There is no hierarchy of sin

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about whether or not it is a sin to drink alcohol raised by the dismissal of Perry Noble from his pastorate for abuse of the same. Biblically speaking, I pointed out the use of alcohol is permitted, but its abuse and drunkenness are sins.

Any liberty afforded the believer in Scripture is to be exercised responsibly and that includes the use of alcohol. There are circumstances in which it is wiser to abstain than imbibe.

This is where Perry failed to exercise wisdom. To his credit, he honestly admitted his fault, “in the past year or so I have allowed myself to slide into, in my opinion, the overuse of alcohol.”

Probably aware that his removal would be rife with rumor, he added, “Let me be very clear, neither [my wife] nor I have committed any sort of sexual sin. I have not stolen money. I have not been looking at porn and there was absolutely no domestic abuse.” Perry seemed to be simply trying to dismiss any possible suspicions that might compound and confuse what had happened.

Craig Gross took issue with Perry’s statement. Craig ranted, “in case you haven’t caught it, let me make it clear: Noble is saying that being consumed by alcohol is not as bad as having an affair or beating up your spouse. Or looking at porn.”

That is not what Perry said; Craig twisted Perry’s words and lied. Craig founded the XXXchurch.com a ministry dedicated to helping those addicted to sex and pornography. So when it comes to porn and sexual sin he may have a chip on his shoulders, but it does not give him the right to lie. Perry never said, or even inferred one sin is worse than another

If I were asked to describe God’s nature in one word it would be holy. He possesses a righteousness that is humanly unapproachable and only feebly understood. All sins are committed against Him and none is worse than another from the divine perspective.

From the human perspective it is a different matter. We treat different sins (those that are also crimes) with different penalties. Stealing a car, a property crime, is punished differently by the criminal justice system than a murder committed on a person. Each has a different outcome and subsequently differing consequences.

Craig seemed to struggle grammatically to understand what Perry was actually saying, but if he wants to criticize Perry he has the responsibility to first know exactly what Perry said and not misquote him. Craig should have practiced the unwritten beatitude, “Blessed is he who has nothing to say, and cannot be persuaded to say it.”

Craig would have been wise to “be quick to hear, slow to speak,” James 1:19, because lying is as much a sin in the eyes of God as drunkenness is.

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Caesar and God

With Hillary Clinton being the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party to run for President of the United States there was an article published titled, “God might not want a woman to be president, some religious conservatives say.” My first thought is one should be very careful when he or she presumes to speak for God.

That being said there is much debate in religious circles on the roles of men and women in the home and church. Some Bible scholars hold to a complimentarian view that men and women hold different positions and functions that compliment their gender. Others hold a more egalitarian view that men or women can serve equally as well in any given position. But that would be a subject for another article.

Rick Santorum posed this question during the 2012 campaign, “Is it God’s highest desire, that is His biblically expressed will,…to have a woman rule the institutions of family, church and state?” What does the Bible say about women in government leadership?

Santorum may have asked this question because just four years earlier John McCain had chosen Sarah Palin to be his vice-presidential running mate, and had he won a woman would have been only a heartbeat away from the Presidency of the United States.

It may surprise some to know the Bible says nothing that would bar a woman from serving at any level of government. The patriarchal tenor of Scripture may lead one to think God would prefer men in all forms of leadership, but the Scriptures do not say that explicitly. In fact, the prophetess Deborah was numbered among the twelve Judges of Israel, and the prophetess Huldah was adviser to King Josiah of Judah.

Besides, it is the United States Constitution that establishes the qualifications to be President. Article II, Section 1 reads, “No person except a natural born citizen…attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States” is eligible to hold the office of President. If the framers had wished to exclude the fairer sex I suppose they could have substituted the word “man” for the word “person” and it may have settled the issue.

It seems a little late to consider female leadership when women have been elected to and have served well at all levels of local, state and federal government within legislatures the judiciary and as governors. History attests to women who have served as heads of state with distinction such as Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, and the current Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel.

Jesus told us “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s,” Matthew 22:21. It seems inconsequential to me to debate what the sex of the President should or will be, when the question of whether or not Caesar will protect the freedom of conscience to render “to God the things that are God’s” is undecided.

Perry Noble and the Drinking Dilemma

When Perry Noble began a Bible study in his home he probably never thought it would grow to become one of the largest megachurches in the country. But as the founding pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, South Carolina he probably never thought he would be removed from his pastorate for abusing alcohol either.

I am not writing to condemn Perry, he needs our prayers, but his situation has reintroduced the debate over what the Bible says about the use of alcohol. Is it a sin to drink or not?

When this issue is raised someone will invariably remind us Jesus turned the water into wine. This account in the second chapter of John is telling. Drinking opponents say the word for wine (Greek, oinos) in the second chapter of John should be translated “grape juice.”

This poses two problems. First, grape juice does not fit the context. When the headwaiter tastes the water turned into wine, he says, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now,” John 2:10.

The meaning here is plain, people serve good wine to their guests until their senses are impaired and then they serve them a poorer quality wine. If one substitutes the word “wine” with “grape juice” the verse loses its meaning. Besides, surely the headwaiter knew the difference between wine and grape juice.

