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Predestination and Election: Who will hear the gospel and believe? September 13, 2013

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
25 comments

This topic was initiated by a regular contributor here by the name of Fast Freddie. As this was raised under a different topic here, I decided to open up a new topic to discuss this issue.

So, is it only the elect of God who will hear and believe the Gospel? In other words is it only those who were predestined to hear the gospel and believe can be saved?

Predestination and Election: A Look at Romans Chapter 1 to 8

The doctrine of “predestination” and “election” suggest that only some people were pre-ordained or specially chosen by God to be saved whilst others were preordained to eternal damnation. In this regard the doctrine purports that there is no freewill in inheriting salvation but one is elected according to God’s sovereign will. Calvin is largely responsible for this “school of theology”. Without dwelling too much on Calvin’s view however the question that one needs to ask is whether this is supported by scripture. Indeed, Rom 8 and Eph 1 are used as the proof text to support this doctrine but is that what Paul really preached or were Paul’s words misunderstood?

I think that one of the key problems with understanding this subject is that many people define their beliefs by what Calvin or Arminius said rather than by studying the Word of God and therefore they base their beliefs on a few verses that may have been taken out of context, rather than to rely on the whole counsel of scripture. So to look at this topic I think the starting point should be from Romans chapter one, simply because the book was a letter to the Roman saints and what was said in chapter 8 is framed by the preceding chapters. Is there therefore a theme of “predestination” and “election” coming through from Paul’s writing from chapter one? This is what I shall explore (I will look at Ephesians 1 later).

In Romans 1:15 Paul writes that he was ready to preach the gospel to them who were at Rome also. He goes on to say in verses 16 to 17 that he is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes, to the Jew first and to the Greek and that it is in the gospel that the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. Now notice what he said in the verses that followed:

18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Here Paul shows that the ungodly hold the truth (about God) in their unrighteousness even though God made it known unto them – God reveals these truths of who He is so that the ungodly and unrighteous are without excuse (when they are judged). The use of the words “without excuse” here are the key to demonstrate that they had a choice to make in changing their circumstances but instead chose to turn away from God and this is clearly noted if we read from verse 21. It was because of what they did that God in turn gave them over to their reprobate minds:

28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

Note that not only do they know of the judgement of God in that their sinfulness is worthy of death but they took pleasure in continuing to do evil:

32Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

So from chapter 1 we can see that Paul was not claiming that the evil doers mentioned here were “predestined” to death but that they darkened their own hearts out of their own vain imaginations and lusts and turned the truth of God into a lie, which is why God gave them over. So then if after the truth of the Gospel of God is revealed to us but we continue in evil, “how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation (Heb 2:3)?” Jude has shown us however that even those destined for the fire of judgement can be saved also if we make an effort:

Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives. (Jude 1:23) NLT

Of course it would not be possible to fulfill this scripture if those heading for the flames were preordained (or predestined) to go there. The Calvinist view here however would suggest that the fate of those heading for the flames is already sealed. There are however other examples in scripture though which shows that one can change course and be saved. For example, in Rev 2:20-24 we see how Jesus gave a “prophetess” called Jezebel in Thyatira space to repent of her evil ways and promises judgement upon her and her children except she repents. Similarly, Jesus warned the Laodicean church that he would spew them out of His mouth unless they repented because they had become lukewarm (Rev 3:14-19). Again the Calvinist view here would suggest that you are either in the camp of “destined to be saved” or “destined to be damned” regardless of any effort on their part to change their destiny. So how can God damn His own church? After all, would the Laodiceans not need to have been among the “called” to constitute a church in the first place? However, 1 Pet 1:17 demonstrates that God judges according to every man’s works without respect of persons. The idea of predestination however is that one’s fate is sealed irrespective of his state of being and that he does not have a free will in determining the outcome. This cannot be true however in light of 1 Pet 1:17 and Rom 2:11 as we shall see later. This would mean that God would need to show respect to those whom He predetermines to save and those He predetermines to destroy, instead of judging equally.

So continuing into Romans chapter two then Paul started out by challenging those who judge others for the sins they do yet they themselves commit the same things by asking if they think they will escape the judgement of God. Paul makes clear here in Rom 2:4-11 that the goodness of God leads such sinners to repentance. But because of the hardness of their hearts they store up wrath for themselves against the day of wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God. Paul reiterates in verse 6 that God will render to every man according to his deeds both to those who patiently seek eternal life and those who do not obey the truth but instead continue in unrighteousness. Note in verse 9-11 where Paul states clearly that God is no respecter of persons for He will render tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil, to the Jew first and also to the gentile. In the same way God will give glory honour and peace to every man that does good works, to the Jew first and to the Gentile. These verses conflict with the Calvinist view of predestination and demonstrates clearly that what Calvin preached on this subject is not the same as what Paul preached. For instance we know that the Jews were the “chosen” people of God in the Old Testament but here we see that the Jew were not all predestined to be saved since the same punishment will be meted out to Jew and Gentile alike for their sins.

Leading into Romans 3 Paul reiterates from verse 1 that the Jew does not have any advantage over non Jews. As in Chapter 2 Paul is here addressing the subject of justification by faith and if we look closely at this doctrine we will see that it is inconsistent with the Calvinist view of predestination. For example in verses 2-22 we learn that the righteousness of God is manifested in Christ to everyone who believes whether Jew or Gentile. Paul continues to speak in the same vein in Chapter 4 how righteousness is imputed to Abraham for his faith and likewise to those of us we have faith in Jesus.

In Romans chapter 5 Paul points out that if we are justified by faith we have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ who died for the ungodly. In verse 18 Paul makes a poignant point as follows:

18Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life

This means that because sin entered the world through Adam judgment came upon all who were condemned but through Jesus Christ the free gift of salvation came upon all men to the justification of life. So all men have access to this grace if they believe and hence justified by faith. This again shows the contrast with what Paul preached and the doctrine of predestination as upheld by Calvin. If only some were pre-ordained to be saved then this would clearly contradict what Paul teaches here in Romans 5:18.

Continuing on to Romans 6 Paul writes that now that we have been justified through faith and have died with Christ that we should now no longer subject our members unto sin but live holy lives with Christ. In the following verses Paul writes:
20For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 21What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. 22But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. 23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom 6:5)
This is similar to what Paul said in Rom 5:18, in that if we continued in unrighteousness the end of it would be death but if we become servants to righteousness the fruit would be eternal life. The verb Paul uses in Rom 6:19 is that we should now “yield” our members to righteousness. This is an instruction which implies an action to be taken at the will of the believer. So once again this message is at odds with the Calvinist view. In Romans chapter seven Paul continues the interplay between the law of sin and death and the law of life and how the sinful flesh wars with the spirit. Here Paul emphasizes dying to sin in order that one may live according to Christ after the Spirit. Leading in to Romans 8 then Paul starts out in verse 1 by talking about the fact that there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit. For, says Paul, to be carnally minded is death but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. In verse 8 we see that those that are “in the flesh” cannot please God. The point is further illustrated in verse 13:
13For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
So if we followed the line from Romans 1 through to chapter 8 we see that what Paul preached is belief in the gospel, being justified by faith and walking in the spirit which leads to life. Similarly Jesus said in John 5:24 that if we hear and believe the things He says we shall not be condemned, which falls in line with Rom 8:1. It is with this backdrop therefore that Paul then talks about “predestination” and “election” in verses 28 to 30. Before going into these verses however verses 24 and 25 of Romans 8 also worth noting in terms of understanding salvation:

24For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

If Paul says here that we are saved by hope how could he then say in the next breath that one was predestined in the Calvinist sense? If Calvin was to be believed then we would not need to have hope because our salvation would already be assured. This would constitute “hope that is seen” but Paul asks why would you hope for what you already see? This is not hope, yet we are saved by hope which requires will and endurance to wait with patience for the embodiment of hope. From everything that Paul taught from Chapter 1 could he now be changing tracks and be teaching a whole new doctrine in verses 28 to 30?

28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

What Paul is saying here is that for those whom God foreknew, (i.e., those that love Him and are the called according to His purpose), He did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son so that He (Jesus) would be the firstborn among many brethren. Remember that in Rom 1:7 Paul was writing to “all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints.” Is Paul saying here then that God only chose to save some people without regard to whether they were righteous or unrighteous? Well we already see in Rom 1:16-17 for example where Paul says that the gospel is the power unto salvation to everyone who believes but those who continued in unrighteousness through the hardness of their hearts stored up wrath unto the day of judgement. So what Paul is referring to here by predestination is the plan of salvation. See also Rom 5:18 where Paul says that through the righteousness of “one” the free gift (of grace) came upon all men unto the justification of life. Why is it then that many are called but few chosen (Matt 20:16, 22:14) Is it not because of the condition of their hearts, that they have not purified themselves with the hope (1 John 3:3)?

God told Abraham that he would be a father of many nations – we become heirs to the promise if we received the promise of the spirit by faith (Gal 3:14). So then for everyone that is being saved, God did predestinate. If the Calvinist view on predestination and election was right how could Peter commands that one should “make your calling and your election sure” (2 Pet 1:10)? And is this not the same thing as what Jesus said in Luke 13:24 that we should strive to enter in at the strait gate; and also what the writer of the Hebrews said in Hebrews 12:1 about running the race with endurance? I end here with the words of Jesus in Rev 2:7

To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. (Rev 2:7)

Do Christians Go to Heaven when they die? A second look March 13, 2013

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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I previously highlighted this question in a previous post here. It turned out that I caused upset to a number of people who have now decided to dissociate themselves from this blog. To tell the truth sometimes I feel defeated and at a loss when I am trying to do something and it is interpreted in the wrong way by others. But nevertheless I must decrease so that Christ can increase.

Prior to touching this subject the first time, it was not my intention at all to consider writing a post on it until the issue was raised. I am aware that people hold various views on the subject and that some will say that it is not really such a serious point of debate which pertains to salvation. Perhaps this is true but it really depends on the context of your reasoning. The main problem with this debate is not that the view you hold is not important in deciding your salvation, rather, the problem is that if by holding to a view do we make the scriptures contradictory? If we therefore make the scriptures appear to contradict itself by what we believe does that not undermine the doctrine we believe and therefore bring the whole basis of our faith into question? These are the thoughts I have been contemplating recently as a result of the controversies surrounding this topic. There are therefore two questions within this topic; 1) Do Christians really go to heaven immediately on death? 2) Do the scriptures contradict themselves? The first question is not as important as the second question.

Some people believe that when a Christian dies they are ushered immediately into Christ’s presence where they will be in a conscious state, retaining their ‘personality’ and thus being able to fellowship and commune with Christ, albeit apart from their bodies. Others however do not believe that Christians will go straight to heaven on death and there are good reasons likewise for believing thus. One of the main basis of the former view (that Christians go straight to heaven on death) is the promise Christ made to one of the malefactors on the cross in Luk 23:43. Here, the verse says, “….Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Regardless of what one’s view is, this raises a very important question when we consider other scriptures. If Jesus and the thief were in paradise that very day how is it that Jesus states in John 20:17 that, “..I am not yet ascended to my Father?” Is Jesus contradicting Himself here? There are those however who wants you to believe the first view without attempting to reconcile the apparent contradictions in holding that view. Equally, if you hold to the view that Christians do not go straight to heaven, then Christ may still appear to contradict Himself by what He promised to the thief in Luk 23:43. By not reconciling the scriptures therefore we undermine the very veracity of the doctrine we seek to hold so dear, and this has already led many people to depart from the faith and discard the Bible. We are standing on very dangerous ground here when we simplify the question by saying that whatever we believe on this matter doesn’t really matter (and that we should agree to disagree) because it will not determine our salvation. I am not so much concerned about which view one believes but more so in reconciling the scriptures as this is very important in maintaining the truthfulness of the Gospel.

Do the scriptures contradict themselves? I don’t think that any true Christian will admit to the scriptures being contradictory. So how do we reconcile these apparently conflicting scriptures? I want to believe in my heart that when we die we immediately go to a better place. I have heard people testify that when their loved ones are dying they speak of seeing a glorious/bright light. My friend testified of such when his father passed away. But at the same time I have to stick with what scripture tells me. Experiences or sentiments do not override scriptures and we don’t know exactly the extent or meaning of those experiences anyway. So what do some of the other scriptures say contrary to the verse in Luke? I must say here that the scope of this article is not to look at every specific scripture that relates to this issue as they are plenteous. However the verses I look at should be sufficient in making the points I wish to convey.

One of the first things that may need clarification is the question of where paradise is. To resolve the question that Jesus went to paradise but did not ascend to His Father as per Joh 20:17, some argue that paradise is in the earth or at least away from heaven, citing the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luk 16:19-31). Could this be true? What does the scriptures say? Paul gives us a clue in 2 Cor 12:2-4 that paradise is up above in the third heaven. Jesus also tells us in Rev 2:7 that he who overcomes He will give the right to eat of the tree of Life which is in the paradise of God. Rev 22:1-2 tells us also that the tree of life stands on the side of a river which flows out of God’s throne. So then paradise was always around God’s throne and not in the earth as some suppose. So if Christ went to paradise with the malefactor on death that day He would most certainly have ascended to His father thus contradicting what He said in John 20:17. A portion of scripture that may hold the key is John 13:33 through to John 14:4 (see also John 14:28). Note that the passage continues from the end of chapter 13 into chapter 14 despite it being broken up by chapters. For ease I have only copied from John 13:36 below:

36Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” 37Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! (John 13:36-38)

1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in Goda; trust also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1-4)

“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. (John 14:28)

What do we learn here? Jesus told Simon Peter that where He was going he couldn’t come but rather that he Peter would follow later. No where do we see a promise that the disciples would follow Christ on their deaths but rather that He will return to receive them this is in spite of the fact that Jesus already knew of Peter’s death which He prophesied of in John 21:18-19. Are we to believe that Christians who die will consciously be with Christ on death in spirit form but that in these scriptures He was merely referring to coming back for the bodies – the shell that holds the spirit? In truth this is what some believe but it simply does not make any sense. It seems to me that whether in body or spirit, if we are going to be with Him we are going to be with Him – If He says He is going to prepare a place and come back for us then until He comes we are not going to be with Him.

So how do we treat Luk 23:43? Could it be it is a matter of interpretation? Some have argued that the placement of the comma is where the problem lies since in the original Greek no punctuation is used. Therefore some place the comma after “today” to render the meaning of the verse to be referring to the timing of the promise as opposed to the timing of entry into Paradise. Perhaps Acts 2:27 should also be considered here since this appears to offer further proof that Jesus did not go to paradise that very day but was in the grave for three days. Perhaps a closer look at verses in Luke 23 may reveal something:

42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.f

43Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

What was the criminal’s desire? It was that Jesus would remember him when He comes into His kingdom. It appears that the criminal had an awareness that Jesus would come into His kingdom in a future time. But note Christ’s response. Does it not appear that Jesus is granting the thief His wish that it is not in the future He will remember him but that he has a certainty today of knowing that He will be remembered of Christ when He comes into His kingdom? The question here then is this, “Has Christ come into His kingdom as yet?” When does scripture say that Christ will come into His Kingdom?

Let me reiterate that the most important point at the heart of this debate/controversy is not whether one believes they will go or not go straight to heaven on death. Rather, if you take a view how do you reconcile the apparent contradictions from the opposing view in order to preserve the trustworthiness of scripture? What do you think?

Point to Note:

I was presented with an article written by Jonathan Edwards (see HERE) which supported the view that Christians will go straight to heaven at death to be with the Lord. I did not accept Edward’s view not because I place myself above him or even above some of those notable Bible commentators such as Matthew Henry. Rather, these commentators have made no attempt to reconcile the opposing view so that the scriptures are in harmony. If I accept their position it means I would have to also accept that there are contradictions in the Bible because the opposite view cannot be ignored. This is why I rejected their view and instead align with the view which attempts to harmonize the scriptures.

Compromising the Gospel May 25, 2012

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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Many Christians may get offended when I highlight the disparities between the church I see today and the church that was evident in scriptures. Personally I do not care if anyone gets offended but the truth of the Word should be proclaimed with all boldness and without fear or favour. Today we have too many watered down churches preaching a seeker sensitive, “cuddly feely” gospel instead of the unadulterated Gospel. Some will argue that I am dividing the church with such pronouncements but I have news for anyone who thinks that. The truth is that scripture declares that the wheat and the tares shall grow together until the time of the harvest so a division is already there. What we must never do is to compromise the gospel because we do not want to offend those sitting in the pews because they may leave. So what? Let them leave if they want for Jesus said wherever two or three are gathered in His name He will be there to bless. One wonders however if money is the driving force behind the “dumbing-down” of the gospel to ensure that church attendance is kept up which in turn will ensure that the finances are secure.

 

Today there are many people occupying our pulpits and profiteering from the gospel. They teach all manner of false doctrines just to get their congregation to part with their money. Such so-called ministers will often boast of their opulent wealth – with their mansions and private Lear Jets to boot – even to their very own undiscerning congregations who follow after these blind guides mainly because they tell them what they want to hear. This is not surprising however because the scriptures say that, “through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” (2 Pet 2:3). The sad truth about it however is that even when you show that such minister are in error their members will come out and defend them staunchly instead of doing the Berean thing and examine the scriptures to see if what these men and women proclaim is true.

 

There are various brands of Christianity, or “Churchianity” to put it more correctly, today with each declaring that they have the true gospel. The naïve and the simple-minded will however declare that all churches are the same despite not understanding that there is a gulf of difference between the various versions of what they claim is the truth. Perhaps the god of this world has blinded their eyes to the truth such that they are not able to glean the fact that there is only one truth and that two or more contrary positions cannot all be truth at the same time. It is not only the preachers therefore who are compromising the gospel but the hearers also when they neglect to “test every spirit” and study the scriptures as the Bereans did when they heard Paul’s message.

 

Many people in the churches are being destroyed through lack of knowledge of the Living God. In many cases a different Jesus is being preached to them and consequently they believe in a different god from the God of the Bible. But how can they believe the true gospel which they have not heard, or how can they believe in God whom they have not known? Consequently many are lost even though they are in church. In order to know God we need to first know who the true Jesus is for it is He who declares the Father. Encouraging or admonishing someone to believe God, and trust in His saving Grace is futile if they do not know the One True God. They need to know God for themselves first before they can trust in Him.

Bearing one another’s burdens May 21, 2012

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal 6:2)

 

Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy (Matt 5:7)

 

A number of years ago I was faced with a situation where a sister from another church, someone I worked with at the time, needed financial assistance. I asked the sister if she would not approach her church for assistance. She said that whilst there was a welfare office in the church she did not feel comfortable approaching it for assistance because of how she would appear to her fellow church members and she felt she would be stigmatised.  The question I would like to raise is why should church members that are in difficulty and in need feel uncomfortable to approach their church for help? Could it be because the church today, unlike the early church, does not foster a culture of sharing and caring for one another within their congregation?

 

The church today is not short of teachings and admonitions to “give generously” or “give sacrificially” but what exactly is the church being asked to give to? What I do not witness is admonitions to the church members to give to those around them who are in need. When was the last time you heard a sermon on giving to the poor and the needy? In fact when asked, some preachers tell their members that they cannot give their tithes to other causes aside from the church but that “the whole tithe” must be brought into the “storehouse” – the church building. Has the church stopped teaching the law and commandments of Jesus Christ? It is a mistake to think that we are fulfilling the law of Christ in giving to the church (the administrative structure), which will in turn give some of the takings to a charity. Jesus said in Luke 6:30 “give to everyone who ask you” and He is speaking to individuals here. But what the church mainly teach today is to give to “the work of the church” whether it be the local church or ones in distant lands appealing for funds on TV. They encourage you to “prayerfully consider partnering” with them but never do they teach the church to fulfil the law of Christ in bearing each other’s burdens. How can we declare then that we are the called of Christ yet we do not fulfil His law by helping one another? Does this not undermine our credibility? The problem with giving to the church in tithes and offerings is that one may easily get into a mindset where they feel that they have done their duty already (in “giving to God”) and therefore the portion of their income which remains is theirs and they can’t afford to give away anymore. Many may therefore be ignoring Christ’s commands to give to everyone who asks of them, because in line with what they have been taught it is up to the church to distribute to those in need. Sometimes I do wonder however if it is the case that people do not really believe we need to observe Christ’s teachings to the full. Did Christ not say that we should not only be hearers of the word but doers of the word? Have we become like the Pharisees who, instead of honouring their fathers and mothers instead say that whatever help they would otherwise give them is a gift devoted to God (Matt 15:4-5)? Perhaps it should be said that we cannot be doers of the word if it is not being preached to us and we are not hearing it.

