QUESTIONS/ANSWERS FROM THE QUESTION FORUM
Group Number 108
You wrote, "... an inordinate appetite for mystery..." Deut. 29:29 declares there are realities not revealed. Not knowing everything leads us to trust our all-knowing Father. Thinking we know what matters most encourages us to feel superior to others.
Precisely what is the intention of your statement? The text you quoted concludes by saying, "but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever." I made it quite clear that I am speaking about what God has revealed, not what He has concealed. Surely you do not think that not knowing what He has revealed "leads us to trust our all-knowing God." or that knowing what He has revealed "encourages us to feel superior to others." Jesus taught us that not understanding what is revealed (the Word) is the occasion that causes understanding to be removed (Matt 13:19).
<<My concern is that your words seem to deprecate the reality of mystery, and those who acknowledge it. >>
As to an "inordinate appetite for mystery," there are entire bodies of theology that promote this idea, and they involve a vast segment of professed Christendom. The current charismatic renewal (as it is called) extols speaking to God and people in unknown tongues, being slain in the Spirit, and other forms of unintelligible utterances and actions. Of the 2.5 billion professing Christians in the world. nearly 600 million belong to this movement. It dominates the religious media, and their literature has flooded the Christian marketplace. They delight in what they do not understand, teaching that effective prayers are uttered from human lips that are completely unknown to the speaker. Perhaps you do not deal with such people, but I do, and the numbers of them are staggering.
As used in the apostolic writings, the word "mystery" has to do with what has been opened up, or revealed -- NOT something that is concealed. The word is used seventeen times from Romans through First Timothy, and is always in the sense of something that has been revealed, or made known. The fact that it REQUIRED revelation is what made it a mystery. Until that revelation took place, it was thoroughly hidden.
As for me deprecating mystery, that is precisely true, as I am speaking about things that God has NOT left in the realm of mystery. As regards the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, the mystery has now been revealed. and Jesus is making God known (Matt 11:17-18; Eph 4:20-21; 1 John 5:20). In fact, eternal life IS knowing God, as Jesus Himself affirmed (John 17:3), and the apostle confirmed (1 John 5;20).
Add to this the fact that when Jesus comes, He will take vengeance on those who do NOT know God (2 Thess 1:8), and the knowledge of God is seen as inestimable. In fact, we are told that ignorance alienates men from the life of God (Eph 4:18). That condition is thoroughly addressed in salvation.
None of us have the option of remaining ignorant about God when he has gone to such great extents to make Himself known. How could such a circumstance possibly dignify the notion that God, as regarding His great salvation, has surrounded Himself with mystery? If the fulness of the Godhead dwells in Jesus bodily (Col 1:19; 2:9), and He is making the Father known to those who come to Him (Matt 11:27-28), exactly how does one justify the ignorance of God? On top of all that, God has expressed His desire to be known and understood (Jer 9:23-24).
The postulate of Scripture is that we trust a God that we know, not one that we do not know. In fact, that is one of the pillars of the New Covenant: "They shall all know Me" (Heb 8:11).
I understand that there are things about God that cannot be known by us now, and perhaps even for eternity -- but that is only because they have not been revealed, and do not pertain to us. As regards salvation, the mystery of it all has now been opened, although it was once hidden from even holy prophets (1 Pet 1:10-11). The Person and ways of God that pertains to salvation are made known in Christ Jesus. Those are the things of which I am speaking, and I do, and will, affirm that an ignorance of those things is completely unjustifiable.
Time expended acquainting yourself with how the Holy Spirit, in the Scriptures, uses expressions like "mystery," "knowledge of God," "knowledge of the Lord," and other expressions denoting knowing God or knowing the Lord, will be time well spent.
"Jesus will be looking for His one, true, pure bride (this also can come under gathering the elect and delivering the kingdom to God). With all of the emphasis He placed on the unity of the Body of Christ, surely He will not be pleased with the sects, splits, and splinters He will surely find. Thomas Campbell hoped that the unity of Christians would usher in the millennial reign of Christ. Few have that hope today. What are your thoughts on Eph. 1:9,10? Won't His coming bring us all under His headship at last? Are we simply to wait for that event to accomplish what God has always purposed in Christ? Is is right to work for biblical unity under His headship now? I cannot ignore Jesus' teachings and prayers such as John 13:34,35; 10:16; 17:11, 20-23. Nor can I ignore Paul's pleas in 1 Cor. 1:10, Eoh. 4:3, or 1 Cor. 12:25. I respect your thoughts on these matters, as always."
The unity of the Spirit" is something into which every child of God is born. It is a unity that is not created by men, but is to be maintained, or kept, by them. Nothing about Jesus, salvation, or the New Covenant makes for division. When it occurs, it is because men have chosen to live by some other "rule," instead of the rule of new creatureship (Gal 6:15-16). This makes division an intolerable circumstance, for God commands that it not be found among those wearing the name of Jesus. He has also revealed that it is among the works of the flesh, and as such is traced to the wicked one himself (Gal 5:20).
It is my understanding that those who "cause divisions" are excluded from the kingdom, for they serve their own interests, and not those which are of God (Rom 16:17-18). Paul suggests they are "dogs" and "evil workers" (Phil 3:2), and Jude refers to them as not having the Spirit (Jude 1). Paul also reminds us that they “mind earthly things,” and are destined for destruction (Phil 3:19). John says that such break company with those who are approved of God, in order that their true condition might be manifested (1 John 2:18-19).
This circumstance exists because truth cannot cause division among those who believe it. When it is spoken in love, it contributes to the saints growing up into Christ in all things, then being part of the compaction of the body together by "that which every joint supplieth," because of the connection of the people with Jesus (Eph 4:15-15; Col 2:19). For division to take place, something other than the truth must be proclaimed among the people.
Having said that, there are many bonafide believers who have become identified with the divisions against which we are warned. Care must be taken not to lump those outwardly associated with these factions with the factions themselves. Many, like the "few" in Sardis, have not defiled their garments, and they will walk in white with Jesus (Rev 3:4). But the others will not, unless they cleanse themselves of all filthiness of flesh and spirit – for God will not receive them until they do (2 Cor 6:17-7:1).
When Jesus comes again, He is not going to put together a fractured church. Instead, He is going to gather the genuine ones out of the world, and that includes all of the enumerable factions that make up what Revelation refers to as "Babylon the Great." At that time, no tare will be changed into wheat, and no divisive spirit will suddenly become one with the Lord and His people. The angels will gather "His elect," and they will all bear Christ’s likeness to a significant degree. No one who was not inclined to Christ's brethren will suddenly be inclined to them when the saints are glorified. And all who have been discontent with the divisions caused by men who did not have the Spirit, will instantly be relieved of all such influences.
As long as we are in this world, we are called to separate from any and all defiling influences. Those whose teachings nail our minds to the earth like Sisera's head are to be rejected and given no ear among those with faith. That is because their words are cancerous, and eat at the soul instead of building it up (2 Tim 2:17). As I understand it, the manner in which unity is actually realized is not by attempting to join those who are at enmity with each other. It is rather to seek to remove the defiling influence – whether it be a thought or a person. When that is done, unity is immediate, for “the unity of the Spirit” is the norm, not the goal. Only something that is contrary to the Spirit can disrupt that unity, and that something always narrows down to some man or men and what they have said.
In the case of Corinth, their difficulties were traced to men who came after Paul and preached “another Jesus,” “another Spirit,” and “another gospel” (2 Cor 11:4). The divisions there were the result of adopting a spurious Jesus, a pseudo Spirit, and an erroneous gospel. These are the things that cause divisions, and until they are eliminated, true unity is simply not possible. Jesus will forcibly remove such influences when He comes again, and will gather into one those who had no heart for such diversions, even though they were subject to them. He will bring together into one those who have received the love of the truth, and will forever remove all who have not (2 Thess 2:10). In the meantime, those who have not received the love of the truth (and ultimately they are known only to Jesus), will be sent strong delusion from God. He will actually chose their delusions for them, just as He did with Israel (Isa 66:4). He will dictate what they believe, and then condemn them for doing so.
Just as “another Jesus,” “another Spirit,” and “another gospel” divide people, so the real Jesus, and the true Gospel, and the Holy Spirit, brings them together. Within that context, those will holy inclinations are called out of the theological and religious domains that Jesus will throw out of the net of the Kingdom when He comes again. It is also within the framework of the understanding of the Gospel that loving one another and caring for one another make sense, are preferable, and are gratifying and profitable.
As you know, the bride of Christ exists now, and its individual parts are actually united in Christ, for they were baptized by the Spirit into one body (1 Cor 12:13), were put into Christ by God (1 Cor 1:30), and were placed in the body where God wanted them (1 Cor 12:28). However, at this present time, they are in a state of dispersion – just as Israel. Israel is scattered among the nations, and the elect are scattered among the churches. Now, our labors are to bring them together in mind and location as best as we can. At some point, those of kindred spirits are going to have to come together to stay, and not to experiment. However, in the end, when Jesus comes, He is going bring those together who have made themselves ready for the marriage of the Lamb, employing the marvelous resources that “accompany salvation.”
If I may speak candidly, I have noted over the years the astounding lack of familiarity with God and the things of God that exists among many professed leaders – and this has been particularly true of those with whom most of my adult life has been spent. Much of the division among them is owing to their inability to handle the Word of God aright. They appear to also lack any acceptable understanding of such things as redemption, justification, sanctification, imputation, atonement, and the Gospel itself. Rarely are they actually occupied with “the record God has given of His Son.” It is this very circumstance that has created the divisions. As we already know, God will not allow a city and a tower to be built in which He Himself is not the center of attention.
Over the years, you have done well in laboring to bring about a proper focus – which is fundamental to the resolution of the divisive condition. In this work, you have been a laborer together with God and Christ. I encourage you to keep up that excellent work, and give no heed to what men do or say unless it is in accord with God’s revealed objective. As soon as professing believers have “one mind,” they will have no further difficulty with division. Until then, only those who have the mind of Christ, and have actually been reconciled to God through Him are even accepted by God. Further, the establishment and spiritual stabilization of men can only be realized through the proper delineation of Gospel of Christ and its revealed implications (Rom 16:25).
" In the book of Job we read that Satan went before God to ask permission to advance on Job. I was told because of this encounter the devil continues to go up to the heavenly places to ask for God’s permission to do whatever thing, so he is in the heavenly places at times.
Is this true and what scripture supports or does not support this?"
Satan is no longer in the heavenly realms in his accusatory capacity. Even when Jesus was on earth, a shaking blow was delivered to Satan and his kingdom. Upon the return of the seventy disciples, and when they gave a report of great triumph, Jesus said, "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven" (Luke 10:18).
In addition to this, the apocalyptic Gospel in the book of the Revelation declares that Satan has been cast out of heaven. Michael and his angels expelled the devil and his angels, and their place was no longer found in heaven (Rev 12:7-9). To confirm that this was not speaking of something in the future, the Spirit records the response of heaven to Satan's expulsion. "And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night" (Rev 12:10). When "the day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2) commenced, the accuser was no longer in heaven.
The bottom line is that when the Intecessor entered into heaven, the accuser was cast out. The reason for this is that there is no longer any basis for an accusation, for Jesus "put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Heb 9:26).
As regards Satan asking permission, He has never acted on his own, but has always been subordinate to the Lord. He cannot touch whoever is born of God (1 John 5:18). That is, he cannot touch such on his own, or without Divine controls being placed upon him. A case in point is the thorn in the flesh that Paul was "given." It was given to him by God because of the abundance of his revelations, and to ensure that others did not think too highly about him. However, though given by the Lord, it was delivered by Satan (2 Cor 12:7). The old serpent, no doubt, had other intentions, but it was the will of the Lord that prevailed. That is confirmation that the temptations of the people of God are strictly managed by the Lord, always accompanied by a ":way of escape," so they can bear them(1 Cor 10:13).
There are obviously higher realms occupied by Satan and his hosts, as is clearly stated in Ephesians 6:12. But they are not the realms into which we are raised in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:6). Satan does not occupy the places to which we have been raised. We have been delivered from the power of darkness (Col 1:13).
Those are just the facts of the case, without any philosophizing.
"How can I be certain that I have Jesus (hath the Son) and not just knowledge about Him? . . . I really do believe in Jesus, and I really do believe that all of Scripture is the infallible Word of God. I think it is possible that the root of this confusion to which I have become susceptible is the perhaps erroneous notion that I must have certain "feelings" of emotion in order to know that I have fellowship with Jesus. . . I am discomforted by such thoughts, and I want them to be permanently banished."
I appreciate your candor, because it is evidence of "honest and good heart" (Lk 8:15) -- but I appreciate your faith even more, for it is the evidence of the advancement that is the testimony of such a heart.
The struggle you are experiencing is "the good fight of faith" (1 Tim 6:12). The struggle itself is confirmation The struggle you are experiencing is "the good fight of faith" (1 Tim 6:12). The struggle itself is confirmation of the presence of newness of life. There are feelings that are associated with being in Christ -- the kind of feelings that you (and every other child of God) experience. There are times of spiritual exhilaration when some new facet of truth is perceived, or the grand objective of God becomes clearer. There is the strong impact of hope, confidence, and joy that register upon the soul. However, they are not the only feelings we believers have – at least not yet. We are anticipating the time of our complicate extrication from “the body of this death” (Rom 7:25), as well as the environment of “this present evil world” for which our bodies are suited, and from which, as concerning its power, Jesus has delivered us (Gal 1:4).
This anticipation is depicted in the words of Galatians 5:5: “For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” This condition of expectant waiting postulates a kind of frustration with our present condition. This is not owing to any deficiency in Christ Jesus, or to any flaw or inadequacy in His great salvation. It is rather owing to the inexorable presence of contradicting feelings, and competing influences.
This is what the Scriptures refer to as “infirmities,” or weaknesses. They come in a variety of forms, ranging from illnesses of the body, to conditions of the soul that require healing (Psa 41:4). These are not the result of committing sin – although they can be induced by the recollection of sins that we have committed, and which God Himself remembers “no more” (Heb 10:17). However, the chief “infirmities” are those that are not themselves immoral, nor do they involve infractions of the Law. These are “infirmities,” or weaknesses, that cause us to lament that we are not progressing at the pace we desire, nor can we see as far as we prefer, nor do we seem to be receiving as much as we want. These are very real “feelings.” For us, they evidence the impotency of “the natural man” (1 Cor 2:14), or “the flesh” (Rom 7:18).
The marvelous thing about all of this is that Jesus is able to be “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Heb 4:15). The thing that provokes the infirmity is temptation – unwilling temptation. That is, these are not temptations that result from wandering into forbidden areas. Rather, they are the “fiery darts,” or “flaming arrows” of the wicked one (Eph 6:16). They are “fiery” or “flaming,” in the sense of being poisonous. That is, they are calculated to infect our thinking, leading us to wrong conclusions, and consequently into transgression.
As the great Archetype, Jesus “suffered being tempted” (Heb 2:18). He did not suffer because he wanted to sin, but could not lawfully do so. He rather “suffered” because He felt the very inclination to step outside the circumference of God’s will. In His case, it was the temptation to not go through with the death of the cross – but it was a very real temptation, and one which He overcame.
