Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Gaza Massacre (5) Right to Self Defence

Many western politicians are claiming that Israel has a “Right to Self Defence”. Unfortunately, this claim is not true. Israel does not have an absolute right to self-defence against Palestinian attacks.

When a nation uses military power to occupy territory beyond its borders, it does not have a right of self-defence against the people of the territory it has occupied when it uses military power to escape the occupation. When a nation uses military power to establish an economic blockade over a territory beyond its borders, it does not have a right of self-defence against the people of that territory who use military force to break the blockade.

The rights are the other way around. The people whose territory has been occupied have a right to use military force to push the occupying military power out of their territory. Likewise, the people living in the territory that has been subjected to an economic blockade have the right to use military force to break out.

During the Second World War, when Nazi Germany had occupied France, the French Resistance did some fairly nasty stuff to try and push the Germans out of France. Although they sometimes harmed civilians who had collaborated with the German occupiers, no one would suggest that the actions of the French Resistance were illegal. Rather, they are perceived as the heroes of the war. No one would complain that the Germans had a right to self-defence against the attacks of the French Resistance.

The same principle applies to the people of Gaza. They have the right to use military force against the Israeli military forces that initially occupied their territory and have now established an economic blockade around their territory. They are just doing what the French Resistance did to the German Nazis. (In a way, as the quasi-government of Gaza, Hamas would be remiss if it did not use military force to liberate the Palestinian people.

This is what the Palestinians did on 7 October 2023. Gaza militants attacked the Israeli military forces that were enforcing the economic blade on Gaza (Israel is an “occupying power” by its own definition). The Israelis were caught sleeping, and the Palestinian fighters gained control of at least a dozen bases on the border in Israel.

The Hamas fighters took prisoners of war from among the Israeli forces who were seriously defeated in this battle. This is what has happened in most recent wars. It is far better to take prisoners and swap them for other prisoners than to slaughter all the defeated soldiers (as Israel sometimes seems to be doing in Gaza).

A problem with the attack was that many civilians got caught up in the battle, but no one thinks much about why this happened. The reason is that Israel has a practice of building kibbutz or townships close to its military bases near the border. It has done this near Gaza and close to the border with Lebanon and Syria. They do this to provide a more homely place for their military forces to live (but it also turns the civilians into human shields). Placing civilians close to the line of contact in a war zone is irresponsible.

When the Palestinian forces attacked early in the morning, many of the Israeli soldiers enforcing the blockade on Gaza were sleeping in the kibbutz or township where they lived. Therefore, when the Israeli forces were defeated, many soldiers were wearing civilian clothes or nightwear and were not easily identifiable, so many civilians got caught up as prisoners of war with the Israeli soldiers who were defeated (they have all now been released).

The Israeli reaction to the defeat was slow and violent. The majority of the deaths on 7 October were Israeli military personnel. Many of the civilian victims were killed by Israeli helicopters and tanks. This is why it was so difficult to identify the victims. Tank commanders have admitted firing shells into houses occupied by Gazan fighters and civilians. Pilots have admitted that 28 Israeli helicopters were firing 30-millimeter cannon mortars indiscriminately without any intelligence to guide them destroying many cars and houses. The hundreds of burnt-out cars shown on television with occupants burnt beyond recognition were probably hit by these helicopters. The portable weapons carried by the militia from Gaza were not powerful enough to do such terrible damage.

Due to embarrassment, the Israeli government has refused to investigate what really happened on 7 October, so we do not know how many Israeli civilians were killed by panicked Israeli forces, but we can assume it was a large number due to the destructive power of their weapons.

The Israeli rock concert was a disaster. Giving the organisers of a rave a permit to hold a concert within a war zone, a few kilometres from the line of contact is totally stupid. When the Palestinian militia arrived early in the morning, the IDF defenders were still asleep, but unfortunately the rave was still going. Many would have been members of the IDF or reservists. Quite a few of these would have been armed with pistols. So when the Palestinian fighters unexpectedly encountered the people at the rave, they fought back as they had been trained to do. Many civilians would have been caught in the crossfire and killed. This is sad, but it is part of the fog of war.