 

Many people today pay their tithes not necessarily because they believe they are fulfilling God’s will but because they have been led to believe that this is the way to access the blessings of God. But Christ says, blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. We need to show mercy to our brothers and sisters in Christ but not only they for we are also called to love our neighbour as ourselves. Paul in Gal 6:10 also encourage us to do good unto ALL men. What surprises me therefore is how little emphasis is placed on such teachings today and even the world is showing us a better example today. To cite an example, the Evening Standard newspaper ran a campaign over the last few years to highlight the extent of poverty that many people are faced with here in Britain but more in London. They found that more than half of children in London lived below the poverty line. Despite the fact that Britainis a very rich developed country there are still a lot of people in abject poverty but it is usually not visible to most of us. I am sure that a lot of these poor people do go to church too. What are our churches doing to alleviate the plight of these poor? One church body in the UK reported total income from parishes to over £800 million in 2009. This church’s expenditure however amounted to almost the figure that was raised with only £50 million going to charitable causes. There are established churches in the UK that own and control vast wealth, namely in property and other assets yet people are still suffering in poverty. To cite another example from Greece, the Telegraph newspaper reported that the church have amassed wealth of over £700 billion Euros and this amounts to twice the national debt (1).

 

How can the church retain such vast wealth whilst people the world over are living in extreme poverty? Surely the church should be doing more in terms of giving away most of what they collect to those in need instead of hoarding it. The church members themselves are also guilty of helping to maintain this status quo by mindlessly giving their money to churches that hoard it, instead of heeding the scriptures in bearing each other’s burdens. What will the church do with such wealth on judgement day when Jesus Christ shall put in His appearance? This is the question that every church body that stores wealth should be considering very seriously.

 

(1) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8790126/Wealth-of-churches-vs-the-wealth-of-people.html

The Law of Christ March 16, 2012

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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One of the things I have come to realise when engaging with other Christians is that they sometimes do not know with absolute certainty whether we are to follow or observe everything that the Bible teaches or not. If you are unsure about this matter then chances are you are also unsure about the Gospel.

All scriptures are profitable for doctrine and for reproof but likewise all scriptures should be read and taken in context. The truth is that one can take the very words of the Bible and deceive you with it and this is because not everything in it is required of the Christian to observe. For example, under the Mosaic Law an eye for an eye was endorsed. Should we as Christians today practice recompensing evil for evil? Absolutely not! But we look instead at what Christ says – He says for example, “love your enemies”; “do good to them that hate you”; bless them that persecute you and despitefully use you”; and so forth. So it is clear that we are not required to follow all that the Bible teaches otherwise we would be in confusion. Some teachers however, when they are teaching on a particular subject, like to place their words under the banner of, “The Bible Teaches” to give weight to their claims. As a result they are able to weave together teachings from both the Old and New Testaments (Covenants) under the same heading but this can result in deception if one is not careful. So then if we are not required to follow everything the Bible taught does this mean that God has changed, though scripture declares He changes not? No, but rather God purposed to change the law which He first instituted in Israel (Jer 31:31-33, Heb 8:8-11). The law was merely a shadow of what God had before ordained even from the beginning of time.

Today, and since the days of the early church, God’s law is no longer written upon tablets of stones but rather it is now written upon a believer’s heart. We must understand the point that the previous covenant was made with Israel alone and therefore those who were outside of the commonwealth of Israel could not benefit from it. God changed the law however so that we who were outside, cut off without a hope, can now be engrafted with Israel to inherit salvation (Rom 11:17). This is the reason why the law has changed and the Levitical priesthood made defunct. Christ’s priesthood now replaces the old priesthood and consequently the change in the priesthood necessitated a change in the law (Heb 7:12). So what is this new law in Christ? Here it is in black and white:

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (Joh 13:34) KJV

Can it really be that simple? If you are still not convinced have a look at the following verses:

The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself. (Gal 5:14, also Matt 7:12) NIV

Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Rom 13:10, also Jam 2:8) NIV

By the grace of God we have been set free through faith in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:20-24). We do not need to attempt to observe a single work of the law – not tithing, not first fruit giving, no sacrifices, offerings, circumcision, feast days, holy days – none of them. To attempt to do so is to fall from grace (Gal 5:4). Friends, know the truth and the truth shall set you free (Joh 8:32).

