Events With Multiple Causes
by J. Philip Scranton

Two people are driving their cars toward each other on a two-lane highway. Both drivers have their left hand on the steering wheel and are texting on their cell phones with their right hand. As they approach each other, both cars cross the centerline a little. The cars crash and both drivers are killed. Neither car was far across the line. If either driver had looked up and reacted, they could have swerved, and both lives could have been saved. If only one car had been across the line, probably no one would have died. Both drivers were responsible for the accident and the property damage. Both drivers were responsible for their own death. And both drivers were responsible for the death of the other driver. Both drivers inflicted grief on their own families and the family of the other driver.

This story shows us that events can have more than one cause. Often when something happens the first thing we want to know is why - what caused it to happen. We start by looking for a single cause, and often, if we find a cause, we stop looking, assuming that the full explanation has been found.

Probably some of the most intriguing movies have a theme in which a detective is told to solve a crime which seems at first sight to require nothing more than a quick and simple investigation and some paperwork. But the hero of the story, the detective, has this gut feeling that something is amiss. So, despite his captain telling him to fill out the paperwork and move on to the next case, he continues to track down leads and ignore dead ends until finally, he solves what was turns out to be a very devious and convoluted crime of the century. Unlike most of us, our hero believed there could be more than one cause for an event.

Biblical Events with Multiple Causes

We would like to look now at a biblical event, and see that there were multiple reasons for it, and multiple responsible parties.

"Men! Israelites! Hear these words: Jesus, the Nazarene, a Man demonstrated to be from God for you by powerful deeds and miracles and signs, which God does through Him in the midst of you, according as you yourselves are aware - This One, given up in the specific counsel and foreknowledge of God, you, gibbeting by the hand of the lawless, assassinate" (Acts 2:22-23).

"'Therefore the Father is loving Me, seeing that I am laying down My soul that I may be getting it again. No one is taking it away from Me, but I am laying it down of Myself. I have the right to lay it down, and I have the right to get it again. This precept I got from My Father'" (Jn. 10:17-18).

"When, then, Pilate hears this saying, he was the more afraid. And he entered into the pretorium again, and is saying to Jesus, 'Whence are you?' Yet Jesus gives him no answer. Pilate, then, is saying to Him, 'To me you are not speaking! Are you not aware that I have authority to release you and have authority to crucify you?' "Jesus answered him, 'No authority have you against Me in anything, except it were given to you from above. Therefore he who is giving Me up to you has the greater sin'" (Jn. 19:8-11).

"Then Jesus is saying to him, 'Turn away your sword into its place, for all those taking the sword, by the sword shall perish. Or are you supposing that I am not able to entreat My Father, and at present He will station by My side more than twelve legions of messengers? How, then, may the scriptures be fulfilled, seeing that thus it must occur?'" (Matt. 26:52-54).

"Then Judas, who gives Him up, perceiving that He was condemned, regretting, turns back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, 'I sinned in giving up innocent blood.' "Yet they said, 'What is it to us? You should be seeing to that!' "And tossing the silver pieces into the temple, he retires, and, coming away, strangles himself" (Matt. 27:3-5).

"Peter, rising in the midst, said, 'Men! Brethren!...concerning Judas, who becomes the guide of those apprehending Jesus. This man acquires a freehold with the wages of injustice, it is written in the scroll of the Psalms, Let his domicile become desolate, and let no one be dwelling in it, and Let his supervision be taken by another" (Acts 1:15-20).

Who was responsible for the death of Jesus Christ?

Here is the most significant event in the history of humanity, and the verses we read name five different parties who have some degree of responsibility. Any of those five could potentially have changed the outcome.
(1) Jesus was given up in the specific counsel and foreknowledge of God. God was responsible for His death. If God had not deemed it necessary for Christ to die, His death could have been avoided.
(2) The Lord Jesus Himself could have called for more than 12 legions of angels to protect Him, but He did not. Jesus Christ was responsible for His own death. He laid down His life willingly.
(3) Pilate could have refused to crucify Christ, but agreed to it because of political pressure. We know that Pilate was responsible, because Jesus Himself said that Pilate sinned in consenting to crucify Him. Pilate was the hand of the lawless Romans who crucified Him. The verses we read said that the authority he had was given to him from heaven, but he was still responsible for the way he used that authority, and he sinned by failing to uphold justice and release Christ.
(4) The Jewish leaders were responsible for the death of Christ. They delivered Him up to be crucified because of their jealousy and hatred of Him, and their sin in doing so was greater than Pilate's. Pilate was determined to let Christ go, but the Jews insisted on His crucifixion. Had they not been so insistent, Jesus would have been released.
(5) And somewhere in the midst of this there is Judas, the betrayer. He confessed that he had sinned in betraying Christ. Peter called the betrayal money the wages of injustice, and said further that the Scripture prophesied that his place and position would be desolate because of his sin. Judas had a placed in the kingdom, enjoying eonian life and sitting on one of 12 thrones with authority to judge one on the tribes of Israel. But he lost all of that and now will be raised to the great white throne judgment instead.
(6) And, if we wanted to continue, we could place blame on Adam, and even on each one of ourselves, because Christ's death was for our sakes.

The Jewish nation as a whole has already received a sentence of judgment for crucifying their Messiah. They were destroyed and scattered by the Romans. Many of them were killed in battle, and many of them died of starvation, because their leaders rejected their promised Messiah, even though abundant divine works were done publicly to convince them of the truth. Further judgment awaits responsible individuals at their resurrection. So also with Pilate, and they will all be judged for their part and responsibility, in spite of the fact that either the Father or Son could have prevented His death. All parties mentioned bear responsibility. All parties mentioned caused the death of Christ. And the Scriptures we have read place responsibility for Christ's death on them all.

The Bible's Option of Single Perspective

Now that multiple responsibility is established, we want to look at something that we often take for granted. And it is something which causes us a lot of trouble. It is an interesting and important fact that the Bible is free to speak of this event at any time with only one cause in view, and thus emphasize the importance of that cause. For instance: John 3:16, "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son." If all we had was John 3:16, and we lacked the history of the gospel accounts and the book of Acts - the Roman involvement and the jealousy and hatred of the Jews - and if we knew only that God's Son had been given as a sacrifice, we might think it occurred in a manner like Abraham offering Isaac. We might even think that Israel crucified the Lord Jesus at God's direction.

Similar statements could be said about the following verses:

"For Christ, while we are still infirm, still in accord with the era, for the sake of the irreverent died" (Rom. 5:6)
"...yet God is commending this love of His to us, seeing that, while we are still sinners, Christ died for our sakes" (Rom. 5:8).
"Now that which I am living in flesh, I am living in faith that is of the Son of God, Who loves me, and gives Himself up for me" (Gal. 2:20).
"Christ Jesus, being inherently in the form of God, deems it not pillaging to be equal with God, nevertheless empties Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming to be in the likeness of humanity, and, being found in fashion as a human, He humbles Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:5-8).
"a Man, Christ Jesus ... is giving Himself a correspondent Ransom for all" (1 Tim. 2:6).

These verses acknowledge only one or two responsible parties for the death of Christ. There is no mention in the contexts of Jewish plots and Roman collaboration or the treachery of Judas. Still, we do not say these verses contradict the ones which speak of the Jews and Romans crucifying Christ. Should we? Should we say that John 3:16 is not true, because Christ was killed by jealous Jewish aristocrats, so God cannot be responsible for the death of His Son? No. We accept the multiple causes for the crucifixion, and we accept the right of the Scriptures to speak of any of these causes individually.

Other Events With Multiple Causes

But ... what if there were verses in the Bible, much like those listed above, which spoke of two different causes for an event. And what if those verses seemed to insinuate the cause given in the context was the only cause of the event. Would we harmonize the verses and say, "Since all Scripture is true, the event must be dependent on both of these causes"? Or, would we pit these verses against each other and say, "One set of verses is true, (the set I prefer) but the other set does not mean what it seems to say"? This is what Christianity at large has done with the doctrine of endless torment, isn't it? Let us consider another such a case:
"if ever you should be avowing with your mouth the declaration that Jesus is Lord, and should be believing in your heart that God rouses Him from among the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart it is believed for righteousness, yet with the mouth it is avowed for salvation" (Rom. 10:9-10).
"For thus God loves the world, so that He gives His only-begotten Son, that everyone who is believing in Him should not be perishing, but may be having life eonian" (Jn. 3:16).

