Translations: Chinese 简体中文
The Gospel Series
The following series of devotionals is perhaps the most significant series I have to offer. It deals with the most fundamental
message of the Bible whereby a person can be saved from eternal
damnation, being reconciled to God through the forgiveness of sins.
Interpreting the Bible
One of the most fundamental principles of Bible interpretation is to interpret the Bible in light of God's character.
If a particular interpretation contradicts God's character, that
interpretation is wrong. There are no contradictions in the Bible, only
paradoxes due to misinterpretations. The second principle of Bible
that what the Bible says clearly, explicitly and comprehensively takes
precedent over interpretations which are based on inference or
peripheral passages or just a few verses. Now granted that what we know
of God's character is revealed in the Bible, and so requires some
interpretation. But God clearly, explicitly, and rather comprehensively
reveals His character throughout the Bible. Consequently to get God's
character wrong one would have to make real effort to misread the Bible.
But many have managed to do so.
What are some of the fundamental characteristics of God according to the Bible?
The Lord God
163 times in the Bible God uses the phrase, "I am the Lord". God is Lord
in that He defines our meaning and purpose and gives us
written instructions in the Bible. Furthermore being Lord He also judges
us with regards to our compliance to His instructions. And being Lord
God there is no one of higher authority. God demands our obedience.
Jesus said, "Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?" Lk 6:46 To acknowledge one as Lord is to declare one's intention to comply with their instructions. And thus Jesus said, "Not
everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of
heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven." Mt 7:21 Those who claim to believe in the Lord, but don't intend to do what He says, don't actually believe in the Lord.
Along these lines many believe in a non-Lord God. They believe in a God who is Creator,
but allows them to do whatever they want. He allows them to define their
own meaning and purpose in life. And He doesn't speak. The non-Lord God that many believe is an idol.
"They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see;
they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell;
they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can
they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like
them, and so will all who trust in them." Ps 115:5-8
People are often reluctant to believe in the Lord God because they want
to define their own meaning and purpose in life and do whatever they
want, free from fear of judgment, and come to Him on their own terms. And authorities often reckon the
concept of the Lord God a threat to their own authority. Many such people tend to view the grace of God as a license to sin.
Such is the case not only in the world, but in the church where heresies
are developed to make the Lord God into something more palatable to
them. But to do so they have to keep their followers ignorant of the
Bible, which is the case in much of the history of post-Biblical
Christianity. "For the time will come when
men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own
desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say
what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away
from the truth and turn aside to myths." 2Tim 4:3.4
You may believe in "God", but do you believe in the Lord God
God is Holy
To understand God's attitude of holiness one must first understand that
there's a difference between what God likes and what God loves. God
loves even His enemies, and commands us Christians to do likewise. But
that's not to say that God likes his enemies. In their state of being
His enemies He doesn't prefer having fellowship with them. There are
things that God hates. That is to say there are things that God doesn't
like, things He doesn't prefer. "The wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates." Ps 11:5b And "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate." Pr 8:13
"There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands
that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that
are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a
man who stirs up dissension among brothers." Pr 6:16-19
And there are whole lists of things that God doesn't accept in His presence. "The
acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and
debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of
rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy;
drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that
those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Gal 5:19-21 These are just a few of the many things that God hates. God will not have a relationship with the wicked. "Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." Is 59:2
Does people's wickedness interfere with you having a relationship with
them? Does their wickedness bother you? It should. It bothers God. God
refuses to have a friendship with the wicked. He knows nothing of
"friendship evangelism". 1Cor 15:33 "Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." While Jesus' enemies mischaracterize him saying, "Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!" Mt 11:19b, in fact Jesus was not that way. Rather he says, "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you." John 15:14 So don't claim to have a friendship with God if you're living a sinful lifestyle. "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him." 1Jn 3:6
God is Just
Biblical justice is not the same as fairness. That is, while God
distributes resources unequally, that distribution is not a matter of
justice, but rather a matter of grace. "Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?" Mt 20:15 In contrast, Biblical justice has to do with recompensing evil, not with equal distribution of resources.
There are two arms of Biblical justice. One is punishing evil, and the
other is compensating victims of unjustified suffering. For example,
2Th 1:6,7a "God is just:
The thief on the
cross also provides us with both cases, who said, "We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man (Jesus) has done nothing wrong." Luke 23:41
While the thief was being punished justly, Jesus was a innocent victim
of unjustified suffering. And fortunate for us that he was. For with the
just compensation God provided him for his unjustified suffering he
paid off our debt. The Law of Moses also accommodates the poor and needy
to a degree, in that such circumstances are largely not the fault of
the individual, and thus such people are to some extent suffering
- He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you
- and give relief to you who are troubled"
Justice is firstly unprejudiced. That is, it is impartial. "Do not
pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the
great, but judge your neighbor fairly." Lev 19:15 God's justice is
without prejudice. For example: It is unjust to reckon someone guilty of crimes which you
know they haven't actually committed. That should be obvious to
everyone. It is unjust to punish someone for the crimes committed by
another person. "Fathers shall not be put to death
for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each
is to die for his own sin." Deut 24:16 It is an act of injustice to punish those for crimes they hadn't actually committed. Worse yet,
there are those who blaspheme, claiming that God Himself does such
things. And even worst than that, many such people actually have put
their faith in such a god they have fabricated for themselves, condoning
Now you may note with regards to justice that I have left out rewarding
good. Rewarding good is not actually a matter of Biblical justice.
