OK, here's the plan (if God is willing):

1) Every day will be a new devotional. I have enough devotionals for every day for three years

2) Also as I can, I'll be posting on my new political blog (see bottom of page).

Some other housecleaning:

A) If you'd like to just get new postings sent to your email, just submit your address in the box on the left just below. There's just one possible downside, though. Occasionally I'll add a music video at the end that's relevant to the devotional, and you won't get them in the email sent to you. If I add a video though, I'll make sure to mention in the posting, so you'll know to come to the site to see it if you'd like.

B) I actually finished writing new blog posting for the TAWG at the end of 2016. So what I'm doing now is at the beginning of every month, I'll move the earliest month from 3 years ago ahead so that a "new" posting appears every day. That's why you won't find any postings for January 2014, for example.

C) When I started this Blog, I was using the 1984 edition of the NIV, and that’s what I linked to on the Biblegateway site. However, in 2011 Zondervan updated its edition and thus reworded a lot of the NIV translation. Therefore, all the links which went to the 1984 edition now redirect to the 2011 edition, which often has slightly different wording. Thus, part of my editing process has been to update my Scripture quotes in my postings. But I might have missed some, in which case you might see my quote in the posting as a little different from what comes up when you click on my citation link, since that redirects to the 2011 edition on the Biblegateway site. It's a good thing that we realize that the work of translation never ends, but it can be a kind of a pain on a site like this. If you see any difference in verbiage between my quote and what shows up as a link on the Biblegateway site, or if you hover over a link and it has "NIV1984" at the end of it, please notify me and I'll correct it.

D) I can't believe I have to say this, but here goes. At the end of every posting is a suggested short prayer that has to do with what we discussed. This is actually what I've prayed when I finished writing it. In no way am I asking you to pray the exact verbiage of my suggested prayer. It's just a springboard for your own prayer, nothing more. Quite frankly, I've never been a fan of praying rote prayers written by someone else. As with everything else I do here, to the degree it helps, great; to the degree it doesn't, chunk it.

As always, thank you so much for reading, even if it's to read one post. God bless.

[Dec 02]--Cut Off?


            I know we looked at these verses yesterday, but there are still a couple of issues we need to address before we go on. I think it’s pretty easy for someone to read this passage and get confused.
            Here’s the question which might be on your mind: Does this teach that I can lose my salvation? At first glance, it looks like it. If I don’t remain in him, then the Father comes along, cuts me off, and then throws me into the fire.
            If this passage was all we had on this subject, then I can understand that interpretation. But we need to A) Take into consideration what the rest of the Bible says on a subject, and B) Use really clear passages to interpret less clear passages.
            To me, God’s word is clear that once we’re saved, we can never lose it. Here are some passages for us to ponder: John 10:27-30 (“never perish”), 1 Cor. 1:8-9 (who keeps us blameless?), and 1 Thes. 5:23-24 (again, who keeps us blameless?). But the clincher for me has always been Rom. 8:28-30. In this passage, Paul lays out before us the unbroken chain of salvation: We were 1) foreknown, 2) predestined, 3) called, 4) justified, and 5) glorified (note the past tense on that last one). There's no one in group “1” who isn’t in group “5.” And glorified is past tense, just like all the other adjectives. As far as God is concerned, I'm already sitting with him in Heaven next to Jesus.
            For more on what I've said on the topic of eternal security, you're welcome to check it out here
            So how do we interpret this stuff about being cut off and being thrown into the fire? Well, there’s a good explanation. Something that John likes to emphasize is contrast between real believers and false believers. One of the main points of his first epistle is how to determine if you’re really a believer in Christ or not. And if you're a genuine believer, you’ll show it by certain indications. We'll go into this in more detail next year, but for now, the signs are right belief, right behavior, and right love (for your siblings in Christ). 
            Jesus is the True Vine, and on him are hanging two types of branches: branches that bear fruit and branches that don’t. If you bear fruit, then this is a sign that you’re really saved. Another sign that you’re saved is that you “remain” in him. This doesn’t mean that you don’t sin, but it does mean that a sign of a genuine believer is a vital relationship with him. He nourishes us with his life, and then we bear fruit. If you don’t see fruit, then that’s an indication that you’re not a real believer.
            So what can we take away from this? Are there any practical applications to this? Well, I can see exactly one command in this passage: “Remain in me.” Wait a minute, you said that remaining in Jesus is a sign that we’re real believers. So why would he command us to do something that’s just going to happen automatically? I think by asking that question, you’re making a dichotomy that our Lord never makes. He commands us to remain in him, and he assures us that if we’re real believers, we will. The two go together, like two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other.
            Now that we’ve gotten some of the controversy out of the way, let’s focus on the command here. I need to remain in him. I need to cultivate my relationship with him. I need to spend time alone with him, reading his word and kneeling before his Throne in prayer. I’m a child of his, and a sign that I am is that I want to. I know I need to. It’s just an issue of choosing to. And that choice is made every moment of every day.

Lord Jesus, I am connected to you, but my relationship with you is nowhere near where it needs to be. Please draw me closer, and refocus my heart where it really matters. 

59 comments:

  1. The hope and promises contained in Rom 8:29-30 are predicated upon and pertain to those who love God in v.28. What does it mean to love God? If we allow scripture to define itself we can reference Jn 14:21 where it states that those who love God keep his commandments. In other words, those who love God - obey him. Therefore it stands to reason that those believers who do not obey do not have the assurances promised in vs.29-30.

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    1. Totally agree if I understand you correctly. I hope I've made it clear in my other writings that assurance of salvation is only offered to people whose lives are generally marked by obedience, by loving God, and by hating sin. We still sin as believers, but the general direction of our lives must be towards him, not away from him. If someone doesn't display any change in their lives, then both James and John (in his epistle) make it clear that the alleged "believer" isn't really saved.

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    2. Hi Keith, I agree with all of your response. I guess I'm just not clear whether you believe that such "believers" were never saved in the first place or whether they can indeed lose their salvation. Thanks

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    3. I believe that Scripture is pretty clear that once anyone gains salvation, they can't lose it. But I think it's just as clear that once you are saved, the Holy Spirit WILL make a change in your life. If there's no change, then both James (2:14-26) and 1 John (e.g. 3:4-10) deny--or at least cast serious doubt on--one's claim to be saved. As Luther put it, we're saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that stays alone. But I can't speak to anyone's personal case. I don't know anyone's heart but my own, and even that's pretty "iffy." I've known people in my life who supposedly received Christ but who denied him later on. Based on my understanding of Scripture, however, I know they didn't lose their salvation, because no one can. In describing people who'd abandoned the faith, John said "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." BTW, I don't know if you've noticed, but I've collected my thoughts on this topic on a page: mytawg.blogspot.com/p/eternal-security-what-is.html

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    4. Again, I really hate to bring you back to this passage in Romans 8:28-30 again, but I think it's really important, and quite frankly, I don't think you've quite answered my argument from it.

      As stated before, I agree with you that the promises to believers are only applicable to those who love God and who show a lifestyle of obedience, or at least growth. But your response doesn't really answer my thought process here, so let me clarify it. Please tell me where I'm wrong:

      Back in eternity past, God (in some sense) A) foreknew a certain group of people who would be saved. We can argue about what exactly Paul means here by the term, but he straight-out says that there's a certain group of people who were foreknown. This same group of people he foreknew, he B) predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. Again, not going to get into a debate about what he means by "predestined," but in SOME sense he did so. All this happened in eternity past.

      This same group of people he C) called to salvation. Again, not going into detail in this venue as to what exactly that means, but WHATEVER it means, HOWEVER you define it, this SAME group of people he also D) justified. I think we're pretty clear as to what THAT means, right?

      And finally he says that this same group of people E) he also gloriFIED. There's a reason I put the last part of the word in caps. It doesn't say he WILL glorify them someday. He says it in the past tense. Since I'm not glorified yet, I think the best way to understand this is that this all has happened in the mind of God in eternity past. As far as HE'S concerned, I'm already glorified. As far as he's concerned, I'm already sitting next to Christ in Heaven, just like Paul says in Eph. 2:6--"And God RAISED us up with Christ and SEATED us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus." Not WILL raise us up with Christ, he already HAS.

      It seems pretty clear to me that in the mind of God A>B>C>D>E. There's no one in group A) who's going to drop out before they're in group E). How could they? It's already a done deal!

      If you believe that you CAN be in group A) and drop out before group E), could you please explain how that's compatible with the passage?

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    5. Still awaiting your reply, my friend.

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    6. Hold on to your horses my friend. I work a job as you also likely do, so I'm only able to respond as I have the time. Remember - patience is a virtue. Nonetheless, to answer your question it may surprise you to know that I agree with your logical reasoning. I could quibble with you as to whether foreknow means that God knows what our decision will be or that God elects those according to his sovereign will but that would take us down a rabbit trail. Most ironically, I think the verses you cite actually reinforce my position instead of buttressing your view. How so? My simple response to you is who do you think that "certain group of people" is being referred to in Rom 8:28-30? Answer: "Those who love God" in v.28. The logical sequence of events that you have referenced in these verses are only reserved for those who love God. Does it say those who only believe in God? No, it says those who LOVE him. And what does this love look like. If I simply say or acknowledge that I love God, is that sufficient? No - the biblical definition of love for God is described in Jn 14:21: "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." We show that we love God by obeying him and it is this group of people who are glorified.

      Furthermore you emphasize the use of the word glorified to make your point. Did you not also notice Rom 8:17? This verse also contains the word "glorified" but take note that a conditional clause is attached to being glorified - provided we SUFFER with him. Suffer temptation, suffer hardships, suffer persecution, etc, etc. Therefore glorification is not automatic and such a done deal as you claim.

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    7. I do apologize for being rude there. Please forgive me. When having discussions with my siblings who disagree with me on this, I really have to make a strong effort to be cordial and civil, and I failed in that regard.

