"Primarily, God is not bound to punish sin;
he is bound to
destroy sin." [1]
"The only vengeance worth having on sin is to make the sinner himself its executioner." [2] -- George MacDonald

Only Christians have the resurrection power of God within them to resist Satan's influence. By the Spirit of God within us we can put our sins to death, and live righteously (Romans 8:13). We can recognize the sinful nature dead and paid for on the cross, and our joyful indebtedness to live in a holy way that pleases our Redeemer. We have forsaken a lifestyle identity with sin, but that does not mean we do not commit sinful acts occasionally. When we Christians forget, or have yet to understand, who we are and all we have in Christ, we are apt to live according to the sinful nature (or "flesh" in Galatians 5:13-25). Jesus, our Sacrifice and Advocate, provided confession of our sins (1 John 1:8-2:2) for those occasions.



Sin is hamartia in the Greek. It means "to miss the mark"; to err, be mistaken; to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honour, to do or go wrong; to wander from the law of God, or to violate God's law. It also means a wrong, a sin, an offense, a violation of the divine law in thought or in act; and collectively, the complex or aggregate of sins committed either by a single person or by many.

In the beginning of the seventh chapter of Romans, Paul stated how laws are only binding until death. He described how our unification in Christ's death should bring about godly fruit through our relationship to His Spirit, as opposed to deeds done under the fear of the Law.

Paul used the word hamartia to describe sin in the following verses of Romans 7: 5 a force (not an entity) indwelling his body producing evil and separation from God;

7 a conscious awareness of falling short of God's standard, known as The Law;

8 a power promoting lust and evil desire;

11 an influence which deceived him and killed him (spiritually);

17-18 something in his physical "fleshly" nature which is not part of his personality; and

23 an authority over his physical body, but not his spiritual mind. Paul's description of the process of salvation from the sin nature culminates in the triumphant deliverance of Jesus Christ. I fear many Christians attempt to "cast out" the sin nature because they do not want to take responsibility for their sinful actions, and so they call it a demon. Paul did not call this indwelling force toward sin a demon, but a fleshly nature that is not part of our true "reconciled" self. This enables Christians to freely confess the sins they commit without feeling they have denied the new holy nature of Christ within them. The salvation process is recognizing the sin nature of your flesh is not part of your renewed nature in Christ, and thanking Him for delivering you from its adverse effects. This salvation (sozo -- saved, made whole, healed) process is the only "deliverance" or "recovery" available for Christians described in the New Testament.


In Leviticus 4 those who committed unintentional sins had to lay hands on an animal and present it to be sacrificed. Jesus has already been sacrificed for our sins. When we are made aware of an accidental sin, we need to confess it to our High Priest and anyone who was hurt by it. Whether or not the offended individual forgives us, Jesus always forgives us when we repent.


Matthew 18:35 "So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."

Romans 5:18 "Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life."

James 5:16 "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
Trespass and offence and fault are paraptoma in the Greek; meaning "to fall beside or near something," a lapse or deviation from truth and uprightness; a misdeed, a trespass, an offence, a fall, or a sin.

Romans 5:14 "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come."
Transgression is parabasis in the Greek; meaning "a going aside" or "overstepping"; disregarding or violating the Mosaic law or a definite law; or transgression.

Romans 6:19 "I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness."
Iniquity is anomia in the Greek; meaning the condition of "without law", either from ignorance or violation of it; unrighteousness, transgress, or wickedness.
Yield is paristemi in Greek; meaning to place beside or near; bring near; or be at hand.

While traveling along the narrow path of righteousness, you might not recognize a lie until you trip over it and fall into the gully of sin. The muck and stench by the side of the road are familiar, because we have all been there. When we confess our sins to another believer, we expect a hand up, not laughter and a pointing finger of condemnation. Those who refuse to forgive a repentant brother will be faced by an unforgiving God on judgment day. Those who lend a helping hand should be sure in their own hearts that they do not secretly long for the same sin, or they may be pulled into the muck also (Galatians 6:1).

Disobedience of God's laws is disrespecting God's person and His creation. God knows many come to Him without personal boundaries or regard for the boundaries ("laws") of others. He knows our trust and respect of Him and His boundaries will grow as we willingly remain close to Him and His laws. Then He can help us establish proper boundaries for ourselves according to His Word.

A person lacking boundaries may have difficulty discerning when their ambiguous "self" has trespassed the boundaries of God or others. As God heals them, they may become overwhelmed at the many sins they have committed. An aspect of becoming whole is becoming responsible for your "self" and your actions. When you are made aware of your unintentional sins, repent and receive forgiveness from God.


Privately saying a "sinner's prayer" is like becoming engaged. Publicly confessing "Jesus is Lord" is similar to making a wedding vow. Some believe once you have spoken your vow to God that you are a member of His household regardless of how you relate to Him (fire insurance or eternal security). An earthly marriage is easily annulled if it has not been consummated. I believe Christians must have a "consummation" of the infilling of the Holy Spirit demonstrated by fruit (Gal. 5:22-25) and gifted service (1 Cor. 1:3-7).

A young bride may sometimes cause the groom grief with unintentional sins as she learns submission and quickly seeks restoration, but she might willfully disobey him. Jesus will not force individuals of the Bride to stay in His loving embrace if they choose to return to the sins of the world.

Those who habitually, intentionally sin have forsaken Christ and have reverted to spiritual death (Romans 6:20-23; 8:13, and Gal. 6:8). Christians are not to pray for them (1 John 5:16-18). They may yet repent before their hearts become hardened through continued sin.


2 Timothy 2:19 "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity."

Romans 6:13 "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God."
Iniquity and unrighteousness are adikia in the Greek; meaning "not right"; iniquity, wrong, or injustice. Jesus is not fooled when religious works are "not right".

When the works do not flow from faithful submission to God, they are dead works, devoid of life, regardless of how amazing they may be. A leader may be using manipulation techniques to build a larger congregation, but wrong ways do not justify the means in God's kingdom. Though a Christian may be deceived into acts of unrighteousness, the believer must depart from the sins when they are exposed to remain a Christian. When a believer deliberately keeps sinning after revelation of the truth, he jeopardizes his relationship with God (Hebrews 6:4-9; 10:19-39).


2 Peter 3:17 "Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness."
Error is plane ("planet") in the Greek; meaning a wandering, a straying about or roaming; to deceive or delude; wrong opinion relative to morals or religion; error that shows itself in action; error that leads into deceit or fraud.

Most of Paul's letters had been in circulation among the churches for a decade. Some of his difficult teachings, and other Scriptures, had been distorted by others (2 Peter 3:16). Peter warns these believers not to be led astray from their own convictions. The best way to avoid being led away by "wrong opinion relative to morals or religion" is to study the Bible to determine God's opinions on the issues. Jesus and His disciples have warned us repeatedly to beware of false teachers. We are responsible to heed that warning. Some willingly choose to listen to lies (2 Timothy 4:3-4), while others are unknowingly being set up for a fall.


Romans 14:13 "Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way."

