Faith and Works Explained

The Scriptures make it clear that Christ is the only ground whereby we can be justified.  He is the source of our justification and the only instrument of our salvation, Jesus alone has the power to redeem us. Yet the question remains – to whom does He justify? Does He justify those who merely profess His name yet willfully continue in sin, obeying the lust of the flesh and remaining in all manners of disobedience and impurity? It is true that faith in Christ is the channel by which all men are justified; for apart from the redemptive work on the cross salvation would not be attainable, it is only through His shed blood that we are made alive. However, the scriptures make it clear that a profession of faith in of its self cannot save us unless it’s followed by a repenting and turning away from sin (Acts 20:21). Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that if we have a faith that can move mountains but do not have the love of God then our faith will profit us nothing. Standing on the work of the cross we must also crucify our flesh and be born again in the Spirit, for the love of God is the fruit of the Spirit.

In Romans 8:4 Paul says that God sent His Son that “the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in those who walk according to the Spirit,” It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t simply say that the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in those who believe, the word walk denotes action and implies that we abide in the Holy Spirit, being transformed and reborn into the Image of Christ over the course of our life time. Romans 8:13 says “if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the flesh you will live.” In order to be born again we must be putting to death the carnal man with all his desires and passions; In the hope of the promise to come we must purify ourselves through the power of the Holy Spirit, casting off the works of the flesh that so easily entangle us. For we know that those who go on willfully practicing such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5). To the apostles this kind of obedience was implicit with respect to the Christian walk, the idea of a Christianity whereby one professed faith in Christ yet continued walking in the lusts of the world was apostasy. In Revelations 3:15 we hear the word of the Lord to the church of Laodicea declaring, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.. so then, because you are lukewarm I will vomit you out of my mouth.” Though the church believed in the Gospel they remained complacent in their earthly riches, neglecting their salvation they lived apathetically toward the will of God, unconcerned with righteousness.

God requires that we actively pursue Him. The Christian life is not a casual affair whereby we seek the Lord at our own leisure; He requires that we surrender our entire life to Him. In the parable of the hidden treasure the kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man that sells all he has and buys that land where the treasure is buried, this is to be the depiction of the Christian life. Likewise Jesus tells the young rich ruler, “sell all your possession and give your wealth to the poor then come follow Me.” God doesn’t require all believers to sacrifice their belongings as a precondition to obtaining His favor. Jesus knew that the ruler idolized his wealth and worshiped his riches, esteeming his earthly treasures above obedience to the will of God. The Lord commands that we have no other gods before Him; He will not tolerate lukewarm believers clothed in idolatry who profess His name yet put their earthly aspirations before the kingdom of heaven. Luke 13:46 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” If we profess the name of Jesus yet neglect to obey His word, then our profession will count for nothing when we stand before Him on the day of judgment. “not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven.. Then I will declare to *some, ‘ I never knew you; depart from Me you who practice lawlessness!’”  Many will come before the Lord wearing garments still defiled by the flesh, again these are the ones who neglected their salvation, failing to purify themselves through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit; though professing faith in the Lord they remained carnal and did not abide in Him.

We are to understand that Christ did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it, not that lawlessness would abound but that all those who put their faith in the Lord and walk accordingly would be sanctified by His blood. Romans 2:13 tells us that “not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” If we read on here we see Paul is not speaking in context to the strict tenets of the Mosaic law, but the word of God written on the hearts of all men, our conscious bearing witness and testifying to His divine nature and His righteous character, an inherent moral law woven in the very fabric of our soul. However, Paul doesn’t say the doers of the law are justified, rather he says that the doers of the shall be justified. Paul would have us understand that those who actively practice the word of God based on the revelation revealed to them shall be justified by Christ. For it is Christ who justifies those who diligently seek after him in accordance to the faith allotted to them.

Paul opens up the book of Romans by stating he had received “grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations (vv 5 KJV).” We see that Paul identifies the purpose of His apostleship as bringing about an obedient faith. However, it’s important to mention again that while obedience is an essential element establishing our faith, Paul never implies that our obedience makes us righteous, for we know that all our righteous works are like filthy rags. Instead we are to understand that obedience to the faith brings us into Gods righteousness. The scriptures make it clear that if we sow into the flesh according to the lusts thereof then we shall surely die, but if by our obedience we sow into the Spirit we will be made righteous. Romans 6:12-13 “Do not let sin reign in your body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness.. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death or obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart.” Paul explains that saved by grace does not mean we can go on willfully entertaining the lusts of the flesh and think that God will still impute His righteousness unto us. In order to become a beneficiary of Christ’s redeeming grace we must actively partake in our salvation through an obedience led by faith. Hebrews 11:8 says “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed..” Faith doesn’t act independent of our obedience, but by faith we now serve the Lord in Spirit.

