The Fork in the Road: The Progressive Line, Part 2.5

Let’s see. I put up a post, based on 1 John, suggesting that whether we are remain saved or have fallen away depends on love, and some find that my teaching lacks substance or even implies antinomianism (the absence of law). It’s not remotely true, and so I’ve been wondering why I’m failing to communicate.

It occurs to me that one reason my way of explaining all this doesn’t always communicate is my choice of “repentance” as the word to explain a key part of the standard. Sometimes I forget my roots.

Growing up in the Church, the usual sense of “repent” was found in the doctrine of “grace” we were taught — that to be forgiven of a sin, we must become aware of the sin, confess that sin to God and the person sinned against (going forward for a public sin), make restitution, ask for forgiveness, and repent. In this context, “repent” means “no longer be guilty of that particular sin.”

Now, this is a false doctrine, because it contradicts 1 John 1:7, as I’ll show in a post coming up shortly. After all, if this really is the standard, then we’re all damned because we won’t be saved until we stop all sin! But for today’s purposes, the point is that we’ve sometimes used “repent” to mean “don’t do that sin any more.” And that’s a biblical sense, but it’s not the usual sense of the word. Rather, in biblical usage, “repent” is usually much stronger.

N. T. Wright explains in Christian Origins and the Question of God: Jesus and the Victory of God, p. 263, how “repent” and “faith” were used by First Century Jews. He refers to a story told by Josephus about a Jewish rebel named Jesus –

I was not ignorant of the plot which he had contrived against me … ; I would, nevertheless, condone his actions if he would show repentance and prove his loyalty to me.

[quoted by Wright at p. 250.]

Josephus notes that “believe in me” is translated “be loyal to me” in most translations. The phrase “show repentance and prove his loyalty to me” could be equally well translated “repent and believe in me.” “Believe in” or “have faith in” means “be loyal to” or even “submit to as lord.”

Wright explains,

Josephus asked Jesus the Galilean brigand leader, ‘to repent and believe in me,’ in other words, to give up his agenda and follow Josephus instead. Jesus of Nazareth, I suggest, issued more or less exactly the same summons to his contemporaries.

To “repent” in this context is not “no longer commit that sin” but “change loyalties.”

(Acts 20:21)  I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

“Repentance” is turning toward God, that is, becoming loyal to God.

After Peter had baptized Cornelius and his household and defended himself to the Jerusalem church, they concluded,

(Acts 11:18)  When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”

“Repentance unto life” is not repenting from some particular sin, but submission to Jesus as Lord, that is, becoming loyal to Jesus.

Interestingly, “repent” is unusual in Paul’s vocabulary. He prefers to express the same idea in very different terms. Hence, in Romans, after he explains how Chrisitans struggle with temptation in chapter 7, he says in Romans 8,

5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

13For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Then, in chapter 12, he explains,

2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Notice the flow of Paul’s thought. By yielding to the Spirit, the Spirit helps us defeat sin and transforms our minds so that we can live lives of love. That is repentance. Moreover, the repentance that led to our salvation is strengthened by the Spirit’s work in us so that we are transformed into people who take pleasure in love. We don’t have to do all this alone. God works in us to help us, because he wants us to succeed.

Hebrews expresses the same concept from the negative — what not to do –perspective —

(Heb 3:12-14) Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15As it is said,

“Today, if you hear his voice,do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

Who falls away? Those who have unbelieving hearts, those hardened by sin, those guilty of rebellion against God.

(Heb 10:26-27)  If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

And those who fall away are those who “deliberately keep on sinning.”

(Heb 6:4-6 ESV) For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

What caused the people he describes to fall away? Well, they gave up their repentance and so need to be restored to a state of repentance.

These are all different ways of expressing what causes someone to fall away, but it boils down to either a loss of faith or a loss of penitence ( = rebellion, = hard heart, = deliberately keep on sinning).

For now, we want to focus on the penitence part of the question, not the loss of faith. And penitence is a subjective thing. Indeed, Hebrews repeatedly speaks of the state of the person’s heart or in terms of intention. There’s no reference to a particular doctrinal error. Rather, the error that damns (with regard to repentance) is a heart that is no longer loyal to God.

Does that mean there is no content to penitence? Well, no. We’ve just read what Paul wrote in Romans, and he expends nearly all of chapter 12 (and 13 and 14 and 15) teaching us how to love one another. He seems to think it’s pretty important. And it’s not easy. But Paul does not spend a word in Romans on how to worship or organize. In his greatest, most comprehensive work on salvation, he focuses almost exclusively on love and says nothing about 5 acts of worship or congregational autonomy.

