New Covenant Thinking

Book of Hebrews Pic

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DAILY DEVOTIONALS

THE TRUE IDENTITY of JESUS CHRIST – Hebrews Chapter 1:1-13

OFFENDING THE POWERS THAT BE – Hebrews Chapter 1:13-14

WHEN I CALL, HE COMES – Hebrews Chapter 2:1-18

LIFE BEYOND THE MATRIX – Hebrews Chapter 3:1-19

FINDING OUR PEACE – THE TRUE CHRISTIAN SABBATH – Hebrews Chapter 4:1-11

EVIL IS PRESENT IN ME – Hebrews Chapter 4:14-16

GROW ME UP, LORD – Hebrews Chapter 5

GONE WITH THE WIND – Hebrews Chapter 6

MELCHIZEDEK AND OTHER “MULTIDIMENSIONALS” – Hebrews Chapter 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gone With the Wind

Book of Hebrews, Chapter 6 – While God has made it clear that He will never leave or forsake us, the Bible makes it very clear that we can, indeed, leave and forsake Him.

Matters of the Heart

Love and Relationships:

1 - God in Love Snap

What if God not only loves you, but is, in fact, in love with you?

 

 

2 - Emotionally Invested

Why do some people (preachers) often try to separate love from emotion? Isn’t it okay for God to love us, and for us to love, with all our mind and with all our heart?

 

3 - Love Talk with Leah

You’re welcome to “listen in” as Salty and daughter, Leah, talk together and share some of their feelings and insight into how God’s love is revealed in and through us!

 

4 - By Blood or Love

When it comes right down to it, what makes a “family,” really – is it blood, or is it love?

 

5 - People Change

Have you ever stood simply amazed at how the circumstances of life, and even the people in your life, can so drastically change???

 

6 - Love Safari

Soooo, Salty daringly risks life and limb to talk about love and marriage… but, will he survive?

 


Discipleship and Christian Living:


It’s a Point of Doctrine:

Yes – Believe it or not, People Change

Daily Devotional Thoughts – Have you ever stood simply amazed at how the circumstances of life, and even the people in your life, can so drastically change???

By “Blood,” or by “Love”

Daily Devotional Thoughts – When it comes right down to it, what makes a “family,” really – blood or love?

Evil Is Present In Me

Book of Hebrews, Chapter 4:14-16 – Why I so desperately need my “High Priest”… because evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good!

The True Christian Sabbath

Book of Hebrews, Chapter 4:1-11 – We will find our “Peace” when we enter into God’s rest – the true Christian Sabbath!

Offending the Powers That Be

Book of Hebrews, Chapter 1:13-14 – Who is really in control? What might happen to me if I dare to offend “The Powers That Be?” Will I be censored, deplatformed, non-personed, or worse???

Baptism “For Forgiveness of Sin”

A Dialectic Response to Mr. Cooper Abrams’ (2006) Alleged Refutation of the Necessity of “Baptism for the Forgiveness of Sin”

Mr. Abrams (2006) begins his treatise, alleging that water baptism is not “for”—in order to receive—forgiveness of sin, by assigning particular terminology and a generalized definition to the concept of water baptism, saying: “This position is commonly called ‘baptismal regeneration’ because it holds that one is ‘regenerated’ or saved only when a person is baptized” (para. 1). While we acknowledge that there are many people in this world who have been led to think of baptism in those terms, this paper purports to establish the fact that every authentic New Covenant child of God—believing that, indeed, baptism is “for the forgiveness of sin,”—knows better. They understand that the efficacy of baptism has nothing to do with the water, or the act of being immersed in water, in and of itself. The New Covenant children of God do not believe in “baptismal regeneration” or “water regeneration,” even though they do hold to the premise that baptism is when and where a living faith connects with God’s saving grace. They understand that baptism has nothing to do with the efficacy of the water, or the act of baptism itself, to merit, earn, warrant, or deserve salvation in any way.

For Mr. Abrams to begin his article by using such a term, and applying his particular definition to it throughout his article in such a broad and general way, is simply a rhetorical device—the appeal to the “straw man”—defined as:

…a common type of argument and is an informal fallacy based on the misrepresentation of the original topic of argument. To be successful, a straw man argument requires that the audience be ignorant or uninformed of the original argument. The so-called typical “attacking a straw man” implies an adversarial, polemic, or combative debate, and creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent’s proposition by covertly replacing it with a different proposition (i.e., “stand up a straw man”) and then to refute or defeat that false argument, (“knock down a straw man,”) instead of the original proposition. This technique has been used throughout history in polemical debate, particularly in arguments about highly charged emotional issues where a fiery, entertaining “battle” and the defeat of an “enemy” may be more valued than critical thinking or understanding both sides of the issue. (Straw Man, 2014).

After setting up his “straw man,” Mr. Abrams (2006) gives himself permission to call everyone who believes that water baptism is, indeed, for the forgiveness of sin, “baptismal regenerationists” (para. 2). Thus he has effectively labeled his “straw man.” The rhetorical practice of using names, labels, and general stereotyping—whether they accurately apply or not—is certainly easier than having to deal with actual truth and the real heart issues that are involved.

Mr. Abrams (2006) then goes on to offer a brief summary of what he thinks these alleged “baptismal regenerationists” believe and teach; using what he refers to as “supposed ‘proof text[s]’” (para 2). We might note that his blatant use of uncontextualized truth is precisely how the serpent approached and deceived Eve in the garden. It is also how Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness. False spirits are not opposed to using the Holy Scripture as a weapon of deception. They know that the closer to the truth, the better the lie. And the best lie is always the truth when it can be used that way.

By offering a barrage of scripture up front, Mr. Abrams (2006) give the impression of acknowledging and understanding his “straw man” enemy. He also seeks to give some impression of scholarship. However, it should be noted that a true scholar would not simply present his own, paraphrased, brief summary of what he thinks other people believe. Rather, he would offer actual documentation, in the words of his alleged opponents, to substantiate what they truly believe. However, that approach would require a tremendous amount of effort on the part of Mr. Abrams because of the way in which he collectively groups several different Christian denominational faiths together under his “straw man” campaign, saying, “Groups that teach this include the Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists, many Pentecostal groups including the United Pentecostal Church, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Church of Christ (Russelites)” (para. 2). Mr. Abrams then presents his argument as though what each of these respective groups teach on this particular issue is essentially the same thing—convenient for Mr. Abrams, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Furthermore, Mr. Abrams (2006) displays what is, at least, a serious editorial mistake, if not profound ignorance, when he denotes “the Church of Christ” as “Russelites.” Mr. Abrams errs in two ways in making this statement. First, he speaks of “the Church of Christ” as though it were one big denominational organization; when, in fact, such an organization does not actually exist. The people Abrams is referencing should be more accurately described as “the churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16); each being an independent and autonomous, nondenominational, community Christian fellowship linked only by love. While one of these local fellowships in a given location might be called “a church of Christ,” there is currently no such common denomination as “the Church of Christ” in the United States.

Second, Mr. Abrams (2006) errs in that, so far as history recounts, members of the churches of Christ have never been commonly referred to as “Russelites.” However, that term has been sometimes used of the Jehovah Witnesses denomination. What Mr. Abrams may have been referring to, with regard to what he mistakenly calls “the Church of Christ” is the term “Campbellite,” which is “a mildly pejorative term referring to adherents of certain religious groups that have historic roots in the Restoration Movement, among whose most prominent 19th century leaders were Thomas and Alexander Campbell. Members of these groups generally consider the term “Campbellite” inappropriate, saying that they are followers of Jesus, not Campbell” (Campbellite, 2014). But whether this is the term Mr. Abrams’ was fishing for or not, his spirit of pejorative name calling, just as with his general groupings of different faiths in seeking support for his “straw man,” is less than academic.

Mr. Abrams (2006) then launches a campaign of refutation in which he purports to knock down all the alleged tenets of his “straw man” and put the Holy Scriptures in their proper light. In so doing, he uses various terms and phrases that the Bible does not use to describe his perceptions of truth. For example, he calls baptism “an important first act of obedience” (para. 3)—nowhere in scripture is baptism referred to in this way—and seeks to redefine Biblical “faith” by equating it with mere “belief” by saying things like, “Overwhelmingly the Bible stresses that a person is saved by grace through faith and that salvation is a gift of God, freely given, when one believes in Jesus Christ for their salvation. (Eph. 2:8-9)” (para. 3). Of course, that is “not” what this passage of scripture actually says. It says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…”When Mr. Abrams adds the phrase, “when one believes in Jesus Christ,” he is only adding his own theological perspective, but couching it as though it were scripture. This is misleading at best and, perhaps, another deliberate deception.

Reading his own theological perspectives into scripture, as he has done here in Ephesians 2:8-9, characterizes a lot of the rest of Mr. Abrams’ (2006) campaign to negate the importance of water baptism—or any other physical expression of faith—in salvation; as, verse-by-verse, he seeks to offer, as the only reliable interpretation of scripture, his own theological constructs. Whether Mr. Abrams’ theology is rooted and grounded in the five basic tenets of Calvinism is a little hard to tell simply by this one manuscript. But it is clear that he has a Calvinistic approach to salvation insofar as he believes that faith, “faith alone,” and, in particular, his definition of faith—which equates to belief only—is all that God requires for salvation. This is seen in statements made by Abrams, such as:

  • “The clear teaching of the New Testament is that it is faith and faith alone that saves” (para. 4).
  • “God did not change the requirement for salvation after the cross. It was by faith only both before and after the cross” (para. 8).
  • “For example look again at the issue here. Sixty passages, including the classic passage of Ephesians 2:8-9, say that salvation is received by faith and faith alone” (para. 9). We need to note here that, contrary to what Mr. Abrams (2006) so boldly asserts, there is not one single passage of scripture, NOT ONE, anywhere in the Bible that says that anyone is saved by “faith alone.” There is only one place in all of scripture where the term “faith alone” is even used, and that is in James 2:24, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

Abrams (2006) also makes it a point to note that, “At least sixty times the New Testament states that salvation is received by faith with no mention of baptism” (para. 4). Abrams makes it sound as though, somehow, the sheer volume of scripture references one can cite has everything to do with establishing truth. But is it not true that if even one passage of scripture reveals a portion of God’s truth, that one passage must be accredited the same weight and significance as every other passage of scripture? Does the Bible not say, “The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting“ (Psalm 119:160)? So why would Abrams even attempt such a futile rhetorical tactic; except to try to win his point!

I think we can attribute much of Abrams’ (2006) efforts at explaining away the meaning of scripture to his fundamental misunderstanding of just what “faith” really is. As noted in the references above, and throughout his article, Abrams apparently equates “faith” with “belief.” There is little doubt that, for him, individual salvation takes place when people belief in Christ; although it is likely that even he might say that they must also “receive Jesus into their hearts as Lord and Savior”—another theological construct that can be found nowhere in scripture. But what Mr. Abrams is missing, what he needs to discover and come to terms with, is that Biblical “faith” is, and always has been, much more than mere “belief.”

Remember the Biblical teaching from the book of James—a book that I note Abrams (2006) keeps well away from—when he says:

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? [do not doubt we’re talking about “saving” faith here] If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected [brought to completion]; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (James 2:14-26)

At this point we may want to stop and ask ourselves, “Who do we really want to believe here, Mr. Abrams (2006)—who says we are saved by faith alone—or James, the elder of the church in Jerusalem, physical brother of Jesus, and inspired author of one of the books of the New Testament who says we are “justified by works and not by faith alone”? Both cannot be right, Either Abrams is right and we agree with him. Or, James is right and we agree with him.

There is one other option, but Abrams (2006) doesn’t like it very much. That option is that Paul in Ephesians 2:8-9 and James in James 2:14-26 are talking about two entirely different kinds of works. While Paul, in context, is talking about legalistic, meritorious works of law by which people seek to justify themselves, James, in context, is talking about works that are the expression of a living faith; but without which faith is useless, faith is dead and, therefore, are essential to our justification.

But Abrams (2006) will not accept the possibility of that explanation, for he says:

Often the baptismal regenerationist trying to reconcile his belief with Ephesians 2:8-9 will state that baptism is not a “work.” However, the word translated “work” is the Greek noun ergon ergon er’-gon and means a “an act, deed, thing done” (2). Baptism is indeed a physical act, to which a person submits and is physically immersed under water. It is the deliberate result of new believer exercising his will and agreeing to be baptized. This is the same word used in passages such as 1 Timothy 5:10, 25; 6:18, 2 Timothy 3:17, which refer to “good works” (kalos ergon). To silence any doubt note that the word is used in 2 Timothy 4:14, “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works(ergon).” There can be no mistake that the word means some action a person takes. Alexander the coppersmith’s evil deeds were acts or works he committed. (para. 10)

What should be noted is that the same Greek word, “ergon,” is also used by James when he says, “You see that a man is justified by works [ergon] and not by faith alone” (James 2:24). Mr. Abrams (2006) seriously misrepresents those who believe that baptism is essential to salvation when he lumps them all together under his “straw man” and says that they “state that baptism is not a ‘work’” (para. 10). No authentic New Covenant child of God that I know will ever say that baptism is not a “work.” Baptism is a work, just as confession is a work, and repentance is a work, and pursuing “the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14) is a work. But what Mr. Abrams fails to see, or what he will not agree to see, is that confession, repentance, baptism, and the pursuit of sanctification are not the kinds of works that the Apostle Paul was speaking of in Ephesians 2—meritorious works of law by which one seeks to justify himself. Rather, they are the kind of works that James was speaking of in James 2—expressions of living faith; the kind of faith upon which our access to God’s grace depends.

But just as no authentic New Covenant child of God that I know will ever say that baptism is not a work, so also, they will never tell you that their faith is in their works. We do not put our faith in the waters of baptism. We do not put our faith in the fact that we surrendered ourselves to God in baptism, or that we have repented of our sins, or that we confess with our mouth Jesus as Lord, or that we are in constant pursuit of sanctification. We know that none of these things can save us. We work, because a living faith will not allow us to do otherwise. And we know that, as James teaches, our works bring our faith to completion. But our faith is not in our works. Our faith is not even in our faith. Sadly people can misdirect their faith by putting their faith in the fact that they have faith. But we are not saved by our faith, any more than we are saved by our works. We are saved only “by” God’s grace, which He has poured out for us through the sacrificial gift of His Son. And that grace is made abundantly available to those who, by faith, surrender their hearts and lives to God in obedience to His will as expressed through His holy and inspired word—the Bible.

We can point to the entire chapter of Hebrews 11 for example after example of what faith is; each example involving not only a conviction in one’s heart, but a living demonstration of that conviction—bringing their faith to completion. For example, the book of Hebrews says, “By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household” (verse 7). Noah and family were saved by faith, but it wasn’t a dead faith that merely believed. Rather, it was a living faith that PREPARED AN ARK! Had they only believed, but taken no action, they would have perished. Why? Because, as James 2 says, “…faith without works is useless” (verse 20). In the same way, Hebrews 11 says, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days(verse 30). Now we know that all the marching in the world could not have made those walls fall down. It wasn’t the marching that did it and the Hebrews children did not put their faith in their marching; they put their faith in Jehovah God. It was He who made the walls fall down and they knew that very well. But those wall didn’t fall until the marching occurred. Why? Because as James 2 says, “faith without works is dead” (verse 26).

Is it, then, too much for Mr. Abrams (2006) to imagine that faith is more than the mere mental acquiescence to the validity of something; that it is more than just belief, more than just accepting? In light of James’ teaching and what the Bible says faith really is, is it really too much for Mr. Abrams and company to imagine that God, as a prerequisite to gaining access to the blood of Christ, would call upon people to actually express the convictions of their heart by meeting Him at the watery grave of baptism, and there demonstrating their faith in what Jesus has done for them—His death, burial, and resurrection—through their own symbolic death, burial, and resurrection to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4)? Perhaps that is, indeed, just a little too much for a heart steeped in the doctrines of John Calvin to ever comprehend?

I love the Apostle Paul’s explanation of baptism, in addressing the church at Colossae, when he says: “and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:11-12). In this passage, Paul not only defines baptism as the moment we receive our spiritual circumcision, but he points out exactly where the efficacy of authentic Bible baptism lies when he says that “you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God…” Every authentic New Covenant child of God that I know knows exactly where their faith was at when they were baptized; and it was not in themselves, not in their obedience, not in their performances, and certainly not in the “water” itself. Their faith was, and is, in “the working of God!” That is about as far away from the kind of meritorious works of law, which Paul addressed in Ephesians 2, as one can get!

Faith cannot be separated from works; any more than love can be separated from obedience. Jesus said, “If you love Me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15) and “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me” (John 14:21). While the Calvinists, and others like them, try to separate it all out and make “faith” one thing and “works another, or “love” one thing and “obedience” another, the truth is they are all one big ball of wax. As James points out, a living faith necessitates works and works of faith bring one’s faith to completion.

But not only do Abrams (2006) and company fail to differentiate between two entirely different kinds of works, thus throwing the writings of Paul and James into conflict with one another, but they also seem to neglect the very teachings of Jesus Himself concerning the importance of works to our salvation. Abrams says we are saved by faith alone, completely separate and apart from any works whatsoever, even works that are simply expressions of our faith. But Jesus said:

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness. (Matthew 7:21-23)

So now the question becomes, “Who are we to believe, Abrams (2006) or Jesus?” I think we all know the answer to THAT one. And, while I am sure that Abrams and company have found some way to explain away those statements made by Jesus—I mean, how could they not try to come up with something that will seemingly justify their position—it behooves us, as disciples of Christ and students of the Word, to not let these guys off the hook. There is simply no way that the Calvinists, or anyone remotely related to their doctrinal positions, can look at the teachings of Christ in this particular passage, and throughout the Gospels, and continue to hold to their doctrine of “faith only” without trying to do an awful lot of explaining away.

I am sometimes virtually dumbfounded at how far people will sometimes go to reinterpret a passage of scripture, or an event in Bible history, in order to maintain their doctrine. For example, concerning Luke’s account of the thief on the cross, Abrams (2006) says:

One passage the baptismal regeneration people have never really correctly understood is Luke 23:42-43 and the fact the thief on the cross was saved as Jesus declared, and was never baptized. They try to skirt the matter by saying this was before the Church Age when baptism was initiated. They state that Romans 10:9-10 requires that to be saved a person must believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. The thief could not have believed that because Christ had not yet arisen. The problem with that idea is that it does not take into account how were people in the Old Testament saved? Old Testament saints were saved by faith, through the grace of God as Hebrews 11 explains. This chapter is the Bible’s Hall of Faith and states repeatedly how from Abel on men believed the revelation they were given by God and were saved. Abraham never heard the name of Jesus Christ or of His death, burial and resurrection, but he was certainly saved…. (para. 5)

The Bible teaches that no one in the Old or New Testament who was saved, merited or earned it in any way. The thief died in the Old Testament dispensation during the time the Mosaic Law was in force. He expressed saving faith while hanging on a cross and had no time to keep any law therefore the keeping of any part of the law was certainly not a part of his salvation. Jesus declared that the repentant thief (malefactor) would be with Him that day in Paradise because the thief believed in Jesus Christ and nothing more… (para. 7)

As seen in this text, Mr. Abrams (2006) is very good a telling us what the Bible teaches—in light of his own theological positions. However, even a casual reading of Hebrews 11 reveals that the theme of the whole chapter is “faith in action”; demonstrating for us in example after example how that authentic “faith” is much more than mere “belief”; and how that it consists not only of a conviction within our hearts but the physical expression of that conviction, as well. In the section above, Abrams (2006) speaks of Abel, of whom the book of Hebrews says he offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks” (verse 4). Does that sound like “faith” is only “believing” to you? Abrams also mentions Abraham, of whom the book of Hebrews says he obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going” (verse 8). I’m thinking Abrams’ Old Testament appeals to faith being nothing more than a mental acquiescence to, or belief in, something is not doing him any favors.

But, back to the thief on the cross. I am amazed, startled even, at how quickly those of Calvinists heritage run to this particular illustration to try to prove their point concerning baptism not being a part of God’s plan for receiving the forgiveness of sin. They inevitably say, “Well, what about the thief on the cross, he wasn’t baptized and Jesus saved him?” To this point we must point out that:

First, if it’s just “baptism” we’re talking about, how does Mr. Abrams (2006) know that the thief on the cross had not been baptized with the baptism of John? He very well may have been. According to the Bible, “When all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God’s justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John” (Luke 7:29-30). Perhaps, at one time or another, the thief on the cross had, indeed, been among those people who were baptized by John, or one of his disciples. Just because he had sinned, and was now hanging on a cross beside Jesus, does not mean that he was totally disobedient to the will of God. It was the religious leaders—lawyers and Pharisees—who, like Abrams and company, “rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John” (verse 30). Why is it always the religious leaders who, seemingly, cannot see what the common people so easily see? But whether or not the thief on the cross had ever been baptized with the baptism of John is a moot point because, it’s Jesus’ baptism, commanded after His death, burial, and resurrection, that we have in view here, not John’s baptism.

Second—and, really, of greater importance—despite Abrams (2006) claims to the contrary, it remains important to the discussion to remember that the thief on the cross lived and died prior to Jesus’ commands concerning baptism. When Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19) and, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16), He made these statements after His death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism, as taught in the New Testament, is an expression of saving faith symbolizing the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ—as we die to self and to sin (Romans 6:6), are “buried with Him through baptism into death” and raised up to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). How could the thief on the cross have be expected to have done any of that when Jesus had not yet died, nor had He issued His commandment regarding baptism? The whole appeal to the thief on the cross—with regard to Christian baptism, or any other New Covenant expression of saving faith—is a moot point!

If the Biblical account of the thief on the cross has anything whatsoever so say about our own salvation, it is not with specific regard to baptism or any other expression of the faith to which we are called in accordance with the terms of the New Covenant. Rather, much to the chagrin of the “legalists” on both sides of all such issues, it speaks to the beautiful, compassionate, ever gracious character of a wild and passionate God who will not be tamed or constrained by any man’s theology. I have had both conservative legalists and liberal legalist (and, yes, there are legalists—people who base their salvation, and that of others, on how well they adhere to particular tenets and practices of some religious doctrine or another—on both sides of every issue) tell me that, if God makes a single exception for any individual with regard to what He requires for salvation, then He must make that same exception for every person. Such legalistic thinking, however, does not take into account that God looks deeply into our heart—individually, person-by-person—and deals with us accordingly.

The thief on the cross is a first class example of God’s personal attention to, and intimate dealings with, the individual human heart. As the thief hung there beside Jesus, suspended between heaven and earth, and between two covenants—the Old Covenant with its Law of Moses, which was obsolete and passing away (Hebrews 8:13), and the New Covenant, which was about to be inaugurated with Christ’s own blood (Hebrews 9:15-16)—he was, to be sure, in a unique position. Whatever faith and obedience he had demonstrated in accordance with the Law of Moses, or even with regard to the prophetic authority of John the Baptizer, was now all behind him and there was nothing more he could ever do to show his penitence. He could do nothing to make restitution in accordance with the old law. He could offer no animal sacrifice for himself down at the temple. If he had not submitted to John’s prophetic authority, it was too late now. No one was going to take him down from that cross and over to the Pool of Siloam for baptism. Everything pertaining to the Old Covenant dispensation was behind him and irretrievable.

Likewise, whatever expressions of faith and love required by our Lord in accordance with the terms of the New Covenant in Christ were beyond him and out of his reach. He had no knowledge or comprehension of some future baptism that Christ had not yet even commanded, or of what such an act of surrender might mean with regard to becoming a New Covenant child of God.

All he had to offer God in that moment was a living faith in Jesus as the Christ; a saving faith that prompted him to, well, do something—so he opened his mouth and rebuked the other criminal, then confessed his own sin and guilt, and then, finally, confessed Jesus as His Lord and King as he entreated Him to remember him. It was not exactly in keeping with the Law of Moses under which, technically, he lived and died. It was not exactly what John the baptizer had been preaching earlier. It was also not even entirely in keeping with what Jesus Himself, and the apostles and prophets of the New Testament, would later command, following the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. But it was all that he had to offer in that moment; and, by faith, he offered what he had.

I think it incredulous for the Calvinists among us, or anybody else, to run to the thief on the cross and so tritely use him as some kind of rhetorical devise to justify their own theological positions; and especially to use him to negate something that Jesus Himself would later command following His own death, burial, and resurrection. I think it must break the thief’s heart—and I hate continually referring to him as “the thief,” must he continue to wear that label for eternity? Furthermore, I know it breaks our Lord’s heart for such a beautiful example of intimacy and compassion to be used in such a legalistic way. I also can’t help but think that, given the kind of heart that that man who was redeemed by Christ’s love on the cross reveals to us as he hung there beside Jesus, had he somehow miraculously survived that whole ordeal, and upon hearing his risen Savior say, “he who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16), that man would have been among the first in line to surrender his heart and life to Christ in baptism.

What I learn from the account of the redeemed man on the cross—thief no longer—is that God will forgive whoever He chooses, whether such forgiveness conforms to human expectations or not. And no amount of doctrine or dogma—Christian, Calvinist, or otherwise—can get in the way of that! As the Apostle Paul records it, “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires” (Romans 9:18). But God does not harden good and honest hearts. I know this because Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8) and, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). If a person is actively seeking God, like that merchant who was constantly in pursuit of the “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:45-46), or even if a person simply has an open heart and, like the man who accidently found the hidden treasure buried in a field (Matthew 13:44), is willing to do anything to be a part of God’s eternal kingdom once they have discovered it, then God will surely give that person every opportunity to know the truth, to respond in living faith, and to be saved by the blood of Christ. But there is a huge difference between that kind of person—one like the man who was redeemed by Christ’s love on the cross—and someone who, being more devoted to their religion than they are the Lord, continues to walk contrary to the teachings of God’s word.

I was asked one time, by a liberal legalist, if I thought that someone killed in a tragic accident on their way to be baptized would still go to heaven. I answered, “In view of the thief on the cross, I believe that, yes, of course they would.” “But,” I continued, “I don’t think someone who is running in the opposite direction, away from the waters of baptism, will be saved.” When he asked me to explain that further, I simply said, “Well, as we learn from the account of the thief on the cross, it’s all about what is going on in our hearts. A surrendered heart seeking the Lord’s will is one thing, but a rebellious heart seeking its own will, or willing to put some theological concept ahead of the expressed will of God, is quite another.”

Not long after Jesus had issued His commandments regarding baptism, the Apostle Peter preached the first recorded gospel sermon on the Day of Pentecost—recorded in Acts, Chapter 2. Near the end of his sermon, when the people were convicted and cried out, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (verse 37), Peter told them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (verse 38). Simple enough, right! But along comes men like Mr. Abrams (2006) who says:

The true interpretation of Acts 2:38 is not clouded in a great mystery that cannot be understood. Anyone with the most basic skills in Bible study can research and find the correct meaning of the verse. Acts 2:38 says, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” The preposition “for” is the Greek work “eis” and simply means “with a view towards,” “in connection with,” “because of,” or “in light of.” In other words, Peter said that because they had believed and repented these people should now be baptized. (para. 11)

It appears that Abrams (2006) wants to distort simple Bible teaching by taking us to the original Greek language and arguing over the meaning of “for” [eis]. So let’s go there. It is important to note that:

…the standard Greek lexicons do not define “eis” as “because of” with reference to Acts 2:38. J.H. Thayer, for instance, translated the term as follows, citing Acts 2:38 — “eis aphesin hamartion, to obtain the forgiveness of sins” (Greek-English Lexicon, Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, 1958, 94). Wm. Arndt and F.W. Gingrich, in a section where “eis” is defined as expressing “purpose,” with the sense of “in order to,” rendered the same phrase: “for forgiveness of sins, so that sins might be forgiven . . . Acts 2:38:” (Greek-English Lexicon, Chicago: University of Chicago, 1967, 228). Elliger states that “eis,” in Acts 2:38, is designed “to indicate purpose” (Horst Balz & Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990, Vol. 1, 399). In his discussion of Acts 2:38, Ceslas Spicq noted: “Water baptism is a means of realizing this conversion, and its goal—something altogether new—is a washing, ‘the remission of sins’” (Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994, Vol. 1, 242). (Jackson, 2014)

The “for” [eis] in Acts 2:38, when Peter says, ““Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for [eis] the forgiveness of your sins” means the very same thing that it means in Luke 24:47 when Jesus said, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for [eis] forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Jesus made both repentance and baptism prerequisites to salvation. And Peter faithfully proclaimed the same on the Day of Pentecost.

Concerning Abrams (2006) treatment of the events recorded in Acts, Chapter 10 concerning the salvation of the household of Cornelius, he says:

Cornelius and those present with him, when Peter preached the Gospel to them, believed and received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit; following this they were baptized in water. If water baptism was necessary for salvation why did the Holy Spirit indwell them as believers BEFORE they were baptized in water? The baptism of the Holy Spirit refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life and receiving the new nature from God. Peter asks the question, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” (Acts 10:47) Peter is effectively saying that Cornelius was saved and had received the Holy Spirit as Peter had and those who believed with him, at Pentecost in Acts 2. Peter further said that Cornelius, who was now saved along with those there with him, should now be baptized in water. If salvation is received at baptism, as some believe, this passage would then be essentially and incorrectly interpreted as saying that the Holy Spirit will indwell the unsaved. (para. 18)

While Mr. Abrams (2006) seeks to line us out on what Peter is “effectively” saying—which is only Abrams personal interpretation of the scene—what he fails to grasp is that what the household of Cornelius received that day was not the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” The Bible does not say that they had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit (doesn’t anybody read their Bible anymore) only that “the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message” (verse 44). In fact, the phrase or term, “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” does not actually occur anywhere in scripture. It is a manmade phrase used in many different ways according to various denominational doctrines.

However, the concept of a baptizing “with the Holy Spirit,” or similar wording, does occur several times in scripture:

  • Matt. 3:11, “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
  • Mark 1:8, “I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
  • Luke 3:16, “John answered and said to them all, ‘As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
  • John 1:33, “And I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, “He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.”
  • Acts 1:5, “for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
  • Acts 11:16, “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

The actual fulfillment of these passages of scripture, concerning a baptism of the Holy Spirit, occurred on the Day of Pentecost—Acts, Chapter 2. It was a onetime, historical event that took place when Jesus, in fulfillment of the prophecy made by Joel, poured forth His Spirit “on all mankind” (Acts 2:17). Thus the Holy Spirit, for the first time ever, was made available, freely accessible to all people everywhere. After that occurred, the Holy Spirit immediately began to empower the apostles, enabling them to speak languages they had never studied or spoken before.

Until the conversion of the household of Cornelius, all Christians were Jews or Jewish proselytes, and there were strong cultural mores indicating to their 1st Century minds that one must become a Jew—an adherent of the Law of Moses—before becoming a Christian. In other words, Christianity was for Jews only (that sounds rather strange to our modern ears). But the Apostle Peter and company, along with all Christians everywhere, needed to be convicted of the fact that Jesus died for all men everywhere, that salvation was not just for the Jews, and that one need not become a Jew in order to become a Christian. Hence the events of Acts 10. And what better way for God to demonstrate to Peter that on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit had been poured forth, He had been made available to all men everywhere, and not just to Jews, than to empower the household of Cornelius with a divine sign—in precisely the same way that He had empowered the apostles on the Day of Pentecost—by allowing them to also speak in foreign languages they had never studied or learned.

But this wonderful gift of empowerment was not some kind of second baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had been poured forth only once upon “all flesh”—“baptizing” or immersing the whole earth in His presence; Jews and Gentiles. Acts 10 even says that what was so amazing to Peter was the fact that “the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out [past tense—on day of Pentecost] on the Gentiles also” (verse 45). Then came the empowering of the apostles, and later the household of Cornelius, as evidence of that. However, the giving of the “gift of the Holy Spirit”—or the “indwelling” of the Holy Spirit—occurs only at the point of baptism (Acts 2:38), when one is saved by the blood of Christ and access to God is thereby granted. This is why Peter immediately “ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:48).

Mr. Abrams (2006) makes at least two significant errors when he jumps to conclusions and makes assumption that are not necessitated by scripture. First he says, “If water baptism was necessary for salvation why did the Holy Spirit indwell them as believers BEFORE they were baptized in water?” (para. 18). However, there is no indication that the Holy Spirit had “indwelled” them, but only “empowered” them. The Holy Spirit can empower whomever He wishes, whenever He wishes, ask Balaam’s ass (Numbers 22). If the Lord can open the mouth of a donkey and cause it to speak in a human language, He could certainly open the mouths of the household of Cornelius and cause them to speak in foreign languages. But that does not mean the Holy Spirit had indwelled them, or the donkey for that matter.

Second, Mr. Abrams says, “The baptism of the Holy Spirit refers to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life and receiving the new nature from God” (para. 18). However, both the use of the phrase “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” and the definition he here assigns to it are nothing but the mental constructs of his own theology; and not supported by scripture. As we have already seen, scripture references that point to what could be termed a baptism of the Holy Spirit do not refer to the “indwelling” of the Spirit, but rather to the “pouring forth” of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

I do not think it too bold, at this point, to make the assertion that Mr. Abrams (2006) is either incredibly deceived, reminiscent of Jesus’ statement, “if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:14), or that he is under the influence of a terribly bold false spirit. For what he says next, in connection with Galatians 3:27, is simply a direct violation of New Testament teaching:

Galatians 3:27 is also misused as a supposedly “proof” text by those that teach baptismal regeneration. However, once again the context and even the simplest hermeneutic principles show this verse is not teaching this false doctrine. The context of the passage is teaching salvation by faith and verse 26 says, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Verse 27 is used out of context by the Baptismal Regeneration people and it says, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” The baptism here is the baptism of the Holy Spirit that comes when one by faith believes and is saved. This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit in which the believer is indwelled by the Holy Spirit and given the new nature of God as explained in 2 Cor. 5:17. Gal. 3:24 says “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”; this verse does not say here, or anywhere else in the Scriptures, that one is justified by faith plus works (baptism). If baptism regenerates and saves why not say so here and in the sixty some passages in the New Testament which address being saved but do not mention baptism as a requirement for salvation? (para. 33)

This passage and many others show the important truth that after a person is saved by believing in Jesus Christ as his Savior, baptism and an obedient life are important in showing the evidence of true conversion. (para. 34)

Here, Mr. Abrams (2006) is clearly teaching that there are at least two baptisms: water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism. He equates Holy Spirit baptism with belief and calls that salvation. Then, he emphasizes the need for a second baptism, water baptism; which, he says, is “important in showing evidence of true conversion.” However, the Bible says, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). Again we must ask the question, “Who do we choose to believe: Mr. Abrams who says there is more than one baptism, or the Apostle Paul, who teaches that there is but one baptism?

The baptism presented in scripture is, indeed, water baptism: “As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, ‘Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?’ And Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him” (Acts 8:36-28). But, we know that this water baptism is also an act of the Spirit and represents the moment at which we receive the indwelling of the Spirit: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:13). Water baptism “for the forgiveness of your sins” is baptism by the one Spirit into the one body, and it is at that moment that we receive “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). This is the “one baptism” of Ephesians 4; and anyone who advocates for more than one baptism, or two separate baptisms—water baptism and Spirit baptism—is operating under a false and deceitful spirit.

As Mr. Abrams (2006) closes his treatise on baptism, he not only reveals his own inconsistences, but circumvents his own line of reasoning with regard to “faith only,” for he states:

Some will argue that even if one believes in faith plus baptism they still have believed and are saved. However the fallacy of this thinking can be seen in the teaching that without the act of baptism added to belief there is no salvation. Let me say that again . . . the baptismal regenerationist believes that if he is not baptized he cannot be saved. Clearly, their belief is that baptism is as important as faith according to this teaching because if they are not baptized they are not saved. This teaching degrades faith whereas the Scriptures overwhelmingly speak of the necessity of faith for salvation (sixty times as mentioned earlier) without a hint of or reference to baptism. Surely, all this evidence should alert those seeking God’s truth that it is faith that saves . . . not the work of baptism. (para. 36) … Paul plainly and emphatically proclaimed that any Gospel other than what he taught, which God had given him by revelation, was a false gospel and those that preached a false gospel should be “accursed”; Galatians 1:8-10. (para. 37)

So let’s try to get Mr. Abrams’ (2006) teaching in perspective. First, he asserts that people are saved when they believe in Christ and, I assume, receive or accept Jesus into their heart as their personal Savior. He asserts that this “belief,” which he equates with “faith,” is all that is required and that our works have nothing to do with our salvation. But then he says that those who do believe and who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but who happen to disagree with him and his doctrine of “faith only” are not saved, but accursed. Is that not an incredibly inconsistent theology? All that is required to be saved is belief, but even if you do believe, yet disagree with Abrams, you are accursed? Really? Has he not just shot down his own theology in which he asserts that all that is required is to believe? Is this not, ironically, the epitome of legalism?

As pointed out previously, in the section about the thief on the cross, even many of us who do believe that baptism is “for the forgiveness of sin” (because it is in baptism—the figurative reenactment of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ—that God has chosen to unite faith with grace) are not so legalistic as to presume to judge who is and who is not saved based on how well someone conforms to our own understanding of scripture. While we must always speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), we know that only God can stand in judgment of people’s hearts.

Of course, we do agree with the Apostle Paul’s teaching concerning those who he says deliberately want to “distort the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:7); we believe that they are, indeed, “accursed” (verse 9). But our theology remains consistent in that regard because we do not believe that “belief” is all that is required, or that Biblical “faith” equates to mere “belief.” If it did, then it really wouldn’t matter what one practiced, taught, or how they lived their life, so long as they believed. But, as James said, “the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?” (James 2:19-20).

Mr. Abrams (2006) is correct about a few things—no one is totally wrong about absolutely everything. But one thing, in particular, that he is absolutely correct about, and with which we heartily agree, is when he says, “A person is saved solely on the basis of the shed blood of Jesus Christ which atones for sin. This is the one ‘work’ that saves and was the sole work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, God incarnate in the flesh (John 1:1)” (para. 36). Nothing could be truer and every authentic New Covenant child of God knows it very well. But Mr. Abrams, in his apparent ignorance, in his rush to defend the tenets of John Calvin, and in his feeble “straw man” generalizations of what he presumes to think people believe, has missed the point entirely. Authentic New Covenant children of God—who do believe that baptism is “for the forgiveness of sin”—understand that baptism is not a legalistic work of law. It does not cause us to earn, merit, or deserve anything; any more than endorsing the back of a check causes one to earn or deserve the gift that has been presented to them thereby. Baptism is a surrender of our heart and life to Christ, a demonstration of the conviction that is in our hearts, and the expression of our faith in all that Jesus has done for us.

We know with all our hearts that it is the blood of Christ that justifies us (Romans 5:9), the blood of Christ that redeems us (Ephesians 1:7), the blood of Christ by which we draw near to God (Ephesians 2:13), the blood of Christ that cleanses our conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14), the blood of Christ that continually cleanses us of all our sins (I John 1:7), the blood of Christ that releases us from our sins (Revelation 1:5), the blood of Christ by which we have been purchased for God (Acts 20:28, Revelation 5:9).

Baptism adds nothing to the finished and complete work of Christ. As practiced by the authentic New Covenant children of God, there is nothing meritorious about it, nothing that causes anybody to earn, win, or deserve salvation. While we do believe what the Apostle Peter said, “baptism now saves you,” we understand that it has nothing to do with the washing of water or the “removal of dirt from the flesh” [legalistic works of law] but everything to do with “an appeal unto God for a good conscience” [an expression of living faith] (I Peter 3:21). And, as stated earlier, our faith is not in the water, nor in the act of baptism, nor in our own surrender, or our own obedience, or our own works. We have nothing of our own with which to come before God seeking justification. “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Isaiah 64:6). Rather, our faith, as expressed through baptism, is in one thing and one thing only: the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Baptism is of God. He designed this beautiful and elegant expression of faith to be simple and feasible for people the world over. Faith meets grace at the waters of baptism for it is there that Christ has chosen for us to be “united with Him in the likeness of His death” (Romans 6:5). As the Apostle Paul states, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4)

Respectfully Submitted,

~ Salty ~

References

Abrams, C. (2006). Does the Bible say baptism is necessary for salvation? A Biblical explanation of the question and the verses used that supposedly teach that baptism is necessary for salvation. Retrieved from http://bible-truth.org/BaptismNotNecessary.html

Campbellite. (2014). Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campbellite

Jackson, W. (2014). Dallas professor rebuffs common quibble on “eis.” Christian Currier. Retrieved from https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/395-dallas-professor-rebuffs-common-quibble-on-eis

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”

Straw Man. (2014). Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

What Will Happen When I Die – (soul sleep?)

An invited response to those who advocate the doctrine of “Christian Mortalism” — (soul sleep)…

“Christian Mortalism” is generally defined as the total annihilation of both body and soul after death, while one’s “spirit” continues to exists only as a memory in the mind of God, for an interim period, until the resurrection when a new body, soul, and memory will be reproduced. The doctrine relies on various passages of scripture throughout the Bible that differentiate between the three fundamental elements of humanity, these being: body (soma), soul (psuche), and spirit (pneuma). The terms for soul (psuche) — the “life force” or “animating power of life” — and spirit (pneuma) — “spiritual essence,” or “cognitive self-awareness” — are, indeed, differentiated in such passages as Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” My purpose in sharing these thoughts is not to explore all the various details regarding the doctrine of “Christian Mortalism,” but simply to respond in love to the research of others, having been invited to do so, and perhaps to help shed a bit more “light” on the subject of what happens to us when we die.

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Beloved, first let me express my gratitude to you. I am honored by your trust and confidence in wanting to share your research with me and seek my input. I’m impressed with your level of scholarship; your study habits appear very good. I love your use of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek terms and their direct application to the Biblical distinctions between the spirit, the soul, and the body. I brings to mind the Apostle Paul’s teaching concerning these three distinct elements of humanity when he says:

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit (πνεῦμα – pneuma) and soul (ψυχὴ – psuche) and body (σῶμα – soma) be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 5:23, NASB).

I also greatly appreciate your respect for, and your appeal to, the holy scriptures to help substantiate your proposition. I believe you are being intellectually honest in setting forth the truth of what each individual passage of scripture contains.

My “word of caution” to us as we explore this, or any particular body of doctrine, is that we be sure to remember the Biblical admonition: “The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting” (Psalm 119: 160, NASB). In other words, truth is found in all of God’s word and all of God’s word comprises the truth. We will not, therefore, find the word of God contradicting itself. If it appears as if a contradiction exists, then the problem must be with us and our interpretations or applications of God’s word; but not with the holy scripture itself. I mention this because, regardless of the topic or doctrinal issue we are exploring, I think there is always a temptation for us to focus only on those passages of scripture that seem to support our own line of reasoning. It seems to be difficult for people, especially those who think they’ve already “arrived” at some appreciable level of scholarship (I’m thinking of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day), to be willing to step back, rethink, and modify their positions after having stated their beliefs. It’s a “pride” thing, I guess. But, I must remember that regardless of what I “think” a passage of scripture is teaching, if my interpretation or application of the scripture contradicts any other passage of scripture, then I must reexamine my personal understanding of the passage. Honest scholarship requires, at the very least, that we remain consistent with our own understanding of God’s word.

That being said, while I honor the appreciable level of scholarship you are attempting to bring to this particular topic, I have to say that I think it would be a grand “leap of reason” for us to jump from your seemingly accurate use of ancient terminology regarding the Biblical distinctions between body, soul, and spirit to the untenable conclusion that, as you state, when one is physically dead “…consciousness ceases, knowledge ceases, communication ceases, activity ceases. Hence, there is no future to look forward to. Bottom line: there is no life ensuing … unless there is a resurrection.” The scriptures do not require such a leap and, furthermore, to make such a leap of reason is to find oneself contradicting other passages of scripture that, I believe, are very clear on the matter—I will get to these passages in a moment.

What I’m wondering about, at this point, is how you came to these conclusions regarding this topic. Did you arrive at them on your own—through your own personal study of the Bible over the years—or has someone lead you into this persuasion? I’m wondering this because the doctrine that you are espousing here is an old and well-known theory, commonly known as “soul sleep” or “Christian mortalism.” In days gone by, it was known by the terms “materialism” or “psychopannychism.” The teaching is common in several denominational groups including some Lutheran sects, the Seventh-day Adventist, the Christadelphians, some Churches of God (7th Day), and the Worldwide Church of God (Armstrong); as well as the Jehovah’s Witness denomination (Christian, 2013). The reason I’m asking about this is that I’ve never met anyone who, after simply reading the Bible for themselves, has come to these particular conclusions on their own; you would be the first. That does not necessarily mean that your proposition is wrong; it simply means that, if we’re being led by someone else to believe something that specifically characterizes a particular denominational persuasion, that’s definitely a “red-flag” danger zone, and even more caution is in order.

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Now, to my response — While I must admit that the term “sleep” is sometimes used in scripture to represent death, I believe that it is only used as a euphemism, and not meant to be taken as a literal state of being (or non-being as our present conversation implies). I believe this because of clear and comprehensive teachings gleaned from several beautiful passages of scripture that bear upon this issue. And remember, “The sum of Your word is truth” (Psalm 119:116, NASB). One passage, in particular, that I believe speaks to this topic is Jesus’ teaching concerning the rich man and Lazarus wherein we read:

Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’ (Luke 16:19-21, NASB)

Some say that Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus must not be taken too literally because it is, after all, only a parable. However, I disagree with that notion. It is not a parable (Gk: parabole – “to cast alongside”) because Jesus is not setting forth any kind of “side-by-side comparison” to illustrate some other truth. Rather, Jesus simply delivers the story straight up as a warning to those who would live selfishly in this world, and as a source of hope and comfort for those who may have to suffer for their faith. And, even if the story were a parable, which it is not, have you ever read where Jesus set forth a parable that was only myth or legend or a fairytale and not rooted in truth? Unlike Aesop, Jesus did not deal in “fables.” He only presented authentic truths—whether in the form of parables or otherwise!

But in this story, please note, that the rich man who had died and who was buried existed in a state that was anything but “unconsciousness.” Although he was in Hades, the realm of the dead, he was very much a conscious being. From the story we learn that he could feel torment, that he had perception, that he could communicate, that he could remember, and that he could reflect upon the present lifestyle and future destiny of his brothers who were still living upon the earth. We also learn that while the rich man was in a place of agony, Lazarus was in a place where he was being comforted.

Another passage, and one that I dearly love, is where Jesus talks to the thief on the cross:

One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43, NASB).

Jesus said “today,” that day, that very day, the penitent thief who had expressed his faith in Christ would be with Him in Paradise. Surely none of us believe that Jesus was trying to comfort the dying criminal with a false hope; with something that wasn’t really going to happen? “Soul sleep” would be of little comfort to a man hanging on a cross, paying for his crimes. It would offer him nothing to look forward to or by which he would have been rewarded for his faith. I feel as though I also need to point out that, while Jesus’ statement to the thief on the cross runs contradictory to the doctrine of “Christian mortalism,” it is in perfect harmony with His teaching regarding the rich man and Lazarus.

Yet another passage that I also love has to do with the Apostle Paul and his own take on the death experience. Paul says:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. (Philippians 1:21-24, NASB).

Again, I see a beautiful harmony between Paul’s confident expectation for life after death and Jesus’ teachings and statements regarding life after death. But, if nothing awaited Paul after death except “soul sleep”—along with everyone else who had died—then how could he be in such a quandary as to “not know which to choose” when it came to life or death. Paul had a “desire to depart and be with Christ.” He says that would be “very much better.” But how would an unconscious soul sleep be “very much better”? According to the proposition you set forth, Paul would only continue to exist as a memory in the mind of God until he was remade in the resurrection. But I cannot accept this idea because it runs contrary to this and a lot of other scripture.

But perhaps my most cherished passage of scripture relating to life after death is where we read about Jesus’ conversation with Mary and Martha at the resurrection of Lazarus. The scriptures teach:

Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:21-26, NASB)

Well, as for me, regarding Jesus’ question, “Do you believe this?” My response is: “Yes, I DO believe this — with all my heart!” I believe every word of Jesus when He says that “he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,” and “everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die!” Furthermore, I think this statement pretty much covers all the bases regarding this whole topic. It gives hope not only for an eventual resurrection and eternal life with God to follow—“live even if he dies”—but it also covers the “intermediate state” of a person between the point of physical death and the moment of the resurrection—“shall never die!” I’m not sure what that may mean to you. But, to me, it means that there will be no cessation of my existence after death. Like Lazarus, I will retain personal cognizance, my self-awareness, my memory, all my senses and, most of all, my relationships — especially my relationship with God.

There are several other passages of scripture that come to my mind; not the least of which is the first passage that I’ve already shared (above) at the beginning of these comments; wherein Paul, in writing to the Christians in Thessalonica, expresses his desire that they be “sanctified entirely” and that their “spirit (πνεῦμα – pneuma) and soul (ψυχὴ – psuche) and body (σῶμα – soma) be preserved complete” (I Thessalonians 5:23, NASB). According to the doctrine you set forth, the body and soul will be utterly and completely destroyed and only the spirit — in the form of a memory belonging to God — will be preserved until the resurrection. But I believe, both from Paul’s statements and Jesus’ teaching, that when we die our spirit — that part of us that is made in the image of God (our personal, conscious, self-awareness) — lives on in some type of tangible, bodily form in the Hadean realm awaiting that great resurrection day. When that day arrives, our present bodies will be resurrected from the grave, from the sea, from Hades [wherever they are] (Revelation 20:13, NASB); and they will be changed, as the Apostle Paul states:

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep [a euphemism for death], but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. (I Corinthians 15:51-53, NASB)

Jesus said that this resurrection will be not only for the faithful children of God, but for all people everywhere who have ever lived. Listen to His words as He explains the resurrection:

Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment. (John 5:25-29, NASB).

Please understand that what I’ve shared with you are only my current thoughts on this matter; and are in no way comprehensive or exhaustive. There are many other passages of scripture that can be brought to bear upon this topic, and many extenuating details that could be examined. But I think that the passages that have been shared are probably enough to establish a core understanding of what happens to us when we die. My goal in presenting these passages of scripture has not been to persuade you of the error of the doctrine of “Christian mortalism.” Perhaps you’ve already examined some of the scriptures I’ve provided in light of this doctrine and can find reason to take argument with me and my understanding and application of them. But I’ve no wish to argue with anyone regarding this matter as I do not believe that it is all that important to our eternal destiny.

You see, regardless of what one believes about life after death, if our faith and hope is in Christ Jesus, then His grace will cover all our errors and misunderstandings; so long as we are not choosing to deliberately walk in willful and rebellious ignorance of His will. And so, while this is an interesting topic to discuss, and people are free to come to their own personal understanding of what they think will happen to them when they die, it is not so important a topic that it should be made a test of faith or of Christian fellowship within the body of Christ. Believe me, the truth of the matter will become evident to all of us soon enough.

However, this whole topic does tug at my heart-strings a little because I’ve recently been diagnosed with stage two cancer. While the prognosis, at this point, appears good, I know that anything could happen. The very next lab report could indicate metastasis to other parts of my body. And, thus, I find myself living in the constant reality of my own mortality. I know that I may not be in this world much longer. Of course, I also know that the same holds true for all of us because, as we all know, any given day could be our last. But this whole idea that a human being is not really a spiritual being, but only an animalistic being — a physical body with a life-force animating it — and that we will exist only as a memory to God after death, until we are remade at the resurrection, offers very little comfort or hope to those who draw near to deaths dark portal. And, I think, this is an important detail that should be taken under consideration when discussing this and other such doctrines. For we do not want to be guilty of promoting a precept that is not only inconsistent with Bible teaching, but that also strips the Christian faith of hope. I’m thinking again about our Lord and the thief on the cross — Jesus was all about offering hope!

But I want you to know that I have no fear of death because, for me, it does not harbor an intermediate state of unconsciousness; but rather, it represents my “homecoming” and a beautiful reunion with people I love who have gone on before me. I’m looking forward to tumbling through deaths dark portal right into the arms of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ where I will take my place at His side among all the redeemed of all ages — that “great cloud of witnesses surrounding us” (Hebrews 12:1, NASB).

Please understand, I’m not wanting to be mean or controversial here. But we do have to decide not only what, but who, we’re going to believe. The way I see it, on the one hand we can choose to believe those people and religious groups who advocate for the doctrine of “Christian mortality” — those who say that I’m going to die completely and cease to exist, except in the memory of God, then, in the resurrection, God will generate a new body, soul, and memory that will be me. Or, on the other hand, we can choose to believe our Lord Jesus, Who tells us that: “he who lives and believes in me SHALL NEVER DIE!” I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but, I choose to believe what Jesus said!

Respectfully and with love,

Salty

References

Christian Mortalism. (2013). Wikipedia; The free encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_mortalism

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

It’s Written in My Heart

I know that, despite popular opinion among some of my more “conservative” brethren, God’s law in it’s entirety is not found in the pages of the Holy Scripture. I know this fact from the Holy Scriptures themselves. For the writer of the book of Hebrews restates for us an ancient prophecy handed down to us from Jeremiah stating:

Behold, days are coming, says the Lord,
When I will effect a new covenant
With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;
Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers
On the day when I took them by the hand
To lead them out of the land of Egypt;
For they did not continue in My covenant,
And I did not care for them, says the Lord.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
After those days, says the Lord:

I will put My laws into their minds,
And I will write them on their hearts.

And I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.
And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen,
And everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
For all will know Me,
From the least to the greatest of them.
For I will be merciful to their iniquities,
And I will remember their sins no more.”

(Hebrews 8:8-12, NASB)

Too many confused people try to equate the New Covenant with the Old Covenant. They try to make “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2, NASB) similar to, if not precisely like, the Old Testament Law of Moses. In other words, they go looking for a “thus sayeth the Lord” along with book, chapter, and verse to “authorize” everything they do, or don’t do, when it comes to matters of faith and Christian living. This tendency to want to turn the writings of the New Testament into something akin to the book of Leviticus or Deuteronomy often causes people to imitate the spirit of the Pharisees who were so devoted to the Law of Moses that they missed the very One of whom the entire Law prophesied. I remember Jesus one time saying, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:39-40, NASB). I wonder if some people haven’t fallen into exactly that same trap when they study their Bibles looking for every command, example, or inference that may authorize, or not authorize, a particular religious practice, but then seem to miss Jesus!

Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I believe with all my heart and soul that the Bible is God’s revealed word in written form; that it is holy and inspired, and that it contains God’s will for our lives. I hang my hat on what Jesus said when He told His disciples, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32, NASB). The writings and teachings of the apostles and prophets of the New Testament are His word.

But anyone who has actually READ the New Testament knows that it does not read like the Law of Moses. Anyone who has followed the Apostle Paul’s instruction to, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, NASB), knows that God made the apostles and prophets of the New Testament “adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6, NASB). Anyone who has studied their New Testament through the lens of a “student of the word” — honestly wanting to discern truth and not simply justify a position — knows that there are many areas of one’s personal faith that are solely dependent upon how God is dealing with one’s heart. Paul said:

One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. (Romans 14:2-5, NASB)

He then when on to say,

The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin. (Romans 14:22-23, NASB)

Note that the Apostle Paul did not give them a “thus sayeth the Lord” for establishing a policy on eating vegetables or meat. He did not provide them with book, chapter, and verse regarding the observance of holy days. Rather, He simply cautioned them against judging one another and then pointed to their hearts saying, “the faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God!” Why is that not enough for some people? Let’s face it folks, there are a plethora of theological issues, moral issues, social issues, and personal issues for which we will not find book, chapter, and verse. But does that mean that God has not spoken to us regarding these issues?

The prophet, Jeremiah, says:

The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?

I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give to each man according to his ways,
According to the results of his deeds.

(Jeremiah 17:9-10, NASB)

While there are many who lift this verse out of context and run amuck with it, saying we can never, under any circumstances, trust the content of our heart to any appreciable degree, I do not go along with that line of thinking. I believe, in light of New Covenant teaching, that we can trust our hearts to the extent that our hearts are truly surrendered to the will of God. But the point that the Lord is making here is that I must be careful about trusting my heart solely, or trusting it too far. I can easily deceive myself into thinking that I don’t need to pay attention to scripture because I know something “in my heart!” Or, I can easily fool myself into thinking that, because I do have “scriptural authority” — book, chapter, verse — for something, I am therefore free to practice it regardless of the effect it may have on others around me.

On the one hand, the legalist says, “If there is no ‘law’ permitting it, then it’s wrong to practice it!” On the other hand, the liberal says, “If there is no ‘law’ forbidding it, then I am free to practice it!” In my view — and I can already see the stones flying at me from both directions — both of these positions are wrong! They are both legalistic to the core. They are both incredibly inconsistent in practice. They both depend on the “letter of the law,” not “the Spirit of life in Christ”! And, they both have moved the discussion out of the realm of faith and love, and under the jurisdiction of law! “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4, NASB). This verse applies equally to both the legalist and the liberal; each deceived by their own heart and seeking to justify themselves by some law, or lack thereof.

Can I, or anyone, understand or comprehend my deceitful heart? Yes, God, through Jeremiah, says, “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind!” Wow! My heart may fool me, but it will never fool God. He knows me inside and out. And note how the prophet says that God does that testing; He gives to each man “according to his ways,” “according to the results of his deeds!” The heart will always reveal itself in action. I may convince myself that I “feel” a certain way, or even “believe” a certain way, but my “ways” and my “deeds” with reveal the actual content of my heart. Furthermore, I may be able to trust my heart when it is fully surrendered to the will of God, but only to the extent that my words and my deeds are consistent with the word of God. Jesus said, “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man…” (Matthew 15:18-20, NASB).

And yet, it is precisely there — RIGHT THERE — in the midst of my sick and deceitful heart, that God has chosen to write His law. And this is what makes the New Covenant superior to the Old Covenant. The Ten Commandments were engraved upon stone. The Law of Moses was imprinted with ink on scrolls of parchment and vellum. But, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” is written upon human hearts by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. He uses Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, and others to do that. He also uses wisdom poured forth within our hearts by the power of the Spirit to do that (James 1:5). He speaks to our surrendered hearts in a myriad of ways through scripture, through prayer and meditation, through life and experiences, through fellow spiritual sojourners. But, regardless of the tools He chooses to use to put His laws into our minds and write them upon our hearts, Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27, NASB). Authentic disciples of Christ will know, and will seek to follow, God’s desire for their lives.

God is in it for my heart, deceitful though it may be at times. He wants me to love Him and serve Him from my heart. The Old Covenant controlled people by rules and regulations inculcated from without, by the letter of the law. But God’s New Covenant children are controlled by a heart surrendered to the will of God in all things. As the Apostle Paul said, “For the love of Christ controls us…” (2 Corinthians 5:14, NASB).

~ Salty ~

Luke 17:10

Silence – The Danger Zone!

There is, yet, one other aspect of Biblical interpretation and application with which we must be extremely careful; and that is the area of “inference”—“a conclusion reached on the basis of evidence and reasoning,” or “implication”—a “conclusion that can be drawn from something, although it is not explicitly stated.” This is a “DANGER ZONE” and extreme caution must be used when it comes to those things that seem to be “inferred” or “implied” by a passage of scripture. Perhaps no other aspect of Biblical interpretation has been as hotly contested, or has provided such a seedbed for discord and division, as this one; simply because this area is so prone to human opinion and bias.

The problem is that virtually everyone is socialized to perceive things from a certain paradigm, perspective, or personal viewpoint. And while we all go through an occasional “paradigm shift,” wherein we find our worldview seriously challenged and broadened, still, few people, if any, are ever completely objective and free from bias. The various lenses through which we filter our perceptions of the world, and everything in it, tend to color our interpretations of everything; even the word of God. Thus, what one person believes to be “necessarily” inferred from a scriptural text is not always “necessarily” inferred by another. We’ve all heard the statement: “Well, that’s just your interpretation!” And, quite frankly, it is. That interpretation may be correct, insofar as comprehending the will of God, or it may be way off base. But, either way, our interpretations are colored by our personal background and experiences. Wise is the student of God’s word who understands his or her own frailty, and that of others, when it comes to these matters.

One big area wherein the use of “inference” seems to have taken a rather legalistic toehold has to do with that which we commonly refer to as “the silence or the scripture.” I find it almost comical, if weren’t so sad, that people are forever locking horns in spiritual combat with one another over what the Bible does “not” say — issues, beliefs, or practices that the scriptures simply do not address. Some take the view that the silence of the scripture infers freedom and gives permission for the child of God to believe and practice whatever they want in regard to a given issue. Other take the position that the silence of the scripture infers that the belief or practice is forbidden — since it is not “authorized” by scripture. But I take the position that the silence of the scripture is not some kind of interpretive devise that can be so legalistically applied either way; and that taking either approach is dangerous because it moves the whole issue out of the realm of love and into the realm of law. The silence of the scripture is no more an automatic license to participation than it is an abject forbiddance of participation. Why? Because there are many other factors that come in to play and that must be considered with regard to anything that falls into the realm of human understanding, opinion, interpretation, and application.

Two big factors, that help determine how we might apply the concept of the silence of the scripture to our own personal walk of life, are those of “faith” and “love.” Regarding this matter, the Apostle Paul says:

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin. (Romans 14:13-23, NASB)

This incredible passage of scripture reminds us that our Christian walk of life is meant to be “relational” — our faith is founded on our relationship with God and with one another. There are many things — things not specifically spelled out in scripture — that may be considered either “right” or “wrong” depending on one’s own heart and how our participation, or nonparticipation, plays out in the hearts and lives of others. Paul makes it clear that, “to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean” (verse 14) and says, “whatever is not from faith is sin” (verse 23). So, to some degree, my own personal faith determines my level of participation in matters that are not specifically addressed in scripture. However, the final verdict does not rest even with my own faith, for Paul also makes it clear that, if “your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love” (verse 15).

Suffice it to say that, when it comes to discovering and practicing truth, God’s grace is plenty big enough to cover all our “honest” misinterpretations or misapplications. My faith, my love, my submission to the will of God is sufficient to guide me in all matters pertaining to seeking and knowing the will of God; and, praise God, I do not have to be absolutely correct about virtually everything in order to enjoy a personal, life-giving relationship with Him.

This, however, does not excuse my “willful” ignorance or “deliberate” misinterpretations and misapplications that are the result of my wanting the Bible to agree with me, rather than surrendering my heart and bringing my life, and my beliefs, into agreement with the word of God. The Apostle Peter issues a dire warning for those who may be tempted to follow that route, saying:

…and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness. (2 Peter 3:15-17, NASB)

But that having been said, God is not going to leave some critical point of doctrine that is essential to my relationship with Him up to mere human inference. Nor is He going to hold me accountable for what His word does not say or things that the scripture simply does not address. God, through His prophetic word, has shown Himself to be perfectly capable of clearly informing me as to His will in any and every matter that does pertain to my salvation. There are plenty of commands and examples set forth in scripture for me to ascertain the will of God and what I need to believe and practice in order to be pleasing in His sight. I do not have to rely on inferences and implications, based on my own or anybody else’s human reasoning, in order to discern God’s will for my life.

_________________________

There is simply no substitute for both personal and collective Bible study. Unless one is illiterate, or God’s written word is simply not available to them, why would any child of God today depend solely on someone else to tell them what to believe or practice in order to be pleasing to God? Or, for that matter, why would any group of God’s people choose to rely exclusively on some pastor or priest to inculcate upon them some denominational body of doctrine?

When we, the “ekklesia,”—the “called out” “children of God” (I John 3:1)—those who long to hear our Lord’s voice—draw near to God “with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22, NASB), we can be sure of God promise to us when He said, “I will put My laws upon their heart, and on their mind I will write them” (Hebrews 10:16, NASB).

“O God, make my heart Your open slate,”

~ Salty ~

Luke 17:10

Your Hermeneutic Can Get You Killed!

Dateline — Middlesboro, KY and today’s headline reads: “Snake Handling Pastor Refuses Care, Dies From Bite.” Now how could I, a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, not take the bait and bite into a story like that? Basically, the brief blurb simply reported how that, “Jamie Coots, a snake-handling pastor who appeared on the TV reality show ‘Snake Salvation,’ refused treatment after being bitten and was later found dead” (Associated, 2014).

I have to admit, the sinister side of my evil nature rejoiced as I read and thought to myself, “Right on! The dude got what he deserved. If people don’t care enough to honestly seek out the truth of God’s word, maybe they’ll listen to a rattlesnake! And if not, well, at least there’s one more crazy nut dead and gone and no longer around to lead people astray with his false teaching!” Meanwhile, my kinder, gentler, Spirit-led nature was saddened by the tragic loss of yet another misguided soul — one for whom Christ died — who at least had a faith and the courage to stand by his convictions.

But the bigger picture here, as I see it, has to do with our “hermeneutics” – a highfalutin, theological term for how we interpret the scriptures. We all have one, you know — a “hermeneutic,” that is. We all have our “method or principle of interpretation” (Webster, 2014). The problem is, some people’s hermeneutic isn’t very sound — case in point! Not too long ago, I had a very intelligent, sincere, well-educated, professional educator and school administrator sit in my office and tell me, “Well, I believe everything that’s in the Bible. If it’s in the Bible, then I believe it, just the way it is in the Bible.” She was talking about the laying on of hands, speaking in tongues, miraculous healings, and other Pentecostal Holiness stuff (another word comes to mind, but I won’t use it here) like that! I’m like, “Ms. So-in-so, don’t you understand that the Bible wasn’t written in a vacuum? It’s a book of history. A lot of things written in the Bible were meant for specific people, living in specific times and places, and dealing with specific issues and circumstances. Not everything written in the Bible is meant to be practiced by us today!” She just looked at me with rather vacant, glossed over eyes.

C’mon people! Do your homework! How about a little research, a little contextualization, a little common sense. Maybe I don’t have as great of faith as some of you out there — I’ll admit I’m a work in progress — but it doesn’t take the brains God gave a turkey to understand that if you mess with a rattlesnake and it bites you, you might just, ummmmmmm, like, DIE?!?!?

Now, there are several passages of scripture that tell us about the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. For example, the prophet, Mark, records Jesus saying:

These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. (Mark 16:17-18, NASB)

Mark then goes on to state the purpose for these miraculous gifts, saying:

So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed. (Mark 16:19-20, NASB)

The purpose for the miraculous gifts of the 1st century was to “confirm the word.” Years later, the writer of Hebrews would assert this same truth, saying:

…how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. (Hebrews 2:3-4, NASB)

Note that, the purpose of the miraculous gifts was NOT to convince people to believe — a common fallacy held by many today. There have always been unbelievers and people often choose not to believe, despite miracles and regardless of any amount of confirmation. However, the purpose for the miraculous gifts was not to make people believe but, rather, to provide sufficient grounds for belief by confirming the word of God as it was first proclaimed among the people of the 1st century. This is why the Apostle John would later tell us, “It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth” (I John 5:6, NASB).

The “Apostles” were the original ambassadors of Christianity, men chosen by the Lord and recognized by the “ekklesia” in the 1st century A.D. as having the direct empowering of the Holy Spirit, which they had received on the day of Pentecost (See: Acts 2:1-12). They alone had the “authority” to pass along the empowering—including all the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit—to others. This fact is set forth in the book of Acts wherein we learn about the preaching of the Gospel in the region of Samaria:

Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For He had not yet fallen upon any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give this authority to me as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! (Acts 8:14-20, NASB)

When we look carefully at this passage, we note that Philip the evangelist—not the Apostle Philip—was preaching the gospel in Samaria and baptizing people in the name of the Lord Jesus. Remember, the Apostle Peter said, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38, NASB). So we know that these people in Samaria were receiving the Holy Spirit as a gift; that is, they were indwelled by “the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:32, NASB). The Holy Spirit had taken up residence within them, as He does every child of God at the moment of their baptism, and their bodies had become, as the Apostle Paul says, “a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God” (I Corinthians 6:19, NASB).

However, although they had been “indwelled” by the Holy Spirit as a gift, they had not yet received any miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit; that is, He had not yet “fallen upon” or “empowered” any of them. As students of God’s word, we must make that distinction—between the “indwelling” and the “empowering”—if we are to be consistent in our understanding of scripture.

We note, furthermore, that Philip was unable to grant these new Samarian Christians any miraculous gifts of the Spirit. While he may very well have had miraculous powers himself, he could not pass them on to others. So, when the apostles in Jerusalem heard about the new disciples being baptized Samaria, they sent two of their own, two apostles, Peter and John, to them. When the apostles arrive, they prayed and began laying their hands on the new Christians so that they, too, would be granted miraculous gifts from the Spirit. It is important that we note two phrases in particular: first, “the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles hands” (verse 18); and then Simon’s statement, “give me this authority as well” (verse 19).

From this important passage we learn that one might be indirectly empowered by the Holy Spirit through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, but that did not mean that he or she could pass that empowering along to others; only an apostle had the authority to do that.

The “prophets” were men and women who were indirectly empowered by the Holy Spirit “through the laying on of the apostles hands” and through whom God’s word was made known during the first century; prior to the completion of the New Testament. It is important to remember that there are no longer “apostles” or “prophets” in the world today because, when the Apostle John—the last of the apostles—died, the empowering could no longer be passed along to others. Thus, gifts of prophecy, and all the other miraculous gifts of the “Apostalic Age”—the 1st century—ceased.

This fact is confirmed for us in scripture when the Apostle Paul reminded the “ekklesia” living in the city of Corinth that:

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect [teleion] comes, the partial [merous] will be done away. (I Corinthians 13:8-10, NASB)

Note that the word “perfect” in this passages is the Greek word, “teleion” – from “teleios”: a gender neuter noun meaning, “complete, mature, finished, brought to its end, wanting nothing necessary to completeness” (Teleios, 2013). In interpreting what this word is referring to, we need to keep in mind the context of the passage. In context, the “perfect” is the completion, or the fulfillment, or the totality of the “partial.” The word “partial” in this passage is the Greek word “merous” – meaning, “a part, a part due or assigned to one, one of the constituent parts of a whole” (Merous, 2013). The “partial”, then, is all the bits and pieces of the “perfect.” Both the “perfect” and the “partial” relate to the same thing, but in different forms. Paul says that the “partial” are those miraculous gifts that “will be done away,”—prophecy, tongues, knowledge—all of which, in this passage, relate to “truth” and knowing the “truth.” So, whatever the “perfect”—the complete, fulfilled, finished—is, it must correlate with the “partial” and also relate to “truth” and the disciples ability to fully know the “truth.”

I don’t believe it is just an accident of history that the final book of our New Testament—Revelation—was written by the Apostle John shortly before his death; and that, when John died, the empowering of the Holy Spirit could no longer be passed along to others because, as we have seen, only the apostles had the authority to do that. So what we have here is an “intersection” of history and prophecy. Paul said the “partial”—miraculously inspired bits and pieces of truth—would cease when the “perfect”—finished and complete revelation of truth—had come. John, the last remaining apostle capable of laying his hands on others and passing along the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, completed the final, inspired revelation; then laid aside his pen and scrolls, and soon passed away. Thus, the “partial” ceased at the precise moment in history that the “perfect” had come—all according to prophecy.

So don’t be picking up any fiery serpents, dear child of God, or drinking any deadly poison thinking that you will not be harmed — that promise was for those people to whom Jesus was speaking at the time and who lived during, what we’ve come to know as, the “Apostolic Age.” The poor, late Pastor Coots didn’t seem to understand much of any of this and his shallow hermeneutics — “well, if it’s in the Bible then I believe it” — got him killed! Not only did it get him killed, but it sure didn’t help our Christian testimony to the world very much, did it? Rather, it sends a terribly misguided and ignorant message to the world — a message that MSN was all too quick to pick up on and publish — that, “You see, those ‘Christians’ are just a bunch of crazies!”

If Pastor Coots was so hermeneutically mixed up that he got himself killed by a rattler, I wonder what all else he was thoroughly mixed up on — his eternal salvation, perhaps? Hummmmmmm… ever wonder what your lil ole “pastor” is a more than a little mixed up about!

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, NASB).

~ Salty ~

Luke 17:10

References

Associated Press. (2014, February 16). Snake handling pastor refuses care, dies from bite. MSN News. Retrieved from http://news.msn.com/us/snake-handling-pastor-refuses-care-dies-from-bite

Hermeneutic. (2014). In Mirriam-Webster’s online dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hermeneutic

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

What About the “Redeemed Guy” (thief) on the Cross?

I am sometimes virtually dumbfounded at how far people will sometimes go to reinterpret a passage of scripture, or an event in Bible history, in order to maintain their doctrine. For example, concerning Luke’s account of the thief on the cross, Abrams (2006) says:

One passage the baptismal regeneration [an errant term he uses to describe us] people have never really correctly understood is Luke 23:42-43 and the fact the thief on the cross was saved as Jesus declared, and was never baptized. They try to skirt the matter by saying this was before the Church Age when baptism was initiated. They state that Romans 10:9-10 requires that to be saved a person must believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. The thief could not have believed that because Christ had not yet arisen. The problem with that idea is that it does not take into account how were people in the Old Testament saved? Old Testament saints were saved by faith, through the grace of God as Hebrews 11 explains. This chapter is the Bible’s Hall of Faith and states repeatedly how from Abel on men believed the revelation they were given by God and were saved. Abraham never heard the name of Jesus Christ or of His death, burial and resurrection, but he was certainly saved…. (para. 5)

The Bible teaches that no one in the Old or New Testament who was saved, merited or earned it in any way. The thief died in the Old Testament dispensation during the time the Mosaic Law was in force. He expressed saving faith while hanging on a cross and had no time to keep any law therefore the keeping of any part of the law was certainly not a part of his salvation. Jesus declared that the repentant thief (malefactor) would be with Him that day in Paradise because the thief believed in Jesus Christ and nothing more… (para. 7)

As seen in this text, Mr. Abrams (2006) is very good a telling us what the Bible teaches—in light of his own theological positions. However, even a casual reading of Hebrews 11 reveals that the theme of the whole chapter is “faith in action”; demonstrating for us in example after example how that authentic “faith” is much more than mere “belief”; and how that it consists not only of a conviction within our hearts but the physical expression of that conviction, as well. In the section above, Abrams (2006) speaks of Abel, of whom the book of Hebrews says he “offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks” (verse 4). Does that sound like “faith” is only “believing” to you? Abrams also mentions Abraham, of whom the book of Hebrews says heobeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going” (verse 8). I’m thinking Abrams’ Old Testament appeals to faith being nothing more than a mental acquiescence to, or belief in, something is not doing him any favors.

But, back to the thief on the cross. I am amazed, startled even, at how quickly those of Calvinists heritage run to this particular illustration to try to prove their point concerning baptism not being a part of God’s plan for receiving the forgiveness of sin. They inevitably say, “Well, what about the thief on the cross, he wasn’t baptized and Jesus saved him?” To this point we must point out that:

First, if it’s just “baptism” we’re talking about, how does Mr. Abrams (2006) know that the thief on the cross had not been baptized with the baptism of John? He very well may have been. According to the Bible, “When all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God’s justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John” (Luke 7:29-30). Perhaps, at one time or another, the thief on the cross had, indeed, been among those people who were baptized by John, or one of his disciples. Just because he had sinned, and was now hanging on a cross beside Jesus, does not mean that he was totally disobedient to the will of God. It was the religious leaders—lawyers and Pharisees—who, like Abrams and company, “rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John” (verse 30). Why is it always the religious leaders who, seemingly, cannot see what the common people so easily see? But whether or not the thief on the cross had ever been baptized with the baptism of John is a moot point because, it’s Jesus’ baptism, commanded after His death, burial, and resurrection, that we have in view here, not John’s baptism.

Second—and, really, of greater importance—despite Abrams (2006) claims to the contrary, it remains important to the discussion to remember that the thief on the cross lived and died prior to Jesus’ commands concerning baptism. When Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19) and, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16), He made these statements after His death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism, as taught in the New Testament, is an expression of saving faith symbolizing the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ—as we die to self and to sin (Romans 6:6), are “buried with Him through baptism into death” and raised up to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). How could the thief on the cross have be expected to have done any of that when Jesus had not yet died, nor had He issued His commandment regarding baptism? The whole appeal to the thief on the cross—with regard to Christian baptism, or any other New Covenant expression of saving faith—is a moot point!

If the Biblical account of the thief on the cross has anything whatsoever so say about our own salvation, it is not with specific regard to baptism or any other expression of the faith to which we are called in accordance with the terms of the New Covenant. Rather, much to the chagrin of the “legalists” on both sides of all such issues, it speaks to the beautiful, compassionate, ever gracious character of a wild and passionate God who will not be tamed or constrained by any man’s theology. I have had both conservative legalists and liberal legalist (and, yes, there are legalists—people who base their salvation, and that of others, on how well they adhere to particular tenets and practices of some religious doctrine or another—on both sides of every issue) tell me that, if God makes a single exception for any individual with regard to what He requires for salvation, then He must make that same exception for every person. Such legalistic thinking, however, does not take into account that God looks deeply into our heart—individually, person-by-person—and deals with us accordingly.

The thief on the cross is a first class example of God’s personal attention to, and intimate dealings with, the individual human heart. As the thief hung there beside Jesus, suspended between heaven and earth, and between two covenants—the Old Covenant with its Law of Moses, which was obsolete and passing away (Hebrews 8:13), and the New Covenant, which was about to be inaugurated with Christ’s own blood (Hebrews 9:15-16)—he was, to be sure, in a unique position. Whatever faith and obedience he had demonstrated in accordance with the Law of Moses, or even with regard to the prophetic authority of John the Baptizer, was now all behind him and there was nothing more he could ever do to show his penitence. He could do nothing to make restitution in accordance with the old law. He could offer no animal sacrifice for himself down at the temple. If he had not submitted to John’s prophetic authority, it was too late now. No one was going to take him down from that cross and over to the Pool of Siloam for baptism. Everything pertaining to the Old Covenant dispensation was behind him and irretrievable. Likewise, whatever expressions of faith and love required by our Lord in accordance with the terms of the New Covenant in Christ were beyond him and out of his reach. He had no knowledge or comprehension of some future baptism that Christ had not yet even commanded, or of what such an act of surrender might mean with regard to becoming a New Covenant child of God.

All he had to offer God in that moment was a living faith in Jesus as the Christ; a saving faith that prompted him to, well, do something—so he opened his mouth and rebuked the other criminal, then confessed his own sin and guilt, and then, finally, confessed Jesus as His Lord and King as he entreated Him to remember him. It was not exactly in keeping with the Law of Moses under which, technically, he lived and died. It was not exactly what John the baptizer had been preaching earlier. It was also not even entirely in keeping with what Jesus Himself, and the apostles and prophets of the New Testament, would later command, following the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. But it was all that he had to offer in that moment; and, by faith, he offered what he had.

I think it incredulous for the Calvinists among us, or anybody else, to run to the thief on the cross and so tritely use him as some kind of rhetorical devise to justify their own theological positions; and especially to use him to negate something that Jesus Himself would later command following His own death, burial, and resurrection. I think it must break the thief’s heart—and I hate continually referring to him as “the thief,” must he continue to wear that label for eternity? Furthermore, I know it breaks our Lord’s heart for such a beautiful example of intimacy and compassion to be used in such a legalistic way. I also can’t help but think that, given the kind of heart that that man who was redeemed by Christ’s love on the cross reveals to us as he hung there beside Jesus, had he somehow miraculously survived that whole ordeal, and upon hearing his risen Savior say, “he who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16), that man would have been among the first in line to surrender his heart and life to Christ in baptism.

What I learn from the account of the redeemed man on the cross—thief no longer—is that God will forgive whoever He chooses, whether such forgiveness conforms to human expectations or not. And nobody’s doctrine or dogma—Christian, Calvinist (and, yes, I make that distinction) or otherwise—can get in the way of that! As the Apostle Paul records it, “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires” (Romans 9:18). But God does not harden good and honest hearts. I know this because Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8) and, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). If a person is actively seeking God, like that merchant who was constantly in pursuit of the “pearl of great price” (Matthew 13:45-46), or even if a person simply has an open heart and, like the man who accidently found the hidden treasure buried in a field (Matthew 13:44), is willing to do anything to be a part of God’s eternal kingdom once they have discovered it, then God will surely give that person every opportunity to know the truth, to respond in living faith, and to be saved by the blood of Christ. But there is a huge difference between that kind of person—one like the man who was redeemed by Christ’s love on the cross—and someone who, being more devoted to their religion than they are the Lord, continues to walk contrary to the teachings of God’s word.

I was asked one time, by a liberal legalist, if I thought that someone killed in a tragic accident on their way to be baptized would still go to heaven. I answered, “In view of the thief on the cross, I believe that, yes, of course they would.” “But,” I continued, “I don’t think someone who is running in the opposite direction, away from the waters of baptism, will be saved.” When he asked me to explain that further, I simply said, “Well, as we learn from the account of the thief on the cross, it’s all about what is going on in our hearts. A surrendered heart seeking the Lord’s will is one thing, but a rebellious heart seeking its own will, or willing to put some theological concept ahead of the expressed will of God, is quite another.”

The New Covenant children of God understand that, while “faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:17), still, we do not put our faith in our works, or even in our faith. We are not saved because we have faith, or because we have works, or because we have a faith that works. We are saved because Jesus died for us on the cross! A living, active, working faith merely grants us access to what Jesus has done for us; but we are wholly dependent on God’s grace—His intimate and compassionate knowledge and handling of our heart—for our salvation.

I love that “redeemed guy on the cross,” for his heart, for his faith, for his faith in action, don’t you?

See you in paradise!

~ Salty ~

Luke 17:10

References

Abrams, C. (2006). Does the Bible say baptism is necessary for salvation? A Biblical explanation of the question and the verses used that supposedly teach that baptism is necessary for salvation. Retrieved from http://bible-truth.org/BaptismNotNecessary.html

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.”