What is ‘Real Love?” Part 2

The Apostle Paul gives us benchmarks for what define true love in 1 Corinthians 13. As I noted in part 1, none of us can claim to show perfect love all the time. A big reason for this is that in our fallen natures we are rebels against God, who is love. The more we resemble the Lord, the more we will show true love (which is what Paul is getting at with the Corinthians).

The first characteristic was patience, or long-suffering. The next is kindness. We have to be careful with these because the Bible isn’t written so we can tell when everyone else is failing. It’s written to reveal our own hearts to ourselves so that we can repent and follow the Lord, reflecting His glory more perfectly.

Here’s what Matthew Henry says about this trait:

It is kindchrēsteuetai. It is benign, bountiful; it is courteous and obliging. The law of kindness is in her lips; her heart is large, and her hand open. She is ready to show favours and to do good. She seeks to be useful; and not only seizes on opportunities of doing good, but searches for them. This is her general character. She is patient under injuries, and apt and inclined to do all the good offices in her power. And under these two generals all the particulars of the character may be reduced.

Benign, bountiful, courteous and obliging. That paints a picture, but I like the part about seizing on opportunities to do good, searching for them, in fact.

Do we look for ways we can help those around us? Do we anticipate someone’s feelings or needs and then try to meet them to the best of our ability?

Or, are we mostly focused on what interests us and everyone else needs to get with that program?

Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10). Jesus tells of a man who was overcome by thieves and ravaged, left for dead. That’s you and me at various points in our lives. We are ravaged by the temptations of this world, we’re beaten by the desires of our flesh, we’re left alone to die. The Pharisees and the people who have human religion and are full of pride will walk by, pretending not to see us. We, will walk by, pretending not to see our neighbor, friend or spouse. That’s their issue, and they need to work it out!

But, the heart of love looks with compassion on the person who–some might say–got themselves into that mess. Love is kind and will look to do good for people.

This shows up in little things. We teach our kids that if they see a mess in the kitchen, don’t just walk by–help clean it up. Take out the trash, keep the bathrooms looking nice. But this is easier taught than put in practice. It’s not in the human nature (mostly) to look for something good to do that doesn’t impact our own immediate needs. After all, someone else made the mess, and why should it be me to clean it up?

Love is kind. It thinks of the good it can do, then does it at great cost. God could have scrapped the whole creation, sending us all to Hell. And it would have been just to do so. But since God is love, He made a way that we can be given freedom from the sentence of death that is justly ours. He did the most good, the most benign thing, the most compassionate thing, and actually took the penalty for our sin.

Shouldn’t we be able to show such kindness to those around us who may be equally as wicked as we were toward God? Perhaps we should imitate God more in our daily life and let the kindness of His love work through us.

What is the Unpardonable Sin?

There’s a debate among evangelicals known as the Armenian vs. Calvinist debate. For those who don’t know Christianese, it relates to Free Will vs. Election. If I’m still getting the head-tilts of confusion I’ll explain this way: Free Will holds that Christ died for everyone’s sin, paid the debt for each person. It is each person’s responsibility to accept that gift of their own Free Will to be saved. Election refers to the divine plan for the elect, those who were chosen by God’s sovereign Will before Creation itself.

Both sides point to many of the same passages. They just interpret them differently.

Rather than parse out the two sides, I’m going to keep this short and address something that is at the center, the real question, IMO: Did Christ die for someone’s sin of not believing in Him as Lord?

I’ve heard John MacArthur, among others, claim that if Jesus bore the wrath of God for the sin of every human on earth and across time, but every human didn’t receive Him through faith, then those people would have to pay the penalty of God’s wrath for their sin. This would be, according to MacArthur, double-jeopardy. Two punishments for the same sin.

I’ll note that MacArthur is attempting to apply our understanding of legal justice to a God who is outside of our Created realm, time, and concepts of justice. I suspect our ideas of justice–when compared to God’s understanding–are about as accurate as a young child’s understanding of what his or her parent does for a living.

When I was studying the book of John, however, I came across this passage:

Joh 16:8  And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:

Joh 16:9  concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;

Now, some will say that their sin remains because they didn’t pick up the free gift of Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf (the Free Will argument). Or, that Jesus didn’t pay for their sin because they were not of the elect (the Election argument).

Before I move on, I’ll quote another passage:

Mar 3:28  “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter,

Mar 3:29  but whoever blasphemies against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”

This is the famous “unpardonable sin” passage. Jesus clearly states that “all sins will be forgiven the children of man…”

I’m sure there are various interpretations of this, but for the sake of brevity, I won’t delve into them. The plain meaning, to me, is that Jesus’ sacrifice will provide the basis for forgiveness of all sin, all blasphemy, except blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.

What does that mean? That’s the clincher, really. What does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit? Remember, God is One, so we shouldn’t fall into modalism, or defining each member of the Trinity like a separate God.

The Holy Spirit is the work of God in the world. The Pharisees were trying to say that Jesus miracles–specifically casting out a demon–was the work of Satan. They denied the nature of Christ as the Son of God, and His work as the work of the Holy Spirit.

My reading of this is that the unpardonable sin is unbelief. They rejected Christ and all His work as the work of the devil and for such a sin, there is no sacrifice.

Here’s another applicable passage:

Heb 6:4  For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,

Heb 6:5  and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,

Heb 6:6  and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

Many find this to support the Free Will position, which holds that people can lose their salvation. Instead, I feel this supports the basic premise that our judgment will be based on the sin of unbelief, not the underlying sinfulness of our race.

To understand how this works with the other two passages, I look at a few key phrases: heavenly gift, shared in the Holy Spirit, tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come.

The heavenly gift is Christ, the bread of heaven that is true food to us. Those who have “tasted” of Christ would be like those who hear the gospel and respond (like in the parable of the sower).

The Holy Spirit would refer to the work of God among His people, not the indwelling of the Spirit in the life of these people. This would refer to those who say “Lord, Lord, we did all these things in your name!” and yet be told to depart from Him as workers of lawlessness. They share in the work of the Holy Spirit without being truly sealed by His indwelling.

The goodness of the word of God refers to understanding the scriptures. Many false Christians affirm that the Bible is good, but ultimately will not sacrifice their own comfort or advancement in its defense.

Similarly, the powers of the age to come means they understand God’s promise of the resurrection and the new heaven and new earth.

These are those who ultimately “fall away” as the seeds that start to sprout, but are choked out, burned and do not prove to be true converts. They fail because they do not believe God.

Our salvation ultimately depends on one thing: Believing God. This was the basis for Abraham’s righteousness, and it is the basis of ours, as well. We, of course, have far more information about God than our spiritual ancestor.

When someone holds to earthly applause instead of becoming an outcast for the testimony of Christ, it says what they believe about God. If someone is loath to surrender a popular ritual or even some religious ordinance because there is too much sentimentality or tradition attached to it, it says something about their belief in God.

Essentially, when we become the judge of what is right and wrong, rather than humbly submitting to the words of Christ, we join Satan in saying, “Did God really say?” We refuse to enter the Promised Land because we reject the idea that God will deliver the giants and warriors into our hands and allow us to occupy the land. We leave Ur, but settle in Haran.

We need to ensure we listen to the voice of the Lord when He calls us out of Haran to the wilderness. We need to travel forth into a land of godless warriors, pitching our tent and laying claim to a promise that is entirely absurd by earthly standards.

If we fail to do so, if we defame God’s character by rejecting His promise and His way, we reveal that we don’t believe Jesus is Lord. We reveal we don’t believe God’s power.

Can someone who has passed through the Red Sea, eaten of the heavenly bread, drank of the water from the rock, followed the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, then reject God’s nature of goodness, holiness, faithfulness, mercy and grace?

If they do, they have likely committed the unpardonable sin and there is no additional sacrifice to cover that.