Confess your faults one to another, (James 5:16)
I have a confession to make. But before I make my confession, I would first like to look into the confessions of others in the Bible, and to see what the Bible has to tell me about confession.
I will begin with the header verse above. James says:
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
We read in Mat 3:6 and Acts 9:18 that people confessed their sins at their baptism. I get the idea from these verses that confession of sins is, or at least was, a part of the baptismal process. If it was part of the process, it somehow became lost over time. Nowadays I don't think there would be many people willing to become Christians if they had to confess their sins before the congregation. I know I would have been reluctant, if indeed I would have faced the shame at all. And that was when I was twelve. At seventy I have a lot more to confess I'm afraid. I suspect others have added to their chain of burden as well over the years.
James adds, in the same sentence, that we should pray for one another. Since the two statements are made in the same breath, I assume they're intended to go together and are not separate statements. If this is so, then it would seem that we, the Church, are to pray for those who confess their "faults" to the Church. We've devised a way around having to confess, yet gain the prayer for our faults (if we bother to acknowledge our faults as faults, even to ourselves). The call from the pulpit goes out: "If anyone has a silent prayer, raise your hand and we'll pray for you." That way we can say we've confessed, and be prayed for as well. Some people will speak out and say: "Pray for my .......(fill in the blank), she/he needs prayer bad because she's a lost sinner doomed for hell because she doesn't come to our church (or hasn't been baptized, or hasn't accepted Jesus, or whatever)." This is great, the one asking for prayer walks away looking like a hero while the one being prayed for has been exposed as a wretched, unredeemed fool. Hmmm.
"Confess your faults." Does that mean I have to confess my sink of dirty dishes? That's a fault. Not a sin, but a fault. Is James ignoring sin when he refers to my faults? Let's see what fault means in the Greek:
"Fault: Sideslip, deviation, fall, offence, sin." Well, it looks like the word takes in just about everything that isn't on the straight and narrow. The word fault, as used in the Bible, has a few different words interpreted as fault. Galatians 6:1 is another verse (the only one in fact) that uses this same Greek word. It says:
1Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (Gal 6:)
"If a man be overtaken in a fault." Overtaken. I take that to mean the man has not overcome his fault, but that the fault has overtaken him. I think of habit when I read this verse. I surely know what habits can do, and how overpowering they can be. Notice Paul says we are to help that person, not condemn him or punish him. That is God's prerogative, not ours. In the case here it is not known if the person spoken of has confessed his (or her) sin or not as in James' account, or even if the person has accepted or acknowledge their fault. Jesus said we must forgive a person if they ask forgiveness (I just realized something. There are a lot of churches that do not recognize the need to ask forgiveness, saying that we are to forgive all trespasses regardless. I wonder if the fact that they also preach universal forgiveness without the need for repentance has anything to do with their blind spot? Just a thought). Let's take a look at what Jesus said in His own words:
3Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. 4And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. (Luke 17:)
Did you notice the little word "repent" in these verses? Look closely, because it's obviously an easy word to miss. However, in all fairness, there is this passage of Scripture that can be latched hold to if one wishes to avoid having to repent to be forgiven. The choice is yours, I suppose:
35So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. (Mat 18:)
Now, aren't I being fair? I've shown a verse that contradicts what I've said. At least supposedly it contradicts. But what happens if we place both verses side-by-side?
In James' account we also see where he says the faulty person should be prayed for in order that he can be "healed." Is the person sick do you suppose? Let's see what the word healed means:
"Heal: make whole."
The interpretation doesn't help us too much. It still could be referring to a person having a sickness. But there's another verse where Jesus uses this same word. Perhaps this might help:
13Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. 14And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: 15For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (Mat 13:)
Jesus is talking to the Pharisees here. The Pharisees were not sick, other than to have a bad case of Spiritual blindness and a heart problem, that of being too hard. Jesus said that if they listened, they would be given understanding, and be healed - once they were converted. And here I think lies the meaning of the word "heal," that is, it means to be born again. How about you? Did you come up with something different?
James added this to his comment on confession. He said: "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." I find this to be a very important statement, one that was echoed by Paul in his letter to the Galatians when he said: "ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
"Ye that are Spiritual." I take that to mean the same thing as the "Righteous" who's prayer avails much. And if I need prayer, I want it to come from a righteous person, one who is "Spiritual," because as Solomon said (and has been said so many times in the Bible): 29The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous." (Prov 15:)
Again we have the righteous placed before us. And we know the righteous are the ones with the Spirit of God. And it's the ones with the Spirit that God hears:
23But 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. 24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:)
11For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. (1Cor 2:)
[Note: I have highlighted the Spiritual aspect of understanding God's Word merely to draw your attention to it, not because it has any bearing on the point being made in this study.]
3And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. (1John 2:)
As we can see from the above Scriptures, if we want to walk with God, and have Him hear us, we have to obey His commandments and remain in the Spirit. The more we're in the Spirit, the more righteous we become.
And this, being righteous and staying close to God, is the crux of this writing.
16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:)
9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1John 1:).
Please pay close attention to what is being said here. The prayers of a righteous man has power with God. And as we have already seen, God does not hear the prayers of the unrighteous. What does it take to be righteous? Doesn't baptism wash away our sins and make us righteous forever? Not according to these verses. Read carefully James' account. Notice that in one breath James talks about confession, then out of the blue he says the prayer of a righteous man avails much. It's as if to say that confession leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to our prayers being heard.
9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1John 1:)
If we have any doubts as to what James is saying, John pretty well eliminates any doubts. If we confess, our sins will be washed away, ridding us of unrighteousness, leaving us with what? I would say it leaves us righteousness. Confession is an essential for righteousness. Righteousness is an essential for attaining eternal life. Have I missed anything? Is this the way you read these, and the many other Scriptures concerning confession? Does your finding match what you are taught in church? If not, why not? Something to think about.
Sin separates us from God. When we sin, we, like Adam, feed our flesh rather than our Spirit. The flesh, although created by God, is not of God. The flesh is just a vessel, a container for the Spirit of God, which makes us in the image of God (the flesh is not the image of God, as we suppose, any more than a glass is the image of the water it contains). God created us to be in His own image. But there has only been one who has fulfilled this purpose, and that is Jesus. But Jesus (and thereby God) has made it possible for us to reach a measure of that perfection, that completeness, that image of God. But if we don't stay open to the Spirit, we place a cap on our vessel (quench the Spirit) and seal us off from communication and closeness to the Father. The longer we leave this seal (cap) on our vessel, the more we indulge in our own lusts, the fainter the voice and the leadership of God becomes. And if left in this condition, we become what Peter refers to as having "returned to our own vomit again" (2Peter 2:22).
In order for us to be righteous, we must stay just as far away from our own desires, our worldly lusts, as we possibly can. But old habits die hard, and new habits are hard to take on. Especially in this day and age.
We have several examples in the Bible of people who have fallen from a high position with God, and had to fight their way back to that closeness they lost. In essence, they returned to their own vomit. Since this the subject of this writing, let's take a look at the lives of some of these people in order that we might better learn what to expect when we fall away, and what to do in order to come out of our lost condition.
Things are different now then they were during the time of the writings of Moses and the Apostles. During that thousand year period very little had changed. Horses and camels were their transportation, other than their feet, and their clothing was always in fashion, since it did not change (at least not in Israel). There was hardly a one of the Old Testament saints who had to deal with deciding what to watch on TV, to give up smoking, porn in the home, overcharging a credit card, or take a jet to the Bahamas for a Hedonistic excursion. In the past century or so we, mankind, have been able to develop a great many overwhelming temptations designed to allure us into our carnal nature. These temptations, as Christians, we must avoid as best we can. But avoiding these evils is difficult at best when the world cries out for us to partake of them, and it is at our fingertips, and the man behind the pulpit condones and partakes of these "conveniences" himself.
Our sins and temptations might be different than those of old, but the results, and the means for overcoming them have not changed.
The first recorded story we have of a person being tempted, and failing the test, is Adam. Adam and eve, we find, was not tempted with overcharging a credit card, but with carnal knowledge (fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil). God's purpose for our foreparents, and for us, was to only have knowledge of the good, and not the evil. He wanted us to experience eternal life with Him, not death. But being human, Adam and Eve had two features built into them that was to be their downfall: They had a huge ego that caused them to believe their own lies, and they had a burning curiosity that caused them to venture where they knew they should avoid. On their own they were apparently able to resist the temptation to indulge in the only restriction they were given. But with a bit of nudging from the world, the instrument of Satan (as is the Beast of Revelation), the two succumbed to their temptation. I highly suspect that both Adam and his bride were spending a lot of time hanging around the forbidden tree, imagining what it might be like to partake of the unpartakable. After all, that is our nature, isn't it? We try to see how close we can get to what we are restricted from, telling our self we won't succumb, yet in our heart hoping someone will push us that extra inch, so we can indulge and yet have someone to blame for our loss of innocence.
Consider this. Adam and Eve lived in a perfect environment. Everything they could possibly want was there for them, and they were invited by God Himself to take full advantage of what He had provided. All things were lawful for them (see 1Cor 6:12). Now I want to know, just what kind of carnal knowledge could they have sought, or found, in such a paradise? We think of "carnal knowledge" as something sexual. But with A. & E. there was nothing unlawful to them, since they were married, and there was no one around with which to commit a sinful act upon, no red light district, nor a hooker on the corner. So what could they have found that caused them to hide in fig leaves? I can only assume that what they found was something that didn't actually exist, and that is that they were naked, which in God's opinion was not a sin since He made them (and us) that way. Could they have begun to see one another in a different light than they had before? Maybe they lusted for each other rather than loved and experienced each other. Just a thought.
Then for a thousand years, one day in God's time, the human race spiraled into carnal knowledge to such a degree that God decided to wipe mankind out and try again. We only know of two people who found favor with God, and that was Noah and Enoch. In those days a person who walked with God must have been as obvious and distressing as is a sore thumb, or Elijah during the days of Ahab and Jezebel.
Then came Abraham. Old Abe (he was never young to our knowledge, since he was old when God called him) found grace with God. Like Noah and Enoch, we don't know just what he (they) did to find that grace. But, unlike the other two (A&E), we do know that Abe fell into temptation. For one he, through being enticed by his wife, Sarah, tried to fulfill God's promise of a son through his other wife (which violates God's command to have just one wife), and through his maids (which today would get us in a lot of trouble as well, even in this lax moral maelstrom). Also, for fear of being killed by the king (twice), Abe said that Sarah was his sister, and allowed her to go live with these kings. That to me sounds like a no-no whatever way you look at it. Just what Abe did to reconcile with God (other than pass his ultimate test) I don't know. But I have found in my own life that, surprisingly, I have been able to, almost heroically (my own observation, not yours I'm sure) overcome the big obstacles (the most important excluded), while the smaller ones have nailed me to the floor. If it's something big facing me that I can't avoid, I tend to face it head on. But if it's something I think I can slide around, back away from, or dig under, or excuse my self from; I become undone. Is it just me? Or is this by any chance part of our human makeup?
From the time of Abraham until Joseph we have several examples of failure to live up to what God expects of us, such as Aaron, Jacob, and the sons of Jacob. We see the failures in these people of note, but we don't see how, or even if, they tried to redeem themselves, other than in some passive or minor way. At least there's nothing we can learn from them that I can see.
There were two sons of Jacob that do not fit the picture painted above. One of these sons was the youngest, Benjamin, who we know little about. Apparently he was the most innocent of the twelve, having done nothing at all that we're aware of. We do know, however, that he was Joseph's true brother that he favored. And we know that the tribe that bears the name of Benjamin had a far from reputable history, almost being wiped out by their own kin because of their unrighteous behavior.
Joseph we know a great deal about. In fact we know more about Joseph than any other in the book of Genesis, other than maybe Jacob. The problem is, although Joseph spent a great deal of time in prison, we know of no sin or indiscretion that he committed. Because of this lack, there's nothing we can learn about confession or overcoming temptation, other than to stay just as far away from it as possible. Being human (all too human I'm afraid), this lesson doesn't help me much. I need to climb out of the pits I dig for myself, because I have a proven track record of digging many, and very deep pits for myself.
After 400 years of servitude in Egypt we come to the Exodus. The world that was so hospitable to the people of the one, Joseph, that saved their behinds; then turned on them and enslaved them, refusing to let them go. This, it seems to me, is what has happened to the church in our day. Jesus, who gave His all to save this world we live in, and who, through Constantine, welcomed the "new religion" and even took part in it, did an about-face and is now trying to (with great success) enslave the church and make it think and behave as itself.
Moses was born for the job of rescuing the Jews. As far as we know Moses didn't do anything he needed to confess, other than strike a rock twice in anger. He also tried hard to get out of doing the job God had created him for and called him to do. But few of us fit that category, certainly I don't.
Although Moses himself is not an example of confession we can follow, the people he led out of Egypt has supplied us with many fine examples of failure and confession. Let's see what we can learn from them.
Israel, the nation (God's chosen people), was rescued from their land of captivity by means of miracles and guidance of His own Holy Spirit, and through a man who spoke for God Himself. We see this as an example of Jesus bringing us out of bandage to our fleshly desires and our corrupt nature. The Jews, although anxious to be free from their bondage, did not like the way God chose to free them. They wanted to be served by God, rather than to serve the One who freed them. God did not see it their way.
Also, the Jews found they had to follow a bunch of rules and do what they were told. Although they promised to live under these conditions, when it came time to actually do what they promised, they rebelled and murmured against God and His commandments. They tried to change things to the way they thought it should be. They wanted God to give them their rewards without having to earn them. And they wanted control of their own lives rather than have God dictate what they should do. (Does this sound familiar to you at all?) When they couldn't get their own way, they complained, not to God, but to God's spokesman. They even threatened to kill God's chosen leader if he didn't do thing their way. Even Moses' sister and brother, the High Priest, turned against God's leader.
After 40 days of training and building the Tabernacle, the people were ready to enter the land which they were promised. But when word came back, through the spies sent by Moses, that the inhabitants of the land were even too big for God to handle, they cried against Moses and once again rebelled and threatened to go back into Egypt, the land of their bondage.
Retreating back into bondage is especially applicable to this story because that is my problem. I know I've been set free from bondage, but I keep trying on the bonds again (over and over in fact) to see if they're as uncomfortable as I thought they were. Unfortunately (a poor choice of words) I find the bonds all too appealing, and the fight to be rid of them becomes increasingly difficult. And so does the distress my desire for them become overwhelming because I know they are nothing more than a wall between me and what I really want: A close relationship with God.
Because of the Jew's refusal to enter their promised land, and to have faith in the One who had led them by miracles to that land, God sentenced them to wander in the wilderness until they died out, and the youngsters were prepared to enter in.
Two things we learn about confession and repentance here. The first thing we learn is that we can't choose the time of repentance. In other words, the door does not always remain open. When the Jews learned of their punishment, they changed their mind and went to fight the Canaanites, the giants they feared. But God had abandoned them, and they suffered a terrible defeat.
The second thing we learn is that it's the faithful, like Joshua and Caleb, and the "Born Again," those children of the rebels, who will enter in to the promised land. This to me says that we, in our rebellious flesh will not enter in until we've experienced our wilderness training and rid our self of our rebellion and our desire to be served by God, instead of serving God. It appears to me that most people in the church do not believe in this wilderness "cleansing" process, and they balk whenever things don't go their way. They think that the dip in the Red Sea, the crossing over, their baptism, is all it takes to enter into the promises of God. The wilderness experience of training, weeding out the chaff and cleansing the fruitful seed is ignored and passed over. But the Jews, who thought this as well, learned there is a Valley of the Shadow of Death that has to be crossed where they (we) are trained and where the Tabernacle (God's dwelling place) has to be built. Could God build His Tabernacle Himself? Of course He could, just like He did with Jesus. But that's not the way He works with you and me. He expects us to joyously and sacrificially build His Tabernacle, piece by delicate and expensive piece.
The wilderness journey over, this new batch of believing, murmur-free youngsters are chomping at the bit to enter in to the land of milk and honey that had been promised their parents. What happened to the ones who had been promised this land? What happened to the people who came out of Egypt? After all they went through, all they endured, and after having made all their promises of faithfulness - they now lay dead in the wilderness they rejected and resented going through, and had therefore been doomed to remain in. Not a one (other than Joshua and Caleb, out of millions of the original bunch) made it in.
I don't know about you, but to me, if this is in fact a picture of the road we must take into the promised land (Heaven), then when Jesus said the gate is narrow and few will make it in (Mat 7:14), and that the rich (those wanting to keep the things of this world) would have to enter through the eye of a needle (Mat 19:24), He wasn't exaggerating one bit.
I want to make it, at all costs. If only I didn't have all this baggage I have to unload. Jesus said we must count the cost before making an agreement to follow Him, to wear His name tag (Luke 14:26). I know the early Christians (and those in other countries even today), the heros of faith, and the Israelites pictured here had to give up everything to enter in. But there's some baggage I still cling to that somehow I just can't let go of completely. But I full well know I have to. Hence my struggle.
The Jordan river has now been reached. Again a parting of the waters (at high tide). This time it's the Born Againers who do the crossing into the Promised Land. When the first river was crossed, there was expectation of a life of luxury as due reward for having given up a life of suffering and bondage in Egypt. This they learned too late, was not to be so. This new group does not have such expectations. They have accepted their training well, and know they have to fight for every inch of that Promised Land they receive. No fantasies of floating to Heaven on gossamer wings or clouds for these youngsters. They're soldiers, trained and prepared for battle. And they also have learned (and believe) that it's not them, but God who will be conqueror, not they themselves. The ones who came out of Egypt only saw things through their own eyes, their own desires. These youngsters have learned to see through God's eyes, as did Moses, and not through their own eyes. This we must learn as well if we are to see what God desires of us. But this is not taught today, so how is anyone to know? Of course we can read the Bible and listen to the Holy Spirit, but, although the words are preached to this effect, it is not actually believed, not even in the pulpits.
Jericho, where Joshua fit the battle. In order to reach Jericho the Jordan must be crossed. We read that the Ark of the Covenant was carried 2,000 cubits ahead of the army, the people, and had to touch the waters in order for the river to be crossed. But the Ark didn't cross until all the people crossed over. We know the Ark (and the Tabernacle) represents Jesus (Heb 9:9-14). I don't think many people will dispute this. If we look at the Tabernacle we see that the Holy Place, the area where service was offered to God, where man (specially selected and appointed Priests) served, was 10 cubits by 20 cubits by 10 cubits. These measurements are the equivalent of 2,000 cubic cubits. I think most people will concede that this number represents the number of years from Jesus to the crossing into the Vail, the Holy of Holies. This is also the number of cubits between the Ark and the people. And if you take 50, the number that represents the Anointing, the Holy Spirit (the age we are now in, that is, the age of the Holy Spirit), and multiply that by 40, the number of years between the crossing of the Red Sea (as well as the number of days from the Red Sea until the spies crossed into Canaan and was supposed to enter; and also the number of moves the Israelites made in the wilderness. In addition 40 is the number of days it rained, in judgement, on the world, the number of days Moses was on the mount, and the number of days Jesus was tempted), what do you get? Pure coincidence I'm sure. So I will leave you with this to think about because it becomes a very involved, as well as a controversial issue that has no bearing on the subject at hand, that is, confession. Well, most of it isn't controversial for the most part, but people like to draw lines on the pictures God draws for us and say "this far and no farther," as if God only drew pictures to fit their doctrine, instead of doctrine fitting the Word of God.
Once the Jordan was crossed, the battle began. In our imagination we see a picture of the Millennium being nothing but peace and serenity. That's not the picture created here. We have a battle that must be won, but a battle where the saints are only active participants while God does the fighting.
Let me draw you a brief picture here. We think of the Millennium as beginning after the Tribulation, a period where God cleanses the earth of the wicked and the disobedient so that the faithful can inhabit the earth for a thousand years (the dimensions of the Holy of Holies cubed, 10x10x10=1,000). But such a picture would not fit this description of the Hebrew children entering the Promised Land because the battle (God's war) begins before there is peace and tranquility, but after crossing the Jordan (the Vail). Let's say the Millennium doesn't begin after the Tribulation, but before the Tribulation. Now we have this battle at the beginning of the Millennium, and a cleansing of the land of the wicked so that peace might reign. Just a thought.
Jericho is won, not by might, but by following the strange dictates of God to the letter. The walls fall, and Jericho is captured.
Here we have an interesting situation worth considering. God is a loving God and just wants peace and harmony for everyone. Right? That's what we're told. Yes, I agree, that's what He wants of us, but we get what we give. If we don't follow God's commandments, we lose, and lose big time. The Bible demonstrates this over and over. And who is it that does the suffering? It's the Jews, God's chosen people, the ones who vowed to follow Him no matter what. Time after time the Jews would go astray, and God would punish them, abandon them, and destroy them (He wanted to destroy every one of them in the wilderness and start over with Moses like He did with Noah, remember (Ex 32:9-14)? Time after time God would bring judgement on the people, the people would confess their sins, and repent. And God would relent the evil He had brought upon them (Jer 18:7-8; Isaiah 45:7-8).
Sin (rebel, murmur, disbelieve, etc; we do all these things), punishment intended to bring us back in line (Amos 4:6-12), confess our sin, and promise to repent ("reconsider, think differently, pricking of conscience"), be forgiven for the thousandth time ( 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1John 1:).
I don't understand why God is so willing to forgive, but I know He is because He's done it so very many times with me, and for the same offences each time. I've had 70 years of His forgiveness, which proves to me that He means what He said. But yet I never seem to be chastised for what I do. This confuses and amazes me. I hate it when I backslide, and sometimes farther than ever with each time, and willingly at that. Why don't I get condemned and punished? Where are the thunderbolts? It seems God must grow very tired of my continual cycle of wickedness, confession, repentance, forgiveness, wickedness, ad nauseam.
I can only attribute this lack of punishment to one thing: Confession. While in the process of committing whatever sin, whether it be word, thought or deed, I rarely feel remorse, even though I know I should. After I have had my fill of indulgent "pleasure," reason returns to me, and I feel stricken with guilt and remorse. I don't know why I repeatedly slip back into old ways, I have more reason than most people to avoid such things. But I don't avoid them. I wish it were otherwise, but it isn't.
It seems to me that God does not desire to punish a person who is aware of his or her sins, confesses them, and feels remorse for them. After all, isn't that the purpose of chastisement? Isn't punishment intended to bring awareness of the wrong done? Why God is so forgiving so many times, I can't figure out. I just know He is. But that's here in this life. My concern isn't just the getting past my problems in the here and now, but when it's all said and done. More on that later. Back to the past, and our examples.
Jericho has just been conquered. What happened in this battle? Was it the soldiers, out for the fight, that were killed in this battle? We might think so, but listen to the Words of God as He describes what He demands of this mighty band of fighting men who are cleansing God's land:
1When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; 2And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them: (Deut 7:)
"Utterly destroy." What does Moses (God) mean when he says utterly destroy? Let's take a look at an account given by Moses of a time the Israelites utterly destroyed a people and it may give us an idea of what is meant here:
3So the LORD our God delivered into our hands Og also, the king of Bashan, and all his people: and we smote him until none was left to him remaining. 4And we took all his cities at that time, there was not a city which we took not from them, threescore cities, all the region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan. 5All these cities were fenced with high walls, gates, and bars; beside unwalled towns a great many. 6And we utterly destroyed them, as we did unto Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women, and children, of every city. 7But all the cattle, and the spoil of the cities, we took for a prey to ourselves. (Deut 3:)
Did you see that? God had them destroy even the little children. Does that sound like the God preached in your church? Has God changed since the Old Testament? Churches say that the cross has turned everything upside down. But according to God, He does not change (and neither do we, going all the way back to Adam and his trying to get away with a bit of carnal knowledge without paying the consequences promised by God) (Mal 3:6; Heb 13:8).
