Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Monday, June 30, 2008

James 2:18

"But someone will say, You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works."

Embedded in this verse is the seed of a doctrine of universal salvation, if you want to look at it a certain way. James is quick to dismiss that possibility because he clearly tells us that faith without works is ineffectual, but just for a moment let's entertain the thought.

He writes, "someone will say...you have 'faith' and I have 'works'." While I have emphasized the way this verse reads to highlight the point I'm about to make, I don't think this emphasis is beyond the text. This text, in fact, seems tailor-made for the culture in which we live today. I can't tell you the number of people I know who would say Jesus is my savior, but that doesn't mean he has to be everyone's savior. The argument is then broadened from salvation being by works or by grace to salvation being via wholly other means. I don't think there are very many buddhists out there who believe Buddha saves them. And there shouldn't be ANY Islamists out there who believe Mohammad is savior. These men were prophets and/or expositors of a religious or philosophical system. There are, they say, many paths to God. Jesus is just one of them.

But there are so many things Jesus said and did that make this argument so improbable.

"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me."
"I and the Father are one."
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."
"Where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (spoken before the crucifixion and resurrection)

I just don't think these are the words of someone who intended us to believe there are many paths to God.

But now I'm starting to create an argument. And you can't argue someone into the Kingdom. I can, however, let my works speak for themselves and lead a person to faith! And my faith in Christ certainly can inspire others to good works. And so the principle of faith WITH works comes forward. Both are necessary for salvation.

Jon

1 comment:

don said...

Jonathan,

I noted that you referred to the verse in Romans that says "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

I find that verse and surrounding verses to be stating very clearly what I am sure James believed along with what Paul is declaring and that is the universal reconciliation of mankind.

Consider the following.

GRAND ASSERTION

ALL OF MANKIND WAS DECLARED RIGHTEOUS BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST AND ALL OF MANKIND WILL COME TO BELIEVE IN JESUS AS LORD AND GOD AS SAVIOR FOLLOWING THE NECESSARY DISCIPLINE OF THE CONSUMING PURIFYING FIRE OF GOD.

Mal 3:2b "For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap;”

SUB-ASSERTION #1

MANKIND WAS DECLARED RIGHTEOUS BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST HAVING BEEN RECONCILED TO GOD BY HIS DEATH


Rom 5:6-10 “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from God's wrath. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life?

Note that a summary of these verses could be the following:
While we were helpless ungodly sinners who were His enemies, Christ died for us, declared us righteous by his blood, will save us from God’s wrath, and reconciled us to God through His death.

Helpless ungodly sinners who were enemies of God and Christ may be words written to those of Rome who were currently believers, but here Paul is obviously referencing their status with God prior to their becoming believers. Therefore the being reconciled to God and declared righteous occurred prior to belief since these descriptions are hardly of believers.

At the foot of the cross were many helpless ungodly sinners who were the enemies of Jesus, yet He said, “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing”. I believe the Father was in agreement with this prayer of Jesus and so their sins were or will be forgiven on the merits of Jesus alone. Mankind was declared righteous, or justified on that day. Paul reinforces the fact of being declared righteous was for all mankind a few verses later in Rom 5:18, “Consequently, just as one offense resulted in condemnation for everyone, so one act of righteousness results in justification and life for everyone.”

SUB-ASSERTION #2

NO “PUNISHMENT”, “DESTRUCTION”, “PERISHING”, “LOSTNESS” IS ETERNAL; RATHER GOD’S “PUNISHMENTS” OR “DESTRUCTION” ARE CORRECTIVE IN NATURE

Now, we do need His discipline to make us fit for His kingdom. This discipline will not be “eternal”, but it will be “aeonian or eonian”, the English equivalents of the Greek “aionios”. “Aeonian” punishment as referred to in Mt. 25:46, one of the proof texts for those who hold to the heresy of the eternal torment of non-believers, is the type of correction that God will administer to the unbeliever. The noun being modified by aeonian is the word punishment, which is the Greek “kolasis” which has been used in reference to “pruning” a plant for the purpose of better production. “Kolasis” punishment is the corrective type, whereas, “timoria” punishment is the retributive type. The “aeonian” life in Mt. 25:46 is the life given to the believer by God beginning at the point of belief. This is that life we enjoy as believers which blesses us now as we deal with this physical life and also blesses us with the promise of immortality and therefore everlasting communion with our Father.

Aeonian destruction as referenced in 2 Thess. 1:7-9, “…who will be punished with aeonian destruction from the presence of the Lord,…”, is the kind of destruction necessary for God to administer for the fulfillment of His purposes. Destruction is equivalent to death in that it is “from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power”. Jesus was “destroyed” at the cross, but as in His case, so with all cases of destruction or death, there is no sense of “eternal” associated with them as Jesus rose to life and “the last enemy to be eliminated will be death”.

The “lost” sheep, coin, and son of Luke 15 referred to a condition that did not last forever. The word “lost” is the translation of the Greek “apollumi”, from which we have the translations lose, lost, perish, destroy, etc. As we can see in Luke 15, the sheep, coin, and son were only “lost” until they were found. This harmonizes with the fact that Jesus said He came to “seek and save the lost”.

Note that the following verse tells us that there is a special benefit for becoming a believer now, but that God will save all of the “lost” unbelievers also. 1Tim 4:10 “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.” The Greek word that got translated “especially” here is “malista”. Checking its usage in other verses makes it clear that especially is a good choice for English since it does refer to extra special attention to something, but not to the exclusion of other items mentioned in the context.

The Hebrew word “olam” has as its Greek equivalents “aion” and “aionios” in the Septuagint. An analysis of the approximately 440 occurrences of olam in the Old Testament suggests that it means a period of time without the end in sight but not necessarily “eternal”, or “everlasting” or “forever”, if it should ever be. Olam was only 3 days in the case of Jonah’s duration in the fish, even though the “traditional” translation has been “forever”. Also, the length of time a person would be the slave has been referred to as “forever”, which we know is literally only for their physical lifetime. Some versions never use eternal, everlasting, or forever for olam. Have you noticed some versions use the phrase “forever and ever”. Have you ever given thought to the absurdity of adding the words “and ever” after you have already said forever? What’s more than forever? That’s like saying something lasts for an eternity and then for another eternity. The absurdity of this should add to our awareness of the bias of those translators who consistently translate olam, aion, and aionios as eternal, everlasting, forever, or the absurd “forever and ever” phrase.

An analysis of the word “hell” is quite revealing. Jesus used the word “geena” or “hades” and tradition (KJV, Catholic church, etc.) has had the ignorant audacity to use this Anglo-Saxon word “hell”, which means “unseen” (a-des), corresponding to the Hebrew “sheol” and attach to it a meaning out of pagan mythology of a place of eternal torment. Dr. Thomas Thayer in his book “The Origin and History of the Doctrine of Endless Punishment” traces this myth of eternal torment that became associated with the word hell to ancient Egypt. Geena (sometimes Gehenna) was the Valley of Hinnom which became a garbage dump on the outskirts of Jerusalem where carcasses of criminals were burned which Jesus metaphorically referenced as a future potential punishment with no sense of “eternal” punishment inherent in its meaning. This refers to aeonian punishment which again is God’s corrective punishment. Gehenna should have been left untranslated because it is a geographical location that the Jews of Jesus’ audience knew exactly what he was referring to. Hades should have also been left untranslated or translated as “unseen” or “the grave” as some versions do, as Hades definitely has no inherent punishment connotation. There are a number of versions that don’t use the word “hell” even once, realizing the bad rap the word has gotten with the erroneous connotation.

SUB-ASSERTION #3

ALL HUMANITY WILL COME TO BELIEVE IN GOD AND WILL WORSHIP HIM SOONER OR LATER

The following are 5 witnesses (scriptures) from 4 of God’s servants: DAVID, ISAIAH, PAUL, and JOHN.

NOTE: Nowhere in the Word do we have any evidence that one must come to belief in this lifetime, which is another myth of man; contrariwise, we have much evidence in the following verses and many others that some will only come to belief after their physical death. At this point some might think of the Rich Man and Lazarus parable. Parables must be discerned spiritually as they are not to be taken literally since they are fictional stories to convey a spiritual message. Consider this, Rich Man = Jews and Lazarus = Gentiles and the spiritual message is that the Jews will be disciplined for their attitude toward and treatment of the Gentiles.

Keep in mind that belief is granted by God in His time not in man’s. God grants belief to some in this lifetime and others after their physical death. The myth that one must come to belief in this lifetime is something man dreamed up or more than likely got from the pagans and added to his traditions, but God’s word does not speak of it.

John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Phi 1:29 “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,”

THE MASTER PLAN OF THE MASTER COULD BE SUMMED UP IN A COMPREHENSIVE SUMMARY OF HIS WORD AS FOLLOWS AS ATTESTED BY MANY WITNESSES.

“ALL IS OUT OF ME AND ALL WILL COME BACK TO ME.” --- GOD

Rom 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
1Co 15:28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

GOD WILL BE ALL IN ALL = GOD WILL BE EVERYTHING TO EVERYONE

OUR SPIRIT CAME OUT OF GOD AND WILL RETURN TO GOD

DAVID was inspired to write:

Psalms 22:27-28 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the LORD's: and he is the governor among the nations

ISAIAH was inspired to write:

Isa 45:23 By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: 'To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.'
Isa 45:24 "Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him.

PAUL was inspired to write:

Phi 2:10-11 “…so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow
— in heaven and on earth and under the earth — and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

Rom 14:11 For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God."

JOHN was inspired to record:

Rev 5:13 “And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!"

SINCE AFTER A CERTAIN TIME DEATH WILL CEASE TO BE, LEAVING ONLY LIFE AND HENCE NO MORE SEPARATION BETWEEN GOD AND MAN, ALL OF THESE WITNESSES CAN TESTIFY TO THE SAME THING:

NOTE: The feeble attempt to downplay this worshipping, bowing, and confessing as somehow “forced”, is born out of bias for eternal torment. Note particularly in Phil. 2:11 the phrase “to the glory of God the Father”. It is obviously not giving God glory to say Jesus is Lord without meaning it and you might also recall what Paul said about saying that Jesus is Lord, that “…no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor. 12:3b)


EVERY CREATED BEING WILL SOME DAY PRAISE AND GLORIFY GOD!!!