Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Commands of Christ - Matthew 18:8-9

"If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire." -Matthew 18:8-9

To whom are these commands spoken?

Matthew 18:1-2 indicate for us that Jesus is speaking to the disciples, and at least one child is there.

What do these commands require?

If your hand or foot or eye causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you.

What truths do we learn here?

First off, as we noted in Matthew 5:29-30, Jesus is not advocating self-mutilation as an acceptable practice to rid yourself of sin or to gain favor before God. Jesus is teaching here that it is of more value to avoid everlasting hell-fire maimed and mutilated than to be cast into eternal hell-fire with both hands, both feet, or both eyes.

Eyes and hands and feet are all valuable. We take them for granted each and every day. Think about how detailed and complex your eyes are--instant auto-focus, lightning-fast maneuvering, full HD. Your eyes are incredibly valuable. But Jesus says that it would be better for your to enter into life with only one eye than to keep them both and be cast into fire.

Think about this phrase for a minute: the everlasting fire. In Greek, the phrase is 'to pyr to aionion', which literally means 'the fire without end.' This is serious stuff. This is a phrase that we don't like to accept. But it is written in the Word of God and is therefore true. There is a very real everlasting torment of fire for those who do not put their faith in Jesus' death and resurrection. A hard truth to accept, yes, but it is a truth, nonetheless. Thankfully, this truth about hell is countered by a truth about life. Life--zoe--that Jesus speaks of here must also be referring to a life with no end. Indeed, Jesus is speaking to men who are already alive here on earth and He tells them that they can enter into life. Praise God there is a heaven where we can experience life as God intended it. Let us be careful to rid ourselves of those things which would cause us to sin, even if they are important to us now.

Is this warning of avoiding Hell to those who are already His? If so, does this create problems for the doctrine of eternal security?
I think this warning is for both believers and unbelievers. For believers, to spur us on to continue in our life of faith and good works and for unbelievers to call them to repentance and eternal life. This doesn't create a problem with the doctrine of eternal security, for we know that believers cannot be separated from the love of God (Rom 8). It does, however, create a problem of authenticity for each individual. What sort of person am I? The writer of Hebrews describes 3 types of people: Those who never grow - 5:11-14; Those who go on - 6:1-3; and Those who go back - 6:4-8; and then gives a similar warning/exhortation in 10:39 - "But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul." So believers should heed these warnings of avoiding Hell as motivation to keep following Jesus and rid ourselves of all things that might cause us to sin. "It is better to enter life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire." I think also of Hebrews 3:12-14 - "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: "Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion."

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