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Faith, Forgiveness, Salvation IV

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Question #1:  

Hello Robert, how are you? I have a question regarding forgiveness and Exodus 32. Came across this in my reading this morning and I checked through my correspondence with you but couldn't find anything as to whether we discussed this or not. I don't think so.

After the Israelites sinned regarding the golden calf, Moses interceded on their behalf for forgiveness but God said "whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book".

Does this not imply removal from the book of life and therefore - no forgiveness??

It seems there was no option even for repentance so I find this statement confusing (like where God tries to kill Moses and his wife intercedes on his behalf?).

As usual, when I consult commentaries, there is no consensus of opinion on this. It seems to not even address that regardless of whether someone in the group may be truly repentant, they are blotted out.

Can you please shed some light on this for me.

Forgot to add, Moses asked who was on the side of the Lord and the Levites responded. But I take this to mean they were not on board with the golden calf to begin with, not that they are the only ones who changed their mind.


Response #1: 

I'm not surprised by your statement "when I consult commentaries, there is no consensus of opinion"; in my experience, the only thing commentaries have in common is that they very rarely address the true spiritual issues, the truly important issues of interpretation, and that when they do they are almost always wrong.

As to sinning and being blotted out of the book of life, everyone God creates is originally written in the book (see the link); only unbelievers are blotted out if they reject Christ actively and irreversibly, or if they die having refused to accept Him.

We all sin. Is that not true? The Bible certainly says so (Eccl.7:20; Rom.3:9; 3:23; 7:14; 7:23; Gal.3:22; Jas.3:2; 1Jn.1:6-10; cf. Ps.143:2). So if we approach the issue this way, thinking that sin blots us out of the book, then we are forced to ask with the disciples, "then who can be saved?!" But of course that is not what the scripture says or means. Notice it doesn't say "whoever has sinned BAD", rather only "whoever has sinned". Since we know irrefutably that SOME are saved, but that ALL sin, it must be a particular type of sin which is at issue – and that is the case.

The sin at issue is the sin of rejecting the Lord. Casting off all restraint and worshiping a pagan idol of one's own making certainly seems as if it might be a complete rejection of faith – if these people ever had any faith in Christ (the Lord's promised Substitute seen in all animal sacrifice since the coats of skin given to Adam and Eve). The number of the exodus generation who were saved, whether they were all believers, merely really bad ones, or all unbelievers, or whether it varied from person to person (my guess), is something we will have to wait to get to heaven to find out. They come in for praise in Hebrews (Heb.11:29), but for damning censure in 1st Corinthians 10:1-10 – and Paul wrote both passages. We can certainly say that while the Levites did the right thing on this occasion you mention, that does not mean they did the right thing on every occasion (or that ever single Levite thought/felt/acted the same way on every occasion).

For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
Hebrews 3:16-19 NKJV

Suffice it to say that this generation who "tested Me ten times" and as a result was made to wander in the desert 40 years until they all died off (with the notable exceptions of Joshua and Caleb) is much more of a negative than a positive example. Were they all "blotted out of the book"? Only those who died in rejection of the Lord, rejection of the coming Substitute, absent any faith in the Lord, any trust in Him were "blotted out". Only those who in hardness of heart, in spite of all His great miracles and blessings, consistently refused to believe in Him and His provision of life eternal have been "blotted out" of the book.

Only refusal to believe results in being blotted out of the book of life. That is why the book of life is checked at the last judgment (Rev.20:15), as a comfort to believers so that we may understand now that if we do believe, we are in the book still, even if we have a lot to regret in this life, and that therefore we will not be condemned with those who reject Jesus Christ.

Unbelief is the only sin that cannot be forgiven. Christ paid the entire price for all the rest.

Please see the link: "The Book of Life".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Hi Robert, I understand that and thanks for the reply so quickly. Did Moses give all a chance to side with the Lord before being wiped out in verse 26 or was it just the Levites who didn't participate in the worship of the calf? I cant tell from the passage.

Also, if you have a minute, can you please read the following comment. It's interesting. Is it essentially correct or way off base?... not knowing biblical Hebrew I was wondering...

"Perhaps, you need to read the Hebrew of Exodus 32:25 - 29. Abandon all existing doctrine and interpretation. Read it like your friend wrote you an email. Don't care what "experts" have commented. Just read the Hebrew plainly without religious allegiance. You will notice there is no imperative, no incompletion verb, among the verbs that concern you. You see, Biblical Hebrew has no past. present, future tenses. Verbs are either stative, or incomplete. Stative means stating the action. When a verb is inflected as an incomplete form, it could mean either "will", "should", "may", "then", "could". i.e., it could be an instruction, a prediction, a command, a subjunctive, a proposal, a possibility. But the verbs that concern you in the passage are stative. When verbs are stative, it could mean the actions are already performed, or ongoing. Also, for a few hundred years, understanding of biblical Hebrew has been screwed up (sorry for the harsh term) by the inversive-vav theory. Like as though ancient shepherding Israelites would really go thro all the trouble to develop a language that would invert the tense due to a preceding sequence-conjunction. Rather than follow every sequentially-tensed language that had developed and spoken by humans - where a sequence-conjunction simply helps to anchor the time reference on the previous phrase. The proof of the screwedupness of inversive-vav theory is every passage you read, and then compare to the English/Greek translations, the inversive-vav is inconsistently applied. Like having grammar is pointless, and one has to use "common-sense" and arbitrary "context" when to apply the inversive-vav. In verse 25: וירא משה In sequential-tense language, verse 25 would say: "and Moses will/shall see". Whereas, the silly inversive-vav theory has been willy-nilly chosen to be applied here, by English translations to say, "and Moses saw". In verse 26: ויעמד משה ... ויספו In sequential-speak: And Moses will/shall/would stand ... and they will congregate Verse 27: וימר להם כה אמר יי In sequential-speak: And he will/shall/would say thus says the LORD There are these initial incompletion verbs, but the verbs that follow them are all stative. It means that .... Moses will see the orgy, and Moses will stand at the gate, and the people will congregate, and Moses will say thus the LORD says/said a man placed his sword upon his side, crossed back and forth from gate to gate in the encampment and killed, a man against his brother .... And the sons of Levi will be doing as Moses had said, and shall fall among the people on that day, about 3000 man. And Moses will say, they fill(ed) your hand today to the LORD as man in his son, and in his brother, and to give you today blessing. And it will be from tomorrow Moses will/shall say, to the people, you have sinned a great sin .... Maybe I should make atonement for your sin? Because these people, had an orgy, killed each other and then even went on to impersonate the blessing of the LORD. And Moses then questions maybe he should go up the mountain again, just to atone for their sins. You take it for granted that I will atone for your sins, huh? If you translated the Hebrew thro phrase literal translation, to a Papua New Guinea language, in sequential-tense language, that person would simply say, the killing has already occurred or is currently taking place. G'd did not command the killing. G'd was simply saying thro/to Moses, "look at the orgy and killing that is happening." The English translations do not even bother to reflect the sarcasm of Moses. It is time we flushed the worthless inversive-vav theory away. But we can't because a lot of established doctrines would be thrown with the dirty bath water. Perhaps those established doctrines are the dirty bath water."

Thanks as always,

Response #2: 

Moses was confronting an urgent situation. He was not just the spiritual leader but the judicial/political/military ruler. The action he took had nothing to do with spirituality. In times when the people are running riot, it is not unprecedented for the duly constituted authorities to declare martial law. When they do, the soldiers (Levites) who enforce it can't be concerned about size, shape, color, sex, religious or political beliefs – they just shoot anyone violating the curfew because that is the only way to restore order (which was the objective here).

As to the very odd attachment, my response would be "read this passage in any published version of the Bible"; if you do, you will find that all say the same thing more or less, and that they all make sense. I can't speak for Papua New Guinea, but I can say that the English translations all reflect the Hebrew – the very simple biblical Hebrew – very well. Biblical Hebrew is what it is. It does use sequence to indicate tense and mood; that is true. But the scholars who translated this passage knew that too – and rendered it correctly. Trying to import a future sense here strikes me as bizarre given the context. It is certainly incorrect given the grammar.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

Hi Bob!

I read in a footnote in this one Bible I have that the Book of life is a different Book than the Book of Life of the lamb is this true?

God Bless!

Response #3: 

No, the "Lamb's book of life" is the same as the "book of life"; the name is "the book of life", but it belongs to the Lamb because His sacrifice for us all is what made it possible for the Father to place everyone's name in it – because Christ died for all. Names are blotted out, however, when the person irrevocably rejects Christ in this life or lets life go by without accepting Him. For us believers, however, blessedly we are among those "whose names are in the book of life" (Phil.4:3). Please see the link: "The Book of Life".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Hi Doc,

Jesus said in the beatitudes that the pure in heart will see God. Is this literally "seeing God", or understanding God. Jesus said to Phillip that if he sees Jesus, then he sees God. I take it both ways. I know that we can see God in Christ through His message. I'm not sure if that's what Jesus meant in the beatitudes.

God Bless,

Response #4: 

I certainly agree that there is an application to be made from this passage that those who respond to the Lord in the correct way come to see Him ever more clearly through His truth, through the eyes of faith. The main interpretation has to do with the fact that the world is divided into two camps: those who have been cleansed of sin and those who have not been so cleansed (1Cor.6:19-11). The word "pure" in Matthew 5:8 is the Greek word katheros (from which the name "Catherine"), and means "clean / cleansed". Here are some passages from John's gospel which shed light on this:

Jesus said to him, "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you."
John 13:10 NKJV

"You are already clean (< katheros) because of the word which I have spoken to you."
John 15:3 NKJV

No one is "pure of heart" (cf. Jer.17:9) – unless purified by God. That "washing away of sin" was paid for on the cross by our Lord who stood judgment for all sin, and granted to all who accept His sacrifice through putting their faith in Him, His perfect person and His perfect work. So there are the righteous and the unrighteous, but the distinction is not one of behavior; rather behavior is a symptom of the underlying reality (or certainly should be). We believers have the righteousness of God through faith by grace, cleansed by the blood of Christ. This is generally what the beatitudes do, namely, distinguish between the blessings that belong to those who respond to God (believers) and the cursing that befalls those who do not – but the Day when these blessings and cursings will be brought fully to the fore will not come until our Lord returns to resurrect us for blessing and them for cursing.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5:  


Your explanation clarifies the itemization of personalized preferences, right or wrong. I was more focused on being sanctified day by day to a state where one's maturity, to be holy is a progressive acknowledgment of Christ's victory on our behalf.

"Ask me that like you're talking to a fourth grader". What is a fourth grader? A construction tractor! Robert, I am only joking! I do struggle to present my thinking in writing.

Following is a quote written to me. Please respond to it.

"Salvation or its assurance has nothing to do with our sin. Christ paid for ALL sins. Our responsibility is to believe the gospel—that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead. God keeps His promises. Read Romans 8. Salvation depends upon the work of Christ, not our work. Faith apprehends what Christ accomplished. Paul never states one can lose one’s salvation on account of sin. One can lose his life and one can be disciplined but one can never lose salvation. Read 1 Corinthians 5 for how Paul dealt with severe sin. Paul told believers who sinned to repent. Anyone who teaches one can lose what God has given teaches contrary to the Scriptures."


Response #5: 

No worries, my friend.

As to the quotation, first, I would say that our object of faith is Jesus Christ, His perfect person (God and man) and His perfect work on the cross in being judged for all sin. I realize that many don't understand all of the ins and outs of this proposition when saved. Indeed, sad to say, many believers don't even yet understand (but this is the era of Laodicea, after all).

The "once saved, always saved" addendum is incorrect, of course. Only believers are saved. There is a category of person who once believed but while still alive abandons faith in Christ and reverts to being an unbeliever. Christ told us this in no uncertain terms:

"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

"Fall away" in the Greek above is the verb which furnishes the basis for the word apostasy in English (the opposite of "believe" in this passage), and that is precisely what apostasy is: falling away from the faith so as no longer to be a believer, and only believers are saved:

"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:18 NKJV

The addendum is correct, however, in stating that it's not a matter of sin. Correct. It is not a matter of sin. Sin does not cause loss of faith directly. But those who give themselves over to a chronic pattern of gross sinning will alienate themselves from God by their own choice and actions, and this alienation weakens faith and can be part of the process of apostasy whereby faith is lost. And it's all about faith. The incestuous believer in 1st Corinthians chapter five represents a particular type of believer who embraces sin but still will not relinquish Christ. That is a terrible witness, and the Lord will not allow it to continue forever. For these types, the end is "the sin unto death", a horrific departure from this life wherein the flesh is destroyed that the spirit may be saved (1Cor.5:5). This type never loses salvation, but does exit life in a horrible way with loss of potential reward. The details and the distinctions regarding these issues which are very much confused by contemporary Christians (even teachers who should know better) may be found at the link: in BB 3B "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Dear Teacher

This is not a Bible question. Just Greek. But what is the Ancient Greek word for neighbor? Is it plesion or geiton? Or are they both synonyms? Are there other words? Are there different flavors to them that I should know about? My Greek is coming along very very slowly. I too got caught under an avalanche but of a different sort and I'm trying to dig my way out from under it. I am thankful that the Lord is merciful and always gracious.

Yours in our very dear Lord Jesus Christ

Response #6: 

Both words are used for this idea. The important question is "who is my neighbor?", and we have on the one hand the parable of the good Samaritan; and on the other hand passages where "neighbors" are clearly brethren in Christ (e.g., Eph.4:25). So while we are to love and be concerned for all, desiring the salvation of all as God does (1Tim.2:4), believers clearly have priority for us:

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Galatians 6:10 NKJV

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:  

Hello Bob!

What exactly does it mean to be handed over to satan?

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 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.
(1 Corinthians 5:4-5)

One of my friends who says that he is a child of God, and is saved. I've known him for almost 25 years, and it seems as if nothing really has changed within him. I don't see any fruits of the Spirit from him. He is very poor and I usually would give him money to help with his financial problems, and to help feed his family. I noticed that he uses the money I give him on ungodly things, such as gambling, drinking, and other things. He even has pornography on his cell phone and he thinks it's funny. This angers me because that is a sin! And when I show him the things that are sinful, he gets upset and uses the same excuse that I am judging him. I am concerned about him because it seems as if the devil has him in his grip. I stopped hanging around with him, but I still love him and want him to lead a life worthy of his calling. Another friend had told me to hand him over to satan. What exactly does that mean?

God Bless you and your ministry,

Response #7: 

Believers who journey far from the Lord for whatever reason always come to a crossroads eventually. At that point, they either turn back to Him (scared straight by intense divine discipline) or they continue on in one of two negative ways. The first negative way is apostasy. They come to the point of losing faith in Christ entirely and revert to being unbelievers. At that point, the Lord no longer knows them and is done with them. The other road is the one on which the believer is unwilling to give up either the Lord or the embracing of gross sin. This creates the worst possible witness and the Lord will not let it go on forever. Eventually, He will take said believer home through the "sin unto death". The believer does not lose salvation but is taken out of this life in a very painful way with loss of potential reward.

During the era of the apostles, many things took place which are not taking place today. The apostles in particular were endowed with many unique gifts and powers. Instead of waiting for the Lord to hit this young man in Corinth with the sin unto death, Paul had the power as the authority in the church he was responsible for to bring on that situation himself. The sin unto death puts the believer beyond the protection of the Lord and allows the devil and his forces to "have at him" – a horrible thought. In this particular instance, we see in the next epistle that the young man apparently repented and was delivered. But today there is no ability by any human being to bring on this situation today in the case of someone else; however, any believer who strays far enough from the Lord in gross misconduct risks bringing it down on him/herself. See the link: in BB 3B: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8:  

And a question on 1 Corinthians 10:13 also - since the verse says "who will not allow you to be tested / tempted", why can we not understand it as either a test or a temptation also? God doesn't tempt us, but He does allow us to be tempted. You seem to suggest that the translation "tempt" is incorrect here, but theologically I am not clear why that is.

Response #8: 

God is never the Agent of temptation (James' point in Jas.1:13), and that is, while perhaps seemingly subtle, an important distinction to preserve.

Question #9:  

Yes, this is understood, it's just that as I read 1 Corinthians 10:13 I don't believe this verse makes God the agent of temptation - unlike James 1:13. So I thought that since God is not the agent, but only the one allowing something to happen (and we know He does allow us to be tempted), there is no theological reason to reject the translation referring to temptation as incorrect here.

Response #9: 

The problem in my view is English vs. Greek and the difference of distinctions can be subtle. Please have a look at these links:

Testing vs. Tempting II

Testing vs. Tempting I

What you say is technically true, but the details of the verse have God involved with delivering believers from temptation in ways that suggest His involvement in the overall situation; so it is better in my view to keep "test" rather than "tempt" here in 1Cor.10:13. Of course we can bear up under temptation; that is a free will issue we all have to face; testing, on the other hand, could become difficult enough not to bear if the Lord were not making a way of escape for us. Testing requires help; temptation is something we can stay away from and shut down and should do so (Gen.4:7).

Question #10:  

This is a good point. Based on this, I now agree with you that testing is the primary meaning here and tempting perhaps a valid application - as God will also not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able.

There are places in the scripture when God's involvement even in a temptation is expressed directly as He allows the evil one or any of his minions to tempt us (2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1) and there are also instances when we see God giving us an escape route as we may just be getting ourselves into trouble (something I have often experienced myself) which seems to make an application to being tempted valid here, but I agree with your point here and move to the interpretation that testing is what was meant.

Response #10: 

Your point is good too. But in every case where God allows something it's always for good (as opposed to temptation which, when it is active instead of merely passive, always has an evil purpose). So it may be true that God allowed Potiphar's wife to tempt Joseph (it did happen), but the purpose was to demonstrate Joseph's amazing integrity and fear of God on the one hand, and to bring about the next step in the plan of deliverance of Jacob's entire family – which plan the Lord had graciously shared with Joseph in dreams before it even began. So I like to keep a strict distinction.

Question #11:  

Dear Teacher

I was going to ask you if failing to forgive someone could lead to falling into more sin oneself but the email posting for the week answered that:

"Being aggressively at odds with our brothers and sisters in Christ – lacking forgiveness therefore – is a very bad attitude that will lead to all manner of sins."

When I asked you about forgiveness, it had only just occurred to me that I was not forgiving my relative for much that I felt wronged about. But until just before I asked I had not known that I was walking in unforgiveness. I just figured something was very wrong when I found myself falling at every slight temptation. It was as if I lost my backbone somehow. And I prayed and searched myself for a while until it occurred to me that I was withholding forgiveness. Once I forgave my relative, everything was all right again. But the trouble is that one time was not the end. I have to do it again and again and it is easier to just stay angry. I am trying to keep pace with the Holy Spirit on it. But I have confirmed by that experience that when we are failing to forgive a fellow believer, it does lead to more sinning and bad behavior in other places until we forgive them. But does the Bible actually say this? It felt as if I was just left to my own devices, to fight sin on my own. I didn't feel completely abandoned. In fact, I felt like I was being disciplined by being left to face my own weaknesses by myself until I forgave.

Yours in our precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

Response #11: 

It's always better to walk in an attitude of forgiveness, being willing and ready to forgive anything and everything toward everyone, and from the heart:

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
Matthew 18:21-22 NKJV

This doesn't mean we have to communicate this to others (i.e., by telling them face to face "I forgive you"). Oftentimes doing so would only make matters worse (inasmuch as many people who need forgiveness often don't realize they do so it would just be waving a red flag in front of a bull to do so). This is about the Lord Jesus Christ, not about us. If we want to have peace, we have to disengage our emotions as much as humanly possible from the non-essential things that are happening around us. That is not possible to do 100%, and when we are shocked, blind-sided or upset by sudden developments it will often not be possible immediately at all. But we can learn to let things go and walk in love towards all, because we are focused on a higher goal which is not affected by what happens here in terms of how others treat us – unless we allow it to do so.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:  

Two quotes for you:

A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.
-Charles Darwin

By failing to plan, you plan to fail.

Response #12: 

#1: Ironic from a man who wasted his entire life:

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
Hebrews 11:3 NKJV

#2: "Unknown" should have read von Moltke ("No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force"). Or even better, the Bible:

The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.
Psalm 33:10 NKJV

Question #13:  

Hello Professor,

This is what I wrote when I asked why you thought that the translation "tempt" is incorrect 1 Corinthians 10:13, since God is not the Agent, but only allows for the temptation/testing to take place. You wrote that God always tests us for our good, but I find this argument hard to defend in light of 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1, where God allows the tempting to inflict the discipline as a result of which much damage has been done. Maybe I missed something, but otherwise this means that we are back to where we started and I am still not clear why we can't translate "tempted" in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Thank you for encouraging comments. As for the summary - I have been trying to include them in my writings more recently and although they are often not easy to prepare, they help the understanding and the retention of the content. As for our friend - I am quite certain he has come to Christ since he asked me these questions. The problem is that he is not growing and that he is a skeptic (he has a very strong scientific background) who would like all the teaching to be given in the form of a mathematical equation with "empirical" evidence provided at each step of it. Can we prove that we have the Spirit? We can, He has transformed our lives and this is obvious to those of us who have Him - but some will see no evidence as tangible enough and consequently they are not growing because of their unbelief.

As I'm preparing another outstanding response - this time on John 3:5 - I wanted to ask you about your interpretation of John 7:38-39 which I still cannot understand.

He that believeth on me as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water (i.e., the truth will live in him, as a believer). But this spake he of the Spirit, [who ministers the Word received] which they that believe on him should receive.
John 7:38-39a KJV

I would have thought that the words "But this spake he of the Spirit" must refer back to the living water from the previous verse, but based on your previous responses this is not how you interpret it and I don't know why that is.

I have done some reading on John 3:5, as this verse has been unclear to me for a long time now and then Curt also takes it differently to yourself, taking water and the Spirit as referring to one spiritual rebirth and the water being a reference to Ezekiel 35:26. I found your response to question 1 from https://ichthys.com/mail-Baptism-Water-and-SpiritII.htm very helpful and what really made the difference for me in understanding that John 3:5 is in fact not a reference to the cleansing from Ezekiel 35:26, but to the water of the Word of God is what you wrote at the end:

"The biggest problem I see with all this is the potential confusion that may come from failing to understand that John chapter three is talking about the reception-by-faith of the gospel side of this equation, not the repentance-from-dead-works so as to be forgiven side of the equation. Jesus says, after all, "You must be born again", and not "You must repent" – which, while true, was not the point He was making to Nicodemus in telling him how to be saved."

Until you made that point I could not see how we could possibly reject the notion of our Lord's main point potentially being a reference to Ezekiel. What made it more difficult is that earlier in this response you make two points which, at least at the moment, I didn't see as directly applicable to the argument, but please correct me here if there is something I'm not seeing.

1) You wrote that cleansing does not have to refer to unbelievers:

"As to the Ezekiel interpretation, I do think it is fair to say that the idea of water = cleansing is certainly present in many Old Testament rituals (not that one ought to limit the idea to a single passage in Ezekiel as the Law is replete with this notion; e.g., Lev.14:8-9). However, Jesus' bringing in of the Spirit here (Jn.3:5), and connecting both water and Spirit to rebirth is very significant and makes the interpretation a much more particular and direct reference to salvation rather than just to cleansing. That is to say, the John 3 passage focuses entirely upon what the Ezekiel passage talks about only second: the result of cleansing or inner-rebirth. Cleansing, after all, is something that 1) may be for believers (i.e., in confession of sins), as well as for unbelievers who are becoming believers for the first time, and 2) is either a ritual or a metaphor based on the concept of washing."

Now this is true, but wouldn't you say that Ezekiel 36 speaks of Israel's conversion at our Lord's second advent (Zechariah 12:10)? If this is the case, then I would take Ezekiel 36 as referring to the salvation of the Jews.

2) You write that "In the Ezekiel passage, cleansing precedes rebirth ("I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean"); inner regeneration follows ("Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you")".

"Jesus certainly means His words here in John 3 to apply only to unbelievers being saved. The water represents the refreshment of the truth and this life-giving truth is mediated by the Spirit: both are necessary to be saved, that is, the gospel (water) and the means of understanding it (the Spirit). In the Ezekiel passage, cleansing precedes rebirth ("I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean"); inner regeneration follows ("Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you")."

And this is also true, but at the moment I cannot see the chronological sequence described as referring to two separate events, as if time had to pass between them and they could not refer to one event whose two aspects are described. At the moment it looks to me that Ezekiel 36:25-27 all refer to the same event - conversion and regeneration of Israel consisting of repentance (verse 25), new heart being given (verse 26; "circumcision of the heart") and the imparting of the gift of the Spirit (verse 27) - which we know all occur when one is saved. I would say that we could similarly conflate these events as happening on the point of salvation.

You do later make the following point:

"Your friend makes a good observation about the John passage; the Ezekiel passage (addressed as it is to Israel) is potentially true of believers who return to God as well as of unbelievers saved for the first time. "

But the earlier arguments don't lead to the main one directly, at least as I understand it now.

Let me know what is your take on the above points. In any case, Professor, I am grateful for you leading me to the truth in another difficult passage that has been on my mind for a long time. It is always a joy to experience something like this - to have a difficult question resolved, particularly when it has been on one's mind for a long time. Here the answer is that if we are born of something, then this points not to repentance itself, which is the negative aspect of turning away from something (i.e, we cannot be born from turning away from idols), but rather we are born of something we take in or accept instead - and that must be the truth. So John 3:5 must refer to the Word of God.

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #13: 

Well, I expect that you'll be pleasantly surprised in your efforts. But since we are working for the Lord, we all have to keep what Paul said in mind:

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
1st Corinthians 4:3-5 NIV

As to 2nd Samuel 24:1 and 1st Chronicles 21:1, this incident did not have as its purpose, however analyzed, testing (or tempting) David. It was an attack on the people of Israel allowed by the Lord as a means of discipline. David was merely the intermediate means. So the incident is fundamentally different in every way from, e.g., the testing of Abraham in (almost) sacrificing Isaac.

As to John 7:38, the first point to keep clear is that the words "as the scriptures have said [one must do]" go with the preceding "the one who believes in Me", not with what follows. In other words, there is no quotation here at all. So the question is merely one of reconciling the "waters" with "this He said of the Spirit" in the following verse. In the preceding verse our Lord had said "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink", and now in v.38 He says that all who do so will experience "living water" in abundance from within. In other words, they would be saved and that salvation was destined to well up in them abundantly to overflowing once the Spirit was given. So this welling up of the waters of salvation (the truth of the Word) within these and other believers would be exponentially more marvelous than even a drink to the thirsty once the Spirit was doing the empowering.

This is a very nice response to our friend and good news that he is a believer! However, of course, while you can lead a horse to water, you can't make him drink . . . especially if we're not talking about literal water. His posture is one I have come across very often in believers and unbelievers both: "prove to my satisfaction that my skepticism or false position is not well-founded / correct". Whenever we are dealing with a "prove to me" type, we always have to be wary of not wasting too much time. If someone is not willing to drink, we can't make them do so. In rare cases a good response might crack through this wall of arrogance and allow a little ray of humility to seep through. Generally speaking though, this is hardened-heart posture and requires the Lord getting such a person's attention before they are willing to accept any authority other than their own. Until that happens, all else is pointless, because unless the truth we share with them is believed by them, it's just words (like giving the gospel to the rock-hard types who refuse to let it in).

Keeping you in my prayers, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:  

Good morning Robert,

Thank you for updating me with your latest thorough analysis of Scripture-not oversimplifying complex situations. I discern (as per your latest issuance) that you could be very helpful as I continue my journey away from fear towards a living, closer walk with Jesus Christ-

Here is my spiritual history in a nutshell. Things were fairly straightforward in my life through when I was a Roman Catholic who seldom questioned official Church teaching. Then I discovered that the Roman Catholic Church was not the only one that had doctrinal problems. Pentecostal, Baptist, Church of Christ....all had them too!

The intensive fear, guilt for leaving the Catholic Church, and the confusion of differing doctrines severely weakened my trust in pastors and teachers. I was paralyzed with fear. My mental problems cost me my first marriage. Satan did everything he could to drive me away from simple trust in what the Bible teaches to sorting through conflicting doctrines. Which interpretations were correct? Who could I trust? Who was really being truthful and honest in their presentation of Scriptural truth? Who was rightly dividing the Word and teaching it free of bias and their own personal agenda? Who was really living what they taught and not just putting on a persona from the pulpit?

Then there was the millenium craze with the Churches' obsession with end-time prophecies. Harold Camping, Edgar Whisenant (88 reasons the rapture will happen in 1988) to name a few. People jumped on the prophetic bandwagon and predicted dates for the Second Coming that were dead wrong. Faith healers and quacks fabricated healings that were either exaggerated or downright false.

Yet in spite of all this I hung in there and did not totally abandon the Faith. I made a decision...to accept Scripture as God says and intends it, not pulling things way out of context like the Church of Christ does in requiring immersion as a condition of salvation.

I have backed away from focusing on fulfillment of prophecy to walking with Jesus day by day. Walking under pure grace in the finished work of the Cross shown in Hebrews 10:14.
I don't want to construct an elaborate system of prophetic fulfillment, only to have some clever skeptic shoot a line of thought into it that topples all my reasoning to the ground. That is going back to Square One and I am not going to let that happen! Questions like the Olivet Discourse when Jesus said that this generation will not pass away until they had seem the Son of God come in Power. Skeptics love to jump on that and say that Jesus prediction failed.

While being cautious about extreme claims of miracles and healings and transformation, the Spirit has warned me not to reject the reasonable testimony of other brothers and sisters in Christ- John 9 is all about a man born blind who received a real healing that was verified by his parents (who had no motive for fabricating a miracle) that the Pharisees went out of their way to reject despite all the circumstantial evidence to the contrary.

I am training myself to examine evidence for miracles the same way a juror does when he examines criminal evidence. People are to be trusted as sincere unless til they subsequently prove to be liars. The old adage "Fool me once-shame on you. Fool me twice- shame on me" applies here.

Hope this is not too much for one Sunday morning.

Response #14: 

You cover a lot of ground here, my friend. I will say a few things.

It is true that there are all manner of opinions out there and all manner of false teaching. The RC church claims this as a point in its defense, perversely enough. But we know that they are changeable on all issues when it suits them and historically on several sides of most issues (saw today that they are "modernizing" the Lord's prayer!). How to tell the difference between the true and the false? In fact, the Spirit gives every believer the ability to distinguish between a "good tree" and a "bad tree" – because eating the fruit is the test, as our Lord told us. Believers who do not have the gift of teaching and who are not prepared to teach (a long and arduous process to do it well) do not have the ability to feed themselves – they need a teacher. But they do have the ability to determine if a teacher is false – or unable to teach (which is almost as bad). Inevitably, the search to find the right one will take some time. But it is a dangerous trap to assume that because not everything falls into place immediately or if there are some points that are disagreed with that NO place will ever do. The Lord has never allowed any believer to go without spiritual sustenance forever. He might challenge and test a person's depth of desire for it. But He's never left anyone in the lurch on this. If Ichthys is not your cup of tea, I strongly urge you not to give up. You will find a place to grow, if you really do want to grow. That said, I am very positive on this ministry (obviously). I also recommend Bible Academy (at the link).

Also, skeptics always find reasons to scoff. That doesn't make them right. To use your example, in Greek a genos, translated often "generation" in the versions, does NOT overlap the English word in necessarily meaning "contemporaries". It also means "type"; in fact that is its more frequent meaning and the one used by our Lord (see the link: "this generation"). The hard-hearted type with whom He was confronted would endure until the second advent as the rule – which is exactly what Paul says too (Rom.11:25).

Finally, feel free not to reject third party testimony, but didn't the Lord tell us to be wise as serpents, even as we are innocent as doves? There are plenty of reasons why people lie and exaggerate. The fact that I know with certainty that the Lord can heal anyone of anything does not mean that He did in fact heal person X of disease Y – especially if I didn't see it with my own eyes but merely heard about it. If He did so, great. But what happens next is that groups making such claims tend to trap the unwitting into a whole system of "claimed things" – most of which turn out not to be true. We believe in God. We trust the Lord. People are a different story. Please see the link: "Third Party Reports".

I do hope that you have a look at the new posting (BB 6A at the link). From your email, it seems to me that it might be just the tonic of encouragement you need.

Please do feel free to write back, my friend.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:  

Hello Dr Luginbill,

Thank you for the update on BB 6A: Peripateology: the Christian Walk. I was really excited when I saw that you uploaded it. I know you have been working on it for some time.

[details omitted]

Response #15: 

I'm always delighted to hear from you, my friend, but I am of course most distressed to hear of your present spiritual struggle (more on that below).

The world is a rotten place, and the distractions it throws at us are sometimes (seemingly at least) monumental. Shutting out the noise and sticking to what is truly important, spiritual growth, progress and production, and learning how to walk closely to the Lord whatever may betide is a skill that comes with growth and practice. BB 6A [link] is all about this (as you probably know by now). But even mature believers who are highly dedicated to the Lord can't expect to be perfect in their execution. This is a war we are in, and no warfare is every pretty. Combat is always messy, and there are always unexpected developments and losses. Navigating the shot and shell to the glory of Jesus Christ is what the life of the mature believer is all about (or should be).

I'm reminded of something I wrote you before about applying to our lives in a practical way the truth we have learned and believed:

"As we grow, these general principles become ever more meaningful as does our sensitivity to the Spirit's guidance. But this will always be a "flying the plane" situation, so to speak, rather than needing to learn the operator's manual better: we already know how to fly, but we can get better at it as we log more hours – and no manual is going to be able to anticipate the wide range of actual conditions we are going to face and have to cope with: every situation is, in fact, different."

Your sensitivity and responsiveness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit is something that has always caught my attention. One reason for this is that my own experience in the Spirit's guidance is somewhat different from yours (or at least I would describe it differently). The Lord spoke directly to many great believers in the Bible, often giving detailed and specific instructions, and when these are given, we best obey as directed (Moses was not allowed to enter the land because of failure to follow orders "to the letter"). But I have never had such a communication. Rather, the Spirit's direction to me has always been more of a gentle prodding which is easy enough to miss if not walking closely with the Lord, and I also have to say that it's only been with increased willingness to listen over the years and some measure of greater growth and experience that "getting" this guidance has gotten better on my part (I'm far from perfect here, let me assure you). As I have written about this (see the link in BB 5: "The Guidance of the Holy Spirit"):

"As this verse [Rom.8:14] demonstrates, in the case of genuine believers, the Spirit leads, and we follow. But how does He lead, and how are we to follow? The answer is that the Spirit leads us through our understanding of the truth of the Word, and we follow by giving ourselves over to be willing to follow the guidance it contains, both in terms of clear principles set out in straightforward manner in scripture, but also in more subjective areas. In the latter, it is the Spirit who helps us to distinguish between good and evil (cf. Gen.2:9), between profitable and unprofitable, and it is He who speaks to our consciences to help us turn from the latter and embrace the former."

This has been my experience, definite guidance but based upon truth believed and "spiritual common sense" applied in the power of the Spirit (rather than particular details being given). So when I read from you, "lately [I] don’t know what is coming from God in my life right now is testing or if it is some kind of temptation coming from Satan", it leads me to wonder if perhaps you may not have gone a little above and beyond on the guidance. What I mean is this. I also wrote you previously using the analogy of the new driver over-correcting in steering so as to swerve sometimes wildly all over the road, whereas experienced drives can almost "think" into a lane change, so imperceptible are the movements which accomplish this. Both drivers get where they are going, but the latter does so more smoothly, safely and with a lot less stress.

I don't believe that the Lord means for any of us to commit to things that risk physical harm (except in the case of certain professions).

I also know that He loves you more than you can imagine, and that He is not "mad" at you. He wants only what is best for you, best in the truest sense of continuing to grow, continuing to move forward in your progress of your walk with Him, and bringing you into the right ministry at the right time for His glory and your great eternal reward.

For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
Hebrews 6:10 NKJV

I know you love Jesus Christ more than this life, and I can assure you that nothing you have truly done for Him is going to lose its reward.

I'm not privy to your conversation with our friend and I'm not going to tell you to stop doing what you are doing entirely or to give up all or even any of the goals you have been led to conceive. But I do think it's significant that both he and I have had the same essential reaction, namely, that any course of training to the point of potentially damaging oneself is not good. You have to make your own decisions and are responsible for them in the Lord, but we have some spiritual experience too, and some input from the Spirit as well.

I hate giving advice. It's almost always a bad idea. But there are exceptions to every rule. My impression of all that you have written me here is that the Lord is working things out to help you figure out what is really important. On that score, it seems to me that your spiritual growth is the most important thing of all. If a person isn't deeply versed in the truth, no witnessing opportunity, no matter how marvelous, is going to go well. If hyper-training takes time away from what is most important of all to a debilitating degree, then it would seem to be working at cross purposes to what the Lord has for you as most important of all.

But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:40-42 NKJV

Be pleased to put first things first and don't give up "the good part". I think you will find out that then everything else may well fall into place. After all, the Lord is able to give you any one or all of your goals without effort on His part . . . or on yours. Practically speaking, we do have to work at things, I know, but I have to say that the successes He has given me in my life, while they did involve much hard work on my part, were always disproportionate to the work I put in. And I have also found that the more I have trusted Him and put first things first, the more all of the things I've had to work for came to me without as much work as I probably should have put in – whereas when I have worked at things to the detriment of what should be in first place, the opposite has been the case.

The Lord loves you, and He is graciously coaxing you to a happier and more blessed walk with Him. Of that I am VERY sure. Perhaps He is bringing you to a point of seeing what is of most importance for you. Please don't miss that message, my friend.

And do please write me back.

Keeping you in my prayers every day, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:  

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for emailing me back so fast.

[details omitted]

Response #16: 

I'm SO relieved to get this email from you. Thank you, my friend, for all this.

I have to say that this is my attitude too: we work hard, then the Lord brings about the victory which is often (and in my experience usually) far greater than our talent or hard work could explain. We honor Him by working hard, by being "strong and courageous", but He is the One who makes it happen. David had the courage to face Goliath, and had prepared as a slinger for years, but without being as reliant on the Lord as he was, do we really think that first stone would have hit the Philistine right in the gap between his helmet and his eyebrows with enough force to bring him down? David certainly knew that "the battle is the Lord's" (1Sam.17:47), and that is the real truth of it.

So train hard, and prepare well, but it is the Lord who gives the victory.

He doesn't begrudge you a little R&R . . . and He certainly DOES mean for you to be able to have joy in all He's called you to do.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Philippians 4:4 NIV

Thanks also for your good explanation of spiritual guidance. This makes good sense to me.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:  

Thank you sir for your website.I recently discovered it and I have recommended it to many people already. Pls does Galatians 5:1-4 talk about believers falling swampy from salvation unto perdition should they draw back to another system of religion for salvation?

Response #17: 

It's great to make your acquaintance, my friend! Thanks so much for your good words and for sharing this site with others.

As to your question, Paul is telling the Galatian believers who were being beset by false teachers who told them it was necessary to keep the Law that this is a dead end (Rom.6:14; 10:4). The Law shows us we need a Savior, and now the shadows have been lifted and we see Him in the flesh: Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. Going back to the shadows means turning away from grace and trying to gain salvation by the works of the Law (Gal.5:4). That never produces salvation and was always a misuse of the Law.

As to the spiritual status of the Galatians, they were beloved by Paul and he wrote this epistle to help them turn back to what was good. Salvation is an individual thing. Once saved, the only way a person can become "not saved" is to fall away from having faith and trust in Jesus Christ. That is apostasy, the absolute death of faith. Putting faith in the Law instead of in Christ would certainly be one road to such loss of faith if a person did get to the point of no longer believing in Christ. But many believers are confused about many things, and it is quite clear that even though these Galatian believers were dabbling in the Law they had not yet ceased to believe in Christ. Paul writes to keep them from doing so and to turn them back to the truth. The truth reinforces our faith; lies weaken it. And only believers in Christ – those who have faith in Christ – are saved:

"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:18 NKJV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18:  

Good evening sir, I pray that God continually strengthens you sir! I'm a medical student and president of a Campus fellowship and life is busy. I cant imagine what you deal with. Thanks for replying my message on Galatians 5:2-4.

Pls pardon me for doing this. This excerpt summarizes my thoughts when I used to believe eternal security by following John Piper and the rest (although they have slight nuances).

Somehow I arrived at the truth through extensive Bible reading, research, studying and heart searching. Your soteriology work on this website has boosted my confidence in it as a biblical truth that can be systematically taught.

I put it here because I don't really have solid counter arguments to the points except to build my own premise on Salvation from scripture. Pls help me out sir. I agree with his line of reasoning in the first 2 paragraphs more reason why I devote so much time to scripturally sound way of disproving the doctrine:

Christian theology is similar: if we remove any of the foundational doctrines—the Trinity, the incarnation, the authority of Scripture, the person and work of Christ, and so on—then the entire building of our faith comes tumbling down. The cardinal doctrines of Christianity stand or fall together. I want to suggest that one crucial doctrine is sometimes relegated to the “good men disagree” category that should sit closer to the heart of orthodox Christianity: perseverance of the saints. Why do I say so? Is it really heresy to reject the doctrine of perseverance, a doctrine often referred to as “eternal security”? I’m not ready to call it heresy to reject perseverance of the saints and embrace the possibility of apostasy by genuine Christians. But I think it is far more dangerous to reject this doctrine than perhaps first meets the eye. Like the rickety house I once nearly bought, rejection of perseverance renders unstable many other critical doctrines that rely on it as a solid foundation. If genuine believers can lose their salvation and be cast away forever, consider the collateral damage to other biblical doctrines:

If God chose his people in Christ before the foundation of the world, is it possible for those same people to then “unchoose” themselves? No matter one’s view of election, final apostasy seems to render meaningless Scripture’s teaching on God’s eternal predestining of a people. Even if one holds to election based solely on foreknowledge, final apostasy seems to make God unreliable at best.

According to Mark 10:45, Christ gave his life as a ransom for many. Jesus bore God’s wrath we deserved so he could buy us back from the curse of the law. If a ransomed one can be finally lost, doesn’t that then mean that the ransom price paid was not enough to actually purchase its intended product—the eternal salvation of God’s people? Final apostasy also seems to undermine the substitutionary nature of the atonement, since Christ was condemned in the place of his people. This view would seem to indicate that due to an exercise of their free will some of God’s people have once again fallen under condemnation with their sins no longer covered by the sacrifice of the substitute—even though they were once covered through the blood of Christ.

Justification is a legal declaration that says because of faith in Christ’s work on the cross, one is no longer guilty, positionally or legally, before God. Final apostasy seems to undermine God’s verdict and re-establish guilty charges against those who were exonerated by faith in Christ. This view mangles the foundational Reformation truth of sola fide.

In Ephesians 1:13-14, Paul describes believers as those who have been “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” It seems that a doctrine of final apostasy undermines Paul’s teaching of the Spirit given as a down payment guaranteeing salvation. If salvation can be lost, then the guarantee is meaningless, as is the down payment. And yes, we can grieve the Spirit (Eph. 4:30), but can we evict him? Scripture never says that.

In John 10, Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish and no one will snatch them out of my hand . . . and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” Also, Philippians 1:6 promises that God will complete the work he begins in his people, and the glorious passage in Romans 8:31-39 promises that nothing can separate the believer from the love of God. But how comforting are these promises if we can, as some argue, remove ourselves from Christ’s hand or circumvent the work God has begun in us? In what way do they remain as promises? If these promises are not true, doesn’t that undermine the very Word of God? Can we trust a God who is unable to keep his promises from being undone by the power of human choice? Is the will of man stronger than the will of God?

If Christ lives to intercede for us as Hebrews and Romans 8 contend and as John 17 and Luke 22 demonstrate, then in what meaningful way can we trust his prayers if he does not get what he prays for? If Christ prays that we will be kept as in John 17 and those prayers are frustrated, then it would seem to undermine both his intercessory work and his infallibility—Christ prays and then hopes his prayers will be answered and that we will remain in the faith, but our future salvation remains uncertain.

Inextricably linked to perseverance (and Christ’s intercession) is preservation. First Peter 1:3-5 contains a beautiful promise of God’s preserving grace for his redeemed people: “He has caused us to be born again . . . to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation to be revealed in the last time.” If God is guarding our inheritance in heaven, then to assert that free will can lead one to lose his or her salvation seems to exalt the power of man and denigrate the power of God, not to mention what it means for Peter’s language describing the inheritance as “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” Those words seem to ring with an empty note if it is possible for human beings to give away their inheritance. No doubt, there are many additional implications for the denial of this doctrine, but these are a few of the most devastating consequences that show how crucial the doctrine of final perseverance is for Christian theology. If my reasoning is fully biblical, then it would seem that perseverance of the saints is anything but a tertiary matter. If the foundation crumbles, how can the building stand? Let us preach, teach, and defend this doctrine and demand it as critical winsomely, but without apology.

Response #18: 

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

We can discuss this if you like, but I have to tell you that I am not enamored of traditional theology and am loath to get into "logical discussions". In such cases, moreover, definitions can be a trap, and I fear you have fallen into that trap. What I mean is this: if "perseverance" means "all who are saved will persevere" then we have Calvinism; but if it means "all who are persevere will be saved", then we have the Bible. If predestination means "all whom God predestines to faith in Christ are saved", then we have Calvinism; but if it means "all believers in Christ are predestined to be saved", then we have the Bible. One could go on. I think beyond this perhaps you are not perceiving how "BIG" God is. This is admittedly difficult for us all, but we need to be pushing towards a greater understanding of His magnitude in all things with every passing day, rather than dumbing-down our theology because we can't understand (at first) the "logic" of how and why He is doing what He is doing and saying what He is saying in His Word. God is smart enough to know who would be saved and who would not before the fact and to ordain all that actually would/did/has/will happen in His decrees. So "elect" or any other description has to be understood from the end of things when history is over and all things have come to pass. The dilemmas you pose all ride on this favorite Calvinist "contradiction" as they see things. But they are not seeing things from God's "Big Picture" point of view. When we stand before Him, the elect will be elect and the unelect not. But for the moment we are in time and things are (seemingly to our viewpoint) in flux. That is necessary for free will and choice to continue. God is not unreliable. Heaven forbid! Calvinists are merely incapable of understanding what it means to have the image of God – the right and indeed the necessity of making moral choices as long as we are in this world.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
Mark 10:45 NKJV

Christ's work is sufficient to ransom all. Unbelievers have been paid for too, but they are not saved. So too in the case of those who were once believers. They do not benefit from the efficaciousness of Christ's sacrifice because they abandon it before they die and so are not believers any longer, and only believers are saved.

Your justification by faith argument runs the same way. But consider, we are "justified", yes by faith (Rom.3:28). But if we no longer have faith, we no longer have that justification:

[You believers] who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1st Peter 1:5 NKJV

But if faith is lost, so is salvation.

"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

You can argue with me, but the Lord is very clear in the passage above. Apologies, but this is a typical Calvinist problem, namely, ignoring scripture except where it seems (to a Calvinist) that there is some support for the theory; but preferring the theory. Calvinism is logical; it's just not theological.

You say, "if salvation can be lost, then the guarantee [of the Spirit] is meaningless". With all due respect, we are absolutely eternally secure . . . as long as we belong to Jesus Christ. And nothing can snatch us out of His hands. But we do have free will, and there are those who do not remain faithful to Him. After all, "He cannot deny Himself" if we were to prove unfaithful and reject Him, turning away from Him.

If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.
2nd Timothy 2:12-13 KJV

The promises of God cannot be broken. But they CAN be rejected – otherwise there is no free will, no image of God.

For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
Hebrews 3:16-19 NKJV

The Lord made many promises to the Exodus generation, He showed them many astounding miracles. He blessed them in every possible way. But did they enter the land? No. They rejected His promises and became a cautionary example to us all. It is very dangerous to assume that we can be as they were and do as they did and suffer no consequences. And I'm not talking about discipline here. The sin unto death is reserved for believers who defy the Lord yet without losing faith in Him. But for those who reject the Savior they once accepted, losing all faith and reverting to the status of unbeliever, "the end is worse than the beginning" (2Pet.2:20-22). Please see the link: Apostasy and the Sin unto Death.

Yes the Lord intervenes for us, prays for us, love us. But one thing He NEVER does: He never takes away our ability to choose. He doesn't want us to sin. But we sin. He wants us to devote ourselves to the truth. But we are less than diligent about doing so. His WILL is very clear on so many things; but we use ours to neglect and defy Him all the time. Of course we should not do so, and this ministry is dedicated to helping Christians follow Him better and more closely as we should. But hyper-Calvinism's heresy is that it eliminates the most important thing God has given us in this world: the image of God whereby we have the chance to believe in Him, believe in His truth, be saved as a result, and earn eternal rewards that glorify Him thereafter. Everything we are and are about in this world is really COMPLETELY about free will faith and the choices we make.

Holding onto your faith is no small thing and it is NOT automatic. In the soon to come Tribulation, one third of the Church will fall away into apostasy. They are believers now but they will cease to be under the pressures of that time and will follow antichrist instead. All who love the Lord ought to take pains to build up their faith, grow spiritually as much as possible before that day so as not to fall into that terrible trap. I can think of nothing worse than giving someone the false confidence that they have nothing to worry about when that is only true as long as they maintain their belief in Jesus Christ.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.
1st Timothy 4:1 NKJV

Yours in the dear Lord we love more than this world or anything in it.

Bob L.

Question #19:  

Good morning sir. Again, thank you for your legacy of giving prompt responses. I am so poor at doing that. I agree with everything you said sir and I'm glad to have in you and some other 'Fathers' people I can look to who stand In the Truth not just because they stubbornly chose to but because that is the Balance of scripture (Your Impressive CV in the original languages and your previous doctrinal persuasion helped to encourage me).

I sent the excerpt because there is a recent wave in the Nigerian Church especially among the youths that smells of hypercalvinism (most don't even know of John Calvin).

The proponents many times shame people into switching over based on the suggestion that those who hold contrary view are not following the logic of scripture and that they obviously do (they quote the Greek words extensively). So I have been looking for an equally solid logical and systematic counterargument so that I won't be seen to be ,merely impulsive...again your soteriology section has been of help!

This has really affected my commitment to my studies (medicine) for I often go back again into the archives to check and check again even though I am already convinced of my stand instead of reading my books.

Many naive (and not so naive youths) in my fellowship have embraced this wave and it bothers me...anyway thank u so much sir. And I like this: "Calvinism is logical but not scriptural". I practically got that inspiration during these days of inner struggles over this issue.

I still teach my soteriology from "all scriptures" without using complicated arguments and excessive Greek and I trust that is enough. Any other practical advice would be appreciated.
Thank you so much sir. God upholds you sir.

Response #19: 

I'm happy to hear that this was helpful.

I think that giving / teaching the gospel simply is the best idea (see the link: "Salvation: God's Free Gift").

Especially where unbelievers or even new believers are concerned, they really don't need an hour's dissertation on the problems of hyper-Calvinism. Debating people who are convinced of such things and wish to defend them is more of an apologetics ministry than it is evangelism or Bible teaching, and that is a special skill and to some degree for most a different calling entirely. If you are teaching the Bible, it seems to me that those coming to you to learn it need to bring along an ounce or two of humility and make themselves willing to listen.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20:  

Hi Bob,

I have a tendency where there's something I should be doing because it is rational, but I sabotage myself because my will won't cooperate, even though my conscious mind knows that it is what should be done.

I know that there is a tendency to blame people who self-sabotage saying "well, that's what they really wanted." Except for the fact that it's very rare when I can get the whole person to cooperate. The spirit is willing but the flesh prefers self-sabotage. And it's very dangerous because the conscious mind knows that this is what you need but for some reason won't cooperate. So your self-sabotaging will wins because you got out of doing something unpleasant but the result is that you're deprived of what you need.

I hope that as I grow I completely dominate this nasty aspect of myself, because it can result in me "ruining" a good opportunity or life because my will finds something good to be emotionally stressful.


Response #20: 

Life is all about choice. And choices – good ones – are not easy to make and even harder to follow through on consistently. That is why we are here in the world and that is what separates believers from unbelievers . . . and the crowned from the un-crowned when we stand before the Lord's judgment seat on that day of glory.

Confident that you are in the former category in each two groups.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #21:  

Am I condemned and there’s nothing I can do, just wait for any second to be cast in the lake of fire? I’ve lost the Holy Spirit.

Response #21: 

Let me assure you, my friend, that if believe in Jesus Christ, you are NOT lost:

(38) For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angelic nor human authorities, neither things present nor things to come, neither heavenly powers, (39) be they the highest [of the elect] or the lowest [of the fallen], nor any other created thing [on this earth] will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

Believers are all safe and secure in the Lord. As long as you maintain your faith in Jesus Christ, your salvation is assured, because only unbelievers are condemned, and they are condemned because they refuse Jesus Christ:

"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:18 NKJV

It is not uncommon for believers to become panicked about their spiritual status when things go wrong for whatever reason, but as we grow in the faith we learn that our salvation is not hanging by a thread. As long was we belong to Him, nothing can snatch us out of our dear Savior's hand:

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand."
John 10:28 NKJV

Gaining confidence, spiritual balance, and growing in faith, however, requires consistency in spiritual growth. So I do urge you to find a good source of Bible teaching and commence a serious program of learning the truth. Ichthys (this ministry) is one such place (I recommend beginning with the Peter series; see the link). I also highly recommend Pastor-teacher Curtis Omo's Bible Academy (at the link).

In our loving, forgiving, gracious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the One who died for all our sins that we might be saved.

Bob Luginbill

Question #22:  

I’ve read your extensive info on loss of the Holy Spirit. Please further help me if you can. I lost the Holy Spirit and live in constant terror, horror of the lake of fire-like I’m dead already. I did willfully sin against God for a time and made excuses to myself about the warnings the Spirit gave me. I know the multitude of verses abt continuing in sin and facing condemnation. I’ve lived alone for yrs on a desolate street, no neighbors, saw family maybe once a month, NOBODY. I know there’s no excuse to sin against God PERIOD, my circumstances were so extreme though. Alone for weeks at a time, recovering then from [terrible injuries and medical problems]. I didn’t know I was making myself an enemy of God. Felt alone and unloved until I received the Holy Spirit, I didn’t understand I only had a short time to stop sinning completely.

Response #22: 

Dear Friend,

When you say "I’ve read your extensive info on loss of the Holy Spirit", I think you must have me confused with someone else. All believers in Jesus Christ have the Holy Spirit from the moment they are saved and never lose the Holy Spirit as long as they are believers in Jesus Christ:

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
Romans 8:9 NKJV

Do you believe in Jesus Christ? If you do believe in Jesus Christ, then you are a believer in Jesus Christ, and all believers in Jesus Christ are saved and have the Spirit.

I do understand that emotions can make us FEEL differently. But the Christian life is not about the way we may feel; the Christian life is about faith overcoming how we feel, what we see, what we hear.

For we walk by faith, not by sight.
2nd Corinthians 5:7 NKJV

Trust me when I tell you that you are by far not the first Christian I have met who has been tormenting him/herself for some sin or sins committed. But what does the Bible say?

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9 NKJV

If your conscience is bothering you about any past sin, when you confess this to the Lord He will forgive you and restore you to complete fellowship with Himself.

Please understand: Jesus Christ has already died for every single sin of the entire human race. Sin is not the issue. Jesus Christ is the issue. When we first believed in Him, our sins were forgiven. If we sin thereafter, He forgives us and cleanses us when we confess. There is no such thing as a sin that cannot be forgiven. Please see the links:

Faith, Forgiveness, Salvation III

An Extended Conversation on the 'Unpardonable' Sin

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

Sin, Forgiveness, and Confession

Sin according to the Bible: Hamartiology I

If you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, the God-man who died for all of your sins on the cross, then you are a born again child of God who is beloved by Him. He loves you more than anything you might imagine. After all, He died for you. So please trust Him, confess whatever needs to be confessed, and set yourself to spiritual recovery through the truth, seeking the truth and believing it. That is the only way to the peace that is our heritage as those who belong to Jesus Christ.

"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
John 14:27 NKJV

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
John 16:33 NKJV

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L. 

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