent upon His council and guidance, that we may live our lives in accordance to God’s commandments.  God does love us and He knows our hearts when we seek Him for any reason.

Written by David Behn

God allows many forms of enjoyment in this earthly life with one of them being video games. It can give a person pleasure, be relaxing, and can sometimes challenge a person’s intellect. It can also be used in educating and in some cases, it can also be a social interaction with others.

God cares about what would be contrary to His will. There is no information in the Bible about playing video games but there is information in there about staying within God’s will.

Things to consider when playing video games which could dishonor God:

  1. The amount of time consumed in which video games are played. In 1Corinthians 10: 23-24 it states “Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible but not everything is constructive”. From these verses, it can be asked if this is the best use of time.  Most video games are designed to play hours on end. There is a real fear of becoming addicted to these games and it can take precious time away from the family, schoolwork, and most of all, cherished time away from God. 
  2. If it becomes an obsession, then it can become an idol.  It states in 1 Corinthians 10:14

“Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry”. Do not let the video game become your God.

  1. Does the content of the game lead a person into temptation or sin? This could possibly be acted out in violence, hatred, and sexual immorality in the real world. 
  2. Beware of games which are on the evil side i.e. satanic, violent, or dealing with witchcraft. These types of games can take away from the loving nature of God.  
  3. Is a person able to distinguish between reality and fantasy, right and wrong, or good and evil? If not, there is a real danger of being pulled away from God’s loving nature and fall into a secular worldly position.
  4. Does it fall in line with Philippians 4:8“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things”

Video games can be enjoyable if care is taken in the choice of the games played and the amount of time playing the games. Ask God for wisdom, if He would approve of the type of game that is being played. Everything should be for the glory of God, and if it is not, it is probably sinful. 

As stated in Ephesians 5:15-17 “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” 

Written by Frank Demsky

 

There is a short answer to understand the meaning of the term “abomination of desolation” as mentioned in Mt.24:15. But, there is also a very important longer answer to totally understand this term in the whole of Matthew 24.  This answer also shows that Christ is explaining in more detail what Daniel had prophesied.

First, we must understand that at the beginning of Mt.24 in verse 3; Jesus is responding to two questions from the disciples.  (When shall the temple be destroyed, and what shall be the sign of His coming and of the end of the world). Jesus is teaching the disciples concerning the “signs of the end times” (Mt.24:1:14) and also, about the most terrible sign; the abomination of desolation and the great tribulation (Mt.24:15-28).

The short answer: The “abomination of desolation” can best be described as any deliberate attempt to mock and deny the reality of God’s presence.

There was a past fulfillment; before the time of Christ about 170 B.C. by Antiochus Epiphanes, the king of Syria.  Upon conquering Jerusalem, he tried to force Grecian society upon the Jews.  To be successful, he had to destroy the Jewish religion.  He did three of the most horrible things that could ever be done in the mind of the Jewish people.  He desecrated the temple by taking the great altar of the burnt offering and turning it into an altar for the Greek god Zeus.  He also sacrificed the flesh of swine upon the altar.  And by setting up a trade of prostitution in the temple chambers.

Jesus spoke of a near future fulfillment; Jesus said the same thing that happened under Antiochus Epiphanes will happen again to the Holy Place.  In A.D. 70, just forty years after Jesus spoke these words Titus placed an idol on the site of the burnt temple after destroying Jerusalem.

Jesus spoke of a distant future fulfillment; In the end times the antichrist will set up an image of himself and order everyone to worship it.

The signs that point toward one who have sinned so terribly (Jerusalem) are much the same as the signs that point toward another who is guilty of terrible sin (the world in the end time).

Jesus states nine signs that occur up until the abomination of desolation.  The beginning signs (v.5-7 “the beginning of sorrows”).  After the beginning of sorrows, the succeeding signs of personal threats and sorrows (v.9-12).  The promise signs: the result of faithfulness (v.13-14). 

The trials that take place after the abomination of desolation are called “great tribulations,” tribulations so great that they are unparalleled in history (Mt.24:21).

Written by Frank Demsky

The book of Ezekiel begins by describing the holiness of God that Israel had despised and ignored.  As a result, God’s presence departed from the temple, the city, and the people.  The book ends with a detailed vision of the new temple, the new city, and the new people; all demonstrating God’s holiness.

The glory of the Lord returns to fill the temple (Ezekiel 43:1-12)

Eze.43:1:  This is the culmination of chapters 40-42, because God’s glory returns to the temple.  It reverses the negative cast of the book and serves as a fitting end for all the passages dealing with the blessings reserved for the restored remnant.

