Group Number 98

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"I believe like David Lipscomb and J.W. McGarvey that the terms of pardon for salvation are belief in Christ, repentance, and baptism, period! Why do most preachers in the Church of Christ today include the additional step of public confession? I believe that the Bible teaches that Christians should confess their faith in Christ on a regular basis and not be ashamed of Him (Matt. 10:32) but I don't see where it is commanded as part of the terms of pardon. Romans 10:9-10 almost sounds like confession is a requirement but that isn't consistent with the examples of conversion in the book of Acts and Jesus never mentioned confession in His great commission."

The systemization of a "plan of salvation" is, in my judgment, a serious mistake. This by no means suggests that there are not certain things that are, in fact, to be done in order to obtain salvation. However, they are not to be done in order to fulfill a process. All obedience is to proceed from faith -- from a firm persuasion of the Person and accomplishments of the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who respond with questions like "What shall we do?" (Acts 2:37), "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30), "Here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized" (Acts 8:36), and "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6), are obviously willing to do anything the Lord asks of them. >>
As to the verbal confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, I understand this to be the "good profession" before "many witnesses," as in 1 Timothy 6:12. The objective of this profession, or confession, is not merely to fulfill an obligation. In the case of the Ethiopian eunuch, it was to confirm that he was ready to be baptized (Acts 8:37). That confession was for Philip's sake, even though it surely brought a blessing to the eunuch as well -- just as Jesus said it would.
You are correct in saying that Matthew 10:32 speaks of an ongoing confession, or acknowledgment of identity with the Lord Jesus. Viewed as a mere obligation, or requirement, one might consider whether or not Jesus HAS to do this -- confess us before the Father which is in heaven, and the angels as well (Rev 3:5). Does that bring any element of joy to the heart, to think that Jesus is "required" to confess us? What possible joy could be brought to our blessed Lord by us merely meeting a requirement in the confession of His name?
The confession of Romans 10:9-10 is also addressed to those who are already in Christ Jesus, and is not confined to the time of our entrance into Christ. By saying the confession is "unto salvation," or "resulting in salvation" (NASB), that confession is set forth as inextricably associated with salvation -- both initially and throughout our lives. It is first made when we, like the eunuch, acknowledge that we have embraced the Christ declared in the Gospel. In the case of the eunuch, that confession qualified him to be baptized.
The Romans passage presents this as something that cannot fail to happen among those who receive the message of Christ. The Gospel is referred to as "the word of faith," or the word through which faith is induced (Rom 10:17). That word is said to be found "in your mouth and in your heart" (Rom 10:8). To me, it is inconceivable that the word of the Gospel could be in the heart, yet not erupt from the mouth -- either on the threshold of baptism, or throughout the entirety of one's life.
God has ordained that ultimately "every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:11). It seems to me that this is most appropriate when anyone affirms a desire to be baptized into Christ. I would seriously doubt the commitment of a person who chose not to do this, or hesitated to confess Christ -- just as the incident with the eunuch suggests. There certainly is no better place to bring our mouth into the matter than when we are preparing to be buried with Christ by baptism into death. However, to approach this as a mere "requirement," or a procedural step, is completely out of keeping with the very nature of the New Covenant.
As to Jesus not mentioning "confession" in, what men call, "the great commission," this is true. However, Matthew does not have Him mentioning believing, repenting, taking up the cross, or calling on the name of the Lord (Matt 28:18-20). Mark does not mention repentance (Mark 16:15-16). Luke does not mention believing or baptism" (Lk 24:47). Peter did not mention believing (Acts 2:38). Ananias did not mention believing or repentance (Acts 22:16). Paul did not mention repentance or baptism (Acts 16:31). Yet, this does not suggest different approaches to salvation at all. Rather, in each case, they took the people from where they were.
If I were to approach salvation as a series of steps, Matthew presents two steps (baptism and observing, Matt 28:19). Mark presents two steps (believing and being baptized, Mark 16:16). Luke presents two steps (repentance and remission of sins, Luke 24:47). Peter presents two steps (repent and be baptized, Acts 2:38). Philip presented one step (believing, Acts 8:37). To Cornelius, Peter presented one step (believe, Acts 10:38). Ananias presented one step to Paul (baptism, Acts 22:16). Paul presented one step to the Philippian jailor (believe, Acts 16:31). Of course, these texts were not at all the recitation of "steps." If that was the approach to salvation, the same "steps" would have been cited in all instances of people being saved. Instead, we find that a complete series of steps is not recited to a single soul in Scripture -- not a solitary one. If it is countered that we must gather together the various texts that deal with obtaining salvation, we will only fall into a pit of confusion. Years, sometimes decades, were found between the writing of these various texts. If we just had one text that gave the over-all "plan," we could work with such a circumstance. But no such text is found. The reason for this is straightforward -- that is not how salvation is approached. Such a manner represents a purely human innovation.
Those who believe the Gospel will respond appropriately to what is faithfully told them. If they are asked about Jesus, they will confess Him. If they are told about being baptized into Christ, they will be baptized. If they are told of repentance, they will turn their backs on their old lives. If they are told to save themselves from a perverse generation (as Peter said BEFORE the people were baptized (Acts 2:47), they will "gladly" do so. This by no means suggests a haphazard approach to being saved. Rather, it is the business of the proclaimer to see where the people are, and involve them in everything that is related to this great salvation. Incidentally, the only detailed instructions on obtaining salvation that were ever given to anyone in Scripture were preceded by an inquiry from the hearers.
I personally deplore a mechanical approach to obtaining salvation. It has no heart in it. To me, the Gospel, when powerfully preached and truly believed, will elicit appropriate inquiries and responses. I cannot conceive of a serious soul not wanting to extend themselves to please God -- whatever it involved. Jesus taught that only doing what we are commanded to do leaves us "unprofitable servants" (Luke 17:10). How can a Savior who "emptied Himself" be honored by a person who does not extend himself to please and honor the Lord in every possible way?

"What is your opinion about Promise Keepers?"

Promise keepers is alerting untaught souls of the need for identity with the Lord. It is not a teaching ministry, or one in which genuine spiritual growth is being realized. It is introductory in nature, but many good things have come from it for untaught men, or those who have drifted into deep chasms of iniquity. Unless, however, someone with an understanding of the things of God steps up to take these souls further, lasting benefit will not be realized.
This is a movement that dwells mostly with procedures, routines, and disciplines of life that are purported to be of value in promoting spiritual growth -- such as accountability to your peers, etc. This, however, is not the approach of the Lord to "newness of life." At the very best, "Promise Keepers" is for the untaught, fallen, and disinterested. As I have said, in my judgment, some godly person must take the people further. Often that "further" even involves coming into Christ, on which the "Promise keeping" movement is hazy -- to put it mildly.
I cannot find it in my heart to oppose those who help people become God-conscious and interested in Jesus. However, just as in the case of Apollos, most of these people must be "taught more perfectly" the "way of the Lord" (Acts 18:26).

