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Biblical Leadership   Freewill Versus Predestination   Success in Life  -  Hate Evil Love Good  -  Doctrine of the Trinity

Hate Evil Love Good

1 John 5:16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.

This Bible study seeks to understand the phrase in 1 John 5:16 stating not to pray for people who commit certain sins leading to death. It endeavors to define who these people are and when not to pray for others. In order to comprehend this topic fully it is necessary to understand other Biblical concepts, such as judge not lest ye be judged, love your enemies, and to forgive and you will be forgiven. Are there limits to who you are required to forgive? Do you have to forgive everyone? Are there some people that you should not reach out to or pray for? Did Jesus forgive everyone?

In my years as a Christian I have come across many different churches, and I found some actions in a few of the churches very questionable. Sending evangelists to prisons is one such practice. I am also aware of a church the reaches out to sex offenders and child molesters. This Bible study seeks to determine if there are people that are beyond redemption; people that Christians are not called to pray for, have pity on, or attempt to save. We will begin this study by examining verses that tell us not to pray for certain people.

1 John 5:12, 14-17 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life…Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.

There are a few things to note in the above verses. First of all, the one being prayed for is a brother, meaning it is a member of the Body of Christ (a Christian). The first verse mentions that those who have the son have life. We are then told that if we pray for a brother that is sinning a sin that does not lead to death that he will be given life, which implies that the brother was in danger of losing the life he had previously obtained. We are further told that if the action being committed was a sin leading to death, that we should not pray for the brother in that situation. This verse brings up a number of questions regarding prayer and sin.

Who should be prayed for? In the above verses, the instruction is only to pray for fellow Christians, and even then, only for fellow Christians whose sins do not reach a certain level. The verse implies that there are differing levels of sins – some that lead to death and other lesser sins. To accurately apply the teaching in the above verses, we must first understand what sins we are not to pray for. In order to do so we will examine other verses in the Bible relating to prayer and forgiveness.

Exodus 32:9-14 And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: Now Therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation. And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever. And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

The above verses are an example of someone (Moses in this case) petitioning God for the forgiveness of other people’s sins. God listened to Moses’ petition, and did not punish the people for their sins at that time. The following are the results of the forgiveness associated with the above verses.

Exodus 32:15-21 And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables. And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp. And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear. And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strowed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it. And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?

As soon as Moses returned from making intercession for the sins of the people, he found them repeating the very thing they were just forgiven for. In response to their continued sin, Moses again attempted to make intercession for them.

Exodus 32:30-35 Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, "You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin." Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, "Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! "Yet now, if You will forgive their sin-but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written." And the Lord said to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. "Now therefore, go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you. Behold, My Angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit for punishment, I will visit punishment upon them for their sin." So the Lord plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made.

Again, Moses attempted to make atonement for the people’s sin, but this time God did not forgive the people. Moses even suggested that if God was not willing to forgive the sin of the people, that his name be blotted out also. God corrected Moses and stated that he would only blot out the names of those who have sinned against Him – they would be punished on the day of his visitation and were plagued until then.

Numbers 14:18-24 'The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.' "Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now." Then the Lord said: "I have pardoned, according to your word; "but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, "they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it. "But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land Where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.

Numbers 14:29-32 'The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above. 'Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness.

The above verses stress that God is abundant in mercy and forgiveness, but they also state that He by no means clears the guilty. In the above verses Moses asked God to forgive the people for complaining against Him. The people did not want to fight for the land that God had promised them (Numbers 14:3), and they wanted to pick someone to lead them back to Egypt (Numbers 14:4). In response to the petition, God pardoned the general assembly, while holding each individual accountable for their actions. God did not punish the entire congregation for their complaints, but by no means did he clear the guilty of their punishment. God declared that those who rejected him would not enter into the land that He had promised to their fathers. Those who rejected God were freed from Egypt only to die in the desert.

1 Samuel 15:24-26 Then Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, please pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the Lord.” But Samuel said to Saul, "I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel."

In the above verses, Saul asks Samuel to pardon his sin, but in this case Saul’s sin was not forgiven; and due to his sin he was rejected by God and lost his position as king of Israel. Saul was told to, “Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed” (1 Samuel 15:18), but Saul did not obey the commandment of God completely; he allowed the Amalekites’ king to live, and he took their spoil. The sin of Saul (which was unforgivable) was the deliberate rejection of God’s commandment. Now, we will examine some other instances where God specifically states not to pray for others.

Do not pray for this people…for I will not hear you

Jeremiah 7:16-17 "Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them, nor make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you. Do you not see what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?”

Jeremiah 11:11, 14 Therefore thus says the Lord” “Behold, I will surely bring calamity on them which they will not be able to escape; and though they cry out to Me, I will not listen to them… “So do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them; for I will not hear them in the time that they cry out to Me because of the trouble.”

Jeremiah 14:10-12 Thus says the Lord to this people: "Thus they have loved to wander; They have not restrained their feet. Therefore the Lord does not accept them; He will remember their iniquity now, and punish their sins." Then the Lord said to me, "Do not pray for this people, for their good. “When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence."

Jeremiah 15:1-2 Then the Lord said to me, "Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people. Cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth. "And it shall be, if they say to you, 'Where should we go?' then you shall tell them, 'Thus says the Lord: "Such as are for death, to death; And such as are for the sword, to the sword; And such as are for the famine, to the famine; And such as are for the captivity, to the captivity."

The Lord stated not to pray for the evildoers in the above situations. The sins of those in chapters 14 and 15 were the result of continued sin. “You have forsaken Me,” says the Lord, “You have gone backward. Therefore I will stretch out My hand against you and destroy you; I am weary of relenting (Jeremiah 15:16)!” The people continued in their sins, and although God is longsuffering and merciful, there is a point where he becomes weary of relenting. Chapters 14 and 15 refer to the people returning to and continuing in their sins. We can examine what sins the people were guilty of by studying Jeremiah chapter seven.

Jeremiah 7:6-11 If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. Behold, ye trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the LORD.

Ezekiel 22:29-31 "The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. “Therefore I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord God.

The unforgivable sins – that the prophet was instructed not to pray for – are listed in the above verses. God asked the prophet, “Do you not see what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?” as if it should have been apparent that praying for the forgiveness of those sins would prove futile. Perhaps, by examining the above verses we can better understand what constitutes the sins leading to death that we are instructed not to pray for in 1 John 5:16. The people in the above verses oppressed the helpless and shed innocent blood. They also worshipped other gods. The stole, murdered, committed adultery, swore falsely, and then thought themselves justified within the house of the Lord.

With the above verses in mind, it is reasonable to conclude that Jesus was equally condemning of those who turned his father’s ‘house of prayer’ into a ‘den of thieves’ (Matthew 21:13, Mark 11:17, Luke 19:46) when he overturned the tables and drove people out of the Temple. The people in 1 John 5:16 (that we are instructed not to pray for) were brothers (Christians) that had been given life, but were in danger of losing it. If these people were compared to those in Jeremiah – who continued in their sins and turned the House of God into a Den of Robbers – then we would have Christians who have been forgiven of their sins, yet continued in their sins in defiance to the commandments of God.

Hebrews 6:4-6 For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.

Hebrews 10:26-27 for if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.

2 Peter 2:20-22 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire."

The above verses refer to those who are of the faith (Christians), who after receiving salvation, either returned to or continued in their sins. The above scriptures are clear in stating that it is impossible to renew them again, because there no longer remains a sacrifice for their sins. The backsliders spoken of in second Peter were compared to false prophets, perverting Christian doctrines and leading the brethren astray. The error of those in the Hebrew verses refer to those who “insulted the Spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:29) by putting little value on their salvations (and what God has done for them) and/or willfully continuing to sin.

Mark 3:28-30 Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.

Matthew 12:31 "Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men

Ephesians 4:28-30 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is often referred to as the only unforgivable sin. In the third chapter of Mark, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was associated with attributing the works of God to the devil. However, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit can have a much broader meaning, and can refer to denying the ‘work’ of the Holy Spirit. As Matthew 12:33 states, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.” Once you receive the gift of salvation, you are sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption.

It is important not to “grieve the Holy Spirit” by either backsliding or continuing to willfully sin, because as stated earlier, if you continue to sin willfully after becoming a Christian, there no longer exists a sacrifice for your sins; you will have “insulted the spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:29) and caused the way of truth to be blasphemed (2 Peter 2:2). The person who was previously a thief is instructed to steal no longer, but instead should work and give to those in need. Once a person becomes a Christian, they are expected to repent of their previous sinful lifestyles, and they become a new creation in Christ.

The above verses reinforce 1 John 5:16 in stating that there are sins that Christians can commit that are unforgivable, but they do not specifically list which sins the people are backsliding towards or leading others to commit. In an effort to better understand what sins 1 John 5:16 may be referring to, we will examine the nature of sin in order to determine if there are certain sins that are unforgivable, which could be categorized as sins leading to death.

2 Kings 24:4 and also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the LORD would not pardon

Proverbs 1:11, 13-15 If they say, "Come with us, Let us lie in wait for blood, Let us ambush the innocent without cause…We will find all kinds of precious wealth, We will fill our houses with spoil; Throw in your lot with us, We shall all have one purse," My son, do not walk in the way with them keep your feet from their path

Exodus 23:7 "Keep yourself far from a false matter; do not kill the innocent and righteous. For I will not justify the wicked.

The shedding of innocent blood is an example of a sin that the LORD would not pardon. In the Old Testament, there were also many sins that led to death; these were sins that when committed, were punished with the death penalty.

Deuteronomy 17:6 "Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness.

Numbers 35:18 Or if he strikes him with a wooden hand weapon, by which one could die, and he does die, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death.

Numbers 35:30 Whoever kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the testimony of witnesses; but one witness is not sufficient testimony against a person for the death penalty.

Exodus 22:18 Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death.

Leviticus 20:30 If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.

Exodus 21:16 He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.

Deuteronomy 22:22-27 If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel. If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you. But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die: But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; There is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter: For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and There was none to save her.

Under Mosaic Law people were put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Some of the crimes that people were put to death for included: murder, bestiality, homosexuality, kidnapping, adultery, fornication, and rape. Christians are not bound by Mosaic Law. Christians are not put to death for nor do they kill violators of the Torah. Many of the sins leading to death in the Torah still exist as crimes in modern societies – with varying degrees of punishment (most of which are felonies). These ‘crimes’ are not dealt with by the average Christian, but are handled by the governments that Christians owe their loyalty to, as demonstrated in the following verses:

1 Peter 2:13-17 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

Romans 13:2-4 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

Christians are not governed by the Torah, and sinners are no longer executed for committing the offenses that previously required the death penalty within it. The government in the time of Moses was a theocracy, and the government served to punish both criminal as well as spiritual crimes. In modern society, criminal activity is punished by the State and within the criminal justice system. Whether a crime is also a sin (in a religious context) is not a factor. If a person commits a criminal act, being punished by an earthly court will not remove the person’s spiritual punishment. Likewise, having someone’s spiritual sin forgiven by a religious body will not excuse a person’s criminal actions within the criminal justice system.

When an evildoer sins, his/her actions may include both spiritual and earthly consequences, and each will be punished independently of the other. Some of the major sins/crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, and kidnapping still possess heavy penalties within the earthly courts, but other sins such as adultery, homosexuality, or sexual immorality may only amount to misdemeanors and/or may not be punished at all (by earthly courts). Although not requiring the death penalty, the New Testament does list many sins that will condemn a person to hell.

Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Timothy 1:8-11 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if There is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.

Revelations 21:7-8 "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

Revelations 22:14-15 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.

Many of the sins leading to death under the Torah are still listed in the New Testament as sins leading to spiritual damnation. Murder, adultery, fornication, kidnapping, sodomy, and lying are all still listed as damning sins. Other sins – which may or may not have required the death penalty in the Torah – are also listed, which regardless of the associated penalty in the Torah or the criminal justice system will result in spiritual damnation.

It is clear that once a person becomes a Christian, if they willfully continue to sin, they cannot be forgiven. The sins listed in the above verses are all worthy of damnation. However, just because a sin may ultimately result in the loss of salvation that does not necessarily mean that it is the ‘sin leading to death’ being referred to in 1 John 5:16. Once a person becomes a Christian, they are not to continue to live in sin – and continuing to do so will result in the loss of their salvation – but in order to determine which sins are the ones leading to death (that we are not to pray for), we must continue our examination of sin.

Forgivable and Unforgivable Sins

Ezekiel 33:14-16 "Again, when I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' if he turns from his sin and does what is lawful and right, "if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die. "None of his sins which he has committed shall be remembered against him; he has done what is lawful and right; he shall surely live.

The above verses provide us with an example of a forgivable sin. In order to be forgiven the person had to turn from his sin, give back what he had stolen, and from that point forward live in compliance to God’s commandments. This is similar to a Christian being forgiven of his/her sins, and then attempting to make restitution for them – living out the remainder of the person’s life in accordance with God’s commandments. It is important to note that the sins of the wicked person in the above verses were withholding payment of a pledge and steeling; if the person were guilty of a sin worthy of death, the person would have been executed under the Torah, and would not have had the opportunity to live out the rest of his/her life without committing any further iniquity.

Ezekiel 33:17-20 "Yet the children of your people say, 'The way of the Lord is not fair.' But it is their way which is not fair! “When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die because of it.” But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is lawful and right, he shall live because of it. "Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not fair.' O house of Israel, I will Judge every one of you according to his own ways."

Ezekiel 18:26-32 "When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies. "Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive. "Because he considers and turns away from all the transgressions which he committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die." Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not fair.' O house of Israel, is it not My ways which are fair, and your ways which are not fair? Therefore I will Judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways," says the Lord God. "Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin." Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?" For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies," says the Lord God. "Therefore turn and live!"

God offers forgiveness of certain sins to the sinner who repents and lives out the rest of his/her life according to God’s will, but at the same time, if a person turns from their righteousness and becomes a sinner, the person’s previous righteousness cannot save them. God is merciful and forgiving, however, it is important to note that the people being forgiven in the above verses were not guilty of committing sins worthy of death under Mosaic Law; had they been murderers, adulterers, or rapists, they would have been put to death and would not have been given the opportunity to repent.

The people in the above verses questioned whether or not God’s judgments were fair, but it is important to remember that the sins being forgiven were not sins warranting death in the Torah. God is a god of justice. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne (Psalm 89:14), and He ‘will not at all acquit the wicked’ (Nahum 1:3). Evildoers are and will be held accountable for their actions. The scripture is clear in stating that everyone will be judged according to their deeds (Revelations 20:12-13).

The sins committed in the above verses were sins that did not require the death of the offender under Mosaic Law. The people in the above verses, who were claiming God’s judgments to be unfair, were not parents who have had their children kidnapped, raped, and then murdered only to see the violator being forgiven. The people in the above verses wanted children to be held accountable for the sins of their fathers, but God told them that children would no longer be held accountable for the sins of their fathers and that everyone will be judged according to their own ways/deeds.

Ezekiel 18:17 Who has withdrawn his hand from the poor and not received usury or increase, But has executed My judgments And walked in My statutes-He shall not die for the iniquity of his father; He shall surely live!

One of the objectives of this Bible study is to examine which sins are forgivable, and which sins may not be. Certainly, it would not be fair for someone to be forgiven for a heinous crime simply because they previously lived a righteous life. That is why the righteous are held accountable for their actions, and why, “whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:10).” Since certain sins are unforgivable – regardless of a person’s prior goodness – I’d say that major sins (such as those that would have required the death penalty under the Torah) would fit very nicely into the 1 John 5:16 concept of the sins leading to death. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit by either backsliding or continuing to willfully sin against God are other sins that can fit into that category.

Some for honor and some for dishonor

Before we proceed to examine which sins are forgivable, it is important to note that not all people are meant to be saved. Some people are meant for destruction.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.

Romans 9:21-23 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory

Proverbs 16:4 The Lord has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom

Second Timothy verses 2:20-21 speaks of having one’s sins forgiven in order to become a vessel fit for the master’s use, which is an allusion to those who are able to have their sins forgiven. The verses in Romans chapter nine and Proverbs chapter sixteen speak of those vessels that God made for no other purpose than destruction. Not everyone on earth is called to repentance, and some people are incapable of being saved. Sending evangelists to the most vile of human beings and hoping to convert them, does not seem to be in accordance with the will of God, as portrayed in the scriptures.

Do you recall the verse in the Bible where Jesus sought out the murderers, the rapists, and the pedophiles, and called them to repentance? Of course you don’t, that is because there is no such verse in the Bible. The Bible is consistent regarding the types of sinners who were called to repentance, and the types of sins that would be forgiven. Not everyone in the Bible was called to repentance; some were accused of being a brood of vipers or of turning the father’s house into a den of thieves.

