Biblical Salvation: How It’s Possible To Be A Christian And Still Not Be “Saved”

Biblical Salvation: How It’s Possible To Be A Christian And Still Not Be “Saved” February 17, 2017
Flickr creative commons
Flickr creative commons

Growing up evangelical, one of the primary questions we were taught to ask strangers was: “Are you saved?” Or, better yet: “If you died tonight do you know where you’d go?”

The concept of being saved was pretty simple, really: You’re a sinner headed for hell, Jesus died to take your punishment, and if you “ask him into your heart” you’ll go to heaven instead of hell.

Salvation as understood this way has taken root in much of Americanized Christianity, and even global Christianity thanks in part to the American way of packaging and exporting an Americanized version of the faith. It is a simple, non-costly understanding of salvation that has little biblical precedence even though it is so commonplace.

This truncated version of salvation turns it into something elusive, something secret. Like a membership card tucked into the deepest corner of your wallet, you have no way of knowing who has one, and who does not. This is precisely why and how so many Christians came to see Donald Trump as “saved” and one of us: leaders like James Dobson reported rumors that he “accepted Christ” (as if it’s like accepting an offer for a low interest credit card) and from that moment on, Trump is seen by many to be “saved” and thus one of us.

But that’s not biblical salvation– biblical salvation has little to do with a secret transaction that points you toward heaven or sends you to hell, in the commonly understood sense.

While the NT term salvation can hold a variety of nuance, the ultimate contextual meaning of salvation in the NT is in reference for one who joined God’s Kingdom as proclaimed by Jesus. Joining God’s Kingdom is much like joining any other Kingdom that has one who rules from a throne: you join by pledging your allegiance and obedience to the King– and then living that out.

In Americanized Christianity, salvation often only includes half that equation, or at least offers a footnote to the idea of living out Kingdom principles. They’ll often say things like, “Well, we don’t have to emulate Jesus in this particular area of life because he was unique” or, “Well, the Kingdom of God isn’t fully here yet, so Jesus was just describing how we’ll live one day in a perfect world.”

Readers Digest version: As long as you have the card in your pocket, you’re saved. The second half is nice, but not totally necessary, because there’s a lot of “reasons” why we don’t always do what Jesus did. In this case, the faux version of salvation we grew up with was an easy, individualized transaction that was focused on where you’ll go when you die, not on how you live in the here and now.

However, biblical salvation is directly linked to net-result of actually doing what Jesus said (aka, living the principles of his Kingdom). This is precisely because biblical salvation has little to do with life after death (though it does some), but has a lot to do with life right now. In fact, when Jesus uses the term “eternal life” in the NT, he often uses this term in the present tense.

Since the Kingdom Jesus proclaimed is founded upon very specific principles, a specific culture that must be lived out (see the Sermon on the Mount for his full manifesto), biblical salvation seems to be heavily focused on being saved from an old way of living, and saved into a new way of living– a way of life that Jesus described as “eternal.”

For those who reject Kingdom principles, for those who oppress the poor, for those who reject the immigrant, those who refuse the way of nonviolent enemy love, those who refuse to live out the culture of the Kingdom right now, it would be a stretch to say they are “saved” in the biblical sense, because until they put down their guns, feed the hungry, and welcome the immigrant, they have not yet entered God’s Kingdom and begun living in it. They may have “asked Jesus into their heart” but they have not yet joined the Kingdom- and that’s what salvation is about.

Thus, salvation is not a transaction that is open and shut, taking place in totality within the recesses of one’s heart. It surely begins in the heart, but salvation doesn’t end there– it is not possible to be “saved” in the biblical sense if one is not actively striving to be obedient to the King and the culture of the Kingdom– and Scripture speaks quite forcefully on this point.

This is precisely why Jesus said it is possible to be deeply religious, to be a lover of the Bible, and to still not be saved (Matthew 21:31, John 5:39-40). It is also why he said that many who are thrown into the lake of fire on judgement day will be Christians who did not care for the poor and needy, and thus never actually entered the Kingdom (Matthew 5:31-46). Certainly, other NT writers back up this concept of salvation, such as the author of James who wrote that faith which is not followed up by caring for the poor and hungry cannot save you (James 2:14-17).

Does biblical salvation have anything to do with the afterlife? To a degree, yes. God’s Kingdom will be eternal. However, the bigger issue is this: If one is not willing to live in the Kingdom now, no matter who they ask into their heart, the chances that they’d even want to live in the Kingdom then seem slim. God, of course, sees that– and the Bible warns us in that regard to not think that simply raising our hand at the end of a sermon means we’re headed to paradise when we die.

There’s little point in talking about being saved then, if we aren’t first saved right now– because salvation isn’t as much a distant event, but a present reality.

unafraid 300Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. 

Be sure to check out his new blog, right here, and follow on Facebook:

"Hilarious!You fail to answer any questions of offer any actual, tangible, authentic and original significant ..."

No, The Gospel Isn’t “Good News” ..."
"You are a denier. Not surprising. So you are on the side of the few ..."

No, The Gospel Isn’t “Good News” ..."
"No "denial" required since this unique and inconsequential item of archaeological novelty is not evidence ..."

No, The Gospel Isn’t “Good News” ..."
"The Tel Dan Inscription. (read next before you counter that no one believes this)"The “House ..."

No, The Gospel Isn’t “Good News” ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I once did a study (which sadly I can’t find at the moment) on the word tenses of “saved” in the New Testament. There are indeed a few past tenses, but there are more present tense (“you are being saved”) and future tenses (“you will be saved”). A Google search reveals an article along these lines from Wayne Jackson:

  • Matthew

    How much obedience is enough?

  • Being as how I was at death’s door from alcoholism It was revealed to me in AA that being willing to be obedient to a simple program of recovery is all one needs in the first few days one realizes one’s addictions have stopped working. Following through on obedience, for me, came to be a natural existential reality in the flow of time, about three months, 90 meetings in 90 days, of not drinking or using and practicing my willingness to turn my life and will over to God on the third step and to remain in constant contact with him on a daily basis. my sobriety, obedience, changed behavior gets easier as I am willing to be connected to a recovering community, focusing on a mentor or a sponsor, being more obedient as the holy spirit opens it up to me to show me what I have never known. In my humble opinion the 12 steps are helpful and practical for someone who is addicted to anything including Americanized Christianity.

  • How much obedience was enough for Israel to be delivered from Assyria or end the Babylonian Exile?

    I think Ben’s point is that, rather than “salvation” being a binary switch that’s either on or off based on if we prayed the right prayer or, in terms of your question, did a sufficient amount of good works – it instead characterizes a way of life.

  • Herm

    What more obedience, as disciples of Christ, is asked than to love all others as we would have all others love us?

  • Matthew

    I think I agree with you Phil, but for me I guess I’m still ol’ school reformation and I don’t see that changing. I know such a view cuts against the grain of many progressives/liberals, but for me it’s still essential. What I like about progressives/liberals is that they do talk about the need to live like Christ, but as I keep on saying it’s both/and not either/or. It’s absolutely beyond me how so many people miss this point and get caught in polarization’s snare.

  • Herm

    I was saved from being foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of empty passions and pleasures when washed in a rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:3-8) at the age of 50. Life eternal would be icing on the cake but not as important to me than the relationship I have with and in God today as Their infant child in spirit.

    I gave very few sermons from the pulpit as an authority for the church regarding heaven or hell. When I did, each was prefaced with my honest heartfelt consideration that neither could possibly be understood from a carnal earth bound perspective. I am no longer an authority in the church for I now worship God from within; as an infant child, solely in spirit. I truly only have one Teacher, one Instructor and one Father to adore. I am finding many siblings in God today, who I did not recognize as a church official, because we each recognize the Spirit we are filled with.

    I ask any who ask if I am saved, “from what, for what and when?”

  • Matthew

    Thanks so much for sharing a bit of your story.

  • HChris

    Of course there is forgiveness when we fail to be obedient. But how can one be forgiven when one makes excuses in place of repentance? This was the most insightful part of Ben’s post in my opinion. If we make excuses in order to justify our sin by saying, “The kingdom of God is not here yet.” or something like that, not only do we diminish the severity of our sin, but we diminish the victory of Christ on the cross. Christ DID inaugurate his Kingdom on the cross and for those who follow him the Kingdom is now.

  • Ron McPherson

    I’ve heard following Jesus referred to as “imperfect obedience.” Lord knows I want to obey him with all my being. I screw up a lot though. Fortunately the Spirit within continually forgives, leads and empowers.

  • I understand that. I was Reformed, myself, for quite some time.

    For me, the issue isn’t so much about competing theological paradigms as it is the use of a theological paradigm (any paradigm – conservative or progressive) as a necessary metanarrative for categories in the Bible that don’t need them, or at least don’t start that way.

    When we read the word “salvation,” we already import a package about the eternal destiny of the individual soul into that virtually everywhere we see it in the Bible, but “salvation” for first century Israel had a historical referent pertinent to their context, just like “salvation” had different referents for Israel at different points in the OT. How do we know those referents? By looking at the circumstances Israel was actually facing at the time and seeing what it would have meant to be saved from them.

    Instead, most of us have been taught a theological construction that we use to hold together all the different little narratives in the Bible, and if we reject the one we have been taught, it’s usually only to embrace a different one.

    This is why I don’t really get into the penal substitution vs. Christus Victor discussions. To me, both are theological abstractions that may be interesting as we talk about the import of Jesus’ death -to us-, but are definitely not necessary to read the Bible on its own terms.

    I would put the whole “saved by grace vs. saved by works” discussion in the same boat. As long as what you’re talking about is “where will my soul spend eternity when I die,” that’s a theological abstraction that we bring to the text. It doesn’t actually come from the historical narrative of the people who produced the text.

  • John

    You seem to be mixing around the ideas of “salvation,” “Justification,” and “Sanctification.”

    Do you hold to the Catholic idea of continuing justification?

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Enough for what? The Bible always talks about being saved from our sin. That is, not avoiding punishment for them, but actually healing us of our broken sinful nature itself. You can never have enough salvation or have no further need to grow in faith and love of God until you are perfected in perfect union with him.
    If your question is “How much do we have to do to avoid God abandoning the attempt and letting us die?” the answer lies in the cross: God didn’t abandon us but kept coming even after we nailed him to a tree and tortured him to death while laughing at him, so I’d say there is no way he is going to give up on you before you do (and not even then) and, furthermore, remember the resurrection: do you think the God who raised Jesus to life in triumph is going to let a little thing like you dying stop him from carrying right on saving you?

  • Herm

    John, would not the answer to your question depend more on the source of Ben’s inspiration than simply an idea of religious doctrine or theology mixing around?

    I don’t remember our Messiah ever instructing us in ““salvation,” “Justification,” and “Sanctification.”” Perhaps I was just not paying attention when He did. I’ll ask Him, thanks.

  • Guy Norred

    Beautifully put. While I think I am tending toward that state where those abstractions are of little import, I do actually think realizing that the one one is first taught is not the only one can be freeing–freeing to one day let them all go.

  • John

    It’s important because it totally changes the argument. When Christians talk about “salvation” they are generally referring to justification, that’s it. They are not referring to the sanctification that follows, yet the author of the article seems to be responding as if the term “salvation” is referring to both justification and sanctification.

    1 Corinthians 3:11-15 is a good description of the difference:
    “11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

    Putting our hope in Christ is our foundation. We are justified through Him, but we still have the responsibility to build upon that foundation through our good works. These works are important, but they are not the same thing as the foundation.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    ” When Christians talk about “salvation” they are generally referring to justification, that’s it. They are not referring to the sanctification that follows, yet the author of the article seems to be responding as if the term “salvation” is referring to both justification and sanctification.”
    Most Christians aren’t actually Calvinists, and neither is Ben.
    (Oh, and if you read the full Chapter, 1 Corinthians 3 is about building the church, not individual justification / sanctification.)

  • Herm

    John, I understand the concept put forth in the study of God (theology), I used to teach it. Jesus did not speak to salvation as a hope but as a present reality. Think, if you will please, that the rock (the foundation of Jesus’ church which is not carnal but solely spirit) was the Spirit which told Peter that Jesus was the Messiah, Son of the living God. Think that the true light that brings light to everyone (John 1:9-13) is the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit, appearing as a dove, the Advocate. Think that John 14:15-21 and 4:23, 24 are relative to the present as much as they were 1,984 years ago, holds true today and will be true to the end of eternity.

    Now study the following with the realization that the Most Holy Place is no longer a carnal location but is now in the temple in spirit that rose with Jesus as high priest in three days after the curtain was torn top to bottom.

    Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

    Hebrews 10:19-23 (NIV2011)

    Now study the following to understand exactly what we are saved from, then and now, and how we can only be saved through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

    At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

    Titus 3:3-8 (NIV2011)

    Now review the foundation spoken of in 1 Corinthians 3. I truly hope you can see, with that exercise, that justification and sanctification are not divine judicial decrees from which we find our salvation after our carnal life. We are saved today the moment we are in the Spirit of truth and the Spirit of truth is in us. We are washed clean because we are 100% whelmed, completely filled, in the Hole Spirit as was Jesus by the Spirit appearing as a dove. Our heavenly Father at that time first greets us with, “You are my child, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

    When I received the washing of rebirth to be a child of God (I was then 50 earth years old) then I was saved. From the sprinkling of, and immersion in, water I was not born of the Spirit to become an infant child of God, sufficiently related to possibly “inherit” eternal life. Do I care for eternal life in spirit? I only know I do because I love learning and adventuring every moment of every day with and in the Holy Spirit. I love being in my brother Christ Jesus and He in me. I really don’t want this to end whether on earth or in heaven, it doesn’t matter. Before my relationship in the Holy Spirit I didn’t give a damn about heaven or hell because neither could be understood through carnal reasoning or any theological study of God. I don’t hope for salvation because that is past. I hope for continued relationship in God but what I have had for the last 22 years is more than enough to feel fully rewarded.

    I do hope that I didn’t come off too awfully rude to you. I felt a need to get your attention to share with you that salvation is now and that the differing “ideas” of justification and sanctification are not up to any carnal inspiration of theology or doctrine to define or be accepted. The significance of both of those concepts is taught by God as we are ready to comprehend. There is only one Teacher, the Spirit of truth, there is only one Instructor, the Messiah, and there is only one Father for all disciple siblings of Christ today as it has been for the last 1,984 years.

  • John

    Why do you bring up Calvinism? The theology I presented is common to essentially all of Protestant theology.

    Also, the analogy of the foundation and house is being applied to “each man.” It’s an individualistic analogy.

  • John

    The “ideas of justification and sanctification” flow from the text like the idea of the Trinity flows from the text. I’m honestly not quite sure what point you are making. You said:

    Now review the foundation spoken of in 1 Corinthians 3. I truly hope you can see, with that exercise, that justification and sanctification are not divine judicial decrees from which we find our salvation after our carnal life. We are saved today the moment we are in the Spirit of truth and the Spirit of truth is in us. We are washed clean because we are 100% whelmed, completely filled, in the Hole Spirit as was Jesus by the Spirit appearing as a dove. Our heavenly Father at that time first greets us with, “You are my child, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

    As far as I can tell, you say that justification is not decree and then you go on to describe justification in other words.

    We are saved today the moment we are in the Spirit of truth and the Spirit of truth is in us.

    This IS justification. I agree completely, but Corey doesn’t seem to agree based on his article. He argues that salvation is a continual process that is not completed when the Holy Spirit comes into us, but that it also includes the works that we do after that point.

    This is where the terms “justification” and “sanctification” are useful. They describe different things. Justification is the immediate cleansing of guilt and sin through the final sacrifice of Christ and the entering of the Holy Spirit into us, working alongside us to lead us into further sanctification. In modern parlance, the term “salvation” refers to the initial justification, but Christians are not dismissing the further sanctification by referring to salvation in reference to justification like Corey argues.

  • Herm

    I have wasted your time, forgive me. If you truly are caught up in the idea of the Trinity we are not in the same relationship. Just so you might understand what I am saying now is, the Holy spirit is with and in me right now. The Holy Spirit is with and in my heavenly Father right now. The Holy Spirit is with and in Jesus right now. I am in Jesus and Jesus is in me. I am in the Father and the Father is in me. That is fact as I know it to be true today. What value does knowing the mechanics of justification and sanctification change for me? What value does defining salvation, justification and sanctification have for you either to come to an eternal relationship in God or support your relationship in God? I did not question the mechanics of my carnal family as a little child because this was well beyond my ability to understand. I knew that I could trust in my relationship with my parents to live where I could not on my own and that was enough. I today know from inside the family of God that I can trust my Brother and Father to live where I could not on my own and that is enough.

    The Trinity concept of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is a theological (study of God) idea and not in any way a true testimony inspired by a relationship in God. Defining God as in three persons ignores all the children of God born of the Spirit for at minimum the last 1,984 years.

    There is simply no common ground for us to communicate if your image of God is the Trinity. Thanks for trying!

  • John

    Oh… yeah, there’s really not much common ground at all if you’ve totally separated yourself from any sort of traditional Christianity.

  • Herm

    Thanks for trying to understand. Of course, from my perspective I could not have become the student I am under Jesus’ tutelage without hating “traditional Christianity”.

    Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

    Luke 14:25-27 (NIV2011)

    Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

    John 4:23-24 (NIV2011)

  • Guthrum

    Acts 16:30: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved ?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. you and your household”
    Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest anyone boast” NKJV
    So, then we see that our salvation is a free gift from God. Jesus paid the price for our sins when He died on the cross for us.
    A person becomes a Christian when they start believing in Jesus and put their faith in Him. Good works do not get a person saved and into heaven. There are guides that are given out to people who want to know how to become a Christian. These summarize the concept of salvation and the Biblical explanation. So by simple deduction a Christian is a person who has been saved by faith in Jesus.
    And there is this subject of “universal salvation” being discussed now. There is no such thing: it is a complete heresy. Any pastor who teaches that is leading their flocks astray.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    “The theology I presented is common to essentially all of Protestant theology.”
    Except Anglicans, Methodists, Pentecostals, Anabaptists some Presbyterians and even some Lutherans, so probably not actually most Protestants, let alone all. (And you said most “Christians” – which include Catholic and Orthodox faiths as well: most Christians are not actually Protestant.)

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Re 1 Corinthians 3:
    9 For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.
    10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it.
    The whole passage is an appeal to unity in the Corinthian church, Paul calls them a building “working together” and the above passage talks about Paul laying a foundation of it. Just read what it says on the page.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    You really should read the passages you quote. Note the use of the past tense in Ephesians. Salvation is salvation from our enslavement to sin now, not afterlife insurance for a free pass into heaven.
    I personally will stick with the Bible rather than your “free guides” being given out.

  • ashpenaz

    I’m rethinking my faith based on this premise: Jesus of Nazareth was not God. He was a man who had a deep and profound relationship with God. Jesus shows us who God is and what God is like. The goal is not to worship Jesus but to do the sorts of things Jesus did in order to become closer to God.

    I’m probably going to Hell.

  • Roger Leitch

    How does the conversation with Nicodemus in John 3 fit into this?
    The night I became a Christian, something changed in me and from them on I saw the world differently.
    When you decide to follow Jesus (I saw people that had something I needed), something has to change.
    This is the work of the Holy Spirit.
    The result of this is not some verbal agreement.
    The result is a changed life, which means that every thing is new and you treat people differently because you now see them as they are.
    2Thessalonians 5 describes this.

    If you want examples from the Bible, there are many, the most striking and famous being Saul -> Paul.
    Paul after his encounter with Jesus was clearly a changed man.
    I would therefore say that unless there has been a noticeable change, then you have not yet met with Jesus.

    I recognise that for many this change* does not stick – they go back to old ways or choose things that are not appropriate with the life Jesus challenges and calls us to live.
    That said, it is easy to spot someone trying, but failing and those who have the right words but not the life that goes with it.

    *possibly a purely emotional response to an appeal, either from fear, shame or the quiet playing of “Oh lamb of God I come”.

  • Matthew

    Thanks HChris. Just to be clear, from my theological perspective I would say that the kingdom is both here and not yet here. In my view I believe that salvation is indeed a one time event that secures for us eternal life after we die, but I am also aware of another verb tense that describes “salvation” in the Bible as “you are being saved.” I believe this usage points to the fact that the kingdom is also already here thus the importance of living like Christ now.

    It´s both/and.

  • whollyfool

    Great post. Thank you.

  • Matthew

    Thanks so much as always Phil.

    O.K. … maybe it doesn´t come from the historical narrative of the Old Testament text, but we are talking new covenant now right? Possibly … starting with the Luther … the reformers discovered the essence of the Gospel as Jesus was proclaiming it in the 1st century and not the nation of Israel´s older context. It´s an argument reformed theologians (I think) use to counter the new perspective on Paul teachers.

    I get it Phil … many reformed people and other conservative evangelicals have cheapened grace and balk at the red letters of Jesus. This much is true. That said, I don´t think a knee jerk reaction helps us much either. Such a reaction basically eliminates the promise of knowing our eternal destiny (something I think God wants us to know and something I think most humans want to know) and places the focus almost entirely on deeds, life, and teachings which can lead to a house being built on Legalism Ave. so to speak.

    Understand … too … that I´m coming from a Roman Catholic upbringing where the idea of grace as understood in some Protestant environments was extremely foreign. What an absolute relief when I found and embraced God´s grace in this new context.

  • Jennny

    Commenters so far, there are 33 at time of writing this are quoting bible verses about the need for personal salvation. So, for 15+ centuries AD, how did people know this? They did not have the bible in their own language, it, and the liturgy were in latin. Society was illiterate for many centuries. Church attendance was compulsory – hence in the UK, the Pilgrim Fathers seeking to escape – but I have yet to hear of any priest from those centuries bible-thumping John 3v16 in latin and and making altar calls. Heaven will be populated only by folk from, what, the 19thC onwards when they could read the bible for themselves and ‘accept Jesus as their personal Saviour’? Don’t forget everyone was a, shock horror, a Roman Catholic till 1517.

  • Matthew

    When I (daily) see how much I fail at being obedient to all Jesus commands, I simply must focus on his free grace and his gift of enternal life (both now and later).

    I do understand, though, that I´m coming from a more Calvinist viewpoint regarding salvation and most on this blog are not. Thanks for the good words Ron.



  • Matthew

    Maybe those Christians who lived prior to the Reformation were saved as Abraham was in the Old Testament … via faith … regardless of how the church looked or what the church taught at that time. Maybe the reformers only discovered what was already written on the hearts of those who truly believed.

    Just a thought … not doctrine of course. Your post certainly has me thinking. Thanks Jennny.

  • Herm

    After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

    Matthew 17:1-4 (NIV2011)

    If it took Jesus dying on the cross that we might live how is that Moses and Elijah already were alive?

    My question relative to salvation is from what, for what and when?

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Totally off topic, but I am interested in your problem with the idea of the Trinity.
    Granted, the complex dance if theories about it and assumption that we really know what we are talking about when addressing the nature of God is a bit dodgy, but what is your issue with the basic idea?
    The classic theist concept of God is of the ground of being, the eternal origin of all created things and the immovable prime mover and fulcrum around which the universe turns. If that’s not what you mean by “God” then we do not worship the same God.
    But if that is your only concept of God, then you slide into deism – God is entirely impersonal, unknowable, uninvolved in our existence and indifferent to our concerns.
    There is a different concept of God as directly involved in creation, found inside every twig and under every stone, permeating the universe and acting within it, whom one can sense at work and with whom one can cooperate and with whose power one can work. If this is your only concept of God, however, then you end up equating God with the universe itself, diminished to being simply being a force or power within it; basically pantheism.
    Christians also assert a personal God, a God who is with you, speaks to you and who gets his hands dirty, participating actively within the world with us. It is this God which is above all things incarnate in Jesus. Deny this God and Jesus is not God.
    However, if that is your only God, your God is not God but “a” god, a being among beings participating in the world as a divine, powerful, but ultimately equally created thing, and is different only in quality or power but not in essence to every other pagan God, such as Thor, Jupiter or Horus.
    The point of the doctrine of the Trinity (in whatever its detail) I would have thought is to assert that all the above are God, and fully God, and the same God, and if you assert they are, ten like it or not you are a trinitarian.
    I would be interested in your views.

  • Al Cruise

    Lets not forget that many people from every faith in the world live in the “Kingdom”. They live in the Kingdom in the here and now in spite of their birth imposed religious doctrines.

  • I completely understand that, and I would say that grace features heavily in both testaments.

    The problem with disregarding the Old Testament (and inter-testamental context) of these categories is that it was these categories Jesus was speaking into. Jesus, Paul, et al were speaking from a Jewish context into a Jewish context, and they were doing so as the next points on Israel’s story. If we want to understand them on their own terms, then we need to see them against their background.

    The alternative is to construct the New Testament’s meaning apart from this background, and then read that back into the Old Testament as if that’s what the Old Testament meant all along. I would say neither Catholics nor Protestants have a monopoly on this, nor is it a recent phenomenon. As early as… oh, maybe the third century… we see Hellenized believers who are hearing these things from Jesus or the Apostles for the first time, and they do not really have a point of reference for them. So they provide their own, and this becomes Orthodoxy. But this is getting the story backwards.

    Give you an example, yesterday, someone said that the Passover lamb in Exodus was a substitution for the firstborn sons of the Israelites, who would otherwise be slain by God and justifiably so because of original sin. The problem here is that none of this is anywhere in the Exodus texts.

    What was happening is that they were taking Jesus as the fulfillment of the Passover lamb and, at least in their view, Jesus died a substitionary death for all who would rightfully be slain because of original sin, and therefore that’s also what was going on in the Passover.

