We are told in the Gospel of Luke 4:16-19 that when Jesus had opportunity to speak to the synagogue in Nazareth, he read from the scroll the words of Isaiah 61:1-2 and announced: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21). These verses in Isaiah described Jesus’ mission in life.
These ancient words speak to us today of the vocation of the preacher — then and now. When we first come to these verses in the prophecy of Isaiah (or Third Isaiah or whatever his name was) we immediately wonder: who is the prophet talking about? Is this the writer’s mission or is he speaking of someone else? Questions like this might not arise if it weren’t for the fact that the prophecies of the book of Isaiah can be quite mysterious that way. Who is the suffering servant of Isaiah 53? Who is the “servant” of Isaiah 42:1? Who is the figure spoken of in Isaiah 11:2? Who is speaking in Isaiah 48:16? You see what I’m saying.
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4 NRSV.)
These are remarkable words. Lying behind them are the frustrations of the apostle Paul’s religious life. His religion had once been a religion of Law. He had sincerely sought to please God through his own righteous efforts. But, the whole effort had ended in frustration and failure. Thus, he writes: “For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Romans 7:14-19 NRSV.)
The way of religious discipline had failed him. The way of strictness did not bring freedom & hope – it brought a life of contradiction. The way of religious attainments was not satisfying. (more…)
A List of Scriptures that Teach or Imply that Christian Salvation can be Lost.
WARNING: This is a very long list of Scripture passages, along with some comments from myself and a few historic Bible commentators. Don’t expect to read this straight through in one sitting. (The imagery of salvation being “lost” is also a bit problematic. The idea here is not “lost” in the sense of inadvertently misplaced, but “lost” in the sense of forfeited.) Obviously, these Scriptures are a beginning point for the discussion of these issues. My point is how pervasive this theme really is. Quotes are given from historic commentators with differing perspectives — some Arminian, some more Calvinistic — again, the point is the pervasiveness of this theme.
The Bible warns us time and time again about the danger of falling away from the faith. The following list of Scriptures is by no means complete or exhaustive. Much of the the New Testament can be quoted against the “once-saved-always-saved” doctrine. (more…)
Christian readers need to continually remind themselves: the Old Testament believers had no developed doctrine of the afterlife. Whereas, in much of Christianity the idea of the afterlife — of rewards and punishments in the world to come — dominates the thinking of believers. This has become such a commonplace idea in Christianity, we must consciously remind ourselves that it is missing (for the most part) from the thinking of the Old Testament writers.
It’s not just Christians who may be surprised — or even shocked — by the absence of this theme. There are some observers who have theorized that religion exists as a way of addressing the fear of death. If that were the case, it would be impossible to account for the Jewish religion in Old Testament times (or: the religion of the ancient Greeks at the time of Homer, either. Just read The Iliad sometime.).
Because the believers of Old Testament times had no developed doctrine of the afterlife, they tended to see the issues of right & wrong / rewards & punishments as playing themselves out in this life. You can see this clearly in the book of Proverbs, for example: do right and things will go well for you, do wrong and you will suffer. (more…)
From hence it manifestly appears, what is the nature of the new birth. It is that great change which God works in the soul when he brings it into life; when he raises it from the death of sin to the life of righteousness. It is the change wrought in the whole soul by the almighty Spirit of God when it is ‘created anew in Christ Jesus;’ when it is ‘renewed after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness;’ when the love of the world is changed into the love of God; pride into humility; passion into meekness; hatred, envy, malice, into a sincere, tender, disinterested love for all mankind. In a word, it is that change whereby the earthly, sensual, devilish mind is turned into the ‘mind which was in Christ Jesus.’ This is the nature of the new birth: ‘So is every one that is born of the Spirit.’
— John Wesley, Sermon #45: “The New Birth.”
“I will give you a new heart and a new mind. I will take away your stubborn heart of stone and give you an obedient heart. I will put my spirit in you and will see to it that you follow my laws and keep all the commands I have given you.” — Ezekiel 36:26-27, TEV
Lord our God,
You are the source of all life:
Your Spirit moved on the waters of chaos
Bringing order and harmony and life.
You breathed into humanity the breath of life.
May we long for your Spirit’s prompting
May we long for renewal and refreshing
for the sake of your promise
that we might do your will.
Grant that we become truly new creations in Christ Jesus
who cannot be overpowered by the evil of the world,
who can never be overcome by sin.
May we have new resolve to seek the highest good on earth,
that good which leads into Heaven.
Hear the prayers of all people far and near
who in these days are sighing in their hearts for the Savior.
We pray for them all as we pray for ourselves,
and we know you will hear our prayer.
You will send power
to lift up the hearts and souls of many people
so that there may be a great throng of your joyful people on earth.
In spite of all the misfortune, adversity, and danger in the world,
there will be a people rejoicing from one end of the earth to the other,
a people trusting in you
and sure of victory
through the great grace you give
in answer to our prayers. Amen.
Related articles across the web
There is no perfection ‘which does not admit of a continual increase.’ However far a Christian may advance in sanctification ‘he hath still need to ‘grow in grace’, and daily to advance in the knowledge and love of God His Saviour.’ The gradual development, then, still continues. It is conceived primarily as further growth in love on the plane of entire sanctification. The Christian life must either wax or wane. It is impossible for the Christian, even if fully sanctified, to stand still. ‘Yea, and when ye have attained a measure of perfect love, when God has circumcised your hearts, and enabled you to love him with all your heart and with all your soul, think not of resting there. That is impossible. You cannot stand still; you must either rise or fall; rise higher or fall lower. Therefore the voice of God to the children of Israel, to the children of God, is, ‘Go forward’! ‘Forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forward unto those that are before, press on to the mark, for the prize of your high calling of God in Christ Jesus’!’ The Christian, even the fully sanctified Christian, must still face the possibility of being lost. Thus even such a one must still be admonished to give up his attachment to the world.
— Harald Lindström, “Sanctification and the Order of Salvation” Wesley and Sanctification (1949).