Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, June 12, 2022
Today is Shavuot. Christians call it Pentecost. We have completed our counting of the Omer. On the Hebrew calendar, this is the first day following seven complete weeks since the crossing of the Red Sea on the 3rd day of Passover. Rabbinic tradition holds that this was the day on which Moses received the Torah on Mount Sinai. The New Testament records in Acts the second chapter, that this is the day on which the Holy Spirit fell with power.
So, this is a day of gifting. First, the gift of the Torah, then the gift of the Spirit. In between, we count our blessings. Our Shomair community will gather for a celebration at 10:30am today together with our brothers and sisters from Grace and Glory Fellowship. There will be a picnic at Holston Park (near the synagogue) following the service. Hot dogs, hamburgers and drinks will be provided along with condiments, but please bring a side, salad, or dessert to share (emphasis on dessert). Hope to see you there.
Does God Forgive All Sins? (Two Exceptions?) Part 2
By Dr. Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: In last Sunday’s RR, I discussed a reassuring verse found in 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, He [God] is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. I asked whether there could be any exceptions to this promise. I do not wish to appear to question the Apostle John, but today I discuss two possible exceptions for your consideration. You decide.
EXCEPTION 1… THE UNPARDONABLE SIN: One sin is unpardonable, or unforgivable (Matthew 12:31-32): [Yeshua said] “For this reason I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Ruach will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Ruach ha-Kodesh will not be forgiven, neither in this age nor in the one to come.”
Generations of Believers have asked: What is the unpardonable sin? Could I have unknowingly committed the unpardonable sin? What exactly is blasphemy against the Ruach ha-Kodesh?
In American jurisprudence, thousands of words are carefully chosen and published to define what constitutes breaking a law. This sin (blasphemy against the Ruach), which is of paramount importance not to commit, does not seem well-defined. I will present my understanding, but I may be wrong. I am trying to learn God’s Word, as you probably are trying, and erroneous conclusions occur in all learning efforts.
Earlier in this chapter (Matthew, chapter 12), Yeshua encountered a blind and mute man, who was demon-possessed. In the first-century Middle East, such a person was a great burden to himself, his family, and society. He was feared because of his maladies (and because people saw him as possessing a demon). Yeshua healed the man, though, and the man saw and spoke. What a miracle! What a blessing to this man and his family! Should not everyone, including the Pharisees, rejoice?
No… not everyone was impressed. The Pharisees sneered at Yeshua, attributing the healing not to God but to Beelzebub, the Ruler of Demons (Matthew 12:24). The Pharisees’ hearts were so hardened and they had such hatred for Yeshua, that they could not see what had just happened before their eyes! In other words, the Pharisees attributed healing from God to works of Beelzebub (Baal, later Satan). Only someone who had extreme hardness toward and rejection of God could make such a mistake.
B’rit Chadashah professor D. A. Carson wrote that the Pharisees’ blasphemy of the Ruach ha-Kodesh is the rejection of the “truth in full awareness that that is exactly what one is doing– thoughtfully, willfully, and self-consciously rejecting the work of the Ruach, even though there can be no other explanation of Yeshua’s exorcisms than that. For such a sin there is no forgiveness.”
Yeshua continued to explain that this unpardonable sin was not a slip of the tongue, but was a culmination of a lifetime of hardness of the heart against God (Matthew 12:33-37): [Yeshua said] “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree rotten and its fruit rotten; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you who are evil say anything good? For from the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man from his good treasury brings forth good, and the evil man from his evil treasury brings forth evil. But I tell you that on the Day of Judgment, men will give account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
The above-cited blasphemy is, I believe, the preponderant view of Bible students. I also wonder if rejection of the Ruach’s call to accept Yeshua as Savior and Adonai as God– that is, rejection of salvation offered by God’s grace and Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice– might also be the unpardonable sin. By refusing to listen to the Ruach’s gentle urging to accept Yeshua as Savior, a person has blasphemed the Ruach’s work and will not be pardoned at Judgment, suffering the Second Death (death of the soul in the Lake of Fire).
In the seven letters to Messiah’s worship communities (Revelation, chapters 2 and 3), Yeshua made it abundantly clear that only “overcomers” will be admitted to Heaven. What must be “overcome” was not specified, but I believe it is sin that must be overcome by God’s grace and Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice.
EXCEPTION 2… ASKING GOD’S FORGIVENESS, WHEN OTHERS HAVE NOT FIRST BEEN FORGIVEN: Yeshua taught His disciples how to pray in what has become His Model Prayer (commonly called the Lord’s Prayer). This prayer is recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. Of the three synoptic gospels, Mark does not record this prayer. Versions are slightly different in Matthew and Luke. I will discuss only the portions related to sin.
In Matthew 6:12, we read: [Yeshua prayed] “And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” “Debt” translates the Greek ὀφείλημα (transliterated, opheilēma || pronounced, of-AY-lay-mah), and implies something owed, especially because of a moral fault (hence, a metaphor for sin).
In Luke 11:4a, we read: [Yeshua prayed] “And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone indebted to us….” “Sins” translates the Greek ἁμαρτία (transliterated, hamartia || pronounced, hahm-ar-TEE-ah), and implies a sin or offense.
NOTE 1: Translations of this prayer may offer three words for which we need to ask forgiveness– sins, trespasses, debts. These differences in words may result from influence of translators. Translators’ tasks in translating the ancient texts of the Bible are daunting. Translators must often choose from multiple synonyms for each translated word. The result, in my opinion, is that there is no “perfect” translation– whether the versions are King James (KJV), Tree of Life (TLV), New King James (NKJV), and many other translations. All versions can be criticized. Some say the New Living Translation (NLT) is the easiest version to understand; and, the most accurate word-for-word translation is the New American Standard Bible (NASB). Since Shakespeare and KJV translators were contemporaries, most of us probably find the KJV to be the most beautiful, poetic translation.
Although we may quibble over translation differences, there is value in reading any version. Just be inquisitive. The Bible is a study document, not a “quick read.” Take time to seek God’s meaning for your life, which requires study, thought, and reflection. Study from the original text as much as possible. Compare different translations, if one translation seems a little “off” to you. The Ruach ha-Kodesh may instruct you in God’s meaning for your life, even if translators fail to communicate clearly to you.
Is there difference in being instructed to forgive sins, trespasses, or debts? No, not really. Whether sin or a metaphor for sin, Yeshua’s implications for us and Adonai’s expectations for us are the same– forgive any and all differences that exist between a Believer and his/her neighbor and seek forgiveness from God for violating His Word. These differences may erect a barrier between a Believer and his/ her neighbor, and between a Believer and God, and they may pull a Believer away from God’s purpose (“mark”) for his/ her life.
NOTE 2: Yeshua communicated conditions for forgiveness.
● In Matthew, He said to ask forgiveness “as we have already forgiven” those who have sinned against us. Note the sequence– forgive others first, then ask God for forgiveness.
● In Luke, He said “for we also forgive everyone indebted to us.” Note the inclusiveness– forgive all who have sinned against a person. We all need to forgive one another and we all need God’s forgiveness.
The language in the Lord’s Prayer is Yeshua reiterating the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12): [Yeshua said] “So in all things, do to others what you would want them to do to you– for this is the Torah and the Prophets.” It seems to be implied that God will forgive only if and in proportion to the forgiveness afforded to others.
This point is so meaningful that Yeshua explained only one part of His prayer. This explanation immediately follows the prayer (Matthew 6:14-15): [Yeshua explained] “For if you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.” Could “forgive others and, then, ask God’s forgiveness” be any clearer?
Yeshua’s explanation seems straightforward to me. If a Believer asks God for forgiveness and first forgives those who have sinned against him/ her, God is, then, “faithful and righteous to forgive sins and purify from all unrighteousness.” But, if a Believer asks for forgiveness and does not forgive a person or persons who have sinned against him/ her, I believe Yeshua is telling us that God will not forgive the sin.
Refusal to forgive others may jeopardize a person’s soul in the next life (sin will not be forgiven), but refusal to forgive sin may lead to a bitter, spiteful, horrid person in this life.
This principle of forgiving others before expecting forgiveness from God is an extension of the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12): [Yeshua said] “So in all things, do to others what you would want them to do to you– for this is the Torah and the Prophets.” (See also Luke 6:31.) Do not expect more for yourself from God than you are willing to give to others.
Yeshua was very mindful about how we treat our brothers and sisters, always seeking to restore proper relationships (Matthew 18:15-17): [Yeshua said] “Now if your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault while you’re with him alone. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen, take with you one or two more, so that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand.’ But if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to Messiah’s community. And if he refuses to listen even to Messiah’s community, let him be to you as a pagan and a tax collector.”
Yeshua also told us to not be quick to judge others, while failing to first judge ourselves and correct faults (Matthew 7:1-5): [Yeshua said] “Stop judging, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the beam in your own eye? Or how will you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, the beam is in your own eye? Hypocrite, first take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Do we make becoming a Believer too easy? A person just says, “Yeshua come into my heart, and forgive me, God,” shazam that person is a lifelong Believer. Yeshua indicated that more may be involved (Matthew 7:13-14): [Yeshua said] “Enter [Heaven] through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction [Hell], and those who enter through it are many. How narrow is the gate and difficult the way that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Some difficult situations and questions may arise from Yeshua’s teaching about forgiving others before expecting God’s forgiveness:
● Is there a time limit to be observed in asking forgiveness from a brother or sister? I find no time limit in the Scriptures to seek forgiveness. Even if the offense occurred many years ago, seeking forgiveness is still pleasing to God.
● If asking forgiveness for a sin will cause great distress, should asking forgiveness be kept private in order not to hurt very deeply someone else? Consider an example: Suppose a husband had a brief sexual affair with a woman a few years ago. He was greatly saddened by this straying from his marital vows. He has remained totally faithful to his wife since this affair. If he tells his wife about the affair (confesses), it will likely destroy any trust and loving relationship between the two of them. A divorce will likely result, severing the marriage and tearing the children apart from their parents. You decide. Is it better for the husband to remain silent about the affair and preserve his marriage, or should he confess the affair and likely destroy his marriage?
● If someone sinned against a brother or sister and would like to make the situation right, but the aggrieved person is now dead, what should be done? How can someone apologize, make amends, or ask forgiveness of a dead person?
In Yeshua’s Drash on the Mountain, He addressed the question of righting wrongs with a brother or sister before Adonai will accept a person’s gift at the altar– and prayer is considered a gift to God (Matthew 5:23-24): [Yeshua said] “Therefore if you are presenting your offering upon the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.“
Remember that the two greatest commandments Yeshua gave us (Matthew 22:36-40) were: (1) love God; and (2) love your neighbor. In Yeshua’s teaching of the Lord’s Prayer, he reiterated these commandments: (1) first, love your neighbor by reconciling any differences between the two of you; and (2) then, love God by asking forgiveness of any sins that separate you from Him.
Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 12-Jun-2022 13th of Sivan, 5782
Nu 8:1-14 Jer 29 Job 37 (Mk 12:1-27) 1 Co 15:1-28