Today it is common for preachers to assert the doctrine that working out our salvation in obedience to the will of God is simply an inherent byproduct of faith. Thus if we have faith we will inevitably have works, and if we don’t have works well it simply means that we never had faith to begin with. While this doctrine seems like a safe reconciliation of seemingly contradictory passages, it simply isn’t scriptural. James explicitly says that “faith by itself if it doesn’t have works, is dead (vv.17)” clearly indicating that one can have faith and not have works.  James never indicates that works will involuntarily flow from our faith, on the contrary he says “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (vv.26).” Rather than our works inherently flowing from our faith, James makes the case that just as the spirit gives life to the body so works give life to our faith. Thus we are to understand that instead of true faith producing obedience, it is active obedience that gives life to our faith and makes it true.

James is clear “That a man is justified by works, and not by faith only (vv.24)”. For some this might seem inconsistent and difficult to reconcile with other passages throughout the Scripture. it’s important to distinguish that James is not talking about ceremonial or sacrificial works that many religions subscribe to. The work that James refers to is the work whereby we exercise the love of God toward those around us. James 2: 8 & 12 “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted as a transgressor (vv 8).. so speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy (vv 12)”. We see James is speaking in regards to works of the law of liberty. The scriptures tell us that when we are joined to Christ the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘love your neighbor as yourself’. Because many were professing the gospel yet exhibiting favoritism toward those of stature and wealth, James clarified that if our actions and lifestyle contradict our faith then such profession is meaningless. Thus if we claim to be a Christian yet neglect to walk in the love God i.e. the Holy Spirit, then we effectively nullify the grace of God and become a transgressor of the law. Romans 13: 8-10 “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another, for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law, for this, “you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law”. Now that we are under grace and not the Law, the only work that is required of us is that we put our trust in Jesus Christ and walk by the Spirit, demonstrating the same love that Jesus had toward us when He went to the cross. 1 John 4:23 “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us.” While the Lord commands us to love, it’s important to remember that it is the Lord that equips us with His Spirit to love in the first place. The Lord commands us knowing that only through Him can we walk obediently.

But how do we reconcile scripture found in Romans chapter 3 and 4 where Paul clearly rejects works? Reading in context here is very important for understanding the kind of works in which Paul is referring to. In contrast to James, who was speaking in regards to the works of the law of liberty whereby we are to actively demonstrate the love of God toward those around us, Paul here is speaking specifically of the ceremonial and sacrificial works of the Mosaic Law, also known as the Torah. Consisting of 612 commandments, the Torah was given exclusively to Israel in order to separate them from all the other nations, creating a barrier between them and the Gentiles. Having governed Jewish practice since the beginning, many Jews were still clinging to the traditions of the Torah as the source of their justification. Paul effectively refutes the works of the Mosaic Law and establishes faith in Christ Jesus as the common ground by which all men now have access to God. Romans 3: 28-29 “we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law. Or is He the God of the Jew only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles?” We are to understand that when Paul speaks of faith apart from works here, he is specifically speaking to the Jews in context to the works of the Torah, opposing sacrificial traditions and rituals such as circumcision which excluded gentiles from entering the fold of Gods family. 21st century Christian doctrine tends to leave us with the impression that working, in all senses of the word, is mutually exclusive to living in God’s grace; this false dichotomy couldn’t be further from the truth. The scriptures tell us that it is in fact God’s grace that empowers us to work out our salvation.

Thus while Paul boldly rejects the works of the Mosaic law and declares faith as the vessel by which all men can come to God, Paul does not reject the good works whereby we diligently and actively espouse ourselves to obeying the word of God, for we know whoever has His commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Him (John 14:21). Paul prefaces chapter 3 and 4 with Romans 2: 6-10 making this decidedly clear, stating that God “will render to each one according to the his works: Eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness – indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek. But glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God”. Paul never seeks to denounce the necessity of obedience or indicate that we can be justified regardless of how we decide to live our lives as long as we profess faith in Jesus. We will recall Paul explicitly speaks of being slaves to the ones whom we obey, either sin resulting in death or obedience resulting in righteousness. As mentioned, Paul indicates the purpose of his apostleship was to bring about obedience to the faith. Paul never permits lawlessness or indicates that faith can exist independently of our obedience to it. On the contrary Paul urges believers to eagerly devote themselves to obedience, only now he urges that we ought to “serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” – Romans 7:6.

When the people asked what work they must to do the work of God, Jesus replied “this is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” – John 6: 29. So why didn’t Jesus command them to walk in the Spirit, crucifying their flesh and loving their neighbor in fulfillment of the royal law? at this point the full mystery of the gospel had not yet been revealed, the suffering on the cross and the impartation of the Holy Spirit were still hidden from mankind and the time had not yet come for Jesus to speak of them. It’s not until  the night of His betrayal when Jesus begins disclosing to His disciples the full mystery of the Gospel and the power of the Spirit to come that He issues His final commandment. John 13: 34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” The Christian faith isn’t merely a belief, it’s a process of regeneration whereby we surrender to the Lord and submit to His will in all aspects of life, being reborn into the image of Christ.  Jesus never indicated that we could maintain a lasting and sanctifying relationship with Him apart from walking in obedience to His word. In 1 John 1: 6 we are reminded that, “if we say we have fellowship with Him and walk in the darkness we lie and do not practice the truth. but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

It is by faith that we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and it is by walking in the guidance of the Holy Spirit that we effectively love God and love one another, thus fulfilling the royal commandment. Because love is a fruit of walking in the Holy Spirit, true love can never be manufactured by man. While the world can imitate the works of love, unless we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit fashioning the love of God inside of us such imitation will avail nothing. 1 Corinthians 13: 3 “if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” Because God is love, the focus of love will always be leading others back to Him. Exercising human compassion and self-sacrifice apart from truth is ultimately meaningless. Thus the way in which we truly love one another is abiding in the Lord and allowing His love to flow out of us; and while love is a fruit of abiding, abiding in its self is a daily commitment to picking up one’s cross and crucifying the flesh. Every day we must give attention to renewing our mind and training our body into submission. In John 15: 10 Jesus tells us that “If you keep my Commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.” It’s not that if we love God we will inevitably walk obediently, rather if we walk by the Spirit in obedience to the word of God then His love will flow from us. Just as trees need water and sunlight in order to produce fruit so we need to water ourselves daily with His word and abide in Him in order to bear fruit. Every day we must examine our faith, for long as we are in this physical body sin will always be crouching at our door step waiting to ensnare us and carry us away if given the opportunity.

The scriptures fervently warn the believer against drifting away, reminding us that in order to receive the prize we must finish the race laid before us. While it’s true that we enter into His salvation the moment we confess with our mouth and believe in our heart that Jesus rose from the dead, it’s also true that if we neglect our salvation and drift away from the faith then we will not inherit the kingdom of God (Hebrews 2:1-3). Colossians 1:22-23 “Yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach – If indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel.” Paul tells us that Abraham was made righteous by His faith, yet James elaborates that Abraham was justified by His obedience when he offered up Isaac, that through his works faith was made perfect. Paul and James do not contradict each other, rather we are to understand that while justification comes by way of faith the moment we believe, a belief in of it self can’t be sustained unless it’s followed by obedience. In order to receive the prize we must continue in the faith, steadfast and not moved away. The biblical portrayal of faith is trusting in God and acting on what He has revealed; thus to answer the question posed be James, “can faith apart from works save us?” we would respond, certainly not. Revelation 14:12 “Here is the perseverance of the saint who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.”

While obedience is a choice, we must also always recognize that “it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:13. In us nothing good exists, we all have turned unto our own way; there are none who seek after Him. We are to be reminded that even when we are laboring it is still by His grace that we are being empowered to do so; 1 Corinthians 15: 10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” It is God who puts the desire in our hearts to walk obediently and it is God who equips us to carry it out, apart from Him we can do nothing. So then, through the power of the Spirit let us put to death our fleshly desires and remain steadfast in the faith, bearing the fruit of the Spirit which is love; for this is His commandment committed to us in fulfillment of the Law.

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world –our faith.”

 1 John 5: 2-4

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Creation Requires A Creator

How can anyone definitively say God exists? How could we ever claim to know such truth? Such mystical allusions are rife with arrogance, as if we mere mortal humans could ascend into the heavens and attain such privileged knowledge… These questions are not without due consideration, and I must say, providing a compelling systematic explanation for my faith has proven to be a tall order to fill. Often times my explanatory power gets muddled in the translation and I’m unable to provide anything palpable for my atheist friends to meditate on.

Thus I find myself in a peculiar position,  struggling to persuade those around me of that which I had taken for granted, that is creation requires a creator. I frequently find myself caught in the undertow of contemporary thought, locked in a twilight zone where men call things that are, as though they were not. In a world where positing an external creator is to replace science with magic! I feel as though I have awoken amid’st the chaos of an exotic circus grandeur, wherein faith is the grand illusion! for faith in God is to assert “Oogity Boogity caused everything by the mechanism of POOF!” as one blogger so eloquently attest. Perhaps I just never quite understood how something could pop out of nothing. The idea that space, time, and matter just spontaneously erupted from free-space defies not only the natural laws that govern our universe, but also reason it self. In this apparent anomaly that is our universe, we must admit, a higher power is a possibility worth considering.

Thus my belief in God rest on three basic assumptions: 1. God Himself is eternal, for we know that matter is not eternal but had a definite beginning. 2. that which has been created (matter) requires a creator. 3. That said creator has purposefully revealed himself to us in such a way that he can be discerned. Now in regards to this last point, I ask myself, looking back through the sands of time do I see any  indications of a creator attempting to reveal himself to us? Indeed, let us for a moment look plainly upon the scriptures. Comprised of arguably the most ancient texts in the world, we find a succession of congruent books purposefully documenting historical encounters with the “creator of heaven and earth.” Whats more, it is through these texts that we come across the extraordinary life of Jesus of Nazareth. A life having been foretold for centuries.

