“…and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed…”

pauldamscusstainedglass

“…and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed…”

Remember, God can save who He wants to save.  The Jews saw the gentiles as dirty compared to themselves.  The next time you are tempted to look down on someone because of their race, or some other reason, and think that salvation can’t be for them, remember the Jews and gentiles.  God will save anyone He has determined to save.  He doesn’t try and then fail.  What He sets out to do, He accomplishes.  Paul was a murderer, not just that, but a persecutor of Christ’s Church.  After his conversion he thought of himself as the chief of sinners, yet he was born again.  Christ put him off his horse, blinded him, while making him see, and then made him an Apostle.  Ananias feared Paul and didn’t want to go to him initially until God told him this, “15But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;” Jesus made Paul His slave, and Paul loved his Lord and Master.  Paul brought the gospel to the gentiles with passion and fervor from the Lord, and the Church was built, with Christ as the Chief cornerstone and the Apostles laying the foundation, by the power of the Holy Spirit, according to the will of the Father.

44The next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of the Lord. 45But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. 46Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.

47“For so the Lord has commanded us,
‘I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES,
THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.’”

48When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. 49And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. 50But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. 51But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. 52And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:44-52 NASB)

The Sovereignty of God in Salvation According to Acts Chapter 11.

cornelius-francesco-trevisani

In the first part of Chapter 11 we read that Peter, who was a Jew, and an Apostle of Christ, was in Joppa when he had the vision about the sheet with the unclean animals being dropped down. As a Jew there were animals he was not permitted to eat as they were considered ceremonially unclean. Now, without the context of the surrounding scriptures one might assume that this section of scripture is about making all foods acceptable to eat, although it is true that we can eat anything as long as we give thanks for it, this section of scripture should not be used as a prooftext for that truth. We would cite Mark 7, and 1 Corinthians 10 for that support.

This section of scripture is actually, about the gentiles. As of this time they were not considered by the Apostles when the gospel was preached. In this vision Peter was being prepared to preach the gospel to even the gentiles. We know the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. It is the means to that end. We also know that people cannot know it unless someone comes to them to preach it. This notion was confirmed to Peter when the men sent to him by the Roman Cornelius arrived.

In verse 14 we read, “and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.” This is in regard to Peter and what he will say to the gentile household. Notice what happens? he will speak words… by which you will be saved… For everyone who is a fan of friendship evangelism read that over and over again.

The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. It must be preached with words. “16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” (NASB Strong’s) Romans 1:16-17. It is the means God has ordained by which to save the elect.

14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”
16 However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (NASB Strong’s) Romans 10:14-17. You’ll notice that the gentiles received the Holy Spirit after they came to faith for it says in verse 17 that they believed first. “Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” You’ll also notice that it is God Himself who gives them the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is not imparted by a Priest or any man. He is not imparted by a ceremony, or some tradition. Those He indwells, He indwells by the will of the Father. In verse 18 we also see that the repentance that leads to life is granted by God according to His will, and the work of Christ on the cross as expressed in the gospel that was preached to them. “When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.”

The Word of God is truly wonderful. When we know it, and are informed by it, we can make decisions that are faithful to God. We are called to do what is right as Christians. Preaching the gospel of Christ is our mission. Repent and believe!

Peter Reports at Jerusalem
1 Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem,  those who were circumcised took issue with him, 3 saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4 But Peter began speaking and proceeded to explain to them in orderly sequence, saying, 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object coming down like a great sheet lowered by four corners from the sky; and it came right down to me, 6 and when I had fixed my gaze on it and was observing it I saw the four-footed animals of the earth and the wild beasts and the crawling creatures and the birds of the air. 7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘By no means, Lord, for nothing unholy or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 But a voice from heaven answered a second time, ‘What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’ 10 This happened three times, and everything was drawn back up into the sky. 11 And behold, at that moment three men appeared at the house in which we were staying, having been sent to me from Caesarea. 12 The Spirit told me to go with them without misgivings. These six brethren also went with me and we entered the man’s house. 13 And he reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; 14 and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 18 When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” (NASB Strong’s) Acts 11:1-18

You know what gets me angry?

