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Archive for January, 2012

Forgive to be forgiven, or vice versa?

Sunday, 15 Jan 2012 Leave a comment
14For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
(Matthew 6:14-15)
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)

So, which is it? Forgive others so that God will forgive you, or forgive others because you have been forgiven? The question isn’t whether you should forgive. It is quite easy to develop the many reasons why you should walk in forgiveness as much as is possible. The question here is your motivation for forgiveness. And, these two scriptures are in direct opposition to each other concerning the proper motivation for forgiveness.

Matthew 6:14-15 states that you must forgive in order for God to forgive you. This was spoken by Jesus.

Ephesians 4:32 states that because you have already been forgiven, you should forgive others. This was written by Paul under the inspiration of he Holy Spirit.

So, God says “forgive to be forgiven” and God also says “forgive because you are forgiven.” Is God schizophrenic? Illogical? Do we pick Jesus over Paul because Jesus was God and Paul “just didn’t hear properly?” No! The entire Bible is the inspired Word of God. And so, having taken the entire Bible as the inspired Word of God, there is always an answer to any apparent contradiction. Men have figured out some of them, others men have not. This one I claim we can explain fairly easily.

The context of Matthew 6:14-15 is the Sermon on the Mount. This Sermon was preached by Jesus, a man living under the Law, to people who were living under the Law. One of the major thrusts of this Sermon is to help the Jews (the Pharisees in particular) understand that they were living the letter of the Law and not the spirit and intent of the Law. They were living externally and not understanding that it is the condition of your heart that matters. This is illustrated many times in the Sermon. The most popular is Matthew 5:27-28 where Jesus makes it clear that not committing adultery is only part of the picture. You shouldn’t be lusting in your heart either. Each of these illustrations to the Jews looked like a strengthening of the Law. Jesus was illustrating to them that they were not truly keeping and could not truly keep the Law. They needed a Savior.

So, the Sermon on the Mount involves at least a good measure of the Law – legalism. Given this context, as we progress to our scriptures in focus at Matthew 6:14-15, we can see that these statements are relevant to people living under the Law. Under the Law, you had to forgive in order to be forgiven.

What we are really looking at here is progressive revelation. God has made Himself and His ways known to humans progressively. The final full revelation came in the life of Christ and the New Covenant spoken by the Holy Spirit primarily through Paul. The Sermon on the Mount was preached in a transition period between the Old and New Covenants. It is not a treatise on the New Covenant.

Matthew 6:14-15 is not relevant to a person living under the New Covenant. It is helpful to yet again reinforce the importance of walking in forgiveness in our life. But, it is not the instruction book for doing so. These verses involve much fear and condemnation. It could even be read to say that if you do not forgive others you will not go to heaven. The New Covenant is not about the Law, rules, fear, and condemnation. The New Covenant is about love, grace, and the finished work of Christ.

Now consider Ephesians 4:32. You have already been forgiven because of the sacrifice of Christ. ALL of your sins have been forgiven (I John 2:2). This should create gratitude in your heart when you understand the high standard of holiness you and I have missed and been completely forgiven of. No one on this earth could have trespassed against you as gravely as we all have sinned against God. So, forgive them. You have been forgiven of much more.

It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. We won’t successfully walk in forgiveness if we are just told to do so. (This is true with any rule we invent to please or follow God.) Only a change in our heart through the love and grace of God will cause us to walk in forgiveness.

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

Mary Magdalene Turning (Twice!) Towards Christ

Monday, 2 Jan 2012 Leave a comment

I heard a minister mention and briefly teach on the fact that at each appearance of Christ between the resurrection and ascension people did not recognize Him. While I knew some of the stories (especially the Road to Emmaus story), I had not noticed that this happened at every appearance. So, I set about to study it. Today’s post begins a series looking at all of the appearances of the resurrected Christ.

Appearance #1 – John 20:11-18: Mary Magdalene at the tomb of Christ

11But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,
12And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
13And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.
14And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
15Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
16Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.
17Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
18Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.
(John 20:11-18)

Mary Magdalene did not recognize Jesus in His resurrection body (v. 14). Only when he spoke to her by name (v. 16) did she recognize Him. There is a strong implication here that she had to see Him in her heart (by faith, in a deeply personal way) in order to recognize Him.

This will be the prominent theme as we examine all of these appearances: those to whom Christ appeared in His resurrection body did not know for sure it was Christ until they saw Him spiritually or in their heart in a deep, personal manner. Their five carnal senses were not enough to ensure positive recognition of Christ. The same is true for us. If we only try to know and understand Christ through the natural things described in the Bible, we will not really know Him. We must come to know Him in our heart, spiritually, on a truly personal level, in order to recognize Him.

To further illustrate this during this appearance, notice at v. 14 that Mary is facing Jesus, but at v.16 the scripture says she turned herself to speak to Jesus. Did scripture just not record that she turned away between verses 14 and 16? This is a very real possibility. But, also consider that she may have already been facing Him and this second turning was figurative, in her heart. (The word “turned” in v. 16 is the Greek word strepho which indeed means to turn either literally or figuratively.) Mary could not recognize Jesus with only her physical senses; she had to recognize Him in her heart (spiritually).

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing