Questions & Answers About Salvation
Question: What does the Bible mean by "Atonement?"
Answer: Atonement means exactly what it says: At-one-ment. It is the method God chose to bring repentant sinners back into harmony with Him so they can dwell with Him forever.
The idea of atonement came directly from God, and it goes as far back as the fall of Adam and Eve. In fact, we have New Testament evidence that the reality of atonement has been in place before the beginning of time (See: Titus 1:2; Eph 1:4; Rev 13:8; 1 Cor 2:7; 2 Th 2:13.) Does that "blow your mind?" It did mine when I first discovered it.
When Adam and Eve fell, God told them, in the curse He placed on the serpent, that there would come a time when the serpent's head would be crushed. Now remember, even though the animal received part of the curse, the one behind it—Satan himself—would eventually have this happen to him. But God also said that the "offspring" (NIV) of the woman—though wounded by the serpent—would crush the head of the serpent—again, Satan himself. Here is the beginning of the revelation of the atonement.
God gave further light on the atonement through the lives of Abraham and Isaac, in Genesis 22. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son "his only son" on the altar as a burnt offering. When the two of them were climbing the fateful mountain, this interchange passed between them:
Gen 22:7, 8 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?" "Yes, my son?" Abraham replied. "The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son."
Even though Abraham couldn't mentally see beyond the burning body of his son, he believed that God would somehow intervene. The writer of Hebrews clarifies this for us:
Heb 11:17-19 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.
In this experience Abraham learned, in a small way, what God would experience in giving His only Son for the life of the world. Abraham learned even more. God stopped Abraham's action—something God Himself would be unable to do—and provided a substitute for Isaac's life. Abraham found a ram stuck in a bush nearby and this he sacrificed in the place of his son. Abraham learned, in a faint way, that God would provide a substitute—an atonement—for sinners.
Going down through history we find the story of the Passover in Egypt. Nine of the plagues had already fallen upon Egypt and the Lord wanted to prepared Israel to escape the tenth. Through Moses God instructed the people that each family should sacrifice a lamb, roast it whole, and eat it with their clothes on and prepared to move. But before they roasted the lamb, they were to put some of its blood on the doorposts of the house and on the beam over the door. God promised:
Exo 12:13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. . . .
The blood of the lamb on the doorpost of the house symbolized the atonement, where the blood of the lamb symbolized the blood of Messiah Who would make atonement for His people.
The Tent of Meeting
We learn more about atonement through the story of Moses and the Israelites at Mt. Sinai. After God gave Moses the ten commandments, He showed Moses how to make a Tent of Meeting—a tabernacle, sanctuary—where God Himself could meet with the Israelites. God gave Moses exact plans for building the Sanctuary, and gave him exact instructions as to the forms of worship that He required to take place there. These are detailed throughout the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, and make somewhat heavy reading as they are interspersed with instruction for civil, judicial, and religious laws.
Yom Kippur--The Day of Atonement
The section we are interested in—the day of atonement—is explained in some detail in Lev. 16. The day was a culmination of the ceremonial year and one in which everyone was required to fast and pray for the forgiveness of sin.
All through the year there had been sacrifices for the general sins of Israel in the morning and evening sacrifice. Then there were other sacrifices as well: among them, there were sacrifices made for the dedication of a newborn son; for thanksgiving; and for the specific sin of the person offering it. In each case, the sins were symbolically transferred to the sanctuary by several means—all of which involving the blood of the animal that was slain. Sometimes the blood was sprinkled on the altar of burnt offering; sometimes it was sprinkled on the ground in front of the curtain that separates the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place; sometimes it was wiped with the finger upon the horns of the altar of incense. (See: Lev. 3:2; 4:3-7; 4:13-18; 5:5-10, etc.)
Now, on the day of atonement—Yom Kippur—after ceremonies in which the high priest was cleansed, two goats were brought to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. The priests were to cast lots over the animals to decide which would be the Lord's goat and which would be the scapegoat. The Lord's goat was killed and burned on the altar. It's blood. was sprinkled on the golden lid of the Ark of the Covenant—called the mercy seat in KJV—which is in the Most Holy Place. The presence of God appeared in this room as the Shekinah (a brilliant light) that floated over the Mercy Seat. The Shekinah represented the presence of God. This was the only day in which the high priest could enter this room.
When the high priest leaves the room, he stops by the altar of incense which stands in front of the curtain, and wipes some of the blood on its horns. When he passes out of the Tent of Meeting, he symbolically carries with him the sins of the entire nation upon himself. He lays his hands on the scapegoat and confesses all these sins, symbolically passing them onto the goat. Then this goat is led out into the desert and let go.
The Messiah and . . . The Scapegoat
This ceremony points forward to:
1. when Messiah—Jesus—died (as the Lord's goat) to make atonement for sins of all who confessed their sins and accepted Him as their Savior (His blood was shed for our sin);
2. the time when Jesus will intercede as our High Priest before the Father in Heaven (the high priest appearing before the Shekinah over the Mercy Seat); and
3. the time when God will place all the confessed sins of His people upon Satan (the scapegoat) to perish with him in the Lake of fire.
Some wonder why Satan has any part in this. If the sins of the righteous are confessed—laid on—upon Satan and he dies with them—isn't this making Satan our savior?
No. Jesus died to pay for our sins. He only lays them on Satan in order to get them out of the Heavenly Temple. Jesus is the Master Chef who lays before us the gourmet wedding supper of the Lamb (Himself). Satan is the garbage man who hauls off the trash—and never returns.
Then Jesus' redeemed people—from all time past, from every language, from every nation and ethnic group—will live with Him forever.
Rev 21:1-4 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the
first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was
no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride
beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice
from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men,
and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God
himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every
tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or
crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
Holiness and Righteousness
Question: What is the difference between holiness and righteousness?
Answer: I find it difficult to separate the two because they are intimately related to each other.
Briefly, holiness derives from the words in Hebrew and in Greek that are often translated "to set apart," "to sanctify," "to make holy." So the essence of holiness lies in being set apart—for a holy purpose. Thus you have the act of God in sanctifying the Sabbath—setting it aside for a holy purpose; and in sanctifying His people--setting them aside from the world. God, of course, is holy because He is set apart as the only Creator/Redeemer in the universe. We become holy when we accept Jesus as our Savior and let Him take our sins away. We remain holy as long as we allow Him to stay in our hearts and do through us the things which He commands us to do in the Bible—from Genesis to Revelation.
Holiness is also referred to as "sanctification." This word comes from the same root and has roughly the same meaning. Justification takes place when we accept Jesus and let Him take away our sins. Sanctification occurs day by day as we permit Jesus to live out His life in us.
"Righteousness" comes from the Hebrew and Greek word that have the meaning "to do right," "to be in harmony with society, with our neighbors, and with God." In the spiritual sense, we become righteous when we accept God's grace and do what He asks us to do.
Eph 2:8-10 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Perhaps we could compare the two this way: Holiness comes from being set apart, allowing Jesus to live in us and help us follow His commands. Righteousness is the description of what Jesus does for us—the end result, if you please. It is a word that describes the presence of holiness.
