Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Which is Better - Calvinism or Arminianism?

I have sometimes been asked to choose between Calvinism and Armianism, on the assumption that Christian Universal Reconciliation is not a legitimate option.

Very briefly, the god of the Calvinists has the ability to save all mankind, but doesn't choose to, whereas the god of the Arminians wants to save all mankind, but does not have the power or ability to.


The real God, the God of the Bible, has the will, power and ability to save all mankind, and sent Jesus to be the Saviour of the world to make sure that happens. In the introduction to The Really Good News About God", I briefly describe Calvinism and Arminianism and show the short-comings of each.


There are some people who tell me these are the only two positions that can be held, so, Barry, which one do you hold?
Well, if you put it like that I would have to say I'm a Calvinist, but not a Calvinist of the common variety.


I believe God has the will and strength to save those he has chosen to save ... but I broaden that number to everyone (on the basis of solid Biblical evidence you will find in the book}.


OK. I'll give you a sneak peek right now.

Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 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 : 1b - 2 NIV)

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 
(Romans 5 : 18  NIV)

I have also discussed this position more thoroughly in a previous post "The Third View" published on June 6th, 2010.

Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Biblical Challenges to Mainstream World Views

It's my turn to lead a Bible Study at my church this week. One of the Scripture passages chosen by the Lectionary for this week is Romans 5 : 12 - 21, one of my favourites. So I will need to be careful that I don't slip from my prescribed role as facilitator of the group into one of preacher/teacher for the morning. 😎

It is only a short passage, but it deals a fatal blow to several of the world's favourite views (beliefs).
 

Belief in the Theory of Evolution
(I won't get side-tracked by the "scientific" aspects of this theory, which are erroneous and predominantly quite unscientific. I will just mention one of the Biblical challenges to this theory.)

Therefore just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people ....
(verse 12  NIV)

Note the order of events here.
Man then sin then death.
The Theory of Evolution requires the opposite - long ages of death to precede the arrival of humans on earth.
 

Belief in Man's Free Will
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people,
so also
one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.
(verse 18 NIV)

We do not choose our destiny, God does.
We are allowed to make choices along the way, which determines how difficult or enjoyable and rewarding the journey becomes.
But the end result has already been determined by God.
(mentioned again in Eph 1 : 9 - 10; Col 1 : 19 -20; etc.)
 

Belief in Eternal Torment in Hell
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners,
so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
(verse 19 NIV)

A righteous outcome for all hardly makes room for an eternity in hell or any other place that might be a separation from God.
Romans 11 : 32 also reinforces this point with ...

For God has bound everyone over to disobedience (unbelief) so that he may have mercy on them all. (NIV)
These are very brief comments on these unBiblical, misleading world views.
However if you would like to discuss any of them further, add a comment below and let's start a conversation.

Blessings, Barry


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Correct Grammar Exposes the Truth about Life

Adjectives formed from nouns have the same basic meaning as their noun.
For example, the noun 'truth' has an adjective 'true' which may be illustrated with "a statement that contains the truth is a true statement".
Another example could be the noun 'day' and its adjective 'daily' which may be illustrated with "each day we wash the dinner dishes, so washing the dishes is a daily chore".

The English words 'age' and 'eon' are nouns that refer to a period of time, often a very long period of time, which has a beginning and an end.
Unfortunately in English we don't have a simple single word adjective corresponding to the noun 'age', although 'eon' does have the rarely used 'eonian'.


The closest we can come to a "single word" adjective for the noun 'age' might be 'age-during' or 'age-lasting', or we might try to use an adjectival phrase like 'belonging to the age', 'pertaining to the age', 'during the age', 'of the age' or 'for the age'.

As difficult as it is to find an adjective for age that we are comfortable with, we should never use words like 'forever' or 'everlasting' - words that convey the idea of never-ending, nor a word like 'eternal' - a word that conveys the idea of no beginning and no end.

In the New Testament, the Greek noun that translates into age or eon in English is 'aion' and its corresponding adjective is 'aionian'. Possible uses might be: We are living in the aion of the church, so we are the aionian church, and, Believers will live and reign with Christ in the coming aion, so they will have aionian life.

