Category Archives: “All” Passages

Most Christians Deny the Power of God

4 I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom, 2 preach the word, be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all patience and instruction. 3 For there will be a time when they will not put up with sound teaching, but in accordance with their own desires, they will accumulate for themselves teachers, ⌊because they have an insatiable curiosity⌋, 4 and they will turn away from the hearing of the truth, but will turn to myths.  (2 Tim 4:1-4, LEB)

I have preached this text a number of times over 15 years of pastoring churches and preaching sermons.  In the beginning it was more toward those who spoke of a call to the preaching ministry (being a pastor as they call it).  I exhorted those men to always be ready to preach, never turn down an opportunity.  I also taught those same men to preach the whole counsel of God (the whole Bible, not just pet doctrines or passages) and not only the easy passages.  In these “last days”, I taught, people won’t want to hear the truth and will only follow after those they agree with.  They will even try to get rid of you as a pastor if you don’t preach what the congregation wants to hear (boy, did I verify the truth of that statement in my own ministry!!!).  The people in church, you know, the Christians, will even begin following after the likes of Joel Osteen, and Joyce Meyers, the feel good preachers of health and wealth.  The only way to combat this was to keep preaching the truth and God will change their minds when He is ready.  But, we pastors should not “go easy” on them but keep telling the Christians the hard truths, like turn from your sin and false teaching or burn in hell forever.

Well, here is my truth statement:  Most Christians deny the power of God!

Listen to what Paul says in 2 Tim 3:1-5:

3 But know this, that in the last days difficult times will come, 2 for people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, slanderers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 hardhearted, irreconcilable, slanderous, without self-control, savage, with no interest for what is good, 4 traitors, reckless, conceited, loving pleasure rather than loving God, 5 maintaining a form of godliness, but denying its power.  (2 Tim 3:1-5, LEB)

As I have been misled and deceived by one church leader after another , this list of Paul’s truly showed me that this is an apt description of many Christians today, not just people outside the church.  As I have been thinking lately, something struck me hard, right between the eyes, as they say.  Most Christians deny the power of God.  How, you ask?  Most Christians are trying to maintain a form of godliness, following the laws laid down before them (the 10 commandments, the by-laws of the church they are members of, membership rules, any other legalistic do’s and don’t’s church leaders can come up with).  And, on the outside they look and feel like godly people.  They look good, smell good, but they still deny God’s power.  Again, how, you ask?

They deny God’s power by saying or believing that God is not able to save all mankind (all people who have ever lived, past, present, and future).  They say that God is loving yet most of mankind will be consigned to an “eternal hell!”  They say that God is omnipotent (all-powerful) yet He can’t stop people from going to an “eternal hell,” forever separated from God and His loving presence.  My God is capable of saving all mankind and in fact will save all mankind because His Word says so.  Take a look at 1 Tim 4:10 for yourself (10 For to this end we labor and suffer reproach, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of believers.)  This is one of many verses supporting my claim, that God will save all His creation, including all His people, you know, His image-bearers.  Your challenge today, is to comment and ask me to supply you with further evidence of my claim.  Should you  accept my challenge, you may come to an understanding that the reason my theology changed was due to overwhelming evidence contrary to what I had been taught for so many years.

Let me know your thoughts on this statement and the supporting verses!

God’s blessings to you and His peace to you as well!

Craig

 

 

 

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Filed under "All" Passages, God's Love, Grace, Hell, truth, Understanding the Bible, Universal salvation

How many should we be praying for?

 

 

In a round about way, this was the question that a certain famous apologist/debater asked on his famous radio program last Tuesday. He was prattling on about how “all” can and does mean different things depending on the context (by the way, I agree about that, that context dictates our translation). He was talking about a few specific verses, what he calls “the big three.” The three 2verses are 1 Timothy 2:4 (actually includes verses 1-6), Titus 2:11, and 2 Peter 3:9. A specific focus was on the 1 Timothy 2:1-6 passage.

 

 

(1Ti 2:1) I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and givings of thanks, be made for all men:

 

 

(1Ti 2:2) for kings and all who are in high places; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and reverence.

 

 

(1Ti 2:3) For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior;

 

 

(1Ti 2:4) who desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth.

 

 

(1Ti 2:5) For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

 

 

(1Ti 2:6) who gave himself as a ransom for all; the testimony in its own times;

 

 

 

The famous apologist/debater asks, “Did Paul instruct Timothy to pray for all men, for everyone? Is that what Paul means by “all men?”

 

 

He goes on and says, “”Did Paul say, Timothy, when you gather in the church, remember to pray for the Amorite high priest that lived 1,000 years ago?” Well, pray for every single human being whether alive or dead. All men is defined in the next portion of that verse, “for kings and all those in authority.” All men? Those are kinds of men. The phrase “all men” must be used as all kinds of men. Even those who persecute you and who have authority over you, pray for them. All kinds of men are saved, that’s what it means. God even saves Californians. As a matter of fact, even those from San Francisco! The proof is that Jesus died a ransom for “all men,” same group. Are you really going to suggest that Paul, the apostle, Paul’s teaching was that Jesus is a mediator between God and every single human who ever lived?”

 

 

That’s enough of his diatribe to get the understanding that he believes that Jesus only died for a select few people and anyone who believes differently, well, they deserve condescension and ridicule. So, besides my obvious problems with his attitude, is his problem with the text itself and the analogy or example he gives. I don’t want to exegete the text today, but want to put into perspective what he is saying, and what many Reformed people believe.

 

 

This famous apologist/debater says it is absurd to think that Paul told Timothy to pray for every single person in all of history, past and present, even those God’s wrath has been given out to (as the debater says, the Amorite high priest who lived 1,000 years before Paul’s day!). This debater said that Paul told Timothy when he goes to church, he was supposed to pray for only those who persecute him (us) and those in authority over him (us). After all, the debater says, it is absurd to pray on a Sunday for billions of people ( all men), but its not absurd to pray for ALL those who are in authority over us.

 

 

So, who are those who are in authority over us? How about our local officials. Where I live, that is quite a few folks because I live in a major city. There are probably a thousand local officials that have authority over me. There are police. There are judges who rule on cases. There are security guards at stores. There are all the inspectors that enforce codes. There is the local school where the school board exercises authority over parents and children.

 

 

Then, how about county and state officials who have authority over me. There are many of them, maybe more thousands of authorities. Now, step into the federal government and we may get into the ten thousand range or more! From the President, to his cabinet and agencies that impact our lives because of their authority, to all the federal agencies that exercise surveillance and security for the country.

 

 

Wow! That’s a lot of people to pray for on Sunday night! Oh, but wait, I haven’t even listed those who persecute me or persecute other Christians. Man, now we are really getting into thousands and thousands of people. When you start thinking about all the people who hate Christians, including political progressives, liberals, fascists, communists, atheists, Muslims, many other religions in my own neighborhood or city, state, etc. Yikes! I dare say we might get into the hundreds of thousands of people to pray for every week, but at least its not “all men!” I don’t know how I would fight the discouragement if Paul ACTUALLY MEANT ALL MEN! Wow! I can handle hundreds of thousands of people to pray for every week, but boy, don’t expect me to pray for the whole world (according to the debater and Paul the Apostle: all men)!

 

 

I mean, I am only human for crying out loud! I admit, even on my best Sundays, or Wednesday night prayer meetings, I have only been able to pray by name for about 20-30 people and their specific situation. I am glad God doesn’t require me to pray for ALL MEN! Whew! That’s a big weight off my mind!

 

 

Do you sense a teensy-weensy bit of sarcasm? Let me finish by getting serious for just a moment. Why is it ridiculous to think that Paul meant for Timothy (and us) to pray for ALL MEN, meaning all people everywhere? There are so many texts in the New Testament alone that use universal language to show the expanse of our mission, the expanse of God’s power, the enormity of God’s grace and love, the depth of burden we should have for all people, etc. I mean, why wouldn’t we want to pray for all people? We are commanded to pray for our fellow believers. That’s a whole lot of folks! Did Paul mean to discount them? We are told to pray for those who persecute us. Does that mean only those who DIRECTLY persecute us, or does it include people all over the world who suppress God’s truth and His people? Should I not pray for the ones who are beheading Christians around the globe? I realize I would have to ADD those thoughts (only pray for those who directly persecute me, only pray for those believers who are physically around me, etc) to the text Paul wrote, but come on, really, ALL MEN? Also, if the debater can add into the text, “all kinds of people,” maybe I could add into the text, “No really,” says Paul, “I mean ALL MEN EVERYWHERE FROM ALL TIME!”

 

 

If the debater thinks it is ridiculous to think Paul meant to pray for ALL MEN who are living or have ever lived, I say it is just as ridiculous to think otherwise! When “theologians” like him have to reduce their arguments to the absurd, like he does, it shows how desperately many have to act to make their “theology” work. One question I ask is where does Paul restrict prayers to church settings, and then also, where does he state that he means “types or kinds” of men? The debater keeps having to substitute his own “theology by tradition” into texts of the New Testament to have his beliefs make sense. My God is huge and when His Word says He sent His Son to this world and his son was “ a great joy which will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10), I believe Him. And, I believe that for Jesus to be a joy to all people means that God will eventually have to save all people for that to be true. How could Jesus be a joy to people condemned to an eternal conscious torment? He couldn’t and He won’t because God will restore all people, not execute retribution on the majority for all eternity! And, I am thankful that these things are biblically supported by many texts and by many witnesses throughout history. I am glad I see a purpose in all that God does and that purpose centers on Him loving His creation so much that He will restore it at the end of the ages! In my mind, if God does not restore us, especially to Himself, and overwhelm us with His love which will cause us to have a changed heart and a worshipful heart at that, then all of the suffering and evil in the world and all those who would go to an eternal conscious torment (if there was such a place) would be attributed to a horrific god who is not worthy of worship! I will be expanding on much of this in the future. But for now, I will let this stand alone and continue to work on my review to post by tomorrow.

 

 

What do you think Paul meant? How many will you pray for? Really, all men?

 

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Hell Under Fire Book Review – Jesus On Hell Chapter 4 Part 4

 

Cont’d from last post – The Eternality of Hell

 

 

Romans 11:26, 32

 

 

(Rom 11:26) And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;

(Rom 11:32) For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

(ESV)

 

 

Moo makes a couple of points about this passage.

 

 

  1. All Israel” does not mean each and every Israelite. Paul is talking about the nation in general, not the individual specifically. Moo says, “the “all” consigned to disobedience on the one hand (for which see 1:18-32), and the “all” who receive mercy on the other are “all nations.”

  2. There is a national rather than a spiritual meaning here.

  3. He says what is especially important is that the OT and Jewish literature have several places where “all” does not mean each and every individual and the usual meaning is to not refer to each Jew.

 

 

 

(Rom 11:11) So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.

(Rom 11:12) Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

(Rom 11:13) Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry

(Rom 11:14) in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.

 

Moo explains a little about the context bringing in verses 11, 12, and 14, but fails to mention verse 7.  Verses 11-14 do, in fact, speak about the Jews particularly, and there is a national influence here. But, what does verse 7 say?

 

 

(Rom 11:7) What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened,

 

 

Here, setting up the context for the later verses, Paul talks about three different groups here; Israel (national, all the Jews, the remnant and non-remnant), the elect (some of Israel, the special group who believed), and the rest (those who were hardened, the non-remnant).

 

 

 

In verse 11, “they” must refer to the non-remnant Jews, the unbelieving Jews, the ones God hardened. Paul also mentions the only two groups of people in the world, the nation of the Jews, Israel, and the only other nation, the Gentiles. These two groups comprise “all people.” The “their” in verse 12 also refers to the same hardened Jews. In verse 15, “their” also refers to the hardened Jews.

 

 

Paul specifically says in verse 13 that he is speaking to the Gentiles. What he is telling them is that if the hardened Jews who were part of the vine were rejected (vs. 15) or broken off (vs. 17), don’t be arrogant and think you are the only special ones. It is God who cuts off and God who grafts in. Don’t boast as if it was because of anything you did! Up through verse 21, Paul is telling the Gentiles what has happened to the hardened Jews. In verse 22, God’s kindness and severity are described. The hardened Jews were in unbelief and were cut off making way for the Gentiles to be grafted in. But the severity does not last, since if the hardened Jews begin believing, they will be grafted back in.

 

 

And so, we come to verse 26 where Paul explains how all the Jews, those faithful ones and the hardened ones will be saved. They will be saved by the grafting in of the Gentiles, not affecting the already believing Jews, but causing a jealousy on the hardened Jews to bring them back to belief. This is how “all Israel” will be saved. So, to add this up, Paul talks about the believing Jews, the unbelieving Jews who through the Gentiles will come back to belief and be saved, and the fullness of the Gentiles (vs. 25), fullness meaning the completeness or all of the Gentiles.

 

 

How do we know this last statement to be true? In verses 30-31, Paul talks about the disobedient Gentiles who are now saved because of God’s mercy (vs. 30), and the hardened Jews (the believing Jews really don’t need to be spoken about because they already believe and have God’s mercy) will also receive God’s mercy and be saved. Then in verse 32, Paul explains that “all have been consigned to disobedience that God may have mercy on all.” So, if the “all” here does not mean literally every single Jew, one thing is for certain, it certainly means every single unbelieving Jew and every single unbelieving Gentile. And, the magnificent thing that is seen is that God shuts up these two groups in disobedience, at varying times, to harden the heart in order that He can show mercy to them later.

 

 

This then becomes the whole point of why Paul teaches universalism. The elect, the believers who are saved during their lifetime here on earth in this age, already have received God’s mercy, His salvation from sin. All the others will be hardened to varying degrees and will receive God’s mercy sometime in the age(s) to come. Thus, I believe all three of Moo’s points I listed here are rendered either irrelevant or inaccurate.

And for the final proof that ALL will receive mercy from God and be saved, look at the praise Paul offers to God for this very thing in verses 33-36!

 

 

(Rom 11:33) Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

 

 

(Rom 11:34) “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”

 

 

(Rom 11:35) “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”

 

 

(Rom 11:36) For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

 

 

Paul praises God for the depth of His riches and the wisdom and knowledge He has. He goes further and says that God’s judgments are inscrutable, inexplicable and His ways are incomprehensible! Why do you think Paul says this? Maybe it is because we, like him, have a hard time understanding the depth of God’s love, His mercy for His enemies (His wayward children, all people who have ever been created) and how God could give mercy and salvation to all, to each and every person ever created! We would exact vengeance on our enemies, but God will melt their hearts by showing His love and mercy!