Now, brother Brett, this is what you are experiencing. You are putting a distance between you and the world, and the adversary is tempting you to question whether or not it is owing to a real identity with Jesus, or if you really have Jesus, or merely an intellectual awareness of what is said about Him. However, your reaction to these “fiery darts” confirms that you do indeed have Jesus, for the response you are reporting is the same one He had – suffering because of the temptation. The resistance to these “feelings” is nothing less than the life of Christ within you. They certainly are not the expressions of the “old man,” or the “the flesh.”
All of this is by design. That is, salvation is calculated to produce the feelings you are experiencing. But let me interpret these feelings more precisely. Do not look at them as downward pulls, or inclinations away from the Lord. Rather, see them as longings to be with the Lord without distraction (Psa 63:1-2). Think of them as preferring to be present with the Lord, which is “far better” (Phil 1:23). Consider them to be proof that you are a “stranger” and a “pilgrim” in the earth (Heb 13:14). That is, in fact, the posture that is enabling you to NOT be thrown to the ground by these experiences (1 Pet 2:11).
God has so designed salvation that, as long as we are in this world, we have the “treasure” of “the knowledge of glory of God” in frail “earthen vessels.” The intention is that “the excellency of the power may be of God, and not us” (2 Cor 4:6-7) – that is, that it may be evident to us that this is the case. This is how God has ensured that we will depend upon Him, and never consider ourselves to be sufficient of ourselves.
There is a two-fold side to the confirming evidence of our sonship, and of our possession of Christ. We have the evidence in our flesh, or natural constitution, and in our spirit, or newly created constitution. Paul, himself a prince among the redeemed, testified to this evidence. By doing this, he directed us into a proper way of thinking. There are two statements concerning this, and both sides of the experiential equation are mentioned.
The first: “We are troubled on every side (flesh), yet not distressed (spirit); we are perplexed (flesh), but not in despair (spirit); persecuted (flesh), but not forsaken (spirit); cast down (flesh), but not destroyed (spirit)” (2 Cor 4:8-9).
The second: “But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience (spirit), in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults (flesh), in labors, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left (spirit), By honor (spirit) and dishonor (flesh), by evil report (flesh) and good report (spirit): as deceivers (flesh), and yet true (spirit); As unknown (flesh), and yet well known (spirit); as dying (flesh), and, behold, we live (spirit); as chastened (flesh), and not killed (spirit); As sorrowful (flesh), yet alway rejoicing (spirit); as poor (flesh), yet making many rich (spirit); as having nothing (flesh), and yet possessing all things (spirit)” (2 Cor 6:4-10).
Both sides together constitute the evidence of sonship. On the “flesh side,” the experience originates from the camp of the enemy. On the “spirit” side, God is causing us to stand and is keeping us from falling (Rom 14:4; Jude 1:24).
As long as we remain in this world, or in the body, this warfare will continue. This is what salvation has set in motion, and it will last until our final deliverance. The secret is in knowing what is really happening, which provokes endurance, which will consummate in the perfected state for which we long. Here is how Paul summarized the whole experience: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Rom 7:24-8:1).
Have finished the article and saw a sentence which seems to contradict Luke's record. In the 5th paragraph after the text, you wrote: "He said he was given grace to "preach the unsearchable riches of Christ" among the Gentiles. We have no record of him preaching these marvelous riches, or unveiling the mysteries that had been revealed to him, to anyone but the church, which is the body of Christ." Yet Acts 17:16-34 records Paul preaching to those gathered on Mars Hill. Vs. 32 reads, "Now when they heard of the resurection of the dead, some mocked; but others said, we will hear thee concerning this yet again." I don't understand why you wrote what you did.
I did NOT say "preaching," but "preaching THE UNSEARCABLE RICHES OF CHRIST." That is not what Paul preached at Athens. He made no mention of the benefits of redemption, remission, sanctification, justification, an eternal inheritance, being made kings and priests to God, being joint heirs with Christ, the grace of God, being made partakers of Christ, being washed, being made acceptable, or any other benefit of being in Christ -- not a single one. The resurrection of the dead is common to the righteous and the unrighteous alike. It is among the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, to be sure, as attested in Hebrews 6:1-3 -- but it certainly does not qualify as one of the "unsearchable riches of Christ," uniquely made known to those who are in Christ Jesus.
Paul categorically states that what he preached was "to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known BY THE CHURCH to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places" (Eph 3:10).So far as the record is concerned, ONLY the church, or the saints of God, have ever been told what actually happened when Jesus died, and all of the marvelous benefits that have accrued from that death. We have no record of anyone else ever being told of atonement or reconciliation (Rom 5:11), the destruction of the devil (Heb 2:14), the circumcision of Christ (Col 2:14), the plundering of principalities and powers (Col 2:15), the opening up of a new and living way to God (Heb 10:20), the intercession of Christ (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25), the meditation of the New Covenant (1 Tim 2:5; Heb 9:15), access to God (Rom 5:2; Eph 2:18; 3:12), being begotten of God (1 Pet 1:3; 1 John 5:1), having a living hope (1 Pet 1:3), or any of the other staggering number of benefits proclaimed to the saints. .If it were not for what has been written to the body of Christ, our understanding of these realities would be near the zero level. At the very best only vague perceptions would be possible for a very few of them, and they would have no power or sanctifying effect. The tragedy of our time is that these realities, for the most part, are not being proclaimed to the church. That is precisely why it is in its current condition -- bereft of power, divided, and wrangling about matters that only make for confusion.
in the devotion you mention, I said precisely what I intended to say. Allow me to state it again. There is no record of Paul ever preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ to anyone other than those who are in Christ Jesus.
Will you explain James 2:7 to me?
"Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?" (James 2:7).
Those who profess identity with the Lord, yet whose conduct contradicts the Divine nature, have blasphemed, slandered, or insulted the name of the Lord. Although they say, for example, that they are Christians, they have lived in a manner that disgraces and misrepresent The God of heaven. This causes those who see them to speak in a demeaning manner of the Lord, as though He had no hatred for sin, or allowed His people to live in a way that dishonors Him. When David sinned with Bathsheba, and had her husband placed in the front line of the battle so he would be killed, the Lord said this of the occasion: "Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die" (2 Sam 12:14). To this day, there are people who speak disparagingly of the Lord because of that sin. There are also many sinful people who say they want nothing to do with the church because there are too many hypocrites in it. That is the result of modern day professing Christians living in a way that contradicts the revelation of God in Christ Jesus.
The book of James is written to people who said they had faith, but gave no evidence of its possession. James charged them with being spiritual adulterers and adulteresses, reminding them that when people desire friendship with the world, it causes them to be the enemies of God (James 4:4). Such people have dragged the name of the Lord through the mud, for they have left the impression that God is indifferent to their conduct. But He is not, for those who lives contradict their profession of faith will not be received by Him (2 Cor 6:15-7:2). That is the way God really is, and His name is blasphemed when people, by their manner of life, leave the impression that this is not true.
How do you respond to my question below?
"I have heard of the dynamic comgregation that is found at Willow Creek. I have a question about baptism. Does Willow Creek teach that we are saved by our faith alone? Does baptism have anything to do with salvation? In other words, grandma wasn't baptized, but she was a wonderful woman. Can she or me, or anyone else get to heaven without being baptized? I really need to know. Thank you."
"Yes, Willow believes according to scripture that we are saved by faith alone. Baptism is an outward sign of our inward faith in Christ.
Baptism does not save us or wash our sins away but again is a symbolic expression that we publically show we are followers of Christ.
Your Grandmother is in heaven if she put her faith in Christ alone. Baptism is not required to enter heaven at all. Jesus paid for our sins through His death and resurrection.
Baptism is inextricably connected with faith -- just as surely as Abraham proceeding to offer up Isaac to God was connected with his faith. While we are children of God by faith (Gal 3:26), baptism is the point at which new life is birthed (John 3:5; 1 Pet 3:21). Our people have not done well in dealing with this issue. They have left the impression that life begins at baptism. However, spiritual life precedes baptism, just as surely as life in the mother's womb precedes birth. That life must be birthed in order to an identity with Jesus. That is why it is described as being buried into Christ's death, and being raised to walk in newness of life; or being planted together in the likeness of Christ's death, and raised in the likeness of His resurrection (Rom 6:3-6).
Those who have initial life that has not been birthed, are similar to that scribe whom Jesus said was "not far from the kingdom of God" (Mk 12:34).
A faith that does not compel a person to be baptized is really no faith at all. You just as well speculate about Abraham being received by God, but remaining in Ur of the Chaldees, or being accepted by God even though he did not proceed to Moriah to offer up Isaac.
The statement that "Baptism is not required to enter into heaven" cannot be attributed to God. He did not say that, and men are out of order in speaking for Him in that matter. The is a serious misrepresentation, and should be preceded by the words, "This is what I think -- to which we reply, "Who cares what you think!"
Those who are informed know that there will probably be unbaptized people in heaven -- but they will be exceptions to the rule, and their presence will be strictly in accord with Divine discretion. Further, this is not to be declared as a possibility -- the Gospel is what is to be preached, not the theories of men. Further, valid responses to the Gospel are declared by the one delivering the Gospel -- and we have examples of holy men of God doing precisely that, so there is no question about what to say.
We must also consider that God has nowhere said He is going to damn those who have never heard the Gospel. It is those who do not believe it that will be damned. As for precisely what God will do with those who have never heard, we simply do not know. That is something He has not revealed, and we must have the integrity to simply admit that is the case.
In my judgment, those who doubt the Divinely placed position of baptism are asking the wrong question. The question is not whether or not men can be saved without being baptized. To begin with, that is a stupid question because God spoken the subject. The real question for these spiritual toddlers is whether or not spiritual life can be sustained without being born or birthed. Those who say that it can are faced with the insurmountable task of proving that -- and they will not be able to do it.
Baptism is pointedly associated with obedience: "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered" (Rom 6:17).; The "form of the doctrine," as the context confirms, is baptism. It is not only a depiction of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, but is categorically said to be the point of our participation in them. Now, these spiritual novices that have communicated with you must explain just how much disobedience God allows, if, indeed, He allows any -- particularly since Jesus is declared to be the "the Author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Heb 5:9). Peter certainly associated baptism with obedience, commanding those at the household of Cornelius to be baptized (Acts 10:48). Is baptism a matter of obedience? And, if it is, why all of the objections to stressing its importance?
I will go so far as to say the ONLY association that baptism has relates to salvation. Apart from salvation, there is no reason to be baptized. Apart from being born again, there is no reason for it. Apart from participating in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ there is no reason for it. However, if these sophists are right in what they say, baptism has nothing to do with salvation. I do not know that the seriousness of such a foolish view can be adequately stated.
Because all we have to work with is the word of God, here are some of the associations the Holy Spirit has made with baptism -- and He is the One who searches out even the deep things of God (1 Cor 2:10).
1. Repentance (Acts 2:38).
2. The remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
3. The gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
4. Believing (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:12; 18:8).
5. Salvation, or being "saved" (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21).
6. Being buried with Christ (Rom 6:4; Col 2:12).
7. In baptism we were raised with Christ (Rom 6:4; Col 2:12).
8. Being identified with Christ's death (Rom 6:3).
9. Becoming dead to sin (Rom 6:2-3).
10. Becoming alive to God (Rom 6:3-11).
11. The circumcision of Christ, in which the whole body of sin is cut away (Col 2:11-12).
12. Faith in the operation, or working, of God (Col 2:12).
13. Coming into Christ (Gal 3:27).
14. Putting on Christ (Gal 3:27).
15. A commandment (Acts 10:48).
16. The confession of Christ (Acts 8:36-37).
17. Gladly receiving the Word of God (Acts 2:41).
18. Washing away our sins (Acts 22:16).
19. Coming into one body through the Spirit (1 Cor 12:13).
20. Something that is done "in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" (Matt 28:19).
If the world is already gone, why would we have to judge it or the angels?
