Answers to Correspondents.: Feelings; ROM 6:23; "A Sin Unto Death"

Romans 6:23  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 9
S. S. P. V. R.—The writer of the paper "On Reading Fiction," in our issue of April last, lives some sixteen thousand miles away, so we are not able to send him your kindly criticism if it is to receive an immediate reply. It can hardly be supposed that his quotation, "Whatsoever things are true" (Phil. 4:88Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Philippians 4:8)), was intended to suggest that our reading should be confined to bare facts stated in cold and naked terms and stripped of every adornment of poetry and fancy. Our contributor would scarcely forget that in the sacred Scriptures the Holy Spirit speaks in allegories. He tells us of the trees which went forth to anoint a king over them (Judg. 9:88The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. (Judges 9:8)), and of the vine wasted by the boar and devoured by the wild beasts of the field (Psa. 80). Moreover, there are the parables of our Lord. All these, however, are pictorial representations of things which are true. Assuredly there was no intention on the part of the writer you criticize to exclude from our reading things cast in similar molds so long as they are also true. But no one can gauge the damage done by novels, which pour from the press, which are neither true, nor noble, nor just, nor pure, nor lovely, nor of good report, though they be eagerly devoured even by many who call themselves Christians. No good conies of such reading, nothing but harm; and its baneful effects are seen in the spiritual wreckage which everywhere lines the shores of life. Against this sore and spreading evil we raise our earnest protest.
You are not particularly happy in your choice of Mr. Sheldon's book, "In His steps; or, What would Jesus do?" as an illustration of the admirable way fiction may be used in the furtherance of truth. That book, in our judgment, cannot be classed with" whatsoever things are true." The basis of all holiness of life is the new birth and redemption by the blood of Christ, concerning which this book is silent. Ignoring these fundamental truths, it would lead us to suppose that it is competent for everyone to walk "in His steps." But how can an unsaved one, who has never received Christ as his Savior, follow the footsteps of Him who did no sin and in whose mouth no guile was ever found? Besides, Mr. Sheldon places certain of his characters in positions which no reverent mind could ever conceive the Lord Jesus to be in. That the disciples of Christ should follow His steps, "who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not," is most true (1 Peter 2:2323Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: (1 Peter 2:23)). And the question, "What would Jesus do?" is admirable when we find ourselves in circumstances where such a question might be justly asked. But this is not always the case. I need not say that the will of God should be the Christian's guide in all things, but we do not believe the will of God would ever place His people in situations where Mr. Sheldon in his book supposes some of them to be.
H. S.—We would counsel you to turn your thoughts away from yourself, and to rest simply and entirely on Christ alone. Do not be always looking within and scanning your own experience, but let there be a sincere reliance on the Savior's finished and atoning work. Remember that our feelings are an unreliable guide; they change so often, and are as unstable as the waves of the sea. But the Word of the Lord, by which we are assured of forgiveness and eternal salvation, is as firm as a rock. Let your faith rest on that great foundation. And do not be afraid or ashamed to confess Jesus as your Lord. Count on Him to give you courage to confess His name among men. A secret disciple is never a happy one. When your assurance is assailed look up to your present Savior and turn to some sweet passages of Scripture such as John 10, 27-30 and John 13:11Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. (John 13:1), and quietly read them. His words are spirit and life, and you will find them so. May the Lord richly bless you and keep you as a little child close to His side.
A REDEEMED SINNER.—Rom. 6:2323For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23).—This verse seems to us very plain and needing but little comment. The wages of sin is—DEATH; but the gift of God is—ETERNAL LIFE. Mark the contrasts. Gift is opposed to wages, and eternal life to death. But guard yourself from supposing that death refers only to the body, and that eternal life means nothing more than endless existence. Death is a term having a moral force. The condition of all men by nature is one of death in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:11And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; (Ephesians 2:1)). If a man be "alienated from the life of God" (Eph. 4:1818Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: (Ephesians 4:18)), what can he be but spiritually dead, though physically very much alive? To that state of death the blessed contrast is eternal life, and it is the gift of God. Who they are that receive it the third chapter of John plainly shows. And it is theirs now, as it will be theirs in its completeness by-and-by. If, then, men are full of physical life and energy now, though destitute of eternal life, why should it be thought that without eternal life they cannot exist hereafter It is confounding things that differ. As to your other query, we should not look to the Old Testament for much teaching on the subject, seeing that life and incorruptibility (for so 2 Tim. 1:1010But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: (2 Timothy 1:10) should read) have been brought to light through the gospel. "Brought to light," remark, not brought into being. How perfect and accurate Scripture is!
S. B. AND A. R.—Without wishing to lessen the solemnity of "a sin unto death," we cannot view it as a sin entailing everlasting punishment, as you do. Nor do we look upon it as identical with blasphemy against the Holy Ghost in Mark 3:2929But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: (Mark 3:29). That it cannot have the meaning you attach to it in 1 Cor. 11:3030For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. (1 Corinthians 11:30) is plain from the context. Bear in mind that the marginal reading of "damnation" is "judgment," and this is certainly the right word. The one who eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks judgment unto himself. But if a Christian by such unworthy conduct brings upon himself the judgment of the Lord, he is thus chastened that he "should not be condemned with the world." This is precisely what verse 32 says, and so it sweeps away your contention entirely. But you will say, "If a believer is thus taken away, he goes to be with Christ; how then can that be chastening?" We answer by referring to the nameless prophet who, after prophesying against Jeroboam's idolatrous altar, sinned, on his way home, "a sin unto death" (1 Kings 13). Such a mission as he had fulfilled, we may be sure of it, was entrusted to no ordinary hands, and it is but natural to suppose that glorious opportunities of future service were in store for him had he not come to such an untimely end. Will it be no loss to him, think you, in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, when the Lord, the Righteous Judge, shall assign to each his place in His kingdom, that his 'life so abruptly closed through his disobedience? And if it be so in his case, why not in others? In this light "a sin unto death" is a serious matter, though it may not involve eternal condemnation.