    But for me, this gets it backwards. If Paul refers to Jesus as our Passover lamb, wouldn’t it make more sense to figure out the meaning of the Passover lamb, and then use that as our context for understanding something about Jesus? Isn’t that essentially what Paul is expecting of his audience – to take their understanding of the Passover and use that as a paradigm to understand what Jesus did? Surely he isn’t expecting them to take a theological understanding of Jesus’ death formulated apart from the Old Testament, and then use that as a paradigm for understanding the Passover.

    I’m not saying there are easy answers to all this, but I am saying this is what leads me to my hesitance in answering the question, “Is it belief or obedience that saves us?” because I feel like we’re already operating at a level of theological abstraction that the Scriptures don’t operate at. I think we can safely conclude that, for Paul at least, having faith means being a certain sort of person in the world on the basis of your trust, and it is the community of such people that God has always promised that He will bring safely through the ages.

    To get too far away from that concept or to debate about which portion of that complex actually “gets us salvation” seems to me to be unhelpful most of the time. God wants us to trust Him. This trust will have concrete expressions. God has grace and forgiveness for our failures to trust or act consistently with that and encourages us to keep going. That’s about all I feel comfortable saying about that issue.

  • Al Cruise

    Excellent questions, I have found that avoidance to these questions is the “answer” that you get from “salvation via scripture” folks. Your questions make the Phd’s in Divinity sometimes look like fools.

  • John

    So how do you explain the reference to “each man?” Paul makes it very clear that he’s talking about what “each man” builds on the foundation of Christ.

  • John

    I don’t think you’re correct about those other denominations.

    – Anglicans believe in justification through faith alone and that works do not add anything to our salvation. They hold that the sacraments increase sanctification, but not justification, as Catholics do.(

    – Methodists, and Wesleyan theology as a whole, also holds to the justification/sanctification difference that I specified. (

    It seems you aren’t really familiar with the concepts involved. I’m sure there are protestants who don’t hold to the justification/sanctification paradigm, but they are outliers who don’t represent protestantism well.

  • Herm

    Very well considered questions, Iain, thank you!
    I truly don’t know how to answer your query to the degree you deserve. I must assume that you have much more to offer that would be necessary to describe in words the image of God with whom you have grown to relate with personally. You must assume that to express my relationship in God might be much more than there is time today necessary to begin to do this divine relationship justice.

    I was born into a struggling Christian concept world and learned to debate all sides presented in the Bible, Satan’s to the Father’s, Christ’s to Caiaphas’, to be pronounced more often the winner by the time I was in high school. When I was a senior, at the age of 17, I saw, from the big bay window of my Presbyterian high school Sunday school classroom, the hand of God subtly shifting to balance and maintain my thriving middle class white USA community. From that moment to this day I have never debated but one side because God became very real and not an intellectual game. Much more real than the carnal I had assumed until then was the reality unfolding for me to understand and conquer.

    I have since been around the world and visited at length many different communities to understand mankind lives in tribes of equally differing perspectives. I learned that my birth tribe was not the most developed spiritually or socially, and not the least either. I returned to my tribe of birth because I knew better the language, verbal and body, that would have taken me too long to learn in another community.

    When I returned to a college setting, still in my twenties, I could express the dimensional reality of infinity, micro and macro, along with time outside the influence of our sun that had no beginning and had no end. I have been very comfortable with that understanding which has proven itself to be much more the truth of life than our childish comforts found in the more controllable finite. Sort of like an infant being comfortable in a world first of a womb, to a crib, to a room, to a house, to a local community, to a city, to a state/nation, to a world, to a solar system, to a universe, to beyond, … .

    I have been fortunate to have maintained a hands on physical science occupation, aided by a social science major, while ministering through churches of different denominations of spiritual science, aided by a seminary education, all the way to a very productive retirement for the last dozen years.

    Why did I just give you the quickie tour of Herm? Because that is the foundation most necessary for the quickie tour of my developing relationship with God for my first 50 years and in God for my last 22 years.

    The theological concept of the Trinity is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Even in the Bible, though much less the authority of God than our God, Jesus introduced to us (us being the carnal animal species mankind made in the image of God who is spirit) an opportunity to accept to become children of God born of the spirit, compared to Jesus accepting the opportunity to become a Son of Man born of the carnal. How can anyone of Man aware of that opportunity believe that for the last 1,984 years no one of mankind has accepted our Father’s offer? If Jesus is God and, per the Christian Bible, all of His pupils are His sisters, brothers and mother then the concept of the Trinity, constituting the whole of God, is flawed because siblings of the Christ are not accounted for.

    I will jump to fact, as I know it today, from the perspective of an infant child of God in spirit as well as an adult of Man in carnal. We can develop any or none later from this should you feel a need.

    The salvation we know of offered through Jesus is founded totally on His introduction to our never offered before access to the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit’s access to all of us on an individual basis. Jesus accepted the Holy Spirit, appearing as a dove, before our Father’s voice was heard by mankind that our He loved Jesus as His Son. Until Jesus’ death the Holy Spirit was restricted, within the Levite temple by God’s design, to the Holy of Holies as the communication link between the Israelites, through the high priest, and God. When Jesus finished His mission on earth the curtain of containment to the Most Holy Place was torn top to bottom releasing the Spirit of God to beyond. When Jesus rose after three days’ dead, dead having passed knowing heaven or earth, the new temple was restored in only a structure of spirit with Jesus as its high priest. The Holy Spirit has been available to all mankind on earth ever since, our salvation from the fragmenting, self-indulgent spirit of mankind. Our worship from that point on has only been in the Spirit and nowhere on earth contained within a carnal structure. That is a long story short, but not shortened nearly as much as the creation story mankind loves to try to control.

    Are there other benevolent creator gods elsewhere in the vastness of infinity with no beginning and no end? I don’t know and I don’t care. In the beginning of my relationship with my carnal family I had no way of knowing whether there were other parents than my parents and I didn’t care. I had faith that those parents doting over me would provide, protect, nourish and stay with me because I knew no better. Now that I know my Father and my serving Lord Brother, also filled each with the uniting Holy Spirit, I have no way of knowing better or beyond what They do to serve me, as family, that I might flourish which is infinitely more than my parents could do to serve me, or I could do to serve my children. My God can be trusted beyond all human imagination. My God is one God by the Holy Spirit uniting each of our hearts and minds from within bound in love for all.

    All of mankind has a spirit in the image of the God that no other species of life on earth shows me any evidence of. Mankind is fragmented into competing tribes with individuals confused as are cancer cells destroying each other in the name of survival for me and mine. God’s Spirit, in contrast, allows each heart and mind to communicate as one for the constructive growth of all of God as one familial body. If towards the end of eternity, I find there are other gods I will find for sure that they are mature enough to understand and act upon love and benevolence for all as we have witnessed the power of on the cross in our little insignificant speck of a world.

    I wish I could share with you the perfect empathy for each other in God we have when bound together, without pause, as one heart and one mind by the Spirit of truth. The comparison with having to work so hard to empathize with closed harden hearts and minds of Man just to support each other does make me hate the restrictions that mankind’s fragmentation of will places on the sustained growth of all within mankind’s influence. Jesus was not exempt from the pains of those restrictions as a Son of Man all the while knowing the freedom outside of Man.

    Iain, you have just received a shotgun presentation to explain my problem with any limited concept of God as a tri-unity to make Them one God. Students of Man’s study of God (theology) and their authoritative conclusions (doctrine) try so very hard to fit an infinite God into their finite ability to reason based on only what they know from earth’s minuscule, mostly blind, perspective. As a student (disciple) of the Messiah only, He in me and I in Him by the Advocate, I can know there is an eternity worth beyond my maturity of comprehension that I have full faith will be shared with me as I am ready (as was on a smaller scale the same faith I had in my parents as an infant) and I am comfortable with that faith. Meanwhile we in God learn together, work together, adventure together, play together and savor together united in heart and mind to be productive and constructive in this moment, and this moment, and this moment, … sharing our individual diversity as one expanding and strengthening familial body of God.

    Did I lose you, are you intrigued, or did you already know to have accepted the unity of God by the Holy Spirit?

    To keep this on topic; the Holy Spirit is my salvation!

    Love you!

  • Todd Upchurch

    So could we also say that people may feed the poor, care for the homeless, welcome the immigrant and still not be saved? Based only on what you said we have morally good people. Let’s not leave out repentance and surrender.

  • The kingdom is here whether we follow him or not in my humble opinion!!

  • Olive

    Oh my gosh. Awesome post. “ notch whatever he makes a notch on when he’s bagged another one…” Well said, my friend!

  • Olive

    I identify as a Jesus-loving heretic meself.

  • Herm

    “Saved” from what, for what and where?

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Your link didn’t work for Methodism, so I went to their website and checked their “what we believe” section.
    “Salvation is not a static, one-time event in our lives. It is the ongoing experience of God’s gracious presence transforming us into whom God intends us to be. John Wesley described this dimension of God’s grace as sanctification, or holiness.”
    Put two Anglicans in a room and you get three opinions (I know, I am one) but the website you linked to said this:
    ” The most common teaching that one encounters in American Orthodoxy today about our salvation is the doctrine of theosis which asserts that through our union with Christ we become more and more like God until we are so filled with Christ that only His holiness remains within us. This is, in fact, a teaching that is compatible with classical Anglicanism. ”
    “Any orthodox notion of salvation, therefore, must make reference back to the Church as the chief means through which Christ’s work on the cross is realized. We are not saved merely as individuals. We are saved through our participation in Christ’s sacrifice by being drawn up into His Body, the Church”
    “John Henry Newman attempted to harmonize justification by faith with the Council of Trent, which remains the approach of some Anglo-Catholics today, though Newman himself eventually found such an approach lacking. John Wesley, of course, took a unique approach which remains alive in Methodism. A large number of modern Anglicans, particularly in Africa, subscribe to a Pentecostal view. The Lutheran view is espoused by contemporary Anglican Evangelicals like Paul Zahl and Alister McGrath. FitzSimons Allison tends more towards the Reformed approach. Even the Eastern Orthodox view of salvation as theosis has had its Anglican proponents through the ages, most notably Charles Chapman Grafton and Michael Ramsey.
    Since Anglicanism has never pronounced definitively on this topic, all of these approaches are acceptable. ”
    Your idea that sanctification is a by-product of justification and unrelated to salvation is very much not found in Methodism and not at all mainstream in Anglican thought.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Yes, Paul says each man builds up the church on the foundation already laid, and each differently, and which is gold and which straw will be tested and discovered, so, he says, stop arguing over who is right, which squabbles are the issue the passage is stated to be addressing at the beginning, if you bother to read the whole thing rather than mining it for out of context quotes.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    I am afraid I didn’t quite follow all that, certainly not as it relates to the Trinity.
    I am unclear whether your issue is a denial of the divinity of Christ per se, or your problem is that the description of Christ as “son” of God in the sense of being God excludes the rest of us from being his sons.
    If the former I think it important to remember that the Word / Christ as a person of God pre-exists and is not dependent on the incarnation, if the latter that just seems to me to be a confusion arising out of the metaphorical use of “son” in two different ways: the Word if God is the begotten, preexisting “son” sharing God’s essence and being, we are “sons” because we are created by him and will be united with him in love. We cannot be persons if God or share his nature because we exist as created beings among created beings whereas God is the uncreated source of being and existence itself.

  • Herm

    Iain, I will use scripture if that is okay with you, to explain.

  • Matthew

    Thanks so much Phil for the diplomatic and comprehensive response. I very much appreciate it.

    Can you suggest a good book that discusses your viewpoint in greater detail?

    As I was reading the last two paragraphs or so of your comment I noticed the church bells were ringing in my part of the city.

    Interesting …

  • This is a fantastic post! Your writing has a heart-to-heart quality that really causes you to get introspective. I’ve started a Christian blog too and am just looking forward to building a community around God like you’re doing, and educating people about the authentic salvation through Jesus Christ.

    Thanks for being here,
    Sam Valladares

  • Well, I’m often not as diplomatic as I should be, but I like you.

    A book. Hmmmm.

    Well, ok, a book that deals with these issues at a fairly popular level that respects both evangelical and progressive standpoints is Scot McKnight’s “Kingdom Conspiracy.” I think you would like that book very much since he does often address both sides, even if you didn’t agree with everything in it.

    But that book is dealing with the specific topic of kingdom, and not necessarily the larger interpretive issues you and I are discussing. For that, it gets trickier.

    N.T. Wright is probably the most popular author to try to bring in a more historical, narrative oriented approach to the Bible, but I can’t think off the top of my head of a specific book where he talks directly about this. Maybe someone else can help us out, or you can browse the 9 million books he’s written if see if one fits the bill.

    In terms of personal influence, both the books and blogs of Andrew Perriman have been very influential on me, although once again, we don’t always agree on every little thing. He’s also kind of a firebrand for his approach, which I personally enjoy, but I can see how others might find it off putting.

    His blog is here:

    And one of the navigation tabs is “Method.” The articles under that tab all directly address what we’ve been talking about. He’s also written a number of very good books on the subject, but if I were you, I’d start with the “Method” blog articles. You’re certainly smart enough, but I found the books a lot easier to digest once I understood the basics of where he was coming from.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    OK, I’m all ears.

  • Matthew

    Thanks again Phil. I’ll check out the resources.

    I look forward to more interaction. Peace.

  • Matthew

    I need cliff notes for Perriman I think :-) I’m having a difficult time understanding his bottom line thesis.

  • I hear you. I think part of it is he’s still working through it, himself.

    If I were to put the basic idea in a paragraph, it would probably be something like this:

    We should read a biblical text in light of the concerns of the original hearers/readers, which is primarily a historical consideration. This will inevitably produce a biblical story oriented around the ongoing relationship of God, his people in the world, and the world in general, and it will be told primarily in terms of concrete historical realities as opposed to theological or philosophical abstractions.

    Now, there are loads of people who would at some level agree with that, but that doesn’t really keep them from starting with their theological framework. What Andrew is trying to do (and we can debate how well this is going) is get at the historical concern of a biblical text and what it tells us as part of the ongoing story of the people of God in the world apart from seeing it as a building block for a theology.

  • Herm

    Iain, I may miss some points that you have made in statement form without any reference to any source of authority beyond your own. Please remind me and I will address them using the authority of the Christian Bible alone to explain how, in my heart and mind, I know for certain that there is no way that the concept of a Triune God is taught by the one Teacher. As an authoritarian student of theology and doctrine my hope is that you will endeavor to read all that is shared for you today, by mutually accepting the Bible as our common authority directing us all to the one Teacher, one Instructor and one Father as our final fully trusted authority.

    “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

    Matthew 23:8-12 (NIV2011)

    Jesus is not being sexist here for He was speaking directly to the original 12 disciples (pupils) who were male. Later He is quoted to include women as His disciples learning the will of our mutual Father, not any the same but all equal.

    “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

    John 14:25-26 (NIV2011)

    The “Teacher” today is the Holy Spirit.

    Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

    Genesis 1:26-27 (NIV2011)

    Our creator God is a united plurality of spirit being. We, as mankind, know today that the animal species mankind was on earth before God created Their likeness in them. This spirit image of God is a responsibility that clearly separates us from all other life we know on earth.

    You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

    John 4:22-24 (NIV2011)

    God is spirit which makes Their likeness spirit. Our animal species is physically finite as we know each cell, person, within the body of mankind has a beginning and has an end. God is infinite, as is Their image even as it may fade from recognition, with no beginning and no end. Born of Man to accept becoming born of God each of us had the opportunity of beginning with the opportunity of no end.

    I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

    Mark 1:8 (NIV2011)

    To baptize, from the original meaning of the word, with water can only describe the physical immersion and the cleansing of life (where fire is the cleansing by death). To baptize with the Holy Spirit, using the same root meaning of baptize, describes a filling to the point of 100% whelmed, not over or under whelmed . The only impetus for seeking cleansing is when we hate the knowledge and the feeling of being dirty.

    At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

    Mark 1:9-13 (NIV2011)

    I know Jesus to be one of the plurality of God in the beginning. I know by this inspired testimony that Jesus had to be baptized by the Spirit from heaven before He was officially recognized as the Son of God. The Spirit led Jesus.

    The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

    John 1:9-14 (NIV2011)

    The true light is the Spirit of truth. When filled completely without pause by that light we are born sisters, brothers and mother of Jesus doing the will of our Father. Jesus came from our Father but we come to our Father, all equally loved by our Father.

    A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

    Mark 3:32-35 (NIV2011)

    This is spoken in present tense. This is not spoken as what will come later. This is how Jesus related to His sisters, brothers and mother then and relates in us, His disciples doing the will of God as we are taught by the Teacher, today.

    Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

    Luke 14:25-27 (NIV2011)

    Without the overwhelming desire (hate) to cleanse ourselves of the traditions of our carnal birth dependency upon mankind’s Pharisaical like authority we cannot begin to become a student of the Messiah, with a sufficiently clean heart and mind open to be whelmed wholly by the sole teaching of the Spirit of truth.

    On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

    “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

    He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

    “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

    Luke 10:25-28 (NIV2011)

    The law (the same law of God related to in Matthew 7:12 and 22:37-40) judges us all as to whether or not we are sufficiently related to God now to allow us to “inherit” our birthright as children of God. If we are judged without sufficient empathy, compassion and forgiveness that we would want from others we would be free, not bound by love, to be a potentially destructive influence to all eternally. God unanimously loves us all, including those who fall short of eternal life, too much to allow that to happen.

    “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

    John 14:15-21 (NIV2011)

    We, the children of God, were not left orphans by Christ’s ascension into heaven. We are very much active in the family of God to the most of our child abilities. The very same Spirit, appearing as a dove descending on Jesus, descends to fill every child born of God today. That Spirit is the Spirit of truth, our Advocate, who we have been whelmed within without pause eternally to relate fully siblings of Jesus the promised Christ.

    “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

    Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

    Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

    Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

    Matthew 16:15-20 (NIV2011)

    Jesus is quoted in the Bible to have referred to himself many times as only as the Son of Man born by the Holy Spirit coming upon Mary (the mother disciple of Christ). He left it to the Holy Spirit, the eternal rock (the root significance of the word “peter”) foundation for His church, to reveal to each receptive spirit (the image of God) heart and mind of mankind that He was then and is now the only begotten of Man Son of God. The Good News (the Gospel we preach) is our salvation from our dependence upon mankind’s traditions of teaching. Our salvation is the Holy Spirit. It is only by the Holy Spirit that we know and can boldly speak the Word of God with authority.

    Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”

    John 10:34-38 (NIV2011)

    By our fruits will you know us all as God’s daughters, sons and mother as was true of Jesus on trial before the authorities of Moses’ covenant with God. There is no such covenant of authority left to mankind on earth today since the curtain was torn top to bottom.

    Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

    Luke 1:29-35 (NIV2011)

    I like this passage because it pictures the Holy Spirit doing the work of carnal propagation, not the Father. In fact, the Father isn’t even mentioned until by Jesus the Son 30 years later.

    Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV2011)

    This is the number one reference that theologians give any credence to a “Trinity” (the Christian God Head as one God in three persons).

    Read it, again, and please note the unity of authority but not in any way an equality of authority among all three mentioned. Yes, Jesus has now all authority in heaven and on earth. Our Father didn’t retire and always maintains authority over all His children, including Jesus. The Holy Spirit has no authority but what He is told to say by Jesus and our Father verbatim. Jesus had no authority on earth except by the lead of the Spirit told to Him by our Father. All children of God on earth have no authority except by the lead of the Spirit directed by Jesus and our Father.

    “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

    John 16:12-15 (NIV2011)

    The Holy Spirit cannot, by the authority of our Lord and Brother Jesus, speak on His own. I cannot, by the authority of my Lord and Brother Jesus, speak on my own.

    Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

    Luke 14:25-27 (NIV2011)

    To be taught by my Teacher per my Instructor’s words I had to first care enough for truth to hate all my carnal traditional authorities who know no more of God than did the learned Jewish authorities who put Jesus, the Son of God, on His cross. I am confident enough in my relationship in God, as Their child, to carry my own cross now in all anguish for the present condition of mankind.

    And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

    Mark 13:10-11 (NIV2011)

    The word “nations” here does not refer to physical countries with physical borders. Jesus is speaking about all the tribes responsibility to the image of God who have fragmented mankind into a to each his/her own attitude. The Good News preached is all about our Father’s gift to us that we may be filled (baptized) by the Holy Spirit to be united as one in the Holy Spirit’s filling of all receptive hearts and minds of each of God, including Jesus’ and our Father’s.

    Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

    Acts 4:29-31 (NIV2011)

    By way of the Holy Spirit I speak that there is no hierarchy in God that can be described as a triune, trinity or three of anything God Head. God is unified, bound in all love for each other, to be of one heart, one soul, one strength, one mind so that when one speaks all of God speaks. I am an infant child of God with only the view of life offered me from this earth. I am most secure with my relationship in God because all I need to know, as I learn and grow eternally, is given me by all who knew before me and can see from the infinity within as well as the infinity outward. The plurality of God is one God that from within Their familial chain of command the greatest among us serves us with all humility, while the least among us knows how little we know to serve all as well as our Father.

    Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

    John 20:21-23 (NIV2011)

    Yes, the least among us has that authority on earth because we each have received to be filled by the Holy Spirit.

    Our creator God has been relegated to a logical three entity divine command staff only because Christian authorities could not abide by any suggestion that the creator God could be compared to the array of mythological Greek gods or any religion building their own set of gods with separate roles. As it was with the learned of the Jewish nation it is heretical to most Christian authorities and scholars today to insinuate that we are living children in God with the authority of God by way of the uniting Holy Spirit, as was so with and in Jesus on earth.

    The Good News is you don’t have to trust any on earth to be saved from the authority of mankind on earth. You must hate the intimidation, manipulation and subjugation that any allegiance to mankind’s authority enslaves you by enough to ask, seek and knock in all humility for the salvation made available to all who receive by Jesus ministry to us on earth. To those on earth saved there is no three at the head of God, there is simply we all who are in God sharing the only Word of God, which is not the Bible.

    Thank you for inviting me to share. Iain, you are loved!

  • KonCern

    The problem is with Americanized Christianity that has dominated the narrative on what Christianity is.
    It is a flawed and deceptive view , heavily influenced by politics and American Constitutionality.
    But I am reminded of the following that should caused us to reassess our relationship with Jesus Christ:
    Matthew 22:14 ” For many are called, but few are chosen.”
    Philippians 2 :12 ” …work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”
    Luke 13 : 27 “…. depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity”
    and so many verses that should caused us to take God seriously.

  • Linda

    Yes, in a way I agree with u, Mr Benjamin (the blogger) as regards salvation being nt merely stopping at accepting Jesus into one’s heart n then go on living life as one wishes that may contradict what we see lived in Jesus Himself n also as per the exhortations in the epistles, etc.. etc..

    Nevertheless, I would not negate d imperative necessity of being initiated into the Kingdom of God by being born again as a child of God (p. s. John 1:12,13)… Faith n repentance plays a compulsory part in this initiation… N being indwelt by the Holy Spirit from henceforth, the genuinely initiated life will eventually continue to bear the Fruits of the Spirit that should form the basis for what a Christian is expected to show in action Jesus’ Sermon on the mount or any other kind acts of mercy n love for all… Without this inner life, any kind person, merciful or do-gooder expressly living out the Sermon would be merely a MORALLY GOOD person BUT NOT a Christian as such…

    Moral acts of goodness tho undeniably much desired n commendable, bt precisely not being a living out of the Fruits of the Spirit hs no eternal value nor salvific consequence for that would be “salvation by works” which is NOT Christian at all!… This is not to disqualify all good n kind souls out there living a morally good life… On the contrary, coz I am merely but full-heartedly stating a Truth which God has revealed to all man… But as cn be seen, many of these who would believe if they hv heard or known The Word hv not heard n so continue merely as good bt still unsaved ppl… Thus, it rests on the heart of all Christians to share the true Gospel of Salvation that as many as these good-willed souls would come to know of this Wonderful Saviour who has offered His Life that they too may live, n not merely to be claimed as a title by those aldy Christians, genuine or not…

    Also, it rests on the individual who comes to know of the Gospel to truly n humbly accept The Truth n live accordingly less he/she remains a non-genuine Christian who is still unsaved tho bearing d title of a Christian … I believe it is such “christians” that nonbelievers rightly comment that “We like ur Christ but we don’t like u Christians coz u Christians r not like ur Christ”…

    If u r a Christian, Mr Benjamin n all u dear commentors out there, do give this a thought… Thanks.

  • Linda

    Wheezy1952 …
    I understand how u feel … I believe many of us who hv bn around Christians before n hv bn lead through the born-again initiation act may hv bn frustrated to not feel nicely treated or not see Christians doing nice things… or even perhaps seeing ourselves defeated in our supposedly Christian life!..

    Truly, it all rests on the genuinity of our initiation… Was there a true repentance before God or was it merely a mumbling of the sinners’ prayer as we finally “give-in” to d preacher…

    I believe for those of us who still or who desire to be acknowledged as Christians, we’d do well for ourselves n for Christ to go back to our initiation moment n sincerely seek to be true before God that we may not be called Christians in vain n bear bad testimony for the faith… N of course, after a genuine initiation, there must be a continued submission to the Holy Spirit in our lives such that we will gradually bear the Fruits of the Spirit that wld lead us into actions of love n mercy that would truly glorify God…

    God bless…

  • Linda

    We are talking about contemporary Christian initiation from the time of Jesus Christ… Yes abt 30AD when He first started His Teaching Ministry… However, Jesus’ Saving Ministry already began from the time God the Father declared His Loving Intent to save mankind immediately after the fall of man through Adam & Eve….

    Nevertheless, the efficacy of Jesus’ Salvation Ministry was applied in distinctly relevant ways throughout the ages from BC to AD…

    In BC, souls were saved by looking forward in time towards the Cross of Jesus Christ, to His one time Salvific Sacrifice as The Lamb of God, dying in place of fallen mankind in sin, original sin n personal sins… Similarly yet differently in terms of time flow, we the AD souls look backwards to that one and the same Salvific one time Death of Jesus Christ on the same Cross.

    As u questioned on ppl in the AD during Jesus’time n later bt before the NT was written, not having the NT to follow like us, well… Remember that Jesus once said to the Apostle Thomas… “You believe because you see; Blessed are those who believe though they do not see”… Besides, many times, Jesus reprimanded the crowd for not believing in Him nor accepting Him though they claim Abraham as father?… Thus, we see that although not exhorted in the same way in the written NT after Jesus had risen, yet the same requirement runs through the ages… FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST AS THE SON OF GOD… N coupled with this is the need for true REPENTANCE… even from the time of John the Baptist.

    if u read the OT clearly, the same thread runs all through… Repentance from sin n believing in God as He had revealed of Himself through Moses n the Prophets of the OT…

    Thus, salvation has all along been offered to man from the very beginning but in various forms but the SAME BASIS REMAINS -FAITH AND REPENTANCE… However, not faith in anything even tho many supernatural happenings seem plausible based on man’s thinking, but FAITH BASED ON WHAT THE ALMIGHTY, LOVING AND HOLY GOD of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has revealed n defined in the Scriptures even tho some of it may seem rather impossible n unlikely of one whom man would think of as God …
    One very common argument against believing the Bible totally is that “How cld a God of Love bring death to souls merely by virtue of them not believing in n living by Him? “…This poses an obstacle to faith for some but to those who are being saved ie who totally believe n rely on the Grace of God alone, it is an extension of God’s revelation that “My thoughts are above your(man’s) thoughts… “…Thus, we humbly believe n trust in His Wisdom n true Justice, not as we would hv it bt as He defines n would hv it… After all, God is the Creator of all mankind n He loves all alike, whether believers or nonbelievers… N being the Loving Creator (let alone Father to those who would believe n accept His Fatherhood) don’t u think man’s suffering would break His Heart even more than ours, to see His creations subjected to evil n suffering … n death due to unbelief n non-repentance???

    I believe we rather ought to be asking,.. “Where did n does evil n suffering come from? ”
    Do we ourselves not hv a hand in bringing it upon ourselves n others?

    Now, God did immediately, out of Love, provide a way out from this consequences of sin ie evil n suffering n spiritual death… Does every man believe or know that there is a way… n it’s provided by the God whom many blame on for evil n suffering?

    I would say, d presence of evil n suffering in this world should NOT be an excuse for not believing in a God who Loves, a God who Saves… To the humble n trusting before God, all things are possible…

    Granted n in Truth, it doesn’t mean evil n suffering will not nor cannot touch us when or once we are in God… No, in this fallen world, we can’t avoid them altogether until we reach the Promised Land again from where the human race has fallen!

    Thus, though we believe that God is able to help us through suffering, we also trust in His Wisdom of bringing that about… which may sometimes be giving us the strength to bear them with patience and continued trust…

    Thus, Jenny… At all times, n in all the ages, the Way is already there by God’s Intention n God’s Plan throughout history… N souls have bn saved up n down the ages through the ways already revealed in the Scriptures both the OT and the NT…

    Ponder upon that.. Thanks for bringing up the query… n God bless!

  • Linda

    I wouldn’t name that as Americanized Christianity… It is the valid way for our times from the time Jesus Christ started His Teaching Ministry on earth…

    We can’t look to the OT n say since we can’t find them doing the same way, thus it’s not necessary… We just focus on being good n living life as Jesus Christ did… That would be salvation by works that is not Christian at all n will not save mankind…

    Even throughout the OT the good works of men of God were wrought by faith in God… not by mere morality…

  • Linda

    I do agree with what u said here, Roger Leitch…

    Man needs to have a genuine conversion, a born-again experience for the Holy Spirit to work bringing forth a true Christian living…

    Much of what we hear complained about is such where the Christian life is not seen… that, perhaps due to non-genuinity… God, help us…

  • Linda

    Amen to that… A clear, Biblical response… Thanks. ❤

  • John

    I said that modern US Christians use the term “salvation” to refer to justification. You’re taking a semantical point that I made and treating it as if it was a theological point.

  • Linda

    Herm and John… I see that both of u r standing on same ground but viewing the one and the same thing, sanctification or the process without the name sanctification, with different degrees of zeal…

    It cn be seen that Herm is so excited n zealous in His new life in Christ… that being started only at age 50 …n coupled with the level of understanding n born-again (washing) experience that he treasured by virtue of age n faith… I believe he has grown very fast in his faith n I believe in his living too…

    Nonetheless, Herm… No matter that which u hv experienced from age 50 till now 72 n still counting… No matter whether it is called sanctification or not doesn’t matter… What matters is that indeed due to genuine conversion, the Holy Spirit has bn able to work in you … n with ur faith, openness n willingness to hv Him live n work in you, your experience has bn spiritually exciting n fulfilling, drawing you ever closer to the Lord Jesus Christ whom u met n hv grown so much deeper in love with ever since… Nevertheless, if this experience of yours is referred to by other believing Christians as the sanctification process, I think if u give it a little more thought, it would become more acceptable… bt even denying the referral name, none cn deny the real experience of a changing life!

    All Christians to begin with, agree that at our conversion we were saved from something… n no matter what it is, the basic cause is sin… N sin is filthy in the sight of God… Thus, besides being JUSTIFIED man needs to be SANCTIFIED from sin or d result of sin in his past life n even inherited original sin that of tendency not to believe God like Eve did when faced with another “word”…… For one who is zealous, faithfilled n open like u, Herm, this sanctification process is so fast n probably so clear to ppl around u who see ur changed, holy life.

    Nevertheless, Herm, not everyone is in the same state as you from d moment of his/her justification. Sanctification process starts but it still depends on d individual’s willingness to let go of d old self including his sinful habits… Even so, our Loving n Merciful Father God is patient with us, so we need to be patient with ourselves n others , NOT to criticize another who may still be struggling even tho, yes he is already saved…

    Hope this helps.

  • Herm

    Linda, thank you for your kind words. Would you explain exactly what sin is to you, please?

  • Linda

    “Putting our hope in Christ is our foundation. We are justified through Him, but we still have the responsibility to build upon that foundation through our good works. These works are important, but they are not the same thing as the foundation.”…

    Yes n Amen to that…
    Salvation is purely by the Grace of God… It’s nothing of ourselves not by our works are we saved… Thus, the Christian Truth about Salvation is purely JUSTIFICATON BY FAITH…

    Besides in genuine salvation or after justification… the process of sanctification follows, not if it’s non genuine salvation where d supposedly saved person is still living in d flesh… doing good works in d flesh, an outward appearance without d inward essence… Thus, this kind of good works is that which will burn away when tested with fire..

    The kind of good works that remains is that of a man after being saved, lives in and works by the Spirit… This kind of works is that for which the man will be rewarded when in heaven… Amen… God bless…

  • Linda

    Herm… I really do not see how acknowledging God explicitly in terms of the Trinity in traditional Christianity has to clash with ur experience of God in saving u, washing u n accepting u as His child…

    In fact, these 3 aspects of ur spiritual experience are in tandum with the reality n Truth that the God of Abraham, Isaac n Jacob is indeed of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit … Saving by the Son, washing or cleansing by the Holy Spirit and relationship with God as Father…

    The Word Trinity is not important, it’s the belief in The Truth… n whether spelt out as Trinity or experienced as u did, are both of one and the same Truth… Tradition or no tradition doesn’t matter as long as the tradition is in line with The Word of God held Infallible n Sovereign in our lives!

    All Christians who hv bn genuinely initiated into the Christian faith n are submitted n obedient to The Word of God hv one n one very common denominator… We are of the same Spirit (the Holy Spirit), having one Lord (Jesus Christ) n by Water, Blood and Spirit are born through Faith n by Grace into the one Family of God the Father in Christ Jesus… Glory be to God!…

  • Herm

    Linda, there is only one word of God and it is not the Christian Bible. The one Teacher is the Spirit of truth with and in all who are children of God in heaven and on earth. The Advocate is told what to teach each of us by the Instructor, the Messiah Jesus, and our heavenly Father. God is a plurality encompassing many more individuals of heart/soul/strength/mind (our spiritual being) than Jesus, our heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit with and within us all, including Jesus and our Father uniting us as one. Glory is in God!

  • Tim

    “In fact, when Jesus uses the term “eternal life” in the NT, he often uses this term in the present tense.” That’s because, as you are pointing out, it is (mostly, or perhaps entirely) the present tense to which he is referring. The word(s) that have been translated ‘eternal’ don’t actually mean eternal in the modern English sense, unless (possibly) it is modified by the referent as something that clearly is “eternal”. Aion and its derivatives are by definition temporal. Aionios/ aionion is also often used qualitatively rather than quantitatively, such as when Jesus gives us the definition of eternal life (Which is knowing himself and the Father).

    “It is also why he said that many who are thrown into the lake of fire on judgement day will be Christians who did not care for the poor and needy, and thus never actually entered the Kingdom (Matthew 5:31-46).”

    Is it the lake of fire that is being referred to in Matthew though? If so, what exactly is the lake of fire and what does it represent? (Whether here or at least in Revelation). It’s certainly not a literal lake of literal fire. I think understanding this point is very critical.

  • Tim

    Yes exactly; it’s very important to understand what exactly is meant by ‘salvation’. It has very little to nothing to do with “going to heaven when you die”.

  • Matthew

    Thanks for the helpful summary :-)

    1. Musn´t this method then assume the historical credibility of the biblical text?

    2. What are the practical theological implications of such a historical approach to understanding the scriptures — e.g. justification by faith?

  • 1. I guess it depends on what you mean by “historical credibility.” It assumes the writings in the Bible are credible portrayals of the interpretations of the believing community of their own history. Whether an event described in a biblical text happened in exactly the way it is described is a different question. We are always looking at someone’s (or group of someones) interpretations and reflections in retrospect of the events they talk about as well as their thoughts about the future.

    2. Well, for individual theological issues, the effects are pretty radical in most cases, because at core, we are looking at the historical narrative behind these categories.

    For example, “justification” for Israel is not a theological concept, but a concrete historical reality. Throughout history, God acts in concrete ways to demonstrate who is in the right – whose side He is on, whether that is Israel contending with another nation (e.g. the Red Sea) or factions within Israel herself (e.g. Korah’s rebellion). We can look at a number of historical circumstances where God reveals who is in the right through His actions, and this ranges all the way from the overthrow of the party in the “wrong” and the deliverance of the party in the “right” to smaller scale operations, such as a prophet being able to do miracles in the midst of unbelieving observers.

    So, when we get to the New Testament, and we read Paul saying things like Jesus was “raised for our justification,” instead of filling in the word “justification” with a theological definition like “how an individual person is judicially made right with God,” we fill it with a historical one. By Jesus rising from the dead, he shows how those early believing communities who have faith in him are in the right. God is showing whose side He is on. The resurrection vindicates Jesus and his message as well as those who believed him. This is a key issue for these early communities as several of them are experiencing persecution, not the least of which being persecution from Jerusalem, herself.

    For Paul, the resurrection of Jesus shows that, even though his churches are being persecuted and ostracized from the community that claims to be God’s people and God’s true worshipers, that God is actually on the side of those whose faith is in Jesus. This is a very important thing to write in a letter to your church when they are under constant pressure to give it up.

  • As you pointed out, what is usually translated as “eternal” is “ages” or “ages of ages,” and as you also pointed out, it has a variety of usages. But I think the Jewish concept of an “age” is important – it is a span of time defined by a particular state of affairs. Jesus even says Jonah was in the belly of the fish for an “age.”

    Not only is this important for understanding phrases like “the end of the age,” but I think it helps us get away from a Platonic concept of Jesus talking about “eternal life” and more toward a Jewish concept of “life that lasts through all the fluctuations of the world.”

    I think Matthew 25’s use of “eternal fire” is probably not the lake of fire in Revelation, but it may be a reference to 1 Enoch.

  • Jennny

    Wow, I certainly got a sermon and a half there. And you know that it’s all true, how exactly? Because the bible says of itself that it is true? Wonderful that you are sooo certain you know the mind and plan of your God so comprehensively. I feel such a poor worm….and realise I should fall on my knees and accept Jesus as my personal saviour through his precious blood. Or not, I have no desire to worship a genocidal deity. My secret hate for many years at Christmas services was the euphemism Herod ‘slaughtered the innocents’, it made me cry to think of those mothers weeping in Ramah for their murdered babies.. And I’d certainly dislike being associated with the many ‘christian’ bigots whose aim is to exclude sections of humanity. I am totally inclusive of EVEN, shock horror, those who’ve had an abortion, refugees and those whose sexual orientation differs from mine. (Sorry).

