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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Is the Gospel Really Good News?

"Most sections of mainstream Christianity preach what they call the good news. But, in many of these, it really is a mixture of good news for a few and very bad news for the majority." (Quote from page 23 of "The Really Good News About God".)

It does not seem to faze these Christians that they gather each Sunday to worship a God of supposed unconditional love who will oversee, even orchestrate, the fearful unending torment of the majority of His creation, the same ones for whom Jesus died.

When I try to explain to any of these Christians what the really good news is, I am treated like a heretic who should be burned at the stake.
Questions like "You don't really believe God will save people like Hitler, do you?" are designed to put me on the defensive and make me abandon the discussion.
And I sometimes do ... until very recently.

I now offer my own provocative questions.
"You don't really believe a God of love would torture those he loves and created in His image, do you?"
"Do you think Jesus was successful when he died for the sins of the world?"
"Do you love your children? If one of them disappointed you, would you torture him/her forever?"

I have changed from leaving myself open to being attacked to asking those sorts of uncomfortable questions. I now avoid being put on the back foot by a person advancing an unbiblical, traditional church position by advancing the true good news found in the Bible.

And what is this good news that the Bible announces?

The end of all things is ...

  • Jesus, the Omega (Revelation 1 : 8, 11 and Revelation 21 : 5 - 6)
  • When all of creation have life and God is everything to everyone
    (1 Corinthians 15 : 22 - 28)
  • When all of creation has come to repentance (2 Peter 3 : 9)
  • When all of creation is in unity and perfect harmony (Ephesians 1 :  10)
  • When everything is reconciled to God (Colossians 1 : 19 - 20)
  • When the whole world is saved (John 3 : 17 and Luke 3 : 4 - 6)
  • When all of creation is restored (Romans 8 : 20 - 21)
  • When all of creation will worship God ( Revelation 15 : 3 - 4 and
    Philippians 2 : 9 - 11)

The Bible has a much better "end of all things" than does mainstream Christianity, and I am becoming much more adventurous in sharing this good news.

Blessings, Barry

(BTW, Hitler is discussed on page 159 of "The Really Good News About God".)

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Why Evangelise?

I am often asked, "If everyone is going to be reconciled to God eventually, why bother with evangelism?"
Let me offer an answer within the context of God's sovereign choices.

God is the Designer, Creator and Ruler of the universe. As such, He made and makes all the decisions involved in its creation, maintenance and affairs.
Unless He chooses to delegate some decisions to us, he makes all the choices - and even the choice to delegate is His.

Here are some examples of God's choices.
God chose to create the heavens and the earth.
God chose to commence the human race with a man, Adam, made in his image, and a woman, Eve, made from that man.
God chose Noah, the ark-builder, to save 8 people from the global flood.
God chose Abraham to become the father of a new spiritual race.
God chose Jacob to be the father of God's special nation, called Israel.
God chose Joseph to save Israel from starvation. 
God chose Moses to free Israel from Egypt.
God chose David to be the greatest of the kings of Israel.
God chose Solomon to build a most elaborately adorned temple in Jerusalem.
God chose Jesus to be the Saviour of the world and Jesus chose to draw all people to himself.

Those last choices involving Jesus were to guarantee that God's ultimate choice that all creation would spend eternity in unity and harmony with Himself would be achieved. (Ephesians 1 : 7 ff)


However, some of His creation are chosen earlier than others, and for a special purpose.
These early-chosen are given belief (faith) and are called believers, disciples, first fruits or the Body Of Christ.

And what do they believe?
According to St Paul, they believe the good news "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." (1 Corinthians 15 : 3 - 4)

And what is their special purpose?
The task of the Body of Christ is to announce this good news - the gospel - to the world: that God has reconciled the world to Himself. (2 Corinthians 5 : 18 - 19).

And what happens when they do?
Many people will hear this good news and those who have been chosen to join the Body of Christ, to become an early-believer, will be given belief (faith) and will join in this ministry (Acts 13 : 48}. 

This process will continue until all those who have been chosen to be early believers have heard the gospel and been given faith.

At this point, the body of Christ will be complete and the events due to be unfolded at the consummation of the ages will commence - the salvation of Israel (Romans 11 : 25 ff) and the commencement of the millennium kingdom (Revelation 20 : 1 ff), for example.