Romans 14:20 "For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence."

Romans 16:17-18 "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." Stumblingblock is proskomma in the Greek; meaning a stumbling block, an obstacle in the way which if one strikes his foot against he stumbles or falls; or that over which a soul stumbles and sins.
Occasion to fall and offence(s) are skandalon in the Greek; meaning the movable stick or trigger of a trap, a trap stick; a trap, snare; any impediment placed in the way and causing one to stumble or fall; or any person or thing by which one is drawn into sin.
Mark is scopeo in Greek; meaning scope out or look at or observe.
Avoid is ekklino in Greek; meaning to turn aside, keep aloof from, or to shun one.

Instead of judging whether a brother's actions are motivated by faith (1 Cor. 4:5), determine whether or not he is trying to cause another believer to sin. You are not supposed to waste your time determining if someone's freedom to drink alcohol stems from faith. You are to judge if he is encouraging a professed non-drinking believer to break his faith with God by drinking the offered alcoholic beverage. If you observe him deliberately enticing a believer to sin, you are to shun him as a false brother.

FORCED SINS (against one's will)


Matthew 18:6 "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
Offend is skandalizo in Greek; meaning to entrap, trip up, or stumble; or to entice to sin, apostasy or displeasure.

Children, as well as new believers, are not the recipient's of God's wrath here, but those abusive people who force others to participate in sinful actions. The offender caused the offended to participate in activities that violated God's laws. When the offended one becomes aware of this, it is important to agree with God that the activity violated His laws. Also ask for cleansing from forced participation in the sin and healing from its effects. If the offender claims to be a Christian, then it is also important to confront that person with his sin (though not necessarily face to face).


First, clarify it is a sin as defined by scripture, and not a difference of opinion or societal standards. That a certain action is a sin may be a revelation to a relatively new believer, and they may quickly repent. Those believers who tend towards legalism are called "weak" in Romans 14 and 15, and in 1 Corinthians 8:9-13. Legalistic Christians are to be graciously received and nurtured in grace; but not if they are adamant about their ways. You do not have to receive their opinions about practices that are non-essential concerning salvation, but neither should you judge them as inferior because of them. If you become prideful in "helping" them, then repent. God will enable His servants to stand through all sorts of "weak reasonings" (translated "infirmities" in Rom. 15:1) as we grow in our relationship with Him.

Using the steps of Matthew 18:15-17, I have labeled the degeneration of the unrepentant sinner from a brother in a fault, to a stubbornly sinful brother, and finally to a so-called "brother" who is excommunicated for refusing to repent.


Galatians 6:1 "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted."
Overtaken is prolambano in Greek; meaning "to take before", to anticipate; to take one by forestalling him (before he can flee or conceal his crime).
Fault is paraptoma in Greek; meaning side-slip, transgression, sin, offence or trespass.
Restore is katartizo in Greek; meaning thoroughly repair, completely adjust, mend, or make perfect.
Meekness is praiotes in Greek; meaning gentleness or humility.

There are times we can stop a brother in a weak moment before he commits a sin, but not if we have a weakness in the same area. If a believer says, "I've had an incredibly bad day and I'm going down to the bar and get drunk. You can join me if you want to hear about it?" We can remind the weak brother that drunkenness is sin and offer to pray with them right then and counsel them to "buy drink" (Isaiah 55) from Jesus to mend their bruised hearts. If we are tempted toward drunkenness, we have every right to flee temptation the moment we are invited to sin. We can refer the weak brother to another believer (or call the police if they are planning violence), but we are not responsible to stop another's sinful actions. We are responsible to warn them with the truth.

When the truth met no agreement in the rich young ruler's heart, Jesus did not go running after him. You cannot force people to obey Jesus, but you can warn them and withdraw your fellowship from them.

In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus gives believers a process to confront a brother who sins against you. This is followed by the reasons to forgive a brother when he repents (verses 21-35). Though the passage only works well for believers who attend the same local assembly, or have a mutual group of Christian friends, we can adapt its principles to our various situations. Take the time to read Matthew 18, asking God how you may apply it in your own life.

STEP 1: Matthew 18:15 "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother."
Trespass is hamartano in the Greek; meaning "to miss the mark"; to err, be mistaken; to miss or wander from the path of uprightness and honour, to do or go wrong; sin, an offense, a violation of the divine law in thought or in act.
Fault is paraptoma in the Greek; meaning "to fall beside or near something," a lapse or deviation from truth and uprightness; a sin, a misdeed, a trespass, an offence, a fall.
Tell is elegcho in Greek; meaning reprove or rebuke; by conviction to bring to the light, to expose; to correct by word (to reprehend severely, chide, admonish) or by deed (to chasten or to punish).
Shall hear is akouo in Greek; meaning to listen with understanding.
Hast gained is kerdaino in Greek; meaning won.

The purpose of going alone is to redeem the relationship without gossiping; it is not to place yourself in a life-threatening position (a letter or phone call is safe and effective). In this case "hearing" also means repenting, because if he "neglects to hear" in verse 17, he is to be disfellowshipped and is in danger of loosing his salvation unless he repents.

The backlash of disobedience to this command has created a class of people psychologists call "co-dependents". They are unwilling to confront the sinner, and are contaminated through continued interaction with them. Instead of helping the sinner cease sinning by demanding repentance so that the blood of Jesus could cover the sin, they inadequately try to cover it themselves with excuses and denial.

James 5:19-20 "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."
Err is planao in Greek; meaning to roam, go astray, be out of the way, or deceive.
Convert is epistrepho in Greek; meaning to turn to; to bring back; or to return to God.
Save is sozo in Greek; meaning to keep safe and sound, make whole, or to rescue.

Some people become saved and then leave Christianity for various reasons which stem from lies. When "one" goes to confront a believer who has lost connection with the Head due to moral or theological deception (Col. 2:18-19), there is still hope. There are those believers with a shepherd's heart for the lost sheep. They rescue the miserable sinners by reminding them of truth and the free-flowing forgiveness and acceptance which is promised as soon as they repent.

As Christians we should not be waiting for someone to rebuke us for our sins, but should be willing to openly confess our sins to the brethren, who know and love us, in expectation of their forgiveness. Christians desperately need to provide times of confession and prayer in small groups that meet together on a consistent basis.

James 5:15-16 "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."
Confess is exomologeo in Greek; meaning "same word with", to acknowledge openly and joyfully; to profess that one will do something, to promise, agree, or engage.
Faults is paraptoma in the Greek; meaning "to fall beside or near something," a lapse or deviation from truth and uprightness; a sin, a misdeed, a trespass, an offence, a fall.
Healed is iaomai in Greek; meaning to cure, to make whole; to free from errors and sins.

Confession can be a time of great joy. Openly and honestly exposing your sin before a few Family members in expectation of their forgiveness and acceptance of you by the Father's authority, can be very exciting. Our family formally likes to confess sins as someone washes our feet. Each has the opportunity to be washed (confess) and to wash (forgive the confessor). But informally we confess sins to each other at any time.


