Contrary to my notions about sin always needing to be rebuked, here Jesus calls on his followers to search their own hearts and minds—to assess their lives and identify sin. They might have done something that led to a brother or sister holding something “against them” (Matthew 5:23). They may very well have sinned against someone else but no rebuke was issued. Just as in Matthew 18 Jesus calls for us to rebuke sin with the aim of repentance, in Matthew 5 he commands us to confess our sins to one another—to seek reconciliation (Matthew 5:24).
There are many reasons Christians don’t rebuke one another. But perhaps the one that runs deepest is that we just want people to like us. We fear coming across as self righteous, imagining that by calling out sin we will be alienated from other Christians. This is not an unreasonable fear. For even among Christians it is not difficult to be labelled judgmental and scorned for interfering in other people’s personal affairs. However, when sin is apparent, that is precisely what Jesus calls us to do: if someone sins against you, go and tell them. Naturally this must be tempered, as Christians navigate between rebuking sin and becoming judgmental or hypocritical. That being said, Jesus’ directive for us to rebuke sin stands.
For many years I treated Matthew 18:15-20 as if it was the only thing Jesus said about dealing with sin—both our own and others’. My operating assumption was that the sin-rebuke dynamic ran in one direction: if someone is sinned against then they must rebuke the offender. This led me to making remarks such as: ‘If Tim has an issue then he should bring it to me,’ and, ‘If Jeffrey thinks I’ve sinned then he must say so.’
Admittedly, it is wonderfully convenient to live like this, for at least two reasons. We’ve already touched on the first: most Christians are afraid to rebuke sin. Thus as long as I’m waiting on other Christians to identify and call out my sin, rebukes and any related repentance will be rare. Secondly, it doesn’t require me to evaluate my own actions or words, for this is the responsibility of others rather than my own. Furthermore, I can easily dismiss my conscience and make light of sin, since most Christians battle to rebuke one another.
“Confess Your Sins to One Another”
But this operating assumption was recently dashed as I read through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, especially Jesus’ teaching on reconciliation. Jesus says, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go” (Matthew 5:23-24).
You Might also like
By Ronald William Di Giacomo — 2 weeks ago
Jesus promised to build his church and told his apostles that those who received them were receiving Him. (Matt. 10:40; Matt. 16:18) The implication is that the building project of the Lord was to be founded upon the message of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus being the chief cornerstone. (Eph. 2:20) Consequently, the words of the apostles and Christ (whether penned by them or not) had to be preserved and received without error because Jesus promised to build his church upon them, which is now a matter of history given the passing of the apostles and the historical establishment of the New Testament church.
Discussions over the canon have often pertained to surveying patristic evidence for the process and completion of canonization. These traditional pursuits have been aimed at answering important historical questions more than thorny epistemological ones. Yet in Reformed circles there seems to be a renewed interest in the theology of the canon and a deeper appreciation for the premise that answering when and how the canon process was completed is insufficient to establish whether the church most likely got it right. Accordingly, a fresh cumulative approach to canon studies is advancing in an effort to justify our belief that we have the canon. With this approach comes the acknowledgement that any criteria for identifying canonical books that is not grounded in Scripture betrays Scripture’s authority and proper place of canonical influence.
The more recent epistemologically self-conscious approach identifies specific complementary attributes that books of the Bible must contain as prescribed by Scripture itself. (It also wards off erroneous charges of circular reasoning by establishing certain unique features of epistemic commitment.)
If the church has received the canon, then obviously she was exposed to the books that would comprise the canon. (The former presupposes the latter.) Furthermore, if the church has received the canon flawlessly, we would expect that she universally and over time responded favorably to marks of divinity that would have come by way of Scripture’s inspired and authoritative authors. Does this mean, however, that our confidence in the sixty-six books of the Bible (and none other) rests upon (a) the historic church’s fallible discernment of the divine qualities of scripture and (b) its historical evaluation of apostolicity that would have resulted in corporate reception?
Although I believe Scripture affords us even greater assurance – assurance that affords us access to the ultimate justification for our belief that we have the canon – the current trend robustly affirms and happily complies with the Reformed tenet that “our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts”. (WCF 1.5) In other words, the Confession is not addressing how we can know that the church received the canon but instead is teaching us how we know we are reading God’s word when we read the Bible.
