Monday, August 23, 2010

The Straight and the Narrow

"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it". Mt 7:13-14

Jesus Christ, toward the end of His Sermon on the Mount, puts forth this famous passage concerning two ways, an oft repeated image within Scripture, and may also be found in the Didache (1:1-6:2). The powerful imagery here is one that depicts a few v.s. many scenario in terms of salvation, or entrance into (eternal) life. This text is often misunderstood as teaching an exclusivity concerning salvation, being for the few, while condemning the masses. And often it's presented as being based on whether or not one has become a believer or not.

In v.14 the Greek word for 'straight' as for the gate which leads to life, is stenos, narrow (from obstacles standing close about): strait- Strongs. And the word translated as 'narrow' is thlibo afflict, narrow, throng, suffer tribulation, trouble -Strong's, 1) to press (as grapes), press hard upon; 2) a compressed way: 2a) narrow straitened, contracted; 3) metaphorically to trouble, afflict, distress -Thayer Greek Definitions. This word is translated as 'throng' in Mk 3:9, that Christ had to enter a ship so the crowds would not throng him, or crowd him; and also is related to the word translated in Lk 8:45 as 'press', which means to crowd (from every side). Anyone whose been in a 'rock concert' crowd, or a mob of people, knows what this feels like; to be in a sea of people, to be pushed about, pressed upon from everyside, and carried beyond your control by the mere force of the crowd.

In this instance, it is by two sides that one is pressed, thronged, or distressed by. The Amplified Version words it this way,

"But the gate is narrow (contracted by pressure) and the way is straitened and compressed that leads away to life, and few are those who find it.." v.14.

I was thinking on this passage the other night, and what came to my mind literally was the idea of a birthing canal. And Christ did relate entrance into the Kingdom of God as a being born of water and of Spirit (Jn 3:5).

What would be the pressures that would throng us on our way to entering life? With what are we contracted, and straightened? Based on an understanding of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7), it is evident that one side is the dangers of legalism: as the Pharisees who rely on the righteousness which is by the Law (Rom 10:5), who feel that they're righteous because they've not committed adultery, or they've not murdered anyone, when all the while they missed the spirit of the Law which is of the heart as in not lusting, or not hating anyone (Mt 5:27-28; 43-48). On the other side of this straightened way is the dangers of lawlessness (iniquity): this is as those who say, "Lord, Lord", yet do not the things that He says (Mt 7:21-23). These may be those who think that they rely on the righteousness which is by faith (Rom 10:6-10), but who suppose that they can now sin because they're not under the Law, but under grace (Rom 6:1-2, 15).

These are very real dangers, and make for a perilous journey for those willing to travel this narrow and straight way. First, we have to realize what is going on in the paradox of eternal life as presented in New Testament Scripture. As believers, we know that we have eternal life simply by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, and trusting in what He did for us on the Cross:

"He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." Jn 3:36

"But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." Jn 20:31 (See also Rom 3:21-26; 4:5).

While eternal life is ours upon believing, coming to faith in Christ, eternal life is also portrayed as synonymous with the Kingdom of God, which must be entered into, often with great distress and tribulation. Both sides of this very compressive pathway are brought out in two accounts:

1) The dangers of legalism: The story of the Rich young ruler (see Mt 19:16-30), where a rich young Jewish man supposes that by 'doing' some good thing, he would gain eternal life. But Jesus shows him that if he sought to keep the Commandments of the Torah, that he would have to keep them all perfectly, as says the Scriptures (Rom 10:5; Lev 18:5). He says that with great difficulty that a 'rich man' shall enter the Kingdom of heaven (Mt 19:23). But here, don't just think of monetary riches, but also riches of self-sufficiency, supposing that we're rich in terms of morals, and keeping of the Law: "all these commandments have I kept from my youth up" -v. 20. But when Jesus stated how difficult it would be for such to be saved, the disciples were pretty shocked. But Christ said, "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." Mt 19:26. In other words, we may enter into life, into the Kingdom only by God, not of our own effort which is impossible. Only through God, His grace and His Spirit, can we keep the righteousness (which exceeds that of the Pharisees) as described in the Sermon on the Mount.

2) The dangers of lawlessness: The question someone posed to the Lord, "Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." Lk 13:23-24 (see also v.v.25-30). Here, salvation and entering into life, or the Kingdom are synonymous, though we may now have eternal life. Notice in the following verses that those who are thrust out from the Kingdom of God supposed that because they were merely associated with the Lord Jesus, in that they ate with Him, and that He taught in their streets, they would be recognized by Him. But He says to them, "I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity [workers of lawlessness]." v.27b.

Please consider this deeply, especially as both of these texts (Mt 19:16-30 and Lk 13:23-30) end with "the first shall be last, and the last first ". Notice that eternal life is something that we may possess immediately upon our believing on Christ, and being born again (Jn 3:3; 20:31; Eph 2:8-9), but that eternal life is also something we may enter into (Mt 19:17; Jn 3:5). The very fact that there's no cut and dry differentiation between eternal life as we enjoy it now through our faith in Christ, and eternal life as the Kingdom of God, or of heaven which we enter only through much tribulation (Acts 14:22; Mt 19:24) causes this perilous pathway into the Millennium, creating this compressive tension. Let those who wish to see a contradiction do so to their own peril. Let those who wish to choose one side over another side do so to their own peril. But let those who have ears to hear, let them hear~ Yes, we have eternal life, and yes it's a free gift of God's grace through faith, but also, as Peter said,

"Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." 2Pet 1:10-11.

To fully understand, or appreciate the mystery of the Kingdom of God (which is only entered through much tribulation and personal cost) we must first differentiate it from eternal life which is a free gift of unearned grace- as true as that doctrine is, only to bring eternal life and the Kingdom of God back together when we understand this subtle difference, because in effect they're really one truth. It's this which underlines the fact that we will all be judged according to our heart, in light of the Sermon on the Mount. And this precludes us from judging our brother and sister on an ultimate basis, as entrance into life is a condition which is wholly a phenomenon of the heart, and not a mere fulfilling of outward requirements, nor conformity to man's ideas.

May all be blessed with Light.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Doctrine of the Atonement as Foundational in Early Christianity

From the New Testament, written 1st century

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Jn 1:29;

I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world... Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. Jn 6:51, 53-56;

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission [forgiveness] of sins. Mt 26:26-28;

And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. Mk 14:22-24;

And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. Lk 22:19-20

And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
Acts 8:27-35

(Also, too many Scriptural references to cite, from the Gospels, the Pauline epistles, the book of Hebrews, the epistles of both John and Peter, and the book of Revelations refer to the blood atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ).

Origen lived A.D. 185-254, so the references below will reflect Christianity prior to him:

Let us fix our gaze on the blood of Christ and know how precious it is to His Father, because it was poured out for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to the whole world. Clement of Rome, 1Clement 7:4 A.D. 80 [96/98?]

For the sake of the love which he had for us did Jesus Christ our Lord, by the will of God, give His blood for us, His flesh for our flesh, and His life for our lives. 1Clement 49:6b A.D. 80

I have learned, however, that certain persons from elsewhere, who have evil doctrine, have stayed with you; but you did not allow them to sow it among you, and you stopped your ears so that you would not receive what they sow. You are like stones for a temple of the Father, prepared for the edifice of God the Father, hoisted to the heights by the crane of Jesus Christ, which is the cross, using for a rope the Holy Spirit. Ignatius of Antioch, letter to the Ephesians 9:1a. A.D. 110

If, then, those who walked in ancient customs came to a new hope, no longer sabbathing but living by the Lord’s Day, on which we came to life through Him and through His death, - which some deny, - through which mystery we received faith, through which also we suffer in order to be found to be disciples of Jesus Christ, our only Teacher Ignatius, letter to the Magnesians 9:1 A.D. 110

...who cannot suffer, yet, for our sakes, accepted suffering, and who on our account endured everything. Ignatius, letter to Polycarp [disciple of the apostle John] 3:2b. A.D. 110

Everyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is an Antichrist; whoever does not confess the testimony of the cross is of the devil; and whoever perverts the sayings of the Lord for his own desires, and says that there is neither resurrection nor judgment, such a one is the first-born of Satan. Let us, therefore, leave the foolishness and the false-teaching of the crowd, and turn back to the word which was delivered to us in the beginning. Polycarp of Smyrna [a disciple of the apostle John], Letter to the Philippians 7:1-2 A.D. 135.