The only righteousness that matters is the righteousness of Christ which He gives to all who by faith accept Him as their Savior and remain in Him.
Let me quote from one of my favorite devotional books, Steps to Christ, by Ellen G. White.
"The condition of eternal life is now just what it always has been—just what it was in Paradise before the fall of our first parents—perfect obedience to the law of God, perfect righteousness. If eternal life were granted on any condition short of this, then the happiness of the whole universe would be imperiled. The way would be open for sin, with all its train of woe and misery, to be immortalized.
"It was possible for Adam, before the fall, to form a righteous character by obedience to God's law. But he failed to do this, and because of his sin our natures are fallen and we cannot make ourselves righteous. Since we are sinful, unholy, we cannot perfectly obey the holy law. We have no righteousness of our own with which to meet the claims of the law of God. But Christ has made a way of escape for us. He lived on earth amid trials and temptations such as we have to meet. He lived a sinless life. He died for us, and now He offers to take our sins and give us His righteousness. If you give yourself to Him, and accept Him as your Savior, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christ's character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned.
"More than this, Christ changes the heart. He abides in your heart by faith. You are to maintain this connection with Christ by faith and the continual surrender of your will to Him; and so long as you do this, He will work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. So you may say, 'The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.' Galatians 2:20." pp. 62, 63.
Worship of Jesus
Question: A friend told me that "worship," when referring to those doing the act to Jesus, is actually a different kind of worship than that which is bestowed upon the Father—as in John 4:23: "WORSHIPERS will WORSHIP the Father in Spirit and truth." Jesus clearly accepted worship as in Matt 14:33 "those who were in the boat WORSHIPED Him. Is the same word and meaning, in the Greek, used in both verses?
Answer: Here are the facts:
"will worship" The same word is used: 4352. proskuneo, pros-koo-neh'-o.
Matt 14:33 "worshiped" Again, the same word is used: 4352. proskuneo, pros-koo-neh'-o.
So you can see that the three "worship(s) . . ." that you mention in John and Matthew are all from the same Greek word "proskuneo," meaning to "prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore):—worship." Strongs Concordance #4352
You can also add several other verses that have to do with the worship of Jesus:
After Thomas had seen the scars on Jesus after the resurrection he "said to him, 'My Lord and my God!'" John 20:28
Jesus took upon Himself the name of God from which the Hebrew word Yahweh (Jehovah) comes: I AM. He did this on numerous occasions. Perhaps the most obvious is John 8:58 "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"
"Jesus was fully one with God. He was with the Father in the beginning (John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:1-3). Creation took place through Him because He had life within Himself (John 5:26). He shared glory with the Father before the world began (John 17.5). If we have seen Jesus, we have seen the Father (Matt. 11.27; John 14.9). Therefore, Christ came into the world to reveal the Father (John 1:18). [the Greek in verse 18 actually reads "God the One and Only" The first "God" in the verse refers to the Father, but the second "God" refers to "Word" (John 1:1-3) who "became flesh and made his dwelling among us." (John 1:14). He is the "One and only Son" in John 3:16]. The climax of the Gospel of John recognizes Jesus as fully God when Thomas exclaims, 'My Lord and my God' (John 20.28, NKJV)." Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly, April 23, 2000
Paul describes Jesus as the One who was with the Israelites in the desert:
1 Cor 10:1-4 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
There are many more texts that attest that Jesus was God. I quote from a favorite book because it summarizes this better than I could do it:
"It was Christ who from the bush on Mount Horeb spoke to Moses saying, 'I AM THAT I AM. . . . Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.' (Ex. 3:14). This was the pledge of Israel's deliverance. So when He came 'in the likeness of men,' He declared Himself the I AM. The Child of Bethlehem, the meek and lowly Savior, is God 'manifest in the flesh.' (1 Tim. 3:16). And to us He says: 'I AM the Good Shepherd.' 'I AM the living Bread.' 'I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life.' 'All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.' (John 10:11; 6:51; 14:6; Matt. 28:18). I AM the assurance of every promise. I AM; be not afraid. 'God with us' (Matt. 1:23) is the surety of our deliverance from sin, the assurance of our power to obey the law of heaven." Desire of Ages, Ellen Gould White, Pacific Press Publishing Association, Boise, Idaho, p. 24.
Why did Jesus only come to Jerusalem?
(Why not to other places in the world?)
Question: I am from Singapore. A non-Christian asked me this
question: "Since God is such a wonderful, wise and fair God,
why is it that he chose Jerusalem as the only country that will
spread his word. What about people in eastern and southern
countries? This person believes that Buddism, Hinduism, and
other religion (including Christianity) worship the same God
(who created Heaven and Earth).
John 3:16, 17 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
How to go about it? God could send angels to spread the message. But people wouldn't listen. After all: What do angels know about the difficulties we face. So that wouldn't do. God had to send people to tell this to other people in order for the message to be believable.
But how could God really help people understand how to be saved. After all: God is in Heaven. What does He know about the troubles and temptations of our lives?
So God decided to come in person, to be born as a human baby, to grow up just like we have to grow up, to preach the gospel that His kingdom had come and that those who believed in Him could be with Him forever.
Phil 2:5-8 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Jesus was persecuted because He refused to sin like everybody else. But really, He was showing us how to live and how that it is possible for us to live without sinning—He promised to keep us from sinning.
1 Cor 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
Jesus gave us a way out: He died the death that we would have to die if we had to pay for our own sins. He took all our sins—and the sins of the whole world, past, present, and future—upon Himself; He suffered the separation from God that sin causes; He died with all those sins upon Him and He carried them into the grave with Him. When He arose, He left all those sins in the grave. (Sad to say, but most people dig them up—figuratively—so they can die for their own sins.)
If we believe that Jesus did all that for us, and accept Him as our Savior, then, sinful as our lives may have been, for His sake we are counted sinless. And we are accepted before God as though we had not sinned. But remember, Jesus did this! We had nothing to do with it but to choose Him as our Savior. Never forget: Jesus did it for us. We've all sinned and:
Rom 6:23 . . . the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
If we were to try to save ourselves—or through anyone else besides Jesus—we die for our sins. The only way we can receive eternal life is to accept it as a gift from Jesus.
Now, why did Jesus come to only one place. Because He was just one Person. He couldn't be everywhere all at once. And that's why He chose the Jews as His chosen people. He wanted to get them ready for His coming. But even more than that: He wanted the Jews to be His missionaries to take His truth all over the world. The people in Asia and the islands of the sea would have known about it if the Jews had done what they were supposed to do.
But sadly they didn't, and the work was left up to the Christian church. And that's why missionaries go to all nations of the world to tell people about Jesus and about His soon return.
Now how about the people who lived before the missionaries?
Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to everybody on earth to help them to know right from wrong and to encourage them to live loving, pure lives. Many people followed Him without ever knowing that Jesus would . . . and did . . . die for them. They never knew about the person, Jesus, but they lived Christ-like lives anyway because the Holy Spirit was leading them. Jesus will save them even though they don't know Him personally.
So God didn't only choose Jerusalem. He used that city to be the special training place for His would-be missionaries who never went out. And Jesus came to Jerusalem because that's where His missionaries—the Jews—were supposed to have been trained to welcome Him and do His work. But the Jews hadn't spread the message of the Messiah to the world and so they rejected the One who had come to save them. And the rest is history.
Tell your friend that Jesus died for her. Ask her to read the gospel of John. It will give her all she needs to know. Buddha and all the other teachers through the ages all have one thing in common: they're dead. And the people who worship them are worshiping a dead god.
But Jesus is not dead. He rose from the grave, and He is still alive today. When we accept Him as our Savior, we serve a living God.
Repentance and Forgiveness
Question: I know that God is all merciful and forgiving if we accept Him as our Savior, but does He still forgive you if you don't repent of your sins on a regular basis? And will you still go to heaven if you don't repent on a regular basis?
Answer: Forgiveness is
absolutely vital to the Christian. Without forgiveness there would be no chance
of having eternal life. Fortunately, forgiveness is one of the easiest things to
The apostle John put it in the most simple of
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is
faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all
There you have it. Forgiveness, plain and
simple. Ask for it and you receive it. Many times when we pray for something God
may wait to answer or, seeing that it's really not good for us, gives us what is
best. But God never waits when we ask for forgiveness. No sooner
do we ask than He forgives.
But you mention repentance too. Yes, repentance is absolutely necessary for salvation. Peter talked about it on the day of Pentecost.
Acts 3:19, 20: Repent, then, and turn to God,
so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the
Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you―even
When we repent "we turn to God, so that [our]
sins may be wiped out. . . ." You'll notice that Peter and John use similar
terms to describe the way God deals with sin. John says "confess;" Peter says
Confession is an enumeration of sins
committed. But it is much more than that. Not only do we ask God to forgive
individual acts of wrong, but we ask God to forgive us for our participation in
the totality of sin. You see, sin is breaking God's law (1 John 3:4). And that
lawless attitude separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). So our sinful life
separates us from God and the only way to deal with that is through repentance
and confession of sin.
So what is repentance? Simply put, it's a
U-turn, an about face that takes us in the opposite direction from the way we've
been going. We realize that we're sinners, but we want to be saved in Christ's
Kingdom. We know we're going in the wrong direction because every action and
thought of our hearts tends to drag us deeper into sin. So we turn around and
say: "Lord, forgive me for being a sinner and separating myself from you. I want
to walk in the right direction."
And, Peter says: Acts 3:19, 20: Repent, then,
and turn to God . . . that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for
When we turn around and ask God to forgive
us, He sends Christ to ". . . purify us from all unrighteousness." You see, it's
not a matter of how many times I repent, but that I repent. If you are Christ's,
then you will continue to walk with Him. Yes, we will need to daily, hourly, ask
forgiveness for individual sins we've done. But as long as we are in Christ, we
have no further need to make a U-turn.
I hope you have experienced repentance. I
hope you have turned around and have let Jesus come to you to purify you from
all your sins. Perhaps Paul describes the experience best:
Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ
and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I
live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Walking with God
Question: The Bible says that Enoch walked with God. How can I do that?
Answer: It's vital that we let God talk with us by spending time reading His love letter to us—the Bible. And we need to thank Him for all He's done for us and ask Him to continue to bless us in every way.
But walking with God can take on a whole new dimension if we let Him stay with us always. I like to keep in mind at all times that Jesus can read my mind. Since He can do it anyway, and I'm glad He can, then why not invite Him to do it—tell Him it's OK and keep it in mind all the time. So all through the day I remind myself that God is with me, that He's listening to what I'm thinking. He wants me to be with Him all the time, and I can do this when I invite Him to join me in my thoughts.
You might find this a help in the things you think about. In this way you can join your desire to serve God with all the things you think and say and do. Then in everything you do, you'll be walking with God. What a wonderful experience!
Question: What is the Good News in the New Testament?
The good news of Scripture is simply this: 1) God has come down to us in human flesh—his name was called 2) Jesus, 3) Messiah, 4) Christ—and He 5) died so that we may have 6) forgiveness for our sins and 7) salvation in His heavenly kingdom. Then He 8) rose again and 9) ascended to Heaven and now 10) intercedes for us before our heavenly Father. Soon He will 11) come again to take His faithful people to the 12) New Jerusalem where they will 13) live forever without ever seeing 14) death.
All of this is very Good News, don't you think?
The following references may help to clarify this for you. Each number corresponds with that given in the above statement.
1) Isa 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
John 1:1-18 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. . . . The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. . . . The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.
2), 4), Mat 1:18-21 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
3) In the story of the woman at the well in John 4:4-42 appears this conversation:
John 4:25, 26 The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us." Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he."
5), 6), 8) Acts 13:28-38 Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people. "We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: "You are my Son; today I have become your Father." The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words: "I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David." So it is stated elsewhere: "You will not let your Holy One see decay." For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay. Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.
7) John 14:1-3 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God ; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."
1 Th 4:16, 17 For the Lord himself [Christ] will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
9) Acts 1:9-11 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
10) Heb 7:24, 25 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
11) Mat 24:30, 31 "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
12) Rev 21:1-5 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"
13) John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
14) John 11:25, 26 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
This is very good news, don't you think?
Principles of the Kingdom
Question: I understand that Matthew 5-7 gives at least 15 principles of the Kingdom. What are they?
Answer: Principles of the Kingdom from Matt. 5-7
1. vs. 3: To be poor in spirit = humble; to know that we can't save ourselves.
2. vs. 4: To mourn; have true heart sorrow for sin.
3. vs. 5: Meekness; patience and gentleness under wrong
4. vs. 6: To "hunger and thirst after righteousness;" righteousness is holiness, likeness to God; the righteousness of God is revealed in Christ—we receive righteousness by receiving Christ.
5. vs. 7: To be merciful: those who show compassion to the poor, the suffering, and those who are abused.
6. vs. 8: To be pure in heart: One who has Christ living in the heart; is pure in thought and manner; free from pride and self-seeking; humble, unselfish, childlike; exhibits self-sacrificing love.
7. vs. 9: To be a peacemaker: one who leads a quiet, Christ-like life and leads others to accept Christ as their Savior; helping others to make peace with God.
8. vs. 10-12: To be persecuted for righteousness' sake: stand firm for Christ regardless of the outcome; these people would rather die than sin.
9. vs. 13: To be the salt of the earth: we use salt as a flavor and as a preservative; when God calls His children salt, He wants them to become His agents in saving others.
10. vss. 14-16: To be the light of the world: Light here indicates sharing God's glory by our lives as well as our Biblical teaching.
11. vss. 17-20: Jesus didn't do away with the Old Testament law (the 10 commandments).
12. vss. 21-26: Anger can also be classified with murder. (This may refer to anger that brings on the desire to kill—if that were possible.)
13. vss. 27, 28: Lustful thoughts are as bad as actual adultery (In the Biblical sense, the word "adultery" can include all forms of illicit sexual expression—premarital sex, homosexual sex, porno literature, etc.)
14. vss. 31, 32: When a person divorces and remarries—except for fornication on the part of the spouse—commits adultery. (Fornication and adultery are roughly synonymous.) Keep in mind what the Bible says in Mal 2:16 (NIV) "'I hate divorce,' says the LORD God of Israel, . . ."
15. vss. 33-37: This is an enlargement of the commandment to refrain from taking God's name in vain. Many do this today by using oaths in regular conversation ("With God as my witness . . ." "I swear . . . ," etc.). Jesus did not condemn the judicial oath, however, as by His own witness: at His trial He took a judicial oath. Matthew 26:63, 64 (NIV) ". . . The high priest said to him, 'I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.' 'Yes, it is as you say,' Jesus replied."
16. vss. 38-48: We need to respect and love everyone—even our enemies.
The list goes on throughout Matt 6, 7
What is Sin?
Question: What is a sin? How can I say if one thing is sin or just my impression that is a sin?
Answer: The Bible is quite clear as to what is sin:
1 John 3:4 "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law."
break God's law we have committed a sin. So we compare our actions
to the 10 commandments—all 10—and if the law condemns them, we go
to Christ, ask for forgiveness and for the power to keep from
breaking God's law next time. Christ will never say "no." This is
exactly what He meant when He said: "Ask and ye shall receive,"
(John 16:24) Whenever we ask for forgiveness, Christ grants it
immediately. But we must believe that He has forgiven our sins, or
His forgiveness won't do us any good. Which brings us to the
second definition of sin
Romans 14:23 ". . .whatsoever is not of faith is sin."
We must believe that we receive forgiveness for the sin or we won't receive it. In the Lord's prayer Christ tells us: "forgive us our debts (sins) as we forgive our debtors (those who sin against us)." So if we are unwilling to forgive anyone for the wrongs they have done to us, then Christ cannot forgive us.
Another thing to know about sin is that it separates us from God.
Isaiah 59:2 "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear."
Question: If God predestines some for good and some for evil as mentioned in Romans 9, doesn't that take away our freewill?
Answer: This subject is so very important for the Christian because it paints a picture of God that will color the rest of our relationship with Him.
There are some passages in the Bible that are just hard to understand, or that can be interpreted more than one way, or that seem to teach doctrine that seems to contradict other Scripture. When we are in doubt as to the meaning of a text, we need to study the subject in those passages that are clear, that cannot be taken more than one way. Then we should use these passages as guides to help us to understand the difficult ones.
As you pointed out, the Bible does teach that everyone has the freedom to choose to be saved. John 3:16, as you mentioned, is a good example:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (KJV)
The "whosoever" includes everyone—past, present, future. It includes you, your friends and—God forbid that you have any—your enemies. It includes the pastor of the church, the janitor, the mayor, and the homeless person down under the bridge by the river. EVERYBODY; EVERYWHERE; EVERYWHEN! Good news, don't you think?
And God relays this message to us in a large number of places. Another example:
Rev 22:17 (KJV) "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
Notice again the "whosoever." The word "will" that follows is the synonym of "choose." So anyone who chooses to be Christ's, will be saved.
Here are a few more that teach the freedom to choose on the part of everybody: (all NIV)
John 1:7 "He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe."
Rom 5:18 "Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men."
1 Tim 2:4-6 "who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time."
1 Tim 4:10 "(and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe."
Titus 2:11 "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men."
Paul used the term predestine(d) only 4 times in his epistles:
Rom 8:29, 30 (NIV) "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified."
Eph 1:5, 6 (NIV) "he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves."
Eph 1:11, 12 (NIV) "In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory."
I suppose we could use the following verse to explain the meaning of "predestine:"
1 Tim 2:4 (NIV) "who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
You'll notice that, in our words, God predestined everyone to be saved! How's that for true love! He loves everyone; He created each of us as His child to live with Him in paradise. Only those who choose to live outside His grace will be lost.
But what about what Paul says in Rom. 9 that seems to indicate that God chose Esau and Pharaoh to be lost? All the way from verses 13-22 it seems that Paul is saying that God creates some to be saved and some to be lost. Does Paul give us any clues in this chapter that would help us understand what he means?
Paul lists a number of rhetorical questions—we'd call them "what ifs."
Rom 9:21-24 (NIV) "Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?"
By these questions Paul is trying to make the point that God has the right to do whatever He wants simply because He is God. But you'll notice in verse 24 that God has called—elected/ predestined—both Jews and Gentiles. That includes everybody. The ones who become "objects of his wrath" are the ones who do not answer when called, or who refuse to do what they are called to do.
Paul ends this discussion by pointing out that righteousness cannot be earned or achieved by any human means: it can only be achieved by faith
Rom 9:30-32 (NIV) "What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the 'stumbling stone.'
One of my favorite authors, Ellen White, in a book entitled Patriarchs and Prophets explained what the Bible means when it seems to be talking about some called or elected to be saved while others are specifically selected—in advance—to be lost.
"Every soul is elected who will work out his own salvation with fear and trembling. He is elected who will put on the armor and fight the good fight of faith. He is elected who will watch unto prayer, who will search the Scriptures, and flee from temptation. He is elected who will have faith continually, and who will be obedient to every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. The provisions of redemption are free to all; the results of redemption will be enjoyed by those who have complied with the conditions." p. 208.
God Has Set a Day for Salvation
Question: According to Hebrews 4:7, again, God limiteth a certain day. What is that day that God limiteth?
Answer: Here is the text about which you ask:
Heb 4:7 (KJV) Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
The King James Version uses the word "limiteth," or "limit" in our 21st century English. The Greek word from which this is translated, horizo, can be translated by a number of English synonyms. According to Strongs Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible it can be rendered like this:
"to mark out or bound, . . . to appoint, decree, specify:―declare, determine, limit, ordain."
Some of the more contemporary versions translate it like the New International Version does:
Heb 4:7 (NIV) Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts."
The day God has set for our salvation is "today."
Paul expresses the same thought:
2 Cor 6:2 For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." [Isaiah 49:8] I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.
These two texts, expressing similar thoughts, point out that we cannot wait till any later time. We must accept His salvation TODAY.
"Eventually the day of mercy will close, and when it does there will be no second chance for those who have spurned God’s grace. Men often procrastinate because they think the day of salvation will continue indefinitely, that temporal matters require first consideration, that pleasure must be pursued, that it will be easier to repent and believe tomorrow than it is today. They forget that the only time man has for salvation and for victory over any sin is the present moment, and that victory postponed becomes defeat. Delay is both foolish and dangerous. Life may be cut short; deterioration of mind and body may make attention to spiritual things difficult or impossible. The heart may be fatally hardened and the desire for salvation lost; the Holy Spirit may cease to strive. Procrastination is ultimately equivalent to rejection." Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6.
Jesus Himself gave us the same message as we've found in Heb. 4:7:
Mat 24:44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Have you accepted God's salvation? Are you ready for Christ to come TODAY!? Right now, while you sit before your computer, bow your head and commit you life to Jesus. It's the only rational thing to do. It's the only way you can be sure you'll be ready when Jesus comes.
Justification, Sanctification, Glorification
Question: Why do some people divide salvation into three classifications―justification, sanctification, and glorification.
Answer: People are saved by faith―believing that Jesus Christ died to save us from our sins, rose again the third day, ascended to Heaven after 40 days, and now mediates before the Father in our behalf. He shall come again to raise those who died believing in Him as their Savior, and then gather them all together with Him in the clouds to ascend to Christ’s home . . . and at that time His home will become our’s as well.
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
1 Cor 15:3, 4 "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,"
Acts 1:9-11 "After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’"
Heb 1:3 "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven."
Heb 7:23-25 "Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them."
1 Th 4:16, 17 "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."
There are dozens of Biblical passages that deal with these vital aspects of salvation. Faith is central to all of this, for unless we believe that Jesus did all this for us, then our profession is worthless.
Eph 2:8-10 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith―and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God―not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
You’ll notice in verse 10 that our reaction to being saved by faith leads us to do good works. Of course we could do good works for the purpose of trying to be saved. But that would be trying to work out our own salvation which would be the opposite of being saved by faith. But a saving belief leads to doing good works. That is why Seventh-day Adventists believe we should keep the Ten commandments: we love God so much for saving us from sin, that we want to do everything we can to show Him how much we love Him. This is where good works come in: they’re a result of salvation, not an attempt to earn it.
What about the words "justification," "sanctification," and "glorification?" These are theological terms that Paul used to explain the completeness of the work of the gospel upon our lives. Whole books have been written on the various aspects of these divine works that God does for us. Briefly, they mean this:
♦ Justification―The outcome of my accepting and believing in Jesus as my Savior.
Rom 5:1, 2 "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God."
♦ Sanctification―Christ living His life out in us. We’ve been forgiven and saved by the grace of Christ. Now Jesus leads us to do those things which God requires and which please Him. This is the area of the Christian life in which good works come. Sanctification comes after justification: it’s a result of the relationship we have with Christ now that He’s saved us from our sins.
1 Th 4:3-7 "It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life."
Paul explains that sanctification is the process by which we leave behind the thoughts and words and deeds that destroy our relationship with God. Instead, through the indwelling of Christ by the Holy Spirit, we should live a holy life.
♦ Glorification―This refers to the time when Jesus remakes us into perfect immortal beings who will live for eternity with Him. This brings about the end result for which He gave His life. While we could say that God’s people are glorified by the change from mortal to immortal, it is really Christ who is glorified in us. What we have let Him do for us has brought glory to His holy Name.
2 Th 1:12 "We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."
Though it is not necessary to understand all these fine points in order to be save―in fact the vast majority of Christians only know that Jesus saved them from their sins and so they want to live a life that is pleasing to Him. But it’s important for those who have the opportunity, to understand the steps through which we pass in our journey from the first glimpse of Jesus’ love until we reach the home He has prepared for us.
Question: What passages from the Bible specifically talk about how to become saved?
Answer: There are hundreds, for salvation from sin is the reason that all Scripture was written. Briefly I’ll present the foundational concepts and in this way supply you with both texts and their meaning in our lives.
♦ Salvation comes through Jesus
Acts 4:10-12 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
In the context of the woman at Jacob’s well:
John 4:42 And [the towns people] said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that [Jesus] is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. (I inserted the additional words that help to bring in the context. I suggest that you read the whole story.)
1 John 4:14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
♦ We receive salvation by faith in Jesus
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Eph 2:8, 9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
We cannot do anything to receive salvation. There is no good work that can earn salvation. We cannot buy it, or trade for it, or do penance to gain it. We are saved by grace through faith. Saving faith is trusting that God bought the right to save us by dying for us on the cross (Jesus was divine, equal with the Father―John 1:1-4, 14; Phil. 2:5-8; Heb 1:1-3).
♦ Receiving salvation requires repentance from our sinful way of life.
Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
Repentance is an attitude in which we make a U-turn from going away from Christ to where we’re facing Jesus and are willing to move in His direction. It means roughly the same as "conversion." We are sorry for the way we’ve hurt Jesus (our sins crucified Jesus as surely as did the sins of those who nailed Him to the cross) and we want to stop hurting him. That’s repentance.
♦ Receiving salvation requires confession of the sins that killed Jesus.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Confession of sins is on two levels:
1) We confess that we are sinful, that we were born into a sinful world and have partaken of sin all our lives.
Rom 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
2) We confess individual sins that we have done insofar as we can remember them. (We shouldn’t spend a lot of time making a list of everything we did wrong all our lives. This would be counter-productive as it would take our eyes off Christ and keep them on ourselves.)
Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
♦ Receiving salvation requires that we believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins
Rom 5:6-8 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
1 Cor 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
1 Th 5:9, 10 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
We’ve been taught that Christ died for the world, and that’s true. But we must also make it personal: Christ died for me. (Say it out loud and point to yourself as you say "me.") It is absolutely impossible to be saved unless we believe that Christ died for "my" sins. (The Lord will make some exceptions for those who haven’t had the opportunity to hear or know about Christ; but that’s God’s decision, not ours.)
♦ Receiving salvation requires that we virtually grasp hold of it and make it part of ourselves.
John 1:12, 13 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
You may think at first that this is a lot of "stuff" to go through in order to be saved. But it isn’t, really. When you see what is involved you can take all these steps in only a few minutes. And the Holy Spirit will guide you into salvation as you take hold of Christ Jesus as your Savior.
I suggest you ask Bibleinfo.com for a copy of the little book Steps to Christ. It will explain all this in language that you’ll find easy to understand, and will make it all real to you.
As I said, there are hundreds of texts about Salvation through Christ. But these are important ones. As you read the Bible you will find many more. Give your life to Jesus. He’ll help you do the rest.
What Happens If We Sin After We're Saved
Question: How do I answer someone when they say that after you're saved, when you stand before God, you will have to answer for only those sins you've committed after you were saved?
Answer: There is so much misunderstanding about salvation, but we need not be in the dark. God wants you to be saved in His heavenly kingdom so much that, unless you resist, He will draw you to Him and make you a citizen of the New Jerusalem.
John 3:16-18 (NIV) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
Jesus didn’t come into this world to condemn us. Jesus came into this world to condemn sin. Those who believe in Him will have eternal life. Those who do not believe condemn themselves.
Perhaps it would be good to clarify exactly what sin is. Listen to these prophets speak:
1 John 3:4 (NIV) Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.
Lawlessness is an attitude of rebellion that causes a person to hate the law of God, including the 10 commandments, and thus to despise God Himself―even though he may claim to worship God.]
Rom 14:23 (NIV) . . . everything that does not come from faith is sin.
This is because faith is the only way we can take hold of the salvation of Jesus Christ.
Isa 59:2 (NIV) But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
"It is not because He is unwilling to forgive that He turns from the transgressor; it is because the sinner refuses to make use of the abundant provisions of grace, that God is unable to deliver from sin." Prophets and Kings by Ellen White, p. 323
1 John 1:9 (NIV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
There is no sin that God cannot or will not forgive if we ask Him for forgiveness.
So let’s get back to your question: "How do I answer someone when they say that after you're saved, when you stand before God, you will have to answer for only those sins you've committed after you were saved?"
When we stand before God in the judgment, we have to answer for all our sins―those we committed before we came to Christ and for those we committed after we were "saved." What you may not have realized is that when you’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior―by faith―then you do not stand before God alone.
1 John 2:1, 2 (NIV) My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
When we stand before God to answer for all the sins we’ve ever done, Jesus―our Lawyer, as it were―steps in between us and God. You see, we believe that He died so we would not have to perish but have eternal life. So when the Father calls our names and looks our way, God cannot see our sins, because Jesus stands in the way―Jesus died for those sins. Jesus pleads before the Father, "My blood, My blood. This person has been washed by My blood."
When we come to Jesus and accept Him as our Savior for His sake we are accounted righteous, and God looks on us as though we had never sinned.
When we enter into a new life with Christ (at conversion―when we are "saved") He comes into our hearts and lives His life through us. Yes, we wander away from Him, even if only for a moment. But He never leaves us. We, of course, ask his forgiveness for going our own way. But unless we deliberately rebel against God, we remain one of His beloved children.
Rom 8:1 (NIV) Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
Surrendering to God
Question: How do I surrender to God? I've prayed the sinner's prayer, but how do I surrender to him?
Answer: I’m not acquainted with the sinner’s prayer, but the Bible is abundantly laden with instruction on this vital topic. And yet the answer is very simple. Let me just share with you a few texts that will answer your question.
First, let me show you something you already know but it will keep it all in perspective.
Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We’ve all sinned and deserve eternal death. But God gives us "eternal life in Christ Jesus or Lord." Eternal life is a gift. If we want to work for it, we receive our wages all right, but those wages will be death!
So we’ve sinned and deserve death. But we want to live! How can we receive the gift of eternal life?
Eph 2:8-10 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
Grace is also a gift from God. So we receive life from God; and we receive grace from God. And this comes to us through faith. Faith is the hand that takes hold of grace and of eternal life. But how do we receive faith? That too is a gift.
Rom 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
So God gave us faith; through faith we can clasp onto the gift of grace; and grace makes it possible for us to receive the gift of life. Do you see a pattern here? Everything we need to be saved comes as a gift from God! And all we have to do is to accept the gift―take it and make it ours.
God gave you muscles, but they aren’t any good unless you use them. The same with faith: God gave you faith, but it isn’t any good unless you use it. So exercise your faith―find out what promises that God has made that fit your circumstances and accept those promises as a fact. You know God will fulfill them because He says so. That’s faith in action.
God promises to give us eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. You know He will because He promised to do it. It’s just that simple.
Now all this won’t do you a bit of good unless you surrender. And that’s what you want to know about. How do you surrender?
There’s no doubt that Jesus want’s us to come to Him:
Mat 11:28-30 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Jesus says "Come." How do you come? You don’t have to come in the earthly sense. There’s no physical place you have to go. When Jesus says "come" He is asking you to merely permit Him to come into your life.
Rev 3:20, 21 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.
Jesus has come to us! All He wants us to do is to open the door when He knocks. To come to Him is to open the door―the door to our hearts; our inner thoughts; our joys; our sorrows; let Him LIVE HIS LIFE IN YOU.
You’ll notice that I’ve described a very intimate relationship. Our surrender to Christ is the most intimate experience we will ever know.
How do you keep the door of your heart open. I will share with you a relationship building experience that I’ve discovered. (I’ve been a Christian for 50 years and was a pastor for 27 before I retired―and a friend introduced me to this plan.)
It’s called G. I. S. T.―God Inclusive Self Talk. You know how you keep up a running chatter in your head? You imagine your talking to someone; your making out the grocery list; your putting the children to bed―all the time in your mind you’re talking to them, to yourself, to nobody in particular―whoever. God knows all about what you’re thinking, of course, because He knows everything.
But why not consciously INVITE Him to listen in on your thoughts. That way you know He’s there with you by invitation―whatever your doing. It will change your whole way of life. I’ve found that it’s cleaned up a lot of "cob-webs"―things that I really shouldn’t be thinking about. And God has become a very familiar Friend.
I’m so glad you’ve decided to surrender to God. There’s no more wonderful experience. He’s asked you to open the door. So simply invite Him in. That’s surrender. You’re in because He's in. Or should I say, God is in you both to will and to do according to His good pleasure―and that’s exactly what you want Him to do.
So take that step right now. If you’re alone, get down on your knees―if you feel comfortable with that―and tell Him that you’re opening the door. Ask Him to come in. You know He will because He promised. If you’re not alone, then talk to Him in your thoughts―and invite Him in. It makes no difference where you are, when you do it, or where you find yourself. He hears and He’s there!
Jewish Festivals and the Christian
Question: I need to know how you would explain to someone
using Scriptures that the feast days are no longer required of the Christian.
Let me present below the five major festivals of the Jewish calendar year. Then I'll discuss their meanings and the reasons why Christians don't keep each one.
There were three festivals to which all Israelite men were required to go up to the tabernacle (later to the temple at Jerusalem). These are marked with a ‡. The months are given according to the Hebrew calendar. I deal with each in the order that they came during the yearly calendar.
(1) ‡Unleavened Bread, a week-long event (which immediately followed the Passover supper held the preceding night) in the middle of the 1st month, at the beginning of the barley harvest (Lev 23:5-14) (about the time of our Easter)
(2) ‡The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), fifty days after the first sabbath of Unleavened Bread, celebrating the season of the wheat harvest (Lev 23:15-21; Ex 34:22)
(3) The Feast of Trumpets on the 1st day of the 7th month, the civil New Year's day.
(4) The Day of Atonement on the 10th day of the 7th month, the cleansing of the Temple.
(5) ‡The Feast of Ingathering, or the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles (see Tabernacles, Feast of), in the middle of the 7th month, at the close of the olive and fruit harvest (Lev 23:34-44; Deut 16:13) (This occurred only a few days after the Day of Atonement which was celebrated on the 10th day)
What did these festivals mean and why do Christians feel that we should not keep them.?
(1) ‡The Feast of Unleavened bread:
The night before this feast every family celebrated the Passover in their homes.
The Passover ceremony was celebrated in this way:
Each family (or if the family was a small one, several families) slew the Passover lamb and ate it along with bread that was made with no yeast (leaven). Yeast, in Bible times, represented sin because sin, like yeast when put in dough, fills the entire person.
John the Baptist spoke of Jesus as "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) and Paul points out that "Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed." (1 Cor. 5:7). Since Christ is the Lamb who was sacrificed and His sacrifice has already taken place, then there is no need to celebrate the Passover feast that pointed forward to the coming of God's Lamb who would take "away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)
In fact, the exact hour that Jesus died was the time for the slaying of the Passover lamb in the Temple. Matthew 27:51 describes how the "curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split." Tradition has it that the Passover lamb escaped from the grasp of the priest and ran away.
Jesus gave us the communion service of bread and wine to commemorate His death (Matt. 26:26-35). For Christians, the Lord's supper has taken the place of the Passover.
The day after the Passover―the very next day―was the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The prohibition of the use of yeast, as practiced the night before at the Passover celebration, continued for seven days after the Passover. The first day was a ceremonial sabbath. (When this sabbath fell on the weekly Sabbath, the Pharisees of the time of Christ called it a "high day.") Just as with the weekly Sabbath, no one was allowed to work on this day.
This sabbath (first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread) was a sabbath of rest, pointing forward to the rest that the Lamb of God experienced in the grave on the day following His crucifixion.
On the day after this ceremonial sabbath the priest waved a sheaf of barley―the first fruits―before the Lord. This symbolized the beginning of the harvest season. This action pointed forward to the resurrection of Christ after the Sabbath, and His brief ascension to His Father to receive His approval of the sacrifice of His Son.
1 Cor 15:3, 4 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
1 Cor 15:20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
There is no need for Christians to participate in this festival because the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ to which it points have already taken place. The feast has become obsolete.
(2) ‡The Feast of Weeks, later called Pentecost, took place 50 days after the waving of the sheaf. This festival celebrated the beginning of wheat harvest.
The day of Pentecost, 50 days after Christ's resurrection, marked the beginning of the harvest of Christ's work. It was preceded by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17, 18). There's no need for Christians to celebrate this feast because the reason for the feast came to pass when the disciples began the harvest of souls in earnest.
(3) The Feast of Trumpets
A feast celebrated on the 1st day of the 7th month (Ethanim, or Tishri), the beginning of the civil year. This 1st day fell on the "new moon" of September or October. This month was always numbered the 7th (see Lev 23:24), according to God’s instructions to Moses to begin the year with the Passover month of Abib (Nisan), as the 1st month (see Ex 12:2); yet the year was still reckoned as beginning with Tishri for civil matters. Tishri 1 was marked by extra sacrifices in addition to the new-moon sacrifices of the other months (Num 29:1-6). It was a ceremonial sabbath, and was celebrated by the blowing of trumpets (Lev 23:24, 25). The tradition of the Jews is that on New Year’s Day (celebrated to this day as Rosh Hashana) everyone is judged for his deeds of the past year, but that one’s doom is not settled until the 10th, on the Day of Atonement, apparently after 9 days of grace (Talmud
Christians don't celebrate the Feast of Trumpets for two reasons: 1) The first day of Tishri is not our New Year's day. 2) This day's intimate attachment to the Day of Atonement.
(4) The Day of Atonement.
This day occurred on the tenth day of the seventh month, the most solemn day of the year. On it all were not only to refrain from work but also to afflict their souls (make sure that all their sins were confessed) (Lev 23:27-32). This probably included fasting, since in NT times it is evidently this day that is referred to as "the fast" (Acts 27:9). On the Day of Atonement all the sins of the preceding year were finally disposed of in the ceremony of cleansing the sanctuary (Lev. 16). All who did not afflict their souls on that day were cut off from Israel (Lev 23:29). The Day of Atonement was to the Jews a day of judgment.1
On this day two goats were brought before the High Priest. He cast lots over them to chose which one would be the Lord's goat. The other goat was called the scape goat and was put aside. The Lord's Goat was killed and sacrificed on the altar. Some of it's blood was taken into the innermost room, called the Most Holy Place. The High Priest sprinkled some of the blood on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant and some on the ground in front it.
As the High Priest left the Most Holy Place he wiped some of the blood on the horns of the altar of Incense which stood before the curtain which separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. In effect, he was taking upon himself all the sins that the Israelites had confessed throughout the year by bringing their animals for sacrifice in the Temple.
Coming out of the Temple, the High Priest placed his hands upon the head of the scape goat and confessed all the sins of Israel upon him. Then the scape goat was led by a strong man out into the wilderness, where he was let go—a fitting symbol of the removal of all sin from the nation.
The Lord's goat represented Christ who died upon the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of everyone who has ever lived. The High Priest represents Christ in His role of our great Intercessor in Heaven. He brings our names before the Father and proclaims that we have accepted Him as our Savior. In effect, just like the Day of Atonement was a day of judgment, so the great Day of Atonement in Heaven is a day of judgment for the people of God (read the judgment scene as depicted in Dan. 7: 13, 14 ff). Christ will decide whom, of all who have professed to be His disciples, has really accepted Him and let Him reign in their hearts.
When the judgment is finished, then Christ will come and reward His servants for their faithfulness.
Rev 22:12 "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.
This annual "day of judgment" prefigured the cosmic judgment of all of God's people. Whoever refrains from, neglects, or refuses to repent of his/her sins at that time will be cut off from God's people.
The first part of the Day of Atonement has already taken place—the Lord's Goat (Christ) has already been sacrificed for the sins of His people. The second part—Christ, as our High Priest, entering the Most Holy Place of the Temple in heaven, presenting His blood before the Father—is taking place right now in Heaven. Christ is investigating the lives of all who have professed to be His followers. Those who have been true to Him will be marked as His people. Those who have not been faithful will be rejected.
Soon Christ will finish this work and return to reward those who were faithful to Him, by taking them to His eternal Kingdom.
So Christians don't celebrate the Mosaic Day of Atonement because we are actually passing through the Great Day of Atonement right now.
(5) ‡The Feast of Ingathering (the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles) celebrated the ingathering at the end of the harvest, particularly of the grain, olive, and grape harvests. It also reminded the Jews of the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.
This was the last feast of the religious year and usually came during our month of October, after the autumn harvest was over and the fruit had been gathered in. It was a joyous occasion for all. The Day of Atonement was past; all misunderstandings had been cleared up, all sins confessed and put aside. The Israelites were happy, and their happiness found expression in the Feast of Tabernacles.
Since the antitypical* Day of Atonement takes place before the coming of Jesus, then this joyous feast, which comes at the end of the harvest, would most likely represent the joy of God's people as they take their places in the New Jerusalem. Their wandering in the wilderness of sin is past. Eternal life in the heavenly Canaan will be the reward of God's people.
*An object casts a shadow when standing in sunlight. The shadow is the type, the object itself is the antitype. The Day of Atonement in the ceremonial year is the type; the "investigative judgment" that takes place before Jesus comes is the antitype. Another way to say the same thing is: the Day of Atonement prefigured the judgment in the last days.
1Horn, Siegfried H., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1979.
Old and New Covenants
Question: IN Hebrews 8 and 9 it talks of the New and Old Covenants. Of the New it says God will write the laws in our hearts and minds. It appears as if the only laws pertaining to the Old Covenant were ceremonial laws. Is this the laws in the New Covenant that are in our Hearts? Also it says of the New Covenant we will not need to teach one his neighbor. Every one will know the Lord is Lord. Obviously that is not the case here yet! Does the Covenant not take effect until the New Earth?
Answer: The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians who were advocating the keeping of the ceremonial law in order to be saved. All through the book you find that the writer contrasts the multitudinous sacrifices and offerings made in the Temple, with that of Jesus, made once for all.
All the ceremonies and the sacrifices were designed to teach important truths about the coming Messiah. It was like a shadow that goes out from a man standing with his back to the late-afternoon sun. The shadow of the ceremonies, sacrifices, and even the furnishings of the Temple, moved forward until it reached the Person who cast it–Jesus Christ our Lord.
You suggest that the Old Covenant pertained to the ceremonial laws. Actually, the Old Covenant was designed by God to prepare His people for the coming of Christ. But the covenant was not the ceremonial laws. And the ceremonial laws were not the foundation of the covenant.
The covenant was an agreement between God and man that was:
Founded upon the moral law of ten commandments,
Proclaimed by the voice of God, and
Written on tables of stone by His own finger.
But the Israelites got into the way by rushing into an agreement that God hadn't planned that they should make.
Exo 24:7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, "We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey."
When you read Exodus chapters 20-24 you will discover that, after giving them the ten commandments, God gave Moses a list of laws that they were to keep. Most of the laws are judicial laws about the conduct of the people. These laws are based upon the principles of the ten commandments. He mentions three feast days and requires all men to come for them at the location of the Tabernacle (later the Temple). And then Moses reads these things to the people, and upon this, the covenant was based. The covenant was ratified by the blood of a bull (24.5).
Notice again the words the people used in making their covenant with God:
"We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey."
Compare this with the wording of the New Covenant:
Heb 8:10 This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
Who is making the promises here? God is. In the Old Covenant, the people made the promise that they would keep the covenant. (Six weeks later they were dancing around the golden calf, breaking the covenant.) But the New Covenant is based on God's promises–better promises–and He promises to write the law upon our hearts. And our part of the covenant is to let Him do it. I suppose we'd use the terminology: "God will program us to keep His law."
It's interesting how God's covenant has been made with His people--ever since man fell into sin at the Garden of Eden:
Gen 3:14, 15 So the LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."
God's covenant with Adam and Eve was that the seed of the woman (Christ–Gal 3:16) would crush the head of the serpent (Satan–Rev. 12:9).
God's covenant was renewed with Noah. When God promised that His rainbow would show in the clouds, it was a promise that pointed to Christ, the rainbow of God's love, which shown most brilliantly at the darkness of Calvary.
God renewed His covenant with Abraham when He promised:
Gen 22:17, 18 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."
Again, the promise of the coming Messiah–through Abraham's descendants, and again it is God making the promises.
And God wanted to renew this same covenant with Israel at Sinai. But instead of depending upon God, as all their ancestors had done, they jumped in, feeling they could do it themselves. They accepted the covenant upon the basis of their own flawed, powerless promises. And they failed.
The terms "Old" and "New" refer to the time at which the covenants were ratified.
The Old Covenant was ratified at Sinai, and even though it was faulty, most of the Israelites never realized that they could not keep God's laws without His aid.
The New Covenant was ratified on Calvary by the blood of Jesus. But it had actually been God's covenant that He made with His faithful people all the way back to Adam.
Actually, the writer of Hebrews quotes from Jeremiah:
Jer 31:31-34 "The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, " declares the LORD. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness
Now to your question about "No longer will a man teach his neighbor . . . saying 'Know the LORD' . . . ." Many of the promises and threatenings of God are conditional and depend upon the obedience of those to whom they were given. (Ezek. 33:13-15) Had the Israelites allowed God to write His law upon their hearts, then they would have come to the place where all of them would know the Lord and there would be no need of "evangelism" among them.
But, as you say, this isn't possible in a world filled with evil, where even good people do things that would have made our ancestors cringe.
The Old Covenant:
Was made by Israel with God and ratified at Sinai
Was based upon the promises of men
Was broken within six weeks
The New Covenant:
Was made with Adam, Noah, Abraham, and all God's faithful people throughout the ages.
Was ratified at Calvary when the Lamb of God was sacrificed for us, taking away the sin of the world.
Will be fulfilled when we reach the heavenly Canaan.
The Unpardonable Sin
The Bible is very clear that God is willing to, and does forgive all sin.
1 John 1:9 If we CONFESS our sins, he is faithful and just and will FORGIVE us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
That’s a blanket promise: If we confess . . . He will forgive. The basis of this forgiveness is found in verse 7--"THE BLOOD OF JESUS, HIS SON PURIFIES US FROM ALL SIN."
John’s statement of God’s promise agrees with many other statements found throughout Scripture. Here are a few:
Psa 32:5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will CONFESS my transgressions to the LORD"-- and you FORGAVE the guilt of my sin.
Prov 28:13 He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever CONFESSES and renounces them FINDS MERCY.
You’ll notice the one condition to forgiveness in all of these texts: We must confess. So, judging by what we see here: What sin will God not forgive? Ah, yes: The sin we do not confess! So the unpardonable sin is, first of all, any sin that we know that we’ve done but have not/refuse to confess. God isn’t talking about an accidental failure here, but a deliberate act. “I know I did something wrong, but I don’t care. I’m not going to confess it!” Or, perhaps: “It’s not manly to confess.” Or, perhaps, “God isn’t really that picky. He doesn’t care if I disobey Him . . . just this once.”
Whatever the reason—or excuse—we may have for not confessing, the Holy Spirit will continue to goad our conscience about it. We feel it strongly at first, but as we fail to listen our conscience is, as Paul puts it “seared” as with a hot iron (1 Tim. 4:2). We become callous to the voice, or impression, of the Holy Spirit, and eventually we won’t hear his voice at all. He may be still calling us to confess, but we no longer hear Him, or listen to Him. And we’ve committed the unpardonable sin.
How do we know if we’ve committed it? The very fact that you are listening to the Holy Spirit to the point that you are concerned about your spiritual standing before God, shows that you have not committed this terrible sin. If you had done it, then you wouldn’t care whether or not you’d committed it. You’d feel right with God—on your terms. There’s no guilty conscience requiring repentance, because you no longer listen to your conscience. You’re making up your own rules.
That doesn’t mean you’re no longer interested in salvation, or religion. You want to be saved, you probably will continue to attend church and perhaps even be active in church affairs. But without confessing all sin to God, you’re lost. Eventually, you may lose interest in spiritual things, and your religious life will become merely a tradition you keep doing because it seems right to you.
Now, how can you know if the Holy Spirit is talking to you? He speaks to you through your conscience, or through your mind as you study the Bible. In fact, you know that it’s the Holy Spirit if what He’s telling you to do is compatible with Bible truth. If the “small voice” that seems to be speaking to you is directing you in some path that is contrary to Biblical teaching, then you know that it’s not the Holy Spirit.
So what should you do to be sure that you recognize that it’s the Holy Spirit goading your conscience or prodding you to do something, or to refrain from doing something? Obviously, you’re going to have to study your Bible—the Book that the Holy Spirit inspired the Prophets to write:
2 Pet 1:21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.