  • Al Cruise

    “Moral acts of goodness tho undeniably much desired n commendable, bt precisely not being a living out of the Fruits of the Spirit hs no eternal value nor salvific consequence for that would be “salvation by works” which is NOT Christian at all!” You are totally wrong here. Living in the Kingdom means doing things out of Love. Love is not works. Love your neighbor as yourself is not “works”. The American conservative evangelical message of salvation is works and is not the Kingdom of God. 2 Cor 7-10 “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regrets.” Meaning we learn the love like Jesus. 2 Cor 7-11 “See what this godly sorrow produces in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.” This describes what Love looks like and how we now treat our neighbor and who they are ie. the poor, the sick, the refugee, the target of racism etc . Godly sorrow/repentance/Love/salvation is not limited to just those who call themselves “Christian” it happens in all faiths, in all cultures, in all peoples, throughout time and history. “Works” is what the Pharisees did, and unfortunately describes much of today’s conservative fundamentalist Evangelicals.

  • Tim

    Yes, or even pertaining to an age or ages (“age-during”). The Jonah example is interesting, because there an age was literally 3 days.

    That’s one of the things that sometimes frustrates me about not having some of those other books included in the canon; sometimes it can be difficult to tell where the reference is coming from. Interestingly, there have been references left in the canon to extra canonical books! Enoch does seem a possible candidate here.

  • Matthew


    Lots to try and wrap the head around that’s for certain. So it’s communal rather than individual … what’s the personal implication of that in the life of a Christian?

  • No way you’re going to hell!! At all times in all ways the kingdom is within you, Ashpenaz, in my humble opinion.

  • I guess I’d need more direction from you on what you meant by that. The personal application of what? The personal application of looking at the Scriptures primarily from the standpoint of the people of God rather than my individual standpoint?

    If that’s what you mean, I’d say that’s by far and away the most common standpoint of the biblical narrative. If an individual is highlighted, it is generally in the context of an event that will be significant for the larger believing community. God didn’t make billions of promises to billions of individuals – He made a promise to Abraham, and it’s because of that promise working out in history that you and I are believers – wild branches grafted into a common root.

    Honestly, I think it’s a good antidote for the self-centered, highly individualistic, I-am-the-center-of-the-universe tendencies that sometimes crop up in modern evangelism. The main story is that God has made promises to a people as part of a vision He has for that people and, ultimately, creation. Our personal spiritual experiences aren’t insignificant, but they happen in a much larger narrative that is much, much bigger than I. Our individual narratives come from our relationship to the communal narrative. God is doing something with a people, and I am part of that people, therefore I am part of that story. In my own individual life, it may look a certain way that could be different in the particulars from yours or 14th century Germanic Christian or an Arian Viking living in Normandy centuries before that or a 1st century Judean fisherman, but the reason all of us have our individual narratives is because we’re part of the big story.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    You’re the one who said it was important because it totally changes the argument. And it is, because Ben’s point is that we aren’t saved by just signing up to the right team with no change in our lives, and you raised your justification / sanctification distinction as an objection to it.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    I really can’t follow how the above is an objection to the Trinity. You accept as God the Father, and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and maintain they are nevertheless one God united and indivisible in substance and will. That would appear to be the doctrine if the trinity in a nutshell. Am I missing something?

  • Man, it always comes back to Ramah doesn’t it? Every single discussion. “What about Ramah?” Sheesh, move on, people.

  • “Possible” is a good way to put it. I’m hesitant, because Matthew likes to bring up the war against Rome, and the references to fire, darkness, destruction, etc. typically revolve around Gehenna.

    But here, when I read of an eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels, it’s hard not to think of Enoch.

  • Herm

    Iain, you are missing something, not the least of which is that God has in no way ever referred to Themselves as only a trinity. As in Genesis 1:26, 27 there is no number given to the “us” and “our” of God. The entire one animal species of mankind was graced the entire one spirit species of God’s image (which is a spirit likeness not a physical likeness). This was done sometime before 9,000 years ago when mankind moved from being hunter gatherers to become citified/civilized with the support of farmers (Cain) and ranchers (Able) in the Fertile Crescent. The animal species of mankind was already foraging and propagating to sustain itself for 25 million years prior. We have much evidence prior to 9,000 years ago that we, mankind, knew to pursue a study of spiritual along time before then. No other species on earth has exhibited such a study. This is to draw a picture with the perspective to understand that the entity of one God, though only spirit, probably numbered in people more than mankind. Today we have no way to establish whether or not spirit has a beginning and end, Jesus instructs me that it does not, and likewise we have no way to establish whether or not physical has a beginning and end, Jesus instructs me that it does. I am taught that all that is physical is finite and all that is spirit is infinite. I am taught that God can sustain Themselves in whole in no space and can occupy all space as we know it, simultaneously.

    By way of our equally shared and sharing foundation, the filling of the Spirit of truth, all sisters, brothers, mother and Father (and more yet to be spoken of) are united indivisibly in substance of spirit as one God according the perfect will of our Father which is our will.

    Why do you, or anyone, insist that God be headed by three persons, except to condense God into a mold we can understand? Since we know that there can be only one master, that function in God would remain with our heavenly Father. We children on earth are comforted by the fact that our Father gave all authority in heaven and on earth to the only person in God who knows first hand to live as solely God and solely Man. Eternally so that the will of God is unanimously the will of our Father who we are in and He is in us.

    The heart of my objection to the invented “Trinity”, or in other words “the Christian Godhead as one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit“, is that we, each person fully filled by the Holy Spirit, are all one in God, not just our Father and Brother Jesus. There is a lot more to God than theologians can account for.

    I have one high priest who administers worship in the final temple raised in three days after the veil was rent. We worship only in the Spirit. His church has no theology beyond self study for He is God. His church has no doctrine beyond in everything do to others as we would have others do to us. His church has no sacraments because he is in us and we in Him eternally without pause, no rituals for all things said and done fit the moment which is different than the last moment and there are no creeds or anything repeated rote for we all share our hearts and minds without pause or end in the Spirit of truth.

    The Bible is a great way to potentially hear the good news that Jesus opened the way for all receptive of Man to no longer be in the image of God but to be in God today as a child of God by way of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is of Man’s testament to God not of God’s testament of Themselves as one God. The word of God spoken is only possible by the filling of the Holy Spirit. The word of God is eternally spoken and did not stop nor could be contained 1,984 years ago.

    Iain, your defense of the Trinity attempts to contain God in a box too small.

  • John

    If you don’t mind me asking, how are you defining the state of being “saved?”

    I really think this entire argument comes down to two groups using different definitions of the word “saved” so that Ben’s point doesn’t really apply to the Christians he’s talking about because they’re working under a different basic definition of the word “saved.” They don’t mean the same thing that Ben means when they use that word, but that doesn’t mean they disagree with the underlying position.

  • Jennny

    Sorry, bear-of-little-brain here, don’t understand what you’re saying. Just brush the many instances of genocide in the bible under the carpet cos ‘God knows best’??

  • Matthew

    Thanks so much for the patience and the responses Phil.

    It´s beginning to make some sense, but of course more explanation typically brings with it more questions.

    How is one added to this story of God´s people AND what does it mean (ultimately) to be added to said story?

    I ask because I´m still very reformed in my understanding of the Gospel, so the promise of heaven is still important to me. It seems to me (if I´m understanding rightly) that we (with this new paradigm) have moved the focus of justification from an individual to a people, but the end game is still the same if one is part of this people of God by way of faith in Jesus Christ … no?


  • Nimblewill

    So is it possible to be saved and not be a Christian? I’m thinking Ghandi?

  • Linda

    Thanks for ur response, Al Cruise… Indeed, I agree that good works must be done in, love.. It’s only good works done out of Love being the Fruit of the Spirit that wl hv eternal value…

  • Linda

    I was merely saying what I saw in what u n John were discussing about n how u both differed in approach / experience yet so similar in the denominator… just like d 9 blind men each having groped on different parts of an elephant, gave different descriptions yet all abt d same elephant.

    About sin, I would say that it is offense against God… some types of sin r one-time off… some cld become habits, sinful habits…

    Besides, I do agree that salvation is abt being saved from something… n that thing is … sin and/or sinful habits and/or consequences of sin…

    Overall, it’s freedom from sin that fits one for heaven… Thus, salvation is about… justification by Grace involving faith n repentance … followed by sanctification involving continual repentance, submission n obedience. The more one is sanctified the more Fruits of the Spirit one’s life is able to bear…

    Observing d recurrent complaints on Christians, esp contemporary ones… we cn say that indeed what God says is true… that in the last days, many hearts will grow cold… or lukewarm , amidst temptations n bad influences around us…

    May God help us!…

  • Linda

    I think I hv lost my footing here…
    You were saying :
    “there is only one word of God and it is not the Christian Bible”.

    As far as I know, all religious sects that claim to be Christian have the Bible upheld as the Word of God, only that some differ in d emphasis accorded to it, some different in interpretations…

    Even so, I am rather confused… On one hand u claim the word of God is not the Christian Bible, on another u were quoting a lot from it…

    Could u pls clarify what message u were trying to convey as regards the Bible as not being the word of God… Thanks…

  • Sorry. I was just joking. I thought your Ramah example was funny (although I realize you were making a point with it) and I was just running with it. One of my many failings is assuming that my sarcasm prints well.

  • Linda

    Rgd d slaughter of innocent infants 2yrs n below, it was King Herod who did it, d mention of him n what he did was to narrate what happened around n to Jesus n His family at the time after His Birth…It was to show how d forces of darkness raved n tried to hinder God’s Plan of Salvation for mankind!

    Well, yes… I do see how u relate exclusion of certain sectors of society even by so called Christians, to be dislikable like what Herod did… “act of exclusion likened to slaughtering away or chopping off”… As far as action is concerned , yes, both r negative actions!

    Nevertheless. rgds exclusion, I believe one needs to exercise more scrutiny n judgement… For Christians, eg in the case of lesbianism, a number of factors contribute to d judgment, one of which is that God condemns lesbianism as a sin… another is God’s Command to love all men… Thus, here a Christian is called to hate d sin but love d sinner…

    Jenny, I think u probably hv got me wrong in ur understanding on what I mentioned about being saved as a Christian…

    Laying down the requirements from the Word of God for a person to get saved though may seem to be exclusive , yet I hv observed n concluded that the Christian life, truly lived as what Christ taught n how He lived when on earth, is the MOST INCLUSIVE coz d basic Call in all judgements n actions against sin versus d sinner is always.. “To hate d sin but Love d sinner”

    Even so, to live by this Call, sometimes one has to take action physically or legally to exclude the sinner so as to conserve n preserve other factors pertinent to peaceful n safe communal living as in society… Without being considered deeply, these actions r often condemned as BIASED EXCLUSION… yet at the root of Christian action, the same still has to apply “Hate d sin bt love d sinner”… Hence, we can see that it takes Faith, Love n fortitude for one to carry out a GOOD ACTION NO MATTER IF IT IS SEEN AS BAD BY OTHERS… The judgement lies in the heart not in d action per se…

    Hope this helps…

  • Well, for the vast majority of history, one got added to the story of God’s people by (ideally) being a descendant of Abraham, being circumcised, and observing the Torah. But because Jesus’ faithful death tore down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile, the markers of the faithful people of God are trust in what God has done in Jesus and faithfulness in living out this testimony, primarily in light of Jesus’ own faithful demonstration of what the kingdom of God looks like.

    The only footnote I would add to that is that God seems far more interested in the faithful living out of the kingdom of God than the content of belief. For example, Jesus himself told a parable about those who protested that they had never done anything in his name, yet were admitted to the kingdom all the same because of their care.

    It is this people whom God has promised He will bring safely from age to age through her various historical crises and, ultimately, a resurrection from the dead and a renewal of creation. We live as a new creation people, now, in the midst of a world that runs off of greed, power, oppression, etc. as a testimony to our trust in God’s promises, amongst other things.

    I don’t know how biblical the idea of “heaven” is. It seems like the weight of scriptural hope for the future is clearly survival through historical crises ending, finally, in a defeat of death, new creation, and resurrection. Whatever happens in the interim seems kind of ambiguous.

  • Ron McPherson

    I got it lol

  • Linda

    “And you know that it’s all true, how exactly? Because the bible says of itself that it is true? Wonderful that you are sooo certain you know the mind and plan of your God so comprehensively.”

    Yes, Jenny… It’s a matter of faith… I may not know how to give u the most appropriate answer… but I know it is true for the Words in the Bible truly speaks for they are Spirit … N one needs to be willing to read with an open heart or to quietly listen to the reading of the Words by a faith-filled reader of the Words for one to hear them speak to one’s heart so as to be able to to attest to the Truth of what is written in the Bible, the Word of God… It is the experience, the spiritual encounter that makes the Truths known to us…

    Take time to seek the Truth of the Word of God, if u will… God bless!

  • Linda

    “Salvation is salvation from our enslavement to sin now, not afterlife insurance for a free pass into heaven.”

    Wouldn’t u agree that salvation from enslavement to sin now would be a prerequisite to attaining a free pass in d afterlife, into heaven from which we were n are barred … due to sin…?

  • Jack Beans

    Great post. I can identified with you too…

  • Jack Beans

    I grew up conservative, taking the Bible literally. I’ve changed my views. What you’ve professed above is what I believed now. That is my understanding too…

  • Al Cruise

    You are incorrect , good works and Love are two entirely different things.

  • Matthew

    Thanks so much. What parable are you referencing?

    Have you read the book “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn? I’m guessing no … he’s rather “fundy” :-). If I remember correctly, he posits some sort of pre-heaven; a place for the redeemed soul where it waits for the final resurrection, new creation, etc.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    OK probably “not *just* afterlife insurance” might have been clearer.

  • Jennny

    Oops, sorry, I was assuming you were of the ilk of Linda’ wanting me to believe her fiction…just that you hear folk mentioning the killing of Amalekites or Canaanites or the Flood. Ramah seems to be less referred to but is so horrific to me.

  • Jennny

    Nope, not one little bit….if you’d been around in Luther King’s time, guess you’d be working to exclude african-americans or prior to that supporting slavery. Bet you don’t know many LGBT folk, we do, and, shock horror, some are bible-believing christians.

  • Jennny

    Yup, been there done that, the bible is true because it says so. No amount of faith will make be believe such twisted theology if I re-read it many more times.

  • Linda

    I would respect your wish, Jenny, even though I do not agree with u on that…

    Anyway, there’s always hope as long as there is breath in us…


  • Linda

    So, both… Salvation entails both…

  • I was thinking of the parable of the sheep and the goats, Matthew 25:31-46.

    I haven’t read that book. What happens to me after I die is actually not very interesting to me. My uncle passed away very recently, and on the trip back, my mom asked me, “What do you think happens to us after we die?” and I had to admit that, even though I had ideas, I didn’t really know and I don’t think the biblical text gives much of a coherent view of that. People tend to get a lot of mileage out of these little snippets here and there.

    Interestingly, Perriman wrote a book called “Hell and Heaven in Narrative Perspective,” although I believe that it’s an extensive collection of blog posts in book form. It’s been a while since I read it, but even so, it was helpful to have it all pulled together.

    For me, death is one of those things that I trust God will see me through. I don’t know what that’ll look like. Maybe there’s some other realm of consciousness waiting after death. Maybe, once my body shuts down, my consciousness will also shut down until my body can be restored, but it will seem like the blink of an eye from my perspective. Maybe something totally different. Everyone who knows the answer to that question is dead. But I do trust God.

  • Herm

    I cannot agree with your contemporary Christian, exceedingly vague, definition of sin. It is not that complicated when you relate sin to its antitheisis love. The perfect love of God is a divine empathy, compassion and forgiveness for all others, including all of Man and of God, as you would have for yourself. As to the commanding prerequisite to inherit eternal life we, as children of God, are not commanded to love the Lord our God perfectly, as He can us, but to love (empathy, compassion, forgiveness, …) with all we, our spirit form in the image of God (heart, soul, strength, mind), are able to love Him with, which is very little in comparison.

    Sin against any is the inability to relate to each first as you would have each relate to you. This “Golden Rule” predates Christ throughout this world, long before Moses, as imparted to Man by God.

    We can accept, only since the Messiah, to be saved from sin by becoming one in the Holy Spirit who is one in God and one, by any name, in my good neighbor. That is the only way to know the hearts and minds fully to be enabled to empathize with my neighbor as I know the heart and mind of myself.

    The cold hearts in the last days are those who have given up seeking beyond their inherent spirit image of God. They cannot love beyond what they know from just within themselves alone. Many cold hearts accept the “Golden Rule” as intellectually obvious to the health of Man, and self, but are unable to empathize with other hearts and minds from within as does the Holy Spirit.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    The point is, I would say, that salvation is not salvation from what God will do to us when we die if we are not saved, but salvation from (I.e. a cure for) the brokenness of our sinful nature itself, the result of which is both the ability to live a transformed life partaking of the eternal God here on earth and what makes possible for us a loving union with God hereafter (one way of explaining this latter idea is that for those who try to reject and oppose it the presence of God is experienced as a burning, purifying fire, but for those who accept him in love as a gentle, healing, glorious light).

  • Herm

    When your Teacher is the Holy Spirit your footing is on solid Rock. The church administered by Jesus is not a religious sect founded on the study of God in the Bible or doctrine established only from the conclusions of each sect’s authorities. The church that Jesus began by raising the eternal temple in three days is founded purely in the Spirit and that is how its parishioners only worship.

    The word of God grows moment to moment eternally as it has for the last 1,984 years since Jesus’ ascension and did before the beginning. The word of God cannot be contained within the bounds of all libraries and digital databases on earth ever.

    I quote from the Christian Bible because it says just what I just said for those who were born into and raised in the Jewish/Christian traditions. I do not quote from any Bible or Holy Book, inspired through those seeking God, with any who were not born or raised in a biblical community unless directly asked to by that person. I speak the word of God boldly to all I am led to share with regardless of the research material we have in common.

    Does this clarify or further muddy the waters for you?

    I do not intend ever to remove someone’s present foundation out from under them. I seek only to offer, what I know to be more secure and lasting, a foundation that they can step onto from their present position without falling. It is much easier to lift people up who are balanced enough to assist together.

    Thank you for maintaining your balance enough to clearly and securely question my word.

  • Ron McPherson

    I love your posts brother!

  • Matthew

    Today you will be with me in Paradise?

  • Yes, but that’s hardly a comprehensive statement about what happens to us after we die, is it, especially since paradeisos means “garden.”

    I think the expression has roughly the same meaning as John’s use of it in Revelation 2:7. The paradise of God is the life that the faithful are given who overcome death, namely, the resurrection – whether it means the resurrection of the martyrs who reign with Jesus or the final resurrection at the end of the age. The use of the word “garden” fits the same image – the eating of the tree of life, the renewal of new creation, etc. Even in 1 Enoch, the “paradise of righteousness” is on the earth, not a spiritual plane.

    If you took someone who didn’t already have ideas about Heaven, and you showed them that statement from Jesus, I doubt that person would go, “Obviously he’s talking about a spiritual location one dwells in after death.” We just already have a preexisting framework that we use to interpret Jesus’ words.

    Granted, Jesus says “Today,” but time references in the Bible get very ambiguous when talking about these things, and that’s what I meant earlier. We don’t get a single, cohesive picture. Do people get judged immediately after they die? Do they get yanked out of Heaven and Hell only to be sent back there at the final judgement? Is death and the final judgement the same event portrayed in two different ways? If someone experiences resurrection as instantaneous, can it be portrayed that way in figurative language even if many, many years pass between death and resurrection? We just don’t get a unified picture. And, as far as I’m concerned, it’s neither important to the biblical story nor to me, personally.

  • Linda

    When I said I hv lost my footing, I was meaning that I hv lost track of what u were doing / saying due to d apparent conflict in claiming the Bible as not being the Word of God yet quoting it for n at various points here. Nevertheless, I see that these 2 replies of urs hv sort of cleared that up . Thanks

    Seems to me, u hv a roman catholic kind of mindset on d one hand… yet, on d other, u tout on being anti-tradition …

  • Herm

    Thanks Linda, I take it as a compliment always when I’m accused of “being anti-tradition”; so was Jesus then and consistently throughout, is Jesus now. I don’t really see the Roman Catholic mindset in what I share. On the contrary, I can’t see where the children of God have any need for an in between authority in their’s and God’s behalf. The mechanics don’t work when we’re in the Spirit of truth, the Advocate of God, and He is in us as is written in scripture compiled by the Roman Catholic authorities. How does another get between that relationship?

  • Bones

    It’s not surprising herm.

    Protestantism and evangelicalism is really catholicism Lite and it’s child.

  • Matthew

    Good stuff Phil. Lots to think about.

    I think you are right about one thing — we don´t get that absolute step-by-step process regarding what happens after death. Maybe you are right about preexisting frameworks being brought to verses and texts. I also like this idea of trusting that God will bring his people ultimately to where they should be.

    Thanks so much for taking the time.



  • Matthew

    Is that like Cola “lite”?

  • Matthew

    Phil … how do you understand verse 46?

  • Experiencing the punishment of the coming ages versus the life of the coming ages? I think this parable, like virtually all of Jesus’ apocalyptic statements about a coming judgement, is in reference to an imminent act which will bring an end to that age, and one group of people will perish in it in unfaithfulness and not be resurrected (the punishment of the ages) while another group will be brought safely through it and live in the ages to come.

    In terms of the historical narrative, I’d say the siege of Jerusalem, destruction of the Temple, etc. in 66-70 A.D. would be the event that likely would have fit this expectation.

  • Oh, hey, I’ve been enjoying this discussion.

    The main issue for me in terms of Christian discourse really isn’t about our particular positions on various topics. You may never agree with me about the afterlife, and in another ten years, I may not even agree with myself right now. God knows that I don’t have all the same views today that I had five years ago.

    The main issue for me is really the honest recognition that most of us do have a theological framework that we bring to texts, and that framework will strongly control how we read those texts, and very rarely does it work in the other direction. This is why I end up getting so riled in some of these discussions – it’s not the views, themselves, necessarily; it’s the idea that THAT GUY’S view is an artificial one shaped by extrabiblical considerations, but MY view is simply and plainly what the Bible says. The texts say the same thing I do.

    That way of thinking is is a real barrier to any kind of dialogue or progress. The reality is that the text “plainly teaches” your view because it’s your view and you see it there. To someone with a different framework, the text “plainly teaches” something different, and they are just as sure about their “plain teaching” as you are about yours. This is why I am enthusiastic about ways of approaching Scripture that encourage us to suspend systematic theology for a moment and try to enter into the historical concerns of the community that produced a given text.

  • Matthew

    O.K. … if Jesus is not speaking of a final judgement that is further out than say 70 A.D., why the use of the word “eternal” both in the context of life and punishment?

  • Well, “eternal” is a translator choice. The Greek word is aionion, which means “of the age” or “of the ages.” It’s basically the adjectival form of “the age,” but we don’t really have an English word for that. Ageish?

    Sometimes, the Greek will say “an age of ages,” which also usually gets translated “eternal” in a lot of English translations, but here, it’s just “of the age(s).”

    An age is simply a period of time defined by some state of affairs. For example, even in English, we’ll talk about the Bronze Age or the Stone Age or the Middle Ages or the Atomic Age. In the first century Levant, “age” is just a really flexible concept. Jesus even refers to Jonah being in the belly of a great fish for an “aion,” and that was only three days. It’s just a period of time defined by a state of affairs. So, for instance, the “end of the age” doesn’t mean the end of all time necessarily (although it could possibly mean that), but rather the end of our world/life as we know it at the time. For instance, when we split the atom, that irrevocably changed the world as we knew it. Nothing would be the same after that. So, the Atomic Age began. That’s analogous to the early Jewish concept of “age.”

    I think, historically speaking, the destruction of the Temple / Jerusalem brought an end to the Judean world and religion as they knew it. Jesus foresaw a calamity coming and incessantly warned people about it, even openly weeping for Jerusalem. He warned his followers to flee Jerusalem as they saw the signs that the end was near. If Josephus is to be believed, this is what happened.

    So, when Jesus (in an apocalyptic parable of all things) talks about suffering the “punishment of the age(s)” or entering into the “life of the age(s),” I think his reference point is his own historical circumstances, and he’s talking about either perishing in the end of the age or living through it into the ages to come.

  • Matthew

    Thanks Phil.

  • Ron McPherson

    I’m glad your disqus comments are not locked private. I’ve been guilty before of pulling up just your comments and reading through some of them. Great balance and insight absent of any preconceived theological agenda, totally free from any confirmation bias. I may someday plagiarize them all into a book and dishonestly reap all the profits. Seriously though, I really do find them useful. Very appreciative of them!

  • Ron, thank you very much. I mean that. I respect your comments as well, so I take this as a really high compliment and it means a lot.

    I am afraid I’m not as free from bias as I might appear sometimes. :) But I am glad that sometimes those biases don’t dominate the discussion.

  • Thomas Lane

    Accepting the immigrant…recognizing that the Kingdom of God is not of this world, and Jesus is explicit in stating this truth, the principles of Christianity are not absolute in matters of government; especially secular government. Additionally, welcoming the immigrant and flinging the doors wide open to undocumented migrants are quite different matters. We see the violent, deadly consequences of such sentiments in the very heart of Europe, where the doors were flung open to people of an alien culture, with an aggressive religion, and disdain for western cultural values, whether they are right or wrong. Their method of assimilation has been to demand that their host countries assimilate and conform to their alien culture, which is barbaric, medieval, and antagonistic to Christians, whether they are devout or cultural Christians. The theologian, Martin Luther, saw the confluence between the needs of stability within the state, and the spiritual needs of the people. This is the “Two-Kingdoms Theory”, and it is practical. Without the safety of a stable society that is not bombarded by the internal chaos created by unfettered movement of undocumented migrants, the very lives of Christians and non-Christians would be threatened. I do not believe, for one second, that Jesus would be so rigid as to judge a nation based upon its immigration policies, which serve to protect the state and the people within that state. Indeed, I disbelieve the whole notion of collective divine punishment. So, when Zionist Christians push the notion that unwavering support of Israel is a mandatory requirement to obtain the blessings of God upon our country, I believe that it is a huge pile of manure. Welcoming the immigrant merely means to be welcoming, hospitable, and charitable towards strangers. Jesus did not advocate that we should place our families and ourselves in danger to be so. It is just not scriptural. The spirit of the law must apply here. I am welcoming and warm to people who come my way. I do not count it as righteousness unto myself. It is just part of my nature. However, I will not be welcoming to a people who threaten my family’s or my existence. I do not believe this stance is sinful. Indeed, I think it is immoral.

  • You do realize that the number of immigrations who “threaten your family or existence” is ludicrously small, right? There are probably more full citizens who live around you who threaten your family or existence than potential immigrants.

  • hytre64✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and No one comes to the Father but through Me.”

    IMHO, the answer to your question then would be, “No”.

  • Of course, Jesus says that to answer his disciple’s question about how they can follow him to where he is going, which he then expands upon by saying that, since they know and have seen Jesus, then they know and have seen the Father. It’s not just a declaration he makes in general.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    See my reply to hytre64 above: I wondered if you agreed with me?

  • Hmm. Well, I agree with you more often than not, so that’s probably a safe guess, but I don’t see which response you’re referring to after some initial scrolling. If you get me pointed in the right direction, I’ll be happy to form some kind of disposition toward it.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    That’ll teach me to be too lazy to repeat the comment. Though, that being said, I think there has been a technical glitch (or I am incompetent as well as lazy) since it hasn’t apparently posted at all. Anyway…
    I have seen it pointed out that “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and No one comes to the Father but through Me.” is a response to Thomas’s question as to how the disciples will find Jesus again when he us gone, not as to how to reach the Father, with the result it actually on the face of it means the opposite of what it is usually taken to mean.
    Jesus is telling Thomas that if Thomas (or anyone else) seeks the Father, they will inevitably (re)encounter Jesus in the process, not that it is impossible to reach the Father without expressly following Jesus.
    I wondered if you thought this made more sense of the passage?

  • Iain Lovejoy

    I have seen it pointed out that “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and No one comes to the Father but through Me.” is a response to Thomas’s question as to how the disciples will find Jesus again when he us gone, not as to how to reach the Father, with the result it actually on the face of it means the opposite of what it is usually taken to mean.
    Jesus is telling Thomas that if Thomas (or anyone else) seeks the Father, they will inevitably (re)encounter Jesus in the process, not that it is impossible to reach the Father without expressly following Jesus.

  • Well, I definitely agree the passage is not some universal declaration that nobody can come to the Father without expressly following Jesus. That would certainly create awkward moments for all the faithful Jews thousands of years before Jesus showed up.

    I’m not as warm to the idea that Jesus is saying that seeking the Father means you will find him along the way, although certainly a key point in the passage is that if you see one, you see the other.

    I’m actually fine with Jesus’ declaration being as exclusive as it sounds as long as we keep in mind the immediate parameters – Jesus is making an apocalyptic statement to his immediate followers that he is going to leave, then come back for them to take them with him. It’s eschatological, but it’s circumscribed by those followers and the immediate historical circumstances. If his first century Judean disciples want to be faithful, they follow Jesus’ path. It’s their only hope for not just being faithful to YHWH but quite literally living through their imminent crisis the same way Jesus will – a path of faithfulness that could lead to their actual survival or could very well lead to martyrdom followed by a resurrection.

    I think we have to interpret the passage against the background of Jesus’ contention that a calamity was about to befall Judea, and in that context, he posits that his road is the only road that will see his disciples through it.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, your take broadens Jesus’ scope but removes the exclusivity from the claims. I’m keeping the exclusivity of the claims but within a narrow scope limited to his current historical situation.

    Having said that, I can’t think of anything that makes your take self-evidently wrong.

  • hytre64✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    Show us the Father? If you have seen Jesus you have seen the Father….

    I believe that Jesus IS asserting His unique claim to be the only way of salvation. But you shouldn’t “hang your hat” on a single verse:

    John 10:9 I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

    2 Cor. 5:21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

    Acts 2:10-12 Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. “He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

  • Bones

    That’s a shock. Religious people claiming their version is the only way to God.

    Of course the fact that the texts were written in a sectarian context has something to do with it.

  • Dean

    “Blessed are are those who compromise their principals for stability, for after all, we are citizens of two Kingdoms, so we should be practical and make the best of it.” That’s a new one. Also, I’m not sure Martin Luther is the best person to be citing when it comes to how Christians should treat non-believers. I think his advice to us today would be to burn all the mosques, the homes of Muslims, and the Quran too. Actually, now that I think about it, I think that would actually resonate with a large segment of Evangelicals today, so maybe you’re not that far off.

  • What do you think “salvation” means in Acts 2? What’s the historical context, there?

  • Realist1234

    ‘It is also why he said that many who are thrown into the lake of fire on judgement day will be Christians who did not care for the poor and needy, and thus never actually entered the Kingdom (Matthew 5:31-46).’

    – I think the reference should be Matthew 25.

    – As Ive said before, this passage refers specifically to people’s attitudes towards Jesus’ disciples, not people in general. That does not negate a Christian’s responsibility to the poor etc, as Jesus showed in other words.

    – A ‘Christian’ will NOT be thrown into the lake of fire, because a Christian (follower of Christ) is, by definition, saved. But clearly there are a number of people who, for example, attend church and perhaps think they are ‘Christian’ by doing so, or viewed as such by others, when in truth they do not ‘know’ Jesus or asked for His mercy.

    – As James said, genuine faith automatically leads to ‘good works’, so you cannot claim to have the former without the latter.

    – as Ben says, salvation begins NOW and continues into eternity. It is not ‘now’ and ‘then’. The Kingdom is already here, albeit not fully.

    – May the Lord help us to reflect Him more in our lives!

  • Realist1234

    I dont think you can say salvation ‘has very little to do with going to heaven when you die’. I agree it is not all of what salvation means, but it is certainly part of it.

  • Realist1234

    I strongly disagree. Jesus showed Himself to be Divine, by being and doing only those things God of the Old Testament was and did.

    I would encourage you to read a book such as ‘A Case for the Divinity of Jesus’ by Dean Overman.

    re worshipping Jesus, to quote Revelation 5:-

    ‘In a loud voice they were saying:

    “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!”
    13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

    “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be praise and honor and glory and power,
    for ever and ever!”
    14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.’

    How could you not worship and thank the One who died for you?

  • Tim

    Ok; so where in scripture does it say specifically that we will go to a place called heaven when we pass from this life? The New Jerusalem spoken of in Revelation for example, speaks of it coming down TO earth FROM heaven. Not the other way around.

  • Bones

    More like Lite Beer.

    It’s like making love in a canoe.

  • Bones

    Hey Matt, are you ok over there?

    According to some posters here there is an explosion of animal brothels in Germany……

  • Bones

    The kingdom is about justice… fact the word commonly translated righteousness…should be translated justice.

    Puts a whole new slant on things….

  • Matthew


  • Matthew

    So what is repenting and believing the Gospel in your view?

  • Bones

    Lol…just as I thought…..

  • Bones

    What is the good news, Matt?

  • Matthew

    My understanding is that the good news is about both justice and forgiveness of sins.

  • Realist1234

    I fully agree with your 2nd sentence. I firmly believe the earth is going to be ‘renewed’ and that heaven is not the ultimate destination of the ‘saved’. But that is in the future, not now. The question is, what happens to believers between now when they die and then? I agree that there is debate about that but I would side with the view that our ‘spirit’ continues in existence after death and is ‘with God’. Ill have a think about specific passages and get back to you.

  • Matthew

    Heaven — Dr. Randy Alcorn

  • Tim

    Yes, that’s a good question about what happens in between. I have a sense that the spirit (or whatever) continues after physical death as well, but we are provided with very little to no information in scripture as to what this looks like. It’s unfortunately all ultimately speculation, because we aren’t given enough information on it.

  • Realist1234

    Indeed. Though some have suggested when you die, you dont go to ‘heaven’ but rather you remain dead until the resurrection on the last day. There are some passages in favour of that, but as I said, I think there is sufficient biblical evidence to think we do go to be with God, whether or not we are consciously aware of it.

  • Realist1234

    ‘I think his advice to us today would be to burn all the mosques, the homes of Muslims, and the Quran too. Actually, now that I think about it, I think that would actually resonate with a large segment of Evangelicals today, ‘

    – Im an evangelical Christian, and I really take offence at your statement. I might disagree with Islam and its foundational teachings, but the idea of attacking Muslims is the exact opposite of what I think.

  • Realist1234

    Indeed, not to mention all the worthwhile jobs they do, particularly in the UK’s NHS.

  • Matthew

    Luther was certainly not perfect (by no means), but he did help to usher in much needed reform.

  • Lynn Haselhuhn LaSalle

    Yes, saved from what,from who, and why?

  • Lynn Haselhuhn LaSalle

    I agree

  • Lynn Haselhuhn LaSalle

    Very well said….I can relate

  • Dean

    Well, then you’re a better man than Martin Luther. I guess he was just a “man of his times” who happens to like to mix it up a little bit as the apologists say.

  • Dean

    The older I get the less I actually feel the need to treat the “greats” with any sort of deference. If people are truly transformed by the Holy Spirit and have the living and incarnate God inside of them, what does that mean? Don’t we as Christians mean that literally or is it some sort of mystical metaphor? Can you be a Christian and murder Michael Servetus? Can you be a Christian and write and say the things that Martin Luther said? Can you be a Christian and tell your brother to F off? I’m not judging, I’m just asking whether this may all be a big joke. If Christians don’t actually act differently than non-Christians in some sort of quantifiable, measurable, objective fashion (say Mormon’s living longer for example), then what are we actually saying? You’re left with the age old irrefutable argument of we don’t know who are Real True Christians, you know, the “Hitler was not an RTC” apologia. I think what we’re actually saying is that on one knows really knows what they’re talking about when it comes to this.

  • Matthew

    Thanks Dean. I certainly hear what you are saying. It´s a good central point you make.

    Justification by faith, as important as that is in my view, sometimes seems to imply that we don´t have to be worried about the life and teachings of Christ and living them out. The believing circles I come from hammer away at the teaching that we are sinners saved by grace. That we will always have pockets of unredeemed humanity attached to our new nature. That we grow in grace and will never be perfect this side of eternity. That the Gospel is more about what Jesus did for humanity than what humanity can do for God. That Christianity is not a moral code, not an ethical religion primarily speaking. That without believing these teachings we risk falling back into a works orientation that the Gospel has set us free from.

    Listening to concerns like yours, I´m inspired to remember the verses in scripture that seem to indicate the redeemed must also live like Christ, manifesting something in the world that is altogether different from the world. It´s one of the reasons I have been drawn to red letter believers over the years. That said, I know in my own experience I often miss the mark and am thankful for the forgiveness offered to me from God.

    For me Dean, it´s a balancing act and I walk the tightrope everyday with God´s Spirit.


  • Realist1234

    You should read ‘God Behaving Badly’ by David Lamb.

  • germcheck

    In this modern world, we value democracy, equality and human rights. Kings and their Kingdom are historically associated with power corruption, greedy of wealth, immoral sex, etc.

    While the talk about Kings and Kingdom could be an attractive recruiting tool for the poor peasant of the ancient times, but I doubt if Jesus really wanted us to aspire for this kind of royal vanity, this life or after-life.

  • JamieHaman

    I don’t think king and kingdoms is the point. When the apostles ask how to get into Heaven, Jesus tells them to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the prisoner, caring for other people, who are not you and your family. A very good, (if long) description is found in Mathew 25;35-40
    All of that is acting in the here and now. None of that talks about who deserves good treatment, or how to save ‘souls’.
    If people aren’t willing to step up now, then how will they be willing to step up later?

  • gococksri

    I am strongly drawn to your column’s sentiments but, in the end, differ a bit.

    Salvation is an act of God and is dependent on nothing I say or do. I believe that one lives the righteous life in response to the transforming experience of salvation given as a gift. I do not necessarily believe, however, that all those saved by the act of God are transformed by it. This, however, does not affect their standing before God—they are saved, period. Some “live the life” of the saved, some don’t. But they are equally loved/saved.

    Wesley was once asked if “works” were required for salvation. He replied, “No. But they can be evidence of it.” Some evidence their salvation via the righteous life. Others do not. But salvation goes to the righteousness of God, not our own.

  • Michael Lonergan

    I used to be a ‘Christian’, in the Evangelical sense. After coming to the conclusion that Evangelicalism had little to nothing to do with what the Bible actually taught, I abandoned my Evangelical faith, and, what is termed Christianity. Now I identify as Agnostic. Then an interesting thing happened. Without any pastor or church, or even religious writings telling me how to live my life, or how awful and broken I was, I started to actually live out the teachings of Jesus. Now that I am agnostic, I am more ‘Christian’ than I ever was in a church.