"I read with much interest and appreciation the articles and materials you present. Occasionally however I am not clear as to the meaning of certain explanations. One such occasion is found in the last paragraph of your article on "Appropriating Salvation." It has to do with the next to the last sentence when you say that all of the instruction about baptism is given to those who had already been baptized. I am not clear as to how this applies to Acts 2:38 & 10:48. Perhaps you can share some additional thoughts on these two passages and how you came to that conclusion."

By "instruction," I mean the details concerning what occurs in baptism, not the necessity of it. Peter did associate baptism with the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit -- both of which were familiar to the people. John the Baptist introduced people to the remission of sins (Mark 1:4), and the people on Pentecost were witnessing the effects of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33).
The bulk of the teaching concerning baptism and its effects, however, was not given at that time. We have no record of anyone being told of the following when they were baptized. In fact, many people did not learn of these marvelous realities until years after they were baptized. Most churches do not declare these things to the people.
1.  We are "baptized into Christ" and "put on Christ" (Gal 3:27).
2.  We are "buried" and "raised" with Christ (Rom 6:3-4).
3.  We are "baptized into His death" (Rom 6:3).
4.  We are buried with Christ by baptism into His death (Rom 6:4).
5.  Baptism is associated with walking in "newness of life" (Rom 6:4).
6.  We are "planted together in the likeness of His death" (Rom 6:5).
7.  Baptism is related to crucifying of the "old man" (Rom 6:6).
8.  In baptism we are "freed from sin," having no further obligation to it (Rom 6:7).
9.  Through baptism we become "dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God" (Rom 6:11).
10. In baptism we become "the servants of righteousness" (Rom 6:18).
11. In baptism we are circumcised by Christ (Col 2:12).
12. In baptism we are "raised by faith in the operation of God" (Col 2:12).
13. In baptism we are "quickened together with Him" (Col 2:13).
14. Baptism is effective through Christ's resurrection (1 Pet 3:21).
There is more on the subject of baptism that is taught. This should suffice to confirm how very little we actually knew about baptism when we obeyed from the heart that form of the doctrine that was delivered to us (Rom 6:17). The fact that baptism is "the form of the doctrine" was also probably unknown to us at that time.

"Who is the woman clothed with the sun, of Revelation 12?"

This represents the people of God, beginning with Israel, from whom Jesus came (Rev 12:4; Rom 9:5), and concluding with the body of Christ, which is the church (Rev 12:17).

"Are the 144,000 only Israelites? Will only they be sealed?"

This is a figure representing the conversion of Israel, also declared in Romans 9 through 11. It denotes the beginning of a great awakening throughout the whole world (Rev 7:9; Rom 11:12,15).

"What happened to the giants from Genesis 6:4?"

The details of this are not provided. It is assumed they were the leaders, or key individuals, in the spread of violence, which filled the earth, and because of which the flood was sent (Gen 6:11-13).

"What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit?"

There is no reference to "the baptism OF the Holy Spirit" in Scripture. John the Baptist was told that Jesus would baptism "WITH the Holy Spirit" (John 1:33). He preached that the One coming after him (the Lord Jesus) would "baptize you WITH the Holy Spirit" (Mark 1:8). Both Matthew and Luke say, "WITH the Holy Spirit and fire" (Matt 3:11; Luke 3:16). In all of these cases, John contrasted the baptism Jesus would perform with his own, which was "WITH water" (Matt 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). I cannot conceive of John the Baptist saying these words only to the Apostles. In fact, there is no solid evidence that they were present when he said them. These were spoken to the multitudes.
Prior to His ascension in heaven, Jesus referred to John's words, saying His Apostles would experience this baptism WITH the Holy Spirit "not many days hence" (Acts 1:5).
When Peter preached to the household of Cornelius and they received the Spirit, he recalled these very words, about John baptizing with water, but Jesus baptizing with the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:16). He was recalling what occurred on the day of Pentecost, which Peter referred to as "at the beginning" (Acts 11:15).
Today, there is a lot of theological folklore concerning Jesus baptizing "with the Holy Spirit." Part of that folklore is the unscriptural ways in which men choose to speak of it: "the baptism of the Holy Ghost," "the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues," being "baptized in the Holy Spirit," etc. Although it involves considerable difficulty, the child of God must speak of this matter in words "which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (1 Cor 2:13). This will require the abandonment of these religious clichés.
In speaking of this baptism, Peter referred to it as Jesus pouring out the Spirit, just as Joel prophesied that He would (Acts 2:17-18,33). Joel said the effects of that outpouring would be a remarkable involvement in prophesying by both old and young, and men and women (Acts 2:17-18; Joel 2:28-32). This, Peter declared, was being fulfilled before the eyes of those to whom he spoke (Acts 2:33).
During this time, "the wonderful works of God" were declared in an impressive array of languages that the speakers had not learned on their own (Acts 2:7-11). With a clear understanding, Peter saw and expounded words delivered by Joel the prophet (Acts 2:16-21) and David (Acts 2:25-31). He provided the details of the earthly ministry of Jesus (Acts 2:22), why He had died (Acts 2:23), the fact that God raised Him from the dead (Acts 2:24), that He had received the promised Spirit from the Father to give to men (Acts 2:33), that He was seated on the right hand of God (Acts 2:34-35),  that Jesus had been made "both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36), and that He was the One who had poured on the Spirit before them all (Acts 2:33).
How did Peter know these marvelous things? He nor any of the other Apostles knew them prior to Pentecost. That wonderful day, they knew them through the Holy Spirit. Jesus had baptized then "WITH" the Holy Spirit -- engulfing them, as it were, with that Spirit. In this case, the Spirit was "poured out" from heaven -- an abundant outpouring that immersed the people in the Spirit. Within this marvelous environs the things of God became crystal clear to the speakers, so that they could talk about "the wonderful works of God." Peter then expounded with discernment what had happened when Jesus died, was raised, and seated at the Father's right hand. When the people asked him what they ought to do, he was able to answer them immediately in truth and effectiveness (Acts 2:38-40).
We know more about being baptized with the Holy Spirit by what it produces -- how it alters the thinking and abilities of men. In my judgment this is something Jesus does to all of His children. It has to do with getting into the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13). The manifestations of this baptism are not identical in every case. At the house of Cornelius there was no sound of a rushing mighty winds, no tongues of fire, and no prophesying, as there was on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-3). They "magnified God" rather than prophesying (Acts 10:45). Other times when Peter was "filled with the Holy Spirit" the signs that attended Pentecost (where the people were also said to have been "filled," Acts 2:4), were not present, nor did Peter say the same words (Acts 4:8). Later in Acts, when the whole church was "filled with the Holy Spirit," it was not identical to Pentecost (Acts 4:31). When Saul of Tarsus was "filled with the Holy Spirit," there is no evidence that the things occurring at Pentecost took place in him (Acts 9:17). At Iconium, when the disciples were "filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit," it was not identical to the day of Pentecost (Acts 13:52).
The common experience of all who are in Christ depicts a surrounding with the Spirit -- or being baptized with the Spirit. It is not a solitary experience, but a perpetual condition. We are admonished "BE filled with the Spirit," not "get filled with the Spirit" (Eph 5:18). Our lives are now lived "IN the Spirit" (Rom 8:9; Gal 5:16,25). While the impact of this may take differing forms within the members of the body, those forms will all involve being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29) and being changed into His image (2 Cor 3:18). Such marvelous changes cannot be achieved independently of being "in the Spirit." This, I understand, to be the general meaning of Jesus baptizing "with the Holy Spirit."

" . . The brother still struggles and struggles.  He cannot make the right decisions in areas where he should have freedom. I've shared Romans 14, like ______ had suggested earlier.  I'll keep trying to share the sacred writ with them.  I want them to see the whole picture, including the freedom they have in Christ." 

This is not a Romans 14 matter, and decision making is not the issue. This is a matter of being unable to discern good and evil -- a (as in Hebrews 5:11-14). I believe you described these brethren as being in this state for some time -- which is also the matter addressed in the fifth chapter of Hebrews. There the cause is identified as being "dull of hearing," "slow to learn" (NIV), or "dull in understanding" (RSV). As you can perceive in the Hebrews text, this is not an acceptable situation. In fact, if not corrected, it will lead to an inevitable falling away (which is the point of Hebrews 6:1-8). That puts it out of the Romans 14 text, which is not dealing with an imminent danger of falling away. In fact, in that text, because of the conscientiousness of the people, God is depicted as making the subjects "stand" (Rom 14:4).
In your heart you have sensed this is an abnormality -- and it surely is. There is nothing about "newness of life" that contributes to such a condition. In Hebrews the challenge was to "go on to perfection" and stop lingering in the vestibule of truth (6:1-8). Ephesians refers to this as growing up into Christ in all things (Eph 4:15).
The vital point is that everything about the salvation of God is calculated to produce growth. There is not so much as a single facet of it that does not contribute to this objective. Within, God is working both to will and do of His own goodpleasure (Phil 2:13). In heaven, Jesus is ever alive saving to the uttermost through His intercession (Heb 7:25). The Holy Spirit takes up matters where human ignorance prevails, making effective intercession for us (Rom 8:26-27). As we behold the glory of God in the Christ declared in the Gospel, we are changed into His image, from one stage of glory to another, by the Spirit of God (2 Cor 3:18).
Given such glorious advantages, a failure to understand is to be viewed as an unacceptable abnormality. Graciously, God provides some time for all of us to grow up so we can live with discernment and understanding. However, spiritual infanthood is not intended to be a perpetual state. The reason is quite simple. Spiritual ignorance is not a context in which we can have "fellowship with Christ" -- and that is what God has called us into (1 Cor 1:9). It is not the framework in which fellowship with the Father and the Son can be realized (1 John 1:3).
Peter reminds us that if we diligently consider the Gospel of Christ, the day will dawn in us, and the Day Star will arise in our hearts (2 Pet 1:19). This experience is what causes people to discern good and evil, see the real issues, and have sound judgment. Spiritual growth cannot be realized by giving people answers -- even though we must often do so -- as in Colossians 2:16-23. It is not realized by teaching people to be tolerant of one another -- as in Romans 14. Growth is realized by becoming absorbed with the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, as He is declared in the Gospel -- as in 2 Cor 3:17-18. It is "in the face of Jesus Christ" that we perceive "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God" (2 Cor 4:6). That is what sheds light on everything else. The Psalmist referred to this kind of thing when he said, "In Your light we see light" (Psa 36:9).
All of this is to say that the people with whom you are dealing have not seen Jesus plainly. They do not have an understanding of God Himself (as in Jer 9:23-24). The Scriptures do not make sense to them -- as with the two on the road to Emmaus until Jesus opened their understanding, together with that of the other disciples (Luke 24:31-45).
The issue you are dealing with is the same one most of the Epistles dealt with -- a failure to grow up into Christ. That failure was caused by some kind of diversion from Christ. Earth became more important than heaven. Self became more important than Jesus. Time became more important that eternity. The coming of the Lord was forgotten. The day of judgment was forgotten. Most of this was done in the name of religion. Doctrines were taught that led people to live as though they did not require the presence of the Holy Spirit, the intercession of Jesus, or a readiness for His return.
Paul spoke of a perilous time when people would maintain a religious identity, yet experience no accompanying change. He called it "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof" (2 Tim 3:5). We are living in such times, and you are experiencing the aftermath of people being subjected to powerless religion. That is why many have not grown. It is why they do not understand. They are actually sitting in darkness, even though their religious posture makes them think they are in the light. Your role is expose them to the light -- the light that produces growth. Your have a heart for Jesus, and it is very evident. Give the people the things that helped you to be tender. Share with them what has opened your own eyes. Actually, I do not doubt that this is what you are doing -- keep on doing it.

I have been really overwhelmed with depression for several months.  I am sure that God does not want me to feel this way, but I can't seem to shake it off of me.  There is no one in my life now who is a true Christian counselor and mentor to me, and I believe there is a deep need in my life for this.

I am here whenever you want to talk or have a question about something of concern. The depression you are experiencing is more of a temptation than an actual experience. It is like a test in which the devil is given a right to put some pressure on us -- as with Peter (Luke 22:31-32). This is something with which I also wrestle, so I have an understanding of the feelings hat surface during such times.
The Scriptures do not speak of "depression." It is a word the psychiatrists have given to us, and therefore it tends to reflect their perceptions of man. The Bible word for this experience is "discouraged." While this may sound like a weaker word, it is not. This is what moved Israel to murmur against God -- discouragement, or impatience (Numbers 21:4). It is what moved Israel to believe the faithless spies who told them they were not able to conquer Canaan, as God had said (Numbers 32:9).
Discouragement is frequently joined to fear -- something we experience when we go through seasons men refer to as "depression." That is why the Lord said, "do not fear or be discouraged" (Deuteronomy 1:21).
The word of the Lord to us when we are "down in the dumps" is, "Be strong" (1 Corinthians 16:13; Eph 6:10; ; 2 Tim 2:1). Of course, being strong is not as simple as it sounds, as you well know. In a way, it is like saying to a crippled man, "Pick up your bed and walk" (John 5:8). How can an impotent person do such a thing? It is certainly not because of any personal ability that has been temporarily placed to the side. The invalid knows he cannot pick up his bed on his own and walk. Really, there is only one thing such a person can so -- WANT to walk, and believe that what Jesus said is, in fact, possible. At precisely that point -- when the impotent man extended his will and faith to walk, Jesus empowered him to do so.
That is exactly the way we address seasons of debilitating weakness and discouragement. We make an effort to tune our spirits to the heavenly frequency, when we can hear Him who is speaking from heaven (Hebrews 12:25) -- that is, become more conscience of Him than of ourselves. When that happens -- when our spirits connect with Jesus -- He will enable us to recover. There are many radio signals emitting in the very place you now sit. With the appropriate receiver, you can pick up signals from all over the world. Your spirit is like a receiver, and it is capable of tuning in to God. In a time of discouragement we are tempted to tune in to some of those other frequencies that promote fear and move us to quite, thinking all is hopeless. The Lord will also assist us in tuning out spirits -- in being more conscious of Him. That is why David frequently asked the Lord to "Help" him (Psalm 22:19; 38:22; 40:13; 70:1; 109:26; 119:173,175). Read them, and speak them out to the Lord.  If it seems like God is taking a while to answer your cry, here is a word He wants us to believe: "God is able to MAKE him stand" (Romans 14:4). That blessing is intended for you also.
Having said all of that, let me share with you the testimony of someone else who endured what you have experienced. "For we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about the affliction and oppressing distress which befell us in [the province of] Asia, how we were so utterly and unbearably weighed down and crushed that we despaired even of life [itself].? ?Indeed, we felt within ourselves that we had received the [very] sentence of death, but that was to keep us from trusting in and depending on ourselves instead of on God Who raises the dead.? ?[For it is He] Who rescued and saved us from such a perilous death, and He will still rescue and save us; in and on Him we have set our hope (our joyful and confident expectation) that He will again deliver us [from danger and destruction and ?draw us to Himself]" -- Paul the Apostle, 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, Amplified Bible

I think there are plenty of scriptures that show "men of God" doubting direct words of God.  Abraham, Gideon, Isaac, and Peter come to mind.  These men doubted not written words of God, but words spoken directly to them.  God is big enough to handle a few questions and doubts.  Jude 1:22 comes to mind: Be merciful to those who doubt.

Please provide the texts that affirm the doubt of "men of God" -- or when any individual was ever commended or viewed as "great" while in a state of doubt.
I suggest you should not speak so freely about what God is and is not able "to handle." It is only God's long-suffering that tolerates doubt and fear, and the likes -- and that is not something to be exploited as though the condition in question was acceptable. Long-suffering calls for repentance, not indifference (2 Pet 3:9).
The text in Jude has to do with rescuing men from a dreadful condition and a downward spiral. Although the use of the word "doubt" in this text is heavily contested by many students of language, let us suppose for a moment that it is proper. Jude sees it as something from which men must be delivered, and enjoins compassion for such people, suggesting it is not willful disobedience, such as is mentioned in the next verse. Who is the person that will dare to affirm that God "is big enough to handle" a condition from which men are to be compassionately extricated? That seems to me to be a bit presumptuous, not to say dangerous. Peter sank beneath the raging wave because he doubted (Matt 14:31). I suggest that Peter would object to the notion that God was able "to handle" his doubt. In fact, that is why he had to be delivered from it. As Peter returned to the ship with Jesus, you may be sure he did not do so in doubt. Jesus had compassion on him, extricating him from a wholly unacceptable condition.
Paul said the person who "doubts" is condemned if he proceeds to do the thing concerning which he has doubts (Rom 14:23). Jesus told Thomas to "stop doubting" (John 20:27). In one of His post-resurrection appearance, Jesus challenged His disciples by asking them why "doubts" were rising in their minds (Luke 24:38). James urged us to believe and "not doubt" when we pray (James 1:6).
All of this does not leave me thinking God is tolerant of doubting, for Jesus associated doubt with "little faith" (Matt 14:31) -- a condition Jesus nowhere suggested was acceptable (Matt 6:30; 8:26;16:8; Luke 12:28). In fact, Jesus traced the disciples inability to cast to drive out a demon from a young boy to their "little faith" (Matt 17:20).
The presence of doubt cannot be questioned, but the acceptability or Divine tolerance of it can. I suggest it will not go well with any person who Jesus finds in "doubt" or questioning His word when He comes again. He will be looking for faith, not doubt (Luke 18:8). Rather than defending such a posture, let us be about eradicating it.

Who made you responsible for what questions should be valid or not valid? Or maybe you are avoiding answering the question altogether.

Think of it as God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Holy angels listening in on these discussions. Add to that "the spirits of just man made perfect" as well. We are told that we "have come" to this awesome assembly (Heb 12:22-24). If women in the Corinthian assembly were told have "a sign of authority" on their head "because of the angels" (1 Cor 11:10), what must those do who are engaged in discussions on a "Bible" list? Is it comely to speak as though our peers are the only ones who see and hear us?
I suggest that in view of the remarkable light that is shining forth from the face of Jesus, a lot of these questions are nothing more than the bantering of those who have neither seen nor known much. If holy angels were a bit impatient with the questions of the likes of Zechariah the prophet (Zech 4:5,13), and John the Apostle (Rev 7:13-14), what must they think of some of the questions we are hearing?
Jesus called Cleopas and his friend "fools and slow of heart to believe" when they talked about things they did not understand (Luke 24:25). Paul spoke of those who had "an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words" (1 Tim 6:4). He referred to teachers who "do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm" (1 Tim 1:7). Surely you are not above pondering such statements.
I certainly am not responsible for what questions you ask -- but you are. How can you sit at the feet of Jesus and come up with any other conclusion? Your questions have an effect upon those who hear them -- and there are a lot of people on this list who are something less than spiritually mature and stable.
When you or anyone else on this list asks questions that I perceive as conflicting with the direction of spiritual life, I will answer them. I do not concede that any activity of life can be divorced from faith, or conducted as though we were not answerable to the God to whom we must give account (Heb 4:13).

I think you are confusing the process of asking questions and seeking answers as evidence of doubt or more accurately having no faith. If this is true, I believe that you are sadly wrong. The scriptures are intended to answer our questions about faith. Most students of scriptures do ask probing questions. We must ask questions to learn, to move from milk to meat.