 

Praise Be TO GOD!!!!

 

 

 

Col 1:20

 

 

(Col 1:20) and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

 

(ESV)

 

 

Moo makes the following points:

 

 

  1. Particularly significant in Colossians 1:20 is the language of “reconciliation,” which Paul elsewhere applies theologically only to people who are saved (see Col 1:22; see also Rom 5:10-11; 11:15; 2 cor 5:18-20; Eph 2:16).”

  2. It is doubtful that Paul refers to salvific (saving) reconciliation because Paul talks about “all things,” meaning all of creation, not just humans.

  3. The reconciliation spoken of here is not from willingness but through subjugation (oppression or force).

 

 

It is true that Paul uses the language of reconciliation with people who are saved. I accept that readily. What I do reject though is what flows from his argument. It does not follow that because Paul uses the term reconciliation, when talking about those who are saved, that he is also speaking of a subjugation of some of creation, not a willingness by all creation to bow before the Lord. We know believers willingly have submitted and will willingly continue to submit to God in worship. What is not proved from Colossians, especially the verse in question, is that those who are not saved will remain in their unbelief or remain stubborn through the age(s) to the very end when God becomes all in all.

 

 

Looking briefly at the few verse quoted in point 1, Romans 5:10 begins by saying “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God…” How does Moo reconcile (no pun intended) the fact that when we were enemies, we became reconciled to God. If Paul was only applying reconciliation to people who are saved, how does this fit (we were not yet believers, then God reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ). The order, as Paul lays it out is that first we are enemies, then we were reconciled to God, our sins were wiped out, and then we were saved. So we get reconciled BEFORE we are saved. This refutes Moo’s point by his own verse list. Romans 11:15 supports what I just said. Again, the same points are made concerning 2 Cor 5:18-20; these people, the world, were not reconciled to God, then they were reconciled to God, proving the point that Paul is consistently talking about the unsaved world and the total reconciliation of them. Of course, once they are reconciled they become saved, so what exactly again is Moo’s point? Eph 2:16 makes my same point but adds something interesting. Paul says there that when one is reconciled, hostility is killed. Kind of sounds like the peace we see in Col 1:20 doesn’t it? This all reaffirms my position concerning point 3 about willingness rather than subjugation that I will expand on next.

 

 

Think about point 3 a little more deeply. There is an absolute contradiction in what Moo says here. Look at it again. Reconciliation through subjugation? This is oxymoronic. Subjugation means the act of forcing into submission: the act or process of bringing somebody, especially a people or nation, under the control of another, e.g. by military conquest. Do you see any conversion of the will? There is a saying I learned years ago: A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still. As long as there is one soul who does not willingly submit to the Lordship of Christ, the sovereignty and authority of God, there will be one not yet in subjection, or reconciled, to Christ and the Father.

 

 

When Paul talks about every knee bowing and every tongue confessing Jesus as Lord, to the Father’s glory, (Philippians 2:10-11) Paul uses a word for confess that means not only confession, but confession that contains praise and thanksgiving. We can force our children to confess many things at the threat of punishment, but what we can’t force them to do is to praise us from their hearts. The same is true of us in relationship to God as our Creator. Those unwilling to be reconciled to Christ cannot be forced to worship Him either, because forced worship is no worship at all!

 

 

Also, let’s look at point 2, or the type of reconciliation Paul is talking about here. Making peace by the blood of his cross speaks about salvation, does it not?. The blood of his cross has absolute salvific, or saving, connotations to it. Why would this not refer specifically to those created in His image? Would not this statement then qualify what Paul is meaning here by “reconciling all things?” Moo’s statements put the emphasis on the “all things,” emphasizing maybe more so the inanimate things of creation and subordinating “human” things (human beings put in the background so to speak). By disregarding the tail end of the verse to make his point, he discounts the true emphasis that Paul gives in this verse, as well as the context of verses 15-20. The emphasis for Paul is on the cross, the salvation through Christ’s shed blood. Although we know that Paul does have in mind the restoration of the animal kingdom as well, to exactly what extent we do not know. It is reminiscent of the lion laying down with the lamb, and the child playing with the snake, there is absolutely no comparison though between the love God has for those in His image and all of the other created beings. His image bearers have much more worth, and that is one reason why Paul would attach the comment about the blood of his cross.

 

 

Why can I make this claim and be right in it? Because, as we read the following two verses after Col 1:20, we read:

 

 

(Col 1:21) And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,

 

 

(Col 1:22) he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,

 

(ESV)

 

 

So, Paul’s emphasis is on those who need saving, God’s image bearers, and the reconciliation spoken of here is not false reconciliation, called subjugation, but true reconciliation, reconciliation of a will that is given over to God fully and with full consent! This is the only way true peace could come.

 

 

Again, Moo’s points hold no exegetical water and obfuscate the points Paul is making concerning the salvation of all people.

 

 

 

1 Tim 2:4

 

 

(1Ti 2:4) who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

 

(ESV)

 

 

Moo begins by saying that Paul could not have meant universal salvation by this verse because, ‘Paul teaches quite explicitly in this very letter – indeed, in the next verse – that faith, which Paul confines to this life and limits only to some people, is necessary for salvation (see also 1:16; 3:16; 4:10)”

 

 

Here is verse 5, the next verse: (1Ti 2:5) For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

 

 

How he gets that this verse confines salvation to this life and limits salvation to some people, I really do not understand. He has to drag in some other teaching from somewhere in the Bible, of which I do not know, to validate these points. But alas, he does not. I must discount what he says here.

 

 

Moo makes two other points of interest:

 

 

  1. Paul never suggests universal belief because Paul teaches election, an election that does not extend to all human beings. See Romans 9:22-24

  2. Paul is writing in the context of the Old Testament which contrasts the fates of those who align themselves with the God of Israel and those who do not (e.g Deut 30:15-20). The restoration of all sinners is simply foreign to Paul’s Jewish heritage. Paul would have made a much bigger deal out of breaking from that tradition, if he had, in fact, not been influenced and lived by it.

 

 

The second point is easy to deal with. Deut 30:15-20 states:

 

 

(Deu 30:15) “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.

 

 

(Deu 30:16)If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.

 

 

(Deu 30:17) But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them,

 

 

(Deu 30:18) I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess.

 

 

(Deu 30:19) I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,

 

 

(Deu 30:20) loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

 

 

I ask you, the reader, did any of Israel, ever, keep God’s commands? Did anyone ever not transgress the Old Covenant given to Moses? I ask you, what did Paul say the reason was for the Law? What does Paul say the Law does? Gal 2:16, by works of the law no one will be justified, Gal 3:10, all who rely on works of the law are under a curse, and Gal 3:19, Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, and verse 21, if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. These are but a few of the descriptions of the Law that Paul gives. Remember, Paul is ushering in the New Covenant in Christ, not pronouncing keeping the Law of Moses.

 

 

I would simply refer you back to Paul’s universal salvation teaching in the previous passages.

 

 

Regarding Point 1, let’s briefly look at Romans 9:22-24.

 

 

This passage speaks to nothing of a final state, but merely of God’s sovereignty to do what He wills. God does not say He will not have mercy or compassion on all at the end of the age(s). It is just as valid to see in these verses that God will have mercy on all, a concept Paul advocates as we look over the previous verses studied. Regarding verse 22, we have already seen how God uses hardening to chasten and prepare for receiving His mercy. So is the thought here as well. If your presupposition is that God only chooses a few, the elect, for salvation and the rest are sent to ECT in hell, then you will miss the fact that a final state is not in view here at all. Merely all we can say is that the elect, who believe in this life, are blessed in this life and the non-elect are being punished or hardened or will have this happen sometime in this age or the age(s) to come.

 

 

I will teach more on this later, but unfortunately it is getting late and I need to rest. I believe I have given you enough to go and search for yourself. There is enough here to keep you busy for a few days, studying to see if what I say is so. After some diligent study, join me here in conversation, dialog, about what God has revealed to you and let us reason together as good Bereans.

 

 

Blessings to you!

 

Craig

 

 

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Filed under "All" Passages, Book Reviews, Hell, Universal salvation

Hell Under Fire Book Review – Jesus On Hell Chapter 4 Part 3

The Eternality of Hell

At the beginning of this section, Moo makes the following comments. “Universalism is on the rise in our day. The global village has brought people of different religious persuasions together to an unprecedented degree. Other religions are no longer strange teachings held by people far away in another country; they are beliefs of people right next door. And as people get to know one another at this level, the claim that Christianity is the only way to salvation begins to sound arrogant. Added to the cultural mix is the postmodern tendency to question absolute truth. Multiculturalism combines with postmodernism to elevate tolerance to the chief virtues – and hell is the ultimately intolerant doctrine.”

What I take away from this paragraph is that the reason for the rise in universalism is not due to people actually studying their Bibles and coming away with different conclusions than staid church tradition, but because the world has become a smaller place where all cultures are living and interacting with each other. I can tell you, that is not true in my case, nor the case of others who are coming to question the traditional church teachings (mainly coming out of the Reformation, which took much of its beliefs from Augustine). As a matter of fact, in my own case, I began questioning church tradition because of HOW I saw professing believers acting (more so as unbelievers!) and the way the church was treating people. I became disgusted by the things that happened to me and good Christians around me at the hands of the power brokers, liars, and cheats who were running the church machine. It had absolutely nothing to do with other religions. So, at least from my perspective and those closest to me, Moo is missing the mark.

Moo says that universalism draws its main support from five key tests: 1 Corinthians 15:28; Romans 5:18; Romans 11:26, 32; Colossians 1:20; 1 Timothy 2:4. I will address each of those texts now.

1 Cor 15:20-28

(1Co 15:20) But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

(1Co 15:21) For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

(1Co 15:22) For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

(1Co 15:23) But each in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

(1Co 15:24) Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.

(1Co 15:25) For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

(1Co 15:26) The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

(1Co 15:27) For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him.

(1Co 15:28) When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

(ESV)

Moo makes three points:

  1. universal resurrection does not equal universal salvation (see John 5:29)

  2. vv. 22-23 only speak of resurrection of Christians

  3. to be subjected to God does not require salvation

(Note: John 5:29 merely speaks about all of the dead receiving their just rewards, either good rewards or chastening for sins for those who died without Christ. The context of the passage this verse is found in relates to Christ’s imminent death and resurrection and those who died before Christ’s death. They will come forward, apparently from Sheol, the holding place of the dead, to be judged as good and receiving rewards or judged for sins committed and then put in a “purifying, refining fire to purge ungodliness and prepare them for their ultimate salvation in Christ. I look forward to exegeting this passage in the future on this blog.)

Now, in the beginning of this chapter, verses 1-11, what is Paul talking about (this forms the immediate context of the verses we are studying (vv. 20-28)? Paul spends 11 verses explaining the gospel message he preached. This was the gospel of SALVATION in Christ alone and the irrefutable evidence that it is true.

Then, in verses 12-20, Paul goes on and explains that Christ has indeed been resurrected, but had Christ not been resurrected, the results would be disastrous. In verses 14 and 17 Paul talks about faith, which absolutely brings our thoughts back to salvation, the salvation spoken of in verses 1-11. Noteworthy also is the fact that Paul talks about “all” the dead in verse 12, 13, 15, and 16. And in characteristic fashion, Paul even talks about a subset of “all,” the subset of believers in verse 18 (those who have fallen asleep in Christ). Note: Christ as “first-fruits” simply means He is the preeminent one who died and rose again (resurrected).

As to point 1, I think that Paul lays to waste Moo’s argument that universal resurrection does not equal universal salvation. It is clear, not from verses 20-28, as Moo focuses his attention, but clearly from the context of verses 12-20, which set up verses 20-28, salvation is in mind and is interchangeable with resurrection. I will show why this is so.

As we continue in Paul’s argument in our focal verses (20-28), we see that Paul begins in verse 21 establishing a parallel between the First Adam and the Second Adam. Through one man death came, through one man resurrection of the dead came. Let me ask, what is resurrection of the dead if not life? I see these two terms as synonymous. Resurrection of the dead equals life. The prior state was “dead,” not living, no life.

Verse 22, Paul says the same thing in a different way. In Adam, ALL die and the parallel, in Christ ALL shall be made alive. The ALL in the first part is exactly the same ALL in the second part. That’s what makes the parallel understandable. Would Paul not have stated it differently if they were in fact different groups? We are talking about one of the most important doctrines ever, that of salvation, resurrection life. Would Paul have been vague or imprecise with his wording if it was something so important?

Next, in verses 23-24 Paul explains verse 22 by giving the order of resurrection and in essence, the amount of people in the resurrection. Take a look. Verses 23 and 24 are separated by a comma, not a period, meaning they are a continuous thought. Read it as, “Christ the first-fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ, then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. What we have here is three distinct groups in the resurrection; 1. Christ; 2. those who belong to Christ at His coming; 3. the end, which entails all in rule, authority, and power, and from verse 25, we see that this group is called “His enemies.”

Verse 25 tells us that Christ will reign, in His Kingdom (which is not forever!), until everything is subject to Him (except the Father, of course!) and the last enemy, death, is destroyed. At this point, Christ will turn over His reign of all things to the Father. Now Christ no longer reigns in His Kingdom. At this point Christ is put under subjection to the Father, and then God the Father becomes “all in all.”

Point 2 is clearly not true that Paul is only speaking of Christians in this passage. Paul does talk about Christians in verse 23, but unfortunately for Moo, Paul pens verse 24. Moo cannot just subjectively choose verses that fit his beliefs. He must take them all together or leave them all alone. Point 2 clearly is false in context.

Regarding Point 3, when we see the subjection taking place in verse 28, all things are subjected to God AND Jesus is then subjected to God and there is no change in subjection. Paul does not list one type of subjection for all things (those in Christ, all enemies) and another type of subjection for Christ. Paul shows that in the same way ALL (Christ, those who belong to Him, and His enemies) will then be subject to the Father. And when these are all subject, God becomes all in all. Since Jesus willingly submitted Himself to the Father, and all the rest are subjected to the Father in the same way (Paul does not distinguish between different types of subjection for different groups) then all the rest must be subjected to the Father as Jesus subjects Himself and this MUST be a willing and loving subjection!

Romans 5:18

(Rom 5:18)  Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

Moo states that in Romans 5:18, “Paul again portrays Adam and Christ as the two key figures in salvation history…” Isn’t it curious that in the previous discussion in 1 Cor 15:20-28 when Adam and Christ are paralleled, it is ONLY about resurrection and NOT salvation, but here he makes this statement? Whenever we see the two together, Adam and Christ, is it not always ABOUT salvation? I believe it is. Anyway, on with Romans.

Moo’s two main points are as follows:

  1. Paul says one can only be saved in this life. (Rom 1:16-17; 3:21-22) and judgment is for this life. (2 Cor 5:10)

  2. The second “all” refers to all those in Christ, therefore it cannot mean each individual will be saved.

Let me address the second point first. In verse 12, Paul identifies the “all” that he refers to in verse 18.

It is extremely clear from verse 12 that Paul is referring to all people who have sinned, which is all people excluding Jesus who never sinned.

Rom 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned-

Then in verse 15, Paul talks about some specifics of that single group (all people who have sinned). He says there is “the one” and there is “the many.” “The one” is Adam and “the many” are those who died because of Adam’s sin, which by the way, is everyone else, excluding of course Jesus.

Rom 5:15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.

But, here is an extremely important point: Paul tells us that Adam was a type of Christ in verse 14.

Rom 5:14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

Jesus is the second Adam and has the same relationship to “the many” that Adam had. The only difference is that, as verse 15 states, the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of Jesus ABOUNDED for the many! The only ones who are exempted from the group called “the many” are the two Adams; the First one, Adam, and the Second Adam, Christ. The “many” must then be everyone else, all who died as a result of the first Adam’s sin, all who have sinned.

Therefore, the “all” Paul has in mind in verse 18 cannot be ONLY those in Christ.

Let’s look at Moo’s first point, that one can only be saved in this life. Neither of the Romans passages has anything to do with one only being able to be saved in this life. I have no idea how he came to this conclusion, but can only surmise that he was reading into the text his presuppositions/theology. I grant that I may be missing something that is as plain as the nose on my face, so please, if you “get it,” you understand what Moo was driving at, please let me know so I may understand, too.

As to 2 Cor 5:10, Paul is explaining that believers will give an account to Christ of the things we did in this life. I, too, believe that we (believers in this life, the elect of God) will stand before Christ and be judged for the things we did in this life. Did we truly love Him and grow in love for Him? Did we treat our neighbors well? Did we call people to please God and live in His grace? These are a few things brought to my mind on the spur of the moment.

I will break away here for an intermission and give your mind a chance to chew on these things. I will continue in the next section finishing the remaining three passages. Please leave your questions or comments or email me at valleyofvisionlv@gmail.com Until next time, Godspeed!

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Romans 5:12-21 A Very Simple Text

For so many scholars, this text becomes a goldmine of doctrinal difficulties that I only imagine helps preserve their positions in Christendom (whether as pastor, theologian at seminary, writer, etc.).  There is nothing quite like a text such as this to keep books flying out of the printer’s presses to explain to Christians what exactly it is that Paul is saying.  My question this time around is, “Is this text in fact so difficult that we need someone to explain it to us?”  Secondly, without the use of technical commentaries, dictionaries, sermons, Greek word studies, etc., can we come to an understanding of Paul that brings glory to God and gives us hope?  I could add so many more questions alongside these, but I think these few will serve my purpose.

I am going to offer my basic explanation of this text (which I grant will not be perfect nor in-depth or as explanatory like many of you may require) and then give a brief rendering of the text by a leading apologist, theologian, seminary professor, and prolific Christian writer.  I ask that you compare and contrast the two and decide for yourself which reading (explanation of the text) fits the text the best.  Send your comments and maybe, if you would, an explanation of why you chose the reading you chose.  Help all the readers here to learn from your wisdom or challenge your conclusions that we may sharpen one another.

My Reading

(Rom 5:12)  Therefore, as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin; and so death passed to all men, because all sinned.
Because Adam disobeyed God (sinned), death came into the world.  This is both physical death and spiritual death, though we can’t get that from this text.  Because of Adam’s sin, all people after Adam who are born will eventually die (physically and are already dead spiritually).  And, we all die because we all sin.

(Rom 5:13)  For until the law, sin was in the world; but sin is not charged when there is no law.
The law here I believe is the Mosaic Law.  So, before Moses received the Law, sin was in the world but was not charged to people.

(Rom 5:14)  Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those whose sins weren’t like Adam’s disobedience, who is a foreshadowing of him who was to come.
People died between the time of Adam and Moses, even though they didn’t sin like Adam did (maybe directly disobeying God by eating of the tree?).  Adam was a type of Christ.

(Rom 5:15)  But the free gift isn’t like the trespass. For if by the trespass of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God, and the gift by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
There is a difference between the free gift, (salvation) and sin.  Through Adam’s sin the many (all people born after Adam, but not including Adam) died.  But salvation is a greater “gift” than the “gift” of death and sin because salvation comes as a gift of grace from God through the one man Jesus Christ.  This gift abounded to the many (the same many as previously spoken of, all mankind born after Adam)

(Rom 5:16)  The gift is not as through one who sinned: for the judgment came by one to condemnation, but the free gift came of many trespasses to justification.

(Rom 5:17)  For if by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; so much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ.
The gift of salvation doesn’t come through Adam or his sin.  Condemnation came through Adam’s “gift.” Out of the  many sins of the many the free gift of justification came.  Because, if by Adam’s sin death reigned, how much greater it is for those receiving the grace of salvation because of Jesus’ sacrificial death.  They will reign in life with Him.

(Rom 5:18)  So then as through one trespass, all men were condemned; even so through one act of righteousness, all men were justified to life.
Through Adam’s sin all men were condemned; through Jesus’ death on the cross in their place all men are justified, saved.  Through one thing (sin), all are condemned.  When Paul talks about the thing (sin) he includes all men in that “thing”, which includes Adam.  In the next verse when Paul talks about the person who caused that thing, he separates that person (Adam) from all the rest, the many, who became affected by his sin.

(Rom 5:19)  For as through the one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one, many will be made righteous.
Through Adam’s disobedience to God (in the Garden) many (all people after Adam, not including Adam) became sinners, even so through the obedience of Jesus (to the Father in everything, including sacrificing Himself) many (all people after Adam, but not including Adam) will be saved.

(Rom 5:20)  The law came in besides, that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace abounded more exceedingly;
The law was given to Moses to show what sin is and that no one could keep the law.  Why?  Because where sin abounded, where people became aware that they were sinning, God’s grace abounded even more than their sin!  Though God’s image bearers sinned more and more, God’s grace abounded more and more.  This shows forth His abounding love for mankind.

(Rom 5:21)  that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to aionian [481] life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And, as sin reigned in death, as sin had its life in death, even so God’s grace reigns through righteousness in life through this age.  We will no longer need God’s grace after this age since we will be with Him and will no longer be in sin.  We will be made perfect in Christ after this age and will have no need for grace.

Main Point of the passage:  Because Adam sinned, all the rest of mankind since Adam receive death.  They die physically and are dead spiritually, because they are all sinners.  Thankfully through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, all people are justified and thereby saved from death.  This salvation may take place in this life or after physical death, but it will take place.  The parallelism is all die, all made alive; many die, many made alive.   One group, all, is Adam plus the many, the other group, the many, refers to all those after Adam.

