Christianity 201

October 22, 2020

Working Out Our Salvation, or Working For Our Salvation?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling . . .

Philippians 2:12 (NRSV emphasis added)

This is a verse we can take in a wrong direction, and if we do that, it just might take us in the wrong direction. The idea that we must work for our salvation can have dire consequences in our relationship with God. To give an example, what would it be like for be a young child to wonder each day if she had earned a place at the family dinner table? Does she belong? What does it feel like to constantly wonder if we have earned a spot at God’s table? Do we belong? Is that how love works?

This statement from Paul to the Christians in Philippi is a much more positive statement than “work for your own salvation.” It can help us get to a far more positive place.

The first thing we want to do is read these words in the context of the entire Bible;

  • where we see that life is a gift in the first place. Adam and Eve did not earn their spot in the Garden of Eden. God placed them there out of his desire for relationship.
  • where we see that life continued to be given, not because of the perfection of humanity, but because of God’s desire and promise. The story of Noah and the rainbow come to mind.
  • where we see that the patriarchs were called, not because they had earned it, but according to God’s desire and promise. Jacob being chosen over Esau comes to mind.
  • where we see that the Israelites were rescued from Egypt, not because they earned a rescue, but according to God’s desire and promise.
  • where we see that the Israelites settled in the promised land, not because they earned it, but according to God’s promise.
  • where we see that though God let the consequences fall on his rebellious covenant people, there was always to be a future, not because they deserved it, but according to God’s desire and promise.

We are not even into the New Testament yet, and already we are seeing that people do not earn their place in God’s presence, but rather it is out of God’s desire, God’s promise, God’s love.

Now we get to the New Testament where we see that God came to us in Jesus, and died for the forgiveness of sin, not because we earned it, but because of his desire and promise.

The entire Bible teaches us that salvation, rescue from death and reconciliation with God so that we can live in relationship with God, is not something we work for, but something God works for us. That is one of the great themes of the Bible from beginning to end. Therefore “work out your own salvation” does not mean “work for your own salvation.”

The second thing we want to do is read theses words in context of what Paul is saying to the Christians in Philippi. We can note the “therefore” of “Therefore . . . work out for yourselves,” and we can look back to see what it refers to:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;

Philippians 2:5-12 (NRSV)

Since we are to have the mind of Christ, and since Christ died for our salvation, and since Christ is risen and is now Lord, therefore, figure out what it looks like to have the mind of Christ, figure out what it looks like to be in relationship with Christ as Lord and Saviour. We are saved, not by works, but by the grace of God, so now we can get on with it, living out the being-saved life, the being-rescued life.

To give an illustration, sometime ago I bought my dream bike which I thought I would have for the rest of my life. But then I got married, we started having children, so I did what mature people do and sold it. Fast forward fifteen years and I just happened to come across it in Kijiji. My wife just happened to buy it back for me.

I didn’t earn the privilege of having the bike back, it was a gift. Sandra did not say to me, I will buy you this motorcycle if you always keep the grass cut short, always put out the garbage, do your fair share of the cooking, which I do not do much to the relief of our children, and so on. There were no conditions. I found it, Sandra made sure I had it.

But now that I have that gift, however, I need to work out how life looks with that gift. I have a motorcycle, now I need to ride it. I also need to maintain it, to not hesitate in getting my hands dirty for routine maintenance. Since I have a motorcycle, I now get on with being a motorcyclist. Really it is about leaning into and living out a new identity.

This helps us get at what Paul is saying. Since we are to have the mind of Christ, and since God has given us salvation as a gift, and since Jesus is Lord, we now live as people for whom all that is true. We lean into and live out a new identity. We are not to be afraid to get our hands dirty, making the adjustments necessary along the way, checking where our minds are at. Do we have the mind of Christ when it comes to our attitudes, our goals and aspirations, our relationships, our sexuality, and everything else in life?

That might seem like a big task, but we have God’s help along the way:

. . . for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Philippians 2:13 (NRSV)

As we figure out what it looks like to have the mind of Christ, as we lean into our salvation, our lives will reflect a new reality:

Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world.

Philippians 2:14-15 (NRSV)

Here is an allusion to the Israelites, who murmured and argued in the wilderness after being rescued from Egypt. Remember that they were rescued, not because they earned it, but because of the desire of God. Having been rescued, instead of murmuring and arguing they should have spent that time in getting to know God, in getting to know what it looked like to be in relationship with God. The same holds true for us today now that we have been rescued.

As we work out our salvation, as we work out what it looks like to have the mind of Christ, we will be different and “shine like stars in the world.”

The early Christians were different, noticeably so, and positively so. It was a beautiful difference. The early Christians did not look like they were straight out of the novel and tv series “A Handmaid’s Tale,” that is, under a very oppressive religious system. Indeed they looked like people who were freed from oppressive systems and ways of thinking. They looked like people who were rescued from the things that plagued society.

Are we noticeably different in our day? Does it look like we have been freed from gossip, lies, hatred, apathy, faithlessness, greed, and the like?

As Christ followers we do not earn our salvation, our rescue from death and sin, our reconciliation to, and relationship with, God. We never could, and in Christ it is accomplished for us as a gift of God, as the working out of his will. Our salvation is what God desires. He wants us at his table.

We have the wonderful opportunity to get on with the life of a rescued-from-sin-and-death-and-now-in-relationship-with-God person. God has offered us a covenant of love, now let’s lean into it. God has given us the motorcycle, now let’s take it for a ride. God has prepared a seat for us at his table, now let’s sit in his presence.


The full reflection can be seen as part of Clarke’s church’s “online worship expression” from October 4th.

September 15, 2020

Salvation: A Continuous Imperative

If I were to leave you to keep an eye on my office, and just before walking out the door, I pointed to the back and said, “Shut the door;” what would I expect? Namely that you would shut the door. That’s it.

But if I were to turn around and say, “And answer the phone;” what does that imply? It implies that if the phone rings, answer it, and if it rings again, answer it, and if it keeps ringing, keep answering it. It’s what is called a continuous imperative.


Today we’re back with a visit to the blog Brothers of the Book, written by Bill Hood. While the column is directed at men, there is application here for everyone. (Also, with so many printed devotional resources directed toward women, here is a site you can recommend to a male friend or relative.) As always, click the header below and read this there instead of here.

You Are Being Saved

1 Corinthians 15:1–11

God’s work of salvation pre-dates your existence, is on-going in your life, and will be witnessed again in eternity. You are saved; you are being saved; you will be saved.

Today’s reading is a re-presentment of the Gospel.  Paul shares the facts of salvation with the Corinthians.  It is important for us to remember what we believe.  It is so easy to be led astray.  A little twisting of the truth produces a lie – not an alternate truth.

Changing subjects, I found the comparison of various translations of the following verse to be rather interesting.

1 Corinthians 15:2

ESV
“and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.”

NIV
“By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.”

KJ
“By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.”

Most translations refer to the Gospel as something by which they “were saved” while the English Standard Version (ESV) refers to the Gospel as something by which they were “being saved”.  Did the ESV get this wrong?  I don’t think so.  I went back and did a word study in the original Greek, and the word translated “you are being saved” by the ESV does give a sense of something that is on-going; at least it gave me that sense.  My pastor, several times, has said from the pulpit “you are saved, you are being saved, you will be saved”.

This sounds a bit odd, doesn’t it?  Try this on for size.  God chose to save you before He even created the World.  Moving forward in time, if you are a Christian, there was a moment in your past when you submitted your life to Christ, and at that moment you were saved as God had already determined you would.  Can you lose your salvation?  Christ says He will lose no one whom God places in His hand.  Did the Son of God get this wrong?  Can He lose you due to your own choices?  No brothers, it is His grace and presence in your life that keeps saving you every moment of every day.  God doesn’t save you and walk away hoping you’ll make the right choices so you can keep what He gave you.  Your salvation is a complete work of grace on the part of God Himself.  You had nothing to do with it.  God saved you and He is saving you.

One day, you will stand before the righteousness of God.  Jesus will step forward and say “Abba, he is with me.  I paid for his sin.”  You will be allowed to pass in to eternal fellowship with God. At that moment, you are saved anew.  You will be saved.