A stubbornly sinful brother is one who resists the initial confrontation of one, but may still repent at the rebuke of a few. He may be unconvinced that what he is doing is truly a sin, and may need a time of thorough Bible study with the other witnesses before the Holy Spirit can make it clear to him.

STEP 2: Matthew 18:15-16 "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established."

These witnesses establish every word, and maybe they discover a true misunderstanding and offer counseling instead of pursuing issues of sin. If sin is involved, then it is important for all involved to read the passage of scripture that labels the sin, so that there will be no room for confusion. Beware of cults who wrongly use Matthew 18 to control people by exploiting particular non-biblical "sins" according to their religious standards. Jesus makes it clear in verse twenty that a church is made up of two or more believers who gather in His Name under His authority and His Word. Cult members gather under the authority of their leader and his word.


A so-called "brother" is one who remains unrepentant after confrontation by the whole church.

STEP 3 Matthew 18:17-18 "And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Church is ekklesia in Greek; meaning assembly of believers.
Bind is deo in Greek; meaning bound or imprisoned.
Loosed is luo in Greek; meaning to loose, dissolve or release.

For a superb treatise on Matthew 18:18-23, I refer you to "Binding and Loosing" by John Howard Yoder. It is number fourteen in A Pamphlet Series of Questions for Christian Renewal produced by Concern in 1967. Yoder states, "To `bind' is to withhold fellowship, to `loose' is to forgive." A heathen or Gentile was not a part of the Jewish community; they were to treat such a person as an outsider. Gentiles and tax collectors could repent and be returned to fellowship.

Excommunication of an unrepentant sinner is tough love and obedience to God's commands. It is unloving and untruthful to encourage an unrepentant sinner on his journey to hell by maintaining fellowship with him as if he were in right relationship with God. Churches will sometimes excommunicate scandalous sinners for fear of their reputation, but we should rather fear the loss of the unrepentant sinner's relationship with God. Any cherished unrepentant sin can keep a person from God's kingdom, whether it be unforgiveness, covetousness, drunkenness, or unproductive meddling.

Busybodies who refuse to work

The letters to the Thessalonians are the first of Paul's letters contained in the New Testament, written about 50 A.D.. In the first letter Paul reminds them of the verbal instructions given by the Lord's authority, and encourages them to work and mind their own business (1 Thess. 4:11-12). He reminds them again of this command in 2 Thess. 2 10 (underlined). About fifteen years later Paul describes those who refuse to provide for their family as "worse than an infidel" in 1 Timothy 5:8.

2 Thessalonians 3:6-15 "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother."
Withdraw is stello in Greek; meaning avoid, to depart; to abstain from familiar intercourse with one.
Disorderly is ataktos in Greek; meaning "unarranged" or irregular; or idle.
Would not (work) is thelo in Greek; meaning to will, intend, to be resolved or determined, to purpose or to desire, to wish, or to have pleasure.
Busybodies is periergazomai in Greek; meaning to bustle about uselessly, to busy one's self about needless matters: used apparently of a person officiously inquisitive about other's affairs.
Quietness is hesuchia (fem.) in Greek; meaning description of the life of one who stays at home doing his own work, and does not officiously meddle with the affairs of others.
Note is semeioo in Greek; meaning to distinguish by marking; or to note for one's self.
Company is sunanamignumi in Greek; meaning to mix up together; to keep company with, be intimate with one.
Ashamed is entrepo in Greek; meaning "turn by", or to shame one.
Admonish is noutheteo in Greek; meaning to admonish, warn, or exhort.

Those who called themselves Christians were to work for their own food and not be dependent on anyone, just as Paul and his companions had demonstrated. Men or women who refused to work, because they appointed themselves as officers of inquiry in the church (busybodies), were to be warned with loving concern. They were marked if there was no change in behavior, and then disfellowshipped in hopes they would return to the commands of the Lord. Those who were physically unable to work and met a certain criteria (like widows in 1 Timothy 5) were to be provided for through voluntary gifts from the brethren.

Other unrepentant sinners

Read 1 Corinthians 5 and 6. Just as some churches accept homosexuality today, the church in Corinth thought it would convince the world of God's great grace if they allowed incest in their midst. The man is considered a "fornicator". Paul tells them to stop giving a flagrant sinner comfort in the midst of believers. He commanded them to excommunicate the sinner in hopes he would repent later; which he did after being buffeted about by the devil. I believe the woman was not a Christian, and therefore not subject to church discipline.

1 Corinthians 5:11-13 "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person."

Flagrant, unrepentant sinners who call themselves Christians must be disfellowshipped. Sexual sins as well as thefts and slanders should be judged among the brethren by the brethren. Paul chastised the church in Corinth for going before unbelieving judges to settle disputes, and not judging disputes among the brethren themselves. He concludes it would be better to be wronged than to take a believer to court (1 Cor. 6:1-8). When the church is not obeying Matthew 18:15-20, those who have been sinned against and offended often must wait until God judges the situation.

2 Corinthians 2:6-11 " 6 Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. 7 So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. 8 Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. 9 For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. 10 To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; 11 Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices."
Punishment is epitimia in Greek; meaning to mete out due measure, to censure, to rebuke, or disassociation.
Forgive is charizomai in Greek; meaning to graciously restore one, to pardon; or to do something favourable, kind, or benevolent.

The "sufficient disassociation" of the man who flagrantly had sexual relations with his father's wife lasted about six months to a year (according to the time period between the writings of the letters to the church in Corinth). He must have repented, stopped his sinful actions, and demonstrated godly behavior in order for the command "forgive him, and comfort him" to be given. To remain in bitterness after the sinner repented would have brought defilement. When true repentance is demonstrated over a period of time in the life of a previously unrepentant sinner, then forgiveness and restoration should follow.


When a Christian commits a crime, forgiveness of the sin does not exempt the person from receiving society's punishment for the crime. Criminals, repentant or not, can be brought to authorities for punishment (Romans 13). One of the "fruits" of a repentant criminal would be to "make it up" (reconcile) with you: this may include monetary restoration as it did with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). Determining an amount of restitution among believers is to be accomplished in the church (1 Cor. 5:9-6:11). When a criminal is unwilling to restore what has been stolen, then he has not repented. The victim may prosecute for damages of an unrepentant criminal (Exodus 21:12-27).



King Saul admits sinning but does not repent in 1 Samuel 15

1-3 King Saul receives a direct command from God through Samuel to totally destroy the Amalekites because they attacked the Hebrews when they came out of Egypt.

4-6 King Saul sends the Kenites away because they showed kindness to the Hebrews when they came out of Egypt. By this act Saul demonstrated his understanding that the destruction of the Amalikites is God's judgment.

7-9 King Saul and his army spare king Agag and are unwilling to destroy the healthy livestock.

10-11 God shares his grief over Saul's sin with Samuel, who prays all night.

12 Samuel gets up early to confront Saul, but Saul has set up a monument for himself (not to God) in Carmel and has gone to Gilgal.