The message of the gospel was hidden from some people, so that by seeing they would not see, and by hearing they would not hear – lest they should understand with their hearts and be converted (Matthew 13:15). We will examine the people unworthy of redemption later in this study. For now, we will examine the type of sins the Christians in the Bible were forgiven of, and the type of sinners in the Bible that were reached out to.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

2 Corinthians 12:21 lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced.

1 Peter 4:2-3 that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles-when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.

Colossians 3:5-10 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,

Titus 3:-5 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit

The scriptures taken from the two books of the Corinthians (above) list several sins, and then states “such were some of you.” These were the sins that someone called to repentance may have engaged in prior to becoming a Christian. Many of the sins – such as fornication, idolatry, adultery, and homosexuality – were sins that held the death penalty in the Torah.

While contemplating the above sins, it is important to keep in mind that the people being referred to were mostly gentiles. They were Greeks and Romans; drunken orgies, sexual immorality, homosexuality, and many of the other sinful practices listed above were part of their culture at the time. Before they became Christians, they grew up in and were a part of that culture. Comparing the above list of sins with those listed in Galatians 5:19-21, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, and Revelations 21:7-8 (discussed previously) it is obvious that if they continued to live in such a manner that they would be damned.

The above is a list of sins, and once a person becomes a Christian they must reject their previous lifestyle and follow the commandments of God from that time forward. The above is a list of sins that were forgivable to early Christians (at least at the time of their salvations). The Bible is clear that no salvation exists for someone who willfully continues to sin after being saved, but some of the above sins may fit into the 1 John 5:16 passage of a sin not leading to death, that it might be acceptable for a fellow Christian to pray on behalf of his/her brethren regarding.

For example, a person might have previously been a drunkard, and may have overcome that sin once he/she became a Christian. If that person is noticed by his/her fellow Christian as having trouble in that area and falling back into that sin, it might be appropriate for his/her fellow Christian to pray on the other’s behalf (along with the rebuking and restoring the person with gentleness).

Comparing the list of spiritual sins with the list of forgiven sins, many of the sins are included on both lists, but some are not. The shedding of innocent blood was stated previously in this section as a sin that would not be pardoned; this sin was not found in the list of sins the early Christians were forgiven of. Of the sins found on the list of damnation and not on the list of forgiveness, we primarily find: murder, sorcery, kidnapping, lying/perjury, and perverting sound doctrine. Before we presume to use the comparison method to categorize sins into forgivable sins and sins leading to death, we will continue exploring the types of sinners that Christ called to repentance in the Bible.

Luke 19:7-10 But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, "He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner." Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; "for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."

Matthew 9:10-13 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"When Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick."But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."

Matthew 11:19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say: Behold a man that is a glutton and a wine drinker, a friend of publicans and sinners…

During Jesus’ ministry, a number of times his adversaries pointed out that Jesus would associate with sinners. Jesus responded by saying that he had, “come, not to get the upright, but sinners, so that they may be turned from their sins (Luke 5:32).” Of course, Jesus did not seek out the vilest of mankind. Jesus did not go to prisons and seek out murderers or pedophiles. He was never accused of being a guest in the home of a rapist or kidnapper. The people Jesus was accused of associating with were tax-collectors and sinners.

Depending on the Biblical translation you are reading, either the term ‘tax-collector’ or ‘publicans’ may be used in the above verses, along with the other ‘sinners’. The tax-collectors were disliked by the other Jews of the day, because they worked with the Romans and were viewed as traitors or collaborators. Although Jesus would later make the statement, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's (Matthew 22:21)” – and would recruit a tax-collector (Matthew) as one of the 12 disciples – at the time, the Jewish people disliked tax-collectors.

Who were the other sinners in the above verses? The ‘sinners’ in the above verses are not clearly defined, but it is safe to surmise that the sins of these people were not viewed as badly as being a tax-collector by the Hebrew people. Had the ‘sinners’ in the above verses been sufficiently more vile than the tax-collectors, then drawing attention to the tax-collectors first would not have occurred. Can you imagine if the statement had been, “why does your teacher eat with people who work at the Internal Revenue Service, and with the people who chop the heads off of parents and sell children into slavery?” If the point was to make Jesus look bad for eating with such people, it would make sense to place the worse sin near the beginning of the sentence. After all, the tax-collectors were not criminals, but were simply people who worked within the society that they lived in.

The ‘sinners’ in the above verses were people who were considered sinners under the Old Testament. Their sins could have been any number of things, such as not engaging in ceremonial washing or eating certain types of foods. Even Jesus and his disciples were accused of doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:2). In Matthew 11:19, Jesus’ accusers placed the claim of Jesus overeating or drinking wine in front of the tax-collectors and sinners accusation. In this Bible study we are exploring what type of sins and what type of sinners Jesus and the Apostles were sent to call to repentance, but for now, we will focus on the tax-collectors in the above verses.

Zacchaeus was a tax-collector and was referred to as a sinner. After meeting with Jesus, Zacchaeus was repentant of his wrong-doings and sought to make restitution. He vowed to give half of his goods to the poor, and stated that if he had taken anything from anyone by false accusation that he would restore it fourfold. Zacchaeus hints that he had defrauded or possibly bore false witness against others for monetary gain. Perhaps he was an ‘extortioner’ like some of the forgiven Christians in 1st Corinthians, or perhaps he was a ‘liar’ such as in Revelations 21:7-8. Either way, we can conclude that profiting from lying or profiting through false accusations was a sin that Jesus was willing to forgive (as long as the behavior was not continued). It should be noted that those Zacchaeus falsely accused were still alive and able to be repaid; he did not bear false testimony and cause another person’s death.

Luke 7:37-50 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, "This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner." And Jesus answered and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." So he said, "Teacher, say it." "There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. "And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?" Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have rightly judged.” Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. "You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. "You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. "Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little." Then He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" Then He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."

The above verses do not specify what type of sins the woman was guilty of, but considering the parable that Jesus delivered, we can conclude that the woman’s sins were comparable to that of the Pharisee, except that the woman had sinned 10 times more often. The above parable is similar to Luke 10:18, when both a Pharisee and a tax-collector go to the temple to pray; the lesson there being that he who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted. If we take the above parable as being a direct metaphor of the Pharisee and the woman sinner, then the Pharisee would be guilty of 1/10 the amount of sins as the woman. However, like the self-righteous Pharisee in Luke chapter 10 that needed to be humbled, Jesus pointed out to Simon all of the things that the woman did for Jesus and that Simon had failed to do since Jesus entered his house.

Simon had made self-righteous judgments in his heart about Jesus accepting the woman, and Jesus told the parable to convict (humble) Simon of his self-righteousness. The woman was humble, believing herself to be a sinner; she was repentant and sought forgiveness (something Simon was not doing while he was passing judgment against Jesus and the woman in his mind).

Matthew 21:28-32 "But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.' "He answered and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, 'I go, sir,' but he did not go. "Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said to Him, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.” For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

Like Simon the Pharisee, the Chief Priests and Elders in the above verses could judge correctly when Jesus asked them a question in the form of a parable, but tax-collectors and harlots will enter the kingdom before them – because they (the Chief Priests) were more reluctant to respond to the message. So, in addition to tax-collectors, from the above verses we can conclude that harlotry is a sin that can be repented of. An examination of the forgiven sins of the early church cannot be completed without examining the Apostle Paul, who identified himself as the chief of sinners.

They know not what they do

1 Timothy 1:12-16 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.

In the above verses the apostle Paul describes himself as the ‘chief’ of the sinners that Jesus came to save. Paul is an excellent example of the kind of sinner that can be saved. According to Paul, he was the worst of the sinners to have his sins forgiven. So what exactly were Paul’s sins? Paul consented to the stoning to death of Stephen, he persecuted the early church, and had some of the early Christians arrested for their beliefs (Acts 8:1-3). He did not personally kill anyone; he had early Christians arrested, and in Stephen’s case, he gave approval to his execution (Acts 22:20). A key factor in Paul’s forgiveness is that what he did was done, “ignorantly in unbelief.” Paul’s heart was in the right place. He honestly believed the Christian’s to be enemies of God, and he sought letters from the Synagogues in Damascus seeking their assistance in placing the early Christians into prison (Acts 9:2).

Paul’s conversion and forgiveness was done to set an example, “to those who are going to believe [in Jesus]” for everlasting life. Paul’s actions were not done with evil intent, but were done in ignorance. The sins of the gentiles in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 were also very likely done in ignorance; as the people were merely following the behaviors of the culture they were brought up in. Sinning by mistake or through ignorance seems to be a factor in what God is willing to forgive, which is reinforced by Jesus declaring, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do (Luke 23:34)" when referring to the Roman soldiers who were crucifying him.

The early Christians did not trust Paul immediately following his conversion; since he had previously sought to destroy the church and place Christ’s followers into prison, but Paul serves as an example of God’s mercy, being that a seeming enemy may become one of the greatest contenders for the faith. Paul repented of his earlier behavior, and spent the rest of his life serving God and making up for the sins he did in ignorance. God will show mercy to those who sinned in ignorance; “But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few (Luke 12:48).” It seems that sins done in ignorance may be forgiven or punished to a lesser extent. God is more interested in the heart of the sinner than the person’s actions; it is the heart that makes a person unclean.

Matthew 15:11, 17-20 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man…Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

Mark 7:20-23 And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man."

Luke 6:45 "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Proverbs 21:2-3 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts. To do righteousness and justice Is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

Jesus made it clear that it was the person’s heart that defiles a person. This same principle is recognized in modern law enforcement. Before a criminal commits a crime, he will first think about it (fantasize about it), then he will talk about it, and then he will actually do it. The first step is to covet. Once a person fixates on something in his heart, then the person begins planning on how he might obtain the object of his covetousness. The Ten Commandments state not to murder, commit adultery, steal, or bear false witness against your neighbor (Exodus 20:13-16) followed by the commandment not to covet (your neighbor’s house/wife/servants/ox/donkey/or anything that belongs to your neighbor). The commandment not to covet (Exodus 20:17) was given, because coveting is what leads to the aforementioned sins.

Before a person commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, he first covets (fantasizes about) his neighbor’s wife. Coveting is the first step towards committing the sin, as Jesus declared when he said, “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27).” In Matthew 5:27, Jesus did not say that by lusting the person was guilty of adultery, but he pointed out that the person had taken the first step towards sinning by contemplating it in his heart. Coveting any of the neighbor’s other possessions may lead to theft, robbery, murder, bearing false witness, or any other number of evil plots devised to deprive the neighbor of the coveted item.


It is a person’s heart that defiles the person. So far in this study, we have concluded that murder and the shedding of innocent blood are sins that God will not forgive. From my research, I can find only one exception to this rule, and that is in the life of King David. King David coveted his neighbor’s wife (2 Samuel 11:3), and committed adultery with her (2 Samuel 11:4). King David later ordered the murder (2 Samuel 11:14-15) of the woman’s husband (Uriah the Hittite). King David was clearly guilty of coveting, adultery, and premeditated murder; his sins were not done in ignorance, but were done willfully with malice aforethought. Yet, David was forgiven because although he was guilty of such heinous acts on this one occasion, he was otherwise a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Although David’s sins would ultimately be forgiven (2 Samuel 12:13), they did not go unpunished.

2 Samuel 12:9-14 ‘Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. 'Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.' Thus says the Lord: 'Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 'For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.' So David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." And Nathan said to David, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die."

David’s sins were forgiven, but God still held him accountable for and punished David for his sins. One of David’s sons would rape his sister (2 Samuel 13:12-16) and be murdered by his brother Absalom (2 Samuel 13:28-33). Absalom would also defile his father’s wives (2 Samuel 16:21-22), and would later lead a rebellion against his father and be killed by his father’s men (2 Samuel 18:32). The child David had with Bathsheba died of the illness the Lord had stricken the child with (2 Samuel 12:19). David was unique, in that he was clearly guilty of dire sins, yet at the same time he was a man after God’s own heart.

Jesus asked his father to forgive the soldiers who were crucifying him, but the soldiers did not know what they were doing. The soldiers were fulfilling their duties by executing criminals that had been tried and condemned to death by the legitimate governmental authorities of the time. Paul gave his approval to the death of Stephen – for blasphemy – but Paul did so believing he was acting in accordance with the laws of God according to the Jewish tradition. Jesus and Stephen were martyrs, but those who carried out their executions believed their actions were justified, either under the laws of their society (for the Romans) or by the laws of their religion (the Hebrews). As Jesus prophesied, the time came when, “whoever kills you will think that he offers God service (John 16:2).” Putting aside the unique situation involving King David, I have not come across any other examples of a murderer being forgiven for his/her sins.

God judges people according to their deeds and in regards to their hearts. He will forgive those who sin in ignorance, such as the early gentile Christians who were living in accordance to the customs of the day before hearing the gospel, and he is merciful towards ignorant sinners – such as Paul – who did not fully understand what he was doing. To the early Christians, forgiving Paul for persecuting them was probably very difficult, and perhaps they felt the way that Jonah did when he attempted to run from God because he knew that God was, “one who relents from doing harm (Jonah 4:2).” To Jonah, the people of Nineveh were evil and deserved punishment. In response, God asked Jonah, “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals (Jonah 4:11)?"

Jonah knew about God, the people of Nineveh did not. Jonah knew the people of Nineveh were deserving of judgment, but God pointed out that the people were ignorant. They didn’t know the difference between their right and left hands, and they were dumber than many animals. Like the gentiles in the New Testament, when they heard the message of God, they repented of their evil ways – as did the Apostle Paul once he encountered Christ (Acts 9:4). Like Jonah, Ananias was reluctant at first to believe Paul was now one of them (Acts 9:13), as were the rest of the disciples, but through Paul’s actions, he proved to the rest of the brethren that he had truly changed and was one of them (Acts 9:26-27). Paul originally persecuted the church, but he spent the rest of his life contending for the faith; and was a prime example of someone demonstrating his faith by his works (James 2:18).

So far in this Bible study we have identified verses stating that some sins and some sinners should not be prayed for, and we have identified lists of sins that people have received forgiveness for. God judges people by their hearts, and the intentions of people (or the ignorance of their actions) play a role in the level of mercy God will show them. Aside from the one incident between David and Uriah the Hittite, we have not found an example of God pardoning someone for spilling innocent blood. We do know that regardless of the sins a person is forgiven of, once a person becomes a Christian, he/she cannot live out the rest of his/her life willfully sinning.

It is the heart that defiles a person. Intentionally sinning, acting out of an evil heart, criminal intent, and malice aforethought seems to bring about a greater condemnation. Of the people in the New Testament who received forgiveness, we find tax-collectors, prostitutes, homosexuals, adulterers, extortionists, thieves, drunkards, and lewd partiers. Most of these sinners did not set out to hurt other people. Many sinned in ignorance and when they learned that their actions were sinful, they changed their behaviors. Like the people in Nineveh who did not know that what they were doing was wrong, they turned from their sins when God called them.

Sinning in ignorance – because you did not know any better – is a far cry from lying in wait for innocent blood. You cannot accidentally commit premeditated murder. It is impossible to unintentionally rape a person or molest a child. Kidnapping and worshipping other gods are not done involuntarily. So far in this study, we haven’t found any examples of murderers or other heinous sinners receiving forgiveness or even being called to repentance. However, we do know that certain people were created for the day of their destruction (Proverbs 16:4), and we know that God intentionally hid the message of salvation from certain people (Matthew 13:15). Pharaoh was built up for the purpose of being destroyed, and Esau was hated before he was even born (Romans 9:13, 17).

Romans 9:22-23 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory

The Bible clearly teaches that not all people on the earth are meant to be saved. Even people that profess to be Christians may find themselves cast into the outer darkness (Matthew 7:21-23, Luke 13:24-28). The premise that God loves all people exactly the way they are (as some people profess) is a lie. Even the people who were called to repentance were required to change their behaviors and turn from their lives of sin. Jesus taught that in order for someone to be his disciple, they had to hate their previous lifestyles (John 12:25) and were to carefully deliberate as to whether they had it in them to take up the cross and follow him (Luke 14:26-35, Matthew 10:34-39).

Our God is a God of Justice (Job 37:23, Psalm 89:14, Deuteronomy 32:4). He “avenges and is furious. The Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies; The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked. (Nahum 1:2-3).” Jesus will lead the armies of heaven, and “out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. (Revelations 19:15).” God is longsuffering with the vessels of wrath (evil-doers), but he hears the cries of their victims (Revelations 6:10) and he will avenge them at the given time (Revelations 19:2).