Salvation is an amazing thing.  It is beyond miraculous.  It is beyond comprehension.  Brothers, you are not alone in your wanderings in this desert called life.  If you truly submitted your life to Christ, Jesus goes with you in the form of His Holy Spirit.  He lifts you up.  He carries you through.  In the Good News of Jesus Christ, you are being saved!

Vivere Victorem! (Live Victorious!)

Your brother and servant in Christ,
Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

 

 

July 10, 2020

Formula-Based Thinking About God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Today’s devotional lands here from a search I was doing following a conversation yesterday. When I looked for “Transactional Christianity” this was the first result, but while first results aren’t always best, this one turned out to be an excellent article.

The article is Rob Grayson who was raised Pentecostal and is now Anglican. His blog is Faith Meets World. To read today’s article at its source — which we always recommend — click the header which follows.

Transactional Christianity

There’s a brand of Christianity I’ve often come across in churches and around the interwebs. I’m going to call it Transactional Christianity.

When you enter into a transaction, you pay an agreed amount and receive a predetermined item or service in return. It’s a fixed equation, backed by terms and conditions: if you pay A, you get B. And if what you get isn’t to your satisfaction, you can usually get your money back.

Many people apply this kind of formula-based thinking to God.

  • If I pray the sinner’s prayer, I’m home free for all eternity.
  • If I read the Bible dutifully and have regular “quiet times”, I can expect God to look after me.
  • If I attend church regularly, I’ll feel like I’m right with God.
  • If I give my ten percent, I’ll reap a harvest of material blessing.
  • If I regularly pray for protection over my family, I can expect perfect health.

Now this is all well and good when everything’s going according to plan and all the transactions are proceeding smoothly. But this kind of thinking has a flip side: when things don’t work out the way they’re supposed to – when something goes wrong with the transaction – we’re forced to look for an explanation. When we pray fervently for a friend to be healed but they still succumb to cancer, we’re left with questions like “Did I pray hard enough?” or “Did I have enough faith?”   Or when, in spite of our efforts to spend regular time in prayer and Bible study, we still find ourselves dry and thirsty and unable to hear God, we begin to wonder what we’ve done wrong, what sin or issue in our life is blocking our direct line to heaven.

And so it is that this very common breed of Christianity often leads to guilt and an unspoken feeling that we must be missing the mark and somehow need to do better. We know that God can be relied upon to keep his part of the bargain – that’s what it says in the terms and conditions, right? – so the problem must lie with us.

The basic problem with a transactional approach to Christianity is this: God does not conform to our notions of how He should behave, who He should bless and how, and what He should do to reward us for honouring our end of the deal. If you’re not convinced of this, read the book of Job. Allow me to summarize: in a kind of cosmic bet, God allows satan to afflict his faithful servant Job, destroying his livelihood, his family and his health. This is surely enough to cause anyone to question what they’ve done to deserve such an accumulation of ill fortune. While Job sits in the dust lamenting his fate, three of His friends attempt to comfort him by offering explanations as to why all this has happened. They become increasingly insistent that Job must have sinned, and that he needs to identify and confess his sin – for in their transactional view of the world, God always punishes the sinful and rewards the righteous, no exceptions allowed. Job remains perplexed; he’s confident that he hasn’t sinned, and he can’t understand why God would punish him so.

After 35 chapters of questions and attempted explanations, God finally answers Job “from the whirlwind”:

“Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.

Where were you when I lay the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much.”

(Job 38:2-4, New Living Translation)

For the next two chapters (and, following a brief response from Job, another chapter after that), God continues with a spectacular account of His unfathomable power and wisdom, all in the form of pointed questions directed at Job. At the end of this divine onslaught, and with the benefit of all the well-intentioned advice from his friends, what conclusion does Job reach?

“I am nothing – how could I ever find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say.” (Job 40:4-5)

Simply put, our attempts to fit God into a transactional mould will not work. The God who spoke the universe into being, who knows the stars and the sparrows by name, and who upholds the universe by the word of His power will not be reduced to an equation or a formula. If your concept of God tells you that He will always deliver A as long as you do B, then I humbly suggest you need to go back to the Bible with an open mind and ask yourself whether the magnificent, untameable God you find in its pages is really so easy to fit into such a small, well-constructed and tidy box.

I think C. S. Lewis says it best in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Mr. Beaver is telling young Lucy and Susan about Aslan, the great lion:

“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he — quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

[…]

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver. […] “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

I don’t want a God who is at my beck and call and who can safely be relied upon to return the right result as long as I keep my part of the bargain. I want the lion, the great “I am”, the alpha and the omega, the God who is wild and free and who does whatever He pleases. That’s the God I find in the pages of the Bible. When I try to force God into a box, the god I end up with is no greater than my own logic. No: give me the God who can’t be pinned down. He may not always feel safe, but I certainly know I can trust in His goodness.


You’re also encouraged to click the link in the article title to read the comments this generated when first published in 2013. Or here.



Unrelated extra:

A friend of ours has launched a new project. The blog, Charismatic Scholarship, exists to promote the teachings of Christian academics and scholars who believe that the gifts of Holy Spirit mentioned in the New Testament have continued to this day; that those gifts have not ceased. The blog launched with a six-part interview with Craig Keener.

April 20, 2020

Redemption of the Body

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from Russell Young as he’s been busy working on his next book. Today he sent us a much longer piece (just under 8,400 words; usually we’re around 840 words here) and I decided to share the introduction with you, and then if you’re interested in reading it all, send me a direct message or leave the words “send full article” in a comment (your email will not be visible) and I’ll send it to you.

Redemption of the Body

by Russell Young

Understanding Paul’s presentation of the “redemption of the body” is critical because he attaches it to being adopted as a son of God and a brother of Christ. “We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom 8:23)

Paul considered himself to be a wretched man because of the evil that had made him a prisoner to sin.1 He explained that his problem existed because although he delighted in God’s law in his inner being– his soul–, the members of his body always waged war against the law and desires of his mind. The demands and temptations of his body always conflicted with God’s law and what his mind wanted. He concluded that his rescue came through Christ. The Lord also had to fight the temptations of the flesh2 and he required God’s help to be victorious.3 The flesh wields great power over righteous living if not defeated and it must be conquered if the body is to be redeemed from its ungodly interests.

All believers will recognize Paul’s plight and can rejoice in the solution that God has provided. The solution, and the hope of humankind, comes through the presence of Christ in the confessor.4 Only through him, the Holy Spirit, can a person meet God’s righteous requirements. Although the members of the body may continue to wage war against a person’s godly desires, victory can be had. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Pet 1:3) “Through them we can participate in his divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Pet 1:4) Peter has presented that God’s divine power comes through our knowledge of him. Knowledge only has power if it is used however, and knowledge of him allows the believer “to participate in his divine nature.” The corruption of the world caused by a person’s evil desires must be overcome.

In Romans chapter 8 Paul has clarified the means of being rescued through Christ, and it must be understood as focusing alone on that issue and its solution.

To make sense of Paul’s understanding, an awareness of the nature of humankind needs to be appreciated. People are a trinity. They are comprised of body, soul, and spirit.

  1. The Body: The human body is physical and was meant to function in a physical world. Like all things physical, it deteriorates with time and use, and for survival must accommodate the pressures of its environment. Because of those influences, it acts to find peace and comfort with its surroundings. It is natural for people to protect their physical being because abuse or injury could cause death and the natural person cannot see any existence beyond his or her physical presence. Consequently, accommodating the physical takes precedence above all else.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Needs identifies the following as issues that the body strives to achieve: survival, safety, love and belonging, self-esteem, and self-fulfillment. These are needs of the natural person and are powerful forces in his or her life. The soul of each person strives to meet his or her basic needs in its own way and to its own degree as well as the body’s desire for comfort. The nature of the body’s needs as understood by the soul of a person often differs from God’s understanding.

The flesh interacts with its environment through the senses: taste, touch, hearing, smell, and sight. Although it gains information through the senses, it lacks the power to respond other than through the built-in autonomic nervous system which regulates key involuntary processes (heart rate, breathing, etc.) allowing its systems to sustain functioning and life. The voluntary actions of the body such as walking, talking, eating etc. are directed by the mind and will, which are part of the soul.

