Advertisements

Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Mephibosheth: A Portrait Of The Sinner

“Then David said, “Is there yet anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Samuel 9:1)

Last time, we took a look at the great civil war between Israel and Judah with the armies of the House of Saul fighting against the armies of King David. I would like to look now at a single person from Saul’s family and the kindness that David the king showed him.

As Chapter 9 of Second Samuel opens, we find King David sitting on the throne of a united Israel and Judah with the civil war over and most of the other enemies of David conquered. He had moved his capital from Hebron to Jerusalem, after capturing it from the Jebusites, and had defeated Israel’s perpetual enemy, the Philistines. The Ark of the Covenant had been brought into Jerusalem and, although God had decreed that it would be built during the reign of his son, Solomon, David had sought to begin construction of the Temple. God blessed David and promised that his kingdom would endure forever (2 Sam. 7:16) and that the lovingkindness of the Lord would not depart from him as it had from Saul.

Success tests the character of the most virtuous of men and, in the words of the First Baron of Acton, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But King David was a man “after God’s own heart” and we are repeatedly told throughout the narrative that he “showed kindness” to various people; a trait seldom found in rulers. Sitting upon his throne in Jerusalem, his mind not distracted by the demands of government nor the strategies of war, he reflects upon his late friend Jonathan, son of Saul, and he wonders if there is anyone left alive within Jonathan’s family to whom he may show kindness.

It turns out that there was a son of Jonathan still alive. We are first told about Mephibosheth back in Chapter 4 where we find him as a little five-year-old boy being rushed from his house by his nanny after hearing the news of the death of his father Jonathan and his grandfather Saul (1 Sam. 31:1-6). Urgently escaping as quickly as possible before the Philistines could finish off any surviving sons of the House of Saul, Mephibosheth fell and injured his feet, leaving him crippled (2 Sam. 4:4).

A Dead Dog Like Me

Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and prostrated himself. And David said, “Mephibosheth.” And he said, “Here is your servant!” David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly.” Again he prostrated himself and said, “What is your servant, that you should regard a dead dog like me?” (2 Samuel 9:6-8)

Within the relationship that develops between David and Mephibosheth, we find a wonderful illustration of God’s mercy to the sinner. When the two men first meet, King David offers Mephibosheth gifts and honors that are truly astounding to the son of Jonathan. A vain and prideful man might have been ungrateful, feeling that this was the least that the king who ruled where his own grandfather once had could do for him. But, no, Mephibosheth was neither vain nor proud. He prostrated himself before the king in humility and was keenly aware that this act of grace and mercy was unmerited.

Mephibosheth’s words echoed David’s own words to God when he marvelled in the Eighth Psalm,

“What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?” (Psalm 8:4)

Like the sinner who first comes to Christ, Mephibosheth was blown away by the mercy that the King was showing him. And as is for all who are humble at heart, he recognized who he was compared with who the king was and that he in no way deserved the kindness he was being shown. Remember Peter’s reaction when Jesus miraculously provided an overwhelming catch of fish where he himself was unable to bring in a single one. Falling before the Lord he shouted, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). Or Isaiah’s reaction to his vision of God’s glory filling the Temple:

“Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5 KJV)

The heart that is most receptive to the grace and mercy of God is the heart that acknowledges just how undeserving it is. Mephibosheth referred to himself as a “dead dog” and the sinner, too, must recognize that he is dead in his sins (Ephesians 2:1).

For The Sake Of Jonathan

David showed kindness to Mephibosheth, not because of who Mephibosheth was or what Mephibosheth had or had not done, but for the sake of Jonathan. God the Father shows mercy and grace to us, sinners, for the sake of Jesus. It is because of our relationship to Christ that we are invited to eat at the King’s table.

