Hey readers, help me out… WWLD?

tozeroval.gif  I’m going to take a big risk here, and I hope I don’t regret it.

I want to ask the readers of Maxgrace.com to give an answer to a young pastor named Sean.  He is a frequent reader and commentor at this blog.  He has started a ministry in a northern California beach town.  I had him in one of my classes.  He and his family have been to my home.  And because he worked at a local coffee shop, he’s made me lots and lots of coffee.

Sean responded to my recent post on grace by quoting the outstanding Chicago pastor named A.W. Tozer.  Tozer is one of my theological heroes.  But the statement Sean chose to quote does not mesh with my theology.

So, here’s how you can help me out… (Especially all the veterans of Lois’ Bible class.  You can ask WWLD?)…

How would you lovingly and respectfully respond to Sean and the quote he raises from A.W. Tozer?  (I reserve the right to not post unkind words or stuff I think is not to the point or stuff I just really don’t like–get your own blog!)

Here is the quote.  Leave your comments below.  I’ll sum up in a day or two.

A.W. TOZER:  “I Call it Heresy.” 

THE SCRIPTURES DO NOT TEACH that the Person of Jesus Christ nor any of the important offices which God has given Him can be divided or ignored according to the whims of men.

Therefore, I must be frank in my feeling that a notable heresy has come into being throughout our evangelical Christian circles – the widely accepted concept that we humans can choose to accept Christ only because we need Him as Savior and we have the right to postpone our obedience to Him as Lord as long as we want to!

This concept has sprung naturally from a misunderstanding of what the Bible actually says about Christian discipleship and obedience. It is now found in nearly all of our full gospel literature. I confess that I was among those who preached it before I began to pray earnestly, to study diligently and meditate with anguish over the whole matter. I think the following is a fair statement of what I was taught in my early Christian experience and it certainly needs a lot of modifying and a great many qualifiers to save us from being in error. “We are saved by accepting Christ as our Savior; we are sanctified by accepting Christ as our Lord; we may do the first without doing the second!”

The truth is that salvation apart from obedience is unknown in the sacred Scriptures. Peter makes it plain that we are “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit for obedience” (1 Peter 1:2). What a tragedy that in our day we often hear the gospel appeal made on this kind of basis: “Come to Jesus! You do not have to obey anyone. You do not have to change anything. You do not have to give up anything, alter anything, surrender anything, give back anything – just come to Him and believe in Him as Savior!”

Tomorrow I’ll post a famous author and preacher who took the opposite side.  And then I’ll give my opinion soon.  But I really want Sean to hear from others in the body of Christ who have wrestled with these issues.  Thanks.

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60 thoughts on “Hey readers, help me out… WWLD?

  1. I think the key word here is “obedience.” Is that legalistic works for salvation or is it a response to the new life in Christ? I don’t believe Tozer is saying you must do works for salvation for it is grace alone in Christ alone; but I think he is questioning what Dr. G has called “leniency” in another blog date. Is Tozer saying “fire insurance” is not enough? I don’t know for sure without reading more of his thoughts. I think fire insurance is enough, for we are escaping the fires of hell which is the reason for our need for a Savior. Our sanctification is a process which, I believe, will be completed in heaven. In that case, there is a lot of “obedience” needed. I think we all know that just saying “words” is not enough for new birth. It does take the telling of the Truth of Salvation with all the facts necessary to understand in a soft heart.
    This discussion is so needed to help explain how some people can claim to be “Christians” and act like the devil. What’s up doc?

  2. Jesus told us to ‘count the cost.’

    …how, if there is no cost?

    We hold onto some very basic misunderstandings of the gospel:

    HEAVEN – Heaven has less to do with the gospel that Jesus preached then we make it seem! (Read and see for yourself) And this colors the entire conversation, as it leads us to ask all the wrong questions, and hold all the wrong assumptions.

    GOPSEL – I have never heard anyone do justice to Jesus’ gospel without first explaining the term He used to define His gospel; The Kingdom of God (The Kingdom of the Heavens in Matthew); if we don’t understand what Jesus meant by this, and how it fits into the gospel message, then how can we claim to understand the gospel He preached?

    DISCIPLESHIP – Jesus asked for disciples, and told His disciples to make disciples. To be a disciple to to give one’s entire being to learning how to do what the master does (whether it’s carpentry, the violin, or life).

    FAITH – It is not possible to have faith in Jesus without having faith in Jesus. How can we believe He is sufficient to ‘get us to heaven’ if He is not sufficient to teach us how to live our lives?

    SALVATION – We are fundamentally mistaken about the nature of salvation. We need to ask some basic questions: Is the God presented by Jesus more concerned with our location (heaven) or with our character? Does He want a people who are correct on the outside (doctrinal purity) but who’s hearts have little to do with Him, and lives have even less to do with Him? Is salvation from sin-guilt the same as salvation from sin? And what exactly are we ‘saved’ to? What, does the Bible declare, are the effects of ‘salvation’ on the individual and the community?

    I could go on longer, but then I might not make the cut! 😉

    I read NT Wright and Dallas Willard. That is where this stuff comes from.

  3. I believe that everything that the other comments had to say is fine and good. But, what does the Bible have to say on the subject. The only quote from the Bible is the one from 1 Peter 1:2 in the A.W. Tozer’s quote. Test this opinion and make sure that it fits the context of the entire passage and the book. Furthermore, make sure that it fits into the message of the Gospels and the rest of the Bible.

    Although A.W. Tozer was a great man, he was still a man. The Bible is sufficient and should be used to test all saying and prose of man.

  4. I would ask those who agree with Tozer’s position these questions:
    1: How much obedience in necessary to ensure my salvation? Some? A lot?
    2: If post-faith obedience is an integral part of my salvation, what do I obey? Everything that Steve says above? (Even though, according to Steve, I don’t actually understand it). All of it? Some of it? The Law? Even the sacrifices?
    3: When do I know for sure I’m saved, and how do I know I keep it? Do I ask Steve? When I adopt an orphan? Or do I just have to help an old lady across the street? If I don’t help the old lady, do I lose it?

    If Dr. Tozer hasn’t found a place in scripture that completely extracts human effort from salvation, I would point him to Eph 2: 8,9…Not by works of righteousness which we have done….Or, let your Bible flop open to Romans, and read almost anything. Rom 5:1 Justification by faith.

    Don’t get me wrong: obedience is the outcome of spiritual maturity, and is required for a healthy life, family, church, culture. But it’s not an element of our salvation.

    Finally, Bill: What are your thoughts on Heb 6:4-6. I know it’s a controversial passage, but could it be describing saved people who fall away…the non-obeyers? They reach a point beyond which they can’t repent. Interesting verbage in verse 8…”near to being cursed.” A possible interpretation is that this passage identifies a useless and disobedient class of believers, who never grow spiritually, but are nonetheless, saved people. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

  5. Bob G: excellent, brilliant, and logical. Not surprising. Let me mull over your take on Heb 6:4-6… you might be on to something here…

    awvivit: right on. The Bible is our final authority. We can trade quotes back and forth all day, but Scripture, interpreted in context is the final voice.