Slash and burn has been a method used in warfare from the beginning. Even great cultures like the Greeks and the Romans have been decimated of art and architecture by what we consider the invading hordes. However, almost all cultures have done the same, and then they import a people into the country, to the virgin area, so that the original culture can't take root again. We see this in Galilee and Samaria, the original Israel when the country was divided and the Northern ten tribes were taken and dispersed amongst the heathen nations.
Perhaps warfare is the only time God has placed such high demands on obedience to Him. Maybe, but let's take a look at these passages of Scripture and see what we can learn about God and His nature:
32And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the Sabbath day. 33And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. 34And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. 35And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. 36And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses. (Num 15:)
18If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: 19Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; 20And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. 21And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear. (Deut 21:)
1In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. 2And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land. 3And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the LORD: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth. (Zech 13:)
Unless I miss my guess, the last passage of Scripture is talking about the Millennium, a time of peace and harmony where nothing but peace and love, a Hippie's paradise, reigns. But didn't it sound awfully reminiscent of what was being enforced during the time of Moses and the Old Testament? Read the verses below and see if they don't sound a great deal like the one above:
6If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; 7Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; 8Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: 9But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. 10And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. 11And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you. (Deut 13:5)
Did you by any chance notice that in each of these instances there was no offer nor opportunity to confess and repent? Punishment was sure and swift, even for such a simple thing as picking up sticks on the wrong day. We see this principle being carried out through the Pharisees and other religious leaders when they tried to kill Jesus for breaking the Sabbath. As you can see, what they wanted to do to Jesus was not against the law of God, but rather they were in obedience to God's law. Confusing at best. But confusing or no, they are God's laws, and we are His creation. It's not our place to try to change God's mind, but to try and understand what He wants of us, and to obey those desires.
Below is one of the prophets of the Old Testament talking about the Tribulation. I think you'll agree that it sounds like something right out of the Book of Revelation, and fits the description given to us by Jesus Himself (Mat 24:all):
6Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. 7Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man's heart shall melt: 8And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames. 9Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. 10For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. 11And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. 12I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir [The refining process, as was the journey through the wilderness, and the trials of Jesus and the Apostles]. 13Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger. 14And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man taketh up: they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land. 15Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword. 16Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished. 17Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it. 18Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children. (Isaiah 13:)
We're taught today that God is no longer angry and that all His laws and purposes have been changed for this generation (since the cross) and for the future. Do the above verses, or the Book of Revelation, sound like God has been appeased? Not to me it doesn't. In fact I get the picture that God is storing up His anger to pour it on the world of sinners with a vengeance and a fury.
Why am I bothering to show you all this in a study on confession? Because the churches teach that there is nothing to worry about. All those who are baptized (in the proper way and in the right church of course) are exempt from God's wrath. I say this as if all churches teach this. That is not true. But far too many do, and they have put the nominal Christian to sleep, holding them back from running the race and getting ready for the battle as taught us all through the Bible. And if a person does not think they have to change to be in the good will of God, then they won't search themselves and dredge out their sin. And if sins aren't recognized, or they are glossed over, then there is no call for confession and repentance. And no confession and repentance, means no forgiveness. Yours is only minor sins? Maybe, but listen to this:
8If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:)
I know, you've been taught to explain this verse away because it's talking about the law, and the law is no more. If you believe this, take a closer look and you'll see that James is not talking about the law of the Jews, but the law Jesus instituted (or better said, refreshed Mat 22:38-40; John 13:34).
We need to examine ourselves carefully and see where we need to improve in order that God will be happy with us, because when all the broth is boiled out, that's our true purpose here on earth (Rom 8:8; Rev 4:11).
It is said that each and every one of us on earth has a purpose to fulfil. I don't see this in Scripture at all. In fact I see just the opposite, that we are dust. Obviously there were some people who were created for a purpose, Moses being one of these of course. And we have this from Jeremiah:
4Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 5Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. (Jer 1:)
Churches like to teach this as proof that God knows each of us from the beginning of creation, and therefore, we all have great importance to God. I don't see this in here at all. Such a concept as that requires a lot of Scripture-twisting and ignoring of Scripture. Let's remember that we can't take bits and pieces of Scripture and make them fit our doctrine. God is speaking to Jeremiah here, not to everyone. And in the same verse where God said He knew Jeremiah before he was born, He also said He ordained the one spoken to (and of) to be a prophet to the nations. If we can apply that to everyone, then we'd better hop a ship like did Jonah and start preaching.
Again, why am I telling you this? For the same reason as before, so we can see ourselves for who we actually are, and therefore recognize the need to examine ourselves and confess (2Cor 13:5)
7The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: 8But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; 10And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face. 11Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them. (Deut 7:)
Did you note the reasons and the conditions? Somehow conditions given by God and by Jesus seem to slip past preachers and theologians. It's as if they wear blinders that eliminate all the "If's" and the "or else's" in the Bible.
The Jews were not selected because they were special, faithful or loving people. God keeps His promises. God protects His Name and His Glory. It's for God's purposes anything is done, not ours. We have to fit into God's purpose if we expect to be a part of His plan. We think it's the other way around.
Take careful note of the above passage. Notice what happens to those who are not obedient. We don't hear this any more. But we'll find out that what God says He will do, he will do. But then it will be too late.
6A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. (Mal 1:)
We listen to, respect, and obey those we fear. We see this in our earthly father. When mom says you better behave yourself, it doesn't mean much. But when she adds: "Or your father will deal with you when he gets home," then we listen. Father means fear and respect. We see this again in the Army, and on the job. But the churches have eliminated the fear of the Lord, stressing the love of God. So fear and respect are missing. And along with this missing element is the desire to sacrifice to Him, to please Him, and to improve our life for Him.
6Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. 7And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread. 8Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? 9Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 10Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? 11How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? 12Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees (Mat 16:)
Leaven is referred to in Scripture many times. And each time it is mentioned there accompanies it an implication of sin. Here Jesus is warning the disciples to beware of the doctrine of the teachers of the day, the religious leaders, the most Godly people who ever lived. Doesn't it seems strange that Jesus would warn His followers to beware the words that the most knowledgeable people in the world is telling them? No, I don't suppose it does, not to you at least. Otherwise you would be checking on every word your preacher tells you, a man who doesn't know a fraction of what the teachers of Jesus' day knew.
We hear a lot about the Pharisees and the Scribes and the Sadducees. Just who are these people who have gained such notoriety? Let's take a closer look at them.
46Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; 47Which devour widows' houses, and for a show make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation. (Luke 20:
The word Scribe means "to write, a secretary, or a town clerk." In the early days of this country when professional people were few and far between storekeepers often served as lawyers and judges and other such positions because they were the only ones who knew how to read and write. In this same way Scribes also served as teachers, lawyers and judges because they knew the law, having copied it so many times. The printed page is a fairly recent invention. Before this scribes meticulously hand copied every word of whatever book (usually the Torah, the first five books of Moses, which is essentially the law the Jews lived by). To show how much was demanded of a Scribe; every time they wrote the word Jehovah (Lord God) the word for Almighty God, they would clean their pen and bathe before and after. Scribes were a very clean people, and I suspect easy to recognize because of their wrinkled skin (a bit of an attempt at humor).
Today we have a certain attitude toward lawyers and teachers. We respect them, and at the same time we suspect them (especially lawyers). It was no different 2,000 years ago. However, from the passage of Scripture above, we see that Scribes not only commanded respect, but they demanded respect, and gloried in their respect.
7And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. 8For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. (Acts 23:)
The difference between the Sadducees and the Pharisees was great, like the poles of the earth. Although they may have, to some degree, appeared much the same (at least to us since we do not see their person other than in the written word) their attitudes and their purposes were very different.
