But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, [a city] of Sidon, unto a woman [that was] a widow.
In Luke 4:26-27, our Lord and God Jesus Christ tells us that God sent Elijah to a Gentile widow woman as opposed to a member of His elect nation. When His fellow Jews were reminded of this fact, they became enraged at Jesus Christ and attempted to murder Him. The reason – or the context – was that Jesus Christ challenged their presumptuous attitude towards God and their standing with Him; an attitude that was due to their faithlessness. Israel had placed their trust in the intellectual knowledge that they were the children of Abraham, as opposed to spiritual revelation concerning God’s nature. Hence is the difference between mere belief – which followers of Jesus Christ in in Name only possess (see the goats of Matthew 25:31-46) – and saving faith. The former is artificial, is the product of human reason and emotion, and does not endure until the end. A great example of this is the case of Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8:9-24, who made a human response to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the miracles worked in His Name – the Bible text says that he believed and was baptized – but never experienced new birth, as the apostle Peter testified that his heart was not right and he needed to experience true repentance. (Opponents of the so-called Lordship Salvation doctrine need to take note of Simon Magus). The latter is given only by God, and it always produces true repentance and legitimate salvation from which none can fall away.
Hence we should not be surprised that God sent Elijah to this widow woman. For though Israel was God’s elect nation, not all of Israel was elected unto eternal salvation. An example of this is Judas Iscariot, a Jew whom the Bible explicitly states is eternally damned to hell fire. Further, it is also clearly plain from the Bible that those elected by God unto salvation are not limited to national Israel. This is true of both New Testament times and Old Testament times. The signs are there that God sent Elijah to this widow woman because she was an elect Gentile, and hence a true daughter of Abraham and part of spiritual Israel, Israel of God as described by Paul in Galatians 6:16.
First, consider that this woman knew of God’s nature. In 1 Kings 17:12, this woman swore by God using Yĕhovah‘elohiymchay, meaning as YHWH lives. By giving an oath upon this divine attribute, she recognized the God of Israel as the living God. Now contrast this with Darius, the pagan king of Medo-Persia during the time of Daniel. He referred to the God of Israel as the living God in Daniel 6, but he did not use the divine name (instead he used a more generic term for deity), further Darius was a polytheist, meaning that he believed in other gods (as evident by Daniel 6:7). Note that the decree of Darius in Daniel 6:25-28 commanded that everyone worship the God of Daniel, but (despite the claims of VeggieTales) did not command that YHWH be worshiped exclusively. Worship of other deities was still allowed, and in a polytheistic nation like Medo-Persia, it was obviously going to happen. Yet this widow woman made no reference to other gods, including the false deities of her own country and people. Thus, the knowledge of God of this widow woman exceeded that of King Darius.
Second, this woman obeyed the commandments of God. She knew that Elijah was an Israelite, and suspected him to be a prophet. When Elijah told her to feed him first with her last portion of food, and then feed herself and her son, against all reason and human nature, she obeyed God’s prophet, and through that action obeyed God Himself. She did this obedience through faith, even though it was yet in a seed form. And again, contrast the faithful obedience of this Gentile woman to the faithless rebellion of national Israel (save for the faithful remnant reserved for God by God’s divine decree) and also of those who claim to be Christians but are not like the goats of Matthew 25:31-46.
Third, this woman was aware of her sin condition before God, and it vexed her to a condition of penitence. This is in contrast with the self-righteousness of the Pharisees and Essenes in the time of Jesus Christ, and of Christians who believe in Jesus Christ only through the power of their own flesh (again i.e. Simon Magus). We know this because when her son died, the first thing that she attributes this great calamity to was her own sin (1 Kings 17:18)! She did not blame God directly by accusing Him, or blame Him indirectly by attributing this tragedy to the unfairness of life, but she asked if God sent His prophet to her to bring about the death of her son as punishment for her sins! And in this, she did not deny being sinful, nor did she deny the propriety of God’s punishing her for her sins!