      >>>>I think the verses you cite actually reinforce my position instead of buttressing your view. How so? My simple response to you is who do you think that "certain group of people" is being referred to in Rom 8:28-30? Answer: "Those who love God" in v.28<<<<

      I have never denied that one of the way that you show that you're already saved is by loving God. You seem to be thinking I'm teaching the opposite. I'm sorry, I thought I made that clear. But what we're discussing is whether or not someone in group A) can fall out and not be in group E) at the end of time. Paul seems to flatly deny this notion, but you seem to sustain it, depite (what seems to me) to be the clear teaching of the passage.

      >>>>>Did you not also notice Rom 8:17? This verse also contains the word "glorified" but take note that a conditional clause is attached to being glorified - provided we SUFFER with him. Suffer temptation, suffer hardships, suffer persecution, etc, etc. Therefore glorification is not automatic and such a done deal as you claim.<<<<<

      Well, it seems to me that it IS a done deal. It's past tense. That's done, at least as far as God is concerned. Vs. 17--and this seems to be a pattern in Scripture--once again neatly falls into the motif of "If you truly are saved, if you're going to be glorified in the future, then this is one of the signs." That makes sense to me. Are you saying that if I AM saved, but in the future I turn my back and DON'T suffer with Christ, then my actions somehow works its way back through time to change what was a settled issue in the mind of God back in eternity past? Does that honestly make sense to you?

      If I see a passage that I can interpret one of two ways, and A) perfectly accords with the rest of Scripture, and B) flatly contradicts Scripture, especially 13 verses later, I'm going to go with A). My interpretation of vs. 17 seems to be fully in accord with vss.29-30, while the one you seem to be presenting, with all respect, doesn't.

      It seems to me the past tense of vss. 29-30 means, well, the past tense. Yes, there's a sense in which we WILL be glorified, which is what vs. 17 is referring to. But all of this was planned out in the mind of God in eternity past. And it seems clear to me that there no one in group A) who's not going to be in group E).

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    8. No need to apologize as we are both searching for the truth as best as we can understand it. Iron sharpens iron as you may bring up points that I have not previously considered which helps me to study and think though my view. I have not overlooked responding to your other replies - just doing this one for now as I am busy with other obligations.

      By no means am I adept in handling N.T. Greek but the word "glorified" [syndoxasthomen] in v.17 bears closer examination. When parsed, this verb is aorist, passive, subjunctive. The subjunctive mood is important to note because if this verb was in the indicative mood instead and coupled with the aorist tense, it would denote action that occurred in the past time, translated like our simple past tense English. In that case your understanding of "glorified" would likely be correct. However, this verb is rendered in the subjunctive mood which indicates possibility or probability - not certainty. The subjunctive mood indicates that our glorification will probably or possibly happen depending on a certain set of circumstances occurring. It is often used in sentences with conditional clauses which happens to be the case with v.17. So whereas the indicative mood expresses definitive result and certainty, the subjunctive mood conveys the opposite - that of uncertainty and contingency. That is why I pointed out to you the conditional or contingency clause in v.17 - "IF we suffer with him."
      If we suffer with him...in order that we MAY be glorified with him. That is why if you notice, most Bible translations have this verse correctly worded as "may" (uncertainty) instead of "will" (certainty). Therefore in my mind our glorification is not a done deal.

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    9. I totally agree with you that verse 17 is conditional. The only question is "What's the condition?" I think the interpetation I've submitted is completely in line with Scripture. IF you suffer with Christ, that's a sign that you WILL be glorified. If you make progress in personal rightousness and holiness, that's another sign. If you show love for your siblings in Christ, that's another sign. If you help those in need who cross your path, that's another sign. Without these signs, you don't have assurance that you truly are saved. This is how I can know that I'm one of the people described in vss. 29-30.

      But once again, in GOD's mind, as far as GOD is concerned, the group in vss. 29-30 is a set amount of people. Without getting into a debate into how this affects free will, there is a list of people who, in eternity past, whom God A) forknew (in some sense), B) predestined (in some sense), C) called (in some sense), D) justified (pretty clear what Paul means here), and E) Glorified. I'm not going to enter the "predestination/free will" debate here. But however you define "foreknew," and "predestined," and "called," Paul makes it very clear that this is a set number of people, and there's no one in group A) who's going to drop out before E). He makes this clear with the past tense of E). This all happened in the mind of God before he created anything. Once again, I'm going to respectfully ask you how your belief that you can lose your salvation is compatible with this passage. I think I've submitted an interpretation of vs. 17 which fits right in line with 29-30.


      Fitting together vss. 17 and 29-30, you seem to interpret 29-30 as saying "You might be in A), B), C) and D). God foreknew you, predestined you to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, he called you and justified you, but if you fall away, then he won't glorify you in the future." That seems to me to flatly contradict what the passage is saying. That's why I make a big deal over the past tense in every single one of these verbs, not just the last one. It'd be like me trying to refight the Revolutionary War. If I pulled a musket out of somewhere and started looking for Red Coats, someone would immediately pull me aside and tell me that war was fought and finished a loooooong time ago. It's past. You can't change it. But you seem to think that I can, that if I'm justified by faith in Christ but make some bad decisions later on, then apparently it's possible for me to go waaaaaay back in time and change what occurred in the mind of God in eternity past.

      Please tell me what I'm missing here.

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    10. I don't quite understand how you can agree that our glorification in v.17 is conditional and yet still maintain that our glorification in vss. 29-30 is unconditional. Am I missing something? It seems to me in order to be logically consistent, these two passages have to be either conditional, or unconditional in nature - but not both. I don't have the time right now to development my point in more depth so I'll instead provide this link for your consideration:
      http://thecenterfortheologicalstudies.blogspot.com/2011/06/assumption-presuppositional-reading-of.html
      I also am very busy this weekend so can't reply for a few days. Have a good weekend!

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    11. I'm sorry for not being clear: I thought I was. Once again, vs. 17 neatly fits into the "If you truly are saved, if you really are going to be glorified, then this is a sign, that you suffer with him." Vs. 17 is talking about the present time right now: If you suffer with him, then this is a sign that you're going to be glorified in him. But vs. 29-30 are all set in the PAST. ALL of vs. 29-30 happened in eternity past. Unless I get a hold of a time machine, I can't affect what happened in the PAST. To me, your understanding of 17 flatly contradicts the plain meaning of vs. 29-30. I can't really explain other than to just quote myself from earlier passages.

      I read the web page you submitted. He doesn't really address the plain meaning of vs. 29-30 any more than you do. I can explain vs. 17 and show how it neatly fits into my understanding of vs. 29-30. Quite frankly, you haven't done the converse yet.

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  2. Thanks for the clarification. I used to believe as you do but over the course of several years I had a change of mind – it took me that long. Certain verses used to nag at me as they didn’t fit with my eternal security framework such as Rev 3:16. I wondered why Jesus said it would be better for a saint to be cold rather than lukewarm. After all, I reasoned if I can’t lose my salvation, then isn’t it better to be lukewarm as opposed to being cold? Another verse was more blunt and to the point. In Heb 5:9 it says that Jesus is the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him. I had believed that only belief was necessary for salvation but this verse clearly states that obedience is necessary. l couldn't get around the plain language of the verse. Moreover the Greek renders the word obey as a present tense verb. What if I am not obeying? Does that mean I wasn’t a believer to begin with or that I could lose my salvation?
    One of the clinchers for me is Rom 8:12-13. "Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation-but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For IF you live according to the flesh, YOU WILL DIE; but IF by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, YOU WILL LIVE."
    Paul's warning is a somber one as these verses describe the potential death of born-again believers, referred to as the brethren in v. 12. If this death were not a real possibility, the warning would be nonsensical. We also know that this warning pertains to spiritual death - not physical death - because everyone dies physically irrespective of how we live our lives. Moreover, one must have spiritual life in order to be in danger of spiritual death. You cannot threaten a spiritually dead person with spiritual death. Such a person is already dead. Therefore, it must be concluded that these are indeed regenerate brethren who are being warned of dying. Also note that this verse is conditional - not unconditional - as indicated by the word "if." IF believers walk according to the flesh = they will die. IF believers walk according to the Spirit = they will live. I used to believe that there is no condemnation for those in Christ citing Rom 8:1. However I failed to read it in its proper context. Verse 1 is conditioned by the clause in v.4 which states: "who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." Thus, "no condemnation" is only promised to those brethren who walk by the Spirit which again is coherent with verses 12-13. I therefore believe that habitual sin in the life of a believer can indeed to spiritual death and loss of salvation.

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  3. Wow, it's readily apparent you've put some thought and prayer into this. I applaud anyone who's willing to think some deeper issues through. I commend for that.

    I believe that all of the verses you bring up actually fall under "If you don't show any fruit, you aren't really saved" category except for possibly Revelation 3:16. In each of the seven letters, Jesus is addressing churches as well as individuals. This seems to be pretty clear from the fact that he literally starts off each letter to "To the angel at the church at X." Probably it's not referring to a literal angel as we think of them: Most commentators I've read seem to think it's talking about the human leadership there. But the "rules" for a body of believers are different than for individual believers. It seems to me that he warns them (as a CHURCH) that if they don't return to him then he'll "spew them out," just like he'll threatens the church in Ephesus to remove their lampstand. I've seen plenty of churches to which that warning applied: They're dead as a church, meaning they've lost all effectiveness and are under his condemnation.

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    1. I agree that the letters written to the churches in Revelation are directed to the church corporately as well as to individual believers. You would have to define your use of the term "condemnation" as I am not clear whether you mean eternal separation from God or something else. From your response I'm left wondering how you would explain Jesus' use of the terms cold, hot and lukewarm. Anyway my take on Rev 3:16 goes something like this....it is a warning to those who believers who have a lukewarm relationship or walk with God. It is akin to the proverbial frog in the kettle. The frog has the unique ability to adjust its body temperature to the rising water temperature in the kettle. It accommodates itself to its surroundings but unfortunately this accommodation ultimately leads to its untimely demise as the kettle eventually boils the frog to death. In a parallel way that is what ongoing sin does to the life of a believer. The habitual accommodation of sin in a believer's life can ultimately lead to spiritual death. That is why Jesus said he would rather us be hot or cold. It is best to be hot or on fire for the Lord. The cold believer though is at least is aware of his estranged relationship with God and the need for reconciliation and restoration. The lukewarm believer however, like the frog, is unaware of his perilous condition and the effect of accommodating sin is his life. The lukewarm believer unfortunately believes he is secure when in fact he is in dire need of repentance. That is why a few verses later in v.20 Jesus is knocking on the door of his heart asking to come in. This verse is often used out-of-context in evangelizing unbelievers but taken in its proper context is actually addressed to believers.

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    2. Once more you're forcing me to pull out some material before it's due out :). In my research, I've come across an alternative explanation of the "rather you be hot or cold than lukewarm" phrase, and it actually makes a bit more sense than the one I grew up with. Here's my posting due for late 2016:

      >>>>>>>>>>>Once again some background would be useful. I remember the inimitable Dr. Potts at East Texas Baptist University, who talked about this subject while we were all on an educational trip to Turkey, where we visited the sites of most of the churches listed in Revelation 2-3. Nearby Hierapolis was famous for its hot springs, which supposedly worked wonders for things like arthritis and similar ailments. At the very least, their hot springs were incredibly relaxing, but you couldn’t drink the water there because it was foul-tasting or even poisonous. On the other side of Laodicea was the city of Colossae, which of course was the place to which Paul wrote the epistle to the Colossians. Colossae was famous for its refreshing cold water from mountain streams. But as mentioned before, Laodicea didn’t have any good local water sources, so they tried to build aqueducts from Colossae and Hierapolis to provide water. But the waters from the two sources mixed, and by the time it reached Laodicea it was—you might have guessed by now—just tepid, nasty-tasting water that no one could drink or bathe in. If you tried to drink it, you. . .well, you tended to spit it out. If swallowed, it could easily make you sick to your stomach.


      We need to delve a little deeper into this. The interpretation that I’ve always heard, which seems to be the majority conclusion, is that “hot” and “cold” refer to spiritual fervor or lack thereof. In this paradigm, the ideal is to be “hot” for Christ, serving him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. “Cold,” referring to openly rejecting him, is certainly not commendable, but it’s something that Jesus can work with. You could accuse pre-conversion Saul of a lot of things, but lukewarmness wasn’t one of them. No one could mistake him for being a fence-sitter as he traveled town to town to round up more Christians to arrest. The explanation is that Christ would rather us be openly rejecting him or even opposing him over the tepidity of the Laodicean church.

      That’s certainly not a bad explanation. Christ doesn’t exactly explain what he means by the imagery. However. . . I did just come across another interpretation. It’s a new one to me, which right off the bat raises caution. But I’ll let the study notes on the NET Bible present it and make its case: “The metaphor in the text is not meant to relate spiritual fervor to temperature. This would mean that Laodicea would be commended for being spiritually cold, but it is unlikely that Jesus would commend this. Instead, the metaphor condemns Laodicea for not providing spiritual healing (being hot) or spiritual refreshment (being cold) to those around them. It is a condemnation of their lack of works and lack of witness.” To be perfectly frank, I lean slightly closer to this one, while of course allowing that one’s particular interpretation of this is certainly not essential.<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

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    3. But I'm sticking to my interpretation that this is a CHURCH he's condemning. Jesus doesn't explain his metaphor here, and it's the only time I'm aware of in which he uses it, so I wouldn't be exactly dogmatic on what he's referring to. There are churches which have cut themselves off from him as a body. They're no longer following him. Quite frankly, I believe that there are quite a few denominations that this describes. But it's not necessarily talking about the eternal destiny of each person who's attending that congregation. I would point out, however, that this is the only church Jesus addresses in chaps. 2-3 about which he has absolutely NOTHING good to say. Paul had some nice things to say about the church in Corinthians (although you can kinda tell he's struggling to do so), Jesus has absolutely nothing to soften the blow.

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    4. If Jesus is condemning the church or denomination as you say then my question would be does not the church consist of individuals within that local congregation? As a whole he is referring to the saints who make up the body of Christ who reside in a particular geographic location. In the letters to the 7 churches we see that while Jesus references the churches corporately, he does not address them exclusively as he also refers to some of the individuals within these churches and also employs the 3rd person pronoun (Rev 2:10-11,17,26; 3:4-5,12,20-21.) In Rev 2:10 Jesus mentions the crown of life as a reward. We know that this crown is only given to individuals, not churches or denominations. And it is only given to those who are "faithful." Those individuals who are unfaithful and who do not overcome and persevere are not recipients of Jesus' promise. The invitation that Jesus makes in Rev 3:20 is made to persons not churches. So in essence what I would say is yes Jesus does denounce and condemn churches as well as point out some positive attributes of these churches. Yet there are verses in which he addresses the individual saints encouraging them on one hand to remain faithful and on the other hand warning them of the consequences of becoming unfaithful.

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    5. Here's a rule of mine: When possible, I'm going to interpret the less clear passages by the more clear passages. I'd readily admit that there are passages which COULD be plausibly interpreted to mean that you could lose your salvation, but to do so would teach something other than salvation by grace through faith, which is taught in CLEAR passages such as Eph. 2:8-9, 1 Thes. 5:23-24, 1 Cor. 1:8-9, John 5:24, John 1:12-13, Acts 16:30-31, and a host of others. Since the interpretation you present seems (to me) to contradict the clear teaching in other passages, I ask myself, "Is there another possible way to interpret these which don't contradict the other ones?" And lo and behold, there is. In the case of the letter to the church at Laodicea, it's not entirely clear whether in verse 16 whether he's talking about individuals or the church at large.

      You COULD interpret it to mean that A) if you're "lukewarm" in your personal walk with Christ, he'll send you to hell. Or you COULD interpet it to mean that B) he'll remove the church's effectiveness, witness, and eventual existence as a church. There are other things which Jesus can do to a CHURCH besides send them to hell. Since your interpretation seems to mean that I'm depending (at least in part) on my personal righteousness, I'm going with option A).

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    6. can I ask you a question? Why are you going to Hebrews or James or some more obscure passages in order to get your soteriology? The entire purpose of John's Gospel is lead us to faith in Christ (20:31), so that'd be a great place for us to go. And if I want a most complete reading of "the Gospel" I'm not going to a parable. I'm going to the most complete theological explanation in the Bible, namely Romans. Or the first three chapter of Ephesians. or several passages in Galatians.

      Yes, all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for "teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness," so that I may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. But I don't go to the book of Proverbs for a thorough explanation of the Trinity. And I don't go to the Gospel of John for practical tips on how to raise my family or to be wise with my money. Proverbs has its purpose, and the first 14 verses of John have theirs. I don't go to a foot doctor for my heart murmurs, and I don't go to a cardiologist for pain when I'm walking. They're going to be in basic agreement with each other (my podiatrist hopefully isn't going to tell me to eat lots of fat burgers), but each has his own purpose for me.

      It seems--to be perfectly honest--that you're pulling verses out of more obscure passages to try to call into question my interpretation of some really clear ones. I get that Romans 8:17 IS in Romans (duh), but by the time we get to chapter eight, he's gone way past talking about how to get saved. That was back in Romans 1-5. There are plenty of clear passages back there on the basics of salvation: Why you need salvation, why Christ had to die, how to appropriate Christ's work for yourself (by faith in christ), etc.

      But the book of Hebrews, and James, First John, and even Revelation? Those aren't the passages I go to in order to understand how to get saved. Where they DO touch on topics related to salvation, I'm going to interpret them in light of the much more thorough treatment those topics receive in Romans and the Gospel of John (in accordance with its stated purpose).

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  4. >>>>>In Heb 5:9 it says that Jesus is the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him. I had believed that only belief was necessary for salvation but this verse clearly states that obedience is necessary. l couldn't get around the plain language of the verse. Moreover the Greek renders the word obey as a present tense verb. What if I am not obeying? Does that mean I wasn’t a believer to begin with or that I could lose my salvation?<<<<<<

    To be really up front, the fact that you say this really disturbs me. Are you denying that we're saved by placing our faith in Christ? Are you saying that you're saved by faith AND obedience? That's a major problem. Ephesians 2:8-9, and really the first two-thirds of the books of Romans are pretty clear to me that we're saved by grace through faith plus NOTHING. It's not 75% Jesus and 25% me, nor is it 99% Jesus and 1% me. If there's one smidgeon of my works that count towards my salvation, then as Paul says in Ephesians I CAN boast, at least a little bit. Romans 3-5 over and over and over and over say that we're saved by faith in Christ as opposed to works.

    Quite frankly, this goes to more than the debate over whether or not one can lose his salvation once he's gained it. You seem to believe that we're saved by faith plus works.

    As far as Hebrews 5:9 is concerned, once again, it easily falls into the category of "If you are saved, this change will be evident in your life." He's the author of my salvation, and the way I know that is the fact that I obey him. Same thing with Romans 8:12-13. My friend, the whole POINT to Romans is that we're saved by grace through faith plus nothing. There's nothing we can add to the work of Christ. As the old song goes, "Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe." So does it make sense to you that after 8 chapters of telling us "saved by faith," "jusified by faith," "credited to us as righteousness," etc. over and over and over, right in the middle of Romans 8 he's telling us that we "live" by "[putting] to death the misdeeds of the body"? I fully grant that it's a difficult passage, but it makes a lot more sense to me that it's telling us that one of the ways that we show that we WILL live is the fact that we put to death the misdeeds of the body. Quite frankly, to interpret it your way seems to flatly contradict the main message of the book of Romans.

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    1. Let me put it this way. We are saved by faith which is manifested by our obedience. Saving faith is an obedient faith. Our inward faith is manifested by our outward obedience. If we remain disobedient, can we really claim to have faith? Also can you tell me why "works" has somehow gotten a bad name within Christian circles? After all, you rightly cite Eph 2:8-9 but verse 10 goes on to say that we were created for good works...that we should walk in them. Moreover, James states: "You see then that a man is JUSTIFIED by WORKS, and NOT BY FAITH ONLY" (Jas 2:24). In similar fashion notice the gospel message that Paul himself declares that he preached. "First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds" (Acts 26:20). According to Paul, the gospel message that he proclaimed consisted of repentance and deeds in keeping with one's repentance. Neither Paul or James condemns good works as evidence of saving faith and neither should we.
      As far as Rom 8 goes I think you have not addressed the plain and simple meaning of the verses. On one hand, we both agree that believers obey but on the other hand you have not accounted for what this verse says happens to believers who disobey. I think the language of Paul's warning is very clear and to the point and one needs to account for it.

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    2. In this passage--in chapter 8--he's not talking at all about believers who disobey. In other passages he does, but not here.

      Sorry, I guess I need to clarify. Romans 8:12-13, based on the context of the rest of the chapter and of Romans (and really the entirety of salvation by grace through faith) is that he's telling them, to put it another way, that you show that you have eternal life by putting to death the misdeeds of the body. If you don't show any evidence of that, if you "live according to the flesh," you don't have eternal life. I don't think it's talking about physical death either.

      The reason I said "in the context of the rest of the chapter," this understanding seems to go along with this motif:

      vss. 3-4: And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
      A) Christ fully met the righteous requirements of the law (2000 years ago) in us, and B) the way we show that this applies to us is that in our personal lives we don't live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. B) doesn't come before A), and it certainly doesn't cause A). A) causes B).

      Notice in the very next verses before the ones you pointed out before:

      vss. 9-11: You, however, ARE NOT in the realm of the flesh but ARE in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

      The moment you receive Christ in faith, this all applies to you. The Holy Spirit moves inside you, and you're moved out of the realm of the flesh into the realm of the Spirit. And a dispositive sign that you've done so is that you're putting to death the misdeeds of the body, etc.

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    3. If we take it the way you've seemed to interpret it, this seems to flatly contradict the good news: we're saved by grace through in Christ. The way you seem to take those verses, in the end you're going to "make it" by "[putting] to death the misdeeds of the body and by not "[living] according to the flesh."

      Let me be up front here. I don't doubt the personal salvation of anyone who claims to have faith in Christ, especially if they fully understand that we're justified by grace through faith plus NOTHING. But to be brutally frank, I think that--in the end--belief in conditional security is incompatible with salvation by grace through faith. Again, not doubting anyone's salvation on that score, but I just think that people are being inconsistent with their belief system.

      You believe that you're saved by placing your faith in Christ. It's his righteousness alone which saves you. You're placing no trust in your own righteousness, only his. But at the same time, you believe that to STAY in the family, it all comes down to YOUR personal righteousness. And when you get to Heaven, you'll be able to say "Yes, Jesus paid for my sin, all of it down to the last one, but I was able to STAY saved based on my personal performance." Does that accurately summarize your beliefs? Does that sound prideful at all to you?

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    4. "The moment you receive Christ in faith, this all applies to you. The Holy Spirit moves inside you, and you're moved out of the realm of the flesh into the realm of the Spirit. And a dispositive sign that you've done so is that you're putting to death the misdeeds of the body, etc"
      Yes, agreed with what your wrote but we still face choices of whether to sin or not to sin with the attendant consequences (life/death) accompanying how we choose to live our lives. You subscribe to the positional holiness view. I also believe in positional holiness but also believe that practical holiness is requisite as well.
      "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord" (Heb 12:14). This verse begs the question that if we are saved due to our positional holiness, why does the verse command us to still pursue it - and if we don't - we won't see the Lord?
      In terms of pride - no not at all. Before I was saved, I was dead in my sins. It is only through the grace of God that I was saved. Before I was regenerated, I had no choice but to sin but after I was saved, I now have a choice to sin or not to sin. That is why Paul makes his conditional statement in Rom 8:13 warning that IF we so to the flesh we reap spiritual death and IF we sow to the Spirit we reap life. If I were to substitute your term "personal performance" which is not found in Scripture with the term "obey/obedience" then yes I would say that by the grace of God I hope to be able to persevere, overcome and remain obedient until the end which is exactly the same instructions that Jesus gave to the saints in Revelation. Perhaps if I diagram it, it will be plainer.
      You claim that I believe:
      Faith + Works = Salvation
      I believe:
      Faith = Works = Salvation
      This is totally consistent with what James states that we are not saved by faith alone and that faith without works is dead. Can James' language be any plainer? We both agree that we are saved by grace through faith. Where we disagree is what exactly constitutes saving faith.

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    5. Please let me clarify myself here. By "works salvation" I don't mean "it's ALL based on your works." There aren't too many people in the world who believe it's ALL based on their works. By the term I mean ANY reliance on your own works to make you right with God and to get you into heaven. ANY reliance on my own works or obedience or righteousness is--gotta be frank here--a denial of the Good News of Christ. The whole first 2/3 of the book of Romans says it over and over and over and over.

      My formulation, based on Eph. 2:8-9, 1 Thes. 5:23-24, 1 Cor. 1:8-9, John 5:24, John 1:12-13, Acts 16:30-31, John 6:47, etc., is True faith which saves LEADS TO works. Quite frankly, it seems like your interpretation contradicts those very clear passages. Let's take the clear meaning of Ephesians 2:8-9. As far as Paul's concerned, there's only two choices here. There's salvation by grace through faith, or there's salvation by works. There's no such thing--when it comes down to it--as 90% Christ and 10% me. Not 99% Christ and 1% me. When it comes to my standing before the Throne, it's ALL Christ's righteousness. I'd be a FOOL to claim any other, and I'd be robbing him of his rightful glory.

      Is Christ your rightousness? Are you depending on his righteousness to get you into Heaven? Alone? Or is it mostly him and partially yours? If you think that your personal righteousness is good enough to get you even 1% of the way there, well, that seems rather prideful.

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    6. Re: James 2:14-26
      Part of the problem is that most of the English translations (really all of them, to my knowledge), have a couple of decisions I've disagreed with.
      Once again, here's some material due out in later 2016:
      >>>>>So how should we handle it? To me, there are only two possibilities: 1) James really is saying that faith isn’t enough to save us, that we’re saved by faith plus works. In that case, James and Paul are flatly contradicting each other, since Paul’s message of salvation by grace through faith is clear and repeated multiple times in his letters. James would also be contradicting Luke [Acts 16:30-31] and John [john 3:16; 5:24; 11:25-26; 20:31]. Or it might be that 2) We need to look a little bit closer at James.

      Part of the problem is that quotation marks weren’t in the Greek. But if there was such a thing back then, I’ve no doubt that James would’ve used them around the word “faith” almost every time he uses it in this passage. It makes a lot more sense, and it coincides perfectly with what the rest of the N.T. says.

      Go through this passage and put the word “faith” in quotation marks: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have 'faith' but has no deeds? Can such ‘faith’ save them?” “Show me your ‘faith’ without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

      That brings us to verse 24: “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” Or as the NASB puts it, “[A] man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” How does this not contradict Paul, who said that we are “justified by faith”?

      Because Paul and James are talking about different types of “justification.” Just like in English, the word in Greek can mean “declared righteous,” which is what Paul is talking about. Or it can be used in the sense of “vindicated,” or “proven right,” which I’m convinced is the sense that James is using here. Using the same Greek word, the Gospel writer quotes Jesus [Luke 7:35] as saying that “Wisdom is proven right by her children.” In other words, wisdom is vindicated by its results.

      If you claim to have faith, the only way you can prove it before other people is through your actions. I don’t know your heart, and you don’t know mine. The only way that I can “prove” that I have faith in front of others is by my deeds. There’s no such thing as a “faith” Christian versus a “works” Christian.<<<<<<<<<

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    7. Re: Heb 12:14

      Once again, I'm going to interpret difficult to understand passages by clearer passages. Whose "holiness" am I to pursue? What does the author mean when he says without this "holiness" you won't "see" the Lord? Three possible interpretations, neither of which contradict the plain teaching of such passages as Eph. 2:8-9, 1 Thes. 5:23-24, 1 Cor. 1:8-9, John 5:24, John 1:12-13, Acts 16:30-31:

      1) It could mean I'm supposed to pursue God's righteousness, as revealed in Christ. This has the advantage of actually echoing Matt. 6:33.
      2) It could mean MY personal holiness/righteousness, because if there's none in my life, that fact is demonstrating that I'm not saved in the 1st place (same motif as we've discussed before).\
      3) It could mean that without pursuing personal righteousness, my personal relationship with the Lord will suffer terribly. I won't "see" his handiwork in my life, I won't feel his presence or his smile, and I'll be missing out on the "life to the full" which Jesus came to provide.

      All of these three have their problems, but I'd probably lean towards #2, edging out #3 by a nose. But if I interpret Heb 12:14 to mean that I'm going to get into God's presence and be accepted by him before the throne based on my personal righteousness, then that flatly contradicts the preceding passages, notably Eph. 2:8-9, 1 Cor. 1:8-9 (please keep in mind that this the CORINTHIAN church) and 1 Thes. 5:23-24.

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  5. Could you do me a huge favor? I've had multiple conversations with my siblings in Christ over the years, and I really need an answer to this: How exactly does one lose his salvation? Is it any particular sin? Or is it a host of them? Is there a number I can reach? If there actually is a way for me to lose my salvation, I'd really like to know.

    Did you sin today? In the time between your sin and when you confessed it to him, did you lose your salvation? Do you believe that EVERY time a believer sins, he loses his salvation? If not, why not?

    The reason I ask is b/c in all my multiple conversations with believers over the years who disagree with me on this, quite frankly I've never gotten a straight answer. Usually they say they don't believe that you lose your salvation EVERY time you sin; usually it's "only if you sin a lot." Well, I can't seem to find that notion. If you believe that we can lose it under ANY circumstances, why not EVERY time we sin?

    I'd submit that if you DO believe that you can lose your salvation, to be consistent with it will lead to either despair or pride. You're believing that you getting into heaven ultimately depends on what YOU do. If you slip up, how can you know that you haven't lost it? Or it leads to pride, leading us to really downgrade our definition of sin: "Sure, he'll send a murderer to hell, but not ME. MY sin really isn't that bad."

    But I really need to ask: Are you denying that we're saved by faith in Christ, or do you believe that it's faith plus works which saves us? I'd really like to know.

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    1. You have asked the million dollar question. I hope I have adequately answered your "faith plus works" question in my previous response. In terms of the sin question - I believe that though we are regenerated upon faith in Christ, we still have our fallen nature to contend with and still sin. Does that mean that every time I sin, I lose my salvation? Thankfully no. A study of the book of 1st John is most helpful in this regard. In 1 John 1, John is describing those believers whose lives are generally characterized by walking in the light; i.e., obeying/abiding in Christ. Forgiveness is conditional as indicated by the clause “IF we walk in the light” in v.7 and is granted by God for those OCCASIONAL sins since no one can claim to be without sin. In 1 John 3 however, John goes on to contrast and distinguish those believers who continue to engage in the PRACTICE of sin. Verse 4 in chapter 3 states that anyone who practices sin, practices lawlessness and is of the devil v.8. Verse 9 states no one born of God PRACTICES sinning. Hence in these two chapters, John is describing the different results for those believers who walk in the light and sin occasionally in contrast to those believers who continue to walk in the darkness by engaging in habitual sin or the practice of sin. God's forgiveness is granted to the former group but not to the latter group. John's message is again consistent with Paul's message. Forgiveness and salvation is only assured to those who walk according to the Spirit; whose lives though not sinless, can be characterized as walking in the light. Hence your assurance and confidence:
      “If you know that he is righteous, you MAY BE SURE that everyone who PRACTICES RIGHTEOUSNESS has been BORN OF HIM.” 1 Jn 2:29

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  6. One last thing. Since we raised this issue, I'm going to bring out a couple of posts in which I discuss one of the biggest "open secrets" of the Christian life: My permanent identity with Christ. It's not due to come out until next year, but I'm making it public now, since I think it really clarifies this for me. Before you respond again, could you please take a look? goo.gl/t9cnyn

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    1. Thanks for your link to the article which develops the theme of being positionally identified with Christ. This is similar to the argument sometimes used that claims that since we are now believers adopted into God's family and are therefore God's children; it is impossible for us to be "un-adopted." My response to the claim that we are forever God's children is to point to scripture namely 1 John 3:10 where it says that those believers who do not practice righteousness and do not love his brother are in fact "children of the devil."

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    2. Again, really gotta disagree with your understanding of 1 John. He's not talking about someone who USED to be a true believer. Please note the tenses here:

      2:9 "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister IS STILL in the darkness." Not "they used to be in the light but they're in the darkness now."
      2:19 "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." Seems pretty clear to me, no?
      3:6 "No one who continues to sin HAS EITHER SEEN him or KNOWN him."

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  7. In some parts of 1 John 2 it is clear that John is referring to believers here. He refers to them as "little children" in v.1. Furthermore in v.3 it says we know him IF (another conditional clause) we keep his commandments. The unsaved are incapable of keeping his commandments. V.7 "brethren." On the other hand I do agree with you that 2:19 does indeed refer to those who were never saved to begin with. Nonetheless, even if your point is that these verses show that they were never believers in the first place, I think your point is only partially true. That is because while it is certainly true that there are believers who were not saved to begin with, it does not logically entail that that all who depart from Christ were never saved to begin with. This is known as a false dichotomy or either-or fallacy. In and of itself, your point does show that some were not really of the faith but your assertion does not preclude the other possibility that one can indeed truly believe but later fall away as I have attempted to otherwise show. In other words I could agree with you that these verses point to unbelievers but it still does not deal with the verses I point to that deal with believers.

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    1. >>>>That is because while it is certainly true that there are believers who were not saved to begin with, it does not logically entail that that all who depart from Christ were never saved to begin with.<<<<<<<

      Well, it seems to me based on that passage that the apostle's only explanation for people who abandoned the faith or who are actively opposing it is that they never (really) belonged to the church to begin with. He doesn't give any other explanation in that verse or any other.

      Every single passage which you've mentioned (and there are lots more you coud've cited) in 1 John falls very easily into the theme of "This is how you can tell if you're saved or not, and in some circumstances, you can tell if someone ELSE is saved or not." Every single one. This falls right into the stated purpose of 1 John 5:13: Comfort and assurance to true believers. If there are any exceptions to this, passages in 1 John which CANNOT fall naturally into this theme, please point them out to me. I gave you three examples of passages which definitely say that if one DOESN'T exhibit these characteristics, then you were never saved to begin with. They do NOT say if you don't exhibit these characteristics, you've probably lost your salvation.

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    2. I already agreed with you that 1 Jn 2:19 does indeed refer to the never saved group. No argument there, however you discount my contention that John refers to another group which are the saved but in danger of falling away group as the crux of your objection is that there is no single reference in 1 John that warns of believers falling away. Therefore take a closer look at 1 Jn 3:7-8:
      "Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil."
      John refers to this group as "dear or little children" depending on which translation is used. This term of endearment can only reference believers. He or the one who practices righteousness is righteous. He or the one who sins is of the devil. The "he" or "the one" in both verses 7 & 8 can only refer to believers. One cannot state that the "he" in v.7 refers to believers only but then in the very next verse claim that the "he" in v.8 refers to unbelievers. I hope you would agree that it would be twisting the text and is poor hemeneutics.

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    3. I just want to make sure I understand your meaning here: Because John addresses a group of believers as "dear children," then he necessarily is only referring to true believers in those two verses.

      My pastor addresses a congregation of about a thousand every Sunday morning. He'll continually use such terms as "brothers," or "dear ones." He'll switch back and forth between addressing different groups right in the middle of the sermon: 1) People he's (pretty) sure are saved, 2) People who claim to be saved and he has no reason to doubt, 3) People who claim to be saved but he has sincere doubts about, 4) People who don't even claim to be a Christian. People in group #1 are few and far between. Most members of the church would fit into groups #2 and #3. But he still might address the congregation as "brothers and sisters" or some other term which assumes that most of the people he's talking to are true believers.

      I might even lead someone to Christ personally and STILL give them the same type of tests which John is talking about. It still falls quite neatly into the stated theme of "If you really are saved, then this will be demonstrated in your life. If not, then you're probably not saved."

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    4. If I see someone who's living an unrepentant lifestyle of sin, what am I to conclude, according to 3:6, the verse right before the one you cited? They have NEITHER SEEN him nor KNOWN him. Not that they used to know him and fell away. If an interpretation of 3:7-8 leads me to flatly contradict the plain meaning, I'd reexamine my interpretation.

      Some more verses that fit into the theme:
      2:3 "We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands." If I don't keep his commands, then I show that. . . what? That I USED to know him? Or that I have not come to know him at all? Which fits better to you?

      2:9 already mentioned, "still in the darkness."

      2:19 already mentioned.

      3:9 "No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God." Can you please explain to me how one becomes "unborn"? I realize that you believe that you can lose your salavation, that after a certain point of sinning that the Father will disown you, but once you're born, there's no going back (as Nicodemus immediately recognized). You might claim that someone can die spiritually after they reborn, but it's hard for me to imagine someone actually reversing the process of being born. The most natural interpretation for me is that if you're continuing to sin, you haven't been born of GOd. The reason you can't go on sinning with impunity is b/c God's "seed" (which I take to mean the Holy Spirit) remains in you. I CANNOT go on sinning (3:9 seems to be pretty emphatic on this) b/c of this rebirth.

      Can you explain to me how your interpretation fits in with 3:9? If it's IMPOSSIBLE for a Christian to just sin with impunity, then how can a Christian lose his salvation?


      In every one of these passages, the pattern is the same: If you exhibit sign X, you're saved. If you don't, or exhibit the opposite, you're probably not. But you're trying to tell me that in these two verses he's completely breaking his pattern. With all respect, not buying it.

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    5. Context is the key. In your pastor's sermons, you as the listener would discern which segment of the congregation he's addressing at any one time based on context. If he's worth his salt as a preacher that would be plain in his sermon delivery. In vss. 7-8, it is plain that John is addressing "dear children" and that this term of endearment is never applied to the unsaved. Thus the "he" in both verses 7 & 8 refer to believers and as such we have a choice to do what is right or do what is sinful.

      The difference in our interpretations stems from the fact that I believe a born again believer can lose his/her salvation whereas you believe that it is not possible. The plain reading of v.9 says to me that the person who is born of God cannot go on sinning. It does not say that the person who goes on sinning was never born of God to begin with. I think you and I both I agree that obedience is required or am mistaken? Is it not true that believers have a choice whether to sin or not to sin? If I sin with impunity does this verse say I remain a child of God or am I a child of the devil. If we go through the tribulation and you take the mark of the beast, would you not lose your salvation despite claiming to be a believer as would I if I did the same thing? Would we not receive the same condemnation as the devil as the convert receives in 1 Tim 3:6 who is condemned because of his pride?

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    6. Re: 1 Tim. 3:6-7
      In answer to your question, well, I guess it depends. If by "judgment," you mean spending an eternity in hell WITH the devil, then no. That's because my eternal destiny is not based AT ALL on my personal righteousness at all. It's ALL based on Christ, who IS my righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30). I claim no other. I'd be a FOOL to claim any righteousness before the throne besides Christ.

      But if you mean that I can become conceited and thus be guilty of the same basic sin (pride) as the devil, then of course. There's plenty of examples of believers who fell into this trap. David, for one, when he counted the fighting men. Hezekiah pridefully showed off his treasures to the ambassadors from Babylon. If God told me that I was as personally righteous as David, I for one would be THRILLED.

      But you wanna know why Paul says to not make new converts into church leaders? Why only older ones? Because the less mature you are as a believer, the higher you tend to rate your own righteousness and immunity to temptation. The closer I get to him, the more I see how far I have to go, and the more clear it is to me how quickly I'd fall if he didn't hold me up. The more mature I get, the more I see how even my best actions and thoughts are tainted with sin.

      Or, once again, this might be a warning not to take a new convert's profession of faith at face value. If he just allegedly received Christ, then we haven't had any time to get to know him, to watch him. After some time, we can determine better whether or not he's really saved or not.

      I interpret more ambiguous passages by easy-to-understand ones. I struggle with pride every day. How can I know I'm not going to fall into the same eternal condemnation as the Devil? Well, there's an easy way to find out. John 5:24 tells me that "whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life." So I'm going to interpret a more ambiguous passage (like 1 Tim. 3:6) by a clear one (John 5:24).

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  8. He keeps me out of situations in which I'd be tempted beyond what I could bear. There IS a point at which he'll even strike me in discipline, up to and including physical death.

    The plain meaning of vs. 9 (to me) is that it's IMPOSSIBLE for someone born of God to continue sinning with impunity, just like it's impossible for me to float above the ground and fly off like Superman. You seem to think that it IS possible for someone born of God to continue sinning with impunity. How is this not flatly contradicting what vs. 9 is saying?

    Verse 9 says why it's impossible: Not any inate goodness in me, but b/c God's "seed" remains in me. It seems to me that it's most likely referring to the Holy Spirit, since that's what (or whom) he's placed inside me.

    one of the signs that you ARE saved is prompting by the Spirit to confess and repent when I sin. As opposed to the Old Covenant, when he wrote the Law on tablets of stone, he's written his Law on my heart (Jer. 31:32-33). If you DON'T have this desire to please him, then I think it's a bad sign that you never were saved to begin with.

    This seems to me to be the most natural reading of vs. 9. You can't reverse the birthing process. You might claim that you can die spiritually after you're given spiritual life (kind of negates the meaning of "eternal life" to me, but OK), but that's not what we're referring to here. Once you're born physically, you can't reverse that process. You might die, but that doesn't reverse the fact that you were born in the first place.

    And John says that if you were born of God, it's IMPOSSIBLE for you to "go on sinning," which we both define as sinning with impunity. But you seem to think that you CAN be born of God, then later "go on sinning." Please explain how this is not a flat contradiction of the verse?

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  9. Because since you believe that v.9 does not refer to believers then you would also have to believe that v.8 does not apply to believers either. Both verses refer to those who sin. I think you would have no problem agreeing that the "He" in the 2nd half of v.7 is a referent to "Dear children in the first half of this verse. As I wrote earlier this is a phrase of endearment reserved for believers only so if the "He in v.7 refers to believers then the "He" in v.8 also has to be a referent to the same dear children. One cannot claim that the "he" in v.7 refers to believers and then in the very next verse claim that the "he" refers to unbelievers. That would be a very arbitrary claim and violate the grammatical structure of these verses. Thus John is warning believers here of the consequences of their choice whether to act righteously or to act sinfully. Seem pretty straightforward to me. Wondering if you deny that a convert can face the same judgment as the devil as stated in 1 Tim 3:6? I have no doubt that you are a believer so if you took the mark of the beast would you still maintain that you are saved? If you took the mark, then according to your view, you were never a believer in the first place. How would you reconcile this?

    As to your assertion that "you can't reverse the birthing process." That is an anthropomorphism that a lot of people employ which at first glance seems to make sense but may in fact be unsupported by Scripture. I think Scripture goes against your claim. In fact I believe Jesus himself taught the opposite - that someone can be born again but because of habitual sin become spiritually dead but upon repentance and turning back to the Father can be made alive AGAIN.
    In Luke 15, most teachings on the parable of the prodigal son focus on the father’s mercy and willingness to forgive his son. This is certainly true as the prodigal repented of his ways and returned to his father’s graciously open arms. However I don’t think that this aspect of the parable was Jesus’ main teaching point as Jesus repeats only one phrase in this whole story and we know that when Jesus repeats something to his listeners, he is putting emphasis on something and is very likely the main point of his teaching so we’d better take heed. In verses 24 & 32 the father describes his son as being dead but alive again; was lost but is found. How can someone be made alive AGAIN? We know that we are born again once when we first believe but how is the son made alive a second time? Note that the father described his son as being dead – not physically dead but spiritually dead. The son was spiritually alive when he abided in his father’s house but when he separated himself to pursue a lifestyle of sin, he became spiritually dead. When he repented and returned to his father seeking forgiveness he was made alive AGAIN. Thus Jesus’ point is that a believer/child of God can forfeit their salvation/inheritance when they no longer abide and sever themselves from the vine and the Father's household through habitual disobedience. If one repents God can still forgive and one is made alive again but if one remains in an unrepentant condition, one is spiritually dead and remains separated from God.

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  10. Re: 1 John 3:7-10
    There's another possibility as well. He might be showing them how to tell a true teacher from a false one. "Don't let anyone lead you astray" would fit nicely with that interpretation. He warns us repeatedly in this book about false teachers as well as warning us to make sure we're real believers. But how can we tell between a true teacher and a false one?

    Amazingly enough, he tells us: "The one who does what is sinful is of the devil." "If you're born of God, you won't continue to sin [with impunity]." "Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister." Obviously false teachers are saved, but we can pretty quickly tell a false teacher from a true one by their personal conduct, as well as what they're teaching.

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  11. All of these interpretations I've submitted fit perfectly into the context of John's point in this book. Over and over and over and over he presents us with a test of some sort, and if someone fails the test, the conclusion we should reach is that they were never saved to begin with:

    1 John 3:6 "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin HAS EITHER SEEN HIM OR KNOWN HIM." Not "he used to know him but doesn't anymore."

    2:3 "We know that WE HAVE COME TO KNOW HIM if we keep his commands." If I don't keep his commands, then I show that I haven't come to know him. Not "If I don't keep his commands, I used to know him but don't anymore."

    2:9 "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is STILL in the darkness." Not "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a sibling used to be in the light but NOW he's in the darkness." He NEVER left the darkness in the first place.

    2:19 "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." So according to this verse, if someone "goes out" from us, which I take to mean wholesale abandonment of the faith, then what am I to assume ACCORDING TO THIS VERSE? Am I to assume that he used to be one of us but no longer? No, my assumption is that he never really belonged to us in the first place.

    And of course as I've pointed out multiple times at this point, my interpretation fits perfectly in line with 3:9-10 as well. The way that you can tell A) False teachers from good ones and B) whether or not you're really saved (b/c I don't know your heart), is you don't sin with impunity.

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  12. I know that you say "OK, there are some passages out there that are referring to are referring to people who were never saved in the first place, but what about 3:7-8?"
    I've given you multiple explanations/interpretations for it. But you've chosen one intepretation that--to be frank--fits in this book like a square peg in a round hole. I might use a term like "brother" for someone I led to Christ MYSELF and STILL give them warnings similar to passages like these. I don't know anyone's salvation but my own, so I'm going to give them warnings like this.

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    1. I've given some more thought to your question about 1 John 3:7-10, and I have some further thoughts. To be frank, this is probably the best case you've made so far.

      So I asked myself, "Are there any situations in which a biblical author addresses a group of (professed) believers as a group with a term which ONLY really applies to believers, but then issues a warning that seems to indicate the possibility that some of them really AREN'T saved?"

      Why, yes there is. 1 Cor. 15:1-2:
      "Now, 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."

      Please notice that fits perfectly into the motif I've noted before: If you've TRULY placed your faith in Christ, then you ARE saved. But the way to know that you truly ARE saved is "if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you."

      There are two possiblities for "have believed in vain":

      1) In context, he's answering the heresy among them that there's no general resurrection. That's why the NLT translates it as "unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place."

      2) Or, as MacArthur puts it, "By this qualifying statement, Paul recognized and called to their attention that some may have had a shallow, non-saving faith (see notes on Mt 7:13, 14, 22-27; 13:24-30, 34-43, 47-50; 25:1-30). Some believed only as the demons believed (Jas 2:19), i.e., they were convinced the gospel was true, but had no love for God, Christ, and righteousness. True believers “hold fast” to the gospel (cf. Jn 8:31; 2Co 13:5; 1Jn 2:24; 2Jn 9)."

      Either one is plausible. But the fact remains that Paul addressed a group of (professed) believers even when he had personal doubts about the personal salvation of some of them. And as I pointed out, this motif fits PERFECTLY in line with the general theme of 1 John, which John states over and over and over and over in the Epistle.

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  13. Re: The Prodigal Son.
    You seem like a very well-read and studied individual. I commend that. Here's something I learned a long time ago in biblical hermeneutics: Parables aren't allegories. They usually have one main point or two. You don't go to them for a detailed theological treatise. The context of the story of the Prodigal Son is the criticism by Jesus' enemies re: his acceptance of "sinners." In response TO THIS he told them three stories that illustrate God's love towards lost sinners.

    This is their main purpose. Their purpose is not to help me work out a detailed soteriology. For that, he's already provided me with the most complete book on that score, an epistle that reads more like a theological treatise than a personal letter, namely the book of Romans. Or I might go to Ephesians, the "Queen of the Epistles."

    But parables like this is NOT where I go to for working out deep theological questions. If this IS where we go to get our soteriology, then here are some questions to consider:

    1) Do the stories of the lost coin and the lost sheep teach pure Calvinism? After all, a coin and a sheep don't choose to find their way back to their owner. They only passively are "found." There's no choice involved for them at all. I'm not a pure Calvinist, but I think you see my point.
    2) Who's the older brother in the P.S. story represent? Based on his attitude and the context of the why Jesus was telling these stories, it seems like the Pharisees are the best candidate, right? So everything the Father has belongs to them? Does that make sense to you?
    3) So what did the woman, the shepherd, and the father have to do to reclaim their own? Well, all they had to do was search and find them. If you're going to use these stories for deep soteriological meaning, there's a problem. I recently taught on these stories, and as I pointed out, it cost the Lord a lot more than just some searching to reclaim me. It cost him his life.

    My explanation for "was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found"? It's a colorful phrase in a story. He was LITERALLY lost and was found again, but he wasn't LITERALLY dead and come back to life, right? Someone might say something like "You're dead to me." That doesn't literally mean they're dead.

    But I was REALLY spiritually dead. Not sick. Not in my hospital bed on life support. Dead. Toe-tag on the foot dead. And he breathed life into me, Eph. 2:1-7.

    If this the best support you have for the concept that you can actually reverse the birthing process, well, I'm not convinced.

