Ichthys Acronym Image

Home             Site Links

Faith, Forgiveness, Salvation V

Word RTF

Question #1:  

Hi Bob,

I was just at home over Thanksgiving and we ended up talking about the exact same thing we talked about over spring break then: levels of punishment in hell, and "good people" going to hell.

I've argued that people aren't punished in hell in correspondence for their sins – those were paid for by Jesus on the cross, whether or not they ever accept his payment. No, the only reason why people go to hell is because they refuse to believe. This is the only "unpardonable sin" as it is sometimes called – refusing to believe.

This always seems to strike a nerve with my family member though. Not because she is bent on misinterpreting scripture or anything like that, but because she can't seem to wrap her head around a loving God and eternal hellfire for unbelievers who don't seem actively terrible (i.e., the Ghandi's of the world as opposed to then Hitler's of the world). Ghandi by all accounts rejected the Bible for Hinduism, principled or not. So I don't see how we as Christians can make a statement to the effect that his eternal state is any different from Hitler's. Both rejected Christ: both will end up in hell eternally separate from God. Not based on things they have done, but based on their rejection of Jesus Christ. As rankling as this state of affairs seems (i.e., "good people" like Ghandi ending up side-by-side with "bad people" like Hitler in hell), the only thing that saves us is Christ's blood shed on our behalf: 100 Ghandi's could not even come close to paying for a single sin.

In these conversations I have repeatedly brought up Romans 1, which very clearly talks about natural revelation – that people know that God exists and then blot out His truth from their hearts. I don't see a way to interpret around this chapter: unless I'm missing something, it says pretty clearly that everybody deep down knows that God exists, and choose to suppress this knowledge. So there is no such thing as a "neutral" unbeliever who is simply undecided on propositions relating to God's existence. Not believing in God and his power (being "undecided" is not believing) is indicative of a choice some time in the past to suppress the truth that is evident from natural revelation.

Does all this sound correct? I'm having a hard time seeing why this is a complicated matter. I would be deeply troubled by all this if I thought what we did here on this earth had any bearing on our salvation – but in fact, the only thing that matters is that Jesus died for us to save us from the judgement that each and every one of us deserves.

If all this sounds like it is in good order, then it seems to follow pretty naturally that the lake of fire will be the same for all people that end up there, because they are not there to pay for sins they have committed, but because they wanted nothing to do with God – and God gave them their wish. The number or severity of sins that a person in hell committed is completely unrelated to them being there and what they will experience there: Jesus already died for all of their sins, so the sins have no bearing whatsoever on unbelievers in hell. Right?

I just want to run all this by you to make sure I'm presenting the correct view. I'm not sure there is a whole lot more than I can do except pray. Hell has always been a problem for my family member, even though she seems to understand the general mechanics of salvation pretty well (e.g., no path to salvation aside from Christ; we are only saved by grace through faith – and this is not of ourselves, but a gift from God; belief in Christ's sacrifice is what saves us not any system of good works).

Your friend in Christ,

Response #1: 

This is, of course, a hard thing for many people to fathom, even good Christians. But by "good Christians" I mean moral, traditional Christians with good hearts who may not appreciate the power of the truth once deeply believed. Is God perfect? Of course. Is His righteousness perfect? Absolutely. Is His plan perfect? How could it not be, coming from an omniscient and all-powerful God whose character is likewise perfect? And is He love itself? Yes indeed. So if He condemns anyone, we can be sure that this action does NOT violate His perfection, His justice, His character or His absolute love. And did He not sacrifice the Son He loves so much for all – even unbelievers? He most certainly did.

The problem is that people who accept all that and then consider the "dilemma" of "good people" who are not believers and therefore condemned, often decide to conform theology to their own personal lights rather than accept what the Bible clearly states. A better response from a believer who is growing and committed to the truth is to say, "well, I don't completely understand it and it bothers me, but I accept it because it's clearly what the Bible teaches". Whenever on any issue, point or doctrine, we investigate and find that the Bible teaches X, we had better accept X as true.
Now if it is the case that the church we are going to or the tradition we grew up in or the theologian we have been reading says that Y is the case; we may investigate and find that Y is not the case – then it's time to cease going to that church, abandon that tradition, and stop reading that theologian (if it is a critical doctrinal point we are talking about, that is). But without accepting the authority of the Bible, we will never get anywhere. Check that. We will get somewhere . . . but nowhere good.

"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
John 3:18 NKJV

On this particular point, Christians who do accept the truth of the above and put aside their doubts about what they see in the world which conflicts with this truth will be rewarded in the end with confirmation and deeper understanding if they persist in spiritual growth. We come to understand that history is really about the cross and our Lord's death and sacrifice to save us, and that everything else exists merely as a mirror of our reaction to that fundamental truth upon which all is based. Life and history are filled with all manner of things that seem necessary (some of which on some level are, at least while we are here "in history"), along with all manner of distractions, lies, false information, stimulants to the emotions, the push and pull of the negative and positive ones. But this life is in fact all about the cross. And "this" life we live is all about how we respond to the cross.

"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone."
Luke 18:19 NKJV

We who love the truth know very well that there is nothing good residing in our flesh. If that is true of believers, how much more so of unbelievers? We human beings may look at another person and see "good", but believers understand that this is a human evaluation. The best person who ever lived was a sinner; the best person who ever lived, therefore, was born to die and to be condemned. That is the universal heritage of the human race: the lake of fire. But there is good news!

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
John 3:16 NKJV

Yes, "God is love", and so much so that He, the Father, being love itself, namely, sacrificed what He loves the most, His one and only beloved Son our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And Jesus took on a human nature – becoming a man though He is God – in order to live a perfect life through opposition the likes of which we cannot imagine, in order to run a gauntlet of suffering that would have destroyed anyone else, in order to have the sins of the world poured out into that human body so that He might pay the entire price for every one of those sins which, like millstones tied to our necks, were dragging us down into the lake of fire with no hope and no recourse. And He did so! Praise the Lord, our Lord stayed on the cross, rising in the flames of judgment until He had paid off the very last and the very least sin of every single one of us! Every sin of the people we may consider bad. Every sin of the people we may consider good. And dying for the least sin of the best person who ever lived is worth more to the Father – and worth more in fact – that the entire world throughout all of history from beginning to end. How much more the magnitude and the majesty of Christ's entire sacrifice? It will take eternity no doubt for us to understand just how "big" and just how important and just how wonderful the cross is. But the Bible is very clear about how the Father thinks and feels about it.

"But as for Me, I have anointed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain. (7) I shall relate the Lord's decree. He said to Me, “You are My Son. Today I have begotten You. (8) Ask of Me and I shall give You the nations as Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth as your possession."
Psalm 2:6-8

The Lord said to My Lord, “Sit down at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
Psalm 110:1

And He said, “It is too small a thing for you to be My servant, to establish the tribes of Jacob and to restore the sanctified ones of Israel. Therefore I have appointed you as a Light for the nations, to be My [instrument of] salvation to the ends of the earth.
Isaiah 49:6

He is the shining forth of [the Father's] glory, the precise image of His essence, the One who sustains the universe by His mighty Word. When He had accomplished the cleansing of [our] sins, He took His seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Hebrews 1:3

The cross is the rock upon which everything is based just as Christ is the Rock upon which all is built.

So what about "good persons" XYZ?

"For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper."
Luke 14:24

Did not Christ die for all such "good people"? Did not He pay for all of their sins? Did the Father in His perfect plan not make the good news available to each and every person who was willing to receive it? Indeed. But XYZ chose to throw the Gift of gifts right back into the Father's face, trampling underfoot as something profane the precious blood of Christ, not caring one fig what God thought about their willful rejection of His gracious offer of salvation. Was it difficult to receive it? No indeed not. The word was in their heart and on their lips (Rom.10:6-13), but they thrust it from their heart and spit it from their lips. They chose instead to stand arrogantly before God on their own "righteousness", and despise the ineffable sacrifice of His only Son. Is that "good"?

We tend to see things with fleshly eyes for flesh we are, but the Bible and the Spirit allow us to detach ourselves from the worldly view and begin to see things as God sees them. If we had cut off one of our fingers to save the life of some "good person", and if said person had despised our sacrifice after the fact, what would be our attitude? At the very least we would revise our opinion of their "goodness". How much more will the Father not take offense at someone who despises His sacrifice of His one and only dear Son, whose death for the very least of that person's many sins entailed suffering beyond everything mankind has endured from one end of history to the other? He most assuredly will not call such an affront "good".

Yes, all unbelievers, the ones we consider bad, the ones we consider good, and everyone in between will judged "according to their deeds" at the end of history. And it will be demonstrated at that time for each and everyone what the true attitude of their hearts was towards God and towards His loving Gift of gifts – and that nothing they had done was really "good" at all.

Yet they say to God, "Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him?"
Job 21:14-15 NIV

They said to God, ‘Leave us alone! What can the Almighty do to us?’
Job 22:17 NIV

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Hello Bob,

How's your day going? I hope you are fine.

Another question; I'm sure when I have enough spiritual maturity, I'll stop being this curious and inquisitive but I want to know the effects of sin on our salvation.

What is sin actually? What does it do to a saved soul? Why did 1 John 3 assert that anyone that sins is for the devil?

I believe in conditional security which states that if you don't renounce your belief or commit yourself to voluntary habitual sin (which is born out of belief itself), you will never lose your salvation, is this wrong? Or am I just being too curious because of my background?

I expect a reply soon.

In Christ,

Response #2: 

This is another issue about which I've had occasion to spill a great deal of ink. If you'll check the list of "previous postings" to email responses (at the link), you'll see that about every fifth one or so going back years has been devoted to the topic of sin, directly or indirectly. The major posting on this is BB 3B: Hamartiology: the Biblical Study of Sin (at the link).

I will give you the overall view here, however. You are absolutely correct that the notion that a believer can never revert to being an unbeliever is not biblical (see the link: "Three false doctrines that threaten faith"). For instance, in this passage, our Lord makes it quite clear that such a category of former believer, the apostate, does indeed exist:

"But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away."
Luke 8:13 NKJV

And besides, most of us with any life experience have heard of and probably seen with our own eyes individuals who once certainly appeared to be believers but who have now turned back to follow Satan (cf. 1Tim.5:15).

What is commonly misunderstood, however, is the role of sin in the process of apostasy. Everyone sins, even believers who are doing a good job walking with the Lord generally speaking ( 1Ki.8:46; Ps.130:3-4; Prov.20:9; Eccl.7:20; Rom.3:23; Jas.3:2). Yes, in his first epistle, John does portray the believer as "sinless" – but that is because this is what believers are SUPPOSED to be. That is our "job description" (as one of my seminary professors correctly observed). Note that in this very same epistle earlier on, however, John leaves no doubt about that fact that believers do in fact sin – and in fact are liars if they say they don't – and as a result need to confess when they do sin . . . and have the comfort of knowing they have an Advocate in Jesus Christ before the Father when they do sin as well:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
1st John 1:8-10 NKJV

My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
1st John 2:1 NKJV

Sin does play a role in apostasy, but not the one people often think. In the parable of the sower, our Lord makes clear that it is testing (temptation), tribulation and persecution that causes the faith of those who are not deeply rooted to die off (13:20-21; 4:16-17; Lk.8:13). Many is the former Christian who blames God for some terrible event like the loss of a loved one and who has for that reason abandoned the Lord. Sin is surely involved in all such negative attitudes. And it is also true that those involved in gross sin who prefer it to the Lord will "not inherit the kingdom of heaven" (1Cor.6:9-10), but that is for a similar reason, namely, the loss of faith that being forced to choose between the Lord and the world (and making the wrong choice) entails.

So while it is wrong to teach "once saved always saved no matter what", because there are some people who do apostatize (and that will be a huge problem during the soon to come Tribulation when the Great Apostasy begins; cf. 2Thes.2:3), it is also the case that salvation is NOT lost through sinning per se. All sin is lawlessness (1Jn.3:4), rebellion against the Lord who bought us, and if we persist in rebelling against Him without repentance and without confession, it will gradually harden our hearts more and more against Him and against the truth, our faith will weaken, and, in extreme cases, our faith will die out. All believers are saved (Jn.3:16), but ONLY believers are saved (Jn.3:18). If a Christian lets his/her faith die, he/she is no longer a believer, hence no longer saved. That is apostasy. And it matters very little if the impetus for this was gross sinning or reacting to circumstances and blaming God or a wish to avoid being persecuted for being a Christian (a great part of the reason for the coming Great Apostasy).

Therefore it is also wrong to teach "pins and needles salvation", to make a congregation think that they are hanging onto eternal life by a thread, and if they once sin, they are lost – and need to be saved again (or some such nonsense). OSAS leads to being cavalier about sin. "Pins and needles" leads to a total lack of peace (for those with honest consciences) or hardened legalism (where the group/individual redefines sin as only those things they particularly dislike and can easily enough avoid while ignoring all of their other sinful behavior such as arrogance and slander, etc., etc.). Neither one is correct. We are saved as long as we believe; but it is our duty to build up our faith by growing it day by day. This will lead to a more sanctified walk over time and greater and greater security of that faith as it becomes ever more indestructible. The opposite path is fraught with sin and spiritual danger.

So the final thing to say in this very brief overview is that no Christian every made progress in walking ever closer to the Lord in a truly sanctified way by merely trying to "avoid sin". Yes we should do so, obviously. But that will never work if the Christian is not also moving forward spiritually through learning and believing and applying the truth of the Word of God. That is the one essential for everything in the Christian life.

Here is the main link in BB 3B which covers this topic: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

Hello Robert,

It's been a long time since I last talked to you. I was hoping that you could tell me something. what does the verse not everyone who calls the name of the Lord shall be saved Mean?


Response #3: 

Good to hear from you, my friend.

As to the question, I think you have some passages confused. In Joel 2:32 (quoted at Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13) we are told that EVERYONE who calls upon the Name of the Lord will be saved. What our Lord said (that you seem to be worried about) was this:

"Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven."
Matthew 7:21 NKJV

The individuals who call Him "Lord" on the day of judgment but about whom Jesus says later "I never knew you" (two verses later: Matt.7:23) are unbelievers (see the link). Note also that He says here in this quote that those who do the Father's will are the one's who are saved, and that will is to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior through trusting in Him and His work on the cross:

Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
John 6:29 NKJV

“And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
John 6:40 NKJV

I hope you are doing well – it has been a long time!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Thanks Robert. Sorry it's been so long, I've still been going through some personal issues. Sad to say, I've still had trouble with my faith. I just can't help but feel like I'm a hardened sinner. To be honest, I've kinda backsliding into sin, and I want to try to leave it. But part of me feels like it's too late. I keep having things in my head that tell me I'm going to hell like most of the people on Earth (if you can confirm otherwise, please tell me). I want to change, but it feels like I can't. If there's any advice you could give me to help, please let me know and I'll take it.

Thank you,

Response #4: 

It's never too late to turn around. As long as we are in this world, we have free will – the image of God – and WE are the ones who decide, whether we decide to sin or to stop, to grow or not to grow.

We've talked about these things before. For us believers, all sin is forgiven when we confess to the Lord (Ps.32:5; 1Jn.1:9). Changing our behavior patterns is harder to do, especially if we allowed ourselves to lapse into bad habits. But it can be done. We do have to get relentlessly hard on ourselves, however, if we've gotten to the point of being essentially addicted to some bad behaviors. The Lord helps with this. The discipline gets worse until we decide that it's easier for us to be hard on ourselves and intolerant of our bad behavior than it is to endure the increasing discipline. That's the story of the prodigal son in a nutshell. Here's an important link from the recently posted BB 6A: Peripateology: the Study of the Christian Walk: "Recovering from Defeat".

I do want to reassure you that if you believe in Jesus Christ, you are NOT "going to hell". Only unbelievers are condemned; all believers are saved:

"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son."
John 3:18 NKJV

The problem with becoming involved in a degenerating sinful lifestyle is that one of two things is going to happen eventually: either the Christian, in order to relieve the pressure that comes from not following the Lord correctly, is going to abandon the Lord to relieve that pressure (apostasy; link); or said Christian is going to continue to believe, but the rotten witness will result in the discipline continuing eventually to a terminal degree (the sin unto death; link). The latter is horrible, but at least salvation is preserved; the former is something none of us even wants to contemplate.

So on the one hand, please do not underestimate the love and forgiveness of the Lord! On the other hand, He is also just and in the absence of return always deals fairly with the believer who has gone astray.

The solution to this problem in the long run is always the same: by growing spiritually day by day we draw closer to Jesus Christ and the rough edges we all have are eventually smoothed away. As I'm sure I've told you before, however, this has to be a comprehensive approach. One cannot grow spiritually by only focusing on the biblical teaching of the one or two things one is concerned about at the moment. The whole Bible and all of its teachings have to be engaged with and embraced. You are certainly welcome to all the materials at Ichthys, my friend (I would recommend beginning with the Peter series). Thanks to Chris B., there are also MP3 files available now for most of the major studies (links). I also recommend Bible Academy (link).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Hi Bob,

I read something from a charismatic Christian who held a view on sin which I don't find biblical at all. He wrote:

"Rom. 6:2
God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

Rom 6:10,11
10) For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
11) Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

If you have been Baptized into Christ (Born Again) you are dead to sin. The Flesh, The Old Man, the Body of Sin, is dead unto sin by Jesus Christ. Even if you do not Reckon yourself to be dead to sin, you are indeed dead to sin by Jesus Christ. And not only so, but sin in the Flesh has been Destroyed.

Rom 8:3,4
3) For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4) That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

So you see, it isn't a choice whether or not a Christian walks in the Flesh, or the Spirit, they have been Born Again by the Holy Spirit unto Newness of life.

That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

We were by Nature born into the Flesh, and by reason of Baptism Born Again, into the Spirit."

It almost sounds as if he is saying that a Christian cannot sin. I don't find any of this in the bible. Is this scriptural? Because just citing bible verses and taking them out of context doesn't mean it's true. He also accused me of not being saved, and that I am a tare or a BABE in Christ. It made me upset because it seems as if he has an issue with spiritual pride.

