Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Reality of Cannot

Posted in Uncategorized by Andy Young, PPT contributing editor on April 28, 2017

One of the things that sets man apart from all of the other creatures is his ability to observe reality and organize it. Language and words are fundamental to this end. Using words, man is able to conceptualize abstractions and understand his world. Using words, man is able to communicate with others. Using words, God communicated to man.

Therefore, when it comes to properly interpreting scripture, the words that are used are most important to communicate a specific message. The various authors used the specific words that they used so that there would be no misunderstanding by those to whom they were writing. For example, the apostle John wrote the following in 1 John 3:9:

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

Silly me, but I actually believe that when John wrote “cannot sin” he actually meant CANNOT sin!

Now you know me, I certainly won’t pass up the opportunity to examine the grammatical structure of words, being the grammaticist (is that a word?) that I am. The word translated “cannot” is the Greek word δυναμαι (dyoo-na-mai). It means to be able or possible. From this word we get our English word “dynamite”. It means to have the power or ability to do something. In the text of 1 John 3:9, “dunamai” is preceded by the negative particle “ou” which means “not”. John says that the one who is born again does NOT have the ability or the power to sin. It is not possible for him to sin!

Cannot has to do with metaphysical reality. Cannot speaks to the nature of existence. Cannot speaks to ability.

We have a tendency to be careless with the words we use. Often times when we say, “cannot,” we really mean “will not” or “do not”. One is a choice, the other is a metaphysical reality. For example, if I were to say, “I cannot play the piano,” I am not saying that I don’t have the ability to learn how to play the piano. Neither am I saying that there is something pertaining to the nature of my existence that prevents me from being able to play the piano. Now if I were to say, “I cannot fly like a bird,” what I am saying is that as a human being, I do not have the ability to fly like a bird. The metaphysical reality regarding my existence as a human being prevents me from having the ability to fly like a bird.

Consider the metaphysical two-step that Calvinists play with regard to ability, particularly with regard to their interpretation of 1 John 3:9. Let’s begin by looking at how they interpret this verse in their favorite bible, the ESV.

“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.”

Notice the two expressions I have emphasized and how they are related to each other. The Greek word for “practice” is the word πρασω (prass-oh), which means to perform repeatedly or habitually. This clearly seems to be the implied connation of the ESV translation. In other words, the believer might slip up and sin from time to time (i.e. he may occasionally forget to live by “faith alone” and think he actually did a good work), but as a “practice” his life is not characterized by habitually sinning.   By extension, it might also stand to reason that one who DOES make a practice of habitually sinning might have reason to doubt the genuineness of his salvation. (Is it any wonder why the lack of assurance runs rampant in the institutional church?)

But the problem is that John didn’t use the word “prasso”. In the original Greek manuscripts he used the word ποιεω (poi-eh-oh), which means to make or to do. If John had wanted to mean “practice sin”, he would have said, “practice sin”.

Compare the ESV above with the King James:

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”

What the Calvinists have effectively done with 1 John 3:9 through their ESV bible is to make sin a function of choice and not ability. The Calvinist would have us to believe that one who is a believer makes a choice not to sin. This is step one in the metaphysical two-step. While on the one hand claiming the doctrine of election and that man has no free will, man somehow still has a choice in whether or not he can make a “practice” of sinning.

Step two requires us to consider that the doctrine of “total depravity” says that man is metaphysically evil. The question then is obvious. If man is metaphysically evil, how can he choose to not keep on sinning? The metaphysical reality of his existence would mean that he has no ability to do anything but evil. Is this not what Reformed theology would have us believe?

The contrast of what the apostle John teaches regarding the believer and sin is a direct rebuke to Reformed theology. The one who is born again does not commit sin because he cannot sin! It is a statement about the metaphysical reality of the believer’s existence with regard to ability. The believer is not able to sin because who he is makes the reality of sin non-existent.   He cannot sin because sin is not possible.

The believer is a new creature. He is the literal offspring of the Father, therefore he shares the same righteous nature as the Father. Furthermore, he is not under law because the old man who was under law is dead. The law has no more power over him. The believer cannot sin because there is no law to condemn him, and where there is no law there is no sin.  This makes the reality of sin impossible.  This is the metaphysical reality for the one who is born of God!

Reformed theology attempts to explain away the plain truth of scripture by changing the clear meaning of words in a vain attempt to wrestle it into compliance with their orthodoxy. Ironically, in their attempt to do so, they only manage to further expose the contradictions in their own twisted and evil theology.

~ Andy

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25 Responses

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  1. John said, on April 28, 2017 at 3:20 PM

    One of the features of a cult is changing literature to suit its agenda (hence the ESV, in this case). JWs have a similar thing going, and the Mormons wrote a whopper of lies in “The Book of Mormon.”
    Secondly, and this everybody knows, the cults themselves most of all, these changes are in there to gain and keep control of their disciples for many, many reasons (sex, money, hit-my-wife-in-the-face and roll, etc.)

    Yes, Andy, grammaticist/grammatician is a word and it means one who studies grammar.
    A grammarian studies and writes about grammar too.
    Grammarist is an expert in grammar (the origin of grammarian)
    A linguist is someone skilled in foreign (as opposed to mother tongue) languages.

    Here’s a tongue-in-greek cheek site for you, Andy: http://www.preservedwords.com/greekgame.htm (The author is rather serious, but that’s his prerogative).

    Great article, Andy, there are more contradictions in Reformed theology nonsense than there are hungry children “somewhere” in Asia or Africa. (Simply donate $10 a month and little Lee Hong will be able to go to school with a belly full of noodles and one shoe).

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    • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on April 28, 2017 at 3:40 PM

      Thanks, John, for the kind words. And thank you for verifying my use of the word gammaticist. I wasn’t sure because it didn’t show up in spell-check. LOL

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    • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on April 28, 2017 at 3:50 PM

      Realizing that the link you cited is tongue-in-cheek, I must say that I don’t put much stake in those who tread the dangerous line of the inspriation of the KJV only. The KJV, like ALL other translations, is just that; a translation. It is subject to the possibility of error just as much as any other translation. In fact, there are many passages in the King James that have as much of a Reformed bias as the ESV. It is after all a product of the reformation. Which is why it is important for every believer to be a student of scripture and dig deep to try to discern exactly what each author was trying to communicate to his audience.

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      • John said, on April 28, 2017 at 4:23 PM

        Oh, I entirely agree, 150%. There are even those who say that no KJV, no heaven. Or no NKJV, no heaven too. It shows you where people’s trust lies…in men.
        I have many (unanswered) questions about the Bible too, but I try to do what you do. A spirit-controlled believer inquires into, investigates, scrutinizes the Bible and the Holy Spirit will illuminate the truth. Yes, just one word can make the world’s difference. I bet you my charred ESV bible that Calvinists burn inside to change John 3:16’s all to “elect.” (Which they do, anyway, verbally and by twisted implication and application).

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    • gracewriterrandy said, on May 3, 2017 at 3:56 PM

      Wow John! Could you show me a place where the ESV has altered the text, without grammatical reason, for the purpose of supporting Calvinism?

      Like

  2. Argo said, on April 28, 2017 at 4:53 PM

    I view other human beings as morally equivalent to my own Self; this is for two reasons: a. It’s self evident and b. Reason demands it (I cannot describe “me” in any relevant (practical) terms which will not also apply to “you”).

    And I don’t think that this interpretation of “self” and “others” can necessarily be taught. It either forms the basis of your psyche or it doesn’t. I think it’s a state of mind your born with; or is developed very early on..

    And this is why I don’t think I can sin in the “damnation” sense of the word. Because in order for me to reject this view of “self” I’d have to stop being me, psychologically. Which of course contradicts the idea that “I” can lose my “salvation”. For the “I” which would no longer regard you as my moral equivalent would not really be “Zach”. It would be a stranger in my own body. “Zach” with like a massive head injury; or Zach after a “roofie”.

    Not that I can’t be a pretentious d**k. But I can at least recognize my failures when I see them and repent. These mistakes are not “mortal sin”.

    Thanks for this, Andy. Great article. I may no be jiving totally with your point as it relates to the Bible specifically, but I was encouraged to examine my own ideas, and your article helped me articulate them better in my mind and heart. Thanks again!

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  3. Lydia said, on April 30, 2017 at 10:02 AM

    Maybe I am not seeing it but if one is a new creature one can still do harmful things to others. Are you saying God does not view that as sin or count it as sin? I know a lot of “committed Christians” who are as deceptive as snakes.

    Or, are you saying that new creatures don’t harm others and if they do, they recognize it and deal with it? I am a bit confused about separating the metaphysical from the physical.

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    • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on April 30, 2017 at 10:34 AM

      Lydia,

      This is an excellent question!
      Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of existence. It describes reality. So when we are talking about the New Birth or the believer as a “new creature” we are dealing with metaphysics, or what is the nature of the new creature’s existence. The reality is that because the new creature is not under law, he is sinless. (Do not conflate this with some orthodox notion of “perfection”.) He is sinless because since there is no law to judge him, he cannot be condemned, so he does not sin; he CANNOT sin. He does not have the ability to sin.

      Now, this does not mean that a believer does not fail to show love. This is not the same thing as sin. If I wanted to use an extreme hypothetical example, a believer could commit murder, but it would not be sin. The law that says, “thou shalt not kill” does not condemn because he is not under the jurisdiction of that law. However, that same law that says, “thou shalt not kill” informs the believer in the way of love. The reason we don’t kill is because it is a violation of another which is really what any failure to show love is. Insert that definition into any example you want, whether it’s lying, cheating, stealing, or just treating people like crap in general.

      So, is a believer then at liberty to go and commit murder? Obviously NO! Why? Because it’s not love! Furthermore, it is incongruous with his nature. It is incongruous with WHO and WHAT he is as a result of the reality of his new creature-hood. This is the same case that Paul makes in Romans 6:1 and 6:15.

      So then why do believers fail to show love? Two reasons; the weakness of the flesh and a lack of maturity.
      The Bible says that flesh is weak, NOT evil. For this reason, man can be tempted to disobey the law and not show love. It is how the Sin-master seeks to wrest continued control over the believer and defeat him even though he cannot be condemned. It is why we are instructed to pursue obedience because this is the manner in which we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in our Sanctification which leads us to maturity. The more mature we are, the easier it is to resist the weakness of the flesh and show love through obedience.

      Does this help answer your question at all?

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  4. Paul M. Dohse Sr. said, on April 30, 2017 at 1:30 PM

    Since under grace the law is love’s standard, Christians fail to love, but they don’t sin. How does the Bible define the word, “sin”? It is an act that eternally condemns. “ALL” sin is against the law, and where there is no law there is no sin. Failure to love as Christians can bring chastisement and “Judgement begins in the household of faith.” Chastisement can be particularly severe for those who use God’s grace as a cloak for unrighteousness.

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  5. Lydia said, on April 30, 2017 at 8:46 PM

    I think I get it. I was never talking about perfection so we don’t have to go there. I think maybe you guys are speaking more of our position in Christ and not how we are treating others. So are we not judged if we are continually deceptive, etc?

    Frankly, I can explain the unbelievers but I can’t explain the long time believers I know who are very deceptive and fake. Others may never know because they did not get that close to it. They scare me more. So, if they claim to be believers, they live outwardly as believers and their continual treachery is hidden by a title or influence, they are saved?

    I am probably more Pelagian in my approach. I think believers should be the most trustworthy people around. I did not say genorous, kind, etc. But trustworthy and truthful.

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    • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on April 30, 2017 at 9:05 PM

      I think that what we are encouraged to do as believers is that when we see other believers who are behaving this way (deceptive or fake as you say) that we are to exhort and admonish them to good works.

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  6. gracewriterrandy said, on April 30, 2017 at 10:05 PM

    Andy,

    Can you tell me what you think the law of Christ is?

    Like

    • Paul M. Dohse Sr. said, on April 30, 2017 at 11:56 PM

      The law of Christ is the law of liberty and the law of the Spirit of life (Rom 8:2) as opposed to the law of sin and death (also Rom 8:2). The new birth set us free to aggressively love according to the law without fear of condemnation. It set us free to serve the law without being condemned by it. Do Christians sin? Well, notice…”law of SIN and death.” Those who sin are under law and that’s why it is called the “law of s-i-n.” Not complicated. You are either under law or under grace.

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      • gracewriterrandy said, on May 1, 2017 at 10:22 AM

        Paul, I really need you to clarify this for me. If I can’t understand your position on this issue, I can’t very well debate it. You have said that “Christ ended the law” and “The new birth sets us free to agressively love according TO THE LAW without fear of condemnation? The thing is, I agree with both those statements, but, of course, in order to do so, I must understand that the word nomos is not being used univocally throughout. Just to remove any misunderstanding, I do not represent the classic Reformed view as I think you already know. I would be arguing from a NCT view.

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    • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on May 1, 2017 at 8:09 AM

      The expression, “law of Christ” only appears one place in the entire Bible:

      “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” ~ Galatians 6:2

      Some thoughts from some “scholars” are as follows:
      “The majority Christian theology, known as supersessionism, states that this either ‘replaces’ or ‘completes’ or ‘fulfills’ the previous Law of Moses of the Hebrew Bible. Dual-covenant theologians are an example of a group that reject this belief.

      “In his Summa Theologiae I-II qq. 106-109, a section of the Summa known as the Treatise on Law, Saint Thomas Aquinas discusses the Law of Christ as the ‘New Law’. He argues that it was virtually contained in the Old Law, that is the Old Testament, as a seed but only brought to perfection by Jesus Christ who perfectly fulfilled it. The ends of the Old and New are one and the same, being subjection to God’s order, but they are different in that the New Law makes attaining the end possible. Meanwhile, since all law ultimately has reference to Divine Reason governing all things, the New Law contains and helps the human being fulfill the Natural Law which prescribes acts of virtue. Thus, Aquinas defines the New Law as ‘chiefly the grace itself of the Holy Ghost, which is given to those who believe in Christ,’ but adds that it also ‘contains certain things that dispose us to receive the grace of the Holy Ghost, and pertaining to the use of that grace.’ Therefore,”the New Law is in the first place a law that is inscribed on our hearts, but that secondarily it is a written law”

      “The Catholic theologian Bernhard Häring presents the Law of Christ as Christ himself in his person because Jesus was able to fulfill the law and provide us with the effect of this fulfillment.

      “The Evangelical theologian Douglas J. Moo argues that ‘the law of Christ’ is strongly connected to the Mosaic Law, for example that nine of the Ten Commandments are included.

      “George R. Law argues that the New Covenant is the Law of Christ, and that the details are expressed in the Sermon on the Mount.”
      Source: Wikipedia

      So the “orthodox” understanding seems to be that Christ somehow “replaces” the Mosaic Law or that he fulfills it, that is, he “keeps it for us” so that His righteousness is then imputed to us or “covers us”.

      However, given the context of Galatians in general and the immediate context of bearing each other’s burdens, it would appear that the “law of Christ” is just another way of saying the “law of love”. And this would be consistent with Paul’s point earlier in Galatians where he states that LOVE is a fulfilling of the law. Therefore, when we bear each other’s burdens, we fulfill the law because it is an act of love. This is also consistent with what Jesus said when he was asked what was the greatest commandment. Jesus said to love God and to love others as you love yourself. All the law is fulfilled in these two.

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      • gracewriterrandy said, on May 1, 2017 at 10:05 AM

        Thanks Andy. I didn’t really need a long exposition of what others have thought. I don’t want you wasting your time unnecessarily. I just wanted to know your view. Can you tell me whether Christ’s law presents any objective standard that indicates the genuineness of the love required by that law. Additionally, can you tell me if that objective standard, if it exists, is written down anywhere? Is it your view that no one can sin any longer since Christ has ended the law or are you only saying believers can no longer sin? Can you define for me as biblically as possible how you would define sin? I am assuming you and Paul are in agreement on these issues. If not, please tell me on which issues or issues you would disagree.

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      • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on May 1, 2017 at 10:37 AM

        “I didn’t really need a long exposition of what others have thought. I don’t want you wasting your time unnecessarily. I just wanted to know your view.”

        Since you brought up the question on such an obscure statement in scripture (obscure because the phrase is only used one time) I thought it was prudent to contrast my understanding with what the “orthodox” interpretation was.

        “Can you tell me whether Christ’s law presents any objective standard that indicates the genuineness of the love required by that law.”

        It is not relevant for me to comment on “Christ’s law” because I reject the premise of the question, because the implication is that it is somehow different from the Mosaic Law or “Old Testament” law.

        “Is it your view that no one can sin any longer since Christ has ended the law or are you only saying believers can no longer sin?”

        The Bible describes two types of people in the world; those “under law” and those “under grace”. For those who are under law (unbelievers) the law brings condemnation. Sin has to do with condemnation, therefore those who are under law sin because the law condemns them. For those under grace (born again), since the old man who was under law has died, they can no longer be condemned, and since they cannot be condemned, there is no sin. Where there is no law there is no sin. There is a new relationship to the law. It is no longer one that brings condemnation but one that enables one to show love by obedience without fear of condemnation. Therefore, there is only sin where there is law that brings condemnation.

        “Can you define for me as biblically as possible how you would define sin?”

        Absolutely. Sin is defined in the Bible as an entity that seeks to have mastery and control over others. Its primary means of accomplishing this is condemnation, and the tool it uses to condemn is the law. (Genesis 4:7, 1 Corinthians 15:55)

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      • gracewriterrandy said, on May 1, 2017 at 10:48 AM

        Do I understand you correctly by the following statement to be saying that “Christ’s Law” is the same as “Moses’ Law?” “I reject the premise of the question, because the implication is that it is somehow different from the Mosaic Law or “Old Testament” law.” Do you think believers are under Christ’s law? It sounds as if you are saying Christ’s law is the same as Moses’ Law. Are you saying believers are not under the Law of Christ? As you have defined sin, are you saying that believers cannot seek to have mastery and control over others?

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  7. Lydia said, on April 30, 2017 at 10:30 PM

    When I was reading your OP I was thinking of 1 John. Your OP made me think I might need to rethink how I read it.

    5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 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, purifies us from all[b] sin.

    8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

    This seems to denote a sort of progression of “walking” in the light. And this:

    4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

    7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

    It’s like he is saying there is a right and a wrong and we can choose to do right. But if we don’t, we are not Gods children and I tie that back to “walking” which seems to denote lifestyle. How we live, that others, etc. Not a one off we are sorry about but a way of life.

    For good measure, I can also throw in Hebrews 10. :o)

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    • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on May 1, 2017 at 9:37 AM

      I think part of the difficulty you are having is because you are trying to reconcile old assumptions. That simply can’t be done. Much of this didn’t make sense to me either until I was willing to throw away everything I thought I knew about the Bible (ie. what I was taught in church all my life) and start over from the beginning with a whole new set of assumptions. Once I did that, the plain sense of scripture started to fit together like pieces of a puzzle. There was a time when I struggled with 1 John 3:9 because I thought it said exactly what you’re getting at here; that if a person is really a believer he won’t go on sinning, and if a person keeps sinning, maybe that means he’s not really saved after all. But one day I read this verse and the reality of it hit me like a tone of bricks. We don’t sin because we are no longer under law. We may fail to love, but it is NOT SIN, and we are not condemned for it. I’m not sure how else I can explain it.

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    • John said, on May 1, 2017 at 11:22 AM

      Lydia,

      I too carry theological garbage and years of unbiblical indoctrination with me (I’m not saying you are carrying garbage, but I was brought up in a Calvinist/Reformed house of “fun”…in the middle of our street), but as one learns from the Bible as the Holy Spirit as one’s guide, and not from some cultlike guru/wizard, things become clearer and clearer. There are many things in the Bible I grapple with still, and despite the simplicity of Scripture, some diabolical teachings still cloud my mind or spill from my mouth every now and then.

      The “sinner saved by grace” one-liner took me years to unlearn (and to understand), or saying the “God is in control” madness to someone who has just lost two sisters and a mother in a vehicle accident has taught me that I’d been lied to for so long. But as we seek God and His Word only, these scales do fall off, Lydia.

      The philosopher kings/idiots turned (are turning) the Bible into this book that only a handful of cum laude scholars can understand and interpret. Absolute rubbish.

      Blessings, Lydia.

      Like

  8. lydia00 said, on May 1, 2017 at 2:28 PM

    I grew up in a more “faith without works is dead” type of environment. Very Free Will. What I am hearing is that sin against others is a failure to love. Belief trumps repentance. I think they go together.

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    • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on May 1, 2017 at 2:38 PM

      Why do you suppose such people who call themselves “Christians” behave the way you describe? What must be their assumption? What have they heard in church all their lives? That obedience doesn’t matter. That if you’re trying to keep the law you are trying to merit righteousness. You’re not living by faith alone. You’re not trusting Christ to do the work for you. This is the very definition of lawlessness (antinomianism). Christians cease trying to obey because they are afraid it might be “works” salvation. The Bible says that the law is how we show love, but if you take away obedience from christians, what other means do they have to show love? They don’t know how to! This is exactly what Jesus said would happen. Because of lawlessness the love of many would grow cold. Isn’t this what you describe? The people are acting deceitful and fake because they don’t know how to love. They are just waiting around for Jesus to do it for them because that’s what the church has taught them to do!

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  9. lydia00 said, on May 2, 2017 at 3:10 PM

    Andy, That is close to what I was thinking, actually. I guess what I see from your position on it is a lack of any consequences for such here or even hereafter.

    We are told how to recognize the fruit of belief and repentence.

    A big problem is many Institutional Christians don’t really know one another. And most only know the “leaders” superficially.

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    • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on May 2, 2017 at 3:26 PM

      Consequences are not the same as condemnation. Does a parent allow his child to engage in harmful or wrong behavior without consequences? No, the parent brings chastisement with the goal of bringing the erring child to repentance. Furthermore, think about what the natural consequences would be of behavior that was not showing love to God or to others. Loss of friends, loss of trust, perhaps physical harm; and in the hereafter, the Bible is clear that believers receive wages for their works of love (rewards) which are given at the Bema. If a believer goes through his whole life not earning any love wages, or his works do not stand the test, he experiences loss of reward, yet he remains saved without condemnation (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).

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