Tag Archives: salvation

What Is The Gospel? Part Five: The Eternal Gospel

414px-an_angel_with_the_eternal_gospel_-_google_art_project
But we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve like other people who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so through Jesus God will bring those who have died with him. For we declare to you what the Lord has told us to say: We who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who have died. With a shout of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of God’s trumpet, the Lord himself will come down from heaven, and the dead who belong to the Messiah will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17)

According to the Latin word translated here as caught up, this describes the rapture. The moment this takes place, there will be no believers left on earth to proclaim the gospel.

Not all of us will die, but all of us will be changed—in a moment, faster than an eye can blink, at the sound of the last trumpet. Indeed, that trumpet will sound, and then the dead will be raised never to decay, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52 ISV)

As a trumpet sounded on Sinai, so this trumpet not only signals the resurrection of the Church, but alerts the inhabitants of earth to God’s change in His methods.

This begins another phase in God’s plan of redemption. Satan will be cast out of heaven, his time will be short and demonic forces will have greater access to those alive on earth at that time. Many who accept Jesus as the Messiah during this time will face rapid martyrdom. It will be the time of 144,000 Jewish witnesses, 2 special witnesses, and an angel flying through the air to proclaim the gospel.

Then I saw another angel flying overhead with the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on earth—to every nation, tribe, language, and people. He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the time for him to judge has arrived. Worship the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.” (Revelation 14:6,7 ISV)

Image Credit: Unknown  illuminator An Angel with the Eternal Gospel Date about 1255 – 1260 Getty Center Source/Photographer KwFA0VOH3o96DA at Google Cultural Institute Public Domain Wikimedia Commons

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible Teaching, Current Issues, Writing, Reviewing, Publishing, and about Blogging

Investigators of Salvation — post by Mary C. Findley

Crucifix on Stucco Wall
Even the prophets, who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours, carefully researched and investigated this salvation. They tried to find out what era or specific time the Spirit of the Messiah in them kept referring to when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you in regard to the things that have now been announced to you by those who brought you the good news through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. These are things that even the angels desire to look into.
(1 Peter 1: 10-12 ISV)

This is an interesting version of events in the ISV translation. Here it is in the New American Standard Version

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.

Picture, then, the prophets in a slightly different way. We think of them as getting revelation straight from God – astounding visions, messages for kings, warnings to repent for everyone, and even angels to explain to them what it all meant. But God didn’t always tell them the whole story. Sometimes, as in the case of the promise of the Messiah, they had to do research to try to learn when He would come. Angels, these verses say, couldn’t even explain things to them, though it seems to have been a subject they were greatly interested in.

Consider, as modern-day Christians, the number of verses we have been told are prophesies of the Messiah. They begin all the way back in Genesis 3:15, which is called the Protoevangelium, or first mention of Christ’s future atonement.

“I’ll place hostility between you and the woman, between your offspring and her offspring. He’ll strike you on the head, and you’ll strike him on the heel.” (ISV)

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” (NASB)

You can see Adam and Eve didn’t have much to go on there. Some people say that when Cain was born and Eve said, “I have gotten a man from the Lord”, she thought her firstborn son was the Messiah. They quickly learned they were wrong about that.

So, through the ages, God inspired His Word to include clues to the Messiah – His nature, His purpose, and also when and even where He would come into the world. By the time Herod inquired as to where the King of the Jews would be born, the scholars had an answer all ready – “In Bethlehem of Judea”. Everybody, however, seems to have been thrown off by the timing. They were not clear on when the Messiah would come. There was confusion about many aspects of His life. A majority of the Jewish leadership concluded Jesus did not fit their understanding of the prophesies.

Back to the Old Testament prophets, though. The passage says these men researched and investigated to try to pin down the facts about the Messiah and salvation that weren’t all clear in the Scriptures or the prophesies they uttered.

These men were not like the Jewish Synagogue and temple leadership at the time of Jesus. They were not selfish or trying to preserve their own power. We see big hints that they understood the sacrificial system was not the answer. “The blood of bulls and goats can never take away sin”. “All we like sheep have gone astray … The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all … ”

The biggest thing that stands out to me about these verses, though, is the point that the prophets “carefully researched and investigated this salvation.” Even while understanding this: “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you.” The prophets would never see the Messiah. They would not see the fulfillment of the things they tried to make clear. They were sacrificing for future generations. They did it for those who lived in Peter’s time, and also for us.

