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Sin, Atonement and Forgiveness II

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Question #1:

Hi Bob, just came across this older article that someone has linked to in order to justify that Christ did not die for all of mankind. I had never thought about it so deeply and was curious as to who the man was and came to realize that he is a Calvinist. I was a bit studied on that topic but not too deeply. I found so much wrong with his articles that I couldn't believe how respected he is and how many books he has written; and for wiki to denote him as a representative of the Evangelical Church seemed a very broad mistake. I don't know much, but his views, even for me seemed so novice in its presentation, again, I can't believe how he could be taken seriously. Am I wrong to judge this man's teachings, as I am not questioning his salvation? And for the sake of time, could you link me to any thoughts you have written on the subject?

The Doctrine of Actual Atonement, Part 1

http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/90-277

Thank you so much!

In Christ,

Response #1:

Always good to hear from you. I hope things are going well and that your efforts at ministry "at home and abroad" are bearing fruit. I keep you in my prayers day by day.

As to your question, John MacArthur is famous, it's true. To his credit, he actually has made teaching a pillar of his ministry. That of course does not excuse teaching things which are incorrect, but we all have to answer personally to the Lord, and none of us is perfect. Nevertheless, there are many aspects of his teachings which I could not endorse. On this one, he is in the main-stream of Calvinist thought which he often defends quite vigorously. I often try to distinguish between Calvin and Calvinism. John Calvin was in a life and death fight with Roman Catholicism over issues of eternal life versus damnation, so to judge him by what his followers have done with his work seems to me out of place. Bottom line: Christ died for all. Hyper-Calvinists do not agree, so I think you will find that MacArthur is not saying anything unique or different from anyone in a Calvinistic church or denomination, anyone, that is, who puts received tradition over what the Bible clearly states.

Here are some links where this issue is discussed directly and/or indirectly at Ichthys (and do feel free to write me back about any of this):

The Universality of the Atonement (in BB 3B)

Unlimited Atonement (in BB 4A)

God's Plan to Save You (in BB 4B) - gives the philosophical/theological basis for the need for unlimited atonement

Calvinism, Covenants and Catholicism

Calvinism

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Good day sir,

I want to say thank you for your prayers and persistence in teaching the truth of the word of God and I pray for your strength to increase in the name of our Lord. My question today is about the blood of Jesus. What is the significance of the blood of Jesus in our prayers when pleaded during prayer for protection or cleansing? I need your help and biblical stand on the blood of Jesus and links where you had referenced or discussed it.

Thank you sir in advance.

In Him.

Response #2:

Always good to hear from you my friend. I hope and pray that you and your family are doing well, and that your friend is doing better too.

As to your question, "the blood of Christ" is a metaphor. That is important to say because the Roman Catholic church – as well as many other misguided groups and individuals – often blasphemously get this important doctrine wrong, and that leads to a whole host of false doctrines and misapprehensions about the truth of scripture (as in "transubstantiation", just for example; link).

"Blood" is the symbol of life. As such, it was forbidden to be eaten and was instead dedicated by God to be spilled out on the altar in Old Testament times. Why? To symbolize that the giving up of life is necessary to cover sins. Now our sins are not actually poured out on a bronze or stone altar, anymore than any animal blood could do anything for us. Animal blood symbolizes death; on the altar, it symbolizes a death acceptable to God for the propitiation of our sins. But Christ did not bleed to death: He gave up His spirit once atonement for sin had been accomplished (Matt.27:50; Mk.15:37; Lk.23:46; Jn.19:30). What our Lord did do is die spiritually for every sin every human being ever committed or will. He "bore our sins in His body on the tree" (1Pet.2:24); that is, He paid the price for every sin, enduring the entire righteous punishment of God for every sin. That is Christ's spiritual death. Christ's spiritual death is referred to in the New Testament by the phrase "the blood of Christ", a metaphor wherein the physical death of the animal represents the spiritual death of our Lord; failure to understand what this symbol means results in undervaluing – in addition to completely misunderstanding – what our Lord did for us. Christ's "blood" is His work on the cross in atoning for our sins; it is not His literal, physical blood – which was still in His body when He voluntarily gave up His spirit. So in answer to your question, special appeals to the "blood of Christ" are inevitably bound up with a complete twisting of what the truth about our blessed deliverance from sin through our Lord's sacrifice on our behalf as our Substitute is really all about – and therefore also inevitably fraught with all manner of falsity.

Here are some pertinent links where the details will spell all this out:

The blood of Christ

The Blood of Christ (in BB 4A)

The Spiritual Death of Jesus Christ I (in BB 4A)

*The Spiritual Death of Jesus Christ II (in BB 4A)

Redemption, the Blood of Christ, Christ our Passover, and The Passion of the Christ.

The Substitutionary Death of Jesus Christ on our behalf

Unlimited Atonement

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior, through whose death on our behalf alone we are forgiven and saved.

Bob L.

Question #3:

How did the blood of Christ pay for sin? Why did God require a perfect and innocent life to suffer in order to forgive the rest of us? I get it in principle, but connecting the dots is pretty difficult in detail. How does one mans death pay for the life of all sinners?

Response #3:

This is not an easy question to answer simply and it is also one which I dare say even most Christians do not properly understand. Christ died for sin while still alive. He said while still alive on the cross "it has been accomplished". He died for all sin in the three hours of darkness on Calvary. He was judged for every single sin every single human being ever committed and paid its penalty in full. That is mind-boggling, yes. It was also impossible without Him being a perfect human being (otherwise He would not have been able to bear sin and would not have been an acceptable sacrifice) and it was also impossible without Him being God (otherwise He would not have been able to endure the judgment of a single sin). Like the bush that burned but was not consumed, Christ bore the penalty for all we have done in His body on the cross and "burned" until the penalty for them all was satisfied. This side of heaven, we cannot adequately understand what He did for us. Suffice it to say that Christ's death to sin in those three hours is "bigger" than the universe, "longer" than eternity, and much more important than everything else which has ever or will ever happen in time. Indeed, it is the foundational cornerstone of the plan of God. I have the details on this written up at the following link: "The Spiritual Death of Christ".

Question #4:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

I have more questions and thoughts. This one is on what Charles Spurgeon wrote in his Defense of Calvinism:

I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism. Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; or unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; or unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah. Nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people that Christ wrought out upon the cross. Nor can I comprehend a gospel that lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.

Is this true? Do you believe that TULIP/Calvinism/the doctrines of grace is the GOSPEL? Can you explain Galatians 1:9? What is meant by "a little leaven leavens the whole lump"? Is the Calvinism that Charles Spurgeon held too, not the Calvinism that we have today? What is meant by Spurgeon's title of "the prince of preachers"? What does it mean that the poor man's wisdom is despised? If I understand Calvinism correctly, the Lord has the power to save anyone it pleases Him to save. If 2 Peter 3:9 means what it says, then why is everyone not saved? Is His arm too short? Does He lack the strength to rescue us? God forbid. Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear.

What's so special about us humans? What is man that He is mindful of us? What is the purpose of our creation, and placement on this planet? How, exactly, are we made in the image of God? Why are we a curiosity to the angels? What does the Devil want with lowly man? From reading Revelation, it seems that Satan has bigger fish to fry than toying in human affairs. What good does the fate of man do him?

I'm sure you know how I much hate Calvinism. I suppose that if Calvinism were true, I'd almost feel sorry for the Devil. After all, we would be in the same boat. "God preordained, for his own glory and the display of His attributes of mercy and justice, a part of the human race, without any merit of their own, to eternal salvation, and another part, in just punishment of their sin, to eternal damnation." Why blame Satan for fulfilling the role that has been given to him? Why blame the reprobate for their utter inability to come to God? After all, does the Spirit and the bride not beckon to dead men? And who are we, humans and angels, elect and non-elect to answer back to God? "So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy". Thank God that he is merciful, even to a thousand generations. Thank God that he still sends people like you to proclaim freedom to the captives. Most of all, thank God that Calvinism is not true. I think the thing that eats at me most about Calvinism is that it exchanges God's love, for His sovereignty. It makes one question His love for His creation. It strikes at the very heart of the gospel, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." I think the Devil can make good use of a theology that denies free will, as well as the mercy of God. Is this not Satan's charge against God? Why have you made me this way? Do you see why I could come to the conclusion that Calvinism is the doctrine of Satan? I really hate that were not on the same page. I truly feel that Calvinism is the theology of proud intellectuals. May all men (but Calvinists especially) come to "know the love of Christ that passes knowledge and be filled with all the fullness of God."

Thanks,

Response #4:

As to the Spurgeon quote, whether it is true or not depends upon what Spurgeon understood by "Calvinism" (which is not defined in the quote). Your definition, the famous TULIP acronym, is a fair representation of how later generations of Reformed theologians distilled Calvin's teachings (see the links: "Calvinism and Covenants" and "Luther, Arminius, Calvin et al."). Whether or not and to what extent Calvin himself would have agreed is somewhat debatable in my view. Since systems of theology are complex, open to interpretation, and have a tendency to change over time (regardless of what their proponents may think), it is always better in my view to deal with individual points of doctrine on such occasions. In respect to the issue of salvation, which is the point of departure that concerns you (and Spurgeon) here, I think your rhetorical question sums things up just right. God is not limited. But God does not override our free will so as to save us against our will. The only limitation upon the plan of salvation is the self-chosen refusal to be saved that has always been, sadly, the rule in the human race. God is not the "problem" – Christ died for all sin. Mankind is the problem.

Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.
Psalm 73:27-28

These verses sum it nicely in my opinion. We who believe rejoice in the Lord. We take refuge in Him and are thrilled to proclaim Him and all He has done for us. But "those who are far", that is, unbelievers, will perish in the second death; and all who prove unfaithful, apostatizing from our Lord, will likewise be destroyed. Faith is the issue, and how we use our faith is a choice, not some foreign matter implanted into us against our will.

In regard to your third paragraph and this large number of related questions, answering these has been one of the main purposes of this ministry. The plan of God always intended the creation of mankind as well as of angelic kind. We are created for the glory of God, and we are very important to Him – otherwise the Son of God would not have taken on true humanity. That is an ineffably astounding crossing of all divides the depth of which most theologians have not gotten around to contemplating as they should. In addition to the Satanic Rebellion series (which explains the relationship between the creation of angels and that of human beings; see the link), here are some other links which will give you the background on these important questions (and do feel free to write back about this part of the email as well):

War in Heaven

War in Heaven II

God's Plan to Save You

The Purpose, Creation and Nature of Angels

The Purpose, Creation and Fall of Man (BB 3A)

Your last paragraph is a wonderful indictment of the problem. As I say, I would prefer to exempt Calvin himself. He had his reasons for putting things in an absolute-sounding way. Times have changed. We are no longer liable to be burned at the stake by the Roman Catholic church for doubting that one's own works are what really count and not God's efforts on our behalf. As I often remark at times like this, it is frequently the case when it comes to divine truth that things which human beings in their spiritual myopia see as opposites are often not so in the infinity of God. You hit the nail right on the head when you said that hyper-Calvinism replaces the love of God with the sovereignty of God. However, there are many theologies out there which do the opposite. To be doctrinally correct, we have to accept that both things are true. God loves all, but not all will be saved because many choose against Him. God has decreed the salvation of the elect, all those who do in fact choose for Him. Free will and the divine decree are not, therefore, in opposition one to another – they could not exist independently of each other.

I appreciate your good words and your enthusiasm for the truth of God's Word!

Sorry again for the delay. I hope this is helpful to you nonetheless, and do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

In Jesus Christ who died for us,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Bob,

I hope you are doing well! I have a few questions for you.

I've studied the common debate of Calvinism vs. Arminianism about 3 different times now, and this most recent venture has given me a lot more clarity. Of course both have some truth in them, but scripturally speaking, I can't say either are correct. I've been discussing the scriptures with a Calvinist, and he doesn't see where choice is in the Bible. I just shake my head and don't see how he doesn't see choice everywhere in the Bible.

Before I get to my questions, I should let you know that I've read all of your various emails responses and studies concerning this, but I still need some clarity. I was doing quite well with unlimited atonement, until I listened to MacArthur's series on this, and he referenced some scriptures I hadn't considered. Of course I know MacArthur is a Calvinist, but I enjoy listening to him because he brings up scriptures I may not have considered.

MacArthur first goes through and states the scriptures of "all" and "world" (in terms of Christ dying) must be looked at in context and have qualifiers. Very few of his qualifiers made sense, but it was the other scriptures below that have me questioning.

Here are the scriptures he references that he says 'limit' the atonement to only the saved:

Hebrews 9:28 (once to bear the sins of many)

Matthew 20:28 (to give His life a ransom for many)

Matthew 1:21 (save His people)

John 10:11 (the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep)

John 11: 50-52

Eph 5:25 (as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her)

He summarizes:

"The death of Christ was a real, true actual satisfaction of divine justice. It was a true payment and a true atonement in full, actually not potentially, paid to God by Christ on behalf of all who would ever believe because they were chosen and redeemed by the power of God. The death of Christ was then indefinite, particular, specific and actual on behalf of God's chosen people, limited in extent by the sovereign purposes of God, but unlimited in effect, for all for whom it was rendered it is fully in force, or will be in each individual life."

MacArthur is saying Christ only died and only atoned for the elect. That Christ's death was not for all, but only for the chosen. He only died and bore the sins of the elect. It sounds like he would say that only the sins of the elect were imputed on Christ. I would like to know what you think of those verses above.

Now I understand it that Christ died for all, but in order to receive justification, you must have faith. I would say that all sin was imputed on Christ.

MacArthur calls this unlimited potential but limited actual power of the cross and thinks this is some sort of heresy or unbiblical idea. He would say Christ's death was perfect, and if Christ really atoned for the sins of the world, then that would mean all are saved. He said that how could people be in hell who had their sin imputed on Christ.

I don't see how 'limiting' the effect of atonement to those that have faith is some logical error. That limited atoning effect, based on faith, is God's choice, because He wants us to choose Him. Christ displayed love to us, by sacrificing Himself for us. He wants us to display our love for Him by sacrificing our self (self righteousness, self-centeredness, etc) for Him. I guess I also don't have a problem with people being in Hell, whom had their sin imputed on Christ, who Christ atoned for ... because they still have sin, the sin of not having faith in the Son.

Any thoughts you can share on the subject would be appreciated. This might require a few back and forths to sort out.

For His Glory,

Response #5:

Good to hear from you again. I think you have hit all the main points very well. I think your experience (and your email) shows the pointlessness of endlessly rehashing the positions of the Reformers when we are in a position to do much better just by sticking to scripture. Of course one has to start somewhere, but at some point one also has to move on (at least to get anywhere). I would only wish to add the following observations which may help to address your question:

1. Scripture says that our God is "Savior of all men, especially of those who believe" (1Tim.4:10 NKJV). How can this be true unless there is both a distinction between believers and unbelievers on the one hand, but God actually did provide for salvation for all mankind on the other, even for those who refused to avail themselves of it? More than providing an argument, this verse illuminates the issue for me since it shows God's unbiased willingness and complete provision while at the same time making a distinction between those who accept His Son and those who do not. I.e., it demonstrates that rather than being contradictory these two principles go hand in hand.

2. On the other hand, if Christ did not die for the sins of all unbelievers, then in what sense is the gospel message to them a legitimate offer? If they are not only not going to be saved but it is also impossible that they be saved (because in that hypothetical Christ did not actually die for them) then we are lying to them when we say "Christ died for you" and "You can be saved; just believe in Christ", because in that case Christ did not die for them and they cannot be saved regardless of what they might hypothetically believe or not.

