Wrangling About Words

Wrangling About Words

“The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm” 1Tim 1:5-7

When I read material written by many evangelicals about salvation, my mind often goes into a tailspin. They talk about salvation by “faith alone”, yet the bible only uses that expression one time and  claims that it is not true (James 2:24). The Bible simply says that we are saved by faith.  Why add the “alone” to the equation?  I am sure that many people add alone to the equation because they believe it clarifies what the Bible teaches on salvation.  However, the question is does it clarify or does it just confuse the issue?

Before we dig deep into this expression “faith alone” I would like us to find the source of this expression and see if we can learn a possible reason for its introduction into the equation of evangelical salvation messages.  I think most historians would agree that it was Martin Luther the Protestant reformer who was the first to use this expression or at the very least popularized it.  If we go back and look at his reason, it may help us to understand its true meaning.

Luther lived in a time when the church had reached an absolute low. The clergy had run amok and the church had become nothing more than the handmaiden of the aristocracy.  It was using the fear of hell to oppress the people financially and politically. The atmosphere was one that you had to pay the church for your salvation by purchasing indulgences and absolution for your sins.  The church stood between the people; and God mediating salvation to the people.  In this environment, the idea of good works was reduced to buying your salvation from the Church.  This left the appearance that one could obligate God to save you, which of course is foolishness.  However, foolishness has been the norm for the masses.  What Luther wanted to do was break down everything that stood between the people and God and thus the emphasis on “faith alone”; no indulgences, absolutions or church, nothing but the faith of the individual, thus “faith alone”.

With this background information, we might ask has this concept of “faith alone” gone amok.  Well, the only way for us to answer that is to look at what the Scriptures say about faith.  As mentioned above, the bible only uses the expression “faith alone” one time and it teaches that true faith is never alone (James 2:24).  However, it does says that we are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8-10).  It also says that we are saved by faith apart from works, that is the works of the Law of Moses, or you could say the works of religion. In this, Luther was right when he said we are saved by “faith alone”. That is faith in Jesus apart from the works of religion.  However, some modern-day evangelicals take it much farther than Luther or the Bible.  They leave the impression that a person who believes in Jesus can do anything and live any way they wish and still be saved by a simple confession of faith uttered sometime in the past. Is this  what “faith alone” means or should we stick to the Bible and say that salvation is by Grace, through faith? Should we not try to define faith by what the Bible says about it?

I personally think that the expression by “faith alone” today is very confusing to the average person. Instead of clarifying, it confuses and darkens the true meaning of faith. In a real sense faith is never alone for by its very nature genuine faith produces the obedience of faith (Rom 1:5).  If there is no obedience, there is simply not a true faith.  The closest word we have to faith in English is the word trust.  If you trust God, it seems logical that you would trust that his will for your life is the optimal thing for you to do and humans usually do what’s best for them.  Therefore, if there is no obedience there is no true faith.  This would imply that true faith capsulate trust and obedience.

In much American religion, we see faith reduced to mental assent. By that I mean that one accepts intellectually that there is a God, a Christ, and that he died for your sins. However, this mental assent alone is the dead faith that James says that demons have, and he adds,“they shudder”.  Some have said that James talks about two kinds of faith, a living faith and a dead faith.  Actually he talks about three kinds of faith. The third kind is the faith of demons.  This faith creates fear in them to the point that they shudder.  Of course, their faith does not lead them to repentance because they hate God.  James infers that the faith of demons is greater than those who have a dead faith, which does not lead them to repentance and doing works of love.  At least  demons believe enough to be moved to fear. Of course, if I had a dead faith, I would like to believe that some metaphysical surgery could separate faith from works, so I could be saved by a dead faith. Maybe the expression “faith alone” accomplished this surgery in the mind of some.

¶Someone might ask, “When is faith obeyed enough, to become a saving faith?” Likewise, you might as well ask, “When does a person believes sufficiently enough to have a saving faith?”  In the New Testimony it appears that faith was accepted by the body of Christ when a person was  led to confessing Christ and  was baptized (Acts 2:38, 22:16). The act of baptism was a public identification with Christ and his Church. If you were not identified with Christ you were not saved (Matt 10:32). This may be why baptism was done immediately in the New Testament when people believed on Christ. Note the examples of conversions in the book of Acts (Acts 2:36-38, Acts 8:9-13, Acts 8:26-40, Acts 9:1-19, Acts 16:29-34,Acts 16:13-15,Acts 19:1-8).

For the identifying marks of a true believe read the epistle of first John.  “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:13).  John is the only New Testament writer that addresses the question of how a person can know if they are a true believer and he does not base it on the notion of assurance by “faith alone”. Rather John says it come from keeping the commandments of Christ and walking as he did (1Jn 2:3-6).

In Hebrews the eleventh chapter, the writer gets into what constitutes real faith.  He begins by saying, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  However, in verse six he gives us some insight to what constitutes faith “And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”  In this Scripture, we see three ingredients of true faith. The first is mental acceptance, which is an intellectual belief in His existence. The second is a trust that he will reward you in the resurrection. In other words, you believe his promises as Abraham did (Rom 4). The finally ingredient is being earnest in seeking him and his will.  To be earnest is to be sincere and diligent in seeking and doing his will “Seek first His Kingdom”.  The Hebrew writer goes on in Chapter eleven to give a number of examples of what real faith looks like in actual man and woman. After reading the chapter you come away with the image that real faith is a dynamic force that moves men to action for God.  Read the chapters then look at our churches, filled with people with little or no real change or power in their lives, filled with emotions that are paraded as actual faith and yet few good works to support its claim.

However, the scripture says that it is impossible to please God without a true faith and that faith constitutes trust, the obedience of faith and a will that is seeking the heart of God.  To reduce faith to a one-time confession of intellectual beliefs or just a mental assent to some facts is to teach a false gospel that is not taught in the New Testament. Watch out for the “faith alone” doctrine.

Is Repentance Moral Reform? Acts 2:38

Is Repentance Moral Reform? Acts 2:38

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”Acts 2:38

The question I want us to focus on is, Does “to repent” in Acts 2:38 mean moral reform or something else? I have heard it taught as moral reform or as simply a turning to God. However, there are some problems with both interpretations. First, it would seem unlikely that the Apostle Peter would tell devout Jews that they needed to reform morally or turn to God. In the context of Acts 2:38, repentance or turning would seem to mean turning to Christ or to believing on Christ. In essence, Peter was telling his audience simply to believe in Jesus. This would echo the words of Jesus to His disciples in John 14:1, “You believe in God believe also in me.”

However, the text seems to indicate that a necessary part of this turning to God includes baptism or what we might call a bodily and public expression of this turning or repentance. Baptism then would be viewed as the initiation act that puts a person into Christ where His blood cleanses from sin and where one receives the gift of the Holy Spirit (Rom 6:1-3, Gal 3:26,27).

It is also important to note that Peter’s statement is a commandment not a request. Man left God by breaking a commandment, and he must returns by keeping a commandment. Therefore, he is commanded to believe on Jesus or believe the gospel (1 Thess. 1:8). Adam’s sin began in his heart and was consummated in his outward disobedience. In like manner, man returns to God by believing and acting out his faith in baptism and a life that bears the fruit of repentance (Acts 26:20). This is why Paul uses faith and baptism as synonymous. “For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ (Gal 3:26-27 ASV).

We can summarize the teaching of Acts 2:38 by saying that God commands two things: faith in Christ and baptism into Christ. These two acts constitute turning toward God (Acts 3:19). To those who turn to God by belief and baptism, God promises two things: the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

It would be fair to ask the question, Does faith and baptism in themselves remit sin? Absolutely not; nothing but the free action of a forgiving God can do that. Faith-baptism simply puts a person into Christ where one has access to the blood of Christ and the forgiveness of sins, both of which are in Christ (Eph 1:7, Rom 6:3).


Angels of darkness or Angels of Light?

Angels of darkness or Angels of Light?

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.                                                                                                                                            H.L. Mencken

There was a time in our past when liberalism was the champion of individual rights and liberty.  Therefore, the question arises, how could a movement that championed the rights of the individual become one of the most coercive forces in the world today, imposing its political ideology and world view on everyone?

To answer this question, all we need to do is look at the roots of liberalism.  It is rooted in the desire to save and liberate the individual, by ensuring and protecting their rights.[1]  Who could question that motive and goal?  However, as the concept of saving the individual evolved, liberals attempted to take in more and more people under their protective wing.  This evolution continued until the concept of saving the individual evolved into saving the world, whether it wanted to be saved or not.  Liberalism is now evolved into the self-appointed savior of the world.  In fact, if individual rights get in the way of its mission, the individual must lose.  Mix this attitude with the hubris attitude of the enlightenment, which many liberals have inherited, you have a world view which is dangerous and a threat to individual liberty.

Because many liberals are blinded by their ideology of world saving, they fail to see that other men may choose a different good, and pursue the good life in a different fashion than the liberal way[2].  They also fail to see that many men do not feel that they need to be saved and reject the liberal definition of salvation and their definition of oppression.

However, liberals, especially the extreme type feel compelled to save everyone from what they believe is their inferior world view, and they continue their crusade to democratize the world their way even if they have to go to drastic means to accomplish it.  In this, many liberals are very much like some religious folks who believe that it is perfectly ethical and right to force their beliefs on all people because they believe liberalism is the only way to salvation.  When any group reaches this point their motives change from salvation to domination.

Many liberals believe that people must be saved from themselves, whether they like it or not.  Therefore, they feel perfectly justified in using the legal system and even the school systems to manipulate and force their views on people.  This liberal salvation now encompasses every corner of our existence from what we eat, to the environment.  We call this assault on personal freedom political correctness.  However, the thoughtful person can see it for what it is, a “new Inquisition” cultivated by a philosophy, which has evolved into the secular religion of liberalism.

We are now at a crossroad in our culture.  We have the choice of returning to the true liberal view of the past or continue the course of neo-liberalism which we are presently on, if you can call it liberal.  Some call it progressivism.  If we choose the latter, we should be prepared for more political correctness and government intervention into our lives and less individual freedom[3].


[1] Extreme liberals have taken this to the point of believing that the individual should be liberated from all morality and God himself.

[2] Liberals criticize Christianity for its exclusiveness and yet it practices the same exclusiveness in believing that the liberal way to the good life is the only way.

[3] Let me recommend a great book, The Betrayal of Liberalism with the subtitle of “How the Disciples of Freedom and Equality Helped Foster the Illiberal Politics of Coercion and Control” by Hilton Kramer and Roger Kimball.


Making Bad Fish Smell Good

Peace, Peace When there is No Peace

They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace. Jeremiah 6:14 

In the time of Jeremiah the prophet, the nation of Israel was filled with sin and Jeremiah was warning them of the impending judgment of God that was coming on the nation. In opposition to Jeremiah, the false prophets were telling the people of Israel, they had nothing to worry about, God would do nothing to punish them for their sins and they were secure in the land.

Today things have not changed. The false teachers are still telling backsliders and lukewarm Christians that in the end, they are ok with God. They tell people they can have assurance of salvation by simply putting their faith in Jesus and reciting the sinner’s prayer or merely by accepting Jesus into their hearts. It all sounds good, but what does the Bible say?

The apostle John does tell us that, “we can know that we have eternal life however, he does not say that it comes from faith alone, reciting the sinner’s prayer or by accepting Jesus into your heart. His affirmation was “I write these things to you who believe on the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13). From John’s short epistle,  we can learn how a believer can know they are saved. If you have time I would encourage you to read the entire book of 1 John in which you will find a detailed account of how to know you have eternal life.

However, for now let’s look at a few verses in 1 John, which tell us how we can know, that we have eternal life.

1 John 2:3-4

“We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.”

1 John 2:5-6

But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

1 John 2:29

If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.

1 John 3:14

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.