To cover up these disasters, the Israeli government has tried to portray the events as a terrorist attack. However, the account above shows that this is misleading.

Christians should avoid the words terrorism and terrorist because their use is usually hypocritical or manipulative. The problem is that terrorism/terrorist is a slippery word that is usually used for propaganda purposes by governments in an attempt to demonise their enemies. It usually refers to a group of people that we want others to hate. The truth is that war always results in terror.

The United States has labelled numbers of groups as terrorists, yet none of these groups have killed as many civilians as the United States killed during its reckless invasion of Iraq. It refused to keep a record of civilian casualties to avoid embarrassment, but independent observers have come up with figures between 500,000 and a million Iraqi civilians killed. Isn’t that the real terrorism? And it has not been matched by any so-called terrorist groups that people in the United States are encouraged to hate.

Israel is trying to use the “terrorism” word to justify their defensive shambles on 7 October, but I doubt that they will get away with it. Newspapers in Israel are now reporting on the inadequacies of the Israeli response, so I suspect that the truth will eventually come out.

The action on 7 October was not a terrorist act but a cleverly executed military attack by an oppressed people on their oppressors. The real terrorising in this region has been done by the Israeli defence forces. The worst terror has been created by bombing the so-called safe areas that the Israelis insisted that Gazans should flee to.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Gaza Massacre (4) Two Promises

God has made two promises about Israel that have been widely misunderstood.

1. Safety in Exile
After the Destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Romans scattered most of the Jews among the nations. God promised that they would be kept safe there for the entirety of the season called the Times of the Gentiles, but only if they remained scattered (Rev 12:14-16). The consequence of this promise is that the Jews have continued to exist as a unique people for 2000 years.

This promise demonstrated amazing generosity by God, given that his people had rejected Messiah Jesus and the Holy Spirit he sent. This rejection robbed them of the blessings of the Torah, but God promised to protect them despite this rejection.

The corollary of this promise is that if they came together in large groups, they would put themselves at risk. This happened at various times during the history of Europe. It is now happening in the land of Palestine. By coming together in a nation-state in the twentieth century, the Jewish people have put themselves at risk by losing God’s promised protection. The consequence is that they will not be safe in the land of Israel until the Times of the Gentiles are complete.

2. Return from Exile
God has promised that at the end of the Times of the Gentiles, he will bring the people of Israel back to their land. More important, he described how, he would do it. He declared that he would give the children of Israel a new heart and a new spirit (Is 11:11; Jer 31:33-34; Ezek 36:26-27). They would come to know him, love him, and be able to serve him. The Holy Spirit will cause the nations to allow the Israelites to return and help them on their way. The nations will see God doing this when it happens and honour him .

The Zionist movement misunderstood this promise, and tried to force it to happen before the Times of the Gentiles was complete. In the twentieth century, they used political manipulation, military force, alliances with powerful gentile nations, and United Nations regulations to establish a nation-state for themselves (See Woman on the Beast). This forced return from exile did not match the nature and quality of the return that God promised through the prophets. Its ugly character is now being revealed.

Moving ahead of God’s timing is always a serious failure. Presumption got Israel into trouble in the time of Moses.

Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the highest point in the hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the LORD’s covenant moved from the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah. (Num 14:44-45).
Perhaps this is the experience with the Amalekites that Israel should be remembering.

Dangerous Presumption
A presumptive return from exile creates two serious problems.

  • The first problem is that it breaks the first promise of God described above. By gathering together in a nation-state, the children of Israel have lost the protection that God promised while they remained scattered amongst the nations. This has left them vulnerable to attack.

  • More seriously, by establishing a nation using political manipulation, military force and alliances with gentile nations, they abrogated the requirements of the Torah, which is the basis for their right to the land. Losing the right to live in the land leaves them vulnerable to attack from inside and outside. This creates a vicious cycle for Israel that it cannot escape.

    1. Threats of attack come from the Palestinian residents of the land and the surrounding nations.

    2. Israel uses force for security, so it must rely on an alliance with a Gentile nation, the development of nuclear weapons, a powerful air force and tanks. For safety, it also needs a political system that excludes non-Jews from power (a type of apartheid).

    3. Unfortunately, these activities are all forbidden by the Torah, so they remove the blessing it promised.

    4. This loss of blessing increases the insecurity and risk of external attack.

Reliance on political and military power leads to loss of blessings, which leads to greater threats from other peoples, which leads to increased insecurity, which leads to even reliance on greater military and political power. There is no escape from this vicious cycle apart from a merciful rescue by God.

More at Nation of Israel.

The presumptive breach of the first promise raises an important question. Will God still keep the second promise described above. I am sure that God will bring the Jewish people to faith in Jesus when the Times of Gentiles are complete. I am sure that he will give Israel a new spirit and a new heart as he promised. I have always believed that God would bring the children of Israel back to the land of Palestine.

Now, after reading through Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel again, I am not so sure. I am wondering if the presumptive, warring behaviour of the Israeli government will not lead to nasty, destructive wars that result in the promised land being made inhabitable for humans. That would mean God’s promise will have to be fulfilled by a spiritual return.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Gaza Massacre (3) Land

Israel’s claim to the land of Palestine is based on the promise that God made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses. However, this promise has always been conditional on obedience to the Torah. Failure to comply with the Torah led to exile in Babylon in Jeremiah’s time. The nation of Israel has abrogated its right to the land in the current season by its continued failure to comply with the Torah. The following are just examples

  • Trust in military power for security. F16s and tanks are the modern equivalents of chariots and horses.

  • Dependence on a security alliance with another nation (the US) rather than trusting in God.

  • Different laws/justice for Jews and resident aliens.

  • Imprisoning people without a fair legal process.

  • Punishing children for the sins of their fathers.

  • Destroying houses.

  • Killing women and children in battle.

  • Moving ancient boundary lines.

God gave the land of Canaan to Israel, but the gift was conditional on obedience to God. It is not an absolute right. Modern Israel is breaking the Torah requirements in many different ways, so it has abrogated the right it has to the land. Unless something happens to change this situation, the consequences could be nasty.

An associated problem is that Israel has no protection from the spiritual powers of evil that are attacking it (the Torah only provides limited spiritual protection). When I visited Israel for two weeks in 2010, I used public transport and stayed in the Arab quarter to get a clear sense of the spiritual climate (most Christian visitors spend their time on religious tours or stay in Christian enclaves so they don’t get a true sense of the situation). I was shocked by the prevalence of spirits of anger and hatred wherever we went, mostly amongst the Jewish people we encountered (The Arab people (mostly carried a spirit of fear or despair). The statements of Israeli leaders and the actions of the IDF indicate that these spirits have grown increasingly powerful since then. Control by spirits of anger and hatred, along with a spirit of pride, is causing the Israeli government to make serious mistakes.

By opening their nation up to the spiritual power of evil, the Israeli people seem to be filling up the cup of wrath that they will have to drink. They will experience the consequences of their choices, so I fear for them. This is what happens in a nation that rejects and shuts out the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Gaza Massacre (2)

The complicity of western political leaders in the destruction of Gaza is ugly, revealing their moral bankruptcy.

The blanket support of Israel by Christians, particularly in the United States, is disturbing.
Thousands of bombs made and paid for by Christian America have been dropped on trapped civilians, but no one cares.

The euphoric and jubilant approval of this destructive violence by Christian leaders is disturbing. A steep price will be paid in increasing hostility to the gospel, particularly in the parts of the world where the deliverance from evil that Jesus died for is so desperately needed.

God's people have become an embarrassment to God.

The dreadful silence of the American internet prophets is distressing, but not unexpected.

What happens spiritually to a nation whose prophets and spiritual leaders spill out hatred and anger, and suck in lies with keen willingness; especially when they don't realise that the hatred and anger is there, because they have been with them for so long that they have become their friend, and the lies have become so comfortable that they seem like the truth.

The shame that has been released is a blot that can never be covered up.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Gaza Massacre

The judgment of the International Court of Justice released today was shaped by both political expediency and by justice, which is not surprising given it is a human court formed on political lines.

I am more interested in the judgment of God.

The defenders of Israel say, "This justifies that?"
But they forget that the standard God requires of Israel is much higher because they claim to be his people, as is his standard for the United States because they claim to be a Christian nation.
God's calling gives responsibilities, not rights and privileges.
Those with the most power have the greatest responsibility.

The state of Israel is exposing its ugly heart to God before the face of the people of the world.

Indiscriminate bombing followed by a brutal invasion.
Twenty-six thousand people dead, the majority of them women and children.
Sixty-five thousand injured.
Thousands are missing, many of them dying a slow and painful death under rubble.
Hospitals and schools destroyed.
Civilian infrastructure demolished.
Half the houses in Gaza destroyed.
Property ownership records have been destroyed.
Pregnant women without care.
New-born babies dying due to lack of nutrition and medical care.
Children having limbs amputated without anaesthetics.
Deliveries of food, water and medical supplies cut off.
Millions starved and thirsty.
Sickness and disease spreading.
Thousands living in tents during winter.
Thirty thousand bombs and shells have been dropped on Gaza — eight times more bombs than the U.S. dropped on Iraq during six years of war.
Hundreds of 2,000-pound bombs have obliterated densely populated areas, including refugee camps.
Huge bombs dropped on the places where people were told to go for safety.
Vulgar and violent behaviour by IDF soldiers,
Shooting Israeli hostages,
Gassing three Israeli hostages.
Surrendering prisoners shot dead.
A man waving a white flag shot dead.
Israel is exposing the brutality, anger, hatred and fear in its heart before the entire world.
People with their eyes open are seeing through Israeli lies and justifying propaganda.

The ugly heart of the Israeli nation is being revealed.
Their defenders will continue to deny the truth,
but anyone with half-open eyes can see it.

Anyone who claims these actions are blessed by God has a very ugly god: not the one I serve.

I am not a lawyer, so I don’t know if the Israeli actions listed above meet the legal criteria to be called genocide, ethnic cleansing, or just massive war crimes. However, I have been reading the book of Jeremiah over the last month, and it is clear that modern Israel’s sins definitely meet Jeremiah’s standard for failure to obey God. As I read what the Israeli government and military have been doing, I have been shocked. Their sins seem to be far worse than those that got Jeremiah’s Judah exiled to Babylon.

The main sins of the people in Jehoiachin and Zechariah’s time were breaking the Sabbath, worshipping idols and trusting in military alliances with other nations for their security. They will demand a retrial, if God does not judge the far more serious sins of modern Israel more seriously.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Guilt Gospel (7) Preaching Guilt

The evangelical gospel that begins with guilt, continues with guilt. Over the holidays, I have listened to some sermons by one of our nation’s best preachers. The theme of his messages is interesting.

  • We need to pray more, if we want to see revival.
  • We need to read the Bible more.
  • We need to worship better. If we do, revival will come.
These words are probably true and no doubt the preacher intended to encourage his listeners to do more of these things.

However, the problem with these messages is that they put a guilt trip on the people listening. The preacher’s message implies that they are not praying enough, not worshipping as seriously as they could, and not reading the bible sufficiently. They are guilty of missing the preacher’s standards. The listeners are probably some of the best Christians in his church. They are probably working hard for their families, occupations and their communities. Most are really committed to following Jesus, but the preacher’s message is that these busy people should be doing more. Although the cross has dealt with their guilt, they are still guilty of not doing enough.

As I reflected on all the sermons that I have heard over years of following Jesus, I realised that many of them have the same effect. The preachers probably intended to encourage their listeners to serve Jesus better, but the ultimate effect is to leave their listeners feeling guilty. Guilt is not a good motivator. It might make people strive harder, but that is not how we walk in the Spirit and grow in faith.

The western evangelical gospel begins with guilt, and it continues with guilt as those who accept this gospel attempt to walk in faith.

This full series can be read on Substack.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Guilt Gospel (6) Repentance

The modern evangelical church has confused remorse with repentance. Remorse is defined as a “deep sense of regret, sadness or shame about a past action.” Remorse is the natural response to guilt. Many Christians assume that repentance requires remorse.

Repentance has a different meaning. The Greek word usually translated as repent is “metanoeo”. It means “to think differently”. “meta” means “after or with”. “noieo” means “to exercise the mind, think or consider”. Consequently, repentance means a complete change in thinking about life and the world. It is not remorse for past actions.

Paul is a great example of real repentance. He was a hard-core Pharisee. He persecuted Christians and tried to kill them because he believed they were undermining God’s purposes for Israel. Given what he believed about the Jewish relationship with God, killing Christians was a logical thing to do. Other Jewish leaders were not doing the same, because they were not as serious in their faith as Paul.

On the Damascus Road, Paul had an encounter with Jesus. He realised that his understanding of God and his relationship with the Jews and the world were totally wrong. In an instant, he had to change his world view and his way of thinking about God and what he was doing.

Paul did not wallow in remorse for his treatment of Christians before his encounter with Jesus. He acknowledged that it was wrong, but he understood that it was his understanding of God and the world that was the real wrong. His killing of Christians was the logical consequence of his beliefs about the world. It showed that he was serious about serving God, as he knew him and his ways.

When writing to the Philippians and describing the bad thinking that he had to repent from, he spoke of his circumcision, membership of the tribe of Benjamin, being a Hebrew of the Hebrews, being zealous Pharisee and confidence in his righteousness based on the Law (Phil 3:4-6). His persecution of the church was the action that naturally responded from this thinking about God and the world. I am sure he felt remorse about the Christians he had killed, but that remorse would not be enough to change him into a new man. It was his repentance/change of thinking about God, the world and his role in it that enabled him to become a new man. Once he had changed his thinking about God and Jesus, it was logical to give up killing Christians.

When we preach the good news of Jesus, we should be explaining to people that they need to change their thinking about God and the world. Getting them to feel guilty/remorseful about the things they have done is the past is a poor substitute for true repentance. Wrong behaviour is the logical outcome of wrong thinking and the bondage to evil spiritual powers that it produces.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Guilt Gospel (5) Resurrection and Deliverance

I am intrigued by the way that Paul presented the gospel of Jesus in the book of Acts.

It is necessary for the Christos to suffer and to be raised up from among the dead ones (Acts 17:3 Second Testament).
Two things stand out to me.
  • Jesus had to suffer.
  • He has to be raised up from among people who had died.
Modern preachers tend to claim that Jesus died. They often say that he shed his blood. The emphasis is on dying and bleeding. Paul focuses on Jesus' suffering.

This way of presenting Jesus' achievement raises an important question. Why did Jesus have to suffer? I am sure that God did not need Jesus to suffer before he could forgive our failures, as that would make him an ugly father. I presume that it was the spiritual powers of evil who demanded Jesus’ suffering, because they love inflicting harm. They demanded his suffering as a ransom that had to be paid before they would let the people under their control free.

Modern preachers declare that Jesus rose again after being dead. Paul says that he rose up from amongst the people who were dead. That implies that part of his suffering was dying and finding himself in the same place as other people who had died. He suffered by going down with people in bondage to sin and death. When God raised him up, he delivered from the power of death.

Jesus allowed himself to be handed over to the Romans and then into the hands of the spiritual powers of evil. When God raised him up, he delivered him from their power. This was a massive victory over the spiritual powers of evil. This is why he is the anointed Messiah/Rescuer.

Friday, January 12, 2024

Irish Prophet

I have just listened to the statement by Irish lawyer Blinne Ní Ghrâlaigh on behalf of South Africa in its case against Israel at the International Court of Justice. A link is here. Every person who cares about people should listen to it.

Her presentation was the most prophetic word that I have heard this year. Her incisive presentation of the truth makes the prophetic words on various prophetic bulletin boards that I read seem lame by comparison. I presume she is not a Christian, which makes the silence of the Christian prophets at this time even more sad.

(Please do not bother arguing or criticising if you have not listened to her speech in its entirety and some of the arguments by other South African lawyers).

Clearly, the Britain and the United States were extremely embarrassed by the South African presentation, as these two nations have provided many of the bombs and surveillance that has supported Israeli slaughter in Gaza. In a desperate effort to keep the South African case out of the evening news in America, they deliberately launched missile attacks against the Houthi in Yemen, allegedly as revenge for their attacks against Israeli shipping. However, the timing suggests that it is a cynical attempt to manipulate the news cycle.

The US and Britain had the temerity to call their efforts Operation Prosperity Guardian. This is really cynical, as a decade ago, Yemen was one of the poorest nations in the world. Over the last five years, Saudi Arabia bombed Yemen severely with the logistical and targeting assistance of the United States, killing at least 50,000 people, so the nation must be even poorer now. So clearly, Operation Prosperity Guardian is not guarding the prosperity of the poor people of Yemen.

The decision of the court will probably be driven by politics than the truth, so the greatest risk to Israel from the South African case is in the court of public opinion. If the best argument that the US and the UK have against the case is to attack on the poorest country in the world as a distraction, they must be really worried.

Guilt Gospel (4) Deliverance Gospel

The problem with the word “salvation” is that it has taken on a religious meaning. We tend to assume that we are saved from the guilt of sin. The forensic gospel that is preached by most evangelists, assumes that we are guilty of disobeying God and deserve to die as the penalty for our sin. In that context, “salvation” sounds like rescue from death or release from hell. The problem is that the Greek word “sozo”, translated as salvation has a broader meaning. It is not a religious word. It refers to deliverance/ rescue from troubles.

I have been reading Scot McKnight’s translation of the New Testament called the Second Testament. In his translation, he has deliberately eschewed the use of words that have a religious meaning. He does this to shock readers into thinking more deeply about the meaning of the gospels and the message of the New Testament. For example, McKnight uses the word “deliverance” for the “sozo” related Greek words instead of the usual religious translation “salvation”. He uses the word “released” for “aphiemi” related words instead of the religious term forgive”.

While reading through the Acts of the Apostles, I was amazed at how this simple change re-shapes the message of the gospel.

Everyone who trusts in him receives release from sins through his name (Acts 10:43).
We are delivered through the Lord Yesous Christos’s grace(Acts 15:11).
Release from sins is proclaimed to you (Acts 13:38).
The path of deliverance (Acts 16:17).
Believe in the Lord Yesous, and you and your house will be delivered (Acts 16:31).
The gospel preached by the Apostles promised release from bondage. This gospel promised deliverance from slavery to the spiritual powers of evil. Not surprisingly, this is the gospel that the modern world needs to hear, and probably wants to hear.

We must not confuse the work of the Holy Spirit with the work of Satan. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, who leads people into truth, and the truth sets them free (John 8:36). Satan is accuser (that is his name), who tries to convict people of sin and entrap them in guilt. ("Everyone doing sin is Sin's slave" - John 8:34).

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Guilt Gospel (3) Not Relevant

The forensic presentation of Jesus’ gospel that is preached by the evangelical church is no longer effective in reaching people’s hearts. I presume the reason is that modern people are not riddled with guilt like Martin Luther. Luther preached during a time when the church had become legalistic. Most of the teachings of the church focussed on demands for people to behave better. People were constantly urged to live better. The consequence was that people constantly felt guilty. It seemed to be impossible to comply with the standards required by the church.

People like Martin Luther urgently needed a solution for the guilt that crippled them. For him, the good news that he was forgiven by God was a huge relief. The truth that the cross provided freedom from guilt was a very welcome message. Following the reformation, preachers continued to set high demands for the people of God. However, they were not so effective in teaching people how to walk in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Their failure to live according to Jesus’ standards left people feeling guilty. A gospel that absolved guilt continued to be well received.

Modern people are not wracked by guilt in the same way as previous generations. Instead, they see themselves as victims of circumstances that they can’t control. They have tried to live well, but life has not worked out as they expected. Many were let down by their parents. Others were let down by their teachers at school. Many have been hurt by people they trusted. They feel trapped in troubles that have been caused by other people. They don’t feel guilty, because they don’t believe that they are responsible for the situation they have found themselves in. They see them as victims.

I presume that the root of this feeling that they are harassed and victimised is spiritual, although people often don’t see it. However, if they are aware that their problems are spiritual, they feel like they have been entrapped in a bad spiritual place by events beyond their control and the actions of other people. They will acknowledge that they have made mistakes that harmed them, but they would also claim that they did not know what they were doing. This is probably true.

I am sure that many modern people would identify with Paul’s statement that he was in slavery to the elemental spiritual forces of the world. The people do not need a solution for guilt. A gospel that promises release from guilt does not stir their hearts. I sense that modern people need a gospel of deliverance/rescue from the forces of evil that have swamped them and transfer into the healing life of his body. In the gospels and Paul’s letters, this seems to be the good news that was proclaimed.

The book of Hebrews explains that the cross provides a solution for guilt and shame (Heb 9:16; 10:22). Some people feel guilty about their behaviour before they came to know Jesus. Some believe that they have offended God. The cross is the solution that these people need. Dealing with guilt is one aspect of what Jesus achieved, but we should be careful about making it the centre of the gospel. We don’t need to force people who don’t feel guilty to begin to feel guilty, as the first step to hearing the gospel. Jesus met people where they were. Our proclamation of the gospel should do the same.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Guilt Gospel (2) Bondage

When Jesus was preaching to the ordinary people, he did not accuse them of guilt. Rather, he described them as harassed and beaten.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matt 9:36).
There is a big difference between being guilty and being “harassed and helpless”, and the remedy will be different. Preaching the good news of Jesus should be quite different when speaking to people who are harassed and helpless than what it would be if it was shared with people who are guilty.

Paul gave a similar message in his letters.

I am of the flesh, sold as a slave under sin (Rom 7:14).
Before he came to faith in Jesus, Paul was sold as a slave under sin. Given that he was in bondage to forces from which he could not escape, his real problem was not guilt, but bondage. He did not need a solution for guilt. He needed to be delivered from bondage.
We were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world (Gal 3:4).
Paul explained to the Galatians that before they came to faith in Jesus, they were slaves to the spiritual powers of evil.

Their problem was slavery, not guilt. They needed a way to escape from slavery, not a remedy for guilt. They needed a messiah who would deliver them from spiritual bondage.

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Guilt Gospel (1)

Guilt is a central aspect of the modern evangelical gospel. The first stage of sharing the gospel is to persuade the hearers of their guilt before God. Some preachers are very good at doing this. They believe that repentance is not possible until the people listening to the gospel message feel guilty.

  • Guilt is the feeling.
  • Guilty is the verdict.
In the evangelical gospel, repentance is thinking about your sins and feeling guilty and remorseful. For repentance to be real, guilt must proceed to sorrow and regret and a choice to stop being bad.

The gospel message starts with guilt. Once the listeners to the gospel feel guilty, the consequences are reinforced by explaining that their guilt deserves death or punishment in hell. Once this is understood by the people listening, the preacher can introduce Jesus as the remedy for the problem of guilt and hell. He explains that Jesus died in the listeners’ place, taking the punishment they deserved. If the listeners accept the offer, they are freed from the threat of punishment, but their guilt remains. The evangelical gospel also ends with guilt.

Given that guilt is so central to the western evangelical gospel, I was surprised when I studied the New Testament and found that it is only rarely used in the New Testament. When I did a search for “guilt/guilty” in a bible tool, it threw up only five references in Mathew, one in Mark, and one in Luke and five in John. All the references in John and three of those in Matthew were incidents where Jesus was confronting the Jewish leaders. Jesus did not use the word guilt when challenging ordinary people.

Three of the five occurrences of the word guilt in the book of Acts were references to Paul not being guilty of breaking Roman law.

My search threw up five occurrences in Romans, but four of the references were to headings, and only one was in the actual text. This result shows the bias of the editors of the various English translations. They came to Romans expecting to find guilt, so they put guilt in the headings, even though the word guilt was not used in the text of their translation.

Most of the other half-dozen references in English versions of the epistles were translations of Greek words for debt or liability for making a payment, so “guilt” or “guilty” might not have been the best English word. Some translations used the word “liable”.

I was surprised by the results of my online search. Given that guilt plays such an important role in the western evangelical gospel, it is odd that the concept of guilt, as we understand it, is not mentioned much in the New Testament. The New Testament cannot be wrong, so the problem must be with our interpretation of Jesus’ gospel.