Being good is an obligation. God shouldn't have to reward people for
being good. They're supposed to be good all the time. Falling short of
that is sin, despite the fact that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". Rom 3:23 Jesus speaks of this in his parable of the unworthy servants of Luke 17:7-10 "Suppose
one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he
say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and
sit down to eat’? Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get
yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may
eat and drink’? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was
told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to
do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’"
But despite the fact that God is under no obligation to reward good
behavior, He characteristically does so, but not out of justice, rather out of
Grace is not injustice. God is both just and gracious. For God to be
just, He is bound to satisfy the demands of justice. He is bound to
punish evil and compensate victims of unjustified suffering. He has no
choice in the matter. If He had a choice in administering justice to one
and not to another, He would be partial, and as such unjust. Many,
particularly among non-Christian religions, are under the misconception
that God can just forgive sin discarding the demands of justice. For
their god, grace nullifies justice. Not so with the Lord God. For the
Lord God there is no forgiveness apart from the demands of justice being
satisfied, which is why Christ had to die for our sins for God to
exercise His grace in the forgiveness of sins. "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." Eph 1:7
Grace is not obligatory. As an example, take tithing. The Old Covenant
demanded people tithe. There was no choice. It was a matter of duty. And
since tithing was an obligation, it was not an act of generosity. Under
the New Covenant Christians are under no obligation to tithe. Nowhere
in the epistles are Christians told to tithe. What they are told is
this, "Each man should give what he has decided in
his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a
cheerful giver." 2Cor 9:7 That is generosity. That is
grace. It is not obligatory, but done freely. With regards to salvation,
God is not obligated to save anyone. Rather He does so out of grace.
Paul writes, "by grace you have been saved through faith" Eph 2:8a
The Human Condition
It should be obvious to anyone with any experience in life that people are characteristically sinful. Alexander Pope said, "To err is human".
But more accurately in Biblical terms, it's human nature to sin. Why is
it that children need to be taught to be good, but don't have to be
taught to be bad? That just comes naturally to us all. This is not to
say, as some do, that the fact that our human nature tempts us to sin
itself makes us guilty of sin. It would be unjust, and therefore sinful
itself, to reckon guilt to those who didn't actually COMMIT sin, simply
because they were being tempted to sin. Even Jesus would have been
reckoned guilty in that case. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are— yet was without sin." Heb 4:15 (For "Jesus Christ our Lord, was born of the seed of David according to the flesh" Rom 1:3 And "every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God" 1Jn 4:3a) Jesus partook of the same nature as we have, being subject to the same kinds of temptations inherent in that nature.
Yet apart from Christ there is no one who hasn't complied with their sinful nature and committed sin. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Rom 3:23
The Bible is filled with examples of human wickedness. It's one of the
major themes of the Bible taking up vast amounts of its content. For
example it portrays the people of Israel constantly sinning. All the
prophets speak of this. Criticize Jews today and you're labeled
anti-semitic. If that's the case, God is the greatest anti-semite
of them all. For He's constantly criticizing them in the scriptures.
(Though today it seems, as a people who reckon themselves religiously
superior to everyone else, the Muslims have far outdone the Jews in
wickedness.) But one reason God chose the Jews was to demonstrate what
is characteristic of all people. Would people be better if God were to
do great miracles, if God were to miraculously provide for their needs,
if He were to speak directly to them and give them explicit
instructions, would they be better people. The Bible proves they
wouldn't end up being better people. The Bible proves that such things have no impact on getting
people to stop sinning. God's purpose in introducing the Law of Moses
was for people to be aware of just how sinful they are. "Through the law we become conscious of sin." Rom 3:20b
And it is essential for people to come to the conviction of their
own sinfulness if they are to realize the relevance of Jesus Christ. "Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith." Gal 3:24
Speaking to the Christians in Ephesus Paul writes, "As
for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you
used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler
of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who
are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying
the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and
thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." Eph 2:1-3 That's just human nature at work.
Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, "Good
Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" So Jesus said to
him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God." Lk 18:18,19 Not
that Jesus is denying being good. But to call Jesus good is to call him
God. For only God is good. Everyone else characteristically sins. But Jesus "has been tempted in every way, just as we are— yet was without sin." Heb 4:15b
"There is no one righteous, not even
one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have
turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." Rom 3:10-12
Where are the truly "good" people in the Bible? Moses
murdered an Egyptian in cold blood and later in the desert he sinned so
severely that God didn't allow him into the promise land. King David
committed adultery and murder. In the New Testament the apostle Paul
characterized his pre-Christian life as being the chief of all sinners.
What about Cornelius? It says, "He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly." Acts 10:2 and that "He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people" Acts 10:22 Yet "an angel appear in his house and said, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.'" Acts 11:13,14 Despite all his good deeds this righteous, God-fearing man was going to hell apart from hearing and believing the gospel.
For one is never good enough from God's perspective if one is not good
continually. If you're as good as Cornelius was, righteous, God-fearing,
praying regularly, generous, but have yet to hear and believe the
gospel, you're on your way to eternal damnation. Not that people are
condemned for attempting to be good. Rather God will condemn people for
not always being good.
With the commission of sin comes guilt. By which I don't simply
mean the feeling of guilt. For many of this age are under the
misconception that their problem is overcoming their feeling of guilt.
No, rather all who have committed sin are guilty in a legal sense and as
such subject to God's judgment. For "He has set a
day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has
appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the
dead." Acts 17:31
To the religious elite of his day Jesus said, "Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?" Mt 23:33 Religious posers will receive the greater condemnation. Jesus said,
"Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love
greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the
best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense
make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation." Lk 20:46,47 And "that
servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do
according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did
not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten
with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be
required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the
more." Lk 12:47,48 (Now you know!)
And the more one knows, the more one is going to be held accountable for. "Woe
to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which
were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have
repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be
more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you." Mt 11:21,22
What is the condemnation like? Jesus spoke of a man who went to hell and "In hell, where he was in torment," said "I am in agony in this fire.’" Lk 16:23,24 Jesus said that at the end of the age, "The
angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and
cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing
of teeth." Mt 13:49,50 And on the judgment day "He
will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed,
into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels" Mt 25:41 And in that same chapter, "cast the unprofitable servant into the outer
darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’" Mt 25:30 And as for the hypocritical servant, Jesus said, "In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured,
until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father
will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
Mt 18:34,35 Without reservations Jesus portrays the condemnation as torture. In the condemnation God hands people over to be tortured.
"A time is coming when all who are in their graves
will hear his voice and come out— those who have done good will rise to
live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned." John 5:28,29
The Law , Good Enough?
Is salvation is contingent upon one's compliance to a set of regulations? On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to
test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal
life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
He answered: "’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all
your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love
your neighbor as yourself.’" "You have answered correctly," Jesus
replied. "Do this and you will live." Lk 10:25-28 Now
a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do
to get eternal life?" "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus
replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey
the commandments." Mt 9:16,17
But good is not good enough if you're not good continuously. Paul writes, "All
who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written:
'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in
the Book of the Law.'" Gal 3:10 and he also writes, "To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life." Rom 2:7
But if you fail to continuously persist in doing good, you sin. And no
amount of your goodness, no amount of compliance with the principles or
regulations of the Law, will atone for your sin. So if you don't do
anything wrong, you will have eternal life. But what of those who have
Paul writes, "Here is a trustworthy saying that
deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save
sinners— of whom I am the worst." 1Tim1:15 If you're a
good person, Jesus didn't come to save you. For you need not be saved,
having never been lost. But there are multitudes who delude themselves
into thinking that they are good, but they are sinners. And you may be
one of them. Who were Jesus' worst enemies. Were they not the religious
elite of his day, who reckoned themselves righteous. Such has been the
case throughout history. The religious elite have characteristically
been the most hostile towards God. If Jesus came today as he did back
them, would you end up crucifying him? In John 7:7 Jesus said to his own brothers, "The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil."
The Law Exposes the Sinner
And this is why Jesus spoke of the Law - to bring allegedly "good" people to conviction of sin. Given that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" Rom 3:23, Paul declared that "no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." Rom 3:20 The
Law is a diagnostic tool which reveals sin. Like an X-ray machine, it
doesn't heal, it only reveals. In fact just as overexposure to x-rays
kills, so also overexposure to the Law kill. Paul writes, God "made
us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but
of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." 2Cor 5:6 and goes on in the next verse to indicate that, "the ministry of death was written and engraved on stones", speaking of the 10 commandments. Thus the Jews, drunk on the old wine of the Old Covenant of Law, rejected their own Messiah. "He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him." Jn 1:12 And many today content with a righteousness defined by compliance to the regulations of men, also do not receive him.
At the end of Gal 2:16 Paul writes, "by observing the law no one will be justified." And in Gal 5:4 "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace."
The Law doesn't save, it only condemns.
Many a person you ask today, even among church going Christians, as to how a person qualifies to heaven, respond with "I think ..."
What does it matter what they think? It's God's opinion that counts.
God is the one who determines the basis upon which a person is qualified
to enter heaven or be sent to hell. Human opinion matters nothing. "A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions." Pr 18:2
Post-modernistic fools care not for truth, but for expressing their own
opinions. They'll have plenty of time to contemplate their vain
opinions when they burn in hell. But Jesus said, "Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me." John 6:45 And he said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was
with God, and the Word was God. ... The Word became flesh and made his
dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and
Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:1,14 "No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known." John 1:18
Jesus is the LORD
The Bible declares Jesus as the Creator, the Lord Almighty
"He is the image of the invisible God, the
over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven
and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or
or authorities; all things were created by him and for him." Col
1:15,16 "Through him all things were made; without him
nothing was made that has been made." John 1:3
"Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor
than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the
itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the
of everything." Heb 3:3,4
Who built everything? Jesus Christ built everything.
Hebrews 1:10 says of Jesus Christ, "You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands." which is a reference to Ps 102:24,25 which states, So I
not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days; your years
go on through all generations. In the beginning, O LORD, you
the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your
Yes the Bible declares Jesus Christ to be the Lord God Almighty, the Creator of all things. In John 12:40,41 there's a reference to Isaiah 6:10, which John says, and I quotes, "Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus'
glory and spoke about him." This is what John was referring to. This is what immediately preceded Isaiah 6:10 of which John indicates refers to Jesus. Isaiah
the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a
high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.
him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered
faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were
And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD
Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." Jesus is the Lord Almighty.
Confessing Jesus as The LORD
Salvation is contingent upon acknowledging Jesus as the LORD. Paul writes, "If you confess
mouth, "Jesus is LORD," and believe in your heart that
raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Rom 10:9 and he goes on to reference Joel 2:27-32 which states, "Then
know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that
there is no other; never again will my people be shamed. 'And
I will pour out my Spirit on all people ... And everyone
calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and
in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the
survivors whom the LORD calls." Apart from acknowledging that Jesus is the LORD God, a person cannot be saved.
Jesus said, "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I AM!" John 8:58, which uses the same phrase as God did to Moses at the burning bush.
Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them,
‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is
his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?" God said to Moses, "I AM
WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’" God also said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD,
the God of your fathers— the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the
God of Jacob— has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by
which I am to be remembered from generation to generation." Ex 3:13-15
It is written that Jesus said, "I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I AM He, you will die in your sins." John 8:24 But
actually the word "He" is not in the text, which is why it is italicized. Unless you believe that
Jesus is the "I AM", unless you believe that Jesus is the LORD God, you
will die in your sins.
Jesus' Credentials: Eye Witness Accounts
Upon what basis are we to believe this man and what the Bible claims of him? It's reasonable to ask for proof. Why should we believe the Bible over
other religions like Islam? After all in the Bible Jesus claims to be
the Son of God while the Koran explicitly states that Jesus is not the
Son of God. But while the Koran and other such religions make
unqualified propositions, the Bible backs up its claims with the
evidence of public miracles as testified to by eyewitnesses. For example
the four gospels are largely an affidavit of eyewitnesses to Jesus'
ministry, teachings, miracles, death and resurrection from the dead.
Consider the beginning of the gospel of Luke which is a letter written
to a man called Theophilus,
"Many have undertaken to draw up an
account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they
were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and
servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully
investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to
write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that
you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." Lk 1:1-4
Jesus' Credentials: Miracles
Why did Jesus say we should believe in him? "Believe
me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at
least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves." John 14:11 And likewise John writes as to the purpose of the miracles. "Jesus
did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which
are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may
believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing
you may have life in his name." John 20:30,31 Under duress John the Baptist questioned his faith and asked of Jesus,
"Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?" Jesus answered and
said to them, "Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: "The
blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear;
the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them." Mt 11:4,5
Christian sermon in Acts 2 utilizes the testimony of public miracles to
convince the crowds. It was a public event in which "there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven." Peter publicly declared,
"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited
by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you
through him, as you yourselves know." Acts 2:22 This was the basis for the formation of the first church.
In contrast what proof does Islam provide? None. No miracles. It's
simply a proposition. I showed a Muslim the proofs for Biblical
Christianity and asked him as to why he chooses to believe in Mohammed. I
never heard from him again. The reason why anti-Christian countries
find that they must suppress the propagation of the Bible is because the
proofs provided in the Bible far outweigh anything, any supporting
evidence, that any other religion or philosophy has to offer.
Jesus's Credentials: Sufficient Evidence
The Bible provides sufficient proof, but there will always be those
predisposed to unbelief who will never be convinced. Again in Luke 16 of
the man who went to hell. He suggested raising a man from the dead and
sending the man to his brothers as proof to warn them of hell. But he
was told, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." Lk 16:31 And we see this kind of thing actually played out in Jesus ministry where "a
large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only
because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the
dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on
account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting
their faith in him." John 12:9-11 Those
predisposed to unbelief are so largely due to the implications of the
message. Not even miracles would convince such people. "Yet
these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and
what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—
these are the very things that destroy them." Jude 1:10
"Finally, brethren, pray for us, that
the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is
with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men;
for not all have faith." 2Thess 3:1,2
Jesus' Resurrection as Proof
God has provided sufficient supporting evidence in the Bible to validate its truths, but many are predisposed to unbelief.
Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the
law said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you."
Jesus answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a
miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the
prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly
of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights
in the heart of the earth." Mt 12:38-40
Whenever the gospel is preached in the New Testament, the resurrection
of Jesus Christ from the dead is mentioned as validating evidence.
Acts 2:24a "God raised him from the dead"
Acts 3:15 "You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this."