Are you considering suicide? December 6, 2011

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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One of the things I can never fathom is why a church goer should contemplate suicide or actually commit suicide. Is it because they have an incorrect view of God? Could it be because the church is not doing enough to help people overcome their problems? Could it be because individuals prefer to suffer in silence rather than to seek help in working through their problem? Are we living in such an insensitive and callous world where people prefer to suffer in silence because they are afraid or feel uncomfortable to approach a brother or sister for help when they are at their most vulnerable? Though not an exhaustive list these are just some of the myriad questions that one might ask in trying to glean some understanding as to why an active church goer should contemplate committing suicide.

I used the term “church goer” to differentiate between someone in the world and a Spirit filled Christian who one would not expect to do such a thing. This is not to say that I am not concerned about people in the world who may commit suicide. However, you would think that an active church goer would find strength in their religious beliefs and from their interactions with their church brethren compared to someone in the world with no religious leanings and therefore no concept of life and death. My reason for raising this topic though is that I know of church goers who have committed suicide and whenever I hear of such things my heart has been truly torn and I ask myself, why! Suicide is something you would expect to occur outside the church but not from someone in church. The reality however is that we live in very dark days when suicide has been increasing both among people in the world and people who arguably may be classified as Christians. Although suicide is a tragic experience both for the victim and their families I believe it is also preventable and this goes for both the non-christian and the church-goer alike.

I do not want to appear as to trivialise anyone’s experience but I believe that suicidal thoughts which leads to the final act is a product of deception. People who are or have been suffering from such thoughts have been deceived by the devil. The Bible says in 1 Pet 5:8 that “your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” As a result the said scripture says that we must be sober and be vigilant. A person having suicidal thoughts is not sober. I have good news for somebody however. Jesus says in John 10:10

10The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Though the thief comes to steal and destroy Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. There is no problem too great for God to solve. Jesus already made a way for you by dying on that cross at Calvary. This does not mean that you will not have troubles in this life but Jesus is there to take us through if we believe and have faith in Him. Jesus said in Matt 11:28:

 

28Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

If you are burdened, cast your cares upon Jesus and you shall find rest for your souls. Committing suicide is not the answer. Arguably if you do you are setting yourself up for a Christless eternity. Don’t allow the devil to deceive you but rather call upon the name of Jesus. Share your problems with someone else – don’t sit down and bottle up the pain and the anguish and allow the problem to fester. This only creates a window of opportunity for the devil to come in and start to put thoughts in your mind that if you end your life the pain and suffering will be over. But I tell you the truth today, the devil is a liar! Illnesses can be manifested in mind, body and spirit. If you are attending church therefore and you are sick in any of these areas approach the elders of the church for them to pray for you. The Bible says in James 5:

13Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. 14Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. 16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

My friends you have a way out. Do not be deceived into thinking that suicide is the answer to your problems. No! I might not know what you are going through but someone knows – Jesus Christ knows. Christ is the answer and He cares for you. The Bible says in John 3:16-417

16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

You may have doubts and you may have fears but Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the Life.” He also says in John 8:12, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” All you have to do is to seek Him and do not allow the darkness of this world to overtake you. Ps 30:5 says, “weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.

13Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. (Rom 15:13)

Do Christians go straight to Heaven when they die? September 29, 2011

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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This issue was raised by Marianne under another post on “The Heresy of the Heaven’s Gate cult” and I thought I would separate the issues out by dedicating this issue to its own post.

It is my firm belief that Christians DO NOT go straight to heaven when they die and that is what I believe scripture is saying. By the same token though we might equally ask do sinners go straight to hell when they die?

Here is a detailed study which I believe has done a fine job in presenting the case that Christians do not go to heaven on death.

What do others think? Lets hear your views.

By what are ye saved? Grace, Faith, Works? November 5, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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It would appear that many in the church today do not seem to fully understand the Gospel of Salvation. In my Part 2 on The Gospel of Salvation I made reference to the fact that we are justified by faith but that faith must be accompanied by works – which in essence means we are justified by faith as well as works. Now some people might not have understood that and may even label me as an heretic but this is the reason why I want to explain these things further in this post.

We are told in scripture that we are saved by Grace through faith and not of works lest any man should boast.

 

Eph 2

8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

 

Was Paul trying to say here that we are not to do works because works do not save us? The answer to that is no because in verse 10 he clearly stated that we are created in Jesus unto GOOD WORKS which God had already ordained that we should walk in them.

Let me therefore attempt to paint a picture of what Paul was trying to say: Grace is like a doorway that Christ opened or prepared for the whole world (John 3:16, 14:6). That doorway was set in heavenly places and behind it one may find Life. There is a very long, narrow and winding stairway leading up towards it (Matt 7:14). However, for anyone to even set foot on the first step of that stairway they must have faith. Now faith is unseen! It embodies the hope in Christ that we may find life at the end of the stairway. Faith is necessary in order to believe in the provision of Grace (Acts 16:31). If we therefore believe then the Lord will takes on that journey of faith along that stairway till we reach our destination. Our faith is therefore manifested in our willingness to act by taking the first step on that stairway and then the next, and the next after – although the journey is long we are propelled by the hope in us which is our saving faith.

In this little picture therefore we see that we are not saved by Grace alone or that we are saved by faith alone. However we are saved by Grace through faith as Paul said. We cannot circumvent Grace in order to perform what we perceive as righteous works in thinking that these will justify us before God. In other words, the picture shows we cannot avoid the path set forth before us with its preconditions in order to find another way to obtain salvation. This is what Paul meant when he said “Not of works”. But Paul most certainly was not saying we were not required to do works because in verse 10 of Eph 2 that view is contradicted. The good works then can be thought of as the action of walking up the steps. In this way the act of walking up the steps is an outward manifestation of our faith. Let’s conflate this with what the Apostle James was saying.

James 2

18Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness:

In putting these verses in context to the picture, what James is saying is that you cannot claim to have faith and not show the outward manifestation of physically taking up your staff and walking up the steps along the stairway. In other words you cannot sit at the foot of the stairway and claim to have faith that you will reap the fruits lying in wait at the end of the stairway and not demonstrating your faith by getting up and walking the path. To claim therefore to have such faith and to do nothing is dead faith! If your faith is therefore dead you can never enjoy the fruits at the end of the stairway because you have not the means to get there.

What both Paul and James have said therefore are complimentary to understanding our gospel of salvation. Paul says we are justified by faith but James expands on that by saying we are justified by faith with the outward manifestation in works. Are we therefore required to do works? To answer this question, Jesus says that if we loved Him then we will obey His commands (John 14:15). Obeying Christ commands are an embodiment of works – the same good works that Paul referred to in Eph 2:10 and which demonstrates our love for Christ. These are also the same works that James is saying we ought to perform to demonstrate our faith which is kept alive in Christ. The great commission also demonstrates that we are to observe all things (good works) that Christ commanded (Matt 28:20).

Faith is therefore not an antithesis to works which is what some people have tried to make it but rather faith and works are tied together in obtaining salvation by Grace. Can we therefore continue to neglect to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison and claim to be justified by faith? Did Christ not warn that if we do not do these things we would not inherit Life?

Matt 25

41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

Faith without works is dead and leads to death!

The Gospel of Salvation – part 2 October 27, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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This post is in continuation of a discourse between myself and Dave from over at “The Gospel According to the Gospel”. Link to Part 1 here.

Dave,

To continue where I left off last time, I want to look at what you said with regards to modern theologians holding to the view that there has been a dispensation of works (the Law) and a dispensation of Grace. Let me state categorically that I personally do not subscribe to this view. Indeed I hold to the view that there is and have been two dispensations in regards to the promise made to Abraham. The word dispensation being used in this context refers to a “religious epoch” or period of time. Consequently the first covenant lasted for a particular period of time – in that time period only Israel could benefit from the first covenant because it was given to them only. The following verses of scripture demonstrate this fact:

Eph 2

12That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 18For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

The second (or new) covenant was given to everybody therefore but first to the Jew and then to the Greek (or the Gentiles). In my view therefore the plan of salvation as embodied in the covenant promises made to Abraham was implemented in essence in two phases which I refer to as dispensations. Looking at Gal 3 and Rom 8 we see the duality of the plan of salvation:

Gal 3

23But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 26For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

 

Roms 8

3For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

In Rom 8:3 therefore we see that although we are no longer bound by the law, the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us through Christ Jesus.

Now let’s turn attention to the issue of “works versus Grace”. There are mainly two issues here which are sometimes often confused and I will look at these in turn. The first issue relates to the fact that in the early church Paul (and other Apostles) was faced with a problem whereby the Jews who had now become followers of Christ (Christians) sought to continue doing the “works of the Law” and as such believed Gentile Christians should do likewise. An example of this can be seen in Acts 21:21-25 where Paul had to make it clear that he did not give any instruction to the Gentiles who believed (or required them) to observe the customs and practices which came down from Moses.  Paul had to deal with a similar problem in Gal 2:11-14 where he had to rebuke Peter for hypocrisy because Peter ate with the Gentiles but when circumcised Jews came among them he withdrew to “save face”. Paul therefore had to clarify in the following verse that man is not justified by the works of the Law but by the “new” faith that was given in Christ:

Gal 2

16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

The Jews therefore were making the Cross of Christ of none-effect by claiming that the works of the Law such as circumcision were still necessary. But these works as we have seen were not required particularly since the Law had been set aside by Christ death and resurrection.

Now the other problem relating to “works vs Grace” relates to the problem faced by the early reformers like Martin Luther. By the time of the Reformation the Roman Church had established a religions system which suggested that a man had to do “good works” in order to “earn” his salvation. Piety was defined in terms of “good works” that were deemed necessary for one to earn his place in heaven. As a result, the Roman Church believed and taught “justification by works” instead of “justification by faith”, which Paul preached. Often times therefore, when the issue of “works vs Grace” is spoken of, the two different types of “works” (“works of the Law” and “good works”) are often conflated without any distinction made. As a result we arrive at a crossroads where we say that a man is justified only by Grace and there is no need for works. The following verses of Eph 2 define salvation by Grace:

Eph 2

5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved😉 6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

In contrast to the teachings of the Roman church of justification by works, Paul writing to the Ephesians makes it clear here that salvation is by grace through faith only and not of ourselves. In other words we cannot save ourselves simply by doing what is considered “good works” because if we have “good works” yet not faith in Christ we or still lost. Is it correct to say then that because we are saved by Grace then there is no need for good works? I think this is where the church today has missed an opportunity by its complacency in neglecting to do good works. The key terminology Paul used is that salvation is by Grace THROUGH FAITH. In James’ exposition on faith in James 2:26 he makes it abundantly clear that faith, if it has not works is DEAD and dead faith cannot obtain Grace. Good works are therefore necessary for our faith to come alive in Jesus Christ! Can we therefore continue to juxtapose “Grace” against “works”? No! For salvation is BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH and faith necessitates works otherwise it is dead. Here is what James said:

James 2

18Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. 19Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness:

There we have it! Justification by faith is in fact the same as justification by works (in the perfection of faith)!

