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Dr. J. Rodman Williams

Theology Q&A

By Dr. J. Rodman Williams
Theologian

Dr. J. Rodman Williams answers theological questions, exclusively on CBN.com.

More from Dr. J. Rodman Williams


6. Sin, Death, Satan


Category Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 QA Index

 


Are practicing homosexuals accepted by God?

Yes, surely, if they cease from their practice!

This is akin to asking the question, "Are practicing adulterers accepted by God?"! Paul includes homosexuals and, for that matter, adulterers among those who will not inherit the kingdom of God: so "do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers,…nor homosexuals ["abusers of themselves with mankind," KJV]…shall inherit the kingdom of God." Paul adds, "Such were some of you; but you were washed…sanctified…justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

This is the way out -- far beyond the practice!

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Please help me find passages in the New Testament concerning homosexuality showing that it is a sin. A person I am counseling does not believe it is such.

Two main passages in the New Testament declaring homosexuality to be a sin are Romans 1:24-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. In the former, Paul speaks of the world as given over to "degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire towards one another, men with men committing indecent acts." In the Corinthian passage, Paul includes homosexuals among those who will not inherit the kingdom of God. "Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers nor homosexualsshall inherit the kingdom of God." Paul adds, "Such were some of you; but you were washedsanctifiedjustified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." Thank God, there is a way out!

On homosexuality as a sin in the New Testament also see 1 Timothy 1:10 and Jude 7. The former links together "immoral men and homosexuals," and the latter speaks of Sodom and Gomorrah as those who "indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh." They are "exhibited as an example, in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire."

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Why were Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed?

Read carefully the story of Sodom and Gomorrah as found in Genesis 18 and 19 and as summarized in 2 Peter 2:6-10 and in Jude 7. The climactic picture is that of citywide perversion, the Genesis account reading: "All the men from every part of the city of Sodom---both young and old---surrounded the house. They called to Lot, 'Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them'" (Genesis 19:4 NIV). This situation of citywide corruption brought complete destruction upon them after Lot and his company escaped: "Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah---from the Lord out of the heavens" (verses 24-25).

For more on this, see Renewal Theology, 1: pages 250-253.

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I am an artist, and I know I have knowledge and the power to reach others and point them in a good direction, but what is the point? Life is meaningless because everything you do goes away; anything you do is just momentary with no real long lasting effects. All things end, so what is the point of doing anything at all. You can't get into heaven with good deeds, and most good deeds will be forgotten in a few years to come, so what is life all about? Why are we here? Death is better, maybe because we all go there. Why not get there faster and save this meaningless trip called life. I need help with an answer.

I suggest you read and meditate on the Book of Ecclesiastes all twelve chapters. Especially note the climax in chapter 12 verses 13-14.

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What happens to a Christian person when he/she dies?

The spirit of the Christian believer at death goes directly to be with the Lord in heaven. The body is resurrected on the Last Day when Christ returns.

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I want to know and understand where sin came from. I know it entered the world through deception by the serpent, but how did it enter into Lucifer? Where did it come from?

The wording of your question implies that sin was some external force that entered into Lucifer. Rather, Lucifer was the author of sin. Being the highest of angels, he pridefully determined to set himself above God. This he did of his own free will and volition (for more on this, see my Renewal Theology, 1: chapter 10 on "Sin").

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 Twice, recently, I have seen a reference made about God's permissive will which is what prayer touches. I think I have an understanding regarding His perfect will as Scripture teaches His desires toward us, and trusting Him in all situations. I wonder if I need to know more about His "permissive will" and the things I pray about.

God in His will functions either actively or permissively. For example, in God's creation of the universe He operated actively. In the freedom He gave man, He operated permissively allowing Adam to obey or disobey. Even in man's disobedience, which God permitted, God still was in control. In that sense, the situation was never out of His will. God remains the sovereign Lord. God's perfect will includes both His active and His permissive will (for more on "God's Permissive Will," see my Renewal Theology, 1: pages 229-230).

