STUDY THE SCRIPTURES WITH GARY ST-JACQUES

THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST

by Gary St – Jacques

The word Gospel means “good news”, and the Gospel of Christ is the good news of our salvation. It is the good news of the Son of God who became flesh, a human being, and gave His life on the cross upon which He was crucified to redeem us as His own from the grasp of sin and the condemnation it requires, to justify us and reconcile us to the Father and give us the right to become children of God. It is the good news that He conquered sin and death and that we no longer have to live in fear, but will be freed from the chains of sin, and that we will be raised from the dead and partake in eternal life upon His glorious second coming if we accept His free gift of salvation and Lordship, that is available in Him alone.

However, the message of our salvation would be rather meaningless if it was not substantiated with the answer to the question, “saved from what?” The answer often given is our sin, and this answer is correct, but incompletely so. This addresses the cause (our sin), but does not define our predicament without an understanding of the effect, which is God’s judgment. If there were no law there would be no justice; if there were no justice there would be no judgment, and thus no condemnation entailed by sin. As it stands, it is God’s justice we are saved from (initially), which brings us to our predicament without Christ in light of God’s Law, whether you confront it in the pages of Scripture or the conscience of your heart.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. GOD’S HOLINESS VS. MAN’S WICKEDNESS  

2. THE INSUFFICIENCY AND PURPOSE OF THE LAW                                                                                                               

3. THE EFFICACY AND EXCLUSIVITY OF RECONCILIATION THROUGH CHRIST                                                         

4. THE PURPOSE AND POWER OF GRACE                                                                                                                                               

Q&A: THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST                                                                                                                                

EXAMPLE GOSPEL PRESENTATION AND FOLLOW-UP WITH NEW BELIEVERS

1.  GOD’S HOLINESS VS. MAN’S WICKEDNESS: 

The Human Predicament

It has rightly been said that the most terrifying truth in all of Scripture is that God is good. At first glance, it may seem absurd that the goodness of God ought to be what comprises our fears of an encounter with the Almighty, but this is because of the often ignored or depreciated truth that you are not. This is true of every living soul, for as the Scriptures say, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).” This fact is emphasized in the Psalms when the Scriptures declare, “The LORD looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one (Psalms 14:2-3).”

It is because of these truths of God’s goodness and our wickedness that Jesus sternly warned, “…do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him

(Luke 12:4-5).”

HOW AM I WICKED?

There are 613 laws in the Scriptures intended to designate and restrain the often perverse and vain, as well as to warn and rouse from the idleness and apathy of the human heart. But let us examine our standing with God’s righteous requirements using just nine of them from the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-17):

1. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not make for yourself an idol (something/one to worship in God’s place)
3. You shall not take the name of the LORD in vain.
4. Honor your mother and father.
5. You shall not murder (Jesus said even hating another person is culpable as murder in your heart, Matthew 5:22)
6. You shall not commit adultery (lusting after one who is not your spouse is culpable as adultery in your heart, Matthew 5:28)
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour (this includes gossiping/slandering a person to cause them harm or denigrate them in any way).
9. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbour (to be envious, or desire in your heart what belongs to your neighbour).

Before you contravened any of these commands more than even once, you had become an idolatrous, unholy, dishonourable, murderous, adulterous, slanderous, covetous and thieving blasphemer (or something in between), and it is with these charges, that amount to innumerable offenses, that you will stand culpable before a perfectly good and holy God at His appointed time of judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Before any potential temptation to plea your own righteousness or presume this judgment is exaggerated, understand that God declares even all liars will have their part in the lake of fire (Revelations 21:8). Addressing the unrepentant, God says: “When you did these things and I kept silent, you thought I was exactly like you. But I now arraign you and set my accusations before you (Psalms 50:21).’” This is why Paul preceded his preaching of the Gospel with this warning: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them (Romans 1:18-19).”

WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE ME IN RELATION TO GOD?

 God’s perfect goodness does include His perfect love, grace and mercy, but by no means to the exclusion of His perfect righteousness, justice, and holiness. It is not only by the latter qualities that we fall far short of the goodness of God, but especially in our grace, our mercy, and our love; in fact, it is our lack of grace, mercy and love that is the origin of all our sins that necessitate the response of God’s justice against us (Romans 1:29-32). Now God is so wholly other and distinguished from creation that the Scriptures proclaim there is nothing in all the earth or even heaven that is like Him (Exodus 15:11, Psalms 89:6, Psalms 113:5, Jeremiah 49:19, Isaiah 46:9). If nothing in all of sinless and glorious heaven can be said to be like God, how much further do you think your countless sins separate you from Him? It is our fickle and superficial grasp of authentic love and righteousness that prevents us from appreciating the position we find ourselves in when faced with our holy Creator.

This is why Scripture declares, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away (Isaiah 64:6).” Our sins have separated us from God, and when we face the judgment of God, whether at His return or upon our death, we will find ourselves receiving the eternal seal of our choices to live separately from Him and be forever removed from His presence. Since God is the source of all life, joy, goodness and truth, there is nothing more threatening to our existence even imaginable than such a fate.

So it is impossible to satisfy the demands of God’s justice on our own merits because we are lawbreakers, even if we obey some of the commands some of the time. What then is the purpose of God’s provision of the Law, His collective commandments?

SUMMARIZING POINT(S):

  •  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
  • Your sins have separated you from God, which results in condemnation (Isaiah 64:6)

2.  THE INSUFFICIENCY AND PURPOSE OF THE LAW: 

If the Law Can Not Save What Purpose Does it Serve?

 When Christ, the Son of God and our prophesied Redeemer had come preaching the message of repentance and salvation, many highly religious people and groups challenged Him about the sufficiency of their own righteousness; they would reject Him because they believed their own works (John 5:39-40) and status (Matthew 3:9-10) could secure them entry into the Kingdom of God. On one occasion, an expert in the law tested Jesus with this question:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

If all of the Law hangs on these two commandments, then why do we find ourselves presented with the extensive and meticulous list contained throughout the Bible, especially the first five books (called the Torah in Hebrew, the original Old Testament language, which means “Law”)?

THE LAW POINTS TO CHRIST

The Scriptures reveal the Old Testament Law served three purposes:

1. To highlight how mankind’s wickedness diminishes and distorts his understanding and practice of love in contrast with God, who is love (and thus, in effect, preventing God’s command to love being reduced to mankind’s fickle definitions and standards (Romans 7:7, 1 John 4:8).
2. To prepare man to flee to Christ from the condemnation the Law reveals against all men (Colossians 2:13-14, Romans 8:2-3), and
3. To prepare man to understand Christ through the analogy of His mission it provides (Hebrews 9 to 10:1, Colossians 2:16-17).

So we see that the ultimate purpose of the Law was to lead men to the salvation of God provided apart from the Law in Christ, because, prior to acceptance of Christ’s payment on our behalf, the Law serves only to reveal that man is dead in his sin, severed from God. As Paul the apostle explains: “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law (Galatians 3:10).’” Elsewhere he says: “So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful (Romans 7:12-13).”

That is, that sin may not be trivialized but rather that sin may become as repulsive as it ought to be when we appreciate the truly destructive force that it is. In summary of the Law’s purpose of preparing us for God’s provision of redemption in Christ, Paul explains:

“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin(Romans 3:19-20).”

SUMMARIZING POINT(S):

  • The Law was meant to reveal the necessity of Christ’s sacrifice for our salvation (Romans 3:19-20)

3.  THE EFFICACY AND EXCLUSIVITY OF RECONCILIATION THROUGH CHRIST:

In Christ Alone We Have Salvation, which is Reconciliation with the Father

“But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Romans 3:21-22)…” “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him (John 3:16-17).” “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).”

HOW AM I JUSTIFIED IN JESUS CHRIST?

 “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just andthe one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus (Romans 3:25-26, emphasis mine).”

Jesus Christ satisfied the justice of God by taking your place. He satisfied it by volunteering to His Father to be sent into the world in the flesh — incarnate as a man, truly human in every sense and experience — to live the life you were supposed to live, perfectly obedient to the Law of God; to die the death you deserved to die, thus justifying those who repent and receive Him by paying the penalty on their behalf; was buried and on the third day was resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), vindicating His claims to be the prophesied Christ (Isaiah 53:10) and demonstrating His power over death for all who would repent, turn from their sins and put their faith in Him (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). Thus by imputing our sin to Christ, and Christ’s righteousness to our account, Christ satisfied both the demands of God’s justice and His mercy on our behalf. As the Scriptures say:

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).”

IN CHRIST ALONE WE FIND SALVATION

The voluntary sacrificial death of Christ, the Son of God incarnate in the flesh, confirms God’s incommensurable love for us, as it was given to a people who deserve no love from God at all, but do deserve the full weight of God’s justice against our sin. This is why Paul says:

“…at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” And, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6, 8).” Elsewhere the apostle proclaims of Christ: “who, being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8). “For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross (Colossians 1:19-20).”

But to this Paul exclaims: “For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation (Hebrews 2:2-3)?” For “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).”

Jesus declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).” And, “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (John 3:18).”

 SALVATION IS AVAILABLE TO ALL

Concerning those broken and contrite in their sins, no matter how many or great, the Scripture says of Christ: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out (Isaiah 42:3)…” And, “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away…And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those He has given me, but raise them up at the last day (John 6:37, 39).” And again: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16, emphasis mine).” The Scripture continues:

“The death He died, He died to sin once for all (Romans 6:10…” And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again (2 Corinthians 5:15).” “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).” Jesus said: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself (John 12:32).”

So as the Scripture pleas: “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts (Hebrews 4:7).”

SUMMARIZING POINT(S):

  •  We are justified by the satisfaction of God’s justice accomplished by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross(Romans 3:25-26)
  •  Christ is the only way to receive the salvation of our souls (John 14:6)
  • Salvation is available to all who will accept it(John 3:16)

4.  THE PURPOSE AND POWER OF GRACE

The Gospel: Not a Change without a Difference

 THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE GOSPEL AND LICENSE FOR IMMORALITY

While the patience, grace and forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ are free gifts for the one who trusts in His Son (Ephesians 2:8-9), they are given for something; that is, to accomplish something in the repentant. Salvation does not end at justification, but merely begins there. Once we are saved from the just wrath of God, if our surrender to Christ’s salvation is genuine, we are then saved from the penalty and power of sin, by repentance towards Christ, for good works. As the Scriptures say: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).” “Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance (Romans 2:4)?” “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17, see also Galatians 6:15)”

THE EVIDENCE OF TRUE CONVERSION

Jesus declared: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you willbear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you arelike a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned (John 15:5-6).”

The Scriptures make it explicitly clear that anyone who claims to have faith but does not repent has a dead faith that can not save (James 2:14). Paul stated emphatically: “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. (Acts 20:21)” The message of salvation in Christ was prepared by a message of repentance from sin towards Christ (Mark 1:1-4), and Christ Himself declared: “But unless you repent, you too will all perish(Luke 13:3).” And elsewhere: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven(Matthew 7:21).”

In Jesus’ explanation of His parable of the sower, He designated that there are four kinds of seed (Matthew 13:19-23). Only one kind He mentions are those who immediately reject the Gospel, and one kind are those who accept it and become fruitful, up to thirty, sixty or a hundred times what was sown. But two kinds of these seeds are described as ostensible believers, those who at once appear to accept it with joy, but then shortly after fall away or get choked by the worries and pleasures of this life and become unfruitful (see also Matthew 7:21 and Jude 1:4). So again we see that there is a distinction between mere intellectual assent to the claims of the Gospel, and having a saving faith in Christ that is authenticated by the bearing of fruit. You can believe in God and that Jesus is His Son and still make yourself an enemy of God by your rejection of His sanctifying work in your life (that is, being made holy, i.e, separate unto God from the sinful pattern of the world), as even the demons know these truths (Matthew 8:28-29, James 2:19).

So what does Christ mean by bearing fruit? What is this fruit consistent with repentance that authenticates that I am remaining in the vine, whom is Jesus? Specific manifestations of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (who Christ does His sanctifying work through, John 16:7) are described in a few places in Scripture (Galatians 5:22-23, 1 Corinthians 12:3-11), but, broadly, the fruit of the Holy Spirit is Christ-likeness. Above all, it is the ever-growing intimate knowledge and love of God, and the consequent growing love for our neighbour (1  John 4:12-20).

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE GOSPEL AND SALVATION BY GOOD WORKS

On the one extreme of the spectrum of misunderstandings about the Gospel we convert God’s grace into a license for immorality. Addressing this heretical perversion of Jesus’ and the disciples’ teaching in the early church, Jude declared: “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ(Jude 1:4).” However, the alternative extreme is just as spiritually destructive in its contamination of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: That we either gain salvation by good works (which you can not, Romans 3:19-20), or that we are saved by grace but sustain it by good works (i.e. the claim that you can lose your salvation, which you can not, Ephesians 4:30). This heresy, too, must be avoided because it also will condemn the one who attempts to enter the Kingdom of God on their own merits.

Identifying these heretical extremes, as we must, can obscure the relationship between salvation and works in the believer’s life and be the root of many confusions and frustrations, both in evangelizing and understanding the nature of our own reconciliation to God. This often leads to unnecessarily obstructive doubts or intentional manipulations of the Scriptures by those who want to either promote uninterrupted sin or desire to mercilessly destroy the hope of those who are escaping it.

THE POWER IN TRUE CONVERSION

There is a key and simple point that is often missed in understanding the relationship between works and salvation in the Gospel that causes the incessant unnecessary confusions: The Holy Spirit’s power and the new birth that power produces, which entails an inevitable and consequential new nature. Speaking to a religious leader of His time, Jesus declared: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).” And further, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit(John 3:6).” The problem with the common understanding of the language being used to communicate spiritual matters is that people (sometimes including Christians) begin to think of spiritual truths as sentimental statements or metaphors rather than literal facts or events. This is because, whether consciously or unconsciously, the spiritual is often associated with the figurative and the physical is associated with the literal, which is absurd when you understand that we are substantially (as in literally in substance) a spirit that inhabits a body. Thus, though existing physically, we are not merely physical.

The problem that arises from this is the ostensible “change without a difference” when discussing the distinction between salvation by works and salvation by believing the Gospel. When one asks, “So I am saved without works?” and you correctly respond affirmatively, and they then ask, “So I can be saved and go on sinning?” and you rightly deny that possibility, the audience often becomes confused. It results in the branching of many false doctrines, including salvation by works, salvation by grace but its continuity by works, or salvation with no connection to works, among others. However, the simple and abundantly designated solution in Scripture is to understand the new birth, and that the new birth is spiritual but not figurative or sentimental but literal; it is a literal-spiritual event. This is so important to comprehend because when one recognizes this, the new nature which necessarily entails new desires and consequently new correspondent actions clarifies the relationship between salvation and works; it clarifies why one can not attain salvation by works but why they can not claim salvation concurrent with no works. They have a new nature! They literally are a new creation! As Paul exclaimed: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here (2 Corinthians 5:17)!”

Your first, physical nature entailed physical desires that produced physical works: Hunger causes eating, fatigue inclines us to rest, social desire causes communication, boredom rouses activity, a desire for honor produces ambition, etc. Everything we do in the body that is of the body is because of that body that was received at birth with its nature. If one is born-again, a spiritual but literal event, they will have a new birth with a new nature that entails new desires, ambitions, appetites and actions. You will have spiritual hunger to consume the Word of God (Matthew 4:4), spiritual fatigue that needs to rest in Christ, a spiritual need to commune with the Spirit of God, a spiritual discontentment that needs more of God, and a desire for God’s glory that makes you ambitious to glorify His name.

Obviously no one is perfect, and any who claims to be without sin is actually himself a liar and the truth is not in him (1 John 1:8). However, a seed that does not grow is dead, a baby that neither moves nor grows is dead and a “faith” without works is dead (James 2:17, James 2:26) because these things by their very nature, when alive, grow and move and act. Just like a miscarried child has not been born, so one who hears the Gospel and claims to receive it but does not grow (in righteousness), nor move (towards Christ), nor act (according to God’s will) has never been born-again. In 1 John 3:7-10 we are told: “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”

If we are saved, we have inherited eternal life, and eternal life is to know God (John 17:3), and God is love (1 John 4:8). Thus, if we have come to know God, since Christ makes Him known (John 1:18), we will love God, and “…this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome(1 John 5:3).” This is true; His commands are not burdensome to the one who has come to know God because the enabling of our repentance from sin to Christ is the result of the sanctification (which means to be made holy, i.e. separate from the sinful pattern of the world unto obedience to God) of the Holy Spirit, who effectuates God’s work of saving us from the present power of sin so that we are no longer enslaved to it, but are freed to live for the glory of God.

Understand, however, so that you may not be discouraged, that though we have been enabled to obey God and grow in our sanctification, it is still a process, a spiritual seed that grows, truly and manifestly but not spontaneously. Though we are redeemed spiritually (again, not figuratively but literally) our physical bodies remain temporarily unredeemed (Romans 8:22-23) until the resurrection at the return of Christ. Paul makes a perfect example that even mature Christians often struggle to attain the righteousness that God desires for us (see Romans 7:14-25). However, as aforementioned, the one born of God is not subject to an unbroken pattern of sin, intentionally and contently making a practice of it. Do not resist the Holy Spirit’s convictions, because it is now the Holy Spirit that is at work in us (Philippians 2:13), regenerating our spirit and putting to death the sinful inclinations of our flesh. This will be gradual, but also eventual; there may be times of regress, but there will be recovery and continual growth, “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).”

As Paul admonishes in Galatians 5:16-17:

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”

In summary we should understand that salvation does not result from works (and can not be sustained or lost by works) but works do result from salvation and are thus its evidence. If you find yourself snared in sin and are unsure you are saved, it is possible you are and it is possible you are not. The answer is the same to both possibilities: Repent and turn to Christ.

WE CAN HAVE REST AND CONFIDENCE IN THE WORK OF CHRIST

In the words of John: “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One (1 John 2:1).”

Thus Christ calls to us saying: “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).”

Make no mistake: We are saved by grace through faith in Christ, but we are saved from the past penalty of sin and the present power of sin for repentance to Christ, who will begin His work of making us spotless and without blemish for the day of our glorification, the redemption of our bodies (Ephesians 5:27, Romans 8:23).

You were made to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. So if you haven’t already, or are unsure that you have genuinely, repent and put your faith in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and to break their chains that once made you a slave to them. Then He will give you eternal life and revive your spirit to the knowledge of God, and prepare for you a place to dwell with Him, free from sin, in the glory of His presence forever.

“The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” (Revelations 22:17)

SUMMARIZING POINT(S):

  • We were saved from sin for good works to glorify God and demonstrate His power (Ephesians 2:10)
  • Salvation does not result from works, but works always result from genuine salvation; good works are the evidence of your salvation, not the means to receive it (John 15:5-6)
  • Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient to pay for all your past and future sins, and so you may rest your soul in Him and repent from sin in freedom, true peace and great joy (Matthew 11:28-30)

Q&A: THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST

1.  How can I present the Gospel to someone in a more concise way?

2. What do I do if I feel insecure in my salvation?

3. I still don’t get it…how can Christ pay for my sins?

4. What about those who die having never heard the Gospel?

5.  How are laws about things such as the way we produce clothing, plant fields, breed animals and cut our hair related to our love for God or our neighbour?

1.  How can I present the Gospel to someone in a more concise way?

You will find that, while not all receive the Gospel, the Gospel is understood naturally by all (Romans 1:19-21). This is because it is the Holy Spirit who sows the knowledge of God in people and prepares them to receive the Gospel in advance. Jesus said that when He ascended to the Father subsequent to His resurrection, He would send the Holy Spirit, and that the Holy Spirit would convict the world regarding sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-11):

about sin, because people do not believe in me;
about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer;
and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”

This is to say that the Holy Spirit reveals our need for redemption because of our sin, reveals God’s righteousness so that we know the Law of God and His justice against sin, and reveals the condemnation of the devil (who is “the prince of this world”) so that no one will put their hope in the world because even its ruler stands condemned.

Thus you have everything you need the recipient of the Gospel to know prepared for your evangelism. This does not mean that everyone will accept the Gospel; some will, many will not (Matthew 7:13-14, Daniel 12:10).

That being said, these are the four points you need to address to summarize the predicament in which every person finds themselves, and to successfully present the Gospel:

1. All have sinned, and the wages of sin is death
2. The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord
3. This gift is available to all in Christ ALONE
4. If we receive this gift, we are a new creation; The old man of sin is dead and we are a new creation (we are freed from sin, not freed to sin).

You will need a minimum of one or two verses to address each point with the authority of Scripture and to advance each point forward to the next. A few examples for each include (with the numbers below corresponding to the numbers of the four points above):

1. (Romans 3:10-12, Romans 3:23, Isaiah 64:6, Romans 6:23)
2. (Romans 3:21-22, John 3:16-17, Colossians 1:19-20, Romans 5:6, 8)
3. (John 14:6, John 3:18, Acts 4:12)
4. (2 Corinthians 5:17, John 15:5-6, Ephesians 2:10, Romans 2:4, Titus 2:11-14)

Read, understand and remember these verses. When you have done that, you will be ready to present a concise version of the Gospel with some of your own commentary between the points to transition them according to your own communication style and the personality of the individual you are evangelizing. (See page 19 and 20:Example Gospel Presentation)

2.  What do I do if I don’t feel secure in my salvation?

 As odd as it may seem, having occasional doubts about your salvation can be a good indication that the Holy Spirit is working in your life; I say this to encourage the one with doubts, not to encourage doubts themselves. Conversely, such doubts can also be the result of doctrinal misunderstandings or demonic deceptions to shake your faith in the saving work of Christ. The source of the doubts are to be determined by two considerations by which you should examine yourself:

1. The present evidence of Christ’s working in your life, as manifested by growing Christ-likeness(John 15:5-6), and

2. Whether the doubts are motivating you to run in repentance to Christ or warding you away in hopelessness (John 6:37).

If such alarming doubts are from the Holy Spirit’s conviction, they will only arise from prolonged engagement in a carnal (flesh-oriented as opposed to Spirit oriented,Galatians 6:8) life for which there has been no repentance, because the Holy Spirit is warning you to repent to Christ in some area of your life. This should motivate you in righteous fear to run in repentance towards Christ. If after examining yourself honestly you find yourself spiritually stagnant, you need to honor the Holy Spirit’s grace, determine what is preventing your growth in Christ, and repent. Jesus said all who come to Him He will never drive away (John 6:37), and no one can snatch us from His hand (John 10:28-29). So you should not be anxious from a lack of assurance of God’s love or the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice for your justification, which is evidence of ignorance or satanic deceptions, but only on account of continual unrepentant sin. Remember, while good works cannot save, they are the evidence of genuine salvation. Regarding securing the genuineness of our salvation, John wrote in 1 John 4:15-18:

“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” As John explains, our confidence before God is the result of our recognition of and surrender to God’s power in our lives and the love that power increasingly produces towards God and consequently our neighbour. However, this love towards God and our neighbour must not be of our own standard, but rather must reflect the love that Jesus demonstrated towards us (John 15:12) and honor God’s commands (Mark 7:9). John continues:“We love because he first loved us.If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother (1 John 4:19-21).”

Concerning the Holy Spirit’s conviction, Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:30-32: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you have been sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Elsewhere, concerning the severe nature of ignoring Christ’s purpose of making you holy, abusing His grace as license for immorality, Paul sternly warns: “How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:29)

It can’t be emphasized enough that Christ is the one who saves you from condemnation, not you with your works; righteousness cannot be gained by obedience to the law (Galatians 2:21, Romans 3:20). However, growing obedience to God is the consequence of a genuine salvation, for anyone who accepts Christ is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and freed by Him from the power of sin and continues to bear fruits of righteousness. Jesus declared, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned (John 15:5-6).”

Salvation does not result from works (Ephesians 2:8-9) but works do result from salvation (Ephesians 2:10). When God saves us, He saves us for His glory and to enjoy His glory forever. It is to God’s glory to demonstrate His perfectly holy nature in both His perfect righteousness and His perfect love. The power of God is going to be revealed in your life in one of these ways, and it is your choice which way that will be. But if you have sincerely chosen Christ, the only way of salvation to the Father, the power of God’s love will become increasingly manifest in your life; this will happen (Ezekiel 36:25-27). Sometimes you may fall, and sometimes you may regress, but you will always recover, repent and return to the way, the truth and the life, and your life in Him will increase abundantly (John 10:10). Then, when you are already in or have restored yourself in repentance to the obedience of Christ, you should no longer have any fear (1 John 4:17-18). The Scriptures summarize these truths in 1 John 3:5-10:

“But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known HimDear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.”

Understand that perfection will not be attained in this life, but by the power of God, neither will contentment with sin be sustained indefinitely. Perfection in our love in the aim to which we are directed, but the power to move towards it is increasingly ours in Christ as we repent to Him from the things we are now rightly ashamed of. Thus, John encourages:

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness…My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One (1 John 1:8-9, 2:1).”

If you sin, repent to Jesus Christ and you will have God’s forgiveness. If you stumble many times in a day, Christ will continue to offer you forgiveness through the justification that He provided. But do not be deceived; forgiveness and patience are forleading you to repentance (Romans 2:4), not accommodating sin. If Christ remains in you, you are already sinning more than you want to, and so will not find abandoning further sin to be an enduring impossibility.

SUMMARIZING POINT(S):

  • Doubts about salvation are good if they are warranted by consistent unrepentant living and are motivating you in righteous fear to repent and run to Christ; the Holy Spirit is warning you for your benefit that Christ’s sacrifice will not be trampled underfoot (Hebrews 10:29)
  • Salvation does not result from works, but works always results from salvation; if you remain in Christ (and thus remain in the source of your salvation) your life will increasingly show evidence of this fact, even if there are periods of spiritual stagnation or regress (John 15:5-6)
  • If you remain in Christ (as evidenced by your increasing, though perhaps fluctuating increase in godliness and holiness) you should not fear; the sacrifice of Christ is sufficient to redeem you from your past and future sins (1 John 2:1)

 

3. I still don’t get it…how can Christ pay for my sins?

The Scripture is explicitly clear that Christ died as a vicarious punishment for our sins to save us from their penalty. Thus, if a question remains it is likely not a doubt about the Scriptures testimony to the fact, but a logical question of how we can understand it rationally, and so it will be answered accordingly.

What needs to be first understood is that God is perfectly righteous and perfectly loving; these are concurrent attributes. As an extension of His righteousness, He is perfectly just; as an extension of His love, He is endlessly merciful. However, because of these concurrent attributes of His nature, God must satisfy both His absolute justice and His relentless desire to extend mercy. To exercise only justice would compromise God’s love; to extend only mercy would compromise God’s righteousness. The only logical reconciliation, then, is to provide a satisfaction to the justice that sin demands that does not forsake mercy for the one who deserves that justice.

God’s answer to this dilemma is Jesus Christ. Since there is no man who is sinless, and thus no man who was suitable to intercede for mankind, there was no man who could pay the debt of another that he himself owed, and thus no man who had the authority to be the eternal mediator between God and man. Thus Jesus Christ, both truly God and truly man, entered into His own creation to satisfy the demands of God, to whom the debt was owed, by unfailingly obeying the Law of God in His incarnate human nature, and receiving in His incarnate human nature the penalty that sin required, having no debt to pay of His own. By doing this Christ satisfied God’s justice while not precluding the fulfillment of God’s mercy towards His sinful and powerless creation, which can be extended freely to anyone who is justified by accepting the substitute offering. This is why anyone who refuses Christ cannot be justified, but must pay their own penalty of ongoing sin, which is eternal separation from God.

To give an analogy, the Father is the Judge and Christ is the Advocate (or Defence Lawyer). While these roles are actual, the analogy will be in what’s owed. If we use money as an example, imagine you find yourself before a judge, guilty of many and horrendous crimes. The verdict is that you owe $5,000,000 for all of the damages and suffering, with the alternative being a prison sentence until you cover the cost, but you don’t have a cent to show for it. To make matters worse, everyone you know is in the same debt and fear begins to grip you with the knowledge that you will never be released from prison under these terms. Just then, your defence lawyer, who is the son of the same judge, who was a victim in many of your crimes, decides that in his great wealth not only is he notgoing to charge you for his services, but he is going to pay the penalty completely for you. He places the $5,000,000 dollars on the stand and says to you, “I will pay this entire fine on your behalf, and all that I will expect from you is to tend to my house and take care of my family while I am off on other business. When I return, you will be freed of your oath to service and you will become like a brother in my house and a son to my father, and you will live with these privileges and liberties the rest of your days.” If you accept (you would be inestimably insane not to), your fine is paid, the justice is done and has permitted mercy, and mercy follows without the neglect of justice.

If you can grasp these points, you will see that accomplishing justice and mercy required what Christ did for us on the cross. This is why the Scriptures say that through Christ God demonstrated that He is just and the justifier of those who have faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:26). You cannot simultaneously achieve justice and mercy without the penalty being paid, and the penalty not falling on the one by whom its owed, and the penalty not falling onto someone else who already owes it.  Since Christ reconciles God’s justice with His mercy, He can reconcile us to God, and that’s exactly what He did.

SUMMARIZING POINT(S):

  • Christ’s sacrifice reconciles God’s perfect justice and abundant mercy; because Christ reconciles God’s justice with His mercy, He can reconcile us to God (Romans 3:26)

 

4. What about those who die having never heard the Gospel?

The very reason we were put in our specific times and places in world history was to prepare all those who would receive the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ to do so:

“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their landsGod did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us (Acts 17:26-27).” Again: “…He has appeared once for all at the culmination of the agesto do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 9:26).” And again: “…when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5).”

If this question concerns or confuses you greatly, pay close attention to the following points if you want a comprehensive logical and Scriptural resolution to the problem presented by the fate of those unreached by the Gospel.

In creating a universe that would accommodate truly free moral agents, God would have a potentially infinite number of options available to Him with an equal amount of possible outcomes. From what we know about the nature of God, He would naturally choose to create the world which would produce the greatest possible outcome. What is the greatest possible outcome? There is none other than that world which provides the circumstances which leads the largest number of souls to freely accept the grace of God through the salvation provided in Jesus Christ (for an explanation of why salvation is the greatest good, if required, see Argument for the Goodness of God, Q&A: 1. Why should we think of salvation as the greatest good?). From what we know about God’s nature, particularly that God is omni-benevolent, omniscient and omnipotent, this can be deductively inferred as follows:

1. Because God is omni-benevolent (perfect in love), He would desire to create the world which would produce the greatest potential good
2. Because God is omniscient (complete in knowledge), He would know which world would produce the greatest potential good
3. Because God is omnipotent (unlimited in power), He would be able to create the world which would produce the greatest potential good

Therefore the world in which we exist is that which would produce the great potential good. To repeat, this greatest good is the largest number of souls that would freely surrender themselves to God and receive His grace. It would follow that, in a world of free creatures, the world which produces the greatest potential good does not contain any gratuitous evil, but only whatever evil is necessarily permitted in the course that results in the best possible outcome.

Again, God would have had a potentially infinite number of options present of worlds to create with an equal number of outcomes. By His perfect nature, however, God would not create a world at random in which His will to create concurrently free and absolutely loved creatures was not accomplished. So God would have to narrow His options to feasible worlds which accommodate creaturely freedom and yet lovingly provides the circumstances that permits each person who would freely choose God to do so. Knowing God, once He had narrowed the options to the assortment of great results, He would naturally choose the greatest of these possible outcomes. This is not to say God is predestining our decisions, but the creation of the world which would provide the social, environmental and personal circumstances that are necessary for each individual, in their own times and places as God foreknew, to interact with each other, their environment and God in a way that corresponds to their psychology/personality, ultimately and inevitably leading to the salvation of those who would freely respond affirmatively to God’s grace in whatever circumstance they find themselves. In this sense, then, God can literally be said to have elected those who are saved, though their choices as well as those who reject God are entirely free.

As is stated in Acts 17, God placed us within our context because He knew that if given that context we would freely choose to accept Him by the testimony and in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. It could then be rightly asked “well then could God have not provided a precise set of circumstances that would be those which are necessary to win the soul of every person?”, and the answer would be no. For some people, there is no such set of circumstances that would be sufficient for them to freely receive the salvation of Christ by the Holy Spirit’s testimony. This is affirmed doubly in the Scriptures. First, in Daniel 12:10 concerning the course through to the end times Jesus says: “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.” Again, concerning God’s providence Paul says in Romans 9:22: “What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?”

It may also seem confusing to think that God has among His human creation “objects of wrath” which He prepares for destruction, until you comprehend these points and Scriptures collectively. There are some souls which God would create that will freely reject Him under any and all circumstances, but are still necessary in the grand scheme of world history to play a role in drawing all those who will be freely saved into that salvation. God Himself illustrates this wonderfully in His statement to Pharaoh in Exodus 9:15-16:

“For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

See Acts 17:26-27, Genesis 50:20, Jeremiah 25:8-14 and Judges 14:4 for more Scriptural examples on the providence of God and how it works.

God is perfectly just and shows no partiality (Deuteronomy 10:7, 2 Chronicles 19:7). No person is favoured, whether man or woman, rich or poor, slave or free, great or small (Galatians 3:28). Thus we can be certain that if God selects the specific times and places of every individual for the explicit purpose of preparing them to receive the salvation that is in Christ, it follows that all who extend beyond the means of receiving that salvation on account of their place or time are not victims of misfortune, but are those whom God foreknew would freely reject that salvation. Their existence then serves to play a role, indiscernible to us, in world history in maximizing the number of souls who would freely come to Christ on account of the unfolding effects and ripples of their lives.

SUMMARIZING POINT(S):

  • God’s nature necessarily entails that the world in which we exist is that which would produce the greatest potential good, and that greatest good is the largest number of souls that would freely accept the salvation God offers in Christ (John 3:16-17)
  • God placed us in our times and places precisely because they were the circumstances necessary to bring all those who would freely accept the salvation of God to do so; no one finds themselves out of reach of the Gospel, one way or another, who would have accepted it (Acts 17:26-27)
  • Those who God foreknew would freely reject the Gospel are created to be a constituent to the circumstances necessary for those who would freely accept it to do so (Romans 9:22)

 

5. What do laws about things such as the way we produce clothing, plant fields, breed animals and cut our hair have to do with love for God or our neighbor?

 While at first glance these laws may seem bizarre, their purpose is directly related to the love of God with all our being. Many times throughout the Torah (the books of the Law, the first five books of the Old Testament) God explicated that His direction of His people Israel, who He had rescued from captivity in Egypt, was to make them a holy nation, and to understand the absolute holiness of the God they worshipped (Exodus 19:5-6, Exodus 20:11, Exodus 22:31, Exodus 26:33, Exodus 30:37, Exodus 31:13, etc.). Holiness means to be separated, or cut off from the rest of a thing. With this is mind, there are two important points to understand about this question:

1. Laws of the ceremonial and civil sort (all non-moral law) were given exclusively to Israel to make them a holy nation, or a nation separated from the rest of the world’s customs and culture; they were to have a culture that comprehensively reflected their distinction from the rest of the world (Exodus 19:5-6). The reason for the meticulous subset of these categories of laws was to offer a distinct glory to God that the rest of the nations were not equipped by God to return to Him. However, the most important reason was, with the rest of the Law, to prepare the Israelites to receive their Messiah and to understand Him and His mission of making us completely holy, undivided in loyalty and unpolluted by the world through the process of justification, sanctification and glorification. All of these stages of salvation were defined with physical “shadows”, or mere illustrations that were to be substantiated spiritually at the incarnation of Christ, and His life, death, resurrection and ascension to the Father as our High Priest and Mediator (Hebrews 9 +10:1).

2. To accomplish the purposes in the previous point, meticulous laws like these were meant to penetrate into the deepest level of human consciousness, and thus pervade the culture and society with consistent reminders of the meaning of holiness and its necessity in living in a way that pleases God (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Again, that is to say, the need for separation from the way of the world. Thus, even when the Israelites would be occupied with comparatively trivial tasks like agriculture, tailoring clothes or styling their hair, they would be faced with a reminder of the meaning of separateness.

So while these laws do not serve as moral laws that remain binding today (and never were for Gentiles/non-Jewish peoples), there is still an important lesson that can be learned from them today for us often rebellious and ignorant human beings, who so often rely on the flesh for any understanding: God desires holiness to the deepest part of our beings, and this holiness is separation unto Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:27).

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship (Romans 12:1).”

SUMMARIZING POINT(S):

  • Civic and ceremonial laws were given to Israel alone (Exodus 19:5-6)
  • One purpose of these meticulous laws were to pervade the consciousness of the Jewish people with constant reminders of God’s holiness and their need to be holy (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)
  • This meticulous subset of Civic and Ceremonial laws was meant to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the degree of holiness God desires to accomplish in us through Christ (Hebrews 9 – 10:1)
  • We can still learn the valuable lesson from these inapplicable laws that God desires holiness in the deepest part of our beings(Romans 12:1)

EXAMPLE GOSPEL PRESENTATION AND FOLLOW-UP:

 An example for if an occasion to preach the Gospel were to spontaneously present itself in casual conversation (the numbers below correspond with the numbers listed for the points in Q&A: The Gospel of Jesus Christ:1. How can I present the Gospel to someone in a more concise way?). Keep in mind that this is just an example, and the Gospel will always be best presented above all with Biblical accuracy and spiritual understanding, but also as expressed through your communication style and in consideration of the personality of the person you are dealing with:

Quick Reference:

1. All have sinned, and the wages of sin is death
2. The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord
3. This gift is available to all in Christ ALONE
4. If we sincerely receive this gift, we are a new creation; The old man of sin is dead and we are a new creation (we are freed from sin, not freed to sin).

1. “Do you believe you are a good person? I don’t mean relatively, or if I think you seem like a decent person, but do you believe you actually are? Let’s look at your life under the light of even some of the ten commandments (the Ten Commandments can be found in Exodus 20:3-17). After all, it is not my judgment, favourable or otherwise, that you need to be concerned about, but God’s: Have you ever stolen anything? Ever told a lie to deceive or slander someone? Have you ever committed adultery, or even looked at a person not your spouse to lust after them? Have you ever dishonoured your parents or even hated someone in your heart, which Jesus says is as culpable as murder? Have you ever taken the Lord’s name in vain, put anything before your Creator or coveted anything belonging to someone else? You don’t have to answer this publicly, but I think all of us can recognize that we have done all or most of these sins, and these are only some of the things we ought not to do. With just these sins in mind, you would be a thieving, lying, slandering, dishonourable, murdering, adulterous and coveting blasphemer (or something in-between), and it is with these crimes that you will have to face God on judgment day.

The Bible rightly says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23),” and that “the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).” Even if you want to content that you’re not that bad, God contends that you’re bad enough, for the Bible says even all liars will have their part in the lake of fire (Revelations 21:8).

2. But the message of the Gospel is this: Apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, and this righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Romans 3:21-22). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).” “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him (John 3:16-17).”

Jesus, the Son of God and our Saviour, volunteered to His Father to be sent into the world in the flesh, as a man, to live the life you were supposed to live and die the death on the cross that you deserved to die; He was buried and was resurrected on the third day by God in vindication of His claims to be the Christ and to demonstrate His power over death to all who would believe. He did this so that He could satisfy the justice of God on your account and allow God’s endless mercy and grace to flow into your life, enduring to eternal life. As the Bible says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

3. Now Christ is not a way to salvation, but the way. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).” The Bible also says, “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (John 3:18).” And again, “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 4:12).”

4. If you will repent from your sins and put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, He will not only justify you for your past sins but free you from the present power sin has over you. This is not just a promise, but a fact; He will remove you from your sin. Paul, an apostle of Christ said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17).”

So you must repent of your sins, but God will forgive you for all the sins of your past and, if you remain in Christ, will forgive you for all of the sins you will commit in patiently dealing with you and leading you towards repentance and the perfecting of your life. It is the free gift of God to have the fear of the past and the chains of the present removed, and to give you the hope of eternal life. If you sincerely put your faith in Christ, this is the gift and promise He gives to you.”

FOLLOW-UP FOR NEW BELIEVERS:                                                                                                                                  What to do if Someone Gives Their Life to Christ

If someone gives their life to Christ on account of your evangelism (or you know a new believer who is uncertain how to proceed after committing themselves to Christ), you ought to immediately direct them towards a reputable local church. Like a new-born infant who needs delicate care and consistent nurturing, so is a new born-again believer in Christ. These spiritually immature children of God will need a place with mature Christians they can go to where they can be provided for by someone with the time, resources and doctrinal wisdom to disciple and encourage them.

Be as responsible as you would with any child, but even more so since you are dealing with a presently fragile child of God who, in His providence, God has directed into your care. Pray for them and/or with them continually, and once directing them to or finding a suitable church, accompany them at least until they are established in the church with godly guidance and leadership of the Pastor or someone else assigned to discipling members. Be sure to inform the church that they have recently come to faith in Christ, and encourage them to consult their Pastor about being baptized as a public declaration of their faith.

Continually encourage them in their faith, and be an example to them as much as is within your power. Likewise, be available as much as is truly within your ability. Do not be burdened by the task of helping a new believer, since you are assigned the simplest of tasks, yet a no less noble and important one in their maturing of their understanding ofand relationship with Christ. Remember these encouraging words of Christ:

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matthew 10:42)

THE RESULT OF OUR SALVATION

WHAT IT MEANS TO HAVE INHERITED ETERNAL LIFE

If you have recently committed yourself to Christ to be your Saviour and your Lord, you may have been left with a question similar to, “Now what? What does this mean practically for my life? What am I to expect and do as a follower of Jesus?”

The purpose of our existence, the very reason for our life and breath and everything else, is to know God, glorify Him and enjoy Him forever (Acts 17:25-28, John 17:3). Jesus came to restore us to that purpose. It is for the knowledge of God that we are redeemed, and it is through the knowledge of God that we are cleansed of sin, and it is in the knowledge of God that He will glorify us at the end of the age, to know Him fully rather than in part (1 Corinthians 13:12). It is not merely knowledge about God, but the personal, relational and intimate knowing of God Himself that Christ came to bless us with. To be condemned is to not know God, and condemnation, when fulfilled, is complete separation from Him; to inherit eternal life is to come to know God, and in eternal life, which begins at our acceptance of Christ, to come to know Him intimately, increasingly and endlessly whom is the source of life, joy, goodness and truth.

If you have heard the Gospel and sincerely accepted the free gift of salvation and Lordship offered in Christ alone, you have been justified and made a new creation and the eternal life offered in Christ has already begun for you (2 Corinthians 5:17). If you have not, I urge that you refer to the Gospels of the Bible or The Gospel of Jesus Christ as presented elsewhere in this Bible Study Companion and seriously consider the position you find yourself in without Christ. Regardless of who you are and where you are in life, Christ will not turn aside any who come to Him (John 6:37).

For those who are in Christ, there are three stages of salvation that God accomplishes in you and for you; one that God has done, one that God is doing, and one that God will do. These stages are justification, sanctification and glorification, respectively. I will be describing the meanings of these three, their significance, practical and otherwise, for the Christian life, and how we may embrace and live in the liberating joy we ought to have when we comprehend all that we have inherited in the grace of God through Jesus Christ.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

  1. JUSTIFICATION
  2. SANCTIFICATION
  3. GLORIFICATION
  4. THE ESSENCE AND CULMINATION OF SALVATION

 JUSTIFICATION:

Salvation from the Past Penalty of Sin

*WHAT IS JUSTIFICATION?*

“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).”

Justification is salvation from the past penalty of sin, that penalty being condemnation, the eventual state of complete separation from God; as the source of all life, joy, goodness and truth, there is nothing more threatening to our existence that such a fate. This stage of salvation is accomplished immediately for the one who puts their faith in Christ to save them from the just requirement of God. Note that Christ is not a means to exempt you from the justice of God and thus forsake it, but rather the one by whom the justice of God is satisfied on your behalf through Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. Concerning those who would be justified, Jesus declared: “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life (John 5:24, emphasis mine).”

It is important to emphasize that this stage of our salvation was accomplished by the satisfaction of God’s justice, and justice demanded that sin be punished. Sinners have to receive what sin earned, and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). But God was not content to satisfy only justice, with a demand that spared no one (Romans 3:23), and thereby neglect to extend the mercy that His likewise impartial and incommensurable love demands. So God, perfect in justice and abounding in mercy, paid the highest price that could ever be paid to vindicate even the lowest and most destitute of sinners, and that price was His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

Christ satisfied the justice of God by taking your place. He satisfied it by volunteering to His Father to be sent into the world in the flesh — incarnate as a man, truly human in every sense and experience — to live the life you were supposed to live, perfectly obedient to the Law of God; to die the death you deserved to die, thus justifying those who receive Him by paying the penalty on their behalf; was buried and on the third day was resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), vindicating His claims to be the prophesied Christ (Isaiah 53:10) and demonstrating His power over death for all who would put their faith in Him (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). Thus by imputing our sin to Christ, and Christ’s righteousness to our account, Christ satisfied both the demands of God’s justice and His mercy on our behalf. As the Scriptures say: “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus (Romans 3:25-26).” And, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).”

*HOW OUGHT I TO LIVE IN LIGHT OF MY JUSTIFICATION?*

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1-2, emphasis mine).”

The only appropriate reaction to our appreciation of the justification we have received through Christ is utter jubilance and praise toward God, with a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). If you truly understand that in Jesus you have been set free from the penalty of sin and no longer have to live in fear of death or judgement, but can enter confidently into the presence of our absolutely holy and righteous God having inherited the righteousness of Christ, how would you contain the joy of so great a Gospel, or relent from sharing it? If you are more than acquainted with the bare facts of the Gospel, and if you are more than adjusted to thinking of the Gospel as a preacher’s idea of energizing a Sunday morning, your life ought to be characterized by joy and encouragement and a passionate desire to share so great a hope as this, even in the face of adversities, which can not compare to the glory that will be revealed in you (see Romans 8:14-25).

So not only have we received the mercy of being removed from condemnation, but also the grace of crossing over from death to life, enduring to eternal life; we are no longer in a relationship of judge and judged with our Creator, but on account of the finished work of Christ have entered into the relationship of Heavenly Father and child of God. In declaring the beauty and immensity of God’s grace, John declares: “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 (John 1:12-13).” And again: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)…”

To make God’s grace extend even further beyond comprehension, this is only the beginning of God’s work on our behalf, and is the means by which we can approach God in peace and freedom and with confidence to be sanctified by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit in our spirit (Ephesians 3:12, Acts 2:38-39); the indwelling of God Himself in us. This brings us to our next stage of salvation, which is our sanctification.

SUMMARIZING POINT(S):

  • Justification is salvation from the past penalty of sin accomplished in the sacrifice of Christ at the cross to be the propitiation (payment) for our sins that God’s justice required for us to receive mercy (Romans 3:25-26)
  • Having freely received this gift of incommensurable grace, our lives ought to be characterized by joy and encouragement, as well as a passion to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, even in the face of sufferings which can not compare with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:14-25 
  1. SANCTIFICATION:

Salvation from the Present Power of Sin

*WHAT IS SANCTIFICATION?*

“Yet I have written you quite boldly on some points to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:15-16, emphasis mine).”

Having been made holy (set apart for God) through our justification, the Holy Spirit of God can now be received in fulfilment of the promise of Christ (John 15:26, 1 Corinthians 6:11) to continue His ministry to make those who belong to Him increasingly holy and prepared for Christ at His glorious second coming, when our redemption will be complete (Romans 8:23). Subsequent to being justified, this sanctifying work (sanctification literally meaning to make holy) that God effectuates through the Holy Spirit is the relinquishing of sin’s present power over our mortal bodies, so that sin no longer holds us captive, and the power by which He increasingly cleanses us of all unrighteousness for the Day of the Lord (Colossians 1:22).

Speaking of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said: “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 (John 16:13-14).” So we see that the Holy Spirit is a minister on behalf of Jesus, who serves to continue the work of Christ in convicting the lost of their need for the Gospel (John 16:8-11), and the saved of their need for obedience (Galatians 5:18-23). Concerning the Spirit’s requirement of our obedience for our sanctification, Paul urges:

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:30-32).” Elsewhere, he says: “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).” But the fruits of the Holy Spirit include: “…love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).”

So we see that being sanctified by the Holy Spirit means we must surrender to His will for us to stop doing certain things, and start doing other things; this is obedience. This point can not be overstated, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).”

To be sanctified is to be sealed with God’s ownership by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14), who testifies that we belong to Him through the witness He provides to us in our spirit (John 15:26, 1 John 5:9-11) and the fruits He produces in us. If we belong to the Father, we have become His children, and of this gift the Scriptures declare: “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory (Romans 8:14-17, emphasis mine).” Elsewhere, Peter echoes: “Therefore, since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin (1 Peter 4:1).”

Remember that the Spirit continues the ministry of Christ, and gives to us what He receives from Jesus Himself (John 16:14). Thus if we remain in Christ, the Holy Spirit continually sanctifies us by producing in us the fruits of Christ-likeness that come from the vine, whom is the Lord Jesus (John 15:5-6).

*HOW OUGHT I TO LIVE IN LIGHT OF MY SANCTIFICATION?*

The reason Christ came to save us from the justice sin demanded, by satisfying God’s righteous requirement, was not to permit you to continue to sin but to enable you to be freed from it. He gave you this great salvation of the Gospel so that you would no longer submit the members of your body to the things which cause death (Romans 8:6), but so that you would submit yourself instead to God for His good purposes, as a holy and living sacrifice. As the Scripture says: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship (Romans 12:1).” We are to be a living sacrifice because we have been made alive in Christ to put to death the misdeeds of our flesh that first put us to death, and would have sealed our condemnation if not for the grace of God (Romans 8:13); “Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)” 

So if we have been justified, we have also been sanctified; if we have been sanctified, we have been made into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). We have been set free from the power of sin and are made increasingly holy by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us and through us, who enables us to abandon our sin and to desire and obey the righteousness of God (Philippians 2:13). Thus, having been enabled to live for God by the power of the Holy Spirit, not of our own power, we ought to repent towards Christ our Lord from our sins in cooperation with the Spirit, who rouses in our spirit a hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness, which Christ promises to satisfy if we continue in Him (Matthew 5:6). So God is the provider of our righteous desire, by His grace, and the one who fulfils that desire, by His grace. All you ought to do is submit yourself to His perfectly wise and righteous wisdom, and God, by His grace, will accomplish the rest.

A last note of encouragement: Do not surrender to despair if you fail from time to time, as we all will. Though without sin, Christ is able to identify with all of our sufferings and weaknesses, and He knows what it is to obey God in the fragile form of a human being (Hebrews 4:15). God is so desiring to give you His incommensurable love and mercy that He paid the highest price in giving His Son for you; a price of which there is no higher for a people comprehensively undeserving. Do not undermine so great a cost by supposing it covers so little of an expense. Likewise, do not trample underfoot the sacrifice of our Saviour by supposing God will tolerate Christ’s sacrifice being treated as an unholy license for immorality (Hebrews 10:29). When you fail, repent; when you fail again, repent again. But do repent, and God will deal patiently with you in making you holy, despite what failures may occur between when He has begun His good work and when He has finished it for the Day His glory is revealed.

“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His (Romans 6:1-5).”

SUMMARIZING POINT(S):

  • Sanctification is salvation from the present power of sin; it is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who is the seal of God’s ownership of us, who witnesses, teaches and works in us in continuing the ministry of Christ to make us holy and fruitful in righteousness (Romans 8:14-17)
  • Since we have been freed from the power of sin, we ought not to live in sin any longer; our increasing holiness is the evidence of our sanctification which is the evidence of our salvation (Romans 6:1-5)
  1. GLORIFICATION:

Salvation from the Future Presence of Sin

*WHAT IS GLORIFICATION?*

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:51-57).”

Through our justification, we were freed from the penalty of sin, and through our sanctification, we are freed from the power of sin. But these are only the beginnings of what we are to inherit in Christ; an inheritance that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor mind conceived that God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9). Our justification was to enable us to receive sanctification –the indwelling of God Himself — and our sanctification is to prepare us for our glorification on the great Day of our Lord and Saviour.

The day and the hour has been set – of which no man knows, but only the Father (Matthew 24:36) – on which Christ will return in power and great glory (Luke 21:27) and God will put an end to all things as we presently know them. He will put an end to all wickedness, pain, sorrow, disease and all things which have resulted from sin, restoring the intended state of all things in creating a New Heaven and a New Earth (Revelations 21:1-7). This is a creation that He has begun with us and in us and has prepared for us to receive; it is only the beginning of the unimaginable things to come.

It is the day when all the dead in Christ will rise to receive their eternal inheritance in Christ, and those who have remained alive in Christ until this time of His second coming will enter into His Kingdom over the New Earth to be established. Those who have lived in rejection of God and His provision for their salvation will be gathered to be condemned to separation from God for their wicked works and will be disallowed entry into Christ’s Kingdom, resulting in great and endless sorrow (Luke 13:28). Finally, those who died in rejection of Jesus will be raised to receive their condemnation at the great white throne judgment of eternal separation from Him in the lake of fire (Matthew 25:31-46).

In establishing this sinless, deathless and altogether perfect Kingdom of Christ, God has a glorious plan of literally glorifying our present natures. He will do this by “clothing” us with the immortal and imperishable in what will be our eternal, glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:52-54). These bodies will no longer be subject to sin or the effects of sin; they will be perfect in every way, enabling us to live eternally in the direct presence of God. “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).”

There is much to discuss about the order of these events in the end times (which for Christians could instead be described as new beginning times), and about the increasing inheritance of those who belong to Christ all the way from the Kingdom of Christ to the eternal state of God’s Kingdom. For more information on the chronology of our glorification, refer to The End Times document elsewhere in this Bible Study Companion. For the present purpose of considering the promise of our glorification – for the reader to understand and find endless encouragement and joy in the inconceivable promises of our Lord Jesus Christ, even in the face of great suffering (Romans 8:18-19) – consider the following verses of Scripture that detail what is already yours in Christ and that we patiently await:

“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children (Revelations 21:1-7).’”

*HOW OUGHT I TO LIVE IN LIGHT OF MY GLORIFICATION?*

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him (2 Peter 3:9-14).”

“All who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:3)

SUMMARIZING POINT(S):

  • Our glorification is salvation from the future presence of sin, and entails a sinless and imperishable New Heaven and a New Earth under the reign of Christ, and the glorification of our bodies that will allow us to live eternally in the presence of God (1 Corinthians 15:51-57)
  • In light of these great promises, we ought to live in patient hope, joy and in holiness and purity, remembering that the Lord gives us these promises to cleanse us of our unrighteousness in preparation of His coming (2 Peter 3:9-14)
  1. THE ESSENCE AND CULMINATION OF OUR SALVATION:

What it’s Really All AboutKnowing God

The essence of our salvation is the personal and relational knowledge of God, and the culmination of our salvation is to know Him fully, and see Him as He is. The Scriptures make this point absolutely and repeatedly clear; it is a recurring theme throughout the Old and New Testaments. Everything God does is to make Himself known to us, to reveal who He is in all that He is: His holiness, His divinity, His eternal nature, His relational nature, His love, mercy, grace, righteousness, justice, power, presence, wisdom, knowledge, providence, glory, and His perfection of all of these attributes of His nature.

We were created and set in a course of history that was explicitly designed for the purpose of drawing us to God and bringing us into relationship with Him to prepare us to know Him and see Him as He is (Acts 17:26-27, 1 John 3:2, Revelations 21:3). Now we know in part, at the culmination of the ages we will know Him fully, and receive the full and eternal experience of all His glory (1 Corinthians 13:12). This is what salvation is really all about, and since God’s very nature is the source of all love, joy, goodness and truth, knowing God is the greatest good, the greatest joy and the greatest truth. Now let’s examine what the Scriptures themselves say about this matter (all emphasis with italics or underline are my own):     

“No one has ever seen God, but the only begotten Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known (John 1:18).”
^^^^^^^
“Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’ (John 14:9)?”

Now if we have come to know God, since God is the source of all love and the entailed righteousness of that love, we will be continually purged of our sin, which results from a lack of love which is the lack of God. Even if we will require the grace of God in patiently dealing with our gradual and sometimes regressive repentance, we will still be made continually holy and purified through our sanctification, by the power of the Holy Spirit:

“But you know that He appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister (1 John 3:5-10).”
^^^^^^^
“We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Dear children, keep yourselves from idols (1 John 5:18-21).”
^^^^^^^
“What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:21-23).”
^^^^^^^
“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent (John 17:3).”

Thus eternal life is the enduring knowledge of God revealed in Christ – eventually in fullness by the direct presence of God with the redeemed – which repels our sin; damnation results from not knowing God, which is the only means by which we remain in our sin:

“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:23)

This is the response to people who claimed to know Christ, and the evidence they did not was their unrepentant evil works. Remember that there is a distinction between knowing about God, and knowing God by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Mere knowledge about God can not save, as all people know about God:

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them (Romans 1:18-19).”

“People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people (2 Timothy 3:5).”

So anyone who knows God will not live like the world:

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever (1 John 2:15-17).”

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God (James 4:4).”

In contrast:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).”

So if we belong to Christ, we have peace with God, and to have peace with God we must not belong to the world. Not belonging to the world (which means to follow the ways of sinful people, not simply living in the world and enjoying things in the world according to God’s commands) is evidence you belong to Christ.

If you have saving faith (as opposed to mere intellectual assent to Biblical doctrines) you will accept Christ as Lord and Saviour. If you have accepted Him as Lord and Saviour, this will be evident by you operating with Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. For an analogy, if you claimed to have faith in a medication that would cure your cancer, and in the doctor’s diagnosis and instructions for how to cure it, you will not find a full bottle or only a few pills missing from the medication he instructed you to take to save your life by the time its course was supposed to be complete. When you neglect to take the medication as instructed, your cancer will destroy you. If you believe the doctor, you will consume the treatment, just as if you believe Christ, you will “consume” Him to save you from spiritual death. Jesus said:

“But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world (John 6:50-51).”

 If you have been discouraged rather than stirred to thankfulness by all of this thinking that you have sinned too much for God to forgive you, or that you have too many sins left to repent of and having been slow to do so, you have missed the whole point of this entire section on our salvation. You are not being asked to do anything in your own strength, as it is God who works in you to accomplish all of these things, by His power. You are justified by Christ, sanctified in the Holy Spirit, and will be glorified by God the Father. The warnings are not to demoralize you from repenting, but rather to encourage you to repent. The warnings are not matter-of-fact statements about how you are damned by the way. They exist to direct you towards Christ, in whom you will find the grace and the power to abandon the sin that destroys.

 The point is, God is graceful, but His grace does not constitute permission; God is powerful, but His power is not a substitute for your obedience, but rather is the means by which you are enabled to obey. So choose today to repent of your sin by the power and grace of God that you have received through Christ Jesus, and if you sin, repent again to God for the forgiveness of your sins.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness …My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One (1 John 1:9, 2:1).”

SUMMARIZING POINT(S):

  • The purpose of our existence is to know God, glorify Him and enjoy Him forever; this is the purpose to which we are restored in salvation (John 17:3)
  • Salvation is found in Christ alone by faith and not works à To inherit salvation is to enter into relationship with God and begin to know Him through our sanctification (being holy by the Holy Spirit) à If you are sanctified, you are freed from the power of sin and given a new nature that desires God and His righteousness à Good works are the evidence you have been sanctified, which is the evidence you have received salvation which is found in Christ alone (1 John 3:5-10, also 5:18-21)
  • Salvation entails sanctification, which entails a new nature, which entails good works, which demonstrates we have come to know God; now in part, eventually in full.

ARGUMENT FOR THE EXISTENCE AND GOODNESS OF GOD

FROM THE NECESSARY GROUNDS FOR MORAL VALUES, HUMAN MORAL INTUITIONS, GOD’S PROVIDENCE AND CHRIST’S PARTICIPATION IN HUMAN SUFFERING

How can we know that God is good?  There is, in fact, a comprehensive answer to this question that should satisfy anyone genuinely seeking an understanding and a certainty of the goodness of God. I have sought to establish a logically and scripturally sound cumulative argument that approaches the question with four logically successive points: The (1.) ontological (what is the origin of moral values?), the (2.) epistemological (how do we come to know them?), the (3.) practical (what is moral evil allowed to occur?) and the (4.) emotional (how can God relate to me in my suffering?) resolution to the problem of evil and the probability of God’s existence in consideration of it.

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

ARGUMENT FROM:

  1. The necessity of God’s immutable nature as the source of objective moral values
  2. The human capacity to apprehend objective moral values and duties.
  3. The providence of God in creating the world which would produce the greatest potential good, and,
  4. The participation of Christ in human suffering in the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Christ.

Q&A: ARGUMENT FOR THE GOODNESS OF GOD

  1. THE EXISTENCE OF GOD, FROM

The Necessity of God’s Immutable Nature as the Source of Objective Moral Values

God’s immutable nature is necessarily the origin of objective moral values (note: by objective it is meant true and binding, regardless of human opinion). Therefore if God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. So moral evils can not be constituent to any argument against the existence of God, but rather logically require God’s existence and thus establish it. This conclusion follows necessarily from the remaining ostensible authorities involved, in the absence of God, by which we could attempt to derive a moral objective. These ostensible authorities would be:

  1. Human beings (as sentient beings capable of moral perception and reasoning), and/or
  2. Nature (as understood in the non-theistic interpretation as being the origin of our existence through biological evolution, absent guidance by any divine person).

In logically eliminating to the first alternative, we need only designate that human beings can not be a source of objective moral values or duties because such a claim would violate the law of non-contradiction (a law presumably everyone is intuitively aware of, that two contradictory statements can not be true in the same sense at the same time) on every occasion there was a disagreement among individuals concerning any value judgement. If a person argues for the rightness of an action while another argues against it, it is obvious they can not be simultaneously correct. In claiming they could, it would be equivalent to saying that morals can be both objective and subjective which is self-defeating. In arguing this point, someone may

object that humans can develop and establish a consensus on moral judgements so that minority and individual judgements can be overruled. The problem with this objection is it merely serves to admit that human beings are not an intrinsic source of moral authority, but can err significantly and consistently so as to require extensive cross-examination to determine what is most fitting for the interests of the community as a majority.

Much more could be said about the fallacies of this objection, however only one point is needed as a knock-down argument against this counter, and that is to examine the content of the objection itself. Whether addressing the individual or the majority, another intuitively obvious law of logic is the law of identity, that A is A or it is not A. Either human beings are an intrinsic authority on moral values or they are merely variably perceptive to values extrinsic to themselves. If humans do not establish morals by their very nature, but rather must endeavour to discover, examine and progress their judgements, then moral values are distinct from and assessed by human judgements and not constituted by the judgements themselves. If pressed, most will happily acknowledge this point (though it is already inherently obvious) when confronted with the possibility of a culture like 1930’s Nazi Germany, which, if it had succeeded in exterminating or brainwashing everyone who disagreed with the genocide of the Jews, would still clearly be wrong even if the remainder of humanity affirmed its moral uprightness.

Biological evolution, too, can not be a source of objective moral values because, in the absence of divine guidance, it is admittedly an unintelligent, unguided, impersonal and blind process of random mutation and natural selection. That is to say, evolution is not intentional but rather incidental. All products of the evolutionary process are descriptions of what happens, of what is, not prescriptions for what ought to be or what plan it is culminating into. When a creature evolves and survives the process, evolution did not intend it to endure, evolution incidentally allowed it to endure because the unguided mutations of the organisms biology incidentally corresponded to the permissive range of laws of nature for the continuity of biological function. In essence, it is similar to playing a lottery. When you enter into the game and your number is called, you are not receiving charity; you were not supposed to win, neither were you supposed to lose. Your number simply came up and you got lucky. This is descriptive of the nature of your existence on a non-theistic understanding of biological evolution.

So what is the point? That there is no morality without intentionality, since morals always presume intrinsic value and purpose, and evolution thus can not be a source for objective moral values. In attempting to establish an objective moral basis in evolutionary biology, one would have to attribute special value and purpose to something evolution does not attribute it, thus proving this second of the two alternatives for ostensible moral authority to also be self-defeating. Though a creature survives, evolution does not intend for it to survive or to cease functioning, and it does not distinguish between kinds of creatures or animate and inanimate objects. Literally speaking, animate objects are simply matter in motion, which does not instil on them any objectively distinct value. The noise of the voice is not objectively distinct in value from the wind, or the thoughts of the mind from the rumbling of the thunder in the clouds; neither is it particularly adverse or tragic when the one ceases as well as the other. The satisfaction of a child is not greater than that of the mosquito, or the hydration of the sand than that of the throat (this is not hyperbole; it is rather a kind understatement compared to the reductionism that would be objectively applied to our self-understanding in this non-theistic worldview). Rather, as aforementioned, each event is merely a description of things that are and not prescriptions of what ought or ought not to be.

This is why we should not be surprised that nature itself presents an abundance of contradictions in behavioural and eventual patterns amongst its creatures and events, such as animals that protect their young vs. those that often kill and cannibalize their offspring, or rain that produces vs. hurricanes that destroy. In summary, the one who wants to defend the objectivity of morals as derived from nature must ascribe intentionality to the unintentional, guidance to the unguided and goodness to the indifferent, thus describing something fundamentally different from evolution itself.

Therefore, aside from the divine nature of the person we call God there can be no objective moral foundation, and this is reinforced by all attempts for any alternative forcing us into awkward incoherence as we continually reach for the transcendent. We thus have to come to grips with the logical implications of denying God’s existence, affirming (even if, inconsistently, not practicing) moral nihilism, or accept the existence of God on the basis of our cogent moral intuitions, among other evidences. So returning to this initial conclusion of the argument, how can we be sure deductively that, affirming God’s existence or granting it for the sake of argument, God’s nature provides an objective basis for moral values where the alternatives fail? What renders God’s nature more objective or His moral disclosure more valuable besides mere power to enforce consequences for obedience or disobedience? There are two points to make in resolving this aspect of the issue, one of which continues in the ontological nature of morals and the other which is comprised in the epistemological argument for God’s goodness that follows.

First, while we have been arguing for the necessity of God’s nature being the foundation of objective moral values, there needs to be an emphasis on the objectivity of those values. That is, that the values in question are either truly good or truly evil. It is not good enough to simply say they are helpful or disadvantageous at some particular time, or that they are commonly accepted or rejected. To be discussing morals rather than mere social conventions, we must establish the intrinsic nature of those values. For example, that theft is wrong whether you are wealthy or in need, and regardless of the price of what is stolen; or that rape is wrong even if a society isn’t well populated, or your sexual deprivation feels stronger than the victim’s pain in being violated, etc. Thus for a moral value to be moral it by definition must be objective, but it can not be objective unless it is not arbitrary. Therefore it is qualified that God’s immutable nature is the source for two reasons (see The Argument for the Existence and Goodness of God, Q&A: 1. Can I not be good without God? to understand how to respond if someone interjects some variation of that complaint):

  1. The Scriptures are clear that God is immutable, that His goodness is unchanging. In Malachi 3:6 God says: “I the LORD do not change…” And in Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
  2. Only an unchanging and personal entity could be the source of objective moral values (and duties) because the morals must be constituted by intrinsic value as well as purpose and intentionality, which only a person can have.

 Now, in deducing how we can conclude the goodness of God with strong rational confidence (dare I say, certainty) and embrace the exclusive genuine value of God’s disclosures, we now continue to the second, epistemological point of the argument for God’s goodness 

SUMMARIZING POINT(S):

  • Moral values must not be arbitrary to be objective, and they must be grounded in value and purpose to even be moral; attempting to define morals apart from an objective standard voids them of substance and the values devolve into variable conventions rather than moral obligations
  • God’s immutable nature provides the necessary conditions for grounding objective moral values: It is not arbitrary, which establishes its objectivity, and it is personal, which allows the assignment of value and purpose
  • Alternative to God’s divine nature (namely, humanity and nature) fail at meeting the necessary qualifications and thus do not allow a moral worldview
  • With our cogent moral intuitions, we can acknowledge this as powerful evidence for the existence of God or otherwise deny both God’s existence and the existence of objective moral values, which is less obvious and thus the less rational option
  1. THE GOODNESS OF GOD, FROM: The Human Capacity to Apprehend Objective Moral Values and Duties

Since God created us, the universe that surrounds us and everything extrinsic to Himself, everything in all existence derives it’s being from God in its entirety. This includes the entity inside of our flesh we call the brain, which was created to be our fleshly device by which we process our thoughts, emotions and the world around us in our mental interactions with it. This brain in which we contain all of our cognitive capacities and functions was provided by God all of its abilities, not only in its range of apprehensions of truths but also in its ability to apprehend categories of truth.

What I mean by ranges of apprehension is our brains capacity to be used to process information at certain speeds, the amount of information our brain can hold simultaneously, how efficient our thought processes are, how much access we have to our subconscious, etc.; our quantitative abilities. What I mean by categories of apprehension is what we can apprehend to exist at all, which we can extend the range of our capacities through to apprehend knowledge about such matters. To provide an example, the range of our cognitive capacities concerning moral truths would be applied to discriminating between events and actions to determine the moral quality of those events and actions. Our cognitive capacity of categorical apprehension of truth in this instance would be the ability to understand that their even is a moral realm to apprehend at all.

Thus, God is the source of our moral apprehensions, and if God wanted to deceive us, being the designer of our cognitive functions and capacities in their entirety, He would not even have to try. All God would have to do to deceive humankind is provide them cognitive capacities so limited that they would be absolutely unable to apprehend His deception if He were to flaunt His malevolent motives before their eyes all day long. So what you have to ask yourself is this: If God wanted to deceive me, why would He provide me the cognitive ability to discriminate between truth and falsehood with such accuracy that I would be able to discover His deception? The truth is, doubt exists for only two reasons: Ignorance and free agency. Either we are simply lacking in knowledge and unable to understand why God is abundantly worthy of our absolute trust, or we simply choose to deny Him and His testimony. This decision or ignorant response of doubt never results from rational investigation.

In summary, God is the author of the same cognitive functions that we must use to doubt Him or impose our perspectives onto His creative decree (how we think things ought to be), wholly by the use of the tools provided by His decree of our minds. When you consider this, it should occur to you that there is literally no more of an absurd use of our minds than to use them against the one who constituted them, to doubt what He has revealed of Himself or the perfection of His will.

SUMMARIZING POINT(S):

  • God is the Creator of all existence extrinsic to Himself, and thus the source of our being in its entirety, which includes our cognitive capacities.
  • Since God endows us with all of our capacities, which include the ability to apprehend objective moral truths, it is overtly irrational to use those capacities to doubt the very source of their provision; doubt is an exercise of human freedom, not logic.

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It could then be asked, “Why, then, would God create a world that is pervaded by so much evil?” To address this potential confusion if it arises from the first point, we would then demonstrate the providence of God in creating a world of free moral agents from the plethora of options available to Him.

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  1. THE GOODNESS OF GOD, FROM: The Providence of God in Creating a World that would Produce the Greatest Potential Good

In creating a universe that would accommodate truly free moral agents, God would have a potentially infinite number of options available to Him with an equally potentially infinite amount of possible outcomes. From what we know about the nature of God, He would naturally choose to create the world which would produce the greatest possible outcome. What is the greatest possible outcome? There is none other than that world which provides the circumstances which leads the largest number of souls to freely accept the grace of God through the salvation provided in Jesus Christ (for an explanation of why salvation is the greatest good, if required, see Argument for the Goodness of God, Q&A: 1. Why should we think of salvation as the greatest good? on page 7). From what we know about God’s nature, particularly that God is omni-benevolent, omniscient and omnipotent, this can be deductively inferred as follows:

  1. Because God is omni-benevolent, He would desire to create the world which would produce the greatest potential good
    2. Because God is omniscient, He would know which world would produce the greatest potential good
    3. Because God is omnipotent, He would be able to create the world which would produce the greatest potential good

Therefore the world in which we exist is that which would produce the great potential good. To repeat, this greatest good is the largest number of souls that would freely surrender themselves to God and receive His grace. It would follow that, in a world of free creatures, the world which produces the great potential good does not contain any gratuitous evil, but only whatever evil is necessarily permitted in the course that results in the best possible outcome.

Again, God would have had a potentially infinite number of options present of worlds to create with an equally infinite number of possible outcomes. By His perfect nature, however, God would not create a world at random in which His will to create concurrently free and absolutely loved creatures was not accomplished. So God would have to narrow His options to feasible worlds which accommodate creaturely freedom and yet lovingly provides the circumstances that permits each person who would freely choose God to do so. Knowing God, once He had narrowed the options to the assortment of great results, He would naturally choose the greatest of these possible outcomes. This is not to say God is predestining our decisions, but the creation of the world which would provide the social, environmental and personal circumstances that are necessary for each individual, in their own times and places as God foreknew, to interact with each other, their environment and God in a way that corresponds to their psychology/personality, ultimately and inevitably leading to the salvation of those who would freely respond affirmatively to God’s grace in whatever circumstance they find themselves. In this sense, then, God can literally be said to have elected those who are saved (Mark 13:20, Romans 11:7), though their choices as well as those who reject God are entirely free (Joshua 24:15, 1 Kings 18:21).

As is stated in Acts 17, God placed us within our context because He knew that if given that context we would freely choose to accept Him by the testimony and in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. It could then be rightly asked “well then could God have not provided a precise set of circumstances that would be those which are necessary to win the soul of every person?”, and the answer would be no. For some people, there is no such set of circumstances that would be sufficient for them to freely receive the salvation of Christ by the Holy Spirit’s testimony. This is affirmed doubly in the Scriptures. First, in Daniel 12:10 concerning the course through to the end times Jesus says: “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.” Again, concerning God’s providence Paul says in Romans 9:22: “What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?”

It may also seem confusing to think that God has among His human creation “objects of wrath” which He prepares for destruction, until you comprehend these points and Scriptures collectively. There are some souls which God would create that will freely reject Him under any and all circumstances, but are still necessary in the grand scheme of world history to play a role in drawing all those who will be freely saved into that salvation. God Himself illustrates this wonderfully in His statement to Pharaoh in Exodus 9:15-16: “For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

See Acts 17:26-27, Genesis 50:20, Jeremiah 25:8-14 and Judges 14:4 for more Scriptural examples on the providence of God and how it works.

In conclusion, it is important to note that God is perfectly just and shows no partiality (Deuteronomy 10:7, 2 Chronicles 19:7), and these attributes would necessarily inform His creative decree in which world to actualize.. No person is favoured, whether man or woman, rich or poor, slave or free, great or small (Galatians 3:28). Thus we can be certain that if God selects the specific times and places of every individual for the explicit purpose of preparing them to receive the salvation that is in Christ, it follows that all who extend beyond the means of receiving that salvation on account of their place or time are not victims of misfortune, but are those whom God foreknew would freely reject that salvation. Their existence then serves to play a role, indiscernible to us, in world history in maximizing the number of souls who would freely come to Christ on account of the unfolding effects and ripples of their lives. 

Refer also to Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13:24-30, which illustrate these collective points perfectly.                    

SUMMARIZING POINT(S):

  • We can deductively infer from God’s omni-benevolence, omniscience and omnipotence that the created world in which we exist is the world that has the largest number of saved souls, and thus the greatest good.
  • Since the world is created to provide circumstances that maximize those who come to salvation, and God is not partial, we can be sure that no one who remains unsaved was simply a victim of misfortune, but of their own freely chosen rejection of God.

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After presenting this point, you could not properly present any apologetic case without concluding with an emphasis of and a direction towards the gospel of Christ. In this particular case, you will need to demonstrate that the gospel reveals that God is not removed from human suffering in any sense, including a truly human perspective.

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  1. THE GOODNESS OF GOD FROM:    The Participation of Christ in Human Suffering in the Incarnation

The gospel reveals that God is not removed from human suffering, neither spiritually, mentally, emotionally nor physically; God is comprehensively acquainted with our suffering (Isaiah 53:3). In the gospel it is revealed that Jesus of Nazareth, the Word (Greek: logos) of God, the second person of the Trinity, incarnated in the body of a man; He assumed the nature of a man and though remaining truly God became also truly man, simultaneously possessing the divine nature and the human nature. Thus, though this man we call Jesus Christ remained perfect in His divine qualities, He subjected Himself in His Spirit to the expression of those qualities by fleshly limitations (Philippians 2:6-9), though remaining sinless, and to the human experience of our weaknesses and finitudes (Hebrews 4:15).

Christ had to endure the course of the human life, growing from a child into a man, obeying His Father from a truly human perspective. He was submitted like a man to the duties the Father assigned Him in His life and physically and emotionally endured the hardships of human service with the taxing nature of living to glorify, in the flesh, our heavenly Father in a world pervaded by sin, to love enduringly those who did not love Him. Throughout His ministry, Jesus faced hunger (Matthew 4:2), thirst (John 19:28), fatigue (John 4:6), self-denial (Luke 22:42), rejection (John 6:66), persecution (John 8:59), mockery (Matthew 27:29), hatred (Mark 14:1), abandonment (Matthew 26:56), physical attacks (Luke 22:64), brutality (Matthew 27:26) and eventually death (Luke 23:46). To compound the problem, all of this was endured as innocent suffering by a man who had no culpability, and who lived for the exclusive purpose of glorifying His Father through the extension of His grace, mercy, and love towards as well as leadership of lost mankind.

There is no man more acquainted with suffering, and no man less deserving of His fate than Jesus Christ Himself. Yet this is the life Christ endured to provide the unmerited favour of God towards the world He gave Himself up for. As the Scriptures declare: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” To emphasize the truly human experience of this suffering, Christ did not endure His road to the cross removed from the depth and perspective of the human experience, but demonstrated intense anxiety, anguish and sorrow towards His impending fate of temporary separation from His Father and the wrath God was going to reveal against sin through Him in satisfying the demands of justice (Matthew 26:41-42, Luke 22:44). Despite this, He surrendered Himself to this fate to be offered as the only ransom which is acceptable for our account, the only name under heaven by which we can be saved (John 14:6, Acts 4:12), and was resurrected on the third day following to vindicate His claims before many witnesses, as the gospels testify.

Jesus Christ is the fullness of deity in human form (Colossians 2:9), the complete expression of God and everything He wanted and needed to communicate to mankind in preparing us for the fulfilling of our personal knowledge of God and to enable our personal relationship with Him. Christ is our advocate, our mediator, our Saviour and Lord; the Alpha and the Omega, the Almighty. In Christ is the fulfillment of human existence, our purpose, our meaning, our value and our suffering.

SUMMARIZING POINT(S):

  • God is not removed from our suffering; Jesus Christ at the incarnation, while remaining truly God, became truly man. He shared in all of our experiences and sufferings, just as we experience them, but as entirely innocent suffering for our redemption (Philippians 2:6-9)

Q&A: ARGUMENT FOR THE GOODNESS OF GOD

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

  1. Can I not be good without God?
  1. Why should we think of salvation as the greatest good?
  1. How can we know that God is omni-benevolent, omniscient and omnipotent?
  1. Why couldn’t God have created a world without free will so there would be no evil?
  1. If my actions are truly free, how can God anticipate them with perfect accuracy prior to my freely deciding to act?
  1. Isn’t God showing partiality by creating a soul He foreknew would be condemned if they existed for the purpose of playing a role in leading another soul to salvation?                                                                                           
  1. Could Christ’s suffering truly be equal to human suffering if He remained divine and incapable of sin despite the addition of His human nature.           
  1. Can I not be good without God?

Someone may have interjected the complaint in the ontological point of the argument, “I don’t need to believe in God to be a good person!”, or some variation of that argument. However, this complaint conflates moral ontology with moral epistemology. Ontology deals with nature of being and epistemology with the nature of knowledge. It is simply not relevant to this ontological point of the argument that someone can know what is good and evil and conduct themselves in some favourable behaviours without acknowledging God. In fact the Scriptures are clear that the non-believer can be expected to apprehend truths of the moral realm (John 16:8-11, Romans 1:18-21). The point is that without God there is no grounds for objective moral values, which is to say that there are, in fact, no actions or events which are truly evil or truly good, but rather, at best, merely socially convenient or inconvenient behaviours which one not feel any obligation to conform to if they deem it disadvantageous or unpleasant for their personal life. There simply is no reason not to live the comprehensively selfish life on the non-theistic view if it will enhance one’s own experience at the expense of others, despite what inhibitions the society may try to enforce on them.

To this someone might say, “but this is why we develop laws, to enforce favourable conduct in anti-social persons.” But there are two problems with this point. First, enforcing laws does not substantiate those laws as objectively moral and binding, not to mention those laws are always subject to change in concurrence with the culture. Second, with this premise of laws and enforcement, what premise will you use to overrule any abusive government with sufficient legal and military power to institute tyrannical, totalitarian laws and enforce them? At this point someone may throw up their arms and say, “well if a government gets to this level of power and abuses it, what are we to do anyways? Philosophical arguments won’t save us then!” Except this would emphasize the importance of not morally degenerating into a nihilistic society which lives only briefly with the benefits inherited by a society that strongly regarded the objectivity of moral values and duties to God and our neighbour. Once we start down that path, it is historically and logically certain it will only lead to a dead end.

  1. Why should we think of salvation as the greatest good?

In Christ, there are three stages of salvation. Listed in the order that they occur, they are justification, sanctification and glorification. The purpose of the first stage is particularly notable in answering this question in the context of the current sinful condition of the world. The abundant presence of sin that would rouse you to ask the question, “if God is good, why is there so much evil?” is the same sin that rouses God’s righteous indignation so powerfully He was willing to pay the highest price to achieve justice against it, without neglecting His endless desire to extend mercy. After all, it is precisely the lack of love, grace and mercy in people that is the origin of all of our sins that necessitate God’s justice against us. Thus, in accomplishing justice, God clearly had no intention of forfeiting the same attributes that caused us to commit so many grievous evils that demanded that justice.

So salvation begins by first justifying us from our innumerable sins that provide the content and reference point for the question of why evil exists. After freely choosing to accept the justification provided in Christ, just as we freely chose to commit the evils that required His payment on our behalf, we are then enabled to draw near to God as one who has been cleansed of all their unrighteousness and receive sanctification under His Lordship. Sanctification is salvation from the present power of sin that is effectuated by the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit of God Himself in us, who enables us to relinquish the sinful desires roused by godlessness if we submit ourselves to His Lordship that guides us into moral perfection. Just as we freely chose to commit the evils we have, so we must freely choose the good that is provided to us in our submission to God, since the same freedom that allowed for sin is the freedom necessary to allow for any moral good to exist.

The question may then arise that, if we can freely choose to do good, why do we need God or the salvation He offers that provides sanctification? There are two points to make in sufficiently answering this question, and they will be provided in an order that is consistent with the stages of salvation in the order that they occur:

  1. Our decision to choose good over evil in certain circumstances does not resolve the issue of our need for justification. As perfectly righteous and just, God will not simply allow the sinful actions caused by our lack of love, grace and mercy to go unpunished. Jesus’ Lordship aside, we would still require Christ’s salvation to justify us and allow us to receive God’s mercy without compromising the demands of justice (for more content on the issue of reconciling God’s mercy with His justice, see The Gospel of Jesus Christ, Q&A: 3. I still don’t get it…how can Christ pay for my sins?). So we would still need salvation from the condemnation we will receive for our sins without Christ.
  1. The reason we need to be sanctified in the salvation of God from the present power of sin is because God is the good. As explained in the first point for the argument of God’s goodness, God is the source of all of our moral knowledge, both in what we can know of moral truths and in our ability to know there is a moral realm of truths at all. In addition to this, God is not the provider of some moral standard that existed inexplicably apart from God Himself prior to creation (as moral truths require personhood for their existence; this is why a rock can not be called evil that injures a person as a result of laws of physics directing it in a path that a person was incidentally obstructing), rather God is the ground of objective moral truths (1 John 4:8). That is to say, God’s very nature provides the substance of moral values and duties, so that to speak of God’s goodness is redundant; it is like saying “God’s godliness.” Since the nature of the person God is the ground of objective moral values, the presence of God entails moral goods, and the absence of God entails moral evils. Even the unsaved individual is only capable of doing as much good as they do because the law of God is written on their hearts and minds (Romans 2:15). This is why the Scriptures say that those who remain unsaved have a form of godliness but deny its power (2 Timothy 3:2-5). So the one whom God is able to inhabit on account of their justification (being removed from the relationship of judge and judged to Father and child of God) will be filled with the presence of God, who will then proceed to progressively repel sin from their life, in cooperation with the person’s willful submission, and thus facilitate the conditions necessary to remove evil from the world in the saved person by displaying His power through them.

In conclusion, the question of “where was God when x evil occurred?” is an excellent question. However, the logically accurate variation of this question would be, “where was God in their heart when they caused such evil to occur?” To receive salvation is to increasingly remove the evils of this world, one person at a time

SUMMARIZING POINT(S):

  • To receive salvation is, in part, to be justified for the sins we have committed that constitute the evils in our world; this is the first component of salvation providing the greatest good in the form of mercy, an extension of love, which is the greatest good (1 Corinthians 13:13)
  • If we are justified, we will then be sanctified, which is the salvation from the present power of sin accomplished by the in-dwelling of the Spirit of God Himself in us; since the nature of God’s person is the good, it is the presence of God entailed in salvation that will relinquish evil, which results from the absence of God, who is love (1 John 4:8)
  1. How can we know that God is omni-benevolent, omniscient and omnipotent?

Refer to Argument for the Attributes of God provided elsewhere in this Bible Study Companion.

  1. Why couldn’t God have created a world without free will so there would be no evil?

The answer to this question is simple: Without freedom of the will, there would be no occurrences of a moral nature at all. Authentic freedom does render the emergence of evil possible in any world with free creatures, but it is that same freedom that allows for the possibility of moral goods. This is because any creation that exists without free agency merely constitutes a force of nature, as all occurrences that result from their presence would be merely incidental rather than intentional. Since impersonal forces do not possess intentionality, and intentionality is a prerequisite of love, the source of all moral good (charity, kindness, friendship, service, humility, etc.), an entity without free will can neither withhold love (constituting moral evil) nor provide it (constituting moral good). When water drowns a man, it does not murder him, and when it satisfies his thirst, it does not spare him; the fire that warms does not seek to comfort, and the fire that consumes does not intend to destroy. These elements are neither cruel nor charitable, they simply behave according to the irresistible natural laws that govern them, and their effects are decided by incident and circumstance.

An entity that is a natural force rather than a personal agent can not provide love, the source of all moral good, any more than a machine can provide love by exclaiming phrases of ostensible affection or affirmation that are merely products of programming that cause it to render a recorded audio file of such words by the hour. Thus, God created a world with free will because, despite the consequence of emergent evil by the same agency, only in such as world is there possibility for any good at all, never mind the greatest potential good.

  1. If my actions are truly free, how can God anticipate them with perfect accuracy prior to my freely deciding to act?

This question arises from a logically unnecessary reversal of the cause and effect relationship of God’s knowledge and our actions. Our actions are not the effect of God’s knowledge, God’s knowledge is the effect of our actions; God knows what we will do because we will do it. The question then follows, “if it is possible for me to freely make an alternative decision to the one God knows, then could He not be subject to inaccuracy?” and the answer would be no. If you were to decide to do something different, then God would know that decision to be the one you would freely make instead.

One could suppose that the confusion may result from the apparent mystery of how God comes to know things, or, more specifically, how He can be omniscient (for more on the subject of God’s omniscience and other attributes, refer to the Argument for the Attributes of God section elsewhere in this Bible Study Companion). This confusion, however, is the product of subjecting God to methods of scrutiny incompatible with an uncaused being, in that we would be trying to understand the cause of something that is not caused. Take God’s strength for example: Where does God “derive” His endless power? Is it from physical training and flawless dieting from eternity, combined with exceptional testosterone levels? Further, if God derives His power from some source, from where does that source derive its power?

You see, it is logically necessary that causes eventually terminate in an ultimate cause for which there is no further cause. An infinite regress of causes is logically impossible, as there can not be an infinite amount of causes before the cause of the present state we are in right now, or this state would not have been reached; in other words, you can not reach the end of the endless. So causes must terminate in a cause that exists eternally (without time and change) and is thus itself without cause in its entirety; that is to say, it exists, as it does, by necessity of its nature.

In conclusion, how God can know all things, including our free choices, is a part of His eternal nature not limited by some inexplicable constraint. To avoid the misimpression that there is some contradiction in our choices causing God’s knowledge with previous statements of it being uncaused, the distinction is to be understood in how God can and why God does. God has the ability to know all things by necessity of His nature; God does know our choices because we would freely make them in a set of circumstances, and by necessity of His nature He knows them.

SUMMARIZING POINT(S)

  • God’s knowledge of our free choices is not the cause of our actions, but our free choices are the cause of God’s knowledge of them.
  • God’s omniscience is a necessary attribute of His nature; His ability to know all things is uncaused, though the free choices we will in fact make are the cause of why He does know them.
  1. Isn’t God showing partiality by creating a soul He foreknew would be condemned if they existed for the purpose of playing a role in leading another soul to salvation?

There are two points to consider in answering this question:

  1. To be partial is to show special favour towards someone or something. God is not being partial in the grace He extends towards any individual at any time in any place, but rather places us each in our contexts with the exclusive purpose of maximizing the number of souls that freely accept the salvation found through Christ alone (Acts 17:26-27). The circumstances vary because the individuals placed in them do, and thus their courses are plotted according to how they will affect other courses and respond to their own. That being said, those who accept salvation and those who reject it do so freely, and those who reject it would do so under any circumstances (Daniel 12:10, Revelations 9:20). Thus, God would be partial if He did not create the wicked who will be self-condemned rather than create them, as He would be favouring souls that would freely choose wickedness over souls that would freely choose righteousness, thereby precluding the one who would choose rightly from enjoying the eternal knowledge of God on account of a reprobate individual who would incessantly reject Him.
  1. This question also neglects to consider that the inadvertent benefit of this self-condemned person’s life will likely extend beyond the salvation of one individual. The person who finds themselves lead to Christ by the direct or indirect causes of this person’s existence will, in many cases, have the broad opportunity to intentionally direct others to the salvation found in Him, resulting in potentially dozens, to hundreds, or even thousands more saved souls. To reemphasize the first point, partiality would be the cause for not creating the self-condemned person at so large an expense, which would be true even if it were only for the one, which is unlikely.

In summation, God being unwilling to create the self-condemned to spare the freely saved would be like a man who refuses to spare the lives of his family in defending them from an armed attacker, who has had many warnings not to enter his house and threaten them, because he does not want to choose between their lives and the assailant’s. The devil has come to steal, kill and destroy, but Christ has come to destroy the devil’s work (John 10:10, 1 John 3:8). If you haven’t already, choose today to put your trust in Jesus as Saviour and Lord and allow Christ to accomplish this in your life.

SUMMARIZING POINT(S)

  • God gives each person equal grace according to their natures, and would be partial by creating a world that favours souls who will freely choose to reject God under any circumstances over souls who would freely choose to accept Him on account of courses that involve the condemned.
  • The inadvertent effect of the self-condemned person’s life will likely extend beyond a single individual, who will in many cases have the opportunity to intentionally lead others to Christ.
  1. Could Christ’s suffering truly be equal to human suffering if He remained divine and incapable of sin despite the addition of His human nature?

As mentioned in the third point of the Argument for the Existence and Goodness of God on pages 7-8, Jesus had to endure the course of the human life, growing from a child into a man, obeying His Father from a truly human perspective, and faced hunger, thirst, fatigue, self-denial, rejection, persecution, mockery, hatred, abandonment, physical attacks, brutality and eventually death. All of these experiences are human experiences, and do not reflect a superseding divine strength. The Scriptures declare that Christ was tempted and suffered in every way as we do, but was without sin (Hebrews 4:15), and though without sin, learned obedience from what He suffered (Hebrews 5:8). That is to say, Jesus learned what obedience requires when demanded of a human being and lived out in the flesh. This is why Jesus could be tempted, though not enticed by evil (being enticed is a symptom of sinful inclinations, not mere humanity, James 1:14), and why He was fearful to endure the full wrath of God against Himself (Luke 22:44), though He went to the cross willingly (Luke 22:42, Hebrews 12:12).

Thus, while Christ’s divinity maintained the perfection of His will, His humanity was experienced with the same fragility as ours because He has inherited a truly human nature in every way in addition to His divine nature; neither one overrides the other, but rather His divinity was subjected to His humanity for the purposes of accomplishing our salvation (Philippians 2:7-8).

Now someone might complain, “but Christ didn’t really sacrifice much considering He was resurrected and restored to glory after His death.” This complaint however, would be rather interesting since this will also be true for all who are in Christ. That is literally the entire message of the Gospel, that we will die to sin and be resurrected to new life to share in Christ’s glory (Romans 6:3-4, Romans 8:30-32, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54). The Christian therefore sacrifices nothing more in surrendering their life, whether in their lifelong fulfilment of their duty to God or the abbreviation of it in martyrdom. But the Christian certainly sacrifices much less, as Christ had to surrender the incommensurable pleasure He had in the Father’s presence (John 17:5) to innocently die a shameful death on account of shameful sinners, while a Christian has to live or die as a justified and sanctified soul that received mercies they didn’t deserve, and grace that abounds to more than they can imagine to inherit eternal life having deserved nothing but death.

Think on the immense sacrifice Christ made in not only His death, but also in His incarnation, taking on the nature of a man and humbling Himself from divine glory, all for the pleasure of allowing you to be with Him where He is and enjoy the glory of His presence forever (John 17:24). Christ doesn’t need us; it is for you that He sacrificed what He did, and no greater sacrifice has ever been made to accomplish something less deserved.

SUMMARIZING POINT(S):

  • Jesus endured all human experiences from an authentically human perspective; He suffered and was tempted in all the ways that we are, yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15)
  • We do not sacrifice more than Christ in life or death, but we do certainly sacrifice much less; Christ sacrificed His incommensurable glory and pleasure with the direct presence of the Father to give you something you don’t deserve, so you can enjoy eternity with Him (John 17:24)

Dwell on the beauty of God’s love for you; it is beyond measure (John 3:16

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