Second, Paul uses this same Greek word, oinos, when he admonishes the Ephesians “do not get drunk with wine,” Ephesians 5:18. If oinos means “grape juice” there is no danger of anyone getting drunk; Paul was not warning the Ephesians about drinking grape juice.

By turning the water into wine, Jesus by His example condones the making and use of wine, and Paul condemns its abuse. I am a strict Biblicist and if I am to be true to the Scriptures I am forced to conclude drinking is not a sin, but drunkenness is.

I would agree that the Scriptures sternly warn us about the abuse of alcohol, and we have all witnessed how its abuse has ruined lives, destroyed families, and creates a host of social ills.

For these reasons it would not bother me if every ounce of alcohol evaporated from the face of the earth and another drop was never produced, but I cannot believe the Scriptures and condemn its use.

Jesus’ first miracle is written in plain English that even a drunken wino could understand. If I told him Jesus turned the water into grape juice he would probably laugh and call me a liar, and he may think I am still lying when I tell him Paul says drunkenness is a sin, and he needs to repent and turn to Christ for forgiveness.

I cannot lie about what the Scriptures say in one place, and expect anyone to trust my testimony of what they say in another place.

Freedom of Religion

In the seventeenth century some of the early colonists came to America fleeing the religious persecution of the Church of England. State sanctioned and supported, the Church of England was officially recognized by the government, and used its official status to thwart the religious beliefs and practices of those it deemed non-conformists.

Having won our independence from Great Britain, the thirteen colonies adopted a Constitution to form a new nation and to fulfill the spirit of the Declaration of Independence that declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Concerned that the newly formed federal government might attempt to compromise the personal freedoms Americans had come to enjoy in the New World, the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution known collectively as the Bill of Rights were ratified by the thirteen colonies.

The First Amendment is considered the cornerstone for the other nine. The first words of the First Amendment read, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof.” I have always thought it significant that when our founding fathers sought to protect individual freedoms the very first freedom they sought to secure was the freedom of religion.

This is the historical context of our nation’s founding documents that were framed in a decidedly Christian consensus. Freedom was understood by our founders to be a right granted by God to every man and government’s role is limited to recognize those freedoms, and to protect them.

While it has been coming for some time, we have witnessed, in less than a decade, a seismic shift in moral practices of what is considered culturally acceptable. In light of these changes, Christians believe they are being forced to engage in acts that conflict with their beliefs and their religious liberty is in jeopardy. Freedom of religion has become a matter of debate and a political issue in the current election.

So, what is freedom of religion? Freedom of religion is the right of each individual to believe and practice one’s beliefs, and to associate with those like-minded, without coercing others to do the same and without coercion by others to do differently. It is the right to choose one’s faith or to choose no faith at all.

In the beginning “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them,” Genesis 1:27. I believe part of God’s image in man is a will to act and choose similar to His, and that God in His sovereignty does not violate man’s will.

Neither should government; it is not the place of government to side with one citizen to force another citizen to act against his or her conscience. A threat to religious freedom anywhere, is a threat to religious freedom everywhere.

Brexit and the Bible

On Thursday, June 23, 2016, a referendum was held in Great Britain to decide the question, “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”

The referendum was nicknamed “Brexit,” because if the majority voted to “leave” and not “remain” Britain would exit the European Union. The vote is now history, with 51.9 percent voting to “leave” and 48.1 percent voting to “remain.”

Following the vote Franklin Graham remarked, “But I know that this is a least a temporary setback for the politicians in this country and around the world who want a one-world government and a one-world currency. The Bible speaks that one day this will take place.”

Actually, the Bible does not say there will be a one-world government and a one-world currency. That interpretation is based, in part, on a Dispensationalist view of passages found in Revelation chapter 13. Two beasts, one “coming up out of the sea,” and one “coming up out of the earth” will exercise global authority.

The second beast “causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark,” Revelation 13:16-17.

The Scriptures are clear that the two beasts will exercise global authority and influence. What is not clear is whether this authority will be exercised through a new global government and currency, or exercised over current governments and currencies. This may seem to be a needless hair to split, but I split it for a reason.

If Christians claim the Bible says one thing will happen and something different occurs, it may cause some to doubt the credibility of biblical prophecy when what they should actually doubt that interpretation of biblical prophecy.

Dispensationalism as an eschatological explanation of certain prophetic passages does not enjoy the popularity it once did. This is because certain aspects of this theological perspective are highly subjective. For instance, I can remember Dispensationalists claiming the European Union was the forerunner of the one-world government and the United States would become a member.

There have never been more than twenty-eight nation members of the European Union, a far cry from a one-world government, and there has been no significant movement on the part of the United States to join the European Union that I am aware of.

While these things could still happen, they seem unlikely given the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. Other nations are rumored to be thinking of leaving, and the departure of Great Britain may signal the disassembly of the European Union’s political and economic machinery. Time will tell.

There is much to be gleaned from Biblical prophecy, but we do not serve the Scriptures well when we declare specifics not clearly spelled out in God’s Word.