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   I know that the unpardonable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which is to call the work of the Holy Spirit demonic. Are Christian pastors and teachers committing the unpardonable sin by stating that speaking in tongues and the manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit are all demonic?

The Apostle Paul declares that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are "the manifestation of the Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:7). The gifts stand out as exhibitions of the Holy Spirit in word and deed, signifying that He is on the scene in sovereign grace and power. Thus to declare the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be demonic is a terrible offense against Him and His work. Such an attitude is unpardonable whether or not it is labeled as "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.".

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  Why do we hear about demons and evil spirits in the New Testament and not so often in the Old Testament?

Since Christ's coming was in part an attack on the demonic realm, evil was more and more exposed by Him. "The Son of God appeared that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). The New Testament records the crisis for which the Old Testament is preparation.

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  Can a Christian believer be demon-possessed?

A Christian may be demon oppressed but not possessed. A true believer has the Holy Spirit dwelling within. Although a Christian may have many struggles against sin and evil, he or she cannot be possessed by that evil reality. "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).
(For a discussion of demonic possession see Renewal Theology, 2: 257-263.)

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  When our body dies, where in Scripture do we find what happens to us, spiritual or otherwise. I'm not asking about the Second Coming, I'm asking about our physical death and what transpires after we take our last breath prior to the return of Jesus. Do we go to heaven, hell, a holding pen, or what?

Those who believe in Christ go immediately to be with Him. For example, the repentant thief on the cross was told by Jesus, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). Paul writes about his desire "to depart and be with Christ" to occur immediately upon his death" (Philippians 1:23). In another place Paul writes about being "absent from the body and at home with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5:6). There is no "holding pen"!

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   What is sin, from a theological prospective, and why is redemption so important?

Sin is the personal act of turning away from God and His will and the breaking of any of His commandments. This results in bondage to sin-"Every one who commits sin is the slave of sin" (John 8:34). Redemption is so important because all people are sinners in bondage to sin from which they cannot free themselves. Only through Christ is redemption possible and the bondage to sin broken. Thanks be unto Him! (See Renewal Theology, 1: chapter 10, "Sin")

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"God does not hear a sinner's prayer." Could you please clarify this?

I was raised Apostolic, and my grandfather is a minister, but there's one thing that my grandfather teaches that I do not understand. He's ALWAYS said that "God does not hear a sinner's prayer." How can that be true? In order for a sinner to be saved, he must first ASK (pray) for God to come into his life. That IS prayer! If God does not hear a sinner's prayer, then wouldn't that mean NO ONE could be saved, or forgiven for that matter? I'm a sinner, and I pray, and I feel that God hears, sees, and knows my every thought and want. Could you please clarify this for me?

Your position, I believe, is correct. Sin may block a prayer from getting through, but God is always ready to listen.

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  Recently my youth group has been asking questions about infant death. What do you believe happens to babies when they die? Do they go to heaven?

I suggest you look at Matthew 18:2-4 and 19:13-14. Note especially the words "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Since Jesus graciously received them during His ministry, surely He will do so in heaven. This does not mean that little children, or infants, are innocent, but they have no ability to make a decision for or against Christ, which is the requirement for salvation.

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  I would like to know what happens to Christians who kill themselves? Do they go to hell or are they still considered saved?

Suicide, though it is a grave sin, does not necessarily mean the forfeiture of one's salvation. It is sometimes said that taking one's own life is "the unpardonable sin," since there is no opportunity for repentance after death (on the unpardonable sin see Mark 3:28-30-definitely not suicide). No Christian believer in his right mind will take his own life-a life redeemed by Christ-but there may be cases in which due to a variety of circumstances-such as stress, worry, anxiety, and the like-when even a Christian, out of his right mind, might do this extreme thing. Suicide is definitely wrong; however, we may believe that Christ's death can cover such a person's death and allow him to enter heaven.

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  Is it OK to pray for the soul of someone who died several years ago?

There is no suggestion in Scripture of praying for the souls of those who have died. The decision in this life is determinative of a person's future state of continuing lostness or blessing. Further, the view that there is a purgatory after death, and that prayers may be offered to help in an ongoing purification before entering heaven, is totally foreign to Scripture.

