Shepherds? Sheep are smelly….and you do wash their feet don’t you?

How do you select shepherds for the flock that God has placed you in today? Do you allow the “man with vision”, the “pastor” to see who would be best for the service? or do we pray, fast, waiting on the Lord to reveal His plans for His flock you are located in or do we form an human minded search committee that never can look inside the secret things of the Heart, only the Holy Spirit can do that. Why not allow Him to select the shepherds? Is God too weak to manage your building up of the body? Does he know what we need or does the council decide? We build on the Apostles Doctrine we have no authority to dispose it. As the first congregations did in Acts, prayed that God would raise up shepherds, servants, foot washers in deed! from His Flock that knows His voice? Many of the problems we have seen in our service since 1974 in all sorts of groups has been caused by poor leaders, men of power and greed for control, inefficient shepherds, misguided pastors, “hired hands” that should have stayed in biz and support evangelists with $$. and Too Many! really good shepherds that get burned out trying to feed all the spiritual orphans (no one mentors them or continues discipleship with them after hooking them) in the flock. It is a full time job for one or few to keep the goats from wrecking the fellowship, pray with the faithful, care for the flock when few help, almost none disciple others, (Do you fail to train or motivate?) Few “teachers” apply themselves to the Word, rely instead on “best sellers” or others sermons, to teach or just classes on morals and culture issues. Few pray, few rely on the Wonderful Counselor having been taught the perfect has come & we don’t need all that babble and rabble in our modern service or order. His great and Holy Power of the Gospel is unused for fear we can’t control it, demons will fill the buildings or worse!! Many vChurch goers are just there taking up the time of the dedicated servant who dies spiritually and mentally, sometimes for real, because of overwork his vChurch “bosses” or “works”the vChurch expects out of staff or volunteers! After all we hired him to fix us, do our work and entertain our ride to glory”, say the Goats. When we mature past the toys of the Holy spirit and become mature in King Jesus we can share a power that is beyond the experience of some. Shepherds are to follow the Chief Shepherd not the latest best seller or mega pastor even if they are gifted they are not the Light! How the Spirit acts is not for us to decide or fake. Properly fed and watered with the pure water of life, rivers will flow from your flock, your Chief Shepherd will lead the sheep & shepherds to peace in chaos, still water to drink and share with your neighbors. Why drink the muddy water from the dead streams of thousands of years of men fighting over what they think God told them? When we see the Gospel Of Power in the Lord’s Supper, our Love Feast as a fellowship meal we will have His promised power in our midst to draw all to the table to celebrate the resurrection! Our feeble religious posturing has not worked. Restore the first works not reform or revive. Those efforts are confusing people when they teach doctrines of Men and man’s wisdom.

What happens when you do man’s plan? In 50 yrs we have been in the center of vChurch, aka “visible churches, splits over race, divorces, lust among members, shepherds, the worship of pastor/preacher, $$$$, even the color of the carpet exposed many feuds in a small rural vChurch that had simmered for years in family closets. Stupid human ego problems allowed the deciever to drive away along with the Spirit of fellowship many good humble followers while the powerful controllers (wolves that look like sheep but are wolves or worse as supported by do nothing head butters, goats) These false ministers of light rule the “vChurch” they created. In each case the humble shepherds are out voted, out shouted by powerful men appointed in congregational votes that are led by the wisdom & elegance of men and not by the Spirit of unity. The value of humble shepherds selected by the local congregation in prayer and fasting can not be skipped. The selection of humble Elders is one of the imperatives of Acts and the Letters. God’s Holy plan and will is for His body, His Temple of living stones, His flock to have these family men that have proven a relationship with our King. It is His plan and His will we obey this model not pop culture in modern church style. Without the humble New Covenant shepherds, the flock is scattered.

We are powered for ministry to build up the Body. It took the Apostles many years to settle all of the New Covenant foundations, not to have two flocks, no temples needed, a simple Gospel with one law 1 John 3;23, one Love Feast, Breaking Bread House to house, Worship celebration meal and water immersion to unify . Those early incomplete as they seemed at times messages for different tribes and cultures was final, complete, the Apostles Doctrine is our guide awaiting the perfection we will see soon. The foundation these simple fishermen and disciples laid on the Rock of Ages, the Chief Cornerstone of the new temple built without hands of living stones, a royal priesthood of all believers who accept the invite to serve in the kingdom. Acts 2. Jude 1:23, Once and for All! To think or teach that God wanted His children in confusion until the “vChurch”, new era theologians, Roman elite, kings, divided warring denominations to decide policy is absurd and evil. Our God gives his children gifts not stones. If King Jesus’ message is not getting through, and you are confused, the fault is not God, you are listening to all the voices. stop be still, listen, God whispers when we cry to Him. Come together to pray, fast, pray that God selects humble men with faithful families to support him in the ministry God calls him to. To fit the body together as a master builder. Eph 4, One Faith with “Sound Doctrine” Titus 2:1-10, FYI: To fast means to give what you don’t want to give up to see if you are addicted. It is how you stay “clean” and not develop body or soul harming habits, Food is only one thing to fast on and is not for medical reasons best for all. God is not looking to trip us up or harm us body or soul in anyway, men do that! In his plans. Our worship is constant comm, Abiding it is called. Enjoy!
Acts 2, the new Covenant congregations took over the full duties of ‘Herod’s Temple” soon as they started, after a short while they were kicked out of the temple and harassed till today. The “Judaizers” were hateful and despised the neglect of the Torah and Temple. Acts 5;32

Do we look for the “world Wise, Eloquent speaker, educated visionary to guide us in the darkness like only he can see? Does the Holy Spirit respect persons? Do we appoint him/her “pastor”, Latin for Shepherd/pasture feeder, when we don’t know what that word means any more than we do “Worship” in practice? click here for definition you may not believe, Could a dog teach you something?

Do we hire an outsider to revive us one more time? Do we expect his/her eloquence wisdom, ideas to fill the pews, pay the bills, fix our problems, take care of the (see list in Mt 25 and Titus 2) Eph 4 too! The body is built on the foundation of the Apostles and prophets. Why do expect God to bless our efforts when we go off campus for talent? Ok! He or she can teach? Can anyone in the flock be filled with the Spirit today to be gifted to share God’s word? Is God’s arm to short? Can anyone Lead prayers, sing songs, deliver testimony, prayer for all and with all? The authority of Jesus is in the local Congregation cared for by humble shepherds building on the foundation of the Apostles, not the Bible as written now. 1 Tim 3:15,(Click on underline for what reformed hate and Romans love.) When we get back to the Apostles Doctrine we will discover the “Perfect Law of Liberty that covers all our thoughts and actions in word and deed. Rev 2:5 “Repent and do the first works” what could those be? 1 John 3;23 Read the facts below before you delete or comment!

Hiring by supporting an “Evangelist like those in Acts, is good if your sheep need redirecting back to the Light, having gone astray for lack of humble shepherds. To restore the first works, the teaching of Sound doctrine that is good, to lead the flock to the Water of Life, teach them the simple Gospel in full, to teach, to immerse, and continue teaching. When the group grows in God’s seasons home grown shepherds will rise to the mature cream level of the group, as growth should be rising never static in God’s plan. The congregation should be growing in numbers dividing like amoeba into many missions local & far, ministries that benefit the community first before overhead, never self absorbed to fort up or become a club like an institution with membership rules/rituals Jesus did not authorize in place, Jesus loves groups, home style groups. Where everyone is in the family relationship. This gets problematic when numbers exceed space in limited areas. Overcome this issue by dividing and taking advantage of the already available free owned campus and structures everyone can use where they are in their neighborhood. The concept of a pew sitter, taught each week for 20-40 years, is still on milk is absurd as many never have shared the Gospel or influenced anyone. Why? They have not been taught to. We all have a ministry of reconciliation. 2 Cor 5, If you have no one to reconcile then pray your pride is reduced to that level too! Our forgiveness is dependant on our forgiving others and being forgiven by our Brothers and Sisters. God forgives without measure but hears not the prayers of sinners. 1 John 5:, As we extend the beggar’s hand we must realize it is a nasty lepers hand and we need to be “Clean” to enter His presence. We can’t do that without the Blood of the Lamb, 1 John 1:7, If you or your brother/sister has any fault, slight against you, or you have ought against your brother, leave your sacrifice/prayer at the altar, (our altar is on our knees, all other altars are dead) run to be reconciled to your brother and be forgiven by all. Example if you are angry don’t sleep on it, forgive, if your spouse is upset with your unforgiveness attitude your prayers may not leave the house until resolved.

What do we look for in shepherds if we don’t use the only directions and practice of the “Apostles Doctrine”? Acts gives a situation of Apollos being a man mighty in the scriptures, as the the followers of John who both had some knowledge of the Torah, yet were not yet in on the Resurrection of the King, the Promise of the Father had not been poured out until Acts 2 when poured out on all, the rejected messiah now rules as Lord, King of Kings, and Most High God, the New Covenant by the Gift of the Spirit Acts 5:32, Acts 8-9-10 are not confusing when one looks at the overall picture, the Promise of the Father realized in the oneness of the people of God, Sheep of his pasture one flock! Here is another view from my friend and bro; https://www.christian-history.org/bishops-elders-deacons.html

Sheep are an excellent metaphor for humans and our “groups” we call churches, the New covenant calls the “Ekklesia” or Assembly of God, God’s people. By any name other than those in the “Apostles Doctrine” we use can be seen as tribal, nationalistic, religious, divisive, seldom uniting unless it is to make war (actual or just in thoughts, unloving deeds) on another tribe. Hebrews 12;15 warns us about our back stabbing, bickering ways. Are “christians” to be under all those slogans and creeds, men devise? or do we study for ourselves.

Read below a more textual accurate explanation that I have found of late I do not know. Please read to understand the facts of the new testament record and actual history of the Shepherd Elder Bishop etc controversy. We feel very strongly the problem with most groups is the lack of this important local leadership. We feel if the Apostles Doctrine were in full effect in every group, soon the “hired hands” would move on, or repent and mature, the flock would support as needed any humble shepherds that served worth double honor in any way needed to make the flock/shepherds blessed. The dedicated “pastors”(latin for pasture care of sheep, same in Greek as shepherd teacher) shepherds and teachers would be cared for as would all members sharing and caring the “one anothers”. In the deep relationships of the congregation there are no strangers or non family. You should not have to “commune” with people you don’t know in a few mins of station break between the sage on the stage and the entertainment. We deserve more, the goats don’t like the time or the messy service of family with different tastes yet common Faith. Why do we try and train Goats not to be Goats? “Fans vs Followers” When we present the pure simple Gospel the goats will wander off just as crowds of “seekers” believed a little and stayed for a while, abandoned Jesus because He refused to please them in the religion styles they want. Jesus is clear on who is His family., who listens to His Voice alone. Are we? There is power in the “Love Feast” and the water, not magic like a good luck charm, or religious ritual, but evidence of faith in the submission to our King for all to see. Acts 2;37-38, is our “Ebenezer” but not a line in the sand to divide over. Romans 6:17, not some new deal. The disciple is immersed by the teacher that discipled them, the shepherds are equals, as are all Saints! No clergy required for the “sacrament to be valid” That is a tradition in history, not in Acts. You share the Gospel with a neighbor, The Lord draws, they heard, believe the message as the first believers did, Acts 2; 5:32, former pagans in Acts 18:8 did and submit to obey the Gospel. Like the Centurion we pray in faith, believing there is a God, He will arrange the meet with the Spirit on His timeline! He only fills what we empty of self, ego, pride. The Gospel is the power not our eloquence or physical things we use to hook fans on game day. All we do to draw is foolish if not based on the simple gospel plan in the new covenant of the Apostles Doctrine. If you as a follower are not equipped to disciple by now after all these years of preaching and teaching exposure? When will you know how? or are you taught that is not for you? You are not trained? You are not gifted? This is why when we want to find the real followers we go to prayer meetings, food pantries, homeless shelters, see who is washing dishes, giving from a open heart not tight tithe, balancing God and Family as much as humans can, shining lights, not waiting on the sage on the stage or the polished offices of rank to be our witness. “Homestyle,the kind Jesus visits” Here is one good example we know of personally. http://www.wearechurch.com/church-intensive Good people of God walking in the light. Chan and Lisa is just a man & wife team, human of flesh, like you,me, Elijah.

Peter writes to “Fellow Shepherds” Click here for link to the Word; https://www.biblestudytools.com/nas/1-peter/5.html

Excellent history lesson by Paul Pavo. https://www.christian-history.org/bishops-elders-pastors.html

Click for reference in the Word; https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/poimaino.html

What is the organization of the local congregation? We have a Chief Shepherd in Jesus our God and King. What do we need or must have past the 2 or more in his name? Why did Paul make such a point in acts to set apart shepherds?

The gathering of individuals in Acts are first called Christians at Antioch. Acts 11:20-21, 26. Peter reminds us of our Chief Shepherd and himself as our equal shepherd of the flock God has called us to shepherd. 1 Peter 5: The word for shepherd is used Click here for greek lexicon. John 10:12-14 has good examples of the proper use.

The simple Gospel of the Kingdom replaced the priesthood and the temple of herod as the source of care for the poor, the place of prayer, and the source of God’s will and plan all found in His Ekklesia, His fellowship, His One Flock. The local assemblies are cared for by humble servants that meet the qualifications of the scriptures quoted in this essay. We see the direct instructions as imperative to the health of the Body, we see the inferences, and practices outlined in the letters and Acts as a model or guide of what the early followers did in their culture to meet the one law we must follow; 1 John 3:23, Mark 13:34 are you a doorkeeper?

In 50 yrs of service we have been in the center of splits over race, divorce, lust among members, $$, the color of the carpet exposed many feuds in a country church. Stupid human ego problems allowed to drive away with the Spirit many good followers while the powerful controllers rule the “church” they created. In each case the humble shepherds are out voted, out shouted by powerful men appointed in congregational votes that are led by men and not by the Spirit of unity. The value of humble shepherds selected by the local congregation in prayer and fasting can not be skipped. It is His plan and His will we obey not pop culture in modern church style. Without the shepherds, the flock is scattered.

Authors we respect and know:

What does worship mean to you? A word study of where it is used in the Greek. https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/proskuneo.html

Worship is ‘like a dog licking the master’s hand in submission, 4352 ‑ προσκυνέω (pros‑koo‑neh’‑o); The day, time and place are up to the local shepherds and congregations as in all matters of inference and worship practice models in the RM drawn only from the actions, of the Apostles and the Apostles Doctrine. We should reject pagan influence, world culture norms, but to turn away people on one issue? Is that love in action or a tribal attitude that they must be “circumcised” or not light a fire on the “holy day”? We are seperate people of God on His Grace and our love, not works. To make “religious” man taught rituals or rules a salvation issue is negative evangelism IMHO and as doorkeepers, we become judges instead of disciple-makers in the model of Jesus. There must be balance without compromise on the main thing to disciple with repentance doing the first works. Rev 2:5 What are they? No dancing with instruments, no singing with instruments, no worship with musical instruments. Or could the first works be those deeds of the sheep in Mt 25? Or the 50 or so love one anothers? If we filter every thought and action through the one perfect law of liberty will the result be the same? 1 John 3:23, Grace is not how good we are but how forgiven we are. We need a return to the covenant meal of the Acts 2 actions, we need the fellowship, relationship of the “Love Feast” meal. What we have in most is a rigid, solemn dead altar ceremony that is the same in many divided groups. most of the pattern is as far from a “Love Feast” celebration of the resurrection example as men can get for fast, eloquent, common sense, efficient service in order. The Saints in Corinth had few rules, Share, care, respect, love, don’t over eat or drink. be nice to! They were former pagans not knowing the Jewish celebrations, only pagan temples. 1 Cor 14, Come to the table break bread with your neighbors, strangers and the lost to your home for a meal, build the relationship. Restricting the Holy Spirit to a set time and place to show up for our convenience is a business practice, not worship. Acts 5;32, My mentors taught “it is all about relationships”

We refer to the patterns we see in the NT as “Eldership” as they were alway plural. The use of the Words; church, pastor, tithe, priest, religion, worship, and elder have become ambiguous in our conversations today. We have to have a guide book of terms in each divided denomination and cult. To return and restore the first century practices without the traditions of over 1900 years on doctrine of men will be a chore of constant teaching. When we speak of the visible church of divided denominations or built on the pagan bones of a lost empires, or scraped together from the gone with the roman wind temple, we will use this AKA vChurch. retaining the respect of a capital letter but with the add of it is physical. John 6 teaches this condition of the things we must have as humans and what is important in the Kingdom. Our Ekklesia is never speaking of a edifice or geocentric location as in Church, but the gathering of the Body in a place or space in time anywhere He is.

A few clear understandings before we continue;

  1. Jesus our Lord God, King of Kings is head of the Ekklesia of God, Romans 16:5, Eph 5:23
  2. The New Covenant as revealed in the Bible is our creed, we base all on the resurrection from the dead of our Savior messiah King Jesus. John 20:31,1 Corinthians 15: 14, the whole chapter is a lesson in the Gospel by definition, death burial and rez being of most importance. Without this why bother with a Faith that gets you stoned, drowned, burned?
  3. Each local Assembly, Ekklesia, Congregation, “Church” is autonomous and self-governing. No outside interference from others needed if the “Apostles Doctrine” is followed. Acts 2:42, teaching “Sound Doctrine” Titus 2, the instructions in the letters is sufficient for “Sound Doctrine”, The “Sermon on the Mt” is summed up in 1 John 3:23, Gl 5:14, The teachings of Jesus fullied the old covenant and gave us a new agreement. To go back and drag forward a left over command is divisive at best and destructive in the long run of the body. These problems have been argued ad nauseum since John the Apostles passed. Read the results of the early teachings. You may be surprised to not find your group in those first centuries, Gnostics are alive and well today. Saying you must have this or that training, secret, or pay for teaching.
  4. The early followers were of “like mind” reasoning together over issues that divide us today. We don’t need a “Denomination” to unite over we need to restore the “first Works” Rev 2:5
  5. The Local Congregation is the “Pillar and Ground of Truth” 1 Timothy 3:15, When the Body is fitted together as a “Wise Master Builder” we have selected humble shepherds that are apt to teach, wash feet, lead the sheep to walk in the light. They must be ready to give up their life for the flock, John 10 is not suggestions for a mega vChurch. We must care for the Body. We have disciples that disciple other disciples on their own. We have the “Wonderful Counselor and our Abba gives wonderful Gifts to build up the Body as He wants it. Philippians 2:13, What more do we need? When the Body reflects the image of God that Jesus gives we will be one in King Jesus. John 13:1-16 We often forget how God views man’s ideas and eloquence. His “Church” is One body made of many “Living Stones” in many “Temples of the Holy Spirit” Eph 4:1-16. We will have our differences, our traditions, our relics of religion inherited or adopted. When we make these differences a Salvation issue we are divisive. The Corinthians had this problem, people are messy. Romans 14 sez tolerate, with respect, but no compromise on the Gospel of the risen King Jesus!
  6. The Bible uses Elder, Presbyter, Overseer, Bishop, Shepherd, Pastor (one time from Latin, not Greek) interchangeably and they all refer to parts of the Body in use, some are interchangeable. all are abused when they divide one Saint from another. Peter sez we are a “Royal Priesthood”, Former pagans /gentiles are Saints Acts 5:32, Acts 18:8. When we add ranks, titles, reverends, etc we are using a “caste” system. We don’t see this in Jesus’ teaching. Mt 23:9, We see the opposite. The least are first!
  7. Local congregations of disciples have the authority and the power to pray and fast, guided by the Holy Spirit encourage and select humble qualified men from among the faithful in the selection of Shepherds and servants for any part of the body. Of elders using 1 Timothy 3, and Titus 1 as guidelines for the qualifications. Sadly the practice of selecting a man on human measures and human ability gets more votes than God’s. If your local group is not discipling you may have to pay big $$ to get hired hands if you don’t grow your own. Pray for the work of Evangelist to teach the Gospel and pray for the harvester. If you don’t have the model of the New Covenant who are you pleasing? We don’t have or need a physical temple, we don’t need clergy if we rely on the Holy Spirit to teach us, we don’t need another mediator or go between for us only our “Family of God” 1 Tim 3:1
  8. Elders have charge only over the disciples of the local congregation they have a living relationship with, not to neglect or shun those from outside congregations. New seekers are not treated different from fellow bros&sisters but are loved more as they are discipled by others of the flock. The response should be on meeting and visiting your meeting “oh how they love one another” not they sure are strict, or they are way too ______for me I just want the easy feel good stuff!
  9. We walk in the Light, some can not see the light, we must not shadow those that see dimly with our pride. We all extend the ‘Beggar’s Hand” to be clean.
Peter the man is just like us, nothing special on his writing would give any indication of “elite status”or Rank, we see no rise of popes until after 2nd cent and not before 400ad were they established and fighting for control. Thanks to the Bible Project for cool visuals and more! https://bibleproject.com/other-resources/

What is “Worship”? Does a dog know what it means to worship their master? Our pride is killing us in our flesh. Come out of the darkness and into the Light. Know what the Word sez in the orginal words, not in the commentary of men. especially those that believed the world was flat, bloodletting was good for the sick, surgeons did not wash hands and people were burned for teaching the Sun was going around the center of the flat earth. Many of these Greek Roman myths of philosophy are here today and they affected the theology of religion. Worship pure and undefiled is what God wants, what does that mean to you? https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/proskuneo.html

What are those “First Works”? Rev 2;5. Could they be simple instructions Jesus gave? Or must we wait on professors, doctors, reverends to explain the deep secrets of God? Or should we examine the “Reformation”?, looking at those fights still raging today, over doctrines, ideas, theology they invented. We must scoff as we wait for a “winner” among the divided denominated daughters of the whore of Babylon. No! Could the first works be something the wise among men miss? Could these deeds be the deeds of the Sheep in Mt 25? Could it be the most important law in the universe? 1 John 3:23, Gal 5:14., Could John 14:13 be the way to unity?

We can study the word use in all 158 verses Click to link; https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/ergon.html

Without humble shepherds to guard the flock every wind of doctrine scatters the sheep. Pray for your shepherds!

My brother Paul Pavao writes on the use of Shepherds in light of the “5 Fold” ministry of Ephesians 4:11; click here https://ancient-faith.com/2012/09/18/the-five-fold-ministry/comment-page-1/#comment-5484 Click links for History of early Shepherds, bishops elders; https://www.christian-history.org/bishops-elders-pastors.htmlhttps://www.christian-history.org/bishops-elders-pastors.html

Homestyle, the kind Jesus likes to visit” is the new paradigm for many of the followers that are not conditioned to the geocentric location. The disruption of all of man’s activities worldwide has pushed us onto the “Roman Roads” of the internet, an evil world ruled by powers of the deceiver. Nowadays, We have worship with neighbors, family, friends without regard to the surroundings or day or time. We invite all to the “Pure Table” we provide for the stranger at the gate and the neighbor next door where ever we are. We have followed this model as we have the RM and consider these our brothers and sisters. Come to the table, leave the dead altars behind. We know the “meal” in Corinth was messy, but we reject the “Sip & chip” attitude of many groups as an insult to God. We pray for a return to the simple Gospel of the first cent. before all the theologians began fighting for control and power. Would you rather have a John 21, or how about a meal on the road to Emmaus “Break Bread” with our King experience? or sit on a pew between the entertainment and the sage on the stage? We celebrate today with followers around the world! A good model if the humble shepherds listen to the Chief Shepherd only! http://www.wearechurch.com/church-intensive one of many good models walking in the Light of the Kingdom.

//////////////////////////////////////// Five Terms That Describe an Elder, Shepherd, bishop, presbyter //////////////////////// begin shepherd study;

A. There are four main terms used to describe this position of authority: (elder, overseer, shepherd, steward)

Five terms describing the office of an elder
TermGreek wordDefinition:Emphasis
Elder or presbyterPresburerosAn older man a seniorExperience
Overseer or bishopEpiscoposA guardian or superintendentOversight
Shepherd or pastorPoimenMetaphoric term (tending flocks)Protection
StewardOikonomoMetaphoric term (treasurer)Trustworthy
EldershipPresbuterionGroup of older men/eldersPlurality & equality
Borrowed from; https://www.bible.ca/ntx-elders-pastors-bishops.htm
  1. Each term gives us a little more information about the function of the servant shepherd: Christians are described as: priests, saints, children, citizens, soldiers, etc. In the same way we have different descriptive terms for the eldership; “pastor” from the Latin to separate out the clergy, reverend, father, etc. All extra added to New Covenant guides.
  2. These terms are not honorary titles but descriptions of work to be done: a. It would be wrong to call someone “Elder Smith”, or “Pastor Brown”
  3. In the table below, you will notice four individual terms (elder, overseer, shepherd, steward) and one collective term (eldership: which is simply the plural of term elder).

C. Why do people confuse the one minstry, for many distinct offices:

Greek WordTrue translationMeaningless “gobbledy goop” words that have no use outside of religion.
PresburerosElderPresbyter
EpiscoposOverseerBishop
PoimenShepherdPastor
BaptizoImmersionBaptism
Borrowed from; https://www.bible.ca/ntx-elders-pastors-bishops.htm

B. Proof that all terms refer to same office because of their interchangeable usage:

  1. People are taught false doctrine from their denominations, that the “office of Bishop” is a different office than the “office of Pastor” and the “office of Elder” and the “office of Steward”. They are falsely taught that these are three distinct offices, rather than three descriptive terms that describe the same ONE office.
  2. A failure to be shown that in scripture, these terms are used interchangeably, as seen in the chart above. The fact remains, that if these four terms all refer to the same office, then most denominational organizations make mush of the inspired pattern and are utterly false and to be rejected.
  3. A failure to recognize that the English terms “Elder and Presbyter come from the same Greek word “Presbureros”. That the English terms “Overseer and Bishop come from the same Greek word “Episcopos”. And that the English terms “Shepherd and Pastor come from the same Greek word “Poimen”. Part of the confusion is that one Bible translation will consistently translation the Greek word “Presbureros” as “Elder, while another translation will render the same Greek word “Presbureros” as Presbyter. We are find no fault with these translations, but people simply do not look closely enough to notice what is really going on between translations.
  4. Each of the three Greek words are translated into two English words, where one of these English word is a true translation and the other is a meaningless man-made ecclesiastical, church term invented by various churches. To prove the point, when in everyday language do we ever use the words, Presbyter or Bishop or Pastor. They have no use or meaning outside of religion and their meaning is obscure. However meaning the words, Elder or Overseer or Shepherd are understood by all and are used in all areas of life. Another example of this is the word “Baptism”, which comes from the Greek word “Baptizo” and is translated “immersion”. If Bible translations only used the true translations of all these words, it would greatly reduce confusion as well as immediately prove that “Baptism” is immersion, not sprinkling.

D. Why did God use four different terms to describe the one humble shepherd? Simple! Each term gives us a distinct view of the various functions of that one office. If God had used only one word, it would not be nearly as clear as it is with the four terms.

https://www.christian-history.org/bishops-elders-pastors.html History can be verified

  1. Elder indicates an older man with wisdom that can only come from age and experience.
  2. Overseer indicates a position of top authority, one who is the “leader’ not to use an exalted term for exalted power that is not NT. Prayerfully guides the flock to the will of the wonderful counselor for final decisions for the local congregation. One of the shepherds as an equal of the Saints. Gal 3:24-27
  3. Shepherd is a metaphoric term that indicates the men are to show love, care, dedication and self sacrifice for the members as sheep. The men are not literally Shepherding sheep, but are doing so in a metaphoric sense that everyone immediately understands.
  4. Steward indicates a man who can be trusted with great treasures. Of course the greatest of these treasures, are the souls of the local church members, over whom he is in charge. But it also indicates the fact that the men are also in charge of the churches financial assets, including church buildings and the weekly collection of money from the church on the first day of every week through freewill offerings. These are shepherds and servants, lots of debate on “deacons” All of us are the slaves of God, poor servants waiting at His pleasure, to be poured out in his service.

E. Although a different Gift of service, God did the same thing with “preacher” terms by using three distinct Greek words to describe that one office, never used “reverend” or “father” in any form:

  1. Minister indicates one who serves as a servant.
  2. Evangelist indicates one who spreads the good new of the seed of the Gospel everywhere.
  3. Preacher indicates one who proclaims the message of God.

II. Unscriptural terms used by denominations: Titus 2:1

single office
 Elder or Presbyter (Presbureros)Overseer or bishop (Episcopos)Shepherd or pastor (Poimen)Steward (Oikonomo)
Acts 20:17,28Click to ViewClick to ViewClick to View 
Tit 1:5,7Click to ViewClick to View Click to View
1 Pe 5:1,2Click to View Click to View 

A. Paul told us to “speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.” Tit 2:1 This means that we must use Bible terms to describe Bible things. Many denominations use terms that are not found in the Bible.

B. Unscriptural manmade terms, many of which are titles only God Himself would wear! In fact most of these terms are outright blasphemous for a man to wear!

PopeUniversal BishopEcumenical PatriarchPatriarchMetropolitan or ArchbishopProtopresbyterCardinalArch-bishopArchpriestHis All HolinessHis EminenceHis BeatitudeHis GraceVery ReverendRight ReverendReverend FatherReverendFather
Borrowed from; https://www.bible.ca/ntx-elders-pastors-bishops.htm

C: Various terms used by denominations today. Each of the four sets of terms refer to the same greek word.

  1. Overseer: Bishop, Episcopate, Bishopric, Diocese
  2. Elder: Presbyter, Presbyterate
  3. Shepherd: Pastor
  4. Servant: Deacon, Diaconate

III. Scriptural terms misused by denominations: Titus 2:1

  1. Applying “pastor” as a synonym for the senor or pulpit preacher. All pastors/shepherd one who feeds, are preachers, but not all preachers are pastors. Some are teachers, evangelist.
  2. Applying “pastor” “Elder” or “Bishop” to any women. Women are forbidden to be such: 1 Tim 2:12, While true this is the family model of God’s plan, women have a service greater in the New Body than found in most temples and tribes. Woman ar eable to teach Sound doctrine Titus 2:1-6, the restrictions of man are debatable and divisive. We ask for reason!
  3. Applying “pastor” to any young man, any single man, or a married man who has no children, or a married man whose family is a spiritual trainwreck. The elder may have lived thru few trainwrecks or floods! That is why they are still here. God has a purpose it is the young’s shame that they listen to their peers, not the wise in years.
  4. Applying “evangelist” exclusively to pastors, preachers who preach in different churches every Sunday, while refusing to call a “located preacher” an “evangelist” because he preaches in the same vChurch every Sunday. The terms, evangelist, preacher and minister are interchangeable terms and the Bible makes no distinction as to whether the minister is located or moving around from week to week.
  5. Applying “elder” to any young man, as Mormon missionaries insist they be called as they go door to door. Such a term applied to a young man is a violation of common sense.

IV. Bible Qualifications For Pastors:

A. There are two passages that list qualifications: 1 Tim 3:1-7 & Tit 1:5-9

  1. These qualifications are what all Christian’s should strive to meet.
  2. Most churches today will set human standards that ignore Bible directives

B. Six qualifications that many modern day pastors/shepherds don’t meet:

  1. Elders must be men.
  2. Elders must be married.
  3. Elders must have children who are old enough to be believing Christians
  4. Elders must have PROVEN that they can keep their children under control WITHOUT REBELLION. [the big test is with teenagers], How does even the best judge this line item? Many battles are fought to win the victory!
  5. Must be what “elder” implies: an older man of experience. Men under 40 years old are never called elderly. When 18 year old Mormon missionaries demand that a 70 year old man address them as “elder” when they knock on his door, it is as illogical as it is insulting! Calling anyone under 30 years of age and “elder” is a clear violation of what the word elder means!
  6. Must have enough Bible knowledge to be able to refute false doctrine. Must be in the Spirit and Truth of God’s service as much as possible transforming each day to be like Him in all ways.

C. An evangelist/preacher/minister is different from an elder/teacher/overseer, but can flex as we do in our families we grow in time and Spirit. I have been a shepherd, a teacher, a preacher, an evangelist, and unworthy servant, prodigal son, lost sheep.

  1. Elders in the New Testament were not always full time preachers: 1 Ti 5:17 “Let the ELDERS who rule (word is “tend” Care for) well be considered worthy of double honor especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” Tent makers are mobile with God’s Skill set in their war chest. God gifted the hands of craftsmen with his Holy Spirit building the tabernacle with precision to His plan. How can we now pray for this power? The “Service Gift”
  2. Full time preachers in the New Testament were not always elders.
  3. Apostle Paul was not an elder: no where in the Bible is Paul referred to as an elder. Paul wasn’t married: 1 Cor 7:7, therefore was not even qualified: 1 Ti 3:2,4,5.
  4. Peter on the other hand, was both a full time preacher and an shepherd. 1 Peter 5:1 “I [Peter] … your “FELLOW elder” There is no evidence he was anything more than our equal fellow saint. See Paul Pavao’s excellent work on the history of the early Roman empire and the development of the vChurch of today.

D. The Bible pattern for elders is absolutely foreign to most denominations as they rely heavily upon human creeds to set standards. How did these develop over the years?

V. The office of the paid Overseer/Elder/Shepherd:

A. Some believers go beyond the organization God provided for in the New Testament by making it more complex than it is. This is seen in the organization of the Roman Catholics and many protestant churches. What would happen if we only did what God said? Here is what one group has decided to do setting out in 2013 they have thrived in the chaos, they are praying, worshiping, and selecting humble shepherds to care for their flock as they spread in growth of “homestyle the kind Jesus visits” groups around the world now meeting on Zoom where distance interferes.

B. Some believers reject that there is a formal office of overseer. They view him as being on the same authority level as the rest of the Christians in the local church. This is debated often. Many will allow policy and vision to come to one person and this is “cultish” in action. Nowhere is this allowing the Holy Spirit to speak freely in the congregation. “Waco” is a good example, David Koresh convinced average vchurch burnouts and malcontents to believe he was messiah, he could quote more scripture than Joe Smith could write. He was no worse at twisting scripture to justify mixing up covenants than those in reformed and protestant vchurch systems today. Dave was more extreme and evil in his purposes. We in our reform, Running from the Roman systems the good people ran into state controlled war fighting groups of sincere people who wind up at war, in the 14-century up, still divided and fighting today. The reformation of the roman system of works and submission to man’s authority has been a bust and a train wreck that now no one inside can fix. The man’s wisdom band aid type patches, the famous book selling reverend doctors can’t fix it, the high paid celebrity pastors can’t fix it, Oprah won’t fix it. We the sheep of his pasture must fix it.

