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Salvation, the Gospel, and Unbelief IX

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Question #1: 

Dear Brother Bob, hope you are well.

Thanks for sharing the detailed information about the divine names. I just finished #20 in the 1st Peter series, and it is about the resurrection. As far as I could remember, I believe the Bible is true. But as we know in the Book of Acts, when Paul was talking about the resurrection of the dead, he had mixed reactions, and we get that today as well. I perceive you to be an expert in the Scriptures, and I do not know too much about your ministry and experience in evangelism. It has been one of my weaknesses in trying to defend what I believe. To many people outside the church, the resurrection of the dead, the virgin birth, and these supernatural events in the Bible sound like fables. I pause for a moment and wonder how does someone have the faith to believe what appears as nonsense? I want to become better at evangelism, and I am not too sure how to do that. What do you advise?

Love in Christ,

Response #1: 

There's a good deal more about the resurrection at this link in CT 6: "Last Things": "The Resurrection of the Lamb's Bride".

As to "But as we know in the Book of Acts, when Paul was talking about the resurrection of the dead, he had mixed reactions", I'm sure I have no idea what you are talking about here. Chapter fifteen of 1st Corinthians penned by Paul is where we get a good deal of our information about the subject of the resurrection, and of all those mentioned in the book of Acts, Paul's behavior and speech is the most consistent.

In any case, I wouldn't worry about what other people think. We are concerned with pleasing the Lord – period, over and out. If He is happy with us, then we are headed the right way; if He is not, then we need to change course. If everyone on planet earth is upset with us – but He is not – then I wouldn't change a thing. Our Lord also told us this:

"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces."
Matthew 7:6 NIV

Remember: it is the Holy Spirit who does the evangelizing. We just give the simple truth about Jesus Christ. If those listening reject that truth, they are not rejecting us but the Spirit, resisting His words, calling Him "a liar", blaspheming Him. And that is an unpardonable sin, namely, rejecting Jesus Christ, rejecting the gospel (link). It is not possible to have someone "be saved" by dint of rhetorical skill and clever argumentation. There is a place for such things in the public square, namely, the gift and ministry of apologetics. But such ministries serve as the prophets of old did to reprove unbelievers rather than, for the most part, to evangelize them.

And, after all, it really is all about faith – and faith is a choice; faith IS free will (I often call it "free will faith" for that reason). We have been given the image of God precisely so that we may choose whether or not to respond to the Lord, at salvation and, for believers, continuing to do so thereafter through spiritual growth – but in either case it's a matter of being willing to respond to the truth positively, believe it, embrace it, apply it.

Unbelievers CAN believe. Most of them just choose not to. They use their faith all the time. Look how many of them "believe" all the lies told about evolution and climate change and gender transitioning . . . and on and on and on. When a person hardens their heart to the truth, lies will inevitably come it. But if there is a spark of willingness in any human being to come to Jesus Christ, God in His great mercy and perfect plan has always provided the gospel and the right person to deliver it in each and every case. If we are that person, all we need to do is make the issue clear: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31).

Whether we give them a little or a lot, the Spirit is not hindered. He can deliver "whether by many or by few" (1Sam.14:6). If they believe, it is the Spirit they are believing and the truth He is making clear to them in their hearts, making use of us and our words as an instrument. So we need to take care to keep things simple and not go too far afield in such conversations. If we do choose to go down some rabbit hole of biblical truth (not that these are not valuable but we do have to remember that unbelievers are incapable of understanding any actual biblical truth EXCEPT for the gospel when the Spirit illuminates this in their hearts), we need to always quickly return the conversation to the main issue: "What think ye of Christ?" In so doing, we will be fulfilling our responsibilities in evangelism and giving the person the maximum opportunity to choose for the truth. But this is about them (their free will) and the Holy Spirit (He is the only One who can make the truth understandable to anyone) . . . NOT about us.

Here are some links to where this issue is discussed at Ichthys:

Evangelism in Principle and Practice I

Evangelism in Principle and Practice II

Atheism and Evangelism

Salvation, the Gospel, and Unbelief III

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Dear Brother Bob, hope you are well.

Thanks for your insight on learning Biblical Hebrew versus Biblical Greek. That is right, the mystery of Christ is revealed in the NT. I’ve been listening to sermons recently on the birth of Jesus. As I reflect upon this, I have taken a lot of classes in apologetics, I believe the Bible is true, and I fully believe the Gospel. However the virgin birth makes no sense to someone who does not believe the Bible is true. I have heard a lot of people say the Bible is full of fables. How can someone believe the virgin birth really happened?

Love in Christ,

Response #2: 

I dare say that many unbelievers today are materialists, and materialists have a hard time believing anything which is supernatural.

By faith we understand that the ages have been constructed by the Word of God, so that what we see (i.e., the material world) has not come into being from the things presently visible.
Hebrews 11:3

To unbelievers, the above is "nuts"; but that is only because they have hardened their hearts to the truth which otherwise shouts deafeningly loud at them from everything in God's creation. How do you explain and understand a butterfly and its life-cycle absent a Creator? Implausible theories must be invented to do so (and in fact of course have been), theories which are nonsensical on their face, empirically unprovable by "science", and take a good deal more faith to believe than the truth does.

If a person believes in God, then nothing the Bible says should be a problem – as long as the God one believes in is the real GOD. My God is smart enough, big enough, and powerful enough to do anything He chooses to do. But for those who don't believe in God – and that means only those who have blotted out the "eternity in the heart" of the image of God all are given at birth so as to believe lies instead (Eccl.3:11; cf. Rom.1:18-32) – well, there is no point trying to convince them because they have already thrown in their lot with the Adversary.

Here's a good link on this:

Phase one hardening of the heart (in BB 4B).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Thanks Doc. You see, I've of late been having growing doubts about what Scripture says on certain matters. I mean, now that I look at it, it seems to make so many assumptions about people that it applies universally. And the whole thing about the inside of the earth actually being filled with the various underworlds or whatever and not an actual core like everyone else believes? That's not quite flat earth level of absurd, but it comes a bit too close to that level for comfort! I mean, I'm no stranger to rejecting what the scientific community says on major matters (darwinian evolution is the big one), so perhaps this isn't actually a big deal, but the former issue...why I've been having trouble with it is because you say no matter what someone has been through, there can be no sympathy for them if they go to Hell and we should not feel bad for them whatsoever, at least that's what I'm getting from your texts. I get the idea that they would reject Jesus if given even thousands of years to live, and that they had every resource needed to find the truth of Him, but I can't help but feel absolutely livid at this teaching and have some sense of remorse for their passing into the bad side of eternity. I really hope that like other times I'm just misunderstanding what you say. I don't know why I'm having doubts, maybe it'll turn out I just truly love my sin more than anything, to the point I'll fight against and even try to replace true justice and righteousness in my heart with my own ideal of what it should be...but is that not the very heart of Satan's initial rebellion? I even feel angry at times that not following God means following Satan, that there's no in between. I would literally rather die a slow, agonizing death than know I'm following the devil, but I'm having a lot of trouble believing the Bible as of late too...but I guess that's just the way things are, and you need to take what you can get. Please if you're willing try to teach me again, I don't know why I have so much trouble with this, knowing deep down that it's all the only way it could be, the only way that could ever be right...maybe it's just my desire at times to be freed from this ministry's teachings and it's affiliates, to find it to be proven fraudulent and to find that one that offers more "freedom" is more true. I know deep down that will never be the case, but it's a thought that pops up every once in a while.

Response #3: 

As to "[the Bible] seems to make so many assumptions about people that it applies universally", I'm sure I don't know what you mean, not, that is, if you are talking about statements that are not patently obvious. What such biblical generalizations can you put forward that you do not see are absolutely true?

As to "the inside of the earth actually being filled with the various underworlds", you are misinformed about what the Bible says. The underworld (Hades), like the third heaven (where the Father and the Son and departed believers are) is not "of this kosmos" (Heb.9:11); that is to say, it is not MATERIAL (link: "The biblical 'geography' of heaven and hell"). Science doesn't believe in angels either . . . because they cannot be empirically observed. That is because they are not MATERIAL. Neither is your human spirit. But you have one. Of course science, evolutionary science, doesn't even believe in free will. So you can either believe science – which is patently wrong about all these important questions as you know for an absolute fact in your heart of hearts – or you can believe the Bible which is never ever wrong (correctly interpreted and understood). But doubting scripture because it doesn't comport with "what everyone else believes" is not a very wise or courageous approach.

As to "we should not feel bad for them", what we "feel" doesn't matter. What matters is what we decide and what they decide. We are all here to make decisions. If we feel bad that others spit in God's face after He sacrificed His beloved Son for them and then reap the consequences, that is neither here nor there. Feel what you want. But the truth is the truth. If your feelings lead you to reject God and His justice as a result, well, that is exactly what the devil and his followers did and are doing – and we know how that turns out.

"Is that not the very heart of Satan's initial rebellion?" Indeed it is.

"I'm having a lot of trouble believing the Bible as of late . . .". Why is that? What you believe is a choice. If you are "having trouble" because you don't like what the Bible is telling you, we have all been there. Every human being is imperfect. We all have tics and flaws and areas of weakness. The Bible cuts us to the quick, exposes these, and makes it clear that we are in the wrong (Heb.4:12). This is good. This is healthy. We need to learn to accept the reproach of the Word, take it to heart, repent, confess and move forward with a better approach whenever we are convicted in this way (Jas.4:7-10). Bumping along with repeatedly making the same mistakes slows down our growth. But rejecting the truth because we don't like it is exactly where the unbelieving world is – exactly where the devil is. Rejecting the truth for any reason is quenching the Spirit, grieving the Spirit. Done to the final end of rejecting the gospel so as not to believe in the first place or reject Christ after being saved is blaspheming the Spirit. And that is the one unforgivable sin (link).

In terms of freedom, yours is absolute. You came to this ministry; not the other way around. You could stop reading it and never have anything further to do with it starting immediately. I have received nothing from you and you owe me no obligation. This ministry is designed to provide the truth of the Word of God – straight and true – for any and all who thirst for the truth, and to do so on a strictly grace basis where complete anonymity is also entirely possible: I only know about you because you email me.

On the other hand, there are plenty of ministries out there, plenty of denominations, churches, religions and cults who will tell you exactly what you want to hear and who will validate whatever it is you want to do and call it "holy". This will be a hallmark of the beast's universal religion which welcomes in all of the above (link).

There are plenty of people out there willing to lie to you.

I am not one of them.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Hi Dr L,

Well I took two days off dailies, and I always feel guilty. I do study Greek, but I worry if I am not doing it enough to actually learn it and will feel like I sold my life for something that didn't pan out. Okay that was a bit dramatic but you get the idea. I guess it is the best option out of what I have. I really appreciate ICHTHYS because sometimes I feel like it is the end goal (I mean the information) I would have wanted.

There are a few conservative commentators that I like to listen to/watch every so often because of their perspective and knowledge, and there was a thing that happened that was like that sort-of guy oriented talk (can't word it right) and it was really, really great. There is this woman who goes on and on about how bad women and marriage are, and made the mistake of going after some of them (the male commentators all work for the same company). They are all married young when poor, and are now rich with lots of kids (still married) nearing their 40s by the way. And their response is, I don't even know how to describe it. They saw right through any emotional manipulation or verbal tactics and shot at the point. And in an inspiring way. So she said a number of things against them, and to paraphrase they basically said, "it is a man's job to take risks, to take responsibility, that is the only path to happiness for men, and anyone selling you this pitying victim mentality is after your destruction." My paraphrase is not as good as what they said. But as a woman, that is very inspiring to me too. I just admire this ability.

Anyway, and another one was giving a political speech, and I am not into politics (just that conservatives tend to have religious speakers too-I listen because of their more general lifestyle and cultural takes too-but anyway...), but at the end, he basically said 'you don't complain, you don't whine, you win.'

I whine too much too, and it doesn't help. When I have been going on too long it may be a good line for me too.

Response #4: 

On telling people to "suck it up", that is all well and good. And I do agree that there is way too much whining and complaining in the world where whiners ought indeed just "suck it up" and go get a job. But it is also true, when it comes to the "great success" these "winners" are patting themselves on the back for, that they have been given advantages in many cases that others have not. E.g., Bill Gates' mother was very rich and well-connected, and the things he pulled off early on wouldn't have been possible for the average person, e.g. More importantly, there is this:

I returned and saw under the sun that—
The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all.
Ecclesiastes 9:11 NKJV

In other words, God blesses one unbeliever in material ways but not another, even if both are expending the exact same effort. God does this so that people with eyes in their head will see that things in this world are not really in their control as these "winners" whom God has blessed want to claim. Did they work hard? Many people work hard. Not all end up winning the lottery, so to speak. Everything in this life happens for a reason:

(24) The God who made the world and everything in it, He is Lord of heaven and earth. He does not dwell in man-made temples, (25) nor is he waited on by human hands, as if He needed anything from us. He is the One who gives us all life and breath and everything else. (26) From one man he created all the nations of mankind – that they should come to inhabit the whole face of the earth. He fixed and determined the specific times and extent of their habitations, (27) to the end that they should seek out this God, that they might go in search of Him and so might find Him – for He is not far off from any one of us.
Acts 17:24-27

So it's always a shame when people who have been blessed fail to appreciate the source of their blessing. They wouldn't have anything – not even life and breath – without the Lord. So if all this blessing didn't end up causing them to seek the Lord so as to be saved, these winners really are the biggest losers of all.

"For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works."
Matthew 16:26-27 NKJV

We who have thrown in our lot entirely with the Lord Jesus Christ are not overly concerned with any of these earthly matters, because we are looking forward to our reward and ordering our lives to maximize it by doing all to please Him.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV

Re: "I really appreciate ICHTHYS because sometimes I feel like it is the end goal (I mean the information) I would have wanted." Thank you!!! That means a great deal to me, my friend.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

I do see what you are saying. But it is also true there are verses about how you should put forth effort in Proverbs, and that sometimes one's success (or lack of) is because of one's effort/lack of. But what you said paints the overall picture. There are also verses like Jeremiah 45:5, where it shows sometimes there are just periods of difficulty regardless of what work/effort someone puts forth.

And one thing I noticed about Job is that he was very, very rich. But he doesn't talk at all about his accomplishments or what he put in to get that wealth (and does credit his wealth to God), like some people do. And one of the main reasons he misses it is because of all the charitable things he could do.

And there is one line where he says he was careful to listen to the complaints of his servants. I think a lot of conservative would go overboard telling the underlings to get over it sometimes.

Response #5: 

No worries, my friend. I keep your job in my prayers daily.

And, yes, we are supposed to work hard. Christians are especially supposed to provide a good witness by being conscientious in what they do (1Pet.2:18; see the link). But not everyone who works hard "wins" in the material way these (ungrateful and arrogant) individuals suggest is always possible. If God had willed it otherwise, they might well have ended up homeless, even though they were willing to work hard. Obviously, working hard will make that sort of eventuality a lot less likely and will instead provide opportunities most of the time, but this is the only lens through which unbelievers see the world. We believers know that the Lord is in charge of all things. So on the one hand, we will be persecuted on His behalf and will thus potentially be suffering while unbelievers like these individuals are not – because the devil promotes his own but opposes believers. On the other hand, we also know – and keep it close to our heart – that the Lord is OUR Shepherd so that, in the end, "we cannot want" for anything we need. We just need to keep "waiting on Him".

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.
Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!
Psalm 27:13-14 NKJV

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Thank you Doc. Do you truly think I'm just unwilling to get going spiritually, that I simply want all these bad things?

Another question, I want to forgive those who harmed me both so I can be at peace and so I can be forgiven when I confess...i highly doubt it's just a "do it" thing like you say, with how much I still struggle to truly let go of what they did in any way.

Response #6: 

On willingness, I find this in scripture:

. . . for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Philippians 2:13 NKJV

This means that the Spirit will help us to be willing also – if we are at all "willing to be willing". Most people are not. But we do control our will, the image of God we have been given. We do have to choose to act and then act, and it isn't as if that's not a struggle. That is true of all good things in life, such as getting to work on time, being consistent about exercise, learning a language, etc., etc. No one is perfect at this sort of discipline and some are better at it than others, but we all CAN do whatever reasonable things we really are wanting to do. God helps us, He meets us much more than half way, but there has to be something coming from us as well.

As to forgiveness, here's something else I read in the Bible:

"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
Matthew 6:14-15 NKJV

Anyone with the least fear of God when reading the above ought to be terrified at the prospect of leaving any "non-forgiveness" in their wake . . . because we all absolutely need God's forgiveness of our own sins, daily (1Jn.1:9).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Doc, to live is Christ, to die is gain is what I often tell myself so that I don't fear death...because really death is just the Lord calling us home right? Even when we lose everything in this world by dying, death has lost its sting because even the next world will be so much better than this one. You know about streaming services? Those apps on your phone or game system that can let you watch countless shows and movies just for a monthly fee? There are ones for video games too, and I have one with hundreds of critically and commercially acclaimed games...the smallest reward will be better than all the games, movies and shows on any of these combined right? That's why I pray for others, not only so these people might be saved or be delivered from their troubles but also so I can be rewarded with what I can only imagine to be something far better than all my favorite games and shows. Please pray I'll trust in the Lord so He can help me get better at all this.

Response #7:

It does my heart good to hear this from you.

I do keep you in my prayers every day, my friend.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Thanks for correcting me again Doc on the issue of having no sympathy for those who go to hell and what your site actually teaches. I've been reading Ichthys between the posting of my last email and reading this one, and pretty much got all that in this message from it. Whenever I get riled up into a rebellious streak like this, reading your site always humbles and calms me down. Any tips for forming a proper habit of reading good teaching and the Bible, and not being distracted by other things? After a few hours of reading your site my conscience was already much more attuned to the vulgarity of the media I usually enjoy, and I couldn't even stand to consume it for long. I keep saying I'm sorry for these kinds of outbursts, but really it's no one's fault but my own that I do such things. Anyway I hope you have a good week next week, and God bless.

Response #8: 

No worries, my friend.

It's not a problem to be sympathetic for the lost. That is appropriate. God wants all to be saved (1Tim.2:4); Jesus died for all (2Cor.5:14-15). Hell is awful to contemplate. Not wishing that on our worst enemies is an appropriate stance. And in fact this is the motive behind many going into missions: if you really DO care, then that is motivation to try and do something about it.

So the question is, what one does with one's "sympathy". If it causes a person to engage in missions and evangelism/witnessing, well and good. If it causes a person to doubt or blame God because of these truths, then that "sympathy" is really arrogance – and that is the devil's original sin.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hey Professor,

I also wanted to ask you a "brief" question about how we might refute the T in TULIP, "total depravity". I'm trying to think this through. As you probably know, the argument goes that we are totally depraved after Adam's sin and therefore can't make a choice for God without His direct intervention. How do we debunk this?

I'm wondering if there is any distinction between will and choice at all. What I mean is that some may argue that God furthers His will of saving believers by restricting our choice after we believe even though we might WILL to abandon the faith. This is obviously a justification for eternal security, and I know it's wrong, but I'm wondering if the answer lies in the fact that God doesn't limit our will even though we can't obviously do certain things, like fly. Like, OSAS people would say that because we might have "a will" to fly and yet can't do it, that means that God restricts our choice by not actually giving us the ability to do it, even though He doesn't remove our WILL to fly. But I think they might be mis-understanding why we have free-will in the first place, namely to trust in Christ and follow him. Not being able to fly is just one of the restrictions he places on us humans in the physical realm. If anything, the lack of an ability to fly might just be another reason to accept the fact that we can't do everything and need God.

This leads me to think about why each individual life must be lived out, so that we can have a bona fide opportunity to believe. Could you elaborate on this? I'm sorta anticipating the argument that God doesn't need to give us the ABILITY to choose for Him if he knew that we wouldn't.

I hope this isn't too confusing.


Response #9: 

First, it's not my gift or primary "job" to be debunking false positions except when I'm involved in trying to rescue believers who are being swamped by them – and this purpose will then guide my response.

When it comes to our ability to choose for the truth, I don't think the physical limitations objection makes much sense because we are talking about the ability to choose for God . . . or not . . . in Jesus Christ which is entirely spiritual and not physical (and the Holy Spirit overrides all physical barriers in the process thus solving any "epistemological dilemma"; see the link).

As to choosing, we certainly do have that ability. That is what the image of God is. Anyone who dissents from the principle would need to explain the image of God. If it is not to make free-will decisions in faith, or not, what is it? It's certainly not a physical thing. Choice is the similarity – even though of course our choosing is exponentially inferior to His decreeing, and all we can do is choose to say "yes!" or "no!" to His truth.

At the heart of hyper-Calvinism's mistakes is the inability to understand that free will is not incompatible with foreordination, just the opposite. The fact of the divine decrees does not make actual free will choice impossible; rather, choice would be impossible without it since nothing could ever exist in the first place without the plan of God: we couldn't choose unless God gave us that ability, the image of God.

As to "bona fide choice", God wants all to be saved; Christ died for all; God is completely fair and just and could not be otherwise; therefore everyone has enough of a chance to be saved and to demonstrate their true heart (those who die before having the chance to choose are automatically saved). No scripture suggests otherwise. No human experience can stand in the balance against what we know by faith.

As to "God doesn't need to give us the ABILITY to choose for Him if he knew that we wouldn't", that is the mercy and justice of God: He even gave those whom He knew ahead of time would reject His Son the same chance; in fact, Christ died for all of their sins. If He had not, how could the choice have been a genuine one?

Re: "I hope this isn't too confusing." It's only confusing for those who refuse to accept the very simple truth of a God big enough and smart enough and fair enough to know what we would choose and give all the genuine free-will chance to choose for Christ in spite of the rejection He knew that most would proffer.

When you engage with the confused, have a care that you don't get confused yourself. That's just one reason why I shy away from apologetics (which is what this is).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Dr. Luginbill,

I understand what you’re saying. I think I basically figured out an answer to my question. My conclusion is that if unbelievers don’t have the genuine ability to choose for God at any time, it really wouldn’t be a choice at all, since there’s no positive option to respond to God. If that’s the case, ultimately God would be the one doing the evil through the unbelievers, and we know that’s wrong, even though people don’t realize they’re arguing this.

Finally, what’s ironic is that Calvinists essentially argue that God in His omnipotence saves people (not really based on free-will), while in reality they’re implying that God can’t incorporate free-will choices into his plan (thereby insinuating that he’s really not omnipotent).


Response #10: 

Good reasoning – and an excellent observation about hyper-Calvinist inconsistency on this point.

N.b., this is some of the sort of stuff you'll have to put up with in seminary, that is, professors and fellow seminarians accepting by tradition things that are not in the Bible and which make no sense.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Hey Bob! So nice to hear from you. Much has changed. I've learned a lot since we last corresponded. In the last few years I've become disconnected to the Christian religion. It seems to be confused at best; teaching doctrines of demons.

Moreover, I don't see that Peter's writings have dealings with me directly, Hebrews either. Helpful to know and study, but such a different calling.

As a member of the body of Christ, my apostle is Paul. I am tasked with proclaiming a different message; that through the faithfulness of Christ on the cross, God is conciliated to the world. God couldn't he happier with the world, it's the world that has an issue. Be conciliated to God!

The old humanity was put to death. We were baptized into His death although almost no one realizes this. I'm not sure the twelve understood even 20% of what Paul was talking about. There's nothing for me to do but be grateful and tell others. The ones predestined for aionian life will hear and believe that the Son of God saved creation on the cross. If now's not the time, it's ok. Everything goes back to God eventually.

My part is in the celestials. Running the earth with Israel isn't my mission.

Forever grateful for you.

Grace and peace

Response #11: 

First, thanks so much for your encouraging remarks. However, I do feel the need to respond to some of the things you say here.

When you mention "the Christian religion", I assume you mean the church-visible, and I would certainly agree that there's not much teaching of the truth or spiritual growth going on therein.

Re: "As a member of the body of Christ, my apostle is Paul". Here's what Paul said about that:

Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?
1st Corinthians 1:10-13 NKJV

So it seems clear to me that Paul would be unhappy with that distinction. Also, there is no doubt that Paul wrote Hebrews, and that it is his greatest epistle, so I wouldn't recommend taking that off your reading list (Hebrews intro has this info at the link: "Who wrote Hebews?").

Also, when you say, "God couldn't be happier with the world", I'm not sure what you mean by that. The world is going to be entirely destroyed in the end because of its sinfulness. If you are thinking of 2nd Corinthians 5:19, "the world" are human beings, and indeed, God was/is "reconciling the world" to Himself in Christ as Paul says in the Spirit, which means, as we can see from the rest of the verse and chapter, judging all sins in Christ and giving the world the good news. But as you say, "be reconciled!" is something people need to do: with free will they choose for Christ; that is how we appropriate the peace that God offers us in Jesus Christ. Salvation is not universal or automatic.  It has to be accepted through faith – otherwise there is no point in any of this life we're living down here . . . and there is every point in all of it, especially for those who believe in Jesus.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #12: 

You are a kind man. I know we disagree on much of what I wrote. I believed the same as you at one time. The first real light I had was realizing there is no free will. God makes that perfectly clear. The ninth of Romans is designed to destroy the idea that the clay wields sway over the Potter. I know you teach greek, and I know you already know this but humor me here. Who has resisted His will/intent? Rom9:19. Sure, we resist His will/desire but no one can resist His intent, no one! In fact, sometimes, by resisting His stated will we are fulfilling His intent; see Adam, Joseph, Samson, Pharoah.... see the Cross (Acts 2:23). All is of God. Salvation is of God. It's all Him and His Christ. It's all for His glory through the Son. I'd like to continue our discussion but if you don't respond, I will always have great respect for you.

Response #12: 

Passing over the fact that we are all conscious of the free will choices we make daily, I've read this passage many times in Greek and don't see it the same way. As even you admit, people do resist His will, and resistance is a choice. The fact that everything has been planned and perfectly and completely so, and that everything is working out precisely as planned to the most unknowable degree, has been taken by some (hyper-Calvinists, often) to mean that there is no free will. But that really is selling God short. Our God is SO great that He was capable of giving us free will, knowing ahead of time exactly what we would choose, then putting that all into the perfect plan. He knew what we would choose to be and made us accordingly. And if we had chosen something else He would have made us according to those choices. The fact that He knew those choices ahead of time – could not, in fact, not know them – and arranged the plan to take them into full consideration does not negate the fact that our choices are real and important. In fact it validates them.

How important is free will? Just look to the cross. If there were no need for free will choice, then God could have avoided the ineffable sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God could easily have made angels with no opportunity to sin or rebel, and He certainly could have made us the same way. He didn't in that case have to put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden. Indeed, He could have made Adam and Eve and all the rest of us with perfect resurrection bodies from the start. We could have started in New Jerusalem. So why all this? Why did Jesus have to die for the sins of the world?

If we had been made without the possibility of sin, without the need to repent and return – if we desired to do so, then how would things be different in New Jerusalem? Only one difference. Those who worship Him forever will be those who CHOSE to do so; those cast out are those who CHOSE not to be with Him forever. THAT is what "all this" is about.

Saying that our choices don't matter is thus at its foundation an offense to the cross of Jesus Christ . . . because there was no need for Christ to die if we really don't have any free will in the first place. But the devil DID choose to rebel. And mankind is the answer to his defection. Adam and Eve DID choose to sin, and that made the cross necessary for any to be saved. And Jesus Christ most certainly DID pay for all of our sins in the darkness on the cross. And THAT is what empowers our free-will-faith choice to return to God through believing in Him. THAT is the gospel, and all others are of the evil one. As Paul makes quite clear . . .

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
Galatians 1:6-9 NIV

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #13: 

Dear Bob,

I thank you so much for responding. Perhaps we will continue to disagree, but this is part of the story. The concern with the expression "free will" isn't the word "will". We all have a will no doubt. The word "free" implies an occasion of choice without influence from without. None of us has this. Every man would be a god as such. We are engulfed in limitations. Your parents, your country of nationality, even the time in which you were born greatly influence all your "choices". Not even the ancient pagans rose to such an absurdity as every man having free will.

God is the placer and subjector alone. In this time of general apostasy, free will has become the idol of choice. Man has been duped via doctrines of demons to believe that his mental assent to a fact affects it's reality; effectively making the creature his own savior. The cross is a fact whether you believe it or not. A fact must be true in order for it to be rightly believed. You know it was the faith of Christ that did the job. He believed His Father. Our faith in a done deal doesn't change what happened. His faith is the engine, not ours.

Paul's message wasn't the same as the other apostles. You must have questions deep down about this. Justification by faith? The death of the old humanity? A new creation? No one else talked about these things. The believers in Paul's gospel have had the consummations of the eons brought to them. 1 Cor 10:11. This truth is well beyond the program with Israel. It is our only glimpse beyond the the heavens and third earth, when God becomes All in All.

You had written "otherwise there is no point in any of this". That is the big question... the WHY? The answer is simple: For all creation to come into loving subjection to God; for Him to become All in All (1 Cor 15:28) and we actually appreciate and glorify Him for it (Phl 2:11) through Christ.

Our God is not a codependent deity that won't love us if we don't love Him. This is the petty, false god of the religious. It is the knowledge of good and evil that starts the journey toward truth. Adam had no appreciation of God or Eden until it was gone. God planned what appears to be a catastrophe in order to reveal Himself. We must not believe God ever once lost control or was fooled, otherwise we make God a sinner.

