Is It Ever Right to Lie?

Is it ever appropriate to tell a lie? The recent undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood have raised this question once again in the minds of Christians who are committed to telling the truth because God is truth incarnate (John 14:6). Many Christians argue that under no circumstance are we ever allowed to lie, even if innocent people perish in our truth-telling. The logic goes that since lying is a sin, and it is always wrong to sin, it is always wrong to lie. The problem with our question is the definition of the word “lie.” Is it lying to lie to a Nazi soldier who demands to know where you are hiding the Jews in your house? Would those who say that it is always wrong to lie actually confess to the Nazis where they can find Jewish people to kill? Staying silent would be the same as telling the Nazis where the Jews are since the Nazis would know by their silence that there were Jews hiding in the house and would not give up searching until they found them. The Hebrew midwives will rise up at the judgment and condemn them.

I would agree with Russell Moore’s answer to this question that he gave in his class on Christian Ethics that lying is not telling the truth to those to whom the truth is owed. If lying is defined in this way, then it allows us to affirm that it is always wrong to lie and that the actions of the Hebrew midwives and Rahab in using deception are righteous in God’s sight. There are some people who are undeserving of the truth because they will use it to harm others. This kind of “lying” is not actually lying, but biblically approved deception designed to protect the innocent. As I have written elsewhere, “The truth is not owed to those who would use it to twist God’s Word and harm others. Just as a Nazi soldier is not deserving of the truth concerning whether or not you are hiding Jews in your house or Pharaoh is not deserving of the truth about the birth of Jewish children (Exod 1:17-21), a woman who is contemplating an abortion is not deserving of the truth of infant salvation lest she use it as an excuse for her sin.” God is by nature truth. But he is also righteous, loving, merciful, and the defender of the weak (Ps 72:12-13). As those living in a fallen world, if defending the helpless and needy against those who would try to kill them must involve deception, then doing so is in conformity to God who is by nature the protector of the innocent.

God approved of the actions of the Hebrew midwives in using deception because he blessed them for their actions and because Moses writes that they were motivated by their fear of God to lie about the birth of the male children (Exod 1:17, 20). Their fear of God drove them to practice deception and they would have sinned if they had not lied to Pharaoh to protect the innocent. Their lie was effective because it appealed to Pharaoh’s fear of the Jewish people as a kind of superhuman race. God approved of the actions of Rahab as well in Hebrews 11:31 noting that she was acting by faith when she hid the messengers and by allowing her to become an ancestor of the Messiah (Matt 1:5). Her receiving of the messengers and sending them out by another way included the use of deception in hiding them under her roof and lying to the guards (Jam 2:25). Israel used deception multiple times in their military victories over their enemies such as in the battle of Ai in Joshua 8 and the defeat of the Midianites by Gideon in Judges 7. Richard Wurmbrand was forced to lie to his communist torturers in prison about the location and members of the underground churches in Romania to stop them from torturing him. Should we condemn Wurmbrand for lying to the communist authorities in order to prevent more Christians from being put in prison?

What all of these people who were “lied” to had in common was that they were undeserving of the truth because they would have used it to harm innocent people. Pharaoh would have used the truth about the birth of Jewish children to murder God’s people, the guards at Jericho would have killed the Hebrew spies, the Midianites would have conquered Israel and subjected the people to slavery, and the communist authorities would have imprisoned many more Christians. If rescuing those who are perishing must involve deception, then deception is not only warranted, but it would be sinful to not use deception if doing so is the only way to carry out God’s commands (Prov 24:11). Let’s lie to the glory of God to protect the most vulnerable among us and expose the unfruitful works of darkness (Eph 5:11).

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Sunday Meditation – A Painted Christ

“My faithful request and admonition is that you join our company and associate with us, who are real, great, and hard-boiled sinners! You must by no means make Christ to seem petty and trivial to us – as though He could be our Helper only when we want to be rid from imaginary, nominal, and childish sins. No, no! That would not be good for us. Christ must rather be a Savior and Redeemer from real, great, grievous and damnable transgressions and iniquities – yes, from the very greatest and most shocking sins.”

“One time Dr. Staupitz comforted me . . . He said to me: ‘Aha! You want to be a painted sinner, and accordingly, expect to have in Christ a painted Savior! You will have to get used to the belief that Christ is a real Savior and that you are a real sinner! For God is neither jesting nor dealing in imaginary affairs, but He was greatly and most assuredly in earnest when He sent His own Son into the world and sacrificed Him for our sakes.'”

Martin Luther

What Are “Works of the Law” in Paul’s Writings?

