Monday, June 29, 2009

How Broad a Salvation? - Part 2

After posting comments to my son's blog entry about "universal reconciliation," I raised the same comments about the passage in Romans 5 in the weekly men's study at our church. Our pastor, who leads the study, candidly pointed out that if all we have of Paul's comments about who will be saved is Rom. 5:12-21, we'd have to conclude that all will be saved, that none will be lost. But, he pointed out, we have other passages in Paul's writings, such as 1 Cor. 6:9-10 -- " you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God" -- which indicates that salvation is not universal. The point is that in spite of the Rom. 5 passage, the preponderance of Paul's teaching is that salvation is limited to those who come to faith in Christ in this life. In addition, if all are saved, what's the point of evangelism and coming to Christ? We might as well all eat, drink, and be merry, in our own way, for tomorrow we go to heaven.

Seems a fair enough answer to the question. But the Rom. 5:12-21 passage still seems ackward. It states, in part, that just as "all died in Adam," "all shall live in Christ." If salvation is limited only to a select (or the elect), why did Paul use the term "all" to indicate those who would be saved by Christ? Wouldn't it have been more correct to say, "all died in Adam, and many shall live in Christ"?

And the answer -- that "the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God" -- begs a couple of questions. What is the kingdom of God? And what is the inheritance that believers come into possession of?

Is "the kingdom" heaven, by-and-by? Jesus implies that "the kingdom is at hand," and while his kingdom is "not of this world," it is nevertheless something that his followers can seek here-and-now.

In regard to inheritance, Paul makes reference to our inheritance in Ephesians 1:11, and it doesn't have to do with what we gain upon death and our being ushered into eternity. In fact, we've already obtained it, as Paul states in that verse. It has to do with possessing and experiencing "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" which Paul clearly says we have already, here-and-now, been blessed with (Eph. 1:3).

Later in the chapter, Paul prays for the Ephesian church that they might come into a full experience of "the inheritance" they have in Christ, now, not later when they die and go to heaven: "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know [from experience, not simply in one's head] what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe" (Eph. 1:18-19).

Putting verses 11 and 18-19 together, the conclusion is that every believer has already received an inheritance in Christ, but needs to come into the full experience of it, or a full manifestation of it in their lives.

So, if Ephesian believers have yet to enter into the full experience of the inheritance they have in Christ, to experience the kingdom which is "here-and-now," it makes perfect sense that the unrighteous, whether in the church or outside it, certainly won't experience or inherit the things of the kingdom of God. But this doesn't have to do with eternity and entering into heaven. It has to do with experiencing and walking in the blessings and experience of Christ now. Heb. 6:12 shows how we gain possession of our inheritance: we "inherit the promises" of God in Christ "through faith and patience." I don't see that this "patience" refers to waiting until we die and go to heaven.

Also, the 1 Cor. 6:9-10 passage is addressed to believers in Corinth. Is this passage even talking about unbelievers? Look around our own congregations....Aren't there revilers, adulterers, the covetous among us, people who declare a faith in Christ? If these are not in line to inherit the kingdom of God due to their behavior, is this to say that their going to heaven is dependent upon their actions, and not soley their declaration of faith and dependence upon Christ? Again, 1 Cor. 6:9-10 may not be about entering heaven, but about experiencing and manifesting the fullness of life in Christ.

So, the question remains: Why did Paul refer to a broad salvation in Rom. 5:12-21? The preponderance of his teaching may be that only some enter heaven (which I'm not convinced of), but the statement that "the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of heaven" isn't a conclusive refutation to the idea of a board, universal reconciliation.

And on the question of "Why evangelize?" fact, why receive Christ at all if all are saved?...the question might be asked as to what constitutes evangelism? God isn't simply calling people to "be saved," but to enter into a relationship with Him through Christ such that our lives reflect the presence of God, the life of God, that God be able to live His life out through the individual and through His church, that we might all reflect or manifest the inheritance we have in Christ. Not many Christians so reflect this, but this appears to be the point of evangelism and coming to Christ...Not to be "saved," per se, but to reflect the life and image of Christ. In this sense, the work of evangelism isn't yet complete in the lives of many Christians, let alone in the garden variety unbeliever.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Incarnation of God in Christ

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isa. 9:6)

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel (God is with us). (Isa. 7:14)

…Being made in the likeness of men…the Word became flesh…(Phil. 2:7; John 1:14)

The best case for the deity of Jesus Christ is that the character and attributes which scripture gives to God Almighty in the Old Testament, are given to Christ in the New.

Isa. 40:28 -- Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

Col. 1:16 -- For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
John 1:3 -- All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Isa. 43:11 -- I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior.
Isa. 45:21-22 -- Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. Turn to me and be saved,all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

John 4:42 -- They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world."
Titus 2:13-- …waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ

Gen 18:25 -- Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?"
John 5:27 -- And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.

Glory of God:
Ps. 24:7, 10 -- Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in…Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory!
Isa. 48:11-- For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.

I Cor. 2:7-8 -- But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Heb. 1:3 -- He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

King and Lord:
Ps. 5:2 -- Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.

I Tim. 6:14-15 -- …to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Ps. 23:1 -- The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

John 10:11 – “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd(B) lays down his life for the sheep.”

First and Last:
Isa. 41:4; 44:6 -- Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he…Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: "I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.”

Rev. 1:8 -- "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
Rev. 1:17-18 -- When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, "Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”
Rev. 2:8 -- And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: “The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.”

Isa. 60:19-20 -- The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended.

John 8:12 -- Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
I John 1:5 -- This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

“I AM”:
Ex. 3:14 -- God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

John 8:58 -- Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am."

Raises the dead:
I Sam. 2:6 -- The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

John 5:21-- For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.
John 11:25-26, 43-44 -- Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"… When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out." The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."

Hosea 13:14 -- Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from Death? O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion is hidden from my eyes.

Gal. 3:13 -- Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree."
Rev. 5:9 -- And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

Forgiver of sins:
Jer. 31:34 -- And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

Mark 2:7, 10 -- Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"… But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"—he said to the paralytic— "I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home."

Isa. 50:6 -- I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.

Matt. 26:67; 27:30 -- Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him…And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head.

Purpose of the incarnation

II Cor. 8:9 – For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Gal 4:4-5 – But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Luke 19:10 – For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.

I John 3:5 – You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

Rom 8:3-4 – For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Heb. 2:14, 16-17 – Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery…For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

What was manifested through Christ’s life?

John 1:18 – No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

John 4:34 – Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”

John 7:16 – So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.”

John 8:28 – So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.”

John 10:30-38 – “I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?" The Jews answered him, "It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God." Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I said, you are gods'? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father."

John 11:38-44 – Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out." The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."

John 14:8-9 – Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Jesus’ union with the Father was the source of his teaching, work, and personality. While he was God incarnate, as man he surrendered his prerogative to act as God, enabling God the Father to work through him. Through Jesus, the Father made himself known, by the things people saw in Jesus. What was the purpose of the Son’s incarnation? It was twofold: To seek and save that which was lost; and secondly, to show his followers that it is possible to manifest the life of God through the obedience of faith.

What is manifested through our life? We also have a union with God in Christ. We cannot imitate Christ in his position as God, but we can imitate Christ in his dependence upon the Father to manifest himself through him. Who or what is the source of our words, works, and personality?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

God's eternal protection and blessing of Israel

Is God done with Israel? Is the church the "new Israel" with all of God's promises to ancient Israel now applied to the church? With the birth of the church, did God pull the rug out from under the people of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? I'm not sure, but I'm inclined to say "no." It needs more study, but this is a start...

