Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Universalism Defined

Nathan JonesPDFBy Nathan Jones

One of the most popular ideas in the world today, even among many Christian leaders, is a form of Universalism. It is the idea that there are many different roads to God and that one is no better than any other.

Eric BargerTo explain what Universalism is, we'll go to Eric Barger, the founder and director of Take a Stand! Ministries. Eric is an authority on the cults, the New Age, and rock music today. From his past as a former drug addict and rock n' roll musician who was deeply involved in the New Age movement, Eric has emerged since he gave his life to Jesus Christ to become one of today's greatest defenders of Christianity in America.


Is Christianity one of just many paths to get to Heaven?

That is the politically correct question of today. PC says there must be other paths. Oprah says there are more paths, and can Oprah be wrong? The world would say that, too. They're saying that you've got to be tolerant and that all paths are okay, something Universalist (those who follow Universalism) have taught for a long time.

In fact, many Christians have bought into the idea. We go back to the First Century and we see a couple of the Church fathers who explored it but then gave up on the ideas of universalism, which is the idea that many paths lead to God or that all religions can lead you to the same place.

I heard Oprah arguing with a couple of her audience members about whether there was just one way or many ways. Now, just to get the philosophy right, if there is any other path to get to God then our God — the Christian God — is the worst of all gods. After all, who would send his Son to needlessly die on a cross when we could get there through Buddhism, Hinduism or some other way? So, we must have the worst, most heinous of all gods, the most callous and cruel, who would sacrifice his Son for nothing.

When I hear people say that all paths lead to God, I have to stop and remind them how could that be true if Jesus claimed, "I am the way, the truth." He didn't say, "me and Buddha and Confucius or whatever you make up as your own religion is the way." He said, "I am the way the truth and the life" (Jn. 14:6).

The world does not like that idea of being exclusive, saying that it is the only way. But, the truth is we as Christian have to present that as the fact and let God sort this out. We're just the messengers. We can't change the message along the way to try to get the world to accept half a message. It's all or nothing. We're not the ones who are saying that Christianity is the only way, Jesus said it was. Peter said in Acts 4:12, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."


Who are these people then who are saying "all paths lead to God," and what gives them that idea?

Those who say "all paths lead to God" believe a loving God could never judge.

But, to be a loving God, if it is really the God we see in the Bible, then He must be a God of love as well as a God of justice. You can't have His absolute love without also having justice, for which Jesus went willingly to the cross to die for. God said, "Go." Jesus went and He went willingly so that we could once again know God since we are all separated from God by sin.

This is the thing that the world at large around us doesn't want to believe. They don't want to believe that we are all sinners. They want to just say that we are good. And so, they deny what the Scripture says — that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Also, what Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure." They don't want to believe that. They want the loving God without a cross to go to. They don't want a bloody cross to bring us back into reconciliation with God. The world wants to believe that we can get there merely because we live or exist.

People would say, "Well, how could a loving God send anybody to Hell?" To turn that around, I would say, "How could a just God send His own Son to rescue anybody from it when we have all sinned and decided to go our own way?"


Do all religions worship the same God?

No, and I'm very concerned about the movement that is going on right now among Evangelicals and Muslim scholars to try to somehow coexist the two theologies together.

They'll say that Allah is the same as Yahweh, but Jehovah God and Allah are not the same. Allah is the God of the Koresh tribe, one of over 300 gods worshipped at the Kaaba in ancient Mecca many, many years ago in the 7th century. And, by the way, the God of Islam was the god of Mohammed's tribe which he installed by the sword. Every Muslim cleric who understands Islam knows that. They are behind our backs I believe pretty much laughing at the idea that Christians would buy into the idea that Jehovah and Allah are the same. Now, Muslims will follow along up until about Genesis 16, but it is over which son went up the mountain with Abraham where they separate from us, believing that, of course, their birthright had been stolen at that point and time.

Also, the God of Islam is indeed totally different from the God of Christianity. Allah is a god who is aloof, he is distant, he is never mentioned as a god of love anywhere in the Koran. You never know for sure whether you are saved or not, because "God" is arbitrary.

And, it is all about works. You can even do the five pillars of Islam and end up in the end with too many things on the negative side. There are two angels in Islam. There is a recording angel to write down the good things you do and the bad things you do. You can be very orthodox all your life, but if you do too many bad things there is no guarantee that you will make it into Paradise.

Yale University is spearheading the idea of bringing evangelicals and liberals and Muslims together to make us somehow agree that each God is the same God. I wrote an article and posted on my website about this called "I Can't Sign the Letter". I could not ever sign the letter that Yale put out that says, "Allah and Jehovah are the same." They are not the same God. I want to find commonality whenever I can to discuss things with other humans, but if they're trying to come together under the banner that their god is our God — no way!

We can look in the Scripture in Galatians 1, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you," the Apostle Paul is saying this, "let him be eternally condemned!" Paul repeats verse 8 in verse 9, which says, "As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!"

We are as Christians bound to preach the one and true Gospel which says that Jesus died for the sins of the entire world (not the Emergent idea that the world is mother earth, but people) when He went to the cross.


For even more information on Universalism, check out Is Jesus The Only Way To Heaven?

36 comments:

hartdawg said...

for the world to believe in universalism is to be expected, for other religions is understandable(tho dead wrong) but for christians to believe it and the church to teach it is deplorable! its my opinion that universalism/individualism/secular humanism(they`re all related if not the same) will play a part initially in the religion of the anti-christ. am i correct?

Billy said...