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   I have a hard time understanding in the Book of Exodus where it says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart. Why do you think God did this?

During the time of the plagues in Egypt, frequently the statement is made that "the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart" (Exodus 9:12; 10:1, 20-27; 11:10; 14:8). It is to be noted that the Scripture also says that "Pharaoh hardened his heart" (Exodus 8:15, 32; 9:34). Both of these seemingly contradictory statements are true. Pharaoh's heart was of such a kind that when God did His mighty miracles, a hardness set in. God did it in one sense because His act caused the hardening; in another sense Pharaoh did it himself. Several other verses simply say that "Pharaoh's heart was hardened" (Exodus 7:13, 22; 8:19; 9:7, 35) without specifying either God or Pharaoh to be the cause. Perhaps you have heard the saying that "the same sun that melts wax hardens clay." The hardening is not caused by the sun, but is due to the nature of the substance: so with Pharaoh's heart.

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   If you are a Christian and commit fornication, can God still forgive you?

Fornicators have no place in the kingdom of God. Paul writes: "Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate [by perversion], nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Paul then adds: "Such were some of you" (note the past tense "were"). A basic change has occurred in regard to fornicators, and all the others mentioned: "But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God" (verse 11). Fornication, if it happens by a Christian, is all the more heinous since such belongs to the old life of sin and is contrary to the Christian's new nature. Can God forgive? Yes, if one truly repents. Paul writes about being "made sorrowful to the point of repentance" (2 Corinthians 7:9). If a Christian commits an act of fornication but is so deeply sorrowful as to repent and turn from it, God in His mercy will forgive.

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  Where in the Bible does it talk about Satan and his fall? I have been told that he is the prince of music and that he used to be the head angel, but I can't seem to find this.

In Isaiah 14:12 are the words: "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer [literally 'son of the morning']." This passage, while relating to the king of Babylon and his fall (see verse 4), goes far beyond into a fall "from heaven." Also, in Ezekiel 28:12 are words directed specifically to the king of Tyre, but that likewise suggest more, "You were blameless in your ways, you sinned, therefore I have cast you as profane from the mountain of God" (verses 15-16). Jesus speaks of seeing, "Satan fall from heaven like lightning" (Luke 10:18), and in the book of Revelation there is the vivid declaration that "the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan" (12:9). These are important references relating to Satan and his fall.

The Bible does not speak of Satan as "prince of music" (however much he does seem to dominate many forms of music today!). That Satan was "head angel" seems to be implied in the words that follow in Revelation 12:9-"Satan and his angels." (For more, see Renewal Theology, 1, page 226 and notes.)

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  If Jesus' blood on Calvary can save us from all sin, then how can there be an unpardonable sin? Also, if someone committed it but wanted to be right with God, couldn't he be?

First, we need to note Jesus Himself spoke of the unpardonable sin: "All sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" (Mark 3:28-29). The unpardonable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. In another Gospel, the Scripture reads: "Whoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come" (Matthew 12:32, cf. Luke 12:10). The unpardonable sin is not some extremely vile sin of gross immorality, for all such may be forgiven. Nor is it the terrible sin of denying, even repudiating, Christ. Even this may be forgiven. What then is the unpardonable blasphemy or speech against the Holy Spirit? The Scripture clearly states it in the following words: "For they were saying He has an unclean [or 'evil, NIV] spirit." "They" were the scribes and Pharisees who had just been saying about Jesus, "He is possessed by Beelzebub" and "He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons" (Mark 3:22). The unpardonable sin was to maliciously attribute to Christ the work of the devil, to declaim as evil what is of the Lord, to viciously label an act or work of the Holy Spirit as a demonic spirit. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shows a conscience so perverse and hardened as never to be able to receive forgiveness.

Those who commit this sin are not the murderers, the thieves, the liars, the worldly corrupt, not even the atheists who deny Christ, but religious leaders (like the scribes and Pharisees) who fight against the Holy Spirit. (For more details see Renewal Theology, 1: page 256 and note 54; also 2: page 66, note 24 and page 132.)

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  Is there such a place as purgatory?

According to Roman Catholic doctrine, purgatory is a place where the souls of believers go for the further purging away of sins before entering heaven. However, Scripture makes clear that the souls of believers at death are immediately in the presence of God. In the book of Hebrews there is the picture of heaven as a place where "the spirits of righteous men are made perfect" (12:23). No purgatory is needed: upon death believers are made perfect in the presence of God. (See Renewal Theology, 3: page 400.)

The belief in purgatory leads people unfortunately to much anxiety and to prayers for the dead that their loved ones' time of punishment may be shortened. It is a blessing to know that believers at death are "made perfect" and enter into the joy of heaven.

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   Why is it that Satan works so hard to break certain people? I am in such shame, I rebuke him every moment. No matter what I do, he will not leave me. It seems I am losing this battle, or am I?

Rebuking Satan is important, but such needs to be undergirded by calling on the name of Jesus for deliverance. Satan cannot withstand a living faith in Christ.

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  If God created the devil and the devil is the prince of the world, does that mean that God is the cause of all evil, since the devil is the one who hurts us and he was originally a creation of God?

God did not create the devil! He did create the angels, one of whom-possible the highest-became the devil through his own willful action against God. The fact that the devil is instrumental in all evil thereafter does not mean that God is the cause of such since the devil was not originally God's creation. (For more on the devil's role in human evil, see Renewal Theology, 1: pages 224-229.)

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  Since God created all that is in our temporal universe (including abstract realities such as love and kindness), is it fair to say He also created evil? I realize, theologically, that Satan is the father of evil and that Adam and Eve opened the door with their disobedience. But can evil exist without first being created?

God did not create evil. According to Genesis 1, everything God created, or made, was declared "good" (verses 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25), indeed altogether "very good" (verse 31). Among the highest good there is the gift of freedom: "Man is that entity made to be free" (see Renewal Theology, 1: pages 215-19). Genuine freedom includes freedom of decision for or against God (man was not made a robot!). It was man's decision against God and His command that brought evil upon the earth. (Satan was also involved but not the cause of this evil; man was fully responsible.) Evil is disharmony that man willfully brought into the world.

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   How is God's permissive will related to the occurrence of sin and the Fall?

Sin could not have occurred without God's permissive will. It was a matter both of God's permission and of His will. God permitted it to happen, yet also through its occurrence He purposed to make it an instrument to manifest His grace and glory.

There is undoubtedly a strange paradox here. God surely did not will the sin of man, else He would have been the author of evil; yet He did will that through sin and the fall His purpose should be fulfilled. One aspect of this surely will be the demonstration of His grace, for only through sin will the glory of God's grace become utterly manifest. Without the sin of the human race, there would have been no Calvary and no demonstration of the incredible love of God. Thus it is through the very sin and fall of man that the "amazing grace" of God the Father in Jesus Christ will be made known.

The permissive will of God stands ultimately behind the sin and fall of mankind. This by no means mitigates the heinousness of sin and evil nor the ensuing misery of the human condition. But it does say that through it all God is sovereignly working out His purpose to manifest the heights of His grace and glory. (See Renewal Theology, 1: chapter 10, "Sin.")

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  What does the doctrine of "original sin" affirm?

"Original sin" refers to the fact that the human race is sinful in nature. This by no means refers to human nature as God made it-or makes it-but to the fact that before man commits any sin he is already a sinner. This situation may be described in terms both of sin being passed on to all people from the first man and our identification with primal man in his sin. However depicted, the important feature is that man does not come into the world as an innocent or neutral creature but is affected by sin in all aspects of his being (Psalm 58:3; cf. Psalm 51:5). Indeed, by virtue of this fact, man is vitiated in every area of his nature-body, soul, spirit-so that he is utterly incapable himself of restoration and salvation. His only hope is in Jesus Christ. (See Renewal Theology, 1: chapter 11, "The Effects of Sin.")

 

 

 

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