Answers to Mac’s Questions

by Todd Deaver and Jay Guin

Mac asked us a series of True/False questions in his most recent post. Here are our answers:

T  F  1. Obedience to Christ is a type of work (Jno. 6:29; Heb. 5:8, 9; Eph. 2:10).

This question is not precise enough to answer true or false, since biblically there is a sharp difference between (1) those acts of obedience we do to receive salvation and (2) other acts of obedience that we do because we’re saved. The second type of obedience is in the category of works (Eph. 2:10; 2 Tim. 2:21; Titus 3:1,8; etc.). The first type is specifically excluded from that category and is contrasted with it.

This is clear, for example, in Ephesians 2:8-10. The good works God has prepared for Christians to do (v. 10) are specifically ruled out as a means of receiving salvation (“not as a result of works,” v. 9), which instead comes only by grace through faith (v. 8). Faith, man’s response to the gospel that brings salvation, is contrasted with works, those other acts of obedience that God requires Christians to perform.

The same contrast appears in Titus 3. Christians are to be “ready for every good deed [work]” (vv. 1,8), but Paul emphatically states that we were not saved by our own righteous works, but rather by God’s mercy/grace (vv. 5,7). See also Romans 3:20-4:25; 9:30-32; 11:6; etc.

Therefore, Paul does not refer to those things that are necessary to become saved – faith in Jesus, repentance, baptism – as “works.” However, those things are sometimes spoken of in terms of obedience (2 Thes. 1:8).

I believe you misunderstand Jesus’ statement in John 6:29. Likely Jesus chose the word “work” in this context because of the contrast he introduced in verse 27: “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life….” In light of the deficient motives of the crowds (v. 26), Jesus urged them to pursue spiritual food rather than physical, noting that this “food which endures to eternal life” would be given to them (v. 27). One does not work for food in the same sense that he “works” for eternal life, since one’s work is intended to earn the former but one’s work cannot earn the latter.

Thinking, no doubt (as Paul had in his pre-Christian days, Phil. 3:9; cf. Rom. 9:32), that they could achieve salvation by doing good works, they ask, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” (v. 28). In his reply (v. 29) Jesus answers their question ironically using their term (“works”), but he reduces it to a single “work” and identifies it as faith: something that, according to Paul, is not a “work” at all but is rather contrasted with works (e.g., Rom. 3:28).

It is a great mistake to assume Jesus is using “work” in the same way Paul does and so to miss Jesus’ obvious irony. What “works” will bring eternal life? Just one “work”: faith in Jesus, which is not really a work at all. Anything else would make nonsense out of Paul’s consistent and emphatic teaching that we are saved by faith and not by works.

It is also a great mistake to think Paul, when denying any saving significance to works, uses “works” to refer only to works of the law of Moses. This error is somewhat understandable when Paul speaks of “works of (the) law” in certain passages in Romans and Galatians where Jews or Judaizers are clearly in view. But there are passages where Paul speaks simply of “works” without any reference to “the law” (of Moses) and still insists that these works don’t save. Ephesians 2:8-10, for instance, says that salvation is “not … a result of works,” period. The works Christians do are the result of salvation (v. 10), not a means of attaining or retaining it.

Notice again Titus 3:5: “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (cf. 2 Tim. 1:9). Dad wants to say that we are saved by God’s grace plus our own righteous works, but that is precisely what Paul denies. If salvation is by works at all, grace is ruled out (Rom. 11:6; Gal. 5:4).

Incidentally, the Titus passage shows very clearly that baptism (the washing) is specifically excluded from our own works of righteousness. It is not in the category of works, but in the category of faith. It is an appeal to God to keep his promise and take away our sins (1 Pet. 3:21). It is the very opposite of relying on one’s own works and is instead the holding out of an empty hand to receive God’s free gift of salvation.

Indeed, baptism is always spoken of in the passive voice when the convert is in mind. Those who are converted “are baptized.” Baptism is a gift received, not a work performed.

To sum up, assuming we’re talking about “works” in the usual, Pauline sense, Dad’s question could be either True or False, depending on whether he means obedience to Christ in meeting the conditions of salvation (faith, repentance, baptism) or other works of obedience.

T  F  2. Obedience to Christ is essential to salvation.

