Thursday, February 19, 2015

Is it ok to want a terrorist killed? How should a Christian view ISIS? Is war the answer? What about killing in “self-defense”?

Sadly, because of so many acts of terror taking place, many are asking questions they never had to ask before. Questions about war, justice and vengeance, are always difficult. The fact is, there is not an easy answer to all of these thoughts. This post, however, seeks to present some Biblical principles to help the believer navigate through these difficult times.

God hates murder!
The first principle we need to consider is that the Bible clearly condemns murder. In the 10 commandments it reads “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). God says that He hates “hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17). In the book of Revelation we are told that “murderers” will be cast into the “lake of fire and brimstone” (Revelation 21:8). When a person is murdered, whether by he hands of an Islamic Terrorist in the name of religion or a gang member doing a drive-by, sin has taken place, and God HATES it. 

What about killing in self-defense?
There are several facets to the original question that must be contemplated. What about killing in “self-defense”? There is not a verse that clearly condemns violence in self-defense or even in the protection of another. We need to remember there is a difference between defense, and vengeance! It is not our place to enact vengeance on another. Remember the teaching of (Romans 12:19) “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”. 

When to use force?” (especially lethal force) against another, is a difficult question without an easy answer. Love needs to motivate all that we do (Matthew 22:39). One might be able to make a case that love for one’s neighbor may entail using lethal force against our neighbor’s murderous attacker. This same case may be made for collective military force against a group who seeks to do harm on the innocent. Choices like these are increasingly difficult. The early Christians were never told to use force against the Romans who were violently persecuting them, and although the literalness of Jesus’ “turn the other cheek” statement is up for debate, its principles need to be considered.

What about war?
In his letter to the Roman church, the Apostle Paul discusses the authority that governments possess. 
 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for she is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:1-7 ESV).
The idea that governments are allowed to “bear the sword”  is most likely in reference to capital punishment, however, war may be included in this teaching too. God allows governments to exist, enact laws and even lead soldiers into battle.

Christians should not want war to happen. We should desire “peace with all men” (Hebrews 12:14). I would encourage all to exercise caution and not be quick to make a statement like “we should bomb them!”. Instead we should desire that they “repent”.  
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). 
Although, it may not be inherently wrong for one country to go to war with another, we should always “seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11). 

Can I be happy when a terrorist is shot or a murderer is put to death? What emotions should I have had when Osama Bin Laden was killed?
Controlling our emotions is difficult. It is even more difficult to determine what emotions are godly and which ones are not. One thought we need to keep in mind is that although God desires all to be saved, He is also a God of Justice. 

God created us with a desire for justice (even justice in this life). It would be permissible for us to find satisfaction when an evil person is punished. When you read through the Psalms you find several instances where God’s people yearned for, and prayed for justice to be served (Psalm 109). In (Revelation 6:9-11) the souls under the alter are crying out to God for justice. 
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. (Revelation 6:9-11)
It is not our duty to enact vengeance or to force the hand of justice, however, when the wicked are punished for their deeds, it is ok to find satisfaction in that justice has been served. This would even include feeling a sense of satisfaction in the death of another (such as Osama Bin Laden).

We should desire salvation more than punishment.
Although we might thirst for and find satisfaction in the punishment of the wicked, we should have a greater desire that all repent, and follow Christ. God created all people in his image. This would include the most vile terrorist. When a person dies before they repent, we should be saddened by the fact that a person born in the image of God, chose a life of sin, that cost them their eternal soul. We can be glad that justice is served when one is punished in this life, and yet, at the same time be saddened a person is lost. 


By Cliff Sabroe - Quotes from ESV and NASB. Image curtesy of NBCnews.com 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Is it necessary for one to have the Holy Spirit in order to be saved?

As with many questions about religious topics, one can assume there are differing opinions. We, however are not concerned with what is the most popular opinion, but instead, what does the Bible say?  Here is what the Bible teaches.

The Spirit is Necessary for one to Have Eternal Life
  • However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him who raised you from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you". (Romans 8:9-11)
The Spirit is God's Pledge That He will Save Us
  • In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. (Eph. 1:13-14).
  • For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. (2 Corinthians 2:4-5).
The Spirit is Evidence of God's Love
  • “...and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).
The Spirit in the Christian is Motivation to Live Holy
  • “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body”. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
The Spirit is Necessary For One's Sanctification 
  • “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
It is clear throughout the Bible that one must have the Holy Spirit in order to be saved. One must not confuse the work of the Holy Spirit in today's Christian with His miraculous enabling of the Apostles. Although He does not empower the Christian today as He did the Apostles (such as guiding them into all truth or the ability to speak in different languages/tongues or other revelatory or confirmatory gifts), He is still very much real and at work (especially through His sword; The Word of God (Eph. 6:17).

Please see my other post here, on how one receives the Spirit today.

All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible 1995 Update - Lockman Foundation. Emphasis Mine - Cliff Sabroe Image gathered from Relevant Magazine. 

Does God speak to us through the examples found in the Bible?

The Bible is not just a book of commands. It also contains narrative, letters, poetry and more. Most Christians desire to follow God’s word, but at times get confused on what they are supposed to do. One of the ways that God guides us in Scripture is through the examples Apostles, Jesus and even the early Church. Which examples are to be emulated and which ones are merely incidental actions is a discussion for another time, but this post seeks to prove that God does not merely teach by command, but also by example. 

First and foremost, one must go to the text and observe if there are any occasions where God’s people were “commanded” to follow an example. Immediately one is reminded of the several instances in which God’s people were commanded to follow the example of Christ.  
  • “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
  • “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15).
  • “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,a who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,b being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7).
The example Christ left throughout His life presents actions and activities worthy our own personal replication.

Even more prevalent then then the passages that command the reader to follow the example of Christ, are those provided which command the follower of God to emulate the example left by the holy apostles.
  • “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7).
  • “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (Philippians 3:17).
  • “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).
  • “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
The examples provided in Scripture serve various purposes. At times examples will teach principles which encourage greater faithfulness. “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did” (1 Corinthians 10:6) he continues “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Biblical examples can provide comfort to the suffering, they can provide encouragement and give us a great pattern for believers to follow today.

Throughout the Bible there are several instances of approved examples being followed. What is also recorded for the exegete are the consequences of not following the example left, or following a bad example. Romans 15:1-6 declares:
  • We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10 concerning the sins committed by Israelites in the wilderness that “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). The Israelites in the wilderness engaged in idolatry, immorality and grumbling all of which served as an example to the Corinthians of what not to do.

There are many consequences when people do not follow the examples provided for them by God. One of the clearest examples of this thought is found in Romans chapter 1. In this section of Scripture the apostle Paul declares that the Gentile pagans were without excuse in their disobedience to God. It is shown that God has left them an example of His existence through His creation and they are without any excuse. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).

If God expected the pagan worshipers to draw a certain conclusion from the example He left regarding His nature through the creation, one might also come to the assumption that other examples left for us by God would be for our learning. The consequence of not obeying the example in this case was a depraved mind. One might also assume that if Christ and the apostles left us examples to follow, if one chooses to not follow those examples, the consequences will be just as dire.

A deeper study on the topic of "Bible Examples" can be found here

By Cliff Sabroe