Throughout Jewish history (from the time of Moses) politics and religion were intertwined. They lived under what is called a "Theocracy," that is, God was the Supreme Ruler. And God's Word was disseminated through the mouths of prophets. However, before long, the people wanted a king like all the other nations around them, and as we learn, they also took to all the other ways of the nations and the people they lived amongst because they wouldn't remain separate as they were commanded to do (1Sam 8:5-8).
Due to the rebellious nature of the people of God, they were dispersed amongst the heathen nations. Those of the Northern tribes, the ten tribes that composed the nation of Israel, were essentially never to be heard from again. Later the tribes that centered around the Temple (Judah and Simeon) were captured and taken into Babylon. After 70 years of captivity, and retaining their relative separate identity (as they had in Egypt during their captivity there) the Jews were allowed to return to Israel and rebuild their Temple.
While in Babylon the Jews were unable to perform their regular services, that is, they were not able to sacrifice at the Temple, nor were their priest, the Levites, able to perform their regular duties. Because of this lack, yet having a desire to return to God and have God once again look upon them favorably, they devised a new system of worship that centered around what is now known as a synagogue ("Assembly, meeting, congregation" Having the same meaning as does our word church). The word synagogue does not appear in the Old Testament, other than once in the Psalms before their were synagogues. In the synagogues the system of worship was entirely different than that of the Temple, where Levites served as go-betweens connecting God to man. Because of this change of procedure, other factions were created to serve the synagogues, which functioned more as a place of worship, of learning, rather than sacrifice. They were much like our churches today, and functioned very much like our churches as well, which would explain why our churches would have been so easily established since they follow a long-established pattern.
In Babylon the synagogue would have been a rather benign concern since the governments over them would have kept them from having any power to reestablish the Jews and give them power to cause an uprising.
Having been given permission (and even help) by the Medes to return to Israel and once again set up their Temple (but not to establish a government, they were still under Persian dominion), the Jews set out to reestablish their original form of worship. However, after 70 years, the elders of the congregation, who were familiar with the workings of the Temple, had died out, and there was no written instructions as to the law and the form that they may follow. Finally a copy of the Torah (or at least part of it) was found and read before the people by Nehemiah, and thus Temple worship was reestablished.
Although Temple worship was once again in operation, the newly formed concept of the synagogue had not disappeared, but rather it had grown in importance and in influence, this especially so when the people were scattered about the nation and the world and unable to make regular pilgrimages to the Temple.
Now the Jews had a system of worship in place, but they did not have what they wanted most, and that was power over their own nation. From the time of Babylonian captivity, one nation or another has had rule over them and dictated what they could and could not do. So within this confinement (which was sometimes broad, and other times very narrow) they established a political system. And of course, that political system was intertwined with their religious system. Thus the Sanhedrin, the 70 elders that ruled over the Jews, and that were to be the bane of Jesus and the Apostles.
11And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest. 12And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing. (Mat 27:)
The "Elders" are the 70, the Sanhedrin, those who ruled over the spiritual and the physical needs of the Jews. To become an elder a person must be more knowledgeable regarding the Torah than any other holding a seat. If you know more than someone on the Sanhedrin, then you take his place. I think of it much like a spelling bee.
In Israel during the time of Jesus there were several factions, what we might call political parties. There were the Essenes who were apparently associated with the Pharisees, but who had formed a type of monastery, isolating themselves from the politics and the confusion that pervaded the church and the world of the day.
On the other extreme there were the Zealots who wanted to take back the nation by force, and were willing to kill anyone who opposed their purposes, regardless of who they were. It was the Zealots who made history by their final stand against the Romans on Masada.
27Then came to him certain of the Sadducees, which deny that there is any resurrection; and they asked him. (Luke 20:)
The Sadducees ("a Sadducaean that is, Tsadokian, or follower of a certain heretical Israelite) were more political minded than were the Pharisees. They centered around the Temple, and were more likely to be found working in the Temple. They, not believing in an afterlife, or in the resurrection, or in angels, were temporal minded. That is, they believed in the here and now and gaining all they could for themselves in this life, as one might expect of someone who is not looking for any higher aspirations. The Sadducees were more likely to be affluent, seeing no need to subject themselves to abasement or poverty for the sake of religion. And since the sect of the Sadducees centered around the Temple and all it entailed, when the Temple was destroyed, they essentially disappeared.
1And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate....11But the chief priests moved the people, that he should rather release Barabbas unto them. (Mark 15:)
We find that in almost every case when the Chief Priest is mentioned, it is in the plural. How, might one ask, can there be more than one High Priest? In this country, America, we have a President. But we also call (and support as if still) our past presidents, which at this time means we have 4 presidents. The High Priest most spoken of at this time is Caiaphas. The other High Priest was the father-in-law to Caiaphas (John 18:13-14)
One might think that a High Priest would be in touch with God and His purposes if anyone was since he yearly had to be pure enough to enter the Holy of Holies and stand before God. And in fact there was at least one time the High Priest did speak for God (John 11:51). In Ezekiel 10:18, before the Babylonian captivity, we see the Glory of God departing the Temple. And even though the Temple was rebuilt by Ezra, we do not see the Glory of God ever returning to the Temple. The Temple was a hollow shell that stood for a time past, and for the purposes of God. That the Temple still held importance to God we see in that Jesus said: "Make not my Father's house a place of merchandise." (John 2:16). But the power of God no longer inhabited that building, because the power of God was in the true Temple, the person of Jesus (Mat 12:6; 2Cor 6:16).
The position of High Priest had long since been corrupted. Where the position was to be an exclusive right afforded those of the family of Aaron, and then only through one blood line (Ex 40:12-15), the office had become one appointed by the officiating and dominating country that ruled over them. This often meant that whoever could pay the governor (or whoever had the power to appoint the High Priest) the most money was then High Priest. We see this in the fact that Annas was the father-in-law to the High Priest (Caiaphas), not the father of Caiaphas.
5And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. 6Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees...... 12Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (Mat 16:)
I believe there are far too many people and churches placing their hopes on the doctrines of their church, just as did the sects of Jesus' day. With a thousand years of being right under the thumb of God, and having the uncorrupted Word of God to lead them, the few sects that existed at that time were still poles apart in their doctrines. How much more so does such a situation exist with the two thousand years of quietness on the part of God, and the thousands upon thousands of doctrines that exists today?
1And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 3For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? 4For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? (1Cor 3:)
Paul isn't speaking here of attending a church with a particular name. That isn't his point. He was writing to individual churches with different names, usually the name of the town or city where the church met. Paul is condemning them for the strife and the division caused by separating themselves from the brethren who chose someone else as their preferred leader. This division created doctrines that differed one from another, which we surely see today, and each group thought themselves better than the others, and like today, condemned the others for not believing as they did. When such a situation exists, the Spirit can not move, and a person can not learn outside of the box of beliefs they find themselves. Paul still had a great deal to tell them, but they thought they knew it all, so could not listen to him. Jesus said to His disciples who had followed Him every step, and heard every word He said for 3 years plus, and still Jesus had this to say to them:
12I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 13Howbeit 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 show you things to come. (John 16:)
These words are reminiscent of what Paul was telling the Corinthians. Paul as well as the other Apostles, were bringing the Words that Jesus could not tell His disciples at that time. But the Corinthians (nor us today) would listen to him, preferring the milk of babes. And just what was that milk they wanted to hear?
1Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (1Cor 6:)
It would seem to us that these would be beyond the "milk of the Word," but actually the understanding of these things can be grasped by a person from their very first day in church. So, what then is the meat of the Word that is being ignored? Paul said it in the very beginning: "Let us go on unto perfection." Moving on into perfection is rarely taught today, and is denied in most (so it seems) churches as necessary, or even viable. We're taught that we are perfected by the milk of the Word. This just is not so:
20For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 5:20)
We, today, seeing the things Jesus said to, and about the Pharisees might (and do) get the impression that these are just a bunch of people who went around looking righteous while having no backbone or integrity to them. This picture is far from the truth. The Pharisees are, from their founding (to one degree or another since, as with all things, it has changed from time to time over the centuries), which is their captivity in Babylon, have stood as the bulwark, the strong defense of the Jews way of life and the keeping of the commandments of Moses. They lived what they preached, and they followed the law of Moses to the letter. There were many times the Pharisees sacrificed their lives for the law and for the sake of the Temple and what it stood for.
In John's account of the cleansing of the Temple, we are told that "the Jews" confronted Jesus and wanted Him to explain His reason for His actions. We have a way of assuming that it is the Pharisees who were "the Jews" because they are mentioned so often in a negative light. But in the three other accounts of this incident we discover that "the Jews" were the High Priests and the Scribes (Mark 11:18; Mat 21:15; Luke 19:47). The Pharisees were not mentioned at all. And as we learned above, it is the Priests and the Scribes that were attached to the Temple, not the Pharisees.
The Scribes and the Sadducees probably would have cared little for what Jesus was doing except that Jesus kept confronting them and making them look bad in front of the people. this was hard for them to bear. On the other hand, the Pharisees were very much against Jesus, not only for the reason just given, but because He was violating their law. And if you remember, they were the bastions of the law that held the people together as a nation. They were very much in earnest in their attempt to quell Jesus and His efforts. It was not a light thing for them at all.
47Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. 48If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. 49And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, 50Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. (John 11:) Notice that it is the Pharisees that gathered with the High Priest, the Sadducees and the Scribes are conspicuously missing. I believe that's because the concern was for the law and the nation, and not their delicate ego. The Pharisees are trying to figure out a way to protect the nation and their way of life. And why might they be so concerned?
5And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. 36For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. 37After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. (Acts 5:) 38Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? (Acts 21:) 18And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas: 19(Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.) (John 23:) 40Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber. (John 18:40) 38Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left. (Mat 27:)
Barabbas was to be crucified for sedition. The word sedition means: "insurrection, uproar." In other words, he had caused the Romans much trouble. Luke tells us that he was a robber. Robber means "Brigand, plunder." and Brigand means a band of robbers, not just one. The two thieves who were crucified with Jesus were also brigands (the same word used to describe Barabbas as a robber). Since Barabbas was also a seditionist, it might well be expected that it was the Romans that these three were plundering (which usually includes killing those they rob). The jews had a history of uprising and great violence toward those who dominated them. If you remember, besides these bands of seditionists and others who were trying to take back the country, or just cause trouble, there were the Zealots causing everyone trouble. To add to this confusion, the people were crying out for a king, and since Jesus had all the signs of being the Messiah, they were trying to make Him king, with or without His consent. Then, just before Passover, Jesus rode in on a donkey, a sure sign that He was about to proclaim Himself king, and the people were excited and prodding Him on (Zech 9:).
Israel was only allowed to remain a distinct nation because they had remained relatively peaceful. No other nation had allowed Israel to have their own form of government (the Sanhedrin) or to worship in the Temple. Rome had not only allowed this, but they gave them a king (Herod) who, although despised, being an Edomite, and not in the full will of their law, did build them their great Temple and tried to be a part of their society. But all this hung by a very thin thread. Now, with Jesus drawing so much attention to Himself, they were afraid that thread might break and they would lose everything "their place and their nation."
There was another aspect of the Pharisee's efforts to stop Jesus, in spite of all His well doing. He was setting an example, and insisting the people do as He was doing. And what is it He was doing? He was telling the people to be humble, for one thing, and that possessing things was the wrong thing to do. That in itself went contrary to what they believed, since they believed the more a person possessed, the more that God was pleased with them (Mat 19:26-27).
We also have to keep in mind that the smallest thing performed on the Sabbath was completely contrary to the law that the Jews lived under. Even picking up sticks was a death offence. The Pharisees were doing all they could to make sure the nation did as God had demanded so God wouldn't again destroy them or lead them into captivity. To them (and understandably so) they believed that the most a person should do is walk a relatively short distance to either the Temple, or to a synagogue, which was built in just about every town and city. And that journey was for the purpose of prayer and praise to God. Jesus appeared to be disrupting the very system that God, the Father had instituted, and that they were trying to follow. If only we had such dedicated people in the churches today.
29And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. 30But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him. (Luke 7:) 2He (Paul) said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. 3And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. 4Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. 5When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. 7And all the men were about twelve. (Acts 19:)
Pay close attention to what is said here. John himself said that he baptizes with water 11I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: (Mat 3:)
John's baptism opens a person's eyes so they can see the truth, if they look for the truth, and if they are willing to follow the truth that's given to them. It's useless to give someone something they think they don't need, or that they are unwilling to use once they have it. The baptism of water does not endue a person with the Holy Spirit. It takes a lot of Scripture twisting to make it seem as though it does. John himself said his baptism is unto "repentance." Yet repentance is not taught any more in the churches, except as a nice thing to do if you want to. That does not wash. Nor is one's sins washed away with baptism. It requires repentance, and not just once, but constant repentance (Remember? "If we repent, God is faithful to forgive.").
3To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: 4And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. (Acts 1:)
Before I continue with my point, please notice what Jesus did the forty days He was here on earth after His resurrection. This was a very valuable period of time, He wouldn't be wasting it on trivial matters. He would have been preparing His Apostles for what lie ahead of them, and for us: 23And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, (Mat 4:) 35And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, (Mat 9:) 16The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, (Luke 16:) 43And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent. (Luke 4:) 60Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:) 1Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. 2And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. (Luke 9:) 14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Mat 24:)
Is the Gospel of the Kingdom being preached today do you think? Do you think that's what Jesus meant by "Gospel"? How many times do you hear the Gospel of the Kingdom preached? Do you even know what the Kingdom is that Jesus was preaching? I'll bet it's something way up yonder in the sky somewhere that you'll be floating to on gossamer wings and a cloud. Give it some prayerful thought and see what you come up with. I think you would be very surprised.
Jesus told his Apostles to wait and they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit, which as we know, included the presence of tongues of fire. John said there would be fire at the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and so there was. Is this the fire John was referring to when he said Jesus would baptize with fire? I don't think so: 49I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? 50But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! 51Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: (Luke 12:) 9For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. (Mark 9:) 1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom 12:) 11For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. (1Cor 3:)
No, I don't think the tongues of fire is the fire John was talking about. I think Jesus and John was talking about the fire that will try each and every one of us who chooses to be a disciple of Jesus. Not what you've been taught? Well, we'll see.
Returning to the subject at hand, which is a study of the Pharisees (at least for this segment of the study). The Pharisees were unable to see the truth in what Jesus was teaching. Is this true of all the Pharisees?
36And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. (Luke 7:) 37And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: (Luke 11:) 18And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 18:)
In this last verse we know from other Gospel accounts that this was a young, rich ruler. We think of "ruler" as being one of the Pharisees, part of the Sanhedrin. This is not necessarily so, and in this case not likely. The Sanhedrin would very likely have been made up of people living in and around the Temple, and probably in Jerusalem proper. Jesus' ministry, for the most part, was anywhere but in Jerusalem. Most of His ministry was in Galilee.
41And, behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus' feet, and besought him that he would come into his house: 42For he had one only daughter, (Luke 8:)
We see from this passage that there were other people beside members of the Sanhedrin who were called "rulers." There were many synagogues, and each synagogue had a "ruler," or as we might call them, a pastor, howbeit a pastor with a lot more power than what we think of most pastors having today since pastors are usually hired by the board of elders and subject to them.
1There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. (John 3:)
This man is clearly one of the "Elders" because we have this additional information about him: 47Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? 48Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? 49But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed. 50Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) (John 7:) There's a couple things to note in this passage. First, notice that the leader of the group said: "Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees." Note the word "Or." This would indicate that the Pharisees were a faction separate from the rulers. We of course know that some Pharisees were part of the ruling class because we know that Nicodemus was a Pharisee, and that he is "One of them." If the group that was meeting at this time was that of the rulers, then it would seem that Pharisees were indeed part of the Sanhedrin. However, it appears that it might be just a gathering of Pharisees, apart from the Sanhedrin that was meeting, and Nicodemus was a part of that group.