Have you ever doubted something? Does doubting require you to surrender your faith? Can you still have faith while not fully accepting a principle or tradition?  For example, do you accept the principle of prohibiting instrumental music on the basis of silence of NT scripture, without any doubt? Can you actually be 100% certain that silence and other other attributes of CENI is the only correct way to understand scripture? For some believers, silence can be interpreted as not prohibitive.

Is the glass half full or half empty? Can both answers be correct? Or you 100% certain, without any doubt, that only one answer can be correct? Looking forward to your response....

Faith is being sure -- "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Heb 11:1). That is the unique characteristic of faith. Faith does not ask questions, it embraces what the Lord says without wavering. It is unbelief that wavers, not faith. Thus it is written of Abraham, "Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God" (Rom 4:20).
It appears as though you are confusing spiritual life with academia. If you are in Christ, you have access to God, and can pray with David, "Give me understanding" (Psa 119:34,73,125,144,169). Paul expressed this desire for Timothy -- that the Lord would give him insight (2 Tim 2:7). He prayed the same thing for the Ephesians (Eph 1:15-10), and the Colossians (Col 1:9). This, then, is one of the marvelous benefits of being in Christ.
When referencing things pertaining to life and godliness, if you do not know if the glass is half empty or half full, then you lack wisdom -- which qualifies you to ask for the Lord to give it to you (James 1:5). A circumstance that is not clear, yet is pertinent to life in Christ, must not remain unclear. If it is not pertinent to life in Christ, then it is wise to engage in long discussions concerning it. That may very well tantalize the intellect, but it will not give an advantage to the inner man.
God has spoken on the subject of doubt, and it is always contrasted with a strong faith, and sometimes with believing itself  (Matt 14:31; 21:21; John 20:27; James 1:6). Where there is no certitude there is no stability, for "we stand by faith" (Rom 11:20).
I suggest that it is not on the part of wisdom to seek to defend or explain a condition of doubt. That the best among us have wrestled with it cannot be denied. But let's wrestle with personal doubt, not seek to rationalize its existence. Then we will be up and about doing what Jesus said to Thomas: "Stop doubting and believe" (John 20:27). Incidentally, other versions translate "stop doubting" as "be not faithless" (KJV,RSV), "Do not be unbelieving" (NKJV, NASB), "Do not disbelieve" (ESV), and "Stop doubting" (NIB).
The word translated "doubt" in John 20:27 is used eight times in Scripture. It is "apistos,", and in most versions is consistently translated "unbelief," "unbelieving," and "faithless."
The word translated "doubt" in Matthew 14:31 (where Peter sank in the water) comes from a word meaning "to waver" (distadzo). That word is used one other time (Matthew 28:17) where the resurrected Savior appeared to several disciples and "some doubted." However you choose to view these texts, it appears evident this is not an enviable state. Nor, indeed, is it one that requires extensive explanation. This is a condition that faith will resolve -- and "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb 11:6).
Perhaps I am wrong on this -- and I certainly hope I am -- but you appear to be more acquainted with the jargon of psychology than the text of Scripture. If that is a correct assessment, then the condition will not be resolved by asking questions. In such a case, you must resort to your Lord. Faith does come from Him (Eph 6:23), and His grace is abundant with it (1 Tim 1:14). There is no need to live in doubt, or to explain its unwanted existence.

Would not the discussion be more profitably prosecuted by an intelligent response to the "after this, but before that" definition of duration in the texts?  Now, tell us what the Holy Spirit event would follow ("after this...") and adduce your proof that 'the great and awesome day of the Lord" is whatever you think it to be ("before this...")

When Peter referred to Joel's prophecy, he provided the very explanation you have asked from me. Joel said "And it shall come to pass afterward" and "before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord." The time preceding the "afterward" in Joel was when God would restore the years that were consumed by God's chastening army (2:25). It was a time of marvelous restoration, when they would be filled, satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord -- a time when they never again be "put to shame" (2:26). It was also a time when they would know God was in their midst, and that there was no other God -- a time when "My people shall never be put to shame" (2:27). I understand this to refer to the conversion of Israel, for which Paul argues in Romans 9-11.
For Joel, the "great and awesome day of the Lord" was a day of Divine judgment, when, as Malachi said, "neither root nor branch" would be left (Mal 4:1). This would be immediately fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem, and ultimately when the Lord comes as a thief in the night and "the earth and the works than are in it shall be burned up" (2 Pet 3:10).
Peter did not refer to the "after this." Rather, being "filled with the Spirit," he identified that entire period as "the last days" -- of which Joel made no mention. This, Peter affirmed, was a period of time in which several things would take place. (1. God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh. (2. Sons and daughters would prophesy. (3. Young men would see visions, and old men would dream dreams. (4. Servants and handmaidens would prophesy. (5. Wonders would be shown in heaven above. (6. Signs would be shown in the earth beneath -- blood, fire, and vapor of smoke. (7. Whoever called upon the name of the Lord would be saved.
I am saying all of these things did not fully occur on the day of Pentecost -- particularly the wonders shown from heaven above, and "blood, fire, and vapor of smoke." Further, everything occurring on the day of Pentecost was not limited to that time -- particularly the part concerning calling upon the name of the Lord -- also mentioned in Romans10:13 as a characteristic of the entire "day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2). Additionally, over a decade later, Peter said the same thing that occurred to them on the day of Pentecost also took place at the house of Cornelius (Acts 11:15-17).
Peter's emphasis was not on the period itself, but on the unusual things that would take place. Instead of the Spirit being identified with a very limited number, as He was prior to Pentecost, He would be "poured out upon all flesh," or "all people" (NIV). Paul used the same language concerning the Spirit in Titus 3:5-6, where it is associated with all who are in Christ Jesus. Later Peter identified such a group as including those who were "afar off," or the Gentiles (Acts 2:39).
If Joel's prophesy was totally fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, then there had to be sons and daughters, young men and old men, and menservants and maidservants prophesying. I do not question that was happening. However, we know it was not confined to that day, as confirmed in Philips four daughters (Acts 21:9).
I understand Joel's prophecy to be a depiction of what Paul called "the day of salvation" and "the accepted time" (2 Cor 6:2). It is the "last days" during which God is speaking to men "by His Son" (Heb 1:2). Ultimately that time will conclude when Jesus comes in His own glory, the glory of the Father, and the glory of the holy angels (Matt 16:27) -- a time of which it is written, "the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Pet 3:10-12).

The churches of Christ has adopted a tradition of not using IM in worship. This tradition is based upon the silence of the scriptures and that worship should be spiritual and that singing is specifically identify as part of worship. I believe that our tradition is on firm scriptural ground. But this is my opinion. Does God reject IM, praise teams, choirs, liturgical and other forms and attributes of worship?  Many people in the COC will answer with absolute assurance that these things are sinful.

The Scriptures cover issues like this with these words. "Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves" (Rom 14:5,22). None of us is permitted the violate our conscience, or conduct our private and public lives without an acute consciousness of God.
It is my persuasion that a definition of sin that is the result of human reasoning cannot be bound upon another person. At the very best, such reasoning can only impact upon the one who uses it. I say this because I see human reasoning as a particularly weak facet of our makeup. I understand that reasoning can, and ought to be, based upon the Word of God. However, even then, such reasoning cannot become the basis for the justification or condemnation another.

I suspect most of us do what I have been doing for the past couple of years....stuffing the doubt down
somewhere inside and try to keep it from leaking out....which is impossible.

I have been wandering through a sort of "dark night of the soul" for a couple of years now (that I am
consciously aware of). Doubt has been my daily companion like one of the companions of "Much Afraid" in Hinds Feet on High Places. I have some trust that remains but there is considerable doubt, to be sure.

Faith and trust subsist on affirmation -- not explanation, but affirmation. Faith is the "substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen," or "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Heb 11:1, NASB). For this reason, faith necessitates the frequent and powerful declaration of the things for which we hope, and the things that do exist.
It may appear that the doubt with which you are wrestling is very real, but God, Christ, and the Spirit are more real. The inheritance to which you have been called is real (1 Pet 1:4). The help that is available for you in the time of need is real (Heb 4:16). Christ's intercession is real (Heb 7:25). The assistance of the Holy Spirit is real (Rom 8:26-27). The ministry of a vast multitude of angelic hosts is real (Heb 1:13-14). The coming demise of the devil is real (Rev 20:10). The reconciliation that has taken place in Jesus is real (Col 1:21). The peace that you have with God is real (Rom 5:1). These are realities to be read, heard, and pondered. They are greater that the things with which you are struggling, and will supplant them as you dwell upon them.
On one occasion, Jesus told Peter that Satan had desired to sift him. "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:31-32). You may be sure that Peter was not the last one of His sheep for whom Jesus prayed. He is praying for you too -- ever living to make intercession for you (Heb 7:25). Enthroned at the right hand of God, He is able to keep you from falling -- into doubt, or any other pit -- and present you faultless before His throne with exceeding joy (Jude 1:24-25).
Although, like the rest of us, you are in a world plagued by change, there is another world in which change does not occur. Since the day you believed, nothing has changed in that glorious realm. Jesus is still alive. He still intercedes. The Spirit is still working. The angels are still ministering. The eyes of the Father are still upon you.
Dark nights of the soul are not pleasant, as I myself know very well. But they have an appointed duration, and they will terminate before you reach the end of your strength. The faithfulness of God is in this matter. He has said, "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Cor 10:13). That way of escape is as surely present as the temptation. It is an escape upward, and you can fly like a wounded and sensitive dove to a place of sweet rest (Psa 55:6). Faith becomes the wings of that dove, and will carry you beyond the limited circumference of doubt. If it appears as though you are coming to an end of your strength, that can only mean the trial is about over. Believe it!
You have a promise from God -- "He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him, and honor him" (Psa 91:15). Now say "Farewell" to doubt, and tune your heart to the heavenly frequency. The Lord is still speaking from heaven (Heb 12:25). Spend no more time trying to comprehend doubt. Cease from asking plaguing questions. It is now time to take advantage of Jesus' sincere invitation: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt 11:28). In confidence I tell you, Help is on the way.

Isn't this after Christ return when He establishes His Kingdom (Government) during the Millennial reign with all the Saints?  How is this increase happening now?  Or, are these two different kinds of "increases?"  One of Spiritual growth in each believer, the other of eternal government on earth?

Jesus' kingdom is not now, nor shall it ever be, of this world. The "Millennial reign with all the saints" is a doctrine men have contrived, based upon a single text -- and that, in the most symbolic book of the Bible (Revelation 20:6). Even there, the reign is not said to be with "all the saints," but with those who had been martyred for Jesus. The reign for which we are longing, and for which salvation is orienting us, has nothing whatsoever to do with this world (Rom 8:17; 2 Tim 2:12).
Scripture teaches us that when Jesus returns "as a thief in the night," the present heavens will pass away with a great noise, the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the earth and all of the works in it shall be burned up (2 Peter 3:10-12).
Christ's kingdom is increasing in two ways. It is expanding in the number of believers -- out of every nation, tribe, tongue, and people. Second, it is increasing in the sense of the people being more and more conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18).
No Apostle anywhere or at any time, anchored the faith of people in a coming kingdom in this world. We have been taken out of the world to participate in "the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:11).

How can it be true that Satan is the ruler of this earth in view of Jesus' proclamation that "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me?"

Can it be that you really do not know the answer to this question? Satan is one of the powers given to Jesus, as delineated in 1 Peter 3:22. He is "the god of this world" (1 Cor 4:4), the "prince of this world" (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11), and "the whole world is under the control of the evil one" (1 John 5:19). Those who walk "according to the course of this world" are the ones in whom Satan works (Eph 2:2) -- correlation and causation withstanding. It is said of one of his subordinates, "He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation" (Rev 13:7).
Those who play with truth as though it was some novelty do well to remember Satan will be appropriately loosed to deceive them because they did not receive the love of the truth: "For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness" (2 Thess 2:11-12). Whatever you may think about his power, it is very real and very effectual. The only restraint is the Lord Jesus, and He reveals what He will do if men are enamored of something other than the glorious truth he has made known -- some of which is the danger of dawdling with the devil (1 Pet 5:8-9).
Yes, Satan does operate under Christ's control, and he is also precisely what Scripture describes him to be. Come away from these simplistic views. They are not comely.

I believe that Romans 5:13-14 means exactly what it says ; that there was no law given by God until the law of Moses . It plainly states that until the law sin was in the world ; but sin is not imputed when there is no law . That the period in question is the period between Adam and Moses , there can be no doubt . Paul plainly states that it was 430 years after Abraham that the law was given .