True, if obedience is properly understood. Perfect obedience is not essential to salvation.

T  F  3. It is possible to practice pure religion (Jas. 1:27).

True.

T  F  4. It is possible to practice pure religion out of harmony with pure doctrine.

We must let the scriptures define our terms. “Pure religion” is “to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” If you mean can we care for widows and orphans and remain unpolluted by the world with an imperfect understanding of church polity, worship, and the Millennium, the answer is True.

T  F  5. There is a sense in which we can practice pure religion without spot (Jas. 1:27; 1 Tim. 6:14).

True. And if we’ve been saved, we can do this without being doctrinally perfect. Now, we are not saying that we can live sinlessly, only that we can be truly penitent and forgiven for all sins where we’ve fallen short of perfection.

T  F  6. There is at least one New Testament passage that promises eternal salvation to the sons of disobedience.

False.

T  F  7. Faithful Christians are sons of obedience.

True.

T  F  8. Worship authorized by Christ must be in truth (Jno. 4:24).

True. “Truth” does not refer to having a perfect understanding of church polity and worship. See Jay Guin’s earlier posts exploring the New Testament’s use of “truth.”

T  F  9. There is at least one New Testament passage that teaches that unauthorized worship is acceptable or pleasing to God.

False. We hold different views, though, on how to determine what’s authorized. No one is suggesting that actual error in worship is pleasing to God—only that it, like other sins, is forgiven if the worshipper has been saved and continues in submissive faith.

T  F  10. The subscription to at least some doctrinal errors entails loss of eternal salvation to those who subscribe to them.

True (e.g., Gal. 1:6-9; 1 John 2:22-23).

T  F  11. According to Hebrews 11, the faith that saves is a submissive faith which has not yet obeyed but that plans on obeying in the future.

This is a vague question. Not yet obeyed what? The acts of obedience mentioned in this chapter did not save anyone. The writer is quite clear that they were saved by faith (v. 2). The faith motivated their obedience and their obedience evidenced their faith, but their salvation came by faith.

(Gen 15:6)  Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Consider Abraham. He was far from a sinless man. Twice he allowed his wife to be taken into a king’s harem (Gen. 12 and 20) – which would have resulted in adultery had God not intervened. Yes, Abraham evidenced his faith by his actions, but it would be a gross distortion of Hebrews and Genesis to suggest that Abraham earned his salvation by his works.

“For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness’” (Rom. 4:2-3).

A submissive faith is one that obeys in the present and plans on obeying in the future, but it is the faith itself that accesses grace, and not one’s works (Eph. 2:8-9).

T  F  12. According to New Testament teaching, the faith that saves is a disobedient faith.

False.

T  F  13. According to New Testament teaching, saving faith is a submissive faith which submission excludes obedience.

False.

T  F  14. According to James 2, Abraham was justified by an obedient faith.

True.

T  F  15. If Paul declares that Abraham was not justified by works and if James declares that Abraham was justified by works, then we know that Paul and James were referring to two different categories or classifications of works.

False. It is more likely that they were using “justified” in two different ways. Paul typically uses the term to mean that act in which God declares a sinner righteous. James seems to give the word a different meaning: “demonstrated or proved to be righteous.” Dikaioo (“justify”) can certainly have this meaning (Matt. 11:19—“wisdom is vindicated by her deeds”; Luke 10:29; 16:15; 1 Tim. 3:16; Gen. 44:16 LXX). And in this context (dealing with justification by works), James offers the challenge, “show me your faith without the works [James knows this can’t be done], and I will show you my faith by my works” (Jas. 2:18). James is speaking here about how one’s righteous standing is shown or demonstrated, not how it is gained.

That this is the meaning is further indicated in verse 21: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?” James uses an aorist participle here, “offering,” so that the meaning could be “when he offered” or perhaps “having offered.” But either way, Abraham’s justification is said to be at the time of the offering or subsequent to it. And that only makes sense if James is talking about a demonstration of Abraham’s righteous standing, not how he attained it — because clearly Abraham was justified, in the sense of being “declared righteous,” long before the test of Genesis 22 (see Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:2-3).

In several instances in this context James also uses the word “faith” differently than Paul. Paul uses it to mean an active, obedient faith that always manifests itself in good works (e.g., Eph. 2:8-10); James uses it to mean a mere intellectual assent to the truth. And his question is, “Can that faith save him” (v. 14)? Absolutely not.

Paul and James would both agree that we are declared righteous by faith, not by works. And they would both agree that a faith that saves will always evidence itself in good works.

Works don’t save the individual. Rather, saving faith necessarily produces good works, and so the absence of good works means an absence of faith or penitence.

But, of course, true “faith” in the Pauline sense is a submissive faith, and thus no one has true faith unless he is also penitent. You can’t truly accept Jesus as Son of God and not also accept him as Lord (Rom. 10:9). And this is James’ point. If you don’t have works, you don’t really have faith – not the kind of faith that saves.

Summary

We certainly believe that, to remain Christians — to not apostatize — Christians must remain penitent. We stipulated to this at the beginning of this conversation. We see very little difference between the Bible’s use of “repentance” and “obedience,” as we’ll explain in the next post.

Should Christians be obedient? Of course. Must they be perfectly obedient? Of course not.

Our conservative friends want to have it both ways. They want to admit that we all sin and continue to do so — and grace covers that sin. But they also want to insist that certain sins damn — and yet they persistently refuse to list such sins, insisting instead that all sins persisted in damn. But, of course, by this standard, we can’t be saved unless we persist in no sins at all — which is quite impossible.

Our friends are caught in a dilemma — either all sins damn or only some sins damn. If they say “all sins,” then everyone is damned. If they say “some sins,” then they’ll have to explain which sins and where the Bible makes those sins particularly damning.

There remains, of course, an entirely different possibility: sin doesn’t damn for those in grace — and the Christian remains in grace so long as he continues in his penitence and faith. Such a person will sin — we all do — but his life will be turned toward God and he’ll love God so much that he’ll try to rid his life of sin.

You see, the person of true penitence and faith wants to obey. It’s not a question of finding how little one can do and still go to heaven, because that’s not penitence at all. Rather, it’s a question of loving God and therefore desiring to be obedient.

Such a person may well get some doctrines wrong. A penitent man of faith may get the hats-in-worship question wrong, but he’ll be in grace and saved nonetheless. And he won’t get the question wrong because he doesn’t care about the things of God — he’s a penitent man of faith!

By this standard, someone worshipping in error but with a genuine faith and with real penitence remains saved.  And if such a person were to be persuaded of his error, he’d change his practice — of course. He’s penitent.

But his salvation doesn’t depend on getting all the answers right. Indeed, his salvation only depends on getting right the very things he had to get right to be admitted to baptism in the first place — faith and penitence. As he matures, his faith will deepen and his penitence will mature, and he’ll become a better, abler servant of Jesus. But the principles remain the same.

(Acts 20:20-21 ESV)  [You know] how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

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38 Comments on “Answers to Mac’s Questions”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Incidentally, the Titus passage shows very clearly that baptism (the washing) is specifically excluded from our own works of righteousness. It is not in the category of works, but in the category of faith. It is an appeal to God to keep his promise and take away our sins (1 Pet. 3:21). It is the very opposite of relying on one’s own works and is instead the holding out of an empty hand to receive God’s free gift of salvation.

    There is no mention of water baptism only washing and regeneration and renewing done by the baptism with His Holy Spirit. 1 Peter 3:21 is speaking about the baptism of the Holy Spirit that regenerates and renews our conscience toward God. The blood of Jesus washes away our sins.

    If you don’t want this to be a debate about water baptism verses the blood of Jesus then don’t make such comments.

  2. Alan Says:

    T F 9. There is at least one New Testament passage that teaches that unauthorized worship is acceptable or pleasing to God.

    False. We hold different views, though, on how to determine what’s authorized. No one is suggesting that actual error in worship is pleasing to God—only that it, like other sins, is forgiven if the worshipper has been saved and continues in submissive faith.

    I disagree. Consider this passage:

    (Mar 9:38) John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.”
    (Mar 9:39) But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.
    (Mar 9:40) For the one who is not against us is for us.

    The individuals John and his companions encountered were not authorized to cast out demons in the name of Jesus. But the demons came out, so God was blessing their work. And Jesus clearly states that their activities were not prohibited, even though they had not been authorized.