Unfortunately, most of our popular English Bibles quite wrongly translate 'aionian' in the Greek as 'eternal' in English. And this error causes us to miss the distinction between eonian life (life during the ages) and eternal life (life beyond the realm of the ages).

Here are a few examples of using eonian correctly.

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him should not perish but have eonian life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eonian life.
[John 3 : 14 - 16 NIV corrected]

Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my words and believes him who sent me has eonian life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. [John 5 : 24 NIV corrected]
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’“Then they will go away to eonian punishment, but the righteous to eonian life.”
[Matthew 25 : 44 - 46 NIV corrected]


As you know, because of Jesus' death on the cross, everyone will receive eternal life eventually (at the end of the ages), but only believers in the gospel will receive eonian life in the coming millennium, illustrating that although God is the Saviour of the world, there is something special for believers. [see 1 Timothy 4 : 10]
That special
something is eonian life, life that continues through the coming eons.

So correct grammar reveals the difference between eonian life and eternal life - between life in the kingdom ages for believers and life in eternity beyond the ages for everyone. Indeed, without this correction, it is difficult to find the millennial kingdom anywhere other than in Revelation 20. 


(I am beginning to use 'eonian' more and more in recent times, instead of the other age-related options, because it is just one word and because it closely resembles the Greek 'aionian'. Having said that, I am tempted to create my own word: age-ian, which looks very strange but is growing on me.)

Blessings Barry

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

God's Great Steering Wheel

I have taught my four sons to drive. 
That teaching began when they were quite small. They would sit on my knee behind the steering wheel as we drove deserted country roads or the longish driveway from the front gate to the carport.

They had their hands on the steering wheel and (mostly) looked out the front window as we travelled. They thought they were driving the car and it was totally in their control.


But, of course, I was driving the car, deciding where we were going and how fast we were travelling. I also decided on how much force I allowed my son to exert on the steering wheel, depending on whether he was trying to direct us where I had previously decided to go or not.

Our prayer life is a bit like this.
God knows where He is going and how fast He wants to get there. And He does allow us, indeed invites us, to put our hands on the steering wheel. How much effect we have on the steering wheel depends on whether we are heading in the same direction He is or not.

So if we want to be effective in prayer, we need to be on the same page God is. We need to know His will regarding the subject of our prayer so we can pray "in Jesus' Name" and be gently placing our hands on His steering wheel.


Praying for something that is not in God's will is as useless as my son trying to pull the steering wheel in a different direction to where I have chosen to go. I will just "out-pull" him with my stronger grip.

So how do we know God's will?
First, we need to know what God has revealed about His intentions in His Word.
Second, we need to spend time (in prayer) asking God what he wants us to pray for before we begin asking for things to be done.

I often answer the question, "How do you get all your prayers answered?" with the one-word instruction, "Cheat!"
Find out what God is planning to do, and pray for it to happen.

A beautiful example of this cheating is demonstrated by Daniel in the Old Testament.

... I was studying the sacred books and thinking about the seventy years that Jerusalem would be in ruins, according to what the LORD had told the prophet Jeremiah. [Daniel 9 : 2]
What had Jeremiah prophesied?
This whole land will be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. [Jeremiah 25 : 11]
and
For Yahweh says, “After seventy years are accomplished for Babylon, I will visit you and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says Yahweh, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future.
[Jeremiah 29 : 10, 11]


With this information about God's plan, Daniel continues :

And I prayed earnestly to the Lord God . . . [ Daniel 9 : 2, 3 ]
You can read the whole prayer in the following verses.
A Biblical example of cheating! Knowing God's plan and praying for it to happen.


It gives me great peace to know God's will cannot be overridden by the will of any of his children.
Can you imagine the chaos if God granted every request, especially those prayers that ask for very different (even opposite) outcomes or actions from God in the same circumstance?


We need to gently place our hands on God's Great Steering Wheel if we are to get all our prayers answered, and be co-workers with Christ in the Body of Christ.


Blessings, Barry

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, the disciples or followers of Jesus, part of God's faith community that is illustrated by an olive tree.
So when the Body of Christ is complete, then all Israel will be saved.


(Paul is not talking here 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 will 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