Posts Tagged With: salvation

The Word Became Flesh. IV: The Light and the Life

“There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:9-13; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible [1995] unless otherwise indicated).

Photo by form PxHere

John’s Gospel often repeats several key concepts. They seem like simple terms that we use every day, but Jesus gives them a deeper meaning. Two are “light” and “life.” We might talk about them in everyday conversations. Scientists tell us that light is made of particles—photons—which have a wave-like quality. Many think of life as a series of chemical reactions, which somehow generate consciousness and thought for some organisms.

In Christ, though, light and life hold a deeper meaning: “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men” (John 1:4). Somehow, the life Jesus brings is the light of men. Life and light are intertwined. They come from Him.

John 1:9 then tells us that Jesus is the “true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.” Bible scholars disagree about what this means. How can Jesus enlighten every man if so many do not believe in Him? One theory is that Jesus sheds light on the truth about mankind:

“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well” (John 15:22-24).

Jesus reveals God’s justice and righteousness. As the Son of God, He reveals what God is truly like (see Hebrews 1:1-3). However, since God created humans in His image, and Jesus became a man, He shows what we should be. The Disciple’s Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Cornerstone Bible Publishers, 1988), in its notes on John 1:9, says, “Jesus is not only what God is like; He is also what humanity was intended to be.” Part of the glory of everlasting life in heaven is the opportunity to be like Him, as God intended:

“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).

Christians are children of God (1 John 3:1). He invites us to “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:5). In Christ, we have the privilege of becoming children of God, not because of anything we can do, but because God drew us to Himself, by His grace through faith in Jesus.

Even though Jesus brought light to humanity, many people do not receive it.

The world did not know Him. Jesus said, “I am the … truth” (John 14:6). The Roman governor asked, “What is truth?” while the truth was standing right in front of him (John 18:38). The world still does not know Him. Many do not know who He is. Many who know about Him refuse to accept Him as Lord, God, and Savior.

The Jewish people of His time did not recognize Him as their Messiah:

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).

Even today, many people search the Scriptures—even the New Testament, which bears His name on every page—and do not come to Him for eternal life. They accept His teaching, but they reject His light, His life, and His spirit.

Even His own family did not always recognize who He was. Many are familiar with the story of Jesus in the temple as a 12-year-old boy. When Joseph and Mary found Him, they asked how He could mistreat them by staying behind and causing them to worry. I suspect they needed a reminder. They knew from before He was born that He was the Son of God. Perhaps, though, they had grown comfortable thinking of Jesus as their son. Maybe Joseph was beginning to train Him to take over the carpentry shop.

“When they saw Him, they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.’ And He said to them, ‘Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?’” (Luke 2:48-49).

Jesus reminded them that His Father was God, and He had to prepare to do His Father’s business. At the peak of His ministry, His brothers did not believe in Him (John 7:5). The Light was shining in the darkness, and the darkness and those who lived therein could neither overcome (John 1:5, NASB1995) nor comprehend (NKJV) it.

However, He gives abundant life to all who believe in Him (John 10:10). Come to Him: place your faith and trust in Him for forgiveness, life, and salvation. He will give you light, understanding, and wisdom as you grow in the knowledge of Him. If you have never surrendered your life to Jesus, please join in this prayer:

“Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my heart, and I ask You to come in. Take control of my life, and make me the person You want me to be. In Your name I pray. Amen.”

May God fill you with the light, life, and love of Jesus as you follow Him by faith.

I would like to hear from you, especially if you have just recently welcomed Jesus into your heart. Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, deity of Christ | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

God’s Righteousness and Justice. VI: Righteous Men—Cornelius the Centurion

“They said, ‘Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews, was divinely directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and hear a message from you’” (Acts 10:22, New American Standard Bible).

St. Cornelius Window, Chapel of St. Cornelius, Governors Island, New York. From Wikipedia, under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.

Some recent posts on this blog have considered the righteousness and justice of God. Here, we meet a Gentile who is described by his servants as “a righteous and God-fearing man.” Acts 10 is devoted to his conversion.