1. I can't stand that bumper sticker "Coexist" made up of all the different religious symbols.

2. I suspect those who hate to hear Jesus is the only way to Heaven is because they know it is true and it reminds them they are condemned. If they didn't believe it is true then why would they be so offended by it?

3. I remember a female Pastor at a Lutheran "church" (I deeply regret ever attending) being horrified that a Christian boy told a Jewish boy that he wouldn't go to Heaven if he didn't believe in Jesus. Horror over this from a "Pastor" who spewed vile things from the pulpit like pro-gay sermons and playing down the gender of Jesus (saying "the one" instead of "he").

Just a few thoughts.

hartdawg said...

HEY BILLY, did you know that some of the coexist stickers have obamas rainbow logo in the background? makes me wanna puke!

paul said...

many people, like myself, are evangelical universalists - we say Jesus is the only way and that all mankind will repent and confess Jesus as Lord and Savior - i don't care to be lumped in with the "other" universalits who think there is more than one way to Heaven

hartdawg said...

what about luke 13:24 and matt 7:13 "narrow is the gate and few will find it"?

hartdawg said...

what about the sheep and the goats in matt 25? what about those cast into the lake of fire in rev 20? what about those who believe the lie in 2thess ch2? what about those who worship the beast in rev ch13?

Nathan Jones said...

While it's true, Paul, that as Phil. 2:10-11 (Isa. 45:23; Rom. 14:11) states, "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father," that certainly cannot mean that everyone will be saved. As Hartdawg so well referenced, the Bible makes it crystal clear that people are going to Hell. They may finally bow to God, but it will be after they've given up their chance to accept Jesus as their Savior.

The differences in Universalistic teachings will come up later in a following article.

son of thunder said...

Y'know, Billy, I've seen that sticker and the first time it took me several minutes at a stop-light to figure out what it said.

I'm not a universalist, but wouldn't it be great if all religions could coexist?

Unfortunately for the coexisters, my copy of the Qu'ran reads: Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgement of superiority and they are in a state of subjection. And the Jews say: Uzair [Ezra] is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: the Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away! - Surah 9:29-30

And: And fight with them until there is no more persecution and religion should be only for Allah; but if they desist, then surely Allah sees what they do. - Surah 8:39

There's much more of that. So it sounds like at least one religion is commanded to not coexist.

Billy said...

Son of Thunder said "wouldn't it be great if all religions could coexist?".

Obviously in America everyone has the freedom of religion (although Christianity has been under attack from mainly liberals and atheists for years now) or the freedom of no religion. If that is how you define "co-exist" then I say okay as far as a GOVERNMENTAL position.

BUT my PERSONAL position is not to have all these different religions co-exist. I want EVERYONE to become a Christian and trust in Jesus for their salvation. I want Christianity to win out over all other religions and have everyone CHOOSE to believe in or convert to it. That is my prayer...not to co-exist but to exist as one united in a belief in our Lord Jesus.

Billy said...

Plus, Son of Thunder, I truly suspect the motivation and understanding of those displaying the "co-exist" bumper stickers are the "many paths to God" crowd.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't sleep so thought I would do a little reading and couldn't resist a reply. I agree with everything in the blog article but I think that satan has been pulling the wool over the churches eyes with this universalist baloney for generations, it has just accelerated since 9/11 and the equivication of Allah with Jehova God. I am more distressed that the Church may pay lip service in rejecting the universalist approach yet it has been slowly accepting the false premise in reality. I don't mean we don't all of us fall into sin at times (I myself feel sometimes I do more falling than following my Savior). I mean that many Christians have adopted the worlds standards in behavior, in the movies we watch, the music we listen to, the language we use, the love of money, the greed for things, the political correctness etc etc. It's as if there are too many who feel they can take many approaches to God and God's grace and forgiveness without regard to what He said in the Scriptures. They ignore God's discipline and they ignore that God called us to live as a peculiar people. And this to show His glory, majesty, love and forgiveness. Forgive me if I am too harsh, but I am really starting to dislike so called Christians in the limelight who don't at least try to live as Christ called us to live. The world looks at these so called Christians deliberately living outside Scriptural priniciples and think to themselves that if so and so can do that and still be ok why can't I take the xyz path and be ok too. I know God said no man is without excuse and all who have rejected Christ will be held accountable, but it is humbling and scary to think that I could cause someone to stumble, to have erroneous beliefs on Christianity by my actions, to believe there may be other paths to God.

I am praying that GOD will pour out His Spirit even more mightily on us in the church(on me)in these days where it appears to me that God is through with allowing us to play games with Him. I feel we are under God's discipline inside the church, He is telling us we have got to separate ourselves from the world and trust in Him to take care of us as we step out and live according to His word with out admixture or watering down of the Truth.

John 14:6
Rob from Alabama

Paul M said...

2 Cor 6:14-16

14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God.

Laura said...

Rob,

One of the main problems with believers today is that they ARE, in fact, trying to do what you say they're not doing. You talk about Christians living up to "Scriptural principles." Under the New Covenant, we are NEVER called to live by principles, laws, commandments, standards, morals, or any other label you want to call it. We are called to live from the life of Christ inside of us.

Furthermore, it's people who ARE trying to live by principles, rules, laws, etc. who struggle with sin the most.

Rom. 5:20a says, "The Law came in so that the TRANSGRESSIONS would increase."

Rom. 7:8a says, "But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, PRODUCED in me coveting of every kind."

I Cor. 15:56b says, "and the POWER of SIN is the LAW."

So from these verses, you can see that anyone who tries to keep the Law (or principles or commandments) sins MORE. The Law isn't bad, but it stirs up sin in us. It's the gasoline poured on the sin fire.

And, sure, we might all be able to change our BEHAVIOR for a little while, but that's just compliance to rules! Even a nonbeliever can do that! So the real Christian life is not about sticking to Christian principles (i.e., doing all the right things and not doing the wrong things). It's about LIFE in Christ Jesus and abiding (living) in Him.

Unfortunately, THIS life is what most believers are ignorant of. So you have tons and tons of baby Christians walking around trying in their own strength to keep the principles of Scripture and live the Christian life from their own resources, and, naturally, they fail in a big way.

Keeping the rules/principles is JUST ANOTHER RELIGION (unlike Christianity, which is a relationship), and religious people are some of THE most unloving people in the world.

Anonymous said...

Laura, I believe we have had this conversation before and I still cannot agree with you and I will be stubborn in my position on this matter. Paul did not mean the Law CAUSES us to sin or even to sin more (gasoline & fire analogy) as you said, he meant that the Law EXPOSED the sin we so naturally gravitate to, it shows us where God's bullseye is and exposes how we are missing the target. It exposes our need for a Savior.

I'm sorry and I truly mean no disrespect to you, but it just makes no logical or theological sense to say God gave us the Law through Moses in the Old Testament and yet that same Law fans the very flames of sin which He said He would judge. You said the Law is not bad, it is just the gas on a fire. Yet if you have ever thrown gas on a fire (I have in a moment of real stupid, I mean hair singing stupid) then you would know that gas is really really bad. The minute a single vapor of the gas hits flame there is a huge explosion of fire that spreads instantly beyond the source flame. So in its essence the Law is bad even if it is "merely" gas on a fire. To my way of thinking that would make God capricious, inconsistant and even malicious. That is an ultimate cruelty, God saying here are the rules and standards I expect you to adhere to and your disobedience results in death and will earn you a spot in Hell. Oh, and by the way these same rules and standards I give will be the very cause of your failure. That is the kind of god Allah is if you read the Koran, a good Muslim could follow all the Islamic rules to the last detail but in the end if Allah woke up on the wrong side of the galaxy or was having a bad day he could still sentence you to hell - Allah is capracious, always changing and even vindictive. That is not my God.

In the New Testament Jesus said He came to fulfill the Law not abolish it. And He said on many occasion that if we love Him we will obey the Father....so the question has to be....Yes Lord but obey what??? And the only logical and Biblical answer I can find is that we still need to strive to obey the Law. Only our motive and our perspective has changed, not God's standards (the Law). No obeying or striving to obey the Law will not save me, only Jesus can do that and He has, but it is still THE standard for our conduct on this earth while we wait for our Home going to Heaven.

Let's just agree to disagree on this and let God's grace and mercy fill in the gaps where we err. Any who, I am praying for, and believe we are close to Christ's return, and all our arguments and failures and sheer ignorance (I am grand pooopah of stupidity and ignorance - just ask anyone) will be wiped away by God's infinite wisdom and mercy.

In Christ's all encompassing mercy,
Rob from Alabama

Laura said...

Hey Rob,

Certainly we can agree to disagree. In fact, go ahead and wear yourself out trying to keep the Law. And when you get tired of that, come to Jesus (not for salvation, mind you, but for LIFE). Then, you will see that Christianity is JESUS PLUS NOTHING because He is sufficient—not just for salvation, but for life and godliness here on earth, too!

Let me clear up a few incorrect assumptions you made about my post. The Law is holy, perfect, and good—it’s a reflection of God’s character. So there’s nothing wrong with it. There is, however, something wrong with US. When we focus on the Law, it creates a desire in us to try to keep it. In other words, it “stirs up” human effort—it makes us TRY—which is diameterically opposed to TRUSTING. You can’t try and trust at the same time! Besides, we are to live and walk by FAITH, not by TRYING.

Furthermore, I don’t think God gave the Law because He expected man to keep it. This goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve were in fellowship with God (apart from the Law), but then they ate from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” In other words, they wanted to know what was right and wrong so they could choose for themselves. This same desire is what prompted God to give the Law—man wanted to know what was right and wrong so he could live up to it himself. So the Law is NOT God’s preferred method of relating to humans. Instead, it’s man’s attempt to be good enough for God. God’s way is new creations in Christ Jesus and abiding in Christ (or pre-cross, faith, as in Abraham).

Certainly, the Bible says, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments,” but there are two ways to read that verse: The Law/punishment way: “If you love me, you’d BETTER keep my commandments” or the grace way: “Since you love me, keeping my commandments will come naturally for you.” In other words, the grace way is a promise.

Actually, the Bible teaches that our “standard” is much higher than the Law; it goes way beyond the letter of the Law to the spirit behind the Law. Oh, and by the way, if you break one law, you’re guilty of transgressing the whole Law. So how ya doing with that?

As you say, Jesus came to fulfill the Law—absolutely! Jesus came to fulfill the Law IN and THROUGH US! After all, He lives inside of us, and He’s the only One who has ever lived a life pleasing to God. So it comes down to this. Which will it be: our puny self-righteous efforts to keep the Law OR trusting the perfect, lovely Christ in us to live it out?

And it really is either one or the other: You can’t do both at the same time!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry Laura but I feel as strongly on this as you so I will be nitpicky as I try to understand what you have said, perhaps I have once again misunderstood you (I told you I am an idiot).

You said in your first post "The Law isn't bad, but it stirs up sin in us. It's the gasoline poured on the sin fire". I can't see the reasoning there. It isn't bad buuuut it still stirs up sin in us? Then that which stirs up the sin must be bad because we were told to not sin in the first place. And I know you didn't say that, you actually said the Law is good, but it seems contradictory.

You also said "In other words, it “stirs up” human effort—it makes us TRY—which is diameterically opposed to TRUSTING". Then I am left to wonder why God even gave the Law in the first place if that which He gave is going to cause an exactly opposite reaction in His creation. Is God playing games with man? I don't think so so there must be a reason He gave the Law and why it is still relevant in the New Testament Church.

In conjunction you said "I don’t think God gave the Law because He expected man to keep it....This same desire is what prompted God to give the Law—man wanted to know what was right and wrong so he could live up to it himself". I don't think it was man that wanted to know right from wrong - that knowledge came when they ate from the tree of knowledge (Gen 2:17, 3:7). No, I understand the Bible to say God gave the Law because He knew mankind had perverted & would continue to pervert the knowledge of right and wrong, the Law was therefore a written reminder of that which had been forgotten and twisted by a willfully sinful and rebellious people.

I am further confused when you seemingly refute your own view of the Law when you said " The Law/punishment way: “If you love me, you’d BETTER keep my commandments” or the grace way: “Since you love me, keeping my commandments will come naturally for you.” That is kinda what I am saying...you are in essence saying the Law is still there and still worthy of being kept and that there is a Holy God who wants us to keep the said Law. It is simply our motivation that has changed and the Law has not been abolished, therefore I conclude that God wants Christians to obey Him, to try to obey Him I should say, like He said in the first place.

I am a big boy and have talked with many in my 45 years on earth but that was kind of a low blow when you said "Oh, and by the way, if you break one law, you’re guilty of transgressing the whole Law. So how ya doing with that?" I have never ever said I have kept all the law because I would then be calling God a liar and I ain't a goin' there. And I do understand the Bible teaches that to break one small law is to break the entire Law. And I will admit freely I have many shortcomings as a man, husband, father, friend and as a Believer. I cannot and will never claim perfection so that is working out for me about as well as it is for all Believers for we have all sinned.

I will end with my perception (and I mean no disrespect to you personally) of what the end logic is of our disagreement on the Law. If we have no standards to follow, even through the grace lens of Christ's atoning sacrifice, then it could be argued that all behaviors and lifestyles are acceptable. Mankind becomes our own arbiters in matters of life and lifestyle. An example comes to mind regarding grace and the Law. The argument as applied to homosexuality. There are many who would say God made them that way and they are proud of something God forbids in the Law. If we say man doesn't still have some standards as outlined in the Law then we MUST accept those arguments, in my opinion. I would have to go to the Law to show where God disapproves of this so without the Law I have no standing. And that would mean accepting sin, which God does not want us to do.

Long winded as usual,
Rob from Alabama

son of thunder said...

Hey, Rob in Alabama, what Laura is referring to is Romans ch. 7, wherein Paul makes this statement: v. 7 - What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law said, Thou shalt not covet.

Paul's letter to the Romans is quite possibly the greatest writing on the Law vs. Grace debate ever written.

Like I've told my Sunday school class, the Torah doesn't save anybody. It condemns. Thankfully we don't live under the Law, but under Grace, but (and here's the key) we also have to have a standard by which to live. Most people don't know this, but the word "torah" which means law is derived from another word "yarah" which means teachings. Peter said the torah is our school-master, our teacher. God's message on how we ought to live if we want to be blessed.

Jesus also said that not one yod or teth (jot or tittle) will pass away, which makes the torah still relevant.

We live under grace so we don't face the penalties which come from disobeying the law. We accept that Christ paid that penalty when He cried "Paid in full" on the cross and we said yes to His offer to pay off our debts which we could never pay.

Anonymous said...

Son of Thunder, I understand what you have written and I am in agreement. Where I disagree with Laura, and it may be a misunderstanding, is in what happens AFTER we have accepted the payment Christ made on our behalf. What do we do AFTER the point of salvation in real terms of living out the rest of our days here, physically, on earth.

I will not attempt to argue with Paul, I am saved by Grace 100% - my puny works are worthless for salvation and I am not that hard a worker. Neither would I attempt to add anything to salvation...it is a gift of God lest Rob should boast in myself and my works/deeds. On this I am in agreement with you, Laura, Paul and the Bible (not necessarily in that order).

But I understand Laura to be saying that we Believers are free from all jots and tittles of the Torah, she is indicating that the Law is irrelevant for the Christian. She seems to be saying any attempt to obey the commandments as laid out in the Law is flat out wrong. And Paul was equally adamant that faith without works was DOA, he knew that Faith in Jesus was the starting point for our Christian journey not the end. He knew we must still do the works laid out in the Torah (feed the hungry, aid the widows, help the orphans and so on). How else can the world know the love of God if we are not actively working it out? I just cannot see in any of the apostles writings how our salvation by grace justifies abandonment of the Law. It won't save us but it is the way to show we are obeying our Heavenly Father as He desires us to do.

And this point is important to where I started this conversation originally, because some (many?) in the Church are not living obediently to the commands of God. And I was contending that such living was close to and promoting a universalist approach to God. Especially when non-Believers were looking in to see how to be saved and how to live as God would have us to live. If they see us living easy breezy lifestyles that don't align with the Biblical commands on life then we give them pause for wanting what we have. Because after all isn't that what they are doing...so what's the difference. And how do we teach a new believer to become mature if we live a lifestyle in front of them that is contrary to the Bible but cover ourselves in Grace language. If we lived as we wanted AFTER our salvation without regard to obedience to the Law and God's commandments then we give the world the impression that any old philosophy and theology is a valid approach to salvation and life. That's all I meant.

Maybe my logic is flawed but that is where my brain was at 1:00 AM this morning.

Rob from Alabama

Nathan Jones said...

Since sin isn't something tangible, but is rather an attitude of rebellion against God, I can see the argument for the Law causing us to sin.

Kind of like, "You're telling me to do what?!? Well, I'm not going to do it then."

Anonymous said...

But Nathan, our reaction to the Law does not mean IT is CAUSING us to sin. If that were so I would have to ask why would God have given the Law in the first place. I personally find the notion of the Law CAUSING (forcing) sin to be casting God as a cruel, vindictive, unstable, unsteady God. By that I mean if He gave us something that in and of itself causes the very behavior He would condemn and punish where is His holiness, perfection & justice. Our disobedience does not and should not call the Law into question. The Law is simply God's perfect roadmap of behavior and living for mankind, the fact that we didn't (and still can't) get it right does not negate the plan and purpose which is perfection. And more importantly why would Christ say He is the fulfillment of the Law if the Law is imperfect, if it was causing the sin?

The Law was given to reveal to mankind, not God, our sin. It is God saying you need to know you have missed the mark, I will hold you accountable...but I will provide the payment myself in Christ. If the Law is perfect and if it reveals our sin it is still relevant today... not for salvation purposes but as a neon sign pointing us to Jesus who restores us back into a right relationship with the Law Giver, God.

Rob from Alabama

Nathan Jones said...

I agree, Rob, our sin nature causes us to rebel. But, I can see the presence of any law entices our sin nature to rebel.

"But sin is not taken into account when there is no law." - Rom. 5:13b

"For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death." - Rom. 7:5

Anonymous said...

I will accept the entices our sin nature to rebel. That is different from causes and puts the responsibility for sin on our own personal sin nature and not on the Law.

But I thought Paul was saying in Rom 5:13 that sin was there before the law was given but that man could not attribute the evils to sin against a Holy God. I take it to mean that man could just say he screwed up, he made a mistake because he didn't know he was rebelling against God. And sin is not a mistake or a screwup, it is intentional rebellion and that is what the Law revealed so that we could realize our need for a Savior from this rebellious nature we have. See Rom 7:7 and 7:12-13.

Rob from Alabama

Laura said...

If anyone is interested in learning more about law and grace and where I'm coming from about these issues, you can download for free (until Oct. 1) the book The Naked Gospel (http://www.thenakedgospel.com/).

Dr. Andrew Farley, author of The Naked Gospel, explains this and other truths extremely well (much better than I can, which is why I'm suggesting his teachings). In addition, he has several great sermons on law and grace. The Web site for his church is: http://www.ecclesiaonline.com/.

Click on Audio Series in the "Media Center," you can listen to sermons on Romans and Hebrews, both of which give very good information about Christians not being under Law but under grace.

Let me just close with this, I once would have agreed with you, Rob, but praise God, He has moved me far away from obedience to the Law to something MUCH better--to Jesus Christ alone. Christ has dealt with my sins (all of them) once for all, so it's no longer my focus. And I am, as Paul so clearly states, "no longer under Law but under grace" because the Law is "obsolete" (i.e., out-dated).

My hope and prayer is that you will keep seeking and asking and knocking in this area. God will answer, but beware: You will have to "unlearn" and "relearn" many things you thought you knew (I speak from experience here!).

Anonymous said...

Laura, I don't want to be argumentative and I desire to and will reject any thoughts that I find I have that don't match Scripture? I just have one question and I want to move out of the theological and theoretical realm. That will help me understand what you are saying in real terms, that may be where we differ and maybe where I can learn.

Based on what you've said before I think we can operate under the assumption that we are in agreement on:
1. Jesus is the Son of God
2. Jesus is God in flesh, 1 part of the Trinity.
3. Jesus was born of a virgin and yet as fully man He never ever ever ever sinned.
4. This sinless Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead on day 3 by His Father in Heaven and it is that death and resurrection that paid for MY sins past present and future.
5. Jesus is the ONLY WAY to be reconciled to God and I can neither work for my salvation nor earn it via any other means.
(Hence I am SAVED by my personal faith in Jesus and faith alone). Is that an ok assumption?

My question has always been for the practical day to day living of life AFTER we have accepted the free gift of life in Jesus. My concern and thought is for how we interact with the world at school, work and play...How we demonstrate Jesus to the world. This is where the rubber meets the road, where the shoulder meets the grindstone. So please answer, in daily living Do we live under:
1. Grace living with no regard to the Law: Live any way we want, live in any lifestyle we want, go where we want, pursue what we want etc and claim that as the freedom we have in Christ presided over by Grace. Rightly or wrongly that is how I am perceiving your reliance on Grace and rejection of Law. I see it as a sort of Christian Hedonism if you will whereby all living & lifestyles are equal in God's eyes.
2. Law living with no Grace: Live under the OT Law, completely relying on our own vain human attempts to make ourselves right with God. That is not what I am advocating since that didn't work out for mankind in the first place :) :)
3. Live under a healthy & Biblical mixture of Grace AND the Law. Grace that forgives and saves and Law by which I demonstrate my love for my Savior who gives me the Grace. With this I will have a heart desire to obey the Law as He commanded even in the New Testament, but realize that it is Grace that sustains me and gives me my salvation. Practically this means I will try to live obediently (no lying, no cheating, no adultery, no slander, no gossip, no murder, no backstabbing, no squabbling with brothers and sisters in Christ :) etc) but I am assured that when I fail (not if) and ask for forgiveness my Lord and Savior will be there to extend Grace and He will forgive me and give me yet another fresh start. The thing is there is only one place I have for knowing what pleases Him and that is in the Law.

That is my position and what I have meant to convey about the Law and the living of life that shows I love my Lord while completely acknowledging salvation and living has its anchor in Grace given freely by the Lord Jesus.

Does this help?
Rob from Alabama

son of thunder said...

Rob, #3 is where I am right now. And, I believe, it's where Paul was.

We have to remember that ALL Scripture is inspired by the Spirit and that not even the smallest letter will pass away. The Torah wasn't invalidated at the Cross, but it's role changed.

Like I've pointed out in my Sunday school class: There are hundreds of traffic laws which vary from state to state. Most of the time I can't even keep to the speed limit, so how many laws I'm unaware of am I breaking? So I can't keep the law; I'm guilty. Now, how many cops have I passed while breaking the law? Why didn't they jump out and get me? That's grace.

son of thunder said...

Billy, I would love to see every person who ever lived come to Christ. That would be great. No, that would've been a miracle.

When I said that I thought it would be nice if people of different religions could coexist, it was more of a pipe-dream. Our troops wouldn't be over in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting a bunch of religious nut-jobs. Israel wouldn't be facing rocket attacks every day from the same bunch of religious nut-jobs.

But I do know this for a fact, my friend: One day all these people of different religious backgrounds will kneel and say in unison "Yeshua HaMashiach is Adonai!" whether they want to or not.

Anonymous said...

Son, I love what David Jeremiah said about Grace, and he coupled it strongly with mercy since they often go together in Scripture. He said Grace is God forgiving us our transgression/rebellion and removing it as far as east is from west... and that is a great and marvelous gift in and of itself. But Mercy is God saying not only do I forgive you but I will go one better and also make you my child forever with all the attendant rights of a child of the King of Kings. We have received something we don't deserve and a gift we could never imagine. I am not usually very emotional but that one gets to me.

Rob from Alabama

Anonymous said...

Laura, looking back at my posts and the discussion I hope I haven't offended you, I beg your forgiveness if I have been overly argumentative. I will admit I am a stubborn fellow with a hard head. But I am old enough to know I don't know enough, especially when it comes to my God. I agree with a pastor friend who said it will take an eternity to know everything about our Father and even that won't be enough time to comprehend His Awesomeness.

Please know I am stubborn but not egotistical, so if I have a hold of a bad theology then I truly want to know...although I admit I will bulldog the new notion to death to make sure it lines up with Scripture. Believers need to sharpen one another, based on Scripture of course. I have been a Christian for over 35 of my 45 years and I seek to mature more and more day by day. The book of Romans provides some head scratchin, soul searchin material for the Christian that takes some serious study and prayer, it is not for those who don't want to grow in their notions of salvation and Christian living. The issue of Grace and Works is one of those issues and that is why I ask the questions I did? I would not say that issue is a salvation killer as that is secured no matter what in the Blood of the Lamb, but it is one of those things where we work out our salvation with fear and trembling as Paul said. So no personal offense was ever intended.

Crazy, stubborn red-neck,
Rob from Alabama

Laura said...

Rob and all others,

Thank you for your answers. And Rob, thank you for your apology, but it's completely unnecessary! I'm not offended at all. I appreciate you discussing this with me.

However, I think I may have offended you when I asked how you were doing with keeping the Law. I apologize. I wasn’t trying to offend you. My point is this: If you’re going to keep the Law (for salvation or for “godly” living after salvation), then it’s ALL or NOTHING. You either have to score 100% OR you fail. You see, the Law (for salvation or for “godly” living after salvation) always produces two things in people: either it produces self-righteousness OR it completely defeats the person (i.e., it “kills the person). When Paul says, “the Law kills” and “condemns,” this is what he was talking about.

Paul says the Law is a "tutor" to bring us to Christ. How does that work? Since the Law is a reflection of God, it shows us how perfect God is and how IMPERFECT we are. When people realize what the standard for perfection is, and then look at their own lives, they give up in hopelessness because they can never reach God in their own strength. It’s precisely at that time that they realize, “Gee, I sure need someone to save me.” And then, Jesus steps in and says, “Here I am!” That’s the main function of the Law.

Consider that 430 years BEFORE the Law was given, God made a covenant with Abraham—a covenant based on faith. But, as Paul says, if you don’t know the Law, then you don’t know what sin is. So, the Law comes in, but did God want and expect the people to live by it? Well, Gal. 3:15, 17 says this:
“Even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. . . . What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.”

So faith has always been the way God wants us to operate (for salvation AND for godly living), and then, Paul tells the Galations the following:

“This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

Notice how he equates keeping the Law with flesh (sin) in these verses, so any attempts to keep the Law is opposite of walking by faith (Paul stresses this many times in Romans).

Laura said...

So, Rob, your #1 option is:

Do we live by:
“1. Grace living with no regard to the Law: Live any way we want, live in any lifestyle we want, go where we want, pursue what we want etc and claim that as the freedom we have in Christ presided over by Grace. Rightly or wrongly that is how I am perceiving your reliance on Grace and rejection of Law. I see it as a sort of Christian Hedonism if you will whereby all living & lifestyles are equal in God's eyes.”