I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be!… For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery--so that you will not be wise in your own estimation--that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved;… From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. -- Rom. 11:1, 25-26, 28-29

And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed. -- Gen. 12:3

May peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you; Be master of your brothers, And may your mother's sons bow down to you. Cursed be those who curse you, and blessed be those who bless you. -- Gen. 27:29

He crouches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him? Blessed is everyone who blesses you, And cursed is everyone who curses you. -- Num. 24:9

In pride the wicked hotly pursue the afflicted; Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised…The LORD is King forever and ever; Nations have perished from His land. O LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear to vindicate the orphan and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth will no longer cause terror. -- Ps. 10:2, 16-18

Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles. -- Ps. 25:22

O God, the nations have invaded Your inheritance; They have defiled Your holy temple; They have laid Jerusalem in ruins. They have given the dead bodies of Your servants for food to the birds of the heavens, the flesh of Your godly ones to the beasts of the earth. They have poured out their blood like water round about Jerusalem; and there was no one to bury them. We have become a reproach to our neighbors, a scoffing and derision to those around us. How long, O LORD? Will You be angry forever? Will Your jealousy burn like fire? Pour out Your wrath upon the nations which do not know You, and upon the kingdoms which do not call upon Your name. For they have devoured Jacob and laid waste his habitation. Do not remember the iniquities of our forefathers against us; Let Your compassion come quickly to meet us, for we are brought very low. Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; And deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name's sake. -- Ps. 79:1-9

Oh that My people would listen to Me, that Israel would walk in My ways! I would quickly subdue their enemies, and turn My hand against their adversaries. -- Ps. 81:13-14

O God, do not remain quiet; Do not be silent and, O God, do not be still. For behold, Your enemies make an uproar, and those who hate You have exalted themselves. They make shrewd plans against Your people, and conspire together against Your treasured ones. They have said, "Come, and let us wipe them out as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more." For they have conspired together with one mind; Against You they make a covenant: the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagrites; Gebal and Ammon and Amalek, Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assyria also has joined with them; they have become a help to the children of Lot. Deal with them as with Midian, as with Sisera and Jabin at the torrent of Kishon, who were destroyed at En-dor, who became as dung for the ground…Who said "Let us possess for ourselves the pastures of God." O my God, make them like the whirling dust, like chaff before the wind. Like fire that burns the forest and like a flame that sets the mountains on fire, so pursue them with Your tempest and terrify them with Your storm. Fill their faces with dishonor, that they may seek Your name, O LORD. Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever, and let them be humiliated and perish, that they may know that You alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth. -- Ps. 83

"I have made a covenant with My chosen; I have sworn to David My servant, I will establish your seed forever and build up your throne to all generations… I have found David My servant; with My holy oil I have anointed him, with whom My hand will be established; My arm also will strengthen him. The enemy will not deceive him, nor the son of wickedness afflict him. But I shall crush his adversaries before him, and strike those who hate him. My faithfulness and My lovingkindness will be with him, and in My name his horn will be exalted. -- Ps. 89:3-4, 20-24

You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day; Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you…For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways…"Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation." -- Ps. 91:5-7, 11, 14-16

How long shall the wicked, O LORD, how long shall the wicked exult? They pour forth words, they speak arrogantly; all who do wickedness vaunt themselves…He who chastens the nations, will He not rebuke, even He who teaches man knowledge?…For the LORD will not abandon His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance…Who will stand up for me against evildoers? Who will take his stand for me against those who do wickedness? If the LORD had not been my help, my soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence…But the LORD has been my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge. -- Ps. 94:3-7, 14, 16-17, 22

He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. -- Ps. 98:3

You will arise and have compassion on Zion; For it is time to be gracious to her, for the appointed time has come. -- Ps. 102:13

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces." For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, "May peace be within you." For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good. -- Ps. 122:6-9

May all who hate Zion be put to shame and turned backward; Let them be like grass upon the housetops, which withers before it grows up. -- Ps. 129:5-6

"Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant, O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me. -- Isa. 44:10

As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; And you will be comforted in Jerusalem." -- Isa. 66:13

'Therefore all who devour you will be devoured; And all your adversaries, every one of them, will go into captivity; And those who plunder you will be for plunder, and all who prey upon you I will give for prey. 'For I will restore you to health and I will heal you of your wounds,' declares the LORD, 'Because they have called you an outcast, saying: "It is Zion; no one cares for her."' -- Jer. 30:16-17

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Praying for the nation

When the 2000 presidential election ended too-close-to-call, and with fate of the election and the nation turning on the battle over the disputed electoral votes of Florida, my wife and I decided it was time to adhere to the scriptural admonition to pray for our leaders and for the nation.

Immediately after election day, we began hosting prayer meetings in our home. An invitation when out to friends, and over the course of the next 35 days, daily meetings for prayer were held, attended by as many as 16 and as few as two. Once the recount drama was over, four of us -- our friends Larry and Cherilyn Larsen, and Margaret and I -- decided to continue to meet weekly to continue praying for the nation. The need for prayer was especially punctunated after the events of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. As of mid-2009, we and the Larsens continue to meet for prayer as often as we can each Sunday evening.

Over the years of getting together, we've learned a lot about prayer. The nature of prayer isn't to recite a wishlist to God and expect Him to dispense answers like a vending machine, but is, primarily, the tuning of one's heart and mind to the heart and mind of God. This can be done through reading and praying the Scriptures. It can also be done by dwelling on what one knows of God's nature and character.

The purpose of prayer, we discovered, is to give voice or articulate what God has impressed on our hearts and minds, to speak His will into a situation, and then in faith expect God to accomplish it. Once God's will is known and expressed, the focus of prayer can be on the process of getting to that known will or end. In other words, to explore what else God wishes to accomplish in the midst of the situation.

What follows are many of the passages of Scripture that God led us to pray on behalf of the nation and the election during the month-long post-election period, and in the months that followed. These Scripture passages were applied to the situation and events in our nation and were claimed both as God's promises and His purpose for our nation, government, and people.

Prayer for the nation

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet, until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, and her salvation like a torch that is burning…On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; all day and all night they will never keep silent. And give Him no rest until He establishes and makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth. – Isa. 62:1, 6-7

The authority of believers to pray for the nations
Let the godly ones exult in glory; Let them sing for joy on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, And a two-edged sword in their hand, To execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, To bind their kings with chains And their nobles with fetters of iron, To execute on them the judgment written; This is an honor for all His godly ones. -- Ps. 149:5-9

And seek the welfare of the city…and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare. -- Jer. 29:7

Endurance/Standing firm in spiritual battle
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. – II Cor. 10:3-5

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. – Eph. 6:10

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. – Heb. 10:36

God’s sovereignty over nations
All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will worship before Thee. For the kingdom is the Lord's, and He rules over the nations – Ps. 22:27-28

Yes, the LORD sits as King forever. The LORD will give strength to His people; The LORD will bless His people with peace. – Ps. 29:10(b)-11

Let all the earth fear the Lord; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. The Lord nullifies the council of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation of generation. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord… – Ps. 33:8-12(a)

O clap your hands all peoples; Shout to God with the voice of joy. For the Lord Most High is to be feared, a great King over all the earth. He subdues peoples under us, and nations under our feet…God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne – Ps. 47:1-3, 7-9

God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers…Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is Thou who dost possess all the nations. – Ps. 82:1, 8

All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, And they shall glorify Your name. – Ps. 86:9

Sing to the lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Tell of His glory among the nations;, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples….Say among the nations, "The Lord reigns; Indeed, the world is formally established, it will not be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity. – Ps. 96:1-4, 10

The Lord is at Thy right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath. He will judge among the nations, He will fill them with corpses, He will shatter the chief men over a broad country. – Ps. 110:5-6

Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. – Ps. 127:1

Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth… – Ps. 135:6

The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes. – Prov. 21:1

Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. And it is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings… – Dan. 2:20-21(a)

…Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth… – Rev. 1:5

God upholds, defends, and directs the upright
The Lord judges the peoples…Oh let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; for the righteous, God tries the hearts and minds. My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart. – Ps. 7:8-10

But the Lord abides forever; He has established His throne for judgment, and He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity. The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble, and those who know Thy name will put their trust in Thee; For Thou, O Lord, hast not forsaken those who seek Thee. – Ps. 9:7-10

Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven, with the saving strength of His right hand. Some boast in chariots, and some in horse; but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God. – Ps. 20:6-7

O Lord, in Thy strength the king will be glad, and in Thy salvation how greatly will he rejoice…For the king trusts in the Lord, and through the lovingkindness of the Most High he will not be shaken. – Ps. 21:1, 7

Good and upright is the LORD; Therefore He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in justice, And He teaches the humble His way. All the paths of the LORD are lovingkindness and truth To those who keep His covenant and His testimonies….Who is the man who fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way he should choose. His soul will abide in prosperity, And his descendants will inherit the land. The secret of the LORD is for those who fear Him, And He will make them know His covenant. – Ps. 25:8-10, 12-14

Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield…Let Your lovingkindness, O LORD, be upon us, According as we have hoped in You. – Ps. 33:20, 22

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance. – Ps. 33:12

The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the LORD is against evildoers, To cut off the memory of them from the earth. – Ps. 34:15-16

Your lovingkindness, O LORD, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; Your judgments are like a great deep. O LORD, You preserve man and beast. How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights. For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light. O continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You, And Your righteousness to the upright in heart. Let not the foot of pride come upon me, And let not the hand of the wicked drive me away. There the doers of iniquity have fallen; They have been thrust down and cannot rise. – Ps. 36:5-12

Fret not yourself because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass, and fade like the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it. – Ps. 37:1-5

God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us -- that Thy way may be known on the earth, Thy salvation among all nations. Let the peoples praise Thee, O God; Let all the peoples praise Thee. Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; For Thou wilt judge the peoples with uprighteous, and guide the nations on the earth. – Ps. 67:1-4

Show me a sign for good, That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed; Because You, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me. – Ps. 86:17

Praise the LORD! How blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who greatly delights in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, And his righteousness endures forever. Light arises in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious and compassionate and righteous. It is well with the man who is gracious and lends; He will maintain his cause in judgment. – Ps. 112:1-5

For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, Guarding the paths of justice, And He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice And equity and every good course. – Prov. 2:6-9

"By me [wisdom] kings reign, and rulers decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, all who judge rightly." – Prov. 8:15-16

It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedess, for a throne is established on righteousness. – Prov. 16:12

A king who sits on the throne of justice disperses all evil with his eyes…Loyalty and truth preserves the king, and he upholds his throne by righteousness. – Prov. 20:8, 28

"No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me,'' declares the LORD. – Isa. 54:17

Righteousness blesses a nation/Unrighteousness is a curse
When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish, thre is glad shouting. By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down. – Prov. 11:10-11

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. – Prov. 14:34

Re: False idols of a nation
Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. – Ps. 146:3
Reliance upon numbers:
The king is not saved by a mighty army; A warrior is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a false hope for victory; Nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength. – Ps. 33:16-17

Re: Politicians who rule by schemes and deceit/And protection against them
For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with You. The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity. You destroy those who speak falsehood; The LORD abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit….There is nothing reliable in what they say; Their inward part is destruction itself. Their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Hold them guilty, O God; By their own devices let them fall! In the multitude of their transgressions thrust them out, for they are rebellious against You. – Ps. 5:4-6,

Do not slay them, or my people will forget; Scatter them by Your power, and bring them down, O Lord, our shield. On account of the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips, let them even be caught in their pride, And on account of curses and lies which hey utter. Destroy them in wrath, destroy them that they may be no more; That men may know that God rules in Jacob To the ends of the earth. – Ps. 59:11-13

Hide me from the secret counsel of evildoers, from the tumult of those who do iniquity,
who have sharpened their tongue like a sword. They aimed bitter speech as their arrow,
To shoot from concealment at the blameless; Suddenly they shoot at him, and do not fear.
They hold fast to themselves an evil purpose; They talk of laying snares secretly; They say, "Who can see them?'' They devise injustices, saying, "We are ready with a well-conceived plot''; For the inward thought and the heart of a man are deep. But God will shoot at them with an arrow; Suddenly they will be wounded. So they will make him stumble; Their own tongue is against them; All who see them will shake the head. Then all men will fear, And they will declare the work of God, And will consider what He has
done. The righteous man will be glad in the LORD and will take refuge in Him; And all the upright in heart will glory. – Ps. 64:2-10

When I select an appointed time, it is I who judge with equity. The earth and all who dwell in it melt; it is I who have firmly set its pillars. I said to the boastful, “Do not boast,” and to the wicked, “Do not lift up the horn; do not lift up your horn on high, do not speak with insolent pride”…But God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another… And all the horns of the wicked He will cut off, but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up. – Ps. 75:2-5, 7, 10

How long shall the wicked, O LORD, How long shall the wicked exult? They pour forth words, they speak arrogantly; All who do wickedness vaunt themselves. They crush Your people, O LORD, And afflict Your heritage. They slay the widow and the stranger And murder the orphans. They have said, "" The LORD does not see, Nor does the God of Jacob pay heed.''….If the LORD had not been my help, My soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence. If I should say, "" My foot has slipped,'' Your lovingkindness, O LORD, will hold me up. When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul. Can a throne of destruction be allied with You, One which devises mischief by decree? They band themselves together against the life of the righteous And condemn the innocent to death. But the LORD has been my stronghold, And my God the rock of my refuge. He has brought back their wickedness upon them And will destroy them in their evil; The LORD our God will destroy them.– Ps. 94:3-7; 17-23

Had it not been the LORD who was on our side when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive, when their anger was kindled against us; Then the waters would have engulfed us, the stream would have swept over our soul; Then the raging waters would have swept over our soul. Blessed be the LORD, Who has not given us to be torn by their teeth. Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper; The snare is broken and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. – Ps. 124:2-8

For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest upon the land of the righteous, So that the righteous will not put forth their hands to do wrong. Do good, O LORD, to those who are good And to those who are upright in their hearts. But as for those who turn aside to their crooked ways, The LORD will lead them away with the doers of iniquity. Peace be upon Israel. – Ps. 125:3-5

O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation, Thou hast covered my head in the day of battle. Do not grant, O Lord, the desires of the wicked; do not promote his evil device, lest they be exalted. – Ps. 140:7-8

Do not enter the path of the wicked and do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by it; Turn away from it and pass on. (i.e., don't emulate or imitate your opponents.) For they cannot sleep unless they do evil; And they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble. For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know over what they stumble. – Prov. 4:14-19

A worthless person, a wicked man, is the one who walks with a false mouth, who winks with his eyes, who signals with his feet, who points with his fingers; Who with perversity in his heart devises evil continually, who spreads strife. Therefore his calamity will come suddenly; Instantly he will be broken, and there will be no healing. – Prov. 6:12-15

One who plans to do evil, Men will call a schemer. The devising of folly is sin, And the scoffer is an abomination to men. Do not fret because of evildoers Or be envious of the wicked; For there will be no future for the evil man; The lamp of the wicked will be put out. – Prov. 24:8-9, 19-20

When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, But when a wicked man rules, people groan….The king gives stability to the land by justice, But a man who takes bribes overthrows it….If a ruler pays attention to falsehood, All his ministers become wicked. – Prov. 29:2, 4, 12

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and clever in their own sight!…Who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away the rights of the ones who are in the right! – Isa. 5:20-21, 23