Observation teaches us that all will die and that the body will eventually suffer from injury or disease. Eternity cannot exist in the bodies that those who walk this earth possess.

  1. The Soul: The soul is “the spiritual, rational, and immortal substance in man, which distinguishes him from brutes; that part of man which enables him to think and reason, and which renders him a subject of moral government. The immortality of the soul is a fundamental article of the Christian system. Such is the nature of the human soul that it must have a God, an object of supreme affection.”5 It must be appreciated that the soul is not a substance, however. It is the rational aspect of a being, one’s reasoning ability, or his or her mental disposition. It might be recognized as the aspect of a person that identifies with his or her personality. A soul is within everyone and individuals can be identified by the nature of their souls.

Humankind was created with the unique ability to take in information, to reason and rationalize, to remember, and to direct their actions. Although a soul lacks power, it does have the authority to permit or to reject a spirit’s influence and persuasions. God gave humankind freewill through decision-making and this ability is what distinguishes a person from all other created beings.

It is the soul of a person that controls his or her decisions and the influence of spirits, including the actions of the natural spirit, in his or her life. The way a person habitually responds is known as his or her nature or natural disposition.

  1. The Spirit: The spirit is the life force in a being. Without it a person is absent of the ability to function voluntarily in any manner. The Greek word for spirit is pneuma and means a current of air.6 It is the activating force or essential principle influencing a person’s will. It formulates its decisions based on the functioning of the mind from gained information for the achievement of a person’s goals.

The Bible reveals many aspects of the human spirit.

1. There is a spirit in man (Job 32:8)

2. The human spirit is the part of man that God enlightens. (Proverbs 20:27)

3. The human spirit in believers will be renewed. (2 Corinthians 4:16)

5. When the human spirit departs, the body is dead. (James 2:26)

6. The human spirit was intended to glorify God. (1 Corinthians 6:20)

7. The human spirit was created in God’s image. (Genesis 1:27)

8. The spirit of man can be revived. (Genesis 45:27)

9. The spirit of man can feel suffering. (Exodus 6:9)

10. Various spirits can be given by God (wisdom, knowledge, understanding, all kinds of

workmanship, prophecy). (Exodus 28:3)

11. A person can possess a “familiar spirit.” (Leviticus 20:27)

12. A person can possess disruptive spirits (jealousy). (Numbers 5:30)

13. God can remove unhelpful spirits and place them where He wishes. (Numbers 11:17)

14. God can harden man’s spirit. (Deuteronomy 2:30)

15. God can give evil spirits, lying spirits. (1Samuel 16:14, 1Kings 22:23, Isaiah 19:14)

16. God can stir up (agitate) one’s spirit. (1Chronicles 5:26)

17. Some spirits can talk. (2Ch 18:20)

18. God can motivate one’s spirit for the accomplishment of His purposes. (Ezra 1:5)

19. The spirit can give visions. (Ezekiel 11:24)

20. God is to be served in the spirit, not through the law (flesh). (Romans 7:6)

21. God gives the spirit and it returns to Him at death. (Ecclesiastes 12:7)

It is called a spirit because it relates not to matter but to mind, soul, and feelings. Spirits can be loving, harmless or dangerous, fleeting or powerful, discreet or haunting, helping or hurting. They can inhabitate places, memories, books, or people. The most important fact about spirits is that they have to obey the commands of Christ. If we feel under the power of a spirit we do not want, we can command the spirit to leave in the name of Christ since we are His people, and the devil’s forces have no power over Christians unless they cooperate. It may be simply a matter of a single command spoken in trust of God, or it may be a spiritual battle (Eph. 6:10-17) where we need to draw closer to God in faith and let go of attachments to passing values (1 Tim. 6:6-12).”7

The difference between the soul and the spirit is that while the soul is the psychological aspect or personality of the person, including his or her mental acuity, the spirit is the agent of interaction of the soul with the physical and spiritual worlds and provides motivation for a person’s actions…the dynamic aspect of the person.

The spirit has power, but that power is permitted or denied by the soul. The power of a spirit exists in its source and in its persuasiveness on the soul. The Spirit of God is always more powerful than other spirits8, but those who possess him can deny the exercise of his life in them.

A person can possess many spirits if he or she permits them into his or her life. People need to be careful concerning their engagement with the spirit world. Peter has stated that Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand has angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.9


1 Rom 7:23−24

2 Heb 2: 17−18

3 Heb 5:7

4 Col 1:27

5 Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

6 The Greeks would have understood that without air going into the body, it ceased life. Today, however, we might

think of the spirit more as being a driving force, that which animates the body.

8 1 Jn 4:4 “greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” (KJV)

91 Pet 3:21−22



Eternal Salvation - Russell Young - 2Russell Young is the author of Eternal Salvation — “I’m Okay, You’re Okay”– Really? (Lettra Press) 

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also an extended article at this link

Leave a comment (your email address will not be visible) to receive today’s article in its entirety.

November 5, 2019

God’s Word Will Be Twisted

by Russell Young

I have spent many years trying to get people to understand that more than the sacrificial offering of Christ is needed to enter God’s eternal kingdom. Unfortunately, many teachers enjoy presenting the cross as the full gospel message, and those listening like to hear that message. Such understanding takes all responsibility from the confessor and avoids the necessity to teach the less pleasant issues of God’s righteous requirements, sanctification through obedience, and judgment for disregarding the holiness and majesty of God.

The God of the Old Testament, who was to be “feared” (Deut 19:12) has been turned into a beneficent grandfather. The God who brought nations to destruction because of their idolatrous practices and their failure to humble themselves before him and to obey his commands seems to have abandoned the need for obedience and of separation from the world. The God who demanded righteous living has made provision for his grace to cover all ungodly practices, many would say.

Isaiah has recorded, “The earth will be completely emptied and looted. The LORD has spoken! The earth mourns and dries up, and the crops waste away and wither. Even the greatest people on earth waste away. The earth suffers for the sins of its people, for they have twisted God’s instructions, violated his laws, and broken his everlasting covenant. Therefore, a curse consumes the earth. Its people must pay the price for their sin. They are destroyed by fire and only a few are left.” (Isa 24:4−6 NLT) When the end comes, the earth’s destruction will have been caused by twisting or altering God’s Word.

Isaiah’s revelation should alarm many who have neglected the fullness of the gospel or who have altered its teachings. The world will not end because of the evil that pervades it; it will be ended because those entrusted with the Word will have distorted it and made it ineffective and unable to transform lives. God has not changed. The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. He is sovereign and will establish his holy kingdom.

The end will come when God’s Word has been so twisted that truth, and with it hope, no longer exists. The Lord asked the question, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Lk 18:8) Faith may be found, but according to Isaiah’s prophesy, it will not be established in truth.

Where are we left concerning these words? A prophecy is a prophecy and it is absolute truth. That is, the Word will have been twisted beyond the Lord’s recognition by the end. Can this be stopped? No! It will not! The false “gospel” being promoted will have lost its power to save. God must be appreciated for his holiness and majesty regardless of teachings that suggest God’s overwhelming tolerance and forgiveness for ungodly practices and neglect of Christ’s lordship. “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil” (Mt 13:41)

What is the “more” than the cross that completes the gospel message? The offering of Christ redeemed the believer from his or her sin so that they might be given the Spirit. (Gal 3:14) Obedience to the Spirit will “fully meet the righteous requirements of the law.” (Rom 8:4) Judgment will fall on those who reject the Spirit’s leadership and live according to the sinful nature. (Gal 6:8) Christ, who has given his life to justify the confessor’s past sins (2 Pet 1:9; Heb 9:15), who has lived in a human body without sin and understands the temptations of the flesh (Heb 2: 17−18), and who has provided his Spirit for victory (Gal 3:14), holds the keys to death and Hades (Rev 1:18) and he will judge everyone according to the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10) He will determine each person’s fate.