Idolatry-300x217

You know what gets me angry? When you are talking with a, “liberal Christian” and they accuse you of idolatry when you quote the Bible to them in opposition of their beliefs. They actually accuse me of worshiping the Bible.  How idiotic and offensive is that!? I used to respond by trying to explain. I thought perhaps they don’t understand. I quote the Bible not because I worship it, but because it is the Word of God. It is the mind of Christ, that we may know Him and His will for us, but that isn’t the case.

They have heard that before and reject it to some degree. It is their way of saying, anyone who loves righteousness more than approving of all the sexual perversion people want to engage in is not really a Christian. They believe in whatever they feel like. They have a very low view of scripture, because they have a low view of the God whose Word it is. It is frankly disgusting, and I’m tired of liberals using it as a defense/red herring to get me off track.

Instead of continuing on in the direction of correction, I used to get derailed and attempt to defend my belief in God and His Word as not being idolatrous, but no longer. When liberals make that accusation now, just respond with, “You sir/ma’am are the idolater! You have made for yourself another God. You worship not the one true and living God, but rather a perverted god who would embrace all kinds of sin and approve of it. You worship and unjust god who wants you to feel good now, but knows you will spend eternity in hell with him having the wrath of God poured out on you for all eternity! Repent and believe the true gospel of Christ!

The Will of Man, Transcendent God, and Unfolding Time.

choseus

I know many people have a difficult time understanding how God could have already made everything in our futures a reality without violating our will, or making Himself ultimately guilty for what we do. Just like many of the theological problems we have, I think this also comes from our finite nature as well as being under the noetic effect of sin. I would like to explain how it could be that God has ordained or determined everything in eternity, and we remain culpable for our sin. Remember, this is just one way I think it could be. I am not certain, but it does seem reasonable to me.

We live in space-time. We experience life instance to instance, moment to moment like a line drawn through and connecting many drops of water on a surface. The drops are moments in our lives. The drops ahead are truly there. They are actual, but not yet realized by us. As such, there is truly only one path, not many. There are not infinite numbers of alternate realities, only one actual one not yet realized by us as creatures moving through space and time.

As we pass from one instance to the next, the two are connected. We have lived and are living in a seemingly linear progression to the grave. Once we die we stop experiencing time in this fashion. We move from these many instances to one infinite instance, an age without time, eternity with God. God is the Creator of time. He transcends time, and is not bound by it the way we are as creatures. For us time is an unfolding progressive revelation of what is already actual. For God I think that in eternity He has already done everything. The future, our futures are determined. We don’t experience life that way here in the material world, but in eternity it is fixed.

Think about God’s word and prophecy. When an Old Testament prophet spoke, he said, “Thus sayeth the Lord.” Then, the prophecy came. Some of us might think that when that was happening the prophet was merely telling the future. In a sense he was telling the future, but more accurately he was telling us what God had already determined in eternity about our linear experience of life bound by space and time. Since the Bible is completely revealed to us, and Christ is the word incarnate, we no longer have prophets that speak new things to us. A modern prophet quotes the Bible out loud to people.

Our experience is one where we make choices in keeping with our natures connected to each instance in space-time. When we are fearful of the future, we are saying that we don’t trust God to get it the way we want it. We should be thinking about how we can glorify God in each moment that He has already made actual when we experience it. We experience thinking about what choices to make, what the consequences could be, what the rewards of our choice could bring, and we make decisions, as well as experience the consequences of those decisions.

God is not surprised at all by our decisions or the results. He has every person who has ever lived, all their instances, all of yours and mine, from past, present, and future, all woven together in His sovereign will to work out for good. If we trust that God is truly good, and truly sovereign, and realize how sinful we are contrasted to His holiness, then we can start to see that His will is the best.

The fuller truth about our volitions is that transcendentally they are working according to God’s sovereign decrees and ordinances. The creaturely experience of an unfolding space-time is limiting and useful for God’s purposes. In it, He gives us one moment to the next to learn about ourselves, the world, Him, His gospel, and His elect will respond to the gospel. In the limits He has set for us, we grow and are sanctified. It is a process He determined to use, and is good.

So trust the one true good and sovereign God with your future. Make your decisions, and experience the results, but don’t unhinge your culpability to blame God for your experiences. It is not a paradox to use your will, but ultimately have your will predetermined in eternity. It is only paradoxical if you have a lower view of God, and your own sin.

Let’s face it, our wills are the problem. Our goal is to become more like Christ. I’ve sorrowed over my sins, and truly asked God to replace my wicked will with His so that I no longer desire sin. In eternity when we have our glorified bodies, we won’t sin. Does that mean our wills will be replaced with a Godly one? What would that look like? You can find out. If you haven’t already, repent of your sins. Trust the work of Jesus who while on the cross made atonement for the sins of the elect. He finished the work there and justified those He was saving to God. Repent and believe.

Ever Wanted to Ask a Lutheran Some Questions? Now’s Your Chance.

Daniel Landin

Hello everyone, I’d like to introduce you all to Daniel Landin. He is a Pastor of a Lutheran Church. I’ve asked him to participate in some question and answer format interactions for the purpose of learning more about each other’s respective Churches, and theological positions, as well as for his insight into some particularly Lutheran things. Feel free to send me your questions.  I will select a some to ask Daniel in a future article.  Before we get started, Daniel could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Q. Where did you grow up?

A. I was born in Pittsburgh, PA and grew up on a small family farm in the awesome little town of Sugar Grove, PA, right on the NY-PA border.

Q. Were you raised in a Christian home?

A. Yes. God has blessed me beyond belief to have been born into a family with a rich Christian heritage. My family on my father’s side immigrated from Sweden in the 1870s and brought with them their huge family Bible which resides in my parents’ dining room to this day. Faith in Jesus Christ has played a huge role in my family’s life and continues to do so.

Q. Could you share your testimony with us?

A. I truly cannot remember a time when I did not have faith in and a love for Jesus Christ. As I stated in the previous answer, I was born into a Christian home and was blessed to be raised by two loving Christian parents. I did pray many various “prayers of salvation” during my childhood and adolescent years, so I won’t pinpoint a specific day of conversion on any of those. I believe that I have had faith in Christ from before the time that I have any memories of something different.

I’ve always had a strong interest in the Bible and learning more and more about who God is and how God has interacted with people from the very beginning. My grandfather and great uncle were both the same way and loved discussing various doctrines, theologies, and passages from scripture and I would try my best to interject and converse with them, even when I was around eight or nine years old. I’ve also always had a strong interest in history, so that interest coupled with a love for Christ and the Bible drew me into many times of deep study. My love for Christ and his Word led me to get my college degree in biblical studies and I was blessed to also be able to go through seminary as well.

I did go through a rough time during high school meeting many crises of faith including the death of my grandmother from lung cancer and my own fall into sexual sin with my girlfriend at the time. I dealt with some serious depression because of all the negatives from that year and because I bought into Satan’s lie that, since I had fallen into that specific sin, I had ruined all chances of ever being married to a Godly Christian woman. Due to my depression, which I hid from everyone I knew, I contemplated suicide many times until the day I held a revolver in my hand. By the grace of God, I felt a rush of God’s love at that moment and, whether it was audible or only in my spirit, I heard God saying, “Stop! I love you. You have so much more to live for. Trust in me!” From that point on, I thank God for not only saving me from death and hell, but also saving my life at that point.

There have been many people who have been influential in my life and in my walk of faith. Most important over the past thirteen years has been my wife Stephanie. Her own faith and her love and encouragement have had a large impact on me. A large part of that was experienced the day I confessed my past transgressions and she immediately said, “I forgive you, because Jesus has already forgiven you!” That was an amazing moment for the two of us, but especially for me to experience the love of Christ through her selfless forgiveness. It has been a special thing to live this life of faith with her.

Q. How did you meet your Wife?

A. We met in high school choir of all places! I was a senior and she was a sophomore. We started dating that year and maintained a long-distance relationship during the next three years while she finished high school and did a year of community college before joining me at Roberts Wesleyan College.

Q. How long have you been married?

A. We got married the summer after I graduated from Roberts Wesleyan College in 2009 and we just celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary this week on August 1st. We have been blessed with three boys aged 4, 2, and 1 and we have a fourth waiting for us in heaven.

Q. What changes have you undergone in your faith since your conversion?

A. Quite a few I would say! I grew up in the Evangelical Covenant Church, the denomination my family has been a part of for over a hundred years. One of the main emphases of that denomination is on the supremacy of scripture. We were taught that the Bible is the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine, and conduct and to ask the question, “Where is it written?” while working through various issues in life and faith. I went to a Free Methodist college and met people from many different faith traditions and that opened up my view of the church quite a bit. There were many issues I saw as closed issues, but as I read and studied throughout my college and seminary years, I have shifted on some theological issues which now separate me from the church of my childhood and youth. Some of the issues, without delving into the changes at the moment, were on creation, the sacraments, and eschatology. One thing that has never changed, though, is my dependence on Jesus Christ in all things. I’ve clung to Proverbs 3:5-6 from that depressing phase of life in high school even up to this day. My hope is in Jesus Christ!

Q. How long have you been a Pastor?

A. I have been a pastor now for over five years. My first call into pastoral ministry was in the United Methodist Church. I served there for just a few days short of three and a half years and now serve in a Lutheran Church. Looking back on my life and my journey of becoming a pastor, I can say that I would have never chosen the path that God has led me on. I knew that God was calling me to be a pastor from a very young age and had plans to be a pastor in the denomination that I grew up in, but that was not what God had planned for me. I am thankful to be where I am and to know that it is right where the Holy Spirit desires for me to be!

Q. How long have you been a Lutheran Pastor?

A. I have been a Lutheran Pastor for a year and seven months so far!

Eastern Orthodox Church and the Gospel?

Patriarch-Kirill-Orthodox-Pascha

I was looking for a Youtube video of an Eastern Orthodox Father explaining the gospel when I found the one below.  After watching it, I’m not sure they know what the gospel is.  Was it just me, or was his explanation convoluted and imprecise?  After listening to it, I’m more unsure of what they believe than when I began.  It seems to be the normative for the EOC.  It is almost like they purposely leave things unclear.  It is like buying a car from a used car salesman in a fancy outfit who says, “Come on, trust me.  I’m looking out for you.” but then he won’t let you look under the hood, or even open the car door before you buy, and when you ask him what size engine it has, he just assures you that it is wayyy better than your other car, because it is the oldest car around.

The gospel is fairly simple to explain as a Protestant.  That is because we hold the Bible, God’s Word, as our authority for our faith.  Ya know why? Because it is God’s Word…  Here it is in a nutshell, we are sinners. God is perfectly righteous. We can’t be good enough to make up for our sins. Jesus Christ, the second person of the triune God, took on human flesh, was born of the virgin Marry, lived a perfect sinless life, and was righteous. He was truly God, and truly man. He went to the cross, had the wrath of God poured out on Him that we had coming to us, and paid for our sins.  This justified us to God.  If we repent of our sins, turn from them and turn to Christ, trust in His work on the cross where He atoned for us, and believe only in Him and His work for our salvation, God considers us as righteous as Jesus.  His righteousness is imputed to us once we repent and believe.  After that moment, we are saved, and can never be lost again.  From that point on, God will conform us to His Son’s likeness, in the sense that we will begin to hate our sin, and love God and His will more.  We will submit to Him more.  We will grow in the knowledge of our own personal sins, as well as grow in holiness.  OK so maybe I didn’t make it as simple as, “Repent of your sins, believe in Christ, then you are saved.”  I could have, because in a sense, it is that simple.

The EOC explanation of the difference between the EOC and Protestants gospel was kind of useless to me.  I don’t know how it could be good news to anyone.  It almost sounded like the guy was trying to say they believe you can be dead and get saved.  If that is true, then the Bible is a lie.  If the Bible, being God’s Word is a lie, then it isn’t God’s Word.  I trust the Bible and not the EOC’s man made traditions.