    Steve, Steve, Steve… by your [arbitrary, self-imposed] standard, therefore, Paul himself distorted the Gospel when he failed to even mention the kingdom (as you require) in this statement:

    “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. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve…. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, NKJV.
    </blockquote>

  6. I think of the passage in Luke where the one criminal “gets saved”. He was a murderer (I don’t think thievery got you capital punishment)….

    all he said was “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. I LOVE that verse…his FAITH alone saved him…here Jesus (the KING) was dying a brutal death on the cross….to many, this was not supposed to happen to a KING!!! Even His disciples didn’t get it…. yet this criminal did…..and for his faith alone, he is with Jesus in paradise!!

    (carry your cross????) Surely even the disciples didn’t understand Christ’s central message….He came to die. It’s Christ’s cross …..ooops..more later….have to run

  7. “The only quote from the Bible”

    My apologies, I was quoting the Bible, I just neglected the use of citations for brevity’s/laziness sake…

    “he (Paul) failed to even mention the kingdom”

    I concede that Paul certainly mentions the term much less than the synoptic portrayal of Jesus, but your statement seems a little too ‘over the top’ even for hyperbole(?)

    Paul’s use of the term in the NIV”

    (I’ll leave off the Greek to you) 😉

    This was intended to be self-imposed (it is by no means an imposition demanded by scripture), however, it has been my observation that people who have defined the gospel according to the prevailing theological currents have left off that particular dialogue, whereas those who are attempting to approach the gospels on their own terms have chosen that as their starting point. It seems prudent to me that before we move on to use different terminology (I am assuming you are now arguing that ‘Kingdom’ terminology is no longer culturally relevant?) we should first define the terms that Jesus used to proclaim the gospel. (For citation simply research all of the places Jesus is recorded using the terms ‘gospel’ and ‘kingdom’ and see what you conclude)

    “it’s (obedience) not an element of our salvation.”

    I (and, to my limited understanding of him, Tozer) have never said that obedience saves us. I have always maintained that we are saved by Jesus life and death, by way of our trust in Him. (If you prefer I can use the protestant rosary, 😉 ‘saved by grace through faith.’) I only state that our understanding of some basic terms needs to be re-evaluated in light of what the Bible teaches, namely: salvation, faith, gospel, christian.

    It is my attempt to find the Biblical definition that causes me to cringe at the above statement. If faith without obedience is not actually faith at all, then perhaps we should reconsider our current reduction of salvation into mere justification devoid of sanctification.

    This seems to be a central question here that needs answering:

    …”explain how some people can claim to be ‘Christians’ and act like the devil. What’s up doc?” (Or, is it possible to be justified if you refuse to be sanctified?)

    I would add: is it possible for ‘Christians’ to act like the devil? I will leave off quoting all of the scriptures that I would like to, in order to ask you to explain just one passage for me:

    How do you exegete Matthew 7:15-29

  8. Dear Maxgrace.com reader:

    Steve (whose comment is above) is a regular participant in our maxgrace discussions, and is a member of the Orthodox church. He regularly challenges me, and that is healthy.

    Steve… I would ask (again) that you kindly abbreviate your comments. Both for my time’s sake, and for the sake of our readers.

    Your comment begins by misunderstanding Bob’s reference to something Tozer said; it’s not about you. The only Bible verse Tozer (not Steve) references is 1 Pet… so enough on that….

    1. It is not logical for you to add a link to Paul’s mention of the kingdom. Of course he mentions the kingdom. it is important in his theology. I merely pointed out that in his central defining statement on the GOSPEL, the kingdom is nowhere to be seen–which contradicts your earlier post. [You once again have taken a partial quote from me and misrepresented my position. Please don’t do it again.] Since you will not deal with that contradiction per se, what can I do? Your mind is made up.

    2. Why did you say “I’ll leave off the Greek?” Sounds like bragging to me, so help me see it in another light.

    3. “It’s (obedience) is not an element of salvation.” That quote from a brilliant writer (Bob) taken in context merits a big AMEN. In context he correctly asserts that obedience is a result, but never the cause of salvation (which even you, Steve, have just for the first time on my blog affirmed). As soon as obedience is a cause, you get into works salvation… and then where do you stop?

    4. What you call “the Protestant rosary” is actually a Bible verse, so should I take that comment as disrespect for Scripture? or for those who attempt to base their conclusions on the words of Scripture?

    5. You ask: Is it possible to be justified if you refuse to be sanctified?” I ask you, Steve, ARE YOU SANCTIFIED? How much so? If I followed you around for a week, would I conclude that you are indeed SANCTIFIED? Define it however you like, and get back to me. There is an organic unity between the two, but they are different, and one comes first.

    6. Matt 7:15-29 is about a follower of Jesus post-salvation. You do the exegesis.

    Salvation is entirely a gift provided by God’s effort, based upon the finished work of Christ at Calvary (to the absolute exclusion of human effort), received freely by grace through faith.

    Any disagreement with that?

    Bill

  9. Great questions Bob & thanks for your input.
    1: Matthew 10: 37″Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” You’re asking for a definite answer to a relative question.
    
2: John 15 “10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.” Bob if you are confused about Israel’s need for animal sacrifices or the Law & if the NT requires them check out “How to Read the Bible for all it’s Worth” by Gordon Fee, he does a far better job than I ever could explaining this.
    3: 1 John 2:3-6 “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Those who say, “I know him,” but do not do what he commands are liars, and the truth is not in them. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”

    Hebrews 6. No doubt we all know that these vs. have been used as a prooftext for “eternal security of the believer” by Calvinists & Armenians. However, the original purpose of the author dealt specifically with his readers’ concern about the Levitical sacrifices required by the Torah. The author tells them that Jesus’ atoning death transformed the Torah & brought about a new hermeneutic as well. I too, understand scripture to say “there can be no addition to the atoning sacrifice of Christ for sin.” Yet, this is not what, in my opinion, is being said about obedience or discipleship. Obedience & discipleship are not required in addition to belief; obedience & discipleship are the demonstration of belief. As the Reformed Lutheran Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said in “Cost of Discipleship” Only those who believe obey; only those obey believe. Belief & obedience are synonymous; therefore, those who don’t obey don’t believe. John 14 & 15 speaks of this: 15 “If you love me, obey my commandments; & 23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them; & (Chap. 15) 9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. Jesus makes a propositional truth in these three verses: Obeying Him demonstrates your love for God. John (whichever one) helps our understanding in the above provided scriptures: “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” Will you contend “Must?”

    The thief on the cross: a contextual experience which should not be considered the norm; it is a powerful pretext showing the breadth of Christ’s grace.
    1. If I can part & parcel out the offices of God, so that I can choose whether he is Savior or Lord at any given moment doesn’t that render God subject to my will; can I create who I want God to be to fit my agenda?

    Jean said, “This discussion is so needed to help explain how some people can claim to be “Christians” and act like the devil. What’s up doc?”

    As far as Steve’s Greek comment is concerned, Bill you are reading Steve incorrectly. He is much more jovial than you suspect & his comment was a complement; you are the only person who reads Greek; therefore, it’s best left to you.

    Tozer does quote more than a verse in 1 Peter: “The truth is that salvation apart from obedience is unknown in the sacred Scriptures.” He challenges the whole of scripture. Too, when’s the last time Tozer was incomplete on his scripture use. His assertion is no mere prooftext.

  10. Ouch!

    My sincere apologies for the misunderstandings!!

    1) I re-read your comment and still understand it in the way I did the first time, but I accept that you meant something other than I understood you to say. Sorry that I misunderstood you!! I was in no way intentionally misrepresenting you!

    2) I don’t speak or read Greek, I rely on those who do, (I seem to recall that you do?) I was just trying to be cute 😉 and failing miserably…

    3) We don’t save ourselves – I have never, and will never, say otherwise. In fact, it seems to my recollection that no one ever asks me how answer that question, but rather assumes my answers for me…

    4) I certainly don’t view the term ‘rosary’ as a derogatory or disrespectful term. The Catholics that I know are deeply concerned with rightly understanding Scripture. To be honest I had more in mind the repeated saying of a phrase that, while true, is not understood by the one invoking it. That is certainly how I used the phrase at one time. I admit I have a penchant for being provocative; once again, I apologize, you cannot see my sly grin, and my wink, over the world wide web… I meant to hurt no one.

    5) You speak of the ‘organic unity’ between justification and sanctification; that answers the question that I have been asking! To answer yours, I would define sanctification as the process (justification the start of that process, glorification the end) of sin-tainted people coming to fully reflect the person of Jesus.

    6) I feel like we are speaking two different languages!

    I would be willing to agree with this:

    “Salvation is entirely a gift provided by God’s effort, based upon the finished work of Christ at Calvary (to the absolute exclusion of human effort), received freely by grace through faith.”

    But I think we are defining terms in radically different ways! I feel like the only way we could actually come to any conclusion would be to read three of four books out of each others library and then lock ourselves into a room together with no phones, computers, etc, just a couple translations of the Bible (you could even bring your Greek one) 😉

    Once again my apologies for any offenses I have caused to you or your readers!

  11. Sean, it’s late and I’m gonna shut down the computer for a while… but there is a difference between “quoting” scripture and referring to it.

    Steve, thanks for the clarification; and yes we are speaking two different languages. I speak evangelical. You speak Orthodox. Every word needs to be decoded. However, I believe I have the linguistic research of the ages on my side… though I’m sure you’d disagree.

    Later, brothers and sisters.
    B

  12. You can find the entire first chapter of this book here:
    http://www.theboc.com/freestuff/awtozer/books/icallitheresy/1.html

    If you read it you’ll find that Tozer is more than happy to reference many other passages to strengthen his position of Lordship Salvation.

    Wonderful arguments today. Thank you for your grace, humor, & resolute positions. I discussed this topic with almost everyone I spoke to; what better subject is there?

    Tozer still stands.
    Blessings,

  13. dont know much about history…..
    dont know much theology….
    but I do know one thing is true…
    Tozer had a son
    and though he may have embarrased his father on a regular basis…..
    He was still a Tozer
    What degree of lordship gets you in?

  14. Hi again,

    this debate is sooo interesting to me…..I’m confronted with this ALOT out here where I live.

    I wish I could articulate my thoughts as well as you guys. Here’s a few scattered thoughts on the subject that I had anyway….maybe someone could explain them better than I can….if I’m off…no sweat…I’ll keep thinking and enjoy reading this debate.

    Wasn’t Abraham justified by faith alone in Christ alone (he was declared righteous only after believing God (in Gen. 15) about his heir (ultimately Christ). And didn’t Abraham sort of sleep while God made His covenant with Abraham…they way I understand it…Faith is always in believing that what God says is true. Is it not passive…

    one of the gracious words of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane to His disciples in Mark 14 (Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus said this to them in His hour of greatest need.

    Jesus knew what was in man….. and He still died for us. Praise God that it is by faith alone…if our obedience had anything to do with it I wonder if anyone could be saved.

    Abraham (father of our faith) wasn’t his weak as well…with his wife as his sister, Hagar, just to mention a few little bleeps.

    When I look at all the heroes of the faith in the bible…they all look justified solely by their faith in God’s Promise…..never by what they did.

    in James….was he speaking about others examples of what could be done when you put your faith in action?

    sorry these thoughts are so scattered…just woke up!

  15. Jean said, “This discussion is so needed to help explain how some people can claim to be “Christians” and act like the devil. What’s up doc?

    Jean, popular evangelical theology has rendered holiness & obedience to Jesus as optional. Therefore, you can “act like the devil” & go to Heaven. You don’t have to live like Jesus did if you don’t want to; you can choose what commands to follow or not to follow.

    1 John 2:6 “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”
    Please contend “Must.”

    Tony, when did the disciples “get saved?”
    Too, I answered that question: Matt. 10:37-39; John 15:10-17; 1 John 2:3-6; John 14:15. Likewise, obedience is a relative issue, which makes us uneasy. We see belief as a door to open & then shut, not as a road to travel down.

    Once again: obedience is belief; belief is obedience.

    Where in scripture do you find a believer’s obedience to God as an option?

  16. Cheir, great comment for just waking up! Here’s my response to your question.
    Genesis 15 Abraham was a very old man, but God said to him, “Look up into the heavens and count the stars if you can. Your descendants will be like that—too many to count!” Then it says, “And Abraham believed the LORD, and the LORD declared him righteous because of his faith.” However, this is not the end of the story.
    In Genesis 22 we see that God tests Abraham, asking him to sacrifice the son God had promised to him.
    Abraham obeys God and as he took the knife to kill his own son, God says, “Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your beloved son, I swear by my own self that I will bless you richly…all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.”
    God’s promise was conditional; Abraham had to obey God in order to receive his blessings; his obedience demonstrated his belief.
    Notice Abraham never said, “But I’ve already believed, remember you already declared me righteous, the promise is mine, I don’t have to do anything else.”
    Belief is relational between God and his children; Belief and Obedience are one and the same.
    Abraham was justified by his faith; twice.

  17. Bill and I may be the only two who have achieved sinless perfection. So I ask the question for the rest of you sinners who are not obedient 100% of the time, what does it take? 99% ? 80? 50% ?
    I will be back later, This darn cock keeps crowing somewhere in the other room.

  18. Tony you are asking for a definite answer to a relative question. What did Jesus say? Matt. 10:37-39; John 15:10-17; 1 John 2:3-6; John 14:15. This is the third time I have answered this question. Please read the above scriptures.

