Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Saturday, December 31, 2005

1 John 2:19 Commentary (Zane Hodges)

There has been much confusion concerning 1 John! In a recent comment on Jonathan Moorhead's blog, he brought up John 2:19 as a prooftext for his position. I wish to let Zane Hodges explain this verse, as he does so concisely and ties up the ends.

1 John 2:18-19

Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

Excerpt from “The Epistles of John: Walking in the Light of God’s Love” (pages 108-110) / Zane Hodges – Grace Evangelical Society (Website)

Begin Hodges:
The special deceptiveness of the “many antichrists” was that they had once been part of the same fellowship to which the apostles themselves belonged: they went out from us. No other meaning than this one is really suitable in this context. The us which is repeated four times in this verse obviously is in contrast to the “you” of the following verse, which is emphatic in Greek. Here we meet for the first time the “we” – “you” – “us” contrast which we also meet in a similar context in 4:4-6.

It completely distorts the text to treat the us of verse 19 as though it meant simply “us Christians.” The antichrists had most definitely not left the church or churches to whom John writes, for if they had they would no longer been a problem! On the contrary, the apostle is clearly concerned about the exposure his readers have had, or will have, to these men. One of the claims they must have had, which gave them a false aura of authority, was that they originated in the same sphere where the apostles themselves operated, in all probability a reference to the Jerusalem church.

It is remarkable how similar this sounds to the situation we meet in Acts 15 where the church struggles with legalists. There we are told that “certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren”(Acts 15:1). In their letter to the Christians on the Gentile mission fields, the apostles and elders of Jerusalem wrote, “Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, ‘You must be circumcised and keep the law’ – to whom we gave no such commandment” (Acts 15:24;italics added). The words went out from us in Acts involve exactly the same Greek expression as here: they went out from us. This striking parallel with Acts has been generally ignored by the commentary literature dealing with 1 John 2:19, perhaps due at least in part to the widespread view that the Apostle John is not the author of this epistle.

But given apostolic authorship the Acts parallel, we may hypothesize that the bearers of this error had once been in the Jerusalem fellowship. The revisionists, or antichrists, therefore, had a prestigious point of origin, but the apostle disclaims them here as emphatically as the leaders of the Jerusalem church had disclaimed the legalists of Acts 15. Indeed, the very fact of their departure from the apostolic fellowship was an indication that they did not really “belong” to it in the first place. If they had, why would they have left?

The apostles’ argument here clearly implies a schism of some kind between the antichrists and the apostolic circle. No doubt this had to do with the doctrine taught by them (see discussion under verse 22). It is likely that John thinks of these men as individuals who concealed their true views for some time. Though outwardly in apparent agreement with apostolic doctrine, they were in fact not of us in the sense that this outward harmony was a façade. When the break came and they went out, they were then flying their true colors, and John sees this break as having as its purpose that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. Had they really been in harmony with apostolic perspectives (i.e., if they had been of us), there would have been no reason for the schism (i.e., they would have continued with us).

The question may be asked whether John thought of these men as unsaved. He may very have thought of them that way. Even Paul in Galatians 2:4 spoke of the fact that, in the Jerusalem church, there were “false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage).” It should not surprise us if, given the dynamic movement that early Christianity was in Israel, there should be legalistic zealots and fanatics who came into the church with their own agendas while only pretending to believe in Christ. It seems Paul realized that this had in fact happened.

So John might well have thought that these revisionists had only professed a belief which they did not really have. But this is far from certain. In his second epistle he states: “whoever transgresses and does abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God” (2 John 9). This statement, which certainly sounds like apostasy from a doctrine once held follows very shortly after a reference to “deceivers” who can be called antichrists (2 John 7). So we must leave open the possibility that John may have viewed the antichrists as dangerous apostates from the Christian faith who now denied the truth they had once believed.

Of course, if they had once believed it, they had eternal salvation even as Paul reminds us, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim 2:13). The Greek verb translated “we are faithless” is apistoumen and may mean either “to disbelieve” or “to be unfaithful” and probably covers both ideas, since 2 Timothy 2:11-13 is a poetic, proverbial type of saying. Even the blasphemers Hymanaeus and Alexander, who “concerning the faith, had suffered shipwreck,” were subjected to discipline so that “they may learn [Greek = be child trained] not to blaspheme” (1 Tim 1:20). It is likely enough that this Hymanaeus was the same as the Hymanaeus mentioned in 2 Timothy and charged with teaching “that the resurrection is already past” (2 Tim 2:17-18). The early church wrestled with genuine converts who went doctrinally astray just as the modern church does, and any view of the New Testament that denies this reality is conspicuous for its lack of realism.

Whether or not they were ever saved, it is at least clear that the antichrists of whom John speaks had long since ceased to be a true part of the apostolic fellowship. Their departure from it was not only to be expected, but was also a powerful indictment of their former pretense to being a part of it.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Response to Jonathan Moorhead's Post on Zane Hodges

Jonathan Moorhead put out a post on his blog recently as a tirade against Zane Hodges and Free Grace theology. What follows here is my comment that I left on his blog, which he quickly deleted, because he wants to open up a can of worms, but does not wish to be called on it.

Dearest Jonathan,

Thank you for making Zane Hodges a topic of conversation around here! I do not think there is such a thing as bad press, especially when it comes to truth.

Truth is not always palatable to everyone.

What you have provided is quotes that show the conviction that salvation is absolutely free.
Free Grace Blog: Salvation is Absolutely Free!

Zane Hodges stands by God's grace apart from works, unlike some such as MacArthur who can state contradictory things such as "Salvation is both free and costly...", whose definitions of faith literally takes him down the "Roman Road".

Zane teaches what the Bible teaches: Salvation apart from works of any kind. Zane teaches grace. Grace would not be grace if it could not be abused.

It is a sad fact that people who once get saved can later apostasize. This isn't the whole story, though. By not providing it, you misrepresent Free Grace theology.

The Bible has a well articulated doctrine of accountability, which Free Grace theology picks up on. God chastens the erring and wayward regenerate Christian. God has a repertiore of devices and means by which he shows His temporal displeasure and wrath against the persistent unfaithful Christian, which includes sickness, heavy circumstances, and physical death.

Temporal consequences are not the only thing the unfaithful Christian can look forward to. Consequential judgment awaits the apostate, unfaithful, and unrepentant Christians at the Bema of Christ. Loss of reward, honor, glory, rulership and inheritance in the kingdom are real possibilities to the Christian who is saved, yet as through fire.

These quotes of yours are meant to have shock value. I sure hope they do. For it is time for the Reformed/Lordship salvationist propogandists to rethink their relation to the works-salvation and works-righteousness of those like MacArthur.

The "You Can't Be Saved Unless" gospel of MacArthur and the other Lordship salvation advocates needs to be revisited.
Free Grace Blog: Lordship Salvation's 'You Can't Be Saved Unless:' gospel

"The minimum a person must give is all. I say, 'you must give it all. You cannot hold back even a fraction of a percentage of yourself. Every sin must be abandoned. Every false thought must be repudiated. You must be the Lord's entrely." (James Boice, Christ's Call to Discipleship, 114, italics his)

This reminds me of a church marquee that cleverly and concisely conveyed this very message in one short statement, "The way to heaven is to turn right and keep straight!"

This is works salvation!

No. Christ gave it all, the sinner can give nothing. This is grace. This is what the Bible teaches. This is what Zane Hodges teaches: Absolutely unmerited Free Grace...

while MacArthur teaches that salvation becomes a contract between the sinner and God, whereby the sinner commits all, and when he makes good on that, God then gives salvation. MacArthur teaches that the sinner must pay the cost (I thought Jesus did!):

"...He demanded that we count the cost carefully. He was calling for an exchange [see the contract here?] of all that we are for all that He is. He was demanding implicit obedience -- unconditional surrender to His Lordship." (TGAJ 147)

Here MacArthur states that Jesus demands obedience if we are to be saved. How is this not works salvation? MacArthur says that we have to pay the cost!

James Boice says it similiarly when he says:

"The point of this examination of the cost of following Christ is not to discourage anyone from following Him, however. It is rather to encourage you to follow Jesus to the end. To do that we must count the cost, by all means, but then we must pay it joyfully and willingly, knowing that this must be done if a person is to be saved" (Boice, Ibid, 112).

According to MacArthur and Lordship Salvation, there is a price to be paid by the sinner in order to gain eternal life.

Lordship Salvation adds works as conditions for eternal life by doing 2 things: 1) radically redefining faith to include works and 2)stating that works must necessarily result from regeneration, thus making the subsequent works necessary for salvation.

We have seen how MacArthur redefines faith, and seperates himself from the Reformers such as Calvin and Luther:

JMac has totally redefined faith from the Bible and the original Reformers. They would be turning in their grave.

John Calvin:

"Now we shall have a complete definition of faith, if we say, that it is a steady and certain knowledge of the Divine benevolence towards us, which [is] founded on the truth of the gratuitous promise in Christ"

John MacArthur:

"A concept of faith that excludes obedience corrupts the message of salvation"

Night and day. One is mere and pure trust and reliance on Christ, the other is works-salvation.

Next they make salvation contingent on works that supposedly are necessarily resulted from regeneration, for instance see John Piper:

"...we must also own up to the fact that our final salvation is made contingent upon the subsequent obedience which comes from faith." (John Piper "TULIP: What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism...", pg 25)

Free Grace Blog: Does God Drag People Down the Path of Obedience?

Now Jonathan wishes to use a Free Grace writer (such as Zeller) who he links to in order to argue against Zane Hodges. But this same writer argues against the Lordship Salvation that Jonathan espouses!
Same Author Denounces Lordship Salvation

So many people mischaracterize and misrepresent Free Grace theology. They get their information about it from its detractors.

Before you go start jumping to all these conclusions about Free Grace theology because Jonathan Moorehead has posted more Red Herrings to distract from the real issues concerning the gospel debate, why not come over to my blog and actually discuss these things and get to know exactly what Free Grace theology teaches, rather than caricatures and misrepresentations of it?

Prov 18:13
He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him.

I hope and pray that you can earnestly give Free Grace theology an open hearing as to its full teachings.

You can be Calvinist and still be Free Grace as well. The Trinity Foundation (Gordon H. Clark, John Robbins), R.T. Kendall, Charles M. Bell, Joseph Dillow, Michael Eaton are just a few of the many Free Grace Calvinists.

One staunch Calvinist blogger, who goes by Earl Flask MetaSchema wrote this after reading the posts on my Free Grace Blog:

"I've been reading your blog and associated comments for a couple of hours and have not finished. This isn't a 15 minute job. Your thoughts are subtle and require careful thinking.

I have a better understanding now. I really appreciate your stance on free grace. I'm understanding your hermeneutic better now. I think you do hit the mark on some Reformed theologians positions, although Reformed Theology is not one monolithic view. There is a raging controversy within Reformed theology on the place of works. John Piper and Douglas Wilson are on one end of it and some of their works reflect what you talk about. Pink needs to be read with care.

Works righteousness, wherever it shows up, is a hideous thing -- especially within Reformed theology, because of their very foundation of monergism, should be opposed to it.

Your critique of this stream of Reformed Theology is on target."

and then again in a correspondence:

"I resonate with your free grace -- that is the heart of the gospel. While I may differ with some of your details in interpreting James, you are right on target with free grace. Unfortunately, the free gracers are targets from others. I have been working on spreading the ideas of free grace around me.

I view you as a comrad in this struggle, once I understood your position"

Once you understand the position, you may well feel the same way!

Antonio da Rosa

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

God Drags Down the Path of Obedience? (Does Faith Necessarily Result in Persevering Works?)

God does not drag anyone down the path of obedience, nor does faith necessarily result in works. Everywhere in the Bible, the WILL of the Christian is entreated to fall in line with God's will. If a life of dedicated obedience necessarily followed justification (as is the contention of the Reformed tradition), there would be no need to entreat the will to:

Walk by means of the Spirit
Reckon ourselves dead unto sin
Stop presenting our members as instruments of unrighteousness
Present ourselves to God
Present our members as instruments of righteusness
Present our bodies a living sacrifice
Abide in Christ
etc..... etc....

We have an old nature and a new nature. The new nature is sinless (1 John 3:9), but cannot win in a fight against the old nature (Romans 7). It takes an act of the will to submit ourselves to God and yield to the Spirit who then can empower our new nature to live through us. When we walk by the Spirit, we will not by any means fulfill the lust of the flesh (Gal 5:16). But this is a command and NOT a necessary result of justification. You see, justification solely comes from God, but sanctification is a cooperation between God and the Christian. Therefore, if the Christian is not willing (for whatever reason... he could be immature, a baby Christian, not of strong faith, under heavy stress and anxiety, caught up in the whirlpool of sin, the variables could be endless, etc) he will not grow in sanctification. EVERYWHERE in the Bible the will is entreated to cooperate with God for the growth in progressive sanctification. Therefore, if the Christian does not will and act, he won't grow in sanctification.

It is painfully obvious that if a life of perseverant faithfulness, works, and obedience necessarily came as a result of justification, then there would be no need for the literally hundreds of entreaties to our will to conform to God's will, to follow God's commands, and walk experientially as we are positionally (positional truth "in Christ"), that we find in the Bible. Why would these detailed commands and entreaties to our will be necessary if by virtue of our new birth (regeneration) we are relentlessly disposed toward keeping them?

Progressive, experiential sanctification is a cooperation between God and man. Notice Paul:

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil 4:13)

It is Paul willing and doing and Christ strengthening.

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Eph 2:10)

One point is clear here. Good works are not seen as the EVIDENCE that we are God's workmanship, but rather as the expected result of that workmanship. Whether the this result will be achieved is not stated!

Notice: "should walk". This verb is "peripatesomen": 1 person plural aorist active SUBJUNCTIVE, the mood of potential, not reality.

There are consequences for the Christian who does not persevere in faithfulness, obedience and sanctification. They do not, nevertheless, include hell. That issue was once and for all settled (forever) when they drank of the water that Jesus gives (John 4:14), at the moment of punctilliar faith in Christ for the purpose of receiving eternal life.

Obedience and faithfulness are REQUIRED of a servant (yes you heard me say that!). The neglect of such has grave and severe consequences: temporal wrath, and eternal loss.

This is where Free Grace theology has its doctrine of accountability. The Reformed tradition says that all Christians will basically persevere and be faithful if they are truly saved (this consequently makes the subsequent works and faithfulness a necessary condition for salvation, for example: "...we must also own up to the fact that our final salvation is made contingent upon the subsequent obedience which comes from faith." (John Piper "TULIP: What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism..." pg 25)).

There really is no distinctive doctrine of accountability for the regenerate ones and rewards in Reformed theology. If one does not persevere, he goes to hell, showing he was not saved. In Reformed thought, everyone who is regenerate perseveres. There really is no distinction.

If everyone gets the rewards, then of what motivation is it? Of what significance does it hold? Paul disciplined and buffeted his body. There was no assurance that he would persevere and thus win the prize and receive the crown (1 Cor 9:27). "'Everyone is special' is just another way of saying that nobody is". Jesus reserves the highly esteemed positions in His kingdom for those who have had the overcoming, faithful, obedient, lives, those who have had the intimacy with Him here and now.

"A command that everyone keeps is superfluous, and a reward that everyone receives for a virtue that everyone has is nonsense."

God does not drag anyone down the path of obedience.

(I will not quarrel that where there is justifying faith, that naturally, signs of regenerate life should exist too. This is a reasonable assumption for any Christian unless he has been converted on his death bed!

But it is quite wrong, and another thing altogether, to claim that a life of dedicated obedience is guaranteed by regeneration, or even that such works as there are must be visible to a human observer. God alone may be able to detect the signs of life from regeneration in some of His children.)

Friday, December 23, 2005

You Can't be Saved Unless (The 'gospel' of Lordship Salvation)

The "gospel" of you can't be saved unless:

You quit the nasty nine and the dirty dozen
You sell out for God
You faithfully obey and persevere
You die to self
You commit all to God
You visit orphans and the sick
You sell all that you have and give to the poor
You submit everything to God
(The Council at Jerusalem as it considers the issue of Lordship Salvation Acts 15:1-29 / By which it condemns it)

Acts 15:7,8, 10-11
Peter rose up and said to them... "...God... purif[ies] [our] hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they."

Gal 2:21
I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through *law, then Christ died in vain.

[* Anarthrous construction: meaning no article (most translations provide "the"). Is not specific meaning law of Moses, but concerns the quality or characteristic of law period: rules, such as "you must do this and stop doing that or you can't be saved!.]

Christ sold out for us! Christ committed His all for us!

If any of the above list is necessary for our salvation, then Christ died in vain.

Gal 3:1-2
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by *works of *law, or by the hearing of faith?

[* Anarthrous: denoting characteristic and quality (not identity)]

Salvation coming from being convinced from "the hearing of faith"! (This expresses the passive nature of the act of faith that brings salvation. See last post!) The Spirit is not received by any quality or characteristic of work requirements --rules-- such as the list of things above. (Calvinists, notice the ordu salutis here! The Holy Spirit's regeneration received by the "hearing of faith"!)

John 11:25-26
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"

Jesus is the Guarantor of eternal life to the mere believer in Him for it. His guarantee is explicit in His promise to the believer. There is no talk of Jesus giving the list of requirements that the Lordship Proponents do! Eternal life is dispensed through "the hearing of faith" in Jesus Christ alone. Faith alone in Christ alone! Is that not the reformation mantra? Yet it no longer describes the Puritanism of Reformed theology today.

"Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life" (John 6:47)

How I wish it would return to this plain and exquisite simplicity!

I recently read a blog from my friend H.K. Flynn, who speaks of a young Romanist who finally comes to the conclusion : "Jesus is not only necessary, He is enough!"

Please read this poignant article (short so don't delay go read it today!) that gives a few paragraphs of a sermon by the beloved H.A. Ironside. Her article inspired me to write this one.

Please click HERE to read H.K.'s wonderful post.


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Faith is the Passive Result of being Persuaded

For those of you who have been following my James series, it is going to continue, and I think the next post will be Post 8 in it. Please be patient and review the other 7 posts (in my sidebar) to get up and keep up to speed. The following is a very short article on my view of what faith is, which does lend some background information to our study in James 2:14ff. (Faith without works is still true faith as a bicycle without a rider is still a real bike and a car without gas is still a genuine car, but we will discuss this in a later post).

Faith in Christ is not a work. Faith's role in the reception of eternal life is purely instrumental; an organon leptikon (Martin Luther), like the empty hand of a beggar receiving a gift. Faith as a way of receiving eternal life precludes any idea of works. There is no boasting, says Paul: “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.” (Rom 3:27)

Faith is not even something that you volitionally do, no matter what someone tells you.

Faith is the passive result of being persuaded, convinced, and convicted that something is true.

Faith the a conviction that something is true.

And as pertaining saving faith, it is taking God at His word concerning the offer of His Son, Jesus Christ, the Guarantor of eternal life to the believer in Him for it.

Yes, faith is passive, and is not something that someone can determine to do. If a person is convinced that Jesus is the Christ, in the Johannine sense, then by automatic result, he is believing in Christ and thus has life (John 20:31).

To show that this is a simple truism, that faith is not an act of the will, a few illustrations will suffice. Have you ever believed something against your will? The author has. At one point in his life he received a phone call from his brother and was told that his dad had died. His brother, through his communication, convinced him that his dad was indeed dead. The author believed that his dad was dead against his will. He did not want to believe that he was dead.

Likewise, have you ever wanted to believe something that you couldn’t? Let’s say that Jimmy runs to his brother Pete and says, “Mom just brought home a new XBOX 360 with two new games!” Pete wants dearly to believe his brother, but his experience blocks him from becoming persuaded, for earlier that week his mom told him that they weren’t in the financial situation necessary to afford that game console. Therefore Pete wants to believe Jimmy, but more information would be necessary in order for Pete to believe. Pete then goes home and before he sees the new console, his mom says, “Honey, I just received a bonus from work and got you guys that game console you wanted along with two new games!” This was enough communication to persuade Pete that his family now owned a brand new XBOX 360, therefore Pete, as a passive result, believed.

No one can determine to put his or her faith in something. Either they are persuaded as to a proposition or they retain doubt. Doubt precludes faith (Romans 14:23; Jas. 1:6, 7). A single doubt about the gospel offer will keep one from saving faith. The convicting and convincing ministry of both the Holy Spirit and the Word of God is enough to overcome any doubt. It is when men have hardened their hearts that the word of God is of none effect. When one issue is answered, hardened men will come up with ten more; they determine to not consider the evidence.

The will is involved in one point. The individual must determine to consider the evidence of Scripture. A person cannot become convinced and convicted by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God unless they are open to the discourse.

With all issues of faith, the one who is persuaded through either communication or deliberation within himself or both concerning an issue, faith occurs as a passive result.

Once one has willed to consider the evidence, he has given it "permission" to act upon him, in other words, with a view that the evidence may convince him as to the veracity of the discussed issue. And once convinced faith occurs as the passive result.

For those of you who are of the Reformed “persuasion” and “believe” that faith is an act of the will, do this right now:

Determine in your heart to believe me in my Free Grace theology….

You can’t?


Because you remain unconvinced, unpersuaded as to my view.

Faith does NOT reside in the will.

(This teaching has a direct effect on assurance. When one is convinced, he believes. If he believes the offer of Christ, he by virtue of that faith has certain assurance of eternal life, for the guarantee is explicit in the offer. This is what some have described as "assurance is of the essence of saving faith". Both John Calvin and Martin Luther held this view of faith and assurance. Yet the Reformed tradition since then has left it. For an excellent REFORMED view that faith is passive (beside Calvin and Luther) see Gordon H. Clark's "Faith and Saving Faith" put out by the Trinity Foundation.)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Musing: Eternal life is Absolutely Free!

I am wondering what is so odious about salvation/eternal life actually being "absolutely free"? It is offensive to most how something so precious, so valuable can nevertheless be so free!

I guess people are just so conditioned to the cliche "You can't get something for nothing." Or maybe it is their pride. At any rate, it remains most certainly distasteful to them to consider that God actually bestows His great salvation on them apart from some commitment on their part.

For these reasons (or other reasons, can you think of any more?) most people are apt and disposed to add to Christ's message of the free offer of eternal life. They want to make eternal life the agreed upon result of a contract between the sinner and God: whereby the sinner's responsiblity is to "commit himself totally to God", "submit everything to God", "repent" and "promise to obey"; and God's end of the bargain is to dispense eternal life when the sinner fulfills his end of the contract. Furthermore, they will require that one perseveres in faith, obedience, and works until the end of life.

Salvation is "Absolutely Free!" What do I mean by absolutely free?

No strings. No caveats. No provisos. Just:

...let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. (Rev 22:17)

Why don't most people see this? Why are most ashamed of the doctrine of the absolutely free gift of eternal life (by grace!)? I believe because:

...narrow is the gate and constrained is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matt 7:14)

Every religion in the world conditions their Nirvana, englightenment, salvation upon one's own commitment and faithfulness, Reformed and Arminian theology included! The world is on the broad and wide road.

Salvation by grace through the intermediate agency of purposeful faith in Christ alone for eternal life apart from works, commitments, faithfulness, etc, is the narrow and constrained gate, the only way, and there are few who find it.

God forbid that He gives anything for free, by grace. You pay for it one way or the other, right? Either on the front end or the back, but usually both. (Note: sarcasm)

Matt 7:21-23
"Not everyone who says to Me,'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

(John 6:40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.)

Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'"

This is the lot of those "Christians" who suppose that entrance into the kingdom is conditioned on works.

They did "this" in His name, and "that" in His name and "these" in His name, but, they did not do the will of the Father, which is to receive eternal life as an absolutely free gift by faith alone in Christ alone, apart from works.

Those who state that obedience, commitment, etc., is necessary for final salvation have frankly admitted that works are required for eternal salvation. Reformed? Nay. They have successfully transported themselves back to Rome.

There is a story told of a boy whose family was immersed in poverty. His father was very ill due to a lack of essential nutrients found in fruit. The land they lived in was barren of produce. One day as the boy travelled by the rear of the palace, he came upon a gate, and looked in. The princess was basquing in the fertile groves of imported soils, trees, and luscious fruit. The princess learned about the father of the boy's disposition and immediately had her servants gather up several baskets of the yield of her orchards. The boy searched in his pockets and found the few bits that was the sum total of his family's income and offered it to her.

She replied, "The fruit is either free, or you can't afford it."

"To him who works, the wages ARE NOT counted as grace, but as debt. But to him who DOES NOT WORK but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness" (Romans 4:4,5)


Saturday, December 17, 2005

Parenthesis from James study: My Particular Brand of Dispensationalism (Probably Different than Yours!)

I am a dispensationalist, according to the three Sine Qua Non of dispensationalism written by Ryrie in both his “Dispensationalism Today” and his book “Dispensationalism”:

1) Keep Israel and the Church distinct.

I am always careful to distinguish the Church and Israel. One is not the other and vice-versa. They are two distinct people groups within the peoples of God. There are other groups as well, such as those who were between Adam and Noah, Noah and Abraham, and Abraham and Moses. These groups all have both things in common and distinguishing characteristics.

Israel is a group of people, both redeemed and unredeemed, who were given the Law of God and the covenants. Yet only faithful regenerate Israel will enjoy the blessings and privileges associated with the covenants. The covenants have not been transferred to anyone, nor are they spiritually fulfilled in the Church. They will all be literally fulfilled and accomplished, in every detail as they were originally given to Israel, and unto Israel.

The Church is a new entity. Aspects of the Church were a mystery before Christ began revealing them and Paul and the other prophets and apostles finished the revelation under the inspiration of God. The Church is not the new Israel, nor is it the recipient of the covenants. But those of the Church, the Body of Christ, are the spiritual descendents of Abraham (Gal. 3:5-15), and as branches of a “wild olive tree,” (Romans 11:16-24) have been grafted into the stalk of the “natural” and “cultivated” tree of Israel, which is Israel’s “own olive tree”, where they remain wild olive branches, but share in the blessings of the stalk of Israel. Notice, that they are still the Church (the wild olive tree), having been grafted into the stalk of Israel (the natural tree), where the stalk of Israel is nourishing the branches of the Church. This shows that the Church remains distinct from Israel, but has been let to share in the conditional blessings and privileges of Israel.

These covenant blessings that are particularly for regenerate, faithful Israel, have been tapped into, as a manner of speaking, by the Church, and the faithful members of the Church will be allowed to share in these blessings that were given to Israel. Paul, among others, as we shall see, takes for granted this unique position of the church in his epistles. He offers the blessings and privileges of the kingdom to those who are in the Church.

I make primary application of the covenant obviously to Israel. But because of the unique situation with the church, they share those covenant blessings, as a grafted branch shares in the nourishment of the host stalk. Therefore we can speak, as Paul does, of the kingdom, as it applies primarily to Israel; and to the Church, as the one who has been grafted into the blessings of Israel.

When Christ speaks as to kingdom, yes, He was speaking to Israel. But because of the unique situation of the Church, which He knew he was coming to institute (Matt 16:18), His words had far greater application than to just those small crowds that were affixed to His ministry. Jesus, being the Prophet Par-Excellence, spoke the conditions for both entering and being blessed in that kingdom, to the Jews, and to the wild olive branches. Both Paul, in his epistles, and Jesus, in the gospels, speak of the same aspects of the kingdom and the conditional features of it’s blessings and privileges, as I will shortly show you.

2) Literal Interpretation

The distinction between Israel and the Church is borne out by this method of sound biblical hermeneutics. As I have labored to show, I clearly distinguish Israel and the Church and do not spiritualize a single promise or covenant that was given to Israel. The Church does not spiritually fulfill the covenants, nor is the church the new Israel, usurping its place.

Literal interpretation must take into account many things. There are a few that I am most interested in here.

A) What was the purpose of the writing? What are the author’s intents?
B) Who are the intended recipients?
C) What is the date of the writing?
D) How would the intended recipients have interpreted the writings?

Many dispensationalists believe that the gospel of Matthew, for instance, is written for the instruction of only Jews during the tribulation period (there is some applicatoin there, especially in the Olivet discourse). But the intended recipients were those of the church. “Oh, for them it was written only to be a historical narrative.” Well, what of all the myriad of teachings that the intended recipient’s Lord, Savior, Master, and King gave throughout the gospels? Were the intended recipients to suppose, without a theologian to confuse them, that these teachings of their Lord and Savior, the Head of the Church, and the Anchor of their souls, were not for them?

So they were to suppose that the only teachings and instructions that were relevant to them did NOT come from their Savior, but, lets say, from Paul? So they are following Jesus, but have no specific commands from Him, only from His emissary, Paul? They are in essence not following Jesus but Paul? I guess there are no specific commands of Jesus that we can apply to the Church? Jesus, who knew He was going to start the Church, who knew He was going to die for the sins of the world, who was prophesied about that He would be a light to the Gentiles, who said that He had sheep of another fold, and etc, etc, ad infinitum, only spoke words applicable to Jews (I realize that most dispensationalists agree that the Upper Room Discourse was teaching of Jesus for the church age)? Jesus knew that His words would be written down for instruction to the Church He was instituting. Most of Jesus’ commands, instructions, and precepts are directly applicable to the church. And since the Church shares in the kingdom blessings of Israel, the kingdom truth passages apply equally to the Church as well.

Would it not have behooved the authors of the Synoptics to add some disclaimers to their gospels that said, “Please be sure to note that these instructions and commands of Christ are only to those under the law and not for you. I am MERELY writing these things to give a historical history to you Gentiles in the church and also to the Jews who will be living in the tribulation. I wouldn’t want to confuse you, because the commands that are really for you come from the only steward of this dispensation, namely, Paul. So don’t really waste your time on the words of Christ that don’t have any application to you. It would be counter-productive for you to obey the commands of your Savior, whom I am writing about.”

Absurd, no? And once we realize that the Church enjoys the privileges of being grafted into some of the blessings of the covenants and the kingdom, new meaning comes from the study of the gospels, as we come to the notion that Christ purposed application greater than that of only a Jewish nature. Take for instance John 14:21. Jesus states there that the non-particular person who both has His commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Jesus. Oh. Maybe He meant only the Jew, cause only Jewish people in the tribulation period can keep Christ’s commands. Oops. But isn’t this “Upper Room Discourse”? (The only bit of the gospels that many dispensationalists agree are applicable to the Church).

Let us make another example with the gospel of John. Along with Revelation, the gospel of John was one of the two last written books included in our New Testament Canon. What was the purpose of his book?

John 20:30-31
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

According to these verses, John wrote his book in order that the readers may believe that Jesus is the Messiah (Greek: Christ), and believing that, they will have life in His name. John’s purpose for writing his gospel was purely evangelistic! No other book in the whole cannon can boast such a thing! The gospel was written to show that the readers of his gospel get saved the same way as those in his narrative did: by believing in Jesus for eternal life! Jesus equates entering the kingdom with eternal life (John 3:3-18). John says that his readers, both Jews and Gentiles several decades after the church was instituted, must believe that Jesus is the Messiah, i.e. the Christ, (c.f. John 20:32; 1 John 5:1). The language that Jesus employs in the gospel of John, concerning eternal life, is universal. He neither states nor implies any particular group, but reserves it for the “whosoever”, the “one who believes”, etc. We even see that Jesus is the “Savior of the World” in John 4!

Next in our hermeneutical musings: when it concerns the topic at hand, kingdom blessings:

A) Is there evidence of corollary information between the gospels and the epistles of Paul and others?

I will briefly demonstrate this later in this post.

3) The underlying purpose of God in the world: His glory (Doxological).

I believe that there is a thread of redemption throughout the whole Bible, and particularly in the New Testament. Yet salvation is only one panel in the stained-glass window of God’s purposes in bringing glory to Himself. But surely, I can suppose that it is a great theme throughout the Bible! I have no reservations in saying that the whole purpose of God, indeed there can be no greater purpose, is doxological, or that of bringing glory to God. And glory there will be when all of the faithful, persevering, regenerate of Israel and the Church share in the blessings of the literal, physical kingdom of God!

“…you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree…” (Romans 11:17)

Now lets look at kingdom, shall we?

Acts 8:12
But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.

Philip preached the things concerning the kingdom of God (probably that of it’s blessings and inheritance) to those of Samaria. This is the church age here in Acts 8, isn’t it?

Acts 14:21-22
And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God."

Paul and Barnabus here are saying that Christian disciples enter the kingdom of God. Jesus says that one must be born again to enter the kingdom of God. Doesn’t Peter talk about being born again too? Paul said that the disciples were going to go through a lot of trouble before the finally will enter the kingdom of God.

Acts 28:28-31
"Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!" And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves. Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him

So in the last verse of the last chapter of the church’s “transitional” book, Paul is preaching the kingdom of God to Gentiles! You don’t go preaching things to people that don’t apply to them!

1 Cor 6:9-10 See also Gal 5:19-21, and Eph 5:5
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

Hmmm. Paul preached the kingdom of God, the book of Acts says. Now he is threatening them that if they do not persevere in righteous living, they can say goodbye to the conditional blessings of “inheriting” the kingdom of God. Inheriting implies ownership, and thus rulership as well. The faithful of the Corinthian church was told that they could inherit the kingdom of God. That is was conditional, and not all Christians will inherit it, and thus rule with Christ. Christians are not “heavenly” and Israel “earthly”. Yes. We are citizens of heaven. But aren’t the believing Jews of the dispensation of Law? Are they not in heaven right now? Confused dispensationalists assert that all believers will rule with Christ. That is just not so. Only the faithful will.

Col 4:11
These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God…

So Paul was a worker for the kingdom of God, and he had others who participated in that work for the kingdom of God too! Does Paul think that the kingdom is for Christians? All references show that. Is there a reference anywhere in the Bible that says that kingdom is not for Christians? Nope! Theologians have to string a whole bunch of arguments and scriptures together to make that assertion. There is no clear text anywhere that explicitly states that!

2 Thess 1:4-5
…we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer

Here Paul says that by being faithful and persevering, churches of God can be counted worthy of the kingdom of God. He also says that this church is suffering for the kingdom of God. This language is far shy of supposing that the kingdom has nothing to do with the church!

James 2:5
Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

Wow, James, an apostle in the church, who was the leader of the Jerusalem church, who had the grace pronouncements in Acts 15, here says the same thing as Christ in the Sermon on the Mount? An apostle writing in an epistle to the church and Christ speaking the Jews, actually saying the same thing about the kingdom of God, having the same application? No way! Go figure that one!

There are more I can go through, but these should suffice. Paul preaching the kingdom of God to Christians! Saying that we enter the kingdom, can inherit the kingdom, that he was a worker for the kingdom, that we suffer for the kingdom. I guess kingdom is for Christians after all and that Paul was right when he said that the Church has been grafted into the blessings of Israel!

There are dispensationalists who take things much further than I. Although the expression, “All that drive faster than you are maniacs, all who drive slower are idiots,” is duly noted, one must recognize that there are extremes to all views, including dispensationalism.

There are those who wish to relegate the whole of the synoptic gospels and much of the gospel of John to another dispensation, thus removing the instruction and commands of Christ from the Church in which He came to institute (Matt. 16:18). To be consistent with this affirmation, they must insist that the Great Commission is not for the Church, but to Israel (Matt. 28:18-20), for in this responsibility we find that those commissioned must teach the nations “to observe all things” (Matt. 28:20) that Christ commanded them. Since the teachings and commands of Christ are not for this dispensation, neither is this commission, they rationalize.

How incredible! The Synoptics were written to a Christian audience. It is unlikely that the authors gave such elaborate testimony to the teachings and commands of Christ unless they believed that they could be very closely applied by the Church. How would the intended recipients of these gospels come to realize that the teachings of their Lord and Savior were not for them? It takes a theologian to cause such confusion!

There are very few general teachings and parables given by Christ that cannot be applied to the Church. The author recognizes that some teachings of Christ were given specifically to Israel (such as some material in the Olivet Discourse) and to His disciples (such as the command to not preach to the Gentiles, only Israel). These cannot be applied to the Church, in the similar way that the command to Timothy from Paul that he should drink wine instead of water should not be applied to the church.

The fact remains, when Jesus taught generally and to the public at large, with parables, commands, and illustrations, He, being the Prophet Par Excellence, knew His teachings had application to the Church he was founding and not just to the small crowds affixed to His ministry. The Sermon on the Mount has wonderful Christian truth, and should not be glossed over! The Synoptics contain vital discipleship truth!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

James 2:14ff : Quick Rejoinder/Review (Post 7)

In the last installment we followed James as he first introduced in his epistle the idea of unrighteous activity, when full-grown or mature, producing physical death (James 1:14-15). I went through the context from 1:2 leading up to 1:14-15 to show James’ progression of thought. This is being done to show that the deliverance that James is talking about in 2:14ff is salvation from the deadly consequences of sin, and NOT eternal salvation (justification salvation/eternal life), as the traditional interpretation goes. It is essential background information to our study of James 2:14ff.

In the comments section of my last post someone objected to my interpretation and said the word “death” (1:15) is better taken as “spiritual” or “eternal” death. If you are, too, inclined to take this point of view, please read Post 6 in this series and then my rejoinder to the objector’s comment that I will paste here:

The reason I started with verse 2 in James leading up to verse 15 is that verse 15 is part of the context of one's being in trials and TEMPTATIONS. In the context, it has EVERYTHING to do with the EXPERIENTIAL and TEMPORAL temptations that lead to temporal and experiential sin, which leads to temporal and experiential death.

This is the line of thought of James.

Verses 17 and 18 are a continued explanation that God does not tempt anyone to sin.

We are not to be deceived! Far be it from Him to do that! He does not tempt anyone to sin. Far from that, every good and perfect Gift comes from Him, an example of which is our regeneration!

You are failing to follow James thoughts from 1:2-18. He is talking to regenerate people concerning temporal trials and temptations, relating to them how one is tempted and sins, showing that the responsibility lies in them and NOT God, for God tempts no one with sin. The reader is not to be deceived! On the contrary, He gives GOOD gifts, of which, one of them is the regenerate nature that all James' readers have (see post 2 in my series).


Sin merits eternal death at its first occurrence. It does not take sin to be mature, full-grown to merit eternal death! James later says whoever keeps the law and stumbles at one point is guilty of all. One sin alone is enough to commit one to condemnation and eternal death.

James point is not that! He is saying that FULL-GROWN sin produces physical death! Sin, when it has reached its MATURITY produces death.

Paul states, that by reason of one man's sin, Adam, even before the experiential acting out of our sin, we deserved eternal death.

James says that the extended sinning of the regenerate person, when it is mature and full-grown, will produce physical death.

Why does it take that long to finally merit eternal death?

Are you saying that I don't merit eternal death until my sins have reached maturity?

In the next installment we will review particularly James 1:21, as it is the first occurence of "save" (Greek "sozo") in James' epistle, and we shall review how it is used. I may have it done today.

Friday, December 09, 2005

James 2:14ff : Background Information from James 1:14-15 (Post 6)

The more I read Post 5 in this series, the more I see the similarities in thought between James and the thread that I posted in Proverbs. The resemblance is powerful.

Did anyone have any trouble seeing the parallels?

The intimation I gave should be apparent to all:

Sin causes physical death


Righteous action saves the life, extends the life, preserves the life

Following the commands of God, being a doer of the Word (can I say yet: adding works to your faith?) will save a person from the deadly consequences of sin. James is talking about saving the life by obedience!

I wish to back up a bit and go over a couple of passages in James.

James 1:14-15

“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

Before I get into this verse, I want to ask a question. Does it not resemble the verses that we viewed from Proverbs from my last post?

“…the years of the wicked will be shortened” (Prov 10:27b)
“…he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death” (Prov 11:19b)
“…he who is careless of his ways will die” (Prov 19:16b)

Up to the point of 1:14, James has been talking about the trials/temptations (both English words translate the same Greek word “peirasmos” in James) of believers. The principles we gain, and the lead up to our considered verses:

1: Believers are to count it all joy (1:2) when they fall into trials/temptations because the successful overcoming of them has beneficial results (1:3) that grow us toward maturity (1:4).

2: God can be counted on when we go through these trials/temptations as long as we ask (1:5), but the asking needs to be without doubt (which precludes faith) (1:6, 7).

3: The poor brother should glory in his exaltation (which is both present in the trial/temptation itself: God gives us the privilege to be in trials/temptations, and in them we are the object of His loving and gracious concern; and prospective in the trial/temptation’s outcome: his maturity, and the blessing of the crown of life (see vs 12)) (1:9).

4. The Rich brother should glory in his personal trials/temptations as a form of humiliation (1:10). Trials can be used by God to remind the rich Christian of the transience of his own earthly life and how quickly all his material blessings can be lost (1:11).

5. Life will be richer, deeper, and fuller for those who, like Job (see James 5:11!!!), reach the end of their trials victoriously (1:12)

6. We should have an attitude of love for God through our trials and not one of blame toward Him for our being tempted by evil, for He does not tempt anyone with evil (1:13)

Now to our considered verses.

Lets quote them again:

James 1:14-15

“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

God does not tempt anyone with evil (1:13)! The readers of James’ epistle should not sinfully charge God with responsibility for their temptations. Rather, the responsibility is their own. There is no temptation for us, in the final analysis, except when we respond to some seduction in an inward way and find the evil in some way desirable.

James now goes to trace the potentially deadly consequences into which man’s evil desires can lead him. The language he uses here is that of childbearing. When one is drawn away by his lust, this desire experiences a “conception” and subsequently gives birth to sin.

Desire is the mother of sin! The conception and birth of sin from desire occurs when lust is united with the human will, so that the birth of sin becomes the determination of the heart. But after the sin is brought to birth through desire, it grows (or, is repeated) and reaches maturity (in other words, when it is full-grown). Then sin in turn bears a child of its own – namely death (sin… brings forth [Greek “apokyo” = “gives birth to”] death).

Death is the grandchild of sinful lust or desire! Physical death is the cul-de-sac into which our lusts can lead us. James reaffirms this point in 5:20: “He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death”. As we have already seen repeatedly in the book of Proverbs, physical death is the ultimate end of sinful conduct.

Since James is talking to his regenerate Christian brothers (see Post 2 in my series, where I prove this), it is plain that even a born-again Christian can flirt with premature physical death by indulging his sinful lusts. This is an extremely serious consideration!

K.C. had asked about repentance. Here is one function of it. Immediate repentance from sin, that is, a turning from the error of our way (5:20), can cut the sin off before it is “full-grown” and thus save the sinning one from death.

Sin, when it is mature, gives birth to physical death! We only need to think about this for a few moments before images and instances come rushing to our mind. Sexual immorality can contract HIV for the person so indulging. Drugs can cause overdose. Speed kills. Anger, when full-grown, can lead to death. If you think about it, can’t you picture and conceive that physical death can be the result of full-grown sin in each example that you consider? I can’t imagine a single sin, that taken to its maturity, could not be envisioned to cause premature physical death.

How does this relate to our study of James 2:14ff? James states that being doers of the word and adding works to our faith can save us from the deadly consequences of sin; can save our lives! This is a salvation by works, and not by grace through faith (as discussed in Post 3). In the next 2 posts, we will be considering James 1:21-22 and James 5:19-20, as preparation to our continued study of James 2:14ff. This post and the next two are setting up vital background information to James’ concept of salvation in James 2:14ff.

Your comments are sincerely welcome, as your questions and objections.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Parenthesis from James Study: The gospel of John / Soteriology

I have every intention of continuing with James! And I will! So don't despair (not that anyone actually reads this blog!). This is merely a parenthesis (like the church).

I don't want my comments on other people's blogs to go to waste, so here, in a bit of a condensed and edited form, are some comments I made concerning the Gospel of John (and Galatians:
It is interesting that in the book of John (which by its own explicit and written statements has as its purpose that of evangelism, and is the only book in the Bible that makes such a claim)that the word "repent" and "repentance" and any and all of its cognates are absent.

Not one mention of repentance at all in the book that explains it purpose as being evangelistic.

If I wrote a book on the greatest hitters of all time in baseball and I did not include Pete Rose, what two observations could you make about it?

1) I am in error, for he most certainly was a great hitter
2) I do not consider Pete Rose to be a great hitter.

There are no other options.

Either John was in error and did not know the way to eternal life, or he did not consider repentance a condition for eternal life.
Not only does John not have "repent" and "repentance" and all of their cognates (which is very important, as John is the only explicitly written book for the purpose of evangelism in the whole canon!) neither is jot or tittle of "repentance" or any of its cognates found in Galatians, which is Paul's defense of the gospel!

If you wrote a book on evangelism, and repentance is indeed a condition for eternal life, would you not include several times the words "repent" and "repentance" or any of its cognates? Yet in John we find "faith" and its cognates 99-100 times (the words repent, repentance, etc ZERO times)!

How incredible! Both John and Galatians not speaking as to even ONE WORD about repentance?

John had to take great CARE not to even include one WORD about repentance in his gospel. He spoke about John the Baptist. What was John the Baptists's message in the synoptic gospels (the first 3 gospels that were written to Christians)? "Repent!"

Yet you don't hear John the Baptizer saying that in John. John took great care to not even include ONE reference to "repent" or "repentance" whatsoever!

Yet, everywhere in the gospel of John, which is the only book in the canon which has as its EXPLICITLY written purpose: Evangelism, the ONLY CONDITION OFFERED as the intermediate agency for eternal life is: faith in Christ (Never "repent"!!!)

Isn't it odd that (if) John believed that repentance was a condition for eternal life, yet he DOES NOT EVEN MENTION IT ONCE in his gospel (the only explicitly written book in the Bible that has as its purpose evangelism), but mentions FAITH ninety-nine (99) times?

Isn't it odd that Paul would defend his gospel in the book of Galatians, yet not even mention repentance and any of its cognates even once!?

Let me tell you something: You don't preach a doctrine by remaining silent on it! You don't teach a doctrine by NOT MENTIONING IT!
Speaking as to the Gospel of John as an entity within itself is not arguing one book of the Bible against another!

It is rightly dividing the word of truth.

If John does not expound repentance as a condition for eternal life in his book that he explicitly wrote so that men would receive that life, it is apparant that it is not a condition for salvation.

Repentance IS a doctrine in the Scriptures. A prevalent one. An important one. One that John DID know about (he speaks about it multiple times in Revelation). (Ask me sometime what the doctrine of repentance teaches!)

Yet, when he wrote his magnum opus, which has as its purpose:

"that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:31)

he chose, in all 21 chapters of his book on evangelism, to not even include ONE reference to repentance as a condition for eternal life.

How does the Lordship salvationist account for it?

Does he muddle and jumble the doctrine of soteriology by turning to the Christian(in other words, the doctrine for those who are already saved) doctrine of repentance in the epistles which were written for Christian audiences and apply them instead to soteriology?

Or does he turn to the synoptic gospels that conditioned the instatement of the kingdom of God to Israel upon Israel's national repentance and acceptance of Jesus as their Messiah and apply this instead to the doctrine of salvation?

This is not rightly dividing the word of truth.

The Lordship Salvation proponent has taken many bible passages, stuck them in a blender, and hit puree!

This is NOT rightly dividing the word of truth. It is jumbling and mixing the word of God, being very careless with it!, not accounting for distinctions, and context.

If John says that he is writing a book to show people how to have eternal life, and he does not mention repentance whatsoever(!!!), but mentions faith 99 times, this is telling.

If Paul writes an epistle in defense of the gospel and fails to mention repentance even once(!!!), yet conditions justification solely on faith in Jesus, this is telling.

The simple fact is that the whole Fourth Gospel is designed to show how its readers can simply appropriate eternal life (John 20:31). To say anything other than this is to accept a fallacy. It is to mistakenly suppose that the Fourth Gospel presents the terms of salvation incompletely and inadequately! (while it makes specific claim as to purpose TO BE evangelistic!) I sincerely hope no Christian person would want to be stuck with a position like that!

Your comments are welcome!


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

James 2:14ff : "Salvation" Intimation and Prequel (Post 5)

In this post, I wish to intimate the answer to the question that I left hanging in the previous posts: what is the salvation that James is talking about in 2:14ff (and in 1:15, 21; 5:20)? Although in the next post I intend to defend my position, I wish to use this post as a prequel in order to pique your interest and get you thinking.

It is the knee-jerk reaction of 21st century readers of the Bible to import into the word “salvation” (Greek = “soteria”) and its cognates the meaning “salvation from hell” each time he reads it in the New Testament. Yet the word merely means “deliverance”. It is up to the context to decide what kind of deliverance is being referred to.

If I said to you “trunk”, could you by my mere utterance of the word be able to determine the import of it? Could I mean “the storage compartment in the back of a car,” or “the long protruding appendage of an elephant,” or “the wooden storage compartment in my attic” or “the woody axis of a tree” or “the body of a human excluding the head and limbs” or “the thorax of an insect”? Unless the word is used in a context, you would not be able to comprehend the meaning attached to it.

It is the same with the word salvation. Although, admittedly, we know that it means “deliverance”, unless the word is used in a context, we cannot determine what kind of deliverance or saving from is in view. The word will only take meaning as it is used within the complete thought of a sentence or passage.

In a word study of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) we find that the Greek word “soteria” and its cognate “sozo” (save) in their contexts, where they are found about 363 times, means “deliverance from temporal calamaties” – such as circumstances that cause death, enemies, troubles; both individually and nationally - in the greatest majority of the times they are found, upwards of 98% of occurences. Only a relatively few passages have spiritual contexts to the salvation being discussed. Yet even in the instances that the terms "save" and "salvation" carry a sense of spiritual salvation in these minimally few OT passages, there is no explicit instance where the term appears solely with a spiritual nuance. In a study Rene Lopez of Dallas Seminary did of each occurrence of the words, he could not find even one instance where the words in their contexts had a justification-salvation-only meaning.

What does this say about the Greek reader of the New Testament? That he obviously would not consider the meaning “salvation from hell” for the Greek words “soteria” and “sozo” (salvation and save, respecively) as the first, knee-jerk option when he read it.

In the New Testament, there is an obvious emphasis on the spiritual and eternal salvation, yet in all of the occurences of the words sozo and soteria, only around 50% of the time do the contexts indicate that they have a meaning of “salvation from hell”.

Dr. Earl Radmacher wisely relates:

Have you ever said something to a friend only to discover later that while he heard what you said he missed the meaning? This often happens when we read the Bible. How easy it is to bring a meaning to a Bible passage that was not what the writer had in mind. When we do that, we missed the mind of God and are in serious danger of following the enemy of our souls. To protect ourselves from that danger we need to study the meaning of words and how they are used in their contexts. And this is especially true of the word salvation.

Commentators of James err when they assume, rather than demonstrate, their interpretation of the word “salvation” and its contextual concept within the book.

So this brings us to the “salvation” that James is discussing in his epistle. In my next post, I wish to discuss it more fully, but for the purpose of preliminary and prepatory considerations, I wish to quote the book of Proverbs in a few instances, and end with 3 verses in James for your consideration. Look for the key elements. I may do a short follow up if you don’t get my gist. So here we go!

Proverbs 2:21-22
For the upright will dwell in the land,
And the blameless will remain in it;
But the wicked will be cut off from the earth,
And the unfaithful will be uprooted from it.

Proverbs 3:1-2
My son, do not forget my law,
But let your heart keep my commands;
For length of days and long life
And peace they will add to you

Proverbs 3:8
[The fear of the Lord] will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.

Proverbs 3:16
Length of days is in [wisdom’s] right hand

Proverbs 4:4
Let your heart retain my words;
Keep my commands, and live.

Proverbs 4:6
Do not forsake [wisdom], and she will preserve you;

Proverbs 4:10
Hear, my son, and receive my sayings,
And the years of your life will be many.

Proverbs 5:23
He shall die for lack of instruction,
And in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.

Proverbs 6:15
Therefore [for the man living in wickedness] his calamity shall come suddenly;
Suddenly he shall be broken without remedy

Proverbs 6:23
For the commandment is a lamp,
And the law a light;
Reproofs of instruction are the way of life,

Proverbs 7:1-2
My son, keep my words,
And treasure my commands within you.
Keep my commands and live

Proverbs 8:35-36
For whoever finds [wisdom] finds life,
And obtains favor from the LORD;
But he who sins against me wrongs his own life;
All those who hate me love death.

Proverbs 9:10-11
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
For by me your days will be multiplied,
And years of life will be added to you.

Proverbs 10:2
Treasures of wickedness profit nothing,
But righteousness delivers from death.

Proverbs 10:27
The fear of the LORD prolongs days,
But the years of the wicked will be shortened

Proverbs 10:29
The way of the LORD is strength for the upright,
But destruction will come to the workers of iniquity.

Proverbs 11:4
Righteousness delivers from death.

Proverbs 11:17
The merciful man does good for his own life
But he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.

Proverbs 11:19
As righteousness leads to life,
So he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death.

Proverbs 11:30
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life

Proverbs 12:28
In the way of righteousness is life,
And in its pathway there is no death.

Proverbs 13:3
He who guards his mouth preserves his life,
But he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.

Proverbs 13:6
Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless,
But wickedness overthrows the sinner.

Proverbs 13:13-14
He who despises the word will be destroyed,
But he who fears the commandment will be rewarded.
The law of the wise is a fountain of life,
To turn one away from the snares of death

Proverbs 19:16
He who keeps the commandment keeps his life,
But he who is careless of his ways will die.

Proverbs 21:16
A man who wanders from the way of understanding
Will rest in the assembly of the dead.

Proverbs 28:18
Whoever walks blamelessly will be saved,
But he who is perverse in his ways will suddenly fall

James 1:15
Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

James 1:21-22
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls [=lives]. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

James 5:19-20
Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.

