- Thursday, December 04, 2008
Now [the Bereans] were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Luke tells us that the Bereans were “more noble” because they were “examining the Scriptures” for themselves. The word translated “examining” was often used in legal settings in the first century. The Bereans judiciously studied the Bible for themselves to see if what Paul said was true.
Be like the Bereans. Resolve that you are going to work out an understanding of forgiveness based on the Word of God. You don’t need my opinion or anyone else’s. You need to hear from God. When you work through your personal beliefs about forgiveness, be thoroughly biblical. Know where the relevant references are in the Bible. When you pick up any book on forgiveness and read it, ask yourself, does this book plainly set forth the teaching of Scripture? How much is it really interacting with the Bible?
This is for sure: if a book on forgiveness is going to be worth your while, it should be dripping with Scripture.
Statement #4: Forgiveness occurs properly only when certain conditions are met. TRUE.
If you answered “false,” you are not alone. Whenever I give this quiz, a number of people give that answer. One author dedicated his book on forgiveness with this phrase: “To God who forgives all.”2 This is an unconditional statement. It says categorically that God forgives all. No exceptions.
Is that how it works? Does God forgive everyone?
Every time I think about that book dedication, I am puzzled. For a while I kept thinking I was missing something. I asked a lot of people, “Is that true? Does God forgive all?”
The answer to that question is decidedly no. Of course, it may feel warm and fuzzy to say that God forgives all, but the reality is that he does not. The Bible is full of true stories about people who were not forgiven.
Here is one such grim story that you know. Before I even remind you of it, let me assure you, I am not making light of this. It is a story of awful judgment.
Picture it. Goliath went out every day and talked trash about God. Nine feet tall, cursing, spitting, taunting, he defied God. But soon enough David pulled off the quintessential upset of all time and took Goliath down with one smooth stone.
At the risk of grossing you out, did you ever meditate on what Scripture says David was lugging around when he debriefed with King Saul after the fight? First Samuel 17:57 reads:
And as soon as David returned from the striking down of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand.
David had Goliath’s head because he had severed it with the giant’s own sword. And now, rather than dropping the violence from the story, Scripture describes how David dragged Goliath’s dripping, discolored, already smelly head around.
After David knocked Goliath down, he did not offer Goliath an ice pack and lean over and whisper, “Goliath, you have really gotten a lot of people upset on the other side of the valley, but we love and forgive you.” No, he hacked off his head and dragged it from the battlefield.
Is that not truly awful? Here is the thing. The story of David and Goliath is not in the Bible so we have an inspiring story for undersized children or so we have something to tell our football teams before they play a highly ranked opponent. Nor is it a model of how we resolve interpersonal differences. God included it in the Bible to show us the reality of his judgment and that he does not forgive all.
The reality of God’s justice is not limited to the Old Testament. Revelation, the last book in the Bible, graphically describes what will happen to those who are not forgiven. In the Gospels, Jesus prophesied weeping and gnashing of teeth for the unforgiven. And John wrote about forgiveness with a condition:
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