There is nothing in either of these verses or their immediate contexts to imply that only specifically chosen individuals, or especially enlightened individuals are capable of believing in Christ. Indeed, Paul continues in Romans saying: "For the scripture is saying: Everyone who is believing on Him shall not be disgraced. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same One is Lord of all, being rich for all who are invoking Him. For everyone, whoever should be invoking the name of the Lord shall be saved "How, then, should they be invoking One in Whom they do not believe? Yet how should they be believing One of Whom they do not hear? Yet how should they be hearing apart from one heralding? Yet how should they be heralding if ever they should not be commissioned? According as it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those bringing an evangel of good!" (Rom. 10:11-15).

Here we have another cause listed. Salvation is not dependent only on belief, but also on a messenger. Of course the messenger could be replaced by the Scriptures, but God's word lays considerable importance on the messenger and the sending of the messenger.

Now let's consider the other side of the coin.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who blesses us with every spiritual blessing among the celestials, in Christ, according as He chooses us in Him before the disruption of the world" (Eph. 1:3-4).
"No one can come to Me [Jesus] if ever the Father Who sends Me should not be drawing him" (Jn. 6:44).

Nothing in the immediate contexts of these verses suggests that salvation is dependent on the faith of the believer. Does that mean that we have a contradiction with the verses above? Does that mean that one of these pairs of verses is right and the other wrong or vague or incorrectly translated? Will we criticize Scripture to resolve this problem, or, will we modify our understanding to acknowledge all of Scripture?

Free-will/Predestination Debate

At the conference in Richmond back in April, we had a warm discussion on this topic - not a heated argument, just a warm discussion. One of the things I love about the people who attend these conferences is that they are concerned enough about their beliefs to study the Bible, and to change their views if they find that they have been wrong about something. Few of us started out believing in the reconciliation of all.

But it is possible, in our zeal for our new understanding, that we become impatient with our brothers and sisters in Christ. At the time of the conference I only thought this was a repeat of something that has happened many times. But I found that it became a burden on my heart that wouldn't let me go. I even went home and read a little paperback book I bought a long time ago. It was titled "The Bondage of the Will." The book was a debate between Martin Luther and Erasmus on the issue of free will versus predestination. I had been led to believe that this book was a significant work and was highly esteemed in Christianity. It was over 400 pages. There were some places where passages of Scripture were referred to or discussed, but there was very little of what you could call scriptural exegesis. Honestly, I discovered that this book was very little more than a contest between two pompous windbags. The first 120 pages were flattering build-up of the opponent's prestige just to make later comments and criticisms more satirical and biting. In the final analysis, the book was a waste of time and showed a complete lack of Christian love.

The Lord Jesus said He gave a new commandment. It must have gone something like this: "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you correct one another's doctrines." Isn't that how it goes???? Surely it is, because I was a Baptist, and the Baptists do that a lot. They correct each other so much that their denomination has been divided over and over again into more and more different kinds of Baptists. Well ... I was wrong wasn't I? The commandment was that we love one another, and people would know we believe and follow Christ if we loved one another. I could find no evidence of love in 400 pages of Luther and Erasmus.

The worst thing about the whole book is that they forced their interpretation on the Scriptures instead of letting the Scriptures speak for themselves. Sometimes they were right, but they never allowed the Scriptures to be a unity. They could only pick and choose what they wanted, and they always said the other person misunderstood the passages they ignored.

In my Christian experience I have spent considerable time on both sides of this argument. I started out believing in free will. Later, finding that I was wrong on some doctrines I made some changes, and one of the new teachings I adopted was a strong belief in predestination. If you had asked me at any time during my tenures in these different beliefs, if these beliefs affected my use of the Scriptures, I would have probably told you no. And I would have been sincere in that. But looking back now, with a more transparent honesty, I have to say that to some degree, I sort of steered around the passages I didn't agree with at the time. Isn't that a sad thing! That someone who loves the scriptures would become biased in some way in their use of them. Isn't it a terrible thing that I would judge God's word and, in effect, say that the part of Scripture I preferred was more true than another part! If two things are true, can one be more true than the other?

During part of the time I held these differing viewpoints I pastored two churches, and I had the opportunity to be with several people when they came to faith in Christ. It is interesting that even a child less than 10 years old can understand the concept of someone dying for their sins and can believe in Christ. It isn't necessary for someone to understand God knowing them and choosing them before Adam was even created to be saved. And yet how much comfort will that child have in later years from knowing of God's choosing? How much comfort is there in such truth if we live to an age where our minds and bodies fail us?

