I am just checking out your site and I think it is pretty good. You have a lot of answers to a lot of different questions. I have many questions myself. I really need someone to answer them. I love the Lord with all my heart, but sometimes I really get confused when reading the Bible. Not because of the language, but because of the seeming contradictions. I do believe in comparing scripture to scripture to get the true meaning of a verse, but there is SOO much I have read that confuses me that I wrote a 70 page commentary on these verses.
I am a Baptist and I have been for the last 4 years. Before that I had no relation with a church except when I was younger I went to a youth group at a Catholic church. The truth of it is, as I read the Bible I started to see how a person could believe the Catholic church. The book of Acts backs up so much of their beliefs that I was amazed. Not just the book of Acts, but some of the epistles seem to back up the Catholic church.
Also, since I have been a Christian, the last 4 years, I have been taught and told over and over that it is faith that saves us and not works, and that we don't have to do anything because we are saved when we say a certain prayer and believe it. I had no fear of Hell put in me, I had no knowledge of how a Christian should live, I figured I could still do what I want because I am saved and I can sin if I want to because God already forgave every sin that I will ever do. GOD HATES SIN!! This is what I get the most out of the Bible. When Jesus heals people he says SIN NO MORE. Why does he tell them this if they are eternally saved? Why does he say that the person who endures till the end will be saved? He also says that not all who say Lord Lord will be saved but those who DO the will of my father. This and much more lead me to believe that we must live worthy of our savior to enter heaven.
Then I have strong feelings towards Calvinism also. The Bible says God chose those who would be saved before the foundation of the world, and that no man will come to the father unless the Father draws him. There is a lot in the Bible about pre destination and election. If we are chosen before the beginning then we are saved from the day we are born, that is, the elect. Saved means saved and it doesn't say in the Bible that God chose those who would one day chose Him. We don't even choose at all. God has chosen us. If we choose that is a work. That means we must be intellectual enough to at least understand the simple gospel to be saved. It depends on our intelligence. How about people who have hardly any intelligence? How about American Indians who never had a chance to hear the gospel before white man appeared on the shores? Did God create them all to go to Hell?
That seems absurd. How about a baby who never has a chance? This and all the Biblical evidence would lead me to believe that God saves those he chooses to save and it is not up to us at all; not our intelligence, not our ability to reason, not our ability to neal at a pew, nothing. If we say we choose God then we say we earned heaven by choosing. This is the way it seems to me. It seems it would be more appropriate to say "God choose me and I will follow Him according to His will.
I have come to the realization that God is the Lord and Jesus is His Son Who came to be the Sacrifice for our sins before the foundation of the world. I will find out if I am saved at the end of my time but the evidence of salvation is in my love for Christ and my desire to be obedient to Him." I start to hear the words, "I made a decision for Christ", and "accept Christ as your savior", as words that should not be spoken. For if we say we have decided then we make God a liar because He chooses us and makes a decision for us. We don't and won't make a decision for Him. This is in the Bible as well, where it says no one will come to the father unless he draws him and also that we have all gone astray and none seek after God. When He said none He said none. He didn't say all except a few.
Sorry to take up your time. What do you think about these beliefs? I am confused and I need to come to some solid ground in my life. I sometimes just fall back on God and say, "ok, everyone is right because they speak the name of Jesus", but I don't know if this is a right attitude either. What do I do? And this tear between Catholicism and Predestination is silly. How far apart would two doctrines be? But God wants us to be perfect (works) and He chooses us (predestination). If you can offer any advice or at least be a friendly voice that would be great.
Thank you and God Bless,
My response is in Green:
Don't worry you did not take up too much of my time. I think you are right to question the things you are questioning. If more people would question, then there would be less mistaken doctrine out there. You have found exactly why I reject Calvinism, because the Bible contradicts it in too many places. I also happen to reject the Catholic beliefs. Salvation is by faith through God's grace without works.
So you may be wondering why does the Bible have contradictions in it? It doesn't. The problem is that many people read the Bible through the filter of their doctrine, instead of reading it for what it says. I will try to explain.
The Bible says that we were chosen before the foundations of the earth, or in other words, that God chose us before He even created us. The Bible also clearly says that man has a choice. So if the Bible is not full of contradictions, then which is it? It is both.
I will address this first and then try to come back and address the works issue. One of the things you need to understand is that the Bible is written so that the readers can understand what is being said. God can't explain some things to us because we are not capable of understanding, so He uses things we are capable of understanding to show us word pictures.
If you read the gospels you will notice something that Jesus did often. He often described Himself as the Bridegroom and believers as His bride. He did it more often then most people realize. He told parables of the ten virgins, all of whom were waiting on the Bridegroom. He made the statement that He was going to His Father's house to prepare a place for us and that He would return to get us.
To understand these things you have to understand the Jewish wedding ceremony as it was in Jesus' day. Let me try to explain it. I am not an expert on this subject, but I know the basics, so that is what I will give you. I am just going to address the ceremony itself.
During the ceremony the Father of the Bridegroom would pour a cup of wine and hand it to the Bridegroom. The Bridegroom would turn toward the Bride and hold the cup of wine up. This was his offer of marriage to the girl. If the Bride turned away and did not take the cup, there would be no wedding, but if she reached out and took the cup, they would be married.
If they were married, they did not start their life together right away. Instead the Bride would go back to her Father's house and prepare herself and then wait for her Bridegroom to come get her. She never knew when he would come, so she had to be ready at all times.
The Bridegroom, never knew when he was going to come either. He left the ceremony and returned to his Father's house and stated building an addition onto the house. This addition would be where he would live with his wife. The Bridegroom was not the one who decided when the addition was finished, it was his Father who would finally say, that the house was ready. At that point the Father would tell the Bridegroom to go and get his Bride and bring her home. The Bridegroom would get his friends and they would go singing and dancing to the Brides house and pick her up and take her to her new home.
If you stop and think about this it is a beautiful description of our salvation. Let's look at it closely. The Bridegroom chooses the Bride, she can't force him to hold up the cup of marriage. Christ chooses us, we can't force Him to offer us salvation. The Bride, although she can't force the Bridegroom to offer, has the option to refuse his offer. We, although we can't force Jesus to offer us salvation, have the option of refusing to accept that offer.
Once the offer of marriage is given and accepted by the Bride, she goes back home to wait for her Bridegroom. If the Bride gets tired of waiting and does not stay home watching, but instead goes off and has fun with her friends and therefore misses the Bridegroom when he comes, her marriage is over. It is the same with us, once we are saved, we remain in this world. We are to live a life of anticipation. Anticipation of the soon return of our Bridegroom. If we get tired of waiting and go off into the world and therefore miss His return we are lost.
Now let me ask a couple questions. Can the Bride take credit for this marriage? In other words, can she say she chose the marriage? Can the Bridegroom, say that he chose his Bride, she did not choose him? I am trying to make a point that God is the one who chose us, but in His sovereign will He gives us a choice. God being all knowing, knows what choice every human being will make.
Let me take a moment about predestination. If predestination is true, then the Bible has a few problems. Let me show you some of the problem passages:
(2 Peter 3:9 NIV) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
If predestination is true, then this passage from 2 Peter is a down right lie on God's part because He does not want everyone to come to repentance. If He did they would. It would also be true that He does want some to perish, because He predestined them to perish. Now a Calvinist will try to sidestep that by saying that this only refers to the elect, but that is not supported by Scripture. Let me continue:
(Acts 2:21 NIV) And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
(Acts 16:30-31 NIV)  He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"  They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-- you and your household."
There is no reason for either of these two passages to be in the Bible if God is the one who chooses and man has no choice. Calvinist will even go so far as to tell you that there are some people who think they are saved but who in fact are not part of the elect and therefore are on their way to hell. So what the Calvinist is saying is that someone might call on the name of the Lord and still not be saved. That would make God a liar since Acts 2:21 says the opposite.
Look at these two passages: (Joel 2:12-13 NIV)  "Even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning."  Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
(Amos 4:6-10 NIV)  "I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me, declares the LORD.  "I also withheld rain from you when the harvest was still three months away. I sent rain on one town, but withheld it from another. One field had rain; another had none and dried up.  People staggered from town to town for water but did not get enough to drink, yet you have not returned to me, declares the LORD.  "Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, I struck them with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me, declares the LORD.  "I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me, declares the LORD."
Both of these show that God calls people back to Himself. Why? Why would God call people if He is the one making all the choices in the first place? Sorry that makes no sense. Again the Calvinist will say something like, well that is Old Testament and we are under grace in the New Testament. What they are saying is that God has changed. The problem with that is that it makes God out to be a liar, because He says He never changes: (Numbers 23:19 NIV) God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
(Malachi 3:6a NIV) "I the LORD do not change."
(Hebrews 13:8 NIV) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Or the Calvinist will say that God is just speaking about fellowship not relationship. In other words that God is saying that He calls people back into fellowship with Him but their relationship never was in question. Again, this would be calling God a lair: (remember He never changes!) (Ezekiel 18:26-28 NIV)  If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin, he will die for it; because of the sin he has committed he will die.  But if a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will save his life.  Because he considers all the offenses he has committed and turns away from them, he will surely live; he will not die.
Let me give you another example from Ezekiel: (Ezekiel 3:18-19 NIV)  When I say to a wicked man, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.  But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.
Think about what God is telling Ezekiel. For one He is telling him that if he does not warn people to turn from their sin (which in itself shows participation on the person's part) God will hold him (Ezekiel) accountable for their blood. Now again if God is the one who is making all the choices, why would He tell His Prophet that He would hold him accountable? Next, if God is the one making the decisions, then the idea that "if" the wicked man turns or "if" he does not turn is ridiculous. These passages only make sense if God in His sovereignty gives man a choice.
One last passage from Ezekiel: (Ezekiel 18:31-32 NIV)  Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel?  For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!
At the risk of sounding like a broken record; again this would be a ridiculous statement if the people were not making any choices. God is not the author of confusion, nor is He a liar, so we can stand firm on these passages. God has not changed between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Yes we live under grace now and in the Old Testament they lived under the Law. But the Law was just to show mankind that we can't be good enough to please God, that we need a Redeemer. The Saints in the Old Testament were justified just the same way we are, by faith that God would send a Redeemer (as represented in the sacrifices) to take away their sins. They looked forward to the Redeemer and we look back to the Redeemer.
Let me show you the same kind of passage from the New Testament: (Colossians 1:21-23 NIV)  Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation--  if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
Notice that Paul tells the people that they are reconciled with God, "if" they continue in the faith. If they cannot make a choice to believe at first nor can they make a choice to continue or not continue in the faith, then this passage is just a waste of space. This message is already too long and I have not even addressed the works issue, so I won't quote anymore passages which buttress this idea, but there are hundreds of them.
Now let me turn to the idea that if a person accepts God's offer of salvation that it would be a work. When the Bible says that we are saved by grace through faith and not of works, that is exactly what it means. We must have faith that Jesus Christ is who He said He is. Faith is not a work. Go back and think of the marriage ceremony. Can the Bride claim she earned the proposal just because she reached up and accepted it? Of course not, it was the Bridegroom who gets the credit for offering the marriage proposal. When God offers us the free gift of salvation and by our faith we reach out and take the cup, we have done nothing to earn our salvation.
Paul addresses this very issue here: (Romans 4:1-5 NIV)  What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter?  If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about-- but not before God.  What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."
 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.  However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
Paul clearly says that Abraham's faith was not a work. He also says that salvation is a gift to those who trust God, and again it is a free gift not wages for work. It is not works for us to accept the free gift of salvation by faith in the person offering it.
You are however, right that we are commanded to live holy lives. This is not a suggestion, it is a command. We do not earn our place in heaven by these works, but it is what we are commanded to do "after" our salvation. That is exactly what James is talking about when he says that faith without works cannot save a person. He is saying that if we place our faith in Jesus Christ and are saved then our lives will show evidence of that faith in the form of good works.
Here is another passage which shows that: (1 John 2:3-6 NIV)  We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.  The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him:  Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
This debunks the lie of 'once saved always saved.' You can't take the cup of marriage and then go and live in the world and not watch for your Bridegroom. You can't claim forgiveness for sins you have not yet committed and then use that as a license to sin.
This passage leaves little doubt: (Hebrews 10:26-27 NIV)  If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,  but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
This is not referring to loss of rewards or loss of fellowship, it is talking about separation from God in hell. It is also not referring to those who heard the message but did not take the offer of salvation. There are many people who hear the message but do not place their faith in Jesus Christ at that moment, but do so later. If this passage were speaking of the person who hears the message but does not respond immediately, then it is saying that it is impossible for them to ever come to Christ, because it says there is no sacrifice left. No, what it means is that if we who are saved take Christ's sacrifice for granted and use it as a license to sin, then there is no other sacrifice to save us as long as we act like that.
Again there are many more passages which say the same things, but this has gotten pretty long, so I will quit there. I just want to give you the bottom line: God offers us salvation through His Son's death and resurrection. God takes no pleasure in the death of anyone, but rather wants every person to come to salvation. He offers us that free gift of salvation if we will just reach out and take it by faith in Jesus Christ. It is offered to all mankind, but only those who by faith take it are saved. God chose us before He created us to be partakers of this wonderful gift, but in His sovereign will He gave us the choice to accept or reject the gift.
He chose us, we did not nor could we get Him to offer what is His alone to offer, yet He allows us to make our own decision in the matter. Part of that decision is to be willing to turn from our sin and live the kind of life that God commands us to live. We don't lose that free will to make a choice after we place our faith in Jesus Christ. If we decide later that we no longer want to honor God and follow Jesus Christ we can leave our salvation and return to a rebellious state, but we will only have a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
Keep reading your Bible, you will find the answers there. Just read it without looking at it through any doctrine, but let it form your doctrine for you. The seeming contradictions are easily reconciled if we are willing to take God's word as a whole and not isolate portions of it.
God bless you,
E-Mail Ralph (whose comments are in green)