The righteous requirements of the law must be met, and they will be “fully met by those who do not live according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:4) Christ did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them. (Mt 5:17) He did that for himself in the body that the Father had prepared for him in the womb of Mary, and, as Spirit, he will fulfill them through his presence in the believer (Col 1:27) who has pledged and lived under his lordship (Rom 10:9). He provided his Spirit because the law, having been weakened by the sinful nature of humankind, was powerless to accomplish its purpose. (Rom 8:3) The law of the Spirit of life has replaced the covenant law. (Rom 8:2, 7:6)

“Eternal salvation” is not fully accomplished through the sacrificial offering of the Son of Man on the cross; it comes “through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thess 2:13), and it is to be worked out, completed, with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12) The Lord did not finish his work for people through his death on the cross but rose to justify (Rom 4:25) the willing through his Spirit. God’s Word will be twisted, and his truths will be lost.


This was Russell Young’s last regular column in this alternate-Tuesday slot, though his writing may appear at various times in the future. He’s working on his next book and doing research. His current book is now available through a different publisher, and wherever you buy books, they should be able to access it at a better price. We thank him for his contributions here at C201.


Eternal Salvation - Russell Young - 2Russell Young is the author of Eternal Salvation — “I’m Okay, You’re Okay”– Really? (Lettra Press) 

Text citations above include italics added. 

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also an extended article at this link

 

 

November 3, 2019

Rebirth for the Reborn

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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We’re back again with Melody who writes devotional material at In Pleasant Places.  To read today’s article at her blog, click the title below.

Making the Dead Alive – Galatians

“For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman.
But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise…
Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.”

Galatians 4:22-23,28

If those of us who are in Christ are children of promise, born again into eternal life out of the promise of God and through His decided, gracious, miraculous work, is there anything He will not do for us, for our good, for our building up and strengthening, for our being made in Christ’s likeness? If we are children of promise, born of His will and purpose and delight, is there any faithfulness or provision He would withhold or miss?

This is significant. Because it highlights that God is not passive in making us His own. He is not passive in making us alive in Him. We have been born again. Born into a new existence, a new creation, life breathed into our spiritual nature that was dead. Not sick or struggling or confused. Dead.

We don’t just see things differently. We don’t just try to live a different way because it’s healthier or nicer to others or makes sense. This isn’t some realization we finally came to or were convinced of.

This is an act of God.

Only an act of God can do this.

How often do I miss that truth?

If we see beauty in the glory of God and desire it over ourselves, it is because God acted to cause that in us. If we see wisdom and power and grace and mercy and wonder and true reality in the cross of Jesus Christ and His amazing resurrection from the dead, if we see our own sin and depravity and know He is our only hope and how astounding it is that God would send His Son to save us, if we see this and surrender in humble praise because Jesus willingly gave Himself up for our sake, choosing to save us and not Himself because there was no other way for us – if we see this, it is because God Himself spoke powerful light into our hearts and made our dead soul alive to see Him.

This is why things that seem so clear to those who have been made alive are so baffling and ridiculous to those who are still dead (1 Corinthians 1:18). The dead cannot see it. It is true that God can work through conversations and reasoned arguments, and we are commanded to be ready at all times to give reason for the hope that we have with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). But let us never forget that the Lord must act for anyone to see Him as He is, to see salvation and the cross and even their own captivity in darkness.

This is why prayer is essential, always. That God will provide opportunities to share our hope, that He will act in power and great mercy to open their eyes, that they will not harden their hearts and neglect such a great salvation at a devastating cost.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” 1 Timothy 2:1-6

“And you were once dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:1-10

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’…So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:13-17

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart…And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord…For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

We are ambassadors of Christ, given the ministry to implore those around us to be reconciled to God and to know the hope that we have in this mighty God who is faithful and true and who saves us and seals us forever (2 Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 1:13-14). Living this out in weakness as jars of clay to show the surpassing power and glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:7), let us always point to our Savior and Lord, rejoicing humbly at what He has done in us and believing firmly in what He is able to do in others.

Our God is mighty to save. He makes the dead come alive, exchanging a heart of stone and giving one of flesh and life in its place – He has already done this in us, and His power reaches to those who do not know Him yet. Our God does this, and may all blessing and honor and glory and power and praise be His for His mighty works done to ransom us and show us the wonder of His glory.

October 27, 2019

The Chain of Grace – Part Two

NLT.2Cor.5.20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

The Voice.1Cor. 1.17 The mission given to me by the Anointed One is not about baptism, but about preaching good news. The point is not to impress others by spinning an eloquent, intellectual argument; that type of rhetorical showboating would only nullify the cross of the Anointed.

CEB. 2Tim.4.5 But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances. Endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the good news, and carry out your service fully.

Yesterday we looked at what I could call the vertical chain of grace; the idea of one generation passing its faith and faith-values on to the next.

There is also a horizontal chain of faith that happens when peers share their faith with friends, relatives and acquaintances (neighbours, workmates, fellow-students) who respond. One of the best stories I ever heard in church a youth service where a girl, got up and (I’m changing the names at this point, I am sure) said, “My name is Amanda…” and then went on to tell the story of how her life was changed because of a friend named Brittany. Then the next one stepped up and began, “My name is Brittany…” and told her story of coming to faith because of the influence of a girl named Crystal. Next — and you’re probably guessing the pattern already — a girl stepped to the microphone and started with “My name is Crystal…” and told her story which included being invited to an event by her friend Danielle.

You might think this all sounds too contrived to be true, but when the last girl got up and said, “Hi, I’m Danielle…” I swear there wasn’t a dry eye in the church. You could hear a pin drop.

My goodness, this works! This sharing your faith thing really, really works, and just last night we heard a very similar story involving three different peers…

…There is a third element to the chain of faith model, and as we thought in terms of horizontal (width) and vertical (length), we couldn’t think of a word to describe a depth of cooperation between various parties, so feel free to comment, but I’m calling this a trans-sectional chain of faith.

I took a picture of this page from The Message Bible to use in a presentation my wife and I shared yesterday morning. It’s from Romans 10:14.

NIrV.Rom.10.14 How can they call on him unless they believe in him? How can they believe in him unless they hear about him? How can they hear about him unless someone preaches to them?

What I believe sets this model apart is that it applies to a single conversion story and there may be different parties involved in the calling and sending of those who do the work of an evangelist. Different people responsible for the training and equipping. Different people responsible for the accountability and oversight. Different people caring for the follow-up and discipleship of this one individual.

Perhaps the above verse doesn’t have this as finely tuned, but it talks about process. Believing follows an awareness of the Jesus redemption story, which follows a presentation of that same story.

Perhaps this one is clearer, but I did want to include the above passage as well.

NLT.1Cor.3.It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.

It’s similar to the horizontal chain, but each part is now serving a different purpose in a single story. Each participant is one part of a chain of grace leading a single person to faith.


Go Deeper: What’s involved in the decision making process? Refer back to this model we presented in January, 2018, The Steps to Decision.

 

September 24, 2019

Can You Lose Your Salvation?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:29 pm
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by Russell Young

Can You Lose Your Salvation?

This question is frequently raised and deserves a thoughtful response. Much of the confusion rests in word meanings and often involves concepts that are philosophical constructs as opposed to Biblical truths.

Before it can be established whether a person can lose his or her salvation, it is important to understand what “salvation” means. A commonly accepted perception is that it means ‘brought to the state where you will go to heaven upon death.’ The Hebrew word y@shuw`ah has been translated to mean “salvation.” Its first Scriptural use is Genesis 49:18. y@shuw`ah doesn’t refer to “going to heaven” but to deliverance from danger or disease, the preservation of a person’s welfare, victory. The Greek soteria has a similar meaning without reference to heaven but referring in general to rescue, health and deliverance.

Salvation is used in the New Testament in a rescue or deliverance manner. The woman with the issue of blood was healed, delivered, or saved from the agony of her physical condition. Paul was saved from drowning when the ship he was aboard sank. Confessors are rescued from the death that they had earned and from the Old Covenant which brought about their condemnation.

Unfortunately, “salvation” has come to be specifically and singularly accepted as referring to the gaining of God’s heavenly kingdom. When this connotation is attached to the word, problems arise.

Those concerned with the thought of losing salvation are of the understanding that their heavenly hope has been established and they don’t want to entertain the idea that it can be lost. Two questions arise: Has their hope of heaven really been established? If it has, can it be destroyed?

Those who accept that they have been eternally saved, must accept that they are living the obedient life that Christ requires and that they will always live that life. Hebrews 5:9 states, “[Christ] became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” The believer’s hope comes through obedience. Paul has written, “For in this hope—our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies—you were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. But who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Rom 8:24−25) He has stated that we were or have been saved, yet our adoption remains a hope for which we “wait eagerly” and that it comes with “the redemption of our bodies.” (v 23)

The “saved” or salvation that has taken place refers to a rescue or deliverance, but it does not mean to infer that the deliverance is into God’s heavenly kingdom; it is a different deliverance or salvation. Careful examination of the fullness of God’s Word reveals that confessors are first saved or delivered from the righteous requirements of the Old Covenant law and the death that they had earned, so that they might receive the Spirit (Gal 3:14). This is not an eternal deliverance. Following this gifting, they are to live in obedience to Christ as Spirit.

Can a person lose this salvation, deliverance from the covenant law? Yes! Paul has also written, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” (Gal 5:18) Those who have been given the Spirit but do not permit his leadership must revert to accomplishing the righteous requirements of the law apart from the Spirit’s help (The Spirit is Christ the Lord; 2 Cor 3: 17, 18), to the hopeless state that existed before their redemption.

The hope that is not reality and for which we wait eagerly is for “our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” and this is accomplished through obedience to the Spirit. “For if you live according to the sinful nature you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:13−14) The hope of adoption is accomplished by putting to death the misdeeds of the body (redemption of the body) through the leadership of the Spirit.

Some might protest that the Word presents salvation and eternal life come through belief. Eternal life and eternal salvation are different. Eternal life is life unending or immortality, and nothing more. Eternal salvation refers to a deliverance from any circumstance that would cause a person harm or negatively affect their eternal welfare. The only passage that addresses eternal salvation in the Bible, Hebrews 5:9, reveals that it comes through obedience and is availed for those who have overcome the world and have found a place in the New Jerusalem. (Rev 21:7)

The confessor cannot lose his or her “eternal salvation” because he or she does not have it. Unless personal obedience to Christ can be guaranteed, neither can eternal salvation.; it is being awaited and will come following judgment. Confessors can lose their salvation from sin if they fail to obey the Lord and continue to deliberately sin (Heb 10:26; Mt 13:41) following their confession of Christ’s lordship (Rom 10: 9−10), if they have walked in darkness rather than in the light of the Spirit (1 Jn 1:6−7), and if they have failed to confess known sin when it happens. (1 Jn 1:9) Peter warned that confessors who “have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and again are entangled in it are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” (2 Pet 2:20)

Paul, on whom many base their understanding of salvation, wrote that it remained for him to become like Christ in his death so that “somehow” he could attain to the resurrection. (Phil 3:11) He did not claim to have been eternally saved after many years of ministry and suffering. He had to live Christ’s death to the end.

Christ warned Jewish believers that sinful practices would render them impermanent members of God’s family (Jn 8:35) and cautioned that those in him who do not bear fruit would be cut from him. (Jn 15:2) He also spoke of the need to “stand firm to the end” to be saved (Mt 10:22), and that his angels would “weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Mt 13:41)

The promise of God concerning eternal salvation is for the obedient; the disobedient will find themselves forever separated from him. (2 Thess 1:9) A person cannot lose their eternal salvation because they will not have achieved it until they have been judged acceptable for God’s eternal kingdom. (Rom 15:16).



Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His first book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also an extended article at this link.


 

August 20, 2018

“They Were Never Saved to Being With”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Again, we’re back at the website BibleKnowledge.com and a look at an interpretation of scripture which is quite common. This article has a long continuation with an examination of several other passages. I encourage you to read the first part here at least, to get you thinking, but you might want to start instead by clicking the title below and then you’ll at least have the remaining parts on your screen to, at the very least, skim over.

“Never Saved”: How Christians misuse Matthew 7:21-23

by Deidre Richardson

21 “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. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you;depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Matthew 7:21-23 is a passage used by Christians to refer to those they believe “were never saved to begin with,” the phrase goes. According to the passage above, there are those who call Jesus “Lord, Lord” (v.21), “prophesied” (v.22), “cast out demons” (v.22), and “done many wonders” (v.22), but are not known by the Lord. In the end, the Lord will say “I never knew you.” The words of Matthew 7:21-23, as spoken by our Lord, seem difficult to believe. How could those the Lord “never knew” prophesy, cast out demons, and do many wonders “in His name”? According to Jesus in the verses above, these individuals believed they were saved and called Jesus “Lord,” but they did not live out their faith. Jesus would agree with James when the half-brother of Jesus says that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:14, 20, 26).

We can understand that it’s not enough to say “I believe in Jesus”; we must also live in accordance with what we believe. There must be a trail of good works that characterize our lives in Christ. After all, believers do have the Holy Spirit, who not only sanctifies them but enables them to bear “the fruit of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22). And yet, it is not right that we use Matthew 7:21-23 to describe everyone who doesn’t endure until the end in faith. Jesus is talking about those He “never knew,” which means that these individuals “never” did anything to show the world they were saved. They never had any good works to speak of that pointed others to Jesus. They never lived the life they claimed they experienced. They were saved “in name only,” to use a phrase with which we’re all familiar.

And yet, there are other Christians who aren’t saved in the end for other reasons. Not every condemned person who isn’t saved is lost in the end because they called Jesus “Lord” and lived like hypocrites. Some former believers were real about their faith; when they depart from the faith, they do so for other reasons — perhaps an unanswered prayer, a sin struggle that they pray God removes, yet He doesn’t, and so on. And there are those that the Lord “knows” for a while, and then they leave due to something such as persecution they endure as a Christian. Some folks do not want the persecution that Jesus says comes with being a follower of Christ. There are other reasons for why Christians depart from the faith, but in the case of Matthew 7:21-23, those who call Jesus “Lord” are those who don’t do what God commands. Remember what Jesus says about those who follow after Him?

23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26, NKJV)

Those who follow Jesus must “deny Himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Those the Lord says He “never knew,” those Jesus calls “workers of iniquity,” are those that were never saved. They never had a relationship with the Lord because they never denied themselves, never took up their cross, never followed Christ. They only claimed to know Christ. And the most interesting part of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23 is that these individuals prophesied, cast out demons, and did other wonderful works in Jesus’ name. They did works consistent with someone who has the Holy Spirit’s presence and power in their lives. And yet, despite all their spiritual giftedness, and the work of the Spirit in prophecy, demon possession, and other works, these individuals were never saved.

When it comes to exegesis, one cannot just take one passage and run with a theological position; he or she must examine Scripture as a whole to determine if one verse is being placed above the rest of Scripture (if Scripture opposes the verse) or if one verse of Scripture is being sidelined because of the remainder of Scripture (is the verse a particular option or for a particular person or group?). Are there exceptional cases in Scripture that are not normative for faith and practice? Scriptural interpretation is not as easy as we often make it out to be.

When it comes to Matthew 7:21-23, the same can be said. We have taken these three verses and plastered them on every particular case where a person falls away from Jesus or departs from the faith. Not everyone who falls away was a “fake believer” who was only masquerading as a Christian.

Matthew 7:21-23 points to those who were never saved, but there are a ton of verses within Matthew’s own gospel that point to the contrary: that is, those who fall away were genuinely saved. To this end, we’ll approach the New Testament to determine what verses out there clash with Matthew 7:21-23. The purpose of this exercise is not to show that the traditional Christian interpretation of Matthew 7:21-23 is wrong per se, but to make the case that we can’t take these three verses and chalk every apostasy case up to “they were never saved to begin with.” We’ll place Matthew 7:21-23 alongside these verses to show that they are talking about different situations, not the same ones. Christians have misused Matthew 7:21-23, but we need to know how we’ve misused the passage…

…don’t stop; if you want to gain a deeper understanding on this, keep going at this link!

(passages examined in the continuation include the parables of the sower and soils, the wise and foolish virgins, the wheat and the tares, Jesus saying ‘I did not know you,” and several other selections)

July 13, 2018

The Washing of Regeneration

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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We’re back again with Charlie Garret at The Superior Word blog and I chose this one because it’s part of one of my favorite Bible passages.

Titus 3:5

…not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:5

This continues the thought of the previous verse, but it is tied into the whole package of thought since verse 3:1. Paul exhorted the believers through Titus in verses 1 & 2 to be subject to rulers, to obey, to be ready for every good work, and to do so in a peaceable, gentle, and humble attitude. Then in verse 3, he spoke of the wretched state that we all were in prior to being saved by Christ. That was immediately followed up in verse 4 with, “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared…

That now brings in the words of verse 5. Paul begins with, “not by works of righteousness which we have done.” This is being contrasted to the state we were in, and it is complementing the “every good work” of verse 1. We were in a state of disobedience, living in a manner contrary to what God expects of us. In that fallen state, God initiated the process of our change by sending Jesus. We had not yet done any good works in order to merit His favor. Even if people before coming to Christ did good things, they could never meet the high standard of righteousness that God expects. Our deeds were tainted by sin. But even more, they were done in a state of unbelief.

Without belief in Christ (faith), there can be no merit for our works. Our state was fallen, and so nothing we did could meet God’s bar of what is considered “righteous.” And so Paul says that our works are wholly excluded from merit before Him. He sent Jesus before any such works of righteousness were possible. Thus, the sending of Jesus was an act of pure grace; unmerited favor. And it was in a condition of needed mercy. We needed to not get the righteous justice that was due to us.

And this is exactly what God provided. God sent His Son to us not in a state of merited favor, “but according to His mercy.” God’s extended mercy implies that we needed mercy. If so (and it is so), then it means that we actually deserved His punishment. We had not worked our way out of the pit of destruction. Instead, we wallowed in it. Remember also, Paul was an observant Jew. And not only was he observant, but he was the cream of the crop; a Pharisee. And yet, he includes himself in the equation. He was as in need of God’s mercy as all others. Jesus said as much to the people of Israel –

“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:20

Obviously, if the most observant Jews of all could not enter the kingdom of heaven through their own merit, then it shows that something much greater was needed. This is what Paul now speaks of in Titus. God sent Jesus to us as a merciful offering. It is in this act that “He saved us.” The only way we could be brought out of the pit of destruction in which we lived was for God to initiate the process. In that, and through that, we can be saved. Paul is speaking only to believers here. The words, “He saved us,” are speaking only of those who are actually saved by God through the work of Christ. However, it is inclusive of all who are saved – past, present, and future. Paul’s words are written as doctrine for the church age.

He then explains how this salvation came about. It was, “through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” Reformed theologians say that a person cannot be saved unless God first regenerates them in order to believe. They then believe, and after that, they are saved. They then say that being “born again” in John 3:3 is that process. In other words, a person who is born again isn’t yet saved. He is simply regenerated in order to believe at that point. Only after that will he will then believe and be saved. If that isn’t the craziest theology imaginable!

Paul’s words here completely refute such illogical doctrine. The “washing of regeneration” literally signifies “water for washing.” It is baptism (of the Holy Spirit) that Paul speaks of here. The only other time he uses this term is in Ephesians 5:26. There he says (while speaking of the church) –

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, Ephesians 5:26, 27

It is first through the word that one is washed. The word is given by the Spirit of God. This then needs to be brought back further, to Romans 10 –

“But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:16, 17

Paul’s words clearly show that “not all have obeyed the gospel.” There is a choice (free will) which is involved in the process. That choice is based on the word which has been given by the Spirit of God. In hearing the word, a choice is made (belief). In that choice, faith is exercised. In the exercising of that faith, man receives “the washing of regeneration.” That is the baptism (of the Holy Spirit) spoken of by Paul here, and which leads to “the renewing of the Holy Spirit.” This is what Paul means when he said in the previous verse, “He saved us.” It takes us again to Romans 10 –

“…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

The entire process is initiated by God, but it must be acted upon by man (faith). The moment that faith in the gospel is exercised, Paul then tells us what the result is. This is found recorded in Ephesians 1:13, 14 –

“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”

The sealing of the Holy Spirit which Paul speaks of in Ephesians 1 is the same thing he is referring to in Titus 3. Through the word, we “hear.” In hearing, we believe. In believing, we are sealed with the Spirit and are saved. The entire process is of God, and not of our own works. Faith is not considered a work (Romans 3:27), and it is something we must exercise as a part of this process.

Finally, the “renewing of the Holy Spirit” means that we are now acceptable to God. Though we are still capable of wrongdoing, that wrongdoing is not imputed to us (2 Corinthians 5:19). Rather, God accepts us because of Christ, and our works are now made acceptable to Him through Christ as well. That is the “every good work” which Paul cited in verse 3:1.

Life application: It seems as if such a long commentary on what Paul says at times is unnecessary. His words are clear and precise. But because so many people have come in and muddied the theological waters, even to the point where there is complete confusion in how Paul’s words are presented, there actually needs to be a highly detailed explanation of his thoughts at times. Always be ready to dig into the word, keep the waters clear, and accept the basics as they are given (such as free-will) from the start. Once we divert from the obvious, the pure flowing river becomes tainted. In the end, it is all about Jesus who has come to give us the remedy to the state which we are in.

Lord God, thank You for the Holy Bible; Your precious word. Help us to read it daily, apply it to our lives always, and to never muddy its purity with unsound theology. Your word is a wonderful light, and it is the purest of water. Thank You for your precious word. Amen.

April 13, 2018

The Conversion of Saul: Did He Have a Choice?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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The most important event in human history apart from the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the conversion to Christianity of Saul of Tarsus. If Saul had remained a Jewish rabbi, we would be missing thirteen of twenty-seven books of the New Testament and Christianity’s early major expansion to the Gentiles. Humanly speaking, without Paul Christianity would probably be of only antiquarian or arcane interest, like the Dead Sea Scrolls community or the Samaritans.

IVP Commentary as cited at BibleGateway.com; emphasis added.

NLT Acts 9:1 Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.  So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.

As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”

“Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.

And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.

10 Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord!” he replied.

11 The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. 12 I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.”

13 “But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers  in Jerusalem! 14 And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.”

15 But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. 16 And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

17 So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength.

In light of the divide between Reformed and Arminian approaches to grace and salvation, the conversion of Saul (to Christ, and then in name, to Paul) seems like an open and shut case. I found this article at the Society of Evangelical Arminians helpful to seeing things in the text which are easy to miss. This is actually a series of responses to the title’s question that were posted on the Society’s Facebook page. Click the title below to read at source.

What About Paul’s “Irresistible” Conversion?

In our Facebook Outreach Group, we were presented with this question:

How should Paul’s conversion be interpreted? It doesn’t seem like much of a choice at first glance – but that God showed up and said “you’re mine.”

Here are the various responses:

1.  He said he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision (free will).

2.  God taking it upon Himself to introduce Himself to someone isn’t a conversion. The per se conversion occurred and revealed itself in Paul’s response.

2a. So God doesn’t kick in the door?

2b. Another great example of God introducing Himself was the burning bush. Although Moses did require additional convincing.

2c. God had been working on Paul long before the Damascus road experience.  Based on His foreknowledge God had chosen Paul to become an Apostle called out of due season. Paul had not been taught by Christ personally like the other Apostles. Paul is not only called to conversion but to Apostleship to the Gentiles. God reveals himself to Paul in unusual ways and instructs him in unusual ways but Paul’s responses are his own even though his prevenient grace is unusual.

3.  I think that is reading too much into the narrative. Here is something Brian Abasciano wrote a while back in response to the same sort of question:

“I believe Paul did have the ability to resist God in his Damascus Road experience. At the very best for the contention that he could not have done so, it is speculation whether he could or not. The text certainly does not indicate that he could not. On the other hand, I would say that Paul actually does imply that he could have disobeyed the vision. In Acts 26:19, he says, “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.” Telling someone you were not disobedient to something without provocation to do so seems to imply that you could have been disobedient to it. If I had replied to you, “As you can see, I have not ignored your email to me . . .” that would imply that I could have ignored your email. Rhetorically, what that sort of thing does is emphasize one’s obedience by using the fact that one could have done otherwise.”

I would add that the Israelites often experienced incredible manifestations of God and yet continued to rebel against Him, so it seems we have no real basis for correlating a powerful vision of God with irresistible response.

4.  Paul wasn’t saved until he prayed and sought God after being blinded.

5.  Paul was exposed to Christians and their witness repeatedly.  God had, through prevenient grace, been convicting Paul of the truths of the Gospel and drawing him to repent and believe in Christ.  Paul had been having a hard time resisting the truth of the Gospel. It was hard for him “to kick against the pricks.”

6.  I agree with the preceding comments, but I’d like to add three things…

(1) For God to use external means to convert Saul of Tarsus to Christ, does not prove a Calvinist’s assertion of God using internal means of “forcible regeneration upon the unbelieving.”

(2) Paul tells us why God did it. He says that God knew that he [Paul] had acted in ignorance.

(3) Even if God used “overwhelming means” to secure the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, to the point where conversion was rendered certain, how would the raising-up of one man to apostleship, for the greater benefit of humanity in spreading the gospel to all men, establish a bifurcation of elect vs. non-classes of humanity? At most, it would only speak of what God was doing in the life of that one individual person, in terms of how God would bless “all the families of the earth” through him, fulfilling in one man, God’s purpose in the election of the Jews as His witness nation.

 

January 20, 2018

Born of Water and the Spirit

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.

Many of you are familiar with this phrase, found in a statement Jesus makes to Nicodemus in John 3. We found these comments on this at Biblical Hermeneutics. We’ve included the first two answers, but you may click on the title below to read more. The first answer is reiterated in #5 below.

What does it mean to be “born of water”?

In John 3:5, Jesus tells Nicodemus that to enter the kingdom one must be “born of water and the Spirit”. How is this phrase understood? Is it a single construct (i.e. one birth of both water and Spirit)? Or are two births in view (one of water and one of Spirit)? And what does it mean to be born of water?


“Born of water” does not stand alone here, but rather inseparably collocated with “and spirit”. Just as “raining cats and dogs” refers to one rain, or “this item is our bread and butter” refers to one mainstay item, “water and the spirit” refers to one birth.

In other words, we are not to take this is “first you must be born of water and then of spirit”; rather, “unless one is born of water and spirit” in v5 is parallel to “unless one is born again” in v3.

Although the phrase “born of water and of the spirit” is not found in the Old Testament, we do see water and spirit both tied to personal and covenantal renewal, notably in Ezekiel 36:25-27:

25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from fall your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (ESV)

Here water is used to explicitly symbolize cleansing from impurity, and spirit for the transformation of the heart to full obedience. All that Jesus has done here is add the concept of birth to further explain what he had said in v3.


Actually, after researching this more, there are multiple possible translations of this

1. Christian Baptism

C. H. Dodd reflects this interpretation when he asserts that

“the instructed Christian reader would immediately recognize a reference to Baptism, as the sacrament through which the Spirit was given to believers, and by which they were initiated into that new order of life described as the Kingdom of God, which was historically embodied in the Church.”
Dodd, Interpretation, p. 311.

Essentially, the idea is being “born of water” would have been immediate recognizable as meaning baptism. And since Jesus had been baptizing, it could be understood as this baptism.

2. John’s Baptism

The argument here is that when Nicodemus heard “born of water”, he would immediately think of John’s baptisms, since he had been causing a stir throughout Israel. Support from this comes from here:

John 1:23 (NIV)
I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit’

The argument is that John baptized with water but Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit.

3. Natural (Flesh) Birth

This popular and well-thought out argument is supported by the quote from Nicodemus himself as well as later parallelism of Jesus.

John 3:4 (NIV)
How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

The parallels can be drawn directly from Jesus two contiguous sentences:

John 3:5-6 (NIV)
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

Clearly, being “born of water and the spirit” relates directly to bineg born of “flesh” and “spirit” in verse 6.

Finally, it gains biblical support in that the term “water” has been used in reference to female organs in Song of Songs 4:12-15.

4. Word of God

This theory maintains that there are two elements required for a person to be “born again”: the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.

Support for this theory are found in the following two verses:

James 1:18 (NIV)
He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

1 Peter 1:23 (NIV)
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

5. Double metaphor

Proponents of this theory state that Being “born of the water and of the spirit” are actually two ways to say the same thing. The argument is that Jesus said that you must be “born again” in previous verses and then “born of water and the spirit” in later verses. These two parallels, the argument goes, shows that being “born of water” is simply another way to say being “born again”.

6. Purification

This idea states that water and spirit are purification that must take place in order to be born again. This can be illustrated by the use of water in purification rituals. Furthermore, support for this can be found in Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 36:25-27 (NIV)
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

This verse shows the connection between water and the spirit in purification and the new birth.

Summary

There are six traditional views of how to view this. Two views stand out as the most likely: The natural birth (#3) and the Purificaiton (#6). These two views have the strongest support for them, both biblically and traditionally. The other views each have strong problems with their views. (I add them solely for completeness.)


The answers which follow are also worth considering. Nobody said Biblical interpretation was easy! If you have time, especially consider the one which followed these. Once again, here’s the link.

January 6, 2018

The Steps to Decision (C201 Version)

If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved. For it is by our faith that we are put right with God; it is by our confession that we are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)

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? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  (Romans 10:14)

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. (Psalm 37:5-6)

Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.  (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NLT)

One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see! (John 9:25b)

…also…

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you…” (Matthew 7: 21-23a)

Earlier today at Thinking Out Loud I shared that at home we had been discussing the process by which people ‘cross the line of faith’ and identify as Christians. It reminded me of a graphic image I had in my files, but then discovered some people had improved on the one we posted there in March, 2014.

One of the challenges we face comes when we try to make things into a formula or try to over-analyze what God is doing by the Holy Spirit in human hearts. As someone once described it, “The problem of trying to figure out how a cat works is that once you dissect it, it no longer works.” Furthermore, God is working in different ways in different peoples’ lives.

So where did the graphic come from? Here’s what I wrote about this at the time,

A long time ago, a pre-internet generation of Christians were as excited about the latest books as today’s host of internet bloggers. While we might think the universe didn’t exist until we were born, there was the same mix of academic writers as well as popular writers.  One of the latter was Emory Griffin who wrote a paperback about evangelism called The Mind Changers, and in that book, he frequently quoted James F. Engel, who wrote the textbook Contemporary Christian Communications: Its Theory and Practice

Engel dissected the conversion process as only a late 20th Century academic could, breaking it down piece-by-piece. I’ve always kept a copy of this particular little chart handy, because it reminds me that making disciples (or what a previous generation called soul-winning) doesn’t happen overnight (though it can) but often involves the careful processing through of ideas and thoughts. Yes, some people encounter Jesus and the transformation can be instantaneous, but often it has to be reasoned through (or even emoted through; I don’t know if there’s a word for that) and it usually involves some other person whose gift is apologetics or just being there with love or perhaps some combination of the two.

Today, people still discuss whether or not salvation happens as a crisis experience (in a moment, in an instant) or whether it is a process experience (as C. S. Lewis defined so well in the train analogy in Mere Christianity) but if it’s a process, it might look something like Engel describes in the graphic.

Why does it matter?

I suspect that many of us, in our interactions with people expect them to move more rapidly to the point of decision. We’re aware of imperatives like “Choose today whom you will serve;” and “now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” We’ve heard the story of D. L. Moody opting not to give an invitation at the end of a message, only to have many hundreds who were there that day perish that week in the Chicago Fire. We long for instantaneous results.

While a crisis experience can definitely spark conversion, I think it’s more likely to be a process. Furthermore, we know statistically that guilt and fear may result in short-term decisions, it definitely is detrimental to the making of long-term converts. The attrition rate for those guilted in or scared in is quite high.

Discipleship is also a process involving much followup post-decision. There’s a second part to Engel’s graphic that we didn’t share this morning at Thinking Out Loud that I want to share here:

Today’s thoughts began with some verses on the subject of salvation. To my mind, they seem much more simple compared with the complexity of the upper graphic. But I am aware that as God is a work the lives of our friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers; it may be that a change in the heart needs to be accompanied by a change of mind on various aspects of the gospel, and this might move forward in stages, rather than all at once.