God Bless,

Response #5: 

It is typical of those who use the Bible to support what they want to say – instead of going TO the Bible to see what IT has to say – to jump any manner of logical steps so as to turn verses and doctrines on their head if need be to back up their false points. I read this in correspondents email: "So you see, it isn't a choice whether or not a Christian walks in the Flesh, or the Spirit". Where is THAT in the Bible? Nowhere! Here is what I read:

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
Galatians 5:16 KJV

"Walk!" This is a command: whenever we are given a command we ought to follow it. Sadly, we often do not (cf. Adam and Eve). But the fact that we are told to do things, whether or not we do them, shows that this is all about choice: will we obey or not? There is no question that we are wrong not to obey. But saying we will do so automatically is clearly wrong and contrary to all human experience – not to mention also is clear conflict with the Bible.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Hi Bob,

I've searched everywhere to find an answer regarding the Old Testament saints who were resurrected when the veil of the temple was torn after Jesus had gave up His Spirit to the Father. The difficulty is trying to understand where were the OT saints before they were raised from the dead after Jesus completed His work on the Cross? I thought about "Abraham's Bosom"; but then I still have trouble imagining that these OT saints were "comforted" after their death in Abraham's Bosom only to be resurrected back to life into this corrupt and fallen world. I would be really depressed if that were to happen to me. Paul said to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. But in this case, were these OT saints with the Lord when they had died the first time? And if so, does this mean that they had to physically die again?

And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
(Matthew 27:51-53)

Also, Jesus said that before the end of the age, and before His Second Coming, there would be MANY false prophets. I notice that there are bizarre Christian sects, such as one called the NAR (National Apostolic Reformation) which is made up of "Apostles". This seems to go directly against what Scripture teaches. I checked youtube to keep up to date with false teachers and false teachings, and I was STUNNED when I saw the amount of self-professed prophets. There were literally hundreds of them. Like Prophet Steve; prophet Charlie, and so forth. This is unprecedented. There are also hundreds of self-professed Apostles too. There are also "prophetesses" as well. Here is just one example of a self-professed "prophet". But this guy is pretty much a dead giveaway of a FALSE prophet who is obviously trying to fleece the flock for filthy lucre.

I also came across a Pastor's wife who CLEARLY appeared demon possessed. You can see the demons being manifested at 2:50 onward into this video. It is VERY disturbing. And these people claim to have DIRECT revelation from God, and are "anointed" by Him. I know that there have always been wars, and rumors of wars as Jesus spoke of at the Olivet Discourse, but it seems those signs are becoming more frequent like a woman with birth pangs. They seem to be increasing a lot, and with more frequency. What are your thoughts on this?

God Bless,

Response #6: 

These individuals at Matthew 27:51-53 were not "resurrected"; only Christ has yet been resurrected. The resurrection as three phases:

(21) For since death [came] through a man, resurrection of the dead also [had to come] through a man. (22) For just as in Adam, all die, so also in Christ, shall all be made alive. (23) But each [will be resurrected] in his own echelon. Christ [is the] first-fruits (i.e., the initial person and echelon of resurrection). Next [will be] those belonging to Christ at His coming (i.e., all believers at the 2nd Advent). (24) Then the end [of human history – the resurrection of millennial believers], when He will hand the Kingdom over to the Father, after He has brought an end to all rule, all power, and all authority (i.e., hostile human and angelic control). (25) For He must rule until He has placed all His enemies under His feet.
1st Corinthians 15:21-25

So these individuals described at Matthew 27:51-53 were only resuscitated, just like Lazarus was, that is, temporarily brought back to life (but then dying physically again later as is the case with all not resurrected). It's amusing that you find it depressing that these people had to come back to life. I feel the same way. In fact, at my mother's funeral last year, using the example of Lazarus, I said how I felt sorry for him because he was "already in the club house" and had to get "back on the course". It truly is "better by far" to be with Jesus Christ our Lord (Phil.1:23).

As to false teachings and weird teachings, they do seeming to be springing up like weeds after a rain all over the place. The new technology certainly aids that. Of course, the new tech has also made Ichthys possible, so I am grateful for that part of it. I thank the Lord for your spiritual discernment. Keep on preparing, my friend. These are indications (not signs) that the end is closer than the beginning. Once the Tribulation does get underway, there will be even more work for us to do when all of our lukewarm brothers and sisters, confronted with the truth, will all of a sudden in many cases realize they need to grow up spiritually very fast.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:  

Good is submission to the truth. Neutral is not submitting to the truth. Evil is believing you can create your own truth.

Socrates/Plato/Whatever's statement "if people understood the truth they would be good" is a tautology. The definition of understanding is submission to the truth and the definition of good is submission to the truth, so it's really a statement that "if people were good they would be good."


Response #7: 

Good to hear from you. Hope you are well and that your exam studies are going well.

Good point on Plato. I've often been amazed at his unbelievable popularity in antiquity, the institutional church, and even today, given that this philosophy defies basic human common sense, to believe that just by knowing what was right would result in doing what is right. People like that should have to be parole officers for six months.

Blessedly, we believers are forgiven whatever we think or say or do, when we return to the Lord and confess our sins (1Jn.1:9).

Keeping you in my prayers daily, my friend.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Hi Bob and family,

Could you take a quick look at this article about "once saved, always saved" and tell me what you think of it.

I posted a response but I feel it wasn’t detailed enough and I think I should respond to it again – there are a couple of things that he says that I don’t like the way he puts it. He says that Jesus purchased us with His blood so He is responsible for keeping us – or words to that effect.

With your permission, may I use your response should I decide to reply to his article – or do you think it’s a total waste of time and not worth getting involved in. My intention is for the edification of other readers as well as the author.

I hope not to cause inconvenience to you and I can understand if you don’t want to.

As always dear Bob, with brotherly love,

Response #8: 

I couldn't get through the whole thing. It makes me a little bilious, having had a mess of this tripe in the past. And all of it is of a piece, namely, it is a logical argument. One good scripture knocks the stuffing out of all such seemingly logical pronouncements.

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
1st Corinthians 15:1-2 NKJV

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
Galatians 6:7-9 NKJV

And it should be considered that if a believer could never stop believing so that salvation could not be lost thereby, scripture would say so. It doesn't because that is a ridiculous proposition:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV

There are many translations of this verse but the key part is the first: "the one who is a believer" or "the one who is believing in Him" is the one who is saved; the one who is not, is not. Pretty simple. This is why we are left here on earth after believing and not immediately transported to the third heaven – to demonstrate that our faith is genuine (or that it is not).

"But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away."
Luke 8:13 NKJV

The reason for this is elsewhere explained by our Lord:

And he who was sown on the rocky places, this is the one who hears the Word and immediately receives it with joy. He has no roots [to his faith], however, but lasts only a short time. So when tribulation or persecution occurs on account of the Word, he is immediately tripped up (skandalizetai; i.e., he apostatizes).
Matthew 13:20-21

And these [second types] who are sown on the rocky places are similar. Whenever they hear the Word they immediately receive it with joy, although they have no root [of faith] in themselves, but are only temporary [believers]. When tribulation or persecution because of the Word comes [their way], they are immediately tripped up (skandalizontai; i.e., they apostatize).
Mark 4:16-17

There are those with no roots to their faith. When the pressure is on, they fall away, they apostatize, they lose their faith. A great many lukewarm believers will do just this during the Tribulation. The danger with teaching otherwise is to remove the "fail-safe" scripture provides in all of the verses above and many other places in scripture which ought to put the fear of God into anyone on the precipice of fatally backsliding and spitting out the faith that saved them – only believers are saved. Thinking it doesn't matter only greases the already slippery slope for those who are already in danger of losing their footing.

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
1st Corinthians 6:9-10 NKJV

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV

Do feel free to use this however you wish, my friend. I am not gifted in apologetics and, frankly, don't have the patience for it. In the case of those who by their overt actions (posting stuff like this) have already firmly rejected the truth, I don't feel it is my place to go out and track them down and argue with them, especially inasmuch as they are not going to respond even to the "perfect argument" (if I could make one). For folks like this, it takes the Lord getting involved to bring about a change (in my experience).

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Hi Bob and family,

Thank you for your response – it was as I thought it would be, and you are so correct – nothing I could say would change their mind unless God intervenes.

So I will leave it well alone – I always knew before I posted my articles on HubPages that there would be many who would reject them out of hand simply because they don’t like to hear the truth as it stings but I will remain hopeful for some.

There are so many who refuse to believe that after salvation is given, bad behaviour can cause them to lose their salvation. And many will argue against the OSAS yet this is no different arguing that salvation can’t be lost. If they would just understand – as you have said many times and I certainly agree, that salvation is in 2 parts, firstly while here on earth and then (if remaining a believer) fully upon death, either before or during Tribulation, or if raised alive at the end. I don’t understand how they don’t understand, that because it’s in 2 parts and this first part is an interim period or probation period for the very reason you say in your email – to demonstrate that our faith is genuine (or that it’s not).

I find it amazing that the man who wrote that article is a pastor of a church (there are a few others there as well) and he has posted many articles – most of which don’t have much substance and if that’s the quality of preaching, I can understand why many are leaving the churches in droves, which is happening here as well and probably worldwide too.

I’ll stick with what Jesus said – enter ye in at the strait gate......at least I know it’s the truth!

Before I posted my articles on HubPages, I prayed that the Spirit would lead me in what I should say and that it would be truth and even after posting, I was prompted on many occasions to make some additions and changes and I can say that most of what I had said didn’t come from my brain – I’m not that smart. Which is also why I asked you to confirm what was written as I trusted that you would tell me the truth if something was wrong. And again my thanks for your kindness in allowing these posts on ichthys, I sincerely hope that I have made a small difference in your readership by encouraging others to look at it.

As it isn’t far to Christmas, I’d like to take this opportunity of wishing you and yours a happy Christmas and a safe new year and I hope your health continues to improve and the job front remains as is. My constant prayers for ichthys is that God will protect it and that it will have free course in this perishing world – even during Tribulation.

As always dear Bob, with brotherly love,

Response #9: 

That sounds like a good decision.

A point to make, reading your email, is that bad behavior per se is not what results in loss of salvation. There are plenty of believers whose behavior is terrible, so bad in fact that the Lord has to take them out of this world via the sin unto death (e.g., king Saul). But they are still in heaven. Apostasy is loss of salvation and it results from complete loss of faith (see the link: Apostasy and the Sin unto Death). The danger here is that getting so far away from the Lord breeds disrespect and eventual disinterest in Him. Under the pressure of discipline, such individuals abandon faith rather than "take the heat" or come back like the prodigal son did. Sin's real danger is that it weakens faith – when strengthening and building it is what we all should be about. During the Tribulation, it will be much easier to abandon Christ and accept the beast. That will be the impetus for the Great Apostasy (see the link).

Thanks for the Christmas greetings, my friend! Wishing you and your family a blessed one as well.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:  

[question about Mary being "full of grace" in some translations and using "favor" instead]

Response #10: 

I think the problem is not the fact of being given grace / favor as a gift – that is what grace it; rather the first problem is what that favor entails. For the RC church, and for many Protestants, "grace" has become a magic word that means something special and independent of "favor" so that theologically, to these people, they are not at all synonyms – when in fact that is precisely what they are. The second problem is the "full of" problem which you have already dispatched nicely. Instead of being a recipient of favor, "full of grace" suggests being invested with so much "magic" that this person now 1) is somehow special beyond others; and 2) has the ability to bestow grace herself. I see your problem here, but I would not want to say that we are not given grace as a gift; Christ is THE Gift, the gift of grace, God's favor though we don't deserve it.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

I understand that grace is an unmerited gift and I should give you a reassurance of that right at the start. But the point I wanted to make here (hopefully it is correct) is that the word "grace" was used in a different shade of meaning in Luke 1:28-30.

When the angel says that Mary "found favour with God", I take it to mean not that she received an unmerited gift, but rather - that because of her faithfulness she found favour with God - she won His liking, so to say. If we said that "X found favour with the Professor", then I would interpret it in the sense that X won Professor's approval and admiration, rather than the Professor bestowing a gift on X. I'm not sure if I'm explaining this well, hopefully you see what I meant.

So in this paragraph I attempted to draw a distinction between grace as an unmerited gift and grace in the sense of "God's liking/kindness/favour/approval". In Ephesians 1:6 or 2:8-9 the reference is clearly to God giving us a gift that we did not deserve - our Lord who paid for our sins. But my understanding was that in passages such as Genesis 6:8, Exodus 33:12-13, 33:17, Acts 7:45-46 - and Luke 1:28-30 - it is not this sort of unmerited gift that is in view, but rather God's favour and approval.

Now I know that we could argue that these are two sides of the same coin, since whatever we are "liked for" by God we have received, but this is not entirely so. We may be liked by God not just by what we received, but because of our free will choices through which we are obedient and faithful to Him. And I thought that this is the meaning in Luke 1:28-30 - that Mary was faithful to God and as a result of that God "took a liking" in Mary which is here expressed in the biblical phrase of "found favour with God".

We could distinguish between these two meaning of grace in the following way:

a) If the angel said "Mary, you are a sinner, but you are saved because God has given you the grace of providing a payment for your sin", then "grace" would mean unmerited gift.

b) If the angel said "Mary, you found favour with God", then this means that grace here is used in the sense of God's approval and sympathy, which Mary won through her free will choice to be obedient.

Let me know if you see what I meant.

Response #11: 

I do see your point, and it is true that grace / charis has different aspects to it. When Paul in his epistles wishes "grace" to his correspondents, it is a wish for them to find favor in God's eyes but also the result of such favor, namely, God's blessing in all things. These two parts are clear in the greeting to Mary too because having found favor she is receiving this special and unique blessing of becoming the mother of the Messiah, the humanity of our Lord. And in this grace relationship, there is no merit on her part. That is a tricky needle to thread. On the one hand, grace seems to be meritorious in that those who respond to the Lord properly get the benefit of the grace; on the other hand, nothing we can do is truly meritorious in God's eyes and all blessing from the entrance into the family of God to everything we receive now and will in eternity is based upon "the Gift of grace", Jesus Christ and the salvation we have through faith in Him by grace (Rom.5:15; cf. Eph.2:8). So I am unwilling to let go of either of these seeming (to some) contradictory aspects in speaking of God's grace. If someone finds favor in my eyes, clearly there is merit (as I define and evaluate it) . . . but I am a fallible human being who operates on this sort of transactional system. If someone finds favor in God's eyes, it is both pursuant to their faith response to Him (through their faith) and yet totally non-meritorious as being an actual product of God's favor towards us.

We want to be like David, e.g., and other great believers of scripture who pleased the Lord. How did they please the Lord? Through their faith and trust in Him – without which it is impossible to please Him (Heb.11:6); and they pleased Him by recognizing their dependence on Him and trusting Him to be the Doer and the Giver, rather than relying on themselves, with the greater dependence "winning" the greater favor.

Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2nd Corinthians 12:8-10 NKJV

This is exactly the opposite of the way things work in the world where the greater effort wins the greater favor (or should in our human appreciation of things).

I'm not sure I've helped you with this, but this is the way I see it.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:  

How about this?

Grace is an unmerited gift we receive from God. Although we don’t earn it or work for it, whether we receive it or not still depends on us. We appropriate grace by our conscious free will choice to believe.

Response #12: 

Excellent! That is precisely how I understand it as well – though I didn't put it this clearly as you. Good job!

Question #13:  

Hi Bob,

I didn't think I'd be writing back so soon but the Lord has given me some more progress to report back to you.

I said to you last week that I was confident my friend would contact me when she was ready.

She really does love the Lord and was talking about how she wants to be closer to Him. That's all great but I'm still concerned about a few things. I'd have been happier if she had said she wanted to draw closer to Him through reading, learning and believing His Word along with prayer etc. but instead she told me she had been accepted onto a two year course to become a spiritual director. I have already heard of this sort of thing, but I looked into it a little bit. To be honest I wasn't really that interested in reading a load about it, but it basically involves all this Christian mysticism gobbledygook again. I read:

"The main problem with spiritual direction as a "movement" is that the personal experience of the individual, not the Word of God, is the final authority".

She did quote a few verses in the bible to me but she's into all this other stuff as well rather than just concentrating on the Word. She knows I'm not happy with it, but she just sees it that we're all different and that the Lord speaks to us in different ways. She sees it that He does speak to her through the Bible but also dreams, nature etc. and He just speaks to me through the Bible (just the way I like it). To her it's all alright - just different.

One of the last things she said to me was that she's not 100% sure what the Lord wants her to do yet but she's praying about it. So I can definitely see the Lord working in some way Bob. I'm just trusting Him and I've got peace inside. The Lord is doing some beautiful things here - I'm trying to keep up with Him!

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus

Response #13: 

This is really wonderful news! I'm praying for your friend's deliverance. Indeed, perhaps this is the beginning of that process. I have noted many times in the past that there are some sets of circumstances which people get themselves into which are like "black holes" whose gravity is impossible to escape through normal means. So the Lord will often remove or seriously alter those toxic circumstances when the person in question genuinely does want to change for the good but is not strong enough to do so without some help from Him.

Here's hoping (and praying) that this is what is going on here.

Keep fighting the good fight, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:  

Hi Bob,

I know that you have been praying for her and that's why I was so pleased to tell you.

It's really interesting to hear how you have seen the Lord move in peoples lives. You must have heard, seen and experienced so much over the years in your walk with the Lord and through your ministry.

When you explained to me about the "black holes" and how the Lord sometimes works in these situations it reminded me of how mighty our Lord is and how He is in full control of everything. It makes me feel so in awe of Him. Then I was reading psalm 91 and I can feel His tender love as my heavenly Father.

"He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge".

And then in verse 14 when God Himself speaks:-

"Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him, I will set him on high, because he has known My name".

The notes in my bible say the verb used here for love is not the usual Hebrew word for love. It has the idea of "holding close to", even "hugging tightly in love". I don't know if these notes are accurate because I only really trust what you would say but I thought that it was so beautiful. He is so mighty and powerful yet I can hold Him close and hug Him tightly in love.

When I read His word and pray I sense His presence so close. Sometimes it's so strong I cry. I don't know why so many Christians are searching for any other way. I don't know why they have to complicate things. God's word couldn't be any clearer. All the truth and power is right there written down for us.

He's amazing isn't He Bob. There's just no-one else like Him. I'm so glad we're in His family.

Response #14: 


It does take persistence and consistency, but if we keep at spiritual growth, "drawing close to God" in fact does bring a closer relationship with Him (Jas.4:8). Then, even if our emotions are not registering the warmth and the wonder of this (they often go their own way), we can understand that blessing of closeness to Him and through concentration on the truth we believe guide our hearts back to peace in spite of the stormy waves crashing around us. Nothing can take away our hope in fact, and if we are diligently pursuing our relationship with Him through His truth, then even when troubles make outright joy difficult, we can rest in His blessed peace until such time as we bring our emotions around to where they should be again through the truth. That is essentially what James 1:2ff. means.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:  

Hello Bob,

Yes to diligently pursue my relationship with the Lord through His truth is what I want more than anything else.

I really wish I could say the same for my friend. I saw her again over the weekend and she said she wants to stay at the 'church'. So maybe I was a bit too quick to think things were changing. I don't know Bob - it feels like such a strange situation for me to be in. We are in a totally different place to each other. She's really in the thick of deception and there is so much more I need to say to her but the little bits I have said she hasn't accepted or has just completely ignored. I feel really bad sometimes because she talks away about all this stuff and sometimes I'm not sure how I should respond. Rather than drawing closer to the Lord through His truth she's excited about trying to do so through 'spiritual disciplines' that she thinks are fine because they attach the name Christian alongside it.

There are lots of people who the Lord mercifully delivered out of new age/occultic practices. Some of those people have gone on to write very good books about how the church is using the same techniques through contemplative prayer, meditation etc. They are trying to warn Christians of the dangers. It's absolutely clear and obvious to me how Satan is working in these churches. There's no getting away from it - it's exactly the same thing and I would run a mile from any church that was going down that route.

I might not have been a Christian anywhere near as long as her, and sometimes I feel like I appear as being narrow-minded, intolerant and judgmental when I've tried to warn her of the dangers. I haven't even scratched the surface yet. I have all the scriptures at hand and there are so many excellent Christian apologetics websites warning of the dangers - there's reams of information out there.

There's no love for the truth Bob and it's obvious. They're listening and believing their own imagination or even worse - seducing spirits. They're believing doctrines of demons. Every time she mentions a preacher she's going to see or a book she's reading the majority are false teachers. The most recent one is Rick Warren (Emergent Church etc).

I'm not really sure what to do Bob. I really want to 'contend earnestly for the faith' but I feel like it's going to fall on deaf ears. I realise hardness of heart comes into it and you've explained to me that only the Lord can deal with that. Even if I laid it all out in front of her I'm not sure she'd accept it but is this something that I have a duty to do for the Lord? I'll do whatever is right even if I potentially lose her friendship. My love for the Lord and His truth are more important to me.

I seem to spend a lot of time and energy on people who don't seem to love His truth or want to obey it to please the Lord. I still have so much still to learn myself and without wanting to sound selfish it could be precious time I could be spending on my own bible study and prayer.

Please tell me honestly what you think - I can take the truth even if it's me that's doing something wrong. Thank you so much.

Response #15: 

I'm sorry to hear that this may be a long, difficult fight rather than a short, easy one. Still, one never knows what the Lord will do. So keep praying – and I will be praying with you.

As to what you personally should do, as we grow spiritually, our judgment and discretion and spiritual common sense grow too, and we get better at listening to what the Spirit is telling us. Once we do get the point of maturity and a good response becomes second nature, all we really need is the courage to act when action is called for (you seem to have that in spades – good for you!), and the humility and patience to hold off when the time and situation is not right for the audience to be receptive. For someone with a great zeal for the Lord and for His truth like yourself, that is probably the more difficult thing; but you do also seem to me to be exercising wonderful judgment here as well.

No human being can tell you definitively that you are right or wrong to jump in or to stand back in any disputable case; if someone else could tell you that with authority, then the instance in question would be so painfully obvious that you would also know it yourself, just having difficulty accepting and doing what you would also clearly see as correct.

Since others really can't second guess you, it's also better not to spend any time, energy or emotion in second guessing yourself. Life is not like a game of checkers where we can take back moves. We make decisions; we live and die by them. Today goes by; yesterday is already gone and can't be changed; and we have no idea what tomorrow will bring. We learn to do our best for the Lord day by day and leave the details to Him, not worrying overly about things we could have thought, said or done – or about things we'd have been better not thinking, saying or doing. If it's a question of sin, we confess and move on. If it's a question about people we are trying to reach, we have to accept that He knows what everyone needs and is in the process of seeing to it that they get absolutely everything good they are willing to accept. Because it's not about us (or even them); it's all about Him who died for us (and them too).

One other thing: personal spiritual growth is the foundation of everything. Do we want to be more effective ministers for our Lord? We need to grow. Do we want to show a better witness to attract others to Him? We need to grow. Do we want to have more assurance of what we are doing and a better sense of discernment in this world? We need to grow. Do we want to be able to hear the Spirit's guidance more clearly? We need to grow. And growth never stops (or shouldn't), even when have become mature and begun to progress and minister. The mustard tree sprung from the seed of faith can always get bigger – and in this case bigger is definitely better.

So I always advise Christians to put their own spiritual growth and progress in first place. Can we minister to others before we reach maturity or get anywhere in our spiritual progress in passing tests and walking more closely with the Lord. Certainly! But it would be a mistake to sacrifice personal growth for ministry, especially since ministry becomes exponentially more effective as we grow. Getting the balance right is never easy, and doing a great job for the Lord has been known to carry a cost, in sleep lost and energy expended among other things. But this is a good "problem" to have, especially in our era of Laodicea where the vast majority of Christians are doing little to nothing for the Lord (and what they are "doing" is often worse than nothing, as in the situation you relate), and are not growing through His truth, His Word and His Spirit at all.

You are fighting a good fight, my friend! Keep it up like the good Christian warrior you are.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:  

Hi Bob,

Thank you so much again for your help. I think you're right about me finding it harder in my zeal to hold back. It's like I can see the danger she is in, I know the scriptures and everything I would say to her and I've got this urge to jump in and start sprinting with it (if only!) but then it's like the Lord's hand is reining me in. My legs might still be going for it but there's something stopping me from getting any further and I don't think it's a lack of courage. If the Lord wanted me to jump in I can't say I wouldn't be nervous but if it was what He wanted then I know I could do it because of His strength and my desire to obey Him.

I think I keep forgetting the spiritual common sense part. I can see the situation clearly and how unreceptive she has been so far and I need to keep that in mind for the moment. I can search the scriptures for the right and wrong in the situation or what we are guided to do through the word, but then sometimes I think I've got to get on with it RIGHT NOW, but it doesn't always work like that does it. It's not always that simple, especially when I've still got a lot of growing to do myself.

I get a bit too anxious and I so want to do a good job for the Lord, but I think that can get in the way of me hearing His still, small voice. I also forget He knows where I'm at in my spiritual growth and He's patient with me - not disappointed in me. It's like I had to have patience with my kids when they were learning to walk or ride a bike or whatever and pick them up when they fell down and encourage them to keep at it and not to give up. You're so good at that too Bob and I'm very grateful because it helps me more than you know. I'd be making a lot more mistakes without your help and encouragement.

I think some of my frustration comes because I know it's a bit harder to do a better job for the Lord when I've still got a lot of growing to do myself. As you say hearing the Spirit's voice becomes easier as you grow. But I suppose we can't run before we can walk. Spiritual maturity doesn't happen overnight and as you always say Bob it takes hard graft. But I really am willing to put the work in and make it my priority.

After I'd seen her she sent me a text of Psalm 121 which was lovely of her. I sent her one back saying thank you so much I really appreciate that especially as you know how much I love His word (HINT HINT) although I didn't say that bit to her! I also put "Your word is a lamp to my feet. And a light to my path" and "How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth". The Lord's words are far more powerful than anything I could ever say and it's only His words that I have faith in.

I must remember that the Lord is in control and as you say it's not about us or them but all about our Lord who died for us all - that really made me think. I've always been the kind of person who finds it so much easier to explain things by writing them down. If I was to try to get it all across to you by talking it just doesn't come as easy for me. So the Lord's great isn't He. Your ministry is perfect for me. I'm sure there must be others in your flock who feel the same way. Just in case you hadn't thought of it like that.

Thanks again Bob and I promise to keep plugging away at it.

Response #16: 

From what I can tell, you are handling this all exactly the right way, my friend. People have to be open to the truth for the truth to reach them and not "bounce off" hardened foreheads. It's hard to beat the Bible, especially in the case of believers who at least give it lip-service. However, receptiveness can also occasionally be tested by floating small snippets of "divine viewpoint" whereby we let them know that we know that the Lord is the One who is in control and that He is more important to us than anyone or anything else. I thought of this verse for you (may have mentioned it before):

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold
In settings of silver.
Proverbs 25:11 NKJV

It's important not to be gratuitous with these. I'm sure we've all met individuals who punctuate every sentence with "Praise the Lord!". I'm not saying it's wrong, but it's a poor fishing technique. Beating the water with an oar and yelling for the fish to come up to the boat is unlikely to work (even if it makes the supposed "fisherman" feel good); the Lord expects us to listen to the Spirit and do things in a patient way. We are supposed to be skilled "fishers of men" (Matt.4:19; Mk.1:17), and that means not just witnessing to unbelievers but also trying to help our brothers and sisters get moving up the strait and narrow the correct way as well (e.g., Jn.13:14-15; Jas.5:19-20).

