Do the words SHOULD or OUGHT mean God is giving us a Hall Pass for sin?
Someone recently asked me about the word “SHOULD” in the Bible. It’s being claimed that if there are commands we SHOULD do, then God is giving a recommendation, and that we have liberty NOT to do it and suffer no penalty. Is that the proper understanding of this word? Nope, you SHOULDN’T view it this way.
I can see where the confusion lies. In our culture of free love & do whatever feels right, we can see how some might think God is just recommending we do stuff, if we want to do them. If it’s convenient.
Additionally, in the error riddled world of denominations, and the false doctrine of “once saved always saved,” it’s easy to think that God is making recommendations because we’re all going to heaven anyway.
Both of these views are completely out of sorts with the biblical use of the word and a complete misunderstanding of free will.
“How that they told you there SHOULD be mockers in the last time, who SHOULD walk after their own ungodly lusts.” [Jude 1:18]
First, let’s define terms. As you can see in the above verse, SHOULD is usually replaced today with the word WOULD. The word means, “SHALL Come to pass.” It’s usually used in front of a verb to express ideas such as necessity, possibility, intention, and ability. “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death;” [Heb 11:5] Enoch DID NOT die. [Gen 5:22,24], it came to pass that Enoch did not see death. In Galatians 1:10, Paul wrote, “…for if I yet pleased men, I should not (WOULD NOT NKJV) be the servant of Christ.” SHOULD is a modal auxiliary verb, as are can, could, may, might, must, ought to, shall, should, will, and would. If you seek to please men over God, they you WOULD NOT be a servant of Christ. The use of SHOULD is not giving you a hall pass of disobedience.
Next, HAVING a choice in no way means you will be rewarded for choosing not to do what you SHOULD do. Free Will is not freedom from consequences. God has always given us the choice to do good or to do evil [Deut 11:26,28]. Just because we HAVE a choice, doesn’t mean God approves when we choose what we SHOULDN’T. “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?” [Rom 2:21,22] Would you say that God will give us a pass for theft just because He said we SHOULD not? In another passage, Christ gives a command to the Apostles: “…commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem,” [Acts 1:4]. Are you suggesting they could wait elsewhere and have the same results found in Acts 2?
Third, OUGHT is another word confused by rebels. They will focus on this word in much the same way as they do the word SHOULD. In Acts 5:28-29, we see both words being used. Read these carefully and see if we’re being given liberty to go against what we SHOULD do and OUGHT to do. “Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” OUGHT we and SHOULD we obey God? (cf. 40)
We need to remember that UNITY with God comes from doing the things we “SHOULD” & “OUGHT” to do. “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.” [2John 6] Are you suggesting we can be UNIFIED with God and NOT do what we SHOULD do?
LANGUAGE may have evolved over time, but God’s word endures forever (cf. 1Peter 1:25). This is nothing more than a LAME attempt at wresting the scriptures to their own destruction [cf. 2Peter 3:16b]. An example of the evolution of a word is found in Genesis 1:28. “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,” Replenish today means: “to fill again or anew. to make full or complete again, as by supplying what is lacking, used up.” In 1611, the meaning of Replenish meant to fill, accomplish, furnish. Biblical context clearly shows it means to fill something that is empty. SHOULD might appear today as having been given a recommendation or a choice, but that’s not how God uses the word. To fail to understand correct original LANGUAGE usage is to be in jeopardy of wresting the scriptures to your own destruction.
If you DON’T do that which you SHOULD do, you’ll get what you DIDN’T want. The Hebrews writer uses the word SHOULD to show who DIDN’T do what they OUGHT to have done; “And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?” They DID NOT enter His rest. [Heb 3:18; cf. Num 13 & 14] Do you suppose that they had a choice about entering God’s rest? Sure, and they SHOULD have crossed the Jordan, but they DID NOT do what they OUGHT to have done and they SHOULD NOT (DID NOT) enter His rest.
In his letter to the Galatians Paul wrote, “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” They WEREN’T obeying the truth, obeying the truth had come to pass [Gal 5:7, 3:1]. Are you suggesting that the Galatians or we SHOULD NOT obey the truth and get away with it? Are you saying that we have a choice to not DO what God has commanded us to DO, to obey the truth? Are you implying that those who refuse to do what they SHOULD do, like obeying the truth, will enter heaven? I wouldn’t put my trust in that line of reasoning. Consider what Jesus will say on the judgment day…
“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” [Luke 6:46]
If obey we SHOULD, then obey we COULD, and obey we OUGHT.
If obey the Gospel we DON’T, when obey the Gospel we OUGHT, then entering heaven we SHOULD NOT. (cf. 2Thess 1:8-9)