Acts 4:10 "It is by the name of Jesus
Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the
dead, that this man stands before you healed."
Acts 10:39,40 "We are witnesses of
everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They
killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on
the third day."
Acts 13:29-31 "When they had carried out
all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and
laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days
he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to
Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people."
Acts 17:31 "God has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."
Rom 1:1-4 "Paul, a servant of
Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of
God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy
Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a
descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord."
1Cor 15:1-5 "Now, brothers, I
want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received
and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved,
if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have
believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first
importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he
appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time,
most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep."
Jesus Atoned for Sin
Because God is bound by his judicial nature, He cannot exercise grace
apart from justice being satisfied. And as such he can't simply forgive
sin apart from justice being recompensed for the sins committed. However
God, in his wisdom, orchestrated a scenario whereby justice would
demand his Son be compensated for having suffered unjustly. The LORD
used his compensation as ransom to pay for the sins of the world, thus
satisfying the demands of justice and allowing for God's grace to be
exercised in the forgiveness of sins.
"God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice" Rom 3:25a
"Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God." 1Peter 3:18a
"Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the
gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken
your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the
word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I
received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" 1Cor 15:1-4
He "gave himself as a ransom for all men" 1Tim 2:6a
"the church of God He purchased with His own blood." Acts 20:28b
And to the Corinthian Christians Paul writes, "For you were bought at a price" 1Cor 6:20a
The Cross Nullified the Law
Having atoned for sin, salvation is no longer contingent upon compliance to the Law with its regulations.
"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your
sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our
sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was
against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to
the cross." Col 2:13-15
"So, my brothers, you also died to the law through
the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was
raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God." Rom 7:4
"I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" Gal 2:21
Yet many, including many alleged "Christians", are under the delusion
that obtaining a righteous standing with God is a function of their
compliance to legal regulations. These have not embraced the fundamental
truth of the gospel. They have replaced the grace of God with their own
righteousness. "You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace." Gal 5:4
Salvation by Works Christians
In Acts we find based in the church at Jerusalem a sect of Christians advocating "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." Acts 15:1 and "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses." Acts 15:5 Paul said of them, "This
matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to
spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves." Gal 2:4 These were the sect of the Circumcision.
While they were "a little leaven", they ended up "leavening the whole lump" as Paul said, "This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump." Gal 5:8,9 From that origin there developed Neo-Circumcision sects such as Catholicism that
came to dominate the Christian community to this day. For example,
Canon 20 of the Catholic Council of Trent states that, "If anyone
says that a man who is justified and however perfect is not bound to
the commandments of God and the Church, but only to believe, as
if the Gospel were a
bare and absolute promise of eternal life without the condition of
commandments, let him be anathema." and "The Council of Trent teaches that the Ten Commandments are
obligatory for Christians and that the justified man is still bound to
keep them; the Second Vatican Council confirms: "The bishops, successors
of the apostles, receive from the Lord . . . the mission of teaching
all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all
men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments." Neo-Circumcision sects reject the gospel of grace, despising it and opposing those who believe it.
And there are many salvation-by-works Christians outside of Catholicism
as well who, like the Circumcision, make salvation out to be contingent
upon religious rituals and upon law - the keeping of commandments.
Though they may argue among themselves as to what laws one needs to keep
to be saved, yet they are all of the spirit of the Circumcision
regarding their faith. They typically misconstrue scripture in the
- Confusing Old Covenant justification with New Covenant justification.
- Appending all commands in the New Testament to Christians with "in order to be saved".
- Confusing the Conditions for Salvation with the Conditions of the
Saved. That is, misconstruing the effect of salvation with the cause of
salvation, misconstruing the fruit as the root.
Salvation Free, but not Unconditional
God has made salvation free, but not unconditional. As noted previously
God has made salvation not conditioned upon religious rituals or
compliance to regulations, and as such it is not contingent upon one's
behavior. That would sound like God justifies the wicked. YES, GOD
JUSTIFIES THE WICKED.
"To the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness." Rom 4:5
This concept is inconceivable to the legalist, and as such God has so
constructed the gospel as to make it contemptible to such people, as God
has also orchestrated the gospel to make it contemptible to the proud in
order to prevent them from being saved, while at the same time making
salvation free. The gospel is not for those who try to be justified by their works.
This righteousness from God is apart from meeting any legal obligations. I tell you that,
"No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law;
rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a
righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which
the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes
through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no
difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and
are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by
Christ Jesus." Rom 3:20-24 And thus "we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law." Rom 3:28
Saved by Faith ALONE
The gospel is not unconditional. God has made salvation
SOLELY conditioned upon FAITH in Christ. (By the way, this statement
is in violation of Canon 9 of the Catholic Council of Trent, which
declares those who take this position are anathema from the Catholic
Church. As such those who believe the gospel in accordance with the
Bible cannot identify themselves with the Catholic Church) The verse that follows Rom 4:5
states this, "David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 'Blessed
are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.'" Rom 4:6-8
Faith in Christ is the sole condition for salvation.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that
whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 And to the Christians in Ephesus Paul wrote,
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith— and this not
from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can
boast." Eph 2:8,9 And "because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions— it is by grace you have been saved." Eph 2:4,5
Salvation is "free" in that there are no works one must do to be saved. Faith is the sole prerequisite. But faith is not a work, it is an attitude. The Bible very clearly indicates faith is not a work in saying,
"If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast
about— but not before God. What does the Scripture say? "Abraham
believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Now when a
man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an
obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts (actually the word "believe" is used in the Greek) God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness." Rom 4:2-5
Thus faith, while a condition for salvation, is not categorized as a
work. Faith is an attitude, and like all attitudes, it's not something
one gets paid for.
