#STRask: July 13, 2017

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Published on 07/13/2017

Greg’s on a timer, and answers questions about God condoning human sacrifice, dying while sinning, and good works.


  • What are we to make of the human sacrifice in Judges 11:29-40? Why does He allow it? Seems to imply He accepts it in this situation.
  • If a Christian dies while committing a sin, does that effect their eternal destiny?
  • Please describe what is meant by “good works” in Ephesians 2:10.


Melinda: Hello there. I’m Melinda, the Enforcer. I’m here with Greg Koukl. This is Stand To Reason, and this is the STRask Podcast. Why are you looking at me?

Greg: You sound better than you did the last two podcasts.

Melinda: I just took a drink of water. If those of you listening think, “Oh, Melinda. It’s like three weeks later and you still have this cold” - no, we just recorded a bunch of extra episodes on the day I happen to have a terrible cold and choke when I talk. This is a short podcast. Send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask. Greg is on a timer.

Greg: Let’s go.

Melinda: I guess we can just go. Excuse me. First question comes from Lukeeme672. What are we to make of the human sacrifices in Judges 11:29-40? Why did God allow it? It seems to imply he accepts it in this situation. Yeah, it’s kind of a horrifying passage, actually.

Greg: Well, yeah. This is a...I’m just skimming the passage. I’m somewhat familiar with it. This is when Jephthah makes a promise that based on the victory that he just had, he is going to sacrifice to the Lord the first thing that comes out of the door of his house to greet him.

Melinda: What a stupid thing to do.

Greg: You know, is his dog going to come out the door?

Melinda: I know.

Greg: It’s like...

Melinda: The cow or lamb or something?

Greg: Yeah, what does he live in a barn or something? Yeah, it does seem kind of dumb. As the story goes, it’s his daughter and then he’s all anguished.

Melinda: Instead of saying, “Oh, I made a rash promise”, he goes ahead and does it.

Greg: Yes. Well, yeah. The daughter then accepts the promise and spends some time mourning with her friends. Then it says here she is going to weep because of her virginity. Then at the end of two months...

Melinda: That’s the worst thing she’s going to lose.

Greg: Well, it says here at the end of two months she returned to her father, who did to her according to the vow which he had made, and she had no relations with a man. There is some question here as to whether this is a genuine human sacrifice, or rather he sacrificed her, how would I say it, her future as a wife because she is now devoted to the Lord completely and she can’t get married. It is not entirely clear that there is a human sacrifice in view here, that the kind of sacrifice in question...When I say human sacrifice, that he didn’t sacrifice her life. He didn’t kill her, but rather the kind of sacrifice that was made is that she is sacrificed in her life to the Lord, which means she will never be married, which is why she mourns for two months and it says in 39, “In fulfilling the vow he made, she had no relations with a man.”

I mean, I guess if he killed her then she would have no relationships with a man, but it focuses in on that particular aspect. I’m inclined to read this not as an act of human sacrifice, but as a foolish...

Melinda: I never noticed that before.

Greg: ...As a foolish pledge that Jephthah kept. Incidentally, even if he had kept the pledge and it was to sacrifice physically his daughter and he did that, that wouldn’t mean that God approves of it just because God didn’t intervene. You see all kinds of crazy stuff going on in the book of Judges. The scripture records what took place, but in the recording of it, that alone is not an affirmation of the behavior. It’s just a record of what happened, and all kinds of stupid, foolish, ridiculous, immoral things that people do are recorded in the text.

Melinda: That’s the same too for polygamy. A lot of people assume because many of the men in the Old Testament that God generally approved of and blessed, because they were polygamists he must’ve approved that too, but that’s not the case. Not once does God approve of that. It simply is recording those things. Virtually every example of the men that got blessed and used specifically in the Old Testament, they were also terrible sinners. The text is quite clear about that too.

Greg: By the way, just to support this take that I have of this passage, if you’re reading verse 34 it says, “When Jephthah came to his house in Mizpah, behold his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child. Besides her he had no son or daughter.” Now that could go to the fact that now he’s going to sacrifice his own child in a literal sense, but it could also go to the fact that now this only opportunity he has for heirs...

Melinda: Which is huge in that culture.

Greg: ...Right, is now been committed to a life of virginity and he’s not going to have any heirs. This is a bigger expense than he thought.

Melinda: That’s a good point. I never noticed that about the passage. Okay, good.

Greg: That’s why I get the big bucks.

Melinda: Yup, it is. Next question comes from ibeenajezjunkie. If a Christian in bondage...I’m just going to have to reword this clearer. If a Christian basically dies in the midst of committing a sin, how does that affect their eternal judgment? Will God have mercy on them struggling?

