Tag Archives: grace

The law of love

Here is a snippet from a comment series on a previous post that I thought was worth highlighting:

Incest was necessary given the nature of God’s creation of human lineage. And polygamy and concubines run rampant in the Old Testament among those deemed righteous.

Incest is not unnatural in the biological sense. One could, and rightly so, argue that it is a very bad idea today given the degree of genetic mutations. However such genetic factors are not a guarantee nor is our present revulsion at the notion a negation of the biological reality of procreation.

You are correct that polygamy and concubines run rampant in the OT. And many who participated in the practice were considered righteous. However none of them were considered righteous for their polygamy or marital indiscretions. In fact, it is abundantly clear that these men were deeply flawed individuals and only considered righteous through grace on God’s part. So to assume their righteousness incorporated all of their deeds is to commit the basic fallacy of assuming salvation or favor with God is merited through works and not through grace.

Share/Bookmark

By grace, through faith

A common thorn in the side of most Calvinists is Ephesians 2:8 which reads

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

To keep with the reformed doctrine of irresistible grace (ie. men being robots) they prefer to make the case that faith is included in the gift given from God.

The problem with your interpretation is that if faith is included in what is gifted to us then it makes the through (διὰ) superfluous and unnecessary given the context.

Rather, πίστεως (faith) is the conduit διὰ (through) which χάριτί (grace) is actualized.

Word for word it is: τῇ The γὰρ for/reason χάριτί grace ἐστέ you σεσῳσμένοι are saved διὰ through πίστεως faith καὶ and τοῦτο this οὐκ not ἐξ out of ὑμῶν of yours θεοῦ God τὸ the δῶρον gift/sacrifice/offering.

Further, Robertson’s Word Pictures puts it this way:

Neuter, not feminine ταυτη, and so refers not to πιστις (feminine) or to χαρις (feminine also), but to the act of being saved by grace conditioned on faith on our part. Paul shows that salvation does not have its source (εξ υμων, out of you) in men, but from God. Besides, it is God’s gift (δωρον) and not the result of our work. (emphasis mine)

For more context, this verse is almost the same as verse 5 before it but with the addition of “through faith”. Verse 5 reads:

even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

If faith is part of the gift and is indeed necessary for salvation, why was it omitted in verse 5?

It seems that only by making the illogical leap to thinking of faith as a work12 can a person sustain the notion that faith along with grace is not of ourselves.

  1. Which should be rejected anyway since such a view of faith as a work would make verse 9 incoherent. []
  2. Galatians 3:6 among other verses point to the fact that faith is not a work under the law. []

A brief exposition of John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. -John 3:16

World is not merely nations in this text. Such a distinction, while required in order to prop up the doctrine of limited atonement, is simply not found in the text. What the text does say, however, is that God loves the whole world (without distinction so that we understand God to love all men, as is his revealed character throughout Scripture) in such a way as to give his only begotten son for the same (that is, all men without distinction, elect and non-elect, chosen and non-chosen) and that whosoever will may believe in Jesus and be saved (indicating how one may go from being one of the not-saved to one of the saved or non-elect to elect “in Christ”).

The glory of God here is that God is both willing (so loved) and able (that he sent) to save all men without distinction so that there is hope (whosoever will) for all men.

Curiously this verse does not say that God only loved the elect, only died for the elect, and that only the elect will (through irresistible and forceful changing of a person’s will against their desires/wishes/choice) be saved.

On Pat Robertson’s thoughtless remarks about Haiti

Haiti was recently hit by the largest earthquake in nearly a hundred years.

Here’s what Pat Robertson had to say about it:

I’ve heard many atheists and anti-Christians take Pat’s comments above as reinforcements to support their belief that Christians are intolerant, bigoted, and wholly devoid of compassion. It’s this group of people I want to address..

There are many of us whose hearts do break for the pain, suffering, and evil that has been unleashed upon the people of Haiti. While we do maintain that God is wholly sovereign over the world we also vehemently deny assertions like the one made by Pat Robertson.

We don’t consider him to be unsaved or a devil in disguise. Since we are all members of a much larger family which includes those hurting in Haiti, we simply maintain that men like Pat are like the black sheep that run in all families.

Except, we also recognize that in this family we were all black sheep at one point in time.

Yes, we are all very much aware that there is a cancer in the body of Christ and we are desperately trying to fight it.

But where does that cancer come from? We know full well it comes from the hearts of sinful men who are still in need of a savior.

No, we aren’t perfect. We just know someone who is.

Wordy Wednesday: Age of accountability

The age of accountability is a teaching in Christianity which posits an age at which children are deemed responsible for their actions. Proponents believe that before this age where sufficient cognitive awareness of self-determined actions is reached, sins and the ensuing punishment is not charged to the unconscious child’s account.

The exact age at which one acquires sufficient cognitive awareness of their actions (which, in turn makes them accountable for their actions) is not known. Jewish tradition holds to it being around the age of 12 (bar mitzvah). Other traditions such as Methodists have confirmation at the age of 13 (a commonly accepted age).