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    1. You are correct that not all details in a parable are meant to be defined and have equal importance. That is precisely why I pointed to this parable in particular because they come from the mouth of Jesus himself and as I wrote earlier he only repeats himself twice in the whole story which indicates the main point of his teaching. You can claim that his "acceptance of sinners" was the main point and while that is generally true, it doesn't reflect his main point in this parable which centers not around the older son but on the younger son who habitually sinned, became dead and was made alive again. I find it ironic that sometimes we tend to overlook the words of Jesus for formulating our doctrine (especially when it doesn't conform to personal doctrines) and yet this method of teaching was Jesus' most oft used teaching tool for imparting spiritual truths to his own disciples. In doing so we construct our doctrines yet overlook the plain teaching of the scriptures. You refer to the epistles claiming that they are prescriptive and are therefore the sound basis for doctrine and by default downplay the gospels and Acts because they are descriptive. Does not the Bible say that all scripture is useful for teaching, correcting and training in righteousness etc? Is not the book of Revelation which is descriptive, the primary source of our eschatology and yet its contents are narrative and descriptive? All of the OT is narrative and descriptive so are we supposed to dispense with that as well? Therefore I think the idea that some parts of the Bible are to be used primarily for formulating doctrine is simply a false dichotomy.
      Aside from this philosophical difference, allow me to address your three points:
      1) You claim that the sheep and coin are in a passive state and are actively found by their respective owners. That is untrue as both the sheep and coins represent sinners who "repent" in vss. 7 & 10. The decision and act of repentance is required; thus passivity is ruled out.
      2) I believe the older brother is a non-player in this story. He is a minor character as we both agree that not all the details in a parable carry equal importance. Having said that, yes indeed he could indeed represent the Pharisees but what is your point? Did not the younger brother also once have all that his Father owned?
      3) Again, while God does want to reclaim those who belong to him, REPENTANCE on our part is required.

      Regarding "dead and is alive again" which you referred to as a "colorful" phrase. I don't think Jesus was in the the habit of using colorful phrases to emphasize his main point. Even more so, the meaning that you attribute to it cannot possibly be true. You make the common mistake of employing a modern English idiom which we as speakers of this language today would have no difficulty understanding. However, to say that the audience that Jesus spoke to in his day would understand your definition based on a modern English idiom is wholly misplaced and unacceptable. They would have no idea of what you're referring to. I'm sure you agree that it is best practice to define scripturally terms according to how the Bible defines them and not according to our notions based on our language, custom and culture. When the Bible refers to "death" it does mean spiritual death unless the immediate context indicates physical death. When the Bible refers to "alive", it refers to the spiritual sense of being regenerated in Christ unless the specific context refers to being physically alive.
      Based on the above, I cannot find your responses to be tenable ones and therefore reiterate my same question: How can someone be made alive again?

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    2. >>>>>>>>>>You are correct that not all details in a parable are meant to be defined and have equal importance. That is precisely why I pointed to this parable in particular because they come from the mouth of Jesus himself<<<<<<<

      As opposed to every other parable in the Gospels?

      >>>>>>>>>and as I wrote earlier he only repeats himself twice in the whole story which indicates the main point of his teaching. You can claim that his "acceptance of sinners" was the main point and while that is generally true, it doesn't reflect his main point in this parable which centers not around the older son but on the younger son who habitually sinned, became dead and was made alive again.<<<<<<<<<

      You keep saying the that the younger son became "dead." He did not literally die. It was obviously a figure of speech. In a sense, the son was "dead" to his father, in the same sense that someone uses that today.

      >>>>>>>>>>>>I find it ironic that sometimes we tend to overlook the words of Jesus for formulating our doctrine (especially when it doesn't conform to personal doctrines) and yet this method of teaching was Jesus' most oft used teaching tool for imparting spiritual truths to his own disciples. In doing so we construct our doctrines yet overlook the plain teaching of the scriptures. You refer to the epistles claiming that they are prescriptive and are therefore the sound basis for doctrine and by default downplay the gospels and Acts because they are descriptive.<<<<<

      I don't "downplay" anything. If you've read my blog for a while, you'll see that one of my pet peeves is what I call "one-third Bible believers," which I'll explain below. But each portion of the Bible has a main purpose. I hate to repeat myself, but I don't go to the book of Proverbs for a more complete explanation of the nature of Christ, and I don't go to the first fourteen verses of John's Gospel for practical advice on money.

      That's why I interpret the parables by more complete revelation in the epistles. If you want a description of the events surrounding the crucifixion, you go to the Gospels. If you want a more thorough explanation of the meaning behind the events surrounding the crucifixion, you go to the epistles, and Romans is the first place I go.

      I don't mean to insult you, I really don't but it seems like you're willing to drop simple hermeneutical principles in order to make the point you want to make.

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    3. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
      1) You claim that the sheep and coin are in a passive state and are actively found by their respective owners. That is untrue as both the sheep and coins represent sinners who "repent" in vss. 7 & 10. The decision and act of repentance is required; thus passivity is ruled out.<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

      Not according to full-blooded Calvinists, of which I'm not one. They believe that you repent without any decision on your part, and that God's irrestible grace comes and MAKES you repent despite your best efforts. They'd be perfectly fine with the image of a coin and a sheep merely being "found" without any decision on their part. My point is that we're not going to go a parable in order to determine our soterilogy. We go to the book of Romans and Ephesians for that.

      >>>>>>2) I believe the older brother is a non-player in this story. He is a minor character as we both agree that not all the details in a parable carry equal importance. Having said that, yes indeed he could indeed represent the Pharisees but what is your point? Did not the younger brother also once have all that his Father owned?<<<<

      You seem to have missed the part where the father specifically tells the OLDER brother that ALL that the father has NOW BELONGS TO HIM (the older brother). Once again, this seems an insurmountable problem for you if you want to go to this story for deep point on soteriology. By your reasoning, the Pharisees are the inheritors of the ENTIRE Kingdom.

      And I completely disagree with your assertion that the older son is a "non-player in this story." In the 21 verses which make up the story, the son and his father's conversation with him make up 7 verses, a full third of the ENTIRE story. And this goes right along with what I said earlier that the main point of these three stories are 1) God's attitude towards lost sinners, in stark contast with 2) the Pharisees', and 3) as a side-note, I notice the utter "lostness" in each of the stories.

      >>>>3) Again, while God does want to reclaim those who belong to him, REPENTANCE on our part is required.<<<<

      I'd concede that repentance on our part is required. That's part of what "coming to Jesus" means. My point is that a parable is a pretty poor place for a deep understanding of soteriology, b/c if that's it's purpose it COMPLETELY bypasses the sacrificial atonement aspect of what Jesus did in order to reclaim us.

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    4. >>>>Does not the Bible say that all scripture is useful for teaching, correcting and training in righteousness etc? Is not the book of Revelation which is descriptive, the primary source of our eschatology and yet its contents are narrative and descriptive? All of the OT is narrative and descriptive so are we supposed to dispense with that as well?<<<<

      My friend, I yield to NO ONE in trying to get believers to read and apply ALL the Bible. I've said for years that way too many believers are "one third Bible believers." In other words, they SAY that they believe that all Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, but they don't display this by their Bible-reading habits.

      Having said this, a basic hermeneutical principle is known as "progressive revelation." And part of this princple means that over time God's given us revelation which intprets the earlier parts. We don't interpret the later parts by the older ones.

      For example, I don't go to the book of Ecclesiastes for final revelation about the afterlife. Otherwise, I'd have to believe that after we die, that's it. I don't look at Jesus' command in Matt. 10:5 and take that as the final word as the people with whom we're to share the Gospel.

      So if someone came to you and asked what they need to do in order to be saved, would you tell them to sell all their property and give it to the poor, like Jesus told an enquirer in Mark 10? Really? That's normative?

      So tell me, when your church needs to choose a new church leader? Do you cast lots for them? Why not? That's what the disciples did in Acts chapter one, and if the disciples did it one time, that's normative for every believer everywhere, right? Or have you sold your home and given all the money to your church leaders yet, laying it at their feet without even asking them how they're going to spend it?

      You see what happens when you abandon basic hermeneutical princples?

      >>>>Therefore I think the idea that some parts of the Bible are to be used primarily for formulating doctrine is simply a false dichotomy.<<<<<<

      Well, then you and I are going to have to disagree. I think that the epistles are normative for believers, and I'm going to interpret the rest of the Bible by them, not the other way around.

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    5. >>>>Does not the Bible say that all scripture is useful for teaching, correcting and training in righteousness etc? Is not the book of Revelation which is descriptive, the primary source of our eschatology and yet its contents are narrative and descriptive? All of the OT is narrative and descriptive so are we supposed to dispense with that as well?<<<<


      Again, the main points, which YOU seem to downplay is 1) God's attitude towards lost sinners, in stark contast with 2) the Pharisees', and the utter "lostness" in each story.

      >>>>>However, to say that the audience that Jesus spoke to in his day would understand your definition based on a modern English idiom is wholly misplaced and unacceptable. They would have no idea of what you're referring to. I'm sure you agree that it is best practice to define scripturally terms according to how the Bible defines them and not according to our notions based on our language, custom and culture. <<<<<<<

      My reasoning is pretty simple: In THIS story, the son was not literally dead to the father, but he was literally lost. It's obviously a figure of speech in that story. The father in the story was not giving us a theological dissertation on spiritual death vs. physical death. That's why we go to the epistles.

      You're mentioning his original listeners, which is interesting. Are you seriously trying to claim that his ORIGINIAL listeners would've heard this story and would've given two thoughts to what the father meant by "dead and alive again." They would've taken as it obviously is: A figure of speech in a story inside a broader story. Do you think that his original hearers would've interpreted it like you do?

      To be frank, I think you're trying reeeeaaallly hard to read into this story something that's not there.

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    6. It's difficult to cover and reply to your multiple replies as they are separate entries and replies are not allowed for each entry. Nonetheless, does not lost mean lost as in spiritually lost? Can you point to me anywhere at all including the epistles where lost does not mean spiritually dead? It seems to me that you are coming up with your own definitions instead of allowing scripture define scripture in order to defend your view. Even in Christian parlance, is it not commonplace to refer to the lost as the unsaved; separated from God and not geographically lost as you appear to claim? Even if I were to somehow accept you personal definition, it does not fit well with being dead and being made alive again. That phrase "lost and found" only makes sense with was "dead and is alive again" as they represent parallel spiritual realities. I am certain that the original listeners would have no understanding of your insertion of your idiomatic expression and I still maintain that this particular verse is the main point of Jesus' teaching. Instead, you make a point of the epistles being normative for us but I don't think you would go so far as to claim that Jesus' words are not meant to be normative for as us well, would you? If so we might as well discount the sermon on the mount too. Of course casting lots and other examples like greeting one another with a holy kiss would not be normative today but I disagree with your view that certain parts of the scripture are normative and other parts are not. We cannot discount the parts that don't happen to agree with our pet theology. Our task is to make them harmonize as best as possible knowing that scripture cannot contradict scripture. If certain scriptures do not harmonize, then we have a potential problem and thus should not discount or minimize them but attempt to reconcile them as best we know how.

      Regarding your reference to the older and his being representative of the Pharisees. I see no such association occurring in the text itself so I see that as an assumption on your part. While it is true that the Pharisees saw themselves as keepers of the law I don't think that is an important detail as we agree that one cannot press significance to all details. It is Jesus' response to the older brother which I consider to be the important point which I already referenced earlier. I have not found any other explanation of how someone can be made dead and alive Again except to explain that a regenerate person can become spiritually dead through the practice of sin and then be made alive again upon repentance and turning back to God.

      Regarding your reference to the rich young ruler. If a person came to me asking me how to be saved would I tell them to sell their riches and give it to the poor? I might just say that. Belief only - in and of itself - is not biblical. Would I not also tell them to repent and perform deeds in keeping with repentance (Mt 3:8; Acts 26:20)? Would I not also tell him to take up his cross and follow Jesus? Would I not also tell him to die daily? Would I not tell him to demonstrate his love for God by obeying him? If his riches were indeed his idol, then I would warn him to loosen his grasp on his riches on one hand and even "cut off" his hand if necessary in order that he would follow Christ lest his riches prove to be a snare to him. Would you consider that to be works-based salvation? I call that obedience - plain and simple - which the Bible never ever condemns.

      Our discussion has been a lengthy one and I doubt we will change each other's minds but I appreciate the civil discourse you have shown. In order to wind things down or simplify our discourse, do you have any questions that I have not addressed or others that you still would like responses for and I shall do the same.

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    7. OK, we're back now. Hope you had a great set of holidays.
      I really don't have anything more to say about the Parable that I haven't said before. I don't think you've really taken into consideration the fact that if we go to this story for strict soteriological instruction, then the older brother (which you admit, if there's an immedite parallel, it's the Pharisees), then we'd have to conclude that not only were they saved, but they had ALL the Kingdom inheritance. That's what happens when you try to read into a story more than is warranted by the context. Jesus was addressing the situation of people who started off lost and who were then found. He was not giving a dissertation on soteriology. That's what we have John's Gospel, Romans and Ephesians and Galatians for.

      >>>Of course casting lots and other examples like greeting one another with a holy kiss would not be normative today but I disagree with your view that certain parts of the scripture are normative and other parts are not.<<<

      Seems you're slightly contradicting yourself. Why DON'T we draw lots now to make major decisions? Why DON'T we just sell all property and lay them at the feet of our spiritual leaders to do with as they please? Why DON'T we just look at everything the first generation church did and run with it?

      I guess what I mean is DIRECTLY normative or DIRECTLY applicable. My default position is that the Epistles, written on this side of the Cross, are much more directly applicable. Everything written or set in a time period before them has to be interpreted in their light, not the other way around. That's what "progressive revelation" means. And yes, that includes the Gospels. When the leper was healed, the Lord Jesus told him to "go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them."

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    8. >>>Regarding your reference to the rich young ruler. If a person came to me asking me how to be saved would I tell them to sell their riches and give it to the poor? I might just say that. Belief only - in and of itself - is not biblical.<<<

      Depends on what you mean by "belief." There is a "belief" which is the "faith" of demons. As James makes clear, that doesn't save. True belief, trust, faith, whatever you want to call it, WILL be accompanied by works. If you happen to read my presentation of the Good News on my site, you'll notice that I'm careful to make it clear that part of receiving Christ is recognizing him as the "Boss" of your life from now on. But having said that, the book of Romans is pretty clear that we are saved by placing our faith in Christ, plus nothing else. Ephesians 2:8-10 is pretty clear as well:

      We're saved BY grace
      THROUGH faith
      not BY works at all, but we're saved
      FOR good works.
      Prepositions are really important there.

      I want to please my Savior, and if I really start screwing up he'll get my attention in much less pleasant ways. And I know that this very fact that I WANT to please him is evidence of the fact that I belong to him. But as far as my salvation is concerned, I'm placing ALL my faith and trust in the righteousness of Christ. He IS my Righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30, Jer. 23:5-6). I claim no other.

      Can you say the same? To be frank, I get a little confused sometimes by what you're saying. In some of your responses, it sounds like you agree with me on HOW to be saved. But if you're going to James chapter two for HOW to be saved (we're justifed by faith PLUS works before the throne), then we have to part ways. It sounds like the Roman Catholic teaching, which as I understand it, is that (true) faith in Christ is NECESSARY but not SUFFICIENT for salvation. If that's your position, then we have greater differences then just the issue of eternal security.

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    9. >>>Our discussion has been a lengthy one and I doubt we will change each other's minds but I appreciate the civil discourse you have shown. In order to wind things down or simplify our discourse, do you have any questions that I have not addressed or others that you still would like responses for and I shall do the same.<<<

      Well, I really don't feel that you've really addressed the past tense of Romans 8:28-30. The only thing I've seen in your response is "Well, what about 8:17?" I think I've answered that fairly well: One of the signs that we WILL be glorified in the future is that we suffer for him now. But I really haven't heard you answer how your interpretation of vss. 28-30. How do you see anyone "falling out" of group #5 who started out in Group #1?

      And I would really like you to interpret 1 Cor. 1:8-9 and 1 Thes. 5:23-24 for me. I especially love the Cor. passage, since the church there was SUCH a screw-up, and it's pretty obvious that Paul is SEARCHING for SOMETHING he can commend about them as a church. But in vss. 8-9 he says that for all the true believers among them, even the ones who are really screwing up their lives and the lives of the church, that "He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." My eternal destiny is not based--either in FULL or in PART--on MY faithfulness. If it was, I'd be sunk.

      To a slightly less shiocking degree (b/c they weren't nearly as screwed up as the Cor. church), Paul told the Thessalonians "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it." Once again, it's HIS faithfulness which will--in the end--sanctify me (set me apart) and keep me blameless before the Throne. Not mine.

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  14. You keep pointing over and over and over to passages which seem to teach that I can lose my salvation. I've pointed out over and over and over that they can each be interpreted to mean that a way to tell that you are saved is increasing holiness and righteousness and a desire to please him.

    But all this emphasis on that topic isn't sitting too well with me, at least not without refocusing myself. C.S. Lewis (I'm paraphrasing) is that a sign of humility (or lack of pride) is not that you think less of yourself, but that you think of yourself less. Instead of constantly focusing on myself, testing myself, examining myself, my heart leads me towards focusing on Christ. HIS righteousness. HIS goodness. HIS mercy and grace.

    Once again, I'm going to be honest with you. It seems to me that you're trusting in mostly his righteousness and partially your own to get you into heaven. My friend, even at my BEST my righteousness is filthy rags in his sight. It's ONLY his grace, his goodness, his mercy, his righteousness in which I'm trusting to get me into his presence. I'm clothed in his righteousness.

    I gotta be up front here. The way you keep on focusing on "I hope I'm good enough" seems to be a diminishment of his glory. I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and say that's not what you want. But salvation by works is a very atractive proposition. Our sinful nature tells us "It CAN'T be that simple. There MUST be SOMETHING I can do." Inside us is an ache to hold onto some form of self-righteousness. We have to let that go, not just at the moment of salvation but throughout our lives.

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    1. You can talk all you want about "Well, I'm becoming better by his grace and empowerment, so I'm not really taking glory away from him." I beg to differ. I think the entire book of Galatians was written to correct that notion. Eph. 2:8-9 only presents two options for us: Salvation ALL by grace through faith, or salvation by works. There's no third option presented. If you're depending AT ALL on your own righteousness or works to get you into heaven, then that's salvation by works. And I'd submit that not only includes how you get "in" in the first place, but how you "stay" in. I didn't do anything to GET in, and I don't "do" anything to STAY in.

      "But what about THIS passage that seems to contradict that notion?" Any passage that on the surface seems to teach salvation by works, I'm going to look a little closer at. Scripture can't contradict scripture, and Romans 3-5, the entire book of Galatians, Ephesians 2:8-9, 1 Thes. 5:23-24, 1 Cor. 1:8-9, John 5:24, etc., all seem to be pretty unambiguous. So I ask myself, is there another way to interpret this passage without contradicting the clear stuff? Yes, there is. They all can be easily interpreted another way than by saying you can lose your salvation, or that you're saved by anything other than by grace through faith. Mostly they're warnings which tell you that if you don't show works, if there's no fruit, then that's a bad sign that you never were saved to begin with. Or it might be a warning to believers about bad consequences if they veer from God's path without repenting. Or they might be referring to something other than eternal punishment for believers.

      Quite frankly, you haven't presented anything that unambigously CANNOT fall into one of those categories. You're presented passages which MIGHT--at first glance--teach that you can lose your salvation or gain it by works. In each case, I've presented an alternative interpretation which fits right into my overall understanding of Scripture. One of the first rules of hermeneutics is that you interpret more ambiguous passages by clearer ones.

      Look, you seem to be sincerely concerned with pleasing our Lord and Savior. Like me, you're really concerned about the rampant antinomianism rife in the church. I don't think you want to steal any of your Lord's glory to add to your own. But I submit that by trusting AT ALL in your own righteousness to get you into heaven, that's exactly what you're doing.

      Anyway, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas season and a Happy New Year. God bless you and yours.

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  15. Let's take a break over Christmas until after the New Year's Day, shall we? Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and may God bless you and yours.

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