3. As you allude to, Jesus actually says "every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven" (Matt.12:31 NIV). But if in the hypothetical Christ did not die for all sin then how can this be true? Sins are only forgiven through the blood of Christ. The one sin for which He could not die (as this verse explains) was the sin of rejecting His death for the forgiveness of sins. To get the benefit of this forgiveness, one has to accept Jesus Christ and His work on the cross through faith (Eph.2:8-9).

4. Which brings me to the actual situation of the last judgment where unbelievers are condemned not on the basis of their sins but their "works" (Rev.20:12-13; cf. Matt.25:41-46). To simplify a complicated subject, every unbeliever is aware through natural revelation and the image of God planted within him/her that death means damnation absent reconciliation with God (cf. Rom.1:18-22). As a result, all those not willing to obey God for whatever reason develop a series of justifications (aka "lies") in hardening their hearts whereby they imagine they will not be condemned simply because they do not want to be condemned. The last judgment will demonstrate in great detail how they knew the truth, how they have no excuse, and how all they "did" which they imagine as "good" was really only an affront to God. Their sins are forgiven, but their names have been blotted out of the Book of Life on account of their failure to accept Jesus Christ through faith (there is much more at the link: "The Last Judgment").

5. The Book of Life: Contrary to what many believe, scripture actually teaches that the Book of Life originally contained all of the names of all human beings God had destined to create (see the link with sub-links). It is only by overtly rejecting Jesus Christ in this life or by failing to accept Him before life comes to an end that a person's name is "blotted out". But how could unbelievers be in the book if there were no provision for them to be saved? This point, along with the fact that Christ actually died for all of the sins of the entire world, together give us an indication of the ineffable grace and goodness of our God who even paid the price in the blood of His Son for those who would spurn it: that is the real measure of His love, and how "limited atonement" would seem to cheapen it if true!

6. It important to point out that the passages you include are not actually inconsistent with unlimited atonement, biblically understood – and that is a very large distinction. There is a difference between seeming to clash with the way that "doctrine" is phrased and constructed in theological arguments and an actual denial of the fact that Christ died for all. For example, the fact that He died "for many" does not mean that He did not die for all, merely that John, Paul, Matthew are emphasizing the salvation of believers (compare "Savior . . . especially of believers"). Writing to believers, our actual salvation is surely good and right to emphasize from time to time. We can't expect these apostles to have anticipated that their words would be taken to mean that Jesus only died for some – especially inasmuch as the passages do not actually say that.

7. There are, however, many passages which cannot reasonably be taken to mean anything else but that Christ died for the sins of the entire world, and a handful of passages which emphasize those who take advantage of His sacrifice while some do not cannot in anyway change the truth of the many passages which make the point that He died for all abundantly clear:

On the next day, [John] saw Jesus coming towards him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, the One who takes away the sin of the world".
John 1:29

But if anyone hears My words and does not hold on to them, I do not condemn him. For I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.
John 12:47

For it is the love of Christ that constrains us, having brought us to this conclusion: One died for [us] all; so then we all have died [in Him]. And He died on behalf of all so that those who are [now] alive might no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised [from the dead].
2nd Corinthians 5:14-15

For that God was [and is] in Christ making overtures of reconciliation between the world and Himself – not taking their transgressions into account – and has entrusted us with this message (lit., "word") of reconciliation.
2nd Corinthians 5:19

[God] who wants all men to be saved and come to accept the truth. For as God is One, so there is [only] One Mediator between God and Man, Christ Jesus in His humanity, who gave Himself as a ransom for all [mankind] . . .
1st Timothy 2:4-6a

But now we do see Jesus crowned with glory and honor on account of the death He suffered, even Him who became "a little lower than the angels" [for a brief span] so that by the grace of God He might taste death on behalf of us all.
Hebrews 2:9

Unlike the [human] high priests, [Jesus] has no need of making sacrifice day by day, first on behalf of His own sins, and then for the sins of the people. For this [latter] He did once and for all when He offered Himself [as a sacrifice].
Hebrews 7:27

And He Himself is the atonement for our sins, and not just for ours, but also for the entire world.
1st John 2:2

As to Arminianism vs. Calvinism, it's not a debate I'm that interested in. Scripture clearly teaches predestination as well as choice (covered in detail in BB 4B; link). In truth, you can't have one without the other because the only way we could exist as creatures who can choose (possessing the image of God) is if God ordained this creation in all of its details ahead of time. Failing to grasp the reality of both sides of the equation is the problem with both sides of the debate in my view.

Finally, I wouldn't worry about the fact that limited atonement may not seem fundamentally illogical considered in a vacuum. I would only stress that it contradicts scripture, and for me that is more than enough.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Thanks for the quick response. Your email was very helpful. In fact, the first verse you quoted (1 Timothy 4:10) nailed it all down for me. I have read the verse hundreds of times, but it hadn’t stuck out to me when I was restudying this topic. As you said, it really points the picture of God’s provision for all, yet makes a distinction to those who believe. You could have ended the email there are I would have been content. I enjoyed your other points as well, specifically the offer we often give to others, that Christ "died for them." If He didn’t, then we are lying. If He didn’t, then it’s not a legitimate offer. As you pointed out, and I completely agree, all sins but the one of unbelief in the Son are forgiven, and that unbelief (which is a sin) is what removes your name from the Book of Life. When you step back and look at it all (Scripture) it really stands complete. As I said in a previous email, I’ve studied the predestination, election, and free-will faith ‘controversy’ about three different times now in my life, and this time is has so much clarity. That’s not from intelligence, but simply knowing the Word, and relying on it instead of preconceived notions and views. In order to understand calculus, you need some foundational blocks, such as arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and even trigonometry. The same concept applies when studying scripture. When you start trying to interpret and determine doctrine, you must rely on the foundational doctrines first, and rely on all of scripture, not just the areas that fit your view.

Thanks again for your ministry. The Spirit is working through you, and I give glory to God for the teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness that comes from your ministry.

For Christ Jesus our Lord,

Response #6:

Thanks!

I very much appreciate all your good words.

From one soldier of Jesus Christ to another.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hello Bob,

Trust you are well and enjoying the summer? This is the first summer in BC that we have not had to deal with mosquitoes and it is a bonus! My question relates to the subject "for whom did Christ die?" My position is that He could not have died for the whole world, for if that were the case what did His death achieve for those who are in hell now? Am I incorrect in saying that He died for those whom the Father has given to Him? If He died for the whole world and some go to hell because of unbelief, then it would appear that we have to ADD something to salvation that something in this case being faith. However faith in itself is a gift from God, we cannot conjure it up for ourselves so that cannot be the explanation. I would appreciate your views on what I perceive to be a particularly perplexing question.

Thanks,

Response #7:

Good to hear from you again. We have had our share of "skeeters" down here this summer (it has been somewhat wetter than usual).

As to your questions, they circle around the issue of limited vs. unlimited atonement (as these things are usually termed). Here are some pertinent scriptures:

(16) For God loved the world so much that He gave [up] His only Son, [with the purpose] that everyone who believes in Him should not be lost [forever], but have eternal life [instead]. (17) For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him.
John 3:16-17

How can God be said to have sent Christ to save the world, if He sent Him to save only the "elect"?

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.
1st John 4:14

How can the Son be the Savior of the world, if His sacrifice was not for the whole world but for the small number who believe?

And He Himself is the atonement for our sins, and not just for ours, but also for the entire world.
1st John 2:2

If His atonement is "not for our sins" only, and since "we" are believers, how is His sacrifice also not at least potentially effective for those who do not believe as well?

For this reason we toil and strive, for we have put our hope in the Living God who is the Savior of all men, especially believers.
1st Timothy 4:10

How can God be "Savior of all mankind – especially of believers", if there is no saving at all available for those God knew would not believe?

There are many such passages. I am aware that those of the "limited atonement" persuasion have "answers" for them, but not good ones, not answers which let honest adherents of the Word sleep soundly. What are usually deployed against these simple biblical truths expressed in the verses above and dozens like them are theological arguments, such as the ones that you are wrestling with; but they are flawed as I hope to be able to show in brief. For example, when you ask, "[in that case] what did His death achieve for those who are in hell now?", I would allow as to how that seems a logical objection, from one point of view. On the other hand, if Christ did not die for those in hell, how is their consignment there in any way just? They never had a chance. Especially for those unbelievers born after the cross: whatever they do or do not do, there is no way in the world that they can [in that case] avoid hell, because [in that case] Christ did not die for them and there is of course no further atonement. I do understand that "God knows all things", and that He certainly knew ahead of time who would and who would not believe, and that He certainly could have factored that in in determining whose sins Christ would bear and whose He would not. But consider: if that were the case, then why go through with human and angelic "history" in the first place? Why make mankind with free will in the first place? Why not instead just make us all resurrection-perfect, creating only the elect angels and elect human beings – no need to choose, no need to go through all this pain and trouble, and, most importantly of all, no need for Christ to die for anyone, because [in that case] there would never had been any sin. In that case, however, we would not be "us" – we might be something like "pets" but would we never be brethren of Christ who chose from our own hearts to follow Him (Heb.2:12-13).

This is a very important issue and much more important than most Christians realize. The cross, the death of Christ for all mankind, is the not only the center-piece of history from the divine point of view, it is history. It is the rock, the foundation of the plan of God, it is the love of God. What it cost the Father, what it cost the Spirit, what it cost the Son to take away sin is beyond human comprehension, but suffice it to say that it is bigger than the universe and more weighty than all human suffering from the dawn of time to the end of these heavens and this earth. It is the most precious thing imaginable and unimaginable. Therefore the very fact that Christ had to become a human being in order to die for us is the starting point for understanding creature history, the plan of God, and the meaning and breadth of the atonement. Christ had to die for all, because in order to create human kind as we are, to make us with the image of God, God had to create us all (we know this because this is the way He did it, creating all, not only the elect). Having created us all, to save any He had to provide for the salvation of all. Otherwise, the choice would not be a true choice. That is why, for example, the names of all human beings were written in the Book of Life before creation began, and it is only by rejecting God (through rejecting the Son – or refusing to accept Him) that anyone's name is "blotted out" (see the link for a short explanation which links to more lengthy ones). No one goes to hell arbitrarily; no one in hell did not have the same genuine opportunity for eternal life as every believer; all in hell are there because that is what they chose, namely, to be "masters of their own fate" instead of yielding their will – the free will given them by God – in responding to His most gracious gift. All of these matters are discussed in very great detail at the following link: Bible Basics 4B: Soteriology.

As to the issue of faith, let me give you my translation of Ephesians 2:8-9:

(8) For you have been saved by [God's] grace through faith [in Christ]; and this did not come from you – it is God's gift. (9) Nor did it come from what you have done, lest anyone should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

In this passage, it is salvation that is "the gift of God", not faith (which is the universal human capacity to choose to trust). We know that of a surety because in the Greek "faith" is a feminine noun but the "this" which "did not come from you" is in the neuter in this passage. So grammatically, while it is often "understood" the other way (wrongly so), that cannot be what the passage is actually saying on grammatical grounds. I would argue that such is the case on many other theological grounds as well: Christ, and the eternal life and salvation He brings, is the Gift wherever else we are talking about "the Gift" in the New Testament; e.g.: "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" (2Cor.9:15 NIV; the one "exception" is "the gift of the Spirit", but that gift is the result of Christ's victory and the sign of being a believer, one who has gained salvation in Him).

I do understand that God gives us everything, so in that sense He gave us "faith"; but He gave us "faith" in the sense of giving us the capacity to believe . . . or not. It is up to us to use that particular "gift" in the right way. That is why there is really no discernible difference in practical terms between faith (as a capacity of the heart), free will, and the image of God (these are really synonyms and that is why I often speak of "free-will faith"). When we decide to believe or not, we are not doing anything meritorious; we are simply choosing, the very thing which distinguishes us from all other non-moral species. And we have no choice but to choose. Life is all about choices, big and small, and the biggest choice is the one concerning where we wish to spend eternity. But the only reason we even have that choice is because Christ cast His lot by coming into the world and then died to provide it – which would not be the case if He only died for some.

As I say, there is so much more to say about these matters and most of that is included at the main link to BB 4B give above. Here are a few other "more digestible bites" you may want to consult first.

Free-Will Faith in Salvation

Free-Will Faith in the Plan of God

Faith: What is it?

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior -- the One who chose for us that we might choose for Him.

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hello Bob,

You are always so kind in replying promptly to what I personally consider to be, weighty questions. Thank you for your email. I will ponder over these things and pray for enlightenment.

I always get the "what does it matter as long as you are saved?" comment and sometimes I wish I just had the same contentment and unquestioning faith of others but I find myself wrestling often, particularly with this. Also quite a few acquaintances have asked me about this recently and people get hot under the collar if they don't get the answer they would like. Only yesterday a Christian friend of mine spoke about a couple she knew, who after years of faithful service have absolutely turned their backs on God and emphatically state that "it's all nonsense". My friend asked me if I thought they were still saved (eternal security) and I replied that maybe they never really were (Matt 7:23) (1 Jn 2: 19) but it seemed like a lame explanation in the light of an emphatic belief that no matter what they did now, they were saved. Is not perseverance in the faith an indication of salvation? Anyway you have given me a lot of food for thought. I find the more I study, the less I can identify with any particular denomination and become a "mongrel" in that regard. I have a comment of Charles Spurgeon's in my bible from Job 38:16 and at the end it says "My Lord, I leave the infinite to thee and pray thee to put far from me such a love for the tree of knowledge as might keep me from the tree of life". I sincerely hope that is not true in my case.

Thanks again,

Response #8:

You are very welcome. When it comes to competing schools of traditional theology, it is not uncommon for the truth to be somewhere in the middle (or to comprise both principles in one way or another). In this regard, it is not true that "once saved, always saved, no matter what": believers are saved. If a person stops believing, that is apostasy, and apostates are not saved (e.g., Luke 8:13: "They believe for a while, but in time of testing they apostatize"). On the other hand, we are not "walking on pins and needles" either: no one can snatch us out of Christ's hand. So, barring a complete and willful rejection of Christ and/or the complete atrophy of faith to the point where not a scintilla of belief in Jesus exists any longer, even very marginal believers are, well, still believers (not that such is a spiritually safe place to be!). The practical issue is that only God can really know what is in a person's heart. Just because a person makes a good show of being "Christian" does not guarantee that said person is really a believer. In my estimation the vast majority of "professing Christians" in denominations of all stripes have no genuine faith. On the other hand there are probably plenty of "black sheep" out there who, though they project a cynicism about such things – and are not "great believers" by any stretch of the imagination – may well be saved through faith. We will find out on the other side – and if we are around during the impending Tribulation, we will witness an unprecedented refining that will make very clear in all manner of such questionable cases the answer to the question "which side are you on?".

Your brother in Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Thank you again Bob for taking the time to answer my questions and concerns. I have taken over 75 pages of written notes from your writings so far (I thought it would be a wise idea if I started taking notes since there is so much to take in), and to me, what you are teaching about the final days and creation thoughts is really making sense and is bringing everything together for me like putting together a puzzle or connecting dots together to form a picture. Did you gain these insights simply from reading the bible all by yourself, or did some other people help you along the way?

But all the other areas you teach (such as Holy Spirit baptism, water baptism views, your teachings about salvation, etc), I was more-less thinking along the same lines as you before I even read your writings (except your writings gave me a lot of added insights to those topics)....but mostly it sure boosted my confidence to read them, because more-less everyone I know disagrees with me and I was starting to doubt my conclusions on all those various issues at times. Now I feel much more assured about where I stand. The 'new thing' most of my friends are now starting to embrace is the idea that the shedding of Christ's blood at the cross was not necessary, but that He went to the cross as a demonstration of His love only. The confusion out there is growing in leaps and bounds, and I'm basically at the point of having more-less no friends who are making any real spiritual sense to me. But I feel blessed that the Lord led me to your site before the confusion got any worse!

The one thing that really stands out that differs between your teachings and most other teachings out there is that (like you said above), most want to debate too deeply about various issues, and not really for the sake of getting to the truth, but mostly just to prove their point out of selfish competitiveness. I don't hear any life, or love, or hope, or real wisdom in all that, but I do definitely read life, love, hope, and wisdom in your writings. Praise God and I do hope and pray that all genuine thirsting seekers will find your site and be richly blessed by it. What a blessing it is to know another living human being who is putting the agenda and priorities of the Lord above the agenda and priorities of his own self.

Thank you for continuing so faithfully, and God bless you richly dear friend!

I'm sort of concerned about an atonement message from a friend. The message on this issue seems to be in a nutshell (and a quote):

"God was not concerned with the death of the animal --it dying so they didn't have to-- but the effects that the blood had on the sinner." "In Hebrews chapter 9, the verse says "almost" all things are purged with blood. Almost means this -- poor people were allowed to bring fine flour as an atonement offering. Here flour represents a food staple or a life sustenance. Clearly, God wasn't concerned with the blood or death of something PAYING THE DEBT, but for people to understand in their heart the consequences of sin on something of such significant value and turn from SIN. The sacrifices were never implemented as a payment for sin because on different occasions God forgave sin without the shedding of blood. For instance, in the story of Jonah, there is no record that the people of Ninevah offered sacrifices to God, yet God did forgive them when He saw their heart change. Similarily, in the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:23-27), forgiveness was once again granted solely on a change of heart." "Unfortuneately the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sins. It could not continually (or consistently) make them perfect in their conscience or change their heart for good, only temporarily. The memory of the event wore off and had to be repeated every so often. This is why they had to continually offer sacrifices. God wanted a broken heart and contrite spirit that would bring repentance and a turning from sin back to Him. Despite all the blood and sacrificing, if the heart wasn't changed, the sacrifices didn't please Him. As time went on, the act became just a ritual to the people to obtain forgiveness but did not change their heart or mind concerning sin. The Jews were using it more as a payment of a debt to appease God like the heathen religions did. In fact, by the time Jesus came on the scene, they were selling sacrifices in the temple. No longer did your offering have to be the best or your flock, you could just buy it on the way to sacrifice. This act enraged Jesus and caused Him to drive out the merchants (Matt. 21:11-12). What had upset Him? The fact that they were selling something in the temple? No! He was angered because the sacrifices ceased to mean anything to the people who bought them. It didn't come from their flock and wasn't their pet, so why should they care if it died? Picking up your sacrifice at the temple provided a quick and easy solution to having your sin debt paid! This attitude of quick drive-through salvation was what enraged Jesus. The people's focus was not on repentance, but on saving themselves from punishment. This attitude is pressent today in modern-day Christianity "Keep your sin" , it states, "Just accept Jesus since He paid your debt and took your punishment." There is no real thought about how your actions have hurt Him nor does it produce a heart change. Consequently, Christ is still angered by this reaction to the atonement today! The question is not "do we accept Jesus?" but "does He accept us?"

Note from me: I do agree that too many people of Jesus' day and prior abused the sacrifices and it caused no true heart change. However, I'm wondering if the idea here is that the sacrifice of Jesus was not actually a necessity, but rather merely a sign or symbol to cause heart changes in men. I know on your website, you clearly do not teach that at all, and you teach the clear necessity of the Lord's sacrifice which was an act of grace on our behalf, and apart from it no man could be saved. (How you teach on this is my understanding as well.) Later in the book:

"Christ's death was more a sign or a symbol of two things. First of all, it shows the love God has for us. He was willing to give up the dearest thing to His heart, His Son, so we could see how much He longs for us to return to Him. Secondly, it shows how much we hurt God every time we sin. Each wrong dead we commit brings God pain just like Jesus was whipped and suffered in the physical sense. Consequently when we understand the true meaning of His sacrifice, this knowledge should bring about a change in our actions. Provided that the cross paid our debt, then it follows that we don't owe Him anything (not even a change in our attitude towards sin). Contrarily, when one is forgiven, he owes a lot -- a lifetime of service pleasing God with a heart and life free from sin. ..... Jesus' death was a public demonstration of the love that God has for us making the way back to God easily accessible to all people."

Anyways, I love a lot of what this person has to say, and I understand the point about the fact that God is upset if we look at Christ's sacrifice as a mere covering for us so we can continue to get away with sin if we wish. But I'm also concerned that it seems to see Christ's sacrifice not so much as a necessity, but more-less as a symbol of God's love. I do agree that His sacrifice does indeed symbolize God's extreme love, and should make us realize the hurt we cause God through sin.....but I can't see in the book any place where the necessity of this sacrifice is stressed other than that of symbolism. I know one person wrote that probably the hardest thing to finally realize was that what Christ did on the cross was not about paying for our sins. I was wondering what your thoughts are on this teaching about Christ's sacrifice that I see becoming a more and more popular view.

This is part of the reason I'm not really commenting or posting on facebook any more, because there are too many teachings that do sound very good in certain ways, but yet seem to be tainted with some false views. I'm trying to "detox" from all these various teachings, and am just reading and taking notes from your site now.

God bless you and thank you for always sharing your thoughts, and I hope you are doing well!

Response #9:

Good to hear from you as always (apologies for the delay in response – I'm apparently having an issue with the spam filter).

First, thanks again for your encouragement, and especially for the encouragement of your positive enthusiasm for the Word of the God and the teaching thereof.

As to the sections you include here, sometimes when it comes to these sorts of issues it may be more the way people phrase what they say than substance with which others take issue. It's hard to tell on some of these matters without reading the whole work in question. Still, a few comments seem in order:

1) For any human being to be saved, that is, to avoid the last judgment and being cast into the lake of fire forever, every single one of that person's sins had to be paid for.

2) Blessedly, nothing hinders anyone being saved (except their own arrogant refusal), because Christ did pay the penalty for all sin.

3) It's not about literal blood. Animal blood symbolizes death because "the life is in the blood", meaning that the shedding of (all of the) blood of an animal only occurs with its physical death – and that represents Christ's work, His spiritual death, in paying the price for our sins.

4) The term "the blood of Christ" (see the link) therefore refers to our Lord's Jesus' death for us in paying the entire price for all of our sins, not to His physical death (which occurred only after He said "it is finished"), but to His spiritual death, that is, actually His having the full penalty for every sin everyone ever had or would commit exacted from Him in the three hours of darkness on Calvary as He hung on the cross, physically alive.

5) The precise nature of this suffering of Christ's spiritual death though beyond our complete understanding, has many important aspects to it which we are given and meant to understand and appreciate (please see the link: "The Spiritual Death of Christ"). What we can say is that Christ's death on our behalf is the foundation upon which the entire plan of God is constructed; it is bigger than the universe, longer than eternity, and more important than anything and everything else that has or will happen in the world from its original creation until kingdom come. It is the life, the light and the truth: it IS the love of God.

6) What Christ did for us on the cross, therefore, is not a symbol of anything but an actual atonement whereby He suffered the entire punishment for every sin we would ever commit.

7) To assume, therefore, that God is angry or sad or emotional in anyway when we sin – as if we were harming or inconveniencing Him somehow – is to misunderstand the atonement. Of course our Lord wants our complete obedience and the absolute best for us – our maximum growth and production – and that is compromised, hindered, and undermined whenever we stray, whether a little or a lot. But the price has already been paid, and the Father is impressed with Jesus' work in paying it, not with our mistakes and disobedience that makes necessary our accessing of the forgiveness which Christ's "blood" provides. Getting hung up on "what we do" is always a mistake, as if it were us whom the Father saw as more important than Jesus and what He has done for us.

8) The sacrifices of the Old Testament were thus symbolic of what was to come: the actual sacrifice of the true Lamb of God which would produce salvation at just the right time (cf. 1Pet.1:10-12). These animal sacrifices did not produce forgiveness. They were merely the required method to ask for forgiveness corporately (and in some cases individually), but there is much about them that is generally misunderstood, most importantly that they were largely designed for sins of ignorance: willful violation of the Law in any point required the death penalty. Obviously (one would hope – but few have found it obvious), no one can measure up to the Law (Rom.7:1ff.), no one could possibly ever sacrifice enough animals or shed enough of their blood even to keep up with the ritual requirements of confession, and no one ever lived in a way that, if the truth were known, he/she was not deserving of the death penalty many times over. This is why the Day of Atonement was so important. That was the one day, the one sacrifice, which wiped away all sin, large and small – symbolically: it symbolizes Christ dying for all sins, His spiritual death in paying the entire penalty for them all.

9) The fact, then, that our debt has been paid in full means to me not that we don't owe our Lord anything – but rather that we owe Him absolutely everything. Without the cross, the best Christian who ever lived would have nothing but hell to look forward to. With the cross, the worst sinner who ever lived has a blessed eternity in store – provided only that he/she accept that grace freely given in the matchless love of God.

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst."
1st Timothy 1:15 NIV

10) Final observation: I think the reason that people get these things so confused is that so few understand the cross, the blood of Christ, the atonement, and our Lord's spiritual death. But that is the bedrock of God's plan.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
1st John 4:10 NIV

So I certainly would agree that Christians today often don't appreciate what Christ has done for them, and that this mirrors in general terms the legalistic behavior of our Lord's generation. But I have my reservations about the particular approach in this book you excerpt being the best way to make that point for the reasons given above.

Keep fighting the good fight!

Yours in Jesus Christ whose we are through His blood poured out for us.

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hi Bob,

Hope all is well, I haven’t spoken with you in some time. I was wondering if you could give me your thoughts, positive and/or negative, on something that I’m somewhat struggling with. I thought of you immediately after the thought came to me, and part of your response you gave to me back in April 2011.

You wrote:

"Why would they do such a thing? Because they choose to. In the same way, believers are believers because we choose to embrace the truth instead of rejecting it. Coming to faith and continuing therein may have been and often continues to be a difficult, painful and "messy" process which these simple words do not convey, but that is the essence of it. Based on "logic" or even self-interest, everyone ought to be only too glad to grab a freely given Substitute for their sins and trade condemnation for the water of eternal life drunk "at not cost" to us. In fact, maintaining one's own personal sovereignty to the point of being unwilling to bow to God even in this completely non-meritorious way is too much for most human beings to accept. They would rather "reign in hell than serve in heaven", I suppose, even when the stakes are so high. That is their choice. Praise be to God that He has given you and me -- and all mankind -- the choice of avoiding condemnation and receiving resurrection and eternal life in its place through accepting the Sacrifice He loving made for us in His own dear Son our Lord (and that we have received Him through faith)!"

If we focus on understanding what Jesus went to the cross for, and the penalty He received, there appears to be a profound understanding that I think should define our Christian thinking, and ultimately the Words we use when helping others. I am not posting scripture, which I never write without doing, because I know very well that scripture is written in you heart and mind. Unfortunately, I cannot get my question across, and paste scripture, without it being a book. I had never really thought about the judicial aspect of Christ’s crucifixion, and tend to look at things more spiritually. However, If we look at why Christ was on the cross, and what exactly His penalty was, there are only two choices:

1. Jesus Christ bore the sins of those that would be saved only. The sins of those who would eventually be saved were placed on Him, and He was convicted, and sentenced to punishment for those sins. When the unsaved stand in Judgement, they will be convicted of THEIR sins, and eternal condemnation will be executed to them.

2. Jesus Christ bore the sins of the whole world. Every sin of mankind was placed on Him. He satisfied the penalty for all sin.

I hear God saying in the Bible that the second is true. The question that arises for me is what are the condemned convicted of? If Christ paid for the sins of the world, all of it, what is the judicial conviction for the condemned? Payment has been made for their individual sin.

I truly don’t think I ever thought this deeply about it Bob. I guess I reconciled this by thinking that the sins placed on Christ are continually being added to as people come to saving faith. We are under the law of God and will stand convicted of our personal sins on Judgement day unless we are saved in this lifetime. The issue I have with this is how can the Bible claim that Jesus bore the sins of the WHOLE world if some still have their personal sin under judgement on that day? It doesn’t say He potentially bore the sins of the whole world. The Bible seems clear that God found Christ guilty (having taken sins on to Himself) of the sins of the world, and sentenced Him appropriately for that sin. Once Christ rose on the third day, payment was made. If the condemned stand in judgement for their personal sins, then full payment wasn’t made at all.

My thought is this, and please let me know where I have it wrong. It seems that God looked at man, from Adam to the last person to be born before Judgement day, and saw that they ALL needed to be redeemed. He sent His sinless Son, Jesus Christ to stand in judgement for every man and woman that ever lived. He was given the full penalty for the sin, therefore relieving ALL mankind of any possibility of being sentenced for their sin. Trusting in the Father, that He would not leave His soul in hell, He was raised again on the third day to reign alongside the Father. This victory is worthy of all thanks and praise, especially by mankind who were redeemed by Him. The charge on Judgement day for all that will be condemned is the rejection of our Lord and Savior. This single offense is worse than all offenses that have ever been performed. There will be two people who bow the knee on judgement day, the saved who have committed no sin, and the condemned who committed one sin. The only charge that God can and will place on them is the rejection of His Son, which is rightfully punishable by eternal damnation.

This seems to answer many questions that we have, or have had at one time. How is it that Adolph Hitler can enter heaven and Gandhi may not? How is it that Christ spent most of His earthly ministry attacking religious legalists, and simply said, "sin no more" to the sinners? What about all of mankind that lived before Jesus was crucified? What about their sin? If my question is true, then every person that ever lived has their sin covered for. Hitler is no worse than a thief or a liar when he stands for judgement. The only thing he is judged on is whether he opened his heart to Jesus Christ and truly believed that Christ died for him. Nothing else plays a role.

If this is true, I am concerned that I have never heard one preacher, teacher or pastor talk of this. There is always some scenario that Christ died for the world, but we need to come to faith, almost like a catalyst, to clear us of our sin. But the Bible doesn’t say that. Sin is paid, ONCE and for ALL.

Sorry about the length of this letter, I am still not sure if I clearly expressed it.

Your Friend,

Response #10:

Good to hear from you, my friend. No need to apologize! You have given this some excellent thought, and I entirely agree with your conclusions. It is always an encouragement to me when other believers "crunch the biblical data" and come to precisely the same conclusions. For me, this is clear testimony to the ministry of the Spirit and the clarity of the truth of the Bible, when, that it is, it is "rightly divided" in the careful consideration of spiritual men.

Yes, Jesus died for all sins. The only sin He could not die for is the sin of rejecting His work in dying for the sins of the world (i.e., the one "unpardonable" sin; see the link). Everyone has to decide whether or not to stand on Jesus' work or their own. That is why, very significantly, we are told that unbelievers are judged "according to their works" (Rev.20:12ff.; cf. 2Cor.11:15). In Matthew 25:41ff. the wicked are reprimanded by the Lord for their failure to evidence saving faith through good works (not for any sins they may have committed). This is all written up in detail at the link in CT 6: "The Great White Throne". This, by the way, is also why everyone is written into the Book of Life "from the foundation of the world". Since creation was not undertaken without the commitment of our dear Lord Jesus to die on behalf of all, all who would ever be created are "in the book", and their names are only blotted out when Jesus is rejected overtly during this life or functionally when a morally responsible person dies without having accepted Him as their Substitute (see the link: "the Book of Life"). Jesus died for all, but all have free will and must make this choice for themselves. God will not force us to spend eternity with Him, but no one who does not acknowledge in this life that Jesus is the Savior will be allowed to enter the Kingdom.

As you say, this is a powerful doctrine. For God to initiate creation, Jesus would have to die. For us to be saved, He would have to suffer the punishment for the sins of everyone, not just for those who would believe, otherwise the choice would not be a genuine choice. Sin had to be removed as an issue for anyone to be saved. That is why the righteousness of God which we have through faith is such an important and decisive teaching (see the link). This was what started the Reformation, after all, when Luther finally accepted what Paul was pointing out in Romans 4 that our salvation has nothing to do with how we feel or what we have done good or bad – it's all about Christ's washing away our sins with His blood and our embracing and appropriating the forgiveness therein through faith. God can count us righteous because we have lain our hands on the Savior to stand for us; they who have not have no claim on God or eternity. They will not be judged for sin, but they have no righteousness so as to be allowed into God's presence. Instead of thanking God for forgiving their sins, they reject Him by rejecting His Substitute and Son our Lord. In so doing they demonstrate very clearly that they want no part of God in eternity, and God honors their wishes. But they should realize (as in their heart of hearts they already do) that only with God is there any blessing. In this world, the blessing and freedom all enjoy (to the extent that they do so) comes from God, whereas the cursing (to the extent we experience it) comes from mankind and from the evil one. In eternity, however, all these things will be sorted out, and there will be no place of compromise. Therefore the lake of fire is an appropriate punishment for those who deny Christ; not oblivion, not punishment for sin, but a place of cursing because it is separated from the God they disowned and the Savior they refused to acknowledge.

Keep fighting this good fight, my friend. The truths of scripture build us up and open vistas we could never imagine. The truth is the sword with which we fight this battle and our faith in believing it is the shield which wards off all of the devil's counter-attacks. Building the edifice of truth in our heart is the only way to see this world for what it is and strengthen our inner-man to prepare for all that is to come.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior who is the Truth.

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hi Bob,

Thank you so much for your guidance, your answer was more revealing than you may think. I was never 100% sure what the unpardonable sin was, and your explanation in the link is clear and Biblical. It amazes me how God teaches us, where I thought after years of studying the Word and walking with Christ, I had the fundamentals all buttoned up. It's very humbling, yet strengthening. He has done this with me many times, and I've come to realize that this is His way of showing us the gifts He gives. Also, I believe it is the way God helps us to endure our walk here on the earth. If He unloaded all knowledge to us at the moment we are saved, we would not strive in His Word, seeking His face and experiencing those moments of revelation that serve to solidify our faith in Him. I am grateful that our LORD is nothing like the god(s) the world thinks of. His strength, power and wisdom is so much greater. It is really sad to think that so many people do not know, and have not experienced the true greatness of the one and only God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

I have comfort and confidence that you and I will meet face to face after this 40 year walk in the wilderness. I' sure we will have an eternity to learn of Him.

Thanks again Bob.

Job 36: 22
Behold, God exalts by his power: who teaches like him?

Isaiah 28:9-10
Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.

Your Friend

Response #11:

You are most welcome, my friend. I am very pleased that you found this useful, and I also appreciate you sharing your experiences on God's revelations to you through His Spirit and His Word – they are very similar to my own. As in your quote from Isaiah, we have to build "line on line" and "precept on precept" until the individual bricks – which may seem insignificant at the time – begin to take shape into a great and recognizable edifice, a temple of truth to the Lord which solidly grounds our faith and guides us onto the next phases in our quest, walking with Jesus in the Spirit and helping others do likewise.

Looking forward as well to rejoicing with you on that glorious day to come, and in celebrating your crowns of victory presently being won here in this great smelter of faith:

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1st Peter 1:6-7 NIV

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hi Bob,

I think the Ransom Theory of Atonement is superior to the Penal Substitution Theory of Atonement. The Penal Substitution logically only requires that Christ die to God, but believing that Christ died alone cannot save us, only believing that he died and was resurrected.

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.' (I Corinthians 15:13-14) More specifically, `And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.' (I Corinthians 15:17)

If the Penal Substitution Theory is true, then why should we be dead in our sins if Christ has not been raised? To use legal analogy, if the Torah is God's law and Christ's death is the fine payed for violating it, then once He died the fine has been payed. Because the fine has been payed, then the prosecuted is free to be dismissed on the basis of the fine alone. But it's not the death alone that saves us, it's the resurrection, which cannot happen without death, but nonetheless is the focus of our life.

Furthermore, Penal Substitution doesn't logically require that Jesus Christ be God, but only a perfect man. Now, one could argue that only God is good, but this ignores the fact that God created Adam perfect, and if God created Adam perfect, there would have been nothing stopping Him from creating another Adam as a perfect sacrifice who nonetheless was not God, just like Adam was not God. Yet the divinity of Christ is so important to Christianity, that anyone who denies that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh is an Antichrist.

It is because the correct interpretation of the passion of the Christ is this: we were slaves to Satan. We were slaves to Satan when Adam sold us over to slavery. We sin because we were slaves to Satan. When Christ became incarnate, He became lower than Satan, and was sold over to him in slavery upon his death. This is why he was allowed to descend into hell. Upon his resurrection, he escaped from slavery. He can escape from slavery because he is God. In doing so, he led captivity captive, and delivered them from slavery. Believers in Him await the same final deliverance, but in the meantime cannot sin, because we are not slaves to Satan no longer.

Apropos of your latest update, therefore no Christian can call himself `gay,' even if he struggles with same-sex attraction, because by calling himself `gay,' he is affirming that Satan is still his master, and thus denies his salvation. This issue is relevant for all Christians, regardless of sexual proclivity, because if gay people have homosexuality as an innate part of their being, inseparable from who they are, then Christianity is worthless. Utterly worthless and evil.

Sincerely,

Response #12:

I'm not much on alternative theories, to be honest. I'm interested in the truth. One of the great problems with pigeon-holing the Word of God to such an excessive degree is that it sets up false dichotomies. Also, as with debates between Calvinism and Arminianism, it all depends – really – on what person A thinks that theory X means; often that is different from what person B thinks so that his/her theory Y may not really be in conflict with X – at least not in the ways either A or B imagine. And, in any case, all that matters is what the Word of God says. My views on the particulars of Soteriology are spelled out in BB 4B (see the link). Jesus died spiritually for every sin of every human being. Most people, theologians included, do not adequately understand His spiritual death (so that any theory of the atonement will suffer accordingly to the extent of that ignorance). We are also most definitely redeemed from our sin when we accept His work in place of our own. So I don't see the underlying problem here.

Some of this sort of thing (i.e., quibbling about non-biblical terminology) is inevitable, and much of it may be innocuous – except that whenever theologians develop technical vocabulary they run the risk of investing their theory/construct with a false authority. To the extent that this happens, the next thing you know people will be constructing derivative theological principles based on such theories – and in no small part based upon the technical vocabulary these theories have developed. When that happens, error is inevitable (since we are at that point three steps removed from the Bible – even if the original construct had some merit). Since I find neither "penal substitution" or "ransom theory" in the Bible, I'll prefer to let my writings about how we are saved according to scripture speak for themselves (see the link above). I would also note briefly by way of conclusion that the "smart-sounding" nature of these theories can be like catnip to those who overemphasize scholasticism – but true learning ought to have as its goal elucidation, not obfuscation (even if egos are stroked thereby).

On the other issue, we all have tendencies to sin of one sort or another. Recognizing these is important in order to better defend against them. Embracing them instead will only lead to serious trouble, and it may indeed lead to apostasy or the sin unto death. There are plenty of lukewarm believers in the world today – this is the era of Laodicea. Many of them have indeed embraced all manner of questionable, even sinful, beliefs and life-styles (political entanglement is particularly insidious and fraught with many unseen rocks and shoals). Any pattern of sinning is dangerous, especially when it gets past thinking and speaking and into doing. Lack of spiritual growth and sanctification for any reason is very dangerous in particular – but that is where most believers today are. In the end, God "knows who are His" (2Tim.2:19), and also knows just the right sort of divine discipline to get believer A away from sinful conduct X – if he/she is willing to be instructed by the Lord's loving punishment (Ps.32:9). For the rest of us, it is usually a good idea to keep out of the way, both to avoid getting pulled in (Jude 1:23), and also because divine discipline is the Lord's business which we are specifically advised to stay out of:

Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
Romans 14:4 NIV

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Hi Robert,

Thank you very much for keeping us in prayer, I really appreciate that and I also pray for you and your ministry and thank the Lord for you. The Lord continues to give me opportunities to share with others about your faithful ministry.

Robert, if you get a few minutes, could you please check out something posted (about vicarious atonement) and look at all the comments?

http://carm.org/christianity/christian-doctrine/
substitutionary-atonement-jesus-christ

Thanks for checking this over quick and I do appreciate it and your words of wisdom!

Your friend in Christ Jesus our wondrous Savior and Lord,

Response #13:

Good to hear from. You are certainly very welcome (and as always, I very much appreciate your encouraging words).

As to the CARM article on "vicarious atonement" and the comments, as I often say I'm not an apologist nor an evangelist – and a good thing too, because I don't have the temperament for it. What you do is a little bit of both in my view. I do think that it is the case that there are many variations among the spiritual gifts – and you seem to be working with yours wonderfully well. So whether or not to put up discussions such as this and how to handle them, well, that's a question both of judgment and of the conduct of the ministry you are about.

It's a pretty good article. It seems to me to be typical of evangelical systematic theology. There is a role for this sort of thing, but I think the article and the discussion it engendered also tends to show the weaknesses of the approach generally, especially when too much deference is given to tradition. People have a tendency to generalize and categorize; not surprising – this is the way our brains work. For example, we generalize about people (men vs. women, e.g.); and we can categorize them in all sorts of ways (personality types, for example – there are entire disciplines devoted to this, after all); but when it really comes down to it, our spouse is a unique person, our friend is absolutely unlike anyone else in the universe, and even the random individual we meet on the street cannot really be helpfully defined by his/her age, race, appearance, "personality traits". In fact, if we try to make use of any of these nifty generalizations and theoretical categories we love so much to actually deal with or relate to someone else – however close or however far the relationship – we are going to be "flying with faulty instruments". Why? Because the really important "categories" trump everything else: 1) this spouse is a person I am committed to; 2) this friend is a person I have come to learn about and share with; 3) this unknown person is a human being for whom Christ died – whether saved or unsaved – and that is the way I really ought to think about them.

Categories are like loaded weapons. They have the capability of doing immense damage if we are not careful about how we use them. And the trouble is that most people employ them like a four year old with a loaded .45, safety off. That is my biggest problem with much of contemporary "hip-shot" systematic theology such as may be found in this article, and as it is reflected in some of these comments. The way the issue is framed, the way the issue is discussed, the vocabulary used to describe it, come to have a life of their own and a meaning all their own, often to the point of obfuscating the point and leading the participants astray. Listing the false theories, defining them in one's own terms, then describing one's own theory in distinction to those very terms can result in a situation where a person who carefully reads an article such as this may end up having no clear idea what the truth really is, precisely because of the categorization and the technical terms developed to describe it (e.g., there is no indication from this article what "death" as the "legal penalty" means or entails – but we know that Christ gave up His own spirit once the judgment was complete, so that there is no question of the penalty being physical death).

The Bible "says what it says", and while it is certainly true that one has to make use of some such categorization and systematizing in order to teach what is there, traditionally this has been so over-done, and made use of so many constructs which are not even biblical, that the result has been the placing of a wall between the truth of scripture and the ability to understand it fully (e.g., the nature of the spiritual death of Christ is the important question here and the article doesn't even seem to understand that; see the link). In other words, all such exercises which bring us closer to what the Bible actually says and means are "good"; but when they end up placing a veil between us and the true meaning of the scripture and its power, they are "not so good" (at least); this is especially true to the extent that they have a patina of authority and leave the reader feeling he/she has achieved a level of erudition from the study (categories and technical vocabulary with a good dose of scholastic tradition usually provide this).

Here's how I would teach this, simply:

1) We are sinners.

2) God is righteous and cannot overlook sin.

3) For us to be saved, someone had to pay.

4) In His great grace, the Father sent the Son to remove sin as an obstacle for our salvation.

5) This Jesus did in dying on the cross for all mankind.

6) He died for all the sins anyone has ever committed.

7) He paid the full price for every sin, being judged by the Father in our place.

Yes, Jesus is most certainly our Substitute. What that means, however, entails looking into what scripture says about His spiritual death on the cross in Calvary's darkness – and it is awe-inspiring, the foundation of all things, the very love of God.

So when I hear things like "vicarious atonement", while I do understand the Latin root, I am put off emotionally by the traditional connotations and overblown medieval discussions that go with them – in the same way that I am put off by a hymn I never liked which gets (at least some of) the theology wrong in its words and ruins the whole thing for me. As a teacher, moreover, I can just picture the average person's eyes glazing over when they hear a phrase like this – what might "vicarious atonement" be taken to mean without explanation?

But as I say, I teach for a living and I have tried to pitch all these studies so as to head straight into the truth of scripture without any particular regard for traditional formulations, being concerned only with what the Bible actually says and means. And I think for those who follow this lead, the truth will end up trumping any theological construct which is "off", be it by 5% or 95%. When a Christian really understands about Christ paying the price for us all, that will come out powerfully in how they would explain it in turn (as I think your friend's comments posted here make clear).

The best place to find my own take on this issue is in BB 4A at the link "The Saving Work of Jesus Christ".

Keep up the great work! I look forward to cheering you on when your receive your crowns on that wonderful day to come.

Yours in Jesus, the One who died in our place,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hi Robert,

I always learn a lot from what you write and I thank you very much for taking the time to share your honest thoughts.

I think after reading what you wrote that I will take the article down. That's true what you said that everything is not as "cut and dry" as how that article seemed to categorize the various atonement views/categories.

But what sort of surprised me was the emotionalism and the fervor with which quite a number of people strongly detest the idea of the Lord being our substitute (which they call the "Penal-substitution theory"). The one man on the thread referred to it as a 'deadly teaching', 'extremely deceptive', 'extremely dangerous', etc. I know these people (who think like this) read the Bible a lot and are very zealous, but they look at the Bible in an entirely different way than you or I do. Other people I know are not so emotional, but they would look at people who believe in 'penal-substitution' as 'misinformed', or 'of poor judgment in understanding biblical truths'.

But yes, I agree entirely as you do, that the simple message is (as you wrote):

1) We are sinners.

2) God is righteous and cannot overlook sin.

3) For us to be saved, someone had to pay.

4) In His great grace, the Father sent the Son to remove sin as an obstacle for our salvation.

5) This Jesus did in dying on the cross for all mankind.

6) He died for all the sins anyone has ever committed.

7) He paid the full price for every sin, being judged by the Father in our place.

That seems like a very simple, clear, and accurate message to me, yet as you saw by the thread I had posted, that many think the above message is either deceptive or that people who believe like you and me are 'ignorant' next to them. But yet, it seems when they share about God, that there is very little love, power, compassion, or true focus on Christ and I do get concerned about this and I often wonder if they even know the Lord at all. That is why I seek to share your site with as many as I can since not only do I see the truth there, but I also see the great focus on the Lord above all (and the Bible) instead of how so many instead seem to focus more on signs/wonders, loving a particular denomination, loving a particular pet doctrine etc. I think the sad thing is that when many see that you highly question 'tongues', & 'signs and wonders', or that you don't heed to a pet doctrine of theirs like baptismal regeneration etc, you are automatically 'shut-off', but I keep hoping and praying that they can look beyond this and beyond their pet doctrines and see that the heart of your ministry is about something far deeper and far more meaningful and far more wonderful, and that above all it exalts the Lord.

Thanks again Robert for all your kind encouragement and for your wise words,

In Christ Jesus whom we dearly love and praise,

Response #14:

I couldn't agree more with everything you say here. I too am forced to wonder about anyone having an issue with understanding that Jesus is "our Passover lamb slain for us" (1Cor.5:7), our Substitute who died for our sins. That is the heart of the gospel: He died so that we might not be condemned. About the most charitable way of looking at it is as you do, namely, maybe they are just hung up on a pet false doctrine and are arguing for the sake of arguing. Still . . .

I always appreciate your wonderful Christian common sense . . . in the Spirit.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior, the One who died for us in our place that we might live forever with Him,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hi Bob,

I fully agree with you that Jesus paying the price for our sins is the heart of the gospel as well. I'm sorry to bother you about this again, but you're the only person I feel secure about asking these sort of questions since I feel confident you'll give me the correct answer, and also since you are basically a scholar in Hebrew and/or Greek, I was wondering if you could help me out with a comment from a person concerning this topic.

The position is:

"'Vicarious’ means to take "the place of another person or thing; to act as a substitute." ‘Substitution’ is simply a ‘theory’ about the death of Christ. Contrary to what authors might teach, the terms "vicarious’, ‘substitute’, and 'satisfaction’ are not scriptural. The basis of this doctrine of substitution is human philosophy and not scripture. Scripture clearly teaches that we must do something to have our sins removed, Mark 16:15-16; Luke 13:3; 2 Cor. 7:10-13. We are righteous even as He is righteous if we DO righteousness, I John 3:7, and are acceptable with God if we work righteousness, Acts 10:34-35. We can escape the punishment of hell but must obey God to do so, Matthew 25:32-46; Heb. 5:9. We must obey Jesus in order to enter Heaven, Matthew 7:21-27. This is just a sample of what we must do in order to have our sins removed. The very fact that we must do all these things in order to have our sins removed - be righteous and escape punishment for sin - demonstrates that the substitution theory is human error and not truth. Some will also say they believe in the necessity of human obedience and substitution as well. Human obedience and the substitution theory are contradictions."

Then someone wrote to this person concerning this issue and posted:

"surely both are true? I mean, we can only be free from the guilt of past sins, by 1. having faith in Christ who "bore our sins", and 2. stopping sin & rebellion. Christ... Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree... (1 Peter 2). But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him...the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all...he bare the sin of many... (Isaiah 53)"

And then the other one wrote back and said:

"I’m no Greek or Hebrew scholar, but all I can do is compare Scripture with Scripture. Note the context of Matt. 8:16-17: "And when even was come, they brought unto him many possessed with demons: and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet , saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our diseases." Matthew said all that Jesus did was the fulfillment of Isaiah. He said Jesus "took our infirmities, and bare our diseases." Did Jesus become a leaper, did he become blind, dumb, become lame, demon possessed? Does it say Jesus was a substitute? Were all the diseases and sins ‘transferred’ to Him? Jesus took away their diseases and forgave their sins. "Bearing" the iniquity or sins of the people does not mean that all our sins were literally transferred to Jesus' body. You and I know sin is not a substance that can be transferred from one person to the next, it is a transgression. The Scriptures don’t tell me Jesus was a substitute. Since we know the meaning of ‘substitute," and if ‘substitution’ is true, then everything was done "in my place," and I cannot be held accountable for my sins because they were wiped out two thousand years ago before I ever existed to commit them. Human obediance and the substitution theories are contradiction."

So my main question is that when the Bible teaches that Jesus 'bore' our sins, and then in another place it says He 'bore' our diseases, are these different Greek words, or how are we to understand this exactly? I sure appreciate your help in helping me to understand this and thank you so much!

In Jesus Christ our gracious Lord,

Response #15:

It's no bother at all.

About the only thing I even come close to agreeing with in the last quote is the complaint about the theorizing, and I have already mentioned how that I feel that the development and use of technical terms and complex theories in theology is over-done and often poorly done. It is of course sometimes very necessary and helpful to categorize and define, but everything has its limits. I think I mentioned that phrases like "vicarious substitution" make my eyes glaze over, and I can't imagine how they would positively effect the Church in general (especially if we start calling it "theory"). Other than that, most of what occurs here is nonsense.

Let's start with the first "passage" quoted, "Mark 16:15-16"; I put it in quotes because the book of Mark ends with verse nine in chapter sixteen; the longer ending is absolutely not part of the Bible and it contains all manner of things which are not true and very misleading (see the link: "Interpolations").

Secondly, Luke 13:3: Our Lord says "repent or perish", and very rightly too. Repentance is a change of thinking (Greek: metanoeo, literally, "change of mind"; see the link). Jesus' audience was a group of self-righteous unbelievers; they were not going to get to heaven by continuing in their self-righteous unbelief; what they needed was to start listening to Him and believing what He was saying; what they needed was to accept who He was, the Messiah, and what He was about to do for them, die for their sins; what they needed was a complete change of heart/mind. That what repentance at salvation is: making the decision to turn from unbelief to belief, then doing so. But the word in English has become so loaded down with emotional connotations that it almost impossible to use it in a truly biblical way without an explanation (such as the above, and please see the link). What true repentance is not is weeping and wailing and being sorry for sin; Judas was sorry he betrayed Christ, but he was not saved. Esau was sorry he lost his birthright, but he was not saved. Godly repentance is recognizing that one is headed to hell and actually turning around completely as a result – through putting one's trust in Christ (the only effective way for an unbeliever to repent).

Thirdly, 2nd Corinthians 7:10-13: This passage is speaking about believers changing their minds about their improper spiritual application as the result of a stern apostolic rebuke. Paul had told the Corinthians that by failing to react properly to the man who had married his (step) mother they were in the wrong; they took it to heart and threw him out of the church (of course Paul tells them not to withdraw their love and restore him again after his own repentance later in the letter). If we are doing something wrong, something sinful, it is right and proper for us to change our minds and change course just like the Corinthians did (whether the rebuke we get comes from a church leader or a friend or our conscience or the Lord Himself). Such "godly repentance", Paul tells us in verse ten, "works towards salvation", and so it does. We are all "working out our salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil.2:2); because while we are positionally saved now, and will be ultimately saved on the great day to come, as we walk through this world we are (or should be) ever seeking to build up our salvation, "make it more secure" (2Pet.1:10), through spiritual growth, the building up of our faith; we are in the process of being "delivered through this world" and our objective is to get through it with our faith safely intact – and better yet having accomplished for the Lord what He would have us to do in response to what He has done for us at the cross (faith growing, faith passing tests, faith being productive for Jesus Christ). That is not only the way to win rewards; that is the only way to be "safe" as in "working towards salvation", because if we are not going forward we are likely to end up going backwards and in that direction lies all manner of dangerous things, including, in extreme cases, apostasy through loss of that very faith which makes us believers and not unbeliever – for while all believers are saved, all unbelievers are condemned (Jn.3:16-18).

So none of these three "proof texts" with which this long response begins have anything to do with the blessed truth that Jesus died for our all of our sins, and that we are only saved, could only be saved, by putting our trust in Him as our Savior. Now the only way for Him to be our Savior is by His removing of the sin problem out of the way in order that we might be saved. God does not save us just because of His mercy, goodness and love; these are His motivations, but He is also absolutely just, righteous and holy. He cannot tolerate sin, and He cannot just forgive it without someone paying for it. That's a big problem without someone willing and able to pay the price for us, because we cannot do it ourselves. It doesn't matter if we are 99.99% pure; we would still be sinners, having sinned even once, and that sin would still have to be atoned for in order for us to be saved. We are in no way capable of standing the fiery judgment for a single sin, and even if we were, being sinners we are not acceptable to Him to bear that sin. And of course, we are all born with a corrupt body, and we all sin continually; as Christians, we seek to sin as little as possible, and all mature Christians will be walking in a largely sanctified way (but no one, for example, can completely control their thoughts and emotions, or even their tongues, all the time). God does not find anyone's weeping and wailing sufficient to remove a single sin or the smallest part of the penalty of a single sin. Were it up to us, we would all be damned (and it wouldn't even be close). Blessedly, it is not up to us; blessedly, God found a way to save us; blessedly, the Father sent His one and only dear Son into the world to die in our place. Jesus died in our place. Jesus died for our sins. Jesus paid the price for every single one of our sins in full so that we would not have to. Jesus stood judgment for us that God might consider us righteous because our sins had been paid for.

For He made Him who knew no sin [to be] sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
2nd Corinthians 5:21 NKJV

If that's not "substitution", I'm not sure what is. The church-visible in general fails to understand much at all about the blessed sacrifice of our Lord in our place, but it is in my view one most important doctrines (and understanding it properly would clear up most of these sorts of silly false views; see the link: "The Spiritual Death of Christ").

As to Matthew 8:16-17, this is a quote from Isaiah 53:4, and Isaiah 53, of course, is one of the clearest Old Testament representations of the Suffering Servant showing the Messiah as the One who would die for us (not just the One who would return in glory to regather Israel). It seems worthwhile to give my translation of the passage here:

(13) Behold, My Servant will embrace the truth. He will arise on high, be lifted up, and be greatly exalted, (14) to a proportional degree that many had [previously] been appalled at Him. For His appearance had been marred beyond human [likeness], and His form more than [that of any] other man. (15) As a result, He shall sprinkle [with salvation] many gentile [nation]s. Kings will shut their mouths at [the sight of] Him. For those [gentiles] who had not been told shall see, and those [gentiles] who had not understood shall hear. (1) [But] who has believed our report? And to whom has the Arm of the Lord (i.e., the Messiah) been revealed? (2) For He grew up before Him like a suckling plant, like a root [springing up] from dry ground. He had no [particular] handsomeness that we should take note of Him, no [obvious] charisma that we should be taken with Him. (3) [On the contrary,] He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with suffering. Like a person people hide their faces from, He was despised, and we did not hold Him of any account. (4) For He took away our torments, and He shouldered our weaknesses. And yet we considered Him as [the One who had been] punished, smitten and afflicted by God. (5) But [in fact] He was made subject to torment on account of our transgressions, and He was crushed because of our collective guilt (lit., "guilts"). The punishment [required] for making peace [with God] on our behalf [fell] upon Him. Because of His wounding, we have been healed. (6) We have all gone astray like sheep. Each of us has turned to his own way. And the Lord caused the guilt of us all to strike Him. (7) Though He was oppressed and afflicted, like a lamb led to slaughter He did not open His mouth, and like a ewe before her shearers He did not open His mouth. (8) By repressive judgment He was taken away, and who gave any thought to His posterity? For He was cut off from the land of the living. He was punished for the transgression of my people. (9) And they assigned Him a grave with the wicked (pl.) and with a rich [man] in His deaths (sic). Not for any violence that He had done. Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. (10) For it was the Lord's good pleasure (i.e., "will") to crush Him, to subject Him to torment. But though you make His life a guilt offering, He will see His seed, He will lengthen His days, and the good pleasure (i.e., "will") of the Lord will prosper in His hand. (11) [Released] from the trouble [inflicted] upon His life, He will [again] see [the light of life] and be satisfied (i.e., in resurrection). My righteous Servant will provide righteousness for the great [of heart] (i.e., believers) through the[ir] acknowledgment of Him, and He Himself will shoulder their guilt (lit., "guilts"). (12) Therefore I will allot the great [of heart] to Him [as His portion of the plunder], and He will apportion plunder to the[se same] mighty [of heart]. Because He bared His life to death and was numbered with the transgressors, thereby He took away the sin of the great [of heart] and substituted [Himself] for the transgressors.
Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12

Given the necessity in Old Testament prophecy to express the cross in shadows (cf. 1Pet.1:10-12), the vividness and clarity of this passage is remarkable. A "disease" can be, literally, "a disease", but it can also be – and in this context it – metaphorical for sin: what worse weakness/infirmity/disease is there? And especially since all disease only comes about because of human sinfulness (i.e., there were no diseases in Eden before Adam and Eve sinned and passed that sin on to all the rest of us), the metaphor is not difficult. The Matthew eight passage gives the literal fulfillment of the Messiah's healing of physical diseases (demonstrating that Jesus is in fact the Messiah, and that's why the quote is used there), but the passage has its complete fulfillment at the cross in our Lord's death for our sins (as the entire Isaiah passage above makes very clear in my view).

The tone and tenor of this person's diatribe seems to have the purpose of suggesting that people who don't sin go to heaven, but that people who do sin don't go to heaven. If that were true (as discussed above), no one would go to heaven, because "all sin" (Rom.3:23; cf. Jas.3:2; 1Jn.1:6-10). And it would not matter how heart-felt and emotional the acts of repentance the person in question ginned up (and then claimed to be sinless thereafter). In fact, to the extent that a person thinks it is by their own efforts (even "good" efforts) that they are winning their way into heaven, that is all the more offensive to God. After all, He sent His Son to provide salvation at the highest possible and truly unimaginable cost. That is grace. That is goodness. That is the love of God. If we throw Jesus' sacrifice back into the Father's face, what may we suppose will be His reaction? If we say, "Oh God, I don't need Jesus' death for my sins; here is my wonderful repentance instead!", that is ungrateful, that is a lie (because sin continues even so); that is the sort of thing that will provoke the just response, " ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' " (Matt.7:23 NIV).

I hope I've hit all the points here, but do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

Your brother in Jesus Christ the righteous, the One who covered all our sins with His precious blood,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hi Bob,

Thank you so very much for that very long and helpful explanation!

I did read and take notes about when you discussed the subject of "repentance" in the Laodicea section ("the era of degeneration from 1882-2026). I was relieved to read what you wrote since that is exactly the same way that I view repentance as well. I know when I repented, it was not really an emotional experience to speak of, but it was definitely a complete turn around in my thinking and was evidenced by turning from my ways to God's ways fully and completely.

I also found it very helpful when you linked Matthew 8:16-17 to Isaiah 53:4. I see now how the "diseases" would have been metaphorical for sin, and that does make sense. I don't think I could explain this, since the person does not seem to be open to discussion about this matter. I was reading your very very helpful teachings about "Cult characteristics" today, and in the area about "A Separate Society" you wrote about "Intolerant Dogmatism". I'm very grieved that this person thinks to have a monopoly on the truth, and won't tolerate any deviation from what is believed to be true. You also wrote in the "Self-Righteousness" section of your cult article:

"...God is a loving God and a forgiving God, but His forgiveness is based upon Christ's payment of the penalty for our sins. To reject this aspect of the gospel is to reject the gospel itself. Cults that promise righteousness and eternal life apart from belief in Christ are essentially denying the existence of a truly righteous God, just as the serpent did when he called God a liar in the passage above. To attain eternal life (or whatever their equivalent may be) anti-biblical groups universally substitute some system of self-righteousness. Their version of heaven or paradise can only be achieved through an onerous system of works (rituals, good deeds, self-sacrifice, etc.), works that are ultimately an insult to God who offered His Son that we might possess true righteousness by faith in Him (Rom.4)."

I think this person does believe that Christ's blood did something on our behalf (ransomed us from sin I think is how it is put), but is very strongly opposed to the idea that Christ payed the penalty for our sins, and says that if that is true and if "everything was done in my place", then I can't be held accountable for my sins because they were wiped out 2000 years ago.

These are such wonderful and inspiring words from your cult warnings article:

"Read and Re-Read: The main point is just to get to actually reading your Bible for yourself on a regular basis. The more you read it, especially the more you read it again and again, the more good things start to happen. You find yourself becoming familiar with the contents, the themes, the tone. More and more you discover links between the ideas and teachings scattered throughout this complex and wonderful book of books; more and more of your questions are answered as you build a framework of Bible knowledge that acts to solidify and intensify any accurate Bible teaching you receive (while also providing a hedge against false doctrines and teachings). The more you read it, the more everything begins to make sense. The principles of truth you know are reinforced, illuminated and deepened. You find encouragement and insight into the person of God on every page. The more you read, really open you heart and read, the more you move closer to God in every way. Let the Word of God, sweeter than any wild honey, sink deep into your soul, into the very foundation of your mind and spirit, until the words of God become an inseparable part of all your waking thoughts."

I fully agree with this and my Bibles all look like they have been through a war lol.

You also wrote about human teachers, and that is a tough area since it seems like the vast majority who call themselves teachers are either part of a lukewarm type religion, or have various cult type characteristics as you described in your article (having secret doctrines like visions, messages spoken by the congregation in tongues etc, having serious self-righteousness and the other areas you mentioned). I pray that many will have the discernment not to settle for these untold myriads of false teachers, but instead will choose to not accept any teacher until they are confident that those teachings line up fully with God's Word. I know I was seeking a faithful teacher for years and at times I'd get a bit off course because some would be very faithful in certain areas, but in a few other areas I was not too confident in what they were saying which sort of "tosses" a person about doctrinally and gets confusing. I thank the Lord daily though for guiding me to your sound teachings which I have full confidence in and am in full agreement with.

Thank you again so much for all the excellent explanations to my questions and concerns!

In Christ Jesus our blessed Lord,

Response #16:

You are very welcome, and, as always, I draw great encouragement from your enthusiastic love of the Word and the truth. It is always a great pleasure to hear that these materials have helped my brothers and sisters go deeper into the truth and walk closer to Jesus Christ.

As to your friend's likely objection, I think the fly in the ointment is the idea that because Christ paid the penalty for all sins, for that reason God will not hold anyone accountable. But that is not at all what scripture says. In order to get the benefit, we have to first accept Christ as our Savior.

Christ's sacrifice propitiated the Father's justice/righteousness, making grace possible/available (see the link: Propitiation). Therefore Christ's sacrifice provided redemption for all mankind (the atonement is unlimited; see the link), but that redemption must be appropriated through faith:

In whom (i.e., being in Christ as believers) we possess our ransoming [from sin] (i.e., "redemption") through His blood, the forgiveness of our transgressions according to the riches of His grace.
Ephesians 1:7

Only believers possess the benefit of the work of Christ on the cross (see the link: "Redemption"); unbelievers are offered it by God . . . constantly. But in order for the work of Christ to benefit anyone, that person has to accept Jesus as their Substitute, deciding to stand before God the Father on that day based upon what Christ has done – the only alternative being to stand on one's own works. Most people, even unbelievers, understand full well that our works are insufficient and in fact abominable to God (it's just that most unbelievers are, even so, unwilling to restrict their free will to the extent of yielding to His will in accepting Christ, despite the terrifying alternative future; see the link: "God's Plan to Save You"). But there is a category of person (the religious person) who feels that the works he/she are doing according to some humanly developed system (be it a formal religion, a cult, or a personal ethic) are intrinsically "good" and therefore "good enough" for God. Little do such people realize (because they have hardened their hearts against the truth) that on the one hand they are insulting the Father by rejecting His great Gift to them in handing His own dear Son over to a horrific spiritual death so as to pay for their sins, while on the other hand nothing they could ever do in the power of the flesh and apart from the power of the Spirit could ever be anything but an abomination before Him. We are sinners; God only is good; only what we do through His Spirit could ever possibly be "good" in His eyes therefore.

Anyone approaching scripture with child-like simplicity will see quite clearly that God promises salvation to all who believe in Jesus Christ. This simple truth matches the theology on this point under discussion as well, since the saving power of the blood of Christ only helps those who accept it on the one hand (as should be obvious), and since no one is ever described in scripture as pleasing to God for works they have done apart from Him on the other: all the great believers are those who act in faith, trusting in God for His solution rather than seeking to manufacture their own (e.g., Heb.11:1ff.).

This is what justification by faith is all about (see the link). We have God's righteousness, not our own, through accepting the work of the righteous One who died to wash away our sins. But if we seek to establish our own righteousness, through the Law or good works or any other system whatsoever, we are necessarily rejecting God's grace way for our own works way. In all things at all times, a person is either setting his/her eyes on him/herself, or on the Lord. Believers look to the Lord; those who look elsewhere will always be getting a false picture.

(25) For all sin and fall short of God's glory, (24) [but we are all] justified without cost by His grace through the redemption (lit., "ransoming" from sin) which is in Christ Jesus.
Romans 3:23-24

Finally, though it is true that at the last judgment all of the other sins unbelievers have committed will not be brought into the balance in their condemnation – since Christ has already paid the price – still and all He did not die, He could not die, for the sin of rejecting Himself. That is the unforgivable sin that guarantees the blotting out of the name of the unbeliever from the Lamb's book of life (link). All names were in the book originally – because God's plan entailed Christ dying for all – but all who reject that Gift choose for themselves to have an eternity apart from God. And without God's righteousness, how could anyone live forever with a righteous God? Sin is a symptom of the human problem, but the real problem is free will, or, better, the misuse of free will. God gave it to us, His very image, that we might choose for Him. But, human beings that we are, it is inevitable that not all of our choices will be the right ones (cf. Adam and Eve). Blessedly, in His great mercy God gave us a way, the perfect Way, to be reconciled to Himself and to live for Him in anticipation of living with Him forever, the one and only Way of salvation, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

(8) For you have been saved by [God's] grace through faith [in Christ]; and this did not come from you – it is God's gift. (9) Nor did it come from what you have done, lest anyone should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

Yours in the One who died for all that all might saved by grace through faith in Him alone.

Bob L.

Question #17:

Hi Bob,

Thanks so much for that helpful reply and yes, I fully agree with you and understand that we have to accept the Lord (have faith in what He did for us and turn fully to Him), in order for His saving works to even apply to us.

I sort of wrote about this on the thread, and I think I shared about it in a kind and gentle way, but the person still deleted it (but I have a copy of what I wrote). Here is what I said:

"Some of this can get overly technical and confusing and I think the heart of the gospel tends to get lost in all the theological debates. What I do know is this....there will come a day when I (and all of us) are going to be standing before the all holy and almighty God. The only thing that would probably come to my mind is that I would hold my head down and say, Holy God, I know I have caused shame and am fully unworthy of anything, but I do praise You God for Your Son and the fact that He alone can reconcile me to You for He.....

-takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29)

-died for men (Rom. 5:8)

-became sin for men (2 Cor. 5:21)

-has made atonement for the sins of the people (Heb. 2:17)

-takes away the sins of the people (Heb. 9:28)

-bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24)

-is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and the whole world (1 Jn. 2:1-2, 1 Jn. 4:10)

We all know that repentance and following the Lord Jesus is a key, and necessary part of our salvation, but apart from what the Lord Jesus did for us out of grace to atone for our sins and reconcile us to God, we have nothing to boast of....only He is what we can boast in , praise, and sing and worship about for all eternity.

"For He made Him who knew no sin (to be) sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." ( 2nd Corinthians 5:21 )

To me the above verse speaks clearly about Jesus being our substitute. But I'm not going to debate it because I do not feel that is wise, but instead I want to praise Him for this sacrifice and hope that some in the world will understand the enormity of this indescribable sacrifice and want nothing more than to turn from sin and self and live fully to follow Him."

That is what I wrote (deleted), and this was the reply:

"I have deleted a\your comment, for the Bible will interpret itself. As Matthew said, all that Jesus did was the fulfillment of Isaiah. He said Jesus "took our infirmities, and bare our diseases." Did Jesus become a leaper, did he become blind, dumb, become lame, demon possessed? Does it say Jesus was a substitute? Were all the diseases and sins ‘transferred’ to Him? Jesus took away their diseases and forgave their sins. "Bearing" the iniquity or sins of the people does not mean that all our sins were literally transferred to Jesus' body. You and I know sin is not a substance that can be transferred from one person to the next, it is a transgression. The Scriptures don’t tell me Jesus was a substitute. Since we know the meaning of ‘substitute," and if ‘substitution’ is true, then everything was done "in my place," and I cannot be held accountable for my sins because they were wiped out two thousand years ago before I ever existed to commit them. Since scripture reveals God passing over and forgiving awful sins (that had no prescribed sacrifice for such sin as murder, adultery, idolatry, witchcraft, sodomy, etc.) without demanding any payment or form of satisfaction other than a broken and contrite heart in repentance. This is the theme of the entire Bible. If man would of his own free will cast away all his transgressions, come fully clean with God, get himself a new heart and new spirit, God will forgive ALL his past transgressions no matter the severity and not remember the sins against him again. We see this spoken and put into action many times, especially in Matt.18 concerning the unforgiving servant in which the servant had a huge debt he could not pay, pleaded with the Master for reprieve and time to pay it off (not expecting someone to pay it for him.) The Master has mercy on him, forgiving the entire debt and sent him on his way, and we know the rest of the story. But this proves beyond any doubt the heart of God toward our sin. The Master (God) did not require any form of payment form the servant or anyone in his place, nor did He demand that someone be punished in his place for some kind of appeasement of public Justice or Substitution, He merely forgave the past debt (sin) out of pure mercy and sent him on his way to 'sin no more' (of course), but as deeds make all the difference in such a reconciliation, the servant can forfeit that forgiveness by failing to go and do likewise among his fellowman."

So anyways Robert, that is the way many believe as you know, and it seems the Moral Government group (which is very great in number) believes something along the lines of what this person is saying above (but not exactly the same). It's all confusing to me. I'm sometimes baffled that they are all reading the same Bible as you and me! But anyways, on a good note, I posted that very inspiring message of yours:

"The more you read the Bible, especially the more you read it again and again, the more good things start to happen. You find yourself becoming familiar with the contents, the themes, the tone. More and more you discover links between the ideas and teachings scattered throughout this complex and wonderful book of books; more and more of your questions are answered as you build a framework of Bible knowledge that acts to solidify and intensify any accurate Bible teaching you receive (while also providing a hedge against false doctrines and teachings). The more you read it, the more everything begins to make sense. The principles of truth you know are reinforced, illuminated and deepened. You find encouragement and insight into the person of God on every page. The more you read, really open your heart and read, the more you move closer to God in every way. Let the Word of God, sweeter than any wild honey, sink deep into your soul, into the very foundation of your mind and spirit, until the words of God become an inseparable part of all your waking thoughts." (edifying truths written by Robert Luginbill of Ichthys.com)

And almost 30 people have "liked" it and they shared some encouraging comments, so I was real happy about that. And I do hope and pray that it might encourage some to check out your site for sound Biblical teachings. Thanks again for all your helpful insights and wise thoughts! In Jesus Christ whom we will forever praise and glorify,

Response #17:

Thanks for the update, and please know how much I appreciate your "evangelizing" work for Ichthys. It means a lot to me.

As to your correspondent's actions, attitudes and beliefs, I am completely baffled that anything objectionable should be found in your comment which went out its way to be mild and non-confrontational. It was also very persuasive, precisely because it was a heart-felt, honest, and loving exposition of the truth just as the Bible presents it. Maybe that is precisely why the person deleted it. As you probably know from reading some of the give-and-take on the email response page at Ichthys, there are a lot of what I have come to call "hobby-horse" one-issue people out there who want to hang it all on one point (even if as in this case that issue gets applied to several different topics).

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
1st Peter 2:24 KJV (cf. Is.53:5; 53:8; 53:12; Heb.9:26-28)

This verse seems to say that Jesus Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross – in fact, that is exactly what it says, even if some wish to ignore the verse's literal and straightforward meaning. Usually that is the province of liberals who don't see the Bible as having any real authority, but this exercise demonstrates what I have mentioned and written about before, namely, when it comes to any sort of cult or cult-like group or belief system, the Bible really is only a means to an end; they like to quote the Bible as their authority because that can be persuasive in gaining and retaining followers, but ultimately, since we are speaking of groups and beliefs which are really anti-truth in their underlying purposes, when push comes to shove they are quick to throw any and all orthodoxy or uncomfortable scripture overboard, often writing their own "Bible", as in the Book of Mormon, or their own Bible translation, as in the JW "New World Translation". Even this is only a convenience (e.g., there are some passages even in the JW Bible, for example, the translation of which was not thought out carefully enough ahead of time so that they still reflect the deity of Christ), so that when their own materials contradict their false doctrines they are capable of denying even that with a bold and shameless presentation. This is a long way of saying that employing apologetics with those who disagree is only going to be effective in cases where the other individual or individuals actually do have an open heart, and that is frequently not the case when dealing with the sort of "front line troops" one most often bumps into promoting their views in cyber-space or at one's front door. In those situations, it is only the broader audience who may be helped toward the truth.

Of course Christ is our Substitute. That is what bearing our sins means. That is what being our Sacrifice means. That is what "on our behalf" means, what "to die for us" means:

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
2nd Corinthians 5:21 NASB

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 NIV

He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.
1st Thessalonians 5:10 NIV

I do understand that very few seem to have figured out everything that the Bible teaches about Christ's sacrifice in our place and His spiritual death on the cross wherein He was judged for our sins. These are very important doctrines, however, so I have spent quite a lot of ink on them, especially at the link in BB 4A: Christology: part II: "The Saving Work of Christ". The more we understand about what Christ actually did for us, and what the Father did for us in sacrificing Him, the more everything else in this world, all that has, is and will happen, fades into inconsequentiality in comparison with the cross, the rock upon which the entire plan of God and all creature history is founded.

For what the Law could not accomplish, because it was weak on account of [its dependence on sinful human] flesh, God [did accomplish]: having sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for the purpose of [expiating] sin, [God] rendered summary judgment on [all] sin in [Christ's] flesh.
Romans 8:3

The most disturbing part of the counter-post is along the lines of what we discussed before, namely, the horrifically dangerous idea that a perfectly righteous and holy God could overlook sin without compromising His integrity. Nothing could be further from the truth. If God could just overlook sin, why did our Lord Jesus have to become a human being? Why did He have to come into the world in humility rather than glory? Why did He have to die? Why did He have to be crucified? And how do we explain (or rather explain away) all of the many scriptures which connect Him and His death with the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament? To demonstrate the issue, sinners placed their hands on the head of lamb, so as to symbolically transfer sin to the animal about to be slaughtered which represents Christ, the Lamb of God. If God could merely forgive without payment, why do we need a Lamb whose blood cleanses us?

"Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
John 1:29b NKJV

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood . . .
Revelation 1:5b NIV

I think your other points subtly and effectively diagnose what is going on. Many people want to think that they are not really "sinners" (at least not like all those other "really bad" people), that they have done nothing for which they ought to be condemned, and that God will honor their good deeds (repentance, worship, prayer, charity, whatever) irrespective of Jesus Christ and their attitude towards Him. But of course there is only "one way" to salvation. The blood of Christ, His death in the darkness which paid for all human sins, is what cleanses us and results in life eternal – when we accept this marvelous Gift of grace through faith in the One who died for us (Heb.9:14; 10:22).

Keep up the great work!

Your brother in Jesus Christ, the One who died for us.

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hi Bob,

Thanks for your additional thoughts and for the added encouragement that the post I made on the thread was not objectionable, but was just seeking to share some honest, heartfelt thoughts.

I think part of the reason that people get too far to the extreme of focusing on sin/repentance, instead of focusing on Christ and grace, is because there is such an abundance of churches that focus on an "easy-believism" type message where they will speak of grace and the cross quite often, but they seem afraid to mention the fact that the Lord also says that those who love Him obey Him, and that He is not mocked by those who want to claim to be saved yet are not sincerely walking in the Spirit. I grew up hearing John 3:16 repeated over and over and over (and it is a most wondrous verse), but it was very upsetting to me that no one in the church would ever hear the rest of that chapter taught about such as John 3:19-21.

I think that is probably why I tend to know of quite a few people who have been frustrated by what I too found to be frustrating, but many have seemed to have gone to the extreme of taking their focus off of Christ, and getting too obsessed over the message of sin and repentance. The "easy-believism/ear tickling" message and the "over extreme focus on sin and repentance to the point of more-less excluding Christ" are both only partial gospels and are both exceedingly dangerous of course. I think people like many street-preachers seem to normally turn people off, because they seem to constantly yell about repentance and point at people's sins, but they don't seem to normally offer words of hope and encouragement about the way of hope through Christ alone.

It's almost a miracle to find a few rare people who can share the exact and proper balance of teaching about Christ's sacrifice, and who also do not share an easy-believism type message. That is a big reason why I do seek to encourage people to check out your website because you clearly do have that exact and proper balance in teaching the gospel. I know that many now think I have gone "too soft" and I know many have stopped wanting to be my friend, but I know very strongly that I don't want to be at either "extreme" no matter if I lose all their friendships. I also question Pentecostal type practices (in a kind, but honest way like you do), and I have lost all those people's respect as well, but that is ok. Also all the "binding" topics (topics that people use to bind people down under heavy weights and burdens) I've tried to stand firmly yet politely against (topics like: 1. those who are remarried are living in continuous adultery unless they divorce their current spouse, 2. Holy Spirit baptism is evidenced through speaking in tongues 3. Baptismal regeneration 4. Saturday Sabbath requirements 5. Demons need to be delivered out of Christians and several other such topics that bind people down as well as cause confusion) and that has also caused many people to unfriend me as well. But I was very relieved to see that your thinking on all these "binding topics", is the exact same as how I see it. That really increased my confidence that I was on the right track.

You truly are like a "big brother" who looks after the sheep and helps to keep them on the correct and straight and narrow path. Thanks for your diligent work to try and kindly help people see the false ways, and seek to lead them away from that and instead to get them on the right and true paths.

In Christ Jesus who is our ever faithful guide and the One in whom we place we trust,

Response #18:

You are most welcome.

As I have probably said before, one of the main reasons, in my opinion, so many are so het up and divisive is because of their advocacy of some of these false issues to the exclusion of spiritual growth on a broad front. That is the symptom; the disease is an essential unwillingness to be taught the truth by the Spirit in all things; rather, they relish confrontation (so unwillingness is at the root). We are indeed all brothers and sisters in Christ, and "what we will be has not yet been made known" (1Jn.3:2 NIV); but on that glorious day to come we shall all be "one" in an ecstatically blessed way, one in Christ and one with Him and one with each other for ever more – even as we are all "one" in Christ now (though we generally do not act that way as we should).

Thanks as always for your inspiring and insightful words, and also for your loving spirit even in the face of hostility and meanness (which ill befits fellow members of Christ's Body). It's an encouragement and a lesson to me and to us all.

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #19:

I hope I am not bothering you again, but a person who emailed me recently and also agreed with me that Christ was our substitute, had a rather disturbing article posted today. I think this person may many on her friend list who are Pelagians (as many on my list are Pelagians too), and there are Pelagian groups on facebook that many of them belong to. I'm concerned that they may be exerting a negative influence. Anyways, it is a short article that shares that punishment does not satisfy justice, and that for God to want this would be a type of evil or less than perfectly good desire. I wrote the following comment after looking at the article and I hope this was of help:

"Thanks for sharing but it is rather amazing that this author does not use any Scripture which must be our guide, but only uses human reasoning and logic. When I read the Bible I see that:

1. He was *numbered with the transgressors* that *we* might be saints. (Isaiah 53:12, I Corinthians 1:2)

2. He was *made to be sin for us* that *we* might be made the righteousness of God in him. (II Corinthians 5:21, I Corinthians 15:34)

3. He was *rejected* that *we* might be fully accepted in the beloved. (Isaiah 53:3, Ephesians 1:6)

4. He was *forsaken of the Father* that *we* might be adopted as children of God never to be forsaken. (Matthew 27:46, Hebrews 13:5)

5. He was *made a curse for us* that *we* might be redeemed from the curse of the law and receive the blessings of the father. (Galatians 3:13-14, Ephesians 1:3)

6. He *took our sins* upon himself that *we* might be saved from sin and the power of sin. (Romans 5:8, Matthew 1:21, Romans 6:6)

7. He *suffered shame* that *we* might be free from shame. (Isaiah 50:6, Romans 10:11)

8. He also *died* that *we* might receive the inheritance of God as children of God. (Hebrews 9:16-17, Romans 8:17, Galatians 3:29)

9. He was *made a captive* that *we* might be delivered from bondage. (John 18:12, Isaiah 53:8, Luke 4:18)

10. He *shed his blood* that *we* might be washed as white as snow. (Isaiah 1:18, Revelation 7:14)

11. He was *condemned* that *we* might be forgiven. (Mark 14:64, Ephesians 1:7, Romans 8:1)

12. He *suffered the wrath of God* and was resurrected from death that *we* might be justified. (Isaiah 53:10-11, Romans 4:25, I Thessalonians 1:10)

13. He was *betrayed* that *we* might have an faithful witness before God the Father. (Mark 14:41, Revelation 1:5, I John 2:1)

14. He was *forsaken of the Father* that *we* might be adopted as children of God never to be forsaken. (Matthew 27:46, Hebrews 13:5)

15. He was *made a curse for us* that *we* might be redeemed from the curse of the law and receive the blessings of the father. (Galatians 3:13-14, Ephesians 1:3)

16. He *died* that *we* might be born of the seed of God, become children of God, and have eternal life. (Romans 5:17, I Peter 1:23, I John 5:13)

17. He *took our sins upon himself* that *we* might be saved from sin and the power of sin. (Romans 5:8, Matthew 1:21, Romans 6:6)

He sacrificed and took incredible amounts of suffering upon Himself for **our** sakes (some call that "penal-substitution") as the Bible teaches and apart from that none of us could be saved. He was the One and only sacrifice that was well pleasing to God (the O.T, sacrifices pointed to the hope of this perfect sacrifice to come) and the perfect Lamb who was spotless and without blemish, slain for our sins. The Good News of what Christ did for us in our place (which we could never have done on our own), should make every true Christian want to praise, thank, love and serve our glorious Lord forevermore. This is the whole heart and foundation of the gospel message and apart from it we don't have the true gospel. As Paul said "I will preach Christ and Him crucified." Of course, Christ did the greatest part in sacrificing Himself for us, but the Bible cries out constantly that man has a part to play as well, and unless we follow and obey Christ in all sincerity of heart by repenting and turning from sin and self to follow Him wholeheartedly, we are not His disciples and not His children. Those who love Him do sincerely want to obey Him in all ways. Those who don't sincerely obey Him and worship Him in spirit and truth (by walking in the Spirit and taking heed to sincerely follow Him truths), are basically trampling on the blood of Christ that was meant to save them as we read in the book of Hebrews. God won't be mocked and He knows who is truly following Him and taking up their cross daily and who is not. Thanks for allowing me to share here and God bless you."

The person has not responded and I do believe, it is highly possible, is getting pulled in by the Pelagian crowd which is quite large. I just thought I would share this with you and if you have any further thoughts I would be interested. Thanks for checking into this. Also thank you for your very kind words! You do help inspire me to try and speak as carefully as possible to others as I see you always speak graciously to others. I'm not as perfect at doing this as you are, but I am trying my best.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

P.S. This is an additional comment from my last email. I checked back on my facebook just now to see if there were any responses.

One wrote:

"Jesus definitely suffered in our place, but nowhere does the bible say He took the wrath of God in our place. Jesus suffered at the hands of sinners according to the bible not the hand of God."

And the one who posted the article wrote: 

"Jesus definitely suffered for our sins. What the article is challenging is the idea that God punished Jesus instead of us ... that God gave full vent to His wrath on Jesus as He hung on the cross."

I just thought I'd add that as a follow up to you. Thanks for taking the time to read this Bob!

Response #19:

Let me start by saying that I am so pleased with your patient and thorough response – I doubt if anyone could have done it better. The fact that people are unwilling to respond positively to such a lucid and undeniable exposition directly from scripture (in the face of theorizing based upon no scripture at all), merely serves to indicate that factionalism as opposed to a love of the truth may be the motive:

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.
Titus 3:9-11 NIV

Be that as it may, to the extent that the two responses you received have anything to do with scripture it seems to be along these lines: "Because scripture does not say explicitly that Jesus bore the wrath of God, therefore Jesus was not punished for our sins". Clearly, that position has a lot of logical problems. The wrath of God is God's motivation; it is not the same as the punishment He parcels out: it is the wrath that provokes the punishment. We incurred God's wrath and we deserved God's punishment as a result; but Jesus "became sin for us" and took the consequences of that wrath on our behalf.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!
Romans 5:9 NIV

It is through the blood of Christ, His being put to death for us, that we are considered just. The death penalty is the most severe penalty there is, and it is only the endurance of that penalty by Christ (really His spiritual rather than physical death; link) that has allowed God to consider us just, although we are sinners through and through: His Son paid so that we would not have to pay – and a good thing too since we not only could not have done so but were also not worthy to do so, being sinners.

I think there are two problems in your correspondents' failure to understand this critical issue is their fixation on "wrath". The first is the nature of "wrath". "The wrath of God" is an anthropopathism (see the link). That is, it is the attribution to God by God of a human emotional characteristic in order to allow human beings to have some idea of the motivations of an infinite and perfect deity. Simply put, God does not actually "get angry" in the way we understand that emotion (after all, He knew everything that would happen before He initiated creation, and "anger" usually accompanies unpleasant surprises – but God is never surprised, after all). However, by describing Himself to us in that way we have some idea of what we should and what we should not do and the consequences if we disobey, namely, the incurring of His severe displeasure. We can see the nature of wrath, both the fact that it is a human emotion (rather than a genuine part of God's nature) and that it is a motive not a result/punishment in and of itself, from the Greek and Hebrew words which stand behind the vast majority of the instances where they occur in any Bible version:

Hebrew: chema (חֵמָה) "rage"; derived from the word for "heat" it connotes the rise in temperature and blood pressure human beings experience when they get angry (as in "I'm really hot about that!").

Hebrew: qetsheph (קֶצֶף) "indignation"; derived from the word for "snapping" it connotes the end of patience after a person reaches breaking point and has had enough (e.g., "he just snapped").

Hebrew: 'aph (אָף) "anger"; derived from the word for "face / nose" it connotes the flared nostrils and heavy breathing of an angry person.

Greek: thymos (θυμoς) "rage"; derived from the word for "steam" it connotes the idea of the person's emotions at the boiling point (as in "I'm really steamed about that!")

Greek: orge (ὀργή) "indignation"; this is the basic Greek word for "impulse" and can mean severe emotional impetus of any sort, but more often of an angry nature than anything else (because, to the Greeks, that is the prime emotion which human beings are most often unable to control).

So all of these word pictures are evocative not of the true nature of God (who is always in control, after all), but of human emotion so out of control it cannot stop from engaging in acts of vengeance. That is not "how" God is, but it is helpful to us that we have these expressions because the just consequences of actions which repudiate His grace and His will necessarily bring about are just as terrible as if He really were "mad" in a human way. So this very common anthropopathism is both helpful (in helping us to restrain ourselves out of the "fear of God") and also in expressing the mechanics of how things work: if we treat God badly we can expect to be dealt with in the way human beings we have treated badly might be expected to respond. It's not deep theology, but it is very practical "teaching" that may turn sinners from their way. Problems only arise when people build false theology out of a misunderstanding of what scripture means on this score.

That brings us to the second problem, stemming from the first, namely, a failure to understand that the analogy closer to the reality of what happened is the judicial one. God is in truth an impartial Judge who does not "get mad" so as to make any unfair decisions. But because of His holiness, He must demand perfect righteousness from all of His moral creatures: His justice cannot accept anything less – otherwise He would cease to be perfect in His integrity (and that is of course impossible). But we are imperfect, incapable of being perfect, and have already committed many sins about which we can do nothing to make amends to God. How, then, can anyone be saved? Only by means of a perfect Substitute who would be judged in our place and who would bear all the just punishment that a righteous God must inflict to maintain the perfect standard of perfect holiness. That is the truth about what is going on in this regard, and why the doctrine of justification (see the link) is critical to a proper understanding of these issues.

Again, thanks so much for your close attention to the truth and for your deep love of the holy scriptures. You are in my prayers for continued growth and production in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior – and for a magnificent reward on that wonderful day of days.

In Jesus who died for us,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Hi Robert,

I hope you have a wonderful visit with your family, and even more so I hope that they have the same passion for the Lord as you do. The family that I was born into has more of a passion to "fit into" the mold of the visible church system, so not too many in my family really understands me. If they ask me why I don't attend one, I try to kindly explain that I simply do not hear the Bible being honestly taught in the ones I've been to, but none of them seem to really understand what I'm talking about.

I am GREATLY enjoying the study of the 7 churches in part "2-A" of the Tribulation series. Earlier in life I listened to Harold Camping (before he got deep into his strange numerology system which completely confused me as well as some other teachings of his that I was rather uncomfortable with). I listened to him because he seemed to have a kind heart and seemed to have a deep love for the truths of the Bible which I could not find in the visible churches. One time I called him up on his radio talk show called the "Open Forum" because I wanted to learn more about the symbolism behind the 7 churches of Revelation in a deeper sense because I could see that they represented more than simply 7 literal churches. He just told me that they were 7 literal churches of the past. But what you are teaching in this section makes a GREAT deal of sense to me and is very interesting and helpful. It also makes me understand even more why I used to always feel so sick inside whenever I used to attend a visible church building, and I knew that God wanted me to leave such places.

Also, I'm sorry to bother you while you're away but I just wanted to send a quick concern. I noticed that near the bottom of the page you have titled "The Trinity, The Date of the Tribulation and Calvinism" that you wrote that "Calvin was a great man..."

I don't mean to nitpick the subject, and I don't want to judge Calvinists, but it seems every Calvinist (who clings to reformed theology, such as TULIP) I've known believes that:

1. Jesus only died for the 'chosen' (arbitrarily chosen), and not for all men (which is where their doctrine of "Limited Atonement comes from).

2. They believe men are victim of "Total Depravity" and unable to repent voluntarily since they lack free-will.

3. Plus they believe all the other strange doctrines of "TULIP" which I believe came from Calvin or Augustine but Calvin embraced "TULIP" and none of the TULIP doctrines make sense to me according to the Bible and you teach none of them either on your website. (TULIP = Total Depravity/ Unconditional Election/ Limited Atonement/ Irresistible Grace/ Perseverance of the Saints – which they perceive "perseverance of the saints" as meaning that it is impossible for those saved, for their faith to become shipwrecked.) I believe the exact opposite of those five teachings just as you do.

I try not to study any of Calvin's other teachings, because the five doctrines above are very false when we test them against the Word of God, and it's likely that he has many other false teachings; but I do believe he believed in the Trinity which is good.

4. But the most scary and disturbing thing about Calvin is the point that he seems to be happy about the death of Servetus according to quotes of his. He seemed to be proud and want to take personal credit for "purging the Church of such a monster." Here are some quotes of Calvin's about it:

http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/08/07/
john-calvin-personally-admits-to-killing-servetus/

So anyways, these are my concerns, and from what I can determine, Calvin seemed like a man that I would want to stay very far away from due to his wrong beliefs and seemingly wrong character/behavior. Calvinism (reformed theology) may be why we now have such a lukewarm view in the visible churches because according to Calvinism, we can't repent apart from a miracle since we lack a free-will, and we have no free-will to choose for God anyways ..... all those teachings remind me of what is taught in modern day visible churches and are views that would have to put the people to sleep and make them lukewarm.

I praise God though that you teach the exact opposite of all that!

In Jesus Christ our Lord,

Response #20:

Apologies for the delay in reply. Just got back today from a long trip visiting family.

As to this email and the remarks about Calvin, I am always quick to draw a very sharp distinction between Calvin and Calvinism. Take "TULIP", for example. For anyone who wishes to attribute any of these principles to John Calvin, I would ask "where does he say such things precisely and in what context?" All of these doctrinal topics are not so straightforwardly simple as some often make them appear. I know that my material has often been mis-characterized in a similar way, that is, by over-simplifying it and then quibbling with that incorrect simplification. Whenever I have tracked these sorts of things down, Calvin's actual writings (not to mention those of other theologians past and present) always seem to offer a more complex picture.

Then there is also the issue of the times. Calvin, Luther and Zwingli, the three great towers of the Reformation, would no doubt receive a very different evaluation from the Lord if 1) they actually believed and taught the simplified and, in my view, contorted teachings their followers of today espouse, and 2) if they were teaching today and not five centuries ago. We have discussed Calvinism before, but it is also the case that I do not hold with water baptism (Zwingli) nor do I believe there is much of anything good in the Roman Catholic church (from which modern Lutheranism is not widely divergent); yet Zwingli's assault on the notion that infant baptism could mean anything and Luther's destruction of the most abusive and apocryphal teaching of that church compliment Calvin's theological undermining of the false foundation of works theology which characterizes Rome. Starting where they did, in a world where to be Christian was to be Roman Catholic (at least in the west), the fact that these three came so far back from the brink against such serious opposition – genuine and constant threats to their very lives – is pretty remarkable (not to mention courageous), and I would certainly not want even to suggest that I would have been able to do nearly so well. If I and, more to the point, the people who depended on me, were locked in a life and death struggle with the Roman church, I'm not sure how forgiving in practice (where tangible threats to those I loved were concerned) I would be.

I think that if any of the three were alive today they would be doing what we are doing, namely, continuing to pursue the development of the actual truth of scripture no matter how difficult or dangerous or costly – and no matter who it offended – traditionalists included.

I certainly agree with all your points about hyper-Calvinism, and I think you have very nicely summed up here the essential problems with it both theological and also practical. As far as the man himself is concerned, however, I would want to walk in Calvin's shoes a few paces before judging him too severely for what admittedly seem to me as well to be some serious mistakes. I have made some of these myself with less justification . . . and I fear that I am not yet quite done doing so just yet.

Thanks for your very kind and encouraging words, . I always appreciate your generosity of spirit!

In our dear Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hi Robert,

That's good you had a long trip visiting your mom, and you must have an amazing mom and dad.

Thank you for this very interesting reply! I can understand where you're coming from in sharing what you did and you are right in saying that we would have to walk in that person's (Calvin's) shoes before we could make a proper judgment about him and I appreciate you sharing these logical thoughts for me to consider before drawing conclusions about another person.

It's a shame that the teachings of Calvinism have tarnished Calvin's reputation so much, when as you said, he seems to have not even taught what Calvinism teaches. I did not realize that, and I apoligize for making those assumptions. Thanks for setting me straight there.

I know I get rather upset when people draw automatic conclusions about what you are teaching when in reality you do not teach what they are claiming whatsoever. So many people assume that when another person teaches 'born in sin' that this means that:

-babies go to hell

-we are unable to make a choice to follow the Lord since we are totally depraved

-that people who teach this are saying that we are incapable of turning from sin etc.

I just tell them that they need to read everything that you are teaching, and if they did, then they would clearly see that you teach fully the opposite of what they are claiming you teach. But normally they have become so hardened in their beliefs that they are not open minded enough to look at the 'whole picture', and only want to find fault it seems.

I have read hundreds and hundreds of pages of your teachings and I can't see a single thing I disagree with, but your teachings have opened up my eyes a bit to a few things I've changed about myself since reading your writings and I am very grateful for that! I try to be friendly and helpful to everyone, but I've realized that I simply need to separate myself from those who are too hardened to listen to sound reasoning.

I agree with you that it is quite difficult to find much difference between Catholicism and modern day Lutheranism. It is hard to find much distinction between many churches these days and they seem rather similar in many ways. I don't partake in organized religion anymore, but I do occasionally attend weddings or funerals in their buildings. It's always disturbing to me when Lutheran ministers say at funerals that the deceased person became born again at infant baptism and that the Lord promises that those who were baptized will be eternally saved. I have spoken to ministers before about such anti-biblical teachings, and it is basically pointless since I am seen as a 'nobody', while they are in the position of authority and influence. It is sad that they have seemed to have blinded so many to these sort of lies. It is also sad that they are in the position of influence, while true Christians are just flaky 'nobody' troublemakers.

Thank you again for sharing your very helpful thoughts!

In Jesus Christ our joyous hope and source of truth,

Response #21:

My dad passed away many years ago, but he was a wonderful man. I'm very fortunate to still have my mom at 93. She had a bad stroke on her 84th birthday, and has lately had some other serious health problems but has persevered. She is a real fighter. And so are you! I deeply appreciate your kind words and your gratitude, but also very much your indomitable spirit. I don't know many people, not even among those who have trained for the ministry, who would have the courage to take on established figures when what they are saying is demonstrably untrue. All I can say is that I admire your pluck. We all have our own gifts and ministries, and I am confident that you are going to be well-rewarded on that day of days for the determination you have shown in your fighting for the truth. I get a lot of emails from Christians who are not gifted to be pastor-teachers and/or are not in any sort of position to enter full-time ministry, and they often seem to think that somehow ministry is just not for them. But you are an excellent example of the fact that we the members of Christ's Body are all essential parts of the whole. The only real question is, are we willing to grow and become useful to the Lord in its service? That will be the basis for our rewards, not the particular gifts or ministry or effects we have been given. In your case, I expect to be cheering you on as you receive the three crowns of victory.

Keep up the good work! And thanks so much for your prayers and encouragement.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Hi Robert,

I hope you are doing well. I am finishing up part one of your Tribulation series and am being greatly edified by it. I finished up the gospel video I made today. At the end I share about Ichthys.com for those who are seeking wise Bible teachings. If you see anything that is incorrect in my video, please let me know. Thank you so much!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Response #22:

Just watched your video. Well done! You are certainly talented to be able to put together something like this. I think you should consider a series. How about one which approaches these issues from the standpoint of a person who knows nothing about Jesus? And maybe another one which motivates those who are Christians (but not very serious about it) from the standpoint of eternal rewards? Just thinking out loud here – the last idea might benefit from what's contained in part 6 of Coming Tribulation on the judgment and reward of the Church (link; glad to hear that you are finding the series helpful so far!). I'm happy to see that you are pursuing your own call in tandem with continuing efforts toward spiritual growth.

Thanks as well so much for your generous recommendation of Ichthys – I truly appreciate it.

Keep producing for our Lord, my friend – therein lies great reward.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Thanks so much Robert for the encouraging words! I did make about 28 videos but I removed most of them and now only display 7 on my channel because I felt that my approach was too forceful and pressuring and not hopeful enough. But after reading over your site and after taking over 200 pages of notes on your site, I've learned to focus more on the right way of sharing the gospel ... in a more patient, hopeful, and gentle way. I did get a letter concerning my video. Can you please read it quick and please let me know if I have anything to be concerned about? Here is that letter and I appreciate you looking at it:

"First I would like to thank you for your efforts in putting "The Hope of the Gospel" together and I want you to know I do not wish to cast dispersions on your work in the sense of being judgmental or a know it all but I am simply writing from my heart what concerns me. So I hope there is no offense taken as I don't mean to offend. You clearly stand opposed to ongoing rebellion in a Christian and clearly affirm the absolute necessity of heart purity before God. At 3:27 in the video it says this ... "but Faith in Jesus Christ & His VICTORY to pay our sin debt is our HOPE!!" The question I would ask is "did Jesus pay our sin debt" ??? I think this phrase is a carry over of the common view of the Christ's death as a "Penal Substitute" whereby Jesus "paid the penalty due (sin debt)" in order that it "not be due anymore." I don't see this taught anywhere in the Scripture. I do see that Jesus "purchased us" with His blood and that Jesus His blood was "shed for the remission of sin" in that it is the blood which "purges our conscience of sin." Thus the blood is only effectual to the saving of the soul when we approach God through repentance and faith whereby we can then approach God with a TRUE HEART (no guile within) whence the blood is then applied to purge us of our previous sin (Heb 10:22). Thus Jesus didn't "pay the penalty" but rather "suffered on our behalf" that THROUGH "sacrifice" we can approach God in the new and living way (walking in the Light) as subsequently be cleansed. The notion of the "penalty being paid" serves to redefine the BASIS of reconciliation to be that of an "ABSTRACT POSITION" (due to a payment being made) as opposed to an "ACTUAL STATE ie. a true heart" (the methodology of actually approaching God and being made ACTUALLY clean) Thus under this error it is possible to teach "salvation IN sin" for salvation is basically a "legal declaration" as opposed to an "actual washing." I hope the above makes sense. I also fear that the website you recommend, Ichthys is under the sway of this error for they say things like. For this reason, and because there are plenty of much more straightforward passages which teach that salvation is dependent upon continuation of faith, and also because of the complexities involved with the two passages you cite, Hebrews 6:4-6 & 10:26-27, I generally do not include them in my refutations of absolute-eternal-security. It is certainly ridiculous to suggest that Hebrews does not apply to us (!), but it is true that scripture has to be interpreted in its entire context. One of the problems with using these two passages for refutation of the position that MISSTAKES OUR SECURITY (at least from my point of view as a Bible teacher) is that they are often taken amiss by genuine believers who sometimes become wrongly convinced that they have LOST THEIR SALVATION through committing some unpardonable sin to mean that such a thing is possible. In fact, as discussed above, IF A PERSON STILL HAS FAITH in Jesus Christ, THAT PERSON IS STILL A BELIEVER AND IS STILL SECURE: REGARDLESS OF THE STATE OF THE RELATIONSHIP (i.e., under divine discipline, suffering from spiritual immaturity, etc.), believers are saved as long as they remain believers (and I am not saying that gross sinfulness is not dangerous since it most certainly is). I capitalised my emphasis which clearly shows that whomever wrote that believes in an ABSTRACT NOTION of salvation as opposed to salvation being a "present active state of faithfulness to God (hence the heart is pure)." They separate "salvation" from "relationship." Thus they in fact hold to the notion that one CAN BE "saved IN sin." Thus due to this belief they have they do what many other Bible commentators do, they redefine Heb 10:26-29 which is CLEARLY in the context of Heb 10:22 and the "washing" ie. one does not get washed to go and jump in the mud again. In other words the blood of Christ is not to be used as a get out of condemnation card for ongoing sin, that is to despise grace. Look at this next quote from Ichthys (emphasis added),

This passage warns us of the dangers of CONTINUING IN A PATTERN OF SIN and anticipates the sin unto death for those who refuse to repent. That is the primary force of the passage, although it certainly does not rule out the possibility that the "judgment" and the "fire" might be eternal -- should the person abandon his/her faith as a result. As I say, that is not the normal pattern. BELIEVERS SIN BECAUSE IT IS TEMPTING. Poorly committed believers abandon their faith in Jesus Christ because they are not willing to endure trouble on His behalf (or are disappointed and blame Him when trouble comes). That is not to say that there is no overlap in the process, but these are the general "rules" of how this works. Loss of faith results in loss of salvation, and that is (or certainly should be) an absolutely terrifying prospect. And so should the sin unto death be as well (i.e., "handed over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh": 1Cor.5:5; cf. 1Tim.1:20). Bible teachers have to walk a fine line between on the one hand wrongly over-emphasizing our security in Christ (the OSAS position) and on the other hand wrongly over-emphasizing the threat to faith from sin. After all, as Romans 3:23 states, WE ALL SIN -- ON A REGULAR BASIS -- and the false possibility of achieving sinless perfection is a very dangerous false doctrine that inevitably leads either to hyper-self-righteousness on the one hand or absolute terror on the other (see the links: "The Myth of Sinless Perfection" and "Sin and Spiritual Transformation"). We run into trouble when instead of getting better at fighting against sin day by day we lapse into a pattern of sinning with impunity (or so we may think -- no one ever "gets away" with anything). Sin degrades our relationship with our Lord, and much deliberate or "willful" sinning does proportionally more damage. TAKEN TO EXTREMES, this can result in loss of salvation, BUT ONLY IN CASES where the person chooses to abandon faith -- the only way to stop being a believer is to stop believing.

The above quote is pure heresy. They are preaching that "YOU CAN in fact sin and not surely die" just so long as it is not the "pattern of your life." It is very clear that they have no concept of genuine heart purity and what it means to walk blamelessly before God by faith, which is why they bring up this "sinless perfection" nonsense. They make no distinction between "rebellion" and "missing he mark." There is NO REBELLION in salvation. They are teaching that THERE IS REBELLION in salvation, just less and less as time goes on. I have not been over the whole website but section alone which is on this page...

http://ichthys.com/e-mails.htm

...is enough for me to know that these people are grossly deceived.

We have to be very careful for the deception today is very deep and all pervasive.

Anyways Robert, I do not know the person above, and I think he is simply a person who thinks he is a "Bible teacher" and a type of "know it all", and perhaps I should just completely disregard his email that he sent me on my youtube channel. People like him give me nothing but confusion and it is difficult to even know how to respond to them and I doubt that it is even worth my time. I will continue to promote your website at every opportunity I get as I know you are led by the Holy Spirit and I have virtually no confusion when I read your teachings and I pray that your teachings make as much sense to others as they do to me! If you have any comments on what he was sharing I would appreciate it.

Keep shining bright for our precious Lord,

Response #23:

You are very welcome. I also wanted you to know that I have received a number of additional Facebook "likes" for the site since your video went up – thanks!

As to this letter, it seems that there is no lack of such "helpful" people out there in cyber-space who are willing to volunteer unsolicited criticism. You are joining in the work of the Lord and so of course you are going to be opposed. The first thing I would say is that your video is a word of encouragement, not a theological exposition. If someone has a problem with the way his/her fellow church/cult members are phrasing certain things, let that person instruct them, but total strangers? If it is serious, it is merely someone trolling to find a vulnerable target. I once had someone tell me that signing mail "in Christ" or "in Jesus" was offensive. I think in that case that the person was sincere, but the rationale made no sense. I didn't argue; I just ignored the request to desist.

You don't use the word "penalty", but this person's entire diatribe (the part directed at you, at any rate) is based entirely upon his/her understanding of certain connotations of that English word. You say debt. And there is no doubt that Christ paid for our sins (e.g., 1Cor.6:20; 7:23). That is what redemption means: being bought out of slavery by someone else (we are bought by Christ's blood).

As to this person's attacks on Ichthys, having read the letter I can still only surmise what the problem is. That is also a cult tell, namely, to provide a sophisticated sounding attack that will make a person feel nervous and guilty but without letting oneself be pinned down by specifics (i.e., what, precisely, does "there is no rebellion in salvation" mean?). It serves cult interests better for their doctrines and definitions to be flexible so that you just have to take whatever they say "on faith" . . . in them (rather than in the truths of the Bible).

Them: "You will be damned for what you are doing/saying/thinking!"

Us: "Yikes! OK, what are we doing that we must stop?"

Them: "You don't know? You have no hope!"

Us: "OK, I give up. Just tell me what to do and what not to do".

Near as I can figure, correspondent seems to be an adherent of "sinless perfection" after salvation (he rails against the use of that term but doesn't say why). But the tone of this letter seems spiteful. The invasion of your privacy to correct you in a self-righteous way is somewhat arrogant. The unsolicited slandering of a third-party's ministry without giving it a fair hearing is close to being un-Christian. One could go on. The point is, that it is hard for me to see how correspondent could have conceived, written and sent this letter without committing a single mental, verbal or overt sin in the process . . . so wouldn't that be "rebellion"? Tough to know but I'm guessing "no" in his opinion, since he did it not us. As is always the case with individuals of this persuasion, things they do are not sins; only things you might do can be sinful. And it is always you who need to repent, never them. As I say, the fact that this is couched in very careful language makes me more than a little suspicious that this is more than just a personal response. It has the markings of a group-actor on the hunt for converts. I would be reluctant to respond.

Thanks again for your good efforts!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.
 

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