Greg: What if they weren’t...Let’s just make it worse. What if they weren’t...I’m not sure what he means by struggling, but I presume it means that they were struggling with sin, will God have mercy on that struggle. I’m not sure. What if they weren’t struggling, maybe they were just giving in totally. Does the blood of Christ cover our transgressions, that’s the real question. You know, it says in Hebrews, quoting Jeremiah, I think, regarding the new covenant, “and their sins and transgressions I will remember no more,” except for that one you were committing when you kicked the bucket. That one you’re going to get nailed on that one, but all the rest. No, it doesn’t matter when you die and what’s happening when you die. You’re either in or you’re out. You’re either forgiven or you’re not forgiven. Now, it would be nice to go out a little bit more elegantly than right in the middle of a big sin. I agree, but it has no bearing whatsoever on the final assessment that God makes of our lives.

The fact is, given the two great commandments: love the Lord your God with your whole hearts, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself, I’m pretty much going to be sinning pretty badly on both of those whenever it is that God takes me.

Melinda: Sins of omission.

Greg: Yeah, in that case, right.

Melinda: Yeah, when we become Christians an exchange takes place. It’s our guilt for Jesus’ righteousness.

Greg: That’s right.

Melinda: Nothing we do changes that.

Greg: That’s right.

Melinda: God looks at us and we get Jesus’ righteousness.

Greg: That’s the marvelous exchange I talk about in “The Story of Reality”. Right.

Melinda: That’s where I read it, yeah.

Greg: Yeah. Not my phrase. It came from the Reformation, but I use it there because it’s such an apt description.

Melinda: Just kidding. I read about grace in the Bible. I remember talking about this when I was in college and somebody said, “Well, is forgiveness like lily pads where you have to leap from one to the other and you’re temporarily in a perfect state of forgiveness, but then you sin again, that’s your leap. Then hopefully you get to the next lily pad before you get taken out again so you kind of get forgiven again, or is it like a safety net?” The good news, this is like a safety net. It’s always there to catch.

Greg: Actually, even that isn’t adequate enough because it’s much richer and more profound and deeper even than a safety net, but I think it’s better than jumping from lily pad to lily pad.

Melinda: Right, but it’s always there. There’s no holes in it.

Greg: That’s right.

Melinda: Next question comes from 1debj123. Please describe what is meant by good works in Ephesians 2:10.

Greg: It’s interesting, the juxtaposition in Ephesians 2 of this phrase because this is one of the first passages that I think maybe I ever memorized as a new Christian. It wasn’t one that I formally memorized. Like most of the verses I know, they just stuck. Ephesians 2:8,9 which says, “By grace you are saved through faith, that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works lest any man boast.” This was especially meaningful to me being raised in the Roman Catholic tradition, especially the Vatican one tradition, to learn that it is God’s grace that has rescued me and I am saved not in virtue of works that I have done in righteousness. That’s the language of Titus chapter three, but through his mercy, the washing and regeneration of the Holy Spirit, which is a response to my trust in him, the faith that’s being talked about in Ephesians two. Not any works that I do myself, so that none of us can boast.

Now, once you get that squared away, the next couple verses are interesting. Verse ten, “for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we should walk in them.” This is very similar to the way that the Titus passage is construed. Here’s what Titus says. “When the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to his mercy by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit whom he poured upon us richly through Jesus Christ, our Savior. So that being justified by his grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Now that’s a much longer way of saying the same thing that we see in Ephesians 2:8,9. Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, not by works. Both passages follow with a kind of application. Here it is in Titus verse eight. “This is a trustworthy statement, and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.” In other words, good deeds are not profitable for you prior to salvation, because no good deeds can pay for bad deeds. We are rescued by grace through faith. Okay? Once we are rescued, we are rescued not just from something but for something. The thing that we are rescued for is a life of virtue and goodness. Once we have been rescued from our sin, it is profitable for us to live a life of virtue and goodness. That’s the point of both of these passages, Ephesians 2:8-10 and the Titus chapter three passage that I mentioned.

We just want to get our ducks in the proper row and not have the tail wag the dog. First grace, then works is the proper response. You see the exact same thing in the book of James, chapter two.

Melinda: Excellent little homily. That’s it for this episode of STRask. Send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask. That’s how we get your questions and that’s how we got the name of the podcast. Greg is on a timer and sometimes he does a really good job. He does a really good job all the time, but sometimes it’s somewhat profound.

Greg: Other times it’s just absolutely stupid, but we mix the good and the bad.

Melinda: I didn’t say that. You can do an excellent job all the time and then there’s just really good little stunning moments. Anyways, I’m Melinda, the Enforcer, with Greg Koukl for Stand to Reason.