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LOVE, MERCY, FORGIVENESS
Published On : May 25, 1998
Last Updated : February 24, 2011
Treated Like A Publican, Are We Christians Obligated To Pray For Unrepentant Nonbelievers?, Free Will And Personal Choice, Our Primary Duty Is To Pray For Our Own, Unforgivable Sin And Blasphemy Against The Holy Ghost, God's Holy Spirit Of Truth, God Is Not A Liar, Spirit Of Antichrist, Satan : Blasphemer And Father Of Lies, Blasphemy Of The Beast, Are We Obligated To Forgive When The Offender Doesn't Demonstrate Repentance?, Civil Capital Punishment System, God's Laws, Standing Before Judgment Seat Of Christ, Sin Unto Death And Fornication In The Corinthian Church, Committing An Unrepentant Sinner Unto The Lord, Divine Love And Chastisement, Examples Of Apostle Paul And King David, Destruction Of Jerusalem By Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, Prophet Jeremiah's Trust In God's Mercy, Peter's Recognition Of God's Mercy And Longsuffering, Extreme Cases And God's Wrath, The Great Flood In The Days Of Noah, Verses Which May Be Dealing With Endtime Fiery Destruction
Continuing our discussion from part two, in those verses from Matthew chapter eighteen, Jesus also said that such unrepentant brethren should be treated as publicans. His Jewish followers perfectly understood what Jesus meant by this; for you see, "publican" -- which is derived from the Greek word "telones" -- was simply another word for one of the most detestable classes of people in ancient Israel; that is, the tax collectors. No one wanted to have anything to do with the tax collectors, except other rich people, of course. But as far as the common people were concerned, the publicans were the scum of the Earth; and Jesus said that unrepentant brethren should be treated in the very same manner as the tax collectors; that is, with utter disdain.
Taking into consideration the stern advice that was offered by Jesus concerning those who resist the conviction of God's Spirit to repent, we must wonder if we are even supposed to pray for such unrepentant people. While it is entirely up to you to determine how you should react in such a situation, and whether or not you should pray for such hard-hearted people, allow me to remind you of something that Jesus said in the Gospel Of John. I have emphasized one phrase by placing it in italics:
"I pray for them: I pray not for the world
, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine."
John 17:9, KJV
The previous verse seems to indicate that we are under no obligation to pray for the unbelieving, rebellious people of the world who have knowingly rejected the Salvation that God offers them through the Sacrifice of His Son. Jesus gave us an example which we are to follow. Once they have heard the Good News of Salvation through Christ, and made their choice to reject it, then that is it. They have consciously chosen to remain heathen and foreigners in God's sight by their own free will. As I point out in such articles as "Free Will And Personal Choice", "All Are Given A Chance, But . . .", and "Is Salvation Meant For All Men?", God usually does not try to override our free will under most circumstances. We are all free moral agents, and He allows us to live with the consequences of our decisions and actions. As the Apostle Paul wrote concerning one particular issue:
". . . Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind."
Romans 14:5b, KJV
On the other hand, as we saw earlier, rebellious brethren are still our brethren as long as they maintain faith in Christ, even if they are in a backslidden state. Not only that, but the Apostles John, James and Paul did write that we should pray for them, in the hope that they will repent of their sins, and return to the faith. We may have to give them the shock treatment by giving them the cold shoulder for a time as Jesus advised us to do, but we can still be praying for them at the same time. Thus, it would seem that our primary responsibility is to pray for our own; that is, for our worldwide family of brothers and sisters in the Lord. Perhaps this is why in his first Epistle, the Apostle John states the following:
"If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it."
1 John 5:16, KJV
You will notice that in the previous verse, John refers to "a sin unto death". While John doesn't specify exactly what the "sin unto death" is, as I point out in other articles, according to Jesus' own words that are found in the Gospel of Matthew, there is only one unforgivable sin which is worthy of Eternal Death -- that is, the Second Death -- and that sin is blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, as we see by these verses:
"He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come."
Matthew 12:30-32, KJV
Exactly what does "blasphemy against the Holy Ghost" mean? This is in fact an issue which has been debated by Bible scholars for many years now. While I have never claimed to be a great theologian, my personal understanding is that to blaspheme against the Holy Ghost means to deny the ultimate reality which has been revealed to humanity by the Spirit of Truth. Based on Jesus' words in the Gospel of John, it is my personal belief that the Spirit of Truth -- that is, the Holy Ghost -- is an extension of God the Father Himself. Consider these verses:
"But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."
John 4:23-24, KJV
"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."
John 14:16-17, KJV
"But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:"
John 15:26, KJV
"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come."
John 16:13, KJV
So I believe that to blaspheme against the Holy Ghost is to deny the truth of those verses. If God is a Spirit, and more specifically, if the Spirit of Truth is an extension of His own being -- please notice that Jesus clearly says that the Spirit of Truth "proceedeth from the Father" -- then to call God a liar when He tells us throughout His Word, over and over again, that Jesus Christ is His only-begotten Son who died for the sins of the world, is to blaspheme against the Holy Ghost. Of course, we know that God is not a liar. This is made quite plain by verses such as the following:
"God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?"
Numbers 23:19, KJV
"God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged."
Romans 3:4, KJV
"In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;"
Titus 1:2, KJV
"If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."
1 John 1:10, KJV
"Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son."
1 John 2:22, KJV
"And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world."
1 John 4:3, KJV
"He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son."
1 John 5:10, KJV
"For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist."
2 John 1:7, KJV
What the previous verses also plainly tell us is that anyone who denies God's message to the world regarding the Nature and Mission of His Son is in fact the real liar, as well as an antichrist, and is guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Not only that, but we also know that Jesus called the Devil the real Father of Lies in the Gospel of John, as we see here:
"Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it."
John 8:44, KJV
Satan is the one who inspires people to rebel against God, to deny the message concerning God's Son, and to blaspheme against Him. Furthermore, the prophecies of Daniel, Second Thessalonians and Revelation all describe a devil-filled man -- possibly a coming world leader -- who will blaspheme against God day and night, even going so far as to declare that he himself is "God". Consider these verses:
"And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time."
Daniel 7:25, KJV
"And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done."
Daniel 11:36, KJV
"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God."
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, KJV
"And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven."
Revelation 13:5-6, KJV
"And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty . . . And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon."
Revelation 16:13-14, 16, KJV
It is my view that the previous verses perfectly describe what blasphemy against the Holy Ghost really is. But to reiterate, it is calling God a liar, denying the Message of Salvation through Christ which He has given us, and in the severest of cases, it is declaring oneself "God" in God's stead. It is blaspheming against the Spirit of Truth which proceeds from the Father, by denying everything that said Spirit says.
Returning to the topic of forgiveness, while the Bible makes it rather clear that we are supposed to forgive and pray for our Christian brethren when they fall into error, or when they are in rebellion against the Lord, is this rule meant to be applied in every situation? When we are told that we won't be forgiven unless we forgive those who have offended us in some way, is it possible that Jesus was saying that we should forgive them if
they seek forgiveness from us first? If they are so proud and stubborn, and so yielded to Satan that they aren't willing to do this, are we still obligated to forgive them, or should we treat them as heathen, and simply commit them to the Lord's judgments?
While this may seem like an unnecessary question to some of you, please don't forget that in the previous Scriptures that we examined, the offender was required to approach the offended, and ask for forgiveness. Yes, out of Christian love we could just forgive them regardless of whether they ever come to us or not, but is this what we are supposed to do?
Allow me to give you a simple example. Consider a criminal who is taken to court. If despite overwhelming evidence which points to his guilt, the criminal refuses to admit to his crime, or to show any kind of remorse for his act, what will be the normal inclination of the judge and jury? Will they simply forgive him and acquit him of the charges which have been brought against him? Are they going to give him a light sentence? Of course not! In all likelihood, they will probably be inclined to give him a very harsh sentence. If the crime merits death, he may even face the electric chair, lethal injection, the firing squad, the gallows, beheading, or whatever happens to be the form of capital punishment in that particular country.
While this may be difficult to understand for some people, God also has a system of Laws. Those who break His Laws must also face judgment sooner or later. This is why the Apostle Paul wrote the following in his various Epistles:
"But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ."
Romans 14:10, KJV
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."
2 Corinthians 5:10, KJV
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:"
Hebrews 9:27, KJV
As with the case of capital punishment, depending upon the severity of the sin, a person who defies God's Laws may also merit death, just as we saw earlier in John's first Epistle where he mentioned a "sin unto death". In other words, while some Christians may be shocked to hear this, God may choose to destroy the flesh in order to save a person's spirit. This is exactly the kind of situation that we see the Apostle Paul confronting in the fifth chapter of his first Epistle to the Corinthian brethren. Paul is dealing with a serious case of fornication within the church there. It seems that a certain man has apparently engaged in sexual intercourse with his "father's wife". Whether or not this woman is actually the man's mother, Paul does not say. Consider these verses:
"It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?"
1 Corinthians 5:1-6, KJV
By examining the specific words that Paul utilizes in those verses, we can easily determine exactly how grave the problem was in Corinth. In the opening sentence alone, Paul tells us that the fornication was "reported commonly". In other words, it seems that everyone knew about it. Even worse, Paul tells us that the brethren there had even outdone the wickedness of the Gentiles. He says "fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles". To Paul's dismay, rather than being in a state of humble repentance regarding the sin which has been committed among them, Paul tells us that the Christians there are "puffed up". This phrase is derived from the Greek word "phusioo", which means to bear one's self loftily, or to be proud. In other words, they were in such a state of rebellion against the Lord, that they were actually proud of their sin. That is how backslidden they were. Is it any wonder then that Paul mentioned delivering "such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus"? Paul concludes the verses by warning them that they had better nip the problem in the bud, or else it will quickly spread; that is, "a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump".
Thus we see that there are times when we must simply commit our brethren into the Lord's hands, so that He can deal with them. If iron sharpening iron does not bring about positive results, then we are left with no other recourse. Consider the following verse:
"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."