13 When persistent Samuel reaches Saul, Saul unashamedly declares he has carried out the Lord's instructions.

14 Samuel presents the fact of the living livestock.

15 Saul places the blame on the soldiers, but adds a religious escape clause.

16 Samuel stops Saul in his flagrant denial.

17 Samuel reminds Saul that the Lord anointed him as a humble man.

18 Samuel reminds Saul of God's specific command.

19 Samuel confronts Saul with his disobedience.

20-21 Saul protests his innocence, trying to fit his actions into God's commands.

22 Religious "selective obedience" is still not obedience. Obeying God is better than religious activity.

23 Samuel declares Saul's disobedience (rebellion) and arrogance have demonstrated his rejection of God's word, and now God rejected him as king.

24 Saul confesses the sin, but places the responsibility of it on the people.

25 Saul wants Samuel to forgive the sin (of which he has yet to own or repent), and relate with him as if everything is right. This is an act of denial.

26-29 Samuel refuses because Saul has rejected God's word and he is rejected as king. Saul tries to physically pull Samuel with him by the robe as he turns to leave, and Samuel prophesies of God's certain choosing of another as king.

30 Saul finally takes clear responsibility for his sin, but does not repent because he wants the honor of men more than the honor of God. For the third time Saul says "your God" to Samuel instead of "my" or "our" God.

31 Samuel reluctantly, and maybe foolishly, returns with Saul so Saul can carry on his "righteous" spiritual appearance before men.

32-33 King Saul then kills king Agag as he should have done.

34-35 Samuel never went to see Saul again, and mourned for him. God grieved. Some separations last a lifetime and for eternity. Saul knew the power of God; he had even prophesied with the prophets. His religious experiences and activities were not coupled with a personal love and respect for God and His word, as was attested by his actions and lack of repentance. Saul's admissions of guilt did not come from a repentant soul, but from a need to appear righteous before others. King Saul's disobedience seems trivial when compared to king David's disobedience. The acts of lust, kidnapping, adultery, forced intoxication, lying, and plotting murder are serious crimes; but David's repentance and respect for God become evident.

King David repents of his sin after confrontation in 2 Samuel 12

God sends Nathan to rebuke David. Nathan arouses David's sense of justice with a story, then exposes the real criminal as David. Nathan prophesies the sword will never leave David's house, a kinsman would rape David's wives openly, and the son born by Bathsheba would die because of his sins. David repents and is forgiven, the prophecies come to pass, and David continued his relationship with God. He provided us with psalms as he worked out his pain.

Psalms 51-57, 65-66, 101-103, and 140-145 contain many descriptions of dealing with the sin nature. David expected God to reveal the truth to him (Psalms 7 and 10). He clung to the Lord when family and friends withdrew their support (Psalms 11, 28, 35-41 and 68-71). David experienced fear and rejection when he fled from his son Absalom in psalms 3 and 55. David expressed his anger (Psalms 58-59, 64, 94 and 109), grieved his losses (Psalms 6, 12-13 and 116-118), and expected God to mercifully answer him (Psalms 18-23, 61-63 and 86). David received God's love and intimate knowledge of him (Psalms 8, 17 and 138-140). He found his security and hope of healing in God's Word (Psalms 16-21). Many find solace in the psalms; they encourage us to be honest with God.


New converts are often bound to traditions of society, and lack deep understanding of their new faith in Jesus.

Read the account of Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8:9-24. All the people of Samaria attributed divine power to him and followed him for a long time. Then the whole city believed the good news preached by Philip and were baptized in the name of Jesus. Simon also believed and was baptized.

Simon then followed Philip everywhere amazed at the miraculous power, just as the people previously followed him amazed with his magic. Simon might have believed in Jesus for the justification of his sins, but he is accustomed to people following a man who visibly demonstrates wonders. The people did not receive the Holy Spirit until Peter and John came and prayed for them. Then Simon offered Peter money to have the same ability.

Acts 8:20-24 "But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me."
Perish is apoleia in Greek; meaning damnable, perdition, destruction, die, waste or loss.
Gift is dorea (doron means sacrifice or offering) in Greek; meaning gratuity or gift.
Repent is metanoeo in Greek; meaning think differently, or reconsider.
Right is euthus in Greek; meaning straight, level or true.
Wickedness is kakia in Greek; meaning evil, malice, or naughtiness.
Perhaps is ara in Greek; meaning haply, no doubt, so be, truly, or therefore.
Gall is chole (colon) in Greek; meaning bile or poison.
Bond is sundesmos in Greek; meaning a joint tie, a uniting principle, or control.
Iniquity is adikia in Greek; meaning unjust, unrighteous, wrong; or legally, injustice.

After Peter's previously recorded "word of knowledge" in regards to the Holy Spirit, two people dropped dead (Acts 5). Maybe Simon had heard this report and so implores Peter to pray for him. Possibly Peter discerns Simon's need to follow Jesus rather than men, and so directs him to repent and pray to the Lord for himself. Simon is a new believer who is still in bondage to sin and full of bitterness (there is no mention of demons).

Root of spiritual abuse

After one has recognized his sin nature has been crucified with Christ, most consequent spiritual problems will originate from either unforgiven or unconfessed sin. Unforgiveness of others' sins against us leads to "the gall of bitterness," and personal unconfessed sin leads to "the bond of iniquity." They can manifest in physical, mental, emotional, and relational decay or debility.

Pride (Gk. huperephanos in Romans 1:28-32) is a warped desire to control others or to be "lords over" them (1 Peter 5:3). One root of pride is a fear of someone, other than God, who has exhibited wrongful power over you. Another root of pride is unforgiveness of earlier abusers. Fear and bitterness corrupt the natural defense to protect oneself. My pride was deeply rooted in self protection which originated during incest. I would repent of my pride from time to time. But it wasn't until the incest was exposed, the anger released, and forgiveness granted to my family that I was set free from the "need" to control others.

Simon was seeking after a similar power and position of leadership in God's kingdom that he had previously obtained in Satan's kingdom. People like Simon enter ministry before forgiving those who abused them and repenting of pride, and then they can more easily become cult leaders. Paul gives further instruction on those eager to become leaders in 1 Timothy 3, and in verse six he strictly forbids a novice or new convert from being a leader in the church. We need to give the Holy Spirit time to bring sins of the past to our memory (Mat. 5:23). We also need to walk humbly before we can serve humbly.


Galatians 2:11-14 "But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?"
Withstood is anthistemi in Greek; meaning to oppose or resist.
Blamed is kataginosko in Greek; meaning to note against, or to find fault with.
Dissimulation is hupokrisis (hypocrisy) in Greek; meaning to answer as an actor.

Peter knew God accepted the faith of the Gentiles (Acts 10:34-35), but he was willing to act against that truth in order to be accepted by the circumcision sect of the church.

A brother in a fault is to be approached alone (Matthew 18:15) and in meekness (Galatians 6:1), but leaders are to be rebuked by leaders publicly. I am thankful Paul confronted his fellow apostles (who were apostles before him); otherwise, the Gentile church might have turned out quite differently. Paul was not afraid to stand up for God's truth, regardless of a person's position or power or amount of time as a Christian.


