Posted in Biblical Questions

When Men who Act like Beasts Attack: Further Inquiry into the Question of Self-Defense

And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of [Goliath]; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine. And Saul said to David, Thou are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth. And David said to Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, see he hath defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, the Lord had delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine” (1Sam 17.32-37a: KJV).

INTRODUCTION:

Self-defense does not necessitate killing but it is sometimes necessary to kill when one is forced to defend themselves or others. Though there will be those that deny such a necessity, their denial, regardless of how strongly they hold to it, does not disprove that we have a God-given right to protect our person, our loved ones (this includes our neighbors depending on the circumstances) and our property.

Citizens of the United States of America have a special privilege that the rest of the world does not enjoy, a Bill of Rights integrated within our federal constitution. These rights at the time of their formation were recognized as inalienable rights, something not conferred to individuals by their civil government but meant to be preserved and protected from governing institutions. A couple of historical citations provided by David Barton, author the book entitled “The Second Amendment” confirms:

“Constitution signer John Dickinson, like so many of the others in his day, defined an inalienable right as a right ‘which God gave to you and which no inferior power has a right to take away’”1

In case you’re wondering “inferior power” would be the civil government at any level, since such authorities have received delegated powers from the One whose power has no limits in either scope or authority… Almighty God of heaven and earth. Barton adds further insight into the convictions of the day (18th century) when he cites “James Wilson…one of only six Founders who signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution” for having made the following remarks about our inalienable rights being guarded by the Bill of Rights:

“…to acquire a new security for the possession or the recovery of those rights to… which we were previously entitled by the immediate gift or by the unerring law of our all-wise and all-beneficent Creator.”2

This includes the right to self-defense (2nd Amendment); An inalienable right, a gift from our Creator, to guard the gift of “Life”3 and all those things pertaining to it (i.e., liberty and the pursuit of happiness, among other things not mentioned). It does not require a law degree to know how to read. Meaning, you don’t need to be a constitutional lawyer or have earned a doctorate in history to comprehend the original intention behind our nation’s founding documents. But it does require a little effort on our part.

Exegesis is a literary discipline that I have taught to youth and adults alike when studying their Bible. To exegete, a text means to draw out of it the original intention of the author when written. This requires the reader to learn all they can about the writer(s), their audience, the history surrounding the material, and the language that was common at the time when their work was finished.

You may be wondering, “Why is that important? Seems like a lot of work to me.” You’d be right, it is a lot of work, nonetheless necessary if we are going to avoid gross errors of misinterpretation. When we read, especially when reading works of history, we want to avoid reading our ideas or feelings into the text. The author (of whatever work you are reading) had an original intent, an original purpose that needs to be properly weighed, so your duty is to keep the integrity of the text as unmarred as possible.

I want to be brief here, but I believe it is important enough to share with you in case you didn’t know or are misinformed. Inalienable rights are not granted by people in high places but are endowed in the image-bearers of God, from their Creator. In other words, all human beings have these essential rights as their birthright. If you happen to live in a time or place where they are not recognized or dismissed it is because of the tyrannical despots in positions of authority above you. Of course, such rights are contingent upon one’s response to the law; in particular, the law of God. This includes the question of self-defense; a topic that has held my attention for quite a while now.4

Self-defense is not an argument limited to conservative versus liberal (i.e., progressive) circles, but one that is ofttimes hotly debated within Christian circles. Why this is the case is rather simple: self-defense is a religious issue. And so, my question when someone argues a particular point for or against an issue is, “By what standard?” or “Who says?” The answer to whether or not self-defense is right or wrong (which sometimes leads to the taking of another life) must be answered on the grounds of an absolute standard. Since I am convinced that the Christian worldview has an absolute standard (biblical revelation) that may be applied at all times, regarding all situations, I believe it is necessary to see what the Bible has to say on the issue in question.

Bears and Lions and Men who Behave like Them: A Brief Analysis of 1Samuel 17:32-37

I would imagine most people are somewhat familiar with the biblical story of “David and Goliath.” There is a good reason for this, it is the story of conquering the unconquerable foe. Depictions of the historical event often show David as a little shepherd boy fighting a mighty giant decked out in the finest armor, wielding weapons fit for a behemoth. David did fight a giant but he was not a little boy. He put on the armor of Saul a man the scriptures testify was a head taller than the rest of his peers (cf. 1Sam 9.2), it wasn’t too big for him, he just wasn’t used to fighting in it (cf. 1Sam 17.38-39). Moreover, by today’s reckoning, David would have been considered a young man. Twenty was the age of service in Israel’s army (cf. Exod 30.14; Num 1.3), our young shepherd would have been around 18.

Though popular Christian movies like Facing the Giants attempt to capitalize on the concept of vanquishing an insurmountable foe by trusting in the Lord, that is not the message conveyed in the 17th chapter of 1Samuel. To be fair, we do see an element of this truth at work, but what you have in this encounter is a comparison between the people’s choice of king and God’s.

You see, David was anointed to be the next king of Israel in 1Samuel 16:12-13. The Lord told His prophet, Samuel, to not just like mankind by just looking at outward appearances (1Sam 16.6-7). For God had chosen a man to be king that looked different than what people often look for in a leader. According to the Lord God, David was a man after His own heart (1Sam 16.7b; cf. 13.14). Meaning David’s primary concern was living for God; being a reflective image bearer, concerned about thinking and acting in a way that pleased the Lord above. If you’ve paid much attention to this historic book of the first two kings of Israel, then you’ll know how different this makes David from Saul. Saul was concerned about pleasing people, not God (cf. 1Sam 13.11). Saul was concerned about his image, not God’s (cf. 1Sam 15.12). Saul was keen on listening to and elevating his word above the Lord of Glory’s Word (cf. 1Sam 14.18-19, 24, 28-29). Time and time again Saul was depicted as unfit to be king over Israel (cf. 1Sam 28). He had the attitude of the people of the book of Judges, those that pretended they “… [had] no king in Israel; [therefore, Saul] did what was right in his own eyes” (Jdg 21.25).

What was at issue in 1Samuel 17 was faith. The king had no faith in God so he hid in his tent (1Sam 17.11). He even tried to bribe any valiant warrior who would match arms with Goliath on the battlefield with his daughter and the promise of no taxes for his family (1Sam 17.25, 27). A role that Saul fulfilled when God had anointed him to fight for Israel (1Sam 9.16). Well, the king had no faith evidenced by no courage, and as a result, neither did the rest of Israel’s army. They cowered every time they heard a challenge being shouted from the valley by the Philistinian giant. And then comes David the young shepherd, who had been secretly anointed by the prophet Samuel as the next king of Israel.

David hears the challenge of Goliath and he is angered. My guess is he was also a bit perturbed by the lack of faith in Israel at this time. And so, to the angst of his brothers (armed soldiers cowering on the hillside), David heads to Saul’s tent. He explains to Saul that he will fight this Philistine. Saul needs to be convinced for at first he denies the sanity of David’s request:

Thou are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth” (1Sam 17.33; KJV).

In other words, Saul is saying to David “You can’t fight this fellow, he’s a trained man. He’s been warring with others since he was young like you! If you continue down this course, you will die.”

But David is undeterred. He recites to the king his previous encounters with dangerous enemies. As a shepherd of his father’s sheep, he had to face off against lions and bears. When they attacked his father’s flock he did not hesitate to go after them to rescue the lamb. And if those predators attempted to assail him, he killed them:

And I went after him [either lion or bear], and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him” (1Sam 17.35; KJV).

In David’s mind, the Philistine named Goliath would share in their lot. For with great confidence, not in himself as a man but as a creature endowed by his Creator, he said,

Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.’ And David said, ‘The Lord who saved me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear, He will save me from the hand of this Philistine” (1Sam 17.36-37; NASB).

And the rest is, as they say, history. David slew Goliath. He defended God’s flock (Israel) from a beast of a man, and he proved himself as the rightful king to come. A young man who entrusted his life (and through his action) the life of others into the Sovereign King over all the Earth.

How is that Self-Defense?

An appropriate question I think by the reader at this point would be, “How is that self-defense?”According to a trusted English dictionary, self-defense is “the act of defending oneself, one’s property, or a close relative.”5 So who was David defending when he stepped on the battlefield? Himself. Who was David concerned about when he stepped on the battlefield? His fellow Israelite’s. Ultimately, whose honor was David attempting to guard on the battlefield that day, as a witness to the world? The Holy One of Israel, the living God—Yahweh (1Sam 17.36).

You see, Goliath was threatening Saul and the men of Israel in Socoh (1Sam 17.1). By extension, this was a threat against their women and children. Wars in that period were primarily fought by men, but the losing army would experience further pain knowing that their families and neighbors likewise were endangered. This means that David was among those being threatened by Goliath and the Philistinian army. But this attack was not just against men (and their families), it was also against the God they represented. The young shepherd fought to protect the sheep (analogically speaking) of God in the name of the One who anointed him (called him) to service. David took the battlefield as a defender.

Getting to the heart of the matter…

We have reached a key point in this article. To attack a fellow human being is not only to attack their person, but also the God who gave them life, as it is His image they bear (cf. Gen 9.5-6).

Listen, when you threaten the life of another when you assault them when you prey upon them, you are in that moment making the self-claim to godhood. Assailants and attackers and murders who prey on others assume that they have the right to do what they please. It is an attempt to demonstrate power over the life of another through the use of force.6 It is also a blatant finger being thrown into the face of the Triune Creator God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). This is precisely what Nimrod did (Gen 10.8-9) before his kingdom came crumbling down (cf. Gen 11.1-9). To act in such a manner is not only to attack an individual, but it is likewise an attempt to smite the Author of Life.

But does this make it right to kill, to play a part in violence, to use weapons of war? That is a subject in which we shall venture into next time….

ENDNOTES:

1David Barton, The Second Amendment: Preserving the Inalienable Right of Individual Protection (Aledo, TX: WallBuilder Press, 2000), Kindle Edition, loc 48-55. Dickinson’s comments are taken from the following document: John Dickinson, Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, R.T. H. Halsey, editor (New York: The Outlook Company, 1903), p. xlii, letter to the Society of Fort St. David’s, 1768.

2Ibid., loc 60. Emphasis in original. Wilson’s comments taken from his written work: James Wilson and Thomas McKean, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States of America (London: J. Debrett, 1792); Volume II, page 454.

3“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, a—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” Declaration of Independence, PDF, 2nd par. Italics added.

4This has been a debate in our nation (the United States of America) for quite a while. The Kyle Rittenhouse case brought it to the forefront in a way that other cases did not. In part, I would imagine this was due to the upheaval we witnessed last year in many cities across our country in response to the BLM and ANTIFA riots. Like many issues where disagreement is sharp, it is necessarily polarizing.

5Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary & Thesaurus, 2008 Desktop edition, s.v., “self-defense” def. 2.

6SIDE NOTE: This is one of the reasons why the whole Coronavirus narrative has me so upset. The government is attempting to use the strong arm of the law—their power, their influence—to coerce a population to make choices regarding health they deem fit. They are threatening the livelihood of those who do not comply by manipulating businesses to force inoculation with an experimental drug. (Sorry, I’m not sure what you’d call something to be taken into the human body without informed consent; consent that has all three phases of clinical trials available, all safety data and content of the “medication” provided). We invest an incredible amount of time in education and training in a particular field of occupation and that is going to be stripped from so many in the blink of an eye. That is an act of violence against a population for not following arbitrary commands. (Again, sorry but not sorry, how many times has the narrative flip-flopped regarding the handling of so-called safety measures in light of this virus?).

Posted in Biblical Questions

Would Jesus be Woke Today? – The American Vision

Matthew Dowd who was the chief strategist for the re-election campaign of former President George W. Bush who’s now running as a Democrat in the Texas lieutenant governor’s race implied in a tweet that conservatives and Republicans would criticize Jesus as being “woke” if He were alive today. Given the definition of being woke, Jesus would denounce it since it’s being used to promote racial division in the name of “social justice.
— Read on americanvision.org/posts/would-jesus-be-woke-today/

By Gary DeMar at American Vision.

This article reveals what occurs when foolish people attempt to interpret the Bible in order to justify a social(istic) issue like Wokeism. In short, their argument, proposition or premise falls flat on its face because it’s false–Dr. Kristafal Miller

Posted in Biblical Questions

Saved from What to What?

So you’ve heard the gospel proclaimed and in response, you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord. Acknowledging before all people that hope is found in no one else, and so you entrust yourself to Him who came, who lived, who died, was raised, and ascended to the Father’s right hand. Now what?

What do you do after you’ve embraced the gospel of Jesus’ kingdom? What do you do then? From where do your marching orders come? How are you to live? How are you to raise a family? How are you to act as an employee? How are you to be a member of a local church? How are you to be a good citizen in the society in which you live?

According to Jesus, as His disciple, you are to observe “all that He has commanded” (Matt 28.19), but what does that mean? Does this limit Christian behavior to the few things recorded in the New Testament that Jesus said? Does it incorporate the things that His apostles, after Him, taught?

What’s new?

This may or may not be where you stopped your investigation. Perhaps you have been taught that Christians are only bound (for the most part) to abide by New Testament teaching. I mean, the Bible does say, “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Heb 8.13; ESV).1 But in what sense is “new” being used? Has the content of the Old been entirely done away with? Is “new” meant to convey, ofan entirely different origin? Or is “new” meant to be understood as “different from one of the same category that has existed previously?”2

It is the means by which the covenant has been ratified and applied that is new, not the standard by which the covenant is to be honored. The standard of both covenants—what is referred to as Old and New—is holiness. To be an honored member of the covenant between God and man, the person in question must live honorably by reflecting his/her Creator’s mind and action.

A requirement…

Holiness is the requirement. Holiness defined by God our Maker, not mankind the creature; “…without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12.14). For the charge from our Lord is, “… [to] be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5.48). A demand based upon divine writ: “You must be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the other peoples to be mine” (Lev 20.6; NET). And before the critic speaks, yes this applies to all who would be called children of God. As Zechariah prophesied before the birth of our incarnate Lord:

“That we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” (Luke 1.75).

What changed…

Therefore what is “new” about the New Covenant is not a “new” standard of living, but the means by which it is ratified and applied:

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once and for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb 9.11-14).

What the living sacrifice of Jesus offered to creation was a perfect redemption. In the past copies of heavenly things (the tabernacle, the mercy seat, the holy places, etc.) were ratified with a temporal offering, but since the crucifixion of Jesus the shadows have passed away:

“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb 9.24-28).

Christ came to bear His people’s sins (cf. Matt 1.21), that is what the writer of Hebrews is pointing out. In defining the New Covenant, we find that a better sacrifice has been offered, a better high priest has been given to intercede on behalf of those who are rightly called children of the Most High. He was able to do this as our representative for at least two reasons: 1) He came from God being the living Word that put on flesh (cf. John 1.1-18)3; 2) He lived a perfectly holy life.

On living…

This brings us full circle to the questions posed at the beginning of this post. If we are saved from our sins. If we have our identity seated in the God-Man Jesus the Christ. How should we live? How should we govern our lives? How should our families be governed? How should our churches be governed? How should our society be governed?

Are we saved from our sin, from our “dead works” (Heb 9.14) to live by some other standard or by His standard? The apostle Paul points out that before Christ redeemed us we were “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Eph 2.1). But after our redemption we have become God’s “…workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2.10).

Well, what are those “good” works? Is not the goodness of God shown in His holiness? And is it not accurate to say that God’s holiness is a light that shines through the darkness with blinding authority? And to where must we turn to find such holiness, such righteousness, such a light that is able to cut through the darkness of sin that plagues creation, but is now being overcome? Is it not God’s Law-Word?

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psa 119.105).

Therefore should we not walk as our Savior walked in this life4; a man who was guided by every intention of God’s heart, careful to do all that He commanded (cf. John 5.19; 10.32; 12.49)?

“I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules” (Psa 119.106).

Preparing to deal with the specifics…

At this point in the dialogue, I imagine that most professing believer’s would acknowledge a great deal of what I’ve said with an “Amen.” But, I have only spoken in a general way. It is easy to get people to agree with you when you speak in generalities, if you leave the specifics or the particulars unspoken. This has been true since the beginning. For if we speak in generalities, then freedom is left to the creature to fill in the specifics or particulars as he/she sees fit. Moses was likeable (Exod 4.29-31) until he declared what must be done (Exod 5.20-21). Many enjoyed the company of Jesus until he got down to the specifics (John 6). Christians of every stripe and color today will agree with many general ideas, concepts or themes of a biblical nature. But the ire of the people grows when you start laying out the black and white areas of life.

No, I’m not speaking about woke, cancel culture of modern day America; although, the content of that subject could be applied here. What I’m referring to is that dirty word called theonomy. When next we meet the specifics and particulars of how we are to live as God’s people, and where it all really applies will be discussed. All I wanted to do in this post was to get you, the reader, thinking about what it means when we say “new” covenant. And, by what standard we are commanded to live by in this day an age. As I said, next time we will begin to look a little closer at the specifics of how we should live. In so doing, we will be starting to shine a light on why theonomy is such a dirty word in many Christian circles.

ENDNOTES:

1All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).

2Def. 5, Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary & Thesaurus, 2008, desktop edition.

3That Jesus was no mere creature is evident in these 18 verses alone. In the opening of John’s gospel we find that Jesus is identified as God, being present with God in the beginning (vv. 1-2). This means that He was with God the Father as a separate person, but He shared the quality/essence of Godhood. He is revealed as the Creator distinct from the creature (v. 3). He is identified as the author of life and the source of light that overpowers all dark forces (v. 4). He is the source and hope of mankind’s salvation (vv. 9-13). He put on flesh to represent us and to reveal the unseen Father who is in heaven through grace and truth (vv. 14-18). Thus, He alone is worthy to be called “My Lord, my God” (John 20.28).

4“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1John 1.6-7).

“By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1John 2.6; italics added).

Posted in Biblical Questions

Questions about True Victims and the Immaturity of a People to Recognize the Difference

“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.'”

Gen 2:16-17; ESV

When I served as youth leader I was often asked questions about the beginning. This makes sense since such questions pertain to much of the substance and meaning of life: Why am I here? What purpose do I have for living? Am I an accident that slowly came out of a primordial soup, like biological evolutionist’s teaching in school? Am I just an animal, then? What happens when we die, is that it or is there something else?

Another question that was sometimes hurled at me was this: “Why were Adam and Eve told that they would die if they ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?”

A related question that followed was, “Why do I suffer the consequence (sinful nature) of their sin?”

Good questions. These are the sorts of things that kids should be asking mom’s and dad’s everywhere. And, they should be the sort of questions that mom’s and dad’s ought to jump at answering. I know, I know not many parents teach their kids these things nowadays. Not many parents read to their children or teach their kids to pray, thanking God for the many blessings we receive each day throughout out lives.

What I would like to do today is offer a short answer to the underlying problem of the question proposed by children (and adults) regarding the eating of the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden, in the beginning.

“I thought you said it was a ‘good question,’ ‘the [sort] of things that kids should be asking…? So then, how can you say that there is an underlying problem with the question?” you ask. Very good. I’m glad that you were paying attention. Here’s the problem.

Who are the supposed victims when the question is being asked? God or mankind? When the punishment/consequence of the eating of the forbidden fruit is challenged it is on the grounds that “dying” is far too harsh. “All they did was eat a piece of fruit!”

Were they warned ahead of time of the punishment/consequence to follow if they did so? Yes, they were. “But dying! But passing on that death sentence to their children after them (an inherited sin nature)! That seems too radical!”

It does, why? You see, the supposition is that mankind (male and female; Adam and Eve) are the real victims here. But, they are the one’s who committed a transgression against a known law. If they are punished for violating the law, then why assume that they are victims? Bear in mind that this mentality has deeply seated itself into the very fabric of our society. The idea that a just punishment for a crime is too harsh, too inhumane is to make a victim out of the perpetrator.

I have heard this argument used time and time again in defense of those who break the law. We see those that show little regard for righteousness as somehow the victims of the system of law. This reveals, to me, the immaturity of our society at large. Our society thinks more like a child, than an adult.

Just in case you didn’t know the real victim in the garden when Adam and Eve decided to eat the forbidden fruit, was not the man and woman who were held accountable for their crimes against their Maker. The true victim was God their Creator. He gave them life. He gave them all that He had created. All He required is that they respect and love Him in honoring His Word. They refused. They spit in His face. They chose to rebel against Him and attempted to strike their Father in the face. The true victim in that act of eating the forbidden fruit was the Holy God whose word was violated, not the man and woman who treated Him so lightly.

The punishment was, therefore, just. Justice served from a righteous King. It really is too bad that so many in our world today fail to recognize true justice, true victims, true violations of the law, but can we expect anything less from a people who have been indoctrinated with lies. A nation who does not know its left hand from its right? Sadly, I think not.

Posted in Biblical Questions

Does the Bible Teach Personal Responsibility?

Does the Bible teach personal responsibility? Weeks ago I was challenged by a reader that seemed to suggest all of my talk about the biblical teaching of personal responsibility was baseless. He stated, “You talk a lot about personal responsibility. Does Christ ever talk about personal responsibility?”

On the surface the claim has an air of truth to it. If you searched in your Bible’s you will not find the phrase “personal responsibility,” or even a similar phrase like “self-governance.” Of course, there are other phrases, terms, concepts or ideas that you won’t find in your Bible’s expressed in the language of today. Here are a few examples: trinity, theonomy, dominion mandate (i.e., cultural mandate), reconstruction, reformation, dinosaur, etc. Jesus didn’t mention any of those by name. Does that mean they are not taught in the Bible?

Who said…

For some, you may be wondering, why I am equating “Did Jesus say?” with “Does the Bible teach?” I will grant the two do not necessarily coincide. But based on the conversation we had together my reader’s chief concern was that I was leaning heavily on tradition and not on biblical precepts. This in spite of the fact that we both were citing various texts to support our position.

There are those that will see the Christian faith in light of the “red letter” editions of the Bible. In other words, “If Jesus didn’t specifically state it, then it doesn’t apply.” Some who want to promote a homosexual lifestyle or the redefining of marriage will often use such arguments. In order to affirm what they believe is the essence of the Christian faith, they will say “Jesus didn’t specifically address it, and so it is not a real issue.”

There are a lot of things that Jesus didn’t do (he didn’t own a house, run a business, or get married), and there are a lot of things that Jesus did not specifically address (homosexuality, bestiality, incest, abortion, etc.), but that does not mean that He disproved of the former and approved of the latter. But those sort of things are spoken of directly or indirectly in the rest of Scripture.

I should note that I am not accusing the individual who raised the issue with me is saying that “only if Jesus says it, then I will believe it.” I do not know his position on any of those specific issues, but I am using his challenge as a stepping stone of sorts to address the area of concern he did raise in regards to personal responsibility as a biblical teaching coming from our Lord.

The Covenantal Lord…

Christ Jesus is Lord of both covenants; what are often referred to as Old and New. He is the fulfillment of what the Old pointed to, being the perfecter of the New (cf. Heb 8.8-13; 9.11-15). Jesus is the epitome of grace and truth and righteousness, being the exact imprint of the Holy image of the invisible God, in whom the fullness therein dwells (see John 1.1-18; Heb 1.1-3; Col 1.15-19). And it was the Law-Word of God that Jesus confirmed, upheld, and obeyed on all points (Matt 5.17-19), of which all person’s of faith in Him are likewise called to do (Rom 3.21-33). Meaning what? That what was taught in the Old Testament, regardless of whether or not Jesus specifically mentioned it, still holds.1

Answering the Objection…

Now I will answer the question (objection?) raised: Does the Bible teach personal responsibility? The giving of the Law presupposes the answer to be, without doubt, “Yes.” To give a law and say this is right and that is wrong, is to say you are personally responsible for doing what is right and abstaining from what is wrong. To show disregard for this truth and to act like our first-parents did in the garden is to invite the wrath of God. A reality disclosed by the apostle Paul in Romans 1:18,

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”2

ESV; emphasis added

Notice that though Paul begins with a general reference against all people, he then makes it very specific in identifying it was “by their unrighteousness” and no one else that God’s fearful judgment is weighed in the balance over them.

Not for his sin, but my own…

Here is a lesson that our generation would do well to learn. I am speaking specifically to those in the WOKE movement, adherents of the various “Critical theories” being perpetrated by a misinformed, misguided populace that profess themselves wise, but are anything but.

“Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.”

Deut 24:16; NASB

We are all personally responsible for our own sin. What my father did, or what my ancestors might have done, is by no means any fault of my own. In the same vein, I am not responsible for what my children do. We are all each personally responsible for how we govern our lives. If I steal or murder or bear false witness or covet or commit adultery against my neighbor, then I, and I alone, am responsible before God. If I fail to worship God alone, or fashion an idol in my heart, or blaspheme my Holy Creator, or refuse to honor my parents as a rightful authority over me, then I, and I alone, am responsible for my sin before God. No one else. I am to receive the just punishment coming, not my children. But, if it is my children who behave in such a way, then the just consequences of their sin will be weighed against them.

In short, I am guilty for my sins against God (primarily) and neighbor (secondarily) and no on else. Or, you are guilty, and no one else. This truth is repeated by the prophets of God at various places (e.g., Jer 31.29-30; Ezek 18.20). The weight of this Law alone clearly demonstrates that we are all personally responsible for how we govern our lives. We bear the guilt of no one else, but our own.

All this foolish talk nowadays about me being guilty because I suffer from “white privilege” or that I should have to pay reparations for the sin of man-stealing (forced slavery, chattel slavery) is a load of hogwash. I did not own slaves. I did not participate in segregation. I am not an ethnic bigot (i.e., racist). I am not guilty for those sins of the past, because I did not commit them. And neither are you guilty for the sins of others.

Some are often confused on this point in Arminian circles regarding Calvinist (Reformed) theology. We are not guilty before God because we bear the guilt of Adam’s sin. We are all guilty because we have all denied God our Maker and sinned against Him. What we receive from Adam is a consequence of his sin, a nature that has suffered loss. A nature, a will, that has been enslaved to sin. But our guilt is not from him, our guilt is from our own reprobate hearts.

And Yes, Jesus did say…

Remember that this whole question was raised because a reader challenged my presupposition that the Bible teaches personal responsibility, and a consequence for failing to govern oneself in light of God’s Word. In essence, the question (which is a good one, I shall not deny it) is did Jesus ever say such a thing? Yes, I believe that Jesus did say this, and He did it on more than one occasion. But since I only need one citation to refute the objection, I will close with one from our Lord.

In John 5, Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath at the pool of Bethesda, “…who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years” (John 5.5). After asking if the man would like to be healed, the man confessed that he did but his own efforts for a remedy were to no avail. “Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk” (John 5.6). A little while later, Jesus sees the same man, and he offers the following advice:

“See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”

John 5:14

Here we may draw an apt inference from this statement. Jesus is pointing out that the man is personally responsible for his own welfare. He is given sound advice on how to avoid something worse end up happening to him (i.e., negative consequence for failing to self-govern). “Sin no more….”

Our sin, for which we all bear personal responsibility, will be judged. In terms of salvation, there is hope, for Christ has paid the sinners debt (ultimate consequence), for all of those who place their trust (faith) in Him alone. His work covers a multitude of sins and sinners. Others, who refuse, will have to face the ultimate consequence for their sin, when they stand before His holiness. While this is true, be careful that you do not draw the erroneous conclusion that your sins—even if they are forgiven in Christ—will bear no negative consequences in this life. Although Christ’s work of redemption does offer forgiveness ultimately in an eternal sense, there is still a temporal sense where we suffer righteous judgments against our sin in this life. I could give you some examples, but if you think hard enough, I’m sure you can come to the answer of how this is the case on your own.

ENDNOTES:

1For the reader, I will add this little note for clarification. Jesus is the marker to which the entire Mosaic system pointed to. Some theologians will speak of the variances found within the Law of God (ceremonial, moral and judicial/penal distinctions). Christ upheld the moral aspects of the Law in His life never sinning. Christ will deliver final judgment in light of the judicial/penal sanctions required by the Law in the end. Christ has become the perfection of which the shadowy ceremonial laws pointed to in His death and resurrection.

Thus, all aspects of the law still hold in the Christian faith. We are required by God to uphold the Decalogue’s requirements, summarized in Loving God and loving neighbor. We receive forgiveness, mercy and newness of life in the true sacrificial Lamb of God, who is our true circumcision by the Spirit’s power putting to death the old man and walking in the new via God’s effective grace. And the penalties associated with the Law in light of covenant keepers and covenant breakers, still hold. These laws, which form our moral basis for living godly (i.e., good) lives have positive and negative sanctions to be applied in this life by God’s ministers in the civil government, and in the life to come at the great white judgment. In this way, all the law is to be upheld.

2The Scripture references shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV), unless otherwise noted.