Read the verses again in the light of the chart, and read the chart again through the lens of the verses. Is there someone in your sphere of influence who God is telling you might want to progress on the journey to decision and discipleship?

 

December 8, 2017

Continuing in the Faith: Two Perspectives

Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.
 – Luke 17:33

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. – John 16:13

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. – Phil. 3:14

Today’s post was intended to be a return to Blogos.org for the usual type of devotional article you see here. However, I stumbled across this article — the link “letter from the editor” got me curious — and while some of this isn’t new to many readers here, I hope you will take the time to read this and notice the balance this writer achieved between what can be two divisive doctrinal viewpoints.

Which view is right for you?

Are you confused by Calvinism and Arminianism and which to believe?

By Jim Allen

Calvinism and Arminianism are two major branches of Protestantism that follow separate theological views, pulling the true Gospel apart into two camps of faith. While the views differ in how one attains and continues in salvation, they do agree on the core of Christendom, which is faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16). It is also true that most believers know nothing about either of these two doctrinal views when saved.

I was one of them. I had no clue. Not until sometime later did I learned about these two views and then became entirely confused by which one was correct. Of course, the adoption of Calvinism or Arminianism can influence how one lives out his or her Christian faith.

Beyond a personal influence, these two branches of Protestantism have split the church for nearly five hundred years. But, here’s the thing. Got Questions got it right by recognizing Calvinism and Arminianism are too demanding for anyone to understand. They correctly said both views fail to fully explain God’s role and man’s role in the mysteries leading to salvation. More precisely:

Human beings are incapable of fully grasping concepts such as these because the theology is deep and demanding. Yes, God is absolutely sovereign and knows all. Yes, human beings are called to make a genuine decision to place faith in Christ, and these two facts seem contradictory to us, but in the mind of God they make perfect sense. (Source)

Can these two opposing views ever be brought into alignment with Scripture? I have read the arguments for and against Calvinism and affirm some aspects are biblical while other aspects fog the brain. At the other end is Arminianism, which also has views that battle against the teachings of the Bible.

While the conversation between these two views is not the most important topic in Christianity, it’s a worthwhile discussion in having. This article makes no attempt to uphold one view over the other or reconcile opposing verses of either view; but rather, its purpose is to look beyond the teachings of John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius to the centrality of the true conversation.

Is Calvinism or Arminianism the right conservation to have about salvation? I would propose neither because the right answer for salvation is a message that has been longstanding since the Resurrection. The message of Christianity is far more than adopting a view to walk out one’s faith. Christianity is about entering into a living and loving relationship with the Lord of Glory. Jesus said it’s all about exchanging a life we can never keep for one we can never earn (Luke 17:33).

The Apostle Paul wrote about the exchange. Paul said our change begins when God changes us into a new person by changing what we think (Romans 12:2). But, what we think and believe can be skewed by what other men think and believe. Men can hold us captive to their view (by what they teach) instead of God’s view, and herein the peril.

Was the greater problem for Calvin and Arminius a tendency to pitch their tent of understanding (about salvation) around selected verses that supported their personal beliefs? Did they set aside, gloss over, and debate away verses that didn’t agree with those views? Some think so.

Of no surprise and as a result, the number of opinions supporting Calvinism or Arminianism is vast. The Internet is overflowing with books and articles and charts and testimonies supporting one view over the other. Reading the arguments for one will convince you until you read the rebuttal given by the other. It’s all very confusing, troubling, and unnecessary. It’s not the conversation we need.

Even more so, the Bible makes no attempt to distinguish the Gospel into two opposing views. There is no reason to redefine the Gospel. Jesus didn’t split hairs and the apostles were never inspired to write other than what they did. The Bible is a finished work. It stands on its own. It needs no clarification.

Dividing the Gospel into different views is the work of men, a work never intended by the Lord of Glory. He made everything simple, and we receive it by faith. Man makes everything hard, and we debate it until entirely confused. Is Calvinism the right answer for salvation? No and neither is Arminianism.

The right answer for salvation is for a believer to make it a personal quest, to view the Lord of Glory through the lens of the Bible, and to discover for themselves the deep caverns of unveiled truth (John 16:13). When revealed, the believer will be encouraged to continue in the faith.

Calvinists call “continuing in the faith” irresistible grace. Armenians call it making a commitment of faith. Whatever you call it, it’s the high call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). This is the conversation worth having.

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

In closing, there is no greater call than to hear the One calling from above (1 Peter 2:25); and, there is no greater conversation than with the One who is the lover of the soul (John 10:28).


*Calvinism is named for John Calvin, a French theologian who lived from 1509-1564. Arminianism is named for Jacobus Arminius, a Dutch theologian who lived from 1560-1609. (Source)


Linked scriptures are in the ESV. We selected three and quoted them at the top of this article, and those are NIV.

August 16, 2017

Can People Be Saved via Other Religions?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today we’re paying a return visit to the website BibleKnowledge.com and an article on a subject sometimes called universalism. Note that the end there are links to other articles in a series on this topic, including one pertaining to the eternal destiny of those who have never heard; who have never been evangelized. You may land the plane differently on these issues, but the view presented is the one which has served Evangelical Christianity well for nearly all of its history. Click the title below to read at source:

What is Inclusivism?

Inclusivism is a view that includes all religions in God’s plan of salvation. Inclusivism is “inclusive” (hence the name) of all religions in salvation and says that a person can be saved regardless of his or her faith and/or religious practice.

Both a Buddhist and Hindu can be saved in this view — regardless of the fact that they believe in different things and hold to different views about man and the world.

Inclusivism is a view that is in contrast to exclusivism. If inclusivism means to include religions, then exclusivism is a doctrine that excludes religions or faiths. Christians who hold to exclusivism believe that one must assent to the teachings of Christ and believe that He is God and the way to eternal life if they hope to be saved.

Christians who hold to this view also disagree with all other religions and argue that a Buddhist and a Mormon, for instance, cannot be saved as adherents of their faiths; rather, the Mormon and Buddhist must turn to Christianity and Jesus in order to find salvation.

As usual, Christians want to know: Is there biblical evidence for inclusivism?

  1. That is, can people be saved by way of religions other than Christianity?
  2. Can an individual be saved through his or her belief in Buddha, Brigham Young, or some other god (Confucius, etc.)?

The Bible states unequivocally that one can only experience God’s salvation through faith in Christ, as can be demonstrated by the following passages:

  1. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12, NASB).
  2. “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
  3. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).
  4. “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (Jn. 3:18).
  5. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (Jn. 5:24).
  6. “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me” (Jn. 5:46).
  7. “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal” (Jn. 6:27).
  8. “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (Jn. 6: 29).
  9. “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (Jn. 6:40).
  10. “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (Jn. 10:9).
  11. “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor Him” (Jn. 12:26).
  12. “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am” (Jn. 13:13).
  13. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (Jn. 14:6).
  14. “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn. 17:3).
  15. In all these verses, it is Jesus who is to be believed in, whose name humans are to believe in so that they can experience God’s salvation. John 3:18 says that judgment awaits the one who does not believe on the name of Jesus, God’s “one and only begotten Son.” In other words, there is only one whose name we must believe in to be saved — that is, the name of Jesus. This is the same message Peter proclaims while preaching publicly:
  16. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

First, notice that salvation comes through “no one else,” that “there is no other name under heaven” that can save humanity.

Peter’s words seem to exclude the possibility that God’s salvation can come through the names of Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, or some other human that mankind has elevated throughout world history. Peter’s statement does not so much as entertain the idea that mankind can be saved through the names of others who are not Jesus Christ.

Although inclusivism seems to be an intellectually acceptable position, it does not have biblical support. If one can only be saved by confessing the name of Jesus and following His teachings (Christianity, cf. Luke 14:26-27), then one cannot be labeled a follower of Jesus while practicing Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Mormonism, Hinduism, or the Muslim faiths.

If inclusivism lacks biblical support, the next question is as follows: Can Someone Turn Receptive to Christ by Way of General Revelation? Inclusivists also hold to general revelation as a source of conversion, but as will be shown in the article, General Revelation is Inadequate for Salvation.

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