Child’s Faith

Q. Since I was a child, I have always believed in John 3:16 but had no concept of Eph 1:4-7 or 2 Co 5:21. All I knew was that Yahweh is the only true god instead of Buddha. Was I saved as a gentile child?

A. Only God who knows your heart, then and now, can answer your question. However, I can offer a few comments:

1. Being saved depends on your relationship with God, not how much you know:
Jn 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
• Jn 3:36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
• Jn 20:31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
• 1 Jn 5:11-13 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Note that John’s consistent testimony is that:
• Eternal life is in the Son
• Has the Son = Has life
• Does not have the Son = Does not have life.
How do you have the Son? By believing in Him.
What does believe mean? Not intellectual assent, but:
• Trusting that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God or God the Son;
• Obeying the Son to demonstrate that the trust is genuine.
John said nothing about head knowledge, how much theology you know. It’s all about trust, as a child trusts in his/her parents, and depends totally on them for everything. It is a matter of the heart. I’ve heard lectures and read books by unbelieving “theology professors” with several doctorates, but I don’t think they are saved. Now whether you have the simple, complete, faith of a child, only God knows and you know.

2. You quoted Eph 1:4-7 and 2 Co 5:21, both deep truths penned by Paul:
Eph 1:4-7 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
• 2 Co 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Eph 1:4-7 teaches:
1. Election (He chose),
2. Sanctification (holy),
3. Perfection (blameless),
4. Predestination,
5. Adoption,
6. God’s will,
7. Free grace,
8. Redemption,
9. Forgiveness, while
2 Co 5:21 teaches:
10. Jesus as perfect Man (no sin),
11. Substitutionary atonement (to be sin on our behalf),
12. Imputation (righteousness of God).

I doubt any new Christian would have a full grasp of these dozen subjects, yet they are saved the moment they placed their trust in Christ alone and commit to follow Him. Christ gave them the right to become children of God (Jn 1:12). I do not mean to belittle theology, but it’s the heart that counts, not the head.

Apostasy Part 2 of 2

(Continued from yesterday)

Are apostates true or false Christians? My opinion is the latter, based on:
• Jn 6:39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.
• 1 Jn 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.

Jesus did not lose any true Christian. In context 1 Jn 2:19 refers to the many antichrists in the last hour or end times, but the description fits well to those who fall away and deny Christ.

Can a person be justified and glorified without being sanctified? The answer is NO, based on Rom 8:29-30:

For those whom He (1) foreknew, He also (2) predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also (3) called; and these whom He called, He also (4) justified; and these whom He justified, He also (5) glorified.

Here we see the “golden chain of salvation“, beginning with God foreknowing those He would elect, then predestined them, calling them, justifying them, and finally glorifying them. The chain is unbroken, based on Rom 11:29:
for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

In between justification and glorification is sanctification. God does not glorify a person whom He did not first set apart and make holy i.e. sanctify. And He does not sanctify a person without first declaring him righteous in Christ i.e. justify. So a person cannot skip sanctification and jump from justification to glorification. Salvation is not just a point action at a moment in time when he trusted in Christ as his Savior and is declared righteous (justification, past tense), but also a process whereby he is progressively conformed to the image of Christ (sanctification, present tense), following Him as Lord. It is both, without which he will not be glorified (future tense). In theology we call this Lordship Salvation.

In conclusion, there is apostasy and my view is that apostates have never been true Christians. They have made a profession of faith, may have been baptized, gone to church and acted like Christians, but have never been regenerated and born from above. They are tares, not wheat; goats, not sheep. They resemble Christians, but eventually show their true color by turning away, so be warned.

Apostasy Part 1 of 2

Q. Is there such a thing as Christian apostasy? Or these people have never been true Christians? Can one have justification and glorification without sanctification?

A. Yes there is. Depending on which version you use, the word “apostasy” appears several times in the Bible. I use the NASB myself:
Jer 8:5 “Why then has this people, Jerusalem, Turned away in continual apostasy? They hold fast to deceit, They refuse to return.
• Hos 14:4 I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from them.
• 2 Thes 2:3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,

The ESV has it in:
Jer 2:19 Your evil will chastise you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the LORD your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord GOD of hosts.
in addition to Hos 14:4.

In the OT the noun “apostasy” translates the Hebrew word meshuwbah, which appears 12 times in 12 verses, including Jer 2:19, 8:5 and Hos 14:4 cited above. Literally it means “turning away, turning back, backsliding“.

“Apostasy” also translates the Greek noun apostasia, which means “a falling away, defection“. It appears twice in the NT, in 2 Thes 2:3, as well as in Acts 21:21, where the it is translated “forsake”.

The verb apostacize has a synonym aphistemi which occurs 20 times in 14 verses. Those translated “fall away” include:
Lk 8:13 Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.
• 1 Tim 4:1 But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,
• Heb 3:12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.