When Paul publicly rebuked Peter, Peter repented and remained an authoritative elder and apostle. Elders who have repented of their sin should not necessarily be removed from office. The public rebuke of elders creates a healthy humility and respect of obedience to God's Word.

1 Timothy 5:19-21 "Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality."

Timothy is not to receive accusations against elders from any individual. An individual should approach the elder privately first. If the elder won't listen, he should take one or two others with him. If the allegations are then confirmed by witnesses, Timothy is not to show favoritism toward the elder; but is charged to publicly rebuke the elder.

1 Timothy 5:22-25 "Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins: keep thyself pure. Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities. Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some they follow after. Likewise also the good works are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid."
Lay is epitithemi in Greek; meaning put or lay upon, add to, impose; or to attack one.

Some sins are blatantly obvious, while others will eventually become exposed. Timothy is not to rebuke any man suddenly nor sit around waiting for someone else to confront sin. He, like all members of the church, is to take the steps of Matthew 18:15-20. I wonder if the "little wine" verse was a slogan used by a "minister" known to them.

If an elder or pastor has sexually or physically abused you, write him a letter asking him to make a public confession to the congregation within a week. If he neglects to make a public confession, then write cover letters with copies of the original letter to his overseers (church secretaries can give you names and addresses). These are reasonable witnesses, but if you can find a couple of physically and spiritually strong brothers to go with you and protect you, that is great. If the denomination refuses to investigate immediately, avoid the man and warn others of him (Rom. 16:17-20). God will bring him to judgment in His time.

If he does repent of sexual or physical abuse, his overseers must still be notified because he has made himself unworthy of his office (1 Timothy 3:1-7). He should be restored to Christian fellowship after a designated time period of manifesting fruits of repentance.


Repentance from sin is turning from breaking God's rules to abiding by them. People can be sorry for their sins without deciding to stop them; sorrow and apologies are not repentance (2 Cor. 7:10). Forcing a Christian to "fellowship" with an unrepentant "believer" is not reconciliation, it is an abomination. The unrepentant "believer" is to be confronted according to Matthew 18:15-20, and disfellowshipped by all Christians until he demonstrates fruits of repentance befitting a believer (1 Cor. 5:9-11).


To repent is to do an "about face" in military terms. Repentance is the decision to respect another person's boundaries after trespassing them. If someone is unwilling to respect your boundaries, than they really do not want a relationship with you. They want to engulf you and make you an extension of themselves. Repentance is required for relationship with God and for relationship with anyone else we have offended. Believers may have difficulty carrying out their decision, but they have willfully determined to manifest their love for God and their neighbor by God's resurrection power within them.


Luke 17:3-4 "Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him."
Trespass is hamartano in Greek; meaning to be without a share in; to miss the mark; to err, be mistaken; to miss or wander from the path of righteousness, or to do or go wrong.
Rebuke is epitimao in Greek; meaning "to price", award, in the sense of merited penalty; to tax with fault, rate, chide, reprove, censure severely, to admonish or charge sharply.
If is ean in Greek; meaning except or whosoever.
Repent is metanoeo in Greek; meaning to change one's mind, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one's past sins.
Forgive is aphiemi in Greek; meaning to "send away" or "separate from".
Turn is epistrepho in Greek; meaning be converted, to return, or to bring back.
Saying is lego in Greek; meaning to lay; to collect; to pick out; to enumerate, recount, narrate, describe; to speak, affirm over, maintain; to teach, to name, or to mention.

At the beginning of the chapter, trespasses are designated as unintentional sins. A parent of young children may experience over one hundred trespasses against them in a day, followed by rebuke, the child's repentance, and forgiveness. This can also be experienced in the family of God with new believers. Repeated, unrepented intentional sins are to be confronted according to Matthew 18:15-20.

Our Declaration of Independence supports the fact that God created individuals with "unalienable rights" which are worth protecting. God commands us to sharply admonish those who "cross us" or trespass our boundaries. As God set up a fence around Himself at mount Sinai (Exodus 19), we can establish our boundaries which separate and protect our "self" from others. Homes, cars, and clothing are some physical boundaries. We can determine what possessions we will keep, share, or give. We can protect our inner self from being reviled or lied to or demeaned. We can determine who gains access to our thoughts (Luke 2:19 and Matthew 7:6) and our time.

Boundary examples: I tell my son not to grab my clothes. I tell a neighbor they may borrow the lawnmower anytime, but not the other tools. When a preacher starts a tirade about how God will curse people who don't tithe, I get up and leave. Phone solicitors hear a click as I replace the receiver.

If we have explained our boundaries to another who then breaks them, then they have sinned against us. We are not to let that person get away with disrespecting our boundaries, because it would be detrimental to both of us. The offender would continue to trespass people's boundaries, and we would lose self respect. A rebuke may bring the sinner to repentance (a decision to change actions), and then we must forgive him. If he is unwilling to repent, then he will be unwilling to receive forgiveness for something he refuses to believe is sin.

I may rebuke my young son by giving him a swat on his hand or bottom, and correct him as to a proper way to get my attention. If he is particularly stubborn that day, he may sit in "time out" until he is ready to repent and receive my forgiveness. I may rebuke my neighbor by reminding him why I don't loan tools, and bar him from access to my whole garage, including the lawnmower. If he repents, I will forgive him, but it doesn't necessarily mean he gets to use the lawnmower again. Forgiveness is not the restoration of trust. Trust must be rebuilt by the demonstration of fruits of repentance over time.


Acts 26:20 "But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance."
Works is ergon in Greek; meaning deed, act, deed, labour, business, undertaking; any thing accomplished by hand, art, industry, or mind.

The sequence of experiencing God's loving-kindness, repenting, being forgiven, and doing godly works is found in Luke 24:47, Acts 19:4; 20:21, Rom. 2:4, 2 Cor. 7:10, and Hebrews 6:1.

Matthew 3:7-10 "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire."
Fruits is karpos in Greek; meaning fruits of the trees or of one's loins; work, act, deed; that which comes from something; an effect or result.
Meet is axios in Greek; meaning worthy, befitting, or corresponding to a thing.
Repentance is metanoia in Greek; meaning "think after" or a change of mind.

John saw hypocrites coming to him to undergo the religious symbol of repentance (baptism) without first establishing a true relationship with God exhibited through kind deeds. He warned them that hell would be their destination. Their belonging to a special religious group would not save them. Although they piously obeyed all sorts of religious rules, their social interactions were incongruous with the humility and grace of repentant souls.


Abusers who use their special position as an excuse to continue sinning should not be forgiven when they come to you with a "show" of their repentance (sorrow, remorse, or admittance of sin). They may be sorry they were caught, or sorry their sin made life so complicated. Sorrow is not a decision to stop sinning, though it may be a precursor to it. Repentance is a change of mind that is exhibited in a change of actions. Like John, you can demand their behavior demonstrates their repentance for a period of time before you believe them.