Faith comes from hearing the message
By making salvation contingent upon faith in Christ, God makes
salvation conditioned upon hearing the message. For as Paul notes, "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?" Rom 10:14 Consequently
the faith in Christ the Bible speaks of is not simply a faith in a
"Jesus" whom one fabricates in their own mind, as some today would have
it, nor faith in the Islamic version of a "Jesus" whom they declare is
not the Son of God, but rather faith in the Biblical Christ. And
cannot be saved apart from hearing the message. Thus Cornelius was told,
"Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He
will bring you a message through which you and all your household will
be saved." Acts 11: 13,14
"Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." Rom 10:17
Salvation Contingent upon Evangelism
Furthermore by making salvation conditioned upon believing the gospel,
God had made salvation contingent not only upon hearing the message, but upon Christians disseminating the
message. For Paul continues in Rom 10:15 saying, "And how can they preach unless they are sent?"
If people don't hear the message they cannot be saved. And thus if no
one is sent to tell them the message, they cannot be saved. Which is why
Paul was so upset at the opposition he faced. "For
you, brothers, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are
in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things
those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the
prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to
all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last." 1Thess 2:14-16 Far from being the hyper-Calvinist who would say to the missionary, "If God wants to save those foreigners he can do it without your help!",
God has made salvation dependent upon those who disseminate the gospel.
God didn't have to make it that way, but in His sovereignty He did! And
I believe God did so that we believers may fellowship with Christ in
saving people. "We are therefore Christ’s
ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore
you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God." 2Cor 5:20 And those unbelievers opposing the dissemination of the message will receive even greater judgement against themselves.
If you are a believer but are not involved in disseminating the message
of the gospel, there may end up many spending eternity in hell who could
have been saved had you but lifted a finger. And I say that quite
literally as given the internet, the dissemination of the message may
require of you no more than pushing a few buttons on a keyboard. So
what's your excuse?
"I am not ashamed of the gospel,
because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who
believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a
righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith" Rom 1:16-17a
"Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you." 2Th 3:1
What Constitutes Saving Faith
Application Oriented Faith
Christ, having atoned for sin, lays upon us the one condition of faith
for us to be qualified to be saved. But what kind of faith saves? While Saving Faith is not a faith in works, but it is a faith that works.
Saving Faith Results in the Intention to Repent of Sin
As an example of application oriented faith note Zacchaeus of Luke 19.
He was a wealthy tax collector Jesus came to visit. Zacchaeus
stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of
my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of
anything, I will pay back four times the amount." Jesus said to him,
"Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son
of Abraham." Notice that Jesus declared this man saved when he
simply declared his INTENTION to repent of sin. Zacchaeus had not given
away half his possessions to the poor, and he still had the money in his
pockets which he had cheated out of others. He had not done any good
work at this point. Yet Jesus declared him saved. Furthermore, why did
he happen to express his intention to repent of sin at that moment?
While the text doesn't tell us explicitly, I think it's safe to say that
he expressed such an intention because he had come to believe in Jesus.
Likewise Paul says, "I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds." Acts 26:20b Deeds of repentance are not the cause but the proof of Saving Faith.
Saving Faith results in an intention to repent of sin. More generally we could say, Saving Faith results in visible applications of that faith. Absent such applications calls into question whether one's alleged faith is the faith the Bible speaks of.
Saving Faith is a Conviction in which one weighs its implications and consequences
In his parable of the sower Jesus spoke of the seed of the word of God
springing up quickly in rocky shallow soil. These are Christians with
shallow faith. "The one who received the seed that
fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives
it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When
trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls
away." Mt 13:20,21 Note that such people fail to consider
the implications of the word of God. They fail to take it to heart. The
word will bring trouble to one's life. For example Paul writes, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" 2Tim 3:12 Those of a shallow faith fall away when such troubles come. Jesus said, "You will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved." Mt 10:22 Those who don't endure are not saved.
Some fell on rocks but withered and died
Saving Faith is a conviction, not a shallow opinion. A person
with Saving Faith considers the implications of their faith and has
weighed the consequences. Along this same line are the parables of Luke 14:25-35. The parables of building a tower and making war. And as a precedent of saving faith Paul speaks of Abraham's faith in Romans 4:20,21 "He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform."
For their faith was not deep enough to be qualified
To receive the life God promised to those
Who really believed Jesus died and arose.
Yes at first they were overjoyed
But when trials came their faith was destroyed
For they received it without their faith being rooted
And so fell away after they were persecuted
The Object of Saving Faith - A person rather than simply a fact.
Many Christians are under the misconception that the object of saving
faith is one particular fact, namely that Christ died for our sins. But
when the Bible speaks about believing in Christ it's not referring to
simply one particular fact about Christ. It's speaking of believing in
the person. The NIV rightly translates "believe" (pisteuo in the Greek)
as "trust". These are interchangeable. Examples where NIV translates
"believe" as "trust": John 12:36; John 14:1; Rom9:33; Rom 10:11; Rom 15:13. But in particular note Rom 4:5 which I have referenced a number of times, "However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness."
"Trust", which is what the Bible means by "believe", is not simply
belief in a fact. It is putting one's trust in a person. The distinction
can be seen among the Christian community between those who belief a
fact or a few facts about Jesus to the exclusion of other things the
Bible says of Jesus versus those who may not know all of the things
Jesus taught or are taught about Jesus, but who have come to trust in
the person of Christ. They are those who may not know everything about
Jesus but who have come to the conviction of trusting Jesus to the point
that they will believe everything that Jesus said and have the
INTENTION of complying with his instructions.
Is your belief in a fact or is your trust in a person?
Jesus as LORD
Jesus spoke of this concept of putting trust in him over all others, for example in Mt 10:37 "Anyone
who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone
who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and
anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."
As a matter of fact, Jesus is LORD, and acknowledging this fact is
essential for salvation, along with believing that fact of his
resurrection, "If you confess with your mouth,
"Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the
dead, you will be saved." Rom 10:9 But such faith is in
vain if the implications don't find application in your relationship
with the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?" Lk 6:46 For to call Jesus LORD is to declare one's intention to do what he said, else one's declaration is in vain.
A person who trusts in Jesus is one who will believe everything that
Jesus said directly or by proxy through his apostles. (Jesus said to his
apostles, "He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me." Lk 10:16 and John writes, "We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us." 1John 4:6)
To trust in Jesus only as Savior, but reject him as LORD, is to not come to saving faith. Such
people may have come to believe a fact about Jesus, but not actually
come to trust in the person of Christ himself. They want to be saved,
but don't want someone Lording over them. They want to go to heaven, but
they don't want the LORD Jesus to be there. They've fabricated an idol
they refer to as "Jesus", pulling some pieces from the Biblical Christ
while discarding other elements of the Biblical Christ they dislike.
Likewise there are those who are sick of experiencing the
consequences of their sin and simply want to escape the consequences of
sin, but not the sin itself. They want Jesus to clean up their mess, but
they don't want to become new creatures. And again they want to be
saved, but they don't intend to obey the LORD. Peter writes of the
promoters of a non-Lord Jesus faith. "There were
also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false
teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies,
even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them— bringing swift
destruction on themselves.... If they have escaped the corruption of the
world by knowing about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again
entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they
were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have
known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn
their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of
them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow
that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." 2Peter 2:1,20-22
Such people view salvation as a license to sin, as Jude also writes in parallel to 2Peter 2, "For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." Jude 1:4
The Correlation Between Salvation and Lifestyle
"Do you not know that the wicked will
not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually
immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor
homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor
slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." 1Cor 6:9,10
And John writes,
"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious:
sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft;
hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions,
factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I
did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Gal 5:19,20
"The cowardly, unbelieving,
abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all
liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and
brimstone, which is the second death." Rev 21:8Consequently there is a correlation between a person's behavior and their salvation status.
If a person's salvation status is a function of one's behavior then
salvation is of works, which contradicts what Paul had already stated
concerning the gospel. But not so if a person's behavior is a function
of their salvation status. For the resolution to this paradox is found
most succinctly in 1John 3:9,10 "No one who
is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him;
he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how
we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil
are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is
anyone who does not love his brother."
Here John, using the Greek present tense which has a nuance indicating a
characteristic or lifestyle behavior, is not speaking of the complete
absence of sin, but rather that those born of God have lost the ability
to live a lifestyle of sin. Such is so ingrained into the new nature of
those born of God, and so visible that John speaks of it being an
outward measure to distinguish children of God from the children of the
devil. For example John uses this kind of measuring rod in 1John 2:19 "They
went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had
belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going
showed that none of them belonged to us." How does John say he
identified these people as false Christians? Not by special divine
revelation, but simply by their behavior. For those who have been born
of God will never leave the faith. Doing so only shows such people had
never been born of God. This is also why Jesus can say that he who
endures to the end will be saved and yet not make salvation contingent
upon behavior. For the saved characteristically endure to the end due,
not only because of the nature of their faith being a conviction, but
also because of the power of the regenerate nature which causes them to
What prevents people from living a sinful lifestyle after they have been saved? The new nature does. For "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2Cor 5:17 And thus unlike the illustrations of 2Peter 2:22
of a dog going back to its vomit and a pig going back to its wallowing
in the mud, which are behaviors associated with their nature, those born
of God have such a nature that such behavior is uncharacteristic of
those born of God.