There is a fierce debate in New Testament studies as to the meaning of the disputed phrase “works of the law” in the letters of Paul. The phrase is only used six times in the New Testament (Rom 3:20, 28; Gal 2:16; 3:2, 5, 10). Protestants argue that Romans 3:28 which says, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” proves that we are justified by faith alone before God since all works of the law are excluded from justification. Roman Catholics counter-argued during the Reformation that “works of the law” only refer to those works which separated Jews from Gentiles (circumcision, Sabbath days, food laws) and do not include moral laws that are binding on both Jews and Gentiles (do not murder, do not steal, do not commit adultery). Roman Catholicism teaches that justification is by both faith and works and that justification is a process instead of a one-time event as in Protestantism. Many of the “new perspectives” on Paul that have arisen in recent years have agreed with Catholicism that “works of the law” only include those boundary markers that separated Jews from Gentiles while disagreeing with the Catholic doctrine of justification as Protestants have. Some modern Catholics argue that “works of the law” are broader than just those laws that separate Jews from Gentiles, but rather, are works done outside of a state of grace and are therefore not meritorious like works done in a state of grace after baptism. I will seek to address these different perspectives from Scripture in this article.

Works of the law include both those laws that separate Jews from Gentiles and those laws that are binding on all people based on how the phrase is used in the New Testament. In Galatians 3:10, Paul identifies the works of law as “all things written in the Book of the Law.” This verse is a quotation from Deuteronomy 27:26 where Moses commands the people of Israel to obey God in all that he had commanded them. The previous verses make reference to the moral obligations of the law: prohibitions against sexual immorality and incest, murder, taking bribes, dishonoring father and mother, and perverting justice. These laws are not just binding on Israel, but on all nations. It is always sinful to commit murder regardless if you are a Jew or a Gentile. The Book of the Law is the entirety of the revelation given by God to Israel and is expressed most clearly in the Ten Commandments which is a summary of the entire law. The Book of the Law also contains within in commandments concerning food laws which are not binding on Christians today (Mark 7:19). Therefore, works of the law include both the moral aspects of the law which are binding on all men and the ceremonial aspects of it that have passed away.

Another reason works of the law cannot be restricted to the ceremonial laws which have passed away is because the works of the law bring about conviction of sin. As Paul says, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Rom 3:20). How do laws concerning circumcision and what foods we are allowed to eat bring about knowledge of sin? Additionally, since these laws were never binding on Gentiles, how would Gentiles ever have knowledge of sin if the law was never binding on them? How can “the whole world” have its mouth shut and be accountable to God if the Gentiles were never under the obligations of the law?

If works of the law do not include moral laws that are still binding today, how would boasting be excluded if justification is by both faith and good works? Justification by faith excludes boasting (Rom 3:27). If salvation is dependent on our good works, then it is not of grace (Rom 11:6). If grace means unmerited favor, then how could salvation be by grace if it is merited by us? How would a proponent of the new perspective on Paul argue for the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ, when by defining works of the law as not including moral laws binding on Christians today, he is undercutting the biblical foundation for the Protestant doctrine of justification? Justification by works of the law is directly contrasted with justification by faith (Galatians 2:16; 3:2, 5). But if Paul only intended to exclude the ceremonial law from justification, how would justification still be by faith and provide no ground for boasting?

As for the argument that works of the law only include works done outside of a state of grace, I see no biblical basis for jumping to this conclusion apart from a precommitment to Roman Catholic tradition. It ignores the historical context of Paul’s letters since he was writing against those who required full obedience to the Mosaic Law for justification. The Judaizers were not arguing that works of the law are meritorious outside of a state of grace, but that Gentiles must become Jews in order to be saved which would have involved submitting to the Law of Moses at all points for justification. Defining works of the law as works done outside of a state of grace is irrelevant to the false teaching that Paul was confronting. It would not exclude boasting and nullify salvation by grace alone.

Sunday Meditation – Incomparable in Excellency

“O, pity for evermore that there should be such a one as Christ Jesus, so boundless, so bottomless, and so incomparable in infinite excellency and sweetness, and so few to take Him.

O, ye poor dry and dead souls, why will ye not come hither with your empty vessels, and your empty souls to this huge, and fair, and deep, and sweet well of life and fill all your empty vessels.

O, that Christ should be so large in sweetness and worth, and we so narrow, pinched, so ebb, and so void of all happiness, and yet men will not take Him. They lose their love miserably, who will not bestow it upon this lovely One.”

Samuel Rutherford

The Origin of Rape as a Weapon in Islam

Last week I read an article depicting the horrible and barbaric practices of ISIS militants who use rape as a weapon against their enemies. Through human trafficking, sexual abuse, and violence, ISIS seeks to intimidate their opponents and strike fear in the hearts of anyone who would stand up to them. This is the essence of terrorism. The media’s perspective on these atrocities is that this practice is unique to ISIS and other terrorist organizations who do not represent true Islam which is peaceful and respects women.