When David looked upon Mephibosheth, he saw Jonathan and it was his love for Jonathan that compelled him to treat Mephibosheth with kindness and mercy. God the Father does love us, but it is our relationship to Jesus Christ that compels Him to show us grace and mercy. God loves all the people of the world (John 3:16), but He only shows grace and mercy to those who are covered by the blood of Jesus.

It is noteworthy that David never mentions anything about the feet of Mephibosheth. His feet were broken, lame, and crippled just as we are broken, lame, and crippled by our sin.  God does not look upon the sinful flesh of those whom Christ has redeemed, but sees us through the lens of the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:19, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 3:9). Crippled feet did not exclude Mephibosheth from the king’s table, neither does sin exclude us. If we are in Christ, then that sin has been removed from us to be remembered no more (Psalm 103:12).

Verse 11 of Second Samuel 9 tells us that Mephibosheth ate at the king’s table as one of the king’s own sons. Passages such as Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:5, and Ephesians 1:5 remind us  who are in Christ Jesus that we, too, have been adopted as sons and daughters of God. Like Mephibosheth, we will take our place at the table of the King with the same privileges and benefits of any other child of the King. One day, we will live in that place where our own King lives, the New Jerusalem, just as Mephibosheth moved to the city of David to be where he was. And God will show us great kindness and mercy for the sake of Jesus, not looking upon our sins and lame feet, but seeing us with the same love that He has for the Son.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Advertisements

New Comment Policy

My intention when first beginning this blog was to allow any and all appropriate comments and questions to be published. As long as the opinion expressed was free from obscenity I have always been careful to allow even the most disagreeable comments to appear on Answers From The Book. I believed that remarks which challenged my beliefs and writings were mostly healthy and, since I really have nothing to fear from opposing viewpoints, could possibly open a door for a fruitful discussion.

Over the past 7 and a half years, I have received hundreds of messages ranging from the inspirational and uplifting to the debased and blasphemous. At one point, I had the time and interest in addressing many of these negative comments with the hope that, even if the person writing the comment itself was unreceptive, perhaps someone else reading the discussion might find the information helpful. Long ago I abandoned trying to directly respond to each and every detractor and became much more selective over which ones I would engage with.

Now I find it necessary to take things a step further. Over recent months, this website has attracted the attention of more and more people who seem to enjoy spending their time heckling websites about Christianity, a belief-system that they vehemently assert they reject entirely. What would possess someone to compose lengthy attacks against something that they regard as nonsensical fairy tales is curious in itself, but such is the nature of their obsession.

To be honest, I myself have grown tired of reading their garbage and no longer wish to have my website littered with their hateful diatribes. I have spent a great deal of time attempting to reason with many of these folks and have learned that most of them have no real interest in what those who disagree with them have to say. Anything that challenges their pre-conceived notions is usually brushed aside or ignored altogether.

This blog is written for the purpose of edifying Christians and for presenting the Gospel message to the unsaved who are willing to listen. It is not a sounding board for militant atheism and those frustrated and angry with the Christian Faith. There are enough websites and forums for that and precious few which present a God-centered, Biblical worldview.

It is not my intention to silence opposing views but to discontinue allowing those with their own agenda to come here and attempt to “shout me down” in the comments. I’m not afraid that their arguments are unanswerable, it’s just not worth my time and effort to try to persuade those who won’t even listen. I would never allow skeptics to come into a church and spray paint their anti-Christian messages on the walls and I suppose that I feel similarly about allowing them to virtually do the same thing here.

I will still be allowing comments on my posts, but if your purpose is to ridicule, mock, heckle, and attack Christianity in general, be aware that your comments will not be published.

Loren

Blood Tipped Ears, Thumbs, and Toes

moisc3a9s_arc3a3o

“Then he presented the second ram, the ram of ordination, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. Moses slaughtered it and took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear, and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.” (Leviticus 8:22-23)

Many of the rituals mentioned in Leviticus may seem strange to us unless we remember that “blood” throughout this book is a foreshadow of the blood of Christ which covers all believers. The blood mentioned in Leviticus 8:22-23 is no exception.

The event being described here is the ordination of Aaron the High Priest and the other priests who will serve in the Tabernacle. Aaron and his sons were being prepared for priestly service and were being covered with the blood of sacrifice.

Since the New Testament tells us that every believer has been called into the priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), that is, into service to Jesus Christ our Lord, much of the symbolism present here is applicable to those of us in the Body of Christ. First of all, to be fit for service, a person must be covered in the blood, the blood of Jesus Christ. How many hypocritical “servants” of the Lord have done great harm to the cause of Christ because they never really knew Him? Before we are fit to serve, the sin question in our own lives must be resolved and we must be trusting in the Lord Jesus for our own Salvation. Before a Levitical priest could be ordained for service he had to be covered in the blood of sacrifice.

But why the ear? the toe? the thumb? Because the ear must be anointed to hear and rightly divide the Word of God. Any service or ministry must be grounded in the Word. We are not all called to teach or preach, but our service, whatever it might be, must be grounded in Biblical truth. Whether our calling is evangelism or tending the nursery during church services, our ministry is not as effective as it should be if we remain ignorant of the Bible.

The thumb represents our actions and our labor. Every ministry is a ministry of action and a blood-covered and anointed thumb speaks of this. That action may be the arduous labors of a missionary to a Third-World country or it might be the action of a wheelchair-bound widow folding her hands to pray for God’s people. God has not called any of us to sit on the sidelines and watch. Service to the Lord is not a spectator sport.

The toe speaks of movement; service is a mobile endeavor. No, we are not all supposed to travel abroad in order to serve God, but our steps should be leading us along the path He has laid out for us. “GO into all the world…”, Jesus said (Mark 16:15). Not “Sit and wait for the world to come to you.” So many churches have been built, furnished, decorated, prayed over and dedicated, and then filled with a few folks who wait anxiously for people to come and find them. Service to God involves going out to where the people in need are. We can’t just build a building and hope they come, we should be taking the Gospel to them and inviting them to come into our churches with us.

Finally, notice that the ear, thumb, and toe mentioned are the right ear, thumb, and toe. The right-hand side is spoken of in the Bible as the side of strength and power since most people are right-handed. Rachel wanted to name her son Ben-oni, the son of my sorrow since she felt her life slipping away during her labor. But Jacob, his father, named him Ben-jamin, son of my right hand since he would need to lean on the boy for strength now that his beloved Rachel was gone.

Christian service is to be done in our strength and with the fulness of effort. We are not supposed to just give a little bit of time and effort that we have left after everything else we wanted to do is done. God does understand and expect us to fulfill our obligations to work and family, but too often we relegate any service to Him into the “if I have enough time to squeeze it in” category. This one does sting a little because I know that I can do better in my own service and ministry which is writing this blog! Praise God He’s still working on me.

It is my prayer that everyone within the Body of Christ, including myself, will be more mindful of the service and ministry into which God has called us. Let us go forward with blood-tipped ears, thumbs, and toes and make 2016 the year where we begin to reclaim territory that has been lost.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Is There Any Evidence For The Existence Of God?

craig-hitchens-debateBecause I enjoy watching Bible-related videos, particularly those which discuss topics of Biblical archaeology and apologetics, my Youtube “recommended” list is now completely inundated with clips showing debates between Christians and atheists. Like a boxing poster announcing an upcoming heavyweight title bout, the thumbnails for these videos show two opponents, typically in very profound poses suggesting that they are locked in deep thought (see the picture at the right as an example), complete with their names, and sometimes credentials, listed above their photo with the letters “vs.” between them.

Without a doubt, the subjects of religion and the supernatural are as popular as ever and many of these videos have received literally millions of views. Books such as Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion“, Sam Harris’ “Letter To A Christian Nation“, and Christopher Hitchens’ “God Is Not Great” have been wildly popular bestsellers and have ushered in a new era of “Reason” in the first two decades of the 21st Century, commonly referred to as the “New Atheism.”

Christianity, and in fact all other deistic religions, have come under direct attack by the “New Atheists” whose agenda is the triumph of scientifically based empiricism over religious belief in a Divine Creator. What the ultimate goal actually is seems to vary from one proponent of the New Atheism to the next, and even depends on the context in which they are asked and by whom. Some seem to endorse the complete and total eradication of religious faith altogether while others are content to allow people of faith to live in peace, so long as they remain silent about their beliefs and abstain from voting or governing according to their faith-based morals.

atheist-debate-meThe thrust of the New Atheists’ attacks against Christianity can be categorized as follows: 1.) Attacks on the consistency and credibility of the Bible – whether it is alleged errors and contradictions in the text of the Bible or the “unintellectual” propositions of the miraculous (come on, a talking snake, really?), the atheists feel that if they can call into question the Bible’s veracity then they can persuade Christians to reject and abandon it. 2.) Ad hominem attacks – while I must admit after watching many of these debate videos that most of the “professional” atheists conduct themselves with decorum and civility, there is always a tone of condescension and the constant inference that people of faith are ignorant and unintellectual (Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptics Society, is a rare exception from what I have seen of him, and is particularly impressive in his ability to clearly and articulately present his ideas respectfully). Once you begin to read the comments section below the videos, however, you quickly begin to see remarks littered with profanity, name-calling, and blasphemy among the common, everyday fans of the New Atheists. So whether the atheist is a trained orator or not, it seems that, when backed into a corner, the go-to response is simply, “I’m the intellectual one here, you Christians are just willfully ignorant and your beliefs are stupid!”

And finally, 3.) Demands for evidence – it is this area that I want to look at more closely. If the New Atheists have a mantra its this: “Prove It.” Where is the proof?, they ask. Christians make a claim that God exists. The skeptic asks for proof. The Christian cannot provide it. Game, set, match atheists. Checkmate. Christopher Hitchens, one of the so-called “Four Horsemen of the New Atheism” (pictured above), has popularized the axiom bearing his name (Hitchens’ Razor),

“What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

debateIt is upon this hinge that most of these debates hang. Some Christian scholars and theologians have responded to the New Atheists’ challenge and have set about to prove the existence of God, sometimes empirically (through reference to the complexity of the world around us), but more often through arguments of logic (William Lane Craig, pictured above, seems to be the Christians’ champion at this craft). And while I applaud the efforts of those who have stepped up to try and beat the New Atheists at their own game, I wonder if perhaps this is not the best approach. In all honesty, the transcript of most of these debates amounts to little more than the atheist saying, “Prove God exists” and the Christian responding, “You prove that He does not.” Predictably, each side offers up their best reasonings and analogies, which the other side of course rejects as invalid, and everyone (including the audience) goes home believing pretty much the same thing as they did when they arrived.

Now, I want to be very careful in what I say, I am not attempting to criticize the efforts of Christians such as Dr. Craig who feel that debating these individuals is a worthwhile pursuit. If such debates can spark the interest in a non-Christian viewer to seriously investigate the claims of Christianity, then it is fruitful indeed. But I suspect that this would be a very rare occurrence. My interest, as always, is to consider what the Bible has to say about the whole nature of this subject.

With this in mind, I believe that the Bible gives some bad news for both the atheist and the Christian debaters. The atheist asserts that no evidence exists while the Christian asserts that it does exist and thus the debate revolves around these two positions. But what if we are asking the wrong questions and giving the wrong answers entirely? In other words, what if empirical, scientifically observable evidence is not even the right approach to finding out whether God exists?

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:18-20)

quote-biology-is-the-study-of-complicated-things-that-give-the-appearance-of-having-been-designed-richard-dawkins-62-19-50First of all, evidence does exist for the existence of God, many people have simply chosen to suppress it in their own hearts and minds. To observe the world around us, the mind-boggling complexity and order in the Universe, and conclude that it has all arisen through random chance is certainly not the most obvious conclusion to reach. It takes a decision of the will to suppress the testimony of nature and assert that such is the result of directionless forces. To surmise, as Richard Dawkins has, that complicated things which give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose have in fact not been designed for a purpose is illogical to say the least. Prof. Dawkins’ conclusion is not based on the best model suggested by the evidence but rather on his own distaste for the notion of God and his own predisposition toward atheism. In other words, he has interpreted the facts to suit his predetermined conclusion.

Nevertheless, I do not accuse the New Atheists, such as Prof. Dawkins, as being deliberately dishonest or insincere. I think that they honestly believe themselves to be open to evidence refuting their position, even if in reality they are not. If they received the kind of evidence they are asking for, some of them do believe that they would accept it. The truth of the matter is, however, that they would not. They would simply find a way to explain it away. Delusion, mass hysteria, psychosis, hallucination, etc. have all been previously posited as explanations for testimonies of the supernatural. If God Himself appeared in the flesh to one of the New Atheists and performed a miracle, he would simply conclude that he was being deceived or was hallucinating.

Therefore, the bad news for atheists (and perhaps the Christians attempting to provide conclusive, undeniable proof for His existence) is that God has determined that we must come to Him a different way. The Bible says,

“And without faith it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Before we can effectively draw close to God, that is, fully experience His presence, we have to believe that He exists. Before we come to Him! God is not going to subject Himself to the “scientific” inquiry of the skeptic or lay down upon the microscope slide for examination. He is not going to submit to man’s tests and experiments. Nor will He be found through philosophical arguments or processes of logic. God has determined that it is through faith that we will come to Him. He could have decided that He would prove His existence to those who require it, but that is not the method which He Himself has ordained. Consequently, there never has been nor will there ever be (in this life anyway) indisputable proof of God’s existence or even an air-tight argument of logic. God will not allow it.  The evidence God has given is sufficient for us to come to Him, but it is ultimately up to each of us whether or not we will believe it. He has allowed enough wiggle-room for skeptics and atheists to reject Him without His existence being forced upon them. The time will come when we will all pass through the veil of the “unknown” at the moment of death, but until then, God has given each of us the ability to either accept or reject Him.

For The Atheist/Skeptical/Uncertain

I wish to close with a few words first for the skeptic and then for the Christian. If you are reading this as an atheist or agnostic, thank you for reading this far and hearing what I have to say. If you wish to share an appropriate comment, please feel free, but know that I myself am not interested in arguing or debating over the topics in this article. God has provided me with satisfactory proof of His existence and I know Whom I have believed. Nor am I willing to attempt to convince you that God exists, for reasons already mentioned. I recognize that there are a great many atheists who have already decided that they simply will not be persuaded to believe in God, and that is unfortunate.

For those of you who are uncertain, skeptical, or simply willing to seriously consider the case for the existence of God, I urge you to do so. If there are merely some intellectual obstacles blocking your belief in God, particularly the God of the Bible, then I would encourage you to investigate with an open mind the Christian’s explanation for alleged errors in the Bible or the reality of miracles. Yes, there really are logical answers to questions like where Cain’s wife came from and why the King James Version Bible talks of “unicorns” when such creatures are mythological. You owe it to yourself to at least look into what Christian scholars have to say about such things before you completely write off Christianity as a fable.

But understand that nobody is going to be able to “talk you into” becoming a Christian and believing in God. It will not, it cannot, happen. You, like all of us, must come to God through faith. It is not a blind leap in the dark, but rather a decision to no longer suppress the truth that your conscience is already telling you.

For The Christian

First of all, let me reiterate my respect for those willing to defend Christianity from the skeptics attacks. It is not my intention to criticize their efforts, but to simply remind all of us as believers of what our goals should be when discussing our faith with unbelievers. With all due respect to Dr. Craig, it seems like he is looking for that “gotcha” moment in many of his debates where he can get the atheist to trip over their own words and concede defeat. And while it might be tempting to focus on demonstrating how illogical and unreasonable the atheists’ position is (much the way they attempt to do to Christians), we should always remember that Christ has called us to win souls, not arguments.

It is not for me to judge the effectiveness of someone else’s efforts for the Kingdom of God, but if there has been a lot of converts to Christianity resulting from these debates, I am unaware of it. In my experience, even if you win an argument of logic with a skeptic, he isn’t going to change his mind; he just won’t talk with you anymore. Apologetics has always been an area of interest for me and there was a time when I believed that a good enough argument and presentation of the facts would convince even the most hardened of skeptics. But I found that premise to be untrue in reality. It confused me for a long time why God has not given us the tools to nail the coffin shut on atheism; but then I became more familiar with what Hebrews 11:6 is really saying. Even if our efforts cause a person to be 98% sure of God’s existence, they still must come to Him by faith and leave that last 2% to Him.

God said through Jeremiah,

“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

It would be great if we could change people’s minds about belief in God, but we can’t. The Holy Spirit can change their heart but only if they allow Him. The promise is as true as ever, those who seek God with their whole heart will find Him. We can take comfort in that. We must remember, too, that nobody comes to Christ except God firsts draws them (John 6:44). And even Saul of Tarsus could be saved by the will of God. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to be ready to give an answer to those who ask and that is perhaps our highest calling. Let us share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, let us preach His Word to a lost and dying world, but let us not presume to think that it is our responsibility to prove God’s existence or persuade people to believe in Him. God’s Word will reach those whom He is wanting to reach and they will seek Him with all their heart. And they will find Him, just as we have.

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

All Scripture verses quoted in this article are from the English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

The images that I have used in this article are either my own property or are present in multiple websites across the Internet. It was not possible for me to ascertain what entity actually possesses the rights of their distribution and any unfair use was unintentional.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

 

Is Faith Required?

I would like to share an interesting comment I received recently to a post I wrote a few years back called: “What Must We Believe? – 10 Components Of The Gospel Message.” One of the components I mentioned was that “Salvation is Voluntary and Contingent on if we Believe.” Under that heading, I wrote the following:

Salvation is not an automatic provision for anybody. It occurs only if we believe. There are some who teach that you need to do absolutely nothing in order to be saved. There are others who teach that everyone (or almost everyone) will be saved. Neither of these teachings are supported by the Bible.

Granted, our part in the process of Salvation is vastly lesser than God’s part. In fact, He has done EVERYTHING else in order for you to be saved. The ONLY thing that you have to do is believe on Him. But you do have to do that.

Here is the comment that I received:

“You have one major mistake in your outline that is not supported by scripture.
You say,”Salvation is Voluntary (1st mistake, How is it voluntary and dependent on us if it is all of God? Even Nicodemus recognize he could not do what Jesus was saying, Because Salvation is a Spiritual Birth, According to Paul Eph 2 out side of Christ men are dead, Can dead men bring themselves back to life? Was Lazarus coming out of the grave his doings or jesus? Paul also says Men are blind. Can a blind man restore his own sight if He wants to? So How can salvation be voluntary? Aren’t men in the same postion as Nicodemus? Jesus did not Preach you can be saved if you want to. He said ye must be born again. In John 3 he states this twice and give the consequence if one is not born again.”

I suspect that this gentleman’s comment came as a knee-jerk reaction to the idea that anything is required in order to receive Salvation. I suspect this because I myself often have a very similar reaction when people begin to talk about needing to do this or that in order to be saved. But I remember reading something else a while back that I found very disturbing also. It seems that many in the Church have begun to teach that absolutely nothing is required for Salvation, including faith. They contend that since faith and believing are works on our part, then they have no place in the process of Salvation. Yet the Bible teaches otherwise. Jesus Himself, when asked what “works” needed to be done by man to please God, He responded:

“…This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:29)

No other work is required, but we do have to believe. Even so, our ability to believe is actually a gift of God so we can’t even take credit for that! I don’t suggest that this is necessarily the position of the one who wrote the comment, like I said, I think this was a just a reaction to how I chose to word my post. I did, however, feel that it was important enough for me to clarify what I meant and I would like to share my response:

“Perhaps to head this section of the outline with the words, “Salvation is voluntary…”, is a mistake which leaves open wide the door for misunderstanding. My intent in writing this article was to keep the matter as succinct as possible without digressing into an involved theological argument. However, I assure you, that my statement was in no way an endorsement of a works-based Salvation. I wrote under the heading:

“Granted, our part in the process of Salvation is vastly lesser than God’s part. In fact, He has done EVERYTHING else in order for you to be saved. The ONLY thing that you have to do is believe on Him. But you do have to do that.”

This is not to imply a work of Salvation on the part of man, but rather a reception of God’s grace for Salvation. I have given the analogy before of the plight of a beggar. The benefactor decides to give money to the beggar, it is his choice. The benefactor has earned the money he will give, it is his work which provides it, not the beggar’s. The benefactor extends the money in his hand and freely offers it to him. The beggar then…what?…places his hands in his pocket and turns his back on the benefactor while the benefactor tackles him and forces him to take it? No. The beggar reaches out his hand to receive that which is being freely offered to him.

So, who is then responsible for the meal that the beggar will now enjoy with the money? Was it the gift of the benefactor or the reaching out of the beggar which secured it? I maintain that it is entirely the work and graciousness of the benefactor (Christ) without which the beggar (the sinner) would go away hungry. Yet the beggar did have to hold his hand out and take (faith) what was being offered.

I recognize that this whole subject matter is a very theologically complex one that has been parsed ad infinitum and has drawn battle lines in the Church for centuries. I staunchly support the vindication of Salvation Sola Gratia and the refutation of any works-based approach. Yet to hold that faith has no place in Salvation is to deny a crucial component of the Gospel.

You mentioned Ephesians 2, but remember, this is where Paul wrote:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;” (Eph. 2:8, emphasis added)

It is by the Grace of God, it is the gift of God, but it is received through faith (the beggar holding out his hand). Therefore, it is no contradiction for Paul to say it is not “of yourselves” even though you are receiving it through faith. It is God’s work, not ours. Nevertheless, the beggar who refuses to accept what he is given is in no better state than he was before.

Maybe the best illustration from Scripture is found in Romans 10:13-15:

“For “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”

Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved (you have to call on His name, i.e., accept Him through faith, right?). But how can you do that except you hear the Gospel (the work that God has done, i.e., Salvation by Grace alone). And how will you hear the Gospel except it is preached by someone whom God has sent (Calvinism, pre-destination, Divine election, and whatever else we wish to label it!). God has done the work, sent the Message, and even chosen to whom it will be preached. All we have to do is hold out our hand and receive it.

Men are blind and a blind man certainly cannot restore his own sight. But what would have happened to the blind man if he did not accept the words of the Lord by faith and go and wash his eyes at the Pool of Siloam (John 9:1-11)? Was it the waters of Siloam that gave him sight? No, it was the touch of Jesus Christ that gave him his vision. But the Lord decided that he was to receive the healing through faith and had he not done so he would have remained blind.

The Bible makes it clear that Salvation will not be forced upon anyone (if you don’t believe me, consider Judas Iscariot). It must be received. Jesus knocks at the door, but we must open it (Rev. 3:20). He simply is not going to break it down. Salvation is not voluntary as in it is our decision for it to happen. But it is received voluntarily and is contingent on whether we accept the Gospel by faith.

Loren”

 

%d bloggers like this: