Category Archives: Gospel

What is good news in a bad news world?

By Spencer D Gear PhD

After the Christchurch NZ massacre of 50 Muslims at Friday prayers on 15 March 2019 and about 50 injured, doesn’t it sound ridiculous to speak of:

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(image courtesy 123RF)

Sadly, there are things much more disastrous than terrorists in action. I mean that. Most Aussies and other people in the world don’t understand the . . .

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(image courtesy dreamstime)

What could be worse than this? Could I be talking about this Australian situation?

However, what are Australian governments doing?

(abortion image courtesy http://100abortionphotos.com/#23)clip_image005

This is a very bad situation, a horror that Australian governments at State and Federal levels are perpetrating.

What could be worse than this abortion? I put it to you that this condition I’m speaking about is far worse than any of the above and it leads to abortion, euthanasia, crime, violence, terrorism, and a glut of other evils.

Where does it come from?

It leads to this kind of warning:

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(image courtesy openclipart.org)

Jeremiah 17:9 (NET) tells us about the source of the problem: “The human mind is more deceitful than anything else. It is incurably bad.[1] Who can understand it?”

A deceitful human mind for all people is the bad news. It infects everything we think about, say or do. In New Testament terms, it is described as, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23 NET). Further,

So what benefit[2] did you then reap[3] from those things that you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death. But now, freed[4] from sin and enslaved to God, you have your benefit[5] leading to sanctification, and the end is eternal life. For the payoff[6] of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:21-23 NET).

The effects of this internal sin and then outward actions lead to death but this death does not relate only to the stopping of breathing.

The effects of sin

They are eternal. “For the payoff (wages)[7] of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23 NET).

The bad news is so serious because of its eternal consequences. The good news is positive because of its eternal benefits: “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects[8] the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath[9] remains[10] on him” (John 3:36 NET).

For how long will the unbeliever experience damnation? “And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life”[11] (Matt 25:46 NET).

The length of time for punishment for the unbeliever is the same as life for the believer. Which path will you travel for eternal life or eternal damnation? “If you have no desire[12] to worship[13] the LORD, then choose today whom you will worship” (Josh 24:15 NET).

It is the sin within human beings that contaminates

It is the wrongdoing, sinful nature within every human being that drives him or her to do wrong, whether that is stealing from the neighbour, killing unborn children in abortion, or committing adultery.

There is only one solution and that is through a changed heart and mind. I know of only one way to change your and my heart and mind. That’s through a changed relationship with God, brought about through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. He and He alone can change the human heart to want to pursue God.


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Detail from Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment, Sistine Chapel (courtesy Wikipedia)

Notes


[1] “Or “incurably deceitful”; Heb “It is incurable.” For the word “deceitful” compare the usage of the verb in Gen 27:36 and a related noun in 2 Kgs 10:19. For the adjective “incurable” compare the usage in Jer 15:18. It is most commonly used with reference to wounds or of pain. In Jer 17:16 it is used metaphorically for a “woeful day” (i.e., day of irreparable devastation).sn The background for this verse is Deut 29:18-19 (29:17-18 HT) and Deut 30:17.”

[2] Grk “fruit.”

[3]Grk “have,” in a tense emphasizing their customary condition in the past.’

[4] ‘The two aorist participles translated “freed” and “enslaved” are causal in force; their full force is something like “But now, since you have become freed from sin and since you have become enslaved to God….”

[5] Grk “fruit.”

[6] ‘A figurative extension of ??????? (ops?nion), which refers to a soldier’s pay or wages. Here it refers to the end result of an activity, seen as something one receives back in return. In this case the activity is sin, and the translation “payoff” captures this thought. See also L&N 89.42.’

[7] ‘A figurative extension of ??????? (ops?nion), which refers to a soldier’s pay or wages. Here it refers to the end result of an activity, seen as something one receives back in return. In this case the activity is sin, and the translation “payoff” captures this thought. See also L&N 89.42.’

[8] Or “refuses to believe,” or “disobeys.”

[9] Or “anger because of evil,” or “punishment.”

[10] Or “resides.”

[11] ‘Here the ultimate destination of the righteous is eternal life. In several places Matthew uses “life” or “eternal life” in proximity with “the kingdom of heaven” or merely “the kingdom,” suggesting a close relationship between the two concepts (compare Matt 25:34 with v. 46; Matt 19:16, 17, 29 with vv. 23, 24). Matthew consistently portrays “eternal life” as something a person enters in the world to come, whereas the Gospel of John sees “eternal life” as beginning in the present and continuing into the future (cf. John 5:24).’

[12]Heb “if it is bad in your eyes.”’

[13] Or “to serve.”

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 October 2021.

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The Gospel continues to be misunderstood

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Chester Beatty Pauline Epistles – early 3rd century. (Gal.vi.10-Phil.i.1)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

The Gospel continues to be misunderstood[1]

Even though the Gospel of eternal life vs eternal damnation is quite simple, it continues to be misunderstood and/or misrepresented. Many people are not sure to this day whether salvation is by grace through faith in Christ and His finished work of redemption, or whether baptism is necessary for salvation. Are other good works, or the sacraments, necessary for salvation?

Then there are some who claim that God arbitrarily elects some for salvation, and others for damnation (which would be a violation of the character of God as well as a travesty of the Gospel). This is the position of those who believe in double predestination such as John Piper.

Piper isn’t seeking to add two more points, but is simply calling attention to his belief in the traditional five points (total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints) in a way that also points toward two additional “Calvinistic” truths that follow from them: double predestination and the best-of-all-possible worlds (Permann 2006).

Therefore, we need to be clear from Scripture as to what exactly is the Gospel, and how God saves sinners purely by His grace. I do not support Piper’s 7-point Calvinism.

Then there are some who claim that God arbitrarily elects some for salvation, and others for damnation (which would be a violation of the character of God as well as a travesty of the Gospel). This is the position of those who believe in double predestination such as John Piper.

Piper isn’t seeking to add two more points, but is simply calling attention to his belief in the traditional five points (total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints) in a way that also points toward two additional “Calvinistic” truths that follow from them: double predestination and the best-of-all-possible worlds (Permann 2006).

Therefore, we need to be clear from Scripture as to what exactly is the Gospel, and how God saves sinners purely by His grace. I do not support Piper’s 7-point Calvinism.

See my articles:

clip_image004Salvation by grace but not by force: A person chooses to believe

clip_image004[1]Who can be reconciled to God?

clip_image004[2]Prevenient grace – kinda clumsy!

clip_image004[3]Is any flavor of Arminianism promoting error?

The cornerstone of salvation

1. “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Tim 1:15 NIV)


2. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17 NIV).


3. “The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house (Acts 16:29-32 NIV).

4. ‘If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”’ (Rom 10:9-13 NIV).


5. The importance of Jesus’ resurrection is emphasized in the Gospel:

clip_image006Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:1-4 NIV).

6. Romans 5:1-2 reminds us of another important dimension of salvation:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God” (Rom 5:1-2 NIV).

clip_image008 Eph 2:8-9 (NIV) emphasizes the importance of God’s grace in salvation: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

7. To have our sins paid for and for salvation to be granted, Scripture makes it clear

“he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Lk 24:46-47 NIV).

There is no salvation without the u-turn of repentance away from committing sins. We must not overlook this command from God: “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30 NIV).

8. Remember that salvation is the initiative of God. He does not drag you into the kingdom kicking and screaming. Jesus stated clearly in John 6:44 (NIV), ““No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

However, that leaves the door open to the question. Who can be drawn? Is that only a small number of the world’s population? John 12:32 answers for us, “And I, when I am lifted up [or exalted] from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

So, after Jesus’ crucifixion and exaltation, He draws all people to salvation.

Why don’t they all come to God/Christ?

clip_image010 ‘Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshipped beyond the River Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:14-15 NIV)

Even though it’s an Old Testament passage, it confirms how people come to serve the Lord or otherwise: “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Josh 24:15 NIV).

See my exposition of this passage in, Choose does not mean choice! Joshua 24:15.

Works consulted

Permann, Matt. “What Does Piper Mean When He Says He’s a Seven-Point Calvinist?” 23 January, 2006. Desiringgod.org.

Notes


[1] Christian Forums.net (online) 2019, The Gospel continues to be misunderstood, 28 April. Nathan12 #1. Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/the-gospel-continues-to-be-misunderstood.79385/ (Accessed 28 April 2019).

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 07 September 2021.

I don’t have the faith to believe.

Ships in a Storm, 1860 - Ivan Aivazovsky

(Image courtesy Wikiart)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Visit an Internet Christian forum and start a topic, “Faith is not the same as belief,” and watch the reaction.

I came in late when I participated in a discussion on the topic, “The Good News/The Bad News” (christianforums.net),[1] where I read these kinds of statements:

1. Are belief and faith the same?

clip_image002 I may be wrong in my assessment of your position, but it seems that you [Fastfredy0] are saying believing and faith are the same, nothing could be further from the truth.
Faith is a noun and comes to us when God speaks to us, whether directly as in Genesis 12, or indirectly through those He sends to preach the Gospel.
Believe on the other hand is a verb and is what we must to do in response to the Gospel message. Believe carries the idea of obey, which is why we se some passages say believe the Gospel, while others say obey the Gospel.
Do we agree on this or disagree?[2]

JLB continued:

The cause of faith is God. Faith is what we receive from God when He speaks to us. See Hebrews 11.
However, what causes faith to be activated, and be complete and able to produce the intended divine result is believing and therefore obeying; the obedience of faith?
When faith comes to us from God, because we hear Him speak to us, it is dormant and incomplete and must be activated or made alive by our obedience, our corresponding action of obedience.
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? James 2:21-22
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?

  • by works faith was made perfect?

Perfect here means complete.
The work that James is referring to is obedience to the word from God, by which Abraham received faith, which was to offer his son Isaac on the altar.
Do we agree or disagree?[3]

Part of Fastfredy0’s response was: “According to https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/belief-believe.html … belief/believe is the same as faith per the first bible dictionary I looked up.”[4]

Belief, Believe

· Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology /

· Belief, Believe

See Faith.[5]

So JLB sees faith and believe as different while Fredy considers them to be the same. This has been my view but I’m open to a different interpretation if there is biblical evidence.

2. Why go to Bible dictionaries?

clip_image003Why do we need another definition of faith, other than the definition the Bible gives? Please answer my question.”[6]

But the question remains, why do we look to Bible dictionaries written by men for the definition of a word when the Bible defines that word for us?
Can‘t we agree on the definition that the Bible gives us?
Faith comes to us from God, and is the substance of the thing hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.
[7]

My response was:[8]

Your post raises a few issues for me:

  1. Don’t you realise that we would not have translations into English or any other language if it were not for experts/scholars/professional linguists who knew the original languages? Have you ever looked at the translation committees for the KJV, ESV, NASB, NIV, NLT and NRSV? You should be staggered to know how knowledgeable these linguists were of the original languages. They are human beings. What?clip_image004
  1. clip_image006The Bible doesn’t give us the meaning of many verses. It simply gives us a basic translation. As we’ve found in this thread, the nuances of Eph 2:8-9 (ESV) are not clear from a basic reading of the text. It needs exegesis and the use of exegetical Greek aids from leading Greek commentators and Bible lexicons/dictionaries. I would not be able to exegete from the Greek if I didn’t study introductory Greek under Dr Larry Hurtado, Regent College, Vancouver BC, Canada, using J W Wenham’s, Elements of New Testament Greek, and in completing my BA in biblical literature and NT Greek at Northwest University, Kirkland WA, I used Dana & Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (available free online as pdf).
  1. I would not have grasped basic NT Greek if it were not for my Greek teachers who taught me. Believe it or not, they were men. I learned Greek from – shock horror – men who were God’s gift to the body of Christ.
  1. All Bible translations were translated by men and women. Does that bother you?
  1. Many times the Bible doesn’t define a word for us. That influenced Richard Trench to research and publish his book, The Synonyms of the New Testament (available online). By reading the English Bible alone, how will you differentiate among the three Greek words for love? What’s the difference in meaning for the “word” translated from logos or rhema? There are 3 Greek words for “hell”. What are the words and what are their differences in meaning? There are a few different words for “heaven”. What are the differences in meaning?
  1. Your position, in my view, demeans God’s gift of teacher for the benefit of the body of Christ (Eph 4:11-12 ESV).
  1. I can’t agree with you on “the definition that the Bible gives us” for a word. I find that to be a naive point of view as the Bible does not define all words. It translates them but exegesis is needed to get to the root meaning of some words.
  1. I recommend the article by I Howard Marshall, “The Problem of New Testament Exegesis (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society).”

JLB doesn’t give up: “When the Bible gives us the meaning of a word, especially an important word like faith, can’t we all agree this is the meaning that God intended for us to use?”[9] He continued his rave against God’s gift of Bible teachers:

Because Bible teachers are so desperately needed in this time of so much false doctrine, we should all be in agreement when the Bible defines a word for us, and we should use that definition rather than some commentary definition.
Are you are there is a difference between teaching scripture and teaching man’s commentaries?
The Pharisees taught commentary, a mixture of scripture and Talmud, and tradition. They ended up murdering Jesus who taught pure truth.
[10]

To this I responded:[11]

I’ve already answered you in #304.
I agree that the fundamental definition of faith is in
Heb 11:1 (ESV): “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
This verse involves intellectual assent to the facts of faith and trust (a conviction) in the facts.
How will you know the difference between the faith of Heb 11:1 (ESV) and the faith of
James 2:19 (ESV): “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe [have faith]—and shudder!”

What did I write at #304?[12]

I happen to believe in exegesis of the text and that means digging into the etymology of words, grammar, and syntax of the Greek language. You may be able to find that information from a plain reading of the text. I can’t. I don’t want a simplistic reading of the text.


I cited from the most extensive word studies ever produced, Kittel & Friedrich’s (eds) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.

I go to Bible Lexicons and Theological Dictionaries to better understand the meaning and etymology of words.

This poster jumped in with a helpful comment:

I think your (sic) misunderstanding.

The Bible was not written in English. Faith is an English word that was translated from a foreign language.


Studying the original language helps to better understand the text.
A servant is not above its master. If God declared His word in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, then English is serving those languages.

To raise the English language above the original tongues of those whom the Holy Spirit imparted God’s Word is to cause the master to become the servant.[13]

clip_image003[1]JLB can’t tolerate that kind of challenge. He wrote:

Of course I never said we are to raise the English language above the original language. What I am saying is, when the bible defines for us what a word means, then to refer to commentaries to validate a different definition is a recipe for division.
Believe and faith are two different words and should not be used interchangeably.
[14]

Again, this poster is pushing his idiosyncratic theology of faith and believing not being used interchangeably. That may be the case, but at this stage of my study and writing my article, based on my understanding of the Greek language, that is not the case. I’m tentative in saying they are synonyms.

JLB’s problem, in my view, is that he doesn’t know how to exegete words and grammar in Greek and Hebrew, so he resorts to English giving him the correct meaning when it can’t give him the differences in meaning for several Greek words such as faith/believe, love, hell, word, etc.

The Greek word for “unloving” in the Greek NT is astorgos, “a” meaning “no/not”, so it negates the Greek noun, storgos, which means “love, feel affection for someone, of the love of a wife for her husband.”[15] So astorgos refers to someone who is unloving, and feels no affection or love for another person, including a spouse. This is not the same kind of love as for philia or agape (or eros, which is not in the NT). Exegesis of the text is so important – obtaining the meaning out of the text and not imposing one’s meaning onto the text, of the original language.

If a preacher/teacher doesn’t know the original biblical language he or she will have to depend on commentaries by teachers who knew the original languages. Sometimes, comparing several different translations (both formal equivalence[16] and dynamic equivalence[17]) may help to better understand a word or passage, instead of using Bible lexicons. I appreciate that many Christians do not have the training in the original languages to be able to access Bible lexicons (dictionaries).

Astorgos is found in only two NT passages – Rom 1:31 and 2 Tim 3:3 – but it does involve a word for love – a negation of that word.

clip_image003[2]“When the Bible gives us the meaning of a word, especially an important word like faith, can’t we all agree this is the meaning that God intended for us to use?”[18]

“Believe and faith are two different words and should not be used interchangeably.”[19]

Believe and have faith in are not the same.
The verse does not say have faith in, that is your inserted opinion based on your understanding that comes from commentaries. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!
James 2:19.

The point James is making here is demons believe in God but don’t obey Him.
Believing without obeying is demonic believing and profits us nothing.
Likewise those who believe Jesus is Lord but don’t obey Him, are deceived.
Faith must have the action of obedience to be complete, and active or alive.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? James 2:21[20]

This is an example of some strange theology that lurks around churches and the Internet when Christians don’t dig deeper than a surface reading of the text in English. An exegesis of the noun, “faith,” and the infinitive, “to believe,” demonstrates faith and belief can be used interchangeably in the NT.[21] However, is that always the case?

3.  Light from Romans 3:22

Let’s use Rom 3:22 as an example (See translation below from the NIV).

English Bibles translate words from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. That does not give us the full meaning of any word or grammatical construction. That will take exegesis, but there are too many lazy promoters of the Bible who simply want to read a translated language in English as stating the true meaning of a word. That is not the way it is and I won’t accept such gullible conclusions.

We read this in John’s Gospel: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31 ESV). I have searched in vain in John’s Gospel for the word, “faith” (It may be there), but have not found the exact word but the concept of faith is there. Pisteuo and its declensions[22] are used over 100 times in John’s Gospel, meaning “I believe” (or other meaning of “believe” associated with the declension) and that leads to “life in his name” (John 20:31 ESV).

Examples of different declensions of pisteuo in John’s Gospel include:

  • John 1:7 (NASB), “so that all might believe through him.” “Might believe” is pisteus?sin, aorist, active, subjunctive, the subjunctive mood is the mood of doubt, 3rd person plural verb. Since it is aorist, it refers to a point of action, but there is doubt associated with it, so the translation, “might believe”, is more than acceptable.
  • John 3:12 (NASB), “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” Both uses of “believe and the negative do not believe.” The first use of “believe” is pisteuete (present tense, active voice, indicative mood, second person plural), which means you, as a group, do not continue to believe. The second use of “believe” is pisteusete, which is future tense, active voice, indicative mood, second person plural. Being future time, it does include a future time element.”
  •  John 17:8 (NASB), “they believed that You sent Me.” “Believed” is the Greek, episteusan, which is a pluperfect tense, which “is a secondary tense. It is used of action that had been completed prior to some point in the past. It is the Perfect Tense adjusted backward in time”.[23] So, the meaning here is that at some time in the past the disciples believed Jesus was sent by the Father.

Generally in Greek the suffixes for nouns are called declensions, while the suffixes for verbs are titled conjugations.

On the other hand, Rom 3:21-23 (NIV) states,

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in[24] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Here, righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. Are faith and belief interchangeable in Rom 3:22? Adam Clarke explained:

That method of saving sinners which is not of works, but by faith in Christ Jesus; and it is not restrained to any particular people, as the law and its privileges were, but is unto all mankind in its intention and offer, and becomes effectual to them that believe; for God hath now made no difference between the Jews and the Gentiles (Adam Clarke, Rom 3:22).

For Clarke, faith in Jesus Christ is available to all people but only becomes effective for those who believe in Jesus. This doesn’t clarify the verse for me.

Douglas Moo, an eminent contemporary Greek commentator, uses the Greek prepositions to explain and accept the traditional view that verse 22 deals with the “human” side of the transaction: “It is ‘through’ faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe…. Paul highlights faith as the means by which God’s justifying work becomes applicable to individuals.” Moo refers to “pistis almost always means ‘faith’: very strong contextual features must be present if any other meaning is to be adopted. But these are absent in the present if any other meaning is to be adopted” (Moo 1996, 224-25).

Moo is aware of a contemporary interpretation gaining favour: “Paul asserts not that God’s righteousness is attained ‘through faith in Jesus Christ,’ but ‘through the faith of Jesus Christ,’ or ‘through the faithfulness shown by Jesus Christ.” Moo does not find the argument for this view compelling.[25] He noted that the section of Rom 3:21—4:25 designated pistis to refer to “the faith exercised by people in God, or Christ, as the sole means of justification” (Moo 1996:225, emphasis in original).

Moo asks:

If Paul mentions human faith in this phrase, why then does he add the phrase ‘for all who believe’?… Paul’s purpose is probably to highlight the universal availability of God’s righteousness. This theme is not only one of the most conspicuous motifs of the epistle, but is explicitly mentioned in vv. 22b-23. God’s righteousness is available only through faith in Christ—but it is available to anyone who has faith in Christ (Moo 1996, 226).

I’m still left hanging: Do faith and to believe have the same or similar meanings?

John Murray considers there are two different applications. Firstly, he acknowledged, “We may wonder why there is the addition, ‘unto all who believe.’” He considered the most reasonable interpretation was:

Not only is the righteousness of God brought into this effectual relation to all believers. Faith is not only effectual to this end; it is invariably effective whoever the person believing is….

This interpretation receives confirmation from the immediately succeeding clauses: “for there is no difference. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. As all are sinners, so all believers are justified freely by God’s grace. There are thus two distinct shades of thought in the two elements of the clause. “Through faith of Jesus Christ” stresses the fact that it is only through faith in Christ that this righteousness of God is operative unto justification. “Unto all who believe” stresses the fact that this righteousness is always operative when there is faith (1968, 111-12).

So, as a Calvinist, John Murray understands Rom 3:22 teaches that: (1) There is only salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and (2) This faith, no matter what the nationality, is only effective when Christians put that faith into effect – by believing.

One author summarised this with care: “The root of pistis (“faith”) is peithô (“to persuade, be persuaded”) which supplies the core-meaning of faith (“divine persuasion“). It is God’s warranty that guarantees the fulfillment of the revelation He births within the receptive believer (cf. 1 Jn 5:4 with Heb 11:1)” [source].

4.  “Believe” in the Gospel of John

(Rylands Library Papyrus P52, recto, part of the Rylands Papyri, The front (recto) contains parts of seven lines from the Gospel of John 18:31–33, in Greek, and the back (verso) contains parts of seven lines from verses 37–38. Image courtesy Wikipedia.)

Therefore, in my understanding, the root meaning of pistis and pisteuo are related, but “faith” is in Christ alone for salvation and “I believe/I have faith” is the need to put faith into effect. Both refer to “divine persuasion” leading to action.
Why would John use “believe” and not “faith” in John 3:16 (NIV)? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” To believe leads to eternal life and saving from perishing. Romans 5:1 (NET) states, “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I can’t see “faith” and “to believe” providing much of a different interpretation – except “to believe” is an effect of “faith.”

So the noun, “faith,” is not used in the Gospel of John but the verb, pisteuo (‘I believe’) is used many times. Remember Jesus’ use of the verb in speaking to Thomas, the one who doubted Jesus. This applies to all who hear the Gospel: ‘Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”‘ (John 20:29).
Throughout Scripture, I find there is no clear distinction between faith and belief, but Rom 3:22 does hint at a difference. Both are based on the same Greek root: pistis (faith) and pisteuo (I believe). The root comes from peitho, which means “tried to convince” (Acts 18:4), “persuade, appeal to someone” (2 Cor 5:11), “conciliate, satisfy” (Matt 28:14), “depend on, trust in, put one’s confidence in” (Philm 21; Lk 11:22), “be convinced, be sure, certain” (Rom 2:19; Heb 13:18); in the passive voice, “be persuaded, be convinced, come to believe” (Luke 16:31; Heb 11:13); “obey, follow” (Rom 2:8; Gal 3:1); and “be convinced, certain” (Heb 6:9; Luke 20:6).
[26]

Differences between faith and belief

However, this online author considers there are differences between faith and belief:

Belief and faith are not exactly equivalent terms. When Jesus told people, “Your faith has made you well,” faith was still His gift (Eph 2:8, 9). Any gift however, once received, becomes the “possession” of the recipient. Faith however is always from God and is purely His work (2 Thess 1:11).

Note: The Greek definite article is uniformly used in the expressions “your faith,” “their faith” (which occur over 30 times in the Greek NT). This genitive construction with the article refers to “the principle of faith (operating in) you” – not “your faith” in the sense that faith is ever generated by the recipient.

[The meaning of the definite article in this construction is “the principle of faith at work in you,” “the operating-principle of faith in them,” etc. For examples see: Mt 9:2, 22, 29; Lk 17:19; Phil 2:17; 2 Pet 1:5, etc.]

Faith (pistis) involves belief but it goes beyond human believing because it involves the personal revelation (in-working) of God. Faith is always God’s work. Our believing has eternal meaning when it becomes “faith-believing” by the transforming grace of God.

Reflection: Demons believe (and shudder) . . . but they do not have (experience of) faith!

Jas 2:19: “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder” (NASB) [Source].

It seems this author is showing the difference between faith as a gift of God and believing that involves a person accepting that gift. I would add that this gift of faith that is believed, leading to salvation, must be followed by works that demonstrate a person is saved (see James 2:14-26 ERV).

It is possible for people to have fake or deficient faith or belief. The differences between faith and belief seem to be more in contemporary usage. As long as we remember faith and belief do not distinguish between mental assent and unswerving commitment, we are on safe biblical grounds.

5.  Conclusion

As I’ve written this article and considered some of the points above, I’m now unsure if faith and belief can be used interchangeably or have slight differences of meaning. Faith is a gift of God to the person who then accepts that gift – and believes. Is that the order?

I’ve had a change of heart in writing this article. If you want me to conclude that faith and belief are synonymous for the Christian faith, I have not yet become that fixed.

Faith is never generated by me but always by God who moves on my inner being. For the faith to be seen as genuine, it must be demonstrated by doing good deeds. However, God moves for me to experience faith, but I need to believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

6.  Works consulted

Bauer, E, W F Arndt & F W Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.[27] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House), 1957.

Moo, Douglas J. The Epistle to the Romans (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), Ned B Stonehouse, F F Bruce, and Gordon D Fee (gen. eds.). Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996.

Murray, John. The Epistle to the Romans, vol. 1 (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), F F Bruce (gen. ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. This is the one-volume edition that contains Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, but the page numbers start at the beginning for each volume, 1968.

Faith clipart | Etsy

7.  Notes


[1] Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/the-good-news-the-bad-news.84920/ (Accessed 9 January 2021).

[2] Ibid., JLB#251.

[3] Ibid., JLB#252.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., Fastfredy0#253.

[6] Ibid., JLB#342.

[7] Ibid., JLB#309.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#341.

[9] Ibib., JLB#343.

[10] Ibid., JLB#346.

[11] Ibid., OzSpen#347.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#304.

[13] Ibid., stovebolts#382.

[14] Ibid., JLB#396.

[15] Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich (1957, 774).

[16] These Bible translations include the ASV, Douay-Rheims, HCSB, KJV, NASB, NET, NKJV, ESV, RSV, NRSV and WEB.

[17] Examples include the CEV, ERV, NAB, NIRV, NIV, NJB, NLT, and REB.

[18] Ibid., JLB#343.

[19] Ibid., JLB#396.

[20] Ibid., JLB#353.

[21] Ibid., OzSpen#450.

[22] Declensions in Greek refer to the endings (suffixes) that indicate gender, number and case of a word. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the meaning of “declension” (2020. s.v. “gender”) as, “(in the grammar of Latin, Greek, and certain other languages) the variation of the form of a noun, pronoun, or adjective, by which its grammatical case, number, and gender are identified,” accessed 11 January 2021, https://www.lexico.com/definition/declension.

[23] New Testament Greek, Course II, Lesson 3, Available at: http://ntgreek.net/lesson23.htm (Accessed 11 January 2021).

[24] “Or through the faithfulness of” (footnote in NIV).

[25] The newer view interprets pistis followed by the genitive case as subjective genitive. However, the traditional interpretation uses pistis followed by the objective genitive (e.g. he pistis humov, ‘your faith’, as in NIV and RSV).

[26] Peitho’s definition is from Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich (1957, 644-45).

[27] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 January 2021.

Free Line Clip Art Pictures - Clipartix

Free Line Clip Art Pictures - Clipartix

Can world not mean world?

(courtesy freeclipartnow.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Do you think that it is possible for people to argue over the meaning of ‘the world’? Yep! I was engaged in such a discussion on an Internet forum where world was made to mean other than world.

What’s the meaning of ‘world’ in John 3:16?

This is probably the best known verse in the whole of the Bible for evangelical Christians. Many regard it as a summary of the Gospel message. It states: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’ (ESV).

Calvinists often make ‘world’ in John 3:16 not mean the total world of all people. Here’s a sample from Calvinists on a leading Christian forum on the subject, ‘John 3:16 – is it important what the average Joe understands by ‘world’?’[1]

blue-corrosion-arrow-small ‘What matters is what the Apostle John intended not what the reader understands. It is the duty of any reader to pay attention to context and try to understand what John meant. It is intellectually dishonest and lazy to take his words (or any words) at face value and assume a surface-level meaning’.[2]

blue-corrosion-arrow-small ‘Of the 10+ uses of "world" that John uses in his writings, why did you pick that one?’[3]

blue-corrosion-arrow-small ‘I guess you misunderstood the question. Of the 10+ uses of "world" that John uses in his writings, you chose the one that means every person who’s every lived. Why is that?’[4]

I asked this Calvinist:

1) Would you please document where those 10+ meanings of ‘world’ are found in John’s Gospel?
2) Would you please document from a Greek lexicon there are 10+ meanings of ‘world’ in the Gospel of John?[5]

How to avoid answering the question

This person’s immediate response was: ‘No. But if you’d like to, go ahead’.[6] Do you see what he was doing? He was the one who made the claim of 10+ meanings of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel, but he doesn’t want to provide the evidence. He wants me to do the hard work for him. I won’t fall for that trick. It’s his responsibility to provide the evidence for the claim he is making.

How should I reply to him? ‘Why are you prepared to assert that there are 10+ meanings of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel and not be prepared to demonstrate where they are in John’s Gospel and how those 10 different meanings are defined by a leading Greek lexicon? If you are not prepared to document them, it becomes your assertion with no proof.’[7] His retort was, ‘I’m sorry that you think John only uses one definition for "world" in his writings. How did you determine which one John uses?’[8] My reply to this lie about my position was: ‘Not once have I ever said that. It is your false accusation against me. Please withdraw that statement against me immediately’.[9]

He continued his avoidance of providing the 10+ definitions of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel: ‘So if [you] don’t believe that, then why do you need a list of definitions?’[10] I continued: ‘I asked you to remove your false statement against me. Why have you not removed your false statement and given me a red herring fallacy here? When will you remove this false statement about my view of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel?’[11]

There was more and more avoidance from this Calvinist: ‘On what basis did I know that it was a false statement? It sure seemed true when I said it. You are free to refute it. When you do, however, please explain why you needed me to provide definitions’.[12] My response was to repeat what I’d raised previously:

It was a false statement by you against me because I have never ever stated that there is only one meaning of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel. Thus your statement about my one meaning of ‘world’ was an invention.
You need to provide definitions because so far you have only made assertions that ‘world’ has 10+ meanings in John’s Gospel. You have not demonstrated this to be true. Please provide the evidence that I have asked.[13]

He came back with further goading of me: ‘If you honestly believe that John only uses one definition for "world" in his writings, I’ll provide you a link to the various examples’.[14] At this point I reported him to the moderators for his going against the rules of the Forum with his goading of me. To goad means, ‘to prick or drive with, or as if with, a goad; prod; incite’ (dictionary.com).

Further tactics for not answering questions

Image result for clipart question mark public domainThis fellow (and he has done this a number of times to other people and me on various topics) uses a standard tactic when he doesn’t want to answer my question. He changes topics. This is called a red herring logical fallacy.

This is how he did it:

Oz (me): ‘When will you quit your goading me with your repetition of a false statement about my view of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel?’[15]

Hamm (my Calvinistic opponent): ‘Do you believe that John uses more than one definition for "world" in his writings? If so, how many definitions does he use?’[16]

Notice what he did. He did not answer my question about when he was going to quit goading me by a false statement about my view of ‘world’ in John’s Gospel. He got back to what he wanted to talk about: Do you believe that John uses only one definition of ‘world’? I have denied it post after post, but this is what he did when he didn’t want to answer my questions of him re goading me.

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Watch for this tactic by people in debate and conversation. What is a red herring logical fallacy? The Nizkor Project describes it as:

Also Known as: Smoke Screen, Wild Goose Chase.

Description of Red Herring

A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to "win" an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic. This sort of "reasoning" has the following form:

1. Topic A is under discussion.

2. Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A).

3. Topic A is abandoned.

This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because merely changing the topic of discussion hardly counts as an argument against a claim.

The discussion on the forum was closed by a moderator who considered the discussion ‘is getting more and more toxic’.[17]

Let’s check out a couple of commentators

What would a leading Calvinistic commentator say that the meaning of ‘world’ is in John 3:16?

Don Carson

CarsonD.A.01

(D A Carson, courtesy Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)

 

D A Carson is a Calvinist[18] and his commentary on John’s Gospel describes the meaning of ‘world’:

‘It is atypical for John to speak of God’s love for the world, but this truth is therefore made to stand out as all the more wonderful. Jews were familiar with the truth that God loved the children of Israel; here God’s love is not restricted by race. Even so, God’s love is to be admired not because the world is so big and includes so many people, but because the world is so bad; that is the customary connotation of kosmos (‘world’; cf. notes on 1:9). The world is so wicked that John elsewhere forbids Christians to love it or anything in it (1 Jn. 2:15-17). There is no contradiction between the prohibition and the fact that God does love it. Christians are not to love the world with the selfish love of participation; God loves the world with the self-less costly love of redemption’ (Carson 1991:205, emphasis in original).

So God’s love is not restricted to one particular group of people, according to Carson, but God’s love is admired because the world is so wicked but God loves it with the costly love of redemption. So Carson is interpreting ‘world’ to mean the whole world of wickedness.

Carson’s comments on John 1:9 are:

‘If the phrase "coming into the world" is understood to be masculine and attached to "every man", then we must translate this verse as in NIV fn. [footnote]: "This was the true light that gives light to every man who comes into the world" (similarly AV). If this is the correct rendering, then there is nothing here or in v. 10 that requires us to go beyond the illumination granted to the entire race in the Word’s creative activity (cf. vv. 4-5). This view is reinforced by a common rabbinic expression, "all who come into the world", used to describe "every man". But that expression is always plural; the construction here is singular. It is best to take "coming into the world" as a neuter form attached to "light", adopting the translation of NIV: The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. The most convincing support for this rendering is the fact that "coming into the world" or being sent into the world is in this Gospel repeatedly predicated of him who is the Word. Moreover the peculiar Greek syntax this translation presupposes is a common feature of John’s style (cf. 1;28; 2:6; 3:23; 10:40; 11;1; 13:23; 18:18, 25). What this means is that in this verse it is the Word, the light, that is coming into the world, in some act distinct from creation. If incarnation is not spelled out as forcefully as in v. 14, it is the same special visitation that is in view. Few could read the Fourth Gospel for the second time without recognizing that the coming of the Word into the world, described in the Prologue, is northing other than the sending of the Son into the world, described in the rest of the book’ (Carson 1991:121-122).

In his explanation of the meaning of ‘world’ in John 3:16, Carson referred back to commentary on John 1:9 where Carson emphasises that ‘world’ means that Jesus’ coming into the world to be a light was to be a light ‘to every man’ (i.e. to every human being), ‘the entire race’, and ‘than the sending of the Son into the world, described in the rest of the book’.

So D A Carson, a Calvinist, regards ‘world’ in John 3:16 as ‘God’s love is to be admired not because the world is so big and includes so many people, but because the world is so bad; that is the customary connotation of kosmos’. So how much of the world is so bad that God’s love needs to send a Saviour? The whole wicked world – every person in the world.

Leon Morris

 

(Leon Morris, courtesy Wikipedia)

Leading Greek exegete and commentator, the late Leon Morris, in his commentary on John 3:16 wrote:

‘God loved "the world"…. The Jew was ready enough to think of God as loving Israel, but no passage appears to be cited in which any Jewish writer maintains that God loved the world. It is a distinctively Christian idea that God’s love is wide enough to embrace all mankind. His love is not confined to any national group or any spiritual elite. It is a love which proceeds from the fact that He is love (I John 4:8, 16). It is His nature to love. He loves men because He is the kind of God He is. John tells us that His love is shown in the gift of His Son’ (Morris 1971:229).

