Archive for August, 2007

John 1:1 Commentary

August 21, 2007

John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Here we have those famous words – “In the beginning.” Where have we seen them before? Well, anyone that has picked up a Bible and opened to page 1 has read from Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” So just as Moses had something to tell us about the beginning, John has something else to tell us about the beginning.

Of course, there is nothing contradictory between Moses and John. But John, having been chosen by God to receive this revelation, opens the curtain of God’s mind a little more for us to see the power of His creative force.

When John says “In the beginning was”, he takes us to task in our human minds to understand the eternal nature of God – yea, of the Son of God, whom, as we shall see indisputably to be “the Word” later in the chapter. Christ said of Himself: “before Abraham was, I am”.

We see that there was, in fact, a “beginning”. But God has no beginning, so we understand this to be the beginning of time – that is, the human concept we know as time; for time, essentially, always was, and always shall, be. Yet time as we humans know it had a beginning and shall have and end. This time is marked off by universal motions. A physical description of time would include a reference to the motions of the heavenlies – the earth spins, the sun, the moon, the seasons, the yearly cycle, they all combine to make “time” for us. We experience time in a bodily fashion – that is, we experience fatigue, boredom, impatience, and so on – all functions of time in the human realm.

But God is not subject to these things. He is not subject to time in the same manner as we are. He does not grow weary, He does not get bored, He does not get tired, He does not become impatient. Time has no beginning, nor ending, for Him. Yet He did create a beginning for us.

So we have established that something pre-existed the beginning, for there was a “was”. And what was? The WORD!

We can be excited now! Why? Because we see the bridge between the eternal and the temporal – the Word. And just what is a word, you may ask? A word is “the expression of a thought”. Simple, yet so, so profound. We see HOW God communicates with man. Through the Word, God expresses His thoughts.

We could expand on the idea of the existence of knowledge (epistemology) at this point, but I will attempt to discuss it only briefly. The profound revelation that Christ Himself is the Word shows us that knowledge cannot exist if He does not exist. Without Christ, there is no Word, nor are there words. In order for thoughts to be expressed, there must be an original thought. By original, I don’t mean “first” – I mean “primary source.”

If God does not exist, then knowledge does not exist, because there is no other source to which we can attribute knowledge. Many make the mistake of attributing knowledge to the natural world – I can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell; therefore, I can learn, and subsequently, know. However, you cannot know that what you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell is real. Have you ever awakened from a dream, having had the sense that you actually experienced the events of that dream? Yet you know that the events of the dream were not real. Or were they? How can you tell if you are not dreaming now?

But words, as they communicate a primary knowledge to us, are real, and the thoughts that they express are real. Therefore, God’s Word is the only source of certain reality we have.

John says “In the beginning was the Logos” What can we learn about Logos? We can learn that Logos is God expressing Himself in a person – the person of His Eternal Son – Christ, Jesus, Our Lord. But what more of Logos can we learn? This: We get the word “logic” from “logos”. Many Bible teachers imply or outrightly declare that “God is not logical”. This notion comes from unwillingness on the part of the Bible student to resolve apparent contradictions (there are no actual contradictions in the Bible) in a logical way. Why are they unwilling? Because they don’t like the obvious conclusions that scripture will lead them to. They prefer to declare the word of God to be a “mystery”, or a “paradox”; two seemingly contradictory truths that remain in perpetual tension, and have no resolution.

I would ask you this: do you really think God is illogical? Or as some would say – alogical? I would think that we would accept from the onset, as the Apostle John presents it, that Christ is God’s LOGICAL personification.

“the word was with God, and the word was God”. Here we have the very thing I mentioned in the preceding paragraph – an apparent contradiction. How can the word, simultaneously and at all times, be God and be with God? This apparently contradiction is resolved in the doctrine of the TRINITY – God exists in three persons, of the which, two are expressed here. The eternal Son, in the form of the Word, both was God and was with God (the Father).

This doctrine (Trinity, or Triunity) is a stumbling block to the Jew who insists on the oneness of God. But the Jew will say that he has no need to understand John since the Jew rejects the validity of John’s revelation. But can the Jew explain why Moses said “Let US make man in OUR image”? From the very beginning of scriptural knowledge, both in Genesis and in John, we are exposed that great doctrine – the teaching that God expresses Himself in three persons – God the Father who spoke the world into existence, the grand architect, designer, engineer, progenitor, who has chosen His children by decree; God the Son (Word) who carried out the Father’s command, the agent of creation, obeying Him even to the incarnation and the bloody cross, obtaining eternal redemption for the elect; and God the Spirit who moved upon the face of the waters, and who “moves” upon the hearts of men, bringing the sheep of Christ into His fold.

CONCLUSION OF THIS SECTION.

God communicates through His Son, who is “the express image” of God’s person , upholding all things by the word of His power (Heb 1:3). A word is the expression of a thought, and God’s thoughts are real, and they are the only way we can know anything real. God’s thoughts are perfectly logical, and they are never contradictory.

I hope the reader has been edified and encouraged to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus.

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How Does God Save People?

August 21, 2007

You may think that a previous article covered this topic pretty well, but there is a difference in the two topics. Before, I attempted to answer the question “How do I know that I am saved?” The emphasis there was on the “knowing” that is available to those of us that have believed on Jesus Christ as our Savior.

This article, however, is an attempt to deal with the mechanics of salvation – not just that God saves us, but how God saves us. Although this topic requires us to deal mainly with the mechanics, or mechanisms, of salvation, which all take place in the human experience during physical time, nevertheless we can not easily enter into a discussion of those things without first discussing the aspects of salvation which describes God’s over-arching design and purposes in salvation – election and predestination. Part 1 will do this as breifly as possible. I will address these extremely important doctrines in the future at greater length as God permits.I have broken down the topic into three main sections with subsections as follows. The sequence is definitely logical and generally chronological.

I. Events before time began
1) Foreknowledge
2) Election
3) Predestination

II. Events during time
1) Regeneration
2) Calling
3) Repentance
4) Faith
5) Justification
6) Sanctification

III. Events after time
1) Glorification

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For the sake of simplicity, I will keep to a sequenced understanding of the different aspects of salvation. But some of them have an application both in time and eternity. For example, there is a sense in which those that have believed on the Lord for justification was already justified when Jesus died and rose again some two thousand years ago, and not only that, but there is a sense in which it may be said that the believer was always justified because God knew from eternity that He would justify them. The same may be said of sanctification, for those whom God knew would believe were in a sense always “set aside” as His elect, and are presently set aside after they have believe for the service of God, and always will be set aside for the Glory of God. And finally, a believer is glorified in the resurrection with a new body, in the new heaven and new earth; but the believer is already glorified in heaven in a spiritual and legal way, as we find in Ephesians chapter 2:

“And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus”.

Section I: Events before time

1. Foreknowledge.  Foreknowledge is God knowing those persons that He will save before those persons exist, even before time began. “Knowing” is often equated with “loving”, and it is said that God fore-loved the elect. Also, and for me more importantly, to say that God “knows” something is to say that God “decrees” something, for God does not learn anything, seeing he has perfect knowledge of all things. Think about it. What God knows, God decrees, because if God knows it, it will happen, it is fixed, and must happen, and because it will happen, and He permits it to happen, He therefore decrees it to happen. Since God is the origin of all things, all things that come to pass are decreed by Him. Although this truth cuts the heart out of our human pride and crashes our concept of self-determination, it is inescapably true and irrefutable, as long as we accept the premise that God is all-knowing (omniscient) and all-powerful (omnipotent). This is simple logic and it is clearly taught in the Bible.

Isaiah 45:21 (KJV) Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.

Isaiah 46:9 (KJV) Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, , {10} Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: {11} Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.”

Acts 15:18 (KJV) Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.

2. Election.  Election is the first act of God’s grace, whereby He elected (chose) to save certain individuals from their sins for His own glory. Election is conditioned only in the purpose and plan of God, and nothing in man. If election depended on any thing in man, then it would not be an act of grace.Notice I use the terminology “act” of grace. It’s important to remember that God is the “actor”, or rather, the “agent” of all events. He is not a spectator of anything, but is the first cause of all subsequent causes and effects.

1 Peter 1:2 (KJV) Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

Psalms 65:4 (KJV) Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.

John 6:65 (KJV) And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.

Ephesians 1:3-6 (KJV) 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

1 Thessalonians 1:4 (KJV) Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.

3. PredestinationPredestination is God determining, before time began, to provide His chosen ones a “telos”, a final goal, an ultimate end, which we typically call “heaven”; and having determined that we should arrive to this destination before time began, he also predetermined the means by which we would arrive to that end.Nobody would be saved unless God had first elected to save some of us, and had planned to bring about the things in our lives which would lead us into His salvation.

Ephesians 1:11 (KJV) In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

1 Thessalonians 5:9 (KJV) For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, “

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This concludes Part 1 of “How does God save people?” 

Part 2 will begin with the events during time. 

Introduction to Bible Commentary

August 21, 2007

The Bible is the Word of God!

How many times have we heard this proclaimed from Bible-preaching pulpits, and mocked from Bible-doubting pulpits? Yet here it is – it’s in our homes, it’s in hotel rooms; it’s the most quoted book in the western world, even by those that are its critics. It’s the “elephant in the room”. And it’s not going away any time soon. In fact, as long as there is time, the Bible will be here.

For those of us that claim to believe the Bible, it is of utmost importance that we get some measure of understanding of it.

It’s very important for Christians, no matter where they are in their development, to have some understanding of theology as a SYSTEM. I believe that the key to understanding individual bible verses is understanding how they fit into the larger picture – the “system”, as it were. One can only grow so far on word definitions and grammar.

There are many systematic theology books available on line. One of my favorites is John Gill’s “A COMPLETE BODY OF DOCTRINAL AND PRACTICAL DIVINITY”. I also like “Manual of Theology” by J.L. Dagg. Other systematic theology books, which I have not used myself, but have been highly recommended, are (authors listed only): Grudem, Bancroft, Burkhoff, Cheung, Boice, and a host of other excellent works that can be found at http://www.monergismbooks.com/.

Much of what I do herr will be owing to the work of John Gill, mentioned above, his commentary on the whole bible being my favorite commentary. It is also available free on line at www.monergism.com. I encourage anyone to use his commentary as an addition to mine to get more detailed knowledge of the Bible.  Mr. Gill relates many scriptures to the writings of the Jewish Rabinical traditions to shed historical light on passages.  I will not always agree with Mr. Gill, especially in the area of the millinial kingdom and the final judgement, yet there will be times that my own comments will be a mere mimicry of his, roughly re-arranged into modern English.

I will begin with the book of John. Where else would I start!

So many times Christians have determined to read there Bibles, and having opened to Genesis 1:1, began reading, and after having read maybe a few pages, closed the book and gave up. Now don’t take me wrong – I could very well begin my commentary in Genesis and be completely satisfied that not one second of my time would be wasted. In fact, as you will see, I will immediately, upon opening John 1:1, refer back to Genesis 1:1 for our understanding. But I begin with John because it is the first book that should be understood by Christians. I say this adamantly, without reservation. The next to John is Romans. This order is important because John give us a more basic understanding of who God is, who the Son is, who the Holy Spirit is, and how God saves people from their sins. Romans does this same thing in greater detail, and is written at a higher level of understanding. If one understands John, then we can’t go astray in Romans.

Well, next time, it’s on to the Gospel of John and the actual commentary.

What is sin?

August 21, 2007

A sin is something we commit because we have sin in us. We call it the “sin nature.” The Bible says, “Sin is transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). Simple, right? But there’s more to that statement than meets the immediate attention. First, let’s understand what is meant by “transgression”. To transgress is to disobey. Disobey what? The law. And what law? Some would immediately conclude, due to the biblical reference, that we are dealing here with the Ten Commandments, or the Law of Moses. Surely that is right, but the word “law” is all-encompassing. If a mother tells her child to leave the cookies alone, that is law in every sense that the commandment of God is law.

Given the analogy above, what do you think will happen? Typically, the child will instantly, upon receiving the command or law, begin planning a way to disobey the commandment. That’s because the child, like all children – like all people – have a sin nature, a determination to disobey the law.

This human trait can be summed up with one word – REBELLION.

Sin, then, is essentially rebellion against God. We commit acts of rebellion because we have a spirit of rebellion.

You see, it is futile to try to define sin by a list of things one considers to be right and wrong. From thence comes endless debate over what makes one moral or immoral, nice or mean, good or bad. I’m not saying that there are not definite right and wrongs. On the contrary, the Bible is full of direct commandments concerning righteous and sinful acts. But as born rebels, humans enter a status before God that is characterized by sin, i.e., transgression. This is true of all humans without exception. What we really need to understand is that sin is first and foremost a condition of the inner man, the “heart” – the darkened heart of depraved man. From this heart comes the outward deeds of man.

So what is the cure for sin? Well, there’s moral reformation. Through good discipline, and a proper understanding of the social and spiritual implications of sin, a person can develop an ability, at least to some degree, to restrain or moderate their sinful desires.

But moral reformation only deals with the outward acts – the sins – motivated by the inward spirit – the sin – of our being. How do we escape the prison of sin that persists in our hearts? The Bible tells us: “through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 7:25). Although our sin nature is not eradicated while we remain in our body of flesh, faith in Christ, brought about by the converting power of God’s Holy Spirit, brings a three-fold attack against our inward sin.

First, the Holy Spirit brings into us a new Spirit, which enables our inward man to hate the sin we commit, to fight against it, to increasingly moderate its out-workings. This struggle between our new “inward man” (Spirit) and our still-sinful “outward man” (flesh) never ceases in this life, believers are empowered by God to experience many victories over the flesh in this struggle.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit delivers us completely and immediately, upon the new birth, out of our legal condition as sinners before God. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are delivered from a state of perpetual rebellion against God, and we are given in its place a love for God, for the things of God, and for the commandments of God.

Thirdly, the Holy Spirit will finish the work that He began in us, by preserving us until the end, in which we will be finally delivered from the flesh altogether. Believers will reside in God’s eternal Kingdom in new bodies, free from that old struggle, complete in their devotion to God and clothed in His righteousness.

The story of sin is a sad one for those that have not God. But for those of us that believe in Christ, we have a great hope, a day star arising, a golden daybreak; though we are presently in temptation for an appointed time.

Glory to God.

How Can A Person Know If They Are Saved?

August 21, 2007

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:”
John 10:27

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:” Romans 8:16

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MAN is so evil, so depraved, so darkened in his mind, spirit, and body, that he can not save himself from his own sin. Even the best man is a sinner. Left to his own nature, he will gladly march off into hell while making a joyful song along the way. He will defy God either through pursuing his own wicked desires without restraint, or he will defy God through religious inventions, rituals, and ceremonies. The only way any man can be saved is if God has mercy on him. And the good news is that God has seen fit to bless a multitude of undeserving sinners with salvation, having chosen them out of his mercy to receive the benefits of the blood of Jesus Christ. This blessed multitude is known as His “sheep” in the Bible. He visits all of His sheep through the Holy Spirit, opening their hearts, giving them a desire toward Christ, making them willing to follow Him in faith. The Bible says that they will follow him, and they will “find pasture”, that is, they will be satisfied in Him, and will endure in their faith. This is the good news – the Gospel. This is the Gospel by which we come to know that He has saved us.

How do I know if I am saved?

Everyone’s salvation experience is different. The Apostles Matthew, James, and John simply received a call from Jesus, “follow me”, and they followed Him. The Apostle Paul, in contrast, had a spectacular conversion experience when Jesus, in a glorified state, appeared to him on the road to Demascus. The Jews at Pentecost were “pricked in their heart” upon hearing the preaching of Peter. The Phillipian Jailor was about to kill himself after an earthquake had opened the doors of the jail, when Paul and Silas cried out “we are all here”. Convinced that he had been visited by God, he came trembling to Paul and Silas and cried, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Later we find the jailor “believing, with all his house.” And me, God used the testimony of a teenager at a youth meeting and the first Gospel message I ever heard to bring me to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus. How would you describe your salvation experience? Have you had one? Have you been “converted”?

“Ye must be born again” John 3:7

Now let us first understand that the new birth spoken of in the Book of John Chapter 3 is a supernatural work of God, and this work is totally in His hands. John said “the wind (pneuma, spirit) bloweth where it listeth (wills, desires)”. This means that God’s Spirit moves by God’s will, not man’s will. This is an invisible, “secret” work of God. But a person that has born again of the Spirit may know that he has been saved because the Holy Spirit “bears witness” with our spirit, that we are the children of God. And just what does this “bearing witness” consist of? How can we know that we have been born of the Spirit of God?

There is a mystical meaning to the witness of the Spirit. He bears witness with our spirit. This is an experiential knowledge of the heart, which is expressed in the old hymn “He Lives” written by the Presbyterian, Bently Ackly, in these words:

“You ask me how I know He lives? He LIVES WITHIN MY HEART!”

However, there is also an evidential meaning to this. In other words, the Holy Spirit brings about certain evidences, or “fruits”, by which salvation becomes a certainty in our lives. Let’s look at some of those fruits.

I. CONVERSION ITSELF IS A FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

I speak here of a conversion that is related to eternal salvation. There is a conversion that is not related to eternal salvation. The word conversion simply means to turn, or re-turn, depending on the context. It is made up of two elements – repentance and faith. These also can have a non-spiritual meaning. For example, someone may be converted (turn) from communism to capitalism because they repent (change their mind about communism and capitalism) and put their faith in (establish a continuing relationship with) capitalism. But that conversion has nothing to do with eternal salvation. Also, a person may be converted from bad behavior to good behavior, but this type of conversion would be a conversion “under the law”, and has nothing to do with eternal salvation. A person may regret doing bad things, and determine to turn over a new leaf, and better himself. This is moral conversion, not conversion to Christ. This is one of the most misunderstood teachings on conversion. Saving conversion is all about Who we trust for our salvation – it has nothing to do with how moral we may consider ourselves to have become. When we experience conversion to Christ, we can know that we are eternally saved.

Repentance is a fruit of the Spirit. The Bible says that God “granted” repentance to the Gentiles (Acts 11:18), and that He would “give” repentance to Israel (Act 5:31). Repentance, as it relates to eternal salvation, is a change of mind about how we can be saved. Whereas before we were convinced that we had the power within ourselves to “get” saved whenever we thought ourselves ready, either by our own righteousness or by our own wills; but now we are convinced that we must be saved by Christ and Him alone, through His righteousness and His will. Our world view changes. God is now the center of our world; before, it was ourselves. The purpose of our lives changes from pursuing our own pleasure to pursuing God’s pleasure and will.

Faith is a fruit of the Spirit.

Romans 10:8-10 (KJV) “8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.“

If you have an enduring faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you can know that you have been saved. By enduring, I do not mean that your faith will never be tested, or go through times of weakness. What I mean is that through all the trials and testing, God will not allow you to fall away, but will strengthen your faith in due time in spite of your own weakness.

Faith compliments repentance, and the two together completes the experience of conversion. We have a change of mind about our relationship with God, and turn to him in a personal, trusting relationship with Christ through faith.

WARNING: A PROFESSION OF FAITH DOES NOT GAURANTEE THAT YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED.

Faith that is professed with the mouth, but not possessed in the heart, is useless. Here is the difference between a profession and a confession: A profession is a self-projected claim, which can not be necessarily proven. I can profess to be an astronaut all I want, but I can’t necessarily prove it. A confession, on the other hand, is a claim based on agreement with another entity, which can be proven. I confess that I have faith and I can prove it because it is in my heart. No, I can’t prove it to you (although, James says I can show you my faith by my works; but that’s another topic for another day), because faith is an invisible work of God, but I can prove it to myself, because I know that faith is there. Because we possess Christ in our heart, we confess Him with our mouth. Our mouth is in agreement with our heart.

Someone might have told you that you could “get” saved by just saying a prayer, or getting baptized, or by walking down the aisle of a church, or taking communion, or a multitude of other sacraments. But NONE OF THESE THINGS CAN SAVE YOU. You must posses the faith of Christ in your heart. And if you do, you can know that you are saved. As the Apostle Paul said: “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (II Tim 1:12)

WARNING: BEWARE OF “NATURAL” FAITH

All men have natural faith. I have faith that my chair will hold me up, but that faith is based on natural observation. I expect the chair to hold me up. If it doesn’t, I quickly lose my faith in the chair. But natural faith will not save me from my sins. Natural faith is based on expectations. If we expect things from God, and He does not respond in accordance with our expectations, then our faith vanishes. Saving faith is a supernatural faith that comes from God. It does not make demands on God. It believes not only in what He can do, but much the more, it believes in HIM with no other conditions or qualifications.

Examples of natural, failing faith:

John 6:66 (KJV) From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

They followed him for a while, as long as they thought they would get food and healing from Him. But when they became dissatisfied with His doctrine, they left Him.

2 Timothy 4:10 (KJV) For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica;”

Demas was one of Paul’s helpers. He had done many good works. But in the end, his true love shows through, and Paul exposes it. He “loved the world”, rather than the things of God. Many people will pretend to be true Christians, and they may hold out their pretence a long time. Some people really want wealth or some other worldly benefit from religion. But God will eventually expose them for what they are.

Acts 8:13 (KJV) Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.

Acts 8:20-23 (KJV) 20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. 23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.

This is the account of Simon the sorcerer. Verse 13 has confused many bible students, because it says that Simon believed, was baptized, and continued. Some have understood this to mean that he really was saved but then lost his salvation. Others understand it to mean that Simon really was saved, and remained saved, but as a child of God, came under God’s chastisement. But Simon’s belief was a failing belief – that he was never truly converted, for Peter says of him, “thou art…in the bond of iniquity”. Christians are never referred to in this fashion in the Bible. Simon’s “belief” was nothing more than a mere profession. His hope was not Christ, but rather his hope was obtaining fortune and fame through performing the spectacular miracles that the Apostles performed. He was never truly converted to Christ.

I could give other examples, but it is enough to say that all these false professors are described in the parable of the sower, in the words of Jesus:

Matthew 13:18-23 (KJV) 18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. 19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. 20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. 22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. 23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

God prepares the “good ground” for the seed of the word by giving His sheep the ability to hear and understand it. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”.

SAVING FAITH HAS AN OBJECT

Colossians 1:4 (KJV) Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,

Saving faith is not faith in faith, or faith in one’s self, or faith in a teacher, or faith in Mary, or faith in the church, or faith in a sacrament, or faith in a ritual, or faith in a prayer. Saving faith is faith in Christ alone. Nothing else. Faith is coming empty-handed, pleading before Him for mercy.

SAVING FAITH HAS A SOURCE

Ephesians 2:8 (KJV) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Philippians 1:29 (KJV) For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;

Philippians 2:13 (KJV) For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Saving faith is not of ourselves. It is the gift of God. He gives us enduring faith so that we may know that we are His sheep – so that we may know that we are saved. We are kept by the power of God through this faith He has imparted to us.

SAVING FAITH HAS A RESIDENCE

“for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness”
This does not speak of the physical organ. It speaks of the “inner man”. Saving faith resides in our innermost being. There is a rational side to faith, but it does not come to us through our rational thought processes. Somehow, God touches a person’s heart, and imparts faith into it. And there it is.

SAVING FAITH IS NORMALLY ACTIVATED BY THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD
The only way you can know something is by the communication of information. The Bible, and bible-based works such as Gospel preaching, tracts, personal witnessing, and even this article you are reading, is the way that God communicates with us. When we hear the good news, how that Christ died for our sins, we who have faith dwelling in our hearts can then believe in Christ and thereby come to know that we have been born again.

II. AN INTEREST IN HAVING A GOD-LIKE CHARACTER IS A FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

I can know I am saved because I believe in Christ and Him alone for my salvation. But assurance of salvation doesn’t stop there. If there were no progression in our conversion experience, we might have a reason to doubt that we are saved. But the Bible declares that we can continue to have confidence in our salvation if we bear certain sign, or fruit, of the Spirit of God working in our lives. The Bible says:

2 Peter 1:5-10 (KJV) 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:”

So we are to add certain things to our faith such as virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, goldliness, brotherly kindness, and charity. As “we” add these things to our faith, we keep in mind that it is God who is working in us, both to do and to will of His good pleasure (Phil 2:13) And if we do these things, we shall never fall. But fall from what? Ye shall never fall from your confidence, your assurance, in Christ.

The list given in 2 Peter 1 is not intended to be exhaustive. There are many features of a Christian character. Some more are listed in this passage:

Galatians 5:22-23 (KJV) 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

These lists are not to be used as a checklist, to be checked off when we think we have attained a certain level of goodness. The idea is that because we desire, by the Holy Spirit, to please God in all things, we generally progress toward these types of virtues. That is not to say that we don’t have set backs. Romans Chapter 7 tells me that “even when I would do good, evil is present with me”. So the struggle with evil in our hearts never ends in this life. But when we begin to experience changes in our inner self, in our character, we can know that God is working in us, which gives us great assurance that we are saved.

The opening banner of this article speaks of the sheep of Christ. Here are there characteristics according to that verse:

1. They hear His voice.
2. He knows (loves) them
3. They follow Him.

The other opening verse speaks of the Holy Spirit. He bears witness with our spirit. This article has discussed several ways that we may know that He is bearing witness with our Spirit.

Now examine yourself, whether you are in the faith. Do you know if you have been saved?

Welcome to my blog!

August 21, 2007

Welcome to my blog!  I will be posting articles mostly about the Bible, theology, and religion; but  some miscellaneous other topics will appear from time to time.

 I work for the Air Force Reserves and am a part time student at Sterling College on-line.  I have studied the Bible for many years, and more recently began seriously studying systematic theology.

 I hope that you are blessed or challanged in some positive way by visiting here and reading my thoughts.  Visitors are encouraged to leave comments in a spirit of agreement or of civil debate.

JW