Let us, then, continue unceasingly in our hope and in the Pledge of our justification, that is, in Christ Jesus, who bore our sins in His own body on the tree, who did no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth; yet, for our sakes, that we might live in Hm, He endured everything. Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians 8:1 A.D. 135

When our iniquity was complete, and it had become perfectly clear that punishment and death were its expected recompense, and the time came which God had appointed to show forth His kindliness and power, - oh, the magnitude of the kindness and love which God has for man! - He did not hate us nor reject us, nor yet remember our evils. Rather, He was long-suffering, and He was patient with us. In His mercy He Himself took up our sins and He Himself gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the Holy for the wicked, the Innocent for the guilty, the Just for the unjust, the Incorruptible for the corruptible, and the Immortal for the mortal.

Indeed, what else could have covered over our sins except His righteousness? In whom was it possible for us, in view of our wickedness and impiety, to be justified except in the Son of God alone? Oh, the sweet exchange! Oh, the unfathomable accomplishment! Oh, the unexpected benefits! - that the wickedness of the many should be hidden in the One who is just; and that the righteousness of the One should justify the wicked many! Letter to Diognetus 9:2-5 A.D. 125/200

*I’ll stop there, as space doesn’t allow that I should continue in showing that the doctrine of Atonement for our sins through the blood and Cross of Christ was a consistent and foundational doctrine of the early Church (prior to Origen) since it’s inception by Christ Himself.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

An answer to Universalism

Below is a doctrinal answer for what's termed in Christianity as
Universalism, which is the belief that either all men are right now saved, or that all will be saved eventually regardless of free-will decisions. While God wills, and has made available salvation to all men and women, He will not abrogate, or nullify His authority as King, which includes moral government. As long as creatures have free-will, and knowledge of moral obligation, there will be moral government which includes of necessity rewards for praiseworthy behavior, and punishment for blameworthy behavior. As long as God, and others have an infinite value and our creatural selves have a finite value in comparison, there will be moral government. And, as we’re dealing with the infinite worth of God, the duration of both the remunerate (reward), and punitive (punishment) aspects of moral government will also be infinite. As our rewards will endure forever, so too will the punishments. Though I have a hope that at least the punishments will perhaps end in some far off future world, at this point in what God has revealed to me, this can only be a hope.

Though, it is most noteworthy that for one to embrace universalism
(that all men are saved, or will be saved) there must first be a denial of free-will. For if there is no free-will, why would there be a punishment for wrong doing? But on the flip-side, why would there be rewards either? And all 3 things are taught in Scripture: 1) Free-will; 2) Rewards; and 3) Punishments.
Also noteworthy, all major religions of the world, including ancient mythologies teach both heaven and hells:

Judaism; Christianity; Islam; Buddhism; Hinduism; Norse mythology; Greek/Roman mythology; Egyptian mythology; et. al.

There is the imperative feeling of the Gospel, and an immanency, and an immediacy to the Gospel, the coming of the Kingdom, and of Christ's Second Advent:

And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
2Cor 5:18-20.

And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. Acts 24:24-25

Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. 1Pet 4:4-6.

Some remarks:

1. If all men are saved, what is the ministry of reconciliation? Didn't it already occur at the Cross? The grounds for reconciliation, but it is still imperative upon us to preach as ambassadors to those yet enemies by wicked works in their minds to be so reconciled.

2. Us? We're reconciled, but now we're ambassadors to them who are not yet reconciled. Why? Because those to whom we're sent have not yet received this reconciliation.

3. Why is God beseeching them by us? Why do we pray them in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God, if as in Universalism, all men are saved? Because as an act of free-will, all have not yet received.

4. Why are so strong of English words used above, beseeching, and praying, which implies a begging, an imploring? Because it's up to us, whether we listen, and receive the Gospel, whether we choose to be reconciled or not. This, too, is evidence that not all will choose to be reconciled. And it would be monstrous of God if He forced us into compliance, as if we're automatons, and not humans.

5. What was part of Paul's reasoning and remonstrating with Felix? Judgment to come. Did this mean that all will, or are saved? If so, then why did Felix tremble? Because he was in fear of his future, having a guilty conscience. And why did he not then repent at Paul's preaching though these things be true? Because he had his free-will decision, and chose to put it off for a more "convenient time", which may, or may not ever come.

6. What does "giving account" mean, if we're all to be saved? And what does "readiness" mean, if all men are saved, or will be saved? What would such immediacy or immanency mean? It would mean nothing if all are saved, or will be saved... where's the fire? What's the rush? It seems to "castrate" the severity and gravity of divine judgment.

7. Why is there a difference made here between the living and the dead? Because there are two separate judgments for the two classes, those alive in the spirit who will be judged before the Judgment Seat of Christ for their works (Rom 14:10-12; 1Cor 3:10-15; 2Cor 5:9-11), while the dead in spirit, those who die in their sins, will stand before the Great White Throne to be judged in terms of sentencing, dealing not with duration, but intensity of divine wrath (Psa 1:5-6; Rev 20:11-15). Thus there are two resurrections for each class, the living and the dead, and hence two separate judgments, the Resurrection of Life, and the Resurrection of Damnation (Jn 5:28-29).

8. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men 2Cor 5:11a. Thus we preach, that those who are now in a position where they would be judged as men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. Meaning that they would judge themselves now, for having lived in the flesh, that they might live in the spirit by the Precious Blood of Christ, and avoid future judgment in terms of the Great White Throne Judgment. As it is written, For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. 1Cor 11:31-32, thus as Peter said, judged as if men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit, so that they would not have to be condemned, or judged with the world, at the Resurrection of Damnation. Thus Universalism represents a dangerous heresy which pulls men and women away from the seriousness, and gravity of sin, coming judgment and God's right to judge. It undermines moral government, and seeks to overthrow personal responsibility by the denial of free-will. Also, it cuts cross-grain against the Great Commission which mandates that we preach a reconciliation to the world, offering men salvation from sin and forgiveness with God, which all that means nothing in terms of immediacy, and gravity if "all men are saved", or " all men will be saved", and it takes away the imperative spirit of the Great Commission and our responsibility to preach the Cross as God leads by the Spirit.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Somewhere Between Eternal and Non-eternal Secuity

I can agree that today’s gospel preaching misses the element of deep conversion brought about by repentance, which is metanoia, changing one’s mind about sin. True repentance will always involve a change of opinion about sin, seeing it as an evil and hateful thing in and of itself, not because it will get us in trouble, etc..., false repentance is a sorrow for sin that is only circumstantial, like, we’re sorry we were caught, or we’re sorry about the consequences of sin, but not about sin itself.

We also have to differentiate between belief as a phenomenon of the rational mind, v.s. belief as a phenomenon of will. As we know, the devils believe and tremble (Jas 2:19). Their belief is a mental assent that God is true, but their wills are still locked onto selfishness, and so their belief is not one of will. Many people are of this kind of mental assent toward the Gospel, and yet their beliefs do not affect their hearts, or their wills.

Here we have to be careful. And this is no small trifle: True Salvation is not something we either possess or don’t possess. But, True Salvation is Christ Jesus Himself.

The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation Ex 15:2

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Isa 12:2

This is important, because if we view salvation as a thing to have, be, or obtain, and hold onto, it becomes an impersonal thing, something we have to strive to have, and not lose, etc... But, as it is, God is our Salvation, as such, its more of a relationship, more personal, more based on interpersonal covenant, and He will not break His end of it. And, He knew what He was doing when He chose to enter covenant with us. He knows our weaknesses, and He works with us mercifully, becoming our strength as well.

While what you say here is true enough, it doesn’t account for the fact that the believer will sometimes struggle. Being a careless sinner is definitely not the hallmark of a believer who has Salvation. But, having sometimes moral issues over which he/she must overcome is a general experience of believers. There is the besetting sin acknowledged by the author of Hebrews (Heb 12:1). And he says to believers, Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Heb 12:4-10. This situation is that, while we are sons and daughters of the most High, there may be a besetting sin over which we must become the eventual victors through Christ. The resisting unto the shedding of blood should be our attitude toward our own moral failings, and sins. Not a self-hatred, nor self-condemnation, but a hatred for the sin itself, which will lead to true repentance. You’re right about repentance, and this is true generally when there’s a true conversion to Christ, yet there may be a temptation, a sin, or moral weakness that we have a predilection for, which we’ll have to dig deep down into our hearts to find the moral strength and fortitude, and frankly, the willingness to be able to repent of that sin, to find ourselves come to a place where we hate that sin for its own sake, because we see its evil, and perniciousness. Now, in this place of struggle, are we saved or unsaved? Hebrew’s author says we may be children who so struggle, and receive the Father’s parentage, and discipline. If we’re unwilling to be disciplined by the Father in our moral struggles, are we then children? There may be times of rebellion on our part, and no one can say when, or how long, only God can on an individual basis. Its not so cut and dry. But God knows the heart, whether it be willing, or evil. God will not be mocked, but neither is He austere, and unfeeling. Our God is very merciful.

Its true that obedience to the moral law of God must be entire, to breach one command is to break the spirit of the entire Law. This is borne out in James, For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. Jas 2:10. And so it is, when we come to truly believe on Christ, we’ve made an ultimate decision to love God with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves. This decision changes us deep inside, and affects all our decisions. And yet, there is still the flesh, which hasn’t gone anywhere. There is still a mind that must be renewed daily, and sometimes is not. And we can fall back into selfishness, and this breaks the spirit of the law, which is love. And, yet, because we’ve made an ultimate decision to love, God still honors our covenant, and will deal with us on a point by point basis about areas of selfishness we need to deal with. All selfishness will lead to, or manifest as sin. But does God cast us out? Not necessarily. My child is still my child, even if she’s lied, disobeyed a "direct order", or not. Will I deal with her about her moral infractions, and moments of selfishness? You bet! But, while being firm, I will also be loving. While dishing out some punishment, she’s still my daughter, and I still love her. Parents know what I’m talking about. Even if there’s an area we need to "work on", a continued issue with lying, or what not, we don’t disown our kids. What would have to happen for us to tell our dear children, "O.K., That’s it!!! I’m fed up with you!!! You are no longer my child!!!" ??? A loving parent can scarcely imagine such an event, and if we being evil feel this natural affection toward our children, how much more God our Father?

Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. Isa 49:15-16

Legalism, and an unbelief toward the Lord’s love, and compassion is no less a dangerous pitfall we should be instructed to avoid. Being serious about sin? Sure, we need to dig down deep to find true repentance if there’s an area of sinfulness in our hearts, but to not believe that God loves us in this process of repentance, is to enter dangerous waters of self-condemnation, self-hatred, and forsaking of the hope that is in Christ’s cross. We need to be circumspect, we need to be diligent in our own attitudes, and state of heart before God, I agree. Yet, we do not wish to fall from grace by entering into a performance based Christianity, which puts God as some score keeper Who’s just waiting for that "one more time" you fall, so He can say, "That’s it!! You’re now no longer saved, now you’re unsaved again!!!" As if Christianity is some revolving door, some Tyrannical Turnstile. God forbid! And I’m not saying these things as an adherent of OSAS!! Nor will I commit to that illusory debate, because God 1) Has a nature that is Love; 2) He is sovereign; and 3) He relates to us all on an individual, and interpersonal basis based on His Word, based on the finished work of the cross.

God as our Salvation is unconditional, as He is immutable in Himself, in His Holy nature. We are wishy-washy, and are mutable, But God will work with us according to the points above. Nor should we forget that the agape love of God is unconditional. He loves us first, saves us first, then works out those flaws in us which we need to be rid of. Thank God.

Amen, I can agree that the purpose of grace is to help us in overcoming our sins, its true. People confuse mercy and grace, but both are necessary.

Different churches and denominations have differing approaches on this issue. Yet, if the believers therein, including the ministers whatever their doctrinal position is on this "debate", if they love the Lord, they will preach against sin. Though to understand what sin is will help us to repent better, and change, its true. But, while one side may stress God’s unfailing love, and so help the struggling honest believer to believe in God’s love while he’s trying to deal with himself, and the other side that says that sin is sin, and God hates sin (though not the sinner), will help the struggling believer to deal more honestly with his sin, and see it as something God hates, and a serious thing to deal with in the depths of his/her heart. I think a balance between the two views would better help the Body of Christ, and that’s what we ultimately want to do, right? If we’re just interested in promoting a doctrinal stand, be it OSAS, or OSNAS (once-saved-not-always-saved), would not help anyone, except for the arguer’s ego. Instead, let’s love each other, love God, and cease loving the world, as we express a merciful God’s love to it.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Christ's Dual Nature, Our Experience

In answer to the previous post, "How to discuss the divine nature", I posted this in a group forum on Myspace:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us
Jn 1:1, 14a.

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. 1Tim 3:16

Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. 1Jn 4:17

As Christians we believe that the Lord Jesus Christ was God incarnate. As such, He is theanthropic, that is both God and man. This is what is the dual nature of Christ, meaning that He has two natures, divine and human in one person. Hence, one Person, two Natures. This as neither dividing the Person, nor confounding the Natures. He may act through either nature.

This is the mystery of godliness, as said Paul, using the Greek word eusebeia, which means 1) reverence, respect; 2) piety towards God, godliness Thayers. In other words, the mystery of having a proper attitude of reverence, respect, and courtesy toward God is the very incarnation of deity into flesh and blood. But how does this concern Jesus Himself? He already lived a completely obedient life, in complete godliness toward God, so does this mystery then end? No. The mystery of godliness continues through us. How? By the divine incarnating through our flesh and blood.

As we read above, the apostle John says that we are now in this world (not in the sweet by-and-by) as He is, which is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8). This is amazing! That puts us in the same predicament of being theanthropic as we live in this world. Now, understand this: we are not divine in our creature-hood, or as His creations. In fact, in ourselves we are as nothing. So, we cannot solely point to our humanity and say, "I’m divine, I’m God", no. But we point toward His divinity within us, as we bow out, and disappear in ourselves, and we let God arise, and His enemies be scattered (Ps 68:1). Also understand that our human nature is not evil in and of itself. Its only what we’ve done with, or from our flesh that has been evil. But our sins our washed away by His blood. And now, through the divine nature, God in us, we are able to manifest in our flesh a godliness, and holy living not possible before. Before, we just tried to keep the commandments in our own human nature, and effort, always falling, and coming short of His glory. But now, we have another nature to obey Him from, to love from, and from which to just be.

When Christ the Logos entered humanity, He changed things up: The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened. Mt 13:33. The woman is Sophia-wisdom (Prov 8-9), and the Kingdom of heaven here is the divine nature hidden in 3 measures of meal: our spirit, soul, and body, lies dormant until we as Christians learn to realize Who we are in Him, and begin to access this, and grow into That.

Consider this thorough mixing together of two natures when Christ entered into humanity:

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil Heb 2:14

Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

Now the word used above by Peter might be, is ginomai in the Greek, meaning
1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being
2) to become, i.e. to come to pass, happen
2a) of events
3) to arise, appear in history, come upon the stage
3a) of men appearing in public
4) to be made, finished
4a) of miracles, to be performed, wrought
5) to become, be made Thayers Greek Definitions

Thus to participate, share in, or have in common the divine nature is something we must grow into, in terms of realization. The divine nature is not something additional to salvation, but a very part of our new birth experience. We have the divine nature now, it is up to us how much we want to clear away the clouds of ignorance, and realize God within us.

This is the prayer of Jesus for our maturing in the divine Oneness, which is the same Oneness He shares with the Father: And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Jn 17:22-23. This passage tells us at least 3 things:
1. This Oneness is the same Oneness shared between the Persons of the Trinity; 2. He gives us glory, which is His kabod-glory, or divine Presence, to help us realize this nature; and 3. We are to as believers be made perfect, that is, mature in this Oneness.

This was also Paul’s prayer: For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ... And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Eph 3:19 [read the whole prayer, its amazing!]. And this is the duty of spiritual gift-ministry to bring us into this fullness: For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ Eph 4:12-13

This is my prayer this morning, that we would awaken to the divine nature within us. That, while yes, we have our human nature, we also have deity incarnate within us, even as it was in Christ. In fact, as the Body of Christ, we are a continuation of His Holy Incarnation, amen. As the continuation of, and individual experience of the theanthropos (God/man) we should be able to act out of either nature, as the Spirit leads, and be Christ to a lost and dying world.

Be blessed, and be all He is in us.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Discussing the Divine Nature

How do we discuss the divine nature with other believers as a doctrine to be embraced, or rather as a Reality to realize?

We know 2Pet 1:4b states ...that ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. To 'partake' of the divine nature is to share in, to have in common with, to participate in. The divine nature being the Godhead, is the very nature of deity, His Essence, His Oneness, Absolute transcendence, and His immutable Being.

This blog entry is not meant to be an exposition of the doctrine itself, but rather a discussion as to how this doctrine is to be presented to other believers who may not be inclined to accept it.

The question of 'should' we share this doctrine I think is settled by the fact that the purpose of the 5-fold ministry (Eph 4:11) is to bring believers to a place of the very fullness of Christ, which would include a full participation in, and as the divine nature. And in Jesus' prayer, He prayed that we all might be one even as He is One with the Father (Jn 17:x). Also, He taught in that prayer that we mature in that Oneness (v.x). It is in our realization of our Oneness with God in the divine nature that we mature as believers.

Thus the question is not "should we...", but "how do we..." discuss this doctrine with other believers.

This is a question I'll explore in the near future, God willing. Or, if other wish to chime in, they can leave a comment. But this is something on my heart, and as soon as I receive more light on it, or if I discuss some experiences I've had discussing this doctrine, I'll create another post.

Thank you, and God bless.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How Many Hells in Christianity?

Sheol and Hades are Biblical equivalents, and were temporary holding places for the righteous, and the sinner after their physical death. At least this was true until Jesus came. We find both Lazarus and the rich man together in Hades, or Sheol separated by a great gulf (Lk 16:19-31). The place where the righteous went in Sheol before Christ was called Abraham's bosom.

But now, after Christ, Abraham's bosom has been emptied out, which is what the verse means, which states that He first descended into the lower parts of the earth, and when He ascended He led captivity (the former inhabitants of Abraham's bosom) captive (see Eph 4:8-9; cp. Acts 2:31; Lk 23:43). So now when we die we go straight to be with Him in Heaven (2Cor 5:6-9). And the wicked dead still go to Sheol where there is torment awaiting the Great White Throne judgment when the inhabitants of that place will be cast into Gehenna- the Lake of fire (Rev 20:11-15).

In fact, the casting of the wicked inhabitants of hades/sheol into Gehenna-the Lake of Fire is called the second death (Rev 20:14), why? Because they will be cast into it after the resurrection of damnation (Jn 5:29; Rev 20:11-15).

I haven't yet mentioned Tartaros, where the angels that fell which brought about Noah's flood are currently held (2Pet 2:4);

Or even the Abyss, what Scripture calls the bottomless pit, the deep, or destruction, wherein Abaddon/Apollyon dwells with his minions waiting for the trumpet to be blown for his release (Mt 7:13; Rom 9:22; 2Pet 3:16- note: apoleia-destruction is related to Apollyon-destroyer in Greek, Rev 9:1-19).

Thus there are about 4 hells:

1. Hades/Sheol- Temporary holding place for wicked dead;

2. Tartaros- Temporary holding place for angels that sinned with women (Gen 6:1-4; 2Pet 2:4);

3. Abyss, or Bottomless Pit- Where especially wicked folk are sent, along with Abaddon and his hourdes;

4. Gehenna, the Lake of Fire- The final place of torment after sentencing is given at the Great White Throne judgment.

Hope this helps.