There was a law given to Adam. "And the LORD God COMMANDED the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die'" (Gen 2:16-17).
There was a single prohibition, but it was a law. The breaking of that law is described as "one sin" (Rom 5:16), "one trespass" (Rom 5:18), and "the disobedience of one man" (Rom 5:19). Paul's point is that the effects of that single transgression sent a wake from Adam to Moses. It is also plainly stated, "sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin" (Rom 5:12).
The text does NOT say there "was no law given by God until the law of Moses." Those are your words. It does say there was a single "transgression" -- and "sin is the transgression of the law" -- whether a single commandment, as given to Adam, or a series of commandments as those that were given through Moses.
If there was no law from Adam to Moses, then sin was not imputed, or taken into account against the people, for "sin is not taken into account where there is no law" (Rom 5:13). However, sin WAS taken into account from Adam to Moses. Cain was cursed (Gen 4:7-13). Sin was accounted against the world of Noah's day (Gen 6:5-6). The sins of those in the plain of Shinar were duly noted by the Lord (Gen 11:6-9). The sins of the Amorites were taken into account (Gen 15:18). The sins of Sodom were duly noted by God (Gen 18:20) . . . etc, etc.
The point of the Roman text is not that God takes no account of sin where there is no law, but that sin and death were not imposed upon the human race without a just cause. The text is explaining the WHY of universal sin and death, not the absence of accountability. Even a cursory familiarity with the book of Genesis makes this quite clear.

Is seems to me that the inheritance was of the connection between sin and death ... the penalty ... rather than the 'original sin' of the first man.  While offspring suffer the consequences resulting from their parents wrongdoing, they don't inherit responsibility for the wrongdoing.  There's plenty of guilt to go around without hanging the guilt of our ancestors on our kids.

This is true, but not absolutely precise. Here is how the Scriptures state the case: "through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners." (Rom 5:19). There is no disadvantage to considering those words to be a precise statement of the case. It is quite true that we suffer the consequences of Adam's sin, as you well state. However, one of those consequences was being "made sinners." It is not the sin of Adam that we inherit, but his nature -- for progeny can rise no higher than their progenitor.

The translation 'made sinners' may carry an inaccurate connotation.  Certainly sin entered into the world via the first man, and certainly all have sinned.  But it wasn't that first man who made his descendants sin (although this is what some claim). 
Adam (the first human created in the image of God) was the first of many to make sinful decisions as he rebelled against God's instructions.  Rebellion is inherent in the human decision making process because each individual is given 'free will' ... ability to make decisions independently of God.  All humans share with Adam the ability to make wrong decisions that are contrary to the will of God.  But guilt for sinful decisions of any individual belong solely to that individual.

As to translation, here is a brief compilation of the various translations: "made sinners" (NKJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, RSV, ASV, DOUAY, ESV, GENEVA, NAB, NAU, NIB, NJB, WEBSTERS, IE, ISV, MONTGOMERY. Perhaps some alternate translations are preferred: "became sinners" (BBE, NLT), "constituted sinners" (DARBY, YLT, WEYMOUTH, WILLIAMS, AMPLIFIED), "caused many to be sinners" (LIVING). The point of taking the time to provide this information is simply this: it does not appear that this verse has caused any difficulty to the many translators that have dealt with it. They did not seem aware of any possible "incorrect connotation." There is really no question about the strength and meaning of the word translated "made" (kath-is-ta-mi). How can there possibly be any valid question concerning its meaning? As to the possibility of it chaffing against someone, or being taken in a strange way, I reply, "So what!" or "Who cares."
Men are "by nature children of wrath" (Eph 2:3) -- that is a matter of revelation. Men sin because they are sinners. That is also why they have to be born again. This does not impinge upon man's ability to choose. However, the will was not unaffected in the fall of man. In the new birth itself, it is affirmed that it is "not of the will of man" (John 1:13). Also, in salvation, it is still God who works "to will and to act" (Phil 2:13). It is further affirmed that Divine workings do not "depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy" (Rom 9:16). Those are statements with which our minds ought to be occupied -- with absolutely no regard for any contradicting affirmations or positions entertained by men. It is only the Word of God that is living and active, making known the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb 4:12). It is our business to let it do its work. Further, God does not allow men to have, so to speak, "equal time" -- and neither should we.
"Made sinners" and "made to sin" are by no means synonymous. However, until the reality of being "made sinners" registers upon the human conscience, little compelling need for the Lord Jesus will be realized.
There is no need for confusion on this point. " . . . the many died by the trespass of one man . . . The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation . . . by the trespass of one man, death reigned through that one man . . . as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men . . . through the disobedience of one man the many were made sinners" (Rom 5:15-19). There certainly is no ambiguity in those proclamations. It is not our business to lay them along side the theologies contrived by men, sifting them through human explanations. It is rather appropriate to place the ideas of men after these statements. When they do not blend together with obvious clarity, simply discard the sayings of men. In such a case, "Let God be true, and every man a liar" (Rom 3:4) -- and that is a Divine mandate. Eventually all men will have to acknowledge this. If they choose to do it now, they will, so to speak, get credit for it. It is really just that simple, and that is really the way it is. Man may suffer a reduction in fleshly glory when such realities are heartily embraced, but God will be gloried in the same -- and that, after all, is to be our compelling desire.

Given , I don't know of any scripture that describes God's telling Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of good and evil as a law . I don't thing Paul in this context (Romans 5:13-14) considered it as such .

There cannot be transgression without a law -- "where there is no law, there is no transgression" (Rom 4:15). "Transgression" assumes the presence of law, for it involves crossing a Divinely imposed boundary. Further, Adam's sin is specifically called "transgression" and "disobedience." How can this possibly be unclear?
Paul is describing the period before the Law was given -- but he is also accounting for the presence of sin and death. The cause of sin is traced back to the disobedience and transgression of Adam -- both of which are associated with Divine law.

But my major interest and concern is in the question; Are we under a system of law in this Christian dispensation?  Paul says we should not sin because we are not under law but under grace (paraphrased) . What say you?