Contemporary understanding wrongly assumes forgiveness is to overlook or to dismiss hurtful words and actions against you. God did overlook this world's sins until our High Priest gave His life as a final sacrifice and ascended to heaven as our Advocate. Now He holds all people responsible to repent of their sins in order to receive His forgiveness and avoid His wrath.

Acts 17:30-31 "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteous-ness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead."
Wink at is hupereido in Greek; meaning to "look beyond", overlook, or take no notice of.


Mark 11:25-26 " And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses."
Forgive is aphiemi in Greek; meaning to "send away" or "separate from", or let go of. Apo means separation; any kind of separation of one thing from another by which the union or fellowship of the two is destroyed, or separation of distance, time or place. Hiemi is an intensive form of eimi, which means to go. It is also translated cry, forsake, leave, omit, suffer or yield up. Aphiemi also means depart, divorce, forsook (in Mark 14:50); let go, let alone, or disregard; give up a debt, or keep no longer; leave alone or not to hinder; or to leave him to himself so that all mutual claims are abandoned.
Ought is tis in Greek; meaning anything, something, certain thing, or thing.
Trespasses is paraptoma in Greek; meaning a "side-slip", fault or offence.

'Ought' is a small matter like the couple of dollars owed the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35) or the "indebtedness" of the Lord's Prayer. These passages intimate what we forgive others is paltry compared with the sins and trespasses God forgives us; and that if we refuse to forgive others, neither will God forgive us.

An incident may have indebted someone to us, and as we stand before God in prayer, He commands us to forgive. We enter the process of offering forgiveness, and it might take some time. We might have to break down some walls of denial to recall the incident and any emotions attached to it. Then we must choose to forgive since we want God to forgive us of our trespasses. We let go of our claim upon the debtor. We then need to confer that forgiveness to the debtor if possible. Thankfully, God didn't keep His forgiveness a secret.


God calls the ungodly "enemies", yet lovingly sent Christ to redeem us (Romans 5:6-11). God freely offered us forgiveness in Christ, but reception of that forgiveness is conditional upon confession of sin and turning away from sin (repentance). Acknowledgment of the forgiveness and performing "good works" does not equal a relationship with God (Matthew 7:21-23). If the ungodly refuse to repent and receive God's gift of forgiveness within His timetable, they will be separated from God for eternity. If they truly repent, God knows it immediately, and reconciles them to Himself.

We can not see a person's true motives as God can, so we need to take precautions (Matthew 10:16-17). We must offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us knowing that to reconcile the relationship, they must choose to never intentionally hurt us again (they must repent). Reconciliation is conditional upon confession and repentance of the specific sin and a specific time period of demonstrating the "fruits of repentance". Because of God's great forgiveness toward us, we must also offer forgiveness while they are still sinners. We can "let go of" (forgive) them and their debt to us. If they refuse to repent and receive our gift of forgiveness, they will remain separate from us.

The process of receiving forgiveness also takes some time. We might have to break down some walls of denial to recall the incident and any emotions attached to it. We might have to face the lies that have allowed us to remain in denial of our need for forgiveness.


We are commanded to forgive as God in Christ forgave us (Eph. 4:32). This is a hard message for abused people to accept, but it has been made more difficult by the false teachings connected with it. Forgiving is not minimizing, not forgetting, not excusing, not accepting, not trusting, nor is it reconciliation. Forgiving someone is a willful choice to dismiss the charges against them until they repent of their sins against you and receive your pardon. You may still have many emotions concerning them and their sins (the Holy Spirit experiences grief), but you have committed yourself to grant them their pardon when they repent.

When someone sins against you they violate your God-given boundaries to entrap you in their own prisons. When you offer them forgiveness, you free yourself from their prison. If they refuse your forgiveness, you remain free while they remain imprisoned. If they repent (change their minds and actions to respect your God-given boundaries), they simply take the notice of pardon that has been attached to the handle of their prison door by you, and walk out. Receiving forgiveness by repenting is the key to freedom. If they are believers, they are then required to make peace with you (reconcile).


Before I remembered the incest, I went through the process of forgiving my parents. I made a list of all their sins against me. I wrote "I forgive you for . . ." and filled in the blank. Then I wrote down my immediate thoughts. I was amazed at how I excused and minimized sins. Only when I could write a clear "I forgive you" statement without excuses was I able to go onto the next sin. I also made a list of sins I had committed against them. I was emotionally raw and overwhelmed. I was not prepared to face them yet, so I received forgiveness from God for my sins, and considered theirs pardoned.

After recalling the incest and expressing the emotions, I went through the same procedures of forgiving my family on paper before God. My emotions concerning my family are quite a mixture, but I have forgiven them.

I had little hope of my parents actually repenting. I could not picture them relating to me in a healthy way. It was hard for me to pray for my parents to be saved and live eternally with God and me in heaven, until I realized they must first repent of their sins and be changed into new creations. If I do see them in heaven, they will not resemble their sinful earthly selves, but their Redeemer.


Does God forget our sins?

God does keep records of our words (Mat. 12:36) and actions by which we will be judged unless our names our written in the book of life (Rev. 20:11-15). God has even recorded some of the sins of His people in order to warn others from falling into the same sort of disobedience (1 Cor. 10:1-13).

I agree that God has the marvelous ability to forget our sins (Psalm 103:12 and Micah 7:19). I also believe God can recall our sins when He so chooses (Isaiah 43:24-27 and Jer. 14:10). Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17 quote Jeremiah 31:34. "And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." Through Jesus Christ's death and resurrection God has forgiven our sins. Those who repent and receive His forgiveness will not have their sins held against them; God will not call them to mind. Those who refuse to repent and receive God's forgiveness through Christ will receive the wages for sin -- death. God has forgiven the sins of the world so that every individual has the opportunity to know Him personally. God has prepared us for relationship with Himself by extending His Hand of forgiveness in Christ to all penitent receivers for a season. It will soon be withdrawn, and His Hand of vengeance will then be revealed to those who refused His grace.

Should we forget the past?

Some translate "thinketh no evil" as "keeps no record of wrongs" in 1 Corinthians 13:5. In Luke 17:3-10, Jesus makes the point that forgiving a repentant brother is a duty of our faith, regardless of how many times the brother sins against us. In its parallel passage (Matthew 18:6-7, 15, 21-35), Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone. Jesus' response illustrated keeping accounts is not wrong, but it is a sin to refuse someone's repentance (commitment to make good on the debt in Matthew 18:29) after God has forgiven you everything. We cannot obey Titus 3:10 if we do not keep count of warnings given a heretic (divisive person).

Some people use 2 Cor. 5:17 as a recommendation for people to forget their past since they are now a "new creature" in Jesus, but the context refers to no longer regarding people from a worldly viewpoint. Paul often alluded to his past, both the pleasant and the unpleasant, in his letters. God's word never commands us to forget our past. It is in remembering our past that we often find the need for forgiveness (Mat. 5:23-24).