But love has other consequences. For example,

(1 John 3:16-18)  This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

(Heb 13:16)  And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

And —

(Phil 2:14-16)  Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16 as you hold out the word of life — in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.

“Hold out the word of life” is surely a reference to evangelism.

(Eph 4:15)  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

Just so, as “truth” refers to the gospel, to speak the truth in love is to be evangelistic.

(1 Pet 2:12)  Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Just so, God intends that we do good deeds that draw people to Jesus.

You see, two of the most natural consequences of “love your neighbor” are benevolence and evangelism — not as church programs but as lifestyles. And so, yes, there’s plenty of content in love.

Now, the part that’s missing in the minds of many is the ecclesiology — the rules for worship and church organization. To many, this is what church is all about. But by now, surely it’s obvious that Christianity is all about faith expressing itself through love, and therefore acting for our neighbors’ good in ways that draw them to Jesus. Christianity is all about forming a community that so loves one another that people see Jesus in us.

Get that wrong, and you’ve got it all wrong.

So where does that leave ecclesiology? Well, ecclesiology serves love. Love doesn’t serve ecclesiology. If your theory of church autonomy or worship somehow causes you to be unloving, you’ve got a bad theory.

And all the verses — every last one — that speak in terms of who falls away speak in terms of faith and love or repentance. Not a one speaks in terms of ecclesiology.

The boundaries of the kingdom are not defined by the rules for worship. Rather, the boundaries are stated in terms of faith in Jesus, love, penitence, and even the Spirit. Not instrumental music.

But those who love God will obey all God’s commands — to the extent they understand them correctly. But their salvation depends on their willingness to obey what they understand, not how well they understand.

Does God expect us to grow in our understanding? Of course. How could we love him and not want to know his will better every day? Does that mean that there comes a day when we’re accountable to get the pattern of worship exactly right or else go to hell? No. Indeed, to even ask the question is to misunderstand what we’ve been saved to be and to do.

We weren’t saved to worship according to a pattern. We were saved to join God’s mission to redeem the world by showing and bringing the love of God to a broken creation. Focusing on patterns of worship and congregational structure is to completely miss the point of why Jesus died on the cross.

A long time ago, when I was a little kid, I had a solar system mobile in my bedroom. It was tied to the light on the ceiling by a slippery black thread, and I wasn’t very good at tying knots at the time. Every few days, it would fall to the floor in a jumble of threads, rods, planets, moons, and sun.

To re-hang it, I had to find the thread that tied to the sun. But there were lots of threads. Sometimes I’d try picking it up by Pluto or Haley’s comet, and it would just be useless, tangled mess. It had all the right parts, and they were all tied together, but you couldn’t tell anything about anything.

But if I could ever find the one right thread, as soon as I lifted it, everything else fell into place. I could then see not only the sun, the planets, and the moons, I could see how they all fit together — which ones were closest to the sun, which ones revolved around which other ones. I could see the system.

Just so, if we try to study the scriptures by first picking up the “acts of worship” or “congregational autonomy” thread, we may have all the right parts, but we won’t have a clue how they fit together. Pick up the faith and love threads first, however, and everything else just kind of falls into place — provided we’re willing to stand back and look at the whole thing rather than ignoring the sun and Jupiter and earth so we can focus on Ceres. Ceres — an asteroid — is a good thing to study, but it’s not nearly the most important thing.

One last note: the scriptures do discuss worship and congregational organization. But nearly 95% of what we’ve taught on those subjects is wrong. But we can’t profitably talk about those things until we get the scriptures hanging from the right threads — so that the Son is in the middle.

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46 Responses

  1. Jay

    I think you hit the nail on the head. Great post.

    I thought santification is the continual washing in the blood of Jesus if we continue in the light or try to live as Jesus would want us to live, that is as you say, love your nieghboor. If I had to go forward for my sins you need to keep the church open most of the day.

    To me, and I’m sure I don’t have it perfect, worship can be on Sunday morning or at home when we study, in the car on the way to work, telling our friends about jesus at work or most of the day when we talk about Him. I haven’t seen a perfect church, worship service or a perfect person. But really, we become perfect by his blood.

    I go to church services with four flat tires but come out pumped up and ready to spend the rest of the week trying to live like Jesus. I am encoursged by the association of like minded people and friends in the worship and throughout the week. We try to encourage each other daily.

    I’m sure I’ve over simplified the act of being a Christian, but if I find a perfect church, it will be marred by my presents.

    I think this post is great.

    We need God’s love, we have his love (agape) and we need to share it with the world.

    Thank you Jay, you are a great Raboni.

    Bob

  2. Jay,

    Excellent. Far to often many of our folks have had misplaced loyalties. Loyalty to the church of Christ, to the traditions of the RM, is not the same as loyalty to Jesus.