Some passages that lend weight to this teaching are:

  • Jonah 4:11 – God seems to compare innocence of the unconscious animals to the children of Nineveh.
  • Deuteronomy 1:39 – This is perhaps the clearest affirmation of the doctrine of the age of accountibility as it is a clear charge to the Israelites to teach “your children who do not yet know good from bad”. This verse helps pave the way for the Deuteronomy 6:4
  • Isaiah 7:14-16 – Speaks about he complete righteousness of the promised messiah. This verse is especially powerful since it also affirms that children do sin before they are consciously aware of it.

Additionally the following verses give us additional reason to think that:

For more information on the age of accountability, take a look here and here

Judgement, or “Where has all the smiting gone?”

I’ve read many things about God’s judgement recently. Judgement of nations1 , judgement of groups2 , and judgement of people. The concept of God’s judgement is apparently a very misunderstood and frequently misrepresented and since it has the potential to do great harm to a believer’s growth or an unbeliever’s understanding of the relationship between grace and holiness, I figured it deserves some more ink (or pixels as it were).

Some of the extreme examples of recent stances taken regarding the judgement of God is the relatively new practice of imprecatory prayer3 where advocates literally pray for the death of specific individuals such as President Obama. This practice is said to have come from select Old Testament texts where various figures such as the Psalmist, David, and others prayed for their enemies to be vanquished.

I’m not sure this is what Jesus had in mind when he told us to pray for our enemies4.

Most Christians don’t go this far, thankfully, but they do adopt a slightly milder view of God’s wrath and judgement through unfortunate events5 and natural disasters6. While this view of God’s judgement often comes from a noble desire to uphold God’s sovereignty which often, unfortunately, crosses the line into causal determinism and, in order to reconcile the two, forces the holder of such a view of God’s sovereignty to ignore clear Biblical teaching about judgement in order to explain why a sovereign God would cause such tragic events to unfold rather than prevent them.

This issue ultimately leads to the question of evil in general, which is covered far better elsewhere, but I want to focus on the simple question of God’s judgement and what we can and can’t say about it in light of some clear teachings from the Bible.

The nature of God’s judgement can be summed up by the three words Jesus spoke on the matter from the cross. It is finished7 . The Bible clearly states that Jesus paid for sin once and for all at the cross8 . After Jesus rises from the dead we don’t read of anyone being punished for their sins but we are told that this is a time of grace until the final judgement comes where all remaining unrighteous will be dealt with. In fact, we are told that there is only one sin which will determine our innocence or guilt according to Matthew 12:32 and that is the acceptance of the witness of the Holy Spirit to Jesus, the Son sent to pay for our sin. In other words, to blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to call God a liar by refusing to believe in His Son.

An astute observer will note Ananias and Sapphira9 as an example of God judging (and smiting) people after the resurrection of Jesus.

However I would point out that, in addition with Paul’s admonition of 1 Corinthians 5:5 to “deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord”, Hebrews 12:17 tells us that when we are adopted into God’s family we are disciplined as sons . Because of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints (once saved, always saved) we shouldn’t think that Ananias and Sapphira were judged in the sense that they somehow lost their salvation but were rather disciplined.

Only by claiming that Jesus did not actually die for the sins of all men could you claim that God is still at work judging and smiting the wicked or else we would have a problem with God requiring double payment for sins. This, too, is something many in the reformed camp end up accepting as a result of their theology10 which ultimately raises more issues than it solves.

As for claiming natural disasters and random events as judgements from God we need to look back to the Old Testament and how God brought judgement then and how what we call judgement today just doesn’t add up.

The first thing we should note is that the prophets in the Old Testament were sent to proclaim the coming wrath of God in order to 1.) give the people time to repent and turn to God (or did you think grace and mercy were unique to the New Testament) and 2.) to remove all doubt as to where the coming calamity came from and why.

With most (if not all) modern forms of “judgement” we see no prophet and we also, frequently, do not see the precision in scope we see in the Old Testiment. In other words, innocent civilians are caught up in many so called acts of judgement we hear about today.

While some theological systems do not hold to the notion of an innocent bystander and are perfectly fine with the idea that God would indiscriminately pour out his wrath on the righteous as well as the unrighteous, Abraham shows us God’s character in regard to judgement in Genesis 18. Before undertaking the task of bargaining with the Lord, he asks “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?”, and later asks “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” This should show us, along with God’s statement about the Amorites ((Genesis 15:16 tells us that their sin had not yet reached its full measure)), that when God judges, he states his case clearly and limits his wrath to those he has also warned and given ample opportunity to repent.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard when it comes to building a Biblical worldview is the admonition to remain consistent in what we believe and teach. In other words, we have no business telling people about the grace, mercy, and love of a God who has indeed paid everything on the Cross if we are, at the same time, going to tell them that God is, at this time, judging the world for the sin he supposedly already dealt with at the cross.

  1. particularly the USA []
  2. generally whichever one we don’t like at a particular moment []
  3. http://www.sltrib.com/faith/ci_12690952 []
  4. Matthew 5:44 []
  5. Such as 9/11 and bridges collapsing []
  6. such as tsunamis and hurricanes []
  7. John 19:30 []
  8. Hebrews 10, notice that Paul mentions the finality of Jesus’s sacrifice and the corresponding futility of thinking we can “add” anything to it. []
  9. Acts 5:1-10 []
  10. Which is sad, because it shows how bad theology can color a natural reading of the text, turning God into a capricious monster. []