The modern church to a large extent however would seem to have held on to the doctrine of “Grace alone” neglecting the fact that “good works” are necessary in the exercising of our faith. This is perhaps one of the main reasons why the power of God in confirming the gospel is not evident in most churches today.

The Gospel of Salvation – part 1 October 27, 2010

Posted by Henry in Matters of the Faith.
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The following write-up is in response to an invitation from my brother in Christ Glasseyedave (from over at “The Gospel According to the Gospel“) to enter into a deeper discourse about the nature of our Gospel. I thought I would present my responses here as well since they demonstrate my belief concerning the Gospel, and which I hope may be of benefit to someone also. Anyone wishing to follow the discourse may also link to it here: Changing the Debate.

Hi Dave,

I welcome your offer for us to enter into deeper discourse concerning matters of the Gospel. I am honoured that you should approach me with respect to entering such a discussion with you and let me say that I do not think you are being arrogant at all. In my view if we cannot break “bread” in this way as brothers in Christ then what is the point? I too get frustrated when I share things whether on my blog or elsewhere and people shy away from it instead of engaging me – if even to say that I am wrong. We can have a civilised discussion even if we disagree but hopefully by having a discussion we can together come to the knowledge of truth. However, let us be patient towards one another and let us look at the issues portion by portion. If we try to eat too much “bread” all at once they we might not be able to swallow.

In your post there are a number of different but interconnected issues so the first issue that I would like us to discuss is on the issue of the Two Covenants. I referred to the two covenants as two different dispensations but you contend that they are not so. But let me warn you though that when I use the term “dispensations” it does not mean that I subscribe to “dispensational theology” as I have not studied this or had it preached to me. I therefore try not to approach the scriptures with bias (particularly from previous learning) but try to allow the letter and the Spirit to reveal to me what they will.

So why do I say that there are necessarily two dispensations on the road to Salvation? Well namely because we have Two Covenants (I do take cognisance of the fact that salvation and fellowship with God also existed before Abraham as per Enoch, Noah etc). Under the Old Covenant though, the Lord purposed to carve out a people for Himself who would be an ensign to the rest of mankind. This people, Israel, were to be the oracles of God and who were to set an example in righteousness for the nations round about them. Of course it would not be wrong to say that this was God’s sovereign will through His Grace. Israel of course were inheritors of God’s divine favour and hence why they were God’s chosen people. Under this Covenant however, Jesus had not yet gone to Calvary, the Holy Spirit had not been sent to “comfort” the church and there was no “regeneration” of the spirit of man (no born again experience). Under the Old Covenant therefore it was the Law (as opposed to the Spirit) that convicted man of sin. Repentance and remission were thus obtained through ritual sacrifices, and of course it was God’s Grace to forgive Israel of their sins through the “mechanisms” of these practices, which were mainly symbolic. These things were a shadow of the New Covenant which God promised in Abraham.

In reference to the New Covenant therefore God promised to make Abraham the father of many nations. This promise we know was fulfilled in Christ when the promise of the Spirit [by faith] came to the Gentiles. Man thus was no longer circumcised in the flesh after the manner of Abraham but rather received the circumcision of the heart. It goes without saying therefore that the righteousness of God which was imputed to Abraham is the same righteousness that we who had been cut off without a hope (the wild olive tree) have been grafted into. The difference however is that the righteousness which was instructed by the Law is now instructed by the Spirit through the redemptive work of Christ on the Cross. Under the Old Covenant Christ was promised and hence the Old pointed the way to the New – under the New Christ was given. What the Old could not accomplish therefore [and this is significant] the New is able to accomplish. I would like to highlight a couple of verses from Hebrews 9 here although the whole chapter is worth reading:

8The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that COULD NOT make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; [Emphasis added]

We see from the verse that the Old Covenant with it’s ordinances and sacrifices could not make those who preformed them perfect. Similar in Heb 8:7-13 we learn that if the Old was faultless there would not be any need for the New and the Old which decays is now ready to vanish away.

To sum up therefore, I contend that there has been TWO dispensations on the road to salvation – the first we called the Old Covenant which has now vanished away and the second which we call the New Covenant that was confirmed in the blood of Jesus Christ. If there aren’t two dispensations then we are saying that the Jews can continue to live under the Old Covenant (not recognizing it’s no more) and be saved. I think this is where the “works of the Law” are held as distinctly separate from “salvation of Grace” to say that the works of the Law cannot save you but only the Grace of God, which does not require works.

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