IGNORANCE, INTENT AND EMAILS

(this article may reference current events but is in no way a commentary on political views by the author as it relates to these events)

Confidential emails have been in the news of late. The jist of which is that a certain, high level, government employee, mishandled classified communication within the government. The FBI investigated and found unsecured & unguarded servers (the device where electronic mail would be stored and sent), “extremely careless” handling of email by this employee and her staff, and poor judgement on the part of this high level employee in the handling of Top Secret communication. The FBI then said, “We did not find…clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information.”

It’s on this last point that this article shall address as it relates sin, salvation and getting into heaven.

Under human laws, intent plays a major role. For example, if a person was negligent in their behavior, they may or may not be prosecuted. In recent cases of accidental harm to a person involving a vehicle, intent becomes the deciding factor. God spoke about these situations and gave instructions under the Law of Moses for unintentional harm. “as when a man goes to the woods with his neighbor to cut timber, and his hand swings a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies-he shall flee to one of these cities and live; [Deuteronomy 19:5] and in some cases were required to pay restitution.

Intent may be a factor, but ignorance of the law is another matter. Under our law system, Ignorantia juris non excusat (Latin for “ignorance of the law excuses not”) is a legal principle holding that a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely because he or she was unaware of its content. There are plenty of examples where a person is fined or punished having been unaware that they were committing a crime. If you doubt this, the next time you’re pulled over for speeding just tell the officer you didn’t know the speed limit.

For humanity, God leaves everyone without excuse whether they’ve read the Bible or not.

Look at Roman 1:18-21; “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” [emphasis mine]

You see, God has made every effort to show himself to every person and it’s their willful disregard for Him that will earns His wrath.

In another place, regarding ignorance, Paul said, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” [Acts 17:30-31]

Peter also taught that we are not to remain in our ignorance but to obey; “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” [1Peter 1:13-16]

Here’s the point of what I am saying, when we face the judgement of God, saying “I didn’t know” or “I didn’t intend to sin” will not open the gates of heaven unto us. The only way that we can survive the judgement and to receive an entry into heaven is through the saving blood of Jesus the Christ.

How can one be saved?

Now that you’ve heard about God’s wrath and salvation through Jesus, Repent and be converted from your ignorance. “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,” [Acts 3:17-19]

After your repentance, their remains the blotting (washing) away of your sins. “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” [Acts 22:16] “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” [Acts 2:38]

If you do this, you will be saved, but this doesn’t give you liberty to keep on sinning. Therefore, the Christian must remain faithful. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” [Romans 6:1-4] And if we sin, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” [1John 2:1]

Though human courts overlook ignorance, God won’t. Why delay?

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THE TRUTH HAS SET US FREE…FROM WHAT?

JESUS SAID TO the believing Jews, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” [John 8:31-32]

From this passage, as disciples, we must continue in His word, and from this word we will know the truth. Then this truth will set us free. Later on Jesus will say that God’s word is truth. [John 17:17]

The first question you should ask is; “From what are we being set free?”

