Tuesday, August 14, 2018

A Step On The Way

Because this Blog is centred around God's extravagant grace, most of the posts touch on some aspect of the eventual, universal, reconciliation of mankind to God; which fulfills God's role as the Saviour of the world. (1 Tim 4 : 10)
Today's post highlights the salvation of Israel, a step on the way to the salvation of the world.

There are many references to this event in the Old Testament, like Psalm 130 : 8 and Psalm 103 : 2 - 3, together with King David's confidence of his expectation to be "dwelling in the house of the Lord for ever" in Psalm 23.

In the New Testament, the most descriptive mention of this event is in Romans 11, just after Paul illustrates God's faith community using his wonderful Olive Tree allegory.
He tells us that although Israel has stumbled, she will not be rejected, nor has she fallen beyond recovery.
In fact, God has used her stumbling to bring salvation to the Gentile, the non-Jewish, nations in order to make Israel envious or jealous.

Paul then says ...

"Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way, all Israel will be saved."
So Israel will be saved after the full number of Gentiles has come in.

Come in to what?
The context of Romans 11 is the Body of Christ, God's faith community, the disciples or followers of Jesus, illustrated by an olive tree.
So when the Body of Christ is complete, then all Israel will be saved.


(Paul is not talking about the salvation of the world at the end of time, at the consummation of the ages. He is talking about the Body of Christ, the Church, the believers who are chosen as a first group, before the kingdom ages begin, for life and administration responsibilities in those coming ages.)


And we are living in the era or age when the Body of Christ is being filled; so at the end of this age, when this filling is completed, all Israel will be saved.
Looking at the world situation, and the Middle East in particular, it is difficult to imagine how this event might happen.
I certainly don't know *how* it will happen: all I know is that it will - because God's Word has declared it. And even that is a strain for many people.

Let me illustrate.
Suppose a mother says to her child, "You will be in bed by 7.30 pm.".
The child starts thinking, "How does she know that? There's no way that's going to happen. I still haven't finished my homework, I haven't fed the dog yet, or cleaned my teeth."
So how does mother know?
She knows because she has previously made that decision and will make sure that it happens.

So how does God know that all Israel will be saved?
He knows because he has previously made that decision and will make sure that it happens.

We have a role to play in completing the Body of Christ. That's one of the reasons we have been called, chosen early, before the rest of the world who come to God later.

One aspect of that role is sharing the good news that God loves us and does not count our sins against us - because Jesus has already died for the sins of the world.
When we share God's good news, others who have been chosen to complete the Body of Christ will hear it, be given the faith to believe it, be drawn to Christ and added to his Body - in the same way we were.

Each time that happens the Body of Christ will get that bit nearer to completion and Israel's salvation will be that bit nearer too.
When all Israel are saved, the next part of God's plan for his creation, the kingdom ages, will commence with the Olive Tree having administration responsibilities that we are currently in training for.

Blessings, Barry




Sunday, July 8, 2018

Free Will Torpedoes the Gospel

First of all, let's be clear about what the Gospel is.
For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them.
[2 Corinthians 5 : 19 NLT]

Most churches would claim that they faithfully proclaim this gospel message.
But many don't.
Their main message is:

We are all sinners with our sins standing against us.
We have a choice. 
If we repent of our sins and we accept Jesus as our Saviour we will be forgiven and secure peace with God and a place for ourselves in heaven.

However, if we refuse to do this, we are forever lost, alienated from God, and on our way to everlasting torment in hell.
The difference between heaven and hell as an eternal destiny is determined by our freewill choice.
In Chapter 2 of "The Really Good News About God" (beginning on page 78) I deal quite extensively with the common concept that mankind has freewill by showing that, at best, we have limited freewill.
I have also addressed this topic in several earlier posts. You can find these by typing freewill in the search box on the right.
 

Today's post deals with a serious consequence of this belief in freewill.
It torpedoes the gospel !
Let me explain.
The salvation message of many churches is that because we are sinners, our sins stand against us and, unless we do something about it, we are on our way to everlasting torment in hell.
And this where our freewill comes in. We can freely choose Jesus or not.
If we use our freewill to choose Jesus, we are forgiven for our sins and we avoid that terrible hell consequence.


In other words, our freewill choice saves us. Unless we make that choice, we are lost. Jesus doesn't save us; our freewill choice does!

Wow! How subtle is the deception.
The truth is that God, through Christ, is the Saviour of the world.

We struggle and work hard, because we have placed our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all and especially of those who believe.
[1 Timothy 4 : 10 GNB]

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
[1 John 2 : 2 NIV]

Jesus has done it all - with absolutely no assistance from us.
Salvation is a done deal because of what Jesus achieved on our behalf.
That is THE gospel.
 

We must not dilute what Jesus has achieved by claiming he needs our assistance to complete the deal or to put the deal into effect.
 

Blessings, Barry

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Eternal Life Has Always Been God's Plan

In the previous post I mentioned that "eternal life is a given for everyone because of what Jesus achieved on the cross".
Yes, this is true. Remember ...

God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ. This plan, which God will complete when the time is right, is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head.
[Ephesians 1 : 9, 10 GNB]

So then, as the one sin (Adam's) condemned all people, in the same way the one righteous act (Jesus') sets all people free and gives them life.
And just as all people were made sinners as the result of the disobedience of one man, in the same way they will all be put right with God as the result of the obedience of the one man.
[ Romans 5 : 18, 19 GNB]

And let's also remember that it is our job (the already chosen's job) to present this good news to the world. Churches often spend so much time telling people what they must do to be saved (see previous post) instead of telling them they are saved already.
And all these things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
That is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them. And he has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation.
[2 Corinthians 5 : 18, 19 EHV]

But just as amazingly we are told that this has been God's plan from the very beginning, before time began, before the world was created, yes, even before any of us was born - it's not a Plan B or something God has added to his agenda for the world.
The Bible mentions this pre-determined purpose of God often.
Here's an example.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
[Ephesians 1 : 4, 5 NLT]

If this has always been God's plan, and He created the heavens and earth (and you and me) as the vehicle for its happening, then we can confidently expect it will happen.
Some of it in some ages, some of it in others, but at the end of the ages, the plan will be complete.

Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere.
[1 Corinthians 15 :28 NLT]

Let's get busy sharing the "message of reconciliation" we have been entrusted with. Let's be telling people what Christ has done for them so they might love him and be given the faith to join the Body of Christ.

Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Eternal Life is Not on Offer

At the beginning of Chapter 5 in "The Really Good News About God" I mention preachers who ask their congregations, "Where will you spend eternity?"- a question designed to prepare the audience for a "fake news" promotion.

If those preachers understood that Jesus died for the sins of the world (1 John 2 : 2), 

that God is the Saviour of the world (1 Timothy 4 : 10),
that Jesus came to save the world (John 3 : 17) and
that God no longer holds people's sins against them (2 Corinthians 5 : 19),
then they would not ask such a silly question. 


They should all just know the answer: we'll all be together with God.
Eternal life is a given for everyone because of what Jesus achieved on the cross.

An interesting way of saying this is : If you are a descendant of Adam, then you have eternal life.
Really?
Yes, 1 Corinthians 15 : 22 says, "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive."
(Beware of people, including some translators, who change the order of the words in this verse to support their claim that not all who die because of Adam will be made alive because of Christ.)
I like using the CEV version of this verse, because it makes the order of the words harder to change,  "Adam brought death to all of us, and Christ will bring life to all of us."

For many people this will not happen until the conclusion of the ages.
They will live their life on this planet giving God no consideration at all, will die, will remain asleep until the resurrection at the end of the realm of time, when, among other things, death is abolished and only life remains - eternal life with God.

Now, about this fake news or fake sales promotion.
Preachers who are trying to sell "eternal life" are trying to promote something to people they already have.
"You need to confess your sins, you need to repent, you need to be baptised, you need to join our church, you need to ... and you will be saved, get eternal life," is a frequent line of approach.
But the fact is: we don't need to do anything now to get eternal life - it's a done deal, for all descendants of Adam.

So what justification is there for preachers to offer eternal life to people?
Unfortunately, poor translation of our English Bibles.
Most of our popular translations of the New Testament mention eternal life 42 times which gives preachers the Biblical backing for asking their question.
However in all of those 42 occasions, the underlying Greek word is aionian, which means "belonging to/during the eon or age", not "eternal". **

For example, look at 2 Peter 1 : 11 from two popular translations (ESV and NIV) and two literal translations (YLT and CLV).

  • For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (ESV)
  • and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (NIV)
  • for so, richly shall be superadded to you the entrance into the age-during reign of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (YLT)
  • For thus will be richly supplied to you the entrance into the eonian kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (CLV)
Given that Jesus is going to hand over His kingdom to the Father at the end of the ages (1 Cor 15 : 24), it is impossible for His kingdom to be eternal, just age-during or eonian, showing how obvious is the translation error in our popular translations.

So the offer really being made is for eonian life, life during the ages, life in the kingdom of Christ, life in the Body of Christ during the remaining eons, and not having to wait till the end of the ages when all will receive eternal life.

So what about those verses that say you have to be a believer to have eternal life?
Correctly translated, they are saying you have to be a believer to be in the Body of Christ, to have life and rule with Christ through the coming ages.
And what a blessing that will be!

Blessings, Barry

 ** To read more about this wrongly translated word, go to our webpage at www.ibtechservices.com.au, enter Main Website, click on The Bible image, click Bible Background, click on Translations, and read about Nouns and Their Adjectives.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Languauge of Salvation

I think some of the language relating to salvation needs some fine tuning, and the date when we were saved needs a major correction.