Does God love everyone exactly the way they are?

To claim that ‘God loves everybody exactly the way they are’ is to render the worship of God meaningless. If God loves you in spite of the fact that you worship other gods and sacrifice your children to demons (Psalm 106:37-38), then what reason would anyone have to follow God’s commandments or the teachings of Christ? If you can trick your neighbor into boiling her son so that you can eat him (2 Kings 6:28) without any consequences, then there would be no justice in the universe. If God loved the most heinous of evildoers in the exact same way as those who keep his commandments (John 14:21) then there would be no reason to follow him.

To claim that ‘God loves everybody exactly the way they are’ is to deny the teachings of the Bible. Even the people who were chosen to be followers of Christ before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4) are required to repent of their sins, to follow Christ, and to be conformed to his image (Romans 8:29). The Bible tells us to, “strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. (Luke 13:24).” If everyone were saved no matter what, then there would be no reason to strive.

To claim that everyone is loved exactly the way they are also denies our own consciences and sense of justice, which God as clearly instilled within our hearts. God created man in his image (Genesis 1:27) and placed in us a longing for justice to prevail. We inherently understand the need for justice, which is why societies around the globe have each established some form of a criminal justice system. If God did not judge the guilty according to their deeds (Revelations 20:12) then there would be no justice in the universe.

Christians are told that we can expect to suffer while on the earth (2 Timothy 3:12). Life on earth is not fair. Christians are forbidden from taking their own revenge (Romans 12:19, Deuteronomy 32:35), but we are promised that the wicked will be judged according to their deeds (Ezekiel 7:3-4, Revelations 22:12). If God did not render justice against the evildoers according to their deeds in the hereafter, then justice would not exist; since the world we live in is not fair.

Job 34:12 Surely God will never do wickedly, nor will the Almighty pervert justice.

People who claim that God loves everybody exactly the way they are will often support their claim by portraying Jesus as being all-forgiving and tolerant of all sins. They will overlook verses in the Bible that speak of God’s justice or judgment of sinners, and will ignore the statements that Christ made that seemed condemning in order to focus on concepts such as ‘turn the other cheek’, ‘judge not and you will not be judged’ and they will take verses out of context and change their meanings. When asked what type of sins God is willing to forgive, they might quote a verse such as:

Matthew 12:31 Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.

Taking the single verse (above), they would conclude that ‘every sin’ will be forgiven except for blasphemy against the spirit. After quoting the verse, any question you ask they will answer with the phrase ‘every sin.’ This is often done with Philippians 4:13 which states, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The Philippians verse is often taken out of context and used as if Christ will give a person the strength to do anything they desire. Can I fly to the moon? All things! Can I become the President of the United States? All things! Pretty much anything you ask may receive the ‘all things’ answer.

Of course, that is taking the verse completely out of context. When reading the verse by itself it may seem to imply that Christ will give you the strength to succeed at absolutely anything your heart can imagine, but when reading it in context to the sentences before and after the verse, it is clear that the author’s intent was to point out that Christ had sustained him when he was living well and when he was going hungry (Philippians 4:11-12).

Trusting that Christ will be with you during the good times and the bad is a much different message than believing that you can achieve absolutely anything you can imagine. Verses must be read in context to the verses around them. After all, aside from the four gospels, most of the New Testament consists of letters being written to churches; it would be fool hardy to think one sentence in a letter would have nothing to do with the sentences either before or after it. Just as Philippians 4:13 should not be interpreted independently of the rest of the chapter, Matthew 12:31 should also be interpreted based on the verses preceding and following it.

Matthew 12:30, 33-34, 36-37 "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad… "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.… "But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

Matthew 3:7-10 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Mark 4:18-20 "Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred."

John 8:44, 48-49 "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it… Then the Jews answered and said to Him, "Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?" Jesus answered, "I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.”

John 15:1-2, 4, 10 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit... Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me… If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.

Examining Matthew 12:31 by itself, one might conclude that every sin will be forgiven except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. However, by examining the verses preceding it and following it, and then examining other verses in the Bible relating to the teaching, it becomes clear that the meaning of the verse is of a much deeper context than simply to say that ‘every sin’ except for ‘one’ will be forgiven. The context of the verse was in regards to Jesus being accused of driving out demons by the power of Satan.

Jesus pointed out that a house divided against itself cannot stand, and He went on to say that you were either with him or against him. Jesus also accuses them of being a ‘brood of vipers’. He states that they are the offspring of evil, that their hearts are evil, and points out in the form of a question that it is unreasonable to expect something good to come out of their mouths, because they are evil people speaking from evil hearts. He then states that by their own words they will either be justified or they will be condemned.

The sin of the ‘Brood of Vipers’ – who were blaspheming the Holy Spirit – was not simply that they bad talked the Holy Ghost, but that their hearts were evil. They were the offspring of the devil, like those in John 8:44 (who also claimed that Jesus had a demon). The above verses possess a much deeper meaning then simply to say that there is only one sin that cannot be forgiven. The verses speak of the fruits of your labors, whether or not you abide in Christ and keep his commandments, or if you abide in evil and act out of an evil heart.

Luke 12:8-10 Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven.

To better understand Christ’s teaching regarding blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, we can compare Matthew 12:31 to Luke 12:8-10. The Luke verses also have to do with denying the work of the Holy Spirit, but the preceding verses have to do with condemning one’s self by their words; in this case, it is done by denying Christ before men. By comparing all of the verses and related sections of the Bible together, we can conclude for certain that you can either be justified or condemned through your words. However, abiding in Christ, being with him and not against him, obeying the commandments, and not acting out of an evil heart all have some bearing on the situation as well.

Is it possible for God to forgive all sins? Of course it is; God could even forgive blasphemy against the Holy Spirit if He wanted to, but the question remains, will He? This Bible study has been seeking to understand which sins God is willing to forgive and which sins may be unforgivable. It is true that by examining Matthew 12:31 and Mark 3:28 as independent verses, you do have Bible verses that basically say, “Every sin WILL be forgiven except one.” However, in order for that statement to be true, it must be consistent with the rest of the Bible.

The Bible clearly teaches that sinners will be judged according to their deeds and will be cast into hell for many offenses (Revelations 21:7-8). To claim that every sin except for one will be forgiven is not consistent with the rest of the scripture. Forgiving every single sin except for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is not even consistent with the actions of Christ. Christ did not forgive Judas Iscariot (Matthew 26:24), and Judas didn’t make any claims against the Holy Spirit. Judas’ crime was betraying innocent blood (Matthew 27:3-4).

If we interpret Matthew 12:31 by itself and claim that every single sin will be forgiven except for speaking badly against the Holy Spirit, then it would not make sense for Jesus to deny forgiveness to Judas. However, if you interpret Matthew 12:31 to be directly related to Matthew 12:30 (hence the term ‘therefore’ at the beginning of 12:31) and conclude that being against Christ (the spirit of his teachings, his commandments, and the associated fruit that his teaching yields) is the sin that would not be forgiven, then we can understand why Judas was not forgiven (since he sided against Christ); the verse would then make other teachings more clear, without nullifying basic principles of the Bible (that state that people will be judged according to their sins/deeds).

If we interpret blasphemy against the Holy Spirit to mean that ‘you are either with Christ or against him’ other verses will make more sense and support that concept, such as Jesus’ statement, “No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).” In another example, “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also (1 John 2:22).” 1 John 2:22 conveys a similar notion to Luke 12:8-12, which also had to do with blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Based on what we have just examined, we cannot conclusively say that every sin will be forgiven except for one, but we can say based on scripture that without Jesus, you cannot go to heaven regardless of the sins you committed or didn’t commit.

What did Jesus do?

So far in this study we have examined the type of sins that early Christians were forgiven of, and we have gone over the instance when Jesus forgave the woman in Simon the Pharisee’s house. Since Jesus set the example that we are to follow, examining the sins that Christ was willing to forgive will assist us greatly in determining which sins are forgivable and which sins lead to death. Those who claim that God loves everybody exactly the way they are will often hold the opinion that Jesus loved and forgave everybody (no matter what). Often Christ is said to have set the example of forgiving your enemies in Luke 23:34 when he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."

As we examine Christ’s attitude towards forgiveness, it is important to examine his actions and the context of his statements. When Jesus asked his father to forgive the soldiers crucifying him, He was referring to the soldiers who did not know what they were doing. The soldiers were doing their jobs and executing criminals they believed to have been convicted through the criminal justice system of their time. The soldiers nailed Jesus and two criminals to their crosses, and then cast lots for Jesus’ clothes. Luke 23:33-34 speaks of the soldiers as ‘they’ (they came to Calvary, they crucified him, they do not know what they do, they divided his clothing). After the brief dialog about what ‘they’ did, Luke 23:35 talks about ‘the people’ who stood looking on.

Among the ‘people who stood looking on’ were the Chief Priests (Mark 15:31). The Chief Priests were not innocent people who ‘knew not what they were doing.’ They were the people who paid Judas to betray Christ (Mark 14:10), they sought out false witnesses against Him (Matthew 26:59), and they demanded that Pilate have Jesus crucified in spite of the fact the Pilate found no guilt in him (Mark 15:11-14). The Chief Priests knew exactly what they were doing, and their actions were intentional and had been on going for some time (Mark 14:1). The verse where Jesus said to “forgive them, for they know not what they do” is only found in the book of Luke and it does not appear to be directed towards the Chief Priests – who knew exactly what they were doing.

When examining the forgiveness of Christ, Luke 23:34 is often given as an example of Christ’s willingness to forgive ‘anything.’ The verse is often linked with ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘every sin will be forgiven except for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.’ Unfortunately, these concepts are often taken out of context and they do not accurately reflect Christ’s actions.

When determining Biblical doctrines, it is a good practice to relate a concept to two or three other verses that support the concept, prior to claiming it is a Biblical truth that is to be acted upon. Previously, we have linked the concept of God’s willingness to forgive sins done in ignorance with Luke 23:34, but absent a similar account in the other three tellings of the crucifixion, we cannot determine that Jesus broadly forgave every person in the world who wronged him, based on a single verse.

Matthew 9:2, 5-6 Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you…" For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins"-then He said to the paralytic, "Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house."

Luke 7:45-48 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little." Then He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."

Luke 23:40-43 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

John 8:3-11 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?" This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, "Woman, Where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."

Aside from the soldiers who crucified Christ, the only other people in the gospel that Jesus forgave while He was on earth was a paralytic man and the woman from Simon the Pharisee’s house. Jesus didn’t actually say that he forgave the thief on the cross, but it was implied. As for the adulterous woman, Jesus did not say that her sins were forgiven, but he did instruct her not to sin anymore. The situation with the adulterous woman is questionable, because the situation was part of a plan devised by the Pharisees in order to test him, so that, “they might have something of which to accuse him.” It was a trap because the Jews were living under Roman occupation and it was not lawful for them to put anyone to death (John 18:31).

The Pharisees were testing Jesus to see if he would follow the Torah above Roman law, and if so, they would be able to have him charged with murder. According to the Torah, if the woman had actually been caught in the act of adultery, as the Pharisees claimed, then the man she was committing adultery with should have also been put to death (Deuteronomy 22:22). According to the Torah, a person would be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses, and it was the witnesses that were required to cast the first stones (Deuteronomy 17:7).

If all of the above are accurate examples of Christ forgiving people, then we can conclude that theft and adultery were sins that could be forgiven. This supports 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, which documents that some of the early Christians, had previously been thieves and adulterers. The paralytic man’s sins were not disclosed, but it is stated that the man was held – and had his sins forgiven – for the express purpose of Christ demonstrating that he had the power on earth to forgive sins. The paralytic man may have been similar to the man who was born blind in John 9:1-3, who was not blind because of his own sins or the sins of his parents, but was born blind so that, “the works of God should be revealed in him.”

As we examine the example of forgiveness demonstrated in Christ’s life, I was very surprised to find that there were so few examples of him forgiving people while on the earth. In my interactions with churches and Christians within the United States and around the world, I’ve gotten the general impression that the common belief about Christ, was that he loved everybody and walked around forgiving and healing everyone he came in contact with, and that he taught to turn the other cheek, love your enemies, and to forgive anybody for anything. However, by examining Christ’s life and the scriptures more carefully, that simply is not the case.

In the above verses, there are only four documented cases within the life of Christ that forgiveness was even implied, and only three cases when he actually said a person’s sins were forgiven. In my opinion, there seems to be a distorted view of Christ – and his teachings – within Christianity (and within secular culture) that does not coincide with what is actually found in the scripture. A prime example is the unbiblical concept that Christ taught pacifism, which is purportedly derived from Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, when he said to ‘turn the other cheek.’

Luke 6:29 Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.

Matthew 5:38-40 “You have heard that it was said, 'AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.”

A basic element of Christ’s teachings was that He clarified the scripture, and provided people with a deeper understanding of its meaning. Jesus did not come to change the law, but to clarify it; as evidenced by his statement, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill (Matthew 5:17).” It is true that later on in Christianity, some of the teachings of the Torah were either modified or done away with for the benefit of the new Gentile converts, but during Christ’s life, He was a Jew, who lived as a Jew, and during the Sermon on the Mount He was speaking to the Jews.

It is unlikely that in the above verses Christ was attempting to do away with the concept of justice. It is more likely that he was correcting the people’s behavior and/or interpretation of the ‘eye for an eye’ concept (found in: Exodus 21:24-26, Leviticus 24:16-23, Deuteronomy 19:19-24). In the Torah, the ‘eye for an eye’ concept was part of what might be considered their version of a criminal justice system, and was not an individual’s right to vigilante justice.

In the above verses, Christ goes on to speak of lawsuits and people trying to sue each other. The ‘eye for an eye’ teaching in the Torah had to do with punishing murderers or other criminals for their crimes. It might be that Christ was correcting a practice of people attempting to apply criminal penalties to civil lawsuits, or it might have simply been a way to introduce the concept of, ‘not sweating the small stuff.’

The Bible represents God’s communication with man throughout history. God did not make a mistake in his communications with man that required Christ to come and correct God’s erroneous teachings. God’s plan was prepared before the foundations of the world (1 Peter 1:20). Christ came to clarify inaccurate interpretations or applications of God’s teachings, and not to provide contradictory commandments.

When Christ said, “Do not resist an evil person”, does that mean that he wanted people to surrender to evil? Of course not; that would not be in accordance with other teachings of the Bible, which tell us to “Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).” Christ’s teaching at the Sermon on the Mount was in regards to quarreling over material items or over trivial matters. Quarreling within the church (or over trivial matters) is expanded upon in Titus 3:9 and James chapter 4. Lawsuits are addressed in 1 Corinthians 6:7 were it states, “Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?”

The Bible does not contradict itself and prophets and apostles did not come to erase previous revelations – they expanded upon them. Sometimes we need to not sweat the small stuff. If we are being sued over an easily replaceable item, such as a coat, we do not need to go to extremes and demand that we be allowed to take the other person’s coat in return. The concept of ‘an eye for an eye’ has its place in society, but should not be applied out of context or applied broadly to all aspects of life.

In regards to ‘turning the other cheek’ there are many interpretations as to what people believe Christ meant by it. Some suggest that the slap was an insult, and that by turning the other cheek the person would force the aggressor into using his other hand (which was considered unclean) or changing from a backhand to an open hand slap; which might change the meaning of the action from being an insult into a challenge to fight. Likewise, some claim that by turning the other cheek or going an extra mile, that Christ was taking otherwise lawful or acceptable practices under Roman and Hebrew law and forcing the offender to take the actions one step further – causing the offender to break the law (which might be compared to how the Pharisees attempted to trap Christ into stoning the woman accused of adultery in violation of Roman law).

My purpose in examining the concept of ‘turning the other cheek’ is not to provide the reader with a historical or cultural context of what slapping a person on the cheek meant to people over two-thousand years ago. My purpose is to clarify the misconception that it had anything to do with pacifism or surrendering to evil. The Bible clearly teaches that God approves of warfare; the Old Testament is full of it, and the New Testament promises it. Jesus supported self-defense and instructed his followers to sell their garments in order to arm themselves (Luke 22:36). When Jesus taught the parable of the Good Shepherd (John chapter 10), he spoke of a person who was willing to risk his life (or die) defending those in his care from the evildoers.

Christians are instructed to put on the ‘full armor of God’, yet many view such teachings through a pacifistic mindset, and consider the clothing of a soldier to be solely symbolic or metaphoric. They neglect the fact that the armor is associated with a person who is willing to stand up against and confront evil – in spite of the fact that evil is prevalent in their society (Isaiah 59:15-19). A person that is willing to confront evil and serve as God’s avenger against evil is more likely to be a soldier or policeman than a pacifist (Romans 13:4). We do not need to study the historical context of slapping a person in order to determine that ‘turning the other cheek’ had nothing to do with pacifism; we need only to examine the actions of Jesus.

John 18:22-23 And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, "Do You answer the high priest like that?" Jesus answered him, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?"

Luke 22:63-69 Now the men who held Jesus mocked Him and beat Him. And having blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face and asked Him, saying, "Prophesy! Who is the one who struck You?" And many other things they blasphemously spoke against Him. As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council, saying, "If You are the Christ, tell us." But He said to them, "If I tell you, you will by no means believe. And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. "Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God."

Mark 14:61-62 But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" Jesus said, "I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."

The above verses provide us with an example of Christ’s behavior when being struck on the cheek. In the above verses Jesus was being held captive, but He certainly didn’t simply allow himself to be beaten. In the John verses, He challenged the person’s moral/legal right to strike him. In the Mark and Luke verses He stated that He was in fact the Christ, He would soon be sitting at the right hand of God, and He would soon be coming with the clouds of heaven, but what exactly does that mean?

Matthew 16:27 "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.

Matthew 24:30-31 "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

Christ’s response to being struck on the cheek was to inform his victimizers that their actions towards him were unjust, that he would soon be assuming a position at the right hand of God, and that the next time they would see him would be when He was coming on the clouds of heaven. The reference to coming in the clouds of heaven was in regards to the Day of Judgment, when Christ would lead the armies of God to execute judgment on the earth (Revelations 19:15). Although the Chief Priests may not have understood Jesus’ words, to paraphrase his response, Jesus’ basically stated, ‘your treatment of me is unjust; shortly I will be sitting at the right hand of God, and the next time that you see me will be when I am coming to kill you.” (Paraphrased)

Acts 23:1-3 Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, "Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?"

When Paul was in a similar situation to Jesus he was also struck. Paul responded immediately by condemning the person’s actions and pointing out that they were treating him unjustly and contrary to the law. Neither Jesus nor Paul surrendered to evil; they did not simply allow themselves to be beaten nor did they respond with a pacifistic philosophy. In both situations, the response was to point out the victimizer’s guilt and to promise due recompense. Paul pointed out the God will extract vengeance on his behalf, and Jesus (in his unique situation) promised to return with his judgment.

Both of the above situations refer to people being stuck in the context of a judicial hearing, and their responses were in regards to legal/spiritual judgments; these examples relate to the ‘turn the other cheek’ teaching – which was taught in association with civil litigation – and not to self-defense situations against violent crimes, which would be associated with the principle of self-defense taught in Luke 22:36 or Proverbs 6:5.

In this study we have read many verses that speak of God’s justice/judgment and the fact that people will be held accountable for their sins. The Bible does not contradict itself; somewhere there is a line between forgiveness and justice that we must seek to understand. Examining the life of Christ and his teachings is vital to understanding the line between forgiveness and justice.

One of the major problems with truly grasping the teachings of Christ is that Christians will focus on the pleasant messages of the Bible while glossing over or ignoring other parts of the message. Jesus did not pull any punches in his teachings. It is true that He spoke of forgiveness and of God’s love, but He also condemned inappropriate behavior, and promised judgment and punishment to those that did not heed his message/warnings.

Luke 19:12-27 Therefore He said: "A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. "So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, 'Do business till I come. "But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, 'We will not have this man to reign over us." And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading." Then came the first, saying, 'Master, your mina has earned ten minas." And he said to him, 'Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities." And the second came, saying, 'Master, your mina has earned five minas. "Likewise he said to him, 'You also be over five cities." Then another came, saying, 'Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief. For I feared you, because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow." And he said to him, 'Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow. Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest? "And he said to those who stood by, 'Take the mina from him, and give it to him who has ten minas.' ("But they said to him, 'Master, he has ten minas.') 'For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and kill them before me."

The above is an example of Christ’s teaching. Jesus told this parable on his journey to Jerusalem; where he was going to be betrayed and put to death (by a delegation of citizens that did not want him to reign over them), and He would later receive a kingdom from his father, prior to returning to earth and judging all people according to their deeds. In the parable there are people who have no interest in having Jesus be their leader, and there are servants that Jesus left instructions to follow. The instruction from the ‘nobleman’ was for them to take the money that he had left them with and to do business on his behalf until his return. In the parable there are two servants that followed the nobleman’s instructions, and one who hid and did nothing with the resources he was entrusted with.

The lazy servant blamed the nobleman for his own failure; claiming that he was too afraid of his master’s wrath to risk following his master’s commandments. This servant could be compared to someone who had heard Christ’s message, chose not to follow the commandments, and on the day-of-judgment tried claiming that he knew of God’s wrath, but did not do as he was commanded because he claimed God’s judgment was unfairly harsh.

For the lazy servant, even what he once had will be taken away. The lazy servant was actually a servant of the master, but he was not one that measured up. The lazy servant might be likened to one of the Christians spoken of in Matthew 7:21, which states, “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”

The teachings of Christ – as with the rest of the Bible – warn of God’s wrath, and talk of justice and judgment, as well as mercy and forgiveness. Following God’s commandments is always of key importance to salvation. The lazy servant in the above parable completely rejected his master’s commandment. As was pointed out to him, if nothing else, the servant could have deposited the money in a bank and it would have earned interest, but the servant did not even do that. Instead the servant came up with an excuse for his deliberate rejection of his master’s instructions (similar to the actions of Adam and Eve after they were caught eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil).

There are a few different lessons in the above parable. The primary lesson is to make the most of the life that God has given you, and to follow his commandments. If these verses were part of a sermon delivered during a church service, the focus of the lesson would probably have been on trying to be like the good servant with the ten coins, and avoiding being like the lazy servant that did nothing with the resources his master had given him. During a church sermon or Bible study, other parts of the parable may be glossed over; such as the importance of following the master’s commandments in order to not be rejected, or the final verse of the parable that reads, “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them – bring them here and kill them in front of me (Luke 19:27).”

‘Bring my enemies here and kill them in front of me’ is part of the parable, but it is a part of the parable that is likely to be overlooked or not mentioned during a church service. Ignoring the unpleasant parts of Christ’s teachings and focusing solely on the loving and forgiveness aspects is one of the reasons there is so much confusion regarding the nature of God in the world today. This confusion has allowed atheists to pose questions such as, “How can an all-loving, all-forgiving god condemn people to eternal punishment?” Other variations of the question may ask how an all-loving, all-forgiving god can permit the existence of evil, or why does he allow bad things to happen to good people. Such questions have destroyed people’s faith, and/or prevented others from seeking God in the first place.

How can an all-loving, all-forgiving God condemn people to eternal punishment?

It is unfortunate that so many people’s faiths are lost or challenged by such erroneous questions. The answer is simple; God is not all-loving or all-forgiving. The ‘all-loving’ and ‘all-forgiving’ claim is not a Biblical concept but is a logical fallacy. Perhaps it was a Red Herring created to lead would-be Christians in the wrong direction, or maybe the concept was a Straw-man argument that an enemy set up knowing that the argument would be easy to counter. Maybe the concept simply developed over time; as preachers whitewashed Christianity in an attempt to shelter the children attending services from the more mature concepts of judgment and punishment, or as a means of appealing to a change in the moral reasoning of a certain culture of society.

Inaccurate and unbiblical slogans and sayings such as: ‘God loves you exactly the way you are’, ‘God hates the sin but loves the sinner’, ‘God loves you unconditionally’, or concepts such as God being ‘all-loving and all-forgiving’ do a grave disservice to the Christian faith, and to those would-be seekers that are led astray by erroneous paradoxes that seem to exist when attempting to answer questions based on these logical fallacies.

If God is all-forgiving, then why is there a need for hell?

If God forgave everybody for every sin there wouldn’t be a need for hell. The answer to this question is that God never claimed to be all-forgiving, and hell exists because God is a god of justice. The Bible clearly teaches that there is a hell, it tells us who will go there, and for what reasons they will be sent.

If God loves us all unconditionally then why do I need to change my behavior or turn away from my sins?
God does not love everybody unconditionally. It is true that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son for it (John 3:16), but there are conditions for salvation and for abiding in God’s love. For example, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love (John 15:10).”

God so loved the world that he sent his son to die for it, but God also causes the sun to rise on the evil as well as the good – the fact that the sun rose or that the rain fell is not the determining factor as to whether or not a person is good or evil (Matthew 5:45). Being shown an act of love does not equate to salvation; even sinners love those who love them, but the fact that they are capable of loving some people, at a certain level, in certain situations, does not change the fact that they are evildoers (Luke 6:32).

Doesn’t God hate the sin but love the sinner?

Psalm 5:5-6 The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; The Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

Genesis 6:5-7 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

Romans 9:13 As it is written, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated."

Revelations 2:6 “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”

The above verse taken from the book of Revelations implies that Jesus hated the deeds (sins) of the Nicolaitans, but the other verses [above] clearly state that God hates the actual ‘workers of iniquity.’ The Romans verse provides an example of God hating a specific person; although it is because of the deeds that Esau would do that he was hated. God does not abhor the ‘actions’ of being bloodthirsty or deceitful, but He abhors the ‘man’ who behaves in such a manner. Because of man’s evil, God was sorry that he had created man, and not that he had allowed the concept of sin to come into existence. In all of the lists of sins we have examined earlier in this study, it was the ‘people’ who engaged in the sins that will be cast into hell and not the sin itself.

The concept of ‘God hating the sin but loving the sinner’ is not found in scripture (the concept is said to originate from a teaching of Mahatma Gandhi). The Bible is full of examples of God’s displeasure towards sin and evildoers. You would be hard-pressed to find a Bible verse stating that God loves sinners. The closest verse to it might be found in Romans 5:8, which states, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” However, this verse does not state that God loves sinners; it only states that he performed an act of love for those few chosen people that Jesus was sent to die for. Just as God had a foreordained hatred for Esau, he also had a foreordained love for Jacob; despite the fact that – at the time – Jacob did not have a concept of who God was, nor did he yet make a conscious decision to follow him.

Jesus did not die for all of mankind. Jesus died so that, “whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).” He died for certain people who were chosen before hand, and were destined to be called to be his followers (Romans 8:28-30). Other people had the message hidden from them, or were not mentally permitted to either hear or understand the message. Some people were simply ignored. The message was not for everybody. Earlier in this section when we discussed Jesus forgiving the soldiers who crucified him, we also discussed the other, ‘people who stood looking on’, some of which were the Chief Priests and the Pharisees.

Who Were Called to Repentance

The Chief Priests and Pharisees were not people that Jesus seemed interested in calling to repentance. Jesus was not concerned with reforming the religious body of his day; if anything, he was a subversive are seditionist against them – which is probably why they told Pilate that he was perverting the nation, stirring up the people, and misleading them with his teachings (Luke 23:2, 5, 14). Of course, certain individuals such as the Apostle Paul or Simon the Pharisee were called by Christ, but for the most part, the Chief Priests and Pharisees were not people that Christ sought out to evangelize to.

When Christ did encounter the Chief Priests or Pharisees it was usually when they approached him and tried to subvert his ministry; by testing him with questions such as, ‘should we still stone adulterers, heal on the Sabbath, or pay taxes to Caesar?’ At one point the Pharisees challenged Christ’s actions by asking why he ate with tax collectors and sinners. Christ replied that he, “did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance (Mark 2:17).” This should not be interpreted to mean that the Chief Priests and Pharisees were righteous and did not need to be called to repentance. On the contrary, Jesus routinely used the Pharisees and scribes in his teachings as examples of what a true sinner or evil person was like.

Matthew 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”

Matthew 23:33 “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?”

The Pharisees were not people that Christ considered too righteous to be called to repentance; they were people that Christ had no interest in even attempting to save. He referred to them as ‘sons of hell’ (Matthew 23:15), ‘a brood of vipers’ (Matthew 12:33-34), and ‘children of the devil’ (John 8:44). He stated that they would die in their sins and that where He was going (Heaven) they could not come (John 8:22). In Matthew 23:33 (above) Christ asked them a rhetorical question about how they were going to escape the condemnation of hell; the answer of course being that they couldn’t.

Matthew 3:7-10 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

John the Baptist, likewise, referred to the Pharisees as a ‘brood of vipers’, and he questioned them as to who ‘warned them to flee from the wrath to come.’ Similar to Jesus, John the Baptist sought to call sinners to repentance; yet he did not call the Pharisees, but instead asked them who it was warned them (since it wasn’t him). John’s purpose was to warn sinners to repent, but it appears that there were certain people that he did not intentionally set out to warn. Most likely, the Pharisees and Chief Priests viewed John the Baptist as a threat to their religious control over the people, and they were probably scoping him out (had him under surveillance), as they did with Jesus, hoping to catch them in a mistake in order to discredit them.

One might think that the Chief Priests, Scribes, and Pharisees would be people that God would desire to call to repentance; after all, they were the ones within the society that had the greatest education and knowledge of the scriptures, but neither John the Baptist, Jesus, or the Apostles intentionally set out to call these people to repentance. The word of God was taught openly and within their hearing, but the Chief Priests, Scribes, and Pharisees do not appear to have been considered worthy of salvation.

Matthew 5:20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The scribes and Pharisees had a far better religious education than the average person of the time, but they were considered ‘sons of hell’ by Jesus, and he stressed that if the people did not exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees then by ‘no means’ will they enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus was not interested in calling the Pharisees to repentance, and he instructed his followers to do likewise.

Matthew 15:14 “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.”

Jesus instructed his disciples to ‘leave them alone’, and to allow the Pharisees (and those who follow them) to lead themselves to their own demise. Jesus also told a parable about the Pharisees in which he stated that, “He will destroy those wicked men”, which is one of the reasons the Chief Priests and Pharisees sought to have him put to death (Matthew 21:42, 45-46). If you took the time to examine Christ’s interactions with the Chief Priests and Pharisees, you would find that Jesus did not set out to call them to salvation; they were people that were hanging around in the background (spying on Jesus and plotting to kill him), who would occasionally come forward in an attempt to trap Jesus or accuse him of breaking some tradition.

Matthew 15:24-28 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

Matthew 10:5-6 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

During Jesus’ life, He did not call everyone in the world to repentance. Paul would later be sent to the Gentiles, but during Jesus’ life, He was only sent to the ‘lost sheep of Israel.’ When Jesus sent out his 12 disciples, they too were sent ‘to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ Jesus did make an exception for the Canaanite woman, but during his lifetime He was sent to the Jews – this principle of the Jew first and then the Gentile continued throughout the rest of the New Testament (Romans 2:10, Revelations 7:4-9).

Of the ‘House of Israel’, not even all of them were called to repentance. The message was preached openly in the cities, but neither Jesus nor his disciples called everyone to repentance. Jesus told his disciples to go into the cities and “inquire who in it is worthy”, and to abide with them (Matthew 10:11). If either the people they stayed with or the other people in the city where determined to be unworthy, then the disciples were to “shake off the dust of your feet” as a testimony against them (Matthew 10:13-15).

Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”

Ezekiel 22:27 Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain.

Genesis 49:27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; In the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.”

John 10:10-12 “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leave the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.”

Acts 20:28-29 “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.”

Jesus and the disciples were sent after the ‘lost sheep.’ When Jesus sent the disciples out, He warned them, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16)”; the ‘wolves’ in the passage is referring to evildoers. They are false prophets who pervert sound doctrine, or other evildoers, such as criminals, who wish to steal and to kill, or to shed innocent blood and obtain spoil. The wolves may not be readily identifiable by looking at their outward appearance; the outside of the cup may appear clean, but the inside is full of wickedness (Luke 11:39). The wolves may be in sheep’s clothing; they look like the sheep, but they are actually evildoers.

Clearly the Chief Priests and Pharisees were some of the people who were deemed as wolves in sheep’s clothing. The Chief Priests and Pharisees appeared on the surface – or at least claimed – to be men of God, but they were really hypocrites, giving a false appearance of righteousness, while possessing hearts full of evil desires. The Pharisees possessed evil desires similar to the criminals who would lie in wait for innocent blood. However, the Chief Priests and Pharisees committed their crimes under the guise of their religious authority; they devoured the houses of widows and were greedy for money and power (Matthew 23:14-28). They plotted to have those who opposed them killed, and they “set up false witnesses” in order to do so (Acts 6:11, 13).

Matthew 25:31-34, 41 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’

We know that the ‘wolves’ are the outright evildoers. The Bible also states that when the Son of Man comes, He will separate the sheep from the goats. The ‘goats’ are not like the ‘wolves’; they do not present as immediate of a threat to the sheep as the wolves do, but a goat is clearly a different animal than a sheep. The goats are normal people, but they are not the ones who were predestined before the foundation of the world to enter the kingdom. Jesus knew which people were his lost sheep (John 10:14), but the disciples had to use their judgment and inquiries to determine who was worthy.

The ‘goats’ in the above passage may be likened to the lazy servant, who received his master’s commandments, but did nothing with the mina entrusted to him (Luke 19:12-27). The wedding guest who received an invitation to the wedding yet did nothing to prepare for it is another example of who one of these goats might be (Matthew 22:2-14); as is the virgins who took their lamps but forgot the oil (Matthew 25:3), or those who say ‘Lord, Lord’ but do not do the will of the Father in heaven (Matthew 7:21). All of these examples of the ‘goats’ are examples of everyday people who heard the message of salvation, but did not respond to it. They heard the message, but did not follow Christ or change their behavior to that of righteousness. The goats traveled with the flock and may have believed themselves a part of it, but they were actually goats and were clearly different from the sheep.

When Jesus or the Apostles evangelized, they did so openly. They sought out sinners, but the sinners they sought out were actually the ‘lost sheep’ who were preordained before the foundation of the world to become Christians. We have already examined the types of sins that these early Christians were forgiven of, and none of these sins was excessively vile. Jesus and his disciples taught openly, and their message could have been heard by wolves, goats, or sheep; but it was only the lost sheep that Jesus was concerned about saving.

Matthew 22:2-14 "The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, 'Tell those who are invited, "See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding. But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding. So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen."

The above parable includes the goats, the sheep, and the wolves. The wolves were those who heard the message, but had no interest in attending the wedding feast (which represents joining the church – Revelations Chapter 19); the wolves were selfish, and they seized the messengers and killed them. The wolves infuriated God, who will send out his armies to destroy those murderers and burn their cities. Those sent to evangelize were sent to the highways, and they preached their message openly – to both the good and the bad. The sheep were the good people who received the invitation and responded accordingly (by preparing for the wedding). The man who was not wearing a wedding garment was a goat; he had received the invitation, but like the lazy servant who did nothing with his mina, he took no action to prepare for the feast. He did show up to the feast – and may have thought himself no different than any of the other guests – but he did not respond to the invitation appropriately as the other guests had; so when the King/Shepherd divided the sheep from the goats, he was cast out of the wedding feast.

Matthew 21:34-41 “Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit, and the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ “But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ “So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”

The above parable provides another example of God’s call and the differing responses it receives. The vinedressers in the above parable are wolves; they are evil people who have no interest in providing the landowner with the fruits of the vineyard; instead, they kill the messengers and the landowner’s son. So far in this study we have examined three parables relating to the message of God and the reactions to it by the wolves, the goats, and the sheep. In Mathew 21:34-41 the wolves murdered the messengers (as they did in Matthew 22:2-14), and in Luke 19:12-27 the wolves were the ones who hated the nobleman and refused to have him rule over them.

In the aforementioned parables, Jesus represents the nobleman, the bridegroom, and the landowner’s son. The responses to the wolves in the referenced parables were to, “bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and kill them before me”, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons”, and “he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.” In each of the parables, the wolves were people who were not given a second chance to receive God’s message following the death of his son – although, as previously noted, the wolves were not even evangelized to during Christ’s lifetime. The wolves were the outright evil people, who openly rejected the message, and God’s only further response to them is that He is coming to dispense justice against them. Christians are warned about the wolves in the world, and were instructed to defend the rest of the flock against them (Acts 20:28-29).

Should Christians Evangelize to Prisoners or Sex Offenders?

Earlier in the study I asked if you recalled the verse in the Bible where Jesus sought out the murders, the rapists, and the pedophiles, in order to call them to repentance. My answer was, “Of course you don’t, because there is no such verse in the Bible.” The fact of the matter is that Jesus and the Apostles did not call such people to repentance. They sought out ‘the lost sheep.’ Besides warning his disciples of the danger of the wolves they might encounter, he also instructed them to select ‘worthy’ people to preach the gospel to, and warned them not to cast their pearls before swine.

Matthew 7:6 Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.

Christians are not to cast their pearls before swine or to give that which is holy to the dogs; yet some misguided Christians of modern times believe it is their Christian duty to reach out to the vilest of human beings. They invite sex offenders into their churches and go into prisons to evangelize to murderers, rapists, kidnappers, and other heinous criminals; these people are not the ‘lost sheep’, but are ‘the lost.’ They are similar to the people in Jeremiah 7:16-17 that God said not to pray for because He will not hear your prayers – since you should have known by their actions that God would not forgive them and that they are beyond redemption.

When Jesus and His disciples evangelized, it was done openly in cities or within a person’s home. They did not go to prisons, whorehouses, bars, orgies, or any other place were the vilest of evildoers might be found in order to win converts to Christianity. When they did evangelize, it was to the goats and the sheep; they never sought out the wolves in order to call them to repentance. They did not try to convert terrorists, serial killers, human traffickers, or any other vile pieces of human filth into Christianity.

It is truly unfortunate that cultural misconceptions regarding Christianity have led some churches to believe that God wants them to evangelize to the most evil of sinners on the planet. Previously in this study we examined the types of sins and the types of sinners that were accepted in the early church. We did not find an example of anyone (other than King David) being forgiven for murder, sorcery, kidnapping, lying/perjury, or perverting sound doctrine. One of the key elements to receiving forgiveness had to do with a person’s heart. Sinning in ignorance – and a willingness to repent – played a role in forgiveness, but most of the forgivable sins were not associated with the sins leading to death in the Torah.

Of the sinners that were forgiven in this study, King David committed the worst of the sins (adultery and murder), but David was a man after God’s own heart. David was guilty in regards to Uriah the Hittite and Bathsheba, but aside from that one incident he was one, “who kept My commandments and who followed Me with all his heart, to do only what was right in My eyes (1 King 14:8).” Intentional sin and sins done with malice aforethought were the worst sins, and were the type of sins that were not forgiven. Convicts sitting in prison have already been found guilty of committing crimes with criminal intent or malice aforethought (within the criminal justice system). As stated previously, sinning in ignorance – because you did not know any better – is a far cry from lying in wait for innocent blood.

You cannot accidentally commit premeditated murder. It is impossible to unintentionally rape a person or molest a child. Kidnapping and worshipping other gods are not done involuntarily. When a terrorist throws acid into a young girl’s face for attempting to go to school, or when they rape a girl for not wearing a burka, or behead a store owner for selling western style clothing, these people prove through their actions that they are neither the sheep or the goats; they are the wolves!

Coupled with the misconceptions that God is all-loving and all-forgiving, there is also a broad misconception within the Christian community that they are commanded to evangelize to everyone. Many Christians believe that part of being a Christian is a requirement to run around knocking on other people’s doors at random and handing out brochures to whoever they come in contact with. Were some people appointed as evangelists within the early Christian church? Sure, but not every Christian is called to do so (Ephesians 4:11).

The Great Commission was given to the Apostles (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15) and they fulfilled that requirement within their lifetimes (Romans 1:8, 10:18, Colossians 1:23, Acts 28:22). The average Christian is not supposed to fill the role of the evangelist. The average Christian wins converts through their behavior (1 Peter 2:12, 1 Peter 3:1-2, 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8, Titus 2:10). It is through our Christian behavior that we lead others to Christ, and not because we knock on their doors.

I believe the misconception that God is all-forgiving and the misconception that He wants Christians to call everyone they come into contact with to repentance is a major factor that drives some churches or individual Christians to believe they should invite sex offenders to their Sunday Schools, or causes them to evangelize to people in prisons. The Bible warns Christian’s not to be, “unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14)?” If Christians are not even supposed to be yoked together with unbelievers they certainly should not be inviting the vilest of evildoers into their fellowship meetings and giving place to the devil (Ephesians 4:27). Yet, a quick search of the internet will uncover many so called Christians reaching out to the most heinous of evildoers.

The misconception that God desires Christians to evangelize to and offer forgiveness to evildoers is prevalent in many Christian churches and on the internet. When conducting the research for this study, I came across one such website that opened with a flash animation listing the following words: “Murderers, Rapists, Child Molesters, Pornographers, Thieves, Drug Addicts, Liars, Cheats, and Sexual Perverts”, followed by the words, “No matter what you have done. No matter what sins you have committed. You can hear Jesus, the Lord of the universe, say to you, your sins are forgiven (http://www.yoursinsareforgiven.net, n.d.).” Based on what we have examined previously in this study, I’d say that such a philosophy is grossly inaccurate, and is not supported by scripture. The Bible does have a few passages in it that says to visit people in prison, but the misguided Christians who go to prisons in order to evangelize to them are seriously misinterpreting the meaning of those verses.

Matthew 25:34-36 “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 'I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”

In the above verses, those accepted into the kingdom were praised for a number of things, including visiting someone who was in prison, but who exactly was this person in prison that the saints came to visit?

Matthew 25:37-40 "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 'When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 'Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' "And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'

Hebrews 13:3 Remember the prisoners as if chained with them-those who are mistreated-since you yourselves are in the body also.

Acts 12:5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.

Matthew 4:12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee.

The above set of scripture tells us who these prisoners were that Christ wanted Christians to visit. They were Christ’s brethren, people in the same body of Christianity as themselves, and individuals such as John the Baptist or the Apostles Peter and Paul. ‘Remember the prisoners’ was not an instruction for Christians to visit Charles Manson or Khalid Sheik Mohammad; it was a reminder for them to stick together and to support their fellow Christians who were being persecuted unjustly. Later in this study we are going to examine how Christians are to treat fellow Christians who commit sin, but for now, I present to you the following verse to clarify that Christians are not to commit crimes that would warrant their incarceration for anything other than suffering for the faith.

1 Peter 4:15 For let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil-doer, or as a meddler in other men’s matters:

If the person is a Christian, then they should not be incarcerated for any unlawful reason. Some might ask, “Isn’t is possible that someone who is actually chosen by God (but not yet saved) might be convicted of a crime and sent to prison?” Sure, it is possible that one of God’s chosen followers could be convicted of a crime and sent to prison, but even if that were the case, it would not be necessary to go to the prison in order to evangelize to them. After the person has served his/her time, the person would be let out of prison and returned to the cities and homes where the gospel is preached to the goats and the sheep – it is not necessary to reach out to them while they are in prison. If the person is convicted of such a severe crime that they are required to serve several life sentences, then it is very unlikely that such a person is meant to be saved. However, even still, if God calls a person, they will be called; after all, prisoners are allowed to read the Bible and watch television.

Acts 16:24-31 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here." Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household."

In the above verses Paul and Silas were in prison. Paul’s mission was to set up the church, and he spent his life traveling from city to city calling people to repentance. Certainly, if there was a time when Christians should reach out to prisoners, this would be it. After all, you have one of the greatest contenders of the faith – whose sole mission on earth was to spread Christianity – locked up with a bunch of evildoers who had nothing but time on their hands. Did Paul and Silas attempt to save any of the criminals? No. But certainly they attempted to? No. Did they even try talking to them? If so, it wasn’t recorded in the Bible, and Paul never mentioned a need to reach out to such people in any of his future letters to the churches. The only person who was saved in the above verses was a prison guard.

So if the Bible doesn’t support preaching to prisoners, then why is the practice so widespread? As I stated earlier, for many people it is due to a misunderstanding of the Bible, but for others, it is because prison ministries are big business. Many church leaders are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing, and like the Chief Priests and Pharisees, they recognize that the more people they have in their churches, the more people they have paying tithes, and the more money they will have to support their endeavors. Unfortunately, Mr. Preacherman does not have a job, and he is supported by the money he collects from the people loyal to his church. Besides individual corruption, there are also many companies that produce videos and other tracts specifically for prisoners, which rely on such evangelism to support their businesses.

When conducting research for this study, I came across a website with a page titled, “Why minister to prisoners?” I do not know, nor did I look for any alternative motive for their ministry. I am not here to pass judgment on them, but I would simply like to include their viewpoint in order to present to you a balanced argument on the topic. The website presented three reasons for their ministry. Only one of the reasons had anything to do with Christianity, so that is the one we will focus on. Their justification was as follows:

Because prison is where Jesus would be. While here on earth, Jesus spent most of His time with society’s “outcasts”—crooked tax collectors, prostitutes, and other “sinners.” It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick, Jesus said. And He offered them the healing of His forgiveness and friendship. So if Jesus were on earth today, you can be sure we would find Him in prison—spending time with even the most loathed criminals and outcasts. Why? Because He came “to seek and to save the lost.” And now, as Jesus’ representatives on earth, we should be among the prisoners as well. Calling all to the healing touch of Jesus. Trusting that no one, no matter how far he has fallen, is beyond Christ’s love and power to transform. (http://www.operationstartingline.net/why-pf/why-minister-to-prisoners, n.d.)

We have already covered much of the above information, but here again we will clarify the Bible’s position on the topic. The above claims that Jesus spent most of his time with outcasts such as tax collectors, prostitutes, and other sinners, and claims that because of this, Jesus would have maintained a prison ministry. The error in the above argument is that we have evidence that prisons did exist in Christ’s time, and Jesus did not visit the prisoners. Jesus didn’t even visit John the Baptist when he was in prison, but instead sent a messenger to answer John’s question (Matthew 11:2-5).

There was no reason for a tax collector to be in prison, because although the Jews considered them to be traitors or collaborators, the profession was a legal one in their society. I am not sure about the legal status of prostitution in Jesus’ time, but since we are talking about modern society, it would be a misdemeanor crime that would require less than a year in jail, and more than likely, the prostitute would only be in jail for a short period of time while being processed (a matter of hours) and then would be required to pay a fine. There would be no need to visit a prison to speak to either tax collectors or prostitutes, because as in Jesus’ day, those people could be contacted in normal society. Based on this information, we can be certain that the statement, “So if Jesus were on earth today, you can be sure we would find Him in prison” is unquestionably untrue.

The claim that Jesus would be spending time with “even the most loathed criminals and outcasts” is completely against the scripture; in this study we’ve examined the types of sins that Jesus was willing to forgive and who he was willing to call to repentance, and the “most loathed criminals” were not in either category. Also the people in prison are not outcasts, but are people who have been found guilty of crimes; they are not in prison because society has rejected them, but are there because they have committed attacks against society.

As for the other reasons the website offers, such as Jesus seeking to save the lost, we have already defined these ‘lost sheep’ and separated them from the goats and the wolves. The website concludes with the statement, “Trusting that no one, no matter how far he has fallen, is beyond Christ’s love and power to transform.” This line of thinking is based on the philosophy that God is all-loving and all-forgiving, which is a misconception about God. Clearly there is a line between justice and forgiveness, and depending on the sin, Christ may or may not even be interested in transforming the individual.

Hate Evil, Love Good, and Establish Justice

The notion that God is all-loving and all-forgiving is not a Biblical concept. God is a god of justice, “For true and righteous are His judgments (Revelations 19:2).” He is full of mercy, yet in no way will He acquit the wicked. God knows people’s hearts (Luke 16:15), and He will judge each of them according to their deeds. There is a line between forgiveness and justice, and discernment between these concepts is something every Christian should strive for.

Jesus did not come to erase God’s law, nor did He come to correct any mistakes in God’s previous revelations to man. Jesus came to clarify man’s misinterpretations or inappropriate applications of the scriptures. If there seems to be an inconsistency or contradiction in the Bible, it is more than likely that we are simply not seeing the big picture or grasping the entire concept. God is a god of justice, He holds the wicked accountable for their deeds, and some of the teachings in the Old Testament may seem harsh to people when first reading them. While on earth, Jesus attempted to clarify God’s teachings, which people were applying incorrectly or missing the main points thereof.

Luke 11:42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”

Matthew 23:23, 26 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone…Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.”

The Pharisees were obeying many of the teachings in the Old Testament, but they were ignoring the weightier matters of the scripture such as justice and mercy. They were following the Torah as a set of rules, but the hearts of the people were evil (Ecclesiastes 5:1). Jesus clarified the teachings of the Old Testament with a focus on the internal feelings and desires of the people. He wanted people to, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37)”, and to follow Him out of a pure heart; instead of living wicked and sinful lives, yet making the required sin offerings obligatory by the law.

The addition of the New Testament of the Bible seems to have divided Judeo-Christian philosophies into two extremes. There are the Old Testament teachings that speak of judgment, justice, wars, and punishment, and then there are the New Testament teachings, which speak of love, faith, mercy, and forgiveness. It almost seems as if the god of the Old Testament is a different god than the god of the New Testament, but He isn’t. Jesus taught the people to be more concerned about their actions/desires and to have compassion and empathy for their fellow human beings, but He was not preaching a different god – He was clarifying the application of God’s teachings.

The god of the Old Testament is the same god as the god of the New Testament. There isn’t some old god of harsh punishment, and then some new god of love and mercy. They are simply different aspects of the same god. If you truly want to know and understand God, you must view and understand Him as both a god of justice and a god of mercy. One of the teachings of Jesus that is often misunderstood by Christians is the concept of loving your enemies.

Matthew 5:38-39, 5:43-44 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ “But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also… "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you”

Romans 12:19-21 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Proverbs 24:17-20 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; Lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him, And He turn away His wrath from him. Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the wicked; For There will be no prospect for the evil man; The lamp of the wicked will be put out.

Christ’s teaching regarding ‘love your enemies’ is a difficult one to understand; especially, if you are basing your entire interpretation of the teaching solely on the verses found in Matthew 5:43-44. The Bible does not contradict itself; to understand an apparent contradiction to other verses, you simply need to compare the teaching to other related verses in the Bible in order to gain a better understanding of the broader concept.

During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was correcting people who were taking Old Testament precepts out of context (such as ‘an eye for an eye’) and applying them inappropriately to other matters in their lives. When Christ said to ‘love your enemies’ He was not teaching a universal principle to be applied in every situation, just as ‘but I tell you not to resist an evil person’ is not a universal Christian principle, but was a limited teaching regarding civil lawsuits – otherwise it would negate the teaching, ‘do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.’

As we will cover in this section, the Bible clearly teaches that there is such a thing as a justifiable or righteous hate. When Jesus said to ‘love your enemies’ He was not erasing previous teachings regarding hate, but He was clarifying how to ‘treat’ others. The teaching was that Christians are not to seek their own revenge. Vengeance belongs to God alone. Loving your enemies and doing good to them was an act of faith on the part of the Christian; by doing so, the Christian was placing his/her faith in God (that God is a god of justice) and trusting that God will hold the evildoer accountable at the appropriate time.

Showing an act of love towards the enemy was a way of ensuring they will have coals of fire heaped on their heads. This was not a new concept; Proverbs 24:17-20 teaches the same principle. Jesus was not creating a new concept for the New Testament, but was clarifying a principle that existed in the Old Testament that was not being applied correctly. The Old Testament and the New Testament assist us in understanding God better; they are not describing two completely different gods, but they help us better understand different characteristics of the same god. God is a god of justice and mercy, of punishment and forgiveness, and of love and of hate.

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 8:12-15 "I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discretion. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate. Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am understanding, I have strength. By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice.”

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, and the fear of the Lord is to hate evil. Hating evil is not something a Christian should be afraid of, nor should a Christian feel guilty about it. In the book, ‘People of the Lie: the hope for healing human evil’, Dr. Peck writes, “The feeling that a healthy person often experiences in a relationship with an evil one is revulsion. The feeling of revulsion may be almost instant if the evil encountered is blatant (Peck, 1983).” A normal person should be repulsed by evil. As we will cover in this section, hating evil is clearly taught in the Old Testament and is reaffirmed throughout the New Testament.

The concepts that a Christian needs to understand is discernment and balance. The New Testament contains many verses teaching us to love our neighbors and brethren, but it also teaches us to hate evil. As Christians we are not supposed to walk around full of hate and anger, but at the same time we are not to reject common sense or the concepts of justice and judgment in an effort to walk around trying to love people whose actions clearly warrant a sense of revulsion, disgust, or hatred. We are to seek wisdom and discretion, so that we can accurately balance the concepts of hating evil, loving good, and establishing justice.

Amos 5:14-15 Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; So the Lord God of host will be with you, as you have spoken. Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate.

Psalm 37:27-28 Depart from evil, and do good; And dwell forevermore. For the Lord loves justice, and does not forsake His saints; they are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off.

Romans 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

The principles of hating evil, loving good, and establishing justice are found in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. If a Christian truly wishes to be conformed to the image of God (Romans 8:29), then he/she should seek to accurately handle these teachings (2 Timothy 2:15). Attempting to love and convert the wolves is a means of casting your pearls before swine, but hating the goats and the sheep without cause (such as due to a personal prejudice) is also a sin.

Psalm 11:5 The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates.

Psalm 97:10 You who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.

Revelations 2:2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars”

If you love the Lord (or fear/respect/honor Him) then you should hate evil. By doing so, we meld the characteristics of God with our own. God tests the righteous and the wicked. While we live on earth, we are given a choice between good and evil and life and death (Deuteronomy 30:15) – it is up to us to make the correct decisions. The choice between good and evil is a basic test that we may face many times in our lifetimes. When we are confronted by evil, God observes how we respond to it, and how we treat our fellow man. God judges everyone according to their deeds, and He is aware of our individual works and labors. As Christians we are to use our judgment and discernment appropriately; we should seek a balance in our feelings of love, hate, and the need to establish justice, and we are to identify and not bear/tolerate evil.

Revelations 2:6 “But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.”

Matthew10:34-38 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.”

John 12:25 “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Jesus included a righteous aspect of hate within His teachings. When speaking to one of the churches in the Book of Revelations, Christ commended the church on their hate, and confirmed that He too hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans. Jesus also taught the need for His would-be followers to hate their previous sinful lifestyles as a prerequisite for being one of His disciples.

Christ was not teaching people to hate their family members without cause, but was stressing the need to hate the person’s previous sinful lifestyle; and not to forsake the path of salvation over feelings of love for earthly family members (Micah 7:6-7). Everyone works out their own salvations and will be judged according to their own deeds; if avoiding unrighteous family members is necessary for a person’s salvation, then that is a sacrifice they might be required to make. It is better to enter the kingdom with one eye than it is to have both eyes and be cast into hell (Matthew 5:29).

Like some of Christ’s other teachings, the teaching to hate father and mother, wife and child, and brother and sister was limited to the singular concept of a person truly hating his/her life of sin, and recognizing the need to make a change. Christ’s teachings cause conflict, adversity, and arguments within households, and Christ warned his would–be followers not to give up their salvations because of the love they feel for family members who might disagree with them. Elsewhere, the Bible instructs husbands to love their wives (Ephesians 5:25), and Jesus stated that He came so that not only will Christians have life, but also that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10). They are also promised that all things will work together for their good, as long as they follow God’s commandments (Romans 8:28).

Psalm 26:5 I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.

Psalm 31:6 I hate those who regard vain idols, but I trust in the LORD.

Psalm 101:3-4 I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will not know wickedness.

Psalm 119:101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. I have not departed from Your judgments, For You Yourself have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.

Psalm 119:158 I behold the treacherous and loathe them, because they do not keep Your word.

Psalm 119:163 I hate and abhor lying, but I love Your law.

Psalm 139:21 Do I not hate them, O Lord, who hate You? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.

King David was a man after God’s own heart, and God praised David for being one of His most faithful servants (1 King 14:8). He hated and rejected the evildoers, and he trusted in the Lord. He was faithful to God’s commandments and gained understanding through God’s precepts. He hated God’s enemies with a ‘perfect hatred.’

Psalm 45:5-7 Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee. Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.

Hebrews 1:8-9 But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”

Proverbs 6:16-19 These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.

The verses from the Book of Hebrews (above) provide a testimony by God about Jesus, which first appeared in the Book of Psalms. Psalm 45:5-7 speaks of Jesus establishing justice by directing sharp arrows into the hearts of His enemies, and goes on to say that He had earned God’s favor by His love of righteousness and His hate of wickedness. Proverbs 6:16-19 describes six things that God hates. God hates: Pride (Proverbs 16:4-5), Lying, Murder (shedding innocent blood), an Evil Heart, Sinning (engaging in evil), Perjury, and Subverting the brethren (false prophets/wolves in sheep’s clothing).

This list of things that God hates corresponds with verses we have previously examined regarding the types of sins that will cause people to be damned. Lying, murder, and bearing false witness are all included in 1 Timothy 1:8-11, and lying and murder are included in Revelations 21:7-8, 22:15. Murder also appears in the list of sins (works of the flesh) in Galatians 5:19-21, along with ‘hatred.’

Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Murder and lying are clearly grave sins that Christians should avoid. Lying may not seen as great of a sin as murder within today’s culture, but clearly God hates liars and lumps them together with the murderers, sorcerers, adulterers, and kidnappers.

Hatred is also included in the above list, because even though we are supposed to hate evil, we are not to be consumed with hatred. “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins (Proverbs 10:12).” Clearly Jesus hated wickedness (Hebrews 1:8-9), and in many of His parables He spoke of bringing the evildoers to justice. Yet, Jesus did not walk around consumed with hate. Hating evil and loving good must be done with balance and discernment.

John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

1 John 2:9-11 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

1 John 3:11-16 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

Leviticus 19:17-18 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

Luke 17:3 “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.”

Christians are commanded not to hate their fellow disciples (1 John 4:20). Loving the brethren is the mark of a Christian, and Christians should not hate one another. By hating each other, they prove through their actions that they are not Christians, because Jesus specifically commanded us to love our brethren. The Bible provides us will specific guidelines on how Christians are to relate to each other and solve disputes within the church – which will be covered later in this study. Dealing with others with whom we share a common religion has not changed since the Old Testament, and the Leviticus verse above sums up the teaching – we are not to hate our brethren, but if one of our brethren is committing a sin (that is causing us to hate him) then we are to rebuke him in order to correct his bad behavior (which would actually be an act of love).

1 King 3:9-12 “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” The speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. Then God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words…”

God granted King Solomon’s appeal for wisdom – so that he might discern between good and evil and administer justice – because Solomon’s unselfish request was pleasing to God. God wants His people to choose good over evil and to establish justice on earth. God does not want evil to run rampant upon the earth, “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery…(Isaiah 61:8).” As much as it is within our power, we should, “Remove violence and plundering, execute justice and righteousness, and stop dispossessing My people: says the Lord God…(Ezekiel 45:9).”

Genesis 6:5-6 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.

Isaiah 59:15-16 So truth fails, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. Then the Lord saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor;

Amos 5:13 Therefore the prudent keep silent at that time, for it is an evil time.

Proverbs 21:13-15 Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard. It is a joy for the just to do justice, but destruction will come to the workers of iniquity.

Habakkuk 1:2-4 O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You, “Violence!” and You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgment proceeds…

A lack of justice on the earth displeases God, and allowing evil to run rampant within society is what led to the flood in Noah’s time (Genesis 6:7). If we allow evil to flourish within society – or in the world for that matter – eventually it will reach a point where there will be no justice, the prudent will keep silent, and those who depart from evil will fall victim to it. If we shut our ears to the cries of the helpless, then no one will come to save us when we cry for help.

It should be, “a joy for the just to do justice”, and evildoers should not be allowed to act with impunity. Christians are to lead quiet and peaceable lives (1 Thessalonians 4:11) in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, but we are also supposed to shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15). We should set an example of truth, justice, and peace (Zechariah 8:16) through our behavior (1 Timothy 4:12, Titus 2:6-8, 1 Peter 2:12), and support our earthly rulers as they punish the evildoers and praise those who do good (1 Peter 2:14).

Christians are to, “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them (Ephesians 5:11).” We need to, “stand against the wiles of the devil”, that we might, “be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (Ephesians 6:11-12).” The world has many evildoers in it, and if Christians are unwilling to take a stand against them, then who is going to?

Isaiah 56:1 Thus says the Lord: “Keep justice, and do righteousness...”

Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.

Psalm 82:3-4 Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy; free them from the hand of the wicked.

Jeremiah 21:12 ‘O house of David! Thus say the Lord: “Execute judgment in the morning; and deliver him who is plundered out of the hand of the oppressor, lest My fury go forth like fire and burn so that no one can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

Zechariah 7:9-10 “Thus says the Lord of Hosts: “Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother.”

Zechariah 8:16-17 “These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace; Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor and do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate, ‘Says the Lord.”

Executing justice in the land and standing up for those in need are lessons that were clearly taught in the Old Testament. Coming to the aid of the oppressed was echoed in the New Testament in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). Christians are allowed to defend themselves, their families, and their brethren (Luke 22:36, Romans 12:18, Proverbs 6:5, John 10:10), but they are not allowed to seek their own revenge (Romans 12:19). If a Christian has been wronged, he/she should have faith in God’s promises, and trust that God is a god of justice and will render His righteous judgment against the wicked at the appointed time (Romans 9:21-23).

Matthew 25:44-46 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ “Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Right now, as you are reading this, someone is being raped. Another person will be raped within the next two minutes, and another, two minutes after that. Every 40 seconds someone will be assaulted with a deadly weapon. A home is burglarized every 18 seconds, and one act of domestic violence occurs each minute. A child is abused and/or neglected every 35 seconds, and someone is murdered every 31 minutes. The proceeding statistics were taken from the Department of Justice’s 2009 Crime Clock (http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw2009/pdf/crime_clock_hr.pdf), and only reflect the crimes taking place in the United States.

Elsewhere in the world, each year, “an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 men, women, and children are trafficked across international borders…70 percent are female and 50 percent are children. The majority of these victims are forced into the commercial sex trade (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc/ncvrw/2005/pg5l.html, 2005).” Terrorism, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and other crimes against humanity are also widespread and ongoing throughout the world. People are starving on the streets, being forced into prostitution, dying unnecessarily of treatable diseases, and/or are being dispossessed of their homes by tyrants or natural disasters. All of these things are taking place right now, in the world we live in. Are you doing anything about it?

When the Bible tells us to “defend the poor and fatherless” it is telling us to stand up for those who are unable to stand up for themselves. The fact that someone is not poor or if someone does have a father, should not be a disqualifying factor. Common sense would dictate that at the time, the fathers, and the people with wealth, were standing up for themselves and their children. Christians should defend themselves and their families, but should also seek to help those who are in need – those who do not have a defender or lack the ability to defend themselves.

If a Christian wants to take a more active role in the fight against evil (criminals, terrorists, genocides, tyrants, etc…) he/she can serve in the military or within the criminal justice system, and be one of, “God’s minister(s) to you for good” and serve as, “an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil (Romans 13:4).” Not all of the jobs in the military involve firing weapons at bad guys; there are also people who build bridges/buildings, work in public affairs offices to aid foreign citizens, serve as doctors/nurses/dentists, and even as chaplains. In the criminal justice system there are prosecuting attorneys, case workers, guards, and law enforcement officers. Law enforcement officers exist at the local, state, and federal levels, and there are different duties in each of the sections – such as finding missing children, fighting against drugs or human trafficking, tracking down murderers, or teaching communities how they can better secure their homes or neighborhoods against crime.

You do not need to change careers or work fulltime at fighting evil and establishing justice. There are many ways that you can support your fellow man, and make the world a better/safer place by volunteering in your local communities (http://www.volunteermatch.org). There are volunteer opportunities that support battered women and/or abused children, and opportunities at rape crisis centers and suicide hotlines (http://volopps.rainn.org). There are also opportunities within the field of Emergency Management – such as the Community Emergency Response Team (http://www.citizencorps.gov/cert), whose members come to the aid of their neighbors following natural disasters.

There are many nonprofit organizations you can support financially that champion causes, such as, rescuing child prostitutes from the streets (http://www.childrenofthenight.org), providing dogs to assist the handicap (http://www.dogsforthedeaf.org), preventing child abuse/molestation (http://www.childhelp.org), or supporting the parents of murdered children (http://www.pomc.com). Christians can lobby, protest, or propagate causes and issues of concern to them, and can fight evil and make the world a better place by letting their voices be heard on blogs, social networking sites, personal websites, community newsletters, and so on.

1 Peter 3:11-13 “Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

One of the greatest assets Christians have available to us is the power of prayer. Christians are promised that if we ask anything according to God’s will, that it will be done (John 14:13-15, John 9:31, 1 John 5:14-15). We are told that we cannot receive if we do not ask (James 4:2), or if we ask with selfish motives (James 4:3). We are told to pray with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6), to heal the sick, for forgiveness (James 5:15-16), and for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11). We can pray for mankind (1 Timothy 2:1), for the success of our governments (1 Timothy 2:2), and the Bible also provides us with examples of the saints crying out to God for justice and for the destruction of evildoers.

Pray for Their Destruction

Psalm 34:16-17 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.

Psalm 54:5 He will repay my enemies for their evil. Cut them off in Your truth.

1 Peter 3:12 “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Revelations 6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You Judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”

The Lord hears the cries of the righteous, and will avenge the wrongs done to them. Above are examples (taken from both the Old and the New Testaments of the Bible) of saints crying out to God for justice. The concept of praying to God for the destruction of evildoers may seem radical to people who have been brought up in modern day churches.

Much of what is taught in churches today is one-sided, and concepts of justice and punishment – which are just as prevalent in the Bible as mercy and forgiveness – are often overlooked or glossed over. Christians are often taught by churches to deny their God given feelings/consciences, and to accept a narrow interpretation of – a few verses in – the scriptures and to demand absolute forgiveness of all sins (without exception).

I recently watched a movie titled, ‘Amish Grace’, which is about the willingness of the Amish to forgive the undeniably evil man who assaulted their schoolhouse with the intention of raping and murdering their children. The gunman took the people in the school hostage, ordered the boys and the adults out of the building, and planned to rape and murder the young girls he kept with him (girls as young as six years old). Thankfully, the quick response by the police prevented the sexual assaults, but the gunman did manage to shoot all ten girls (execution style) before committing suicide (killing five and seriously wounding the others). The movie’s focus was on how powerful the Amish community’s faith must have been (in order to forgive such a heinous act), and centers around one of the murdered girls mother’s reluctance to express forgiveness to her daughter’s murderer.

It is truly unfortunate that many church leaders force the need to forgive unrepentant evildoers on their congregations, as if it were a Christian principle. Parents who have lost their children to ruthless evildoers should not be pressured into forgiving such people. If you are the victim of robbery, rape, aggravated assault, or if some other intentional evil has been done to you, you do not have to forgive the evildoer. In fact, it might be more appropriate to pray for the person’s destruction. Forgiveness is not something that should be handed out lightly. Christians should learn discernment between good and evil, and should recognize the need for justice and should cry out to God for it.

John 20:23 “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Jesus spoke the above verse to a select group of His followers. The verse gave those Christians the power to forgive other people’s sins. It is extremely important to note that Jesus also instructed them to retain the sins of certain people. Jesus did not teach us to forgive everyone (or unconditionally), and He clearly taught that some people’s sins should be retained. This is because the Christians He was speaking to were expected to use discernment as to what to forgive and what not to.

It is my belief that this power [for Christians] to forgive other people’s sins was given to a select group of Christ’s followers – like the power to heal cripples, restore sight, and resurrect the dead (Acts 20:9-12) – and no longer exists in the world today (otherwise catholic priests would be able to be forgiven by their fellow pedophiles, and would actually be able to escape God’s judgment).

If modern Christians still possessed the power to forgive other people’s sins, then grave miscarriages of justice might take place. The misconception that Christians were instructed to forgive anything and everyone might lead some misguided Christians to erase the sins of Adolph Hitler or even Lucifer himself, and what they bind on earth would be bound in heaven (Matthew 18:18).

Luke 11:4 “And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Much of the misconstrued belief that Christians were ordered to forgive everyone and everything is derived from the Lord’s Prayer. In it Jesus taught us to forgive ‘debts’ and ‘trespasses’. Understanding what these words mean is important to understanding Christ’s teaching on forgiveness. Jesus did not tell us to forgive the ‘atrocities’ committed against us – or even the ‘crimes’. What His followers were instructed to forgive were actions that were similar to what they themselves might commit against their neighbors. Elsewhere, Christ’s followers are warned about being hypocrites, and told to first remove the plank from their own eyes before removing the speck in their brothers (Luke 6:42, James 2:11, Romans 2:1-3).

The Lord’s Prayer does not say, ‘forgive me for kidnapping and murdering this child as I also forgive those who kidnap and murder my children.’ The debts and trespasses that Christians committed and forgave were certainly not so heinous and deserving of condemnation. Christians are not supposed to be evildoers, and should not have been committing major sins against their neighbors (1 Peter 4:15, 1 Thessalonians 5:22). Earlier in this study we examined the type of sins that God was willing to forgive. Certainly, He would not expect us to forgive something that He clearly taught was unforgivable.

Matthew 18:23-35 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant Therefore fell down before him, saying, 'Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' “Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, 'Pay me what you owe!' “So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' “And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' “And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

In the parable of the king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants (Matthew 18:23-35), the ‘debts’ that were owed were related to money. In the parable the king forgave one of his servant’s debts, but was disappointed to learn that after doing so, the servant was unwilling to show similar mercy and to forgive the smaller debt that was owed to him. Forgiveness of debts was not a new teaching that Jesus was introducing during the Lord’s Prayer.

Deuteronomy 15:1-2 “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts. And this is the form of the release: Every creditor who has lent anything to his neighbor shall release it; he shall not require it of his neighbor or his brother, because it is called the Lord's release.”

Deuteronomy 15:9 “Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, 'The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,' and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the Lord against you, and it become sin among you.”

The forgiveness of debts was a concept that was taught in the Old Testament of the Bible. It would be a sin to be unwilling to forgive someone else’s debt at the required time (out of greed or an evil eye). In the previous section we examined God’s will for us to establish justice on behalf of the poor, and for those who are unable to defend themselves. Certainly, cheating the poor and being unwilling to forgive their debts (Deuteronomy 15:9) would displease God, and He would count it against the person as a sin (Matthew 18:23-35). In the above verses, it is stated that if the victimized person were to experience such an injustice that it would be fitting for them to cry out to the Lord for justice.

In the Old Testament people were instructed to lend to others and to take care of the less fortunate; during the year of release debts would be forgiven. Jesus was not creating a new teaching in the Lord’s Prayer – that demanded arbitrary forgiveness – but was reinforcing a principle from the Old Testament that was well known to the Jews He was speaking to. If a modern Christian lends money to someone in need and the person lacks the means to repay what was borrowed, it would be very Christian like for the person to overlook and forgive the debt. Caring only about the money and demanding repayment in spite of the fact that the person is not able to repay would be very unchristian like (Matthew 18:29-30, 1 Corinthians 6:7).

Leviticus 6:2-5 “If a person sins and commits a trespass against the Lord by lying to his neighbor about what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or about a pledge, or about a robbery, or if he has extorted form his neighbor, or if he has found what was lost and lies concerning it, and swears falsely-in any one of these things that a man may do in which he sins: then it shall be, because he has sinned and is guilty, that he shall restore what he has stolen, or the thing which he has extorted, or what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or the lost thing which he found, or all that about which he has sworn falsely. He shall restore its full value, ad on-fifth more to it, and give it to whomever it belongs, on the day of his trespass offering.

Leviticus 5:15-16 "If a person commits a trespass, and sins unintentionally in regard to the holy things of the Lord, then he shall bring to the Lord as his trespass offering a ram without blemish from the flocks, with your valuation in shekels of silver according to the shekel of the sanctuary, as a trespass offering. And he shall make restitution for the harm that he has done in regard to the holy thing, and shall add one-fifth to it and give it to the priest. So the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering, and it shall be forgiven him.

Numbers 5:6-7 “Speak to the children of Israel: 'When a man or woman commits any sin that men commit in unfaithfulness against the Lord, and that person is guilty, then he shall confess the sin which he has committed. He shall make restitution for his trespass in full, plus one-fifth of it, and give it to the one he has wronged.”

The above are examines taken from the Old Testament of what constitutes a ‘trespass’. Since Christians are to forgive other people’s trespasses – and will in turn have their trespasses forgiven – it is important to know what a trespass is. The above speaks of unintentional trespasses and sins committed in unfaithfulness. In both cases, the trespasses were minor; had they been weightier sins – such as murder, adultery, rape, and so forth – then the person would have been put to death and would not have been let off with a fine. In both of the above examples the guilty party was required to make restitution in full (plus 1/5) for the harm that he/she had done, and was required to confess his/her sin if it was intentional.

2 Peter 2:4-5 For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly

God is a god of justice and uses discretion and righteous judgment to determine who will be forgiven and whose sins will be retained. Christians likewise should seek to discern between good and evil and to establish justice. Forgiving everyone for anything they do is not a Christian teaching. Christians should not pressure the victims of heinous crimes to forgive their victimizers under the guise that to do so is in accordance with the teachings of Christ. When Jesus said to forgive debts and trespasses He was speaking of concepts from the Old Testament of the Bible that were known to His audience.

Debts and trespasses were relatively minor offenses, and Jesus was not instructing His followers to forgive all sins – especially not sins that would have otherwise been sins leading to death. Just as modern proponents of God being ‘all-forgiving’ are wrong in that assumption, they are likewise incorrect in demanding that Christians be ‘all-forgiving’ without applying discernment, conscience, or common sense to the matter. Calling out to God for justice against evildoers is found throughout the Bible.

Lamentations 3:59-66 O Lord, You have seen how I am wronged; Judge my case. You have seen all their vengeance, All their schemes against me. You have heard their reproach, O Lord, All their schemes against me, the lips of my enemies and their whispering against me all the day. Look at their sitting down and their rising up; I am their taunting song. Repay them, O Lord, According to the work of their hands. Give them a veiled heart; Your curse be upon them! In Your anger, pursue and destroy them from under the heavens of the Lord.

2 Chronicles 24:22 Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but killed his son; and as he died, he said, “The Lord look on it and repay!”

2 Timothy 4:14-15 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.

The above verses provide us with examples of calling out to God for evildoers to be repaid according to their sins. The Old Testament concept was echoed by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. Paul asked the Lord to repay Alexander according to his works, and then warns Timothy about the person. Paul did not follow a pattern of forgiving everyone, but used discernment and would petition God against whose who harmed him when it was appropriate.

Genesis 4:10 And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground”

Genesis 18:20-21 And the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave I will go down now and see if they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”

Genesis 19:13 “For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.”

Exodus 2:23-24 No it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.

In each of the above sets of scripture God responded to the outcry of injustice. When the victim was not alive to cry out to God, the blood on the ground called out to God for justice. In response to the outcries, God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and rescued the Jews from slavery in Egypt.

Psalm 10:12-18 Arise, O Lord! O God, lift up Your hand! Do not forget the humble. Why do the wicked renounce God? He has said in his heart, “You will not require an account.” But You have seen, for You observe trouble and grief, to repay it by Your hand. The helpless commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and the evil man; Seek out his wickedness until You find none. The Lord is King forever and ever; The nations have perished out of His land. Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear; To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may oppress no more.

In the above verses the Psalmist appeals to God to assist the helpless and to judge the evildoers. He is also dealing with the need to trust in God’s justice, and to recognize that although at the present situation the evildoers seem to operate with impunity, God is observing their actions and will eventually judge them according to their deeds. The Psalmist petitions God not to withhold His judgment, and to punish the evildoers in the short term.

Psalm 94:1-6 O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongs-O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth! Rise up, O Judge of the earth; Render punishment to the proud. Lord, how long will the wicked, How long will the wicked triumph? They utter speech, and speak insolent things; All the workers of iniquity boast in themselves. They break in pieces Your people, O Lord, And afflict Your heritage. They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless.

Exodus 22:22-24 “You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.”

In Psalm 94:1-6 the psalmist cries out to God to dispense vengeance against the wicked for their crimes against God’s people. The appeal is in accordance with God’s will, as it mimics the Torah teaching in Exodus 22:22-24. In the Exodus verses, God promises that if the victims cry out at all, He will hear their cry and will administer justice. The punishment will fit the crime and those who afflicted the widows or fatherless would be killed with the sword, and their wives would be made widows and their children would be made fatherless.

Psalm 139:19-22 Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God! Depart from me, therefore, you bloodthirsty men. For they speak against You wickedly; Your enemies take Your name in vain. Do I not hate them, O Lord, who hate You? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.

Psalm 69:24-28 Pour out Your indignation upon them, And let Your wrathful anger take hold of them. Let their dwelling place be desolate; Let no one live in their tents. For they persecute the ones You have struck, And talk of the grief of those You have wounded. Add iniquity to their iniquity, And let them not come into Your righteousness. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.

Psalm 28:3-4 Do not take me away with the wicked and with the workers of iniquity, Who speak peace to their neighbors, but evil is in their hearts. Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavors; Give them according to the work of their hands; Render to them what they deserve.

The above is yet another example of the psalmist beseeching God for the punishment of the wicked. He prays not only for their physical destruction, but also that God will plot their names out of the book of life. He prays that they be punished in this life and the next.

Luke 18:1-8 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a Judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me from my adversary.' And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.' Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust Judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"

In the above parable, Jesus described a woman’s persistence when crying out for justice. Jesus provided this parable to His followers as an example regarding prayer. Do Christians have to forgive every evildoer who sins against them? No! Jesus clearly taught His followers to continually cry out to God – day and night – for vengeance, and promises that although God bears long with them, He will eventually avenge them.

The parable concludes with a question as to whether or not the Son of Man will find faith on the earth when He returns. The point of the parable was for Christ’s followers to trust in God as a god of justice, and not to lose heart in praying for the destruction of the wicked. The test of faith had to do with whether or not Christ’s followers would lose heart when their prayers are not immediately answered, and it seems as though the evildoers can act without consequence. Jesus instructed Christians to continue praying for justice until it is obtained. Christians are not to seek their own revenge, but must wait for God to administer justice at the appointed time.

Isaiah 30:18 Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.

Isaiah 42:4 He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands shall wait for His law.

Vengeance is Mine

When we are wronged, the inherent sense of fairness within us cries out for justice and vengeance. The desire for revenge is a natural response to being victimized, which we possess because we are made in God’s image – and He is a god of justice. The concept of ‘an eye for an eye’, as found in Exodus 21:24-26, Leviticus 24:16-23, Deuteronomy 19:19-24, was part of the criminal justice system in ancient Israel, and even in the Old Testament was not a license for people to take their own revenge.

Deuteronomy 32:35 Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; their foot shall slip in due time; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things to come hasten upon them.'

Proverbs 20:22 Do not say, “I will recompense evil”: Wait for the Lord, and He will save you.”

Proverbs 24:29 Do not say, “I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work.”

Psalm 54:4-5 Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is with those who uphold my life. He will repay my enemies for their evil. Cut them off in your truth.

Romans 12:18-19 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.

The fact that God’s followers are not permitted to take revenge against their enemies has not changed for thousands of years. We can cry out to God for justice, be angry, and even hate our enemies, but we cannot dispense vigilante justice. We have every right to defend ourselves, and evildoers can be punished and even put to death through our legal systems, but we are not authorized to take revenge against those who have wronged us. We should seek to live at peace with our neighbors (as much as it is up to us), and must trust that God will give us justice against our adversaries.

Deuteronomy 32:39-43 ‘Now see that I , even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand. For I raise My hand to heaven, and say, “As I live forever, if I whet My glittering sword, and My hand takes hold on judgment, I will render vengeance to My enemies, and repay those who hate Me. I will make My arrows drunk with blood, and My sword shall devour flesh, With the blood of the slain and the captives, From the heads of the leaders of the enemy.” Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and render vengeance to His adversaries; He will provide atonement for His land and His people.

Nahum 1:2-3 God is jealous, and the Lord avenges; The Lord avenges and is furious. The Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies; The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked…

Hebrews 10:30-31 For we know Him who said, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY" and again, "THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE." It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

We are instructed to wait on the Lord and to trust that He will avenge us at the appointed time. Even in the Old Testament God was promising that He would render vengeance on behalf of the Gentiles as well as the Jews; He will avenge all of His servants, and He will not acquit the wicked. Besides, some people are the victims of crimes that are so heinous that no human revenge could possibily bring about justice. Even the criminal justice system can do nothing more than keep the assailant locked away or provide them with a swift and humane death. God’s judgment is righteous, and He can dispense eternal torment if required.

Isaiah 35:3-4 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4 Say to those who are fearful-hearted, "Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you."

Leviticus 19:17-18 'You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. 'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

God’s followers are to live at peace with ‘everyone’, and they are not to hate their ‘brothers’ in their hearts. The Bible provides differing instructions for how to treat different people. The Bible speaks of ‘everyone’ when giving instructions relating to all of mankind, and other categories include: ‘brothers/brethren’, ‘neighbors’, and ‘enemies’. Brothers and brethren speak of fellow believers (Christians), neighbors are other people we might interact with on a regular basis, and then there are enemies (wolves/evildoers).

The Bible instructs us to behave differently towards each category of people in regards to concepts such as forgiveness and judgment. In Leviticus 19:17 we are instructed not to hate our fellow believers, and not do bear the sins of our neighbors. We have a responsibility to love our brethren and our neighbors as ourselves, but we are not instructed to love our enemies as we love ourselves.
 

Love Your Enemy

Luke 6:27-28, 35-36 "But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, "bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you…"But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”

Romans 12:17-21 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Proverbs 25:21-22 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you.

