Question & Answer Forum

How can discipleship (Luke 14:26) be reconciled with family responsibilities?

The God-breathed teachings of a perfectly wise God cannot be contradictory (2 Timothy 3:16; Psalm 12:6; Proverbs 30:5; Jude 25). God never gives conflicting responsibilities.

The Lord’s disciples can have no higher claim than His. The natural claims of possessions, family, and even life itself (Luke 14:26; 18:29) cannot rival total obedience to Him. Placing limits on our obedience to Christ disqualifies us from discipleship.

The Lord Himself attended to family responsibilities. If, during the Lord’s public ministry, Joseph’s absence indicates that he had died, this explains the Lord’s leadership in moving his family home to Capernaum (Matthew 4:13; Mark 6:3). The first 9 chapters of Mark find the Lord Jesus returning to His home during His journeys of service. Even in His passion, the Lord fulfilled His responsibility to His mother (John 19: 26, 27). As the Lord entered into Abraham’s concerns for his family (Genesis 17:18, 20), so, in the days of His flesh, He shared Peter’s family concerns (Mark 1:29-31).

Those who follow the Lord are responsible both for full commitment to the service He chooses for them and also for full commitment to family responsibilities. This may mean finding creative ways to keep in contact with each in the family, spend times together, and share in the joys of serving the Master. It likely requires a heightened sensitivity to the difference between divinely entrusted service and self-assumed service.

D. Oliver

What is the Lord teaching in Matthew 7:6?

In verses 1-5, we are to help our brother, seeking to remove a problem ( or “mote”) that limits his usefulness or joy (a clouded or uncomfortable eye). To do so requires self-judgment and fairness (verse 5). Sometimes, even when self-judgment and fairness are present, attempts to help may be unfruitful (verse 6).

Since dogs and pigs are unclean animals, the Lord indicates that unbelievers (the unclean) can neither enjoy (dogs) nor rightly evaluate (pigs) spiritual things. While we are responsible to “do good unto all men” (Galatians 6:10), treating unbelievers as though they were believers is unwise. We must present the gospel to them, but need not expect to elevate them by presenting principles of Christian living to them. Doing so may both endanger our effectiveness with them (“rend you”) and further reduce their regard for truth (“trample them under their feet”).

The Lord condemns harsh judgment (verse 1), but commends spiritual judgment (verse 6). We are responsible to know how best to help others (verses 1-5, “then thou shalt see clearly”), but to recognize when well-intended help is counterproductive (verse 6). In both cases, our constant recourse is prayer (verses 7-11)

D. Oliver

In James 5:20, what is the meaning of “shall hide a multitude of sins”?

Both here and in 1 Peter 4:8 covering “a multitude of sins” clearly alludes to Proverbs 10:12, “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.” The Greek translation of this proverb uses the same word for “cover” (or veil) as in these New Testament passages. Covering, then, is contrasted to “stirreth up.” Hatred looks for ways to cause problems; love looks for ways to avoid problems.

Love doesn’t tolerate or encourage sin (1 Corinthians 13:6), and, undeniably, 1 Corinthians 5 teaches that sin affecting the testimony and integrity of God’s dwelling must be exposed and judged.

Love “is not easily provoked” in reacting to wrongs, however (13: 5). In 1 Peter 4:8, love enables a believer to put a veil over “a multitude of” wrongs against him personally. In this way, he does not look at those wrongs, but acts as if they hadn’t been committed.

The problem in James 5 is unrighteous action that has incurred God’s hand of discipline (verses 15, 16). By recovering this individual from the error of his way, the wrongs he has done will be veiled from the view of others. We should make every attempt to righteously protect the testimony of fellow-believers.

D. Oliver

Is 1 John 1:9 written to believers or unbelievers?

John uses the first person (plural), “we”, speaking as one of those to whom truth has been entrusted directly through experience with the Lord (verses 1-5). The truth is “God is light.” John uses the second person, “you,” in addressing believers, “little children” (verses 3-5; 2:1, etc.). He uses the third person, “he,” referring to those whose teaching is contrary to truth (2:4-9). John’s teaching must be consistent with God’s character, so he points out three things he could not teach, “if we say” (verses 6, 8, 10).

Each of John’s “if we say” statements is contrary to the truth in the preceding verse. Verses 5 and 6 deal with sin as the characteristic of our life – impossible! Verses 7 and 8 deal with sin as the contagion of our nature; “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son” eternally removes the defilement of this before God. Verses 9 and 10 deal with sin as the consequence of our actions; confession of those sins restores the enjoyment of fellowship with our Father.

Unbelievers do not confess their sins in order to be forgiven. They repent of their sins (Acts 17:30) and trust Christ for forgiveness (Acts 13:38, 39).

D. Oliver