Many a person will say something like "It was on the 3rd December 2009 when I decided to invite Jesus into my heart and become a Christian".
And we praise God for such a person's experience and their inclusion in the Body of Christ, becoming part of the first fruits of God's great harvest.

Let's assume this person's name is Shirley.
Then may I suggest we rewrite this description of Shirley's experience in more Biblical terms, not to be petty, but to help us understand God's ways a little better.

Firstly, we were all saved about 2000 years ago when Jesus died, was entombed and rose again in about 30AD. (Notice I didn't say Jesus was buried because he wasn't, he was placed in a tomb.) Shirley was saved at that time - she just didn't realise it or had been given the faith to believe it until 2009.

"For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died." [2 Cor 5 : 14]
And
"one who has died has been set free from sin". [Romans 6:7]
Sometimes an enthusiastic evangelical Christian will ask a new acquaintance, "Are you saved?", which demonstrates a limited understanding of what happened on the cross. If Jesus was successful when he died for the sins of the world then it should be obvious that the new friend is saved, even if they are not aware of it.
God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their sins against them, and entrusting to us this message of reconciliation.
[2 Cor 5 : 19]

Jesus praying to his Father: 
"I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do." [John 17: 4]
And on the cross, just before he died, Jesus said,
"It is finished." With that, he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit.
[John 19 : 30]

So Shirley was saved when Jesus finished his work on the cross about 2000 years ago.

Secondly, Shirley did not choose God, but God chose Shirley, just as he chose his first disciples. [John 15 : 16]
He chose her to be one of His first fruits, by drawing her to Him and giving her the faith to believe the good news on that December day.

People cannot come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me. [John 6 : 44]
(And Jesus promised that everyone would eventually be drawn, see John 12 : 32)

So here's the rewrite:
"It was on the 3rd December that God gave me the faith to believe that Jesus died on the cross to deal with my sins and has chosen me to serve him in the Body of Christ."
And she may well add, "What a joy and privilege that was, and still is."

So is this being petty?  I don't think so.  It recognises the full value of what Jesus accomplished on the cross and corrects our theology by putting God in control, not us.
I am more persuaded by the Biblical doctrine of God's sovereignty than the mainstream church's doctrine of mankind's free will.
However, I know I am in a fairly small minority as we have been indoctrinated with the "free will" message for so long, both inside and outside the church.

Blessings, Barry

Monday, June 4, 2018

Don't Leave John 3:16 Alone

John 3 : 16 is probably the best known verse in the Bible and has been committed to memory by millions.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
(As long-time readers of this blog will know, "eternal" is not a correct translation of the Greek in this verse, but we won't focus on that in this post.)

Clearly this verse states that belief is needed for anyone to attain life.
So this restricts life to those to whom God has given belief (faith).

Now let's look at the next verse (sentence).

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [John 3 : 17]
This verse claims that God is going to save the world, for this is the reason Jesus came.

So let's put these two claims together.
Belief (faith) is needed to attain life AND God is going to save the world (everyone).


These two claims can only be consistent with each other IF God is going to give belief to the world, to everyone.
And if he hasn't done so by the time anyone dies and leaves this planet, he must be planning to do so in the ages still ahead of us.

One of our most-quoted verses shows this link ...

For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
[1 Timothy 4 : 10]

So to understand God's plan for everyone we can't afford to consider John 3 : 16 on its own. We need the next verse with it to complete the picture.

Blessings, Barry

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

How has the Good News of Universal Reconciliation Changed Me?

I am often asked this question.
When asked by those who hold to the view that only a relatively few will be saved, it is usually designed to shame me into admitting that I no longer share the gospel with unbelievers and have lost my evangelistic drive.

As mentioned on page 20 of "The Really Good News About God", my motivation to share the gospel has actually increased.
Why?

  • I now have a better gospel to share, which is much more exciting and satisfying than the old good news-bad news one, because it's all good news.
  • I now see each person as a creation of God, made in his image, for whom he has a definite, positive purpose.
  • I now understand my role in the Body of Christ better. I am not here to help God save the lost before they die, but to announce the good news so that those who have been chosen to be early believers can hear it and be given the faith to believe it and be added to the Body. (I am engaged in Christ's Body-building program.)
  • I am no longer stressed when people fail to respond to the gospel, knowing full well that their time will come, either in this age or in a later one, depending on whether God has chosen them as a first fruit or as part of the main harvest.

And I now have a greater appreciation of God's love and sovereignty, and, of course, a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of God's purpose for his creation.

So, how has the really good news of universal reconciliation changed me?
It has given me a better gospel to share and a greater enjoyment in sharing it.

As an aside, I guess the thing that surprises me most since receiving this understanding is the lack of determination and urgency in sharing the good news-bad news message by those who are convinced that the majority of their neighbours (and families in many cases) are on the way to "eternal damnation" if they don't "get saved" before they leave this planet. And they are often the first to suggest that I might have lost my drive to share the gospel now that I see that all will be eventually reconciled.

Blessings, Barry