Monday, December 05, 2005

James 2:14ff : REVIEW (Post 4)

To my blog visitors: thank you for dropping by. It means so much to me that you take the time to check in and read the things that I have to say. I hope that they bless you and give you plenty of food for thought.

This is the fourth post in the series on James and is meant as a review:

Post 1 set the stage describing the battle between those who believe in faith alone in Christ alone for eternal life (like myself) and those who believe in faith that is not alone apart from works for eternal life (those who adhere to Lordship salvation). It is a solemn controversy. The stakes are very high: the gospel of God’s grace! Both cannot be true, therefore one or the other is preaching a false gospel. Paul was clear that a curse is on the one who preaches a message contrary to the grace message he expounded.

Lordship Salvation proponents have been very verbal about their insistence that the “Free Grace” gospel is heresy and a false gospel. So it should not be shocking to you that I believe the same about their avowal.

It is my contention that Lordship Salvation has subtly yet fatally included works into their soteriology, thus corrupting the message of grace. Post 1 shows how LS has added works as a condition for salvation in two different ways, thus making their message one of works-salvation. They do this by both redefining what faith is and by insisting that true faith will not fail to produce faithful obedience that perseveres until death, which they then condition final salvation upon the works that are to subsequently and necessarily follow faith.

Post 2 has shown conclusively that the intended audience of James was completely regenerate. This is an important point, for the common interpretation of James 2 suggests that James is giving his readers a cause to doubt their salvation and a test by which to gain a measure of “assurance” if they are truly saved. The problems that James describes in his epistle are problems that apply to his "beloved brethren", people with the indwelling Spirit of God.

Lordship Salvation advocates insist that the purpose of James 2:14ff is to give test to the readers of his epistle to confirm or not if they are "truly" saved by considering their works, which they say must accompany faith for ultimate salvation. This was not the intention of James. It has been shown that James was taking for granted that his intended audience was indeed born-again, and in light of such, strikes a hard blow against the Lordship Salvation position.

Post 3 starts off with verse 14. Here it is shown that great and insupportable liberty has been given to translate the second question of the verse. Many translations offer the readings “that faith” or “such faith” where support is supposedly gained by the Greek article appearing before the noun faith. They say that the article has a demonstrative force that refers to something “less than” faith, a mere “said” faith.

Yet it is impossible to argue that the intended Greek fluent readers of the book of James would pick up on this undetectable grammatical nuance when in the span of only a few sentences there are five occurences in the text that also have the article with the noun “faith” that are clearly not demonstrative. Therefore, if this is something that James wanted his readers to invariably pick up on, he would have used the Greek far demonstrative pronoun or the Greek word for “such”. If this is something that he wanted to emphasize and clearly show, why would he make it so confusing by merely using an article before the noun “faith”, which he does 5 other times in a span of a few sentences, in a culture that often used the article before abstract nouns? It is ludicrous that a Greek reader would pick up on this force. The addition of “that” or “such” is a shameful reading into the text!The only way that one can insert the words “this” or “such” into the text is by their interpretation based upon their pre-held theology. That they do this is evident. This is indeed interpretive. Why not let the reader perceive if it is “anaphoric” or not? The original intended audience would have. The addition of those words are nothing but interpretation and does not befit responsible literal equivalent translation, especially in light of the overwhelming facts that mitigate succesfully against its being rendered that way.

James’ second question in verse 14 asks, “Can faith save him?” And in the Greek, the implied answer is “No!” But, of course, faith can and does save when we are speaking of eternal salvation (e.g. Ephesians 2:8, 9). But here -as James makes plain- faith cannot save under the conditions he has in mind. Thus in James 2, the writer plainly makes works a condition for the salvation he here is describing. We must then admit that James can not be talking about salvation by grace! This is an important consideration as we proceed to the rest of the text.

Our next installment will be discussing exactly what kind of salvation does James have in mind as we look at verses 15 and 16. I should be done with this post within a couple of days.

Thanks again for your visit! Your comments are welcome!

Friday, December 02, 2005

James 2:14ff : verse 14 (Post 3)

James 2:14
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims [lego] to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? (NIV)

What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? (RSV)

What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? (NAS)

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? (NKJV)

Thus begins our consideration of James 2:14ff. Noted here are four common yet differing versions of our text.

Excluding the so-called "dynamic equivalence" of the NIV, where it takes obvious liberty translating "lege" (from "lego") as "claim" (1343 occurrences in the Greek text, all but a handful being translated with "say" and its cognates, the others translated as "named"; never translated "claim" in NKJV, NASB, ASV, and RSV), the first question is fundamentally the same in the given instances.

Yet in the second question we find different and important variations that weigh heavily upon its interpretation. In the above examples we are met with three modifiers to "faith" and one with no modifier at all. Respectively we have "such faith", "his faith", "that faith", and merely "faith".

That commentators have painted this someone's faith as merely professed and spurious should be surprising to no one. This has been the overwhelming tradition (with a few notable exceptions). It is unfortunate that the theology of the pundits (and the translators) have colored their interpretation. They bolster their claims here by the insertion of the modifiers "such" or "that" to "faith". Is this a legitamate understanding and translation?

The introduction of words like "that" or "such" as qualifiers for "faith" is really an evasion of the text. The Greek does not support this sort of translation. There really is no corresponding Greek word for either or these.

Nevertheless, support for the renderings "such faith" or "that faith" is usually said to be found in the presence of the Greek definite article with the word "faith". But in this very passage, the definite article also occurs with "faith" in verses 17, 18, 20, 22, and 26 (in verse 22 the reference is to Abraham's faith!). In none of these places are the words "such" or "that" proposed as natural translations. As is well known, the Greek language, like Spanish and French, often employed the definite article with abstract nouns (like faith, hope, love, etc.) where English cannot do so. In such cases we leave the Greek article untranslated. The attempt to single out 2:14 for specialized treatment carries its own refutation on its face. It must be classed as a truly desperate effort to support an insupportable interpretation.

Why must the Lordship Salvation advocates so intensly defend their position that the faith in view here must be spurious? For two reasons: 1) to evade the text and 2) in order to propagate their view that eternal salvation is not by faith alone apart from works.

They dodge the text here. LS has desired this passage to be talking about eternal salvation (salvation from hell) so that they can promulgate their heresy of faith works (a faith that is not apart from works) being necessary for final salvation. Yet, is this passage truly talking about it?

Allow me to paraphrase 2:14: "Suppose that someone admits to faith yet he cannot point to acts of obedience (the kind that James has been discussing in 1:26-2:13), what then? Can he expect salvation (of the kind in which James is talking about) to come through his faith if he is not a 'doer of work' (1:21)?" In other words, as per the Greek text (and the NKJV), "Can faith save him?" Notice James' stark, clear, and poignant question! Can faith alone save the man?

Actually the question in Greek implies its own answer and might be better translated, "Faith can't save him, can it?" The expected response is, "No, it can't!" But, of course, faith can and does save when we are speaking of eternal salvation (e.g. Ephesians 2:8, 9). But here -as James makes plain- faith cannot save under the conditions he has in mind.

Thus in James 2, the writer plainly makes works a condition for the salvation he here is describing. The failure to admit this is the chief source of the problems supposedly arising from this passage for most evangelicals. We ought to start by admitting it. And we ought then to admit that James cannot be discussing salvation BY GRACE! But instead of admitting these points, most interpreters dodge them, as we have shown.

What have we seen so far?

1) Lordship Salvation proponents twist James' words and meaning here. They do so by both adding to the text and evading the text.
A) They add to the text by including modifiers to "faith" that both the context and Greek language do not support.
B) They evade the text by shunning its clear meaning that faith will not save in the sense that James is speaking.
2) James is manifestly speaking of a "salvation" that is not by faith alone ("Can faith save him?" implied and intended answer in Greek, as per construction, is "NO!").

James' statements cannot be willed away. As clearly as language can express it, faith by itself does not "save," acording to James.

But save from what?

We shall examine this issue in the next installment.