One Christian refuses to speak with another, because of a trespass.? In a similar situation, a Christian refuses to associate with another, because of a debt.? Which situation is a correct view of scripture and which is not?
In the modern American Church, Biblical behavior within social interaction is many times reprobate ? that is, scriptural responses have been reversed.? We cannot endure a fellow Christian, because he or she is verbose, or want of proper English, or perhaps, they may be opinionated ? we will refuse them fellowship.? Yet, we will avoid calling an overtly immoral member to account. Instead we use forbearance on the worst offenders of sin, simply because of the potential embarrassment and society?s acceptance of such behavior, and we will let them sit among us and partake of the love feast.? Among the forms of overt sin, for which we practice forbearance, are: un-merited divorce, use of drugs, homosexuality, incessant liars, and pomp.? Accepting incompetent, erroneous and specious sermons, while rejecting competent, meaningful and weighty sermons, in many American churches, has become the norm.
Among the forms of ignorant sin, for which we practice shunning, are: disheveled semblance, loquaciousness, political beliefs, confidence of personhood, manifest higher education, individualism and academic sermons that promote introspection.? This is wrong!
This study is reasoned through by the simplicity of common sense, and by evaluating the words: sin, trespass, debt, forbearance, and forgiveness.
We do these things, because we do not understand properly what Christ and his apostles have taught concerning trespasses and sins – there is a definite difference.? The Apostle wrote in his Ephesians letter:
?As for you, you were dead in your trespasses[Gk., paraptoma] and sins[Gk., hamartia], in which you used to live – when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air [Satan]?? [Eph.2:1-2].
Paul understood the difference between a trespass and a debt, because it was one of the first things that Jesus taught, as written in Matthew chapter six:
?Forgive us our debts [opheilema] as we forgive our debtors?for if ye forgive men their trespasses* [andrapodistes] your heavenly Father will also forgive you.? But if ye forgiven men not their trespasses [paraptoma], neither will your Father forgive your trespasses [paraptoma]? [Mt.6:12, 14-15].
Lk.11:4 [KJV] has it:
?And forgive us our sins; [hamartia] for we forgive everyone who is indebted [ophelilo ? meaning, indebted, owing] to us???
*Note: [Mt.6:14]??men their trespasses? is literally, ?men-stealers? ? slave traders and thereby, men who trespass or sin in an odious way. 1Tim.1:10 places this word with: murders of parents, adulterers, and perverts [pederasts ? men lovers, specifically in this case, with boys via anal sex] ? all being equally degenerate.? Obviously, Paul?s list makes the top rank of sinners who just ooze the very worst of societies dregs.? Today, Paul might use the descriptions: pimps, drug dealers, homicidal sociopaths, pedophiles and human traffickers, in a modern letter to Timothy.? It is noteworthy that Jesus refers to ?men stealers? [human traffickers] as a group any disciple should be willing to forgive.
The Lord?s Prayer is found in both Matthew?s and Luke?s gospels.? The point of the prayer is to teach a method of supplication- a method, not a formula of words to be said.? However, Mathew?s version is in context with several teachings that point to the person?s responsibility, while Luke?s version is in context with acclaiming the grace and love of God.
Please note that Christ was laying the emphasis upon the sinner, when he taught [??forgive my debt??].? The points to be grasped: firstly, one cannot be a hypocrite and expect God?s favor. He who sees the vice in everyone else, yet finds no time to excoriate his own wanton behavior will find little solace in prayer.? Secondly, God expects all of us to treat as a small thing, any behavior that lacks a higher quality of civility or modesty.? There are an abundance of sins that are categorized as evil and debauched, which are rotten enough to foul our noses in this world.? To focus our disgust on things such as; guttural speech, body odor, ignorant talk, and lousy manners, is precocious at best, and lacks a discriminating purview ? wisdom at its worst.
The Old Testament teaches that some sins are of less insult to divinity than others:
?Forgive my hidden faults.? Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.? Then I will be innocent of great transgression? [Ps.19:13, NIV].
The King James Version translates hidden as ?secret,? and uses ?blameless? instead of innocent.
The psalmist is recognizing his common fault of digressing from proper behavior and attitudes via unconscious responses. ? Yet he begs God to help him stay free of willful or cognizant sin.? Therefore, if God would but help him control his willful behavior, the psalmist believes that he would be free of great transgression [as opposed to small transgressions].
The Hebrew for Transgressions is ?pasha,? and means: rebellion, and is used first in Ex.23:21, where the Lord is noting Israel?s need to pay attention, so that they will not rebel.? Laxity of mind is all too common a fault among men.? Laxity in and of itself is sloth – a sin against oneself, or an employer.? This sin is the seed that could lead to something greater: [ie. dereliction of duty that could lead to an avoidable death ? see Ex.21:29 for example].
Another similar comparison is made of this word transgression [pasha] and iniquity [aven]. In Ex.34:7-8 the two are suborned under stubbornness. However, with the Ps.19:13, transgression and iniquity are viewed as two separate forms of sin.
There then remains a distinction between sins ? between trespasses and debts, as I covered in my book, Doctrines of Christianity, chapter V-A Supplement, ?Special Commentary,? Heb.6:1 and 1Jn.5:16-17.
Essentially, John?s Epistle teaches that there are common forms of sin, and then there is sin that leads to death.? John was dealing with ignorance as opposed to conscious sin. The book of Hebrews approaches the subject of sin as a special case, namely idolatry ? dead works of ceremonial practice.? However, where Hebrews points to the specific activity of sin, John elaborates concerning the gravity of sin – ignorance or forgetfulness, as compared to conscious or deliberate sin.
Generally, Reformed American Protestants deal with sin by the maxim: ?sin is sin regardless, but all sin is forgivable.?? They make no distinction to specific behavior.? This of course is a factual statement, but not truth!? Facts are supplementals through which we ascertain the truth. And it is the truth that we are after.
Protestants ?miss the mark? that Christ and his apostles made mitigation for ignorance [want of knowledge, Ac.3:17; 17:30; Eph.4:18; 1Pe.1:14] and demanded repentance for au courant sin ? ??sin no more…? Jn.8:11]. ? Protestants, therefore, many times make excuses for wanton divorce, avarice, concupiscence, and homosexuality simply because it is the fashion of civil society.? Many Protestants hide behind the activity of good will, so as to avoid offending. ? John the Baptist and Jesus found no problem in pointing out wanton sin to those who would solicit the public for praise and leadership.
The Roman Catholic Church deals with sin through refinement and definition, by the use of the Latin legal terms: carnal [fleshly or sensual] and venial [forgivable indulgence].? Venial is somewhat closer to the meaning of transgressions, as presented in the New Testament.? However, history has demonstrated that this denomination ignores its own testimony on this subject ? allowing the worst behavior to continue without correction, because of laxity ? which is a form of rebellion.? Hence, they place emphasis on ceremony and civility, to obviate sin overall.
In William Hendrickson?s New Testament Commentary of Matthew, he relates the following explanation on page 340, [Mt.6:14-15]:
?In verse 12, sins were called debts, that is, that which we owe, and for which we must suffer punishment unless payment is made, satisfaction rendered, by ourselves or by another.? Here in verses 14 and 15, these sins are called trespasses, deviations from the path of truth and righteousness.? Now whether these deviation are of milder character, as in Gal.6:1, and perhaps also in Rom.5:15, 17-18, or whether they are more serious, as in Eph 1:7; 2/;1, they must be forgiven?The question might be asked, ?But in the process of bringing about forgiveness and reconciliation, does the entire obligation rest upon the person who has been sinned against?? Does not the offender have an obligation?? The answer is, indeed he does. He must repent, and with the message of this repentance he must gladden the heart of the one he has injured.[Lk.17:3-4].? ? ? ?
First we must recognize, as John had written, there is sin and then there is SIN [Jn.5:16-17]!? We should quickly put our offense to the side for any transgression of a brother or sister that is common error.? Over time, we may be able from prayer and patience, to instruct a fellow Christian on a better approach to his life, and a better approach to social interaction.? Yet, these types of minor faults, though they may be personally aggravating they are noted as little, in the eyes of the Lord – for those under the blood.? God has given us a pass ? if you will ? from hidden or unconscious transgression. However, when we have recognized our unconscious sin, even a small detail, we are obligated by conscience and love of God, to correct that minor error or unseemliness.
?Whoever can be trusted with very little, can also be trusted with much ?because you have been trustworthy in a small matter, take charge of ten cities?? [Lk.16: 10; 19:17]
The Apostle Paul wrote to forbear [anecho] – endure or bare with one another [Eph.4:2; Col. 3:13], where gentleness is expressed.
It remain therefore that we should be scrupulous concerning our own trespasses and find patience and forbearance for the trespasses or others. As Christ had stated, our forbearance should extend to a count of seven times seventy [Mt.18:21-22 – a hypothetical number of: as often as it happens].
BUT WHAT ABOUT GREAT SIN?
It is expected that we also forgive the great sin of others.? Note Jesus used the term, men-stealers [human traffickers] ? a rank bunch.? But let us examine how we must forgive.
Most sin debts, owed Americans, are small compared to what other Christians are owed.? This is a factual statement we should meditate upon.? In Sudan for example, many Christians are threatened, beaten, tortured, and killed, yet I have read dozens of testimonies of forgiveness for the brutality of Muslims.
Now it was Jesus who used the example of men-stealers [human-traffickers] with his disciples, yet not one of the Twelve Apostles were ever waylaid and sold into captivity. Even if the disciples met a slave trader, they had no personal axe to grind.? So why did Jesus bring this example to the forefront?
Jesus was pointing to a perfidious evil, form which to bring home the reality that God wants to extend his love toward every soul.? In my parents day Jesus would have said, ?If you do not forgive the Nazis, I will not forgive you!?
However, if the slave traders or the Nazis owe me no debt, personally, how then can I lay aside their debt?? What God is after, in this case is for the debt owed the senses.? The idea of a pedophile, a human trafficker, or a drug dealer is offensive to the mind of a moral agent.? We are to release the expectation for vengeance into the hands of God.? Where direct injury has occurred, the greater need the victim has to complete the act of grace.
But does this mean that nothing can be said to the offender of great sin, or prevents a legal or social action of discipline.? As a matter of concrete fact, God expects his moral agents to do just that ? to warn the offender of his peril – however, only if he would receive such a personal warning as kind advice.
The word forgive in the Greek is aphiemi, and means to send forth, or send away, to remit.? Note it does not say ?to forget.?? Further it does not say that we are not to be angry.? If we are of moral character, we ought to be angry.? However, in our anger we are not to sin [1Cor.13:5, Eph4:26].? Vengeance belongs to the Lord [Rom.12:19; Heb.10:30].
The objective is simple.? Our Father in Heaven is always looking for reconciliation.? He will use and allows us to use forms of discipline to bring a fellow believer or an unbeliever to repentance.? God lays to the side all the transgressions and iniquity against him, therefore, we should the same ? if we are the children of God.? He will use reason and time to capture the conscience of a sinner ? we should do this also.
However, as Hendrickson had stated, there is an obligation on the part of the offender to reflect and repent.? If they do not God or we as a group or an individual applies discipline.
In my new book, Secondary Doctrines of Christianity, I examined God?s expectation that we should rebuke a wanton sinner.
??Rebuke your neighbor frankly, so that you do not share in his sin.? [Lev.19:17]
Saint Paul [Ac.20:31; 1Th.5:14; 2Tim.2:14], James [5:17-20], Peter [1Pe.3:15-16], John [1Jn.5:16; 2Jn.10-11] and Jude 22 wrote similar instructions. We are to pray for sinners, feed and clothe them if destitute, warn them, teach them, or shun them, depending upon the situation of the sin and the individuals response to your invitation and compassion.? We are to remember not to give to dogs what is holy [Mt7:6 and 2Pe.2:22].
We are to immediately forgive or pay little attention to common transgressions, even if we have a visceral reaction to them.? Our common and petty reactions to visual or audible peccadilloes are guaranteed to show up in others against us if we do not judge appropriately and with charity. ? It is our responsibility take interest in restoring to fellowship or bringing to repentance unbelievers.
Note that forgiveness may be interpreted as: to set aside, as one would a verdict, or an indictment.? There remains then the final conclusion of the matter within the confines of divine judgment.? What shall God do with an indictment that has been forgiven by his child ? a debt owed his child that has been placed to the side for future determination? ? If the offender is repentant the indictment is permanently expunged.? If the offender is unrepentant the final verdict is to condemn [Mt.18:21-35 ? Parable of the Unmerciful Servant].
The tools that we can use for reconciling the sinner start with mercy, is followed by prayer, and finally by discipline.? It is our responsibility to encourage the weak and bring the dissolute to repentance.? Our interaction with worldly people can bring us hostile mental and physical pain, but we are not to shrink from the command to make disciples of the nations, baptizing them, and teaching them everything that Jesus has commanded [Mt.28:19-20].
DICTIONARY OF TERMS
The following Has Been Reference From: Vines Expository Dictionary of the New Testament
This N.T. word is hamartia and the term regards means literally ?missing the mark,? however, the term is used predominantly to refer to any outward activity that is skewed, or far, from a moral compass.? It is used in terms of specific action, a power, or a general category or sum whether indicative of a heart, mind or soul.
This term has three Greek words in the N.T.: opheile, opheilema, and daneion.? For our purposes we are evaluating opheilema as the target word.? Opheilema is a variant of the opheile, but with a stronger intent.? Whereas its simpler root means, ?something owed,? the stronger is indicative of something legally owed, and induces the force of payment.? Opheilema is used as figurative speech as a debt owed [ie., The debt of sin?].? Because it is a legal determinant, and involves sin as a debt, atonement, or payment is demanded. Debt therefore is a strong indicator of a serious breach of moral expectation.
This word is parptoma in the Greek, and means:? a blunder, a fall, an improper divergent step from integrity, a slip away from honorable or scrupulous interactions. It is not a total break with the moral scheme of things. This word is used in the N.T. in reference to Adam wrong [ Rom.5:15; is modified with the word ?any? [Gal.6:1; and is referred to as ?faults? [Jas..5:16]. It is therefore mitigated as less reprehensible as a debt.
The Greek scripture uses several verbs, which can be rendered, to forebear or forbearance: ancho, aniemi, pheidomai and stegoe. The predominant noun is anchee, and the adjectives are: anexikakos and epieikes.
It is anecho that we are concerned with.? It means to hold up, to bear with, or endure, and is used in association with the charity afforded the members of the church.? The adjectives anexikakos and epieikes are rendered as, patiently and with sweet gentleness.
The other designations of forbearance are for special situations with evil both inanimate and animate.
There are two verbs used to denote the act of forgiving: aphiemi [with its noun aphesis], and charizomai.
The Greek word for forgive is aphiemi, and means, to send forth or send away.? Vine?s Expository Dictionary of New Testament words describes the intrinsic and extrinsic nature of forgiveness on page 462: ?Human forgiveness is strictly analogous to divine forgiveness, eg., Mt.6:12. If certain conditions are fulfilled, there is no limitation to Christ?s law of forgiveness [Mt.18:21-22].? The conditions are repentance and confession [Mt.18:15-17; Lk.17:3].? As to the limits of the possibility of Divine forgiveness, see Mt.12:32.
A second Greek word for forgiveness [sometimes as deliver] is charizomai and used for bestowing a favor unconditionally, see Eph.4:32; Col.2:13 divinely, and Lk.7:42; 2Cor.2:7, 10 humanly.
What is to be grasped is that Forgiveness comes with certain stipulations in reference to repenting and confessing and also forsaking.? We can move to forgive an individual a debt of sin, but their lack of understanding or repentance or confession of fault will forfeit their gift.? This is a universal condition whether for believers or unbelievers.? Hardness of heart against a Christian will only substantiate the hardness of heart towards God?s gift of life through Jesus Christ.
Some categories of sin were so repugnant to the Jews that they would mention them only by using expressions that refer to the attributes.? For example they would not say homosexual or Sodomite, because the visual acts that would fill their minds, so they used the terms: effeminates and men-abusers.? So it was that Jesus used the term, men-stealers, which is erroneously translated: ?men their trespasses?? [KJV], and ??forgive men their sin?? [NIV].? A better modern translation would be: ??if you don?t forgive human traffickers their sin [and others of similar sin]??? The Greek word is andrapodistes, and means: slave dealer, kidnapper, one capture in war as booty. It was understood that their merchandise was cataloged as tangible property. just like animals ? hence the associated word andrapodon, from aner = man, and? pous = foot.- as today we? would use the terms bipeds for gibbons, and quadrupeds for mammals. [ie., he is not a man. He is no more than a biped.]