The Heresy of Free Grace Theology
From its inception in Keswick England in the late 1800's, Free Grace
Theology became arguably the predominant evangelical theology of the 20th
Century. In contrast to the Bible, Free Grace Theology (Classically known as "Antinomianism") proposes that
there is not necessarily any correlation between a person's faith and
their lifestyle, that repentance is not the intention to change one's
behavior, but simply to change one's mind about the relevance of Christ,
and that saving faith consists simply in believing in the fact of
Christ being savior, but accepting Christ as Lord is viewed as optional.
And there are other such elements of Free Grace Theology I've noted at http://bcbsr.com/topics/freegrace.html
The predominance of Free Grace Theology among evangelical Christians in
the US in the 20th Century may explain why there has been little
difference between the behavior of alleged "Christians" and
non-Christians. To this day the majority of alleged "Christians" in the
US are likely unsaved. And such is largely due to the propagation
of such heresies as Free Grace Theology.
The Perseverance of the Saints
Since salvation is a free gift not conditioned upon one's performance,
else salvation would be of works, once a person is saved they are
guaranteed eternal life. There are those who argue, such as the
Lutherans, that since salvation is conditioned upon faith, loss of faith
would result in loss of salvation. However as noted previously, it is
not possible for those born of God to live a lifestyle of sin let alone
lose faith. Those who have been born of God will endure to the end.
Failing to do so just indicates they were not born of God in the first
place as John noted, "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." 1John 2:19
Thus Paul writes of the eternal security of the believer.
"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth,
the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him
with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession— to the praise of his glory." Eph 1:13 "Now
He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God,
who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee." 2Cor 1:21,22
Can anything separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus? "I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Rom 8: 38,39 Notice
a couple of things here. Paul indicates that one's security in Christ
is not a function of time. For he says there's nothing in the present or
the future which will separate us from Christ. So if a person is saved
at one point in time, and you were to make a time machine and travel
into the future to visit that person, Paul indicates that you would find
that person would still be saved.
Now there are those who
would give the exception that we can separate ourselves. But this
independence of time excludes that idea. And not only so, but note that
he says, "nor anything else in all creation". Are you a part of the
creation? If you are part of the creation then Paul is saying that you
cannot separate yourselves from Christ. Furthermore, due to the nature
of the regeneration, there will never be the desire to do so, let alone
the ability or possibility to do so.
Thus it is as Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say
to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has
everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from
death into life." John 5:24 The heaven/hell judgement is a thing of the past for those born of God.
Assurance of Salvation - an Examination
Though once saved, always saved, there should be the question as to
whether the "once saved" actually occurred in any individual case. Thus
Paul questioned the Corinthians, "Examine
yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you
not realize that Christ Jesus is in you— unless, of course, you fail the
test?" 2Cor 13:5 The major theme of the epistle of 1John
is Assurance of Salvation, where John lays out much of the examination
of which Paul mentions. Given the inevitable correlation between one's
salvation status and one's lifestyle, the assurance of salvation is to be proportional to the degree to which one behaves as a child of God should.
Consider the Thessalonians of whom Paul said, "For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you" 1Th 1:4 How
did Paul know that God chose them? What was the basis of Paul's
assurance of the salvation of the Thessalonian Christians? He goes on to
say, "because our gospel came to you not simply
with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep
conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia— your faith in God has become known everywhere.
Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves
report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead— Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath." 1Th 1:5-10
Paul's assurance of the salvation of the Thessalonian Christians was
based upon the evidence of their change behavior and attitudes. Such
thing we should all expect of those who claim to have come to know
Christ, and lacking such evidences should call into question whether
such people are merely posers.
Beware of Unjustified Assurance
Those who deny the correlation between salvation status and behavior are
false teachers and practice deception as John and Paul mention a number
1John 3:7,8 Little children, let no
one lead you astray. He who does righteousness is righteous, even as
he is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has been
sinning from the beginning.
Ephesians 5:5,6 For of this you can be
sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person— such a man is an idolater— has
any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive
you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes
on those who are disobedient.
1Cor 6:9,10 Do you not know that
the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived:
Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes
nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers
nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
As mentioned previously, Free Grace Theology advocates the kind of deception spoken of here.
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will
recognize them." Mt 7:15,16a, which is part of the test.
Free Gracers attempt to remove the concept of testing, saying that one
should not judge another, whereas Paul instructs,
"I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls
himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a
slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you
not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the
wicked man from among you." 1Cor 5:11-13 By disallowing
the exercise of discernment, posers hope to get away with misbehavior.
And indeed such has been the case in much of 20th Century
"Christianity". Given such misbehavior, the vast majority of Christians
in this last century have little basis for the assurance of their
salvation, as I also have little assurance that most so called
"Christians" are saved. Hopefully the situation will change for this
present century, but I doubt it. For whatever is popular is seldom Biblical. "The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." 1John 2:17
"My brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure." 2Peter 1:10a
The Berean Christian Bible