God’s Word for You
Malachi 1:10 Mortal and Venial sins
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, January 9, 2021
10 “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors,
so that you would not start a fire on my altar for nothing!
I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of Armies,
“nor will I accept any offering from your hands.”
The Lord says: It would be better to shut the temple doors, to have no sacrifices at all, than to have a worship that insults God, defiles his worship, and violates the first three commandments in every sense. This thought is probably part of what led to the shutting of the temple doors in Acts 21:30 when the Jews thought Paul had brought Gentiles to the altar.
Sacrifices were not food for God, as if he needs fuel to burn. Sacrifices were a way of showing faith and a way of foreshadowing and prefiguring the ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross. But a faith that did not look forward to Christ was not a faith in God’s promises at all. It was unbelief. And an unbeliever cannot worship God, cannot pray to God, and cannot be acceptable to God in any way. Better to shut the temple doors. This is God’s expression of fellowship. There are not, as some claim, many paths to heaven. There is only one: Jesus Christ. Those who advocate or encourage other paths have been misled by Satan himself and have been talked into doing his work for him. This is how the Bishops of a certain large Lutheran Church in America have locked arms with demons to shout down anyone who proclaims faith in Christ alone. They belittle their flock with bullying words, they lie, they deceive, they puff themselves up, and they act as if they’ve made new discoveries in theology that do nothing more than stand shoulder to shoulder with Ahaz and Manasseh, who sacrificed their own children to false gods (2 Kings 16:3, 21:6). They prove the prophet’s words: “Although grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness. They will continue to act unjustly even in an upright land. They will not recognize the LORD’s majesty” (Isaiah 26:10). They would rather look God in the eye to tell him he’s wrong about religion, faith, and heaven, and they will keep up their chattering and bickering and posturing all the while that they are being thrown into the fiery pits of hell forever. As the flames lick at their flesh, they will smugly announce that they don’t think it will last very long, as if God doesn’t know what forever means, either.
When God, in his holy Word, points out a sin and says, “I am not pleased with you,” he is being as gentle as he can. When he exposes false worship and unbelief and uses the kindest, softest words to call us back, he is illustrating what grace truly is. Grace is love from God we don’t deserve. Love is the unfathomable patience of God, his forbearance to destroy what is vile, unholy, and rebellious. This is what all his people once were, but he called us to faith through the gospel. But “will you try the patience of God?” (Isaiah 7:13). If he calls you to repentance, won’t you turn from your sin, turn back to God, and ask him to guide you in his path? Paul confessed: “I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16).
Here it might be wise, it surely will be wise, to illustrate the difference between the two kinds of committed sins (that is, sins apart from original sin). These are sometimes called mortal sins and venial sins.
A mortal sin is committed by someone who knows that an act is a sin, is committed without any struggle, and without repentance. When this happens, this is a person who is no longer in a state of grace before God. When someone doesn’t even feel bad about a sin, then the Bible rings a loud warning bell: “I warn you that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God!” (Galatians 5:21). Their judgement is tragic but inevitable: “They were not able to enter (God’s rest) because of their unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19).
A venial sin might be done in ignorance, but it also might be done in a moment of weakness. Anger or rage can flare up where patience would be preferred, but a Christian is weak. Lust suddenly takes over where there was no intention to sin, but a Christian (or a pair of Christians) is weak. Sarcasm erupts where there was nothing but kindness a moment before, because a Christian is weak. Venial sins also appear when a Christian knows that they struggle with a certain temptation, but they are overcome by it. This can be the result of addiction, of abuse, or of overindulgence in a sin in the past. Sins of bitterness, envy, ambition, and various idolatries of trusting the creation more than the Creator, show themselves.
This is where the sinner recovers from a fall by repenting. Repentance might need to involve restitution or some other way of showing the change that they want to make. A thief will restore what was stolen. A man guilty of slander or bullying sarcasm will make a point to say nothing that is not positive. A mother who punishes her children for the abuses of her own childhood will turn to nurture her children and love them unconditionally. A sinner who turns to Christ after a venial sin will always be forgiven. This isn’t a ticket to sin some more (that would be moving from venial to mortal sin). It is God’s love, his tender invitation, taken in trembling hands by the repentant sinner from their loving God.
What offering does God want from us? An offering, any offering, that comes from faith. If we are saying Thank You to Jesus with what we do, or say, or think, or give, then we show our repentance, our love, and our gratitude. This is our response to God’s call to repentance. Turn from your sins, and turn to Jesus in faith.
Pastor Timothy Smith