Salvation 2.0: Part 9.4: An Unsure Salvation

grace5Another collateral result of this understanding of Heb 6:4-6 is that our salvation can, at times, be very unsure. While confidence and assurance is always available to us, we often turn our back on God’s promises and slide into a state of jeopardy before we fall away entirely.

Hebrews says,

(Heb 6:10-11)  God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.

Our hope is not necessarily sure. And the way to make our hope sure is to serve others. Peter teaches a similar lesson —

(2 Pet 1:5-8)  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Although we begin with faith, we must grow in the Christian virtues — and never stop growing.

(2 Pet 1:10-11)  Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Here we encounter the same thought. We can have an unsure election. We can live in jeopardy of falling away. But we can also live in a way where we “never fall” and have a sure “election” and “calling.”

Plainly, Peter doesn’t see calling and election as unconditional and irresistible, but they can be sure if we are growing in Christ. You see, the best way to avoid going backwards is to go forwards. Playing with rebellion, going backwards even briefly, is dangerous because our heart can be quickly hardened. We can’t count on being able to repent in the future.

Calvinistic perseverance

I can’t reconcile either Hebrews or 2 Peter with the notion that Christians necessarily persevere and so their calling and election is necessarily sure. No, we are plainly taught that we have to be diligent and grow in order to have a sure election — and I think this is a teaching that should be taught over and over and over. We need to hear it.

Our assurance is in Jesus, but we only stay in Jesus so long as we are true to Jesus — and so we minister to others and allow the Spirit to fill us with the virtues Peter describes. If we turn away from the life of Jesus, we risk also turning away from his salvation.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in Grace, Salvation 2.0, Soteriology, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

103 Responses to Salvation 2.0: Part 9.4: An Unsure Salvation

  1. Price says:

    Is this a fair summary of your comments ? That we are saved by Grace through Faith and not by works….but just for a brief moment in time and then it’s all up to us and our ability to perform at a high level of obedience…. I’m not buying that…. So, surely I must not be understanding you correctly… If I have to depend on my performance, then how good do I need to be ? 50%…75%…100%… Seems like that’s the Old Law part 2…. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness…

  2. Dwight says:

    I think works might not save us, but the lack of works might condemn us, hence the scripture of James 4:17 “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
    There are plenty of scriptures that talk of the unjust steward and the useless dross or tares or useless branches that are separated from the ones that produce. This is something we don’t talk about near enough. We often think that keeping ourselves holy and going to assembly is the point that we are as saints at our best, but in reality it is when we are actually doing things for others.
    “Pure and undefiled religion is helping the widows”
    God doesn’t want things that believe they are saved because they have gone through certain motions, but those who continue in motion in affecting others. We should never be afraid we aren’t saved, but we should never sit back and rely on that concept. Paul sure didn’t. Paul talked of running the race and getting to the end, not just starting it or being associated with it or being on the list. Paul understood that it is a partnership with God that carries us through as we carry God with us on our journey.

  3. laymond says:

    Price said;” If I have to depend on my performance, then how good do I need to be ? 50%…75%…100%…”
    Price we need to be as close to 100% as is possible, but it is only one day, seems to me anybody can be good for one day, you might ask, what day, I say to you TODAY.

  4. laymond says:

    One day at a time.

  5. Monty says:

    Price,

    More than condemn Jay, I’d be willing to listen to your interpretation of the passages Jay dealt with. I believe Jay is just as dependent on the blood of Jesus as you are. But deal with those passages please rather than throw out they don’t fit with your once saved always saved view. Convince us they don’t say what they say. But please don’t start with those he is addressing in Hebrews aren’t “really” Christians.

  6. Chris says:

    The way I understand it is – we continue to walk in faith, the same kind of faith that saved us. However, having walked in that faith should reflect a certain level that has grown stronger, not weaker. In addition, we have the Holy Spirit’s inner working that produces good fruit, which produces good works. I’ve also been given a spiritual gift to use. To me, It’s not a faith vs works matter, but a faith and heart matter. If I love my wife it will manifest itself in many different ways. I don’t work out of a dreadful obligation, but I do work because I want to show her how important our relationship is to me. it’s not a “have to” but a “want to.” Many times, it’s even a joyful and rewarding matter to please her. I don’t worry she will divorce me if I fail to take out the trash or do the dishwasher. She may be disappointed and express this, but she doesn’t walk away from her vows. In fact, I may disappoint her many times (and sometimes by ignorance), but she still loves me, and she knows my heart is not set on disappointing her.

    Now, if I ignored my wife and neglected her, despite her loyalty and love for me, the issue is with me, not her. I wandered from the relationship, not her. God never does the moving away, we do, and we wander at our own peril. If I’m unfaithful to my wife, I broke the covenant promise/vow I made. She will forgive me (because that’s just the kind of person she is) if I’m truly remorseful, but if I persist in infidelity, she’s not obligated to remain in the relationship, and why should she? She would be married to a man whose actions continue to demonstrate his heart is not truly in it. In fact, my hard has grown so hard I no longer care if I’ve hurt her emotionally.

  7. Price says:

    Monty…. did I condemn Jay ? I just said I didn’t agree with what i THOUGHT he was suggesting and asked a couple of questions to see…. I think the passages are clearly suggesting that we need to do the best we can to give ourselves some level of assurance that we are headed in the right direction… There isn’t any way in the world any of us can determine our own salvation by performance.. tried that…didn’t work.. thus the good news of Jesus… But, we also know that where’s there smoke, there’s fire.. so if one is a man of faith then there should be some obvious signs of it. Are you good enough to demand God let you in ? I’m not.. How good do I need to be in order to do that ? Who in all of creation is good enough ?

  8. Dwight says:

    I like the scripture of I John 1 “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Being in Christ places us in a relationship with others in Christ, but our walking in Christ also keeps us in a relationship with Christ and allows the blood to cleanse us. From what? Sin! While we are cleansed at baptism, it according to James “isn’t the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience before God”, we are because of our baptism in a covenant relationship. But anyway, we must walk. Walking involves being active and moving forward. This kind of leads up back Enoch.

  9. Price says:

    So Dwight… how good do you have to be in order for your sins to be forgiven..? Please.. the whole world needs to know… 50% of perfect or better ? Does God grade on a curve ?

  10. Dwight says:

    I also am reminded of Peter. Got out of the boat (highly impressive) on a story sea and walked towards Jesus, but then he looked around and became distracted by the waves that were already there and then began to flounder. True, he was pulled back up by Jesus, but also true that Peter knew enough to call out to Jesus for help and salvation. How did they get back to the boat? Either Jesus carried him or Peter walked back with him.
    But Peter learned a couple of valuable lessons.
    Have faith…and grow it…don’t let if be diminished by the things around and then you can walk through anything.
    Jesus wants us to walk. He said follow me, which meant going where he went.
    Jesus is there and willing to help and aid…but we got to ask in our weakness.

  11. Monty says:

    Price,

    Just as a suggestion. Faith saves. I guess you would agree with that. So adding to our faith only further makes more sure our salvation. We are saved by grace through faith. If it was just by grace then everyone gets in. If it’s by grace through faith then that rules out those without faith. Nothing changed as far as Jesus and the cross. What changed was the faith of the believer. This is only a problem if you interpret faith as only a mental assent to the death of Jesus and his resurrection. Faith is simply more complex than that. When I, or you, add to our faith love ,etc.. we haven’t overridden salvation by grace through faith, we have only more firmly established that we are truly the people of faith. We make sure our great salvation. Not by performing well enough in order to be saved but by having a faith that is a growing faith as Jay said.

    The scripture does speak of a “dead faith,” or made “shipwreck their faith.” Cooperating with the Holy Spirit who enables us to grow these virtues is God’s obvious plan for mature and final salvation. To be more and more conformed into the image of Jesus. Certainly the Hebrew writer wasted a lot of good ink and papyrus in showing those Christians how the Israelites fell in the desert due to a lack of faith if everyone who starts the journey finishes, regardless of if they maintain their faith or not. Even if faith just has to be maintained by you, then that does put some of the onus on you, or me.

    I think we do err when we say “well the onus for me is to just believe” OK, that’s still something you do, right? Again Calvinism’s end is, “I can’t do anything,” not even believe, unless God does it for me. We’re like babies that God has to change our diapers. I don’t think that’s Biblical. Abraham was willing to be obedient in sacrificing Isaac. That was a sign of what? Faith! He did something that made more certain his right standing with God. Surely, even though he believed and it was credited to him as righteousness if he had told God, “NO! I will not sacrifice my only son”, do you really think he would be the father of faith? He wasn’t called the father of works after that. HIs sacrificing Isaac, a work, or a call to obey, didn’t negate God’s grace but only made more certain he would be called the father of the faithful. To extrapolate some’s view of salvation by grace to it’s logical extent would have been for Abraham to have said no to God’s command because that would somehow negate God’s grace if he acted in obedient faith. Same thing they do with baptism.

  12. Dwight says:

    In our weakness we are made stronger. In our humbleness we are made great.
    I think we ask the wrong questions from the wrong perspective.
    It isn’t about being good to have our sins forgiven of us, it is about knowing we are bad and trying to get better despite that within the presence of God. Whatever we lack, God has plenty of. We just got to get closer to the source and be willing enough to ask. Now to be in the light we must walk in the light, so we must walk where Jesus is, doing the things Jesus did.
    As we have been told, God cuts off the dead and useless branches and burns them.
    I would gather that many of us will be seen as dead and worthless because we do not grow and produce and we are content in our “salvation” and doctrine.

  13. Price says:

    Monty, I disagree with your concept of faith… I agree that it’s not mental ascent or even recognition of the truth… Satan knows who God is and he’s still damned. I see it more as Trust…but the idea that faith includes works is just an attempt in my opinion to make us “somewhat” responsible for our own salvation.. I reject that out of hand. If Jesus wasn’t enough we’re doomed. When a gathering of Jews asked Jesus what works they had to do (against a backdrop of Torah and Talmud).. He said this… [Jhn 6:28-29 ESV] Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” A true saving faith / trust will obviously promote actions consistent with that faith / trust… but they are not the same… Paul said we are saved by grace through faith and NOT BY WORKS, lest anyone could boast… Nope, I’m sticking with faith in Jesus as Lord and hope that the HS continues to work in and through my own jar of clay and I trust in Him 100% to save me based on who He is and not what I’ve done.

  14. Price says:

    Dwight, that’s all sweet and warm… but how productive do we need to be in order not to be cut off and burned… we really need to know or otherwise we live in a state of perpetual fear… But, then John said that there is no fear in love… and that fear is this thing that happens when you think you’re going to get punished… seems like we’re not supposed to fear at all… Is that based on our perfection or His ?

  15. Monty says:

    Price, I never said you were saved by works, sorry. We are saved by faith(trust). But a faith that won’t act is useless. All the heroes of FAITH in Hebrews chapter 11 were noted for what they did, not what they thought about in the abstract. But could you at least make an attempt at dispelling Jay’s commentary?

  16. Price says:

    Monty…. I believe the Hebrews passage is encouraging the audience to maintain their assurance of hope until the end. In other words to keep on believing… Here is how the ESV translates the passage… [Heb 6:11 ESV] And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end,” Seems entirely consistent with the Hebrew’s author’s definition of faith…[Heb 11:1 ESV] Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The writer isn’t encouraging us to be as perfect as we can so that we can expect to be saved but rather to continue to have faith and a sense of absolute assurance that we are saved… Big difference… The I Peter passage hasn’t a thing at all to do with salvation but more of an admonishment to do our best in these areas so that we grow and mature in our walk….But to link performance with salvation and somehow tie in an unknown into the equation is … in my opinion…in direct conflict with being saved by Grace through faith and not by works…

  17. Chris says:

    To me, it’s more about faith and heart than faith vs. work. I love my wife and I’m committed to a having a healthy, loving relationship. I show my attitude through my actions, not because I “have to” but because I “want to.” The things I do are not done with a dreadful obligation or fear.

    I do these things because not only it’s good to them, but because I like to see my wife happy and it also gives me great pleasure to see the ones I love happy.

    I’m not afraid she will divorce me if I fail to take out the trash or help out around the house. Our love is greater than this. She may be disappointed at times and let me know. In fact, I may often do things unintentional that hurt and disappoint my wife, but if I learn it hurts our relationship, I tell her I’m sorry, she forgives me, and I strive to do better. Sometimes I get angry and may say things intentionally that hurt, still she forgives and we makeup.

    Now, if I break my vows to my wife and I’m unfaithful, my heart has found its affections in the wrong place, and I run the risk of losing my relationship with my wife. She will forgive me if I’m truly remorseful, because that’s just the kind of person she is. However, if I continue to neglect her and practice infidelity, my actions speak for themselves. I may even walk away completely and never look back.

    She is no longer obligated to stay in that relationship because I’ve proven to be unfaithful, untrustworthy, and apparently my heart has grown so hard that I no longer consider our relationship worthy of my time and affection.

    I didn’t lose my life long partner because I failed to meet her perfect standard of expectations-she knew I made mistakes, but ultimately in the end I lost my relationship because my heart was no longer in it. Her heart remained true, while my heart wandered. The issue was with me, not her.

    I could have no complaints if she decided to end the relationship, because, really, in essence there really remained no relationship.

    If my heart had reached such a state, I probably wouldn’t care anyway. I failed to make my marriage sure and my actions were the outward display of an inward problem.

    If I should be so naive as to think I could continue to straddle the fence and ask, “honey, are you through with me because I forgot our anniversary, failed to take out the garbage, vacuum the floor, be nice to your mother,” etc.

    I should know.

    And she would never say “our marriage is over because you failed to take out the trash, etc.”

    Those were just outward works of an inward attitude.

    However, she could tell me “no, it’s none of those things you named, even though it disappointed me when you failed to do them. I’m also not interested in the rings, the cars, the outward things you do to impress.

    It’s not because you neglect occasionally to take out the trash and I have to stay on you to mow the lawn. Those mean so much to me and it shows you care when you do them because you know it’s important to me. Those are all nice, but that’s not the most important thing.

    No, it’s because you’ve changed. You’re unfaithful. I’ve forgiven you many times, but I’m more interested in your faithfulness and love to me than anything. To know that you don’t care enough to spend time with me and to return my affections, to see this is a one sided relationship. It hurts me, it hurts the kids, it hurts everyone.”

    Something like that.

  18. Price says:

    Chris, I don’t disagree with your assessment, at least on human terms… However, how many times did Jesus tell us to forgive a truly repentant person ? Would He forgive us any less often ? He does have the advantage of knowing if we’re not serious however….

    And, I was just thinking of the goats/sheep discussion… [Mat 7:22-23 ESV] On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

    Imagine not being able to count on our salvation either by faith or by doing miraculous works… Sounds kind of depressing to me… I’m thankful for a God that declared Abram righteous before he even packed a bag !

  19. Dwight says:

    Price, you are trying to quantify productivity, but people are productive at different levels. The point is to be productive. It is the unproductive vine that is cast aside, but there is no scripture that argues how much the vine should produce, although there is the concept in Luke 12 “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” God expects us to use our gifts and rewards us when we do towards His Kingdom.

  20. Chris says:

    So thankful God looks through all the complex layers into the deepest parts of our hearts.

  21. Price says:

    @ Dwight.. If my salvation depends on it then why in the world would we NOT want to quantify it.. this idea of not knowing how it’s gonna turn out until we stand before God is a life filled with fear rather than how the Hebrew writer defines faith… I like living with the assurance that God isn’t going to drop me on my head when I screw up.. or if I didn’t understand baptism correctly when it happened, or if i like instruments in worship, or if I like Christmas, or I use one cup instead of multiple ones, or if I give to the orphans home… good grief… This concept… again, just in my opinion…. not trying to go all Nadab and Abihu on people…. ignores the sanctification process as one in which God expects us to mess up and He has a plan to teach us through those moments.. Nobody is questioning that we should try and do our best in every circumstance… I don’t disagree with that at all… it’s just that I don’t declare myself righteous… I think Job taught us about that.

  22. Chris says:

    Just to clarify, God’s mercy, forgiveness, patience and grace go far beyond anything I’m able to comprehend or imagine. No human example is really sufficient to reflect this, because well, we’re human.

    My marriage example wasn’t so much to emphasize the wife’s determination to end the relationship (she could have forgave him over and over a thousand times), but the cold, unresponsive, and rebellious heart of the unfaithful husband.

    The failure in the relationship was due to his unrepentant heart, not her ability to forgive. I probably did a poor job of representing that in my example.

  23. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Price asked,

    Is this a fair summary of your comments ? That we are saved by Grace through Faith and not by works….but just for a brief moment in time and then it’s all up to us and our ability to perform at a high level of obedience

    Very confident that I said no such thing. Can’t imagine where you read that in my post. How about we talk about what I wrote, not what you are afraid I might have really meant but didn’t say?

    Peter wrote —

    (2 Pet 1:10-11) Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    So what does “make your calling and election sure” if it doesn’t mean “your calling and election” could in the real world be unsure? And what does “unsure” mean if not that you might lose them both?

    Now, my risk of losing my calling and election is not because God’s promises are unsure. So it must be about me. What is it about me that might cause this unsureness?

    Well, Peter has answered that question. To be sure, I must “do these things.” What things?

    make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.