Eze.43:2-4, In Eze.11:23:  when God’s glory departed the temple, God’s glory stopped over the Mount of Olives, to the east of Jerusalem, before leaving the city.  This prophecy states that his glory would also return from the east.  Ezekiel saw God’s glory return.

Eze.43:9-11:  God’s departure from the city had been a signal for the destruction of the city and the temple.  Now for God to return, his conditions had to be met, idolatry had to be removed.

The Lord explained exactly what was happening and why.  God’s glory will fill the temple for four purposes:

  1. The new temple will be the place where the throne of God and His glorious presence will be (v7a).  The special display of God’s presence and glory will be centered in the Messiah.  The Lord Jesus Christ Himself will build the new Messianic temple.  He will place His throne, the seat of His government in the temple.  He will live in the temple, dwelling forever among the true believers of Israel (and all other nations as well).
  2. The new temple will be to honor God’s Holy Name and to guarantee a righteous society throughout all Israel (and the entire earth) (vv.7b-8).
  3. The new temple – the hope of God’s presence on earth will be to stir the present generation to repent (v.9).  The wonderful promise to those who repent, the Lord will live with them forever.
  4. The new temple will be to teach that God is holy and people are sinful.  People must become ashamed of their sin enough to approach God exactly as He says (vv.10-12).  The basic law of God’s temple was holiness.  God is holy, perfect, and blameless.  Just as God is holy, so we are to be holy (Lev.19:1).  People are holy when they are devoted to God and separated from sin.

The Messiah’s Temple emphasizes the huge wall of separation and alienation between God and us, between His glory and holiness and our sin and corruption.  We desperately need to be spiritually cleansed.  Our sins need to be washed away, forgiven forever by the blood of the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The restoration of the altar of sacrifice is a reminder that Christ’s sacrifice alone makes us acceptable to God.  (Ezekiel 43:13-27)

The design of the altar is provided in Eze.43:13-17.

The regulations (laws/ordinances) governing the use of the altar in the Messiah’s Kingdom and setting it apart for holy use, is provided in Eze.43:18-27.

The sacrifices or offerings of the Old Testament were symbols pointing to Jesus Christ as the substitute sacrifice.

The vision in Eze.43:18-27 was simultaneously flashing back to Mount Sinai and forward to Mount Calvary.  When the people returned from exile, they would seek forgiveness through the sacrificial system instituted in Moses’ day.

The purpose of the sin offering is to cleanse and make atonement for the altar.  To be acceptable to God, the altar will need to be cleansed through the blood of the atoning sacrifice.  The altar is to be cleansed every day for seven days.  Once this week-long memorial has been celebrated, God will consider the altar fit for worship and accept it.

On the eighth day and on every succeeding day, the priests are to present the people’s burnt offerings and fellowship offerings on the altar (v27).  Then, ‘I will accept you,’ declares the Sovereign Lord.  God will accept the Jews who continue to make the prescribed offerings.

(The priests shall make your burnt offerings upon the altar and your peace offerings or “thank offerings,” preach Christ and Him crucified to the people, and offer up the sacrifices of prayer and praise unto God for them and ‘I will accept you,’ saith the Lord God through Christ the Mediator, ‘in whom he is well pleased’ (who is the altar on which such sacrifices are accepted, and become well pleasing to God). 

Eze.43:1-27: After Ezekiel had surveyed the temple of God, he had a vision of the glory of God.  When Christ is crucified and the things freely given to us of God, through Him, are shown to us by the Holy Ghost, they make us ashamed for our sins.  This frame of mind prepares us for fuller discoveries of the mysteries of redeeming love and the whole of the Scriptures should be opened and applied that men may see their sins, and repent of them.  We are not now to offer any atoning sacrifices, for by one offering Christ has perfected forever those that are sanctified, Heb 10:14 but the sprinkling of his blood is needful in all our approaches to God the Father.  Our best services can be accepted only as sprinkled with the blood of Christ which cleanses us from all sin.

 

The Epistle to the Hebrews Heb. 8-10 helps us to recognize in this vision the symbol of the purification of the Church of God by the cleansing blood of Christ.  The altar of Ezekiel’s visionary temple reminds us of another altar, in the form of a cross, on which a perfect sacrifice at last achieved the bridging of that gap that separates human beings from their God.

 

“Why the sacrifices at all?” They will serve as a memorial of the way things were.  We know that sacrifices never eliminate sins, only Christ is capable of doing that.  The Old Testament sacrifices previewed Christ’s sacrificial death.  The millennial sacrifices are, likewise, memorials of Christ’s sacrificial death.  These sacrifices will be offered as memorials and not as sin coverings. 