  3. Alan Says:

    T F 15. If Paul declares that Abraham was not justified by works and if James declares that Abraham was justified by works, then we know that Paul and James were referring to two different categories or classifications of works.

    God made great promises to Abram in Gen 12, and he repeated and extended those promises on multiple occasions. Yet he did not tell Abram why he made those promises, until chapter 22, when God said:

    (Gen 22:15) And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven
    (Gen 22:16) and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son,
    (Gen 22:17) I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies,
    (Gen 22:18) and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

    The promises which began in chapter 12 anticipated the obedience in chapter 22, which came decades later. This demonstrates that God does give blessings in advance, based on future obedience.

  4. laymond Says:

    Alan, is that unauthorized worship, or unauthorized works ?

  5. laymond Says:

    “because you have done this” might be construed as
    “justification by works”

  6. Jr Says:

    Faith is not a work, it is a gift from God. Same with the ability to repent. We do absolutely nothing to receive these gifts; God gives them to who He wants, when He wants – for His glory alone. See Eph 2:8-9, Rom 12:3, 2 Tim 24-26, Acts 11:18 and 16:14, for just a few examples.

    We don’t “get” faith – it is given to us. Salvation is of the LORD and not of anything we do. Dead-men cannot bring themselves back to life just as much as an unregenerate heart cannot come to faith. God gives the heart to who He wants, when He wants.

  7. Alan Says:

    Worship is not primarily about what we do in Sunday assemblies. Israelites made that same mistake, bringing sacrifices but not doing what pleases God. Casting out demons was an act of kindness and righteousness. That is true worship.

    Pro 21:3 To do righteousness and justice
    is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

    Mic 6:6 “With what shall I come before the LORD,
    and bow myself before God on high?
    Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
    Mic 6:7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
    Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
    Mic 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the LORD require of you
    but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

  8. Alan Says:

    Lamond wrote:

    “because you have done this” might be construed as “justification by works”

    Well, that’s what the scriptures say. Those promises were pretty clearly a blessing given by God because of what Abraham did.

  9. Alan Says:

    Do you think we can ask for faith? Will God give faith to those who ask? Is there any point in seeking God? Or is it entirely out of our hands?

  10. Dennis Threadgill Says:

    T F 10. The subscription to at least some doctrinal errors entails loss of eternal salvation to those who subscribe to them.

    True (e.g., Gal. 1:6-9; 1 John 2:22-23).
    ———————————————-

    These would both appear to be “Gospel errors”, rather than “doctrinal errors”? Both deal with the denial of Christ.

    1 John 2:22-23 [22] And who is the great liar? The one who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Such people are antichrists, for they have denied the Father and the Son. [23] Anyone who denies the Son doesn’t have the Father either. But anyone who confesses the Son has the Father also.

    Gal. 1:6-9 -[6] I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who in his love and mercy called you to share the eternal life he gives through Christ. You are already following a different way [7] that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who twist and change the truth concerning Christ.
    [8] Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including myself, who preaches any other message than the one we told you about. Even if an angel comes from heaven and preaches any other message, let him be forever cursed. [9] I will say it again: If anyone preaches any other gospel than the one you welcomed, let God’s curse fall upon that person.

  11. Joe Hegyi III Says:

    That’s a very Calvinistic view. However, not everyone believes in Total Depravity or in Irresistible Grace. That doesn’t mean we don’t believe the Bible, only that we disagree with how it’s being applied.

  12. laymond Says:

    “Faith is not a work, it is a gift from God. Same with the ability to repent.”

    Not according to Peter. He said we all have that option. and I believe he is right. you are right when you say “faith is not work” but it is gained, and strengthened by “work”.

    2Pt:3:9: The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

    Alan asked; “Do you think we can ask for faith? Will God give faith to those who ask?”

    Alan why would you ask something of a god you believe is nonexistent, or if he does exist, can’t help you. (I never pray to Baal) Why do you believe the preaching of the gospel is necessary? Faith means “to believe in” We have already been given the necessities of belief, just read it.

  13. Alan Says:

    Why would Jesus rebuke his disciples for their lack of faith unless they played a role in the development of it? If we are entirely passive in the matter of faith, why the rebuke?

  14. Matt Says:

    Your answer to T/F No. 9 raises several questions and comments

    First, do you believe the Scripture teaches us how to determine what is authorized? It seems to me if an act is not expressly authorized by Scripture (i.e., by precept, precedent or principles set forth therein), and is not strictly necessary to carry out what is expressly authorized, and cannot be reasonably construed as incidental to carrying out what is expressly authorized, there is no way it can still be actually authorized by God today.

    I believe the Scriptures do not authorize instrumental music in Christian worship expressly or by implication. I also believe the Scriptures also teach it is sin to engage in unauthorized worship. My question for you is if a person has read and understands the Scriptures as I do, do you think it is possible for that person to continue to habitually use musical instruments in worship to God in logical contradiction to the plain truth and encourage and even teach others to do the same and yet still “continue in submissive faith”?

    Third, do you believe (as I do) that a Christian must continue “walk in the light” (1 John 1) or “walk in the spirit” (Romans 8) in order to be continually forgiven of sin? Assuming your answer is “yes,” do you believe there is any objective way to determine whether a person other than ourselves is not walking in the light? In other words is there any set of circumstances under which Christians must necessarily conclude that a person who is has been properly added to the Lord’s body but is currently in those circumstances is no longer walking in the light? (Notice I have purposefully stated this in the negative to account for the fact that the absence of such objective factors is “necessary but not sufficient” for walking in the light. A person without any of these objective indicia of apostasy may still lack certain subjective factors required for “walking in the light” (i.e., a proper heart, etc.) However, what I am trying to understand is whether you believe if a person sincerely believes he/she is “walking in the light,” based primarily on his/her subjective feelings, is there any objective circumstances under which other Christians can possibly know that person is no longer walking in the light?

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Matt, when did God say we are to sing but you better not sing with music when did God say singing with music is sin?

  16. Alan Says:

    I believe the Scriptures do not authorize instrumental music in Christian worship expressly or by implication. I also believe the Scriptures also teach it is sin to engage in unauthorized worship.

    But, in scripture, worship is not particularly associated with the assembly. Rather, worship occurs wherever we are, 24×7. So your conviction requires you to abstain from all instrumental music regardless of the place or time. You cannot own a radio. You cannot watch television. You cannot attend a concert. You cannot walk in the mall. You must flee from any place where instrumental music can be heard. Are you living up to that?

    If instead you are saying that instruments are prohibited only in Christian assemblies, then please tell me the scriptural basis for making that distinction.

  17. Jay Guin Says:

    Matt,

    Do the scriptures teach us how to determine what’s authorized? Certainly.

    Obviously, someone who considers instrumental music as sin cannot worship with instrumental music without being guilty of sin. Rom 14:14, for example. It’s an abstract and someone pointless question whether someone can teach what he believes to be error and be pleasing to God. Of course, not. But who is doing this? Who are we talking about?

    Must a Christian “walk in the light” to be continually forgiven of all sin? Yes, of course. Is there an objective test? What does John say?

    (1 John 2:10-11) Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.

    Evidently, John thinks the test — for someone who has become a Christian — is whether he loves or hates his brother. He also says,

    (1 John 4:11-17) Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 13 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17 In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.

    Again, John gives the test: faith in Jesus and love.

    But this love is no mere subjective feeling —

    (1 John 3:16-18) This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

    “Love” is being like Jesus in his sacrifice — it’s self-giving as well as material giving. Love must be active.

    We often rip “walk in the light” from its context and claim it means something like “worship in 5 and only 5 acts and organize according to the scriptural pattern.” But John defines his terms quite plainly, and he means by “light” love for our brothers (2:8-10). That’s what he says. But John cannot imagine that we might love our brothers as Jesus would have us love if we don’t also have faith in Jesus. It’s not faith + love, it’s faith, which produces love. There is no loveless faith, because faith requires submission to Jesus as Lord (Rom 10:9, for example), and Jesus requires that we love our brothers.

    John’s book is quite consistent with Paul —

    (Gal 5:6) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

    This is hardly a complete exegesis of 1 John, but any proper exegesis of 1 John gives these passages their full weight and doesn’t explain them away. They say what they say.

    Do Christians obey God’s commands? Yes, but imperfectly and only as well as they understand them. John is quite clear that we all sin (1:7-9).

    Are there certain commands that show a Christian is truly in the light? Yes: believe in Jesus, love your brother.

    In Romans 8:1-4, Paul says we are continually forgiven if we “walk … after the Spirit.” Does this mean that we must get certain commands on how to worship right? What does Paul say?

    (Rom 8:6-7) The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind [of] the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

    Manifestly, Paul isn’t saying we must submit to God’s law perfectly. Rather,

    (Rom 14:17-18) For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

    “Eating and drinking” is metonymy for issues such as eating meat or celebrating holy days. “Peace” is a reference to one of the central issues of Romans — how the church can get along despite not agreeing on all issues (Rom 14, as the culmination of all that precedes).

    Paul’s concepting of walking after the Spirit is perhaps more clearly explained in Galatians —

    (Gal 5:14-16) The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

    Living by the Spirit is loving your neighbor and —

    (Gal 5:17-21) For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. 19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    Living by the Spirit is rejecting selfish, unloving behaviors, and —

    (Gal 5:22-26) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

    Keeping “in step” with the Spirit is to be humble, to crucify evil passions, and to bear the Spirit’s fruit.

    Do we do this perfectly? Of course not. But these are the qualities that should characterize those who are saved.

    Obviously, such a person will worship and organize his congregation as he believes God requires. A penitent person of faith could not act otherwise. But if he makes a mistake, he still has a faith that expresses itself in love. He still resists the works of the flesh and shows the fruit of the Spirit. And he’s still saved.

  18. Jr Says:

    Alan: This is the same question Paul addresses in Romans 9:19-24.

    “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”

    The Sovereign authority of God in all things and the human acceptance of its own responsibility is certainly a paradox; but it is one I am willing to submit to as a created being in the face of a Sovereign Creator God.

  19. Alan Says:

    I believe Jesus gave the rebuke in order to motivate change, as a call to greater faith — implying that the disciples played a role in the development of their own faith (and in the lack of it). I can think of no other reason for Jesus to have rebuked them.

  20. D'Angelo Says:

    T F 6. There is at least one New Testament passage that promises eternal salvation to the sons of disobedience.

    False.

    T F 7. Faithful Christians are sons of obedience.

    True.

    Is this a mistake? If faithful Christians are sons of disobedience and no NT passages promise eternal life to sons of disobedience then no Christians are promised eternal life. Maybe you meant to put false here.

    “perfect” obedience has been thrown around quite a bit. What does that mean?

  21. Brad Adcock Says:

    D’Angelo, your own comment holds your answer:

    Question 6 deals with ‘sons of DISobedience’ while question 7 deals with ‘sons of obedience.’

    This typeface is so tiny its hard for my poor eyes to distinguish at times, too. 🙂

  22. D'Angelo Says:

    AH, it does. touche

  23. Matt Says:

    When, or more precisely in the same way, He said not to partake of the Lord’s Supper with a Krispy Kreme Doughnut or a Big Mac & Fries.

  24. Matt Says:

    Your argument that everything we do in life is worship is disingenuous. The fact that we are to “pray without ceasing” does not preclude the fact that prayer is also used in scripture to refer to a concrete act of worship that must be done in a way that we know is authorized in order to know it is acceptable to God. The act of prayer must be directed to the proper person (God Mt 6:6), emulate the pattern given by Christ (Mt. 6:9-13) and comply with all applicable spiritual principles found in passages such as 1 John 3:21-23.

  25. Alan Says:

    Hi Matt, it’s been awhile since we corresponded.

    Your argument that everything we do in life is worship is disingenuous.

    Whatever else you can say about my argument, it is not disingenuous. It is an honest expression of my real understanding of scripture.

    The fact that we are to “pray without ceasing” does not preclude the fact that prayer is also used in scripture to refer to a concrete act of worship that must be done in a way that we know is authorized in order to know it is acceptable to God.

    Where in scripture is prayer called a “concrete act of worship?” For that matter, where is it called an “act of worship” whether concrete or not? And where does scripture tell us that it is a mandatory component of every assembly? (Or is it only mandatory on Sunday? Or only on Sunday morning? etc…) You can treat those as rhetorical questions if you wish. We both know that the scriptures don’t define the terms you are using. In fact, the scriptures don’t even associate the term “worship” with the Sunday assembly. The primary purpose of the assembly is to encourage one another (Heb 10:24-25; 1 Cor 14:26).

  26. Matt Says:

    I will only address four latent errors in your concluding paragraph:

    First, you suggest a person’s only standard for how to worship and organize a congregation is “as he believes God requires” then all truth is reduced to a test of sincerity. Yet the teachings and example of the apostle thoroughly refute this proposition.

    Second, you suggest such a person “could not act otherwise.” However, this is true ONLY if that person cannot know objective, absolute truth regarding authorized worship or church organization. I wonder if you would extend this sort of post-modernist thinking to all areas of doctrine? If so, then you would turn the whole point of Scripture on its head. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guide the apostle unto all truth and commanded the apostles to teach disciples to observe all things that Jesus commanded. Surely “all things” does not exclude worship and church organization any more than it does the kerygma.

    Next, you turn passages such as John 14:15 and 15:14 on their head by arguing that so long as a person loves God he does not have to keep His commandments. It is naive to assume that habitual unauthorized worship is simply making “a mistake.”

    Finally, with regard to your comment “he’s still saved” there may be a window of grace during which a congregation of the Lord’s body is beginning to show tell-tale signs of straying or spiritual sickness but the Lord has not yet removed their candlestick. However, that does not change the fact that eventually it can and will be removed. Else there would be no such thing as an apostate church, false gospels, denominationalism or world religions for that matter. If a person knowingly or negligently rejects the truth or stops seeking the truth, and instead practices and teach others to practice unauthorized church organization or worship, then how can you say “he still resists the work of the flesh and shows the fruit of the Spirit”?

  27. Anonymous Says:

    When we take the Lord’s Supper we can use wine or grape juice either way we are still drinking fruit of the vine, we can use pita bread or waffers either way we are still eating bread. Same as we can sing either with or without instrumental music either way we are still singing.

  28. Matt Says:

    Your Eighth Grade English Teacher would likely be very disappointed to hear you equate “eating bread” with “singing and playing an instrument.”

    Bread is the direct object of eating, while playing is neither the object or predicate of singing. It is (as evidence by the use of the conjunction “and”) an addition, and by all accounts of the New Testament an unauthorized addition.

    Play on Sam, if you must, but don’t pretend to know that God is pleased. And do not pretend to fear a God whom you do not care whether or not He is pleased by your offering.

    If this admonition offends you then stop playing, and offer the kind of music God has plainly commanded (singing and making melody in your heart) and in which you can know that you know that you know He is well pleased.

    God is a Spirit, and those worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.

  29. Matt Says:

    It appears I can’t reply to a reply. This post is in response to Alan’s question “Where in Scripture is prayer called a concrete act of worship”? You miss my point entirely. I was trying to draw the distinction between prayer as a tangible act and prayer as a metaphor for communion with God. My point is that both concept are presented in the New Testament. I will assume you would acknowledge that there is such a thing as the tangible act of prayer. If so, then the next logical question for you should how does one engage in that act “in the name of Jesus Christ” i.e., by His authority?

    Until you understand the importance of answering that question, it is futile to discuss with you whether the act of prayer is a necessary part of what the disciples did when they assembled together on the first day of the week, according to NT precedent, precept and principle.

  30. Anonymous Says:

    Matt, If you think you are offending me, you’re not. You are no different than people in other denominations that think it is their job to condemn people.

  31. Alan Says:

    Matt,

    Your arguments in many posts, including this one, rest on the same faulty assumption: that the scriptures lay out a concept called “authorized worship” which pertains to what activities are permitted (and required) in the Sunday assembly of Christians. There is no point in arguing about which “acts of worship” are permitted in the assembly, and which are not, because you have not (and cannot) show that the inspired scriptures contain the underlying concept. The whole house collapses because there is no foundation.

  32. Alan Says:

    Matt, John 4:24 does not address the Sunday assembly of Christians. Jesus used the word προσκυνέω which we translate as worship. The scriptures never use that word to refer to the Christian assembly, nor to what Christians do in that assembly. I challenge you to do a study of the word and learn what Jesus was talking about.