Noted Apologist, theologian, seminary professor, prolific Christian writer:

Intro:  This is a tough text, a very tough text.  It is tough partly because so many go through it word by word and phrase by phrase and they miss the overarching meaning of the text.  People have problems with the text because they focus on verse 12 and don’t take into account verses 18-21.  Through my experience, as limited as it is, going on three decades now (I got the sense of sarcasm here),  the only way to see the text of verses 12-21 is to see that Paul is talking about two humanities here.  If you don’t see the two humanities here, you will miss the whole point.  The two humanities Paul talks about are the humanities IN ADAM and IN CHRIST.  Paul talks about those here who are IN ADAM and those who are IN CHRIST.  If you don’t see that, you will be forced by the very grammar of verse 18 into universalism (my note: that in the end of the ages, God will reconcile ALL people to Himself and every knee will bow and tongue confess Jesus).

If you see it, you will see that what is received from being IN ADAM is less than what you receive from being IN CHRIST.  The gift is far bigger and better, the gift of being IN CHRIST rather than being IN ADAM.  If you see it you’ll understand one is not like the other.  Certainly they overlap but they are not contiguous (synonyms: connected, adjoining) here.

(Rom 5:12)  Therefore, as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin; and so death passed to all men, because all sinned.
(Rom 5:13)  For until the law, sin was in the world; but sin is not charged when there is no law.
(Rom 5:14)  Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those whose sins weren’t like Adam’s disobedience, who is a foreshadowing of him who was to come.
(Rom 5:15)  But the free gift isn’t like the trespass. For if by the trespass of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God, and the gift by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
One man sinned and death spread to all because all sinned in Adam. Notice in vs.13 that no sin was charged until the Law came, the Mosaic law.  People died before the law.  Adam cannot give spiritual life because all people die IN ADAM.  This is not an equals issue.  This is not an issue of equal ultimacy.  Salvation and damnation are not two sides of the same coin.  The free gift is not like the trespass.  One act of righteousness leads to all men IN CHRIST.  Paul is talking about all people IN ADAM die, but ALL people IN CHRIST will live.  Which man are you in?  All men are IN ADAM but not all men are IN CHRIST.

The grace of God and the grace of Christ are the same thing.  The giving of grace is an extension of God’s grace.  Condemnation does not require God’s power, it happens automatically.  Condemnation was not only for Adam but for the many (apparently meaning ALL mankind).

(Rom 5:16)  The gift is not as through one who sinned: for the judgment came by one to condemnation, but the free gift came of many trespasses to justification.
The many receive justification.  Death reigned over people and Paul is talking about two humanities here.  The one group receives condemnation automatically, those IN ADAM, but the different group seen here, the second humanity are those IN CHRIST who receive salvation.  One group is a subgroup of the other.  One group is smaller than the other.  The saved are a subgroup of the larger group, IN ADAM, and are therefore smaller.  All those IN ADAM are not the same as those who are IN CHRIST.  (at this point the apologist has not explained the terms “all” and “many” nor the parallelism found here)
(Rom 5:17)  For if by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; so much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ.
If we are placed IN CHRIST we have the gracious gift of life and justification.  The ultimate authority over those who are IN ADAM is death, because death reigns.  You have to see the two humanities here.  But, the free gift of righteousness reigns over those who are IN CHRIST.
(Rom 5:18)  So then as through one trespass, all men were condemned; even so through one act of righteousness, all men were justified to life.
We must read verse 18 in light of verse 12, other wise you will be merely following after your own traditions.  One trespass led to condemnation of all men, all those who are IN ADAM.  Then, one act of righteousness leads to justification for all men who are IN CHRIST.  If you just pull things out of context you can make these texts here proof-texts for almost anything.  The focus is on what they did (Apparently what Adam did and what Christ did).
(Rom 5:19)  For as through the one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one, many will be made righteous.
(Rom 5:20)  The law came in besides, that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace abounded more exceedingly;
(Rom 5:21)  that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to aionian [481] life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Through Adam’s disobedience the many were made sinners and conversely by one man’s (Christ) obedience the many will be made righteous.  This blows away synergism (that God works and man works in the salvation of people, God makes salvation possible and man chooses to believe in God).  We are uncomfortable explaining what Paul is saying here.  We can only get from Adam what he has to give and we get from Christ we he has to give.

There is the proper interpretation of the text.  Most focus on verse 12, not verse 19.  Can you be a good Christian if you don’t understand this text?  Yes.  But, any sub-biblical belief will limit our glorifying God.  We must grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus and be consistent in our beliefs.  The difference between belief and ignorance because of our traditions is the difference between knowing God’s Word and then willfully not following it.

My Thoughts:

Several things struck me as I heard this explanation of Romans 5:12-21 from this man.  First, he prefaced the whole teaching by, I believe, poisoning the well.  He made the statement that if you do not see the two humanities (I will say HIS understanding of the text) then you CANNOT understand the text at all.  In other words, if you do not separate the groups of people Paul is talking about here into the larger group, ALL MEN IN ADAM, and the sub-group, the smaller group, ALL MEN IN CHRIST, then you cannot understand the text.  You will be basically following your own tradition and will misinterpret Paul here.  I think this is a pretty bold way of saying, “My way is the only way, my interpretation is the correct interpretation, and all others are invalid.”  The poison is that he puts into the minds of the hearers that any interpretation other than his is sub-biblical.  For those who are not “as learned” as he, they must come to understand his explanation.

Now, to be fair, he did say that he was not going to go into depth, meaning a word for word, phrase by phrase study of the text.  Maybe if he had, we all would understand more fully why he comes to the conclusions he does.  But, maybe not.  Maybe he would explain to us all what Paul’s reason for using the terms “all” and “many” in parallel, when he really should have not drawn a parallel between them.  Maybe he would explain how “all” only means a sub-group of a larger group, even though Paul does not say this.  Maybe he would explain why Paul never used the terms, “IN ADAM” or “IN CHRIST” in this whole passage.

I capitalized the terms IN ADAM and IN CHRIST on purpose.  I stipulated it this way to continuously show you that these artificial groups are key to the apologist’s rendering of the text.  Nowhere are these terms used here.  Paul merely talks about the same group of people, one group of people, throughout this whole passage.  The one group is all mankind.  He shows that all mankind is, from the outset, under the curse of death and sin because of Adam.  And then the same group is talked about concerning Christ’s sacrifice, in relation to His sacrifice, which is ALL MEN ARE justified.  As I stated earlier, Paul talks about “all mankind” which includes Adam, and “the many” which refers to “all mankind except Adam.”  I explained that under verse 18 above.

What I see here, to wrap things up, is how even the best and most “knowledgeable” Christians can miss the point of the text.  I think that theologians, et al. have made this text hard to understand.  I think all the rabble about federal headship etc. (Are Adams’ sins our sins, or do we become sinners when we sin, etc.) is just that.  Does the average believer have a hard time understanding that in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive?  I have been invested in theological systems in the past that enslaved me to a certain perspective and “poisoned my well” of thinking against any other interpretations.  This has led to more arguments and estrangement from other believers that it has destroyed the unity that Paul says we are to have IN CHRIST!  My perspective on this is that this brother in Christ has fallen prey to the very thing he decries, traditionalism coloring his view of scripture.  If we must hold advanced degrees from schools of higher learning to understand the plain texts of Scripture, then I think  we have lost sight of God and are in danger of worshiping the idol of scholasticism rather than THE ONE who bids the little children to come to Him.

