by Owen Weber
Edited by Edit Inc.
Copyright 1988 Owen Weber
This book may not be reproduced in any form without the
written consent of the author.
Table of Contents
Newness of Life
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International
Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible
Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
My mother-in-law has a
bookshelf filled with a
collection of encyclopedias, dictionaries, and many other reference
books. I recently noticed that one of those many books was
more worn than all the others. The spine of this paperback
was torn away, and the front cover was missing as well. When
pulled it from the shelf, it fell into my hands in multiple
pieces. Finally, when I realized what it was, it made perfect
sense. It was a crossword puzzle dictionary, used on a daily
basis by my mother-in-law since she's an avid crossword puzzle
fan. Although all the other reference books were used
occasionally, this one was needed every day because it was more
applicable to her everyday activities. It was the one that
applied so directly to her activities that she had worn it
(Yes, I did buy her a new crossword puzzle dictionary).
Likewise, the Bible is a
collection of many
books, all of which are inspired by God and worthy of our study (2
Timothy 3:16). It's the responsibility of the individual
to examine the scriptures daily (Acts 17:11). We should
all the various types of statements it makes, and understand the
audiences to whom they were addressed. Then we must stand
accountable to God for how we expect to apply the Bible's truths to our
own lives (Romans 14:12). This understanding is very
when we ask how we should live as Christians. Is there a
of the Bible that's geared to basic truths and instructions especially
Yes, there's a certain subset
of the books of
the Bible that contain truths which are more directly applicable to our
everyday lives as Christians, namely the epistles (letters), from
Romans through Jude. Whereas most of the Old Testament and
(Genesis through John) were mostly directed to the Jews, Acts
is a transitional book, and the Revelation largely describes future
events, the epistles constitute the teaching, or doctrinal portion of
the Bible for Christians.
The epistles are a collection
of letters from
the apostles (mostly from Paul) to Christians in established
churches. These epistles were all written
Christians, during the Christian Age, to Christians, about other
Christians, and for the benefit of Christians. With the
of a minimal amount of necessary historical narrative, almost every
verse teaches truths and guidelines on how God expects Christians to
live. This is in contrast with the other parts of the Bible,
which must be analyzed much more closely, with the proper discernment,
in order to determine just how they are teaching us. The epistles are
unquestionably and directly applicable to believers today, although
some books, such as 1st and 2nd Timothy, contain a few instructions to
specific individuals (such as Timothy), and they must be recognized and
interpreted with the appropriate discernment.
For example, most of us would
agree that we're
no longer required to build altars, make animal sacrifices, refrain
from work on Saturdays, or execute homosexuals, as the Old Testament
teaches. To further illustrate, consider a tricky
Was King David a Christian? At first thought, we might say
since he believed God's revealed word and showed evidence of his faith,
we can assume that he was a Christian (even though none of us truly
knows the heart of anyone else). However, David wasn't a
Christian because the church
and Christianity did not even exist until
after Christ ascended to heaven.
David was a Jew, and we have
evidence to think that he was a believer, but to label him as a
Christian is incorrect.
With this understanding, it
follows that a
discussion of the priorities of the Christian life can be effectively
presented through a doctrinal study of the ten percent of the Bible,
which comprises the epistles. Although, as we've already
the entire Bible warrants dedicated study, the outline for True
Christianity was constructed by carefully studying each verse of the
epistles, then categorizing each truth according to the ten major
doctrines which the epistles teach, along with their associated
sub-doctrines. Then the epistles can be further understood
through the light of the other ninety percent of the scriptures.
Of course there are countless
ways to organize
the presentation of the doctrines of the epistles, but by the approach
taken here, they seem to fall conveniently into ten major
categories. True Christianity offers a condensed systematic
theology for Christians, as well as a convenient reference
Except for omission of redundancy in order to save space, almost every
verse of basic Christian truths and guidelines in the epistles are
included or referenced in the following pages. As stated earlier, this
study doesn't discount the rest of the Bible. In fact, of
many references are made to pertinent scriptures outside the
epistles. We are, however, simply confining our doctrinal
of thought to the subject at hand, that of living the Christian
Albert Einstein once said, "I
want to know
God's thoughts, . . . the rest are details . . ." Scholars
divided on Einstein's belief in a personal God, but for believers his
statement indeed reveals the intelligence of a genius. As
Christians, we should want to know God's thoughts, and all the other
things in life are truly only details. We truly hope to know
As a child, I loved the
"Bonanza.” One of my favorite episodes found the
boys launching a new livery stable business. They soon had
disagreements that resulted in Hoss and Little Joe running a livery
stable on one side of town, while Adam competed against them with his
own livery stable on the other side of town. Naturally, a
war ensued, and every time one livery stable lowered its prices to draw
more customers, the other one lowered its prices even more.
Finally, Little Joe had a brainstorm. He told Hoss they
give their goods away free of charge, but that they should accept
donations. Hoss reluctantly agreed, although he didn't yet
understand how they could make a profit, even if they did move more
The first customer arrived,
merchandise, and asked for the
bill. Little Joe said,
"Oh, there's no charge. Just take it."
The confused customer asked
and Little Joe explained that their goods were free, although they
accepted voluntary donations. The customer began to leave,
almost angrily returned to the counter and threw a sum of money
the donation jar that actually exceeded the value of the
As he did, he said, "I don't take something for nothing!"
Well, of course, their
business prospered in
this way, but why? Why is this a believable story, and what
this customer respond the way he did? I believe it's an
between the business world and our human nature. When a
wants to give me something free of charge, I usually think it's a
gimmick. Sure, they'll give me a free month of phone service,
only if I agree to pay a hefty price for the rest of the
When an individual wants to give me something free, I usually think he
wants me to be indebted to him in the future. He'll do me a
now, but later he'll expect a bigger one from me.
Part of the problem here is
due to the
marketing tactics of the business world, but those tactics wouldn't
work if not for a weakness in our human nature. We're taught,
rightly so, that we should earn our own way without expecting other
people or governments to fund our livelihood. Most of the
of us baby boomers lived through the Great Depression, and they passed
on to us the hard lessons they learned about attaining an education and
earning a living. Indeed we understand that there are no free
lunches, so we strive to be responsible and self-sufficient.
Although this is a noble goal,
this mind set
can quickly grow into an ugly pride. We want everyone to know
that we don't need anybody else. We think that the worst
that could happen to us would be to have to go on welfare. So
is with our reluctance to accept grace
from God, absolutely
We want to earn our keep, and we want everyone to recognize that we
did. However, with God, there's no other way to receive his
blessings. In truth, we're not self-sufficient. We should
accept our dependence upon Him.
Why is the concept of
important? Well, throughout the history of the world, men
attempted to understand their relationships with a deity and with other
people. At the very core of every system of government,
or any other belief, there's always a central belief or doctrine which
upholds that system. That core doctrine then serves as a
foundation to support the residual structures, or sub-doctrines, each
of which must be consistent with that encompassing central doctrine.
A prime illustration in the
government is the Constitution of the United States, where we weigh all
decisions against that Constitution. Some systems have used
various sets of laws as their constitution while others have used
either historical records of past performances of humanity, or new
guidelines concerning man's deeds.
Most systems of religious
beliefs have also
used some form of legal constitution in order to govern themselves with
respect to their relationships with deity and mankind. This
where Christianity is unique and where it excels above any other system
of belief. Its central doctrine is that five-letter word
This grace still serves as a guideline to qualify
other beliefs, but in Christianity, this central belief is not a law.
What is this thing
it's the pillar of the Christian faith, it would seem necessary that it
be well understood by all Christians. Indeed, we use this
liberally in hymns and phrases of worship,
but do we really understand
was indeed preached
fervently by the
Apostle Paul as the very foundation of Christianity. In fact,
grace is the key element in every single Epistle of the New Testament,
which includes evidence of authorship by Paul. In each of
thirteen epistles, Paul begins by identifying himself as the author,
then he identifies the recipients of the letter, and then he
immediately proclaims grace to those recipients, "Grace to
In some cases he includes peace and mercy in his exhortation, but grace
is always the very first word of the body of the letter. He
only begins with grace and illustrates grace throughout his letters,
but he also ends each one with a similar expression of his desire for
grace to remain with those recipients, "Grace be with you."
that Paul preached is called ". . . the gospel
grace" in Acts 20:24. What then can be so critical about this
concept of grace?
We usually, both accurately
as the unmerited favor of God. Although we can't
explain grace with a single word or phrase, perhaps the best word to
begin our discussion on grace is the word "giving,” since
implies giving or imparting something to someone else.
commonly accepted truth in Christianity is that the Bible explains the
Christian way of giving in 2 Corinthians, Chapters 8 and 9.
However, until we define grace as giving, we don't fully grasp the
connection and realize that this passage of scripture defines and
explains the doctrine of grace. This discussion will attempt
clarify the doctrine of grace by analyzing the concept of grace as Paul
describes it in this letter to the Church at Corinth.
8:1 - 9:15 (NIV)
1) And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has
given the Macedonian churches. 2) Out of the most severe
their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich
generosity. 3) For I testify that they gave as much as they
able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own,
they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this
service to the saints. 5) And they did not do as we expected,
they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with
God's will. 6) So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a
beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your
part. 7) But just as you excel in everything--in faith, in
speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love
see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
8) I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love
by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9) For
know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet
for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might
10) And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter:
Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the
desire to do so. 11) Now finish the work, so that your eager
willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according
to your means. 12) For if the willingness is there, the gift
acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not
13) Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard
pressed, but that there might be equality. 14) At the present time your
plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will
supply what you need. Then there will be equality, 15) as it is
written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who
gathered little did not have too little." 16) I thank God,
put into the heart of Titus the same concern I have for you.
For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with
much enthusiasm and on his own initiative. 18) And we are
along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his
service to the gospel.
19) What is more, he was chosen by the
churches to accompany us as we carry the offering, which we administer
in order to honor the Lord himself and to show our eagerness to
help. 20) We want to avoid any criticism of the way we
this liberal gift. 21) For we are taking pains to do what is
right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of
men. 22) In addition, we are sending with them our brother
has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even
more so because of his great confidence in you. 23) As for
he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they
are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ.
Therefore show these men the proof of your love
and the reason for our
pride in you, so that the churches can see it.
1) There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the
saints. 2) For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been
boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year
you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most
of them to action. 3) But I am sending the brothers in order
our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that
you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4) For if any
Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we--not to say
anything about you--would be ashamed of having been so
5) So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in
advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had
promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as
grudgingly given. 6) Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly
also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap
generously. 7) Each man should give what he has decided in
heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a
cheerful giver. 8) And God is able to make all grace abound
you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you
will abound in every good work. 9) As it is written: "He has scattered
abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness
10) Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also
supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of
11) You will be made rich in every way so
that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your
generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
12) This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of
God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to
God. 13) Because of the service by which you have proved
yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your
confession of the gospel
of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing
with them and with everyone else. 14) And in their prayers
you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace
God has given you. 15) Thanks be to God for his indescribable
Paul actually introduces this
giving in 2 Corinthians 8:1 by saying that he wants the Corinthians to
". . . know about the grace
that God has given . .
Already he has verified that giving is the first word to be associated
with grace since grace is given sovereignly by God, and then reflected
by the churches. In fact, the terms grace and giving can
used interchangeably. Paul also verifies that the context of
passage is grace and giving by explicitly naming these topics in the
introductory verse, in preparation for a discussion on the subject of
grace. This is how we know that 2 Corinthians 8-9 is actually
explanation of what grace is.
Verse two associates this
giving or grace
the concept of generosity, or liberality: ". . . their
poverty welled up in rich generosity." Grace is not just
but it's giving liberally. This kind of giving is not made as
token gesture to a worthy cause. This giving pours out of a
person when he really cares enough to give. It's somehow
lot even when you don't have a lot to give. Grace knows no
Verse three continues to
by noting that it was given according to the givers' ability, and of
their own accord: " . . . they gave as much as they were
and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their
own . .
." Not only is one accountable for his own giving, but he
makes his own decisions concerning how much to give.
you can't give something that you don't have, and you usually have some
other obligations that prevent you from giving everything you
own. Grace is a conscious decision, which is approached with
common sense, but more importantly, it's a personal decision.
can't give according to "someone else's accord," and if you try this
deception, then you're not giving in grace. If you give a
amount or percentage just because someone told you that you should,
then you're probably not giving in grace.
Verse four says that the
disseminator of grace
is so excited about giving that he begs to participate: " . .
they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this
service to the saints." Try to imagine the Christian who
giving so much that be begs for the opportunity to share his grace with
others. This level of commitment is only achieved by those
give "themselves first to the Lord" as described in verse
First one sacrifices himself, and only then his possessions.
can't graciously give his possessions until he has given himself.
Paul then reveals the
uniqueness of grace
verse eight by saying, "I am not commanding you, but I want to test the
sincerity of your love
by comparing it with the earnestness of
others." In other words, if grace is a conscious and personal
decision to give of your own accord, how can Paul, or anyone else,
command grace? If it has to be commanded, it's not
If it's not an earnest and sincere decision made in love,
then it's not
grace, so it's really not even giving. If someone else is
your decision to give, then it's not of your own accord.
This brings us back to the
unmerited favor. If one gives without
then he's giving for some kind of merit or payoff.
shouldn't give in order to satisfy some command, law, or
obligation. In fact, if we do, this isn't giving at all--it's
paying. It's a travesty to use our giving as some sort of
to secure God's favor. Now we begin to see the
quality of grace.
seems foreign to us
because none of our
other activities operate on grace. When an employer pays an
employee for his work, neither one is giving in grace.
paying each other--work for pay, and pay for work. The
earned the money
by his work, and he deserved the money
because of his
prior agreement with his employer. This is appropriate
do not pretend that employment operates under a grace system.
However, some activities are
deceptive. When we contribute to an organization in order to
receive a free gift, neither the contribution nor the gift is given
Certainly when we give a certain amount of money
to a church
because someone told us we should, we're not giving in grace;
therefore, we're not giving at all.
doesn't distort the
meaning of giving;
rather, grace is giving, in that grace is the sovereign gift of
God. Giving is mutually exclusive from paying just as grace
mutually exclusive from merit.
Giving in grace
when we don't
expect anything in return. When we give to a beggar on the
street, we probably never expect to see that beggar again, so we don't
expect anything in return from him in the future.
On a recent vacation to New
York City, my
family and I were walking down Broadway one evening. We
homeless man whom I had hardly noticed, but as we walked by, my
daughter quietly gave him a kind word and handed him a few
dollars. I noticed this incident out of the corner of my eye,
I strained to hear the ensuing conversation in order to ensure her
The homeless man looked into
eyes and said, "May you always be happy, and may all your dreams come
I glanced at the man and
He heard me laugh, and then
looked into my eyes and said, "No, I mean it!"
Although some would say he was
just using a
ploy in order to get more money,
I think this man understood grace,
perhaps because of the misfortunes life had dealt him. My
daughter didn't have to stop and speak or give him anything.
she gave him was a gift of grace because she knew he would probably
neither repay what she gave nor ever even see her again. He
nothing with which to repay her, except his blessing, which I'll always
However, even a situation like
this can be
transformed from grace
into legalism by doing it in order to somehow
earn points with God. We shouldn't give in order to earn
favor. We should do it out of compassion for the needy rather
than out of pious greed. When children perform household
in exchange for an allowance, neither the children nor the parents have
experienced grace. However, when they do their chores in
recognition of the responsibilities, needs, and love
of each family
member, their actions are done in grace.
The Grace of
Our example of grace
in verse nine in
the life of ". . . our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet
for your sake, he became poor so that you through his poverty might
become rich." If one gives in grace, he's actually willing to
become poor. The key to grace is seen in verse
ten: " . . . not only to give
but also to have
the desire to do so." Paul again speaks this as an opinion,
command. Then verse eleven says, "Now finish the work, so
your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of
it, according to your means."
when we achieve
the readiness to give, even before the actual giving, although we
should carry through with the gift.
A few years ago, I was working
in an office
where most of us workers had become fairly good friends. When
Christmas approached, one of the young women in our group (we'll call
her Charlotte) was upset because she wasn't going to be able to go home
for Christmas since she didn't have the money
for a plane
She moved from office to office sharing her troubles and looking for a
listening ear. We each listened sympathetically, tried to
her up, and some of us might have even invited her to share Christmas
with our own family.
I remember when one of the men
in our group
(we'll call him Bill), was one of the last of us to receive word that
Charlotte couldn't afford a plane ticket home for Christmas.
never forget when Bill walked into Charlotte's office, reaching for his
wallet, and saying, "How much do you need?"
While the rest of us tried to
Bill used grace.
Charlotte needed money,
was willing to give, and he carried through with his gift.
when I think of the grace
of Jesus Christ, I think of Him showering
gifts upon me from heaven
and saying, "How much do you need?"
Verse twelve explains that if
the readiness is
present, then one will give ". . .
according to what
one has, not according to what he does not have." Obviously
neither can we give according to what we expect to have in the future
(such as signing a pledge card based upon our expected income for the
coming year). Furthermore, we shouldn’t be overly
with the size of the gift, because the amount of the gift doesn't
determine the grace.
If we truly give in grace, the amount
In 2 Corinthians 9:2, Paul
explains that grace
has a zealous quality as well: "For I know your eagerness to
. . . and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to
verse five, Paul refers to their ". . . generous gift, not as one
grudgingly given." A grace gift is a bountiful gift, and it's
unaffected by covetousness. Verse seven reiterates that grace
a personal decision according to what ". . . one has decided in his
heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a
cheerful giver." Grace is given according to what's in one's
heart, not according to what's in someone else's heart.
Perhaps this explains
is elusive to
us. We can't depend upon anyone else to make our decisions of
grace for us, and we're often unwilling to make those decisions
ourselves. Grace is given cheerfully, not grudgingly or under
compulsion or pressure. Since grace can only be exercised
completely free from outside pressure, nobody should ever be pressured
to give. In fact, if giving is done under pressure, it's not
When Ananias lied to the Holy
Spirit in Acts
5:4, Peter rebuked him for not giving in grace.
possessions belonged to him before he sold them, and the money
his after he sold them. It was all under his control, and it
his to use as he pleased. If he chose to give in grace, then
was fine. If he chose to use it in another way that was fine
However, the sin
was in using it to gain merit and then deceive others
into thinking it was given in grace. By Romans 4:4-5 and
11:6, grace and works are mutually exclusive.
The final lesson on grace
this passage is
found in 2 Corinthians 9:8, 14 where Paul cites that God is the one who
makes grace abound in us. In 2 Corinthians 8:1, Paul called
grace that which "God has given," so this necessitates a discussion on
the sovereignty of God.
All things come from God
(James 1:17), and all
things originate from God (1 Corinthians 11:12). God does all
(Colossians 1:12-17), He knows all (Colossians 2:3), He works all
things in all people (1 Corinthians 12:6), He gives righteousness
(Philippians 3:9), and He supplies all of our needs (Philippians
4:19). In accordance with the definition of grace
Corinthians 8 and 9, He freely gives us all things (Romans 8:32, 1
Corinthians 2:12). In fact, He not only freely bestows grace
us (Ephesians 1:6), but he generously lavishes it upon us (Ephesians
1:8). He "poured" the Holy Spirit upon us richly (Titus
3:6). He gives us His mercy (Romans 9:16, 11:30,
destiny doesn't depend upon our own deeds; rather, on what God has
given to us and done for us (Romans 9:16, Titus 3:5). God
supplies us with our spiritual
gifts (Romans 12:1-21, 1 Corinthians
Paul says, in 1 Corinthians
4:7, "What do you
have that you did not receive?" Then in 1 Corinthians 15:10,
says, "By the grace
of God I am what I am . . . yet not I,
the grace of God that was with me." God owns everything, but
gives to us in grace, and He expects us to be good stewards of His
gifts (Colossians 1:25), including our time (Ephesians 5:16), and to
share our grace with others.
In Philippians 4:4-13, Paul
tells us that it's
only through an understanding of grace
that we'll achieve the happiness
and contentment that God wants for us. We are to rejoice in
not ourselves (Philippians 4:4). Our peace comes from knowing
that God is in charge, not us (Philippians 4:7). Only through
recognizing His sovereignty will we be content (Philippians 4:13).
The first step toward true
through our understanding of grace
is to realize our worthlessness
(James 4:10). Once we give God the credit for "gracing" us,
can achieve an attitude of faith rest (1 Peter 5:7), and truly ". . .
not be anxious about anything" (Philippians 4:6), by relying 100% upon
Him. We must realize that ". . . the battle is the Lord's" (1
Samuel 17:47), and that He'll not allow us to be tempted with more than
we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). Then we can maintain a
relaxed mental attitude of peace and humility. Now that is
In Matthew 6:25-33, Jesus
tells us not to
worry about the material details of life. He illustrates that
God adequately cares for his other creatures, apart from their worry,
then he'll surely care for us. Concerning our material needs,
says, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these
things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33). Knowing
God will provide all our needs, we can truly have an attitude of faith
With an understanding of
curious about its effect on living the Christian life. John
emphasizes the uniqueness of the Christian faith by citing that Moses
brought the law, but Jesus brought grace and truth. Christ
"graced" us with freedom from the law (Galatians 2:16, 21, 3:12, 4:31,
5:1, 4, 13). Christ fulfilled the law, and we're not under
but under grace (Romans 6:14). The law served its purpose as
tutor in order to teach us the grace way of life, which Christ offered
Under the liberty of grace,
we're freed from
judging others, and from the judgments of others (Romans
14:2-15:2). Under grace, all things are lawful but not all
are beneficial (1 Corinthians 6:12, 10:23-33). The very
of the Spirit assures us of this liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17), and one
must exercise this liberty by his own free will, completely free from
compulsion (Philemon 14). In Colossians 2:16-23, Paul warns
that this liberty is opposed by legalisms such as ritualistic
observance of special holy days. How could we force others to
observe such rituals under a system of grace?
Unfortunately, sometimes an
explanation of grace provokes
those who don't understand it to say that it gives us a
license to sin
(Jude 4). It's impossible for such a question to come
from a grace-oriented Christian. Once a Christian is oriented
toward grace, he would never think of asking such a question, nor would
he ever worry about it. When grace takes over, you do what
want to do, but what you want to do is to please God. This is
illustrated in Paul's life, where in 1 Corinthians 9:16, he says he
preached because God led him to preach. It's what he wanted
do, because he felt led under compulsion from the Holy Spirit to do it.
Christians are freed from the
Mosaic Law of
the Old Testament that the Jews were required to follow as a daily way
of life. Romans 6:14 says ". . . you are not under the law,
Although everything exists by the grace of God,
through that grace He gave the Jews the law as a way of life.
Although He manifested Himself to them by grace, He still demanded that
they keep the Law as rules for their daily lives. They were
required to offer sacrifices, offerings, and tithes, to rest on
Saturdays, and to obey hundreds of other moral, civil, and religious
laws. We Christians are freed from the law, and now God not
reveals Himself through grace, but he wants us to live according to
grace as a way of life.
For example, Galatians 4:10
2:16 illustrate this principle by showing that since we're not under
the law, we no longer must refrain from all work on Saturdays, as was
required of the Jews. The law was given to make us conscious
(Romans 3:20), and to teach us grace
However, once grace is learned, the law is void because the love
Jesus fulfilled the law for us (Romans 13:10). The Old
Jews obeyed God in order to receive His blessings on their lives, but
we Christians obey God because He already has blessed us.
By receiving His grace,
we want to obey Him, and by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit,
we will obey Him (Romans 7:4). This is what is so critical
grace. To learn grace (Galatians 3:24) and to grow in grace
Peter 3:18) is our first step toward pleasing God in this age, His Age
of Grace. God freed us from the law (Romans 6:14), and we're
to the law (Romans 7:4). Living under the law means living
a curse (Galatians 3:10), but Christ freed us from that slavery to the
law (Galatians 5:1).
Galatians 4:9 says, "But now
that you know
God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you are turning back to
those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be
by them all over again?" Here Paul clearly states that the
enslaved people, but grace
has freed them from their enslavement to the
law. The law constituted ". . . weak and miserable
and any legalism is an expression of desire to return to that
enslavement, and to deny God's grace.
This is what Galatians 5:4
means by having ".
. . fallen away from grace."
This whole passage refers to
believers who accept God's grace for salvation
through faith, but then
try to deny grace as a way of life by returning to the enslavement of
rules and laws to govern their daily lives. Philippians 3:2-3
calls these kinds of legalists "dogs" of the "false circumcision" as
opposed to those followers of Christ and His grace, which are of the
true circumcision. It's amazing how so many of us would
try to earn our salvation
instead of simply trusting God's grace
Colossians 2:20-23 says,
"Since you died with
Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still
belong to it, do you submit to its rules: 'Do not
Do not taste! Do not touch!'? These are all
perish with use, because they're based on human commands and
teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of
with their self-imposed worship,
their false humility and their harsh
treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual
indulgence." Legalism expresses a self-abasement in
man-made, physical teachings of men, but grace
is the Godly, spiritual
life for Christians. We live by eternal grace, not by
In 1 Corinthians 10:27-28, we
contrasted with grace
in an illustration concerning the violation of
the law by eating meat, which had been sacrificed to idols.
says that when we're invited to eat, we should eat whatever is
served. However, if a legalist objects to our actions, we
accommodate him by modifying our behavior for his sake, even though
we're free to do what we want. Grace gives us both freedom
Giving still stands as
the most accurate one-word definition of grace, and this giving needs
no human external motivation. In summary, true grace is given
liberally, decisively, excitedly, personally, freely, desirably,
readily, willingly, voluntarily, and cheerfully. Grace is
complete freedom, liberty, and truth. God gives grace to us
we reflect His grace to others.
Perhaps the most effective way
to describe grace
is to define what it isn't. Grace is not merited or
deserved, or given in exchange for anything else. Grace is
paid for anything expected, and it's not owed for anything
received. In summary, grace is the unmerited, undeserved,
unexpected, unselfish, ungrudging, non-exchangeable, non-owed,
non-coveted, non-compulsive, non-pressured favor of God.
relieves all pressures
and stress, and
it gives us happiness and a relaxed mental attitude. The
Christian life is one, which is relaxed and objective, not based upon
emotions, experiences, entertainment, or fanfare. Grace
orientation will abolish our need for "How to Cope With Stress" classes.
one can truly
be content and
satisfied with himself. No other system could establish such
personal relationship with God. "For sin
shall not be your
master, because you are not under the law, but under grace" (Romans
6:14). Christians must understand grace in order to live the
Christian life of submission and obedience to God.
For years, we visited my
in-laws in Corpus
Christi every Thanksgiving. We all looked forward to the
the weekend when we would drive to Joe Cotten's for the best barbeque
dinner in Texas. However, the first time we went, I learned a
lesson about grace.
When it was time to pay the bill, my
father-in-law made sure he picked up the check. He carried it
protectively to the cashier, and insisted on paying the entire bill,
despite my objections. Though I felt bad about this at first,
began to understand that he felt very good about being able to treat
his family to a good dinner.
In this situation, my job was
to accept his grace,
not to demonstrate to him that I was financially capable of
providing his daughter and grandchildren with a meal. Once I
accepted his grace, as the years passed, I even came to expect a free
barbeque dinner at Joe Cotten's every Thanksgiving. I would
climb into the car with no money
in my pocket, because I had come to
depend upon my father-in-law's grace. We should likewise
that we're not self-sufficient apart from God's grace, and that it's
actually easier to depend upon Him. With God, the only way to
attain His blessings is to "take something for nothing."
There once was a dwarf who
beside a shallow river, and the water in the river was clean and
pure. Every evening the dwarf would wade across the river to
firewood that he would use to cook his dinner and warm his
One evening while he was cutting wood on the far side of the river, a
sudden storm brought torrential rains and the dwarf sought shelter
under a fallen tree. He could only watch as the river's
tranquility gave way to rage and the water spilled over its
banks. The dwarf waited for the floodwaters to recede so that
could return home, but the rains kept coming.
Darkness came, and after many
suffering cold and hunger, the dwarf was startled by a giant walking up
to the edge of the river.
"What's the matter?" roared
The dwarf replied, "I'm cold
and hungry but I
can't return home. If I try to swim the swirling river, I will surely
"No problem," said the
giant. "I was
about to cross the river myself. I'll gladly take you across."
Although the cold night was
coaxing the dwarf
to accept the giant's offer, he was still somewhat cautious.
should I believe that the river will not sweep us both to our deaths?"
The giant, understanding the
gently replied, "To me this river is small. I can walk across
without even having to swim. I've done it many times when the
water was much higher than this."
Though rain dripped from his
face, and his
stomach growled with hunger, the dwarf responded, "Why should I trust
you? How do I know I won't become your own dinner?"
"I wouldn't hurt you," said
somewhat disappointed in the distrusting dwarf. "I'll even
your firewood, and after you're safe at home, I'll kill a buck for your
dinner while you dry and warm yourself."
The cold but ever-prudent
"What will you want in return? More than I can afford no
"You'll owe me nothing,"
giant. "I would do this freely for anyone in need, as I have
Still hesitant, the dwarf made
inquiries. "If I cross the river with you, what must I do to
saved from the river's torrents? Though you may cross safely,
may drown without your even knowing."
"Leave it all to me," replied
"You don't have to do anything. Just believe that I can do it
all. Just trust me. Here, just let me lift you into
pocket. Though I get wet, you will stay dry. You'll
warm and you can even go to sleep if you want. In fact that
make it easier for both of us, and I'll have you home in no time."
The kind giant knelt down to
make his pocket
easily accessible for the dwarf. Finally, the gentle giant's
kindness gave way to the night's cold rain. The dwarf agreed
the giant's plan of salvation,
and he allowed the giant to lift him
into his huge pocket. He stayed warm and dry during the
home. When they arrived, the dwarf built a fire with the wood
giant had carried. They both feasted on a buck the giant
and they remained friends forever.
So it is with man and
God. We know we're
doomed by our raging river of sin.
We can't do anything to
ourselves. Only God can save us. We simply believe
can save us, and place our trust in His saving grace.
free of charge, and then He continues to provide for us through eternity
with unearned blessings. The term "salvation"
means being saved from destruction, and the doctrine of salvation
teaches us how to be saved from an eternity
of fire in hell.
is obviously the first doctrine revealed to all new Christians.
God's purpose in saving
sinners is that
they'll learn to please Him by bearing fruit for Him and increasing in
His glory and grace
(Romans 7:4). Colossians 1:10 specifies
believers are to please God and bear His fruit through good works and
through increasing in the knowledge of His word.
Before we explore the other
facets of salvation,
let's take a deeper look at its source. As one
is consistent with the preeminent doctrine of grace.
Throughout the epistles, the persistent message that salvation
is a free grace gift from God is explained. Ephesians 2:5
says, "By grace you have been saved." Also, Romans 4:4-5 and
Romans 11:6 indicate that grace and works are mutually
If one attempts to gain salvation
by works, this nullifies the saving
The scriptures are also
emphatic to indicate
that God is the one who supplies salvation,
not man. He
in His omniscience as he purposes (Romans 9:11,
We're led to repentance by His kindness (Romans 2:4). It's
choice, not ours (Romans 11:5). God does as He wishes (1
Corinthians 15:38). He chose us. We did not choose
(Ephesians 1:4, 2 Timothy 2:10). We are God's inheritance
Throughout the epistles,
Christians are called
the "elect" or the "called" (1 Corinthians 1:24-26, Galatians 1:15,
5:8, Ephesians 4:1, 4). This establishes the doctrine of
(Jude 1). This is consistent with the fact that God is the
who is in control. Romans 8:30 says that all Christians are
predestined, called, justified, and glorified by God. Romans
shows that God actually foreknew us in eternity
just a knowledge of our future actions, but an intimate relationship
between God and us. He has adopted us as His own (Ephesians
11), and he has approved us (1 Thessalonians 2:4). He
beforehand (Romans 9:23-24, Ephesians 2:10), and even wisdom is
predetermined (1 Corinthians 2:7). In fact, even the ungodly
their destiny predetermined (Jude 4).
Without a saving knowledge of
and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we could not enter into the
deeper truths of God's Word. Most Christians understand that
along with our saving comes eternal life in heaven
(John 3:15-16, 2
Thessalonians 2:16) which Revelation 21:1-8, 27 describes as eternal
paradise. In fact, Hebrews 5:9 uses the phrase "eternal salvation,"
because it indeed ushers us into the eternal plan of
God. However, there's much more to salvation
life. The following paragraphs illustrate exactly what
us when we're saved.
Because God is righteous, His
but His wrath toward us sinners was appeased by our
substitute sacrifice Jesus Christ. This satisfaction of God's
wrath is called the doctrine of propitiation
(1 John 4:10), and it was
the blood of Christ on the cross that afforded us this blessing (Romans
3:24-26). God can now "pass over" our sins because Jesus is
"Passover" sacrifice (1 Corinthians 5:7) just as lambs were offered by
the Old Testament Jews for their Passover sacrifices. God's
is now appeased toward the sins of the whole world because of the
sacrificial death of Jesus. Because His wrath toward us is
appeased through Christ (1 John 2:2), we have no condemnation for sin
(John 3:17-18, Romans 8:1). Although this doctrine is not
understood, we should not take it lightly. Read Psalms 51 to
David's description of the jubilation that comes from realizing that
one's sins are not counted against him.
Our sins carry the penalty of
and God in His justice demands payment of that penalty. We
atonement for our sins, and this doctrine of atonement is called
expiation (Romans 3:25). Christ's death on the cross paid the
required price for the penalty we incurred, and it extinguished our
sins. We must understand that the sins of us believers do not
unpunished. A price had to be paid, but Christ paid it for us.
Toward the end of the movie
version of James
Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans, Duncan Heyward and the
Munro sisters were captured by Indians, and Hawkeye bravely entered the
camp to try to negotiate their release. The Indians demanded
sacrificial payment, and they declared that one of the girls must be
killed. Although Hawkeye was willing to be killed instead,
Heyward overruled him and offered to die in place of the
This satisfied the Indians, and so it was done.
Likewise, Christ sacrificially
paid our debt
with His life, and His payment was pleasing and acceptable to God the
God used this payment of
Christ on the cross
for our sins to actually purchase us, which brings us to the doctrine
(Romans 3:24, 1 Peter 1:18-19). In grace,
redeems us out of the slave market of sin
through His forgiveness of
all of our sins (Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:14). This redemption
is made possible by the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18-19). We
also have God's continuing forgiveness of our temporal sins of the
flesh through confession by 1 John 1:9.
Slaves can be bought and sold
by masters, but
not by the slaves themselves. When slavery was practiced in
United States, slaves were bought and sold only by free men.
slave couldn't buy and sell another slave. Slaves weren't
allowed to have money,
so they had no means for buying other slaves.
I have a ten-cent piece from
the Civil War
era, and it has a hole through it. The reason for the hole is
that it once belonged to a slave who had drilled a hole in it and worn
it for jewelry. This is the only way a slave was allowed to
In Alex Haley's Roots, Chicken
one of the first black men to gain his freedom, and many white men were
unbelieving at first seeing a free black man. Just as Chicken
George was redeemed from slavery into freedom, so are we redeemed out
of the slave market of sin
Justification by Faith
Once we're redeemed and
justifies us by imparting the absolute righteousness
of Jesus Christ to
us (Romans 3:22), thus declaring us to be righteous in His
When God looks at us, He sees the righteousness
of Jesus Christ, which
alleviates any condemnation for sin.
As stated above, God is
one who does this, and we must only accept his grace
faith. The scriptures are not always easy to understand, but
there's one message that's clearly repeated throughout the epistles,
it's this doctrine of justification by faith, as opposed to
justification by works.
Romans chapters three through
Galatians chapters two through five are dedicated to this
doctrine of justification by faith, and it's explicitly stated in many
more scriptures (John 3:16, Acts 16:31, Romans 1:16-17, 1 Corinthians
1:21, Galatians 2:16-20, and Ephesians 2:8-10).
We can't begin to cover all
the proof texts
here, but it's worthwhile to look at a few of them in order to show the
clarity of the scriptures concerning justification by faith
alone. This is a critical dividing point between various
today, including a major point of controversy between Catholicism and
Probably the most emphatic and
on justification is Galatians 2:16, "A man is not justified by
observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too,
put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in
Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no
one will be justified." How could this possibly be any
clarified? Romans 1:16 says that the gospel
is the power of
to everyone who believes (John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 1:21). In
fact, the most common terms found in the scriptures for differentiating
Christians from non-Christians are "believers" and "unbelievers," so
justification by faith is even inherent by definition.
It should also be noted that
justification by faith is in accord with the doctrine of grace
4:16, 5:2), in that even our faith comes from God (Romans 12:3,
Philippians 1:29, Colossians 2:12, 2 Peter 1:1). God is the
who justifies (Romans 8:33, 1 Corinthians 6:11).
When my son was a senior in
high school, he
took a job as an assistant teacher at a day care where he taught a
class of four-year-olds. He once told me a story about one of
students, which beautifully illustrates true faith.
On a pretty fall day, my son
took the children
outside to play. Suddenly, on an otherwise calm day, they
stiff gust of wind against their faces. It must have been the
strongest gust of the season, loosening the excess of multicolored
leaves from the huge trees in the playground. As a steady
downpour of leaves gently rained down upon them, every child and adult
in the yard ceased their activities and simply enjoyed nature's autumn
showcase. The gust ended, but they all continued watching for
about twenty seconds until the last leaf found its resting place.
One girl wandered near my son,
watching the trees and kicking at the ground. Finally she
"Could you tell Jesus to do that again?"
That is the simple, childlike
faith with which we must believe the gospel
The doctrine of sanctification
through 8) teaches that God sets us apart as new creatures in
Christ. We have positional sanctification "in Christ" as
to our prior state "in Adam." Our being "in Christ" is
to the state of Texas being in the union of the United
Although I live in Texas, I live under the federal headship "in the
United States," and I'm entitled to certain rights that come with that
position. For example, the state of Texas can't violate my
under the federal Bill of Rights. Also, if a foreign nation
declares war on the United States, they're also implicitly declaring
war on all the citizens of Texas as well, because we identify with the
Likewise, as an unbeliever, I
was formerly "in
Adam" which meant that I was under the federal headship of Adam, and
accountable for the sins that Adam and I committed. However,
I became a believer in Christ, I was placed "in Christ" which means I
can claim His sacrifice for my sins as my own, as well as the righteousness
He freely bestowed upon me.
Along with being set apart
sanctification, we also have experiential sanctification in our daily
lives because we now have power over sin.
consecration won't result in our total perfection in this life, we're
assured of perfection in eternity.
John 3:6-7 uses the phrase
"born again" to
speak of our regeneration
in Christ. He regenerates us into
creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17) and gives us a newness of life in the
Spirit (Romans 7:6) through the renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus
3:5). We are now God's children (1 John 3:2), His sons
3:26) and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18). He has adopted us
(Romans 8:15, Ephesians 1:4-5), and he has annulled the former hardness
of our hearts (Ephesians 4:18). When we're regenerated, God
us His Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5, 2 Corinthians 1:22, 1 John
God pours the Holy Spirit upon us richly (Titus 3:6). This is
third member of the trinity
of the Godhead. God the Holy
actually lives eternally within us (Romans 8:9), and we are to
continually be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
Corinthians 12:13, the Bible is emphatic to note that all believers are
baptized with the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, Romans 6:4-6
us that through the Holy Spirit, we now have power over the flesh.
Along with the Holy Spirit
come the gifts of
the Spirit, or spiritual
gifts (Romans 12:1-21, 1 Corinthians 7:7,
12-14), which enable us to perform Christian ministries.
gifts are given to us by God, just as He pleases, according to His own
good pleasure (1 Corinthians 12:11, 27-31). We are to hold
gifts in high esteem (1 Corinthians 14:1), and use them properly so as
not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). The gifts
in these passages probably constitute only a partial list of all
gifts. The emphasis is not on particular gifts, but on the
that everyone has different gifts, and we should not try to conform to
anybody else's expectations, or else we won't be exercising the gifts
God gave us.
The illustration in 1
Corinthians 12:16 shows
that although the ear is not an eye, this doesn't mean that it's not
part of the body. We should never try to impress people or
pretend that we're something that we're not. Spiritual gifts
given by God, not developed by some human means. It's a
to succumb to the pressure of an overly zealous believer who makes
others feel that they should be doing all the things that he's
doing. In fact, we shouldn't even always follow the examples
Biblical characters, and try to duplicate their actions.
Just because Paul traveled
known world preaching the gospel
doesn't mean that we should.
may have a different gift. To illustrate how absurd this
can be, most Christians would agree that just because Abraham slept
with his housekeeper doesn't mean that we should. We must
each do our own part as the Holy Spirit leads and enables us.
Christians are to be concerned with their own actions rather than to be
critical of others.
The controversy over spiritual
widespread today. Although many insist that all gifts are
today, the gifts of miracles, healing, and tongues were probably given
solely as signs to the Jews in order to validate the apostles'
teachings, to help spread Christianity, and to authorize the New
Testament as Christianity replaced Judaism (1 Corinthians 13:8-10,
14:21-22). "The perfect" in 1 Corinthians 13:10 refers to the
completed New Testament Canon
as the total revelation from
Hebrews 2:1-4 tells us that these miracle gifts were a confirmation of
the apostles and their message. They confirmed God's
revelation. These gifts were phased out as the Canon
was completed in the first century, A.D., along with the gifts of
knowledge, wisdom, and prophecy (1 Corinthians 13:8).
Even in the first
there was no
single gift given to each believer, which physically verified salvation
(1 Corinthians 12:30), as some claim that the gift of tongues does
today. Such claims are inconsistent with the doctrines
and faith. Philippians 2:25-27 verifies that even Paul no
possessed the gift of healing toward the end of his ministry, by
showing that he was unable to heal Epaphroditus.
Once the Canon
was completed and
we had a finished Bible, God no longer manifested Himself through human
agents with the gifts of miracles or healing, although of course He
still often produces miracles and healing through our prayer and
With the Word of God now complete in our Bible,
does He any longer zap us with visions and dreams as he used to do
occasionally in Biblical times. By Jeremiah 23:25, men who
such claims today are called liars, and we're warned not to add in any
way to God's completed revelation (Revelation 22:18-19).
What we see today doesn't
follow New Testament
guidelines. God's revelation must be presented in
words (1 Corinthians 14:9). The tongues of the New Testament
foreign languages, which were understood by those who had that
particular language as their native tongue (Acts 2:4). In the
Testament, speaking in tongues was exercised by only one
at a time and by not more than three during one service, and not at all
unless an interpreter was present to relay the message in an
intelligible language (1 Corinthians 14:27). All church
are to be conducted in a fitting and orderly way (1 Corinthians
14:40). When we see unrestricted babbling that nobody
understands, we can be sure that this is not the New Testament gift of
Since God’s wrath
toward us has been
satisfied, our sins have been forgiven and paid for, and we have been
declared righteous, God is free to do another great thing for
Now He can give us peace by reconciling us to Himself (Colossians
1:22), and granting us the ministry of reconciliation
5:18-19). This is necessary in order for God to restore the
and humanity, which have been separated from Him since the Garden of
Eden. Again, this gift of reconciliation
is made possible
the blood of Christ (Romans 5:10).
Having been reconciled by God,
He also gives
us a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:5, 9, Revelation 1:6). We
have access to God the father through Jesus Christ the Son (Ephesians
2:18, Hebrews 10:19-20). This was symbolized by the tearing
the temple veil at the point of Jesus's death on the cross (Matthew
27:51). When Christ died, the temple veil was miraculously
by God, indicating that each believer now was his own priest, and that
a mediator or intercessor is no longer necessary for communication with
God, as was the case with the nation of Israel in the Old
Testament. Hebrews 10:19-20 explains that we now have
to enter the holy place because Christ inaugurated us through the veil
by His flesh. Now we are to draw near to the throne
(Hebrews 4:16) through prayer.
Also, the very nature of this
implies privacy of the priesthood (Galatians 6:5). This
relationship is between the individual believer and God, and nobody
else should try to interfere in it (Job 19:4). This is
obvious by virtue of the fact that our relationship with God is a
by God, we
enter into His
eternal kingdom (Colossians 1:13). God calls us to our new
position in His kingdom (1 Thessalonians 2:12), and we enter it through
Christ (2 Peter 1:11). This kingdom is one that we live in a
temporal way now on earth, but it will be fully realized only when we
see it in heaven.
This is not the same kingdom as the
kingdom where Christ will reign for 1000 years on earth from the city
of Jerusalem. This millennium will be discussed in the
The End Times.
As children of God, we're
citizenship. The citizenship of all believers is in heaven
(Philippians 3:20). We're not really at home here on the
earth. We're actually strangers here (Ephesians 2:12, Hebrews
11:13). Luke 10:20 says that the names of all believers are
recorded in heaven.
We are members of God's household
2:19), and we won't really be at home until we reach heaven
The final facet of salvation
although we do not fully realize the glory of God while we remain in
this life. However, we have the hope of the glory of God in heaven
(Romans 8:18). This is true of all who have been
(Romans 8:30). We'll realize this glory when Christ returns
When we think of God's glory,
we should think
of His bright shining light. Our blessed hope is to realize
glory in heaven
someday, where there is no need for suns or stars
because He provides the light (Revelation 22:5).
With the gift of salvation
come gifts of
responsibility. As children of God, we're Lights in the
World. At salvation,
we're taken from darkness (Ephesians
into the light (1 Thessalonians 5:4). God is light, and there
no darkness in Him (1 John 1:5). We should walk in the light
have fellowship with each other (1 John 1:7). We're called to
lights in the world for Christ (Philippians 2:15). Another
of responsibility at salvation
is that we're now called to be
ambassadors of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). With this
privilege comes the responsibility of any ambassador, that of
mediation. As stated above, we're now God's lights in the
(Philippians 2:15) to those who don't share our
Obviously, here is where we should be witnesses to others for Christ.
freedom from the
slavery (Galatians 5:1) and curse (Galatians 3:10) of the law (Romans
6:14). As we saw previously, Moses brought the law, but Jesus
and truth (John 1:17). We have complete liberty
Christ (Galatians 3:10, 5:1). We're also freed from the power
the old sin
nature, or the flesh (Romans 6:6). It's annulled,
we're empowered to serve Christ according to God's will.
now complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10), and we should exercise our
power over sin.
To conclude this summary of salvation,
remember our initial comments on the eternal nature of salvation,
eternal life. By definition then, we can be confident in the
security of our salvation.
can't be revoked
8:31-39, 11:29). When one understands that salvation
completely by God, this eternal aspect of salvation
is not difficult to
accept. God made us secure, and He'll keep us secure
eternally. Just as we're children of our natural parents, and
can't negate that physical relationship, so did we become God's
children when we were born again, and we can't be "unborn" (Romans
8:26). We're His children forever (John 10:29). God
protects us (1 Peter 1:5) in what Romans 11:29 calls an irrevocable
calling. Romans 8:38-39 says nothing can separate us from the
not only secures us,
but it also
assures us. By 2 Corinthians 3-4, we have assurance of our salvation
simply by realizing that we understand the gospel
Corinthians 1:18, 2:14). The gospel
is foolish to the lost, so if it's
not foolish to us, then we are saved.
How Not to be
Unfortunately there are many
misnomers about salvation,
especially concerning how it's attained. salvation
not attained by walking an aisle, talking to a preacher, joining
public profession or confession, stopping one's sinning,
partaking of baptism,
communion, or circumcision, calling a
toll-free number, or by "doing" anything else. Neither is it
attained by more subtle misnomers such as being good, saying a prayer,
"giving one's life to Jesus," making some commitment, accepting some
challenge, being sincere, dedicating one's life to Christ, coming to
"know Jesus," humbling oneself, making Jesus Lord of one's life, nor
even believing that there is a God.
A particularly misleading ploy
is implied by
the phrase, "inviting Jesus into your heart." This is usually
supported by Revelation 3:20 which says that Jesus is knocking at the
door of the hearts of Christians. Unfortunately, too often
misinterpreted as an "invitation" of salvation
This deception often misleads sincere soul-searchers into believing
that some sort of physical "work" is required for salvation.
example, some heart transplant patients have been known to ask their
doctors whether the heart donor had Jesus in his heart. Now
clear can that person's understanding of salvation
Another deception is
often sent on guilt trips because they haven't lined up to somebody's
notion of their proper degree of involvement in the activities of the
Then this issue is cleverly confused with that
and Christians then get salvation
This results in Christians who ignorantly question their own salvation,
and then try to "compensate" by increasing their involvement in church
activities in which the Holy Spirit has not led them.
is simply a free
gift of grace
God to an undeserving sinner through his believing that Jesus is his
savior. This simply means trusting what Christ has done on
cross alone, as all that is necessary to take care of one's sin
problem. That sin
is what had separated each of us from God
(Romans 3:23), and condemned us to eternal damnation. Only
through our trust in Christ's atonement do we have eternal salvation.
We must avoid any illustrations, which imply that salvation
is attained through some combination of faith and works.
is the forgiveness, propitiation,
and absolute righteousness
given to us in grace
by means of faith in the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross, so that we
can live eternally in paradise. It's a free gift given by God
whomever he chooses to give it. With it comes freedom,
priesthood, access to God, heavenly citizenship, and a responsibility
to be lights in the world and ambassadors for Jesus Christ.
has justified believers by grace through faith. He has
believers into positional perfection so that He sees us as righteous as
Jesus Christ. He'll sanctify us into experiential perfection
the day that we reach glory in heaven.
Like the helpless dwarf, we
just trust in
God's saving power, accept his free offer, and ride to salvation
When my children were quite
enjoyed capturing caterpillars and waiting for them to turn into
butterflies. An amazing transformation takes place as the
wormlike caterpillar encloses itself in its cocoon, and then reemerges
as a beautiful winged butterfly.
As amazing as this
transformation is, it can't
begin to compare to what happens to a person at the moment he believes
in Jesus Christ as his savior. Romans 5:14-15 explains that
we're born physically, we're born into lives of flesh and sin,
have Adam as our federal headship. Then when we're
born again, we're born into a life in the spirit with Jesus as our
federal headship. Romans 7:6 calls this the newness of the
However, this newness of the
constitutes a far more extensive change than the change, which occurs
when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. In our newness, we've
actually become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). We're a
creature, and the old creature has passed away. The
only experienced a transformation from one form to another.
However, when God filled us with the newness of the spirit, He created
something that wasn't previously there. We actually became
This is not unlike what
happened to Saul when
he was being chosen as Israel's first king. In 1 Samuel 10:6,
when the Spirit came upon Saul, ". . . he
into a different person!" God changed his heart.
difference is that while the Spirit eventually left Saul in 1 Samuel
16:14, we Christians are indwelt with the Spirit forever.
new creatures in Christ, and what God sees when He looks at us is that
new creation in His Son, rather than our old flesh.
However, although we are new,
our flesh is
still with us, and that presents a serious problem. We've all
heard of people who struggle with split personalities.
constantly torn between their two completely different
characters. This is always the case for anyone who becomes a
Christian. We are brand new, but we bring along our old
Probably the hardest thing for
a new Christian
is accepting the fact that when we're born again in the Spirit, we do
not lose our flesh (the old sin
nature). The flesh does no
(Romans 5:18), it sins (Romans 5:20), and it's evil (Romans
5:21). Although we're in the Spirit and not in the flesh
7:25, 8:9), the flesh still lives in us (Galatians 2:20), even though
its power has been annulled.
This was even true for the
In Romans 7:14-25, Paul says that although he doesn't understand it, he
doesn't do the things he would like to do, and that he should do, but
he does the things that he hates. In Romans 7:8, the sin
that lived in
Paul produced coveting in him. However, since Paul was in the
Spirit, it wasn't he that was doing the sinning, but the flesh that
lived in him (Romans 7:17, Galatians
This phenomenon makes
perfect sense in light of Galatians 2:20 which says, "I have been
crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me,"
and Matthew 10:20 which says, ". . . for it will not be you speaking,
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." Before
saved, we're in the flesh and guilty of sin,
but after we're saved,
we're in Christ and declared righteous (justified). Before salvation,
our sinful flesh constitutes our being, but after salvation,
our regenerated spirit constitutes our being. We were sinners
the flesh, but now we're sanctified in Christ, even though the flesh
still resides in us.
This also explains the seeming
between 1 John 1:8, which says we all have sin,
and 1 John 3:9 which
says we won't continue to sin
if we're born of God. Although
continue to experience sin,
it's really the flesh, which remains in us,
which is doing the sinning.
This new life can be compared
to adopting a
child. Even though the child belongs to new parents, and it
learn the traits of those new parents, its genetic characteristics from
its biological parents are still with it. The new environment
will more powerfully influence the child, but the old genetic nature
will still remain.
In other words, when
God looks at us, he
sees the righteousness
of Christ, which He gave us. He
see us as creatures of the flesh. This is because of our
in Christ, and this is sometimes called positional sanctification, or
positional truth, as described in Romans 6:1-7:13. Again,
also explains 1 John 3:9 which says that no one born of God practices sin.
He can't sin.
It's the old flesh that is
we're in the spirit. When we're in the spirit, God no longer
counts our sin
against us (Psalms 51), and we suffer no condemnation
The obvious question is then
asked in Romans
9:19-20, "Then why does God still blame us?" The answer is
in Galatians 2:20 where we're crucified with Christ, and it's not even
we who live, but Christ lives in us. Furthermore, our lives
the flesh must be lived by faith. Here we have scriptural
of our dual personality.
This life in the flesh which
must be lived by
faith is sometimes called experiential sanctification as described in
Romans 7:14-8:39. "For sin
shall not be your master, because
are not under the law, but under grace"
(Romans 6:14). Jesus
brought us grace, and through that grace, we have power over sin
lives in the Spirit. Although we still have a sin
Ephesians 4:24 proclaims that we should constantly be putting on our
Therefore, we must constantly
our split personality. We're torn between life in the Spirit
life in the flesh. It's critical that new Christians
this. If they don't, they'll learn it the hard way in short
order. Christians sin,
and that's all there is to
that any unbeliever can commit can be just as ably committed
by any believer, and maybe worse so. We can't think that
above sinning just because we're Christians.
Through the power of the Holy
Spirit, we have
power over sin,
but we're all imperfect, and we don't utilize that
supernatural power as we should. We should impress this upon
Christians, lest they be distraught when they realize that all desires
for bad habits and temptations have not vanished the moment they accept
Christ as their savior.
Again, this is not a license
realization of sin.
We must then continually pray for control
If we don't, we're each capable of rapid digression
into ungodly practices rivaling any unbeliever, regardless of our
current status. If this were not the case, the epistles
have to warn us against sinning. This situation will continue
until our bodies of flesh are transformed into new bodies of
glory. Meanwhile, our sins are attributed to the flesh, and
new creation is always blameless before God. When we put on
new self, God is glorified, and when we sin,
Christ has atoned through
His death, burial, and resurrection.
Although we sometimes don't
like to admit it,
we can't achieve perfection in this life on earth. In 1 John
we see that if we try to claim perfection, we're only deceiving
ourselves because we all continue to sin,
and we'll continue to do so
until we're ultimately glorified by God in heaven.
even Paul struggled with everyday sin
in his life (Romans
7:15-8:1). Paul clearly admitted his imperfection in
3:12. Yet, Romans 9:19-20 makes it clear that we're still
accountable for our own actions.
Concerning the flesh and our
newness of life,
we must learn to differentiate between the symptoms and the
disease. The symptoms of the flesh manifest themselves
individual acts of sin,
but the disease is a lack of trust in God's grace.
Believers are given the power of the Holy Spirit, and
should live by that power. However, the flesh is still with
although its power is annulled and we have the power through the Spirit
to overcome evil. At the same time, since nobody is perfect,
must struggle daily in our own experiences, although when God looks at
us, He sees the righteousness
of Jesus Christ, because we've already
been sanctified into position in Christ.
I was raised in a Christian
family, and many
of my uncles and direct ancestors were preachers. In our zeal
uphold Christian values, we emphasized the importance of church
attendance and righteous living. However, as a child watching
world change around us, I became confused on the issue of Christian
values, and on what it really meant to please God. If you had
asked me then what I had to do to please God, I probably would have
recited the following four restrictions on my personal
don't drink, don't smoke, don't dance, and don't play cards.
Although each of these rules may have had some biblical basis for
constituting Christian values, they also caused me to miss the mark on
other very important aspects of pleasing God.
A Christian's ambition should
indeed be to
please God (2 Corinthians 5:9). We are to honor Him (1
6:16), and give Him our thanks in order to glorify Him (2 Corinthians
4:15). When we're properly oriented toward the concepts
and faith, we'll want to please Him. "Without faith, it is
impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6), and we're to continue to grow
in grace (2 Peter 3:18). We must study the Bible in order to
out how to please Him. It pleases God for us to grow in faith
grace. Also, Hebrews 13:16 tells us that doing good and
pleases God. Colossians 1:10 shows that believers are to
God by bearing fruit for Him through their good works and through
increasing in the knowledge of His word. After all, we
a fruit tree by the type of fruit it bears.
It pleases God when we bring
Him glory and
honor through praise and worship
(James 5:13). Praise and worship
mean different things to different people, but I learned to praise God
while driving my children to school. When my son was in first
grade and my daughter was in kindergarten, I drove them to school every
day, on my way to work. We would all climb into my little
'Pup, along with my briefcase and their backpacks and
was cramped, but cozy. Every day we would play praise and worship
tapes on the cassette player, praising God at the top of our
lungs. We received a few puzzled looks at stoplights from
commuters, but we surely learned how to praise God.
An obvious beginning toward
doing good is to love
one another (1 Corinthians 13:13). Jesus taught that we
God, and love
our fellow man (Matthew 22:36-40). John
taught that we are to love
God as He loves us (1 John 4:16).
pleases God when we love
Him, and when we love
one another as ourselves
(Galatians 5:14). This is a godly love,
meaning that we're
willing to pursue the well-being of others. We simply
attitude that is free of any ill will or dissent toward them.
This kind of love
never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8), and we are to
aggressively pursue this love
(1 Corinthians 14:1).
Furthermore, we are to
constantly reaffirm our love
for God (2 Corinthians 2:8). With this type of love,
exercise true kindness. Hebrews 13:2 says that we should be
even to strangers because we never know when they might really be
angels in disguise. I believe I experienced this on at least
On a business trip in 1985, I
was staying in
an expensive hotel in downtown Los Angeles. The hotel was
monitored by security guards as well as police officers. I
having dinner at a restaurant in the hotel, sitting at a table by
myself. Suddenly appearing before me was a homeless woman,
five feet of my table. She was a small, middle-aged black
with ragged clothes, uncombed hair, and a black trash bag holding her
She looked at me and said,
"Can you give me some money
so I can get something to eat?"
I'm ashamed to say how I
Although I didn't immediately consider how she had passed by the
security guards and managed entrance to the hotel, I suppose I was
simply startled by her presence there.
I simply shook my head and
She looked at me, somewhat
disappointed, and said, "Well, that's not very nice of you."
Then she turned, walked away,
and sat down at
a nearby table. As I continued eating my dinner, I became
convicted that I had not acted in a godly manner toward her.
finished my meal and approached her as I left.
I said, "I'm sorry.
You were right. I wasn't being very nice."
Then I gave her enough money
for dinner, and I
left. Only later did it occur to me that she should never
been there because the guards would have quickly thrown her out if they
had seen her. In fact, looking back upon this encounter, I
believe I was the only person that saw her. I don't think
else in the restaurant even knew she was there.
Was she an angel, testing
whether or not I'd
be kind to strangers? Of course, I have no definitive proof
she was. However, yes, I believe she was. Besides
unable to explain her presence there, I believe that God put her on my
mind when I subsequently studied this passage in Hebrews
She taught me a lesson, and ever since then, I've never refused a
request for money
It pleases God for us to wear
His full armor
(Ephesians 6:10-20, 2 Corinthians 4:4) in our constant battle against
the demonic world (Ephesians 6:12). We're His soldiers in the
battle (2 Timothy 2:3-4) and we must prepare ourselves for combat.
Our belt of truth (Ephesians
6:14) enables us
to know and discern the truth, know where to find it, and teach it to
others. Our breastplate of righteousness
then allows us to
perform godly good works (Ephesians 6:14). Our shoes of peace
teach us that we can have peace with God through the propitiation
Jesus Christ (Ephesians 6:15). We should wear our shield of
in our daily walk with God by trusting Him with our burdens (Ephesians
6:16). Through the helmet of salvation
we receive the righteousness
of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit
(Ephesians 6:17). The sword of the spirit is the Word of God,
Bible, which we must study and learn (Ephesians 6:17).
it pleases God to hear our constant prayers (Ephesians 6:18).
As with any Christian truth,
it's only through
the power of the Holy Spirit that we can please God, because "Those
controlled by the sinful nature can't please God" (Romans
Galatians 5:19-21 gives examples of deeds of the flesh, which range
from anger to sexual impurity. Romans 1:29-31 lists more
of the works of the flesh, all of which it categorizes as
unrighteousness, wickedness, evil (meanness), and approval of evil.
5:19 - 21
19) The acts of the sinful
nature are obvious:
sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20) idolatry and
witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition,
dissensions, factions 21) and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and
like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will
not inherit the kingdom of God.
29) They have become filled
with every kind of
wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder,
strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30) slanderers,
God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing
evil; they disobey their parents; 31) they are senseless, faithless,
In 1 Corinthians 6:18, the
Bible tells us to
". . . flee from sexual immorality" because immoral acts are sins
against one's own body. Indeed, this form of sin
futile and senseless since the sinner himself is one of the victims of
his own sin
and its consequences. Adultery (1 Corinthians
often considered to be the most common act of immorality. God
warned against adultery ever since He gave Moses the seventh
commandment on Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:14).
An adulterous act can easily
adulterer as a victim of his own sin
through guilt, deceit, unwanted
pregnancy, and loss of relationships, just to name a few.
Unfortunately, the adulterer often drags others down with him,
including his partner, spouse, children, friends, and the church.
it's revealing for us to remember that Jesus equated lustful thoughts
with adultery (Matthew 5:28).
The Bible portrays
homosexuality (Romans 1:27)
as one of the most obscene of all immoral acts. In the Old
Testament, homosexuality was punishable by death (Leviticus 20:13), and
in Romans 1:27, Paul tells us that homosexuals ". . . received in
themselves the due penalty for their perversion." The reader
decide for himself whether this is a promise of AIDS based on the
homosexual act. The sin
of sensuality is also explicitly
condemned in Galatians 5:19, along with any form of impurity or
indecency (Romans 1:27), including everything from lustful thoughts to
It's very revealing that among
the vile sins
listed in Romans 1:30, we find the sin
of pride as displeasing to God
as any act of immorality. Somehow pride doesn't seem so bad
us, but again God has condemned it in His written word ever since Old
Testament times. The book of Proverbs is filled with promises
blessings for the humble and curses for the proud. "He mocks
proud mockers but gives grace
to the humble” (Proverbs 3:34).
Pride is the insolent attitude
that causes us
to be haughty, boastful, and arrogant, and these attributes are all
explicitly condemned in Romans 1:30. When we're proud of our
work, our children, or our friends, we tend to think that God excuses
this pride from condemnation. However, pride is never treated
a positive attribute in the Bible, except for boasting in Jesus (2
Corinthians 10:17-18). Pride in any form is just as
to God as homosexuality.
Coveting is wanting what other
often to the extent that we want to take their possessions from
them. Covetousness is a common sin
today, and it has always
prevalent. It was condemned in the Old Testament by the tenth
commandment in Exodus 20:17, and in the epistles by 1 Corinthians
6:10. We are to be satisfied with what we have (Hebrews
and believe that God will generously provide for us (Philippians 4:19).
Coveting begins with envy,
which is condemned
in Romans 1:29. We become envious of the possessions, status,
position that others have. Then we become jealous, which is
condemned in Galatians 5:20, and we lose our love
for others by
harboring ill will against them. Our coveting often includes
greed, which is also condemned in Romans 1:29, and we want what others
have even when we already have more. Coveting material
possessions is somewhat obvious, but this subtle sin
can crop up under
any set of circumstances. Coveting is particularly
God when we covet the position, recognition, or authority of others,
especially in a church
environment where Christians are jealous of
Deceit is the mental sin
causes us to
construct a lie for our own personal gain. It's among the
sins in Romans 1:29. It leads to fraud (1 Corinthians 6:8),
swindling (1 Corinthians 1:10), and various other forms of
cheating. It also leads to another evil listed in Romans
that of being untrustworthy. It displeases God for us to not
up to our Christian calling of honesty. When we start being
dishonest, there is no limit to displeasing God.
The sins we commit by what we
say seem to hold
a special status of contempt in the Bible, and they're particularly
displeasing to God. In Proverbs 6:16-19, most of the things that God
hates are due to sins of speech. James 3:5-9 says that the
can be a devastating weapon. With it, we can gossip (Romans
1:29), slander (Romans 1:30), and revile (1 Corinthians 6:10), which
means to defame through abusive language. We've all felt the
of an insult from the lips of others, and it displeases God when we
damage the reputations of others or sow discord through our speech
We would all agree that hate
is a contemptuous sin,
and God verifies this in Romans 1:30. It leads to many
vile acts such as strife, competition (Romans 1:29), outbursts of
anger, and fighting (Galatians 5:20). Here God condemns any
of enmity, dissension, or faction. This is particularly ugly
Christian environment. Let us not forget that Jesus said that
anger is just as bad as murder (Matthew 5:21-22), which is
understandably condemned in Romans 1:29. Furthermore,
4:26 tells us not to let the sun go down while we're still
We should get over our anger quickly, and completely forgive and forget
Then there are those blatant
obviously displease God. Drunkenness (1 Corinthians 6:10) distorts our
thinking, so how can we learn God's word and please Him without a clear
Although the Bible doesn't
and the consumption of alcoholic beverages was widely practiced by
first century Christians, the Bible very plainly forbids
drunkenness. But what does the Bible say about drinking,
There are three passages in
the Bible that
suggest abstinence from all alcoholic beverages. The first is in
Proverbs 31:4-5 where "kings" are forbidden to drink because their
judgment would be impaired. In those days of monarchies,
were the ultimate court judges, like one-man supreme courts.
Bible said that they shouldn't drink because of the important decisions
they were expected to make. In the same way, who among us
is not responsible for decision making to some degree, and unsure when
he might have to make a decision?
The second reference is 1
Peter 4:7 which
tells us that since the end is near, we should stay sober and
clear-minded so that we can pray. How many drinks does it take to
distort one's thinking? Isn't the mind-altering effect of
one of the major motivations for most drinking?
The third reference is Romans
we're charged not to drink if it offends someone else or bruises their
spiritual confidence. Although a Christian has personally
searched the scriptures and decided he is not violating God's Word by
drinking, he may still choose to abstain to keep a fellow Christian
from stumbling, who may not have the same level of understanding. This
is where one must be accountable for what he believes and how he
interprets scripture. Isn't it becoming more obvious why we
study the Bible daily?
Again, the Bible doesn't say
must not drink. In fact, some passages even make
to indulge. Proverbs 31:6-7 says, "Give beer to those who are
perishing, wine to those who are in anguish; let them drink and forget
their poverty and remember their misery no more." Drinking
help the distraught to forget their troubles.
Also, in 1 Timothy 5:23 Paul
tells Timothy to
"Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your
stomach and your frequent illnesses." Furthermore, in 1
Corinthians 11:22, Paul asked the Corinthians, "Don't you have homes to
eat and drink in?" Here, he is telling the believers at
that if they choose to drink, they should do it at home rather than at
service. Of the six passages referenced in this
discussion, the former three lean toward abstinence, especially for
leaders, and the latter three lean toward indulgence, especially for
Either way, drunkenness is
Corinthians 6:10, Ephesians 5:18). If you're a Christian
you probably emphasize Proverbs 31:6-7 and 1 Timothy 5:23. If
you're a Christian abstainer, you probably prefer Proverbs 31:4-5 and 1
The deciding factors, however,
mind-altering effects and the long-term health risks of alcohol (Romans
12:1). If you drink in moderation without altering your
capability to the extent that it affects your decision making, and your
drinking doesn't present a long-term health risk, then you have not
violated the scriptures. If you experience mind-altering
when you drink, so that your decision-making rationale is impaired, you
have violated scripture.
Regardless, you're accountable
Your drinking is between you and God, and it's nobody else's business
unless you seek their help (1 Timothy 4:11). To be sure,
are many who place too much emphasis on this issue because they're not
minding their own business. Too often, the pious abstainer
displeasing God more through his Pharisaical pride than the indulger is
through his drinking. Now that we've managed to irritate
both sides of this issue, let's move to the next topic.
Carousing (Galatians 5:21)
trouble of various kinds. Idolatry (Romans 1:25) insults God
whether we worship
a carved image or simply cling too closely to some
material possession. Sorcery (Galatians 5:20) is condemned
whether in the form of magic, witchcraft, drug abuse, or demon worship.
This includes using mediums to call up spirits for
reason. Demons have great power, but we are not to cultivate
use that power.
Finally, there are those
subtle sins such as
disobeying our parents (Romans 1:30), which displease God as much as
the blatant sins. Also, because ". . . bad company corrupts
character" (1 Corinthians 15:33), we're told not to let peer pressure
corrupt us (Ephesians 5:7), and not even to associate with immoral
Christians (2 Corinthians 6:14).
Another subtlety that
displeases God is
improper personal appearance. The book of Proverbs teaches
moderation in our lifestyles, and even in the clothes we wear (Proverbs
7:10). Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 11:6 and 14 condemn long
for men and short hair for women as forms of rebellion and disgrace,
which displease God.
Also, the Christian life is
not filled with
subtle chores such as hustling, talking, visiting, smiling,
handshaking, emoting, or "doing" church
the Christian life is simply yielding to the power and leadership of
the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps the epitome of all
these vile acts are
the sins of being unloving and unmerciful (Romans 1:31).
sins of omission do not seem to belong in the same list as some of the
grotesque sins already mentioned, but they're there all the same.
Possibly the biggest surprise
in Romans 1:31
is the sin
of being without understanding. Isn't this the
of all our evil deeds? How can we please God if we don't
understand His Word as well as the feelings of others?
Believers are in constant
warfare with Satan,
his demons, and our own flesh. In order to please God, we
know His will for us. When we learn His Word, we recognize the sins in
our lives, we understand His truths, we love
Him, we love
we don't engage in the actions, which displease God. We can
remain pure because we love
God and want to obey His Word, rather than
through feeling browbeaten and guilty because of our
wise man of God once said, "I sin
all I want to." However,
the necessary spiritual
maturity built into his soul through an
understanding of God's Word, he supernaturally pleased God through
obedience to His Word. "Be holy in all you do" (1 Peter 1:15).
intimidating. When I was
first exposed to computers, I was afraid I'd never be able to use
one. I wanted computer skills, but I just knew that whatever
happening inside that metal box was above me. However, when
someone showed me how to use one, within two hours I felt very
productive and quite at home. Although I had only elementary
skills, I was no longer afraid and intimidated. I had used my
mind to learn what I needed to get started, with some help from a
friend. As it turned out, using a computer was something I
do well. I should never have been intimidated. I
didn't have the knowledge I needed. As an old farmer once
me, "It's all in knowin' how."
The same is true about the
life. In John 14:15, Jesus said, "If you love
me, you will
what I command." That's a little intimidating too, especially
before we know what He commanded. Of course, we must know His
commandments before we can obey them, and in order to know them, we
must learn them. Obviously, we would never even have known
He made this statement if we had not learned this verse or another like
We're not born with a working
knowledge of the
Bible, and God doesn't supernaturally zap our brains with the
information he wishes to reveal to us. Instead, He transforms
by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). We are to have
minds set on the Spirit (Romans 8:6), and learn what's pleasing to the
Lord (Ephesians 5:17).
He holds us responsible for
knowing His wisdom
(Ephesians 3:10) and understanding what His will is (Ephesians 3:18,
5:10). It's the inner self that matters most, which Paul
described as the circumcision of the heart (Romans 2:29). Of ultimate
importance is what's written in the heart (Romans 2:15), then these
inward thoughts produce our outward actions.
In Colossians 1:9-10 Paul asks
God to fill the
Colossian Christians with ". . . the knowledge of His will through all
spiritual wisdom and understanding," so that they can ". . . live a
life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit
in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God." We
well to remember that it was wisdom that originally led to our salvation
through faith in Christ (2 Timothy 3:15). We are to
take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) because the mind is
more important than the flesh (2 Corinthians 5:4, 7, 1 Timothy
4:8). We're called to pray and sing with our minds (1
14:15). Proverbs 4:7 tells us that wisdom is the most
It's through the training of
the mind that
Christians become mature believers. Indeed, it could be
from Ephesians 4 that the whole purpose of the church
is for believers
to encourage each other into spiritual
maturity. We are to ".
grow up" (Ephesians 4:15) and mature, ". . . know Christ" (Ephesians
4:20), and ". . . be made new in the attitude of your minds" (Ephesians
4:23). In 1 Corinthians 14:20, Paul warns us not to be like
"children" in our thinking, but to be mature in our minds. In
fact, being without understanding is a serious sin
Paul himself studied for three
years before he
came out of the wilderness to teach God's Word (Galatians
1:16-18). He prayed that the love
of the Philippian
would ". . . abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight."
(Philippians 1:9) In Colossia, he was ". . . teaching
with all wisdom" (Colossians 1:28), in order to establish firm roots in
the faith, and to build them up ". . . as you were taught" (Colossians
2:7). We are to let the word of Christ richly dwell within
and to teach and admonish each other (Colossians 3:16). We
develop the wisdom and discernment, which is required to enable us to
confidently reject new and false doctrines (2 John 1:10). We
to admonish one another (Romans 15:14) and gently turn people back to
the truth when they stray from it (James 5:19-20).
Perhaps we can better
understand why Paul
dwells on this concept of teaching and learning by realizing that it's
not simply for temporal purposes alone. Don't be deceived
thinking that God will give each Christian omniscience or complete spiritual
maturity when his body is glorified and ". . . changed--in a
flash, in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
God is omniscient, and His system of rewards precludes any thought of
systematic equality in heaven.
We'll carry our spiritual
with us, and it will weigh heavily at the Judgment Seat of
Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). Through that maturity comes the
divinely good works for which we'll receive eternal rewards (2
Corinthians 5:10-11). God in His grace
has chosen to give us
temporal lives on earth, during which we are to build our spiritual
maturity, and share it with others.
So exactly what should we
study and learn in
order to attain this prized spiritual
maturity? Paul told
that our spiritual growth will come from God's Word, the Bible, "All
scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking,
correcting, and training in righteousness"
(2 Timothy 3:16).
Bible is God's revelation to us, "For everything that was written in
the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the
encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope!" (Romans
15:4) "These things happened to them as examples and were
down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come"
(1 Corinthians 10:11). We are to read and study the
and use them to exhort and teach others (1 Timothy 4:13).
a prerequisite for any other spiritual service. Otherwise, we
wouldn't have the required knowledge for God's service.
Furthermore, and obvious from a previous discussion, one of the first
things to be learned is the grace
Although it's easy to become
dogmatic about a
particular issue, and claim that our point of view is "clearly" taught
in the Bible, the truth is that the Bible is very complex, it requires
much study, and few principles are very "clear" without devoted study
of all relevant passages. Each Christian is accountable for
own learning and interpretation. To unquestionably accept the
views of pastors or other teachers simply on the grounds that they have
had formal training, is to accept the responsibility and judgment from
those ideas even if they're wrong or not properly tested.
When someone dictates his own
hermeneutics (interpretation), we must remember that the term
hermeneutics is a theological term which is taught in seminaries, but
there are dozens of opposing, man-made sets of hermeneutical
principles, and each individual must choose the correct
interpretation. Above all, believers should not be
such theological terms. There is a place for seminary
and a place for theological experts, but the accountability remains
with each individual believer. Experts can be wrong, and
there are so many different opinions from the experts on many different
theological issues, they indeed must be wrong much of the time.
As an example of difficult
consider 1 Corinthians 16:2 which says, "On the first day of every week
each one of you should set aside a sum of money
in keeping with his
income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to
be made." Some may be tempted to teach that Paul is telling
do our giving on Sunday, and others might therefore try to establish
Sunday as a Christian holy day. However, by Colossians
we know that there are no holy days in Christianity. We
give at every opportunity, not just on Sundays. The
1 Corinthians 16:2 is directed to the church
at Corinth as it was to
at Galatia (1 Corinthians 16:1), in preparation for Paul's
arrival so that ". . . when I come no collections will have to be
made." To generalize this verse in order to symbolize Sunday
model for a Christian Sabbath, and Paul as a model for pastors, is to
misinterpret the scriptures.
One of the things that we
should teach others
is the gospel
message of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for
the sins of the world, and belief in His sacrifice for securing eternal
life (John 3:16). In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus said, "Therefore go and
make disciples . . . teaching them . . ."
the first step toward Christian maturity is understanding and believing
"I believe, therefore I have spoken" (2
4:13). What we believe, we pass on to others.
prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason
for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and
respect" (1 Peter 3:15). How can you prepare your defense
by absorbing God's Word? Witnessing is simply telling and
explaining the truth, not pressing for a decision.
So who should we
teach? We're more
confident if we learn from those we know and trust (2 timothy
3:14). Obviously we're entrusted to teach all who are willing
hear (2 Corinthians 4:13), but what better place to start than in our
own homes, in God's institution of the family? Since the man
the head of his family, just as Christ is the head of the Church
(Ephesians 5:22-24), husbands are charged by God to love,
teach their wives (Colossians 3:18-19). Women are charged by
to work in their homes (1 Timothy 5:14), to raise their children (1
Timothy 5:10), to be quiet in church
(1 Timothy 2:11, Titus 2:5), and
to be submissive to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22-24). Women
to learn from their husbands at home (1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Ephesians
5:23-25), and they're not to have authority over men (1 Timothy 2:12).
If a woman doesn't want to accept this arrangement, she should simply
choose not to get married.
Just as God told the Jews to
teach their new
generations (Deuteronomy 6:6-7), we're challenged to teach ours, with
the primary responsibility again falling on the man of the
household. Fathers are to bring up their children in the
discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
This admonition applies to the
environment, which is the ultimate place for education, as well as to
"formal" schooling. When the parents delegate their teaching
authority to public or private schools, the parents still hold the
ultimate responsibility for the education of their own
Parents are accountable for their children as well as
Rather than blame the children or their schoolteachers when the child's
education is inadequate, parents should simply find another school or
another means of education such as home schooling or
Even when the children are in a good school, the Bible calls for
continued teaching of the children at home by the parents, to which the
formal teaching is only a supplement.
Children are to obey their
3:20-21) and learn from them. If spiritual truths are not
propagated, they're lost. No wonder the epistles are filled
the kinds of words that involve mental activities such as mind, heart,
know, understand, think, repent, believe, faith, love,
glorify. Each of these words refers to our mentality, such as
Romans 10:10 where we believe with our hearts (our minds).
words alone are used more than 1000 times in the epistles.
not therefore underestimate the importance of renewing our minds
through the learning of Bible truths. Indeed, before we can love
God, we will obey His commandments, and before we can obey Him, we must
learn His Word.
Truly, if we love
commandments (John 14:15), but how can we obey if we don't study His
word and discern His will for us? It's each
primary responsibility to study the Bible regularly, and to teach it to
others. It's through the learning of Bible doctrine that we
achieve the peace that God intends for us as he sheds his grace
us. The truly peaceful man may not be able to explain every
minute detail about the Bible, but he'll surely be able to satisfy his
conscience concerning the major controversies among Christians, by
regular study of the Word of God. The Christian who is
questioning various aspects of his faith, due to Biblical ignorance,
will never experience real peace. "For God did not give us a
spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love
self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7). It really is true that
all in knowin' how.”
You may have heard of a man
Mueller who once ran an orphanage. Though accustomed to
material things, one evening there was no food whatsoever available for
dinner. When the children asked Mr. Mueller what to do, he
"Set the table. God will provide."
They set the table, prayed for
food, and then
heard a knock at the door. It was a bread deliveryman whose cart had
broken down. He said he would be unable to deliver the bread,
he wondered if Mr. Mueller could use it.
Prayer is a powerful tool, and
can't expect God to always answer as timely and as powerfully as He did
for Mr. Mueller, the simple fact is that the Bible commands us to
pray. In the midst of instructing the Philippians on how to
happy, Paul told them, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in
everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your
requests to God" (Philippians 4:6). As Christians, we're
to pray, and we're assured of God's blessings through prayer.
have access to God through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:18), the Spirit
intercedes for us (Romans 8:26), and we are to draw near to the throne
of God (Hebrews 4:16).
Prayer is simply letting our
requests be made
known unto God. It's telling God your needs, and asking Him
grant your requests to address those needs. James 5:13-14
"Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray . . . Is any
you sick? He should call the elders of the church
him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord."
and sickness are obvious reasons to pray, but as we will see, we should
pray for the general well-being of ourselves and others, by addressing
specific situations or individuals.
As we saw in Philippians,
thanksgiving is an
essential aspect of prayer. We should thank God for previous
answers to prayer, as well as his unsolicited blessings of grace,
he showers upon us even when we neglect prayer. We should
thanksgiving for others as well as ourselves (1 Timothy
We're always to maintain an attitude of thankfulness (Colossians 4:2).
When we pray, we are to
confess our sins to
Him (1 John 1:9). This just means identifying and naming our
to God. We simply need to recognize our sins, and remember
forgiveness and the need for it. This restores our temporal
fellowship with God, and it reminds us of our dependence on God as well
as the areas where we need improvement. It wouldn't be a bad
to follow-up our confession with a request for power over that sin
the future. Also, confession includes completely forgetting
Have you ever suddenly
discovered that you're
overweight, or further over than you thought? I'm frequently
disappointed when I step on the scale and see that I've gained weight
since the last time I weighed, so I promise to shed a few
Well, it may not work for everyone, but I've discovered a simple
solution that really works for me to keep the weight off after I've
lost it. My secret is to weigh every day. That's
It sounds too simple, but I think I know why it works.
When I weigh myself each
morning, I believe I
initiate a subconscious process. If I'm a little heavier than
thought, it's somehow easier for me to control my eating and exercise
throughout the day. When I refuse that second helping, it's
difficult to do, because my subconscious mind if helping to persuade
me. It also tells me that if this works today, maybe I can
dessert tomorrow. Without this subconscious support, I often
the temptations irresistible.
I believe the same principle
confession. Confession serves as a daily reminder that we
some work to do in a particular area. When we have recently
reminded ourselves of this, then the next time we're tempted, it's just
a little easier to resist the temptation. Regular confession
God actually helps us to be better Christians.
With that said however, I'm
still in a
constant battle with my own flesh. Although I'm confident in
areas of my simple and proven solutions of daily weighing and regular
confessions, I still find myself drifting out of the habit of each of
them. In reality, I don't weigh every day, nor do I confess
sins as often as I should. I know I should, and both
offer simple solutions to my problems. They actually offer me
easy way out, and I know it would be for my own good, yet I choose to
rebel. For this reason, we should never underestimate the
paradoxical power of the flesh.
Who to Pray
We should pray for all people,
". . . all those in authority" (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Obviously
leaders need prayers so that they'll be able to properly exercise their
God-given authority in making important decisions on the behalf of many
other people. The higher the position of leadership, the more
difficult the decision-making process is, the more people are available
for prayer, and the more prayers are needed. James 5:16 says
should pray for each other, and Ephesians 6:18 says we should pray for
all the saints (Christians). There's no better source of
for a Christian than to know that his name is included in the prayers
of the other members of the body of Christ (Hebrews 4:16) through the
power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26).
When and How
Ephesians 6:18 says, "And pray
in the Spirit
on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With
this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the
saints." We are to be in a constant attitude of
are to remain alert and sober for the purpose of prayer (1 Peter 4:7),
especially in times of trouble.
Colossians 4:2 says, "Devote
prayer, being watchful and thankful." Prayer will take time,
effort, and energy, but we're charged to pray, even though God already
knows our needs (Luke 12:7), and we are to pray in faith and expect God
to respond (Luke 11:9, John 15:7).
Jesus taught that prayers are
to be made with
an attitude of quietness and humility, which corresponds exactly to the
whole attitude of the desired Christian mentality. Jesus
condemned prayer by memorization (Matthew 6:7), and He suggested that a
solitary place is a good location for praying (Matthew 6:6).
is not to say that we should not practice corporate prayer, but even
when praying with others, we should approach God with a quiet and
In order to ensure a godly
frame of mind when
I pray, I like to include Philippians 4:4-9 in my daily private
conversations with God:
4:4 - 9
4) Rejoice in the Lord always.
I will say it
again: Rejoice! 5) Let your gentleness be evident to
The Lord is near. 6) Do not be anxious about anything, but in
everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your
requests to God. 7) And the peace of God, which transcends
understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8) Finally, brothers, whatever
whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is
lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or
praiseworthy--think about such things. 9) Whatever you have
learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into
practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Relax, Think, Pray, and Do (God’s Will)
Verse four reminds me to
rejoice, verses five
and six remind me to relax, and verse seven reminds me to pray in
peace. Verse eight tells me to meditate upon godly things, so
deliberately spend some extra time thinking about things as it suggests.
I think of something true,
such as the Bible,
the Word of God, and sometimes I remember one of the passages I've
recently read. Then I think of something noble, such as my
father's military service in the Marines in the South Pacific during
World War II, as well as the nobility of those who gave their lives for
my freedom. Then I think of something right, such as
God. It's the right thing to do, so I do it then.
I also think of something
pure, such as the love
of Christ as He died on the cross for my sins. His love
have been quite pure if he did this for me in spite of some of my awful
Then I think about something
lovely, such as
my daughter on the day she was born. I held her within five
seconds after her birth, and I rubbed my cheek against hers.
always remember that her cheek was absolutely the softest and the
loveliest thing I had ever touched. It was so soft that I was
afraid my beard might tear her fragile flesh.
Then I think about something
as a one of my dear friends in India. He has a heart for
evangelism like nobody else I know. To me, his dedication to
to His mission, and to prayer is truly something admirable.
Then I think about something
as the humanity of Jesus Christ. I think of how He might have
appeared as he walked on the earth teaching God's Word. I
think of something praiseworthy, such as God, the Father. He
truly praiseworthy because of His creation as well as His plan of salvation
Finally, verse nine reminds me
to put God's
Word into action, and I commit to do His will in a specific way.
Then I like to summary this
passage as follows: rejoice, relax, think, pray, and do
All citizens and students
should be allowed to
pray publicly in their community or schools. This right is
suggested by our freedom of religion as specified in the U. S.
Constitution, as well as in the Bible. Without Benjamin
Franklin's call for prayer during the writing of the Constitution, we
probably wouldn't even have a constitution. Our own
of Independence recognizes God as our sovereign creator. The
Congress begins its daily sessions with fervent prayer. The
who first engraved "In God We Trust" on our currency, and a biblical
call for freedom on the Liberty Bell, certainly wouldn't have favored
the exclusion of public prayer in schools.
However, when the right to
public prayer is
terminated by some level of government, we Christians can still take
comfort and consolation in prayer, indeed, even in school
Perhaps public prayer can be dictated by the state, but prayer can't
be. Prayer is a free privilege from God, not a right that is
granted by the government. Christians can pray anywhere,
including any school in the world. Just because public
can't be offered in some classrooms doesn't mean that God has revoked
Ephesians 6:18 where He calls us to ". . . pray on all occasions," no
matter where we are. Yes, the Bible says that we should be
to pray freely in public, but when we're restricted by the government,
we must remember that it's probably more important to pray privately,
no matter where we are. The government can't end all school
prayer, only public school prayer.
When we do obey God by
praying, He promises to
answer our prayers. John said in 1 John 5:14-15 that we can
sure that ". . . if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us,
and if we know that he hears us--whatever we ask--we know that we have
what we asked of Him." James 5:15-16 says, "And the prayer
offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise
him up. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and
If God says He'll give us
whatever we ask,
then why does it seem like my prayers sometimes go
James 4:3 says that when our prayers are not answered, it's because we
". . . ask with wrong motives," and we're not praying in God's will and
in submission to the Holy Spirit. We can't just guess about
will for things such as the size of a church
budget or the membership
growth of a church.
We must be sure that any goal setting we
is truly inspired by the Holy Spirit. We sometimes have to be
less specific and simply pray for discernment. Furthermore,
prayer should never be used lightly as a token to pacify a demanding
congregation, or as an excuse for fellowship.
Indeed, we must be careful
what we ask in
prayer. For example, if we have a fear or a burden, we
necessarily pray that it be removed. God may have a purpose
us, which we can only realize through that situation. Maybe
trying to teach us endurance, patience, or simply not to worry.
In 1978, my mother was
inoperable heart disease when she was only 55 years old. She
been a strong Christian all of her life, and we prayed for four years
for her healing. Instead of being healed, her condition
continually worsened until she was completely confined to her bed and
an oxygen bottle.
During the four years of
praying for her
healing, I claimed John 14:13-14, which says, "that the Father may be
glorified, you may ask anything in my name, and I will do
Seeing that my prayers were not answered as I wanted them to be, I
decided that it must be God's will for my mother to die, so I
reluctantly changed my prayer and asked God to end her
He did, quite quickly, and she died in 1983.
Here's what I
learned: I was asking with
wrong motives, as James 4:3 explains. When I was praying for
healing, I was asking according to my own will; i.e., what was
selfishly best for me. When I considered what was best for
and what God's will might be, I essentially asked for her death,
God answered that prayer.
At our house, my wife provides
a magic list
for me, which she keeps on the kitchen counter. If I need
something and can’t find it, I write it on that list, and it
magically appears within a day or two. If I’m out
charcoal, I write it on the list, and the next day I automatically have
charcoal in my garage. I think this is what God wants us to
with prayer. We should bring all of our requests to him, and
Believers are charged by God
to pray, although
God already knows our thoughts and needs. We are to boldly
approach His throne with specific requests, in an attitude of
thanksgiving, confession, and reverence. This doctrine of prayer is
widely taught, but greatly overlooked in practice. There have
actually been occasions when Bible churches have canceled prayer
meetings due to the telecast of the Super Bowl. I haven't yet
mastered the art of praying, but I'm convinced, because of the Bible's
emphatic call to prayer, that it's a largely untapped
How much of your day is devoted to quiet, fervent prayer?
I worked as a service station
my college years, often admiring the well-to-do folks who patronized us
in their fancy new cars. By the time I graduated in 1976, I
eager to make some money
and improve my own lifestyle. I
a job as a computer programmer for IBM, tripled my salary, and soon
bought a new house and a new car. I had the world by the
and I was proud of it. After all, there weren't that many
computer programmers in 1977.
Then, late one night, I
stopped at an
all-night service station. As soon as I arrived, I was
the lone attendant, and given the excellent customer service that I
expected and deserved. The attendant was about my age, but
appearance was noticeably different. I was well dressed,
had stains on his shirt from his last oil change, and a tear in his
jeans from the tire machine.
He began pumping my fuel (yes,
in those days
the attendants actually pumped gas for the customers), and I got out of
my car to visit with him, as was my usual routine. This
constituted my social contribution of never forgetting the little guy,
and maybe I could even offer some professional advice to some of the
less fortunate members of society.
He asked me what I did for a
living, and I proudly informed him, "I'm a computer programmer for IBM."
I paused, waiting for his
complimentary remark, but instead he said, "Yeah, I used to do that."
I was taken aback.
The rest of his story
confirmed that he had indeed been a computer programmer, realized its
demands and limitations, and decided to do something more appealing
(apparently pumping gas).
I was humbled.
Suddenly he seemed to be
the one on top of the world, even in a seemingly low position in which
I had served for four years, and loathed. I learned my
but that night I was wishing I hadn't been so proud, and had kept my
Though not widely accepted,
the Bible teaches
time and again that we should be humble and quiet. Most
will agree with the humble part, although few people actually practice
humility. However, the quiet part doesn't seem as important,
though the Bible adamantly commands us to be quiet in both our speech
and our actions. In fact, quietness goes hand-in-hand with
When Paul said, "Make it your
ambition to lead
a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands" (1
Thessalonians 4:11), there were probably those in Thessalonica who did
not respond with a positive attitude. The young dynamic
politician who might have been campaigning for the Thessalonica City
Council, or maybe even a church
committee, may have been ingrained with
the idea to constantly sell himself. He probably would have
recognized his ability to wax eloquent with words as a spiritual gift
from God in order to bring the attention to himself that he felt he
If he had overheard Paul
telling Timothy to ".
. . live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness" (1
Timothy 2:2), he probably would have rationalized that Paul's advice
served Timothy well, but it wasn't fitting for such a dynamic
personality as himself. If Peter had told him that what
most is ". . . that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle
and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight" (1 Peter
3:4), he could have assumed that he was referring only to wild
lifestyles, and not to his everyday speech. In fact, however,
these scriptures apply a principle to Christians of today in the same
way that God applied the same principle to Israel in the Old
Testament. In Exodus 14:14, Israel was told, "The Lord will
for you; you need only to be still." The Bible promotes
self-denial over self-assertion and self-promotion.
In Proverbs we learn that "A
man of knowledge
uses words with restraint" (Proverbs 17:27), and "When words are many, sin
is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise" (Proverbs
10:19). A fool is described as one who ". . . utters all his
mind" (Proverbs 29:11), but, "Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps
silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue" (Proverbs
In these proverbs, God associates words with sin,
and quietness with
wisdom, knowledge, and discernment. Granted, some speech is necessary,
and God isn't suggesting total silence or He wouldn't have given us
tongues. Indeed, we would even be hard pressed to propagate
without speaking. Yet, we shouldn't take these
of Proverbs and the epistles too lightly, because a lot of talking
always begins with a little bit of talking. We are explicitly
warned to ". . . avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it
will become more and more ungodly" (2 Timothy 2:16). It can
easily lead to arguments, which are condemned by God (Titus 2:14).
Instead, we're charged to be
and gentle (2 Timothy 2:24-25). Perhaps the natural fear of
public speaking, which most of us share, is God's way of telling us to
remain quiet. Consider the warning in 1 Timothy 6:4-5 against
". . . unhealthy interest in controversies and arguments that result in
envy, quarreling, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction
between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who
think that godliness is a means to financial gain." These
scriptures suggest that godliness may not be manifested by the
flamboyant and loud Christian. We should never try to impress
people or pretend that we're something that we're not.
In accordance with an attitude
comes the doctrine of listening. The book of Proverbs is
with admonitions to listen to others, to listen to reproof, and
especially to listen to our elders who have the knowledge, experience,
and maturity to help us (Proverbs 12:15). This is how we
learn. Furthermore, we can often be of great service by
listening to someone's problems, and saying nothing
Sometimes, it's just the unloading that helps people feel better,
regardless of any advice given or action taken. We need to
good listeners instead of concentrating on what we're going to say next.
One way of viewing God's
quietness is as a condemnation of vanity. Whatever won't last
vanity, and we should avoid it. Which came first, the chicken
the egg? Who's the best player in the NFL? Whom did
and Eve's sons marry? These questions don't matter to either
Christian life on earth or eternity,
so we shouldn’t waste
time with them.
The lesson here as it's most
applicable to us
today is to avoid extraneous small talk. This doesn't set
with us because we like to ask people how they are when we
couldn’t care less, and we like to flatter people and try to
force them to like us if we see a chance for personal gain.
like to give the appearance of being authorities on subjects that we
know nothing about, and we love to argue about things that don't
matter. We feel obligated to get the last word in the
conversation. Have you ever met a person who tried to one-up
everything you did or said? If you had a bad day, he said he
a worse one. If yours was good, his was better.
All this extraneous small talk
is condemned by
Paul as ". . . empty chatter." What percentage of the words
your mouth constitute empty chatter? Usually, our egotistical
compulsive phrases such as "I know" and "I did too" only manifest our
pride, and they're better left unsaid. When was the last time
said, "How are you?" without really caring how that person
If we really care, we should say, "Please take a moment and tell me
about yourself," and then listen with open ears.
It's interesting to note the
quietness in the
life of Jesus. In Luke 9:5, Jesus told the disciples to just quietly
leave from the places where they were rejected. What did
when the people asked him to leave in Matthew 8:34? The next
verse, Matthew 9:1, tells us simply that he quietly left. He
could have argued and pled with the people or told them truthfully how
terribly wrong they were, but he just left quietly.
What did Jesus reply when the
became furious about his silence in Matthew 26:62? Matthew
simply says, "Jesus remained silent." Of course, Jesus wasn't
always silent. He often taught by speaking, and he even
eventually answered the high priest. However, the lesson to
learned here is that Jesus used silence when confronted, and we should
too. If anyone ever had the right to speak, Jesus did, but he
often chose not to say everything that came to His mind.
Please remember that
attracting attention to
oneself is the opposite of quietness and humility.
2:3 charges us to actually consider others as more important than
ourselves. God gave Paul a thorn in the flesh in order to
him from ". . . becoming conceited" (2 Corinthians 12:7). The
Christian doctrine of humility is in sharp contrast to today's
encouragement toward self-esteem and a positive self-image, which often
invoke pride. In reality, most of us probably suffer from too
much self-esteem, and too little humility.
Quietness is often learned
embarrassment, and it's sometimes even more painful to remain humbly
restrained. Picture yourself in a heated debate with a peer
superior. Perhaps you even wisely use some restraint in your
speech in order to keep your adversary somewhat composed.
you learn that your friend has slandered you by telling your mutual
friends how wrong he thought you had been, to the point of questioning
your judgment or sanity. Now comes the test of
you commend yourself for your previous restraint and proceed to teach
him your own little lesson in how to slander efficiently? Or
you yield to your thorn in the flesh and cling to humility and wisdom
by holding your tongue?
Humility and quietness don't
come naturally or
easily because of our flesh, but when these traits are exhibited, they
deserve our utmost respect. If anyone ever told you, "you
don't talk much," you should humbly regard it as a high
compliment. Of course it's not always inappropriate to
respond when your adversaries jeopardize your reputation.
the Bible tells us that a quiet non-response is never a bad
"A prudent man overlooks an insult" (Proverbs 12:16).
A test of humility wouldn't be
without an examination of one's views concerning competition.
Galatians 5:26 says, "Let us not become conceited, provoking and
envying each other." Why do we feel the need to compare
to others? Romans 14:10 says, "You then, why do you judge
brother? Or why do you look down on your brother?
will all stand before God's judgment seat." We tend to excuse
competitive spirit because we're motivating ourselves to do our best
and improve our skills. Yet, the Bible says that any time we
judge, boast, or regard others with envy or contempt, we've carried our
competition too far. Now comes the painful look at all the
competition in our own lives.
When was the last time you saw
event that didn't include judging, challenging, provoking, or
envying? When have you seen the winners' locker room without
attitude of boasting, or the losers' without envy and
Usually in competitive athletics, there's only one winner, but many
losers. Even in team sports, there are often members of the
winning team who are dejected because they felt like they did not
contribute appropriately to the winning effort. When a
basketball team goes 29-and-1 for the year, and loses the national
tournament by one point, they feel a sense of failure because they
weren't the best.
When too much emphasis is
placed upon winning
and losing, we can't "Live in peace with all men" (Hebrews
12:14). How many athletes can honestly say, "It doesn't
whether you win or lose?" When was the last time you saw a
professional football bowl game without a sickening amount of arrogant
taunting? Are there more coaches or Bible teachers recognized
household names in America? The Bible is certainly not
physical fitness or entertainment, but when these activities reach into
the realm of competition and judgment, they're not desirable activities
for Christians. Instead, we are to accept one another as
has accepted us (Romans 15:7).
The Bible seems to be telling
us that it's not
wrong to speak, but too much talk easily leads to boasting, envy, and
arguments, In reality, if we removed these elements from our
speech, we would indeed be practicing the quietness which is precious
in God's sight. Let your speech be ". . . full of grace"
(Colossians 4:5-6). Isn't it strange how the talkative person
tends to classify talkative people as "dynamic," and quiet people as
"shy," while the quiet person tends to think of people as either "loud"
or "quiet?" Rather than making ourselves famous, we should concentrate
on making ourselves scarce (Proverbs 25:17). Christians
nice, courteous, and responsive when others speak to them, but they
should not complain (Philippians 2:14) or make judgmental comments.
To many people, the doctrine
of humility and
quietness may not rank as one of the ten major doctrines of
Christianity. However, as we've seen, the epistles have much
say about humility being the normal and constant attitude of
Christians. This is difficult for us because of social
but humility is the obvious attitude of a Christian who has been
humbled by God's sovereignty and grace.
James 3:1-8 says that
tongue is a very powerful weapon, and it can be an evil one.
James 1:19 says, "My dear brothers, take note of this:
should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."
We once had neighbors with a
daughter named Grace who, in my view, lacked self-esteem.
Although in our society, we easily digress from self-esteem to an
inflated ego, I thought I should do what I could to build up Grace's
self-image. One evening my daughter and I were sitting on the
driveway playing with a jar of bubbles. When we dipped the
in the bubble jar and blew through it, it sent an army of bubbles
marching through our neighborhood.
Soon Grace noticed the bubbles
blowing in the
wind, and she bashfully approached our driveway to cautiously enjoy the
fun. We quickly started a new game where my daughter and I
blow bubbles, and Grace would try to pop them before they hit the
ground. As she popped each one, I praised her in such a way
it sounded like I was unbelieving of her special athletic
On one occasion, making sure
that Grace was
within hearing distance, I said to my daughter, "Look at how she's not
letting a single bubble hit the ground."
Then I turned to Grace and
said, "Hey, you're good at this!"
A moment later, after again
one bubble from escaping, Grace softly said, "Hey, I'm good at this!"
My heart leaped with
joy. Although we no
doubt would have quickly recovered from the tragedy of one of the
bubbles hitting the ground, I had encouraged Grace and built her up,
and this in turn encouraged me.
So it is with the
established the Church ". . . to prepare God's people for works of
service, so that the body of Christ may be built up" (Ephesians
4:12). We are to know and be sure of what we believe, and be
mature in it (Ephesians 4:13). Our continual temporal
responsibility is to "grow up" in the faith (Ephesians 4:15), and
"build up" each other (Ephesians 4:16). We're built up
the equipping and the encouragement of our fellow Christians, and this
should be the goal of the Church.
The whole purpose of church
together is to give encouragement to each other (Hebrews
It's the encouragement of others that gives us our hope (Romans
15:4). We're encouraged through the comfort (1 Thessalonians
4:18) and consolation (1 Corinthians 14:3-5, 12, 17) of our fellow
believers. Edification comes when we ". . . make every effort
do what leads to peace and mutual edification" (Romans
Everything the church
does should be for the building up of Christians
(1 Corinthians 12:19), and not their tearing down (1 Corinthians
13:10). If a church
causes discouragement, something is wrong.
is to equip its
members ". . . in
every good thing" (Hebrews 13:21), so that “. . . everyone
instructed and encouraged" (1 Corinthians 14:31). Through
exhortation and teaching (1 Timothy 4:13), we stimulate one another to love
and good deeds. If the church
is not teaching, it's not
doing its job. It must equip believers with the truth, and
any type of flattery, theatrics, or greedy attempt to grow the church
for the wrong reasons (1 Thessalonians 2:5-7).
The ultimate teaching
authority in the church
is the pastor/teacher (Ephesians 4:11). In 1 Timothy 3:1-7
Titus 1:7, we see that the pastor must be a respected man, above
reproach, a good teacher, disciplinarian, and household manager, and a
prudent man, strong in the faith with a mastery over the material
details of life such as money
and alcohol. His primary
responsibility is teaching (1 Timothy 5:7), and he is to teach
willingly, not grudgingly. He is to teach and gently guide
believers (2 Timothy 2:25), like a shepherd does his sheep (Ezekiel 34).
For his service to the church,
the pastor is
worthy of double honor (1 Timothy 5:17) and receiving his living from
(1 Corinthians 9:14) through the sharing of the church
members (Galatians 6:6). The church
members should love,
appreciate, and esteem those who labor and teach them and exercise
authority over them (1 Thessalonians 5:12-15). However, since
congregation freely chooses its pastor, the church
ultimate authority over him, and they should rebuke and/or remove him
if he continually fails in his role of leading the church
and encouragement (1 Timothy 5:18-20).
Pastors must live their lives
(1 Timothy 3:2). They must not be like those Paul described
Romans 2:1, who pass judgment on others, when they themselves are
guilty of the same wrong doings. As an all too familiar
pastors and television evangelists who preach against sexual
immorality, then fall into it themselves, are actually condemning
However, we must realize that
people too. They can't be expected to perform supernaturally
more than the rest of us. They don't think deeper thoughts,
they're not capable of more divinely-appointed knowledge, and they
don't have some higher privilege of access to the Father than
others. We should not think of pastors as the "neck" of the
of Christ, where Christ is the head, and pastors should not view
themselves this way. A man with excessive ego, personal
or a need for reassurance that he's important to the church,
qualified to be a pastor. His highest priorities should not
committee meetings, national conferences, and denominational
When the church
together, the services
are to be conducted in an orderly manner (1 Corinthians
The members should be of the same mind, accord, and voice (Romans
15:5-6), and they should agree with that same mind, and avoid divisions
and quarrels (1 Corinthians 1:10-11). They should be
and like-minded, and live their lives in peace and love
Of secondary importance are
ordinances (or symbolic ceremonies), the Lord's Supper (or Last
Supper), and baptism.
The Lord's Supper is simply a
and a ritual symbolizing the actual death, burial, and resurrection of
Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, Paul mentions
the cup and bread, and in 1 Corinthians 11:20-29, he further describes
how the first century church
did this. Nowhere does the Bible
tell Christians that they must practice the Lord's Supper, but it has
become a tradition with most Christian groups by following the example
of these early Christians. The emphasis, however, should be
one's self-examination (1 Corinthians 11:28) rather than on the ritual.
Water baptism is simply a
the actual baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the death, burial, and
resurrection of Jesus Christ. Acts 10:47 indicates that all
believers are candidates for baptism. Again however, in 1
Corinthians 1:14-17, Paul discounts the importance of baptism
noting that he was grateful that he did not baptize very many people,
and he wasn't even sure how many he did baptize. Peter also
reminds us that baptism
is only a symbol, by telling us in 1
Peter 3:21 that water only removes dirt from the flesh, and it has no
Great care must be taken to
scriptures concerning baptism, because the scriptures refer to seven
different baptisms. These are the baptism of Moses, John the
Baptist, Jesus, the cross, fire, the Holy Spirit, and water.
the baptism of the Holy Spirit is confused with baptism,
distortions of scripture may erupt.
In short, the church
group of believers
who come together for encouragement, edification, and
Unity and order are a part of the church
environment, but arguments and
disruptions are not. Each believer is part of the body (1
Corinthians 12:11-31), and Jesus Christ is the head (Ephesians
5:23). Perhaps we would do better to more closely follow the
example of the first-century local church
as described in Colossians
4:16, by spending more time simply reading God's word in our church
services. This is what Paul recommended, and it's how the
churches functioned for hundreds of years. Churches are to
encourage believers through Bible study, equipping, and edification.
Unfortunately, there are many
what a church
should be. The church
is not a social
where people go in order to be seen, to make contacts, to round out
their children's education, or to get pumped up as though they were
filling their fuel tanks at some sort of emotional filling
station. Neither is the local church
a place to present
superficial challenges, scare-tactics, nor food-for-thought.
is a place to learn the Bible, but it has been estimated that
few attendees can name even one of the first four books of the Bible,
or identify common Biblical terms such as "Calvary."
Churches should not measure
"growth" just because the first church
"grew" in the book of
Acts. Churches should not overemphasize goals and statistics
membership growth or budgets for buildings and programs. Most
financial problems in most churches would be solved if those churches
simply abandoned all of their activities in which God is not leading
them and supplying their financial needs.
Church members should not be
measured by how
much they smile, visit, proselyte, shake hands, emote, hustle, attend
committee meetings, conferences, banquets, and family nights, or by how
much other "doing" they can accomplish. Church is not the
for devices, formulas, steps, commitment cards, or invitations with
emotional appeal to the guilt and pride of the flesh of the
members. Christians should feel comfortable in their
Christianity, not guilty.
Churches are certainly no
place for malice,
attacking one's integrity, or recognition of accomplishments,
especially under the guise of doing God's work. Success is
measured by buildings, membership, attendance, organs, chimes, flowers,
or banquets. It's sad when we can accurately estimate the
memberships and budgets of churches by looking at the front door of the
building. Perhaps an appropriate term for these
would be "pseudo fundamentalists."
Churches should be
They should not consider the souls of potential local members to be
more important than the souls of people who will never attend their
We should especially support foreign
where people are more open to the gospel
than in our own
Yet, frequently, churches spend more than ten times the amount of money
buildings than what they spend on missions.
Our churches should be groups
under the authority of a pastor/teachers, who equip and encourage each
other. However, the church
is not an organization trying to
the world a better place," or a means of approaching God through
groups. Our relationship with God is still a personal one,
do need regular encouragement and edification from fellow
believers. We must understand the true purpose of the church,
learn to use it as a tool instead of as a crutch.
My wife has taught seventh
grade English and
History for many years at the school where our children
As our children approached their middle school years, she considered
the possible problems associated with having her own children in her
classroom. Would there be accusations of favoritism, or
resentment from other students, parents, or teachers? Well,
enough, she had our son one year, and our daughter the next, and there
were problems, but different ones than what one might have anticipated.
Because of her strong love
children she had carried in her womb for nine months, the temptation to
show favoritism was a challenge. After all, grading essays
very subjective. What she found, however, was that her moral
obligation to be fair to all her students superseded the temptation to
favor the efforts of her own children above the other
In fact, to be sure she wasn't favoring them, and to compensate for any
advantage of having their mom as their teacher, she sometimes realized
that she demanded even higher standards from their work than from the
The role of a schoolteacher
can be considered
to be analogous to that of a judge. A courtroom judge
justice to all parties without partiality, and a teacher grades (or
judges) the efforts of all students on a standard scale.
my wife had to deal with some feelings with which a courtroom judge
seldom does. Although she loved all of her students deeply,
had a personal intimacy with two of them, which she didn't have with
any of the others. Yet, she knew that her judgments must
justice for all students, in spite of her love
for her own
children. In doing so, she ensured that all students were
responsible and accountable for what they learned.
Likewise, God is our spiritual
he'll hold us each accountable for our beliefs, our lives, and our
actions, without partiality. In the best-selling book,
Talking to heaven,
James Van Praagh mistakenly calls God a god of justice and
non-judgment. As long as there is sin
in the world, a just
must judge that sin.
God is indeed a God of justice, and His
justice demands that He exercise perfect judgment as well.
loves all of us more than we can understand, but He must judge each of
us in order to ensure that we all receive perfect justice.
first a god of justice, and his justice and righteousness
compromised. What, then, will our final judgment be like?
A discussion of the doctrine
of the judgment
of God requires an understanding of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on
the cross for the sins of all men (John 3:16, Hebrews 12:2).
of our sins are forgiven via this single sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27), and
we'll never be judged for the individual sins that we commit.
our sins are forgiven and forgotten by God. Jesus
supplied our eternal sacrifice, and through confession (1 John 1:9), we
can have God's temporal forgiveness in this life. If so, then
what judgment does 1 Peter 1:17 address? "Since you call on a
Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as
strangers here in reverent fear." Furthermore, Romans 2:6
that God will judge every man according to his deeds. Indeed,
men will be judged, but there are two specific categories of judgment
based upon the determining factor of believing in Jesus Christ as
Remember that upon accepting
Christ as savior,
God imputes the righteousness
of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy
Spirit to each believer. Without this divine power, man can
good (Romans 3:10, 12, Psalms 53:3). He may do some humanly
deeds, which have as their source the flesh, but unless the Holy Spirit
indwells a person and God sees that person through the righteousness
His son, he can't perform any divinely good works. In the
category of judgment then, believers will be judged at the Judgment
Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10), and in the second category,
unbelievers will be judged at the Great White Throne of God (Revelation
Seat of Christ
The judgment of all believers
will occur at
the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 14:10), but the
Bible doesn't clearly specify when this judgment will occur.
tend to side with those who believe that our day of judgment will occur
after the rapture and during the tribulation period, but it's probably
a moot point since time can't be set in an eternal state.
Nevertheless, we're assured of both the rapture and this judgment which
introduce what the Bible calls ". . . the day of the Lord Jesus Christ"
(1 Corinthians 1:8), and we're charged to be prepared for it and remain
blameless in this life until that day.
In 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, we
see that in that
day, ". . . his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will
bring it to light." Christ will test the quality of our works
with fire, which will burn up the wood, hay, and straw, but leave the
pure gold, silver, and precious stones. God will repay us for
deeds in the body, according to what we've done, whether good or bad (2
Corinthians 5:10). Christ will reveal whether our good works
only humanly good works produced by the flesh like the wood, hay, and
straw similar to that of "good" unbelievers, or whether our good works
came from the divine power of the Holy Spirit in the form of gold,
silver, and precious stones.
For the divine good works that
test of fire, Jesus will credit our account (Philippians
For our human good works, we'll suffer loss of rewards, but we'll keep
our eternal life (1 Corinthians 3:15). We're promised that
will repay us for our service to Him (Ephesians 6:8), and we'll receive
". . . an inheritance from the Lord as a reward" (Colossians 3:24).
We're not told the details of
but any reward from God must be wonderful and worthy of our
service. Our rewards may be personal commendations from
"Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21, 23).
may be in the form of crowns (1 Corinthians 9:25, Revelation
3:11). In 1 Peter 5:4, a special "crown of glory" is
for leaders who serve well. In 2 Timothy 4:8, we see a crown
for those who live Godly lives and long for Christ's
return. James 1:12 references a crown of life for those who
persevered by God's grace,
while under trial for their faith.
Philippians 4:1 speaks of a crown of joy for those who stand firm in
their service to God.
Our rewards may be positions
of authority or
leadership as we reign with Christ (2 Timothy 2:12, Revelation 20:6,
22:5). By 1 Corinthians 6:3, we'll even be given authority to
judge the angels. No matter what our rewards are, Christians
this life must have faith that God will make all our service to Him
worthwhile. We should understand that the name of the game
while we remain on the earth is service to God and rewards
from Jesus Christ
This system of judgment and
Christians in return for divinely good works doesn't at first sound
like a grace
system, does it? However, God established this
system of works within His all-encompassing system of Grace, similar to
the way he had a system of works to govern the daily lives of the Jews
in the Old Testament, although the two are completely mutually
exclusive. When not properly oriented toward God's grace and
sovereignty, a Christian can feel guilty for trying to earn eternal
rewards. Of course our works should be motivated from our love
for Christ, but Matthew 6:19-20 says not to seek earthly treasures
(coveting), but to seek heavenly treasures (rewards) with fervor.
The judgment of unbelievers
will occur after
the Millennium as all unbelievers stand before the Great White Throne
of God (Revelation 20:11). God will judge all their deeds
2:6) and find that they're all lacking the righteousness
Christ (Romans 3:22), and God will cast them all into the lake of fire
forever (Revelation 20:15). The Bible doesn't specify how the
judgment of their individual human good works will affect their eternal
doom in the lake of fire. Perhaps there will be degrees of
punishment in hell, although we can't perceive a punishment worse than
hell itself. Romans 1:18-27 tells us that they deserve their
punishment, and they have no excuse for their unbelief, since God has
revealed Himself to all men.
We'll all face God's judgment,
believers or unbelievers. Believers will be rewarded for their divinely
good works, and they'll spend eternity
in paradise, either as wealthy
recipients of many rewards, or as paupers in comparison to what they
could have had. At the Great White Throne of God, unbelievers
will be found to lack the righteousness
of Jesus Christ, and they'll be
sentenced to the lake of fire forever. Our concern in this
is that of pleasing God as Christians through our faith, our obedience,
and our earning of heavenly rewards.
The End Times
I sometimes wonder what it
would be like to
travel through time. Suppose we traveled back to 1990, picked
a newspaper, and read the business section. At that time,
earnings were very impressive. Most people believed that
had always proven to be a strong and profitable company, which had
never had a layoff, IBM stock was probably a wise and safe
investment. However, being time travelers from the future, we
would know that IBM would lose $15 billion in a three-year period and
execute the largest layoff in corporate history in 1993. We
sell our IBM stock (or even sell short) for $175 per share, and buy it
back three years later for $44 per share, or 25 cents on the dollar,
then watch it climb back to $200 per share by 1997. We would
in a very enviable position.
Suppose, however, that we were
and returned to 1990 announcing from the street corners to anyone who
would listen that IBM was destined for bad times of historic
proportions, even a worse fate than it suffered during the depression
of the 1930s. This news would be quite disheartening for IBM
stockholders and its employees, although we probably wouldn't be taken
We find ourselves in a
although we can't change it, we know what will happen.
can't change history and prevent others from suffering the coming
apocalypse, but we can position ourselves for our own
Strangely enough, although the coming disaster will wreak havoc for
many, the knowledge of its coming actually gives us hope and comfort.
So it is with the biblical
prophecy of the
apocalypse of the end times. We know what will happen, and
sad story to tell, but when we tell it, few people respond.
can't change it because God has already decided it, but we can position
ourselves to avoid the coming disaster. The coming apocalypse
will be disastrous for many, but the forehand knowledge of it gives us
reason to maintain our hope and comfort even in the face of
disaster. In this case, we must ensure our position in
and not in man (Romans 6:1 - 7:13).
Without the realization of the
hope the story
brings, one might think that the doctrine of the end times
(eschatology) has very little to do with living the Christian life,
since we are to live the same Godly lives whether Jesus returns today
or in a thousand years. However, this doctrine is presented
believers in the epistles so that we might have hope and comfort about
our temporal destiny as well as eternity
The book of The Revelation promises great tribulation just before the
end of the world as we know it, and our understanding of these end
times will assure us that God will deliver His children from His great
wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
There is much speculation
about the events of
the end times, and there are many different assumptions made by various
theological experts. The doctrine of the end times is
to follow because it's presented in small pieces of noncontiguous
scripture throughout the Bible. The discussion in this
will use the end time prophecies of the epistles as a base, and then
we'll build upon that base by referencing the associated prophecies in
the other parts of the Bible.
The Last Days
Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy
4:1-3 that in
the end times, it will be common for people to fall away from true
doctrine and practice false doctrine including the doctrine of
demons. When we realize that this includes practices such as
calling up mediums, we can't help wondering if the New Age movement has
put a stake in the ground to mark the beginning of the last
Paul says that people will be hypocrites and liars, and some will
forbid certain practices such as marriage and the eating of certain
foods as part of their doctrines. He gives an even more
description of the last days in 2 Timothy 3:1-7. He says that
these will be difficult times because people will be wicked, mean, and
full of hate, and they'll love fighting. They'll love
and be boastful, conceited, and arrogant. They'll love money
pleasure, and live dangerous, reckless lives, and children will be
disobedient to their parents. People will be ungrateful,
malicious gossips, and they'll be without self-control.
world without self-control. Yet we see signs of this today.
The epistles give such
extended warnings about
false teachers that we wonder why so much attention is given them (2
Peter 2:1-22). In 2 Timothy 4:3, we see that in the end
people will actually seek out false teachers who will tell them the
things that they want to hear, in place of the truth.
these warnings against false teachers are so numerous and emphatic so
that we'll have to give constant attention to identifying
They're subtle, and they'll easily deceive the unsuspecting (Romans
16:17-18). We'll know them because they preach a different gospel
(2 Corinthians 11:4) although they disguise themselves as apostles (2
Corinthians 11:13-15, 23).
We're told that these false
speak arrogant words of vanity (2 Peter 2:18). We'll have an
uneasy feeling toward them, and we're accountable to test the spirits
(1 John 4:1-2). Even if an angel preaches falsely, he is to
accursed (Galatians 1:8). When we identify false teachers, we
shouldn't even greet them or let them enter our homes (2 John
10). We are to ask questions. Hiding behind our
in a pastor or another priest won't suffice on judgment day.
We're accountable for ourselves, and if we disagree or don't
understand, we must ask questions--that's how we learn.
we can be confident to learn from those we know well and trust (2
Although God has revealed how
times will be, He promises that believing Christians will be spared
from the worst if it (1 Thessalonians 1:10, 4:18), through an event we
commonly call the rapture, which Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians
4:13-18. Jesus will come from heaven
and enter the earth's
atmosphere to cloud-level. A trumpet will sound (1
15:52), and the dead bodies of believers will rise from the earth,
whether they be in graves or elsewhere, to unite with their souls which
are already with Jesus. Then the believers who are still
will be raised to meet Jesus in the air also. The bodies of
these believers will be transformed or changed (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)
into new glorified bodies (Philippians 3:21) in the same form as the
body of Jesus Himself (1 John 3:1-2).
We're told that this whole
company will ascend
with Jesus just as He ascended the first time (Acts
1:11). In John 14:1-3, Jesus prophesied this event as He
explained that our dwelling places await us in heaven.
the Bible doesn't specify exactly when we stand before the Judgment
Seat of Christ to receive our rewards (1 Corinthians 5:10), it seems
reasonable that this judgment of believers will probably begin at this
point and perhaps continue through the period of great tribulation and
trouble on the earth (Revelation 6 - 19). Again however, it
somewhat futile for us to try to comprehend and explain events of eternity
in temporal terms.
Although there are a wide
variety of views
among Bible scholars, I tend to believe that the Great Tribulation
described in the books of Daniel and The Revelation will occur during
the seven years immediately following the rapture, although there's
much disagreement and speculation about the order of these end-time
events. Evil and trouble will be the norm for this period
(Revelation 6-18). The Antichrist will reveal himself (Daniel
11-12, Revelation 13). Russia and her allies will attack
but they'll suffer defeat as Russia is devastated by an earthquake
(Ezekiel 38-39). China and her allies will attack Israel at
Battle of Armageddon, but then Jesus Christ will return to earth at the
Second Advent, and personally defeat Satan and Israel's enemies in the
most devastating battle of all times (Revelation 19). The
Advent is described further in Psalms 22:19-31.
Satan will be bound and Christ
will reign as
King of the whole earth for 1000 years--the millennium (Revelation
20). After the 1000 years, Satan and his demons will be
they'll retaliate, and finally they'll be cast into the lake of fire
All unbelievers will be judged at the Great
Throne of God, and they'll also be cast into the lake of fire
(Revelation 20, 2 Peter 3).
Then God will form a new heaven
and a new
earth (Revelation 21), and all believers will live in eternal paradise
forever (Revelation 22). This eternal blessing is possible because of
Jesus's sacrifice on the cross for our sins, and it belongs to anyone
who believes that Jesus is his savior (John 3:16).
The future is bright for
believers, and dismal
for unbelievers. Believers will spend it in paradise, and unbelievers
in the lake of fire, after much tribulation on earth. We
use what we know of the end times as an encouragement and a witness
until Christ returns.