Man could never appreciate who He is without this experience of evil, sin, and death. The good news is God had a cure before the disease. (Rev 13:8). Of course He planned it! Light has meaning against the contrast of darkness. This is how we learn. This is how we are being made in His image. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. 1 Tim:1:15. Surely you'll agree the Son of God didn't need our cooperation. He was a successful Savior and the ones given faith in Him were predestined to have a special salvation in advance of the rest, aionian life. 1 Tim 4:10. For freedom Christ frees us. The majority are locked up in stubbornness now Rom 11:32 but they will be released eventually. Rom 8:21

To your point about God knowing what we would choose. This is an old argument that still makes God a reactionary character looking down the telescope of time. This is no god at all.

In love,

Response #13: 

Re: "Paul's message wasn't the same as the other apostles." One thing I can tell you for sure is that if you don't accept that the Bible is God's Word, you've just made yourself a pawn of the devil. I have been studying scripture diligently in the original languages most of my adult life and I can also tell you unequivocally that there is no difference in the truth of the Old Testament, the gospels, and the epistles (link: BB 7). It's all completely consistent – rightly understood. Every cult I know of throws out some of the Bible or adds other things to it. That disqualifies any such person or group from serious consideration in regards to discussions of the truth.

"For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Revelation 22:18-19 NKJV

Further, if you are attributing all human and angelic choice to God, you have accused Him of being the author of sin. It's either us or Him who chose/chooses to do wrong . . . and it can't be Him. So about this Paul remonstrates with you for misrepresenting him, not me.

And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.
Romans 3:8 NKJV

Re: "The word "free" implies an occasion of choice without influence from without." Not necessarily at all. We wouldn't have the ability to choose in the first place unless God gave it to us. The fact that we do not have the power to create a universe for ourselves entirely on our own terms (this is essentially what the devil wanted) does not mean that we cannot be or have not been entrusted with THE decision: to worship God on His terms or not. Indeed we can because indeed we have been. If we don't like the terms, we are like the pot arguing with the Potter. That is the real meaning of that passage, not that we don't have a choice but that some don't want to accept the choice we've been given and the terms upon which it must be made . . . which is what you seem to me to be struggling against for some reason.

In terms of your characterizations of what responding to God in faith through Jesus Christ must look like or why saying, as the Bible says, that we must believe, is somehow denigrating God, I am confident that no reader of Ichthys would recognize any of this (cf. the implied criticism that the teaching of this ministry have to do with Israel rather than heaven, e.g.). This philosophy of yours may seem to be internally consistent to you but I assure you that it does not jibe with scripture.

I also have to confess that nothing in our past correspondence prepared me for anything like this coming from you. To tell you the truth, it sounds downright Gnostic in many respects. So I have to ask you, you didn't "invent" all this stuff yourself, did you? Where did you get these ideas? Or as Paul would say . . .

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?
Galatians 5:7 NKJV

So you have me at a disadvantage. My antecedents and CV are online for all to see, and the teaching of this ministry is very clearly set out throughout. What group are you now associated with? Please put your cards on the table. That's a necessary precondition of any further correspondence on this topic.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #14: 


Response #14: 

So this philosophy/theology/theosophy you are preaching sprang full-formed from your own head (as in the classical exemplum) without any antecedents whatsoever? That is a little hard to accept.

I could go into the many inconsistencies and inaccuracies here (e.g. Is.45:7 is speaking about judgment; otherwise, "God is light and there is no darkness in Him": 1Jn.1:5), but I don't think there's much profit in that since if you don't accept scripture as the final authority all biblical discussion is fruitless.

My main concern is with your salvation. If I am reading this correctly, you are saying that Jesus Christ is man but not God? I don't know how anyone who rejects His deity can be born again / born from above.

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They said to Him, “The Son of David.” He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool” ’ ? “If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?”
Matthew 22:41-45 NKJV

Answer: only because the Messiah is God become man.

In Jesus Christ, "My Lord and My God" (Jn.20:28)

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Sorry if I may have asked before, but does this invalidate the salvation of the people I mentioned though, those who decided to believe and be saved because they were convinced of the Bible being true via apologetical logic? I mean i understand the concern, but if they decided to seek out God because of that, and then put their faith in Christ according to what the Gospel says, surely that means they're saved too right?

Also, just how "transcendent" is God? Some people seem to be in a lot of error on this, some downplaying just how much greater He is than us and this entire creation, and others funnily enough making Him somehow bigger than I'm sure He is from your teachings. Let me explain. So apparently there are gods in other religions, mainly Hinduism is the one I know of, who are supposed to completely transcend and be absolutely outside of certain basic concepts. The highest ones in Hindu teachings even transcend the idea of duality and every idea that involves it.

Some people apparently, and I would imagine either from erroneously taking in influence from Hinduism and/or Buddhism which has a similar idea with Nirvana, or trying to one-up these false religions, say God just straight up transcends all concepts of everything anyone could ever imagine...now not only is that factually a very New Age teaching, and I know because I've heard a lot of garbage out of that cult, but it doesn't make sense Biblically either. This would require that He's above and completely outside of justice, mercy, love, and other important things that the Bible clearly says He embodies.

What do you think of this Doc? Where do you think the right balance is in all this, if it's even possible to get much of an idea?

Response #15: 

On the first question, all believers in Jesus Christ are saved; only those who refuse to believe in Him (most of the world) are not 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

If we have a hard time distinguishing, God does not (cf. 2Tim.2:19).

On question #2, the Bible doesn't use that word nor is it, in my humble opinion, profitable to compare truth to religion of any sort (i.e., antichrist will bring all religions together but will seek to eradicate biblical Christianity; link). God, existing outside of time and space created time and space in an instant with no effort. God ordained every single event in the entirety of creation. I reckon we have no way of even imagining how "big" He is. We can get some idea of how loving He is, however, through the cross. God IS love, and nothing proves that more conclusively than His sacrifice of His Son for the sins of the entire world.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

Why must I be so attracted, so loving of evil things? I'm not talking about bizarre temptations here but the love of pleasure. I know a short life of pleasure now isn't worth an eternity of suffering, but I feel like I don't want a short life of suffering even if it means an eternity of happiness. Please pray for me...if you don't I truly might not make it to Heaven. [omitted]

Response #16: 

Attraction is the result of having a sin nature – and also having responded to it over time so as to form what are essentially addictions. We all have sin in the body, and we are all attracted to sinful things. It's only that we are all a bit different with different mixes of things that tempt us personally, more for A than B for you or me but more for B and maybe even C for someone else – and the whole alphabet is insufficient to express the different temptations to sin and evil in this life and their variations. When we indulge these temptations, we break down natural resistance, defiling the conscience we were born with, and, in the case of believers, the clean slate we were given upon salvation.

The good news is that for believers, through getting serious about listening to the Spirit, through spiritual renewal by means of confession, repentance, Bible reading, Bible study from a good source, determination to walk in sanctification and to stay away from all that is sinful and evil, recovery IS indeed possible. Wherever we start from, we can make progress day by day. But we DO have to "own it". So instead of asking "why is this so hard?" . . . which suggests that it is impossible when it is NOT impossible . . . we should be owning up to our mistakes, confessing them and repenting of them, and then be getting back into the fight.

It can be done, but we are the ones who have to do it – with God's help. Prayer does not cancel out free will.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Thanks Doc, [omitted] it was foolish really to think He could be inconsistent like that. I really do need to read the Bible more...

Response #17:

No worries.

