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Monday, June 12, 2023

Bible Contradictions on Salvation

If we believe the Bible is the word of God why do we often interpret it in a way that makes it contradict itself?  Truth is harmonious or else it's not truth and cannot be.  Jesus says of God's word, "Your word is truth." (John 17:17)  It does not oppose itself when properly interpreted.

Martin Luther was persuaded he had found contradiction in the Bible between what Paul wrote in Romans about salvation being by faith versus James saying works were necessary.  In an online article (online at the time I originally wrote this) entitled, "Martin Luther's View of the Epistle of James" by Daniel Petty he says, "Once Luther remarked that he would give his doctor's beret to anyone who could reconcile James and Paul (Bainton 259)."  (Petty's source:  Bainton, Roland H., Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, New York: New American Library, 1950; 1978.)

Martin Luther's doctrine does indeed make Paul and James contradict one another.  That fact alone ought to tell you Luther was wrong in his theology no matter how sincere.  Any time your doctrine makes the Bible contradict itself this tells you if you will listen, that your doctrine is in error, that you are wrong in your thinking, and need a new approach to understanding the scripture.

In the first place, we error when we speak of the word of God as though it came from man even though I concede we generally know what is meant by such statements.  But, the reality is it is not Paul's word, then James' word, and then Peter's, etc., for "all scripture is given by inspiration of God." (2 Tim. 3:16 NKJV)  What Paul wrote he wrote by inspiration.  What James wrote he wrote by inspiration.

Thus if Paul says we are saved by faith and James says works are necessary then both are correct else you have God fighting against himself.  Even worse you have God lying in one place or the other if either Paul or James is wrong.  If both are correct truth is harmonious as it must be. 

Everyone agrees the New Testament is full of passages that teach that a man is saved by faith so I will only list a couple.  "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life." (John 3:36 NKJV)  "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom. 5:1 NKJV)
We all accept these passages and this teaching but too often people do not consider or give thought to what faith is.  Do these passages define faith?  Do they tell you whether this is a living faith or a dead faith as per James?  Is it an obedient faith or a disobedient faith?  Is faith just a matter of the mind alone, a belief held, or is it more than that?  The texts do not tell us.

The assumption is we know what faith is and generally, that is whatever we each individually want it to be.  We define it as we desire.  This creates a lot of problems in interpreting the Bible; the result is we end up with doctrines that contradict the Bible.

Without preaching a sermon on faith to define it let me refer you to James 2:22.  "You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works." (ESV)

The scriptural biblical faith that saves is that faith which is a completed faith, not an incomplete faith.  Other versions use the word "perfect" instead of the word "complete".  It is the faith that is made perfect that saves rather than the faith not made perfect.

The New Living Translation of the Bible, which I consider a paraphrase, gets at the sense of what is being taught.  "You see, he was trusting God so much that he was willing to do whatever God told him to do.  His faith was made complete by what he did--by his actions." (James 2:22 NLT, 1996 edition)

This is saving faith, the faith that saves, the only kind of faith that makes a difference, the only concept of faith we should hold, the only concept of saving faith that is scriptural.  Only faith so strong that it obeys can save but this is the very concept of faith that is wanting among large numbers of believers.   

James then says by inspiration that we are saved by works.  "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only." (James 2:24 NKJV)  A man can either believe that or say it is a lie.  We can say no, justification is by faith alone.  A man can say a lot of things.  It is what the Bible says that matters.  No-where does the Bible say we are saved by faith alone and nowhere does it say we are saved by works alone.  It is a faith completed by obedient works that saves thus both faith and obedience (works) save. 

Jesus has said we will be judged by his word on the last day.  "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him--the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day." (John 12:48 NKJV)  If a person's doctrine does not allow for salvation by both faith and works he is in error since the Bible states clearly that one is saved by both.  The passages quoted above suffice to show that.

But, one will object.  How about Eph. 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (NKJV)  Since the Bible, and truth, cannot contradict itself it becomes immediately obvious that Paul is speaking of one kind of works while James speaks of another.  One type of works saves; the other does not and cannot.

The type of works that cannot save are the works of the Law of Moses.  Why could they not save?  I quote Gal. 3:10 (TEV), "Those who depend on obeying the Law live under a curse.  For the scripture says, 'whoever does not always obey everything that is written in the book of the Law is under God's curse!'"  One act of disobedience at any point in the course of one's life would condemn him without remedy under the law.  No man can live a perfect life without ever sinning.  No man will ever be a perfect law keeper.

This being the case Paul writes in Gal. 3:21, "For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law." (NKJV)  Since no such law was given man could only be saved by Christ, by faith in him.

But, there are works other than the works of the Law of Moses.  These are the works James speaks of which bring justification.  What are those works?  Hear the writer of the book of Hebrews.

The Hebrew writer says of Jesus, "And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him." (Heb. 5:9 NKJV)  Paul who speaks so much of salvation by faith and grace says in Rom. 6:16, "Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?"  Note his phrase, "obedience to righteousness."  This is the same as to say obedience to salvation for the righteous person will be saved, not the unrighteous.

It becomes clear then that the works James speaks of that bring justification are works of obedience to Christ and are the same as Paul’s “obedience to righteousness.”  James' “works” and Paul’s “obedience” are equivalents, one and the same.

Too many are ready to say that obedience is more or less equivalent to law keeping.  Since we are not saved by law they do not see obedience as being essential.  For example, from their point of view, Christ commands baptism but one does not have to obey that to be saved.  To require it would be law keeping or salvation by works.

The trouble with that way of thinking is that the idea is in conflict with passages such as those I have just quoted, Hebrews 5:9 for example, where Christ is said to be the author of salvation to all who obey him.  If one's doctrine does not harmonize with total Bible preaching on a subject it cannot be true.

The truth is Christ was also a lawgiver and has a law we are expected to keep as much as we humanly can.  Listen to the following scriptures.  "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Gal 6:2 NKJV)  This is Paul's writing, the very one who wrote of salvation by grace and faith.  Paul says of himself, "not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ." (1 Cor. 9:21 NKJV)

The Hebrew writer says, "For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law." (Heb. 7:12 NKJV)  He doesn't say now there is no law but only that the law has changed.  It is now the law of Christ, not the Law of Moses.  If there is no law today how does one commit sin?  John says, depending on which version you use, that "sin is lawlessness" (NKJV, NAS), "sin is the transgression of the law." (KJV 1 John 3:4).

Jesus himself says, "He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me." (John 14:21 NKJV)  Is a God-given commandment not law?

But, here is the difference.  The Law of Moses required perfect law-keeping for salvation which no man other than Jesus ever did.  The law of Christ, while still law, provides a grace element for sin.  The person, however, who thinks he can forget all about the commandments of Jesus and just be saved by grace and faith apart from works of obedience makes the scriptures contradict themselves, invites lawlessness, and propagates error if he teaches such. The scriptures are harmonious.

This brings us to the place where so many want to kick and say it is not so -- to baptism.  The Bible teaches we are saved by baptism.  "There is an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 3:21 NKJV)

"Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,'" while preaching the first gospel sermon ever heard after the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 2:38 NKJV).

Saul was told, "Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins." (Acts 22:16 NKJV)

Jesus says, "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."  (John 3:5 NKJV)

Paul, the very man who speaks of salvation by faith, although never faith alone, says, "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Gal. 3:26-27 NKJV)  Many would have this read, "for as many of you as were not baptized into Christ have put on Christ."  Really!  That will not work.  That is not what Paul said or taught.

Paul says in Rom. 6:3, "as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus" so he says the same thing again that he had said in Gal. 3:26-27.  One is baptized into Christ.  Salvation is in Christ.  Paul says (2 Tim. 2:10 NKJV), "Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory."

Salvation is "in Christ Jesus".  We are, Paul says, "baptized into Christ Jesus."  Thus if there is no baptism, there is no being in Christ Jesus and no salvation which is found only in Christ Jesus. 

One can believe it or not but make no mistake about it, that is what God's word says and teaches.  When God says something we ought to believe it and obey it.  One's sins are forgiven at baptism which is the act where one contacts the blood of Christ spiritually speaking.

Jesus shed his blood in his death.  Paul says we are baptized into his death (Rom. 6:3) which is where Jesus' blood is located for the simple reason that is where God chose to locate it.  No, there is no real blood in the water.  No one ever literally comes into contact with physical blood.  But, figuratively or spiritually, that is the place God chose for us to come into contact with the blood of the cross for the remission of our sins. 

In 2 Kings 5:11 (NKJV) we find a man by the name of Naaman who wanted to be healed of his leprosy and thus came to Elisha, God's prophet.  He was told to go dip 7 times in the Jordan River.  This did not satisfy him.  He did not want water involved in his cleansing.  "But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, 'Indeed, I said to myself, 'He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.'" (2 Kings 5:11 NKJV)

Naaman wanted to be cleansed of his leprosy but wanted it done his way and at first that did not include any water.  It was only after he decided to go about it in God's way that he was cleansed.  We ought to learn from that.  If God wants water involved in our cleansing from sin why should we object?  Why should we object to doing it God’s way?

So far I have not mentioned even one item that conflicts with another in the teaching of God's word concerning those things that bring about our salvation the reason being that everything God has had to say on the matter works together in perfect harmony with everything else he has had to say about it.  Faith is not in conflict with works, is not in conflict with obedience, and is not in conflict with baptism.

The word of God does not contradict itself.  Whatever the Bible says you are saved by, made righteous by, justified by, is truth, and is essential to salvation.  To say it is not is to reflect upon the word of God.  It is to set God's word aside to keep one's own tradition, the tradition of men.  Many have done that on the subject of how a man is saved.

[To download this article or print it out click here.]



Friday, June 2, 2023

More on Peter’s First Sermon – Calling On the Name Of The Lord

I wrote sometime in the past an article on Peter’s first sermon, the one recorded in Acts 2 delivered on the Day of Pentecost, the day the church was established, the first gospel sermon ever preached by man after Christ’s resurrection.  I titled that article “Receiving the Gospel.”  I thought it good to go back and look again at that sermon and expound a little more on it.

As you recall a crowd was drawn together that day in the city of Jerusalem by a noise that sounded like “a rushing mighty wind.” (Acts 2:2, 6 NKJV)  This was occasioned by the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles gathered together as a group (Acts 2:4).  Peter then begins his sermon starting with the explanation of the event by quoting the prophet Joel from Joel 2:28-32 and he says this is the fulfillment of that prophesy (Acts 2:16). 

The part I am interested in today for our purposes is the last quote from Joel (verse 32 in Joel 2, verse 21 as quoted by Peter in Acts 2), “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be save.” (Acts 2:21 NKJV)  Peter says that prophecy is now being fulfilled before you gathered here.  This was, is, and will forever be great news for all humanity as long as the earth shall stand.  It is God’s promise to all of us no matter how badly our lives have turned out otherwise.  The key word in this Holy Spirit inspired declaration is the word “whoever.”  Many translations use the word “everyone” (the ESV, NAS, NIV, NET, and the CSB).  The promise of God is that you will not be excluded.  It is “whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Rev. 22:17 NKJV)  God is “not willing that any should perish.” (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV) 

The only stipulation is that a person calls on the name of the Lord.  So what is involved in that?  Well, we know it is not saying to Jesus “Lord, Lord” for Jesus himself says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21 NKJV)

Do you suppose Peter in that first sermon might have told his audience what the Lord’s will for them was?  Yes, I think we would all agree upon that.  After he preached his sermon and it became evident many believed his message about Christ even to the point of asking what they could do about the sin they had committed against the Lord (Acts 2:37) Peter responded.  “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 2:38 NKJV)

In doing what they were instructed to do they had called upon the name of the Lord.  They were saved.  The scripture says, “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” (Acts 2:41 NKJV)  Were they added to the saved or to the damned?  Let the reader answer.

Remember Peter earlier, in the beginning of his sermon, had told the crowd, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  They are now saved.  Had they called on the name of the Lord?  What had they done?  Let the reader answer.  I ask this of the reader for it is easier to see the truth when we see it for ourselves versus someone else telling us what it is.  We need to reason it out for ourselves.

Calling on the name of the Lord means doing what God tells us to do with full faith that he will respond by doing what he told us he would do.  The people on the Day of Pentecost obeyed Peter’s spirit-inspired preaching of God’s will in faith that God would remit their sins if they would do so. (Acts 2:38)  God would do this for his spirit-inspired apostle said he would if they would do what he told them to do.

Paul’s own conversion experience is further confirmation of this truth.  Ananias in Acts 22:16 having been sent to Paul directly from God says to Paul, a man who because of his experience on the road to Damascus is already a believer and penitent, to “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16 NKJV) 

There are two very important points to be made here.  (1) Paul was not yet a saved man.  He still had sins to be washed away.  (2) He had not yet called upon the name of the Lord for if he had Peter told us in Acts 2 that all who do so are saved.

Ananias instructs Paul to call on the name of the Lord how -- by arising and being baptized.  If Ananias is correct that in being baptized Paul’s sins will be washed away making him sin-free Paul will then be a saved man.  If he is a saved man he is a man who has called on the name of the Lord.  God sent Ananias.  Ananias was not mistaken.

Neither Ananias nor Peter nor any other Christian believes there is anything magical in water to wash away sins.  There was no magic potent in the water of the Jordan River Naaman was instructed to bathe in to cure his leprosy in the Old Testament either.  The power lies in doing by faith what God tells you to do with faith believing if you do that God will do in turn what he promises as a result thereof.  Paul’s sins were washed away in water because of God’s promise.  “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mark 16:16 NKJV)  Such a person has called upon the name of the Lord.

[To download this article or print it out click here.]

This article was written in late May of 2023.