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More poor explanations of Scripture

Jesus said in John 12:32, “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Did Jesus mean all people or something else?  Again, from one perspective in Protestantism, Jesus simply meant that all people would be drawn to Him, but not all would accept Him, therefore they would not be saved.  From another perspective of Protestantism, we get this explanation from Leon Morris, a noted theologian and writer:

“All men” is something of a problem.  In fact not every man is drawn to Christ and this Gospel envisions the possibility that some men will not be.  We must take the expression accordingly to mean that all those who are to be drawn will be drawn.  That is to say Christ is not affirming that the whole world will be saved.  He is affirming that all who are to be saved will be saved in this way.”

Now I ask you, is what Leon Morris said in fact what Jesus said?  If Jesus meant all those who will be saved will be drawn, why did He not just say so?  Why seem to deceive people or be so vague as to be misunderstood by people?  If Jesus was this great communicator to the masses (all people across time!), why would He not be more careful about what He said?

What about Morris’ statement?  Why is there a problem?  Is God powerful enough to save all men?  Is God merciful enough to save all men?  Is God a liar?  Will He or will He not reconcile (change, fit,harmonize, accommodate) all things to Himself? Is there anything in John 12 or the immediate context that causes this problem that Morris talks about?  You see, Morris is just like most of us.  He has a theology, a tradition, a context that all verses must fit into and when they don’t, there is a problem.  Unfortunately, Augustine had this same problem.

So I now ask, where in the Gospel message, (you know, that Jesus would bring great joy to all people, that He would die as a ransom for all, etc.) does it say that Jesus will not draw all men but only some?  Where in the Gospel does it say He is only powerful to save some men?  Or that He only desires to save some?

A wonderful, hope-filled and awesome triumph of our Savior Jesus is reduced to a miserable message.  Jesus’ triumph of drawing all people to Himself is miserably reduced to  “I will draw to myself all of those whom I draw to myself.”  What do you believe Jesus is saying here in John 12:32?  Is your Savior great enough to draw all people to Himself?  I encourage you to open your mind to the reality that Jesus is far greater than we can imagine, and that greatness is shown in this text, one of many such texts, where His power, mercy, and grace is given to all men everywhere!

Soli  Deo Gloria!  To God alone, glory!

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1 Tim 2:1-6 Plain and Simple

(1Ti 2:1)  First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,

(1Ti 2:2)  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

(1Ti 2:3)  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,

(1Ti 2:4)  who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

(1Ti 2:5)  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

(1Ti 2:6)  who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

In the past I had “learned” how to explain this passage to people, because, it seems to say that Paul taught Timothy to pray for everyone (all people) and  seems to say that God wants (wills/desires) everyone to be saved and seems to say that Christ Jesus died to ransom all people (save all people).  But, I was taught that these things can’t be true because we know not everyone is going to be saved.  We know some are going to hell and others to heaven.  So I was taught to explain that what Paul REALLY means is that we are to pray for “all types” of people (James White, The Potter’s Freedom,  misdirects his hearers by saying that Paul isn’t talking about holding 24/7 prayer meetings every week at church because that is just impractical.  Therefore Paul doesn’t mean pray for all people but all types of people).  Then Paul gives one type of people to pray for (kings and rulers) Then, I was taught,  explain that God wanted all to be saved but man fell by sinning in the Garden and continues in rebellion (or His desire/wish is that all would be  saved but many don’t want God and He won’t violate their free will or God desires that all the elect be saved and will save all the elect).  And concerning Jesus, explain that He died for all but not all want Him, or that His sacrifice is capable of saving all, but many people choose the world rather than Jesus or that Jesus is the Savior of all the elect.  These explanations were taught to me about what Paul REALLY meant by what he wrote.

One set of explanations says God wants/wishes all to be saved but won’t violate a person’s free will choice to choose God or not (Arminian view) and the other says that God will save all His elect and that is who Jesus died for only (Calvinist).  I have held both these views in the past.  Let’s think about these verses by just letting Paul speak to US, not our traditions speaking through Paul.

If we drop our presuppositions about what Paul REALLY meant, what are we left with?  First, we are told that we are to pray for all people.  If Paul in fact did mean ALL people, did he say we have to do that 24/7?  IF we, and those around us in the family of God, interceded for ALL people, is that a bad thing?  Does Paul expect that this will be all we will ever do?  Are there any people you can think of that we shouldn’t pray for?  I take Paul at his word and believe he meant that we should pray for all people, and the obvious thing is, as we are able to pray.

Then Paul tells us specifically a group to pray for and why we should pray for them.  He lists kings and those in high positions.  We know from Romans that we are to submit to authorities.  From Jesus we know that we should bless those who curse us (persecute us, our enemies, etc. which during the 1st century, among others,  would be the rulers who persecuted these new Christians).  But, why pray for them?  Paul doesn’t leave us wondering or leave us to figure it out for ourselves.  He says we should pray for them so that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

When we pray for all people do we pray for all of them for that specific purpose?  No.  Paul says pray for these ones because by so doing, those who rule over us may allow us to live peacefully and quietly.  Pretty simple, it seems, so far.  I haven’t had to add anything that isn’t in the text (what Paul REALLY means, catch my drift?)

Then Paul says if we do this, pray for all people and for kings and rulers, it is good and God is pleased.  Paul then describes God and Jesus to Timothy.  He says God desires (wills) that all be saved and come to knowledge of the truth.  In every translation I have seen, none of them include the words “all types” or “all the elect.”  Those ideas have to be imported into the text, and I would add, imported from tradition or theological bent rather than Scripture.  Why, because elsewhere Paul talks about God reconciling all to himself (Col 1) and God becoming all in all (1 Cor 15) and God giving mercy to all in Rom 11:32 and all being justified in Rom 5:18.  Is it then a stretch to believe that God wills that all be saved?

Finally Paul says that Jesus is the one and only mediator between God and mankind and that He gave himself a ransom for all.  Again, Paul does not stipulate all “types” of people or all the “elect.”  Paul does not say that Jesus is a ransom for all who choose to believe.  Paul says Jesus is a ransom for all.  I urge you to read the preceding texts I listed in the last paragraph.

What do you think about this?  Let me know by adding a comment.  Finally, which would you rather follow after? 1) a God who is wringing His hands hoping man, in his free will, will choose Him, or 2) a God who saves only those He has chosen and all the other ones, whom He made in His image, will perish in eternal fire, or 3) a God whose will, always comes to pass, who saves all of those created in His image, some through a purifying fire of judgment, others avoiding it, and One who is powerful to transform even the most hardened heart to one who willingly gives worship to the only true God?  Which God is the Good News  of great joy which will be to all the people?

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Important Questions To Consider

As I continue to put together my review of Hell Under Fire, Chapter 3, Jesus On Hell, in the meantime I wanted to post some crucial points that I believe every professing Christian today should seriously consider.  My point in posing these points is not to promote “MY” beliefs but to engage you in honest and open dialogue about what God has truly said and Who He truly is.  Here are some questions that I think we should ponder.  My challenge, as always, is to help you to establish what you really believe about God by not bowing first and foremost to church tradition.  If the Word of God is truly written for even the simplest of minds (like children’s and non-intellectual types like me!), then the Word must have some plain meanings that we don’t need to seek pastor/theologians for.  When you first believed, did you read the Bible on your own?  Were you able to understand anything you read?  Did the Holy Spirit bring you to a knowledge of the truth (apart from systematic theology studies, scads of sermons, books written about the Book, etc)?  I am sure the answer is a resounding Yes!  So, go back to those days, maybe from long years past, and answer the following questions.  I will also throw out this challenge as well:  Ask yourself why it is you hold the beliefs you have.  Is it because of what you read for yourself in the Bible or is it because of what someone taught you the Bible says?  Well, here goes.