Note that Nicodemus confessed: "Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him."
Jesus said at another time: 32Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 33But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven (Mat 10:) It looked like Nicodemus was about to be a Pharisee that confessed Jesus. But notice he said" "We know you are a teacher come from God." A teacher is a far cry from the Messiah they were waiting for. Hence, no confession. Also, we see Nicodemus' fear of the Jews (Which it would seem that he is a part of) because he came to Jesus in the dark of night. And later, when he had the chance to stand up for Jesus, he backed down for the same reason - fear.
22These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. (John 9:)
And here we have a display of the power of the ruler of the synagogue. Even today there are a lot of people who live in dire fear of being castigated or expelled from their church. and this is a biblical principal (1Cor 5:5, 11-13).
Sometimes the Bible leaves us with a mystery that we try, in our meager way, to unravel. One of those mysteries is: was Judas lost because he committed suicide? Could he have redeemed himself had he confessed what he had done? Another mystery is the outcome of this event: 38And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. 39And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night,
We might suppose that such an act was not only open rebellion against the ruling class, but a sign that they were indeed disciples of Jesus. Did they suffer the fate of those who confessed Jesus as the Messiah? Was their act merely a sign of respect for a fellow human being? Lots of mystery left to speculation.
In fact there is a great deal left to speculation regarding the Pharisees and the rulers of Israel. What I am presenting here is just a little information that might help us have a slightly clearer picture of those so much a part of our Lord's life. Did any of the Pharisees eventually confess Jesus and face the wrath of their fellow Jews as did Paul? There were only two sides in the days of the Temple - either you were for us, or you were against us. And from what happened to those who confessed Christ, we know what it meant to be "against us."
What made (and makes) the difference between one who is saved and one who is merely deceiving themself is confession. Both confession of our sins, and confession of the Lord Jesus when under fire.
42Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: 43For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42)
Note in this verse that it is the Pharisees that had power in the synagogue.
51Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: 52For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. 53The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. (Luke 12:)
We know that Paul spoke out against division in the Church. Did such a division, denominations, factions and sects sneak up on God when He wasn't looking? What did Jesus mean when He said He came to bring division. Doesn't it seem that His mission would have been to bring peace and unity? Let's see if God has anything to tell us about division before the cross:
3For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, [See John 7:37] and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: 4And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses. 5One shall say, I am the LORD'S; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel. 6Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. [See Rev 1:8, 2:8, 19 11: 21:6: 22:13] (Isaiah 44:)
1Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: 3All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. (Mat 23:)
There's a great deal more to this verse then is normally supposed. First of all, seat indicates a place of authority in itself. We see this concept portrayed in two ways (that come to my mind). One, when a judge strikes the gavel on his desk, he does not rise to do so, even though it is customary in our society for a person who issues forth a decree to stand. In the days of Jesus however, it was the custom for one making a decree to sit. We see this when Jesus read His fatal prophesy in the synagogue (Luke 4:17-21).
1Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, (Titus 3:) 13Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. (1Peter 2:) 1Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. (Rom 13:)
The concept of obeying those with authority over us is not new, nor is it something Jesus brought to us out of the blue. We see here where both Peter and Paul has confirmed this principle. Those positions, whether we like it or not, or if we agree with them or not, are of God. Remember Jesus, Peter, and Paul were abused and killed by the very authorities they said we must obey. 2And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. 3Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? 4And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest? 5Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. (Acts 23:)
Hopefully we now have a clearer understanding of just who these people are that Jesus spoke so much against. These were the finest of the religious people who ever lived. Yet, as Jesus said, they were still far from what they must be if they are to see the Kingdom of Heaven.
3Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:)
I don't think Jesus is talking about entering the Kingdom of God at this point. I think it takes much more to enter the Kingdom. I believe Jesus is saying you can't even see or understand the Kingdom, because the Kingdom is Spiritual, and unless a person has been born again, and has received the Holy Spirit, they can't even see what is before their eyes. And if I'm not mistaken, and if my experience is any example, then once a person's eyes have been open, he or she will want nothing more than to learn and to experience more of the things of God. I just don't see this happening in the churches today.
Jesus continually told the Pharisees that they were blind. And because they refused the truth, they remained Spiritually blind. That was their sin. The open door to the Kingdom of Heaven is seeing the truth through God's eyes, and if we do not allow our eyes to be open, we will not see what is right before our eyes. But like the Pharisees, we will fully believe we see everything that there is to see, and that whoever does not see things our way, are the blind ones.
When we do not see our faults, as was so with the Pharisees, then we see no need for confession, hence no repentance. And with no repentance, there is no forgiveness. 41Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. (John 9:) Study these words, and keep them well in mind. Your eternal life may well depend on it.
Avoid the sins of the Pharisees. Open your eyes and learn what God has to teach you, and not the doctrines that man has contrived.
I would like to bring out a point that is tangent to the subject of this story (which in fact the last several pages are a tangent to the purpose of this article, which is confession) and point out one other fact that is often missed in this passage:
18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 20And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. (Luke 4:)
First, you will notice that all eyes were fastened on Jesus. Why? Because He sat down. If someone in church was sitting down and read something from the Bible, something especially significant as the passage Jesus read, which had to do with an event the entire nation had been awaiting for centuries, you might expect all eyes would be fastened to that person, expecting something very important to be said.
The second part of this passage that is significant, but glossed over when it is read is, just who was Isaiah (and thus God, and Jesus) speaking to? Let's take a look:
"To heal the brokenhearted." We think of something that is broken as something that can be repaired with a little glue or the turn of a screwdriver. The Greek word for brokenhearted means: first, the thoughts and the mind, and second it means something that is "completely crushed, broken to shivers," beyond repair we could say. This is something lost in the doctrines of today that says all a person must do is be baptized in order to receive the healing Jesus brings to this earth.
24Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. (1Peter 2:)
It would seem that Peter is talking about a few stripes, as if they are painted on the body of Jesus. 13Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high. 14As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: (Isaiah 52:) This is Isaiah's account of the pre-crucifixion event. The word mar used by Isaiah means to be "Disfigured, corrupted." It was after such a brutal beating that Jesus was then crucified. This is what He endured, and that we were (are) to suffer.
46The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 47And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. (Luke 12:)
How much have you been given? For myself, the Lord has given (shown) me far too much, and often I wonder if I might be better off remaining in ignorance. I know the truth, but I can't abide in the truth I've been given. If I don't suffer with the unbelievers (and we know what will be their fate), then I'm afraid I'm going to be a mess after the beatings I will have to endure. I'm afraid there are far too many people and churches taking this entire Christian experience far to lightly. I hope I'm wrong, but I doubt it.
26If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? (Luke 14:)
"To preach deliverance to the captives." We think we have deliverance from sin. This is not so, unless we realize that we are under bondage and are willing to follow the commandments of Jesus: 10If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. (John 15:) 21He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. (John 14:)
We have a tendency to claim all promises offered anyone as our own, and ignore the conditions placed on those promises. We're taught that there are no more commandments to follow, as if Jesus didn't know what He was talking about (at least that's the only way I can reconcile what I hear preached considering the verses I see here and elsewhere).
Deliverance is given to those who are captive: 31Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. 33They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? 34Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. 35And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. 36If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. (John 8:)
First we have Jesus saying that those who follow in His Word will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. To know the truth that is freeing we must follow Jesus, and this means, as we have learned, abandoning everything and taking up our cross. Is this not so? Have I missed anything? The Pharisees said they were never in bondage to any man. How many people today, even those in the churches, will say the same thing? The Jews were in bondage almost from their beginning: In Egypt, by the Assyrians, in Babylon, and when these words were spoken, they were under Roman bondage. But they refused to recognize their bondage, therefore they could not be freed. We will see this concept more clearly in a bit when we look at blindness.
Bondage can take many forms. The rich young ruler was in bondage to his possessions. He couldn't release himself from the things that were holding him back from what he said he wanted most. Nicodemus was in bondage to his position and his pride. Although he knew that Jesus was the awaited messiah, he was more concerned about what his fellow Pharisees thought of him than he was his soul. Habits, even good habits, can be a bondage if we allow them to rule our life (1Cor 6:12) Lusts and things of this world, even the seemingly innocent things such as TV, food, toys and magazines etc can (and are) bonds that hold us back from being all we should be in the Lord.
"Recovering of sight to the blind," Notice Jesus says recovering of sight to the blind. Recovering means (at least to me) that there was at one time sight. At one time a person could see the truth (looking at Spiritual blindness). All of us, even from a small child, have had some degree of truth, knowing right from wrong. But over time, and after many years of overriding our conscience, it becomes "seared as with a hot iron" (1Tim 4:2). We must then return to that childlike innocence and recapture our awareness of sin before we can again experience Spiritual growth: Hence, being "Born Again' (John 3:1-15).
39And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. 40And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? 41Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. (John 9:)
Our blind state must first be recognized and admitted before we are able to recover our sight. A physically blind person has no problem admitting their blindness. But someone who prides themself, and especially one who has developed a reputation for being wise and having great Spiritual eyesight, would have as much trouble releasing their ego as did the rich young ruler letting go his riches in order to obtain what he apparently most wanted....Eternal life.
17Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: (Rev 3:)
Unfortunately we're taught that we are mature and have everything we need when we become baptized. This keeps us in the same state of blindness as were the Pharisees who refused to recognize their blindness.
"If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth." It would be a terrible thing, I should suspect, to have to remain physically blind when healing is at one's disposal. How much more would this be so if it were Spiritual blindness, effecting our eternal life? Those who say "We see," according to Jesus, not only lose out on this world's wealth of understanding, and that of the next, but they lose the release from their sins. And not having one's sins forgiven means what? Something to think about.
"To set at liberty them that are bruised," It is the "bruised" that will be set at liberty. Here again we have the idea of being "crushed," in other words, unusable in and of itself. We must have our ego, our desires crushed and destroyed before are to be set at liberty.
We of this nation and of this age have had it far too easy and for far too long to grasp the concepts of the Bible, what God is telling us. I'm afraid that when hard times hit, we will be like babes abandoned in a desert because we have lost all concepts and skills of survival. Those who have grown up during the hard times, the ones who should be our guides, our examples, have gone the way of the churches and the government. They have either forgotten what it was like to scratch for a living and the skills needed to survive when times of plenty are no more, or they have died off, carrying with them the wisdom that is so badly needed. They have taken to living like the unschooled and self-centered world around them, following the example of the young and foolish rather than being an example the which our young can look up to and emulate.
This is true of our Spiritual source of strength and instruction as well. Many churches have taught that the proper way to survive hard times is to take a dip in some water (if even that) and wait for a cloud to come pick us up and carry us to Never-Never land. And, except for a very few churches who recognize the truth of the Gospel (at least the need to prepare one's self), those who are following the commandments of the Bible are relegated to a lower class and called a "Cult," into which no self-respecting Christian would have any part, nor follow any of their examples, even when those examples are clearly spelled out in the Bible.
Bringing my story back to the point, that is, the problem with the Pharisees and other sects of the time. One of, if not the main problem with the Pharisees is that they saw no need to be any different than they were. We see this especially illustrated in the life of Paul before he was confronted by the Lord. Where there is no recognition of guilt, there is no confession of guilt, and therefore no repentance from the sin (or the crime in our justice system). And if there is no repentance, there is no forgiveness
8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
17From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Mat 4:)
5except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. (Luke 13:)
16Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. (Rev 2:)
19As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. (Rev 3:)
29Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. 30And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but NOW COMMANDETH all men every where to repent: 31Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; (Acts 17:) [Take note: NOW! COMMAND! Try and get around that one you theologians.]
20Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: 21Woe unto thee, (Mat 11:)
18And many that believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds. (Acts 19:)
33Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.
34Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
35Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight. (Psalm 119:)
[These are the cry of my heart.]
King David is a "man after God's own heart." It was God Himself who said so (1Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22). David was a grand example of faith, and of failure, and of confession. Through a study of David's life we should be able to learn a lot about confession, if for no other reason than that he wrote a lot about everything, especially about faith, God and failure.
From the time David was a mere lad he showed exemplary faith in God, and great courage as well. When pressure was on David he leaned heavily on the strong arm of God. We not only see this in the writings about David, but in his psalms, such as the one above, as well.
5I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. (Psalm 32:)
David was also one to readily admit his sin and ask for forgiveness. This is probably one characteristic about David that kept him close to God's heart. We will sin. This has been shown in even the best of those closest to perfection. It's what we do about our sins, and how we deal with our sins (if we do deal with them at all) that makes all the difference.
When the pressure was on, David remained pure of heart. But like the rest of us, when we feel we are self-supportive, and we are no longer in need, we tend to drift from the One who we used to state emphatically is the center of our life. When David was king, and everything was his, or at least at his disposal, he apparently forgot his resolve and drifted into carnal ways. We know of two particular situations that caused him, and the nation of Israel as well, great distress. The first was when he disobeyed God and numbered the people (1Chron 21:all), and the second was when he had an adulteress affair with Bathsheba then to cover up his sin he had her husband, his friend and fellow soldier, killed (2Sam 11:all). These sins would head the list of any country or people's list of crimes, would they not?
7And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; 8And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. 9Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. 10Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. 11Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. 12For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. 13And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. 14Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. (2Sam 12:)
"Thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight." When we sin, we despise the commandments of God, and in so doing, we despise God as well. In this day and age we're taught to disregard the commandments of God altogether. What do you suppose God is going to say to those who despise His commandments, and Him, especially if they are claiming to be His servants?
"I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house." David's sons turned out to be a mess. They exhibited all David's sins, and brought them to bear on him and the nation of Israel. Even Solomon had his problems, and as God had predicted, the sword did not leave Israel. Solomon's sons divided and destroyed the nation, and it hasn't recovered since.
"Thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel." Jesus said: 26Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. (Mat 10:) 36But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. 37For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. (Mat 12:) 12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Rev 20:) And Paul said: 24But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: 25And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; (1Cor 14:)
Consider, and consider carefully: If God would fulfill His Words so precisely upon one like David, who was so special to Him, what can you and I expect when we stand before the Great White Throne? I say again, I think we take the Word of God all too lightly in this age of luxury and comfort.
"I have sinned against the LORD." David confesses his sin. But like the prodigal son, he did not confess to sinning against those he did wrong, but against God. All our sins, no matter how small (remember, it was only an apple for Adam), is against God. So, as Jesus taught us, we should treat even our thought life as something serious and be ready to recognize our sins, confess them, and repent of them.
In this situation there was little David could do to repent of his sin, as it was too late for that. I have my sins that I wish I could undo, that have effected the lives of other innocent people. There is nothing I can do to undo the harm I've done. But I can do all I can do to try and avoid doing any harm again, and, like through my writings, perhaps warn others of potential pitfalls that might confront them.
Notice that David did not confess his sin until he was confronted with them. In fact if you read the story, you will see that Nathan presented a very simple little story of a sin far, far less then the one David committed. And David was angry at that person in the story and called for his life. How much greater should his anger be toward himself for what he had done? We judge others, seeing their faults as so terrible and destined to send that person to hell for eternity. Meanwhile we dismiss our own sins that are far more reaching than those we condemn. What do you suppose God will have to say about our blindness toward our own wickedness?
"The LORD also hath put away thy sin;" In the Psalms we read: 11For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:) And John tells us 8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1John 1:)
Confession and the fear of the Lord are the conditions that we must meet in order to have our sins removed and make us righteous in the eyes of the Lord. These are two factors not taught or accepted any more in most of our churches. Something to think about.
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