We have the same responsibility as these prophets. How so?. The Messiah has already come. The atonement has already taken place. The mystery the prophets of long ago were trying to solve is no longer a mystery. Jesus is the answer.

Then why are there so many people who still haven’t heard or understood “the things that have now been announced to you by those who brought you the good news through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven”? Peter is saying that there is still work for faithful men to do, which the Holy Spirit was sent to accomplish. Remember that the Holy Spirit came after the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. So it’s clear that we as believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit in order to keep investigating the Scriptures. We have to make salvation clear to those who still haven’t heard or understood. We have it. We understand it. But investigators don’t keep knowledge to themselves. Now it’s time to serve others to see to it that they receive and understand.

Free image from PixelPerfectDigital.com

2 Comments

Filed under Bible Teaching, Current Issues, Politics, Education

How Can I Become A Christian? Part Eight: It’s Your Choice

bluse lake

Jesus did not rebuke Nicodemus or turn him away. Jesus continued, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

To understand this, we need to understand a little of what Nicodemus already knew. In both Greek and Hebrew, Spirit, breath and wind are the same word. The meaning and the translation all depend on the context. Sometimes, as in this chapter, the word can mean all three things at the same time. If this seems confusing, this three-fold meaning is first used in Genesis Chapter One, verse two: “And the Spirit (wind, breath) of God moved upon the face of the waters.” The Spirit of God is life.

But in the Old Testament the Spirit of God indwelling a person seems to have been rare and temporary. Samson is a clear example of this. When the Spirit of God entered David, it had left Saul. At the same time, the Spirit of God talked to Samuel, but the Word of God never says that it indwelt Samuel. So this idea that Jesus was presenting that being born again of the Spirit was necessary for the kingdom of God was new. He was saying that more than one person could have the Spirit of God at the same time, and that the Spirit would remain in a person permanently.

Also, since the original creation was all water, water is the foundation of the material world. “It escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water.” (2 Peter 3:5)

So when Jesus told Nicodemus “unless one is born of water (material, of a woman) and the Spirit (breathe, wind) he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” Nicodemus was amazed. Jesus calmly told him “Do not be amazed.” Jesus said concerning the wind (spirit, breathe) that “you do not know where it comes from and where it is going”. He meant, “There are natural things which you, Nicodemus, do not know.” You will never know everything. As “the teacher of Israel”, Jesus was showing Nicodemus some of his limits.

Nicodemus admitted his limits with the question, “How can these things be?” Nicodemus understood that Jesus meant that the Spirit of God would indwell many people at the same time. But he did not understand how this was possible.

Most people view Jesus’ reply as a put-down. “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?” While it is possible that Jesus was saying that Nicodemus should have known these things, I understand this to mean that Jesus was revealing a mystery to Nicodemus because Nicodemus was ready to receive the mystery. In the Word of God, a mystery is something which can only be revealed by God and cannot be discovered by natural or scientific investigation. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15, “Behold I show you a mystery…”

Jesus then changed and spoke to Nicodemus not as an individual, but as the representative of all the teachers of the Law in Israel. “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony.” Nicodemus would clearly understand that Jesus addressed him as a representative of the Pharisees, perhaps all Jews in leadership. But the plural when Jesus spoke of Himself was difficult to accept. “We speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony.” It is possible, but highly unlikely, that Nicodemus mistook Jesus as referring to the disciples.

The first words of the Law say, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” the word Elohim, translated God, is in the plural but used in the singular. Hebrew has singular, duality and plural. Elohim is clearly plural, meaning three or more. Throughout the Old Testament the plural Elohim is used in the singular and translated into both Greek in the LXX (Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament) and English by the singular word God. The Church has invented the word Trinity attempt to grasp this concept. Jesus clearly said, “I and my father are one.”

Nicodemus began the conversation by calling Jesus “Rabbi,” a term which he viewed as one of great respect. Jesus revealed Himself to Nicodemus as God, since only God can be a single individual and plural at the same time and clearly states that the Jewish nation has rejected God. This was something very difficult for “the teacher of Israel” to accept.

But Jesus did not stop there. He continued, “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” The word is “if”; however, it means “since” to us. The force, not the literal translation, of this sentence is, “Since I told you earthly things and you do not believe, you will not believe when I tell you heavenly things (things which have not been revealed yet).” Another way of paraphrasing this sentence is, “Since I told you things you should easily understand, how will you understand the difficulties of how heaven really works?”

Jesus continues to reveal difficult information about heaven. Jesus says, “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” This is an even clearer claim to be God. He says that He “descended from heaven.” But Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness was a clear statement of crucifixion. Jesus is also saying that He would return to heaven after being crucified. While the disciples might not have understood, “the teacher of Israel,” would know both the Old Testament and the Roman culture.

Jesus’ claim “that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life,” has much less shock value to us than it did to Nicodemus.

After informing Nicodemus that He will be crucified, Jesus then explains that He is laying down His life as a gift, a gift given by God. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Jesus then explains that laying down His life is necessary because we are all under the judgment of sin. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Jesus finishes with Nicodemus by explaining the true nature of Spiritual warfare. He was simply explaining the difference between Nicodemus’ attitude and that of the rest of the “teachers of Israel”.

“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

As quoted earlier, Nicodemus said, “Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?” Nicodemus questioned Jesus’ purpose and nature, but he came to find out the truth. Those who loved evil did not come to Jesus but avoided him, or came only to try to trap or discredit Him. They didn’t stick around, because when they did, Jesus’ light exposed them for the hypocrites and evildoers that they were. Nicodemus, however, came to the light, listened to the truth, and became a follower.

Image from 1Photos.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible Teaching, Current Issues, Politics

Book Review: The Narrow Gate: How to Thrive During the Great Falling Away by David Bergsland

The Narrow Gate

David Bergsland neither contacted me nor does he know me. In order to be honest, he reviewed our book Antidisestablishmentarianism, a book as long as 3 or 4 doctoral dissertations. For that I feel a great moral obligation to review not just one, but several of David Bergsland’s book. This influence, though considerable, is the only influence he has over me.

To begin, the topic is after my own heart, though I am writing on other topics and have no time for this subject. David Bergsland has biographical information on twitter, Amazon and Smashwords. He has a facebook page and blog as well as a twitter account.

As someone who writes massive books, I greatly appreciate a smaller work that I can read in less than an afternoon. Ten different English translations of the Word of God are used and properly documented.

The opening chapter states; “The way the church teaches, the gate is not very narrow. There are several common practices in the modern church that seem to provide a wide open gate. But it is an illusion. That gate is narrow.” He supports this position with Scripture.

Though he is not a Baptist, he takes the Baptist position on Baptism. “Baptism is not a magic act of power. It is the result of an adult decision.” He also says, “there is no evidence that baptism provides salvation, it is a ceremonial event of public proclamation and a ritual of cleansing.”

“If you have any personal concerns about whether your baptism was real or not, get dunked-as in fully immersed-as an adult.”

This next issue he brings up I personally believe has destroyed the modern Church in America and England. “How many people do you know who came down front to an altar call (especially at a large crusade), prayed the sinner’s prayer, and nothing happened?”

“The most common figures are that somewhere between 6% and 10% of people who come down for an altar call become church members.

As we will talk about in a bit, becoming a church member has little to do with entering the Kingdom of God. There are no statistics about true conversions resulting from an altar call. It may be only a percent or two.”

My concern is that most of these “altar calls” actually inoculate against the gospel. I do not see David Bergsland drawing this conclusion. It is my own.

“I’m not sure what to do with this modern phenomenon [of mega-churches]. I’ve never been a part of one which truly preached the Gospel.” I can truly amen that statement.

“The megachurches I’ve attended were major problems and more like a cancerous tumor than healthy growth.”

“The only megachurch is scripture was the church at Jerusalem and God scattered that one.”

David Bergsland then changes to God’s standards, not our mistaken beliefs. “The gate is quite a bit narrower than we are commonly taught.”

As David Bergsland points out, we do not want to hear “Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.” Because “many will seek to enter and will not be able.”

The horrifying part is  “This is a limited time offer,” to use a modern advertising slogan. As David Bergsland points out, that in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the Church age will end. And what happens next will have little resemblance to the Left Behind series.

Jesus had the most problems with “the heavily involved, defenders of doctrine, self-righteous hypocrites” who go to church constantly, “helping to set policy, zealously watching for infractions, and running the church.”

The next great sin engulfing the American Church is lawlessness. David Bergsland uses pages of examples to back up his belief that the modern American church will both welcome and help to usher in the government of the Anti-Christ.

David Bergsland next deals with the problem of knowing the information of the Scriptures without knowing God or having the power of God. This builds on the earlier points and is the core of the book.

He also extends the Biblical parallel of the family. That is how we instruct children and how God instructs us.

The Scriptures, music, worship, communion, community interaction and fellowship can all be used to replace, as substitutes for the true relationship with Christ Jesus.

Probably the most important point is that “This type of relationship takes time.” The baby/parent relationship is “good for the baby-not so good for the parent.”

The last section of this book is a number of very helpful illustrations and person experiences.

It is a very short, easy read on a very important topic. You can easily read this in less time than a morning Church Service. I highly recommend this. It certainly stands out among modern Christian books which are, for the most part, not worth reading.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Narrow-Gate-David-Bergsland/dp/147823279X

 Image of David Bergsland

2 Comments

Filed under Writing, Reviewing, Publishing, and about Blogging

How Can I Become A Christian? Part Seven: Jesus and Nicodemus

waterfall

John uses the simplest grammar and vocabulary of the New Testament. Yet this simple clarity contain some of the most difficult concepts in the entire Word of God.

John 3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2 this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. 12 If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

Nicodemus only shows up in two other places in the Scriptures. In John 7:50,51 he is with the Pharisees and defends Jesus. “Nicodemus (he who came to Him before, being one of them) said to them, ‘Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?’”

The next, and last time, Nicodemus is mentioned he comes with Joseph of Arimathea to take the body of Jesus off the cross and give it a proper burial. John 19:38-40 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate granted permission. So he came and took away His body. Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.

This passage does not say that Nicodemus was a secret disciple, like Joseph of Arimathea. The spices Nicodemus brought, about a hundred pounds, were a public confession. It was more public than any action taken by any other disciple immediately after the crucifixion.

Nicodemus originally came by night. There are two possible reasons for coming at night. It is much easier to keep a meeting secret at night and Nicodemus was likely not certain as to the true nature of Jesus. The other, important reason is that as “the teacher of Israel” he had responsibilities which kept him busy during the daylight hours. Nicodemus met both of his responsibilities.

When we come to God, God understands how little we know. That is why we are commanded to ” Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 Paul constantly traveled and wrote to explain and teach the Word of God. To the Romans he wrote a letter to the best-educated culture in the world. Yet the Romans had no foundation in the Scriptures.

Nicodemus was not an ignorant fisherman. He was not ignorant of the law. He was not only better educated than the Romans, he was “the teacher of Israel.” So when he met with Jesus, and Jesus understood exactly what Nicodemus needed, every phrase, every word Jesus used was based on the Old Testament Law and knowing the Nicodemus understood the Law.

The first word out of Nicodemus’ mouth was “Rabbi.” As one teacher to another, it was a term of great respect. Perhaps, coming from “the teacher of Israel,” it was the greatest possible respect, because it placed Jesus above him. At least, this is what Nicodemus intended. ” Nicodemus continued, “we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Nicodemus understood and acknowledged that Jesus “came from God.” But Nicodemus expected the Messiah to come in power and glory and make Israel the capital of world, defeating the Romans in battle. Jesus obviously had no intention of doing that. At least it did not seem that way. Nicodemus was confused. But unlike the rest of the Pharisees, he did not reject Jesus outright. “He came to his own, and those who were his own did not receive Him.” John 1:11

Jesus dealt with the root problem. ” Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Jesus expected Nicodemus to understand what he was saying. You and I would not have understood. The Romans would not have understood. But Jesus expected Nicodemus, as “the teacher of Israel,” to understand.

The Old Testament teaches that “there is none righteous, no not one.” It also teaches that “all our righteousness are as filthy, bloody bandages.” Nicodemus knew the basic problem. We are all sinners. He also understood that sacrifices of the blood of animals were insufficient. “Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” Micah 6:7 But Jesus’ statement proves that Nicodemus had no answer for Micah’s question.

The mystery religions of paganism all practiced a new birth. They “baptized” a convert by slaughtering an animal over top of him and allowing the blood to run down on him. In this way, he was “born again” into their cult. Born again was also the common term for those who believed in some form of reincarnation. Plato used the concept is his Republic. But Jews did not use the term, to the best of our knowledge. So, even though Nicodemus would have known of the concept of being “born again,” he likely would be somewhat confused when Jesus used it.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Since Nicodemus expected the kingdom of God to restore the throne of David, the very obvious religious symbol of being born again was confusing. It was not national. It was personal.

Did Nicodemus give an honest answer? , “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Perhaps in his confusion he was stalling for time. Perhaps he actually wondered if Jesus was referring to the Greek concept of reincarnation. Perhaps he was being dishonest. But I believe that Nicodemus desperately wanted a national Messiah to throw off the yoke of Rome. What he heard was a personal challenge and nothing for the nation of Israel. Nicodemus wanted the new birth to be material, physical, even though he understood that it was not. Nicodemus did not like the direction the conversation was going.

Jesus did not rebuke him or turn him away. Jesus continued, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

To understand this, we need to understand a little of what Nicodemus already knew. In both Greek and Hebrew, Spirit, breath and wind are the same word. The meaning and the translation all depend on the context. Sometimes, as in this chapter, the word can mean all three things at the same time. If this seems confusing, this three-fold meaning is first used in Genesis one verse two “And the Spirit (wind, breath) of God moved upon the face of the waters.” The Spirit of God is life.

But in the Old Testament the Spirit of God only indwelt one person at a time. When the Spirit of God entered David, it left Saul. At the same time, the Spirit of God talked to Samuel, but the Word of God never says that it indwelt Samuel. So this idea that Jesus was presenting that being born again of the Spirit was necessary for the kingdom of God was new. More than one person could have the Spirit of God at the same time.

Also, since the original creation was all water, water is the foundation of the material world. “It escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water.” 2 Peter 3:5

So when Jesus told Nicodemus “unless one is born of water (material, of a woman) and the Spirit (breathe, wind) he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” Nicodemus was amazed. Jesus calmly told him “Do not be amazed.” One aspect of Jesus’ statement about the wind (spirit, breathe), you ” do not know where it comes from and where it is going;” was, that there are natural things which you, Nicodemus, do not know. You will never know everything. As “the teacher of Israel” Jesus was showing Nicodemus some of his limits.

Nicodemus admitted his limits with the question “How can these things be?” Nicodemus understood that Jesus meant that the Spirit of God would indwell many people at the same time. But he did not understand how this was possible.

Most people view Jesus’ reply as a put down. ” Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?” While it is possible that Jesus was saying that Nicodemus should have known these things, I understand this to mean that Jesus was revealing a mystery to Nicodemus because Nicodemus was ready to receive the mystery. In the Word of God, a mystery is something which can only be revealed by God and cannot be discovered by natural or scientific investigation. As Paul said in I Corinthians 15, “Behold I show you a mystery…”

Jesus then changed and spoke to Nicodemus not as an individual, but as the representative of all the teachers of the Law in Israel. “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony.” Nicodemus would clearly understand that Jesus addressed him as a representative of the Pharisees, perhaps all Jews in leadership. But the plural when Jesus spoke of Himself was difficult to accept. “We speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony.” It is possible, but highly unlikely, that Nicodemus mistook Jesus as referring to the disciples.

The first words of the Law “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” the word Elohim, translated God, is in the plural but used in the singular. Hebrew has singular, duality and plural. Elohim is clearly plural, meaning three or more. Throughout the Old Testament the plural Elohim is used in the singular and translated into both Greek in the LXX and English by the singular word God. The Church has invented the word Trinity attempt to grasp this concept. Jesus clearly said, “I and my father are one.”

Nicodemus began by the conversation by calling Jesus “Rabbi,” a term which he viewed as one of great respect. Jesus reveals Himself to Nicodemus as God, since only God can be a single individual and plural at the same time and clearly states that the Jewish nation has rejected God. This was something very difficult for “the teacher of Israel” to accept.

But Jesus did not stop there. He continued, “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” The word is “if”, however, it means “since” to us. The force, not the literal translation, of this sentence is, “Since I told you earthly things and you do not believe, you will not believe when I tell you heavenly things (things which have not been revealed yet).” Another way of paraphrasing this sentence is, “Since I told you things you should easily understand, how will you understand the difficulties of how heaven really works?”

This might be the only place in the Word of God where Jesus used sarcasm, because Jesus continues to reveal difficult information about heaven. Jesus says, ” No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” This is an even clearer claim to be God. He says that He “descended from heaven.” But Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness was a clear statement of crucifixion. Jesus is also saying that He would return to heaven after being crucified. While the disciples might not have understood, “The teacher of Israel,” would know both the Old Testament and the Roman culture.

Jesus’ claim “that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life,” has much less shock value to us than it did to Nicodemus.

After informing Nicodemus that He will be crucified, Jesus then explains that He is laying down His life as a gift, a gift given by God. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Jesus then explains that laying down His life is necessary because we are all under the judgment of sin. “17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Jesus finishes with Nicodemus by explaining the true nature of Spiritual warfare. “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

Image from 1Photos.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible Teaching, Current Issues, Politics

How Can I Become A Christian? Part Six: The Romans Road

littoral

In the Book of Romans, the Apostle Paul lays out some very important and key doctrines for becoming a Christian. Different people take different approaches to the total number of verses, but there are certain doctrines which are considered essential.

The book of Romans was written to the most educated people of world. The first time Paul visited Rome, a Church already existed. Yet the Roman Church seems to have very little grounding in the Old Testament, because Paul spends much of the book of Romans quoting standard Jewish doctrines. They also seem isolated from the other Churches, because when Paul arrived in Rome and told of his arrest, the charges against him and his appeal to Caesar, “They said to him (Paul), ‘We have neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren come here and reported or spoken anything bad about you. But we desire to hear from you what your views are; for concerning this sect, it is known to us that it is spoken against everywhere.'” Acts 28:21,22 (NASB)

The book of Romans defines reality. “The righteous man shall live by faith” verses “men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

Romans one opens with the clearest record of the consequences of sin found in the Word of God. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see for to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” Romans 1:18-32 (NASB)

Understanding both the true nature of both the world we live in and the consequences of our sin allows Paul to detail reality throughout Romans. A few simple verses are used as “the Romans Road” to salvation. All verses quoted are from the NASB.

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Everyone is a sinner. While that concept seems so basic, modern secular humanism denies this basic foundation of reality.

Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all have sinned-” God created a perfect, sinless universe. Adam’s sin allowed sin to enter the world and that sin spread to all men. While this seems like a simple and basic Christian doctrine, liberals and the Church of Rome deny it.

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What we rightfully deserve as wages for the sin which we both inherited and practice by choice is death, both physical and eternal. Eternal life is not something we can work hard enough for nor do we deserve it. It is only available as a free gift. It is only available from God. And it is only in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is not something we can add to our lives in addition to our sins.

Romans 10:9,10 “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” This is not a magic formula that must be followed which automatically results in salvation. If that were the case, deaf and mute people could not be saved. The phrase “confess with your mouth” is referring to public confession. Thanks to the internet, that might be in writing. God says that if you are ashamed of Him, then He will be ashamed of you. It means understanding what sin is, repenting of sin and publicly testifying.

Some people add Romans 12:1,2 to the Romans Road “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that your may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Those who do not include these verses claim that this makes the Romans Road more difficult and complicated. I believe that a new believer might not completely understand everything these verses expect out of us, but new believers often put older believers to shame with their zeal.

Image from 1Photos.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible Teaching, Current Issues, Politics

How Can I Become A Christian? Part Five: What Kind of Soil am I?

homemade

And (Jesus) spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Other fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” Matthew 13:3-9 NASB

Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” Matthew 3:18-23 NASB

In this parable, the sower is the one preaching the Word of God and the seed is the Word of God. We, the hearers of the Word of God, are the soil. What kind of soil are we, shallow, rocky, thorny or good? The one sowing the seed and the seed do not change. All that changes is the soil.

How do we respond to the teaching of the Word of God? Do we allow the evil one to come and snatch it away? Do we abandon the Word of God and other believers when persecution comes? Do we allow the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth to choke the word? Or do we bear fruit, a hundred, sixty or thirty fold.

If we bear fruit, what does that mean? Sheep bear other sheep and since God calls us his sheep in many other passages, many take this to mean that we are to be fruitful in proclaiming the Word of God and leading others to Christ. While the Word of God is very clear that we are to be faithful in proclaiming His Word, the Holy Spirit is responsible for the results. Paul says that he planted, Apollos watered, but God gave in increase. We are not to be lazy, but neither are we to be discouraged when we do not see results.

But bearing fruit seems to make more sense if Jesus is talking about the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. Galatians 5:22, 23. KJV This makes more sense, as this is taught many different ways throughout the New Testament. Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Colossians 2:7 KJV

This seems to line up with Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?

We can, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, examine ourselves to see if we are faithful and obedient to the Word of God. But the Holy Spirit is the responsible for the response to our sowing the seed.

Illustration from http://1Photo.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Bible Teaching, Current Issues, Politics