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Question #1: 

Dear Bob,

The apostle Paul states:

To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
1st Corinthians 5:5 KJV

"...that the spirit may be saved.."? My issue with your interpretation of this verse is that it would mean that a person being destroyed in the flesh would be the means by which their spirit would be saved. But salvation as you know is by grace not delivering a person over to Satan that the spirit might be saved.

Paul says to Timothy that:

"Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme."
1st Timothy 1:20 KJV

If being handed over to Satan results in the literal destruction of the flesh than what can they possibly learn? Is it not more probable that handing someone over to Satan is throwing someone out of the church as a result, they hopefully repent and so their spirit is saved on the day of the Lord? The learning to not blaspheme being about discipline. And the destruction of the flesh (sinful behaviour or nature) being certain unrepented of sinful appetites?

Thanks,

Response #1:   

On the first passage, yes, we are saved by grace through faith. But if we lose faith, we are no longer heirs of salvation. That is what apostasy is (see the link). For those going down the road of rebellion and gross sinfulness, God often graciously lays upon them increasingly heavy discipline in order to turn them around. For those who respond, they are saved – from losing faith (in the case of potential apostates); from the sin unto death (in the case of believers who refuse to let go of either sin or faith).

On the second passage, I do think you are right that it is all about divine discipline – but of an ultimate nature. By my reading of the situation these two individuals were already personae non gratae in any congregation that respected Paul's authority.

The two passages are clearly parallel so that "destruction of the flesh" will be the method of divine discipline – called down by special apostolic authority – in the second as well as in the first.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hello Bob,

Long time since I sent you an email but be assured you are in our thoughts and prayers. My daughter is getting near the. She solid in her faith, and in fact I think she can't wait to get rid of her mortal body and be with the Lord, so that is not the problem. However, she is VERY worried that when she is no longer around to influence them her children will backslide and more importantly, considering the doctrine of election, they may not be saved. Their father is not a Christian (yet). I have told her all I know insofar as we need to pray for the lost because God has told us to pray for them and the Holy Spirit will reach them through human intervention as well as divine; also that the prayers of a believing mother for her children's salvation are surely answered by our Lord and furthermore when she is with Him she will not "worry" about them or even know what is happening; but she is inconsolable and, like a lot of Christians who get hung up on the doctrine of election, is fearful that God may not have chosen them. I know you will be able to give me some sensible Godly advice that I can pass on to her.

Thanks Bob,

Response #2: 

I am very sorry to hear about your daughter. Please know that your testimony and hers are wonderful tributes to the power of the truth.

Election is a facet of the divine decrees, but that doctrine can be and should encouraging, not discouraging. Consider: God has decreed absolutely everything that will happen in this life, to the smallest imaginable degree. He is never surprised and does not need to be "awakened" as if He were a mere human being. He has set down – before time began – the entire course of history in its every detail, including the salvation of all who choose for Him instead of for themselves. Would He decree for a good Christian mother, one who has clearly suffered so much already, to lose her children too, to have grief upon grief? That is not the Lord I know. From His gracious and loving character I will not allow myself to imagine such a thing. The very fact that you and your daughter are dedicated to the Lord is a heritage of faith which He unquestionably honors, and how much more so since their mother will not be around to influence them in the days to come. They will be all that much more in His hands, and those are good hands to be in.

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.
John 10:28-29 NIV

You and your daughter's loving attention to the spiritual welfare of the children are also not to be taken lightly.

Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6 NASB

And we know that the children of believers are sanctified even when one party to the marriage is an unbeliever (1Cor.7:14). How much more will they not come under divine protection when the believing mother can no longer be with them?

It is the mark of deepest love to want to "make sure" of the safety of those we love. But we also have to realize that God is the biggest part of that safety. Is it not true that even with a mother present some children rebel and go down the wrong road? But if the mother cannot be present, will not God honor her prayers and those of concerned friends and family all the more? I believe it must be so.

Many things – perhaps most important things – that have happened to me in my life have surprised me, so I am no prophet of the future. But in all my ups and downs, I have never seen the Lord let anyone down (Ps.37:25); He has certainly never let me down. His faithfulness is perfect, to a degree beyond human ken. He knows our deepest concerns and He cares for us more deeply than we can ever understand this side of heaven. He will surely honor prayer and the love behind it that is unwilling to allow those loved to fall away.

Behold, children are a gift of the LORD,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Psalm 127:3 NASB

I for one cannot believe He gave this gift only to take it away; that is not the good Lord I love and serve. No. I think He gave your daughter believers (even if at present believers-to-be), and that it has been so decreed since the beginning of time – so that they may be together for all eternity.

In the goodness and grace and mercy of the One who died for us, Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior.

Bob L.

Question #3:  

Thank you Bob. Thank you so much. I will forward this to her in it's entirety. God is using you in a most wonderful way.

Praise Him.

Response #3:    

You are most welcome. I took the liberty of putting this request on the Ichthys prayer list as well.

Nothing is impossible for the Lord, absolutely nothing, and in my experience He works His unexpected miracles most wondrously precisely when everything is impossible to us.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Dr. Luginbill:

Recently, I’ve experienced teaching that implies that God’s love is always unconditional. I am very skeptical concerning this concept, but as you may know it is often taught (loosely without much definition) in at least some segments of the Lutheran Church. I asked the teacher this question and didn’t get a clear answer. Does Gods unconditional Love allow Him to ultimately not grant immortality to those who choose not to love/believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior?

Do you have any teachings on this matter I am usually in agreement with what I’ve read this far on your site. Thanks for what you are doing.

Response #4:     

Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks much for your good words.

As to your question, I suppose it all boils down to what "unconditional" means. I am always reluctant to be pulled into theological discussions where things turn on the definitions of terms which are not in the Bible. I don't find the phrase "unconditional love" in scripture, so I would have to defer to those who have coined and use the phrase.

What we can say is that "God is love" (1Jn.4:8; 4:16). That is an absolute. However, God is also absolutely just. People who make so much of His justice so as to ignore His love tend towards legalism and tend to want to deny others the forgiveness He offers. People who are so fixated on His love that they overlook His justice tend to forget what His grace to us is based upon: the sacrifice of Christ who paid the righteous price for our injustices. The cross is the answer at the heart of all worthwhile questions: because Jesus died for every single human sin, God is free to be consistent with His absolutely pure and righteous character and to forgive and save all who are willing to be forgiven and saved; however, since it is Christ who did the dying, only by taking hold of that sacrifice can we be forgiven and saved. The love of God has opened the door at the greatest possible cost to God Himself, the death in darkness for all sin by the Son of God our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But we still have to walk through that door. For God to save those who refuse to accept the Gift would be to overrule the free-will image of God He has given them to decide their eternal futures for themselves. And it turns out that there are many who are not at all interested in sharing a universe with God, much less willingly subordinate themselves to Him.

You of this generation, consider the word of the LORD: "Have I been a desert to Israel or a land of great darkness? Why do my people say, ‘We are free to roam [or "we rule"]; we will come to you no more’?"
Jeremiah 2:31 NIV

As this and plenty of other scriptures make clear, rebellion against God flows from deep in human heart and has been embraced by the majority of the human race throughout history regardless of the horrific eternal consequences – just as it was with Satan and his followers who are the pattern for all who reject Jesus Christ.

I do have some things which speak about these matters in general terms. Here are some links:

The Essence of God (in BB 1)

Annihilationism, Universalism, Hell and Judgment

Against Universalism I: Free Will and the Image of God.

Against Universalism II: Only Believers are Saved

Against Universalism III: Unbelievers in the Plan of God.

God's Plan to Save You (in BB 4B)

Literal Hell

The Eternal Nature of the Last Judgment

The Problem of Unbelievers (in BB 4B)

The Last Judgment (in CT 6)

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Dear Robert:

Thank you again for all the clarity; however, I don’t think my question about immortality was very clear. My assumption regarding God granting immortality to some is that they will have eternal life. My assumption for those who are not granted immortality and are therefore consigned to remain mortal is they would suffer the 2nd Death (Hell?). Now if someone is consigned to eternal Hell it seems he would be still living, the question then is how is he not immortal?

Thanks again for your patience

Response #5:   

It seems to me that this is again a question of English definitions. Scripture is written in Greek and Hebrew and says what it says and means what it means. When we come up with English terminology we feel may express the truth of scripture, well, that may be helpful for explaining things, but what we can't do is to take that terminology of our own device and use that to build theology or superimpose it on scripture through a sort of reverse engineering (that never works in language). A long way of saying that "God granting immortality" is not something I find in scripture anywhere, so what it means will depend upon the suppositions of the person/group using the phrase. The Bible says we have "eternal life" as those who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ. Those who do not accept Christ do not have "eternal life".

The mistake some people/groups make is to extrapolate from this that there is "annihilation" of those who do not have eternal life. That, however, is a deduction which is contradicted rather than supported by scripture. "Death" may mean a number of things in scripture (see the link), but it never means "annihilation". That human beings with our earthly perspective should posit this is not surprising since we often see human bodies destroyed with no visible sign of existence thereafter (but even the unsaved dead do not cease to exist despite their physical "death"; cf. Lk.16:19ff.; Rev.20:12ff.). What all types of biblical "death" have in common is not an end to existence but the absence of fellowship with God, whether positional (pre-salvation), temporal (carnality), or eternal (second death).

The English word "immortal" is of Latin derivation and means "not capable of dying"; no doubt the potential confusion that could result from this term is behind the absence of any Greek or Hebrew equivalent in scripture. Once God creates a spirit, human or angelic, it is created and cannot be un-created. However, the eternal destiny of that spirit will be either one of blessing or cursing depending on the choice of the person concerned. The choice to respond to God, through faith in Christ (for human beings) guarantees eternal life; the rejection of Christ guarantees the second death instead – which is not the end of existence, but it is such a cursed existence that the scripture refers to it as death rather than life.

I get this sort of inquiry all the time so allow me to give you a series of links where this and related issues are discussed in more detail:

Annihilationism, Universalism, Hell and Judgment

Literal Hell

Biblical Anthropology II

The Eternal Nature of the Last Judgment

The Problem of Unbelievers (in BB 4B)

The Last Judgment (in CT 6)

Against Universalism I: Free Will and the Image of God.

Against Universalism II: Only Believers are Saved.

Against Universalism III: Unbelievers in the Plan of God.

"Their worm" in Isaiah 66:24

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – who is our Life.

Bob L.

Question #6:  

The verses about the second death in the Bible seem to be contradictory. While some suggest unending torture, others suggest annihilation. Like John 3:16, that God wants none to perish. That we are to fear He who can destroy both body and soul. The opposite of eternal life cannot be unending torture, because torture would be a continuing life. What would be the point of that? If the final earth is to be totally clean, how can there be any bad people around?

Sincerely,

Response #6:    

Good to make your acquaintance. In fact, the Bible only "seems" (to some) inconsistent on this point. In fact, there is no indication of annihilation anywhere in scripture. When God creates a spirit, it is created forever. The question is, "where will that person spend eternity?"

Being consigned to the lake of fire (the ultimate hell) is no existence worthy of the name. For that reason the Bible calls it "the second death" (Rev.2:11; 20:6; 20:14; 21:8). But we have to be careful about what we mean by "death". After all, when an unbeliever dies today that "death", the first, physical "death", does not result in his/her annihilation. The body still exists, though it begins to decay immediately. And the spirit still exists too as anyone who has read about the last judgment would have to agree, for those spirits are raised from Hades in resurrection, albeit a "resurrection of the unrighteous" (Dan.12:2; Matt.25:31-46; Jn.5:29), to be judged so as to experience the "second death". However, just as the first death did not mean either no body (there is an interim body for all the dead; cf. Lk.16:20ff.), and certainly no dissolution of the spirit, so it is with the second death. It is true that the place of residence of these "dead" is horrible. Why are they still described as "dead"? Because they are dead to God and are excluded from His presence for all eternity. The other verses you mention resolve along similar lines. "Perish" in 2Pet.3:9 means not to suffer annihilation but to suffer the "second death"; able to destroy "body and soul" is a correct translation in Matthew 10:28, but the "soul" is not the spirit; the "soul" is a synonym in Greek for "life" and that word is better to use here (see the link for further discussion on this important and frequently confused point).

I have rather a lot written on this and related subjects at Ichthys. Please have a look at the following links if you'd like to know more:

Annihilationism, Universalism, Hell and Judgment

Literal Hell

Biblical Anthropology II

The Eternal Nature of the Last Judgment

The Problem of Unbelievers (in BB 4B)

The Last Judgment (in CT 6)

Against Universalism I: Free Will and the Image of God.

Against Universalism II: Only Believers are Saved.

Against Universalism III: Unbelievers in the Plan of God.

"Their worm" in Isaiah 66:24

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hello again,

I am continually thankful for your ministry, and I hope God is blessing you in many ways. I was recently listening to a sermon about the paralyzed man who was lowered into the house where Jesus was teaching, and it occurred to me that I have always half-wondered how what transpired next was possible: Jesus offered the forgiveness of sins to the paralyzed man. Maybe the answer is simpler than I am expecting, but how did Jesus offer forgiveness to this man before Jesus' death on the cross? Was it a different kind of forgiveness, and if so, how? It is my understanding that forgiveness of sin required blood, but here, Jesus offers it without any sacrifice occurring and before He would give the ultimate sacrifice. Was it like a promise then, pointing to the future? Thank you for taking the time to consider this question. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Response #7:   

Yes, I think you have this right. As our Lord says, He was given authority to forgive sins – because He was the One who had come into the world to die for them. There is provisional forgiveness before the cross; forgiveness based upon the actual blood of Christ, His spiritual death for sin (see the link) which was accomplished at the cross. Before the cross the situation is a sort of forgiveness "on credit" (as Paul explains: Rom.3:25-26), but God's credit is always good: the entire world and all creation would have been impossible without the divine decrees which are of course predicated on the cross – that is the bedrock upon which all depends. After the cross the sins we have yet to commit have already been paid for by pre-deposit, so to speak. But at whatever time in the chronological order of the world, we can see that God's decree is "solid state" and truly timeless, and is not at all dependent upon the chronological playing out of these things as we are given to see them.

Thanks for all your encouraging words!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Thank you Bob for the speedy reply. I suppose that makes the most sense, and I especially appreciate the reminder that time is no limitation on God. What an awesome promise that must have been to receive in that moment, and that we have the very thing fulfilled is equally awesome. Thanks again!

Response #8:    

You're most welcome!

God is amazing.

Write any time,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Good evening Dr.,

I hope this email finds you and your family well. I always have you in my prayers. I have a quick question about God's greatest miracle. Was it the death and resurrection of His Son or is it the regeneration of a sinful believer to the image of Christ? I tend to believe the sacrifice of His Son while a great miracle was the most difficult to do from an emotional standpoint but the greatest miracle ever was regenerating sinful mankind into His likeness because of our free will and our inherit nature. I would like your thoughts on this. No particular reason why but just curious. Thank you and may God bless you and your ministry in our glorious Savior Christ.

Response #9:   

Thanks for the prayers! I'm keeping you in mine as well.

As to the question, to be honest it's not the way I usually think about things (there's no such ranking in scripture). Everything God does is a miracle on the one hand, and on the other hand everything that is done had to be done in exactly the way it has been done otherwise the divine decrees would not work – so perfect and complete is the whole. It is certainly true, however that the cross is the bedrock of all creation, that no plan of God could accomplish the goal of "bringing many sons to glory" without the death of our Lord for the sins of the world. Nothing can compare with our Lord dying in the darkness for us. If we imagine all the pain and trouble of our lives and all that might yet come put together in one lump it could not equal Christ's death for the smallest one of our sins. Taken as a whole, His work on the cross is bigger and more important than a trillion universes, than all suffering of all people at all times to an infinite degree. It is also true that we believers are "the joy that was set before Him" (Heb.12:2). The point of creation – and therefore the point of the cross – is exactly that, to save us, His Church. So, honestly, I find it hard to separate the three: creation/the decrees, the cross, and salvation, because taken together they are the plan of God, the embodiment of the love of God.

Yours in the dear Savior who died for us, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #10:  

Hi Doctor. Thank you again for the teaching you give on your web site. It is an important resource for me. I am looking for information/instruction on submitting our will to God's Will. I was reading in your "born again" section and it says there "When we are born again by submitting our will to the Will to God through believing in Jesus, we are fundamentally changed..." Just from my experience within my family of origin, and the teaching I may not have received, I was taught that believing in Jesus is a separate thing from submitting our will. I have noticed from the behaviour (fruit) of my family members from back to grandmother, that submission is not a key part in salvation. We believe. But submitting our will doesn't come into it. A while ago I was reading C.S. Lewis and he said that as humans, born from Adam, we are like rebels who need to put down our arms. I want to know the connection between "believing" in Jesus and submitting our will to God. I think that like C.S. Lewis says, that if we don't surrender, faith and our "ministries" and our growth will suffer. My family "believes" but their actions tell a whole other story. Thanks,

Hi Doctor. I should have kept reading before I asked. It looks like in Peter #21 there is something under apostasy and rebellion etc. that has to do with submission. But I look forward to your response never the less.

Response #10:    

It's no problem. There is plenty of material at Ichthys to keep a person busy so long they'd never get to the questions!

The key here is that faith and free will are really one and the same thing. Sometimes I call it "free-will faith" for that reason – it is one and the same as the image of God. God has empowered us to make decisions, and the most important one is where we will spend our eternal future. That truly is "god-like", and in order to choose to rely on Him with this image of God / free will we have been given, we have to choose against relying on ourselves; we can go our own way or His way but not both. We decide in whom we are going to trust and on whom we are going to rely, and that decision to follow with our hearts (which results in following in all we do) is one which comes from our will, who we are. So in and of itself the decision to choose salvation through faith in Christ is a submission to the Lord, because in so doing we are doing what He wills us to do and what He tells us to do (as opposed to following our own will . . . inspired by the evil one). Choosing sides in this unseen conflict in which we are involved is the most important decision we will ever make; however, after we are saved, we make many other decisions, all of which to one degree or another likewise involve either doing it our way or God's way – so that they parallel in every way our first decision to accept Christ. Whether or not one wants to call this "submitting" or "submission" is a bit of a moot point since that is an English word (of Latin derivation, etymologically indicating a "placing under" [of our will to someone else' will]), not a biblical word, and it's always a bit tricky arguing over definitions of terms which are not solidly grounded in actual, biblical terminology (one really has to ask the person in the discussion what they think they mean by the non-grounded term first).

After salvation, the same use of the image of God we made in choosing for Christ we now make use of to follow Him closely (or not): there are choices and challenges every day every step of the way. We decide if we will grow, or not. If we will read the Bible, or not. If we will listen to good teaching, or not. If we will believe the truth we hear, or not. If we will make a point of walking with Jesus and applying the truth we have learned consistently and aggressively in everything we think and say and do . . . or not. To do so is to submit to the will of God because all these things are the will of God for us all. To fail to do so is not to submit. So while it might be thought of as an attitude, I suppose, that's really not the way scripture presents it. We are here to follow the Lord, and that means growing spiritually, progressing in testing, and helping others forward through personal ministry. All this is what Jesus wants us to do – and if we do so He is pleased, but if we don't . . .

Hope this is of some help! You might have a look at the following links:

Free-Will Faith.

Free-Will Faith and the Will of God

Faith: What is it?

Free-Will Faith in the Plan of God.

Unbelievers, Free Will, and the Plan of God

Believers in the World: Using our Free Will to Respond to the Lord

Free Will and Faith under Pressure.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Dear Bob L.

I would like to share with you an event that happened in my Christian faith recently, I am very concerned and hence reason for writing. I want to stop this leaky boat before it becomes un-savable.

Are you available for an email? It is quite lengthy.

Proverbs 14:14

Eccles 3:1 - this is my reaping season. I trust God I don't reap the loss of salvation. I believe also I've sinned the "sin into death" spoken of by St. John.

Response #11:   

Good to make your acquaintance. I'm sorry to hear that you have been going through some spiritual troubles, but let me reassure you that if you believe in Jesus Christ, you belong to Him and you are saved:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV

Salvation is an absolute, and is given to all who accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior; that is accomplished "by grace through faith" when we put our trust in Him to save us from death and condemnation. Apostasy is the complete loss of faith by an erstwhile believer. That is, the complete losing of all of one's faith in Jesus Christ so as to revert to being an unbeliever. By definition, if a person believes in Him, that person is a believer, regardless of any sin or pattern of sinfulness, even if it shocks said brother/sister, and even if it results in serious divine discipline.

Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.
Luke 8:13 NIV

As our Lord tells us here, there are those who "believe for a while", but later lose faith and "fall away" (the Greek says more literally, "they apostatize"). Sin can be an issue in a believer reverting to unbeliever status, but more often than not excess sin unrepented and arrogantly indulged in results in accelerating divine discipline and, eventually, the sin unto death. But the sin unto death is not loss of salvation; rather it is the ultimate divine discipline whereby a believer is taken out of this life in a very painful way "so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord" (1Cor.5:5 NIV). Those who, like the seed on rocky ground, fall away from the faith and revert to being unbelievers often do so because of personal disappointment, being unwilling to weather the tests that come every Christian's way, often live lives relatively free of care thereafter – they are no longer the devil's main targets (having reverted to unbeliever status and now not belonging any longer to Christ so as not to partake any more of the discipline with which He chastens every son He accepts: Heb.12:6ff.).

So I want to assure you that it is very clear from this email that you are a believer in Jesus Christ, both because of the way you are phrasing things but also because of the fact that you are concerned about your eternal status (unbelievers, by definition, do not care).

Clearly, the farther we stray from the Lord, the more likely we are to bring divine discipline down on ourselves and also the less likely we are to feel confident in our faith and in our relationship to the Lord. As the prodigal son said, "I am no longer worthy to be called your son" (Lk.15:21 NIV). But as scripture tells us, his father (representing our heavenly Father) said in reply, "this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found" (Lk.15:24 NIV).

Recovery from spiritual depression, sin and backsliding takes time and effort, but it certainly can be done – and is better than the alternative (i.e., continuing down the wrong path which will eventually result in the sin unto death or apostasy, depending on how the individual in question reacts to the intensive discipline sure to come). Therefore, the answer to this problem is the same answer to all problems in the Christian life: spiritual growth. If we are growing in Christ, progressing in our walk with Him, and helping others do the same through the ministry opportunities our Lord supplies, we will be in no danger of apostasy or the sin unto death – and we will gain confidence in our status as born again believers with every passing day.

There is much to say about all of this, and I have written much about these issues in the past. Here are some links to get you started:

Being Saved: Security, Apostasy, and the Sin unto Death

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death, the Conscience and Sanctification

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death (in BB 3B)

The Process of Apostasy (in CT 3A)

Spiritual Growth I

Spiritual Growth, Church-Searching and "Discipling"

Epignosis, Christian Epistemology, and Spiritual Growth.

Spiritual Gifts and Spiritual Growth

Forward progress necessary spiritual growth.

Believing the Bible for Spiritual Growth.

No Growth without Faith (in Peter #14)

Bible Teaching and Spiritual Growth (in Peter #13)

The Judgment and Reward of the Church (in CT 6)

Virtue Thinking: Applying the Truth for Spiritual Growth and Progress (in Peter #16)

Progression of Virtues (in Peter #17)

Spiritual Growth requires Bible Teaching

Spiritual Growth vocabulary

Spiritual Growth: the solution to "ups and downs"

Please do feel free to write me back, particularly if you have any questions regarding the links.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #12:

Dear Bob,

Without going into detail, I have already committed the sin into death. Thus prophecy God put over my life in reverse: Jer. 1:19-21

Can you see "princes and kings" in there? Yes. I've been given over to the world system for two years already. I mean civil authorities. Satan is God of this world and being given unto Satan for Divine chastisement can sometimes mean being handed over to civil punishment / police authorities - court, fines , and possible death afterwards pending on all of the outcomes?

But it got worse 14 days ago which is why I contacted you. I'm delivered into Satan as if 15 days ago in a more intimate way - in other words - demonic oppression inside me.

So physical life in danger, now spiritual in danger as well. I'm not sure if God is doing it to chastise me 1 Cor 5:5 or because it's game over for me. I'm going to look for deliverance ministers soon, to remove these devils who are attacking my faith from within and trying hard to turn me apostate. Can you see my situation? It's dire straits.

Right now (it's 1am and I seldom have slept well in last 14 days) I just want to focus on spiritual growth... I'm avoiding anything that feeds my flesh - TV, books, museum... Anything non-spiritual I avoid because it only worsens my condition.

If you want - I can discuss more via email - or via Skype.

Since a demon entered into me; does that mean I'm not a child if God anymore?

Response #12: 

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit – which means by definition that you cannot be demon possessed:

But you are not under the control of the flesh, but under the control of the Spirit – if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, that person does not belong to Him (Jesus Christ).
Romans 8:9

Believers experience trouble, problems, fiery trials for a number of reasons but most often for two essential causes:

1) Suffering for blessing; otherwise known as "sharing the sufferings of Christ" (Rom.8:17; 2Cor.1:5; Phil.1:29-30; 3:10; Col.1:24; 1Pet.4:12-13; cf. Matt.10:38; 16:24; Mk.8:34; 10:21; 10:38-39; Lk.9:23; 14:27; Acts 5:41; 2Cor.4:10-11; Gal.6:17; 1Thes.1:6; 2Thes.1:4-5; 2Tim.3:12; see the link: in CT 2A: ""sharing in the sufferings of Christ" is a part of the normal Christian experience"):

But if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.
1st Peter 4:16

2) Suffering for correction; otherwise known as "divine discipline", such suffering is designed in the first place to turn the believer in question around, to turn Him back to following Jesus Christ with all his heart and soul and mind and might, to help him/her give up any wayward behavior, so as to repent, to confess, and to get back on the high road to Zion confident of the forgiveness that is in Jesus Christ (1Jn.1:9); in the second place, discipline may often continue after repentance, confession, and change of course, in part to make sure that we don't forget this lesson (especially in cases of severe violations of God's will – as for David in his murder of Uriah and the fourteen years of trouble which followed). But if we are back in fellowship with the Lord, even this discipline is a blessing, demonstrating for us the great love the Father has for us in His Son our dear Lord Jesus who died that we might have life eternal (as David was blessed even during his long stint of discipline).

You have not yet resisted to the point of [having to shed your] blood in your struggle against sin. And you have forgotten the encouragement scripture gives us as to the sons we are: "My son, do not treat the Lord's punishment lightly, and do not lose heart when you are rebuked by Him. For the Lord punishes those He loves, and flays everyone He receives to Himself as a son." So take your punishment in this spirit – God is behaving towards you as to sons. For what son has never been punished by his father? And if it should be that you are not receiving punishment (in which all [true sons] share), then you are illegitimate and not sons at all. Now we all had human fathers who punished us and we respected them for it. How much the more then shall we not submit ourselves to the Father of our spirits and live? For while our human fathers meted out our punishment for a relatively short time according as they saw best, when He punishes us it is definitely for our own good – that we might partake of His holiness. Now no punishment is a cause of rejoicing as it is being experienced, but rather of regret – only later does it bear fruit for those who have been trained through it – the fruit of [personal] righteousness that makes one whole and complete. Therefore (going back to the race analogy of v.1), pick up those hands hanging slack at your side, put some strength back into your weak knees, and make straight tracks for your feet, so that, [even though you fell down,] what you sprained might not be twisted completely out of joint, but might instead work its way back to health.
Hebrews 12:4-13

It is true that demons can be part of God's discipline for wayward believers in Jesus Christ (cf. 1Cor5:5), but possession is out of the question. What you need, assuming that behavior is the reason for your present situation, is to repent of whatever you have done (or failed to do) – meaning a complete and serious rejection of it (rather than mere emotional hysteria) – confessing to the Lord whatever sins you may have committed. Then ask Him for deliverance. Human beings, even Christians, have no power over demons, be it true cases of possession or demon attack from without – unless they are or are directly associated with an apostle (and the last of these went to be with the Lord nearly 2,000 years ago). There are many false teachers and hucksters about who would gladly play to your worst fears (as in the case of the link you provided). Have nothing to do with them. Rather, trust in the Lord Jesus to be your Deliverer. Commit yourself and your situation to Him in faith, and He will deliver you. Here are some links on that:

Third Party Testimony: We Believe God and His Word – Not People

Beware of third party reports I

Beware of third party reports II

Beware of third party reports III

Beware of third party reports IV

Beware of third party reports V

Satan's Revolutionary Platform (in SR 1)

Demon Possession (in SR 4)

The Demon Possessed Girl in Acts 16:16

Fallen Angels, Demons, Nephilim

The exorcism of Anneliese Michel

Prayers for binding

Exorcism

Demon Influences

Angelic Issues III

As I wrote you yesterday, the sin unto death is when a believer absolutely refuses to give up a sinful lifestyle or pattern of behavior which brings shame on the Church of Christ. The young man in 1st Corinthians chapter five was on the point of being destroyed for that very reason. But let the record show that when he came under the sort of intensive discipline which Paul had called down on him, he did turn back from destruction (destruction of the flesh, not the spirit), and was restored (that is detailed in the next letter Paul wrote to the Corinthian church at 2Cor.2:6-11).

So there is hope for you, my friend, as there is for any genuine believer in the Person and work of Jesus Christ: all Christians who "backslide" can be restored, as long as they are still breathing, provided that they turn back like the prodigal son, return to the Lord (through confession accompanied by reformed behavior), and begin to do things thereafter God's way instead of their own way. I tell you this from scripture and from much personal observation and experience.

Finally, as I also wrote you yesterday, once you have turned, spiritual growth is the answer to all spiritual problems for all believers (please see previous links). The reason we are disciplined in the first place is not merely to correct the problem of our behavior but to get us to understand that the only way for a believer to live in this world is by walking closely with the Lord. Let Him hold you by the hand and lead you forward – this is done by learning, believing and living by the truth of the Word of God, the very thinking of the One who is the living Word, Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #13:  

Dear Bob,

Can you read my testimony?

Response #13:    

I did read your post. I stand by everything I wrote you in the last email. Your problem, if I may be so bold, is that you are going by what you feel rather than what can be known as the truth from studying the Bible under an orthodox teaching ministry.

If you believe in Jesus, you are saved . . . no matter how you may feel and no matter what you may be experiencing.

If you are a believer, then you cannot lose the Holy Spirit . . . no matter how you may feel and no matter what you may be experiencing.

If you have the Holy Spirit, you cannot be demon possessed . . . no matter how you may feel and no matter what you may be experiencing.

The sin unto death results in physical death on account of rebellion over a long period of time, but it does not result in loss of salvation.

Apostasy is something else again, namely, the entire loss of faith whereby a Christian reverts to being an unbeliever. That state is seldom connected to the sort of angst you are displaying – because unbelievers do not care about Christ or salvation any longer (by definition).

The verses you adduce to torture yourself are universally misunderstood and misapplied in the post I read. I would be happy to explain anything that you would like about any of these, but I would suggest that first you begin reading the previous links (since most of them are covered in detail therein). Recovering from spiritual decline does take a fundamental attitude shift aka repentance – and confession to the Lord (very important) – but to get on the right track thereafter requires spiritual growth, which means learning the truth contained in scripture. Reading your Bible is very important in that process (see the link: Read your Bible!), but there is absolutely NO substitute for taking in the Word through a teacher you can trust, one who is actually teaching the scriptures in a substantive and orthodox way. It certainly doesn't have to be Ichthys (though you are most welcome to all the materials here), but giving your attention to some (good) teaching ministry is essential at this point, especially as you are very confused about many basic points of Christian doctrine. For example, God would NEVER say to any believer, "I don't trust you anymore" – or anything of the kind. You are succumbing to guilt and "reeling with what you feel" rather than "going with what you know" to be true by faith in the actual truth.

Here are some other links which may be of some use to you in your spiritual recovery (for which I am praying):

Salvation Lost and Found

Lost my salvation?

Lost my salvation II?

Have I Lost My Salvation? (III)

No, Hebrews does not teach that you lost your salvation.

BB 4B: Soteriology

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the One who died for all of our sins, past present and future, that we might not be condemned but saved (Jn.3:16-18).

Bob L.

Question #14:  

Dear bob

If I believe ...

If I am a believer...

What if I turn your statements around - and say that The Holy Spirit left me?

Did you read my recent experience?

You said its impossible for a devil to enter a Christian, but what if the Holy Ghost leaves the Christian - then I suppose the devils might enter. I haven't slept well in a fortnight, I think there is a spirit of fear inside my chest.

It's affecting my faith, logically.

I'm looking for a deliverance minister.

Response #14:     

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, someone who has faith and trust in Him (as you certainly seem to be), then the Holy Spirit has NOT left you.

You are operating on how you feel rather than basing your conclusions on the truths of scripture. Your feelings are not a proper guide to having on having or not having the Spirit, nor are they a proper guide to making decisions and choices. Just because we may be emotionally excited about something, it doesn't mean that the choice is right, any more than if we are feeling bad about something does it necessarily mean that the choice is wrong. Occasionally, our feelings may indeed match up with the truth, but that is often not the case, and it is especially often not the case if we are not in fact on a good, solid positive spiritual trajectory. The more we are in the spiritual doldrums because of failure to pursue the truth in a good and godly way (listening to and believing and putting into practice truth taught by a source we can trust), the more our emotions are likely to be out of sync with the truth so as to lead us astray if we follow them – instead of following what we ought to know is true from scripture in the power of the Spirit.

Listen. You are a believer if you believe. Since you believe, you are a believer (Jn.3:18). And if you are a believer, then you have the Holy Spirit (Rom.8:9). Now you can listen to your feelings, and you can listen to internet gobbledegook – or you can take the the truth of scripture and believe it. That is the only solid way for a Christian to proceed. My advice to you is to stop beating yourself up. Confess anything you have done and then forget it and move on. You don't have to worry about the Lord failing to properly discipline you for any sins or stumbles – He is always perfectly "on the case". We are called to move forward for Christ, even if we have made mistakes (and there is no one who does not make mistakes: Rom.3:23; Jas.3:2; 1Jn.1:6-10):

It is not as if I have already gotten possession [of what we seek] or am already brought to completion, but I am pursuing in hopes of attaining the [prize] for which I was attained by Christ Jesus. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. As many of you as are [spiritually] mature, let us think this way, and if you think in any other way, even this will God reveal to you. But with respect to the progress you have made, keep on advancing in the same way!
Philippians 3:12-16

The links previously provided will give you the truth about all these matters (if you take the time to actually read them, consider them, believe them, remember them, apply them). Here are a few others apropos of the above:

Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness: Claiming the Mental and Spiritual High-Ground

Who controls our thoughts and emotions?

Peter lesson #29

The battlefield of the heart

Faith, hope and love in spiritual warfare

I am praying for your spiritual recovery . . . and advance for Jesus Christ thereafter.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Dear Robert

Good news. Tonight I went to a pentecostal church. As I walked to church - as I stepped outside my house - the demon manifested, made my face angry, made me dizzy, made me feel REPULSED with going to church ... it then disappeared back inside me. I realised I was DEMON POSSESSED. This was the end of all my doubts. I went to Church. I was in tears. Then I walked up to the front and Jesus mercifully delivered the demon from me - and saved me from the fires of hell. Before there were two kingdoms inside me. Now there is only one - HIS. The minister also prayed over me and God released His Spirit upon me to, protect me, I believe from the demons returning. He did NOT FILL ME INSIDE, but He did was He saw best to do. He did shower me with His Spirit and I felt His Spirit penetrate my head, and neck, and back. He protected me. The fear that I felt 24x7 went as soon as the demon left. I know that it was all the demon. I am back in my NORMAL MIND now.

Luk 8:35 Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. Thanks for your prayers and support. Now I will being my life NEW IN CHRIST JESUS - all things have passed away all things are become new. If you have any literature that might help me on my journey ahead, that would be appreciated. Thanks again for your prayers and support. To God be the glory! Another soul for the kingdom of Heaven. I cannot tell you how relieved and grateful I am to Jesus and, to your support along this terrible journey that climaxed in Jesus getting the victory.

Response #15:   

I am happy to hear that you are on the road to spiritual recovery (even if I disagree with your interpretation of events).

One thing I would counsel you as the basis for continuing forward and not regressing in future is to find a good, solid, orthodox teaching ministry where the Word of God is being expounded in a way that will actually contribute to your spiritual growth (I doubt you will find that in any Pentecostal church). Truth – the truth of the scriptures accurately translated, interpreted and taught – is the fuel which contributes to growth, stability of faith, and a believer's confidence. Emotions always fade, and are no guide to spiritual status or the rightness or wrongness of any action or opinion.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:  

Dear Rob

My sin: I didn't pray for five days. Two days ago I repented. But my relationship with God hasn't been the same. I Truly sense In my spirit His Spirit is never going to love or open up to me again. I will keep praying every day Etc. but as I said, I'm not sure that it's going to do much.

Dear Dr Rob

I feel I am in dire straits. I'm not sure if you know, but recently I was delivered from Devils. Terrible experience because, I didn't know if God would free me from them or not (many people aren't). The aftermath, is what I need to mention. I had the Holy Ghost in my chest and He departed. Now He is very small inside me, a gentle fire and it is hard to pray, etc. I'm wondering is God going to leave me or am I not a genuine Christian? I've tried everything and the only way for freedom is for a new encounter with God. Concerned He will leave me any day or anytime. I feel He is quenched and in pain inside me. I pray and read bible but the pain remains. The reason I'm writing is because my pastor at my church, it seems like he doesn't realize I'm in huge danger of spiritual shipwreck. What instructions can you offer me? I need to ask God for a fresh pouring if His Spirit; it seems like He isn't listening.

Dear Dr Bob

I was apostate seven in May 2015. I believe in your teachings on conditional security. I had a devil in me. This was the reason. On 22nd may he was cast out. It's a pity you have not published your online teachings. Or made a downloadable file. I'm asking God to fill me up anew with His Spirit. It will need to be a "slain in the Spirit" experience. Nothing less will cure me. I grow but it plateaus to at point I cannot surpass. Only a supernatural power will restore and cure me. What I need is more of the fear of God. That's why I am looking for teachings on conditional security. Dan Corner seems to have a book on it so I might take that as an option.

http://www.evangelicaloutreach.org/dancorner.htm

I'm going to let you in on a secret - if I don't get empowered and fulled fresh with His Spirit I know God will remove me from earth (sin into death). Via poverty or sickness or both. I have to get filled at all costs and enter His plan - Ephesians 2:10

Response #16:    

With respect, what you need is the truth of the Word of God. There is no such thing as "slain in the Spirit" (not in the Bible anyway; see the link), all believers have the Spirit and God does not act in the way you imagine at all. Failing to pray may be a bad thing but it is questionable if it is a sin; it is certainly not apostasy or anything close to it. At worse it is an example of a lack of spiritual momentum caused, among other things, by misunderstanding the truth. You may say you were "apostate", but that means you came to be an unbeliever again, having completely rejected faith in Christ. Nothing in what you have shared with me indicates anything of the sort. Believers are often attacked by unseen forces, but they cannot be demon possessed. It's pretty easy to tell the difference. In demon possession, the individual loses a great deal of control over his/her will to the demon(s) – so as to say things he/she does not want to say, and to do things he/she does not want to do. Nothing you have shared indicates that this was the case. I don't understand why you want to believe something that is/was not true. To be frank and honest, these three emails are filled with misunderstandings about what the Word of God actually has to say on these matters. I am not blaming you – not in the least! I know that you "got this" from unprepared "preachers" and "teachers" who are spreading dis-information in the church-visible for the sake of sensationalism and personal gain and profit. What I am doing is reminding you of what I always tell you: to get your feet on the ground spiritually requires engaging consistently with God's way of doing things: spiritual growth (through hearing and believing the truth); spiritual progress (through applying that truth in faith under pressure); spiritual production (helping others do these things). To get moving forward will require that you give your attention and respect to a teaching ministry that is both doctrinally correct and substantive in its offerings. You are free to read any books you want, go to any revivals/churches/chapels/rallies you want, read any blogs, view any videos you want. But the net result of giving your attention to all manner of sources, good, bad and worse, will only confuse you, will only give you more of these incorrect notions, and will not produce peace or spirituality. Being filled with the Spirit, for example, is not an emotional thing; it is the result of consistently adapting one's thinking and decision making to the Spirit's subtle guidance through the truth (please see the link: "The Filling of the Holy Spirit" in BB 5).

You are certainly welcome at Ichthys (where all the materials are available both for online perusal and download in multiple formats; see the links), but whatever teaching ministry you choose to give your attention to, I do strongly suggest that you give your attention to that ministry exclusively, at least until you get to the point of being "straightened out" on these issues. That is the only way to get anywhere in the Christian life.

Things are much better than you imagine, my friend. The Lord is trying to help you. Don't fixate on yourself subjectively; rather, focus on what He has done for you. Jesus died for every one of your sins. Think about that. The cross is bigger than this universe to an infinite degree, and what the Lord did in dying for the least of your sins is more than compensation for all your earthly suffering and better than all your earthly blessings – and He died for all of your sins.

Keep your eyes on Him in whom we have life eternal, Jesus Christ our dear Savior.

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Dear Rob

This is what I mean by "slain in the Spirit": Acts 11:15 Or Acts 1:5. I have faith now, but if the downward spiral continues, the Holy Spirit will leave me and I will become empty and the Devils that left me, will return 7 times worse: Matthew 12:44. I will become apostate (You yourself said it's possible). Dear God what is going on? Believe me- all I have written is honesty. The good news is that presently, while I still love Him etc I still have hope. Typically the past 7 years for me have been not ones of fruitfulness. Or of normal Christian life.

The devil was cast out of me. It is my belief it entered into me, before I was baptised in the Spirit in 1998. It came out a few weeks ago. But before it came out, I was tormented for weeks. In that time, I lost faith etc etc. I became apostate. When demon came out all my bad symptoms vanished. It was 3 weeks ago. Sadly, in that space of time, the Holy Spirit has reduced His presence in me - yet again. Bible says we ought grow.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen
2 Peter 3:18

Sadly, I don't sleep well most nights as I don't have much peace and comfort of His presence. I don't have Hus presence much at all. It is harder to pray etc. So I ask God what is in store for my future? Will I still have His Spirit? Or will it be over? To me the last 7 years look like a downwards spiral into, permanent apostasy... Perhaps, next week or month or year, it will come. So I fear for my eternal salvation.

Response #17:   

I am trying to help you, my friend, but the only way I can help you (besides praying for you) is by telling you the truth – and the only way you can be helped is by receiving the truth as the truth and believing it. If you insist on your own private interpretation of these matters your spiritual turmoil will continue to the extent that you are wrong in your interpretation and are for that reason believing the wrong thing and not believing the right thing.

All believers receive the Holy Spirit when they believe (there is no special after-salvation baptism such as many Pentecostals falsely teach). And He never leaves any believer – not since the baptism of the Spirit when the Age of the Church began on that first Pentecost. The two examples you cite, Acts 1:5 and 11:15, both deal with the coming of the Spirit initially, not with any sort of re-baptism of the Spirit. There is only "one baptism" for the Church, the baptism of the Holy Spirit which all believers have from the point of putting their faith and trust in Jesus Christ so as to be born again:

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.
Romans 8:9 NIV

Paul can make this absolute statement in the Spirit because he understands and teaches that the Spirit comes upon all now when we believe, and is with us until death (please do read the link: "The Baptism of the Holy Spirit" in BB 5). The only exception is apostasy, but apostasy is the reversion of a believer to the state of unbelief; that means rejecting Christ and all faith/trust/obedience to Christ. It is an open question whether anyone who rejects Christ having once believed is ever saved again, but if possible (as I believe it to be at least in theory) it is at least extremely rare. I have never heard of or seen any cases of it in my life and biblical researches:

(20) For if after having escaped the defilements of this world by recognizing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ they should be overcome [spiritually] by becoming involved again in these foul things, then they have become worse off than they were before. (21) For it would have been better for them not to have accepted the Righteous Way in the first place, rather than – once having accepted this holy command [for faith in Christ] committed to them – to turn their backs on it now. (22) And so in their case this proverb is true: "The dog has returned to his vomit, and the sow, though washed, to her muddy sty".
2nd Peter 2:20-22

Your comments on your personal "apostasy" do not ring true. That is to say, nothing you have said leads me to think that you utterly rejected Jesus Christ as your Savior at any point and reverted to not believing in Him. You are upset with yourself about past behavior. Many (if not all) Christians have that experience, especially in youth or in the early days of coming to Christ (when testing and temptation is often likely to gain the most purchase). But that is not at all the same as apostasy. If you were an apostate, you would not be concerned with God or Jesus or your spiritual situation at all.

As I tried to explain last time, moreover, there is a very large and important difference between being demon possessed and being attacked by unseen forces. Many believers experience the latter but none the former. A demon possessed unbeliever has a greatly reduced control over his/her own will and decision making processes (as the biblical examples attest; e.g., the Gadarene demoniac of Luke 8:26-39). I understand that you had serious troubles, and also that you have attributed these experiences to demon possession. But even if our eyes and ears and feelings tell us something is the case when the Bible says it is not, we as Christians have to follow the Bible. There are many possible causes of your experiences that do not necessitate demon possession, and demon possession is impossible for a believer, just as it is impossible for a believer to lose the Holy Spirit.

Your salvation is much more secure than you imagine. To have eternal life, all you have to do is keep believing in Jesus Christ firmly until the end. Clearly, our Lord wants much more from us than to just hold on. Clearly, our spiritual lives will be much more blessed and productive if we do take it upon ourselves to grow up and progress in testing and then minister to others – and that is the place of the greatest eternal rewards. You have a wonderful spiritual life ahead of you, but you are fixating on small failures which you then magnify and assume horrific results. We do need to walk in a sanctified way with the Lord and we do need to be moving forward and not backwards, but you are getting too subjective about your own experiences and are focusing too much on yourself and not enough on the Lord. Rather than worrying so much about your sins and failures, it is imperative to put much more weight on the fact that Jesus Christ paid the price of spiritual death for every single one of them. The cross is so much bigger than our mistakes than we have any idea.

Again, I want to reassure you that you are not (nor have you been) demon possessed, nor will you be in the future as a child of God; that you do have the Holy Spirit as a born again believer and that you will never lose Him as long as you hold onto your faith (which is not an onerous requirement by any means – if should be the joy of lives in Christ); that are not on the brink of apostasy but you are taking your experiences too seriously and not being serious enough about the forgiveness and redemption you have in Jesus Christ – or about the need to start moving forward instead of looking backward.

Please know that all these anxieties and troubles will begin to melt away and resolve once you set yourself to a consistent plan of Bible reading, Bible study, learning from solid Bible teaching, and believing and applying what you have learned to be true.

It is time to break this cycle, for your own sake and for the glory of God.

Here are a few links which I hope will help you in this:

Spiritual Warfare IV: Demons, Demonic Influences and Satanic Methodology

Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness: Claiming the Mental and Spiritual High-Ground

Struggling with Salvation . . . and Relatives

In Jesus Christ who has redeemed us from all of our sins,

Bob L.

Question #18:  

Dear Robert

I agree we must break the cycle. I consider it broken. Thanks. BUT what do you think of these Christians who have Devils?

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6uvU4f07sHE

Do you still think saints can't have Devils?

Regards,

Response #18:    

Even if I saw such things in person and with my own eyes, I have the spiritual maturity to understand that 1) the persons in question might not be Christians (which would explain it) or they might be faking it (which would explain it) or both. In recent years, all manner of charlatans have arisen, and many are making a lot of money through books and seminars and "casting out" sessions. For some reason many immature Christians are intrigued by these things – even though if they were prudent they would stay far away and only believe what the Bible has to say. Almost everything people like this say is based upon extra-biblical speculation and is inevitably wrong.

Christians cannot be demon possessed. I have never seen or heard any reliable reports of it. But much more importantly than that, I know from scripture that all Christians have the Holy Spirit indwelling them and are thus exempt from being indwelt by a demon.

As mentioned, that does not mean that Christians cannot be attacked and troubled (Paul certainly was: 2Cor.12:7-8). But there is a very big difference between demon possession (wherein the will is impaired) and demon attack (which may cause physical distress but does not affect the ability of our will to control our body and speech).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19: 

Dear Dr. Rob,

So basically I haven't been a Christian the last 20 years, or for almost a month, during may, and then when he was cast out of me, I regained my Christianity?

Where am I on scale?

Response #19:   

From my point of view, from all that you have shared with me, you have been a Christian all along. You were a Christian then, having put your faith in Christ for salvation, and you are a Christian now, and there never was a time since first being saved when you were not a Christian. What you weren't is "demon possessed", even if you were having a hard time.

As far as where you are now, well, we are all called to spiritual advance, spiritual progress in applying the truth in this life through the tests that come, and helping others do the same through the ministries Christ assigns us individually. So regardless of "where you are now", you, as with all Christians, need to get moving spiritually through consistently taking in the truth of the Word of God from a teaching ministry you can trust, believe the truth, apply the truth, walk in the truth, and help others do the same. That is the day by day fight we are called to fight, that is what it means to pick up your cross and follow Jesus. If you commit to this course, all these present problems, confusion, heartache and trouble will melt away, being replaced instead by confidence in the truth and in the Lord to whom all truth belongs. Not that there is no "trouble" for those on the right road, but all future trouble is for blessing and a believer can have happiness in spite of whatever suffering for Christ comes along.

(31) So Jesus said to the Jews who had put their faith in Him, "If you abide in My Word, you will be My students in truth. (32) Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
John 8:31-32

In hopes of your quick spiritual recovery and progress for our Lord . . . through the truth.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:  

Dr. Luginbill.

In regard to Hebrews 9:14, "For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of the heifer sprinkled upon the unclean render a person holy in respect to bodily cleansing, how much more will the blood of Christ, who offered Himself (i.e., His body; cf. 1:Pet.3:18) without defect to God through the eternal Spirit, cleanse our conscience from dead works so that we may serve the living God? "

If the blood of Christ was offered without defect to God through the eternal Spirit, is this verse saying that His blood remained pure while His physical body became tainted by our sin? Does "through the eternal Spirit" imply by "way of" - as in one side and out the other, as if through a conduit, or does it mean as a process of our deliverance from sin for all eternity? This verse makes it sound as if His blood remained divine if it sustained contact "through the eternal Spirit." One could almost make the argument that He was as forsaken by His own blood as it drained from Him upon the cross, as He was by His Father in Heaven. He became separated from the pure blood within Him as it was shed for our sins. It would make sense that the wine offered to His disciples to drink in remembrance of His blood shed for Him, would be His pure blood and not that infected with our sin. Am I making sense here? I'm trying to grasp exactly what "through the eternal Spirit" means to convey.

I really appreciate you taking the time to write, and I hope I don't sound confused. Understanding this is really important to me, and I trust you to be the one person to make it clear.

All for His Glory,

Response #20:    

Most of Christian theology is confused about "the blood of Christ". Jesus is a human being (in addition to being God, of course), not a literal lamb. Just as "the Lamb of God" is a holy analogy speaking of His sacrifice, so His death on the cross in the darkness wherein He bore the sins of the world had nothing to do with physical, literal blood. The "blood of Christ" is an analogy for His dying in the darkness for us, rising in the flames and undergoing judgment for all of our sins. The fact that His blood was still in His body (as John attests) when He proclaimed, "It is accomplished!", shows definitively that the deliverance of the cross was about our Lord standing judgment in our place, not spilling literal blood. He gave up His spirit once salvation had been accomplished (He did not bleed to death). This is a very quick synopsis of a detailed question. Let me give you the links for further reference:

What is the "blood of Christ"?

The Blood of Christ (1) in BB 4A

The Blood of Christ (2) in BB 4A

Please do feel free to write back about this critically important issue.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21: 

Yes, this is a critically important issue. I read your discussion about this on your website. I will be contemplating your words for some time. As of this moment, it is difficult for me to grasp the concept of Christ "dying spiritually" and then with intention, giving up His Spirit at the moment of death. His Spirit departs at death upon tasting the sour wine vinegar. "It is finished." So what part (or all) of His Spirit died for us, and what part (or all) departs His dead body? This is very esoteric.

Thank you for your patience with me. I apologize for sounding dense. I love Him and I want to understand the truth of how it happened.

Response #21:   

Few things are more important than understanding just what our Lord did for us. He didn't bear our sins in His spirit; He bore them in His physical body:

[Jesus] who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.
1st Peter 2:24 NKJV

In order to redeem us from our sins, our Lord had to expiate them, pay the price for them. This He did by physically bearing them in the three hours of judgment in the darkness. He remained physically alive while He paid for our sins – while He "died" for our sins, spiritually speaking – (analogously as Adam and Eve "died" spiritually according to God's prediction when they ate of the tree) but remained physically alive though spiritually separated from the Father who judged Him in our place (a mystery for us at present but seen from this verse to have been made possible by the Spirit; see the link). The Bible also calls our Lord's suffering for our sins on the cross "death" because of the intensity of the suffering and the separation of His humanity from the grace and favor of the Father who judged Him in our place (Isaiah 53:9 even pluralizes it – "in His deaths" – to emphasize its intensity). Jesus' physical death only came later when this judgment was past, so that He proclaimed, "it has been accomplished".

I wouldn't worry too much about not knowing this "automatically", because it is safe to say that the vast majority of denominations and churches who proclaim the cross have many of these things completely confused. But it is a very important doctrine to "get down", since we can better appreciate Him and what He did us the more we really know Him and what He did for us. Here are some other links which explain what Jesus' spiritual death is all about:

Spiritual Death of Christ I (in BB 4A)

Spiritual Death of Christ II (in BB 4A)

In our dear Lord Jesus who paid for all of our sins on the cross – the least part of which exceeds all creature suffering to an unknowable degree.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Dear Dr Robert Dean Luginbill,

My understanding on this: Eternal life as possession cannot be lost. (John 17:3; 1 John 5:12, 20.)

I am of the persuasion that God who does the saving (James 1:18) does the keeping (John 10:27-29). That Christ died for all men (1 John 2:2), so all men are in the Christ who is the true vine (John 15:1). And since Christ died for all men (1 John 2:2), everyone's name is in the book of life until is blotted out on account of not abiding in Christ (John 15:6; 1 John 3:6, Matthew 7:23). Children are safe (Mark 10:14-15). And we who have lived past that age of childhood, must be born over (John 3:3, 7). And only be being born from God can will our names remain in the book of life (Revelation 3:5; 1 John 5:1, 4-5; John 1:12-13; James 1:18). Two nevers: Matthew 7:23. John 10:28. The reason I'm writing this I find you to be an excellent Bible teacher. It seems I agree with you more than I disagree with you. And the subject in this email is an area where we seem to differ.

Best regards,

Response #22: 

Good to make your acquaintance. I appreciate your spirit and your good words. This is a very important issue, so forgive me for being direct.

I too celebrate the love of God. But God is also a God of justice.

I too rejoice in His election of us. But He also gave us free will to choose.

There is no contradiction or true conflict between the justice of God and the love of God.

There is no contradiction or true conflict between God's choice of us and our choice of Him in Jesus Christ.

Misapprehensions about salvation generally stem from failing to properly reconcile what God has reconciled: His love and justice; His choice and our choice.

Some make the mistake of thinking that salvation is fragile and can be lost at the drop of a hat (that is, through some arrogant sin). That is not correct. All who believe are saved.

Some make the mistake of thinking that salvation is indestructible and cannot be lost no matter what a Christian does or says or thinks. That is also not correct. Only those who believe are saved.

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

Can a believer lose faith? Undeniably so, inasmuch as we retain free will as long as we live, and faith is the essential act of the free-will image of God we have been given – choosing who and what to believe and put our faith in. Not only is this fact evident to any reasonable person, not only have most Christians who have spent any time in this world personally seen examples of this phenomenon, but the Bible is replete with warnings about losing salvation. It's not about sin, at least directly (sin does weaken faith and is sometimes a part of the process of apostasy); rather, it is generally about weak Christians losing patience with God (out of disappointment, frustration, personal tragedy, etc.). It happens all the time. For us to pronounce them "saved anyway", even though they clearly do not believe any longer and even though the Bible is very clear that only believers – those who are "believing" now – are saved, would be to do them a great dis-service. Here is what our Lord says about this:

"But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away."
Luke 8:13 NKJV

As to your points:

1) Yes, the one who "has the Son" is saved. But John 17:3; 1st John 5:12, 5:20, do not say either that eternal life or salvation cannot be lost. They express that those who believe in Christ have eternal life. So we do. But what if we become unbelievers again? What if we cease to believe the truth? It happens all the time.

2) No one can snatch us out of the hands of the Father or the Son. We are safe from any third party interference when it comes to salvation. But these passages do not say, nor to they mean, that we are "safe" no matter what we ourselves may do. If we cease to believe, if abandon the Lord and our faith in Him, we have moved away from the Lord of our own free will.

If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him,
He also will deny us.
If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.
2nd Timothy 2:12-13 NKJV

3) Yes, Christ died for all – yet not all are saved. Only believers are saved, and if a believer reverts to being an unbeliever, he/she is no longer saved.

4) I have no problem with accepting infant salvation. Anyone who does not have a true opportunity to accept Christ because of never attaining mental maturity is obviously saved. However, being born again by faith does not mean that our faith cannot die out again. Scripture shows that this is possible by its constant warnings (e.g., Matt.7:24-27; 10:33; Lk.6:46-49; 14:34-35; Jn.15:5-6; Rom.11:17-23; 1Cor.10:6-12; 15:2; 2Cor.13:5; 1Tim.6:20-21; 2Tim.2:12-13; Heb.2:1-3; 3:6-19; 10:35-39; 2Jn.1:8-9), and therefore warns us to hold onto our faith. People die physically all the time even after being born physically; by the analogy once born again does not guarantee never dying spiritually again – that is a matter of perseverance of faith.

(20) For if after having escaped the defilements of this world by recognizing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ they should be overcome [spiritually] by becoming involved again in these foul things, then they have become worse off than they were before. (21) For it would have been better for them not to have accepted the Righteous Way in the first place, rather than – once having accepted this holy command [for faith in Christ] committed to them – to turn their backs on it now. (22) And so in their case this proverb is true: "The dog has returned to his vomit, and the sow, though washed, to her muddy sty".
2nd Peter 2:20-22

5) You are correct about the fact that all human beings names are originally in the book of life. Our names are not put there when we believe; quite to the contrary, the names of all human beings ever created are there until wiped out of the book. However, this is evidence for the truth of the fact that salvation can be lost: the fact that names can and are wiped out shows that the reverse of what is often assumed is true. Here is a link which explains this and leads to other links for more details "The Book of Life"

6) Those whom the Lord never knew in the first place (those who never were believers) are of course condemned. That doesn't say and cannot logically be used to prove that believers cannot become unbelievers and lose their salvation by abandoning their faith. On John 10:28 see answer #2 above.

I do appreciate that "once saved, always saved" is a much cherished doctrine in the evangelical community, but in my view it is off-center and can create spiritual liabilities – not for all, but it does embolden some to take their walk with Christ less seriously than they should (or would) if they realized that maintaining their faith was critical.

Please do feel free to write me back about any of the above, and, again, apologies for being somewhat abrupt – this is a most important teaching. Please see the links for more details:

Three Doctrines that Threaten Faith

False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security III.

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security II.

The False Doctrine of Absolute Eternal Security.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is our all in all.

Bob Luginbill

Question #23:  

Bob,

Hope you are doing well. I am finishing up a study on the Book of Life and have a question about the translation of Rev 13:8 and Rev 17:8. I believe as you do that the Book of Life was written at the foundation and that all names are in the Book to start (because of our Lords sacrifice). It is willful rejection of Christ (or taking the mark) that removes you from the Book (blasphemy of the Holy Spirit). I have read both your translations of the aforementioned verses and would like a quick synopsis (if possible) on how you come to them. Just using scripture and verses like Ex 32:32-33; Ps 69:28 Rev 3:4-5 tell me it cannot be that there were names omitted from the Book since the foundation of the world. However as a teacher myself, I like to be able to explain how the translation in most Bibles is in error. Specifically in both verses, how do we know that the names not written in the Book of Life have 'not been there' since the foundation of the world? I take it that the texts mean that the Book was written at the foundation and does not apply to when or how long the names have not been written in the Book? Is the Greek clear or is this more theological translation interpretation?

His servant,

Response #23:    

Good to hear from you. You have read, I see, my translations of Revelation 13:8 and 17:8:

And all the inhabitants of the earth will worship [the beast], [that is, all] whose names are not [still] written in the book of life [where they were written] from the beginning of the world, [even the book] which belongs to the Lamb who was slain.
Revelation 13:8

The beast, which you saw, was (i.e., "existed"), and is not (i.e., came "not to exist"), and is going to rise from the Abyss (i.e., the revival of Rome on the one hand and apparent resuscitation of antichrist on the other), and is going to its destruction. And the inhabitants of the earth, [those] whose names have not remained written in the book of life [where they were written] from the beginning of the world, will be in awe when they see the beast, because he was (i.e., "existed"), and is not (i.e., came "not to exist"), and will again be present on the scene (i.e., return to life in the case of antichrist, and be reestablished in respect to the empire).
Revelation 17:8

Greek word order is different from English word order, and the positioning of words and phrases in Greek does not necessarily have the same import as in English. Therefore the text has to be understood in Greek before being translated into English. One can easily see in a comparison between the two verses that "from the foundation of the world" goes with the book, not with the "Lamb slain" (because that phrase is not present in the second instance). "From the foundation of the world" is a description of the book, and modifies the book, not the verb. The names are what are written, not the book. The book [exists] from the beginning; the names either are or are not "written" there at any given point in time (based on whether or not the person in question was saved). The last point has to do with the verb. In both cases we have the Greek perfect tense, the least used of all the tense stems. While there is some influence from Hebrew in the way this is used in the NT, here the perfect has its full significance of expressing a state. That is, "have been written" means "presently are written as a result of being written there in the past". So one is within one's rights to translate "stand written" or "still remain written", because the point of using the perfect tense in these verses is to show that believers' names are in the book – [still] written there – [perfect - that is their present state], whereas unbelievers' names are not [any longer], having been wiped out on account of overt rejection of the Son of God . . . as evidenced by their taking of the mark of the beast. So one could also translate, "whose names are no longer found in the book of life which [was written] at the beginning of creation [and originally contained all names].

Hope this helps! Please feel free to write me back about any of the points above.

Here are all the links I have at Ichthys where this issue is discussed:

Tithing and the Book of Life

"The Book of Life" translation issues

The grammar of Revelation 13:8 and "The Lamb slain"

I will assuredly not erase his name from the Book of Life (in CT 2A)

The Book of Life (Revelation 13:8) - in CT 4

The godly and the godless and the book of life (in CT 6)

Last judgment "books" distinguished from the book of life (in CT 6)

Philippians 4:3 and the Book of Life

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #24:  

Hello Bob,

This is great! I have one follow-up question. In the Greek, what tense would be used if you wanted to say that something was not written in the past and is not still written in the present (has never been written)?

By His Grace,

Response #24:     

I'm not even sure what that means in English! The point is that the perfect tense expresses a state of being (based upon some past occurrence, normally), while the present tense conveys no such thing. If the Greek had said (present tense) "are in the book" it wouldn't be clear when they got in only that they were in "now". If the Greek had said "were written in the book" (aorist), it would mean that they were in there in the past but not necessarily now. If something more complicated need to be said, one would have had find different verbiage. John could easily have written, "those who were once written in the book who have not been wiped out of the book", but that would be a cumbersome circumlocution to say what he actually did say much more simply – and he probably didn't anticipate anyone misunderstanding inasmuch as it is clear from the references in Exodus that everyone is in the book but anyone can be blotted out (by lack of faith).

So the Spirit gave us what we have received through John's divinely inspired authorship. It's only when a person hasn't read the other passages in the Bible about the book of life and so hasn't figured out what it is and how it works that this passage can be accidentally taken the wrong way. In our lukewarm Laodicean era, unfortunately, many people take many things the wrong way – out of laziness and lack of preparation and lack of hard work.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #25: 

Hi there,

I have recently stumbled across a very unusual interpretation of 'weeping and gnashing of teeth' and 'outer darkness' as referring to unfaithful believers, while who have eternal life, are not allowed to be ruling during the millennium. These teachers argue that this is what the parable of the talents displays ie the unfaithful servant loses his reward (ruling in the 1000 year kingdom) and has a temporary weeping /gnashing of their teeth but will enter eternity after the 1000 year reign. Please could you give me your expert analysis of this as it seems extremely pernicious to me even though the teachers clearly present gospel essentials. Many thanks in advance

Authors: Dillow and Hodges

Response #25:   

Good to make your acquaintance.

As to your question, the outer darkness is the Lake of Fire, which is described as being in darkness in spite of the fire. Our God is a God of light, and separation from Him is of necessity a place of darkness. "Weeping and gnashing of teeth" is accompanied by being "thrown into the blazing fire" in Matthew 13:42 and 13:50, clearly referring to condemnation and in direct and deliberate contrast to the eternal state of believers, when God will "wipe every tear from their eyes" and "there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain" (Rev.21:4 NIV). We have been forgiven all of our sins by the blood of Christ. Punishment of this sort after death is not at all in keeping with anything we know about salvation, or the mercy, love and forgiveness of God. Also, there is no place for this odd and dangerous interpretation in the teaching of the resurrection in scripture, wherein the entire Church is said to be raised on Christ's return (see the link: "The Resurrection of the Lamb's Bride").

The unfaithful servant in the parable of the talents did not use his free will (his talent) to respond to God at all – i.e., he was an unbeliever; all have free will (the image of God – which the talent represents), but not all accept God's will so as to be saved. That is the reason for this servant's condemnation. All believers have some "fruit", however small (even if it is only one single simple prayer of thanks when saved; that is represented by the "interest" this person could easily have earned if he had cared, i.e., been saved, for the lack of which he is reproved – as its lack demonstrates he is not even a believer; cf. Jas.2:14-17).

Perhaps one reason for wanting to find this distinction (where it doesn't actually exist) is the textual problem in Revelation 20:5. The phrase (in parentheses in the NIV version) "The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended" is not a part of scripture. It is a late addition (an interpolation; see the link), added later by some scribe, no doubt to give his own (incorrect) explanation of the passage. It does not occur in the best manuscript of the Bible, but like several other such passages printed by the KJV (whose translators did not have access to the best mss. since they did not come to light until some centuries later, and who had to abide by the same composite critical text all were given, the so-called textus receptus, replete with such errors), it is usually kept in newer translations for "sentimental" reasons (read "profit motive" as publishers whose scholars know the truth on these issues don't want to be accused of "changing the Bible" and so lose out on potential sales).

The world these days is, as you are discerning, filled to the brim with unprepared "teachers" who feel they have a right to conjure up any sort of interpretation from any passage to fit their needs or to seem topical. False teachers are bad enough, but are easily spotted. Those who are believers but who do not possess the academic, linguistic, and experiential preparation necessary to teach – and who have not been given the gift – can be harder to spot, and so may do great damage to the faith of the elect, especially to the degree that they lack integrity in their methodology and faithful commitment to the truth.

We are all responsible for what we believe and what we say. Therefore I always advise all believers to make it a priority to find the best possible teaching ministry which meets their true needs by laying out the truth of the Word of God in an orthodox, substantive and understandable way. It certainly doesn't have to be Ichthys (although you are certainly welcome here), but I do suggest giving all substandard and false "ministries" such as the one cited a wide berth, finding instead something good, and cleaving to it through thick and thin.

Here are some links which address the question and related matters:

The Parable of the Talents

The Great White Throne, the Last Judgment, and the Outer Darkness

The Lake of Fire

Darkness as a symbol of evil (in SR 2)

Finding a Church – or Something Better? II

Finding a Church – or Something Better?

Red Hot or Lukewarm? Bible Teaching versus Sermonizing

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #26:  

Hi Bob,

Thank you so much for replying promptly with this. This teaching was sent to me by a fellow believer who loves the Lord and who is so determined to be faithful to him that I have been extremely unsettled as she (who normally is quick to discern) seems to be embracing it as potential truth!

I told her, immediately, that outer darkness and weeping etc can't be anything other than condemnation and this 'elitist selection' of believers is surely implicit - if that. I do not know why she wants to be believe it, but these teachers seem to promote this teaching as a way of supporting eternal security (which I thought she believed that God is faithful to us and holds on to us; but we have the free will to sever that relationship).

A few years ago we had a similar disagreement as she thought the 'partial-rapture' of faithful believers was also a truth. Again I said that provided zero encouragement because how does a believer know when you have reached enough 'faithfulness' to be raptured! She says that it, makes sense because not all the Hebrews entered the promised land and were left in temporary darkness! I've always understood that they either died in unbelief (ie totally apostate) or went through severe discipline leading to death but still saved?

However, I think I will refer your answer to her or get her to contact you herself. I am worried about her thinking this is truth. We also do not have a local church to attend as they are all ecumenical and the teaching of the leaders just isn't good enough. The last pastor we did have was confused about the Holy Spirit (ie call IT down /mysticism really) so we were called out of that fellowship. It is true when you say (in one of your articles) that believers are going to put-out by these teachers/churches because we want to practice the Word. We are in a dark place (middle of England UK) where false Christianity is suffocating people like us. Luckily my husband is saved, and he leads us in home church with our two girls plus my friend and her two girls - safest place at the moment!

Blessings to you and pray the Lord uses your ministry to reach people like us who have been constantly been taught error since being saved. I often say, what on earth have I been saved into - a church that can't see, hear or understand! I am, we are, very frustrated and don't want this false teaching to come between us.

Response #26:    

Good words!

And good for you, fighting for the spiritual safety of your Christian friends! Truly, only the truth protects us (and only if we believe it and follow it), whereas every falsehood is a splinter in our spirituality that has the potential of infecting the whole. Falsehoods tend to lead to more falsehoods – as in this example you cite (a further false teaching whose purpose is to defend the false teaching of "once saved, always saved"). Yes indeed, we are secure in our salvation . . . as long as we are believers. But if we renounce our faith so that we no longer believe in Christ (whatever the reason, whether reaction to sin or disappointment with how we feel God is treating us), then we are neither safe nor saved. "Pins and needles" salvation which falsely teaches that we are lost if we make any sort of mistake is clearly contrary to the teachings of scripture too and to the mercy, love and forgiveness of God, but "once saved always saved" (OSAS) is at least equally as dangerous a false teaching. The truth belongs to neither of these two extremes.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #27: 

Hello Bob,

I know you're not much on "philosophical postulating" or what have you, but I'm trying to wrap my head around how Christ dying for all was "fair" to Christ. To me, prima facie, it almost seems as if God is "punishing twice" the sins of unbelievers – once when Christ took them upon Himself, and once when unbelievers are cast into the lake of fire in final judgement. Now I'm not trying to support limited atonement in the least. The Bible says Christ died for the whole world, so obviously He died for the whole world. There is also the fact that salvation hinges on our acceptance as Christ as a substitute for us – He had to die for all to give all a chance (and to be able to demonstrate the willful disobedience of unbelievers with respect to His gracious offer – their final situation is entirely a choice of their own). My brain is just repeatedly hitting a brick wall when it comes to how punishing Christ "more" for the sins of those who will reject him is "fair" to Christ.

Hopefully that gets across the general gist of my thoughts. I won't be terribly bothered if I never get to grasp exactly how this works on this side of eternity, but I thought I'd let you see if you might set my understanding straight.

In Him,

Response #27:   

It is a very important issue. First, it is absolutely true that our Lord died for every single sin of every person who ever has or ever will live (see the link). He bore them all "in His body on that tree" (1Pet.2:24). If Jesus had not done so, none could be saved. That is because (as you correctly discern) the opportunity for salvation had to be available to all for it to be a genuine offer.

Secondly, it is also very important to understand that eternal condemnation is not punishment (not in the sense of paying off sins, at any rate). No one but Jesus Christ could die for sin, no one. No one else was acceptable as a substitute (only He is sinless); no one else was able to endure the judgment (only He is God as well as man),; and no one else would have been willing – once facing the actual flames of judgment (and His willingness was apparently necessary).

The lake of fire, the place of the unsaved dead, is a place of cursing and darkness, because God is the only source of light and blessing. Unbelievers have chosen to reject (or not to accept) God's authority so as to be gods unto themselves instead. That is their right, having been given the image of God, the ability to choose. But to choose to be without Him by failing to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord is to opt out of the New Heavens, the New Earth, and New Jerusalem, a place where there will no longer be any choosing in a moral sense of self-determination for or against God (so no one who has not agreed to be His through sacrifice, the sacrifice of Christ, can be allowed in: Ps.50:5). Those who have decided to prefer their own will to the Will of God will have an eternity which is what they wanted in its most essential part, a place of being separated from Him. Mind you, they would prefer light over darkness and blessing over cursing, but that can only happen if His will is accepted through accepting the Son of God who died for their sins. The devil's rebellion was all about trying to eject God from the universe, to have an existence unfettered by any necessity of obedience to Him. That is impossible, at least in a universe where He dwells with us. When the Father returns once this polluted world is destroyed and made anew, it will be to a place where no vestige of rebellion remains (2Pet.3:13), and where only those who have accepted His terms will dwell with Him and our dear Lord Jesus forever.

So, thirdly, the lake of fire can be considered punishment (for rejecting God), but the one thing being consigned to it is not is any sort of paying off of sins. Sin can only be paid off by a perfect Substitute who is able to pay and willing to pay, and all sin has indeed been paid for at the cross already in any case. Sso the issue is not sin but free will in the willingness to go God's way by the only Way, or go one's own way apart from Him. Therefore however we want to characterize the horrific final state of the unsaved, it is not correct (and would be very theologically dangerous) to say that they are in anyway paying for or expiating their sins through what they are going to suffer. No unbeliever will "pay off" the least of his/her sins in an eternity in the lake of fire (and they have already been paid for in any case). They are not worthy to pay, and whatever they are suffering does not compare to what Christ suffered on the cross.

This is mind-boggling, it is true, but if there is one thing I wish I could impress on my fellow Christians more than anything else it is just that, namely, the immeasurable enormity of what our Lord Jesus did for us in those three hours of darkness on Calvary's cross. The entire sum of human and angelic experience and conception cannot equal the smallest part of His blessed sacrifice for us.

Here are a couple of links which might be helpful on this (all are in BB 4A):

The Substitutionary Death of Christ

Spiritual Death of Christ #1

Spiritual Death of Christ #2

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #28:  

Thanks for helping me get a better grasp on this – this really helped!

I think the fundamental place I was going wrong was that I was looking at hell as a place of atonement rather than a consequence of our choice here on earth (yikes! bad theology). I was forgetting that people – though they may say otherwise– consciously make the choice to live without God, now and in eternity. They choose it – fundamentally, it is what they want in their heart of hearts. So while it appears to those of us with the Spirit of God to be horrific and almost unimaginably painful, it is a "punishment" only in the sense that God allows them to choose the lesser choice by their own free will.

I had also never really considered the fact that a sacrifice must be worthy, though now I see that it is by no means hidden in scripture (quite the contrary). Only an animal without blemish was worthy to be slaughtered under the law. And Christ alone is the only worthy sacrifice for us – much more than never being capable of paying off our debt, we would not even be in any way qualified to in the first place. This understanding makes ever more real the true meaning of Christ's life and sacrifice – only by being in every way perfect and undeserving (and willing) could he pay the price for us all. He alone is qualified to wash us clean and present us before the Father, and there is no other path but His. Praise be to God that He is ever seeking to draw us onto His path!

As a last point of discussion, I want to make sure I'm understanding one facet of your response correctly. You say: "They [unbelievers] are not worthy to pay, and whatever they are suffering does not compare to what Christ suffered on the cross." Taken plainly (and confirmed by spiritual common sense), this statement says Christ suffered immeasurably more than unbelievers will in the lake of fire. Now I think I understand why, but please check my thoughts below:

Christ suffered God's positive punishment during the three hours of darkness. God's full wrath for every human sin (past, present, and future) was laid upon Christ, entirely blameless and righteous, undeserving in every way of what was being cast onto his shoulders. Nothing was spared in God's judgment, and the cost of paying for a single sin is beyond human comprehension. When Christ bled for the world, he suffered divine judgment so painful and so devastating that, were he not divine himself, he would have been incapable of bearing it.

Contrast this with the final state of unbelievers who are not being "actively" punished by God at all – merely separated from Him. Christ has already paid the price for all the sins of the world – the full debt has already been paid – and they would not be capable of "paying" anyway. Thus, when we speak of the fate of unbelievers as being "painful" it is not in a sort of fiery-judgment-of-God way, but rather in a separated-from-all-that-is-good way. So, from one point of view, unbelievers are still shown incredible mercy by God because they never face the true cost of their sins (God's fiery judgment) since it was paid by Christ in full. If we were to say that Christ's sacrifice was like landing after jumping out of an airplane (only unimaginably more painful), the unbeliever's "punishment" would be like falling out of bed: painful, yes, but not comparable in the least.

In Christ Jesus, our Redeemer and Friend.

Response #28:    

You're most welcome. And yes, that is a good way to think about it. But it is also true that the lake of fire is the lake of "fire". It's not payment for sin, but it won't be any fun either. Everything good and perfect comes from the "Father of lights" (Jas.1:17). Apart from Him, there is nothing good whatsoever, no light, no blessing, only darkness and cursing.

Two other brief points: 1) when you say "bled", I understand you mean that as an analogy (the "blood of Christ" is a metaphor: spiritual death represented by animal blood; 2) Part of the suffering of Christ which we cannot really understand is the price He paid in being separated in His human nature from the Father when the Father judged Him for our sins (something that could only be accomplished through the Spirit's mediation: Heb.9:14).

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #29: 

Hi Brother

Hope your keeping well and fighting the good fight of faith. Have you got some good commentary on this verse:

Romans 8:30
Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

A lot of Christians that believe in OSAS like to refer to this verse. They say there is no break in Paul's thinking and that all who are called are eventually glorified. My understanding is, not all that are called are justified and glorified. Some are called and reject God's calling, some are called who respond positively and later fall away.

Luke 8: 12-13
Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.

Can you add to this please, and address Romans 8:30?

Your Loving Brother In Christ

Response #29:   

Always good to hear from you, my friend.

Your quotation of Luke 8:12-13, a very direct statement from our Lord, is a perfect one to demonstrate that making assumptions based on putative logic from Romans 8:28-30 may lead to wrong conclusions (like "OSAS").

The "fly in the ointment" for their interpretation of Romans 8:28-30 is that only those who are foreknown – as believers who will persevere in faith to the end – are brought through this process of the plan of God all the way to "glorification". Many are called, but few are chosen (Matt.22:14). Not all who are called, therefore, are chosen, because not all respond in faith (or persevere in their faith). Only those God "foreknows" as being believers to the end are being talked about Romans 8:30 – as the preceding two verses make clear. People with a different opinion are jumping into the context mid-stream and ignoring what comes before, then applying faulty logic based upon incorrect assumptions to reach the conclusion they prefer.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #30:  

Hi Bob,

I'm having an additional concern. I mentioned a while back that I sinned a lot after I was baptized. I read earlier in Romans about a reprobate mind and I'm scared that's what happened which means I can't be saved. Please help me if you get a chance. Thank you

Response #30:    

I want you to know that you are absolutely saved as a believer in Jesus Christ. The "reprobate mind" of Romans 1:28 is another way of expressing the hardness of heart which comes upon unbelievers who reject the truth. Whenever the truth is rejected, some lie will be accepted in its place (as Paul had said earlier in Romans 1:25). This passage you ask about is all about unbelievers who, though they knew the truth about God from natural revelation, that is, from the world as He has constructed it, nevertheless have chosen to reject that truth and replace it with all manner of pagan idolatry and lies. They are not saved because they have no interest in God or His truth – so certainly no interest in the gospel through which alone anyone can be saved.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV

Unbelievers are the only ones condemned and they are condemned for lack of belief in the Son of God, our Savior Jesus Christ. You believe so you are not under condemnation but are saved:

(1) So now, there [awaits] no judgment of condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed you from the Law of sin and death. (3) For what the Law could not accomplish (i.e., solving the sin problem) 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, (4) so that the [perfect] righteousness which the Law demands might be fulfilled in us – we who walk not according to the [sinful] flesh, but according to the Spirit (i.e., believers).
Romans 8:1-4

I receive emails all the time from believers worried about salvation (I'll give you some links below). It is very normal for anyone who has changed for the good to look back at the past with guilt. It's normal, but its not spiritually healthy. Guilt is never a profitable emotion (see the link). We know that Jesus has already died for all of our sins – so they have already been paid for in His blood (i.e., His spiritual death on the cross; see the link). We also know that we were forgiven everything for salvation when we believed (e.g., Eph.1:7; Col.1:14); and furthermore we know that we are forgiven all sins we commit as believers once we confess them, and are immediately restored to fellowship with our dear Lord (1Jn.1:9; cf. Jn.13:3-10; 2Jn.2:1-2), and that even if we receive divine discipline, this is corrective punishment laid on by a loving Father who is lovingly instructing the children He dearly loves (Heb.12:1ff.).

We are not supposed to be looking backwards in the Christian life, but forward towards the goal ahead of the resurrection and a good reward given on account of what we are accomplishing for Christ in this life:

(12) [It is] not that I have already gotten [what I am striving for], nor that I have already completed [my course]. Rather, I am continuing to pursue [the prize] in hopes of fully acquiring it – [this prize for whose acquisition] I was myself acquired by Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I do not consider that I have already acquired it. This one thing only [do I keep in mind]. Forgetting what lies behind me [on the course] and straining towards the [course] ahead, (14) I continue to drive straight for the tape, towards the prize to which God has called us from the beginning [of our race] in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:12-14

We all sin (Rom.3:23); we all stumble (Jas.3:2); we are all in need of an Advocate when we do sin (1Jn.2:1-2). We are indeed called to make it our business to "be holy" and to turn away from sin and toward the truth (1Pet.1:14-16), a process which can only really be successful through gaining the spiritual growth necessary to give us the internal spiritual tools required to be truly effective in combating sin (see the link: Peter lesson #30). But looking backward is very unhelpful to all this. Not only is it not mandated in scripture (just the opposite), but it is also a bit lacking in faith: Jesus has told us that we are forgiven, so we really ought to believe Him.

Trust me when I say that this binding of one's own limbs with guilt of things long past is a very common self-imposed impediment with which almost all Christians struggle from time to time – since we are none of us is perfect and all have a few "skeletons in the closet". But if we are going to make a difference for the Lord through spiritual growth, progress and ministry, then we have to realize that preying upon our guilt feelings is one of the devil's prime tactics. It has a tendency to plunge us into doubt, despair and depression to no good end. Whenever we are faced with a challenge of this sort, it is imperative that we combat such attacks with the truth we know to be true. We have to get into the habit of living what we know to be the truth through having believed it, and not living through what our emotions tell us. They are a poor guide to what is right or wrong. If we train them, they can be helpful; if we build our true conscience according to the truth, our emotions will eventually come along. But we always have to be wary about putting what we feel – or even what we see and hear – above what we know to be true from the Bible. The truth must be our guide, not our worst fears (stoked by the evil one).

Here are some links which I hope you find helpful:

The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle

Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions?


Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness: Claiming the Mental and Spiritual High-Ground

Struggling with Salvation . . . and Relatives

Sin and Salvation, Confession and Forgiveness

Have I Lost My Salvation? (III)

Fighting the Fight II: Struggling with Sin, Doubt, and Severe Testing

Fighting the Fight I: Accountability, Faith, Sin, Forgiveness, and Reward

Being Saved: Security, Apostasy, and the Sin unto Death

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #31: 

Dear Bob L

Thank you for remembering me and sharing your valued lessons. I would go through it leisurely. Your guess is right its monsoon here. By the way I need to prepare for a Bible study lesson in simple version on "purpose of life" or "why we are here". Perhaps you could give me necessary reference. Pasted below came on a daily devotion to me explains "How even intellects are unware of the purpose"

Blessings

So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 8:15

Dr. Hugh Moorhead, Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at the Northeastern University, wrote to 250 well-known philosophers, scientists, writers and intellectuals of the world and asked them, "What is the purpose of life?" Some of these people offered their best guesses. Some admitted they made up a purpose in life. Some admitted they didn’t have any idea as to what the purpose of life was and if Dr. Moorhead knew would be please let them know.

Carl Jung, a famous psychiatrist said, "I don’t know the meaning, the purpose of life, but it looks as if something were meant by it."

Isaac Asimov, author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction wrote, "As far as I can see, there is no purpose."

Joseph Taylor, an American astrophysicist and Nobel Prize in Physics said, "I have no answers to the meaning of life and I no longer want to search for any."

None of these 250 intellectuals could clearly define a purpose for living.

Today is a gift from the Lord; enjoy the day and follow Him every day! Today in prayer, ask the Lord to give you a fresh appreciation for your life and a joy for living.

"It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness." - Charles Haddon Spurgeon

God's Word: "Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do." - Ecclesiastes 9:7

Response #31:   

It's always good to hear back from you, my friend.

On your question, I'm not terribly good at this kind of thing. Coming up with "pop" phrases and concepts and then back-engineering them to fit the Bible is not something I am adept at or enthusiastic about. It was big at seminary, and it is popular in our contemporary churches over here, but it always pretty much leaves me cold. My "idea" is to look and see what the Bible says and then teach that.

With that caveat, I will say that to me the biblical answer to your question is very simple. Every human being is created by God and given the image of God: the free will ability to choose his/her eternal destiny. What's the purpose of life? It is to decide whether or not "you" (whoever you are) want eternal life at the "price" of accepting Jesus Christ's death for your sins which makes eternal life available – or whether you'd rather not submit to God in any way and take the lake of fire instead. That is the only reason unbelievers are here: to prove that they would do anything rather than submit to God, even though that submission only entails accepting the Gift He is offering, eternal life based upon the sacrifice of the Substitute who died in our place.

What about believers? For those who have answered the divine call for the fundamental purpose of their lives by accepting Christ, the question now becomes one of response to the Lord. We are saved. Now what? The first objective is to get through this life with our faith still intact and not fall away like the seed planted on the hardened ground, those who wilt under the pressures of life and lose their faith, often because they blame God for their troubles. For those who do get through life as believers, but not much more, the last three gates of the New Jerusalem are reserved (better accommodations according to better performance). For those who do better than that and actually grow in Christ through attention to the truth of the Word of God, attaining spiritual maturity, the next best three gates of the New Jerusalem are reserved (better accommodations according to better performance) – and these also receive the crown of righteousness. For those who do better and actually walk with Christ through testing and trials successfully, demonstrating by their faith and good conduct under pressure the goodness of God, and witnessing with their lives thereby, the next three best gates of the New Jerusalem are reserved (better accommodations according to better performance) – and these also receive the crown of life. For those who do better and actually produce a crop for the Lord, bearing the fruit of production according the ministries Christ assigns them in the power of the Spirit with the gift(s) they have been given, the best three gates of the New Jerusalem are reserved (better accommodations according to better performance) – and these also receive the crown of the glory.

What's the purpose for a believer? To please our Lord. How do we do that? We follow the plan. We want to hear "well done, good and faithful servant!" from our Master on that day, and, if we really do love Him and if we really are willing to do what it takes to win the three crowns, then we will order our lives and the energy and resources and opportunities we have been given to get there. From the human point of view, many Christian lives are "failures". But the things the world honors are detestable to the Lord (Lk.16:15). He knows our hearts, He knows our true sacrifices, and He knows whether we really do love Him and just how much. The purpose of every Christian life, therefore, should be to respond to the love our dear Lord had in dying in our place, rising in the flames for all our sins, by doing what He wants us to do – as opposed to something we choose to do to please ourselves or others.

"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation."
Psalm 91:14-16 NIV

You will find most of the above written up in some detail at the link in CT 5: "The Judgment and Reward of the Church".

Stay dry!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #32:

Dear Bob,

I hope this message finds you well. This i hope in spite of all your recent difficulties. Please endure and persist in the Right Path; as you certainly know but it is never futile to remember, all of us, who trust our Lord, are under many different trials, but trials nonetheless in which no matter how much fleshly pain we may suffer, we also have reasons to rejoice in Him.

Thank you for notifying me of your most recent lesson and there is no need to apologize regarding your progress on reading the book that God allowed me to write. I’ve also read your other message regarding your suggestions. Thank you. There are, however, a couple of points that seem contradictory, to me, from this last lesson on Sanctification.

You first state that: "We cannot become "holy" merely by imposing on ourselves (or by allowing to be imposed on us) any set of rules and regulations. Rules were made to be broken – by the sin nature – and any such "code" no matter how carefully constructed will never be capable of more than artificial restraining those who are trying to live by it. Whitewashing the outside will not change what is going on in the inside. The motivation to "be holy" may be pure, but the ability to carry out that mandate to holiness cannot be achieved by fleshly efforts alone"

I believe that the previous is correct, yet further on you also state: "What this means for our purposes here is that we have it from the Lord Himself that even unbelievers are capable of "mastering" the temptation to sin (even if Cain failed to do so). It is a matter of choice. And of course we see this principle from the positive side all the time in the lives of unbelievers who are good, law-abiding citizens of fine moral character. In fact, it is somewhat easier for unbelievers to be ethical and moral and to refrain from sinful behavior inasmuch as they are not special targets of the devil as believers most certainly are. What this principle does tell us, even though Cain himself failed to respond correctly, is that we can in fact resist sin and temptation, even when it may seem extremely difficult to do so. If an unbeliever who has no regard for the truth – and no help from the Holy Spirit – is capable of living in a sanctified way (and scripture as well as experience amply demonstrates that it is possible), then surely we who have the Spirit residing in us to help us can do so as well."

So, on one hand I understood that no one without changing from the inside out, through the Holy Spirit and from the heart, can live in sanctification. But later on, you also state that people who do not have the Holy Spirit are capable of living in a sanctified way. I truly believe this last part is not possible. They may give the appearance of living in sanctified way as many "Christians" do, but are not truly sanctified. So "sanctified" maybe, but not sanctified. They may be able to resist many temptations, but not all since no one without a deep knowledge and love of God can truly discern good form evil and stay in the path of good. Only someone in Christ can truly overcome the world just as He did, and even this will be done hardly due to our fleshly nature. Cain did not overcome his temptation because he did not love his God, let alone his brother. He knew that what he was devising in his heart was evil, but without love for God and his brother, that knowledge was useless.

You also state that: "No one is perfect, and no believer will ever attain sinless perfection in this life (teaching to the contrary is a dangerous false doctrine: Rom.3:23; Jas.3:2; 1Jn.1:6-10; cf. Ps.143:2), but we can, we should, and indeed we must get better day by day on the score of carrying out the mandate to "be holy, because I am holy" (1Pet.1:16). And the only proven way to do so is to keep growing spiritually day by day through hearing, learning, believing and applying the Word of Truth."

These statements have always puzzled me, the more when I read:

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. 7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.
1st John 3:4-12

I have read many attempts to interpret these words and other similar passages vs. those found in 1 John 1:6-10, especially, and others you surely know about. I have also read your arguments regarding our inability to be perfect. However, in the end most of them seem to be rationalizations to justify our short-comings and weaknesses. Justifications to our fleshly desires and stumbles, which I know too well. For while it seems impossible to reach sinless perfection in this life, we are told that "whatever is born of God, overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith." and that "We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who is born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him."

Therefore, I conclude this. It is possible for a true, faithful, believer to achieve the measure of perfection that our Lord Christ had while He was in the flesh. For He said: "The disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone, after has been fully trained, will be like his teacher." This concerns instruction for either evil or good; but regarding Christ, He is our only teacher concerning the truth. Thus, a true, faithful disciple can walk just as He walked and He walked without sin. Always abiding by His Father’s love and justice. But doing so requires renouncing to many things, people and desires of this world; to many fleshly desires that may still give us great worldly happiness and comfort. It requires enduring much suffering in the flesh, but it also provides and enormous joy in the Spirit if indeed we have grown in such Spirit and, if indeed, we love Him. It requires and inexpressibly firmness of faith and hope in Him alone. It requires constant meditation on His word and an ever-growing love for Him. Things that you also pointed out in your lesson.

Anything short from a wholehearted hope in and love/faithfulness to our Lord, is grayness. Lukewarmness, even if in different degrees. That thing that we experience from enacting our two natures and double-mindedness instead of ruling our flesh through the Holy Spirit. That thing that is neither black or white, good or bad. It is the doubt and confusion we get from pursuing both our desires of the flesh and the Spirit. The agony we sometimes feel of serving two masters. The guilt of knowing better and not doing it. A grayness that is, nonetheless, whitewashed with lies, delusions and rationalizations devised for our temporary comfort and "peace of mind". Things that I also know too well. What is truly dangerous, then, is to believe such rationalizations and justifications, the more when we "base" them on the bible.

Thus, Christ is our sole standard of measure. He is our beginning and our end in everything, and we will realize this once we are willing to forgo everything else no matter what the cost to our flesh. Being in Him through love and in His love is all that matters, now and forever.

In our dear Lord.

Response #32: 

Hello my friend,

Thanks for your understanding and good words.

On the issue of unbelievers, I would not say (and don't believe I did say) that they can live in a sanctified way or that they can be sinless – far from it. But they do have free will and they do have the ability to live in a respectable way, one which is not hypocritical but honorable (cf. Rom.2:14-15 of the gentiles with "law" written in their hearts). This will never be a complete sinlessness but is admirable and notable all the same. We all know unbelievers who are honest, who are loyal, who are friendly, who do not cheat on their spouses or murder their neighbors – even though they may be tempted to do so. Cain, after all, was tempted to murder his brother out of envy, and the Lord made it quite clear to him that he was capable of resisting that temptation, even though in the event he chose not to resist sufficiently. What believers are faced with is at once more difficult in scope (because we are called to be sinless in every respect, even in ways that will never "show" and wherein unbelievers are will very seldom be gaining any sort of victory such as victory in sanctifying our thoughts), and much more difficult in execution, both because we know what is right (cf. Rom.7:8), and also significantly because we are actively opposed by the evil one and his minions. So the comparison is given in scripture and repeated in this study to demonstrate that we do have control over our will and that we do have therefore a measure of ability to resist the worst sorts of crime and sinfulness. Since we now have the Holy Spirit and an absolute mandate from the Lord to "be holy as I am holy", there is no excuse for whining and complaining that we "can't!" get victory over the "sin that easily besets" (Heb.12:1); rather we need to take responsibility for our actions with all the more purpose and resolution given our assets (the Word of truth, the challenge of eternal rewards, and the indwelling presence of the Spirit), and given our desire to please and not oppose our Lord.

As to the issue of sinless perfection, what I would say is that we are both required to attain it and forgiven when we do not measure up (upon confession) – because no one save our Lord ever did so in a perfect way (2Chron.6:36; Eccl.7:20; Rom.3:9; 3:23; Jas.3:2; 1Jn.1:5-10). Jesus is our role model in every respect, and we are indeed told to follow in His footsteps in every way. Our charge is indeed to "be holy even as I am holy". It is also true that we inhabit bodies of sin and are under constant attack not only from within but from without. Under those circumstances, no believer has ever achieved sinless perfection. These two truths may seem incompatible or inconsistent but they are both true and both very important. On the one hand we have to make it our goal and objective to be perfect and brook no less standard than perfection for ourselves; on the other hand we have to understand that we are not perfect, will never be perfect, and need all the mercy and merciful provisions our loving God has given us. The fact that John wrote the words you quote here cannot be divorced from the fact that in the same epistle 1) he proclaims anyone who says they don't sin is deceiving themselves and is a liar devoid of truth (1Jn.1:8) – and worse than that, is someone who makes God out to be a liar (1Jn.1:10); 2) that he gives us our clearest description of confession of sin (1Jn.1:9); and 3) that he is the one who tells us that when we do sin, Jesus Christ is our Advocate (1Jn.2:1-2).

As is often the case in truly biblical theology, there are seemingly competing principles which are both true (such as love vs. righteousness; free will vs. predestination), and coming down on one side too heavily or exclusively to the detriment of the other always causes problems and doctrinal error. In this case, ignoring the perfect standard of sanctification may lead to a too lackadaisical attitude towards sin and all the disasters sure to follow that; on the other hand, assuming that sinless perfection is in fact possible will inevitably result in spiritual collapse (when the person in question fails as must happen), or horrific legalism (as the only other "work around" is to redefine sin as only things which the person in question can successfully avoid).

Keep up the good work for our dear Lord Jesus and His Church!

In Him,

Bob L.

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