Mysteries of the Bible Explained!

We have all watched shows from time to time purporting to explain certain “mysteries” within the Bible. Usually in these programs, the writers set forth an allegedly “unexplained” phenomenon discussed in the scriptures and then seek the professional opinions of scholars and educators from different institutions of higher learning. The result of these programs is often a conclusion to which most believers in the Bible are shocked and dismayed. Additionally, many who have trusted the Bible on its own merits, after watching such programs, are left with a sense of doubt and generally have more unanswered questions than answered.

There are several types of these programs aired. There are the programs that explain the miracles within the Bible in terms of nature. I watched one program that explained the crossing of the Red sea by the Israelites in terms of a big wind blowing the sea apart at a shallow place. Such naturalistic explanations of the miraculous are common in such programs. Other, similar, programs try to explain the authorship of the Bible in human terms; some question the purity of the life of Jesus; and still others level charges of misogyny against Paul. In these programs, the possibility of God’s existence and intervention in such things is usually ignored and/or relegated to the beliefs of right-wing fundamentalists. How should the Christian respond to such programs?

The Christian should recognize that the people who create such programs base their beliefs upon modern day philosophies more than they do the Bible (if they have any respect for the Bible at all; many do not), and postmodernism is the philosophy of the day. While there are many facets to postmodernism, one of its basic tenets is the belief that there really is no objective truth. Rather, “truth” is the explanation (theory) of something that holds up best against what is called “deconstruction,” a process of providing criticism that tests the explanation (theory). Postmodernism never uses the word “truth” per se, but the word theory (or explanation), in place of truth. The theory or set of theories that is the most falsifiable (that is, has the ability to be falsified by empirical data), but has the least evidence to prove that the theory is false becomes the accepted explanation for what is correct. What that means is that one can never prove the theory or set of theories to be true, it is just that there is no (or little) evidence to contradict the theory (i.e. it can’t easily be deconstructed). So the standard for truth becomes the theory that has the greatest potential to be falsified, but has the least evidence to contradict it. This leads to theories of the “unexplained” that are very naturalistic, because natural processes are more subject to falsification than supernatural theories.

The fact of the matter is that the fundamental assumption of postmodernism is false; truth exists. The statement “there is no truth” would be self contradictory if true, so it must be false. From the conclusion that there is objective truth, we can eventually come to the understanding that God exists and that the Bible is God’s word. Once that is established, we can easily recognize that the Bible contains all of God’s truth and we must believe it. Unfortunately, many people have bought into the philosophy of postmodernism, including many “Christians.” One, however, cannot be a true Christian and hold to the philosophy of postmodernism. It is simply contradictory to many of the plain statements of the Bible. Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Jesus believed in truth. The Bible teaches that we can know God’s truth and that it is God’s truth for all mankind today. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life�” (John 14:6).

What ought a Christian to do about such programs? The Christian ought to keep in mind, that such programs are going to try to explain the supernatural in naturalistic ways. They are not going to assume God is the explanation of the Bible. That means that the miracles of the Bible are going to be explained in ways that would conform to scientific phenomenon. The writing of the Bible is going to be explained in terms of human collaboration and authorship. The personality of Jesus and his relationship to his apostles are going to be explained in terms of modern day psychology. The “hard” doctrines of the Bible are going to be explained in terms of cultural prejudice. Just about anything that would be objectionable to the “modern,” and “scientific” mind, is going to be explained in a naturalistic and unbiblical way. I read a book not too long ago that suggested that Jesus had narcissistic personality disorder.

The Christian knows, however, that God exists; that God, through the Holy Spirit, wrote the Bible by inspiring the apostles and prophets to write His words; that Jesus was raised from the dead; and that there are very supernatural explanations to the “unexplained mysteries” within the Bible. Certainly if God can raise Jesus from the dead, then He can do all of the other miracles in the Bible, as well as inspire men to write His words. The Christian need not bow to the philosophy of postmodernism, nor allow his faith to be shaken based upon the speculations of men who hold their mutable philosophy dear. Tomorrow, the world will be influenced by a different philosophy and when it is all said and done, there is nothing upon which such men can hang their proverbial hat at the end of the day. The Christian, however, puts his faith in God and his word, the unchanging, unbending, and unbreaking standard of truth.

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The Ancient Doctrine of Once Saved Always Saved

By Kevin Cauley

We all know people who believe the doctrine of “Once saved, always saved.” This is the idea that once a person becomes a child of God, there is no sin that they can commit to lose their salvation. Many people today find this doctrine to be of great comfort, because it in essence relieves them of all personal responsibility in their relationship with God. After all, if I am saved, and there is nothing that I can do to be lost, then it doesn’t really matter how I behave or act, so I need not worry that much about it. The truth is that this is a most dangerous doctrine when it comes to matters of religion, because it deceives people into thinking that their relationship with God is secure, when it really is not.

Interestingly enough, this false doctrine has been around for quite a long time. In fact, early Christians had to deal with it in the 1st and 2nd centuries. During that period of time, there was a false doctrine known as Gnosticism. Of the Gnostics, one sect taught the doctrine of once saved, always saved. A Christian named Irenaeus lived during the 2nd century A.D. (130-202). He wrote a book titled, “Against Heresies” in which he called attention to this particular fact. In this work (Book I Chapter 6) he said the following regarding Gnostic teaching:

But as to themselves, they hold that they shall be entirely and undoubtedly saved, not by means of conduct, but because they are spiritual by nature. For, just as it is impossible that material substance should partake of salvation (since, indeed, they maintain that it is incapable of receiving it), so again it is impossible that spiritual substance (by which they mean themselves) should ever come under the power of corruption, whatever the sort of actions in which they indulged. For even as gold, when submersed in filth, loses not on that account its beauty, but retains its own native qualities, the filth having no power to injure the gold, so they affirm that they cannot in any measure suffer hurt, or lose their spiritual substance, whatever the material actions in which they may be involved.Wherefore also it comes to pass, that the “most perfect” among them addict themselves without fear to all those kinds of forbidden deeds of which the Scriptures assure us that “they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

And committing many other abominations and impieties, they run us down (who from the fear of God guard against sinning even in thought or word) as utterly contemptible and ignorant persons, while they highly exalt themselves, and claim to be perfect, and the elect seed. For they declare that we simply receive grace for use, wherefore also it will again be taken away from us; but that they themselves have grace as their own special possession, which has descended from above by means of an unspeakable and indescribable conjunction; and on this account more will be given them.

Now, let’s compare what was stated regarding Gnosticism with some more recent quotes. Notice the following quotation from Billy Graham in answer to the question, “Will I lose my salvation if I sin?”

When we do sin, God does not reject us or disown us. Our fellowship with Him may be broken, but our relationship is not; we are still members of His family if we have truly committed our lives to Christ”(h**p://www.billygraham.org/qna/qna.asp?i=484)

In response to another question, “How big a sin do you have to commit before you lose your salvation?” Billy Graham said:

I am convinced that once a person sincerely and honestly trusts Christ for his or her salvation, they become a member of God’s family forever — and nothing can change that relationship.(h**p://www.billygraham.org/qna/qna.asp?i=1777)

Edward Hiscox in “The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches” says it this way:

We believe that the scriptures teach that such as are truly regenerate, being born of the Spirit, will not utterly fall away and perish, but will endure unto the end; that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial professors; that a special Providence watches over their welfare; and that they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation (Hiscox, pg. 67, 1939).

The Westminster Confession of Faith states regarding the perseverance of the saints:

I. They whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.II. This perseverance of the saints depends, not upon their own free-will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ; the abiding of the Spirit and of the seed of God within them; and the nature of the covenant of grace; from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

III. Nevertheless they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevelancy of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their perseverance, fall into grievous sins; and for a time continue therein: whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve his Holy Spirit; come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts; have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.

The point of these quotations is not to prove that Calvinists teach this doctrine, because they freely admit it. The point is to show the similarities between what the Gnostics taught and what Calvinists teach. There are some differences, but the essence of the teaching is the same.

  • If a person is saved, it is not by means of his own conduct, but on account of his nature. While Gnostics and Calvinists differ in the origin of that nature, the doctrine is still the same. Gnostics say that it is due to a special spiritual nature. Calvinists say that they are infused by the nature of Christ.
  • One is saved on account of one’s election to be saved. The Gnostics said that they were of the “elect seed.” Calvinists say that they are elected by God. Both agree that being elected precludes their actions from affecting that election in a negative way.
  • While one may willfully sin in the flesh, that does not affect the relationship that one has to God and salvation. The third part of the Westminster Confession of Faith (as quoted above) makes it plain that Christians may even live in sinfulness, yet not affect their salvation. The Gnostics just went one step further and stated that it was their desire and practice to do so.
  • Grace overcomes all sins regardless of the individual’s attitude toward sin. Calvinists state that grace is irresistible and the Christian cannot help but fall under it. Gnostics say that regardless how much sin they willingly commit, grace flows upon them freely for every sin they commit.
  • Both agree that there is nothing that can cause the one who is saved to lose their salvation. Gnostics take this to the ultimate conclusion and pursue their own lusts and passions without constraint. Calvinists, however, take another approach. They say that the Christian who is saved generally won’t choose to live like that, even though if they did, they couldn’t lose their salvation. In essence giving mere lip service to practicing righteousness.

The parallels are striking. How many times have we heard the person who believes in this doctrine of “once saved, always saved” say that the child of God cannot fall from grace? How many times have we heard those who believe this doctrine say that the child of God cannot lose their spirituality? How many times have we heard them say that the child of God cannot sin in such a way so as to lose his salvation? The similarities between this form of Gnosticism and the doctrine of “Once saved, always saved” are too numerous to ignore.

It was indeed the teaching and practice of the apostles to reject the doctrines of Gnosticism, including this doctrine. The book of Colossians was written by Paul in rejection of Gnosticism. John’s account of the gospel of Christ and his epistle of 1 John were also written as a response to the doctrines of Gnosticism, and particularly, 1 John was written to refute the idea of once saved, always saved. One cannot honestly read through this book and ignore that conclusion. In addition, the following passages in the New Testament clearly indicate that Christians may sin so as to fall from grace: Galatians 5:4; Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 10:26; 2 Peter 2:20-22.

If you know of someone who believes this doctrine, then I urge you to take this article to them, invite them to study it with you and help them to come to understand that believing this doctrine is not in harmony with God’s word. If one truly believes this doctrine they will be eternally lost, because they will not regard sin as the awful and terrible thing that it truly is. A Christian may be forgiven after having committed sin based upon repentance and confession, but one will not be forgiven while actively pursuing a life of sin. Yes, friends, the Christian can so sin as to fall from grace.

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The Nature of Biblical Edification

What does it mean to be edified? Without doing a scientific survey, my guess is that most people would say that being edified means to be encouraged, to make to feel better, or to have a more positive attitude. So, I did some searching on the Internet to see if my guess was accurate or not. I found that the majority of the time, the word is used in the sense of encourage or be made to feel better. However, when I looked into an English dictionary, I found the following definition. “Edify: enlighten, to improve the morals or knowledge of somebody.” Another dictionary said this. “Edify: to instruct or improve spiritually.” Does this surprise you? Do you think of being instructed as edification? Do you think of gaining new knowledge when you are edified?

In going back to the Greek language and looking at the word, we find that it comes from a word that means to build, erect, or set up one thing or another. The word was originally used to describe the founding and construction of a house. So it literally meant to build a place of dwelling out of construction materials. The original sense of the word can still be found in our language today in the word edifice, a building. However, in the New Testament, the word is often used metaphorically of imparting wisdom to another person. That is, instructing another person with words that can be understood and applied to life. While today the word may be used in the sense of encourage or make someone to feel good (that is, from a purely emotional point of view), that is generally not the way that it was used within the New Testament.

One of the reasons I wanted to think about the proper way this word was employed in the New Testament, is that there are some today who claim to do things in worship to God on the grounds that those things are edifying. That is, I have heard people say that the use of instrumental music within the worship is edifying, and so it must be a good thing. Could we justify instrumental music (or anything else, for that matter) based upon the idea that we are emotionally moved or stirred? Could we justify adding an additional element to God’s worship under the banner of “edification?” Is this biblical edification?

There is no doubt that the Bible clearly teaches us to follow after things that edify. Romans 14:19 states, “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 states, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” And in 2 Corinthians 12:19, Paul says “…we do all things for your edifying.” However, we also read that not everything that is lawful is something that edifies. Paul writes in 1 Cor.10:23, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” This leads us to ask the question: what are the kinds of things that truly do edify?

In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul deals with the problem of the Christians at Corinth speaking in unknown tongues without the presence of an interpreter. In contrast to the one who speaks in an unknown tongue, Paul states in verse 3, “But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” In essence Paul is saying that the unknown tongue does not edify, but prophesy does edify. He reiterates these thoughts in verses 5 and 12, and then in verse 17 he states, “For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.” The point that I am bringing out here is that in order for something to edify, it must have meaning. Not in the sense of emotion or feeling, but in the sense of the understanding of the intellect. That is, if something is not intelligible or comprehendible by the intellect, then it cannot edify. True edification can only come through a situation where knowledge and instruction is imparted with the attitude of love.

Let us note Ephesians 4:11-16. These verses speak concerning the subject of edification of the body of Christ. Verse 12 tells us that one reason God gave the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers was for the edifying of the body of Christ. Each of these offices are special in that God uses them to instruct and teach. Verse 13 tells us that this instruction and teaching has as its object, imparting the knowledge of Christ. Verse 15 says it is about speaking the truth in love. One cannot be edified without love (1 Corinthians 8:1). Verse 16 reiterates that instruction and teaching are for the purpose of edifying. Truth, knowledge, instruction, and love are all things that are associated with edifying. We learn then, that edification comes through the avenue of words when conjoined with the motivation of love on the part of the one edifying. Biblical edification inherently involves communication. Wordless expressions of emotion, feeling, or any other element which produces an incomprehensible sound cannot edify. Speaking the truth in love, however results in godly edifying (1 Timothy 1:4).

Playing an instrument of music is something that is aesthetically beautiful, stirring, and uplifting, but it cannot edify; it cannot impart knowledge; it cannot instruct. Only the use of verbal communication when combined with spiritual words and an attitude of love can accomplish this task. Knowledge alone does not accomplish this task. Knowledge separated from love does not edify, it merely puffs up (1 Corinthians 8:1). However, biblical edification is the loving impartation of spiritual instruction designed to build up the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of the student to the motivation of accomplishing the work of the kingdom.

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