What do we learn from these passages? First, we learn that a believer can know that they have eternal live. Secondly, we learn that it is not by faith alone. In fact the expression “by faith alone” is never used in scripture. True and saving faith is never alone inasmuch  “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26). We also learn from John that a person needs to be walking in the love of God and their brothers to have the assurance of salvation, and this love must be demonstrated by deeds done in love for your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Note that we are not talking about salvation, but rather the assurance or certainty of salvation. Good works do not save a person but a person cannot be saved without them, unless you’re the thief on the cross. Moreover, you cannot have certainty of salvation without seeing in your life the fruit of good works. This is the tension of true faith, a tension that false teachers want to eradicate in their effort to make bad fish smell good (Matt: 13:47-49).

Joshua and the Cross, A View of the Atonement

Joshua and the Cross

A View of the Atonement

Many of you may be already aware of the fact that the name Joshua in Hebrew is the same as Jesus in English. The meaning of Joshua and Jesus is “Yhawah Saves.” We might say that a man who bore the name Joshua or Jesus was to be a living symbol that God was a God who saved His people. He is a God who is faithful and always rescues His people from the injustices of the wicked.

When we look at the life of Joshua and Jesus Christ we see many similarities. Therefore, it would be correct to look at Joshua as a type of Christ. By type, I mean that many of his characteristics and actions point to Jesus Christ. We might say that Joshua was a living prophecy of what Jesus would be like and what he would do. What I would like to do in this lesson is to look at the life of Joshua and see how it points forward to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We will see that there are many striking parallels between the life of Joshua and the life of Jesus.

The section of scripture that we want to look at is actually a prophecy made by Moses concerning Joshua. However, it applies to Jesus as well. It is found in the book of Deuteronomy, and it reads, “Then Moses went out and spoke these words to all Israel: I am now a hundred and twenty years old and I am no longer able to lead you. The LORD has said to me, ‘ You shall not cross the Jordan.’ The LORD your God himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will take possession of their land. Joshua also will cross over ahead of you, as the LORD said. And the LORD will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land. The LORD will deliver them to you, and you must do to them all that I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deut. 31:1-8).

From the above scripture let us try to draw some similarities between Joshua and Jesus. Most of the similarities are found within the areas of the work and mission given to them by God. Joshua was given the work and mission of leading God’s people into the land that God promised to their fathers. In like manner, the mission of Jesus is and was to bring many sons to glory [Heb. 2:10]. In order to fulfill God’s mission, Joshua had to cross over the Jordan River be­fore the Israelites. In like manner, Jesus had to cross the river of death into glory to blaze the trail for all those who would believe on him. Joshua had to defeat the inhabitants of the land before the Israelites could possess the land. Again, in like manner, Jesus had to enter into the heavenlies and defeat the principality and powers in the heavenly places before the new creation could be formed. Finally, both Joshua and Jesus had to believe in the abiding pres­ence of God in order for them to accomplish God’s purpose. In order for them to be faithful, they had to cling to the promise, “I will never leave you or for sake You.” We will come back to the importance of this promise later.

Moses, Joshua, and Jesus

We can also see a remarkable parallel between Joshua and Jesus in their relationship to Moses, who was a symbol of the Law that he gave to the people. Under the leadership of Moses, the people lived under the law and yet never received the promise. However, under the leadership of Joshua, they received the promise. In essence, Moses pointed God’s people to the one that would lead them into the promised inheritance. This is similar to the law of Moses that points men to Jesus who in essence is the true promise and the true law. “The Law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” In the book of Galatians, the apostle Paul says, “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith” (Gal 3:24). The law leads to the promise, but it will not take us into the promise. The promise can only be entered by believing the promise and the Promised One, who is Jesus Christ. If we are going to receive the promise, we must follow the Promised One into the promise. In light of this, the words of Jesus, “follow me” takes on a new significance.

Unfortunately, there have always been those in the Christian church who have believed that the way into the promise is by following the Law of Moses or some religious system. This error in one form or another has plagued the church from the beginning and continues to this very day. It was this error that crept into the Galatians churches after the apostle Paul left and is rebuked sharply in his letter to those churches. “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing— if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard” (Gal. 3:1-5)? From this scripture, it is quite obvious that the way into the promise is for the promise to get into us, and it is also obvious that it gets into us through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ apart from the law of Moses or any other law or religion (Gal. 3:21).