    I suppose “every effort” sounds like “do your best” or “give 100% percent,” but that’s to read Reformation debates into Peter — and then argue that he’s wrong or something like that. Don’t really follow the logic. (It’s sad how we can be so distressed over the legalism of our childhood that we just have to read everything through that lens. I struggle with that every day.)

    If I tell you to “make every effort” to be faithful to your wife, I’m obviously speaking in a mild hyperbole. “Every effort” is idiomatic for “be diligent,” but not “flee the presence of any and all temptation.” Peter’s not asking us to be Jesus. Rather, his point is this is truly important — of UTMOST importance, because if we don’t strive diligently to add these virtues to our faith, we’re at risk of losing our faith. It won’t necessarily ever happen, but it’s playing with fire. Really hot fire. It’s a real danger that requires a real response.

    As is typical in the New Testament, grace precedes demand. The priority of grace, however, does not cancel out strenuous moral effort. Believers are to “make every effort” or apply “all diligence” (NASB) in carrying out Peter’s commands. A godly character does not emerge from passivity or lassitude. As Luther says, “They should prove their faith by their good works.”

    Thomas R. Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, The New American Commentary, (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 37:298.

    Peter is urging his readers to go in the opposite direction. Become more fully human, he says, by building one aspect of Christian character on top of another: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, patience, piety, family affection, and finally love. All these take thought; all these take effort. They don’t happen by accident. You have to want to do them; you have to choose to do them. But when you do, and pray for God’s grace, promises and power to help, you will be coming to know Jesus the Messiah. And in that knowledge you won’t just be a Christian for your own sake, as it were. You will become fruitful in God’s service (verse 8).

    Tom Wright, Early Christian Letters for Everyone: James, Peter, John and Judah, For Everyone Bible Study Guides, (London; Louisville, KY: SPCK; Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 104.

    Now, there is a strand of Reformation thought that gets disturbed that we might actually have to make an effort to hold onto what’s been given us. It sounds like “works” — but only because of a bad definition of faith.

    “Works” means works of the Torah, whether done in response to Torah or our culture or our internal moral nature. And it’s not a terribly useful construct because Paul’s point is not that works damn but that faith saves. Because faith in Jesus is sufficient, we can’t add stuff like circumcision as preconditions to salvation.

    But when you read the Gospels and you find that Jesus places a huge emphasis on doing things. I’ll not insult you with proof texts. You know they’re there.

    So does Jesus teach a works salvation? Well, that’s the wrong question. The question is whether he teaches the same faith that Paul teaches. And that requires that we very carefully define “faith” as used in the NT — which few people bother to do and which Calvinists refuse to even discuss — because their entire system is built on not bothering to carefully define “faith.” Define “faith” carefully and then we no longer see the world in Reformation terms. All the arguments on both sides pretty much get tossed, because the whole fight is based on loose definitions of faith — by both sides.

    Real, NT faith goes straight back to Abraham. It’s the same thing. Paul says so in Gal 3 and Rom 4, and it’s the only way that covenants in the Bible make sense.

    Abraham’s faith began, not with believing in God, but in so believing in God that he left his homeland and traveled to Palestine. He trusted enough to act.

    He trusted God’s promise enough to give him Isaac that he remained a God-worshiper, didn’t give his inheritance to Ishmael or his chief servant, and kept on having sex with his 99-year old wife when she was willing for him to have a younger, more fertile concubine or second wife. And he so trusted God that he was willing to slay Isaac in sacrifice, trusting God to do the impossible. His faith led to action because that’s the nature of faith.

    Or in Petrine terms, he added to his faith “(2 Pet. 1:5-7 ESV) virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.”

    Not a one of these things requires a particular work. How do I add knowledge to my faith? Well, lots of ways. But it requires some effort. It doesn’t per se require obedience to Torah. But if I add knowledge of God’s will to my faith, I’ll in fact become more obedient.

    If I add love to my faith, then my faith will lead me to act in loving ways (or else I won’t really love). And acting in loving ways sounds a lot like working — and it is. But it’s not the works that save. Rather, as I grow in love, I become more like Jesus. I become more in tune with the Spirit. The Spirit acts more powerfully to change me as I submit to its efforts to transform me. I become a person who finds joy in loving others — which will cause good works. In fact, I might even submit to the Ten Commandments out of love. It could happen.

    But obeying the Ten Commandments accomplishes nothing regarding my salvation. I was already saved – but as I grow more and more into the image of Christ, the likelihood of losing my faith grows smaller. Hence, Peter speaks in terms of virtue, not particular acts. He doesn’t insist on a particular style of worship or church leadership or organization. He wants us to become more like Jesus — which will cause us to act more like Jesus — which means acting, doing, working — because our new nature will compel those behaviors. People who love act differently from those who don’t.

    (1 Pet. 1:3-5 ESV) 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

    God’s power guards me against falling away “through faith/faithfulness/trust.”

    (2 Pet. 1:3-4 ESV) 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

    By God’s “promises” — the covenant promises — we may share in the “divine nature” and escape the corruption (curse) that is in this world. This is already “granted to us.”

    But Peter himself then says we are at risk unless we make our “calling and election” (another covenant reference) “sure.” “make … sure” means go from unsure to sure. Unsure means we can lose it. And he then tells us how to do that. And it’s by becoming more like Jesus — which fits very nicely the idea of partaking in the divine nature.

    Jesus is faithful to us and so we respond with faithfulness. Jesus loves us, and so we respond with love. As we become more like Jesus, we are given divinity — the filling of the Spirit, Godlikeness, theosis. As we adopt the virtues of Jesus, we take on the divine nature. We become more closely united with Trinity. The Spirit fills us in every way.

    Does it require effort? My experience is that it does. I know of no one who finds this easy. Effort is part of the deal, just as is carrying a cross each day. Crosses are heavy. They require effort.

    But this is not the CHurch of Christ legalism of my childhood. Neither is it Baptist perseverance of the saints. It’s doing what Paul himself tells us to do —

    (1 Cor. 9:25-27 ESV) 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

    It’s the self-control and discipline and control that Paul urges — which take effort.

    Now, of course, the Spirit helps us with this. Of course. But if it happened without my choosing to do these things, there’d be no point in Paul and Peter writing these things. I have a choice. I must choose to adopt these virtues and to exercise this discipline.

    How much discipline is required? How much love?

    Well, how much trust? How much faith? These are not easy things either. Abraham was not given easy choices. Leaving family is hard. Believing the seemingly impossible is hard. Taking your son-of-promise to the top of a mountain to slay him is hard.

    Being Christian is not easy — except that we have God himself living in us to help. So sometimes it’s the easiest thing imaginable. But we have free will and Rom 7 remains true. And sin is really tempting sometimes. And crosses are heavy. And people scoff at those who carry crosses. And so sometimes it’s really hard.

    And none of this has much to do with faith vs. works. It’s about what faith means. Like Abraham.

  24. Price says:

    Jay, I appreciate your willingness to allow disagreement when done so in humble appreciation that one could be wrong and with a lot of grace thrown in… but your view of faith, especially that of Abraham, isn’t what I understand at all from Rom 4… “[Rom 4:2-3 ESV] For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. As you know…there was no Law given to Moses at the time so “works” here doesn’t mean adherence to the Law, but rather any action taken, regardless of the motivation… God declared Abram righteous based on his Faith before he packed a bag… I agree that faith motivates us to do…but apparently, God doesn’t pay much attention to WHAT is done so much as the motivation behind it and that is something that He alone can know.

    Faith is defined pretty clearly by the Bible itself… [Heb 11:1 ESV] Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”… I don’t see any “do” in this brother. And it’s a definition provided by God… Seems indisputable to me…

    Jesus…what did he teach about works…To the Jewish audience who was filled with the burden of the Law and heaped upon that the Talmud of additional instructions…they were weary with the rules and the condemnation of those that would impose them… and they asked Jesus…what kind of works are you saying that we need to do with this new thing you’re preaching… and His response… [Jhn 6:29 ESV] Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” I don’t see any “do” in this either… Would a saving faith prompt action and obedience.. sure.. But, once again we see the focus on Jesus being on the motivation of actions… People that have an improper motivation can do good things… cast out demons, prophesy, etc., and Jesus said that it’s possible that you and He don’t really even know each other… so no I don’t accept the premise that faith is equal to faithfulness.. It’s not. One is a motivation.. one is the result of that motivation… they are not equal…

    I agree that if a thing calls itself a magnet but it won’t pick up any metal it’s a very poor magnet or it is a fake.. Real things operate as they are intended to operate.. A faithful man of God will attempt to be obedient.. In all his imperfections… There is no way whatsoever that any person out of their own flesh can be perfect… and I see Jesus as more than some gap insurance for when I fail.. And, I know that God is working in each of us through a sanctification process, that is teaching us, hands on, through our ups and downs. We are a work in progress and it is He that is at work in us to accomplish what He wants to.

    If you want to highlight how the Bible encourages us through it’s teaching to be more like Jesus then I’m all for it.. Kind of like your Mother telling you to be home before 11:30 because nothing good happens after midnight. We need to be about doing the right thing.. it helps us grow in our faith no doubt.. but the minute we depend on anything other than Jesus to help us we are reaching for the wrong thing. And, I know myself well enough that any dependence upon my own merits won’t help me be a better Christian.. I make way too many mistakes.. I need a Savior…and it’s not me. In fact I’m sort of with Pogo on this one… I am the enemy of myself…

    But, I love you anyway…

  25. Dwight says:

    Jay, I think you are correct. I go back to James where it is said, “Faith is perfected in works.” Maybe made complete is a better word, but the concept is still there. Faith will or should produce works and they both justify us before God, because they both are connected.
    I can imagine Jesus coming down to Earth and saying, “well I’m here isn’t that enough”, but no, Jesus sought to do the work he came to do, the work of God.
    When Jesus said to the apostles, “follow me”, He expected action. Those that said they would follow, but then said they must go take care of business first, showed a lack of diligence in following after. Paul might have worked so hard because he thought that he had done so much against God or maybe because God deserved all that he had, but the point is that Paul didn’t offer lip service and he was bound to serve to the best of his ability. The parable of the Talents shows that people have different abilities and have different results, but it was the one who kept back his talents and did nothing that was condemned.

  26. Price says:

    Dwight…. just for my own understanding… are you suggesting that we are able to “self-justify” ourselves by what we do ?

  27. Monty says:

    Jay,

    You said what I was trying to say much more succinctly and with greater eloquence. However, I’m not surprised that it fell on deaf ears. I felt like you lost him when you said,”So it must be about me.” Nothing can be “about me” with those that swallow Calvinism. The moment you say anything is about me, the party is over. Price likes to quote Hebrews 11:1 but he refuses(I suppose) to read down 5 verses: “For without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” The KJV says those who diligently seek him. Jesus said, he who seeks finds. Calvinism of course says, we don’t seek God, he seeks us through some sort of predestination whammy. It’s all God and none of us or else the songs don’t work out right. Let me be clear, we do not and cannot save ourselves. But that is a far cry from pursuing God all the way through my journey with him. Just as Abraham did. He wasn’t perfect, we’re never going to be perfect. It’s not about scoring a grade on a test. It’s more about not being a lazy Christian who fails to do his due diligence in serving God, and growing into the likeness of Jesus with ever increasing glory. It’s not about having a bad day, or a bad week, or a bad month, but about striving to walk closer with Jesus, and the more we strive , the more sure our election becomes. We are building up our faith, not increasing grace. We all want a strong faith(not a weak one) and the closer we move toward God(as Jay said, with his help), the stronger our faith becomes. Enoch, so walked with God, that God took him. Surely there was something on the part of Enoch that so pleased God for Him to do that. He didn’t earn it(nobody does) but he was rewarded for it. God didn’t have to do it , he wanted to so it. It was grace! Failure to do our due diligence makes our calling and election less sure. Of course if you can’t fall away then there is nothing to make more certain and you have to reinterpret these verses to mean the opposite of what they say. .As so often happens when the pendulum swings from one view, it swings to the complete opposite side, and bypasses the middle ground.

    Calvinistic thought is: we cannot help God save us, and properly understood that’s true. Nothing we do impresses God so much that he feels compelled to save us. But that doesn’t negate faith on our part. If you press Calvinism too far then not even our faith can please God, because that is something we have to have or else they give God the credit for our faith too.If we possess it, it is a work? Jesus often said,” Oh ye of little faith”, and there were a few times when he was really impressed by someone’s great faith. What was the difference between little faith and great faith? Something in the will and determination of the one doing the believing. One impressed Jesus and the other did not.Faith obviously can be examined and quantified by God.The real question is what is faith, and Calvin’s followers have a very narrow interpretation and understanding of faith. Faith for them is silently defined as in the mind or heart, what I think, but not anything I do. Faith, however, is not as simplistic as that. It is broader, richer, and deeper, it incorporates the whole person, body and spirit, things done, and things not done, as proof. ” In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” Calvin’s followers deny that faith and action go hand and hand. Calvin would perhaps not say this but his followers of TULIP would say that faith “without” actions is the only true faith there really is. Everything else is works.

  28. Dwight says:

    Price, Read it again, “Faith will or should produce works and they both justify us before God, because they both are connected.” Faith or works don’t exist in a vacuum. They compliment each other.
    James 2 “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
    Going back to Acts 2. When the people asked what must they do to be saved, Peter didn’t say, “Well’ since you have faith you are already saved.” No Peter gave them some things they had to do in response and then even after that they still had to live and grow in Christ. They were thrown the life saver, now they had to grab on and hold on.

  29. Price says:

    Abraham was not justified by his works…Romans 4… he was justified by his faith apart from anything that he did.. Paul could not be more clear… James is speaking about evidencing ones faith… He isn’t in any way saying that we somehow are able to declare ourselves righteous… I agree that faith generates response to instruction but there is no such thing as our being able to stand in God’s place and declare ourselves righteous… just isn’t so…

  30. Monty says:

    Price,

    What exactly does it mean in Hebrews 11:13 that these people(Abraham, Noah, etc,,, were “still living by faith when they died?” Was there a possibility that they could have not been living by faith when they died? Isn’t the point that they were able to maintain their trust in God all the way through their testing? They persevered. They didn’t shrink back. They didn’t develop an evil heart of unbelief? What does Hebrews 12:14-15 mean? Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy( I thought they were already holy?); without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Whose holiness?). See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God(huh?)( is that even possible-sure sounds so)) and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble(what kind of trouble) and defile many. Isn’t the trouble that the bitter root would turn their hearts to stone(evil heart of unbelief)? As with the Israelites in the desert? Doesn’t a little leaven destroy the whole bunch? Not with once saved always saved. Jude 20 But you dear friends, by building yourselves up( we can do that?) in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves( we can do it?) in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus to bring you to eternal life.

    We partner with God on our salvation journey. We accept our cross. We pick it up. It is not forced on us. We choose to follow God(of course by the attraction of HIs goodness to us in the Cross) and not the ways of the world. We are saved by grace through faith. Don’t stop at just grace, but through faith. We can build up our own faith according to these passages. There is some sense in which we can “keep yourselves in God’s love.” I take that to mean remaining faithful by being proactive, not passive in matters prescribed.

    It’s like taking prescribed medication by the doctor. He makes the diagnosis, he prescribes the cure, say he even gives you the cure in pill form. We still have to comply. We don’t save ourselves because we swallowed the pill. But because we had enough faith in the doctor to swallow it. To not follow the doctors orders puts us in a state of non-compliance. Any time we stop loving, stop following, stop taking up our cross, turn back to the world permanently, we forfeit the grace that was ours. But thanks be to God that he has given us the way to make our calling and election more certain.

  31. Price says:

    Monty. nobody is saying that we should live lives representative of the true faith that we have.. I’m of the opinion that one can’t do otherwise.. If you have saving faith, you are motivated to do and also prompted to do by the HS.. I suppose you can stop believing… but who among us doesn’t far short of the grace of God.. It would even be grace if we earned it… If Abraham had anything to boast about, it wasn’t to God !! Or so scripture says… and besides, who among us can know the motivation behind a good work ? Is God fooled into thinking it was a righteous act when it isn’t ? Come on… God knows your heart… He rewarded Abram’s faith.. not his works.. and it says this…

    [Rom 4:13 ESV] For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.
    [Rom 4:14 ESV] For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void..

    Obviously this isn’t speaking to the Law of Moses that had not been given yet but is speaking about responding to instructions…obedience… It also says this…

    [Rom 4:20 ESV] No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,”…. It wasn’t a lack of doing that could have caused him to waiver but a lack of faith….

    Lastly, Paul makes Abraham’s experience applicable to us by saying this… [Rom 4:23 ESV] But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone,
    [Rom 4:24 ESV] but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord,

    So yeah, Hebrews 11 lists some great and mighty works… all motivated “by faith.” Nothing of value proceeds faith and without faith it is impossible to please God…

  32. Dwight says:

    Price, Consider this. If works don’t save, then faith doesn’t save, because faith is a work or a product of man.
    Gal.5:6 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”
    I Thess.1:3 “remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope…”
    II Thess.1:11 “good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power,”
    The point is that faith is a product of man towards God.
    Man must have faith and create faith and grow faith.
    The Romans 4 is within the context of the Law of which works do not save.
    What I see you do is what many try to do and that is separate points into THE points.
    We run into the problems of isolating faith from works instead of joining them as complimentary.
    When Jesus was baptized and came out of the water Jesus was met with, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Why, was God well pleased. Because Jesus, who is the epitome of faith did the will of His father.
    One of the interesting things and patterns if you will is that God always expressed His pleasure after man obeyed God and not before. God never said, “I know you have faith and that is good enough.” God expected man to express his faith, just like God expects man to worship Him and not just have a worshipful heart. God expects us to not only believe that the race will save us, but be in the race and run it with all of our heart to the end.

  33. Price says:

    Saved by Grace through faith, not by works lest any man should boast… If it is something that you could say you did and brag about it.. .it isn’t faith… According to Paul… Hebrews 11:1 doesn’t mention any action step… faith isn’t a work at all… not according to scripture and how it defines it… sorry, I can see the close connection between faith and, as Jay likes to say, faithfulness, but they are the same… One is trust and the other is trust plus action… I agree that rarely is one not accompanied without the other but God recognizes faith to save… and uses our imperfections to grow us through action… At least that’s how I see it… I just can’t go to a point where I’m trying to justify and claim righteousness for myself…

  34. Dwight says:

    Price, did you not read the scriptures that actually say “work of faith” and “faith working through love”. The point is that man still has to produce faith. It isn’t contagious and it isn’t forced on us. Faith is a response to God.
    Then there is “work our your own salvation”.
    The problem here is separating scriptures out and pounding on some and leaving the others out of its context. If works don’t justify, then James 3 means nothing.
    “But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your[d] works, and I will show you my faith by my[e] works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?”
    The point of James was obviously to counter the teaching that only faith is sufficient for justification.

  35. Price says:

    Dwight.. James is talking about showing your faith… not earning salvation.. Abraham was already justified by God and credited with righteousness some 40 years before Isaac was born so who undid what God had done in order for Abraham to have to be declared righteous once again.. and this time by works which God had previously ignored and rather than by God he did it himself… That’s not what James is talking about at all brother.. We don’t justify ourselves and declare ourselves righteous… Look God, I’m righteous so you owe me.. baloney.

  36. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Price,

    People that have an improper motivation can do good things… cast out demons, prophesy, etc., and Jesus said that it’s possible that you and He don’t really even know each other… so no I don’t accept the premise that faith is equal to faithfulness.. It’s not. One is a motivation.. one is the result of that motivation… they are not equal…

    As I try to carefully say in every post dealing with “faith,” “faith” in the NT always means “faith in Jesus.” Always.

    Therefore, “faithfulness” as a part of “faith” means “faithfulness to Jesus.” Not faithfulness in the abstract. It’s faithfulness to one particular person: Jesus of Nazareth. (Have I not been clear on this point?)

    Therefore, yes, someone can cast out demons and not know Jesus. But such a person cannot be faithful to someone he does not know. He may do great works, but he is not faithful to Jesus and so he has no faith in the NT sense of the word.

    So I agree that works without faith do not save. Faith saves (God saves those with faith.) But faith that rebels against God is not faith at all. Those who once were faithful and who rebel fall away … because faith produces works (as you concede) and so the absence of works means there is no faith (which is a logically necessary inference, for real – called the “contrapositive.”) If faith implies works, then no works implies no faith. But that DOES NOT MEAN that works imply faith. They do not. Someone without faith can do great works and be damned. But those with faith will do works.

    Where we really disagree is that I believe Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, and Hebrews all say that those who have faith in Jesus can reach a point where they no longer have faith in Jesus, and so be damned. I call this “rebellion” because Hebrews does and it communicates the idea in terms true to the narrative of Exodus and all the rest of scriptures. That sounds to some like works salvation, but it’s just the fact that you have to have faith in Jesus to be saved — and you can lose your faith.

    Now, the scriptures sometimes state this in terms of loss of faith, but sometimes the scriptures speak in terms of deliberately continuing to sin (Heb 10:26) — which ties behavior to faith, but in a way entirely consistent with what I just said and with what you’ve said. If faith must produce works, then no works means no faith.

    With me so far?

    So works in the abstract do not save and have nothing to do with salvation.

    So let’s discuss “faithfulness.”

    The Greek word is pistis. The FIRST definition given in BDAG is —

    the state of being someone in whom confidence can be placed, faithfulness, reliability, fidelity, commitment

    That’s the latest and most definitive NT Greek lexicon. Go back to 1885, and Thayer’s gives (as the second definition) — “2. fidelity, faithfulness, i. e. the character of one who can be relied on.”

    So for over 100 years, we’ve known that when the NT says pistis, one possible meaning is faithfulness, loyalty, commitment, that sort of thing.

    So why do we insist on “belief” — also a meaning found in the lexicons. By what right do we insist on one and not the other?

    Read the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus repeatedly threatens those who disobey with damnation. He’s preaching the “good news of the kingdom of heaven” and threatening damnation in nearly every paragraph. Why? Because he expects citizens of the kingdom to be faithful to their King. It’s not optional.

    I mean, read Psalm 2 —

    (Ps. 2:1-3:1 ESV) Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7 I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

    That’s likely the most quoted OT passage in the NT. I mean, it’s alluded to every time the word “Christ” (= “Anointed One”) is used of Jesus. Call him “Messiah” and you’ve referenced Psalm 2 – which warns us to serve him on penalty of perishing.

    Then Heb 11 is a list of great works done by men and women of God — expecting to be rewarded by God for their endurance. It’s an encouragement to endure as these great men and women endured — by doing great things out of faith — in contrast to damnation as threatened in Heb 10:26ff and then in chapter 12 (root of bitterness, Esau given no opportunity to repent). In context, it’s unmistakeably yet another encouragement to faithfulness and warning against rebellion. It’s stated positively, but it’s filled with references to good works being rewarded by God. Like the Gospels.

    Why does Hebrews 11 commend Abraham for both trusting God and for being so faithful that he was willing to slay Isaac. It’s belief/trust/faithfulness — all three fill chapter 11. And the Sermon on the Mount.

    I conclude with these quotations from NT Wright —

    Josephus is describing an incident which took place in Galilee in around AD 66—that is, roughly when some of the synoptic traditions may have been achieving a settled shape. Josephus has gone to Galilee to sort out the turbulent factionalism there. A brigand chief called Jesus (there are twenty-one people by that name in the index to Josephus’ works; originality in naming children was evidently not prized highly among first-century Jews) makes a plot against Josephus’ life. Josephus manages to foil it. Then, he tells us, he called Jesus aside and told him

    that I was not ignorant of the plot which he had contrived against me …; I would, nevertheless, condone his actions if he would show repentance and prove his loyalty to me. All this he promised …

    ‘If he would show repentance and prove his loyalty to me.’ The translation is accurate enough, but could just as well have been rendered ‘if he would repent and believe in me’. Josephus is requiring of this Jesus that he give up his brigandage, and trust him (Josephus) for a better way forward. ‘Repentance’, in this sense of abandoning revolutionary inclinations, is found elsewhere in the same narrative; so, for that matter, is ‘belief’, in the sense of trust in and loyalty to a leader. I find it somewhat remarkable that, in all the literature I have read about Jesus of Nazareth, only one writer even mentions the incident involving Josephus and the brigand Jesus, and even he makes no comment about the meaning of ‘repentance’ and ‘belief’ in the light of it. It is, I suggest, of considerable significance. This is what those words meant in Galilee in the 60s; by what logic do we insist that they meant something rather different, something perhaps more ‘personal’, ‘inward’ or ‘religious’, in Galilee in the 20s and 30s? Why should we use that ‘religious’ sense as the criterion for assessing whether Jesus of Nazareth could have said such a thing? He may well have meant more than Josephus; that must be seen by further historical investigation. He is highly unlikely to have meant less.

    The most plausible historical reconstruction of Jesus’ call to repent brings together, I suggest, the two emphases we have now sketched (returning to YHWH so that the exile may come to an end; renunciation of nationalist violence). It was an eschatological call, not the summons of a moralistic reformer. And it was a political call, summoning Israel as a nation to abandon one set of agendas and embrace another. ‘Repentance’ in Jesus’ first-century context is not to be conceived simply as one feature within the timeless landscape of a non-historical religion. That is the mistake of many Christian writers, who, ignoring the perfectly clear place of that sort of repentance within day-to-day Jewish life and teaching, have imagined that Jesus invented the idea and so became unpopular. But it would be equally wrong to imagine that Jesus—still understood as a preacher of timeless truths—did not make repentance thematic, because, as a preacher of ‘timeless truths’, he had no need to. Rather, precisely as a would-be prophet, and a prophet of the eschaton at that, he summoned Israel to a once-for-all national repentance, such as would be necessary for the exile to end at last. This was not simply the ‘repentance’ that any human being, any Jew, might use if, aware of sin, they decided to say sorry and make amends. It is the single great repentance which would characterize the true people of YHWH at the moment when their god became king. What is more, this repentance seems to have little to do with the official structures of the Jewish system. True repentance, it seems, consisted rather in adherence and allegiance to Jesus himself.

    N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God, (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1996), 250–252.

    And what do “adherence and allegiance” mean if not “faithfulness”?

    And then there’s also —

    Like ‘repentance’, ‘belief’ has come to carry a good many overtones of religious experience and dogma. Theologians have discussed the meaning of ‘faith’, or ‘belief’, and have located it on a scale somewhere between the English concepts of ‘trust’ and ‘assent’, sometimes using the Latin tags fides qua (the faith with which one believes) and fides quae (the faith which one believes) to distinguish the two.

    The former of these (‘trust’) can, in the biblical languages, be further subdivided into ‘faith’ and ‘faithfulness’. The Hebrew emunah and the Greek pistis can both have this double sense, and it is perhaps only a residual anxiety about ‘works-righteousness’ being smuggled in by the back door that prevents the meaning ‘faithfulness’ or ‘loyalty’ from being heard in many New Testament passages.

    N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God, (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1996), 258.

    As Messiah, Jesus was the one in whom God’s faithfulness had come to climactic expression, and who therefore called out faithfulness from his followers. Here is a point of great symbolic significance before it can be explored as a central point of theology: loyalty to Jesus as Messiah, ‘the obedience of faith’ as Paul puts it, occupies the place within Paul’s new worldview-construct formerly occupied by the ‘loyalty to God’, or to Torah, or to the holy land, within just that zealous Judaism that we know to have been Paul’s own context. This loyalty, which in its former version would have been a key marker of the genuine, out-and-out committed Jew, was thereby transformed into the identity-anchor within Paul’s renewed worldview. This loyalty (for which the Greek word was pistis) was the thing that demonstrated where God’s true people were to be found within the new creation that had come to birth at Easter. Here, at a symbolic level, we see part of the meaning of ‘justification by pistis’: strange though it will seem to some, pistis is the badge that functions, within the Pauline worldview, as the sign of membership in God’s people. (This is not, of course, all that Paul means by pistis; such a rich term needs, and will receive, fuller explication later, particularly in chapter 10.)

    N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013), 4:405–406.

    I have argued throughout this chapter that the ancient Israelite, and second-temple Jewish, sense of what it meant to be the chosen people of the creator God was transformed in Paul’s understanding. He saw it as having been reworked around Jesus, Israel’s Messiah, and particularly by his crucifixion and resurrection; and, in consequence, it was further reshaped around the Messiah’s spirit, who through the powerful gospel message ‘called’ people of every background and type to belong to the single family which the one God had promised to Abraham. I have argued, in particular, that to understand ‘justification by faith’ it is necessary to see that the ‘faith’ in question is not a particular way of being religious (a ‘trusting’ way, say, as opposed to a ‘hard-working’ way), but is rather the way of being ‘faithful’ to the divine call and gospel which echoes, and re-encapsulates, the ‘faithfulness’ of the Messiah himself, which was in turn the representative ‘faithfulness’ of Israel (Romans 3:22 with 3:2).

    N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2013), 4:1027.

    Now, to some this seems like a works-righteousness, but what’s the difference between being faithful and being penitent? Don’t even the Baptists and Presbyterians expect converts to repent and to remain penitent? And what is repentance if not commitment to faithfulness? I mean, to “repent” is not just “stop sinning” but also “begin living as God wills.”

    It’s just that Paul rarely speaks of repentance — because his use of pistis includes that concept. But the word is quite prominent in the Synoptics and in Acts — as a requirement to be saved.

    But “faithfulness” does not mean “obey this list of laws.” It’s a measure of the heart, which will inevitably reveal itself in behaviors. But the behaviors are a product not the cause. Hence, being good does not save, but saved people must be good people or else they are not saved.

    The only works that matter are those that are the product of faith (Heb 11). The point of Heb 11 is that faith produces good works — because works produced by faith matter. These are the “fruit of the Spirit.” They are living the SOTM. And they are ESSENTIAL — but only as products of faith in Jesus. They are not sufficient. Nor are the basis for our salvation. They are the inevitable result of our salvation — the absence of which shows us not saved.

    More to the point, rebellion damns because Jesus, Paul, Peter, and Hebrews all say so. For that matter, so does 1 John. They all make the point that we can fall away.

    Here I part company with NT Wright, who believes in perseverance of the saints. I think he’s just plain wrong because not even Paul teaches that. But I agree with him on the definition of “faith” in the NT. And my understanding makes Hebrews and the Synoptic Gospels and Acts and 1 John and 2 Peter and 1 Cor etc. etc. all cohere. Everything fits much better — especially the words of Jesus.

  37. Price says:

    Jay, first of all, you should know that i have the greatest respect for you as a person and as a leader in your assembly and as a man that has put serious effort into understanding the Word. We aren’t that far apart on this issue… Do I believe that a sincere faith produces faithfulness…yes… How could it be otherwise… In that sense they are equal … if you believe you will do.. pretty simple……except that the “doing” part is quite imperfect… We learned from the first covenant that it is practically impossible for one to do what is right without error.. So, the question becomes, can you have saving faith and not be perfect ? I believe the answer to that is Yes !! Because we aren’t saved based upon our works but our faith.. the faith of a mustard seed is more powerful than a 1,000 works… God looks at the heart of a man… He KNOWS what a man believes.. He knows that he is but dust.. He knows that he needs a savior, so He provided him one… I guess there are those that would beat their chests and declare themselves righteous by their performance… Me… I’ll just go to my closet and ask God to forgive me as I’m just a sinner in need of amazing grace…

  38. Dwight says:

    One of the interesting things about those who were according to James were justified by works was the fact that they understood that by doing something they would get something. This is not a wrong concept. Abraham while sacrificing his son was sure that he would get God’s approval after all why do it at all and his son back. This took great faith. Rahab understood that if she helped the spies she would be spared destruction at the hands of the Jews under God. This also took great faith considering she was a gentile.
    Now salvation cannot be earned, because we cannot save ourselves, at least initially, but works that are done in faith will justify. A person that has faith and does nothing will not be justified.
    As noted by Jay, many people do good things, but a saint does good things because they believe in God and expect for the good things to come back to them from God, on some level, if not in the here and now, then in heaven.
    None of this is suggesting that we need to say to God, well I did this and now you owe me, because in reality God doesn’t owe us anything. But God is giving and will give.
    There is the concept of the man who works and builds up a barn, but this is futile, as things of the earth do not last, but he was told to build up his riches in heaven. How can we do this if building doesn’t accomplish anything?
    Faith is faith, but faith doesn’t help the needy or feed the starving or do worship or pray to God. Faith must be expressed outwardly and physically and that is what God wants. God doesn’t want nothing. God wants something and will reward that something if Godly.

    I would never suggest, “We …justify ourselves and declare ourselves righteous” and this would be terribly wrong.
    God justifies and declares us righteous when we do things in faith and obedience. But he won’t justify us and declare us righteous when we don’t do His will and act against it. This is reflected in David who was a man after God’s own heart. God knew David’s heart, but even so David did some terrible things and God didn’t let him pass on the sin simply because He was a man after God’s own heart. David was held accountable by God for what he did and didn’t do towards God, by God. David could have said, “Well you know the real me. You know that I love you. Doesn’t that mean something?” IT does, but not in the absence of obedience.

  39. Monty says:

    So, Price,

    Are the calls to “add to faith”, “increase faith”, “hold to faith”, make “more certain”, “not shrink back”, “build up your faith”, “buffet my body daily”, Paul said some had “departed the faith.” “See to it my brothers that none of you has a sinful unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. Hebrews 3:12. In what way are we not responsible for remaining faithful and building up our faith? If the Hebrew writer tells us to see to it…who is supposed to see to it? Us! God speaks through his word through inspired writers to give instruction on how to see to it, and he even gives us warnings on what will happen if we neglect so great a salvation. Does that make me feel less secure than once saved always saved? If I ever believed that, then yeh. But I never have believed it. But I do believe in a loving God who sent his only begotten son to die on a cross for my sins and by his grace and mercy I am saved. Not because I was good enough or that I will ever be good enough in some legalistic sense. That gives me great comfort. I don’t have to be good enough! But I do have to have faith.

    It would appear from all of the scriptures quoted that maintaining my faith in Christ is of utmost importance, even increasing and fortifying my faith. Faith must be nurtured, say,like a flower we grow. It must be watered and the soil weeded. Peter warned that Satan walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Is that not a call for Christians to be alert and sober minded? Why should a Christian have to put up his guard against an enemy that Christ has already defeated in our life? Please don’t say the devil can do us physical harm but not spiritual harm. Peter says, by standing “firm” in the faith we resist him. We can’t keep him from physical harm(like the Christians in that time who were suffering persecution)but by resisting by standing firm in the faith, not abandoning faith, he cannot takeaway our salvation. But while not all up to us, it certainly requires fully trusting in Jesus. We are the ones who have to stand firm, add to, build up, make more certain, etc, etc, etc,…….only a premise that starts with once saved always saved, and man doesn’t have to do anything to obtain salvation, so he can’t do anything to lose it, and if he can’t lose it(since it was a gift) then there is no need to maintain it or increase(fortify)it ,would make nonsensical all of the above exhortations to persevere in faithfulness(which involves obedience on our part, not perfect obedience mind you, but one that is characterized by God as obedient.
    He knows.

    Price says, that all with real faith will have good works, and that is true, but it doesn’t answer the question: Can a Christian fall from grace? If so, what kinds of things would precipitate that fall and are there things instructed to us to make sure (on our part) that falling away never happens? Scripture makes it abundantly clear (if not committed to a Calvinistic bent) what those things are and how to avoid unbelief. If I can do something in order to be saved, it would make sense that I could do something(or neglect to do something )that would make me no longer saved. What is that something I have to do, or have, or keep, to be saved and to keep on being saved? Faith. What kind of faith? Obedient faith is real faith. Again, not perfection in an attempt to justify myself, but a faith that expresses itself in loving obedience. Jesus once asked, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do the things I say do. ‘ Jesus equated love with obedience. Most of us when we were saved by grace made a verbal commitment publicly that we would let Jesus be the Lord of our life. We pledged ourselves to do his will. I will be the first to admit that I don’t do his will perfectly or anywhere close to perfection. He never required perfection from me, but he does require faith, and faith is more than something mental or saying,” I sure do love you,” actions speak louder than words we say. Faith requires of me a commitment to walk with God and to tend to our relationship, and to keep it. Not lose it, neglect it, forfeit it, or abandon it. That instruction is to me, or you, and not to God.

  40. Price says:

    Jay.. love ya brother… but I’m gonna go in my little closet and thank God for the mercy shown me a sinner in need of grace.. You guys just keep climbing that tower of performance and self advancement… I’m just not that capable.

  41. laymond says:

    Price, what do you mean by, ” I’m just not that capable.” I don’t see that what we are told to do is so laborious that it is impossible to do. are you not capable of love, are you not capable of being a good neighbor, a good husband and father, If we love God, our creator, and our fellow man who was created in Gods image just as you were, and are prepared to share with others, especially those less fortunate than yourself. If you can do this , I believe you are very capable of doing the work of God .It really don’t even take any extra time if you just merge it into your everyday life. soon it becomes the natural thing to do. The only reason I see that some are incapable to obey God is they really don’t want to.

  42. Monty says:

    Price,

    Wow! Way to take the high road! If the heat gets hot you have to get out of the kitchen I suppose. Or if you can’t give an explanation for all the scripture warning us to keep the faith then accuse those you disagree with as “climbing the tower of works.” Pretty amazing the spin you put on it. However, that is pretty typical for those in the once saved always saved camp. I knew Jay and myself were just kicking a dead horse.

    I deny I can obtain salvation apart from God’s grace, you do too. However, I assert that faith is needed by the lost to be saved. I suppose you do too. But faith is my response(not God’s) to God’s grace in Jesus Christ crucified. God doesn’t do faith for me. He doesn’t believe for me, he doesn’t trust for me, he doesn’t get baptized for me, and he doesn’t make me keep on trusting after I’m saved against my will. But he does rewards faithfulness. Without faith it is impossible to please him. Price do you believe we have to please God in some way shape or form? If you deny that then you deny Hebrews 11: 6. Hebrews is a letter written to Christians about remaining faithful.

    Do Christians have a responsibility to remain faithful? If so, then whatever that is, even if it’s just some sort of mental gymnastics, it is something we do, not God. If I can do something mentally then I can do something physically also. If not, why not? I can love my neighbor, not just in thought, but in deed, that is a way I remain faithful. It’s not the only way. James argues that to say, “be warmed and filled”(just some mental aspect) won’t cut it. I don’t climb the tower(maybe you think you do) when I do good to my neighbor, I do it because God’s been good to me and I appreciate him for doing so, and so in thankfulness for his goodness, I love my neighbor. If I cut my neighbors grass thinking I’m amassing enough credits to earn salvation then that is climbing the tower. Does God expect us to love our neighbors? Of course. And if we refuse to do so consistently what does that show? It certainly doesn’t show we have a superior theology concerning grace. It shows the love of God isn’t in us. It shows the faith we profess isn’t real faith, at least not saving faith. Saving faith, works. Period! And it doesn’t do so believing it’s earning anything. I can work to be saved and not be saved and I can work like the dickens because I am saved and it validates my faith. It makes my secure faith, even more secure.

    “Let us not grow weary in well doing for at the proper time we will reap a bountiful harvest, if we faint not.” It aint about being the best worker in the field but about making sure we don’t grow weary and faint(give up) while we are in the field. What are we doing in the field? Working! Those churches in Revelation were told to repent of some things and to hold onto some things, or else. They had to turn away from false teachers that were leading them into sinful practices and they were to be faithful even unto death(not deny the faith) or in one case to remember their first love. James says, “Draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh unto you.” The warnings about falling away in the NT are not about be sure to do enough good works to be saved but about being sure not to have an evil heart of unbelief. To keep the faith they started out with.

  43. Price says:

    Monty…I’ll stick with the biblical definition of faith.. … you guys can make up the list of what all needs to be done and send it over to Al Maxey… He’s been looking for a list like this for quite some time…If you can break it down per week day then we’ll have a Good Christian checklist to go by and we can all bring it to Sunday School class each week and get a red star if we checked it all off.. In fact, if you write a little commentary by each one you might get the guy to put it as an insert into Muscle and Shovel…Perfect fit. How to Earn God’s Favor Once you Dry Off… I like it..

  44. laymond says:

    Price, there is already a pretty extensive list of dos and don’ts between Mat 5:1
    and Mat 7:27 If Al has been searching for a list, surely he has been looking in the wrong place. Maybe you should lead him to just where it is.

    The one below, just might be the one missed by so many people of your belief.

    Mat 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

    I don’t see how you can go wrong, as long as you glorify God.

  45. Monty says:

    Price,

    I guess we could start with walking with God, in the light. Does a Christian have to walk in the light? Yes or No? Does a Christian have to love their brother? A simple yes or no will do. If you answer yes then you are well on your way to knowing what is expected of a child of God. Maybe this verse helps: 1 John 3:10 “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.” In the context, continuing to live in sin is a sure sign you aren’t right with God. Can we say fallen from grace? “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous.” I suppose you will make that a works type of righteousness, but I didn’t say it, John did. Maybe John the Apostle is climbing the tower of works? What do you say Price, do we have to do what is right? You still sticking with no? How are you going to spin this one? He also says, “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil…..Send that to Al Maxey. That’s a good place to start.

    Now obviously John has heard about salvation by grace, he was there remember? So, is he changing his mind and now we are at a works salvation deal here? Of course not. But here’s the deal, there is a right way to live the good news and there is a wrong way. John spells it out for us. The bottom line is faith can be made shipwreck of, abandoned, and salvation, as great as it is, can be neglected. The grace of God can be turned into a license to sin. Sin can be persisted in even for the believer,God forbid. Don’t worry Price, no one’s getting into heaven whose name isn’t written in the book of life. Ever read this one? Revelation 22:18-20,” I warn everyone who hear the words of the prophecy of this scroll…..and if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.” Grace can be forfeited, salvation though sure, can be revoked. I didn’t say it, Jesus did. Maybe Jesus believed in works salvation, according to your views. But perhaps grace and living right, doing right, can be understood in the same context without having to be viewed as arch enemies.

  46. Price says:

    I don’t love Jesus because he said to and I might lose my salvation…. I don’t love my brother, give to the poor, help folks out as I can, or DO anything else to make sure I get to heaven or maintain the appearance of being a good Christian.. I do it because Jesus loves me and I don’t deserve it. My motivation isn’t to get anything.. to keep anything or to stay off some proverbial slippery slope… and whatever I’m doing.. it’s probably God at work in and through me and He ought to get the credit anyhow… But, do what you wish… I know what my motivation is.

  47. laymond says:

    Price, I wrote this earlier today, and saved it, knowing someone would give me reason to post it. and you did, and you did in the right way. Actually when I wrote it I didn’t imagine it would be in agreement with someone.

    Reading through the comments, and yes the original posts as well , I was struck by how religion has become about self preservation. saving one’s soul from hell.
    Instead of worship of God the almighty who gave us everything we have or ever will have, The Mighty God we are supposed to love with all our being.

    Mat 22:36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
    Mat 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
    Mat 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
    Mat 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
    Mat 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

    I don’t see how we can read this and come up with the most important thing we can do is work harder to save our own butt.

    Luk 17:33 Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.

    I fully agree with you Price, we don’t do Gods work for our own salvation, we do it out of love for God. We can never do enough.
    But the work we do shows our undying love for our creator. So works are necessary.

  48. Price says:

    @ Laymond.. I wouldn’t use the word necessary as it relates to works… I would use “unavoidable”…but that’s just me…

  49. Christopher says:

    I find it difficult to wrestle with scriptures pertaining to judgement and mercy. Why? Because a number of of the former seem, in their immediate context, unbelievably harsh and cruel and utterly inconsistent with love or mercy. Take, for instance, the story of Gehazi (Elisha’s servant). After he sins by going after Naaman to obtain some reward for his healing, Elisha tells him that
    “Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” (2 Kings 5:27). This is a man with a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Just how could he say such a thing and not be immediately rebuked by God? His leprosy will cling to his descendants forever? How does that comport with Ezekiel 18?

    But then we see Gehazi in the king’s presence 3 chapters later, answering his questions about Elisha. So I suppose we may deduce that Gehazi was healed of his leprosy (for why else would he have been in the king’s presence?), contary to what Elisha said – perhaps because he was one of the four lepers in 2 Kings 7 who alerted the Isrealites that the Arameans had fled the area (and that the siege was therefore over). And we breath a huge sigh of relief.

    In this regard, it is interesting to note the dramatic contrast between John’s letters and, say, Hebrews. In John’s third letter, he calmly mentions the evil behavior of Diotrephes (apparently the main leader) who is throwing people out of the church. He concludes by saying that if he comes, he will call attention to what he is doing. I cannot envision the author of Hebrews writing a letter like that but, rather, a frighteningly condemning letter.

    I could go one and on with examples – Aaron’s sons being immediately burned to death for lighting the sacrificial fire on their own (rather than letting God do it) versus the woman caught in adultery who should, by law, have been stoned. And so on and so forth.

    Does anyone else struggle with this dichotomy?

  50. Larry Cheek says:

    Christopher,
    I thought that many of God’s prophets announced punishments which God administered that were very harsh. Many thousands of the Israelites died in God judgments.

  51. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher, Monty, Price, et al.,

    I’m going to respond in two parts. The first is how the relationship of faith to works. We all tend to reason logically about our relationship with God rather than relationally — which leads to flawed logic.

    God himself encourages us to think of relationship to him in terms of adoption — a favorite Pauline metaphor.

    A couple adopts a child. This is pure grace. The child has nothing at all to deserve the adoption. The parents have chosen to love someone who likely hasn’t even asked to be loved, who have never experienced true love. The parents hope that the child responds in love because of the love they have for her.

    When older children are adopted, they’ve often never been loved unconditionally. Often, they have been used — for a check, for sexual gratification — or ignored. And so they have trouble believing that they can loved unconditionally. And so, typically, the child acts out — disobeying to see what happens. And good parent discipline their new daughter but also make a point of declaring their love for her and that the discipline is out of love. And this can go on for a long time.

    But most of the time, the child eventually learns how to accept and trust her new parents’ love, and so the child is transformed. She starts to become like her parents. She learns how to love — and as this happens, she also learns to obey. The obedience takes effort. Washing the dishes, cleaning her room, doing her homework is hard — especially for a child that no one has ever expected anything of before.

    As she goes from self-willed to obedient, she begins to realize that her parents’ instructions are for her own good. She is becoming a better person, a person with hope, a person who can become the person she was always meant to be. Pretty soon, she’s doing her homework because she wants to make good grades and go to college. Her self-image changes, her desires change, and her motivation changes. She internalized what her parents always saw in her. She becomes a different person.

    So grace –> love –> transformation –> good works.

    Was there ever a moment when she needed to earn her parents love? No, their love was always a free gift.

    Was there ever a moment when it was necessary that she do work? Well, work is the necessary result of accepting grace. If she refuses to make her bed, then she doesn’t understand what she’s received and what opportunities have been given her. She will likely be disciplined to encourage good work, because sometime people have to do before they feel. Sometimes the good motivation has to follow the good actions. Therefore, we make our children apologize to their siblings even when it’s plainly insincere. We hope that by making them say the words, they’ll come to understand how to truly feel sorry and truly apologize — later.

    It’s unusual, but I have friends who’ve adopted and ultimately disowned a child. Often I learn about it many decades later, and yet they are permanently wounded over what they perceive as a failure in parenting. They gave their love freely to a child, and the child rebelled — as is normal — and yet the child never learned to obey. For whatever reason, the child insisted on being disobedient, and as the child got older, the disobedience become more and more serious — pregnancy, drugs, criminal violations — and the parents were devastated. They prayed. They sought counseling. They disciplined. They hugged. Nothing worked. The child persisted in her rebellion, so much so that she became a danger to her siblings — not just a bad example but someone tempting her younger sister to follow the same path.

    Eventually, in tears, after years of fails efforts, they disown their adopted child — but in hopes that perhaps this will persuade her to change. By the time they share this with me, they haven’t heard from her in over 10 years.

    So does this mean they really didn’t love her? That the adoption wasn’t a free gift? That they were making her earn their love? Of course, not. It really was free. But the deal was that to be adopted as their daughter, she had to become their daughter. And as the Good Book says, that includes honoring her father and mother. There is no other way to be a daughter and remain a daughter.

    So was there a list of rules she has to obey to remain their daughter? No. She could have gotten away without making her bed or even not doing her homework if only she would — eventually — reciprocate their love. If she would love them back, then her obedience would be good enough, whatever it might be. But she couldn’t love them and rebel and never stop rebelling.

    Good daughters clean their rooms and return by curfew, and yet most daughters have failed to do these things and not been disowned — because parents’ know their kids’ hearts, and they judge obedience by their children’s hearts, not by the rules.

    In fact, it’s entirely possible for a daughter to do all her chores and make every curfew and yet despise her parents and rebel in other ways – so much so that she is eventually disowned. The chores/works are indicative of her heart, but the ultimate test is her heart and not the chores.

    And so, if one were to say, “My parents made me do chores and therefore did not love me unconditionally. They made me earn their love.” Well, that’s just ridiculous. That’s not the way parents are, and the child has grossly misunderstood her parents’ hearts.

    And if a child is disowned as I described, and then turns around and accuses her parents of not loving her and not given her adoption as a free gift, again, I’d say that she just doesn’t understand people and relationships. It’s not that simple.

    In fact, I know a child (more than one, really) whose parents misunderstood love so much that they made no demands on him. If the child didn’t want to do chores, no problem, because the parents felt the child might stop loving them if they imposed discipline and demands. When the child got in trouble at school, the parents blamed the teachers and administrators. To avoid any consequences, the parents transferred the child from school to school. And by the time the child was 20, he’d committed suicide, because he felt unloved.

    A parent’s love is free and unconditional. But love isn’t love if it doesn’t care how a child behaves or who the child grows up to be. True love comes with expectations, because people who love each other must behave in certain ways toward each other — or else it’s not real love.

    This is why Paul can say, in Romans, of all books,

    (Rom. 6:14-18 ESV) 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.

    We are under grace. Therefore, we are “slaves of righteousness” and so “obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.” Sounds like works. But it’s from the heart.

    When grace works as intended, our hearts are transformed so we obey because we enjoy doing what God wants of us. Our wants and desires are transformed, so that obedience ceases to be a burden. Rather, it becomes our new nature. But it’s still obedience.

    (Rom. 6:22-23 ESV) 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    So eternal life is a free gift — but the cost of this free thing is to become “slaves of God”? What kind of paradox is Paul selling here? How can both be true?

    (Rom. 7:6 ESV) 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

    Paul begins to explain what it means to be God’s slave. It’s about the Spirit and a “new way.”

    (Rom. 8:2 ESV) 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

    What? Are we just changing from one law to another? A law that saves rather than a law that damns? Why does Paul — the apostles of grace — keep talking in terms of law for the SAVED?

    (Rom. 8:3-8 ESV) 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

    So our minds have to be changed? (This anticipates Rom 12:2, of course). We have to “walk according to the Spirit”; “live according to the Spirit”; “set [our] minds on the things of the Spirit” — all things that we DO. Perhaps it’s nothing but submitting to the Spirit, but we must DO that. But if we’ll submit to the Spirit (not always that easy to do), the Spirit will provide “life and peace” (eternal life and shalom with God) and we’ll “submit to God’s law.”

    So it’s all there. Everything that Price argues for is there, but there’s more. There’s an element of cooperation that is necessary (or why else did Paul write Romans?)

    (Rom. 14:20-15:1 ESV) 20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. 21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. 22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

    And so it makes sense that Paul builds a very elaborate argument for how the strong should treat the weak (all being saved people) on the assumption that tempting a brother to sin might “destroy” him (“destroy” usually refers to damnation in Paul’s writings) or lead to his being “condemned.” So because falling away is possible, esp. for the weak, we must be careful not to tempt the weak to sin against their consciences.

    And this makes NO sense at all in a POTS theology. But it fits Paul very well, if we understand him relationally.

  52. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Part 2

    Christopher asked,

    I find it difficult to wrestle with scriptures pertaining to judgement and mercy. Why? Because a number of of the former seem, in their immediate context, unbelievably harsh and cruel and utterly inconsistent with love or mercy.

    It’s a good question, one that many have wrestled with.

    First answer

    And I think the problem isn’t entirely resolvable other than in relational terms. For example, as a parent, while I want my children to feel loved and learn to love, there are times when I play the role of ogre to get the results needed.

    My kids are grown up now, but we used to have a young man living with us, not my son, who had ambitions of becoming a youth minister. His parents had divorced and he kind of moved in with us. April 1 was the deadline for college applications, and he hadn’t filled his out. My wife and my sons — his de facto brothers — urged him to turn in his form over and over and over. But he was 18 and unmotivated. I told him — and meant it — that if he didn’t get it turned in on time, I was taking his house key and kicking him to the curb. And so he filled out his form — and I wound up being his “father” at his wedding and he just got a job as a pulpit minister.

    So I was a mean, demanding, rules-based, demanding ogre, because that’s what he needed at that moment to grow up a little bit more.

    So like a good father, God sometimes hugs us and sometimes threatens to take our house key. We need both.

    Second answer

    Sometimes God’s harshness is a result of our not reading the text closely enough.

    Nadab and Abihu were evidently drunk. And they’d been told to use the fire from the altar lit by God himself. And here they are in front of the Israelites, as priests, representing God to the people, and behaving like spoiled frat boys. What would have happened if God had done nothing? What if God had allowed his priests to be slobbering drunk in front of everyone?

    Third answer

    Sometimes we’re reading Ancient Near East machismo and we don’t recognize the idiom of a foreign culture. Hence, “on your descendants forever” probably is hyperbolic, that is, not intended literally.

    There are cases where a nation is said to be destroyed in total, men, women, and children, and yet they show up again in a later chapter. For example,

    (1 Sam. 15:18-20 ESV) 18 And the LORD sent you on a mission and said, ‘Go, devote to destruction the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ 19 Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the LORD?” 20 And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the LORD. I have gone on the mission on which the LORD sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction.

    But we read about David attacking the Amalekites later in 2 Sam 1:1.

    Just so —

    (Deut. 3:6-7 ESV) 6 And we devoted them to destruction, as we did to Sihon the king of Heshbon, devoting to destruction every city, men, women, and children. 7 But all the livestock and the spoil of the cities we took as our plunder.

    But later we read —

    (Jdg. 11:19 ESV) 19 Israel then sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, ‘Please let us pass through your land to our country,’


    Fourth answer

    We cannot judge God by human standards. We may not murder. Why not? In part, because we don’t know the consequences of our actions. Who knows what children might have been born, what repentance might have occurred? We don’t know the consequences of doing something that is utterly irreversible.

    God does. He knows how the world would be if takes a life and doesn’t take a life. He knows whether he is, on a net basis, doing good or harm. Perhaps if a nation had been allowed to continue, that nation would have committed far greater atrocities, many times over. Maybe they would have destroyed Israel entirely, preventing the coming of the Messiah from among the Jews. Who knows?

    God has access to information we don’t. We can only trust that he uses his superior knowledge wisely.

    Regarding Gehazi in particular,

    Menken says: “It is the full, strong expression of excited, deep, yet holy and just feeling, which dare not and will not lay its words upon delicate scales, and which, to express the fulness of its abhorrence or its admiration, of its curse or its blessing, seizes upon a formula of the vulgar dialects of the country, even though it may not apply, in syllable and letter, to the case in hand.”

    John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, W. F. Bähr, Edwin Harwood, and B. A. Sumner, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 2 Kings, (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 56.

    Fifth answer

    As God said to Job (I paraphrase), “Until you are able to create your own universe, you have no right to judge me, your Creator.”

    Sixth answer

    As Paul says in Rom 9 (I paraphrase), I made you out of nothing. You have no right to even exist. If I decide to end an existence I created, why shouldn’t I be able to do that?

    Seventh answer

    Because we live in this age, we tend to think that what really matters is this age. Life and death are “this age” concerns. Eternity is infinitely more important. If we get there a little sooner than expected, it’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Eternity plus or minus a few years is still eternity.

    God can kill someone in this life and give that person eternal life. God took the life of the first baby born to David and Bathsheba to punish David for his sin. That doesn’t mean the baby is in hell. The baby may well have a free pass to heaven. We see that as terrible — God killed a baby! — but the baby gets instant eternal bliss. We are too mortally minded.

    Reason eight

    Pascal argued that the best imaginable world may not be the best possible world, and perhaps God has given us the best possible world.

    My children, when they were young, imagined worlds in which they spent all their time playing video games and eating chips. That was, to them, the best imaginable world. But it was not the best possible world. So I made them go to school, do their homework, and otherwise prepared them for the world as it is.

    Maybe when we ask why God allowed a famine or tornado, we don’t realize what worse things might happen if there were no famines or tornadoes. It’s called the “butterfly effect.” We don’t know what even worse things might happen.

    Ninth answer

    Satan is alive, well, and active among humans. Until he is defeated, humans will make bad decisions and the creation will suffer from the futility described in Rom 8. God’s solution is to send Jesus, die on the cross for us, give us God’s Spirit, form us into the church — and all this is part of a cosmic battle against demonic powers at war with God. Until that war is over, there will be damage to innocents and suffering by people who don’t deserve it. Our proper response is not to sneer at God but to join God is bringing God’s shalom to this planet.

    Tenth answer

    God charged us to fix things as his incarnation on earth. We are the body of Christ, charged to continue his mission. We’ve preferred to do other things. And then we blame God for what’s our fault.

    Eleventh answer

    Among the powers and principalities arrayed against God are wicked cultures and worldviews that bring misery to their adherents. Removing a wicked worldview and culture from the planet sometimes requires extreme measures. But only God has the wisdom to say when or how. If he wanted Israel to destroy the wickedness of the Canaanites (who, among other things, offered their children to idols by burning them alive as babies) by war, perhaps it was the only way to defeat that particular evil.

    Twelfth answer

    Likely, the truth is some combination of the above. There are likely different combinations for different questions.

  53. Monty says:

    James writes, “Was not our father Abraham justified by works, and by works was faith made perfect.” Paul writes in Romans 4: 2 “For if Abraham was justified by works, he hath whereof glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God and it was credited unto him for righteousness.” Now one of three things is happening here. 1. Scripture is contradicting itself. I don’t believe any of us believes that. 2. James and Paul are discussing 2 different usages of the word works, 2 different definitions. 3. There is a way, even if we refuse to see it, that works makes our faith complete without jeopardizing grace. Paul is using works in the negative of someone believing he is owed salvation based on there on merit. James is saying positively speaking that our works are a testimony to or faith. James has no problem saying we are “justified”(made right) by works. So, understood in context we should have no problem saying the same thing. It was either Luther or Calvin who rejected the book of James because he couldn’t reconcile James with Romans. Some today are having the same problem. Obviously there is a way to speak positively of our actions, our obedience, and making efforts to grow in grace and knowledge that compliments grace without those verses becoming anathema.

  54. Price says:

    Monty James is speaking about displaying ones faith. Abraham was already declared righteous before he packed his bags out of Ur and long before Issac. Scripture isn’t contradicting itself. Your understanding of what it says is misinformed. Abraham didn’t t
    Rejustfy himself. There was no need. What he did was demonstrate his faith to others. James felt it was important to see outward demonstration of God working in an individual.

  55. Christopher says:

    As always, Jay, thanks for the thoughtful responses. Here is what I’d say back, not to argue but to advance the dialog:

    My response to your second answer is this: Nadab and Abihu may well have been intoxicated (which impaired their judgement and prompted Moses to stipulate that priests are not to imbibe of fermented drink on such occasions) but I think you overstate the case by calling them “spoiled frat boys” who were “slobbering drunk”. If both of the wind up in heaven (a possibility allowed for in your seventh answer), then perhaps there is no real harm – it was more of an object lesson for Israel that sin does indeed lead to death. But there is little doubt in my mind that what David did – treacherously committing adultery with the wife of one of his mighty men (and his friend) and then murdering him – was far worse, because it was planned, deliberate and acted out over months. Yet he lived. So did the woman caught in adultery. My point was that mercy did NOT triumph over justice for Nabab and Abihu if they are not in heaven (unless God knows with certainty each of our fates, knows each and every choice we will make throughout our entire lives and strategically takes the lives those who will never choose to serve Him solely to advance His own ends – which, perhaps, follows along with your fourth answer).

    My response to your fifth answer is this: until God knows what it is like to suffer each and every possible affliction and harm that humans suffer (and Jesus certainly did NOT do that – he was not sexually or physically abused as a child, he did not contract some horrible fatal disease, he did not tragically lose members of his immediate family, he was not permanently maimed by another human being and so on), He has no right to subject people to seemingly senseless and lengthy harm without a good explanation. In the first part of your response, you do a great job of explaining God’s love in relational terms. Let me diverge from that. I was sexually abused as a child for 3 years. Would you, as a loving father, have allowed a person to do that to me had you been my dad? Yet that seems exactly what God does in allowing Satan – a far stronger and more powerful being – to possess, kill, maim (as the woman bent over for 19 years healed by Jesus) and otherwise greatly harm what are essentially children. It is hard enough to suffer the evil done to us by our fellow man. Must we also be abused by a supernatural power we cannot see or fight?

    My response to your sixth answer is this: God has the right to destroy what he created – even capriciously or cruelly, but He has no right to to claim He is just or loving or perfectly good if He does so. It is astonishing to me that authors (especially Paul – who was highly educated) of the scriptures time and again seem oblivious to the import of their words. I mean, the worst part of Calvinism arose from reading Romans 9 at face value. It is the very way things are often put in the scriptures that causes us so many problems (which was really the point of my previous post). It is almost as if God is communicating with us through idiot savants (despite the presence of the Holy Spririt). This touches on your third answer. It seems that the writing skills of God’s people in past ages were deficient. I have an M.A. in English and have, for years, been distressed by the way things are not often laid out in a systematic way, but in a piecemeal fashion. Indeed, that – more than any other thing – seems the cause of so many varied interpretations of the scriptures. Or, at least, it is the ammo for people with “itchy ears” to do what they will. I have for decades taken the scriptures very seriously. But (in regards to your third and fourth answers) I would be lying if I said it has not bothered me to have to figure out that Elisha didn’t really mean all he said. THAT makes intrepretaion VERY difficult because you are dealing with the inerrant word of God and not a play by Shakespeare.

  56. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher,

    First, I need to add:

    Thirteenth answer:

    God is under no obligation to be more than just. To me more precise, he may offer grace to some and not to all and not be unjust or unrighteous. The Western, American worldview is that everyone should be treated the same, but obviously God did not do this before the coming of the gospel — only the Jews had Torah, the Spirit, the covenants with God, and God’s promises of salvation etc. They were his elect, chosen people. Sons of God.

    Even after the coming of the gospel, only those who’ve heard and responded to the gospel have the opportunity to be saved. Everyone receives justice, not grace. But no one has any claim on God for more than justice.

    This sounds almost Calvinist, but it’s not. People have a choice. But only those who’ve heard the gospel. Hence, mission work matters.

    For whatever reason, God has chosen to attack Satan, the principalities, and powers like Eisenhower attacking the Nazis. He has established a beachhead and then expanded his reach mile by mile, hedge row by hedge row.

    While we want to imagine God as having magical powers to change the world with a magic wand and fairy godmother, in fact, God only transforms the world as he transforms people, which is solely by the gospel, which comes solely by person to person conversion. Hence, it’s a slow, painful, difficult process that wins some and loses some. It’s war.

    Thus, God wants all to be saved, but he’s only going to save as he teaches in Rom 10 — missionaries teach gospel, people hear, believe, confess, and calling on the name of the Lord, they are saved. That’s the process. There is no other. And it’s not magic.

    This leads to —

    Fourteenth response.

    God fights a war against the principalities and powers only by the preaching of the gospel. He does many things other than preaching the gospel, but ultimately, unless the gospel is preached, salvation is not spread. And it’s through saved people and the coming of the Spirit that God transforms the world and restores it to his original intent.

    This is a very limited method, but has reached about 1/3 of the world at this point, and Christianity is the fastest growing religion in the world today, despite defeats in Europe and vigorous attacks in the US (where it’s still holding its own, if not growing).

    But this means that Satan still controls a lot of territory, and the world is still a very messed up place.

  57. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher (Part 2),

    A couple of thoughts —

    Re David —

    You should read Misreading Scriptures through Western Eyes — a very important book on how to read the Bible through an honor-culture perspective. Their chapter on David is astonishing. It’s hardly a complete answer to the questions you raise, but it’s part of a complete answer (if there’s one to be found).

    David lost four sons to death before his own death, had his sons attempt to overthrow him (twice), lost his throne, and lost his honor. He probably would have preferred death.

    There’s also the fact that David repented. Both Saul and David had the Spirit. Saul committed two sins that we’d consider foot faults, but he not penitent. He was defensive. And God took His Spirit from Saul. Saul was probably damned.

    David committed far worse sins, but when rebuked by God’s prophet, he immediately repented — and it seems to have very sincere.

    God seems to have judged his kings, not based on their egregiousness of their sins, but the softness of their hearts.

    Mercy does not always prevail over justice with God, nor has he so promised. Whether it does depends on whether someone has faith and whether someone’s heart is tender — penitent — which is more than a little redundant.

  58. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher (Part 3),

    Jesus probably did lose a member of his immediate family. Commentators believe Joseph died before Jesus began his mission. And who knows who else among his relatives died or had illness. In that age, many.

    You wrote,

    He has no right to subject people to seemingly senseless and lengthy harm without a good explanation.

    As we lawyers say, you assume a fact not in evidence. Who says that God himself subjects people to the kinds of harm you mention, such as abuse. Perhaps it’s more fair to God to see him as attacking that very problem (and many others) by sending Jesus, the gospel, and attempting to win people to the way of the cross?

    We assume that it’s within God’s power to make all bad things go away with a wave of his magic wand — and then we argue against the Calvinists, insisting on free will. We can’t have it both ways.

    In a Calvinist universe, yes, God has to answer for everything, and the supposed answer is: “God has a plan for everything.” I don’t buy it. I don’t buy Calvinism. And I do buy free will. Therefore, I’m stuck believing that people can choose to sin and God is not going to stop them. It’s up to God’s people to convert others and bring them God’s Spirit and change the world — to join the Mission of God (missio dei) to restore humanity to the image of God.

    We see God changing the world, but we don’t see him ridding the world of sin except through people. It’s through the Israelites or through Jesus in human form or the church. God may send visions, do miracles, and send missionaries, but people have to choose to change. That’s the plan.

    And until the plan is fulfilled, there will be horrible things in this world, because sin is truly horrible.

    We can declare God not good enough because he hasn’t defeated it yet. Or we can decide that God wants our help because he needs our help, admit that we’re not carrying out our part of God’s war on sin, and it’s ultimately the fault of the church for not being the church God called us to be.

  59. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher (Part 4) wrote,

    It seems that the writing skills of God’s people in past ages were deficient. I have an M.A. in English and have, for years, been distressed by the way things are not often laid out in a systematic way, but in a piecemeal fashion.

    I don’t think you’re showing a proper awareness of the communications gulf created by a different culture, a different moral system (honor/shame vs. guilt), different language, different perspective (story vs. syllogism, east vs. west), and the nature of idiom. Translation is difficult between two contemporaneous, Western languages. The French have words for ideas that Americans don’t think. And vice versa.

    Americans have countless words for which there is no Arabic equivalent, because the Islamic worlds does not think in the same terms that we do. And vice versa.

    Now add a 3,000-year time gap to the mix, along with a Hebrew language that has about 3,000 words compared to English’s 300,000 words, the problem is that much tougher. With so few words, Hebrew uses words in a wide variety of senses, with context being the only way to know what is meant. And they think and write more in terms of story than syllogism, and so they write stories not syllogisms — which seems so very odd to us and perfectly natural for them.

    Add to that the absence of very many early iron age documents to use to master the Hebrew of the time of Elijah. I mean, we have troves of First Century Greek documents (most found in the 20th Century) to help us refine our lexicons, but very little help when it comes to pre-Babylonian captivity Hebrew. The language survived only in the OT and among the rabbis. Lots of educated people were killed. And the rest of pre-BC literature was lost, except for a precious few fragments here and there.

    So it’s amazing that we can read the OT at all. The fact that the idiom is difficult for us is not surprising.

    I live in the South. I practice law. I talk to Yankee lawyers every day. When I say, “Let’s get down to the lick log,” I have no idea that I’m speaking a Southernism not an Americanism. They need Google to look up my words to understand me. (And I them — although Yankee language is not hard to pick up on. It lacks color.)

    I had a non-lawyer client mesmerized by my reference to a “safe harbor,” which is a legal term used even by Yankee lawyers. But evidently not by non-lawyers. He just couldn’t get over it. Then I told him about a “grandfathered” law, he was beside himself.

    So we even have trouble speaking with fellow Americans. And if you’ve ever spent time talking to a German or Japanese businessman with excellent book-English but no time spent with Americans, you quickly find that you can barely talk to him because he doesn’t know idiomatic English. When he asks about our football team, and I say we “butchered” our opponents, he gets green with nausea. And he was asking about soccer, not American football — which I totally missed.

  60. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay, An Awesome post!

  61. Christopher says:

    “As we lawyers say, you assume a fact not in evidence. Who says that God himself subjects people to the kinds of harm you mention, such as abuse.”

    God Himself does:

    “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7, NIV)

    “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?” (Lamentations 3:38, NIV)

    “When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?” (Amos 3:6, NIV)

    “…And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” (Job 2:3, NIV)

    If God is not sovereign, what is the point of praying to Him, in seeking His deliverance? Why ask Him to give us our daily bread, keep us from temptation and deliver us from evil (as Jesus teaches)? Are you saying that the disease that is in the world is not from God (as part of his curse on the earth and all in it)? Stop and think what horrible diseases afflict the world, afflict even children who do not know enough to choose good over evil. Recall that Jesus said not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from God’s will and that he so trusted in the Father’s sovereignty that he was able to sleep through a storm at sea without a care (and was bothered to find his disciples scared out of their wits).

    Don’t misuderstand me…I am not opposed to seemingly unjust or terrible suffering, just so long as there is a good explanation for it and so long as God is willing to deliver all from it who cry out to Him. But that is not what we get from the scriptures and God does not deliver all (or even many) from evil. The best answer we get from scriptures is in Job where God asks Job “What do you know, after all?” My word – Job lost all ten of his children, his wealth, his friends and his health – all (according to God) – without just reason. It just seems God did not grasp how much Job suffered (having never suffered like that Himself as a human being) and was unwilling to share the reason for it (unlike how He answers the “complaint” of an angel in Zechariah 1:13), like He is saying “How dare you question why I allowed you to be brutally savaged by a fallen angel against whom you have no power to withstand?”. Might is not a good explanation for right.

    I am not sure you have a full appreciation for what goes on in the world. Children are sold as sex slaves. Women in ancient China would have their feet bound from childhood so they would be deformed (that was thought to be desirable among men). There are people in North Korea who have grown up from infancy in a prison camp and lived their lives there. People contract all sorts of horrible diseases all over the world. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, floods and blizzards kill thousands every year. Lions and other animals kill and eat human beings. And so on and so forth. If God does not answer people like these when they cry out to Him in humility and dispair, what does that tell us? Why do so many scriptures allude to prayers and cries of people? What, then, is the “work” Jesus said the Father was at even to his day?

    I don’t expect you to have an answer to these questions. But if the world is to be won, answers would sure help that cause. It is not simply a matter of preaching the gospel. Most everyone has heard of Jesus. They have to know God is truly good beyond all question. That is a tough sell to someone who has suffered greatly in one way or another. Knowing that Jesus died on the cross for him does not explain why he was born with cystic fibrosis or why she was sexually abused, caged and beaten by her own father for over ten years or…well, you get the picture.

  62. Dwight says:

    I find it interesting that some that can believe that God can be both God and the flesh, but can’t find it possible that we can be justified by faith and works.
    Price, I think you have an issue with justifying ourselves and being justified. There is no possible way we can justify ourselves, even in having faith. God justifies. He justifies us according to our faith and our works. God both wants self motivation out of our love, but also motivates out of commands and punishment. This has always been the case.
    Correction isn’t for punishment, but for aligning us with His will, which is always good.
    This is why we correct our children.
    Christopher, if our life was about our life here, then God would probably make it very comfortable for us and make everything to our liking, but God’s plan is for heaven. This is our goal and this is where we will find peace and comfort and God’s goodness. Many have to deal with hardships, but this should only make them look towards heaven more.

  63. laymond says:

    Thanks Christopher, If I had written the same thing, I would be accused of being a heretic.

    Jhn 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.
    Jhn 12:32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
    (will draw ALL men unto me)
    Jhn 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
    ( whatever you ask WILL be done)
    Jhn 14:14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
    (I WILL do it)

    Jhn 14:30 Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.
    NIV I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me,
    ( I see this as a warning to the apostles, I am leaving, and the devil can’t stop me, but you have to stay and fight)

    This is what Jesus says about “the holy ghost”
    Jhn 16:8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
    (NLT And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.)
    (NIV When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment:)

    And yet there are some among us who insist that Jesus was speaking to all Christians, not just his apostles.
    I don’t see any difference in the way Christians are treated than the average sinner, I don’t see where the Christian’s prayers of asking are answered to a great extent.

  64. Dwight says:

    There is a difference between sovereign and micro-managing. God is sovereign in that when he expresses his will with control God can make it happen and yet God doesn’t micro manage man’s lives or death, unless he has a particular plan that we don’t know about. God could have taken the tree of Good and Evil out of the garden and yet God placed it there and allowed man to sin. God gave man free will and when man disobeyed God, God cast man out into a harsh world where disease and dirt and bad things happen. I bet Adam and Eve looked back and missed the garden. We too should look upward and miss heaven.
    One of the things I think we overlook is that God is complicated and not one dimensional in character. He is loving and yet he is jealous and rightly so. HE gives grace, but he also judges according to his words and rightly so. We are or were initially built off of God’s model (in his image) so how we treat others is how we will be treated by God, because God has treated us that way first. We expect forgiveness and God is forgiving, but if we fail to forgive our brother, then God will retract His forgiveness to us.
    Paul was beaten many times, despised by His own Jewish brethren, run out of town, etc. and yet he considered it a good thing because it drove him towards something better…God and heaven. And he considered all of the blessings that he had from God and was going to get.

  65. laymond says:

    Dwight said, “God could have taken the tree of Good and Evil out of the garden and yet God placed it there and allowed man to sin.”

    Dwight, do you know why the tree was in the garden?

  66. Dwight says:

    It was God’s will to test our will. God knew we would fail, but we had to be shown that we have a choice, otherwise there would be no choice. That is my explanation. But the results are still the same. God didn’t force us to go one way or the other and he left it up to us to decide.
    Which brings up a thought exercise. Adam knew God, so he had “faith” in God, but still failed to act in accordance to what God wanted. But was it really faith as Adam layed aside trusting that God would fulfill his promise of death when he ate of the fruit. Adam and Eve placed their trust in a lie that they accepted, instead of what they should have known was going to happen.
    They acted not out of faith in God, but out of self desire and then was denied the tree of life.
    If they would have acted in faith, they would have stayed in the garden and had access to the tree of life.
    Did their action doom them or did their faith doom them or did their action based on their lack of faith doom them?

  67. Monty says:

    Price,

    You’re either a poor reader or a dishonest responder blinded by your theology. Enough of taking what I say and twisting it to serve your purposes whatever they are. Here’s just one of many things you have twisted. I said, “1. Scripture is contradicting itself. I don’t believe any of us believes that.” You come back and write. “Scripture isn’t contradicting itself. Your understanding of what it says is misinformed.” My point was scripture isn’t contradicting itself so that’s off the table as to what James meant. You then write some garbage like “Abraham didn’t Re-justfy himself.” I didn’t say he did. Who are you arguing against? “There was no need, you said. What he did was demonstrate his faith to others.” What others did he demonstrate his attempted sacrifice of his son to? God? You said,”James felt it was important to see outward demonstration of God working in an individual.” So, were back to an outward sign of an inward expression? That was not the purpose of Abraham attempting to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham had already been going where God sent him and demonstrated his faith in numerous ways like believing God would even give him a son in his old age. But when Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son(of promise) God said, something amazing, “Now I know that you love me.” and by doing it, he was justified(James words, not mine or yours.

    James said he was “justified by his works.” You say no he was not,(I’ll believe James). He wasn’t even re-justifying himself.” Who ever said that? Abraham didn’t re-justify anything. And there is nothing in there about sacrificing Isaac was some need to “publicly demonstrate his faith to others”,(your words). That’s not even in the text. The text is about being justified by works. You rename the words used instead of addressing what is said, and add context(filler) that isn’t there, to suit your agenda. Abraham was justified in one sense by faith and also James says in some sense he was justified by works. The idea is to understand how both statements are true. Because they really are without having to change the words and add filler. I will gladly try reason the scriptures with someone who is giving an honest attempt, even when they disagree , but I refuse to deal with someone who is either in to big a hurry to read what I wrote and misses what I’m saying or is so interested in winning the debate that they have to put words in my mouth that I didn’t say. I’m done.

  68. Dwight says:

    Monty,
    In regards to faith and works (and other points) there is an attempt to divide the scriptures and conquer a concept or point.
    But you are right. The idea is to understand how both statements are true.
    There was the apostle that “Jesus loved”, so does this mean he hated all of the other apostles? No!. Jesus could “love” a particular apostle without hating the rest and he constantly showed this fact. One fact didn’t cause an opposite fact to happen. Two facts can coexist without opposition.
    The Kingdom can be in heaven (literally) and it can also be a mustard seed (figuratively) and both be equally true concepts.

  69. Price says:

    Monty IMO you suggested that scripture can’t contradict itself based on your understanding of what James says and then you reach back to Rom 4 trying to make them mesh by suggesting justification is based on faith and somehow based on works. I just don’t see how you can imagine that Abraham needed to be declared righteous by works when he had already been declared righteous by faith apart from works. Tim 4 leaves no doubt and the role of earning justification or righteousness. It is not a minority opinion that James is stating that you show yourself to have faith by how you act.

    hebrews says that Abraham trusted God and that he could raise Issac from the dead to fulfill his covenant. So even then his faith directed his actions. That is to say that faith preceded his work.

    I don’t see Gods response of now I know as being all that amazing. It’s not like the Alpha and Omega didn’t know something or needed to be informed. He was giving Abraham an “atta boy”. He was letting Abraham know that He did know his heart and the motivation behind it. If it was in any way amazing it would have been to Abraham himself being informed that God knew what was on his heart. If perhaps having a angel grab you wasn’t amazing enough

  70. Dwight says:

    Price, so then the question is what would have happened if Abraham, who showed his faith by going to the place of sacrifice, decided not go all the way in the sacrifice Would he have gotten the approval that God already had placed on Abraham prior to the act of sacrificing his son? After all God knew his heart…right?

  71. Price says:

    Dwight… Good question. One could stop having trust in God I suppose But if the faith is genuine then the response is as good as it can be. Some have great faith. Others can barely come up with a mustard seed. Are we to assume that a mustard seed isn’t sufficient ? That’s why I resist a checklist meantality. But in this instance his faith motivated his response. Why should we assume that God wouldn’t still be interested in his faith rather than his performance ? He wasn’t initially. One has to ask themselves what it means when Paul says that if a ram had any reason to boast it wasn’t before God. What does that mean to you ?

  72. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry,

    Thanks. It’s from a lesson I try to teach teenagers when I have the opportunity. I taught it to a group of graduating seniors. 6 years later they tell me it’s the best, most important lesson they ever heard. But it’s not MY lesson. It’s straight from 2 Peter. It’s just a lesson we rarely teach because we’re so obsessed with pushing either Calvinism or Arminianism that we don’t teach it for what it was meant for: How to live.

    I’ve never heard this taught from the pulpit. The Churches of Christ don’t want to teach a sure salvation. The Baptists don’t want to teach an unsure salvation. And so how to make the unsure sure is ignored and forgotten.

  73. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher,

    You’re putting me to the test! Let’s see …

    “As we lawyers say, you assume a fact not in evidence. Who says that God himself subjects people to the kinds of harm you mention, such as abuse.”

    God Himself does:

    “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7, NIV)

    “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?” (Lamentations 3:38, NIV)

    “When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?” (Amos 3:6, NIV)

    “…And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.” (Job 2:3, NIV)

    So my first reaction to these verses is that God is not saying that he is the source of all bad things but that, when he is of a mind to punish, he punishes. Obviously, anyone who knows the OT knows that God brings punishment to both Jews and Gentiles when he suits him to penalize their wicked behavior. This is his justice, for which I praise him. So let’s check out some context.

    The first passage is from a prophecy directed to Cyrus, king of Persia —

    (Isa. 45:1-7 ESV) 1 Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: 2 “I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, 3 I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. 4 For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. 5 I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, 6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. 7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.”

    God takes credit for Cyrus’s victories and the calamities suffered by his enemies. Parallel is —

    (Isa. 45:17 ESV) 17 But Israel is saved by the LORD with everlasting salvation; you shall not be put to shame or confounded to all eternity.

    God is saying: I can make you king and I can destroy you. He is not saying, all evil in this world is my fault.

    Next is —

    (Lam. 3:38-40 ESV) 38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? 39 Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? 40 Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD!

    Lamentations is about the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon. The author’s point is that God can bless us or curse us (as he had seen and as God had said in Deu and Lev). If we sin, God said he’ll punish us. Why should we complain? We knew we were sinning! We should rather repent.

    Again, the point is not that all evil comes from God but that God does punish as he has said he would.

    The Amos passage —

    (Amos 3:1-8 ESV) Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt: 2 “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. 3 “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet? 4 Does a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey? Does a young lion cry out from his den, if he has taken nothing? 5 Does a bird fall in a snare on the earth, when there is no trap for it? Does a snare spring up from the ground, when it has taken nothing? 6 Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it? 7 “For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. 8 The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken; who can but prophesy?”

    In context, Amos is saying that God will punish Israel for its sins. Thus, when he asks, “Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?” Well, this makes perfect sense if God has threatened destruction if the people don’t repent. When the city is then destroyed, they should learn their lesson.

    Heed v. 7: “For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.” That is, they know it was God who brought disaster because the prophets said so. “The lion roared.” God is the one who brings disaster to a city WHEN THE PROPHETS SAY SO.

    I have no interest in the TV evangelists who announce that every disaster is God’s judgment — because there is no prophet who warned us and so they are full of themselves and not the Spirit.

    If God is not sovereign, what is the point of praying to Him, in seeking His deliverance? Why ask Him to give us our daily bread, keep us from temptation and deliver us from evil (as Jesus teaches)? Are you saying that the disease that is in the world is not from God (as part of his curse on the earth and all in it)? Stop and think what horrible diseases afflict the world, afflict even children who do not know enough to choose good over evil. Recall that Jesus said not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from God’s will and that he so trusted in the Father’s sovereignty that he was able to sleep through a storm at sea without a care (and was bothered to find his disciples scared out of their wits).

    As a victim of more than one horrible disease, and a chronic pain sufferer, I do not need to told about these things. These issues are very present to me.

    I think the Orthodox have a better understanding of the curse of Gen 3 than we Protestants (which we inherited from our Catholic forebears). The curse is the consequence of sin entering the Creation, but it’s not God’s will. Check out http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith8050 for an enlightening perspective (but you can skip the parts about Mary).

    I can’t offer a comprehensive explanation, but sin — rebellion against God — affects not only those who sin but the entirety of creation. Jesus came to reconcile us, help us defeat sin, and where Jesus is most intensely present, even the creation itself returns to proper balance. The storms on the sea are calmed not just because “Jesus did a miracle,” but because the creation subjected to futility and adulteration returns to submission where Jesus is most intensely present.

    Therefore, I think it’s a mistake (a very common one) to blame God for the fallenness of this world — a fallenness that cost Jesus his life on the cross. I think it is therefore contrary to the will of God, and God is doing his best to defeat it. But to defeat the consequences of rebellion requires that humans give up their rebellion.

    The scriptures aren’t the least Pollyanna-ish. They report the horrors of human suffering with incredible honesty. We are naive because we like to read the pretty passages and ignore the full picture.

    For example, speaking as someone who spent Saturday in a wheelchair, Jesus healed but one of the many lame people by the pool. In theory, he could have healed them all. He could have healed the entire population of lame Jews or every lame person on the planet. But he healed one. Just one.

    Why? Why stop there? Just to show off? Well, to show what is possible — if we’d join him in defeating the principalities and powers, in giving ourselves to him. The point of a miracle isn’t to take away the curse. If it were that easy, Jesus wouldn’t have gone to the cross.

    The miracle is a foretaste of the new heavens and new earth. Until then, it’s war — and God makes things better but not everything better. And as more ground is taken and more enemies defeated, things improve. Poverty is pushed back. Diseases are cured. Famines aren’t as deadly. And we credit these things to science and man, when in fact they come from the spread of the Kingdom — I believe. I’m a Kuyperian to that extent. There’s a common grace from God. He makes it rain on the just and unjust. And he defeats the Enemy a little at a time — and things get better. But the final victory will only come as people follow Jesus, defeat sin in their lives, and as a result, spread a common grace that will be beyond our imagining.

    Don’t misuderstand me…I am not opposed to seemingly unjust or terrible suffering, just so long as there is a good explanation for it and so long as God is willing to deliver all from it who cry out to Him. But that is not what we get from the scriptures and God does not deliver all (or even many) from evil. The best answer we get from scriptures is in Job where God asks Job “What do you know, after all?” My word – Job lost all ten of his children, his wealth, his friends and his health – all (according to God) – without just reason. It just seems God did not grasp how much Job suffered (having never suffered like that Himself as a human being) and was unwilling to share the reason for it (unlike how He answers the “complaint” of an angel in Zechariah 1:13), like He is saying “How dare you question why I allowed you to be brutally savaged by a fallen angel against whom you have no power to withstand?”. Might is not a good explanation for right.

    As I think I’ve shown, I don’t take Job to be the “best” answer. It’s AN answer, but plenty more are offered. In fact, I now realized that I missed one —

    Thirteenth Answer:

    (2 Cor. 12:7-10 ESV) 7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

    Sometimes God says, “No” even to his apostles.

    This is a hard one because God has a long history of winning victories through weakness — from Moses to Gideon to David and Goliath to Jesus to Paul. Jeremiah preached from a prison hole in the ground. Ezekiel suffered all sorts of pains to preach for God. So did many other prophets.

    Jesus promised his followers,

    (Lk. 9:57-58 ESV) 57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

    To borrow a phrase, Jesus never promises us a rose garden. We pick and choose the pretty passages and hope to live like Job after he was tested and tried and not like Jesus or Paul. But it’s pretty clear on a fair reading of the text that many of Jesus’ followers will suffer in this life — as Jesus did. It’s even built into Paul’s theology —

    (Rom. 5:1-5 ESV) Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

    Not many sermons get preached on this one, because “we rejoice in our sufferings” does not look good as a mission statement. But that’s what it is.

    It’s not that all Christians suffer — but many do. I can barely type the keyboard because of my arthritis. The pain radiates to my elbows. And yet I type because I feel called to type. You’d think God would take away the pain, wouldn’t you? But maybe he wants me to minister to others who suffer. Beats me. I just know that I’m supposed to type.

    I am not sure you have a full appreciation for what goes on in the world. Children are sold as sex slaves. Women in ancient China would have their feet bound from childhood so they would be deformed (that was thought to be desirable among men). There are people in North Korea who have grown up from infancy in a prison camp and lived their lives there. People contract all sorts of horrible diseases all over the world. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, floods and blizzards kill thousands every year. Lions and other animals kill and eat human beings. And so on and so forth. If God does not answer people like these when they cry out to Him in humility and dispair, what does that tell us? Why do so many scriptures allude to prayers and cries of people? What, then, is the “work” Jesus said the Father was at even to his day?

    Please spare me your condescension. I live in Tuscaloosa, where we cared for Katrina refugees and dealt with an F5 tornado that ran next to my church building and near my house. It’s been years, and I just spent this afternoon talking to my wife about the families we tried to help and how the system works against the poor. My congregation has been at the epicenter of relief efforts for these disasters for years, and it’s been at considerable sacrifice and cost.

    We’ve been in the homes of people who can’t afford rent to move out of buildings laced with mold, without utilities, and who refuse to move because their friends and neighbors living in similar squalor can’t move with them — and they need their friends to survive. And I practice law in the affordable housing field. I know how to help people — but not how to get the city to zone for affordable housing.

    Although I live a privileged existence in many ways, I beat my head against the principalities and powers daily. I successfully campaigned for the state to grant additional housing credits to Tuscaloosa to bring affordable housing to people displaced by the tornado — and the housing industry couldn’t build enough new housing to use the credits because the red tape defeated my efforts. I beat my head against the principalities and powers daily.

    But here’s the point: I beat my head against the principalities and powers daily. Sometimes, they lose. Not always, but often enough to make the effort worthwhile. God’s power is made perfect in weakness.

    I don’t expect you to have an answer to these questions. But if the world is to be won, answers would sure help that cause. It is not simply a matter of preaching the gospel. Most everyone has heard of Jesus. They have to know God is truly good beyond all question. That is a tough sell to someone who has suffered greatly in one way or another. Knowing that Jesus died on the cross for him does not explain why he was born with cystic fibrosis or why she was sexually abused, caged and beaten by her own father for over ten years or…well, you get the picture.

    I have relatives with CF. I have friends who were abused and who suffer today from their childhood trauma. I’m not naive.

    However, neither do I blame God.

    To me, the metaphysics are very difficult to articulate. It’s hard to explain the WHY.

    But I can explain the THEREFORE, the “what do we do about it?”

    What we do about it is —

    * Have faith that God’s plan is the right, best, only plan.
    * Look forward to a better heaven, earth, and body. (I would rather like a body that didn’t require pain meds to get through the day.)
    * Bring more people into the Kingdom.
    * Convert the church from politics, moralism, legalism, and Gnosticism to actually serving as Jesus served. Help the church become the church (to quote Hauerwas). Be a light on a hill. Beat your head against the principalities and powers every day. And believe that God will — somehow or other — use your sacrifice in a way that betters this world. And believe that there’s no other way.
    * Pray — but not for magic. Pray that the church becomes the true church. That we each contribute something that helps redeem the world. Look forward to the day when we meet Jesus in the new heavens and new earth and recognize that the new world is perfect because of something we helped God accomplish. We’ll see the evidence that our works were not in vain when we get there. In the meantime, we live in the paradox, sustained by faith and the Spirit.

    That’s my limit for tonight. Time to take my nighttime meds.

  74. laymond says:

    I asked Dwight, do you know why the tree was in the garden?

    Dwight said, It was God’s will to test our will. God knew we would fail, but we
    had to be shown that we have a choice, otherwise there would be no choice.
    That is my explanation.

    Jas 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God
    cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

    so I believe Dwight sincere but wrong. So does anyone else know why
    the tree of good and evil was placed in the garden.

    I believe I know, and I can tell you how and when I found out.

  75. Monty says:

    Jay,

    Thanks for your response to Chris. We all feel what Chris feels(the falleness) of the world. Something is horribly wrong with the world. To not feel “it” is to live a life of pretend and fantasy. We (most all people, except perhaps for the most debased) desire to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We desire to see a world that functions without disease, hurricanes, twisters, tsunamis, without sexual abuse and premature death, a world without pain and suffering. What we need is light. We need some hope that change is possible and that all is not lost. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” Jesus is that hope.

    I think what you wrote pointed to that light. It was spot on. God is not the enemy. He is the cure for what ails us. If we believe that man should be able to do as he pleases without any repercussions, without true justice, without anyone telling him, “No, that’s wrong” then I suppose God is an enemy to that total self infatuation,self absorption, and to sin. Left to our own devices we would have destroyed ourselves millennia ago. Take away the light of God’s presence and you will know the full extent of chaos. Thanks be to God that he hasn’t abandoned us to ourselves, even though that’s what men craved. Jesus came to teach us the way to a better world, for healing what is broken(us), and that way is the downward path of self sacrifice, a cross. Jesus took up his cross and now we must take up ours to partner with him in the reconciliation of the world.

    The book of Revelation points to the struggle between good and evil(as does the whole of scripture) but in more vivid video gamefish kind of way, graphic spiritual battles, trumpets sounding, heavenly hosts, epic plagues, death, beheadings, war, the whole gamut of an epic battle. The kind of rendering that gets our attentions. All of us know that for the average man on the street who perhaps knows very little about scripture he is intrigued by Revelation, the mark of the beast, and some kind of battle between the forces of good and of evil. And even the least knowledgeable believe the ending of the story. Good(God) and his people prevail. The Good overcomes the evil. Sin and death are forevermore destroyed. Thank goodness(God) we know how it all ends. We see the light pointing to us to the conclusion of the matter. And, believe it or not, it really does end happily ever after, we just haven’t got there( the ending) yet. But until such time comes, we get to partner with God to try to make a little bit of heaven on earth. A foretaste of glory divine.

  76. laymond says:

    Monty said, “The Good overcomes the evil. Sin and death are forevermore destroyed. Thank goodness(God) we know how it all ends. We see the light pointing to us to the conclusion of the matter.”

    Monty, is that what is happening now, preparation for Armageddon, the last battle between good and evil, as some republicans seem to be saying. ?

  77. Monty says:

    Let’s see, If I have faith then it follows that I will have works. If I don’t have works if follows that I don’t have faith. Everyone with faith will have works. And back and forth it goes. That has a ring of logic to it, but it begs the question, why do Jesus, Paul, Peter, James, John, teach us how to act, and how not to act? Why are warnings given if I fail to act? If I am a true person of faith, I will act properly, so it is argued. If I don’t act properly, I’m not a true person of faith. The argument is either we are or we aren’t and there’s nothing we can or cannot do about it. If I trust, then I will obey, no if ands or buts. This view is that basically, the believer is preprogrammed. That is the “true” believer. If I’m not pre-programmed then I’m not a true believer. It all sounds simplistically wonderful. It certainly takes away any responsibility on my part. Just truly believe and God takes care of everything.

    The only problem with that is Paul faced daily the “concern for all the churches?” “Who is led into sin and I do not inwardly burn?” Hey Paulie, relax all the true believers are gonna do just fine! Why was Timothy instructed by Paul to persevere to watch your life and doctrine “closely” and instructed to “persevere” in them, because if he did (if he didn’t I suppose he just never was a true believer)he would save(future tense) both himself and his hearers? Why does Paul repeatedly warn Christians that those who “live by the flesh” will not inherit eternal life? I thought all true Christians will live by the Spirit automatically? Certainly there is no expectations on us to live a certain way(that would be works righteousness wouldn’t it?). Why did the Hebrew writer instruct his hearers(Christians) to “not shrink back” and to “hold unswervingly to the hope they professed?” A true believer can’t fall way right? Why does he say if “we”(includes himself) keep on sinning, no sacrifice for sins is left?” Why does Paul and Jude warn about false teachers coming in and ravaging the flock if true believers will always believe, always persevere, always walk according to the Spirit, always walk in the light, and are never carried away with every wind of doctrine, never fall from grace, etc. etc.,,,there’s just so much wasted print warning the “false” believers, those without “true” faith don’t you think? You have to ask yourself the question: Does scripture warn false believers to become true believers, or does scripture warn believers not to become like unbelievers?

    If true believers have faith and never “fall away”, never “make shipwreck of their faith”, never “keep on sinning” on at least occasion, if they always without exception persevere, then why so much angst from the writers of the NT to the contrary? Does the Christian have any responsibility to live, and to do, anything whatsoever, to remain faithful? To keep the faith, to remain in the faith, to build up his faith, to grow, to mature in the faith? If not, then why so much print and warnings to the contrary? If we can fall away, then there is something outside of God’s control and his desire. What is that something? Us! Our free will to sin, yes even after we have “true” faith, to rebel, yes even after we have tasted that God is good. When we became Christians God didn’t remove our free will. We must of our own free will hold to faith. We must diligently pursue righteousness(God) and turn our backs to unrighteousness. We (not God) must rid ourselves of all bitterness rage and anger….we(not God) must be kind and compassionate to one another. It’s a responsibility, it’s a direction or mindset taken by us that culminates in obedience. Not perfect obedience of course. But a life that is characterized by obedient trust. It goes without saying that it is easier to have more “belief’ as a cerebral thing than manifestations of our believing. So then, is it a works salvation? Hardly. But on the other hand is the Christian relieved of duties? Are there no expectations from God about doing and not just saying we believe? Is it really just as simple as the true believers will of course have works, will of course always persevere and such? If scripture points to anything it is that it isn’t as simple as that. That our faith is fragile in a sense, and not because God hasn’t done enough, but because we still have an adversary who must be resisted(and not given into),we still have a fleshly sin nature that requires self discipline of us. When we look at it from a mere human standpoint we might think the odds are stacked against us, even with grace. But from God’s perspective (the Biblical perspective) we are overcomers and we can overcome because God has graced us with his Holy Spirit that when submitted to will lead us into paths of righteousness for his name sake. It’s not us trying to save ourselves by being good enough, it’s about submitting to and not resisting the will of God in our lives. And that requires a faith that through submission(there’s no other way) we live more and more as imitators of God, as we mature and cooperate in the faith. Grace is greater than all our sins, but we are slaves to who we obey. Both are true.

  78. Dwight says:

    Laymond, the context of Jas 1:13 “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:” is evil. God does test man, but not with evil. The tree wasn’t evil. But God does desire to see what man will do in his faith. There is always a moment of truth that acting out exposes. We can have faith, but how strong and deep is the faith set is the question.
    The things is why is their consequences for actions if God knows our hearts?
    I think God knows our hearts and our direction, but not entirely how we will act or react until we do.

    In regards to saving ourselves. If we are thrown a life saver (not the candy) that someone throws to us while we are drowning and we reach for it and grab hold on tight because we have faith that we will be pulled in are we then in jeopardy of saying we saved ourselves?
    No! Even though we took action and took an action that if we didn’t take wouldn’t have saved us.
    And if we get on the ship and jump off are we then going to argue that the one who saved us didn’t do his part and didn’t save us?

  79. laymond says:

    Dwight, the bible calls the tree ” the tree of good, and evil . The woman was tempted by evil, the man was tempted by woman.
    So how can you say it was only a test, not a temptation.? If God planted the tree for that purpose then God was the tempter. Could there have been another reason for the tree?

  80. Dwight says:

    Laymond, Read Genesis again Gen.2:17 “but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
    The tree could not be both good and evil. The tree was off the “knowledge of good and evil”, which is why it is said later in vs.3:22 ““The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.”
    What it did was open up the eyes to be able to discern good or evil, but it wasn’t a tree of good and evil. Now what Adam and Eve did was evil in the sight of God when they disobeyed him, but the sin was never laid to the tree. Adam and Eve fell to their own desires. In fact Jesus was tempted with these later by Satan…pride of life, lust of the eyes and lust of the flesh, but the in wasn’t in eating or in looking, but in the desire of man towards those things.
    So God did not tempt man with evil in the form of the tree. He tested man who fell to his own desires.
    Wait, wasn’t it you who argued that Jas 1:13 “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:”
    So God didn’t tempt man with evil to evil, but tested man who went the way he wanted to. All testing does, as we know in school, is bring to light that which I within.
    The interesting thing is that Adam and Eve had all of these trees, but was only told not to eat one of them, and they didn’t listen. They wanted what they were told they couldn’t have and thought they would get away with it.

  81. Price says:

    Monty, here’s the rub from my perspective.. The Pharisee’s took the Law, added their interpretations to it and bound it on people. Jesus came along as said ya’ll are nuts. You Teachers of the Law can’t measure up to these standards and yet you want to place this burden on others !! He summed up the foundation on which the Law was created….LOVE… If people loved God and their Neighbor then the whole of the Law would have been met…

    Jesus told an audience that if their righteousness didn’t exceed that of these Pharisees they were in big trouble…So they incredulously asked what works they had to do now !!! Jesus said BELIEVE. It seems to me that the whole of the New Covenant is wrapped up in Faith.. With Faith, all things outlined in the covenant would be met..

    I agree that the Old and New Testaments set the bar for performance at the highest level.. It should.. To suggest otherwise is to diminish the Holiness of God in my opinion.. But what we’ve done to it is what troubles me and I’ve found I’m entirely allergic to it… We make works a test of faith… Just like the Pharisees of old.. We comb through the books and pages of the NT… pick out all the things that one is instructed to do… make a list…. add our own talmud of sorts with the Herald of Truth, of the Gospel Advocate, or the Spiritual Sword, or Harding University and we teach that faith equals works and if you don’t do ALL of these things then your faith is brought into question. We right books like Muscle and Shovel to separate and elevate our teachings above all others… The Teachers of the New Covenant can’t live up to these standards and yet they heap them on the assembly in various levels of degree.. So a person who loves Jesus is always in a state of shame and condemnation because when they don’t take opportunity to do all things well or have a flaw…they hear that they are condemned… And if one assembly doesn’t agree with another assembly then whole groups of people are condemned and disassociated with….

    Lastly when James says he could show you his faith by his works… I wonder… Can you see “faith”… I can’t. I would be a very poor choice to determine what was in a person’s heart when they did something that appeared to be good.. Was it properly motivated or was it selfish ? Would you ascribe righteousness to an atheist because you noticed their good deeds ? Would you warn a person that they are falling away from something that you fail to see without knowing what was going on in their life ? I’ve been guilty of some of that. We condemn the rich as people of the world until they fund the Family Center building for our church or the New Arts center at our christian University.. Mother Teresa was a saint in nearly everybody’s book but was she providing financially for her family and children’s children.. Paul said if you don’t do that you’re worse than an unbeliever.. wow.. When am I or you or anybody else perfectly capable of deciding what somebody else should do ? Isn’t it God’s responsibility to sanctify us through His Spirit.. Doesn’t He work in our lives as He sees fit ? We’ve condemned the works of other assemblies in the CoC faith heritage which, if faith equals works, then we’ve condemned their faith.. We’ve condemned people to hell in our eyes.. Over what ? Interpretations of scripture !! Is the faith of one who can only handle Milk any less than one who can handle meat ? Again, who of us is capable of judging another’s faith or can say, do as I do and do all things perfectly in order to maintain my saved condition…. HOGWASH…

    Yes, there are matters of doing… that come from the heart…..that are generated by Faith.. Most likely put on your heart and mind by God Himself….God seems always to be only interested in that Faith…not the actions… Perhaps He’s always been that way.. Perhaps all He wanted was to be loved and for us to love each other… Perhaps all He wants for us to is Believe and Trust in Him… Surely, if that is correct then all things will follow.. But, to worry people about their salvation…their lack of obvious works taking them down the slippery road to being lost is the Gospel of FEAR… And, it’s been abused…

    If we are to encourage one another to good works… this isn’t how you motivate me.. Telling me that unless I measure up to some human standard that my relationship with Jesus is in question.. Jesus had a lot to say about those Teachers of the Law… and it was some of the harshest language ever used… If you want to motivate me then remind me of who Jesus is … Remind me of how much He loves me.. Remind me of what He did for me… Remind me that God by has for me.. and He thinks I’m special… He can do great things even through a sorry excuse for a Christian like me… That He can fix me when I’m broken.. that He can pick me up when I fall.. That I always have a Savior who wants me to help me and won’t ever give up on me… Because by His Grace that I accepted through faith I am a child of the Utmost High and that I’m a co-heir with Jesus… Shame and Condemnation have NEVER worked… It’s high time we stopped coming up with new ways for us to fail and find new ways to appreciate how Christ has allowed us to succeed….

    That’s where I am at. And, if I over reacted to something that you said that was unintended by you or any of you.. then please accept my apologies.. Like I’ve said, I’ve seen the devastating effect works based ideology has caused and I won’t have any part of it…

  82. laymond says:

    Gen.2:17 “but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

    Dwight, this is the placing of value on the garden, setting the price for living there, the first time God set rules for man, the first time God asked for obedience, or submission of man to God. and naturally since man was made with the ability to decide on his own , he made a bad choice.
    The tree set the value of the Garden. Trees are mentioned throughout the bible for comparison.
    No the tree was not placed there to tempt man to do evil, it was God’s way of checking his creation . Seems to me that God may have made man to much in his own image, they don’t want to be told what to do, so they need a powerful incentive to obey rules, such as the penalty of death.
    or losing something of value to them It seems that did not work very well, So love and grace was initiated through Jesus.
    The tree was the beginning of a very long story, if not for that original sin, the story would have been very short “and they lived happily ever after”.

  83. laymond says:

    Dwight, now that we have solved the question of why was the tree in the garden, now you can tell me why Satan was there to entice woman to sin. seems they were resisting pretty well until the snake showed up. If God didn’t put him there who did.

  84. Dwight says:

    Laymond, I am tired our your jumping around and not reading and addressing the points. I never said the tree was there to tempt man, but to test. You basically say the same when you say, “checking his creation.” This ends our conversation.

    Since the issue of the tread is of faith and works, one of the interesting points is that God didn’t condemn Adam or Eve until they ate of the fruit or enacted their disobedience. If it was matter of jut faith, then God should have condemned them before that point. The act of taking and eating exposed their true disobedience.
    This sets that stage for what God accepts and rejects. He just doesn’t read the heart, but also takes into account what man does in regards to his heart….the fruit of man.
    Turning this around, just think of all of the people that think something evil, but don’t act on it, and if works don’t justify, then we all have been condemned previous to the act of sin that we didn’t do.

    God judges on the heart and the act as one thing, because the act exposes the true heart.
    In the same way murder was killing another, one could kill another by accident and it not be murder, but one couldn’t think about killing another and it be considered murder, which was sin.
    This is the point of Eph.4:26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath,”
    The sin was bound up not in being angry, but rather in the action of wrath, which was a reflection of the anger and hate.

    I know that Matt.5:27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
    But this doesn’t mean God judges us of adultery by thinking of it, but is arguing that the heart leads to it. The next few verses “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you;” which is a reflection of doing something that is sinful.

  85. Larry Cheek says:

    Dwight,
    Your quote just brought another thought. ” if your right hand caused you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you”. If you performed that action, would it not be considered a work to repair the sin or eliminate that from ever happening again? Would that actually show a lack of faith in yourself to control your own hand? It sure seems to be a different concept from faith.

  86. laymond says:

    Jesus said, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
    Dwight says,
    “But this doesn’t mean God judges us of adultery by thinking of it”

    I believe the whole idea of repentance is, a change of heart, not a change of rhetoric.

  87. laymond says:

    Larry, this is not the only time Jesus used hyperbole to express the seriousness of a situation.
    Jesus simply meant , do whatever it takes to separate yourself from sin. But when we consider the “wages of sin” the statement is not so outrageous.

    But I see what you are saying, your works do have more to do with salvation than some like to admit.

  88. Dwight says:

    IT would take quite a bit of faith to cut off may hand I am afraid. And I’m not sure this is pure hyperbole, but rather a concept that what ever lengths to avoid doing sin we must do is what we must do if we could isolate that one thing.
    But even though we all know that it isn’t the hand that causes one to sin, the scripture makes a point that sin is bound up in action and not just thinking about it. And if you can keep the action from happening by whatever means, then you have used your faith to secure your holiness.
    One of the opines of Paul in Rom.7 “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.”
    Paul argues against doing sin, but he also makes the statements that even though he is thinking about not doing sin, often he does it anyways.
    But Paul also says, “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
    So even though Paul makes the argument of sin of the flesh which is at odds with the spirit, he alludes to Jesus as being the one who can get him past his flesh and sin by “walking in the Spirit.”

  89. Dwight says:

    The point of where I was going is that it seems contradictory to say that our acts can condemn us, but our acts can’t save us. At least to an extent. Because God rejects faithless acts and God shows mercy even when we mess up because we have faith.
    One of the things that I think about is that even when Israel committed idolatry at the mountain when Moses came down with the 10 commandments, God punished them, but still allowed them to go towards Canaan, but when the Israelites failed to their faith in God as they neared Canaan, the generation was rejected. So sinning is one thing, but losing faith in God ability to deliver us is much worse.

  90. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Dwight wrote,

    So sinning is one thing, but losing faith in God ability to deliver us is much worse.

    Most excellent, and nicely said.

  91. Monty says:

    Faith must be maintained til the very end. Those in Hebrews 11 were found “still living by faith” when they died. That meant something. The Hebrew writer was stressing something to his audience. Be faithful all the way to the end of your life. It does you no good whatsoever concerning salvation, if you had faith for 40 years but the last 3 years of your life you lost faith in God(Jesus Messiah). “Let us hold the profession of our faith without wavering.’ Of course it’s just too easy to dismiss this teaching by saying “anyone with faith will persevere” and “if you don’t persevere you never had faith.” That’s not what Hebrews teaches at all. Faith has to be kept. Christians must persevere in their faith. It’s a struggle, it’s not a cake walk. If it were a cake walk we could view those that struggled as just a bunch of losers without any real faith, but we all know that’s not the case and it’s why we are sympathetic to those that struggle, because we know our own struggle for faith in our lives.

    If faith were a 100% guarantee of salvation then we could simply look at those who struggled in faith as simply not having it, it’s what Calvinist do with the parable of the soil(only the good soil ever really had faith). It’s the same methodology of the Pharisees, they looked down on the “sinners” as not having faith and as the biggest “losers.” By God’s help(his Holy Spirit) and by obeying whatever scripture teaches us to do and to believe, and the assurances(promises) of God’s grace through the Gospel, we will grow and transform, and we will persevere and we will be found living by faith when we die. Our fight is not against flesh and blood. God gives us all the equipment we will ever need, and he expects that we put them on and use what he freely gave. And we will be “not like them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”

  92. Dwight says:

    Monty, I believe you are right. When Peter got out of the boat, I would consider this great faith, because he actually walked on the water, but his faith faltered and so did he started to sink. He would have drowned if not for Jesus who he asked for help. Now imagine if Peter would have sought to reject Jesus, even though Jesus was right there and try it on his own. He would have drowned then too. Jesus chided Peter for his lack of faith in his ability to walk on water by the power of God and Jesus, without Jesus having to physically hold him up. Jesus wants to see the faith expressed by walking all the way, but also wants us to know that He is there as well and able to support us when our faith falters, but rejection in faith and walking will ultimately drown us.

  93. Christopher says:

    “Pray — but not for magic. Pray that the church becomes the true church. That we each contribute something that helps redeem the world.”

    Jay,

    I suspect you are not grasping one of the points I have making all along. One of the reasons we pray is to beseech God for help, understanding (as Jesus did) that we can do nothing by ourselves (John 5:30). I believe He wants us to rely and depend upon Him. Is that not exactly the point of the near death experience Paul recounts in 2 Corinthians 1 (“Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” – 2 Corinthians 1:9, NIV)?

    Just what do you imagine happens when God acts in answer to prayer? Do you imagine the result is good but the means are imperceptible? What I see from the Bible is God acting in obvious ways in answer to prayer – Peter being released from prison, the world standing still at Joshua’s request, Hannah becoming the mother of Samuel, David killing both a lion and a bear with his hands, Samson bringing down a colisium, Jesus raising Lazarus and so on. But what I have mostly seen in the CoC is quite the opposite – God not clearly answering prayer and men making things happen (like Abraham “made” himself an heir through his maidservant) and ascribing it to God. I don’t think God does miracles directly through people anymore, but to conclude He doesn’t perform them at all because it is not rational has not been evident that he does strikes me as shooting for the rooftop instead of the moon.

    Why should we NOT expect God to do marvelous things today? I do, and that explains the struggle I am having with my faith. Because He has not yet delivered me from my afflictions. David loved the Lord because He delivered him in answer to prayer. And, last year in Boca Raton, Ruby Graupera-Cassimiro went 45 minutes without a pulse in the hospital only to recover one and come back to life without any brain damage. That, as far as we know, is impossible. Indeed, the doctors called it miraculous. It was reported in the Sun-Sentinel newspaper. Her relatives had been praying for her.

    Clear and powerful answers to prayer are what will win the world for Christ. What did Paul say to the Corininthains? That “…my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:5, NIV). My experience in the CoC has been that faith has largely rested on logical reasoning (the importance of which I am not impugning) and the godliness of various people. But not so much on the power of God.

    That’s my two cents worth today. I am sorry to hear you are suffering with arthritis. I will start praying for you. Indeed, we should start a prayer group online and see if we can’t move God to do great things. And try eating a lot of fish, tumeric (with black pepper) and ginger – all anti-inflamatory food.

    God bless,

    Christopher

  94. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Christopher,

    You put your finger on a paradox that I don’t know that I can fully resolve. Sometimes God responds to prayer, even with a miracle. Sometimes not. The Bible is plain on both points. Most famously, God refused to remove Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” whatever that was.

    I’ve had arthritis since 1975 or so. Today is pretty close the 30th anniversary — and you seem to have a gift for asking hard questions on the days the arthritis hurts the most. Yesterday was a pretty good day.

    Anyway … I was taught as a child that God always answers prayer: with a yes, no, or a later. Which is also true of my rose bush. So I never found much comfort in that particular bit of pop Christianity. Not’s that it’s false. It’s just not true in a helpful way.

    On the other hand, at 61 years of age, I’ve seen prayers answered in ways that are very faith affirming. And I’ve seen prayers denied in ways that are very discouraging, frustrating, even angering. And I seem to be in the “my grace is sufficient for thee” camp myself — which is not really what I’d prefer.

    So the question is whether God responds to prayer in a way that … what? that shows his sovereignty over nature? That takes away all our pain? That demonstrates the truth of the gospel? What’s the test? Where is the line drawn?

    I read somewhere (maybe at the Jesus Creed blog, but my memory is not clear) that miracles are by God for the sake of his glory — so the point isn’t to make our lives easy or free from suffering (recall Jesus’ temptations by Satan in the wilderness) but to further the kingdom.

    I can buy that, although it means God’s judgment when to say yes, no, or later is outside my ability to judge whether he’s really meeting his own standard. I mean, I can make a pretty good argument that healing my arthritis would further the kingdom, let me be of greater service, and all that — and, trust me, God has heard the arguments. And yet I’m not healed. But others are. But then, I think Paul had an argument at least 100 times better than mine. And he got “no.”

    On the other hand, I’ve experienced God in other ways that leave me without doubt that he exists, cares for me, and has a place for me in his mission. Which I think most people don’t have. And I decided a long time ago not to tell God what is sufficient for me. Not my call.

    So I don’t go around telling people to pray and expect guaranteed results. Rather, I encourage people to share stories of answered prayer, miracles, visions that they’ve personally experienced. I figure we receive these things so we’ll share them — as (formerly) Blind Bartimaeus testified to Jesus’ healing power. The point wasn’t that God will take away everyone’s blindness. He didn’t. It’s that he can and sometimes does — enough to demonstrate, not that God will make all Christians healthy — but that the resurrection will happen as promised, because God is able to give us new bodies that see and don’t hurt. But now is not the time for that to happen for everyone. Now is the time of foretastes, of first fruits, of previews. We’re living in the movie-trailer age. The real show comes later.

    So that’s the best I can make of it all. I’m open to better approaches.

  95. laymond says:

    Christopher, writes a lengthy comment on asking why prayers are not answered, then he says the following.
    “I will start praying for you. Indeed, we should start a prayer group online and see if we can’t move God to do great things.”
    As I see it this is not showing true faith in God. answering a prayer. It seems to me to be a test of Gods promise. of ask and you will receive. A prayer group seems to have more risks than a simple single prayer, how many in a “prayer group” has the faith of the mustard seed. Praying seems to judge the one praying more than the one prayed to. Faith is a powerful thing, but the claim to have faith not so powerful. Actually I have never seen the advantage in having a group prayer, just as I have never seen the reason for congregational prayer led by one man, you know there are some who are thinking about the football game, some thinking about Walmart, or where they are going to eat after church, how can one man pray a prayer to cover the needs of the whole congregation?

  96. Mark says:

    Laymond, it is why there will frequently be a pause in the prayers to allow for silent prayer. Also in the high church tradition are the votive candle racks where people can go up, say a private prayer, light a candle, and leave an offering.

  97. Christopher says:

    Laymond,

    Biblically, I see prayer and subsequent answers to prayer as one of God’s primary means of building faith, appreciation and gratitude in His people. He enjoins us to pray “without ceasing”, to “always pray and never give up”. Why would He do that if He had no intention of actually answering these prayers? Look at how often Jesus was astonished and disappointed by people’s lack of faith. He said that if ANYONE had faith as small as a mustard seed, he could move mountains. Why do we suppose he was speaking figuratively when he said it after cursing a fig tree that subsequently died?

    Paul’s failure to move God by prayer to remove the thorn in his flesh is often cited as as example of God not answering prayer. But no one remembers why he was given that thorn – to keep him from becoming conceited after being caught up into the third heaven and seeing things he wasn’t permitted to speak about. How many of us have been caught up into the third heaven? And yet we (I think mistakenly) draw a parallel to his situtation and ours when there is no real similarity. We also forget that Paul was given a verbal response when his request was denied. Has God ever told us why He was not likewise answering our prayers? It’s not that hard to be told no when our father gives us the reason why.

    My point was simply that we in the CoC seem to be missing something – the power of God manifested in answer to prayer and faith. Faith is being sure of what we hope for. Could it be, in our rationalistic and empirical 21st century mindsets and in our CoC doctrine (that basically comes close to teaching that miracles no longer happen), that we are not really sure of what we hope for when we pray? What did Jesus say? Ask and believe you have received it and it will be yours.

    Just a couple more of my cents worth…

  98. laymond says:

    Mark, I wouldn’t know, I have never worshiped at an Anglican or Roman Catholic church.

  99. Mark says:

    Christopher,
    Much can be learned from the Jews about God, prayer and how prayers will be answered albeit in a way that God sees fit and on his time scale. That tends to not be the way we want them answered and quickly (a few of our hours or minutes). The Jews also offer praise to God first and remind him and the congregation what he did for his people and then ask for what they need. The ending sometimes is “so shall it all be thy will, Amen.”

  100. Dwight says:

    I am somewhat bothered by the statement of ““I will start praying for you. Indeed, we should start a prayer group online and see if we can’t move God to do great things.”
    Because here it seems as though we trying to move God to do things for us just to see if we can.
    I am reminded that as Jesus prayed in the garden to be relieved of death he was denied, but he knew why and then he ended with “Nevertheless let thy will be done.’
    We could argue that God refused Jesus, but to not refuse Jesus he would have refused the world.
    The point is that we see our picture, but God sees the whole picture.
    And I still contend that if things were comfortable for us, then we wouldn’t be drawn to a heaven where there will be no sorrow or pain.
    Just as we can’t see God’s big picture, often we don’t see the picture that God has promised for the weak and suffering and afflicted…heaven with God. Most of the apostles went to horrible deaths, but they looked beyond their suffering to what lay ahead.

  101. Christopher says:

    Dwight,

    I just think you are not being intellectually honest. There are almost innumerabe verses from the scriptures attesting to God’s activity in response to prayer, commands to pray, parables about prayer and so on and so forth. Jay concludes that because only one person is recorded being healed at the pool, no one else was. That is not a logically valid conclusion. That’s like saying if Jay tells us he helped his wife with the dishes yesterday, then that’s the only thing he did for her. By contrast, we read in Matthew that “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.” Is the use of the word “every” hyperbole or literal? A lot of people seem to conclude that God rarely heals people today because that’s what the evidence shows. Yet. we read further in Matthew that Jesus “…did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” And Jesus tells us that there were many lepers in Isreal in Elsha’s time, but only Namaan was healed. Why? Because it was God’s will for them all to suffer a horrible lifelong disease? Are we not told in Lamentations that God does not willingly afflict the sons of men? Are you aware of what leprosy does to someone?

    The apsotles suffered horrible deaths not because of disease, but at the hands of evil men – because of persecution. And in those deaths, they didn’t suffer for years on end, but for a couple of days at most. I am not saying we should not suffer…only that we should not suffer interminably on earth. It almost seems some of you want to make the scriptures conform to the present, observable reality rather than the other way around. Something is amiss – that’s my point.

  102. laymond says:

    “It almost seems some of you want to make the scriptures conform to the present, observable reality rather than the other way around. Something is amiss – that’s my point.”

    (I couldn’t have said it better) seems about 1980 was a turning point in the CoC I have never figured out why.

    I don’t see where God decided that miracles through prayer were abolished, Just miracles through man.
    Christopher, true faith is what is missing. even faith that God would choose to save his creation through one man, even though , we have a recorded example of that very thing in Noah.

Leave a Reply