    After you take care of you chickens please answer my questions.

  19. Another question: Why, if holiness is an option, did God strike down Ananias & Sapphira? Acts 5:11 “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.”

  20. Dear Sean,
    With all due respect, you did not answer Tony’s question. How obedient must a person be to merit eternal life?

    Sean, you wrote, “belief = obedience”.

    Then here’s what I hear you saying:
    “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever IS OBEDIENT to him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Sean 3:16.

    How does that square with…
    ““I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”” Galatians 2:21, NKJV.

    Nobody here is anti-obedience. We’re pro-obedience. Read the Lois Peterson blog, called HeavenQuake… and see how a RADICAL FREE GRACE GOSPEL turned druggies and hippies and fornicators into pastors and missionaries.

    The gospel is all grace, all faith, all Jesus, plus zero.

    We’ll keep working on you as long as you can take it.
    Love in Him,
    Dr G.

  21. Ananias and Sapphira show the wrath of God on anybody who thinks he/she can purchase favor with God.
    So watch out, all you who say that faith IS obedience! (That was said tongue in cheek, with a smile, as a mild challenge and loving rebuke).
    Bill

  22. I did answer the question, but you want a definite answer to a relative question.

    Belief is not an intellectual ascent, but is demonstrated through action. Abraham was justified by faith; twice. (Read my above post). I still hold to my opinion. You approach belief from a static viewpoint, not a dynamic one. Yes, you can translate that verse as such & I agree with it. “Those who obey my commands love me.”

    When did the disciples “get saved?”

    1 John 2:3-6 “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Those who say, “I know him,” but do not do what he commands are liars, and the truth is not in them. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” Contend must.

    Even if they were trying to purchase favor it is a question of holiness, which you assert is optional to belief. God struck them down because they lied to him. Why, if holiness is an option did God strike them dead? Too, why if holiness is an option did “fear seize the church?” since they have nothing to worry about; you can live “like the devil” & still be a Christian.

    I appreciate the work.

  23. hi there,

    isn’t there something in the gospels about a childlike faith?

    Wasn’t the rich man rebuked when he didn’t sell all and follow Jesus?? Wasn’t Jesus’ point that the rich man was talking to the God of all grace but wanted to rely on his good works instead of realizing he couldn’t possibly work his way into the gift of eternal life?

    live like the devil & still be a Christian…..well the devil sure doesn’t want anyone to hear/know about the grace of God and His awesome GIFT of eternal life. (devil can look shiny and beautiful while trying to turns hearts away from Christ….what better way than legalism)???

    In terms of living a life of sin….who is to say when after receiving Christ what a life of obedience would look like for each individual. The Spirit is gentle and at times severe…God will discipline His children who are disobedient as only a loving Father knows how and exactly what will work on His child.

    I love the metaphors for God (Father, husband, friend)….I may be a disobedient/prodigal child….a rotten unfaithful wife…..but legally, I’m still my dad’s kid, and a wife…..experientially distant though.

    Salvation is such an awesome indescribable gift; Our dead works can contribute nothing to it, for if they did, salvation would be our paycheck.

    God demands our holiness as any loving and good father would for their child, because they know this is what is best for them (instead of living in the sewer they are currently in and don’t even know it). But God knew what weak and sinful creatures we were so He gave us an amazing gift and His Son came and lived the life of holiness we can only aspire to so that through FAITH in His work we can now have eyes to see the sewer and learn to trust Him enough that He will lift us out it.

    sorry for the scattered thoughts again. I LOVE this talk, can’t stop thinking about it which has been a tremendous blessing!

  24. Cheir said, “In terms of living a life of sin….who is to say when after receiving Christ what a life of obedience would look like for each individual. The Spirit is gentle and at times severe…God will discipline His children who are disobedient as only a loving Father knows how and exactly what will work on His child.” That is a relative answer to a relative question; thank you Cheir. Your approach to God is that of a daughter; not a lawyer.

    When Jesus asked the rich young ruler to sell all he had he was asking him to believe & trust in him alone. Jesus alone knows the idols. He alone is God.

    Cheir what do you think of Abraham being justified through faith twice.

  25. Phillipians 2:12 “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…”

    What’s obeying have to do with salvation?

  26. I have been struggling with this exact issue and I am enjoying this dialogue. I have been praying and asking questions and this is where The Lord led me. Philippians 2:13 ” For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. ” I have been trying to follow Christ and his examples and the more I try (relying on self) the worse I screw up. Then Pauls words in Romans 7:15-25 come to mind, and I cry out “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but the sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!
    I probably should have let you guys look that one up but I thought it was too important. I have found that instead of being “bogged down in Christ” by trying to be something I cannot, on my own power, I am feeling “free in Christ” again. I plead with him to make my desires, His.

  27. This Just In!!! MAXGRACE HAS BEEN HIJACKED!!!

    Sean,
    You’ve referred to my desire for a “definite answer to a relative question.” The question is what to obey, and how much to obey. It IS a definite question. Not relative. And this IS a definite, binary conversation. Heaven/Hell. Saved/Unsaved. True/False. Add Perfect/Imperfect and you define the line in the sand for obedience as it relates to salvation. So, it may appear to be a relative question, but it has a definite answer: Sinless perfection is what it takes to be part of God’s family. Thank God that I have Christ’s righteousness!!!

    The fact is, that post-belief obedience is irrelevant when it comes to the gospel. It has to be irrelevant because the WHOLE POINT OF THE GOSPEL is that Jesus did all the work. If I have to do any work to prove, or to secure my place in God’s family, that means that Jesus didn’t do all the work.

    And, since righteousness is variable, and since nobody can reach the absolute sinless perfection required by God, my obedience cannot be a factor in my membership in God’s family…pre or post belief. Like Tony K would say: once a Tozer, always a Tozer. And like Heather and Cheir have said, we’re all sinners, waiting for ultimate sanctification.

  28. Heather great thoughts & I too share your struggles. True, we cannot follow Christ by our own strength; thus Jesus says, “what is impossible with man is only possible by God.” Likewise, Paul says, “But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3) When Jesus calls us to follow him & we accept that call we receive the Holy Spirit who empowers us with strength to walk as Jesus walked. Paul says in his letter to the Colossians, “11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.” Too, Jesus recommends that “we seek first the Kingdom & all these things will be given to us.” I often tell my congregation, “stop looking at your feet, look up, show the Lord your teeth, he loves to see you smile.” The solution comes from looking at Him.

    We all wrestle with being holy on our own. But that’s the Holy Spirit’s role in our life; he reveals, strengthens, & empowers; Our obligation is surrendering to his leading. This is, as anyone can attest, no simple task; but as a loving Father, God is both patient & gracious. I meet weekly with other men to pray, worship, & keep each other accountable; the church is our present help. Too, I find it helpful to laugh at myself.

    Great thoughts.

  29. Thanks for the comments Bob. (!)

    “Just let me ask: Who said that you can be a Christian without being a disciple? I don’t think you can. The idea that I can come to the Lord and by grace have all of my sins forgiven and have my name written in heaven, and have the Carpenter go to work on a mansion in my Father’s house, and at the same time raise hell on my way to heaven is impossible and unscriptural. It cannot be found in the Bible. We are never saved by our good works, but we are not saved apart from our good works. Out of our saving faith in Jesus Christ, there springs immediately goodness and righteousness. Spring is not brought by flowers, but you cannot have spring without flowers. It isn’t my righteousness that saves, but the salvation I have received brings righteousness. I think we must face up to this now—that we must walk in righteousness if we are going on to know the Lord. The man who is not ready to live right is not saved, and he will not be saved, and he will be deceived in that great day. I cannot believe that a man is on the road to heaven when he is habitually performing the kind of deeds that would logically indicate that he ought to be on his way to hell.” (A.W. Tozer-The Counselor pgs. 127-28) (!)

  30. So, dear Sean, you are now reduced to shouting at someone whose life you don’t even know to obey God? Someone who has never written one single syllable that rationalizes not obeying God? Where is this energy coming from?

    You still have not answered me: you wrote that faith=obedience. Therefore, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever IS OBEDIENT TO HIM will not perish, but have everlasting life.” (Sean 3:16). Isn’t that a fair inference from your “formula?”

    LET’S ALL KEEP IT CIVIL. We’re here to learn, and to teach, and to glorify Jesus in our conversation.

    Bill

  31. I’m not shouting, but I am making light of one who is.

    I did answer that question:
    Belief is not an intellectual ascent, but is demonstrated through action. Abraham was justified by faith; twice. (Read my above post). I still hold to my opinion. You approach belief from a static viewpoint, not a dynamic one. Yes, you can translate that verse as such & I agree with it. “Those who obey my commands love me.”

    Now help me understand these questions:

    When did the disciples “get saved?”

    1 John 2:3-6 “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Those who say, “I know him,” but do not do what he commands are liars, and the truth is not in them. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” Contend this scripture.

    Even if they were trying to purchase favor it is a question of holiness, which you assert is optional to belief. God struck them down because they lied to him. Why, if holiness is an option did God strike them dead? Too, why if holiness is an option did “fear seize the church?” since they have nothing to worry about; you can live “like the devil” & still be a Christian.

  32. just a quick thought as “Candy Land” is calling me:)

    don’t you first need to have faith before you can discuss the effects of it

    I wonder if all the exhortations in Scripture to be obedient are because many Christians are in fact not behaving like a follower of Christ. Their position is royalty but acting like a pauper.

    Abraham justified twice: I think his name was written in the Book of LIfe and it stuck the first time (declared righteous after believing God about THE HEIR. Perhaps he was “justified” in man’s eyes when he offered up his son, but God already had his heart.

    sorry for the quick thoughts; I can’t wait to read again when I get time; thinking about this all day has been really cool.
    thanks you guys.

  33. Cheri great thoughts. It seems as if you’re a busy bee.

    How do I know someone has faith? Because they tell me? Abraham’s
    obedience to God demonstrated his faith. God tested his faith & his actions revealed what he actually believed; Abraham trusted God.

    I love my wife. How would you be able to tell if I loved my wife? You would see me kissing & hugging her as often as I can. After seeing how I treat my wife you wouldn’t ask: Do you love your wife? My actions would demonstrate that I do.

    However, drawing hard lines such as: Christians don’t smoke; Christians don’t swear; Christians don’t cheat; Christians don’t get angry; or Christians don’t hurt people, can get us into problems. Once again believing must be set within the context of each believer; we’re all at different places in our walk with Jesus. Rather we should ask: Are you growing in your relationship with Jesus, trying to obey him, failing, & succeeding in trusting him. Belief is a journey, not a one time decision that saves you from believing again; like Abraham.

    I love people who have to take a break from church to go outside & smoke a cigarette. They often time apologize for their habit. I tell them “when you smoke, talk with Jesus, he loves to hear what’s going on in your life.”

    3 questions, now 4,
    & you should believe there will be more,
    I’d love to have answered:

    1. When did the disciples “get saved?”

    2. 1 John 2:3-6 “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Those who say, “I know him,” but do not do what he commands are liars, and the truth is not in them. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” Contend this scripture.

    3. Even if Ananias & Sapphira were trying to purchase favor it is a question of holiness, which you assert is optional to belief. God struck them down because they lied to him. Why, if holiness is an option did God strike them dead? Too, why if holiness is an option did “fear seize the church?” since they have nothing to worry about; you can live “like the devil” & still be a Christian.

    4. “My brethren, we are not allowed to come to Jesus Christ as shrewd, clever operators saying, “We will take this and this, but we won’t take that!” We do not come to Him as one who, buying furniture for his house, declares: “I will take this table but I don’t want that chair” – dividing it up! No, sir! It is either all of Christ or none of Christ!” (Tozer-I Call it Heresy)

    Can you divide the offices of Christ as you see fit? If so, doesn’t that render you in control of God? “I’ll take this, & this, & this, but I don’t need that right now, you can keep that part of Yourself until I have use of it.” Who’s in control? Who’s God?

  34. Thanks for the wonderful dialogue. Your thoughts & questions challenge me & help me to really think through salvation, discipleship, belief, grace, & obedience. I appreciate everyones tone, especially Bob(!) whose enthusiasm for the truth will ingnite many to seek Jesus.

    As it stands Dr. the next time you address your class you can add to the list of people who disagree with your position. Tozer calls your position “Heresy,” Bonhoeffer calls it “Cheap Grace,” & Dallas Williard (you’ll read him in the 5th question) calls it “The Great Omission.” I call it a subject that has furthered my love for God, people, & evangelism. So, although we stand on opposite sides of the fence, I commend & thank you.

    My questions still stand & now a 5th & 6th for those pulling a night shift:

    1. When did the disciples “get saved?” & how do you know they were “saved?”

    2. 1 John 2:3-6 “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Those who say, “I know him,” but do not do what he commands are liars, and the truth is not in them. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” Contend this scripture.

    3. Even if Ananias & Sapphira were trying to purchase favor it is a question of holiness, which you assert is optional to belief. God struck them down because they lied to him. Why, if holiness is an option did God strike them dead? Too, why if holiness is an option did “fear seize the church?” since they have nothing to worry about; you can live “like the devil” & still be a Christian.

    4. “My brethren, we are not allowed to come to Jesus Christ as shrewd, clever operators saying, “We will take this and this, but we won’t take that!” We do not come to Him as one who, buying furniture for his house, declares: “I will take this table but I don’t want that chair” – dividing it up! No, sir! It is either all of Christ or none of Christ!” (Tozer-I Call it Heresy)

    Can you divide the offices of Christ as you see fit? If so, doesn’t that render you in control of God? “I’ll take this, & this, & this, but I don’t need that right now, you can keep that part of Yourself until I have use of it.” Who’s in control? Who’s God?

    5. Matthew 25:31-46 31″When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats…

    Dr & those who espouse his Western Reformed theology, what will separate the sheep & the goats? This is a parable that addresses believers, not unbelievers because you cannot “work” your way into Heaven. However, Jesus separates those who “believe “into two groups; based upon their “doing” what their “belief” entailed. 17 This is my command: Love each other.” Therefore, according to this parable, an inactive belief in Jesus as Savior alone will not save those who do not obey. Obedience is belief demonstrated. Dallas Williard says, “God is opposed to earning, not effort.” Faith & belief are dynamic, active, energetic, vibrant, and forceful convictions, not lifeless or a one-time event.

    6. Genesis 22 16 “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that 17 I will certainly bless you.” If Abraham was already “justified by faith” why was his righteousness dependent upon obeying God seven chapters later; wasn’t he already justified because he believed?

    “We’ll keep working on you as long as you can take it.”
    Evidently people believe in taking breaks, eh Bill?
    Good night. I believe in family time.

  35. Good night Sean,

    i pray your family time is blessed.

    I will enjoy more thought on the subject.

  36. Sean,
    While I am not happy that you feel close enough to me to call my teaching as “cheap grace”, “heresy” and “the Great Omission”, I will take comfort that I am joined in the Savior Only position–and hence you can expand your labeling ministry to also cover–Chuck Swindoll, Charles Stanley, Erwin Lutzer, Charles C. Ryrie, Zane Hodges, Lewis Sperry Chafer, Paul Fleming, Paul Rader, Lance B. Latham, Harry Ironside and a host of other great teachers through the ages.
    All of them have also lived a life of OBEDIENCE TO GOD, doing great things to expand his kingdom.
    And they all advocated exactly what I am proposing here.
    Be careful when you start affixing pejorative labels (didn’t Jesus warn of hellfire for this?).

    It’s too bad that you have to stoop to name calling. This is an important topic. A lot of very godly scholars can be found on both sides. God uses in powerful ways Christians who land on both sides of this issue. Christ is preached.
    Please, in the future, disagree without being disagreeable. Don’t close the door on this important discussion by name-calling.

    Dr. Bill

  37. Oh, Sean,
    What would you tell a couple that gets drunk every weekend, is living together without being married, has an open relationship where they can sleep with other partners, also get stoned on occasion… what would you tell them if they ask you: “We need Jesus in our lives. What do we have to do to be saved?”
    Bill

  38. When were the disciples saved? How about “before the foundation of the world” see Eph. 1:4.

    There may be an element of psychology in this discussion in that if we focus our attention on Jesus and what He’s done for us, we can’t help obeying Him. If we focus on our obedience, oops!

  39. After 41 (!) comments, I’d like to join by getting back to the original question.

    I have no problem with the Tozer quote. In fact, I think it’s a good one.

    Jesus is Lord. If we receive Jesus, we receive the Jesus who is Lord. We cannot receive a Jesus who is not Lord (only an idol we call “Jesus”).

    Now: We receive Jesus (who is Lord!) totally on His merits, not on our own works. We have not earned this relationship with Jesus any more than a baby has earned his birth into his family. But I don’t know of a family (including God’s) that has no rules and expectations. And violating family rules has unwanted consequences. Likewise, sin has consequences. Where is there a conflict?

    As far as a Bible example of someone who wanted a Savior but not a Lord, I nominate Simon the sorcerer: “Pray these things will not happen to me.” No repentance here! (For that matter, didn’t Saul take that same position before Samuel?)

  40. Hey Bill, Steve, Sean. Happy Father’s Day! (where applicable)

    Sean: I appreciate your passion, committment, and your knowledge. I suspect that we agree on most things. Salvation by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ, and that God’s desire is for all people to come to salvation. And that spiritual growth of the believer comes from knowledge of the Word, and acting on faith that it’s true, demonstrated by a loving, obedient, faithful life. You contend, with Tozer, et. al, that post salvation obedience and growth confirms ones salvation. I agree with that, too.

    We disagree on 1 point of theology, relating to the post-faith experience. I believe people can be saved, and not “confirmed.” Think of all the altar calls, the professions of faith, the death-bed conversions, and the fox-hole prayers made throughout the years. I believe, that, even though we may not see the fruit of that person’s life, that many of those people (those who were Spirit-led to a point of true understanding and faith), are saved. Heb 6:4-9 seems to support this, but I’m just learning. Ryrie agrees.

    The other thing we disagree on, is the state of the Evangelical Church today (not a point of theology). And it’s probably just our experience. Where I live, the churches are all about discipleship and Jesus-following to the point where I just want to scream, “Where’s the Gospel?” In 5 or 6 churches, over 3 or 4 years, I’ve heard 1 clear invitation to become saved. Very frustrating. I gather that your experience is different.

    1: I believe that the disciples were saved by placing their faith in the Messiah, rather than in their own good works/adherence to the Law. I’m not aware of any Scripture narratives that describe the actual events.

    As for question 2, I don’t want to “contend” Scripture. Did David lose his salvation when he sinned w/ Bathsheba? Rather than contending scripture, we should be reconciling such passages.

    3, 4, 5: Either I don’t get it, or I don’t have the energy or attention span
    6: Go Cheri!

    So, it’s been thought-provoking, and fun, but I gotta go. Keep fighting for the truth. Let’s all keep growing, learning, and sharing. God Bless,
    Bob

  41. Great thoughts Bill. I am only repeating to you what these followers of Jesus call the position you espouse; I called it a wonderful subject. I am not “name calling” as if I were a child who is attacking your person; I have always appreciated you as a man of God. Should I take no offence at Sean 3:16?

    Wonderful question Dr. “We need Jesus in our lives. What do we have to do to be saved?”
    First I would tell them “this is how God feels about you.”
    Psalm 139:13-16
    ” You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
    14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
    15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
    16 You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
    Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.”
    Then I would say,
    John 3:5- 7 “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. 6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. 7 So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.’”
    Then I would say,
    Romans 10:9 “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
    &
    Acts 3:19-20 “Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. 20 Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah.”
    & then I would tell them:
    1 Corinthians 11:1 “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”
    & then
    “When are you two available to have lunch with my wife and I?”

    I have volleyed each question I have been asked; My questions remain unanswered. If you want to read the other questions go to my previous posts, these are the ones I am most eager to have explained:

    4. “My brethren, we are not allowed to come to Jesus Christ as shrewd, clever operators saying, “We will take this and this, but we won’t take that!” We do not come to Him as one who, buying furniture for his house, declares: “I will take this table but I don’t want that chair” – dividing it up! No, sir! It is either all of Christ or none of Christ!” (Tozer-I Call it Heresy)

    Can you divide the offices of Christ as you see fit? If so, doesn’t that render you in control of God? “I’ll take this, & this, & this, but I don’t need that right now, you can keep that part of Yourself until I have use of it.” Who’s in control? Who’s God?

    6. Genesis 22 16 “This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that 17 I will certainly bless you.” If Abraham was already “justified by faith” why was his righteousness dependent upon obeying God seven chapters later; wasn’t he already justified because he believed?

    7. Phillipians 2:12 “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…” What’s obeying have to do with salvation?

    8. Acts 26:20 (Paul) “I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do.” What’s proving have to do with believing?

    Bill, is Janet’s answer to question 1 your position?

    Have a great Sunday. My mom’s visiting our church & she doesn’t know Jesus. I hope she finds Him today & I pray many find Him in your church today too.

  42. Yes & amen. We are rounding a corner.

    Todd, yes & amen, Jesus is Lord: Immutable.

    Bob, yes & amen, “confirmed.” (Paul) Acts 26:20 “I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do.” Discipleship is confirmation.

    Question 1: Then why do we place such an emphasis upon a one-time event of being saved if the disciples didn’t answer an alter call? The book of Acts is the story of their salvation.

    Wonderful! I love all of this with my whole being!!!!! Jesus is King of Kings, Lord of Lords, & Savior of all who believe!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Bill–That’s me shouting)

  43. Hi again,

    I was going through my bible and looking for all the Scriptures that support Grace teaching…and as usual I am led to fall down on my knees utterly speechless that I can call God, “Abba Father”.

    It’s correct that we can’t come to God picking and choosing what we will believe…it’s all of Christ or none of Christ. The Law shows us how short we are of God’s standard (missing the mark); if we would even dare evaluate our fruit or obedience, it too, would fall far short of the “mark”….hence our need for a SAVIOR who hit the mark. It’s all of Christ’s obedience…It’s all God’s grace (mercy and justice and wrath) on the cross that I can be counted as one of His, by faith in Christ.

    When I look to him alone for my salvation and not myself, I see the God Almighty dying for me….can’t add to that. (only thing I contributed to my salvation was my wretched sin).

    Will I now obey Him in every part of my life? Well I can say I will, and I can sure put up a good show…but is my heart really understanding Him as Lord. Sure didn’t right after I got saved and at times I still doubt. “Thankyou God for loving me anyway and not letting me go because of Christ.”

    Discipleship is a separate issue and is costly…count the cost and it could be scary…but Christ encourages us that it is worth it. There are eternal rewards in heaven for those who do. Obedience is necessary to grow in Christ and become more Christlike and know the blessings of suffering with Him. But Salvation is a gift . Can we live like the devil and call ourselves Christian…oh yes we can…it’s called free will and God knew there would be those of us who would still choose these rotten paths in our lives. He stands as Father ready to forgive. It’s such undeserved Grace that we can’t comprehend it/ don’t want to because we love Him;
    It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of God, but like David I’d choose to fall into His gracious hands than choose any alternative.

    thanks for reading; I’m really blessed by it.

    and Bob…..I share your thoughts exactly. thankyou.

    sean: I’m praying for your Mom.

  44. Happy Fathers Day.
    It took a while but I finally achieved that one.
    Sean, I cant type so my answers are usually short. Until a month ago I thought a “blog” was something I might be able to catch a bass out of.
    I think the disciples were saved at some point just prior to dropping their nets….
    And then again at some point after they fell asleep in the garden???
    And then again after the cock crowed?????
    and then again when they swore at each other during the heated debates on how to deal with the Jews????
    And then again when…????
    and again and again and again???????????

  45. Hey can I join in on this for a moment? I will resume without waiting for an answer.
    I am not a scholar or anything like that but these are just some thoughts I have had while reading this blog, article and tons of comments.

    Tozer says in the article ” ‘We are saved by accepting Christ as our Savior; we are sanctified by accepting Christ as our Lord; we may do the first without doing the second!’ ” So this is not the truth as I understood it (but sadly it is preached in actions). Then Tozer says “The truth is that salvation apart from obedience is unknown in the sacred Scriptures.” I think is where the hang up might be, I think this is where Sean is misunderstood. I don’t think Tozer or Sean is saying that Salvation=obedience. So Sean 3:16 is ruled out. I think what Tozer is saying is that you don’t read stories that consist of salvation apart from obedience. Look at Abraham, Noah, The Disciples, King David, Esther, Ruth. If you do read stories of salvation apart from obedience then you will find your self also reading the consequences of living that life (we even reap our own consequences at times due to our sinful nature). Look at Ananias & Sapphira, Adam & Eve, the entire world after the great flood. I hope what I am saying is making sense. I think the reason they are “unknown in the scriptures” is because salvation and obedience go hand it hand. Atleast that is how it should go so lets go and continue living it so we can defeat the misunderstanding of the gospel: “We are saved by accepting Christ as our Savior; we are sanctified by accepting Christ as our Lord; we may do the first without doing the second!”

  46. Again…

    …much of the problem here stems from a totally different set of reference points. We could go through a list of definitions to see exactly what it is that is causing the problems, but the real question is not whether the popular view of salvation (heaven after you die) or my view (participation in God’s manifest will) are different from each other. …but which one is the definition that the biblical contemporaries would have held to?

    The trouble is, of course, that though there are obviously difficult concepts in the New Testament, which send any intelligent reader off to the commentaries and dictionaries, there are others which are in fact equally difficult but which are not recognized as such. ‘We turn to the helps only when the hard passages are manifestly hard. But there are treacherous passages which will not send us to the notes. They look easy and aren’t.’1 Part of the purpose of scholarship, within both the academy and the church, is to expose the frailty of regular assumptions, to ask the unasked questions and to sketch out alternative possibilities.

    Most of the conversation revolves around the different ways in which Sean and I are using terms, versus the way others are using them.

    For example: Bill pointed out that I had never once (on this site) delineated my views on what is required for salvation. Why then is it assumed that I see us earning our salvation? It is because of the different manner in which I understand the terms salvation and faith. When I speak of God saving us, I am thinking of a concrete, observable process in our lives here and now that will culminate in the future; whereas others are thinking of a singularly future event that was promised to them at a past event. Even our concept of God comes into play here. If God is ‘in heaven’ then our understanding of what it means to experience Him is colored by that; if God is everywhere then our understanding will likewise reflect it.

    This is why it is incorrect to frame this conversation in terms of Grace. Sean and I are proponents of the very same grace that everyone else on this site has proposed. It is not that I believe that we must ‘do something’ to become saved (read ‘enter heaven’) but rather that I resolutely believe that God’s grace has congenital effects (only one of which being ‘pie in the sky’). It is not possible to receive God’s grace and not receive it at the same time. While it is fair to say that God’s grace will manifest itself in various manners in various individuals (so negating the continual questioning of ‘how much’ obedience is required) it is completely antithetical to the words of our Master to say that the manifestation of that grace could in any way be ‘invisible’ or without observable consequences (remember the fruit tree!).

    Back to the ‘bounded-set versus centered-set’ idea.

    Bounded-set:
    Defining a thing in terms of its boundaries or its requirements, in our present conversation, defining Christians as those who have performed certain activities (depending on the denomination this list of actions could be long or short) for our present dialogue we are essentially talking about ‘praying the prayer.’

    Centered-set:
    Defining a thing in terms of its central characteristics, in our present conversation, definint Christians as those who are ‘moving towards’ Jesus instead of away from (or tangent to!) Him.

    We are very much a culture of ‘listmakers and rulekeepers’ that is why our understanding of the gospel is presented in ‘bounded-set’ terminology: step across the line. The culture of 1st century western asia (Jesus) was not at all like this; we must understand the gospel as it was then understood, in ‘centered-set’ terminology: “come follow me.”

    According to the Biblical framework, we are not Christians because we have, at one point in our lives, affirmed a particular statement as true; but rather because have made a decision (and continued upon it) to walk towards Jesus.

  47. Tony, the bass story is great! Yes & amen. We are not a belief, but a believer.

    Mary, glad to see you joining the discussion. You said what I’ve been saying, but used different language to present it in a new light. Please re-read the Tozer quote, I think he uses the quote you used in a negative sense.

    Cheir, once again your comments are well spoken & right on. Please help me understand this verse in light of discipleship/obedience being an option: Acts 26:20 “I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do.”

    My mom had a great time at church, was challenged by our verses Acts 5:12-42, & talked to me about what church is. We had fun talking about how “Church is a people who, not a place where.” Thanks for your prayers.

    My questions remain unanswered.

  48. As westerners we read scripture with an Enlightened, Reformed, Individualistic, Secular-Sacred dichotomy hermeneutic, but we keep saying, Solo Scriptura! The early church was Jewish. Their framework for everything was the Torah. Paul’s theological perspective? Messianic Judaism. A great commentary to read is: Jewish New Testament Commentary-by David H. Stern. It really helps to understand Jesus (& the NT) from a Jewish perspective.

    Steve, your posts are getting easier to understand; & I love what you bring to the table.

  49. Bob, I re-read your post & need to comment. First off, great thoughts.

    “Confirmed.” Obedience is relative & will look different in the life of each believer; we are not robots & therefore it will just look different. I have a friend who accepted Jesus, walked with him for a while & has chosen to fall away. His falling away included bodyguarding for hookers, selling drugs, Jack Daniels, etc. Is he saved? Although he does all of these things he wrestles with his believing in Christ, while living this lifestyle. When we pray together he shows clear signs of Godly sorry. Is he being obedient? to a certain degree, yes. Is he wrestling with obedience? Yes. Is he saved? I believe so.

    We want hard lines: “what must I do to be saved?” so that we can do it, or as Steve put (Bounded Sets). But Jesus (the Holy Spirit) walks us down a path not through a one-time doorway (Abraham’s justified by faith; twice.) Obedience is a much broader concept than I think we’ve discussed yet. God’s grace is unbelievable, but God set a precedent to the age of the church with Ananais & Sapphira, so…I guess there’s nothing to worry about if your willing to try to try to believe. As the martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer put so well: “Only those who believe obey; only those who obey believe.”

    I’m a believer, not a belief.

  50. Hi,
    I finally got a chance to write again:) Hope all you Dads out there had a great father’s day!!

    In terms of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts…I look at this in light of what was going on in Acts at this point. The Holy Spirit was was manifested in tremendously powerful ways that were obvious and unique. To blatantly lie to the Holy Spirit at that time was “gutsy” to say the least. This is the beginning of the church and I think it was actually merciful to punish them as such as the church needed to be pure. It was to last at least a few thousands years after this event. Look at the church today (there are so many pastors caught in adultery, messed up homes, drugs, and all sorts of crazy things). I don’t even have to watch the news for this, it’s in so many churches. I think the devil loves to bring down pastors and other leaders in the church (guess that’s why they need our prayers BIG TIME). I don’t see Christians getting struck down like this, although they may be dabbling destructive behaviors.

    Acts 26:20: yes, works should accompany repentance and turning to God , but does this mean that repentance must be defined by its works??

    Isn’t repentance a change of mind, attitude and disposition? For the Christian, Yes, it should lead to an outward change in behavior or way of life. In terms of salvation, doesn’t repentance mean to believe in Christ. If repentance offered any assurance of salvation, when could one be sure that all sins have been forsaken?

    Paul’s encouragement for those to perform deeds appropriate to repentance…I thought meant to tell others about Christ!!! The good news that Paul presents only three verses later Acts 26:23: “that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He should be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”

    It’s late out by me, so I’m kinda tired as I’m sure you all can tell.

    thanks for reading!

  51. Cheri/Cheir
    1: Apologies for not knowing your name. What is it?
    2: Your comments are right on!
    Thanks
    Bob

  52. Hi Bob,

    thanks….I totally relate to your church experience. I so long to hear a clear gospel preached.

    I remember you from Windy City (I live in Ma now). I hear about you guys via Jen and Thom although I haven’t been able to keep in touch with them lately (miss them lots).

    great to be in touch on this here blog!

    Cheri

  53. OK, now I’m totally confused! Is it Cheri or Cheir? I get the “seans” mixed up, too, but am assuming he is the one and same. Boy, have we gotten way off the subject track of this particular blog!! Ha!

  54. Hi Jean,

    I was typing too fast 🙂

    it’s Cheri

    it was kind of fun having a different name for a while tho!

  55. Not bright in terms of some spiritual theology, but, simply? You must have the holy spirit that enables us to be obedient . I believe you must accept His salvation which is unconditional and then His spirit is the one that enables us to be obedient servants. God knew that outside of Him we could not do it, so He provided His Son. Not a little sacrifice, but an incredible one. Our job as servants is to draw our new believers to His word. The Holy Spirit will do the rest. We come as we are by grace. We do not miraculously change over night. As God says. We first start drinking milk and then solid food. Obedience, I believe comes as we study the word and the Holy Spirit speaks to us through it and guides us to obedience. (to simple? I don’t know)

  56. Hi,
    Interesting discussion. Looks like I’m late to this discussion but I’m just wondering, does anyone know where Ananias and Sapphiara ended up? I’m mean after they died? Because I always thought that their deaths were perhaps a “severe mercy”?

    Suzanne

  57. Sean, I’d like to say this: the sheep go baa, baa, abba papa, baa
    the goats go baa, blah, choke, don’t take away my liberty, baaaaaaa, blah, baa

    It is the small words that contain the marvelous promises: If; To those; When you; in; for. And the wrath is in words like “But to those; Nor;

    The wrath of God cometh on the sons of disobedience. By grace we ARE saved, now LIVE like people SET APART (‘church’) to a Holy God. If not keep in mind God is Sovereign and a Perfect Judge. God is concerned with is the spirit of the Law. If I think lustfully, I commit adultery. Every 1 of the 10 Commandments can be broken in our hearts. If I am crucified with Christ…..I must live unto God inside out.

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