Who determines what “Truth” is?

Scholars have debated the issue for centuries, but the search continues for a simple answer to this simple question. It seems that human logic and reason do not always produce a satisfactory answer to that haunting question from ages past; “What is truth?”

Doesn’t it seem logical for man to trust the omniscient (all knowing) God with the process of defining what truth is for mankind? “For as the heavens are above the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)
The Son of God was very clear in His prayer to the Father: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth”. (John 17:17)

As one considers what is true and what is not true concerning spiritual matters, it is always wise to search and to accept God’s Word as the final authority for determining what spiritual truth is. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

The New Testament warns repeatedly that many false teachers are in the world and have brought in “destructive heresies” and many are following their destructive ways. (2 Peter 2:1-3) We should always rely upon the written Word of God as the one source which equips us with the ability to examine and to determine what is true and what is not true in all spiritual matters. After all, It will be His Word that will judge each and every one of us on that last day.

“He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him; the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” (John 12:48)

 

 

Saved from What?

Salvation presents itself in many forms. Countless lives have been saved from burning buildings, raging waters and various other disastrous events. Rescuers often expose themselves to extreme danger in order to deliver others from harms way.

There is a form of salvation, however, that only God can provide. Since the very first sin was recorded in the Garden of Eden, and continuing to this very day, the consequence of one’s sin always results in spiritual death and separation from the presence of God. (2Thessalonians 1:9) Man has placed himself in a position that he cannot redeem himself from. The penalty for sin is death.

 “When His disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed,saying,’Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”’ (Mt19:25-26)


 

Salvation for All?

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”(John 3:16)

The discerning mind might be inclined to ask just what it is that a “believer” must believe.The scripture tells us that even the demons believe, so we certainly don’t want to jump to a wrong conclusion here! “You believe there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe-and tremble!” (James 2:19) The devil has always believed there is a God. He has experienced many personal encounters with Him, so he has no doubt about God’s existence. His belief in God, however, does not include the trust, the willingness to submit, or the willingness to be obedient to Him. Recorded in Hebrews chapter 11 are many examples of the pattern faithful believers must follow.

“Not everyone who says to Me. ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day ‘Lord, Lord,’ have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonderful works in Your name? And then I will declare to them,’ I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”‘(Matthew 7:21-23)

The Son of God stated that He never knew them! Have you ever wondered why He answered the way He did? In what way did the Lord not know those who were prophesying in His name? He didn’t say I no longer know you, but I never knew you! They may have thought they had “accepted Christ”, but He said they had not done the will of God. He said they were lawless. Lawlessness is defined as “having disregard for rules and authority”. False teachers are teaching today that there are no rules that believers must obey. They teach that one is free to do whatever “feels right” in the heart. Could it be that those who Jesus was speaking of had been deceived by that same teaching? They had not done the things they should have done, and as a result, their names had never been written in the Book of Life.

Jesus warned his disciples about false teachers on more than one occasion. Many teach that there is absolutely nothing man can do in the salvation by grace process, because Jesus has done it all. Do not be deceived! The Holy Scriptures command all to obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in order to be prepared (by God’s grace) for the day of judgement. (2Thessalonians1:8) “In flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Salvation for All?  “Enter in at the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in through it, because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”(Matthew 7:13-14)

 

 

 

Salvation by Faith without Works?

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8)

“You see then that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (James 2:24)

The single most polarizing issue in Christian Theology may very well be this one.This topic can ignite the emotions of the very elite. Some groups teach that the beliefs and writings of Paul contradict the beliefs and writings of James. How can this be? “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy3:16)

Allow me to respectfully consider another approach; For the sake of maintaining balance, let’s delay the natural tendency to defend our positions (whether they may be “with works” or “without works”), until we can better understand the perspective of each writer. The Apostle Paul (a chosen vessel of God), had personally experienced God’s grace in it’s purest and most impressionable form. He committed the remainder of his life to teaching others how the “works” of the old law had been replaced with a better covenant. (Hebrews 8:13) Paul certainly understood that man was incapable of introducing any form of “works” that could redeem even one soul from the guilt or the penalty of sin. He had learned that only the blood of Christ could do that. Paul was also convinced that the new covenant requires obedience. He taught that “obedience to the faith” was essential not only to his calling, but to everyone who would call upon his Master’s name. “By whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ. (Romans1:5,6)
“Obedience” has not always been fashionable in American culture. It seems that the nonconformist usually gets the spotlight in modern venues. The Apostle Paul never implied in any of his references to “grace” that the believer should have anything less than a total commitment to the “works” of believing (and doing) the will of God.
The epistle of James, (also inspired by God), shows that this writer was comparing two very different levels of personal faith; one that he describes as a “working” faith, and one that he describes as a “dead” faith. Like Paul, James never suggested that man should introduce human concepts or any form of  “works” which originate in the mind of man as an attempt to earn salvation. James was merely explaining how “working” faith is a faith that is submissive and obedient to the commands of God (whatever those commands may be) and that the main product of a “working” faith is obedience, (not to the commandments of men as in Mark 7:7), but to the”works” that Jesus has commanded us to do. James was certainly not defending the idea of keeping the old law that had been taken out of the way and “nailed to the cross.” (Colossians 2:14) James knew that the blood of Christ was the only sacrifice that could remove the guilt of man’s sin, and he was totally convinced (like Paul) that his Master expects obedience from every one who loves Him. “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”(John 14:15)
” But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salvation without Baptism?

“Then Jesus came and spoke to them saying,’ All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'”( Matthew 28:18-20)

When Jesus was born into our first century world, He brought us the greatest gift ever given to mankind. He brought the grace and the love of the Father, with an open invitation for the faithful to share eternity with Him. He was murdered by those who took offense to His invitation, and He arose from the tomb on the third day, just as it had been prophesied. His earthly mission had been to seek and to save the lost, so it was imperative for His followers to continue in that work. Before ascending into the heavens, He appeared to His disciples a final time to deliver His parting words to them. He gave them four simple but important directives go… preach…baptize… teach…His message of grace was perfectly clear to the apostles, but generations of unfaithful men have since compromised the Lord’s sacred trust. Many religious teachers in our day are teaching that baptism is only a “symbol” or an “option” with little significance as opposed to being an integral part of the Great Commission. Some people attack the baptism issue as if it were merely a doctrine of ill-informed or misguided men. The inspired Word of God states that baptism is the method by which one “puts on Christ“. (Galatians 3:27)  It also states that baptism is the method that joins one with Christ in death and enables that person to rise to walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3,4) God’s Word of grace states that baptism cleanses the sinner from sin. (Acts 2:38) The Son of God said: “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.”(Mark 16:16)

Is baptism essential to salvation?

Perhaps a better way to ask the question would be this; Is baptism essential to one’s personal commitment to trust and to obey the Lord?

Bible Salvation by God’s Grace

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Casual conversations about the day of judgement are always interesting, because it seems that almost everyone has an opinion about that day. Personal views about the “standard” of judgement can  be a point of contention sometimes, as our opinions are usually based on our feelings or emotions rather than upon the one and only reliable source. We need to be as sure as we can be about this matter. We need to accept only the written Word of God and not just any popular doctrine of our day. Obviously, there is no issue in life that is more important than learning what determines our eternal destiny. God has revealed His plan of salvation by His amazing grace within the Holy Scriptures. “And this is the testimony, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” (1 John 5:11)

God’s Word warns about false teachers. “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgement has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.” (2Peter 2:1-3)

God’s Word directs all to “receive” the Gospel. “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the Gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” (1Cor.15:1-4)

God’s Word requires personal faith in His Word. “And He said unto them, ‘you are from beneath; I am from above.You are of this world; I am not of this world. Therefore I said unto you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24)

God’s Word requires a “turning from” all sins. “I tell you no; unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3) (Acts2:38))

God’s Word requires a public confession of one’s faith. “Therefore,whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”(Matthew 10:32,33)

God’s Word commands all to be baptized into Christ. “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles,’men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said unto them, ‘Repent and let every one of you be baptized into the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'” (Acts 2:36-38) The Apostle Paul told the Christians at Galatia; ” For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)

God’s Word requires Christians to be faithful (and obedient) to Him. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

The Kingdom of Heaven is At Hand!

“In those days, John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’ Then Jerusalem, all Judea and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.” (Matthew 3:1,2,5,6)

“From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Now Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them; ‘follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Then they immediately left their nets and followed Him.” (Matthew 4:17-20)

The phrase “kingdom of heaven” is not found in the Old Testament, but the prophet Daniel spoke about a new kingdom which would be set up by God and would never be destroyed.(Daniel2:44) The prophet Isaiah spoke about a “great light” that would shine on the Gentiles. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2)  It was indeed a great light that illuminated the hearts and the minds of the fishermen who “immediately” left their nets and followed Jesus. It was the Light of the World who announced that His followers would not walk in darkness but would have the light of life. (John 8:12)

“Again the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44) Jesus said we should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. (Matthew 6:33) It was also the Son of God who said “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20) Jesus had much to say about the kingdom of heaven. He preached the gospel of the kingdom to all who would listen, and instructed His apostles to do the same. He spoke about the character of those  who would inherit the kingdom in His Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew chapter 5) He also issued a warning about those who would not inherit the kingdom; “Not everyone who says to Me. ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and Godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28,29)

Much like today, many of those who first heard the message of the kingdom failed to see the value or the urgency of it. If it was an urgent situation in that day, it only stands to reason that it is even more urgent for us now. “For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”‘ (2 Corinthians 6:2)

“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'” (Matthew10:7}

 

Salvation Defined

What does salvation mean?

dictionary.search.yahoo.com presents three definitions:
  1. Preservation or deliverance from destruction, difficulty, or evil.
  2. A source, means, or cause of such preservation or deliverance.
  3. Deliverance from the power or penalty of sin; redemption.

Merriam-Webster presents these definitions:

  1. deliverance from the power and effects of sin
  2. the agent or means that effects salvation
  3. Christian Science: the realization of the supremacy of infinite Mind over all bringing with it the destruction of the illusion of sin, sickness, and death
  4. liberation from ignorance or illusion
  5. preservation from destruction or failure
  6. deliverance from danger or difficulty

A study on the definition of salvation as it is used in the Bible is at this site : http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/salvation/

Examples of salvation in the Bible include delivery from death, annihilation, slavery, enemies, and various forms of evil.The concept of salvation from sin comes into focus where sin is pictured as a force that is evil, enslaving and separating us from God, and is a constant enemy of mankind.

The New Testament introduced that spiritual form of salvation. The name Jesus means “savior” and Jesus said He came to seek and to save the lost. The revelation of being eternally lost prompted Jesus’ disciples to ask; “Who then can be saved?”

The Bible contains a variety of events or situations from which persons were saved or wished to be saved. Jesus was discussing salvation in terms of entering the Kingdom of Heaven. The question which was posed to Jesus was emphatically answered in Mark 10:27: “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God, all things are possible.”