How Do We Prepare for the Judgment?

If we are judged by our works, and if sinless perfection is not the standard, what is? That question is reserved for the Judge of All, but he gives us descriptions that we need to take into account. My next task after Rome’s Audacious Claim is to write a book on this subject, which is worthy of a book. It is mostly written, but in very rough draft form. Here is one of my attempts to gather together Scripture in one place. Feedback welcome.

Paul Pavao So I have already made it clear that I am not talking about perfect obedience. One huge evangelical heresy is that God requires perfection at the judgment. That is based on one verse in James that is not talking about the judgment. Look at the judgment passages in Ezek. 18:20-30 and Matt. 25:31-46. We have to be forgiven regularly, 1 Jn. 1:8-9.

The “line” is not clear, which is why we are commanded to be in fear because of the judgment (1 Pet. 1:17). It is rare that anyone cares to hear that from me, but it is a command, and it is in the Bible. I can give an idea of how to be on the right side of that line.

1 John 1:7 says that if we walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from every sin. Thus, John has set a standard for us to follow: walk in the light. Paul gives a description of that in Ephesians 5.

1 John 3:7 is even more important: “Little children, let no one deceive you, the one that is living righteously is righteous as he is righteous.” The righteousness of God is a gift, but that gift is given to those who are in the faith. Those who are in the faith are keeping the commandments of Jesus (1 Jn. 2:3-4). They are loving (1 Jn. 4:7-8). As Ps 36:10 says, “Continue your lovingkindness to them that know you, and your righteousness to the upright in heart.” It is our job to be upright in heart, and it is God’s job to bestow righteousness upon us when we obey.

Evangelicals love to proclaim “faith only,” but they refuse to pay attention to 1 John. Faith cannot be divorced from obedience. A great definition for faith is allegiance. A loyal follower, even of men, may not be perfect, but you can tell the difference between a follower and one who is not a follower. Both John 3:36 and Hebrews 3:17-18 show us the unbreakable link between faith and obedience. That is why the Scriptures say that the Spirit (Acts 5:32) and eternal salvation (Heb. 5:8-9) are for the obedient.

Paul took the judgment pretty seriously. He said he disciplined his body daily so he would not be disqualified (1 Cor. 9:27).. He said he left everything behind, striving for the goal, so that he might attain to the resurrection of the dead (Php. 3). He warned the church in Ephesus night and day with tears so that they would get to the end (Acts 20). We can find ways to soften that, but Paul said to imitate him (1 Cor. 11:1) and ta have the same mind as he had in Philippians 3 (v. 15).

I am not the one who said that is scary. Peter said it. He said the righteous are “scarcely saved.” We have to consider why Paul was warning the Ephesians with tears every day for 3 years. We have to consider why the only thing recorded about their return trip to the churches in Acts 14 is that they appointed elders and warned them that it is through many tribulations we enter the kingdom of God.
Evangelicals play silly games with the warnings of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; and Eph. 5:3-8. They gloss over Rom. 8:12-13 and Galatians 6:7-9. Walking in the Spirit is not an option; it is the only way to be saved. God is able to save. His Spirit is real and powerful. His mercy is new every morning. He bestows righteousness upon the upright in heart. He gives us great and precious promises that have delivered us from the corruption that is in the world (2 Pet. 1:3-4). His mercy is great, but his mercy is for the upright in heart. Walk by the Spirit. Seek God, and you will find great reward. If you mock him, though, then fear.

Posted in Evangelicals, Holiness, Modern Doctrines, Verses Evangelicals Ignore | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lordship Salvation? Works?

This blog was prompted by an email. The writer had been warned to be careful about works, a common problem (heresy) in the evangelical churches.

We have to believe what the Bible teaches. The Bible says that faith and works are tied closely together (James 2; Jn. 3:36; Heb. 3:17-18 are just examples). We become Christians by grace, which we received by faith (Eph. 2:8-9), but that is so we can do good works (Eph. 2:10). We do those good works by the power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:2-4 and many other verses), by the guidance of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17), and by the deliverance that grace bring us (Rom. 6:14; Tit. 2:11-14), but make no mistake, we will be judged by whether we did the good works salvation has equipped us to do (2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-8; 1 Pet. 1:17), and if we return to the world after we have experienced that grace and power, then we will be worse off than if we had never heard the Gospel (2 Pet. 2:20).

That basic truth is simple Scripture, and only the obstinate can deny those Scriptures.

Evangelicals are prone to being confused because their foundations are messed up. They don’t know the right Gospel to preach. Jesus said he was going to build his church on the confession that he is the Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 16:16-17). John wrote an entire Gospel just to get us to believe and confess that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God (Jn. 20:31). Yet evangelicals want to build the church and get sinners to confess that Jesus died for their sins. Romans 10:9-10 says to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess that he is Lord, but evangelicals want us to pray a prayer saying we believe he died for our sins and that he is Savior. They’re off from the very outset.

If you go through Acts, you will find the apostles repeatedly emphasizing the resurrection to get people to believe that Jesus is Christ, Lord, and Judge. Jesus did die for our sins, but knowing that does not save us. Making him Lord saves us. The faith of the Bible is the faith that Jesus is the Son of God, the Lord, and the Christ, proven to be so by the resurrection from the dead (cf. Rom. 1:1-4). Those who believe that Gospel can be saved, forgiven, and filled with the Holy Spirit. They submit themselves to the rule of King Jesus by being baptized, and their sins are washed away there (Acts 2:36-38).

True believers know that what they believed requires them to leave the world behind and follow Jesus. He is their new Lord, and if they love their families, jobs, or possessions more than him, they are unworthy of him (Matt. 10:37-38; Luke 14:26-33). They begin to walk in the light, learning from Jesus, being forgiven daily as they make mistakes, but always progressing, growing in knowledge and faithfulness (1 Jn. 1:7-9; 2 Pet. 1:3-11).

That is the faith as the Bible teaches it. What one should be afraid of is the warnings of evangelicals against good works. Paul told Titus to be constantly tell Christians that they must maintain good works (Tit. 3:8). Jesus died to produce a people zealous for good works (Tit. 2:11-14). If we grow weary of doing good works (by the Spirit), we will not reap eternal life (Gal. 6:8-10).

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Faith and Works: A Brief Summary

This was an email response:

I suppose that “faith alone then after than you’ll need works” is a good summation of what I believe. On the other hand, you have to know something else about what I believe to really understand. We can do nothing without Jesus (Jn. 15:5). We fulfill the righteousness of the law by walking by the Spirit (Rom. 8:1-14). God has supplied us with grace so that sin has no power over us (Rom. 6:14) and to teach us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts so that we can live righteously, sensibly, and godly in this present age (Tit. 2:11-12). Jesus died to purchase out of slavery to sin and to make us zealous for good works (Tit. 2:13-14). He has provided the Scriptures to thoroughly equip us for those good works (2 Tim. 3:16-17). When we were saved by faith alone it was because faith brings grace (Eph. 2:8-9), and God re-creates us in Christ Jesus to do good works (Eph. 2:10). It is because of these things that God’s people are to be careful to maintain good works (Tit. 3:8). He has also provided the assemblies of our brothers and sisters so that we can help each other and provoke one another to love and good works (Heb. 10:24–25). Of course, that should be happening more than every Sunday (Heb. 3:13).

We will be judged by our works (Matt. 25:31-46; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 3:4-5), so it is good that he has given us so much so that we can do them. We also have that wonderful promise that as followers of Jesus, he will not impute sin to us (Rom. 4:1-8). Of course, this is assuming that we are walking in the light (1 Jn. 1:7), confessing our sin (1 Jn. 1:8-9), walking in the faith of Abraham (Rom. 4:1-8), and practicing righteousness on an ongoing basis (1 Jn. 3:7; cf. 1 Jn. 2:3-4).

One last promise is that God is well able to uphold us along the way, which is stated all over the New Testament (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:8; Php. 1:6; Jude 1:24). This does not happen without our effort. Again, we need to help each other along the way (1 Thes. 5:14), or else we may not make it (Acts 20:31; Rom. 11:19-22; 1 Cor. 9:27; 10:12; Eph. 5:3-8; 2 Pet. 1: 9; 2:20).

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Rebuilding the (Penal?) Substitutionary Atonement

This is an email I sent to someone who wrote to me (from the Netherlands!). I have edited it to make it clearer, so you are getting a better version than he did.
I would love to discuss the atonement!
There are two things I hold foundational in overthrowing false tradition about the atonement. You wrote one of them: “I realized that payment atonement is the opposite of forgiveness.”
You also touched on the other foundational idea. We can be punished for sin at the judgment (e.g., 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 8:12-13; Gal. 5:19-21; etc.). Obviously, then, the penalty for sin is not paid by Jesus’ death.
So what did Jesus “pay”? He paid a purchase price. He bought us out of slavery to sin. The Scriptures are clear on this. The price he paid was to buy us (e.g., 1 Cor. 6:20). The words “redeem” and “ransom” are also “purchase.” To redeem is re-purchase a previous possession. To ransom is to purchase  something you value from a captor. The captor was sin. Jesus purchased us out of slavery to sin.
Most of the time when the Scriptures say Jesus died for the “remission” or “forgiveness” of sins, the word is “aphesis,” which means release. It has a rich history in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures that the early churches used and from which the New Testament primarily quotes). The word “aphesis” is the Greek word chosen to translate “Jubilee” (Lev. 25); the word for the “scapegoat” on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 26); and the word for the “release” of debts that happened every sever years under the Law of Moses (Deut. 15).
Thus, Jesus’ death produced Jubilee, the return of our rightful land to us and a release from slavery. Our sins were carried away by him (the scapegoat). All our debts are taken away.
At least three times, the New Testament says that Jesus died so that he would be complete Lord, ruler, and owner of us (Rom. 14:9; 2 Cor. 5:15; Tit. 2:13-14). The grace we receive by faith not only recreates us for good works (Eph. 2:10), it frees from the power of sin (Rom. 6:14), and teaches us to live holy (Tit. 2:11-12). This sort of thing is supposed to be taught with all authority, not allowing anyone to oppose us (Tit. 2:15).
Blood is required for that kind of “remission” (aphesis; Heb. 9:22). Plain forgiveness, charizomai in Greek, is provided by the mercy of God without blood. This is what is talked about in Psalm 51:16-17, where David says God does not want sacrifice but a contrite spirit and broken heart. It is also what Ezekiel 18 is talking about, where God says that he is a just judge that will forgive the wicked person who turns to righteousness. We did not need the availability of forgiveness. It has always been there. We need the ability to follow through on our repentance and live righteously. All who “patiently continue to do good” will be granted eternal life at the judgment (Rom. 2:6-7). The problem is that humans do not patiently continue to do good. We need God’s Spirit, so that we do not “grow weary in doing good” (Gal. 6:8-9). If we sow to the Spirit, and thus do not grow weary in doing good, we will reap eternal life.
All this plain truth in the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, Paul, James, Peter, and Jude can be seen in John as well if we know just a couple things about Greek.
Ok, that’s my quick version of atonement teaching. I would love to hear your feedback.
Paul
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Pseudo-History in My Daughter’s College Class

I was horrified and appalled when my daughter told me today about the book she is reading in her college history class. The history is loaded with both falsehoods and sloppy scholarship. It is unacceptable that such a book would ever be brought by a professor into a college class except to expose the willful ignorance of some authors.

I do not have the book name or author. My daughter sent me a few screenshots of the textbook. I sent her responses to the fantasy history of the book. Some quotes from the text and my responses are below.

Textbook

“Paul also taught that converts did not have to live strictly according to Jewish law. To make conversion easier, he did not require male converts to undergo the Jewish initiation right of circumcision.”

Truth

Acts 15 (in the Bible) tells us that a council in Jerusalem, led by Peter and James, was called to discuss Paul’s teaching that Gentiles (non-Jews only) did not have to keep the Law of Moses or be circumcised. The council agreed and put only 4 laws on the Gentiles.

Textbook

“In early Christianity, women in some locations could be leaders—such as Lydia, a businesswoman who founded the congregation in Philippi in Greece—but many men, including Paul, opposed women’s leadership.

Truth

Acts 16 tells us that Paul is the one who found Lydia and other women meeting by a river in Philippi. He founded the church in Philippi through Lydia. He also converted a Philippian jailer there (same chapter). We have no idea who the leader was. That it was Lydia is just an assumption from the text. There is no outside literature verifying that Lydia was a leader in Philippi, just that she was the first convert. Later Paul wrote a letter to the Philippians, and he mentions bishops (literally, overseers) and deacons (literally, servants). Those words are masculine in Greek, not feminine.

Textbook

“Christian leaders had to build an organization from the ground up to administer their growing congregations. Finally, Christians had to decide whether women could continue as leaders in their congregations.”

Truth

The book does not specify the time period but, as you can see, there is no solid evidence that any women were leaders in any churches. That is simply the fantasy of the author. We do know from Romans 16:2 and from the possible wording of 1 Timothy 3:11 that women could be deacons, which literally means servants. That never stopped until much later in church history, maybe in the 800’s or later.

Textbook

After a really excellent section on the martyrs, your book says, “This transformation was painful because early Christians fiercely disagreed about what they should believe, how they should live, and who had the authority to decide these questions. Some insisted Christians should withdraw from the everyday world to escape its evil, abandoning their families and shunning sex and reproduction. Others believed they could follow Christ’s challenging teachings while living ordinary lives.”

Truth

In A.D. 185 (or so), Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons (in modern France), who had been raised up in the faith in Smyrna (in modern Turkey) and was a counselor to Roman bishops (in Italy), wrote, “The Church, though dispersed through our the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God … As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world.”

What the author of your book must be referring to are the tracts written by a Christian from the church in Carthage. His name was Tertullian, and he wrote about 20 years after Irenaeus. He complained about some of the worldliness going on in the churches in those tracts. This does not mean that there were Christians teaching that Christians can live ordinary lives. His tracts complain about hypocrisy in the church, Christians not living up to the standards of Christ.

What happened to Tertullian was that he was so frustrated that he ended up embracing the teachings of the prophet Montanus. Montanus was the main prophet of a movement that is named after him. His followers were called “Montanists.” Prisca and Maximilla were prophetesses with him. The churches in Asia Minor rejected their prophecies as false.
Those prophecies included things like saying that the Holy Spirit had given the churches time to mature. It had been 150 years since the apostles. While the apostles allowed widows to marry again, the Holy Spirit (through Montanus and these two ladies), was telling the churches that widows could no longer remarry. The churches at that time would allow an adulterer or murderer or robber (etc.) to repent one time and be readmitted to the church. If it happened a second time, they could never come back into the church. Montanus (and Prisca and Maximilla) taught that only God could forgive them. The churches could not forgive such people even once.

Their prophecies were rejected by the catholic churches, and their movement faded away over the next few decades.

About 20 years later—in one church, Rome—Hippolytus formed a new church because he thought the elected bishop (Callistus) was not a good person. His church stayed separate for 17 or 18 years, when another persecution arose. Both Hippolytus and the current bishop (now Pontus) were both thrown into the mines because of the persecution. There they reconciled, and that ended that.

Thirty years later, in Rome again, a man named Novatian (Greek Novatus) started a new church because he didn’t like the bishop Cornelius. This is 251 now. His split lasted for several centuries, but it did not disturb the catholic churches, which continued steadfast. In the fourth century a basic peace set in between the catholic and Novatian churches because they believed the same things. The Novatian churches were just stricter about readmitting those who sinned in some major way.

Textbook

The need to deal with such tensions, to administer the congregations, and to promote spiritual communion among believers led Christians to create an official hierarchy of men, headed by bishops.

Truth

This is an extremely sloppy description of what happened. Bishops (literally overseers) had existed since the beginning of Christianity. They were also called elders. You can read about this in Acts 20, 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, and 1 Peter 5 in the Bible. You need to know the origin of the words bishop, elder, presbyter, and deacon to understand the various words used there. What those passages in the Bible say is that the Paul and Peter’s churches were led by elders (presbyters) who held the position of overseers (bishops). There were also servants (deacons) who served the churches in various capacities.

Over a century, for whatever reason, bishop (or overseer) had become separate from elders. Each church (or perhaps each city) had one bishop and many elders. From about that time (150 or so), certain bishops became preeminent. This was especially true of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch. These, along with the bishop of Constantinople after it was built and consecrated around 340, became known as patriarchs. Bishops of cities that were smaller or less important, but still big, became known as metropolitans. So, yes, a hierarchy arose, but not because of the kind of disputes claimed in your book.

Textbook

Your textbook, screen capture 8: “The bishops tried to suppress the arguments that arose in the new religion. They used their authority to define orthodoxy (true doctrine) and heresy (false doctrine).

Truth

This is sloppier than the previous one. The bishops were around from the beginning. Through the second century, the heretics were the gnostics that denied the God of the Bible, thought Jesus failed in his mission, and rejected the apostles. The Montanists did arise in the late second century, but as I said, that was a minor thing.

The authority of the bishops, which really means the authority of councils of bishops, was used to resolve fights over doctrine starting in the fourth century. That really was a bad thing, and the results were terrible. I do not deny that the fourth century begins a horrific downward spiral in the churches.

However, everything this book says about women in authority in early Christianity is speculative and unlikely to be true. The only possibilities of authoritative women, Lydia and Priscilla (not Prisca, the follower of the false prophet Montanus), were brought to Christ by Paul and trained by him (Acts 16 and 18:1-2). Since Paul did not allow women to teach (1 Timothy 2), it is very, very unlikely that either of those women were leaders except in influence.

Textbook

“When the male bishops came to power, they demoted from positions of leadership.”

Truth

I hope you can see by now that this is false. That book has no business being in a college classroom. I am appalled. You are welcome to show this to your teacher. I will be glad to give her more references besides the ones I gave. A lot of the history I gave can be found in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History (or Church History) written in 323. Yes, that history was written by a cleric, but we have volumes of writing from Christians before Eusebius justifying his history. The history in this book you have been given is a fantasy. I would love to see what she calls her sources.

Free Bonus

Notice the disparity in length between the quotes from the book and my answers. It take a much longer time to refute lies than to tell them. This is why falsehood can propitiate so easily. I occasionally write about evolution and Christian anti-evolutionists. I will no longer call them creationists because the many Christians who acknowledge the truth of evolution are also creationists. Creationists pump out false science by the bucket load because it takes little research to deceive. Refutation takes a long time because it does take research to prove to the deceived that the deceivers are really deceivers.

One of the biggest problems in modern Christianity is that Bible study is done for the sake of knowledge rather than for the sake of obedience. Obedient Christians don’t lie. Theologians are dishonest regularly, though for many of them it is simply a habit of intellectual dishonesty taught to them in school.

It is wicked, and it needs to be exposed.

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But you …

Late in his life, Paul wrote letters to Timothy and Titus. These are probably some of the last instructions Paul would give. What did he focus on with Timothy and Titus? One way to see his focus is to read the “but you” passages. There are several of them. All these passages will be from the New American Standard Bible (NASB). There will be a lot of Scripture in today’s post.

Here’s the format: First come the things Paul complains about others doing, then follows what Paul told Timothy and Titus to do instead. Take these things to heart!

1 Timothy 6:3-12

What others did: Whoever teaches something different and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the religious teaching is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid disposition for arguments and verbal disputes. From these come envy, rivalry, insults, evil suspicions, and mutual friction among people with corrupted minds, who are deprived of the truth, supposing religion to be a means of gain. Indeed, religion with contentment is a great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it. If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that. Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains.

What Timothy should do instead: But you, man of God, avoid all this. Instead, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses.

2 Timothy 3:1-12

What others did: But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also. [note: In Hebrew lore Jannes and Jambres were two of the Egyptian magicians who opposed Moses.]

What Timothy should do:Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

2 Timothy 3:13-15

What others did: But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

What Timothy should do: You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 4:3-5

What others did: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

What Timothy should do: But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Titus 1:10 – Titus 2:14

What others did: For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth. To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.

What Titus should do: But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. Older women likewise are to …

What We Are To Do

If this got your attention at all, I hope the first thing you will do is read the rest of Titus 2 and find Paul’s idea of “sound doctrine.” I suspect our definition of sound doctrine is not a lot like Paul’s.

The other thing we should do is avoid the things Paul complained about (“What others did”) and do the things Paul told Timothy and Titus to do. Of course, Timothy and Titus were part of Paul’s apostolic team, so what you do won’t be exactly like what they were to do. We all have our own gifts. But sound doctrine for Timothy and Titus should be the same as sound doctrine for you. Their pursuit of “righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness” is what we should pursue as well.

While so many were pursuing teaching and doctrine, resulting in confusion, disputing, and self-exaltation, Paul wanted men of God pursuing peace with all men and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).

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Access to Grace: Romans 5:1-2

There is a lot you can get from God by faith. If you have the right kind of faith, you could tell a tree to get up and replant itself somewhere else (Luke 17:6). The greatest thing you can get by faith, though, is access to grace.

Romans 5:1 says we are justified by faith, and because of this, we have peace with God. It sounds like faith is everything here. We are justified, and we have peace with God. How could we need anything else?

Verse 2 tells us how. The apostle Paul says that by faith “we have access … to this grace by which we stand.” If you want to continue in faith (Col. 1:22-23), you need to rush on into that grace by which we stand. Faith obtains grace for you.

Access to Grace. Most Christians do not realize just what and how much this means. There’s a hint there in Romans 5:2. By grace, “we stand.” That’s just a hint, though. It’s a taste, a smell, of a fantastic feast. Maybe not a feast, but a medicine that can heal all that ails you.

Ephesians 2:8 points out that it is actually grace that saves you. We are saved “by grace,” which we obtained “through faith.” Though we did not and cannot receive that grace by works, the result of grace is that we become “his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (Eph. 2:10).

Grace means favor, and the favor of God means that sin cannot dominate you any more (Rom. 6:14). The favor of God that saves you also teaches you. It teaches you to “deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age” (Tit. 2:11-12). It can teach you, and you can follow through, because sin cannot dominate you any more.

Grace helps in time of need. Note that grace and mercy are not the same thing. We often use them interchangeably. When we run to the throne of grace, we can find mercy there, but we can find more. We can also, in addition to mercy, find “grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Grace is also the source of the spiritual gifts that God gives us. In Greek, grace is charis, and spiritual gifts are charismata. Peter exhorts us to be good stewards of the grace we have received (1 Pet. 4:11).

You say you have faith. Do not stop there! Faith gives you access to grace. Rush in, stand in it, triumph over sin and serve God’s people.

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“Global” Passages of Scripture

My wife reminded me about passages I call “global passages.” They cover the entire Christian life from conversion to the final judgment in just a few verses.

I only have two right now.

Romans 7:24 to 8:13

This passage is a little more global than the next one because it covers our sad state of bondage prior to the great and free salvation of Jesus Christ. It begins in Romans 7:24 with the agonizing cry of “Oh, wretched man that I am.” The wonderful announcement of the “Law of the Spirit of Life” that delivers us from this wretched state follows in Romans 8:2.

The Apostle Paul then explains the process. What the Law of Moses could not do because it had nothing to resolve sin in the flesh, God did. He sent his Son, clothed in our sinful flesh as a sin offering, and sin in the flesh was condemned with him (Romans 8:3). He then rose mightily from the grave, setting us free from bondage. This is assumed, though not mentioned, in the passage. When we believe in him and are baptized, we receive the Holy Spirit, and if we walk in the Spirit, we fulfill the righteousness of the Law (though not the literal Law of Moses itself; rather, its fullness, Matt. 5:17-48). As long as we do this, we have life and peace, and will live. If we do not, we have death and will die (Rom. 8:5-13).

2 Peter 1:3-11

This passage begins in 2 Peter 1:3-4 with a majestic description of the gifts we have when we receive the Spirit of God and come under the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus mention in Romans 8:2 and described in Romans 8:3-4. You have to read those two verses to appreciate just who the death and resurrection of Christ and the receiving of the Holy Spirit has made you to be!

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (ESV)

Now that is worth jumping up and shouting over. In our lost state, when we decide to pursue righteousness, we want to cry out, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Jesus does not just deliver us from this body of death, but he transforms us into a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17) that fits the description in 2 Peter 1:3-4.

One of our greatest problems as Christians is that we do not believe what the Scriptures say of us, either because we have not been told or because we are used to counting ourselves poor sinners. We WERE poor sinners, but now we are SAVED. We are created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10) “SAVED” is a big word. (We are commanded to think of ourselves properly in Romans 6:11.)

This hymn gives our proper response to being saved:

Redeemed; How I Love to Proclaim It

Redeemed—how I love to proclaim it!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed through His infinite mercy,
His child, and forever, I am.

Redeemed and so happy in Jesus,
No language my rapture can tell;
I know that the light of His presence
With me doth continually dwell.

I think of my blessed Redeemer,
I think of Him all the day long;
I sing, for I cannot be silent;
His love is the theme of my song.

I know I shall see in His beauty
The King in whose way I delight;
Who lovingly guardeth my footsteps,
And giveth me songs in the night.

There can be no lesser reaction to 2 Peter 1:3-4 than described in that hymn.

In 2 Peter 1:5-8, Peter describes how to turn that “great salvation” (Heb. 2:3) into a life of abundant fruitfulness and knowledge of our Lord Jesus. Finally, though, we must remember that Hebrews 2:3 is a warning not to neglect our “great salvation.” We must work out our own salvation (Php. 2:12), not by our own power (Jn. 15:5) but by our own volition. If we want that rich and abundant promised entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior, King Jesus, we must be diligent to follow the path Peter describes in 2 Peter 1:5-8 (2 Peter 1:9-11).

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My Favorite Early Christian Passage: Commandment 12 of the Shepherd of Hermas

The Ante-Nicene Fathers Series refers to this section of The Shepherd of Hermas as “Commandment XII.” The Lightfoot translation that I am quoting from and linking to calls it Mandate 12. Search “Mandate 12” (or phrases in the quote) at the link to find the passage. It speaks for itself without my commentary.

3[46]:1 “I would fain know, Sir,” say I, “in what ways I ought to serve the good desire.” “Listen,” saith he; “practice righteousness and virtue, truth and the fear of the Lord, faith and gentleness, and as many good deeds as are like these. Practicing these thou shalt be well-pleasing as a servant of God, and shalt live unto Him; yea, and every one who shall serve the good desire shall live unto God.”

3[46]:2 So he completed the twelve commandments, and he saith to me; Thou hast these commandments; walk in them, and exhort thy hearers that their repentance may become pure for the rest of the days of their life.

3[46]:3 This ministration, which I give thee, fulfill thou with all diligence to the end, and thou shalt effect much. For thou shalt find favor among those who are about to repent, and they shall obey thy words. For I will be with thee, and will compel them to obey thee.”

3[46]:4 I say to him; “Sir, these commandments are great and beautiful and glorious, and are able to gladden the heart of the man who is able to observe them. But I know not whether these commandments can be kept by a man, for they are very hard.”

3[46]:5 He answered and said unto me; “If thou set it before thyself that they can be kept, thou wilt easily keep them, and they will not be hard; but if it once enter into thy heart that they cannot be kept by a man, thou wilt not keep them.

3[46]:6 But now I say unto thee; if thou keep them not. but neglect them thou shalt not have salvation, neither thy children nor thy household, since thou hast already pronounced judgment against thyself that these commandments cannot be kept by a man.”

4[47]:1 And these things he said to me very angrily, so that I was confounded, and feared him exceedingly; for his form was changed, so that a man could not endure his anger.

4[47]:2 And when he saw that I was altogether disturbed and confounded, he began to speak more kindly [and cheerfully] to me, and he saith; “Foolish fellow, void of understanding and of doubtful mind, perceivest thou not the glory of God, how great and mighty and marvelous it is, how that He created the world for man’s sake, and subjected all His creation to man, and gave all authority to him, that he should be master over all things under the heaven?

4[47]:3 If then,” [he saith,] “man is lord of all the creatures of God and mastereth all things, cannot he also master these commandments Aye,” saith he, “the man that hath the Lord in his heart can master [all things and] all these commandments.

4[47]:4 But they that have the Lord on their lips, while their heart is hardened, and are far from the Lord, to them these commandments are hard and inaccessible.

4[47]:5 Therefore do ye, who are empty and fickle in the faith, set your Lord in your heart, and ye shall perceive that nothing is easier than these commandments, nor sweeter, nor more gentle.

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Catching Up: Exciting Things

I haven’t written here in four months, but I have not been inactive.

I have completed the rough draft of “Taking Aim at Rome’s Audacious Claim.” The rough draft is 256 pages. I suspect I will lose at least 20 pages in editing. I do need to add an appendix or three. The book is a historical look at how the Roman Catholic papacy developed.

I want to give praise for the spiritual growth I have seen in our community, Rose Creek Village. A lot of that has been the direct result of prayer. Pray, see quick answers; point out problems to God, see quick answers. That part is delightful. Working out issues when your church is very close and interacts with each other often can be painful because God requires us to be honest with one another. This can be done safely where brothers and sisters feel safe with one another. Maintaining that safeness with one another spiritually, that is the work.

I am part of an accountability group of six brothers. We have explored different ways of making our time as worthwhile as possible. We are about to begin a discipleship program from zumeproject.com. We already know something about provoking one another to love and good works (Heb. 10:24) and holding each other accountable, but we want to be trained to be influencers who touch the lives of those around us. Hopefully, we already do this, but we want it to be purposeful and to reach outside our church community into Selmer.

To begin that process, we have started a Bible study in town with a couple sisters we know. I’d love to have brothers there, too, but that’s not what we have right now. Our goal is to reach that neighborhood with the Gospel in a purposeful manner. We are not starting a church. We are teaching these ladies how to behave like the members of the one church in Selmer that they are.

A young brother managed to hear about and bring me to the ministerial association in our county. I was more than thrilled the month one of the local pastors (or “of First Christian Church”) talked about the difference between just working together and displaying the unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17:20. There was a lot of resistance from the seven or eight other pastors there, which discouraged the First Christian pastor a bit. He told me so at a lunch later. He asked me if I was surprised at the resistance. I told him I had been pushing this message for over 30 years, and I was surprised at the acceptance. At least two of the other pastors were very open to talking about real unity versus just working together. To me a 70-80% rejection rate is infinitely better than a 100% rejection rate (both practically and, if you use the approval rate rather than the rejection rate, mathematically).

I don’t know what will happen with the Bible study or the ministerial association. For me, the next step is to ask for a regular prayer meeting to be scheduled with the pastors at the ministerial association. We need both the power and the guidance of Jesus, the Lord of the church and our Head.

That’s catching up. In the next post, I will share my favorite passage from the early Christian writings. (I have more than one favorite, so I have other favorites to share in the future.)

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