 God accepts any person who approaches Him through the sacrificial death of Christ.  Although we celebrate the Lord’s death through the memorial of the Lord’s Supper, the Jews will celebrate the shedding of His blood through the sacrificial offerings.

Neither the memorial of the Lord’s Supper, nor the memorial of sacrifices, save us.  Salvation depends upon Christ’s sacrificial death upon the cross.  God does not accept us because we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and He will not accept the Jews because they commemorate the sacrificial offerings.  God accepts us only because we trust in the sacrificial death of His Son to save us.  We are saved and made acceptable only through the Lord’s sacrifice on our behalf.

 

This is why worship is so important – it takes our eyes off our current worries, gives us a glimpse of God’s holiness and allows us to look toward his future kingdom.  God’s presence makes everything glorious, and worship brings us into his presence.  

Written by Frank Demsky

 

The short answer: 

The ordinance of circumcision given to ancient Israel was an outward physical sign of one’s willingness to obey God and be one of His chosen people.  Later in Deut. Moses said, “circumcise your hearts (submit to God), therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.  Moses is stressing the point that the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.”

This type of circumcision, by definition a circumcision of the spirit and not the flesh, goes to the heart of a man, to his soul, his essence, his attitudes, and relationship with God.  Because this theme of an inner circumcision is so important, God repeats and stresses it, as in (Deut. 10:12-16).  Over time, the Israelites had forgotten the portion about obeying God and only celebrated the ritual or ceremonial act of circumcision that signified a male as one of God’s chosen people.

In the New Testament, Paul speaks of a {new man,” he is not new because of physical circumcision.  He is new because he has obeyed God’s command to “circumcise the foreskin of [his] heart, and be stiff-necked no longer” (Deut. 10:16), see (Jer. 4:4). Concerning this new man, Paul understands and claims that “circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit.” “Heart,” here refers to mind. The new man is new because he is “renewed in the spirit of [his] mind” (Eph. 4:23).  By definition, the new man is spiritually circumcised – circumcised in his mind.

 

Paul also wrote, “And in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands” (Col. 2:11). If you are a genuine believer in Jesus Christ, He circumcised you with invisible hands.  Here, we see that the need for your heart to be circumcised is not merely an Old Testament teaching.  This truth is still applicable to us in the New Testament.  The invisible hand of God must bring the piercing to the heart. There must be “the removal of the body of the flesh” (verse 11).  Here, “flesh” refers not to physical flesh, but to a person’s sinful flesh.  The only way for this old man to be removed is by the spiritual circumcision that was performed by Christ in the new birth.

 

The Greater Meaning of Circumcision:

 

Gen. 12:1-3, is widely recognized as the Abrahamic Covenant, and so it is.  But it is important to emphasize that the Bible demonstrates the principle of progressive revelation.  Truth is seldom revealed all at one time and place (see Eph. 2:8-10; 5:32).  It is gradually unfolded, through time. 

This covenant is introduced in Gen. 12:1-3; but only in very general terms.  There are personal promises made to Abram, as there are collective promises made concerning his offspring.  In general terms, God promises Abram that He will give him many descendants, and that He will also give him the land of Canaan.  Abraham will be the touchstone for the blessing or cursing of all mankind.  The covenant will not be formally ratified until the sacrifice is offered in chapter 15, and Abraham does not receive the covenant sign of circumcision until chapter 17. 

Abram is told that he will have many descendants in chapter 12, and we see in Gen. 15:2, that Abram assumes that his “seed” will have to be an adopted servant from his household.  In Gen. 15:4, God assures Abram that the promised “seed” will come forth from his own body.  It is not until after the birth of Ishmael that Abram is told he and Sarah will be the parents of the promised child (Gen. 17:15-16).  God progressively reveals His plans and purposes to Abram.  Because of this, we should expect the details of the Abrahamic Covenant to be disclosed progressively, over some period of time.  This is precisely what happens.  Abraham is the one whom God designates as the patriarch of the family from which the promised “seed” will come.  As the story of Abraham unfolds, more and more details concerning the promised blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant will be disclosed.

Gen. 12:1-3:

  1. v.1; God’s call to Abram to live a life of separation (from the ungodly, immoral, covetous ways of the world); to the promised land that God will show him, based on the promise of God.
  2. A land that lay out in the future, not to be immediately possessed.  It definitely refers to the land of Israel; it definitely refers to heaven (physical & spiritual).  [Gen. 12:6-7; Gen. 13:14-15, 17; Gen. 26:3;] [Heb. 118-10, 13-16].  God’s promised land refers to the whole world.  It is the whole world that Abram and believers are to inherit (inheritance of the new heavens and earth).
  3. The promise given to Abram parallels the promise given to the believer.  We will inherit the promised land if we turn away from the world and follow God.
  4. v.2; The promised seed; he would give birth to a physical people, and give birth to a spiritual people; people of faith, true and genuine believers who would follow after God and His promises. [Rom. 4:11, 13-14, 16, 23-25; Gal. 3:77-9, 14, 26, 29; Gal. 6:16]
  5. v.3; God promised to give Abram the promised seed, meaning the Messiah, the Savior of the world (“all peoples on earth will be blessed through you”).  Only God Himself, through His Son, Jesus Christ could do something so great.
  6. Second time the Bible predicts the coming of Jesus [Gen. 3:15; Gen. 12:3].
  7. Gave the promise of the Savior three times to Abram [Gen. 12:3; Gen. 18:17-18; Gen. 22:18].  God confirmed the promise to Isaac and Jacob [Gen. 26:3-4; Gen. 28:14]
  8. New Testament references and interpretation: [Acts. 3:25-26; Rom. 4:3, 7-11, 13-14; Gal. 3:7-9 (“God announced the gospel in advance to Abram”). *Gal. 3:16*; Gal. 3:17-18;

Gal. 3:13-14.

  1. v.4; Abram obeyed God, the beginning of faith.  Genesis 15:1-21; Abram was assured of God’s  covenant; reassured faith.
  2. v.4; God tells Abram that his heir shall be son coming from his own body.
  3. v.18-21; God reaffirms His covenant of the promised land with Abram

Genesis 17:4-14:

Abram had the covenant reconfirmed by God; renewed faith by receiving a fresh revelation from “God Almighty” (El Shaddai; the God that possessed all might and power).

  1. Abram was charged by God to make a new commitment: To walk before God continually (to live step by step in the presence of God); to live a blameless, perfect life (God is teaching holiness, to  walk before God diligently seeking to live a perfect and blameless life). v.1-2
  2. Abram humbled himself before God and listened to God. v.3
  3. Abram heard & believed God’s covenant or promises and had to keep them. V.6-14
  4. v.6-8; the promise land.
  5. v.9-14; keep the ritual of the covenant.  Every man child among him would be circumcised; every child in the following generations shall also be circumcised at eight days old.
  6. v.13-14; It is to be an everlasting sign to be strictly observed.  Refusal to share in the ritual was to be severely punished.
  7. Abram had to accept the will and purpose of God.  v. 19-20
  8. Abram making a public decision and obeying God’s instruction, Word. v. 22-23

In these verses, God explains His covenant of circumcision with Abraham.  The ordinance of circumcision was an outward physical sign of one’s willingness to obey God and be one of His chosen people.  In v.7, God told Abraham the He would be his God and the God of his descendants after him.  

Why did God require circumcision?  (1) As a sign of obedience to him in all matters.  (2) They would become part of God’s covenant family and the blessings promised to Abraham would continue with his descendants, if they continue to obey God.  Once circumcised, there would be no turning back.  The man would be identified as a Jew forever.  (3)  As a symbol of “cutting off” the old life of sin, purifying one’s heart, and dedicating oneself to God.  

Circumcision more than any other practice separated God’s people from their pagan neighbors (who were sinful before God).  In v. 14, God explained the consequences of anyone who refused to be circumcised; they would be cut off from his people, and they will have broken God’s covenant.  They are no longer a part of God’s covenant family and they will no longer receive any of God’s promises made through Abraham.

Genesis 18:9-15: The promised seed; the Lord Himself would return and perform a miracle & give Sarah a son.

Genesis 21:1-7: God proved Himself, His Word & power.  Abraham saw the promised son Isaac born (both Isaac and Christ were the promised seed or son, both births were set or appointed by God), and he circumcised him on the eighth day

Deuteronomy 10:12-16 

Moses speaks to the nation of Israel: 12“O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?  15Yet the Lord set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today.  In verse 16, Moses said, “circumcise your hearts (submit to God), therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer.

Jeremiah 4:3-4: 3“For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.  4Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.”

Jeremiah told the people to break up the hardness of their hearts as a plow breaks up unplowed ground.  Their hearts had become hardened to God’s will.  Jeremiah said the people needed to remove the sin that hardened their hearts before the good seed of God’s commands could take root.

Under the New Covenant, God is calling a spiritual nation composed of individuals converted and regenerated by His Holy Spirit.  God’s people now are all to be “circumcised” spiritually.  Physical circumcision is no longer necessary for religious purposes.  It was a forerunner or type of what God really wanted—circumcision of the heart; (Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4).  Paul told the congregation in Rome that physical circumcision is of no spiritual benefit (Rom. 2:25-29).  Spiritual circumcision, though, is a process of conversion.  That Christ circumcises us spiritually is made plain in (Col. 2:9-11); 9“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.  11In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ.” 