During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructed the people to love their enemies. That instruction was followed by examples, demonstrating ‘acts of love.’ The teaching had to do with getting along with other human beings. We are not supposed to quarrel with each other over material goods (1 Corinthians 6:7), and should be willing to lend to and help our fellow man – not just those who do things for us first.

We are to set the example by demonstrating love towards them first (how we’d like to be treated). We are not to seek our own revenge, so aside from maintaining the right to defend ourselves if we are attacked, we should strive to live at peace with everyone within our power. By living this way we leave room for God’s judgment.

2 Kings 6:21-23 Now when the king of Israel saw them, he said to Elisha, "My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?" But he answered, "You shall not kill them. Would you kill those whom you have taken captive with your sword and your bow? Set food and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master." Then he prepared a great feast for them; and after they ate and drank, he sent them away and they went to their master. So the bands of Syrian raiders came no more into the land of Israel.

The above provides an example of loving your enemies. The men in the above verses were Syrian raiders (mercenaries) who attempted to attack God’s people. God had blinded them and delivered them into the hands of the Israelites. The King of Israel asked the Prophet Elisha if he should kill them, but instead they showed them mercy. The Syrian raiders were completely vulnerable – and at the mercy of the Israelis – but instead of vengeance they were shown kindness, and because of this they never attacked Israel again.

2 Chronicles 28:8 And the children of Israel carried away captive of their brethren two hundred thousand women, sons, and daughters; and they also took away much spoil from them, and brought the spoil to Samaria.

2 Chronicles 28:15 Then the men who were designated by name arose, took the captives, and they clothed all their naked ones from the spoil; and they gave them clothes and sandals, fed them and gave them drink, anointed them with oil, led all their feeble ones on donkeys, and brought them to Jericho, the city of palm trees, to their brothers; then they returned to Samaria.

Matthew 25:37-40 "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 'When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 'Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ "And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'

Showing kindness and treating the Prisoners of War with dignity was another way of ‘loving your enemies.’ The Matthew verse above states that the clothing of the naked that Jesus endorsed was done toward ‘My Brethren’, which Jesus would later define as his followers (Matthew 28:10, Romans 8:29). The people in the Chronicles verse were also brethren (2 Chronicles 28:8).

The concept of demonstrating love towards your enemies was not done while the enemy was still a threat. In both the Chronicles example and in the case of the Syrian raiders, the enemies were shown kindness and mercy only when they no longer posed a threat. In both examples, the enemies had not succeeding in wronging others (the Syrian raiders were blinded by God before they could attack, and the Chronicles prisoners were women and children that had not taken part in the war).

James 2:15-16 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?

Acts of love are more than simply offering up prayers on another’s behalf. Acts of love involves physically doing something to aid your fellow man. The above verse is speaking of taking care of fellow members of the household of faith, but the concept of feeding, clothing, and caring for others applies to all of mankind – including enemies that you are not actively at war with or being threatened by.

Love your Neighbor and the Brethren

Matthew 19:19 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well;

Leviticus 19:33-34 'And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. 'The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Loving your neighbor as yourself was taught in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. It has to do with what is referred to as the golden rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Luke 6:31).” The Leviticus verse above points out that beyond simply being your kinsmen or brethren, your neighbor includes those who live near you. The answer to the question, “who is my neighbor?” is found in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Luke 10:29-37 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.' So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

The above parable was delivered in order to answer the question, “who is my neighbor?” The person who acted as a neighbor in the above parable was the Good Samaritan. The Good Samaritan had mercy and showed kindness to the victim of a crime. Jesus instructed His followers to do the same; meaning to come to the aid of those in need.

The above parable not only provides us with an example of how to be a neighbor, but it also defines those who are not our neighbors. Clearly, the thieves in the above parable were not the victim’s neighbor. Neither were the people who simply passed by and left the person for dead (ignoring the person in distress).

The ‘neighbor’ was the person who showed kindness. For us to be a neighbor, we too need to show kindness to those who are in need. Just as we would want someone to come to our aid if we were in distress, we should help our fellow humans that are in need. Such acts of kindness are not without limits. Clearly the thieves and heartless individuals in the parable were not defined as neighbors, and we are not required to love such people as we love ourselves. We might demonstrate acts of love towards them – as we would our enemies – but bringing the thieves to justice would be a more appropriate act of love; on behalf of the victim and for the betterment of society.

Possessing discernment as to who we are to ‘love as ourselves’ and who we are to show ‘acts of love’ towards will help us determine who we are to pray for, and who we are to show kindness to yet cry out to God against. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus did not mention anything about praying for, forgiving, or showing mercy to the robbers. If we were to include such people in our prayers, praying for God to thwart their future attempts to victimize others and to render unto them according to their deeds would be a more appropriate prayer.

Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

1 John 3:10-11 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

1 John 5:1-2 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.

As we have opportunity, we are to do good to all people, but especially to those who belong to the family of believers. The children of God are to love one another. Loving your fellow Christian is a requirement of the faith, and the Bible provides specific guidance on how Christians are to treat each other. We can determine who is a child of God (Christian) and who isn’t by their works. Christians should practice righteousness and obey the commandments.

Matthew 5:22 "But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire.

Proverbs 19:11 The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.

Ephesians 4:26-27 "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.

Being able to overlook a transgression is praiseworthy. Of course, a transgression must be separated from other more grievous sins (that do not warrant forgiveness). The verses from the books of Matthew and Ephesians (above) address anger within the church. Christians should seek to control their tempers and should not be angry with their brethren without cause. The key words here are ‘without cause.’

If you have a reason to be angry with a fellow Christian, then your anger might be justified. However, you still must not sin or give place to the devil. Ephesians 4:26-27 states not to let the sun go down on your anger. When Christians are in conflict (or angry) with one another, the Bible provides specific guidance on how to correct a person’s sinful behavior.
 

Forgive Each Other

Forgiveness is another area that many Christians have trouble with. Certain teachings in the Bible – such as in the Lord’s Prayer – lead many Christians to believe that they must forgive everyone for everything they do. We have already discussed the fact that God is not going to forgive everybody for everything; He will judge everyone according to their deeds.

Certain Christians – such as Peter (Matthew 16:19) – did have the power to actually forgive the sins of others (John 20:23), but as I stated previously, I believe that power has been done away with. If Christians do still possess the power to forgive another person’s sins, I believe that it is only done within the church (Matthew 18:15-19). And even then it isn’t an inherent power within the believer (to declare someone else’s sins to be forgiven) but comes from God’s willingness to listen to their prayers.

Forgiveness is concerned with holding someone accountable for their actions – the removable of guilt and consequences – and should not be thrown around arbitrarily. When it comes to judging and forgiving others the actual removal of a person’s guilt or release from punishment belongs to God alone.

Matthew 18:15-19 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.”

The above provides Christians with instructions on how to resolve conficts among believers. The people in the above verses are all members of the Body of Christ. If one of the Christians sins against the other(s), the issue should be handled at the lowest level – between the two of them. Communication is an essential aspect of any relationship; it might be that the guilty party was unaware of the grievance – so opened communication is a necessity.

If after being confronted with his sin the brother fails to listen, then the rebuker will escalate the situation by bringing in one or two mediators/witnesses. If the offending party still refuses to listen, then the matter should be brought before the entire church. If the offending party still does not listen (and the entire body of believers agrees that there is a problem), then he/she would be kicked out of the church. Although, if he had been repeatedly warned that he was sinning – yet he made the conscious decision to go on willfully sinning – then the person’s damnation is a matter of personal choice.

1 John 5:16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.

If the Christian heeds the warnings of the church members, then they can pray on the person’s behalf and God will forgive the person’s sins. Of course, in order for this to take place, the person must discontinue his sinful behavior, and the sin cannot be one warranting death. As we discussed in the first section of this study, continuing to sin willfully – or to return to your previous sinful lifestyle – after being saved is one such sin. Other sins leading to death might equate to one of the major sins (or crimes) that required the death penalty in the Torah.

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”


Luke 17:3-4 Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him."

The above verses provide more information regarding forgiveness. Christians are told to be on their guard regarding sin. As in Matthew 18:15-19, Christians are to be proactive in identifying and addressing the sins of their brethren. Christians are to bear one another’s burdens, and should not allow their brethren to be swallowed up by sin simply because they don’t think it is any of their business. A key aspect of forgiveness is the need for the guilty party to repent. If the person does not ask for forgiveness, then forgiveness should not be offered.

In the above verses, Peter asked Jesus how many times he should be willing to forgive his brother. Jesus replied, seventy times seven. Seventy times seven is a large number (490), but it is not an infinite number. Christians are not advised to forgive without limits, but there are restrictions on who to forgive, what sins can be forgiven, and how often. If the brother was sinning seven times a day – as in Luke 17:3-4 – then the person would only be eligible for forgiveness for a little over two months. If the person sinned once a day, the forgiveness would run out in 490 days (a little less than a year and a half).

So far in this section we have identified that only fellow Christians should be prayed for, and only if they repent of their sins. The sins should not be sins leading to death, and the person should not be allowed to continue sinning indefinitely. Matthew 18:15-19 provides us with instructions on how to escalate the situation within the church, if the issue cannot be solved at the lowest level.

Mark 11:24-25 “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”

Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Colossians 3:12-13 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.

Ephesians 4:32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.

Christians are told to forgive one another just as God had forgiven them. This is an expansion on Christ’s teaching found in the Lord’s Prayer. As with many of Christ’s other teachings – like those delivered during the Sermon on the Mount – an unexplained concept was initially delivered that would later need to be clarified. Jesus often taught in this manner, so that people would continue to contemplate His teachings in order to try to figure out what He meant – such as when Jesus warned His disciples about the leaven of the Pharisees (Matthew 16:7) or when Christ said that His disciples had to eat His flesh (John 6:52-53).

The teaching that Christians should be willing to forgive if they expect to be forgiven has to do with not being hypocrites. They are not to judge the speck in their brother’s eye while they have a plank in their own (Matthew 7:5). Christians should be concerned for one another, and should not ignore their brother’s sinning. When Ephesians 4:32 speaks of ‘forgiving one another’, it is referring to the members of the household of faith (to whom the letter was addressed). The above verses mirror the statements in the Lord’s Prayer regarding forgiveness, but in the later verses it is clear that the forgiveness is done within the household of faith, and not to those outside of the church. Just as Christ’s teaching about leaven was not about bread, and His teaching on communion did not have anything to do with cannibalism, the requirement to forgive in order to be forgiven seems to be related solely to forgiving other Christians (who wouldn’t be guilty of heinous sins/crimes).

Do Not Be Yoked Together

The work of an evangelist is important, but reaching out to every sinner is not necessary; neither Jesus nor the Apostles evangelized to wanton evildoers or heinous sinners. Christians are taught to be lights to the world, and their best means of winning people to the faith is through their behavior. Christians must exist in the world, but they are not to be unequally yoked with nonbelievers.

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

Christians may need to work with and interact with nonbelievers, but they should limit their fellowship with them. Some interaction should be expected, but the values of Christians are very different than those of secular society. Light and darkness may come in contact with each other – such as when the night becomes day – but they cannot be united.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner-not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not Judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore "put away from yourselves the evil person."

Christians are not to sit in judgment of those on the outside of the church. They can tolerate living within the same society as sinners (without forcing their morales on outsiders) as long as they are not placed in danger – Christians are never told to tolerate crimes or to permit their flocks to be placed in danger. However, as in the last section, Christians are to rebuke their fellow Christian when such a person is sinning. Christians are only to judge those within the church.

Romans 16:17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.

2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

1 Corinthians 5:1-2 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles-that a man has his father's wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you.

The above verses further clarify how Christians are to judge their brethren. They are to admonish their fellow Christian with brotherly love, but if he/she will not listen to the church’s rebuke then they should have nothing to do with him (Matthew 18:15-19). Sinful Christians should be avoided, kepted away from, and not associated with.

1 Timothy 1:18-20 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

2 Timothy 4:14-15 Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.

The above verses provide an example of Paul giving two of his former followers over to Satan due to their behavior. Paul asks that the Lord repay Alexander according to his works, and then warns Timothy to beware of him.

Titus 3:9-11 But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.

2 Timothy 2:15-19 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity."

2 Timothy 2:23-26 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

The above outlines the procedures for dealing with an arguementative church member. They should be given a few chances, but if they will not listen then they too should be rejected. The above situation has to do with ‘foolish disputes’ and not about legitimate disagreements. Christians should be able to accurately handle the word of truth, and their faith should be apparent through their behavior (because they depart from iniquity). Christians should avoid ignorant disputes and not cast their perals before swine, but they should be willing to patiently teach those who are seeking God.

Galatians 6:1-6 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load. Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.

Christians are not to be hypocrites or self righteous, but should bear one another’s burdens. If they see one of their fellow Christians sinning, they should restore the person with a spirit of gentleness. Before removing the speck from their brother’s eye, they should first examine their own work. Although Christians are to bear one another’s burdens, they are also responsible for bearing their own loads, and in the end, everyone will be judged according to their own deeds.

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

Matthew 7:1-6 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.”

Luke 6:37-39 "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you." And He spoke a parable to them: "Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?

Romans 2:1 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you Judge another you condemn yourself; for you who Judge practice the same things.

During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus covered many topics very rapidly. They were not so much ‘hard and fast rules’ as they were the foundations of teachings that would later be expanded upon. The past two section have discussed the need for Christians to judge their fellow believers. The concept of ‘judge not lest ye be judged’ does not mean that Christians are never to judge others, but when they do so, they are to evaluate their own behavior first – and not be hypocrites. They are not to cast their pearls before swine (meaning they are not to judge or preach to those outside of the church), but are to ensure their own behavior is appropriate before seeking to assist their fellow believers.

Christians will be judged according to the same measure that they use to judge others. Clearly, Christians are instructed to judge, identify, and correct their fellow believers who are engaging in sin. The measure that they use to judge their brethren should be in accordance with the commandments and instructions they have been provided in the Bible (since they are to accurately handle the word of truth). If you are behaving and judging others based on sound doctrine – and not being a hypocrite – then you have no reason to fear Christ’s teaching regarding judging others.

John 7:24 “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

Christians are not supposed to be prejudice and judge others based solely on their outward appearances.

1 Corinthians 11:31-32 For if we would Judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

If Christians self-monitor their own behavior, then they would not be judged by their brethren or by God. However, if they are in need of correcting, God will discipline them. If a Christian is rebuked by a fellow believer, the person is rebuked out of brotherly love (on God’s behalf), so that the believer is not condemned with the rest of the world.

John 12:46-48 "I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not Judge him; for I did not come to Judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him-the word that I have spoken will Judge him in the last day.

Jesus came to be a light unto the world (to provide an example – just as Christians are to do) and stated that He did not come to judge the world yet. When He says He would not judge, He meant at that time. At the appointed time everyone will be judged, and they will be judged according to the words that are now contained in the Bible.

1 Corinthians 6:1-8 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will Judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to Judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall Judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that There is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to Judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! 7 Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren

Christian should be able to judge themselves and their brethren, but they should not be hypocrites.

1 Peter 4:15-18 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now "If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?"

Pray for the Saints

Ephesians 6:18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints

John 17:9 "I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.

Christians are to pray for the saints. Jesus did not pray for the world, or even for all of the people in the world. He prayed for the saints.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Immediately after stating that he turned some people over to Satan (1 Timothy 1:18-20), Paul reminds Timothy to pray for ‘all men.’ Christians should pray for mankind in general, and for the success of the governments that protect them.

1 John 5:16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that.

Christians have a responsibility to look after their brethren. They should use righteous judgement and rebuke their brethren with brotherly love. If their brethren are not guilty of a sin leading to death, then Christians should pray to God on the behalf of their brethren. Christians should be able to accurately handle the word of truth, and use it as their measure of judgment. Using the Bible as a guide, Christians should be able to discern which sins to pray for and which sins warrant the person being rejected. If a person’s sins warrant judgment, Christians should cry out to God for justice against them (Luke 18:1-8).

Christians should be lights to the world, and they should use discernment in their judgment. They should not be hypocrites, and should evaluate their own behavior before judging others (in the church). Christians are to love their brethren, and the Bible provides specific instructions on how Christians are to work out their differences.

Christians should love, judge, and pray for other believers, but aside from praying for mankind in general, they are not told to judge or make specific intercessions for non-believers. They are to love their neighbors as themselves, and should show acts of love (mercy/kindness) to their enemies. Christians are not ordered to be all-loving or all-forgiving, but are to immulate God and accurately discern between good and evil. Ideally, they should hate evil, love good, and establish justice on the earth.