So what is the purpose of evangelism, of announcing the gospel?
It is to complete the Body of Christ, those chosen before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1 : 3 ff) to show the incomparable riches of God's grace in the heavenly realms in the coming ages. (Ephesians 2 : 6 - 7)

We are blessed to have been chosen early, but we also have a major responsibility - to preach the gospel so that God can give faith to the not-yet members of the Body of Christ. (Romans 10 : 17). We usually call this activity or ministry evangelism.


Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Brave Israel Told Only Half the Story

Israel Folau has caused quite a stir in saying God's plan for gays is that they will go to hell "unless they repent of their sins and turn to God".
He has since quoted 1 Corinthians 6 : 9, 10 to support his opinion.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
The word "hell" is not mentioned in this quote and, in a correctly translated Bible, would not likely be used at all. (You can read about "hell" in previous posts "What is Hell?" published on 4th August 2010 and "Jesus Visits Hell for Three Days" published on 4th September 2013.)

So all Paul (and Israel) are saying is that there are some people who will be in the unseen realm (hell) and therefore will not inherit (be present in) the kingdom of God during the remaining eons of space and time.

Before discussing this further, let me first congratulate Israel for standing up strongly for what he believes. So few Christians seem to be brave enough to do this, especially if they are being attacked in the public arena and their livelihood depends on their public acceptance.
So well done Israel. I sincerely wish there were more Christians like you.

Now to the other half of the story.
It is true that people who are not yet reconciled to God will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

The kingdom of God is the rule of God in the heavens and on the earth during the present and future ages (or eons) and is a joint venture administered by Christ and his chosen followers.
Clearly only those reconciled to Christ, those chosen by God to believe the gospel in their lifetime, will be co-workers with Christ in this enterprise. In other words, only the righteous, those with right-standing before God, are going to be comfortable being in a joint venture with him.


And who will these people be?
They will be those who have been called by God "to repent of their sins and turn to God", using Israel's simple description.

And so those whom God set apart, he called; and those he called, he put right with himself, and he shared his glory with them. [Romans 8 : 30 GNB]
The co-workers with Christ in the kingdom are just the first-fruits of the harvest. Beyond those kingdom ages, when the ages have completed and we progress into the eternal realm, all of God's creation will be in unity and harmony with God. Yes, there will be eventual universal reconciliation as a result of what Jesus did on the cross for all of us.
In all his wisdom and insight 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 : 8 - 10 GNB]

Although all of us are sinners while we live in our earthly bodies here (and the list of sins is even longer than the one Israel quoted above), there will not be sinners in the kingdom of God or in the eventual eternal realm - only ex-sinners of all shapes and varieties who have been changed by God into Christ-likeness. 

So Israel is correct. All sinners not reconciled to God will miss the kingdom of God era: however all will be reconciled to God in the eternal realm after the ages have been completed, just as Jesus promised.

"When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me." [Jesus quoted in John 12 : 32 GNB]

Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Benefits of Knowing God's Plan

First of all, let's remember what God's plan is for His creation?
Paul in writing to the Ephesian church tells us what God revealed to him about His plan - the plan which had not been disclosed previously, although hints of it had been given to some of the Old Testament prophets.

He (God) made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment -- to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. [Ephesians 1 : 9 - 10 NIV]
If this is to be so, then sin and death must be dealt with along the way.
Well, Jesus dealt with sin 2000 years ago ...

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 : 2 NIV]

and, as a result, God no longer holds our sins against us ...
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. [2 Corinthians 5 : 19 NIV]
And Jesus will deal with death at the end of the ages (when the times reach their fulfillment) ...
For he (Christ) must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. [1 Corinthians 15 : 25 - 26 NIV]
So all is in place for God to achieve His "unity plan" at the end of the ages.
 

Now, let's consider the benefits of knowing this?
There are quite a few for me.


One, my opinion of God as a God of unconditional love is reinforced.


Two, I have a terrific single-focused good-news message for the  world, that God is not mad with them, He is reconciled to them and plans to give them the best eternal future possible.


Three, I can distance myself from the good-news/bad-news dichotomy often presented by mainstream Christianity that God is love on the one hand yet He will oversee the torture of the majority of His creation forever on the other.


Four, I can relate to everyone of my friends, colleagues and neighbours as people on the journey to the same destination as me, even if they are at a different stage of that journey. As such, I can pray for people with much more hope and optimism than I previously might have had, knowing I am praying in line with God's will.

To know the end result of the space-time realm in which we live is as reassuring as it is empowering, and encourages me to roll up my sleeves and be involved in the ministry to which God has called me - the ministry of sharing "the message of reconciliation".


What about you?
Blessings, Barry