You can easily see from the English versions that apostasy means turning or falling away, forsaking. Are apostates genuine Christians, or are they those who are close to but have never been truly born-again? On the one hand, Arminian theology which do not subscribe to eternal security believes these folks to be true Christians who have lost their salvation. They feel to turn away implies you must have believed in the first place. On the other hand, Reformed theology which subscribes to perseverance of faith, or Dispensation theology which subscribes to “once saved always saved (OSAS)” believe these folks to be counterfeit Christians. They feel they have only tasted of the heavenly gift, but have never really committed themselves to it. Who is correct?

(To be continued)

Moses’ Veil

Moses veil 1

Q. Why did Moses put on a veil when he spoke to the Israelites, but take it off when he spoke with God?

The story is recorded in Ex 34:33-35:
When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded, the sons of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone. So Moses would replace the veil over his face until he went in to speak with Him.

The explanation is given in 2 Co 3:
v 7 But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was,
• v 13 and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away.
• v 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
• v 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

Moses put on a veil because he did not want the sons of Israel to see the glory of his face was fading. He wants them to obey God’s commands through him, so he hid the fading glory from them. Whenever he spoke to the LORD, he took off the veil so that his face would reflect God’s glory, and he was transformed from glory to glory. This is true of us too. Whenever we commune with God through His word and prayer, His word transforms us and we are conformed more and more to Christ’s image. This is called sanctification. However, when we do not abide in Christ, we become more conformed to this world and do not reflect His glory (Rom 12:2).

Image of God

creation of Adam 2

Q. What does “we are created in God’s image” mean?

A. The phrase “image of God” appears only three times in the NASB but is not explicitly defined:

Gen 1:27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
• Gen 9:6 Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man.
• 2 Co 4:4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Whatever it means, it could NOT be referring to physical appearance as God is spirit and does not have flesh and bones:

Jn 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
• Lk 24:39 See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

Though undefined, there are clues:

1. “Image” and “likeness” are used interchangeably;
Gen 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; …
• Gen 5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.
• Jas 3:9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;

2. Christ is the ultimate image of God.
Col 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (Also 2 Co 4:4)

Theologians have therefore suggested possibilities based on God’s attributes. For example,
• God is Creator (Gen 1:1). Since we are created in His image, we are creative.
• God communicates (Jn 1:1); therefore we communicate too.
• God is love (1 Jn 4:8, 16). Being created in His likeness, we are loving.
While it is true that we are like God in some, though not all, of His attributes, I am not fully satisfied that this is the answer, because many animals have some of these characteristics too e.g. intelligence, loving their young, even though they are NOT made in God’s image.

Furthermore, these are based on our deduction, not directly stated in Scripture. Accordingly I believe the stronger clues lie in Christ as the image of God, the exact representation of His nature (Heb 1:3):

1 Co 1:30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,
• Eph 4:24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

I believe the image of God consists of wisdom, righteousness, and holiness, among other attributes. I did not include redemption because it is unique to our Savior.

• Wisdom is a moral rather than an intellectual quality. To be wise is to fear God. To be foolish is to be godless. Animals can be intelligent, but they are not wise. No animals ever worship God. Only humans do.
• Righteousness is the character or quality of being right or just; being in a right relationship with God. Man can be righteous or unrighteous, but not animals.
• Holiness is being separated unto God, from evil things and ways. Again, sanctification applies primarily to man, though it is also used of sacrificial animals and objects dedicated to God’s use.

My opinion is that these constitute the major component of the image of God, among other elements such as morality, decision-making, aesthetics which are also true of man but not animals, but are not directly cited in the Bible. I believe these form part of the glory of God and are embodied in His image:
1 Co 11:7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.

Hope this helps.

God’s Will (2 of 3)

God's will 20

(Continued from yesterday)

Yesterday we’ve explored the revealed will of God pertaining to His preceptive will and will of disposition, in particular concerning salvation. He does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. What else does the Bible tell us about His will?

* 1 Thes 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;

God wants us not only to be saved, but to be holy. He wants us to be pure. The basic meaning of holy is to be separated. Often we tend to follow the crowd, what the majority do. But God wants us not to walk as the Gentiles walk. Do not be like them. Do you follow the world, or do you separate yourself from their ways?

But what if we fail? Well, God provided for that too:

* 2 Co 7:9-10 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point ofrepentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.

He made us sorrowful according to His will, so that we would repent and not suffer loss. Do not view only blessings as from God, for there is a purpose for sorrow as well.

And not only sorrow, but even suffering:

* 1 Pet 4:19 Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

Paul said, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12)”. Peter added, when “you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed … but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name (1 Pet 1:14, 16)”. So, even suffering can be according to God’s will when we suffer for Christ’s sake to glorify His name.

One more God’s will for you. What should our attitude be in the midst of difficulties?

* 1 Thes 5:18 In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

When we are saved, sanctified, sorrowful, suffering, we ought to be thankful. Not complaining “why me”, but grateful that God chose us as His worthy vessel to glorify Him. It’s the character of a Spirit-filled Christian. Now, are you thankful, or ungrateful?

(To be continued)