The modern preachers of law, who believe that the law of Moses (Ten Commandments) must be preached to convict the sinner of his sins before the gospel of Christ can be received, has no precedents in scripture. The gospel of Christ is the bearer of the spirit and has all the power that is needed to convict the sinner of his need to follow Christ. In fact, it is in this area that we see one of the weaknesses of the law of Moses and religion; that is, they are too weak to convict the religious man or the morally good man of sin. Both the religious man and morally good man love to hear the law preached for it confirms their righteousness. However, when Christ is preached in the power of the Spirit, the lie of self-righteousness is exposed and the truth that “all have sinned and are falling short of the glory of God” shines into men’s hearts.

An example of this is the apostle Paul himself before knowing Jesus Christ. Even though he lived under the law of Moses he believed he was righteous (Phil. 3:6). It was not until he saw the glory of God in the face of Christ on the Damascus Road that he realized his spiritual poverty. It was a revelation of Christ that convicted him of his sin, not the Ten Commandments or a written code of any kind. In essence, the answer to all self-righteousness and perfectionism is a revelation of Jesus Christ. The very presence of self-righteousness and the preaching of law is a sign of an absence of a revelation of Jesus Christ. How could the preaching of law bring about a revelation of Christ? When the law is preached a veil remains over the hearts and minds of the listeners (2 Cor.3:14). My friends, Christ must be preached if men are to receive the grace of God in its fullness.

Still another example of what I am saying is found in the story of the rich young ruler. Once I head a well-known conference speaker use this story to prove that the law of Moses must be preached and the sinner must be convicted by the law before he can come to faith in Christ. But does the story teach that or just the opposite? In the story we find a rich young man coming to Jesus and asking him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” In turn, Jesus asked him “What do the commandments say?” and then cites a number of the Ten Commandments. But the question is, did this convict the rich young ruler? The answer is no. It did not. His answer was, “All these I have kept since I was a boy.” This is not the answer of a convicted sinner. So, here we find a case where the law of Moses is too weak to convict a religious man of his need for Christ. But what did convict him of his need? Did Jesus call him a liar for saying that he keeps the commandments? No! In fact, it is inferred by Jesus that he had kept the commandments for Jesus said, “One thing you lack.” The thing that convicted this man was not the law, but rather the words of Jesus, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Luke 18:18-23). The simple words, “follow me,” had power to convict this man and any sinner, which all of the law of Moses, including the Ten Commandments could not convict. Therefore, if you really what to convict people of sin, preach Christ. However, be assured that religious men will not hear it long before they go away sad. If you want large numbers of religious men to respond to your preaching, preach religion and law, for in so doing, you will simply confirm the religious man’s self-righteousness and the good moral people of their own goodness. Yes, the world will flock to hear you tell them how righteous they are for keeping the law.

The Mission of Joshua and Jesus

It is important for us to understand the mission of these two men, for though there are many similarities, there are also many differences. The mis­sion and purpose Joshua was to bring the children of God into the Promised Land. This would fulfill the promise that God had made to their father Abra­ham. However, here is where the differences begin to surface. The land promise itself was only a type that pointed to the true promise that pointed to the true inheritance kept for us in heaven ( 1 Pet. 1:4). The writer of the book of Hebrews says no less than this when he says, “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day” (Heb. 4:14). In this, the writer of Hebrews-is telling us that Joshua and the promise of the land were types pointing to another person and another place. The other person is Jesus and the other place is the heavenlies.

The Word of God Verses a Theory

In reality, the story of Joshua and his mission of taking the children of God into the Promised Land is a type that points to the eternal purpose of God, which is to have Jesus Christ lead the sons of God into glory to rule the eternals with His Son Jesus Christ (Heb. 2:10). Unfortunately, there still are many in the Christian church who believe in the type instead of the reality of the type. That is, they believe that our final inheritance is the physical earth made new. Though we believe that this earth will be a part of our inheritance as the Sons of God, it will only be a very small part of that inheritance. For in the new heaven and new earth the sons of God will rule with their Lord as the one new man. In essence, the eternal purpose of God is that one new man created in the image of the eternal Son will rule over both the seen and un­seen. Who could ever imagine the eternal Son being limited to the earth when he is and was the creator of the entire creation both seen and unseen? Why would anyone believe that he is coming back to the earth to rule when he is now ruling the entire creation from the right hand of his Father (Acts 2:29-32)?

Did God Forsake Christ?

There is a very popular theory that teaches that God did forsake Christ on the Cross and that this is the reason why Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”. The truth of this theory cannot really be tested until we establish what the test of Jesus was as he faced the Cross. Was the test, whether or not he would face a God forsakenness or sell out to Satan? If God forsakenness was the fear or test, would he had not experi­enced the same God forsakenness for selling out? We believe that the thing which he feared in the garden was not the cross per say nor God forsaking him, but rather he feared, in the face of the king of terrors he would lose faith in the promise that God would never forsake him. In other words, the test would be whether or not he would believe the promise and the word of God that said, ” I will never leave you or forsake you.” The theory which we are discussing says that God either broke His promise or Christ lost faith in the promise and came to believe, because he was suffering in bearing the sins of the world, that God had indeed forsaken him. In essence, this theory is saying that Christ sinned in breaking faith in the promise of God which said that He would never leave or forsake His Son. This theory not only makes Jesus the sin-bearer of the world, but it also makes him a sinner in breaking faith with the Father. In this, the theory ultimately charges him with committing the same sin that fleshly Israel committed in denying the continuing help of God and the promises of God in His word.

We believe that it is religion that says that God must turn away from sinful man and not God. In fact, the cross and resurrection teach that God will not forsake His people even in their sin. He will save them and deliver them from their sin. This is what the cross teaches. It does not teach that man is forsaken by God, even though he may feel forsaken. He must cling to the promises of God, even in his sin. The Lord left us that example. Even though he was bearing the sins of mankind, he claimed the promise, “Unto you I commit my Spirit.” Even if he was actually bearing the guilt of the sin of the world, he did not draw back and hide from his Father as Adam did, but rather he committed himself to a loving God that had promised to never forsake him. In his faithfulness to the promise of his Father he met the test; the test that whether in suffering, death, and darkness he would trust God to be the kind of God who never would forsake His child. When you are tempted to doubt God’s presence or to think that He has forsaken you, just remember to ask, “Is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ that kind of God?” The answer is revealed by the cross-resurrection event and is no. He is a loving, forgiving, God who will never leave you or forsake you. Only believe, trust the prom­ise, and cling to it with all your might.

Some may be struck by what was just said, but please do not leave me as yet; give me a hearing. The concept that God forsook Christ on the Cross is not taught anywhere in the Bible and is only inferred in the cry of Jesus, “My God my God, why have you forsaken Me?” But the question arises, is this a question, a plea for help, or a statement of fact? If it is a question, this would raise several very difficult problems. One of these would be if Jesus knew ahead of time that God was going to turn away from him on the cross as he was bearing the sins of the world, why did he ask such a question? It seems as if Jesus would have already known why God was turning away from him if this theory is right. And if he did not know that God would turn away from him, why was he so upset about the cross? Was he simply a coward who was afraid of the cross, a form of death that thousands of men had faced before with much more courage? Or was it the test itself that he feared know­ing that the destiny of the universe and all of mankind would be determined by belief or unbelief in the promise as stated in scripture and confirmed at his baptism? Would he believe in God’s abiding presence and Sonship in the face of the most hideous power in all of creation, the power of death or would he shrink back, believing that God had forsaken him?

In essence, the temptations that the Lord faced on the cross were the same that he faced at the beginning of his ministry. In facing these tempta­tions, the cost of failure was beyond human imagination. The eternal purpose of God and the destiny of man hung in the balance. If we can understand the nature of his first temptation, it may help us in understanding the nature of his encounter with Satan on the cross. In the first temptation story, we find Satan trying to tempt Jesus to deny his Sonship, which was based on God’s word. He tried to get him to go beyond the word of Sonship and to seek conforma­tion in the miraculous. If Jesus had succumbed to this temptation, he would have shown a lack of faith in God’s word and in the God who speaks through scripture. He then, in essence, would have denied his Sonship and the Father­hood of God.

When Jesus was hanging on the cross, we again see that it was his Sonship and God’s fatherhood that was at stake. If Jesus was truly the Son of God and if God was his Father, he must trust the promises of his Father. The promises that God would never leave him or forsake him and that God would hear his cry and deliver him as his very name Jesus [God delivers] symbolized. Doubting the promise of God’s faithfulness would be equal to Jesus questioning his Sonship and the very Fatherhood of God. It also would have been equal to unbelief or sin. But Jesus did not sin or doubt the promises of God, but rather he was faithful as a Son clinging to the faith­fulness of his Father. Therefore, Jesus has now become a symbol that prom­ises deliverance to all those who will put their faith in him. In Jesus, we see the promise that God will answer the cries of His people for deliverance and justice (Luke 18:6-8). In Jesus, we have a guarantee that God will never leave us or forsake us.

Let look a little closer at the words of the Lord, “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” These words are a quotation from the Psalms 22 and were first spoken by King David. With just a casual reading of the Psalm, one is immediately struck by the fact that the Psalm is not a statement of fact about the condition of David, but rather a plea for help. But even more than that, it is a positive affirmation that God is present and will not forsake His holy one. “For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help” (Ps. 22:24). It is clearly stated in this passage that David’s words are a “cry for help” and there is no doubt that when you look at the gospel record that those standing by the crucifixion interpreted the Lord’s cry as a cry for help from God (Matt 27:46-50). In response to his cry, the Father sends his angels to rescue him from the powers, but only after the Father’s heart was revealed in the loving sacrifice of His Son. It is finished. The Father had been made known to the world through the cross of His Son. The power of the cross is that it is a revelation of the Father’s heart. It also reveals a God that will never forsake His people and a God that will always be with those who cry out to Him.

I also have some serious doubts about a forsaken Christ because there are so many plain passages of scripture that explicitly teach that God would not forsake his elected one. One of those passages is the one sighted above; Ps. 22:24, that plainly teaches that God would not turn His face away from Christ. Another passage that seems to add doubt to a forsaken Christ is found in the Book of Acts. David said about him: “I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence” (Acts 2:25-28). This passage raises the question; was there ever a time when the face of God was not before Jesus the Christ? According to this passage, there was not. Throughout the gospels, we see the same thing; a Christ who had an absolute unbroken fellowship with the Father.

If the idea of a forsaken Christ is not taught in scripture, where did it come from? I believe we can trace the source of this theory to still another theory. The other theory is the Penal Theory of the Atonement that was set forth by some of the early fathers of the church and then by some of the reformers. The Penal Theory of the atonement is formed on the inviolability of God’s Law and the justice of God. In short, the divine law cannot be set aside and sin must be punished. Someone must die to satisfy the demands of The Law. “For the wages of sin is death.” When death is interpreted as sepa­ration from God, the death of Jesus must infer that he was at some time separated from God; thus, My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” This all sounds logical, but only if you carry in your mind as your principal model of God as judge. For the person or culture whose main model of God is that of a loving Father, this view not only sounds strange but also unjust. The image of God which teaches that God is a judge who demands that the letter of the laws’ punishment be handed out, does not seem to go along well with the image of the Father, who Jesus painted for us in the story of the prodigal son. In that parable, there is not even a hint of any form of retribution or payback for the son’s misbehavior. The Father simply forgives as a free act of love, and no one is punished for sin. But why is no one punished? Because that is the kind of God we worship. He is a God who will never leave you or forsake you. So let us follow the example of the author and perfecter of our faith our Joshua, Jesus Christ, who has crossed the Jordan before us by hanging on to and believing the promises of God; the covenant promise that says, “I will never leave or forsake you.” Let us commit to walk by faith and not by sight. Let us not ask for God to prove His presence by signs and wonders as the Israelites did, but let us simply believe the word of the promise, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Ex. 17:2-7, Matt. 4:7).


Radical Grace Versus Lordship Salvation

Radical Grace Versus Lordship Salvation

“That is the devil getting at us.  He always sends errors into the world in pairs – pairs of opposites.  And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse.  You see why, of course?  He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one.  But do not let us be fooled.  We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors.  We have no other concern than that with either of them.” C.S. Lewis

Recently it has been brought to my attention, that there is a new war raging among the evangelicals in the religious world of America. The two parties in this debate are those that call their teaching “radical grace” and the other is referred to as “Lordship salvation”.  After making a quick survey of this debate, I think the whole thing falls into the area of wrangling about words and lining up behind men instead of Christ.  To this writer, it sounds like the Corinthian church of America is fighting over who is most spiritual and who is the greatest in the kingdom of God.

What does the Bible say about this question?  Well, here’s the rub; the Bible does not make any distinction nor does it contrast salvation by grace or salvation by accepting the Lordship of Jesus. However, if we go to Paul’s definition of a Christian, he seems to put the emphasis on  accepting the Lordship of Jesus.

“If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Rom 10:9-10).   If you were to make a survey of the sermons in the book of Acts, this emphasis seems to be supported (Acts 2:22-38, 10:34-43).

Why would anyone believe that Jesus died for their sin unless they had already accepted that he was the living (resurrected) Son of God and Lord of heaven and earth?  Accepting his Lordship always comes before accepting him as Savior.  However, let us not try to separate the inside of the skin from the outside of it, lest we kill the patient.

The part of this debate that both sides fail to take into consideration, is the audience that Paul and the other biblical writers are speaking to and the needs of the audience.

In his epistles, Paul is often addressing problems in the local church. He is not writing a doctrinal dissertation on theological issues.  It seems that biblical writers would often emphasize a certain aspect of the gospel that would meet the needs of their audience; or the author would address a problem in the local churches.  They surely would not have pitted one aspect of the gospel against another, which to me is pure madness.

For example, in the book of Romans Paul is trying to explain to Jewish believers that no one can be justified before God by the works of the Mosaic Law.  At that time, Jewish believers thought that you had to believe in Christ and keep certain aspects of the Law of Moses.  Paul’s whole letter was written in great detail to show the Jewish Christians that salvation was absolutely through Christ and had nothing to do with Judaism.  Therefore the book of Romans (or for that matter any of the writings of Paul) had nothing to do with the controversy between the radical grace movement and the so-called Lordship salvation response.

The Bible teaches that we are saved by grace through faith. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so no man can boast” (Eph 2:8-9).  The question is what is the faith that saves?  It is obvious, that not all who believe are saved, for the devil believes there is a God and is not saved.  So, what exactly is saving faith?  I personally believe that it is a faith that accepts Jesus the Christ as Savior and Lord.  It is a faith that trusts in His grace and submits to His Lordship.  How can the two be separated?  In scripture, faith is a dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ that encompasses trusting God’s promises and obeying his word.

What kind of ‘works’ is Paul referring to in the above passage “not by works”?  They are the works that go along with adherence to the Mosaic Law or more specifically the works of religion, rituals plainly performed in order to earn salvation.  Surely, the Apostle Paul does not mean the commandments and teachings of Jesus Christ. Failure to strive to keep the commandments of Christ would seem to indicate a lack of true faith.

In Romans 1:5 the apostle Paul speaks of an obedience of faith or the obedience that comes from faith.  The book of Romans is a book that talks about two kinds of obedience, one that comes through hand me down tradition with the pressure of religious conformity and second, the obedience that comes from trusting in Christ.  Whether or not an action will fall into the category of good works done for salvation totally depends on the attitude of the person performing them.  If you do something thinking you are going to earn your salvation or in some way obligate God to save you through doing it, you are doing good works to be saved.  These actions are worthless in regards to salvation, though they may be beneficial in helping others.  If you do good works because you believe it is the will of God for you in Christ, or out love for Christ, God will reward you for it (Heb 11:6).

“Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”  “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” (Rev 14:13).

Brothers we can have confidence that He will reward our labors of love and our works of faith. “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in  our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 1: 3).