Thus I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud, and abase the haughtiness of the ruthless. – Isa. 13:11

Re: Political pundits (spinners/media)
Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him; the beginning of his talking is folly, and the end of it is wicked madness. Yet the fool multiplies words. – Eccl. 10:12-14(a)

Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The lovingkindness of God endures all day long. Your tongue devises destruction, Like a sharp razor, O worker of deceit. You love evil more than good, Falsehood more than speaking what is right. You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue. But God will break you down forever; He will snatch you up and tear you away from your tent, And uproot you from the land of the living. – Ps. 52:1-5

In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me? All day long they distort my words; All their thoughts are against me for evil….Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call; This I know, that God is for me. – Ps. 56:4-5, 9

Do not be gracious to any who are treacherous in iniquity. They return at evening, they howl like a dog, And go around the city. Behold, they belch forth with their mouth; Swords are in their lips, For, they say, "Who hears?'' – Ps. 59:5(b)-7

A wicked messenger falls into adversity, but a faithful envoy brings healing. – Prov. 13:17

A false witness will perish, but the man who listens to the truth will speak forever. – Prov. 21:28

If you have been foolish in exalting yourself or if you have plotted evil, put your hand on your mouth. – Prov. 30:32

Therefore, thus says the Lord God, “Because you have spoken falsehood and seen a lie, therefore, behold, I am against you,” declares the Lord. – Eze. 13:8

Re: A partial judiciary
A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight. – Prov. 11:1

To show partiality to the wicked is not good, nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment. – Prov. 18:5

To show partiality in judgment is not good. He who says to the wicked, "You are righteous,'' peoples will curse him, nations will abhor him. -- Prov. 24:23(b)-24

Woe to those who enact evil statutes, and to those who constantly record unjust decisions… -- Isa. 10:1

Where God meets us

Foundational principle: Total dependence on God
I said to the Lord, "You are my Lord; I have no good besides You." -- Ps. 16:2

I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. -- Ps. 16:7

I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness, because You have seen my affliction; You have known the troubles of my soul…You have set my feet in a large place. Be gracious to me Lord, for I am in distress;…For my life is spent with sorrow and my years sigh sighing;…But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, and say, "You are my God," my times are in Your hand. -- Ps. 31:7-10, 14-15

Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it [He will handle it]. -- Ps. 37:5

Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken. -- Ps. 55:22

The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. -- Isa. 26:3

God is present in the midst of our troubles, and saves us from them
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. -- Ps. 23:4

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. -- Ps. 46:1

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses: He led them in the straight way…He brought them out of darkness and…broke their bands apart…He sent His word and healed them…He caused the storm to still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed. -- Ps. 107:6-7, 14, 20, 29

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. -- II Cor. 1:3-4

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead. -- II Cor. 1:8-9

God ministers to the heart
Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices…You will make known to me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; in your right hand there are pleasures forever. -- Ps. 16:9, 11

Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my soul. -- Ps. 54:4

From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. -- Ps. 61:2

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. -- Ps. 147:3

God gives peace in the midst of confusion
In peace I will both lie down and sleep. For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety -- Ps. 4:8

Lord, You will establish peace for us, since You have also performed for us all our works. -- Isa. 26:12

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful -- John 14:27

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. -- I Cor. 14:33(a)

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. -- Phil. 4:6-7

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. -- Col. 3:15

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How broad a salvation?

Our son, Nathan, is, at this writing, engaged in a survey of "four views of hell" as taught over the course of the history of Christianity. He's just posted a summary of the view "universal redemption," which is distinguished from "universal salvation" (read the post to understand the distinction).

What makes Nathan's survey engaging is that he presents each of the views without grinding a particular axe, without taking sides. He presents scriptural evidence for each.

I posted a comment to his "universal redemption" discussion, which raises another passage on that topic, which I'm posting below --

On the topic of universal redemption, I find Rom. 5:12-21 most intriguing. In summary:

-- Death came to all through Adam.
-- Life came through Jesus Christ.
-- MANY died through one man's trespass [Adam's].
-- The free gift of life comes by the grace in Christ for MANY.

"Many" = "Many"? How many died in Adam? All. Correspondingly, how many come to life in Christ? The same word is used..."many." Can that "many" mean only "some"?

Continuing on...

-- One trespass led to condemnation for ALL men.
-- One act of righteousness leads to justification and life for ALL men.

"All" = "All"? How many died in Adam? "All." How many are led to justification and life? "All." Can "all" mean ALL when referring to the impact of sin upon mankind, and then "all" mean only "some" when referring to the effect of Christ's work of securing salvation?

Moving on...

-- One man's disobedience made MANY sinners.
-- One man's obedience made MANY righteous.

How "many" were made sinners by Adam's disobedience? All. Can the "many," then, who are made righteous by Christ's obedience be only "some"?


-- The law came in and INCREASED the trespass [of Adam].
-- but...where sin increased, grace ABOUNDED ALL THE MORE.

In the earlier verses of Rom. 5, "many" = "many," and "all" = "all" (or so it should seem), but in this verse, Rom. 5:20, grace is GREATER than sin; we see that grace is actually superior, and has a greater effect, a more wide-ranging effect, than sin. If Adam's sin impacted "ALL," then Christ's obedience to death on the cross is more powerful and is more than sufficient to be applied to "ALL." As "many" who were ruined by Adam's fall, they now have been redeemed by Christ's righteousness...Or so implies Rom. 5:12-21.

I'm not so inclined any more to reject this idea out of hand.

In the name of God

We're encouraged to pray in God's name...Whatever your need, it is God's nature to provide for that need:

Jehovah - The Lord - Exodus 6:2-3
Jehovah-Adon Kal Ha'arets- Lord of Earth - Josh 3:13
Jehovah-Bara - Lord Creator - Isaiah 40:28
Jehovah-Chatsahi - Lord my Strength - Psalm 27:1
Jehovah-Chereb - Lord the Sword - Deut. 33:29
Jehovah-Eli - Lord my God - Psalm 18:2
Jehovah-Elyon - Lord Most High - Psalm 38:2
Jehovah-Gador Milchamah - Mighty in Battle - Ps 24:8
Jehovah-Ganan - Lord Our Defense - Ps 89:18
Jehovah-Go'el - Lord My Redeemer - Is. 49:26, 60:16
Jehovah-Hamelech - Lord King - Psalm 98:6
Jehovah-Hashopet - Lord My Judge - Judges 6:27
Jehovah-Helech 'Olam - Lord King Forever Ps10:16
Jehovah-Hoshe'ah - Lord Saves - Psalm 20:9
Jehovah-Jireh - Provider - Gen. 22:14, I John 4:9, Philip 4:19
Jehovah-Kabodhi - Lord my Glory - Psalm 3:3
Jehovah-Kanna - Lord Jealous - Ex 34:14
Jehovah-Keren-Yish'i - Horn of Salvation - Ps 18:2
Jehovah-M'Kaddesh - Sanctifier - I Corinthians 1:30
Jehovah-Machsi - Lord my Refuge - Psalm 91:9
Jehovah-Magen - Lord my Shield - Deut. 33:29
Jehovah-Ma'oz - Lord my Fortress - Jer. 16:19
Jehovah-Mephalti - Lord my Deliverer - Psalm 18:2
Jehovah-Metshodhathi - Lord my Fortress - Psalm 18:2
Jehovah-Misqabbi - Lord my High Tower - Psalm 18:2
Jehovah-M'gaddishcem - Lord my Sanctifier - Ex 31:13
Jehovah-Naheh - Lord who Smites - Ezekiel 7:9
Jehovah-Nissi - Banner - I Chronicles 29:11-13
Jehovah-Rohi - Shepherd - Psalm 23
Jehovah-Rophe - Healer - Isaiah 53:4,5
Jehovah-Sabaoth - Lord of Hosts - I Sam 1:3
Jehovah-Sel'i - Lord my Rock - Psalm 18:2
Jehovah-Shalom - Peace - Isaiah 9:6, Rom 8:31-35
Jehovah-Shammah - Present - Hebrews 13:5
Jehovah-Tsidkenu - Righteousness - I Cor 1:30
Jehovah-Tsori - Lord my Strength - Psalm 19:14
Jehovah-Yasha - Lord my Savior - Isaiah 49:26
Jehovah-'Ez-Lami - Lord my Strength - Ps 28:7
Jehovah-'Immeku - Lord Is With You - Judges 6:12
Jehovah-'Izoa Hakaboth - Lord Strong -Mighty - Ps 24:8
Jehovah-'Ori - Lord my Light - Psalm 27:1
Jehovah-'Uzam - Lord Strength in Trouble - Is 49:26

Monday, June 22, 2009

Security and assurance

Believers are not only redeemed by Christ and renewed by the Spirit; they are also kept in faith by the almighty power of God. All those who are spiritually united to Christ through regeneration are eternally secure in Him. Nothing can separate them from the eternal and unchangeable love of God.

The teaching of the security of believers does not maintain that all who profess the Christian faith are certain of heaven. It is saints – those who are set apart by the Spirit – who persevere to the end. It is believers – those who are given true, living faith in Christ – who are secure and safe in Him. Many who profess to believe fall away, but they do not fall from grace for they were never in grace. True believers do fall into temptations, and do commit grievous sins, but these sins do not cause them to lose their salvation or separate them from Christ.

God's people are given eternal life the moment they believe. If it were conditional or temporary, it would not be eternal. They are kept by God's power through faith, and nothing can separate them from His love. They have been sealed with the Holy Spirit who has been given as the guarantee of their salvation, and are thus assured of an eternal inheritance.

Matthew 18:12-14 – What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

John 1:12-13 – But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:36 – He who believes in the Son has eternal life.

John 5:24 – Truly I say to you, he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

John 6:37-40 – All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me; and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that every one who beholds the Son, and believes in Him, may have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.

John 10:28 – …and I give eternal life to them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.

Rom. 8:30 – …and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Rom. 8:38-39 – For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I Cor. 1:7-9 – …so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ; who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by who you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

II Cor. 1:9 – …indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.

II Cor. 1:21 – Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.

II Cor. 9:8 – And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.

II Cor. 13:4(b) – For we also are weak in Him, yet we shall live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.

Eph. 1:13 – In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.

Eph. 2:10 – For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Eph. 4:30 – And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Phil. 2:13 – …for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

I Thess. 5:24 – Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

Heb. 7:15-16, 22, 25 – …if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life…so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant…Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

Heb. 10:14 – For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

II Peter 2:9 – …the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment. (Contrast with II Peter 2:2-8, which deals with the jeopardy of false prophets)

Jude 1 – To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.

Then I met with a people who said there is no assurance of salvation this side of the grave. I agreed with them that they had no assurance of salvation. But the church of God hath assurance of salvation because God hath established their hearts in Christ. – George Fox

The foundational values of the church

1) All Scripture is inspired by God, and is profitable for training and correction. In this regard, all Scripture is reliable and authoritative, as well as being inerrant and infallible. The Bible is basis of all doctrine and teaching in the church.

2) Jesus Christ is the unique Son of God. In this regard, God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Also, Christ is the "Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father but through Him" – Christ is the only way to God, and there is no access to God apart from Him. We're not into "religious diversity."

3) The purpose of the redemption accomplished by Christ wasn't simply to get us to heaven, but to get God back into us – to reestablish the relationship that existed in the beginning with Adam. Because of Christ in us, we now have complete and free access to God.

4) Christ accomplishes His work in the world through the church universal.

5) The basic mission of all Christian ministry is to proclaim the unfathomable riches and resources we have by virtue of being in Christ, the resources we have by being united with Him, and to explain and demonstrate to believers what is the administration of these riches and resources in our lives (i.e., how "Christ in you" works itself out into our personal lives). (Eph. 3:8-9)

6) Christ accomplishes His work through the members of the body of Christ, since He has equipped each member with a gift of the Spirit.

7) To accomplish the work of Christ, when we meet together, all believers have something to provide or give, according to the gifts they are given. (Simply sitting in a large congregational meeting, staring at the back of someone's head, doesn't fulfill Christ's purpose for the church when it is gathered.)

8) Christ is the head of the church. He directs it's ministries and activities. But He delegates His authority to elders, who are the leaders of the church. The pastor functions under the authority of the elders. Just as the perfect will of God can best be discerned as a group of people pray together, sharing their thoughts and insights over a given prayer concern, and just as the work of Christ can more perfectly be performed as everyone exercises their gifts together, so the mind and will of Christ for a church in terms of vision and direction cannot be discerned solely through the mind and heart of one man. God will more perfectly manifest Himself, His mind and heart, through the larger group of elders, as each may receive or perceive one facet of God's larger will or plan for the church. A pastor only has one perspective – that which God has given him, as one person. The elder board has as many perspectives as there are members, and the fuller will of God is better understood through the sharing of these multiple perspectives.

9) The small group – not the large Sunday meeting – is the foundation of the church. While small group ministries tend to be encouraged in the church, they actually should be presented as essential for every attendee of the church. Small group meetings should be promoted as mandatory or at the very least essential for the growth and development of the individual Christian's maturity – participation in small groups should not be considered only an “option". Small group participation should not be seen as secondary or less important than the Sunday morning service. It's in the small group that real fellowship, prayer, study, discussion, challenging, and ministry to individual needs have the best opportunity to take place.

10) The Body of Christ is more than the single congregation. Each congregation in a region or in a city should see itself as one member of the larger body, with each congregation in the city having something to bring or give to the ministry of the Body of Christ to the local community. This would mean much more cooperation between the Bible-believing churches of a city or town; it means an identification of the particular and unique strengths of each congregation; perhaps some greater intermixing of church congregations, so that we see ourselves not as a little island, but as only one part of a larger whole.

Guilt vs. sorrow

Hebrews 9:14 refers to how the blood of Christ "cleanses your conscience" from dead works. Guilt has been dealt with at the cross.

But there is a distinction between guilt and godly sorrow. Guilt comes from hearing the Law, and feeling condemned. Sorrow comes from hearing God.

There needs to be a distinction between guilt and sorrow. Sorrow is fine, because it is God putting His finger on something that requires a response. We might not feel guilt, but do we feel sorrow? We need to be careful that the denial of guilt doesn't turn into a denial of sorrow.

Note 2 Cor. 7:8-11 -- "…sorrow that is according to the will of God produces repentance without regret" (i.e., without guilt).

The Worldliness of the Church

One of the more important books on the condition of the church written in recent years is Dancing with the Devil: The Mega-church Movement Flirts With Modernity, by Os Guinness.

In his book, Guinness observes that a church does not have to be of the mega-variety, or even necessarily be a large church, to begin to take on the traits that all too often characterize megachurches. While Guinness points out the great positive potential for the cause of the gospel that is inherent in the mega-church movement, the focus of his book is to highlight the dangers that are also inherent within the movement. From Guinness' observations, one comes to realize that any church experiencing pressures to expand, or that even has the desire to grow, runs the danger of adopting the bad with the good of the church-growth/mega-church movement.

Modernity Defined

The basic dangers of the mega-church or church growth movement stem from "modernity." Guinness writes that "modernity can be understood as the character and system of the world produced by the forces of development and modernization, especially capitalism, industrialized technology, and telecommunications." It is interesting that he refers to these not as the tools of the modern world, but as the character and system of the world that are produced by the forces of modernization.

In this sense, modernity is similar to the concept of "technique" forwarded by French writer Jacques Ellul in his book The Presence of the Kingdom. Ellul defines "technique" as "the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency in every field of human activity." Ellul makes a distinction between "technique" and "technology," although technology is an example of technique. Technique is really a mind-set of an age that is wholly preoccupied with means and efficiency. We have gone beyond the point where the end justifies the means, Ellul argues; in a technical society the means justify themselves, and usually do so by proving themselves to be "effective and efficient."

The tools of modernization are not bad in and of themselves. What is bad is the way modernity and the capabilities of the tools of modernization affect our attitudes, priorities, and values. For example, the insights provided by modern psychology, sociology, and the techniques provided by theories of organizational management, coupled with the use of the powerful tools of communication which modernity has provided, should make the church's presentation of the gospel more far-reaching and effective. This would be a positive aspect of modernity in the church. However, Guinness argues that these very tools which should be used for the glory of God tend to make modern evangelical Christians able to function effectively and efficiently as a religious community without God.

Guinness writes that a "way modernity poses problems for the church-growth movement [is] through its direct damage to faith." He writes, "More and more of what was formerly left to God . . . is now classified, calculated, and controlled by the systematic application of reason and technique. What counts in the rationalized world is efficiency, predictability, quantification, productivity, the substitution of technology for the human, and control over uncertainty."

Guinness quotes a social scientist who sums it up: "What characterizes modernity is just this idea that men need not submit to any power -- higher or lower -- other than their own," to which Guinness comments, "Whether said with defiance by the few or left unsaid but practiced by the many, religion that is irrelevant in practice becomes practically irrelevant. There is no need for God, even in his church."

One Guinness comment that is telling (and there are many in his book) is the quote he attributes to a Japanese business man, talking with a visiting Australian, who said, "Whenever I meet a Buddhist leader, I meet a holy man; whenever I meet a Christian leader, I meet a manager." It reminded me of another quote, this one attributed to a Chinese pastor. He had been sent by a group of Chinese congregations to America to study how churches in the United States conduct ministry. Upon his return to China, his colleagues asked him about his impression of the American church. "It's amazing," he said, "how much they can accomplish without the Holy Spirit."

One other Guinness quote which represents his insight on the dangers of modernity:
Are there not similar dangers when a numbers-hungry church mimics the high-control calculus of modern commercial enterprises? "Totally planned, professionally orchestrated, single-purpose environments" may be as "effective" for evangelism in
mega-churches as they are for selling in mega-malls. But when everything is controlled, from first impressions in the parking lot to the wardrobe colors and stage movements of the platform party, who controls the church and who controls the controllers? Something of the mysterious and lovable but unwashed reality of the real-life bride of Christ is lost. Something of the impossible-to-predict, category-shattering sovereignty and grace of God is walled off.
Guinness sums up the problem of the church's slide into modernity as essentially this: if the church leans heavily upon the tools and techniques of the modern age -- e.g., insights from the disciplines of sociology, psychology, and organizational management -- there is no need to rely upon God. It brings to mind the picture of Christ in Rev. 3:7 standing at the door, outside the church, knocking, with the church ignoring Him because it's too busy with its programs and activities to go to the door and let Him in.

Even a small-sized congregation can unconsciously be imbued with the mindset of "modernity", and the deification of the worldly values of "effectiveness and efficiency". There is nothing wrong with being effective and efficient. But when these objectives become of premier importance, the focus of a church has shifted away from Christ, and onto the organization and structure of the church itself.

One thing that seems to happen to organizations is that no matter how honorable or meritorious the reasons for which the organization came into being, it isn't long before the organization starts taking on a life unto itself. Local churches fall into the same pitfalls as other organizations, be they community service organizations, political action organizations, or labor organizations. It isn't long before all of the resources, the programs, and the energy expended by the organization become dedicated to one objective: keeping the organization alive and functioning. It is evident that once a social group becomes highly organized, formalized, and incorporated, the survival and welfare of the organization's structure becomes all-important, and the primary objective of the organization's activities.

As an elder in a medium-sized congregation in California, I was always amazed, and not a little bit disturbed, at how much time, effort, and energy during board meetings were dedicated to keeping the external structures and programs of the church propped up: e.g., how to eliminate the deficit in the operating budget; whether to buy new computer equipment; the recruitment of people to serve on church committees; what should come first -- resurfacing the parking lot, or painting the church? Such concerns may indeed be legitimate items for a church's governing body to address, but when they become the principal items of business at monthly elder board meetings, the church is unconsciously falling into the trap of putting the continuation and the prospering of the organization into a place of preeminence.

Once again, the organization imbued with technique, as Ellul uses the term, or modernity, as Guinness uses the term, assumes that the ends justify the means, or what is more common, that the twin values of "effectiveness" and "efficiency" are accepted as being of primary importance. In such a case, the use of means which are effective and efficient are really ends in themselves; that is, the means used are ends in themselves because they promote effectiveness and efficiency.

(As an aside, in John 12:1-8, Judas questioned the use of expensive ointment by Mary when she anointed Jesus, saying it could have been better used if it had been sold and the money given to the poor. In this instance, Judas was the voice of "effectiveness and efficiency.")

Ellul made the indictment of our society that success is only equated with that which is measurable. Modernity, or technique, as applied to the church, has resulted in an assumption that the "successful" or "maturing" church is a growing church, that is, one growing in numbers of members or of people in attendance. In relation to church organizations, success is most often measured in terms of numbers of people in attendance on Sunday, the flow of new members into the congregation, the size of the offering, the square footage of the sanctuary, and so forth.

Some years ago, the church I was associated with was going through the process of a pastor search. The congregation had been without a full-time, permanent pastor for nearly two years. During this period, the elder board reported to the congregation that in spite of not having a senior pastor, the church was still being "blessed by God," that we were still a "healthy" congregation. The evidence given of this health and blessing was that during this time attendance had not dropped off, and giving had actually increased a bit. Unwittingly, the board was defining church success in terms of the size of the offering and the number of people in attendance, that is, in terms of things that are measurable.

Things which can be measured and quantified, as is the case throughout all of contemporary society, are much too often the accepted standards of success within churches. Much that has been printed and presented on the subject of church growth over the years has focused on just this: growth -- packing more people in.

Have the church-growth experts who put a value on large and growing numbers ever considered that perhaps the people who show up in droves to the so-called mega-churches may be showing up for the wrong reasons? For example, part of the formula for having a "successful" (i.e., growing) church is to frame worship services around contemporary music as a means of appealing to young single people and young families. Should the draw of a church be the entertainment value of its services? Should the main appeal of a church be the quality or characteristic of its music?

Rather than being concerned about the size of the church, shouldn't we be more concerned about its depth? How does one measure faithfulness, or righteousness? Unlike attendance figures, membership rosters, and levels of giving -- all of which are objective, measurable standards -- things such as righteousness, faithfulness, hope and love are subjective. And although these latter characteristics may be closer to God's heart in terms of what constitutes a mature church, they cannot be quantified for purposes of publication in a church's annual report. Hence, these qualities get lost in the effort to show success in terms of numbers -- the same terms by which the world measures success.

Equating numbers-growth with the health and success of a church has resulted in the emergence in recent years of "the church consultant." These are professionals hired to assist church boards and professional staff in such matters as strategic planning, budgeting, promotion, interpersonal dynamics, motivation, team building, development of a corporate culture, the training of volunteers, and so forth. The emergence of the church consultant is another product of modernity and technique: As the church has adopted the secular world's objective standards of measuring success, professionals skilled in the ways and means of the secular business world are retained to help achieve positive results in terms of measurable objectives, e.g., increasing membership, and increased giving. The danger of this becomes the unspoken attitude: why depend upon the Holy Spirit when a church can depend on a church consultant to put a church on the path of "success"?

Reliance upon a church's structure -- the financial giving of the members, its programs, its professional staff, its ability to keep up with trends in the general society -- are all evidence of the worldliness of the church, and of a lack of reliance upon the Holy Spirit of God and the Headship of Christ. What would happen if local churches lost their buildings, or the denominations folded, or adult Sunday schools ceased to meet, or the financial support of "First Christian Church, Incorporated" collapsed? It is most likely that we'd all be put in a position where we had to become dependent upon the indwelling presence of Christ to teach us what the church is all about, what it was intended to be, outside of the confines of a bureaucratic structure.

Back to Basics

What is the church all about? Better yet, what is Christ's desire for His church? While churches, mimicking society, unconsciously put high value upon measurable criteria, are these things really important to Christ, who is the Head of the Church? In considering these questions, we should be reminded of Paul's prayer for the Ephesian church, found in chapter 1, verses 15-19, and in chapter 3, verses 14-19 of that epistle.

An interesting discussion question to put to any group of Christians is if they had one petition, one request to make of God through prayer on behalf of their church, what would it be? Some might pray for a more loving spirit among the people, and that would be good; others would pray for unity; still others might pray for increased membership, or the finances to hire more staff; still others might pray for those within the congregation who are suffering from various distresses, be they physical, emotional, or material.

Paul's prayer for the Ephesians reveals a different emphasis. Taking the opportunity in his letter to articulate his heart's desire for these Christians he mentions the following:

-- That God would reveal to them what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saint, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward those who believe;

-- That they might be empowered by the Holy Spirit to be enabled to know the love that God has for them;

-- That would know (the Amplified Bible translates it "...know through experience, rather than through a knowledge which comes without experience...") what is the height, and depth, and length, and breadth of the love of God for them; that they would know this love of God with a knowledge that surpasses comprehension;

-- That they would be filled to the all the fullness of God.

Put simply, Paul prays for a greater awareness among the Ephesian believers of the presence of God in their midst; that they would come to know -- through experience, not just through study and head-knowledge -- the reality of the life of Christ within them, as the motive power of their lives; the end result being that they actually experience in their hearts the richness of the love of God for them, resulting in their being filled to the fullest with God.

This end, or desire, is what the church is all about, or should be about. The church is the place where Christ not only resides, but is where a group of people, together, corporately, in common, experience the reality of Christ's presence, His love, His life, and become the means of His outworking in the world, not in a metaphorical sense, but in reality. If a church is not a place where this reality is being experienced, both individually among members and corporately as a body, then that church is not fulfilling its purpose -- it is not a success, regardless of growth in numbers, giving, or the size of its campus.

In Ephesians 4:11-13, Paul states that God appoints within the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, and the rest, to build up the saints, to equip them for the work of service. This passage also pertains to fulfilling the purpose of the church as a mystical/physical entity in the world wherein God is experienced and enjoyed.

Considering Ephesians 4:11-13, what is the work of service for which we as individual members of the church are to be equipped? It is this: to assist others to come to know the fullness of God, this reality of His presence within the heart, the comprehending of the love of God for us with a knowledge that goes beyond comprehension. This is what the various officers of the church are suppose to be equipping the individual saints for -- it relates back to the fulfillment of Paul's heart's desire for the church, expressed in his prayers in chapters one and three.

Many tend to see "work of service" as simply good deeds, works, "ministries," or religious activities. This view is a kind of a reductionism, a watering-down, an anemic understanding of the concept of the "work of service." Of course, "equipping of the saints" assumes that the officers of the church -- the pastor, the teachers, the evangelists -- actually know something of the reality of Christ in their own lives, in order to be called to equip saints with the ability to know and then train others to achieve that knowledge or reality.

The Measurement of Success

Again, the techniques of communication and the theories of organizational management provided to us by modernization are not necessarily evil or wrong; they are simply tools to help us complete a given task. Since Christians have opted to organize themselves in highly structured, centrally-focused organizations with buildings and staff and programs, i.e., since Christians have opted to organize themselves into an institution much like any other institution in society, certain things have become necessary, such as budgets and committees and annual business meetings. Hence, there is always a danger that the organizational aspects of the church will become of primary importance, and that the measures of success within the church will be those measures that are readily accepted in so-called secular organizations.

If it is the purpose of the church to be the embodiment of the presence of Christ, the place where people come to know, in the details of their daily experience, the reality of Christ living His life through them and for them, both individually and corporately, then how does a church measure its success in living up to this purpose? Can it be measured in the same way as the quarterly attendance or finances? In light of this type of purpose, the perpetuation of a structure, a bureaucracy, even a physical structure such as a church building, pale in significance, almost to the point of not being a concern at all.

What is the measure of a successful church? We should not be impressed when people, in speaking of our churches, say, "See how large that church is; see how many activities that church has for young people," and so forth. When people speak of our churches they would say, "Yes, that is where God is; God dwells there. That church is a collection of people who reflect the character and presence of God." This should be our measure of success, irrespective of the size of our membership rosters, the size of our annual budgets, the size of our pastoral staffs, the size of our sanctuaries, or the type of music we have on Sunday mornings.

Is the church recognized as a place where people will meet and fall in love with Jesus Christ? Is it a place which not only proclaims the riches we have in Christ, but a place where an increasing number of people are experiencing those riches? This should be our measure of success.

Law and Grace

The Christian and the Law

The basic proposition is this: With the death of Christ, the covenant made up of legal requirements ceased to be an imperative for those who are in Christ by faith (this being evidenced by the rending of the veil of the Temple which separated man from the presence of God [Luke 23:45]), and a covenant of grace began; this side of the cross, the Law no longer has any claim upon the person who has faith in Christ for redemption; and by the term "Law", we are to understand this to mean not only the ceremonial laws of Israel, but also the so-called moral law, exemplified by the Ten Commandments. To elaborate on the proposition:

The Law could not free; Jesus can (Acts 13:38-39).

The Law was a burden even the Jews could not keep (John 7:19; Acts 15:10-11).

The Law was given through Moses; but grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ (John 1:17). (If there were no distinction between Law and grace, the verse would say, "The Law was given through Moses; and grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.")

The Law was not given as a means of justifying anyone (Rom. 3:20a).

The Law gives one knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20b).

The righteousness of God is demonstrated apart from the Law (Rom. 3:21; 9:30-32).

A man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law (Rom. 3:28).

The Law has jurisdiction over a person as long as he lives (Rom. 7:1), however...

...the old self was crucified (i.e., we died) with Christ on the cross (Rom 6:6); the body of sin was done away with.

Hence, we are not now under Law but under grace (Rom. 6:14).

We were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that we may be joined to Him who was raised from the dead (Rom. 7:4).

"But now we are discharged from the Law and have terminated all intercourse with it, having died to what once restrained and held us captive. So now we serve not under obedience to the old code of written regulations, but under obedience to the promptings of the Spirit in the newness of life." (Rom. 7:6 -- Amplified)

To illustrate that this release from the Law is not limited to the ceremonial law only, Paul testifies to the frustration and defeat of trying to keep the Law in his own strength: "But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment produced in me coveting" (a violation of the 10th Commandment) (Rom. 7:8). (Throughout Rom. 7:7-24, in Paul's testimony of his struggle to keep the Law, he uses personal pronouns -- "I/me/my" -- 44 times, indicating the frustration of trying to keep the precepts of the Law through the exertion of personal effort. After his cry, "Who will set me free from the body of this death?", he announces that the answer is found in Jesus Christ, and in Rom. 8 Paul testifies not to defeat in trying to keep the Law by his own strength, but to victory obtained by the power of the Holy Spirit -- the focus is on the life of Christ living in us, not on "I/me/my" efforts to keep the Law. Also, the Rom. 7:7-24 passage should not be interpreted as the struggle of an unsaved person trying to keep the Law. The context of the passage is that it comes in Romans after Paul has developed the theme of how those in Christ have been crucified with Christ, and are now released from the Law; the context of the passage is within a discussion of our experience now that we are redeemed. Rom. 7:7-24 must be interpreted as a description of the experience of a redeemed person who is struggling to obey the Law as a means of living out his faith in Christ. And it is suggested that this experience of frustration, while common among Christians, is not a description of the normal Christian life; Rom. 8 describes what the normal experience of the Christian should be.)

The old covenant is described as a ministry -- literally a "dispensation" -- of death (II Cor. 3:7).

Through Jesus Christ the law of the Spirit of life sets one free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2).

The works of the Law do not justify (Gal. 2:16).

The believer is dead to the Law (Gal. 2:19).

To teach that righteousness can be achieved or maintained by observing the Law nullifies the grace of God (Gal. 2:21).

Having begun by the Spirit (in redemption) we cannot be perfected (in maturity or sanctification) by the flesh (through efforts to keep the Law) (Gal. 3:3), for Christ has provided us with His Spirit and "works miracles among us" by faith, not by works of the Law (Gal 3:5).

Those who are of the works of the Law are under a curse (Gal. 3:10).

No one is justified by the Law; the righteous man (i.e., he who has been declared righteous through the redemption that is in Christ) shall live (i.e., shall walk daily) by faith (Gal. 3:11)

The Law no longer applied to believers once Christ came (Gal 3:19). The reason is that our righteousness is imputed to us by faith, not based on the law, hence "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Rom. 10:4-5).

The Law cannot impart life (Gal. 3:21).

The purpose of the Law is to "shut up all men under sin" (Gal. 3:22), and to lead us to Christ that we may be justified by faith (Gal. 3:24).

But if you are guided and led by the Holy Spirit you are not subject to the Law. (Gal. 5:18 -- Amplified)

He who teaches believers legalism teaches or sows bad seed and the results of that teaching shall reap corruption (i.e., death); the teacher who sows according to the Spirit, that teaching shall result in eternal life (Gal. 6:6-8).

The ceremonial and moral Law of Moses was a mere shadow of what was to come: let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink (a reference to dietary laws) or in respect to a festival or new moon (a reference to religious ceremonies and festivals -- see Neh. 10:33), or a Sabbath day (a reference to the moral law, as observance of the Sabbath was one of the Ten Commandments); the substance, the reality behind those shadows, belongs to Christ (Col. 2:16-17).

Those who have died with Christ (i.e., every believer, according to Rom. 6:6) are not to submit themselves to decrees ("do this", "don't do that") (Col. 2:20). Submission to laws, rules, regulations, and principles for living have "the appearance of wisdom," but are of no value against the flesh (Col. 2:23).

The Christian teacher who presents the Law as the standard of conduct, rather than faith as the basis of conduct, their teaching shall be fruitless (and they do not understand what they are saying even though they may say it with confidence) (I Tim. 1:6-7) . . .

...for although the Law is good, reflecting God's character, the Law is not for those who have been proclaimed righteous, but is for those who are lawless and rebellious (i.e., non-believers) (I Tim. 1:8-10).

There remains a Sabbath rest which some Christians (many?, most?, the vast majority?) have yet to enter into, wherein the Christian rests from his works. Be diligent (i.e., be zealous and exert ourselves and strive diligently) to enter that rest (Heb. 4:1-11).

The Law is "weak and useless"; it made nothing perfect (Heb. 7:18-19).

"For if the first covenant (of Law) had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second" (Heb. 8:7). But when God effected a new covenant (of grace), "He made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear" (Heb. 8:13).

The Law is characterized this way by Andrew Murray in his book The Two Covenants: "The law took men into its training, and sought, if I may use the expression, to make the very best that could be made of them by external instruction." In other words, law is an external instruction or influence which seeks to improve men in their external behavior. This was the nature of the Law as given to Moses.

The Christian is not under obligation to keep the Law, but is now constrained by the power of the Holy Spirit and the outflow of the presence of Jesus Christ in the heart, by His grace, through faith:

"Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, When I will effect a new covenant with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah; Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers..." (Jer. 31:32; Heb. 8:7-9)

"This is the work of God (for you to do), that you believe in Him whom He has sent" (John 6:29).

Law-keeping does not produce fruit; being joined to Christ does. (Rom. 7:4)

(Again, Rom. 7:6, as quoted above): "So now, we serve not under obedience to the old code of written regulations, but under obedience to the promptings of the Spirit in newness of life."

The righteous requirements of the Law are fulfilled in us, "who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit" (Rom. 8:4).

While "the previous regulation and command (i.e., the Law)" proved itself "weak and ineffective and useless, for the Law never made anything perfect" (Heb. 7:18-19), in contrast, "by the grace of God, I am what I am (i.e., I am the product of grace), and His grace toward me was not found to be for nothing -- fruitless and without effect." (I Cor. 15:10 -- Amplified)

"For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience (i.e., the faith) of the Gentiles . . . in the power of the Spirit." (Rom. 15:18-19)

Christians are a "letter of Christ . . . written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts . . . God made us adequate (literally, "capable") as servants of the covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (II Cor. 3:2-6)

We become the righteousness of God due to Christ in us. (II Cor. 5:21)

Paul's "command": not "Keep the Law," but "Walk in the Spirit" (Gal. 3:16).

"As you received Christ (by grace, through faith), so walk in Him (by grace, through faith)" (Col. 2:6).

Do not submit yourselves to decrees, but instead "keep seeking the things above, where Christ is,...set your mind on the things above,...for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ." Christ is our life. (Col. 3:1-4)

As we "run the race" (i.e., the course or the path uniquely prepared for us by God), our primary responsibility is to keep "our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ" who is the author and finisher of the faith we need in order to live the life He purposes for us (Heb. 12:1-2). Related to this, Paul prays that believers will "have the eyes of their hearts enlightened" so that they may know the hope of their calling in Christ (Eph. 1:18).

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has now appeared to all, training us to deny ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age." (Titus 2:11-12)

Fix your hope completely on grace (what God does in you). (I Peter 1:13)

The purpose or goal of Christian teaching is to produce love from a pure heart, resulting from faith. (I Tim. 1:5)

Why the Law was given:

It was added because of sin (Gal. 3:19).

but Christ has taken care of the sin problem:

Our old self was crucified with Him that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ... (Rom. 6:6-7)

...hence, the old covenant of Law is done away with for those in Christ:

Behold, days are coming says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant...When He said, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete... (Heb. 8:8, 13)

...because they have a new nature:

For the love of Christ controls us...Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all those things are from God... (II Cor. 5: 14, 17-18)

The Law is not limited to "the Law of Moses" only. It may be applied to any denominational rules or regulations of behavior, customs, rituals, or various principles of living that are intended to, when followed, enable a person to conform to the will of God in the various areas of their life. When Christianity is reduced to a formula, or to a set of principles to follow or apply to one's life, the inclination is then to try to follow that formula, or apply that set of principles, in the power of the flesh. Christ does not want our best effort to live for Him; He wants us out of the way so that He might live His life in us.

"No man can make himself pure by obeying laws. Jesus Christ does not give us rules and regulations; His teachings are truths that can only be interpreted by the disposition He puts in. The great marvel of Jesus Christ's salvation is that He alters heredity. He does not alter (or reform) human nature; He alters its mainspring." Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest