Monthly Archives: October 2001

THE SIN OF GOOD INTENTIONS, part 1 by Bill Blue

Popular culture tells us that we can do no wrong so long as we do not hurt someone else. The Bible, however, does not teach this. Not only can we sin when no one suffers harm, we can sin even when we intend no wrong. Let’s consider some examples.

There was an occasion when Israel was moving the Ark of the God. During the journey, “Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God” (2 Sam. 6:2-7). Uzzah tried to prevent the Ark from falling. Some would argue that Uzzah was trying to do a good thing, but to God Uzzah was irreverent and God killed Uzzah “because he put his hand to the ark” (1 Chron. 13:7).

Other Bible characters have also been punished for doing things that some men would consider good, but which God considered disobedience. Nadab and Abihu burned incense to God and God killed them (Lev. 10:1-2). King Saul offered a burnt sacrifice to God and God took his kingdom away (1 Sam. 13:5-14). King Uzziah burned incense to God and God made him a leper (2 Chr0n. 26:16-21). The lessons here are clear:

  1. Our intentions are meaningless if not joined with obedience.
  2. God will not accept just any sacrifice or form of worship.
  3. Since God’s perception of our actions is different from men’s (compare Isa. 55:8-9) we should strive to learn God’s word for our own safety (Psalm 119:104-105).

Besides good intentions, popular culture also says that we should not worry about “little sins.” The Bible, however, does not make a distinction between so-called “big” sins and “little” sins. In the Bible, sin is sin.

Let’s consider the consequences of Biblical examples of sins that men might consider little. Adam and Eve suffered death for eating fruit (Gen. 3). Pharaoh and his house suffered great plagues because he took Abram’s wife Sarai even though Abram and Sarai led Pharaoh to believe that Abram and Sarai were siblings and not a married couple and Pharaoh had “treated Abram well for her sake” (Gen 12:11-10). In the wilderness, God killed some of the Israelites with fiery serpents for complaining (Num. 21:4-6). Moses was prevented from entering the land of Canaan because he struck a rock as opposed to speaking to it (Num. 20:7-12). In New Testament times, Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for lying about what portion of their money they had given to the church (Acts 5:1-10).

In the foregoing examples, some of these sins might be considered little by men, but God’s punishment in each case was severe. Again, the lessons are clear:

  1. There are no “little sins.”
  2. God’s ways are not our ways (Isa. 55:8-9).
  3. Therefore, we should strive to learn God’s word for our own safety (Psa. 119:104-105).

One commentator had this to say about little sins:

But if you reflect for a moment you will see that there are no little sins,
because every sin is a rejection of God’s authority: every sin is a
renunciation, for the time being, of allegiance to the Divine government. Of
course there can be no little sins, for every sin involves a breach of the whole
law, in the spirit of it; every one of them involves a refusal to love God with
all the heart, and our neighbours as ourselves; every one of them involves a
setting up of our own interests above that of Jehovah. There are no little sins
then under the government of God; for everyone one of them involves rebellion
against his authority. When we come to look at human society, and judge of the
actions of men only as they effect it, we get comparative ideas of sin; but when
we come to look at sin as a violation of the law of God, then we can see that
every one who commits sin, in any degree as judged by human society, is an open
enemy of God. [Finney, C. G., “Little Sins.” Monday, January 5, 1851.]

Do churches and individuals make these same mistakes today? Consider Wednesday night suppers, gymnasiums and church sponsored softball teams. We will consider some possible example next week

What About the Sabbath? Part 2 by Jeff Himmel

Does God require Christians to observe a Sabbath day – a day of rest? If so, what day – Saturday or Sunday? Some religious groups say one thing, some another. What does the Bible say?

A New Covenant

When Jesus ate the last supper with His disciples and instituted a memorial of His death, Matthew writes, “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins’” (Matthew 26:27-28). Jesus’ death fulfilled and ended God’s covenant with Israel through Moses, and it established God’s covenant with all men through His Son (see Hebrews 8:13; 9:13-17).

The Old Law has been replaced – “nailed to the cross,” as Paul put it. It is no longer in force. Its commandments are no longer binding on men. When a person writes his will, it is final and irrevocable until he writes a new will. The new will then becomes his “last will and testament,” and the old one is no longer authoritative. In the same way, the Mosaic Law (the “Old Testament”) was binding until it was replaced by the Law of Christ (the “New Testament”). That New Covenant in Christ is now our standard of conduct and worship.

The Question for Us

Is the Sabbath part of the New Testament? The laws for Israel concerning Sabbaths were part of the Old Covenant that was taken away. The New Testament repeats many commandments from the Old (e.g., against murder, adultery, idolatry, etc.). But it gives no Sabbath law. That means we have no mandate from God to keep the Sabbath as the Jews did. We have no more Divine authority for Sabbath observance than we would for animal sacrifices, burning of incense, or any other element of the Old Law, which “has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things” (Hebrews 10:1). “Therefore let no one act as your judge . . . in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17).

The First Day of the Week

The New Testament shows that the first day of the week – what we now call Sunday – is the special day of worship for Christians. Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week (Luke 24:1ff.; Mark 16:9). The beginning of the church (when the Holy Spirit fell on the apostles, they preached, and some 3,000 people were converted) occurred on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1ff.), which fell on the first day of the week (see Leviticus 23:4-5,15-16). Luke writes of the disciples meeting on the first day of the week to “break bread,” or observe the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7). Writing to the Corinthians about the collection for the needy saints, Paul instructed, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him . . .” (1 Corinthians 16:2). All of this points to the first day of the week – what we call Sunday – as the day for worship among Christians. Ancient historians confirm that this was the day on which Christians met to worship their Lord.

However, the New Testament does not equate the first day of the week with the Sabbath day of the Jews. That is, Sunday is not “the Christian’s Sabbath.” It is a day of great significance for Christians, the day on which we meet to observe Christ’s memorial. And God expects us to assemble together thus for worship (see Hebrews 10:24-25). But He has not designated the first day of the week as a mandatory day of rest, as was the Sabbath day of old. As we observed, the Sabbath is not part of the New Covenant. Christ did not merely move the Sabbath to a different day; He removed it altogether. For men to demand of Christians on Sunday everything that God required of the Jews on Saturday is to bind where He has not bound.

Conclusion

The New Testament does look forward to a “Sabbath” yet to come – a time when we will rest from our labors. “There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. . . . Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:9,11). That rest is the eternal peace of Heaven, and it is for the faithful, obedient people of God. Will you be there?

What About the Sabbath by Jeff Himmel

Does God require Christians to observe a Sabbath day – a day of rest? If so, what day – Saturday or Sunday? Some religious groups say one thing, some another. What does the Bible say?

Old Testament Sabbaths

The word Sabbath is from a root meaning “to rest, to cease from labor.” The Bible tells us that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh (Genesis 2:2). “And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which He had done” (verse 3).

When God made His covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai, He commanded them: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work . . . For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11). The seventh day of the week was thus ordained as the Sabbath, set aside for worship and reflection on God’s word.

God also decreed that the Israelites should observe every seventh year as a Sabbath. In that year they were not to plant or harvest crops, in order to provide a Sabbath (rest) for the land (Leviticus 25:1-7). God further ordained that after every seventh Sabbath year (i.e., every 49th year) be followed by a year of jubilee (Leviticus 25:10-13). In that year, houses and lands were to be returned to their original owners and the debt erased (verses 23-34; cf. 27:24). Also, any Jew who through poverty had become the hired servant of another Jew was to be released (verses 39-41).

It’s clear, then, that Sabbath wasn’t just a day, but a principle. All of these statutes served both to honor God’s rest from creation and to promote the welfare and well-being of all the people of Israel. As Jesus would later comment, “The Sabbath was made for man’s sake, and not man for the Sabbath’s sake” (Mark 2:27).

A New Covenant

But remember, all these Sabbath commands were part of the Law of Moses, the Old Covenant of God with Israel. When Jesus died on the cross, that covenant was fulfilled, taken away, and replaced with His New Covenant for all men. Note the following passages:

“For He is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2:14-16).

“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us, and has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14).

“But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:23-25).

The Sabbath was a fundamental part of the Mosaic Law. But the Mosaic Law was taken away when Jesus died on the cross. The whole book of Hebrews shows how the New Covenant in Christ is superior to the Old Covenant through Moses. After quoting God’s ancient promise to establish a new covenant (see Jeremiah 31), the writer of Hebrews adds, “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first one obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13). Jesus is the mediator of that New Covenant; He died to bring it into force (Hebrews 9:13-17). He Himself called it “the new covenant in My blood” (1 Corinthians 11:25).

We live under God’s new covenant through Christ. The Old Testament is very valuable, written for our learning (Romans 15:4). But it is no longer in force as God’s law. We must look to the New Testament as our source of Divine law now. What does the New Testament say about the Sabbath? We’ll examine that next week.

Lord’s Supper by Todd Baker

The Lord’s Supper is a feast that Christians around the world participate in. What is it? Why is it observed? By whom is it observed? When is it observed? These are all questions that can be answered simply by turning to the Lord’s word.

WHAT is it? The Lord’s Supper, as it is commonly referred to today, is a time for Christians to remember the great sacrifice Jesus made on the cross in our place for our sins. The Lord’s Supper is a time when each Christian should meditate on why it is we need Christ in the first place, namely “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). During the Lord’s Supper, we partake of unleavened bread which is to remind us of Jesus’ body which was pierced and hung on the cross, and we partake of the fruit of the vine which is to remind us of Jesus’ blood that was shed on the cross, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (I Corinthians 11:23- 25).

WHY is it observed? The Lord’s Supper is observed to serve as a memorial to help each Christian remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us. The Lord recognizes that we are forgetful and easily sidetracked in life. This memorial is a time of both sadness and joy; there is sadness because the only sinless man to ever exist, the Son of God, died an extremely cruel death of crucifixion for people who do not appreciate or understand His sacrifice, and there is sadness from each who partakes because we know that it is because of our own sin that Jesus was crucified. “He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our grief’s He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:3,4). Yet, at the same time, it is a time of great joy in that He was the perfect sacrifice having had no sin. He was crucified in our place for our sins and that through that sacrifice Christians have the hope of eternal life in Heaven with the Lord. “As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:11,12).

By WHO is it observed? It is observed by Christians to remember the great sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. We have a great responsibility to observe it properly, “whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must first examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly” (I Corinthians 11:26-29).

WHEN is it observed? Christians gather on the first day of the week, just as the First Century Christians did, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread…” (Acts 20:7). It is also observed on the first day of the week to commemorate the day Jesus rose from the grave, “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus…. He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (Luke 24:1-7). From Scripture, we cannot find any example of partaking of the Lord’s Supper only once or twice a year, we only have the example of a weekly observance in order to remember Jesus’ great sacrifice on the cross in our place and to celebrate His victory over death, thus giving Christians around the world tremendous hope for eternal life in Heaven with the Lord beyond the grave. What a victory!