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 interpretation is 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 unjustly.

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 such injustice.


Grace

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.

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.


"Good" People

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.


Judgement

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


Sentencing

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 sinned?

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.


God's Word

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 firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers 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 house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder 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 said: "Do 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 laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands"
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 6:1-3 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.  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 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 and he goes on to reference Joel 2:27-32 which states, "Then you will 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 afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people ... And everyone who 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 The first 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

"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
"Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God." 1Peter 3:18a


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


Legalistic Christians

Perhaps the most predominant sect among alleged "Christians" who fail to embrace this concept are many a Catholic Christian. For while they reckon their sect the one true Church, what they have aligned themselves with is not much different than the cult of the Circumcision of which the apostle Paul did battle against. (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 observe 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 observing the commandments, let him be anathema." Apparently they would anathema the apostle Paul!)

Yet there are likewise many a non-Catholic Christian who have put their trust in the flesh rather than in the cross, fabricating their own way of salvation. There are those who reckon children born of Christian parents are automatically saved, or that one must go through a religious ritual to be saved, or that one loses salvation if one doesn't keep the 10 commandments. They are no different than the Circumcision who said, "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 There are many a false Christian today who are like them who have simply replaced circumcision with water baptism, and the law of Moses with whatever regulation their sect imposes.


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 consequently, one 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
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
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."

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)

Antinomian Christians

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

Paul writes,
"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

"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
And John writes, 
"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 21:8
Consequently there is a correlation between a person's behavior and their salvation status.

Regenerate Behavior

If a person's salvation status is a function of one's behavior then salvation is of works, which contracts 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 perhaps 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 persevere.

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


Eternally Secure

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 of places:
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 Study Resources Jul 29,2015