I have never had the experience, or even heard of someone, at the time of their salvation, rejoicing that they were proud and happy to have made the decision which allowed them to secure their own destiny. Nor have I heard of anyone rejoicing that God's purpose before the world began was being fulfilled in them at that moment. When we are at the point of knowing our sin and our need for a Savior, all we can have is gratitude that Christ is there. We only come to the point of boasting in our will or boasting in our election after the newness of our faith wears off and we gain some knowledge of Scriptural statements. If our maturity grew at the same speed that time passes, maybe that would never happen.

Unity of God's Calling and Belief

Paul said to the Athenians, "God ... gives to all life and breath and all. Besides, He makes out of one every nation of mankind, to be dwelling on all the surface of the earth, specifying the setting of the season and the bounds of their dwelling, for them to be seeking God, if, consequently, they may surely grope for Him and may be finding Him, though to be sure, not far from each one of us is He inherent, for in Him we are living and moving and are" (Acts 17:24-28).

Our existence is in God. He is close to all of us before we are saved, and He is in us after we are saved. Is it such a hard thing to believe that God's choosing and calling of us can go hand in hand with our believing Him? Are we so jealous for God's glory and authority that we would deny the faith of His children? Or, are we so proud of our own faith and decision to believe that we would claim to have it without any enlightenment of truth? The Scriptures present two causes, and often three, for the event of salvation: (1) God's calling; (2) the believer's faith; and, (3) the messenger who shares God's word with the one who believes.

Paul says that faith accords with grace (Rom. 4:16). Faith carries no merit of its own. How could it be meritorious to believe the God Who never lies? It is utter foolishness not to believe Him! Faith accords with grace. Commit those 4 words to memory. They say a lot. In the hills of Alabama we might express it that believing holds the hand of God's blessing.

Some will say that I have missed the whole point of the issue. They will say it is the quickening of the Spirit that enables one to believe. But I haven't found that to be an emphasis that is clearly revealed in the Scriptures. It seems to me that God is not very concerned whether or not we understand the order of events other than this: He has provided salvation for us, and we need to believe what He has done. Adam & Eve doubted God's intentions and motives. Faith believes God. Faith reverses our position from that of Adam and Eve. Salvation is really that simple. So, at least for the present, I understand salvation as an event with two or three causes.

Romans 9: The Enigma of Predestination

I would like to talk briefly about one more passage of Scripture, because I think it is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied passages of the N.T. And I am one of those who misunderstood it.
"For the word of the promise is this: At this season I shall come 'and there will be for Sarah a son.'
Yet, not only so, but Rebecca also is having her bed of one, Isaac, our father. For, not as yet being born, nor putting into practice anything good or bad, that the purpose of God may be remaining as a choice, not out of acts, but of Him Who is calling, it was declared to her that 'The greater shall be slaving for the inferior,' according as it is written, 'Jacob I love, yet Esau I hate'" (Rom. 9:9-13).

Well, here we have it! These verses are the delight of those who want to believe in double predestination - that is predestination of the saved to bliss and predestination of the lost to perdition. It seems to say here that before these twin boys were born, before they had ever done anything right or wrong, one was destined to prosperity and blessing from God and one was destined to servitude and alienation from God. God decided it and there was nothing they could do to change it. But it only seems to say that when we take these verses out of their context.

Would it surprise you if I said that Esau, the firstborn son of Isaac, never served his brother Jacob? Jacob got Esau to sell him the birthright, and later he tricked his father into giving him the firstborn blessing. Obviously Esau became angry with Jacob. Jacob fled to Haran where he married Leah and Rachael. When Jacob returned to Canaan, he feared Esau, and met him by sending gifts ahead of himself to Esau. And when he came to where he could see Esau he approached him by bowing down to him seven times, as if Esau were a god. Who was serving who?

Both sons were so rich from the accumulated wealth of Abraham and Isaac and of their own labors, that their families, servants and flocks were so large they could not live together. It was similar to the situation where Abraham and Lot parted ways because they became too numerous to stay together. And so Esau went to Mount Seir, and Jacob stayed in Canaan. Esau, the elder brother, never served his younger brother Jacob.

Would it also surprise you if I said that the phrase, "Jacob I love, yet Esau I hate," was not part of the prophecy made before the birth of the twin brothers? In fact, it was spoken by Malachi more than 1,000 years later (Mal. 1:1-4). The reason God said He loved Jacob was because He was in covenant relationship to Jacob's family and had blessed them in many ways. And the reason God said He hated Esau is because the Edomites - Esau's descendents - did not help Jacob - the Israelites - when Jerusalem was under attack from Babylon. In fact, the Edomites laid wait for Israelites fleeing from Jerusalem, killing many of them and others they captured and handed over to the Babylonians. In addition to this they also pillaged Jerusalem (Ob. 12-14; Eze. 35:15; 36:5). This is why God said He hated Esau.
Well, this is a head-scratcher isn't it? Let's look at the context and see if we can figure out what Paul is telling us, and why he would put together statements about Jacob and Esau that had 1,000 years of history between them. Let's read Romans 9:1-6.

"The truth am I telling in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifying together with me in holy spirit, that my sorrow is great, and unintermittent pain is in my heart - for I myself wished to be anathema from Christ - for my brethren, my relatives according to the flesh, who are Israelites, whose is the sonship and the glory and the covenants and the legislation and the divine service and the promises; whose are the fathers, and out of whom is the Christ according to the flesh, Who is over all, God be blessed for the eons. Amen!
"Now it is not such as that the word of God has lapsed, for not all those out of Israel, these are Israel;"

In these verses Paul tells us that his heart is breaking for his nation. So much so that he would give himself up to be accursed from God if his nation would only turn to God and accept Christ as their Messiah. Then Paul addresses a very serious question. After telling of all the blessings promised to Israel in God's word - most important of which was the Messiah - he asks the question: Does Israel's rejection of Jesus Christ mean that God's word has failed to be fulfilled? If only some Jews believe in Christ, but the nation as a whole, or by its leadership rejects Him, has God's purpose for Israel and their Messiah failed, or been cancelled, or scratched from God's plan? Can God's word fail? I think that the wording of this question doesn't translate well from Greek to English, and it is easy for us to miss the significance of verse 6.

Verses 6-29 are all dealing with this question about whether God's word has failed or not. Paul says, no! God's word has not failed! Then he explains that the reason we would ask this question in the first place is because we might not understand who God's people are. Paul explains by giving us a sketch of Israel's history. He starts with Abraham, reminding us that although Abraham had two sons (not counting Keturah's children) his promised seed only came through one of them - Isaac. The children of the flesh - Hagar's son Ishmael - did not represent the children of God. Only in Isaac's descendants was the blessing given.

After the contrast between Ishmael and Isaac, he again shows a similar difference between Jacob and Esau. Do you remember the words of God to Rebecca when she inquired why the twins were fighting in her womb? God's word was that two nations were in her womb, and she would give birth to two different kinds of people. Remembering this we see that Paul's quotation of the Scripture is right in sync with the message he is writing to the Romans. In Paul's day there were Israelites who believed in Christ and there were Israelites who did not believe in Christ. Ishmael and Esau and their descendants represent the unbelieving in Paul's day by means of the illustration. Isaac and Jacob and their descendants represent the believing of Israel. These first two examples set before us the contrast of some receiving the blessing and some not receiving it.

Paul continues Israel's history to the time of Moses and the exodus, and quotes from words spoken at Mt. Sinai. There the people, including Aaron, became involved in bull worship while Moses was up on the mountain. Moses and Joshua came down, 3000 people were executed for their flagrant idolatry, and the rite of the jealous husband was performed between God and unfaithful Israel. Sinai was the covenant of marriage between Israel and God, and the covenant couldn't be completed before Israel showed herself to be unfaithful. When Moses wanted to see more of God's glory and the way they would go, God told him that He would have mercy on whom He chose to have mercy. In other words God would save a faithful remnant for Himself in spite of the nation's unfaithfulness. The hardening of Pharaoh comes in to show that God's purpose will be done, even when it requires resistance to Him. But even with Pharaoh, the overall purpose was the salvation and establishment of God's people.