The New Testament teaches that one can only be righteous by having faith in Jesus Christ and being clothed in His righteousness. So, the above verse raises a question: How could Cornelius be righteous if he was not yet a Christian?

Can a person be clothed in the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus before placing their faith in Him? Is it possible to be saved before one comes to know Jesus? Some preachers and theologians believe that God might count someone as having faith in Jesus even if they did not know who He was because their life and attitude suggest they would gladly receive Christ if they knew who He was. This concept of “inclusivism” is illustrated in C. S. Lewis’ book, The Last Battle, the finale of The Chronicles of Narnia. The Christ-like lion king Aslan welcomes Emeth, a soldier in the enemy army who recognizes Aslan as the rightful ruler, into his kingdom, stating that any righteous acts Emeth had done in the name of his false god would be accepted as having been done for Aslan.

This teaching appeals to many Christians who think about the billions who have lived and died without hearing the Gospel. It is painful to imagine that billions of people could be in hell simply because they were born in an area where no Christians brought the Gospel. I would find it comforting to think that there could be nice people from pagan societies in heaven even though they never knew Jesus’ name. However, Christians must take our guidance from God’s Word:

“… ‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:13–14).

Paul began his letter to the Romans by arguing that nobody is righteous and that all people deserve God’s wrath (culminating in a litany of bold Old Testament statements in Romans 3:9–18). It might be comforting to believe people can be saved without hearing about Jesus, but let us not leap to that assumption. Jesus told us to be His witnesses and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18–20). It is our responsibility to preach His Word, and it is God’s responsibility to decide how He will exercise His mercy.

Can God call somebody “righteous” before they accept Christ? Perhaps Cornelius was one of the elect, predestined to become a Christian, and that is why he is called righteous. I am not aware of any passages of Scripture that would guarantee such a possibility. However, since we know that God predestined those whom He foreknew to be conformed to Christ’s image (Romans 8:29), we can safely say that Cornelius ended up being righteous by His standards.

Perhaps Cornelius’ messengers were misguided, thinking in merely human terms. It is human nature to think of some people as “good people” or “righteous individuals.” We all know people whom we think of as good people. They try to do the right thing and treat other people well, so despite the litany about human depravity in Romans 3:9–18, we think of them as “good people,” even if they do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. When Paul says, “There is no righteous person, not even one” (Romans 3:10), we assume our unsaved-but-really-nice friend is an exception to that rule. Perhaps Cornelius’ messengers thought like that: He tried to treat people well; he used his influence as a centurion to help people instead of taking advantage of them; he gave to those in need. By human standards, he seemed righteous.

A “god-fearer” in the New Testament was a Gentile who had come to believe in One True God. Often, they saw a lot of truth in the Jewish religion and tried to follow many of its laws. They might try to live by Old Testament standards of justice, righteousness, and morality. However, they did not take the leap to fully convert to Judaism by being circumcised and may not have followed all of the ceremonial laws and traditions.

However, God had begun a work in Cornelius’ life before the angel appeared to him. Jesus taught His disciples that the Holy Spirit would convict the world regarding sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8–11). Cornelius had been convicted. He wanted to follow the one true God. God honored that desire by directing him to one who could help him find the right path by faith in Jesus Christ.

God was working in Cornelius’ life before he knew about Christ. Looking back at my own life, I can see how He was drawing me before I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I had been raised in the Roman Catholic Church, but by the time I was a teenager I wandered from that faith. Nevertheless, I could never bring myself to thinking about “God” without associating Him with “Jesus.” So, in my late teens, when I entered a phase of spiritual searching (including dabbling in the occult and studying a few non-Christian ideologies), that foundation stayed with me. One night, I found myself reading the Sermon on the Mount and was impressed that Jesus’ teachings were very practical but also seemed humanly impossible. It occurred to me that Jesus did not come to form a new religion but to create a new kind of person. A few months later, some people shared the Gospel with me, and my heart and mind were ready to receive the truth.

Could I be called righteous before I ended my spiritual search by accepting Christ? I would not have used that phrase then, and I still do not think of my pre-Christian self as a righteous person. (I have enough trouble thinking of myself as righteous after 37 years of following Jesus!) Perhaps one cannot think of Cornelius as completely righteous before he met Peter. Nevertheless, the seeker and the God-fearer are both drawn and inspired by the righteousness of God. This is what draws us to Him, and it should be what inspires us to continue walking with Christ every day.

What do you think? How can one be “righteous” before salvation? Share your thoughts about this or anything else related to Cornelius’ story by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

God’s Holiness. II: Holy People for a Holy God

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.’ If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:14–19; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image from pxhere.com. Published under a Creative Commons 1.0 Public Domain license.

The previous post in this series introduced the concept of God’s holiness. It is an important attribute of God. The term refers to something that is different, set apart, or consecrated, as opposed to something common or ordinary. We then saw that God calls His children to share in His holiness and communicate it to those around us.

How do we do this? How can we participate in God’s holiness? What does this look like? The discussion in this post and the two that follows it assumes that you are a Christian, who has received forgiveness of sins and everlasting life through faith in Christ.

First, we must admit that we cannot make ourselves holy. The Disciple’s Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1988) has this note regarding 1 Peter 1:15–16:

“God alone is holy. Objects or persons can be classed as holy only by participation in His holiness.”

We cannot make ourselves holy. The best we can do is receive and participate in God’s holiness.

To do this, we must recognize that we are already holy through faith in Christ. Holiness is not something we seek or earn as much as it is something we live out and practice. If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ, you are already holy. He has already purchased you with His blood and made you His own. 1 Peter 1:18 says that He has redeemed us. We belong to Him. He has already set you apart. God has given us His Holy Spirit living within us.

Most of us have moments when we do not feel holy, though. We know we are not acting holy. Sometimes, our behavior borders on diabolical. To change this behavior, we have to remove the obstacles that are hiding God’s holiness in our lives and let it flow out of us.

The exhortations in the next two posts are not a complete list. Numerous authors have written entire books on holiness in the Christian’s life. Three brief blog posts will not be able to cover everything. This is also not a step-by-step guide to holiness. Finally, I must emphasize that this is not a guarantee of instantaneous sanctification. The Christian life is a marathon, not a 100-meter dash; persistence and long-term obedience to God and fellowship with Him are necessary. Spiritual growth always takes time. Every Christian struggles with his or her own obstacles to holiness. Thus, we may each have to take different steps to grow. However, God has the same purpose in mind for each of us: That we may be conformed to the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29).

In what ways would you like to see God’s holiness manifested in your life? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Holiness, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Trinity and the Christian Life

While writing my recent post about the Trinity, I was stepping away from my usual approach on this blog. While I have devoted a lot of attention to doctrines in recent months, I usually try to keep things practical, down to earth, relating it to the lives of ordinary Christians. I realize people who want to read a systematic theology treatise will usually not log onto a blog to do so. After all, a blog is not really the ideal place to discuss heavy theology. Numerous books have been written about the Trinity, and some of them handle it much better than a blog ever can.

A diagram illustrating the relationships between the Persons of the Trinity. By AnonMoos (public domain), via Wikipedia Commons.

Nevertheless, the question needs to be asked: Why should we care about the Trinity? Can we not just worship Jesus and think that is good enough?

Today, I will share a few thoughts about why we should care about the Trinity.

First, knowing that God is Triune drives our worship. As I wrote in the previous post, “God is unique. There is nothing in all of creation that is exactly like the Trinity. We will not understand it fully in this life. We will finally understand when we get to heaven and see the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together.” We worship a God who is “wholly other,” distinct from us and from the universe He created. There is nothing and nobody like Him.

Second, the entire Trinity is involved in our relationship with Christ. From salvation to sanctification and beyond, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are acting in our lives:

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you” (1 Peter 1:1-2, emphasis added; all Scripture verses are from the English Standard Version).

While we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, the entire Trinity is involved in our salvation and spiritual growth. Each Person is involved in our lives from beginning to end. The connection between them is so strong that the Bible says one cannot have a relationship with Jesus without the other two, nor can one claim to have a relationship with God without Jesus:

“Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father” (1 John 2:22-24).

“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9).

So, why should we care about the Trinity? Because “a personal relationship with Jesus” is in fact a family relationship with the Trinity. The Trinity is more than a doctrine to make one’s head spin. It is a statement about God Himself and how He works in our lives. We are saved by the entire Trinity. We worship a Triune God.

NB: For the most detailed ancient doctrinal statement about the Trinity, take some time to read the Athanasian Creed, a fourth-century statement of faith detailing the relationship between the Persons of the Godhead.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Purpose in Scripture

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:14–17; all Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).

In recent posts, we looked at the authority of Scripture and its relationship with tradition. Now, let us look at God’s purpose in providing the Bible. What was His aim? What does He intend for us to learn from it?

St. Paul. Painting by Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632; public domain, via Wikimedia Commons).

Keep in mind that God’s Word leaves out many details. We may be curious and want extra facts. But, God is silent about some things. The late Roman Catholic broadcaster Mother Angelica once said that 91% of Jesus’ life is “hidden.” Think about it: Jesus is God’s ultimate self-revelation. Yet, the book that preserves His revelation presents only a small fraction of His life. We read a little about the first couple years of His life. Then, we read about one family trip to Jerusalem when He was 12 years old (Luke 2:41–52). After that, God says nothing about Jesus’ life until He is about 30 years old. We read nothing about His carpentry career. We do not know what happened to His stepfather, Joseph; most Christians believe he died before Jesus’ ministry began, but we do not know when. God tells us what we need to know for salvation, not what we want to know to satisfy our curiosity.

Likewise, I recently had an online discussion with a seminary friend and his wife about Noah and Methuselah. Methuselah was the oldest man in the Old Testament, dying at the age of 969 years, and Noah was his grandson (Genesis 4:25–27). Genesis 4:25–32 and 7:11 show that he died in the same year as the flood. That raises a few questions: Did Methuselah die several months before the flood or just before the rains came? Did he drown in the flood? If so, why? Did Noah invite Methuselah on the ark, but he refused to come? Or, did God prohibit Noah from inviting Methuselah on the ark? We do not have the answers to these questions. God did not think Methuselah’s fate was important for us to know.

Many Bible stories, including the account of Noah’s ark, leave numerous details out. God focused on what we need to know. “Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat” by Simon de Myle (public domain, via Wikipedia Commons).

The story of Noah raises other questions, as my friend pointed out: How did only four men, with possibly some help from their wives, build such a huge ship long before the development of advanced shipbuilding technology? Did their neighbors help them? If so, how did they tell them, “No, you cannot come on our boat.” Once again, the Bible is silent.

We read with many questions that will never be answered this side of heaven. While the Holy Spirit did not provide all the details, He did reveal what we need to know for salvation. In 2 Timothy 3:15, Paul wrote that the Scriptures make us “wise to salvation.” They show us what we need to know about everlasting life. The Word of God shows us that it is only through faith in Jesus that we are saved:

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6).

“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’” (Acts 4:11–12).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).

Human wisdom has limitations. We need special revelation from God. He gives it in His Word. It shows us why we need to believe in Jesus and what God wants us to know and believe about Him.

Paul concluded 2 Timothy 3 with the following statement about the inspiration of Scripture:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

As we saw in a previous post, these verses—particularly the phrase “breathed out”—provide the term “inspiration” of Scripture. They also list four functions of Scripture: teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. Interested readers can study these four terms in this blog’s most-frequently read article, published in 2012. To summarize the distinctions between them, we can observe that they are complementary. They address both belief and practice. Teaching instructs the reader about what he needs to know; correction addresses errors and false beliefs. Reproof points out when one is doing something wrong; training in righteousness shows someone how to do the will of God. The mature Christian must have the right beliefs and act based on those beliefs. When learning what is right, we have to unlearn the things we have thought or done that are wrong.

Let us keep God’s purposes in mind when we study the Bible. We do not read His Word only because it is a good story. We read it grow in our knowledge of Him. He will tell us what we need to know for salvation if we read with the proper mindset.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Revelation and Scripture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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