FAQs (January 23 - 30)
I've been posting short answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) over on the First Baptist Church, Orillia Facebook page and my intention is to gather them up and post them every Saturday night on this site for some extra Lord's Day reading. The Lord's Day is a great day to catch up on your RMM Bible reading and so as you do, I pray you might find these offerings to be useful.
From Genesis 30:
Question: From Leah "hiring" Jacob for the night to Laban "divining" that the Lord had blessed him through Jacob, Genesis 30 has to be one of the craziest chapters in the bible. Can you bring some clarity?
My response: In the Bible we always have to ask ourselves whether what we are reading is intended as descriptive or prescriptive. Meaning are we being told: "This is what sinners did" or are we being told "This is how saints should behave". Big difference.
Keep in mind that the main point of the Old Testament is "God is holy. People are sinful. Wow we need Jesus". As you say, Genesis 30 does much to contribute to that end. It is a description of how sinners mess up their families, it is not a how to manual for us to follow. God made them male and female and said that the TWO shall become ONE flesh. That is the prescription. This in Genesis 30 is the description of how messed up families become when we deviate from God's plan. Verdict: Wow we need Jesus!
From Romans 2:
Question: I am stuck on Romans 2:14-16, would you please provide some clarification about what Paul is saying here. Is he saying that there is a possibility to receive salvation because of natural law on a "good" person's heart. At judgement is there going to be a group of "good" people who may receive grace/mercy and a opportunity to accept Christ then? I was understand the understanding that at judgement there is only those who have Christ as their Savior and those who do not. Even when you have great moral behavior you are still going to have distorted morals due to sin, correct? I have read this verse 3 times in the last year and for some reason this time I am confused. Help!
My response: Romans 2 is a complicated chapter! Paul is trying to say that all are sinners, whether Jews (who have the law) or Gentiles (who do not), all are guilty of sinning against that which is obvious to all:
18 or the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18–20 ESV)
Chapter 2 develops that idea such that Paul can conclude in chapter 3 by saying:
10 “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10–18 ESV)
Paul is arguing rhetorically in chapter 2. He is saying that the Gentiles have conscience which runs parallel to the law. When Gentiles sin they are rebelling agains that which they know and when Jews sin they are rebelling against what they know. All are rebelling against the righteousness they know and all reveal their rebellion through sinful actions. Actions (whether condemned by law or conscience) speak the truth about our heart. The verdict is universal – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23). Therefore all need Christ.
The Scriptures do say that we are judged on the basis of our actions – not that we are SAVED by our actions - but our actions inevitably tell the truth about whether we are saved or not. Fruit reveals root. Apart from the grace of God in Christ, Paul says, whether we have the law or only conscience, our rotten fruit reveals a rotten root that cries out its need for salvation. Complicated chapter. Hope that helps.
From Mark 3:
Question: What is the unpardonable sin?
My response: Great question! This comes up a lot after reading Mark 3:
28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— (Mark 3:28–29 ESV)
What is the unforgivable sin? Is it adultery? Is it murder? Is it blasphemy? Is it the failure to believe in speaking in tongues or other miraculous gifts? No. The very next verse gives us a useful clue:
for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” (Mark 3:30 ESV)
The unforgivable sin is not believing that the work of Jesus is from God. Said more strongly, it is attributing the work of Jesus to the devil or "an unclean spirit". Quite simply, the unforgivable sin is not believing that God is working in Christ to secure our redemption. The unforgivable sin is not being a Christian. A Christian, by definition, cannot commit the unforgivable sin. To be a Christian you must believe that God is worked in Christ for your salvation - ergo, you didn't commit the unforgivable sin.
Rejecting God's self disclosure in Christ is a horrible act of willful blindness and arrogant rebellion. It is lack of gratitude and it is damnably arrogant. It is the unforgivable sin. Hope that helps.