Hallmarks of a Ministerial Hack

hack. [very common]. 1. n. Originally, a quick job that produces what is needed, but not well.

The Christian Bible has a lot to say about false teachers and misleading prophets, from the snake in the Garden all the way to the False Prophet that represents the Beast Power spoken of in the book of Revelation. They are everywhere, but always disguised in religious garb—wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Paul: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.” (1 Tim 4:1-2)

John: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.” (1 Jn 4:1; 2:18)

Peter: “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies…many will follow their shameful way and bring the way of truth into disrepute.” (2 Pet 2:1-2)

Jude: “These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead.” (Jud 1:12)

Believers are warned to watch out for such distorted teachings and those through which they come. Some will heed this warning. Others will think their church and ministers are all right and that the problem is in other churches, to their own deception and rejection. Official ministries have been set up to finger the cults and deceptive teachers, but rarely do they include themselves in such review, though we all naturally distort everything we touch. So, how can anyone know what is right and what is not?

There are several key marks, that cannot be disguised, which help identify faithful ministers from false leaders, but the revelation is a two-way illumination. It is not enough to just see these marks. The observer must also be informed by the Spirit of God to be able to see them for what they are. Those whose consciences have been seared, cannot recognize these marks in themselves or in others—they have been divinely blinded into thinking they are just fine as they are.

The easy approach that most will choose—that broad path that leads to destruction—is to just claim that they are on the right side and refuse to allow any question or doubt to deter their belief in their own guarantees for salvation. Just say, “I accept and believe in Jesus”, and your ticket to eternity is punched. Entire theologies have been erected to formalize language that helps such people believe that they cannot lose out, that they are assured salvation, no matter what they do, no matter how disobedient they may continue to be, no matter that their specific name is never mentioned in Scripture as being guaranteed simply because they want it to be.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21)

A humble Christian will know of this and approach their own assessment and the observation of what is being taught by others with what the Bible says is required in order to be granted the wisdom of spiritual discernment. That key, that absolute necessity to be able to see truth from error, begins with the fear of the Lord.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Pro 1:7)

Perhaps the first mark of a ministerial hack—a false minister or a deceived believer—is a rejection of the need for expressing and maintaining a healthy and biblical fear of the Lord. God speaks against those who say they believe in him, but don’t show this quality, by saying, “should you not tremble at my word”, and as Jesus put it: do not fear man who can only kill the body, but God can destroy you in far greater detail, so fear him!

“…and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander…but these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand…and like beasts they too will perish.” (2 Pet 2:10-12)

Such misleading teachers have been scarred from all sensitivity. They project attitudes of superiority, often with strong conviction and lots of Bible quotes, but absent of any caution when representing the Living God.

All humans, including baptized believers in Christ, retain a sinful human condition (or nature) that is being transformed, but is not yet completed this side of Jesus’ return. That means that every one of us needs to acknowledge our inherent sinfulness, that is forgiven and covered by the blood of Christ, but is not yet removed and changed. In other words, we can still be like Peter’s dogs that return to their vomit.

Deceivers will reject such a possibility. That is one of their hallmarks. They will reject the belief of Paul that after serving in ministry, he could still be disqualified. They will teach ideas that dismiss the need for such fear of the Lord. They will change the meaning of fear to just “awe”, or “respect”, but ridicule any need for repentance or (as Jude worded it) having “qualms”.

The writer of Hebrews warns believers not to misunderstand the nature of God, just because the method of approach appears to be so much more gentle than that experienced by ancient Israel. Back in the day, those people were scared spit-less as God taught them specifically to fear him and be very careful to follow every detail of his words. For Christians, however, we come in “joyful assembly” and in so doing can easily mistake this change of approach as a change of God. Rather the text concludes

“See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven…for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12: 18-29)

Teachings that dismiss or ignore promoting the continued need for expressing a fear of the Lord, are a hallmark of false ministers. Even the above text is often dismissed as not applying to Christians because it warns about fear of judgment for not listening to what God says and not obeying. The preferred idea is that Christians are guaranteed salvation, so no warnings should be listened to. If you hear such things, you are being shown an identifying mark—what you do about it will determine your own personal belief about the need for the fear of the Lord.

Perhaps the second, and most damning, mark of a ministerial hack involves teachings that shift the focus away from the supremacy and centrality of Christ: “They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.” (2 Pet 2:1). Or, as John worded it:

“but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist”. (1 Jn 4:3)

Acknowledging Christ is not accomplished by just referencing him, which many false teachers still do, but about promoting him as Sovereign Lord over everything, even over how we interpret Scripture. The common teaching about predestination–which is about individual names that have been identified by God before creation to be guaranteed salvation–is a classic example of this distortion away from Christ. In both Romans and Ephesians, the two letters that actually use the word predestination, they speak about the glorious plan of God that he established from the very beginning to bring everything under Jesus, for him, and through him. The entire idea of predestination is about God’s plan through Christ–it is not about individual names guaranteed salvation. The plan puts the focus on Christ and the purposed will of God, whereas the false teaching puts the focus on the individual.

“So that in everything, he might have the supremacy” (Col 1:18)

If you are hearing ideas that put the individual at the front, rather than sustaining Christ as the focus, then it is probably a false teaching, or is mixed with deception. The popular teaching to “come as you are”, should be “come accept who He is, rather than maintaining who you are”. Humans are not supposed to be the focus; Jesus is! If you are hearing teachings that put angels, aliens, politics, morality, social justice or anything else ahead of bringing every interpretation and practice to the centrality of Christ, then it is a huge flag and should probably be avoided.

Those who promote the belief that a believer must atone for their own sins committed after they have been baptized, turn the attention away from the completely sufficient sacrifice of Christ and onto the efforts of individuals. That is an example of a false teaching, and it can be spotted by measuring its focus.

Surprising as it might be to hear, there are entire denominations that shift the focus away from the primary supremacy of Christ and toward the Holy Spirit. That too is a false teaching, for though the Spirit certainly is worthy of our praise, our worship is supposed to be focused on the centrality of Jesus according to the will of the Father. God wants the glory to put Jesus front and center in everything. Those who think they have the Spirit, or even emphasize God the Father, but don’t keep their focus on the Son, “don’t have either” (1 Jn 2:23).

One of the most dominant deceptions that infected the early church in this way, involved turning believers away from focusing on Christ and toward observing the Old Covenant Law along with their profession of faith. Those who claim to be Christian and promote such ideas, the Bible declares, are “alienated from Christ”.

To those who mix that Law into Christian practice, the Holy Spirit has pronounced a double curse: “may they be eternally condemned”. Jesus is our legal standard now. It is by following his words, and by submitting to the Spirit of Christ, that we find guidance for our lives, not by returning to “weak and beggarly principles”.

Those who teach that Christians must still observe the Sabbath Day, practice circumcision, live by the 10 Commandments, avoid unclean meats, tithe a tenth of earnings, or any other command found in the Mosaic Law, which was not taught by Jesus or his first apostles upon believers, are shifting their focus away from Christ. This still happens all over within the church today, fulfilling the prophecy that “many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.”

Perhaps the third common mark of a ministerial hack is the replacement of active faith. It seems unthinkable that any teacher would dismiss the need for faith in a Christian, but what they often mean when speaking of faith is only part of what the Bible says.

Scripture uses the term faith to speak of both the claim of belief in Jesus as well as the expression of trust in what cannot be seen. Profession and expression are two different references about faith in Scripture, but certainly related. The former is what is being referred to when the Bible says that some have come to faith, abandoned the faith, or shipwrecked their faith—that is speaking about their profession rather than their expression. In other words, such people have accepted or turned away from Christianity (even though they may well still be attending church, preaching from the Bible, or thinking they are saved).

False teachers don’t tend to attack the profession of faith. That would be too obvious. Rather, it is this latter expression of faith that is often replaced. Their theologies will introduce heresies that secretly or subtly shift a believer away from needing to step forward with faith. Beliefs that promote guarantees of salvation upon a person’s profession of faith, rather than on the evidence of Christ, end up replacing an ongoing dependence of trusting in Jesus with doctrines of assurance.

Both Old and New Testament writers record that “the righteous will life by faith”, which is a revelation about expression, not profession. In other words, those that God considers righteous are not those who simply claim faith in Jesus, or who belong to the right church, or who have accepted the Lord by word and baptism; rather, those who are righteous will actually live and act out their faith by expressing what they believe through obedience and trust per the words of God. It is this living expression of faith that false teachers will undermine with ideas that salvation is guaranteed to those who simply profess faith.

Those who accept such teachings will claim their assurance guarantee based on their professed denominational-doctrine, rather than on the promise of Jesus for those who continue to hold to his teachings, which requires human participation. The former doesn’t need to express faith, because it has replaced it with a law of doctrine. The latter completely depends on Jesus following through for those who endure to the end by how they live, act, think, and mature.

The popular idea that if you obey, God will materially bless you, is an example of this distorted teaching. We are commanded to obey, but such obedience, does not earn or cause us to get what we desire. No one, not even the pious, is guaranteed while in this life to be healed, or to get wealthy, or to escape suffering. Those were promises under the Old Covenant, but Christians have a new covenant connection to God, and cause-and-effect produce very different outward results in a Christian than in an ancient Israelite. If you prefer what was offered to Israel, you cannot have what is offered through Christ, which is said to be much more glorious beyond comparison.

Expressing faith requires that a believer act in ways that demonstrate that they trust Jesus, which false teachers will denounce as “works of men”. The very thing the Bible commands—that without expressing faith, it is impossible to please God—has become something detestable to many professing Christians, because these deceptive teachers have repackaged the biblical requirement for living by our faith as if it is something dirty and wrong.

It is one of the main hallmarks of a ministerial hack to teach things that replace the need for expressing life-long faith in what has yet to be completed. “The righteous will live by their faith”, rather than just profess it, while claiming an iron-clad guarantee of assurance that no longer needs to trust humbly in Christ completing what he has promised to those who demonstrate that they love him.

Through the prophets, God made it painfully clear that even if he gave an individual a specific, personal, promised guarantee of eternal life as a righteous man, but then in the end, he didn’t maintain living with righteous faith, then God would reject that promise and “he will surely not live” (Eze 33:13). To this revealed truth, the text tells us how false ministers will respond, by saying: “The way of the Lord is not just”. But God says it is their ways and teachings that are false.

As noted earlier, the entire predestination concept is one of those twists that put the emphasis on doctrinal claims of individual guarantees and away from submitting to and trusting in the continued grace of God. Not only is the focus off, it replaces the need for expressing a faith that doesn’t have any other natural explanation or proof.

The individual name-guarantee has replaced the faith of promise. The references that God called Sampson, Jeremiah, and possibly Paul “from the womb”, is often ignored as being something unique, and rather taught as proof that God didn’t just identify them before birth for ministry, but rather that they, and thus every human, have been identified before birth for salvation. Of course, all those references speak about select ministry and not about pre-birth identification for guaranteed salvation, which is why Paul himself stated about running the race for the crown of salvation:

“No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Cor 9:27)

Faith is no longer needed if a person has a guaranteed contract. A promise to enter the stadium for the big game takes a degree of trust; whereas, when a person holds a ticket, they don’t need faith to be let in, since they are holding their guarantee. That is the problem with such teachings—they claim a profession of faith, without any continued dependence upon expressing faith.

Perhaps a fourth major hallmark of a ministerial hack is that they look and sound more like a Christian than Christ. Sounds weird, and that may be why it is not recognized as an identifying mark, but God has chosen the weak of the world to confound the mighty. Those weak, believe it or not, look and sound weak. It is those who sound so polished, educated, talented, amazing, and good that confuse the sheep in being able to recognize the true shepherd.

It is a lesson of sport fishing and hunting. Fashion the lure to look and move exactly like what the target fish wants to eat, and the fisherman will have a significantly better chance of hooking a big one. Tweet on the cow call or bird reed, with just the right inflection, and the target animal will come charging in to where the disguised hunter lies in wait. As the Proverb goes, “How useless to spread a net where every bird can see it!”

We are warned that even Satan goes about disguised as a good angel, and you can bet that he doesn’t do so with a disheveled costume. Undoubtedly, he looks, sounds, and acts perfectly convincing. That is one of the key marks. If it looks too good to be true, then don’t assume you will be skilled enough to see under the fur. That is the point. They say everything so well.

It is not by our skilled observation that we can tell the difference. It will only be possible to spot by the revelation of the Spirit, along with the by-product fruit of their teachings and life, which often takes time and repeated measurings to recognize what may not be manifested until the last moment, and long after we have become comfortably attached.

They will preach Jesus, but it will be “a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached”. Paul admitted that he was not an educated public speaker, like many of the other ministers that had risen to the top of the pile within the early church:

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” (2 Cor 11:1-15)

Don’t expect the popular to be among the faithful—that would be rare indeed. Don’t expect the powerful or dominant over large and successful ministries to be among the weak that God has chosen—it is possible, but not likely. Don’t think that the charismatic and friendly are automatically trustworthy, for the abusive know that candy and a smile is a powerful drug. Jesus warned his little flock of followers not to follow the crowd, when the cry goes out, “here he is”, or “he is over there”.

If the minister and his teachings are comfortable (like it will always work out well for you); naturally preferable (like grandma is in heaven smiling down on you); full of stand-alone biblical references, passages, and quotes from God, that do not agree with the overall word of God (like when Satan quoted Scripture to try and get Jesus to follow him); create environments that resemble theme-parks, great family reunions, and active clubs for every age and desire (we have it all in this church); then be warned. God is not likely giving you something attractive to follow, rather he is warning you that Satan is offering you poisoned treats for the here-and-now.

True ministry will resemble less of the magnificence of the stones and gold of the Temple, and more of the shame and disgrace of the Cross. We must go out of the city walls and join Christ in his shame, taking up our cross daily, or we will not be accepted as belonging to him. While on this earth, our Lord had nothing physically that would attract us to him, and in like manner, so ministers will have little to naturally draw us to them or to their ministry.

What we ought to look for in ministry is faithfulness to the word of God, the gospel, as it was originally taught by those God identified as teachers of the foundation to Christianity. We desperately need to sustain the focus on Jesus in everything we think, belief, and do. We ought to look for those living with a fear of the Lord and an emphasis on enduring and expressing faith as a demonstration of our faith. Look for those who reflect the Cross more than tout the achievements of their ministry.

The hallmarks of a faithful Christian will be the evidence of a transformed nature away from the desires and preferences of this life and increasingly toward submitting to living by every word of Scripture. Their lives will reflect love, faith, and grace as they acknowledge truth whenever it shows itself. In turn, they will follow Scripture’s requirement to “contend for the faith once for all given to the saints”, by identifying what is in line with Christ and what is showing evidence of distortion away from the fullness of the gospel. Such believers will put a premium on what the original apostles taught, and subordinate subsequent doctrines invented by later leaders in the church.

Ultimately, the greatest hallmark of a Christian will be the display of Christ—the “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me”—Not a different Jesus of human crafted theologies, but the biblically revealed Lord who delights to work through the marginal, rejected, obscure, weak, and naturally-challenged.

What do the marks of your life, beliefs, and associations indicate about your identity? Many will claim to know him, but by their actions, Scripture says, they will actually deny him—the very opposite of what they say about themselves and about those they supported (Tit:1:16). Our doctrines, church memberships, and our convictions do not save us. Only Jesus saves.

Do you prefer the hallmark channel, or the marks of suffering? It is a straight and narrow path, and few there be that find it.

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The Notorious Nephilim

Many like to spread the sordid tale of demonic spirits in the days of Noah that allegedly had sex with women and produced powerful demi-gods that caused God to bring the Flood on the earth.

Like Greek Mythology, the references to Nephilim cited in Scripture, are interpreted by sensationalists as evidence of an entirely new species of being.

The belief is that evil angels decided to have sex with women and produced super-babies that made God angry, so he caused the earth to flood and only saved Noah, his family and pairs of all animals. Men don’t have babies, so this entire myth is about women being taken over by invisible spirits and somehow impregnated. This was a common type of belief throughout history that women in pagan temples were capable of having intimate relations with the god of that religion and could produce extraordinary offspring. Such a pagan story was likely very popular as a cover-up for these women being temple prostitutes and the inevitable children that come from such immorality–tell everyone that their babies are god-babies, and now it is acceptable, because no one wants to anger that god from doing whatever they want.

The excuse that this was Satan’s attempt at dirtying the line of humanity leading up to Christ is absurd, since there is nothing more dirty than sin which was already deeply embedded in humanity and for which Jesus was already crucified from the foundation of the earth to resolve this known dirt. Demonic offspring is not something worse than sin. And, sin was allowed in the line of Jesus, so dirtying the line is nonsense, because dirt can’t contaminate Jesus; rather, whatever he touches, becomes clean before God.

In reality, this idea is a replacement theology that undermines the uniqueness of the Virgin Birth. It is a lie taught by demons to deceive Christians away from the miracle of Jesus. The amazing event we celebrate at Christmas of the virgin birth of Jesus through Mary by the “overshadowing” of the Holy Spirit, is rejected as a unique miracle by those who promote this distorted idea of Nephilim as offspring of demons and women. In other words, Jesus was nothing special, because Satan already caused lots of spirit caused human births through women back in the days of Noah.

As Scripture declares about deceived teachers in the Church, “and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will”.

Those who are interested in what Scripture is likely referring to when addressing the Nephilim, stay tuned.

Nephilim are mentioned twice in scripture, the first as a declaration of existence (pre-flood) and the second time as a claim of comparison (post-flood).

“The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.” (Gen 6:4)

“We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Nu 13:33)

The latter was principally a statement of fear from the Israelites, that physically tall people existed in the land that compared to stories that had been passed down from pre-flood days. If you have ever played the “telephone” game with kids, you know that fear stories take on a life of their own when passed from person to person, and seldom can be relied upon as accurate records of original truth.

If this belief–not about Spirit-babies, but about descendants from Nephilim living during the time of Israel–is true (and both verses indicate that they exist on both sides of the Flood), then there is only one way for that to have passed through the flood–someone was on that boat with Noah. With regard to the devotion of Noah, it is not likely that this could apply to him, his wife, or their children. However, it is easily possible for it to apply to one of the wives of his sons. That woman could have been the offspring of an illicit marriage between a descendant of Seth and someone not devoted to God. That would put such a woman in that in-between zone and would convey the lineage of those known as Nephilim beyond the flood and into the people known as Anakites. However it occurred, the reference is a strong indication that these people were not all wiped out with the great flood, and still influence the lineage of humanity. This would mean that the idea of preventing the “dirtying of the line” is irrelevant, because it remained in the human line, just like sin remains throughout humanity.

With that said, the first biblical reference is the most reliable for forming a belief regarding what the Nephilim really were. Note, there is absolutely no hint of spirits, sex, or some new race of half-humans (someone to replace the idea of the “new man in Christ”).

One method of review is to consider the immediate context. The second approach is to consider how it fits (or doesn’t) with the rest of scripture. In other words, what is it really saying in this passage, and then what are the implications—because if the proposed theory conflicts with scripture, then it is wrong. Although this approach may get us closer to the truth, I acknowledge that God may not yet provide us with sufficient clues to grasp the exact meaning (although, in this case, I think the evidence strongly leans in one direction).

The immediate context in effect states that mankind had expanded in several ways that over the generations had demonstrated the wickedness of mankind to such a degree that God found in necessary to destroy all but Noah’s family. This is how I understand the intent of this passage. Most Christians accept this overall understanding. The difference comes in what exactly was God saying by recording the features regarding what were called Nephilim.

Perhaps we can take a look at several key phrases:

“Men began to increase in number” – The passage emphasizes that physical numbers had increased, and that this was somehow impacting the circumstances of God’s conclusion, which begins in verse 5. God told man not to gather together in cities, but to spread out, and in several later references He talks about the increasing “fullness of sin” over groups of people. This truth is easily seen throughout history like when some infectious disease spreads through large groups as compared to those more spread out.

“Sons of God”- Some modern teachers will try to overemphasis their ideas by misrepresenting the truth. Some will claim that in the OT every time this phrase is used it applies to angels (like in Job 1:6), but that is not exactly correct. First of all this passage with regard to the Nephilim talks about men several times and nowhere says angels or spirits. God even laments that he is done with his Spirit striving with “men” not angels or angel-men and not with Nephilim (as if they were something other than descendants of Adam and Eve).

In the first two of three references in Job, when the Sons of God come before God and Satan shows up, Satan is not included in this group (which he would be if it involved fallen angels). This may involve angels, but it may instead involve believers “giving account” through the Spirit of God – like Job – during which the “accuser of the brethren” shows up. Also, in Daniel, “one like the Son of God” is observed in the fiery furnace. This clearly refers to one in right relationship with God and prophetically represents Jesus (the Son of God) who saves us from certain destruction from our sins in a fiery Hell. It does not emphasize angelic spirit, but representation of God. Even the demons repeatedly give Jesus the title of Son of God rather than applying it to themselves. Heb 1:5 clearly quotes the OT on this topic that God himself never called an angel “son”. This title is reserved specifically for Jesus and for those who are supposed to reflect the will of God as a child of God. Those familiar with the Christmas story will recall that when the physical lineage of Jesus is cited, it ends with “Adam, the son of God”, a human, and not an angel.

Some suggest that this phrase only refers to those who are direct created beings from the hand of God, unlike descendants of Adam who are born in a natural way; but, if that is the case then God would not declare believers to be adopted as “sons.” This is what God declares regarding humans and not angels, “he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Eph 1:5). The truth is that if God causes “fallen” men to be declared “sons” today, then it is no surprise that the same would have been possible for his “chosen” leading up to the days of Noah.

“Men…and daughters were born to them”; “Saw that the daughters of men were beautiful and they married any of them they chose” –

This reference to men is in contrast to Sons of God, but not by introducing a new being, but rather as a reference to the differences in relation to God. Some had an open door to God through the blessing of Seth (God extends both blessings and curses to descendants), but even with that blessing, they began making choices based on physical attributes and not based on relationship connection with God (this is the same truth as recorded in 2 Cor 6:14 about not being unequally yoked with an unbeliever, including in marriage).

“Not contend with man forever” – This whole issue is addressing Gods displeasure with mankind and specifically with those who should know better because of their heritage and training. Nowhere does it even hint that God is upset with man because angels tried to “dirty” the lineage of the Savior.

“Nephilim” – Although it is common to interpret this word as physical giants, that is not necessarily the context or the original usage (although some modern teachers will tend to skip this part). It almost seems silly to say this, but big people don’t cause more sin. However, influential people do!

The root word is “nephal” which means “he fell”. The idea is about turning away from God. The Septuagint translates the original with “gigantes,” which literally means “earth-born”. We get our word giant from this, but that was not the original usage. In other words the nephilim were “fallen earth-born men with the animal and devilish mind,” according to Adam Clark. Those who think “fallen” ones only refer to angels, don’t understand the desperate predicament of mankind, let alone the context which has absolutely no mention of spirits at all—only mankind and God.

“Mighty men which were of old, men of renown” – As earlier stated, influential people like powerful, skilled and charismatic leaders can sway mass crowds to follow their bidding. Every culture in history has demonstrated the intoxicating influence of religious leaders—individuals who have a form of religion, but use it for evil. In the book of Revelation, it is the False Prophet that so deceives the masses that Jesus says that if he didn’t intervene, that even the elect would be led astray.

In spite of Satan’s influence, mans problems are his own and can’t be blamed on “bad genes”. God holds mankind responsible for his own choices. Nephilim might be more comparable to the concept of “nominal Christian”, “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, “apostate”, “anti-Christ”, “false believer”, and “backslider”.

The implications of this angel-man union hearken more to the pagan religions of the ancient world where mighty men like Hercules and Achilles supposedly came from, or where people were encourage to let their daughters serve as temple prostitutes so the gods would be kind to their crops. To imply that this is supported in scripture as something that actually happens when there is absolutely no evidence of angels procreating is simply a propagation of paganistic beliefs. Shockingly, I heard one preacher state that because there are so many mythological stories that promote such an idea, that the legends of the Ancient Greeks embody the truth about spirit/human procreation. Clearly he has bought into the lie propagated by Satan over the millennia in order to deceive and mislead; Scripture, not mythology or popularity, embodies truth!

As an expansion on the earlier comments regarding Seth, I believe the Nephilim probably are descendants of his line through Enosh, from whom it is said, “At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord” (Gen 4:26). It is an observation at this point, but I think it is reasonable to view a comparison to the pattern of descendants of Abraham. God called Abraham, who had two sons, God passed his blessing down through only one, Isaac. Isaac had two sons, and the blessing was passed down through Jacob and not through Esau. Jacob had twelve sons and God chose to pass the blessing of his choice regarding who would be identified as his own people through all twelve. Over time, it became evident that in spite of them being considered the select children of God, most chose to go their own way rather than follow God. Jesus, who came through this lineage, again establishes a clear line of blessing.

It is likely that this pattern was similar back in the time of Enosh. God established a lineage of people who maintained a relationship with him beginning first with one man, in the heart-likeness of Abel, and eventually through multiple descendants until an entire group of people would have developed.  His Spirit dwelled in them in such a way that it manifested divine power in a way that produced “heroes” much like it did through later prophets like Sampson. In a very similar way as Sampson, they knew they represented God as “sons of God,” but instead of remaining pure in their lineage of faith, they chose to “marry any of them they chose.” They chose the “Delilah’s” of their day who descended from those men who did not have the Spirit of God. God then selected a type of the Savior Jesus, in the person Noah, to continue a clear line of blessing.

This is why God would say that his “Spirit will not contend with man forever”—speaking of his own representatives, rather than just those living in the spirit of Cain. In other words, this reason for the flood is because those who should have known better, and who belonged to God as his people, and who had the Holy Spirit, were turning away from their devoted obedience to remaining sanctified and pure before God by keeping their sensual desires limited within the boundaries of those women who also believed and were of the holy line. God was not willing to allow his Spirit to contend within those with whom they should have done what God wanted and not what they naturally desired. (Sounds familiar for Christians too, doesn’t it: “marry whomever they choose, so long as they belong to the Lord”).

Just as God began to remove his Spirit’s presence from Israelite descendants, as they adulterated themselves with foreign women, so God began to restrict the Spirit in his representatives from the line of Seth, starting first by limiting their life span to 120 years on average. The fact that scripture says that the evidence of the qualities common to the Nephilim were repeated in some manner “and also afterward,” indicates that the dramatic power of the Spirit was passed down for a time through the line of Noah beyond the flood. This residual effect, of the impact of the Spirit causing dramatic things through a person well after the specific event, is recorded in the glowing face of Moses, and in the speaking-in-tongues and miraculous public healings witnessed in the early church.

With regard to procreation, it is amazing how often the ideas surrounding Nephilim involve angels. The bible repeatedly makes it clear that beings only reproduce “after their kind” (Gen 1:12, 24). Dogs only produce dogs, fish produce fish, Oak trees produce Oaks, and humans can only reproduce humans. There has never been any evidence that denies the truth of this created boundary—angels cannot have intercourse with humans and produce anything! Scripture all tells us that angels were not designed for marital relationships (Mt 22:30). For those who believe that “not marry” is somehow different from “intercourse;” I suggest they review how God designed for a marriage covenant to be formed as repeatedly recorded in the OT. To reinforce this point, we read that when the Nephilim “went to the daughters of men” they “had children by them.” To imply, as many do, that these were fallen angels that were attempting to “dirty” the eventual lineage of Christ is absurd because it denies scripture. All beings only reproduce after their own kind.

This applies to God as well.

An important distinction should be made here, in spite of being created in the image of God, humans are not God, nor can they reproduce God. God, on the other hand, can procreate “sons of God” through intimacy of the Holy Spirit. As part of the Christmas story, we are told that God the Holy Spirit “over-shadowed” the human woman named Mary, who remained a virgin because this was not actual intercourse, and her subsequent child was God the Son as well as human. As a result of a created potential to be of a similar “kind,” believers have their spirit filled with the Holy Spirit and are born-again as sons of God while also still remaining human, after the likeness of Jesus.

When believers are “born-again”, it is as a result of the Spirit of God transforming the “spirit of man” which was in some way made in the “image of God”, by which, unlike any animal which also breathes air, God “breathed” life into him—something unique in all of creation and not in the likeness of angels. It is not a function of creation or will by which spirit can cause human birth into something new; rather, it is purely by divine “right”.

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (Jn 1:12-13)

Satan does not have that right or ability to cause life to develop through a human. Those who teach such garbage are promoting things taught by demons and that appeal to the sensual lusts of human fascination, not something real or true.

As Job says, “what is man that you make so much of him? (Job 7:17). Believers are called sons of God their Father (Mt 5:45), but this is not ever spoken in regards to angels, because only believers can fulfill what was intended by having made man in the image of God (Heb 1).

Notice that the Nephilim and “daughters of men” were said to have reproduced children of men, not children of the more notable label Nephilim. The identity was that of humanity. In quite the opposite manner with God, the Spirit joins with our spirits and reproduces the dominate likeness of God, not the likeness of other human spirits. The identity for believers is that of Jesus, the Son of God. The identity for those who are sons of God, but live more like Nephilim, will be just as it was for the original ones in the time of Noah’s flood, absolute destruction.

This is not to suggest that “fallen” angels don’t have any culpability from the days of Noah. We are instructed today that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12). So it likely was back then, that demons will be held responsible for their influence on the events and choices of men like alluded to in 2 Pet 2:4-5 and Jud 6-8. God will hold all of creation responsible for their contributions. As a result, mankind cannot claim to be the victim of angelic causation in their sin, let alone in their “procreation” outside of the guidelines of God. Men only procreate men after their kind; and, deceitful angels will be held accountable for their part in influencing men to turn away from the will of God.

God alone creates life. He gives that ability only to those he chooses who submit to his authority and who restrain that power within the boundaries he has established. Demons can’t create life, either on their own, or through sex with women. This limitation is what Eve referred to when she prophesied about the very first human birth:

“With the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a man”. (Gen 4:1)

The language used in Gen 6 is directed specifically at those men who should have known better and practiced what was right before God as a result of the “contending” Spirit of God in them and not to the rest of humanity and not to demons.

“First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this coming he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2Pet 3:3-7).

Either you will believe what you want, or you will submit to accepting what honors God. You have a choice, and you will be given the chance to explain why you believed what you did, and why you taught others what you did.

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The Mountain and The Law–Stating the Obvious

In my neck-of-the-woods, there is a common reference that all the locals know. Whenever someone who has spent any length of time in Washington State hears the reference, “the Mountain”, they instantly know to what the speaker is referring.

We have many beautiful mountains here, often glistening white with glaciers and snow, but they are typically spoken of by using their name. There is only one, that deserves the shortened label of “the Mountain”, and everyone here knows which one that is. Outsiders, will not be familiar with this, because it is by common acceptance that those who know this mountain which towers above all others in this area, know that it is the only thing meant by the shortened label. There is no other mountain implied.

Whenever the question is asked, “Did you see the Mountain this morning”, all locals know that the question is about Mount Rainier.

This is the exact same thing the writers of Scripture do when referring to “The Law”. Those who were familiar with the context, would be in no doubt about the reference. Everyone familiar with what the speaker was familiar with would immediately know that they meant the Mosaic Law, also termed the Old Covenant Law, and the Jewish Law, and the Law given to Ancient Israel.

There was no confusion about what the speaker meant when referencing “The Law”. It always referred to that one, very familiar law. The Apostle Paul often uses this shortened phrase, because as he stated: “I am speaking to those who know the Law.” There was no doubt about the specific reference. The Law only and always meant The Old Covenant Law given by God, through Angels, to Moses, for the ancient people of Israel.

Outsiders would not understand this. They could easily think that Scripture was speaking about laws in general, or about legal systems, or about all statements in the form of commands. But that would be in error. The Law only meant one thing, and all those familiar with the territory would know exactly what the writer was saying.

The key to recognizing the meaning behind shortened labels is getting to know the locals. When someone speaks about Dad, it should be recognized that they are specifically referring to their own father and not anyone else’s dad. When someone says, “I’ll meet you at church”, it should be clear that the speaker and the intended hearer would be familiar with which church location, because it would be common to their experience. When someone comments about the President, or the King, or the teacher, they are not giving general references; the context will demonstrate the obvious reference to whomever is President to that group at that moment, or their specific King, or the teacher of their common class.

Since the Protestant Reformation, this reality has somehow been missed.

Those who wrote commentaries and taught in their newly minted congregations out of books like the Letter to the Romans, often added their own foreign context to the shortened label. When the Bible spoke about “The Law”, they tended to expand the meaning. What was meant to refer specifically to the Old Covenant, became statements that could be used to apply to any legal system or commanded obligation.

When Scripture declares that Christians are no longer under Law, but under Grace, the new idea became that believer were no longer under any legal obligation before God. When it says we have been set free from the Law, these teachers shifted the locally-familiar meaning to include being set free from needing to follow any form of law. In this way indulgences, penance, authority, and even taxes could be resisted, in the name of Scripture.

This is how the concept of legalism entered Christian theology. It is commonly assumed that legalism is some bad thing, something that ought to be cautioned against, something that actually exists, but it was manufactured out of a misunderstanding about “The Law”.

God doesn’t address legalism in Scripture. The entire concept is man-made, a straw-man theory that has been set up in the minds of believers as something that should be avoided and attacked at all cost.

Whenever a person reads a passage, like forgive your brother or you will not be forgiven, the command is often softened into just advice and not something legally expected upon a believer who desires to be saved. If a person suggests that it is necessary to do what God says, or to be concerned about warnings cited in Scripture to believers, they are very often rebuked as a legalist.

In fact, I heard a pastor tell the men at a Bible study that “the 10 Commandments were just more like Fatherly advice”. Another teaching elder stated that “anyone who tries to obey the words of Jesus is just a legalist”.

But the locals know better. They all know the voice of their Shepherd and are not misled by foreign ideas. They know that when the Bible says, “The Law”, that it is referencing the Mosaic Law that had dominated the landscape of that day and those early converts to Christianity.

Those locals of the Kingdom of God also know that Paul made a clear distinction about what he meant when saying that believers are no longer under Law, but Grace. Christians are not under the Jewish Law, but by the grace of God we are under the legal boundaries of “Christ’s Law”.

“To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.” (1 Cor 9:20-21)

Have you seen The Mountain today?

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Buried Alive in Baptism

Death by water submersion is a strange way to live.

The Christian practice of water baptism confuses many, and understandably so. It is not a normal practice. It is one of those rituals cloaked in mystery and spiritual activity, and thus is often misunderstood, distorted, or blindly practiced in order to be on the safe side.

At a Pentecostal church, I heard an elder teach his audience that there are at least five different baptisms cited in Scripture. At another country Bible church, I heard they take Paul’s comment that God had called him to preach and “not to baptize”, as a change to New Covenant practice (rather than a reference to the primary focus of his specific ministry), so they refuse to get baptized, as if it had become an outdated and inappropriate practice.

Some believers get dunked. Others get sprinkled. Others have these done do them while still infants. Some wait until their final breath to get “absolved” by their priest, so as to avoid the chance of committing a fatal sin after having been baptized. To many, the practice is limited to that wet-work moment of immersion, as their way of identifying with the death and burial of Christ. Baptism then becomes a past event, an act of faithful expression of belief and willing participation in Christ; a limited anchor point of personal history, without any ongoing aspect. Because of the fear regarding human works, many Protestants believe that baptism is important but not salvific.

There are a lot of weird ideas and practices floating around about baptism.

There are several biblically revealed keys to understanding baptism, if one desires to hear the word of God.

  1. Baptism is an act by which believers openly demonstrate their acceptance of God
  2. Baptism is a commanded requirement for Christian faith
  3. There is only ONE baptism
  4. Baptism combines a human response, with a divine cause
  5. The physical act of baptism is mystical, but not magical
  6. Baptism requires faith
  7. Baptism is the connection between initial knowledge of Christ and internalized maturity of knowing and being known by Christ
  8. Baptism is practiced by body immersion in water
  9. Baptism is conducted under Church authority
  10. Baptism is a life-long process that begins with the act of immersion

(1) Baptism is an act by which believers openly demonstrate their acceptance of God. Baptism is how Christians say “Yes” to God. Whether through the hands of John the Baptist, or by the oversight of Jesus and through his apostles, or currently through the laying on of hands by Church leadership, baptism is the connecting link between the gracious call of God and our personal acceptance.

The understanding provided about baptism, as well as through the act, has increased, but its purpose remains the same—to draw people to God. It is the method through which God intended to prepare people to receive the greatest revelation about God. It prepared people to receive Jesus as Lord God.

Baptism was designed to give individuals the opportunity to respond to the call of God. It was through this surrender to being baptized that God would grant that person the insight, ultimately to not just say they want to get right with God, but to accept that Jesus is God-in-the-flesh, and the only provided way to get right with God.

“I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” (Jn 1:31)

The ministry of John the Baptist was designed to use baptism as the act by which people would be prepared to accept Jesus. That has not changed to this day. Baptism prepares the way. It is the act by which professing believers demonstrate that they accept Jesus as Savior and that they submit themselves to him as Lord. Those who participate in baptism with this purpose are the only ones granted the promise of eternal life in Christ.

“But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” (Act 8:12)

When a person believes, they must make that private acceptance public. They must “believe with their heart” and then “confess with their mouth”. They are required by God to expose themselves as a committed follower of Jesus. Baptism is a public act within the Body of Christ, that requires the participation of other believers and ministers in order to occur. It is a family affair, not a private experience.

Those who believe, get baptized into the family of God, and become officially recognized children of God. Baptism is how genuine belief exposes itself.

(2) This act of baptism is not optional for those who hear the call to faith in Christ. When God initiates his gracious act of bringing a person to faith, he requires that they obey, or lose out on what is offered. Those who refused to get baptized by John the Baptist, were incapable of responding rightly to Jesus, and the Bible states that it was their own personal choice to avoid participating in baptism that caused them to be excluded from receiving what God intended and purposed for their benefit.

“But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.” (Lu 7:30)

Refusing baptism is the same as refusing God’s gracious call. Without participating in baptism, a person defies the will of God. This is serious business. We might think that getting all wet is a silly practice, but God is not so indifferent. He requires it.

Jesus knew this requirement. That is why he told John, who expressed concern about baptizing Jesus who was greater than him, that we must do this to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus was already divine Spirit and human flesh, through the impregnation of Mary by the Holy Spirit, so this was not so much about needing something but rather about fulfilling something.

Although this necessity was certainly person to his mission, it is also a statement about the necessity of the act itself, as shown in the above quote. Getting baptized fulfills the righteous requirement of God. The religious leaders refused to answer the Lord, when he asked if this baptism being done through John was of heaven or of men. They couldn’t win with any answer, but the truth is it was from God and not some optional human ritual.

“and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ”. (1 Pet 3:21)

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mk 16:16)

Baptism is the act through which God “saves you also”. If you want to be saved by Jesus:

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Act 2:38)

It is not an option. Baptism is a command. Those who want to turn baptism into a human-effort activity, suggesting that it is either not necessary to do, or not salvific even if done, distort Scripture. Baptism is a required response to God in Christ and is necessary for salvation.

(3) This is critical to grasp…There is only ONE baptism of God. Other religions may practice something that looks the same physically, but God initiated baptism as an act through which he would reveal himself further to those who submissively and willingly choose to participate. John started this process. Jesus continued it and expanded it. According to his promise, after he ascended back to heaven he would pour the Spirit out on those believers who had participated in this act previously.

Just as Jesus is the only door to access God, so there is only one baptism by which we participate in demonstrating our acceptance of that way. Those who try to chop up baptism into separate acts, do not understand the teaching about oneness in Christ.

“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all”. (Eph 4:4-6)

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body…and we were all given one Spirit to drink.” (1 Cor 12:13)

Even though John’s baptism was identified in more limited terms—by water, when Jesus’s baptism would be by Spirit—the two are the same act. The baptisms conducted by both were the same baptism and same physical act, but just with added significance of understanding. John was simply acknowledging that his was still limited and a leading toward what the Lord would do, but not that they were different baptisms. Only the results could be identified with more detail.

“Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John.” (Jn 4:1)

Jesus had already started baptizing, just like John, and the Holy Spirit was not yet coming on people. This was not “John’s baptism”, it was God’s baptism, that both Jesus and John were conducting. It was not time yet for the promised Spirit to be given through this baptism, but it was coming—not as a result of a separate baptism, but rather as an extension of this same baptism. The incredible pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was done only upon those who had already been baptized.

This observation helps to distinguish the baptism of the Spirit as a continuation of baptism rather than a new and separate form of baptism. Those early disciples had been baptized in repentance to God, they then professed faith in Jesus when he later revealed himself as the Christ, and per Jesus’ promise, they waited in Jerusalem after his ascension for the Spirit to come upon them. All of this is still part of the same baptism, and for believers today, is expected to occur all at the same moment.

New believers, who had not been previously baptized, would have to participate in that act in order to be prepared to receive the Spirit through baptism. That is exactly what happened on Pentecost. Those in the upper room received the Spirit without water baptism at that same moment. Those outside, who responded to Peter’s call to faith in Christ, submitted to water baptism and in that way were added to the Church as those being saved.

“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” (Act 2:41)

This need for baptism in water is why Peter demanded that those Gentiles with Cornelius upon whom the Spirit suddenly displayed itself through speaking in tongues, must be immediately baptized.

“Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” (Act 10:47)

The activity of what God was doing through this baptism, and the significance which it was representing had certainly increased, but it was still the same water baptism. All scriptural references to differences, like when it references to it as “John’s baptism of repentance”, are speaking about that early and limited occurrence, not about some separate type of baptism.

“because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Act 8:16)

After Pentecost, the practice of baptism was continuing just as it had before the outpouring of the Spirit. The act remained the same, but the name into which a person was being baptized had now been added. It was in Jesus’ name that believers were being baptized. The display of the presence of the Spirit had not replaced water baptism, as if one could be baptized just by the Spirit and not through water.

When Paul confronted some “disciples” near Ephesus about whether they had received the Spirit of God, they said they had received John’s baptism and had not even heard about a Holy Spirit. The text says, “they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus”, which probably meant that they accepted Jesus’ name upon their baptism, rather than actually finding water and getting re-immersed. The next sentence is revealing in this aspect, by declaring that Paul laid his hands upon them and the Spirit dramatically displayed himself in entering into them. The focus in upon accepting Jesus and receiving the Holy Spirit through Church authority, not on the physical ritual of immersion, which they had already experienced.

The purpose of John’s baptism was to prepare people to be able to accept Jesus by emphasizing repentance before God. It was not some Old Covenant practice that was done away with. The purpose of Jesus’ baptism, or the baptism of the Spirit, is to use the exact same process or occurrence of water immersion and repentance to demonstrate that acceptance of Jesus’ name. However, those who began with the first, but didn’t transition according to its design in coming to accept Jesus, would be like the fetus that comes to the entrance of the womb, but doesn’t come out. This is why the Bible announces that those who say they have the Father, but don’t have the Son, actually are deceived and don’t have either.

There are not multiple baptisms. So what do we make of the references that appear to suggest different baptisms? Scripture speaks of baptisms of water, Spirit, fire, suffering, cup, and wrath. Sounds like different baptisms, but they are all different aspects to the same act; to what the Bible states is one baptism. More will be shared on this detail in the final key to understanding baptism.

(4) Baptism is an act that combines a human response, with a divine cause. It needs to be recognized that baptism doesn’t force anything, nor does it earn anything. It involves mutual participation to accomplish its holy purpose.

For God’s part, he causes revelation and transformation in a willing participant. He has already initiated in a person his salvific call to faith in Christ, and when they respond through baptism, he causes several things within them.

He causes his Spirit to enter into them, so that Christ himself can begin to dwell in that person and live through them. He causes the maturing process of shifting an initial knowledge about Jesus to become a relational knowing of him—to become “in him”. Although repentance, and the attached forgiveness of sin, may have occurred some time ahead of the act of baptism, the time delay is allowed as a patient expression of God’s grace, for maturity in Christ will not be allowed to progress without baptism. It is through baptism that God associates an individual with the Cross, as one who willingly has died to self for the rest of their life on this earth. Their life is now hidden in Christ and will not show itself until Christ returns.

For our individual part, participation in baptism can never cause anything other than cold shivers or saggy wet clothes. We don’t earn anything through our willing act of getting baptized. God does everything that has any eternal significance toward salvation. Our part is a response.

When a person recognizes the call of God to repent and accept what Jesus accomplished in removing the penalty for our personal contribution to sin, they are given a choice. Allow the church leaders to lay hands on them through baptism as the method through which God will grant the gift of the Holy Spirit, or resist such submission to getting wet, to doing what God commands, or to allowing other imperfect leaders to exercise authority over them by holding them under water.

Accepting God-given authority of the Church is part of what we display in baptism. Submitting to the commands of Jesus is part of what we bow to in participating in baptism. And getting wet in this way, demonstrates publicly our commitment to live for Christ openly and not claim some private type of relationship with God. All this is a humble response to God for what he has designed and expects in those who profess faith.

Those believers who avoid baptism, for whatever their reason, will stunt their spiritual growth, because without baptism God will not grant his Spirit presence. Those who delay getting baptized, in some twisted belief that they are able to keep living in some decadent manner without falling under judgement as a confirmed Christian, are playing with fire. God only holds out his grace to a person for so long, before closing the gates of heaven in their face. Like the foolish virgins, Jesus will refuse them entrance into his kingdom, even though they finally show up and want in. Today is the day of salvation—make it count!

(5) The physical act of baptism is mystical, but not magical. There is nothing divine about the water used, nothing automatically generating any special power through baptism. The process of getting dunked is no different than what kids often do to each other when playing in water.

What makes baptism significant and transformational is God. The infamous convert Simon ran into this difference, when he got baptized as a response to the amazing teaching and activity of God through Philip, then immediately sinned. God doesn’t give his Spirit to anyone who undergoes baptism, because the act itself doesn’t do anything.

God considers the motive for why a person decides to get baptized. All new believers are called while still in sin, so it seems extraordinary that God would withhold his Spirit and limit causing anything dramatic. At the start of the early Church, God caused speaking in tongues and other dramatic miracles to be performed openly, in order to confirm that this colossal shift to the New Covenant through what he was doing in this new-formed Church, was of his doing.

In other words, dramatic displays of the working of the Spirit are not automatic. They have a purpose, and that purpose can shift. What doesn’t shift, is the purpose for baptism—to bring people to God through Jesus. Those who have ulterior motives when getting baptized, likely experience the same patience from God for those who come to faith but don’t immediately obey by getting baptized. God is patient, not wanting any to miss out on salvation.

That divine grace is limitless, but not timeless. God draws a line in the sand for everyone. Those who get baptized must mature in Christ—”produce fruit in keeping with repentance”—or find that their act of baptism was just a public bath that does nothing for their wretched condition.

What is mystical about baptism is what God does, not when we see it, but when he chooses to do it. We get baptized as an act of faithful obedience in response to what he has revealed about himself and about ourselves. That obedient response doesn’t end with baptism; it begins there. The rest of our lives are meant to be an obedient display of Christ in us as we follow and apply his every word.

We don’t claim the gift of the Spirit because we see miracles, but because he promised to give himself that way to those who do what he commands. In this way, we trust that God had implanted his Spirit in a baptized believer, because he said he would do so, not because of what we can humanly see or measure. That “I will believe, if I can see the holes in his hands” kind of faith is immature and not what Jesus commends as “especially blessed”.

In baptism, we respond, and we allow him to cause as he decides, when he decides, and for his good purpose in us. You can be assured, he knows exactly what he is doing, and he will do it, for those who trust and obey!

(6) Baptism requires faith. It should not be allowed for anyone not able to express at least some rudimentary and basic level of acceptance of Jesus—who he is, what he has done, and what he promises.

This is not a matter of intelligence, but a matter of choice. A person must be capable of personally saying “yes” to Jesus and “no” to self. Those not there, or not capable of such a profession, should not get baptized in such an unworthy condition.

Baptism is about God’s call to a person, not about magically causing people to get saved.

As such, infants should not be baptized. They ought to be blessed, however. Those who have had such a ritual done to them, need to recognized that the label is meaningless and the act not magical. The may have been blessing, with the belief that it was a baptism, but they still need to make a personal choice of faith through their own baptism.

As such, the mentally and spiritually deranged, should not get baptized. If a handicapped person, however, is capable of knowing about Jesus, his work on the Cross because of their sins, and wants to be saved, then Amen: get them baptized. If a person is struggling with disorders or possible possession, the church needs to consider carefully whether or not that person’s desire to get baptized is expressed at a moment of self-control. Baptism is a holy act, and it must not be given to those who intend to make a mockery of it. Those leaders who know this, but choose to baptize all who want it, “participate in their evil work” and will be judged as if they had done those wicked things themselves.

This may raise the concern that if baptism is required for salvation, then no allowing a person to receive baptism is like preventing someone from getting saved. That may sound logical, but it is not true. Baptism is required for salvation, but it does not cause it. Putting people through the ritual will not do anything positive toward saving them, because it must be a willing and knowledgeable personal response by that individual to the call of God. If they are incapable or unwilling, then they should not get baptized. Any concern over their salvation should not focus on forcefully checking off boxes of rituals, but rather upon the grace of God who will always make a way possible for those he intends to save. Don’t fear failure, handicaps, or even death. God knows how to save everyone. What we all need to hang on to is faith in the incredible grace of God.

Those who get baptized, should never go through it again. Baptism is an expression of obedience as well as an expression of faith. Thinking that we are doing what God says, but without faith, is still disobedience. Once baptized, a person needs to trust that God only accepts the application of Jesus’ sacrifice one time. There is only one sacrifice, thus there is only one baptism. Failures and sinful behaviors need to be repented of and cleansed by the blood of Christ, not by our actions at getting re-baptized. If the believer has “fallen away”, not just fallen into a moment of sin, then there is no point in getting baptized, because God won’t even accept their effort at repentance. The moral: produce fruit in keeping with repentance, especially by repenting while you can and as soon as you can.

“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened…if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” (Heb 6:4-6)

Those who think they can do proxy baptisms for others, don’t understand that God demands individual surrender—that every knee bow and every tongue confess. It cannot be done by others. Such activities, that are alluded to in Scripture, are not condoning the activity, but rather using the beliefs to confront the disbelief by some in resurrection. This does not mean that such early-church practices, however, were wrong of themselves. Many new believers were concerned about how God viewed their loved ones who had died before having a chance to know the Messiah. They likely were using baptism as a way to promise to God that they were willing to stand beside a deceased loved one in bring them to faith.

If you have such a concern today, then do something about it, before their silver cord is broken. Anything other than reaching out while it is still called Today, should be surrendered to the amazing grace of God, who doesn’t want anyone to miss out, so trust that if they could have been or still can be saved, then not even their death stands in God’s way. Use faith, not baptism, as your expression of hope for the salvation of a past loved one.

Don’t be surprised, if after baptism, a believer’s world doesn’t change much. Dramatics are not to be expected; transformation is. If changes are slow in coming, then it is likely because that person is slow in continuing in their response. Sanctification—that process through which we participate in the work of the Spirit in becoming transformed into the likeness of Christ—begins with our participation in baptism, but it shouldn’t stop there. We need to continue to participate, not in rituals, but in application of what Paul called “the law of Christ”. We need to apply the details laid out in the New Covenant for what God desires to see in Christians. As we do, transformation expands; as we resist or hold back, change will be unlikely.

A baptized believer today, is likely to walk away from the ritual with mixed feelings; excited about what they have done, and what God promises to do in, through, and for them, but also wrestling with moments of doubt because they don’t see all the dramatic changes or experiences that they hear some others have had. Remember what Jesus told Thomas who struggled with doubt:

“Because you have seen me, you believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (Jn 20:29)

Those who take God at his word—that they will be given the Holy Spirit, and will be transformed into the likeness of Christ, and will be forgiven for all their sins, and will be saved—even though they don’t see the immediate and obvious evidence they long to see, must continue forward with faith rather than sight, and Jesus declares that such a person will be blessed far more than someone like Thomas who needed to see to believe. So it is with the experience of baptism. The evidence of change should become clearer over time, but God is more interested in our faith in what he promises to do in those who choose to accept baptism, than in putting on a light show for us at this time.

The more we submit to implementing the words of God in adjusting our thoughts and practices in life, the more room we allow for the Holy Spirit to be active within us. The promise of receiving the Holy Spirit can be believed and claimed right at the start of baptism, but the recognition of that presence and transformation will likely take time and maturity to sense.

Baptism is not the end, nor the guarantee of salvation. Jesus remains our guarantee, so if we desire to remain in him, then we must continue to respond to his word and to the prompting of his Spirit. Change comes as we surrender to Christ.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith…for if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ…If you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet 1:5-11)

Being baptized by the Spirit is about transformation into being and living like a child of God. It is not about circus dramatics that attract attention. If God chooses to display himself, great. If he disguises himself from physical observation, as is often the case, then look for his evidence in the transformed nature and choices and desires of a person. Desiring what God desires is unnatural and can only happen consistently in a person being changed on the inside by the work of the Spirit.

Burning bushes don’t save bushes. Water flowing out of rocks, don’t save rocks. Wicked high priests who prophesy by the Spirit like Caiaphas, don’t save the leader. Speaking in tongues don’t save the speakers. Baptism doesn’t save the believer. God saves through faith in Jesus, and he grants the promise of salvation to those who get baptized and continue in that response of faith.

(7) Baptism is the link between two stages of knowledge regarding God. It takes one degree of knowledge to respond to God, but that initial awareness is not sufficient to complete what God intends for salvation. People don’t control either part of this knowledge. Both are entirely about revelation, even though both involve human participation.

When God calls a person to faith, he reveals awareness of Jesus, of a person’s own condition heading for death, and of what Christ has accomplished to bring us back to God. This is an external level of work by the Holy Spirit that does not actually change a person at the level of their nature. It is a head knowledge at this point, but not a heart one. In other words, it is possible to know these things but still not be identified by God as holy—and without holiness, no one will see God.

This knowledge can only deepen into our heart and transform both our mind and heart’s desires by an internalized work of the Spirit. God will only allow this level of intimacy by the Spirit to operate in someone willing to obey his command to submit to baptism. This is where the knowing about Jesus begins to mature into a relational-knowing.

This truth is why baptism should only be offered to those who are capable of expressing such knowledgeable faith. Infants and those ignorant of Christ cannot do such things.

(8) All biblical references to the actual practice of Baptism all refer to it as water immersion. The concept of baptism, however, references the ideas of immersion, internalizing and sprinkling.

Paul connects the concept of identifying with the death of Christ by going under water in a manner comparable to going under the ground when a person dies. This is the symbolism of immersion.

“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Rom 6:3-5)

“having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.” (Col 2:12)

Jesus presented the idea of his experience of baptism through death on the cross, by drinking from a cup given to him by God. This reference is toward the internalizing of what that cup contains, in a manner similar to the old prophets who in visions were given scrolls and such to eat that would produce dramatic responses inside of them of both enjoyment and bitterness.

Peter speaks about the concept of baptism by sprinkling, which can cleanse the heart of a sinner, like the symbolized blood from the Old Testament sacrifices that God required to be sprinkled over the people as a ritual cleansing.

Other references to baptism include enduring trials, being tested by fire, and in participating in the Cross.

The concepts are all instructive, but the practice remains an actual act of water immersion. Any other activity that uses the label of baptism, is not actually what the Bible requires upon believers in order to demonstrate their faith and receive the Spirit for salvation in Christ.

(9) Baptism is conducted under Church authority. Like the Great Commission, believers are given the command to go into all the world, preaching and baptizing; however, both remain supervised functions of the Church. It is through ordained leaders, that God conveys the right of conducting baptisms.

This is not to suggest that lay members (non-ordained) can’t administer baptism to another believer, but rather that the authority to do so must remain an act of submission. That authority has been granted to those upon whom Jesus anointed as his Apostles. Through them, they laid hands on others, in some cases to administer baptisms, and in other cases to transfer the authority to do so.

“beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection”. (Act 1:22)

In replacing Judas as one of the apostles, the Spirit revealed that an acceptable minister for this role must be one who had been baptized by John and had continued as a follower of Jesus since that pivotal time. The authority for baptism and church ordination is a right of succession placed by Jesus upon those original 12 apostles and thereafter upon those whom they commissioned.

Over the generations, that right to convey the grace of God to bring believers into the family of God and grant the power of the Holy Spirit to indwell a person, has been literally handed down through the laying on of hands, from one minister to another. Individual believers have no right to dunk themselves or others. Just as each person getting baptized must humble themselves and submit to the act of baptism and the accompanied laying on of hands for transferring this blessing, so those administering the ritual must do so under the supervision and approval of the larger Church.

Historically, God has demonstrated that he has a short fuse for those who rebel against the authority he has set up, and who think they have just as much right to lead others in the things of God. Baptism is to be honored, promoted, and participated in by everyone, but it is only to be conducted under the direction of anointed church leaders.

Baptism has been designed as a sacred ritual and sacrament of the Church and needs to remain within and under that leadership.

(10) Baptism is a life-long process that begins with the act of immersion. This is huge, and often missed. Baptism is much more than a momentary glitter in a person’s history.

Most view baptism as a brief act of standing in water, answering a few questions about accepting Jesus, and then, as they are guided under the water, hearing “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the…” bubble, bubble, bubble. And then a bunch of clapping and cheers from onlookers as they wipe the water from their eyes as a freshly baptized believer.

That is baptism, but it is not the end of it. Baptism is a process that continues throughout life. This is why the Bible refers to baptism in different ways, not just as a public expression of faith. Consider that when Jesus spoke of undergoing a baptism, he was referring to the pending experience of suffering and dying on the Cross, but he had already experienced the baptism in water at the hand of John.

“But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed!” (Lu 12:50)

Jesus was not introducing additional baptisms, nor was he replacing the water baptism initiated through John, nor was he referencing something unique just to himself. He was speaking about another phase of that one baptism. This is why believers are told that unless they take up their cross and follow Jesus, they can never be counted as true Christians. We all must endure aspects from that same cup.

“You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with”. (Mk 8:39)

We do not and never will pay for sin, as Jesus did for us, but we do participate in a similar experience of the cross every day by dying to ourselves so that we can devote ourselves to doing the will of our Lord. That is still spoken of as baptism.

As already seen in Scripture, there is only one baptism, and this experience of suffering like Jesus through rejection and abuse by others, and even through self-restraint, for his name sake, is an ongoing part to being baptized. When going under the water, and in that way identifying with dying and being buried with Christ, we start a process of death to our natural ways that continues every day.

This is what is meant, in other passages that speak about a baptism of fire.

“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Mt 3:11)

This is not a second baptism, but a continuation that begins with water and the receiving of the Spirit, and then progresses through the fiery trials of life. Suffering is part of what it means to be baptized. It is part of the experience. Both water and fire are symbolic, but the experience is very real. Baptized believers must accept the cup that the Lord hands to them, knowing that it is full of fire and loss.

“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation…but each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid…If any man builds on this foundation using…hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is…It will be revealed with fire….” (1 Cor 3:10-15)

How we build our Christian faith, and the way in which we try to live out our lives, will be tested and revealed with fire. That is part of getting baptized. Those who go under the water, must also travel through the fire. What comes out the other end, can never be destroyed.

“Though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Pet 1:6-7)

“It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him”. (Col 1:29)

Baptism is an active process that purifies the willing participant by continually washing their soul with the blood of Christ. It starts gentle, but it matures by being tried like precious metal exposed to the furnace. It is Jesus’ promise that all believers will undergo this fire—like an intense seasoning of salt to the soul.

“Everyone will be salted with fire.” (Mk 9:49)

The tongues of fire mentioned in connection with the outpouring of the Spirit on that first Christian Pentecost were a description of what those present saw occurring of how the Spirit came upon them—like flames of fire—not a baptism of fire. Those who confuse this, will easily miss the repeated references in Scripture to Christians being subjected to trials of purification that are specifically identified as experiences of fire.

Also, this fire has nothing to do with the fire designed for those who reject God, rather it is a purifying flame. It is meant for our good, not our harm, regardless to how it feels or what others think about our experiences. With this understanding, it is not something to run away from. Rather we are advised to accept it from the Lord’s hand, as something designed for our ultimate good.

“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire”. (Rev 3:18)

This is why the Lord cautions everyone to “count the cost”, before thinking they can get started and just hope for the best. Faith in Christ requires absolute devotion for eternity, such that those who do things to try and spare their life or preferences, will find that they have actually lost everything. As revealed through the Parable of the Soils, many will accept Jesus, and get started down the path of Christianity, but when trials come, they will be scorched for lack of water, and choked out by the difficulties of pain and pleasure.

There is no better way. Baptism is the process through which God transforms a believer into his child. It is the glorious act that reverberates throughout our lives washing and cleansing us so that we will be prepare and ready to meet our Lord in the air when he returns. Baptism is the mystical portal through which Christians pass to receive the promised fullness of Jesus’ grace and glory in eternal salvation.

As the Lord declared: “We need to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”

The call to one and all, as it was delivered to Saul, who became Paul:

“And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” (Act 22:16)

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The Doctrine of Assurance–An alternative to Faith

When studying the word of God, there are times when I feel overwhelmed by some insight declared through the pages of Scripture and it compels me to respond. If no one is around to share the wonder, then I sit down and blog out my praise of what God appears to have revealed.

Today, as I read through Hebrews chapter 10 and into 11, I was struck by the contrast between the popular Doctrine of Assurance of Salvation and how the text describes that this confident assurance is actually the definition of Faith.

As the Spirit reveals in Heb 11:6, Faith has two primary aspects that establish a biblical confidence: an accepting belief in the existence of God, and a recognition that he rewards those who “earnestly seek him”. Claiming faith in God is “impossible to please God”, if we only accept him without responding rightly. It is what the Bible identifies as a “shipwrecked” faith.

In order to solidify this fluid nature to faith, many churches have turned their teaching about this confidence into a law. In other words, the doctrine of assurance has become for many a legal guarantee with no need for faith to remain active. They reject any need to earnestly seek, to do the will of God, to endure to the end, to obey, to stay faithful.

The twisted idea is that because the facts about who Jesus is are unchangeable, that makes their application to every individual who claims it, also unchangeable. The problem here is that what is absolute in Christ, is not equally absolute in a professing believer, who “deliberately keeps on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth”. Hebrews says that such confidence for this believer has changed into “only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire”.

The writer appeals to Christians to pay more careful attention so that our claimed faith doesn’t “drift away”. This drifting of faith, he says is threatened by ignoring such a great salvation (chapter 2), by hardening our hearts by sin’s deceitfulness (3), by a lack of maturity (5), by falling away and never being able to repent (6), by throwing away our confidence and by shrinking back (10), by sins that so easily entangle (12).

No law can prop up faith. No doctrine can replace faith as the foundation of assurance. There is no acceptable license or guarantee that can replace faith as our confidence in what Jesus has promised to those to love him.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Heb 11:1)

Those who persist in sin, damage their personal faith, and undermine their offered assurance. Many who promote their doctrine of assurance, do so as if it is a law that cannot be revoked, a license that protects their desire for salvation even while living immoral lives—a license for immorality. In this way, their doctrinal tradition is set up over the word of God.

Thinking that you are saved doesn’t work. Claiming a church doctrine as your guarantee also doesn’t work. Many think they are saved, but are actually self-deceived.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Mt 7:21-23)

Our assurance of salvation is our faith. Believers are initially given this faith as a gift by the Author of our salvation. From there, we are taught that Jesus is also the Perfecter of our faith. This does not mean that the gift of faith is imperfect, but rather incomplete. The gift of faith must thereafter develop and mature inside an individual in order to please God.

This is the difference between justification and sanctification as they work together to bring us to glorification. Justification is entirely about the work of Jesus on the Cross in causing salvation, in providing the means of forgiveness for all sin (past, present, and even future). This is where faith is offered as a gift of God’s merciful grace to a person he chooses to call. This is where a person can taste of the heavenly gift, to experience the joy of hope in salvation, to be reconciled to God even while still struggling against sinful temptation in the flesh.

But no doctrine can replace the truth that God expects a return-on-investment for this gift of faith, for granting us a deposit of his Spirit, for applying this one-time sacrifice of Christ to cleans us from all that had separated us from him. This is where faith must mature through sanctification, through our willing participation in the internal working of the Spirit. We are not possessed here, or forced to automatically comply; we are prompted with the freedom to respond as a reflection that will demonstrate our faith.

This is why we can still be choked out by weeds and scorched by the burning sun in temptations, like warned in the parable of the soils.

In spite of this, we have an assurance to approach the throne of God with confidence. That assurance is in who Jesus is, not in what we can or cannot supposedly do. Our faith must stay focused firmly on him, for he cannot fail, but if we let go of our faith, we certainly will fail. Our assurance is in the unchanging nature and eternal power of who Jesus is, not in some legal guarantee that allows us to continue living our way and still be saved.

Faith in Christ cannot fail. Faith away from Christ, which still could only ever have occurred by gift, will not produce the fruit God requires, and in the end the person who had that initial faith will get burned up with the chaff. The command is to be holy, to be sanctified, to come out and be separate. Unlike the elements of nature which always perfectly and automatically respond to the words of Jesus in obedient compliance, humans are an expectation.

We have been given the freedom to choose. From the start we could choose between the trees in the garden of Eden. The Bible declares that God has called heaven and earth as witnesses against humanity, because he set before humans the ability to choose between life and death (Dt 30:19). The rest of the material world does not have that freedom. This is why the Holy Spirit doesn’t posses and control a person against their own will. We must willingly choose to submit to and participate in the work of God. Our faith must grow and mature.

Like the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews chapter 11, who all were commended for what they did in demonstration of their faith, so we must respond to the gift given to us.

Our confidence remains assured as our faith is actively lived. This is saving faith. Our confidence is misplaced, when our faith is replaced with alternative guarantees of human origin, like doctrines of assurance which eliminate any need for obedient faith.

We do have assurance; it is our faith. Our victory and hope is in Christ through a living faith.

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To Be Righteous

Only those believers in Jesus who are maturing in their Christian faith are capable of understanding righteousness. What it means to be righteous, let alone to understand the concept itself, remains hidden from all others, even from many church members.

“You need milk, not solid food. Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Heb 5:12-14)

It seems so simple. Righteousness, by dictionary definition, is “the quality of being morally right or justifiable” or “free from guilt or sin”. Can such a quality-of-being exist in what is created? Was Adam righteous, prior to his fall into sin? Or, is righteousness just one of those theoretical concepts that doesn’t actually exist in reality?

As the above Bible passage clearly states, not even long-time believers in Christ are capable of understanding this. And yet it is stated as being critical to those who claim salvation. It might seem simple, but that view is immature and blinds a person from seeing their need to reach out for the truth about righteousness.

Those few, who recognize the importance of knowing biblical righteousness, will avoid the common religious error of claiming “but we have Abraham as our father” or “but we are guaranteed to be saved”. We naturally want to control our destiny with absolute guarantees, no matter what we do, probably because we all know that no matter how much we believe in Jesus, we still recognize our own sinful tendencies, just as Paul wrote about in his letter to the Roman Christians. However, claiming what God does not state is foolish.

Through the prophet Ezekiel, God himself states that even if he clearly tells a “righteous man” that he is certain to be saved, but later on in his life this person returns to sinful ways, “then he will surely not live!” God will reject his own promise of salvation to that person, because they refused to stay living in that righteousness that had been identified in them. Paul, Peter, John, Luke, and Jude all write the same warnings to believers in the New Testament.

Thinking you are saved, doesn’t make you saved, even if God himself has declared you to be a “righteous” person. Understanding the teaching about righteousness is only available to the spiritually mature. This is not about some kind of higher knowledge, but about three things: knowing what it means to be righteous, about how this righteousness it attained, and about living in the “way of righteousness”.

There are also two primary obstacles that prevent a person from recognizing the truth about righteousness: sinfulness and distorted doctrines. Living contrary to Christ will drive him away, and believing what your church teaches, if it is not careful to Scripture, will blind you to the truth. What we do and what we believe either confirm our faith or they are the very tools that undermine a claim of faith in Christ. So it is with this subject.

If you want to know the amazing righteousness offered in the gospel of Jesus, be willing to put to death “the sin that so easily entangles” and “do not be deceived by fine sounding arguments”. Equally, seek the truth of righteousness—about the who, the how, and the way—that can only be grasped by mature believers.

From here we will consider a number of biblical passages to try and cut through the fat layers of traditions, in order to reveal the actual meat at the core of what it means to be righteous. It is not human skill, education, or years of tradition that establish the truth, but the living word of God:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”. (2 Tim 3:16)

Discovering righteousness will require submission to what the Bible actually teaches, and may require rebuking and correcting, especially for those still living on milk.

To start with, it should be stated unequivocally, that no human is, has ever been, or ever could become righteous! Jesus challenged a kingdom-seeker about why he was calling a human being righteous.

“Why do you call me good?…No one is good—but God alone.” (Mk 10:18)

Righteousness is not simply some virtue of moral goodness; it is a state of being. Think about that. To be righteous, is to be absolutely good. That doesn’t exist anywhere in creation because inherent goodness of that kind, can only ever exist in God himself. To be righteous is to be God.

Such moral perfection cannot be transferred or created, because that would mean creating another god. If you want to grasp true righteousness, you will need to bow to the reality that such a being is “God alone”.

Many false teachers have promoted the idea that Adam was created righteous prior to his fall into sin. Human dictionaries, as noted earlier, suggest the idea that righteousness is the absence of sin; however, the absence of something never causes the existence of anything. Un-ness is not something; it is nothing.

When we humanly lack the ability to define something new, we often give it a label of non-existence—like wireless phones and horseless carriages—but that inability to identify something for what it is, describes what is missing, not what is new. The lack of wires on cell phones is the result of sound wave technology which resulted in the lack of needed wires. The missing horse on an automobile was the result of the combustible engine invention, not what caused cars to exist.

Righteousness is not morally good because it lacks sin. Sinlessness is a result of being righteous, not a cause. In this way, Adam was “innocent” prior to his sin, but not righteous. The Bible never says he was righteous; that is an editorial addition to the text that has become popular tradition in many Churches. If Adam were righteous, he would have acted in line with his inherent being, which means that he would NEVER have done anything contrary to being righteous. History proves that Adam was not righteous, because he freely chose to sin when given the freedom to do what he wanted to do.

From that point on throughout history, we all have confirmed our origins by acting in line with our nature. No one, not even Adam, has ever been righteous. As such, there is no reason for us to attempt to “get back” to our original goodness. That never existed, even though there was a time of sinless innocence. Humans have never had such goodness. We do not have inherent good inside that just needs to be found and released. Righteousness doesn’t exist in us, it never did, and never can by anything we ever do!

“There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Rom 3:10)

As a point of clarification, when Genesis records God’s observation after his 6 days of creation, that what he made was good, even very good, he is not speaking about moral human goodness. In fact, he is not saying anything about Adam or his character. Rather, God is declaring that what God did in creating was exactly in line with what he wanted. It was good. It is a statement about God, not about man.

What it means to be righteous, is a statement about internal nature of being, that can only ever exist in God alone. For those who accept the exclusive belief in one God, and his inherent nature of righteous goodness, can still stumble at Jesus.

Jesus said only God is good, but then later identifies himself as the “Good Shepherd”. He never said that he wasn’t good. Rather, he confronted the belief that such moral goodness could exist in any natural human. It can’t. However, it can and does exist inherently in Jesus. Wow. Jesus is declared to be Immanuel, God-with-us. He is the complete embodiment of God. This is critical to grasp. Jesus is the Righteous One.

“we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 Jn 2:1)

He does not just reflect righteousness. He is Righteous. This is a declaration of being; a statement about his inherent nature; a revelation about his eternally divine identity. He has not been created. He never was some kind of angel or first-creation. He is what God is—Righteous.

This is why Jesus can never sin, never fail, never do anything other than what is righteous, because he is the One being that inherently is righteous. That is his nature, his character, his being, and his will—to always do what is right in God’s view.

When the Bible declares that “in him was no sin”, it is not primarily a statement of result—that he didn’t commit anything wrong when he lived on earth, though that is also true—but rather a statement of pre-human identity: neither sin nor its tendency ever could exist in him, because that would be incompatible with what it means to be God. In other words, Jesus didn’t become recognized as sinless, by how he lived among us, but he has always been righteous and thus without sin. Remember, sinlessness is a result of being, not a cause.

Regarding our savior, the prophet records:

“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord…My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way…my righteousness will never fail. Hear me, you who know what is right”. (Isa 51:1-7)

It was not possible for Christ to sin—not because he wasn’t tempted exactly like we are, but because he was the one and only, morally-perfect Righteous One, who could not fail.

Righteousness can’t be created, it can only be extended and developed. This is essential for Christians to understand. Humans are not, never have been, and never can be righteous. However, we can reflect God’s righteousness. It can become who we are, but only through the internalized life of Christ in a person.

This is the gospel truth about the righteousness from heaven.

“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” (Rom 1:17)

All three main points are in this verse. This righteousness comes directly from God. Without any regard for human effort at generating goodness, it can only be extended to a believer who accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior in faith. And, it is required that such faith demonstrate itself through maturing in righteous living. This is the gospel regarding righteousness.

Sadly, some professing believers have been choked by doctrines that teach that righteousness can be found beyond just Jesus. Some have been misled by beliefs that righteousness can be earned or achieved by human effort at doing good or at following the 10 Commandments. And unfortunately, many have been deceived away from the requirement that faith must be fruitfully matured or this righteousness from heaven will remain an unfulfilled promise.

As the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind”, so it applies to the Christian ability to recognize righteousness. While Jesus remains out-of-sight, so our minds are easily distracted away from focusing on the Lord alone for maturing in righteousness. It is easy to drift into the belief that “faith alone” is a guarantee of this righteousness from heaven, or that good deeds and general good living can earn the label of righteousness. Jesus said he would send his Spirit to his followers and in them he would confront this common distortion regarding beliefs about righteousness—in those who, like the world, think they already understand sin, righteousness and judgment:

“When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment…about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer”. (Jn 16:8-10)

The second main point about understanding this righteousness is that it can only ever come to us by grace. There is nothing innately righteous in any of us. We are not even capable of ever being righteous. There is nothing of redeeming value. Human decency, which may be seen in some, is not the same thing as eternal righteousness. We can never go back. We can never return to Adam’s state of innocence. We need the righteousness of Christ to be granted to us upon his mercy and not due to anything we are, have, or could ever do.

When the Bible speaks of a person, like Abraham or a Christian, being righteous, it is always about their demonstrated choices at obediently striving to follow God. It is always a matter of reflecting the activity of God within them. It never implies than any person is capable of generating righteousness on their own, nor through their own deeds. It is also a temporary label that can change as their life-choices shift over time, because it is never a reference to their inherent, unchanging nature. The only point at which the identity of being called righteous becomes permanent is when Christ returns with the gift of eternal life for those who come to faith and remain faithful through this life as he requires. Righteousness cannot be generated from within a created being; it can only be received and displayed, so that God will always receive the glory for what is right.

Our value as humans to God is entirely about his purpose and not about anything we offer. Once we fulfill his purpose, then our value to God is complete and there is nothing left worth sustaining. The exception, thank God, is that if Jesus remains in a person who comes out the other end of the fiery trials, then such righteousness is eternal and cannot be extinguished and that person shifts from promised-salvation to glorified-salvation at the return of Christ.

“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe”. (Rom 3:22)

Faith at this point does not involve human effort. We have nothing to offer. Jesus has it all, has done it all, and is all we need. This gracious gift of faith is not forced on anyone, however, so it does involve personal acceptance, but that is not adding anything to the mix. Christian faith is a willing act of surrender in accepting his gift of himself. In this way, “he has become…our righteousness” (1 Cor 1:30).

This faith is not a dead-end punctuation to claimed guarantees; it is a beginning, the start of a glorious transformation. It order to understand this teaching about righteousness, that can only be recognized by those who are mature in Christ, this third aspect needs to be put into motion in a believer.

Many Christians have been slaughtered by other professing Christians over this point, so this is no small issue. But the Bible says what it says, and the truth will remain hidden from those who refuse to submit to what it says, regardless as to who appears to swing the bigger sword or remain standing after the dispute. The Cross reminds us that the bigger sword, larger church, more entrenched religious beliefs, louder voices, and established traditions which twist the word of God have a fine way of looking like they have won, but they don’t understand the power of resurrection. Righteousness came up out of the grave; it did not emanate from places of established worship.

The wise will follow the pattern of the Bereans and look to the word of God. Those who promote the teaching of “faith alone”, do so at their own peril. In spite of the 500 years of tradition, Paul did not write that nor teach it. It was actually added into the text of the Bible in Romans chapter 3. Rather, Paul stated:

“For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” (Rom 2:13)

Although the source has certainly changed, the principle of how righteousness is finally declared hasn’t changed. It is those who obey, who in the end will be declared righteous. This does not mean that such righteousness is earned, but that the conclusion must be proved by demonstration. Paul quotes this passage to make a point. The point is that righteousness must be absolute, “perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”. It is impossible for any human to absolutely keep that Law, for when we break one, it is the same to God as if we have broken them all.

So how can one be identified as righteous if that law is impossible to perfectly obey? Enter Jesus. Because of who he is, he alone would be capable of keeping it, which the Bible says he did by perfectly fulfilling everything it demanded. Both the origin and conclusion about Jesus is that he is declared righteous—his identity and his actions worked together to prove the consistency of being perfectly righteous. The same degree of absolute perfection is required on all who desire to be declared righteous in God’s sight. Enter the gospel.

Because of all the errors taught over the centuries about this, many will find this difficult to grasp. Paul is writing to the Roman church to confront the twisted idea that Jewish Christians have a better way to honor God through mixing the Mosaic law into Christian beliefs. As a result, he writes that letter to help identify the question of what specifically causes salvation. His point: faith in Jesus and what he has done causes salvation, not any amount of effort at keeping the Old Covenant Law.

Jews who had come to accept Jesus as their Savior, still thought (like all devout Jews) that keeping the Sabbath, and similar commands under that former covenant, got them right with God, and thereby were necessary even for Gentile believers. Paul tries to help them understand in this letter that a new righteousness, one that can last for eternity and that can only be found existing in God, has been revealed through a new covenant. Followers of God are granted this righteousness, not by earning it, but rather by accepting it in faithful surrender to Jesus as their Lord. This righteousness can only be found in Jesus, not in obedience to the old law, either by Jew or Gentile. However, he is not suggesting that believers have a pass around obedience now. Rather we remain slaves, either to sin, or to righteousness: Slaves who obey their master.

This is why righteousness that is caused by faith and gifted to a believer, must be thereafter matured or that person is stuck on milk and “not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.”

Many Christians have stumbled at this truth. They think that Paul was also implying that no human effort should impact salvation. This is why so few are able to understand righteousness. They think it comes by faith and that’s the end of it, but that is not what the Bible teaches. Paul makes it very evident that he is not under the Mosaic Law, but as a Christian he does live under Christ’s law. This is why he defines his gospel at the very start of that letter as a call to a new basis for obedience, rather than a rejection of obedience:

“Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.” (Rom 1:5)

His entire letter to the Roman Christians is about the reason for our obedient allegiance. Living by the Law not only doesn’t work, such continued efforts undermine faith in Christ. Being identified as the people of God no longer comes through that old Law given to ancient Israel. It is now to come through faith.

This occurs, he teaches, by accepting Jesus as Lord and by demonstrating it by how we follow his life, words, and Spirit. Remember, such demonstration can only be a result of what has already been caused and initiated in us; our efforts and expressions of righteousness never can earn salvation, nor God’s favor. We are capable to earning heavenly rewards, but those are only available to those who are first given the gift of salvation which can’t be earned.

Again, expressions of obedience can be a result, but that does not mean they automatically will occur. We still have to willingly and obediently participate. How we do so, has changed to trusting Jesus, which is shown by how and whether we mature in living by the word and Spirit of God.

During the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic church was not promoting Mosaic obedience, but they were teaching and doing things contrary to God’s word. In order to combat this, dissident leaders apparently felt that they needed more powerful biblical support, so they shifted the teachings from Paul away from confronting Mosaic obedience as the cause of getting right with God, to a rejection of works of any kind. In this way, they had a large sword to swing against indulgences and other human-imposed activities that were being taught as efforts that could get a person right, but were probably more about ministerial greed.

Now they could say that the Bible teaches against any human effort, any proscribed penance activities, any free will choices, any continuing sin, any good deeds, any behavior, anything-at-all having any ability to undermine a person’s claimed salvation.

In contrast to this view, the works were not the problem being confronted by Paul; rather, it was the belief in what causes right standing with God. We are not made right by what we do, even though God has always required obedience, because righteousness never exists by effort—only by being. We can only be made right by who Jesus is, when he is allowed to live unrestrained through a person.

Such things don’t get a person right with God, but God does not say that obedience is not required on Christians. In fact, there is only one place in Scripture where the Holy Spirit wrote the phrase “faith alone”, and it says the exact opposite:

“You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” (Jms 2:24)

In John chapter 14, we are repeatedly told that obedience is the proof regarding those who actually love Jesus, and the lack of obedience that reveals those who think they believe, but are not accepted by God. So, a Christian is not to walk on their knees for a mile after confessing to sin (for that is a human-invented penalty that suggests a person can get right with God through their act of suffering and does not promote repentance simply upon the blood of Christ’s own payment of all penalties for sin). However, the same Christian is required to forgive their brother or never be ultimately forgiven by God; and, to share the name of Christ with others or Jesus won’t share their name with God; and, to give without expecting to receive back in return; and, to mourn with those who are mourning; and, to turn the other cheek when struck offensively; and, to put their fleshly desires to death; and, to stay faithful to their marriage partner for life, even if divorced; and, to honor all authorities without rebellion, for that will be counted as rebellion against God.

Paul wrote to the Roman believers—who “belong to Jesus Christ”:

“But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgement will be revealed, and he will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger…For God does not show favoritism”. (Rom 2:5-11)

Those believers who seek righteous goodness through faithfully following Jesus are the ones who will be given eternal life. Their seeking never earns it, but it certainly proves that it was extended to them. That is not the kind of guarantee of salvation many Christians have claimed. They have been taught that they can’t lose, but Paul warned those who belonged to Jesus that they could still lose out on eternal life, if they refused to live in a way that reflected the righteousness of Christ.

Paul make this point repeatedly, but somehow many can’t hear it. Many false teachings have swirled through the church for the last 2000 years. This is one of the early ones, for “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him.” (Tit 1:16) Faith with disobedient actions demonstrates that “they are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” They think they are saved, but they are unfit to be called righteous.

Peter taught the same thing about those who “know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome”:

“Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.” (2 Pet 3:17)

Jesus himself taught regarding those to whom he has given himself, that if they bury their talent, or are not diligent in keeping their lamps full of oil, or who put their hand to the plow and look back, that “even what they think they have will be taken away and given to another”. He repeats the same warning to Christians in Revelation, who when judged according to their works can have their candlestick placement removed from around his throne, or their names erased from the Book of Life, or their crown taken away, if they don’t repent of the things he confronts them with and do the things they did at first.

The call for Christians is to grow, to mature and produce the fruit of righteousness that God requires. It is by “constant use” that believers are led by the Holy Spirit to learn how to distinguish between good and evil—to identify the righteousness of Christ. Human words can’t do it justice; it must be put to use. Living and consistent application is not an option. It is the only way God will grant a person the insight to know the teaching about righteousness.

Of course, we have the freedom to try and distinguish between the knowledge of good and evil by eating from the forbidden tree, like Adam and Eve, but that ends in rejection away from God. This issue is the primary desire of humanity—to try and figure out a way to make life work on our own terms and by our own effort and without any expectations. This is at the heart of our god-complex. 6000 years and trillions of failures to boot. Constant use in submissively living out our faith by Jesus words, in step with the Spirit, is the only way to the tree of life, to know his good, his righteousness.

We don’t cause it, and we can never earn it, but we are commanded to apply it. The expectation is laid upon every believer to live Christlike, seeking outlets for him to live through our choices and circumstances, to let his righteousness mature in us. The prayer is that as God provides the seed, we can devote our lives toward enlarging the harvest of his righteousness.

“filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” (Phi 1:11)

“offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness”. (Rom 6:13)

It is through the increasing evidence of this divine righteousness in a believer, that we can know both where it comes from and in whom it rightly exists:

“If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him” (1 Jn 2:29)

“Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.”  (1 Jn 3:7)

The difficulty is that no document or statement can ever fully reveal the teaching about righteousness. It only purely exists in Jesus, and it can only become recognized by Christians who obediently allow Jesus to live through them by maturing in how they apply his words and Spirit in every corner of their lives.

The Righteous One has given his invitation and command, not just to those who claim him as Lord, but to those with ears to hear:

“Seek first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you”. (Mt 6:33)

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Mt 5:6)

Seek the righteousness of Jesus in place of your own, by striving to make it your own through lifelong surrender to his every word. In this way, Jesus will live through a believer and righteousness will mature, until he brings salvation to those who are waiting for him.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”. (2 Cor 5:21)

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Lord of All: The Right of Expectation

Two thousand years of Christian history, and still people struggle with what it means for Jesus to be Lord.

As prophesied by the Holy Spirit, through nearly all the Bible writers, many ministers will look and sound good, but distort the gospel with subtle shifts of theology. Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, and other; there is no human-labeled church that is exempt from this. Most think they got it right, that the problems only apply to others, and so they continue blindly in their denominational tradition, denouncing and demonizing those who shed light on their twists of the truth.

But, the Bible is clear. Jesus is Lord, with all authority given to him. That means that everything and everyone must demonstrate submission under his rule and follow his every directive and will.

Many sincere Christians are fine with the idea that Jesus is Savior. Nobody likes the notion of facing the wrath of God for our sins. The rub comes, however, when confronted with the meaning of Jesus as Lord of all, and in particular, Lord over me.

Along with very similar warnings by Paul, John, and Peter, this is the heart of the issue that Jude confronts.

“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus our only Sovereign and Lord.”

We all like to hear about the happy promise of salvation and the good times ahead, but there is a dark problem in the Church. False ministers, who are well liked and sound so good, have changed the biblical meaning of grace, and many parishioners are swallowing it to their own destruction. This passage says that godless ministers are teaching a form of grace, that has no subsequent expectation on ongoing morality, which as a result denies Jesus as Lord and distorts the Christian faith.

In other words, the issue Scripture is addressing is not about the incredible extent of mercy inherent in grace, but the lack of moral obligation being taught. How a person views the grace of God is foundational to Christian faith. Per the words of God, many are being mislead with a teaching about grace that offers all the attractive benefits with none of the serious consequences. The idea is that if you want to be saved by Jesus, then you have a perfect guarantee of bliss, with no chance of the promise of heaven being taken away for disobeying the Lord’s recorded expectations upon his followers.

Those within whom the Spirit is at work are called upon to contend and wrestle to sustain biblical faith in themselves and with everyone with whom they interact in church. Keep in mind, this is said to be a Church problem, not a worldly issue. The deadly disease here is internal within the claimed Body of Christ, not external.

It is commonly explained that grace is “unmerited pardon”, or undeserved blessing especially toward eternal salvation. Like many ideas, however, it is the slight shifts of meaning that are added to this, that turn grace into no good news at all. The problem is not typically with the general definition, but rather with the details of application, which reveal the real intent of the heart.

As a pastor stated Sunday, “you cannot sin more than the grace of God”. It sounds good. Certainly God’s grace is greater and more powerful than any type or amount of sin. But this was not spoken to unbelieving crowds, who are wondering if God would really accept them because of what they have done in the past. Rather, it was spoke to Christians sitting in church, most of whom are baptized believers. Believers are being taught that there is no sin that they can continue to commit that is more than the grace of God will continue to cover so that they can be saved.

That is a lie! It is to gathered Christians that God declares:

“those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God”; and,

“but among you there must not be even a hint of [sin]…For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.”

Grace that supposedly continues in spite of ongoing sin is not real grace at all. Believers who choose to continue in sin, thinking that God will always cover their rebellion–like the movie gangster who tortures and kills some innocent person, but then does the cross pattern over their chest, or goes to church on Sunday for confession, or repeats the popular phrase once-saved-always-saved—has been given over to believe the lie by those who refuse to love the truth and so be saved.

Those priests who think they can abuse children or others in their congregation, or who protect those who do such things, have a planned date with the Devil, not with God, even though their official theology is that they can never lose out on their promised salvation. Those pastors who abuse their power, gather wealth by their ministry, sexually assault their sheep and commit adultery through repeated marriages while their earlier mate is still alive, are diluted in thinking they have it made because they believe they can’t out-sin grace. Church members who think they can live with one foot in this world, wave their political flag in the face of the opposition, learn the art of killing in the name of national patriotism, indulge in wine-women-and-winning, prove that Jesus is not their Lord in spite of their pious claim.

Such a person, and such a pastoral teacher, has distorted grace into a guaranteed doctrine of assurance, even though they knowingly continue to do immoral things. Such a person demonstrates that they reject Jesus as Lord. To be Lord, among other things, means that he has the right to expect something from everything. So he poses the question to those who say they are Christian:

“Why do you call me Lord, but do not the things that I say?”

Jesus has saved believers out of sin, not so we can live in sin. His command to those granted his grace is to “go and sin no more”. His tagline warning, recorded in Scripture, is “or something worse may happen to you”. While we remain in this flesh, we all still struggle with the temptations of sin, so a wise and humble Christian will avoid the arrogance of claimed perfection and hear Jesus’ words to his Church:

“Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place [where Jesus is].”

Because Jesus has been given all authority, he therefore has the absolute right to expect submission under that authority, even from individuals who enjoy his favor. Jesus is not an open-lid candy store. He expects his people to obey what he says, or hear his eternal rejection against those who called him “Lord, Lord”, but did not actually follow what he said.

Those who deny his lordship over every detail of their lives, think they have found a sneaky way to work around those boundaries of slavery, by claiming that grace means guaranteed-no-matter-what. Many claim that human participation in obeying the gospel is just works, thus obedience is not really required for salvation. Such teachings demonize any kind of works and turn many believers away from obedience in faith by a distorted gospel of guaranteed assurance with ongoing sin.

That is not the Christian gospel, even if you have heard it in church. Obedience can never earn or cause grace, but such works are not irrelevant to salvation. God states that our works don’t earn his grace, but they are expected to be willingly applied, in response to what he initiates, causes, and has done–if we want to remain under his created plan:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Massive and ornate cathedrals of theology have been erected to dazzle onlookers away from the truth. They promote the desired promises, but reject the connected warnings. Their fancy structures of core doctrine are so impressive and have so many overlapping layers, that the raw truth can no longer be recognized by those drunk on their traditional version of beliefs. The confusion is often confuddled at the scriptural crossroads of justification and sanctification, with the assumption that what Jesus accomplished means that we don’t fall under any salvation-impacting expectations.

Christians demonstrate that Jesus is their Lord, by how they submit to following and obeying the entire package of every word given by God through Christ. Grace upholds Jesus as Lord. Grace is unmerited in offering, and cannot be attained outside of faith in Jesus, like by keeping the Mosaic Law, but can only be accepted through submission. This is the pattern revealed by Jesus himself, through his submission to his own Head.

Jesus repeatedly made it clear, that he does nothing other than what he sees his Father doing. He doesn’t add words to what God wants. He doesn’t add his own personal style or agenda to anything that God reveals. He does nothing other than what God the Father speaks. The Lord Jesus submits absolutely, in every detail, without any wandering or personal preference, to his Lord God.

This is what it means by “seek first the Kingdom of God”. Such seeking is meant to be absolute, without exception, with no other competing Lord to divert our devotion. That includes not allowing ourselves, our ideas, our preferences, our desires, our agenda, our traditional doctrines and theologies to alter what the Bible declares. We cannot also be Lord; nor can our particular church or seminary or pastor or statement-of-faith be Lord.

This is also what is meant by the command to live according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh. This is not a reference to coming to faith, but a command regarding living by faith now that a person has become Christian. Those who try to do both (live for flesh and Spirit), will find themselves excluded from the promise that had been extended to them—like a dog that returns to its vomit—because they distorted the grace that had been given to them. Or as it declares in Revelation, regarding professing Christians who twist the biblical words of God to mean something different than given to the biblical writers, they will have their right to the tree of life “taken away”.

When Peter gave his famous Pentecostal sermon, many were cut to the heart by the truth spoken and asked, “what must we do”. Many false teachers would retort, “nothing”, because their idea of grace is God gives unmerited pardon to sinners without any type of expectation. But the actual words, that the crowds were immediately responding to, were “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” It was the truth that this human that they had seen do such amazing things, and who allowed himself to be crucified to accomplish God’s preordained plan, is not only the promised Christ (“anointed one” prophesied as the coming Messiah), he has also been made LORD.

This truth rocked the early Church, not just the crowds. Only twice, prior to this foundational message, do we find the phrase “Lord Jesus” (though both were actually written later); however, after this point, the writers of Scripture use it 100 times!

If that is the case, “what must we do?” That should be our response, having been confronted with the truth about grace. Don’t let the false teachers distort the biblical truth in your mind. “Repent and be baptized [and]… save yourself from this corrupt generation”.

Yes, do something. Yes, grace requires that you demonstrate that Jesus is not just Lord of all, but that he is completely accepted as your Lord. Jesus expects those whom he identifies as “truly my disciples” to obey all his teachings as recorded in Scripture. Grace does not excuse works of obedience, it demands it.

If you find yourself coming up short, then repent while you still can, and completely get rid of whatever tempts you. If God knows that you reject Jesus as Lord, and that you intend on using redefined biblical words like grace to try and excuse your intent to live for yourself and your own desires, then be assured that God will blind you and not allow you to actually repent the way he expects. Human-defined doctrines are very effective at blinding religious stage-actors into thinking they are safe to keep doing what they want.

Jesus is Lord. He has the right to expect that his subjects follow him and do what he says in every detail, just like the wind and waves obey exactly, and just like the physiology of a diseased body obeys completely, and just like unclean spirits obey immediately. His grace is more powerful than sin, but it does not possess a person like some demon. You must choose to surrender your will completely to his lordship.

If you have been granted the grace of God to know Jesus as Christ, and are consumed with gratitude for your Savior’s complete forgiveness of all sin in you by his work on the Cross, then demonstrate your acceptance of Jesus as Lord of all of you and do everything he says, just the way he says it, as soon as he reveals it, without trying to improve it or alter it for personal gain or traditional preference.

Come Lord Jesus, come.

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The Self-Rule Experiment

The exercise of power in human existence is concentrated in government, which establishes laws, controls and collects all types of value (like money, land, and rights), and enforces its chosen form of organization (through soldiers, police, and judiciary) at the point of a sword.

Whether governing billions, or just one, self-rule is an experiment of diversity with one primary purpose. Human government is a study in abject failure of every conceivable method.

This is not a condemnation of any existing government, but rather an observation about why history discards one type of government after another, like some monstrous defect factory. It doesn’t seem to matter where one lands their time machine, human government, like human physiology, is a record of constant and repeated death.

The variations of human government are a study into the ability of man to manage himself. As the saying goes, “there is nothing new under the sun.” However, that doesn’t mean that there are not new combinations or styles of self-rule; rather, as it might apply to government, that the experiment is guaranteed to prove the same outcome.

It doesn’t matter whether it is a monarchy, democracy, theocracy, dictatorship, communistic, a god-governed, a mob-governed, a strong-man, a crafty woman, an isolated island, a resource rich, a desert poor, a young or old leader, with devout or atheistic beliefs, small or large clan, an off-the-chart wise ruler, a mentally deranged or simpleton leader, a committee, a law-bound, a chaotic leaderless period, or any other possible form of self-rule. History documents that humans cannot govern themselves without eventually destroying everything around them.

There is a very important reason for this experiment. It would appear that the Creator who set history spinning is giving us every conceivable opportunity to test our ability to govern ourselves. In his amazing grace, he is allowing humanity to test their ability to be their own god, to do things their own way, to see what happens when we try to do life on our terms. So far, the conclusion is a dismal failure.

Even after the Lord returns to destroy the wicked in the great battle of Armageddon, and raise his faithful to eternal life as priests in his kingdom, the Bible prophecies that there will still be a form of human self-rule that after a thousand years will raise its ugly head. This experiment will continue through this Millennium, to provide one final set of options to human self-rule that have not been tested yet.

In some way, there will be non-Christian humans existing during this glorious time. Imagine, a time when there will be no wars for a thousand years. Imagine, there will be no Satan to fuel the fires of desire, and people can live entirely per their own compass. Imagine, there will be a time when you can actually trust your ministers to be righteous, to always say what is truthful, to never sin, to perfectly lead people in the ways of God. There has never been a human government that could try to fly with its own wings in such a favorable wind. If you have heard the story of Gog, then you know how it ends—just like every single form of human self-rule throughout history—complete destruction.

Lest you think this only applies to civil government, the same can be observed about religious government. No form of religion is capable of ruling humanity rightly either. Even when that religious government has been established by the one true God, it has still been given permission to experiment with human will.

The biblical record of Noah’s flood is a disturbing rebuke, not just against general immorality, but specifically against those who should have known better—those who belonged to God as descendants through the lineage of Seth. They eventually chose to cross the line and marry whomever they desired, rather than stay within the boundaries.

The historic tribes of Israel where given divine assistance and blessings, but they too chose to live and marry outside those defined limits given by God, and the text says that the Lord divorced her. Not even the glorious Temple, and practices that mirrored what exists in heaven, could provide enough staying-power so long as humans were allowed to still do things their own way.

Angering as it might be to many, this likely remains just as true within the Church. The experiment of self-rule through thousands of denominations appears to prove the exact same result. Professing Christians indulge their own desires, marry outside the faith, divorce and remarry in adulterous rebellion, set themselves up as leaders and teachers, just like the people of God in times past. Priests abuse children and church leaders allow it. Ministers revolt against the established church authority, thinking they have a better way to lead God’s people, but in so doing, they defy the scriptural commands that say that those who do so are rebelling against God. In time, their new version of Christian self-rule, distorts the gospel and proves to be just as unreliable.

The Lord himself has revealed that he has allowed wolves, weeds, leaven, chaff, and false teachers to enter his Church, to undermine the purity of Christian government, and lead many away toward believing things taught by demons without realizing it. But this experiment is not out-of-control, like some damaged fighter plane in a spiraling nose-dive. God has promised that in spite of the human distortion that infects everything we touch, he will intervene and prevent the gates of Hell from overcoming his Church—not meaning any organized form of human-defined government, but rather the hidden, Spirit-bound and preserved true people of faith.

A caution needs to be shared at this point. Just because human self-rule, both civilly and religiously, are destined to come up short of the glory of God, does not allow believers to reject either. Rather, God commands his faithful to remain submissive, to remain supportive of government, and to continue to honorably participate in his public Church Body. Just know, that all human self-rule is flawed.

Most parents come to recognized that even their own attempts at governing their family, though filled with many joys, are ultimately littered also with failure. Individual Christians, at least those who have the ears to hear what the Bible declares, have come to admit that their own natures prevent them from ever being righteous on their own—not even with some assistance from the Spirit of God. We stay in the game and continue to give it our best effort, but the lesson of life is that there is only one Lord of all!

We need to be saved. We also need, from that point, to learn to put every personal agenda and private will to death, submitting absolutely and completely to the lordship of the King of Kings. It cannot be a mix; there can be no 50-50. Self-rule doesn’t work.

This is not a call to abdicate responsibility; it is an invitation toward submission, while honorably conducting our established authority, to perpetuate the rule of heaven alone. Submission to the rule of the Lord is the only way. We demonstrate that desire by how completely we embrace the words of God—by how fully we live within the boundaries he has established—by how we restrain doing things our way, per our ideas, for our benefit, no matter the initial cost which will look and feel very much like the Cross. We show our true colors by how completely and thoroughly we repent whenever our efforts come up short of absolute perfection: “as your heavenly Father is perfect”.

Human government is a divinely established experiment in trying to live without God, or with only partial dependence upon him, or with only religious influence, or with at least some shred of independence and personal agenda still in operation.

The truth, which history will prove in its time, is that there is only one Lord, only one Kingdom, only one form of righteous rule by which humans can safely exist for eternity. His name is Jesus!

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Faith to Move Mountains

By its very definition, faith is mysterious and beyond full comprehension. It speaks of a form of trust that, though it is built on what is reasonable and knowledgeable, it goes beyond what can be understood.

For most Christians, faith emphasizes the active belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior. That is certainly true, however, faith is often referred to in the Bible where there is little or no understanding of Jesus at that moment. As a result, in order to understand this faith that that God says is required in order to please him, it might be worth a more detailed look at a surprising revelation.

When Peter and John passed the blind beggar, the text says that all the man wanted was money. There is no reference to any knowledge about Jesus, let alone any faith in being able to be healed by him, nor any idea that Peter and John were even Christian. However, after he was healed, and all the people where amazed, the Apostles stated that, “It is in Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.” In this case, the faith to be healed was not in the disabled man, but in those who gave the healing.

However, there is an important distinction that needs to be recognized here. Peter, with his faith in Jesus’ ability to heal, had likely passed lots of other beggars who wanted money, but only this one received the healing. Notice what it says: “Look at us!” There is something significant implied in this, for those with ears to hear.

When Paul and Barnabas began preaching the good news in Lystra, the response of the crowds indicate that the teaching about Jesus had not yet been conveyed when the crippled man suddenly was healed. There is no mention of Jesus and no reference to this man’s faith in being able to be healed. The people thought that their pagan gods had come in human form.

Notice, however, the hint in the text. In the middle of Paul’s speech, he stopped what he was doing, even though there were lots of people in the crowd, and likely other people in need of healing. We are simply told, “Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, ‘Stand up on your feet!’” What kind of faith is this that would think a physical healing was more important than teaching truth? And, why did Paul look intently at this man? There is something significant here, for those with ears to hear.

When the crippled man was let down by his friends through the roof to be healed by Jesus, the text implies that it was the faith of this man’s friends to which Jesus attributes the healing. But their apparent faith could only have been in Jesus’ ability and willingness to heal, and not a matter of faith in him being their Savior. In contrast, when the disabled man by the wading pool was asked by Jesus if he wanted to be healed, he never even said yes. In fact, the text says that he didn’t even know who healed him; so where was the required faith? There is something significant here, for those with ears to hear.

When Jesus returned to Galilee, the Bible records that he could do few miracles because of the lack of faith in the people. Certainly Jesus had enough faith to heal others, but he didn’t this time. And, the text says that these people had been in Jerusalem and saw all the miracles he did, so they certainly had the knowledge that his man was fully capable of healing. But their lack of faith prevented healing. Why, when it worked at other times? There is a significant reason, for those willing to hear.

There are many other examples that could be highlighted, but these should be sufficient to demonstrate the complexity of faith as it might apply to receiving from God. To start the whole thing, faith is presented in Scripture as a gift that God simply gives in grace to those he wants to experience his goodness. At the end of the Book, it is those who endure in faith to their final breath, that God promises to bless. Sometimes living out our faith in Jesus as Lord of our new lives, is what Scripture requires. In other passages, it is an open profession of faith in Jesus as Savior, confirmed at the start of our walk through baptism. At other times it is about faith in God and what he promises. In some cases, it is faith in the possibility of being healed or blessed, without anything eternal in the mix. In other circumstances it is some kind of faith, without any reference to Jesus or salvation. Again, there are occurrences of faith of others that turns into blessings for us; and, there are instances where it all hinges on the faith of the person who seems intent on helping us in our plight. Of course, there are many examples where the lack of faith, in any of the above aspects, prevents experiencing the grace of God.

What is this faith?

Faith cannot be understood through extensive study or observation, like most all of what comes from God. It must be received from God as well as be revealed to us.

The first is a pure act of grace. Faith must be received; it cannot be earned, defined, or controlled by human effort. However, it is also something that ought to grow and mature in a believer. That requires our participation.

These distinctions help explain why there are so many different references to faith. The secret is not that there are different types of faith, but rather that God is doing something different at that moment.

In every recorded passage, the key to understanding what faith is required for God to intervene, is to identify what God intends to do, rather than try to assess the grasp of faith in a person. It is a matter of focus. The focus is not about the extent of faith in a person, but on the activity of God.

Consider the above passages. In Lystra, Paul healed the man in the crowd right in the middle of his sermon, because he saw something special going on. As he was preaching, he saw the Holy Spirit revealing something through the expressions of that disabled man, and it suddenly stopped his speaking so that he could respond. As he stared more intensely, he concluded that the Spirit was revealing to him that God was about to do something miraculous—what the Bible calls faith. In other words, it was faith in this man, most likely through his spirit having been suddenly opened and receptive to the work of God, that is defined as faith.

When Peter was accosted for money, he sensed something different than from all the other beggars he had passed. He not only stopped, even though he didn’t have what the man wanted, he specifically told the man to look at him. As Jesus taught, the eyes are a lamp into the soul. Peter looked more carefully to verify whether his initial sense that had stopped him was really of God, and saw God about to do something. That is the faith Peter spoke about later. The healing happened because Peter had responded in faith to what he sensed, through the request and eyes of this man, that God wanted to act.

When Jesus healed the man let down through the roof, it was not recorded as something due to that man’s faith in Jesus as Savior, but rather that Jesus recognized that this effort to put this man before him, was something from God. Faith is a gift, remember. God had given his grace to this man, and through this man’s friends, so that God could bring glory to himself through Jesus. Jesus recognized this. That is the faith being referenced.

The event when Jesus healed the crippled man at the pool, who didn’t know him or even acknowledge belief in God, when hundreds of other people there wanted to be healed, could only be explained as something Jesus sensed was of God. Like when he turned around in a crowd and asked who touched him, Jesus was demonstrating his human sensitivity to the activity of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was constantly looking for evidence of the Spirit to direct his words, choices, and activities.

That is what faith should look like in a believer. It is also what it means to see faith in another person—it is when we sense that God is showing us that he is about to act and is inviting us to participate.

In this way, faith is more about the evidence of God in a person, than about the person’s view towards God.

The sad part of the revelation is that even when Jesus longs to bless us, the testing for faith sometimes prevents it. When the Lord traveled on this earth, he was limited in doing miracles, because the people were not showing the necessary faith. Although faith comes to a person as a gift, it must thereafter be something that person engages with and develops in submission to the activity of God. In truth, some receive faith, but don’t ever produce the demanded fruit, which limits Christ from blessing them. Even though Jesus healed and did amazing miracles some times in those with no personal faith, when people didn’t show any faith that God was intending to act in them, Jesus withheld his power to bless.

The key, once again, is to look for the revealed activity of the Spirit in that moment, circumstance, person, or need. Is God about to do something? The prophets record that God does nothing without first revealing what he is about to do to his servants. That is significant to understanding what it means to respond to faith.

Think about this in terms of Jesus’ teaching on the level of faith necessary to move mountains. Many have tried to strain their goodness glands into some amount of powerful faith, but what if we were to shift our focus away from trying to measure whether or not we have enough personal faith that something could happen, and toward trying to exercise the faith to recognize the activity of God that is about to happen. Looking toward self will always be limited; but, developing the eyes of the Spirit to see what God is about to do, and to alter our activity to participate, will have unlimited power—enough to toss a mountain into the sea, if that is what God is about to do.

Life goes on. People do whatever they want. All looks usual and expected, but then something catches our attention. It could be just our own desire or personal agenda, but no, this is something more. This looks very different. Could this be God breaking through our human shield of ignorance and inviting me to draw near to the burning bush?

Faithful and mature Christians live by the promptings of the Spirit rather than by the observations and preferences of the flesh. That is not just a suggestion. It is a description of the consuming orientation of those who have died to self and live entirely for the work of the Lord. The Holy Spirit doesn’t always reveal himself, however, so we go about our God-honoring business, while we are constantly on the watch for divine intervention. When we sense that, we drop everything in order to participate in what God intends to do, so that he will receive glory at our hand.

Then it happens. Subtle at first. Perhaps a gentle whisper or nudge. We turn to check it out; changing our course; pausing our activity mid-stream. We look intently with our spirit, to see if this unusual indication is truly an invitation from God. If we make it up, it isn’t faith, and we will come under judgment, even though the Spirit may still cause a miracle to occur (like when Moses struck the rock, when he was told to speak to it). If we sense it rightly, faith invites us to expose ourselves and declare what only God has the right to say:

“Be healed!”

“Stand up and walk!”

“Your sins are forgiven!”

“Receive Eternal Life in Jesus name!”

It is all a matter of faith.

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Believing in Fake Scripture

What we claim to believe about Scripture directly reflects what we believe about God. Scripture is the word of God. It is not simply a regurgitation that resembles what God thinks; Scripture is the very breath of God.

“All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16).

That is an amazing statement that unfortunately is not commonly accepted by many Christians. Consider the wording found in many published statements of faith:

“We believe in the holy Scriptures as the full and accurate word of God in their original form”.

It is that last clarification that is most concerning. The reason many conservative groups add that phrase, is that it is well known and accepted that all existing translations of the Bible have difficulties. Many, if not all, have errors. In fact, the very nature of translation, which uses different words from other languages to try and reflect the original words, cannot ever contain the complete and exact meaning of those words in that original. That’s why they are a different language. It might get close, but it can’t be exact.

As a result, it is only the original documents that can present the exact words as recorded at that moment of inspiration by the writers of Scripture. Therein lies the problem. There are NO known copies of any original documents for any part of the Bible. Everything we have today is a copy of a translation, with who-knows-how-many iterations.

Of course, another approach that many churches take in dealing with this issue, is to claim to accept Scripture in its intended references and not specifically as something that is completely accurate and trustworthy. That is much too literal and constraining to them, so they swing along the pendulum to the other end and claim to appreciate the literature of Scripture and not get embroiled in the messy inaccuracies of the details.

So, should we accept that the Bible is completely accurate and trustworthy, if no original documents exist, and all translations have issues? This is why many faith statements claim to believe in the accuracy of Scripture only in their original form.

The glaring problem, that few seem to want to admit, is that such original Scripture doesn’t exist, so their belief in the trustworthiness of the existing Bible is invalid. They are claiming to believe in a myth.

Think about it. Does it make any sense at all to say that you believe and trust in God’s holy words in a form that doesn’t exist. What does such a statement reveal about what these groups actually believe about the book that sits in their lap on a Sunday morning?

They don’t actually trust it!

The problem here is not with the reliability of Scripture, but with the scholarly philosophy that demands material proofs. It is an evolutionary error of judgment that claims to believe in origins that can’t be proven by any existing physical evidence. Many Christians have been suckered into this lie.

The Bible that we have today can and should be trusted!

Consider the opening quote above, that God has breathed all Scripture. When the Apostle Paul wrote this statement to the minister Timothy, the existing Scripture that he had at that time, and that he was speaking about, was NOT an original. All of it was from translated copies.

The word Scripture, up to that time, was understood to mean those accepted books from Genesis to Malachi, as recorded in two primary versions: a Hebrew and a Greek. The Greek Septuagint was clearly an old and accepted translation from the original Hebrew, and one that both Jesus and the apostles quoted from (as they also did from the Hebrew version). That means that the Lord didn’t have a problem with this translation, even though it is very different in various details from the contemporary Hebrew at that time.

The reason scholars know that many New Testament quotes from the Old come from the Septuagint and not the Hebrew text is because the Hebrew wording says and means some things differently. If the living Word of God, known as Jesus, chose to quote from the Greek translation rather than from the Hebrew, then we are compelled, out of respect for his sovereign judgment as the Son of God who originally spoke those words, to accept the Greek meanings over the Hebrew ones especially in those passages, and in turn to embrace the Hebrew quoted passages over the Greek when chosen.

The Hebrew Scriptures were also in many ways a translation. When the Kingdom of Judah was taken captive to Babylon some 600 years previous to Paul’s writing, the Jews who were able to return to the land of Israel had effectively lost their native language. What they still had were Hebrew words on biblical scrolls, but few if any other writings to preserve that language or to ensure the ability to accurately define what all those words meant. You may have noticed in the footnotes of your Bible, when reading in the Old Testament, that “the meaning of this phrase or word is unknown”. That is because, for the most part, Hebrew had been lost. [There are other reason too, like Hebrew words passed down in Scripture that do not match the original due to scribal errors, but those are irrelevant to the point being made here.]

This was the time frame when devout Jews feared to speak the name of God, because the written letters of YHWH had no accompanying reference to how to rightly pronounce the holy name of God. To mis-speak and butcher God’s name was tantamount to blasphemy.

Modern Hebrew, for those who don’t know, didn’t come into existence until after WWII. The new nation of modern Israel needed their own language and Hebrew didn’t exist. Jews were coming together with a potpourri of languages from the nations where they had been scattered many generations before. Old Hebrew was a dead language.

What they did was take words from Scripture that had familiar meanings and combined them into made-up words for new things, and effectively created an entirely new language from the ashes of pieces of ancient Hebrew.

By the time of Jesus life on earth, the primary language of the Jews had long been Aramaic. The educated spoke Greek. The business and governmental groups spoke Roman. Hebrew was used as a liturgy when reading from the biblical scrolls in a synagogue or the Temple.

All this means that the Hebrew language at the time of Jesus, and at the moment that Paul wrote about Scripture being God-breathed, was effectively a translation and not an original. Paul had no qualms, however, about confirming that these Jews in his day continued to faithfully sustain God’s words, for:

“they have been entrusted with the very words of God”. (Rom 3:2)

This is the historical context within which we are supposed to accept Scripture as God-breathed. It is those translations that continue to reflect the breath of God. Notice that Paul does not qualify his statement by saying that God’s breath was somewhere in there, or gave life to those words back in ancient past, or is some kind of symbolic reference. He simply declares that the Scripture translations were, continue to be, and forever will remain the breath of God–including Old and New Testament books–right down to today, as that special book sits in your lap!

This breath cannot be verified by human study, document verification, or original proofs. No Scripture can be rightly understood absent of the Holy Spirit. This amazing truth is how a translation, by the nature of language differences, cannot be an exact, and yet can still be accepted as conveying the trustworthy and accurate truth of God.

If there is an error, or a divergent word used to translate some part of Scripture, then the Holy Spirit will heal it in the mind of the faithful and ensure the truth of God is fully conveyed. If there is a wrong translation or teaching, then the Holy Spirit will deafen ears, or in turn open ears, so that God’s very breath remains complete and life-giving. If one translation gets it wrong, the Spirit can direct a student, who strives to show themselves approved by rightly diving the word of truth, to another translation that does preserve the truth in that passage. Truth is primarily a function of the active working of the Holy Spirit in a faithful believer, and not so much a discipline of academic scholars.

Details still matter. Careful attention to what the text actually states is still very important. Accepting and obeying what it commands, even in literal terms where the context supports it, is of paramount importance. The Spirit will not guide the casual, indifferent, or flippant revisionist. The point here, is that the original details, though important, are not the key; the work of the Spirit is the most important detail in preserving and instructing through those details, even when filtered through successive layers of culture, language translations, and traditions.

Perhaps a slight modification of Paul’s words that give a general truth could help apply to this specific issue:

“In the same way no one knows Scripture, in its original or translated forms, except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may completely and accurately understand the Bible that God has freely preserved for us.” (1 Cor 2:11)

You don’t need an original document to trust what God says in his Bible. You need to submit to and trust the leading of the Master Teacher, the Spirit of God, that dwells within a faithful believer in Jesus.

Perhaps a more careful statement of faith could include the belief:

“We believe in the holy Scriptures as the full and accurate word of God as preserved, revealed, and taught by the Holy Spirit.”

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