WE ARE FREE FROM…
  • The curse of the Law of Moses. Galatians 3:10 points out “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” This was referring to the Law of Moses, for in chapter 5v4 Paul then says that a person seeking to return to that law “has fallen from Grace.”
  • The power of the Law. Romans 7:1-7 teaches us that until Christ’s death, burial and resurrection that the Law of Moses was still in effect. It wasn’t until His death were we freed from the power of the Law, “nailing it to his cross.” [Colossians 2:14]
  • The dominion of sin.Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” [Romans 6:17-18] Without the death, burial & resurrection of Jesus, “ye are yet in your sins.” [1Corinthians 15:17]
  • The guilt of sin. The guilt that most people experience is dependent upon a future punishment. In Christ, who paid the debt for our sins, Christians have been made free from the condemnation of sin. “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.” [Romans 8:33] Does this mean that we can continue to sin? No sir. Rather, we have someone who cleanses us of our sin, but only if we’re in Christ. [1John 1:9]
  • The power of darkness. Because we are His disciples, having obeyed the Gospel, God has “…delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:” [Colossians 1:13] Many say that the kingdom will begin sometime later, but this scripture teach that Christians are in His kingdom now and free from the darkness of this world.
  • The fear of man. No longer bound by sin, under the power of darkness of this world, Christians are also free of what man can do to us. The Apostles faced persecution, beatings and imprisonments, even being commanded to stop speaking about Jesus. Yet, they had no fear saying, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” [Acts 5:29; 4:18-20] Though we may be persecuted or threatened for our faith, no man can ever take away our salvation. “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” [Psalm 118:6]
  • The fear of death’s sting. Because we are in Christ, and freed from the bondage of sin, we no longer have the fear of death. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” [1Corinthians 15:56,57] Being in Christ, we look forward to a day when we can be with the Lord even if He comes sometime after our life on this Earth. [1Thessalonians 4:14-17]
  • The position of no hope. Becoming a Christian puts us into a living hope. This hope becomes a part of our lives and is demonstrated to the world through our lives. Peter noted that this hope shall be seen by those around us to the point that they may ask us of this hope. [1Peter 3:15]
  • The state of separation from God. Christians become children of God through adoption. Prior to our obedience to the gospel, we are separated from God because of sin, but now we are reconciled to God by the death of His son. [Romans 5:10] What a wonderful thing it is to be called a child of God. “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” [Galatians 3:26]
WE HAVE BEEN SET FREE IF….

…we become one of His disciples. This begs the next question, How do I become a disciple of Christ? Remember, Jesus said, ““If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” [John 8:31-32] To become His disciple we must obey the Gospel. Before He ascended into heaven He gave this command, “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:” [Mt 28:19 (ASV)]

The Gospel is what calls us [2Thessalonians 2:14]. Leaving sin, we obey the Gospel which shall deliver us [Romans 6:17]. The gospel is about the Death, burial and resurrection of Jesus [1Corinthians 15:1-4]. When Jesus is preached [Acts 8:35], one will conclude the need to be baptized [Acts 8:36].

If you “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” [Matthew 22:37] then you will also do whatever he commands.

And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” [Luke 6:46]

What saves you?

What about the Thief on the Cross?

what about the thief

Folks will use many reasons to take away the command by our Lord to be baptized. The one heard most commonly by me is, “What about the thief on the cross?” This one is offered by those who have a little biblical knowledge, and by those who’ve heard it before, but have never been challenged with scriptural evidence.

THE ARGUMENT goes like this; “If, as you say, baptism is necessary for salvation, then what about the thief on the cross? He was never baptized, yet the Lord said, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Baptism is not necessary to salvation, because the thief could not obey that command, yet the Lord said he would be in paradise.” [Lu 23:43]

The Scriptures examined: The real issue pertains to a crucial feature of Bible interpretation, are we to take all 66 books of the Bible and take everything that is said and apply it directly and equally to everyone? The Bible is literally filled with commands, instructions, and requirements that were not intended to be duplicated by people living today. People are amenable to the law period under which they lived. [2Timothy 2:15]. There are three dispensations found in the Scriptures:

  • The Patriarchal Dispensation – From creation, everyone was subject to a body of legislation passed down by God through the fathers of family clans (cf. Hebrews 11:1), until the giving of the Law of Moses.
  • The Mosaic Dispensation – At Mt. Sinai, Moses was given a new Law from God and Jews were subject to that body of legal information [Law of Moses] from that time until it also was terminated at the cross of Christ. Consider the following passages:[Matthew 27:51; Romans 2:12-16; Galatians 3:7-29; Ephesians 2:11-22; Colossians 2:11-17]
  • The Christian Dispensation – After Jesus’ death on the Cross, all peoples are now amenable to the Law of Christ. [Galatians 6:2]
Now that we have this background information, let’s examine the reasons which make their argument invalid:

Reason #1– The Law of Moses was still in effect. Many folks are confused when reading the Gospels for it is commonly called, “The New Testament.” However, the majority of the gospel story in Matthew, Mark, Luke & John, take place while Jesus was alive and living as a Jew subject to the Law of Moses.

Jesus was born to a Jewish family under the Law [Mat 1; Luke 3; Ga 4:4], circumcised the 8th day [Lu 2:21], observed the Passover [Lu 2:41, 22:8-20], taught people to follow the Law [Matthew 5:23-24; 8:4], and followed the Law Himself [Matthew 5:17-18].

Under the Law of Moses, never was there a command to be baptized for the remission of sins. Sins were atoned for through the sacrifice of bulls; And he shall do with the bull as he did with the bull as a sin offering; thus he shall do with it. So the priest shall make atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them. (Leviticus 4:20). The word “atonement” <kaphar> literally means “to cover” and is the same as in Gen 6:14 regarding covering the ark with pitch.

Nowhere in the Old Testament is the teaching that sins were totally removed. As we study our Bibles, we find in Hebrews 10:4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. [Heb 10:11 …can never take away sins.] This system pointed to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and terminated at the cross [see above scripture references]

The thief on the cross lived during this Mosaic period, therefore was subject to the Law of Moses and it’s system of sacrifice through bulls and goats.

Which brings us to the second reason……

Reason #2 – Since Jesus lived under the Law of Moses, He followed that law. Of course, He would have no reason to offer a sacrifice on His own behalf [Hebrews 4:15] being without sin, He did teach those around Him to do it for themselves [Mt 8:1-4]

As we study, we find out that the sacrifices in the Law of Moses were pointing to the sacrifice that Jesus would offer of Himself. Galatians 3:19-27 teaches that the Law was a teacher to bring us to Christ.

The letter to the HEBREWS teaches us that it was Christ’s death that ended the Law and began the New Covenant. [Hebrews 8-10]. Paul, speaking about the death of Jesus in relationship to the Law of Moses, said “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” [Colossians 2:14]

Therefore, the THIEF on the cross never had a command to be baptized for the remission of sins. He died, having repented and placed his trust in the Christ, as EVERYONE UNDER THE LAW OF MOSES did when they obeyed the ordinances under that law.

Reason #3– The command to be baptized “for the remission of sins” was issued AFTER Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. When Jesus was on the cross, He was fulfilling the Law of Moses, ending it, and bringing in the New Covenant. It was AFTER His death, burial and resurrection that He gave the great commission, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” [Matthew 28:19]

FOR THE REMISSION OF SIN – This phrase is found in connection with baptism. It is particularly important to note how and when it was used;

  • Mt 26:28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
  • Ac 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

These two verses show the connection between, baptism, Christ’s blood AND the remission of sins.

The other instances of this phrase are connected to the preaching of John “the Baptist”. When we study the scriptures, we find that John’s baptism never remitted any sins, for we read in Acts 19:1-5;

And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, 2 He 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. 3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.  4 Then 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. 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

CONCLUSION:
  • The thief on the cross lived AND DIED under the Law of Moses, as did Jesus our Lord, where there was NO COMMAND to be baptized.
  • The thief, had he been able to obey the command, was not under any obligation to obey it for it DIDN’T APPLY TO HIM at the time of his death, because the Law of Moses was the covenant in force at the time of the statement, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
  • The command to be baptized was given AFTER his death.

Forgiveness

EVERY ONE of us have failed another and were in dire need of their forgiveness. We also know the pain of another that has failed us. This is all too clear when we look at our close relationships such as with our spouses, children and the like. Without forgiveness, we could never have lasting relationships. It’s only through forgiving others can we ever expect to receive forgiveness [Matthew 6:14-15].

            We learn from this scripture, that forgiveness is an essential aspect of our walk with God, and we desire He forgive us our trespasses against Him. We also urge folks to forgive others, citing this same passage. This is an easy teaching, that is, until we are the ones that need to forgive. Forgiveness is much more difficult to practice than it is to teach.

            God knows us better than we know ourselves. He left us instructions on how to practice forgiveness, even giving us His Son as the perfect example [Ephesians 4:32 …. forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you]. Jesus is incredibly merciful, having given His life while we were ungodly sinners and enemies [Romans 5:6-10].

Let’s consider the Scriptures regarding how to practice forgiveness.

            First, we need to face the facts that even after we’ve forgiven someone, they very likely will need to be forgiven again. We need look no further than our own mirrors to realize this truth. Jesus was asked how many times one should forgive their brother. His answer, “…up to seventy times seven.” [Matthew 18:22]. Before you start counting down to 490, understand that the lesson is that there’s no limit to the number of times we are to extend forgiveness.

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“I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

_______________________________________________________________

Praise the Lord that there’s no upper limit on the number of times HE WILL FORGIVE YOU. Look again at the command on forgiveness in Matthew 6, there’s no cap. How often will He forgive you? He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [1John 1:9] If forgiveness were a number where then is mercy, grace, compassion and kindness?

            Next, we need to show compassion toward the one seeking our forgiveness. Empathy is a part of forgiveness. Looking again at Matthew 6, we see that The Lord is connecting a reminder of your own sin to that of the one we need to forgive.

            Do you recall your sins against Him? How do you feel, guilty? David wrote that, “my sin is ever before me.” [Psalm 51:2] Did you feel that way? How much did you need God’s forgiveness? How long did you desire to return to Joy, knowing that you were out of fellowship with God?

            When someone is seeking your forgiveness, remind yourself of your own shortcomings toward God. YOU MAY FIND THAT YOU NEED FORGIVENESS FROM THE VERY PERSON SEEKING IT FROM YOU!

            Lastly, we need to let it go. Some folks say they forgive but when they’re sinned against again, they will drudge up the past failings. Why do you suppose sayings like, “Bury the hatchet, but remember where you buried it in case you need it” exist? It’s hard to let go when we’ve been wronged.

            The Lord has shown us through His own forgiveness toward us, how we are to complete the process. “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” [Hebrews 10:17] Without this last step, forgiveness hasn’t really occurred. When we hang onto the memory of the wrong, it will fester in our hearts, hardening us against them, preventing forgiveness.

            If we fail to forgive, fully, we are in jeopardy of losing our own salvation. Our very hope of eternal life is dependent upon God forgiving us our own sins, and His forgiveness is contingent upon US FORGIVING OTHERS.

I said that to say this…….

            As a preacher, I am commanded to preach, “…in season, out of season…” [2Timothy 4:2]. This means that I need to teach whether or not it’s liked by the hearer, preaching the truth in love. [Ephesians 4:15]  Paul continues by saying to, “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” People never like to be rebuked (sharp disapproval), nor do they enjoy being reproved (reprimanded), but that is my charge.

            In the process of doing my duty, I’m placed in a very precarious situation, so I follow the example of the early preachers who prayed for boldness [Acts 4:29]. This boldness I request, may come across as arrogance, the rebuke as closed minded and the reproof as downright meanness. I’ve been accused of preaching too negatively by one and rebuked for not enough fire and brimstone by another.

            I beg you therefore, give me the benefit of the doubt. When I preach, I may touch a touchy subject. I may step on your toes (though I was aiming for your heart). Paul struggled with this as well, “For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while.” [2Corintheans 7:8] I may even hurt your feelings. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE forgive me! My brother, please know that I do my job out of a deep love for you, that you and I may go to Heaven.

            As a human being, I may even say something wrong. WHEN I do, please love me and FORGIVE me as I repent of those things. We’ll learn how to do this together, to forgive one another.

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