Proverbs 27:17, KJV
In other words, if all of our prayers and counseling do not break through a person's wall of pride, then we must simply say, "Okay Lord; we have done all that we can; now it is up to you to deal with him directly and knock some sense into him." As I explain in other articles, such as "Beholding The Evil And The Good", while at times God can be a very stern Father, nevertheless, He is likewise a very loving one; much more so than our natural parents could ever be. Consider the following verses that are found in Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews:
"Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed."
Hebrews 12:4-13, KJV
Surely, if anyone understood the loving chastisement of the Lord, it was the Apostle Paul. Despite his blatant crimes against the Lord's children through manifold persecutions, the Lord saw fit to deal with Paul on the road to Damascus, as with a wayward son, and did not cast him off forever. In fact, as many Christians know, Paul went on to become the Apostle to the Gentiles, and was in large part responsible for converting many people in the nations of the Middle East and the Mediterranean region. I discuss Paul's life in more detail in such articles as part one of "A Biblical Cafeteria Or The Whole Course?".
In similar fashion, because the Lord was willing to forgive him for his gross sins, such as planning the murder of one of his own man -- Uriah the Hittite -- and then committing adultery with Uriah's wife, King David also recognized the Lord's love and mercy in the midst of His chastisements. As you may know, David wrote a beautiful Psalm of repentance; that is, Psalm 51, as well as the following verses that are found in Psalm 103:
"The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust."
Psalms 103:8-14, KJV
In other articles such as "The Children Of God And Politics" and the series "The Fruits Of Disobedience", I explain that the invasion and destruction of Jerusalem by the forces of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar in approximately 587 BC, was a severe chastisement from the Lord which resulted from the many sins and rebellion of the ancient Israelites. At that time, the Jews were heavily engaged in the worship of false gods, even going so far as to sacrifice their own children to the fires of the false god Molech. Following the third siege and invasion by Nebuchadnezzar's armies, the situation became so desperate that the women were forced to eat their own children according to the Prophet Jeremiah. Despite this fact, Jeremiah -- who had faithfully warned the leadership Of Israel for forty years of impending doom -- never doubted the mercy of the Lord. Consider what he wrote in the Book of Lamentations:
"It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:22-23, KJV
"The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD . . . For the Lord will not cast off for ever: But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men . . . Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD."
Lamentations 3:24-26, 31-33, 40, KJV
Turning again to the New Testament, the Apostle Peter was likewise fully aware of the Lord's longsuffering and mercy towards His wayward children. Despite the fact that Peter denied the Lord three times in his moment of weakness, he also found mercy in the sight of the Almighty. As I explain in the article "Peter: Faith Tried In The Fire", Peter went on to become a pillar in the Early Church. Consider what he wrote in his second Epistle:
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
2 Peter 3:9, KJV
It can be clearly seen then, that despite the waywardness of His children, the Lord is not one to easily give up on them. He gives all of us the benefit of the doubt and is extremely merciful and longsuffering towards us. However, at the same time, being the righteous God that He is, as we have already seen, the Scriptures also inform us that the time eventually arrives when He must stop talking, and allow His wrath to be felt upon those who stubbornly rebel against Him; whether it is His own children, or else the unbelieving world at large.
While Divine Chastisement may be a bitter pill to swallow at the time, through His loving corrections, the Lord will plead with us to return to Him. In some cases, the situation has gone to such an extreme, that the Lord has had no choice but to totally destroy the source of the evil. As I explain in such series as "Nephilim: The Giants of Genesis", God's Word tells us that this is precisely what happened during the days of the Patriarch Noah, when the Lord finally sent the Flood. The world had become so corrupt and so evil, that God had to destroy His entire Creation. Thus, all life perished, save for Noah and his immediate family. Consider the following verses:
"And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD."
Genesis 6:5-8, KJV
"By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith."
Hebrews 11:7, KJV
". . . when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water."
1 Peter 3:20b, KJV
While God has repeatedly judged the nation of Israel during the course of the past four thousand years or so, in some of the prophetic Books of the Bible, we find a number of very interesting chapters, a close reading of which reveal that they seem to be dealing with the Endtime, when the Lord will pour out His fiery wrath upon the nations. For example, in the Book of Isaiah, we find the following verses:
"For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many."
Isaiah 66:15-16, KJV
In the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, we also find an angry Lord pouring out the cup of the wine of His indignation upon the nations. Consider the following verses:
"For thus saith the LORD God of Israel unto me; Take the wine cup of this fury at my hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it. And they shall drink, and be moved, and be mad, because of the sword that I will send among them . . . Therefore thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Drink ye, and be drunken, and spue, and fall, and rise no more, because of the sword which I will send among you . . . Therefore prophesy thou against them all these words, and say unto them, The LORD shall roar from on high, and utter his voice from his holy habitation; he shall mightily roar upon his habitation; he shall give a shout, as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth; for the LORD hath a controversy with the nations, he will plead with all flesh; he will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the LORD."
Jeremiah 25:15-16, 27, 30-31, KJV
Please go to part four for the conclusion of this series.
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