Good fishermen have to be very patient. My dad loved fishing. I loved him, but I never liked fishing. It was so boring, sitting out in a boat all day, waiting for some fish to bite, having to be quiet ("Shh! You'll scare the fish!"). But all those many hours out in the boat with him did teach me a few things: 1) that I'm not patient (still working on THAT one); and 2) fishing requires patience in all things. You have to be quiet and still. You have to wait for the fish, for when they are ready to bite. And when and if that happens (more an "if" than a "when" in my experience), you have to set the hook just right. If you yank too hard, you'll pull the baited hook right out of their mouths. If you yank too soon, you'll miss your chance too because they were only nibbling. But if you wait too long, they'll just feast on the bait and be on their way and you'll just be left with an empty hook.

And once they're hooked, it's not over. You have to patiently struggle with them to bring them up to the boat without breaking the line, keeping the tension else they'll be able to spit the hook, but not too fast or too hard or you'll break the line. And when they're almost in the boat, well, that's the trickiest part of all. You have to grab the net with one hand and get it under them before they can get away while holding your rod up high so they won't be able to escape at the last moment. This part works better with help. Likewise, newly saved believers can't just be let out of the auditorium without some Christian "safety net" to bring them in to a place where they can grow. Alas, many are (most are in evangelical circuses), and fall back away in time as a result.

So patience is the thing – at every stage. But skill will bring good results, if the right opportunity presents itself. And as God helps us with all things, even fishing, He is certainly going to help us be patient and skillful when it comes to things He definitely wants done. And we know that He wants all to be saved, and all who are saved to grow and progress and produce for Him.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:  

Hi Bob,

Thank you for the time and care you have taken in your last email. It's a very important lesson for me and I will keep reminding myself of it.

I feel really upset Bob and I want to apologise to you in case you feel that I have misused the Lord's Word in any way and hope you will forgive me.

I may have sounded as if I have been more forceful than I actually have with my friend. I have hardly said anything to her about my concerns and possibly should have said more. I've listened to her a lot but not said much because I haven't found it easy.

[details about friend seeing signs everywhere omitted]

I promise you Bob I'm not exaggerating. I wasn't going to tell you all this but I'm finding it really hard.

I spent months with the Lord's help working through guilt feelings with my family and now I've got this with my friend. I think it might be best for me to take a step away from it. If I'm not able to follow the Spirit's guidance then I think it's better to not say or do anything.

I'm so sorry to have troubled you with this Bob and I'm sorry if I have misunderstood you. I'll just pray for her.

Response #17: 

First of all, I don't think you've done anything wrong at all! From what you have shared, your friend can use all the scripture she can get. What we are talking about here is effectiveness.

Shooters have to practice long and hard to be consistent about placing their rounds "in the black", but if you're learning how to shoot, there's no need to apologize for missing the bull's eye the first few times out – or even missing the target altogether. Believe me, it happens. And even experienced shooters miss from time to time. The important thing is that you are out there aiming and practicing and doing your best to hit that target for the Lord. He is bringing you along and, from what I can tell, you are making excellent progress.

Second, it's never a good idea to second guess oneself when applying the truth to our lives. The truth of the scripture which the Lord has given to us is absolute. So all the doctrines of the Bible are or should be presented as crystal clear. It make take some studying (and finding a good source), but the principles are solid and perspicuous and learned easily enough in the Spirit if we believe them. But it takes discernment based on spiritual growth and lots of practice "target shooting" to get to the point where we are really good at "hitting the black" most times out in how we apply truth. Indeed, the Christian walk is mostly about applying the truth we have learned (or should have learned), and good application requires judgment, experience, discernment, spiritual common sense and listening to the guidance of the Spirit.

No one has "arrived" on that score, even those who are mature and have learned much of what the Bible teaches. Every life situation is different, every person is different, and we change day to day – mostly getting better and moving forward (as it should be), but we have to be realistic about the zigging and zagging that one hopes will decrease with an ever greater commitment to the Lord but is seldom completely eradicated. Simply put, the walk we are walking is like a military campaign, a series of battles large and small that are never over until we see the Lord face to face. We will have victories and also defeats, and even when we are fighting a good fight we will make mistakes of omission and commission. And sometimes it won't even be a matter of mistakes so much as choosing the best way we can see to move forward but one which is not without it's negatives as well.

As in the case of your friend, what is the perfect mix of engagement and patience? Only the Spirit knows, and few of us are capable (because of imperfect growth and imperfect subordination of our will, sinners that we are) of hearing Him perfectly or of following through perfectly when we do. But it is IMPERATIVE that we not let our lack of perfection become a stumbling block that trips us up completely and takes us out of the game entirely. No military commander ever fought such a perfect battle where there were no casualties (not an important one, at any rate). As Napoleon said, if you want to make an omelet, it will be necessary to break some eggs. Similarly, if we want to apply the truth to life (as opposed to hiding in a cave), we will need to make a multiplicity of decisions: what do I say, how do I say it, when do I say it, etc., for each and ever little interaction with the world we have throughout our day. What are the chances that all of these will be perfect?

In American baseball, a batter who succeeds one third of the time is exceptional. Analogously, to find a believer who is thinking, saying and doing precisely the right thing in terms of applying the truth even half the time would require a lot of searching. We see the great believers of the Bible making mistakes – rather large mistakes – and we can be sure that they also did not police their thoughts and tongues perfectly, or make precisely the right "moves" every time. As long as we are growing, and as long as we are truly doing our best to do the best we can for the Lord in every aspect of our lives, we are much better off NOT being sorry for what we later perceive as mistakes or errors. Have we actually been sinful in something? Then we confess and move on. But if it is a question of trying to hit the target, then seeing later that there was a better way of doing it, well, we learn from such things and resolve to try harder to do better next time. But we do NOT look back and agonize about prior misses. This is a war. There will be losses of every kind. As long as we are fighting the fight in a stand up way day by day, we need to be satisfied with that, confident that the Lord will help us smooth off the rough edges and become better marksmen as the days roll by.

Finally, I do appreciate your esteem for this ministry. However, you are not responsible to Ichthys or to me. I appreciate your reports – they indicate to me a good Christian who is growing by leaps and bounds and who is doing a fine job of fighting the fight. But it is the Lord who does the judging, and it is to Him that we ALL look, mindful that we all fall very short in so many things. That is not to be a cause of slacking or a cause of terror. That is to be a spur to keep trying harder day by day in absolute confidence in His love for us and in His good pleasure with us for doing our best to do what He wants us to do.

"His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'"
Matthew 25:21 NKJV

So don't look back – it's what's ahead that counts.

(12) [It is] not that I have already gotten [what I am striving for], nor that I have already completed [my course]. Rather, I am continuing to pursue [the prize] in hopes of fully acquiring it – [this prize for whose acquisition] I was myself acquired by Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I do not consider that I have already acquired it. This one thing only [do I keep in mind]. Forgetting what lies behind me [on the course] and straining towards the [course] ahead, (14) I continue to drive straight for the tape, towards the prize to which God has called us from the beginning [of our race] in Christ Jesus. (15) So as many as are [spiritually] mature, let us have this attitude (i.e., of focusing on our spiritual advance and reward and not getting hung up on what lies behind: vv.13-14), and if in any matter your attitude is off-center, God will reveal that to you (i.e., assuming you are mature and are advancing as you should). (16) But with respect to the progress you have made, keep on advancing in the same way!
Philippians 3:12-16

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:  

Dear Professor

The Catholic priest, surprised me yesterday, New Years Day, coming into our backyard, while I was watering plants. Says he is being transferred to a coastal South West Australian town after his 6 year stint here. He is from south west India where there is a mostly Christian population, predominantly Catholic. He says it was the influence of St Thomas and one other Saint.

I mentioned the SBS series on The Pope, he asked when it was on, (Saturdays 830pm).
We talked a bit. I think he has some recognition of the man made nature of Catholicism, but being a couple of priests in his family, makes it difficult to change (employment).

On a moments thought, I did give him your Ichthys “business card”. He is leaving in 2 weeks and perhaps this will be my last chance to share your teaching. I hope it is alright. At times I am concerned about site security, if someone is hostile, which he does not appear to be. He is aware I meet with former devout Catholics friends.

I did give on of family members your card the next couple of days later, as she was packing. I am hoping she will have a look. On the home front with our family Bible reading there's room for big improvement here. I do talk about it a lot with the boys in earshot, and read aloud when they are in the kitchen. Your writings have given me such a firm foundation and confidence in the Truth. Many thanks for your devotion to the Truth.

One asked me about your “Charts”. Where do they come from? I said from the scriptures, mainly Revelation, and the timing of events was your Interpretation of the most likely pattern.

Times are so “good” now, in regards to our personal food, drink, security; it is sobering to think that the Tribulation is, perhaps, less than 7 years away - and those 7 years (IF we live through them) will be a very long 7 years. A very sobering thought. I think about it as we enjoy our Lord’s blessings so abundantly now. Sorry to bother you too much during the festive season. As before, no need to reply to any of this. I would like to correspond with you later into the year, after you have had a break.

I pray our Lord will continue to bless you and your family and friends. Thank you for allowing me to partake freely of your most gracious ministry.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Your student and friend

Response #18: 

I don't mind you handing your cards – I appreciate it. The Lord has protected me from all possibly backlash throughout my life and I'm not worried about it now. During the Tribulation, I suppose we will all get to know what backlash really is!

Do feel free to write me any time, my friend. Here's hoping that things calm down for you soon, and also that you have great success in reaching those you love the most in 2019.

You're in my prayers – thanks so much for yours!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:  

Good day,

Let me preface by saying thank you for your insights/ministry. I also pray you have a blessed/purposeful/prosperous 2019. I am asking for some links concerning another controversial topic - REAL Christians never sin or continuously struggle with it.. This is predicated on the notion that Romans chapter 7 describes Paul PREconversion. Thanks in advance and God bless you.

In Christ,

Response #19: 

On your question, a quick perusal of the "previous postings" list on Ichthys (at the link) will show that a great deal of the questions I field are either directly or indirectly related to this topic.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
1st John 1:6 NKJV

Clearly, we want not to be liars; we want to live the truth and walk with Jesus Christ, not in the darkness.

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
1st John 1:7 NKJV

Yet here in the verse above we see that believers, those who have fellowship with one another and with Jesus Christ, are being cleansed from our sin through His blood, that is, through His sacrifice for all sin

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1st John 1:8 NKJV

This next verse in the sequence is also directed at believers and makes it quite clear that if we say we do not have sin, no sin nature, no commission of personal sins, then we are lying and denying the truth which is otherwise. So beyond all question, believers do sin.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1st John 1:9 NKJV

Why would we need the blessing of being able to confess our sins if we had no sins? But since all believers sin, all believers have to confess, rather, have the blessed opportunity of being able to confess and be forgiven by our dear Lord and Savior on the basis of His death for them all – and in so doing are cleansed of all wrongdoing whatsoever.

If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
1st John 1:10 NKJV

Claiming that "sinless perfection" is even possible is a horrible lie – because it makes out our Lord to be a liar – heaven forbid! He died for all of our sins, and if we think we are "helping God" by being sinless, that dishonors Christ's sacrifice in the first place and denies the truth, making Him out to be a liar, in the second place.

My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
1st John 2:1 NKJV

This is the next verse in the sequence, a "different chapter" only in modern versions (no chapters in the original), and here we see that John's purpose in writing us theses things is to help us to combat and conquer sin – but he hastens to ad that when we do, we have our Lord as an advocate when we confess. Why would we need Him as our advocate in confession if we no longer ever sinned whatsoever?

It's very true that John includes a number of verses in this epistle that describe the believer as "not sinning", for that indeed is our "job description", so to speak. But to avoid the condemnation in chapter one, we have to accept that both things are true: 1) we are supposed to live sinless; but 2) this is never actually completely accomplished by any believer here in the devil's world while we are still residing in the sinful flesh. Mind you, we ARE supposed to get better at this. And if we do make it a habit to walk closer to the Lord day by day through spiritual growth, we will become better at warding off the "sin that easily besets". But considering how that anything we think and anything we say may very well be sinful, absolute perfection is something that in great humility we need to understand is unattainable . . . even as we strive to attain it as far as is possible.

Here are a number of links which deal with this and related topics:

Is Romans chapter seven autobiographical?

Peter #15: the Myth of "sinless perfection"

The universality of sin (in BB 3B)

The results of having a sin nature

Sin and Spiritual Transformation

Sinlessness and 1st John

Sin, Faith and Suffering

Fighting the Fight VIII

As I say, there is a great deal more about all this on the site, but this should get you started.

Thanks for your prayers and good wishes, my friend. Here's wishing you and yours a wonderful 2019 as well!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:  

We exchanged a few emails recently where I had lamented over my salvation and where I stood, your words were extremely encouraging, but as I move forward, I come across more obstacles, still manifesting in doubt. I wish I could have trust in the Lord, if I could only trust him, nothing would stand in my way as I climb this steep hill of my faith. I find myself knee deep in guilt over my sins which I hate yet seemingly have no power over. My sin of lust is diminishing slowly, but its been such a long had sin that I feel even committing it very infrequently even in weakness buts me closer to the edge of no return. The fate of Esau haunts my conscience, leaving me with doubts as to where I stand with God. Whether I'm close to the point of no return where I can no longer repent, or if I reached that point a long time ago. I also struggle with a stubborn smoking habit that I'm all too desperate to break, and with a heart that wants to please God, how could I even start if God will have nothing to do with my sin, and therefore have nothing to do with me?

At its core, I feel that my problem is trusting in God. It's not that I dont want to trust him, but that if I were to trust him, whether it would be in vain or self deception if I were in sin. Is trusting in God for the sinless? Or will God have nothing to do with those who are struggling with sin? I feel powerless, and I know that God is my only hope. My sin strickens me with powerlessness, and God is my only hope against my sin. It's a loop where God is the only answer, but my sin separates me from him. I want the joy that comes with being a Christian, yet I'm in constant torment and spiritual isolation, wondering who I even am, if I was a Christian and fell away or was ever a Christian at all but hardened my heart, wondering either way what hope there is for me if God hasn't answered my prayers for mercy and pleas of repentance.

I feel so close to the edge, yet all I've learned is that my feelings always fail me whether good or bad. I find no peace in God because I cant place my trust in someone who I believe I have utterly failed because of my sin. Worst of all, I come across these multitudes of YouTube disciples accusing Christian's of idolizing the Bible, claiming to have died and went to hell despite being born again Christian's because of a supposed lie they had suscepted to that Christian's aren't supposed to be sinless but actually perfect, narrowing the gate even further and decrying the church altogether. Many have the appearance and testimony of communing directly with Christ because of their supposed sinlessness, they seem genuine, even believable, while though I want to believe they're fraudulent and has since caused me not to seek answers on YouTube anymore, it caused me to want to err on the side of caution, trying even hard to achieve an impossible standard I cannot reach.

I cannot even make sense of the bible anymore. Its warnings frighten me and make me sick, and I find no hope for a wretched sinner like me, and what's worse is that my mind has rationalized this as having grieved the holy spirit, I can no longer make sense of the word as a result. My mind has become a tangled mess, and seems to put me even farther away from true, assured redemption.

Where are we to place our rest? When? How?

Thank you.

Response #20: 

Hello Friend,

Good to hear back from you, and I'm happy to hear that you've been making some progress – though I'm sorry to hear that this is still somewhat of a struggle. There are ways to combat this . . . and they all boil down to spiritual growth. The latest major posting to Ichthys, BB6A: Peripateology: the Study of the Christian Walk (at the link), is all about this and I encourage you to have a look.

(6) If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (7) But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (8) If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (9) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1) My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
1st John 1:6 - 2:1 NKJV

As these verses make clear it is wrong and very spiritually dangerous to allow oneself to begin to think that sinless perfection is a possibility in these bodies of sin we presently reside in. God has made provision for us when we sin: confession which restores fellowship and cleanses us, and we have Jesus Christ Himself as our "defense attorney" when Satan accuses us.

Is sin dangerous? Indeed. Are believers supposed to be sinless? Yes, that is true. Should we cast ourselves into despair when we fail as we all will on this point? That is only shooting ourselves in the foot. That is exactly what the devil wants.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV

The first thing to notice about this catalog is that while the first few and the last three are definitely overt productions of the flesh which any mature believer ought to be avoiding at all times, in the middle we have mostly sins of heart and tongue. Since virtually anything we think or say can be sinful, the folly of assuming that we will ever be sinless should be evident. James very eloquently explains the impossibility of harnessing the tongue – how much more difficult would it be to keep our mind in check at all times? We do get better at controlling both categories of sin as we grow, but we will only be absolutely sinless in the resurrection (unless we lapse into a coma prior to that).

Let me assure you that you are not Esau. Esau was an unbeliever. He wanted his inheritance, but he did not want the relationship with the Lord upon which it was predicated. All unbelievers are like that. They want to go to heaven; they don't want to go to hell; but they are unwilling to yield up their free will to the Lord to accept the Gift of gifts.

Keeping away from bad influences is a prudent step, so signing off of Youtube and whatever else has false teaching or things that influence you negatively is an excellent measure to take. But as I often remind my brothers and sisters in Christ, you can't win this fight by being good at defense. You have to take the fight to the enemy to win. How is that done? Through spiritual growth. As you make prayer, Bible reading, accessing good Bible teaching and then learning, believing and applying what you hear a matter of daily routine, you will find that you not only are doing better with all these things but you will also "feel better" most of the time. Understand: our emotions are a very unsure guide, and unless we are moving forward and directing them, they have a tendency to direct us:

Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions?

The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle.

So good for you that you are reading your Bible, but that is only part of what a Christian needs to do to become mature and a seasoned veteran in this fight of all fights. I recommend this ministry, Ichthys, as a good place to get what you need to be able to fight it better. I also always recommend Pastor Omo's "Bible Academy" at the link.

Here are a few more links to get you started:

Sin, Faith and Suffering

Sin, Guilt, and Salvation II

Sin, Guilt, and Salvation

Dealing with Sin and Guilt

Apostasy, Sin and Salvation

Please feel free to write me back about any of the above.

Wishing you and yours a blessed 2019.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:  

Hello Doc Bob,

How are you, sir? I do not want to bother you, especially this time of year but I need help in understanding 1 Corinthians 3:16-17:

"Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are."
1 Corinthians 3:16-17

How does a believer "defile" God's temple? Is it by staying immature/not growing spiritually, which produces a divisive and prideful attitude which in turn causes divisions?

How does God destroy that person? Is it by fairly judging his works on judgement day the result of which is his works are burned (future) and judging him presently in allowing him in his state of ignorance, pride, and being divisive?

So then, in order to avoid "defiling" God's temple God's solution is for believers to grow spiritually by having a right understanding that believers are not made up of local groups/denominations founded or headed by human leaders (many heads), but that God's temple is owned and headed by One - the LORD Jesus Christ.

This is just a rough sketch of my explanation why the "defiling" is not smoking, drinking, partaking in harmful substances like drugs, having tattoos and body piercing, staying up late/not having enough sleep, or suicide. 1 Cor. 3:22 mention of Paul, Apollos, and Cephas obviously links this to the problem mentioned in 1:10.

I need your help, sir. Corrections and comments are welcome.

No rush here, sir, and let me greet you a very merry Christmas!


Response #21: 

Good to hear from you, my friend. I hope you and your family are doing well – I pray for you daily.

As to your question, the verbs and pronouns in this passage are all plural. So Paul is saying that believers collectively are God's temple, the place of His presence on this earth. Not that this doesn't apply to individual believers, all of whom have the Holy Spirit residing in us; it certainly does. But the context here is the Corinthian church being misled by false teachers and becoming factionalized, a dangerous attack on the unity of the faith, an attack on the Church of Jesus Christ as a whole.

So all groups and false teachers who attack the truth are attacking God's temple, the true Church of Christ.

There are plenty of passages which teach sanctification and warn of the dangers of sinful behavior. This passage is different from those – although I am aware that many "teachers" use it to say that, e.g., individual Christians should not smoke cigarettes. Such is the nonsense one finds in the Laodicean church visible today.

Any group or individual which acts to undermine the truth, to lead the true Church astray, to seduce individual Christians or individual Christian churches from the strait and narrow way of following Jesus Christ alone in the truth, will find itself the enemy of God – and we certainly know how that will turn out.

In terms of individual Christians, therefore, it is also true that we, as individual temples of the Spirit are under the same protection from those who would attack the truth. Please see the link where this and similar passages are covered in BB 5 under "The Sanctifying Work of the Spirit making us a temple of God".

Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas time together.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22:  

Thanks for the usual quick reply.

Please critique the points below based on 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.

"Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are."

1. How does a believer "defile" God's temple? Is it by staying immature/not growing spiritually, which produces a divisive and prideful attitude which in turn causes divisions?

2. How does God destroy that person? Is it by fairly judging his works on judgement day the result of which is his works are burned (future) and judging him presently in allowing him in his state of ignorance, pride, and being divisive?

3. So then, in order to avoid "defiling" God's temple God's solution is for believers to grow spiritually by having a right understanding that believers are not made up of local groups/denominations founded or headed by human leaders (many heads), but that God's temple is owned and headed by One - the LORD Jesus Christ.

What I mean, sir, is what are you going to say if you are asked to explain the passage. The things I mentioned in the numbers above to understand "defile" of v.16 and "destroy" of v.17 are from the verses before and after the passage.

Sorry to bother you again but I want to get this right, sir, especially when most of the hearers whom this explanation are going to be given are non-English speakers - many steps removed from the Bible languages. As handicapped as I am just relying on other believers' work (particularly from you) and from English versions of the Bible, I also would want to be of help to them because the versions of the Bible they have (local dialects) are based from the KJV not direct translation from the original languages.

In a way, this email is me asking you to help me gauge myself whether I am able to understand my Bible correctly even when that Bible is just an English translation. Sorry for the wrong timing this message is sent but I don't want to lose my train of thought. I am trying to communicate to you even when I know that I cannot articulate my thoughts well in writing, worse when I speak.

The way I understand the immediate circumstance I am in is that the passage means something more than just the immediate context in Corinth when it is applied to the present situation of believers in the different local churches belonging to different denominations. When the these verses are viewed in their direct relation to the problem addressed in chapter 1:10 and how Paul make us understand the centrality of Jesus and the Bible in where to fix our focus in the succeeding verses (not in human leaders), there may be other errors in present practices in the churches that may be corrected as they might come out in the course of the explanation.

Enjoy your much deserved vacation, sir. Reply when you can.

Response #22: 

You're welcome, but I see I need to have another go at this with you.

Here is the last thing Paul says in this two verse passage: "For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are" (1Cor.3:17 NKJV). What is unclear in English is the that both the "you" and the "are" are plural in Greek. So we could expand the translation of the last part as follows: "which temple all of you are considered as a collective whole".

In other words, while it is true that later in this same epistle Paul compares the individual Christian's physical body to a temple of the Holy Spirit, that is not what he is doing in this passage. Here, all of the "you's" are plural, and the temple is the Church as a whole and also the church locally, the assembly of believers which is under attack by false teaching. So in this passage, the destroyer is not an individual Christian destroying his/her physical body; in this passage the destroyer is anyone who is attacking the Church from the outside, attacking the truth, putting believers at enmity one against the other, as with the disruptions mentioned earlier in the epistle. In this passage, Paul is reinforcing the need to strive for reward the right way, through spiritual growth (the preceding context) and that requires pulling together as a group of believers in service to the truth. Those who do the opposite will be thwarted by God Himself, destroyed with the same destruction they were planning, plotting or even unknowingly effecting against believers trying to grow as God would have them to do.

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
1st Corinthians 6:18-20 NKJV

In this other passage Paul is comparing the individual Christian's body to a temple because the Spirit dwells in us and God dwells in the temple. That ought to command some respect, therefore, and this means in turn that we don't belong to ourselves but to the Lord and ought to make use of the temple we have been given for the glory of God and not dishonor it. The context here is sexual impropriety which was a real problem at Corinth, in part because of the pagan culture which connected these activities with pagan religious worship. The Corinthians had a particular problem with separating themselves entirely from past pagan activities of every sort, and wrongly used the knowledge they had acquired – knowing correctly that there are actually no gods but God alone – to justify such dangerous continuation in practices they had previously engaged in.

Note that while here Paul does make it clear that such things are wrong and sinful and dangerous, and does use the temple analogy to help his charges understand the gravity of their lack of respect for the Lord and the Spirit, he doesn't say anything about destruction. That would be inappropriate. God disciplines us when we sin. Destruction is reserved for unbelievers who attack believers in the previous passage where attack is a) from the outside and b) on all not one.

As to your three points, I have no problem with them as applications which are good and true, but the interpretation of the passage you asked about is as laid out above.

1. "Staying immature/not growing spiritually" and doing also other things "which produces a divisive and prideful attitude which in turn causes divisions" are all part and parcel of the wrong approach most Laodicean Christians have today. In fact, in order to grow a person really needs to separate him/herself from most contemporary churches and organizations, cults, denominations and erstwhile Christian religious groups where the truth is not being taught and where what is being taught is either partially or wholly wrong.

2. Believers are rewarded for what we do, what we truly do, for Jesus Christ and His Church here in this life. What is otherwise is burned up, but even a cup of cold water genuinely offered in the Name of Christ is rewarded (see the link). The only way reward can be lost is in the case of apostasy where a believer reverts to being an unbeliever (so no reward results, clearly). Believers are delivered, not destroyed, even if disciplined for poor conduct in this life. There is of course the extreme case of behavior so bad that the Lord will not allow such a terrible witness to continue and the "sin unto death" results if there is no repentance. In that case, the Lord does bring about "the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1Cor.5:5 NKJV). Please see the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death".

3. As to "defile" / "destroy", the verb here is the exact same in both cases (diaptherei) – in fact the same conjugated form. So what God does to the destroyer/defiler is precisely what he/she had thought to do to the Church/church. Again in your passage in chapter three, this an active attack on the truth, not a passive failure to do what we ought to be doing. Those who are lukewarm and not interested in learning, living and proclaiming the truth may be easy targets for such "destroyers", and may gravitate into their orbits (bad churches, cults, etc.), but they are not the "one who destroys" in the context. Paul is speaking in 1st Corinthians chapter three of someone who is actively attempting to mislead the Church/church with false teaching. In the case of Corinth, that does mean introducing divisions (among other things), but in terms of application we find that there is a growing commonality of viewpoint in Laodicea among those who have little interest in the truth. Where the truth is no issue at all, the divisions between groups which care little for the truth are of small consequence. Antichrist will make great use of this phenomenon in his introduction of his unified religion. The only "dividers" then will be us – those who love the truth and who hate the lie.

I hope this helps make things clearer for you, my friend.

Again, wishing you and your family a blessed day.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.


Ichthys Home