In all of Israel, was there anyone who had this type of knowledge of the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, and how sin has its wages, which is death? And how could anyone, whether Jew or Gentile, have this awareness except by divine revelation? And be not deceived, the knowledge of one’s sinful condition that causes true repentance comes only by Holy Spirit conviction! The Holy Spirit convicts the sinner of his sin, gives the sinner the faith to believe the gospel, and then regenerates the sinner. We see in this narrative that this woman already knew of God and His nature, already knew of her sinfulness (and hence God’s holiness) and already knew of the dire consequences. Now we are beginning to see why God’s prophet was sent to this Gentile woman!
Finally, this woman sees the power of God, the revelation of God, through a miracle: the resurrection of her son. Now keep in mind: national Israel had seen the mighty works of God before and rebelled anyway, including virtually everyone who came out of Egypt. That generation perished in the desert because they lacked true God-given faith, and as a result fell away and tried to stone Moses and go back to Egypt! And in Elijah’s time, Israel SAW God miraculously expose and defeat the prophets of Baal, yet they (again save a remnant that God reserved to Himself, see Romans 11:4 and 1 Kings 19:18) soon began serving Baal again anyway! So where the non-elect have God revealed to them to no lasting positive effect (i.e. those who do not respond to the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ) because of their faithless condition, this woman responded by saying that Elijah is a prophet of God and that the word of the Lord in his mouth was true.
Please do not walk away believing that this woman merely attested that Elijah was a reliable fortune-teller and wonder-worker after the fashion of not a few pagans. This woman spoke “dabar Yĕhovahpeh‘emeth.” Ignore peh which only refers to Elijah being God’s vessel. Instead, focus on dabar Yĕhovah‘emeth. This means “the word of God is truth.” Again, she explicitly stated YHWH, the divine Name, which refers to the Holy Trinity and not merely God the Father (as some, including the Jehovah’s Witnesses cult and the equally false modern Judaism religion, mistakenly believe). “Dabar” means “word.” As we know from John 1 – and the apostle directly translated “dabar” into “logos”, and we know this from his citation of Old Testament texts – “dabar Yĕhovah” means “the Word of God.” The Word of God is none other than Jesus Christ. Emeth means “truth.” Hence when this woman exclaimed dabar Yĕhovah‘emeth she stated “the Word of God is truth”, or “Jesus Christ is truth.” Thus, this woman bore witness of Jesus Christ, a true personal witness that could have only come by the Holy Spirit, and this is so both the Old Testament and New Testament dispensations (for lack of a better term).
Do you doubt? Well, emeth does not only mean “truth” or “true.” It can also mean “faithful.” So, who is referred to in the Bible as “faithful and true”? Why Jesus Christ in Revelation 3:14 and19:11. This Gentile woman in essence referred to two of the Names of Jesus Christ given in the Holy Spirit-inspired scriptures: the Word of God and Faithful and True!
So, she knew of God and His attributes. She obeyed God because of this belief. She knew of God’s holiness and her sin, of the consequences of this sin, and was truly repentant because of it. And she believed in – and publicly testified of – Jesus Christ. The only thing that this woman lacked from the salvation process given in the New Testament was those things that had not yet come to pass (the incarnation and passion of Jesus Christ) and yet her words lacked even less than many conversion techniques and pitches common in evangelical Christianity today! Hence, this widow woman was an Old Testament saint. And it was to this Old Testament saint, whose status as such was by the election and predestination of God the Father from the foundation of the world, that God’s prophet was sent despite her not being a member of national Israel. And therefore this widow woman was an Old Testament example of the New Testament doctrine given in Romans 10:12-13, Galatians 3:28-29, and Colossians 3:11.
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye [be] Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond [nor] free: but Christ [is] all, and in all.
Be not deceived: though Elijah was not sent to a member of national Israel, he was definitely sent to a member of spiritual Israel. Whether Jew or Gentile, it is imperative that one must be a member of spiritual Israel so that one can reign forever with Jesus Christ in New Jerusalem and avoid the wrath certain to come to those who are not members of this spiritual nation. If you wish to join Israel of God but do not know how, please read:
I have the opinion that the case of Abijah in 1 Kings 14:1-18 can be used as an example to explain the doctrines of grace. My example does not deal directly with the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Old Testament saints; yet the principles of the doctrines of grace are still present. The text from Biblegateway appears below.
At that time Abijah the son of Jeroboam fell sick. And Jeroboam said to his wife, Arise, I pray thee, and disguise thyself, that thou be not known to be the wife of Jeroboam; and get thee to Shiloh: behold, there is Ahijah the prophet, which told me that I should be king over this people. And take with thee ten loaves, and cracknels, and a cruse of honey, and go to him: he shall tell thee what shall become of the child. And Jeroboam’s wife did so, and arose, and went to Shiloh, and came to the house of Ahijah. But Ahijah could not see; for his eyes were set by reason of his age. And the LORD said unto Ahijah, Behold, the wife of Jeroboam cometh to ask a thing of thee for her son; for he is sick: thus and thus shalt thou say unto her: for it shall be, when she cometh in, that she shall feign herself to be another woman. And it was so, when Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, as she came in at the door, that he said, Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam; why feignest thou thyself to be another? for I am sent to thee with heavy tidings. Go, tell Jeroboam, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Forasmuch as I exalted thee from among the people, and made thee prince over my people Israel, And rent the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it thee: and yet thou hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes; But hast done evil above all that were before thee: for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back: Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone. Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat: for the LORD hath spoken it. Arise thou therefore, get thee to thine own house: and when thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die. And all Israel shall mourn for him, and bury him: for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing toward the LORD God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam. Moreover the LORD shall raise him up a king over Israel, who shall cut off the house of Jeroboam that day: but what? even now. For the LORD shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river, because they have made their groves, provoking the LORD to anger. And he shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, who did sin, and who made Israel to sin. And Jeroboam’s wife arose, and departed, and came to Tirzah: and when she came to the threshold of the door, the child died; And they buried him; and all Israel mourned for him, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by the hand of his servant Ahijah the prophet.
The TULIP acronymn is often used to simplify and summarize the presentation of the doctrines of grace, often referred to as Reformed theology or Calvinism. Consider this to be TULIP as it pertains to this Abijah.
Total Depravity: 1 Corinthians 15:22 tells us “in Adam all die”, a reference to original sin condition of all mankind that is the result of the disobedience of Adam, the originator and thus federal head of the entire human race. As Abijah is a descendant of Adam, he was considered a sinner, an enemy of God, separated from God, and dead to spiritual things. Romans 5:10-14 makes these facts, i.e. the state of our enmity with God, that this state and with it death was passed on to Adam’s descendants, clear. Note that it is because of this total depravity due to original sin that God can declare a death sentence on an entire family based on the actions of one person - as God did to the line of Jeroboam, father of Abijah, because of Jeroboam’s wicknedness and idolatry – and not be called unjust.
Unconditional election: God declared that of all the house of Jeroboam, only Abijah would receive an honorable burial. The reason for this was not because of the righteousness of Abijah, for Abijah was a child (so described by Hebrew word na’ar in verse 3 and yeled in verses 12 and 17). And God did not make a special case for Abijah because of his age, as God ordered the destruction of juveniles in many other cases, including the firstborn in Egypt. Instead, the reason why Abijah alone of the line of Jeroboam was given honor by God before all Israel was “because in him there is found some good thing toward the LORD God of Israel.” This good thing was grace; of God’s choosing Abijah and Abijah alone “in the house of Jeroboam”, the wicked king who turned Israel to idols. The election of the child Abijah was an act of a sovereign God alone, which Abijah having no ability to either consent to or reject the decree of El Shaddai.
Limited Atonement (though I prefer the Baptistic term particular atonement instead): in a dream the angel of the Lord revealed to Joseph concerning Jesus Christ that He would save His people from their sins (Mat 1:21). “His people” does not refer to national Israel, but the church, those called righteous and redeemed in both Old Testament and New Testament times. Jesus Christ stated that His death was not intended for all, but only for His friends in John 15:13-14. Note that Jesus Christ spoke those words not in public, but only to the apostles at the last supper, and moreover after Judas Iscariot, the son of perdition, had been dismissed from the room – and from the scope of Jesus Christ’s words as pertaining to whom Jesus Christ called His friends and for whom He was going to die – in John 13:27. God gave Abijah an honorable physical death because Abijah was considered by the calling and election of God – and God so chose Abijah and not Abijah God in accordance to the words of Jesus Christ in John 15:16 – and as such Abijah was God’s friend. Jeroboam and the rest of Abijah’s house, however, was not.
Irresistible grace: Revelation 13:8 reveals that Abijah’s name was written in the Lamb’s book of life from the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4 reveals that Abijah was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. Abijah was called to God as a juvenile, and died as a juvenile. As such, Abijah had no opportunity to resist, defy or undo God’s plan to save him. As a result, the standing of Abijah before God declared in 1 Kings 14:13, “in him there is found some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel”, was going to be retained; this decree of God was going to come to pass.
Perseverance of the saints: Abijah was a child in a household that was totally given over to idolatry. Jeroboam, his father, chose idolatry to retain his political power. Further, his mother was the daughter of the Egyptian pharaoh Shishak. Had Abijah lived to adulthood, he would have been reared and molded in this revolting spiritual environment. A study of the Kings and Chronicles books of the Bible reveals that pagan queens (of Judah and Israel) generally resulted in their sons’ being pagan kings. This Abijah should be considered an Old Testament “type” of the “once saved always saved” doctrine where Jesus Christ stated “no one will snatch them out of my hand” (concerning those given to God the Son by God the Father) in John 10:29.
So, the case of young Abijah, a child redeemed from the wickedness of the house of Jeroboam, was honored in death (though premature death was considered regrettable in Israel, the manner of his death was still preferable in that culture to that of the rest of his family) and had this honorable state and status before God preserved in the the Bible by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, can hence be used to understand the doctrines of grace. This is not some mere exercise, but rather our understanding of the doctrines of grace should give us ever more reason to worship, praise and glorify the God who grants this grace, for it is only by this grace that we are able to receive so great a salvation.
Have you experienced the grace of God? If you have not, I urge you to follow
Yet another attempt of mine to stab at a complex topic from my ignorance, but here goes. It is commonly asserted that the predestination position as regards to salvation must be rejected because it is unfair to condemn someone to such an unspeakable fate as eternity in the lake of fire without that person having a choice in the matter. In our modern humanistic western mindsets, we define fairness as universality and equality of opportunity where each person rises to whatever heights that he may as a function of his own individual merits. Not only have we dedicated immense resources to attempting to conform our world into some utopia where such a thing is possible, but we conform our entire thinking according to this mindset. This explains why such things as racial, class, gender, religious, tribal, national, sexual preference, etc. bigotry, racism, and discrimination were taken as a fact of life worthy of no real consideration just a few short ages ago but are now considered horrible offenses against the human race. Now we do acknowledge that this fairness and equality of opportunity can never be practically reached – nonliberal Christians especially so – but we nonetheless view merely striving for it as a self – rewarding endeavor containing an inherent noble virtue.
It is no surprise, then, that our notions of fairness would influence, and as such be imposed upon, our theology. For God to be righteous means that God has to be fair, and fairness means giving everyone equality of opportunity by virtue of making salvation a free will choice to accept Jesus Christ. As far as the people who have never heard the gospel? Well that is an allowance for the fact that the utopia of equality cannot be achieved in a world that fell into sin through Adam.
The truth is, however, that there is a real tension: the fairness only applies to people that hear the gospel. The people that hear the gospel and choose to accept or reject it are the only ones that receive the sort of fair and equal treatment that is mandated by such things as the 14th amendment or the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For people who never hear the message of Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected, this standard of “fairness” and “equality” is as irrelevant as are the 14th amendment and the Civil Rights Act to anyone living in China or Sudan right now. Just as the great many western human rights activists could honestly care less about the inequality and unfairness experienced by people who live in those regimes, their theological counterparts truthfully must limit their notion of fairness to a single subset: the very tiny percentage of the population in human history that has ever been in a position to respond to an offer of covenant relationship with God through special revelation. So then, if the truth be known universalism (not the belief that everyone will be saved but rather that there is saving grace present in all religions) is the only thing that can satisfy this notion of equality and fairness.
So it leaves the real problem: how can making salvation conditional on one’s personal decision for Jesus Christ be fair in any sense when so many have never had the opportunity to meet the condition? In that respect, it is grotesquely, manifestly UNFAIR that I was born in modern America as opposed to, say, inland China in 42 AD. It is unfair not only to my ancient Chinese counterpart, but it is unfair to ME that I should have my own fate in my own hands while tainted with the effects of original sin.
God forbid that this should transpire regarding myself, but for the sake of exercise imagine if at some point in our mutual shared torment my ancient Chinese counterpart is sitting in the flame next to me. That fellow would turn to me and say “My fate is quite understandable, but what is your excuse?” My response would have to be “None save than the love of sin that I not only could not overpower by my own strength, but truthfully did not want to even if I could have.” What would be the only honest rejoinder that my companion in torment would be capable of making? “Ah well, then I have nothing to complain about, for had the choice been up to me I would done the same as you.”
And that would be perfectly true, because even the appearance of choice would have been but the cruelest of illusions. It would have been the pretense of an equal fair choice when in truth there would have been no choice at all, a “heads I win, tails you lose” situation. For what can overpower sin but the grace of God? And if original sin can be overcome by the mere choice of a sinner, then why is grace needed in the first place? Free will makes grace not only incidental and superfluous, but a hindrance to the execution of true justice in terms of both the individual sinner and cosmic terms, and unspeakably cruel not only to those that are never offered it, but those that are offered it but lack the strength to receive it by their own initiative.
There is more still. Aren’t some people just inherently stronger than others? More moral? More virtuous? The Bible certainly says so, even to the point of there being even places in the kingdom of heaven according to one’s righteousness. So if salvation is based on free will, cannot the person that failed to exercise it blame the God that created and foreknew him for “making him weak”? If it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven, then why, God, did you suffer me to be born into an extremely wealthy family? How, God, was that fair? Sure, I heard the gospel, but You said in and by Your own Word “blessed are the poor!” So then I did not have an equal fair chance to the slave person living in poverty and oppression that accepted Jesus Christ as her only hope and reason for living!
For those and many other reasons, it cannot be said that the free will position is more fair, more equal, more just, and again not only for the sakes of those that do not hear the gospel, but those who hear it but choose to live in their natural state of original sin and love of the world. Instead, it can only be fair if God Himself chooses whom He will save – and whom He will not – according to His own prerogative just as He exercised a similar sole prerogative through creation in the first place.
Update: though I am now TULIP, I will not take the chauvinistic attitudes against LILAC Christians as exhibited by things like this link: The “god” Of Arminianism and this: Free-Willism Preaches Another Jesus. Claiming that free will Christians aren’t going to heaven cannot be supported by honest interpretation of scripture. Thank you.
I was raised in free will Christianity and had an entire worldview shaped around it that seemed quite logical to me. However, it is now based on that same logic that I must reject the doctrine of Jacobus Arminius with regards to the salvation of man. The tipping point for me was reading an excerpt of a letter from Pelagius, opponent of Augustine and Jerome, to Demetrias. In it, Pelagius, who espoused free will and denied the existence of original sin, asserted that God had given all men the strength to choose good or evil, and that it was our responsibility to use it. He did allow that said strength was somewhat limited, but that God knew that limitation for He knew how much strength He gave us. Still, God gave us sufficient strength to continuously exercise good over evil.
Keep in mind that this is a holy God who hates sin and loves His creation. So then, why then would this God not give us enough strength never to sin at all, knowing that the result would not only be the corruption that He hates but the damnation of His creation to eternal wrath? It it has to be because either He would not or that He could not. Go one way and God is not a God of love. Go another way and God is not all powerful. The result of either is having no God at all.
Also, consider that man does have the ability to choose salvation, even if this ability is not inherent in man but rather a gift of the same common grace that is available to all men. That, then place the responsibility on God to get men to accept salvation. To use a business analogy, God would then be the salesman, humanity would be the consumer, and Jesus Christ would be the product. If this is so, then that makes God the worst salesman in the history of the universe! Consider that fast food restaurants have no problem selling expensive unhealthy low quality food that any benefits derived from eating will disappear like chaff in a furnace (the negative health effects will last somewhat longer especially if you consume such “food” with any regularity) but God’s Son is available for free with immeasurable benefits that accrue over time and last an eternity.
And what are the consequences of passing up McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, or the Chinese food buffet? Missing a meal or having to “settle” for a sandwich made from whatever you can find in your refrigerator. (I suggest living with those consequences whenever possible.) But the consequences of passing up Jesus Christ is eternal wrath. So is our God so incompetent a salesman that He is unable to convince even an utter fool of the merits of His FREE merchandise? Considering not so much that the sovereign holy righteous God would never immolate and humiliate Himself before man in order to beg His acceptance in the first place, but this scenario requires believing that He would do such a thing only to be grotesquely incompetent at it.
Make no mistake, the existence of free will makes every the failure of each and every man that rejects God a failure of God … a failure due to some flaw, unrighteousness, or lack of knowledge in God that cannot be blamed on man. And this is very important in questions regarding the goodness or fairness of God. You may with your human judgment condemn God for being partial, arbitrary, and even cruel for refusing to save everyone. That is fine with me. The reason is that for me the existence of God is made self evident by virtue of creation. I find the existence of a God that may appear less than fair according to limited human understanding by refusing to save everyone preferable to that of a God that is clearly incompetent by any understanding that wants to save everyone but is not only incapable of accomplishing it, but moreover only succeeds in saving a small number! It appears that we are so often needful to believe in a God that is “fair” to suit our own purposes that that even a reasonably competent God – let alone the God of the Bible that is sovereign, holy, high and lifted up, righteous, loving, gracious, and powerful – gets rejected in the process.
So I am now forced to cease resisting the meaning of John 10:25-28 “Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”
Up until very recently I sincerely felt that Christians could speed the return of Jesus Christ by doing works, such as spreading the gospel. But now I find out by reading “Messiah In The Old Testament” by the (rather liberal but still orthodox) Walter Kaiser out that the Pharisees had that same error. They were correct in presuming that their failure to keep the law resulted in their nation being sent into captivity and subjected to brutal subjugation. They were correct that the prophets who foretold their current fate also spoke of a coming Messiah. So then, what was their error? A perfectly understandable mistake: that if disobeying the law caused them to lose their nation, monarchy, and sovereignty, then keeping the law would cause these things to be restored by the Messiah that their prophets spoke of. Of course, the natural progression was that the Jews could speed the return of the Messiah by being VERY ZEALOUS, but that being “less than zealous” would hinder his coming. That is why their actions against Jesus Christ, who like John Hagee His being Messiah they rejected, were very understandable … they thought that His using His influence with the people to disobey their interpretation of the law was hindering the restoration of Israel and the Messianic age.
This belief did not die, incidentally. The reason why Jews went from tolerating Jesus Christ’s Jewish followers as a sect within Judaism (if an errant bothersome one … though they far from the only ones considered errant and bothersome) to expelling them from their synagogues as apostates and heretics was because they were ultimately scapegoated for the destruction of the temple in 70 AD and Jerusalem in 117 AD. Why? Because they were following the Man who taught them to disobey the law, causing God to punish us as He did in 586 BC. (Of course, this is not said directly, instead they say that the reason why the second temple was destroyed was “the lack of unity.”) And though this is similarly rarely spoken of, some Jewish leaders blamed the Holocaust on a number of Jews going after secularism and liberalism (Conservative and Reform Judaism) and a general failure to keep the Sabbath. And to this day, the goal of rabbinic Judaism is to cause God to grant the Jewish nation their Messiah.
Is it an oversimplification to say that the Pharisees were too preoccupied and self – assured in their doctrines that they could bring cause the Messiah to come through works that they did not recognize the Messiah when He came to them not by their works to do their Will but by God’s grace to do God’s Will? For it must be said: the Word of God says that if a man labors, he must reap the benefits thereof. If even the ox that treads the corn should not be muzzled, how much more so should a man that labors be? So the inevitable conclusion is that with anything that man produces with works, man can take some credit for it. Man can take some ownership of it. Man can have some control over it. As such, the Messiah produced by works would have been THEIR Messiah to do THEIR Will, even if only least in part. So when Jesus Christ came to do not their Will in any sense but God’s, and was so not owned by or beholden to man that He did no so much as have a human father, they rejected Him because He was not the creation of their own hands. Nay, He was not the creation of ANY, but rather the uncreated God, the Word of the Trinity.
That is why our own salvation cannot be the result of works. If we labored in any least sense, in any jot or tittle, then that would give us that much ownership rights and control over our souls. That would deprive God not only of His due glory, but His ownership rights as our sole creator and sole managers of our destiny. And since works produce works, it would give preachers and evangelists ownership rights over those converted by their efforts! Now imagine the effect of this … the great masses of the redeemed dwelling with God in heaven, not only with each having a claim on himself and many having claims on others, but the combined net worth effect of their collective claims! For eternity! (Believe in interest perhaps?) So I say “God forbid!” Such a thing cannot not be and will not be. What say you?
And that brings us to the Imminent return of our Lord and Savior Y’shua HaMashiach, better known as Jesus Christ. If it were possible to facilitate or speed His return by the gospel or any other works, we would have a claim on His Return and Him with it! Since all things were created by the Word (John 1:3) through Him we would have a claim on the entire creation. And since He is one with the Holy Spirit, we would through Him have a claim on the Holy Spirit. And since He is one with the Father, we would through Him have a claim on the Father. And because sinful man would have a valid legal claim on the Father, the Father would no longer be holy and no longer sovereign. The result? He would be a false god, no god at all! God forbid that such a thing should happen. So now, Christian, do you see the error of works based theology?
Yet works based theology is alive and well in Christendom, and it is not limited to the Roman Catholic Church. It is alive and well in the Protestant movement too. Let me give you three ways.
1. Tithing. The practice was for the Old Testament only and for a specific purpose: to support the priests who stood before God’s presence as man’s mediator. The Book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus Christ is our priest forever after the order of Melchisedec. From that, if you continue to tithe to your pastor or church, two things can reasonably be inferred. A. It is your pastor and your church and not Jesus Christ that is the mediator between you and the Father. Please realize that such is the position of the Roman Catholic Church. I cannot help but – after a somewhat whimsical fashion – wonder if Matthew 23:9 “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven” is a prophetic polemic against the Roman Catholic practice to come. B. That Jesus Christ either never came, never died, or never resurrected. Those who continue this practice in ignorance of the truth do so in ignorance of the truth. But to those that have come into the knowledge of the truth, new covenant giving is to be directed by 2 Corinthians 9:7 which reads: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart,so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
2. The prosperity/Word of Faith movement, where we are taught that we receive things from God not according to grace, but by works. The prosperity doctrine the works are actually somewhat indirect through obedience (to quote Jesse DuPlantis, “the prosperity doctrine is an obedience doctrine”) and compulsory giving (John Hagee teaches that those who do not tithe will have their wages cursed by God, and that you will receive a greater blessing for giving to Jews and Israel than elsewhere). But the Word of Faith movement is more direct in telling people that you can bit a bridle and harness in the mouth of God, hop upon His back, and drive and command Him to use His Power to control nature and history as you see fit! It was from Albert Pendarvis of http://www.radiomissions.org – who ironically is located a few miles away from Jesse DuPlantis – whom I first heard warn Christians against those preachers that were “commanding God, not respecting Him, and misusing His Name” in the charismatic movement, especially the faith healers. Of course I was a full gospel Kenneth Hagin Word of Faith/prosperity adherent at the time so I rejected him at the time, but now I must acknowledge the truth in his preaching in this matter. These doctrines deny grace and try to co – opt, manipulate, and control God.
3. Christian Zionism. If you are a dispensational pre – tribulation rapture doctrine adherent, I shall not speak against you for believing in that doctrine. What I do speak against is how so many pastors who hold this view teach that we can speed or facilitate the return of Jesus Christ based on it! For instance, some Christians are helping finance the return of Jews to Israel. But the Bible says that it is the Messiah’s job to do this in Jeremiah 23:3-6. Some Christians are helping Jews breed red heifers so that the Jews can restart their sacrifices in the temple. Why are we facilitating that which we no there is no profit but instead is a snare, an act of rebellion against everything that Hebrews says? Are we helping the Muslims practice their religion? Why not? Are they not the children of Abraham too? Are we aiding the Hindus, Mormons, and Scientologists in their abominations? Did Jesus Christ come in the flesh, die on the cross for our sins, and rise again on the third day or not? Did He do such a thing for the Jew first and then the Gentile or did He not? Are we ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Jews’ presence? For the Jews’ sake? Well what John Hagee is now preaching is merely the fruition, the logical conclusion of that mindset!
And speaking of John Hagee, it is not enough to speak of his dual covenant theology, though it is bad. Hagee, Robertson, and their fellow travelers use “defending Israel” as an license to justify whatever level of atrocity and militarization of the Middle East they desire. With Hagee, his running a “Christian AIPAC” gives a third tier televangelist from San Antonio great wealth and power. And as for Robertson, who does own oil interests, how much is his personal wealth increased by oil being over $100 a barrel? And how much higher will the price of oil go if our government assassinates Hugo Chavez as Pat Robertson suggested? How much higher will it go if we invade Iran as Hagee demands? Now Hagee prophesied (back when I was a fan of his show) that we would be at war with Iran by now and that Jesus Christ would come back a few months later. Put all the details in his best – selling books. A false prophet that no one has held accountable? Of course!
But consider what would happen if Hagee was RIGHT. That would mean that it would be possible for even crooks, liars, thieves, and false prophets to have a claim on God if works doctrines be true. Though they are false preachers, the gospel is preached through these fellows, and people are saved by it. But you can see the effects of people perceiving works doctrines to be true? These pastors have tens, possibly hundreds, of millions of people at their command, onward Christian soldiers marching to war! Blood, violence, disease, starvation, death, and poverty for the many. All for the profit of a few. Is that the gospel of Jesus Christ? Maybe a false Jesus Christ that you can own through works, but not the true Jesus Christ obtained only by grace. We are to show love to God’s people and His holy city, certainly, but the way that the Bible tells us to. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Support the legitimate needs of Jews out of love and obedience to God, not expecting blessings in return or in support of a political agenda. And to also give aid to the Palestinians so as to not show partiality.
So in the final analysis we must come to the conclusion that man can do nothing to speed the return of Jesus Christ. No one knows the day or the hour. Jesus Christ is returning when the Father sees fit. The sovereign God will determine when Christ will return. God is not hindered by man, He is not frustrated by man, He is not dependent upon man. God is sovereign. 2 Peter 3:9 declares that it is by the grace of God and not the works of man that has hindered the coming of Jesus Christ to this day, and it will be by that same grace that Jesus Christ comes to rescue the church from this life and punish all else for its uncleanness. Yes, it is said that Christ will not return until the gospel is preached throughout the world, and that does mean that evangelism and missionary work should be done in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth from the least to the greatest, the youngest to the oldest. But even that will not be our doing lest any man should boast, but rather God’s doing. I am going to co – opt the words that so offended the renowned missionary William Carey and say that when it pleases God to evangelize the world He will do it without your help or mine. He will do it without the ecumenical movements. He will do it without the TBN satellites that Paul Crouch asserted in one of his mass mailings was the angel flying around the world proclaiming the gospel in Revelation 14:6.
The sovereign God will do this by His grace! And when history comes to a close, all creation will see that God does not need us. Instead, it is we that need Him. The only question is whether people realize this in due time or in past time. Those who do so in due time will receive eternal life as a reward. Those who fail? Eternal wrath and destruction. Will you do so know? Will you bow before the Great King of creation, acknowledge that you need Him, and submit yourself to Him? I urge you to do so now, for tomorrow is not promised. There are many people that were here yesterday that presumed that they would be here today that are not. Are you better than they are? If so, how? I say this not to frighten or manipulate you but rather because I am concerned about you, and also because it is undeniably true. If you have not acknowledged the sovereignty of God, please do so. Follow The Three Step Salvation Plan right now.
While the video below makes an excellent case, to me it does not adequately deal with Titus 2:10b-11: – “that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things, For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” Were the Reformed Christians themselves not the one making the proposition of common grace – the grace that is given to all men – is not saving grace – the irresistable grace given to the predestined elect to bring about their salvation – I would make nothing of Titus 2:10b-11, especially since my employment of this scripture violates my own rule of only using scripture in context, as the passage in which it appears seems to be more about how those already saved should live than about salvation. Yet Titus 2:10b-11 does exist, so it must be dealt with.