C. “Overseer”: The Bible not only calls them “overseers” The word is still “Shepherd” in meaning at the base. Here is the greek:

The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon

Strong’s Number: 1984Browse LexiconOriginal WordWord Originepiskopefrom (1980)Transliterated WordTDNT EntryEpiskope2:606,244Phonetic SpellingParts of Speechep-is-kop-ay’ Noun FeminineDefinitioninvestigation, inspection, visitationthat act by which God looks into and searches out the ways, deeds character, of men, in order to adjudge them their lot accordingly, whether joyous or sadoversightoverseership, office, charge, the office of an elder the overseer or presiding officers of a Christian churchNAS Word Usage – Total: 4office 1, office of overseer 1, visitation 2
NAS Verse CountLuke1Acts11 Timothy11 Peter1
  1. “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” 1 Timothy 3:1 The word is “task”
  2. “Be on guard for yourselves and for ALL THE FLOCK, AMONG WHICH the Holy Spirit has made you OVERSEERS, to SHEPHERD the church of God which he purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:28
  3. ” The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”” 1 Timothy 5:17-18, Is this the iron hand of the man of the world who rules in government, military and corporations of power? or the humble foot washer who wants to wash the feet, teach the “Sound Doctrine” as directed in Titus 2;1-10?

D. “overseers” must be obeyed by the other members! as far as the understanding of God’s will and plan goes, We work out your own salvation, the shepherd is to disciple ,correct and guide as a good shepherd, not bruisin the reed that is broken or putting the least flame or smoke. Scared sheep run to any voice in the darkness of the world until the spirit dies of exhaustion. good shepherds calm the sheep, by leading with example, onward, walking in the light.

  1. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” Hebrews 13:17, our ego must be locked away for the kingdom, pride made into doormat and our self lost in the dying of the flesh day by day as our sin has been washed away forever. Acts 22:16
  2. ” But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction,” 1 Thessalonians 5:12
  3. “Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints), that you also be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labors.” 1 Corinthians 16:15-16
  1. ” The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”” 1 Timothy 5:17-18
  2. “”Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house.” Luke 10:7
  3. “So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.” 1 Corinthians 9:14 This support can be in kind, in needs, sharing. not tithe supported but love support by commitment to the person not the office. Placing ads, needing educational degrees is above the requirements for shepherd. those are added by those that do not trust the Holy Spirit to provide as he has and will in His plans. All those do is attract “hired Hands” same with building a mega vChurh that requires multiple offices and ranks of pay and pomp.
  4. “Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working? Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock? I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He? Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops. If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who perform sacred services eat the food of the temple, and those who attend regularly to the altar have their share from the altar? So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.” 1 Corinthians 9:6-14
  5. “Nevertheless, you have done well to share with mein my affliction. You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:14-19

VI. The Limit of the Elder’s Authority

For a fuller treatment of women see https://johnmarkhicks.com/2020/09/22/women-assemblies-and-churches-of-christ/ his latest book on Women in our ministry is out on Amz. Another view from another brother; https://authentictheology.com/2018/06/06/13-church-of-christ-cenis-authorizing-women-to-speak-in-the-worship-assembly-commands-examples-necessary-inferences/

When God poured out the Holy Spirit on Pentecost it was not so you could speak in tongues or impress the ignorant. Confuse the “Sign Gift” with the “Salvation” or “Service” or “Truth Gift” and you will forever be confused. Watch the video from a Greek Professor we Trust; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxsgmDdoDQ0&t=1509s

A. Elders authority in the Bible was limited to within one local congregation:

  1. Acts 20:28 “Be on guard for yourselves and for ALL THE FLOCK, AMONG WHICH the Holy Spirit has made you OVERSEERS, to SHEPHERD the church of God which he purchased with His own blood.”
  2. 1 Pet 5:1-3 “Therefore, I exhort the elders AMONG YOU … shepherd the FLOCK OF GOD AMONG YOU … proving to be examples to the flock”
  3. 1 Pet 5:1 “I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow-elder”
  4. Peter was an elder but he was not higher in rank that any other elder.
  5. All elders in the eldership are of equal authority. See for more on this;https://www.christian-history.org/bishops-elders-pastors. htmlhttps://www.christian-history.org/bishops-elders-pastors.html

B. Many churches today do not follow the Bible pattern for an elder’s authority:

  1. One bishop/elder is never over other bishop/elders in rank: all are equal.
  2. One bishop/elder is never over more than one local church churches
  3. The pyramid type organization is contrary to the Bible pattern and did not come to full development until 606 AD when pope Boniface III claimed to be the one man who ruled every local church world wide. This was 600 years too late to be the Bible pattern and represents a serious apostasy in organization.

C. The Baptist church, for example, admits in their official creed book (The Hiscox Standard Baptist Manual), that new offices not found in scripture have been added long after the Bible was written:

  1. “CHURCH OFFICERS: In the New Testament we find that in apostolic times, and for many years after, pastors and deacons only were known as permanent church officers. Others have been added at later times, for a variety of reasons.” (The Hiscox Standard Baptist Manual)
  2. “THE WIDER FELLOWSHIP OF BAPTISTS: Because churches are the only Christian organizations provided for in the New Testament, it may be said that they are the only ones really essential to the accomplishment of the purposes of Christ. Experience, however, has demonstrated that churches in fellowship with one another are able to fulfill the work of the gospel more effectively than churches alone.” (The Hiscox Standard Baptist Manual)
  3. What we observe in these two quotes from the Hiscox Standard Baptist Manual, is the following: First, they admit that new offices were added to the church many years after the Bible was completed. Second, they admit that local churches with no organizational tie between them, was the Bible pattern, but because of human wisdom, an organization was invented to tie local churches together on a global basis.

VII. The Plurality Of Elders

A. There is a pattern in the Bible where two or more men serve as elders. Never do you find a church with only one elder appointed.

B. The divine directive:

  1. Tit 1:5 “For this reason, I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and APPOINT ELDERS IN EVERY CITY as I directed you.”
  2. Acts 14:23 “And when they had APPOINTED ELDERS IN EVERY CHURCH, having prayed and fasted, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”

C. Let’s examine the Bible pattern of plurality within specific local congregations:

  1. JERUSALEM: Acts 15:4 “when they arrived at Jerusalem, they were received by the ELDERS” (Acts 15:2; 15:6; 15:22: 15:23; 16:4; 21:18)
  2. EPHESUS: Acts 20:17,28 Paul “called to him the ELDERS OF THE CHURCH.”
  3. JUDEA: Acts 11:29,30 “sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul TO THE ELDERS”

D. Let us look at various other references:

  1. Jas 5:14 “Is anyone sick? Let him call the ELDERS OF THE CHURCH.”
  2. 1 Pe 5:1-3 “Therefore, I exhort the ELDERS among you
  3. 1 Ti 4:14 “the laying on of hands of the PRESBYTERY.” (assembly of aged men)
  4. 1 Ti 5:17 “Let the ELDERS who rule well be considered worthy of double honor

E. Singular usage here refers to each individual elder:

  1. 1 Ti 3:1,2 “If any man aspires to the OFFICE OF OVERSEER
  2. Tit 1:7 “for the OVERSEER must be above reproach”
  3. 1 Ti 5:19 “Do not receive an accusation against an ELDER except…”
  4. 2 Jn 1 “The ELDER to the chosen lady and her children”
  5. 3 Jn 1 “The ELDER to the beloved Gaius whom I love in truth”

F. Presbytery: Plural use of “elder” [Gr. Presbureros, singlular] in the New Testament: “Presbuterion” [plural of Presbureros]. Three passages in total. The first two, refer to the leading group of Jewish elders. The last one refers to an eldership within a single local church.

VIII. Four Organizational Possibilities for Local Churches

A. Unscripturally organized:

E. “overseers” can be paid, just like evangelists: And the equal weight goes to the “tentmakers” that do the low jobs in quiet places. Many “Aquila and Priscilla” teams are gone out into the world, many Phillip the Evangelists with his wonderful daughters, many, like Apollos, eloquent in the scriptures are being taught the New Covenant, This model worked then to disciple, do we in our arrogance think the Holy Spirit is finished with these messages of power? Will he not direct an Ananias to a praying seeker? Will Cornelius have to join the vChurch and become a _____to be saved? or just listen to the Wonderful Counselor and the Apostles doctrine in acts? Will he stop sending Phillips to dirt roads to meet lost people? The good man had problems, he was reading the bible as he knew it, he was lost in the word, he listens to the evangelist to explain in light of the new deal. You can’t find the new covenant in the old one, just the shadow and promise to be delivered. When we see the kingdom outside the building, in those places where relationships are made, the public places, in the home at the family table we will see the power of the Gospel in the Bread and Cup. The meal that heals the world.

  1. Pastor system (one man over church) We will see “Apostles” latter day gurus, and self styled “pastors” with out flocks looking to lead with out regard for the proper order.
  2. Unqualified men (Position worse than having no elders at all) See this alot, ignorance of the congregation who depend on their denomination to be right.
  3. any organization larger than local church (world headquarters etc.)

B. Unscripturally unorganized: church has qualified men who are not elders

C. Scripturally organized: a church which has a qualified eldership

D. Scripturally unorganized: The man or woman is in charge, the Holy Spirit is in their box of theology or absent.

  1. a church without elders because no one qualified: Acts 14:1-3,6,8,21-23
  2. a church with no elders, when qualified men could be appointed, “lacks”: Tit 1:5

Conclusion: Be sure to understand that we can find no basis for “latter day Apostles “, Yes, we see messengers, today ministers yes we know there are prophets and healers and teachers. If your position in the kingdom and the flock is not prominent enough to humbly use the word Evangelist for one who goes with the Gospel. If you have to claim a title of Reverend, Bishop, Apostle of any stripe we will question the authority, watch and discern the Truth in pray and fasting, inspect fruit, and source root. We have the Apostles Doctrine as did the first followers, to need more foundation is foolish, to use less is to deny the King did what he did. Adding our traditions,our rituals, our opinions is stupid and divisive. This marvelous simple plan was “once and for all delivered to the Saints” Jude said that! We got questions for Jude? Tell us about your brother and His Dad is a good one.

A. There are four terms: elder, overseer, shepherd & steward

  1. They all refer to the same thing
  2. They are used interchangeably
  3. The terms are not titles but teach us about the role, function and work
  4. 4. It is wrong to view pastors elders and bishops as three different offices

B. The Bible gives clear qualifications for the office which most churches ignore. The modern day “pastor system” as employed by most denominations, where one man is over the church rather than a group of men is unscriptural.

C. An elder can only oversee one local congregation

  1. Each church is self governing and autonomous
  2. A bishop from one church can not oversee another church

D. Churches in the Bible began with no elders but in time elders were appointed

  1. Churches can scripturally exist either with or without elders

 Further study:

  1. “When it was day, the Council [Presbuterion] of elders of the people assembled, both chief priests and scribes, and they led Him away to their council chamber” (Luke 22:66)
  2. “as also the high priest and all the Council [Presbuterion] of the elders can testify.” (Acts 22:5)
  3. “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery [Presbuterion]. ” (1 Timothy 4:14)

more later….below line is not finished above line is up for edit

We see unity in any heart that loves the Lord. We see few open hearts for God, we pray for broken hearts open for God.

What doe s the ‘Lord’s Supper ‘ mean to you?

Here is a very good study of the Lord’s Supper” http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx114.htm?fbclid=IwAR3WFMpqYMlP5_8QZEsWQyadyZ5roBZ-B8BLlAtVsa7ejLI5_sAbGcKJAwYhttp://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx114.htm?fbclid=IwAR3WFMpqYMlP5_8QZEsWQyadyZ5roBZ-B8BLlAtVsa7ejLI5_sAbGcKJAwY

Click to ViewGraphical Mouse Rollover of gradual change of organization over time
Click to View4 Competing views of organization
Click to ViewOutline: 30-150 AD
Click to ViewOutline: 150-250 AD
Click to ViewOutline: 250-451 AD
Click to ViewOutline: 451-588 AD
Click to ViewOutline: 588-606 AD
Click to ViewOutline: 606 AD-Today
Click to ViewCatholic organization today
Click to ViewOrthodox organization today
Much of the above is borrowed from the CoC doctrine. we find the written scripture they use to be accurate and factual. As they see it, we often agree. We love the strict adherence to the original Greek interpretation and lack of latter day influences. we do disagree with the dogmatic attitude that seems to turn off many who refuse to look past the strict interpretations and see the facts of the truth.

the theology behind the resurrection of Christ

any understanding of the Resurrection has to be understandable at a very low level how are good father has to give his good children clear understanding or he’s not a good father

Note on Ravi Z How do we pour love on this a move on? These prophets and false prophets come and go,only the weak and ignorant expect them to be more than us, We are equals to Elijah. We can overcome these failures of men like us. When we see the sins of others as more smelly, nastier than our stench of sin, we fail to love the sinner as Jesus does. We all extend the begging leper’s hand to be “clean” before God. That is our prayer. Jude 1:22-23

A Dog’s Life…

I was raised with the dogs literally, our family raised bird dogs for sale along with treeing hounds. Once I bonded with the puppies, they would treat me as their all in all, at 8 yrs old I was the “god” figure in this metaphorical story. I fed and watered them by my hand, I made the decision who would be sent to the vet or not; who responded well to my voice and teaching & be kept for more training, who would be sold or worse. Unlike us humans the pups had/have little choice. We as the pups did howl, cry and bark when we are not fed or cared for to suit our wants, even if our every need is met by our Master’s Hand. We can demand our water and bread, take it from others, refuse to share, whine, growl and bark, refuse to bend our will to the master, and deny our cross to bear. We can sell out for a bowl of stew or allow greed to buy us cheap in the world’s market. In spite of our immature attitudes and foolish choices God still loves us even when we walked away.

Field Dog training; https://youtu.be/DSD37lZcj0Y

Example; years later those dogs I trained knew me and came to me; Worshipping (see use in NT below Proskuneo, Gk) tail wagging, barking their happiness. Jesus said: “My sheep will know my voice” John 10;27, Those we sold off as untrained pups were just another dog as they did not seem to know us even after only months later. The relationship we developed during the puppies training made the difference. The training could be diverse to suit the hound’s nose, the relationships are all the same, no one size fits all. As a mentor explained to me “It is All about relationships” I loved those dogs and cared for them as a boy. God loved us before the worlds were created. Building the relationship of obedient servant to one’s master is easy with healthy well bred dogs. With those that would not respond to the the master’s voice we quickly removed from the pack. John 10:16, Like those seed’s of the sower that hear and believe but walk away, many just want the easy way, the cheap way out. Much like sheep I raised later on the farm, some just jump the fence to show you they can in rebellion. I let them go to the butcher, the sheep not the dogs, we sold those pups as individual home pets or gave them to good homes. Our metaphor and story is pointed, we/me/you have a choice to be loyal, obedient; watch dogs, sheep, ah!..humble servants, or rebellious children, Children of the Most High God nonetheless. 1 Cor 6:9 “No wicked person will inherit the Kingdom of God” How do we become “Clean” enough to enter His Royal Courts? Dogs are not allowed! Solution; We stop being “beasts” dogs, wicked persons, and we clean up our act. Satan Laughs at this works/law doctrine. Yeah right! Impossible! if we could fix ourselves, get rid of the sin worms, fleas and ticks of life we would, we can only cover up the symptoms of sins like abortion by making the problem someone else’s, when lust is the sin worm in man’s heart. Jer 17:9, We owe a death in our body of flesh, why make it permanent? Romans 6, We need a cure for sin heartworms. Mt 15:19 Only a new heart will do, only the great Physician can do that work, we can’t, like the unclean leper who knew he must be “clean” of sin to be in God’s presence, “Jesus make me Clean” We extend the “Beggar’s Hand” of a submissive servant, loyal, and faithful, we have our example in those good dogs we love. Matt 8:2 Clean before God, Hebrews 10:22 only one way. “No other name” Acts 4:12, John 14:6. Be sure to read Colin’s essay linked here below.

Our dogs are loyal, trustworthy, and totally devoted to us for all things. My Brother Colin writes of the dogs life and ours. https://sway.office.com/AsKwaQoEHS92kLJY?ref=Link&loc=play for more by Colin see his site of well done articles and thoughts on the Kingdom. https://sway.office.com/NKc6cbX2EKh6C7gA

Worship, What does that mean to me/us/you? Click links for online Greek Lexicon https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/proskuneo.html

Strong’s Number: 4352Browse LexiconOriginal WordWord Originproskuneofrom (4314) and a probable derivative of (2965) (meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand)Transliterated WordTDNT EntryProskuneo6:758,948Phonetic SpellingParts of Speechpros-koo-neh’-o VerbDefinitionto kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverenceamong the Orientals, esp. the Persians, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverencein the NT by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplicationused of homage shown to men and beings of superior rankto the Jewish high prieststo Godto Christto heavenly beingsto demonsNAS Word Usage – Total: 60bow down 1, bow down before 1, bowed down 1, bowed down before 2, bowing before 1, bowing down 1, prostrated himself before 1, worship 32, worshiped 17, worshipers 1, worshiping 1, worships 1NAS Verse CountMatthew13Mark2Luke3John7Acts41 Corinthians1Hebrews2Revelation22Total

Bible study for the day https://www.wearechurchreading.com/

Dr. Jack Cottrell on “Grace”

Grace is not how good we are or think we are, but how forgiven we are.

Saved by Grace #1 — GRACE ISN’T FAIR, BUT THAT’S GOOD!

Posted on  by Jack Cottrell

Almost everyone develops a “fairness mentality” to some degree. We are conditioned from childhood to respect and seek fairness, otherwise known as justice. We know what it means to deserve (or not deserve) something. Very early in life, kids learn to say, “That’s not fair!”

Most of the world, including many groups and individuals within Christendom, try to apply the fairness mentality to salvation itself. The assumption is that only those who are “good enough” go to heaven. Long ago I saw the results of some random answers to the question, “What are your chances of going to heaven?” One person said, “50-50. The older I get, the more I think my chances will improve.” Another said, “My chances are kinda slim, maybe 50-50. You have to be more than a nice person. But I’m still in the running.” An optimist said, “85%! I don’t think the entrance exam will be that tough.”

Like many others, all of these folks were obviously assuming that Judgment Day will involve something like a balance scale, where sins are on one side of the scale and good deeds on the other. One’s good deeds must outweigh the bad, perhaps significantly. Only then will we deserve heaven.

The fact is this: the FAIRNESS approach to salvation is futile! James 2:10 says even one sin outweighs all the good we can do. The only way to deserve heaven is to be perfect: 100% good. Even 85% is not good enough, and 50% does not come close.

Here’s the deal: when it comes to salvation, forget about fairness! If you want God to be fair with you on the Day of Judgment, you will go to hell. That’s what all sinners deserve. If you really want to go to heaven, rather than fairness you must think instead in terms of GRACE. And we must get this through our heads: grace is the OPPOSITE of fairness! Grace means that on the Judgment Day, we will get the very opposite of what we deserve.

In most matters of this world, fairness is definitely a virtue. Children should be taught to be fair, to play fair, and to share fairly. We expect our courts of law to apply justice and fairness. We believe in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.

But when it comes to eternal salvation, our only hope is grace—and grace is the very opposite of justice and fairness. Very often, even Christians have trouble accepting this. I heard a Bible college chapel speaker once say, “God will give to those who MERIT it, the blessings of eternal life.” No! When it comes to salvation, we must STOP thinking in terms of merit or fairness, and think in terms of GRACE.

Our usual Sunday-school definition of grace is “unmerited favor.” This is okay as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough! God’s gift of salvation to a sinner is not just unmerited or undeserved; it is the opposite of what the sinner deserves! As one of my early seminary students put it, grace is “favor bestowed when wrath is owed.”

Jesus’s parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (publican) teaches us the difference between the fairness mentality and the grace mentality (see Luke 18:9-14). First the Pharisee recites his list of good works and his supposed absence of sins (vv. 11-12), with the implicit assumption that he is obviously deserving of God’s favor. Then the tax collector prays with the grace mentality. He did not say, “God, be fair with me, the sinner.” He said, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner” (v. 13). Only the latter went home forgiven (justified), said Jesus (v. 14).

When you think of the Judgment Day, are you afraid, because you are thinking, “I know I’m not good enough to go to heaven”? STOP IT! Stop thinking like this! Of course you are not good enough! No one is! That’s why God has given us GRACE, and that’s why we must think in terms of grace!

We must be like the tax collector, and forget the balance-scales idea of Judgment Day. To go to heaven by the balance scale, you would have to live a perfect life. The only balance scale judgment that really works is this: all our sins go on one side of the scale, and Christ’s atoning death goes on the other! Only his death can “outweigh” our sins, or “make up for” our sins. And no, that’s not fair – IT’S GRACE!

Saved by Grace #2 — SAVED BY GRACE, NOT BY LAW

Posted on  by Jack Cottrell

Think of heaven (just for the purpose of this illustration) as a gigantic city enclosed by an impenetrable and unscalable wall. You can see this city from afar, and you desperately want to enter into it. Your life is a journey toward it.

As you begin to get closer to this heavenly city, you can see that there are two gates that allow entry through the wall. Soon you can see that each gate has a large sign above it. Over one gate the sign says “LAW,” and over the other the sign says “GRACE.” And then you understand. Theoretically at least, there are two ways of getting into heaven: the LAW way, and the GRACE way. You can enter through the law gate, or through the grace gate.

You get a little closer to the city, and you see a large group of people lined up at each gate—and you are in one of those lines! Every human being, including yourself, is either in the law line, or in the grace line. What difference does it make? The fact is that it makes an eternal difference, as will now be explained.

When you get close enough to the heavenly city and its two gates, you can see that each gate has a sign posted on it, explaining the conditions for passing through that gate into heaven. The sign on the law gate says in big letters, “KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS; ESCAPE THE PENALTY. BREAK THE COMMANDMENTS; SUFFER THE PENALTY.” What does this mean?

Here is the explanation. It means that every human being lives under a law code revealed by the Creator God. One’s applicable law code is composed of commandments he or she is obligated to obey, and it also contains a penalty that will be applied if we break even one of these commandments (James 2:10; Galatians 3:10). The penalty is eternity in hell.

There are three main law codes; they apply as follows. All human beings, by virtue of being created in the image of God, have been equipped with an intuitive law code “written on the heart” (Romans 2:15); every person is obligated to live by this law code. Also, God gave the Israelite nation a special law code—the Mosaic Law—that applied to them from Sinai (Exodus 19) to Pentecost (Acts 2). By the Jews’ calculation, this OT law code contained 613 commands. After Pentecost God gave new revelation (the New Testament) containing a different law code that now applies to all now living, including Christians. This New Covenant law code has over a thousand commands we are all now obligated to obey (in addition to the law written on the heart). These are the commandments to which the sign on the law gate refers.

So what does this sign mean? It means you can enter into heaven through the law gate IF you have kept ALL – 100% — of the commandments of the law code you are living under. If you have sinned even once, i.e., broken even one of these commandments, you must pay the penalty of eternity in hell. It’s that simple: you can enter here (through the law gate) by keeping all the commands that apply to you—perfectly, all your life. You must have a lifetime of sinlessness or perfect obedience.

At this point the terrifying truth strikes us: though there is a law gate into heaven, no one will actually enter heaven through it! That is simply because no one meets the qualifications posted thereon. As Romans 3:23 sadly says, “All have sinned.” Thus the law gate into heaven is closed, locked, and permanently sealed shut by the universality of sin. What makes this even sadder is the fact that so many human beings are actually lining up at this gate, futilely hoping to enter heaven thereby, because they are unaware that there is another gate—the one over which is written the word GRACE.

When we turn our attention to the grace gate, we see the sign posted on it, which explains the terms of entering heaven under the grace system. The grace sign says, in large letters, “KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS, BUT SUFFER THE PENALTY. BREAK THE COMMANDMENTS, BUT ESCAPE THE PENALTY.” This startles us at first, because it seems so odd; in fact, it seems unfair. But then we remember that grace by nature is the opposite of fair. What exactly does it mean, then?

The grace formula means that you do not enter the grace gate into heaven based on the record of what YOU have done, but based on what Jesus Christ has done. You see, the first line of the formula—“Keep the commandments, but suffer the penalty”—does not apply to you or to any other sinner; it applies only to Jesus Christ. Grace begins with Jesus. As a human being he kept his law-code commands perfectly (he was sinless), BUT he also suffered a penalty equivalent to eternity in hell in our place! The one who knew no sin was made to be sin on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21).

But that’s not all. The second part of the grace formula DOES apply to us law-breakers who are in Jesus Christ: “Break the commandments, but escape the penalty.” We have sinned, but God is not holding our sins against us! We enter heaven through the grace gate not because of our own righteousness, but because of Christ’s righteousness (i.e., his payment of the law’s penalty for us).

So here is the essence of grace. We are not under law; i.e., under the law system of salvation (Rom. 6:14, 15). We are not in the law line, thinking we will enter the law gate into heaven. That is hopeless and futile anyway, since the law gate is sealed by sin and NO ONE will enter through it. But we do not despair. In fact, we rejoice, because we as believers are under grace, i.e., under the grace system of salvation. We are in the grace line, knowing we will enter the grace gate into heaven because of Jesus Christ.

Saved by Grace #3 — DOUBLE CURSE, DOUBLE CURE

Posted on  by Jack Cottrell

The English word “grace” can be used in three ways. First, it can refer to the cause of salvation: it represents the aspect of God’s nature that causes him to love sinners and seek their salvation even though they do not deserve it. Second, “grace” can refer to the way of salvation: we are saved by the grace system (via the grace gate), as contrasted with the impotent law system (via the law gate).

The third way we use the word “grace” is this: it refers to the content of salvation, which we receive as a gift in the moment when we make the transition from lost to saved. In this sense grace is like a package we receive at conversion. What’s in this package? An old hymn (“Rock of Ages”) includes this prayer: “Be of sin the double cure: save me from its guilt and power.” (Another version says, “Save from wrath and make me pure.”) This “double cure” is the content of grace.

If grace is a double cure, then sin must inflict upon us a “double trouble” or a “double curse.” Two of the worst curses in life are serious debt and serious sickness, which often fall upon someone together as the result of a catastrophic illness. This has happened to every man and woman in a spiritual sense as the result of sin. Every sinner is under a double curse. How do we explain this?

First, sin makes us guilty. When we break God’s law, we become guilty sinners. This guilt puts us into debt to God: we OWE him the debt of eternal punishment in hell (Matt. 6:12: “Forgive us our debts”). This is the sinner’s most serious problem. It is like a slave owing his master millions of dollars—an unimaginable and unpayable sum (see Matt. 18:23-35).

Second, sin gives the sinner a sinful nature. It is like having a fatal illness of the body, only in this case the disease of sin affects the soul (i.e., the spirit, heart, or inner man). Sin is not just an act; it is a condition, a state of sinfulness or corruption or depravity (partial, not total). As Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” It is even called a state of spiritual death (Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13).

If I wanted to write this “double curse” up for a national gossip magazine (like The National Enquirer), I would give it this catchy title for the cover: “Preacher Confesses: I’m in Trouble with the Law, and I Have a Bad Disease!”

But this is not where the narrative ends. It’s time now for “the rest of the story,” as Christian broadcaster Paul Harvey used to say. The whole purpose of God’s grace is to counteract this double curse with a DOUBLE CURE! “Amazing grace” solves both aspects of the curse of sin.

First, to resolve the problem of guilt and punishment, God gives us the forgiveness of sins, or what the Bible often calls justification. We are “justified freely by his grace” (Rom. 3:24). God is “the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). This means that our “lawless deeds are forgiven,” and our “sins are covered” (Rom. 4:7). It means that God is not holding our sins against us (Rom. 4:8); he does not require us to pay him the debt we owe him, i.e., eternity in hell.

The reason the righteous God is able to do this is that he himself—in the second person of the Trinity, God the Son—became a human being and paid the debt for us! He took upon himself our penalty of God’s eternal wrath when he died for us on the cross. Thus we are “justified by his blood” (Rom. 5:9).

Justification thus means that in the moment of our conversion (i.e., our baptism), God’s attitude toward us instantaneously changes from wrath to grace (he already loved us, of course). He no longer looks at us as guilty, hell-bound sinners, but as his forgiven children. “Justification” is literally a legal term. It means that God in his role as Judge looks at us as defendants, and he addresses this legal declaration to us: “No penalty for you!” (See Romans 8:1.) And he continues to whisper this in our spiritual ear for as long as we hold on to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Our debt of punishment is gone, because Jesus paid it for us.

But that is just the first part of the double cure. In the second place, the grace of God resolves the problem of our spiritual sickness and restores us to spiritual wholeness. Here God is working on us in his role of Healer or Physician; indeed, he is performing “open-heart surgery” upon our souls. He is giving us a spiritual heart transplant: “And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

This direct operation on the heart is usually called regeneration (see Titus 3:5), but it is the same as being “born again” (John 3:3, 5), and being raised up from spiritual death to new spiritual life (Eph. 2:5-6; Col. 2:12-13). It is also a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). It is the spiritual equivalent of what doctors in old western movies used to mean when they said, “The fever broke.”

This moment of regeneration is caused by the renewing power of the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Ezek. 36:27; Acts 2:38; Titus 3:5; John 3:5). This instantaneous event is just the beginning of the life-long healing process usually called sanctification, which is empowered by the continuing indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:13; Eph. 3:16; 1 Thess. 5:23). The success of this process depends on our ongoing submission to and cooperation with the Spirit (Phil. 2:12-13).

So who are we now, or where do we stand now—now that we have received the double cure of grace? What is our Christian life all about? Two things: we are NOT in the process of trying to pay our debt to God, or trying to “make it up” to God, or trying to work off the consequences of our sins in some way. Justification means that “Jesus paid it all!” We are continuing to trust this promise. Also, we are in the process of getting well from a serious disease. This includes following the divine Doctor’s instructions on how to live so as to help facilitate this healing.

What happens when we die and meet God face to face? We will no doubt still have a residue of sin in our lives; we will not be perfectly healed yet. But this does not disqualify us from heaven! This is when God will make us completely well in our spirits; this is when our spirits will be “made perfect” (Heb. 12:23). The main point, though, is this: when we die and meet God, in the most important way we will still be the same as we are now! We will meet God 100% debt free! There will be nothing to pay – no penalty for us – EVER! This is the “blessed assurance” that grace gives us.


Saved by Grace #4 — SAVED BY GRACE, THROUGH JESUS CHRIST

Posted on  by Jack Cottrell

Romans 3:24-25 says, “We are all justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation—a sacrifice of atonement—through faith in his blood” (composite translation).

The only way to be saved from sin is by grace, and the only source of grace is what Jesus has done for us on the cross. Here we are seeking to understand exactly what Jesus was doing on the cross to make salvation by grace possible.

I. GRACE COMES BY JESUS CHRIST.

The general or generic meaning of the Greek word for grace (charis) is “a gift that brings joy,” so both charis and our English word “grace” can refer to gifts of different kinds. But the Bible is very clear that saving grace comes through Jesus Christ alone. “Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). “Be strong in the grace that is in Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:1). “We are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 15:11). “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Titus 2:11). See Romans 3:24; 5:15.

We must stress that Jesus is the ONLY source of saving grace. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Most religions have a concept of “salvation,” but none of them can truly save.
This is because sinners can be saved only by grace, and grace comes only through Jesus. Sects such as bhakti Hinduism and True Pure Land Buddhism CLAIM to provide a gracious salvation, but they are deceiving themselves and others. Grace is possible nowhere outside Christianity, because Christianity alone has the only true source of grace: the sinless divine Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

II. GRACE COMES BY THE CROSS OF JESUS CHRIST.

Why is Jesus different from other so-called “saviors,” such as some Buddha, or Krishna, or Mohammed, or Sun Moon, or Joseph Smith? What is there about Jesus that makes him the sole source of grace? Two things:

First, Jesus brings grace because of who he is. For one thing, he is the only sinless human being, and only a sinless human being can offer himself to suffer the penalty for sin deserved by someone else. For another thing, he alone is the divine Son of God, God the Son, God in the flesh. Only a divine being can offer himself to suffer the penalty for sin deserved by the whole world.

Second, Jesus brings grace because of what he has done. Remember: grace is not fair; it is even the opposite of fair. Under grace one does not get what he deserves, but rather its opposite. This is just as true of Jesus as it is of us. What did Christ deserve? The highest praise and honor; see Revelation 5:11-14. But what did he get? He got the CROSS! He did not deserve the cross, but we did! He was taking what WE deserve so that he can give us what HE deserves. See 2 Cor. 5:21.

How does the Bible describe what Jesus was doing on the cross? Here I will stress two things. First, the cross was our REDEMPTION (see Rom. 3:24). “To redeem” means to set free by paying a price, or in this case, by paying a DEBT that we owe. Sin puts us in debt to God (Matt. 6:12). We are under bondage or obligation to pay God the debt of eternal punishment in hell. Jesus redeems us by paying this debt for us. In his suffering, Jesus was experiencing the equivalent of eternity in hell for all mankind. He thus sets us free from the obligation of paying this debt. See Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 1:18-19.

Second, the cross was our PROPITIATION (Rom. 3:25). “To propitiate” means to turn away wrath by an offering. Because of our sin, we deserve God’s wrath and are justly condemned to suffer the consequences of this wrath for all eternity. But Jesus intervenes for us, and takes the wrath of God (which WE deserve) upon HIMSELF instead. He put himself in our place and allowed the Father to pour out his divine wrath upon him. This is how he is our propitiation. See 1 John 2:2; 4:10.

We cannot begin to understand what Jesus was going through on the cross. The physical torture of crucifixion was extreme in itself. But the spiritual (mental, emotional) suffering which accompanied Christ’s crucifixion was infinitely worse, given the fact that he was the sinless Son of God.

The cross of Christ, and his cross ALONE, allows God to be both just and the justifier of whoever trusts in him. See Romans 3:26.

III. GRACE COMES BY FAITH IN THE CROSS OF JESUS CHRIST.

The cross of Jesus Christ does not provide salvation for all sins automatically for all mankind. True, it automatically cancels out the consequences of Adam’s sin for everyone (Rom. 5:12-19), but our own personal, conscious sins will be forgiven only when we consciously accept Christ’s gift of redemption. Romans 3:25 (correctly translated, as in the NIV) declares that Christ is a propitiation “through FAITH in his BLOOD.” Saving faith must be this specific. See also Rom. 10:9-10.

The benefits of Christ’s propitiation are first applied to the sinner in Christian baptism, but only through faith. See Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12. We as Christians are acceptable to God NOW, at this very moment, not because of how good we are, but because we are still trusting in Jesus’s blood.

Why is this the only way? Actually, human pride would LIKE to think there could be another way besides grace, a way in which we could be seen as somehow deserving of salvation. But the cross will not allow it! Whenever you begin to think that you might deserve to be saved, just take another look at the cross: that’s what you deserve! “When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.” See Eph. 2:9; James 4:6.


Saved by Grace #5 — JUSTIFIED BY FAITH: THE KEY TO ASSURANCE

Posted on  by Jack Cottrell

The immediate practical benefit of understanding that we are saved by grace is that we have assurance of salvation. Assurance is not the same as “once saved, always saved.” It is a confidence in our present security in Jesus Christ. Ask yourself the question, “If I were to die right now, or Jesus were to return right now, would I be saved?” Assurance is being able to say “YES!” to this question, and every Christian should be able to do this, because of grace.

The problem is that many Christians do not have this assurance, because they do not understand what it means to be saved by grace. Even as they sing the old hymn, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!”, in their hearts they are thinking, “Maybe—I hope so—I’m not really sure!”

In this lesson we are trying to help these doubters get over their uncertainty. There is a specific way to do this. When I teach my seminary course on grace, on the first day of class I tell the students that I can sum up the whole course in one sentence: “A right understanding of justification by faith is the key to assurance of salvation.” Let’s see how this works.

I. ONE: There is just one way to know you are saved, and that is to know you ARE JUSTIFIED. As Paul says in Romans 5:1-2, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.”

In Lesson 3 above we explained the meaning of justification. It is the same as having the debt of penalty for your sins forgiven. It is a legal term. It refers to standing before the Judge of the universe in the divine courtroom and having him declare, “NO PENALTY FOR YOU!” This happens not only on the future Judgment Day. It is happening now, and will be happening throughout our lives as believers. This is why we have assurance of salvation. We know we are justified; we know our sins are forgiven. It is not a question of how good we are, but how forgiven we are. It is hearing God say, “No penalty for you! No condemnation for you (Rom. 8:1)! No hell for you! No fear for you!”

The next question is this: exactly what is the basis for this confidence?

II. TWO. There is just one way for a sinner to be justified, and that is BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST. As Paul says in Romans 5:9, we have “been justified by His blood.”

Actually, theoretically, there is another way one might be justified, namely, by the law system. Under law we could hear the Judge say “No penalty for you”— if we have never sinned. A totally innocent person would be justified because he is 100% good.

But in fact this will not work for us, because we have all sinned and come short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). We are sinners. The question then is: can God justify even a sinner? The answer is YES! See Romans 4:5: God justifies even the ungodly! This is the amazing thing about grace!

But on what basis can God justify sinners—forgive their penalty—when they actually deserve eternal punishment in hell? Because under grace God does not treat us as we deserve. Under grace we are not justified by our works (by being 100% good), but by grace—because we are 100% forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:24; 5:9).

Under grace, regarding the question, “Are you saved?”, the answer depends not on how good you are but on how powerful and efficacious the blood of Christ is. In lesson 4 above, we saw the answer to this question. We saw that Jesus’ death on the cross was a work of redemption, and a work of propitiation. Because of his sinless and divine nature, Jesus suffered the equivalent of eternity in hell for the whole human race. He has already paid the penalty for our sins.

So if we are under the blood of Jesus Christ, our sins are covered; they are in a sense “hidden” from God’s sight (Rom. 4:6-8). When God looks at us, our sins are hidden from his sight in the sense that he does not count them against us (2 Cor. 5:19). Thus he can say, “NO PENALTY FOR YOU!” He can treat me “just if I’d” [justified!] already spent eternity in hell and paid my penalty. [He does NOT treat me “just if I’d never sinned.”]

This leaves one more step in our quest for assurance:

III. THREE. There is just one way to be under the blood of Christ, and that is BY FAITH. As Paul says in Romans 3:28, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” That is why he says in Romans 5:1, “Having been justified BY FAITH, we have peace with God.”

Justifying faith includes two elements. One is called assent, because it is an act of the MIND as it gives assent to the truth of specific statements about Jesus and his salvation. It is what the Bible describes as “believing THAT” certain things are true. For example, John 20:31 says God has given you the testimony of Scripture “so that you may BELIEVE THAT Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” Also, Romans 10:9 says that if you “BELIEVE in your heart THAT God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

The other aspect of faith is called trust, because it is an act of the WILL as directed toward the person of Jesus Christ. In Biblical language, this trust is called “believing IN” and “believing ON” Jesus (e.g., John 3:16; Acts 16:31). It means entrusting our very eternal existence into Jesus’ hands, the way one trusts his health into a doctor’s care or her children into the hands of a babysitter.

To be justified by faith means that this faith in the saving works of Jesus (rather than faith in the worthiness of our own works) is the connection point in our lives into which the power line of justification is plugged. This is true in two steps.

First, we BEGIN to be justified BY FAITH, when we initially come under the blood of Christ in baptism. The Bible is clear that this connection with the blood of Christ begins in the moment of baptism (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12). But baptism is just the TIME we were first justified (forgiven), not the MEANS by which the justification is received. As Colossians 2:12 says, we were united with Christ “in baptism,” as the time; but it was “by faith” as the means. (Note: “by faith” is not the same as “as soon as you have faith.”) Even in baptism, what God is looking for is the faith in the sinner’s heart.

The second step is that, after baptism, we CONTINUE to be justified BY FAITH. We initially became justified by faith (in baptism), and we STAY justified by faith. We continue to live in a forgiven state, not because we do not sin, but because we are constantly trusting in the sin-covering blood of Jesus Christ. Failure to understand this point is a main reason why many lack assurance. I will discuss this further in the next lesson.

Saved by Grace #6 — GRACE VS. GALATIANISM

Posted on  by Jack Cottrell

In lesson five I said that many Christians lack assurance of salvation because they do not understand how “justification by faith” relates to STAYING saved, once one has become a Christian. It is important to distinguish between these two questions: (1) How does a sinner BECOME saved? and (2) How does a Christian STAY saved?

Many Christians, especially in the Restoration Movement, know how to answer the first question; but many are seriously confused about the second one. A common but faulty approach to this issue is often called Galatianism. It is called this because it is the false view of salvation that Paul is refuting in his letter to the Galatians. This false view—Galatianism—is summarized thus: a sinner becomes saved by grace, but stays saved by works.

An example of this view is someone whom many of us admire for many reasons, namely, Alexander Campbell. In a letter to “Paulinus” in 1827 he specifically said, “Sinners are justified by faith, and Christians by works.” He explained that in the final judgment, faith will not be accounted to anyone for righteousness; “every Christian will be justified by his works. Nothing else comes in review on the day of judgment” (The Christian Baptist, IV:10).

Such a view, like all versions of Galatianism, must be rejected as a denial of the Biblical teaching on justification by faith and thus as a denial of grace. To say we are justified by faith is not just a one-time event occurring at the beginning of our Christian life, but is an on-going state that keeps us saved in spite of our sins.

Unfortunately this Galatianist view has been accepted by many, especially in the Restoration Movement. Why have we been so vulnerable to it? Because several other of our favorite doctrines—also questionable—contribute to it. I will briefly explain three of them.

I. THE “FIVE-FINGER” SALVATION PLAN.

The Restoration Movement has had many versions of the five-point “plan of salvation,” some more Galatianist than others. A common one is that a person is saved by believing, repenting, confessing, being baptized, and living the Christian life. The problem with this is that it is usually presented as if all five of these actions are equally significant in “achieving” salvation. For example, we often see them illustrated as five equal steps in a staircase leading to eternal life.

Where we go wrong here is in the implication that the fifth step, “living the Christian life,” has the same significance for salvation as the other four. This is simply not the case; it is a perfect example of Galatianism. As often presented, in the first four steps we describe the way to BECOME saved, and the fifth step (living the Christian life) is explained as the way to STAY saved. We stay saved, then, by our works. Thus in our presentation of the plan we switch gears, changing from grace to law after the fourth step; and we thereby implant the notion of works-salvation in the convert’s heart from the very beginning of his or her Christian life.

If we are still going to use this five-step plan, the fifth step must be explained as qualitatively different from the others. Steps one through four are the essence of obeying the gospel, whereas “living the Christian life” is the essence of obeying our law code (i.e., it is “works of law). We should still stress faith, repentance, confession, and baptism as gospel or grace commands, and as the Biblical conditions for becoming saved (justified and born again). But we should stress that ongoing faith, repentance, and confession are the continuing conditions for staying saved. We should also make it clear that living the Christian life is the expected and consistent result of these things (a la Romans 6).

II. BAPTISM FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF PAST SINS ONLY.

Another false doctrine that opens the door to Galatianism is an old one, having arisen in the second century A.D. It is the belief that baptism does bring forgiveness of sins, but ONLY for the sins one has committed up to that point. This is a serious error, and it leads to all kinds of works-oriented attempts to deal with sins committed after the baptismal moment.

The earliest approach (later second century) was that there simply is NO forgiveness for post-baptismal sins. At the beginning of the third century, some (e.g., Tertullian) began to teach that God will accept one more episode of repentance, but it must be quite a sensational display. Ultimately the Roman Catholic Church, still believing that only past sins are forgiven in baptism, created the sacrament of penance (today, called reconciliation) as the way of dealing with post-baptismal sins.

This concept has not died out. The idea that in baptism one receives forgiveness only for sins previously committed is still present, especially in the Restoration Movement. A recent testimony in one of our Christian magazines, by a Restoration stalwart, said: “When I accepted and obeyed Christ, I was saved from my past sins.” My farming background has led me to call this “sheep-dip baptism.” For non-farmers we can call it “car-wash baptism.” All the dirt from the past is washed away. Now what do we do if (or rather, when) we sin again? Trying to answer this question almost always leads to a form of Galatianism. (See the next point.)

We can avoid this problem by seeing that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins, period. In baptism we enter a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. This relationship keeps us in the forgiven state. In baptism we are covered with the robe of Christ’s righteousness (Isaiah 61:10), which covers our filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Even though we are still sinners, we are forgiven sinners.

III. A WRONG UNDERSTANDING OF 1 JOHN 1:9.

In the Restoration Movement one of the most common roadblocks to assurance, and a common cause of Galatianism, is a faulty understanding of 1 John 1:9, which says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Assuming that baptism is for the forgiveness of past sins only, many have taken this verse to be the key to obtaining forgiveness for sins committed after baptism.

The result is a ritualized mini-penance. It goes like this: after having our slate wiped clean in baptism, it is assumed that every time we sin we literally fall from grace and become lost again. The only way to be forgiven of that sin and to become saved again is to repent for and confess that specific sin, and pray for its forgiveness. Thus a person is trapped in a revolving door, an endless cycle of saved/sin/lost/confession/saved/sin/lost/confession/saved, etc. This causes a person to live in fear that he or she will die while in the “lost” phase of the cycle. This is clearly an example of “staying saved by works.”

The error here is a failure to understand what it means to be justified by faith, apart from works of law (Rom. 3:28). It means we stay under the forgiving blood of Christ by continuing to trust in his redemptive works, not by how well we keep our law code (sinning or not). We wear his righteousness to cover up our unrighteousness. We live in a forgiven (justified) state, as long as we are sincerely trusting in Jesus as our Savior.

So what does 1 John 1:9 mean? It is not talking about the specific confession of specific sins as the condition for the forgiveness of those sins. The context (vv. 8, 10) shows that John is saying that we must have a constant realization and ongoing confession THAT we are sinners. We must never get to the point where we think that we are no longer sinners, like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable (Luke 18:9-14). We must be like the tax collector, who confessed no specific sins, but simply acknowledged THAT he was a sinner in need of God’s mercy. This is the man who went home forgiven, said Jesus.

(Confession of specific sins is part of the sanctification process, rather than a condition for justification.)

In conclusion, we must see that to continually trust in Jesus’ blood is to REST the burden of our sin and guilt upon him, as many of our old hymns say. E.g., “Resting in my Savior as my all in all, I’m standing on the promises of God.” This is a rest from worry, not a rest from work (see Rom. 6:1ff.; Gal. 5:6; Jas. 2:18ff.). When we are under Christ’s blood, it is not just our sins that are forgiven, but WE OURSELVES are FORGIVEN PERSONS.

Assurance of salvation depends on being free from the GUILT of sin, even though we are not yet free from sin itself. We want to be, and some day will be, free from both; but while we are working on the sin, God has already taken away the guilt and punishment through Jesus’ blood. We are not yet 100% good, but we are 100% forgiven. The latter is the basis of our assurance.


Saved by Grace #7 — JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, YET JUDGED BY WORKS?

Posted on  by Jack Cottrell

We have stressed, as does Paul, that sinners are justified by faith, apart from works of law (Rom. 3:28; 5:1). But the fact is that many Biblical texts specifically say or at least imply that we will all somehow be JUDGED BY WORKS. See for example 2 Chron. 6:30; Job 34:11; Prov. 24:12; Eccl. 12:13-14; Jer. 32:19; Ezek. 33:20; Matt. 12:37; 25:31ff.; Acts 10:34-35; Rom. 14:12; 1 Cor. 3:13; Eph. 6:8; Col. 3:25; James 2:18-26; Rev. 2:23; 20:12-13.

In addition to these, here are some I will quote: Psalm 62:12, “For You recompense a man according to his work.” Isa. 59:18, “According to their deeds, so He will repay.” Jer. 17:10, “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” Matt. 16:27, at his second coming Jesus “will then repay every man according to his deeds.” Rom. 2:6, God “will render to each person according to his deeds.” 2 Cor. 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” 1 Peter 1:17, God “impartially judges according to each one’s work.” Rev. 22:12, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”

How can we reconcile the teaching that we are justified by faith and not by works, with this abundant testimony that we will be judged by works?

I. FALSE ANSWERS TO THIS QUESTION.

One false answer to the question is that when Paul speaks of being justified by faith and not by works, by “works” he is referring to the Law of Moses only. This cannot be the case, though, since Paul’s use of the word “law,” in the crucial passage of Romans 1-5, is not limited to the Mosaic Law. Here he discusses law as it applies to Gentiles (e.g., 1:18-32; 2:14-15), and as it applies to Abraham (e.g., 4:1-5). The non-justifying “works of law” (Rom. 3:20, 28) include everyone’s responses to whatever law code he or she may be under.

Another false answer is the idea that the faith that justifies actually INCLUDES works as part of its very definition. Works are just a part of faith; thus to be judged by works IS to be judged by faith. This claim, however, is simply not so. It is based on a faulty assumption regarding lexical definitions, namely, that if the words for faith (e.g., pistis) according to some (not all) Greek lexicons sometimes means “works,” then whenever these words are used they must always include the connotation of works. This simply is not the way lexicons and lexical definitions work.

Another false answer is the Galatianism discussed in lesson six above, that we are indeed initially (at conversion) justified by faith; but once we become Christians we stay justified by works and are finally judged only by our works. We have already seen, however, that this view is contrary to the very essence of justification by faith.

II. HOW THEN CAN WE EXPLAIN THE “JUDGED BY WORKS” TEXTS?

There are definitely some valid senses in which human beings are judged by works, even though our final destinies are determined by our faith-relationship to Jesus Christ. Here I will summarize a few of them.

First of all, in the OT, sometimes the judgment of which the writers speak is not eternal judgment but earthly judgment, e.g., rewarding Israel for covenant faithfulness or pouring out wrath upon Israel’s enemies (e.g., 2 Chron. 6:28-31; Isa. 59:18).

Secondly, in the final judgment an examination of works is necessary to determine the DEGREE of rewards for individual believers. It seems there are degrees of punishment for the lost (Matt. 10:15; 11:22-24; Luke 10:12; 12:47-48; 20:47; John 19:11). Likewise the quantity and quality of believers’ works will determine the degree of their rewards (e.g., Matt. 5:19; 18:4; Luke 19:12-19; Jas. 3:1). This is especially evident in 1 Cor. 3:12-15, which says the fire of judgment “will test the quality of each man’s work.” Some believers will be rewarded, and some not. This also seems to be the point of 2 Cor. 5:10, which says that every believer will be recompensed for deeds done in this life, good and bad.

A third way works will enter into the final judgment is that they will be cited as EVIDENCE of the presence of faith. Justification is indeed by faith, but the faith that justifies is a faith that WORKS (Rom. 1:5; James 2:14-26). Works thus demonstrate the state of the heart, just as a tree is known by its fruit (Matt. 12:33). The fruit does not determine the kind of tree, but demonstrates it. Likewise our works are the evidence of the presence of faith: John 15:1-8; Gal. 5:6; Eph. 2:10; 1 Thess. 1:3; James 2:17-18.

One may wonder why it is necessary to survey the works of any individual in the judgment process, since the omniscient God already knows who truly has faith and who does not. This is in fact true; God himself does not need to review our works in order to know if faith is present. But the point of the review is not for God’s sake, but for the sake of others. The point of judgment by works is to demonstrate before all that God’s judgment is impartial, that he is no “respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34-35; Rom. 2:11; Eph. 6:8-9; Col. 3:25; 1 Peter 1:17). Judgment according to works thus demonstrates to all observers that God’s judgment is completely in accord with his word, that he is showing no favoritism or partiality.

Finally, judgment according to works is only one part of the final judgment. In fact, it is a preliminary process, and in itself it does not yield a final result. It is immediately followed by a second stage of judgment, which is the deciding factor of where each of us will spend eternity. We see this in Revelation 20:11-15, which pictures two stages of judgment.

First, the BOOKS are opened, and every person is “judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds” (v. 12). These “books” are either the books of God’s LAW (the law codes by which all will be judged), or the books that have recorded all of our deeds. The implication is that NO ONE is judged to be worthy of heaven based on what is written in the books, plural. But the final decision is not yet made.

The second and final phase of the judgment is then recorded in verse 15: “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the BOOK OF LIFE, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” What does this tell us? It tells us that our final destiny is not determined by what is written in the BOOKS, from which our works are judged. Rather, our final destiny is determined by whether our name is written in the BOOK, the book of life, “the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain” (Rev. 13:8). Only those who are trusting in Jesus’ blood will pass this final test, and only because they are trusting in Jesus.

If we know, going into the judgment, that we are saved (and this is the point of assurance), and if God knows, going into the judgment, who is saved and who is not, what is the point of having all of us, especially believers, go through this uncomfortable (to say the least) judgment of works, even our sinful works, according to the books? Here is a suggestion. As a result of this full disclosure and remembrance of our works at the very threshold of heaven, it will be made perfectly plain that the ONLY reason we are saved for eternity is because of God’s infinite grace and mercy. God’s own mercy is thereby glorified, and we will enter heaven with hearts that are overflowing with humility, gratitude, and praise to the Redeemer.

Saved by Grace #8 — SAVED BY GRACE, SAVED IN BAPTISM

Posted on  by Jack Cottrell

We are now ready to explain how baptism and grace are related. First, I will state several basic principles to keep in mind when studying baptism. (A) Every doctrine, including baptism, is based on Scripture first, not on experience. (B) We cannot draw our conclusions about the meaning of baptism from non-Biblical sources, such as the Latin word sacramentum (which often meant “oath, pledge, covenant”). (C) Christian baptism began on the Day of Pentecost. Thus we must not try to base our understanding of it on pre-Pentecostal practices, such as OT circumcision or John’s baptism. (D) There is only ONE BAPTISM, says Ephesians 4:5. Holy Spirit baptism and water baptism both apply to Christians, but they are not two separate events. They are the spiritual and the physical sides of a single baptismal event.

Finally, (E) Salvation as such is conditional, i.e., we receive salvation by meeting certain conditions. However, there are different KINDS of conditions. The main condition is faith, which is the sole MEANS (instrument, vehicle) by which the double cure of salvation is received: “By grace you have been saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). Baptism, on the other hand, is not just another condition for salvation, but another KIND of condition. Specifically, it is the TIME or occasion when God has said he will bestow grace upon the sinner; it is not the means of receiving salvation in the sense that faith is. Both faith and baptism are conditions for salvation, but faith is the means and baptism is the time. Please take care: do not equate condition with means, and do not confuse means and time.

Now we will briefly explore five basic NT texts that explain the meaning of baptism. For a fuller discussion of these and seven other such texts, see my book, Baptism: A Biblical Study (College Press, 2 ed., 2006).

ONE. MATTHEW 28:19-20. Four actions are specified in this Great Commission. The one main command is “Make disciples,” an action that is preceded by the aorist (past) participle, “having gone.” The means of making disciples is explained in two present participles: “baptizing them,” and “teaching them.” This activity began about ten days after this, on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38-42).

It is very important that Jesus has separated baptism from teaching. Baptism is set apart because it is one of the conditions for becoming a Christian, along with the conditions of faith, repentance, and confession. Baptism alone is mentioned here, because it is the only one of these four things that those carrying out the Great Commission (apostles, evangelists) can do; the others are done by the converts. The doing of these things constitutes what the Bible calls obeying the gospel (Rom. 10:16; 2 Thess. 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17). Then follows the second part of making disciples, i.e., teaching them to obey all that has been commanded. This refers to what Paul calls “works of law” (Rom. 3:20, 28; Gal. 2:16), or the “good works” of obedience to one’s law code, or living the Christian life. Many think baptism belongs in this second category, but Jesus has clearly set it apart from this one.

In his instruction to baptize, Jesus specifically says that sinners are to be baptized “into the name [eis to onoma] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This tells us much about the meaning of baptism. The phrase “into the name of” in Greek culture was a technical business term used to indicate the entry of a sum of money or a piece of property into the account bearing the name of its owner. As Jesus uses it here, he means that this act of baptism is the time when one enters into an ownership relation with the persons of the Trinity. Here we become God’s property, or slave (see Romans 6:15-23). From this point on we are seeking to fulfill our debt of obedience to our law code.

TWO. ACTS 2:38. This next text is set in the context of the beginning of the church, of the church age, of the New Covenant era. Peter has just preached the first gospel sermon (Acts 2:14-36), and his Jewish audience has come under deep conviction and is asking how to be set free from the guilt of their sin (2:37), which indicates that they had begun to believe the gospel. Peter instructs them to do two things: repent and be baptized. This audience would know what repentance is; this was a main part of the message of the OT prophets. They would also be familiar with a kind of baptism, given the ministry of John the Baptist. This baptism which Peter commands, however, was something new. Some in the audience had no doubt been baptized by John, but Peter said “each of you” must now receive Christian baptism. John’s baptism was not enough (see Acts 19:1-7).

What did Peter say will be the result of this new baptism? Two things, corresponding to the double cure of grace. One is forgiveness of sins, which is the same as justification, or hearing God the Judge declare, “No penalty for you!” The second is the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is the new way the Holy Spirit is present within believers, the way John and Jesus called being “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). “Baptism in the Spirit” does NOT refer to the gift of tongues (Acts 2:1ff.); it is equivalent to what the Bible calls the indwelling of the Spirit (Rom. 8:9-11), which is the source of the event called regeneration and of the ongoing process called sanctification.

In this text repentance and baptism cannot be separated; they are equal conditions for receiving the double cure of grace. Also, forgiveness and the indwelling of the Spirit cannot be separated. They are the two-fold essence of the saving grace received in baptism.

THREE. ROMANS 6:1-6. The context of this text also is very important. In Romans 1-5 Paul has just explained the BEST thing that has ever happened to us as Christians: we have been justified by faith in the redemptive works of Jesus, rather than by how well we have been able to respond to the commands of our law code (Rom. 3:28). This is part one of the double cure. Now, in Romans 6:1ff., the Apostle is explaining the SECOND best thing that has happened to us, namely, the second part of the double cure: we have undergone an inward spiritual change so radical that it can be described as no less than a death and a resurrection to new life. Why is this latter change so wonderful? Because it makes it possible for us to live a holy life, i.e., to obey all that Jesus has commanded us (Matt. 28:20)!

So how does Paul bring baptism into the discussion? He gently chastises the Romans for their ignorance of these important events: “Don’t you know what happened to you when you were baptized?” he asks (v. 3). In his explanation, he declares that one is baptized into Christ, i.e., into a union with Christ in his role as Redeemer. Specifically, one is baptized into His death, i.e., we have been buried with Him through baptism into death; and we are likewise united with him in his resurrection. This experience of salvation is unequivocally a result of being baptized.

Let us not yield to the temptation to blur the saving significance of baptism so clearly stated here. Note: Paul does not say we repented into Christ. He does not say we were buried with him through faith into death. The reference is to baptism. And let us not insult God by ignoring Ephesians 4:5 and saying (as one of my Calvinist professors at Westminster Seminary said), “There’s not a drop of water in Romans six!” That goes for the next text as well.

FOUR. COLOSSIANS 2:11-13. This text is similar to Romans 6 in that it speaks of the spiritual change in our hearts as being comparable to a death and a resurrection, a change made possible by our coming into union with Jesus Christ. Here Paul says that in that moment we were “buried with Him” and “also raised up with Him.” “He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions”! But exactly when did this wonderful “regeneration and renewing” (see Titus 3:5) take place? Here Paul says it more clearly than anywhere else in the NT. He says it happens “IN BAPTISM,” also adding the relative pronoun phrase, “IN WHICH.”

It is significant that in this same verse (v. 12) Paul uses both the phrase “in baptism” and the phrase “through faith.” We are buried and raised with him in baptism, but at the same time it is through faith. There is no paradox, no contradiction here. Baptism as the TIME of salvation is perfectly consistent with faith as the MEANS of receiving that salvation.

FIVE. 1 PETER 3:20-21. It is appropriate to close this brief study with Peter’s statement that, just as the water of The Flood saved Noah’s family by floating the ark, so also “baptism now saves you.” Let us be clear: the water of The Flood is the symbolic analogy; baptism is the REALITY. Peter does not say baptism is “symbolizing” anything. Rather, baptism is DOING something: it SAVES.

Peter does make it clear that this salvation is not being accomplished through the physical effects of the water, but through the sinner’s appeal or prayer to God for a good conscience. This is an indication of the sinner’s faith and repentance, in answer to which God bestows forgiveness and clears the sinner’s slate. But Peter goes even further to make it clear that the salvation given in baptism is not based on anything the sinner does. It happens only through the power of the redemptive work—the resurrection, in this case—of Jesus Christ.

These and other texts show that the Bible clearly teaches that we are saved by grace, but saved in baptism.


Saved by Grace #9 — IS BAPTISM A WORK?

Posted on  by Jack Cottrell

Many in the Christian world will vehemently reject just about everything I said in the previous lesson (part 8, “Saved by Grace, Saved in Baptism”). This is because they view baptism as a work, and believe that this automatically prevents baptism from having anything to do with salvation, since salvation is by grace. In this lesson I will show why this is false thinking.

Historically, for its first 1,500 years Christendom was nearly unanimous in its belief that water baptism is the moment of time when God initially bestows saving grace upon the sinner. This includes Martin Luther, who forcefully taught this view. He said, for example, that one is baptized so that he “may receive in the water the promised salvation” (“The Large Catechism,” IV.36). Luther saw no conflict between baptism for salvation and salvation by grace.

The Copernican Revolution regarding the meaning of baptism came with the Swiss Reformer, Huldreich Zwingli. In the years 1523-1525 Zwingli completely reworked the doctrine of baptism. He repudiated any connection between baptism and salvation, and invented a totally new approach to it. In essence, he declared that baptism is the exact NT equivalent to OT circumcision, and is thus just a sign of an already-existing membership in God’s covenant people. Zwingli of course knew this was a new view. He declared that “everyone before me has been wrong about baptism.” Most Protestants have adopted this new view; many have done so without being aware of its relatively recent origin.

Those Protestants today who reject baptism as a salvation event follow Zwingli on this: they believe that such a view contradicts salvation by grace. The argument is this: Premise 1: We are saved by grace through faith, NOT by works (Eph. 2:8-9). Premise 2: Baptism is a work. Conclusion: Therefore baptism can have no connection with salvation. Those who follow this argument rightly want to be true to the grace concept of salvation, but they have become Zwinglianized, i.e., deceived into thinking that embracing grace somehow requires giving up baptism as a salvation event.

How may we respond to this approach? Can we show that baptism as a salvation event is consistent with salvation by grace? YES! ABSOLUTELY! The question, then, is HOW can these two be reconciled? I will explain this in two steps, one following Luther and one following Paul!

I. LUTHER: BAPTISM IS A WORK, BUT IT IS NOT OUR WORK. IT IS GOD’S WORK.

This approach says that the controversial element in the Zwinglian revision is its second premise: “Baptism is a work.” Luther’s Zwinglian opponents challenged his adherence to the 1500-year consensus on baptism on this grounds. How can you say works are of no use for salvation, they asked him, and then say that baptism is for salvation? Is baptism itself not a work? What about faith? Here is Luther’s stated answer to this challenge (“Large Catechism,” IV.35): “To this you may answer: Yes, it is true that our works are of no use for salvation. Baptism, however is not our work but God’s . . . . God’s works are . . . necessary for salvation, and they do not exclude but rather demand faith.”

I have often used Luther’s excellent and Biblical reasoning on this issue. The fact is that every NT reference to baptism’s meaning depicts it as accomplishing something that only God can perform (e.g., forgiveness, regeneration, baptism in the Spirit, resurrection from spiritual death). The only one really working in baptism is God; we come to it simply with “faith in the working of God” (Col. 2:12). The one being baptized is passive, allowing something to be done TO himself or herself.

In the new Zwinglian view of baptism, God himself is doing NOTHING; the only significant work being done therein is by the one being baptized, for whom baptism is his or her response, commitment, expression, testimony, pledge, announcement, confirmation, or demonstration—all HUMAN works. In Scripture, though, NONE of these things is ever connected with baptism. The only things the baptized person is doing in baptism is believing (Col. 2:12) and praying (Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21)—both of which are indisputably consistent with grace. (The translation “pledge” in 1 Pet. 3:21 is wrong.)

But is not baptism really a “work” in the simple sense of “something we do”? Would this not make it a work in the sense of Eph. 2:9, which excludes works from the way of salvation? The answer is NO, this is a faulty approach to the works issue. To see why this is so, we must make sure we are DEFINING the term “works” in the proper Pauline sense.

II. PAUL: BAPTISM IS OBEDIENCE TO THE GOSPEL, NOT A WORK OF LAW.

I have concluded that the main reason people think baptism for salvation and salvation by grace are contradictory is that they are using the wrong definition of “works” as used in Eph. 2:8-9 and elsewhere in Paul’s writings. It is uncritically assumed that a “work” is simply “something WE do,” especially as opposed to something GOD does.

The fact is that “works” CAN be defined and used this way, as Jesus himself uses “works” language in John 6:26-29. But I have concluded on good evidence that this CANNOT be the sense of “works” as Paul uses the term, because this would put him in contradiction with Jesus in John 6:26-29. In this text Jesus uses “works” in the generic sense of “something we do,” and he applies this terminology to FAITH ITSELF. Thus FAITH is a work in the sense of “something we do.” But here is the kicker: Paul makes a clear distinction between faith and works (Rom. 3:27-28; 4:4-5; Eph. 2:8-9). This forces us to conclude that Paul must be using the term “works” in a different sense. It cannot mean simply “something we do.” For Paul, it must mean something more specific.

So what exactly DOES Paul mean when he uses the term “works”? Paul himself answer this question when he uses the more complete expression, “works of law” (as in Rom. 3:20, 28; Gal. 2:16; 3:2, 5, 10). When you examine his “works” language closely in context, you will see that he always means “works of law,” even when he says just “works” and does not add “of law.”

So what are “works of law” in Paul’s vocabulary? (Note that there are no articles in any of Paul’s uses of the phrase.) One thing he cannot mean is just the “Law of Moses,” because in the Romans context he is including the Gentiles and Abraham in the discussion. The bottom line is this: for Paul, a “work” or “work of law” is ANY deed (external or internal, sinful or righteous) done in response to the law code that God as Creator has bound upon us as creatures. (Romans 3:28 through 4:8 shows that even sins belong in this definition.) Positively (as good works), works of law are just our acts of everyday obedience to God’s teaching on how to live a holy life. They are acts of obedience to our law code. They are “living the Christian life.”

Now here is a crucial point: in Paul’s vocabulary, not all obedience to God is obedience to one’s law code; not all “things we do” are the creature’s response to God as Creator and his LAW commands. For Paul, some “things we do” are the sinner’s response to God our Savior’s GOSPEL commands, i.e., instructions to sinners on how to be saved. These are NOT “works of law,” but are “obedience to the gospel.” This latter is the expression Paul uses in Romans 10:16 (properly translated) and in 2 Thess. 1:8. When Paul is excluding “works” from the way of salvation, he is excluding “works of law,” not “obedience to the gospel.” The latter is fully consistent with grace.

What are the gospel commands directed toward sinners by God in his role as Savior, instructing sinners on how to receive salvation? (Whatever these are, they are NOT WORKS in Paul’s sense of the term!) Here I would list the first four fingers of the venerable “five-finger exercise”: faith, repentance, confession, and baptism. I would NOT include “living the Christian life,” which counts instead as works of law.

Baptism thus is NOT a work, in Paul’s sense and use of that term. He does NOT have baptism in mind when he writes Ephesians 2:8-9. Yes, baptism is “something we do” (just as faith is), but it is not something we do in response to a law command. “Be baptized” is a grace command, a gospel command. As an act of obedience to the gospel, baptism is just as consistent with grace as is faith.

Based on this Biblical analysis, it no longer makes any sense whatsoever to reject the Biblical view of baptism as a salvation event because of some alleged but unfounded contradiction with grace.

“Men and brethren, what shall we do?” We shall fully embrace both salvation by grace AND salvation in baptism, a la Luther and especially Paul. Also, we shall henceforth be honest and rational in our exegesis of NT teaching concerning baptism. Finally, we shall speak the truth in love regarding this subject of baptism. When we preach, teach, and write about baptism, we must be more concerned about what GOD thinks of our presentations than about what men think. “Let God be true though every one were a liar” (Rom. 3:4, ESV). Let God’s WORD be true, though every one were a liar. Let our PREACHING of God’s Word be true, though everyone else were a liar.

Saved by Grace #10 — SAVED BY GRACE, FOR GOOD WORKS

Posted on  by Jack Cottrell

I like to summarize salvation, using Eph. 2:8-10 and Col. 2:12, thus: we are saved BY GRACE, THROUGH FAITH, IN BAPTISM, FOR GOOD WORKS. Here we are examining the last phrase, “for good works” (Eph. 2:10). Good works are simply our everyday obedience to God’s law, i.e., being holy as God is holy, obeying our law code, living the Christian life, being good.

How do works (being good) fit into the salvation picture? Outside Christianity, and even for many within it, the general view is that we are saved BY works. (Paul wrote Romans 1-5 to combat this view.) On the other hand, many within Christendom have gone to the other extreme and have concluded that, since we are justified by faith, we don’t need to do good works. Thus we are saved FROM works. (Paul wrote Romans 6 to combat this view.)

The Biblical view is different from both of these extremes. As Eph. 2:10 says, we have been saved FOR good works. Understanding the difference between BY WORKS and FOR WORKS can make all the difference in the world for the Christian’s life and hope. Being justified by faith does not do away with works, but it causes us to see them in a totally new way. It enables us to say the following three things about works.

ONE: The word of LIBERATION: “I CAN do good works – because of grace.”

Until a person is saved, he or she cannot do good works. The second part of the “double curse” is that sin corrupts our hearts with spiritual sickness, even spiritual death (Jer. 17:9; Eph. 2:1, 5). This applies not necessarily to external obedience, but to the states of our hearts: attitudes, motives, goals.

But grace changes this. As our “double cure,” it not only resolves our legal problem of guilt and punishment, but also gives us a new nature that is in the process of being healed from sin-sickness. We have been given a new heart and a new spirit (Ezek. 36:26); we are new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17); “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph. 2:10). “His workmanship” is the work of regeneration and sanctification, accomplished mainly through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

It is because of the Spirit’s work within us that we CAN obey! It is “by the Spirit” that we put sin to death in our bodies (Rom. 8:13). God strengthens us with power through his Spirit working within our souls (Eph. 3:16). We work out the sanctification part of our salvation through God the Spirit, who is at work within us, helping us both to want to do good and to actually do it (Phil. 2:12-13).

Why do so many Christians still have trouble with sin? Because they have not yet learned how to use the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives! This is a tragedy, like Clark Kent living his whole life without knowing he was Superman! Don’t be like that: say, “I CAN DO GOOD WORKS, because God’s grace is working in me!”

TWO: The word of OBLIGATION: “I OUGHT to do good works – because of creation.”

Some think grace means that God’s commands are no longer binding on us, and that we do not really HAVE TO obey his law! After all, we are not under law, but under grace! Doesn’t Paul say that in Romans 6:14-15? Well, yes, but that is a serious misunderstanding of that text. Paul goes on to show in the verses that follow that even as Christians we are slaves to God and are therefore 100% obligated to obey every commandment of the law code that applies to us in this NT age.

Paul does not go into it here in Romans 6, but the ultimate basis for this obligation is the fact of creation. Everything—including us as persons—is God’s possession because he is the Creator (Psalm 24:1-2). We owe God the debt of obedience just because he is the Creator. Grace does not change this.

So what does Rom. 6:14-15 mean? It means we are not under the LAW SYSTEM as a WAY OF SALVATION. We are free from the requirement of perfect obedience as a way of getting to heaven. We are NOT, however, free from our law code as a WAY OF LIFE, as a binding code of conduct. We are still absolutely obligated to obey all of God’s commands that regulate our everyday life. Freedom from law is NOT freedom from obedience. Is this legalism? NO! As Edward Fudge has said, legalism is law-DEPENDING (depending on your obedience to save you). But we are talking about law-KEEPING, which simply means holiness. Jesus is not only our Savior; he is also our Lord.

So – “Do I HAVE to be good?” YES! “But do I have to be good as a way of getting into heaven?” NO! “So why should I care about being good?” First, because it’s the right thing to do, totally apart from any consideration of heaven or hell. But there is much more than this; there is another word that we must say about good works:

THREE: The word of MOTIVATION: “I WILL do good works—because of love.”

“OK, I can do good works. And OK, I ought to do good works. But will I?” Of course you will! How could you not? You are a Christian! You believe in Jesus! And FAITH WORKS (Gal. 5:6); that is its very nature. In fact, true faith not only works—it works HARD! It toils and labors.

Like English, Greek has two words for “work.” One is ordinary work (ergon; verb ergazomai); the other is LABOR (kopos; kopiaō). Both words are used for the Christian life; see 1 Cor. 15:58, which says we abound in the WORK of the Lord, since our LABOR is not in vain in him. Yes, we are willing to labor and toil for our Lord. As the old hymn “To the Work” says, “Toiling on, toiling on! Toiling on, toiling on! Let us hope, let us watch, and labor till the Master comes!”

But the question here is, what motivates the Christian to work so hard at fighting sin and being good? Those who think only in terms of law will say, we work in order to escape hell and go to heaven. OK, maybe we used to think that way, but grace changes this motivation. Remember: salvation by grace is a free gift (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9), and we cannot work for a gift (Rom. 4:4). Also, there is no hell for those who are in Jesus (Rom. 8:1). So why DO we labor for our Lord? BECAUSE OF LOVE—grateful love. Jesus says if we love him, we will keep his commands (John 14:15). Paul affirms that faith works through love (Gal. 5:6); our Christian life is a “labor of love” (1 Thess. 1:3). See 1 John 4:18-19: the more we love, the less we work out of fear.

Grace does not change our obligation (why we OUGHT to obey), but it changes our motivation (why we DO obey). We obey not in order TO BE saved, but because we ARE saved. We are saved not BY works, but FOR works. Obedience is not a “got to” thing; it is a “get to” thing. Our good works are not sin offerings; they are thank offerings. “Jesus paid it ALL”—not just a down-payment. “All to him I owe”—as a debt of gratitude.

Many preachers think that if they do not tie works to salvation, Christians will neglect their moral responsibilities and church duties. But we need to remember that there is no stronger motive than love. A parent will risk all and enter a burning building to save a child. A bride will work hard to look her loveliest for her groom. When you love someone, you cannot do enough for that person; that is the very essence of agapē. The other side of that coin is that you would rather do anything in the world than to hurt the one you love. And we need to remember: sin is a wound in the heart of God. Love and sin do not mix. We need to teach our people how to love God.

We also need to remember that we are justified by the blood of Christ; this means that our sins and imperfections are covered by his blood (Rom. 3:28; 4:6-8). We trust his atoning death to get us into heaven, not the record of our works. Let us stop focusing on and worrying about whether we are forgiven (which we are), and concentrate on our sanctification. Let us concentrate on pleasing God through good works, on striving to be holy as God is holy—because we LOVE GOD.

It boils down to this: good works are the result, not the cause, of our salvation. And: God does not save us because we are good, but we are good because God is saving us.

Saved by Grace #12 — LIVING BY GRACE

Posted on  by Jack Cottrell

Long ago I saw this comic strip: (Panel 1) – The boss bawls out his employee. (2) The employee goes home and hollers at his wife. (3) The wife yells at Junior. (4) Junior screams at the dog. (5) The dog growls at the goldfish. The scolding stops with the poor goldfish.

Here are two separate scenes of a little girl playing with her doll. Scene 1: The girl says to her doll, “You bad doll! You spilled your milk again! You’re no good for anything! Can’t you ever do anything right? Take that!” – as she slaps the doll on the side of its head. Scene 2: The girl says to her doll, “Oh, Dolly! You spilled your milk again! You must be more careful. There now, don’t cry; Mommy still loves you. Here, let me give you a big kiss!” – as she picks up the doll and hugs it.

What’s going on here? It’s simple: people tend to treat one another the way others have treated them. Why do the little girls treat their dolls so differently? Because they are acting out toward their dolls the way THEIR mothers have treated them.

This idea helps to explain what it means to “grow in grace” (2 Peter 3:18). How does one grow in grace? This is not talking about how we RECEIVE a greater quantity of grace each day. Actually, it is a command. Growing in grace is something WE must DO. So what does it mean? I am suggesting that to grow in grace means that every day we as Christians must strive harder to treat others the way God has treated us!

We have seen how God has saved us and blessed us with his grace. He has given to us the wonderful gifts of forgiveness and the indwelling Spirit. We have gratefully received these blessings of his grace. Now what does God expect of us? Very simply, he expects us to LIVE BY THE SPIRIT OF GRACE toward other people—to be gracious to them—to develop a lifestyle of grace.

We know the “golden rule”: do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matt. 7:12). Now here is a similar rule, the “gracious rule”: DO UNTO OTHERS AS GOD HAS DONE UNTO YOU! This gracious lifestyle is summed up in two words: GIVING and FORGIVING.

First, GRACE MEANS GIVING. The most basic meaning of the Greek word for grace, charis, is “a GIFT that brings joy.” Giving is the very essence of grace. That God is gracious means that he is a giver (see James 1:17). It is his nature to give, and his greatest gift is grace itself (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 6:23). We have accepted this gift gladly. Now what? How must we respond? As Jesus said in Matthew 10:8, “Freely you have received, freely give.”

What is the alternative to being a giver? That’s easy: being a TAKER. A taker is someone who is always interested in what he can get out of others, i.e., how he can take advantage of them or exploit them. This includes husbands who treat their wives as slaves, and spoiled children. It includes those with a “What’s in it for me?” attitude. It’s the person who thinks like a dog we once owned. We decided her philosophy of life was “Everything that exists is here for ME—either to eat or chew on.”

But if we are saved by grace, we cannot live like this! God wants us to be GIVERS. A skeptic once said, “I can’t stand this Christianity business. All I ever hear from them is “Give, give, give!’” The preacher to whom he was speaking answered, “That’s about the best description of Christianity I have ever heard!” But it is not just about money, of course. It is about one’s very heart or character. We must have a giving heart, a giving spirit. You can give a lot of money and still not be a giver.

We must work and pray for a giving heart. This will lead us to share our possessions with those in need (Luke 6:32-35). It will lead us to serve others with our talents and abilities (all of which are given to us by God—1 Cor. 4:7). It will prepare us to be ready to give in many ways: to give others the credit for work done, to give others the benefit of the doubt, to give them another chance. It will help us to accept people without making them earn it.

An old hymn says, “I would be giving, and forget the gift.” This is living by grace.

Second, GRACE MEANS FORGIVING. Are you a gracious person? Are you truly living by grace? The ultimate test of the gracious heart is this: how do you respond to people who have harmed you in some way? The response of grace is forgiveness.

Actually, nothing is more characteristic of grace than forgiveness. It is the greatest gift you can give. Forgiveness is the heart of the package of salvation God has given us: forgiveness of sins, remission of sins, justification. This is the way Jesus treated people, even his crucifiers: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). His manner is summed up in Isaiah 42:3 and Matt. 12:20, “A bruised reed he will not break.” Sinners are bruised reeds; they deserve to be broken off and discarded. WE are such bruised reeds, but Jesus is treating us with a forgiving heart, tenderly nursing us back to good spiritual health.

Now what? How must we respond? As the Apostle Paul specifically says, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32).

What is the alternative to being a forgiver? The answer is simple: being a BREAKER. I.e., when someone has hurt us, the common response is to desire to BREAK that person like a bruised reed: to strike back, to get even, to make him suffer or to cause him pain in some way. Let’s be honest. When someone harms us or our family, what is our first impulse? Do we not want to break the offender in some way—to punish “that dirty rat”? Maybe not with physical harm, but via harsh words, insults, ridicule, the “silent treatment,” or economic harm.

But here is where we must learn to LIVE BY GRACE. We must be forgivers, not breakers. “But they deserve my wrath!” Yes, perhaps so. But grace is the very opposite of treating people as they deserve. Isn’t that how God in his grace has treated us? This means that if someone has done us wrong or harmed us or ours, we will not continue to hold it against him or her, much less try to cause them overt pain. We will not want to hurt back or do things designed to “get even.”

Here is a very important point: being personally gracious and forgiving toward offenders does NOT rule out LEGAL justice when this is warranted and when it is rightfully administered by our justice system. Remember the two sides to God’s nature, i.e., holy wrath and loving grace. It is God’s desire and prerogative to punish evildoers, and he has appointed civil government for that very purpose (Rom. 13:1-4; 1 Peter 2:13-15). It is not wrong to want to see criminals punished. But God has appointed government to do that, and has forbidden us to take personal revenge (Rom. 12:14-21). In our role as Christians we represent the church, and the church’s job is to present the loving and forgiving side of God’s nature to the world. The government lives by justice; we as individual Christians live by grace.

The bottom line is that we as Christians have no choice but to forgive. The so-called Christian who makes no attempt to forgive does not really understand what Christ and Christianity are all about, and can make no claim to God’s grace (see Matthew 6:14-15). So let’s take 2 Peter 3:18 seriously, and seek to GROW IN GRACE. We can do this by giving up the spirit of taking and breaking, and developing the spirit of giving and forgiving.

Saved by Grace #13 — ORIGINAL SIN–OR ORIGINAL GRACE?

Posted on  by Jack Cottrell

What about babies—when they are conceived, while in the womb, at birth? Are they under law, or under grace? This question is actually raised and answered in Romans 5:12-19, where Adam’s sin is contrasted with Christ’s cross. The issue being settled here is simply this: which of these is stronger? Which prevails over the other?

At least since the time of Augustine (d. A.D. 430), the Christian world has tended to focus on what this text says about Adam more than what it says about Christ. Most see it as teaching the doctrine of ORIGINAL SIN. What does this phrase mean? It does not refer to an act, i.e., it does not refer to Adam and Eve’s first sin. “Original sin” means a condition, the spiritual condition in which children are conceived and born. How is this condition understood, and what does it have to do with Adam? In fact, IS there such a thing as “original sin”?

First, how do we know that this text is even referring to little children? Basically because of vv. 12-14. Here Paul says Adam’s sin causes all to die, “because ALL sinned” (aorist/past tense), EVEN “those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam.” The best understanding here is that the fact that sometimes even babies die is not because they sinned personally but because they sinned representatively in Adam in the Garden of Eden. (See my Commentary on Romans on these verses.)

Thus when Adam sinned, he was acting for all of us, as our representative. The question then is, how did this sin affect the entire human race? On a practical level, what is at stake here is the status of children when they are conceived and born. Do children come into existence in a state called “original sin”? Does the “death” brought upon all by Adam’s sin include spiritual and eternal death?

I. THE DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL SIN.

We will remember that sin causes two main problems (the “double curse”): the legal problem of guilt and condemnation to hell, and the spiritual condition of sinfulness or depravity. The earliest views of some form of original sin arose around A.D. 200, when some Christians began to believe that babies come into existence with a (partially) sinful, depraved nature. This view was later called “semi-Pelagianism,” and some still hold to it. (This was Alexander Campbell’s belief. See his Christian System, chapters 5-7.) It is a rather weak view of original sin.

It was Augustine who developed the full-fledged doctrine of original sin. He said babies come into existence not just partially depraved but TOTALLY depraved, meaning that they have no free will to accept any offer of salvation that might come to them later on. But that’s not all. He also said that babies come into existence bearing the full guilt and condemnation of Adam’s sin, and are thus bound for hell (unless they can be baptized). This complete doctrine of original sin was accepted by the major Reformers in the 16th century, and is still a central idea in Lutheranism and Calvinism.

This doctrine is tied in with Romans 5:12-19 because this text says all DIE because of Adam’s sin, and this “death” seems to include not just physical death but also spiritual death (total depravity) and eternal death (condemnation to hell). Verse 15 says that the one man’s sin brought death (of all kinds) to “the many.” (“Many” in this passage is not being contrasted with “all,” but with “one.” It refers to the entire human race.) Verse 16 says the one sin brought judgment and condemnation, which must refer to eternity in hell. Verse 17 says “death reigned” through the one man. Verse 18 says the one sin brought “condemnation to all men.” Verse 19 says that “through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners.”

The fact is that Paul does say that all these things are brought on the whole human race because of Adam’s sin! Now what? What is the solution to this horrendous legacy of Adam? Defenders of original sin have suggested two ways that infants can be set free from this condition. The first and earliest solution was INFANT BAPTISM. In fact, this is why infant baptism was originally introduced, at the same time as ideas of original sin arose (c. A.D. 200). Augustine solidified this view; it was adopted by Roman Catholicism and later by Lutherans. (Most others baptize babies for other reasons, as originated by Huldreich Zwingli in the 1520s, even if they believe in original sin.)

The second answer to setting babies free from original sin is found mainly in Calvinism, namely, PREDESTINATION. I.e., all those whom God unconditionally predestines to be saved will be delivered from original sin whenever God chooses to do so (unconnected with baptism).

Neither of these solutions is acceptable. For one thing, both of them offer just a partial solution to the problem of original sin: only SOME infants are baptized, and only SOME are predestined to be saved (in these views). But this simply does not do justice to what Paul is saying here ABOUT JESUS CHRIST, and his ORIGINAL GRACE.

II. THE DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL GRACE.

The doctrine of original sin as described above misses the whole point of Romans 5:12-19. True, Paul does say that death, condemnation, and sin come upon ALL HUMAN BEINGS because of Adam’s sin. But that is only part of what he says, and it is not even his main point. We need to focus on “the rest of the story” (as Paul Harvey used to say), which is this: The clear teaching of Romans 5:12-19 is that the one act of redemption by the one man Jesus Christ not only wipes away ALL the effects of Adam’s sin, but MUCH MORE (vv. 15, 17). Thus Paul is NOT teaching the doctrine of original sin, but rather what we may call THE DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL GRACE.

Paul’s point is simply this: WHATEVER came upon (or WOULD have come upon) the entire race as infants as a result of Adam’s sin, HAS BEEN REMOVED for the entire race as the result of the saving work of Jesus Christ and by the universal gift of saving grace. Thus when we think of the spiritual condition in which infants are conceived and born, we should think of them as being born NOT in original sin, but in the state of original grace.

The same verses in Romans 5 (vv. 15-19) that say all human beings got sin-consequences from Adam, say even more adamantly that all human beings got salvation-consequences from Christ. The latter completely cancel out the former. Verse 15 says all get death from Adam, but all get grace and the gift (of life) from Christ. (For babies who die, this is a guarantee of their future redemptive resurrection from the dead.) Verses 16 and 18 say all get condemnation from Adam, but all get justification from Christ. Verse 17 says all get death from Adam, but all get grace, righteousness, and life from Christ. Verse 19 says all are made sinners by Adam, but made righteous by Christ.

All of these blessings of original grace have been applied to all descendants of Adam, even from the beginning, even before the cross became an actual historical event. Were it not for God’s “predetermined plan” (Acts 2:23) to send Jesus to the cross, thanks to Adam all babies WOULD have come into existence in original sin: sinful, guilty, and condemned. But instead, because of Christ, all babies come into existence in the state of original grace: pure, free, and innocent. This is true of all babies, not just some supposed “elect” and not just those “baptized.” It is universal and automatic. (It does not result in universal salvation, since original grace erases only the results of ADAM’S sin, not the results of our own personal sins. Sins consciously committed can be removed only by grace consciously accepted when one hears the gospel.)

Here is how I think of babies and young children. When they come into existence, they enter into a world governed by law; but they themselves are wrapped in a cocoon of grace. As a result they are under the grace system, not the law system, until they reach the age of accountability. At that point the cocoon of grace dissolves, and the children are now responsible for their own personal sins and are under the law system. Now they need to hear and respond to the gospel to be saved from the consequences of their personal sins. If they accept the gospel they receive the gift of personal grace (the “much more” of vv. 15, 17).

To sum it up, the individual’s spiritual odyssey begins with a theoretical original sin, which is canceled by Christ’s original grace, which is (at the age of accountability) canceled by personal sin, which may then be covered by personal grace.

Saved by Grace #14 — Once in Grace, Always in Grace?

Posted on  by Jack Cottrell

“Once in grace, always in grace.” “Once saved, always saved.” “Eternal security.”

These three phrases all refer to the same idea, namely, that once a person has truly become saved, he or she can never become unsaved. Once you are saved, you can never lose your salvation. The first person to teach this doctrine was Augustine (d. A.D. 430). He said, for example, “But now to the saints predestined to the kingdom of God by God’s grace, … perseverance itself is bestowed; … so that by means of this gift they cannot help persevering” (“Treatise on Rebuke and Grace,” Works, 15:103). This teaching continues in all Calvinism and in most Baptist groups.

I believe this is not only a false doctrine, but a SERIOUS false doctrine, for several reasons. One, it can give weak Christians a false sense of security and make them lax in their Christian life. Two, it keeps Christians from recognizing clear signs of apostasy. Three, it causes confusion concerning the genuine Biblical teaching concerning assurance. Four, it causes confusion about the role of free will in the Christian life.

Thus in this lesson I will summarize the Biblical teaching that it IS POSSIBLE for a Christian to lose his salvation. I will do so by examining the three stages in the life of the prodigal son as set forth by Jesus in parabolic form (Luke 15:11-32).

I. First Stage: The Prodigal Is ALIVE IN HIS FATHER’S HOUSE.

This parable is not about evangelism. The prodigal is not first depicted as a lost sinner, but as a full son and heir of the father. In the third stage of his life, when he returned home, he became “alive AGAIN” (v. 24), indicating that in this first stage he represents Christians who are spiritually alive in the church. Here, like the pre-prodigal, we have the free-will choice to STAY in the Father’s house, or to LEAVE.

Referring to people who are already saved, the Bible makes it clear that staying saved is conditional. Here are a few texts that stress this conditionality by the use of the word “IF.” First, see John 15:1-10, especially v. 6. Here Jesus is speaking specifically to his apostles (the eleven). In v. 4 he exhorts them to “abide in Me.” This assumes they are already “in him,” i.e., in a saving relationship with him. But this is a command, indicating their responsibility to STAY in him. Then in v. 6 he says, “IF [note the IF] anyone does not abide [remain, stay] in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” Literally they are “thrown outside.” They WERE “inside,” but because of their choice not to abide in him, they are “thrown outside “—and burned. This is not just a loss of rewards (a la 1 Cor. 3:15), but the burning of the PERSON.

Another text showing conditionality is Romans 11:17-23. Here Paul says that Jews who refuse to believe in Jesus are like branches of an olive tree that are “broken off,” while Gentiles who believe are like wild olive branches that have been grafted into the domesticated tree (the church) and are saved. The lost Jews have experienced God’s severity, and the saved Gentiles have experienced his kindness. But then Paul warns these saved Gentiles that they will continue in their saved state “IF [note the ‘if’] you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off” (v. 22). This is a clear indication of the possibility that salvation can be lost.

Another “IF” text is 1 Cor. 15:1-2, where Paul says the Corinthians will be saved “IF you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.” Their present faith will become vain and useless for salvation IF they stop believing. See also Col. 1:21-23, where Paul tells the Colossian Christians they will experience future salvation “IF [note the ‘if’] indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel.”

We, like the prodigal, are presently ALIVE in the Father’s house. Here we will stay IF we continue to be submissive in faith. God will guard us and keep us, but only as long as we continue to believe. See 1 Peter 1:5: we are “protected by the power of God through faith.”

II. Second Stage: The Prodigal Is DEAD IN A FAR COUNTRY.

In salvation terms, when the prodigal was still in his Father’s house (the church), he was truly saved. When he chose to leave of his own free will, he became truly lost (vv. 13-16). This is equivalent not to a pre-evangelized state but to the fallen-away state. His inheritance is gone (vv. 13-14). He is separated from his father, in a FAR COUNTRY. He is spiritually dead (vv. 24, 32). Is he still his father’s son? Yes, but he is a DEAD son.

Just as the prodigal became dead in a far country, so the Bible speaks of the reality of a Christian’s falling from grace, falling away from the saved state into a state of lostness. Romans 11:22 speaks of Jews who once were part of God’s tree as “those who fell” when they refused to accept Jesus as their Messiah. In 1 Cor. 9:27 Paul speaks of the possibility of even himself becoming “disqualified” in the race toward heaven. The Greek word he uses is adokimos, which means “reprobate” (see Rom. 1:28; 2 Tim. 3:8). In Gal. 5:4 Paul speaks thus to the Judaizers: “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” They could not be SEVERED from Christ if they had not once been joined to him; they could not have FALLEN from grace if they had not once been standing in it. Second Peter chapter 2 compares certain false teachers with the “angels who fell” (v. 4), and says they have forsaken the right way and have gone astray (v. 15). See especially vv. 20-21.

The theme of the whole book of Hebrews is the possibility, danger, and foolishness of abandoning one’s faith in Christ. If such abandonment is not possible, the whole book is a sham. See especially 6:4-8, where those truly saved (vv. 4-5) are warned against falling away and needing to be renewed AGAIN to repentance (v. 6).

There is no doubt about it: a Christian who is once ALIVE in the Father’s house may become DEAD in the far country.

III. Third Stage: The Prodigal Is ALIVE AGAIN IN THE FATHER’S ARMS.

Again as a free-will choice, the prodigal is pictured as deciding to repent and return to his father’s household (vv. 18ff.). He was dead in the far country, but now he is ALIVE AGAIN (vv. 24, 32). This answers the question of whether one who falls away can ever return. It shows that this is indeed possible, and this is confirmed by Romans 11:23, which says that fallen ones will be grafted back into the tree AGAIN if they do not continue in unbelief.

Hebrews 6:4-6 teaches the same thing when it is properly translated. Here a common wrong translation unfortunately leaves the opposite impression. This wrong translation says it is impossible to bring the fallen back to repentance, BECAUSE or SINCE they have re-crucified and shamed Christ. These last words, however, are present participles, and should be translated WHILE or AS LONG AS they are re-crucifying and shaming Christ. If they stop doing these things, they can indeed be renewed to repentance.

We conclude that “once in grace, always in grace” is a false doctrine. It is indeed possible for a saved person to lose his or her salvation. But how does this happen? The key is the fact that we are justified BY FAITH. We BECOME justified by faith, and we STAY justified by faith. Thus we stay forgiven and saved as long as our faith in Jesus Christ and his atoning death remains alive. If our faith dies (see James 2:17), we become unsaved.

We can keep our faith alive by avoiding the three situations which may cause our faith to die. One is SUDDEN (SPIRITUAL) SUICIDE, in which a person deliberately renounces his faith in Jesus because of new circumstances in his or her life. This seems to be the decision being contemplated by the recipients of the Book of Hebrews. Second, faith may die through SLOW STARVATION of the soul, in which our neglect of spiritual disciplines and church life deprives our faith of the nourishment needed to keep it alive (see Acts 2:42). Finally we must not allow our faith to be STRANGLED BY SIN, as depicted by Jesus in Matt. 13:7, 22. After conversion, to “deliberately keep on sinning” (Heb. 10:26, NIV) will suck the life out of our faith (see Rom. 8:13).

Saved by Grace #14 — Once in Grace, Always in Grace?

Posted on  by Jack Cottrell

“Once in grace, always in grace.” “Once saved, always saved.” “Eternal security.”

These three phrases all refer to the same idea, namely, that once a person has truly become saved, he or she can never become unsaved. Once you are saved, you can never lose your salvation. The first person to teach this doctrine was Augustine (d. A.D. 430). He said, for example, “But now to the saints predestined to the kingdom of God by God’s grace, … perseverance itself is bestowed; … so that by means of this gift they cannot help persevering” (“Treatise on Rebuke and Grace,” Works, 15:103). This teaching continues in all Calvinism and in most Baptist groups.

I believe this is not only a false doctrine, but a SERIOUS false doctrine, for several reasons. One, it can give weak Christians a false sense of security and make them lax in their Christian life. Two, it keeps Christians from recognizing clear signs of apostasy. Three, it causes confusion concerning the genuine Biblical teaching concerning assurance. Four, it causes confusion about the role of free will in the Christian life.

Thus in this lesson I will summarize the Biblical teaching that it IS POSSIBLE for a Christian to lose his salvation. I will do so by examining the three stages in the life of the prodigal son as set forth by Jesus in parabolic form (Luke 15:11-32).

I. First Stage: The Prodigal Is ALIVE IN HIS FATHER’S HOUSE.

This parable is not about evangelism. The prodigal is not first depicted as a lost sinner, but as a full son and heir of the father. In the third stage of his life, when he returned home, he became “alive AGAIN” (v. 24), indicating that in this first stage he represents Christians who are spiritually alive in the church. Here, like the pre-prodigal, we have the free-will choice to STAY in the Father’s house, or to LEAVE.

Referring to people who are already saved, the Bible makes it clear that staying saved is conditional. Here are a few texts that stress this conditionality by the use of the word “IF.” First, see John 15:1-10, especially v. 6. Here Jesus is speaking specifically to his apostles (the eleven). In v. 4 he exhorts them to “abide in Me.” This assumes they are already “in him,” i.e., in a saving relationship with him. But this is a command, indicating their responsibility to STAY in him. Then in v. 6 he says, “IF [note the IF] anyone does not abide [remain, stay] in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” Literally they are “thrown outside.” They WERE “inside,” but because of their choice not to abide in him, they are “thrown outside “—and burned. This is not just a loss of rewards (a la 1 Cor. 3:15), but the burning of the PERSON.

Another text showing conditionality is Romans 11:17-23. Here Paul says that Jews who refuse to believe in Jesus are like branches of an olive tree that are “broken off,” while Gentiles who believe are like wild olive branches that have been grafted into the domesticated tree (the church) and are saved. The lost Jews have experienced God’s severity, and the saved Gentiles have experienced his kindness. But then Paul warns these saved Gentiles that they will continue in their saved state “IF [note the ‘if’] you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off” (v. 22). This is a clear indication of the possibility that salvation can be lost.

Another “IF” text is 1 Cor. 15:1-2, where Paul says the Corinthians will be saved “IF you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.” Their present faith will become vain and useless for salvation IF they stop believing. See also Col. 1:21-23, where Paul tells the Colossian Christians they will experience future salvation “IF [note the ‘if’] indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel.”

We, like the prodigal, are presently ALIVE in the Father’s house. Here we will stay IF we continue to be submissive in faith. God will guard us and keep us, but only as long as we continue to believe. See 1 Peter 1:5: we are “protected by the power of God through faith.”

II. Second Stage: The Prodigal Is DEAD IN A FAR COUNTRY.

In salvation terms, when the prodigal was still in his Father’s house (the church), he was truly saved. When he chose to leave of his own free will, he became truly lost (vv. 13-16). This is equivalent not to a pre-evangelized state but to the fallen-away state. His inheritance is gone (vv. 13-14). He is separated from his father, in a FAR COUNTRY. He is spiritually dead (vv. 24, 32). Is he still his father’s son? Yes, but he is a DEAD son.

Just as the prodigal became dead in a far country, so the Bible speaks of the reality of a Christian’s falling from grace, falling away from the saved state into a state of lostness. Romans 11:22 speaks of Jews who once were part of God’s tree as “those who fell” when they refused to accept Jesus as their Messiah. In 1 Cor. 9:27 Paul speaks of the possibility of even himself becoming “disqualified” in the race toward heaven. The Greek word he uses is adokimos, which means “reprobate” (see Rom. 1:28; 2 Tim. 3:8). In Gal. 5:4 Paul speaks thus to the Judaizers: “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” They could not be SEVERED from Christ if they had not once been joined to him; they could not have FALLEN from grace if they had not once been standing in it. Second Peter chapter 2 compares certain false teachers with the “angels who fell” (v. 4), and says they have forsaken the right way and have gone astray (v. 15). See especially vv. 20-21.

The theme of the whole book of Hebrews is the possibility, danger, and foolishness of abandoning one’s faith in Christ. If such abandonment is not possible, the whole book is a sham. See especially 6:4-8, where those truly saved (vv. 4-5) are warned against falling away and needing to be renewed AGAIN to repentance (v. 6).

There is no doubt about it: a Christian who is once ALIVE in the Father’s house may become DEAD in the far country.

III. Third Stage: The Prodigal Is ALIVE AGAIN IN THE FATHER’S ARMS.

Again as a free-will choice, the prodigal is pictured as deciding to repent and return to his father’s household (vv. 18ff.). He was dead in the far country, but now he is ALIVE AGAIN (vv. 24, 32). This answers the question of whether one who falls away can ever return. It shows that this is indeed possible, and this is confirmed by Romans 11:23, which says that fallen ones will be grafted back into the tree AGAIN if they do not continue in unbelief.

Hebrews 6:4-6 teaches the same thing when it is properly translated. Here a common wrong translation unfortunately leaves the opposite impression. This wrong translation says it is impossible to bring the fallen back to repentance, BECAUSE or SINCE they have re-crucified and shamed Christ. These last words, however, are present participles, and should be translated WHILE or AS LONG AS they are re-crucifying and shaming Christ. If they stop doing these things, they can indeed be renewed to repentance.

We conclude that “once in grace, always in grace” is a false doctrine. It is indeed possible for a saved person to lose his or her salvation. But how does this happen? The key is the fact that we are justified BY FAITH. We BECOME justified by faith, and we STAY justified by faith. Thus we stay forgiven and saved as long as our faith in Jesus Christ and his atoning death remains alive. If our faith dies (see James 2:17), we become unsaved.

We can keep our faith alive by avoiding the three situations which may cause our faith to die. One is SUDDEN (SPIRITUAL) SUICIDE, in which a person deliberately renounces his faith in Jesus because of new circumstances in his or her life. This seems to be the decision being contemplated by the recipients of the Book of Hebrews. Second, faith may die through SLOW STARVATION of the soul, in which our neglect of spiritual disciplines and church life deprives our faith of the nourishment needed to keep it alive (see Acts 2:42). Finally we must not allow our faith to be STRANGLED BY SIN, as depicted by Jesus in Matt. 13:7, 22. After conversion, to “deliberately keep on sinning” (Heb. 10:26, NIV) will suck the life out of our faith (see Rom. 8:13).

We can keep our faith alive by avoiding the three situations which may cause our faith to die. One is SUDDEN (SPIRITUAL) SUICIDE, in which a person deliberately renounces his faith in Jesus because of new circumstances in his or her life. This seems to be the decision being contemplated by the recipients of the Book of Hebrews. Second, faith may die through SLOW STARVATION of the soul, in which our neglect of spiritual disciplines and church life deprives our faith of the nourishment needed to keep it alive (see Acts 2:42). Finally we must not allow our faith to be STRANGLED BY SIN, as depicted by Jesus in Matt. 13:7, 22. After conversion, to “deliberately keep on sinning” (Heb. 10:26, NIV) will suck the life out of our faith (see Rom. 8:13).

GRACE DISTINCTIONS #10

Posted on  by Jack Cottrell

HERE IS THE LAST INSTALLMENT IN THIS SERIES ON GRACE:

GRACE DISTINCTIONS #10– by Jack Cottrell

X. LAW’S COMMANDS SATISFIED, or LAW’S PENALTY SATISFIED? The issue here is this: of all that Jesus did while he was on earth, exactly what part of that is transferred (imputed) to us as “the righteousness of God”? Here we must distinguish between Jesus’s satisfaction of the law’s COMMANDS, and his satisfaction of its PENALTY. We have described righteousness (as used in the context of grace) as satisfaction of the requirements of the law. We have said that God the Son as Jesus of Nazareth “acted out” this righteousness for us. I.e., he satisfied the requirements of the law for us, and this is given to us as a gift and counted as our own.

The question is, in what ways did Jesus “satisfy the requirements of the law,” and how was this transferred to us? There is considerable confusion and misunderstanding here, so we must spell it out carefully.

Jesus satisfied the requirements of the law in two distinct ways. First, he was sinless, i.e., he perfectly obeyed all the COMMANDS of the law under which he lived as a human being (mainly the Law of Moses). This is called his active obedience or active righteousness. Many believe that this “righteousness of God” is transferred (imputed) to believing sinners as the basis for their justification before God. Jesus’s record of perfect obedience is transferred to our account, and God counts it as ours and considers us to be righteous. This is a very widespread belief.

This, however, is WRONG. For one thing, the perfect obedience of Jesus was no more than he, the man, already owed to God as a human being living under the law code of the Mosaic Law. He had nothing “left over,” so to speak, to share with anyone else. (This is a conclusion based on Luke 17:7-10.) Even as a perfect human being Jesus was an “unprofitable servant.”

Another reason why it is wrong to think that Jesus’ perfect obedience is the “righteousness of God” imputed to sinners is that the Bible says (Rom. 5:18) that “one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” ONE ACT of righteousness! This would be not his perfect life, but his CRUCIFIXION, the one act in which Jesus was satisfying the requirement of the law FOR PENALTY for the entire human race! This is called Jesus’s passive obedience or passive righteousness—and THIS IS ALL THE RIGHTEOUSNESS WE NEED for justification before God!

It is this passive righteousness alone that is the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel, and the righteousness of God that is imputed to sinners and on the basis of which God justifies us. Because Jesus on the cross submitted himself to the infinite wrath of God in our place, when this “one act” is applied to us, we are justified. The meaning of justification is this: God as Judge looks at us and declares, “No penalty for you!” (See Rom. 8:1.) That is all we need for justification.

Jesus did indeed satisfy the law’s commands perfectly, and also the law’s eternal penalty. But he did the former for himself, to maintain his own righteousness. Then as a perfect man as well as the infinite God incarnate, he satisfied the law’s eternal penalty in our place, as our substitute, thus enabling the righteous God to justify us while maintaining his own righteousness (Rom. 3:26; 2 Cor. 5:21).