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The “Works” debate

Published May 24, 2017 by thinkinbout

Hi all, lately I have been learning EXPONENTIALLY more than I ever dreamed about the Bible. I am doing this by listening to podcasts on iTunes (Cornerstone Sermons, Leading the Way Radio, The Bible Answer Man Broadcast) and reading books such as How to Read the Bible for all It’s Worth, How to Read the Bible Book by Book, and any and all books and articles from the website reasons.org.  I am going to start a series of blog posts about what I’ve learned that have changed my mind about certain things that I was either taught or thought were correct that I’ve learned aren’t. You’ll see what I mean when I write the entries, but tonight I wanted to give some clarity to the “works” debate.

As a Protestant, I have always been taught that we do not work FOR salvation but FROM salvation.  Good works are an important part of a Christian’s life to bring glory to God and, obviously, to help people, as Christ taught in Matthew 25:35-45. It wasn’t really a “teaching” exactly, or a command, it’s more of an expectation. I cannot speak to the Catholic point of view, but I have the impression that “good works” help in salvation. If I am wrong, please do let me know!

The book of James seems to be a point of confusion, since it seems to say that works have a part in salvation, although elsewhere in the Bible it is clear they don’t (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:28, Galatians 2:16). However, James 2:14-26 states:

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith, but dose not have works?       Can his faith save him?  If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food,           and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you don’t give       them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have           works, is dead by itself.  But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show     me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works. You believe           that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe-and they shudder.  Foolish man!     Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless?  Wasn’t Abraham our               father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?  You see that faith     was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected.  So the                     Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for     righteousness, and he was called God’s friend.  You see that a man is justified by works     and not by faith alone.  And in the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified     by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by a different route?         For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”

Now here comes the part where it’s is imperative that we read this and the entire Bible in context. I have blogged about understand context and history before with my entries on:

“Should Christian women avoid wearing jewelry or braids?” (blog 8 of Lent)

“Tattoos” (blog 5 of Lent)

Why sacrificing a child wasn’t odd in Old Testament times (blog 3 of Lent)

Why Paul “prohibited” women from speaking in church (“This is why understanding the context, history, and language of the Bible is important”)

And thankfully my Bible explains what we may not understand regarding this issue. (I use The Apologetics Study Bible, if you’re interested) The foot note in James says this: “Many skeptics argue that a contradiction exists between Paul’s statement that ‘a man is justified by faith apart from works’ (Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16) and the teaching of James that ‘a man is justified by works and not by faith alone’ (James 2:24). However, these positions actually complement each other.

First, Paul and James addressed different situations. On the one hand, Paul refuted a Jewish legalism holding that one must observe the [Jewish] Law’s requirements in order to be saved. On the other hand, James opposed an antinomianism that was twisting faith in Christ so much that no expression of works was necessary.

Second, when Paul used the word ‘justified,’ he meant ‘saved’ or ‘declared righteous,’ whereas James meant ‘vindicated’ or ‘authenticated.’ By “works,’ Paul meant ‘works of the Law,’ whereas James meant works that faith produces.

In light of the above, Paul was saying that one is declared righteous by God apart from the works of the Law. James, by contrast, was saying that a person’s faith produces works that vindicate his faith in Christ as genuine. James used Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac and Rahab’s protection of the spies as examples to show that their works authenticated the reality of their faith in God. For James, faith without works was clearly worthless; it must be more than words. Authentic faith will bear the fruit of good works.

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Blog 9 of Lent

Published March 19, 2016 by thinkinbout

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Ok, well that whole attempt to blog each day of Lent went out the window real fast. That’s ok though.

Tonight I want to write about something that is on my heart, not something I read in Scripture. It’s about the proper attitude for a Christian. These days, negativity, hatefulness, rudeness, and intolerance abound. It is so very easy, and often much more desirable, to have one of the above attitudes. This has been on my mind due to the political climate in America right now. The political strife is probably a better way to term it. And that, in turn, made me think about the nasty attitudes we see everyday.

One of those nasty, and unfortunately growing, attitudes is entitlement. Entitlement is the opposite of humility. Humility is growing more and more rare. Listen to me: You CANNOT please God and not be humble. Everyone, it seems, feels entitled to something, and when they don’t get the desired result, they get mad. They get mean. They sometimes lash out physically and hurt people without a prick of the conscience. If someone flips you the bird, you feel it’s ok to hurt them. Someone’s wearing “awesome” new shoes, and you think you deserve them, so he’s killed for a PAIR of SHOES. This happened a couple weeks ago in the city where I live. Let this sink in. A TEENAGER WAS KILLED FOR A PAIR OF SHOES.

Someone’s rude to you, you’re more rude back. It just escalates.

It’s the opposite of humility.

Do you know how many times the Bible mentions humility? It certainly is a big deal to God. I’m only going to mention 3 here:

Philippians 2:3- Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. …

James 4:6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,

A thankful heart, a servant’s heart, and a humble heart are what are pleasing to God.

Also, going back to the political climate, I am shocked at the vile comments I see on Facebook about candidates in these people’s own preferred party. I am in a bunch of conservative groups on Facebook, and after each of the Republican candidates who have dropped out, many of the members of the FB group make cruel, hateful, abhorrent comments about that candidate. I have seen the most vitriol saved for Marco Rubio. After reading such detestable comments, you’d think it was a liberal saying these things. Let me gently remind you that whatever you do for the least of these you do to [Jesus]. That includes names you call people. That includes how you treat people. When you insult or comment that this loser should have dropped out sooner and curl up and die, you are saying this about a sacred soul created in God’s own image. In essence, you are saying it to God Himself, and that must be repented of. That goes for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump too.

Blog 6 of Lent: Worthless Religion

Published February 22, 2016 by thinkinbout

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Today was the first day in months I’ve actually been able to attend a church service because I wasn’t scheduled to work. And it was glorious. Besides the fact that my 11 month old made a lot of noise and had to be taken out of the sanctuary a couple times, just sitting in the pew listening to the organ music was exactly what I needed. In my teens and 2os I preferred contemporary worship, but now I enjoy that “old time” music, and a choir that wears robes.

Today I actually won’t be writing about anything in Jeremiah, but a passage from the first chapter in Isaiah.  Today at breakfast my husband asked, “Would you walk non-stop for 24 hours to reach [a place of pilgrimage]?” I knew what he meant, since he has told me about his journey before. He is from a country in which there has been a “Marian apparition” (a place where Mary has appeared to a person or persons, and where a miracle has supposedly occurred. Note that not all places that claim to have Marian apparitions have been approved by the Catholic Church).  Anyway, hubby has made this pilgrimage twice. He told me he walked all day and night to reach it, and he told me of the many pilgrims who even walked there on their knees as a sign of deep devotion. Now I am not Catholic, so I don’t know if that means deep devotion to Mary, God, or maybe it’s considered devotion to the whole Church as one, I don’t know.

Medjugorje

“Would you walk non-stop for 24 hours to reach [a place of pilgrimage]?”  No.

Hubby: “I did, and when I reached The Virgin (statue), I promised her I would never do it again [because it was so grueling]. Then I did do it again and I promised her one more time that I would never do that again.”

To my ears, that sounds funny, promising a statue something. I understand that he didn’t see himself as making a promise to the statue itself, but to the Mary herself in a prayer, or something, but that’s not the point.

He continued, telling me that making that trek, volunteering in a various places, doing “good,” left him feeling empty after the fact. Walking that distance, not once but twice, certainly is an accomplishment-a big one! Talk about devotion-to good works! That left me thinking about Isaiah, specifically about worthless religion and good works that are nothing but “rags.”

Isaiah 1:11-15 (CSB): ” ‘What are all your sacrifices to Me?’ asks the LORD. ‘I have had enough of burnt offerings and rams and the fat of well-fed cattle; I have no desire for the blood of bulls, lambs, or male goats. When you come to appear before Me, who requires this from you-this trampling of My courts? Stop bringing useless offerings. I despise your incense, New Moons and Sabbaths, and the calling of solemn assemblies-I cannot stand iniquity with a festival. I hate your New Moons and prescribed festivals. They have become a burden to Me; I am tired of putting up with them. When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will refuse to look at you; even if you offer countless prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.’ ”

God instituted these festivals and sacrifices to Himself in years past, and you can find guidelines for those in Exodus, Leviticus, and probably Deuteronomy, though I’m not going to check at the moment due to time constraints. The footnote in my Bible says this: “The Lord directed the people of Israel to build the tabernacle (Ex. 26-31), established the theological significance of the sacrifices (Lv 1-6), and appointed the nation’s festivals (Ex 34:18-26; Lv 23). But here Isaiah, speaking in the Lord’s name, appears to condemn these God-ordained institutions. Israelite prophets typically expressed themselves in extreme language, so attuned were they to the Lord’s sense of betrayal by the people He had chosen. The institutions of Israelite worship were designed so that the people could sense God’s presence in their midst, confess their sins, and renew their covenant relationship. They were to participate in these feasts in a heart-felt celebration of His past acts of grace. But the nation had grown careless; its worship had become shallow, carried out as popular custom-a casual ‘trampling’ (v. 12) of the courts of the Lord. There was a profound disparity between the people’s professed loyalty to the covenant and the ‘iniquity’ (v. 13) and injustice (v. 15) they tolerated in violation of that very covenant’s precepts. Under such conditions, it is hardly surprising that the Lord found their offerings ‘useless’ (v. 13) and was disgusted by their prayer, incense, festivals, and other religious practices. God does not condemn the practices of worship He, Himself, has instituted, only the false motivation that distorts them. He welcomes worship from those who repent of their sins and come to His house to glorify His name.”

I wanted to mention one more verse of Isaiah before ending this post. It is Isaiah 64:6: “All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment; all of us with like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind.” The footnote says: “Isaiah strikingly compared the ‘righteous acts‘ of the people to a polluted garment…ritual uncleanness kept a person from entering the place of worship or from beholding the face of the Lord…Even despicable human beings can do a few good things for people they care about, but God does not look on their good deeds with favor because their motivation is corrupt and self-centered. In this passage, the people were confessing their sins, admitting they did not listen to God (v. 4) or call on His name (v. 7). They realized that the good things they did- their own righteousness- could never compare with the righteousness of a holy God, which is infinitely greater.”

If you’re not in right relationship with God, “good works” are not looked upon by God as righteous acts. He Himself has paved the bridge for that right relationship and those good works through Christ alone.

 

 

 

This is why understanding the context, history, and language of the Bible is important.

Published January 16, 2016 by thinkinbout

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And I have hundreds of examples. Here is just one:

“What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”
—1 Corinthians 14:26-35, NIV
Many feel that Paul prohibited women from speaking publicly to the congregation. However, if this is Paul’s teaching, this is not the proof text for it.
We must bear in mind that this epistle is addressed ‘to the church of God in Corinth ,’ not ‘to anyone who happens to read this.’ (1 Corinthians 1:2) We are reading this epistle, as it were, over the shoulders of the Corinthian church, to which it is immediately addressed. Any interpretation of this passage that applies it directly to us without taking the circumstances in Corinth into account is faulty and—well—unbiblical.
This passage deals with the general issue of when people are to speak and when they are to defer to other speakers during a worship service. If you are looking for the qualifications for leadership, you have to look in other places, in particular 1 Timothy and Titus.
The women who are ‘speaking’ in this passage are not addressing the assembly in a leadership role, they were talking while the worship service was in progress, disrupting it with questions about the proceedings.
Paul says that the questions should not be asked during church, but afterwards at home.
The Greek verb translated here as ‘speak’ is λαλεω, which indicates the activity rather than the content of speech. (It is the verb that regularly introduces quotations.) Thus, we could better translate this as saying that ‘it is a disgrace for women to talk in church’ and ‘they are not allowed to talk.’
The Greek verb λαλεω appears in the present infinitive, so we could improve on our translation even further by saying, ‘it is a disgrace for women to be talking in church’ and ‘they are not allowed to be talking.’ If Paul had meant to say, ‘it is not permitted for women to preach,’ he would have used a different verb, and would have cast it in the aorist infinitive.
The Greek verb translated ‘remain silent’ means to refrain from talking out of respect, just as we do not chatter during prayers or the sermon or a choir performance.
As for the submission, the most we can get out of the passage at hand is that women, like everyone else, have to submit to the general rules of order and decorum. Decorum in worship is in fact one of the main themes of this epistle. The topic here is order in the church, not the intrinsic value of women, not the qualifications for church leadership, and not ordination.
Since the general context is about speaking out of turn in church, we can only conclude that Paul is saying that it is disgraceful for women to disrupt the service by asking questions of the other parishioners. They are not allowed to be talking, they should hold their questions until afterwards. Given that the women of Corinth were disrupting the service with their chatter, hardly anyone would disagree with Paul’s advice. Inserting any other meaning is eisegesis, not exegesis; it fallaciously conflates the text.

(I did not write this, and I do not know who did so I cannot give him or her credit, but this is one example (of many!) of misinterpretation. People so causally dismiss God’s word because they don’t understand the mindset, language, history, etc., of the time. People should do their research before dismissing something so important.)

Healing in our Land

Published November 2, 2015 by thinkinbout

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So, if you haven’t noticed, the world has gone crazy. I mean, I really feel like it’s on the verge of collapse or implosion.  I don’t even want to rehash it, it’s so depressing and terrifying.  Suffice it to say, this must be the bloodiest era since time began.

And that got me thinking.  Everyone seems to have their own agenda, their own self-righteous opinions, their own seething hatred and intolerance for others who do not feel or think the same way. Everyone vies for their voice to be heard while not reciprocating to those whose opinions differ.  Even praying is cause for job dismissal. (Obviously, that only applies to certain religions while not to others)

Beyond that, immorality is rampant.  There always seem so be a new headline about child porn. The most recent story about Jared Fogle, who has children of his own, is disturbing. As a new mom, this is very alarming.  Other abuse, whether physical, verbal, even bullying, are also regular headlines in the news.

Daily, there are stories of muggings, maimings, murders, just for the thrill of it.  It’s like I can’t even walk down the street anymore without the possibility of someone out to attack me for fun.  And I certainly can’t go to school, church, the movies, the mall, a restaurant, etc., without possibly getting shot by a suicidal maniac who wants to take as many people with him as possible.

Sometimes I cry for the world.

Things aren’t getting better. In fact, they won’t unless there is a healing in our land.  People hold on to resentments and bitterness far longer than they should; they don’t understand the power of forgiveness to heal them.  Of course, many don’t want healing, they revel in their victimhood and want everyone to know it.  And if you have a different opinion you’ll be shut up by being called a racist, a bigot, or threatened.  Truth is the new hate speech, y’all.

I’m reminded of 2 Chronicles 7:14 which says (the verse begins in the middle of a sentence), “[if] My people who are called by My Name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” Humbling oneself (opposite of pride!!) is not easy, but isn’t it worth it to heal our land? Isn’t it worth it to seek out God and turn from evil?

A message for Good Friday

Published April 3, 2015 by thinkinbout

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BLOOD, it’s so valuable! Never a day goes by that someone, somewhere has need of it. Some blood types are common, some rare, and others very rare. Those who have a rare blood type will go to any expense or length to locate someone with the same type, for they know that their very life depends on it. The American Red Cross continually requests donations of blood, especially around holiday weekends. Blood is that liquid substance in the veins without which mankind could not survive. The very life of our flesh is in the blood. Without blood, man will die.

SINCE the beginning of time when Adam and Eve first sinned (Ge. 3:6), blood has played a major role in the salvation of man. God made clothes for Adam and Eve from the skins of animals; a life was given and blood was shed (Ge. 3:21). From that time forward, man has been born with a sinful nature (Pr. 20:9; Is. 53:6; 64:6; Ro. 3:23; 1 Jn. 1:8), the penalty of which is death (Ez. 18:4; Ro. 5:12; 6:23).

THAT man might find relief from the penalty of sin, God made a provision for atonement. It involved the shedding of the blood of certain animals on the altar. A life had to be given that the blood might be shed (Le. 17:11). At best, this was only temporary, for at certain times these sacrifices were required, that atonement could be made (Ex. 30:10; He. 9:7). If a man were to sin again, then a sacrifice was required, more blood had to be shed. The demands of a just and holy God had to be met.

BUT then the time came when the shedding of the imperfect blood of animals should cease, for God sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the sin debt once and for all. Because Jesus Christ was (is) perfect and without sin (1 Pe. 2:22; He. 4:15), He was able to do this. For the last time in the history of mankind a blood sacrifice for sin would be made. As the Son of God hung there on that cursed cross, He took upon Himself the sins of the world, yours and mine, that we should not have to die (Ga. 3:13; 1 Pe. 3:18; 1 Pe. 2:24; Titus 2:14; Ep. 5:2). The blood that flowed from His wounded side (Jn. 19:34) was perfect and free from sin (1 Pe. 1:19).

WE read in Hebrews 9:11-14 that Christ secured our eternal redemption with this once-for-all sacrifice, without which there could be no remission of sin (He. 9:22). The love of God compelled Christ to do this for us (Jn. 3:16) because He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pe. 3:9) The blood of Christ was full payment for the sins of the world, but it is efficient only to those who place, by faith, their trust in Jesus Christ.

DEAR one, have you been to the Cross of Calvary, or are you still carrying your burden of sin? You need not carry it any longer, for Jesus Christ bore it on the Cross.

–I do not know who wrote this, only that I emailed it to myself in 2008. Thought I’d share for Good Friday.