Other people use Philippians 3:13 ". . . forgetting those things which are behind . . ." to tell people they should just forget their past. The chapter is about putting religious works behind in order to accept the grace of God through Jesus Christ, and not resting upon past service. They argue that since Christ has forgiven all your sins prior to becoming a Christian, that you do not need to seek the forgiveness of those you sinned against during that time. Maybe you don't have to if you don't want a present relationship with them. After past sins have been forgiven, then neither the good works nor sins of the past should keep you from pursuing the fullness of Christ.

The sexual abuse by my oldest brother occurred before either of us had become Christians. After we accepted Christ, he asked me to forgive him for everything (in general, not specific) he had done to me, and I did so. After I offered forgiveness for the recent recall of past sexual abuse to him in June, 1991, he responded with general confessions. I gave general forgiveness in the past, but now I was seeking specific confession and repentance for how he hurt me through sexual abuse. He turned it around by accusing me of not forgiving him yet and hurting him by not trusting him.


Luke 6:37 "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven."
Forgive is apoluo in Greek; a more judicial word meaning to acquit or pardon.

The wrong is not forgotten nor erased nor excused, but the repentant wrong-doer is mercifully pardoned. God does not make up excuses for our sins; He forgives our disobedience. If we are still making excuses for someone's sinful behavior, we have not forgiven them. If they are wise, they will receive our rebuke (Proverbs 9:8). The offended party is not then commanded to establish a friendship with the offender.


God forgives our sins, but He does not accept our sins. It would be cruel for God to accept our sins, because He would be accepting what causes death and destruction in our lives. He lovingly disapproves of our desires to hurt ourselves and others. God expects us to respond to His forgiveness with repentance, the cessation of willful sins. The letter of 1 John emphasizes the fact that a believer does not continue in a sinful lifestyle, though he will occasionally commit sins.

When a sinner demands to be accepted the way he is, we must lovingly refuse. God did not create us to sin; God created us to reflect His image. We have all turned our backs on our Maker, thinking some sin would make us fulfilled. No one is truly fulfilled until they give up their sin and subject themselves to their Creator.

It would be unloving to accept the sins of others, knowing sin causes destruction and eventual separation from the Father. This was the correction Paul gave to the church in Corinth regarding the case of incest. They thought they were being so gracious by accepting the incestuous "brother", but they learned acceptance of sin is not forgiveness of sin. Forgiveness demands repentance before acceptance can be given. His father's wife was probably not a member of the church. If this man had been fornicating with the women of the church, and then repented; he might have been accepted as a brother again but not welcome in that particular assembly.


Trust is a totally separate issue from forgiveness. I can forgive a repentant child molester, but I'm not going to place my child in his care. I can forgive a repentant spiritual abuser, but I'm not going to accept his opinions of the Bible. I know God has forgiven my homosexual sins, but I am not going to place myself in a possible compromising situation with another woman.

Webster defines trust as "confidence; a reliance or resting of the mind on the integrity, veracity, justice, friendship, or other sound principle of another person or thing."[3] A person who lacks integrity is not to be trusted. Our forgiving someone can not bestow integrity upon them. We all have a sin nature and can not be completely trusted. Jesus did not entrust Himself to people (John 2:23-25). Only God can be wholly trusted.

God has offered us all forgiveness through trusting Jesus, the perfect Man. Then God imparts His righteousness to those who repent by the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit. Christians can be given a modicum of trust to the extent we walk in God's Spirit. When we fall out of step with Him, we confess it to one another, and get back in step. To me, a person of integrity is one who confesses occasional sins, and, having nothing to hide, rejoices in Christ's righteousness.


In their book Boundaries, doctors Henry Cloud and John Townsend share some great insights on the differences between forgiveness and reconciliation: "Forgiveness has to do with the past. Reconciliation and boundaries have to do with the future," [4] and "Forgiveness takes one; reconciliation takes two." [5] Reconciliation takes two because it must be a mutual agreement of peace. Just because you have forgiven someone does not insure their willingness to be at peace with you. After you both accept the peace-treaty (reconcile), you can make plans to live peacefully apart from each other or plans to peacefully cooperate within approved arenas.



Reconciliation is not restored relationship. Reconciliation is the removal of blockages to relationship, with repentance and forgiveness as its tools. Reconciliation is settling a dispute, or peace-making. Relationships require a degree of trust and vulnerability. A relationship may or may not ensue after reconciliation.


There are four Greek words translated "reconcile" in the New Testament. Apokatallasso (in Eph. 2:16 and Col. 1:20-21) means "to change from," as from enemies to friends, or to bring back from a state of disharmony into harmony. It is only used of God's relationship with us, as in the parables of reclaiming what was lost in Luke 15. God has forgiven us, separated our sins from us, and has offered reconciliation through Jesus Christ; but we must choose to be reconciled to God. The requirements for forgiveness are confession and repentance (see Luke 17:3 and Matthew 18:15-20). Repentance is choosing to be separated from our sins as a primary step towards reconciliation. We must repent and maintain respect (faith) for God in order to be reconciled and sustain the relationship (see Col. 1:20-23).

Katallage means "an exchange" of business or money or favour. It denotes God's gracious change from wrath to favor toward us through the redemptive work of Christ. It is used in Rom. 5:11; 11:15, and in 2 Cor. 5:18-19.

Katallasso means "to change" or exchange, as coins for others of equivalent value; or to return to favor. It is used in Rom. 5:10 and 2 Cor. 5:18-20 regarding God reconciling people to Himself through Christ by exchanging our sins for Christ's righteousness. In 1 Cor. 7:11 it refers to a separated person having the choice of returning to the spouse or remaining unmarried. The only other word used for reconciliation between humans is in the following scripture.


Matthew 5:23-24 "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."
Rememberest is mnaomai in Greek; meaning to remind; to be recalled or to return to one's mind, to remind one's self of, or to remember a thing.
Ought is tis in Greek; meaning anything, something, certain thing, or thing.
Leave is aphiemi in Greek; meaning to "send away" or "separate from".
Reconciled is diallasso in Greek; meaning "to exchange" or to effect an alteration; mutual concession after mutual hostility, or making-up. It is only used this once.

The believer is told in Mark 11:25-26 to "forgive, if ye have ought against any." Here is the flip side of the coin, where a believer "remembers" another believer has ought against him. Even Jesus alludes to the strange phenomenon of denial. There can be no reconciliation until the offender remembers committing the offense, and is prepared to repent. The offended party is then commanded to forgive. The offender is commanded to reconcile (make it up) to him. Diallasso could mean a simple exchange of repentance and forgiveness, and not necessarily the reformation of a trusting relationship between believers. God does not command Christians to be reconciled with sinners.


Though it is much better when an entire household is saved at the same time, Jesus warned us that our individual choice to follow Him would create enmity in our families (Matthew 10:32-39). Some families ostracize a member when they confess Christ, while others are more tolerant, or even supportive. We "take up our cross" when we choose to obey Jesus when our natural and church family obligations conflict. Jesus did not spend extra effort trying to convince or minister to the people in his own family or home town who disrespected and rejected Him (Matthew 13:57-58). Once they made their condemning decisions, He moved on to other people who would receive Him. It is not a sin to cease pursuit of relationship with those who have rejected you. It is not a sin to not be at peace (reconciled) with all people.

Romans 12:18-20 "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head."


I know my childhood family system and the culty church system are evil. Although there are Christians in these systems, they are choosing to relate to me and to each other in ungodly ways that they deny. I do not know how long a Christian can live in denial of sin and still be saved. When asked how members of these systems are doing, I respond, "I do not know how they are since I am no longer a member of the system." When queried further, I respond, "I confronted them with sins and offered forgiveness which they refused, resulting in an impasse." Should individuals choose to come out of those evil systems, it is likely to be indicative of a change in their lives. If that change is manifested through repentance and reconciliation (peace-making), then a new relationship is possible, but not commanded. We can choose our friends as Jesus did, and He sympathizes with us when we are betrayed by a friend.

In my childhood family, Edward rebelled against the family system, and the church system we supposedly ascribed to; yet he repented of wrongs he committed against me and accepted my forgiveness. The dispute was quickly settled; we were reconciled and at peace with one another. He graciously offered to have a new relationship with me no longer based in the family system, but I kindly declined and wished him well.

The other family members refused to repent or receive my forgiveness, and added accusations against me (that I was lying or mentally ill). My husband also confronted a couple of them on the phone (especially since I had specifically asked them to write and not phone). Having obeyed Ephesians 5:11 and Matthew 18:15-16, we were bewildered as to our next course of action. There was no local church which knew all of us to which we could tell the sins to, and to have one of my counselors or one of their pastors arbitrate over hundreds of miles seemed unfair and unbiblical. Peter and I could have considered ourselves a church (according to Matthew 18:19-20) and excommunicated them from us, allowing for the possibility of their repentance and restoration to our fellowship. We had never been taught such a concept, and it did not occur to us at the time. After three years I decided I needed closure in order to move on with life. I felt I had given them "time to repent" (Rev. 2:21). I let them know I never wanted to associate with the corrupt family system again on this earth, but I hoped to see them in heaven. There might not be a "happily ever after," and Jesus sympathizes with me.


Spiritually dead

After Edward repented, I treated the rest of my natural family as members of an insoluble, sinful system instead of individuals who could all walk away from that spiritually dead system and start new, healthy relationships. Even though there are Christians within the family, healthy relationships could not develop until each Christian repented of the unholy family ways of relating (sarcasm, lying, gossip, disrespect, sexual sins, witchcraft, spiritism and alcoholism). Doing that would bury the spiritually dead family system.

Because of organized religion's disassociation from the real world, Christian accountability outside the church building walls is nearly lost. We have winked at our sins at home and work to our shame and the disgrace of the gospel. When we repent and are baptized, we must reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ-likeness in all our relationships: God, believers, relatives, friends, strangers, and co-workers. We must also love God and other believers enough to hold each other accountable for our profession of faith in Christ.

Cults are the avenue for a few to wield weapons of power and control in the name of religion against people who blindly accept the abuse in hopes of personal acceptance by God and others. Cults do not easily or swiftly accept their status as spiritually dead, as is observed by the longevity of Islam, Mormonism, Wiccan (witchcraft), and others. I believe the description of the church in Sardis is one of a Christian cult in which there were a few faithful followers of Christ in the midst of deceptive disobedience (Rev. 3:1-6).

The culty Church on the Coast had a district supervisor who refused to act upon the many charges brought against its elders (1 Timothy 5:17-25). He retired in 1995. To our amazement the new district supervisor phoned us with hope for public rebuke, public confession and repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, and restored relationships. He soon found out the Church on the Coast brought in too much money to the denomination to have it shut down.

An FBI agent has been assigned to the Church on the Coast cases of embezzlement, fraud, and financial deception. As leaders would "counsel" couples with marital problems, they would side with the spouse who showed the most loyalty to the church, and claim the other spouse was demon-possessed. They would help the loyal spouse through the divorce and promise the church would take care of them if they signed over the deed to their house to the church. The Christian counseling centers are full of "post-Coasties".

In my dreams I picture the denomination dissolving the entire Church on the Coast system and using its assets to pay for the private counseling of those spiritually and sexually and mentally and emotionally and financially injured by the sinning leaders. Alas, most spiritual abusers just start a new denomination or religion, or move to where they are unknown; and denominations rarely dismantle lucrative business opportunities in order to pay for injuries. Thank God for a final judgment day when all unrepented wrongs will be avenged.

Seasonally dead

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace."

When I lived with Allen and attended his little independent church, I had the wonderful opportunity to witness the wholesome death of that church system. After ministering to many in the area for several years, the assets were given to missionaries, and we held our last meeting. We recounted God's blessings in our midst and our reasons to dissolve, and prayed that everyone would find faithful fellowship.

We sometimes hold on to dead systems in churches and families. We do so because we often gain strength, security, and identity from a system. Systems that do not promote individual and corporate responsibility before God eventually become perverted in purpose, regardless of how "godly" the purpose seemed. Long after a system has fulfilled its intended purpose, we try to keep it on life support instead of respectfully burying the corpse. Or if the system is cancerous, we put on bandages to hide the putrefaction instead of cutting out the cancerous cells (Hebrews 12:14-15).


Disobeying God is sin. Christians may commit unintentional and intentional sins, but if they refuse to repent, they will eventually lose their salvation. (Those who refuse to forgive will also eventually lose their salvation - Matt. 6:14-15.) Repentance is a decision to stop sinning. A repentant believer may still have an occasional relapse into a particular sin, but he is determined to terminate that sin by the Spirit's power within him.

Jesus outlined three steps to take in confronting a brother who has sinned against you in Matthew 18:15-20: confront the brother with his fault privately, include two witnesses, and tell it to the church (two or more gathered in Jesus' presence and authority). If the offender refused to repent at an earlier step, then he is to be excommunicated. The letters of first and second Corinthians contain the saga of a man who was excommunicated and later restored to fellowship when he repented. Leaders have a higher criterion for holding office, and must be rebuked publicly when they sin.

Forgiveness is like a pardon. It states exactly what the sin (crime) was and its due punishment (death and separation). To offer forgiveness, you write the pardon and place a copy in the Judge's hand and the offender's hand. In order to receive a pardon, you must confess your sin (admit to the crime) before the Judge and the one you offended, and repent (willfully determine not to do in again). Reconciliation is the exchange of the offender's confession and repentance for the offended one's forgiveness: a full pardon. Though we offer forgiveness, some offenders would rather rot in prison than accept our pardon. Some relationships will not be reconciled, but we can rejoice in those that are.

[1] George MacDonald, (Compiled and edited by Michael R. Philips) Discovering the Character of God. (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1989), p. 258.

[2] Ibid., p. 259.

[3] Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, deluxe second edition. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1983, p. 1963.

[4] Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, Boundaries. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992, p. 263.

[5] Ibid., p. 251.

© 1997 L. Eve Engelbrite