The answer is too obvious to even be asked: "For sin shall not be your master, because you are NOT under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!" (Rom 6:14-15). As is well stated elsewhere "the law is for the lawless and disobedient" (1 Tim 1:9). Concerning moral government by a system of law, the Law given from Sinai was the optimum. It was made for, and addressed to, a recalcitrant people. It had absolutely no moral or spiritual power. It pointed out sin, but provided no power to overcome it. It condemned, but offered no justification. It cried out "Guilty!" but provided no Savior, no Redeemer, no mercy. Of course, its purpose was not to do these things. Rather, it was designed to awaken in the human conscience a profound sense of a need for the Savior. Solemnly we are reminded that those who infracted it "died without mercy" (Heb 10:28). 
For some, this means that sin will break forth unrestrained, but this is not the case. The truth of the matter is that grace is a more effective sin-restrainer than law -- any law. The grace of God EFFECTIVELY "teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age" (Titus 2:12). Where such lives are not found, the grace of God, in some way, has been frustrated. Paul said "if righteousness COULD be gained through the law," grace is "set aside," "frustrated" (KJV), or "nullified" (NASB), and "Christ died for nothing" (Gal 2:21). Keep in mind, that was said to a Gentile church -- one that had adopted the same approach to righteousness as was inculcated through "the Law."
As soon as a person attempts to live by laws, patterns, habits, rules, ordinances, and the likes (Col 2:20-23), grace abruptly ceases to teach, hope flees away like a wounded dove, and the epitaph of "hopeless" is draped over the soul. Such approaches evidence death, not life, and alienation rather than reconciliation. This accounts for all manner of unacceptable deficiencies that are found among professing believers. It is why men tend to philosophize about matters pertaining to life and godliness -- issues of life and death, and eternal destiny. It accounts for the wretched tendency of men to turn their attention from their own personal identity with Christ to endless discussions involving theological opinions. It is what moves men to prefer religious academia to an earnest quest to "be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" (Col 1:9).
Of course, if men choose to ignore the grace of God, law is the only alternative -- and it will only condemn them, for "the power of sin is the law" (1 Cor 15:56), and "law brings wrath" (Rom 4:15), and through the law "the trespass increases" (Rom 5:20).
If men choose to be governed by law rather than by Jesus, they will be condemned, for God will not allow men to be saved by what defines sin, condemns it, and pronounces guilt (Rom 3:19-20). The law -- any law -- cannot take away sin. It cannot cleanse the conscience. It cannot reconcile or justify. It cannot fill one with all joy and peace in believing (Rom 5:134). It cannot produce hope. It can neither initiate nor sustain faith -- for "the law is not based upon faith" (Gal 3:12).
Incidentally, on the matter of the commandment to Adam and its relationship to "law," Paul equates "law" and "commandment" in Romans 7:8-12 -- particularly a restraining commandment.
On a personal note, I really had no time for this rather lengthy reply, but I detect a certain sincerity in you that justifies extended dialog on such a critical matter.

The word 'made' has so many varied meanings in the English language the phrase made sinners can be taken to mean many different things.  The inappropriate connotation I have in mind is entrenched in Calvinistic doctrines of predestination that deny people have choices and are themselves responsible for their choices.  I agree "Made sinners" and "made to sin" are by no means synonymous.

Just a word of brotherly counsel here. We must not allow ourselves to form views, or expressions of those views, by what men have said about the Gospel. Sound reasoning and expression must be founded upon, and find their locus in, Divine utterance. We will find that much, if not all, false doctrine is the result of an erroneous emphasis. It springs from a sort of theological caricature that accents the wrong things, emphasizing some aspect of the truth instead of truth itself. One of the inevitable marks of false doctrine is that Christ Jesus is not at the heart of it. An erroneous teaching is always accompanied by a diminishing of the importance of Jesus -- if not in precise statement, in the emphasis men choose to adopt.
I say this because each of us must carefully avoid being enamored of views instead of Jesus Himself. I know that most of you realize this, but from time to time, it ought to restated. It sometimes is a long way back to Jerusalem, as Joseph and Mary found when they realized Jesus was not with them (Luke 2:44-45). When any of our discussions on this good list have been completed, my prayer is that we will not have to go a long way in our thinking to get back to the One who delivered, keeps, guides, and is able to keep us from falling, and at last present us before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy (Jude 1:24).

A valid contract requires three basic elements; 1) offer, 2) acceptance, and 3) consideration.

The New Covenant is spelled out in detail in Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 8:10-13, and in summation in Hebrews 10:16-17. Where are these "basic elements" found in these statements?

Perhaps you have touched on the one thing that divides even those who deeply respect the NT as the source of our faith, "the nature of the NT." Everyone on the list returns to the NT as their guide, but it is a
different kind of guide for each.  Some of our differences reflect the type of questions we expect the text to answer.   Other aspects of our diversity, in my opinion,  reflect the diversity within the pages of the NT itself.

The New Testament is not a guide. It is precisely identified in Jeremiah's prophecy (Jer 31:31-34). That prophecy is declared to concern the New Covenant that is presently being mediated by Jesus (Heb 8:8-13). Jesus referred to "the blood of the New Testament" (Matt 26:28), and "the New Testament in My blood" (Lk 22:20). Jesus is the "Mediator of the New Covenant" (Heb 9:15; 12:24). Jesus is said to be the "guarantee of a better covenant" (Heb 7:22). In what sense is it "better?" Is it a "better" guide?
Is not the New Testament clearly declared to be established upon "better promises" (Heb 8:6)? Why not say "better rules?" Is not the ultimate objective of Christ's mediation of this "better covenant" precisely said to be, "that those who are called might receive the promised eternal inheritance" (Heb 9:15)?
What is there about the Scriptural use of "New Testament" or "New Covenant" that moves you to speak of it in this manner? What word from God has constrained you to think of it in this way? Why did Paul say the "covenant" was actually 430 years before the Law (Gal 3:17) -- and what was there about that covenant that remotely suggested it was a "guide?" Is it not incumbent upon those who speak of Scriptural terms and concepts to at least speak of them in the manner revealed in Scripture?
Someone needs to declare war on this tendency to allow human perceptions to be the framework for a discussion of things God has revealed. It simply is not right, and cannot be justified.

In most of our correspondence,  "NT" is shorthand for the books between Matthew and Revelation.  When we speak of the "new covenant" we spell it out as you have done.

I am very familiar with this usage, having been involved in it myself. My point is that it is not only incorrect, but is contrary to the manner in which the Spirit uses "New Testament" or "New Covenant." It is not possible for us to have meaningful dialog if we use Scriptural terms differently than they are used in Scripture.

What particular "human perceptions" are you talking about?  Is a discussion of the canon (measure) a human perception? 
I am referring to fundamental perceptions that are taken for granted, even though they are not found in Apostolic doctrine. I am not speaking of incidental views, but of those which tend to shape how person thinks, and what is emphasized or stressed. Some examples: 1--That worship is regulated. 2--That newness of life can be fostered by regimentation. 3--That law is fundamental in the matter of reconciliation to God. 4--That newness of life does not measurably differ from life lived under the Old Covenant. 5--That Apostolic doctrine consists primarily of directions, rules, and ordinances. I know that some of these things are taken for granted, just as though some clear statement has been made on them in Scripture. But that is not the case, and we must not follow a pattern of thought that presupposes that is the case.
I am not suggesting you embrace all of these things, or that they are all glaringly deficient in every aspect. I am saying that if we discuss the things of God presupposing that these are the primary issues with which God deals, we have, in fact, embraced a mere human perception.




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