« Happy Birthday! - July 2, 1776 | Main | God Bless America »

July 03, 2012

Comments

Gaining insight into hard passages of the Bible...

I would argue that so-called "hard" passages of the Bible aren't hard because they're difficult to understand but because we're so unwilling to accept them.

I'm not saying that a Christian will be able to just read and understanding everything first time through; of course you might have to do some research into cultural and historical context to get at what the author intended, as well as apply basic critical reading skills.

I am suggesting that the Bible is much less of a mystery than what many Christians make it out to be. Consider this: so we have what's called general revelation and special revelation, right? General revelation is God's revealing of Himself, His power, and His attributes through natural means ("The heavens declare the glory of God..."). But, because we are a fallen race of sinful humans, we aren't able to comprehend what we ought to comprehend through general revelation. Calvin argues this in the first part of his Institutes. Therefore, God revealed Himself to us through his Word, i.e., the Scriptures, and that is called special revelation.

Now, that means that God took a special interest and made an extra effort to make sure He communicated to us what we are supposed to know about Him. Do you think that He did so by creating an obscure, often confusing message? Wouldn't it make sense that if you are trying to communicate something of the utmost importance that you form the message in the clearest way possible, so that your audience can easily understand it?

And in fact, we see this in the Scripture. For instance, when Jesus appeared to the two disciples on the Emmaus road, what did He admonish them over? "How foolish you are, and slow of heart to BELIEVE all that the prophets have spoken!" And what did he do? "Beginning with Moses and the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself."

What's funny about the Emmaus road account is that in most Bibles, you turn one page forward and you find John 1, where Philip tracks down Nathaniel and proclaims that he's "found the one that Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote." It's clear that they knew what the Scriptures said, hence the reason that Jesus admonished the two Emmaus travellers for their unbelief, not because they were confused about what was communicated...

Jesus implies that everything we need to know about Him is set out clearly in Scripture, and so our problem isn't that Scripture is difficult to comprehend, but that we're foolish and slow to believe. Remember, one of the tasks of the Holy Spirit is to teach us all things, remind us of everything Jesus has said to us, and to guide us into all truth.

Like all of the other mumbo jumbo Pharisees or theologians push, hermeneutics is more a matter of pedantic sloganeering than an honest search for the truth. Evangelicals use it the way they use the term “Sola Scriptura.” What they really mean by “Sola” is their interpretation of Scripture alone; they don’t actually let the Bible speak for itself. It has always been a matter of faith plus reason. With Marcion, it was the Bible plus Paganism, Philosophy, & Gnostic religion; with Luther, it was the Bible plus theology informed by philosophy (chiefly, as noted by Evangelicals, Augustine’s), Pagan religion, rhetorical principles, & law. The idea of finding a balanced view of Scripture, one that doesn’t ignore the texts that don’t fit your theology or viewpoint & play up those which seem to support your interpretation, isn’t a trait to which liars & hypocrites generally adhere. Both Luther & Marcion set up preestablished criterion & a hierarchy as to which Scriptures should take precedence over which. In their cases, Paul’s writings became essential, & everything else became secondary or worse. As a Gnostic heretic, Marcion rejected some Scriptures outright; however, Luther was a more subtle beast: instead of throwing out Scriptures he didn’t like, he prefaced every book of the Bible slanting anyone’s view of the work before they would ever read the work itself. He even disparaged parts of the Bible by claiming they don’t have anything of the Gospel in them or misrepresented them as being less than true Gospel. But why question a man’s theology just because he is a hypocrite & a false teacher with respect to mere abstract ideology when you agree with his godless lifestyle in practice? The answer is that they are self-seeking, self-pleasing, & have a strong motivation to cover their sinful tracks.

Whenever you celebrate your independence, why don’t you reflect on the fact that Luther encouraged the Nobles to crush the peasant uprising & to use their power to persecute, torture, & kill those he did not like or rather who did not accept his theology, namely, Catholics, Jews, & various groups from the so-called Radical Reformation?

But no, it is I who digress. Lets find an actual example with which to work.

Evangelicals have been using Eph.2: 8, 9 as a proof text for some time now to claim that salvation is a gift given to the elect alone & that there is nothing a person must do to receive it or to keep it. So much theology has been built up around this passage that it is almost impossible for Evangelicals to see it any other way.

Is it even possible for the Evangelical interpretation(s), the whole pale of self-contradicting orthodoxy, to be wrong; is it infallible? Can even a part of it be wrong, & if some of it could be wrong, then must all of it be wrong? It certainly would be hard for any of them to admit they could be as wrong or as blind as the Pharisees, but what has happened tends to repeat itself. It isn’t surprising, in that sense, that Jesus asked whether there would be faith when He returned; He should know. I don’t think it was merely a rhetorical question: everything Jesus did & said was meant didactically: to serve as a life or moral lesson or example for His disciples, true believers. As He said, be careful how you hear. He distinguished between merely seeing & knowing intellectually and beholding & knowing by doing what was understood intellectually as an obligation, directive, or command. The Bible isn’t just a storybook about what God has done for us; it is also an instruction book as to how to live in such a way as to please God & be saved. If you do not approach the Bible from that perspective, then you will come up with all kinds of false conclusions, & that is precisely what Evangelicals do: they beg the question of how to approach the Bible in the first place. They automatically assume that their theology is in there, that is where it supposedly came from, so naturally, they set out to find just what they are looking for, to find what they expect to find just as the Pharisees did before them. That expectation veils everything they read.

Normally, when a question of interpretation comes up, a person goes to the Source. The only agreed upon source is the Bible & not the Spirit or oral tradition – despite what Paul said about holding “to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter,” (II Thes.2: 15) Of course, if we agree that the Bible is our only infallible authority, then the question of interpretation becomes all important, but if a question arises as to the interpretation of Scripture, shouldn’t we at least give due consideration to those teachers who came before us, who lived in the culture of the New Testament times, who spoke the Greek of the Bible, who heard directly from the Apostles, & who could confer with the Apostles or the first generation or two of their disciples?

Why should I believe that theologians that came along several hundred or even thousands of years later would have a better grasp of the Bible & have better insight as to its meaning? Why shouldn’t I consider their views to be more corrupt by time, distance, & the accumulation of false ideas as was the case with the Pharisees? It should be noted that, just as the Pharisees were legalists, the founders of the Reformation were steeped in Law & rhetoric. They were just as prone to legalistic, literalistic, & absolutist interpretations that would serve their own interests & excuse their moral failings & lack of obedience to God’s word as the Pharisees. Isn’t it more likely that the intellectuals get it wrong whereas the babes get it right?

Getting back to Eph.2, let me preface my remarks by saying that I do not believe that a person can save himself. If a person could save himself, then Jesus died in vain. Even if I were to suppose that a person could live a sinless life from the point of his conversion forward, though I do believe that that is the attitude of faith, to be able to do all things, to move mountains, etc., there is nothing he can do to undo what he has already done wrong. We are sinners in need of a Savior; that is not up for discussion. The issue is whether or not we must do anything for salvation or whether there are conditions for receiving it or keeping it. Certainly, in this sense, I believe that salvation is a gift: we haven’t done anything near enough to deserving it; rather, we have done the opposite, we have sinned & fallen short of it. However, just because we cannot do everything necessary for salvation, does that mean we don’t have to do anything necessary for it? Does the relative difference of a person no longer living according to the course of this world & striving for the next play a part in whether or not a person is saved or will be ultimately saved?

A theological assumption built into how the Evangelical reads this passage is the view that we can add nothing to Jesus’ perfect & finished work of Salvation, but no one is saying we are adding to His work; rather, Kingdom Christians are saying that there are still works one must do to receive, live, & to keep the gift that resulted from His finished work. If His work were truly “finished,” there would be no need for evangelism or for this blog, which is attempting to persuade people of the Gospel or to establish assurance of faith in others. Of course, the Evangelical will try to turn the tables on me by & saying that, ‘now, you are being the literalist,’ but I am only using simple logic & not dialectical logic. I cannot in the time & space available show every false assumption that goes into making their interpretation fit Scripture, but I will try & demonstrate a few.

One is the idea that we are merely vessels or clay: God does everything & we are mere recipients of His work. Amy for example claims that we are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” True enough, generally speaking, but Paul also says that “in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self…& put on the new self which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness & holiness…therefore,…do not sin.” (Eph.4: 22 – 26) The point being that, even though we are His workmanship, we still have a part to play that determines what kind of vessel we will be shaped into or become whether good or bad, saved or damned, noble or under wrath. Notice in chapter 2, we “formerly walked according to the course of this world” & “lived in the lusts of our flesh,” but in chapter 4, we have to lay that former manner aside. So which is it? Are we simply or solely His workmanship, or do we play a part in that work? We are His workmanship, but then again, we must put on that likeness created in righteousness.

Does a person come to faith simply because God gives him “the word of faith” & plants it in the soil of his heart, or does the individual have a choice? Does a person given faith automatically progress towards producing fruit, or does he have a choice? Does the soil, does the clay have a choice to make, & how does he make it? It is so easy for Evangelicals to dismiss what contradicts their view, so when they read the statements by Christ that clearly state the Father will cut believers off of the Vine, which is none other than Christ Jesus Himself, if they do not produce fruit, they deny Him & His words. Not only is it clear that fruit is not an automatic result of being in Christ, it is also clear that staying in Christ is no guarantee apart from producing fruit unto God. How is it that they can so easily deny Jesus’ words? It is because of their theological presuppositions, which they think are infallible. It was okay for them to be wrong before they got saved, when they were atheists, pagans, or heretics, but to be wrong after coming to Christ – well, that is just too much to believe; that would make God, His Spirit, & His word untrustworthy. Really? It would make Him untrustworthy? Please, read the Bible again for the first time without your self-aggrandizement, vanity, & pride.

In Romans 9, Paul describes people poetically as clay that God molds into whatever vessel He chooses, but are we to assume that we therefore play no role in the outcome, that Paul isn’t intending for the hypothetical man to repent & be saved? Lets continue to ignore the “What if;” I can take it as though it means something like what Jesus said to Peter – “What is that to you? You follow Me!” Jeremiah chapter 18 is the obvious reference to which Paul is alluding. In it, the Lord says to His people that the way in which He shapes & molds people is by how they behave with respect to obeying His voice or not. The people have a choice as to what kind of vessel they can become – irrespective whether or not God already knows what choice they will make or what the outcome will be. Is that also Paul’s view? Paul said to Timothy that the Lord knows who are His; they not only name the Lord (Jesus), they abstain from wickedness, but further down he says, “Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified,” etc. (II Tim.2: 19 – 21) The Evangelical thinks that the “if” refers to whether or not God preselected the individual & made him cleanse himself, but is that really the case? Does that fit the context?

Ask yourself again, who did Paul think God wants to save, or of whom is God the Savior? For whom did Jesus die? He uses the expression “all men” more than once, & he makes it clear that Jesus provided the basis for justification to all men. Though not all are ultimately justified, the reason some are not justified is because they choose to reject Jesus; they suffer shipwreck with respect to their faith. In Romans 11, Paul makes it clear that it wasn’t God who cut off the unbelieving Jews; they did it to themselves by choosing to not believe, but should they choose to believe again, they can be grafted back into the olive tree. Each person has a choice. God shut up everyone in sin, but He also shows mercy to all.

You can philosophize, theologize, or rationalize all you like, but this is how it is. Salvation is a choice made by doing the things Jesus commands us to do, & if you choose not to obey Him, then the wrath of God still abides on you.

Faith is not a whitewash; it is not a Gnostic dualism where you serve God on the inside but satan on the outside. God is not mocked: whatever you sow to is what you will reap. How you sow will determine what kind of vessel you will become.

The believer must choose to fill up what “is lacking Christ’s afflictions,” to “suffer with Him (Christ),” & ‘to deny himself, pick up his cross follow Jesus.’ (Col.1: 24; Rom.8: 17; Luke 9: 23, 24) There is nothing automatic about faith. You may be in Christ; you may be His workmanship, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are being made ready for the Kingdom. Even from the Evangelical perspective, you could be a tare being prepared for wrath; you could turn away at anytime by the distractions & persecution of this world. You could very well be under a delusion of salvation because, if you are not denying yourself, suffering with Christ, serving Him, & keeping His commands, then you are a liar, & the truth is not in you. (John 2: 3 – 6) Are you walking according to the new manner created in Christ Jesus? Even if you are foolish enough to think that God forces someone or changes a person’s will so that he automatically does the right things – the fact remains that they must be done!

Another superstition that has grown up around Eph.2: 8, 9 is the idea that the Law demands perfection of the believer. Even though there is an entire sacrificial system built into the Law of Moses precisely because it does not demand perfection, Evangelicals continually claim that it does demand perfection. Not only does it have a sacrificial system, but also it allowed for divorce & the marrying of foreigners.

A corollary to that idea is the idea that “works” means ‘works of any kind’ & not just works of the Law. In context, Paul clearly refers to the Law in verse 15 of Eph.2, & he is referring to the difference between those who are under it vs. those who are not that is to Jews & Gentiles. In Philippians, Paul explains that there is a difference between a righteousness derived from the Law & one that is based upon knowing Jesus through the power of His resurrection, fellowship of His suffering, & being conformed to His death. (Phil.3: 6 – 14) It isn’t that he has already attained it by faith alone; he is still seeking to be justified & to receive the awarded crown of righteousness. (Gal.2: 17; II Tim.4: 7, 8)

Paul says that faith works by love & that good deeds reap eternal life. (Gal.5: 6; 6: 7 – 10) He says that “God…renders to every man according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory & honor & immortality, eternal life.” Rom.2: 5 – 8)

Matthew 11: 12 reads, “The Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, & violent men take it by force.” Every Evangelical, that I am aware of, teaches that this passage supports the doctrine of “salvation by faith alone.” They claim it is a warning to us not to try & earn salvation or to break into Heaven by our own strength through a back door like a violent criminal or thief. They say that the only door into the Kingdom is Jesus Christ, that is, putting your trust in His finished work alone. Of course, when you have an Evangelical paradigm that is what you plainly see, but that view is extremely odd because the Early Church understood it in a completely different way. For example, Irenaeus (a disciple of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna & disciple of John) wrote, “The Lord declares that the Kingdom of Heaven was the portion of ‘the violent.’ He says, ‘The violent take it by force.’ By ‘the violent,’ He means those who by strength & earnest striving are on the watch to snatch it away on the moment. …This able Wrestler, therefore, exhorts us to enter the struggle for immortality. He does this so that we may be crowned, & so we may deem the crown precious – for it is that which is acquired by our struggle. …Since, then, this power has been conferred upon us, the Lord has taught & the Apostle has commanded us even more to love God, so that we may reach this for ourselves by striving after it.” (Against Heresies, book 4, chapter 37, part 7)

Jesus teaches that the foundational Rock of salvation is to both hear & do what He taught in word & in deed, & to confess Him before men. (Mat.7: 21 – 27; 16: 15 – 18) If hearing has to do with faith & sanctification with doing the Father’s will, then salvation is not just a matter of faith alone. In fact, Paul says that salvation consists of these very things. (Rom.10: 10; II Thes.2: 13; I Thes.4: 2 – 8; I Tim.2: 15)

According to the Evangelical, the concept of faith goes back to Abraham who was accounted righteous for believing the promise of God, but nowhere does it say that faith alone saves or that righteousness alone saves. If faith alone were all that were needed for Abraham to receive the promises of God, then he didn’t have to leave everything behind as the disciples of Christ did; he didn’t need to sacrifice Isaac, & he didn’t need to walk blameless before God to establish the promise. (Gen.17: 1, 2) 3 times God said “because” Abraham obeyed God’s Voice in the matter of Isaac that He would give him what He had promised. (Gen.22: 15 – 18; 26: 4, 5) God “knew” Abraham because Abraham “knew” God. Adam disobeyed God’s Voice because he was lead astray by satan, but we all must obey God’s Voice & be lead by His Spirit. As it was our choice to disobey, it must be our choice to obey – that is the essence of the early Churches doctrine of recapitulation. Abraham’s faith was Abraham’s: he had to choose all along the way for himself, & the choice he made, he made through obedience. Paul termed it, “the obedience of faith” & he said it contained both elements of word & deed. (Rom.1: 5; 15: 18) Like Abraham before him, Paul did not pass on the promise as an automatic gift. Abraham’s descendants still had to individually “keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness & justice; in order that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He had spoken about him.” (Gen.18: 19) The counterpart of walking blameless in the Old Testament is walking worthy in the New. (Eph.4: 1)

Even if faith were all that was required, faith is not complete, active, or alive without works. Faith that does not work does not work to save either. God saves His servants. He saves those who seek Him. According to Hebrews, faith has at least 2 aspects: knowing that God exists, & knowing that He rewards those who seek Him. (Heb.11: 6) What reward do you seek when you seek God? As we have already observed, Paul said, “eternal life.”

It is funny how Evangelicals in America pride themselves on being good conservative Americans. For example, they think that it is wrong for people to be given welfare if they are able bodied. ‘Those that don’t work should not eat,’ or so they say, but they don’t believe that with respect to salvation. They deny Jesus’ teaching to labor for the food that endures to eternal life. (John 6: 27) In their study materials, you won’t even find the obvious cross-reference between Romans 6: 23 & Proverbs 10: 16.

When it comes to salvation, Evangelicals believe that if they are free to serve as they please out of sheer love, then they will do the works. Lets ignore the reality. Also, lets ignore the whole irresistibility argument, or the notion that God changes the heart or will of the so-called elect person so that he will automatically choose to serve as a result of his new programming – or should I say, almost new? Do these good conservative Americans think that welfare with no strings attached will lead people to voluntarily go to work especially when the work is something they don’t like doing because it is boring, hard, risky, dirty, or demands that they move somewhere else & make deep sacrifices? Will they show up on time faithfully daily? I doubt it, but they certainly think that that is how salvation works. They should at least be consistent & have faith enough that God will provide. They demand more in the everyday temporal sphere than they think God does in the eternal.

In conclusion, Eph.2 should be taken in the context of all of Scripture & certainly the whole letter to the Ephesians. Isaiah informs us that the Lord says, “Cease to do evil, learn to do good…if you consent & obey you will eat the best of the land, but if you refuse & rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” Try reading Eph. chapter 5 in that light, & see if Paul isn’t expanding on the words, “cease to do evil, learn to do good.”

And, now, you can all tell me where my hermeneutic has gone wrong, as I have claimed yours has. Tell me why I would need to take up the armor if everything, including faith, is secure for the believer. Tell me why I need to wake up & what it means to really wake up. If it has all been done already for me, why do I need to do anything at all – anything more is just a guilt trip from the evangelical viewpoint: an unnecessary attempt to add to the perfect righteousness we already have by faith alone, supposedly, to gain rewards that His perfect righteousness wasn’t sufficient to gain for us. If there is a way to add to His perfect complete work in order to gain additional rewards, maybe there is a lesson in that about salvation in general. Is there anything to gain except pride & self-exaltation? Does the original sin become, in the end, no longer sin but virtue? I think the devil would love that victory. Faith is no longer obeying God & doing as you should; it has become the liberal nonsense of believing God & doing whatever gets you a little extra reward because you deserve it. Oh, they say, ‘you don’t really deserve it.’ Why? Is there a lesson in that too? Oh, but they will turn it around again & say I establish a pride by saying I can do something to add to my own salvation. Quiet right, I add myself because I am not just a puppet; I am the offspring of God given the dignity of free will & the ability to think & to act for myself as an independent agent: faith does not reprogram me to obey automatically; it introduces me to grace, a grace which I can fall from & that teaches me to live godly in this present age; it does not force me; it informs me & helps me; it empowers me to overcome if I choose to overcome & flee idolatry, but it will also hinder & harden me should I choose to rebel against God’s Voice. You can try to make me believe in an incongruence between the inner & the outer, between the means & the ends, or between doing as Jesus taught & faith, but it will never work. It will always be truer to live godly & have a poor understanding of doctrine, than to have every doctrine just right but to live ungodly. Sound doctrine always supports godliness, & those who have it are sound in practice; they practice what they preach, but what can an Evangelical preach except hypocrisy: nothing matters to him but the abstract ideology, if you have the right theology, a theology of do-nothing-ism, then you have done it all because it has all been done for you, but if you believe that it is necessary to obey Jesus, you are some kind of heretic or nearly the same thing. Just as their father, they ask, ‘Did Jesus really say, – fill in your favorite Evangelical take on Jesus’ words.’ They have rendered obeying the voice of Jesus superfluous with respect to salvation. All His commands are made into suggestions by the magical doctrines of: come as you are, faith alone, & eternal security.

I’m guessing your comment is a response to the conversation on Facebook? If so, I encourage readers to take a look at what I said here.

You say:

One is the idea that we are merely vessels or clay: God does everything & we are mere recipients of His work. Amy for example claims that we are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them….So which is it? Are we simply or solely His workmanship, or do we play a part in that work?”

It is solely God’s workmanship that created us new in Christ Jesus (according to those first few chapters of Ephesians). This is why Paul contrasts working for our salvation and being God’s work. It’s not that our good works give us our salvation, it’s that God works in us so that we’re “created in Christ Jesus.” After that, our good works come, but the salvation is accomplished by God.

It’s strange to me that you think this is an either/or situation—as if the only reason we can do good works, or be exhorted to do them, is as a method of salvation. This is never how Paul describes the motivation and purpose of our works.

If it has all been done already for me, why do I need to do anything at all

This is the perfect question to ask! In fact, Paul anticipated people asking this question. He knew it would naturally arise when people heard him teach salvation by faith. This is why he addresses it more than once. In Romans 6, after explaining that we’re dead in our sins (chapters 1-2), that our righteousness comes from Christ through faith (3), that God planned it this way so that it would depend on God, not us, so He could guarantee our inheritance (4), and that the gift of righteousness comes through Jesus Christ (5), he knew that people would respond just as you have. “Then why do good works?!” So then he explains how works fit into this:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death…. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him…. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of urighteousness; but present yourselve to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God….

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!

He goes on to explain that now we’re no longer slaves to sin, but we’re now slaves to God, who gives us the “free gift” of “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The answer is that we’ve died with Christ, and now we’re raised with him to a new life. Therefore, we ought to consider our bodies as being dead to sin. He repeats this same explanation in Colossians. Paul explains that we were

“buried with [Christ] in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

With that (our death and resurrection in Christ) as the foundation, Paul draws two conclusions: 1) because we died to the Law, we’re no longer under the judgment of the Law, and 2) because we were raised with Christ, we are to “keep seeking the things above, where Christ is.”

For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God…. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality…. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside…. [Y]ou laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according the image of the One who created him.

So it’s the same answer again—we were dead in our transgressions, God, because of His mercy, united us with Christ, we died with Him because of which the Law no longer stands in judgment over us, and we were raised with Him because of which we consider our bodies as dead to sin and “set our mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Whereas we used to live with the “sons of disobedience,” because of our death in Christ, we no longer live with them, but instead live with Christ (having been raised with Him) who is “seated at the right hand of God.” Our old self is gone, and we put on the new self, acting in a way that reflects the reality of our life being “hidden with Christ in God.”

The reason why we’re no longer under condemnation is the same reason why we do good works—our death and resurrection in Christ. This is what these passages teach.

The very fact that Paul felt he needed to address your question shows that he was teaching salvation by faith. If he were not teaching it, your question would never have come up for readers. Who would ask, “Shall we sin?” if Paul were teaching our works earn us eternal life? The question would be absurd. But Paul knew it would come up if he taught salvation by faith, therefore he needed to address it more than once.

Amy:

I hope you do not close this post to comments. My reference to you goes back to our last interaction having to do with Melinda's post, "It Is Finished." I don't often have the time or energy to respond quickly enough. The last time, I had too much to say & did not get around to organizing it a little better in time to post a comment.

As far as hermeneutics are concerned in general, I think it would do people good to get the game Master Mind. It is a simple game of logic that even kids can play. The primary logical method it develops is a person's ability to do a process of elimination.

With regard to theology, a person should learn to take doctrines or interpretations & subject them to this process so that he or she does not ignore Scriptures that do not fit that view or rely on proof texts.

Just to be clear, "proof-texting" is when you pull out a verse by itself out of context to try to support your position.

Going through a book of the Bible to follow the argument written there that explicitly addresses the issue in question isn't proof-texting.

(Comments automatically close after two months.)

So what does Paul mean by, "the law contained in ordinances" & why does he bring up the distinction between Jews & gentiles? (Eph.2: 11 - 15)

Do you really think that the later parts of his letter do not qualify or explain how a set of affairs came about in the first part? When he says to put on the new self, doesn't that further explain how God molds us? Isn't that action by choice, or does He force us or program us so that we automatically do His will. Paul says that God wants to save all men & if it is an automatic response to faith, then you have to account for why all men are not saved. The Sower gave seed to every kind of soil, but each patch of soil has a choice. God gave the seed, the sun & rain, & even caused some growth freely, but not all produced fruit. Some are cut off, & they are cut off for a reason.

If Paul means that all works of every kind are superfluous with respect to salvation, then why does he say that those who are immoral will not inherit the Kingdom? (Eph.5: 5) Are you saying that works are automatic? Are you saying that salvation is guaranteed even for those who do no works or who do evil? Perhaps, you think that truly saved persons don't do such evil things.

If works play no role in salvation then it is news to Jesus. In Revelation, He makes it clear that the works of some of the churches is not satisfactory, & He makes it clear that only those who overcome will not have their names blotted out of the book of life.

I showed you that Paul did indicate that works were necessary, but you choose to ignore the Scriptures I cited.

You think that we must be dead in Christ, but how dead is dead? Is dying a choice? Paul said he died daily. Is it an ongoing choice?

In the letter just before this one, Paul says explicitly that those who sow to the flesh will reap corruption & those who sow to the spirit will reap eternal life. (Gal.6: 7 - 10) It isn't a matter of whether works play a role or not - because they clearly do - the issue is whether or not we are free to do them or not.

Are you free to obey or to disobey? What is the evidence of your life? What does your fruit indicate? How have you denied yourself, picked up your cross, & followed Him? Is it by faith alone, or is it by faith that is made perfect or complete by works?

You can say that you did the works because of faith, but faith did not make you do them any more than it made Israel follow God fully. They had everything we have plus they were themselves eyewitnesses to God's great works, but somehow they did not follow.

So what differentiates those who do follow & are saved from those who do not & fall away? What differentiates those who are saved in general from those who are not? Works!

Which comes first disobedience or turning away from or losing faith? It is neither because faith is a form of obedience. The obedience & the faith go together. You need both. You need the gift & you need to respond rightly to it.

Is there a salvation before salvation? How is it that those who come to the Light (Jesus) do good deeds, but those who do evil do not? If good deeds are the result of salvation, then how would it be that those who do good come to the light?

You might want to reflect on what it means to "consider yourself" dead & to "present yourself" as a slave. An actual slave does not have a choice to present himself, but Paul seems to think that we do have a choice, & notice the result of that choice: "sanctification, & the outcome, eternal life." (Rom.6: 22) What does Paul mean by, "Persevering in doing good seek for glory & honor & immortality, eternal life?" (Rom.2: 7) What happens if you don't mortify the body & if you do not suffer with Christ? (Rom.8: 13, 14, 17)

There is so much wrong with what you say that I almost couldn't bring myself to respond, but for those who can see for themselves, I thought I should say something before this comment section closes. There are good responses to the claims that these Evangelicals make.

The comments to this entry are closed.