That is as clear as crystal for Leon Morris: ‘God’s love is wide enough to embrace all mankind. His love is not confined to any national group or any spiritual elite’. All human beings are included in God’s love articulated in John 3:16.

 

Conclusion

Some Calvinists on this Christian forum want to distort the meaning of ‘world’ to comply with their narrow version of God’s atonement – limited atonement. When God ‘gave his only begotten son’ (John 3:16) to die as an atonement, it was based on God’s love for the whole world – every person in the world. This does not teach universalism (all will be saved) but God’s love extending to every human being so that when he sent his Son to die on the cross, it made provision of salvation for the whole world.

We know this as it is confirmed in:

  • I John 2:2, ‘He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’ (ESV),
  • Titus 2:11, ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people’, and
  • 2 Peter 3:9, ‘The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance’.

Works consulted

Carson, D A 1991. The gospel according to John. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Morris, L 1971. The gospel according to John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Notes


[1] Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, janxharris#1, 3 January 2014, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7796376/ (Accessed 6 January 2014).

[2] Ibid., Skala#4.

[3] Ibid., Hammster#7.

[4] Ibid., Hammster#17, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7796376-2/.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#84, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7796376-9/.

[6] Ibid., Hammster#85.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#89.

[8] Ibid., Hammster#90.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#96, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7796376-10/.

[10] Ibid., Hammster#97.

[11] Ibid., OzSpen#98.

[12] Ibid., Hammster#100.

[13] Ibid., OzSpen#102, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7796376-11/.

[14] Ibid., Hammster#

[15] Ibid., OzSpen#105, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7796376-11/.

[16] Ibid., Hammster#106.

[17] Ibid., Edial#111, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7796376-12/,

[18] In this article, ‘Characteristics of New Calvinism’, D A Carson is associated with New Calvinism. Available at: http://www.newcalvinist.com/ (Accessed 6 January 2014).

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.

Hope for the Hopeless

Hope

ChristArt

by Spencer D. Gear[1]

This is a “no hope” world. If we want to put people down, we call them “no hopers.” Just think of what has happened to hope during this century. Two world wars, Hitler’s gas ovens and the deaths of 6 million Jews, the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the atomic age ushered in with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The killing fields of Pol Pot‘s Cambodia. The slaughter in Rwanda, Zaire and Port Arthur (Tasmania, Australia).

Some of the young people I speak to, who are contemplating suicide, tell me they see no future. They have given up hope.

Dr Brendan Nelson, former president of the Australian Medical Association and now a member of Federal Parliament, wrote a letter to The Australian newspaper in which he said:

“The thematic currency of youth suicide is our failure to transmit a sense of belonging and meaningful purpose to young people. We have created a culture in which young people frequently feel they have nothing other than themselves in which to believe. The mesh of values that held Australian society together 30 years ago – God, king and country – has been systematically dismantled, leaving only a vacuum. The price of our shallowness is being paid by our children”.[2]

When the apostle Peter wrote to persecuted Christians scattered across Asia Minor, he affirmed their “living hope.” Pie-in-the-sky stuff? Never!

It is a living hope only because Jesus is alive. It is a hope that will not die because of the one who conquered death through his resurrection.

This is the living hope for which our young yearn. Who will tell them of the hope in Jesus?

As Bill and Gloria Gaither’s song puts it: “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow; because He lives, all fear is gone; because I know Who holds the future and life is worth the living just because He lives”.[3]

 

Notes:


[1]At the time I wrote this brief article for a local newspaper (under authorisation from the local Ministers’ Fraternal), I was the co-ordinator and counsellor of a youth counselling service in Bundaberg, Qld., Australia and a member of the Bundaberg Ministers’ Association.

[2] Letters to the editor, “Suicide the price of our shallowness,” Dr Brendan Nelson, Federal Liberal Party member for Bradfield, NSW, Weekend Australian, January 11-12, 1997, p. 20.

[3] Performed here by the Gaither Vocal Band, available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOZ6dQhGcCw (Accessed 23 December 2013).

 
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 November 2015.

The disaster of easy believism

Full Trust

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

Can a person believe in Jesus once, then forget God, and be OK to enter God’s kingdom?

There’s a theology making it around the Internet and theological circles that is called Free Grace. This theology promotes the view that a person only needs to believe once and doesn’t have to continue to believe to receive salvation.

We see it in statements like these:

 

A. Free Grace theology

S Michael Houdmann explains:

Free Grace Theology is essentially a view of soteriology grown from more traditional Baptist roots. It was systematized by theologians such as Dr.’s Charles Ryrie and Zane Hodges in the 1980s, mainly as a response to its antithesis, Lordship Theology or Lordship Salvation, which has its roots in Reformed theology. Today, Free Grace is still going strong, supported by such Christian voices as Tony Evans, Erwin Lutzer, Bruce Wilkinson, Dallas Theological Seminary, and the Grace Evangelical Society.

The basic teaching of Free Grace Theology is that responding to the “call to believe” in Jesus Christ through faith alone is all that is necessary to receive eternal life. This basic, simple belief brings assurance of “entering” the kingdom of God. Then, if a person further responds to the “call to follow” Jesus, he becomes a disciple and undergoes sanctification. The follower of Christ has the opportunity to “inherit” the kingdom of God, which includes receiving particular rewards based on works accomplished for God on earth.

Free Grace theologians point to a number of passages to validate their distinction between having saving faith and following Christ, mainly from the Gospel of John and the Pauline Epistles. For instance, Jesus’ explanation to the woman at the well of how to receive salvation—that she simply ask Him for it (John 4:10)—is compared to Jesus’ words to the disciples a few minutes later—that they must “do the will of him who sent me” (John 4:34).

Other verses in John’s Gospel mention the act of belief as the sole requirement for salvation, including John 3:16 and John 5:24. And John 6:47 says, “The one who believes has eternal life.” The fact that works lead to rewards in heaven may be seen in passages such as Matthew 5:1–15; 1 Corinthians 3:11–15; and Hebrews 10:32–36, particularly verse 36, which reads, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”

Many Reformed theologians are appalled by the assertions of Free Grace theologians, accusing them of “easy believism” or even antinomianism. Antinomianism is the heretical belief that a Christian is under no law whatsoever, whether biblical or moral, and thus may do whatever he pleases. The fact of the matter is that Free Grace Theology can make it easier to arrive at antinomianism. However, Free Grace teaching is not antinomian per se. Free Grace theologians consider their position more biblical than Lordship Salvation, which they consider to be a works-based theology. According to Free Grace theologians, Lordship Salvation holds that saving faith includes inherently the “act” of accomplishing radical internal change leading to good works.

This leads to the Free Grace emphasis on assurance of salvation, again based on the basic promises in John’s Gospel, that belief is all that is necessary for salvation. To the Free Grace theologian, this is a simple, cut-and-dried issue—if you believe, you are saved. For the Lordship Salvation camp, assurance of salvation comes through the observation of change in the professing believer, i.e., that he is accomplishing good works. Each camp views the other as possibly leading to heresy.

Although Free Grace Theology and Lordship Salvation are terms that have developed only recently, they represent concerns that have been around since the beginning of the church. At the end of the day, there is no question about the basic salvation of those who hold either view—which is ironic, since their disagreement is about salvation! Both views are within the limits of orthodoxy. Still, this does not mean it’s an insignificant discussion. One’s beliefs in this matter can change his view of himself, God, and salvation a great deal (Houdmann 2013).

I met a fellow advocating this Free Grace view on a Christian Forum on the Internet. He wrote:

No, pisteuo [I believe] doesn’t encompass the idea of obedience. It has to to with believing, trusting. If you want to go the route of “committing”, fine. But it doens’t (sic) mean to commit your life to Christ, as LS [Lordship Salvation] teaches. It means to commit your soul to Christ for salvation, which is just another way to say “believe/trust” in Him.

In effect, we are trusting our souls to Him to save us.

Any reference to obedience follows salvation is commanded of all of God’s children. But one must become a child of God FIRST before any commands to obey are in play.

There is no works, deeds, etc that any unbeliever can do to be saved. Only by faith is one saved. Following that, one must obey to be blessed and rewarded.[1]

Middletown Bible Church, Middletown CT, has provided a summary of the views of free grace theology in the article, ‘The Teachings of Zane Hodges, Joseph Dillow, Robert Wilkin (The Grace Evangelical Society) and the extreme teachings of J. D. Faust’. This teaching includes these views:

Zane C. Hodges

Zane Hodges (Courtesy Grace Evangelical Society)

  1. What is the relationship between saving faith and good works? Hodges insists that good works are not the necessary outcome of saving faith.
  2. Can a true believer totally abandon Christ and the faith even to the point where he no longer believes in Christ and denies the facts of the gospel? Hodges insists that this is possible and even cites an example of this which will be discussed later in this paper.
  3. Can a person who habitually lives in sin [even as a homosexual or as an adulterer or as a drunkard or as a murderer] claim full assurance of salvation? Hodges insists that this is possible because, according to his view, assurance of salvation is based upon the promises of God and has nothing to do with how a person lives.  Hodges seems to teach that it is wrong to ever call into question the salvation of any person who professes faith in Christ, no matter how wickedly he may live.  He may live like a child of the devil, but as long as he claims to be a child of God, we should believe him.
  4. If a person truly has eternal life, will this life be evidenced in any way? Hodges insists that it is possible that there will be no evidence at all. In other words, a person can KNOW he is saved but he need not SHOW that he is saved.  Hodges teaches that the grace of God is able to save a person but it may or may not transform a person.
  5. Will all believers inherit the kingdom of God or only some? Hodges insists that all believers will enter the kingdom but the wicked believers (those believers who are drunkards, homosexuals, thieves, fornicators, covetous, etc.) will not inherit the kingdom.
  6. What did James mean when he said, “Faith without works is dead”? Hodges insists that James was teaching that a saved person can have a dead faith and have a life devoid of good works.
  7. What did John mean in his first epistle when he said, “We know that we have passed from death unto life because…” “By this we do know that we know Him…” etc.? Hodges insists that such verses are not to be taken as “tests of life” but should be understood as “tests of fellowship.” See also Dillow, p. 407. Both men teach that a true believer can habitually hate the brethren, disobey Christ’s commands, practice unrighteousness and continue in sin.

 

B. Believe in Jesus: That’s all you need to get there!

I responded:[2]

If we use John 3:16 as an example. It uses the present tense participle of pisteuw BUT it is followed by the Greek preposition, eis (into). According to Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon pisteuw means

believe (in), trust of relig. belief in a special sense, as faith in the Divinity that lays special emphasis on trust in his power and his nearness to help, in addition to being convinced that he exists and that his revelations or disclosures are true. In our lit. God and Christ are objects of this faith’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:666-667, emphasis in original).

So trust in Christ is the meaning of pisteuw, but the present tense is critical for understanding because the meaning of the Greek present tense in verbals is continuing action of belief/trust. It is not a once-off (which would have been aorist tense) belief/trust, but it is continuing belief. That’s why I find that perseverance of the saints is a more accurate description of this teaching than OSAS.
How would he respond to this kind of information?

Except what Jesus and Paul said, using the aorist tense for “believe”.
Luke 8:12 “lest you believe and be saved”
Acts 16:31 “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved”.
[3]

 

C. Present and perfect do the aorist gymnastics

hoi pros kairon pisteuousin (Lk 8:13)

pepisteukws (Acts 16:34)

My reply was:[4]

FlowerLuke 8:12
is hina me pistuesantes swthwsin (that they may not believe [and] be saved] You are correct that Pisteusantes is an aorist tense. It is also a passive, subjunctive participle. Aorist refers to punctiliar action, and this refers to the initial act of faith.

But we must go on to the next verse, Luke 8:13, which uses hoi pros kairon pisteuousin  [who for a time continue to believe] – pisteuousin is present tense, middle voice, indicative mood, i.e. continue to believe for themselves.

So the interpretation of Luke 8:12 cannot be made in isolation from the very next verse, Lk 8:13. Yes, there is an initial act of believing in 8:12, but they continue to believe (8:13) for a short time and then fall away.

Therefore, I cannot accept Luke 8:12 as an example of no need to continue to believe.

FlowerActs 16:31 states, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved’. It is true that ‘believe’ is pisteuson, a 2nd person singular, aorist, active imperative. It refers to the point action of something that happened.

But Acts 16:31 cannot be separated from Acts 16:34, ‘he had believed in God’. Here believed is pepisteukws (from pisteuw-). It is a perfect tense, active, participle. What’s the meaning of the perfect tense in Greek? ‘The perfect represents a present state resulting from a past action‘ (Wenham 1965:139, emphasis in original). So the application of Acts 16:34 to Acts 16:31 is that the believing in the past (16:31) continues the believing in the present (16:34).

Therefore, I do not see that Luke 8:12 and Acts 16:31 reach the exegesis that you are pressing because of the context that refutes such an aorist idea. For a person to be saved, he/she must have an initial act to believe, but he/she must continue to believe/trust in Christ (present or perfect tenses). The results from a past action are continuing in the present. That’s what these two verses teach in context.

  • The aorist tense indicates the beginning of the believing action (Lk 8:12), but in Lk 8:13, the present tense of ‘believe’ indicates the need to continue believing.
  • The aorist tense indicates the beginning of the command to believe (Acts 16:31), but Acts 16:34 has the perfect tense of ‘believe’ to demonstrate the need for continuing results.

Trust Jesus

ChristArt

D. Free grace opponents: Lordship salvation

Those who oppose the Free Grace view promote Lordship salvation. Phillip Simpson defines this view, which he supports:

Lordship salvation proponents teach that, when one receives Christ, he receives Him as both Savior and Lord. “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). In other words, implicit in the salvation process is an understanding, however rudimentary, that Christ is Lord and has the right to call the shots (Simpson 2006).

The author who drew the line in the sand was John MacArthur Jr, in challenging the free grace doctrine, with his 1988 book, The gospel according to Jesus (it is now in its revised edn 2008). The publisher’s description of the latest edition is:

The first edition of The Gospel According to Jesus won wide acclaim in confronting the ‘easy-believism’ that has characterized some aspects of evangelical Christianity. Over the past 50 years, a handful of books have become true classics, revered world-wide for their crystal-clear presentation of the Gospel and lauded for their contribution to the Christian faith. These extraordinary books are read, re-read, and discussed in churches, Bible study groups, and homes everywhere. John MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus is one of those books. In The Gospel According to Jesus, MacArthur tackles the idea of ‘easy believism,’ challenging Christians to re-evaluate their commitment to Christ by examining their fruits. MacArthur asks, ‘What does it really mean to be saved?’ He urges readers to understand that their conversion was more than a mere point in time, that, by definition, it includes a lifetime of obediently walking with Jesus as Lord. This 20th anniversary edition of MacArthur’s provocative, Scripture-based book contains one new chapter and is further revised to provide Christians in the 21st century a fresh perspective on the intrinsic relationship between faith and works, clearly revealing Why Jesus is both Savior and Lord to all who believe (Zondervan.com 2009).

The Gospel According to Jesus: Revised & Updated Anniversary Edition - By: John MacArthur<br /><br /><br />

Courtesy Christianbook.com

What are the consequences of ‘easy believism’ or free grace theology?

  • A person can believe very little about Jesus, ask Him into his/her life and he/she has entrance into the kingdom of God.
  • Then a person can go ahead and do whatever he/she wants and still be saved. That’s why the title of the thread on Christian Forums has particular application: Free Grace Theology – The theology that allows devil worshippers into heaven’.
  • It means that many who made a ‘decision’ for Jesus as a child, teens or later and then turned away from Jesus, now gives them entrance into the kingdom of God. It’s a travesty of the true Gospel. See my summary, ‘The content of the Gospel … and some discipleship’. I can think of two people right now who made ‘decisions’ to follow Christ in their teens and are no longer serving God. Yet, under free grace theology, they are OK to enter God’s kingdom.
  • What does this do to the Gospel presentation when people make an easy decision for Jesus, it has no roots of continuing faith, and they depart from the faith?

E. Conclusion

There can be no initial salvation and then eternal bliss. There must be continuing salvation with present results for God to grant entry into the eternal kingdom of God. That’s what the Greek tenses teach.

The true believers are those who continue to believe in Jesus right up to their dying day. Perseverance of the saints is the biblical doctrine rather than the ‘once saved always saved’ potential façade.

In Aussie land, we say that you need to be fair dinkum for Jesus forever. I’m a dinkum Aussie Christian. No other kinds will enter God’s kingdom through Christ’s shed blood.

Fair dinkum = the truth

Koala native marsupial of Australia

Koala (courtesy www.imagesaustralia.com)

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[5] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).
Houdmann, S M 2013, What is free grace? What is Free Grace Theology? (online). GotQuestions?org. Available at:
http://www.gotquestions.org/free-grace.html (Accessed 21 December 2013).

MacArthur Jr., J 2008. The gospel according to Jesus: What is authentic faith? (rev edn). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan

Simpson, P L 2006. A Biblical Response to the Teachings of Zane Hodges, Joseph Dillow, and the Grace Evangelical Society (Called the “Free Grace” Movement) [online]. Available at: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/freegrace.html (Accessed 21 December 2013).

Wenham, J W 1965. The elements of New Testament Greek. London / New York: Cambridge University Press.

Notes:

 [1] FreeGrace2#32, 21 December 2013, Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘Free Grace Theology – The theology that allows devil worshippers into heaven’ (online). Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7793916-4/ (Accessed 21 December 2013).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#68, 21 December 2013. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7793916-7/ (Accessed 21 December 2013).

[3] FreeGrace2#91, 21 December 2013. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7793916-10/ (Accessed 21 December 2013).

[4] OzSpen#102, 21 December 2013. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7793916-11/ (Accessed 21 December 2013).

[5] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).


Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 November 2015.

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I can’t do it on my own – the testimony of Nick Vujicic

Nick Vujicic, courtesy Wikipedia

By Spencer D Gear

I have seen a news item on Australian TV’s ‘60 Minutes’ program about Nick Vujicic who was born without legs and arms from tetra-amelia syndrome, 4 December 1982. For limbs, he has only what he calls a chicken leg of a foot.

However, I was introduced to his victorious Christian testimony in this YouTube video, God is sufficient  (it has German subtitles but all of the talking is in English). Enjoy! And praise God for the opportunities He gives, no matter what the disability in life.

Here is an amazing story with amazing apologetic impact. My trials and difficulties, three bouts of rheumatic fever as a child and 4 mitral valve surgeries as an adult,  are trivial compared with this man’s, but his testimony for Christ is amazing. His God is sufficient for him to have a victorious life in the midst of severe disabilities.

Nick was born to a Serbian pastor and his wife in Brisbane, Australia. Read his story in Wikipedia, Nick Vujicic. This article states that ‘Vujicic graduated from Griffith University at the age of 21 with a double major in accountancy and financial planning’. Did you get it? Without arms and legs and he completed a bachelor’s degree with a double major by the age of 21? He certainly can’t do it on his own. His God is sufficient for all his needs.

On 10 February 2012, Nick married Kenae Miyahara in California, USA. See the story, ‘Limbless evangelist Nick Vuijicic  honeymoons with new wife in Hawaii’. At the time of this writing, they are expecting their first child. See, ‘Limbless Evangelist Nick Vujicic Announces Breaking News: We are Expecting!’ (The Gospel Herald, 22 August 2012).

Is there any disability that you have that could be more severe than Nick’s? I found this testimony to be an amazing testimony and defense of the vibrant Christian faith in such a practical ministry to school youth and to prisoners (in the YouTube video).

He has a developing ministry, Life without Limbs. Read some more of this inspiring man’s message in, ‘Who validates you?

Courtesy Wikipedia

Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

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Colossians 1:21-23: News! News! The in-depth news![1]

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Christ Art

By Spencer D Gear

I. Introduction

News! News! All the news! The latest news! The oldest news! Good news! Bad news! You get the most in-depth news coverage by tuning into this news.

It is not Channel 7 national news. I’m not speaking about ABC radio news. You won’t get it on 60 minutes, A Current Affair, Today Tonight, or the 7.30 Report. This is not The Courier-Mail, The Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age or Time magazine. This is the most in-depth news you need to live your life. I’m speaking about the news in Col. 1:21-23. These three verses read in the New International Version:

21Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

A. Let’s place this passage in context in Colossians 1

Paul has just written one of the most magnificent proclamations of the superiority of Jesus Christ. Just before he launches into today’s subject, Paul gives us the HEADLINE news in vv. 19-20.

There are three HEADLINES in the one article that tell us who Jesus is:

  • Main headline:

God’s fullness dwells in him (v. 19).

Jesus is fully God. It’s a similar expression to Col. 2:9, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”

  • Second headline:

Even though this is a wicked, hostile world, Christ will eventually reconcile all things to himself in heaven and on earth (v. 20).

  • Third headline:

How come? There will be permanent peace through Christ’s shed blood on the cross (v. 20).

This is the backdrop (context of the passage): The God-man, Jesus Christ, provides reconciliation and peace through his blood shed through death.

Now we come to Colossians 1:21-23.

B. What’s the message of this passage in a nutshell? (Proposition)

Paul wants to get through to the Colossians and to us: The gospelproclaimed is in-depth news. This is the most in-depth news you will ever discover about human beings. To be in-depth news,

II. Firstly, the gospel proclaimed must include the BAD news story (v. 21).

In vv. 21-23, we have a brief outline of some essential content of the Gospel. Please notice this in-depth news begins with bad news (v 21).

A. The bad news is this:

6pointblue-small all people are “alienated from God.” “Alienated[2] = “transferred to another owner.”[3] “As vivid a picture of the non-Christian world as in Rom. 1:20-23.”[4]

All people are in a fixed state of being alienated[5] from God. They are born as rebel sinners, whose allegiance is transferred to the devil himself. This alienation from God is not just for those in deepest darkest Africa. It describes all people in deepest, darkest, open and transparent Hervey Bay – they may be dressed in businessmen’s suits, teachers, school children , truck drivers, mothers and fathers, children.

All of the Colossians and all of us were “alienated from God” before we came to Christ in repentance, confession and faith. But the situation gets even worse. You were:

6pointblue-small “Enemies” of God. You had a hostile hatred[6] of God.

6pointblue-small Where is this hatred located according to Col. 1:21? You were “enemies in your minds.” For all people, in their thinking they are enemies of God before they come to Christ.

6pointblue-small Notice what happens with all ungodly people. When they hate God in their minds, it results in “evil behavior” (v. 21).

We know that God reveals himself to all people through creation: (the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands, Ps. 19:1-4). God reveals himself to all people through conscience: (Rom. 2:14-15).

What do we do with this knowledge? Romans 1:18-19 explains, “The godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them” (NIV).

Do you see the vicious cycle for all unbelievers?

God reveals himself in creation and conscience (leads to) ð we are enemies of God in our minds

blue-satin-arrow-small we hold down (suppress) the truth of God

blue-satin-arrow-smallwe do evil deeds

blue-satin-arrow-small God continues to reveal himself

blue-satin-arrow-small we think hostile things

blue-satin-arrow-small we suppress the truth

blue-satin-arrow-small we commit all kinds of wickedness.

And the merry go round goes on and on UNTIL God intervenes in our lives with the GOOD NEWS.

It bothers me when this BAD news is toned down or only part of the story is told. Why don’t you examine your favourite method of presenting the Gospel and see how much emphasis it places on the BAD news. It surprised me when I examined some of these methods.

The in-depth, bad news, according to Col. 1:21, is this: All unbelievers are:

ø Alienated from God;

ø Enemies in their minds, and

ø Commit evil behaviour.

Illustration:

“Louis Blanc, French socialist . . . historian [journalist and politician of the 19th century],[7], said shortly before his execution, ‘When I was an infant, I rebelled against my nurse. When I was a child, I rebelled against my teachers. When I was a young man, I rebelled against my mother and father. When I reached a mature age, I rebelled against the state. When I die, if there is a heaven and a God, I’ll rebel against them.”[8]

That’s about as blatant a statement as you could get. But that’s the state of all people as far as God is concerned.