My answer: #1 is correct--we live by faith and rest in the grace of God; we are no longer under the Law. However, contrary to what you (and many others) may think, this DOES NOT give us a "sin license." Paul addresses this in Romans, so it's not a new issue. First of all, we can agree that we are new creations in Christ, yes? Well, I have to ask you: What is new? What changed? Part of the change in our lives is that we NO LONGER WANT TO SIN! Think about your life pre-Christ and now. What's different? Before Christ, sinning didn't bother you because it was natural for you; you were “in Adam” and you acted like a true son of Adam. But now, you hate it when you sin and you don't want to sin because you are a new creation “in Christ”; you are a true “son of God.” Also, God has written His “laws” on your heart and mind. Notice that the verse in Hebrews 10:16 MISQUOTES the O.T. verse of Jeremiah 31:33. The writer of Hebrews changed the Scripture from “my LAW” to “my LAWS.” Why? Well, if God had put the Law on our hearts and minds, we’d be worried about what we eat (no pork, no shellfish) and what we wear (no material with mixed fibers) and not working from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown to observe the Sabbath, and 500 + other Laws. BUT that’s not the “laws” God has written on our hearts. He’s written the laws of “love your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” and “love your neighbor as yourself” on our hearts and minds. So, now rather than trying to CONFORM outwardly to a set of rules (that’s what Judiasm is), the Lord has now placed His “laws” and His desires INSIDE of us. He’s completely rewired us to think and want to act differently. That’s the new you! That’s the first part of the equation—that’s why believers won’t run wild and behave hedonistically. They are no longer hardwired to behave that way! Mind you, we are still TEMPTED to sin and we may temporarily think that’s what we want and sin. But what happens when we do sin? We’re upset with ourselves, we hate that sin, and we wish we’d never done it. In other words, it’s no longer our nature to sin.

Now, the second part of this equation is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The Bible repeatedly teaches that we live “by faith,” not by sight or human effort. So, what are we called to live by faith in? The Law? No, the Bible NEVER says “live by faith in the Law.” Instead, it says, we are to “abide (live) in Christ” and “walk by faith” in the Son of God. Let me ask you: Do you think that Jesus can live a life that’s pleasing to God? Of course! Well, He’s living inside of you right now. Can you trust Him to live that pleasing life in you today? Absolutely! Do you think Jesus needs you to consult the Law to figure out what to do in the circumstances of life? I think He probably already knows, don’t you? So, we focus on Him, rest in Him, trust in Him to do it all. This means we are keeping our eyes on Jesus AND ON NOTHING ELSE! So, it’s a faith-walk—-based on the same thing Abraham’s covenant with God was based on. And this faith covenant of God’s came 430 YEARS BEFORE the Law ever appeared on the scene, so we see that this is how God wanted us to relate to Him all along.

I'll address your #2 and #3 later. Gotta get to work!

Anonymous said...

Laura, apology not necessary but accepted, I may have been a little tired and overly sensitive and over zealous, We're cool. But we will have to part ways in disagreement. And it's not that I don't understand what you are saying about Grace because I do, I just am trying to understand how this works out in real day to day life - that is where we part company.

Please allow me one more opportunity to understand the practicality of what you are saying. Again, this will help me and maybe it will clear up the confusion I am having about your statements.

Let's get in the trenches and if I may let me give a personal example that is breaking my wife's heart terribly (and I wish I could say this is a made up hypothetical situation but sadly it is not, this is an all too real example I would like to use to understand your point). I obviously like the internet but I don't hold much to the social sites, but my lovely wife found out about Facebook and signed up. She started looking to reconnect with old friends she hasn't seen in 20+ years. Well she found one particular male friend who was very active in her church who was also very involved in witnessing to the lost, had a great testimony and love for the Lord. She thought the world of him, and well she found him working and living in San Fran..... and you guessed it..... he is living the sodomite life actively and evidently proudly. She is heartbroken to say the least. So if what you are saying is true how do you wrestle with this demonic force in this man who knows better or knew better earlier in his life. If you say he is covered by Grace (I guess you are correct technically) then we must accept, and condone, that he is free to live the homosexual life and we must never say anything to point out what we see as a destructive, unGodly lifestyle. Any effort to point out that this is straying from Gods plan and to say anything in rebuking and correcting this friend would necessarily rely on my wife quoting the Law and other Scriptural references about how God detests the sin of homosexuality. If Grace rules the day and the Law is DOA He is free to live and do what his heart desires and we must assume that God now will accept under Grace what He said was detestable at an earlier point. Any attempt at Christian discipline would rely on there being some standard which has been breached and again as far as I see the only record of a standard is in the Law. So what to do with this apparent wayward brother?

I know if he were to repent of this God would cover him in Grace, forgive his sin and restore this man to a right relationship with Himself. But I see no way around the fact that he must repent of a behavior condemned in the Law before a right relationship can be had, hence I contend for #3 a mixture of Grace and Law.

I promise this is the end of this discussion and I will not dominate more of your time.

Thanks for the discussion,
Rob from Alabama

Laura said...

Hi Rob,

I'm so very sorry to hear about your wife's friend. That is truly heartbreaking.

First of all, grace never winks at sin. It's real, it's there, and most of all, it's destructive. That's why God HATES sin so much--because of what it does to us--it destroys us.

Now, my question to you is this: Do you think God can use this sin in this man's life to bring him to the point of surrender? I do. God has done it in my own life. In fact, God will use ANYTHING to bring a person to the end of self.

Furthermore, God convicts believers of RIGHTEOUSNESS. John 16:8-11: "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because THEY (non-believers) do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and YOU (believers) no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the RULER OR THIS WORLD (Satan) has been judged."

So, if this man is a believer, you can bet that God is convicting Him of righteousness (living like who he really is--as a saint of God).

We all know how to confront using the Law: We read off the Law. It probably makes them angry and off they go in deeper rebellion.

So what's the grace way? Well, the grace way is this: From a heart of deep and sincere love, we get to know the person (in your wife's case--again). We bear with their sinning. We realize that "there but for the grace of God go I." We come to them humbly, acknowledging that at the wrong time and place, we might commit the same sin or a "worse" one. And we begin to teach them about who they are in Christ. This person probably thinks he is a "homosexual." He's believing the lie that he IS what HE DOES. We need to present the truth to him that, no, he is who he is because of BIRTH (spiritual birth). And regardless of his behavior, God calls him a "saint" if he's truly born-again. You see, this man is in bondage to sin because he does not "know the truth." It is knowing the TRUTH that will set him free.

My suspicion is that he already knows what he's doing is wrong; so you can safely say THAT "truth" has not set him free. What he needs to learn is his true identity in Christ.

Now, granted, he may not be ready to hear the truth. Often in these situations, all you can do is wait and pray until the person is at the bottom and finally has "ears to hear." But a patient, loving relationship with him is much more likely to get you a hearing than condemning him with the Law.

Anonymous said...

Hey, sorry I lied, one more question for Laura. You say "My suspicion is that he already knows what he's doing is wrong". Wrong by who's standards - that is the heart of my question. Something is only wrong if it breaches a code, a law, a commandment. So for him to know he is wrong he must admit he has broken a standard, and for me that standard is still the law. And I would and my wife would never beat him with the Law, it would merely be the beginning point to remind him of what you say... that he needs to renew or begin a right relationship with Christ.

Rob from Alambama

Nathan Jones said...

Laura/Rob, if I may interject a point in your exchange - the difference between salvation and sanctification, and the points where grace and law do their jobs. Dr. Reagan's article on salvation I'll quote from:

The salvation we immediately experience at the point of faith in Christ is the salvation of our spirit. The Holy Spirit regenerates our spirit which is dead in sin. The Bible refers to this as justification (Gals. 2:16).

But that is not the end of salvation, and that is the reason that the Bible speaks of salvation as an ongoing process (I Cor. 1:18). The salvation of the soul (the mind, emotions and personality) begins at the point of faith, but it continues throughout one's lifetime. This process is called sanctification (Rom. 6:18-19).

The change agent, once again, is the Holy Spirit. When a person is born again through the regeneration of his spirit, the Holy Spirit takes up residence inside the person and begins to shape his soul into the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29-30, II Cor. 3:18, and Gal. 4:19).

Our salvation will not be completed until the resurrection of the righteous. At that time, our bodies will be saved as God miraculously reconstitutes them and then glorifies them, making them immortal and perfect (Rom. 8:18-23 and I Cor. 15:50-57).

Thus, our salvation is past, present and future — justification (the spirit), sanctification (the soul), and glorification (the body).

Anonymous said...

Thanks Nathan I am in agreement with you on how salvation is an ongoing work as Paul I believe said we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. But we are getting bogged down on the salvation aspect vs after the salvation point. I have no disagreement in who saves us (Jesus) or how we are saved (through Grace and only Grace). The point I am trying to understand is in the practical aspects of HOW the Holy Spirit molds us into Christlikeness (what do we do day by day hour by hour) that is the point of my exchange with Laura. I am understanding Laura to say the Law is completely dead at that point and any attempt to obey the Laws and commands as we are commanded to do is useless and a return to our old ways. SHE is claiming any attempt at obedience to Gods standards (which as I have said is only found in the Law)is legalism. I am contending that the logical outgrowth of that is that we then have to accept any word or deed of the flesh as an adequate response in life. If the Law is removed then the standards are removed and I want to understand how then can I live my life, how can I teach my children to live if I have no mile markers to show the way.

Rob from Alabama

Laura said...

Thanks, Nathan, for the link to the article and for your outline (of sorts). I'll read it again in a bit and digest what you wrote.

Rob, I'm not saying we should, as believers, all pretend that the Law doesn't exist. After all, for many, it's what made us see our need for Christ to begin with. What I'm saying is that keeping the Law shouldn't be OUR FOCUS, nor should the Law be what we strive to live up to on a daily basis. Paul says a number of times that we are DEAD to the Law and we are no longer under the Law but under grace. He also clearly teaches that you can't do both law and grace--it's either one or the other.

So our FOCUS should be on Jesus, and our "job" is to walk by faith in the completed work of Christ.

If this person is a believer, he already KNOWS what he's doing is wrong (this is clear from his attitude). Why is he feeling conviction? Because the Holy Spirit convicts believers of righteousness (living according to who they truly are). So the H.S. in this man is convicting him to be who he really is (a saint). It's the difference between saying, "You did this and this and this wrong" (Law) as opposed to saying, "You are a holy, righteous saint, so live (by faith in Christ, of course) like who you really are!" The Law beats you down; grace always builds you up--and empowers you to live a godly, holy life.

With that, I think I'll move on to another post. Thanks to all for discussing this.