More questions arise: "Is God just, or righteous, in operating this way?" "If God uses some to oppose Him, how can He judge them?" Then Paul moves on to the time of Hosea and uses the example there of "unpitied people," and "not my people" (Lo-ruhamah and Lo-ammi). And you remembered how those would become "the people whom I pity," and "My people," the sons of the living God." Then he goes to Isaiah, and verse 29 brings it all back to the question about God's word: "Except the Lord of hosts conserved us a seed, As Sodom would we become, And to Gomorrah would we be likened." God's word has definitely not failed. Paul shows us, from God's viewpoint, that God is continually saving some in spite of human failure.

We have the same situation with all these events that we have with the crucifixion of Christ. There was responsibility and judgment at every juncture of Israel's history. Paul doesn't speak of all this but emphasizes God's aspect of it all to show that God's word has not failed, even if it appears to some that it has.

Now let us say a word about God's hatred of Esau. And as we do this, we need to remember what we discovered about the way the Scriptures often speak of things, when we considered the responsible parties for the crucifixion of Christ. The Scriptures can speak from one viewpoint at a time, without denying the other viewpoints. Here in chapter 9 of Romans Paul is speaking from the viewpoint of God about Israel's history. He is speaking of God as the Subjector, or, Placer. He doesn't speak of Israel's continual failure and rebellion, but that does not mean that we can forget or overlook those failings. All that is recorded in the O. T., and Paul expects us to be aware of it.

God blessed Esau and made a great Edomite nation from him. But when the Edomites dealt so cruelly with their brothers, the Israelites, and took advantage of them, God destroyed their nation, saying Mt Seir, their capital, would never be great again. In Paul's illustration from Jewish history, Esau represents the unbelieving portion of Israel. The name Esau does not represent Jacob's twin brother, neither does it represent the Edomite nation.

Now remember Israel's history and see how God hated Esau - the unbelieving descendants of Jacob. He made His covenant with them - the whole nation - believing and unbelieving. He gave them His word and the promises and all those blessings Paul iterated in the opening verses of the chapter. They constantly went astray; they worshipped false gods; they come under the rule of foreign powers. God sent them judges and deliverers and prophets to call them back to Himself. In the context of Romans 9, God did all these things for Esau. The path that nation trod was eroded to the point of being washed away by the tears of God and the blood of His prophets; but He kept calling to them; finally He sent them His own Son; and they murdered Him.

Even after they murdered His Son they were given additional time to repent but did not. Peter and John were threatened and told to preach no more by the Sanhedrin. The apostles were imprisoned, but God sent and angel to release them. The apostles were beaten and told not to speak any more of Jesus, but they kept on. Stephen was stoned.

Finally, long, long after the fire of any human patience would have been extinguished and its cold ashes blown away, the hatred of God blossomed in the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the nation of Israel. The only part of this story that can be called hatred for Esau is the long overdue justice on the hateful, stubborn and unbelieving. The casting off of Israel is God's hatred of Esau, and God used even that to open a door of grace to all nations.

This passage of Scripture is so often misunderstood and abused. Predestination and Free-will are not either-or items. They are both-and. Anyone who wants to argue one against the other should silence themselves. Only when we can explain the reality that both the faith of the believer and the calling of God are necessary, core ingredients of salvation, dare we speak to instruct another. God's word treats both of these facts as causes of salvation. If we take one side over the other, we are making empty boasts about our understanding of God's foreknowledge, or the nature of the human will.

In the book of Philippians Paul gave thorough instruction on the believer's attitude. One of his statements was: "Let your lenience be known to all men" (Phil. 4:5). I choose to follow this advice on the topic of free will and predestination. We have good reason to understand that there is more than one cause for salvation. And we can also see how difficult it is to reconcile these different viewpoints. So I think both viewpoints fall short of the truth, and I intend to be lenient with those who disagree with me. And I beg their lenience with me as well.

Now if you hold your understanding of a person's salvation in good conscience before God, be at peace. Paul said, "The faith which you have, have for yourself in God's sight. Happy is he who is not judging himself in that which he is attesting" (Rom. 14:22). J. B. Phillips put it this way: "Your personal convictions are a matter of faith between yourself and God, and you are happy if you have no qualms about what you allow yourself to eat" - or in this case, "you will be happy if you hold your understanding of the Scriptures with a clear conscience before God." May our love for each other be as sincere as our belief in God and the Scriptures.

J. Philip Scranton
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