How can we apply this today?

What does God require of you to reflect this biblical principle in your life?

matte-red-arrow-smallWhen you share the gospel, you must include the BAD news;

matte-red-arrow-small I counsel rebel youth, abusive parents, and marriages that are falling apart at the seams. The BAD news tells me what is going on.

matte-red-arrow-small We cannot understand Iraq, Iran, persecution of 200 million Christians worldwide, Afghanistan, Bali, Sept. 11, without understanding the BAD news.

matte-red-arrow-smallYou won’t understand adultery, the push for homosexuality, use of illicit drugs, Governments that legislate immorality through prostitution, abortion and euthanasia, without understanding the BAD news.

Brothers and sisters in Christ! There’s a very important phrase that is found at the beginning of the BAD NEWS in Col. 1:21: “Once you were.” It reminds me of I Cor. 6:11, “And that is what some of you were.”

To be in-depth news , the gospel proclaimed must include the BAD news story – once you were. But also . . .

III. The gospel proclaimed must include the GOOD news story (v. 22).

“But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”

v. 21 begins, “Once you were . . .”

Notice how v. 22 begins, “But now. . .”

A radical change comes when Christ enters your life. The ONCE bad situation becomes the NOW good situation.

A. The good news is that “now he has reconciled you” (v. 22).

  • What incredible good news that is! You who were once enemies in our mind that led to your evil behaviour. You are now reconciled to God if you have come to God in repentance and faith.
  • This word for “reconciled” appears only 3 times in the NT. Col. 1:20, 22 (here) and Eph. 2:16. It is not Paul’s usual word for “reconcile” [katallassÇ] that is used in verses such as 2 Cor. 5:17-20 and Rom. 5:10. But it is a closely related word.

Many of you will be familiar with 2 Cor. 5:17-20:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

Here in Col. 1:22, Paul attaches a preposition, apo, to the regular word for reconciliation in 2 Cor. 5 & Rom. 5, katallasso.[9] Clearly he wants to communicate “the idea of complete reconciliation.”[10] Reconciliation means: to change from being an enemy to being a friend. It suggests that rebellious enemies of God submit to God and are now in harmony with God himself.[11]

snowflake-red-small In Col. 1: 20 we are told what this “complete reconciliation”

involves: “and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

Through Christ’s death

snowflake-red-small “all things” will be reconciled to God. That includes the entire universe. The universe being out of harmony reminds us of Rom. 8:19-23.

The good news is that you were once hostile enemies towards God, have moved from enemy status to friendship with God — reconciled by “Christ’s physical body through death” (v. 22). “Physical body” (NIV) is literally, “body of flesh.”

It seems strange to us that Paul would use this redundant expression “physical body through death.” Physical death always includes the death of the physical body. Why would Paul mention it like this? Probably because he was addressing false teaching being promoted by the Colossian Gnostic heretics. They were teaching that reconciliation could only happen through spiritual (angelic) beings. Paul was stirred by the danger to the Colossians of false teaching of the Gnostics.

Gnostics “attached little or no value to the work of Christ in a physical body. In opposition to this, Paul stressed the importance of Christ’s physical body.”[12]

According to Col. 1:22, it was “Christ’s physical body through death” that reconciled believers to God.

snowflake-red-small How can Christ’s physical death lead to reconciliation of enemies with the holy God?

In other religions, it is the human being who does all he or she can to appease, turn aside the wrath of the gods. This is not the way it is with the law of God in Christianity. To turn away the wrath of almighty God and be reconciled with God, it takes the initiative of God himself. That’s why 2 Cor. 5:19 declares, ” God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.”

The good news is that now he has reconciled you as believers. Also

B. According to v. 22, The good news is that Christ’s death, “presents you

silver-arrow holy in God’s sight,

silver-arrow without blemish, and

silver-arrow free from accusation.”

How can this be? How can you and I be holy, without blemish and free from accusation before God when we KNOW that we sin after we become Christians. We are not goody two-shoes and sinlessly perfect. Well, I’m not! Please consult my wife and children.

Yet, God says that when we are reconciled with God we are holy, without blemish and free from accusation. How does that happen? I’m glad you asked.

It would be pretty natural to think that this holiness without blemish and free from accusation would only happen when we get to heaven when we will no longer be infected with sin.

Not so, says Paul. This is what Christ has done for the Colossians and all believers in reconciling them with God. “He brought them into his presence, no longer as [unholy][13], stained by sin, and bearing the burden of guilt; but ‘holy’ and ‘without blemish and free from accusation.'”[14]

How can this happen? Christian, your legal standing before God is that “at the time of and because of the death of Christ”[15], you are declared holy, without blemish and free from accusation.

This is the message of imputation, which seems to be foreign language to us today, but a core Bible teaching. Because of Christ’s death, the believer is legally declared before God to be:

foward buttonholy = in consecration and dedication;

foward button “without blemish” translates “a technical sacrificial term (anomous), [that] was used of animals that were without flaw and therefore worthy of being offered to God.”[16] Believer, before God you are declared as being without a sinful flaw – legally before God.

foward button You are also “free from accusation” by God for your sinful, rebellious, hostile attitudes and actions towards God.

Paul could not be referring to your and my personal behaviour NOW because our actions are not always holy and without blemish. There has never been nor will there ever be a Christian who is sinlessly perfect and without blemish in actual conduct.[17] Paul is speaking about our legal standing before God because we are in Christ. We are “holy, without blemish, and free from accusation” legally with God.

It’s another way of saying what he told the Corinthians: “2 Cor. 5:21 (ESV), “For our sake he made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Christian friend, by Christ’s physical death you, who were once hostile enemies in your mind, have been reconciled with God and declared to be holy, blameless and free from accusation.

Illustration:

In Yorkshire in England there is a picture at Catterick Camp, “which shows a signaler lying dead in no-man’s land. He had been sent out to repair a cable that had been broken by [gun][18] fire. And there he lies, cold in death, but with his task accomplished, for in his stiffened hands he holds the broken ends together. Beneath the picture is the one word, ‘Through.’

“So too, by his once-for-all death on Calvary, Christ has brought God and [people][19] together in reconciliation and fellowship.”[20]

Let’s apply this to us today:

What does God now require of you, the reconciled? You who have been declared holy, spotless and without a guilty accusation. How can we be silent? The good news is that you must be people who proclaim the good news of reconciliation through Christ.

Where? Make opportunities. Take opportunities. This is incredible good news that the guilty can have no charge against them before God. Don’t you need to share that news with your boss, your neighbour, your enemy? What will you do this week to share such incredible good news of reconciliation?

To be in-depth news,

Blue Golden Button Firstly, the Gospel proclaimed must include the BAD news – we are hostile enemies towards God;

Blue Golden Button Secondly, the Gospel proclaimed must include the GOOD news of reconciliation and declared righteous.

Then comes a statement that is somewhat unexpected in this context. Thirdly…

IV. The gospel proclaimed must include the CONTINUING news story (v. 23).

A. The continuing news is that you must continue in your faith for it to be good news and for your salvation.

This seems like a most unusual emphasis when Paul is giving instructions about the Gospel being proclaimed. We can understand the need for the BAD news, although we tend to want to downplay that aspect. We know we need the GOOD news of reconciliation with God and righteousness by legal standing. But why this emphasis on “if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.”

Why? Why?

Paul faced the problem in his day. We face it today in the church worldwide.[21] One “major denomination in the United States . . . disclosed it obtained an incredible 294,784 decisions for Christ in 1990. Yet, in 1991, it could only find 14,337 in a Christian fellowship. There were 280,447 decisions that couldn’t be accounted for. The leadership had no clue as to why this happened, but could only conclude, ‘Something is wrong!’

“The trend continued. In August 1996 a leading U.S. denomination revealed that during 1995 it secured 384,057 decisions, but retained only 22,983 in fellowship. It couldn’t account for 361,074 supposed conversions.”

Charles E. Hackett, the Division of Home Missions National Director for a large denomination in the USA[22] said: “A soul at the altar does not generate much excitement in some circles because we realise approximately 95 out of every 100 will not become integrated into the church. In fact, most of them will not return for a second visit.”

This phenomenon is not unique to the US. A pastor in Boulder, Colorado sent a team to Russia in 1991 and there were 2,500 decisions. The next year they found only 30 persevering in their faith. In Leeds, England, a visiting US speaker said that there were 400 decisions for a local church. However, six weeks later only two were going on, and they eventually fell away.

“A pastor who travelled to India every year since 1980 [said][23] he saw 80,000 decision cards stacked in a hut in the city of Rajamundry, the ‘results’ of past evangelistic crusades. But he maintained that one would be fortunate to find even 80 Christians in the entire city. That is one tenth of one percent.”[24]

Paul to the Colossians wrote that this is the gospel that you heard, “If you continue in your faith”. One of the great Bible teachers of the last century, F. F. Bruce, wrote about this verse: “If the Bible teaches the final perseverance of the saints, it also teaches that the saints are those who finally persevere – in Christ. Continuance is the test of reality.”[25]

Perhaps these Colossians were beginning to wane in their faith and there was danger of their slipping back, so there was the need for this exhortation.

The gospel of continuing faith, according to v. 23, means that you are:

  • “Established” – suggesting that your faith is secure when it on the rock of continuing salvation.
  • You are “firm” (literally, “settled”), shows that you have a “steady and firm resolve” to continue in the faith.

Hebrews 3:6 (ESV) states: “but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”

We see a similar emphasis on the need to hold fast to hope in passages such as Heb. 6:11; 10:23; 1 Peter 1:13; 1 John 3:3.

Never let us forget that continuing in the faith – genuine perseverance – is not something that is done in our own strength. Jesus made that very clear in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (ESV).

Let’s apply this to us today:

Since Col. 1:23 is an essential to the Gospel, when you share Christ with people, urge them to continue in the faith. The real test of faith in Christ is continuing to trust in Christ alone for your salvation. Never say, “Give Jesus a go!”

“Just believe,” is not the Gospel. “Raise your hand and ask Jesus into your heart” is not the Gospel. Getting back to the core Gospel is long overdue. According to Col. 1:21-23, this means:

silver buttonThe Gospel proclaimed must include the BAD news;

silver buttonThe Gospel proclaimed must include the GOOD news;

silver buttonThe Gospel proclaimed must include the CONTINUING news, and

V. Fourthly, The gospel proclaimed must be newsworthy here in Queensland AND around the world (v. 23).

The theme of these three verses in Colossians is stated clearly in the NIV translation of v. 23, “This is the gospel that you heard.” Please note what Paul goes on to say. This Gospel is to be proclaimed around the world.

A. This most newsworthy story that was proclaimed at Colossae was by Paul, a servant of this gospel (v. 23).

B. This most newsworthy story must be proclaimed around the world (v. 23).

In fact Paul says that this gospel “has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven” (v. 23). How on earth was it possible that Paul, in the days before airline travel, radio, TV, newspapers and the Internet, could proclaim the gospel “in all creation under heaven” (ESV)?

Perhaps this was Paul’s way of saying that the Gospel had been “heard in all the great centres of the [Roman] Empire.”[26] Maybe Paul was using hyperbole (exaggeration). We do know from Rom. 15:19-23 that Paul preached from Jerusalem to Rome and that it was his ambition “to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that [he] would not be building on someone else’s foundation” (Rom. 15:20).

This is a basic outline of the gospel that Paul preached. Is this the total gospel content? No! There is no mention of confession, repentance, receiving Christ “by grace through faith” when the Gospel is preached (see Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 10:9-10).

In our day of biblical ignorance, there is a need for the biblical plot-line as in Colossians to be proclaimed with Gospel presentations. Sadly, most secular people and many in the church don’t understand the major themes of the Bible – the plot-line of the biblical story.

Illustration:

I support the evangelist who preached an outreach series at the University of Durham in the UK. He understood the problem we face with temporary conversion. He preached 8 messages through the first 8 chapters of the Book of Romans (he was not a D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones who took 13 years[27] to preach through Romans, one sermon a week). The plot-line of the Durham University presentation

“Introduced [students] to God, Creation, the nature of sin and law, the place of the atonement in God’s redemptive purposes, the nature of grace and faith, justification, and the gift of the Spirit, and ultimately the hope of a new heaven and a new earth.”[28]

I recommend this Aussie evangelistic tool, “2 Ways to Live,” that presents Christ in six steps:

1. God – the loving ruler and creator,

2. Humanity in rebellion,

3. God won’t let people keep rebelling forever,

4. Jesus – the Man who dies for rebels,

5. Jesus – the risen ruler,

6. The Two Ways to Live: Our Way OR God’s New Way.[29]

Let’s make an application to us:

Will you take or make the opportunity this week to share the Gospel? With your friend, neighbour, perhaps a stranger you meet somewhere. Please do NOT take up the boss’s time by sharing the Gospel in working hours with a work mate. That is cheating the boss.

What will you do about God’s call, through Paul, to present the BAD news of people being enemies of God, hostile in the mind? Make sure you include the GOOD news of reconciliation to God through Christ. Never forget that this Gospel is for those who CONTINUE in the faith.

I call upon you to forever give up the cheap Gospel. Don’t proclaim Gospel L-I-T-E.

VI. Conclusion[30]

Malcolm Muggeridge died in 1990. He was the famous British author, media personality and journalist, who became a Christian late in life. He “once told of working as a journalist in India as a young man. One evening he walked down to the river for a swim. As he entered the water, he saw an Indian woman from the nearby village who had come for her evening bath. Muggeridge immediately felt the allurement of the moment, and he was besieged by temptation. He had lived with this kind of temptation all his adult life, but until this moment he had fought it off out of respect for his wife Kitty. But tonight, he was weak and vulnerable. He hesitated just a moment, then swam furiously across the river toward the woman, literally trying to outdistance his conscience. But when he was just a few [metres][31] away from her, he emerged from the water and what he saw took his breath away. She wasn’t a beautiful young maiden, but old and hideous, with wrinkled skin, and worst of all, she was a leper. He said later, ‘The creature grinned at me, showing a toothless mask.’ Muggeridge muttered, ‘What a dirty lecherous[32] woman!’ But as he swam away from her, a sudden shock gripped him, ‘It wasn’t just the woman who was dirty and lecherous,’ he said. ‘It was my own heart.'”[33]

Muggeridge was once a sceptic of Christianity and even denied the resurrection of Christ. In the later part of his life he became fully convinced of the resurrection of Christ and wrote the book: Jesus: The Man Who Lives (1975).

All of us are dirty and lecherous – lustful.

  • The Gospel proclaimed must include the BAD news about Malcolm Muggeridge and all of us. We are/were wilful, hostile enemies of God.
  • The Gospel proclaimed must include the GOOD news – reconciliation with God because of Christ’s death that declares us holy, without blemish and free from accusation;
  • The Gospel proclaimed must include the CONTINUING news – you have salvation if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the fundamental doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.
  • This gospel proclaimed is the in-depth, in-depth news for Hervey Bay and around the world.

Let us pray.

  • Thank you, Lord, for declaring our true state before you. We are sinners, alienated from you and we suppress your truth.
  • Thank you for the good news that we can be reconciled to you through Christ’s death if we repent and confess our sin to you.
  • We praise you that by repentance and faith, we are declared holy in your sight, without blemish and free from accusation.
  • That’s what we are legally before you, God, when we repent.
  • In our progressive sanctification, help us to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Saviour.
  • Thank you for giving us the daily strength to continue to persevere in our faith.

Notes:


[1] Bundaberg West Baptist Church, 31 August 2003, 8am & 10am services; Northcote Baptist Church, Melbourne, 25 January 2004; Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church, 10 October 2010.

[2] Apellotriwmenous = perfect passive participle of apallatriow..

[3] Curtis Vaughan, “Colossians,” in Frank E. Gaebelein (gen. ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (vol. 11). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978, p. 185.

[4] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament: The Epistles of Paul (vol. 4). Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 1931, p. 481.

[5] Perfect tense.

[6] Old word, echthos (enemies). Robertson, p. 482.

[7] Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity: Volume II A. D. 1500 – A.D. 1975. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1953/1975, p. 1066.

[8] Roy B. Zuck, The Speaker’s Quote Book. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1997, p. 324.

[9] The word in 2 Cor. 5:18-10 and Rom. 5:10 is katallasso. In Col. 1:22 it is apokatallasso.

[10] Robertson, p. 481.

[11] Vaughan, p. 186.

[12] Vaughan, p. 187.

[13] The original said, “unhallowed.”

[14] Vaughan, p. 187.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Suggested by ibid.

[18] The original said, “Shell.”

[19] The original said, “Man.”

[20] John Wood, “Reconciliation,” in Zuck, p. 423.

[21] Christian lawyer, Bernie Koerselman, says that “years ago I began to suspect that one of the evidences of fraud in the presentation of the gospel is the high percentage of people who quickly desert the church after having ‘made a commitment.'” He says, “Ray Comfort’s book, Bride of Heaven, Pride of Hell confirmed my suspicions. Ray quotes statistics.” The following statistical details are in Bernie Koerselman, “Fraud & Deceit in the presentation of the gospel.” Vanguard, February 2000, p. 5.

[22] The Assemblies of God USA

[23] He told Ray Comfort.

[24] Bernie Koerselman, “Fraud & Deceit in the presentation of the gospel.” Vanguard, February 2000, p. 5.

[25] F. F. Bruce, “Commentary on the Epistle to the Colossians,” in E. K. Simpson and F. F. Bruce, Commentary on the Epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament, F. F. Bruce, gen. ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1957, p. P. 213

[26] C. F. D. Moule, The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon (The Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary, C. F. D. Moule, gen. ed.). London: Cambridge University Press, 1957, p. 73.

[27] The fly-leaf of the dust jack to the hardback edition of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans:Exposition of Chapter1, The Gospel of God. Edinburgh, Scotland: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985, states: “Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ exposition of Romans, the major work of his mid-week ministry in London, occupied him from 1955 until 1968. Throughout these years, no other event in the calendar of evangelicals was comparable to Friday night at Westminster Chapel.”

[28] D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996, p. 504.

[29] From “2 Ways to Live: A Bible study explaining Christianity.” Kingsford NSW: Matthias Media (PO Box 225, Kingsford 2032, Australia.)

[30] When I preached this message, a knowledgeable Christian objected to my use of Malcolm Muggeridge (see what follows), claiming that he doubted Muggeridge’s conversion as he did not believe in the resurrection of Christ. I have since checked, “Malcolm Muggeridge’s Conversion Story”, available at: http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/01/malcolm-muggeridges-conversion-story.html (Accessed 26 January 2007). Here it is recorded that in 1966, Muggeridge stated: ” I don’t believe in the resurrection of Christ, I don’t believe that he was the son of God in a Christian sense.” This quote has the endnote, Hunter, Ian, Malcolm Muggeridge: A Life, London: Hamish Hamilton, 1980, p. 225. However, John Ankerberg and John Weldon wrote in, ‘The Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Part I—Can It Persuade Skeptics?”

Among great literary writers, few can match the brilliance of famous author Malcolm Muggeridge. He, too, was once a skeptic of Christianity. But near the end of his life he became fully convinced of the truth of the Resurrection of Christ, writing a book acclaimed by critics, Jesus: The Man Who Lives (1975; HarperCollins 1984). He wrote, “The coming of Jesus into the world is the most stupendous event in human history….” and “What is unique about Jesus is that, on the testimony and in the experience of innumerable people, of all sorts and conditions, of all races and nationalities from the simplest and most primitive to the most sophisticated and cultivated, he remains alive.” Muggeridge concludes, “That the Resurrection happened… seems to be indubitably true” and “Either Jesus never was or he still is….with the utmost certainty, I assert he still is”, available at: http://www.johnankerberg.com/Articles/ATRJ/truth/ATRJ1203-EVPDF/ATRJ1203-EV-1.pdf (Accessed 26 January 2007)

[31] The original said, “feet”.

[32] According to dictionary.com, “lecherous” means lustful, erotically suggestive, inciting to lust. Available at: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/lecherous (Accessed 2 October 2010).

[33] Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes: The Ultimate Contemporary Resource for Speakers. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, “Muggeridge in India,” p. 751.

 

Copyright (c) 2012 Spencer D. Gear.  This document last updated at Date: 9 October 2015.

Noah's Animals

ChristArt

The Content of the Gospel . . . and some discipleship [1]

Gospel Feet
(image courtesy ChristArt)

Compiled by Spencer D. Gear [2]

Two rather different experiences came out of the communist experiment with trying to create a classless society. Both examples point to a need for something in life that goes beyond what our senses interpret.

6pointblueRomanian pastor, Richard Wurmbrand, spent 14 years in a communist prison – three of these years were in solitary confinement. Later, he was able to say,

“We prisoners have experienced the power of God, the love of God which made us leap with joy. Prison has proved that love is as strong as death. We have conquered through Christ. Officers with rubber truncheons came to interrogate us; we interrogated them, and they became Christians. Other prisoners had been converted. . . The Communists believe that happiness comes from material satisfaction; but alone in my cell, cold, hungry and in rags, I danced for joy every night… Sometimes I was so filled with joy that I felt I would burst if I did not give it expression. . . I had discovered a beauty in Christ which I had not known before.”[3]The other experience is told by Christian journalist, Philip Yancey who said,

“I remember vividly a meeting with the editors of Pravda, formerly the official mouthpiece of the Community Party… Pravda’s circulation was falling dramatically (from eleven million to 700,000) in concert with communism’s fall from grace. The editors of Pravda seemed earnest, sincere, searching–shaken to the core. So shaken that they were now asking advice from emissaries of a religion their founder had scorned as ‘the opiate of the people.’ “The editors remarked wistfully that Christianity and communism have many of the same ideals: equality, sharing, justice, and racial harmony. Yet they had to admit the Marxist pursuit of their vision had produced the worst nightmares the world has ever seen. Why? “‘We don’t know how to motivate people to show compassion,’ said the editor-in-chief. ‘We tried raising money for the children of Chernobyl [who had suffered badly from radiation sickness when the nuclear reactor exploded.], but the average Russian citizen would rather spend his money on drink. How do you reform and motivate people? How do you get them to be good?’ “Seventy-four years of communism had proved beyond all doubt that goodness could not be legislated from the Kremlin and enforced at the point of a gun.” [4] How can we obtain joy and hope in the here and now, even when in prison? What will bring motivation to show compassion to the unlovely and suffering? It is the same inner change that brings eternal life. How can we experience this salvation that comes with an eternal guarantee?Here’s an outline of some of the essentials!

A.    You must understand God’s holiness.

“God’s holiness means that he is separated from sin and devoted to seeking his own honor.”[5] See Proverbs 9:10; Psalm 111:10; Job 28:28; Proverbs 1:7; 15:33; Micah 6:9.

1.    God is utterly holy and His law, therefore, demands perfect holiness.
See Leviticus 11:44-45; Joshua 24:19; I Samuel 2:2; 6:20.2.    Even the New Testament gospel requires this holiness.
See I Peter 1:15-16; Hebrews 12:14.

3.    Because the Lord God Almighty is holy, He hates sin.
Exodus 20:5.

4.    Sinners cannot stand before Him

  • What is sin? “Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature. . . Sin is more than simply painful and destructive — it is also wrong in the deepest sense of the word. . . Sin is directly opposite to all that is good in the character of God.”[6]

See Psalm 1:5

B.    You must understand God’s righteousness/justice.

    In English, the terms “righteousness” and “justice” are different words. This is not so in the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament. There is only one word group behind these two English terms.[7]

1.    What is God’s righteousness/justice?

  • “God always acts in accordance with what is right and is himself the final standard of what is right.”[8]
  • What is right or just? “Whatever conforms to God’s moral character is right.”[9]

Deuteronomy 32:4; Genesis 18:25; Psalm 19:8; Isaiah 45:19; Romans 9:20-21.

2.    Christ’s sacrifice was to show God’s righteousness

  • When God sent Christ as a sacrifice to bear the punishment for sin, it was to show God’s righteousness. See Romans 3:25-26.

C.  You must understand that you are a sinner who sins & God hates sin.

  • Gospel means “good news.”
  • What makes it truly “good news” is not only that heaven is free, but also God’s Son has conquered that sin.
  • Jesus said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). What do you think Jesus meant by that?

1.    Sin is what it is that makes true peace impossible for unbelievers.

    Isaiah 57:20-21

2.    All have sinned.

    Romans 3:10-18

3.    Sin makes the sinner worthy of death.

    James 1:5; Romans 6:23

4.    Sinners can do nothing to earn salvation.

    Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16; Revelation 21:8

D.  You must understand the wrath of God.

    “If God loves all that is right and good, and all that conforms to his moral character, then it should not be surprising that he would hate everything that is opposed to his moral character. God’s wrath directed against sin is therefore closely related to God’s holiness and justice.”[10]

1.  What is the wrath of God?

“God’s wrath means that he intensely hates all sin.”[11]

    Exodus 32:9-10; Deuteronomy 9:7-8; 29:23; 2 Kings 22:13; John 3:36; Romans 1:18; 2:5, 8; 5:9; 9:22; Colossians 3:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2:16; 5:9; Hebrews 3:11; Revelation 6:16-17; 19:15.

2.  God is slow to inflict his wrath on people. Why?

    See Psalm 103:8-9; Romans 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9-10.

E. How can God’s wrath be pacified/appeased?

1. God has provided a way through blood-sacrifice.

Leviticus 8:15; 17:11

2.  By Christ’s death (blood-sacrifice), he appeased the wrath of God.

Hebrews 9:7, 12, 20, 22, 24.

3.  God calls this “propitiation” and it makes God favourable towards sinners.

Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; I John 2:2; 45:10 (atoning sacrifice/sacrifice of atonement = propitiation)
  • Propitiation is important “because it is the heart of the doctrine of the atonement. It means that there is an eternal, unchangeable requirement in the holiness and justice of God that sin be paid for. Furthermore, before the atonement ever could have an effect on our subjective consciousness, it first had an effect on God and his relation to the sinners he planned to redeem. Apart from this central truth, the death of Christ really cannot be adequately understood.”[12]
  • “The atonement is the work Christ did in his life and death to earn our salvation.”[13]

F. Who is Christ and what has He done for you?

    The solution for the sinner is found in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

1.    Christ is eternally God

John 1:1-3, 14; Colossians 2:9

2.    Christ is Lord of all

Revelation 17:14; Philippians 2:9-11; Acts 10:36

3.    Christ became man

Philippians 2:6-7

4.    Christ is utterly pure and sinless

    Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22-23; 1 John 3:5

5.    The sinless one became a sacrifice for YOUR sin

    2 Corinthians 5:21; Titus 2:14

6.    He shed His own blood as an atonement for sin

    Ephesians 1:7-8; Revelation 1:5

7.    He died on the cross to provide a way of salvation for sinners

    1 Peter 2:24; Colossians 1:20

8.     Christ rose triumphantly from the dead

    Romans 1:4; 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

G. What does God demand of you?

“Repentant faith is the requirement. It is NOT merely a ‘decision’ to trust Christ for eternal life, but a wholesale forsaking of everything else we trust, and a turning to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.”[14]

1. Repent

What is repentance? “Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.”[15]

Ezekiel 18:30, 32; Acts 17:30; 26:2; Luke 13:32.  Turn your heart from all that you know dishonours God
Thessalonians 1:9

3. Follow Jesus
Luke 9:23, 62; John 12:26

4. Trust Jesus as your Lord and Saviour
Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9

5.  Repentance and faith continue throughout your life

Repentance and faith must start together at the beginning of the Christian life. See Acts 20:21. Repentance and faith must be lived by Christians throughout their lives.
  •    Concerning faith, see Galatians 2:20; I Corinthians 13:13.
  •    Concerning repentance, see Revelation 3:19; 2 Corinthians 7:10

“Conversion is a single action of turning from sin in repentance and turning to Christ in faith.
“Therefore, it is clearly contrary to the New Testament evidence to speak about the possibility of having true saving faith without having any repentance for sin.  It is also contrary to the New Testament to speak about the possibility of someone accepting Christ ‘as Savior’ but not ‘as Lord,’ if that means simply depending on him for salvation but not committing oneself to forsake sin and to be obedient to Christ from that point on. . .
“Some prominent voices within evangelicalism have differed with this point, arguing that a gospel presentation that requires repentance as well as faith is really preaching salvation by works.  They argue that the view advocated [here] that repentance and faith must go together, is a false gospel of ‘lordship salvation.’  They would say that saving faith only involves trusting Christ as Savior, and that submitting to him as Lord is an optional later step that is unnecessary for salvation.  For many who teach this view, saving faith only requires an intellectual agreement with the facts of the gospel. . .
“The source of this view of the gospel is apparently Lewis Sperry Chafer. . . [who says], ‘the New Testament does not impose repentance upon the unsaved as a condition of salvation. . .’  Chafer recognizes that many verses call upon people to repent, but he simply defines repentance away as a ‘change of mind’ that does not include sorrow for sin or turning from sin”[16].

H.  You must count the cost of following Jesus with much thought.

  • Salvation is absolutely free.
  • So is joining the army; you don’t have to pay to get into it. Everything you need is provided.[17]
  • Following Christ is like joining the army. It will cost you daily. It will cost you freedom, family, friends, doing things your own way (autonomy), and possibly even your life.[18]
  • I must tell you, a prospective believer, the full truth and nothing but the truth.
  • Read what Jesus said about this in Luke 14:26-33; Matthew 10:34-38; Romans 6:6.

A.W. Tozer wrote:

“The cross is the most revolutionary thing ever to appear among men. The cross of Roman times knew no compromise; it never made concessions. It won all its arguments by killing its opponent and silencing him for good. It spared not Christ, but slew Him the same as the rest. He was alive when they hung Him on that cross and completely dead when they took Him down six hours later. That was the cross the first time it appeared in Christian history. . . The cross effects [i.e. brings about] its ends by destroying one established pattern, the victim’s, and creating another pattern, its own. Thus it always has its way. It wins by defeating its opponent and imposing its will upon him. It always dominates. It never compromises, never dickers nor confers, never surrenders a point for the sake of peace. It cares not for peace; it cares only to end its opposition as fast as possible.
    With perfect knowledge of all this, Christ said, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.’ So the cross not only brings Christ’s life to an end, it ends also the first life, the old life, of every one of His true followers. It destroys the old pattern, the Adam pattern, in the believer’s life, and brings it to an end. Then the God who raised Christ from the dead raises the believer and a new life begins.
This, and nothing less, is true Christianity. . .
    We must do something about the cross, and one of two things only we can do – flee it or die upon it.”[19]

  • Read Mark 8:35-37.

I.  I urge you to trust (have faith in) Christ alone for your salvation.

  • 2 Corinthians 5:11, 20; Isaiah 55:7; Romans 10:9-10;

What will you do with Jesus?

J.  After you trust Christ alone, what should you do? Where do good works fit in?

  • Good works: See Hebrews 5:9; Titus 2:14; Ephesians 2:10; James 2:10-26;
  • Baptism: See Acts 2:28; 8:36-39; Mark 16:16; Romans 4:10-11;
  • Join with a local church. See Hebrews 10:25.

K. What was the first creed of the early church?

    See Romans 10:9-10; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 2 Corinthians 4:5.

L.  How will you know that you are a Christian?

1.    You presently continue to trust Christ for salvation

Colossians 1:23; Hebrews 3:14; 6:12; John 3:16 (“believes” means “continues believing in him.”[20])

2.    There will be evidence in your heart of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit[21]

  • Through the subjective testimony of the Holy Spirit within your hearts. Romans 8:14-16; 1 John 4:13.
  • Your life will produce the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23
  • You continue to believe and accept the sound teaching of the church. 1 John 2:23-24
  • You will have a continuing relationship with Jesus Christ. John 15:4, 7
  • You will have a life of obedience to God’s commands. 1 John 2:4-6, 10, 19; 3:9-10, 14, 17, 24; 4:7; 5:18; James 2:17-18.
  • You will give to needy people. Matthew 25:31-46

3.    You will have a long-term pattern of growth and obedience in your Christian life

  • 2 Peter 1:5-7, 10; John 6:40

4.    You will demonstrate you have genuine faith by your good works

  • See James 2:14-26; Matt 25:31-46.

M.  How will other people know that you are a Christian?

 1.  By the fruit in your life

  • Galatians 5:22-23; Matthew 7:16-20; 25:31-46; James 2:17-18

N.  Do you want to repent and trust Christ alone for your salvation and live eternally for and with him?

O.  What happens to those who reject God’s offer of salvation?

Because God is an absolutely just God, if you reject his offer of salvation you will receive the consequences that God, the Maker, Sustainer, and Ruler of the world, has decided. At death, God sends you to hell.

1.    Hell forever

    “Hell is a place of eternal conscious punishment for the wicked.”[22] David Kingdon wrote: “Sin against the Creator is heinous to a degree utterly beyond our sin-warped imaginations’ [ability] to conceive of. . . Who would have the temerity to suggest to God what the punishment . . . should be?”[23]
    Matthew 25:30, 41, 46; Mark 9:43, 48; Luke 16:22-24, 28; Revelation 14:9-11; 19:3

2.    Is hell just?
Revelation 19:1-3

“Be under no illusion.  Unbelievers deserve to go to hell.  And it is fair for God to send them there.  Don’t blame God or say it is unfair.  Man it is who has sinned.  He is the rebel who continues to defy God and break his holy laws.  In his heart he hates God and refuses to honour or serve him.  He does not want God to interfere with his life or tell him how to live.  And man is without excuse.  The evidence stares him in the face.  Even creation tells him that God exists and that God is powerful as well as eternal.  Man’s conscience also tells him of his duty to obey God.  There is the Bible, too, which reveals God to man.  But man ignores the evidence.  He continues to sin without realizing that God, in his holiness and anger, must punish him for his disobedience.  ‘The soul who sins is the one who will die (Ezekiel 18:4).” [24]

W. G. T. Shedd said, “If there were no hell in Scripture, we should be compelled to invent one.” [25]  C. S. Lewis wrote: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done’.  All that are in hell choose it.” [26]

See my article, Is hell fair?

Matthew 11:28 (ESV):  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Endnotes:

  1. This summary of the content of the Gospel is based on John F. MacArthur Jr., Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles. Milton Keynes, England: Word Publishing, 1993, p. 247ff.

2.  Spencer D Gear PhD is an independent researcher, Bible teacher and Christian apologist living in Brisbane, Qld., Australia. He completed his PhD in New Testament (University of Pretoria, South Africa) in an aspect of the historical Jesus and is ordained with the Christian & Missionary Alliance of Australia.

  3. Richard Wurmbrand, In God’s Underground (Diane Books), in David K. Watson, How to Find God. Wheaton, Illinois: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1974, p. 65.

  4. Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995, p. 75.

  5. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, p. 201

  6. Ibid., pp. 490, 492.

  7. Ibid., p. 203.

  8. Ibid.

  9. Ibid., p. 204.

10. Ibid., pp. 205-206.

11. Ibid., p. 206.

12. Ibid., p. 575.

13. Ibid., p. 568.

14. MacArthur., p. 252.

15. Grudem, p. 713.

16.  Ibid., p. 714,  including note 5.

17. MacArthur, p. 253.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid., pp. 254-55, from A. W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous. Harrisburg, Pa.: Christian Publications, 1955, pp. 61-63.

20. Grudem, p. 803.

21. Ibid., p. 803-806.

22. Ibid., p. 1148.

23. In ibid., p. 1151.

24.  Eryl Davies, Condemned For Ever! What the Bible teaches about eternal punishment.  Welwyn, Hertfordshire, England: Evangelical Press, 1987, pp. 77-78.  This quote is taken from Davies’ chapter, “Is it fair?”  He is asking the question about the justice and fairness of God sending unbelievers to hell.

25. In John Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell?  Darling, Co. Durham, England: Evangelical Press, 1992, p. 148.

26. In ibid., p. 149.

Copyright (c) 2007 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 March 2018.