  33. Alan Says:

    he next logical question for you should how does one engage in that act “in the name of Jesus Christ” i.e., by His authority?

    You change the meaning of Col 3:17 when you substitute your preferred phrase for the phrase in the text. The Holy Spirit doesn’t need your help, because he provided his own explanation of the phrase. Doing everything “in the name of the Lord” means “as is fitting in the Lord.” (verse 18). It means doing what pleases the Lord (verse 20). It means doing it with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. (verse 22). It means doing everything as for the Lord rather than for men (verse 23). It means doing it as service to the Lord (verse 24). In other words, it means doing everything in a manner worthy of one who calls Jesus Lord. It’s not talking about limiting what you do to an authorized list. It’s about “whatever you do”.

  34. Matt Says:

    I get a little worked up sometimes, sorry about that. But its because I care too much. I’m much kinder and gentlier in the mornings. Here’s what I am thinking.

    I can understand why liberal folks/liberal congregations react to conservative teaching, especially when its imperfectly performed, the way they do.

    I can also understand why you would emphasize the need for grace in the church to cover all of our shortcomings.

    My point, however, is that if you or I abuse the range of plausible truth or ignore the authority of Scripture altogether then that reflect a heart problem as much as it does a doctrinal problem.

    The truth is in the Word and it is obtainable whether we are willing to seek it out or not. I think my liberal brethren are battle fatigued and at some point along the way stopped caring what the Bible has to say because the task of reasoning through the scriptures and being of the same mind with their brethren became too difficult.

    No doubt pettiness, ignorance and mean-spiritedness (on both sides of the aisle) have contributed to this depressing state of affairs.

    However, the answer is not to retreat to the “as long as you’re sincere you can keep making the same mistakes and still be saved” position. That is a slippy slope with no bottom. It is as if my liberal friends in the church (and I have MANY of them) are using all of their energy just trying to stay in this zone of being blissfully happy. For them, that is the only purpose of Christianity; it is their only goal and they think ignorance and tolerance is the only way they can achieve/maintain that nirvana in this post-modern enlightened state in which we live.

    I am currently trying to raise three teenagers in the church. They attend a COC private school that is desparately running from its COC identity. It is sad the Baptist private school where my children used to attend embraced their identity and prided themselves in having distinct morals while the COC school does neither.

    At the same time I have relatives also trying to raise teenage daughters in a liberal congregation in another state. They grew up in the conservative church and now they speak about it in the same harsh tones as other liberal brethren. Just the other day the mother who knows full well how far she has strayed made a statement about how thankful she was that her daughters are SOOOOO spiritual. Yet, on facebook they post pictures in two piece bikinis and other immodest dress, and they place no restrictions on what they watch on TV or go see at the movies, and their daughters routinely go see rated-R movies full of filth and sin with their father–a gospel preacher.

    I believe the truth–as demanding as it can be–is still be more compelling, more powerful than any alternative. Everything else is meaningless, living a lie and vainty. In the end, all that matters is fearing God and keeping his commandments.

    If I sound like an old time gospel preacher so be it. After all, I’m just paraphrasing the oldest preacher I know.

    If hope everyone that’s in a relationship with God through Christ will pray about these urgent and most serious matters. The culture of the church has been serious corrupted, and there is no other antidote than rediscovering His Will for us as revealed in Scripture.

  35. Alan Says:

    Just the other day the mother who knows full well how far she has strayed made a statement about how thankful she was that her daughters are SOOOOO spiritual. Yet, on facebook they post pictures in two piece bikinis and other immodest dress, and they place no restrictions on what they watch on TV or go see at the movies, and their daughters routinely go see rated-R movies full of filth and sin with their father–a gospel preacher.

    Matt, I am in emphatic agreement with you on this topic. I hope we haven’t spent so much energy talking about our differences, that we don’t recognize and appreciate what we hold in common. Christians must not love the world, and we must not be conformed to it. That is the pivotal battle for our generation, and for the next.


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  37. […] righteous; James uses it to mean “demonstrate or prove to be righteous” (see that earlier discussion). James is not saying that Abraham was first saved when he obeyed God in Genesis 22. Rather, […]


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