The environment of the world will be gone, but not the personalities who once resided in it. The dead will all be raised and stand before God. God will judge the world through Jesus (Acts 17:31), and Jesus will judge it through His people (1 Cor 6:2). The reason for the judgment is not to determine the destiny of the people or the angels, but to show the righteous judgment of God -- that every soul who believed Him was right, and every one that did not was wrong. In this world, men judge God when they refuse to yield to Him, or conduct their lives in contradiction of Him. The irrational nature of their deeds will be given in detail, showing how they ignored truth and willingly contradicted God.. Also, the angels that "did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode" (Jude 1:6; 2 Pet 2:4), will be shown to have been foolish in their contradiction of God. Before an assembled universe, they will be shown to have been thoroughly wrong. This is involved in the saying, "Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: "That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged" (Rom 3:4).
A judgment of this sort is provided in several isolated incidents of Scriptural history: i.e. the judgment of Cain, the world of Noah's day, the builders of the tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, king Herod, and others. The Divine logic that shows their sentence to have been righteous is provided. This is a microcosm of the day of judgment, in which the saints will be participants.
Even without the light and understanding that Jesus brings, Solomon knew "God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil" (Eccl 12:14). David knew that God will "judge the world in righteousness" (Psa 9:8; 96:13; 98:9). Paul preached this to the unbelievers in Athens (Acts 17:31). He preached it to the churches (Rom 3:6). The text in 2 Corinthians 6:2 confirms that the children of God will be given some role in this judgment. It is part of them reigning with Christ (2 Tim 2:12), It is what David referred to as the saints executing vengeance on the heathen (Psa 49:5-8). It is involved in Daniel's statement concerning the saints taking the kingdom (Dan 7:18,22,27). Jesus alluded to this when He spoke of the overcomers being given "power over the nations" (Rev 2:26-27), and sitting with Him in His throne (Rev 3:21). It is involved in John's sight of the souls of them that were martyred sitting on thrones (Rev 20:4).
We have an affirmation of Scripture: "the saints shall judge world . . . we shall judge angels." This is technically part of an inquiry: "DO YOU NOT KNOW that the saints shall judge the world . . . " That is, this is something that is abundantly clear, and there is no reason for it to be doubted. Therefore, the people of God ought not to question why such an arrangement has been declared, but whether or not they are preparing to enter into it by being discerning in this world. Thus Paul continues, " . . . if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? (1 Cor 6:2-3). When holy reasoning is based on an inspired statement, that statement cannot be doubted or questioned without the understanding becoming debilitated.
" . . . you mention the idea of one being accountable to his peers. I am aware that the NT does not use the word "accountable", but there are the words of James, that have not yet been restored in any "restoration church" that I am aware of. Practicing what James wrote in chapter 5 would be considered practicing "accountability". I have no attachment for the word "accountability", but I do see a failure to practice James 5:16 that cannot be explained away. If James' words were practiced, people would be led into a deeper, genuine concern for each other - or they would leave for a more comfortable assembly. The "maintaince of salvation" is provided for by several truths, and what James wrote has been overlooked or refused by most people in most churches."
As to the matter of accountability, I am not sure accountability is what James is talking about. It was rather that prayer should be made and the person healed -- not counseled. The people to whom James wrote this book must also be taken into account. They were an spiritually adulterous people who claimed to have faith, yet gave no evidence of it. James' remarks were intended to recover these people from their waywardness. They were to close to the world and too far from God, and apparently some of them were being chastened as were the Corinthians (1 Cor 11:30)..
My statement was that continual deviate behavior cannot be corrected by making oneself accountable to his peers. I am not sure that is what James was referencing. His words follow his instruction concerning those who were sick (verses 13-15). I assume that verse 16 relates particularly to that matter. I do not believe there is any clear apostolic teaching that requires believers to make a practice of confessing their sins to one another, apart from the circumstance mentioned by James.
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