This is why the assembled apostles and elders of the New Testament church declared circumcision to be one of the physical requirements of the Old Covenant that is not necessary for Christians (Acts 15:24, 28). It is for entirely non-religious reasons that one may decide to be circumcised or have his son circumcised.

Galatians 6:15: is a key verse in which Paul said emphatically, “For neither is circumcision anything nor uncircumcision.” This means, there is no saving value whatsoever in physical circumcision.  The apostle continued, “but a new creation” (Gal. 6:15). This is to say, the only thing that matters before God is that a person is born again and becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus.  Paul talks elsewhere about becoming this new creation.  He writes, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17).  To become a “new creature” is a metaphorical expression for the new birth. 

Love is the essence of the spirit of the Law of God. The commandments are prescribed as rules of life.  When we love, we have found the true principle of obedience. We have entered into the true spirit of the holy law. Paul sums it all up in love.  And we, having received the love of Christ, living in His love, see the Law not as a stern condemning taskmaster but as an appealing bright vision of understanding and blessing.

We see the Law embodied in Christ, and our imitation of Christ involves obedience to the Law, but we fulfill the Law not simply as a standard outside, but as a living principle within.  Acting according to the dictates of the way of love, our lives conform to the image of Christ, as we conform to the Law.  Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.

Col. 2:28-29; The True Circumcision 

 This truth should be clear to the believers in Rome.  “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh” (verse 28).  This circumcision is referring not to what is “outward”, but to true spiritual circumcision of the heart.  Being made right with God is not found in the outward circumcision of the flesh, but of the heart.  A true Jew is not a Jew with only a physical circumcision, but one who has been spiritually circumcised.  Verse 28 reveals what true circumcision is not.

 The following verse explains what it is the true circumcision.  The negative denial is found in verse 28, namely what it is not.  Now, the positive assertion is found in verse 29, that is, what it is.  There can be no misunderstanding in what Paul says.  “But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter” (verse 29).  This refers to a true, completed, authentic Jew.  “The letter” refers to all the different requirements of the Law that one must keep externally by his own self-will.  True circumcision must be performed by the Spirit, not by human hands.

 Paul then concludes, “and his praise is not from men, but from God” (verse 29).  If one is a Jew, he is going to receive applause from other Jews, who have also been physically circumcised.  But what matters is not the praise that is from men, but from God.  There is a pun taking place here because the word “Jew” (Ioudaios) means ‘praise,’ which is derived from the tribe of Judah.  True praise from God can only come for a true Jew. 

Written by Rick Fodey

First and foremost when approaching questions arising from Scripture, the context from which the question is generated is of primary importance. In the case of Revelation 1:4, for instance, it is of great help to look at verses 1-5a as the immediate context. It gives, I believe, great insight into the question of the “seven spirits”.

With regard to the “God Head”, we see from verse one of Revelation, chapter one, that Jesus Christ was given revelation from the God the Father. That revelation was to be shown to the bond-servants of Jesus. Then in verse four we see the greeting of “grace” being given. In a plain reading of the text, I would understand the greeting to be coming from the Father (Him who is and who was and who is to come), the seven Spirits, and the Son, Jesus Christ. The most problematic to classify, of course, is the reference to the “seven Spirits”.

Some commentators see the reference to the “seven Spirits” as meaning the Holy Spirit. They use Isaiah 11:2 to show that the “seven Spirits” before the throne was simply a metaphor to show the seven-fold manifestation of the one Holy Spirit. 

Other commentators see the reference to “seven spirits” as being seven high-ranking spirits that serve God only, and are before His throne constantly.

As already mentioned, context is the most important consideration when considering questions arising from Scripture. A broader context, then, might lend some insight. Moving outward into further chapters of Revelation—8:2–we see a description of “seven angels who stand before God.” These angels hold the seven trumpets which are to sound at the command of God. Some commentators see a stronger connection between the “seven Spirits” already mentioned and these “seven angels” spoken of in chapter eight. These commentators see the seven angels as the archangels of God.

As for the completion of the “God Head”, the unfolding of chapters two and three, the Spirit of God is very active: after the message to each church, Jesus proclaims through John, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Note that it is not what the “Spirits”—plural—is saying to the churches, but the “Spirit”—singular—that is speaking to the churches.

In my opinion, from a plain, literal reading of the text, it would be very difficult to draw a firm conclusion of what the angel, sent to John by Jesus, was conveying to John.

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