Monthly Q&A: January 2021

Q: Jesus is the Son of God. He died for our sins, and rose again. Can you believe this and still not be saved?

A: That’s a very good question. First of all let me stress that I do not intend to judge the hearts of men and women and make determination on their final states. We often do not have total insight into the lives of individuals and can only determination if they are saved by examining the fruit of their lives. But God’s Word can help us in thinking through the question.

There was a similar question posed in Scripture and I think it’s important for us to go back to God’s Word for more information. In James 2:14-26 it appears that James may be dealing with a very similar situation. James 2:19 says, “You believe that God is one, you do well. Even the demons believe — and shudder!” In the context of that passage, James is discussing the importance of works as validation for faith. Works DO NOT save us, but they can serve as the “fruit” that validates the sincerity of our internal faith. In v. 19 we see James saying that “faith,” without verifying fruit, is no different than demons, who are indeed in hell.

Now it is important to distinguish between saving faith and what may be called mere intellectual assent. Time and again we see in Scripture that those who are saved are those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31Romans 10:9; etc.). But we must understand what “believe” means. In Scripture the word translated “believe” could also be translated as “faith” and gives the idea of trust and commitment. For example, I have faith/belief in my wife. I trust her and am committed to her. I can say that I believe she is my wife but go out and be with other women; then my actions call into question my “belief.”

On the other hand, there is mental or intellectual assent only. This occurs when we believe the facts about something but it doesn’t have any bearing on our lives or our heart. For example, I believe the sky is blue. But it has no effect on how I live my life. If someone came in tomorrow and said the sky is now green, ok, no big deal. I’m just mentally agreeing with what is being said. This involved no action on my part at all.

The same is true for Jesus. If we say that we believe he is the Son of God, died for all our sins, and rose again, then that necessarily has implications on our life. Why? Because Jesus said it does. In Luke 6:46 Jesus asked why people want to call Him Lord but don’t desire to do what He says. The implication is that if we believe in and love Jesus, we will do what He tells us to do (John 14:1523). Therefore, if we have someone who says they believe all of these things about Jesus, but yet their lives are unchanged and they have no desire to fellowship with Him and to live the life He has called us to live, then we have good reason to question the substance of their belief. Just as Jesus said, how can they believe Him (in a saving way) without showing it by their actions?

If you have a particular question you’d like to have answered, feel free to submit it via the contact page.

Does Eschatology Matter?

I had the privilege of joining one of my very good friends, Davis Lacey, on the Rooted Youth Ministry podcast to discuss the importance of teaching eschatology to teenagers.

Even if you’re not a teenager, I hope you’ll find some of what I shared helpful as I think through how our eschatology (view of the end) shapes the way we live in the present.

Monthly Q&A: May 2020

Q: What did Paul mean when he talked about “ascending” and “descending” in Romans 10:6-7?

A: When determining the meaning of Romans 10:6-7, as is important with any biblical text, we have to look at context. The whole of Romans 10 is centered on Israel’s need for
righteousness and their inability to find it solely through the law. So these two verses, 6 and 7, have to be understood within that context. Paul is not talking about people going to heaven or hell. He is instead using personification to explain his point. Paul is attempting to demonstrate that the faith needed for righteousness is not found in the law but rather it is found in Jesus Christ. Verse 8 helps to unlock the meaning to this verse by saying that “the word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”. Therefore, based on the fact that verse 8 is a counterpoint to verses 6 and 7 and speaks of the word being  close to our mouth and hearts, we can infer that what Paul is doing is trying to explain that one does not have to search long and hard for righteousness that comes from faith. God has not hidden that from us or made it difficult to find. John MacArthur, in his study Bible, has a footnote that sums this up well. It says:

“Paul speaks of the righteousness based on faith as if it were a person and puts in its mouth a quotation from Dt 30:12,13. His point is that the righteousness of faith does not require some impossible odyssey through the universe to find Christ.”

Paul is saying that the truth regarding the righteousness required by God is found in the word preached about Jesus Christ. One does not have to search high and low for it. All they must do is “confess with [their] mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in [their] heart that God raised Him from the dead, [and they] will be saved” (Romans 10:9, NASB).

If you have a particular question you’d like to have answered, feel free to submit it via the contact page.

Blind Faith

Many people believe that Christian “faith” means believing without, or despite, any proof for what we believe. That statement is 100% true — if you define Christian faith as completely accepting things at face value without honest question or investigation (a.k.a. “blind faith”). However, God’s call to believe the Gospel isn’t a call to this kind of “blind faith.” For example, every time I set foot on an airplane I have “faith” that the plane isn’t going to crash shortly after take-off, otherwise I would never set foot on that plane and neither would you. Why do I have faith that the plane will make it? Because I know the rigorous testing and maintenance that the plane must go through, I know the intense training and hours of flight that the pilot has completed, and I know the statistics regarding the safety of flight as a mode of travel. I take these things into consideration and make the informed decision to step onto the plane in the hope that I will reach my destination. Now, I can’t know with 100% certainty that the plane I’m on won’t crash (they sometimes do); all I can do is weigh the evidence and decide whether I trust what I know and am willing to trust the pilot/maintenance crews and get on the plane. .

Christian faith is like the faith I’ve just described.

Throughout Scripture, God has called us to trust Him primarily because He is trustworthy by nature. Now, I know that sounds like circular reasoning, but God goes further than that. Throughout Scripture God tells His people to investigate and reason with Him:

– Isaiah 1:18 — God calls His people, in all of chapter 1, to “reason” with Him regarding their sin and to think through the consequences and the forgiveness He is offering.
– Luke 1:1-4 — At the beginning of his account of the story of Jesus, Luke plainly states that he has investigated everything carefully and is relaying what he has learned and discovered. That doesn’t sound like someone taking everything on “blind faith” and denying proof.
– Luke 14:25-33 — Jesus tells His disciples to think and consider what following Him means. In other words, don’t just blindly follow Jesus; think about what you’re committing to.
– John 10:37-38 — Jesus tells people to look at the works/miracles He is doing and at least start there by believing in those and being open to what He has to say.
– John 14:10-11 — Jesus says much the same thing He said in John 10:37-38: He is essentially saying, “at least look at what I’m doing visibly in front of you and believe.”
– John 20:30-31 — John plainly says the whole reason he was writing the Gospel of John was so that people could believe based on what Jesus was doing; not simply by just blindly following after Him.
– 1 Corinthians 15:6 — Paul is providing evidence for the resurrection. He tells the Corinthians that many of the people who saw Jesus after His resurrection are still live with the implication being that they could go and investigate for themselves if they wanted to.

Those are just a few verses that point to the Christian faith being a faith that is concerned with facts and trusting those facts when convinced. It’s important to clear up what Christian faith is because Christians often use the term “faith” as our answer for why we believe the things that we believe, such as the Bible being the word of God or Jesus Christ being risen from the dead. When the Bible claims to be the “word of God,” Christians believe it because we have found the Bible to be trustworthy in what it says in other areas. For example, there are many archeological discoveries that corroborate details within various Bible stories. This is a strong external evidence for the validity of the Bible when it speaks. Just as with my analogy earlier, if I look critically and carefully at something and find that it is true when it speaks in certain areas, I’m much more apt to trust what it says and place my faith in it when it speaks in other areas as well. This isn’t just a “blind faith” that simply says “I believe it because the Bible says it.” Rather, it is a reasoned faith that says “The Bible has proven to be true in many, many areas and therefore, based on what I’ve seen and my assessment of the evidence, I believe it to be trustworthy in what it says elsewhere (i.e., when it claims to be the word of God; when it says Jesus rose from the dead; etc.).”

Now, some might say that Christians are using or quoting their own book to prove their point; anybody who wants to make up a religion can do that. If I were going to make up a religion, would I quote my own book? Sure. But what kind of “book” is the Bible? The Bible is more correctly an “anthology” or collection of books, poems, and letters. The Bible contains 66 different books, poems, and letters authored by over 30 different people over a period of several thousand years. If someone were trying to make up a religion then it would be very, very difficult to keep stuff straight over a few generations, let alone even 100 years. But one of the key features of the Bible is that it is amazingly unified in the message that it delivers! If we want to talk about “blind faith,” it takes A LOT of “blind faith” in humanity (given what we experience even playing the game “telephone” with 10 people over a period of 30 minutes) to think that that many different people over several thousands of years could keep a story straight. So, again, if I look at the evidence, which is that over 30 different people over a period of several thousands of years are telling essentially the very same message, I’m going to be inclined to put my faith and trust in what they have to say. .

On top of that, when considering if our faith is reasonably placed, I also believe it’s important for us to look at the early Christians since they would have been the ones making up Christianity as we know it. Every single one of Jesus’ disciples, except for John, were murdered because of their faith. I don’t know about you, but if I’m making something up and someone threatens to burn me alive, filet off my skin, crucify me, behead me, or feed me to lions (all of which have happened to Christians throughout history) I’m going to renege on what I’ve said VERY quickly. Not many people that I know willingly die for something they know full-well to be a lie.

Now to be fair, there are instances where, as Christians, we must take God at His word without significant proof or outside validation. In these situations, we must step out on faith in the purest sense of the word. But even in those situations we step out on this “blind faith” because God and His word have proven trustworthy in other areas so often that we are inclined to trust Him when He speaks in these other areas. For example, God tells me that I am saved completely by the work of Jesus Christ and all that is required of me is to believe on Him as my Lord and Savior. I can’t verifiably test that. But, because God has been shown to be truthful throughout the rest of Scripture, I can step out on that promise with significant confidence and conviction that what He has said is true.

So, while using the Bible to bolster our faith may seem like a form of circular reasoning and simple blind faith that denies proof, I hope that I’ve shown that nothing is further from the truth when considering Christian faith. Christians quote the Bible as proof of itself and lean on it as the foundation of our faith and doctrine because we have found it to be trustworthy after weighing the internal and external evidence concerning it.