Isaiah 53: 5-6 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

Psalms 22: 16 “For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked have enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet”

And it is in the story of Christ that we see the only begotten Son of God descending unto humanity. The scriptures claim that faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and that Jesus himself was the Word made into flesh. It is precisely the life of Christ that I observe something fundamentally unique beyond any other historical record, a voice rising from utter obscurity, a voice that has endured throughout the ages. If we take the scriptures seriously we see that it offers us a very congruent framework in which God has revealed Himself to mankind.

But how can we know if Jesus was who He said He was? This brings us to a very fundamental question – what is our relationship with reality? Let us take gravity for example, we know gravity exists because we can observe and experience it laws in effect all around us, thus through our direct empirical contact we are made aware of its reality. It is through observing such uniform and repeated experiences that reality exists

Thus why should this methodology be any less viable in forming my reality of God? The scriptures assert that the law of the Spirit of life through Christ will produce within our members the fruits of the Spirit. That those who pick up their crosses and crucify the deeds of their flesh will be reborn a new creation, dissolved from the law of sin and the lusts of the flesh that govern our mortal bodies. Thus if the Spirit of God really dwells within us, and if Christ were true, then those who follow after Him ought to be able to observe and experience this new creation coming to fruition over time.

Galatians 5: 22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control..”

The core narrative of the Bible is not that that man has ascended into spiritual enlightement and obtained this privileged knowledge of the one true God, but rather God that has descended unto earth and revealed Himself to us in such a way that we can be assured that He is who He says He is. If we look objectively at the mere fact that the teachings of Jesus persist as the most influential words to ever be spoken, we have good reason to believe that Jesus in His own right was extraordinarily unique.


Knowing what we do through recent advances in cosmology and physics, is it logical to presume the world could have arisen by purely natural processes? Today many scientist have attempted to postulate different theories on how ‘something’ could have emerged from ‘nothing’. Redefining nothing to be some sort of quantum vacuum in which particles appear from free-space. perhaps the words of Paul ring more true now than they ever did:

20  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.21 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. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools” – Romans 1:20-22

Is Faith The Absence Of Evidence?

In the arena of philosophical and scientific discussion the word faith is often used to describe a belief that is unsubstantiated. In other words faith is employed to fill gaps in knowledge, thus the more faith I have the further I travel outside the scope of empirical evidence.

But what exactly is it that constitutes faith? Derived from the Greek word pistis, faith is simply translated “to be persuaded.” So what is it that persuades someone like myself to believe in God? Is it evidence in that which is evident? or is it blind unsubstantiated claims completely void of reason?

I am frequently told that it is the latter of the two, that to profess the notion that God created the world is to place some abstract wibble wobble like widget in place of science. Such ideas falsely assume that creationist such as myself are inserting God as a mechanism in place of science. On the contrary, I hold God as an agent who has established the laws of nature.

In the words of John Lennox -“Suppose we have a Rolls Royce turbo jet engine, and I offer two explanations of it, first is aeronautical engineering and the basic laws of thermodynamics. Another explanations is Rolls and Royce, Choose one! Well anyone can see that’s an absurdity, their two different kinds of explanations, the first is in terms of law and mechanism, that is the scientific one, and the second is in terms of agency”

The conflict between theism and atheism is not whether God and science contradict each other, what it really boils down to for me is the question of origins – How did life begin? There are only two possible explanations

a) life was created

b) life evolved naturally through non-living particles

Both have some rather supernatural implications. On one hand you have to either accept that an all powerful and eternal God created the universe, or that – despite it being mathematically impossible and scientifically implausible – life evolved naturally through an unguided process – take your pick!

I recently had a conversation with a blogger in which he explained to me how “New Atheists [such as himself] clearly self identify as agnostic atheists.” which simply means that while they don’t claim to have sufficient knowledge to make a conclusion on how life began, they are persuaded that God doesn’t exist.

When confronted with the question of origins most atheist like the blogger I mentioned will try to conveniently play the agnostic card and say they don’t presume to know how life began and that they would never pretend to know something so silly. We are often led to believe that atheist make no claims of belief, that they simply assert the “lack of a belief” in a intelligent designer. Albeit to deny the existence of God is to directly infer the only other alternative whether they care to admit it or not. The agnostic card hidden up the sleeve is just an attempt to save face and not commit intellectual suicide by saying that they believe life evolved naturally.

The English astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle’s explained why life could not have arisen by a purely natural unguided process:

“life could not have had a random beginning.. the trouble is that there is about two thousand enzymes, and the chance of obtaining them all in a random trial is only one part in 10 to the 40,000 power, an outrageous small probability that could not be faced even if the whole universe consisted of organic soup. If one is not prejudiced either by social beliefs or by a scientific training into the conviction that life originated on the Earth, this simple calculation wipes the idea entirely out of court….The enormous information content of even the simplest living systems…cannot in our view be generated by what are often called “natural” processes…For life to have originated on the Earth it would be necessary that quite explicit instruction should have been provided for its assembly…There is no way in which we can expect to avoid the need for information, no way in which we can simply get by with a bigger and better organic soup, as we ourselves hoped might be possible a year or two ago.”

Why I Believe

How I Came To Believe

I can’t say that there was ever some great epiphany that first caused me to start believing in God. Being raised by Christian parents I naturally adopted the values that they instilled within me; and while they never forced me into the pew’s or dragged me to Sunday school, I wasn’t any older than seven or eight when I first started to believe in God. Growing-up I never had any compelling supernatural experiences, there were no great tell-tale signs that were tailored to my life. In contrast my persuasion was a result of a profound intuitive awareness pulsing through my veins; it was my inherent moral consciousness testifying to a God above.

There was never any sharp dichotomy between God and the world around me. Even as a young boy, belief in God always made sense to me. The need to express what I saw and felt through a purely naturalistic world-view seemed irrational. I had no problem believing in a transcendent cause to life because my capacity to reason, intellectualize and soulfully produce profound emotions all seemed wonderfully and inexplicably poetic – call me a romantic but something about the grandeur of life inspired me. Sure I never seen God with my own two eyes, but did people actually expect me to believe that the beauty and complexity of creation came about by some natural unguided process? In my mind such atheistic ideologies seemed mystical, exotic and unequivocatingly absent of reason.

Why the Judeo-Christian God?

So why Christianity? – you might ask. Why not one of the other mono or polytheistic religions such as Islam or Hinduism? While my acceptance of Christianity was initially due to my up-bringing in a Christian household, I can say that there are several key components that have solidified my faith in Christianity over the past several years.

One such component was the historical accuracy of Biblical prophecy – something that no other religion can lay claim to. Foretelling the restoration of the nation of Israel and the predominance of gentile believers, the scriptures persist as relevant even to the present day. Furthermore books like Psalms, Isaiah, and Micha foretold  nearly a thousand years in advance the life and crucifixion of Jesus.

Psalms 22:16 “For dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil doers has encompassed me; they pierced my hands and my feet.”

Isaiah 53:5 “But He was wounded for our transgression, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

Micha 5: 2 “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village in Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past”

In fact Jesus himself fulfilled over 300 biblical prophecies – how was this to be explained? Was one suppose to simply write it off as coincidence? or conveniently dismiss it all together as fairy-tale? One might simply claim that Jesus never existed, that He was just another illusory fictitious god like Zeus or Hercules. Indeed this is the most common argument that skeptics raise in order to deny the divine anomaly that was the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Bart Ehram, a famous American scholar and self-professed agnostic criticized the absurdity of those who try to argue that Jesus was not a historical figure, saying “this is not even an issue for scholars of antiquity.. there is no scholar in any college or university in the western world who teaches classics, ancient history, new testament, early Christianity, or any related field that doubts that Jesus existed.*”

The life of Jesus as well as his followers are abundantly attested in early sources. Tacitus, a Roman historian from the 2nd century recorded the following events: “Christus, the founder of the name, was Put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign Of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time Broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief Originated, but through the city of Rome also.” I often wonder, once the mischief broke out again why didn’t the Romans simply display the dead corpse of Jesus?  clearly the apostles had been going around telling people that Jesus had risen from the dead, the Romans only needed present his dead body to smash such pernicious superstitions (speaking only as though He had never risen from the dead of course).

The life of Jesus was profoundly unique beyond all historical measures. Even to this day He persist as the most influential person to ever walk the planet – but why? He commanded no great army, He held no official political position, He never conducted any great scientific experiments. On the contrary, He was stricken and we esteemed Him not. Jesus came only preaching the kingdom of Heaven; He came only to bare a cross – a cross that was to be the burden of our sins.

The Greek scholar Fredrick Nietzsche once said “The gods justified human life by living it themselves – the only satisfactory response to evil ever invented.” Jesus came to offer the Gospel of regeneration and redemption, He did not distanced Himself from our suffering, rather He became apart of it – tackling the perennial issues of misery and wickedness that so often fester our minds. It was after his conversion to Theism that the famous English philosopher Anthony Flew said “if there is a truth, it’ll have to be in the person of Christ,” I tend to agree with him.

Further Conclusions

Over the last year I have developed a genuine interest for diverse fields of study such as biology, cosmology and archaeology. Being raised in the public school system I was taught that such studies fundamentally contradicted belief in God; that the existence of a intelligent designer was preposterous and anyone who held such delusions should be patronized. Yet It wasn’t long until I realized such beliefs were simply fashioned around ones willingness to bow to the evolutionary dogma.

It appeared to me as if evolutionist had simply commandeered the secular hierarchy within the scientific community – presupposing a random unguided process as the default for all creation. But what is the precedent in which they derived such a conclusion? Does history tell us that earth like planets just naturally arise from nothing? Does our knowledge of cause and effect tell us anything other than complexity and intelligence most assuredly always point to an agent?

When abandoning God one must sacrifice absolutes; moral law, hope, and meaning all become arbitrary. Self-reference becomes the only grounds that one has to derive any sort of foundation for their values. Thus if self-reference is the only grounds for gaining traction, what right do we have to insist any moral code? The French philosopher Etinne Borne once said that “Atheism is the deliberate, definite, dogmatic denial of the existence of God. It is not satisfied with the existence of appropriate truth or relative truth, but claims to see the ins and outs of the game quite clearly being the absolute denial of the absolute.”

For the longest time I couldn’t fathom why people chose not to believe in God. Who would want to live such a hopeless life? In this I will leave you with the words of Plato:

Behold! Human being living in a underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light..

Here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move..

They see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave..

At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive some one saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion but that now when is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned more real existence, he has a clearer vision..

And if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, then only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.

A World Suffering From Evil

Carry-Your-Cross

We live in a world plagued with suffering, a world where evil wanders to and fro, preying on the innocent and the weak, chaos howls like the wind, and death hangs ominous like stormy weather. How can a loving God tolerate so much injustice? How could such wickedness be permitted? In order to answer these questions we first need to understand why we were created. Were we put here merely to display the glory and power of God’s sovereignty? Or is there a deeper and more intimate purpose for why we are standing here today?

At the heart of every human being is the overwhelming desire to love and to be loved. Thus it is not sufficient that we love someone if the gesture is not reciprocated, in order for us to find fulfillment the affection must be mutual – that harmony between loving and being loved. The scripture tells us that we were made in the image and likeness of God himself; thus if our heart is merely to be a reflection of His heart, what then does this tell us about our created purpose? The Bible often uses the metaphor of God as a loving husband and the church as His bride. It has been depicted to us in manner which we can relate to; we can imagine those who are closest to us – whether a spouse, a child, or a good friend – just as we desire companionship in this way, so God desires it from us.

An honest and genuine relationship is deeply rooted in the ability to choose. True intimacy could never be coerced, just as you could never force someone to be your friend. Love suspended in complete and utter free-will is the mark of authenticity, no strings-attached. Because love is not a feeling that can be imposed, rather it’s an individuals personal decision. Sure God could have created a world of robots where everyone bowed down and worshiped him; but in order for our relationship to be meaningful and authentic it must hang in the balance of free-will. He has already chosen us, now we have to decide whether we’re going to choose Him.

There is no reason why we should have desired anything else other than to faithfully love God all the days of our lives. A relationship with God is the most satisfying existence that we could ever experience. But it was Satan, the father of lies who came in and seduced us that we should deny our first love and give ourselves over to sin. Thus the extent to which our love was real and authentic, so now is the extent of our evil and wickedness. There are no strings-attached to our evil just as there are no strings-attached to our love. There is no limit on the wickedness of man; at one end of the spectrum we have perfect unfailing love, and at the other end we have callous and cold-blooded murder. God created man with free-will knowing all the while that if we should choose to turn away, the ramifications would be without measure.

sad jesus

Genesis 6:5 “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and the Lord was sorry that He made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart

But the Lord did not distance Himself from our suffering, rather He became apart of it. Fredrick Nietzsche once said “The gods justified human life by living it themselves – the only satisfactory response to evil ever invented” Nietzsche was speaking of the Greek deities, he never drew the same connection to Jesus. The Lord is ever present and deeply concerned in the affairs of man, but He won’t step in and stop us from being wicked anymore than He we would ever force us to love Him. We know that God has the power to preserve the righteous and the power to destroy the wicked, the time is coming when the Lord will put all evil beneath him and cast it into the lake of fire, He has promised to come back and deliver His children from the wrath of the wicked, but He is waiting, delaying his return, for time is mercy that the lawless might come unto repentance.

The Golden Chain of Redemption – Broken!

In one of my recent post about mans ability to freely reject or receive salvation, titled Predestination & the Doctrine of Election – Part 2 (Salvation), I was asked the following by one,  Nicholas Provan:

“Interesting, so how would you reconcile that view with the Golden Chain of redemption (as explained by most Calvinists)?”

For those who are unfamiliar with this term, it is referring to the Calvinist assertion of Romans 8:29-30 as the basis for God exclusively foreknowing, predestining, calling, justifying and glorifying someone before the beginning of time.

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

I must admit, when I first read this scripture I got quite the headache trying to reconcile it with my existing beliefs; being someone that firmly believes everyone has been created with the free-will to receive the knowledge of God on the grounds that He has first revealed himself to us through his creation and his son Jesus. For days I chewed and chewed, reading over and over hoping something would click and I would finally be able to make some sense of it all. Fearing that perhaps I had been wrong all along; that maybe the only reason why I believed in God and others didn’t, was simply because He chose me over them.

So I suppose I owe an explanation of how I got here today – without reforming my faith that is. Over the years I have learned some valuable lessons when it comes to reading scripture. While many of us would like to treat the Bible as a piece of 21st century American literature, I have come to the reality that we can not approach the Bible as a superficial reading. Because the scripture is both foreign and ancient in relation to the English dialect, we must apply ourselves in a scholarly manner.

The quickest way to misinterpret a scripture is by isolating it. When seeking to understand the meaning of a passage it is necessary that we understand the context of the scripture; the surrounding body of text is often just as important to understanding a passage as the actual passage itself. That being said, I will begin my approach to Vv. 29-30 by first appealing to the preceding v.28; which I believe will ultimately offer immense insight into to understanding the rest of the chapter.

v.28 “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good to them that love him, to those who are called according to his purpose”

I would like to start off by addressing the second sentence in this passage, in the original Greek text it is translated word-for-word as such:

to those – according to – his purpose – being called – existing”

What initially stood out to me was the word – existing (eimi), which simply translates – “I am” or “to be” often used in the present tense to describes someones mood. This word eimi seems to be missing from most of the translations. When adding it into the mix of things we see the interpretation is slightly tweeked to read something like:

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good to them that love him, to those who are existing in the call which he has purposed.”

While the the language in Vv. 29-30 are often interpreted as very exclusive. we notice that the language in V. 28 is rather inclusive – implying more of a free-will. This should be a red flag, indicating something has been misinterpreted in the translation.

Now that we have some context for Vv. 29-30, I would like to introduce another valuable lesson that I have learned over the years: That is the need to define a word in its original language, because English is not the original text of the NT, we must be careful not to assume that the interpretations in our Bibles are always going to retain the original meanings of a specific word. Often times there will be several distinctly different English word used interchangeably for just one Greek word.

If your going to be doing a study, one of the best ways for defining a words true meaning is by seeing the the context that a word is used in throughout multiple scriptures. Once we begin to apply this technique we begin to manifest the original definition.

Thus let us examine the word foreknow, which in Greek is proginisko – “to know before”. Proginosko is used a total of four other times throughout the NT; no where in the scripture is this word ever used to describe a relation between someone or something that doesn’t yet exist; rather it is used to describe a literal relation to something that is already in existence. In a sentence it would go something like this; “Did you ever meet Bob? Yeah I foreknew Bob since college” no where in the Bible is it ever used to say something like “Did you ever meet Bob? Yeah I foreknew him 10 years before he was even born.”

Acts 26:5

They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a pharisee.” we see here prognisko is being used to describe the Jews knowing Paul as a Pharisees who persecuted Christians, implying familiarity through a literal relation.

1 Peter 1:19-20

“..A lamb without blemish or defect. God foreknew him long before the creation of the world, but was revealed in the last time for your sakes” God knew Jesus long before the creation of the world, we see again the application of familiarity through actual relationship; the scripture is not saying God knew Jesus before He created him, its saying He had a relationship with Jesus before the world was created, yet He didn’t reveal him unto us until later when he appeared as the Messiah.

2 Peter 3: 15-17

“And remember our Lords patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him – speaking these things in all of his letters. Some of his commandments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different. Just as they do with other scripture and this will rest unto their destruction. Therefore beloved, foreknowing this, be aware; that you will not be carried away by the error of the lawless, that you should fall from your steadfastness .” Paul is saying, now that I have told you these things you are aware of them; thus he has manifest the truth to them that they might become aware of it and guard themselves when the time comes. We see foreknown happens after you are acquainted with something or someone, not before.

Romans 11:12

“God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew Just as the word was used in Acts to describe the Jews having foreknew Paul as a Pharisee. Its a literal relation to someone.

In light of all this  I interpret proginosko in V. 29 as referring to those whom God is acquainted with through relationship, with the emphasis on being known by God. Galatians 4:9 “but now, after that you have known God, or rather are known of God” both concepts are ultimately one in the same, but the emphasis is on God being acquainted with us, in this way we are foreknown by him.

One will thus ask the question – how then do we enter into this relationship with God?

1 Corinthians 8:13 “But if any man love God, the same in known of of him”

Thus we see “to love God” is interchangeable with “to be known by God” ergo we become foreknown through loving God. We are now beginning to see a seamless harmony between V. 28 and V. 29. Ultimately God knows and enters a relationship with those who choose to love him (obey his commands). Yet how could V.29 be referring to people entering a relationship with God when it is spoke in the past tense? – you might ask.

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.. “

Isn’t God simply referring to a an act which has taken place in the past? If we turn to V.30 we notice something rather interesting “and whom he justified, them he also glorified” We see that this can’t be referring to something that has already taken place because the scripture tells us that we won’t actually be glorified until the resurrection! Then why is Paul speaking as though it has already happened?