But what if this practice of kidnapping and raping women is rooted in the life of Muhammad rather than being some aberration of Islamic theology? What if the terrorists are right that the Qur’an does permit them to carry out these heinous acts? What if the “peaceful Muslims” are actually bad Muslims who do not follow all the teachings of the Qur’an and the “terrorists” are good Muslims who represent historical Islam? Consider these examples from the life of Muhammad:

“I drove them along until I brought them to Abu Bakr who bestowed that girl upon me as a prize. So we arrived in Medina. I had not yet disrobed her when the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) met me in the street and said: ‘Give me that girl'” (Sahih Muslim book 19, chapter 14, section 4345).

“Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) sent a small army. The rest of the hadith is the same except this that he said: Except what your right hands possess out of them are lawful for you; and he did not mention when their ‘idda period comes to an end.’ This hadith has been reported on the authority of AbuSa’id (al-Khudri) (Allah be pleased with him) through another chain of transmitters and the words are: They took captives (women) on the day of Autas who had their husbands. They were afraid (to have sexual intercourse with them) when this verse was revealed: And women already married except those whom you right hands posses” (Sahih Muslim book 8, chapter 29, section 3433).

In addition to the historical examples of both Muhammad himself taking female prisoners of war and his permission for others to do the same, the Qur’an gives Allah’s approval of the practice:

“O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee; and daughters of thy paternal uncles and aunts, and daughters of thy maternal uncles and aunts, who migrated (from Makka) with thee; and any believing woman who dedicates her soul to the Prophet if the Prophet wishes to wed her; – this only for thee, and not for the Believers (at large); We know what We have appointed for them as to their wives and the captives whom their right hands possess; – in order that there should be no difficulty for thee. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (Surah 33:50).

“Also (forbidden are) women already married, except those (captives and slaves) whom your right hands possess. Thus has Allah ordained for you. All others are lawful, provided you seek (them in marriage) with Mahr (bridal money given by the husband to his wife at the time of marriage) from your property, desiring chastity, not committing illegal sexual intercourse, so with those of whom you have enjoyed sexual relations, give them their Mahr as prescribed; but if after a Mahr is prescribed, you agree mutually (to give more), there is no sin on you. Surely, Allah is Ever All-Knowing, All-Wise” (Surah 4:24).

The depiction of the murder of Umm Qirfa by Zayd (Muhammad’s adoptive son) demonstrates the cruelty of ISIS is not unique to them, but began with Muhammad and his family:

“Allah’s Messenger sent Zayd to Wadi Qura, where he encountered the Banu Fazarah. Some of his Companions were killed, and Zayd was carried away wounded. Ward was slain by the Banu Badr. When Zayd returned, he vowed that no washing should touch his head until he had raided the Fazarah. After he recovered, Muhammad sent him with an army against the Fazarah settlement. He met them in Qura and inflicted casualties on them and took Umm Qirfah prisoner. He also took one of Umm’s daughters and Abdallah bin Mas’adah prisoner. Zyad bin Harithah ordered Qays to kill Umm, and he killed her cruelly. He tied each of her legs with a rope and tied the ropes to two camels, and they split her in two” (Tabari Vol. 8: page 96).

Muslim apologists will object to our rejection of Islam based on these passages by citing Deuteronomy 21:10-14 which describes God’s permission for the people of Israel to marry foreign widows whose husbands had been killed in battle. But Jesus in Matthew 19:8 says concerning the Mosaic laws of divorce, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” The laws permitting divorce in the Old Testament do not reflect God’s original design for marriage. Deuteronomy 21:14 mentions God permitting divorce and therefore I would include verses 10-13 in with the permission to divorce as an accommodation to the sinful desires of fallen man rather than reflecting God’s original will for his people. God only allowed this because of the hardness of the people’s hearts and it has been abrogated through the New Covenant ministry of Christ. Another difference between Deuteronomy 21:10-14 and the Quran is that in the Quran many of the husbands were still alive. The passage in Deuteronomy is describing marriage while the Quran is permitting sexual relations outside of marriage. It must also be kept in mind that the military conquests of the Old Testament were limited in scope and duration. They were designed for a specific period of time to bring God’s judgment upon wicked civilizations and to drive out foreigners to make room for the people of God (Deut 18:10-12). This is in contrast to the open-ended nature of the calls for Jihad in Islam.

May these tragic stories cause us to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are facing persecution in the Middle East. May we speak for those who have no voice but suffer in silence. May God break the teeth of the wicked and speed the day of Christ’s return. Whatever suffering we face as Christians in America for our faith does not compare with this.

Sunday Meditation – No Other Atonement

“In rejecting that way of salvation you reject yourselves. What did Christ die for, if we can be saved in some other way? Why did he pour out his blood if there is a cheaper method to win the skies? Why did he go down into the depths of death-shade, if you can force your way to heaven by your own endeavors without him? No, no: we will stand fast where we now are, resting only and alone upon Jesus Christ our Savior.”

“To me, Christ’s sacrifice is a business transaction as clear and straight as mathematics could make it. I care not that men decry what they call ‘the mercantile theory of the atonement.’ I hold no ‘theory’ of the atonement; I believe that the substitution of Christ for his people is the atonement for their sins; and that there is no other atonement, but that all else is theory. This is to me so clear, so true, so definite, that I can venture to say with Simeon, when I have seen Christ, especially Christ crucified, Christ glorified, ‘Mine eyes have seen thy salvation.'”

Charles Spurgeon

What Is the Relationship between Faith and Regeneration?

Which comes first, faith in Christ or being born again?  Do we trust in Christ and then become born again as a result of our faith or do we trust in Christ because we have been born again?  Our answer to this question flows from our understanding of the state of fallen man. If man is morally unable to believe the gospel because he is hostile to God, then God must change his heart through regeneration before he can trust in Christ and faith would always be the certain and immediate result of regeneration.  But if fallen man is not so depraved that he cannot trust in Christ alone to save him apart from regeneration, then a person could argue that sinners are not so enslaved to sin that their wills are not free to choose and love God.  Regeneration would then be the Holy Spirit’s response to our decision to follow Jesus.  While some would say that we are entering into the realm of speculative theology when we consider such questions, how we answer this question impacts how we do evangelism and invite sinners to Christ.  It is the difference between the evangelism of Charles Finney versus that of George Whitefield – the First Great Awakening versus the Second.

1 John 5:1 is relevant to this debate because it says, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God.”  Notice that “believes” is in the present tense while “has been born” is in the perfect tense.  1 John 2:29 and 1 John 4:7 both use the same grammatical construction: “you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him” and “whoever loves has been born of God.”  “Practices righteousness” and “loves” are both in the present tense while “has been born” is perfect as in 1 John 5:1.  Now which comes first, being born again or practicing righteousness?  A person cannot practice righteousness until he or she has been born again.  A person cannot love God until the new birth.  Likewise, a person cannot believe until they have been born again through the work of the Holy Spirit during the preaching of the gospel.

That is why the Word of God is the instrument of regeneration.  James 1:18 affirms this truth when it says, “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth.”  1 Peter 1:23 says the same thing when Peter writes, “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.”  Our response to the gospel is the end result of God’s work of election: “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess 2:13-14). Being born again is not the result of man’s decision as John 1:13 says, “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  John 3:8 says that we cannot control the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit any more than we can control the wind: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  The Holy Spirit brings new life to those whom he chooses.  That’s why Paul says, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Rom 9:16).

It is only through the Holy Spirit that a person can confess Jesus as Lord: “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3).  Believing in Christ must be granted by God as Philippians 1:29 says, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”  Faith is something that we obtain from God: “Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 1:1).  He must cause us to be born again because we were dead in our trespasses and sins (1 Peter 1:3; Eph 2:1-3).  Because unregenerate man who does not have the Spirit is hostile to God and cannot please him (Rom 8:7-8), God must take the initiative in coming to us through the Spirit in the gospel.  Are faith and repentance things that are pleasing to God?  Then the man without the Spirit by definition cannot exercise them.  He must first have the Spirit in order to love the one he was formerly hostile in mind to.  He must be drawn by the Father (John 6:44, 65).  And God’s calling is always effectual because all of those whom God calls he justifies (Rom 8:30).  Regeneration is the resurrecting power of God whereby he gives new life to sinners who were in rebellion against him.  And God wants to use us as his instruments because the preaching of the gospel is the means by which God through the Spirit grants new life.

I would agree with Charles Spurgeon who was on the side of John Calvin and the Westminster Assembly when he said, “Coming to Christ is the very first effect of regeneration. No sooner is the soul quickened than it at once discovers its lost estate, is horrified thereat, looks out for a refuge, and believing Christ to be a suitable one, flies to him and reposes in him. Where there is not this coming to Christ, it is certain that there is as yet no quickening; where there is no quickening, the soul is dead in trespasses and sins, and being dead it cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.”  And in the sermon “Faith and Regeneration” he said, “To believe in Jesus is a better indicator of regeneration than anything else, and in no case did it ever mislead. Faith in the living God and his Son Jesus Christ is always the result of the new birth, and can never exist except in the regenerate. Whoever has faith is a saved man.”