    By nature, loyalty to Jesus and submitting to his lordship will cause us to love the lost and our brothers, even when we disagree on some Bible teaching. Loyalty to a “system” or a “pattern” will not produce love and we have proved that point well.

    Royce

  3. This is the best post you could of presented to me and my family at this time.

    We are meeting in our home and trying to unravel from our minds so much of what we have been taught and taught ourselves all our lives and have become aware its wrong.

    May God grant us time and opportunity to correct as much as we can now that we have repented.

    Thank You!

  4. John, you may want to check out http://www.housechurch.com

    Some very helpful insights there in this juncture of your Journey.

    Peace and Love and Courage to you and yours.

  5. Jay

    We don’t have the Gosple Advocate. The Sword , The Herald of Truth or any other periodical. We have you. You have unique way to simlify the obvious and to present in a format that is not offensive.

    We are bond servants of Christ to whom we owe all loyalties.

    Thank you again. Royce is right, this is amoung your best. I am somewhat saddened that you don’t recieve more comments on this post and the last three.

    Bob

  6. Hebrews 6:4-6, The writer of Hebrews at times was speaking to certain people present telling them they need to have genuine faith. The gospel had been preached to these people, and the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit had been manifested among them. They were to go on to a full genuine acceptance or to fall to a willful conscious enmity against Christ, and the sin of rejecting Him, and putting Him to an open shame. The writer is speaking to the unsaved who have heard the truth, but who have hesitated to embrace Christ. The writer knows that a person who doesn’t have genuine faith can become so hard hearted that it can make it impossible for them repent toward God and accept Christ in genuine faith to have eternal salvation and thus he is warning them. Faith and repentance go hand in hand, repentance is of no use if a person doesn’t have genuine faith.

    The Hebrews writer also speaks to those present in Hebrews 6:9-20 who have genuine faith who have eternal salvation saying, “But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

    To say the saved can lose salvation contradicts Scripture. For the Lord Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”(John 10:27-30), Paul gives us assurance saying, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Romans 8:38-39), “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:13-14). We can be confident that God keeps us as He promises to complete what He started in us, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).

  7. Jay, thanks. I’m sure that this post, as John Grant indicated, is of great help to those who dearly love God, yet are in law/rules “bondage,” and the resulting chronic guilt of realizing that they can never “do” enough (those never ending “lines’ that must be sought for and defined to never be crossed again!) to earn the forgiveness of a God that knows the every thoughts of our hearts. I was once there a long time ago. “Doing” versus “becoming.” Both are important, but placing the “doing” without the personal tranforming “becoming” power of the Spirit in one’s spiritual journey can lead one to a spiritual frustration that our acusing adversary seeks to take advantage of. I dare say that there are (prayerfully) many who are seriously considering your posts that we never hear from, but who, NTL, are yearning for the spiritual freedom of forgiveness that only the grace of God offers freely though the cross.

  8. “ecclesiology serves love, love doesn’t serve ecclesiology.”
    That is a vital point. Our movement has failed in its objective specifically because we became all about ecclesiology. Even the language of our evangelism was to the church, not to Christ. And because we missed the boat we are not loving people or each other as we should.

  9. Jay,

    Two things:

    First, suppose you’re right. What then is distinctive about Christianity, about the church? if your moral/positive distinction holds, and the moral commands are the clincher, then what’s distinctive about Christianity? Seems any person from a variety of religious-loyalties could behave in those ways.

    Second, isn’t what we believe about Christ Himself an uncompromisable doctrine?–doesn’t it constitute a doctrine about which error can damn? Or is it perfectly acceptable to say that Christ was just a phantom (docetics)? or a created deity (JW’s)? Or Satan’s brother (Mormonism)? Or just a man who “adopted” deity at baptism (adoptionism)? etc. etc.? Further, isn’t the line you’ve drawn about faith and repentance a doctrine that can damn? If someone gets that line wrong and doesnt’ require either, haven’t they taught damnable error?

    P.S. — i think you’ve nailed the ideas of “faith” and “repentance” in this post. i think our failure to make this very point is why we get nowhere in debates with other religious groups about steps of salvation.

    –guy

  10. Guy, is there a way to send you a private message? my email is:
    andyattangentnetdotcombutwrittenthecorrectway.

  11. Guy,

    God is love. The word “love” and our definitions of love have been so watered down by the world and hollywood over the years, that it may seem like using LOVE as a standard is a non-distinctive standard. The exact opposite is true. Jesus said that our love for one another was THE mark that would show the world the WE are HIS.

    Only a person indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God is capable of the REAL THING. Muslims, hindus, mormons, 80-yr-old unregenerate grandmothers and anyone else that doesn’t have God living inside them CANNOT love. Because only God is love. They can express some of the attributes, but not the fullness of the real thing. Not a love that is willing to die for an enemy. Not a love that is willing to give without NOTHING in return. Not a love that is expressed in a community of believers, day in and day out. Only God in a people can express love like that.

    The other things: the deity of Christ, His virgin birth, the role of women and leadership. Those things aren’t so much commands as they are TRUTH. Truth in Greek means reality and the REALITY is Jesus is the Incarnate Word, the Son of God, the Son of man, the Lord of Heaven and earth. And God IS the head of Christ, Christ the head of man and man the head of woman. That is the Spiritual reality, not a command to be obeyed, but a truth to be recognized. (I believe that women have a tremendous role and contribution to the church that has been ignored, but headship is a spiritual truth)….

    Back to love…. If you read 1 Cor. 5 (read all of 1 Cor), you will see that real love lovingly doesn’t allow those around us to continue practicing unLove (adultery-lust of the heart, idolatry of stuff and people, greed for iPods and gadgets and moola, etc)… Real love says Jesus’ church must stay a haven of love. And if you will not repent of your unLove, you are not welcome there. But if you will genuinely repent and confess your sins, then He is faithful to forgive.

    Part of why we must get the log out of our own eye is so that we can see the speck in our brother’s eye. That is my responsibility. THAT IS LOVE. Not toleration and whitewashing everything. But loving each other towards a loving (and therefore less sin-filled) life.

    It is possible.

    I read your dec 24th post on your site and I promise you, on the authority of the Word of God, there are real answers and churches that you can thrive in and not hide in.

  12. Guy,

    Thanks for your thoughts and thanks for taking the time to share them.

    What you wrote was very well said. And Pertinent.

  13. Just wondering Hank if read my response to Guy? Is there something there that you don’t agree with Biblically?

  14. Pilgrim,

    perhaps what you’re saying is true, but i think i’ve seen non-believers do a fairly good job, at least by appearances, of ‘out-loving’ many believers i know. This is why i’m wondering in the context of the present discussion how this position leaves anything distinctive about Christianity. i’m not sure precisely what it is that i can do such that it constitutes “love” that an unbeliever is incapable of. But there are doctrines peculiar to Christianity which most certainly distinguish it from any other ideology. i’m not trying to say “all or nothing,” that’s precisely what seems amiss about Jay’s thoughts (though i may have misunderstood). “All you need is love” is too simple i think. “All you need is the right doctrines” is definitely not okay. it seems like two factions in the CoC want to pick one position or the other. i’m wondering, why not both?

    the Dec 24th post on my blog is autobiographical, i’ll admit. but i’m also writing it to make a point about modern church culture. generally all the congregations i’ve been a part of have a culture of appearances rather than authenticity. i’m of the persuasion that this is not right at all. And we are harming our ability to practice real discipleship by supporting or harboring or participating in such a culture.

    –Guy

  15. Guy,

    Unbelievers are not likely to love their enemies, to pray for those who despitefully use them, and forgive those who wrong them over and over and over.

    Royce

  16. Pilgrim,

    Which part? It was kind of hard to follow.

    What was your point, exactly?

    (I was tired when I read it)

  17. Hank and Guy and everyone, my point is that Love, real love, is THE distinguishing characteristic according to Jesus, Paul and John.

    John 13:35 “By THIS all men will know that you are My disciples, IF you have love for one another.”

    Galatians 5:6 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.”

    1John 4:7   “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and EVERYONE WHO LOVES IS BORN OF GOD and knows God.”

    If we are not loving and being loved in a way that is VERY DISTINGUISHABLE from the pagan imitation of love, then we really are not experiencing the Christianity that Jesus died to give us.

    That is a stake in the ground that is not open for debate. This is what the Bible says in NO UNCERTAIN terms. Find out how Father DEFINES love. And never settle for anything less.

  18. Royce,

    unlikely is not the same as incapable. and while plenty of other ideologies do promote vengeance and tit-for-tat, Christianity is not the only ideology to promote over-coming evil with good and forgiveness.

    i suppose Christianity would be distinctive if Christians were the only people on the planet actually doing these things–sure. But it’s at least conceivable that non-Christians could practice the same things. And in fact, i daresay, it seems sometimes that the “best” unbelievers outperform the “worst” Christians on these fronts. What then is distinctive about Christianity if it’s just love?

    –guy

  19. Bob,

    I was getting a little worried there, being compared to the GA and Spiritual Sword and all, until you added the HOT. 🙂

    I’ve never aspired to being an editor-bishop. I just like typing on my computer. 🙄

  20. Anon,

    Sorry, but really not wanting to talk about perseverance of the saints right now. But I’ll get to it down the road.

  21. Well my other point in the post above, is that besides love, the other distinctive characteristics aren’t commands and doctrines to argue over, but just true realities: The singular and most exceptional person and God: Jesus.

    But things likes “forms of worship” just are not stipulated in the New Covenant the way they were in the Old. A simple reading of Leviticus and Acts will quickly demonstrate the difference. God isn’t up there saying, “Oops, they used two cups for Communion, it’s only supposed to be one. They’re off my most favored list.” It just isn’t like that.

    But if you indulge and don’t deal with internet lust (or whatever one’s particular weakness is) … yes He does take THAT VERY VERY seriously. He loves you and a single failure isn’t expulsion. But if His Seed is in you, you will not PRACTICE sin. That is what 1 John says.

    So if you or I have a beef with that, then Christianity probably isn’t for us.

    Here is OUR distinguishing characteristic IF we are HIS.

    1Peter 2:9   But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR GOD’S OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you OUT of darkness into His marvelous light;

    God means to not just have a forgiven people, but a Righteous one, in practice. He has provided for it. But no one seems to believe that anymore. :,(

    But some do. I do. It is just what the Bible says.

  22. Guy,

    This post was just about the repentance line, but the other lines remain true.

    Hence, among the things that make Christianity distinctive, is faith in Jesus. Our hope in the resurrection is pretty distinctive, too. Royce makes excellent points regarding the uniqueness of Christian love. Pilgrim is exactly right to refer us to Jesus — who particularly wants our love to the true mark of the church.

    If it’s good enough for Jesus …

    (And did you catch the faith, hope, love triad? That pretty much clinches the argument, doesn’t it?)

  23. Guy, Royce, Pilgrim,

    I should add that the Spirit is a seal and marks us as God’s. It’s a mark of the church, too, as is unity — an essential byproduce of love.

    The Bible absolutely does not make a cappella singing a mark of the church. It’s just not in there.

  24. Again Jay, thank you for giving us the gift of your great mind and your understaning of His word.

    Bob

  25. The Alabama Rabbi has spoken and I for one concede to his wisdom. 🙂

    Royce

  26. so could you say that “deliberately keeping on sinning” or “rebellion” is repenting/loyalty to satan?

  27. Zach: YES, that is true, ENORMOUSLY True. And 1 Cor 5 makes it very clear that the IDEAL vision for the church is that those LOYAL to Christ and those LOYAL to satan should not co-exist. Because the sinful LEAVEN will hurt those LOYAL to Jesus. And we’ve all seen that happen. Jesus deserves better. And we can’t use our “human-ness” as an excuse. Paul in 1 Cor rebuked the believers there for acting “like mere men.”…

    1Corinthians 3:3 for you are STILL fleshly. For since there is JEALOUSY and STRIFE among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?

    Walking in the Spirit (and NOT in the FLESH) was Paul’s EXPECTATION for them. And by 2 Cor., we see that they have REPENTED and affirmed their loyalty to Jesus.

    Notice that he is rebuking them for jealousy and strife… what would he say today in a typical congregation of the gossip, the backbiting, the internet porn, the idolatry of stuff, the ingesting of Hollywood filth and smut before our eyes and ears.

    As weak as Corinth was, they repented and maintained a life in the HOLY Spirit. May Father grant us THAT Grace, the Grace to CHANGE.

    Titus 2:11-14
    For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It trains us (what trains us… GRACE TRAINS US… it doesn’t just “cover us”, it TRAIN US) to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave himself for us to set us free (not JUST to forgive, but TO SET US FREE) from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a PEOPLE who are truly his, who are eager to do good.

  28. NT Wright’s point, that I’m sure Jay intended to make but left out for reasons of space, is that the Greek in the Josephus quote:

    metanoesein kai pistos emoi genesesthai

    is IDENTICAL to the Greek in Mark 1:15, except for the subject to be trusted (for Josephus, himself; for Jesus, the gospel)

    Josephus is telling the rebel to defect from his former loyalty and pledge allegiance to Josephus’ way.

    Likewise, what is distinctive about Christianity is the subject of our loyalty, the means in which we’re expected to live out that loyalty, and the power by which we live. In What’s So Amazing About Grace? Philip Yancey relates a story that goes something like this.

    Years ago, there was a conference in England to discuss the question, “What makes Christianity different from all the other religions of the world?” At the conference, some suggested that Christianity is unique in its teaching that God became a human being. It was pointed out that the Hindu religion has many instances of God coming to earth as human. Others suggested that it is the belief in the resurrection. Again it was pointed out that other faiths believe that the dead rise again. The debate grew loud and heated until C. S. Lewis, the great defender of Christianity, came in. “What’s the rumpus about?” he asked. When he was told that it was a question of the uniqueness of Christianity, he said, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

    Our distinctives mostly aren’t in the WHATs of our lives but in the WHYs.

  29. Yep……you’re an Editor-Bishop alright. Well maybe it would be better to say you’re a Publisher-Bishop. No …….. you’re a Blogging-Bishop. Okay, well what about …………… Progressive-Head-Bishop. I’ve got it ……. Non-Patternist-Boundary-Busting-Bishop. That’s too long. I’m thinking. Think. Think. Think.

    This is it………Bishop Jay. This one might stick.

    It’s okay it’s okay. You are one of my favorite bishops……however you want to be called. Just having a little fun.

  30. Zach,

    Pretty much.

  31. Nick,

    You’re exactly right re Wright. Thanks.

  32. Jay,

    perhaps, then, i’m misunderstanding you. it seems like you’re coming close to saying that some doctrines which seem rather distinctive and rather significant to first century authors don’t matter as long as we love.

    Hank Haanegraff (not my favorite theologian in the world, but a decent radio host) often says there are things we ought to debate but not divide over. He’s fond of making that point regarding the once-saved-always-saved debate. He thinks we’re justified in engaging with each other in an in-house debate on the matter, but it shouldn’t divide us.

    it seems to me that even if a great deal of things aren’t heaven-or-hell issues, that doesn’t mean they aren’t important and that we shouldn’t strive to know the truth about those matters if it can be known, and it’s still important to teach and believe them and correct others who teach falsely–again, *even if* no one will be lost over it. i should do my very best in all areas because i want to glorify God to the best of my abilities; i don’t think i should let things slide just because i only want to do the bare minimum necessary to stay out of hell.

    –Guy

  33. Guy (and Jay can speak for himself), but in regard to the “Once saved, always saved” issue itself… What is the point? If I can’t lose my salvation, what effect would that have on me practically. One net effect it has had worldwide is lukewarmness. Not good fruit.

    When former Colts coach Tony Dungy lost his son to suicide, Tony says in his book (like a good baptist) that he’s glad his son was saved because it brought them (the parents) comfort at his death.

    I’m not saying whether he was lost or saved. But he was sleeping with his girlfriend, doing drugs and commit suicide. That, to me, doesn’t sound like someone who is loyal to Jesus no matter what prayer he prayed or how deep the water was when he was baptized.

    One of Jay’s point’s I believe is, “Let’s concentrate on the greatest commandment and its corollary and maybe we’ll find out that we don’t have so many disagreements anymore.”

    REALLY LOVING God with ALL our Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves truly does erase many of the false teachings that exist…

    The key is: LOVE is a very HIGH CALLING, the real thing is. It’s not about hugging around a campfire singing kum bay ya. Jesus was a LOVER of men and it cost Him his life. His love was costly. It will cost us no less. That is the kind of love that the unbelievers are INCAPABLE of. That is what John, the apostle of Love said. Without being BORN of God and KNOWING GOD, we CANNOT love. So love is THE MARK.

  34. Guy, can you make a short list of the issues that you have in mind?

  35. Guy,

    1. You can’t love God and want to do the bare minimum. Indeed, there is no bare minimum.

    Penitence means obeying what you know to obey. To ignore what you know to obey is rebellion (understanding that we’ll all fail to do as well as we want).

    2. Which doctrines do you have in mind? What distinctive and significant doctrines do you think am I saying we should ignore?

  36. Pilgrim,

    The point first and foremost is that i want to know God’s will and take advantage of the revelation He has given me because He’s taken the time to give it.

    But beyond that, such a doctrine could be used as license for sin–perhaps like the example you mention.

    Or it could even give people less assurance. What do many adherents say when someone appears to fall away? “Well, that means they never were saved to begind with.” Really?–is that how that person viewed themselves from the beginning? i don’t know with absolute certainty that i won’t fall away in the future. If so, and if OSAS is correct, that means i’m not saved now and never was. Since i don’t know that i won’t fall away then, how can i know i’m saved now, if OSAS is true?

    It’s not inconsequential. However, i don’t see why it’d be necessary to stop worshipping with someone over it.

    –guy

  37. Jay,

    Regarding “1.” — agreed. but i hope you’ll admit there are people in pews throughout the spectrum of CoC’s who think the conclusion “that’s not a salvation issue” means, “i’m perfectly justified in not caring and not exerting myself whatsoever regarding this matter.” i certainly encountered such a mentality more than twice in full-time ministry.

    Regarding “2.” — Well, i’ll admit i’m being ambiguous here. It’s two points really.

    (a) *Which* particulars am *i* concerned about? Christology, Lord’s Supper, resurrection, baptism, and possibly some others that i’m not even sure how to phrase. My spidey sense tingles when reading some of these recent posts because it appears as though you’re saying these distinctives don’t matter. They’re not worth debating about or trying to learn and believe and adhere to the truth on these matters.

    (b) *Why* should anyone be concerned about particulars? It’s not merely a list of particulars, but its the principle of particularity. i don’t see why it’s so bad to want to have distinguishing features. i’m not at all disagreeing with the things you’re saying ought to be characteristic of the church. i just don’t see how that will make us necessarily any different from atheists who just happen to be “good” people. i’ve definitely met people who outshined me in areas but who were not Christians. Ghandi was twice the peace-maker i’ll ever be, but the guy wasn’t a Christian. if we’re just a caring community, then how are we any different from any other caring community in the world? What is it that’s particularly Christian about our caring community?

    –Guy

  38. Mahatma Gandhi said, I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

    Gandhi had a great interest in Christianity. Gandhi’s rejection of Christianity grew out of an incident that happened when he was a young man practicing law in South Africa. He had become attracted to the Christian faith, had studied the Bible and the teachings of Jesus, and was seriously exploring becoming a Christian. And so he decided to attend a church service. As he came up the steps of the large church where he intended to go, a white South African elder of the church barred his way at the door. “Where do you think you’re going, kaffir?” the man asked Gandhi in a belligerent tone of voice. Gandhi replied, “I’d like to attend worship here.” The church elder snarled at him, “There’s no room for kaffirs in this church. Get out of here or I’ll have my assistants throw you down the steps.” From that moment, Gandhi said, he decided to adopt what good he found in Christianity, but would never again consider becoming a Christian if it meant being part of the church. How we treat others tells people more about what we believe and what following Jesus means to us.

    Gandhi’s intense study of Christ and Christianity, especially in South Africa, had a major impact on his satyagraha campaigns in both South Africa and India. Although satyagrahais often considered only in its political aspect, and although several studies of his religious beliefs have been done without reference to their political implications, Gandhi himself emphasized throughout his life that he sought to spiritualize the political, to establish a spiritual basis for all his social and political work. Gandhi was especially moved by the similar themes he found in the Sermon on the Mount and the Bhagavad Gita. Christ’s ethic of Love, expressed especially in the admonitions to “resist not evil” and to “make this world the Kingdom of God,” contributed to Gandhi’s theory of nonviolent direct action.

  39. Guy, just to be clear…. when I said, “What is the point?” above, I wasn’t pressing you. OSAS really bothers me (and I think the Spirit of Jesus) because it instills a sense of casualness in regards to growth and pressing on towards fullness in Jesus (Eph 4:13-16). I was asking, “What is the point of that false doctrine?” I know Calvin said it was to make the believer feel more secure because in his day, like with traditional C of C, there was a sense that I could be damned at any moment for any mistake. We are in a relationship with Jesus and he disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 13?) but he doesn’t cast them out with every infraction. It takes some rebellion in the heart to go from “walking in the Light” to “walking in darkness.” BUT it can happen. But Calvin took the easy road and said essentially, “You’re eternally secure.” And lukewarmness has been the result.

    But if every one who named Christ as their Lord would paste Eph 4:13-16 to the inside of their eyelids so that they could be reminded of THAT calling and imperative, then I think we would see a much more healthy Christianity. LORDSHIP is a process. From my conversion onward, I have declared Jesus is my Lord. Covenant made, case closed. But over time, He truly wants to take practical Lordship in every area of my life: how I spend my time, how I spend my money, what I allow myself to think about. There may come a fork in the road, an “Isaac” so to speak, where He is asking of me, “Lay this down as a sacrifice for me.” I can choose to say, “No.” And if I choose to persist in my disobedience on THAT issue, our relationship will suffer, “For how can two walk together, unless they are in agreement?” Maybe, MAYBE I will still be saved, but my life will be worthless to HIM while I live out my days.” But I might be lost too. But someone who loves Jesus, even though it may be hard, when those forks come, will generally bow their knee and know that His Will is best.

    At some point, we must ALL grow up and stop worrying about whether we are saved or not. The real question is: Is Jesus getting what he deserves from my life and from the church I’m part of. He wants a pure and spotless bride and THAT is our mission. That mission involves reaching out to unbelievers BUT it more importantly involves Believers themselves, together, GROWING towards maturity, holiness, faith and love. (2 Peter 1, the whole chapter is GREAT).

  40. Lukewarm people are half-in half-out of the world, they go to church, but live like the devil, proclaiming to believe the Bible, but not looking like Jesus, claiming to believe in Christianity, yet denying the essence of Christ, yoking up unbelievers of all stripes. The true believer can stumble, but won’t get stuck by what is obviously, openly against Christ, they will embrace what is faithful to God.

    Seems people want to say the saved can lose salvation contradicting Scripture.

    The Lord Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”(John 10:27-30), Paul gives us assurance saying, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Romans 8:38-39), “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14). We can be confident that God keeps us as He promises to complete what He started in us, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6).

  41. Guy,

    1. If there are those who rely on grace to sin or just be lazy, their souls are in serious jeopardy. After all, such behavior is not faith expressing itself in love. Love — following the Golden Rule — must be active.

    2. Faith is still a necessity. It amazes me how I can write a post or two on love and penitence and suddenly I’m accused of denying the necessity of faith. It’s a faith that produces love (Gal 5:6, for example).

    But when I talk of love, I’m accused of teaching license, as though love doesn’t prohibit, for example, murder!!

    So I utterly fail to see how one can find a contradiction of the resurrection from “faith expressing itself through love.”

    Regarding baptism, Paul and John are both writing to Christians. Baptism is not at issue when the question is how one might fall away. (Nonetheless, a deep understanding of grace will also deepen our understanding of where baptism fits into the scheme of things.)

    Regarding the Lord’s Supper — I have post coming in few days — if I can get to writing my thoughts down.

    Regarding being different from atheists — one more time — faith is the first and foremost necessity. The things that distinguish us from atheists are things like faith in Jesus, loving as God loves (including loving our enemies), hope in the resurrection, possession of the Spirit — and unity. And there are actually verses that say just that.

    These are also the things that will draw the lost to Jesus. A cappella music and the absence of missionary societies are not marks of the church and certainly won’t draw anyone. And nowhere does the Bible define the church’s boundaries by such things.

    Indeed, the very notion that we must bind ourselves with arbitrary rules not commanded by God to distinguish ourselves from the world is exactly wrong. We distinguish ourselves from the world by being like Jesus.

  42. What is special about Christianity? Jesus. And what about Jesus? He came as a sacrifice of God. No other religion has God requiring justice and providing grace. C.S. Lewis was right.
    Everyone likes heroes. A victorious prophet, priest-King, etc. are high on the list. The suffering servant just wasn’t the Jews idea of a Messiah or most religions idea of a leader. The God who gives is the special story.

  43. Jay,

    Well, then i have likely misunderstood you and can heartily agree.

    But you say you’re puzzled how you see a contradiction between resurrection and “faith expressing itself through love.” Well, because it appears to me from what i’ve read thus far that a doctrine like the resurrection would fall into your category of the “positive” and thus really doesn’t matter all that much, if at all.

    Same with the rest of the list i’ve mentioned–Christology and the lot. These things seem to me to qualify for your “positive” category which you seem to want to devalue. That’s why i was worried about those particulars.

    So either i’ve misunderstood you and this list of things does not belong in the “positive” category, or they fit into the “positive” but they matter a great deal more than you’ve let on about “positive” things mattering, or the distinction is illegitimate for determining what matters and what doesn’t. Or some fourth possibility?

    –Guy

  44. Guy,

    For something to be a positive command, it has to be a command. And eschatology, Christology, and the resurrection aren’t commands.

    They do have moral and missional implications. They help us understand the nature of the love we are to have more deeply. They show us why and how God is working in our lives to make us more loving people. They give substance to our faith and our hope. But they aren’t commands.

    Indeed, they all point in the same direction — toward the importance of our participating in God’s redemptive mission. And understanding this mission and our involvement tells us how to love.

  45. Jay,

    (1) Well, now i’m lost. i mean, i with you now based on your explanations. But i’m lost regarding your distinction. Now it seems you’re saying that “positive” commands are not arbitrary–they couldn’t just as easily have been something else, and thus they could have something to do with love. Is that what you’re saying? If so, then i really don’t know what you mean by the term “positive.”

    (2) i knew you’d eventually call me on the “command” specification. i admit to playing loose, but for a reason. i’m thinking of commanding as imperative, and an imperative as an obligation. If any of the doctrines i mention can be related to an obligation (for instance, one is obligated not to believe that Christ was merely human), then it seems to me your positive/moral distinction should still be testable/applicable. i don’t see why not.

    –Guy

  46. Guy,

    Again, it’s “faith expressing itself through love.” Faith is an absolute requirement. Therefore, yes, “one is obligated not to believe that Christ was merely human.”

    When I discuss positive commands, I’m discussing the “love” leg of the expression. It’s faith plus love. Please stop trying to show that love is insufficient because it doesn’t include faith.

    By “arbitrary” I mean based on no good reason.

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