To understand this conundrum we briefly turn our focus to the grammar of Ancient Greek: The tense of the word foreknow is aorist as opposed to the perfect or past tense (this is true of all the verbs used in Vv. 29-30), thus the verbs aren’t used to describe a past event that has already been concluded, rather it’s describing an ‘action without indicating it’s completion,’ meaning it’s dependent upon those who  choose to enter into the relationship with Him. Paul is simply elaborating on V.28  by explaining the process in which all things will work to the good of those who love Him. We also know this because in the Greek text the two verses are joined by the conjunction “because”, indicating that V.29 is elaborating on V.28. Essentially, to paraphrase what Paul is saying is:

For all things work to the good of those who love God, to those who are existing in the call which He has purposed. This is true because, those who love God (aka those known by God aka proginosko) are predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son that he might be the first born among many brethren.” Paul further explains the process of how God has a plan for those who love him “for whom i did predestinate,  them have I called through the Gospel: and whom I called, them I also justified through the Cross: and whom I justified, them I will also glorify on the day of my coming.”

In the proceeding V.33 we come across another interesting indication that Paul is not referring to individuals that have been saved according to the sovereign choice of God, but rather that he is speaking of all who willingly choose to follow and love him.

“Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?”

In my aforementioned post I described how the word elect is used interchangeably for two different Greek words; there is eklektos and ekloge. Ekloge is used to describe those that are specifically selected out by the grace of God for a divine purpose (such as is described of Paul and Abraham). Eklektos is used to describe those who become God’s choice by freely receiving his general call which is extended to all (Matthew 22:14). The elect which Paul is mentioning in V.33 is eklektos, as opposed to the ekloge that is being used in the proceeding chapter which describes Israel’s election (Romans 9:11).

The scriptures are infallible even when it comes down to the slightest details. Thus If we apply ourselves with a open heart and honest desire to know the word of God, and in all sincerity seek the truth above all else, the revelation and knowledge of God will sing forth in harmony.

God Bless

Predestination & the Doctrine of Election – Part 2 (Salvation)

the-cross.jpg

It should be understood that God is the one who initiates salvation; for apart from God initiating salvation we are all like sheep gone astray. This is not to say that man does not exercise his free-will in choosing to reject or receive salvation, but only that it is God’s arm throughout history which continually stretches forth unto us; and thus salvation is ultimately born out of God’s will and not from the desire of man.  In John 1:12-13 we are to understand this relationship between God’s will and man’s free choice.

“But as many as received him, to them he gave the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God”

While we know that God extends his call to everybody, It should also be understood that he sovereignly elects people for his divine purpose; such as the apostle Paul and the nation of Israel. This doesn’t mean that God forces them into submission (as the history of Israel clearly illustrates), but rather he persuades them of his prevailing majesty by various different ways and methoods e.g. divine revelation or supernatural encounter; thus “to everyone who has been given much, much will be required.”

How then are we to reconcile the idea of God’s elect with the call of salvation extending unto all men? In order to understand this we first need to understand more about the elects purpose, for this we turn to John 1:6

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might be saved.”

We see that God does not elect people in order that they might simply enjoy salvation from a private booth; rather, they are vessels of mercy that bear witness to the glory of God. The elect are beacons of light through which God initiates salvation unto the world. We see how even Jonah in his day was sent to the Assyrian capital Nineveh to preach repentance among’st the gentiles. God’s election is ultimately reserved for more than that of a remnant, the elect of God are to bear the image of Christ and offer themselves as living sacrifices for the sake of the Gospel.

Now we know that God initially elected Israel as his chosen people, and yet through them rested the abundance of the world:

Romans 11:12

“Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the gentiles, how much more their fulness!”

Was it not also said unto Abraham?

“And in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed

In the scripture the word elect is used interchangeably for two different Greek words: Ekloge and Eklektos. Up until now we have only been dealing with Ekloge. Ekloge occurs a total of 9 times in the NT, and is used to describe those that are specifically selected out by the grace of God for a divine purpose, those “whom he set apart while they were still in the womb” if you would. Ekloge is used primarily throughout Romans describing the election of Israel and is also used in Acts to describe Paul as a chosen vessel “for a vessel of Ekloge(choice) is this man to me.”

The word Eklektos occurs 23 times throughout the NT and can be used to describe those who become God’s choice by freely receiving his general call which is extended to all. For example, in the parable of the wedding feast Jesus says

“so go to the street corner and invite to the banquet anyone that you can find.. for many care called, but few however are Eklektos(chosen)”

this refers to man’s ability to partake in the election of God by freely responding to the gospel, which is the power of salvation to all that believe.

Both Ekloge and Eklektos represent the body of Christ, as such we are to be extensions of the Lord himself, we are his mouth piece, his instruments for publishing salvation unto all the world. God so closely identifies himself to his followers that we are in essence ambassadors for the Kingdom of Heaven, we are emissaries for the King himself that whoever will believe our message shall be saved.

Luke 10:16

“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

God has never excluded any from salvation; we must never think in this way, for God shows no partiality to men, but He is gracious unto all. Rather it is man that takes side against God; in doing so God allows the wickedness of man to be carried out, giving them over to depravity. Even so He is constantly stretching forth His hand in mercy, sending His Son that all might be saved.

2 Peter 3:9

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

Amen!