A Distinction Is in Order
Apprehending the divine qualities of Scripture is to hear the voice of God therein. The Holy Spirit’s witness entails our being struck by the profundity of doctrine and experiencing the wisdom and blessedness of its teaching and practical application. Although we are sometimes unjustified in our discernments, knowledge can obtain when we are not. (Internalist-infallibilism leads to epistemological skepticism.) Notwithstanding, assurance through the consensus of the church and confidence in the historical assessment of authoritative origins of canonical books is not on par with hearing God’s voice in Scripture. That is to say, complementary attributes of canonicity aren’t necessarily equivalent attributes. For instance, all believers, to one degree or another, receive testimony of the Holy Spirit in accordance with the teaching of Scripture; yet perhaps most who hear the voice of God in Scripture do so without (ever) considering the corroborating evidence of corporate reception and prophetic origins. Moreover, it is difficult to understand how (a) fallible corporate consensus and (b) historical evidence for authoritative origins can persuade in the same way or on the same order of the direct testimony of the Holy Spirit that accompanies the infallible word of God (or even non-discursive properly basic beliefs that are immediately obtained through sensory experience).
At the very least, fallible corporate consensus about apostolicity culminating in the catholic reception of canonical books would be a byproduct of the church having already discerned the divine qualities of Scripture by the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit. (Another case of the former presupposing the latter.) In the former case the Holy Spirit’s internal witness would work in conjunction with his inspired Word that is spiritually discerned and applied by the church. Whereas in the latter case persuasion would be corroborative in nature, according to legitimate beliefs in reasons for believing the church has corporately heard the voice of her Shepherd. And although reasoned belief in authoritative origins would certainly pave the way to attentive consideration of a message from a perceived authoritative source, certain Jews were more “fair-minded” than those in Thessalonica because they did not rely upon apostolic credentials but on the analogy of faith (comparing Scripture with Scripture). Even the Thessalonians received the Word not because of its human source, but as the word of God through the full persuasive power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 1:5)
Divine inspiration is both sufficient and necessary for ancient writings to be authoritative. Consequently, the church’s reception of the canonical books is not a condition for their intrinsic authority otherwise canonical books would not have been sacred Scripture until they were recognized and received as such. However, in a technical and qualified sense, after the universal church’s reception of the canon, the received canon does become sufficient for inspiration and ecclesiastical authority.
By Keith A. Mathison — 1 year ago
Written by Keith A. Mathison |
Wednesday, July 20, 2022
We should be extremely grateful for the overturning of Roe v Wade. It is a true milestone that many did not believe they would ever see in their lifetime. But the fight isn’t over. Unborn children will continue to be killed in those states which continue to treat the unborn as less than human. We should prepare for the work that remains if we are to protect the lives of all unborn children in these United States.
On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a landmark decision in the case of Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization and overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. It also overturned the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision. In Dobbs v Jackson, the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution “does not confer a right to abortion. Roe and Casey must be overruled, and the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives” (Dobbs v Jackson, p. 69; cf. pp. 78–79). In short, the legality of abortion is now in the hands of each of the fifty states.
For those who oppose abortion, this represents progress for which we should be thankful. Prior to the Dobbs decision, individual states could not legally protect the lives of unborn human beings in any meaningful way. When attempts to do so were made, those laws were inevitably found to be in conflict with Roe or Casey or both and struck down. Now, after the Dobbs decision, such laws are possible. The immediate task now of those who oppose abortion is to work to enact state laws that protect the lives of unborn children.
The fact that Dobbs has made this a real possibility is good news, but it must be understood that it is not unqualified good news. Just as it is now possible for states to enact laws that protect the lives of unborn human beings, it also remains possible for states to allow unrestricted abortion on demand. Some states will move in one direction, while others will move in the opposite direction. In other words, the fight isn’t over yet. The United States still has a long way to go before the lives of the unborn are protected in every state.
The fight will not be won until and unless the status of the fetus is legally and permanently resolved at a national level. In the Dobbs decision, the Supreme Court explicitly refused to address that question. The decision states: “The contending sides also make conflicting arguments about the status of the fetus. This Court has neither the authority nor the expertise to adjudicate those disputes . . .” (p. 65). In other words, the legal status of the fetus is in the hands of individual state legislatures. Some of these state legislatures will determine that the fetus is a human person deserving of the same rights as any other human person. Other state legislatures will determine that the fetus is not a human person and not deserving of legal protection.
In one sense, the United States is in a position similar to the position it was in prior to the Civil War with regard to the status of people of African descent. Before the Civil War, some states passed laws acknowledging the fact that people of African descent were just that – people, human persons deserving of the same rights as every other human person. Other states determined that they were property and denied them the rights of human persons. This issue was not resolved until the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution were adopted between 1865 and 1870. These amendments abolished slavery and mandated the same protection under the law for people of African descent as for any other human person. Obviously, the change in the Constitution did not automatically cause a corresponding change in the hearts of those who believed people of African descent were less than fully human, but it was step in the right direction.
Something along these lines is what is now required in the United States if we are to take another step in the right direction with regard to the abortion question. The current Supreme Court does not believe it possesses “the authority either to declare a constitutional right to abortion or to declare a constitutional prohibition of abortion” (See Dobbs v. Jackson, J. Kavanaugh, Concurring, p. 5). It appears that the majority of this Court believes the Constitution as it stands is silent on the status of the fetus.
I’m not convinced that this is the case. I believe that an argument can be made that something about the status of the fetus can be inferred from the wording of the 14th amendment. Section 1 of the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution reads:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
The first thing that must be observed is that this amendment was originally written in the context of Reconstruction immediately after the Civil War. It is explicitly addressing the status of former slaves. This does not mean, however, that it cannot be applied to other related issues, such as the status of the fetus. In the first place, the Supreme Court has long acknowledged that the words of the constitution may extend beyond the matter they were originally intended to address. Second, the very use of the word “born” in the first sentence of the amendment invites such an application. When carefully considered, it can be seen that the words of the 14th amendment implicitly protect the lives of unborn children.
The first sentence begins “All persons born or naturalized in the United States . . .” These persons are then said to be citizens of the United States and citizens of the state in which they reside. In other words, those who are born or naturalized in this country are citizens of this country. At this point, then, we have a reference to “persons” and to “citizens.” The amendment goes on to say that no state “shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” This refers to those who have been born or naturalized in this country and have therefore become citizens. The amendment then continues, “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The category of person is a broader category than that of citizen. It certainly includes people in this country who have not yet been naturalized and who are not yet citizens. In other words, a non-citizen is still a person who is owed protection under the law. The important question is whether the unborn are also persons who are owed protection under the law.
By Josh Buice — 1 year ago
As parents, we are called to engage, instruct, and disciple our children for the glory of God. As we continue to watch the darkness spread across our land, we must be gaining resources, tools, and ultimately taking responsibility to educate our children through a proper biblical worldview.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere over the last couple of years, you’ve witnessed a drastic increase in the LGBTQA+ agenda in our nation. This agenda is well funded and far more organized than you might want to believe. While the stories of transgender athletes dominating women’s sports is concerning, you must know that this agenda transcends beyond swimming and track & field competitions. It involves a well organized political indoctrination campaign. In short, it’s called—discipleship.
A number of Disney employees are protesting what’s been called Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. The employees are protesting as Gov. Ron DeSantis plans to sign the “Parental Rights in Education” bill into law in the state of Florida. This controversy has sparked much attention. What’s the issue? The bill will restrict K-3 grade students from being instructed or influenced by gender identity curriculum in the classroom. Once again, it points to the obvious reality that the LGBTQA+ agenda is using the classroom to make disciples, and this decision doesn’t fit within their deconstructive framework.
The public school system and university campus have become ground zero for LGBTQA+ grooming. It’s called discipleship. Parents, if you don’t make disciples in your home with a biblical worldview, the enemy will gladly provide a worldly substitute. Such substitutes are offered by friendly and often very knowledgeable teachers and professors who engage in grooming activities to lead struggling children or teens into embracing a LGBTQA+ lifestyle.
The grooming starts early with children. For instance, one controversial activity that has become popular in many cities across our nation is “Drag Queen Reading Day.” This is an event sponsored by local libraries where transgender men who are obviously pretending to be women are given a public platform and access to children in a way that seems fun and interactive for children, but it’s extremely powerful.
Children will respond to the drag queen like you might expect them respond to a fun character at Disney World. They enjoy the costume and the fun stories. However, the transgender man is dressed up in a glitter covered costume with loads of makeup and eyelash extensions as an ambassador to deliver a message. The message is about gender fluidity. The goal is to make disciples and allies in local communities in order to normalize transgender and homosexual behavior in the eyes of little children and their parents. Remember the word of the year for 2021 for Dictionary.com? It was allyship.
Prior to their first day of kindergarten, little children are attending these powerful experiences in local libraries and this prepares their mind and heart to receive the more extensive grooming instruction as they enter the local school system.
The Wave of LGBTQA+ Studies
There has been a steady agenda to impact students through curricula within the local school system and university campus for decades. Back in 2008, a lesbian student at a high school in Vallejo, California filed a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) accusing the school district of discrimination. The settlement involved the introduction of films that were assigned to students as a homework assignment that depicted homosexual families. This assignment was issued as early as elementary school.
The agenda has picked up speed in recent years. An article published by Time Magazine back in 2014 was titled, “It’s Time to Write LGBT History into the Textbooks.” The social justice agenda has dramatically intensified the homosexual agenda in the sphere of education. For instance, back in 2016, California became the first state to add the LGBTQA+ agenda into the public school curriculum. After the new law passed and the new framework was adopted into the school system, it was highly praised by the California Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson who called it “a big win.” He stated the following: