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Question #1:  Hello Brother Bob, I am interested in your thoughts on "prevenient grace". I thought it was God's love expressed in His Grace for us before we chose His gift of Redemption through His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Meaning, from eternity past until the awareness and acceptance of our spiritual separation from our creator, we humble ourselves, and ask Jesus to deliver us from what we deserve.

Romans 5:8

May God's Blessings continue through you-

Response #1:   

Always good to hear from you. I think this is a fine definition you provide. I am always a bit reluctant to weigh in heavily on theological constructs not of my own making which have no necessary basis in scripture. By this I mean I think I could read and study and teach the Bible for a thousand years and never feel the need to come up with this precise terminology (i.e., the phrase "prevenient grace" was developed to solve problems with an overburdened theology of grace). Part of the issue I have with this is that the word "grace" is never the technical term in the Bible that it has become in theology thanks primarily to the R.C. church. The Reformers developed it as a counter-doctrine and all who feel the need to preserve tradition burden themselves with these matters to no great profit.

People today often use the word "grace" as if it were some magic concept; something almost tangible and existing almost apart from God though issuing from Him. In fact of course, charis in Greek and chen in Hebrew are words used to express God's "good favor". If I have grace, it means that God is "smiling at me". How can He smile at a sinner like me? It is because He sees not me but His Son who died for me and in whom I have taken refuge. How did I come to take refuge in Him? God made that refuge available in His love before the world was made, ordaining His Son to come into the world and die for me at just the right time, and working out every detail of my life for me that I might come to Him, take refuge in Him and be safe forevermore in Him, even "sanctifying me" in the Spirit before I was even capable of taking in the good news so that I might be preserved until I believed and guided to believe (1Pet.1:2; 2Thes.2:13; cf. 2Tim.1:9-10; Gal.1:15).

So what grace truly is is God's love in action, and it does indeed precede or "prevene" our choice of Him, for He loved us in Jesus Christ before time began. That love required that Jesus die for the sins of all -- the most ineffable expression of love imaginable.

But God commends His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

We love him, because he first loved us.
1st John 4:19 KJV

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Dear Bob,

Now here is something I didn't know:

"Their first bodies were indeed and remain "asleep", but they are in the third heaven in temporary bodies awaiting the day when those first bodies will be resurrected and transformed, when they will "wake up" and remain awake forevermore, enjoying sweet fellowship with the Lord who bought us throughout all eternity."

So, we will be ourselves in the "forever" part of our lives? Only perfect? How exciting. And Bob, let me ask you, I know it's how things are meant to be, but how could anyone want to believe that there is absolutely nothing after death? And then be so adamant on trying to prove it. God has never asked much. All of His commands are pure and simple. What is so hard about trying to live a good life and loving each other? Is it that they feel foolish when they have to take it that one step further, believing in a God they can't see? I don't feel foolish. I'll tell anyone and their mother what I believe, if I could find anyone who wanted to listen. Like I said, I know it is how it's suppose to be, I just couldn't fathom my life any other way...without God. Anyway, thanks for your response.

God Bless You,

Response #2: 

Yes it is indeed blessed to anticipate. As I often remark, if we really had a crystal-clear idea of the wonders of that glorious day to come, we would be ruined for any further life in this presently abysmal world.

I don't think that atheism is a natural state. In my reading of scripture, all human beings come to the point of knowing that there is a God (Ps.19; Rom.1:18-23; cf. Eccl.3:10-11). God made us to need Him and the creation screams His existence. Sadly, most reject Him. But it is only after rejecting that knowledge and spurning any desire to have any relationship with Him that people begin to compose psychological armor to "protect" them from the truth that would otherwise impinge upon them every moment. For the knowledge of the existence of God carries with it the sure and certain expectation of judgment absent divine intervention. And since every person with any modicum of ability to make a realistic appraisal of their own lives realizes that they are not perfect, without some help from God Himself, damnation following death is inevitable. Those of us who want that help turn to God in Jesus Christ and are saved. Those who decide to put the matter off too long go to hell by default unless they come to their senses before their time runs out. But those who aggressively oppose the truth and try to "kill God" with their thoughts are as good as dead even though they live. Arrogance is a blinding sin. Once a person has decided they don't want anything to do with God and have actively rejected Him and His truth, then the next logical step (although of course in reality it defies logic) is to re-create reality into a new reality with which one is more comfortable. This is also why many atheists are so militant about their active disbelief. Their true psychological rationale seems to be that now that they have convinced themselves if they can only convince the world too then they will have created a new truth, a new reality. Nothing, of course, could be farther from the real truth. I am tempted to feel sorry for such people, but my understanding of the facts, namely, that they are not merely misguided but have purposefully and deliberately twisted and distorted and rejected the truth that God had once graciously made known to them that might turn to Him and be saved through the sacrifice of His one and only dear Son, tempers that sympathy. I have written about this issue elsewhere as well. Please have a look at these links:

Confronting Atheism

Unbelief and its consequences.

How do you prove the existence of God.

Hope you and yours are doing well!

In our Lord who is the very truth, Jesus Christ the Word of God.

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hello Sir,

Sir, I hope you are fine? Can you please explain Col.1:23 to me? Particularly the part which says, "which (gospel) has been preached to every creature under heaven". Thank you. In Him,

Response #3:   

Always great to hear from you. I am well, and I hope you are doing well too. On Colossians 1:23, the first problem is the translation (common to the KJV and NIV), "to every creature". NASB is better, rendering the phrase "all creation", for the word ktisis here refers to creation in general (cf. the same use of the word at Mk.10:6; Rom.1:20; Heb.9:11; etc.), and not literally to all God's creature (there is also the problem for the KJV/NIV that we have the preposition en here governing the word, not the dative case alone, and it is very unlikely [I would say impossible] that this could mean "to" as opposed to "in"). This expression is a periphrasis for all mankind (rather than referring literally to other non-moral creatures).

Secondly, as John Eadie points out, we get some indication of what Paul means here from verse six of the same chapter: "which (gospel) has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth" (NASB). Eadie and others see these statements as "hyperbole", but I'm not so sure. Paul has, I think, the correct, divine perspective on these things. We human beings imagine the world one way, focusing on economic, political, meteorological, social and cultural factors. But God looks at what is really important: the truth as it is being disseminated and acted upon in the world is "what is really going" from His perfect point of view. Thus, the gospel is not merely one important layer of human activity; it is the point to our being here in the first place. Human history is a battlefield of choice; we are here to decide what our eternal future will look like, and the gospel is the truth to which our free-will responds in faith (or rejects in apathy or outright disbelief). The aorist participle in Colossians 1:23, "[having] proclaimed", thus deliberately contrasts with the present tense of the parallel participles at 1:6, "bearing fruit and growing": while it is notably expanding and growing "now" that the Church Age has begun, the gospel was proclaimed before creation in the decrees of God and has been proclaimed ever since by Him, as scripture tells us, "at many times and in many ways" (Heb.1:1).

The earliest scriptural mention of the gospel, often called the protoevangelium (Latin for "first [instance of] the good news"), is the giving to Adam and Eve by God of the coats of skin in place of their self-chosen fig-leaves, a clear indication that human works cannot cover sin (represented by their nakedness) in a way acceptable to God -- that can only be done through blood-sacrifice (with animal death representing the spiritual death of Jesus Christ in bearing the sins of the world). God has been proclaiming His gospel ever since to any and all who were ever of a mind to respond. And even in the case of those who are disinterested or otherwise unwilling to do so, He has "not left Himself without witness" to the good news of salvation (Acts 14:17), for He has so constructed us and so constructed His creation that it shouts His existence and His goodness with its every breath (i.e., "natural revelation"):

His nature, though invisible, is nevertheless plainly apparent, and has been since His foundation of the world, for it may be clearly inferred from this creation of His - [this is true of] both His eternal power and His divinity - so that they are without any excuse.
Romans 1:20

We are all made with His "eternity in our hearts" (Eccl.3:11), and all receive the opportunity of hearing the gospel if that is what we desire. The major difference in "dispensation" from the time of our Lord forward in the Age of His Church is that now the gospel has been widely and loudly proclaimed.

(12) Since the days of John the baptist until this present time, the Kingdom of God has been under violent attack, and violent men are laying hands upon it. (13) For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John [the baptist].
Matthew 11:12-13

The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached.
Luke 16:16 NIV

One of the fundamental differences between the Church and all that has gone before is this issue of the greater revelation of truth we are now blessed to enjoy. Rather than relying upon shadows (natural revelation and the symbolic representations of the Law), we have Jesus Christ come in the flesh, put to death for our sins and resurrected for our eternal life; and we have the entire New Testament wherein every aspect of the now unveiled truth of gospel is wonderfully considered and explained. The time will also come when the truth of the gospel will be even more widely and undeniably proclaimed (Rev.14:6).

Sadly, of course, despite the universal opportunity for salvation which has always been present, despite God's desire for all to be saved, despite His earnest attempts in the case of every single human being who has ever lived to move that person to accepting Him in Jesus Christ (doing everything except violating the person's free will), despite the ever-widening ripples of the gospel throughout this dark world, and despite the fact that Jesus loves all and died for all, nevertheless most human beings have proved unwilling to respond. That in no way diminishes the power of the gospel which is "the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes" (Rom.1:16); and it no way alters the fact that from the divine point of view the sacrifice of Christ which is the operative part of the good news is the fundamental event of creature history and that the proclamation of that truth and its reception in the case of individuals are the really important developments in history, in spite of what the secular world may believe about what we are all doing here.

So from God's point of view, history is one solid-state "thing" which He decreed in eternity past, with the purpose of that unified whole we call history being the salvation unto eternal life of all His creatures who were willing to love Him back for the great love He had for us in giving up His one and only Son to death on our behalf. The gospel plays a key role in this true synopsis of history, for the gospel is the totality of this "truth" about Jesus Christ, and is thus the touch-stone separating those of faith from those who refuse to use faith so as to be saved. So the gospel has indeed been "preached in all creation", and that has always been true, even in times and places where the vast majority of people have never heard about Jesus personally: they didn't hear because, even after seeing the wonders of God's creation, they had no interest in responding to Him or His truth though it called to them from everything He made. Such things may be difficult for we mere human beings to comprehend, but God has had all these things planned out in the most exquisite detail since before time began, and it is a blessing and a privilege to be able to learn them and respond to them here and now, and to anticipate the wonders of knowing Him and all His truth fully and completely on that great day of days.

In the One who died that the power of the gospel might lead us to eternal life, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Hi, I was reading on your website a question in regards to ministers being paid, I haven't been a Christian all that long and was wondering how long roughly does it take to explain the gospel.

Thanks

Response #4: 

Very good to make your acquaintance. In regard to your question, I suppose it all depends upon who is doing the explaining and to whom they are explaining it. The examples in the book of Acts are very "short and sweet". In Acts chapter 10, after a very brief introduction, Peter told an assembled crowd of gentiles, "All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name", and in the very next verse we read, "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message". In Acts 16, the Philippian jailer, awed by the earthquake which had just taken place in clear responsion to Paul and Silas' hymns of praise, said when he came upon them still present in the prison, ", "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?", and received the very to-the-point response: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household."

There are three mistakes which many Christians and Christian groups fall into when it comes to the issue of evangelism. The first is to forget that God has so constructed the universe and human nature, and has so set the bounds of the human experience, that human beings are conditioned by everything they see and by everything they experience to understand from a very early age (sometimes called "the age of accountability") that 1) there is a God, that 2) they are mortal and will not live forever on this earth, and that 3) they are sinful and far from meeting the standard of perfect righteousness. This basic human calculus leads to a natural and universal conclusion: without help from on high, we are doomed (of course the majority of the human race hardens their hearts against these fundamental truths). Therefore, the plea "what must I do to be saved" is an equally natural reaction -- for all who are not hard of heart. Simply put, everything we are and every important thing we know ought to send us running full-speed to embrace the offer of eternal life in Jesus Christ. That being the case, if there is genuine willingness on the part of those listening, if they have not already hardened their hearts against the truth, then giving the message is a very easy thing to do, especially if it is delivered in a biblically correct way. God has already set "eternity in the human heart" (Eccl.3:11), so that in cases where individuals really do want salvation, we will find them a very receptive audience indeed, not because of anything we do, but because of what God has already done in preparing the ground (as well as in providing the solution).

Secondly, it is also important to remember that God is in control. We can do nothing without the power of the Spirit (Zech.4:6; 1Cor.12:3). And on the other hand when God really is directing us, when we really are doing what He wants in the way He wants it done, we certainly do not have to worry about our own insufficiencies complicating the process. Of course we should prepare diligently and act with all zeal -- but it is God who is in us "both to will and to do", and whatever results our efforts bring are really His results (cf. 1Cor.12:4-6). We should never make the mistake of assuming that this process "depends on us" in any way, since it depends entirely upon God in truth. What this means on a universal level is that God has never allowed a single person who genuinely wanted salvation to be lost for the want of the gospel message. On a personal level, it means that if God is genuinely employing us to give the good news to someone so that they may be saved, they will indeed be saved, our own personal deficiencies notwithstanding.

Third, many individuals and groups who make either or both of the above mistakes (assuming a greater importance for their own role in the process of evangelism than is warranted by the truth) often also make the third and perhaps the worst mistake, namely, that of adding to the gospel. We are doomed without God, but God has opened the life-gate for us and offers us eternal life in Jesus Christ by grace through faith (Eph.2:8-9). When we realize who Jesus is and what He is done for us, accepting Him is an easy matter -- if we really are interested in eternal life with God on His terms. Beyond explaining that Jesus is the One who died for us, and that He is the God-man sent into the world to save us through faith in His Name, nothing else need be added except by way of explanation to individuals who want to know more -- at least for saving faith. For the person in question already knows that they need God's help, so that as soon as it is made clear that that help is Jesus Christ, believing in His perfect Person and in His work in dying in our place on the cross is an easy step. All who are destined for eternal life will most definitely be saved in response to that simple message.

Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord has commanded us:" 'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'" When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.
Acts 13:46-48 NIV

Adding to the gospel is therefore not only unnecessary, but it can also be counterproductive. That is because to the extent that additional "conditions" are added, whether of actions that are wrongly represented as necessary (like "saying the 'sinner's prayer'" or being water-baptized) or the acceptance of additional information that is not part of the gospel (be it of our sinfulness or any other doctrines even if true), to that extent we are turning the grace of the gospel into a sort of legalistic salvation by works. The gospel is pure and very straightforward and simple (as the passages above make clear enough). To place an additional yoke upon those who wish to be saved is to play the part of the Pharisees who "shut up the kingdom of heaven in the faces" of those who would be saved (Matt.23:13), and in so doing make them a "twofold child of hell" (Matt.23:15).

For all these reasons, evangelism should never be reduced to a formula. The true gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ through simple faith in Him and His death for us can be very clearly and concisely delivered in less than a minute. But it is certainly legitimate to answer the questions of those with whom we have such conversations for hours on end in hope that they may turn to the light of Christ -- as long, that is, as we continue to make the basic, simple issue of salvation by grace through faith crystal clear at every point.

You might also want to take a look at the following Ichthys links:

Our Need for a Savior.

Personal Motivation in Sharing the Gospel

Apostles and Evangelism

How do you prove the existence of God?

Where does the Bible teach that Jesus is God?

The Blood of Christ.

Best wishes for your effective sharing of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #5:

I have a question that has come to my mind that I have been trying to reconcile with the Bible. I have always been told that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, or that Jesus took the punishment for every sin everyone committed or ever will. I understand that the unbeliever goes to hell because of rejection of Christ and God's grace and unrepentance, but if Jesus was punished for his sins, then why does he face punishment for his sins in hell?

Response #5:   

The answer to your question received a detailed treatment in the recently released part 6 of Coming Tribulation (see the link: "The Last Judgment"). The basic answer is that unbelievers are not judged or punished for their sins with the exception of one sin for which Jesus could not die, namely, the rejection of Himself.

The one who believes in Him is not being judged, but the one who does not believe has already been judged on the grounds that he has not put his faith in the Name (i.e., the Person) of God's only Son.
John 3:18

Unbelief is the unpardonable sin, and in essence it amounts to the rejection of God and His gracious provision for eternal life in Jesus Christ. That is to say, unbelievers go to hell out of free-will choice in refusing to accept the salvation that was available to them. This is why at the last judgment they will be "judged according to their works", i.e., not "sins" (Rev.20:11-15 et al.). This means that everything they have thought, said or done will be evaluated and while it will be shown that these were sinful and that God forgave their sins through the work of Christ, it will also be decisively proven that these works are not deserving of eternal life (i.e., unbelievers took their stand on their own "works" instead of God's), and further that they demonstrated throughout the course of their lives no inclination to accept God's gracious provision. In short, their completely negative attitude towards God and their insistence upon standing judgment on their own merits will be made perfectly clear, along with a detailed explanation of why their own merits are insufficient. So unbelievers are neither condemned nor punished for their personal sins; they are condemned for their rejection of the Savior and punished in their blasphemous presumption in choosing a life and a world and an eternity without God by being given precisely that. In other words, they receive precisely what they chose and what they desired -- eternity without God – and they would do so again and again if they had a thousand life-times to reconsider. Such is the hardness of the unbelieving heart.

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Hi again Doc!

I'm having trouble with someone who believes that some of the OT saints were saved by works. She said: "Can you prove that salvation is NEVER by works using Scripture? "

Thanks in advance!

Response #6: 

Trying to split up faith and works is a semantical game, because by legitimate "works" scripture means not "doing something for God" but responding to God in faith.

Jesus answered, "This is the work of God, that you believe in the One He has sent."
John 6:29

If you have faith, living faith, your faith influences, motivates, directs your actions. If you don't really have faith, then it does not. The two cannot be split up or separated. In James, where we find that "faith without works is dead" (i.e., true faith acts in a certain way), we also find that the examples given to illustrate "works" are not giving money, or scrubbing the church floor, or volunteering at the hospital. Instead, the "works" mentioned by James are two exceptional examples of true faith motivating people to do what they would not otherwise ever do: Rahab risking her life for the spies, and Abraham being willing to offer up Isaac to death. If Rahab hadn't really believed that God was with the Israelites as she said, she wouldn't have done what she did. If Abraham had not really had faith in God that whatever God told him to do would work out for the good, he never would have tried to sacrifice Isaac. Their "deeds" of response to God demonstrated that their faith was real.

On the other hand, most of what people today think of as "works", like giving a large amount of money, are not necessarily of faith at all, because beyond any question unbelievers give money too, even to churches and religious organizations, and unbelievers volunteer and do "good deeds" too. But it takes a believer who has un-shakeable faith in God to be willing to be thrown into the lion's den rather than stop praying to the Lord. But Daniel was delivered because he "believed in / trusted in his God" (Dan.7:23) -- that is the sort of thing James is referring to. This is also precisely what James says: "You see that his (i.e., Abraham's) faith was working together with his deeds and from these deeds his faith was perfected" (Jas.2:22). If we really, truly have faith, God gives us opportunities to develop and then eventually to demonstrate that faith through what we do in response to His will. That response may take many forms according to the tests and challenges the Lord puts in our way, but more often than not it is not what most people assume when they say the words "good works". Being "justified by works", therefore, is something that happens in the case of mature believers when they have reached the point of being tested in exceptional ways, and in spite of what the world would do or say or think, so that from their deep faith they act in faithful response to the Lord in ways that only someone who had complete confidence in God would do (in spite of what their eyes were seeing and everyone else was telling them). That's the kind of living faith I aspire to have, and I hope you and all my fellow brothers and sisters in Jesus have the same aspiration. Given the times in which we live, we are very likely to have similar exceptional opportunities to glorify the Lord by showing the world that what we believe is more important than what our eyes can see -- even to the point of death.

This is the way it has always been since Adam, and will be to the end of history and the coming of New Jerusalem.

In the One who will never forsake us and who is worthy of our all our trust, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #7:

I don't know too much on Calvinism or whether there are biblical truths to it, but my friend wrote this and I wanted to know if you consent with what he had wrote:

"You might find this interesting but I was conversing with a Calvinist and I don't know where you stand but I feel that maybe I have some ideas to wield against Calvanism:

I don't see 1 Samuel 3:14 as proof of limited atonement. If you go back to the previous chapter it says,"...for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed." (1 Samuel 2:30) 1 Samuel 2:30 tells me that our behavior is directly related to how God responds (choice). I think it is indicative of the fact that prophecy would leave from the priest and the Ephod to the prophet which means that the interpretation may have some bearing on that as well. There are several passages which provide commentary on this topic:

Leviticus 15:31"Thus you shall keep the sons of Israel separated from their uncleanness, so that they will not die in their uncleanness by their (A)defiling My tabernacle that is among them." Isaiah 22:14But the LORD of hosts revealed Himself to me, "Surely this (A)iniquity (B)shall not be forgiven you (C)Until you die," says the Lord GOD of hosts.

Ezekiel 24:13"In your filthiness is lewdness. Because I would have cleansed you, Yet you are (A)not clean, You will not be cleansed from your filthiness again Until I have (B)spent My wrath on you. New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The issue of Eli was a sin against the spirit "But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them."-Isaiah 63:10

"Jesus died for my sins so I don't. The 'world' here means all but Israel. Rom 11:12 But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring"-JohnP

You are trying to use Romans 11:12 to mean that 'world' means all but Israel but Romans 11:1 says,"..Hath God cast away his people? God forbid..." and verse two says,"God hath not cast away his people." and verse 5 says there is a remnant and verse 23 says that God is able to graft them in again. Verse 25 says that the blindness you note in verse 12 is temporary "until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in". "And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins."

Back to 1 Samuel 3:14. It says,"..the iniquity of Elis house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever." "for" is an interesting word. It is hard to tell in the English language if "for" is a conjunction or a preposition because it is seperate from "ever" and it really represents two different Hebrew words. If it was one word because it answers "how long" then it would be an adverb. But the word can represent "as far as" or "up to" and the word "ever" can mean "long duration" or "eternity". I'm going to go by the other cross references because the Old Testament provides commentary and the scripture principle is that scripture interprets scripture because your guessing or my guessing would be a private interpretation.

2 Pe 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. "

How much of this is biblical?

Response #7:   

I will have to pass on commenting on the (questionable) exegesis of the verses in the second part of this e-mail as neither they nor the one's in first part really address the issue of atonement directly at all as far as I can see.

There is a distinction to be made between "Calvinism" and "Hyper-Calvinism", and the lines here are somewhat hard to draw. For one thing, it is important to remember that John Calvin had a ministry which was in large part of necessity directed against the false teachings of Rome in his day. True Christians disagreed with the pope at their peril, and many died for their determination to state alternative points of view. Calvin's greatest work, and the one upon which his theological fame is built (if not his organizational prowess) is The Institutes of the Christian Religion. This work is greatly concerned with establishing that "protestant" views of that day were in fact in consonance with the Church Fathers (and therefore the true position of "the Church" going far back in history). That is to say, while Calvin did believe in the plenary inspiration of scripture, much of what he said and argued and did was of necessity political in nature, since the battle he was fighting could not be divorced from the political sphere (or at least not easily so). Therefore many of the positions he took were informed as much by the need to present the clearest possible alternative to what the Roman church was teaching as they were designed to reflect what the scriptures say.

This is a very fine line to walk, and Calvin did it admirably, but, in my view, the problem with some of his positions is that have been taken to even greater extremes by those who received them and elevated them to the status of immutable doctrine. In a political environment where the RCC was claiming to be able to expiate the sins of anyone who paid them enough money to do so, it was important to stress on the other side that God was not going to allow everyone into heaven just because they paid a sum of money. As in the abortion debate today where many well-meaning Christians have chosen to adopt the incorrect stand that "life begins at conception" for the sake of political capital (of course it does not begin until God gives life in the form of the human spirit at birth), it was probably inevitable that someone leading the fight against RCC graft of this sort would want to stress that only the sins of believers are effectively remitted (of course in fact Jesus died for the sins of the entire world so that salvation is truly and genuinely available to everyone, even to those who choose to reject it; see the link in BB 4A, "Unlimited Atonement"). To explain the true position (and it is a somewhat difficult one to explain), in place of a long theological disquisition it became much easier just to proclaim that Jesus only died for the sins of believers (just as "birth at conception" makes for a very clean argument). So "if you are not a believer", then "Jesus did not die for you". I think you can see for yourself how easily this false position leads into another hyper-Calvinist fallacy of the extreme view of election. For the position of limited atonement virtually begs the question of what happens when the unbeliever believes (or the believer stops believing) The hyper-Calvinist answer is that God has foreordained who will believe and therefore Christ had no need to die for those who were not so foreordained (and that those who seem to stop believing really never believed in the first place).

Neither of these positions is that far off from the truth in many respects, but the problem with them both and the underlying problem of all hyper-Calvinist doctrines is that they make a muddle of free will, and free will is so very important to the whole reason why we human beings are even here in the first place (as well as to everything we do while we are here). I think it is fair to say that Calvin well understood that point and operated as any of us would and do, namely, as those whose choices in all things are incredibly important and need to be made even if God knew (and He did know) what we were going to do in the first place and as a result incorporated our decisions (and He did so foreordain them) into His Plan. Belaboring the niceties of Calvinism is, like the ancient philosophical attempts to "square the circle", a rather pointless and unprofitable pursuit. Half a millennium after the fact and in full knowledge of the circumstances which shaped Calvinism, the Church should have long ago moved on (Calvin and all of the reformers were, for example, almost entirely ignorant of eschatology as a result of their necessary preoccupations). These sorts of discussions are almost always the result of sentimentalist desires on the part of members of old-line denominations to try and show some rationale for continuing with their traditions. If such people spent half the time and effort really reading and studying scripture honestly and without any argumentative agenda, they would be much more likely to benefit not only their only spiritual growth but the Church as a whole as well.

(14) Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. (15) Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. (16) Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
1st Timothy 4:14-16 NIV

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

I heard a Pastor state that the word "all" here refers to the elect and not all in the literal sense regarding this passage:

But, (beloved), be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to (us-ward), not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8,9)

He pointed to the Greek and gave a definition that meant, "some of each kind, Jews, Gentiles, rich, poor, etc." He also stated that the word "world" can have several meaning depending on the original Greek and context. He further stated that the "any" in that verse refers to any of the elect and pointed to other passages to prove that all refers to all the elect only. The words in brackets are the words he emphasized to prove that the "all" and "any" refers to the elect (beloved, us-ward). He also quotes the first verse of chapter 3 where Peter begins the epistle to the "beloved", but he used the translation "dear friends." He then goes to the first chapter of 1st Peter and quotes the first two verses to prove that the epistle is to the "elect".

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, (Elect) according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. (1 Peter 1:1,2)

I have always been taught that "all" refers to all in the literal sense because in Revelation 22:17 God invites all (whosoever). By the way, this Pastor taught this in a sermon series titled "a workman approved by God" and often says that context rules. Is he taking these passages out of context and does all mean all in the literal sense in those passages?

Response #8: 

Your instincts are right "on the money". 2nd Peter 3:9 is as clear a statement of God's desire for all of his children to be saved as could possibly be made, either in Greek or in English. The common Greek word here for "all" (pas, pant-, cf. "pandemic") is generic in the extreme and semantically identical to our English word (i.e., it does not have "special secret meaning" as the exegesis reported implies). Moreover, the first half of this proposition uses an equally all-encompassing word, "any", so that together the phraseology is very clear and hard to dispute: "not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance". There are no qualifiers here in the text to suggest that Peter is limiting this to the elect.

Further, the logic underlying this position is also seriously flawed. It is true that the epistle was written to believers -- all New Testament epistles are written to believers. But by this logic, an epistle could never mention the devil or unbelievers, since the books are written to believers and therefore all statements must apply to them alone. Of course, that is a ridiculous idea, and so we cannot exclude the clear sense of the passage on that basis. This individual comes closer to having a point with the "to us-ward" argument. There are two major problems with this, however: 1) the fact that "you" are separated and cordoned off from "any/all" through this prepositional phrase has the force of splitting "you" (who are saved) from "any/all" whom God wishes to save, but who have not yet come to repentance [and, incidentally, the true text here actually reads di' hymas, not eis hymas, that is, "for your sake", not "towards you"]; 2) the proposed interpretation would have the effect of proclaiming that it is a very good thing that God is presently exercising patience towards "you" because you are going to "perish" unless you first "come to repentance". That is to say, following this interpretation, we would have to suppose that all who read this epistle are going to hell unless they immediately repent, believers included. That certainly is impossible in regard to believers, even if we assume (though we have no reason at all to do so) that everyone to whom Peter is writing was in deep apostasy, a very difficult supposition considering that this is a general epistle and not even focused on one particular community. Since the letter was written to believers (as this person admits), it is clearly not the case that Peter is calling the salvation of every single one of them into question. It is therefore unquestionably the case that the "any/all" are unbelievers whom God wishes to save, but who first must change their minds and accept Jesus as their Savior in order for Him to do so.

It is certainly true that attention to the Greek text always illuminates the meaning of any particular passage of the New Testament, and it is also sometimes the case that the Greek will turn suppositions based on English translations clean on their head. But the second category is rare enough to be unlikely to be discovered by anyone without a very deep background in Greek (and not just biblical Greek). Just as it takes many years of learning any second language, English, for example, before a person becomes familiar enough with the idiom, vocabulary and styles of use to have a solid feel for what is and isn't a likely meaning for a particular phrase, so it is in Greek. Merely finding a statement in a lexicon and "plugging it in" to a text may be possible, but it is unlikely to yield a correct result (as the questionable "English" on Chinese signs during the last summer Olympics testifies only too well: e.g., "Question Authority" . . . by which they meant, "Ask the guards if you have any questions"). Q.E.D.

In Jesus our Lord and our heavenly Father whose will it is for everyone to be saved.

Bob L.

Question #9:

Dear Dr. Luginbill--I am enclosing something written by a supposed Messianic "scholar", who happens to know Greek and Hebrew, and thinks the 3rd edition of BDAG is the last word in Greek translation. He won't tell me where he learned Greek and Hebrew; I suspect he is either self taught, or learned them through a correspondence course. He thinks the NT has been corrupted by a Hellenistic mindset and has drifted away from its Hebraic "roots" and that many of the translation are "anti-Semitic". Because they mention those "under" the Law, instead of those "WITH" the Law--because the word "en" is translated as "under" instead of "with." He apparently didn't know that "en" has a HUGE range of meaning, which even I, layperson though I am, am aware of.

He has practically rewritten the Bible, and has his own "translation" of it. Some of it I don't dispute, but some I most emphatically do. All of this, I think, is to legitimize giving the Torah great prominence in the NT church.

Here is one example of this "interpretation":

John 3:16): "16 For likewise God loves the world, that He gives the uniquely begotten Son, so that everyone faithfully committing to Him should not perish except they should be holding fast to eternal life."

Salvation is not so much a matter of creed, but of enduring commitment to God (cf. Matthew 24:13). The Church has theologically and linguistically drifted away from the original Hebraic headwaters of truth. They were polluted downstream by Hellenistic and Gnostic movements. No where does this failure show up more than in the notion that πιστευω means "believe only". This truncation of the biblical concept is just another symptom of the "mystery of lawlessness".

Yeshua never asks us to do the impossible, since he is providing the the Spirit to tell us the truth and the power to do it. And nothing he asks is for the purpose of acquittal. When does one see a true conversion? When someone hears the gospel and is not only convicted to believe it, but is also convicted to clean the obvious sinful lifestyle away. That person understands what a commitment to Messiah is. Sadly though there are many who have been taught that they can remain a "carnal Christian" and still be saved. They have been deceived by false or inadequate presentations of the gospel as if believe only is all that is required. Such presentations are becoming all the more frequent as the poison of Chaeferism sinks into evangelicalism, or the poison of Lutheranism, with its false sense of forgiveness (via the Eucharist) and legal righteousness before God, or Calvinism with its false sense of acquittal before God and once saved always saved doctrines.

Πιστευω "2. to entrust oneself to an entity in complete confidence, believe (in), trust, w. implication of total commitment to the one who is trusted ...(οι) πιστευσαντες (those) who made their commitment " (BDAG, 3rd, 817). (cf. Liddell & Scott, πιστ-ευω, "committed to one", pg. 1408). This is all the more so tied to Gen. 15:6, האמח ב־= make firm with, confirm with, be in support of. The Greek and Hebrew words include "firming" a promise, but are by no means limited to the idea of believe. The biblical requirement to repentance refutes the "believe only" interpretation (cf. Gal. 5:16-25)"

TorahTimes is his own website, in which he gives his own commentary on his OWN translation. I told him his translation and interpretations are in no way authoritative, since they have not been subjected to peer review, testing, etc. He says I am "hung up" an awful lot on "authority." :)

Response #9:   

Well I agree in substance that to make it safe to heaven a person can't just say "I accept Jesus as the Christ" then go on their merry way to a life of sin (for even if the belief was genuine, living like an unbeliever begets thinking like an unbeliever setting the process of apostasy in motion). In reality, however, this person is setting up some straw men. First, God does not permit true believers (and God knows who are His and who are not in their heart of hearts -- He doesn't need any litmus tests) to carry on in gross sinfulness forever. He forces all such to a decision point where they either die off in terms of their faith like the seed which had no root, or, if they refuse either to wither in letting go of their faith, then He takes them out of this life with the "sin unto death" process (see the link: in BB 3B "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"). Secondly, not that it makes that much difference to me since I am not a partisan defender of either Calvin or Chafer, I am, however, relatively certain that either man would have been greatly surprised to learn that anyone thought they believed that a person could be a Christian and live a life of gross sin. I suspect that each would say such a person was "not really ever elect". Personally, I don't believe that, but in fairness neither of these men taught a superficial intellectual mental assent as sufficient for salvation. Both men believed in the transformative power of the new birth. In this they are closer to the truth than your correspondent.

True change comes from the inside out. A person is changed by truly giving their life to Jesus Christ, and the result of following Him diligently in the life that follows is sanctification through spiritual growth. That may not be an easy path; it does require good guidance and orthodox teaching (ideally, at any rate). But the "believe only" construct is a straw man, at least as far as the named individuals here are concerned. That said, correspondent has a point that there are those who teach this sort of thing today, or at least imply the like in the language they use. It is a delicate balance on the one hand not to "add to faith" and on the other hand not to "minimize faithfulness". Both aspects of meaning are present in the two words for "to believe" in Greek and Hebrew respectively, pisteuo and 'amn. Biblically speaking (as opposed to theologically), there is no idea in scripture of being able to parse out either the act of believing or the faithfulness to Jesus that comes from genuinely "pledging allegiance" to Him through the act of saving faith; scripture assumes these two aspects to be inseparable (e.g., Rom.10:5-11: declaring comes from believing; believing results in declaring; Jas. 2:20-26: genuine faith always produces works of faith). If you really are of Christ, He will lead you where you should go and you will follow (at least to a minimum degree of continuing to believe in and be faithful to Him). So that the person who says "all you have to do is believe" is correct, and the one who says "only those who faithfully follow Jesus to the end" is also entirely correct. Excusing carnality on the one hand and mandating legalistic formality on the other are extreme positions, both of which are in their essence untrue, and each of which is potentially fatal to true belief.

In the One who died for us that we might live for Him, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

 

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