We could ALL stand to read the Bible more – also more of Ichthys.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #18: 

Hi Robert. I am still reading and getting good Bible study, Ichthys, Tim Keller, Thru the Bible, etc. I am still having a problem with KNOWING my sins after knowing light have been forgiven by Christ. I know God is absolutely trustworthy and His promises are sure. Hebrews talks about unbelief and holding fast to confidence. I read in Berkhoffs Systematic Theology that saving faith always has a confident, sure, unwavering belief that you are secure and safe because your sins are forgiven and that saving faith is impossible to create on your own. It is a gift from God. All other faith is either, historical, temporary or dead.

Could it be that I don't have that confidence because God has not granted me saving faith? Perhaps I sinned to the point where He is unwilling to grant it. Also, apparently I never had it or would never have been able to commit the sins I did. I may only have had common grace? I am confused

I know and believe God is not lying, incapable of lying, with promises like 1 John 1:9 and John 6:37 and "all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved".

This is really causing doubt. I do not have unbelief in regards to Jesus or the Gospel promises in Christ but I am doubting because of confusion over the above.

The Systematic Theology also says saving faith is a personal trust in Christ as Saviour and Lord (obviously). It is the assured trust of the sinner that ALL his sins are pardoned for the sake of Christ. I have a hard time believing that sentence to the point where I have that confident assurance, in regards to the volume of sin I committed following light How can I know for certain God is still willing to be my sin taker? Sorry, but really, really confused on this point about saving faith. If I don't have that confident assurance, maybe I'm not saved. Maybe I'm not elect. Doesn't that mean a lack of faith/belief in Jesus for the forgiveness of all my sins? Isn't that what Hebrews is talking about? How do I / can I / get beyond this

I'm sorry Robert, I really am. Please forgive me but I am really worried and scared over this. I desperately want God to be first in my life and truly am sorry to God for sinning against Him and his goodness and kindness toward me. I despise my past sins and don't want to even think about them. I really want to be His disciple and truly KNOW Him but I am not sure that is available to me anymore.

Response #18: 

Salvation is through faith by grace (Eph.2:8-9). It's a matter of trust, not knowledge.

If you start reading systematic theologies you are likely going to end up "on the rocks" for many reasons. Traditional theology has little enough to do with the truth – it's more like philosophy, arguing unbiblical things from presumptions which it itself has created – and systematic treatments are often the worst. I have this book you mention. I've never gotten anything good out of it.

Case in point is the passage that lies behind the misleading and dangerous false information that has troubled you:

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

The gift, as should be obvious to any reader of the Greek text, is SALVATION. It is only hyper-Calvinists (like Berkhoff) who want to make "faith" the gift because that suits their misguided view of predestination (n.b., that doesn't work with the grammar because faith is feminine and "this" is neuter).

We are here on earth to make choices. Christ died for all (atonement is unlimited: link); anyone can be saved – it's a matter of choice, of trust, of faith which all who have the image of God possess (link).

I think if you would determine to read through the Basics series (link) and leave off that other stuff, you would find your confidence in the Lord growing. That is a matter of believing the truth, one bit of truth at a time.

The Lord loves you. You have been forgiven all your sins whenever you confess (as we should all do daily with the Lord's prayer at the very least). So there is nothing to worry about on this score. But it is true that confidence and joy and peace are not automatic; they take spiritual growth. And there's only one way to grow: through hearing and believing the truth. Feeding your heart bad spiritual food is not going to help.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #19: 

So I will start the basics series again

How can I know for certain that God is still willing to forgive my sins in Jesus?

Thanks Robert

Response #19: 

"How can I know for certain that God is still willing to forgive my sins in Jesus?

Well, He says so . . . in His Word (Ps.32:5; 103:8-14; 1Jn.1:9), and being the truth, He never tells us anything but the absolute truth.

How did Peter "know for certain" he wouldn't sink when he stepped out of the boat at Jesus' command? He believed it. And he did not sink . . . as long as he kept believing it. He only started to sink when he started to doubt our Lord's word to Him.

Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” aid to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
John 20:27-29 NKJV

Praying for you, my friend.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #20: 

Appreciate it. A few more things. I know it is easier to miss things (especially with lots of questions) the longer and less organized the email, so I have tried tried to separate everything into points to distinguish all the questions from each other.

1. What does Paul mean in Galatians 5:4 by the words "You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace?" Do the words "alienated from Christ" and "fallen from grace" refer to loss of salvation or falling out of fellowship with God? Or was Paul saying loss of salvation would occur if they continued doing this (you will (future) fall from grace and be alienated from Christ)?

2. Someone on the forum a good time ago expressed uncertainty over whether someone who believes in water baptism as necessary for salvation could be saved, and that is when I emailed you about that and you said no as a general principle. I think I agree with that. Would the example of circumcision prove water baptism (if it is taught as a necessity for salvation) as a false gospel as well? I asked this person "what is the difference between that and circumcision?" If people who trusted in that ritual couldn't be saved (assuming that is what Paul is saying in Galatians), how can people who trust in water baptism for their salvation be saved? Or was Paul referring to those who tried to keep the whole Law as those who could not be saved (instead of just those who believed in and practiced circumcision as the only other requirement for salvation)?

Haven't many people in the church's history believed it as a requirement to enter the kingdom (including some of the reformers)? Was this not a popular belief for years outside of the Catholic and Episcopalian church? If so, how could we say they were all unsaved for holding to this view? I guess what I'm asking is, wasn't baptism salvation a common belief during the Philadelphian church era (an era so greatly praised by our Lord)? I have studied church history, but you know it better than I do.

3. On a very slight change of topic, I have a hard time believing those who believe in "pins and needles" salvation (and stay that way for the rest of their lives) can be saved because they are not exercising faith in Christ but in themselves. But I have heard people say that is what they used to believe years ago (pins and needles salvation), yet they still believed they were saved during that time. To my knowledge, one is not saved until they understand the true gospel of faith by grace alone and accept it. So even though many people will have an unlearning phase to go through, I wouldn't imagine they could be saved until their search brings them to full knowledge and acceptance of the true gospel. Am I correct in saying this? And this applies to whatever false gospel a person may have believed originally.

4. I would assume the believers in Acts 15:5 who said "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses” had to have received Christ by faith through grace alone originally (not believing what they have said in this verse)? Because in Galatians 3:2, Paul makes it sound as if those who don't receive the gospel when they first get saved the only correct way (by faith through grace alone) haven't really believed. Acts 3:2-4- I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4 Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? Is Paul suggesting with the words "in vain" that they may not have been saved all along or just that their growth, progress and production was very minimal because they had wasted so much time trying to accomplish things for Christ as true believers but in the wrong manner?

Hopefully everything above isn't too much.

In His grace and power,

Response #20:

My pleasure.

I do miss things . . . but I also don't always answer questions exactly the way they are posed (for a variety of reasons). Take this email. Apologies, but I'm not going to do the "by the numbers" thing here because I'll just end up repeating myself. From my point of view, it's all the same question (feel free to write me back if you feel there are aspects I haven't addressed).

Here's the simple answer: it's not about knowledge; it's all about FAITH.

The entire "human experience", that is, the portion of the plan of God as it relates to human kind, is all about our using our free-will image of God to respond to Him or not. If we are willing to respond to Him, want to have a relationship with Him, are willing to listen to Him and do what He tells us to do, God has provided a Substitute for us, One who has died for our sins with the result that we merely need to trust Him.

For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
Romans 4:3 NKJV

Of course, just what did Abraham "believe"? This verse doesn't say that he believed in water baptism or circumcision (false objects) or even the coming Savior of the world (there was much about our Lord that had not been yet revealed; there wasn't even yet any Law of Moses, obviously), but that was whom he was talking to, after all (our Lord in Christophany). This scripture says that Abraham "believed God". This verse could be translated, "trusted in God" or "had faith / put his faith in God". They are all synonymous. Salvation is all about faith in God, trust in God that He will save us; it's not about knowledge.