In John 4:42, when the Samaritans said to the woman whom Jesus met at the well (please read the whole passage, John 4:1-42), “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world,” what did they mean about Jesus?  Is He truly the Savior of the world?  Does “the world” mean the whole world or only part?

In Luke 2:10-11, when the angel says to the shepherds watching over the flocks, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord,” what did the angel mean?  Did the angel mean that Christ is a joy for all people or only those who will believe?  How can Christ be a “great joy that will be for all the people” if so many people are going to spend eternity in conscious torment?  Is that great joy?

In John 12:32, Jesus states, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself,” what did He mean?  Did Jesus mean He would draw all “believers” or “the elect” to Himself or only some?  And given what He says right after this verse, “He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” what did He mean by this?  What kind of death was He going to die?  A sacrificial death, maybe?  Was it merely a painful death?

And one more, not being prejudiced to the New Testament only, but here is one of many from the Old Testament.  In Gen 12:3, God tells Abram, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”  What does God mean by blessing and cursing here?  “Those who bless you” seems to indicate a plural (it is in fact in the Hebrew plural) or many people, and “him who dishonors” is in the singular.  Should we take this to mean that many more will be blessed than will be cursed?  How does that square with how many people we see going to hell versus going to heaven?  Does this mean that the “all families” only means some?  Does blessings and cursings indicate an “eternal” state?  In other words, if God curses a people, does that mean “forever?”  Did God ever curse a people for a time, an eon, a period with a beginning and an end?  What does God mean when He says, “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed?  What about those families that will end up in eternal conscious torment?  Are they blessed to be there?

I think this is enough to chew on while you await my next installment of the book review.  Leave your answers or questions in the comment section of this post.  I look forward to hearing from you and hashing through these important questions togather, as a united family in Christ.  Blessings to you!

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Some thoughts on 1 Tim 2:1-6

As I read through these few verses, trying to read it as I first read it back in 1991 when I was first saved, I want to ask myself (and you, the reader), what is Paul really saying?  In verse 1, Paul says (I’ll use the ESV since many reading here will use similar versions), “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, (verse 2) for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

Now, at the beginning Paul says that we must intercede for ALL people.  So this begs the question, does Paul really mean ALL people?  My answer is, I believe he does.  Why?  Because in verse 2 he begins listing off some of those “ALL” people; kings and all those in high positions.  I have previously explained this passage of scriptures to mean that Paul is speaking to Timothy, a believer, and this letter was sent to believers, and therefore, is meant for believers.  Therefore, the context being believers, he must be meaning those “believing” kings, and those “believers” in high positions.  Orthat through prayer we hold out hope that God may save some of them, however unlikely that may be.  Formerly having a reformed theology, this is more of an obedience issue toward God than it is a desire that ALL will be saved.  Also, since Paul talks about some walking away from the faith in 4:1, 5:24, and 6:10, that must mean that not all our prayers will be fruitful for these pagans.   My underlying beliefs were such that not everyone will be saved and once you die, you have no opportunity for salvation.  These are all assumptions that I now believe are not rooted in scripture, but rooted in church tradition stemming largely from at least as early as around AD 500.

I now challenge you the reader, is this REALLY a valid explanation of what Paul wrote?  Honestly, does that position hold any water whatsoever?  I think not, and here’s why.  Paul means ALL people, believers and unbelievers alike because he specifically lists those who are known to be pagans; kings and those in high positions.  Christians during Paul’s day were starting to suffer some persecution, especially Jews from their own families and friends (put out of the family typically, for converting to Christ).  These early believers, by and large, did not hold high positions in government.  I think if this statement by Paul is narrowed to mean possibly high positions in the local (synagogue/church) assembly, we would certainly be missing the target in a huge way!

We are to intercede, through these four things Paul lists, so that we may lead a quiet life, a godly life, a dignified life.  Why?  Apparently to not draw attention to ourselves and stir up messes in the name of Christ which will, or may, cause wrath and persecution to come on us (believers).  Wrath and persecution threaten our godliness, our dignity in the Lord, our peace and quiet that comes from Him who said, “Give to Caesar what is his and to God what is His.”  Paul also taught the Roman believers in Romans 13:1-7 about why we should submit to the authorities, the civil authorities, placed in high positions over us believers.

Paul adds force to his plea when he states in verse 3, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.  Doing these four things please God.  Doing them for ALL pleases God.  And then a most startling thing is said, one which most of the church turns away from today, because it is so horrifying, so devastating, so heretical, that no one should ever believe it, and some have even been excommunicated from the “church” for this belief after they died (read about Origen and the second council at Constantinople in AD 553 where he wa anathematized for this belief).  Paul says, in verse 4, about this Savior God that it is He, “who desires ALL people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  WOW!  All people are to be saved?  Is this true?  Could it be true?  God’s desire either 1) comes to fruition one day or 2) is thwarted by man’s free will or some other force (Satan maybe?).

So, either God is the Savior of all mankind, thereby having His desires to be fulfilled, or there is some condition that Paul fails to mention here to Timothy.  Do you see any conditions?  I don’t!  I just see a statement and a truth that has brought me more peace and quiet than any other.  I see a truth here that looks godly and is dignified, not making God out to be a monster like we humans can be and which God could not even think about (the horrors man conceives and performs, see Jeremiah 7:31 where God says He cannot even conceive of burning children in fire, therefore how could He conceive of a hell of eternal conscious torment).  Do you believe that God is ALL powerful, meaning He can do whatever He pleases to satisfy His desires or does “ALL” powerful mean “somewhat powerful?”  If God is ALL powerful (and I believe He is!), can you not see and believe that the God who created ALL things and said they were good, including mankind (which He called very good!), will also restore fallen mankind (through one man’s sin came death for all, etc Romans 5), conquering death which includes the second death, and reconcile mankind to Himself one day (! Cor 15:22-28)?

Also, do you notice that the “ALL” in verse 4 is attached (the same) to the “ALL” in verses 1-2?  Paul then, in verses 5-6, says there is one God and one Mediator, not many gods and many mediators.  This negates all other world religions with their many gods and other mediators, other than Christ Jesus.  And who is this Christ Jesus?  He is the one, the only one, who gave Himself a ransom for ALL! So very basically, with what I conclude is a child-like faith, we see that God desires ALL to be saved and makes that happen through Christ Jesus who becomes the ransom for ALL.  If God desires it, and makes a way for it to come to pass, will it not also happen because He is behind it?  If you come to this conclusion, or even allow that it might be possible, and then look at other salvation passages in the New Testament, I believe you may start understanding more about the victorious good news of Christ.

I will talk more about this passage and others like it in forthcoming articles.  Leave your questions and comments.  Let us study together.  Let us learn together.  Let us be the one true church together, not bound by buildings and walls, and monologue preaching!  Let us reason together and have unity in the Spirit in the bond of peace, rather than separation over pet denominational church doctrines.  See you in the comments section!

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