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May 15, 2020

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Nugget: Liberty or License; Sin or Semantics - Dealing with a Knotty Problem

August 9, 2019

In the last Nugget I dealt with the notion of “God’s Perspective of a Hero of Faith” and used the passage from Hebrews 11:32-39


I could go on and on, but I've run out of time. There are so many more--Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. . . . 

Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, 

fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. 

Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection.

Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. 

We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless-- 

the world didn't deserve them!--making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world. 

Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. 

(Hebrews 11:36-39)


Judging by the responses I had to that Nugget it hit the mark for numbers of you and helped you see things from God’s perspective. For that I am grateful to God for His insights. However, it got me thinking on another level and another related perspective of God’s Word. Let’s look at the thoughts from the last Nugget in the context of Abraham, the Father of Faith. Or put another way, Abraham - the epitome of faith. Let me give you the raw, naked Scripture to lay the issue before you in its seeming contradiction.



What shall we say, then, of Abraham, the father of our race? What was his experience?

If he was put right with God by the things he did, he would have something to boast about—but not in God's sight.

The scripture says, "Abraham believed God, and because of his faith God accepted him as righteous."

A person who works is paid wages, but they are not regarded as a gift; they are something that has been earned.

But those who depend on faith, not on deeds, and who believe in the God who declares the guilty to be innocent, it is this faith that God takes into account in order to put them right with himself.

This is what David meant when he spoke of the happiness of the person whom God accepts as righteous, apart from anything that person does:

"Happy are those whose wrongs are forgiven, whose sins are pardoned!

Happy is the person whose sins the Lord will not keep account of !"

Does this happiness that David spoke of belong only to those who are circumcised? No indeed! It belongs also to those who are not circumcised. For we have quoted the scripture, "Abraham believed God, and because of his faith God accepted him as righteous."

When did this take place? Was it before or after Abraham was circumcised? It was before, not after.

He was circumcised later, and his circumcision was a sign to show that because of his faith God had accepted him as righteous before he had been circumcised. And so Abraham is the spiritual father of all who believe in God and are accepted as righteous by him, even though they are not circumcised.

He is also the father of those who are circumcised, that is, of those who, in addition to being circumcised, also live the same life of faith that our father Abraham lived before he was circumcised.

When God promised Abraham and his descendants that the world would belong to him, he did so, not because Abraham obeyed the Law, but because he believed and was accepted as righteous by God.

For if what God promises is to be given to those who obey the Law, then faith means nothing and God's promise is worthless.

The Law brings down God's anger; but where there is no law, there is no disobeying of the law.

And so the promise was based on faith, in order that the promise should be guaranteed as God's free gift to all of Abraham's descendants—not just to those who obey the Law, but also to those who believe as Abraham did. For Abraham is the spiritual father of us all;

as the scripture says, "I have made you father of many nations." So the promise is good in the sight of God, in whom Abraham believed—the God who brings the dead to life and whose command brings into being what did not exist.

Abraham believed and hoped, even when there was no reason for hoping, and so became "the father of many nations." Just as the scripture says, "Your descendants will be as many as the stars."

He was then almost one hundred years old; but his faith did not weaken when he thought of his body, which was already practically dead, or of the fact that Sarah could not have children.

His faith did not leave him, and he did not doubt God's promise; his faith filled him with power, and he gave praise to God.

He was absolutely sure that God would be able to do what he had promised.

That is why Abraham, through faith, "was accepted as righteous by God."

The words "he was accepted as righteous" were not written for him alone.

They were written also for us who are to be accepted as righteous, who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from death.

Because of our sins he was given over to die, and he was raised to life in order to put us right with God. 

(Romans 4:1-25)



Well there you have what the Word of God states clearly in Romans. That is the basis of our faith in God who doesn't judge us by works but by our faith in Him. Simple, right? Well not really. Do you see the glaring problem?  Look carefully at the comments related to Abraham that I have made bold. Now match that with what you know of Abraham. Do you see the problem?


Note the elements in the text. Abraham kept hoping – believing // Abraham’s faith didn’t weaken // Abraham never waivered in believing God’s promise. // Abraham was fully convinced . . .


But Abe did waiver! We all know the story. He accepted Sarah’s offer of Hagar and had a child to her because they wondered when God was going to fulfil the promise. [Ever wondered what this world would be like if Abraham hadn’t done that?] Abraham tried to work out in the flesh what God had promised supernaturally. I would say that was waivering.  I would say that was weak faith. Did he keep hoping? Yes his faith grew stronger to the point where he could offer this son as a sacrifice. That is huge. Abraham’s faith was significant and an example to us all. Paul indeed tells us that this was recorded for our benefit; assuring us God will count us as righteous if we believe in Him. But are God and Paul telling the whole story or are they leaving some important things out of the story?


Every day of Abraham’s life he was reminded of his waivering. Isaac’s name means “he laughs”. Not “she laughs” but “he laughs”. Every time he called Isaac he was reminded that he laughed the laugh of ridicule at the notion of having a son by the promise. Oh yes Sarah laughed first but God held Abraham accountable for his laugh. What is amazing is when it is all summed up all that is forgotten and we are told that Abraham grew in faith and never waivered. 


Abraham’s faith is the reason he is considered the father of all who believe, not because he was circumcised. He received God’s righteousness when he knew nothing about Christ because of his willingness to trust God.  But how can he be considered a hero of faith; the epitome of faith when we all know the background? And we haven’t even considered the matters of how Abraham treated his wife Sarah, being willing to let his wife be taken off into Pharoah’s harem without so much as a whimper. What kind of man of faith is this?  Is Paul lying here when he states that Abraham was “unwaivering in his faith, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised”.  But Paul, we all know the story. Is this just a Bible cover up, sin covered by semantic plays on words. It reminds me of Bill Clinton’s related to his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Is that what we have here in the Bible? 


Let me now bring Israel Folau and his quote from Revelation into the picture. I have had conversations with various people over the last weeks discussing the seemingly dreadful commentsmade by Folau which hit the media. But hang on a moment they are not Israel Folau’s comments – they are taken straight from God’s Word. 


Revelation 21:8 


But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.” (ESV)


But for the cowardly and unbelieving, and those having become foul, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all the lying ones, their part will be in the Lake burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (LITV)


But for the rest—the feckless and faithless, degenerates and murderers, sex peddlers and sorcerers, idolaters and all liars—for them it's Lake Fire and Brimstone. Second death!" (MSG)


“But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.” (NLT)



Note in the list from Revelation 21:8 we have “liars” included. How is the situation with Abraham any different from “lying”? What is going on here?


And in these versions I have selected it doesn't even mention the word homosexual. If we put these two sections of Scripture together – Abraham from Romans 4 and the list of sins from Revelation 21 that will see you assigned to the fires of hell it seems there is a dichotomy between liberty or license and sin or semantics. How can God be just and yet deal with these ends of the spectrum fairly? 


Hang on to your hat or whatever you are holding. I intend to unpack this profound concept of Scripture over the next Nuggets.  But I thought I would lay the facts before you and let you puzzle over the Nugget much like I let you puzzle over the Gems for yourselves. I will look at this issue over the next Nuggets. I am also leaving for Brazil to teach Deeper Bible 401 and 501 levels intensively over the next couple of weeks. Therefore there will be no Gems and Nuggets while I am on the way there and back and in Brazil. So plenty of time for you to do some of your own thinking on this knotty problem and come up with your solutions to it.  


You have the following choices:

  1. You can claim you don't believe the Bible anyway, it’s filled with many contradictions and so you really don't care about what it written in the Bible.

  2. You can think well if it says it in the Bible then it must be right and not make any further effort to understand it. 

  3. You can seek to resolve the matter for yourself and work out what you think about it all. 

  4. You can wait patiently to read the following Nuggets on my current website

  5. You can sign up to receive Gems and Nuggets to ensure you receive each posting I make by email. 


I have had problems with my phone dying in the last week and being told that my contacts cant be restored from the phone. Therefore I know I have lost a number of contacts. I have got a new phone and have been working frantically to get back my list of contacts. In doing so and going through a past “restored” contacts database I notice there are many who have been omitted. Any that I have added in the last year or so don't seem to be there. I also noticed that there are a number of people who have been indicated they wanted to receive Gemz (which I am renaming Gems) before the new website is launched. If you were receiving Bible Gems and Nuggets before MailChimp pruned my database and have wondered why you are no longer getting them as many are, all you have to do in this interim time is send an email to me or sign up online on the WiX site - but that site is not able to automatically generate a mailing list for Gems and Nuggets into the future. We are building a website which will be able to handle all I have done in the past in one place, including God’s Awesome Book and Deeper Bible Online. But the WiX site is only an interim site. You will have to sign up again on the new site. But signing up on the WiX site will remind me to add you to the list of recipients to whom I currently send Gems and Nuggets now before the new website is up and running. 



There you have it – a knotty biblical problem which needs resolving and time to do it for yourself or sign up to receive Gems and Nuggets from me and wait to see what I have to say about it in the following Nuggets


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