The coming of our Lord and Savior changed things dramatically in that while before the incarnation and the cross and the resurrection, whatever people were given to know was cloaked in shadows. But every human being has ALWAYS come to know 1) that they will die; 2) that they are sinful; 3) that there is a righteous and holy God . . . and that they are not fit to stand in His presence. That is quite a set of problems. Insuperable problems. But God is good in every way and He would/did/has provided the way out of this inevitable rendezvous with death and condemnation.

How much did people "know" back then about the solution, the Substitute whom the Father would one day provide, at the time when they were saved? How much do they "know" now? More now than then, but I have to say, judging from experiences with which I am familiar directly and indirectly, that "knowledge" at salvation was in every case not much – and the amount of that small initial "knowledge" variable. What all believers have in common is that they BELIEVED GOD, that He would save them by the means He would provide, Jesus our Lord. The Holy Spirit in each and every case, OT and NT, makes this truth – enough of the truth to be saved – understandable to the person receiving the gospel (by word or letter or however). The important thing for our purposes is that it is the BELIEVING of that truth of salvation through trusting in God's solution, our Substitute Jesus Christ, however much or little is understood, that results in a person being saved, becoming "a believer". Because it's all about belief, faith, trust in Jesus, not about knowledge.

“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:8b-9 NIV

The Holy Spirit, we can deduce from this passage, using what is actually true to bring a person to salvation – not what is not true. "Faith in Christ" is often what is answered to someone asking what it takes to be saved, and I can't improve on that – since He is the Father's solution to our problem of sin and death. And only God knows if a person is "really believing in Christ" or not.

I can tell you from many conversations with troubled individuals that most of the time even the person in question doesn't remember accurately just what exactly they believed and/or didn't believe in terms of the details, or what credence they might have given to extraneous things when they were saved. But they WERE saved. That is the point. They were saved "by believing in the truth – in Him who is the truth, Jesus Christ our Lord". What they knew about Him or what they might have thought about all manner of incorrect teachings is important for us as pastor-teachers present or prospective to "worry about". But salvation is not a matter of having things absolutely straight in one's head: it's a matter of trusting God in Jesus Christ, and only the Spirit can help us with that – and only God knows who has and who has not actually done that.

Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his"
2nd Timothy 2:19a NIV

This is not a brief for ignorance. Nor for sloppiness. Nor for emotion over doctrine. But it is a brief against legalistically defining salvation beyond what is written in scripture. Who is saved? Everyone God says is saved. How are they saved? Through faith/trust/belief in Jesus Christ (revealed since the incarnation and cross, foreshadowed before that in every sacrifice and in every aspect of the Law).

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
Romans 3:22a NIV

The Greek actually says "all the believing ones". And that is the way scripture normally describes believers, namely, with a present participle meaning "those who [presently] have faith" in 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

As I have said many times, believers are saved; unbelievers are not. It's all about faith.

What about believing things that are NOT true. When a person wants to be saved, is willing to be saved, God always provides the gospel. If the person believes in Jesus, that person is saved. At that point, said person SHOULD now make Jesus Christ and His truth their life. But we all know that even for the most positive of us this is usually an up and down process, especially in the early going. And not everyone who believes is saved in the end.

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

"Believe for a while", meaning that they eventually come NOT to believe. That it the critical thing. So when you ask me, "Can a person believe XYZ (which is not true) and be saved?", it's a similar question to "Can a person DO XYZ (which is a serious sin) and be saved?" The answer to both questions is, "A person is saved by believing in Jesus Christ and continues in salvation as long as they are a believer in Jesus Christ, irrespective of anything else". What about all those erroneous beliefs? If a person believed that water baptism was saving them when they first got the gospel, my evaluation would be, "It sounds to me as if the person didn't really believe in Jesus Christ, because if they did, why would they be relying on the water? But I can't say for certain since no one can read into another person's heart: only God knows for sure; what we CAN say is that faith in Christ results in salvation, and believing something contrary to that truth is incompatible with being saved".

What about people who are genuinely saved but then buy into circumcision or water-baptism or any other extraneous thing that has nothing to do with salvation? Again, we can't know the person's actual heart; we can only judge by their words and deeds. Only God knows for certain. But if person professes to be saved by water, it's fair to ask whether or not they still are "believers in Christ" . . . or if they ever were. God knows "those who are His" (2Tim.2:19), but we can only judge by what we see and hear. Given that there are many such lukewarm and marginal individuals (who are probably saved), and given since they are often themselves troubled as to whether or not they are actually saved (even many who are not advocates of these "additions to salvation"), it's not surprising that we can't say for sure.

What we CAN say is that 1) anyone who believes that water or circumcision or church membership or anything other than faith in Christ is necessary for salvation is DEAD WRONG, and that such beliefs are incompatible with the truth; and to the degree that a person is vehement about it – even, heaven forbid, teaching it – to that extent they are all the less likely to be still clinging to their genuine faith in Christ (if they ever had it).

So while we may not be able to say in every case that "person X is not saved because they are happy enough in a church that teaches baptismal regeneration", we can certainly say that "person X is in a very bad place for them spiritually speaking and is risking their salvation – if they are or were ever saved – by persevering with lies". This is why, for example, I remain agnostic about the RC's: I cannot say for certain that none of them are saved (that seems unlikely); but I can say that being in that church, where everything they teach almost without exception is a lie, is certainly incompatible with the calling of being a believer in Jesus Christ.

The best we can say about anyone in any group with such leanings/teaching or anyone professing such lies is certainly not a progressing or mature believer, and certainly is putting his/her salvation at risk by doing so (if saved). Why? Because lies are the enemy of the truth. And the more credence they are given, the weaker the faith of the person believing them will become. It has to do so. Because the two are incompatible. It is the same thing with sin. Sin does not cause a person to lose salvation, directly. Sinning is embracing a lie, assuming that "it's OK" to do things the Lord tells us not to do. Continuing in gross sin and refusing to repent is analogous to continuing in gross lies and refusing to learn/accept the truth. Both activities weaken faith, because faith needs the truth to grow just as it initially responded to the truth for us to be saved; but if anyone who really was saved stays put in a bad place or, worse, regresses to a worse place, it is very hard for faith to survive. We can be "dogmatic" about all this; what we can't necessarily say for sure is where individual X is at any given time (though his/her words/deeds often give us a pretty good idea). AND, since that is the case, we can't write principles/rules about what a person can/can't believe and still be saved beyond what scripture affirms very clearly (i.e., believers are saved; unbelievers aren't: Jn.3:18) – although, as I say and have intimated in the past (as you quote), we can often have a pretty good idea.

Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
1st Corinthians 12:3 NIV

As this verse suggests, if a person says, "I do not believe in Christ", we should take them at their word. They are not a believer – even if they once were. Some things are clear. Taking the mark of the beast will demonstrate that a person is not a believer, even if they genuinely were, once upon a time.

So briefly, your questions:

1) Paul is explaining the logic of their behavior: they are at least acting as unbelievers.

2) As explained, it's not good to be acting like an unbeliever; but we don't know in any given case what was in the heart of those who believed such falsehoods.

3) Anyone believing in Christ is saved. Genuine salvation of one who before was not a believer (as opposed to a believer coming to his/her senses) results in a "new start for the heart" wherein all erroneous prior lies are wiped out and the person has a clean slate to learn the truth – but the "scar tissue" will quickly return if there is not forward progress in the truth (see the link: in BB 4B: "Our New Reorientation as Born Again Believers").

4) As explained, being convinced of lies after believing is very dangerous – which is why Paul wrote this stern letter. As he himself indicates, "if it was in vain", he does not know where they are all at spiritually at present, but the trend is not good. Clearly, his hope and expectation is that they have not yet succumbed to unbelief – otherwise writing this letter would be pointless.

All of these questions are addressed in one way or another in BB 4B: Soteriology.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #21: 

Understood on your approach. No worries, although the points were for your benefit, not mine since it can be easy to miss things (unintentional oversight). But now I know, thanks for letting me know. Yes, ultimately, the points are all related to a single question, but I came at this from different angles to better convey what I was trying to ask (and relay all the details that concerned me).

Re: "Of course, just what did Abraham "believe"?" I asked you about this passage, Genesis 15:6, a while back (what of those who believe in God but don't have any knowledge of Jesus Christ?) and was actually thinking about asking you about it again (good timing). I know that you believe that a person does need to have saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in order to be saved (it seems that and faith are inseparable). Would that statement only apply to believers from Christ's first advent and on? The gospel has always been by faith through grace alone, but (from what it seems to me you are saying), Old Testament believers could go to the Father without having to go through Jesus ("nobody can come to the Father but by me"). If Abraham believed God without believing in Jesus the Messiah (the coming Savior as you put it), then it does seem as if there was a shift that occurred when Christ came to earth (His first advent). Yes, there were the old testament sacrifices that looked forward to the Messiah (Adam and Eve accepted the coats of skin) but Abraham was saved when he believed in God, not "when he offered a sacrifice."

The gospel has always been the same (by faith through grace) but couldn't we say (based on some of the above) that it was slightly different (in some ways) during Abraham's time? In our modern world today, it would not be enough for someone to believe in God (like Abraham did)- they would need saving knowledge of the Savior Jesus Christ (God will bring that to them in whatever way He chooses- a missionary, etc.). But just believing in God was acceptable during old testament times to receive salvation? Is that what you are saying?

To briefly shift back to the main topic- If the Galatians were acting like unbelievers, then do you take the phrases "fallen from grace" and "alienated from Christ" to mean being out of fellowship with God (but still saved)? Because, to me, it has to be either that or loss of salvation.

Re: "Given that there are many such lukewarm and marginal individuals (some of whom are probably saved)": Just curious, but why do you say " some of whom are probably saved?" If someone is presently lukewarm, then they have to be lukewarm about something (their relationship with Jesus Christ). If they are unbelievers, they don't have a relationship with Jesus Christ and cannot be lukewarm. This sentence threw me off for this reason which is why I quoted it.

In Christ,

Response #21: 

Here are some links on this:

What is the Eternal Future of those who Lived before Christ?

The Gospel before the Cross

Pre-cross salvation

How could OT believers be saved?

The truth about salvation in the OT

Important to reiterate: the Person speaking with Abraham in whom Abraham trusted at Genesis 15:6 was in fact Jesus Christ; and the sacrifices he made on altars he built and otherwise all spoke of the cross. As I've said before, believers before the cross trusted God – the Angel of the Lord – the revealed person of the Trinity (Jesus Christ), to solve the problems of sin and death for them. They were definitely looking for the resurrection; that was their hope (e.g., Acts 2:30; 23:6; cf. Dan.12:1-3).

Again, it's not about knowledge but faith – belief in the truth the Holy Spirit makes clear. The good news has always been release from sin and death by the grace of God through believing in His solution, His Substitute, Jesus Christ (even before He was known by that Name or come in the flesh).

As to the Galatians, Paul is writing to an entire group of churches (wherein, obviously, not everyone was in the same place, spiritually), so these are very much "if the shoe fits . . ." statements, designed to warn off those who have not gone down that road but were being tempted, to turn around those who can be turned around, and to call a spade a spade for those who had gone over the edge of the cliff.

Re: "some of whom are probably saved" amend to "who are probably saved".

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #22: 

Understood and agreed on everything. It took a little while of reading for all this to click in my head, although I've been very tired lately.

Regarding whether those who teach water baptism for salvation are and can be saved, I agreed with everything you wrote there. But to clarify, my interest was never to attempt to judge individuals because I know that is something we can't do (we don't know another person's heart as you said). I was "reasking" about the principle you stated (sorry if that wasn't clear) because you wrote to me last year in our discussion "That anyone could think it has anything to do with salvation only confirms that said person has no regard for scripture and is not saved. For if a person is relying on works to be saved said person is definitely not saved."

The quoted part above are the two statements I was interested in and wasn't sure if you still stood by them. As said, someone on the forum was unsure whether they could state the principle above with confidence and were reluctant to do so (they believe in water baptism but still believe in Jesus-or so that was the reasoning). This is all why I sent this email and I meant all along. This was never about "legalistically" going around and trying to determine who is and isn't saved. It was about principles "what is and what is not the gospel?"

Just writing the above to clarify where I was coming from and what I was interested in.

In Christ,

Response #22: 

As to "That anyone could think it has anything to do with salvation only confirms that said person has no regard for scripture and is not saved. For if a person is relying on works to be saved said person is definitely not saved."

First, I mean the above in the same way Paul meant the quotes from Galatians we've talked about: "if the shoe fits . . .". I would hope anyone reading this would realize that it's no small issue and turn around back to the truth . . . if they are saved; if they are not saved, then the shoe fully fits. If a person is relying – completely – on something other than faith in the Lord for salvation then of course they are not saved. Were they once saved before they devolved to this twisted thinking? Only God knows the answer to that. The Spirit certainly didn't lead them to salvation with such thinking or information.

The gospel is the truth and if someone adds to the gospel in presenting it, the Spirit doesn't use the misinformation to save a person wanting to be saved. If saved, and if said person perseveres in a bad group, said person is not going to grow; and if said person gets to the point of completely replacing faith in Christ with faith in whatever else (the RC church/pope, water, works, circumcision, speaking in tongues, e.g.), then faith in Christ has died by definition. Are there people who believe that water baptism is necessary and who are saved. Yes. Are there people who believe that water baptism is necessary for salvation who are saved. Probably. But this is a matter of degrees. Only those who believe in Jesus are saved (Jn.3:18, e.g.). It's never good to "swear by the Lord . . . and also by Milcom" (Zeph.1:5); it's never good to "Baal dance" between two opinions, having one foot with God and one with something/someone else (1Ki.18:21).

It's nigh on impossible to stand still in the Christian life. If a believer is not moving forward, they are inevitably regressing, even if from a very small base and at a glacial pace. That is where most Laodicean Christians are. But embracing energetically anything untrue is going to accelerate that negative process. So accepting false teaching in a "church" is not necessarily going to result in immediate loss of salvation; being an evangelist for water-baptism salvation or circumcision or anything else is a sure-fire way to put true faith in Christ to death.

So we have to examine individual cases, and usually we are limited in what we can discern, since only God knows the heart. But it is absolutely true that affirmatively "relying on works to be saved" is a negative rather than a positive sign; and that totally believing without reservation that water-baptism has anything to do with salvation only confirms that said person has no regard for scripture . . . and that is certainly not a positive sign in regard to salvation.

I'm responsible for stating the principles. To say something like "you can believe in the necessity of water-baptism and still be saved" would send the wrong message entirely; more than that, it is in many cases NOT true, and even in individual cases where it is true, the person who falls into that penumbra category is headed towards the total darkness if he/she persists and especially if he/she doubles down rather than turning around.

In Jesus,

Bob L.



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